The Glory Has Departed
Norma Boeckler, Artist in Residence
Bethany Lutheran Worship on
Monday, June 8, 2015
Jay Webber Essay, First Part
The Term Justification and the Double Justification of OJ and SJ.
The essay begins with the routine, practiced dishonesty of the crowd who took over the Synodical Conference and sold its members down the river to mainline apostasy and union with the ELCA. Nothing is more appropriate than to have Jay Webber write - an advocate for open communion with ELCA. Moreover, as a Lutheran missionary in the Ukraine, Webber was happy to work with and obtain money from Floyd Luther Stolzenburg, Church Growth advocate extraordinaire in Columbus, Ohio – unfaithful in marriage and doctrine, expelled from the LCMS but embraced by WELS/ELS.
The essay is not about justification but the pet dogma of the mainline Protestants, CFW Walther, and Martin Stephan – universal absolution without faith. Webber chooses to call this “an aspect” of justification in focusing on Objective Justification. But for the heirs of rationalistic Pietism, Objective Justification is the Gospel and faith is only an afterthought. Yes, their Gospel message is – “The entire world has already been forgiven and saved, without faith.” Their afterthought is, “But you have to believe this for it to matter for your sin-free, guilt-free soul.” This afterthought is called Subjective Justification, which has also been demoted by Webber to an “aspect of justification.”
These peculiar labels, Objective Justification and Subjective Justification, have a history, but one outside of the Lutheran Church. Long ago, when few theology books were printed, Georg Christian Knapp published his Halle University lectures in German. He was considered the last of the old fashioned Pietists at Halle, which was established to promote Pietism. The university rapidly became rationalistic, and some of that certainly rubbed off on Knapp. He denied that the Christian Church’s definition of the Holy Trinity was in harmony with the Bible. But Knapp was old-fashioned for his time, and his book was translated by the Calvinist Woods in America. Knapp was already established as a famous and traditional theologians for all Protestants, so this translation was published well before the Stephanites landed in New Orleans in 1839. However, the group remained German speaking for many decades and doubtless relied on the German edition of Knapp. The Calvinist translator explained Knapp’s opaque language in a footnote -
"This is very conveniently expressed by the terms objective and subjective justification. Objective justification is the act of God, by which he proffers pardon to all through Christ; subjective, is the act of man, by which he accepts the pardon freely offered in the Gospel. The former is universal, the latter not (Woods, p. )."
“His [Woods'] translation of Georg Christian Knapp's Christian Theology (1831-1833) was long used as a text-book in American theological seminaries.” (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Leonard_Woods)
The terms, conveniently expressed, did not come from Confessional Lutherans, but from a famous Calvinist with no Lutheran training. The impact of the English Halle lectures made itself felt when the two terms were adapted in Germany and pleased Walther, who approved their use. This does not make them orthodox or Lutheran, although the soothsayers would have us believe that. Instead, the adoption of Objective Justification reveals the common thread of Halle Pietism and rationalism in America. All the Lutheran groups were Pietistic to some extent and this Pietism soon displaced their loyalty to any Confessions, whether Calvinistic or Lutheran. The spirit of Pietism—which favors cooperation over sound doctrine—makes it easy for the LCMS, WELS, and ELS to work with the ELCA – especially through Thrivent. Their own LCMS/WELS pastor, Mark Jeske sits on the Thrivent board.
Halle Rationalistic Pietism
We should never underestimate the power and influence of Halle University and its rationalistic Pietism. The founder of the ULCA/LCA tradition was Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, who taught at the Franke Foundation orphanage at Halle. The real founder of the Missouri Synod, Martin Stephan, attended but did not graduate from Halle University. In fact, Stephan never graduated from a university and was not qualified to be a pastor. His position as a Bohemian and Pietist gave him the credibility to be called to the Pietist congregation, which was closely allied with the Pietist Zinzendorf. The Pietist Stephan attracted the attention of the Pietistic Walther group of clergy, who gravitated to Stephan when their Pietist guru - Johann Gottlieb Kuehn - suddenly died.
The main theologian of the Wisconsin Synod, Adolph Hoenecke, graduated from Halle University in 1859. His mentor Tholuck was a Universalist. Thus we should not be too shocked that Hoenecke wrote about General Justification, a misleading translation of the German term – algemeine Rechtfertigung – Universal Justification (every single one, no exceptions, as in Universal Conscription).
As one theological student asked, “What happened to Subjective Justification in the mainline denominations like ELCA?” The best explanation comes from the meaning of the term – not faith in Christ, but faith in Universal Justification – “the former is universal, “as the Calvinist Woods translated. The nature of Subjective Justification dooms it to make faith irrelevant, as Webber’s essay has demonstrated with countless, stolid, prolixic, redundancies.
