A. BEFORE THE YEAR 1877.
Dr. Walther, as is generally known, was the theological leader of the Missouri Synod, and this in a way in which a single man has seldom been the leader of a religious body. Whatever he said, wrote, did, or approved in religious matters was looked upon, unless he himself modified or retracted it (and this was rare) in the Synod and accordingly also outside of it, as if the Synod itself had said, written, done, or approved it. When, therefore, we want to discuss the doctrine of predestination in the Missouri Synod, we need not confine ourselves in our statements and proofs to the official utterances of this body. In fact there are no such utterances for the period to which we here wish to draw attention. With one single exception we shall here base our discussion on the periodicals of the Synod, edited by Dr. Walther. Whatever appeared in these periodicals without a dissenting or correcting remark from Dr. Walther, was considered, according to the principle uttered repeatedly by himself and acknowledged by the Synod, as stamped by him with the seal of orthodoxy; and it must therefore be looked upon as the doctrine of the Missouri Synod at the time. Prefacing these remarks, which may be necessary especially for younger readers, we proceed to the discussion of the doctrine of predestination in the Missouri Synod prior to the year 1877. This year forms the distinct line of division between the earlier and the later doctrine of Missouri on predestination.
In April of the year 1847 the Missouri Synod was founded by Dr. Walther, Dr. Sihler, Rev. Wyneken, and others; and the “Lutheraner,” published already by Dr. Walther since September, 1844, was made the organ of the new synodical body. This paper, in the 24th number of its 2d vol., July 25, 1846, in an article by Rev. Schieferdecker, entitled: “The Apostolic Symbol and Its [[@Page:54]]Varying Interpretations,” had already branded the following as false Reformed doctrine, viz: That God “by an absolute decree has elected some to life and condemned others to death, in which decree man’s conduct (Verhalten) has found no consideration whatever, nor also faith; for not sin and unbelief are the true causes of reprobation, if the truth of the Scriptures is to remain inviolate, but the good pleasure of God and His freest will.”
In the beginning of the year 1855 appeared the first number of “Lehre und Wehre,” the theological organ of the Missouri Synod, also edited by Dr. Walther. Already the first volume brought (p. 234 sqq.) “Nineteen theses on the doctrine of the eternal foreordination and the merciful election unto eternal life” as “contributed by Prof. Sihler, Ph.D.” We would draw attention especially to the following theses:
“Thesis 1. Predestination is that act of God in which, before the foundation of the world, thus from all eternity. He determined, according to the purpose of His will, to save eternally, for Christ’s sake and for the praise of His glorious grace, all those whose persevering faith in Christ He has foreseen. Eph. 1.4-6; 2 Tim. 1.9.”
“Thesis 3. This gracious decree of God unto salvation is not absolute, nor does it originate in the hidden and concealed depths of the divine will, but it includes at once all causes, means, and ways for eternal salvation, and is set in a definite order, outside of which it is not to be realized, nor can it be realized in man.”
“Thesis 10. Foreseen faith is not the cause of election; for we are elected not because of faith, but because of Christ.”
“Thesis 11. Although all men are redeemed because of Christ (or in Christ), according to His work and merit, yet only those are elected who embrace and apprehend Him in true faith and finally persevere therein.”
“Thesis 12. Just as little (see Thesis 10) is election simply the cause of faith, which is evinced by the final fall of temporary believers; faith, however, depends on election as that which is ordained upon that which ordains, and is a member of the order (see Thesis 4) in which God offers the blessing of election unto men.” According to this, election, which is possible and in so far exists for every man, depends on man permitting himself to be led according to the “divine order unto blessedness and salvation,” which, according to Thesis 4, is for all men.
