NEWSLETTER – Spring 1981
6600 North Clinton
Fort Wayne, Indiana 46825


The doctrine of objective justification is a lovely teaching drawn from Scripture which tells us that God who has loved us so much that He gave His only to be our Savior has for the sake of Christ’s substitutionary atonement declared the entire world of sinners for whom Christ died to be righteous (Romans 5:17-19).

Objective justification which is God’s verdict of acquittal over the whole world is not identical with the atonement, it is not another way of expressing the fact that Christ has redeemed the world. Rather it is based upon the substitutionary work of Christ, or better, it is a part of the atonement itself. It is God’s response to all that Christ died to save us, God’s verdict that Christ’s work is finished, that He has been indeed reconciled, propitiated; His anger has been stilled and He is at peace with the world, and therefore He has declared the entire world in Christ to be righteous.


According to all of Scripture Christ made a full atonement for the sins of all mankind. Atonement (at-one-ment) means reconciliation. If God was not reconciled by the saving work of Christ, if His wrath against sin was not appeased by Christ'’ sacrifice, if God did not respond to the perfect obedience and suffering and death of His Son for the sins of the world by forgiveness, by declaring the sinful world to be righteous in Christ -–if all this were not so, if something remains to be done by us or through us or in us, then there is no finished atonement. But Christ said, "It is finished." And God raised Him from the dead and justified Him, pronounced Him, the sin bearer, righteous (I Timothy 3:16) and thus in Him pronounced the entire world of sinners righteous (Romans 4:25).

All this is put beautifully by an old Lutheran theologian of our church, "We are redeemed from the guilt of sin; the wrath of God is appeased; all creation is again under the bright rays of mercy, as in the beginning; yea, in Christ we were justified before we were even born. For do not the Scriptures say: ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them?'’ This is not the justification which we receive by faith...That is the great absolution which took place in the resurrection of Christ. It was the Father, for our sake, who condemned His dear Son as the greatest of all sinners causing Him to suffer the greatest punishment of the transgressors, even so did He publicly absolve Him from the sins of the world when He raised Him up from the dead." (Edward Preuss, "The Justification of a Sinner Before God," pp. 14-15)


The doctrine of objective justification does not imply that there is no hell, that God’s threats throughout Scripture to punish sins are empty, or that all unbelievers will not be condemned to eternal death on the day of Christ’s second coming. And very definitely the doctrine of objective, or general, justification does not threaten the doctrine of justification through faith in Christ. Rather it is the very basis of that Reformation doctrine, a part of it. For it is the very pardon which God has declared over the whole world of sinners that the individual sinner embraces in faith and thus is justified personally. Christ’s atonement, His propitiation of God and God’s forgiveness are the true and only object of faith. Here is what George Stoekhardt, perhaps the greatest of all Lutheran biblical expositors in our country, says, "Genuine Lutheran theology counts the doctrine of general (objective) justification among the statements and treasures of its faith. Lutherans teach and confess that through Christ’s death the entire world of sinners was justified and that through Christ’s resurrection the justification of the sinful world was festively proclaimed. This doctrine of general justification is the guarantee and warranty that the central article of justification by faith is being kept pure. Whoever holds firmly that God was reconciled to the world in Christ, and that to sinners in general their sin was forgiven, to him the justification which comes from faith remains a pure act of the grace of God. Whoever denies general justification is justly under suspicion that he is mixing his own work and merit into the grace of God."


Objective justification is not a mere metaphor, a figurative way of expressing the fact that Christ died for all and paid for the sins of all. Objective justification has happened, it is the actual acquittal of the entire world of sinners for Christ’s sake. Neither does the doctrine of objective justification refer to the mere possibility of the individual’s justification through faith, to a mere potentiality which faith completes when one believes in Christ. Justification is no more a mere potentiality or possibility than Christ’s atonement. The doctrine of objective justification points to the real justification of all sinners for the sake of Christ’s atoning work "before" we come to faith in Christ. Nor is objective justification "merely" a "Lutheran term" to denote that justification is available to all as a recent "Lutheran Witness" article puts it – although it is certainly true that forgiveness is available to all. Nor is objective justification a Missouri Synod construct, a "theologoumenon" (a theological peculiarity), devised cleverly to ward off synergism (that man cooperates in his conversion) and Calvinistic double predestination, as Dr. Robert Schultz puts it in "Missouri in Perspective" (February 23, 1981, p. 5) – although the doctrine does indeed serve to stave off these two aberrations. No, objective justification is a clear teaching of Scripture, it is an article of faith which no Lutheran has any right to deny or pervert any more than the article of the Trinity or of the vicarious atonement.


