There is Nothing New Under the Sun

by C.F.W. Walther
translated by Souksamay Phetsanghane

This C.F.W. Walther article is taken from Lehre und Wehre, volume 29, number 10, October 1883. It was written during the Election Controversy that plagued the Synodical Conference at this time. In short, the Election Controversy was whether God elected people to salvation intuitu fidei, in view of faith. Did God from eternity see that some would have faith in him and then elect them to eternal life? Obviously not, God’s election is entirely out of his love and grace. Walther proves that this Election Controversy is not new. It happened before between Dr. Samuel Huber and Dr. Lukas Osiander. We should take this lesson to heart. Many controversies faced by the early church, we now face in our time. This should lead us to study diligently church history in order to recognize and repel such heresies with the piercing light of God’s Word. By God’s grace, may we never fall prey to long-defeated heresies because of our own ignorance of orthodox Lutheranism and its history.

A few notes about the translation are needed. I have added the (German) when my translation is trying to put a German idiom into English and where the German is clearer than the English. [Words in brackets] are added to fill in the German ellipsis and to clarify words where needed. Italics, unless otherwise noted, are emphasis in the actual article. The Latin phrases are kept as is in order to keep the integrity of the article. Walther’s paragraph breaks are kept, but more breaks are added and some sentences are broken up to make it more coercive to the English ear. The translation tries to strike a medium between literal and idiomatic. The German word order is maintained when the sentence’s emphasis would be lost and when the sentence is still good, modern English.

To the glory of him who loved us from eternity, in time was born, lived, suffered, died, and rose again, who now rules over His Church at the right hand of the Father, and soon will come again to take her to her heavenly home. Amen.

Prof. Schmidt in Madison, WI, and his followers (Anhänger) knowingly accuse us, Missouri Synod members, of Calvinism. This is now so blasphemous, since we all specifically reject and damn Calvinist teachings with heart, mind, and pen and we teach the direct opposite of it. Thus it is still nothing new at all that the heretics cry out that the orthodox Lutherans are (als) Calvinists, in order to cloak their heresies. This happened under another Samuel Huber in the last decade of the 16th century. In order to cloak his heresies, that primarily all people would be elected without any exception, that moreover only the believers claimed the universal election for themselves through faith and would share in the same [election], he namely also slandered the Wittenberg and Tübingen theologians as Calvinists, just as now Prof. Schmidt and his followers [slander]. At last, we certainly will not say that they are Huberians. Only, as they also always twist and turn, in order that they might disguise and hide themselves, not only does the doctrine concerning election (Gnadenwahlslehre) openly supported by them amount entirely undeniably to the lowest Huberianism, but also they do not portray less the purist of Huberianism among themselves with explicit words. Truly not only the simple misguided Christian laity, but also the preachers, even such preachers, who occupy a prominent position among them, have asked about their “faith,” although without so much as suspecting that their doctrine would be this heresy, which has been victoriously subdued in our church long ago already in the 16th century and universally rejected. What was happening at that time is therefore repeated in our time. One sees especially clearly from a writing of the Tübingen theologian, Lukas Osiander, in a truly surprising way, that he, whom Samuel Huber branded as a Calvinist, not only once occupied this same doctrinal position as we, but also once drove this home to his opponents in this same way. Also Osiander acknowledged first, namely like us, the doctrine in the Formula of Concord concerning the article in dispute. Now he likewise holds to the same positions of confession as we hold against our opponents, thus to his Huber, who also wanted partly to be a confessional Lutheran, to whom he, Osiander, truly would stand unshakeable. Moreover these things [Calvinist errors], Huber would never honestly be able to subscribe with his teaching and through them, he would be unmasked as one who has fallen away from the Lutheran confession.

The writing of Osiander, which we mention, appeared at Tuebingen in 1599 and has the following title: “Last answer to Dr. Samuel Huber’s blasphemous writings, with these he is understood to charge Dr. Luke Osiander unreasonably and to cause him to be suspected of Calvinist error with no basis.”

