The Error of Modern Missouri:
ITS INCEPTION, DEVELOPMENT,
As set forth in
By F. W. STELLHORN, D. D.,
Prof, of Theology in the Ev. Luth. Seminary, Columbus, Ohio; Author of
Woerterbuch zum griechischen Neuen Testament; A Brief Commentary on the Books of the New Testament; Annotations on the Acts of the Apostles in the Lutheran Commentary.
By REV. F. A. SCHMIDT, D. D.,
Prof, in the Theological Seminary of the Norwegian United Church, Minneapolis, Minn.
III. A Testimony Against the False Doctrine of Predestination recently introduced by the Missouri Synod.
By SEVERAL FORMER MEMBERS OF THE
Translated from the German.
Edited by GEORGE H. SCHODDE, Ph. D.,
Prof. of Theology in the Ev. Luth. Seminary, Columbus, Ohio.
LUTHERAN BOOK CONCERN
IT is a matter of deep regret that the Synod of Missouri and other States has, for the past twenty-years and more, set itself against the faith it at one time was the chief defender and promoter of in this country. Whether the membership of that body are aware of it or not, it is not for us to judge; but the fact remains that their doctrine of a particular yet unconditional election unto salvation subverts the entire system of Gospel truth and deprives every doctrinal member of that system of its saving power and comfort. Whilst the Lutheran Church in entire conformity with Scripture teaches but one decree unto salvation the Missourians teach, as coordinate to it, a second and one whereby the first is logically set aside and practically emptied of its gracious content. Professing to believe with us that God by His mercy would have all men to be saved, they at the same time contend for the doctrine that God has decreed to save only a few by giving to them — for reasons no man can know — the faith adequate to that end. Never were two articles of belief more glaringly contradictory offered for acceptance to the mind of man; and, as this last, never was doctrine so utterly destructive of every well-grounded hope of salvation.
The grave charge of heresy must stand against the synod of Missouri until it retracts. A mere correction of phrases cannot acquit that body; nor can it satisfy an offended church by any profession of belief in the universality of divine grace, however loud and unctious it may be in giving expression to it.
Its official utterances on the doctrine of predestination as ultimately set forth in the thirteen theses of 1881, when considered apart from their history, might be allowed to pass; but taken in connection with the controversy that has called them forth they have settled nothing, except that the Missouri Synod as a body has adopted the position of its leading men and made [[@Page:iv]]itself responsible for what they have written. The theses themselves fail to cover the all important point in dispute. When, for example, in thesis ten they declare that the faith foreseen by God in the elect is not the cause which moved Him to predestinate them unto salvation, they simply set up a man of straw, be it to knock him down or, which is more likely, to have the impression go abroad that their opponents had in all sincerity set up a figure of that description. But, what is more and worse: by the terms of its preamble to its declaration of faith the synod demands the latter to be subscribed to as the doctrine set forth in its publications up to that time, to wit, the Lutheraner, the Lehre und Wehre, and the Minutes of its several districts, notably that of the Western District.
In these publications the leaders and spokesmen of the body arraigned postulate a double grace in God: the one universal, being for all men alike; the other particular, specifically potent, and mysteriously intended for the elect few and bestowed on them alone. Strangely enough, the former alone never saves; whilst the latter, when concurrent to the first, shall and must save every man to whom for some reason unknown to us it is extended. By some eternal purpose and decree of God and without any regard on His part to anything whatsoever in man — the God-given faith included — this grace is extant for only the few God has ordained to salvation. Such, according to our Missouri opponents, is the grace of election.
When in 1881 Dr. Walther formulated anew the controverted points, the first proposition he declared himself ready to affirm and defend was, “that the faith foreseen by God flows from election;” or, in other words, that the persevering faith without which no sinner can be saved has its source in election. This proposition he set up over against the other, that election flows from the foreseen faith — an antithesis of his own invention; for what was really contended for — and is to-day — is the plain Bible truth that grace universal is for every man wholly and solely the source of the faith that can save him — a fact and truth our opponents have completely ignored! From the position thus assumed by the leader his followers have never receded; and to defend the pernicious doctrine then and there enunciated they stand in arms against us to this very day.
