Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Faith is a Cause

There are a multitude of devilish spirits in the Lutheran cyberworld claiming that the period of Lutheran Orthodoxy's opinion concerning faith as a cause or component of justification is, to put it mildly, "incomplete" or "a distortion." Against these pernicious opinions, Pastor Paul Rydecki (of Intrepid Lutherans fame) has offered up a number of citations from the Fathers of the Lutheran Church over at his new(ish) blog, Faith Alone Justifies. I encourage the reader to examine these posts in their entirety, but would specifically like to point out a couple of especially pertinent excerpts.

First, Pr. Rydecki offers an excerpt from The Article of the Gracious Justification of Sinful Man before God, Explained by Means of Questions and Answers by St. Aegidius Hunnius the Elder (1550-1603), one of the chief authors of the Wittenberg Faculty in their campaign against the arch-heretic Samuel Huber and his teaching of Universal Justification.  Hunnius rightly observes:

"How many causes of justification are there?
Three.  First is grace, that is, the gracious favor of God.  Second: The obedience of Christ.  Third: Faith. 
[. . .]
So then, you are making faith a third cause of our justification?
Very much so.  And this together with the Prophets and Apostles, who have set forth that justification of faith illustrated by the example of Abraham (Gen. 15, Rom. 4)."

Unlike the Huberian dogma, which asserted that the justification of the sinner exists whether one believes it or not, Hunnius skillfully enumerates that faith is a very cause of justification, just as the Fathers, blessed Apostles, and holy Patriarchs had before him.  And lest one falsely assumes that St. Hunnius was anomalous in his defense of the Orthodox Lutheran view of justification, Pr. Rydecki has today offered up an excerpt from Theological Assertions Concerning the Justification of Man before God by St. Polycarp Leyser the Elder (1552-1610), of which the following is particularly damning to those arguing against Lutheran Orthodoxy:

"The instrumental cause with regard to us is faith, which acknowledges the fullness of the divine promise about Christ, offered in the Word and sealed in the Sacraments; embraces it with firm assent; and rests in it with great confidence that has no doubt concerning its salvation."

It seems clear that the concept of justification without faith is foreign to the Scriptures, the Confessions, and the Confessors.  Regardless, those claiming the Lutheran moniker today would have us believe that these Fathers of our faith were misguided, misled, and unfamiliar with the very teachings they codified in the Book of Concord.  To borrow an analogy, whose interpretation of the United States Constitution would you expect to be more accurate:  Those who signed it in the 18th Century, or those who interpret it in the 21st?  So too, why would you assume that the 19th-20th Century innovations of people like C.F.W. Walther are more accurate than the Fathers who put together the Book of Concord?


  1. Thank God the Synodical Conference and today's theologians have saved us from the false doctrine of our Lutheran confessors. To imagine all those people who were taught by and mislead by Chemnitz, Leyser,and Hunnius.

  2. Does the Atonement pardon all men?

  3. What good is the atonement, then Daniel?

  4. It is the object of faith, Joe. The atonement Is Christ taking the sins of the world upon Himself. Faith is Him giving His righteousness to us.

  5. Yep. But since Christ took the sins of the world...this begs the question. Just believer's sins or all men's sins?

  6. Christ took the whole world's sins upon Himself, Joe. I just said that. But He only gives His righteousness through faith.

  7. So who is redeemed? Mankind or just believers?

  8. Joe I'm not going to play this semantic game with you. I've said what I believe as clearly as possible. No one is reconciled to God, forgiven, pardoned, or free from His wrath outside of faith. NO ONE. Not one single person. Not mankind as a unit. Not Christ on behalf of Man. NO ONE. Only those who have been given faith have these benefits on account of Christ's merit.

  9. It is not semantic game on my part, but a clarification. I'm just trying to define if your position is Lutheran or not. 1 Timothy 3:16 is in regard to the mystery of Godliness in that Jesus Christ was justified for the sins of mankind. By your statement here, you deny this as well as the universal redemption of the human race as delineated in the BoC under Election in the Solid Declaration. This is all of the essence of Christology, Daniel.

  10. The thought that Christ was justified for the sins of the world is found nowhere in Scripture, including in your out-of-context reference to St. Paul's first Epistle to St. Timothy. Christ was not forensically declared righteous because He is inherently righteous. How can the entirely perfect and righteous God be anything but righteous? He did not need to be declared righteous on account of the world's sins, because He paid the penalty for them in full and swallowed them up in His totally righteous Godhead.

    As for the Solid Declaration, it rightly opines that God desires for the entire world to be truly declared righteous and forgiven in His sight. That is the point of the Universal Atonement, after all. But the Confessions, Scriptures, and Confessors know of no declaration of righteousness actually occurring outside of faith.

