1926 Synod Convention Essay
Holden M. Olsen
One of the terms frequently used by conservative Lutherans is the term UNIONISM. The term itself is of comparatively recent origin, as it seems to have been first employed in the year 1817, when it was applied to that movement in Prussia which resulted in the union by imperial decree of the Lutheran and the Reformed Churches. But the principle for which the term stands is much older; it elates back to early Old Testament times and is, in fact, almost as old as the true worship of Jehovah.
The term Unionism played an important role in the recent discussions between the so-called Minority and Majority parties in the former Norwegian Synod, prior to the union of that body with the former United Norwegian Lutheran Church and the former Hauge Lutheran Synod in 1917. The merger of these church bodies was stigmatized as Unionism by the Minority members of the Norwegian Synod, who refused, on that account, to join the new Norwegian Lutheran Church of America, but chose, on the contrary, to continue their allegiance to the confession, principles and church polity of the venerable Norwegian Synod.
To most people the term Unionism has long since ceased to be a term of reproach. It is, on the contrary, almost everywhere regarded as a synonym of Christian wisdom, tolerance, charity and zeal. “All professing Christians are brothers, united in one spirit and one hope, and marching toward one goal. Down with all sectarian barriers and denominational boundaries! One church, or one creed, is as good as another; in fact, all creeds and denominations might as well be utterly disregarded as relics of a bigoted past. The important thing, after all, is ‘Christian’ or ‘godly’ life. That makes us one, no matter by what church name we happen to be called. Let us therefore unite and gather around the same altar to worship the same God and Father of us all!” This is the slogan of our age. Unionism is in the air. It is hailed as the sovereign remedy for all our religious ills; the potent means of bringing together the scattered forces of Christianity, combining their material and spiritual resources, and sending them forth a united, irresistible army for the moral and spiritual conquest of the benighted world at home and in foreign lands.
This sounds very plausible. It makes a strong appeal to our carnal reason. Are we not, after all, misguided in our opposition to Unionism? Do we not deserve to be called narrow-minded, censorious, uncharitable, and Pharisaical? Is there not a great deal of truth in the charge that we are undermining instead of building up the Kingdom of Christ? Are we not opposing and frustrating the fulfillment of the high-priestly prayer: “That they all may be one: as Thou, Father, art in me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent me?”
There is but one way of determining this question, and that is by letting the Word of God determine it for us. If God’s Word condemns our position, then it is condemned, and it should be abandoned. If, on the other hand, God’s Word vindicates our position, then it needs no other vindication, but we should steadfastly adhere to it, though all the world oppose us.
The scope of this paper, then, will be: first, to show what God’s Word teaches concerning church-fellowship with unbelievers and with those who hold doctrines contrary to the Scriptures; secondly, to meet certain objections raised in defense of Unionism; and, thirdly, to apply the Scriptural principles of church-fellowship to actual conditions in the church. The purpose of the other papers of the series will be to trace the history and point out the baleful results of Unionism in certain branches of the Lutheran Church here and abroad.
The Holy Scriptures clearly and positively teach that all church-fellowship with false doctrine is forbidden of God and detrimental to the Church.
That this is true we see, first, from the command which God gives to all preachers and teachers in the Church. They are commanded to teach and preach the Word of God only; not their own wisdom, and not the wisdom of other men. Thus, in 1 Peter 4,11, we read the solemn charge to the ministers and teachers of the church: “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God”; and in 1 Timothy 4,16: “Take heed unto thyself and unto the doctrine: Continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee”; and in 2 Tim. 1,13: “Hold fast the form of the sound words.” In the Old Testament the same charge was given to those who preached and taught: “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it.” Deut. 4,2. “He that hath my Word, let him speak my Word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord.”
How seriously God regarded any violation of this command we learn from such passages as Jer. 23,31.32 and Deut. 13,1ff. In the former passage we read: “Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that use their tongues and say, He saith. Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the Lord, and so tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the Lord.” From the latter passage (Deut. 13,1ff) we learn that under the old covenant God even ordered false prophets to be put to death. “If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, … saying, let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: For the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with a11 your heart and with all your soul. Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear Him, and keep His commandments, and obey His voice, and ye shall serve Him, and cleave unto Him. And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death, because he hath spoken to turn you away from the Lord your God.” In fact, so emphatic was this command, that it required the Israelites to spare no false prophet, though he should be a near and dear relative.
This was the established order in the Old Testament under the covenant of the Law. In the New Testament the old order has changed, the covenant of the Law having vanished away as a thing that is decayed and waxed old. Hebr. 8,13. In the New Testament, God has expressly forbidden the Church to combat error or false doctrine with the sword or with physical force. “My Kingdom is not of this world,” says Christ; and the Apostle Paul lays down the general rule: “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal.” 2 Cor. 10,4.
But we must not think that God is more tolerant of false doctrine or less exacting with teachers and preachers under the new than under the old covenant. Also in the Christian Church the general rule holds: “If any man speak; let him speak as the oracles of God.” This rule applies both to the preaching of the Law and to the preaching of the Gospel. When we preach the Law, Christ warns: “Whosoever therefore shall break one of the least commandments and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven.” And should we ever deviate from the Gospel, St. Paul pronounces a curse upon us: “But though we or an angel from heaven preach any other Gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”
From the divine charge to all Christian teachers and preachers to teach and preach the Word of God only and not error, it is very evident, therefore, that the Lord God will have no fellowship with false doctrine, that is, no Unionism, in His Church.
But the same thing may be inferred also from the charge God has given to all Christians to hear and adhere to those preachers and teachers only who preach and teach the Word of God without adulteration or error. Christ warns: “Take heed, and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.” Matt. 16,6. By the Apostle Pan! He commands: “Mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them.” Rom. 16,17. And by the Apostle John He likewise commands: “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your home, neither bid him God speed. For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.” What the Lord here forbids is not the ordinary exchange of courtesies or acts of kindness and mercy, but what He forbids is that we greet and treat as brothers in faith or receive into our homes as fellow-believers persons or teachers who do not confess or bring to us the doctrine of Christ. In other words, Christ here forbids Unionism, church-fellowship with people who are known to he false teachers. We must not fellowship with such people in prayer, nor at the Communion Table; for, if we do, we partake, as the Apostle says, of their evil deeds. And an evil deed, a grossly evil deed, it is, when a man who professes to be a teacher of Christianity, or a minister of the Gospel, does not bring the doctrine of Christ, but some other doctrine.
To sum up, we may say, that nowhere in His Word does God permit a teacher or a preacher to deviate from His Word, nor a Christian to have church fellowship with a teacher or a preacher who does not adhere to His Word. In short, God requires complete separation from error on the part of both preachers and hearers; that is, He forbids Unionism, or church-fellowship with false teachers and unbelievers.
And this attitude of God is not arbitrary. There is a reason for it: Unionism is a menace to the soul, and therefore a detriment to the Church. When the Lord, who loved us and gave Himself for us, bids us avoid false teachers, and when He forbids us to salute or treat as brothers those who do not bring or preach the doctrine of Christ, He does it because He does not want us to lose the salvation which He won for us and which we already posses by faith in Him. The salvation which He wrought for us and for all men with His innocent suffering and death has been deposited in His word, the Gospel of salvation. All teachers who bring us this Gospel pure and complete, bring us the salvation of our souls. On the other hand, all teachers who bring us an adulterated or a different Gospel, endanger our souls and do what they can to rob us of Christ and His salvation. They do not call into being and foster, but they destroy and kill with their preaching that unity of Spirit which makes us one with Christ and one with all true believers in Christ. Outwardly the church may seem to flourish under the ministry of such unionistic preachers, but inwardly it is falling into spiritual death and decay. Hence the earnest warning of the Savior: “Beware of the false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” Matt. 7,15.
