Full Text for The Right and Wrong of Private Judgment, part 2 (Text)

Qtnurnr~tu UJqtulugtral :!Inutltly Continuing LEHRE UNO WEHRE MAGAZIN FUER Ev.-LuTH. H OMILETIK THEOLOGICAL QUARTERLY-THEOLOGICAL MONTHLY Vol. XV May, 1944 No.5 CONTENTS The Right and Wrong of Private Judgment. Th. Engclder Nathan Soedel'blom. Theodore Gra"hner Page 289 314 328 Outlines on the Standard Gospels Miscellanea Theological Obsen.·er Book Review Eln Predlger muss nlcht alleln wei- deft. also dais er die Schafe unter- weise. wle de rechte Chrl8ten sollen Rln. sondem liIuch cianeben den Woel- ten tDeh7'lm. dass sle die Schafe nlcht angrelfen Wld mit talscher Lehre ver- tuehren und Irrtum elntuehren. Luther 339 3·a 354 Es 1st keln Ding. das die Leute mehr bel der Klrche behaelt denn die gute Predigt. - A pologie. Arl. 24 If tile trumpet give an uncertain sound. who ahall prepare himself to the battle? -1 eM. 14:8 Published for the Ev. Luth. Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States CONCORDIA PUBUSIUNG BOUSE, St. Louis 18, Mo. '11'1 T!:) I - tr. IS. A. 1 ! I l Concordia Theological Monthly Vol. xv MAY, 1944 The Right and Wrong of Private Judgment (Continued) No.5 "Ueber die Lehre zu erkennen and zu richten, kommt allen und jeden Christen zu, und zwar so, dass der verflucht ist, der solches Recht um ein Haerlein kraenkt" (Lu ther XIX: 341). The matter of exercising private judgment is of supreme importance. (1) They commit a monstrous crime who keep God's people from dealing directly with God's Word and judging all doctrine on the basis of it. (2) Blessed is the community where the right of private judgment is recognized and practiced. (1) The Pope and those Protestant theologians who aid and abet him in this matter are guilty of enormous crimes. In the first place, they are keeping men from performing their Christian duty. "For Christ gave to the people not only the right, but also the command to judge" (Luther, loco cit.). "Try the spirits!" "Beware of false prophets!" Etc., etc. The Christian who asks or permits others to judge doctrinal matters for him is breaking a plain, explicit commandment of God. And he is thereby calling down God's wrath upon his head. "The hearers are obliged to judge all preaching under penalty of forfeiting the favor of Divine Majesty" (Luther X : 1543. Holman Ed. IV, 78), "bei goett- Hcher Majestaet Ungnade - incurring God's disfavor and wrath." Is it indeed such a grievous sin? For one thing, God will not permit men t o set up other gods before Him. The Pope is robbing God of His prerogative. (Luther: "gottesraeuberish," XIX: 343.) Demanding the right to rule over the faith and conscience of God's people, he is setting himself beside God. And those who at his bidding renounce the right of private judgment are acknowl- edging his blasphemous claims. Men who say with Erasmus: "I bring my reason into captivity to the obedience of the Church" 19 290 The Right and Wrong of Private Judgment are doing a wicked thing. And they who instigate this wicked- ness incur a double measure of God's wrath. A second crime: the Pope exacts from his people the sacrificium intellectus et conscientiae, and that spells the ruin, the decline, and eventual loss of all spiritual powers. "These passages," says Luther, "assign the right and power to judge any teaching to the hearers with urgent commands and on pain of losing their souls" (lac. cit.) . Faith is spiritual knowledge and intelligent conviction. It knows what it believes and is convinced of the truth of it on the authority of Scripture. But the Pope will not have faith perform its natural functions. The Christian who obeys the Pope must keep his spiritual intelligence from functioning - he must sacrifice it. His intelligence protests against the papistical inter- pretation of Rom. 3: 28 and insists that Scripture denounces the teaching that justification is by works. But he is told: You must bring your intelligence into captivity to the obedience of the Pope and accept the interpretation of the Church. And what happens when faith is not permitted to exercise its functions? When an organ of the body is persistently disused, it atrophies. K eep faith from expressing itself, and your spiritual powers will waste away_ The Pope is r uining the spiritual life of his people. He that refuses to exercise private judgment is losing his soul. The P ope demands of his subjects the sacrificium conscientiae. In the domain of morals they must accept the r egulations of the Church as binding even though their conscience protests against some of them as not commanded by God and against some of them as immoral. The ability of the Jesuit to suppress the pro- testing voice of his conscience when he is commanded to go against a commandment of God is considered the acme of virtue in popedom. And in the sphere of doctrine the same sacrifice is demanded. To the Christian it is a matter of conscience what he believes. He accepts a certain teaching because his heart and conscience tells him that Scripture teaches it. He rejects a certain teaching because his heart and conscience tells him that Scripture denounces