In the 2d Vol. of “Lehre und Wehre,” p. 305, we have the [[@Page:55]]beginning of a long dissertation by Rev. O. Fürbringer, entitled: “Concerning the Doctrine of Election and Several Matters Thereto Pertaining,” from which we quote the following important passages: “Dark and mysterious are the depths of evil in human nature, when they come in conflict with the divine workings of the Word. There is then woven and formed, by manifold heavy guilt known only to God, a disposition in the innermost heart which, instead of grace and forgiveness, challenges the divine justice and punishment” (p. 314). “Before all time God has resolved to save man, lost and condemned through the fall, in Jesus Christ, His Son, and since it was not hidden from Him, whose eye beheld us before He had formed us, who among men would recognize His Savior and truly believe in Him to the end. He resolved to put these into that condition in which His gracious will would glorify itself in them. But if God (who resolved to do this and would therefore impart it) foreknew these as creatures who through faith would be saved, then He thereby at the same time predestinated them unto all things necessary for the attainment of salvation, as persons who will not be rejected, in whom the decree of salvation is realized” (p. 315 — here the election of persons is made dependent on the foreknowledge of God or upon His “foreseeing”). “Is God’s eternal election the cause of salvation for His believers in the sense that it first of all works faith? It must be held fast above all else that election is in the first place neither the foundation, nor the means, nor the condition of salvation; for these are Christ, His Gospel, and the faith given thereby. In the second place, election is not the cause of our faith, in so far as faith would be the effect of election; for the Word works faith. But since God’s election appoints and ordains those whom He knows as His own in advance unto salvation, it is indeed the cause effecting their salvation in so far, as it makes all things during this time of grace adapt themselves to this end alone. It brings about that foreseen faith and all that proceeds from it is realized through the Word coming to us and felt effectively by all who hear it. This is the point of difference, dividing the pure doctrine from the Reformed particularistic doctrine, viz: That the power of the divine Word unto conversion and regeneration has not predestination as its presupposition.” (P. 321.) “That many harden themselves more and more is, as a clear consequence, not a natural necessity, but an accidental effect of the Word, which always aims only at[[@Page:56]] sanctification and salvation; this hardening has its basis in the constitution and state of human hearts, which by nature have an evil will. In their original depravity they are therefore equally capable and equally incapable of that which is spoken by the Holy Spirit, i.e., they are dead in tresspasses and sins. Only the constantly continued resistance of one upheld by His almighty hand, a resistance against the working activity of the Gospel, contrary to the inward better conviction of conscience, called out by hearing and as often as hearing takes place — only this has as its inevitable result the development of the sinful free-will power and the curse of being cast away.” (P. 322.) “From the purpose to save only those who persevere in faith, it (i.e. the Formula of Concord) here derives their election. But this conjunction of the two can be conceived only as mediated by foresight, inasmuch as God, who desires by all means to communicate his salvation, yet only on condition of persevering faith, restricts His counsel of salvation to this alone, and ordains all thereto of whom He foresaw this faith and thereby foresaw salvation, because His purpose cannot and will not fail; for a blind predestination, unenlightened by knowledge, is unknown to the Confession. And thus the strictly Lutheran Leonhard Hutter, who speaks in his Compend for the most part in the words of the Symbolic Books, and not in the least contradicting them, teaches as follows (ed. Lpz., p. 332, sq.): Christus in decreto electionis consideratur non tantum ut universalis mediator, sed et quatenus ipse ab hominibus fide actu apprehenditur, etc. Quæst. 