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Sunday, November 5, 2017

Lutheran Church teaches… what? (Part 2a, on Concordia Journal 2017)

      This continues from Part 1, a defense against the assertions and theology promoted in the Summer 2017 issue of Concordia Journal magazine on science and theology.  In Part 1, I addressed a point of science.  In this post, I want to address a point of theology – the Doctrine of Justification.
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      After defending against the science aspect, it would be misleading to suggest that the Journal does not address theology.  But what about the “article with which the Church stands and falls”, the Doctrine of Justification?  I want the reader to compare the theological teaching promoted in the Concordia Journal with what the true Missouri Synod taught by its founder and his successor.  Then let the reader judge.  And what better source of information can there be than what was “reprinted” by Concordia Seminary's own website in 2011 to “celebrate” Walther?  Below are side-by-side excerpts:
Profs. Charles Arand
Joel Okamoto
(Concordia Journal, Summer 2017)
C.F.W. Walther
Franz Pieper
Walther-Pieper composite (from Oct 17, 2011).jpg
Arand, p. 18:
I will argue that we begin by working out from the center of our faith. We get our bearings by re-centering ourselves in that which makes us Christians. And that means that we begin where we find Jesus, namely, “in crib and cross—and in the crypt he left behind.” For that reason, I propose Luther’s theology of the cross as a way of helping our people— and ourselves—to think through issues of faith and science.
A View from the Cross
Luther first formulated his theology of the cross in a series of theses that he penned in 1518 as an account of his theology as requested by his Augustinian superiors in Heidelberg. Less than a year earlier, he had posted his ninety-five theses for debate on the question of indulgences. Now Luther sets forth a series of theses on the issue of justification. He does not deal with that topic in isolation, instead, he sees that the position one takes on justification is indicative of a larger methodological approach to all of theology.
In these theses, Luther identifies two approaches to theology, a theology of the cross versus a theology of [human] glory. Luther contrasts a scholastic theology (shaped by philosophy) that glories in human abilities and capacities with a theology of the cross that trusts the crucified and risen Lord. “Luther believed that the best view of all reality was to be had from the foot of the cross on Calvary. The death and resurrection of Christ parted the clouds, and he could see God and himself clearly.” Together, they “disclose in the most decisive way possible what it means for God to be God and what it means for us to be humans.”
The theology of the cross thus provided a way of thinking and a method of practicing theology that Luther continued to draw on for different situations and purposes throughout his life. Indeed, for Luther, “theology is always hermeneutical, an interpretation of God’s dealings in the world by individuals from within the world.” Robert Kolb notes that a theologian of the cross thus “employs the cross of Christ as the focal point and fulcrum for understanding and presenting a wide range of specific topics within the biblical message.”

Okamoto, pp. 54-55:
… In other words, Christian theology must be cosmological. All other topics—sin and grace, incarnation and salvation, justification and sanctification— should be derived from and discussed in this context, rather than be set alongside or above God and his creation.
In an important sense, there is nothing new about doing this. It is simply letting “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” stand. It is following through in theological method on the first article of the Creed: I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. It is taking seriously that Christ was sent to announce and to establish the reign of God over creation. It is looking for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. But it is also no longer letting God as Creator and his creation lie in the background or at the margins for theology in favor of an agenda set by certain occasional intramural questions. Instead, theology makes God creating all things the starting point for all reflection. What kind of person is God? The Creator. What is a human being? A creature of God the Creator. What is sin? Not acknowledging God and his rights as Creator. Why is justification by grace? Because God the Creator gets to justify as he pleases. What does it mean to believe in God? To freely let him be the Creator. And so on.
The point is not to teach something different, but rather to teach differently. All theology is occasional in the sense that it arises out of particular occasions. For example, the doctrine of justification as articulated in the Lutheran Confessions arose to deal with questions and confusions raised by medieval teaching and practice over the righteousness of sinners. Roman Catholic theology was not uniform, but it did uniformly maintain that righteousness before God was proper, that is, one’s own. Evangelical theologians maintained that this righteousness was entirely alien, God’s own. And it was this distinction that informed how the Lutheran Confessions formulated their doctrine of justification. As just noted, the “God and his creation” perspective on justification only reinforces that righteousness before God is entirely alien. Nothing changes in the article itself. But how and why it is stated does. Nothing different is taught, but it is taught differently.

