Thursday, October 25, 2012

The current debate in the WELS concerning universal, objective Justification

Christian News, October 29, 2012, Vol. 50, No. 42

The conference of presidents, on the recent call list, Oct. 2012, reports that Paul Rydecki has been suspended from ministry of the WELS. No further information is given, and one is left to wonder what did he do????

On the Intrepid Lutherans web page there appeared the announcement that one of its contributors, Rev. Paul Rydecki, has been suspended from the WELS. Following articles and an explanation from Rydecki explained that the reason was because of Rydecki’s views concerning objective, universal, justification. He stated and defended his position in a paper given last June in Oshkosh, “Are You A Dresden Lutheran?” A copy of the DP letter of suspension to Rydecki was also posted.

One wonders why more information concerning suspensions for doctrinal reasons cannot be given. It seems that in order to understand what is going on in the Synod one must go to unofficial sources.

What Paul Rydecki (also the egocentric synergist Greg Jackson) is teaching on justification is nothing new to the Lutheran Church and something which Confessional Lutherans have always rejected.

The position that Rydecki is promoting has its origin back in Melanchthon’s teachings on the three causes of conversion — the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, and the will of man. In the discussions in the 50s between the old American Lutheran Church and the LCMS concerning justification, the ALC wanted to teach that God had secured and provided salvation for all people. This is objective or universal redemption, not objective justification. The LCMS along with the WELS insisted on the words, that God has not only secured and provided salvation for all, but that God has declared the whole world righteous in Christ Jesus. This they called objective Justification. (A term that is preferred over universal justification, which can cause some misunderstandings.) By only saying “secured and provided salvation” the door is open for some cooperation or contributions on the part on man. Good, God has provided it, how do I get it? But by insisting on the term God has DECLARED the whole world righteous, all works or cooperation on man’s part are removed.

The men in the ALC, from the old Ohio Synod, wanted to teach “Erst muss der Mensch glauben, dann wird er gerechtfertigt (first must the man believe, then he becomes justified). This old error taught that first one must believe that Christ died for all, then he will be justified. This puts the cart before the horse, my faith before my justification. Against this old heresy Walther and others maintained the formula – Justificatio non post fidem, sed per fidem (Justification not after faith, but through faith). This is the position of Lutheran Orthodoxy. Today we use the term objective justification to teach this truth. God has declared the whole world righteous in Christ Jesus (God so loved the world, John 3:16; The Lutheran church sings, “Christ thou Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, have mercy on me.”)

Of course now, the other side, the Holy Spirit working through the means of Grace must now change the hard and disobedient will of man which is dead in sin and an enemy of God. The Holy Spirit moves the will of man to accept and believe this objective justification. This we call subjective justification. The two must go together; — and you can’t have one without the other!!! If one rejects the objective, universal justification, he cannot be saved. He is lost. We do not believe in universalism, everyone is going to heaven.

The Bible connects universal redemption and universal, objective, justifi- cation and treats them as the same.For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. Romans 5:5-7. Christ died for all. This Rydecki does not reject. But in the same book, a chapter earlier, Paul writes, But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, Romans 4:4-6

God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many (i.e., all) were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many (i.e., all) will be made righteous. (Rom 5:18,19)

The Lutheran Confessions, although not using the term objective justification, teach this concept.

But when the Lord Jesus Christ came, He forgave to all people the sin, which no one could avoid. … Christ took away the sin of the whole world, as John testified saying in John 1:29, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Apology, Art IV, Justification, 103 Concordia, page 99

Just as the preaching of repentance is universal, so also the promise of the Gospel is universal, that is, it belongs to all people. Formula of Concord, Art XI, 28, Concordia, p. 606

All have sinned and (all) are justified freely. Smalcald Articles, second part, Art. I,3, Concordia, page 263.

By way of illustration: A man pays my entire debt, gives me a check, and declares me debt free. But I must believe this, cash the check. It does me no good until I cash it. But I cannot cash it before he declares me debt free.

This clear teaching that God has declared all people righteous, Objective Justification (WELS catechism, question 253) Rydecki refuses to accept and teach. Thus he is rightly to be removed from the ministry of the WELS!

Pastor M.F. Bartling
Onalaska, WI, Oct. 2012


  1. Christ died for all... Yet the will of man persists. One cannot successfully beat Arminian theology. So, its critics use unrelated nonsense. The bible is clear, man should come to God. He has the power to rebel against God, or not. As free-will makes or breaks.

  2. Where does Gregory L. Jackson advocate synergism? His published response includes the following points. Bartling: "By way of illustration: A man pays my entire debt, gives me a check, and declares me debt free. But I must believe this, cash the check. It does me no good until I cash it. But I cannot cash it before he declares me debt free." Jackson: "Where is this lame analogy in the Bible?" "Obviously, Mark [Bartling] has no idea what synergism is." Telling someone to believe in Jesus Christ, as was done in the book of Acts, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved," is not synergism.