The church has always been faced with conflicts about doctrine and beliefs – from the New Testament controversy over circumcision to the contemporary dust-ups over fiduciary duty and creation, it seems if it isn’t one thing it’s something else.
In a recent article I documented some of the recent controversies the LCMS has found itself embroiled in –
- The manner of how God created the world,
- If / how the 8th commandment applies to an authoritative public figure’s public statements about matters of doctrine,
- What should be done about a seminary whose entire faculty has (a) publicly defended the doctrinal position of a paper that has (b) since been retracted by its author as containing error and (c) has never retracted or apologized for their collective position.
This isn’t the first time the majority of a seminary’s faculty has been involved in a major controversy. Back in the 1970s the LCMS and Concordia Seminary, St Louis (CSL) was engulfed in a dispute over the historicity of Scripture. The end result of that controversy was a split at CSL and the LCMS with the group that departed CSL joining with a number of former LCMS congregations to form Seminex and the AELC.
What does a 1970s historicity controversy have in common with the 2018 controversy over the creation account? In both cases the faculties told the world that “what we believe” was at variance with official LCMS doctrine without rebuke or official action by the church. While the LCMS’s historicity controversy was ended when the LCMS cleaned house at CSL and within own its ranks, a tremendous amount damage was done in the process – damage that might’ve been avoided if the issue had been nipped in the bud when it first appeared.
The current controversy over the creation account resembles the historicity controversy in its early stages. Currently there’s some smoke and a hint of flame – without action by those in charge what is a small fire now can easily grow to a three-alarm blaze in time.
As “A Country Parson” wrote:
The Faculty in Saint Louis would do the church a tremendous service if they would show the humility and integrity that Dr. Jurchen did in repenting and seeking forgiveness for their error. They are not leading the church in this matter, because they have not been clear and faithful in their teaching in the Concordia Journal.
It is time for them to stop the disingenuous posturing, and to faithfully and clearly confess the truth, and reject error.
It is said that “those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it” and I offer the following documentary as an example of what could be in the LCMS’s future if it fails to get to the root of what its seminary faculty believes and is teaching the church’s future pastors.
This documentary is a discussion between people on both sides of the LCMS / Seminex controversy over the historicity of scripture. What the Seminex proponents teach is the natural result of denying absolute truth and the belief that reasonable people can come to different conclusions over the same question of doctrine and still be considered faithful believers. Personally, as I listened to the Seminex side of the discussion I could almost hear a hissing in the background “did God actually say….”
One notable person in this documentary is Herman Otten of Christian News fame. There’s also talk of seminary students circulating letters on both sides of the matter without signing the document over justified fears of retribution – such as not getting a Call when they graduate. Some things never change!
From the YouTube page:
Conflict in the LCMS: Theology or Politics – KMOX Television public affairs program from KMOX related to the conflict in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod resulting in the split forming Christ Seminary in Exile – Seminex in 1974.