|The evil mystery, the antichrist must first be exposed and defeated as the Lord makes His appearance. They retorted there had already been several antichrists therefore we could expect Judgment Day at any time. The conditions had already been fulfilled. The antichrist had come in the form of the Roman papcy; its pretense had fallen away and now we must wait daily for the arrival of Christ. I answered that the second coming of Christ as described in 2 Thessalonians 2 may indeed be near, however the second coming and the final time of judgment described in chapters 19 and 20 of St. John's Revelation are separate events. I was prepared to offer something on this point because I had already set a few things down in writing. Several people declared that they could not permit this. Then I said if they would not listen to my reasons then I could not consider them refuted. They replied they had already heard and refuted them. They referred back to everything written in the Lutheran on the subject. It had been fundamentally proven that it ran contrary to the articles of faith and the apostolic symbols to anticipate a prior visitation before the one, visible Second Coming of the Lord and to postpone Judgment Day with a millennium. It's just like eating and drinking with a group of bad servants, slapping a fellow servant on the back and saying, my master won't be back for a long time. I countered, the twisting of these words of warning may apply to those, who live in worldly certainty but not to someone who lives in childlike and faithful devotion to prophetic scripture and who for its sake looks for what will precede Judgment Day. Such a person anticipates the second coming of Christ with yearning and desire, he daily imagines himself before God's seat of judgment and holds himself ready for the final counting. President Wyneken said he would not allow a speech which contained an indirect accusation of the Synod's rejection of all prophetic scripture. I declared that it was not my intention to|
reprimand the Synod. I merely wished to point out how throughly convinced I was that not every prophecy leading to the final judgment had been fulfilled and we must always expect the second coming of the Lord.
I was then asked to give a simple yes or no to the question of whether I believed that Judgment Day was immanent and could come at any time. I said, if no one could provide irrefutable proof that the 1000-years discussed in St. John's Revelation had already come to pass, then how could anyone demand that people consider the prophecy fulfilled and that they now expect the immanence of the last judgment? This response was received with great displeasure. They said I was a stubborn man who had not received sufficient warning. They accused me of audacious madness for attempting to pervert a clear and elucidating article of faith. They refuted my interpretation of scripture. They accused me of allowing the devil to confuse my soul. They deemed me the source of all the misfortune and pain from which a schism would result. I alone would bear the guilt. They told me that the Synod would accuse me before God's judgment seat. I would have to have been made of steel and stone not to be disturbed by all this if I really had been guilty of dangerous heresy. However my conscience told me this was not heresy and God gave me the strength to gather myself and quietly respond that my conscience could not be terrorized with such warnings. My belief in the millennium as revealed through scripture did not go against any article of faith. If there appeared to be a contradiction then it would be the task of theology to solve it but not through negation of the evidence, which points to the future. None of this helped me. People said they feared for my sanity. Any attempt to unite the possible with the impossible was bound to drive a man crazy. They urgently repeated their question whether I believe that
Judgment Day could come at any minute. At the same time they intimated that this would be their final discussion with me. I wanted to answer but another ministerial brother, who perhaps was in sympathy with me, urgently asked that I be given until tomorrow to think about it. They agreed to the request and gave me the option of submitting my answer in writing. In characterizing my opponents I must recall something here. I had said that I believed the millennium actually referred to 1000 years. Even this was deemed a sign of veritable chiliasm. When I responded that even Luther and others had taken it to mean 1000 years I was told: If one places that 1000 years in the past, as Luther did, then it does not run contrary to the analogy of faith; however if one places them in the future it runs contrary to it. If the 1000 years is off in the future then we couldn't expect Judgment Day to come at any time. Is that sound exegesis? Admittedly, they could say anything and prove anything because they had authority on their side. What was I but a poor worm of a man against so many esteemed people! The next day I submitted the requested written reply to the Synod along with the declaration that I was resigning my post as president of the Western District. The reply went as follows.