Objective justification is not a peripheral article of faith which one may choose to ignore because of more important things. It is the very central article of the Gospel which we preach. Listen to Dr. C. F. W. Walther, the first president and great leader of our synod, speak about this glorious doctrine in one of his magnificent Easter sermons: "When Christ suffered and died, He was judged by God, and He was condemned to death in our place. But when God in the resurrection awakened Him again, who was it then that was acquitted by God in Christ’s person? Christ did no need acquittal for Himself, for no one can accuse Him of single sin. Who therefore was it that was justified in Him? Who was declared pure and innocent in Him? We were, we humans. It was the whole world. When God spoke to Christ, ‘You shall live,’ that applied to us. His life is our life. His acquittal, our acquittal, His justification, our justification….Who can ever fully express the great comfort which lies in Christ’s resurrection? It is God’s own absolution spoken to all men, to all sinners, in a word, to all the world, and sealed in the most glorious way. There the eternal love of God is revealed in all its riches, in its overflowing fullness and in its highest brilliance. For there we hear that it was not enough for God simply to send His own Son into the world and let Him become a man for us, not enough even for Him to give and offer His only Son unto death for us. No, when His Son had accomplished all that He had to do and suffer in order to earn and acquire grace and life and blessedness for us, then God, in His burning love to speak to us sinners, could not wait until we would come to Him and request His grace in Christ, but no sooner had His Son fulfilled everything than He immediately hastened to confer to men the grace which had been acquired through the resurrection of His Son, to declare openly, really and solemnly to all men that they were acquitted of all their sins, and to declare before heaven and earth that they are redeemed, reconciled, pure, innocent and righteous in Christ."


Many of our readers know that our seminary, and one professor in particular, has been recently criticized for undermining this comforting and clear teaching of objective justification. The criticism and garbled accounts of the situation have become so widespread lately that I must now comment on the matter in this issue of the "Newsletter.

For over 15 years now Professor Walter A. Maier, Jr., has been teaching a course in the book of Romans, and, although he states he has always presented the doctrine of objective justification as taught in our synod (e.g. in the "Brief Statement"), he has taught in class that some of the key passages used in our church to support the doctrine actually do not speak to the subject at all. As a result some within the seminary community and some outside concluded that Dr. Maier did not in fact believe, teach, and confess the article of objective justification. A few – very few – complaints were brought against Dr. Maier and against the seminary for letting this go on.

The president of our synod, who has the responsibility for supervising doctrine in the synod, contacted me and asked me to try to settle the issue and to persuade Dr. Maier to teach an interpretation of the pertinent passages (Romans 4:25; Romans 5:16-19; II Corinthians 5:19) compatible with that which the great teachers of our church in the past (C. F. W. Walther, Francis Pieper, Theodore Engelder, George Stoeckhardt, Martin Franzmann, William Beck and others) publicly taught. Meetings and discussions immediately took place between Dr. Maier and myself. Later on the matter was considered in faculty meetings, in department meetings, and in special committees appointed to discuss and hopefully to settle the issue. During these meetings, which were always most cordial, Dr. Maier has remained unpersuaded that his interpretation of the pertinent passages is faulty. At the same time he has consistently assured all that he has always taught the doctrine of objective justification as understood in the Missouri Synod. He has, however, referred to other biblical evidence for the doctrine.

In the meantime the president of the synod, growing anxious for a clear solution to the problem wrote to the entire church body a letter cautioning congregations not to nominate Dr. Maier for president of the synod until the issue was cleared up to his satisfaction.

