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Monday, December 23, 2013

Synodical Conference–1872, Part 12: Impenitent?; Ordination?; Faith must have something...

This continues the series of blog posts (Table of Contents is in Part 1) publishing my translation of the published essay from the inaugural meeting of the Synodical Conference in 1872.  This covers pages 58-60 of the original German essay (pages 20-68).   In this section, Thesis 8 is elaborated.
This essay is what the Lord means when He says:
  • Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.  – 1 Cor. 2:9
  • O taste and see that the LORD is good.  – Psalm 34:8
I could imagine a God who would demand something in return for my salvation, but only by His Word can I believe that not only is it free, but that it has already been granted us in His heart (2 Cor. 5:19) and He only bids me to know it... again, by faith in His Word... by believing Him.
Part 12
===============  Synodical Conference–1872  ===============
"Over the Doctrine of Justification."
by C.F.W. Walther
(cont'd from Part 11)
Now someone might think: [SCR 58] Accordingly one must also absolve all avowed wicked persons, even people like the monkey-advocate (Affen-Vogt?);  but Christ’s order stands against this: "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine." [Matt. 7:6]  Also a monkey-advocate (Affen-Vogt) would admittedly be truly absolved, if he heard the Gospel; but he would make a joke of it, and tread the gift underfoot, as the sow a precious pearl.  Because we know this of known unbelievers in advance, we do not absolve them, but not at all because we believe that they are not redeemed.  Oh, if the unbelievers knew and considered this, they would not see us as clerical, puffed-up people, who do not mean it well with them.  They in fact namely think that we absolve in this sense, because we are ordained masters, to whom there was conferred, in ordination, as through an electrical current, the power to forgive sins, so that, when we say: I forgive you your sins, these are forgiven by virtue of our Absolution. We do not teach this, but rather the papists do; they bind the power of absolution to the shaved priesthood.  But we say: That is no art to absolve someone; that any ordinary Christian man, every woman, every child can do too, if only he can relate that the Lord Jesus died for all and that whoever believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.  For absolution does not rest on the quality of the speaker, but on the Word of the Gospel about the accomplished reconciliation.  Therefore declares the Apology that whoever rejects absolution, does not know what the Gospel is [see Apology, Article VI-Confession and Satisfaction, parags. 3-6];  and Luther says that he prizes so highly the Absolution just so that people recognize the Gospel. [LS paragraph]   But the Gospel is the message, to be brought to the lost world, that it is redeemed – a message not as we convey other news, rather as from the great God in Heaven expressly transmitted. For this He makes His messengers confident and says: Only preach it confidently, I will not be a liar, but which I give in your mouth will make true.  Therefore says Luther: "A preacher can not help but must with his mouth pronounce an Absolution," for as soon as he makes mention of the Lord Christ, it is nothing but Absolution. [KM paragraph mark]
Therefore it is no presumption at all when a Lutheran pastor says that he can absolve, for he will not say it was the power thereby imparted by ordination into the Ministry, as something special, but rather the power is that of the Word, which the preaching office committed to him entitles him to preach.  But through the reciting and proclaiming the dear God wishes to distribute everything, and our Absolution in confession is only a definite expression, a short summary of what is proclaimed in the sermon, with the difference that it is now applies to the individual.  By virtue of the Office is called here by virtue of the Gospel which I have been called to preach; so Luther says that with the words: Whosesoever sins ye remit, etc., "is not used the power of him who speaks, but of those who believe" (St. Louis Edition XI, pg 733, parag. 20; Walch XI, 1002, paragraph 20; no American Edition).  Therefore one should not [SCR 59] say to the penitent: Think about what you are and if you do not recognize all your sins, and do not have such and such a degree of repentance over them, so you shall receive no Absolution. But one must put it like this: I now absolve you, thereby the forgiveness of all your sins is freely given you; therefore you are an accursed man if you do not believe this.  Therefore it is so great sin to go to confession and yet not believe the Word of Absolution.  If I were even the greatest sinner, so should I (in view of God’s [KM 33] disfavor) believe this Absolution.  Admittedly, so long as someone is a obstinate sinner, he cannot believe the Word; but the fault lies not with the Absolution, as though it were not efficacious.  Because the Absolution is nothing other than the Gospel, our Fathers did not by any means commit themselves to any particular formulas of Absolution;  whichever such formulas they may have used, this shows that they wanted to proclaim the Gospel to the sinner, and apply it to him.