it. Luther: "Christ teaches us that everyone must be concerned about his own welfare and salvation and that, ther efore, everyone must know and be certain what to believe and whom to follow. . . . Another may teach and preach what he will; that is his affair. You must be concerned about what you y ourself believe, for your greatest loss or for your greatest gain" (X: 1587) . It is a matter of conscience to the Christian to know that what he believes is God's truth. Luther: "They will at once start to argue : How can one know what is God's Word and what is true or false? The P ope and the council must tell you th at. I say: You cannot put your confidence in that ; that will not satisfy your The Right and Wrong of Private Judgment 291 conscience. You must decide for yourself; your neck is in danger; your life is at stake. Therefore God must assure your heart and tell you: This is God's Word. In no other way can you gain assurance" (XI: 1396). Again: "It is at the peril of everyone's own conscience how he believes or disbelieves" (X: 398). - Nay, says the Pope, you must not let your conscience bother you about doctrinal questions; those are Lutheran scruples. You may safely put your conscience into my keeping. Luther cries out: "In the conscience God wants to be alone; there His Word alone shall rule" (XIX: 832, 1). Again: "Der Seele soIl und kann niemand gebieten, er wisse denn, ihr den Weg zu weisen gen Himmel. Das kann aber kein Mensch tun, sondern Gott allein" (X: 396) . "God alone is Lord of the conscience" (Westminster Confession, Chapter XX). No, declares Antichrist, I am the lord of the conscience of man; you need not bother your heads about questions of right and wrong, true or false doc- trine; I decide that for you; I am your conscience - Sacrificium Conscientiae! The Pope and his Protestant abettors are committing a fearful crime against their people. Training them to forego the right of private judgment, they are causing them to commit spiritual suicide. A man who has lost the sense of personal responsibility for his belief has lost his soul. As long as there is spiritual life in a man, his conscience demands a hearing when matters of faith and morals are being decided. And the man who suppresses the voice of his own conscience is keeping his spiritual life from functioning. -It is a frightful condition. It is the conscience that distinguishes man from the brute. And where men are kept from forming conscientious convictions, they are being dehumanized. When we hear a man who is under the complete domination of the Roman pope or the Protestant popes utter his belief, we do not hear the voice of conviction. It is the voice of a parrot. It is a robot speaking. A good Catholic is one who cannot call his soul his own. Was Luther wrong in denouncing the Pope and his abettors not only as "thieves and robbers," but also as "wolves and murderers"?17l 17) A few additional statements. W. H. Prescott, Ferdinand and Isabella, in the chapter on the Inquisition: "In the present state of knowledge we look with disgust at the pretensions of any human being, however exalted, to invade the sacred rights of conscience, inalienably possessed by every man. We feel that the spiritual concerns of an individual may be safely left to himself, as most interested in them except so far as they can be affected by argument or friendly monition; that the idea of compelling belief in particular doctrines is a solecism, as absurd as wicked. . . . But, although these truths are now so obvious as rather to deserve the name of truisms, the world has been slow, very slow, in arriving at them, after many centuries of unspeakable oppression 292 The Right and Wrong of Private Judgment A good Catholic cannot call his soul his own. That is to say, he is the slave of the priest, of the Pope. Walther: "Rob the congregation of the right to judge doctrine, and you give them over into slavery" (See Walther and the Church, p. 45). Again: "Der Laie ist nach paepstlicher Lehre mit seiner Seligkeit an den Pfaffen gebunden." The Catholic is compelled to put the decision of those questions which concern his eternal salvation into the hands of the priest, the Pope. And that is slavery of the worst kind. The slave who has lost his bodily freedom is to be pitied; but if he retains the freedom of his mind and of his soul, he is in far better state than the subjects of Antichrist. These slaves have their minds and souls shackled. - The Catholics resent such a..'ld misery .... The policy of the Roman Church at that time was not only shown in its perversion of some of the most obvious principles of morality, but in the discouragement of all free inquiry in its disciples, whom it instructed to rely implicitly in matters of conscience on their spiritual advisers. The artful institution of the tribunal of confession, established with this view, brought, as it were, the whole Christian world at the feet of the clergy . . .. " The Pastor's Monthly, 1931, p . 