Inviting Tullian Tchividjian Gave the Wrong Impression

In a recent article highlighting examples of how LCMS institutions sow confusion among members, the comments overwhelmingly concerned Tullian Tchividjian’s recent address at Concordia Seminary St. Louis (CSL). The comments were quite balanced in favor of and against Tchividjian’s appearance at CSL. That means your author failed to properly convey the problem, so I am going to try again, this time with assistance from a professional.

Zwingli Memorial outside the Wasserkirche, Zurich. © 2015, Tim Wood

Zwingli Memorial outside the Wasserkirche, Zurich. © 2015, Tim Wood

Let me get there by starting with a light travelogue for the sake of illuminating the issue. The Swiss Reformer, Huldrych Zwingli, is commemorated with an imposing bronze statue in front of the Wasserkirche in Zürich. Notably, he holds a large sword and a small Bible; he died during a battle sparked by theological disputes with Zürich’s neighbors.

Zwingli lost the sword about 525 road miles to the northeast of Zürich. There a marble statue of him adorns one of the column capitols in Berlin Cathedral. Viewed from the main entrance, Zwingli stands to the left of Martin Luther’s statue. Luther has a little more prominence since his statue divides the imposing altar and pulpit, whereas Zwingli divides the giant pipe organ and pulpit. To the right of Luther, on the other side of the altar, stands Philip Melanchthon. To Melanchthon’s right is John Calvin. Perhaps one day they will remove the four Prussian grandees on the other columns toward the back of the church, and replace them with Schleiermacher, Barth, Niemöller, and von Harnack.

Three of the four reformers hold open Bibles (Melancthon’s is closed, ironically) and are posed in a way that suggests they are teaching the congregation. The positioning and poses are very deliberate, essentially saying, “This church and all who worship here hold these teachers and their doctrines to be equal.”

Unity is Always Possible, but Never Achievable

Zwingli and Luther Statues in the Berlin Cathedral. © 2013, Tim Wood

Zwingli and Luther Statues in the Berlin Cathedral. © 2013, Tim Wood

The point of all this is that an emperor achieved what well intentioned theologians could not. Tired of resistance to the compromise he desired, by 1817 Frederick Wilhelm III of Prussia had coercively fused the empire’s Lutheran and Calvinist denominations into a state church. It was one of history’s ultimate “can’t we all just get along” moments.

When Luther and Zwingli debated at Marburg Castle in October 1529 the resulting Marburg Colloquy listed 14 points of agreement and one of dispute. Zwingli refused to acknowledge the true presence of Christ’s body and blood in Holy Communion despite the clear teaching of Scripture, which Luther simply repeated over and over again. The two camps walked away separated by a mere 1/15 of doctrine and practice. That was sufficient to keep them apart forever.

Tullian Tchividjian is not a Zwinglian. He’s an undocumented-number-of-points Calvinist. So, we certainly have much less than a 14/15 share of agreement with him. Even if we agreed on ⅔ of our doctrines with Tchividjian, the remaining ⅓ is wider than two Grand Canyons, and cannot be bridged. Yet the reason most commonly put forward for inviting him is that he agrees with Lutherans on Law & Gospel, and teaches it well. A single point of agreement, which Tchividjian has been adept at marketing as a novelty, is upheld as sufficient justification for bringing a Calvinist into one of our flagship seminaries to teach.

It is not happenstance that CSL subtitled the talk: “Best-selling author, pastor puts spotlight on Luther’s legacy”. Within that is revealed a likely motivation for the call (fame) and a degree of reductionism (Law-Gospel as Luther’s sole legacy).

First and Last Impressions Matter

What would the founders of Confessional Lutheranism in the United States, who fled Unionism, think of Tchividjian at CSL? The Sainted Klemet Preus had the answer a decade ago – it would give the wrong impression.

To avoid [disputes over doctrine] would be a denial of the Gospel. It would give the impression that we are willing to compromise, not only in our practice but also in our doctrine of the true presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Sacrament. Impressions are extremely important. For the sake of Christ’s Gospel and our spread of it, we cannot afford to give a wrong impression.

Preus, Klemet I. (2005). The Fire and the Staff (Kindle Locations 1965-1967). Concordia Publishing House. Kindle Edition.