27: Ergone statuis, Deum respectu prævisæ fidei elegisse homines? Quidni statuerem, quum scriptura sacra hoc dilucidissime affirmet? Thesis 1. Deus æterno suo consilio decrevit, quod præter eos, qui fiilium ejus Jesum Christum vera fide agnoscunt, neminem velit salvum facere. Ergo: thesis 2. Deus eligit hominem ad salutem respectu fidei prævisæ.” (Christ is considered in the decree of election not only as the universal Mediator, but also inasmuch as He is actually apprehended of men by faith, etc. Question 27: Do you therefore teach that God elected men with regard to foreseen faith? Why should I not teach this, when the Sacred Scriptures affirm this most lucidly? Thesis 1: God decreed in His eternal counsel that outside of those who know His Son Jesus Christ in true faith, He would save none. Consequently, thesis 2 reads: God elected man to salvation with regard to foreseen faith.) “Note under his dicta probantia, especially John 17.20; 2 Thess. 2.13; James 2.5. [[@Page:57]]The simplest dogmatic statements followed for him: Forma electionis Dei in prothesis, prognosi et proorismo consistit: prothesis, propositum, est voluntas Dei, ut, quicunque credit in Filium (sc. perseveranter s. ad finem usque), habeat vitam in æternum; prognosis, præscientia, est, qua ab æterno prævidit singula individua in Christum (sic) creditura; proorismus, ipsa prædestinatio, qua iisdem dedit vitam æsternam — electio facta est secundum Dei propositum et præscientiam simul.” (The essence of God’s election consists in His purpose, foreknowledge, and foreordination. The purpose is the will of God that whoever believes in His Son (i.e. perseveringly or unto the end) shall have eternal life. Foreknowledge consists in that from eternity He foresaw the single individuals who would believe in Christ. Foreordination, predestination itself, consists in this that He has given them eternal life. — Election has taken place according to God’s purpose and foreknowledge simultaneously.) “Compare Eph. 1. 5, 9 with 1 Peter 1.1, 2.” (P. 324 sq.) “Surely, the purpose of the Triune God concerning our salvation, although the entire human race is viewed and embraced and blessed in Christ, can be referred only to the elect in its execution, because they alone persevere unto the end, of them alone it was known before all time, them alone He created thereto, called and predestinated from eternity; so that God, proposing to save through faith (as the only possible and conceivable form of apprehension), at the same time resolved to realize this in the elect, of whom He foresaw what was still in the future; wherefore the Scriptures refer to them alone the purpose as being embraced in the wider idea of the will (compare Eph. 1, [[especially 11 >> Eph 1.11]]; [[3. 11 >> Eph 3.11]]; Rom. 8.22; 2 Tim. 1.9). Yet from all this it does not follow that in its real foundation predestination dare be extended, as an eternal act of omnipotence ruling above grace and determining it absolutely, equally to foreknown condemning unbelief; so that the character of the universal decree to save mankind through the gift of faith would be injured, and knowing and willing and working would be the same thing; or that He knew only what He wills. Speculation concerning God and the mysteries of His being has nothing to do at all with the revealed way of salvation.” (P. 325.) “The antecedent will, the gracious, sincere desire that none may be lost, Ezek. 18. 23, has the universality of the reconciliation of Jesus Christ and of the divine call of grace … as its immediate result; but since the subsequent will, John 6.39, conditions this will by [[@Page:58]]that of, the creature, not in any synergistic sense, unless a gratia irresistibilis is to be maintained, upon what then does this assurance rest, that the realization of the divine purpose can by no means be overthrown? It rests upon the eternal purpose of God to predestinate those who were foreseen in their persevering faith; as it is certain, that if God had not foreknown that not all men (and angels) would be lost, their creation would not have taken place.” (P. 329.) “The theologians of Dort place the chief predestining cause of the damnation as well as of the salvation of those born now in a sinful condition, absolutely in God and in His beneplacitum absolutum” (absolute pleasure), “without basing election with the Lutherans upon the foresight of persevering faith, i.e. conditioning the former in God upon the latter.” (P. 354.) “The point of view from which the matter is regarded is indeed different, when foresight, is derived from foreordination in the eternal decree; and it is an abomination, when in addition blasphemous and wholly onesided conclusions are drawn. It is far more in accord with the Word of Biblical Revelation, which condescends to our human powers of apprehension, to follow in their mode of teaching the Lutheran dogmaticians, especially after the opposite type of doctrine, had deteriorated into heresy and had been developed and established and accepted generally; namely, to consider knowledge apart from will, and connecting predestination with prescience, condition the former upon the latter. But all such anthropopathies must be limited by the necessary unitas et simplicitas essentiæ divinæ” (unity and simplicity of the divine essence), “which is likewise clearly taught by the Scriptures, and excludes any real contradiction within the active eternal Power itself.” (“Lehre und Wehre.” Vol. III., p. 18.) “We too now are … certain, that we are free, i.e. that we have that which determines our will in ourselves, without experiencing either inwardly or outwardly any compulsion or determining influence in such a manner as to render the effect inevitable.” (P. 23.) “Left to himself man has only the imagination of the carnal heart, a hostility to the law. Through the preaching of the law this sinfulness, although he still loves and is fettered by it, appears to him in all its terrible reality, with all its unhappy results. And by a strange contrast at the same time bitter slavish fear is the consequence. The point now upon which everything depends is the resistance of such a soul by nature in its personal desires against the spiritual influence of the Gospel and the strength of [[@Page:59]]its motives. These positively enkindle in the terrified heart, by presenting to it its true objects as originally appointed, a new desire for them, a desire which may easily become a spiritual longing and may turn the power of free choice strongly, although not with determining compulsion, toward the good with a favorable inclination. Grace in this way would break the strength of the inborn slothfulness, disinclination, and total unfitness regarding the good, and works upon the affections of man and the volition proceeding therefrom, just as does the serpent-seed of evil implanted in him. At this instant now he is free, which he was not before. If his resistance, however, especially by holding fast seductive impressions received perhaps long before and due also to what is commonly called the false wisdom of the world, is intentionally, pertinaciously, and continually renewed and thereby more and more increased, then the Holy Spirit turns away from him. … On the other hand, the renewal of the spiritual nature of the personality in its cognitive and voluntative powers proceeds in those who come to faith, not because God is stronger than the creature, but because He works in the stages appointed hereto from eternity, only by inclining, not by determinating, and thus calls forth man’s self-determination (Selbstbestimmung) directed to the attainment of salvation, and renews the lost freedom by awakening a good will opposed to that which is natural evil. And to him who now has not assumed voluntarily the higher degree of evil will for the rejection of the good. He offers, by the same outward means and by the inner activity effective through them, gradually, and at times also rapidly, the victory in the struggle against the natural obstinacy or disinclination, and preserves this henceforth in increasing faithfulness. … If at first there results no decision, yet man can never be conceived as without impulses, which then act of themselves within him, if only the motives of the one or the other are strong enough. And this we have called natural resistance in distinction from the divine grace offered for overcoming these impulses and likewise working powerfully upon them. If in the hour of temptation the power of choice inclines anew to favor untruth, to keep and hold fast the evil tendency, determined not to be converted, then this is the plainest possible proof that the sinner is not stone or wood or a mere machine, nor has sunken by the fall to the level of the brute, else no Word would be needed for his conversion. His rational free will has retained the ability of withstanding the greatest [[@Page:60]]measure of the spiritual gift. Compared with this activity, belonging entirely to fallen men, the incipient receptive and passive conduct of the man coming to faith, induced by the spiritual inclination of the will unto the good, is already more than an inactive indifferent wavering midway, it is already an opposition to the activity for evil; and the libertas sese convertendi” (liberty to convert oneself) “is likewise not at all dependent on the creature as such, but purely and exclusively on the power of the divine motives in the Gospel, which bring the true objects of the deepest human longing by supernatural influence, in a living, powerful, certain manner, to man’s consciousness. Never now can the painful memory of our sinfulness hitherto be separated from the thought that we come short of the glory of God; and because the law and the word of promise work upon us in undivided apostolic and prophetic proclamation, never can this memory be separated from the effort to take that path which will remove this lamentable alienation. And this path is the certain confidence of the heart trusting in Him who knew no sin and