XV. A Few Opinions that Have Been Expressed on This Brochure, and on the Union Movement among the Norwegian Lutherans.

(Supplement to the First German Edition.)

A second German edition of this little book has soon been called for. We beg leave to add, in this edition, a chapter in which we shall note a few of the opinions that have been expressed, both on our brochure and on the entire union movement among the Norwegian Lutherans.

The question whether “the different conduct of men” supplies the “ground of explanation” why they are converted and saved, occupies a prominent place throughout our treatise. By way of criticism the suggestion has been made from the other side that a different mode of procedure would [[@Page:144]]have better served the cause of union. It has been proposed that, above all, we enter upon a very exhaustive historical discussion of the conception of “Election.” We regard this proposal as impractical. In the first place, historical discussions of this kind are not easily understood by the general public in the Church, who necessarily are the arbiters in this controversy. We call attention to our introductory remarks in Chap. IX (“The Position of the Old Dogmaticians”). In the second place, with us Lutherans it is not history, but solely the Word of God which settles questions as to what constitutes an article of faith. Finally, we have reached an agreement ere this as to where the real point of difference lies. We have shown by submitting the documentary evidence, especially in Chapters III and V of this book, that both parties have acknowledged the question regarding the “different conduct” of men to be “the cardinal question of this entire controversy.” As regards this point, the respective positions of the parties are clearly and sharply demarcated. Our opponents have declared, quite definitely and decidedly, that converting and saving grace is governed by the correct conduct of man, or, what comes to the same thing, that conversion and salvation are dependent, not upon the grace of God alone, but also on the conduct of man, and that the different conduct of men explains why some are converted and saved, others not. We, on the other hand, have contended, quite as definitely and decidedly, that whenever those who are saved are compared with those who are lost, there is no such thing at all as different conduct. For, as regards the conduct of those who are saved, that, too, is evil in every instance, and these are in the same condemnation with those that are lost. Accordingly, in view of the fact that there is, on the side of God, a universal and serious grace, and that there is, on the side of mankind, universal and total depravity, it will always remain a mystery, never to be solved for us in this present life, why some should be converted and saved rather than others. When studying the cause why men are saved, we never get [[@Page:145]]beyond sola gratia Dei; when studying the cause why men are lost, we never pass beyond sola culpa hominum.

More than this. All accusations which we have raised against one another are based on our divergent belief regarding “the different conduct” of men. The reason why we have charged our opponents with directly teaching synergism and with repudiating sola gratia is, because they assume, among a part of mankind, a better conduct over and against grace, and because they make this better conduct “the ground of explanation” why these persons are converted and saved. On the other hand, the reason why our opponents have charged us with indirectly teaching Calvinism, a two-fold will in God as regards the salvation of men, a divine grace which coerces men and operates irresistibly, etc., is, because we teach that the aforementioned correct, or better, conduct over and against grace does not exist in any portion of mankind, and, hence, cannot serve as the “ground of explanation” why men are converted and saved. Thus, then, it is quite manifest that, if this divergence of belief regarding the “different conduct” of men is removed, peace, serene peace, will enter the American Lutheran Church, as far as the doctrines of Conversion and Election are concerned.

For this reason we have been at pains, from the beginning to the end of our book, to keep this question of the “different conduct” of men in the foreground. To restate the matter summarily: we have proved from Scripture, especially by the example of the Pharisee and of the Jewish nation, and also by the warning addressed to the Gentile Christians in Rom. 11, that Christian faith can neither spring into existence nor continue to exist as long as there is a different conduct assumed as the ground of explanation why some men are converted and saved. Furthermore, we have shown that the Formula of Concord declares the different conduct of men to be a non-ens, that is, a thing that does not exist at all, and that it adds, in express terms, that the conduct of those who are saved is also evil, and that they are in the [[@Page:146]]same condemnation with those who are lost. Finally, we have demonstrated, not only that all Christians throughout the world, but also all the theologians who oppose us, as far as they are Christians, occupy, in their conscience, and when they face God, the position of the Formula of Concord. Because of the facts, therefore, we cannot concede the point which the Iowa Kirchenblatt makes, viz., that our presentation of the matter does not treat the real point of difference, and, hence, cannot serve the cause of unifying the Lutheran Church. Because of the facts, we rather are forced to reiterate our former declaration, viz., that, if a real unification is to be accomplished, it must be accomplished at this point which we have kept in the foreground. To state the matter concretely, that part of the Lutheran Church which has hitherto taught that the converting and saving grace of God is governed by the correct, or good, conduct of man, and has in such conduct discovered the ground of explanation for the discretio personarum, must surrender that teaching without any reservation whatsoever. If this is not done, all unity between the parties to the controversy is specious.

