IV. An Injustice Done the Norwegian Synod by the Madison Agreement.

The Calvinistic solution of the mystery is brought about by a denial of universal grace. If the gracious will of God does not extend to all men, a sufficient reason has been found why not all men believe and are saved. According to this view God never intended that all men should be saved. “There has never been a time,” says De Beza, “nor is there such a time, nor will there ever be such a time, when God has had, or has, or will have compassion upon human beings [[@Page:27]]individually.”) Thus a difficulty has, indeed, been removed with which the understanding of man has ever wrestled; but those who have effected the removal have, by that same act, flatly contradicted the Scriptures, which clearly teach the universality both of God’s grace in Christ and the efficient operation of the Spirit upon the hearts of all hearers. God would have all men to be saved (σωθῆναι).) The Son of God has given Himself a ransom (ἀντίλυτρον) for all,) and testifies: I would have gathered you, but ye would not.) The Holy Spirit actively endeavors to enter also into the hearts of the stiff-necked (τῷ πνεύματι τῷ ἁγίῳ ἀντιπίπτετε).) Very properly, therefore, Section 6 of the Madison Theses rejects the doctrine that God passed by part of mankind with His earnest, gracious will, and that there are “two dissimilar redemptive wills” in God, one, efficient for conversion, which extends to the elect only, and another, non-efficient for conversion, which concerns the rest of humanity. This rebuttal of Calvinism is quite proper, since it is impossible to state comprehensively the Scriptural doctrine of Election, as distinguished from human error, without rejecting synergism on the one hand and Calvinism on the other. This method, accordingly, is adopted also in the Arausinian resolutions, in the Eleventh Article of the Formula of Concord and in the Thirteen Theses adopted at Fort Wayne.

Yet, there is something not in order in this rejection of Calvinism in Section 6 of the Articles of Agreement. An injustice is here done the Norwegian Synod if Section 6 is taken in connection with Section 4. The fourth section is introductory to the rejection of synergism (Sec. 5) and the rejection of Calvinism (Sec. 6), and reads as follows: “Since, however, during the controversy among us, words and expressions have been used — rightly or wrongly attributed to [[@Page:28]]one party or the other — which seemed to the other side a denial of the Confession of the Church, or which at least might lead to such denial,” etc. We have read these words time and again. But we cannot get any other impression than this: the theses leave it undecided whether the Norwegian Synod did not during the doctrinal controversy employ Calvinistic words and phrases, or attempt a Calvinistic solution of the mystery of election. But this does not agree with the facts in the case. If there is anything in this world like a historical fact, this is a historical fact, that the Norwegian Synod has at all times taught, clearly and without any reservation, the universality of God’s earnest grace. There has not been a shred of Calvinism in the doctrinal position of the Norwegian Synod. True, the United Church leaders have raised vehement accusations of Calvinism against the Norwegian Synod. But on what grounds? Not by fastening upon the Norwegian Synod terms and phrases in which it had denied universal grace, universal redemption, and the sufficiency of the work of the Holy Spirit, unto conversion upon the hearts of all hearers of the Word. All this the Norwegian Synod has ever maintained with great clearness, persistency, and precision. When the United Church leaders raised the charge of Calvinism, they based it upon the Norwegian Synod’s unwillingness to accept the synergistic solution of the mystery of election; or, to state the matter more concretely: they based it upon the Norwegian Synod’s teachings that conversion and salvation are the result of divine grace alone, and not also of man’s conduct. Dr. Schmidt wrote: “In their confession the Norwegian Missourians have a rejection-clause) which reads thus: ‘We reject as synergistic doctrine the teaching that … salvation in a certain sense does not depend upon God alone.’ ”) On the basis of this “rejection-clause” of the “Norwegian Missourians,” that is to say, on the basis of their rejection of the synergistic error, that salvation does not rest upon the mercy of God alone, but also upon human [[@Page:29]]conduct, Dr. Schmidt charges the Norwegian Synod with Calvinism, buttressing his charge with the notorious formula that all men would have to be saved if salvation rested with God alone. Again: The “Norwegian Missourians” took occasion to address to the Norwegian “Anti-Missourians” five test-questions, as follows: “1. Is it God alone who effects in man both a willingness to be converted, and also conversion itself? 2. Is it God alone who takes away the inward, willful resistance of the heart against grace, in each instance where such resistance is taken away? 3. Is it God alone who not only gives man the power to be converted, but also effects the putting to use of such power? 4. Does man’s conversion and salvation depend upon God alone? 5. Can and should a child of God be sure by faith of his final salvation?” Upon these questions Dr. Schmidt commented as follows: “Note especially the fourth question: ‘Does man’s conversion and salvation depend upon God alone?’ This is the cardinal question among the five, yea, in a certain sense, the cardinal question of the whole controversy. The Missourians, of course, insist upon an unconditional affirmation of this question.”) It is with this affirmation of the sola gratia by the “Norwegian Missourians” that Dr. Schmidt would establish his charge of Calvinism against them. To be brief, the Norwegian Synod had adhered to the sola gratia teaching, and had rejected that solution of the mystery in election which synergism attempts by its injection of a consideration of man’s conduct. The reason, then, why the Norwegian Synod was charged with teaching Calvinism was, not because of any Calvinistic utterance which it had made, but because of its antisynergistic utterances, as indicated above.

Hence it is unfair, and evidently a glaring injustice is done to the Norwegian Synod, when Section 4 leaves it undecided whether the Norwegian Synod has not used Calvinistic terms and words during the controversy. The point at issue between the Norwegian synods was never the [[@Page:30]]Calvinistic, but always the synergistic solution of the mystery of election. Dr. Schmidt admits as much when he declares the question of human conduct to be the cardinal question, “Kernfrage,” as he calls it, of the entire controversy. Nor should any doubt be expressed in Section 4 whether the other party to the controversy had made synergistic utterances. If that is synergism which is rejected in Section 5, — and that is indeed synergism, — then the other party has spoken the language of synergism. It has termed the “human conduct” rejected in Section 5 the “cardinal point” of the entire controversy, and on that account has charged the Norwegian Synod with Calvinism. In order to make clear that the difference has really been removed, and in order to avoid the misconception as if the Norwegian Synod had taught Calvinism as defined in Section 6, a statement should be added somewhat to this effect: “However, when we reject, in Section 5, every cause for conversion and salvation sought in man, especially in human conduct, either from natural or so-called spiritual powers,—that must not be made the ground for raising the charge of Calvinistic language or doctrine against us.” This would clear the situation. Since the leaders of the United Church have accepted Section 5, they will no doubt cheerfully make this declaration. If there should be any who are not ready to give this declaration, this would be conclusive evidence that such have not at heart agreed to Section 5.

This is something worth remembering also for German and English Lutherans: If there is to be true unity among them in the doctrine of Conversion and Election, it must be universally avowed and conceded that no one is to be accused of Calvinism because he teaches the sola gratia, more specifically, because he rejects the “good conduct of man” over against converting and saving grace as a reason which explains that person’s conversion, salvation, and election. Until this is clearly recognized and conceded, there can be no thought of unity and peace. This point is discussed more fully in the following chapter. [[@Page:31]]