Now the issue became political, and protests and criticisms against the president of the synod for his action and also against Dr. Maier'’ teaching began to multiply all over the synod. People naturally began to take sides, not always so much on the doctrinal issue which was not always understood and is still being discussed at our seminary, but for ecclesiastical and personal reasons. We now know that the warning of our synodical president against Dr. Maier not only failed to dissuade congregations from nominating Dr. Maier for the presidency of our synod (as Fourth Vice-President Dr. Robert Sauer had forewarned when attempting to persuade the synodical president not to send his letter), but possibly gained more nominations for Dr. Maier. Dr. Maier is now one of the five men nominated for the presidency of our synod.

On January 30, 1981, the Board of Control met with Dr. Maier and three representatives of the synodical praesidium (which had severely criticized Dr. Maier’s doctrinal stance). We heard from two members of the praesidium and then from Dr. Maier and two faculty members who he had requested to accompany him. The results of this meeting, many of us believed, represented a real breakthrough in understanding, and the Board exonerated Dr. Maier of any false doctrine. It was my belief that the representatives of the praesidium present were also satisfied and happy with the report. In the discussions of this meeting Dr. Maier expressed many genuine concerns related to the doctrine of objective justification, e.g., that no one is saved eternally who is not justified by faith, that God is even now angry with those who reject Christ and do not repent, and that objective justification ought to be preached and taught in such a way that the biblical doctrine of justification by faith is always prominent. The report, in the form of a news release, is found on page 4 of the "Newsletter", and I urge the reader to read it because "The Reporter," "The Lutheran Witness," and most of the newspapers over the country which reported on the matter did not reproduce the report in its entirety. At the same meeting the Board of Control strongly expressed its disapproval of some of the actions of our synodical president in the matter.

Meanwhile the administration of the seminary, with the concurrence of the Board of Control, determined that it would be best for the seminary and for Dr. Maier if he not teach the course in Romans during the next academic year. At first I tried to keep this matter private, but later I decided to make a public report of the fact. My reason for this was threefold. First, Dr. Maier was reported in the news media all over the country as stating that he had not changed his position on the doctrine of objective justification, suggesting o many that three years of discussions with him had been quite fruitless and that he still did not wholeheartedly believe in objective justification. Second, several people sympathetic to Dr. Maier had threatened to withhold funds from the seminary and had even reported our action to the accrediting association of our seminary, "The Association of Theological Schools;" it was obvious to me that they would make the matter of Dr. Maier’s courses public whenever it served their purposes. Third, the president of the synod was preparing a release revealing the fact that Dr. Maier would not be teaching Romans during the next academic year. I thought it would be preferable that the president of the seminary make this fact known rather than those who have no business making such and announcement and who might make the announcement in a way detrimental either Dr. Maier or the seminary.

This is where the matter now stands. The Board of Control has stated its confidence in the doctrine of Dr. Maier. Dr. Maier is presently teaching Romans, will teach the course this summer, but is slated to teach courses other than Romans next year. The faculty will continue to discuss and try to achieve total agreement in the interpretation of those passages of Scripture which teach objective justification.


Through this entire and uncomfortable time the Board of Control and the administration of the seminary have found themselves in an understandably awkward position. We are pledged to remain faithful to the doctrinal position of our church, a position which we believe with all our hearts, and we will not deviate from this obligation one iota. We are at the same time pledged to defend a professor and colleague if he fails under unjust attack or abuse. I think we were able to maintain this delicate balance while the present issue was pending, until the political issue was injected. Now we find ourselves uncomfortably between two rather large conflicting elements in our synod, both friends of our seminary; those who believe that the president of the synod, whether they agree with his actions or not, had legitimate concerns about the doctrinal position of Dr. Maier, and those who believe that Dr. Maier had been wronged by the president of the synod and that the seminary could have done more to defend and protect him. How can we respond to this divisive situation in the middle of which we find ourselves? We can only say that we regret deeply the anxiety and consternation which good friends of our seminary have experienced because of the episodes I have recounted. May I ask these friends to bear with us and put the best construction on how we have acted in these circumstances. If you question Dr. Maier’s teaching on justification, please read and believe the report on page and trust the honesty and sincerity of those, including Dr. Maier, who had a part in releasing it. If you believe that Dr. Maier has been wronged by various parties during the last three year which have been trying to him, please believe that our Board of Control and all here at Concordia agree with you; but God, who saved this lost world and forgave the sins of mankind before anyone ever asked Him, commands us also to forgive those who wrong us. And please do not try to defend Dr. Maier by denying the public teaching of the Lutheran Church. God’s forgiveness shines bright and clear above all the pettiness and weakness and wrongs and controversy that have transpired in connection with our dear colleague Dr. Maier, and it WILL cover the sins of us all. Lent teach us this, and Easter confirms it.


