« AnteriorContinua »
of Concord. In this formula synergism was rejected, and the dogmatic theology of the Church, as a rule, has maintained the monergistic emphasis of Luther. The reason of this repudiation of synergism and vigorous maintenance of monergism was, and continues to be this, that the very willingness in which the human will “assents " to the call and intent of the Gospel and complies through faith with the condition of salvation is possible only under the prevenient working and grace of God, and is not to be credited to man's account, but to God. It is, indeed, true that man acts in the consent" of will
“ in the act of faith, but not from himself alone; for God is working in him to will and do. In faith man“ believes," not God for him, but the act is enabled by grace and so is to be credited to grace. It is sufficient to settle the practical bearings of the question of inability to see and accept this fact that, without such prevenient and enabling gracious action, men will not and cannot come to God in true repentance and the exercise of saving faith in Christ. To make possible the very act that meets the condition of salvation by those who hear the Gospel, God must, through the truth and Holy Spirit, give the ability. This makes salvation wholly of grace, excludes self-dependence, and allows no claim of merit. It does not, however, fully determine and exhibit the question of synergism. The latter traces and finds the monergistic movement until the assent of the human free-will needs to be given to the effectual working of God's grace. All parties agree that, after regeneration, the
. human subject of grace co-operates in continued exercise and obedience of faith. But the question, in speculative
* See Lutheran Quarterly, January, 1904, Dr. J. W. Richard's article on "The Lutheran Predestinarian Controversy."
view is whether, at the very meeting point of the divine and human action-the initial assent of faith-this assent itself can be regarded as a human concurrence, 'co-operative' with God's working of grace, or is it purely a product of it? It is a product of it—in the very positive sense that without and apart from that divine working it would not and could not take place. This justifies the monergenistic attribution. But it may be viewed from another angle-from which there is recognition of the equal truth that "faith" is man's act, while it is a resultant of the divine working. If so, there may be recognized a truth in each contention. And that this may justly be maintained becomes clear by a closer discrimination of the meeting point in the two factors. While the work of salvation is from the beginning to completion possible only through the communicative grace of God, it is to be observed that the requisite to this possibility involves, not a divine act of "assent," but the Holy Spirit's work, by which, step by step, He enables the human will to act in its constitutional function of freebelief. The point to which the prevenient grace carries is that at which the natural necessity of resistance of grace is superseded by the possibility of accepting it. It means, thus, that the freedom of decision is restored (liberum arbitrium liberatum),' the possibility of either faith or continued resistance. And as faith, "assent," 'yielding," is man's act, it meets or fulfills the Gospel condition of salvation, and becomes per se co-operative with the plan and working of God. On the one side it is the outcome of prevenient grace; on the other it becomes human concurrent action in the divine work. And as this faith, thus secured and becoming actual, is
1 "Form of Concord," Part II., 67.
essential for conversion and salvation, the exact truth seems to justify Melanchthon's counting of "three causes, the Holy Spirit, the Word, and the human will, in the great transitional change from the one state to the other. This does not imply that the causes are equal, or of the same order.
God and His word express productive causality, while that in the free-will is rather mediatory, i. e., the free assent is an essential "mean" to the passing of grace into newness of life. Yet this mean is supplied in the believer's free act. Because it is an enabled'
" freedom that acts in assent, the credit is monergistically ascribed to God; but because the “assent” is at the same time a human act, it actually fulfills the required “condition” for salvation, and becomes a concurring element in the great change. And when it is remembered that our Lutheran theology, including the “Form of Concord," asserts synergism after prevenient grace has quickened the soul into regenerate life, it is easy to see that the synergistic element may be included also in the moment or act of human belief-especially as this faith is, by the teaching of Christ and the Apostles, made the essential human condition for the realization of the divinely provided regeneration and salvation; and is, moreover, the only way of escape from the absolute predestinarianism that holds election and renewal as irrespective of foreview of faith, a predestinarianism which our theology rejects. When the movement of the divine application of grace is conceived of under the fundamental doctrine of justification and salvation by faith, its normal progress is, not regeneration before faith, while the sinner is still stiff-neckedly resisting the Holy Spirit, but beginning in a prevenient grace empowering the will to cease opposition and to "assent " and believe, it reaches "regeneration and renewal” through the faith that accepts or yields to the regenerating word and work. While the ordo salutis of absolute predestinarianism may place regeneration before faith, as it is wont to, such an order would be utterly ab normal to a theology that recognizes the universality of the atonement, the sincerity of the Gospel call, and the determining principle of justification through faith alone in the application of redemption. The assertion, sometimes made, that this faith, or the soul in it, is merely "passive,” is a contradiction in terms, since faith, even in its lowest form of “assent” is a human act.
The extreme representations of the Form of Concord on this subject have not been received by all Lutheran theologians without some qualification. In making qualifications they have evidently not felt themselves at variance with Luther himself. For Luther not only allowed but approved Melanchthon's view as the latter incorporated it in the “Variata" of the Augsburg Confession, and as stated in his “Loci," which Luther endorsed in the highest terms. And he himself expresses the essence of it when, in his “De Servo Arbitrio," he says: “If God does not will death, it must be imputed to our will that we perish. Rightly, I say, if you speak of the proclaimed God, for He wills that all men be saved, inasmuch as by the word of salvation He comes to all, and it is the fault of the will, which does not admit Him. ... Therefore, the Incarnate God says, 'How often would I have gathered thy children, but ye would not.'»Moreover, Melanchthon's view was dis
1 tinctly held by the prominent theologians, Brentz, Selnecker, Chemnitz, and Andreæ, and the activity of the
Erlangen Edition of Luther's Works, pp. 222-223.
will in faith or conversion was widely recognized in the old Lutheran teaching. And some of the later and nodern dogmaticians have shown a sense of need of modifying the rigor of the Form of Concord's statements. Thus Musæus, Quenstedt, and Hollaz explain it as meaning only that the excitation of the Holy Spirit through the call of the Gospel brings the possibility of faith along with the possibility of unbelief, restoring thus freedom of decision, which manifestly contains the substance of Melanchthon's teaching.' Among our recent leading theologians, it is sufficient to note that Thomasius, Sartorius, Kahnis, and Luthardt present essentially the same view, setting forth conversion as a divine work of grace in which the human liberated will becomes an active factor.
One thing is certain. The monergism of the Form of Concord, being thus manifestly introduced in order to exalt the divine grace and exclude human merit, giving all the glory of salvation to God, is not the absolute monergism normal to Calvinistic predestinarianism. It is radically and necessarily modified from that. However easily its phraseology may suggest it, it is not that, and was not intended to be so viewed. For the Formula, at its very heart, carries the all-determining truth of justification by faith, through a provision of salvation for all men, a sincere call through the same Gospel and the same Holy Spirit who, as God, truly “would have all men to be saved ” (1 Tim. ii. 4). Its fundamental postulate wholly excludes the Cal
1 For decisive evidence of this fact, see articles on “The Old Lutheran Doctrine of Free-will,” by Dr. J. W. Richard, in The Lutheran Quarterly, for April, July and October, 1905.
: Dorner's “ History of Protestant Theology," I., p. 274.