Wonderful Defense of Residency Formation by Seminary President Dale Meyer – Jackelopes Arise, by Pr. Rossow

As I read the opening editorial in the most recent Concordia Journal (page 10 or 346 here) from the St. Louis Seminary I was pleased to find the president, Dale Meyer, defending residency seminary education. He writes a stirring description of life for seminarians  in an urban setting at the St. Louis campus and it is worth the read.

This is quite ironic (or maybe purposeful) since just last week President Kieschnick met with President Meyer and President Wenthe in Ft. Wayne to noodle the idea of closing down the seminaries and instead  remaking pastoral education to be done in some sort of drive-by style combination of on-line courses and a few seminars at one of the Concordias, colleges that is, not seminaries.

Kudos to President Meyer. We have been critical of the seminaries, joining in with our cartoonist Scott Blazek in referring to the seminary professors as dust bunnies. In this editorial however, President Meyer takes an excellent  stand on a timely issue. We would appreciate Dale Meyer being a little more direct. He never mentions the threat of closing down the seminaries but clearly this is a defense of on-site, residency based seminary education.

This is an important issue. How would you like your doctor to perform  surgery on you based on a few on-line courses? If your MD messes up you only pay for it temporally. How would you like your pastor to operate on your soul based on a few on-line courses?  If your M Div messes up you pay for it for eternity. (M Div refers to the Master of Divinity degree awarded to seminary graduates.)

There were some troubling aspects to the editorial. President Meyer announced a new program of joint work with the adjacent Fontbonne College. That is fine except that it is a Roman Catholic school To his credit President Meyer is quick to point out that the sharing is only in non-theological areas. That’s good but I just can’t imagine Martin Luther or C. F. W. Walther proposing any sort of joint work with a Roman Catholic college.

One of the proposals is the seminarians take some business courses at Fontbonne. I think it is good for seminarians to learn the basics of goal setting and how to create and manage a program in the parish where helpful to the Gospel but this is the least of our problems. Our problems in the LCMS are not of a practical, business nature but of a theological nature.

Thank you President Meyer for defending residency seminary training. Keep it up. We encourage you to be a little more direct but this is certainly a start toward the “dust bunnies” rising up and hopefully becoming a herd of stampeding “jackelopes” running  over the proposals to close the  seminaries, stampeding the BRTFSG proposals, and ultimately trampling  the non-Lutheran Ablaze movement.

Note: For those of you unfamiliar with the “jackelope,”  it ain’t no dust bunny! It is a mythic character, the product of some early photo-shop work that combined a jack-rabbit with an antelope. It was a fearsome looking character. It  was seen on countless vacaton postcards mailed home from the great west back in the 60’s and 70’s.    I think you can still find them  in various tourist traps out west.

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

Wonderful Defense of Residency Formation by Seminary President Dale Meyer – Jackelopes Arise, by Pr. Rossow — 46 Comments

  1. Pastor Rossow,

    I must disagree with you that the jackelope is mythical! I have seen them personally in many places in Wyoming and Montana. They are a quick as an antelope, yet run in the hopping style of a rabbit. It is only the males that have the horns. Most unsuspecting people from the east usually don’t believe they exist–but they do!! 🙂 🙂

  2. I don’t think partnering with outside schools for “non-theological” course work is bad. Many pastors (and professors) pursue advanced degrees from outside institutions and are no worse for the wear. Dean Wenthe holds his Ph.D from Notre Dame, Adam Francisco from Oxford, James Voelz did his in Cambridge, and Jeffrey Gibbs earned his from Union Theological Seminary, to give just a few examples.

    If one of the undergraduate Concordia schools had its main campus in Saint Louis (satellite centers don’t count), it would probably be a different story.

    And if I read my copy of Harrison’s book “Christ Have Mercy” correctly, there is good precedent for LIMITED cooperation with institutions outside of the Missouri Synod. No reason is stated why this arrangement with Fontbonne (or Wash U or SLU) wouldn’t fit that bill.

  3. Sterle,

    Who am I to argue with empirical evidence? I will start to have my doubts though, if starting telling stories of alien abduction. 🙂

    TR

  4. What are you talking about Pr. Rossow? I’ve shot a couple of jackelopes. I’ve even got one mounted on the wall (in the garage of course): http://www.fnal.gov/pub/today/images06/jackalope.jpg

    Why stop at M. Div. in a box degrees. Just think how much money we could designate to the Synod’s un-designated funds if we would all sell off our church properties and “do church” online. We could take the monies and send them to Synod Inc, and conduct church services, including Communion (which has already been suggested) online. We could reverse Mollie’s graph trends! It might even increase the numbers of those doing private confession if they could do it in the “privacy” of their own home online. Pastors could call on the infirm vis Skype. No more mileage to keep track of and filling out those annoying IRS forms every year. Nothing says “for you” better than a 1600 x 900 screen resolution.

  5. Anonymous,

    There is a difference between students going on their own to institutions for degrees and actaully formalizing a relationship with an institution that believes, teaches and confesses the false doctrine of Mariolatry, the Pope as vicar of Christ, the Joint Declaration, etc.

    Also, your examples may not be that helpful for your argument. I do not know about Francisco and Gibbs but I do know a thing or two about Wenthe and Voelz. I think the world of both of them. I count Wenthe as a mentor during my D Min studies a few years ago and our congregation hosted him for a delegates forum back when he was a leading candidate for synodical president. I also admire the spirit of Robert Preus that I see exhibited in Voelz (although I would like to see even more of it). Having said that, there are some themes in Wenthe and Voelz’s instruction that are bothersome and they did not get them from Lutheran sources. Wenthe is a litle too tuned in to a Kavanau-esque de-incarnational spirituality. Voelz teaches an epistemology that undermines the common sense understanding of the truth. Voelz himself does not undermine the truth of scripture but the epistemology and metaphysics he dances with does and he and I have spent some time talking about this very issue though not enough to come to any resolution.