  11. The word "justified" isn't being used in a specific sense there, but rather the general sense. It's used to "approve, testify to, recognize, acknowledge, confess and celebrate the fact that [He's] righteous -- granting, conferring, and attributing praise to his righteousness." In 1 Timothy, then, it means he "was declared and approved as the Son of God and the Messiah," not that He was absolved from sins as we are, and need to be, by faith alone. (Chemnitz, Loci Theologici, p. 883)

    This is harmonious with Chemnitz, as shown and quoted above, as well as St. John Chrysostom, St. Augustine, St. Gregory of Nyssa, the Epistle of Barnabas (author unknown, letter dated around 130 AD), St. Theodoret, St. Hilary, St. Cassian, and the Confessions which make so such assertion.

  12. You are denying Christ's human nature, now. He became sin for us. He was, for a time unrighteous as scripture declares, he was forsaken by the Father on our account.

    The problem seems to be with your argument in that you are not willing to separate redemption (which is universal) from regeneration. It is the same argument that Lenski made as well as Jackson, Brett Meyer and I even think Rydecki make now.

  13. The only thing being denied here, Joe, is the unity of Christ's person, and that's by you. Christ did not literally become sin, because that would be impossible. If Christ literally became sin by His human nature, then He also became sin by His Divine nature. That is impossible.

  14. If I might chime in here --

    Before we consider the Cross, I would suggest that it is necessary to consider the Incarnation, which made the Cross possible. To that end, let us examine the Holy Trinity and the Person of God the Son in our redemption.

    The Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are three Persons who constitute one God through each possessing the numerically one Divine Nature. This is basic Trinitarian theology. Each Person is by Nature precisely what the other two are, save for the Personal relations outlined in the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds, and by that I mean the internal processions within God. The Persons are otherwise entirely of the same Nature. As a reputable Father put it:

    "There is a perfect Trinity, in glory and eternity and sovereignty, neither divided nor estranged. Wherefore there is nothing either created or in servitude in the Trinity; nor anything superinduced, as if at some former period it was non-existent, and at some later period it was introduced. And thus neither was the Son ever wanting to the Father, nor the Spirit to the Son; but without variation and without change, the same Trinity abides forever."- St. Gregory the Wonder-worker, A.D. 250

    The Person of God the Son, eternally begotten of the Father, assumed the humanity He Himself created in the beginning without change being induced in His Divine Person. In this Incarnation, He became man without change occurring to His Divine Person. He did not become a human person. He did not remain two persons. He did not become a Divine-human hybrid. He remained the second Person of the Holy Trinity who assumed human nature in entirety, becoming man while remaining the Person of God.

    This Person of God the Son lived and taught in the flesh, suffered and died in the flesh, and rose and ascended to the right hand of the Father in the flesh, without every ceasing to be the Person of God the Son. At no point in any of this was the hypostatic union violated or ruptured between the Person of God the Son and His assumed human nature, nor at any time did the Holy Trinity cease to be what the Church Father above described it to be. Never in this process did estrangement occur within the Trinity; how could it? The Triune God is eternal, and exists in perfect unity throughout all eternity, as the Psalmist says, "From everlasting to everlasting, thou art God," and the Triune God says through the Prophet, "I am God, I change not, therefore are ye sons of Jacob not consumed."

    This is the essence of orthodox Christianity. This is the Revelation of Sacred Scripture. This is the Faith of the Fathers. Any teaching, doctrine, confession, anything proposed, must come into conformity with this teaching. With that in mind, the discussion can proceed apace and with proper background. To clarify: Christ did not become sin, and was not forsaken of the Father. That would be akin to saying the the infinitely holy Person of God the Son literally became sin, and literally was forsaken of the Person of God the Father. This is not only impossible, not only heresy, but blasphemy of the highest order.

  15. I would naturally agree with both Daniel and Christian that in the following passage:

    "God was manifested in the flesh,
    Justified in the Spirit,
    Seen by angels,
    Preached among the Gentiles,
    Believed on in the world,
    Received up in glory."- 1st Timothy 3:16

    Justification refers not to any sort of justification of sinful humanity, but to the same declaration that Saint Paul speaks of in Romans 1:1-4:

    "Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead."- Romans 1:1-4

    God the Son Incarnate, Jesus Christ, was declared to be the eternal Son of the Father in raising Himself from the dead by the command of the Father and in the power of the Holy Spirit, and was openly showed as triumphant over His adversaries, temporal and spiritual, in the Resurrection. In this sense was He "justified" in the Spirit; He was declared the Victor over sin, death, hell, and the devil and his legions, being declared as victorious and in authority over them all.

  16. To wit:

    "Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.”

