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I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ecclesia Augustana: Revisiting "Faith is a Cause" and the "Four Components of Justification"

  Ecclesia Augustana: Revisiting "Faith is a Cause" and the "Four Components of Justification":

Revisiting "Faith is a Cause" and the "Four Components of Justification"

Whether by happenstance or design, Ecclesia Augustana’s contributors typically refrain from publicly exposing individuals, preferring instead to focus on their errant paradigms. Exceptions have been made where the severity and public nature of the abuse warrants it. In this instance, I’m going to address an individual who is misrepresenting this blog in a separate venue.

Recently, Dr. Jack Kilcrease visited this blog and left a comment.  Because the blogger system records referring sites, we realized that a number of users were accessing Ecclesia Augustanathrough his blog, Theologia Crucis. After visiting the blog, we discovered that he wrote an article about Ecclesia Augustana. I briefly hoped that it might result in an opportunity for meaningful dialogue.  But before finishing the first sentence of Dr. Kilcrease’s post, I realized that the article was going to be little more than an attempt to demonstrate his own intellectual prowess at the expense of attacking Ecclesia and the competence of its authors.

He begins with the insinuation that this blog is little more than fanatics “fixated on the anti-objective justification heresy.” While I certainly do not deny the “heresy” of justification by faith alone, the fact is that justification has only been the topic of a mere seven posts on this blog. That’s barely 20% of our total posts, which discuss such varied themes as the necessity and ubiquity of Holy Baptism, the non-adiaphoric nature of the Divine Liturgy, the dangers of sectarian practices, the Church's perspective on contraception, the importance and meaning of the Hypostatic Union, and the paramount importance of the Blessed Means of Grace and their impact on Christian living and theology - among many other topics. In reality, justification has not been a topic of our posts more than twice per month in the four short months that this blog has been extant.  I guess for that we ought to apologize to our readers. If justification is truly the chief doctrine of the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, upon which its very existence stands or falls, it should occupy our thought more than a mere 20% of the time. Especially in a time when the very integrity of the doctrine is being assaulted on every hand.

Regardless, the assertion that we speak on the topic ad nauseam doesn’t speak very well of Dr. Kilcrease’s investigative abilities, at the very least; it might even indicate that he himself is suffering from some sort of fixation on the universal justification heresy.  In fact, every post he made this month over at Theologia Crucis has been dedicated to the heresy of universal justification. What's more, he makes a habit of going around the internet promoting the Huberian paradigm (I can attest to having discussed the topic with him a number of times on Facebook - albeit that he seems to have blocked me on account of it!). I will let the reader decide who is “fixated.”

All of that, of course, is tangential, though I find the context somewhat useful in demonstrating the character of the parties involved. The actual thrust of Dr. Kilcreae’s post is dedicated to examining one of the blurbs I wrote last month, “Faith is a Cause.” My post was written primarily to direct the reader to some of Pastor Paul Rydecki’s excellent translations of the Fathers of Lutheran Orthodoxy. Dr. Kilcrease summarizes my post as follows:

“The gist of what is said here is as follows: Polycarp Leyser states that faith is the ‘instrumental cause’ of justification. The theologians of the old Synodical Conference said that it was God's Word and the merit of Christ that was the cause of justification, and not faith in and of itself. Hence, they are out of step with orthodox Lutheran theology and wrong.”

Dr. Kilcrease seems to be saying that my article implies God’s Word and the merit of Christ are not causes of justification. I certainly am not making that implication. In fact, in an even earlier article I wrote entitled the “Four Components of Justification,” where I actually treat this topic in greater depth than the passing reference I give to it in the article Dr. Kilcrease is addressing, I demonstrate that the grace of God and the promise of the Gospel are integral parts of justification.

After this misleading summary, the doctor goes into a long diatribe about Aristotlean metaphysics and its influence on medieval scholastic theology.  By virtue of our manifesto, as an Ecclesia Augustana contributor I admit to being less than the esteemed theologian and learned academic that Dr. Kilcrease imagines himself to be (as he puts it, most of the contributors here atEcclesia are just “college kids”). So I will defer to his explanations of the categories of cause for our purposes here. Using his classifications, the scheme of four causes can be understood in terms of the following example:

“For example, a hammer is the instrumental cause of a table. It is used by the efficient cause (the acting agent, the carpenter). It isn't the idea what what a table is (formal cause) or the wood the table is made out of (material cause). Neither is it an acting agent (the efficient cause). Rather it is merely the passive means through which the material receives its shape based on the idea of the mind of the builder.”

