Ichabod explores the Age of Apostasy, predicted in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, with an emphasis on UOJ, Church Growth, and Emergent Church heresies. The antidote to these poisons is trusting the efficacious Word in the Means of Grace. John 16:8. Most readers are WELS, LCMS, ELS, or ELCA. This blog also covers the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy, and the mainline denominations.
The Glory Has Departed
Lutheran book boxes sent to two African seminaries -
In Christ forgiveness of sins, or justification, is already accomplished and is held in store for the entire world. When God accepted Christ’s atoning sacrifice for the entire world, He forgave the sins of all the world and justified the world unto eternal life. This forgiveness of sins and justification, which is in Christ, God offers to all the world by means of His Word and Holy Spirit. And whosoever receives this forgiveness of sins and justification possesses it. In this manner we receive, by faith, the forgiveness of sins and are justified and saved.
So, in the interest of "helping" a fruitful discussion, I pose a few questions for Rev. Rydecki:
1. How would you explain the difference between Manthey-Zorn's characterization of SC doctrine, and the doctrine you defend?
The first two sentences in the above definition confuse what Luther calls “the achievement of the forgiveness of sins” with “the function of the forgiveness of sins.” (See, for example, his commentary on 1 Timothy 1:8, AE:28.) That Christ has achieved or won or merited or obtained the benefit of forgiveness (for all men) by His once-for-all sacrifice is witnessed throughout the Book of Concord, and I wholeheartedly confess this.
But as soon as someone says that “God forgave the sins of all the world,” now he has entered into the “function” or the “application” of the forgiveness of sins (that is, applying the forgiveness won by Christ to the world), and as all Scripture, Luther and the Book of Concord clearly teach, this application of what Christ won is only by the Word of God and only by faith.
The phrase above “He forgave the sins of all the world and justified the world unto eternal life” is practically a paraphrase of the This We Believe interpretation of Romans 5:18. “We believe that God has justified all sinners, that is, he has declared them righteous for the sake of Christ. This is the central message of Scripture upon which the very existence of the church depends. It is a message relevant to people of all times and places, of all races and social levels, for "the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men" (Romans 5:18). All need forgiveness of sins before God, and Scripture proclaims that all have been justified, for "the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men" (Romans 5:18).
The problem is, the WELS interpretation of Romans 5:18 differs from Luther, Chemnitz, Gerhard, Hunnius, and the Book of Concord. If the WELS would admit that it is teaching differently from the Lutheran Confessions, I could at least respect its “rugged individualism.” The fact that it continues to claim that it teaches nothing other than what the Confessions teach on this is becoming more and more untenable.
I have no problem with the third sentence from Manthey-Zorn above, except that the context makes clear that the Synodical Conference position was that the “trial” itself ended 2,000 years ago with a blanket pardon having been issued to all sinners. This negates any sort of “justification” taking place through the Word and by faith, since the actual “declaring sinners righteous” is said to have taken place 2,000 years ago. In other words, “justification by faith” is a misnomer. No one is justified by faith. They only receive the verdict already rendered in God's courtroom toward all men. The Scriptural position, however, has the sinner standing in God’s live courtroom (see the post on Chemnitz’s forensic definition of justification) and being absolved by God as he flees in faith to the Throne of Grace.
And whosoever receives this forgiveness of sins and justification possesses it. In this manner we receive, by faith, the forgiveness of sins and are justified and saved. These final two sentences indicate a distinction between the verdict that God supposedly rendered once for all and the sinner’s actual “possession” of that verdict. It’s like God hit a baseball (called justification) into the air 2,000 years ago, and whoever catches it is said to “possess” justification. In the language of Scripture, however, it is in time that God justifies sinners, and not “in time” as in, 2,000 years ago, but “in time” as in when a person believes in Christ. To use my little analogy above, the position outlined by Manthey-Zorn calls it “justification” when God hits the ball, and he calls it “justification” when a person catches the ball. Is this a "double justification"? Is it using the word "justification" in two different senses? Where is the "justification" for doing so?
The problem all along is that the Bible does not say anywhere that the trial itself is over, or that God issued a one-time verdict of justification on all men. It does say repeatedly that sinners are justified when they believe in Christ.
2. What differences (if any) between Manthey-Zorn's characterization of SC doctrine and the variety of current UOJ positions can you identify?
There are several. I’ll start with this idea of “possession.” Marquart re-popularized this concept in asserting that all are forgiven, but no one actually “has” or “possesses” forgiveness until he believes. But one of the original sources of UOJ, Eduard Preuss, states that it is not at all a matter of “possession” or “non-possession.” He says that all “possess” forgiveness already, but not all “enjoy” it. This mimics the langauge of WLS seminary professors, too. All are forgiven (objective), but not all “enjoy” their forgiveness (subjective).