For those who wish to read more on Objective Justification the following articles can be secured from our bookstore for a nominal charge:

H. J. Bouman _Conference Paper on Romans 4:5" "Concordia Theological Monthly" (CTM), Vol. 18, 1947, pp. 338-347.

Theodore Engelder, "Objective Justification," CTM, Vol. 4, 1933, pp. 507-516, 564-577, 664, 675.

Theodore Engelder, "Walther, a Christian Theologian," CTM, Vol. 7, 1936, pp. 801-815.

Martin H. Franzmann, "Reconciliation and Justification," CTM, Vol. 21, 1950, pp. 81-93.

E. W. A. Koehler, "Objective Justification, CTM, Vol. 16, 1945, pp. 217-235.

Miscellanea, "God Purposes to Justify Those That Have Come to Faith," CTM, Vol. 14, 1943, pp. 787-791.

George Stoeckhardt, "General Justification," "Concordia Theological Quarterly," April, 1978, pp. 139 – 144.


While the president’s message "Objective Justification" was being typeset, an "Official Notice" from the president of Synod was issued which bears on the Walter A. Maier matter. In the notice the president of Synod expressed his disagreement with our Board action which announced a "basic understanding" with Dr. Maier on objective justification. I felt compelled to respond on behalf of our Board of Control with an Official Notice from the Seminary. This Official Notice which seeks to clarify the Board’s action and position vis-à-vis Dr. Maier’s doctrinal stand has been submitted to "The Reporter." It is herewith appended to the present article for our readers’ information. – Robert Preus


The Board of Control of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, has announced that a basic understanding resulted from a lengthy and thorough discussion on January 30th, between the Board, Dr. Walter A. Maier, Jr., of the seminary faculty, three representatives for the president and vice-presidents (praesidium) of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, and two additional faculty members. In a January 5-6 meeting the Praesidium stated that, in its opinion, "Doctor Walter A. Maier, Jr., holds a position different from that of the official doctrinal position of the Synod."

At the January 30 meeting, however, Dr. Maier emphatically affirmed his belief that on the basis of Christ’s vicarious atonement God has put His wrath away against the world and has declared the whole world to be righteous; that the benefits of this objective forgiveness are appropriated only by faith; the even though the entire human race has been redeeme3d, the Law in all its severity, including the wrath of God against sinners as well as the Gospel of forgiveness must be preached to all, including Christians. According to the Gospel, God is indeed reconciled; according to the Law, the wrath of God abides on all who reject Christ and His work of reconciliation, refuse to repent, and live in their sins.

Dr. Robert Sauer, Dr. George Wollenburg, and former synodical vice-president Dr. Theodore Nickel represented the praesidium at the January 30 meeting. Professors Kurt Marquart and Howard Tepker of the seminary faculty were also present.

The frank five-hour exchange focused on several theological issues which were isolated for clarification. The discussion showed that there have been misunderstandings, unclear thinking, and poor communication because of overstatements, lifting of phrases and snippets of doctrinal expression out of context, and sometimes even pressing of casual expressions to ultimate conclusions not intended by the speakers.

More than semantic differences surfaced early in the January 30th meeting. At the close, however, basic agreement emerged on such topics as the wrath of God, Law and Gospel, and "objective justification" – a term used in the Lutheran Church to summarize a concept in the Bible and the Lutheran Confessions that forgiveness and justification because of the death of Christ are objectively available for all mankind through the ages, whether or not individuals appropriate it through faith.

Difference in the interpretation of several critical passages remain. The Seminary board, as well as Dr. Maier, is concerned that variant interpretations can lead to a misinterpretation of doctrine. Therefore, the Seminary board reported, discussions will continue by the faculty.