was made sin and righteousness for us. Thus, indeed, the heart itself for the moment steps between a power of sinlessness on the one side, which in consequence of the reconciliation and forgiveness obtained through Christ is to become its treasure and is to occupy it, and a power of sin on the other side, which still permeates nature and would draw it out of its already changed position — steps between Christ and Belial, between the old and the new birth; but the heart is brought to this and receives this disposition by the drawing of the Father unto the Son, i.e. by the warning and convincing voice of the Holy Spirit who efficaciously offers peace to the conscience and seeks again to dwell in the heart; and this to the purpose that it may not give heed to the motives of the flesh which are weaker than the Spirit’s voice — although many still give such heed — and that it may finally turn the scale by bringing the will, still wavering in both directions, to a decision. Whatever the decisions now are they mutually exclude each other. Neutrality, except in these momentary decisions, is inconceivable; for no life is possible without them. By the frequent repetition of one of these decisions the power inducing it gains control; hence it may easily happen to those brought into saving and living communion with Christ that they again lose their own stronghold, viz: the state of grace they have attained.” (P. 167 sqq.) “The refractoriness of one spiritually dead can indeed never be stronger than the [[@Page:61]]power of Him who in the first place gives life to all; and most certainly not in one who has been brought by the law to a knowledge of his powerlessness and indigence, wherein it was indeed God’s intention to make it easier for him not to enter in its wicked depth a purposely and wilfully nourished resistance. Yet God would not degrade his noble intellectual creature, man, and make of him a mere machine; therefore, His grace is not unfrustable as His power could indeed be. It awakens, it draws, it loosens, it renews, not with the necessity of nature, but according to the powers created in man which receive their impulse and inclination toward God through the motives supernaturally imparted by Him; so that the act of consenting is an essential result of the reception of prevenient grace, this reception being passive under the divine influence.” (P. 197.) “It is impossible to escape the hand of God knocking first at the door; but when He would open it. He can permit Himself to be turned away.” (P. 198.)
The reader sees from the above extracts that this article of Rev. Fürbringer enters thoroughly into nearly all the questions discussed in the present predestination controversy. If Missouri had abided by the doctrine taught in this article, which in its view and treatment of the subject agrees with the doctrine of the old Lutheran dogmaticians, the controversy on predestination and conversion, which even as yet is not ended, would never have arisen. It must be remarked that this article was published by Dr. Walther in “Lehre und Wehre” without the slightest mark of dissent or doubt, thus receiving his complete editorial approval. Nor was it disapproved later on either by the author or by Dr. Walther before the Chicago Conference in the autumn of 1880.
There are no statements or discussions concerning predestination or related matters by Dr. Walther himself in the first volumes of “Lehre und Wehre,” but we have from his pen in “Lehre und Wehre” as well as in the “Lutheraner,” the most unqualified recommendations of the reprinted works of our old theologians who teach distinctly the doctrine of our old dogmaticians as reproduced in Rev. Fürbringer’s article. The most noteworthy instance of this sort is found in Vol. III. of “Lehre und Wehre,” p. 42, etc., where Dr. Walther writes in his long article, “Lutherisch-theologische Pfarrers-Bibliothek” (Lutheran Theological Ministers’ Library), as follows:
“A minister is often in need of a book to put into the hands [[@Page:62]]of his hearers, so that they may learn the difference between the Evangelical Lutheran and Reformed Churches. There are not a few works serving this purpose. The best old work of this kind is, in our judgment, “Kurzer Bericht von dem Unterschied der Wahren Evangelischen Lutherischen und der Reformierten Lehre” (Brief Account of the Difference Between the Evangelical Lutheran and the Reformed Doctrine), by Dr. Hektor Gottfried Masius, Copenhagen, 1691.” (Reprinted also later, for instance in 1843 by the publisher, G. W. Niemeyer, in Hamburg.) “This little book is to be preferred to many others of its sort on account of its mild and earnest spirit of speaking the truth in love, as also on account of its clearness and thoroughness of argumentation.”