    Again, I supported Wenthe in the past and I still support him today. The same is true of Voelz, but there are currents in their instruction that have come from outside a Lutheran common sense approach to theology the presence of which undermines your argument.

    Concerning Harrison, I have already expressed openly my concerns about his position on working with other denominations and am glad to see that lately he has clearly stated that the status quo with the ELCA cannot stand.

    There just is no pressing need to enter into a relationship with Fontbonne. Again, I do not see Luther or Walther doing such but kudos to Meyer for defending residency seminary education.

    TR

  6. “Voelz teaches an epistemology that undermines the common sense understanding of the truth…

    Again, I supported Wenthe in the past and I still support him today. The same is true of Voelz, but there are currents in their instruction that have come from outside a Lutheran common sense approach to theology the presence of which undermines your argument.”

    In fairness, perhaps a concern with obtaining an advanced academic degree from non-Lutheran institutions should be applied across the board, particularly if one is criticizing the teaching of a faithful professor like Voelz and especially when the criticism is in a philosophical area such as epistemology and, moreover, when the criticism is in the form of a conclusionary statement about a faithful professor’s views on a philosophical subject.

  7. Please consider:

    CSL has gone through a number of changes over the years, as has our culture. Technology is something that can be used well or poorly, and it is up to the administration to decide what is best for the institution. Upon my recent graduation, some professors were using PowerPoint demonstrations and showing video clips in class. After my first year, wireless internet was made available to students in many places on campus, including some classrooms. If you saw any of the CSL publications recently you know what the Wartburg Commons area looks like after its renovation: six Apple computers for public use and what I believe to be a 72 inch plasma screen for all to see. The majority of students used laptops in class.

    Is this good or bad?

    I would say it’s helpful if this technology is used properly. I think it’s great that people all across the world can listen to the chapel sermons and learn Greek or Hebrew or watch other Lutheran doctrine classes through iTunes with CSL’s partnership with iTunesU. It is probably more of a distraction when students are chatting with each other on their computers in class, checking Facebook or other websites, and watching movies or playing video games during class. Other times, students would be working on papers for another class during a lecture. I will admit that I participated in some of these actions, but the reality is there was nothing firmly set up barring us from doing these things.

    Is taking online courses ideal in training pastors? Maybe not, but the technology we live with is crawling up the walls on the seminary campus, and my guess is that seminary as she is now is nothing like she was even as few as ten years ago. There are some professors who are aware of this reality and give a disclaimer about getting caught doing these things and losing a letter grade or something along those lines, but they are in the minority.

    Either way, the technology is here, on campus educational costs are growing exponentially, and it seems that some aspects of seminary culture have shifted into this age.

    What are we to make of this?

  8. A doctor doing surgery remark? What about a pastor with PHD’s. M-DIVS, etc. still messing up because he can care less about the sheep? Does it not come down to the character of the man, his ordination, and the fact he must report to God when He is called home on how he did as a pastor? Let us not make broad statements about the education. In the end, being a DELTO graduate, my education may have been a bit less from a classic live on seminary standpoint, yet we still were on campus; yet my “vicarage and mentorship was about 5 years.” It was no drive by, trust me; and at the end when hands were laid on, life changed. I say, be careful with comments about education, etc.

  9. Ah yes, the ole surgeon analogy that calls into question the doctrine of election.

    “If your MD messes up you only pay for it temporally…If your M Div messes up you pay for it for eternity.”

  10. David #10,

    We are not talking about exceptions here. As soon as you base your point on exceptions we cannot have a reasonable dialogue because they are exactly that – exceptions to the norm. Actually your example does not even apply. I am not talking about degrees. I am talking about residency as his Dale Meyer.

    Just because you can cite examples of pastors with multiple degrees that have bad character does not mean that residency is not necessary. You certainly must agree that there are SMP’s, DELTO’s and the sort who also have bad character?

    Character is important for sure but you are forgetting what you learned about the heresy of Donatism. It is not the character of the pastor that makes his work efficacious but the word that he preaches. Learning that word is the most important thing and it is learned best in residency just as we train our medical doctors.

    Besides, if you really want to make the “character” argument, I think residency is the answer. How are our professors who certify us to know if we have bad character? Won’t that come more into the light via three years spent with the students? Also, isn’t three years with the professors and the other students the best way to form a pastor? If character is the issue then I think residency is the answer.

    TR

  11. Anon #11,

    I am not sure what secret insights you have into the doctrine of election but I am gathering from what you are saying we might as well not have seminaries or even pastors at all since all is a matter of election.

    Help me out here. What am I missing?

    TR

  12. @Pastor Tim Rossow #12

    If you are comfortable comparing the training of a pastor to the training of a medical doctor, why do you suppose our seminaries certify their own students? This is a practice not found in any medical schools in the United States.

    I posed similar questions under the article “Hijacked Church Saga Part II – ‘I am a rational and propositionally based old school Lutheran’,” by Carol Wysocki.

    If you have not seen my comment under that article, I would ask that you to please take a look at it.

    Along the lines of the “character” argument, in my experience there were a small number of students who were escorted out of the M.Div. program on these grounds, but the cases I recall took place after their second year on campus. During my time on campus, certification was not something many concluding-year students lived in fear of, because it is extremely uncommon for any soon-to-be graduate to not be certified. Is that how it was during your time at the seminary, or is this a recent change?

