+Rev. Herman John Otten+

Dear readers of the Brothers of John the Steadfast (Steadfast Lutherans),

It is with a sad heart but confident hope that I announce the news that our brother in Christ, Rev. Herman Otten was taken from this life to life everlasting.  Pastor Otten was a principled confessor of the faith and the longtime Editor of Christian News.  He was a baptized child of God, a devoted husband, a pious father of many, and a pastor who served many with the pure Gospel.  He was a man who spoke the truth at one of the darkest hours in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod and paid the price for it (he has now received his reward in heaven).  In many ways, he is an example to us all.  I am ever thankful for the Lutheran Church that was handed down to us thanks to God’s work through men like Pastor Otten.

Please keep the family and friends of Pastor Herman Otten in your prayers.




About Pastor Joshua Scheer

Pastor Joshua Scheer is the Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is also the Editor-in-chief of Brothers of John the Steadfast. He oversees all of the work done by Steadfast Lutherans. He is a regular host of Concord Matters on KFUO. Pastor Scheer and his lovely wife Holly (who writes and manages the Katie Luther Sisters) have four children and enjoy living in Wyoming.


+Rev. Herman John Otten+ — 27 Comments

  1. Thank you! Rev. Otten was a courageous man who spoke the truth clearly and stood firm on his Christian convictions. In Missouri’s battle for the Bible, he was a hero of the faith, inspiring generations of Lutherans to make the good confession.

  2. “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.”

    Thanks be to God for this saint and to you for publishing this.


  3. @James Gibbs #3

    Luther made no anti-semitic remarks. He made anti-Jewish remarks. He wasn’t racist against Semites. He was religiously opposed to a wicked religion and its practitioners. He welcomed and praised Semites who were Christian. The basic distinction between anti-Jewish and anti-Semite is the difference between the theological objections of Luther and the racist, anti-Christian wickedness of the Nazis. nihil mali de mortuis applies well here. Just as you would not disgrace the name of the innocent Jews who died at the hands of Hitler and his regime, so you should not disgrace the name of Luther who has suffered innocently the ignorant attacks of historical revisionists who understand neither his theology nor his historical circumstances.

  4. @James Gibbs #3

    The Lutheran church, or at any rate, Missouri has not tried to brush Luther’s comments about Jews under the carpet or pretend they didn’t happen. I would agree that Herman Otten’s long standing position on the holocaust was a wound he inflicted upon his reputation on a regular basis. Otten was Missouri’s hair shirt made manifest, he was often not wanted but on occasion badly needed.

  5. As to Pastor Otten, no sinner deserves unqualified praise. We praise God for what He did through His servant Herman. We forgive his faults, as our dear Lord forgave them by His blood and as Pastor Otten confessed, at the cost of his own comfort and worldly reputation. That’s what we’re thanking God for. His works follow him. He saved the LCMS and the LCMS abandoned him. And whatever sins he committed, whatever conspiracy theories he promoted, they are forgotten forever by our God. He doesn’t mention them to Herman in heaven. Our God is so kind and gracious. He praises our good works even as He forgives our evil. Pastor Otten knew this on earth and He knows it with pure joy now, as God wipes every tear from his eye. Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.

  6. @Elizabeth Peters #5

    So…”anti-semitic [sic] remarks” are bad, but anti-Jewish ones are OK? THAT sure would clear everything up with a Jewish audience. Not!

    Besides, merriam-webster.com defines anti-Semitism as “hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group.” “Anti-Semitic,” in common usage, means “anti-Jewish.” So your first distinction is bogus.

    So what you’re saying is that Luther had no problem with Jews who accepted Christ. Even if that’s true, how on earth does that justify the horrible things he said should be done to the others?

    From Luther’s “On the Jews and Their Lies,” Part XI (see http://web.archive.org/web/20131103103527/http://www.humanitas-international.org/showcase/chronography/documents/luther-jews.htm): “”What shall we Christians do with…the Jews?…I shall give you my sincere advice: First, to set fire to their synagogues or schools…Second,…that their houses also be razed and destroyed…Third,…that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings…be taken from them. Fourth,…that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life…Fifth,…that safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews…Sixth,…that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them…let us emulate the common sense of other nations [and] …eject them forever from the country.”

    If that’s not anti-Semitism, what is?

    If I have a problem with my Jewish neighbor’s “wicked religion,” how in blazes does that justify my calling on the government to persecute him or her? That’s what Luther did! And neither his “theology” nor his “historical circumstances” justify what he wrote.

    “Disgrace the name of Luther”? He brought the disgrace on himself when he wrote what he did.

    Lord Acton said, “Power corrupts.” What he was discussing was the tendency of historians to downplay or excuse the evil deeds of “great” men. We Lutherans need to appreciate the good things Luther wrote and did (which are many), but we also need to let go of the tendency to try to justify his dark side.

    Luther did many wonderful things for the Christian Church. But none of that justifies or excuses his anti-Semitism. Let his good and evil deeds be what they were, and let’s not gloss over historical truth because our churches bear his name.

