Among the most disagreeable features of the recent controversy were the discussions regarding the doctrinal position of the old dogmaticians. The American representatives of intuitu fidei claimed that they were proclaiming the “very same” doctrine as the old dogmaticians; and this claim we contested. The discussions of this point were disagreeable, [[@Page:52]]inasmuch as the general Lutheran public was hardly able to follow these historico-dogmatical disquisitions. On the position of the Lutheran dogmaticians in the doctrine of Conversion and Election an opinion is expressed again in the Norwegian Articles of Agreement, to this effect, that the “second form” of the doctrine of Election may be granted a place alongside of that form of the doctrine which is found in the Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, however, only on condition that this second form be taught in the sense which Pontoppidan, Gerhard, Scriver, and others among the fathers who were teachers in our Church connected with this form. It is plain what the Norwegian Articles would have us understand the sense of Pontoppidan, Gerhard, etc., to be. The intention clearly is to exclude all synergism from the second form, especially the errors rejected in Thesis 5a—d, i. e., in particular, good “conduct of man” as a ground on which their conversion, salvation, and election can be explained. Thus the discussion of the position which the dogmaticians occupy with reference to the doctrine of Election and Conversion has been reopened. Is it not possible to attain unity of opinion among us regarding the dogmaticians?
To begin with, let us be reminded that a difference of opinion regarding the old, as also of more recent dogmaticians does not necessarily involve a disagreement in doctrine. If there had been at the bottom of our thirty years of controversy only a difference of understanding as to what the later dogmaticians of our Church teach, that strife would have been sheer folly, indeed: a crime against the Church. Also within the Missouri Synod there have always been differences of interpretation with regard to the teachings of the later dogmaticians. Walther and Wyneken differed in their views of the old dogmaticians. Again, Walther and his colleagues in the theological faculty were not always agreed on this point. The difference may be due to several causes. In the first place, not all men have had equal time and opportunity for research work in the great field of the [[@Page:53]]writings of the old dogmaticians. In the second place, even where two or more possess equal knowledge of the field, something depends upon their personal inclinations, to give prominence either to the meritorious or to the faulty elements in the presentation which the dogmaticians have made of doctrine. This, again, may depend upon the degree in which the investigator feels himself personally indebted to the old theologians. Walther’s real watchword was: “Back to Luther and the sixteenth century!” Nevertheless he cherished a warm affection also for the later dogmaticians, because he found them to differ from modern theologians by their adherence to the Scriptural principle. Walther’s pupils remember that his first estimate of nearly every one of the older theologians was, that he was a “most excellent” man, of “stupendous learning.” Only with evident reluctance did he find fault with any of them. Mentioning — to cite an instance — Musaeus’ doctrine concerning an activity of man “in the progress (in progressu) of conversion,” Walther would say: “I am sorry that Musaeus propounded this doctrine, and that his Herr Schwiegersohn (Baier) has copied it after him.” By his cordial regard for the old dogmaticians Walther ever felt prompted to put the best construction possible on all that they had written. His colleagues were not always able to adopt his point of view. But this did not in any way disturb our unanimity in doctrine. Neither ought agreement in understanding what the position of the old theologians is be demanded now as essential for unity of doctrine.
However, in the Norwegian Articles of Agreement much stress is again laid on the position held by the dogmaticians in the doctrine of Election and Conversion, and new discussions of a historical nature have thereby been occasioned. For this reason we desire to restate our opinion regarding the position of the old dogmaticians. We believe that differences of opinion as regards the old dogmaticians can be removed if we turn our attention to the decisive points. The difference which first of all developed between the [[@Page:54]]Missourians and the American representatives of intuitu fidei was this: Iowa, and later also Ohio and Dr. Schmidt, and his Norwegian adherents, stoutly maintained that their doctrine was “the very same” as that of the old dogmaticians. They complained of being treated unjustly if they were called errorists and the same judgment were not pronounced upon the old dogmaticians. On our part the admission was freely made that the draft of the doctrine by our adversaries, with the characteristic formula “in view of faith,” was indeed the same in outward appearance as that of the dogmaticians. At the same time, we maintained that our opponents filled this outward form with a content essentially dissimilar. Which of us was right?
Let us make the central question of our inquiry that point which has been termed, also by the other side, the “cardinal point” of the whole controversy, to wit, the question concerning “man’s conduct.” As far back as 1872, Iowa had declared that this very point is the principal matter of the entire controversy: “Here lies the real, innermost difference between the Biblical and the predestinarian” (“Calvinistic” is meant) “doctrine. According to the former, man’s eternal destiny is rooted in the personal, free decision of man for or against grace offered in Christ. He (God) permits it to depend upon man’s decision, whether He will show mercy to a person, or harden him.”) Just so Dr. Schmidt and Ohio, a decade later, declared their principal concern to be that conversion and salvation be made to depend, not only on the grace of God, but also upon man’s conduct. The evidence for this is submitted above, and need not be repeated here. Now apply this to the matter under consideration: What is the position of the old dogmaticians? Mark well: the question at issue is not whether the evil conduct of man is the cause of his non-conversion and damnation, but whether conversion, etc., depends upon some good or right conduct on the part of man. If the [[@Page:55]]latter is taught by the later theologians, then they agree in the “cardinal point” with Ohio, Iowa, Dr. Schmidt, etc., and the “German” and “Norwegian Missourians” have erred in denying the agreement of their opponents with the later theologians. On the other hand, if the later theologians do not agree with Ohio, Iowa, etc., in the “cardinal point,” then the latter have erred by claiming agreement with the old dogmaticians.
Now, what is the truth of the matter? We are persuaded that, in the essential point, Dr. Stellhorn, in 1872, when he was still a member of the Missouri Synod, maintained the correct position over against Iowa. For its doctrine that man’s conversion, salvation, and election ultimately rest upon man’s self-decision or conduct, Iowa claimed agreement with the Lutheran dogmaticians. Dr. Stellhorn conceded the well-nigh constant recurrence, among the dogmaticians, of such terms and phrases as: Election intuitu fidei, ex praevisa fide, and: faith a cause of election, though not a meritorious cause, or: while some suffer their natural resistance to be overcome, others reject salvation through willful resistance. Having admitted this, Dr. Stellhorn, however, continues: “Prof. F. proceeds as follows: ‘Thus there occurs at this point a personal decision of man himself, and it is in the dissimilar conduct of man over against grace offered to him, and in his own personal decision, that the cause must be sought why some are lost and others are saved.’ But if Prof. F. thinks that with this statement he is still expressing the sense of the old dogmaticians, I am firmly convinced that he is mistaken.) I do not believe that he is able to cite a single passage from any of our dogmaticians where they concede that the final decision rests with man, i. e., that in the act, or process, of conversion man is able to decide for heaven also.”) After quoting Hollazius, to the effect that man does not actively decide himself for conversion, but is passively determined by [[@Page:56]]converting grace, Dr. Stellhorn continues: “All our old dogmaticians, to my knowledge, teach like Hollazius. They go quite a way with Prof. Fritschel; they frequently employ exactly the same language; they appear to stand on the same basis with him, — but when, from premises common to them and him, Prof. F. draws the last and, to our reason, entirely necessary conclusions, they part company with him. While he would consistently go further, they are intentionally and purposely inconsistent, because in this matter they regard being inconsistent as the only correct mode of procedure. I should think that Prof. F. himself would have to concede without reservation that the situation is as we have sketched it; in other words, that the opinion of Prof. F. and others is not the opinion of our old theologians, in spite of much consonance in terms and in spite of the fact that part of the way they keep him company.”) Dr. Stellhorn is right. If by “old dogmaticians” are meant those theologians of the 17th and early 18th century who opposed the synergism of Latermann and his followers, and who combated the school of Musaeus (Musaeus, Baier, and others), it must be conceded that they teach the opposite of what Iowa and, at a later day, Dr. Schmidt and Ohio have taught, when they reach the decisive point—human self-decision or conduct as an explanatory cause in the doctrines at issue.