When I read that passage again in The Fire and the Staff, sitting on the Rathausbrücke a little ways downstream from Zwingli’s church, I suddenly properly understood the pejorative, “typical Fort Wayne graduate”. It is a person who will not shrink from doctrinal disputes in order avoid denying the Gospel. I’m not a CTSFW graduate and never will be, but I would appreciate being labeled a “typical Fort Wayne parishioner” from now on. We should make a point of getting everyone in the LCMS to be a typical Fort Wayne type.

Yes, merely giving the wrong impression is a big deal when it comes to doctrine and practice: “In casu confessionis nihil est adiaphora.” In the case of confession, nothing is indifferent.” (op. cit.) Rev. Preus made the additional point that any doctrinal compromise by Lutherans actually provokes the opposite outcome, leading to more division among Lutherans.

This is not to say that CSL offered a doctrinal compromise with Tchividjian, which is why many fob off concerns as narrow-minded “typical Fort Wayne” stuff. But the invitation did and does give the wrong impression. CSL leadership should know the risk and avoid it all the more because the Seminary’s existence is owed to Christ’s Gospel alone.

A Subscription to Conflict

Title Page of Book of Concord 1580. Public Domain.

Title Page of Book of Concord 1580. Public Domain.

When you examine the structure of the Lutheran Confessions, it is clear that they have a martial purpose. They are works of contention, confrontation, combat, and conflict. The Confessions were developed to oppose false doctrines, and reinforce the correct ones. There was never an effort to find common ground until Melanchthon went rogue. They would set your teeth on edge if you could hear them delivered to the face of gasping anti-Christs.

When we confess the one true faith we are necessarily adopting a hostile and intolerant posture because there is no alternative in the face of unbelief. It is unavoidably uncompromising, and so it should be.

Klemet Preus was reminding us that to be Lutheran is to be in perpetual and deliberate conflict with unbelief. Yet we undertake that task with gentleness and respect, not as Zwingli’s literal Christian soldiers.

We must not be afraid of rigidity when it comes to the Gospel because it was delivered by the body and blood, and for the sake of, Christ. The path to properly deliver Christ and His forgiveness is exceptionally narrow, whereas there are thousands of high-speed, multi-lane freeways that put our focus on everything but Christ. Let us be content with being single-file plodders.

CSL is not the only LCMS institution that is at fault. All our confessions are jeopardized when we give the wrong impression concerning Christ’s Gospel. We give the wrong impression so cheaply and readily today, probably because there is no persecution to drive out the chaff.


Let In casu confessionis nihil est adiaphora be the motto that adorns every one of our institutions. Overprint mission and vision statements if necessary, and make it the theme for every Convention from now until the LCMS expires or the Lord returns.


Inviting Tullian Tchividjian Gave the Wrong Impression — 142 Comments

  1. @Tim Wood #54

    I have not carefully read all of the comments, but in scanning them I did not see anyone directly address this point so I will share with you something that seems to be overlooked.

    Regarding the teaching/understanding of the proper distinction of Law and Gospel, if a person does not rightly teach and administer the means of grace, that person DOES NOT rightly understand LAW and GOSPEL.

    The reason for rejection of the efficacy of the means of grace is one of rejection of the true distinction of Law and Gospel. Remember that the means of grace are the pure Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments as God’s ordained means of applying the Gospel and Salvation. How can someone reject the Pure Gospel/Sacraments AND rightly understand/confess/teach/believe Law and Gospel?

    Law and Gospel is not a separate doctrine. It is one of the articles of doctrine that comprise the one true faith by which salvation is worked by the Holy Spirit. Agreement in doctrine is absolute or else it is not agreement. One change of one word makes a doctrine false. Omission or denial of the means of grace is a total change of theology from one of Christ crucified to one of one’s own reason and strength and works.

    Tim, your concern is well founded. Do not be dissuaded from this concern. Rather, read and study intently what Christ and His apostles say on the matter.

  2. “I do not dislike you. This is not about you, Mr. Wood. I dislike your continued baseless and conlusory attacks on my alma mater and your attempt to somehow try to connect their programs for students and faculty to some group of “weakly catechized” that purportedly need the protection of you, the greatly catechized?”

    This is not about you either.
    Give it up. Tim has apologized for any offense that may have been taken through a misunderstanding of what his valid point is about.
    Tim has not claimed, nor has he ever given the impression that he thinks, that he is “the greatly catechized”. Potshots are not helpful.
    Your comments, in the face of Tim’s apologetic and patient responses, certainly do give the impression that you do not like him.

