What are the Blue Island Theses?

Have you ever heard of The Blue Island Theses?

On November 16, 1881, 12 pastors and teachers, 4 representatives of congregations, and 9 guests met at Blue Island, Illinois to discuss the doctrine of predestination. The impetus was new teaching in the Missouri Synod. “Besides this a number of letters from pastors and laymen were sent in, heartily favoring the purpose of the meeting.” These letters represented congregations which had left Missouri as a result of what came to be called, The Predestination Controversy.

The following theses came out of the meetings and were approved by the representatives:

The Blue Island Theses.

  1. God has irrevocably elected unto salvation before the foundation of the world all those who are saved in time.

  2. Election is revealed in the Scriptures, and is therefore no more “a mystery” than any other article of faith.

  3. Election is revealed in the Gospel and not in the law.

  4. The Gospel directs us to Christ – God has elected in Christ.

  5. Christ’s merit is considered in election not merely as obtained for us, but also as apprehended by us – God has elected in view of faith.

A discussion of the assembly was written up by the attendees and published in English by Lenski and Tressel. The editors close the introduction with these words:

“Our present intention is not the defense of our good name over against the calumniations of Missouri. We cannot deny indeed, that it pains us to have so many of our former brethren and fathers in Christ look upon us now as heretics, synergists. Pelagians, arch-Pelagians, and even as pagans and Turks. Yet we have the testimony of a good conscience. And we see also to what fallacies they must resort to give any support to their accusations, and that they dare not present to their readers passages of any length from our writings from which a judgment might be formed. From conversations with many Missouri pastors since the inception of the controversy we know that it was almost impossible for them to swallow the new doctrinal propositions, and they dare not even to this day present them openly and honestly to their congregations. These are indeed miserable conditions, and we can only thank God for having preserved us and strengthened our hearts to fight against the error. The aspersions cast upon us we can bear readily, knowing that a day of just judgment is drawing nigh.

“Our purpose is simply to raise our united voices in warning: Beware, O Lutheran Church of America, beware! Missouri, so highly favored and blessed – Missouri with Dr. Walther at its head – has fallen into great error, into an error which affects the very foundation of our salvation – God’s eternal love for sinners. Missouri indeed comes with an indignant denial. And, in fact, it does not explicitly deny that God has loved all men, that the Son of God has redeemed all, and that God in a certain sense would have all men to be saved. Missouri confesses all this, and often clothes it in beautiful words, finer than we are able to produce. And yet by the side of this its teaching Missouri adheres to a doctrine of predestination which in very fact annuls the universal love of God. Missouri itself confesses that apparently the doctrine of predestination contradicts the doctrine of God’s universal will of grace; it tells us that the connection between these two doctrines is a mystery; and under cover of this “mystery” it seeks to establish this doctrine in the Church. Beware, O Lutheran Church! This “apparent” contradiction is a real contradiction, a contradiction of the fundamental doctrine of the Scriptures, namely that God had such compassion upon all men as to render the salvation of all in reality possible. When our opponents speak of the universal will of grace, they still for the most part speak correctly; but when they speak of predestination, their words are false. Paul tells us that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. But our opponents have mixed the truth of the Scriptures not with “a little”, but with a good-sized lump of error. “

To be republished soon by the Lutheran Library.


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