To explain what is meant by "playing a role" in salvation, I will briefly explain free-will. The free-will doctrine teaches that unregenerated man is able to hear, comprehend, and assent to the things of the kingdom of God. To play an active role in salvation, man has simply to do the above: accept and believe the gospel, and God will, on this basis, favor him and predestinate him unto eternal life. When I teach according to Scripture that this is impossible, people feel their false foundation shaking, and I am accused of focusing only on a certain doctrine while ignoring Christ, when in fact the true doctrine of Predestination rather glorifies and manifests the power of Christ to save.
It is the above free-will doctrine which I hate and against which I write because I have concern not only for my children and grand children in the church, but I am concerned for all the children. I will take from the writings of our true Elders, Luther and Laestadius, to show why I have such great concern. Remember that it is not I who propose these ideas; I am only presenting the teachings of our Elders.
Laestadius was in concord with Luther and his doctrine, as it answered to his own heart. Laestadius called Luther "one angel who cried from the ascending of the dawn." This is in sharp contrast to how many of our people today consider Luther. When Laestadius in "The Voice Of One Crying In The Wilderness" began to address doctrine, his first course of action was to attack the doctrine of free-will. Of the many arguments he made against free-will, I will quote two. "Furthermore, with regard to the doctrine of man's will, the pastor should explain as best he can to the confirmation children that the will has no power called liberum arbitrium (freedom to judge) in spiritual matters, and in conversion conducts itself pure passive; that is, it has no power to make itself good, that man's will can not of its own power ever become good. And if before conversion someone imagines that he has a good will, this is self-deception" [p. 138]. Again, "the doctrine of Martensen (free-will) concerning man's will absolutely turns the entire Lutheran doctrine upside down" [p. 138]. What if Laestadius is right (and I know he is)? How can we expect to ignore the plainly written doctrines of old, teach an opposite doctrine and hope for the same kind of awakening and spiritual revival which God performed under his teaching? Is it not clear that we have departed from the faith and have given heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils? [I Tim. 4:1]. It is manifestly clear that we have departed from the old doctrines.
More to the point, I will quote Luther and his judgment on the free-will doctrine. Luther wrote, "I wish the defenders of free choice would take warning at this point, and realize that when they assert free choice they are denying Christ" [Luther's Works, Am. Ed. Vol. 33 p. 279]. (Other translations use "free will" instead of "free choice.") Do we not hear this admonition? And do we think the warnings of Scripture don't pertain to us? Let us not be so ignorant. It is becoming clear that the matter written of in II Thessalonians is this free-will doctrine. "For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming..." [2:7,8]. The word "let" means to hinder and prevent. All throughout Church history the doctrine of free-will has tried to assert itself, but was not able, until now, to gain a large foothold, for God established a bound and limit to its increase and power. However, Scripture says that that hinderance shall be taken out of the way, and that Wicked shall come to be openly taught and accepted. God used, among others, Augustine, Luther and Laestadius to resist the free-will doctrine, and so kept it in check. But in this last time it seems this false doctrine has over-flooded outward Christiandom, and many are being deceived by it and led away from Christ. However there is still a sure hope for the child of God, for Scripture says, "For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect" [Mk 13: 22]. Even as the doctrine of the ALC states that God's election "procures, works, helps and promotes what pertains" to the salvation of the Elect, so He will also preserve His own from being deceived by this error. This statement alone ought to shut the mouth of free-will, for it says not that our believing procures our election, but rather our election procures our faith, or believing.
I wish to freely and openly write concerning Luther's above statement, that those who assert free-will, deny Christ. Remember, these ideas did not originate with me, but with our church Elders. What if our Elder Luther, with Augustine and Laestadius, is also right? Does it not mean the ALC is in a dire and dangerous state? Therefore, above all, I openly resist the heresy of free-will because it is an anti-Christ doctrine. Are we astounded? Taken aback, that I would suggest that the ALC, wherein the Spirit of God once moved powerfully, would preach an anti-Christ doctrine? Should we not consider Scripture which says that only those churches which once held to the truth, wherein the candlestick burned brightly, are warned against falling into error? Satan cares nothing for the world or the non-Christians. Rather he has set his sights upon those churches where once the truth was taught and received with power. That includes the Laestadian awakening, and the Apostolic Lutheran Church. Therefore let us take an open look at what Luther has said, and recognize that as much as the ALC supports the free-will doctrine, it denies Christ. This means that there is preached an anti-Christ doctrine, and instead of leading our children to Christ, they are instead lead away from Christ. This means that instead of teaching our children the truth as it is in Christ Jesus, they are taught the error of the devil so that Christ will remain hidden. This means that instead of a word which shuts the gates of hell and opens the gates of heaven, our children are taught a doctrine which shuts heaven and opens the gaping gates of hell to receive them for all eternity. This means that the shepherds which were entrusted to guide the lambs into the sheepfold, are instead thrusting them into the maw of Satan.
I believe our Elders held right doctrine. For this reason I write against the heresy of free-will.
Steven E. Anderson