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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

God's chg of heart-6d: WELS opposes? Sieg. Becker? (Curia essay)

     This continues from Part 6c (Table of Contents in Part 1, Curia essay in Part 6b) concerning J.T. Mueller's 1934 CTM essay defending Franz Pieper's seminal teaching on God's change of heart.  But who is Mueller defending against?  In this Part 6d, a 2nd respected teacher in the WELS is presented by essayist Rick Curia as potentially showing a "difference" or "disagreement" with this teaching.
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2) Siegbert Becker († 1984)
Siegbert Becker

      Rick Curia points out that Siegbert Becker, a highly regarded teacher in the WELS formerly from the LC-MS, also seemed to disagree with Pieper's teaching.  In a previous blog post, I had given the following quote with comments and will repeat it here (see here in Curia's essay):
When Franz Pieper says that when God reconciled the world to himself a change took place in God he uses language that can be justified by biblical usage. ... But we recognize that this is an anthropopathism, that speaks of God in human terms. ... But the change that takes place does not consist in this that his [God's] anger changes to love.
How it pains me to read this from the Prof. Becker, the Siegbert Becker who so faithfully defended the doctrine of Universal, Objective Justification.  For Becker himself said Pieper's teaching "can be justified by biblical usage".  Isn't that saying that Pieper's teaching was God's doctrine?  Becker goes into a discussion of the Greek word for "reconcile" and seems to forget Luther's description of God's wrath as a "foreign nature" of God.  Becker even makes a strong statement against this doctrine saying:
This sort of language can only result from a failure to understand the distinction between Law and Gospel.
Well, I must use the same language against Becker and those who teach against God's Change of Heart!  It is absolutely the distinction between Gospel and Law that dictates that the Gospel be the "Evangel", i.e. the glad tidings of great joy!  And when one realizes by the Law that he is doomed before God, then the Evangel MUST be the Good News!... that God HAS CHANGED HIS DISPOSITION, that He Is Reconciled!... that He HAS changed his mind! ... that His Heart HAS Changed!... all for Christ's sake!  The Bible says so!
2 Cor. 5:19 – God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them...
Unless one can believe that God's Heart HAS really changed, that He IS really reconciled, how can one "Taste and see that the Lord is good"? – Psalm 34:8

Because of this weakness of Siegbert Becker, I have had to put him in my "side room" as I keep Luther, Walther and Pieper in my room, my reading room.  Although Becker left the LC-MS, I suspect that vestiges of his training at the University of Chicago and/or Northern Baptist Theological Seminary were hard for him to forget.

Later in his essay, Curia stated:
Dr. Siegbert W. Becker is certainly one of the great spokesmen and defenders of the doctrine of objective justification, sharing the company and stature of men like Walther, Pieper, Stöckhardt and J. P. Meyer. In August of 1971 he wrote ... emphasizing the fact that the Law must be proclaimed in all its fullness ("We shall observe the proper distinction between Law and Gospel only if we remember that our primary purpose in preaching the Law is to make men afraid and sad.")
I would have to agree with (then Pastor) Curia's statement that Becker is one of the better defenders of Objective Justification in the latter portion of the 20th century.  I can personally attest to this, that when a WELS pastor gave me a copy of Becker's essays on "Objective Justification" and "Universal Justification", my faith came alive.  Becker wrote in 1971, after he had left the LC-MS and joined the WELS:
If I were still a member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, I would feel inclined to belabor this point at great length, because I always felt that the doctrine of universal or objective justification was gradually fading away in that church.
Just now I had to go back again and learn the history of this Lutheran teacher.  But I could not find any history of Siegert Becker at Concordia Historical Institute's website, surely another sign that CHI is not the spiritual storehouse that some think of it.  No, I had to go to the WELS own website, and there I found a biography written of his life ==>> here <<.  How uplifting to read of Becker's defense of Christian doctrine against his former LC-MS which was falling headlong into heterodoxy!

But after first reading Becker's generally good essays on Justification, I also began to learn that the doctrine of Universal, Objective Justification was taught and defended even better by the old (German) Missouri Synod... as I "found more treasures than I knew existed in the training of my youth".  And I must consider Becker's reticence on "God's Change of Heart" (as even he admits that it is "biblical usage") to be an inconsistency, his weakness.  But he did not allow this weakness to overcome his wonderful defense of ... Universal, Objective Justification.

In the next Part 6e, I will cover Rick Curia's 3rd WELS teacher in this matter: John P. Meyer.

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