  13. Jack,

    My issue is not about certification. It is about residency. I would not want a surgeon doing surgery on me who got his degree over the internet. I do not want my pastor doing law gospel surgery on my soul each Sunday if he has only had internet training.

    In my day there were not enough escorted out of the M Div program. I used to joke that there were men who did not pass the DCE program who made it into the M Div program. But again, character is not the point I am arguing.

    TR

  14. ” I am gathering from what you are saying we might as well not have seminaries or even pastors at all since all is a matter of election.”

    No, that is an incorrect misconversion of my proposition. Furthermore, such a comment suggests that the Lord works other than through means. Moreover, you now misuse the doctrine of election, to wit:

    “8. Therefore we should judge concerning this our election to eternal life neither from reason nor from the Law of God, which lead us either into a reckless [Who needs pastors?], dissolute, Epicurean life …” [FC, Ep, 8]

    “What am I missing?”

    John 10:28-29.

    “If God has elected me to salvation, I cannot be condemned, no matter what I do…” [FC, Ep, 9]

    And certainly some M.Div. who messes up cannot get me condemned, i.e., cause me to “pay for it for eternity.”

    “Upon this [predestination of God] our salvation is founded so firmly that the gates of hell cannot overcome it. John 10, 28; Matt. 16, 18.” [FC, Ep, 5]

    I was elected and ordained to eternal life before the foundation of the world was laid. No M.Div. can mess that up, for me or for any other child of God. He put His name on us; we belong to Him. To suggest that one can lose eternal life (pay for it for eternity) through their M.Div messing up is to deny the doctrine of election.

  15. Anon,

    Then we need pastors but really all we need to do is have them come to a one day seminar and ordain them and the doctrine of election will take care of the rest.

    This is not about the doctrine of election. As you yourself stated God uses means. The means are word and sacrament. We need to train men in the use of word and sacrament. Three years in residence is better for doing this than half the amount of classes taken over the internet (SMP) or the one day seminar I spoke of above.

    Here is your error: you are using the mysterious/unkown side of a profound teaching (election) to answer questions that it does not answer. You are acting as though you can look into the mind of God and trump what He has declared elsewhere to be true, i.e. that he uses means to accomplish he purposes. This is why I accuse you of knowing some secret teaching.

    I learned about the problem with trying to peer into the mind of God in my first year of residency training at the seminary. Where did you learn this erroneous and dubious application of the doctrine of election.

    Here is some more in the doctrine of election. It is a doctrine of comfort. It is intended to provide assurance for the believer not to trump the doctrine of the means of grace or the doctrine of the Holy Ministry.

    True teaching and preaching leads to eternal life and false teaching and preaching leads to eternal damnation.

    That the doctrine of election trumps the doctrine of the means of grace is not scriptural. It is a doctrine of assurance for believers, not an all-encompassing trump card that brings an end to any meaningful discussion of the means of grace and office of the ministry.

    TR

  16. @Pastor Tim Rossow #15

    If your issue is not with certification but rather with residency, and yet you acknowledge that admission and certification processes have never been known to be very strict, what is the issue with certifying students based on papers submitted and classes taken primarily through the internet? When considering that the seminaries do not have a record of escorting enough men out through the residential program, what would make an off-campus program less reliable when it comes to certification?

    Also, do you have an opinion regarding certification being done by the seminaries rather than an independent body?

    Not trying to be a stickler, just trying to understand. Thanks for your time Pastor.

  17. Jack,

    It’s not about those being escorted out. You turned the discussion to that. It is about the fact that men taught in residence learn better and their character is better whether enough have been escorted out or not. Training, almost any training, certainly divinity training with all its subtlety, is better done in person. If you cannot see that I am not sure what I can say to prove it to you.

    The certification issue is a no brainer. Our seminary professors know the students and know the theology the students are acocuntable for. I am not sure where you would come up with an independent body in the LCMS that could do the job. Besides, the church is a family and not a business like the AMA and we operate with trust, not suspicion.

    BTW – my previous answer about the lack of control was only about psychological matters. Concerning the far more important theological issues every student in the late 80’s were scared to death they would not pass the theological interview and many spent countless hours studying and reviewing. It was a very big deal.

    TR

  18. Let’s focus, Pastor. Let’s focus on the error you stated rather than an invented misapplication of the doctrine of election.

    “If your MD messes up you only pay for it temporally…If your M Div messes up you pay for it for eternity.”

    “Upon this [predestination of God] our salvation is founded so firmly that the gates of hell cannot overcome it. John 10, 28; Matt. 16, 18.” [FC, Ep, 5]

    If the gates of hell cannot overcome my election then some guy with a master’s degree cannot do so.

  19. Anon,

    You are only citing part of the Epitome’s teaching on election. It is more germane to this discussion to cite paragraph 13:

    13. Besides, we should use the greatest diligence to live according to the will of God, and, as St. Peter admonishes, 2 Pet. 1:10, make our calling sure, and especially adhere to [not recede a finger’s breadth from] the revealed Word: that can and will not fail us.

    The improperly trained pastor does not adhere to the revealed word of God as called for in the same article you cite.

    You also ignore the clear teaching on this articel of faith in the Formula of Concord.

    9] Nor is this eternal election or ordination of God to eternal life to be considered in God’s secret, inscrutable counsel in such a bare manner as though it comprised nothing further, or as though nothing more belonged to it, and nothing more were to be considered in it, than that God foresaw who and how many were to be saved, who and how many were to be damned, or that He only held a [sort of military] muster, thus: “This one shall be saved, that one shall be damned; this one shall remain steadfast [in faith to the end], that one shall not remain steadfast.”

