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Monday, September 15, 2014

God's chg of heart-6f: WELS opposes? Not all did...

[2017-03-13 - revised, see text in red below]
     This continues from Part 6e (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 6f, I assess the situation with the WELS in general, not just this doctrine of God's Change of Heart.

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We have seen all 3 WELS theologians, Hoenecke, Becker, and Meyer, attempt to refute the teaching of God's Change of Heart by appealing to passages speaking of God's love.  But Franz Pieper decisively answered this in his essay The Reconciliation Of Man With God, page 76:
The third objection is that God has revealed His love toward men by sending His Son and, in particular, by giving His Son into death. “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son,” John 3:16. “God commendeth His love toward us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,” Rom. 5:8. For this reason, so men claim, we cannot speak of the appeasing of God’s wrath through the  death of His Son. Our rejoinder is: According to Scripture the sending of Christ into the world and His death on the cross reveal both factsGod’s love as well as His wrath. When Scripture declares that, when we were still enemies of God, we were reconciled to Him by the death of His Son, Rom. 5:10, it means that through Christ’s death the wrath of God toward guilty mankind has been appeased. But this same fact also manifested God’s love; for it was His great love that moved Him to satisfy His righteousness through the death of His Son, which was impossible for us to accomplish. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins,” 1 John 4:10. [my emphasis]
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What am I to think of the WELS now?  The WELS was a treasured member of the old Synodical Conference.  Here are some evidences of why the WELS was a valued member:
John Schaller

1) Rick Curia admits that another great teacher of the old Wisconsin Synod, John Schaller († 1920), seemed to teach similarly to Franz Pieper in one respect, although Curia gives no concrete examples.  But I have just now extracted the following from Schaller's Biblical Christology on "Reconciliation":
"...the 'change' ... is a change into another state of mind, the change from a God deeply offended by our sin to a God at peace with the world. The propitiatory work of Christ effects the permanent reconciliation of God. Announcing this fact, the gospel is the word of reconciliation. To preach this gospel is the ministry of reconciliation enjoined upon the church. The message proclaims “the peace of God which passeth all understanding” (Php 4:7; Ro 5:1), not the feeling of restful peace in the hearts of men, but the peace prevailing in the heart of God."  – page 163
Hmmm... this passage does not sound quite like the teaching of Hoenecke, Becker, or Meyer regarding a change in God.  The words "status" and "relationship" are missing here.  Schaller speaks of "a change into another state of mind", "a God at peace with the world", "the peace prevailing in the heart of God".  This comes much closer to the actual meaning of the Word of God.  Schaller may have not used the exact words that Franz Pieper used, but he comes close.  Could it be that Prof. John Schaller sensed that he needed to be more forceful in proclaiming the "Reconciliation" as a true "Minister of Christ", and so he wrote the words in this paragraph as well as he did.

2) In the later years of the Synodical Conference, before its breakup, the WELS worked mightily to convince its larger sibling, the LC-MS, that it was going on the wrong path in many ways.  One can read of this in my Timeline blog posts, Part 1 & 2. One can also read of this in Mark Braun's A Tale of Two Synods.  I read in Curia's essay of the many ways in which the WELS taught and defended the doctrine of Universal, Objective Justification (UOJ).  Especially E.H. Wendland is noted for his wonderful defense of UOJ (here and here) in 1951 and 1954 when the discussion on the Doctrine of Justification was at its peak.

3)  One of the more stirring examples of the strength of the WELS was this:
"...leading scholars of the Bible take some of the chief passages on objective justification and flatly deny that there is such a thing" – WELS Tract. No. 3: Every Sinner Declared Righteous, 1954, page 5 (Significant History..., Endnote 224)
This is a wonderfully clear judgment by the old WELS over the travesty of the old Ohio Synod's "greatest exegete" R.C.H. Lenski, who ridiculed UOJ.
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But Rick Curia presents his own case, and apparently that of the newer WELS, that (paraphrasing):
Leading scholars of the Bible from the WELS take some of the chief passages on God's Change of Heart and flatly deny that there is such a thing.
I must thank Rick Curia in at least one respect – he pointed out this issue and brought to light the wonderful essay of Prof. J.T. Mueller (that I published in this blog series),  even if he rejects God's Change of Heart.  But this whole blog series is dedicated to the blessed memory of Prof. J.T. Mueller.
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==>> To today's WELS:

