Monday, November 29, 2010

A Look At Doctrinal Changes In The Apostolic Lutheran Church

November, 2010

A Brief Expose Of The Errors In The 1996 Edition Of The Principles Of The Doctrine Of Christ As Taught In The Apostolic Lutheran Church Of America

"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children." Hosea 4:6.

What is doctrine? It is defined simply as “teaching” or “instruction”. Every person when preaching, speaking or teaching concerning God’s word, is engaged in giving instruction and teaching doctrine, whether it be truth or error. The doctrines of Christ are plainly laid out for us in Scripture, and these teachings are to be earnestly contended for, because only with sound doctrine can Christ be known. Scripture in so many places instructs us to keep and teach sound doctrine. Paul writes to the young preacher Timothy, “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.” I Tim. 4:16. Would this not mean that without continuing in the Apostolic doctrines, those who hear cannot be saved? And because, as Jesus taught, a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump, those who do not keep the doctrine of Christ are to be shunned. “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.” II John 9-11.

Scripture also teaches that in the last days, those people who once had sound doctrine will turn from it and believe a lie. “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron, etc.” I Tim. 4: 1-2. How can we know when one has departed from sound doctrine? Simply by knowing what was the original true teaching and comparing it with the new. Many say they don’t need to hear the old doctrines of the church Fathers, because they have the Bible. But did not our Elders also have the same Bible? How is it then that there are contrary understandings in the most fundamental teachings? Both cannot be right. What these modern men are saying is not that they have the Bible, but that they have their own understanding of the Bible which is better than that of our true Elders. Because they reject the old teaching, they must also disregard the old writings and say the church Fathers were only men. But are not these ones also only men? Surely. So we now have men who are modern prophets rejecting the teachings of men who are our church Fathers. But is this only a contest between men? Absolutely not, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Eph 6:12.

We are blest to be able to examine this matter in the light of the Holy Spirit, for where He works with the word, there is life and salvation, and these things are not hid but are evident. Jesus said we are to judge a tree by its fruit, and we can therefore examine the fruit of the doctrines of our church Fathers against the fruit of the modern doctrines. There is also an inner testimony of all who are of the Truth with those doctrines which answer to the work of God in their heart. My own testimony is that my spiritual experience has been in accord with the teachings of our church Fathers, and does not answer with the contrary teachings of today.

This matter is not difficult to judge, for the doctrines of Christ were most plainly defined, explained, and written down for us during the time of the Reformation. The Reformation, which occurred in the early 1500’s, was the result of men preaching again the old Apostolic doctrines at a time when the Christian church, namely the Roman Catholic Church, was asleep in error. The scriptural doctrine of justification by faith had been long withheld from the people, and the church made many demands of works righteousness, and yet never gave a word by which a sinner could be confident that he was justified and at peace with a righteous God. The Reformation doctrines have been always upheld when living Christianity burned brightly. These written doctrines are known as the Lutheran Confessions and are contained in the Book of Concord. These documents were written largely because at that time the secular rulers held great power over the church, and the Reformers were called before these authorities to explain and defend, in writing, their doctrine as being according to Scripture. The penalty was severe - probably death - should they fail in this, and the Roman Catholic Church worked tirelessly to destroy them. This was done during a great spiritual warfare of truth against error, during which conflict many, including our early church Father, Martin Luther, risked death in contending for the truth. The Reformation was the greatest awakening time since the age of the Apostles, with a great harvest of souls unto eternal life. Truly it was an event which changed the church, the world, and even the course of history. I urge everyone to study at least the unaltered Augsburg Confession, for therein is concisely stated the truth concerning sin and grace, law and gospel. It is the same doctrine as our Catechism, but in different words.

There was another great awakening during the time of Laestadius, who can be called our latter church Father. This occurred in the 1800’s in the region of Sweden, Finland and Norway, during which time there was again a great harvest of souls as sinners were turned unto Christ. Laestadius was an ordained minister in the Lutheran Church of Sweden, who held firmly and taught boldly the Lutheran doctrine, applying it to the heart, and citing the Lutheran Confessions as right doctrine. The truth of these doctrines were also experienced in the hearts of the believers, including Luther and Laestadius, in their times, and for this reason too they so earnestly contended for these truths. God promised to give unto us, the Church, the gifts of Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, for our benefit (Eph. 4:11). Jesus said a tree is known by its fruit, and when we see the blessed fruit of the Reformation doctrines, we can be sure those teachings are according to truth, and we must be highly suspect of any opposing doctrine. Our Elders, such as Luther and Laestadius, are a fulfillment of God’s promise. May we be humble enough to learn from them.