Dr. Maier stated: "I regret that some publicly quoted statements of mine from a technical paper ‘prepared for faculty discussion purposes only’ have given a wrong impression about my doctrine of justification as a whole. I, therefore, withdraw that paper from discussion. Doctrinally, I stand with our Synod’s historic position."

In his statement to the Board of Control Dr. Maier further stated: "When the Lord Jesus was ‘justified’ (I Timothy 3:16) in His resurrection and exaltation, God acquitted Him not of sins of His own, but of all the sins of mankind, which as the Lamb of God He had been bearing (John 1:29(, and by the imputation of which He had been ‘made….to be sin for us’ (II Corinthians 5:21), indeed, ‘made a curse for us’" (Galatians 3:13).

"In this sense, the justification of Jesus was the justification of those whose sins He bore. The treasure of justification or forgiveness gained by Christ for all mankind is truly offered, given, and distributed in and through the Gospel and sacraments of Christ."

"Faith alone can receive this treasure offered in the Gospel, and this faith itself is entirely a gracious gift and creation of God through the means of grace. Faith adds nothing to God’s forgiveness in Christ offered in the Gospel, but only receives it. Thus, ‘He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and He that believeth not the Son, shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on Him’" (John 3:30).

"My reservation concerning some of the traditional terminology employed in expressing the doctrine of justification are fully covered by the following statements from the major essay delivered to the first convention of the Synodical Conference, assembled in Milwaukee July 10-16, 1872:

"When speaking with regard to the acquisition of salvation (by Christ), God has wrath for no man any longer; but when speaking with regard to the appropriation, He is wrathful with everyone who is no in Christ ("Proceedings," p. 32). Before faith the sinner is righteous before God only according to the acquisition and the divine intention, but he is actually ("actu") righteous, righteous for his own person, righteous indeed, first when he believes ("Proceedings," p. 68."

Following the meeting Board Chairman Raymond N. Joeckel commented, "We only wish that we could have reached this stage of the discussions and that we could have had this kind of interchange before unfortunate statements appeared in the public press. The church can learn from this that the Lord blesses sincere efforts to discuss and clarify the meaning and message of the Holy Scriptures."


The Official Notice of our synodical president regarding Dr. Walter A. Maier and the doctrine of objective justification in the March 30 issue of "The Lutheran Witness Reporter" requires an answer by me as president and executive officer of the Board of Control of Concordia Theological Seminary where Dr. Maier teaches.

Once again we wish to express our deep appreciation to the president for his recognition of the central importance of the doctrine of objective justification and his concern that this comforting teaching be taught clearly at our school. We agree wholeheartedly with his citation from Dr. Francis Pieper, ""he doctrine of objective justification is of vital important to the entire Christian doctrine. Only by keeping this doctrine intact will the Christian doctrine remain intact. It will be irretrievably lost if this doctrine is abandoned."

However, there are some serious inaccuracies and mistaken judgments in the Official Notice which call for correction and comment.

First, the president of the Synod points to an apparent conflict between my summary of the issues on the subject of justification sent to the Board of Control December 23, 1980, and some later statements made by me and the Board of Control concerning Dr. Maier’s position. In the December statement I described Dr. Maier’s position as he expressed it to the Board at its November, 1980 meeting (with the president of Synod in attendance). There I state that Dr. Maier can find no explicit Biblical evidence for the doctrine of objective justification and no explicit Biblical evidence for the doctrine that God was reconciled (put His anger aside) on account of the ransom paid by Christ. Two months later I stated that Dr. Maier "has always believed" – it would have been better to have said "has consistently affirmed to the Board and to me his belief" – in objective justification; and the Board in its release said that Dr. Maier emphatically affirmed his believe that on the basis of Christs’s vicarious atonement God put His wrath away against the world and has declared the whole world to be righteous." The explanation for this apparent discrepancy lies in the simple fact that in the January meeting of the Board of Control (which the president of Synod did not attend) Dr. Maier clearly affirmed that Scripture does in fact teach the doctrine of objective justification and that on the basis of Christ’s atonement God put away His wrath, whereas in the November meeting, as reported, he did not do so. An so "all" the statements cited are true and factual

