They Really are Harmless Little Dust Bunnies: A Review of the Recent St. Louis Seminary Faculty Commentary on the Blue Ribbon Proposals, by Pastor Tim Rossow

The just published winter issue of the Concordia Journal from the seminary in St. Louis is devoted in great part to a review of the Blue Ribbon Commission’s proposals on structure. Instead of offering hard-hitting critique based on Scripture and the Confessions, this issue is steeped in matters of discussion, dialogue and a harmful perspectivalism endemic in our culture. I expected more from them. One expects that they would be the teachers that they have been called to be. Instead, the faculty at Concordia Seminary are truly the harmless little dust bunnies as depicted in Pastor Blazek’s recent cartoon (look in the lower right hand corner).

 

Before I go any further let me say that I am a proud graduate of Concordia Seminary St. Louis. I would not even be able to begin to offer this critique were it not for the learning and wisdom gained at Concordia St. Louis (M Div, 1985) and also at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana (D Min, 2006). Having that pride and thankfulness for my alma mater however does not mean I cannot call a spade a spade. This journal issue is best considered to be the work of harmless dust bunnies.

 

Instead of teaching the church by taking a position for or against the proposals, and backing each position up with Scripture and Confessional references (I only count four scripture references and one reference to the Confessions in the fifty-two pages of articles), they mostly offer postmodern ruminations about process and dialogue saying things like this:

 

…in these important conversations about the church…we see ourselves [the faculty] as learners as well as teachers, as listeners as well as speakers. (Dr. William Schumacher, Dean of Theological Research, page 8 )

 

…which means that for constructive and truly generative conversation to happen, we must do the hard work of engaging one another in thoughtful discourse and meaningful action (Schumacher, p. 9)

 

Is communication the key to promoting trans-local accountability in the church of God that many are beginning to desire? (Anthony A. Cook, Assistant Professor of Practical Theology, p. 13)

 

…when the convention is over… I hope it tells the story of a struggling group of Lutherans who… dedicate themselves to saving people through generative relationships and conversations of grace. (Cook, p. 14)

 

To that end this essay seeks to clarify how theology influences practice, how what we believe about the church influences how we converse with one another as we consider what it means to be the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in the twenty first century (Professors Erik Hermann and David Schmitt, p. 38).

 

There is nothing wrong with what these snippets are saying. Discussion and listening are important but we lean upon our seminary professors to teach us not lead us in discussion. If you take the effort to read the issue as I did I fear you will be frustrated on nearly every page looking in vain for proactive theological assertions and finding mostly a discussion of process rather than theology. Based on this issue of the Journal it looks like the St. Louis seminary has been taken over by a bunch of postmoderns whose emphasis is on theological style and dialogue rather than theology itself.  

 

Take a look at the title of one of the articles: “Toward an Ecclesiology of Catholic Unity and Mission in the Borderlands, Reflections of a Latino Lutheran Theologian” by Leopoldo A. Sanchez (Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology). That is an impressive sounding title but we would really just like to know what a doctrinal theologian like Professor Sanchez thinks about the Blue Ribbon proposals. (By the way, what is a Latino theologian? I suppose if we have Hyper-European pastors and professors we might as well have Latino theologians. Does a Latino theologian arrive at different theological assertions than a  German theolgian does? I wonder if there is any room in this synod for common sense realist theologians who just want to use simple, plain English to preach and teach the Scriptures?) Sanchez goes on to say in his article

 

As a systematic theologian, for the purposes of this essay, I am also especially interested in how current arguments on the church’s unity and mission are constructed or framed…

 

Again we see an emphasis on how the argument is framed rather than the truth or falsity of the theological assertions in the proposals themselves. Sanchez also repeatedly uses the phrase “interpretive lenses for understanding ecclesiology” (e.g. p. 18, p. 31). In a Bible-teaching synod such as the LCMS it is at best distracting to focus on “lenses of understanding” and at worst it ends in perspectival relativism.

