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The Beauty, Comfort and Power of the Doctrine of Objective Justification

August 26th, 2012 2 comments

It has come to my attention that there are some laypeople who read my blog, and follow my Facebook page, who have had the unfortunate experience of stumbling across very negative and harmful discussions on the Internet of what is called the doctrine of “objective justification.” There is a former Lutheran pastor who has made it his life’s mission to attack this comforting doctrine. I urge and warn all those who read this blog and my Facebook page to avoid any such discussions and to flee from any false teachers who would rob you of the comfort of the Gospel. They like to insert themselves everywhere they can on various forums where justification is discussed. Pray for their repentance and restoration to a true and living faith. They are the very kind of persons whom the Apostle warns us about when he urges us to make sure we are “keeping Faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith” (1 Timothy 1:19). Mark and avoid anyone who casts doubt on the doctrine of objective justification, and particularly mark and avoid any pastor who does so Do not be deceived. Cling to the truth.

Rejoice in this beautiful explanation of the doctrine of objective justification written by the Rev. Dr. Robert Preus, in 1981.

“The doctrine of objective justification is a lovely teaching drawn from Scripture which tells us that God who has loved us so much that He gave His only to be our Savior has for the sake of Christ’s substitutionary atonement declared the entire world of sinners for whom Christ died to be righteous (Romans 5:17-19).

“Objective justification which is God’s verdict of acquittal over the whole world is not identical with the atonement, it is not another way of expressing the fact that Christ has redeemed the world. Rather it is based upon the substitutionary work of Christ, or better, it is a part of the atonement itself. It is God’s response to all that Christ died to save us, God’s verdict that Christ’s work is finished, that He has been indeed reconciled, propitiated; His anger has been stilled and He is at peace with the world, and therefore He has declared the entire world in Christ to be righteous.

THE SCRIPTURAL SUPPORT
“According to all of Scripture Christ made a full atonement for the sins of all mankind. Atonement (at-one-ment) means reconciliation. If God was not reconciled by the saving work of Christ, if His wrath against sin was not appeased by Christ’’ sacrifice, if God did not respond to the perfect obedience and suffering and death of His Son for the sins of the world by forgiveness, by declaring the sinful world to be righteous in Christ -–if all this were not so, if something remains to be done by us or through us or in us, then there is no finished atonement. But Christ said, “It is finished.” And God raised Him from the dead and justified Him, pronounced Him, the sin bearer, righteous (I Timothy 3:16) and thus in Him pronounced the entire world of sinners righteous (Romans 4:25).

“All this is put beautifully by an old Lutheran theologian of our church, “We are redeemed from the guilt of sin; the wrath of God is appeased; all creation is again under the bright rays of mercy, as in the beginning; yea, in Christ we were justified before we were even born. For do not the Scriptures say: ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them?’’ This is not the justification which we receive by faith…That is the great absolution which took place in the resurrection of Christ. It was the Father, for our sake, who condemned His dear Son as the greatest of all sinners causing Him to suffer the greatest punishment of the transgressors, even so did He publicly absolve Him from the sins of the world when He raised Him up from the dead.” (Edward Preuss, “The Justification of a Sinner Before God,” pp. 14-15)

OBJECTIVE JUSTIFICATION AND JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH
“The doctrine of objective justification does not imply that there is no hell, that God’s threats throughout Scripture to punish sins are empty, or that all unbelievers will not be condemned to eternal death on the day of Christ’s second coming. And very definitely the doctrine of objective, or general, justification does not threaten the doctrine of justification through faith in Christ. Rather it is the very basis of that Reformation doctrine, a part of it. For it is the very pardon which God has declared over the whole world of sinners that the individual sinner embraces in faith and thus is justified personally. Christ’s atonement, His propitiation of God and God’s forgiveness are the true and only object of faith. Here is what George Stoekhardt, perhaps the greatest of all Lutheran biblical expositors in our country, says, “Genuine Lutheran theology counts the doctrine of general (objective) justification among the statements and treasures of its faith. Lutherans teach and confess that through Christ’s death the entire world of sinners was justified and that through Christ’s resurrection the justification of the sinful world was festively proclaimed. This doctrine of general justification is the guarantee and warranty that the central article of justification by faith is being kept pure. Whoever holds firmly that God was reconciled to the world in Christ, and that to sinners in general their sin was forgiven, to him the justification which comes from faith remains a pure act of the grace of God. Whoever denies general justification is justly under suspicion that he is mixing his own work and merit into the grace of God.”