  3. One more thing, quickly…. one of the main problems in the LCMS today is, in general, not explicit heresy. It is the truth that is not said, not held up as important, that is the problem. It is the truth that is ignored. It is reductionism.


  4. One more thing…. : ) In the paper I linked to in #100, one can simply read the short section explicitly on Forde near the end and the conclusion in order to attain some benefit.


  5. One more (really, than I’m shutting off my gmail : ) )

    Pastor Kirchner,

    Indeed they do – and fortunately, in this context, we can say that explicitly here, and probably should (for John Rixe’s sake and others).

    Yes, I know you were trying to be funny, but its a serious point you make.

    Here is a good quote from a pastor friend helping to put the problems of Elert, Forde, Paulson, Bayer, etc (and ones we would all call liberal, like Wengert and Bolz-Weber) in a nutshell:

    “It’s mostly due to existentialism’s redefinition of the law. In Lutheran orthodoxy, the law is an objective standard of moral imperatives that cohere in God’s own nature. For the existentialist Lutherans, following Elert, the law is primarily defined not by what it IS, but by what it DOES. The gospel, similarly, is defined as a speech act that does something, rather than a specific set of propositions. Because of this, the law is no longer viewed in a positive manner, and essential aspects of the gospel, such as substitionary atonement are downplayed.”


  6. @Nathan #102

    Which is nothing but a red herring added to the ad hominem fallacies previously pointed out, i.e., sacramentarians and Forde.In fact, the former has been so racheted up that the suggestion is being made that sacramentarians, by virtue of being sacramentarians, are damned. If that’s the case then we’d better be engaging with them. Their salvation depends on it!

  7. Sorry to break it to you, but we’re all going to end up in the same jail cells. Lutherans will refuse to pray with the Reformed. And WELS won’t pray with LCMS memers and so forth and so on. A lot of these distinctions are going to evaporate under persecution. Since all those confessing the true Christ will be in heaven, shouldn’t we get a little practice of fellowship down here? LOL. I know the answer already.

  8. @Paul A. Siems #101

    It seems that your comments have been misconstrued (purposely?)to mean that you believe that “sacramentarians, by virtue of being sacramentarians, are damned”. I did not get that out of your comments but, apparently, someone did.
    Not only that, but this misconstruction of your words, it seems, has been foisted upon the author of the original thread and those who find agreement in his actual point.

  9. @Nathan #106

    “Yes, I know you were trying to be funny, but its a serious point you make.”

    Yes, I was somewhat joking to make a point. But you miss the point completely. Whether WELS is right or wrong about the Office of the Ministry makes no difference in this context. It’s an ad hominem fallacy in the context of the article you reference.

    And your use of a quote from your pastor friend goes right down that fallacious path. It has nothing to do with the subject matter of this thread, i.e., in this context. IOW, whether TT learned his Lutheran theology from Forde, Kolb, or both and others makes no difference in whether TT should have spoken at CSL. Whether TT is a sacramentarian makes no difference in the context of his speech at CSL. As I mentioned way back, I attended a symposium in which Dr. Robert Gagnon, a Presbyterian, was the main speaker. I learned quite a lot from him, others did too and he was very well received. It was a good symposium.

    Another example…Back when he was pastoring a congregation in my circuit, our editor invited Brian Young to give a presentation on Creationism. I responded only somewhat tongue-in-cheek,

    “So long as he doesn’t discuss his Messianic Christian and advocacy of celebrating the Seder baloney! :-)”

    For, at the time anyway, Brian Young was publishing some seriously doctrinally false material on this messianic Christian garbage, about needing to rebuild the temple, that we should continue to celebrate the Seder (We do…it’s called the Lord’s Supper) and other non-Lutheran stuff.

    That said, did I suggest that we not attend because Brian Young was theologically “off” on a serious point of doctrine? Of course not! Many in my congregation attended the presentation at Pr. Scheer’s congregation, it was very well done, and I learned a lot. The messianic Christian stuff never came up, and I felt no need to confront him on it, focusing on the topic of creation.

  10. An ad hominem fallacy has no contextual definition. Either the person’s character was attacked, or it was not.

  11. @Dave Schumacher #108

    Actually, you are the first to respond to me as my comment was awaiting moderation and only now was approved. However, what do the Confessions say concerning those who teach contrary to this issue. Do they not state that they are condemned and not Christians?

