Thursday, February 10, 2011

Where Walther went off the rails.

I have been reviewing my BoC for my devotions and I have been re-reading some of my annotated portions when I stumbled on something that is making me continue my critique of the statement made by Walther found in the last post, found below.

One of the big difference between Calvinism and orthodox Lutheranism is in the area of the Means of Grace. Ex-Calvinist who become Lutherans hammer on the difference between Calvinism and Lutheranism on the Lord's Supper and this is true.

However, IMHO, the difference starts before that. It really starts on what Lutherans mean by the Means of Grace. Firstly, what do Lutherans mean by this? Well, these are objective means that God uses to create faith and sustain faith in the life of a believing sinner. These are the Word and Sacraments (Baptism and Supper). Lutherans believe (or I think they should) that God, though he is sovereign, has bound himself to these Means for our assurance of salvation.

Talking about God being Sovereign is talking about God in the abstract. Now that Jesus came and we have the Scripture we cannot talk about God in the abstract anymore; because God has made things now concrete, Jesus came, died for our sins, rose again and now seats at the right hand of God.

Yes in the abstract, God can do anything to save a sinner, but now that Jesus has come, we cannot talk now of what God can or cannot do, rather we should talk about what will he do! God won't violate his means, so that we may not be in doubt where we might find him. For if God violates his means of grace, then we are no longer with an anchor as to where we are guaranteed where we may find him. This opens the door to Enthusiasm and mystical experiences.

In Calvinism, for example, they consider reason or the mind as a means. For example, some Calvinists I have read say that God illumines reason and uses it for man to find him. In Lutheran concept, this is not objective and it is not considered by Lutherans to be God's means of grace. Why? Because in Scripture, God is seen by the Lutheran to be binding himself to Word and Sacraments only. In our relationship to God, the Lutheran is not to go anywhere apart from Word and Sacrament to find his forgiveness, which is life and salvation.

Let me now come to the statement of Walther found in the post below.

If Walther was correct, then that baby over there just recently delivered, had his sins already forgiven. Then Dr. Ichabod (and others like him, like the late Pr. Vernon Harley) is correct in his critique and opposition, for this means that God forgives sins without the Means of Grace. Seriously the statement is quasi-universalism.

If God has already forgiven the sins of that baby, then what is the need for the Means of Grace? For Baptism of the baby? None.

Then there is also one thing that is also serious about Walther's words. Walther's statements violate the teaching of the BoC and contradicts it and I quote: Solid Declaration, I (Original Sin).

31] Because of this corruption(original sin), too, the entire corrupt nature of man is accused and condemned by the Law, unless the sin is forgiven for Christ's sake.

The emphasis is mine.

If sins have been forgiven without the Means of Grace why would the BoC say the above quoted text? Waltherian Lutherans in effect have an irrelevant Means of Grace.

Truth is, as far as the BoC is concerned, no one is forgiven unless the Means of Grace has been applied and believed.

Back to the hole.


Gregory L. Jackson said...

I would avoid the phrase "limited Himself to the Means of Grace." I think we should use words that express how positive this is. God has promised that His forgiveness will always be found in His appointed Means, which are His appointed Instruments of Grace. Therefore, we never have any doubts about where to find this mercy.

Pieper is correct is stating that all variations on this create a Monster of Uncertainty. In fact, Roman Catholics count on this uncertainty for motivating the troops.

Your analysis about original sin is brilliant, Lito.

LPC said...

Pr. Greg,

Thanks for the suggestion, I corrected it.

You are correct about the RC, because in the RC, it is also not a means of grace as we know it. So it does not give certainty in their faith.

Having been an RC kid and toyed with Calvinism, I can say that in this respect the Lutherans are totally unique in valuing so much the means of grace.


Gregory L. Jackson said...

As you know, there are two criticisms of Biblical, Lutheran doctrine:
a) Limiting God to the Means of Grace;
b) Having an abundance of the Means of Grace - are three enough? five too many?

Both criticisms come from the Zwingli/Calvin rejection of the efficacy of the Word.

LPC said...

Pr. Greg,

In reality Calvin did not believe in our means of grace. For example he says that baptism regenerates ...only if you are one of the elect.

So what does this do to a person? It makes him throw himself back into eternity which has no answer.

Also as I think of it now, Calvin was not a very clear writer and I wonder often why American religious people want so much to defend him.