    Likewise, the good things Herman Otten may have done for the LCMS in no way mitigates the fact that he called the Holocaust a hoax.

  7. @James Gibbs #7

    Mr. Gibbs, you post too quickly. You need to be taught, not to teach. Merriam-Webster defines anti-semitism incorrectly. There is an obvious distinction between racism and religious prejudice. The one is condemned by the Lord Jesus and the other is commanded in Matthew 7. Quote Jesus please. Not a politically correct dictionary. Luther spoke against the Jews as a religious group. He also wanted Muslims kept out of his country, not to mention Roman Catholics and Anabaptists. That was the principle confirmed in the Peace of Augsburg, 1555: cuius regio, eius religio. Luther loved Semites. He wanted them to believe the Gospel and be saved from eternal hell and rejoice in the blood shed for them on Calvary. Please don’t speak ill of the dead ignorantly. It’s not befitting a Christian.

  8. So every time a sinner dies or an evil comes to light after their death, we should remember them and their descendants always and only for the worst they did? Oh boy!

    This disturbing pattern in our culture is just plain horrifying and hypocritical to the max. The Law calls out ALL sin as damnable so that it may be forgiven by the Gospel. But we just want to parade sin either in pride or to shame others.

  9. @Elizabeth Peters #8

    Lady, don’t lecture me about when or whether to “teach.” We’re just two people arguing over the Internet.

    Why the dictionary? Because you somehow think there is some distinction in common usage between anti-Semitic and anti-Jewish. When I said anti-Semitic, you knew what I meant.

    Jesus commanded religious prejudice? That’s a new one. And Luther didn’t just say, “Shun false doctrines taught within Judaism,” he said, “Let the government make Jews’ lives a living hell on earth.” What happened to the two-kingdoms distinction there? Luther wanted to use the sword to enforce his version of true religion–that was wickedness, pure and simple. That’s part of why all the Wars of Religion happened, and why we now believe in religious liberty for all.

    Here’s a quote from Jesus: “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” (Luke 6:31, KJV.) The Golden Rule tells me that I should treat others (including Jewish people who do not accept Christ) as I would want to be treated. I don’t want to be persecuted or driven out of my home because of my beliefs. Would you?

    “Politically correct dictionary”? Right. All I wanted to do was establish common usage. To you, “politically correct” really means “I don’t like that definition.”

    You’re not helping Luther’s reputation by telling us he wanted to persecute Muslims, Catholics, and Anabaptists, too. That will thrill my Catholic and Mennonite relatives!

    I’m glad the Peace of Augsburg is no longer in force. If it was, I’d have to be a Presbyterian who rarely attends church, like Mr. Trump. The Peace was a baby step on the way to true freedom of religion–it was just an armistice during the time when Christians slaughtered each other in the name of Christ.

    If Luther loved “Semites” (Jews, to the rest of us), he had a strange way of showing it. “I love you–therefore, I want the state to burn down your house, take all your money, deny you freedom of worship, and ethnically cleanse you from the land.” Gotta feel the love!

    So, as a Christian, I should never criticize any historical figure whatsoever because that’s “speaking ill of the dead”? What about all the dead figures in church history Luther raked over the coals during his lifetime? Oops–can’t bring that up, I guess!

    As far as “ignorantly,” where have you responded to my direct quotation of Luther himself, where he advocated horrible persecution of the Jews? Nowhere. So don’t lecture me about ignorance.

    Just because we are Lutherans doesn’t mean we have to defend everything Luther ever did, said, or wrote.

  10. @T-rav #9

    Otten’s Holocaust denialism has been public knowledge for decades. And I never said anything about his descendants, or that he had never done anything good.

    I am simply saying let’s not make him into some hero of Lutheranism. How are our Jewish neighbors going to perceive our glossing over a glaring, known form of anti-Semitism in one of our own? How will that advance or honor the cause of Christ? This is not some minor political quirk we are talking about!

    If people knew about his calling the Holocaust a hoax, why did they keep reading his newspaper? Why didn’t they call him out for it while he was alive, if we should be so concerned about “not speaking ill of the dead”?

  11. @James Gibbs #7

    Mr. Gibbs: I doubt you have read Luther’s paper and I’m sure you haven’t read the ‘lies’ which prompted it. [I have.] Most people have read that title, (ONE of thousands of papers he wrote) and that’s all they know.

    FYI, Luther was better to the Jews than most in his generation, even boarding Jewish students in his home, and other Jews rewarded him, near the end of his life, with scurrilous falsehoods about Mary and Jesus (which you can find repeated in their “scholarly journals” to this day…I was a university librarian and I read those, too).

    But the column was about Pastor Herman Otten. If you can’t say something good about him, say nothing.
    Thank you!

  12. @James Gibbs #11

    “The holocaust” was a hoax in this sense: not only Jews but anyone Hitler wanted to get rid of, from any of the countries he occupied, went to it. The total has been estimated at something like 20 million of many nationalities. (A pope went to Auschwitz some years ago and prayed for them all in a dozen languages…the German pope, I think it was, who probably knew more about it.)