    Is it possible to call Christ and especially the Holy Spirit liars without blasphemy against both? If the Holy Spirit teaches that the Sacraments are efficacious and necessary for salvation, can this be denied without blaspheming the Holy Spirit? Can a person receive the remission of sins worked by the Holy Spirit through conversion/justification/sanctification while speaking against what the Holy Spirit says?

    The Scriptures and Confessions address this as the most serious matter possible. The point of this is not to make oneself the judge of others, but to speak the Truth in love so that people may be turned from their self-chosen denial of the Truth and the self-chosen condemnation to which they cling.

    Pr. Don Kirchner says in # 107: “Which is nothing but a red herring added to the ad hominem fallacies previously pointed out, i.e., sacramentarians and Forde.In fact, the former has been so racheted up that the suggestion is being made that sacramentarians, by virtue of being sacramentarians, are damned. If that’s the case then we’d better be engaging with them. Their salvation depends on it!”

    To this one needs to respond that engaging those who are outside of the true faith is not the same as inviting them to speak and instruct. Engaging is confrontation of the damning false doctrines, openly and lovingly acknowledging that these false doctrines are damning. All false doctrine is damning and refusal to be converted from these is what caused the Lord Jesus to warn so strongly against being like the scribes and Pharisees, judging them as white washed tombs and wolves and sons of the devil.

    The Lord Jesus warns against treating these matters lightly. He warns that this will cause many to think themselves safe and to be true disciples when in fact they are not of Christ and will be informed by Him of this fact at the Last Day.

    These warnings are given in the strongest fashion with the intent that people will be converted and brought into the Kingdom of God through Baptism and preserved in the Holy Communion. It is not the Lord’s desire that anyone be lost. Thus He commands that the saints stand apart from those who believe and teach and practice falsely and that a clear witness be given concerning their lost condition so that they have no excuse for treating the matter with indifference. Such confrontation leads to one of two responses, either the person is converted or the person becomes more obstinately an enemy of the cross and of Christ and His saints.

    This is a very serious issue that the love of Christ that dwells in the saints through the gift of the Holy Spirit does not and cannot leave unaddressed and unanswered. This is why the true saints are always persecuted, even as Christ assured would be the case. Yet the saints speak out, ever praying for the Lord’s Kingdom to Come and Will to be Done.

  12. @Paul A. Siems #111

    I was not taking issue with your comments. Pr. Don Kirchner did. I was only pointing out that he misconstrued your comments as saying that “sacramentarians, by virtue of being sacramentarians, are damned”.

  13. @Paul A. Siems #101 Thank you, Pastor. That is exactly the point – Law & Gospel is indivisible from the means of grace . It has been mentioned in some comments, but not as clearly as you have said it. Luther was unequivocal about L&G being bound up with the sacraments:

    “Granted, then, that the fanatics talk a great deal about God, forgiveness of sins, the grace of God, and the death of Christ, still, when the question is raised how to come to Christ and obtain grace, how to effect a union with Him, they tell me that the Spirit alone must do this. They make me step on a monkey’s tail by saying that the external and oral proclamation of the Word, Baptism, and the Sacrament [the Lord’s Supper] are worthless. And yet they preach grace. That amounts to proclaiming the existence of a treasure in fine terms, but taking away the key and bridge that would put me in possession of the treasure. Now, God has ordained that this treasure is to be offered and conveyed to men by means of Baptism, the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, and the external Word. These are the means and instruments by which to obtain the grace of God. They deny this truth.

    I state these matters because the devil is so cunning that he professes the words of this truth, but renounces the means by which we obtain what the words declare. The fanatics do not renounce the treasure, but the use and benefit of it. They deprive us of the method, of the ways and means for getting at the treasure, so that we could enjoy it. They shut us out from the grace which we would very much like to have. They tell us that we must have the Spirit; but they will not concede to me the means by which I may have the Spirit. How can I receive the Spirit and believe when the Word of God is not preached and the Sacraments are not administered to me? I must have the means; for ‘faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,’ Rom. 10 17

    To sum up, there can be no schismatic but must run counter to the First Commandment and stumble at Christ Jesus. All heretics meet in a grand ensemble at this article. Let us, then, abide by this article: ‘Thou shalt have no other gods,’ and let us diligently bear in mind its object and scope. For if we put it out of our sight, we are opening the doors wide to all schismatic spirits. God never proposed to set up His worship in this world without external means.”

    (Blessed Martin Luther, Sermon on Deuteronomy 4:28 given at the Marburg Colloquy in 1529, AE 38:111)

    h/t with the full quote at

  14. @Dave Schumacher #112

    No, Dave, I did not. I replied to @Nathan #102

    It appears, however, that Paul does suggest some damning, i.e., that sacramentarians are condemned and not Christians.