This has been the reason why, in discussing the Norwegian Articles of Agreement, we insisted that in Thesis 4 the statement regarding “man’s sense of responsibility in respect of the acceptance or rejection of God’s grace” be amended, because, if this is not done, the notion of man’s “good conduct,” which is rejected in Thesis 5, may sneak in again at this loophole. Again, we have demonstrated in Chapter IV that, if the leaders of the “Forenede Kirke” wish to make it quite plain and manifest that they have really abandoned the notion of the “correct conduct of man,” as a ground of explanation, it will be necessary that they make three statements, in particular, to wit: 1. a statement to the effect that the leaders of the “Forenede Kirke” have unjustly charged the Norwegian Synod with Calvinism, because they based their charge on the fact that the Norwegian Synod was teaching sola gratia, and, in particular, because [[@Page:147]]it rejected the good conduct of men as the ground for explaining why they were converted and saved; 2. a statement to the effect that the leaders of the “Forenede Kirke” have hitherto really spoken like synergists. We had said: “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”; 3. a statement to the effect that in future no person shall be charged with holding Calvinistic doctrine or adopting the phraseology of Calvinism because of the fact that he teaches sola gratia, and particularly, because he rejects the good conduct of men as the ground for explaining why they are converted, saved, and elected. We had remarked: “This would clear the situation.” And we had added this further remark: “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” (the rejection of every cause for conversion and salvation sought in man).

Reviewing all that has been said about the formula “election in view of faith” since the first edition of this book was published, we see no reason why we should add anything to what we have said. In the historical excursus (chap. IX) we have furnished the evidence to show that the dogmaticians of the seventeenth century, who use the formula “election in view of faith,” while combating at the same time the synergism of Latermann and Musaeus, do not present the same doctrine as the American champions of this formula. We have, however, added distinctly that assent to this historical excursus is not required for unity in doctrine. As regards this particular phrase, intuitu fidei, we have shown that, even when there is no synergistic meaning underlying this term, it must in no wise be given the right of existence within the Christian Church, because, if this is done, the Scripture-principle is certainly violated. All that we have had to declare on this point we have comprised [[@Page:148]]in the following statement: “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 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.” We have also shown that the theory of intuitu fidei has never been of any benefit to our Church, but has caused much harm, that it admits of no practical application, but proves a stumbling-block to the Christian whenever he hears or reads the passages of Scripture which treat of election, because this theory changes the statements of Scripture regarding the relation of election to the Christian’s state of grace to their very opposite. Accordingly, we insist that the recognition of the so-called “second form of doctrine” alongside of the first be stricken from the Norwegian Articles of Agreement. The term intuitu fidei does not admit of being treated in the same manner as the terms “preparation” for conversion and “possibility” of conversion. These conceptions are posited in direct terms in statements of Scripture, as appears from a reference to [[Gal. 3, 24 >> Gal 3.24]] (“The Law has been our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ”), [[Is. 55, 6 >> Is 55.6]]  (“Seek ye the Lord while He may be found”), etc. Accordingly, the terms “preparation” for conversion and “possibility” of conversion must be retained as correct, and the enemy who seeks shelter behind these terms must be driven from cover. This has been demonstrated in Chapters X and XI. It would be violating the Scripture-principle if we were to surrender the use of statements of Scripture for the [[@Page:149]]reason that enemies misapply them, and claim them as favoring their doctrine. But the conception “election in view of faith” is not posited in Scripture, but is contrary to Scripture. This conception is in contradiction of all those passages of Scripture which describe the relation which the Christians’ faith and entire state of grace hold to their eternal election. Accordingly, the term intuitu fidei must not be given protection, but must be abandoned. We may palliate the weakness of those who give to this term a meaning different from what the words import, and we should seek to remedy this weakness by patient teaching, but we dare never go so far as to place this term alongside of the teaching of Scripture, accord it the right of existence in the Church, and defend it.