True, there is, decidedly, a defect in the position of these dogmaticians as compared with the sixteenth century theologians and the Formula of Concord. The theologians of the sixteenth century and the Formula of Concord, when comparing those who will be saved with those who will be lost, and discussing the question why some are converted and finally saved rather than others, at once tell the plain truth. They declare without any circumlocution: Here we are face to face with a mystery which we cannot expect to see solved until in the life to come. Nothing is known, in this life, beyond these two points: Conversion and salvation [[@Page:57]]are solely the effect of divine grace; non-conversion and perdition are the result solely of human guilt. This is the doctrine of the Strassburg Formula of Concord (1563); of Moerlin, Chemnitz, Selnecker, Kirchner, and others; of the Formula of Concord, and the Apology of the Book of Concord.) The later dogmaticians, on the other hand, [[@Page:58]]when approaching this subject, begin, at first, to argue in a manner, so as to attempt an explanation of the mystery. This tendency is inherent in the very formula intuitu fidei, [[@Page:59]]though it should be conceded that the term was first employed in combating Huber’s universal Election and the Reformed exclusion of faith from Election. The same tendency, in [[@Page:60]]many respects, is seen in the distinctions of various kinds of resistance and in the minute divisions of “prevenient grace.” However, at the critical point they do not say: “Hence the reason why some are saved and others lost is to be found in the dissimilar conduct of man over against proffered grace, in his personal decision,” but at the end they desist from all explanations, and caution their readers to rest the whole matter with the statement of these truths: “Those who are converted and saved owe this to the grace of God alone; those who remain unconverted and are lost have themselves to blame.” Gerhard writes: “With reference to the fact that many are converted and finally saved, it must be acknowledged that this is the work of divine grace alone; with reference to the non-conversion and damnation of others, it must be acknowledged that this is due solely to the guilt of those who are lost. With these simple, God-fearing statements the Christian may rest his mind securely, even if he cannot solve all difficulties which present themselves in regard to the individual persons who are to be converted.”) Again, Gerhard says: “Hence the doctrine stands that conversion and perseverance depend upon the grace of the Holy Spirit alone; on the other hand, the cause why some are either not converted at all, or lapse from the grace of conversion, lies in the wickedness of man, [[@Page:61]]which hinders and disturbs the work of the Holy Spirit.”) Agreeably with the foregoing, Gerhard appropriates the words of Augustine on the discretio personarum: “What is now hidden from us will then (in the life everlasting) be manifest. Then the reason will be manifest why one was elected, the other rejected.”) A particularly instructive remark, which shows the position of the dogmaticians, is found in John Musaeus. Musaeus, like Baier, assumed that there is a spiritual activity in man by means of powers imparted by grace before conversion, and he became involved in a controversy with Quenstedt and Calovius. But Musaeus renders a historically correct account of the Lutheran position. Wendelin, a Reformed theologian, had charged the Lutherans with locating in man the reason for the difference why some are converted, and others not. Musaeus replied: “Wendelin is not quite fair in presenting our teaching, and purposely quotes it in equivocal terms, in order to find fault with it. In the first place, our theologians are not accustomed to say that the reason for the difference why some are converted and others not, is found solely in man, but all say, unanimously, that the reason why those are converted who actually are converted is not found in man, but solely in God, and that the reason why those are not converted who remain in wickedness is not to be sought in God, but solely in man.”) Thus we have here, at the decisive point, a difference equal to yea and nay [[@Page:62]]between the dogmaticians and the American representatives of intuitu fidei. The latter refer salvation and perdition to a common source, the conduct of men. The former divide the question, and refer non-conversion and perdition solely and purely to man, and conversion and salvation to God alone.
To proceed: What is the position of the dogmaticians as regards the notion of a neutral state before conversion? The assumption of a neutral state prior to conversion is always met with in connection with the doctrine that converting, saving grace is governed by the “self-decision” or “dissimilar conduct” of men. Whether “right conduct over against grace” is ascribed to natural powers or to powers imparted by grace, there is in each instance the supposition of a moment, or condition, previous to conversion, where man can “conduct himself” or “decide” just as readily in favor of going to the right as to the left, just as readily in favor of heaven as of hell. During the controversy the assumption of a neutral condition of this kind was expressly demanded by Ohio. For example: “Accordingly, though the will of man has in no case any cooperative power, it is enabled to consent or to surrender. The point of time at which this power may be exercised is not discussed here. Certainly where no grace is offered, no consent can be given. But to him who hears the Gospel this grace is offered, and he may accept and surrender if he will, or he may resist if he will.”) Just so Latermann in the seventeenth century: “We shall now prove that the grace of God is offered in such manner that by virtue of proffered grace it lies within the power of man to perform by grace that which is necessary for conversion and salvation, or, if he yield to his depravity, not to perform it.” “All can be converted if they will.”) Now what do the dogmaticians say? They declare that it is “false and Pelagian” doctrine to assume that, [[@Page:63]]owing to the operation of prevenient grace, there is in man a neutral state (indifferentia ad utrumque opposilorum), according to which man may accept or reject grace. In addition, they assert the non-existence of such a state.) We may sum up the position held by the dogmaticians over against Latermann and Musaeus, and their respective followers, somewhat like this: Conversion, in the strict or narrower sense, consists in the bestowal of faith, and always takes place in a moment (fit in instanti et in memento). Death and life cannot exist together in man. There is no status medias between life and death. There are, indeed, in most cases, though not in all, certain motions called forth by the Word of God previous to conversion in the strict and narrower sense, i. e., before the bestowal of faith. They term these motions “preparatory acts” (actus praeparatorii). But during these preparatory acts man is, and remains, spiritually dead; he is simply subjectum convertendum, the person that is to be converted. Man is not active in any of these actus praeparatorii. Also man’s “passive conduct” previous to, and during, conversion is not an activity of man, but purely the work of God. Also in the matter of “passive conduct” man is merely passive. Calovius remarks that man’s conversion takes place without the intention (praeter intentionem) and without the previous will (praeter voluntatem) of man.) Hence there is no moment of time and no state in which conversion rests within the power of man. The dogmaticians designate this as a well-known doctrine of “our theologians,” viz., “that a person’s conversion [[@Page:64]]is in no wise to be called free in the sense that it rests with man’s power to will his own conversion.”) They state again and again that whoever wills to be converted needs conversion no longer, being already converted. Nor do they think it proper to say that man desires conversion by means of powers imparted by divine grace, for “those powers are not conferred previously, in order that man may afterward be converted through them, but the donation of spiritual powers is, as a matter of fact, conversion itself.”) Quenstedt and Calovius specifically reject what they term an error in Musaeus, namely, that motus spirituales, “good motions, holy thoughts, pious desires,” are ascribed to man before his conversion. For this rejection of good motions, holy thoughts, etc., before conversion they offer the following reason: “Wherever there are such motions, man is already quickened out of death, already lives in a spiritual life, and, consequently, is already converted.”)
In framing his opinion of the dogmaticians, a person may easily be misled by scrutinizing a few expressions of ominous import and by ignoring the connection and added explanations. Quenstedt, for instance, speaking of “initial or prevenient grace” (gratia incipiens or praeveniens), says: “It declares the Word and, by means of it, the saving object, and thus removes (aufert) man’s natural inability and unfitness in matters spiritual.” This sounds exactly as if [[@Page:65]]Quenstedt ascribed to man an inward spiritual change before conversion, which, according to Quenstedt’s schema, takes place only when “operating grace” (gratia operans) has performed its work. However, while this expression is liable to be misunderstood,) we should do an injustice to Quenstedt if we were to impute to him the doctrine which the expression seems to involve. For a little farther down in the same chapter Quenstedt explains that after the removal of man’s natural inability and unfitness there yet remains the natural and actual resistance, which is utterly opposed to spiritual things (repugnantia spiritualibus prorsus contraria). Hence, by the removal of natural disability through gratia praeveniens, Quenstedt does not understand an inner change previous to conversion, but merely this, that God declares unto man, who is still spiritually dead, His Word, which has the inherent power to convert; as he expressly says: “Prevenient grace leads man to the respective means of conversion and declares unto him who is still spiritually dead the Word, which has inherent converting power.”) According to Quenstedt, spiritual life appears in man after the gratia operans and perficiens, which produces faith: Gratia inhabitans fidem subsequitur, indwelling grace follows upon faith.) The dogmaticians never cease reminding Latermann and his followers that, if a willing of that which is spiritually good is ascribed to man previous to faith, the daughter is made older than the mother, since only faith produces a good will (siquidem [[@Page:66]]fides bonae voluntatis genetrix sit).) When the Latermannians objected that an irresistible grace and forcible conversion is taught, unless a neutrality or self-decision for conversion is assumed previous to conversion, they replied: “Irresistible grace is sufficiently repudiated by a reference to those who do not become converted; it is not necessary at all to assume a desire for grace before conversion in those who are to be converted.”)
