Theses on the Article of Justification: A Refutation of the aclc’s Critique: Part Six
Part Six: Our First Thesis Elicits Bad Behavior (and Even Worse Argumentation)
With regard to our first thesis, the ACLC horribly miscasts an illustration used by Pr. Rydecki on a blog in an attempt to portray him—and thereby the whole diocese—as having redefined “paid” and misunderstanding faith as something other than that which receives. In so doing, they quote Luther…and then reject what Luther says!
Of course, even before they get to that error, there is the problem that the ACLC pastors feel justified in making a private writing of Pr. Rydecki’s somehow a position of the diocese based on the fact that we cite his paper, “The Forensic Appeal to the Throne of Grace” (a paper which is largely quotations of the orthodox Lutheran fathers, anyway). Their doing this is as ludicrous as convicting all Lutherans of every statement of Luther’s private writings simply because we have his catechisms and Smalcald Articles in the Book of Concord.
That said, what of the Luther quote that the ACLC sets forth and then backs away from, as well as what Pr. Rydecki posted to a blog, to which the ACLC objects?
Apparently, the ACLC did not actually read Rev. Rydecki’s paper, where he quotes Chemnitz as teaching the very thing the ACLC seems to hate so much in Pr. Rydecki’s blog post, that faith is the “using of” the benefits of Christ before God’s judgment:
Therefore, because God does not justify out of frivolity, unconcern, error, or iniquity, nor because He finds anything in man whereby he might be justified before God; and yet the just requirement of the Law must be fulfilled in those who are to be justified, Rom. 8:4, therefore a foreign righteousness must intervene—the kind of righteousness which not only with payment of penalties but also with perfect obedience to the divine law made satisfaction in such a way that it could be a propitiation for the sins of the whole world.
To this the terrified sinner, condemned by the voice of the Law, flees in true faith. This he desires, begs for, lays hold of; to this he submits himself; this he uses as his defense before the judgment seat of God and against the accusation of the Law. By regard for this and by its imputation he is justified, that is, he is absolved from the comprehensive sentence of condemnation and receives the promise of eternal life. This is what Paul is saying in Rom. 3:31: “The doctrine of the righteousness of faith does not destroy the Law but upholds it.”
Loci Theologici, vol. 2, p. 481;
quoted in Pr. Rydecki’s “Forensic Appeal,” p. 4
So, also, this from Chemnitz:
Therefore God, “who is rich in mercy” [Eph. 2:4], has had mercy upon us and has set forth a propitiation through faith in the blood of Christ, and those who flee as suppliants to this throne of grace He absolves from the comprehensive sentence of condemnation, and by the imputation of the righteousness of His Son, which they grasp in faith, He pronounces them righteous, receives them into grace, and adjudges them to be heirs of eternal life.
Loci Theologici, vol. 2, p. 482;
quoted in Pr. Rydecki’s “Forensic Appeal,” pp. 4–5
Chemnitz says that God has set forth a propitiation through faith in the blood of Christ, and that it is those who “flee” to this throne of grace whom God absolves. To “flee to the throne of grace” is the same thing as to “use Christ’s payment to satisfy one’s debt before God”…and both of these are simply to receive what Christ has earned to the end for which He earned it—the actual absolution of, justification of, imputation of righteousness to, regeneration of, bestowal of eternal life upon those who so receive it, all purely for the sake of His merit and because of His complete payment for all sins, even the sins of those who remain lost.
Again, this from Chemnitz:
Therefore the Pharisee, because he was not willing to use the benefit of this calling, but wanted to enter into judgment before the tribunal of justice, was condemned. But the publican, who was first accused at the tribunal of justice, convicted and condemned there, later by faith called out to the throne of grace and was justified.
Loci Theologici, vol. 2, p. 482;
quoted in Pr. Rydecki’s “Forensic Appeal,” p. 5
The Pharisee was unwilling to use the benefit of the calling to the throne of grace, whereas the publican by faith called out to the throne of grace.
Of course, we find the same thing in the Apology:
Now we will show that faith justifies and nothing else. Here, in the first place, readers must be taught about this point: Just as it is necessary to keep this statement—Christ is Mediator—so is it necessary to defend that faith justifies. For how will Christ be Mediator if we do not use Him as Mediator in justification?
Apology of the Augsburg Confession IV:69–70
This is what Luther was clearly saying in his quote, and what Pr. Rydecki also referred to, that one must “use Christ as Mediator in justification.” Unless the ACLC wishes also to convict Luther, Melanchthon, and Chemnitz of rejecting faith as being “the hand that receives” and, thus, supposedly redefining what is meant by Jesus’ having paid for all mankind’s sin, they have no basis for making such a claim about Pr. Rydecki, whose words are in accord with those both of the fathers and of the Confessions themselves.
Thus, the ACLC is in error when they pretend that there is a contradiction between faith as the hand that “receives” and faith as the hand that “uses,” or a contradiction between faith as passive and faith as clinging to Christ or laying hold of Christ. This is a serious error on their part, as such an error will color more and more the rest of one’s theology and practice the longer it is left unchecked. When they, further, take their leap of illogic as an excuse to attribute a non-existent error from a private writing to the whole of our diocese, the pastors of the ACLC have thereby left the realm of civil discourse.
God willing, we will continue this week with a look at the next few theses, as well as have a statement on another, related matter.