 

The problem here is an emphasis on process rather than theology. I have discerned for several years now that the St. Louis seminary has caved into the academic culture of perspectivalism. By perspectivalism I mean the uniquely postmodern way of thinking that truth comes down to one’s perspective. In other words, relativism. This is a serious accusation against the seminary that fought against and defeated modernism. We defeated modernism but are succumbing to postmodernism. Modernism taught that religious truth is bogus and false. Postmodernism teaches that religious truth is not false, but that it is a matter of one’s perspective. Modernism sought to destroy religion; postmodernism saves it but relegates it with all other “truth” to the arena of perspective, opinion and viewpoint. Modernists asserted that in the light of science, religion makes no sense. The postmodernist says that you can have your religious “truth,” i.e. truth for you and I shall have mine and they can coexist as long as they do not violate the lowest common moral denominator in the culture. Truth is subject to perspective. Therefore, we must focus on the processes by which we make decisions. We must focus on dialogue and discussion rather than the actual dogmatic answers that we find in scripture.

 

Here is a little exercise for you. Read Gene Veith’s excellent book on postmodernism and then read the articles in this journal. You will be amazed that what Veith critiqued ten years ago is now making its way into our seminary.

 

Since polity is somewhat in the realm of adiaphora, there is room on this matter for more emphasis on dialogue and discussion than with other doctrinal loci but this issue of the Journal goes far beyond that. It majors in dialogue and discussion. We need our professors to provide for us a straight-forward, common sense realism, critique of the Blue Ribbon proposals in plain English rather than articles filled with phrases like “generative relationships,” constructive and generative conversation,” and “translocal accountability.” This is the language of perspective and not the language of theological argument that characterizes the Lutheran Confessions. If there is any meaningful discussion about process it ought to be a critique of the way the synod has handled this matter already which is more akin to spin-doctoring than to genuine input gathering from the members of the synod. The process has been manipulated  but that concern has sadly not made its way into the Journal’s obsession with process.

 

Are you still unconvinced that the St. Louis faculty is stuck in a post-modern world of perspectival process rather than in Luther’s world of hard cold theological assertion? If so, consider this quote from the highly respected (and rightfully so) Vice President for Academic Affairs and Professor of Exegetical (Bible understanding) Theology, Andrew Bartelt.

 

This [greater level of theological training] would be especially critical in the fundamental areas of hermeneutics and interpretation, which have as much to do with “reading” culture and context and personal spiritual needs as they do with reading and properly understanding the biblical and theological texts themselves. (p. 55)

 

Yes, you read that correctly. The Vice President of Academic Affairs and one of the most revered professors of the Bible in the LCMS says flat out that understanding the Bible has as much to do with understanding culture as it does with understanding the texts themselves. This may make sense in the postmodern world of literature and the philosophical world of deconstruction but it is nonsense and dangerous ground to tread for conservative, Bible-believing Lutherans who trust that God has revealed plain, objective, straight-forward truth based on the simple philosophy of common sense realism in His word.

 

There are a lot of helpful insights in this issue of the Journal but they are lost in the perspectival focus on process and discussion. We don’t need discussion from our professors. We need analysis of what is right or wrong with the proposals. Some of the helpful things in this issue include Professor Sanchez offering some clear opinions on the Blue Ribbon proposals but sadly his critique is based on ethnic multiculturalism and not doctrinal theology (p. 32).   The Herrman/Schmitt article has a fine critique of the Americanization of the church and I think they are even trying to suggest that the Blue Ribbon proposals reflect this harmful Americanization. Good for them, but please just come right out and say it rather than asserting that your goal is to clarify the process by which we discuss these matters.

 

Even President Meyer’s two page article is disappointing (pp. 10-11). His basic point is that the fly over states that comprise the majority of LCMS members are behind the knowledge curve of realizing the significance of globalization. We need to spread out the center of the synod so that members all around the country feel connected. That may be true, I am not sure that it is  and even if it  is true I do not see how it effects the confession of the faith and  it left me scratching my head wondering how it is  related to the critique of the Blue Ribbon proposals.

 

I believe this matter can be resolved. There are fine bright theologians at our seminaries. They are certainly brighter than this author but I do hope they will take seriously this critique of their approach to theology. Get away from  cloudy perspectivalism and get back to straight forward doctrinal assertion. Teach us in the style of the Formula of Concord and in the way of Walther and Pieper, Hummel and Nagel. There are still five more issues of the quarterly to come out before the proposals are brought to the 2010 convention. The July issue of the Journal was actually more assertive and straight-forward in its theology of the church than this one is and exemplifies a more helpful approach.