“Pray do not deceive yourself by making a distinction between possession and enjoyment. The whole earth has been in possession of forgiveness since the death of Christ on the cross. In the justification of the individual person the point is always the enjoyment, the fact that the righteousness of Christ saves me, is for my benefit, is enjoyed by me.”
I might lump current UOJ views into two general categories, with notable variations in each. The first is probably more the understanding in WELS and the second is probably more the understanding in the LCMS.
(1) God imputed the righteousness of Christ to the world 2,000 years ago. All (as many as were condemned by the sin of Adam) have been justified and forgiven as an immediate result of the work of Christ. Justification actually “happened” once and only once, before any of us was born. When sinners believe that they have already been justified, then they get to enjoy the status they already had, as far as God is concerned. When sinners are said to be “justified” by faith, this is really a euphemism, since it is taught that justification already “happened” long before anyone heard the Word or believed. Sinners aren’t really “justified” by faith at all. They only receive the benefit of the “accomplished” justification.
(2) God imputed the righteousness of Christ back to Christ after He suffered on the cross. And (logically) since He bore the sins of all, then (logically), when His righteousness was imputed back to Him, it was actually imputed to the whole world of sinners that was said to be “in Him.” Therefore, through the Substitute, all people were justified. That act of God 2,000 years ago is called by them “justification.” When the Gospel of Christ is preached and this “general justification” is proclaimed, that is also called by them “justification.” And when a sinner believes the Gospel, that is a third kind of “justification.” So they speak of sinners being “justified,” but they mean the word differently in all three cases.
Both of these versions are confusing and have strayed from the language and the teaching of Scripture and the Confessions. The teaching that sinners are only justified by faith in Christ is not only much simpler to understand. It is Biblical through and through.
3. Some accuse those who hold to Justification by Faith Alone of Synergism. This is, apparently, a consequence of an in-time work of God in the Justification of the sinner, outside of the sinner himself – i.e., God does something objectively for man, then some condition is met in man (whether that condition is met in man by God, or in man by his own effort), to which God responds with a further “objective” work (i.e. an “in-time” declaration of forgiveness). Many are accusing you of Synergism on this account. How do you handle this? Do you say that Synergism is a Biblical doctrine, or do your accusers operate from an improper definition of Synergism? (Or have I, in this question, entirely botched the definition they are working from...?)
Synergism is the “working together with God” in one’s conversion/salvation. It is not Biblical doctrine. It seems to me that the Iowa and Ohio men slipped into this language, at least, and possibly the false doctrine itself. For example, I reject this saying of Ohio (taken from the article you linked earlier), “We believe and confess that in the atoning work of Jesus Christ holy and merciful God has met us half-way, as it were.”
Ohio also went too far when they asserted that “had he (man) properly conducted himself — a thing he was able to do in the strength of such grace at work upon his heart — he would have been converted and saved without fail. From this it follows as a thing beyond dispute that in a certain respect conversion and salvation depend also upon man and not upon God alone. (Theol. Zeitblaetter, 1887, p. 325.)”
Iowa went even further in the wrong direction. I completely reject this: “Whether a man will be saved or lost depends, in the last analysis, upon that man's own free decision either for or against God’s grace. (Brobst, Theolog. Monatshefte, 1872, p. 49.)”
I further reject: “That two men may hear the Gospel and one of them come to believe while the other does not, this, according to the Bible, has its cause solely and entirely in man's decision (for or against the Gospel). (Ibid., p. 82.)”
And further: “The sober truth that man decides for or against salvation must be strongly emphasized. (Ibid., p. 98.)”
This is all rightly termed “synergism,” for it actively credits the free will of man with the ability and power to cooperate with God in his conversion. This is very similar to Arminianism. It is not remotely similar to what I teach.
But this is important: To say that Iowa and Ohio got it wrong on this point does not mean that, de facto, the Synodical Conference got everything right. A third option exists: They both got some things wrong, especially where the Synodical Conference started formulating new language and novel interpretations of Scripture to defend their arguments.
Faith is the only divinely appointed means for justifying sinners. It is God the Holy Spirit’s gift to men who were previously spiritually dead. He works through the Word alone to make willing men out of unwilling men, to take men who are hostile to Christ by nature and turn them into men who look to Christ for mercy. To Him alone belong the power, the credit, and the glory for a man’s conversion, and to His Word alone belongs the efficacy for creating and sustaining faith, whereby He justifies sinners. To man alone belongs the fault for his sin, his unbelief and his damnation. That is enough to understand. Trying to figure it out beyond that is what has gotten people into trouble.