And now what does Masius teach concerning predestination? Precisely what our old dogmaticians teach and, following them, what Rev. Fürbringer teaches. For instance: “God does not will man’s salvation absolutely (bloss hin), but conditionally, and in the order of certain means; and because most men reject these means, can God therefore be accused of mutability?” (Chap. 2, Quest. 4, p. 41 of the Hamburg edition.) “God, according to His antecedent will, has had compasion on all men, whether they be elect or reprobate. But the fact that, according to His subsequent will He had compassion not upon all, or did not elect all, is due to this that all do not follow His antecedent will and believe in the name of the Son of God to the end.” (Ibid., p. 42.) “That God has elected a few according to His mere will and pleasure without regarding faith grounded in the merit of Jesus Christ, is the regular doctrine of all those Reformed who adhere to their symbolic books and accept the decrees of the Synod of Dort. Although a few admit that election did not take place without all regard to the merit of Christ and to faith, yet they do not mean that God from eternity elected those of whom He foresaw that they would believe and accept Christ’s merit, but that He elected some few according to His mere absolute will in order that they might believe in time. Hence faith is not regarded by them as a cause or condition of election, but as a necessary effect of election. See concerning this the Synod, of Dort, p. 342, 524. Molinaus says in the Synod. Dordrac. Sess. 141, p. 396, in so many words: I acknowledge no election in view of faith, whether faith be taken as a cause of election or as an antecedent condition. God did not elect us because we believe, but that we might believe. Massonius part. I, c. 42, p. 1514. Because faith is God’s [[@Page:63]]gift He did not foresee it and direct His election to it.” (P. 64.) This then is Reformed doctrine and assertion, which Masius rejects with the declared approval of Dr. Walther. “The following is the Lutheran doctrine according to the Scriptures, viz: That God indeed has compassion on all men; that Christ also died for all; that the means of grace, too, are offered to all men; but that God also foresaw who would believe in Christ and continue in such faith unto the end, and these He resolved to save for Christ’s sake; and these are they whom the Scriptures call the elect.” (P. 65 sq.) “God has elected no one from eternity save him of whom He foresaw that he would continually believe to the end. You say: But man cannot believe of himself; God must give him faith. I answer: This is true, and therefore God also gives the means of faith; but man can reject such means and resist the Holy Spirit, as is unfortunately the case with many.” (P. 69.) “Although faith did not yet actually exist, still in the foresight of God it existed; hence Peter says that we are elected according to the foreknowledge of God, 1 Pet. 1.2. As the elect themselves did not exist when God elected them before the foundation of the world was laid, thus, too, their faith did not yet exist. But they themselves as well as their faith existed to the eyes of God’s foresight.” (P. 71 sq.) “If we would teach that in election God looked to our works and merit as a meritorious cause, the objection” (namely, that according to Lutheran doctrine man chose Christ, in contradiction to John 15.16) “might have some semblance of reason. But as faith is not our work nor our merit, but God’s gift, therefore all the glory of election is our God’s alone, who has appointed us unto adoption by grace. And as we have nothing to boast of in justification when God saves us through faith, as though we preferred ourselves, so also all our glory vanishes although God in election looked to our faith; for faith does not rest upon ourselves, but upon Christ’s merits.” (P. 73.)
This is what we read in a little volume which, according to Dr. Walther’s unqualified recommendation, is entirely suitable to be put into the hands of church members, “so that they may learn the difference between the Evangelical Lutheran and the Reformed Churches,” since it is a book characterized by “its mild and serious spirit of speaking the truth in love,” and by “its clearness and thoroughness of argumentation.”
