Predestination Matters And Here’s Why…

Here is an article that I wrote about Predestination that’s a bit too long for an article on BJS. I’ve included the first few paragraphs here and then included the PDF file for you to read the remainder of it.

 

264140_thats_importantPredestination, Why Bother?
A Facebook friend once asserted to me that the historical controversies, as well as the present ongoing debates, over the doctrine of predestination are nothing more than opposing sides stirring up trouble by arguing over linguistic nuances; hence, to become engaged in the controversy over predestination is to be pulled into a futile theological war. Is this friend right? While I truly wish I could agree with my friend for the sake of simplicity, I am afraid that he is grossly mistaken on this point. To the naked eye it may seem like a meaningless debate over linguistics or doctrinal emphasis; however, as we will see in the following pages, this debate is over two very different theological positions, views that have profound implications upon the church and pastoral office today. The doctrine of predestination matters!

The Nineteenth-Century Predestination Controversy
In exploring the doctrine of predestination from a Lutheran perspective one might assume that a logical place to begin would be the theological controversies of the sixteenth-century. It is interesting to note that the doctrine of predestination is discussed within the Lutheran Confessions (e.g., Formula of Concord XI); however, unlike so much of the articles within The Book of Concord, article XI of the Formula is not written in response to a public offense arising within the sphere of sixteenth-century Lutheranism. The introduction to article XI states,

On this article there has been no public conflict among the theologians of the Augsburg Confession. However, because it is an article of comfort when properly treated, it is also explained in this document so that no offensive dispute may arise in the future.[1]

As stated in article XI, the authors of the Formula knew that this article on predestination/election would be needed at some point in the future. That future event would be the nineteenth-century predestination controversy among American Lutherans.

While the nineteenth-century controversy over predestination had several events leading up to its full manifestation,[2] the most visible eruption of this controversy happened in 1872 between C.F.W. Walther of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and Prof. Gottfried Fritschel of the Iowa Synod.[3] This great literary exchange between Walther and Fritschel fueled, launched, and garnered a controversy of considerable proportions where pamphlets, sermons, articles, and the like were circulated.[4]

 

Read the remainder of the article below:

 

About Pastor Matt Richard

Rev. Dr. Matthew Richard is the pastor at Zion Lutheran Church of Gwinner, ND. He was previously a Senior Pastor in Sidney, Montana, an Associate Pastor of Spiritual Care and Youth Ministries in Williston, North Dakota, and an Associate Pastor of Children and Youth in Rancho Cucamonga, California. He received his undergraduate degree from Minot State University, ND and his M.Div. from Lutheran Brethren Seminary, MN. His doctor of ministry thesis, from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO, was on exploring the journey of American Evangelicals into Confessional Lutheran thought. Pastor Richard is married to Serenity and they have two children. He enjoys fishing, pheasant hunting, watching movies, blogging, golfing, spending time with his family and a good book with a warm latte! To check out more articles by Pastor Matt you can visit his personal blog at: www.pastormattrichard.com.

Comments

Predestination Matters And Here’s Why… — 17 Comments

  1. This was a great article, Pastor Matt, but the chart on p. 7 makes the Missouri Synod’s position sound not too different from Calvin’s. Is that why many Reformed like to saddle up to Lutherans and say “See? We’re not that different in the predestination doctrine!”

  2. A very well researched paper indeed. I feel while the paper is primarily addressed to very literate Christians, I strongly feel “dumping” your readers into the 19th century without a very through understanding of Luther’s thought behind the subject is somewhat shortchanging your readers.

    For those who want a more rounded view:

    THE BONDAGE OF THE WILL with notes

    size:1.36 M
    THE BONDAGE OF THE WILL 1525 Translated by Philip S. Watson in collaboration with Benjamin Drewery INTRODUCTION Martin Luther’s De servo arbitrio, of which a translation is presented in this volume, was reckoned by Luther himself to be one of his two or three very best works. Luther wrote it in the autumn of 1525 in reply to a criticism of his teaching which Erasmus of Rotterdam had published under the title of De libero arbitrio a year earlier.
    THE BONDAGE OF THE WILL 1525 Translated by Philip S. Watson in collaboration with Benjamin Drewery INTRODUCTION Martin Luther’s De servo arbitrio, of which a translation is presented in this volume, was reckoned by Luther himself to be one of his two or three very best works. Luther wrote it in the autumn of 1525 in reply to a criticism of his teaching which Erasmus of Rotterdam had published under the title of De libero arbitrio a year earlier.

    http://www.lutheransonline.com/lo/671/FSLO-1344356671-111671.pdf

    Throw this in the mix just for fun:

    http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/double_luther.html

    Want more? Go here:

    http://www.lutheransonline.com/servlet/lo_ProcServ/DBPAGE=page&MODE=display&GID=01142001360984853315847543&PG=01142001360984853315927194&START_COUNT=3

    THIS IS A VERY DANGEROUS SUBJECT

  3. If one understands the Doctrine of Predestination correctly, it is a doctrine to bring comfort, joy and peace to the Christian. I often work it into my sermons and teaching for that very reason. However, my experience is that most pastors shy away from it because they either don’t understand it themselves or as your Facebook friend opined, they believe that it’s just not important today. I think that is totally wrong. As everything in scripture, God teaches us what we need to know. Therefore it is important.