12: ''There is a mighty reason for giving us the great privilege of coming directly to God through His inspired Word. As priests, God holds each one of us responsible for his own soul. We are to exercise our priest- hood over our own souls. We are to do for ourselves everything that the Old Testament priests did for the chosen people of God. And God holds us responsible not only for our own souls, but also for the souls of others. . . . To discharge that responsibility, we must have the right of private judgment. Otherwise it would be like holding a dead machine responsible for the safety and welfare of the lives of men. . . ." F. Pieper: "The vaunted unity of the Catholic Church is built on the dehumanization of humanity. What distinguishes man from the irrational brute is the human conscience, the individual human conscience, responsible to God. The Catholic Church, however, demands of all of her members, unlearned or learned, the sacrificium intellectus et con- scientiae. The order of the Jesuits has a special training course for it, elaborate 'exercises' for drilling it. But this renunciation of ones own conscience and unquestioning submission to the judgment of the Pope is not peculiar to the Jesuits; every faithful subject of the papal dominion, the cardinal no less than the meanest priest, is required to do it and does it. This is the situation in the papacy: The faithful Catholic, active though his reason and will be in other respects, is tied to the mind and will of the Pope, a veritable automaton" (see CONCORDIA THEO- LOGICAL MONTHLY, 1930, p . 693). "Denying to the rest of mankind the right to judge matters of faith and morals and demanding of the rest of mankind the sacrificium intellectus et voluntatis, the Pope requires every human individual to renounce his own conscience, that is, to dis- card that thing which distinguishes man from the beast. It has been justly said of the papacy that it makes for the 'dehumanization of humanity.' The Reformation has restored to man t..l}e right to be a man. Luther demands in all questions of right .rist, is the tme VV ord of God." Dr. H. P. Sloan: "This Christian consensus . . . is the living voice, guiding the Church from generation to generation in its interpretation of the written record" (The Christ of the Ages, p.155). The Episcopalian H. P. Scratchley says in The Living Church, May 5, 1934: "The Bible is the Church's book, to be interpreted by its teaching, rather than the teaching of the Church by the Bible." And the Episco- palian Dr. B. 1. Bell "contends for a liberal catholicism in which authority rests on the collective reaction of Christendom to revela- tion" (quoted from The Living Church in CONCORDIA THEOLOGICAL MONTHLY, 1942, p. 229). There are many Lutherans, too, who are binding upon them the yoke of bondage. . .." Luther: "God forbid that I should presume to exercise authority over other preachers and rule over them, lest I also establish a papacy; but I will commit them to Christ, who alone shall rule over His preachers in Christendom" (X: 1524). - Here would be the place to record a historical curiosity; Luther, too, p' .. " .d the popel So say the Catholics. In his book Luther Examined and Re-Examined Dr. Dau has a chapter dealing with the charge that "Luther was the destroyer of the liberty of conscience"; "the Catholics claim that Luther had indeed adopted the principle , 'private interpretation' of the Scriptures, however, only for himse:' He was unwilling to accord to others the right which he claimed for hirr self" (p.190 ff.). J. Clayton has taken up this cry. "Private judgmeJ was right enough when it coincided with Luther's judgment. It Wi nothing but an imposition or ihe devil when it was contrary OU .: Lutheran program." "Till his death Luther was never reconciled the exerciSe of a private judgment in religion that brought departure from Lutheranism" (up. cit., p.107). 20 306 The Right and Wrong of Private Judgment saying that without the viva vox of the Church the individual Christian cannot get tt e rL~ meaning of Scripture and '~'lat he cannot be sure of the truth of any doctrLl'le till "the Church has spoken." Leaders of our Church have in our days set up the principle that a doctrine can be received as Scriptural only when the Church has so decided. (See Proceedings, Western District, 1901, p.53.) They have been ringing the changes on the slogan: "Die Kirche hat noch nicht gesprochen." The right to judge doc- trine which the Lutherans will not grant the Pope the modern Lutherans assign to the "Church." These men are establishing a Protestant popedom. And in suppressing the right of private judgment they are working hand in glove vlith the Pope for the ruin or the Church. What Luther said to the Romanists of his day, he is saying to the Protestant Romanizers of our day: "They say, we must wait till the Church has decided it; let the devil wait for that; I cannot wait that long" (VIII: 100). The day of affliction and doubt and the hour of death will be upon me before the church councils have decided; and if they have decided, the devil will ask me: V:1hnt if the councils have erred'{ (Luther; see above.) It is a fundamental eri'OT, touching the foundation of our faith, to give the 'Church" the right