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What Luther Says

The Serpent, Seminex, And The Sovereignty of Scripture -- Both Then And Now

We've all heard the popular phrase...

"Those who forget the past are destined to repeat it."

Does such a statement have any truth to it? Does anything at all from Scripture support such a notion? Well, yes, because we find in the Bible that we are not to forget everything in the sense of being oblivious to it.

In fact, there are many times when God gave instructions to remember. In Deuteronomy 9:7, Moses tells the Israelites to "remember this and never forget how you aroused the anger of the Lord your God in the wilderness. From the day you left Egypt until you arrived here, you have been rebellious against the Lord." We are encouraged to remember all God has done for us (Psalm 77:11; Psalm 103:2), others who are suffering for Christ's sake (Hebrews 13:3; Colossians 4:18), and what we were before Jesus saved us (Ephesians 2:11–12; 1 Corinthians 6:9–11).

However, the remembering should be to the glory of God and for our spiritual benefit. If we are cleansed by the blood of Christ, then no judgment remains for past failures (Romans 8:1). If God chooses not to remember our past sins (Hebrews 8:12), then we should set them aside as well and embrace the future He promises to those who love Him (Romans 8:28; Ephesians 2:10).

Clearly, the Word of God communicates that there is value in remembering and that there are many different levels of life that are impacted by such remembrance too.

I thought of all of that today in light of the current crisis within the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS).
What crisis? Ah, therein lies the problem, I'm afraid.

Far too many Pastors and laity alike have decided long ago to separate themselves from the things happening throughout the Synod unless it directly affects them on a personal and day-to-day level ("Out of sight, out of mind!"). Sad, but true.

I believe it's time for LCMS congregations to plug themselves back in to what's happening on a Synod level, because it most certainly will impact them in the near (if not immediate) future, and it could also have eternal ramifications.

Make no mistake, there is a crisis unfolding right now that I believe threatens the very existence of the LCMS. Hyperbole? Hardly, my dear friends.

As we approach the 500-year anniversary of the Reformation, sadly, it would appear as though Christ's Church may be in need of another one. Thank you, Pastor Matthew C. Harrison, for finally saying what needed to be said.

Truly heartbreaking that it had to come to this, but his vocation calls him to, in turn, call such men (who should know better) to repentance or face the consequences of their rebellious actions. Otherwise, how could he have a clear conscience before the Lord?

Galatians 1:6-10 (ESV) 6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. 10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

The spiritual cancer known as "Liberal Progressive Christianity" is still spreading and some like me are saying that the diagnosis is grim -- like Stage 4 grim. I mean, when the Synod President is forced to make a statement like that, then you know it's gotta be serious (or you should).

I know that Matthew 16:18 plainly tells us that nothing will prevail in destroying Christ's Church, but could yet another split occur to form a new Synod perhaps?

Let's not forget that the ACELC has been screaming from the rooftops for years now as watchmen on the wall (just as have many of us mere laymen who have no authority under the current system) that if we don't address these issues head-on, then we're playing with fire ("hell fire" perhaps! Matthew 5:22; Matthew 18:9; Mark 9:45-47; James 3:6; Jude 1:23).

How quickly we forget that this isn't a new problem for us either. In fact, we can go all the way back to the 1970's and the whole "Seminex" fiasco to prove that. Of course, that wasn't the first time Christ's Church had to deal with false doctrine either, but how interesting it is to go back some 40-50 years and listen to the discussions that were taking place, because they resonate so much with the ones taking place today.

Please allow me to quickly set the stage.