THE REALITY OF OBJECTIVE JUSTIFICATION
“Objective justification is not a mere metaphor, a figurative way of expressing the fact that Christ died for all and paid for the sins of all. Objective justification has happened, it is the actual acquittal of the entire world of sinners for Christ’s sake. Neither does the doctrine of objective justification refer to the mere possibility of the individual’s justification through faith, to a mere potentiality which faith completes when one believes in Christ.

“Justification is no more a mere potentiality or possibility than Christ’s atonement. The doctrine of objective justification points to the real justification of all sinners for the sake of Christ’s atoning work “before” we come to faith in Christ. Nor is objective justification “merely” a “Lutheran term” to denote that justification is available to all as a recent “Lutheran Witness” article puts it – although it is certainly true that forgiveness is available to all. Nor is objective justification a Missouri Synod construct, a “theologoumenon” (a theological peculiarity), devised cleverly to ward off synergism (that man cooperates in his conversion) and Calvinistic double predestination, as Dr. Robert Schultz puts it in “Missouri in Perspective” (February 23, 1981, p. 5) – although the doctrine does indeed serve to stave off these two aberrations. No, objective justification is a clear teaching of Scripture, it is an article of faith which no Lutheran has any right to deny or pervert any more than the article of the Trinity or of the vicarious atonement.

THE CENTRALITY AND COMFORT OF THE DOCTRINE
“Objective justification is not a peripheral article of faith which one may choose to ignore because of more important things. It is the very central article of the Gospel which we preach. Listen to Dr. C. F. W. Walther, the first president and great leader of our synod, speak about this glorious doctrine in one of his magnificent Easter sermons: “When Christ suffered and died, He was judged by God, and He was condemned to death in our place. But when God in the resurrection awakened Him again, who was it then that was acquitted by God in Christ’s person? Christ did no need acquittal for Himself, for no one can accuse Him of single sin. Who therefore was it that was justified in Him? Who was declared pure and innocent in Him? We were, we humans. It was the whole world. When God spoke to Christ, ‘You shall live,’ that applied to us. His life is our life. His acquittal, our acquittal, His justification, our justification….Who can ever fully express the great comfort which lies in Christ’s resurrection? It is God’s own absolution spoken to all men, to all sinners, in a word, to all the world, and sealed in the most glorious way. There the eternal love of God is revealed in all its riches, in its overflowing fullness and in its highest brilliance. For there we hear that it was not enough for God simply to send His own Son into the world and let Him become a man for us, not enough even for Him to give and offer His only Son unto death for us. No, when His Son had accomplished all that He had to do and suffer in order to earn and acquire grace and life and blessedness for us, then God, in His burning love to speak to us sinners, could not wait until we would come to Him and request His grace in Christ, but no sooner had His Son fulfilled everything than He immediately hastened to confer to men the grace which had been acquired through the resurrection of His Son, to declare openly, really and solemnly to all men that they were acquitted of all their sins, and to declare before heaven and earth that they are redeemed, reconciled, pure, innocent and righteous in Christ.”

Source:

CONCORDIA THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
NEWSLETTER – Spring 1981
6600 North Clinton
Fort Wayne, Indiana 46825

The Problem with Poo-Pooing Pieper

April 29th, 2011 22 comments

Sadly, it is somewhat “fashionable” to “poo-poo” Francis Pieper and his work on Christian doctrine Christian Dogmatics. Francis Pieper was the Missouri Synod’s greatest systematician, serving as successor of Dr. C.F.W. Walther as president of Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis. He also served as president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. To this day, his work on Lutheran doctrine remains influential and for most LCMS pastors, key to their formation as pastors, since it gives them a good, solid grounding in classical Lutheran confessional orthodoxy.

