Great Stuff — Clearing up the Confusion

Found over on Predigtamt – Musings of a Country Pastor:

In the words of Jimmy Stewart, “This is a very interesting situation!”

Briefly, the Saint Louis Seminary published an article which proposed damnable heresy (day does not mean day). The Wyoming District called them on it. The Seminary Faculty said we were being mean, and could not understand such matters – being very academic and all. Our District President wrote a nice letter that made clear we did understand it, we were not confused, they were confusing “mean” with “shepherd”, and that we would love to talk to them one on one, instead of having them impugn the integrity of two Districts worth of pastors and their Presidents.

Earlier this week, our synod’s President wrote a nice article for the Lutheran Witness, in which he (as all faithful Lutherans should) re-affirmed the importance of a six-day creation. In it, he quoted (As did the Wyoming District, the Faculty Majority of CSL, and the original article) the Brief Statement from 1932. It turns out, we all agree that the Brief Statement is really important.

Both sides are now commending President Harrison for his article. That is good to see. I rejoice to see that no one in the current debate (which seems to have left the original author behind some time ago) is denying the obvious importance of saying that day means day.

But then, how did the original article get published? The article from Dr. Arand can help explain it. “As we continue to develop resources related to the creation debates within Evangelicalism and a ‘Lutheran option’ to those debates…” He also uses a word I have heard numerous times from him: “conversation.” Now, conversation is not a bad word, if it is used lawfully. Inquiring after clarity where there is confusion is a legitimate use of the word. Inquiring after knowledge where there is ignorance is a fitting use of the word. But constant discussion, with no end in sight, no goal, and no purpose is not a right use of the word.

Nor is it a right use of the word to allow debate to continue ad infinitum, supported by a stubborn refusal to reject error as well as confess the truth. And note: both must be done. As an example, we can not accept that Jesus is “Of the same substance with the Father” and “of a similar substance with the Father”. We can not confess that “Baptism now saves” and that Baptism is merely “an outward sign”. We can not confess that “that the Body and Blood of Christ are truly present, and are distributed to those who eat the Supper of the Lord; and they reject those that teach otherwise” while also confessing “that ‘with’ bread and wine are truly exhibited the body and blood of Christ to those that eat in the Lord’s Supper.”

One of the foundational principles of logic is that “A” and “not-A” can not both be true. One of them must, by definition, be false. “I will eat meat for dinner” and “I will not eat meat for dinner” can not both be true. So, in the church, it is not enough that we confess the truth. We must also reject error. If we fail to do that, we are like a shepherd that builds a wall and gate to protect the sheep, but then refuses to close the gate to keep the sheep in and the wolf out.

Postmodernism tells us that we can have both “A” and “not-A” at the same time. What, after all, is meat? We call the good bits of a walnut the “meat”. But it is not. Rome says that fish is not meat. In Wyoming, Chicken is a vegetable. What does it mean to “Eat”? Can it mean also to drink? Some monks subsist on only beer during the season of Holy Lent. Do they eat? What about a feeding tube? Is that eating? Can I be administered a steak through a feeding tube, and say “I ate no meat”? What if I blend the steak? I could drink it. And what is “dinner”? In Indiana, dinner is at noon. In other places it is in the evening. Is 4 pm evening? In the summer it is still bright. In the winter, that is dusk. If 4 pm is not evening, is 4:59? Is 5 pm evening? At what precise moment do we go from afternoon to evening? And who even decides that? Because we can not precisely define our terms, we can not know with certainty that either statement is true or false. So, while I will affirm “I will eat meat for dinner”, I will also affirm “I will not eat meat for dinner”.

This is the problem. Our synod’s court theologians feel they must “stay current on the intellectual trends”. The current intellectual trend is post-modernism. It would actually be almost impossible to find modern theological resources that are not either post-modern or a specific reaction against post-modernism. This means that the heads of our theology faculties are steeped in this appalling anti-theistic mess. One of our professors even wrote a post-modern hermeneutic textbook. I doubt it will prove to be of value once post-modernism fades.

I truly believe they do not realize the harm they are causing. They believe this really is a discussion that can be had. But it is not. There can be no admittance of “day is not day” into a faithful scriptural understanding. That is the way of Seminex, of the AELC, and of the ELCA. It leads to destruction. Even if they support the Brief Statement, even if they “hold to and teach… both the thesis and the antithesis” regarding the creation, it is insufficient, if they will not reject that which is thereby rejected. It is not enough to agree with a rejection, if you do not thereby also reject the thing rejected. Melanchthon got confused about this when it came to the Variata – to his eternal shame. And it seems our seminary faculty in Saint Louis is not clear on it either.