We are now able to identify those people who have departed from the faith as being they who reject the Reformation doctrines. These deluded souls reject not only the old doctrines, but reject also the Elders such as Luther, Laestadius, and Raattama. J. Raattama was a contemporary of Laestadius, and continued to preach after the death of Laestadius. These men are rejected because the modern doctrine is hostile to the teachings of our Elders. Many doctrines now taught among us are opposite those which were taught during the awakening times. Therefore, since the teachers of error claim to have Scripture on their side, we are privileged to turn to the Lutheran Confessions and thereby judge what is truth and what is error. Surprisingly, many people of our day use the same old arguments against truth which were used against the true Elders. Were these modern prophets more well read, they might be given pause to contemplate their error when they see who are their bedfellows.
Scripture also teaches that there will be in the last time a great falling away from truth. “And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” II Thes. 2: 11,12. Unrighteousness is not only living after the flesh, but is also having a religion which does not hold to and confess the only righteousness which is acceptable to God, that being faith alone in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. This living faith cannot be known where neither sin, grace, nor the means of grace are rightly taught. We must contend for sound doctrine so that souls might be saved.

Would to God the Apostolic Lutheran Church of America had continued united in scriptural doctrine. The Elders who in 1928, according to the laws of the land, gave us our Constitution and By-Laws, specifically define the Lutheran Confessions as the doctrines of this church. How tragic it is that these Elders are rejected, but so it must be when a people begin to embrace new and false teachings, for when the doctrines of the Elders are rejected, so also must the Elders also be rejected. The Elders who gave us our By-Laws upheld Raatama and his understanding that we ought to uphold the doctrines held by Laestadius, and to honor and revere the sacramental Christian church. This is written in the unaltered English translation of the By-Laws of the Apostolic Lutheran Church. Laestadius upheld Luther and the Lutheran doctrine. This is written in The Voice Of One Crying In The Wilderness, where about seventy times Laestadius refers to Luther and the Lutheran Confessions, and always in a positive light and as scriptural doctrine, against which all doctrine is to be judged. Laestadius also, in his sermons, refers often to Lutheran doctrine, and in one place calls Luther "One angel who cried from the ascending of the dawn." I, too, honor those true Elders who so tirelessly labored in the word and doctrine, and whose writings have nourished my own soul. See I Tim. 5:17.

The Holy Spirit does not reveal opposing doctrines to different people at different times. The holy Scriptures contain but one constant truth, and one unchangeable way in which God works to save sinners, and for this, Scripture instructs us to contend earnestly. The recent preachers of falsehood claim their new doctrines are according to Scripture, but all who work to overturn the ancient doctrines, namely the Apostolic Reformation teachings, are to be rejected. Those who reject the Elders and claim to have new and different revelations from the Bible are not to be trusted, for even the devil has twisted the word of God in order to tempt and deceive not only man, but Christ Himself. These men who put their own understanding of Scripture in opposition to and above that of our true Elders such as Luther and Laestadius, the fruit of whose ministries is abundant and lasting, show no fruit of their own except confusion and degradation of the church. How tragic it is to cast away the gifts God has given unto us.

Men have recently perverted not only our By-Laws, but also the "Principles", and have now led us far from the Elders and away from right scriptural doctrine. They have trampled the good pastures and befouled the clean waters, leaving the little lambs to forage here and there for a blade of grass and a drink of pure water (Ez. 34:18). Others today either defend these errors or sit idly by in tacit support as the wolf tears the flock, and as Jesus said, "He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad." Mat. 12:30. There are precious few, known to God, who have attempted to remedy these deadly errors. "The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished."