Certain Objections Raised in Defense of Unionism, and their Refutation.
1. Advocates of Unionism contend that we must have patience with the weak. That is undeniably true. God requires preachers and teachers to be patient. “Exhort with all long-suffering,” is St. Paul’s exhortation to Timothy and to all Christian pastors. But patience with the weak must not betray us into any curtailment of God’s truth. That would be changing the great commission of Christ to His Church: “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matt. 28,20) into this humanly modified commission: “Do not teach all things that I have commanded, but only those things to which you can gain the assent of those who are weak in knowledge.” Surely, this would be taking an unwarranted liberty with Christ’s commission, a liberty which St. Paul does not in any way sanction; for he does not merely say, “Exhort with all long-suffering,” but he says: “Exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.” The God-pleasing way to treat weak Christians is, therefore, to overcome their weakness, their lack of knowledge and insight, by patiently teaching them the whole truth of God’s Word until they are thoroughly persuaded. We should not be easily discouraged in our dealings with the weak, but we should continue teaching them patiently, so long as we have reason to believe that there is a chance of bringing them to a knowledge of the truth.
However, we must also note that there is a time When the weak cease to be weak; when they become false teachers and must be treated as false teachers. This is the case, when they demand recognition of their error by the church, when they deliberately set about to propagate their error, labelling the truth of God’s Word as error and branding faithful preachers and teachers as heretics. Here the Word of God makes our duty plain: “A man that is an heretic,” (that is, a man who tries to gain a following for his false doctrine) “after the first and second admonition, reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted and sinneth, being condemned of himself.” Tit. 3,10.
2. Another objection raised by the advocates of Unionism is that it is contrary to Christian love to deny church-fellowship to people who are in error. To this objection we reply: It is not for us, but for God to determine what Christian love requires of us. And God teaches us very plainly in His Word that both love of God and love of our neighbor involves the keeping of His Word. Thus Jesus says, John 14,23.24: “If a man love me, he will keep my Words. … He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings.” And in John 8,51 He declares: “Verily, verily I say unto you, if a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.” He who surrenders a portion of God’s Word for the sake of an alleged love to his erring neighbor, loves neither God nor his neighbor; for, on the one hand, he profanes the name of God, and, on the other, he endangers the soul of his neighbor by his false teaching. Luther takes this position emphatically, when he says: “Do not talk to me about any love or friendship when the purpose is to take away aught of the Word of God or of faith; for we are taught that not love but the Word brings eternal life, the grace of God, and all the treasures of heaven.” IX, 831.
3. Another argument based on “love” may be expressed in this way: “You Lutherans admit that there are true children of God also in churches that harbor false doctrine. From these children of God you hold yourselves aloof and thus offend against love, when you refuse to fellowship with their erring churches.” To this we reply: It is true, indeed, that all men, who humbly acknowledge their sinful and lost condition and believe in Christ as their only Savior from sin, death and hell, are members together with us of the holy Christian Church. But it is due to weak and imperfect knowledge and it is contrary to the will and ordinance of God that these Christians are practising church-fellowship with false doctrine. They are in the wrong camp. They should come out from the churches which obscure and render uncertain the way of salvation by their unscriptural teachings. The duty of these misplaced Christians is very clear, according to the Word of God: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing: and I will receive you.” Christian love demands that we steadfastly refuse church-fellowship with all false teaching churches.
4. Still another argument in defense of Unionism is this: It is nothing but sheer arrogance for any individual or church to say: We are in full possession of God’s truth; all who teach other doctrines than we teach are in error, and we will have no fellowship with them. This charge of arrogance was brought against Luther and is to this day brought against all faithful followers of Luther. At first sight, it seems a very plausible objection. Can we poor, fallible human beings ever really be sure of God’s saving truth? We answer: Yes, we not only can, but we should be sure of God’s saving truth. But how? Christ tells us, John 8,32: “If ye continue in my Word, then are ye my disciples indeed: and ye shall know the truth.” But why, then, is it that so many of those who call themselves Christians and Christian teachers are not sure of the truth? This, too, the Scriptures explain: “If a man teach otherwise and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, … he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes and words.” The Word of God puts an end to all uncertainty. It is only when we turn away from the plain words of Scripture and indulge in our own thoughts and surmises concerning any doctrine that we fall into uncertainty and error.
But is this certainty also within the grasp of laymen? Yes, why not? Christ says of Christians, not only of pastors and teacher: “If ye continue in my Word, then are ye my disciples indeed, and ye shall know the truth.” And when He warns all Christians: “Beware of false prophets, which come unto yon in sheep’s clothing,” He clearly takes for granted that all Christians can be sure of the truth and can distinguish between the truth and error. The same inference must be drawn from His testimony, John 10,5.27: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him; for they know not the voice of strangers.”
And pray, why should we not be certain of the saving truth? We have not a Savior who permits us to grope around in darkness and uncertainty for the salvation of our perishing souls. Are we searching for an answer to the great question how to get rid of our sins and how to obtain peace with God? The answer is clear: “The blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, cleanseth us from all sin.” 1 John 1,7. “To him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly. His faith is counted for righteousness.” Rom. 4,5. “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Rom. 5,1. And so the Word of God does not leave us in uncertainty regarding any of the great questions of faith and life. “Thy Word,” says the Psalmist, “is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” And the Apostle Peter declares: “We have also a more sure Word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.” And the same apostle commends Christian certainty, when he exhorts: “Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.”
But the objectors still counter with the argument that there are passages in the Bible which are obscure and hard to understand. We grant this. But let him who cannot understand the obscure passages follow Luther’s excellent advice: “If you cannot understand the obscure, stick to the clear and lucid passages.” God has so arranged the Bible that the entire body of Christian truth rests on clear passages and that no doctrine depends for its interpretation on obscure passages. If we avoid human speculation and cling to the naked words of Scripture, as Luther counsels, permitting the Bible to be its own interpreter, and asking the Spirit of God to make the truth plain, we shall arrive at that certainty which God intends that His children should have.
5. Another argument, finally, which seems to have a great deal of weight with many may be stated thus: If church-fellowship is to be restricted to those only who are in complete doctrinal agreement, there never will be any unity in the Church; certainly no unity which will command the respect of the world. To present a united front against the world, we are, therefore, compelled to accommodate ourselves to various “trends of thoughts” or “parties” in the Church.