With that, our reader now also sees that Solomon’s passage is proved to be true again: There “is nothing new under the sun.” Here we give Osiander’s writing word for word, with the exception of the eleventh article of the Formula of Concord contained in it.1

The little book reads as follows:
“Although I have finally considered with myself and have decided, according to my ‘Well-founded Statement (Gründlichen Bericht) on Dr. Huber’s Slanderous Writing’ to not further associate myself with him; because he could have openly noted from my same writing,” “That I have not added to Calvinistic error in the least, but I have proved in my aforementioned writing with ten articles that my teaching and the teaching of the Calvinists [would be] distinguished so far as fire and water, darkness and light from one another,”2 “nevertheless because Dr. Samuel Huber still does not want to stop, but up to now, he (also according to my detailed well-founded statement) does still continue to further suspect my useful writings in several of his little treatises, as also [he does not stop to suspect] my entire ecclesiastical office of false doctrine, thus I want once more, truly not to please him, but good-hearted Christians, to rescue my innocence, to (over and above) give my short pure Christian confession in this writing about the eternal foreknowledge and election of God and afterwards to allow him, Dr. Huber, to quarrel, bark, blasphemy, and rage, until God puts down his slandering; which surely will happen (if he does not stop and cease.) And I want to faithfully show such a thing as my Christian confession from the Christian Book of Concord, to which Dr. Samuel twice has subscribed with his own hands, also has sworn an oath to it. If he now is in agreement with the Book of Concord, as he pretends (as an appearance and to deceive good-hearted people), he should reasonably not have me slandered and afflicted in the future. However if he has walked away from the Book of Concord (which still is powerfully grounded in God’s Word) and has forgotten his subscription or double subscribing and his oath, I want to place before the Christian church to judge, what is to be thought of such a man.”

“I however want to tell the entire contents of the article concerning the eternal providence and election of God from the Book of Concord, divided orderly into it’s little strophe (Gesätzlein), in which my Christian confession of this article is grasped; which will certainly serve for the better and pure understanding of the good-hearted, simple Christians.”

Now the entire 11th article of the Formula of Concord follows in our book, divided into 135 paragraphs, which Osiander calls “strophe;” from where Osiander continues as follows:

“So far the explanation of the article concerning the eternal providence and election of God suffices, as the same [explanation] is told according to the guidance of the holy divine Scriptures in the Book of Concord word for word. And I have changed nothing in it, have added nothing from my thought, nor have left anything out, only for the sake of length; I have skipped several passages of the writing, which everyone quite certainly here confesses. However I have placed the words of the Book of Concord, as they in themselves read. That I moreover have divided the same [words] into short strophe (Gesätzlein) or propositiones and marked [them] with numerals, happened only for the sake of a better understanding of the good-hearted thought from me, so that the text of the Book of Concord is so much more understandable, and the simple reader is able to consider all little points so much the better and keep [them] in mind. And I want once more to have explained myself over and above before the most holy of all Trinity, God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, also all holy angels and the entire Christendom: that I hold all and every 135 propositiones (which I have written down word for word from the Christian Book of Concord) from the first to the last, throughout with no exception, as the pure divine Christian doctrine, which [is] in accord with the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures, and that I now believe the aforementioned propositiones from the heart and teach my listeners thus; as the pious, honest hearts of those will give testimony to me. If also something would be found in all of my writings that in the least has it’s one appearance as contrary to this Christian statement of the work of Concord in one or more propositions or strophe (Gesätzlein), I still wish that the same should not be received or understood otherwise, than this Christian Book of Concord reads in this and other articles. With that, I also (through God’s grace) plan to continue until my blessed end. I want to have asked the Christian reader for God’s sake that he would not wish to receive and consider my entire explanation (which I before have also written and now repeated against Doctor Huber) otherwise, than as when I told the 135 strophes (Gesätzlein) or propositiones altogether above and have subscribed everyone separately with my own hand. On account of this, if Doctor Samuel Huber would not have attacked me further (about my so abundantly and well-founded pure explanation) with his slanders, would not have assigned me to the destructive, damned error of the Calvinists in this and other articles, nor would cause my useful writings to be suspected with such hateful names, he otherwise should have clung to the Book of Concord from the heart (as he wants to be considered for that) and should not have subscribed twice to the same thing with his own hand against his conscience nor should have sworn an oath to it at Wittenberg (where he has wanted to become Doctor) from the heart (and not in a false, crafty, malicious way [sworn to it].) However because Dr. Huber has so great a desire, to examine theologos, as he up till now has been understood in several printed writings. I have explained myself now against him in the evident writings over and above. Thus it is of my hope, not unreasonably, that Dr. Huber is also examined a little by an old and well-known doctor, namely by Dr. Lukas Osiander, who has now preached the holy gospel over thirty-four years, and I want to do this examination briefly.”