In a similar manner, without the slightest qualification or exception, Dr. Walther recommended also the following works [[@Page:64]]containing in clear statements the doctrine of predestination held by our old dogmaticians: Lassenius, “82 Trostreden” (82 Consolatory Discourses), republished by a church member in St. Louis and “selected and arranged” by Dr. Walther himself, the “entire contents” of which are “from the pure and unadulterated Word of God” (on p. 157 of this work we read for instance: “God has also not elected us that we should believe but because He foresaw that we would believe”), and the Weimarische Bibel, in which “the reader” is said to have “an exposition through and through according to the faith, in doctrine pure as gold” (in Rom. 8.29. and in 1 Pet. 1.2. this Bible explains “foreknown” and “foreknowledge” by: “Foreseen that they would believe”; and 2 Thess. 2.13: “That the Holy Spirit by the Word of the Gospel called you to Christ’s kingdom, and wrought true faith in Christ in your hearts, and thereby regenerated, renewed, and sanctified you; and because God the Lord was conscious from eternity of this work of grace in you, Acts 15.18, therefore He has also elected you from eternity in such sanctification of the Spirit and in such true faith in Christ”). In the same way Dieterich’s Exposition of the Catechism, adapted by Dr. Walther himself and still used without change in the Missouri Synod in spite of the protests of honest fanatics, contains in questions 321-328, according to the form of the words, as well as according to the author’s meaning, the doctrine of our old dogmaticians on predestination. For instance, question 321 reads: Election “is that act of God by which He determined according to the purpose of His will, out of pure grace and mercy in Christ, to save all those who shall perseveringly believe in Christ, for the praise of His glorious grace.” Question 325: “Why is it that not all men for whom these means of salvation are appointed are equally elected to eternal life? This is because God has determined to elect them not absolutely and unconditionally, but with this condition and in this order, that they believe in Christ through the Gospel and be saved through true faith in Him. But because most men do not believe, it naturally follows that those alone who perseveringly believe in Christ, and consequently only a few, are elected.” (The decisive and conclusive regard to faith in election can scarcely be expressed more tersely.) Question 326: “But whence is it that not in all faith is produced by the Gospel and they then believe in Christ? It is through their own fault, because they of their own [[@Page:65]]volition despise and reject the preached Word, and thus in a manifold way resist the operation of the Holy Spirit.”
In “Einige Bemerkungen über eine neue Apologie der Reformierten Kirche” (A few remarks on a New Apology of the Reformed Church— “Lehre und Wehre,” Oct., 1863) Dr. Walther expresses himself, quoting also with approbation statements of Joh. Gerhard (who, by the way, held as fast to and correctly understood an election in view of faith as did any teacher of our Church), as follows: “There is accordingly a great difference between saying God has elected those of whom He foresaw that they would believe and continue in faith, and saying: God has elected some because He foresaw that they would believe and continue in faith, or for the sake of their faith. The former is altogether correct according to Rom. 8.29, the latter is Pelagian.” (P. 300.) This, as well as a few other things in the article, sounds indeed already like a turning toward Calvinism; yet it can be accepted when the “because” is taken with Dr. Walther in the sense of “for the sake of” (um willen), in which sense, by the way, as far as we know, not one of our old dogmaticians or other theologians has taken it. Evidently, however. Dr. Walther here still understood Rom. 8.29, as they did. At about the same time he still dictated to his students these words from Quenstedt: “False doctrine of the Calvinists who tear faith out of the decree of election and say, faith belongs to election not antecedently, but subsequently, not to the election itself, but to its execution. Those of Dort say: Election is not out of the foresight of faith, but is unto faith.”
In June of the year 1868 the Northern District of the Missouri Synod was assembled in Milwaukee, and Dr. Walther was also present, being at the time President of the entire Synod, and of course, as always, the real leader, especially in the doctrinal discussions. “Twenty four Theses concerning the doctrine of good works on the basis of the doctrine of free will, election and justification” were presented by Rev. J. A. Hügli, in which clearly an election unto faith was taught, and the doctrine of our old dogmaticians was judged as follows: “In God there are (fallen) no conditions; yet conditions are claimed for God when it is said that He elected in view of faith” (p. 24). “The question, in what respect it would be Pelagian to consider faith as the middle link, so that the motive in election would not be faith in itself, but Christ and His merit apprehended by faith? was answered as [[@Page:66]]follows: Faith is indeed the middle link; but when it is said that God elected in view of faith, then faith is not the middle link, but a condition. And however sharply we may distinguish, a certain causality will still be ascribed to faith. But we find no statement in the Scriptures saying that