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Theses on the Galesburg Declaration on Pulpit and Altar Fellowship, Part II, in Lutheran Church Review XXVI:4 (October 1907):
It is one of the greatest sins and calamities of the Church of our day that there is widespread and utter carelessness in regard to doctrine, or a fixed aversion to it; in some a contempt for it, in many ignorance or an ignoring of it. Men sometimes array the Gospel against itself by urging that they want the Gospel, they dont want doctrine; as if there could be any real Gospel which is not doctrine, or any Gospel in its totality, which does not embrace all the doctrine of the Gospel. It is as if they said: We want nourishment; we dont want food; We want warmth; but none of your fuel and clothes for us.
Whether the laxity of the time helps men toward the extreme [of] pseudo-ecclesiasticism or the extreme of unionistic sectarianism, the beginning of the healing must be a Bible estimate of the indispensable nature of Bible doctrine. Our Church, once chosen of God to lead His people back to the pure faith, must realize that none can take her vocation from her. The front of the host is still her place, if she is faithful to the Captain of her salvation, and she can do now no work more characteristic of her, and more worthy of her great name and responsibility, than to help in awakening the mind of Christendom to a consciousness of the disastrous tendency of the time. (pp. 747-48.)
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Theses on the Galesburg Declaration on Pulpit and Altar Fellowship, Part III, in Lutheran Church Review XXVII:1 (January 1908):
There is no sufficient bulwark against Rome but the doctrine of justification by faith, with all it involves. The struggle for the possession of the future is between Romanism, Protestantism, and Atheism; and Protestantism, robbed of its great material principle, will be absorbed into Romanism or Atheism. A Bible unbelieved will not save us. A Rule of Faith which we will not allow to make our faith, will not help us. The decline of the power of the great doctrine of justification by faith is the result of the decline of faith itself. Men have less and less confidence and interest in justification by faith, because they have less and less of the faith which justifies. As faith is regarded after the Romish fashion as an intellectual assent, and intellectual assent to divine truth dwindles more and more in the sectarian construction into individual notions and opinions, all of equal validity, the great New Testament doctrine of faith and of justification by faith, is fading more and more out of sight.
That faith which is a divinely wrought and transforming conviction, involving absolute trust, and distinct from mere opinion, however strong or plausible, involves pure doctrine and is inseparable from it. It spreads its roots in the whole soil, and draws its life from every part. The faith subjective, our faith, must derive its life from the faith objective, the faith, the great system of Christian doctrine. (p. 128)
The obligation to stand by truth is not conditioned by the human probabilities of its triumph. While there may be again, as there has been in the past, a relative advance of truth, error will abide upon the earth, and we know not in what proportions, while the earth stands. The harvest will open on tares and wheat together. The Church may have relative rest, but she will have no absolute rest; but will bear the cross till she is lifted to her crown in heaven. We do not stake the great principle, nor the right of our Church to abide by it, on any prophetic pretense of its earthly triumph or of hers. (p. 135)
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Theses on the Galesburg Declaration on Pulpit and Altar Fellowship, Part IV, in Lutheran Church Review XXVII:2 (April 1908):
We must either demand Lutheran authentication from every man who enters a Lutheran pulpit, or demand it of none. However the matter may be covered over with a plausible pretext, it is simply moral suicide for a church to discriminate against her own children, and to exact from her own preachers pledges and guarantees which she does not exact of others. It is either right to give others constant admission, that is, to throw away our confessional and distinctive life altogether, and abandon to sect the whole idea of a church, or it is wrong to give them occasional admission. If it be right in principle to admit them at one time, it is right to admit them at another time, and at all times. It is no longer exceptional, it is normal. It is not a privilege, it is a right.
The principle on which rests constant admission to Lutheran altars, demands that those who are there received shall have been taught and examined as to their knowledge of the fundamental truths of the Gospel system, which is the confessed system of our Church; shall have solemnly bound themselves, by Gods help, to persevere in the Lutheran faith, and in fidelity to the Lutheran Church, to conform and be subject, as communicant members, to its divine government and discipline. There can be no principle of occasional admission to the altar distinct from and in conflict with this. In a word, the principle of a constant admission precludes the existence of any separate principle of occasional admission. (pp. 325-26)
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The Right Relation to Denominations in America, in Lutheran Confessional Theology in America, 1840-1880, edited by Theodore G. Tappert (New York: Oxford University Press, 1972):
From the first quarter of the nineteenth century there has been a general breaking down of the old landmarks in this country. Popular and influential forms of embodying union sentiment have become more and more common. We have Sunday School and Tract Unions, union revivals, union prayer meetings, the Evangelical Alliance, Young Mens Christian Associations, all involving compromise on the [basis of the] principles of individualism and all tending to laxity and indifferentism.
