|Douglas Lindee has been active|
with the Intrepid Lutherans.
I couldn't agree more. Though I've been preoccupied over the past couple months with pressing business concerns, I have definitely been keeping up with the dialogue on IL. What amazes me about the dialogue between Rev.'s Lawson (ACLC) and Rydecki (ELDoNA) over the past couple months is that, FINALLY, there is an open, calm and coherent discussion on this serious matter (a matter which is clearly NOT settled, but which, it is now fully apparent, has been disputed off and on for 400 years) between two capable disputants who are respectfully disposed toward one another in public. I met Rev. Lawson, very briefly, while attending the 2013 Colloquium and Synod of the ELDoNA, and he struck me then, as he does now, as simultaneously a thoughtful steady man, and a man of conviction. While these characteristics naturally go together, one might not get that impression from the manner in which this issue has been discussed in other forums. Certainly, one would not get that impression by reading the accounts of Schmidt -vs- Walther.
I no longer find it odd that such a thing does not, and will probably never, happen in WELS – on this or any other consequential matter of doctrine or practice – and have entirely ceased looking for or expecting that any such thing will ever happen among them. There is a continuing strident refusal to openly discuss important matters. Rather than find it odd, I recognize it for what it is – as a foreboding cultic tendency. People who get sucked into cults lose their self-identity – their concept of self becomes indistinguishable from the group, and apart from the group's leadership they feel as if they have no guidance and no hope. Positional authority is a psychological weapon among such leaders, and they use it to retain the dedication of their followers and to urge them toward greater productivity in the interest of the group. I'm beginning to see now, what I denied existed when my friends and family first warned us about this sort of thing when we joined WELS over a decade ago. [GJ - I added the blue; the red was in the original.]
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That isn't to say that Confession isn't important. In fact, it is because Confession is such a critical matter that we all must be diligent to make certain that our Confession is True. As stated many times on this blog, a person's Confession proceeds from the convictions of his own Conscience – the seat of his self-identity – as an expression of what he is convinced is True. For the Christian, his self-identity is bound together and inseparable from his identity in Christ and the teachings of Scripture. Since our knowledge of the Truth is imperfect, and since our convictions change with time and experience, this means that an individual's Confession needs to continually be reaffirmed, for, as we have also stated on this blog, when he is called upon to make Confession, he is not speaking to his friends, but is standing before his executioner. Confession and Martyrdom are terms that are defined relative to one another:
Those who cheerfully confessed Christ before the heathen magistrate at peril of life, but were not executed, were honored as confessors. Those who suffered abuse of all kinds, and death itself, for their faith, were called martyrsor blood-witnesses.
(Schaff, P. . History of the Christian Church (Vol. 2, Ante-Nicene Christianity). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers. [Reprinted from the fifth edition of Volume 2, originally published in 1889]. pg. 76.)
And we Lutherans have always recognized the connection of Confession to Martyrdom. This is what Luther did when he stood before the Roman Emperor and representatives of the Pope at the Diet of Worms, maintaining his Confession and refusing to recant. This is what the German Princes did when they presented their Confession to the Roman Emperor and representatives of the Pope at Augsburg. Indeed, this connection remains part of our Rite of Confirmation in which we expect our confirmands to give the following oath:
Do you, as a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, intend to continue steadfast in the confession of this Church, and suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?
(The Lutheran Agenda. . St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House. pg. 24)
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As a layman, I can tell you for a fact, there is no way in the world I could stand before my executioner on the grounds of UOJ. Die over that doctrine? No way. I have no sure foundation on which to defend it. It claims that on account of Christ's work, "God has already DECLARED the whole world of sinners – each and every individual who has or who will ever exist – to be righteous and forgiven before Him", but it cannot adduce a single passage of Scripture where it quotes God having made this universal declaration. This is significant, because the only foundation for my Confession that I would have to offer my executioner as a defense, would be the very words of God Himself, as He has preserved them in the Bible; but nowhere is this "declaration", to which some Lutherans would bind my conscience as the centerpiece of the Christian religion, to be found in its pages. Instead of Scripture, I would be forced defend such a confession by descending into philosophical jibber-jabber, replete with paradox and fantasy.
On the other hand, the attestation in Scripture for the doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone is to be found practically everywhere, in direct positive – and thus also CLEAR – terms.
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2)
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:8)
And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:13-18)
...Baptism does also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him. (1 Peter 3:21-22)
I am justified by faith, and this is what saves me from eternal condemnation. Apart from faith I am not forgiven; quite the opposite, apart from faith I am condemned. I know that I have been given saving faith, and thus also righteous standing before God and eternal salvation, NOT because of the strength of my convictions (which, in my human weakness wax and wane), but by the objective fact of my Baptism through which the promises of Jesus Christ are conferred. And there can be no question that I was baptized – I have documented proof, signed by the witnesses who were in attendance and notarized. In times of distress, when my faith is weak, I don't look to some universal declaration of God that is nowhere recorded in the Scriptures; I look to my Baptism and the promises clearly attending it, and thus know that God has given me faith, and with it forgiveness, life and salvation.