It is not a conversation. It is for them to clarify their teaching – not what they affirm regarding the creation, but what they are willing to reject as an error. It is a part of the Ordination vows – do you confess… do you reject… They seem to have no problem confessing, but no appetite for rejecting.

My question to them (and they have no obligation to me to answer, other than to confess the truth before men), and the question that they will one day have to answer before someone who is most assuredly “above my pay grade” is whether they confess the truth of the creation, and reject anything that would deny that truth and that confession. Because right now, they want to have it both ways. They want a conversation that has no boundaries, no goal, no end, no rules, no order, and no point. Much like evolution itself. And we don’t need evolutionary conversations in the church, any more than we need evolutionary teachings being let in under the guise of “conversation” or “intellectual”.

If “intellectual” is going to become a byword for error, if “credential” is going to become the code word for hireling, then we need to rethink how we staff our seminary faculties. Maybe they need to be a bit less smart, a bit less trained, and whole lot more willing to confess the truth and reject error. The first requirement needs to always be faithfulness. And if we have strayed from that, it’s time for a return.

Dr. Arand, you probably won’t even read this. But if you do, I implore you for the sake of your eternal salvation, repent. Continue to confess the truth. But also recognize the error and reject it. I promise, it won’t kill you. It may just save you.

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord,, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

Norm has been involved behind the scenes in many of the "go-to" websites for Lutherans going back many years.


Great Stuff — Clearing up the Confusion — 20 Comments

  1. “we need to rethink how we staff our seminary faculties”

    How do we staff seminary faculty? And what is the relation to the Concordia University System with the seminary and Synod?

    And post-modernism really is a boon for the academic industry.

  2. Oh, how we need more condemnation and rejection in this Synod. A church not intentionally confessional will most certainly devolve into error.

  3. The article from Dr. Arand that is quoted is the introduction to a series of articles, and an essay co authored by Dr Adams. Perhaps it would be wise to see what they come up with before you call them to repent. Maybe it is not fair to jump the gun. We live in a electronic world where we expect immediate responses, but sometimes it takes time to respond. President Harrison did not respond immediately. He took his time and composed something that is commended by all. Give CSL time.

  4. Hey, Lutheran brothers,(I’m Presbyterian)

    You expend lots of energy squabbling and “rearranging the chairs on Titanic” while so very many lost souls are drowning.

    The late Rev. Ray Stedman expressed it well, “The world is drowning in man’s words and starving for the Word of God.”

    Shut down your PC’s and head to the local jails and prisons. There you will find an abundance of lost souls and will enjoy a “captive” audience.

  5. @Glenn Dowling #6

    Our Synod has an excellent prison ministry. However, regardless of that, our seminary professors have a responsibility to confess truth and reject error. I don’t understand what prison ministry has to do with that responsibility.

  6. I am continually amazed; actually, perplexed at how much controversy I see among Lutherans. Not only that,the sheer volume of words it takes to argue a point. If you cannot say it more succinctly I question how well you understand it yourselves. It makes me wonder what Martin Luther would think. I get the sense that some Lutheran theologians have “sidled up” so close to Catholics there’s little light between them.

    My point is, with all the infighting, why would the watching world of unbelievers want to become a part of this theological melee?

  7. @Glenn #9

    I’m not clear on you criticism of “Lutherans” (nb not sure how wide you are spreading that net). Or what your are claiming is the virtue of the Presbyterians? Is a willingness to clearly profess the faith something to be derided? Are you proposing that good Christians should care little for confessing the faith and be willing to accept any doctrine so long as it allows all to avoid any conflict over the faith? And how does this square with your comment about Lutheran theologians sidling up to Catholics? I would assume you would propose just that based on your comments that we should not engage any any theological melees lest any unbeliever avoid us altogether? Or should we seek to have no controversy with anyone but a Catholic? Of course, answering these questions might mean you would have to expend a little more energy and dip your toe into a theological discussion.

  8. For starters, Justin, this site is more like a hockey game.

    It seems like an on-going battle of arguments over ultra-fine points which may or may not make much of a real difference. Who in the lost world, would be attracted to be a part of this “Hatfield and McCoy’s” site? Briefly put,”enough is known for action!”

    Jesus Christ, in giving the Apostles (and us) the Great Commission, said to “go and make disciples of all nations”. And when you research to deepest meaning of the word “Go” in the Greek or Hebrew – it means go! Not stay…and quibble. Does that help any, brother?