As time went by, and the influence of modernist theology was felt in The LCMS, it became increasingly popular to poke fun of, and dismiss, the great work of Dr. Pieper. Sadly, this continues to this day in some circles.

I am not a person to look down on, dismiss or otherwise put myself in the position of “knowing better than Pieper.” Why? Because I’ve read too much bad theology to do that, and I’ve read too much good theology not to appreciate Dr. Pieper’s fine work.

Francis Pieper is the person most responsible for me being a Lutheran theologian, to this day. I was required to read Pieper’s dogmatics, very, very carefully, for a good number of years at the seminary. I was quizzed over each of my readings for every class I had with Professor Kurt Marquart. I was required to memorize the various Latin terms and phrases Dr. Pieper uses in his work to teach Lutheran theology. And not only to memorize them, but to be able to explain what they mean and why they were important. Doing so equipped me with a helpful “shorthand” for making clear, what are clearly complex concepts. But when you are able to define them and explain them using the classic Latin phrases and terms used for them, they stick with you.

Francis Pieper’s three volume work on Lutheran doctrine is still the best available complete Lutheran dogmatics in English. It was translated from the original German, and in spite of the faults and failings of that translation, and I will the first to acknowledge they are there, it remains to this day the finest work of Lutheran theology for American Lutherans available. Why do I say this?

Francis Pieper was well aware of the advent of higher criticism and the “subjective” theology that has now thoroughly overwhelmed all of modern Christianity. He provides the student of Lutheran theology with a very solid grounding in classic Lutheran theology, and by use of many Latin terms and phrases, he provides the seminarian and future pastor with a vocabulary to understand very complex and highly important theological concepts. If you understand the Latin words and phrases, properly, you will understand the theology faithfully. And, frankly, there is really nothing new under the sun when it comes to heretical opinions. If you understand the doctrine set forth by Dr. Pieper, you are equipped to handle whatever comes down the pike.

I grow increasingly concerned when I hear about seminarians not being required to read and study Pieper, but instead use more modern Lutheran theological works. The precision of the classic Lutheran orthodoxy represented so well by Pieper is not available elsewhere. The other aspect of Dr. Pieper’s work is the wealth of Luther quotes he provides, along with other classic orthodox Lutheran theologians. Neglecting to study, very carefully, the work of Dr. Francis Pieper is a huge error on the part of any Lutheran preparing for the ministry. Neglecting Pieper is akin to a doctor neglecting to study carefully his basic medical texts. You can not read and understand other approaches to theology unless you are thoroughly grounded in good, solid orthodox Lutheran doctrinal theology, and that is what Francis Pieper provides. He provides the tools necessary for any faithful pastor to deal adequately with modern day errors and problems in theology.

All of which is to say, if and when you hear anyone, and I mean anyone, no matter how respected that person might be, be he a pastor or a professor, poo-pooing Pieper, you are hearing somebody saying something very foolish. I was particularly delighted recently to hear this gentleman quoting Francis Pieper:

Congregations and New Pastors: A How To Guide

May 27th, 2009 8 comments

ordinationThis is the time of the year when the Church receives many men into the Office of the Holy Ministry. We Lutherans have a particularly beautiful word for the Office of the Holy Ministry, used in our beloved Book of Concord. It is the word Predigtamt, or “Preaching Office.” The man who serves in the pastoral ministry is, first and foremost, one who comes into our midst to be a spokesman for Jesus Christ. Our Lord Christ told His apostles, and all those who would, through the ages, stand in the office of public preaching and teaching of the Word, “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.” (Matt. 10:40). So, as a congregation receives a new pastor, it should receive the man as One whom the Lord has sent to be His spokesman. As St. Paul says, “Here is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” (1 Cor. 4:1). Your pastor is the ambassador of Christ, as St. Paul explains of the ministry, “We are ambassadors of Christ, God making His appeal through us.” (2 Cor. 5:20). Receive your new pastor with thanks and joy. Thanks, for the gift God has now given you. Joy, that the Lord continues to answer the prayer Jesus told us to always keep praying: “Pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers.” (Matt. 9:37).