We would sum up our opinion of the seventeenth century dogmaticians who opposed Latermann and Musaeus, thus: The divisions of grace, as found in Quenstedt, for instance, are apt to cause confusion. Also Chemnitz would have done better, we believe, if he had reduced at least by two the five degrees (gradus) of grace which he quotes with approval from Augustine.) But Chemnitz retains the sola gratia, and the dogmaticians, spite of unnecessary divisions and digressions, arrive also at the conclusion: There is before conversion no neutral state in which man, by virtue of natural or grace-imparted powers, may conduct himself rightly over against grace, obtain free scope of action in the matter of his conversion and salvation, and may choose heaven as well as he chooses hell.
The difference between the American representatives of intuitu fidei and the dogmaticians is evident from the following juxtaposition:— [[@Page:67]]
|The American representatives of intuitu fidei teach:||The dogmaticians teach:|
|1. It will not do to let the matter rest by teaching that conversion depends on divine grace alone, and that man alone is to blame for his non-conversion. For if conversion and salvation depended on God’s grace alone, and not in part on the conduct of man, the conclusion would be unavoidable that God is also the cause of non-conversion and perdition. Since the Missourians will have conversion depend on the grace of God alone, and not also upon man’s conduct, they deny universal grace and charge God with partiality.)||1. We must acknowledge with all simplicity: Whoever is converted and saved owes this to the grace of God alone; whoever is not converted and saved has himself to blame. From the fact that God confers faith by grace alone according to His good pleasure, the conclusion must not be drawn that He does not want to convert and save those who are going to be lost. To draw such a conclusion they term folly.) [[@Page:68]]|
|2. There must be assumed a moment or condition previous to conversion where man may decide for, or accept, grace, just as well as he can decide against, or reject, grace (neutral state).)||2. There is no such state. When a man wills to be converted, he is already converted. Conversion takes place “praeter intentionem.” Even the cessation of willful resistance, so called, is not something which man does, but something which he experiences, or suffers; it is an operation of God which man can only resist.) [[@Page:69]]|
|3. By means of powers imparted by grace man may “rightly” conduct himself over against grace.)||3. Man has no “powers of grace” before conversion; the bestowal of these powers is conversion itself.)|
|4. If conversion depended upon the grace of God alone, and not also upon right conduct of man, we should be compelled to assume that grace operates by force and irresistibly.)||4. Grace working by compulsion and irresistibly is sufficiently repudiated by the reference to those who do not become converted.)|
|5. Because man may prevent his conversion, conversion depends not only on God, but also upon the right conduct of man.)||5. From the fact that man can despise the Word and resist the Holy Spirit, the inference cannot be drawn that it rests with man whether he will be converted.) [[@Page:70]]|
|6. It follows from [[Matt. 23, 37 >> Mt 23.37]], “Ye would not,” that conversion and salvation do not rest with God alone.)||6. It does not follow from [[Matt. 23, 37 >> Mt 23.37]], “Ye would not,” that man is able likewise to will, to follow the call of God, and to give room (locum relinquere) to the promptings of the Spirit.)|
|7. There is no certainty of election, because no Christian can know whether he will remain in the faith.)||7. Every Christian can and ought to be infallibly certain, in faith, regarding his election, because, believing the divine promises of grace, he knows that his preservation in the faith does not rest with him, but with God.)|
Placing these and other expressions alongside of one another, we cannot but acknowledge this fact, viz.: In spite of the identical expression “in view of faith,” etc., we have before us two doctrinal positions radically different, one occupied by the American representatives of intuitu fidei, the other by the “old dogmaticians.” They have certain phrases in common, and a certain distance they travel the same road; but when they arrive at the critical point, the dogmaticians permit conversion and salvation to rest with God’s grace, and hence teach also the certainty of salvation and election, while the American representatives of intuitu fidei draw the conclusions resulting from this “misleading expression,” and base conversion and salvation, as far as the final issue is concerned, not on divine grace alone, but on human conduct, and consequently deny the certainty of salvation and election. An honest partition of the seventeenth century theologians would place Latermann, Dreier, Hornejus, and others, on the side of the American representatives of intuitu fidei, while Calovius, J. A. Osiander, and the theological faculties of the seventeenth century which opposed Latermann and his associates belong on our side.
The above inquiry is occupied principally with the doctrine of Conversion. It was in this doctrine that the real difference in the controversy lay. After some hesitancy this was admitted also by the other party. One’s position in the doctrine of conversion determines the real meaning which one connects with the term intuitu fidei. Not that this “form” of the doctrine ever becomes Scriptural. Not even by avoiding the admixture of synergism in the origin of faith. The second form, also minus synergism, is and remains contrary to the Scriptures, because it is contrary to [[@Page:72]]all statements of Holy Writ that describe the relationship of the faith of the elect to their eternal election. The second form does not represent faith as an element in eternal election, but as an antecedent of election. Hence it does not represent the faith possessed by the elect in this life as a product and result of their eternal election, but represents the elect as having, according to divine foreknowledge, accomplished faith and the Christian estate before their election is put in operation. The contradiction to Scripture herein implied, and the impropriety of citing the προγινώσκειν of [[Rom. 8, 26 >> Rom 8.26]] in support of this position, we have again pointed out last year in Lehre und Wehre.) It is, however, [[@Page:73]]true that those teaching an election in view of faith, while regarding the actual issuance of faith as dependent upon man’s self-decision or good conduct, employ the intuitu fidei [[@Page:74]]in a sense quite different from the sense in which it is employed by others, who, while using this phraseology, still regard faith as a donum Dei, utterly independent of all human cooperation through “self-decision,” “right conduct,” “cessation of willful resistance,” etc. In the latter event, God takes into consideration something He Himself does; in the former, God takes into consideration something man does. [[@Page:75]]Accordingly, the dogmaticians who used the expression intuitu fidei, but over against Melanchthon, Latermann, and others, rejected self-decision, neutrality, and the good conduct of man in conversion, fairly implored their readers not to imagine that in election a cause of the difference must be sought in man. Seb. Schmidt: “In the predestinated person there is as little cause of predestination as in the rejected.”) Even Musaeus, as pointed out above, characterizes it as a slander upon Lutheran dogmaticians if any one attributed to them the teaching that they placed the cause of the difference why some are converted, and others not, in man. The American representatives of intuitu fidei, on the other hand, issue the imperial demand: The explanation of the difference that some are converted and finally saved, and others not, must be sought in the dissimilar conduct of men. “Hence the dissimilar operation of converting, saving grace may be explained by the dissimilar conduct of men over against that grace.”)
As to the practical application of the different views concerning Election, the following situation develops: Whoever has received the “first form” of the doctrine of Election into his heart, i. e., whoever accepts the Scriptural teaching with regard to Election, thinks of his redemption, call, justification, sanctification, and preservation whenever his mind reverts to his election; and because all this is revealed, offered, and imparted to him in the Gospel, he relies with heart, mind, and thought on the Gospel, and believing on the Gospel, his election becomes evident and certain to him. Whoever has received the “second form” minus synergism into his heart, i. e., whoever believes that God has foreordained men in view of persevering faith, will first of all look for that persevering faith which God had foreseen in him. It will not be long before he realizes that he does not [[@Page:76]]and cannot know what God has foreseen in him. But because he retains the truth that God alone works and preserves faith, by grace in Christ through the Gospel, he no longer concerns himself about divine foreknowledge, but relies with heart, mind, and thought on the Gospel. Hence, because he holds fast sola gratia and the means of grace, his course of procedure ultimately coincides with the course implied in the “first form” of doctrine. Hence, too, the result is the same: certainty of salvation and election. Hence, the doctrine of the certainty of election and salvation is found in the writings of the anti-synergistic theologians of the seventeenth century no less than in those of Luther and the theologians of the sixteenth century. But whoever has received the second form of doctrine plus synergism into his heart, i. e., whoever believes that God has foreordained in view of faith, but makes faith and perseverance in faith dependent, not on the grace of God and the means of grace, but, in the last analysis, on man’s good conduct,—such a person will turn away his heart, mind, and thought from divine grace and the Gospel, and will rely for the actual issue of his salvation upon his good conduct. And since he cannot know whether he will rightly conduct himself “eventualiter, i. e., with reference to the final issue,” he must, naturally, be and remain uncertain of his election. From this it will be manifest that in spite of the common phrase intuitu fidei there must be recorded an essential difference between the American representatives of intuitu fidei and the seventeenth century dogmaticians. At the same time it becomes quite plain how these latter, owing to their retention of sola gratia, are practically forced away from the incorrect formula “in view of faith,” and were guided back to our standpoint, which is the standpoint of Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions.