    10] For from this [notion] many derive and conceive strange, dangerous, and pernicious thoughts, which occasion and strengthen either security and impenitence or despondency and despair, so that they fall into troublesome thoughts and [for thus some think, with peril to themselves, nay, even sometimes] say: Since, before the foundation of the world was laid, Eph. 1:4, God has foreknown [predestinated] His elect to salvation, and God’s foreknowledge [election] cannot fail nor be hindered or changed by any one, Is. 14:27; Rom. 9:19, therefore, if I am foreknown [elected] to salvation, nothing can injure me with respect to it, even though I practise all sorts of sin and shame without repentance, have no regard for the Word and Sacraments, concern myself neither with repentance, faith, prayer, nor godliness; but I shall and must be saved nevertheless, because God’s foreknowledge [election] must come to pass. If, however, I am not foreknown [predestinated], it helps me nothing anyway, even though I would occupy myself with the Word, repent, believe, etc.; for I cannot hinder or change God’s foreknowledge [predestination].

    You are doing exactly what the Formula tells us not to do. You are considering election in the bare manner mentioned in paragraph 9 above as if nothing else mattered. As paragraph 10 says this is strange, dangerous and pernicious thinking. One of the things that does matter is that the holders of the Office of the Ministry be committed to preaching the Gospel in its purity (AC VII).

    The gates of hell cannot overcome election but election is based on the pure word of the Gospel.

    Another way to understand your error is to realize that you are speaking of subjective justification and I am speaking of the office of the ministry and objective justification. As we have found these terms can be problematic but in this case they are helpful. The objective truth of the Gospel is to be maintained and proclaimed by the holders of the Office of the Ministry. No one is saved nor maintained in the faith by a false, impure Gospel. You, speaking subjectively, are in the faith and will not listen to a false preacher or let a false preacher steal the faith away from you but it does not then follow from what applies to you subjectively that we make an objective claim that a poorly trained M Div cannot preach faith out of someone. After all, the same Lutheran Confessions reject the false teaching of once saved always saved.

    TR

  20. “13. Besides, we should use the greatest diligence to live according to the will of God, and, as St. Peter admonishes, 2 Pet. 1:10, make our calling sure, and especially adhere to [not recede a finger’s breadth from] the revealed Word: that can and will not fail us.

    The improperly trained pastor does not adhere to the revealed word of God as called for in the same article you cite.”

    Uh huh. But the improperly trained pastor cannot cause the elect to lose their salvation.

    “Upon this [predestination of God] our salvation is founded so firmly that the gates of hell cannot overcome it. John 10, 28; Matt. 16, 18.” [FC, Ep, 5]

    Regarding:

    “Since, before the foundation of the world was laid, Eph. 1:4, God has foreknown [predestinated] His elect to salvation, and God’s foreknowledge [election] cannot fail nor be hindered or changed by any one, Is. 14:27; Rom. 9:19, therefore, if I am foreknown [elected] to salvation, nothing can injure me with respect to it, even though I practise all sorts of sin and shame without repentance, have no regard for the Word and Sacraments, concern myself neither with repentance, faith, prayer, nor godliness; but I shall and must be saved nevertheless, because God’s foreknowledge [election] must come to pass. If, however, I am not foreknown [predestinated], it helps me nothing anyway, even though I would occupy myself with the Word, repent, believe, etc.; for I cannot hinder or change God’s foreknowledge [predestination].

    You are doing exactly what the Formula tells us not to do.”

    No, I am not. No one is suggesting that we can have no regard for the Word and Sacraments or sin without repentance. No one is advocating a once saved, always saved situation. One can reject the gifts.

    Please try to remain focuwsed, Pastor.

    The improperly trained pastor cannot cause the elect to lose their salvation.

    “Upon this [predestination of God] our salvation is founded so firmly that the gates of hell cannot overcome it. John 10, 28; Matt. 16, 18.” [FC, Ep, 5]

    The statement, therefore, that:

    “If your MD messes up you only pay for it temporally…If your M Div messes up you pay for it for eternity.”

    denies the clear doctrine of election and rejects John 10:28-29. In fact such a comment can frighten children of God and cause them to question the certainty of their salvation. For a pastor to make such a statement, particularly for the purpose of promoting his particular view on the sufficiency of pastoral education, is a prime example of an M.Div. “messing up.” But there is forgiveness for that sin too, Pastor.

    Thanks be to God that “[u]pon this [predestination of God] our salvation is founded so firmly that the gates of hell cannot overcome it.”

    It’s quite similar to the “Ablaze” types who lay on the guilt trip that “People are dying out there without knowing Christ! So, you need to give more to missions or they’ll go to hell!”

    Pure flummery.

  21. Anon,

    If you will, please answer this question: “Can poor preaching, e.g. confusing law and gospel, lead people to hell?”

    Also if you will, answer this question: “Is the preached Gospel able to cause saving faith?”

    Also if you will answer this question: “Can someone lose their salvation?”

    Please give a simple “yes” or “no” answer to each question and then if you desire add whatever commentary you wish.

    TR

  22. Anon,

    When you assert “the improperly trained pastor cannot cause the elect to lose their salvation” you are speaking a tautology. It does not add to nor take away from the discussion.