  9. Ah…I forgot following Christ was supposed to be more like hop scotch than hockey. But to be honest, no, it doesn’t particularly help me Glenn. I didn’t realize your philosophy was that every site (or at least this site) must ensure that it is attracted to…well, everyone in the lost world apparently. If your point is merely that you don’t think this site would be of particular interest to someone who is more interested in TMZ, I would agree. But then again, I don’t think this site is trying to be TMZ. It serves a different purpose. And your assumption and criticism that it doesn’t assist or directly contribute to making disciples couldn’t be more wrong, which I can personally attest to. But I pray that you continue to come to this site so that you may benefit as I and many others have, and that you, along with all those here, continue to go and make disciples of all nations.

  10. Justin, your sarcasm (a fruit of the Spirit?) reveals your misunderstanding. Agree, the unsaved world would not likely be looking at this site. Yet other believers would; as I do. I’m quite underwhelmed by the infighting among Lutherans. When does the unity, Christ fervently prayed for, occur?

    And, gracious, when a non-Lutheran appears on the site, it’s like a strange dog in the neighborhood. Seems that you Lutherans relish arguing over trivial points as some Catholics would. Is Christ bodily present in the elements? Does the wine really become his blood? Of course not!

    Christ, recall, descended bodily to Heaven. And yes, he abides here via the Holy Spirit in believers. My point is, get on with the good news of the gospel, brother. That’s how the seeds of the gospel must be planted, you know? How can they produce a harvest if they are not sown? By the way, what is TMZ?

    Grace and Peace,

  11. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    First, I think we need to be aware that Dr. John Jurchen has apologized for his errors and withdrawn his article. President Richard Snow, Nebraska District president and member of the Concordia-Nebraska Board of Regents has stated that “Dr. Jurchen has humbly, willingly and eagerly worked with me and Dr. Friedrich to correct misunderstandings, to apologize, and to confess his errors.” This was just posted today here:

    We should accept Dr. Jurchen’s apology, forgive him, and move on.

    Second, I appreciate Mr. Dowling’s comments here (#6 and #9), because it helps illustrate why many Christians don’t understand the issues involved when we conservative Lutherans discuss such matters in public (the Internet and this blog is public, guys!).

    I have found over the years that, among Bible believers, many people don’t understand the importance of doctrinal discussions. Pastors have to teach (1 Timothy 3:2 and Matthew 28:20). “Teaching” and “doctrine” go together. If you teach, you promulgate doctrine. If you teach, the question is not whether you are inculcating doctrine, but whether it is good or bad doctrine. Bible believing ministers and teachers know that they will be held accountable for what they teach, i.e., for their doctrine. Thus doctrinal discussions are inevitable, especially in a church-body or a congregation where you have many ministers. In our synod (the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod), we have adopted confessions and doctrinal statements in order to settle, in advance, most doctrines and limit the possibly negative effects of doctrinal discussions.

    Those who are involved in doctrinal discussions are not necessarily being argumentative or overly fussy. The concern for correct doctrine is a command of Jesus and the Holy Spirit through his apostles to the ministers of the church, e.g., Matthew 28:20 “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Paul writes to Timothy, first of all “so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies” (1 Timothy 1:3-4); “Watch your life and your doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16); “If anyone teaches false doctrine and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing” (1 Timothy 6:3-4); “Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge” (1 Timothy 6:20). Similar statements can be found in 2 Timothy, Titus, and the other epistles.

    At the same time, Paul demands that ministers are to be “gentle, not quarrelsome” (1 Timothy 3:3). So when Christian ministers are involved in doctrinal discussions they are to be Christian examples of how to disagree in matters of doctrine, morals, and adiaphora without being disagreeable.

    By the way, Mr. Dowling and other readers of this blog should not assume that everyone who comments on this blog is a Lutheran minister. The editors could say for sure, but I get the impression that many (maybe most) commenters are laymen and laywomen, and most operate with pseudonyms. Also I get the impression that a number of BJS commenters are not members of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

    Third, I was intrigued by Mr. Dowling’s quote from Rev. Ray Stedman. I am a native of Silicon Valley, and after forty years, have returned to my home region and live and serve in the Peninsula. Many years ago, I had a couple of friends and relatives who were members of Peninsula Bible Church (PBC) when Rev. Stedman was there. I attended a worship service or two with them, and heard him preach. I was also interested at the time in the work of the Discovery Arts Guild and musician John Fischer, which were supported by PBC.