In this connection we shall have to take up for a brief discussion Walther’s statements of opinion of the dogmaticians. In the discussions to which the Norwegian Theses of Agreement have given rise, these statements of Walther [[@Page:77]]were liberally quoted. Some have given their full approval to these statements as they understood them. Others, again, declared that in Walther’s statements of opinion, contradictions must be recognized. We would observe, to begin with, that no serious fault should be found with a man for pronouncing variant opinions, in the course of time, and, under the influence of variant impressions. Some one has said that it is unfair to expect of a man that he will never contradict himself. We do not enter as yet upon a discussion of Walther’s position in the doctrine of Election. Whether there must be recorded a change in Walther’s doctrinal position, is a question which will be taken up for brief treatment in Chapter XIV. We are interested at this point in Walther’s utterances regarding the anti-synergistic dogmaticians of the seventeenth century. It seems to us that these utterances may be classified in two groups. On the one hand, Walther remarks that the dogmaticians who have employed the term intuitu fidei, have attempted a “development of doctrine” (Lehrfortbildung), introduced an “innovation,” used a “misleading expression,” which, “strictly considered,” contains an “error” which the dogmaticians themselves condemn, the error, to wit, that there is a cause of election in man. Besides, he says that the dogmaticians have perverted the Scripture passages treating of Election by their attempt to force the intuitu fidei upon these texts, so that these men, otherwise so sure and powerful in the Scriptures, are hardly recognizable as the same men when they draw such “inconsequential conclusions” in the doctrine of Predestination. Moreover, Walther declares that these theologians have greatly injured the Lutheran cause in the controversy with the Calvinists through this introduction of the intuitu fidei formula, and that they have given the synergists a shelter where their error could hide. For this reason he declares: We believe that “we may best avoid misunderstandings, so easily called forth, if we entirely abstain from using the new terminology of the seventeenth century [[@Page:78]]dogmaticians.”) He considered the advisability of “entirely abolishing and no longer tolerating the expression ‘in view of faith,’ because modern synergists hide their error in this term.”) This is one group of utterances. Alongside of these there is found in Walther’s writings another group of opinions which do not only pronounce “our best dogmaticians” — he means the anti-synergistic theologians — to be “no errorists,” but also declare that these men have essentially held fast the truth and defended it against the Calvinists. In pronouncing this opinion, Walther, first of all, acts upon the assumption that these dogmaticians have retained the sola gratia and have, by so doing, themselves, rejected the error involved in intuitu fidei. He finds that they “create the impression, in some passages, of leaning towards synergistic views of Election, but in other, much more numerous instances they correct themselves, and reject and condemn even the most subtle and hidden synergism.”) As evidence he adduces from the dogmaticians such utterances as these: No converted person differs from, nor can indulge boastfulness over and against, a non-converted person; in a predestinated person there is as little cause of predestination as in a rejected one; in man there is no cause of the difference why some are converted, others not; cessation of willful resistance, so-called, is a work of God to which man can only offer resistance. According to Walther, sola gratia occupies so central a position in Christian doctrine that under its influence intuitu fidei is reduced to a mere formula. We have in the foregoing shown the soundness of this view by exhibiting the practical application of the variant views concerning Election. Whoever retains the “By-grace-alone” with reference to the origin and preservation of faith, and also the correct doctrine of the means of grace, will sacrifice the intuitus and cling to the Gospel, thus actually passing over to the first form and [[@Page:79]]practicing it. Again, a complete surrender of the intuitu fidei is seen to occur wherever our dogmaticians teach the certainty of salvation and election. A “foreordination of grace” determined by the foreknowledge of God is an utterly unknowable matter, because no man, nor any Christian, is able, to know what God has foreseen. Inasmuch as our dogmaticians most certainly teach the certainty of election and salvation based upon the divine promises of grace, which make our salvation a matter to be disposed of by the Lord’s hand and not by our own, they have, quite as certainly, in effect forgotten the intuitu fidei theory, have forgotten it not only in part, but wholly.
Besides this retention of sola gratia on the part of the dogmaticians, and the resultant corrective influence which sterilizes their theoretical malformations, another consideration influenced Walther towards a relatively favorable opinion of the dogmaticians. He inquires into their intention, he asks: What purpose did the dogmaticians have in view by using the term intuitu fidei? What contrary view did they seek to exclude? In his Examen, as well as in his Loci, Chemnitz remarks that in their efforts to reject error the church-fathers sometimes were led to say a great deal more than they intended (gloriosius aliquanto locuti sunt).) The intuitu fidei, as used by the dogmaticians, is a case in point. Samuel Huber demanded an election which would include all mankind, and insisted that all who did not accept this view of a universal Election were Calvinists. Now since the Scriptures teach that the number of the elect is small compared with the number of those who are lost, and that only the elect are saved, the theologians were led, especially by the example of Aegidius Hunnius, to use the expression that God has foreordained men “in view of faith.” But because they realized how very easily the expression might be misconstrued, as if it rested with man whether he should believe, thereby establishing a cause of [[@Page:80]]election in man, they add a long series of explanations, in order to exclude this meaning of the term. “Hence,” they say, “we reject as wrong and wicked if any would say or teach that the believers elect God by faith before God elects them, or that they give Him a reason why He should elect them. … On the contrary, faith comes originally from the eternal foreordination of God, and is not produced by us, but solely by the grace of God in us.” They say: We are “elected unto eternal life by God, not for the sake of faith, but through and in faith, as St. Paul writes to the Thessalonians: ‘God has chosen you from the beginning unto salvation in the sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.’ ” Having cited these and other explanations of the intuitu fidei from the Wittenberger Konsilien,) he gives his opinion of these intuitu fidei theologians as follows: “Accordingly, all that these theologians endeavored to save, over against Huber, by means of their intuitu fidei, amounts to this: a faith-less person, i. e., one who dies without faith, cannot be, or have been, an elect.”) The explanations given by the theologians of a somewhat later date follow the same general line of thought, though there is an even more pronounced opposition to the Calvinistic conception of Election, which views the merits of Christ and faith not as an element in the eternal election itself, but merely as the execution of a foreordination once absolutely decreed.) Like Aegidius Hunnius and his contemporaries, they make a twofold observation. First, in the use of the term “in view of faith,” faith must not be understood as a prompting cause, as a condition to be fulfilled, as something good in man, which [[@Page:81]]prompted God to foreordain the elect before others; and to prove this, they argued that faith is not something which rests with man, but is purely the work of God.) Secondly, [[@Page:82]]they explain their purpose in using this term; they would merely emphasize the truth that faith belongs into the order of election and is not — in the manner of the Calvinists — to be excluded from election. Foreseen faith is really to be regarded not as a previous condition, but only as a part of the divine order of election.) Fides ingreditur decretum electionis, faith enters into the decree of election—this statement is accepted by all, even if they cannot quite agree in their definition of the relation which faith holds to election.) From this point of view Walther’s opinion of those whom he considered the “best” of the old dogmaticians may be understood. There is, therefore, no necessity, we believe, for assuming a contradiction in judgment, when Walther, on the one hand, unreservedly condemns intuitu fidei, and, on the other hand, maintains that theologians who employed the term occupied a materially correct position in the doctrine of Election. The former position he takes when [[@Page:83]]he views intuitu fidei in the abstract, as an unscriptural expression, a fiction of men, incorrect in itself, inviting error, and affording a hiding-place to error. The latter position he takes when he views the theologians in concreto, who employ a mistaken formula and suffer great hardship because of their employing it, but break down what is erroneous in the formula by clinging to sola gratia. A characteristic of Walther’s theological disposition here asserts itself. Walther was disposed to recognize as orthodox not as few, but as many persons as possible. He is stern in passing judgment on people whom he beholds sacrificing sola gratia. But people who hold fast this central doctrine gain his cordial good will, and he is confident that this truth which they hold will lead them to put away their error. From this point of view Walther during the controversy regarded the American representatives of intuitu fidei as altogether different from the old dogmaticians who employed the same term. The latter he regarded, in spite of their false phraseology, as confessors of sola gratia. The former, who have drawn the consequences of this faulty expression, he regards as gainsayers of sola gratia, because they claim that the conversion, salvation, and election of men depends not on divine grace alone, but also on their own right conduct.) [[@Page:84]]
We are under no obligation to judge of the dogmaticians as did Walther. But we are convinced that as a matter of fact the American and the old representatives of intuitu fidei do not belong in the same class. In one respect it would have been easier for us during the controversy if we had made the intuitu fidei the “broad ditch” separating warring factions, and if we had placed all those who said “intuitu fidei” on yonder side. We for our part were able to dispense with the later dogmaticians. As it was, we have ample consensus on our side. We have the consensus of Scripture, the consensus of Luther and the sixteenth century theologians, the consensus of our Lutheran Confessions. That is consensus enough. Why go to the trouble of citing authority to prove that the later dogmaticians use the term intuitu fidei, like our opponents, but connect a different meaning with the term? We confess — we have occasionally been inclined to spare ourselves the trouble. We have noticed similar feelings in Walther. But we should have given the lie to history if we had yielded our assent to the claim of the other party, that it taught “the very same” doctrine as the old dogmaticians. Besides, what would have become of the justice of a theologian’s opinion if we had classified those who reject self-decision, neutrality, good conduct, with those who defend the same as a reason for explaining conversion and salvation?