Receive your new pastor with understanding and charity. If the man you are receiving is new to the ministry, do not expect him to be an expert in all things. Do not expect him to have the wisdom that comes with greater experience. Be patient with a man who is new to the ministry. He will make mistakes. He will learn as he goes. He will stumble and fall on occasion. Forgive him, even as the Lord has forgiven you. Focus on the Word He brings and the Sacraments He administers, not so much on him and his personality. Some men are, by nature, gregarious and outgoing. Others are more shy and retiring. Every pastor, every man, is unique and different. There is no one “perfect pastor” and no pastor is a clone of another. So, don’t expect your pastor to be “just like” some other favorite pastor in the past. Don’t let your pastor be hearing constantly, “But Pastor So-and-So did it this way.” That gets very old, very quickly. And, if a pastor is a young man, keep in mind St. Paul’s advice to young Pastor Timothy, “Let no one despise you for your youth” (1 Timothy 4:12).

Don’t allow yourself, or your family, and friends, to fall into the trap of making one of the items on your Sunday lunch menu “roast pastor.” Sadly, sometimes people find themselves gossiping about the pastor, or his family. If you have a true concern with your pastor, about something he said, or did, please make it a point of going directly to your pastor with your concerns. Give him the opportunity to hear you out and then give him the opportunity to explain himself and help clear up something you may have misunderstood.

Be careful about playing the “Pastor, people are saying” game. Sometimes when people have a concern to express, they choose to approach the pastor with these words: “People are saying, Pastor…” and then proceed to recount something to the pastor. If a member of your congregation has something to say to the pastor, don’t let them tell you and then encourage you to tell the pastor. Instead, if, or when, you hear a person beginning to complain about the pastor, or offer some kind of criticism, please encourage that person to go speak to the pastor.

Welcome your pastor’s family into your home. Don’t assume “everyone is inviting the pastor over” for in fact, what might be the case is that everyone is assuming everyone else is, and in fact, nobody is. Please make sure your pastor and his family does not have to spend a holiday by themselves, alone, perhaps far from their loved ones. Your new pastor loves you, as the flock over which the Holy Spirit has made him the overseer. Receive him then as a father in Christ, one who has care of your very soul, for indeed he does.

Your pastor is not a mind-reader. He will not simply “know” or “sense” when somebody is sick or hospitalized or needs pastoral care. If you, or a member of your family, need to go to the hospital, do not think your pastor will find out about it simply by hearing about it from somebody else. Please let your pastor know. He wants to be your pastor and bring you the comfort and promises of God’s Word and the Lord’s Supper at those moments when we find ourselves, or our family members, in crisis. Do not hesitate to call your pastor, at any time of day or night, when a loved one dies. He wants to know, right away and to come to your side and support and encourage you at these particularly dark and sad moments when death touches us. Nor is your pastor a miracle-worker, though of course miracles never cease.  But your pastor should not be the “last resort” when your marriage is having problems, or when you face a struggle or problem in your life. You will be greatly blessed by God when you turn to your pastor for the private confession and absolution it is his privilege to provide for you, in keeping with his duties. Go to him sooner, rather than later. Turn to your pastor for spiritual counsel and help when you face issues and challenges that feel overwhelming. He will cherish the opportunity to be your pastor. Let him be pastor to you.

Your pastor may come into your congregation with suggestions and new ideas for your congregation. He may do things differently than your last pastor, or other pastors. And if, in his enthusiasm, he fails adequately to explain what he is doing, don’t become upset or angry. Speak gently to him and let him know your feelings. But also do consider that sometimes changes are good and even necessary. If however your congregation chooses not to accept some of the things your pastor is doing, don’t “go to war” over it. Sometimes your pastor has been influenced by other pastors in our church who have particular hobby-horses they like to ride and axes they like to grind, on all sides of these kinds of potentially emotional issues. Particularly inexperienced pastors are prone to these kinds of influences. Gently make suggestions and where necessary, offer corrections in a spirit of humility. And by all means, do not fault your pastor when he makes use of the approved hymnals and other worship materials from our Church. If your pastor asks the congregation to learn a new hymn it has not sung before, go ahead, learn it. You will never learn anything new unless you try it. There are so many wonderful things to learn from our new hymnal. So, enjoy it and don’t begrudge your pastor’s desire to help your congregation grow in its worship life.