This is a way of reasoning quite natural to man, but it has no place in the mind or plan of God. God does not want various “trends of thoughts” or “parties” in the Christian Church. Christians may differ in regard to secular things, such as politics, business, or farming; they may even differ in regard to certain exter nal matters pertaining to the Church, — the so-called Adiaphora or neutral things, on which the Scriptures speak no word of command or prohibition — such as the form of church government, ritual, vestments, and the like. But there is one thing on which all Christians should be entirely agreed, and that is their doctrine or their faith. This one essential, iterated and reiterated throughout the Scriptures, we find stated thus by the Apostle Paul: “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” 1 Cor. 1,10. All Christians should confess the same doctrine and the same faith. Here they should present a united front against the world. When asked about their faith, some Christians should not say one thing, and some another; but they should say the same thing and mean the same thing. They should be joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. This is the unity of the Christian Church — the unity or oneness in doctrine and faith. This unity is built up not by human but by divine means, by the Gospel, through which the Holy Ghost “calls, gathers, enlightens, sanctifies, and keeps the whole Christian Church in the one true faith.” That is the only church unity which benefits the individual soul and benefits the church as a whole; the only kind of church unity which God demands, which actually exists, and which deserves the name of Christian unity.
Let us not be too much concerned for the future of the Church. Let us rather be vitally concerned that we obey God and build as He has directed. “Neither he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth: but God giveth the increase.” God is not indifferent to the welfare and growth of His Church. He would have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. If there were a better way to order His Church and direct its work, God would have found it. But we know that He doeth all things well. This too is the unmistakeable lesson taught by church history. Or is it not true that the Church has never had such periods of growth and expansion as when its members, lay and clerical, were zealous in their love and proclamation of the Gospel, zealous in their endeavor to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace? Witness the marvelous progress of the Apostolic Church in the face of almost unbelievable obstacles. Witness the rise and growth of the Church of the Reformation, likewise in the face of seemingly insurmountable difficulties. Witness also the inauspicious beginning, but the sturdy growth and sweeping progress of our modern champion of conservative Lutheranism, the Missouri Synod. Let us have no fear, no anxious thought for the future of our own beloved Synod! Our only fear should be that we ever wax cold in our love of the Savior or in our zeal for His truth. As for the future, we can safely leave that in the hands of Him who alone can give the increase.
The Scriptural Doctrine of Church-fellowship Demands Complete Separation from:
- all Unitarian denominations;
- the Roman Catholic Church;
- the Reformed denominations. — both the Calvinistic, which claim that God does not sincerely desire the salvation of all men; and the synergistic, which deny that God saves and converts men by grace alone. Unfortunately the latter doctrine has been permitted to contaminate the confessions also of certain Lutheran communions or synods;
- those who deny the efficacy and sufficiency of the Means of Grace;
- those who deny that the Bible is the infallible Word of God.
(a) The Unitarians deny the Triune God, as well as the eternal Godhead of Christ and His vicarious atonement. For this reason we cannot regard them as Christians, i.e., believers in Christ; nor can we fellowship with them. In recent times, especially, Unitarianism has made fearful inroads into several of the Reformed churches. Compare what the Luthersk Tidende and Lutheran Sentinel, Vol. 9, No. 24, June 16, 1926, has to say on this matter under the heading “Significant Events in the Reformed Church”. It goes without saying that the leaven of Unitarianism in these Reformed denominations precludes all church- fellowship with them also.
Unitarianism is essentially the religion of the lodges. Lodge religion may be briefly summed up in the one sentence: Every man may go to heaven by virtue of his own good character and life, without belief in the eternal Godhead of Christ, and without faith in Christ as the one and only Savior and Redeemer. As evidence we may quote from Webb’s Monitor of Free masonry by Robert Morris, page 280: “So broad is the religion of Masonry, and so carefully are all sectarian tenets excluded from the system, that the Christian, the Jew, and the Mohammedan, in all their numberless sects and divisions, may and do harmoniously combine in its moral and intellectual work with the Buddhist, the Parsec, the Confucian, and the worshipper of Deity under every form.” Now we know that there is no other way to salvation than by faith in Christ, the crucified and risen Savior, and that the Christian Church has been commanded to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins in His name to all men — to Jews and Mohammedans, Buddhists. Parsees, Confucians, and all other men who sit in darkness and in the region and shadow of death. With this central aim and work of the Christian Church the lodges are boldly and completely at variance. We have therefore no right to fellowship with the lodges, neither as a Church nor as individual members of the Church.
(b) The Catholic Church does not only deny the central doctrine of the Christian religion, i.e., the doctrine that we are saved by grace alone, through faith in Jesus Christ; but in cold blood the Catholic Church pronounces a curse upon this doctrine and upon all who believe in the doctrine. “If any one says that justifying faith is nothing else than the faith in the mercy of God, who remits sins for Christ’s sake, or that we are justified alone by such faith, let him be accursed.” (Resolutions of the Council of Trent, 6 Session, 12 Canon) The Scriptures, therefore, clearly forbid all church-fellowship with the Roman Catholic Church.
(c) Two main trends or schools of theology are discernible in the Reformed Churches: the Calvinistic, and the synergistic. The Calvinists deny the universal grace of God, i.e., they deny that all men are included in God’s gracious plan of salvation. Now the Gospel proclaims: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” John 3,16; “Behold, the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world,” John 1,29; “Who (viz. God) will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth,” 1 Tim. 2,4: and again: “He (Jesus) is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John 2,2. Could anything be clearer? And still Calvin and his followers have set aside all this evidence and taught that God desires to save only a comparative few and that He has created all other men to be damned! Compare the Presbyterian Confession of Faith, III, 6: “Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called … but the elect only.” This is a terrible distortion of the Gospel of salvation; “a message of despair, a deadly stench, death and damnation for a human soul.” Dr. Fr. Pieper, Unionism, p. 17.
The Synergists teach that the conversion and salvation of man does not depend solely upon the grace of God, but also upon something within man: a greater susceptibility to grace; a power to decide; a better conduct; or a smaller degree of guilt. The Apology of the Armenian Reformed (synergistic) Church teaches that the conversion of man is not the work of God alone, but also and in part the work of man. This error crept into the Lutheran Church, also, after the death of Luther. Melanchthon introduced it. The result was a bitter controversy which lasted for thirty years. The error was thoroughly exposed and firmly rejected in the last of the Lutheran confessions, the Formula of Concord. But in the Seventeenth Century the error cropped out again, and in the latter part of the 19th and beginning of the 20th Century, it assumed an important role in doctrinal controversies within the American Lutheran Church. The outcome of these controversies seems still more or less uncertain. The synods of the Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America have taken their stand upon the Formula of Concord and the Scriptures and positively rejected Synergism in all its forms and manifestations. All other synods have sought peace in compromise; but there are hopeful indications that they, too, will eventually be given the grace to purge out this false leaven.
Two serious charges must be brought against Synergism: first, that it perverts the Scriptures; and, secondly, that it interferes with saving faith in Christ. The Scriptures clearly teach salvation by faith, without the deeds of the Law. “By grace are ye: saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast.” Eph. 2,8.9. “There is no difference, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Rom. 3,22–24. “We believe according to the working of His Mighty power “ Eph. 1,19. Christ says of those who believe that they “were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1,13. And the Apostle Paul reminds himself and the Ephesians: “When we were dead in sins” God “hath quickened us together with Christ.” Eph. 2,5.
Surely, there is no hint of cooperation in the act of conversion, and he who gives man any credit for this, (Intuitu fidei) or endows him with an alleged sense of responsibility for the acceptance of grace, (Madison Agreement, Paragraph 4) comes into direct clash with the Scriptures and robs God of the honor which is His alone. The Scriptural doctrine of salvation by grace demands humility, self-renunciation. Boastfulness rings the death-knell of faith. Hence Christ warns: “Every one that exaltet himself shall be abased,” Luke 18,14. Not the arrogant Pharisee, but the humble publican went down to his house justified.
