The Madison Settlement, or Opgjoer (pronounced “up-your”), was a compromise reached in 1912 between the Norwegian Synod, the United Norwegian Lutheran Church, and the Hauge Synod. (1912 was the same year that Arizona became a state and the Titanic sank.) The doctrinal issue was election, or predestination. By then, this controversy had torn apart members of the Norwegian Synod and, to a lesser extent, its sister church bodies like the Wisconsin Synod and the Missouri Synod for many years. It had been one of the points of disagreement between the Norwegian Synod and the others involved in the Opgjoer.

The controversy had been so bitter within the Norwegian Synod that it had withdrawn from the Synodical Conference to lessen its ill effects. Yet during the intervening years, the Norwegian Synod had continued to recognize doctrinal fellowship with the Synodical Conference, and had been welcome participants in its conventions. But in 1912, under the leadership of its new President Stub, the Norwegian Synod was happy to reach a settlement with the other scandinavian-based synods on this doctrine, and submitted it to the Synodical Conference for review.

In the historical volume The Synodical Conference: Ecumenical Endeavor by Armin Schuetze, the response of the Synodical Conference to the Norwegian Synod is included in summary form. I think it shows a salutary discernment on the part of the Synodical Conference theologians. It also shows a certain pattern found in compromise documents, in which a doctrine is described as existing in multiple disparate forms. In Opgjoer, election is described according to two different points of view or senses, which are supposed to be equally valid and exist simultaneously. The problem described by the Synodical Conference was that only one of those points of view or senses was in harmony with the Bible and the Lutheran Confessions. The other one used expressions from the Bible and the Confessions, but was a doctrine arising from human reason or tradition.

This is from page 124 of the above named book:

“In order that the unity of faith existing among us may be preserved,” the Conference made three requests. The first was in reference to paragraphs 1 to 3 of the Madison Agreement. In these paragraphs the Union Committees of the Norwegian Synod and the United Church “accepted unanimously and without reservation” the two so-called “forms” of the doctrine of election. The First Form, set forth in Article XI of the Formula of Concord, held that election is “unto salvation,” or the “cause of faith.” The Second Form with reference to “Pontoppidan’s Truth unto Godliness,” a catechetical book widely used among the Scandinavians, spoke of election “in view of faith.” The Agreement stated, “Since it is well known that in presenting the doctrine of election two forms of doctrine have been used, both of which have won acceptance and recognition within the orthodox Lutheran Church; . . . We find that this [i.e., teaching one form or the other] should not be cause for schism within the Church.” The Synodical Conference asked the Synod “to eliminate from Theses 1-3 of the ‘Opgjoer’ the coordination of the so-called first and second form of doctrine, because only the first form represents the truth of the Scriptures and the Confessions.”

It would seem that this method of settling a controversy is flawed. I might add to the criticism of Opgjoer that the second sense or form of “election,” being a doctrine not really found in holy scripture, represents instead a certain human usage of the word. In this case, the human usage of the word “election” directly contradicts the divine usage of the word found in the Bible. In other cases of compromise, there may be merely human usages that do not contradict the divine usage, but are found to be compatible. While it is important (though sometimes difficult) to tell the difference, it is even more important that the Church confess only those articles of faith that are doctrines clearly taught in the Bible.

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