 

Maybe this is all just my own problem of perspective. I was told by an insider a few weeks ago that this issue of the Journal would be a hard-hitting critique of the Blue Ribbon proposals. He was told this by insiders from the seminary faculty. As it turns out Pastor Blazek was right in his cartoon. The seminary professors are just harmless little dust bunnies. Actually they are more than harmless bunnies. Their lack of willingness to speak clearly is harming the church. We need you gentleman and scholars to speak out with a clear voice your specific favor or disfavor of each Blue Ribbon proposal. You are equipped like no one else to critique these proposals on the basis of Scripture and the Confessions. We appreciate your interest in process, discussion and multiculturalism but we need your understanding of Moses, Paul and Chemnitz in order to help us sort out these proposals that could radically reform our denomination for the worse.

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.

Comments

They Really are Harmless Little Dust Bunnies: A Review of the Recent St. Louis Seminary Faculty Commentary on the Blue Ribbon Proposals, by Pastor Tim Rossow — 34 Comments

  1. Thanks, Rev. Rossow, for your discussion on the articles in the Concordia Journal issue.

    However, with all the buzzwords, tapdancing, euphemisms, and spin-doctoring you quoted from the CJ articles, I think that rather than “harmless little dust bunnies,” the reference to Rev. Blazek’s cartoon should be more about what was drawn behind the struggling elephants.

  2. Whatever happened to ‘Here I stand. I can do no other’?
    Instead, we get, ‘I stand here, but you stand there, but we’re going to talk it out and that’s okay.’
    Martin Luther, meet Stuart Smalley.
    And I hate jargon and this is a lot of jargon. Ever notice how impossible it is to translate jargon into active propositions? Jargon is passive-talk.
    Passive voices=passive hearts.
    fooey. goobledygook. And for shame.

  3. I just read an article about “trans-local accountability” in “Subways and Metrolinks Weekly.”

    No I didn’t. But that’s what the term brought to mind. I feel badly for the professors. It sounds to me as though they are a little scared.

  4. Susan and Carl,

    Great comments!

    In my discussions with peers yesterday about the Journal I came up with a new word. Susan – your use of “gobbldygook” (in Iowa we have an alternate spelling) reminded me of it. You basically take the first syllable of “gobbldygook” and the potty form of the stuff coming out of the elephants that Carl refers to and you get “gobbldy_ _ _ t.” I was tempted to use it in the post but then thought the better of it but now you two have drawn me back into temptation and I could not resist.

    If I were Luther writing to the papists I would have used it but after all, I am writing to my truly beloved alma mater.

    Again, great comments.

    TR

  5. I love language. Being an english major and engineer, I love the precision of language and finding the right word. And so I’m distressed when what proceeds from our boardrooms and school boards is what should only come from the ignorant and pompous (“our mission is to educate students to be self-directed learners, collaborative workers, complex thinkers, quality producers, and community contributors.”). I expect better from the intellectual heirs of the authors of the book of Concord who confessed very specifically and concisely and who renounced more than they confessed.

    Generative conversations and relationships? Trans-local accountability? Conversations of grace? This is an abusive effeminization of language. It’s emasculation. Compare “generative conversations” with “we believe, teach and confess.” It’s a load of shit, and it’s unworthy talk coming out of our seminary.

  6. The word, “gobbledygook, ” which Susan used to describe the CJ articles’ verbage, is well chosen. It means unintelligible language, especially jargon or bureaucratese, and has a 20th century Texan origin.

    The word was first used on March 30, 1944, by Maury Maverick, a Texan lawyer and former Democratic Congressman and San Antonio mayor. Maverick, then chairman of the Smaller War Plants Corporation, created the word in a memo banning… well, gobbledygook language. Maverick said he was inspired by the turkey, “always gobbledy gobbling and strutting with ludicrous pomposity.”

    BTW, Maury’s grandfather, Samuel Maverick, a rancher and signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence, was the inspiration for the meaning of “maverick” (an unbranded animal), since he refused to brand his own cattle herds.

  7. Trying to get a firm, coherent definition of “postmodernism” is like getting a grip around a bag of earthworms. There’s postmodern literature, postmodern architecture, postmodern feminism, postmodern philosophy, postmodern music, postmodern Christianity, postmodern art…and the definition of ALL of it depends entirely on the person writing the definition.