“For that reason, I ask him at first: whether he, Dr. Huber, believes and knows that the 3rd proposition in the Book of Concord is true and right, which reads in this way: ‘Moreover the eternal election of God vel praedestinatio, that is, God’s foreordination to salvation, does not particularly include (geht über) the innocent and evil, but only includes the children of God, who are elected and foreordained to eternal life, before the world’s foundation was laid.’ Eph. 1. Likewise: whether he, Dr. Huber, also holds the 9th proposition as true and correct, there it is talked about the election of God in this way: ‘On that (namely on this election) also our salvation is established in this way, that the gates of hell should be capable of nothing against it.’ Likewise: whether he, Dr. Huber, holds the words of the Book of Concord in the 34th proposition as good, true and correct, which read in this way: ‘Because only the elect become blessed.’ Likewise: whether he, Dr. Huber, also calls these words in the 66th proposition good and is pleased, where it is said, (that) ‘God foreordained our salvation in his eternal design, which can not be wrong or budged and I laid for protection in the omnipotent hand of our Savior Jesus Christ, no one can snatch us from Him.’ Likewise: whether Dr. Huber is content with the entire 11th chapter of the Book of Concord, in the article of God’s eternal election, because throughout in the same [article], a clear distinction is made and taught in detail between the elect and those, who are not elected, as God the LORD makes all the elect blessed through the holy ministry. And that to not search or find the elect among those, who do not hear God’s Word or also constantly despise it until the end.”

“If now (in conformity with the divine Scriptures and Book of Concord) the eternal election of God only includes the children of God and only the elect become blessed, also our salvation is established on the election and eternal foredesign (Fürsatz) of God. The same foredesign of God cannot be wrong or budged. Where then does Dr. Huber’s teaching remain, since he always writes and cries out that before the creation of the world all people are foreseen and elected by God to eternal life? For, since he wants to say with these words nothing other than that God begrudges to no one salvation, but that God has loved all people and therefore has had His Son become man for them all, so that they should become blessed through the same [Son] (in which understanding also several pure teachers have written, that all people are elected to eternal life), with whom does Huber quarrel, if he still has no adversary among all pure Lutheran theologians in this understanding! Thus his theses about the universal election of God as yet would never have been printed at Tuebingen, unless one might have interpreted and received the same [theses] according to the understanding now reported in the best and most moderate way. But Dr. Huber has explained himself further and further against the Holy Scriptures and against the Book of Concord in his openly peace-hating and slanderous writings. He not only would want to have his words interpreted about God’s love towards all people; but also he does not want to permit, that one says, it is spoken improprie and not particularly, that all people are elected by God to salvation; but he stubbornly attacks over and against all the verbal and written reports, faithful warnings and admonitions, which are given to him, that it is spoken particularly and proprissime, that God has elected all people to salvation from eternity. For that reason, he [Huber] calls the particular providence and election of God; with which St. Paul also deals explicitly in the 9th, 10th and 11th chapter of his epistle to the Romans, which is also explained mightily in the Book of Concord; a ‘Stümpelwahl’ in his slanderous writings and gives to the same [Book of Concord] another still much more slanderous title and name. And thus he believes and teaches about this special election of God, as do St. Paul and the Christian Book of Concord, which he exclaims as Calvinist and slanders the pure teachers heinously with false allegations, as if they denied the LORD Christ with their teaching and wanted to prepare the way for the Turkish Koran and Turkish unbelief. In this way, he himself still certainly knows or, yes, should reasonably know, that my and other Christian evangelical theologians’ teaching (which agrees with the Book of Concord throughout) differ so far from the Calvinistic error, as far as heaven and earth, fire and water, white and black, light and darkness. For I told him, before this time in my printed ‘Well-founded Statement,’ 10 differences, that I and the Calvinists speak directly contradicting teachings in this article, when I said “No,” where the Calvinists say “Yes;” and where I say “Yes,” where the Calvinist’s say “No.” Now as my Christian belief and teaching can never be conciliated and similar with the Calvinists’ teaching (as long as the Calvinists maintain their errors), so also when he contends, it is spoken particularly and proprissime, that all people are elected to eternal life, Dr. Huber’s teaching can never be similar with the Christian Book of Concord, which says: Election only includes the children of God, and that only the elect become saved. For indeed these are two contradicting teachings, when Huber says: All people, also they, who are lost and damned eternally (to speak particularly about it), have been elected to eternal life, and when the Book of Concord says: Only the children of God, they who become eternally blessed, they are elected to eternal life. These are contradictoriae propositiones and cannot be conciliated in eternity, namely: Omnes Homines sunt electi; quidam tantum, et non onmes sunt electi. That is: ‘All people are elected,’ and: ‘Only some and not all are elected.’