    That being said, I spend many hours and considerable effort in studying this doctrine, trying to understand it. I would encourage all Christians to do the same. It’s just like putting in the time to correctly understand and properly divide Law and Gospel. In this way, Pastors can be true lights, enlightening the entire Gospel and doing what Jesus has called us to do, “teaching them ALL THINGS, whatsoever I have commanded you.”

  4. Can one be both damned to hell and predestined for heaven?

    From LSB 596:

    You were before your day of birth,
    Indeed from your conception,
    Condemned and lost with all the earth.
    None good, without exception.
    For like your parents’ flesh and blood,
    Turned inward from the highest good,
    You constantly denied Him.

    But all of that was washed away–
    Immersed and drowned forever.
    The water of your Baptism day
    Restored again whatever
    Old Adam and his sin destroyed
    And all our sinful selves employed
    According to our nature.

    Another perspective:

    I was before my day of birth
    — indeed before conception,
    before God made and formed the earth —
    predestined for adoption.
    Though born into a fallen race,
    I came an object of God’s grace,
    a path to heaven set for me.

    Now in that path baptism lay:
    God’s mercy demonstrated,
    the promise of the Spirit’s ray,
    a life with Christ united.
    And that divine identity
    brought fellowship and unity
    with all those so anointed.

  5. Mark Louderback :
    Do you have this article posted anywhere for download? I hate Scribd…

    Click on the “Download” link on the bar at the bottom of the Scribd window and the article will download as a PDF. Or, try clicking on the below link and see if that will work (you can also copy and paste the below url into your web browser to download).

    http://www.scribd.com/document_downloads/151965404?extension=pdf&from=embed&source=embed

  6. @Mark Huntemann #2

    The monergism.com article is an excellent example of historical and theological revisionism. The Calvinists would just love to be able to claim Luther as one of their own.

  7. There are a few issues with the article I’d like to address:

    First, the question “Does the Doctrine of Presdestiation Matter” is an interesting one given the whole issue of discussion.

    That is to say, obviously the issue mattered to both sides: you give an excellent synopisis of how the two sides were torn apart by the issue.

    And yet today, can that many people explain what the issue really was? The stakes that lay in-between? Can people talk intelligently about what the doctrine of predestination is?

    So, we have this violent battle and it doesn’t seem to have mattered that much. Does the average layperson have a better understanding of predestination today because of the debate?

    So, the question of “Does it matter?” needs a bit more fleshing out: why did the argument so bitterly divide the synods? And why does it matter so little today?

    Second, I’m always curious as to how the language issue affected the debate. Reading the arguments in English is reading an interpretation of the writings. I’m no language guru, so I could not pretend to understand the debates in the original language. And maybe the translations are accurate. But there always is the nagging doubt about whether we have gotten the other side right. It happens often enough even when people are speaking the same language — much less when they are not.

    Finally, it is easy to pain the picture of synergism when it comes to predestination — but the issue also comes up of fatalism when it comes to predestination. We see that with certain more recent publications on predestination and evangelism. If God has sorted people out, then why exactly do we need pastors? What do they actually do? What is the point of the sacraments if salvation is already determined by God before time? They seem to be empty actions, do they not?

    In this way, I think that we need to hold to the Confessional that sees the purpose of election as one of comfort. Indeed, the best presentation of the subject is to be found in the movie Signs by N. Night. That is how we should see and understand this teaching.

  8. @Mark Louderback #11

    Sorry about that. I like it because it lets us easily put a PDF on the blog, and has a download button right there easy to find for those who want the PDF instead of using scribd. It also lets you go full screen and read it easily, not limited to the width that the blog shows it.

  9. “What is the point of the sacraments if salvation is already determined by God before time? They seem to be empty actions, do they not?”

    Well, wouldn’t the point be obedience to God? “Do this”, “Go”, etc?

    Nicholas, thanks for the link to truecovenanter.

    As a ‘small catechism only’ Lutheran, with a love for Calvin, Westminster and the 3FU, that site is most enjoyable. Danke!

  10. Elizabeth :
    “What is the point of the sacraments if salvation is already determined by God before time? They seem to be empty actions, do they not?”
    Well, wouldn’t the point be obedience to God? “Do this”, “Go”, etc?

    This makes the Sacraments into law, rather than Gospel.

    Elizabeth :
    As a ‘small catechism only’ Lutheran,

    There is no such thing.

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