(d) Salvation, full and free, has been won for all men by Christ the Savior. This salvation God has deposited in His holy means of grace, the Word of God and the Sacraments. Bv and through these means God ordains that the forgiveness of sins shall be offered and given to all men, and faith engendered, preserved, and brought to full fruition in the believer. The Gospel is God’s proclamation of peace to the sinful world. 2 Cor. 5,19: “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” “Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third clay: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name.” Luke 24,46.47. “Baptism works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal life to all who believe, as the Word and promise of God declare, Mark 16,16: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved”; and Tit. 3,5: “According to His mercy He saved us by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost.” In the Lord’s Supper Christ unites Himself and offers Himself with the consecrated bread and wine to penitent believers for the strengthening of their faith. “Take, eat; this is my body, which is given for you.” “Drink ye all of it: this cup is the New Testament in my blood, which is shed for you, for the remission of sins.” Now these means of grace come to us laden with salvation. They are channels of God’s saving grace. God has bound us to them and their use, and He has promised that they shall not return void, but shall accomplish that for which they were sent.
Now, since the days of Zwingli and Calvin, there have been a great many people within the Reformed churches, who have slighted and despised the divinely ordained means of grace, holding that God works upon the heart and soul immediately or directly, without any external means. As much as in them lies, they destroy the road or the bridge, by which lost sinners may come to faith in Christ and be saved. Neither they nor anyone else can be sure of their state of grace, until they have discarded that illusory grace, which is taken out of the air or out of man’s own self-consciousness and is of course without any divine promise or sanction, and until they have returned to the divinely ordained means, in which God has Himself deposited all of His saving grace and truth. With these people we can of course have no church-fellowship. They must come to us; we must not turn to them.
(e) Finally, we must not fellowship with those who deny that the Bible is the infallible Word of God. In our day there are multitudes of professing Christians, both lay and learned, in all Protestant churches, who deny the Doctrine of Inspiration, i.e., the doctrine that the Spirit of God is the real author of the Bible and of the whole Bible. But in doing this, they brand Christ and His prophets and apostles as liars and deceivers Christ quoted freely from all parts of the Old Testament — from Moses, the Psalms, and the Prophets, and He did so without any reservation whatsoever. To Him the entire Old Testament was the infallible Word of God. “The Scriptures cannot be broken,” He asserted, John 10,35. “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself”; Luke 24,27, and in the 44th verse of the same chapter, He adds: “All things must be fulfilled, which were written in the Law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning me.” The same unqualified endorsement He gave also to the writings of His apostles. In His sacerdotal prayer, John 17,20, He says that all men who will be brought to faith in him until the end of days “shall believe on me through their (the apostles’) Word.” And to the apostles themselves He gave the assurance that “The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance whatsoever I have said unto you” and “when He, the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all truth.” That the apostles themselves knew that they were the spokesmen of the Holy Spirit, we see from the words of Paul, 1 Cor. 2,13: “Which things we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth.”
The Church is built upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone. Eph. 2,20. Those who attack the infallibility of the Holy Scriptures are therefore blasting away at the very foundation stones of the Christian Church. Their success would mean an end of the Church and an end of all Christian faith. Therefore we cannot fellowship with them, but must oppose them and vanquish them with the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.
I cannot do better than to close with a (]notation from the essay of Dr. Fr. Pieper on Unionism, from which I have received the greatest help and inspiration for my own humble exposition:
“God keep us in this opposition to Unionism! This we will gladly do after the manner of our fathers: We will attend so-called ‘free conferences’ and discuss doctrinal differences with our opponents in all patience and kindness and humility with a view of establishing unity. But church-fellowship we cannot establish and keep save with those who agree with us in the Christian doctrine. Now we have this Christian doctrine in the inspired Word of the Apostles and Prophets, in the infallible Word of Scripture. The Holy Spirit is in and with this Word and teaches us over and over to see in it the Word of God, to regard it as our highest treasure, to love it sincerely and teach it without abridgment or alteration unto the salvation of men’s souls, and in conformity with Christ’s will and for the furtherance of His glory. Greater cause there never was, nor more momentous. The crusaders of the Middle Ages once cried in their enthusiasm: ‘God wills it! God wills it!’ Now that was for the greater part mistaken zeal, propaganda for the papacy and its murderous doctrines of salvation by works. When we, by the grace of God, contend for the unadulterated doctrine of the Word of God and avoid all fellowship with false doctrine and seek to hearten one another with the cry: ‘God wills it! God wills it!’ This is not religious fanaticism hut propaganda for the Christian Church on earth which is well-pleasing to the Master. God speed the work! God cause it to prosper! Amen “
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The Curse of Unionism in the Early History of the Lutheran Church of America
The early history of the Lutheran Church of America paints a picture that is not pleasant in all respects. It portrays to us a band of ardent Lutherans who came to this country for the express purpose of establishing a Lutheran colony on the western banks of Delaware River. These early settlers meant to be staunch Lutherans in their new home, as they had been in the home they left. But the picture shows us that they little by little fell away from their mother-church and joined a church that did not in all things teach the truth. We ask: What was the cause of this falling away from the church for which their fore-fathers had fought so valiantly? The answer to this question will be the object of this paper; and we shall endeavor to give the answer under three heads, namely:
1. The chief aim of establishing this colony.
2. Did the colonists succeed in reaching this aim?
3. The result that followed of not reaching this aim.
The greatest King Sweden ever had, Gustavus Adolphus, conceived the idea of establishing a colony in America as early as 1624. He planned to form a Free-state in this country where the rights of conscience should be inviolate, and which should be open to the Protestant world, then engaged in a struggle for existence with all the Papal powers of Europe.
The company that was formed for this purpose was sanctioned by the King and incorporated by the States of Sweden in 1627. The aim of the colony is set forth in the Company’s Charter in these words: “In all the plans of colonization the aim shall be the extension of Christianity; to provide the means of religious instruction; and to guard against all Calvinistic leaven.”
However, the plan could not be executed at once, as it appeared that the very existence of the Reformation was in danger. Gustavus Adolphus therefore resolved to invade Germany and vindicate the rights of conscience with the sword. Although this great struggle detained the King’s cherished plan of colonization in this country, it did not drive it from his mind. Only a few days before his death on the battle-field of Lützen in 1632, he spoke about the enterprise, and called it “The Jewel of his Kingdom.” The King’s wise and noble Chancellor, Axel Oxenstierna, renewed the patent in 1633 and thus revived the plan of colonization. On that occasion the Chancellor said: “The consequences of this design will be favorable to all Christendom.” The leader of the Company, Peter Minuit, set out from Sweden with two vessels during the fall of 1637; and he reached the western shores of Delaware Bay in early spring of the next year. He sailed up the bay and river until he reached a suitable place for the establishment of the colony; at this place he built a fort which he called Fort Christina in honor of the Swedish Queen. This fort served for a time as the first church of the colonists. The next year a second expedition arrived from Sweden; and among the passengers were Reor Torkillus, the first Lutheran Minister in America, who came for the purpose of doing permanent pastoral work in the colony. Pastor Torkillus officiated at Fort Christina till his death in 1643. As Peter Minuit died in 1641, a new Governor was appointed by Sweden to serve in his place, namely, John Printz. Upon his departure from Sweden in 1643, he received the following instructions signed by Axel Oxenstierna:
“The Governor will treat with much humanity and mildness the nations bordering upon all the other side, and will see that neither violence nor injustice is done them by the people of her majesty: he must labor on all occasions that these savage people be instructed in the Christian religion and the divine service, or civilized, well regulated, happy, and as such be free.