    The elect are the elect. That is who they are by definition. But, we do not know who the elect are. We have been given a charge by God to have pastors who are able to train people in righteousness (Paul is referring to conversion here). They need to be able to do that. This is what God has given us to know. He has not given it to us to know who is and who isn’t elect. We walk by faith and trust the proclaimed good news of Christ for our salvation. Lose that proclaimed pure Gospel and you lose your salvation. This is the plain and simple teaching of the Bible. Therefore, having improperly trained preachers is a threat to salvation.

    You totally ignore the clear teaching of the Formula that I have quoted which tells us to not go where you are going and use the teaching of election for anymore than it is meant for i.e. a comfort for beleivers.

    I will try one more time: the doctrine of election is not a source for understanding the doctrine of the means of grace. When you try to use it that way you contradict the doctrine of the means of grace.

    TR

  23. Well, I’ve already answered those questions above. For example, I stated: “No one is suggesting that we can have no regard for the Word and Sacraments or sin without repentance. No one is advocating a once saved, always saved situation. One can reject the gifts.”

    Rather than defend your statement you attempt to divert the issue, perhaps following the old adage, “The best defene is a good offense” You seem to continually want to move the focus away from the erroneous, overly-broad statement:

    “If your MD messes up you only pay for it temporally…If your M Div messes up you pay for it for eternity.”

    The statement manifests an improper distinction of law and gospel leading to a confusion of the doctrine of election. However, your diversionary tactic of asking me the above questions does show a backing off of the statement, e.g., moving from “If your M Div messes up you pay for it for eternity” to “CAN poor preaching, e.g. confusing law and gospel, lead PEOPLE to hell?” [emphasis added]. That’s progress. Perhaps the discussion has caused you to review FC XI, which is good.

    “Upon this [predestination of God] our salvation is founded so firmly that the gates of hell cannot overcome it. John 10, 28; Matt. 16, 18.” [FC, Ep, 5]

    .

  24. Anon,

    You raise a thoughtful point with your Ablaze argument. Let me try to sort it out.

    When we criticize the Ablaze argument that we must give to the Ablaze program or people will go to hell we are criticizing the programming of God’s mercy that is being done with such an argument. We do not disagree with the clear teaching of Scripture from Romans 10:

    How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?

    We agree with scripture that preachers are to be sent and if they are not people cannot believe. What we disagree with is that the promoters of Ablaze put their trust in the human numbers, calculations and so forth. What we disagree with is that the Ablaze promoters teach that if we only use the right methods we can sin the lost. That is not true. The only way we can win the lost is by preaching the pure Gospel and administering the sacraments according to Christ’s command.

    TR

  25. Anon,

    You remain anonymous and you criticize someone for a “personal cheap shot?” How can it be a personal cheap shot when it is aimed at someone who will not reveal his “person?”

    Honestly, it wasn’t even a “cheap” shot. He simply asked you to look in the mirror and see the log in your eye. He may or may not be right about there being a log in your eye but that is not a cheap shot. It was frank and to the point but not a cheap shot.

    TR

  26. Agreed.

    In addition, the statement calls into question the doctrine of election, for it asserts that if we choose not to give more to missions fewer persons will be saved than if we had given more. In other words, the assertion is that some who would have been saved will not be saved due to our sinful failure to act.

    That is erroneous.

    “The eternal election of God, however, not only foresees and foreknows the salvation of the elect, but is also, from the gracious will and pleasure of God in Christ Jesus, a cause which procures, works, helps, and promotes our salvation and what pertains thereto; and upon this [divine predestination] our salvation is so founded that the gates of hell cannot prevail against it, Matt. 16, 18, as is written John 10, 28: Neither shall any man pluck My sheep out of My hand. And again, Acts 13, 48: And as many as were ordained to eternal life, believed.” [FC, SD, XI, 8]

  27. Huh? An anonymous person cannot tell another that personal, cheap shots are not beneficial? Where is that rule written? In fact, I thought the rule was:

    “Anonymous comments are welcome on this board…”

    What the personal, cheap shot does is move the focus from the issue to the persons. That is not helpful.

    It seems that the focus is lost, now relegated to whether persoanl shots are in order and whether welcomed anonymous statements are, in fact, not really welcome.

  28. “Personal, cheap shots are not beneficial, Scott. Please stay focused on the erroneous statement.”

    It’s not an ad hominem argument Anon. In fact, it’s not an argument at all. It’s not really even intended to interject an opinion into the conversation. It’s just to point out that you sound like you overstep your bounds, disrespect the Office of the Holy Ministry in the way you address Pastor Rossow, and don’t fight fair. Don’t fight fair? An example is the last part of your statement to me, in which you assume yours is the only opinion that could possibly be correct when you say “Please stay focused on the erroneous statement.” It’s possible you’re incorrect. It’s possible your arrogance gets in the way of an otherwise good discussion. Maybe it’s not an erroneous statement. Maybe there are two sides to this coin.

  29. Wow, sorry to get this rolling in so many directions. As Scriptures states, “And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck” Whether a fellow Church member or pastor (DELTO, SMP, alternate route, etc.) causes damage to the soul of another, much explaining to do, to God Himself. That is why we should have oversight of all called workers to make sure the ordained servants are doing their right work. Now whether that really gets done, a different story.

    What I was trying to say is this, a pastor is formed in this way; a Call by the work of the Holy Spirit, and publically witnessed by the Church (the public call to administer the Sacraments). There are no exact rules on the earthly certification that we in Synod have adopted, and sometimes the educational portion is different. Sometimes I wonder why God did not call me out of high school and waited till I was so happy in my first career. God sure made life a lot more complicated, yet much more fulfilling in the end.

  30. @Pastor Tim Rossow #19

    “Training, almost any training, certainly divinity training with all its subtlety, is better done in person.”

