Theses on the Article of Justification: A Refutation of the aclc’s Critique: Part Seven
Part Seven: Theses Two through Five
Regarding our second thesis, the ACLC bases their response on their false accusation of equivocation in the first thesis. But, they are not done making false accusations. They write:
In the theses that follow, we find that the ELDoNA views those who hold to the objective/subjective distinction as teaching that justification is received, conferred, and applied apart from faith and the media salutis. The theses state here that on the points iterated thus far, there is agreement between the parties in question. They later deny this by building a straw man which they repeatedly attack.
We did not, of course, state that there was actual agreement but, very specifically, that those holding to “Objective Justification” would “consider our words thus far to be in agreement with their own.” That is, we both claim the same thing, the thing that this thesis confesses; and, indeed, it is our opinion, formed by the Eighth Commandment, that those holding to “Objective Justification” want this to be their position. However, as we go on, it is clear that “Objective Justification” is, as already covered in “A Matter of Definition,” a teaching that considers men justified prior to faith. That is, simply, the definition; if the ACLC wishes to back away from what “Objective Justification” means, we will rejoice at that fact, though we would then request that they not use the term, since they will be confusing people as to what their position really is.
Of course, this is a large part of the ACLC’s problem (and we’ll point it out at various other times as we go along): they want so badly to be accepted as in the ‘mainstream’ of the Synodical Conference tradition of teaching “Objective Justification” even while they consistently seek to redefine it away because they realize that it is a scripturally and confessionally indefensible teaching. When we quote those with whom they wish to ally themselves—Walther, Pieper, and the like—and use what every real teacher of “Objective Justification” demanded as its definition, they accuse us of building a straw man. Quoting Pieper’s definition and then saying it is Pieper’s definition is not building a straw man; quoting the Brief Statement and saying that it is Missouri’s official position is not drawing a caricature of Missouri’s position, but accurately stating it. Unlike the pastors of the ACLC, who have already this early in their critique made it clear that they will refuse to believe that we mean what we say, using whatever subterfuge to try to bolster their position (cf. Part 6 of our Refutation, where we discuss their malicious accusation regarding Christ’s complete payment for the sins of the world), we have presented the “Objective Justification” position accurately throughout. Those who embrace the false doctrine known as “Objective Justification” should take neither comfort nor pleasure in having the ACLC try to act as defenders of their position, because they spend as much energy denying it in the details as they do claiming it in the abstract.
The pastors of the ACLC further complain, “By use of the qualifier ‘Waltherian,’ the ELDoNA reveals that she believes the objective/subjective distinction (and not merely the term) is original to C.F.W. Walther.” To this we reply: no, we do not hold that this particular expression of “Objective Justification” was original to Walther; Stephan certainly taught it, too, as did his professors and any of the later Pietists who were under their influence. Again, though, it is telling that the pastors of the ACLC continue with their equivocal phrasing: “objective/subjective distinction”; as has been both stated and demonstrated, the ELDoNA has no problem with such a distinction properly made, but simply a problem with the doctrine of “Objective Justification.” The ACLC does not help its case with anyone other than those who operate merely on emotion when it seeks to lessen the clarity of our position by lessening the clarity of their own.
The ACLC states in connection with Theses Three and Four that it is puzzled by our use of Hunnius’ Theses Against Huberianism in our “Theses,” falsely accusing us of a fallacy of equivocation, because “Huber had a unique definition of the term Objective Justification.” Their objection is unfounded, as we are not in these theses using the condemnation of Huber to condemn their doctrine, but explicitly stating that the situation and doctrine are not identical. There will be matters in which the various teachers and teachings condemned or condemning have a point of connection with the current issue, but they are not the same. When our “Theses” state that forthrightly, it is clear that the charge of fallacy being made is untrue—and, frankly, bizarre.
The ACLC pastors also would like to lecture us on history (that is, to mislead the reader by means of ad hominem argumentation, seeking to paint the diocese as uneducated and unaware of certain events that they consider crucial). We did not mention the discussion of Absolution by the Norwegian Synod and Augustana Synod and, therefore, they conclude that we cannot understand the doctrine because we chose to emphasize the far more wide-reaching controversy regarding predestination, the participants in which tended not only to be in disagreement on election, but regarding the matter currently before us. We are, of course, not alone in choosing this point of reference, as it is the very controversy (and reasoning) to which the Rev. Dr. J. A. O. Preus II pointed in the October, 1980 letter he issued to all of the congregations and pastors of the LCMS, condemning the Rev. Dr. Walter A. Maier II and insisting that delegates to the LCMS convention not be given the opportunity to vote for Dr. Maier in the election of Dr. Preus’s replacement as LCMS president, thus paving the way for the election of the Rev. Dr. Ralph A. Bohlmann. As Jack Preus—coming, as he did, out of the ELS—used the Predestination Controversy as a recognized source of the Synodical Conference’s insistence on “Objective Justification,” rather than the Absolution Controversy, one would think that no fault would accrue to us for following his example, yet the critique says what it says and unjustly implies what it implies.
The ACLC records agreement with Thesis Five, though contends that “Objective Justification” is not a contradiction of the orthodox Lutheran fathers—who said things like “Our Churches have always taught and still teach the justification that is by faith and that pertains to believers, but that by no means extends to the whole world.” Thus, they agree with Thesis Five as long as A and Not A can be equivalent terms.
The refutation of the critique concerning Thesis Six is scheduled for early next week.