Introduction To The Doctrinal Discussion.


After Prof. Schmidt, of Madison, Wis., and Rev. Allwardt had raised objections in private to Dr. Walther against the Report of the Western District of the Missouri Synod for the year 1877, the latter did not, at the meeting of the same District in 1879, [[@Page:574]]confine himself to a defense of the controverted propositions, but attempted in every possible way to brand the contrary propositions as heretical; this the Report of ‘79 shows only too fully. When for this reason a public defense of the pure doctrine became necessary, and open controversy ensued, those of St. Louis continued this procedure. On the one hand, they declared that we did not believe at all in an eternal election, and on the other hand, they asserted especially that our doctrine concerning conversion was synergistic and Pelagian, i.e. that we ascribe co-operation to man in conversion. This is the old trick; “Catch the thief!” cries vociferously the thief himself. These accusations they have repeated and re-repeated with a zeal and an emphasis worthy of a better cause; and there is no doubt that so far their success has been due to the employment of such tactics. For every Lutheran believes firmly that we cannot by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord, or come to Him, and that faith is the gracious gift of the Holy Ghost. He who denies this is indeed no Lutheran; and our opponents could have employed no more efficient means for calumniating our controversy against them, and for withdrawing attention from their own errors, than this terrible accusation. It was not very difficult for them to secure acceptance of these accusations especially in their own synod. The respect accorded Dr. Walther was in itself of great weight. Few people read what we ourselves wrote, and the misrepresentations of our doctrines at the hands of our St. Louis opponents were such as in themselves to prevent any calm and unprejudiced investigation.

Our present intention is not the defense of our good name over against the calumniations of Missouri. We cannot deny indeed, that it pains us to have so many of our former brethren and fathers in Christ look upon us now as heretics, synergists, Pelagians, arch-Pelagians, and even as pagans and Turks. Yet we have the testimony of a good conscience. And we see also to what fallacies they must resort to give any support to their accusations, and that they dare not present to their readers passages of any length from our writings from which a judgment might be formed. From conversations with many Missouri pastors since the inception of the controversy we know that it was almost impossible for them to swallow the new doctrinal propositions, and they dare not even to this day present them openly and honestly to their congregations. These are indeed miserable [[@Page:575]]conditions, and we can only thank God for having preserved us and strengthened our hearts to fight against the error. The aspersions cast upon us we can bear readily, knowing that a day of just judgment is drawing nigh.

Our purpose is simply to raise our united voices in warning: Beware, O Lutheran Church of America, beware! Missouri, so highly favored and blessed — Missouri with Dr. Walther at its head — has fallen into great error, into an error which affects the very foundation of our salvation — God’s eternal love for sinners. Missouri indeed comes with an indignant denial. And, in fact, it does not explicitly deny that God has loved all men, that the Son of God has redeemed all, and that God in a certain sense would have all men to be saved. Missouri confesses all this, and often clothes it in beautiful words, finer than we are able to produce. And yet by the side of this its teaching Missouri adheres to a doctrine of predestination which in very fact annuls the universal love of God. Missouri itself confesses that apparently the doctrine of predestination contradicts the doctrine of God’s universal will of grace; it tells us that the connection between these two doctrines is a mystery; and under cover of this “mystery” it seeks to establish this doctrine in the Church. Beware, O Lutheran Church! This “apparent” contradiction is a real contradiction, a contradiction of the fundamental doctrine of the Scriptures, namely that God had such compassion upon all men as to render the salvation of all in reality possible. When our opponents speak of the universal will of grace, they still for the most part speak correctly; but when they speak of predestination, their words are false. Paul tells us that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. But our opponents have mixed the truth of the Scriptures not with “a little”, but with a good-sized lump of error.

Would to God that they might learn to see and forsake their error! But the prospects for such a course on their part are not very encouraging. We commend all to God! [[@Page:576]]