The world has been coming into the church with its easygoing policy. There has been a large influx of unworthy professors [of the faith], a relaxation of discipline, a spirit of social complaisance taking the place of principle. ... The struggle of indifferentism was at first against making the doctrines in which the Evangelical denominations differ a test. But the struggle at this hour is against making any doctrines a test. Denominationalism with spread sails filling in the gale of unionism, and without pilot or helmsman, is bearing full upon the rock of absolute individualism. When the rock is fairly struck, the vessel will go to the bottom. (pp. 112-13)
A Zwinglian may admit that a Lutheran is not in fundamental error; a Lutheran cannot admit it in regard to a Zwinglian. To claim that what is really but bread and wine is Christs body and blood may be a great absurdity -- but it is the result of too absolute a trust in his word -- it is the superstition of faith. But to say that what he really tells us is his body and blood is but bread and wine implies lack of trust in his word -- it is the superstition of unbelief. ... They have a metaphor to literalize; we accept a verity deep as the incarnation itself, a verity involving the incarnation and involved in it.
It has pleased them sometimes to represent the whole matter as a dispute about mere phrases. We are agreed, they say, about the thing, but the contest is kept up about words. If this be so, and as we believe that our words are necessary to guard the thing, why will they not consent to our words? To us it is no logomachy. If it be so to them, why do they not give up their mere phrases? And where did those who attempt to make us odious for insisting on our faith in regard to the Lords Supper ever engage to be silent in regard to their own? The history of the controversy from the beginning shows how eager and persistent the Zwinglians and Calvinists were in urging their own doctrine and assailing ours. The plea for liberality to be shown on our part meant freedom for themselves to hold and teach error without wholesome moral correction from us. It means all through, We will rob you of your faith if we can, and if we cannot we will insist that you shall at least think it of little account. (pp. 124-25)
Nevertheless, there have been men on both sides of the sea who within our church, accepting its privileges, the honor of its name, perhaps eating its bread, have met the challenge to specification. Some on the broad ground of rationalism have said that the Lutheran Church has failed in the very fundamentals of religion -- the doctrine of God, of sin, of salvation, and of the Saviour. It ought to have been Socinian and Universalist. There is no line possible if we accept individualism as the test. If a man can be a Lutheran who thinks our church has failed and whose guide to that in which it has failed is that he thinks so, where can you stop? If we admit that it can be done in one article, who shall settle which one? If with more than one, how many? If with some, why not with all? If with one set this year, why not with another set next year? And this is no logical imagining. This is the exact ground actually taken by the consistent men of the position of which we now speak. There is no firm ground between strict confessionalism and no confessionalism. All between is hopeless inconsistency. (pp. 127-28)
Our church does indeed rest its relations to the denominations around us on its conviction that its system is in all its parts divine, derived from the Word of God and in accordance with it. And there are those who object to this position, not that they charge any specific error on our church -- they waive even the consideration of that question -- but that in general they assume that we are not prepared to treat any system as throughout divine. A system, they say, may be divine, but we cannot know that it is. We see in part, we know in part. It is not probable that any one denomination has all the truth on the mooted questions. We think we are right. Others think they are right, and they are as much entitled to assert the possession of truth for themselves as we are for ourselves. The church is still seeking: the church of the unknown future may perhaps see things in their true light.
This is bringing into theology what is a pet theory of the philosophy of our day under the title agnosticism, which presses our ignorance until it makes of it a sort of omniscience of negation. There are no such vices in the world as the affectations of virtue. Sanctimony apes sanctity, prudery apes modesty, masked egotism apes humility -- and on the basis of universal ignorance man offers himself as a universal sage and systematizes ignorance in many volumes.
It is true that the church on earth is imperfect and that in its best life, and because of it, it ever grows. But it must have a complete life to have a constant growth. An acorn is not an oak, but the vital force in the acorn is that which makes the oak and abides in it. The question here is, Has the church reached such a clear, binding faith on the great vital questions, not only of individual salvation but of her own highest efficiency and well-being, as justifies it in making them a term of communion and of public teaching? The question is not whether it can reach more truth, or apply more widely the truth it has, but whether what it now holds is truth and whether by seeking more truth by the same methods it can be assured of finding it.