However, the relatively favorable judgment which we are compelled to pass upon the old dogmaticians as compared with the American representatives of intuitu fidei must not induce the American Lutheran Church to concede to intuitu fidei equal rights within the Church with the doctrine of Scripture and of the Confessions. There is a difference between excusing a faulty expression in persons who explain it better than the words import, and to concede to the faulty [[@Page:85]]expression equal rights with the correct expression. Inasmuch as the “second form” verily does contradict Scripture and the Scriptural confession of our Church, neither an individual person nor a number of persons, nor a Synod, nor several Synods, nor the entire Church has authority to sanction its use within the Church. The “second form” has never been of service to the Lutheran Church, but has been a source of much harm. The struggle for the Scriptural and confessional doctrine of Election within the American Lutheran Church would not have been so difficult and would not have caused so much division and sorrow if the advocates of the doctrine that converting, saving grace is governed by the right conduct of man, had not been able to find apparent cover behind the intuitu fidei. Nor did intuitu fidei ever aid the old dogmaticians in their struggle against the false teaching of Calvinism on election, but has always harmed them. The Calvinists pointed out to them their departure from Luther and from the Lutheran Confessions, and also their perversions of Scripture texts treating of Election. As a matter of course, nothing but harm can ever result when those opposing false doctrine exceed the proper limits on their part, and place themselves in contradiction with the Scriptures. The champions of false doctrine, in such event, seize the opportunity of persuading themselves and others that the defenders of correct doctrine are just as little to be relied upon in those matters which they teach correctly according to the Scriptures. The poor success of the dogmaticians in convincing Reformed church people of their Calvinistic error, is owing, in part, to the fact that the dogmaticians, on their part, mixed the antiscriptural alloy of intuitu fidei with the doctrine of Election. It was not by the old dogmaticians, but by the Apology of the Book of Concord that the Calvinistic doctrine of Election was combated on correct grounds.
Finally, too, it must be said that no Christian and no theologian as a Christian has ever had any practical use for the “second form,” since, as repeatedly stated, the divine [[@Page:86]]foreknowledge of fides finalis must remain an inscrutable divine mystery to every Christian. But — possibly intuitu fidei possesses some value to the “theologian”? During the controversy on predestination, some one — we do not remember who it was — expressed the sentiment that the “first form” is the best for the Christian, while the second is of service to the theologian. The latter is true only when the theologian does not regard “foreseen faith” as a gift of God, but teaches that converting, saving grace is governed by the dissimilar conduct of men. If, on the other hand, the theologian in harmony with Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions declares that there is no such thing as “dissimilar conduct,” and that those who will be saved, as compared with those who will be lost, likewise conduct themselves ill over against grace and are in equal guilt, the theological advantage, too, is lost. For in that case we can discover absolutely nothing in ourselves by which God might have been governed in the matter of our conversion and election. In short, no theologian who really holds fast the sola gratia has ever explained aught by means of intuitu fidei. This applies to Gerhard, Scriver, Pontoppidan, Quenstedt, Calovius, Joli. Adam Osiander, and others. These precious men have caused much trouble to themselves and to others by means of intuitu fidei, and have partly dulled the edge of their sword against Calvinism, and yet have gained nothing from the viewpoint of the theologian. Therefore we say once more: the American Lutheran Church should not by any means yield to the intuitu fidei any right to exist alongside of the teaching of the Scriptures and the Confessions.
Hence, objection must be raised to the Norwegian Articles of Agreement, because they coordinate the “second form” with the first and recommend its adoption: “The Synod and United Church committees on Union acknowledge unanimously and without reservation the doctrine of Predestination which is stated in the Eleventh Article of the Formula of Concord (the so-called ‘first form of the doctrine’) and in Pontoppidan’s Explanation (Sandhed til Gudfrygtighed), [[@Page:87]]Qu. 548 (the so-called ‘second form of the doctrine’).” The rejection, in Thesis 5, of synergism, that prolific source of division and offense in the American Church, must be acknowledged to be a great achievement. All good Lutherans should acknowledge that this is a result of the union movement and something for which they should thank the Lord from all their hearts. This is a great forward step in the direction of true unity. The common basis has now been found from which efforts towards removing such uneven parts, as still remain in the Articles, may proceed. One of these is the coordination of the first and second forms of doctrine in Thesis 1. The matter, we know, stands thus: Only the first form is the form of the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions; the second form can only be traced to a number of teachers in the Church. Moreover, the second form must be interpreted at variance with its literal sense, in order not to be in contradiction with the doctrine of the first form. Besides, the fact has been recognized in the Norwegian Synod, and witness has been borne, not only to the effect that the second form has no ground in Scripture, but that it even invites error, and that it has at all times, and particularly in the recent controversy, afforded a shelter to synergism. “The second form” — to quote once more an excellent summing-up of the matter — “is an attempt at finding a solution; it is an attempt to solve a great difficulty, an attempt to render that comprehensible and reasonable which in our opinion must remain unsolved.” “The first form of doctrine is very inconvenient for Semipelagians and Synergists; they can hide behind the second form, but not behind the first.”) Accordingly, it should not require lengthy negotiations to agree on the elimination of the words in Thesis 1, which accept “without reservation” the second form together with the first. Nor should the predicament be lost sight of, into which simple Christians are brought through this very “second [[@Page:88]]form.” According to this form of doctrine, faith and the whole Christian estate are antecedents of their eternal election. Now, they read in their homes, or hear in church such texts as the following: [[2 Tim. 1, 9 >> 2 Tim 1.9]]: God “hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,” or [[Eph. 1, 3 sqq >> Eph 1.3f]].: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ, according as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame,” etc., or [[Acts 13, 48 >> Acts 13.48]]: “And as many as were ordained unto eternal life, believed,” or [[Rom. 8, 29 >> Rom 8.29]]: “Whom He did foreknow He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son. Moreover, whom He did predestinate, them He also called; and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified,” — as often as Christians read and hear such passages of Holy Writ, they recognize at once that their faith and Christian estate is not an antecedent, but a result and product of their eternal predestination. They must become confused and offended if they are asked to accept “without reservation” also the “second form.”