    But the overcomplexity, buzzwords, and weasel words in some of these quotes and titles are rediculous. If there’s one thing I think we should pride ourselves as Lutheran intellectuals and thinkers, it’s that we “Keep It Simple, Stupid”. The truth does not need to be obscured by overly complex words.

  8. As a recent (07) graduate of CSL, let me also throw in my 2 cents worth of disappointment. CJ is ceasing to be a theological journal and instead is becoming a just another one of our pandering periodicals. It does not surprise me that they are throwing around these post-modernisms, they had Lenard Sweet for their Day of Homoletical Reflection a few years back. At CSL the first book I had to read was Rick Warren’s “purpose driven life” in my Pastoral Ministry class. That set the tone for a theologically sound four years of study (read with sarcasm). It’s disappointing to see how much they are accommodating to “sociological principles” rather than solid theology.

    I treasure my diploma from CSL, but I don’t show it off either.

  9. Hmmm, the first book I had to read in my Pastoral Ministry class way back in ’93 was The Hammer of God by Bo Giertz. I’ve never read Warren’s Purpose Driven Drivel but I suspect there may be a slight amount of difference between it & Hammer of God.

  10. Norm, I’m sure they read Warren just to find out what not to do as a pastor. I wish I could think that was true. 🙁

  11. WHEN was the last time that the faculty at St. Louie took a firm doctrinal position that was not in agreement with the folk at the purple palace? I guess it might have happened at some time in history … but for now I can’t remember it happening.

    You expected something else?

  12. 2006 grad. I read BOTH The Hammer of God AND the PPD at CSL. The Hammer of God was read in P101, my first class besides Greek and Hebrew. I did not come upon PPD (officially) until “Pastoral Leadership,” a fourth year class.

    To be fair, the PPD is/was on the course-list of only one professor who usually teaches half of the P101 courses. I believe he would defend himself (as many do) with the “eat meat spit bones” argument. I would disagree with him. You don’t give chicken wings to puppies.

    Point being: While I share Rossow’s concern about post-modern tenderfooting, I wouldn’t want everyone to get too up in arms too fast about the curriculum at CSL. I went in as a lighlty charistmatic pietist with inherited Lutheran roots. I came out a confessional Lutheran with a deep understanding of the ways Evangelicalism steals the Gospel. Of course, I DID DO the assigned reading, which one might not be able to say for a good number of the graduates…..

    Frankly, I think PPD should be on the reading list for any Biblical Hermeneutics class. I can’t imagine one book as capable of actually demonstrating how to break every interpretational rule all under one cover. One can read it hand in hand with DA Carson’s “Exegetical Fallacies” (which was required reading at CSL, btw) and just check off the multitude of ways an sincere, big-hearted, false teacher can twist their “just teaching the Bible.” I mean, when you’re quoting Job’s three friends as “the Bible says….” …I mean, sheesh.

  13. A fine critique of the CJ issue. But it may be moot. Anyone else heard any word about the “opportunty” for retirement “offered” to senior professors at St. Louis? That was the word on the street Wednesday.

  14. That is a very good post Revfisk. I agree with you. I am not saying that the place is going to hell in a handbasket; I am just trying to alert us all to a dangerous trend.

    Back in my day the the church growth movement was just getting started and we had our token professor who taught that junk but overall the curriculum was solid and I suppose it still is but it is apparent that it is being infused with or surrounded by a hermeneutic of perspectivalism that is dangerous.

    It reminds me of the early days of the higher criticism intrusion into the seminary. Even though higher criticism was a dangerous fire, it was held by many professors that they could handle the fire with care…until the entire synod nearly went up in smoke.

    Let me be blunt here – what it really comes down to is theologians who really do not know much philosophy and yet playing around with it in order to do theology. I have the benefit of a Masters in Philosophy to show me the pitfalls of the whole hermeneutical movement. Hermeneutics is not a harmless little spark that we can play with. It is a totalizing approach to knowledge. If I had my druthers, I would ban the use of the word “hermeneutics” and “interpretation” both of which come from an approach to the world which is inherently subjective.

    A few years ago I decided to replace the word “interpretation” with the word “understanding” in all mu conversation and teaching. Guess what, it works! “Interpretation” is active and involves the person’s bias whereas “understanding” is passive and involves the text. We passively come to the text of God’s word and seek to understand it in and of itself and not in terms of our worldview.