“Before all the Governor must labor and watch that he renders in all things to Almighty God, the true worship which is his due, the Glory, the praise, and the homage which belong to him: and take good measures that the divine service is performed according to the true confession of Augsburg, the council of Upsal and the ceremonies of the Swedish church, having care that all men and especially the youth be well instructed in all the parts of Christianity, and that a good ecclesiastical discipline be observed and maintained.
“With respect to the Dutch colony which resides and is established in the country of her majesty and of the crown, the Governor must not disturb what has been ordained in the foresaid grant of her majesty with regard to the exercise of the reformed religion.”
With Governor Printz came Rev. John Companius, a man recommended by Bishop Svedberg in the following words: “A man most highly to be praised on account of his unwearied zeal in always propagating the love of God.” Reverend Companius served the Lutheran Swedes faithfully until his return to Sweden in 1648; and he learned the language of the Delaware Indians and translated Luther’s Small Catechism into it.
During this time and up to the time the colony was conquered by the Dutch in 1655, it appears that the colonists remained Lutherans in faith as well as in church practice. Rev. Companius left to his successor Lars Lock about 700 souls. For 22 years Lars Lock served these many souls alone. In 1677 Jacob Fabritius came to his assistance; and the two pastors divided the field between themselves. But five years later Fabritius became blind; and in 1688, Lars Lock died, so at this time the only pastor among the Lutheran Swedes was a disabled man that continued to serve his congregation as far as he was able until his death.
During this time a lamentable condition became more and more apparent; the younger generation became indifferent to the Church, and the children grew up practically without any Christian knowledge. The true Lutherans in the colony longed for relief, but they did not know from whence the relief should come, as the communications between the colony and the mother-country had long ago ceased. The old Swedes, who had made the long voyage across the ocean, regarded it quite incredible that a Swedish clergyman would come to them. Nevertheless, at two different times they wrote home to Sweden for clergymen, but to no avail. Still, they remained firm in their determination to obtain a pastor from Sweden. At last, one of their appeals for help fell into the hands of the King, Charles XI. The King consulted with Dr. Svedberg, who induced three men to undertake the long voyage. These men were Erick Bjørk, Anders Rudman, and Jonas Auren. The commission of these pastors is still to be found in the archives of Gloria Dei Church, and it charges them: “To teach without any human addition God’s holy and saving Word, purely and clearly, as it is fully presented in the Canonical Books of the prophets in the Old and of the apostles in the New Testament, and briefly explained in the Øcumenical Symbols of the Christian Church, the apostles’, the Nicene, and the Athanasian, as well as especially in the Augsburg Confession, and the other Symbolical Books received by the Evangelical Church.”
These three gentlemen left Sweden in 1697 with the following parting words from the King: “Go, now, in the name of the Lord, to the place to which I send you. God be with you, and make your undertaking successful. If any opposition is made, or any injury done you, return. I will remember you.”
New life entered the congregations upon the arrival of these pastors. In 1699 the new Trinity Church was built at Wilmington near Christina; and in 1700 Gloria Dei Church was built in Wicaco (Now Philadelphia). The pastors were full of zeal, preaching and visiting from house to house. But Rudman had not been in the country three years before his health declined. He asked the authorities in Sweden for an assistant, and mentioned Andrew Sandel in his letter as the one he desired. His request was granted.
Up to this time, about 65 years from the time the colony was established, the Lutheran faith and practice bad been maintained; but from now on a change took place.
After a brief pastorate among the Swedes Anders Rudman took up work among the Dutch Lutherans in New York first, and then among the Lutherans in Philadelphia, where be also served an Episcopal church until his death. Upon this dark chapter of unionism we now enter Acrelius writes in his History of New Sweden as follows:
“The Swedes and English united as ministerial brethren: their object was no other than the promotion and extension of Christianity; they preached English in each others’ churches; and, as a stronger token of unity, they sometime sang Swedish Psalms in the English congregations. They annually held ministerial meetings together, and consecrated each others’ churches. No letter was sent home to England, or to the King, Queen, Parliament, or Bishop of London, or to the Society, without the Swedish clergy also signing it. So, also, were the Swedish Ministers, when they went home, provided with good testimonials from the English clergy. They were willing to receive the Lord’s Supper from one another, as also to administer the Sacrament to each others’ bearers.
“Finally, it may also be mentioned that every Swedish Minister upon his return home received from the Society in London 30 pounds sterling in return for their services which he had performed among the English churches here.”
(Acrelius, Hist. of New Sweden, 1758, page 361 and 362).
That this is a true picture of the condition, we shall verify by the statements of the early Missionaries in words of their own. During the ministry of Bjørk and Sandel a petition was submitted by them to the Queen of England. In this petition we note the following statements:
“Our Ministers in the mean time studying entirely to unite our hearts and affections to your Majesty’s good subjects in this country of the Church of England, wherein it had pleased God to give them so great success, that we scruple not to join in worship with the Church of England; our Ministers frequently supplying the vacancy of their churches where they want Ministers, or when they are absent.”
And in 1710 Sandel gives the following report in his chronicles:
“We as preachers and teachers have at all times kept good correspondence and entertained familiar intercourse with the English preachers, so that we always availed ourselves of each others’ aid and counsel. When they held a pastoral conference, we were always in their council. We have often occasionally, when the English preachers, because of a journey or a funeral, had not the time, preached English in their churches. When they somewhere laid the corner stone of a church, we were invited and present. … Although some difference exists between them and us as regards the Lord’s Supper etc., we enter upon no discussion of these points; neither do we touch upon these things when we preach in their churches, nor do they seek to draw our people to their opinion in this point, but we live with one another intimately and fraternally, even as they call us their brethren.”
From the records of Bjørk we gain the following information:
“On the fourth Sunday after Easter, the 18th of May, I exchanged with Mr. George Ross, (the Episcopal pastor) he preached for me at Christina, and I for him at Chester.”
Anders Hesselius, who served the Swedes from 1713 to 1723, used much of his time in serving the Anglican churches. “Besides the care of his congregation,” says Acrelius, “Mr. Hesselius also extended his labors to the English. In the month of July 1720, he began to preach for them in the newly built English church at Hwitler’s Kill, which was called St. James. He did this every third Sunday.” And his brother, Samuel Hesselius, showed such diligence in serving English churches that his Swedish parishioners complained to the authorities in Sweden charging him with neglect of his own people.
When Magnus Wrangel came to America in 1759 to serve his Lutheran brethren, he not only officiated with the Episcopal Church but went to the revival meetings held by Whitefield at Philadelphia, and was among his greatest admirers and imitators; he even introduced prayer-meetings after Whitefield’s pattern into his own church.
