Monday, May 7, 2012
Few "conservative" Lutherans study liberal theology, which began in earnest in the 19th century. If graduate students do research about that era and love it, they leave and join ELCA or one of liberal circles of Missouri.
Relatively few Lutherans are armed against the onslaught of liberal theology and philosophy, because Luther's Biblical exposition is avoided and his doctrine is rejected by Lutheran leaders today. The crossover point is best represented by F. Schleiermacher, Halle University, the transition between old and new theology.
Traditional theology in all Protestant branches remained faithful to the authority of the Scriptures as God's revealed Word, inerrant and infallible. Schleiermacher may not have been the first, but he was the most significant in using "Biblical studies" to inject rationalism into church teaching.
Once the rationalistic assumptions are accepted, anything can be claimed in the name of God's Word, although clues come from the philosophical language used.
Universal Objective Justification comes from this era. Knapp, Schleiermacher, and Tholuck taught it, and they had earlier authorities, such as Rambach (Halle) and Huber (Calvinist Lutheran). Knapp remains in print and the English translation still powerful in establishing an imaginary double justification. Schleiermacher and Tholuck simply dropped the second justification, making them Universalists, loud and proud.
Universal forgiveness became the hallmark of 19th century Protestant theology, but WELS and Missouri claim they are orthodox in aping Huber, Knapp, and the rest. The language of double justification makes it easy for dissenters from the old order to pass from the rigid legalism of Old Pietists (can we dance?) to the rigid legalism of neo-Pietist activism (can we eat grapes or is the boycott still on?).
Some of the youngsters are saying, "What is this about grapes?" That was one of the big signs of Leftist purity, especially among the academics. The head of my program at Notre Dame hosted a dinner where he served grapes during the famous boycott over union leadership. One student, now a college president, said, "It was not because he served grapes that everyone was appalled. He did not even know what the issue was." The director's sin was the equivalent of serving Jack Daniels at meeting of the Nazarene ministers and wondering about the big fuss afterwards.
The Scriptures clearly teach the efficacy of the Word in the Means of Grace. The Book of Concord clearly abhors Enthusiasm - separating the Holy Spirit from the Word. But Lutherans do not teach either. I see them popping off with "raising for our justification" all over the Net, citing Romans 4:25 but not Romans 4:24.
Synodical Conference Lutherans get brain-washed in UOJ because schools cannot teach the Biblical Means of Grace and UOJ. One displaces the other. Each synod spends enormous amounts of time proving that their sect is vastly superior to all others, teaching that changing to another group is the greatest possible betrayal. They never mention how much time and money they spend on unsafe sects, thanks to Thrivent.
That is why the Synodical Conference has become a rump movement of liberal theology and philosophy, unable to separate itself from ELCA, eager to be the Mini-Me of ELCA while publicly distaining ELCA. (See the Hochmuth-Schroeder letter panning ELCA over homosexuality.)
This will continue until the pastors and laity alike become familiar with Luther's sermons and the Book of Concord. Remember - Luther does not start out with carnal sins, which is where the Pietists start and stop. He begins with faith in Christ, unbelief as the foundational sin - John 16:8ff.
The peculiar glory of the Lutheran Church has departed. Ichabod.