we are saved for the sake of faith. Faith is a means, not a cause. Christ is the foundation of our salvation, even when He is not apprehended by faith.” (P. 25.) Accordingly, the expression, “God has elected intuitu fidei, in view of faith”, was declared to be an “unfortunate terminology” chosen “because of the Calvinists.” Luther’s book, De Servo Arbitrio, is quoted with approbation also in the doctrine of predestination, and declared to be a “glorious testimony” by the side of the Formula of Concord (p. 26), although this last Confession of our Church refrains with significant silence from mentioning at all this book of Luther in the article of predestination. This synodical Report of 1868 stands as a whole on the same plane with the Report of the Western District of 1877, which will be considered later, also as regards its unhappy attempts at separating the form of expression of our old dogmaticians from their doctrine, and at uniting this doctrine with Calvinistic views; only this Report is much briefer and therefore does not treat the subject so fully, and consequently did not produce the sensation caused by the Report of 1877. “Lehre and Wehre” then too brought an article in the October number of the same year, about three months after the synodical meeting at Milwaukee, by Dr. Sihler on the perniciousness of the Reformed doctrine of predestination, in which the writer, after the manner of our dogmaticians, made a distinction between an antecedent and a subsequent will of God, and then continued thus: “As God, however, according to the purpose of His will, out of pure grace, before the foundation of the world, resolved to save those eternally whose persevering faith in Christ He foresaw from eternity and wrought in time through the Gospel: so also, according to His righteousness. He resolved before all time to reject and condemn in eternity those whose unbelief against Christ He foresaw by virtue of His omniscience, and who in time either from the outset withstood the influence of His Holy Spirit in the Gospel by wicked unbelief, or believed only for a time and after that by wilful sin cast aside their faith and good conscience, and adhered to this rejection of Christ in opposition to all the work of [[@Page:67]]converting grace.” This is clearly and distinctly an election in view of faith.
At the meeting of the Northern District in the year 1871, at which Dr. Walther was not present, these theses of Rev. Hügli were again taken up. Among the “Added remarks to thesis 5” we find the following: “Election is the cause of all that takes place for the salvation of the elect; it is the cause that any one conies to repentance; it is also the cause, when one who has fallen away returns unto repentance.” (P. 16.) “As far as temporary faith is concerned, it is indeed a result of the grace of God through the Word, but not of election. Election is the cause only of the faith of the elect; therefore, an elect person believes either unto the end, or, if he falls from faith, he returns to faith before his end.” (P. 17.)
The declaration of the Northern District of the year 1868, quoted above, asserting that even this already is “Pelagianism” to teach, as our old dogmaticians, Hunnius, Hutter, Gerhard, etc., do outspokenly with the brief expression “in view of faith,” that God elected in view of Christ’s merits apprehended by faith, was finally attacked by Prof. G. Fritschel in Brobst’s “Theolog. Monatshefte”, Jan., 1872, and this with justice, as a “gross insult to the Lutheran Church.” Dr. Walther replied to this in “Lehre und Wehre”, in May of the same year, and did this in the same contemptuous, uncharitable, and unscrupulous manner in which, especially in the latter half of his life, he treated all those who persisted in their opposition to his views. In the most offensive terms he repels Prof. Fritschel’s accusation as, “to say nothing worse, simply a gross perversion, an open falsehood”: nothing of the kind, he claims, had been asserted! And how did he try to prove this? By referring to entirely different and correct sentences found in the same Report beside the others, as in the Report of 1877, and by referring to his own explanation, quoted above, in “Lehre und Wehre” in Oct., 1863! But he does not say explicitly whether he will withdraw, as an “inconvenient expression”, the sentence especially attacked by Prof. Fritschel. It is especially important for us here, that he even then yet acknowledged that explanation of his, and added: “Our Synod confesses most positively that the theologians of our Church, also in the 17th century, taught the correct doctrine of predestination and defended it against the Calvinists; only this one thing does our Synod find fault with in the doctrinal presentation of the former on this point, [[@Page:68]]that the expression, ‘God has elected intuitu fidei’ is an ‘unhappily chosen terminology.’” In the following numbers of “Lehre und Wehre” (July — Dec, 1872) he then, with the skillful generalship he always displayed, transferred the battle into the territory of his opponent by attacking Prof. Fritschel’s assertion, which in itself may be misunderstood, which he, however, had correctly explained, viz: “The fact that in the case of two men who hear the Gospel resistance and death is taken away for the one but not for the other, finds its explanation in man’s free self-determination, although this itself is first made possible by grace.” (Compare Rev. Fürbringer’s exposition on this point as quoted above.) [[@Page:69]]