He was not like Luther who was clear; so today you will get two Calvinists each claiming Calvin taught baptismal regeneration and non-regeneration.

I ask Kim Riddlebarger about this (one of the White Horse Inn personalities) and he confirmed, the Reformed does not believe in baptismal regeneration.


Northwest SD Lutheran said...

The Means of Grace are the wonderful signs or marks of the Church. That provide forgiveness and newness of life. I cannot imagine having to be hitched to enthusiastic mental wandering without assurance. To be factual Calvinism provides no assurance.

LPC said...


That was effectively my experience because one had to look something subjective inside, where are from a Lutheran perspective, the Means of Grace is external and objective.

They do not get this really. Because if they do, they will be Lutherans straight away.

That is the major (major) difference.


Dave said...

Hi Lito

Interesting posts. I am not that well read, particularly on Walther, but I think you hit the nail on the head with this one. Definitely not kosher Luther. 8^>


LPC said...

Hi Dave,

I think Walther said some fair comments but he made over statements in his enthusiasm because Scripture does not equate Justification with Atonement. Walther went and equated the two.

Dr. Jackson has research that traces Walther's overstatement from Knapp who used problematic terminologies.

However today those who disagreed with Walther are branded with all sorts of names. In the end by Walther's statements, he effectively set aside the means of grace for one may conclude that one is saved without them.

There were those who opposed Walther's statement but they have been bullied into silence by his fanatical disciples.


Dave said...

Ah well... disciples do tend to do that. No doubt he was a brilliant and dedicated man but he was still a man.

LPC said...


Your comment reminds me of the maxim... a man at his best is at best just a man, or something like that.

We should not attribute too much to people we admire. It is just another idol making exercise of which we are prone to sell to others.


Dave said...

Amen brother. We have all fallen short.

Kathrine said...

Before I would condemn Walther for this quote I would personally like to A. see the entire sermon and B. See the German version.

I can see how I could get on board with the statement, actually. (LCMS Lutheran but not a Walther scholar here.) We do play a part in our justification--it is just a passive part. So technically speaking, there is nothing wrong with saying "one thing remains on your part."
The only problematic phrase for me, which is why I want to see the context and the German, is how a man can "want" to be saved unless he is already saved. We do "receive" by faith the forgiveness of sins in the absolution. I'd like to see a study of the German language in regard to how this is translated into English.

General comments: The forgiveness of sins was won for ALL PEOPLE on the cross, but that is not where it is distributed. The forgiveness of sins is distributed through the means of grace. Hell is full of forgiven sinners.
"Or is it that we are not forgiven until the moment of our
conversion?” The short answer is no. You were forgiven on the cross. What happens at the moment that God creates faith in our heart is that we receive the
benefits of the forgiveness that we already have. This is often called subjective or individual justification.

Subjective justification is the biblical teaching that the forgiveness Christ won for all people on the cross is received only in faith. This teaching
Scripture is also in Romans 3. Particularly, Romans 3:23-25a:"

Quote taken from

LPC said...

Thank you for your comment.

I am sorry I cannot provide the quote in German, you will have to reach the editors or the translators of Walther's sermons found in the reference just provided.

The forgiveness of sins was won for ALL PEOPLE on the cross, but that is not where it is distributed. The forgiveness of sins is distributed through the means of grace. Hell is full of forgiven sinners.

This comment is fair enough...up until the last statement. It is absurd for God to forgive people and then still send them to hell. This is not a proper way of speaking of what God does.

"Or is it that we are not forgiven until the moment of our
conversion?” The short answer is no. You were forgiven on the cross

Sorry I have to say No!!! to your no. Faith alone Justifies and in so many places Luther and the BoC Lutherans have spoken that it is faith that justifies and of course no less than Scripture speaks of faith in Christ as righteousness because it holds of Christ. See Romans 4:5.
Rather the work of Christ is the dying and paying for our sins at the Cross but the justification of people are for those who would believe in this sacrifice. Your position misses the point of the Gospel message. God justifies only those who believe in this atonement and not before. Abraham believed God ( in the promised Messiah) and this was counted as righteousness. Romans 4:3

This faith cheers, sustains, and quickens the contrite, according to Rom. 5:1: Being justified by faith, we have peace with God. This faith obtains the remission of sins. This faith justifies before God, as the same passage testifies: Being justified by faith.

Please reconsider the impact of the teaching I have bolded for you from the AP XII. I do not think LC-MS UOJ people realize the weight of that statement.