    But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the Sign of the Prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."- Saint Matthew 12:38-40

    The Sign Proper, the Sign which to this day serves as the Testimony the the claims of Jesus of Nazareth, is His Resurrection. As Saint Ignatius of Antioch teaches in his Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, God the Son truly raised Himself in the flesh "...that He might raise up an ensign to the ages through His Resurrection." To the Pharisees who demanded a Sign, and to the ages to come who demand justification for His claims, His Resurrection is that justification in the general sense in that it is the Sign Proper, testifying to the fact that "Jesus is the Son of God."- 1st John 4:15

    This Sign occurred in the Spirit, for the same Holy Spirit that sanctified the Passion and made it continuous with the Resurrection shone forth in the Resurrection as the power thereof, and was the One who divinized and glorified the human nature of God the Son; as the Creed teaches, the Spirit is "the Lord, the Giver of Life."

  17. 2 Cor. 5:21; Matt. 27:46; Is 53. I can't believe how you are denying scripture and claim to understand something you have no business trying to explain. You have gone off the deep end.

  18. Joe, we have amply demonstrated why it is impossible for those Scriptures to mean that Christ was literally turned into sin or separated from God (since He is the fullness of the Deity). Your "deep end" comment is appropriate, but only toward your own Nestorian heresies.

  19. Hello Joe,

    I'm not sure whether you're still checking this thread, but I thought I'd respond anyway, just in case you still were.

    This quote from Pope Saint Leo the Great, Bishop of Rome circa A.D. 440, might help explain the orthodox Christian position on the atonement. After I quote it here I'll further explain how those Scriptures you referenced fit into this understanding of the Person of the Incarnate Word.

    "So the proper character of both natures was maintained and came together in a single Person. Lowliness was taken up by Majesty, weakness by Strength, mortality by Eternity. To pay off the debt of our state, invulnerable Nature was united to a nature that could suffer; so that in a way that corresponded to the remedies we needed, one and the same Mediator between God and humanity the man Christ Jesus, could both on the one hand die and on the other be incapable of death. Thus was true God born in the undiminished and perfect nature of a true man, complete in what is His and complete in what is ours. By "ours" we mean what the Creator established in us from the beginning and what He took upon Himself to restore. There was in the Saviour no trace of the things which the Deceiver brought upon us, and to which deceived humanity gave admittance. His subjection to human weaknesses in common with us did not mean that He shared our sins. He took on the form of a servant without the defilement of sin, thereby enhancing the human and not diminishing the Divine. For that self-emptying whereby the Invisible rendered himself visible, and the Creator and Lord of all things chose to join the ranks of mortals, spelled no failure of power: it was an act of merciful favour. So the one who retained the form of God when He made humanity, was made man in the form of a servant. Each nature kept its proper character without loss; and just as the form of God does not take away the form of a servant, so the form of a servant does not detract from the form of God."- Tome of Leo, Epistle to the Council of Chalcedon, circa A.D. 440'

    In all of the passages you referenced, the Person of the Son is shown to have taken the position, though wholly innocent in Himself, of sinful humanity in that He assumed our weakness brought about by sin. In other words, Jesus Christ assumed the consequences of sin, and the punishment thereof, without assuming sin as a qualitative state of existence. It was in that sense that He "became sin" and had "iniquity laid upon Him." It was in His intimate communion with a suffering mankind dead in sin and far from God without sharing in the sin which caused it that He was able to cry in union with us, "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken Me?" Not because He Himself was forsaken, but because He identified with our state and suffered in its consequences while wholly innocent. Indeed, in the midst of the Passion of Christ the Holy Spirit is poured out and is is present in His sufferings, as the typology from the Book of Exodus indicates. Christ is the Rock in the desert struck by sinful humanity in the person of Moses, when He only desired that they speak with Him and commune with Him. Yet what occurs when the Rock is struck? Water flows forth and the Holy Spirit is poured out upon mankind through the holy broken Body and shed Blood of the eternal Son of the Father. The Passion was not God forsaken; far from it! The Holy Spirit was present in Christ's suffering, that the Spirit might be present in our suffering as well, which is joined to Christ's Passion. As the holy Apostle teaches us, "We are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him, that we might be glorified together with Him," and Saint Ignatius of Antioch teaches fifty years later, "The Passion is our Resurrection."

  20. Jonathan...I take the church fathers pre-reformation with a grain of salt. Be that as it may...the logic displayed on this blog regarding justification will lead them ultimately to receptionism in regards to the sacraments. Lord God have mercy.

  21. Surely you mean the Church Fathers pre-Walther, Joe, since no Church Father prior to Walther endorses your Huberian dogma, but rather condemn it as heresy.

