“This article [justification by faith] is, as it were, the fortress and chief bulwark of the whole Christian doctrine and religion. If this article remains inviolate, the perversions of the other articles will cease of themselves.” – Chemnitz
Calvinism’s “doctrines of grace” make unconditional election the first cause of a person’s salvation. In contrast, the Book of Concord places “justification by faith” at the center of orthodox Christianity.
Towards the end of his life, C. F. W. Walther brought forth a teaching of election which many Missouri and other American Lutherans could not reconcile with the Scriptures or the Lutheran Confessions. The resulting “Predestination Controversy” split the Lutheran Church.
“Since the publication of the Formula of Concord, for some 300 years, the Lutheran Church has unanimously held that the doctrine of our Confession and of the following teachers of our Church harmonized perfectly also in the article of predestination. Modern Missourians are the first “Lutherans” who assert the contrary; it is to be hoped that they will also be the last.”
“Therefore no one who would be saved, should trouble or harass himself with thoughts concerning the secret counsel of God, as to whether he also is elected and ordained to eternal life, for with these miserable Satan is accustomed to attack and annoy godly hearts. But they should hear Christ (and in Him look upon the book of life in which is written the eternal election); who testifies to all men without distinction that it is God’s will that all men who labor and are heavy laden with sin should come to Him in order that He may give them rest and save them (Matt. 2:28; Decl. XI)
But if God wills that all men should come to Christ and be saved, it surely must have been His will to elect them all in Christ unto salvation, provided they would believe. The actual “election”, therefore, has taken place with strict regard to faith in Christ. All who shall believe, whether they be all men, or many, or only a few, whether they be Jews or Gentiles, these or those – all believers in Christ shall have part in the election in Christ. All non-believers, however, shall be excluded. For on one hand God has ordained in His counsel to restore all those who in true repentance and faith apprehend Jesus, unto grace, sonship and heirship and to elect them thereto. On the other hand He has ordained in His counsel also, to save no one except those who believe in His Son Jesus Christ. Hence where He did not foresee faith, He did not choose to elect; where He was to elect. He wanted to foresee faith. For it was as true then as it is today: “Without faith it is impossible to please God” and to be restored unto grace, sonship and heirship, or to be ordained thereto.
II. “Intuitu Fidei”
The Predestination Controversy: How It Happened.
This book is part 2 of Walther and the Predestination Controversy or The Error of Modern Missouri