Seminex And The Sovereignty of Scripture 
Forty years ago, in September 1972, the “sleeping giant” of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod “blew its volcanic top.” “Tremors, rumblings, and vents of hot air” had warned of things to come for thirty years, but the vast majority of “sleepy villagers at the foot of the mountain” paid no attention. “Fractures in the mountain” became evident in 1969, with the election of Jacob A. O. Preus II to Synod President, from the right side of the “mountain,” and the appointment of John Tietjen to Concordia Seminary President, from the left side of the “mountain.” 
On September 1, 1972, the Synod President’s Fact-Finding Committee published its report investigating the theology of the Saint Louis seminary. Covered in blue, with 160 pages of small print on 8.5×11” pages, this “Blue Book” proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the majority of faculty at the prestigious seminary did not agree with the confessional article of the synod’s constitution, especially as that pertained to the authority of the canonical Scriptures.  
After a year of debates and conflict, the Missouri Synod’s 1973 convention in New Orleans charged the Saint Louis seminary faculty majority with abolishing “the formal principle, sola Scriptura (i.e., that all doctrines are derived from Scripture and that Scripture is the sole norm of all doctrine)” (1973 Proceedings, Res. 3-09, pp. 133-139). On this basis, the seminary’s Board of Control, fortified with new members from the 1973 convention, received charges against the seminary president at their meeting in August 1973. After a lengthy process of meetings, and attempted reconciliation, the seminary board suspended John Tietjen as its president on January 20, 1974. 
On the day after the president’s suspension, the majority of seminary faculty (45 out of 50) and the majority of students (274 out of 381) held a “moratorium” in protest. The protesting faculty refused to teach and the protesting students refused to attend classes taught by the five non-protesting professors. On February 17, 1974, the Board of Control declared that the protesting faculty who did not resume their duties by February 19th were in violation of their contracts. On February 19th, the protesting faculty and protesting students “went into exile” amid a faux funeral procession and television publicity. The following day the protesters resumed classes at “Concordia Seminary in Exile,” also known as “Seminex,” held at Saint Louis University and Eden Seminary in Saint Louis. 
Seminex became the seed bed for a new church-body. When eight Missouri Synod district presidents ordained Seminex graduates, and four of them were subsequently removed from office, 250 congregations sympathetic to the Seminex cause started a new church body known as the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (hereafter AELC). Seminex also soon flew its “social liberal” colors by accepting women students into the M.Div. program for the pastoral ministry. 
Seminex became the de facto seminary for the AELC, but there were not enough vacant positions in the new church-body for all of the Seminex graduates. Some Seminex students and graduates colloquized into the LCMS; others accepted a “worker-priest” ministry in the AELC; while others abandoned the pastoral ministry altogether. The American Lutheran Church and the Lutheran Church in America merged with the AELC in 1988 to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (hereafter ELCA). Seminex formally ceased to exist with the formation of the ELCA, but its effects are still present in both the ELCA and LCMS today, like white ash drifting out of the sky from some distant eruption. 
A recent book by James Burkee from the ELCA’s publication agency, Fortress Press, attempts to argue that the eruption was primarily due to a conservative political reaction of the American public, who were afraid of communism and the political and social agitations of the late 1960s and early 1970s. At the January 16, 2012 conference of the Lutheran Concerns Association, Burkee’s thesis was solidly refuted by attorneys Walter Dissen and Scott Meyer. Dissen was a member of the Board of Control of the Saint Louis seminary during the years of its conflict and gave eyewitness testimony. Meyer is President of the Concordia Historical Institute (a.k.a. CHI, the official historical arm of the Missouri Synod), has received CHI’s Distinguished Service Award for lifetime service to the Institute, and is a church historian in his own right. Dissen’s and Meyer’s lectures will be available in the 2012 LCA conference videos, and may also be published in the LCA’s Clarion (for more information about the upcoming 2012 videos or published lectures, click here: http://lutheranclarion.org ). 
In his Anatomy of an Explosion, Dr. Kurt Marquart of the Fort Wayne seminary argued that the explosion was due both to differences in the doctrine of Scripture and in the doctrine of church fellowship. In this view, the rupture in the Missouri Synod goes back at least as far as the infamous Statement of the 44, published in 1945. A historian could also point to the transition from German to English in LCMS congregations, which began in the 1920s; to the synod’s overwhelming desire to call faculty with advanced degrees to its seminaries and colleges, even when such faculty had questionable doctrinal loyalties; to the influence of a liberal faculty at the independent Valparaiso University; and to the synod’s strong desire to be part of the “mainstream” of American Protestantism. 
Whatever forces converged on the Missouri Synod in the 20th century to cause its “eruption,” the fact is that the decisive point was what I call the “sovereignty of Scripture” over church life and doctrine. Accused of being “fundamentalist,” the Missouri Synod’s view of Scripture was actually part of the catholic tradition of the Christian church, reaffirmed by Luther at his trial at Worms. At Worms, Luther quoted Augustine’s letter 82 to Jerome (chap 1,3), where the Bishop of Hippo stated “I have learned to yield this respect and honor only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error” (see Luther’s Works 32:11 “Defense of all the Articles”; and 32:118 “Luther at the Diet of Worms”). Without such an unerring-apostolic Scripture, the Missouri Synod would be neither part of the catholic tradition of the Christian church nor Lutheran. 
*- Pastor Martin Noland

Now that we have a good foundation and solid footing on these important facts regarding the history of our Synod, there's something I'd like to ask you to watch.