    Those going through the SMP program are receiving training in person from the pastors supervising them. Not only this, but they are attending circuit meetings with pastors from surrounding parishes. Along with this training, they spend time on campus to supplement their internet courses. From what I can tell, a substantial amount of in person training exists. And if we’re on the topic, when it comes to the subtlety and importance of training a pastor, why do we put such an emphasis on academics? Is it not more important that the students learn, retain, and are able to apply the teachings they encounter during their education? Why allow a student to move to the next class if he receives anything lower than an A? I agree, forming pastors is a delicate matter, and I don’t think a heavy emphasis on academics is the best route. Why allow students to come in and do half the work and still pass? Why model ourselves after secular high schools and universities when teaching such important matters? Your view that someone going through classes online may not get everything he needs seems to parallel my view that a residential student who got a C in Systems III didn’t get everything he needed either. Even so, the seminary allows this man to progress.

    “Concerning the far more important theological issues every student in the late 80’s were scared to death they would not pass the theological interview and many spent countless hours studying and reviewing. It was a very big deal.”

    There has been a shift. The certification interviews at St. Louis were optional when they were first brought back in 2006 or 2007. There was a time before this when there were none at all. As it stands today, at least in my findings, very few students are worried about not being certified. It’s more of a passing joke than anything. This seems to point to your “file cabinet” idea with respect to the personal theology and practice of individual pastors.

    From what I have gathered in your comments, coupled with what I experienced at St. Louis over the past four years, residential seminary training has changed dramatically. In my observations, I cannot agree with you that the professors know the students or the theology they each hold to. There are far too many people on campus for this statement to be true. This is why I do not see certification for SMP graduates to be much of an issue.

    And to clarify, I am not too sure about the SMP program myself, but I won’t agree that they are “half-pastors” or anything along those lines. This does not seem to be a constructive approach to viewing the program. Christ is not divided, and the churches are calling these men to serve and preach the Gospel. Yes, the program is different from residential training, but I will make the claim that what you recall from your seminary experience is not the same as what is going on today.

  31. Jack,

    This is foolish logic. Bob is a passing student. Bob gets a better education in person than he does on line. He passes seminary classes and becomes a pastor at a passing level. Bill is is an A student. He gets a better education in person than he does online. He gets A’s at seminary and becomes an A level pastor.

    Let’s say Bob goes SMP. He gets a worse education both because he only gets trained in half the classes and because the training is inferior because it is online and is not lived out with the professors at chapel, in the dining hall, in their offices, with the other students (the list is endless in support of the positive features of residency education vs. online). He becomes a passing student but with an inferior education. He is a pastor with an inferior education. Let’s say Bill also goes SMP. He gets all A’s. He also becomes a pastor with an inferior education for the same reasons Bob’s SMP was described as inferior above.

    This is not even to mention the fact that the SMP students are primarily coming out of churches where pastors wrongly believe that “practice” is better than “doctrine.” So the time you are speaking of that they spend with pastors is not time that is going to increase their knowledge of the faith.

    If one does even a superficial reading of Paul’s epistle’s one will see that Christianity is a religion not of experience but of faith born of knowledge and that the primary task of the pastor and the church is to grow that knowledge.

    Also, you mention that time on the campus. It amounts to two weeks every two years and it is not in the classroom.

    Concerning half pastors – I ask you to read I and II Timothy, epistles from Paul to Timothy about being a faithful pastor. Note how nearly every paragraph of these two letters extols the importance of the pastor teaching the faith. A pastor is primarily a teacher and preacher of doctrine. SMP pastors recieve half the training in doctrine that a M Div pastor recieves and they recieve it in an inferior manner. (It is nearly a truism that being taught in person is better than being taught via a computer screen – I can’t believe you would actually dispute that.) Thus, an SMP pastor is “half” a pastor. As far as speaking absolution or administering Holy Communion, I suppose you are correct, an SMP can say those words as well as an M Div but that is not the point here at all. Actually, do be honest, SMP pastors are training for the most part in churches that do not even use the historic liturgy for Holy Communion so I could actually make a case that they do not “say the words” as well as an M Div but I do not need that to make my case.

    1. Paul makes it clear that being a pastor is about knowing and teaching the faith.
    2. SMP pastors recieve half the training in the faith as M Div pastors and recieve it in an inferior way.
    Therefore: SMP pastors are “half pastors.”

    I am not trying to be mean or sarcastic with the use of the term “half pastor.” I am just trying to be logical and straight forward about a program that lessens the amount of training we give to pastors.

    TR

    P.S. If my assumptions about current M Div training are inaccurate, as you assert, that does not make my point false and yours true. It makes my point all that more alarming. It may mean that even our M Div training is slipping. I am not so sure of that. I spent several weeks on the FT. Wayne campus in the last several years completing a D Min and from what I saw, the M Div program is very rigourous and is turning out very well instructed students.

  32. For those of you still following this string here are some facts about the SMP program.

    The M Div student takes 48 classes. The SMP student takes 16 classes. (I was way low in my estimation of “half pastors.”)

    The M Div student takes 15 required classes in Bible study and electives in addition to that. The SMP student only takes 16 classes total!

    The SMP student gets ordained after taking only two classes on the Bible!

    Facts like this leave no question that the M Div student is better equipped to be a pastor as described by St. Paul and the other authors of scripture.

    TR

  33. @Pastor Tim Rossow #36

    Pastor Rossow,

    I have not disputed that taking courses online is better than living on campus. I hope that’s not what you see in my comments.