  13. @James Gibbs #10

    Mr. Gibbs, You post too quickly. You imbibe deeply of secular nonsense and assert it as fact. God grants no freedom of religion. He sends everyone who doesn’t love Jesus to hell. The only reason Christians appreciate freedom of religion is because we can worship the true God without fear of reprisal. All other freedom of religion is the unfortunate and horrible price we have to pay. Luther was a theologian. Everything you quoted from him he spoke as a theologian, out of a love that surpasses your wicked view of tolerance as heaven surpasses earth. Luther cared for their souls. You care for their bodies. But you don’t care, apparently, that all these Jews against whom Luther said such things went to hell unless they heeded Luther’s preaching of the Gospel. Do you believe in hell, Mr. Gibbs? Do you believe that those who don’t confess Jesus will not be helped by religious freedom, unless they give up their freedom to believe what they want and believe instead the truth of God’s Word? If so, have some humility before this great prophet of God who knew more about loving Jews than you could possibly know, who embraced Semites in his arms as they died and praised their faith in Christ!

    Helen, thank you for your words. This thread is to remember a dear confessor of the Christian faith. I’ll say nothing more except to thank God that He brought Herman Otten to heaven to see his Savior’s face.

  14. Mr. Gibbs, do you really think your comments are fitting a post about a man’s death? I hope people show you more charity when you die.

    Also, when did errors in history earn someone condemnation?

    You have way overspoken beyond any level of charity here, much less so than the charity required at such a time as this.

  15. @H. Jensen #12

    How do you know what I have and haven’t read? You don’t. So save the speculation, Mr. “I was a university librarian.”

    EVEN IF Jews promoted lies or scurrilous falsehoods about Mary or Jesus, that in no way justifies Luther’s lashing out in anger or hatred. In no way does it justify his calling for Jews to be persecuted!

    This website chose to eulogize Herman Otten without reservation. I simply urged that it not, in view of his Holocaust denialism and promotion of anti-Semitism.

    “If you can’t say something good…”–as I recall from reading the Christian News, Herman Otten never hesitated to “go negative” where he felt it was justified. I know this website has published negative things about John Tietjen (not that I’m saying he was right) after he died.

  16. @H. Jensen #13

    Yes, I know Hitler murdered millions of people from other groups besides the Jews. But the Nazi focus on the Jews is well-known.

    How other people besides the Jews being killed makes the Holocaust a “hoax’ is…beyond me!

    And that’s not what Herman Otten meant when he said “hoax.” Follow the link in my original post. Read his speech to the Institute for Historical Review, and see what he actually said (if you can stomach it).

  17. @Elizabeth Peters #14

    If by “secular nonsense” you mean “wanting to know the whole, unvarnished truth about historical figures” or “valuing freedom of religion,” then, yes, I want to imbibe.

    Again–if Luther loved Jewish people so very, very much–why did he write what he did?

    Nothing justifies calling for persecution–nothing!

  18. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #15

    I hope people speak well of me after my death, but–I’ll be dead. Whatever they say, I won’t know it.

    You chose to eulogize Herman Otten without reservation. I chose to express my disagreement, citing his Holocaust denialism as a serious concern. Other people wanted to argue with me, so…

    The thing I don’t understand is this: why is it so hard for people to simply say, “Gee, Holocaust denialism is bad. No one should preach it. I’m sorry Herman Otten did, but he also did a lot of good, such as…”

    Kind of like, “Gee, Luther did a lot of good, but his writings against the Jews were pretty indefensible.” How is that hard?

    Why do some Lutherans want to downplay how bad anti-Semitism is? Especially in light of hate crimes against the Jews that continue to this very day?

  19. @James Gibbs #22

    “without reservation” – Yeah. Usually we tend to mention good things. So when I would eulogize you I would probably not mention how you sought to be a social justice warrior on this blog, removing historical context from everything and judging it by your own societally catechized worldview.

    Rev. Otten had some major objections to this site and to me personally. He wrote about them. That’s ok. I am still glad that he is in heaven because Christ saved him. I am still thankful for the good that was done through him. I don’t need to dig up any of his dirty laundry at this point. You shouldn’t either, unless of course you want to continue to virtue signal to the point of being kicked off of this site.

  20. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #23

    I hope Herman Otten is in heaven now, too. Just for the record.

    I’m sorry to hear he had major objections with BJS and with you personally. That surprises me, frankly, and I am curious as to what those objections were. You probably don’t want to go into that stuff, though, so I will just have to wonder.

    Sorry you feel I am being a “social justice warrior,” digging up “dirty laundry,” etc. Obviously, I will go nowhere trying to argue any of that with you, so I won’t.

    Have a pleasant day.

  21. @Allen Bergstrazer #7

    I would agree with your first two sentences.

    I do think the 1983 LCMS resolution about Luther and the Jews–although positive–could have been somewhat stronger.

    As to your last sentence, I’m not sure how much of the triumph of more-conservative Lutheranism in the LCMS of the 1970s would have happened anyway without what Herman Otten did. It’s hard to be sure of a counterfactual, plus there were many, many folks involved in that controversy on both sides.

  22. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 2 Corinthians 4

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