On the other hand, it is proper to issue a warning, viz., that in settling our relation to the old dogmaticians we must not reject the good with the bad. During the controversy regarding the Scriptural and confessional doctrine of Election, we have been constrained, more than at other times, to point out the weak points in the teaching of the seventeenth century theologians. And, indeed, if we look about for models, in a theological way, we must turn not so much to the seventeenth century as to Luther and the sixteenth century. But it were a pity if we should now relegate to oblivion, as no longer worthy of our interest, the theologians of the seventeenth and early eighteenth century. Only recently we have again noted in the American [[@Page:89]]Lutheran press recommendations, more or less fervent, of modern German theologians of the “positive” school. We foresee a danger to our Church if her students, from contempt of the old teachers of the Lutheran Church, confine their study to modern theological literature. These are the facts in the case: As yet there is more genuine theology, genuine with reference to contents and form, especially as regards the application of Scripture, to be found in Hollazius, and even in Buddeus, than in the best “positive” nineteenth century theologians of Germany. Hence, if American Lutheran theology were to substitute the positive theologians, so-called, of Germany as models of theology in the place of the old Lutheran teachers, it would be making a poor trade. We should, indeed, acknowledge an honest effort on the part of some German theologians, of late, to gain a firm footing in Christian doctrine in the midst of universal distraction and doubt. There is a manifest desire to return to Christian truth. Yea, these men would be “Lutheran.” But for the time being they seem to be at a loss how to accomplish this. Even those at present regarded as the best, and who are, relatively considered, really the best among them, do not yet dare to regard the Bible as the Word of God and to treat the objective Word of God as the only principle of theological knowledge. By their denial of verbal inspiration — and there is no other kind of Scripture-inspiration —the whole order of things in theology still remains turned topsy-turvy in principle. When determining what is Christian doctrine, those theologians do not take their stand on Scripture as the deciding factor, but on their “experience,” or on their human ego. This should not be overlooked by the American Lutheran Church.
But are the old Lutheran theologians not weak in exegesis? Especially in Germany there is frequent mention of the “dogmatical” exegesis of the old Lutheran theologians. It must be conceded that there are instances of “dogmatical” exegesis in the Lutheran dogmaticians. To use the language of Luther: they sometimes have right thoughts in the wrong [[@Page:90]]place, i. e., they cite certain texts in support of a doctrine which is not taught there, but elsewhere. The modern theologians, however, not excluding the positive, in spite of their vaunted “progress in exegesis,” have, with rare exceptions, wrong thoughts in the right place. They are so completely dominated by their faulty dogmatics that they do not find Christian doctrine stated in the most lucid texts. We cannot but term this talk current fiction that is being circulated with no effort at verification, viz, that the Lutheran dogmaticians were men who merely recorded dogmas according to the traditional dogmatics, and following the lead of the Confessions, and that they were little concerned about Scriptural evidences and the extraction of doctrine from the Scriptures. Whoever has taken the pains to study even superficially the great dogmaticians, such as Gerhard, Quenstedt, Calovius, has had his opinion of these men changed completely, if he studied only so much as a single locus. With Gerhard the exhibition of doctrine from the Scriptures is the beginning, middle, and end of his effort. The texts quoted by the opponents are so exhaustively treated by Gerhard with reference to their context and linguistic usage that his treatise suffers more from overpenetration than from lack of penetration. Quenstedt, called the great “bookkeeper of Lutheran theology,” presents mainly the Scriptural evidence in the notes under θέσις, as well as under βεβαίωσις and ἐκδίκησις, in his great dogmatical work. Calovius’ greatness as a Scriptural theologian is evident not only from his Biblia Illustrata, but from all his major works. Calovius it was, too, who never tired of recommending to students of theology the knowledge of Hebrew and Greek as much more necessary than the study of the fathers and the scholastics.) Meusel’s Lexikon very aptly remarks on the fashionable disparagement [[@Page:91]]of the old theologians as exegetes: “The adduction of evidence from the Scriptures has a prominent and extended space in old-Lutheran dogmatics. Especially the authors of the Loci, and also of the later Systemata, are fully in earnest in regarding Scripture not merely as a touchstone for testing doctrines derived elsewhere, but as their principle and source, and derive from it the truths of dogma which they logically establish and defend against the objections of adversaries, so that the dogmatical writings of, e. g., Chemnitz and John Gerhard are a mine of thorough exegetical investigation.”)
In connection with these utterances regarding the old dogmaticians, we may be privileged to say a few more words on Dr. Walther’s theological manner. The association is not an accidental one. Especially in Germany, Walther has been grouped with the old Lutheran theologians. Even theologians who were in a way favorably inclined toward us classified Walther as a “theologian of repristination.” They would call him the great “theologian of quotations,” but in their estimation he did not pass as a “theologian of Scripture.” He has gradually been brushed aside as not worthy of further consideration. This has resulted in a distinct loss to the Church in Germany. That theological method which his earlier associates, like Delitzsch, in their first ardor also espoused, but later deserted under the pressure of theological “science,” reached complete development in Walther. When Count Erbach on an American tour became acquainted with Walther and with Walther’s theological manner, he wrote: “Many years of fierce struggle for the truth, ceaseless labor and effort for the extension of the Gospel have developed in this man so adamantine a certainty and such luminous clearness in all matters of faith that I was lost in amazement and finally concluded: This is the man; God has chosen him for this country; He could not have found a better one. And in truth, He has, midst [[@Page:92]]storms and tempests, employed this tool in rebuilding, on the rock of our Confession, His Church in the New World. Through him He founded a new home for the Lutheran Church. … America is now the hope of Lutheranism. While elsewhere throughout the world there is heard the crash of the wreck and ruin of things, here the seed of truth undefiled is quietly and unwearyingly sown, cultivated, and watered by men who are undisturbed by the discordant noise of the world, armed with weapons of battle, ready at a moment’s notice to rush to the defense. And the seed visibly brings forth fruit a hundred-fold. … Not a grain of revealed truth is to be surrendered; rather let everything else perish! Such conditions are a source of comfort to all who are concerned about the future of the Church. With such armament the great, decisive battles may be fought without fear of the issue.”) But even in the greater part of the American Lutheran Church — much to its damage — Walther has been pushed aside as not worthy of serious attention. The fiction that Walther was not really a “Bible theologian” has done its work here also. A fiction, we said. For this opinion, that Walther was not a “Bible theologian,” can be reached only by one who measures Walther’s books with a yardstick. We acknowledge that we, too, did this, though only for a short time. Rev. Hochstetter used to admit that his had been the same experience. If the yardstick is applied, the result is, indeed, that in Walther’s works citations are seen to occupy by far the greater amount of space. Closer acquaintance, however, develops the fact that this “Zitatentheolog” is through and through a Schrifttheolog. Dr. Stoeckhardt, who presumably had some exegetical knowledge, in his last years repeatedly dwelt upon the impression which Walther’s skillful manner of using the Scripture in Kirche und Amt made upon him when he was still in Germany. How does Walther go at his task in Kirche und Amt? He will cite the relevant texts of [[@Page:93]]Scripture, and, by adding brief remarks, confine his effort to holding the reader to the clear texts of Scripture. By merely underscoring the decisive words in a text, he will sometimes attain the same end. When Walther desires to show from the Scriptures that God converts solely “by grace, for Christ’s sake,” and is not governed by perceiving “dissimilar conduct” in men, he quotes [[Rom. 3, 23. 24 >> Rom 3.23-24]]: “There is no difference; for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Walther merely adds: “When the Holy Spirit here says that there is no difference among sinners, it follows that in man there can never be anything for the sake of which God converts just him, and not another.” Every one must admit that in this manner the whole argument regarding the discretio personarum is definitely settled on the basis of Scripture. Again, when Walther desires to prove from the Scriptures that the Church in the real sense of the word consists exclusively of believers, he cites [[Eph. 1, 22. 