The plan of Wrangel was to turn the entire Swedish Lutheran Church into the Anglican Church and thus establish a strong Church. But as Wrangel was recalled to Sweden, he was prevented from executing his plan. Upon leaving this country he received from his friend, the Episcopal pastor Richard Peters, a letter of recommendation to the Bishop of London. In this letter we read the following:
“It is not unknown to Your Lordship that the Church of England of this province has always been in connection with the Swedish churches, and that the Missionaries sent from Sweden have been persons of eminent learning and piety, except a few instances. …
“The Rev. Dr. Wrangel, whom I have made bearer of this letter on purpose to introduce him to Your Lordship, is of the first rank among those Missionaries and is now on his return to Sweden. …
“He knows all the affairs of this province and the state of religion and the situation of our own and the German churches and I most humbly and earnestly recommend it to Your Lordship to enter into a free and full conversation with him.
“The Presbyterians, under a pretense of answering Dr. Chandler, have gone into many abusive publications, and have raised against them all other churches in common from the bitterness and vehemence that appear in their writings. As they are numerous, all other persuasions being to tread and unite against them as people who have more tyranny in their system and temper than any other church whatever.
“Dr. Wrangel wants to take a just advantage of this general antipathy to the Presbyterians, and to unite the great body of the Lutheran Swedes with the Church of England, who you know, are but few and in mean circumstances in this province; but were they united with the German Lutherans we should both become respectable.”
The last Minister sent from Sweden to this country, Nicholas Collin, did not only officiate with the Episcopal Church, but he had as his assistant-pastors eight clergymen who all were Episcopalians.
This general practice of unionism did not occur without the knowledge and sanction of the authorities in Sweden and England. From Sandel’s chronicles we note this statement:
“Such unity and intimacy with the English Church was al ways recommended to us by Bishop Svedberg in his letters.”
And Actelius states in his history, after he has enumerated a long array of unionistic practices:
“All this and much more was strengthened by the character of Dr. Svedberg, who was then Bishop of Skara, and by his admonitions to the clergy to continue all this.”
That the authorities in England also sanctioned this practice is evident. In a letter directed to the Episcopal pastors in this country written by the Bishop of London, wherein he recommends the Swedish pastors Hesselius and Lidenius, we read:
“I recommend to you these two Swedish Missionaries Mr. Andreas Hesselius and Mr. Abraham Lidenius, who came over to supply the place of Mr. Rudman, whom I desire you to receive with all brotherly friendship and charity, and to cultivate the best understanding you can with them, and to assist them in any directions they may stand in need of, and in my name recommend them to the good will and protection of the Governor.”
When the sentiments and practices were of this nature, when a constant affiliation was kept up with a church differing in faith and practice in so many respects from their own church, is it reasonable that such practice and such sentiments should fail to carry with it serious results? These serious result we shall briefly point out in the following survey of the situation.
At Christina the Church Council resolved in 1742 that the services in the church should from now on be conducted according to the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church of England. And the Vestry and Wardens resolved that men professing the Lutheran or Episcopal faith should have the right to vote in the congregation and be eligible for any office in the congregation.
In 1787 the Charter of Incorporation cf the United Swedish Lutheran Churches was changed. Section V should read:
“Some rules or regulations shall be established for the future choice of a Rector and other Minister or Ministers to supply said churches, provided always that such Rector and other Ministers shall be in the ministry of the Lutheran or Episcopal Churches and hold their faith in the doctrines of the same.”
A similar change of the Charter of Incorporation was carried out by the Swedish Lutheran Church at Wilmington; and during the change the congregation was served by Joseph Clarkson, an Episcopal pastor.
At last the final breaking away from the Lutheran Church came. In 1846, the Gloria Dei Church made the following change in its Constitution:
“This church acknowledges itself to be a member of, and to belong to the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. As such it accedes to, recognizes, and adopts the Constitution, Canons, Doctrines, Disciplines, and Worship of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the State of Pennsylvania, and the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States, and acknowledges their authority accordingly.”
Similar changes had already been made in the Charter of the Wilmington, Raccoon, and Pennsneck congregations. And the churches of Kingsessing and Upper Merion followed the other churches into the Episcopal Church.
Thus we see that the name “Lutheran” was eliminated after a generation or two had been trained in the manner that the Lutheran Swedes had been trained. There was a time when the Lutheran Swedes on the Delaware wrote to the authorities in Sweden these words:
“Send us Swedish pastors who are well learned and well trained in Holy Scripture, who can well defend themselves and us against all false teachers and strange sects which surround us and are in opposition to us in our true and pure, unadulterated worship and Lutheran religion, which we even now before God and all the world always do profess and shall profess; and if need be, which God prevent, shall seal with our own blood.”
The pastors were sent. They had learning, and they were well trained for their work. But they failed in one respect: they did not defend themselves and their people, or even try to do so, against the false teachers and strange sects. They even joined hands and hearts with the false teachers in their pernicious work. They knew full well that some differences existed between themselves and the Episcopal Church, but they ignored the differences, and entered into a full brotherly affiliation with them. We ask: Can we expect that the people, who saw their pastor’s example and heard them say that they should look upon the Episcopal Church as a “Sister Church,” would keep away from this church?
It always remains true, when truth compromises with error truth is always the loser and error the gainer.
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The Curse of Unionism in the American Lutheran Church of Today
Unionism is a deceiver disguised as a dove of peace carrying the emblem of brotherly love.
Unionism is more dangerous than infidelism. Infidelism comes in the open with drawn knife goary with the blood of murdered souls. Unionism is the poisoned cup.
Unionism is a false principle of conduct and is, therefore, vastly more dangerous than error of conduct.
Unionism is an unerring manifestation of indifferentism. In theological parlance indifferentism means to be indifferent as to just exactly what God says or does not say in His revealed word, commonly called the Bible. Indifference to mathematical doctrines such as, two and two are four, five times five are twenty-five is, obviously, far more detrimental to ones progress in the mathematical sciences than errors of addition or multiplication.
It avails nothing that one vehemently denies the accusation of indifferentism to doctrine if he practices fellowship with error; his actions then belie his words.
It helps nothing that one urges faithfulness and strict adherence to all principal doctrines while he shows laxity in demanding adherence to teachings of lesser importance; he thereby incriminates himself. The Word of God is not a mixture of important and of indifferent doctrines, teachings, words, precepts. Every word is a pearl of great price. “Cursed is every one that continueth in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” Gal. 3,10.
To practice church-fellowship in any form or manner with such as are persistent errorists in practice is sinful unionism just as well as fellowshipping with errorists in doctrine; it is six of one kind and half a dozen of the other. Practice is doctrine in action.
Unionism can be indulged in only by those who take lightly the warning: “Beware of false prophets.” Matt. 7,15; who have little fear that “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” Gal. 5,9 and who do not take God seriously when He says: “If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book; and if any man shall take away the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” Rev. 22,18–19.
The heart of the unionist can not long remain sensitive to the Word of God nor his ear alert to the voice of the shepherd. The voice of strangers does not cause him to flee — John 10,5 — nor the voice of the shepherd to follow. John 10,27. His spiritual hearing becomes affected so that he can not distinguish between the voice of strangers and of the shepherd.
This condition must and does necessarily, sooner or later, lead to disaster. Of such disaster history has spoken to you in some of the papers you have heard read at this convention.
Is Unionism threatening the American Lutheran Church of today? Yes. In large areas of the Lutheran Church in America unionism is not only threatening but is strongly entrenched. Unionism is more or less flagrantly practiced by all of the synodical bodies constituting the National Lutheran Council. The National Lutheran Council is in fact, one of the manifestations of unionism within these bodies.
