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Friday, January 3, 2014

SCR–1872, Part 16b: Remarks– Prof. Kurt Marquart

[Updated Nov. 29, 2014 - see bottom]
This continues my remarks from Part 16a on the founding essay of the Synodical Conference by C.F.W. Walther in 1872 – SCR 1872. (Table of Contents in Part 1)
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Prof. Kurt Marquart († 2006)
Prof. Marquart is to be commended for his translation of this very important essay.  I made heavy use of his translation to produce my own.  When I first came across Marquart's work, Justification, Objective and Subjective, I was struck by it – why had not this essay been fully translated in the LC-MS before and published in its entirety to the laity in the member synods?  Why had not the WELS done this?  Why had not the ELS done this?  This essay was my lifeline to Christianity... I became emboldened enough to write a letter to Prof. Marquart to try to ascertain who actually was the author even if he assumed it was "written probably by F.A. Schmidt" – was it not really Walther?  I suppose Marquart could be excused for his error – he thought that the author was "probably" Prof. F.A. Schmidt, not Walther.  But then again, Prof. Marquart was familiar with the writings of Francis Pieper and should have known that (1) Pieper clearly identified this essay as Walther's essay and (2) it was the core teaching of the old Synodical Conference.

Marquart gave no Preface to his translation but added 2 pages of comments at the end – "Translator's Notes", 9 points.  Among Marquart's comments are these commendable ones:
  • 3. It is clear that the content of objective justification, as understood throughout this essay, is not a matter of a technical point between Norwegians and Swedes, but comprises the central thrust of biblical, confessional teaching (Thesis 3) as distinct from Romanism on the one hand and Calvinism on the other. Objective justification is here understood as the assertion of grace alone against Romanists and synergists, of universal grace against the Calvinists, and of the means of grace against both. Or one may say that "grace alone" means the intensive perfection of Christ's redemption, and "universal grace" its extensive perfection. ...
  • 6. Where grace alone, universal grace, and efficacious means of grace are fully maintained against both Rome and Geneva, there objective justification is actually confessed, whatever the particular terminology used. Conversely, where the substance of objective or general justification is attacked--whatever the words used--there either grace alone or universal grace or the means of grace or all of these are under attack.
However, my reading of Walther's essay was no mere light reading, but rather it was a matter of spiritual life and death.  I was intent on finding out what the true Gospel was.  After I had left the Lutheran training of my youth in the LC-MS, I had also left the things of God.  But a series of terrible events in my life brought me to utter despair and my thoughts turned to matters of religion... the training of my youth.  Could it be true that God was really and truly already reconciled through Christ with everyone for all time?  Or maybe there was still some condition, ever so slight as it may be, that must yet be fulfilled before I could be sure I would go to heaven.  And an antagonist by the name of Larry Darby would cause me no small anguish...
...but when the Good Shepherd had me back in his fold, when I believed UOJ, then He set me at the feet of Franz Pieper's Christian Dogmatics and strengthened my faith by showing that it is no accident that those who teach and defend UOJ are the very ones who demand the teaching of an infallible, inerrant, inspired Bible.  How Pieper hammered home that now when one believes UOJ, that he had better build a "mighty fortress" to protect that faith, because all hell will break loose and assail that faith from every side, especially causing one to question the truth of the Bible itself, and so the mighty fortress is the Word itself, and so with the Word, true faith is protected that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it". (Matt. 16:18)
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In point #7, Marquart says this:
7. Terminology like "universal justification" can also be abused, and therefore one must keep clearly in mind certain distinctions and explanations and to avoid one-sided overstatements (e.g. "all the damned in hell receive the status of pure, forgiven saints and children of God")!  The essay specifically suggests that some of the terminology of the orthodox Norwegians was "perhaps a bit awkward" (p. 22 above). The essay repeatedly points to the "middle way" (Nohrborg / "Rohrberg", p. 23 above), that is to proper distinctions like Quistorp's:  "Thus all are justified and some are justified. All, in respect of the acquired merit, some, in respect of the appropriated merit" p. 21). See also Thesis 12. Note also the terminological uncertainties on pages 20, 28-29.
"Abused"?  How "abused"?  "Middle way?"  What "middle way"?  Walther's essay is not about a "middle way", a way to "avoid one-sided overstatements", but stated this:
Let no one think that we are dealing in this matter with a mere strife about words.  No, the most highly important matter is to be held here against attacks and error. Especially in this land of sects and enthusiasts we must earnestly carry on the doctrine of the universal justification...  – C.F.W. Walther
What Walther is saying is that the only real way to "abuse" the doctrine of universal justification is not to preach it!

"Terminological uncertainties"?  What "terminological uncertainties"?  Again, Walther says:
Let no one think that we are dealing in this matter with a mere strife about words...
The Apostle Paul clearly speaks against this notion of a "middle way" in presenting the Gospel (2 Cor. 1:17-20):
When I therefore was thus minded, did I use lightness? or the things that I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh, that with me there should be yea yea, and nay nay?  But as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, ... was not yea and nay, but in him was yea.  For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.
So much for a "middle way" in the presentation of the Gospel, no "terminological uncertainties" in God's Word.  Amen!

In another publication, the 2001 book Justification Odyssey, Marquart again approached the doctrine of Justification in an essay entitled "Augsburg Revisited".  On page 173, he said this:
No one actually has forgiveness unless and until he receives it by faith. This distinction between forgiveness as obtained for and offered to all, and that same forgiveness as actually received and possessed, is often described (as in the English translation of Pieper's Christian Dogmatics) with the words "objective" and "subjective." But the terms universal or general and individual or personal are much to be preferred. In the first place, the so-called "subjective" justification is every whit as objective as the "objective," in that it is an action of God. Secondly, Calvinists also speak of an "objective" and a "subjective" justification, but in a completely different sense: their "objective" justification happened on the cross, but for the elect only, not for all; and their "subjective" justification is just that: it "takes place in the heart or conscience of the sinner," and "yet it is quite impossible that [children] should experience justification by faith."
Marquart faults the terminology of "objective justification", but this terminology beautifully portrays the Reformation doctrine of sola gratia, grace alone, which means it is a grace outside of us, on God's side.  Now Marquart would pull that beautiful portrayal out of our hands, ostensibly to protect another teaching, – faith as God's work.  But does it protect the doctrine of faith when it takes away the greater teaching of sola gratia?  It does not...  I fear Marquart's waffling on this terminology was from the confusion caused by the influence of Hermann Sasse's weaknesses on him.

Unfortunately Marquart's weakness exhibited itself to a higher degree as he attempted to defend "Objective Justification" against the attacks of a "conservative" Lutheran layman, Larry Darby.  I have previously given the details of that episode in Part 9b this blog series.

No! I say, it was rather God who sent his servant C.F.W. Walther to America among the German and Scandinavian immigrants, yes, to the world, to restore the beauty of the true Gospel that Luther uncovered.
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In the next Part 16c, I comment on a WELS teacher who gave a history of the Synodical Conference in a book which has portions to recommend it.
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Addendum Nov. 29, 2014: Part 16c was never produced but refers to Armin Schuetze's Synodical Conference: Ecumenical Endeavor (NPH, 2000).  Prof. Schuetze incorrectly identified the preparer of SCR 1872 (on page 61) as F.A. Schmidt, not Walther.
Addendum April 15, 2015: Marquart's translation has been added to Archive.org here, so my hyperlinks have been update to this upload available to all.

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