The Old Testament has been teaching for thousands of years, the New Testament has taught for two thousand years, and yet it is pretended by those who profess to hold [to] the clearness and sufficiency of Holy Scripture that no part of the church of Christ, not even that part which they declare they hold in highest esteem, has reached a witness which can commend itself to human trust or can tell whether it has failed or not. ... If the divine truth has no self-asserting power, sufficient to dispel doubt, how shall we reach any sure ground? Shall we say that all nominally Christian systems are alike in value, or that if they differ in this no one can find it out? This on its face seems self-confuting, but if we had to confute it, we could only do so by showing that Gods Word is clear on the points on which churches differ. If we do not believe that we are scriptural over against Rome, we have no right to be separate from Rome. If the churches divided from us do not believe that they are scriptural, they have no right to be divided from us, and if we have no assured conviction that we have the truth, we have no right to exist. This agnosticism is at heart unbelief, or despair, or indolence, or evasion of cogent argument.
Of all Romanizing tendencies the most absolute is that which puts the dishonor on Gods Word and on the fundamental principles of the Reformation implied in this view. It may be safely asserted that ecclesiastical bodies will not claim less for themselves than they are entitled to, and when it shall be said that no part of the churches of which the Reformation was the cause or occasion even pretends to have an assurance of the whole faith it confesses, then will men regard Protestantism as self-convicted and, if they do not swing off to infidelity, will say: Rome at least claims to have the truth, and if truth is to be found on earth it is more likely to be found with those who claim to have it than with those who admit they have it not. To sum up, we say Rome is fallible, the denominations are fallible, and the Lutheran Church is fallible: but the Romish Church has failed in articles of faith, so have the denominations; the Lutheran Church has not. (pp. 129-31)
There is no body of Christians on earth more remote from all the pretenses of Donatism, in its letter or its spirit, than the Lutheran Church. There is none which is so large and liberal in all things which are really in the sphere of the liberty of the church. Contrast its largeness of view in things indifferent with the pitiful littleness of ultra-Puritanism on the one side and Puseyistic ritualism on the other. Mark her scriptural candor in regard to special forms of church government as one example of a spirit illustrated in manifold forms. Our church is inflexible in nothing but in the pure Word and pure sacraments and in what they involve. (p. 132)
When the Lutheran Church acts in the spirit of the current denominationalism it abandons its own spirit. It is a house divided against itself. Some even then will stand firm, and with the choosing of new gods on the part of others there will be war in the gates. No seeming success could compensate our church for the forsaking of principles which gave her her being, for the loss of internal peace, for the destruction of her proper dignity, for the lack of self-respect which would follow it. The Lutheran Church can never have real moral dignity, real self-respect, a real claim on the reverence and loyalty of its children while it allows the fear of the denominations around it, or the desire of their approval, in any respect to shape its principles or control its actions. It is a fatal thing to ask not, What is right? What is consistent? but, What will be thought of us? How will the sectarian and secular papers talk about us? How will our neighbors of the different communions regard this or that course? Better to die than to prolong a miserable life by such compromise of all that gives life its value. ... We have among us a sort of charity which not only does not begin at home but never gets there. It is soaring and gasping for the unity of Lutherans with all the rest of the world but not with each other. It can forgive all the sects for assailing the truth but has no mercy for the Lutherans who defend it.
When there is official fellowship between those who hold the higher and positive position and those who hold a lower and negative one, the communion is always to the benefit of the lower at the expense of the higher. For however the holders of the higher view may protest as to their personal convictions, the act of communion is regarded as a concession that the convictions, if held at all, are not held as articles of faith but only as opinions. If a Socinian and a Trinitarian commune, each avowing his own opinion as neither changed nor involved, which cause is hurt and which benefited? It looks equal, but Socinianism, whose interest is laxity, is advantaged; Trinitarianism is wounded. It gives fresh life to error; it stabs truth to the heart. Contact imparts disease but does not impart health. We catch smallpox by contact with one who has it, but we do not catch recovery from one who is free from it. The process which tends to the pollution of the unpolluted will not tend to the purification of the evil. (pp. 135-36)
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Charles Porterfield Krauth
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