“Therefore because Dr. Huber up until now explains himself sufficiently with his very false, poisonous, fierce blasphemous writings: that he twice has neither subscribed with the Book of Concord nor from the heart, but only with the hand and pen, and when he also swore an oath to the Book of Concord at Wittenberg, at that time he was not serious; moreover neither from that time, since he again has deviated from the Book of Concord ever longer and ever further. Therefore doing this, I want to reveal to him the sentence or judgment of the Book of Concord concerning his erroneous and false teaching, which reads in this way: ‘Whatever is against this simple, useful explanation, we reject and damn.’ With this judgment of the Christian Book of Concord, (which Dr. Huber knocks down with his false teaching) I for my part have it remain. And who has a desire for that, to read, to print, to demand, and to spread his rejected and damned blasphemous writings, I want to give him to answer such a thing on the Last Day before the righteous Judge, Christ. The omnipotent, faithful God wants the little sheep of Christ and the same shepherd to be on guard against false teachings and to keep with the Holy Word until the end! Amen.”

Doing this, Osiander then concludes his “Last Answer.” Truly Huber has also drawn again from his same universalistic-synergistic election and his allegation that Osiander’s teaching is Calvinist, in all its variations, with always-greater force. Moreover he had scarcely differed from this life, thus his teaching was also dead and only still lived on in story. Therefore may sharers of Huber’s spirit, even our opponents, openly abandon (feilbieten) further pursuing their rationalistic-synergistic teaching in preference to Luther’s teaching, [pursuing] the fight against us with the look of a victor with always greater bitterness, yes, with truly diabolical hostility, in lack of better weapons, to make our characters unpopular before all and they strive to fill the poor people with true infernal hate towards us. They slander purely all in us, even that, which determines absolutely nothing in the strife. If God wants, they will not reach their one goal, to rip apart our congregations and entire synod and to once come [out] even on top, and also their “Common-sense Theology,” which grasps here and there, soon is only to be heard as a story.

1 That we directly give Osiander’s writing as the proof of our statement, in that has it’s reason among other[s], that our opponents also have attempted to blow in the same horn with Huber and before others to directly mark that great Lutheran Theologian [Osiander], who has written one of the most beautiful reference Bibles, has produced an excellent work in the history of the church and has worked out the Latin translation of the Formula of Concord which is accepted by our church, as a Calvinist error teacher.