23 >> Eph 1.22-23]]; [[5, 23-27 >> Eph. 5.23-27]]; [[1 Cor. 3, 16. 17 >> 1 Cor 3.16-17]]; [[Hebr. 12, 23 >> Heb 12.23]], and other texts, and simply underscores the words “Head of the Church, which is His body,” “Church is subject to Christ,” “glorious” (ἔνδοξος), “not having spot or wrinkle,” “holy,” “without blemish,” “the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are,” “the Church of the first-born, which are written in heaven.” Every one will concede that the truth: the Church consists only of the believers, is hereby exhibited and proved from the Scriptures. Walther is the theologian of the bare Scriptures (nuda Scripture), i. e., of the Scriptures without “gloss,” or interpretation. This, and only this, affords an explanation of Walther’s amazing certainty, which not only impressed Count Erbach, but was recognized as a characteristic of Walther by many outside of our own circles. Walther is also in this respect a true disciple of Luther. Luther bewails as the greatest affliction of his time the opinion that Scripture without exegesis, or “gloss,” is dark; that the “interpretation of the fathers” was necessary for its understanding. Even while [[@Page:94]]sojourning at the Wartburg, Luther called to the world and the Church: “No clearer book has been written on earth than the Holy Scriptures.” “When a believer but hears the Scriptures, they are so clear and full of light to him that he says, without any glosses of fathers and teachers, ‘That is true; that I believe.’ ” “But if some one were to approach you and say, ‘We need the interpretation of the fathers, the Scriptures are dark,’ you must say, ‘That is not true.’ ” If they tell us that the Scriptures without the interpretation of the fathers is dark, their purpose is “to lead us out of the Scriptures, darken our faith, mount the nest, and sit on the eggs themselves and become our idols.”) Elsewhere Luther expands on the matter: The text of Scripture is ever and unvariedly more clear than the exegesis or “gloss,” because the correctness of the exegesis must ever be shown by reference to the text. Not only part of our doctrine, but the whole Christian doctrine is revealed in Scripture passages so clear that they stand in no need of a commentary. The obscure texts — for there are such — contain nothing that is not taught in the clear ones. By asserting that the clear texts, containing the whole of Christian doctrine, must, in turn, be made still clearer, the Scriptures are knocked into a confused, disjointed mass. If any would “teach” or “fight” with an interpretation, instead of the “nude” Scriptures, Luther designates the attempt an absurdity. If many readers and hearers find the clear Scriptures obscure, the cause must be sought in their ignorance, or limited knowledge, of the language of Holy Writ. Real obscurities will not be made clear by the joint effort of all exegetes in the world. People may busy themselves with obscure passages for their entertainment, but not for the purpose of “teaching” or “disputing.” Luther writes against Emser): “The writings of all fathers should be read with humility, not to believe them, but to [[@Page:95]]examine them whether they employ clear texts, and explain the Scripture by means of clear Scripture. How could they have overcome the heretics if they had fought by t
he aid of their own glosses? If they had tried to do so, they would have been considered fools and beside themselves. But because they use clear texts that need no gloss, with such effect as to take captive every man’s reason, the Evil Spirit with his heresies was forced to yield. There is another way of studying Scripture, which consists in expounding obscure passages and figures. This is a sort of hunts-man’s sport, and consists in hunting for, and finding, some merry interpretation, that is, one which affords delight, just as you hunt game. But that study which serves for spiritual warfare consists in becoming versed in the Scripture, as Paul says, mighty and richly supplied with clear texts, so as to be able to fight without any gloss or interpretation, as with a naked drawn sword, as was signified by the golden spears in the temple of Solomon, in order that the opponent, vanquished by the bright light, might see and confess that the texts are of God alone, and require no human interpretation.” But if this is so, what need is there of that special grace of some teachers, the peculiar exegetical grace with which the Lord endows some, and in what way are we benefited by this gift? It is not required for making clear the Scriptures, but for leading the vagrant mind of man, who is a fugitive from the Bible, into the clear texts of Scripture, and to hold him to the clear Word, spite of all perverters of the same. In his introduction to Luther’s explanation of John 17,) Harless made a remark on the relation of exegesis to the text of Scripture which reveals his correct understanding of Luther’s exegetical principles. Harless wrote: “True, the Word itself has no need of human interpretation, yet our hard hearts and deaf ears require the voice of heralds and preachers in the desert. Nor are these [[@Page:96]]necessary because the words of Christ were too high and too deep, too obscure and mysterious, for men’s senses, but because we human beings, as Luther correctly says, in our perverse desire for false eminence, pass unheedingly over the divine simplicity of Christ’s words, like blind men, or half-witted.” These principles of Luther had passed into the very woof and warp of Walther’s nature. We have ourselves heard him utter them with great enthusiasm in his hermeneutical lectures. Walther, like Luther, took his stand on bare Scriptures, and this explains, as noted above, Walther’s great assurance, so similar to Luther’s. When the Colloquy at Marburg concerning the Lord’s Supper was about to commence, Luther pushed aside the velvet table-cover, and wrote upon the table, not an interpretation of the words of institution, but these words themselves — Hoc est corpus meum. The theologian, says Luther, must cling to the mere Word as a vine clings to the tree. Thus Walther, too, in spite of his many quotations from the old theologians, in his heart and conscience took his stand on the Word unmodified by interpretation. We have frequently heard him deplore the fact that he was unable to read the simple Scripture text as much as he liked, because of the stress of work. But at least the two hours before services every Sunday morning, he would devote to uninterrupted Bible reading, and would not permit them to be engrossed with any other task. We were reminded of Walther’s attitude over against the Word by an utterance of his made during his last illness a month or two before he died. Looking back to the controversy on conversion and predestination, he said that if the Lord Christ would ask him on Judgment Day why he had taught as he did, he would say, Thou hast misled me into doing it, O Lord, by Thy Word. On the one hand, Walther declared it to be arrogance which God would punish, if, in getting doctrine out of the Scripture, a person refuses to be aided by others, or would not study the writings of the great teachers, but endeavored [[@Page:97]]to find everything in Scripture himself.) On the other hand, he insisted that never an exegesis, but always the naked text, without exegesis, must be the determinative factor in the heart and conscience of the theologian. Such was Walther, the “theologian of repristination,” the “Zitatentheolog.” One may employ what is termed a heavy exegetical apparatus, and be admired as a great exegete by the unthinking masses, and yet be anything rather than a “theologian of the Scriptural principle,” a “Schrifttheolog.” Compare Walther and Franz Delitzsch. The men were friends from their university days. Delitzsch has written a considerable number of commentaries, and is considered one of the greatest exegetes of all ages. Walther has not written a single commentary. His principal writings are amplifications of papers read at synodical meetings. Yet Walther is in the true sense of the term a “Bible theologian” because he has in every doctrine attained the sense of Scripture. Delitzsch, on the other hand, may only in a greatly modified sense of the term be called “Schrifttheolog,” since he has not attained the sense of Scripture in such important doctrines as inspiration, creation, the person of Christ, the Church, and others, but has substituted his own opinions for the Scriptures. Similarly von Hofmann. In the ordinary church-lexica and theological encyclopedias he is called “one of the greatest Bible-scholars of all ages,” who has worked “with pitiless philological exactness.” Hofmann has written two volumes of Prophecy and Fulfillment, three volumes of Scriptural Evidences, an entire series of volumes inscribed, The Holy Scripture of the New Testament Examined in Their Entirety, and has lectured on Hermeneutics.) But was Hofmann a Bible theologian? Unfortunately Kliefoth is right when he characterizes von Hofmann’s theology as follows: “A theological system which does violence to the [[@Page:98]]Scriptures, disfiguring the doctrine of salvation by means of ingenious, but untrue combinations, and destroying the structure of Christian doctrine both by the admixture of philosophical elements to the more theoretical doctrines of God, the Trinity, creation, man, the person, natures, and states of Christ, and by weakening throughout the practical dogmas of sin, redemption, atonement, the work of grace, and the appropriation of salvation.”) Kliefoth then mourns the fact that the exegetical and historical pretensions of von Hofmann threatened to work hopeless confusion, especially in the minds of the younger generation.