It amazes me how haughty and brash are these men who take it upon themselves to recklessly make such radical changes to our church doctrines. Their changes have moved us far from the truth, and have made the Apostolic Lutheran Church into another church altogether, for a church does not consist of a name or building, but it is the teachings, or doctrine, which define and constitute a church. What is the fruit of their new doctrines? Which of these men have with Luther pronounced their own death sentence in order to stand for truth? Where are the great awakenings? Where are the towns where taverns are closed and ungodly books burned in bonfires? Where the great pressing into the kingdom of God by awakened souls crying out for grace and mercy? Where is the sound of rejoicing in the Spirit by sinners saved by grace? Where is a spiritual revival so great that even secular history recognizes it as the "Awakening Time" as in Finland? I see now the fruit of division after division, many young leaving our fellowship for other churches altogether, and worldliness coming into the church. I see new music, with guitars and drums, making a noise nothing like the song of a redeemed soul who has tasted of grace. I see souls wandering from church to church ever seeking but finding no fulfillment. I see people preaching re-baptism, and deluded people being re-baptized. It is not without cause that Paul writes to the Galatians, "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." Eph. 1:8. So zealous is he by unction of the Spirit that he says this twice. How do these false preachers think they shall escape the judgment of God?

This brief examination of the 1996 edition of The Principles of the Doctrines of Christ As Taught In The Apostolic Lutheran Church of America will show in part how some men have not only abandoned, but have repudiated the teachings of the Elders of the Apostolic Lutheran Church, of Laestadius and Raatama, of Martin Luther, of the Apostles of Christ, and of the Lord Himself. I publish this with the hope of informing the younger generation that the doctrines now foisted upon us have been drastically changed from the old, so that there might yet be among us, by the grace of God, that blessed remnant who crave the truth of the gospel, and rejoice in it.

The "Principles" was first published in 1989. A second printing was made in 1996, and states it was printed "with additions". A clear example of how some in the Apostolic Lutheran Church of America have forsaken the teachings of Christ is apparent in this latest printing, for the additions serve to radically change the doctrine and meaning of the first edition. Yet they who have overturned the old doctrines of our church shamelessly try to masquerade as its leaders as if nothing happened.

I am but a simple, inconsequential Christian with no new revelation or doctrine. I simply take in hand to uphold the old Church doctrines which themselves will illuminate the modern errors, with the prayer that our Heavenly Father will yet preserve truth among us for the sake of our children. The four main doctrinal points here addressed are fundamental and important in the extreme. They are: Original Sin, the use of the Law of God, New Birth, and the Means of Grace.

                                                     The Argument

We find this written under the heading of The Awakened State:

"But God is also able to awaken a person who is without the law to the realization of his unsaved condition."

We are to here testify concerning how God works by His word to save the sinner. This corrupt edition of the "Principles" is much changed from the original. The corrupted version states man is convicted "before the holiness of the Lord Jesus Christ", and totally rejects the plain statement that knowledge and conviction of sin comes only by the Holy Law of God. These men would make Christ to be a lawgiver and a judge more fearsome than Moses! However, Scripture says, “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” Jn. 1:17. How can Christ be known when teachers confuse Moses and Jesus, law and gospel? I will let the original version speak for itself:

"Conversion is the work of God in sinful man who in himself is entirely helpless. This person first must be awakened by the righteous and holy Law of God: the Ten Commandments, to see the horror of sin and know that he is condemned under the curse of the Law."

It is obvious that some of our current teachers are in opposition to our Elders, who clearly upheld the Law of God as that part of His word which awakens man to the knowledge of sin. How dare these modern prophets so lightly change the doctrines of our church, against all Scripture and against our Elders, to claim that God awakens man to the knowledge of sin without His holy Law? This is no inconsequential error, for if we are ignorant of how God awakens the sinner, it is not possible that we can preach an awakening word. It is therefore impossible that the very first work of salvation can be accomplished in the heart, thereby leaving all the unawakened to sleep in their sin. Neither can the true depth of sin be known, and those who do not know they are sick will not seek a physician. The holy Law of God alone can reveal to man that there is no soundness in him, that “From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.” Is. 1:6. Yea, it is only when we know that our sickness is unto death that we seek the Physician who alone can raise the dead unto new life. Only then is the cleansing of the blood of Christ known in its fullness and power.

Under the heading of Scriptural New Birth:

Therefore, a childhood Christian, not having departed from the true faith, has no need to be reborn to enter into the kingdom of God from whence he has never departed.