2 In this way Osiander namely had written at the close of his “Well-founded Statement” two years earlier:

“However, I am tired of Huber (dem Huber nach der Fülle eingeschenkt werde) and in order that all Christians may know, that no vein, drop of blood, or hair in me would be Calvinist, in this way I want to compare the godless teaching of the Calvinists and my Christian teaching against one another at the conclusion of this, my vindication [Well-founded Statement], so that everybody might understand the distinction. The Calvinists’ teaching is: God has decreed the majority of the human race to eternal damnation through His eternal unchangeable counsel, only according to His Will. Dr. Osiander’s teaching: God has decreed no man to eternal damnation. – Calvinists’ [teaching]: God does not want that everyone become saved, but wants that the majority of people be lost. Osiander: God wants, that every man become saved, and does not want, that anyone be lost. – Calvinists’: God has created the greatest part of people for eternal damnation. Osiander: God has created no man for eternal damnation. – Calvinists’: God has never loved the entire human race. Osiander: God has always loved the entire human race. – Calvinists’: God has not sent His Son for all people as a Redeemer. Osiander: God has sent His Son to all people as a Redeemer. – Calvinists’: Christ has not died for all people’s sin. Osiander: Christ has died for all people’s sin. –Calvinists’: The promises of the gospel do not apply (geht) to all people. Osiander: The promises of the gospel do apply to all people. – Calvinists’: God’s will is not, that every one would believe the gospel and become saved. Osiander: God’s will is, that every one would believe the gospel and become saved. – Calvinists’: In Holy Baptism, countless children are not reborn. Osiander: In Holy Baptism, all children are reborn. – Calvinists’: The elect cannot block God’s grace, but also keep the Holy Spirit in the hard hour of death. Osiander: the elect can block God’s grace and lose the Holy Spirit in the hard hour of death. – Truly much more differences could still be shown between my Christian teaching and the Calvinistic godless teaching; but who wants to consider and call me still a Calvinist (above these, my well-founded earnest statement), I must in return consider him as a mischievous calumniator, an immodest liar, and as a child of Satan. –

Thus you, dear Christian reader, have my well-founded and true statement about Dr. Samuel Huber’s slanderous and false writing, in which he wants to forcefully make me into a Calvinist. And you will sufficiently understand, how unreasonable and untrue he deals with me (out of an embittered mind), and that I in the least [have] not participated in Calvinistic, unchristian, despondent, and blasphemous teaching.” “And with that you, dear Christian reader, may know my entire confession about the article of the election of God, in this way I have had my sermon of this added (about which Dr. Huber so dreadfully rages); so that everyone might know, that Dr. Huber (on account of poison and scorn against me) would no more be hardened with his senses but moreover with devilish malice, who wants to cause me to be suspected of Calvinistic error (also from this sermon). If Dr. Huber is still to be converted, that he might recognize his malice and repent for it, that he might know all my useful writings, which were placed under suspicion, I want to certainly wish him well on his conversion from [my] heart and (as far as he still does not sin at [his] death), I want to pray for him. If he however wants to continue with his slanders (against his conscience) and continue to run to the hellish fires, I must let it happen. Nevertheless, dear Christendom will not perish on account of his rattling.” – Thus far Osiander.

What this beloved man confesses here is also our positive and negative confession, as every man knows, who has read our publications. And on that account, it also applies in many connections to our opponents who likewise slander us, what Osiander here says about Huber, who slanders him. All our solemn absolutions about all Calvinistic erroneous teachings till now have done nothing with them; still they do not stop, it would be against better knowledge, it would be out of a horrible delusion, to accuse us of Calvinism. They are not to be openly satisfied until we agree to their shameful doctrine that perverts the entire gospel: “On the Decision for Grace,” gives up the sola gratia with them in this way, and solves the mystery of the decree of election with them in a rationalistic-synergistic way. However if they now desire to tell the people lies and also still desire to lie so many ignorant things, our pure evangelical doctrine of election is Calvin’s teaching and their rationalistic-synergistic teaching is Luther’s teaching: their present outward successes are only God’s judgments against them, who fight the judgments over themselves and over all, who are of their spirit. However may God help the poor Christian people mislead by them!

3 Entirely the same places of the Formula of Concord, with which here Osiander first has charged to the erroneous spirit, Huber, we also have charged to our opponents, already with the opportunity of the first open disputation in the year 1880 with the same [people.] And as first through that, even if he is not silent, Huber still has become known before the entire Lutheran church as one fallen away from the their confession, also through that, our opponents have been indeed even less silent, but before all people present, have been driven so into a corner, that now they finally neither could have been moved backwards or forwards. Seeing, [they] were discovered as the deniers of the confession, to decide upon a sense of the main paragraphs (of the 5th and 8th) of the 11th article of the Formula of Concord, before (eher, als bis) one has read the passages, which in the following deal with the universal decree of grace, and from that, would have modified those [assumptions], or rather would have corrected.