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Sunday, September 14, 2014

God's chg of heart-6e: WELS opposes? J.P. Meyer? ... a matter of spiritual life or death

     This continues from Part 6d (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 6e, a 3rd respected teacher in the WELS, John P. Meyer, is presented by essayist Rick Curia as showing a "difference" or "disagreement" with this teaching.  References are made to his book Ministers of Christ and, to avoid confusion with a recent 2011 NPH republication of the original 1963 edition, my references are all to the 1963 edition.
     Before I proceed, I want to present a maxim in Lutheran teaching:
The Law must be preached as if there were no Gospel.  The Gospel must be preached as if there were no Law.
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3) John P. Meyer († 1964)
Prof. John P. Meyer

     Rick Curia quotes J.P. Meyer, another well regarded teacher of the WELS:
. . . (God) took us out of our former state of being guilty and condemned sinners and placed us into a position before Himself where He regards us as having been purified from our sins, as spotless, unrebukable saints. All of this διὰ Χριστοῦ [by Christ].  If God finds us outside of Christ, He sees us as people who are not only covered over and over with sin, but who are permeated through and through with this poison. But as soon as Christ intervenes, and God looks at us through Christ, then all our sins are screened and blocked out. His all-searching eye finds none, and He pronounces us righteous. [154] – Ministers of Christ, 1963 edition,  pg 108
Curia then adds: "Outside of Christ, doesn't God hate us--because he hates all sinners? Of course!"

But Curia could have also brought the following quote from Meyer's Ministers:
It is important to note that Paul traces the entire matter of justification, peace, etc., to God’s love as its source. God's love is present and productive at the very beginning. It is the motivating cause of our καταλλαγη.  There are some who assume that καταλλασσεΐν points to a change in God, that during the process He changed from an irate into a placated God, that some sort of appeasement took place.—But no, not the least change took place in the heart of God. It was His love which was active during the entire process of καταλλασσεΐν. The change was effected in our status before our Judge. (page 112)
We see in this passage from Meyer the echos of Adolf Hoenecke.  If there was any doubt that the WELS now was using Hoenecke's weakness to directly refute Franz Pieper's teaching regarding God's Change of Heart, that doubt is wiped out by Meyer's statement above.  Indeed, Meyer's teaching appears to be very similar to that of the German theologian Ludwig Ihmels (see Part 4).  The only difference that I can discern between Meyer and Ihmels is that Meyer makes it clear that it was not man who changed his attitude.  Meyer speaks like F. Pieper when he says [page 106]: "We thus see that καταλλαγή does not denote a change in the nature of the sinner, in the attitude of his heart."  But in this very statement, Meyer admits that "reconciliation" implies "a change in nature".  But this is a weak agreement indeed when Meyer then flatly states: "not the least change took place in the heart of God" (page 112).

This departure of J.P. Meyer from the meaning of the words ("reconciling the world unto himself"), no matter how "exegetical" he is thought to be, is a very distasteful thing for me, for this teaching would try to wrench out the good taste I have in my mouth that God WAS in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, that God DID have a Change of Heart!  It was more than our "status" that changed, it was more than our "relationship" that changed... it was GOD HIMSELF who changed.  To say in the same "breath" that "God's love is present and productive at the very beginning" and then try to explain that God is reconciled... reconciled from what?... from His love?!  This teaching would try to keep a good taste in my mouth ostensibly by appealing to the notion that "His love which was active during the entire process of reconciliation".  But I ask again: Reconciled from what?... His love?  I thought His reconciliation was from His wrath.  And if He wasn't reconciled from His wrath, then maybe His wrath isn't fully appeased, maybe He isn't fully reconciled.

No, I cannot let the WELS try to take this away from me!  J.T. Mueller said that this is about "an article with which the Christian faith stands or falls."  Oh, then I cannot try to "smooth over" this "disagreement", we cannot just wink at this disparity, this disagreement, but it becomes...
... a matter of spiritual Life or Death.
I have again rifled through Meyer's book Ministers of Christ to see again how he taught the doctrine of Universal, Objective Justification.  His teaching on UOJ is ridiculed by those who mock the teaching of UOJ.  He writes much to defend this, as also Adolf Hoenecke did.  Meyer is still highly regarded today for his way of teaching (exegesis) and his book was republished in 2011 by Northwestern Publishing House (NPH).  There is another statement by Meyer that causes concern for some in the WELS, but that is beyond the scope of this blog post. (Siebert Becker discusses "status of saint" in an essay of his.)

In the next Part 6f is a summation of the WELS teaching on this and other points.

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