Respect your pastor’s privacy and his family’s privacy. Just because your pastor may live in a church-owned house gives absolutely nobody in your congregation the right to treat the house as “public property” and come barging in to it. If your congregation provides a parsonage, than take care of it and keep it well repaired and maintained. Understand that unless it truly is a genuine life/death emergency, or some other profound spiritual crisis, your pastor and his family would very much appreciate not being interrupted during the meal time, or in the later hours of the evening. Your pastor will need time with his wife and children. They, in turn, will need time with their husband and father. Encourage your pastor to take a day off once a week and to spend time with his family. It is very easy for a pastor, quite literally, to work non-stop, all day long and into the evenings, every day of the week. The pastoral ministry is certainly not a 9-5 job, but don’t let your pastor be so consumed with his work he falls into bad habits of neglecting his family and his own personal needs.

As for your pastor’s wife, here it is very important to understand that your pastor is the man with the call to be your pastor, not the pastor’s wife. Her call is to be your pastor’s wife, and the mother of your pastor’s children. Do not tell her things that you should be telling your pastor. It is inappropriate and not helpful. Do not use the pastor’s wife to relay information to the pastor. Just give the pastor a call, drop him an e-mail, etc. Your pastor and his wife will be very polite, and will probably never tell you that they really would appreciate it if you would keep these distinctions clear. A pastor’s wife will want very much to support her husband’s ministry and will be a loved member of your parish, in short order, but keep in mind that the pastor is the pastor, not his wife.

Pay your pastor as well as your congregation can afford to pay him, not just enough to make it from paycheck to your paycheck. Your pastor has not taken a vow of poverty and your congregation should not treat him as if he has. Never balance your congregation’s budget on the back of your pastor and his family. Take care of him, as is your duty toward him. “The laborer is worthy of his hire” and “Do not muzzle the ox while he is treading out the grain.” (1 Timothy 5:18). If you don’t know what you should pay your pastor, your circuit counselor and district office can help provide good guidelines and advice. Make sure your pastor has time for true vacations. Make it possible for him to get away from the pulpit, from time to time, with a substitute preacher. Provide funds for your pastor to increase his learning and skills, by attending seminars, classes and adding to his library.

By all means, hold your pastor accountable to preach and proclaim the Word of God purely, according to the Lutheran Confessions, even as he has promised to do in his ordination. But even as you do, do not ask or expect your pastor to act, and preach, and teach contrary to the public confession of our Synod. For example, when your pastor can not commune your Methodist aunt, or a member of your family that is not a communicant member of our church, or is a member of a church with which we are not in fellowship, do not fault your pastor for carrying out his duties to be a faithful steward of the Lord’s Supper. Don’t be angry with your pastor when he points out the problem with singing secular pop love songs at a wedding, or not permitting some non-Christian organization from being involved in a church funeral. Don’t be upset if your pastor can not participate in a public community worship service where all gods, and all opinions about God, are treated as merely being equally true points of view. Don’t demand that your pastor act contrary to his ordination and contrary to the doctrines and practices of the church in which he is now an ordained minister. It is unfair and wrong to demand your pastor to “make exceptions” that are actually actions contrary to God’s Word. Don’t expect your pastor to do something contrary to his ordination vows and that would be a sin against his conscience.

Finally, pray for your pastor. Daily. Ask God to guide, strengthen, protect and keep your pastor and his family safe. Ask God to bless your pastor’s ministry. Pray for your pastor as he conducts his ministry. Remember his preaching in your prayers. Pray for him as he makes his many sick calls and speaks and ministers to people in your congregation. And then, let your pastor know you are praying for him. If you really want to surprise and delight your pastor, ask him how he is doing. Ask him how you can help him. Your pastor is not a spiritual superman. He has his moments of sadness and doubt and discouragement. He needs your encouragement, just like you need his. Remember him in your prayers but then demonstrate your commitment to be praying for him by letting him know about your prayers and seeking out ways to encourage him and help him. Recall what God’s Word teaches us: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Hebrews 13:17).

May God bless all new pastors and the congregations they serve!