20 February 2010

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

We are not to look back to our conversion for assurance, but we must go to the Savior again and again, every day, as though we had never been converted. My former conversion will be of no benefit to me if I become secure. I must return to the mercy-seat every day, otherwise I shall make my former conversion my savior, by relying on it. That would be awful; for in the last analysis it would mean I make myself my savior. -- C. F. W. Walther, *Proper Distinction* p. 207


Anonymous said...

For two days I have been waiting for someone to comment on this, but to no avail. Is it not crystal clear that this quotation from Walther, taken by itself, is untenable as an expression of the Christian faith? Rarely have I seen an example of how a statement taken out of context becomes almost the opposite of its intended meaning, as is the case here. (Had the posting begun with “No; we are not …”, as in the original, we might have had a clue to the fact that there is more here than meets the eye) Those who care to look at Walther’s Nineteenth Evening Lecture will see that Walther’s point is to condemn the pietistic belief in profound emotions that should accompany conversion.

The evening’s thesis is that “that Law and Gospel are grievously commingled by those who assert that assurance of the forgiveness of sins requires praying, struggling, and wrestling until finally a joyful feeling arises in the heart, indicating to the person in a mysterious way that grace is now in his heart and that he can be of good cheer because he has forgiveness of his sins.” Walther spends a considerable amount of time quoting Luther and using his own words to assure the listener that he can and must be certain of salvation, but not because of some “inner voice,” but because of our faithful Lord’s unfailing promises given us in the Scriptures.

When Walther says, “we must go to the Savior again and again, every day, as though we had never been converted,” this contradicts everything we know and what Walther taught about the meaning of repentance and the coming into being of the new creation in the waters of Baptism. But when read within the context of the whole lecture, I believe Walther is not proclaiming doctrine here, but using hyperbolic speech, as our Lord did, when He said, “If your eye offends you, pluck it out.” But, particularly for the layperson who reads this without the context, does it not create doubt in one’s salvation?

I am curious; what were your thoughts when you posted this, Rev. Weedon?

Peace and joy!
George A. Marquart

William Weedon said...

Dear George,

I think you are missing what Dr. Walther meant by "go to the Savior" - he could as well have written return to Baptism, to the Word, to the Eucharist. In other words, we place no confidence in any experience of repentance we once had; we must live in daily repentance and this drives us constantly into the arms of the Forgiver of sinners.


Anonymous said...

Dear Rev. Weedon: as I said, Walther here is not teaching doctrine. If he were, he could never justify “as though we had never been converted.” One who has not been converted is unable to “go to the Savior,” Baptism, etc. as Walther himself taught. But if you did not read the text of the lecture, you would have no way of knowing that. Furthermore, daily repentance and conversion are two very different things.
Et vobiscum,
George A. Marquart