It's 1 hour and 15 minutes long, is in black-and-white, but it's so riveting that it will fly by. I'm putting it in the "Required Viewing" category for Confessional Lutherans of all ages, because it will clearly underscore the seriousness of the challenges our Synod still faces today in 2015.

Like I said, to go back and listen to the discussions that were taking place some 40+ years ago is eerie, because they resonate with the ones taking place today as if nothing's changed after several decades. It's like 4 Pastors from 2015 were sent in a time machine back to the 1970's.

So, without further adieu, here's that excellent video I watched after seeing it being circulated on Facebook (thanks to whomever it was that first shared it!). It's a recording of a Television Public Affairs program from KMOX. It's directly related to the conflict in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) that resulted in the split forming "Christ Seminary In Exile" (a.k.a. "Seminex") in 1974.

Conflict In The LCMS: Theology Or Politics? 

How incredibly frustrating was that to watch at times? The tactic of questioning anything and everything by the so-called "dissenters" was maddening and it reminded me of something we read in Genesis 3.

Genesis 3:1 (ESV) Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”

And so the "dissenters" gave themselves away every single time they would suggest "Did God really say that?" when we know He most certainly did.

To do it all with an arrogance that was palpable along with a cheshire grin was most disconcerting to me though. It would be akin to one of the Pastors sitting there and saying in response something like, "Yes, but to play devil's advocate for a moment..." (which actually happened to me once in a very serious discussion I had with a friend who didn't see the seriousness in what I was trying to point out to him about his false teachings at church!).

Have you ever sat down with people like that? Those two dissenters kept talking about applying Matthew 18 and sitting down with others we're in disagreement with to look over God's Word.

Believe me, I've done that several times with several different people over the course of the past few years. You read passage after passage, verse after verse from the Scriptures, but they choose to refuse to give a simple "Yes" or a "No" answer in response to a very direct and simple question from you that would easily diffuse the tension and help both sides finally reach true unity.

In short, they seem to be seduced by a "spirit of error" while you're trying to speak to them "the truth in love" under a "spirit of truth" guided solely by grace, humility, and above all, God's Word (Ephesians 4:15; 1 John 4:6; 1 Timothy 4:1).

It's as if the mere act of sitting down and talking to one another on a personal and one-on-one level is sacramental, because this is "true fellowship" to them. So, if both parties get up and leave "agreeing to disagree" then that's just fine with them, because at least they tried to convince each other of their own mutually exclusive beliefs, and best of all, there are no consequences at the end of the day either; the sin of false teaching and believing false doctrine is tolerated!

I'm sorry, but that's not what I read in my Bible and in the New Testament.

Did you notice that the tactics used back then are the very same tactics still used today? They seem to prefer asking questions to no end even though you are trying to show them that God has already provided the answers clearly, plainly, and unequivocally in His Word.

I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion about Jonah towards the end of the televised debate, because it brilliantly cuts to the heart of the issue by pointing out the negative impact upon Christology (a.k.a. the field of study within Christianity that is primarily concerned with the nature and person of Jesus Christ as recorded in the canonical Gospels and the Epistles of the New Testament).

Coincidentally, this past Sunday I attended the "Contemporary Worship Service" at the LCMS church I'm leaving since my kids were involved in some of the activities there that day to help kick off "Lutheran Schools Week" this week (more on that later this week).

I refrained from taking the Lord's Supper (even though I wanted it so badly!), and although it was difficult sitting through that part of the Service as well as some of the dancing, skits, and songs, I was happy I got to hear the new Pastor preach (my first time hearing him).

Surprisingly, it was a really good sermon! I mention this only because there was one point early on in his sermon where he asked the congregation by a show of hands to indicate whether or not they believed what the Bible tells us about Jonah.