Everybody admits that doubt and confusion are rampant in the Churches of Germany. Whence this pitiful result after so much “progress of exegesis”? The mischief is much the same in our time as in the Reformation age: there is a disinclination to approach the Scriptures without “exegesis.” Whoever confines himself, like Walther, to a presentation of the mere Scriptures, and to hold the reader or hearers to the mere Scriptures, is considered as lacking in exegetical training. According to this view, the Lord Jesus was exegetically deficient, since in the temptation He quoted, over against Satan, the mere words of Scripture, without exegesis. And the Apostle Paul, of course, was entirely without exegetical proficiency, for did he not send a long epistle to the Roman congregation without adding an appendix in the shape of a much needed commentary? Modern theology, in its view of the clearness of Scripture, occupies essentially the Roman Catholic position. It regards as undue exaggeration the words of Luther: There is no clearer book on earth than the Scripture, and: Faith without exegesis understands the Scriptures if it but hears the words of Scripture. Some demand outright that the words of Luther concerning the clearness of Scripture must be “modified.” Others accuse the Scriptures of obscurity, [[@Page:99]]at least in private conversation, and treat them accordingly. We American Lutherans, on the other hand, unreservedly subscribe to Luther’s remark concerning the clearness of Scripture. Our efforts are directed in all our theological and exegetical work to the single end that hearers and readers may be led to the clear word of Scripture, and may be held to the clear word of Scripture. On the “bare” Scripture we stand, with the “bare” Scripture we fight. From this point of view Dr. Stoeckhardt’s splendid commentaries were written. True, this method of ours has won little approbation outside of our own circles, least of all among German theologians. Dr. Stoeckhardt’s excellent commentaries have been simply ignored in Germany. It goes against the grain of modern theologians, as they are constituted, you know, to be remanded to the bare Scriptures and held down to the bare Scriptures. Not the word of Holy Writ, which is no longer regarded as the Word of God, but the exegesis is deemed of most importance, i. e., in this instance, the human thoughts superadded to the Scriptures, furnish the materials for this theology. We American Lutherans are at pains to learn from any one who has something respectable to say. But in the matter of treating the Scriptures and Bible theology, foreign theology, in spite of its “exegetical progress,” will have to learn from us. The arch-enemy of the Church has led Germany out of the Bible into the interpretation of the Bible. We, in America, have been led by the Holy Spirit from interpretation of the Bible into the Bible itself. We cannot suffer any to take from us the honor of being Bible theologians. Especially with regard to Walther we maintain that he was preeminently a “Bible theologian,” according to Luther’s definition: “Whoever is well grounded and experienced in the text will become a good and efficient theologian; for one verse or text from the Bible counts for more than many authors and glosses.”). An agreement in [[@Page:100]]this truth and a squaring of action with the same would lead to the union, so devoutly to be desired, of the whole American Lutheran Church.
This discourse has imperceptibly grown beyond the intended length. But this point is of the very highest importance. This is the point which separated us in the recent controversy, and at this point unity must commence if it is to be established at all. In the recent controversy Bible-text and exegesis stood in opposition to each other. The other side insisted with much emphasis that the few Scripture-texts treating of Predestination were “obscure,” and must needs be “interpreted” in order that universal grace might be preserved.) We on our part maintained that the texts treating of Election are sufficiently numerous and clear. Just so our Confessions: “Holy Scriptures not only in but one place and incidentally, but in many places, thoroughly discuss and urge the same” (doctrine of Election).) The texts concerning Predestination require, as little as the sedes doctrinae of other articles, an “interpretation” in the sense that obscure words must first be explained. What Luther says concerning Scripture texts for all Christian doctrine applies also to the texts which treat of Election: “When Faith only hears the Bible, it is so clear and bright to him that he says without any fathers and glosses: That is right, that I believe.” We have, on occasion, requested the other side repeatedly to make the test. We have suggested [[@Page:101]]that a Christian of average inelligence who knows nothing of the controversy be found and such passages as [[2 Tim. 1, 9 >> 2 Tim 1.9]] or [[Eph. 1, 3 sqq >> Eph 1.3ff]]. be read to him, with no interpretation added. The result would be that the believer would recognize faith and the Christian estate not as an antecedent, but as a product and result of eternal election. The texts dealing with Election are certainly clear enough. Nothing is needed beyond believing what has been clearly expressed. This fact has determined our exegetical method. Of course, we have also written quite a number of exegetical articles, of varying length. But whoever will take the trouble to examine these articles will immediately admit that our whole exegesis consisted in simply directing the reader to the clear text of Scripture and holding him to it. Every means was exhausted in the effort to lead us away from the Scripture-text. We were reminded that the texts treating of Predestination must, of course, be interpreted agreeably to [[John 3, 16 >> Jn 3.16]], or, at any rate, according to the scope of the entire Scriptures. Otherwise, it was said, we would be in a “dreadful predicament.” Quite a series of titles was applied to us. We acted in accordance with a remark of Luther’s, repeatedly quoted by us: “I will gladly suffer all vituperation, but will not yield one finger’s breadth from the mouth of Him who says: ‘Him ye shall hear.’ ”) When viewing the principle by which Christian doctrine is known, we are forced to say that the controversy most certainly revolved about this one question: “Bible-text” or “gloss”? As often as in the Church any controversy has arisen, this question was at bottom the controverted one. As Luther never tires of urging, the “gloss” started the mischief in paradise. The words: “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die,”) — these words are clear and require no exegesis. But the devil insisted on [[@Page:102]]“exegesis”: “Yea, hath God said?”) So it was in the days of the Reformation. Luther took his stand on the clear words of the Sacrament. “The words,” he said, “are too powerful as they stand.” Zwingli and his associates suggested that our Church either remove entirely out of sight the words of institution as being obscure, and draw the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper from other texts, or, if the obscure words are to be kept in view, “interpret” them in such a way as to bring them into harmony with the Reformed notion of Christ’s ascension and His sitting at the right hand of God. As noted before, Luther, during the Marburg Colloquy, so as not to have his true perspective disturbed, wrote with crayon on the table before him: Hoc est corpus meum. The same question of principle is involved in all controversies of our day, and will be to the end of time. When the devil desires to bring about division and offense in the Church, he does not come like the devil he is, but goes to the Scriptures. He either quotes texts that are irrelevant,) or ventures to offer exegesis.) If the Lutheran Church in America would, therefore, reap the benefit of the recent controversy, it should learn, and resolve never to forget, this truth: The Christian Church can and ought to stand solely on the Word of Christ, and on no gloss. The Lord Jesus does not say: If ye remain in the interpretation of my Word, but: “If ye continue in my Word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”) By abandoning the Scriptures and substituting for them human constructions, we must suffer the loss of the Christian principle of knowledge and the glorious liberty of the children of God. By abandoning the Word of Scripture, we err and become the servants of men. To quote Luther: “When the devil has once succeeded in removing the Word [[@Page:103]]from heart and eye, and induced us to make our own thoughts about articles of faith, without the Word, we are lost.”) Let us not be mistaken as to the real state of things! Even among church people sayings like this have obtained some currency: “All church-bodies stand on the Scriptures, and differ only in their interpretation.” That is not true! The Roman Church does not stand on the Scriptures, but on the Roman interpretation of the Scriptures. The Reformed bodies do not stand on the Scriptures, so far as they differ from us, but on Zwingli’s, Calvin’s, etc., interpretation of the Scriptures. The Lutheran Church, on the other hand, does not stand on interpretations of Scripture, but on Scripture itself. How gloriously would the American Lutheran Church fulfill its mission here in America, standing like an unshaken rock in the midst of the billows of sectarianism, if it took its stand, as one man, on the clear Word, and bore witness to the clear Word! There Luther’s strength lay. There must remain the strength of Lutheranism, over against all sectarian formations, until Judgment Day. Luther wrote from the Wartburg: “It is enough that we have Scripture; they have not Scripture.”) And again: “Behold, ye may refute all writings of papists with ease, though each of them wrote a hundred thousand books; for, as I have said, they are, to a man, Scriptureless, rude, unlearned writers, who had more properly become servants in a bathhouse than controversialists. Let no one lead you away from and out of Scripture, however hard they may try. For if ye abandon it, ye are lost; they will lead you whither they will. But if ye remain in it (in Scripture), ye have won and need be concerned about their raging as little as the rock is concerned about the waves and billows of the sea. What they write is mere waves and surges. Be quite assured and do not doubt, there is nothing more luminous than the sun, that is to say, the Scriptures.”) [[@Page:104]]