    It is important for us to realize that hermeneutics (the art of interpretation) is pretty much a late nineteenth century and twentieth century discipline. It is a product of the Enlightenment and even more so of Romanticism and Existentialism which led to Lingistic Philosophy and ultimately to Deconstuctionism and the like. Hermeneutics assumes that one comes to the text with presuppositions. From the get go, the deck is stacked against understanding and favors personal interpretation. In the hands of those who taught me exegesis it was mostly harmless but it is clear from this issue of the Concordia Journal that it is beyond the harmless stage and worthy of our attention.

    TR

  15. Agree with both concerns & cautions by RevFisk & Pastor Rossow. On the plus side, as much as I do complain about CSL, I also would not know the Gospel & be a confessional Lutheran without having gone there. I think my struggles at sem & the professors I imbibed from the most were the conduits the Lord used to instill a love for His Good News & its truth & purity in me.

  16. There’s even a few lowly laymen, who didn’t go to either seminary, who know the Gospel and are Confessional Lutherans. [I don’t mean any disrespect to you revgeorge by my comment :>) ]

  17. I have not read the Journal so I cannot comment there upon. However, I would recommend that we return to the sources (ad fontes!) of Luther’s writings and the Confessions on the nature of the church and reform. I would recommend Luther’s Address to the German Nobility and On Church Councils.

  18. Rev. Rossow,

    Have you had the time (or the hutzpah) to work through Voelz’s “What does this mean?” I found it (so far as I understood it) a helpful approach to teaching that “hermeneutics” and “interpretation” are in fact subjective, so long as they are private, which is precisely why we have the need for the Confessions. I hear your concerns loud and clear, and would love to learn more about how this is a philosophical movement. But, ironically, I have found (so far, and this may be my ignorance) that it is actually post-modernism and subjectivism which allows the Church to free itself from the Enlightenment and say, “Yes, we have a subjective opinion on the matter, and it is God’s, as demonstrated by his Word, as confessed by his Church throughout the ages….and this DOESN’T CHANGE.”

    Perhaps I am walking down a road I do not see the end of though…? As I have learned it at the Sem, the word “hermeneutics” is the art of discovering what a text actually does say, apart from your own subjective opinion, but not divorced from it. It’s the art of recognizing that we do come to the text with biases, and so 1. knowing what those biases are and 2. getting rid of the one’s that are deadly to the faith because the Church has warned us from of old.

    As an aside…do you really want to know how the heresy is spread and fostered at CSL? It’s not done at CSL. They send all the students off-site, once/twice/thrice a week, to be taught the stuff they “really” will need to know when they graduate.

  19. Rev. Rossow,

    I just realized my word “hutzpah” could be taken as a snipe against you. It was not intended to be so. It was more meant to jovially get snarky at Voelz, whom I love very much for the many good things he taught me. But that book is somewhat akin to studying astrophysics.

  20. To be sure, as some of you have well noted, the Lord is using the CSL faculty for the sake of the Gospel — praise to Christ! AND I give thanks for a post-walkout faculty (I entered CSL in the Fall of ’75 and knew in the first week that the Lord truly wanted me there) of largely parish pastors who understood that souls stood in the balance so that pastors needed to be trained to take a stand on issues of God’s Word, the Confessions, and conscience.

    We must all learn when is the time to stand up to be counted. Perhaps they feel threatened by others who would play hardball with them. I remember at the time of the ‘Prayer for America’ Yankee Stadium event that, after the CFW faculty shared their excellent (my opinion) and rather gutsy (my opinion) response, I queried some whom I knew at CSL and was told that they had been specifically told not to comment on the topic. I did not ask further b/c I did not want to know any secrets — but my supposition (right or wrong) was that there was a real or imagined threat of loss of job if they commented.

    The question at that point must be for every man who is told not to comment to search his conscience to see if he MUST speak. The question of anyone who might threaten others to get their silence is how they can presume to threaten others’ consciences. None of it seems terribly church-like from where I sit. Lord, give us men who are of the mold of the post-Easter and post-Pentecost apostles — and grant me also courage at all those times when my feet feel like they are made of clay. Amen.

    And the beat goes on . . .

  21. Revfisk,

    I will e-mail you privately on this matter not for secrecy sake but because it is a lengthy matter.