    What I have done is try to relay to you that the current M. Div. program at CSL appears to have changed drastically from the way you describe it, specifically with respect to certification. (I will not speak to the training provided by our Fort Wayne seminary as I have not been a student there.) You have questioned how an SMP student can be certified based on his papers submitted, classes taken, pastoral supervision reports, and (very brief) time spent on campus. I feel that this is more than enough to certify them when compared to standard certification processes currently used by CSL. As I mentioned, the certification interview was not even in use for a portion of time. How do our seminaries know if a student passed his vicarage? They look at the reports submitted by his supervising pastor and members of the congregation where he served. I see a parallel here. I’m not forcing you to like it, and I’m not even signing my name on anything saying that I like it. I simply see how it is structured and can agree with these methods, given this context. I may have wrongly gleaned from your words that certification is one of your major contentions with the SMP program. If so, I apologize.

    When you speak of time spent in chapel, please know that CSL offers every chapel sermon through iTunes. I would be very surprised if this is not highlighted to those in the SMP program. Not only that, but I don’t think you would be impressed by the number of residential students who regularly attend chapel. When you speak of time spent in the lunch room, I would have you know that there was a small group of students in 2007-08 that spent a substantial amount of time getting the administration to agree to turning off the 72 inch plasma TV during regular dining hours in order to prevent everyone from staring at it during meals. Very few professors sit and eat with students even with the TV now off. A separate lounge was built for the faculty as a part of the roughly $1.2 million renovation (this cost includes money spent on the Development/Advancement Office). From what I know about SMP, there is a camaraderie between the students and even the professors. Is it the same? Absolutely not. Is it non-existent? Absolutely not.

    I have read I and II Timothy and have not found anything about M. Div. or academic training for pastors. I do agree with St. Paul (and you) that being a pastor is about knowing, teaching, and also living the faith. I am not willing to say that a program I have not gone through or studied extensively is unable to properly train a man to know, teach, or live the faith. When looking at a comparison, I see some serious gaps between the programs and can easily agree with you that an M. Div. student appears better equipped, but for the reasons listed above, I’m not willing to label these men as “half-pastors.” I do my best to pray regularly for these brothers in their training, as I do for all who are undergoing a seminary education in our church body, and the seminaries in general.

  34. @Jack #35
    Jack stated: “There has been a shift. The certification interviews at St. Louis were optional when they were first brought back in 2006 or 2007. There was a time before this when there were none at all. As it stands today, at least in my findings, very few students are worried about not being certified. It’s more of a passing joke than anything. This seems to point to your “file cabinet” idea with respect to the personal theology and practice of individual pastors. ”

    I have a friend who is currently in his last year at CTSFW. The theological interview looms very large on his event horizon. He was already worried about it last year (and this is a very sharp guy). Maybe things are different at CSL than FW, but at FW the interview is a major hurdle that the students need to pass. It’s not just a “gimmee” that can be taken lightly.

  35. Scott,

    Ya and you beleive in Jackalopes too! 🙂

    Maybe it has gone soft in St. Louis but as you say, when I was in Ft. Wayne, I talked to numerous M Div’s and I could tell it was still a rigourous program.

    TR

  36. I have been speaking only to the St. Louis seminary throughout my comments. I was not a student at Fort Wayne so I wouldn’t feel comfortable making statements based on what I have heard or assumed.

    Also, I would point to a glaring difference between students’ reservations about the interview itself and the nearly 100% clearance rates with respect to certification. If one thinks about it, a student sits down and is interviewed for an hour or so, and at the end he may not be able to serve as a pastor, something he has worked for a great deal over the past four years, and he simply can’t be sure what exactly he will be asked about. Yes, it makes perfect sense that many students are worried about the idea of the interview, but in the end, statistics seem to point that the seminaries don’t see much value in not certifiying their own students after the four years they have had to do their job, which is to form pastors. As I have mentioned in another article on this site, if one seminary became much more rigorous in her certification practices, it would likely reflect very poorly on the institution and her professors. Giving the seminaries the ability to certify their own students is like a boss asking an employee if he did good work on the task he was assigned, and then not checking personally to see if what he said was true. Do you see my point here? And yes, there is room for trust, but I believe there is also a strong need for accountability, especially when dealing with something as important as our doctrine! This is why I see a need for certification to take place outside of the seminary community, and why I don’t see certification as much of an issue with SMP until things change in this aspect of pastoral formation. The certification of residential and SMP students appear to be based on very similar grounds.

    Maybe many people feel that every graduate is appropriately formed and properly interviewed with respect to doctrine and readiness to serve as a pastor, but if so, where does the “file cabinet” theory come into play? Also, why does Pastor Blazek’s cartoon “It’s Rough Out There for Some Young Pastors” ring so solemnly in many of our hearts? I am curious as to why some here are unwilling to consider an independent certification process as a viable option, specifically one that could target this “file cabinet” theory, and could even tighten up aspects of the SMP program, thus limiting the amount of supposed “half pastors” serving in the LCMS.

  37. @Jack #35
    If there has been a shift in certification standards and other aspects of “forming” pastors at CSL (and CTS if it’s happening there), then we need to raise the bar back up to where it was. To make current practices at CSL the new baseline, and then use this new baseline to bolster the SMP program shouldn’t be done. We’re already reaping the fruits of such a practice in some of our districts, seeing efforts to encourage Word and Sacrament ministry by laymen. We mustn’t allow pragmatism to influence our doctrine and practice..