Thankfully, he then boldly proclaimed that it's not just an allegory, not some symbolic story to teach us a lesson, and that it really happened exactly the way that the Word of God says that it did -- and then he exhorted us to believe the same.

Whoa! This was uncharted territory and highly unexpected given the kinds of sermons I had heard there for the past 3-4 years not to mention in light of the kinds of non-Lutheran false teaching that's allowed to take up residence there in the form of Fellowship Opportunities and Small Group Studies.

Yet, here was the new Pastor, only 3-4 weeks into his call, standing up in front of the congregation and basically calling out any sinful tendencies within us to want to use logic and reason while also attempting to rationalize God's Word, especially when everything inside and outside of us is is screaming at us to reject it all since it sounds so utterly ridiculous.

I have to say that that was extremely encouraging and I just wanted to mention it since Jonah came up in the above video too.

Let's wrap things up. There's a part of me that, even though I know how the New Testament repeatedly warns us that there will be false teachers ("wolves" in "sheep's clothing" Matthew 7:15) within Christ's Church, I still will never be able to fully wrap my mind around how a called and ordained minister of God's Word, who supposedly subscribes to one denomination's Confessions, can so easily reject it all (and have no qualms about admitting it so publicly) like those two men in the above video did, and like many Pastors who continue to do the same today.

On one hand, it's somewhat comforting knowing that what I'm going through right now with friends from my former congregation as well as those from the Lutheran Day School that my kids attend is nothing new.

On the other hand, it's frustrating knowing that it's been some 40+ years (just looking at this one particular historical event) and the same controversies still exist in our Synod.

Jude 1:22-23 (ESV) 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

I love those verses.

They help keep my heart in the right place while dealing with the lost sheep.

Still, an ordained Pastor in the LCMS should know better and this is why there is a process in place to discipline and remove (if necessary) Pastors from the Synod.

Them? They are no "lost sheep" but "feral wolves" who care not for the souls of men (least of which their own; James 3:1) despite their sincerity to the contrary, and that's why we are expected to deal with them differently.

That's why we've all grown so fond of saying that such Christians may be sincere, but they are often sincerely wrong about many things (including the basic tenets of our shared and cherished faith).

Besides, as many others have said already, those who disagree with us on confessional, historical, orthodox, settled doctrine are free to join the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), or any other denomination they'd like, and have their beliefs validated, but don't stay and try to make us change our confession just because you don't agree with it.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, we might want to familiarize ourselves with our Synod's history -- and I don't mean just going back to the 1970s, but going all the way back to 1517, which ultimately led to the establishment of the LCMS in 1847 -- because it reminds us that the issue is and has always been the sovereignty of Scripture.

The serpent used "Did God really say...?" Those sympathetic to Seminex used "Did God really say...?" The Liberal Progressive Christians today are still asking "Did God really say...?"

Yes, God really did say all that is recorded and preserved for us in His Word. The Holy Scriptures are inerrant and that's why we use Scripture to interpret Scripture at all times. The Reformation "Battle Cry" of "Sola Scriptura!" (every Christian's defense against false teaching) was certainly appropriate back then as it still is even today.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, the sovereignty of Scripture is supreme -- it was then, it is now, and it will be forever.

NOTE: I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or a Christian, Candy-Making, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this note, I'm also a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little over a year ago. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries. I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a dude's diary in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.


  1. Not sure if the author of this letter published only a few days ago (Pastor Walter Otten) is related to the other Pastor Otten in the historical video above (I'm thinking that's a fair assumption), but either way it's worth reading for it's direct connection to the subject matter we discussed in this post...

    Safe in the North-West

    Grace And Peace,

  2. Being a recovering Evangelical out of the Restoration Movement, I share your obvious zeal for Confessional Lutheranism. I am so grateful and blessed to have found Confessional, Orthodox Christianity in the Lutheran tradition (specifically the LCMS). I was eternally grateful, and humbled to be a lay delegate to the last 2 synodical conventions. I was awed by what the Lord worked there. Thanks for the blog, regardless of the length!

  3. TexasGeezer,

    God bless you for your service as a Lay Delegate! Thanks for reading and commenting too!

    Grace And Peace,


Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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