Full Text for Propositions on Unevangelical Practice (Text)

I 1 i I f ! I Concordia Theological Monthly Vol. XVI MAY, 1945 No.5 Propositions on Unevangelical Practice * 1. Evangelical practice consists not in this, that we teach and treat nothing except the evangelical message (the Gospel), but in this, that we treat everything in evangelical fashion. 2. This means that since we expect justification before God, the renewal of the heart, and the fruits of the Spirit only through the Gospel, we in everything that we do have this one thing in mmd, to give free course and sway to the Gospel. 3. For this very reason, when we follow evangelical practice, we do not discard the Law or make its edges dull through bringing in the Gospel, but we rather preach it with all the more seriousness in its full severity, however in evangelical fashion. 4. The Law is used in an evangelical way if it is employed solely for the purpose of preparing the soil for the evangelical mes­sage (the Gospel) and of submitting a divine norm for the mani­festations of the new life which spontaneously arises through the evangelical message. 5. It is not evangelical practice to cast the pearls before the swine, but much less is it evangelical practice to keep them in one's own pocket. 6. Evangelical practice drops not one iota of the things which " These propositions, written in German, were discussed at the 1862 convention of the Central District of the Missouri Synod. The original ntl..'1lber was thirty-two, but lack of time prevented consideration of the last eight, and hence the latter are not given here. The name of the author, or authors, is not mentioned. But since the President of the District, the Rev. H. C. Schwan, later on President of the Missouri Synod, in his presidential address speaks of "offering" the propositions to the convention, he seems to have been the, or one of the, authors. The translation is largely the work of the sainted P. T. Buszin, School Superintendent of our Northern Illinois District. -A. 19 290 Propositions on Unevangelical Practice God demands, but it demands nothing else and no more than faith and love. 7. Evangelical practice demands u~anifestation of faith. and love if we desire to be saved, but it does not issue commands about their various manifestations as far as aim, amount, and mode are concerned. 8. Evangelical practice demands fulfillment of even the small­est letter of the Law, but it does not make the state of grace dependent on the keeping of the Law. 9. Evangelical practice endeavors indeed to prepare the way for the operations of the Gospel by the Law; but it does not. endeavor to aid the Gospel in its real functions by the Law; and since ;L "·-,,pects the fruiis or U1E' Spirit to be produced solely by the Gosp"l, it is willing to wait for them, too. 10. Evangelical practice considers nothing nn essential i3"in that does not come through the Gospel, that is, through faith; therefore it p(h" .. , }'''qrs with all ~~.nner of defects, impf'rfections, and sins than to remove them m.erely in an external manner. 11. Evan_ 'lcal practice lir:,:1its p--".ral care _e) to specific applications of ,he Law and the Gospel; the scrutiny ane. j:.::::;::::; of the heu~·'~.:; i~ lc<:.ves to Goc::., the ::::,:"rcher of hcal. l;:,. 12. Evangelical practice insists on good human order, but still more does it insist on Christian liberty, and for that reason it lets adiaphora !"emain real adiaphora, that is, it leaves the decision concerning them to the conscience of the individual. 13. Evangelical practice is faithful in little things; yet it con­siders matters in their larger aspects and totality more important than individual details.t 14. To be wise as serpents, to redeem the time, not to let Satan gain an advantage over us, to become all things to all men in order that by all means some might be saved, are likewise elements of evangelical practice. 15. Evangelical practice is equally far removed from Anti­nomian and from legalistic practice. t This proposition is difficult to translate. The original reads: Evangelische Pmxis ist treu im Kle'hwn, hat abe1' doch nwTi1' das Grosse v"nd Ganze im Auge als das einzelne. V,That the authors have in mind is, for instance, that preaching the Gospel to a large group is more lll1.pOr­tant than restricting the preaching to a few, even though, through the time and strength thus gained, the hearers, by dint of meticulous supervision and drill, might be fashioned into exemplary Christians. The principle voiced now and then, klein, aber rein, if presented in an unmodified, sweeping form, would have struck the authors as emanating from Geneva rather than injffi Wittenberg. -A. Propositions on Unevangelical Practice 291 16. Evangelical knowledge and disposition should issue in evangelical practice, but do so rather seldom and slowly. 17. Usually we do not advance beyond legalism, or we fall into Antinoll'lian laxity; to such an extent the Gospel is foreign to our nature. 18. There is danger in both directions. For us at present the greater danger is still in the direction of legalism. 19. Apart from the natural tendency of the old Adam and our origin in pietistic circles, etc., our present situation and the necessary reaction against the prevailing moral laxity in prin­ciples and in life are responsible for this state of affairs. 20. Or how many are there not who secretly fear more to give the blessings of the Gospel to an unworthy person than to deny them to a poor sinner or to curtail them? V/hose conscience is not hindering him to follow the example of Paul and to become all things to all men? But where this is the case, one surely still finds legalistic practice. 21. Legalistic practice not treat everythinr . ;:1"'-1. ~ does not consist in this, that one does T 'w, but in this, that 011 S , that is, in such a way that om"s m.ain airn +'-1 ~~ -jt t~-!_':~t t~ La,v gets its due and trIes to accOlnplish through the Law or even through laws "'\That only the Gospel can acc01np1ish. 22. In addition, the more (as is often the case where the inner motive power really still is the Law) fiery zeal asserts itself which not even pennits love to be the queen of all commandments, which spurns ChrIstian wisdom as its counselor, and which even when it appears merely to teach, to reprove or to admonish, in reality applies coercion, and at that the worst kind of it, namely, moral coercion -all the more unevangelical our practice gets to be. 23. Unevangelical, legalistic practice is found not only in churches and congregations, but likewise in schools and in the homes, and besides in our fraternal intercourse. 