  15. @Tim Wood #113

    The proclamation of Law & Gospel is not only indivisible from the means of grace…

    It IS a means of grace. So, what does this have to do with TT’s presentation at CSL? Where was the heresy?

  16. @Pr. Don Kirchner #115

    Pr. asks: “Where is the heresy?”

    Tullian Tchividjian is a heretic. He openly stands apart from the true faith and denounces the Sacraments as means of grace. The Scriptures command that such men be marked and avoided, not invited to preach or teach. They are to be denounced for their refusal to be admonished and corrected. This is the plain teaching of the Scriptures.

    As for Law & Gospel as a means of grace, Law & Gospel is a clarification of the right preaching of the pure Gospel/Word. Omission of part of the Gospel renders one’s preaching/teaching of Law & Gospel as false. The Sacraments are integral to the right Law & Gospel preaching/teaching.

    Regarding the Sacramentarians and Tchividjian pretending to agree, this is the same lie that the Sacramentarians have always presented, as the Confessions repeatedly declare and warn. The Confessions strongly warn to avoid and have nothing to do with the Sacramentarians. The Confessions warn that these false Christians have nothing to offer true Christians.

    Rather than arguing this point, why not read the Confessions to which you claim to subscribe? Read what they say regarding the Sacramentarians and their lies.

    If you truly believe that the Confessions are true expositions of the Scriptures, should this not settle the arguments?

    If anyone truly cares about Tchividjian, lovingly tell him that he is a heretic and that a partial truth is still a lie from which one needs to be saved. Furthermore, if you truly love the brethren, warn them to have nothing to do with any open heretic or compromising church body. Then confess your own sins and receive the true Supper for your absolution and prepare to be strongly attacked by everyone that you know.

  17. @Paul A. Siems #120

    Interesting tirade, Paul. Looking back it seems that you give that same one now and then. You do need to get out more. Because one would not do well studying theology at the higher academic level if one did not converse with those you deem heretics, and little conversation would take place if one “lovingly” called them heretics (other than The Virginian’s “Smile when you call me that!”).

    Do you even realize what this is all about?

    “The Center for Reformation Research and Concordia Seminary began commemorations for the Reformation Quincentenary by sponsoring an annual speaker series aimed at the St. Louis community to offer varying perspectives on the significance of the Reformation. Oswald Bayer began the series in 2012 with “A Public Mystery.”

    In 2013, the Office of Ecumenical and Inter-religious Affairs of the Archdiocese of St. Louis co-sponsored the event, featuring Fr. Jared Wicks, S.J. and his engaging lecture, “A Catholic Appreciation of Martin Luther for Theology and Life.” In addition, Fr. Wicks contributed to the Concordia Journal with some new research on Vatican II and its implications for Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue (“Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue: On Foundations Laid in 1962-1964” CJ 39 (Fall 2013), 296-309.)

    Last year, renowned Reformation historian Steven Ozment gave a lecture on the contribution of the artist Lucas Cranach to Luther and the Reformation.”

    “As an important voice within American evangelicalism, Tullian Tchividjian will offer his perspective on the challenges and opportunities that the theology of the Reformation brings to the contemporary American religious landscape.”

    Seems to me that if you wanted to know what was going on among the Evangelicals that you’d ask an Evangelical. If you wanted to know about the landscape, trends and even opportunities among the Evangelicals you’d ask an Evangelical. Because I’ll guarantee you, our members are hearing and reading about it. So, we’d better be up on it in order to teach accordingly.

    As one who claims that you were driven from the LCMS, I can understand your perspective. But the LCMS sems and we in the LCMS pastorate will continue to dialog with Christians in other denominations. Our theologians will continue to get advanced degrees from non-Lutheran universities such as Notre Dame, St. Louis U and Union. You go ahead and live your insular Christian life. Hope you don’t mind if I still hang out with sinners, including an ELS guy now and then even though he teaches false doctrine regarding the Office of the Ministry, and that I don’t call him a heretic.

    Because, when it really comes down to it, I don’t think either CSL or CTSFW cares what you think. But you are invited to attend one of the lectures anytime. They’re free.

  18. Sweet Jesus . . .

    Okay, I will either end this endless thread about personal slights, or it will go on forever.