There are especially two things to be emphasized hereby, firstly that the Gospel is an offer of grace, as well as that nothing must be added to make this offer valid on man's part.  If one makes the Gospel by its very nature dependent on whether man believes, then faith has nothing to which it can hold on.  But man must have something that he can believe, otherwise he cannot believe at all; if now the Gospel is not valid except that man first believe it, what is he then to believe?  One is, as Luther says, led to a monkey's tail.  This means the people who are in fear and have doubts about their salvation, are lead into a quandary.  Quite differently teaches our Augsburg Confession in Art. 25:
[KM indent; LS paragraph]
And the people are most carefully taught concerning faith in the absolution, about which formerly there 3] was profound silence. Our people are taught that they should highly prize the absolution, as being the voice of God, 4] and pronounced by God's command. The power of the Keys is set forth in its beauty and they are reminded what great consolation it brings to anxious consciences, also, that God requires faith to believe such absolution as a voice sounding from heaven,  [LS XXXI/1, 2-3]   and that such faith in Christ truly obtains and receives the forgiveness of sins.  (A.C.-Confession, Art. 25, parags. 2-4; Triglotta p. 69; Tappert, pp. 61-62).
[KM -indent; LS paragraph]
Accordingly Absolution is an object for our faith and not a mere guidepost to faith.  Always should the promise stand before our eyes, and in it are all frightened souls to seek solace and forgiveness and be uplifted by it.  In contrast, if faith is to be there first, then faith is made into something quite different from what it actually is; it is then no longer a grasping and accepting of the existing gifts.  The Apology teaches:
We therefore add as the second part of repentance, Of Faith in Christ, that in these terrors the Gospel concerning Christ ought to be set forth to consciences, in which Gospel the remission of sins is freely promised concerning [SCR 60]  Christ. Therefore, they ought to believe that for Christ's sake 36] sins are freely remitted to them. This faith cheers, sustains, and quickens the contrite, according to Rom. 5:1: Being justified by faith, we have peace with God. This faith obtains the remission of sins. This faith justifies before God, as the same passage testifies: Being justified by faith. This faith shows the distinction between the contrition of Judas and Peter, of Saul and of David. The contrition of Judas or Saul is of no avail, for the reason that to this there is not added this faith, [KM 34] which apprehends the remission of sins, bestowed as a gift for Christ's sake. Accordingly, the contrition of David or Peter avails, because to it there is added faith, which apprehends the remission of sins granted for Christ's sake. (Apology A.C.-Article XII (V): Of Repentance, parags. 35-36, Triglotta p. 261; Tappert, p. 186)
[KM, LS paragraph]
And in the Large Catechism:
28] But as our would-be wise, new spirits assert that faith alone saves, and that works and external things avail nothing, we answer: It is true, indeed, that nothing in us is of any avail but faith, as we shall hear still further. 29] But these blind guides are unwilling to see this, namely, that faith must have something which it believes, that is, of which it takes hold, and upon which it stands and rests….
30] Now, they are so mad as to separate faith, and that to which faith clings and is bound, though it be something external. Yea, it shall and must be something external, that it may be apprehended by the senses, and understood and thereby be brought into the heart, as indeed the entire Gospel is an external, verbal preaching. In short, what God does and works in us He proposes to work through such external ordinances.  (Large Catechism-Baptism, parags. 28-30; Triglotta pgs 738-739; Müller p 489; Tappert, p. 440).
If someone said to the enthusiasts: Here is bread, but that only has a nourishing power if it is enjoyed by one who is hungry, or: this medicine has its healing power only when a sick person takes it, so they would themselves realize that this is foolishness.  But so also the Gospel has its power not only when it is heard by a person penitent and hungry for grace, but also when it is proclaimed to the godless.  But this is true: whoever does not eat the bread, it does not nourish; whoever does not take the medicine, it does not heal; and whoever does not believe the Gospel, it does not comfort;  but even an enthusiast ought to see that the power of the Word does not lie in man, any more than the nourishing power of bread lies in him. [KM paragraph]
From the assertion that the Gospel and Absolution are not powerful (kräftig) in the case of the impenitent, gives the most terrible consequences: Thereby is denied Christ's all-sufficient merit, the redemption and reconciliation of the world, for then must faith always be envisioned as a work which must be added, in order that there might be forgiveness in the Gospel.  Then it follows that Christ's merit is not all-sufficient. But if Christ's merit is not all-sufficient, then also Christ is not true God.  One could also then not with a clear conscience preach the Gospel and allow communion to anyone of whom one was not certain [SCR 61] that he believed.
= = = = = = continued in Part 13 = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Want to be a real "confessional Lutheran"?  Then study this essay, read its references to the Holy Scriptures, the Lutheran Confessions, and to Luther.  Then you will be a true "Doctor of Theology".
In the next Part 13...

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