  38. Then it’s agreed: The bar must be raised.

    I feel that my comments have been clear in saying that the current certification practices at least at CSL should in no way serve as the baseline for the SMP program. Rather, my point is that if this is how we are certifying residential students, I have no additional objections to the process used to certify SMP students. Both seem to be very similar, so there is much room for improvement. However, I will not refer to SMP graduates as “half pastors” for reasons I have already laid out, nor will I agree with anyone who employs this nomenclature. I see no fruit in this callous label.

    As per my comments, in order for the bar to be raised, I would suggest removing the certification process from the seminaries and assigning it to an external party. So, who’s putting this on the floor in 2010, you or me? And hey, if this wouldn’t inspire a pan-seminary transformation from dust bunnies to jackelopes, I don’t know what would!

  39. Hopefully candidates who make it to the theological interview should be well qualified and not get dinged after getting that far. I suppose it is an opportunity for the seminary to stop somebody who they should have tossed out sooner. A separate entity for the cetification? Maybe, if it were out of the hands of anybody who wanted to play politics, and if the cadidate was fully certified in a minimal amount of time, like a board exam for a physician, not some kind of pastoral purgatory. Unfortunately, I have no confidence in the ability of the LCMS to do anything right now without politics and theological aberration being players in the process. But the bottom line would be for the seminaries to do it right in the first place. It has served us well in the past. It ought to serve us well in the future as well, although there seems to be a creeping emphasis on leadership, something that the seminaries have rightly not spent a lot of time on, since “leadership” isn’t something that the Scriptures dwell on. How’s that for a meandering answer!

  40. Could you please put on lay terms what you are referring to with James Voelz and your problem with epistemology? He is my most revered and admired Adult Bible teacher at my church and I don’t know what you are saying?

  41. Gayle,

    You have every reason to admire and revere Rev. Voelz as a Bible class teacher. As I have stated, I admire him as well.

    Thank you for asking your question. Here is my attempt to make this complex issue as simple as possible.

    Dr. Voelz teaches a view of how we come to know (epistemology) that is a recent innovation in Western thought and that cannot support a truth-based religion such as Christianity. Thankfully, even though he holds this questionable view of knowledge he still teaches and preaches the word of God as true and objective.

    His approach commonly referred to as post-modern anti-realism whereas the approach that has been the foundation of western thought is known as common-sense realism.

    Let’s start with common sense realism since it is most likely what you practice and is as the name suggests, common sense. Common sense realism teaches that we are capable of knowing the things we encounter and able to name them with words and then communicate with each other on the basis of those words. For instance, you and I have learned what a cat is and we share a common name for this kind of animal, the word “cat.” If you came over to my house and saw my cat sitting in the window you might turn to me and ask “what is your cat’s name?” I would then say “Happy Bob” which is the name of my cat. At that point true communication took place about my cat. That seems obvious and common sensical. What made that communication work is the supposition that you and I are able to have accurate sense perceptions of the world around us, share a common language that identifies the things we percieve around us and then point to these things and have communication.

    Dr. Voelz’s view of how we know things and communicate them is far more complex and calls into question our ability to trust our knowledge. In his view, we are not able to know what cats are objectively. Knowledge is not based on the things we experience and our ability to actaully know them. Instead, in his view knowledge is dependent on the one who is percieving things and is based on things such as our emotions and our bias.

    Let’s go back to the example of the cat. When you ask me “what is my cat’s name?” I have to process all those words through my own bias and emotions. To make it simple let’s just focus on the word “cat.” Dr. Voelz’s view says that all knowledge is dependent on my past experiences of thigs and my emotions for something. So, when you look at my cat in the window the common sense view asserts that you actaully know the cat sitting in the window to be a cat. Dr. Voelz’s view would say that you really do not know the cat in and of itself. Instead, since knowledge is dependent on you the knower, all you know is what is in your mind – your bias and your emotions about the cat.

    Now this should all start sounding silly to you because it is. You and I know cats. We know what they are and able to truly know them and communicate to each other about them. The anti-realists would say that we could never have any objective discussion of cats because of our own bias. The meaning of cat is not drawn from the actual cat in the window that you and I are perceiving. Instead, what we truly know about the cat is based on a combination of what we are perceiving and all of the previous perceptions we have had of cats. To make it worse, I have my own past perceptions of cats and so there can never be any meaningful communication between you and me about the cat in the window because true knowledge of the cat is not based on the actual cat in the window but is lost in a nexus of all my past experiences of cats.

    Let me give you an example of how someone like Dr. Volez views knowledge of cats. When you ask me what is my cat’s name in Dr. Voelz’s view of things, I can only view the cat through my own perceptions and bias. I do not know the cat as a four-legged feline animal sitting in the window but only know the cat through my own perceptions. Let’s say that this particular cat constantly bites me. When I hear the word “cat” I feel all of those bad experiences. I cannot know anything apart from all of my experiences with this cat, other cats, pictures of cats in books, and so forth. Reality for anti-realists is a huge nexus of experiences and emotions and so they do not beleive that objective truth is obtainable.

    Where this makes a huge difference is when we talk about the Christian religion. Did Jesus really die on the cross? Well, the Bible tells us that John, Peter, and the boys actaully saw this. They ate with Jesus, touched him, talked with him, etc. Therefore, base on their testimony you and I beleive this. If Jesus did not die and rise again we are lost in our sin. According to the view of knowledge that Dr. Voelz accepts, we cannot be sure about the knowledge Peter and John claim since knowledge is not about objective things outside of ourselves but is dependent on this huge nexus of memories and experiences in my mind.

    This is a dangerous epistemology. I do not believe Dr. Voelz intends evil with it and thankfully it has not gotten much traction in our synod. Despite this, as I said above, Dr. Voelz is an excellent Bible teacher.

    TR

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.