We have, even in the first edition ([[pp. 8 ff >> Page:8]].), pointed out the obstacles in the way of a unification of the Lutheran Church in the doctrines of Conversion and Election. These obstacles have appeared again during the last three months. Instead of accurately analyzing the contents of the Norwegian Articles of Agreement, instead of carefully discriminating between what is true and what is false, or what is regarded as either true or false, and instead of thus entering upon an objective discussion of the matter, reviewers have rested content with indulging general accusations and eulogies expressed with rhetorical fervor. It is a pity that the slogan “For Missouri!” and “For Anti-Missouri!” still proves to be the decisive factor. Thus in the place of objective discussion there comes greater intensification of the party spirit. The Iowa Kirchenblatt, without offering any explanation for its action, reiterates the charge that Missouri has formerly taught, and is still teaching, Calvinism (two different wills in God as regards men’s salvation, one effectual, the other ineffectual), and that this has caused the controversy on Election in America. We have devoted several chapters to the documentary evidence, to show that the German and the Norwegian “Missourians” have been charged with Calvinism for this sole reason, [[@Page:150]]because they have declined to consider the good conduct of men as the factor of decisive importance in their conversion and election. The Ohio Kirchenzeitung thanks God because the majority of the Norwegians have hitherto refused to listen to the presentations of “Missouri,” and expresses the hope that in future neither Norwegians nor any one else in America will give ear to “Missouri.” At the same time, the Kirchenzeitung claims that “the doctrines for which we have contended such a long time over and against Missouri” have now been “accepted” (anerkannt) in the Norwegian Articles of Agreement. This claim is outside of the pale of facts. Even when adhering to its doctrinal position over and against Missouri, the Kirchenzeitung from its viewpoint should word an objective review of the “Opgjoer” about as follows: “True, in Thesis 5 of the ‘Opgjoer’ the doctrine of our Ohio Synod, viz., that the converting and saving grace of God is governed by the good conduct of man, has been rejected. But in Thesis 4 there occurs a statement regarding ‘man’s sense of responsibility in respect of the acceptance or rejection of God’s grace.’ In this statement we can find a domicile again for man’s ‘good conduct,’ which has been rejected in Thesis 5. Accordingly, we regard the ‘Opgjoer’ as a document in which our doctrine of man’s ‘conduct’ is denied the right of existence, but it leaves a loophole for this teaching.” That would be the start of an objective review of the “Opgjoer” as regards one point. But the claim that the “Opgjoer” presents the doctrine for which Ohio has hitherto contended over and against Missouri, is seen to be the opposite of an objective discussion of the matter.

We beg leave to offer these concluding remarks: It is verily not well-advised for the Ohio Kirchenzeitung and other church-papers, to sound the warning cry in the American Lutheran Church because of the union movement among the Norwegians: “By no means listen to Missouri!” For the sake of the matter under discussion we cordially request both the Norwegian Lutherans and the Lutherans speaking other tongues: “Do hear and examine what the [[@Page:151]]Missourians have to say!” With all due modesty we would request that along with others also those statements be read and examined which we have made in Chapter VII: “The Point of Difference as Stated by the Formula of Concord,” and Chapter VIII: “Assent of All Christians to the Presentation of Doctrine Made by the Formula of Concord.” Let these chapters be read and examined. Let the reader try to refute them, at least in his own heart. We are fully convinced that no one, as far as he is a Christian, will refuse assent to what has been said in those chapters. Then, why not bring the profession of our lips into consonance with the belief of our hearts, and thus permit peace to enter our dear Lutheran Church?