Another Obscure Pietistic Hero
Webber enjoys citing Pietists and baptizing them as orthodox or confessional Lutherans. The seldom-cited Quistorp gets that treatment from Webber, which would make church historians gasp in wonder. Strangely, Webber begins his essay citing Professor Caroll Herman Little, who once served as president of the seminary I attended – Waterloo Lutheran in Ontario, Canada. Robert Preus once mentioned Little to me and doubtless taught Little as an example of a ULCA pastor who agreed with the LCMS about doctrine. One little problem remains – the Canada Synod was Pietistic. For example, when one of the patriarchs of the synod visited a home and saw the boys playing cards, he said nothing. On Sunday, old Reble delivered a blistering sermon on the evils of playing cards – a typical Pietistic sermon for that era. Like most readers I have to wonder why Little’s opinions about justification matter to anyone.
Misuse of Justification as a Term
The Objective Justification cabal has decided that their peculiar dogma is the justification of the Reformation, the Book of Concord, and the Scriptures. Rather than attack justification by faith directly, they simply substitute their philosophy for Biblical doctrine, knowing well that their OJ terminology is found no earlier than Pietism – after the Reformation – and freely witnessed in various denominations and even in cults.
“As an objective fact, justification is applied to the entire human race fully redeemed in Christ. [Read Rom. 5:18.] – Adventist website - http://www.jacksequeira.org/issues06.htm
“ Legal universal justification implies that all human beings come into the world legally saved, pardoned, justified; from God's perspective they are not lost. If it is true that every human being who has been and will be born on this planet was present in Christ when he died and that they all were legally justified, then those who are not yet born have already been justified.” Adventist website –
One should not be shocked by Synodical Conference authors praising justification in the words of Luther and switching to OJ for the rest of the essay. Webber is almost this obvious.
Indeed, Webber on page 3 indulges himself in the usual potpourri of Scriptural citations that do not fit. He quoted Romans 5:18 – as the Adventist did. In spite of Romans 4 being a chapter about justification by faith, climaxing with Romans 5:1-2, Webber fished out Romans 4:25, part of a verse, avoiding the real meaning of the sentence, chapter, and epistle.
Romans 4:22 And therefore it was imputed to him [Abraham] for righteousness.
As we see in many LCMS publications, the citations are simply stated as if they prove a contentious point, but there is no contention since the OJ mob does not recognize, quote, or acknowledge justification by faith. For example, Webber studied under Robert Preus but in this essay never mentioned the last book of Preus, Justification and Rome, which eviscerated OJ in a series of quotations from orthodox Lutherans.
More Confusion – In View of Faith
As many have observed, the second part is just as distorted and strange as Objective Justification. Note the additional terms – Individual, Personal, and Subjective Justification. So many terms are needed to replace justification by faith. Webber defines this Subjective Justification as faith in Objective Justification –
“… the actual acceptance by faith in the Objective Justification.” (p. 3)
The plot grows even shallower –
“If personal or subjective Justification is the acceptance by faith of Objective Justification it is manifest that it does not take place ‘in view of faith.’ Thus a synergistic view of Justification is avoided. (p. 3)
The logic is bizarre, because Webber proves his assumption with his assumption, reasoning in a circle. Justification by faith is synergistic or Calvinism – I can never figure those accusations out. If justification by faith, as taught by Paul, Luther, and the Book of Concord, is synergistic, then what is faith in OJ, as taught by Stephan, Walther, DP Ed Werner, and David Valleskey?
This in view of faith accusation seems to have originated in Walther’s febrile mind, where he imagined faith as a work. And yet, the self-contradicting Walther told his gullible followers they had to make a decision for OJ, precisely what Webber is claiming.
Naturally, one can never be accused of anything when aping Walther, but the circle of rationalistic Pietists supporting rationalistic Pietists is not a compelling Biblical or Concordist argument.
No Grasp of Lutheran Doctrine
Webber displays no grasp of Lutheran doctrine as he wanders from point to point, something to be expected when someone starts with a Canadian-American professor of Pietism as the ruling norm of doctrine. There are minor disagreements among the Lutherans, say Little and Webber, but no worry. (p. 4)
One would never imagine that this Webber essay is an extended, if bloated, attack on justification by faith, the Bible, Luther, the Book of Concord, the post-Concord orthodox Lutherans, Gerhard, groups within the LCMS, and Gausewitz. Dismissing a long history of justification by faith and large numbers of people who find OJ alarmingly foul, Webber tries to jawbone the new Synodical Conference into an agreement that never will happen. Too many people, when informed of the agenda of OJ, disagree with great energy and conviction.