However, this paper will not give space to a consideration of the National Lutheran Council but will refer to our Svnodical report for the year 1920, pages 60–82, where full information on the subject may be found.
The united Lutheran Church is the largest of the bodies forming the N.L.C. This church body is unionistic to the core. As I write I have before me news paper clippings, programs, letters etc. as evidence of 55 instances of disobedience to Christ’s “Avoid them.” The transgressors are all pastors and congregations of the N.L.C. I shall cite only, a few of them and using as few words as possible.
“The Baptist, Christian, Congregational, Episcopal, St. Johns Lutheran, Methodist and Presbyterian churches, Des Moines, Iowa, co-operated in putting on the ‘Anderson Meetings’ so called.”
“City Churches unite for Thank services.” Utica Press, N.Y. Zion Lutheran Church was in it.
“A series of soul stirring sermons by Americas great preachers, Central Park Methodist Episcopal Church Dedication Week.” One of the attractions: “Sunday 7:45 p.m. community service with Parkside Baptist and Parkside Lutheran Churches.” Buffalo, N.Y.
Headlines New York Times: “Dr. Fosdick praised by city ministers. 198 attend luncheon given in honor of Baptist, subject of Presbyterian controversy.” Among the pastors attending, two Lutherans are listed: The Rev. Dr. G.U. Wenner and the Rev. Dr. John E. Heindel.
A Chicago community service is reported: “Dr. Simon Peter Long preached the sermon, Dr. C. Walde Cherry, Presb. presided. Dr. L.C. Manges of Memorial Lutheran Church, read scripture lesson. Dr. C.S. Rasmussen of Messiah Lutheran, offered prayer.”
Rev. Yost Brandt’s bulletin board carried the following announcements last August: “St. Paul’s Ev. Luth. Church. Vacation in August.
Aug. 10 – Lutheran Church.
Aug. 17 – Baptist Church.
Aug. 24 – Presbyterian Church.
Aug. 31 – Methodist Church.
Dr. Martin Luther Enders was on for the invocation and also an address at the dedicatory services for Beth Jacob Synagogue.
“The Scottish Rite Masons of Harrisburg, Penn., will observe the day of St. John the Evangelist with special service in the Messiah Luth. Church, Gand Foster Streets, tomorrow evening at 7:30. The Rev. Martin E. Grove, pastor of the Bethlehem Luth. Ch. will make the address.”
Dr. Andreas Bard, St. Marks Luth. Church, Kansas City, at the funeral of Dr. Wm. Kuhn: “Many a time he told his Masonic brethren that the church and Masonry were not rival institutions, but rather cooperative forces toward the establishing upon the earth of the Kingdom of God.”
Thus I might continue almost indefinitely but I choose not to. Neither do I feel that comments on the unionistic performances just related are necessary.
We shall go on to the next largest body constituting the National Lutheran Council, namely: The Norwegian Lutheran Church of America. This body came into being in the year 1917 through the merging of three Synods. This merger is an off-spring of unionism. The merger was not a result of unity of doctrine and practice but of a skillfully wrought compromise between truth and error.
Paragraph 3 of the articles of agreement was, we admit, clear and in no way ambiguous and shut all doors tight against unionism. It reads: “De tre samfund lover hverandre med alt alvor ikke at have kirkelig samarbeide med reformerte og andre som ikke deler samfundenes tro og bekjendelse.”
But note well now the fate of this article. A minority within the Hauge Synod took exception to this article and would not be pacified unless their “understanding” of same received recognition. Their “understanding” and which was accepted by the Hauge convent:on of 1916 reads: “Vi betragter det ikke som samarbeide eller religionsblanderi, naar man leilighedsvis maa delta i brudevielser, begravelser, dekorationsprogram, Chautauqua, graduationsfester, ved de offentlige skoler og lignende, hvor ogsaa prester av andre bekjendelser optrær. Endvidere anser vi det ikke for at være i strid med denne paragraf, at man deltar i saadanne bevægelser, der vistnok er af religiøs art, men som omfatter den hele kristne kirke, som til eksempel: Økumeniske missionskonferencer, Student Volunteer Movement, Student Federation og Laymans Missionary Movement. Vi betragter disse kristelig-religiøse bevægelser mere som praktiske foretagender end som en virksomhed af ren kirkelig art.”
The stage was all set and elaborate preparations made for the consummation of the merger on June 9th. At the eleventh hour on June 8 a representative from the Hauge convention appeared before the Synod convention requesting permission to present a petition from the Hauge union-committee. He was given the floor and the above “understanding” was read. A lively but short discussion ensued. The Hauge representative stated that the petition did not involve subscribing to the “understanding,” but merely that those who thus interpreted the paragraph in question, be recognized as brethren in faith. The petition was granted, but the right to testify against such practices as enumerated in the “understanding” was reserved. See Beret. ’17, p. 166.
Who, but he who will not see, can be blind to compromise here. Truth and error locked; not in combat, but in brotherly embrace is the sad spectacle we here behold.
The reservation of “right to testify against such practice” what is that but an admission of guilt and an effort to appease a disturbed conscience? I make bold to state as my opinion that few, if any, of our former brethren in faith, can think of that lamentable Friday, June 8, 1917, and not, to this day, wince under the lashings of conscience.
On that day paragraph 3, Articles of Agreement, was neutralised. Neutralise means: to make neutral or inert; to make of no effect; counteract. Deliberately and by resolution the bars were let down for unionism — unionism as understood by us and our brethren of the Synodical Conference and as it was understood by the Norwegian Synod of former years, namely: as defined according to the Word of God. — Let me here urge all to read “Unionism” by Prof. F. Pieper. It can be had in pamphlet form by addressing our Book Co.
The voices that were loud in demanding “the right to testify against such practice” have been stilled. During the intervening 8 years two — as far as the readers of the Norwegian Lutheran Church organs may know — have been heard, though occasions to testify against “such practice” have been legion.
Little wonder, therefore, that unionism is rife in the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America today.
Note the fraternal greetings exchanged with:
The Augustana Synod which fetes and banquets and receives into her pulpits the theologically nefarious Nathan Søderblom;
The Lutheran Free Church which to this day has not repudiated “En Aaben Erklæring” but has, if its official organ gives reliable information, discarded the doctrine of verbal inspiration;
The United Lutheran Church where masonry is not only tolerated but by many extolled as a force, cooperative with the church in establishing the Kingdom of God on earth.
This is disobedience to God who says: “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed, is partaker of his evil deeds.” 2 John, 9–11.
What could be a more obvious form of unionism than the invitation extended and the reception given a representative of the decadent State Church of Norway a year ago? It was not the Rev. Mr. John Lunde, a private citizen of Oslo, Norway, that was overburdened with invitations to fill pulpits of the Norwegian Lutheran Church, it was the State Church of Norway, represented by the bishop of Oslo. Seldom, if ever, did the bishop forget to bring greetings from the king and church whose acknowleged representative he was.
That the State Church of Norway is honey-combed by all shades and degrees of modernism from church authorities down to the remotest “nordlands prest” and that all teach and preach as they please, irrespective of the Lutheran confessions, is lamented by some and applauded by others but denied by none. “From such turn away.” 2 Tim. 3,5.