Regarding the Synod's question of whether I believed that Judgment Day could come at any time, I responded:
After weighing and comparing various prophetic passages concerning matters of the final days, I had concluded that not all prophecies had been fulfilled. Before the end the Lord Jesus Christ may permit His church to enter His graceful realm, but I still do not consider it impossible that Judgment Day might come at any time. According to my understanding I do not consider every prophetic passage infallible.
I had been so assaulted on the previous three days that I could not bring myself to attend the Synod on this day. My response was not deemed sufficient.
|Still Professor Walther thought he saw a faint glimmer of hope in it, but he didn't get a chance to explore it further because after its previous session with me the Synod examined the trial documents concerning a past chiliast by the name of Seidenbecher from Gotha, who lived at the time of Duke Ernst the Pious (from Gottfried Arnold's Church and Heretic History.) A letter from the absent Pastor Brohm of New York, which admonished both sides to seek peace and warned of schism, was also read on this day and the question was raised, whether the contents of the letter should be communicated to me. Certain individuals deemed it inadvisable and it was decided to tell me about if only if I asked. On Monday, October 19th sessions started anew. My response was read again. I added verbally that I did not intend to make my beliefs on the millennium an article of faith and I would not publically teach about it. I had not done so in the past and I would not do so now. To me it was simply a matter of freedom of conscience. Prof. Walther said, he would have let things drop if my belief was just a human decision without reference to scripture. Was one still to hope that the Lutheran Church would have a great future in America? I responded that if I didn't have grounding in scripture I would never have advanced such a belief. Walther called this blasphemous: form your own opinion based on scripture and then give yourself the right to believe it. Whatever is based on scripture also binds faith. I wanted to refer to the testimony of Dr. Spener on the subject however Walther protested against this. Spener was a biased party. Only those who spoke for something were authorities, not those who spoke against it. They demanded that I reject all forms of chiliasm and then they began to apply the old conscious pressure anew. I asked them once again to listen to my reasons as I had found them in the scriptural context of the prophecies. They would not permit this and they eventually came to the decision that the Synod should break off any further discussions with me. Instead a committee would be appointed and I would be permitted to choose the members myself. This committee would speak further with me on the matter. This was hardly|
a great favor because no one was on my side. In spite of this I chose Sihler, Keyl and Fürbringer. I was supposed to render my final declaration concerning the result of this discussion to the Synod on October 22nd. For now they were rushing to finish with Gruber's letter and declaring Rudelbach's words false as though a theology of prophecy had been constituted since the days of Spener and Bengel. As long as there had been an established system of doctrine in the Lutheran Church chiliasm had never found recognition or authorization.
On the evening of October 20th discussions with the committee of 3 ministerial brothers were concluded. I expected they would examine my interpretation of prophetic scripture based on textual interdependence however I found little evidence that they were pleased or inclined to do so. They should at least have heard my reasons for stating that chapters 19 and 20 of St. John's Revelation were one text. The reasons were:
1. grammatical because there is absolutely no indication that the two chapters should be separated. Chapter 20, 1 begins with "And" and verse 10 of chapter 20 related directly back to verse 20 of chapter 19.
2. Once Satan is kept from seducing people, he can no longer exercise his mighty wrath on this earth as described in chapter 12, 13 and up to the end of chapter 19.
3. Once the tools of his seduction receive their punishment in chapter 19, chapter 20 presents what follows for the seducer himself.
Fürbringer alone called it all free-floating interpretation without contradicting it. They referred me back to the analogs of faith whereby all dark passages of scripture must be laid out. Your means of interpretation is not permitted. They began anew to heap reprimand upon reprimand upon me for intellectual arrogance, confusion and bewitchment. They burdened my conscience with the consequences of schism. I was tearing apart the body of Christ and others. I responded that I would gladly accept instruction if they could solve the apparent contradiction in these obscure passages in scripture in an sensible manner.
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