When we try to depict Dr. Walther as theologian, we must, above all, discuss his doctrine of justification, for his attitude toward this doctrine supplies the clue to his whole line of action in his life so full of controversy.
Walther recognized the doctrine of justification, or the doctrine that a sinner is justified before God and saved by grace through faith in Christ, as the focal point of all Christian doctrines. All other doctrines serve this doctrine as premises, or they flow from it as conclusions. Uncompromisingly Walther attacked all errors, because he knew that by all of them this central doctrine was endangered.… In our theological seminary he showed his students, above all, how to preach this doctrine rightly, pointing out to them both the right way and in graphic description also the usual aberrations. We believe that it is not saying too much when we declare that after Luther and Chemnitz no other teacher of our church has attested the doctrine of justification so impressively as did Walther. It was particularly in this doctrine that he followed Luther, and he united into one shining beam of light all other bright rays on this doctrine radiating from our later dogmaticians.
According to Walther, the doctrine of justification is the characteristic mark of the Christian religion, by which it distinguishes itself from all other so-called religions. He writes:
When we speak of justification, we speak of the Christian religion, for the doctrine of the Christian religion is none other than God’s revelation concerning the way in which sinners are justified before God and saved through the redemption made by Christ Jesus. All other religions teach other ways which are supposed to lead to heaven; only the Christian religion points out a different way to heaven by its doctrine of justification. This indeed is a way the world has never heard nor known, namely, the counsel of salvation that was hidden in the mind of God before the foundation of the world was laid. (SCR, p. 21.)
To fight for the doctrine of justification and for Holy Scripture and the Christian religion amounts to one and the same thing. Without the doctrine of justification the Christian religion is like a watch without a spring. All other doctrines lose their value if the doctrine of justification is corrupted. When the foundation gives way, the whole building caves in. When the doctrine of justification falls, then the whole Christian doctrine also collapses. In that case the church becomes a mere reform school. Furthermore, as regards the understanding of Scripture let me say: Theologians who err in regard to the doctrine of justification are sitting not in Scripture, but before a closed door, no matter how diligently they may study and quote the Bible. To those who do not understand the doctrine of justification the Bible is merely a book of moral instructions with all manner of strange side issues.
The doctrine of justification is therefore the “chief topic of Christian doctrine” (Ap. IV [(II)] 2).
It is absolutely necessary for everyone rightly to know the doctrine of justification in order that he may be saved. … This doctrine is therefore rightly called the article with which the church stands and falls.
Through the preaching of this doctrine, the Reformation of the church was effected, while all other means that had been tried before to reform the church failed. It was this doctrine which also in other lands and at other times reformed the church.
.… What indeed is all learning, no matter how important it may be in its proper place, compared with the wisdom of God? This becomes apparent already when only the passage is expounded that “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son,” etc. That message works joy in all penitent sinners; that is something in which the holy angels rejoice, and that is something at which the whole world should prostrate itself and cry out: “Glory, hallelujah!” … In short, let us learn from Luther that we cannot start a Reformation in this country unless we believe this doctrine of justification most firmly, preach it with divine assurance, and faithfully guard and keep it.
A living knowledge of the doctrine of justification therefore is essential to the right preparation for the pastoral ministry. …
We shall now consider some teachings which, according to Walther, are essential today if we are to preserve the doctrine of justification in its purity. Walther writes: “When considering the pure doctrine of justification, as our Lutheran Church has again set it forth on the basis of God’s Word in its full radiant brilliancy, we must keep in mind three doctrines, namely, (1) that of the general and perfect redemption of the world by Christ; (2) that of the power and the efficacy of the means of grace, and (3) that of faith. (SCR, p. 20.)” …
Should, for instance, anyone deny the universality of Christ’s redemption, negating with Calvin the Scripture truth that Christ has redeemed all mankind and that in the Gospel God seriously offers to all men His grace without any discrimination, then he subverts the doctrine of justification. If that error is maintained, then the individual sinner cannot become personally sure of his salvation …To keep the doctrine of justification pure, we must hold the
True Biblical Doctrine of the Perfect Redemption of All Men by Christ
In order to present the perfect redemption of all men by Christ in its full clarity, Walther is concerned to insist that there exists for every person grace, righteousness, and salvation even before faith is engendered, that every sinner is righteous before God, even before he believes, so far as this righteousness has been procured and God has purposed to bestow it
…Walther writes: “Also the heathen believed that they must secure grace and the forgiveness of their sins, but they have never known that forgiveness of sins has already been procured by another and that it already exists.”
To fight for the doctrine of justification and for Holy Scripture and the Christian religion amounts to one and the same thing.

To which pair of theologians will you trust your soul’s salvation to?

      In the left column, although the word "justification" is mentioned, it is not expanded upon.  Instead Prof. Arand immediately switches to a "theology of the cross" and uses this theme (and Robert Kolb dozens of times) to explain the heart of Christianity.  As for Prof. Okamoto, I can only say he speaks as a philosopher who can, in very few places, throw in some Lutheran sounding words… and he is easily dispensed with.
      In the right column, the focus is on the Doctrine of Justification: (1) its basis for the Christian religion, (2) its objective nature, (3) its universal nature, (4) its priority in the Lutheran Confessions as the "chief topic of Christian doctrine", (5) its proof against all heathen religions.

      Why can't today's LC-MS speak plainly about the Doctrine of Justification?  (haven't they lost it?)

      As I blogged earlier, there was a comment made on Walther's/Pieper's Doctrine of Justification by a reader of the above "reprint" on  It was by a certain Mr. Jeff Wild:
  • Jeff Wild says:
  • October 23, 2011 at 1:29 pm
  • This is a wonderful document and I look forward to the second part. For me this is the clearest description of the doctrine of justification that I have ever read.
  • For awhile now I have been considering ordering Francis Pieper’s DOGMATICS, but have been hesitant due to the cost. Would you say that this essay is characteristic of his writing? If so, it sounds like the volumes would be well worth the money.
Mr. Wild testifies indirectly against today's Concordia Seminary.  The theology of today's Concordia Seminary will not get this kind of accolade from a reader because they do not teach like the Old (German) Missouri Synod. Mr. Wild's judgment is one of the clearest public Christian testimonies on the Internet today.  If the reader finds my polemics offensive, then just read the full version of Concordia Seminary's own "reprint" of this essay, and compare Walther's teaching to those who would claim him as their founder. Better yet, read the full un-cut series “Walther as Theologian” in my blog series here.
This post became lengthy, but I can not refrain from pointing out where Prof. Arand inadvertently quotes a Bible passage that exposes his error, his mixed theology – in Part 2b.

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