to produce "saving" doctrine,26) and there can be no per- sonal saving faith if it is made to rest on the findings and decisions of "councils." It is an evil thing. "The theology," says Vlalther, "which operates on the principle: 'Die Kirche hat noch nicht gesprochen,' is a daughter of Rationalism parading in a Christian dress, a sister of Romanism hiding behind a Protestant mask, and a fecund mother of large families of heresies." (Lehre und Wehre, 1868, p.134 and CONCORDIA THEOLOGICAL MONTHLY, 1939, p. 507. See also Lutheraner, X, p.191.) Read Walther's essay: "Wie verwerf- lich es sei, Sachen des Glaubens aus den Schriften der Vaeter begruenden und die Gewissen an die Lehrentscheidungen der- selben binden zu wollen" (Proceedings, Synodical Conference, 1884). Ponder the words of J. G. Machen: "Those who hold to this view (that takes as the test of truth and of life the pro- nouncements and regulations of the Church) do not usually deny 26) Dr. Hardeland declared at a Lutheran conference in Mecklen- burg: "Der Glaube ruht auf dem Wort del' Propheten und Apostel. Wlr haben heutiges Tages dasWort del' Apostel und Propheten nirgcnds als in del' Schrift. Von den Dorpatern ist ausgesprochen, dass ein selb- staendiger" [also nicht ein fort und fort aus del' Schrift ausfliessender] Strom des geistlichen Zeugnisses fortlebe in del' Kirche bis auf den heutigen Tag. Das ist ein grundstuerzender In-tum, es ist Schwann- geisterei, oder es naehert sich clem Romanismus. . . . illlill mll' del' heilige Geist etwas offenbaren, etwas ganz Neues, so sage ich zu fum: Hebe dich wcg von mir, Satan!" vValther comments in Lehre und Weh _j 1886, p.309: "Vortrefflich." The Right and Wrong of Private Judgment 307 the authority of the Bible in so many words. What they do is to say - by implication, if not in words - that the Bible is inter- preted authoritatively by the 'living church.' 'When a man be- comes a minister or a member of a church,' they say in effect, 'it is his duty to support the program of that church. He may think that it is contrary to the Bible; but never mind, it is not his business in this particular matter to think; he must submit his judgment to the judgment of the councils of his church; he must let them interpret the Bible for him and must make the message that he supports conform to their shifting votes.' In sharp distinction from that view, we make the Bible, and the Bible only, the test of truth and of life. There is no living authority to interpret the Bible for us. We must read it everyone for himself and must ask God to help us as we read. A Church that commands us to support any program on the authority of the decisions of the Church is usurping in the interests of fallible men an authority that belongs only to God. . .. God grant that you, my brothers, may be ministers of another kind! May God send us ministers who come forth into their pulpits from a secret place of meditation and prayer, who are servants of Christ and not servants of men, who, be they ever so humble, are ambassadors of the King, who, as they stand behind the open Bible and expound its blessed words, can truly and honestly say, with Micaiah, the son of Imlah: 'As the Lord liveth, what the Lord saith unto me, that will I speak.' " (The Christian Faith in the Modern World, p.84f.) But the minister trained by the Romanizing Protestants cannot speak thus. He must say: "Thus saith the Church." It is an evil thing. He robs himself and his hearers of the assurance of faith. And he sells himself and his hearers into spiritual slavery. Verily, they who suppress the right of the Christian to judge doctrine and make the Church the judge and interpreter of Scripture are doing an accursed thing (Luther XIX: 341. IX: 86) .27) 27) We do not shut our ears to "the voice of the Church." The title of Walther's classic is: "Die Stimme unserer Kirche in der Frage von Kirche und Amt." And discussing this book, Dr. Dau writes: "The right and duty of private judgment are never impaired by the inter- pretation of another; but it can be clarified, strengthened, and con- firmed by the understanding which another has gained of a given Bible text" (Walther and the Church, p. 52). Similarly The Pulpit Com- mentary says: "Our teachers are not intended to see for us, which is the Roman Catholic idea, but to help us to see for ourselves." (On 1 John 2: 20, 27.) Chemnitz: "Gratefully and reverently we make use of the works of the Fathers, who have in their commentaries placed many Scripture passages before us in their true light and have been of great help to us for the better understanding of Scripture." (Examen, loco cit.). Luther "had a great respect for the fathers and teachers like Augustine, etc.," "for the patres have written many good and useful t.