    I do not know Voelz personally but everything I hear about him is very positive except for the book, which quite honestly I do not think many understand. I have had countles students and several professors snicker when I ask them if they can explain what it means. For one of my D Min classes I wrote a 100 page paper reviewing Voelz’s book. It was well receieved by the Ft. Wayne professors who read it. I was encouraged by a faculty member to send it ot Voelz. I hae never gotten around to it, mostly because the book seemed harmless since so many that I talked to said they basically ignored it. Good! It is very disturbing – but I want to say again that all I hear about Voelz is glowing and so I have no reason to doubt that he is a real blessing for the church.

    He proably knows far more than I do about the philosophical hermeneutics that his book delves into but I have no doubt that he does not understand the epistemological implications of his hermeneutical theory and how dangerous it is for the faith.

    I have gone on too long. I thank God for theologians like Voelz but will not keep silent about the absurd and dangerous hermeneutic to which he subscribes and attempts to teach others. One of the most outrageous quotes in his book is very similar to the Bartelt quote that I pointed out in the post. Voelz actually makes the statement that in reading any text there are two texts to consider: the text being read and the text of the reader himself. In short, what this means is that any word that I encounter in a book has a meaning drawn from that book (within its context) and it also has a meaning in my life. Each one of those meanings is connected to a nexus of past uses and contexts. In the end, this approach to hermeneutics suggests that we can never truly know the meaning of any word because it is lost in an inestimably large nexus of usage by the author, the author’s culture, the specific context of the book, the reader, the reader’s culture, etc. If that sounds confusing good, because that it what this crap is. (I will allow you to search the nexus of your experience for a more meaningful word than “crap” but for the sake of decency will keep said word within the nexus of my inner world of experience and not print it here.)

    These are really important matters as we critique postmodernism and it is annoying that an exegetical professor at one of our seminaries subscribes to this theory but as I stated above, thankfully, no one takes him seriously on this point. As important as this matter is and as much as I have studied it, you a regular reader of this site know that I have not made a big deal of it until now. I have made a big deal of it now because of the clear tone of this recent issue of the Concordia Journal.

    As I said two paragraphs above, I have carried on enough on this. I will e-mail you my paper and we can continue the discussion. Thanks for your interest in this matter.

    TR

  22. “…no one takes him seriously on this point.” Hmm. Apparently, the guy who wrote the 100 page paper took him seriously. Could you also send me a copy of your paper Pastor Rossow?

  23. I’m a ’08 grad of CSL, so my opinion of the matter is shaped by this experience.

    I found the CJ articles useful and challenging to many of the Blue Ribbon proposals, even if a bit wordy. The articles all attempted to point out that church structure, being adiaphora, does not mean it is divorced from theology. What we do and how we structure will reflect upon our theology, just as our theology should reflect upon our structure.

    Many of the professors have been largely outspoken within the classroom about theological concerns for different synodical proposals. In the CJ, they say the same,sans snark.

    If you haven’t found the round table discussions for CJ yet, watch the August edition, where the professors have every opportunity to lay out a synodical bureaucrat, but restrain themselves. The big issue? The purple palace listens to the Seminary professors about as much as they listen to the Brothers.

  24. jb,

    That is a helpful comment. I figured they are more outspoken in the classroom but I still have two concerns – why can’t they be more forthright where it really counts, where the church will hear it and secondly, I am not concerned so much about wordiness but the way the words are used – why are our seminary professors so stuck on process and perspective?

    TR

  25. Dear Rev Rossow,
    I found your post #16 to be quite fascinating as it explained hermenutics. Could you recommend some resources for further study? I would really appreciate it. Thanks for the work you do…keep up the fight.

  26. I may be off-base in suggesting this but it seems to me that a study and application of Acts 6 would be in order as we critique the Blue Ribbon Committee.

    I would suggest the BRC is a little top heavy with theologians turned
    executive.

    Perhaps it is not too late to direct the BRC and seminaries to focus on the general purpose and direction we should take to meet the peculiar challenges of our changing culture. And then call “men of good repute, full of the Spirit and wisdom” to work out the details of what should be changed and, most importantly, why it should be changed.

    If I am not mistaken, I think we are going down the same path the Roman church took that lead to the Reformation, where the two kingdoms were joined and the Gospel was lost.