    Also, your receptionism strawman is quite humorous, given your Nestorian views. Regardless, no one at this blog has ever hinted at receptionism, and they never will (while staying at this blog, at any rate). The Atonement is valid whether one believes it or not. The Sacrament is Christ's Body and Blood whether one believes it or not. Neither grant forgiveness without faith.

  22. "The Sacrament is Christ's Body and Blood whether one believes it or not. Neither grant forgiveness without faith."

    Good point and one that condemns the doctrine of Universal Objective Justification.

    UOJ declares that the whole unbelieving world has been objectively justified by the body and blood of Christ before and without faith. That the unbelieving world has been received into God's grace.

    Yet, Christ's doctrine concerning the distribution of His body and blood in the Holy Sacrament declares that when received without faith it does not forgive the unbeliever but instead condemns him.

    1 Corinthians 11:27-29, "Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
    But Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.
    For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body."

    Outside of the gracious gift of faith in Christ alone worked by the Holy Ghost solely through the Means of Grace there God's wrath and condemnation remain.

  23. If anything, if we're doing analogies with justification and the Sacrament, then according to objective justification, forgiveness isn't distributed in the Sacrament. It was already distributed at the Cross. Christ already justified you before the Sacrament of the Altar or any Sacrament which faith is given through. So the Sacrament is just a reminder of what happened 2,000 years ago.

    The sad fact is, which I've mentioned on other forums, that when I was at MLC I had conversations about the Sacraments in the context of UOJ. The disturbing fact was that the people I talked to said that the Eucharist doesn't distribute forgiveness but it's just a remembrance of the justification that happened 2,000 years ago. This is a practical example of what UOJ can lead to, but whenever it's mentioned it's never taken seriously and they continue to try to justify (no pun intended) UOJ even though the evidence against UOJ is sky high, especially with these new translations Pr. Rydecki is giving light to for the first time in these debates.

  24. You are a brash young man, Daniel Baker. Time will temper you, no doubt.

    Me Nestorian? Hardly.

    From my Gausewitz (1956) Luther's Small Catechism: Question #178 (pg 112) "Why did Jesus Christ have to be both true God and true man in one person?"

    Answer: "He had to be true God and true man in one person in order to redeem me and all men."

    Backing scripture:

    Hebrews 2: "14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people."

    Is. 53: "4 Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
    yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
    5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
    upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
    6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
    and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.
    7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
    yet he opened not his mouth;
    like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
    and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
    so he opened not his mouth.
    8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
    and as for his generation, who considered
    that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
    stricken for the transgression of my people?
    9 And they made his grave with the wicked
    and with a rich man in his death,
    although he had done no violence,
    and there was no deceit in his mouth.
    10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
    he has put him to grief;[g]
    when his soul makes[h] an offering for guilt,
    he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
    the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
    11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see[i] and be satisfied;
    by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
    make many to be accounted righteous,
    and he shall bear their iniquities.
    12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,[j]
    and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,[k]
    because he poured out his soul to death
    and was numbered with the transgressors;
    yet he bore the sin of many,
    and makes intercession for the transgressors."

  25. I'm glad to hear you quote this orthodox confession now, Joe. Are you now renouncing your earlier position, where you intimated (in this very same thread!) that Christ's human nature became sin and was separated from the Father apart from His Deity?

    1. You are not qualified to stand in judgement, much less confess the mysteries of scripture.

    2. I am qualified to search the Scriptures and test the spirits, and you sir are a false one.

  26. Christian, I like how you so ably explicated the consequences of Universal Objective Justification on the Sacramental theology of the Church. I've long felt that way myself, but you stated that very clearly and forcefully. Thanks for making it clear just exactly what UOJ entails in that regard, which is nothing less than the total destruction of any meaningful reality of the Trinity's saving power in the Sacraments. Particularly insightful was your identification of the fact that if UOJ is theologically accurate, then the Sacraments are merely reminders of what has already occurred rather than the actual forgiveness and incorporation into Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.

  27. This post is very odd because the person who wrote it is unfamiliar with Aristotle's metaphysics. There are four causes and if faith were the sort of cause that they want it to be in justification, it would be a formal and material cause. But it doesn't say that: It says that faith is an instrumental and not a formal or material cause of justification!

    So, because the person who wrote this post doesn't know anything about Aristotle, they have totally misinterpreted the quotation as being in favor of the Anti-OJ position, when really it's in favor of OJ! Walther and the rest of the Syncon theologians would totally agree with the claim that faith is an instrumental cause of subjective justification (in fact, the Baier Compendium which they used in seminary instruction says that! And they themselves use the term "instrumental cause of justification"), since it is the organ whereby justifying grace is received. I have a suggestion: before you start making pronouncements about what the orthodox fathers said, bother to read their sources and understand their theological method!