By the common consensus of Scripture teaching and of the [[@Page:v]]belief of all parties concerned as well as by the very word employed to designate it, the grace of election is particular; and this limited grace Missouri declares to be the one source of effectually saving faith. Aware of what such a doctrine implies, they ask men to forego the exercise of their prerogative to think and instead to adore the mystery divine they pretend to have discovered. Surely, poor mortals find mysteries enough in God’s providential and gracious dealings with men to impress them with a due sense of His majesty; and to make souls stumble at mysteries which have no existence anywhere except in some people’s imagination is a sin they will find it hard to account for.
To thinking men, led by the Word and Spirit of God, the Missouri doctrine of an unconditional election of a limited number of sinners unto conversion and persevering faith vitiates the whole plan of salvation. Unless a poor sinner knows himself to be one of God’s elect — a matter he can have no certain and unmistakable knowledge of — his soul must be tossed with doubts and fears all his lifetime. Neither the mercy of God, nor the merits of Christ, nor the witnessing of the Spirit are able to give him rest; for — according to the Missourians — these do not suffice to save any man unless the mysterious grace of election be added to them; that is to say, unless God have in His eternal council irrevocably resolved that the man shall and must be saved!
Though a sort of truce seems to be observed at present by the parties to it, the controversy is not come to an end. It has been carried on for the most part by means of the German language; and whilst it has no doubt corrupted the faith of some and sorely afflicted the hearts of all who love the truth of God and desire His Church to prosper in peace, yet has the good Lord overruled the evil for good to thousands; for it cannot be denied that the battle has been the occasion of bringing to light many treasures of precious truth that might otherwise have remained hidden from the eyes of many who now rejoice in them. Bearing these facts in mind. President E. L. S. Tressel has rendered an invaluable service to the Church by publishing this volume, and thus making some of the choicest finds accessible to the English reading public.
The volume thus introduced presents three lengthy treatises on the subject of predestination. The first, by Dr. F. W. [[@Page:vi]]Stellhorn and translated by Rev. R. C. H. Lenski, is a Contribution to the History and the proper Estimate of the recent controversy on the doctrine of Predestination. The Contribution covers three parts: the first, a dogmatic historical introduction to the subject; the second, the Formula of Concord and the old Lutheran theologians; and the third, the doctrine of predestination in the Missouri Synod.
The second treatise, Intuitu Fidei, is by Dr. F. A. Schmidt, and is translated by the brethren R. C. H. Lenski and C. B. Ghodes. In this the Rev. Doctor propounds and answers the three questions: first. What was the substantial content of the doctrine, that God made choice of the elect in foresight of faith, as taught by the fathers and teachers of the Lutheran Church? secondly, Did our fathers and teachers depart from the Confessions by teaching an election in foresight of faith? and thirdly. Is the doctrine of election in foresight of faith taught by the Lutheran Confession?
The third and last treatise is A Testimony Against the False Doctrine of Predestination Recently Introduced by the Missouri Synod, and an Appendix — by H. A. Allwardt — on the history of the controversy in that body. The first part of this paper contains a series of theses prepared by the brethren H. A. Allwardt and Prof. H. Ernst, followed by a discussion of the same by the authors and ministers who had felt themselves constrained to withdraw from the Missouri Synod on account of the grave errors that body had set out to promulgate. These brethren subsequently organized what was known as the Northwestern District of our Synod, and now as the Districts respectively of Wisconsin and Minnesota. The translation is by the brethren R. C. H. Lenski and W. E. Tressel.
The subject matter discussed in these several treatises is too vast and varied for even a synoptic review in these pages. Suffice it to say that the erudition, assiduity and conscientiousness of the authors, and of the translators as well, are the best guarantee any one can ask for that the book herewith recommended is a treasury of profound thought, nice reasoning and of rich information. May it find its way into the hands of many readers and prove itself of lasting good to them and through them to the Church at large.
C. H. L. SCHUETTE.
Columbus, O., October 28, A. D. 1897. [[@Page:vii]]