You seem to find yourself in uncomfortable company, if (former) Pastor Rick Nicholas Curia is correct in his judgment.  In January 1983, Rick Curia said (here):
Whether one describes this changed relationship anthropopathically, as a change that took place in God's heart (Walther, Stöckhardt, Pieper, Schaller and the Missouri Synod in general), which has biblical support because the Bible often speaks of God in much the same way; or, certainly more "logically" on the basis of God's immutability, as a change in the status of sinful mankind now as a result of Christ's work of redemption (Hönecke, Lenski--even though he refuses to equate universal reconciliation with universal justification--Meyer, and most Wisconsin Synod pastors today), really doesn't make a great deal of difference. Both are helpful in explaining the change that took place in a way our human minds can begin to grasp it. God, who hated the sinful world has now reconciled the sinful world to himself....
Who is correct --Hoenecke or Pieper? I say, take your pick; and this seems to have been the consistent attitude of the members of the Synodical Conference (although I am also certain that there were strong preferences on either side!) Hoenecke may appeal more to us for logical reasons, but Pieper's position is also defensible on both Scriptural and logical grounds.
Curia has identified this same teaching to be the teaching at the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WLS).  Will you, WLS, now deny this?  Yes WELS, you seem to be using the same arguments as the erring German theologians', such as Ihmels, arguments from reason.  Ihmels spoke of only a change in the "relationship" between God and man, you speak of only a change of the "status" or "relationship" of man before God, while both Ihmels and now WELS reject the teaching of the change in God's heart, at least to some degree or another.  Only the teaching of the great John Schaller, in his book Biblical Christology, keeps my faith from faltering as he does not follow Hoenecke's weakness (like J.P. Meyer) on this critical teaching.

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There is a term used by today's WELS in their Statement of Beliefs, Justification #2, now obsolete which says of "unbelievers" that they "forfeit the forgiveness won for me by Christ" (John 8:24) [What the Bible and Lutherans teach - NEW VERSION - see next paragraph note].  The term "forfeit" can be properly understood, but in a certain sense it could be misunderstood.  If it is understood as though I have rejected the forgiveness, then it is properly understood.  If it is understood as though God had withdrawn His forgiveness, then it not correct. When I turned away from God, the God of my youth, the God of my Lutheran training and upbringing, it was I who rejected the gift of forgiveness in unbelief...  God did not withdraw His forgiveness (and so cause me to forfeit it) because of my unbelief.  No, it is God who is faithful.  It was I who had rejected Him!  In this light, the WELS should reconsider the wording of their Statement of Beliefs so that there can be absolutely no misunderstanding.
[Revised! The latest 2017 version of WELS beliefs statement has removed the reference to the "forfeit the forgiveness won for me by Christ" THANK YOU WELS!]
Again, let me make a clear confession of this now before all the world:
When I left the God of my youth, the God who was presented to me in the Lutheran training of my youth, from Luther's Catechism and from Bible teaching, it was NOT God who caused me to leave Him.  No, the message that brought me back to Him was that He had never left me, He was always there, as I envisioned, in my back pocket where I had stuffed Him, ... He never, ever stopped wanting that I cling to Him in faith.  And it was purely by His Word, The Word Of His Grace, that I was brought back to Him... by the Lutheran Church from above.

What Is Christianity?
And Other Essays

by Francis (Franz) Pieper
As an antidote to this OLD aberration of the WELS that confused the clear meaning of 2 Cor. 5:19, the reader should now read (as I have now re-read) Franz Pieper's 1916 essay "The Reconciliation of Man with God" (Southern Illinois District of the Missouri Synod).  This essay was the third of six essays translated by the dear J.T. Mueller and published in the book of essays entitled What Is Christianity? And Other Essays.  It is available from CPH and Amazon.  On page 62, Pieper wrote:
But wherein does reconciliation consist? In other words, what does reconciliation involve? God’s reconciliation of the world does not mean that men have changed their attitude toward God, as these words (2 Cor. 5:19) have erroneously been explained; for men, ignorant of God's reconciliation, could never change their attitude toward Him.
No, the reconciliation of the world consists in this, that God “in Christ,” or for Christ’s sake, changed His own sentiment toward man. St. Paul writes: “Not imputing their trespasses unto them."
I believe in the forgiveness of sins!  (Article III, Apostles Creed) Amen! Amen!
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In the next Part 6g, I conclude this whole series by going back to Rick Curia, formerly a pastor of the WELS.

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