~ings" (XYJI: 1390,1404), and listened attentively to the voice of truth speaking through his contemporaries. We cannot afford to disregard 308 The Right and Wrong of Private Judgment (2) But blessed is the community where the right of private judgment is recognized and practiced. "The riE:ht "f pri""tc> judc:~ ment does not endanger the Church, but establishes it all the more firmly upon the foundation of the Prophets and Apostles of which Jesus Christ is the chief Cornerstone" (The Pastor's Monthly, op. cit.). The Church whose members are able to make an in- telligent use of God's Word is in a position to perform its duties towards those within and those without the Church. There are those who need instruction, reproof, consolatiC''1, Who shall take care of them? Again: "It is the duty of the congregation to care for the purity of doctrine and life in its midst and to exercise church discipline in these matters. Matt. 18: 15-18: 'Tell it unto the Church.' Rom. IS: 17 'Mark them which cause divisions, etc.''' (P'roper Form of a Lutheran Congregation, Thesis 7). Who shall perform this duty? Once more: "It is incumbent upon the con- gregation to do its part in building up and promoting the welfare of the church at large, bringing the Gospel to those who still sit in darkness and in the shadow of death" (Thesis 11, 62). Who shall broadcast this sweet voice of the C}-·n-.. ,-.l:J.? T' the' ';y al ' pri ge of all Chri~ 3. ",.il ~he n._ ... .Jers (.~ "~le cCnL;:;H.!gatilm must strive to grow and be enriched, in all utterances and in all knowledge, that they may not remain children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, but try to judge by the Word of God the doctrine preached to them" (Thesis 26). All Christians, all of them incumbents of the royal priesthood, are to show forth the praises of Him who called them out of darkness into His marvelous light (Thesis 63). The clergy alone cannot do the work of the Church. The old Lutheran theologian Quistorp said: "As long as the congregation of saints will not join hands with us, letting the burden rest on the shoulders of the poor preachers alone, no betterment of the times is in sight." (See Walther and the Church, p.l04.) The pastor cannot reach all. the "voice of the Church." "Walther declared it to be arrogance which God would punish if, in getting doctrine out of the Scripture, a person refuses to be aided by others or would not study the writings of the great teachers, but endeavored to find everything in Scriptur'e himself. See note to § 3 of his Pastorale" (F, Pieper, Cont'ersion and Election, p. 96). And a writer in The Journal of Theology of the A. L. Conference, 1943, p.204, says: "The Episcopalians insist that it is the Church which interprets the Scripture. To be sure, it would be folly to ignore the testimony of the Church, as to the meaning Df Scripture, as that testimony comes down to us through the ages, Such an attitude would be as foolish as for a scientist to ignore the accumulated results of scientific research." We need the "voice of the Church," the help and Christian testimony of the brethren. But that does not mean that 'e get the saving doctrine from the Church. The writer just quoted : ·ys: "It is the Word which gives to the Church any authority 'which she possesses. The Word is the primary source of authority." It is folly and wickedness to look to the Church to decide questions of doctrine for us. The Right and Wrong of Private Judgment 309 In many a case the layman has the first opportunity to counsel, admonish, console the brother. The layman has opportunities to meet people - in the shop, on the street - which the pastor does not have. Sometimes it is the layman, not the pastor, who is invited to address public gatherings and called upon by God to proclaim the saving Gospel. And the pastor himself is in con- tinuous need of the counsel and consolation of the members of his church. The Church needs "lay theologians." Where the con- ditions prevail about which Chrysostomus complained ("He often took the laymen severely to task for leaving the study of Scripture to the monks and not caring to search the Scriptures themselves in order to see whether that which was taught in the Church agreed with Scripture"), the laymen, having no firm convictions, easily fall prey to the ecclesiastical rabble rouser. The Church needs ''lay theologians." At Nicaea, "when all the bishops failed to confute a sophist, a layman at last took the floor (a man of most simple parts, not at all trained in speaking) through whom God would show that His kingdom does not stand in words or in the exalted position of the bishops, but L'l power. This layman con- founded the sophist, who voluntarily confessed that he was beaten and turned to the Christian religion." (See Theological Monthly, 1929, p.238.) There have been times, too, when the clergy refused to do its duty, and Luther had to write his treatise "on the reform of the Christian estate, to be laid before the Christian nobility of the German Nation, in the hope that God may deign to help His Church through the efforts of the laity, since the clergy, to whom this task more properly belongs, have grown quite indifferent" (X: 266). And if the clergy is faithful in the performance of its duty, that does not relieve the laity of its duty. Each and every member of the Church must contribute his share if the Church shall have full success in her mission. Blessed is that community where "every Christian teaches, instructs, admonishes, comforts, and reproves his neighbor with the Word of God, wherever this is necessary" (Luther V: 1038), "so that, in addition to the public ministry, the Word of God dwells richly among them, both publicly and privately, both generally and individually" (XII: 394); where, in the words of Dr. Pieper, all spiritual priests proclaim the inspired Word to their fellow men, as Is. 40:9 asks them to do: "0 Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; o Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength," "the terms Zion and Jerusalem designating not merely the preachers, but the entire Christian Church" (What Is Chris- tianity? p.140); where, in the words of Philip Schaff, the laity no longer occupies the degrading position of passive obedience, but enjoys the privileges of the royal priesthood, the right and duty 310 The Right and Wrong of Private Judgment of every believer to read the Word of God in his vernacular tongue, to go directly to the Throne of Grace, and to take an active part in all the affairs of the Church according to his peculiar gift and calling (see Four Hundred Years, p. 289) - blessed is that Church; it is accomplishing the work which the Lord gave it to perform. The Christian Century, Nov. 17, 1943, declares: "The strength of Protestantism depends at last upon the laity's having sound and intelligent Christian convictions." Yes indeed; the Word of God is the strength of the Church, and that Church whose clerical and lay members form their judgments by the Word of God and speak out with the firm conviction and assurance which the Word of God gives wields a mighty force; the power of God is back of it. We want all the members of our Church to wield this power. We are not afraid, God is not afraid, to entrust them with it. Some have misgivings about this matter. The Christian Century said on Nov. 30, 1938: "If the right of private judgment is granted, differences of opinion are inevitable. The truth is that Protestantism has always been a little fearful of the right of private judgment and has handled that principle gingerly and with grave doubts as to its workability." The old, genuine Protestantism never had these misgivings. There is, naturally, plenty of room for misgivings when liberal Protestantism permits men to form their judgment independently of Scripture; that exercise of private judgment is pernicious. But where men subject their judgment to Scripture and form their judgment by Scripture, there is no danger of "differences of opinion." What happens is that these men proclaim the truth of God's Word with a united voice and with firm con- victions. And such a laity the Church needs. The Lutheran Sentinel, Nov. 27, 1943, says: "In our dear Lutheran Church we take it for granted that matters of doctrine are as much a concern of the man in the pew as it is for the man in the pulpit. And we hold our parishioners responsible for carefully watching over what is proclaimed from the pulpit or taught in the official publica- tions of our Church. From Luther we have gotten this excellent bit of sound counsel on this score: 'It is the sheep which must determine whether or no the voice is that of the Shepherd.' . . . Yes, the laity can be trusted. But it must be an enlightened laity, a laity which daily searches the Scriptures, studies its precious Confessions, protests against anything appearing in the church body's official organs which is not in accord with the truth or at best but an half-truth. We have absolutely nothing to fear from an enlightened, consecrated laity. What Thomas Jefferson said regarding political questions may be applied with equal force to questions in the spiritual realm: 'Whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government.''' The The Right and Wrong of Private Judgment 311 Church needs not only an enlightened clergy, but also a laity which can wield the power of God's Word. Walther vJ"::mted such men. Dr. Plotenhauer v.rrites: "The "'\vritings of Walther here appearing in English were originally presented not to Walther's theological classes or to pastoral conferences but to synodical conventions made up one half of lay delegates. And when they first appeared, they were eagerly read by many of our congregation members, thus helping to rear a laity well grounded in Scriptural principles" (Walther and the Church, p. IV). That makes for a strong Church. Blessed is the community in which the Word of Christ dwells richly in all wisdom, where all pastors and laymen, men and women, old and young, are trained to apply Scripture to every religious maUei' and are ready to utter their convictions before friend and foe. And blessed are the ministers of Jesus Christ who labor to bring that about. God asks His ministers to urge upon their people the duty of exercising private judgment and to fit them to pronounce a Christian judgment. The Christian minister is glad to do that. He does not consider it a. of his high office to let the Cr,.ristian hearers judge his teaching. They are it by God's Word, aDd in ""kinB for their judgment he is