    Would everybody just please quit commenting and let Pastor Kirchner have the last word?

    That is what he clearly wants – let him have it.

    Pax . . .

  19. Fr. Josh –

    Following your advice/counsel/warning . . .

    Tim – great article, great insight to a very difficult subject. And if anyone wants to come to my site and argue this issue – welpers – gird your loins.

    I’m kinda “LUTHER”an – which means . . . 🙂 . . . try me.

    This thread has run its course, beyond, beyond beyond, and even beyond even that. 20 posts ago it was no longer a discussion, but a pissing match between Calvin and Hobbes.

    Bad fohm, Jack”, as Capt. Hook would say . . .

  20. Hmm, guess I did get the last (substantive) word… IOW, thanks but no thanks, jb. BTW,

    Walther’s Law and Gospel

    Thesis XX.

    In the sixteenth place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when a person’s salvation is made to depend on his association with the visible orthodox Church and when salvation is denied to every person who errs in any article of faith.

  21. Pastor Kirchner, I don’t think that Walther quote you cite has anything to do with this post written by Tim. I hope Tim might come back on and explain to you why it is a quote taken out of context to apply wrongly to Tim’s good points. Although that might be a hopeless endeavor at this point.

    I would like you to go ask Walther himself if he would have invited Tullian to preach to our men at the Seminary for the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. And then ask him to explain to you why he would, or why he would not. He’s not as open minded as you may think. Especially when it would pertain to the “mixing” of the two doctrines which drove Lutherans to leave Germany and come to America in the first place. I think it had something to do with the mandate issued that the Lutherans and the Calvinists would become “one” church in Germany. They were ordered to merge together. However, today we don’t need to be ordered to merge. We seem to be doing it voluntarily. And I could give you details of some of our large cowo churches doing just that. They have no problem with teaching Reformed materials as sound biblical doctrine to their adults and children. Luther would not be pleased. And he would be right.

    Now, don’t misconstrue me that I don’t like Tullian because I do. I have listened to his sermons for years now, starting from before he became “popular” with us Lutherans and followed his blog. I have purchased and read 3 or 4 of his books. What I do like about him is his more Lutheran-leaning emphasis on Grace. Which has gotten him into deep trouble with his Calvinist friends. (See? The Calvinists don’t like the “mixing” of the two doctrines either. They still don’t agree with Luther. They are accusing Tullian of being too antinomian for their tastes.) I just do know he is wrong on the Sacraments, which also needs to include being wrong on the Two Natures of Christ, and that is not a small or inconsequential thing.

    The thing I think he possibly could “teach” our young ministers is how to preach! (But honestly, I’ve heard him do a better job of that than what he presented at the Sem that night. And yes, I did watch it via the LiveStream that evening.) I’ve heard one of our important guys say repeatedly that “we have a serious deficit of preaching.” But that is another topic and venue altogether.

    So, even as much as I like Tullian personally, I did object (to myself only of course) to his coming to the Sem that evening. And if you watch at the very beginning of his talk, he said the very same thing of himself. People are going on and on about his presentation of the Law and Gospel. What I heard, basically, was just his own personal testimony. The whole thing just did not fit as a good L/G presentation.

  22. Thank you for your opinion, Abby, and I have expressed mine.

    Actually, I think it is quite ironic that the attack on TT as heretic generally falls within the subject of TT’s talk. I.e., the failure to properly distinguish law and gospel has been prevalent hereon. Yes, the confessional statements given are entirely correct. But the application is a failure to properly distinguish law and gospel and far from pastoral.

    Actually, I think you fail to perceive how pastoral Walther was. For example do a search for how Walther dealt with the Lodge question. “The pastoral care and concern displayed by Walther in this letter [counseling a pastor on how to deal with a congregational member who was a member of the Lodge]—his concern for souls, his wisdom, his patience—can be affirmed without qualification and continue to serve as a model for pastors today in dealing with specific individuals and situations in this regard.” Check it out. Walther didn’t even suggest that the pastor not communicate the Lodge member until he quit the Lodge.

    I’ve got the letter in an electronic file on a computer or memory stick somewhere. I’ll see if I can find it. I know I’ve got it in a book in my library at the church.

    Note Walther’s thesis on communion fellowship and how he deals with those in heterodox denominations:

    We do not place members of heterodox fellowships under excommunication or declare them to be heretics or damned by our refusal to allow them to participate in the celebration of communion within the fellowship of the Lutheran Church. Instead, they are merely suspended until such time as by their separation from the false fellowship they are reconciled with the orthodox church.”