    Mr. Dowling’s quote from Stedman (no citation provided by Dowling) states: “The world is drowning in man’s words and starving for the Word of God.” That is the real point in the doctrinal discussion about the six-days of creation, isn’t it! Stedman’s quote explains why this doctrinal discussion is important. “Man’s words,” which we are bombarded with through the media, through museums, national parks, universities, etc., etc., etc., ad nauseam, ad infinitum says we are a product of evolution. The “Word of God” says man was created out of clay and God’s Spirit in an instant, fully formed, eternal, morally perfect, on the sixth day. According to Rev. Stedman, the world is “starving” for the Bible’s doctrine of creation, and I agree!

    As to the matter of the length of “day” in Genesis 1, it is interesting to see that Rev. Stedman was an advocate for the day-age theory. See his sermon or essay here:

    Rev. Stedman, being a good Calvinist and a Bible believer, used the same strategy that Zwingli and Calvin used when confronted with a theological problem or contradiction. Zwingli said that the physical elements in the Lord’s Supper are a symbol of spiritual truths. Likewise, Stedman stated (in the above web-page) that in the doctrine of creation the physical days are a symbol of the spiritual: “Since the material or physical level is usually the symbol of the others, I would think that, just as in the case of the Sabbath, the 24-hour day is intended to be a reminder to us of the great ages during which God created the heavens and the earth. . . . we do not have 24-hour day periods in Genesis 1, but rather an indefinite length of time much more descriptively termed an age, or an epoch, of time.”

    Martin Luther rejected both the Zwinglian doctrine of the Sacrament and Zwingli’s use of tropes to explain away the “real presence.” Although Evangelicals who are of the non-Lutheran persuasion can argue that the 24 hour day is a symbol, because that agrees with how they treat many difficulties in the Bible, Bible-believing Lutherans cannot use that tactic. The day-age theory is contrary to Lutheran hermeneutics.

    So thank you, Mr. Dowling, for illustrating for us Lutherans why this debate is so important for us!

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  12. @Martin R. Noland #14

    Dr. Noland,
    We should gladly forgive Dr. Jurchen who has been a great example of Christian manhood here. We can certainly move on from him. What we can’t do is move on from the seminary who has not behaved in the same way, but now pretends like a withdrawal is the end of the problem. They published something with false doctrine. They then doubled-down in a rebuke of two districts. They don’t get to just have us “move on”.

  13. Glenn,

    I’m hoping you can see humor and a point in my comment about hockey and hop scotch…said tongue in cheek but with the intent of making a point. But if you see neither humor or a point, I guess I would then just point to to Mr. Noland’s comment that may convey a similar point more eloquently and less abrasive to you.

    Lastly, I would say I hope you love your Catholic neighbors as well as any neighbor, and if you don’t know what TMZ is then bless you and don’t go looking to find out…save yourself from that one.

  14. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #15

    Pastor Scheer,

    This whole incident has been very revealing. It has demonstrated that CSL is quick to deploy their deflector shields and take a defensive posture, even before performing due diligence and deliberation on what is an honest doctrinal concern. I don’t envy CSL because they acted rashly, shot from the hip and now would like to have that bullet back. It will be interesting to see how they handle this issue going forward. Will they admit to the Wyoming and South Wisconsin District pastors their imprudence in rebuking a reasonable concern out of hand? Will they have the courage of their Christian convictions to ask for pardon in this case? Or will they consider CSL above the fray and continue deflecting the blame?

  15. @Glenn Dowling #13

    Is sarcasm a fruit of the Spirit? It didn’t make the list in Galatians. Is sarcasm ever something the Holy Spirit inspires? That appears to be your implicit question, & your implicit, unstated answer appears to be “no.” Backhandedly you appear to be making a claim about the previous poster- – that his sarcasm is evidence that he is not speaking by the Holy Spirit.

    Yet your rhetoric is deceitful. A casual survey of the recorded words of the Holy Spirit, found in the Bible, reveals that the Holy Spirit has frequently inspired & employed sarcasm.

    Perhaps, like Baal, you were sleeping, or relieving yourself when you read those parts of the Bible. I would say you simply had not read those passages, but the Holy Spirit employs sarcasm so frequently in the Scriptures that you could hardly have avoided hearing them or reading them if you’re the type of person who would post on this site.

    Nevertheless you backhandedly assert that sarcasm can’t come from God’s Spirit.

    One thing certainly cannot come from the Holy Spirit: lies. He does not say something one day & go back on it the next, nor misuse one part of Scripture to cast doubt on another.

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