Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Very Heart of the Evangelical System

Quoting Charles Porterfield Krauth, from his book The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology:
...All theology, without exception, has had views of the atonement which were lower or higher, as its views of the Lord’s Supper were low or high. Men have talked and written as if the doctrine of our Church, on this point, were a stupid blunder, forced upon it by the self-will and obstinacy of one man. The truth is, that this doctrine, clearly revealed in the New Testament, clearly confessed by the early Church, lies at the very heart of the Evangelical system – Christ is the centre of the system, and in the Supper is the centre of Christ’s revelation of Himself. The glory and mystery of the incarnation combine there as they combine nowhere else. Communion with Christ is that by which we live, and the Supper is “the Communion.” Had Luther abandoned this vital doctrine, the Evangelical Protestant Church would have abandoned him. He did not make this doctrine – next in its immeasurable importance to that of justification by faith, with which it indissolubly coheres – the doctrine made him. The doctrine of the Lord’s Supper is the most vital and practical in the whole range of the profoundest Christian life – the doctrine which, beyond all others, conditions and vitalizes that life, for in it the character of faith is determined, invigorated, and purified as it is nowhere else. It is not only a fundamental doctrine, but is among the most fundamental of fundamentals.
    We know what we have written. We know, that to take our Savior at His word here, to receive the teachings of the New Testament in their obvious intent, is to incur with the current religionism a reproach little less bitter than if we had taken up arms against the holiest truths of our faith. We are willing to endure it. Our fathers were willing to shed their blood for the truth, and shall we refuse to incur a little obloquy? The fact that we bear the name of a Church which stood firm when rationalizing tendencies directed themselves with all their fury against this doctrine of the Word of God, increases our responsibility. When, at a later and sadder period, she yielded to subtlety what she had maintained successfully against force, and let here doctrine fall, she fell with it. When God lifted her from the dust, he lifted her banner with it, and on that banner, as before, the star of a pure Eucharistic faith shone out amid the lurid clouds of her new warfare, and there it shall shine forever. Our Saviour has spoken; His Church has spoken. His testimony is explicit, as is hers. The Lutheran Church has suffered more for her adherence to this doctrine than from all other causes, but the doctrine itself repays her for all her suffering. To her it is a very small thing that she should be judged of man’s judgment; but there is one judgment she will not, she dare not hazard, the judgment of her God, which they eat and drink to themselves who will not discern the Lord’s body in the Supper of the Lord.

Charles Porterfield Krauth, The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology, (St. Louis: CPH, 2007) 655-56.

You can purchase a copy of The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology from Concordia Publishing House, or download a free copy from the Internet Archive.

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