    I am quite certain that TT did not communicate at a celebration of the Lord’s Supper at the Chapel of St Timothy and St. Titus.

    Did you know that Walther preached his inaugural sermon to the Trinity congregation in St. Louis which still worshiped in Christ Episcopal Church? I don’t think Walther was worried about cooties, and I suspect that he wasn’t calling the members of the Episcopal congregation heretics.

    Also check out Walther’s establishment and use of open conferences to discuss theological issues with those who were not in fellowship with the LCMS.

    So yes, if Walther were president of CSL today I do think that he would have asked TT to speak, given the purpose for the presentations. And I think that he would have asked the RC speaker to speak two years ago. Walther was above all pastoral and a master at the proper distinction between law and gospel.

  23. From the LCMS historian, Rev. Edward Engelbrecht:

    I came across a fascinating “reminiscence” from Ludwig Ernest (sic) Fuerbringer in “80 Eventful Years” (1944). Fuerbringer writes that he had attended the services of Dr. James H. Brooks, pastor of the Washington and Compton Presbyterian Church. Fuerbringer wrote, “I heard him preach off and on in my student days and also when I came to St. Louis as instructor in our Seminary” (p. 49). He then noted “In our former Walther College in St. Louis is housed at the present time a Bible School, or Institute, bearing the name ‘Brookes Bible Institute,’ because Brookes was an outstanding Bible reader and student” (p. 49).

    Apparently Walther College was sold to the Presbyterians. I am amazed by this reminiscence because of the Adolph Brux case from the 1930s when the prayer fellowship issue was hotly debated in the synod. Fuerbringer, who later became [the 3rd] president of Concordia Seminary, was apparently visiting the Presbyterian services in the late 1800s without issue. I assume that he only went to listen and did not participate in the prayers. Nevertheless, an interesting story.”

    It would be interesting to know what sort of speakers they had at CSL back then.

    The Symposia Series at CTSFW nearly always has at least one non-Lutheran presenter, sometimes more. Its history page concludes, “Presenters have come from all over the world and include clergy from all the major Lutheran synods and the Roman, Eastern Orthodox and Reformed communions.”

  24. @jb #131
    I agree. I also had another thought on this whole thread as I read it. I know that CSL added “The Lutheran Mind” as part of their mandatory classes for future pastors because they found that incoming students knew little about actual Lutheran thinking (like Law and Gospel)! I also know that when I visited Fort Wayne a current student quite proudly stated to me that he had been Baptist up until a mere 5 months ago and was now studying to become a Lutheran pastor! It seems to me that if both seminaries, but especially St. Louis, are already concerned about their students lack of abilities to think with a Lutheran mind then the likes of TT would only further confuse and hamper that. Anyone who wants to hear what TT has to say can pick up his books or listen to him on the radio and make their own informed judgments. Spend seminary money on making good solid Lutheran pastors first and foremost.

  25. @Rev. McCall #132

    So, Rev McCall, do you consider the “weakly catechized” to include sem students? Actually, yes they can and will pick up his books or listen to him on the radio (as will our congregational members) and might make their own uninformed judgments. Better to read/hear TT’s words within the academic context and atmosphere, analyze them within a Lutheran context and then make an informed judgment, no?

    An example would be a class that I took at Sem. One of the assigned texts was “Theology Is for Proclamation” by Forde. There is some excellent stuff in that volume, particularly his discussion of the masks of God and, hence, why it is the revealed God in Christ that is proclaimed, that one doesn’t peer behind the mask of the hidden God.

    Anyway, Forde was discussed in class. I recall a classmate asking, “What about Forde’s soteriology?” Professor’s answer, only somewhat tongue-in-cheek, “He doesn’t have one!” And he went on to explain and we discussed what was good and Lutheran about Forde’s writings and what was not so. Has we simply picked up Forde’s readings in a bookstore somewhere we might not have been privy to the information about Forde’s shortcomings.

    In many other classes we read assigned texts of RCs and other denomination’s authors, always critically analyzing them.

    BTW, things must have changed. Back when I matriculated to CSL one could not be a “new” Lutheran and get into sem.