bowing not to men, but to God. And he always bears in mind that these people are his equals. He suppresses the papistical thoughts con- tinually arising in his flesh that only the clergy is fit to judge doctrine and run the affairs of the synod and the congregation. He does not look upon the Christian people as a witless rabble, but sees them as members of the royal priesthood, fitted by God to. perform the duties of their high office.28) And he is happy to know that through his teaching and instruction God is fitting His people for their glorious work. Moreover, he himself loves the study of the Bible, loves to proclaim the blessed truths of Christian theology, and he has no greater joy than to have his people study and apply the same blessed truths.29 ) He wishes and prays and 28) Walther: "I bow to the humblest member coming with Scrip- ture." "This humble member, bringing God's Word to bear against me, is so far above me as God is above a man." (See Walther and the Church, pp. 22, 45.) Kromayer: "We must give a more ready ear to a plain layman when he adduces Scripture than to a whole council which takes a stand contrary to Scripture." (See CONCORDIA THEOLOGICAL MONTHLY, 1939, p,594.) Kromayer and Walther express the mild of Luther: "One must believe a layman when he offers clear Scripture ... more than the Pope or council" (XV: 1549). And we have the IDLl1d of Luther: "Wenn ein Privatmann die klare Schrift fuer sich hat, clann ist ihm zu folgen, da haelt er das eine Licht vor Augen" (Lehre 'und Wehre, 1918, p. 118) . 29) Could there be Christian ministers who would deliberately keep their people from acquiring solid theological k.."1owlectge? Could it be true what Luther said about conditions of his time? "Sonst, wenn die 312 The Right and Wrong of Private Judgment labors for this, that "Jerusalem, that bringeth good tidings, lift up her voice with strength." Blessed be Martin Luther, the restOl'er of the right of private judgment. J. Clayton says: "To this day Martin Luther is praised for bringing the gift of private judgment in faith and morals to all believers. On the other hand, among the Catholics Luther is held in abhorrence as an apostate monk who drew countless souls into heresy and whole nations into schism." To be sure, the papists execrate Luther. ~mperor Charles V was horrified and cried out: "A single monk, led astray by private judgment, has set himself against the faith held by all Christians for a thousand years and more." And the Pope's men hate Luther with an un- dying hatred IVL having dethroned their lord as the ruler of Christendom and enthroned the believers as kings and priests. But for this very thing we love Luther and praise the name of the Lord. John Lord thus praises the work of Luther: "Thus was born the second great idea of the Reformation - the supreme authority of the Scriptures, to which Protestants of every de- ~~;nir~Jon ~ ... av\'" Jin\...v prof~ss",,": to cling. . .. Nv, I say~ l,-,~ th~ Scriptures be put into the hand of everybody; let '!:bare be private judgment; let spiritual liberty be revived, as in Apostolic dnys .... Then will the people arise in their power and majesty, and obey God rather than man and defy all sorts of persecution and martyr- dom, having a Serene faith in those blessed promises which the Gospel unfolds! . .. Thus was born the third great idea of the Reformation - the right of private judgment, religious liberty, call it what you wilL It appealed to the mind and heart of Christendom. It gave consolation to the peasantry of Europe; for no family was too poor to possess a Bible, the greatest possible boon and treas- ure - read and pondered in the evening, after hard labors and bitter insults; read aloud to the family circle, with its inex- haustible store of moral wealth . . . its supernal counsels, its consoling and emancipating truths. . .. The Satanic hatred of this right was the cause of most of the martyrdoms and persecu- tions of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It was the dec- laration of this right which emancipated Europe from the dogmas of the Middle Ages, the thraldom of Rome, and the reign of Laien die Schrift laesep.., muessten die Pfaffen auch studieren, dass sie nicht gestraft und ueberwunden wuerden" (IX: 1236) . And what about this statement in The Christian Century, Dec. 1, 1943? "The deterioration of Christian intelligence am(JLlg the laity reflects an aversion to theology which exists among the clergy .... The deterioration of Christian in- telligence among the laity reacts upon the preacher to lower the dignity of his messageo He would not reso:i"t to tl ese ivil"iiies and irrelevancies if he were preaching to a congregation in, let us say, Scotland, where some vestige of the old-time Christian intelligence among the laity still survives .... " The Right and Wrong of Private Judgment 313 priests. Why should not Protestants of every shade cherish and defend this sacred right?" (Op. cit., pp.235, 239, 241, 243.) In a sennon on the restoration of Christian liberty through the Ref- ormation, based on 1 Cor. 3: 21-23, Dr. Walther said: "Christ says