Our synodical president says "I must report that the vice-presidents are of the opinion that there is no evidence from the Board of Control meeting which would change their judgment that Dr. Maier is at variance with the doctrinal position of the Synod." This must be a mistake. Former Vice-President Theodore Nickel and Vice-President George Wollenburg, together with Vice-president Robert Sauer, represented the Praesidium at the January Board meeting. Dr. Nickel and Dr. Wollenburg criticized Dr. Maier’s position at the meeting. But when Dr. Maier affirmed his belief that objective justification was taught in Scripture (I Timothy 3:16) and that God’s wrath has been appeased through the death of His Son, the Board gained the distinct impression that both Dr. Nickel and Dr. Wollenburg were sufficiently satisfied that Dr. Maier was not at variance with the doctrinal position of the Synod. At least, these two men never expressed themselves to the contrary to the Board or to Dr. Maier. The Board report of the January 30 meeting with Dr. Maier and representatives of the Praesidium has been out since February 2, and so Dr. Wollenburg and Dr. Nickel have had plenty of time to dissociate themselves from it, if they wanted to do so. It does seem strange to us that the president of the Synod did not announce his misgivings soon after the Board meeting and news release, but rather waited until after Dr. Maier has been clearly nominated for the presidency of the Missouri Synod.

Furthermore, Vice-President Sauer is a member of the Board of Control and had a hand in writing and issuing the Board release of February 2. According to the February 14 St. Louis Globe Democrat Dr. Sauer said, "’After a recent discussion lasting several hours,’ Dr. Maier ‘appears to be in a position of changing with regard to the vital doctrinal matter.’" So the president of our Synod apparently is not including Dr. Sauer when he said, "I must report that the vice-presidents are of the opinion that there is no evidence from the Board of Control meeting which would change the judgment that Dr. Maier is at variance with the doctrinal position of the Synod." Perhaps there are other vice-presidents he is not including.

The suggestion of our synodical president that the Board of Control is engaging in a
cover up in regard to Dr. Maier is unkind and false. The Board has acted with utmost integrity. While the president may differ with the Board’s conclusion and decision in the Maier matter, it is not right of him publicly to question the ethics and posture of the Board in the entire matter.

The president’s only evidence for a cover up is the fact that the Board did not publicly announce that Dr. Maier would not be teaching a course in the Book of Romans beginning with the next academic year. This was not considered significant for the news release. At the same meeting the Board also objected "strenuously" to "certain things" done by the president of the Synod "which are high-handed, inexcusable, and harmful to Dr. Maier or our school." The Board did not think of including such items in its release either, and that out of love and concern for the reputation of our synodical president. The omission of pertinent or irrelevant facts in a release does not necessarily constitute a "cover up." If it did, the president of the Synod would be guilty of a serious "cover up." In his Official Notice he omitted any mention of a verbatim quotation from Dr. Maier in the Board release, affirming that Scripture does indeed teach objective justification. Dr. Maier’s statement goes as follows, "When the Lord Jesus was ‘justified’ (I Timothy 3:16) in His resurrection and exaltation, God acquitted Him not of sins of His own, but of all the sins of mankind, which as the Lamb of God He had been bearing (John 1:29), and by the imputation of which He had been ‘made… be sin for us’ (II Corinthians 5:21), indeed ‘made a curse for us’ (Galations 3:13). In this sense the justification of Jesus was the justification of those whose sins He bore. The treasure of justification or forgiveness gained by Christ for all mankind is truly offered, given, and distributed in and through the Gospel and Sacraments of Christ." It was on the basis of this statement and other assurances given by Dr. Maier that the Board announced in its February 2 release that a "basic understand resulted from a lengthy and thorough discussion on January 30 between the Board, Dr. Walter A. Maier, Jr. of the seminary faculty, three representatives for the president and vice-presidents (Praesidium) of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, and two additional faculty members."

We share our synodical president’s "frustration and amazement" at the confusion which shrouds both the issue itself and the way it has been handled. I know I speak for Dr. Maier and the Board of Control when I say that we all are sorry for anything we have said or done which adds to this confusion. I am sure that the president of the Synod too is sorry for what he has contributed to the confusion and misunderstanding which surrounds the matter. It is my hope that this response to his Official Notice will serve to clarify the matter.