And we find this related error under the heading of The Doctrine Of Baptisms:

Children are not without original sin, which is inherited from our first parents, Adam and Eve, and remains in the flesh of man throughout his natural lifetime.

There is no unbelief in the heart of an infant by which he could reject the redemptive work of Christ.

Here again the Elders are rejected and the modern prophets impose their own corrupt understanding upon our church. I would first show how these writers are confused. Original Sin is scripturally defined as “unbelief“. When we look at the above writing, we see it says that “children are not without original sin”. We then read, “There is no unbelief (original sin) in the heart of an infant.” So which is it? Is mankind born with original sin, or not? The Lutheran Confessions plainly teach that all are born under the curse of the Law because of Original Sin. This is absolutely scriptural doctrine. When God comments on the human race after the Flood, He says, “I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” Gen 8:21. Certainly the word “evil” is in keeping with the doctrine of Original Sin. We see also that youth is no insulation against having a heart with sinful inclinations. Every tree born of Adam is an evil tree, for all, save Christ, bear evil fruit. (Rom. 5:12). We begin here to see why all born of Adam must be born again of the Spirit.

Jesus speaks so plainly in John 3 concerning New Birth that there can be no controversy on this subject. That which is born of the flesh absolutely must be born again of the Spirit in order to be a partaker of the kingdom of God. Jesus says nothing about age, but speaks only of carnal birth and spiritual birth. Interestingly, it is a pharisee, Nicodemus, who could not understand these words of Jesus. So it is today that our modern pharisees, who base their hope on the idea that they were born sinless, and have from childhood led a good life, not partaking of the 'gross' sins of the world, and have 'put away' those sins into which they fell, cannot understand these words of Jesus which condemn their own righteousness.

I will not take the time to myself prove again these truths from Scripture, but will simply show that this modern doctrine is completely contrary to that of our church Fathers, who drew their understanding from Scripture alone, and whose fruit is evident and lasting. I quote Laestadius from The Voice Of One Crying In The Wilderness, page 132. “But eternal death which parents have from generation to generation - yes, beginning with Adam - brought upon their children is a still harder punishment for sin, even though it is entirely contradictory to the intellect that God would so punish children on account of the sins of their parents.” And on page 131 when speaking of infant baptism, “Continuing, the pastor asks the godparents: “Will you, who in the place and stead of the parents here present, by God’s grace take care of this child that it, which through inherited sin is by nature a child of wrath and because of its parents has come under the devil’s power, but which now through the grace to be had in Christ and owned to itself by faith has received forgiveness of its sins which I, as a servant of Christ proclaim upon earth - will you take care that it will not again have opportunity through willful sins to come under the devil’s power, from which it has now become saved through faith in Christ?” I will also quote from the Augsburg Confession, Article II. “Also they teach, (the Lutheran preachers) that since the Fall of Adam, all men begotten according to nature, are born with sin, that is, without the fear of God, without trust in God, and with concupiscence; and that this disease, or vice of origin, is truly sin, even now condemning and bringing eternal death upon those not born again through baptism and the Holy Ghost.”

 A final quote from Laestadius in the “Voice” where he is speaking of children in confirmation class, “And then he could not avoid getting into more detail, or to let each of the children relate the circumstances of his own awakening, conversion, and new birth. The children would thus have to reveal their experiences in the order of grace. In the course of this examination, it could easily happen that many a child who had owned to himself a child-right in God’s kingdom would be entirely unable to respond because he had nothing to show for the foundation of his faith. Everyone who has no inward experiences as a foundation for his convictions must become mute when the question is directed straight into the heart.” Pg. 134.

We see three important teachings in the above. Firstly, all mankind is conceived and born under the power of sin and the devil, and condemned to eternal wrath. Secondly, the remedy for this sin is the gospel, preached by a Christian unto the sinner, in whom the Holy Spirit works faith, and who is then brought under the covenant of baptism. Thirdly, all must be born again. We read nothing here of the common term “piercing of the heart”, but we read only of new birth. Jesus didn’t say some must have their hearts pierced and others must be born again: He said all must be born again. Herein are established the doctrines of Original Sin, salvation by grace through faith, New Birth, and the necessity of the Means of Grace. It cannot be said that there is life and salvation in any other place but where the gospel is rightly preached and the sacraments rightly administered. Outside of the Christian Church is only darkness.