In the form of a list, we have:

Causes of a Table
1. The formal cause (“the idea what what [sic] a table is”)
2. The material cause (“the wood the table is made out of”)
3. The efficient cause (“an acting agent”)
4. The instrumental cause (“a hammer”)

When it comes to Justification, one could put it like this:

Causes of Justification
1. The formal cause (the grace of God)
2. The material cause (the merits of Christ)
3. The efficient cause (the Holy Spirit in the promises of the Gospel)
4. The instrumental cause (faith)

Well what do you know, this list looks strangely similar to the one that I drew up in the “Four Components" article. So let’s take faith out of the justification equation. The grace of God is still there. The merits of Christ are still there. The promises of the Holy Gospel are still there. But just as wood, the Carpeter, and His plan exist objectively, without that “hammer” by which the Holy Spirit puts it all together, there is no “table.”

Now I freely admit that the “scheme of causes” analogy isn’t perfect and I’d rather stick to the way I put it in the "Four Components" article, which is none other than the words of the Solid Declaration itself. Still, per Dr. Kilcrease’s own formula, I don’t see how he can claim that justification is an “existing reality.” Does the table exist before the hammer puts it together? It can surely be the desire of the Carpenter, but until that hammer is available, it’s just a desire. It isn’t a reality. 

So too, it is most certainly true: God has decreed that all should be justified (FC:SD:XI:14-15); He alone provides the means of that justification. But unless one actually has that faith - as Dr. Kilcrease would put it, without that “hammer” - there is no justification. Thus, all who have not received the gift of faith from God the Holy Spirit stand condemned from eternity for not believing on the Name of God’s one and only Son. They are not justified from eternity. They are condemned (St. John 3:18).

Dr. Kilcrease wants us to be familiar with the terminology he ostensibly learned after studying medieval scholastics. That is all well and good, and I freely admit that understanding the context of a given text is immensely helpful in reading it. But perhaps instead of directing us to the schematic formulas of Aristotle, Dr. Kilcrease could take some time to examine the plain words of Holy Writ, which clearly say that the reprobate are “condemned already,” not justified, and with the Confessions in saying that the unbeliving and unconverted person “is not reconciled to God” (FC:SD:IV:8).


  1. I only started reading Jack's posts since October. I think..the one where he noted Rydecki's removal was the first. I made an unfortunate comment on that post that I fell on the opposite side of the controversy at the time. It was a bad week. I had just read the Marquardt paper and was almost shaken by it. Plus I was not ready to come out of the JBFA closet.

    With that unfortunate moment of weakness behind me...I have noted some of the posts Jack has made. I would comment that for a guy in his position, he is a bit of an intellectual hack. Most of his posts sound like the acedemic equivalent of writing an Executive Summary in the business world. (e.g "..with the goal to empower our partners in the globization of opportunities while maintaining a vision of mission critical virtualization...). The point being there are a lot of trendy $5 words that in reality say nothing.

    I would expect someone in his position to be somewhat proficent in exegetical study but I don't think he could function if all he was handed was a Bible and a BoC.

    Perhaps I'll expound one day on my theories about people with Phd's.
  2. Dr. Jack Kilcrease made this statement back in 2010 in a post titled A Discussion On UOJ:

    Dr. Kilcrease
    "But if a sin is paid for, why is not forgiven? I would suggest that it is. I mean, if you deny that payment=forgiveness, what sort of ontological status does the payment have? To clarify: If a sin is "washed away" then how can it still be around? Did Jesus only potentially make a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, which we then activate via the means of grace? I think not."
    JUNE 9, 2010 3:31 AM

    Jack has since deleted the entire post and 64 of the 66 comments.

    Jack is a rationalist. He once chided me for simply quoting Scripture against UOJ without revealing what the concept was that the words were attempting to communicate.

    UOJ is the perfect storm for rationalists. It establishes a religion that declares and assures the unbeliever of God's forgiveness and righteousness without faith because the faith they have is not in Christ but in a false declaration that never occurred. Rationalists war against the faith of the Holy Spirit which brings the peace and comfort that passes all understanding because they do not have it. They claim a higher assurance of sins forgiven because their forgiveness comes without faith. The catch is that they do not have the comfort of the Holy Spirit's faith and therefore easily rage against Scripture, the Lutheran Confessions and anyone who does not condone their rational man-made doctrine.

    In these last days Satan has achieved the acceptance of a lie - the Lutheran Synods in harmony with the church of the Antichrist - the Roman Catholic Church - announce anathema upon one Justification solely by Faith in Christ Alone.

'via Blog this'

McLaren is the guru of Emerging Churches,
like The CORE in Fox Valley, CrossWalk in Phoenix.
Jeff Gunn should evangelize his atheist son, eh?

narrow-minded has left a new comment on your post "Ecclesia Augustana: Revisiting "Faith is a Cause" ...":

Jack-He must increase, but I must-Kilcrease seems to be very impressed with his "credentials." Did he actually earn his doctorate, or was it an honorary freebie? He should consider a career in politics, where saying a bunch, while saying absolutely nothing, is rewarded.

Apparently we uneducated peons don't see the light of UOJ. Thank God! I now see it as a blessing that going to Fort Wayne didn't work out for me.