    I suggest that it is very difficult to lmmerse yourself in the details of reorganization and remember the Gospel. An overseer is necessary to keep on track.

    There is an old saying “when you are up to your neck in allegators
    , it is hard to remember that your job was to drain the swamp”.

  27. I would echo the comments on Dr. Voelz, he is a brilliant theologian, and has my regard and respect. However his hermeneutics book is aptly named.

    The case for changing our church polity and hence the rasion d’etre of the BRC has not been stated succinctly nor supported with facts. And so most discussion on this topic is at best vague, theoretical and mostly pointless because the rationale behind it is not clear. Save for the fact that it is going to become law in a year or so, we wouldn’t be bothered with it at all.

    What is understood is that the polity of the Missori Synod is on the table because President Kieshnick wants it there, and that makes this subject a political hot potato, which of course creates even more equivocation.

  28. I also was very disappointed with the article in the CONCORDIA JOURNAL/Winter 2009: “Appraising Polity – Theological Lenses for Evaluating Structural and Governance Proposals.” I expected theology, not process. I expected a theological analysis of some of the Blue Ribbon Task Force Synodical Structure and Governance proposals. What is this business of “process” rather than “theology”? Is not Concordia Seminary a school of theology? Why should pastors be subjected to articles that emphasize “process” rather than theology?
    A graduate of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, I continue to give thanks to the Lord of the Church for the fine theological training I received at 801 DeMun Avenue. I want my alma mater to concentrate on what the Scriptures teach.
    The article on page 45 states: “By uniting together in a synod, congregations express their unity in Christ.” This is most certainly true (grandfather’s church lingo) when “unity” refers to our faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior from sin. To me the article assumes that we are united in the synod when there is disunity in both doctrine and practice. This disunity is escalating in both doctrine and practice in our midst. The Constitution of the LCMS affirms affirms as its very first objective: “The Synod, under Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, shall conserve and promote the unity of the true faith.” One of the passages it uses to explain what is “unity of the true faith” is 1 Corinthians 1, 10:
    I appeal to you, brothers, in the name
    of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of
    you agree with one another so that there
    may be no divisions among you and that
    you may be perfectly united in mind
    and thought.
    Allow me to make aother observation. On page 50 the article states:
    ‘Church affairs are radically different
    from worldly affairs,’ Walther wrote in
    his ‘Duties of an Evangelical Synod.’ In
    the kingdom of God, ‘the smallest congrega-
    tion is just as important as the largest one
    and the largest one is no more important
    than the smaller one, because every congregation
    is great only because Christ is present in
    its midst.’
    The article doesn’t pontificate as to the BRTFSSG proposal to have more voting representation at district and synodical conventions from larger congregations. However, as far as I am concerned, Walther settles the matter of voting representation based on congregational membership.
    Can your excellent article and all the comments after it be in some manner sent to the St. Louis seminary? I pray it would be beneficial for them to read and ponder the article and ensuing comments.

  29. I am a little concerned by many of the comments here which seem to jump to some premature conclusions regarding the faculty of CSL. Would I be right in assuming that all critical comments directed toward individuals at CSL, and posted publically in this forum, have been shared with them directly (that they might have opportunity to respond)?

    Unfortunately one cannot say for sure if any of them read this blog and thus they may not ever see the remarks directed against them, making it impossible for them to give proper account of themselves.

    If critical remarks are limited to this public forum and are not ever addressed directly with those to whom such remarks are pointed, is one not creating a situation where divisions between brothers in Christ are perpetuated (rather than healed) in that the brothers accused of wrong doing are given no opportunity to work toward restoration?

    If I have missed the point of these comments, and they are only for the purpose of concerned (angry?) people to do some venting (something we all need to do) then I suggest such venting be done in a private forum, not in a place accessible to the general public.

  30. Rev. Rossow,

    Thanks for your critique of my editorial in the Concordia Journal. If you would like to discuss it more fully, my cell phone number is (removed by editor for privacy sake). I would appreciate your feedback on the points that I raised concerning the idea of moving to a less corporate organizational structure, my concern that growing polarization has resulted in an adversarial approach to resolving our internal conflicts, and the need to address our issues in a way that honors God and protects our neighbor’s reputation. Thanks for your thoughts, time, and for reading my editorial. I look forward to hearing from you.

    Your brother,
    Tony

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