Can you conceive of Dr. Walther or of Dr. Wm. Koren or of Pres. H.A. Preus worshipping together with the many Lutheran heretics and others, if others there were, who were assembled to attend the Lutheran World Conference at Eisenach? Not as long as they remained true to the principles and confessions of the synods they founded and whose slogan was “It is written.”
A representative of the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America, a pupil of the above named sainted pioneer builders of the orthodox Lutheran church in America, was there and has the effrontery to say that such participation has been “foolishly designated as unionism.”
The line of least resistance, and the popular one, is to fall in with unionism. The bars being officially lowered it was but natural that the rank and file of pastors and congregations should find the removal of a disagreeable restraint refreshing, much as we see a herd of cattle enjoying a stubble field in the fall after a summers confinement to the regular pasture. ’Tis true, some of them hesitate to step over even the lowered bars to the formerly forbidden fields, but sooner or later, all enter.
The first instance of unionism practiced by an individual pastor and congregation of the Norwegian Lutheran Church that came to my attention, can be related in sufficient detail for our present purpose by reading the following:
“First English Lutheran Church Meeting, Feb. 27, 1918.
“A communication from Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, was brought before the meeting, said communication to the effect that the English Lutheran Church, by having union Services with the Methodists, Congregational and Presbyterian Churches of Crookston, has thereby violated the Constitution of the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America.”
“The First English Lutheran Church takes this view upon the matter and will govern itself in the future accordingly, that such union services are a great benefit to all concerned and help to create a brotherly feeling among the different churches and at the same time helps to conserve fuel under present conditions.”
“Moved and seconded that the First English Lutheran Church recognizes no breach of the Constitution of the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America, by participating in such union services when no doctrine is concerned, but will not participate where doctrine is discussed.”
“Motion carried unanimously.
First English Lutheran Church,
By J.E. ERICKSON, Sec.”
In fairness to the memory of Rev. J.M. Sundheim, then district president, I quote from a letter dated July 3, 1918: “I regret very much the unionistic occurrence in Roselands congregation at Crookston. The congregation has now acknowledged its wrong and has asked to be pardoned. Hope such a thing will not occur again.”
Since then Roseland and his flock must have come to the conclusion that they had not done wrong after all for we find a Good Friday service of three hours devotion, 12 noon to 3 p.m. announced in the Crookston Daily Times, March 27, 1926 as follows:
— 12 Noon —
“Organ voluntary; Hymn 79; Good Friday prayers; Collects and Gospel; Notices; Hymn 101; Brief introductory address; Hymn 104.
— 12:20 —
Address, ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do.’ Rev. L.A. Roseland, Norwegian Luth. Church; Silent prayer and devotion: Solo, ‘Come unto Me’ — Messiah — Mrs. G. Curtis.
— 12:45 —
Address, ‘Verily I say unto thee, today thou shalt be with me in paradise,’ Rev C. H. McCrea — Methodist — (Hymns etc. omitted here and following.)
— 1:10 —
Address, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith He to the disciple, behold thy mother,’ Rev. Davis — Congregational —
— 1:30 —
Address, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ Rev. F.J. Hibbard — Presbyterian —
— 1:50 —
Address, ‘I thirst.’ Rev. P.E. Moen — Norwegian Lutheran Church —
— 2:15 —
Address, ‘It is finished,’ Rev. H.W. Knowles.
— 2:35 —
Address, ‘Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit,’ Rev. G.G. Curtis. — Episcopalian —
The following news items are clipped from the Minneapolis Journal of March 18 and April 14 respectively.
“The Northeast Minneapolis Council of Churches will promote a series of Lenten services to be conducted in the Salem Mission Church, Eighteen and one half and Central Ave. N.E., from 12:15 to 12:50 p.m. daily, beginning Monday and continuing through Good Friday. Pastors of the protestant churches in the district, will co-operate.” The pastors mentioned as co-operating were: Rev. A.H. Wilke, pastor of the St. Paulus Lutheran Church, Rev. Fred Stromberg of Ebenezer Methodist Church, Rev. O.L. Grefthen of Concordia Lutheran Church, Dr. C.O. Bemis of Shiloh-Bethany Church and Rev. R.A. Arlander of Elim Baptist Church.
“Rev. Roy L. Smith, pastor of Simpson Methodist church, will speak to the men’s club of Concordia Lutheran church (Rev. O.L. Grefthen) tomorrow at 8 p.m., at a meeting to be conducted in the church, Fillmore street and twenty-second avenue N.E.”
At Waterville, Iowa, a pastor of the Norwegian Lutheran Church opened the commencement exercises at the High School with invocation and closed same with the benediction after a Presbyterian minister had delivered the commencement address.
The Rev. Norman A. Madsen, while yet a member of the Norwegian Lutheran Church, had this experience: “In the spring of 1924 I was requested to speak at a large gathering of Lutherans near Armstrong, Iowa. When Rev. E.L. Lundy wrote me regarding the meeting he spoke of it as an annual get-to-gether of the Scandinavians of that community. I replied that I would be glad to address the gathering if it were understood that it was not to be a service in which Danes, Swedes and Norwegians of various denominations were to fellowship, for that would be unionism. Some time later I was curtly told that my services would not be required, they had engaged Formand H.C. Holm to preach the sermon.”
The Minneapolis Journal of April 21, 1926, reports that Rev. Geo. T. Rygh, pastor of Fifth English Lutheran Church, pronounced the benediction at a Good Will meeting conducted at Bethel synagogue, at which Jews were hosts to representative Catholics, Protestants and Negros.
The hob-nobbing and general love feast indulged in by all shades of Protestants including the First Eng. Luth. church, Rev. Martin Anderson, pastor, at the dedication festivities of the Calvary Baptist church at Albert Lea, Minn., is too lengthy to relate in detail here. See Albert Lea Evening Tribune for March 20, 1926, and subsequent issues.
See also the same publication for the report of a “most remarkable service” held in the Presbyterian church of that city on Feb. 28, 1926, in honor of Rev. and Mrs. Lyle. The Episcopal pastor present is reported as saying: “I am most deeply impressed with the great congregation gathered at the Presbyterian church in honor of Dr. Lyle, and really more than the great numbers present is the diversity of churchmanship. There are those from the Swedish, Norwegian, Danish and German Lutheran churches. Others come from the Baptist, Methodist, and the Episcopal churches as well as the Jewish synagogue. Verily we feel that one is our master and we are brethren.”
This remarkable service whose spirit moved the Episcopal brother present to embrace all, even the Jews, and declare: “Verily, we are brethren” was presided over by Dr. Martin Anderson, a member of the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America, who has since been promoted to greater fields of activity in the city of Chicago.
On account of all this display of unionism in the American Lutheran Church of today, we grieve and shudder, for we know unionism to be an insidious cancer from which few are healed. This, however, should not deter us but rather increase our earnestness and zeal in offering the one and only remedy that can effect a cure, namely, the Word of God. Let us not tire in applying this on ourselves, that the contagion may not reach us, and to others who are afflicted that they may by its inherent power and the grace of God be healed.
Triune God in heaven, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Thou Who in very truth art present in Thy Word with all Thy gifts and all Thy grace, grant, we beseech Thee, that we may be brought to love this word more fervently, to use it more diligently, and if need be to sacrifice all the talents which Thou hast entrusted to us, in order that Thy divine word might be our and and our children’s joy in life, comfort in death, and exceeding great reward of grace in glory throughout all eternity. Amen.