  26. @Pr. Don Kirchner #133

    I think the seminary’s own actions show they consider incoming seminarians to be weakly catechized. Doesn’t matter what I think, they are the ones who added the class because incoming students did not understand many/most Lutheran/Biblical concepts.
    One could argue your point, but it does not make much logical sense to me. If the seminary feels incoming students don’t know enough about Lutheranism that they needed to create and add a class to address the issue, wouldn’t they imply that more time needed to be devoted to studying Lutheranism rather than Reformed views of Lutheranism? Consider, for example, a student who is studying Shakespeare. Before I start telling her what other people think about Shakespeare, telling her about Deconstruction theory, feminist readings of the text, and so on, shouldn’t I make sure she understands the material itself first? Bringing in outside views and opinions before she understands the text itself would only serve to confuse her, not help her.

  27. I also know that when I visited Fort Wayne a current student quite proudly stated to me that he had been Baptist up until a mere 5 months ago and was now studying to become a Lutheran pastor!

    Perhaps he was doing pre-seminary work.

    Admission Requirements …

    Applicants must be a member of a Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod congregation for a minimum of two years prior to admission. If married, their wife must also be a member of a Missouri Synod congregation…

  28. @Rev. McCall #134

    In true Lutheran fashion I think it should be a both/and. This addresses the issue of the “weakly catechized” picking up the material on their own and reading/hearing without discrimination. In fact, looking to the content of “The Lutheran Mind” class, TT’s presentation would appear to complement that content.

    Furthermore, I am uncomfortable with the notion that we, and especially the sems, need to cater to the lowest common denominator.

  29. @Pr. Don Kirchner #136
    Hey I’ll agree to that! The band “Lost and Found” said the greatest word in Lutheranism is “and”. 😉
    I am uncomfortable with catering to the lowest common denominator as well, but the sad reality is that as a whole incoming seminarians are less familiar and knowledgeable about basic Lutheran doctrine. Somebody has to do something.

    @John Rixe #135
    Sadly our seminary’s often give mere lip service to those words. I can think of numerous examples from my own time at seminary where such admission standards were waived or ignored.

  30. It’s hard not to get the impression that some comments are made without reading the articles. This was the second para of the original:

    “This is not a call to play to the lowest common denominator (our seminaries, synodocrats, and pastors have a duty to fix the catechism problem). It is a plea to take greater care lest we weaken or destroy the faith of others by ‘disappearing’ what is essential for repentance and the forgiveness of sins. Unfortunately, our leadership and institutions can be too casual in dismissing objections to their activities as the wailings of fragile pietists, or pharisaism, or a lack of education and sophistication, or the old favorite – breaking the Eighth Commandment.”

  31. Mr. Wood,

    Please keep in mind that I am not necessarily responding to your specific words or comments but, rather other’s comments made on the thread. After submitting that, again, you hadn’t made your case (I understand that others think that you have) I do not think I specifically addressed your comments.

    IOW, I read your article. Thank you for the, mostly, good discussion it generated.

  32. @Nathan #104

    agreed. Most often it comes in in what is not said, or assumed.

    As far as Tullian goes, he sounded good to me for a while but more and more I find he is *assuming the law* by minimizing it… “we’re all screw ups, thank God for Jesus.” and honestly I can’t hear much difference between messages preached by Nadia Bolz Weber (in the review I heard on Issues Etc with Chris Rosebrough commenting) and Tullian. Plus now he keeps quoting bona fide unbelievers and heretics as if they understand grace. Problem there.

  33. @Nathan #93

    “We learned the story behind how Nadia and Tullian became friends. We heard how their mutual belief in the radical and disarming grace of God allowed them to forge a deep bond despite other differences. We watched as they connected over shared struggles such as being mischaracterized by others, the pressures of having a platform, and the deep burden they share to set those they love free from the guilt of sin. ”

    I am assuming this is your own characterization of what happened since you ended the quote from the LCMS pastor you linked to (that link has since vanished and liberate is not even available on the wayback machine, ostensibly to somehow protect Tullian from people using his stuff to slander him (though he does not apologize for the message he preached), while he goes out and talks to the public and continues to preach the same message and make us watch everything he’s going through, despite his wife’s request for privacy. (Seems to be an unhealthy pattern there to me.)

    Just so you know Nadia doesn’t understand grace at all. She deals with the guilt of sin by rejecting God’s law and celebrating sin. Just take a look at her timeline on twitter to watch her gloat over gay pride parades, gay marriage and see same sex couples in lip locks in front of the churches where one of them is apparently a clergy person.

    If anyone is “slandering” Tullian by calling him an antinomian, it is himself, for joining his own message to hers. What else are we to think?

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