Universalism, the teaching that all people in the world are born in a saved condition, is a common understanding among us. This error denies both the doctrine of Original Sin, and the doctrine concerning the Means of Grace. We know that “(F)aith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” How thankful we must be when we recognize that in our lost condition, God sent His word unto us, and healed us! “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” Rom. 10:14,15. It is written also in Galatians that the preaching of the word is essential unto salvation for all men, “This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” 3:2. We therefore cannot teach that people are born without sin, or that if they are born with sin that it is remedied in any other way than by the means of grace found within the Christian Church. We see also that the Holy Spirit is not given outside of the oral proclamation of the Gospel. Here we begin to see God as a gracious Father and Savior who comes unto the sinner, washes, heals, clothes and saves him, and all of this based purely on His love and mercy. The modern teachings imply that we go to God, and that we by our strength and will avail ourselves of what He has provided. This is the wide gate which leads unto self righteousness. Likewise the doctrine that we all are born saved, and that if we continue to lead a good life and practice our religion properly we will remain saved, is self righteousness. The rejection of the doctrine of Original Sin will necessarily lead to the idea of synergism, which teaches that man in some measure cooperates with God in the matter of salvation. This is self-righteousness. The old “Principles” states, “Conversion is the work of God in sinful man who in himself is entirely helpless.” Spiritual death came upon us from Adam thus making us helpless.

These doctrines are important so that we can understand the will of God versus the will of man, and the power of God in salvation versus the power of man. Scripture destroys any thought or possibility that man can by any means, will, desire or perform that which is right. “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” I Cor. 2:14.

This leads us to a firm foundation for our salvation, which is the will and power of God to save. His will and power to save are manifested most clearly in our crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ. God in the Garden expressed His will to save His children from their sins. He then acted upon His will and sent Christ into the world to take away our sin. God then drew nigh unto us by His word and Spirit, and called us unto Himself. Having been awakened by the law unto the knowledge of our own sin and inability, we despaired of all hope within our selves and cried unto God to save us. God, who hears the cry of the broken and contrite heart, then revealed in us His Son, who has in His own suffering and death taken away all of our sin and judgment. This truth of God was then grasped and known by faith, which faith is not of ourselves, but is the gift of God. (Eph. 2:8). All this work of God springs from His love toward us. Is not this a most sure foundation? For love never fails. God’s will is done. None can resist His power, by which the accuser is cast down. We are recipients of a great salvation and inestimable inheritance based solely upon the love and mercy of God toward us.

The true gospel teaches that God has taken away our sin. We cannot deal with sin with regard to righteousness in the least degree. God Himself puts away our sin (II Sam. 12:13). We enter, by faith in Christ, into the New Covenant, sealed by the blood of Christ. This is a covenant of grace and forgiveness, as it is written, “(F)or I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Is. 31:34. The teaching of justification by faith alone exalts Christ, for it is to Him, and to His cross, to which we look for assurance that all our sins are forgiven, and that all which separated us from God has been removed. Let us go forward in this victory, achieved by Christ and granted us by grace. May we rejoice now and always in our freedom from sin, death, hell and the devil, and as free children of grace journey toward the Homeland. Let us encourage one another along the way, that all impediments to faith and salvation might be remedied by this simple gospel: “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Rom. 4:4. Follow now our Forerunner, Jesus Christ, who has entered into heaven itself, with His own blood, into the presence of God, to testify that the penalty for sin has been fully paid. Follow now, dear penitent heart, with all boldness, for Christ truly is your Forerunner also. Draw nigh unto God with the testimony of the blood of Christ which was shed for the remission of all your sins, and God will surely receive you as His child, and grant you everlasting peace. Jesus instructed His apostles to go into all the world, preaching the gospel and baptizing in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. These we have received, and we lack nothing. We must add nothing to it, neither let any take anything away from it.

May God in His grace preserve us yet in His truth, that the whole word of God, both Law and Gospel, might sound forth clearly, and again bring a great harvest of souls unto the kingdom of God.

From the least of all God’s children,
Steven E. Anderson


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