24. The instances of unevangelical practice which are still most frequent with us in the realm of ministerial work, the cure of souls, and congregational government are perhaps the following: a. In sermons: overabundant castigation (durchgeisseln) or individual sms, unwholesome conditions or perhaps even of mat­ters of personal dislike -the portraying of well-known sins of well-knoW', ~wrQn"Q, in..stead of laying bare the bitter roots out or which all evil fruits grow -mere so-called testifying without real instruction and admonition -U!L1'1ecessary or premature or "Lm­edifying polemics -urging that repentance and faith be mani­fested, instead of preaching that which produces repentance and 292 Propositions on Unevangelical Practice faith -a pietistic classification of the hearers -attaching condi~ Hons to the Gospel promises (Verklausulierung des Evangelii) -l-lreaching ~a~~IL J:Jn:ponderatingly as to its sanctifying power­presentation of the grace of God only to build demands on such presentation; b. With respect to Confession and the Lord's Supper: To demand more for admission than is absolutely required for its salutary use -schoolroom catechizing and inquisitorial searching of the heart of those announcing -postponing reproof till announcement for Communion or Confession -to use refusal of Holy Communion as a coercive, terrifying or disciplinary means -to refuse even when a state of unrepentance cannot be proved; c. With respect to Baptism: To be either entirely unwilling to baptize children of heretics or unbelieving people who, however, are in contact with the Word (die unter clem Schall des Wortes Leben), even if there is no in-erusion in ~~~~'-~':iy else's d~--~-'· ein fre7 ' " or only afL_ . __ ~ ___ s human b----.. ~~~3 have bel ';}reifen) -to put the 9_f:f:eptance or Sp8!:'~01~S on a level H,,'ith ~<lmlSSlon tCt Ho1y Comn1union; d. iU marriages: To refuse to perform marriages of people who are outside the congregation even if they are not manifestly wicked -a metic­ulous insistence on a certain form of parental consent and of engagement; e. At funerals: Absolute refusal of burial in the case of all who did not some­how belong to the congregation or at least requested the visit of the pastor -adherence to the principle that at every funeral the salvation or damnation of the deceased must be asserted publicly, that sins have to be castigated and the occasion must be used to take a fling (anzustechen) at the sins and failings of the survivors; f. In the care of souls: Constant trimming and pressing (hobeln und feilen) on every­body till all wrinkles have been removed -acceptance of every kind of gossip (Zutraegereien) -mixing into house, family, and matrimonial matters even if no offense has been given-· to judge of one's attitude of heart on the basis of ;g few words and works -the application of moral coercion through exaggera­tion, etc.; g. In congregational government and church discipline: Exaggerated demands at the reception of new members­a denial of, or peremptory fixing of time limits for, participation in The Hades Gospel 293 the spiritual treasures of the Church as a guest, especially for attendance at the Lord's Table -mandatory imposition of dues on church members, requiring the same amount from all-or coercive taxing of the individuals -use of church discipline as a measure against matters which are not eviden~,. mortal sins, or even against self-provoked sins -to consider a person as convicted in his own mind or as opposing maliciously because he is not able to reply to the arguments and charges uttered against him, or even assents -to lay more weight on the correct form of the proceedings than on the achieving of the purpose of the discipline -to demand the same form and the same degree of publicity for all confessions of sins which may have to be made -the endeavor to make the chasm between those who are in and those who are outside the congrega­tion really large, instead of building bridges for the opponents and for those who are on the outside. The Hades Gospel The Gospel of a second probation, ul t;alvation in Hades, or the possibility of conversion after death, is very popular today. Most of the modern theologians, liberals and conservatives, have become its heralds. It has found its way into the Reformed churches.1) It has found its way into the Lutheran Church.2) Statements like these: "The purpose of the descent of Christ into Hades was to preach to the spirits in prison, 1 Pet. 3: 19; those who disobeyed in the past were now to have the Gospel preached to them, 1 Pet. 4: 6, and to receive the benefit of the propitiation" (J. A. W. Haas, The Truth of Faith, p. 95) are being repeated in many Lutheran pulpits, maga­zines, and theological handbooks. P. Althaus is glad to record that "modern theology (with but a few exceptions) has swept away the limitations set by the old Protestant teaching which restrict 1) On the trial of Professor Charles Augustus Briggs, who taught that in the intermediate state certain unbelievers will be given another oppor­tunity for conversion, see Lehre und Wehre, 1893, p.162. The Pres­byterian General Assembly called this teaching a dangerous hypothesis. 2) "Schleiermacher postulated in his Glaubenslehre (paragraph 161, 1) a continued probation after death. . .. This view became normative for many others. . ., The doctrine of the descensus also underwent a significant change. In contrast to the seventeenth century view, it was now regarded as a means of offering grace to those who are held in the infernal prison, and this redemptive work of the Savior was said to extend through all ages. The locus clas.sicus, 1 Pet. 3: 18-20, was interpreted as teaching the universal scope of salvation. Thus the doc­trine of a future probation made its way into Lutheran theology" (0. W. Heick, in The Lutheran Church Quu7'terly, Oct., 1944, p. 432).