to His Christians: 'One is your Master, One is your Father,' but the Pope said: 'I am your master and your pope, that is, the father of all Christians.' Paul says to the Christians: 'Not that we have dominion over your faith; I speak not by commandment,' and Peter warns all ministers of the Church: 'Neither as being lords over God's heritage'; but the language the Pope, bishops, and priests use with the Christians is: We will, order, and com- mand; and what we order you to do and believe, you must do and believe; if you refuse, you will be banned and die under the curse of God as heretics. . .. Then came Luther. He had discovered the meaning of a glorious truth of Scripture; it had revived his despairing soul; and with a loud and glad voice he proclaimed it to stricken Christendom: 'All things are yours' .. .. 'All things are yours' who believe! That was the proclamation putting men into possession of all the blessings of salvation gained by Christ and filling the hearts of millions of doubting and de- spairing souls with the consolation and hope of eternal life. And it did something else. By means of the article: 'All things are yours' who believe! Luther restored the whole body of the evan- gelical doctrine to the Church. The word: 'All things are yours,' who believe! was the sun in the light of which the mystery of iniquity, hidden for long centuries, stood revealed and naked before the eyes of all who would see. This was the stone from David's sling which felled the monster who had for so long insulted Israel of the New Testament, ended his tryannical rule over the hearts, souls, and consciences of the Christians, and restored to them their Christian liberty. 'All things are yours,' who believe! That was God's thunder clap, at which the priests who had been barring the way to the paradise of grace, who had thrust themselves between Christ and the Christians, fled in dismay and terror. 'All things are yours,' who believe! Emblazoned on the banner floating above our Evangelical Church is the glorious legend: 'All things are yours!" (Lutherische Brosamen, pp. 595, 598.) Blessed are we if we jealously guard the right of private judgment and exercise it to the full. Let us heed Walther's ex- hortation: "But to you, my dear brethren and sisters in the faith, I say: Know what you possess in Christ; and if it were possible that we, your pastors, should betray our trust as custodians of this great treasure, do you boldly make use of your dearly bought privileges; let the earth burst asunder, let the hierarchs raise a hue and cry against you - it is and will remain true for all 314 Nathan Soederblom times and must be preached to all true believers: 'All things are yours; and ye are Christ's.' Stand fast, therefore, in the liberty wherewith Christ has made you free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage! Amen." (Loc. cit.) Let us follow the example of Luther, who would not permit any man to rule over his conscience, but did make Christ its absolute ruler. "In his very last sermon the great champion of private judgment and liberty of conscience declared once more (XII: 1260 fl.): 'I grant that the emperor, king, pope, cardinal, princes, and lords are pru- dent and wise; but I will believe on my Lord Christ alone: He is my Master and Lord, whom God has bidden me to hear and to learn of Him what is true, divine wisdom. . .. Therefore, dear Pope, your claim to sit in Christendom as lord and to have authority to decide what I should believe and do, that I cannot accept. For here is the Lord whom alone we should hear in these matters .... This, and much more, might be said on this Gospel, but I am too feeble; let this suffice. God give us grace that we receive His precious Word with thanksgiving and increase and grow in the knowledge and faith of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and con- tinue steadfast in the confession of His holy Word unto the end, Amen!'" (Theological Quarterly, 1911, p.254.) (To be continued) TH. ENGELDER 4 •• Nathan Soederblom I Lars Olof Jonathan (Nathan) Soederblom was born in the parish of Troenoe, Sweden, January 15, 1866, the son of Rector Joseph Soederblom and his wife. He received the degree of Candi- date of Philosophy at the University of Uppsala in 1886 and the degree of Candidate of Theology in 1892. He was appointed pastor of the Swedish church in Paris in 1894 and also seamen's pastor at Dunkerque, Calais, and Boulogne. While in Paris, he pursued his studies and graduated from the EcoLe des hautes etudes, in the section of the science of religion, in 1898, receiving the degree of Doctor of Theology from the University of Paris in 1901. The same year he was called to the chair of comparative religion in the University of Uppsala. In 1914 he was made Archbishop of Sweden. The honorary degree of Doctor of Theology was conferred upon him by Geneva, Oslo, St. Andrews, Glasgow, and Greifswald, the honorary Doctor of Philosophy by the universities of Uppsala, Greifswald, Bonn. Other honorary degrees he received from Berlin and Oxford. In the work When the Hours Course and Change, 1909, there