Inerrancy: Forde and the Luther College Walkout (1961)

Upheaval or Walkout

In 1961 all but one member of the religion faculty in the “Department of Bible” plus the campus pastor resigned “following an upheaval in the religion department.”[1] They had issued an ultimatum: Either Jenson goes or we go. In the end, they walked out.

Incident or Earthquake

What kind of “upheaval” was this? Was it a quirky incident or a defining moment? To be sure, personalities were a factor (colorful professors). And there were faculty follies and the usual Scandinavian reticence about tensions.[2]

Nevertheless, this upheaval was not a tempest in a teapot. Rather, it “reflected a broader unease in the church at large concerning theology.”[3] It was an earthquake, a revolution in theology. Major issues were at stake: evolution, third use of the law, inerrancy and the proper use of scripture.

Inerrancy or Law/Gospel 

For Gerhard Forde, who taught at Luther College for two years following the “upheaval,” it was a question of method: What is the Word of God and what makes it authoritative?

In a symposium at Luther College in the Fall of 1962 and then in print, Forde described the errors in inerrancy and the verbal inspiration method:

I am in effect saying to God that unless he provides me with the kind of guarantee which I expect and want, I cannot believe. Then I am in a very dangerous position because I am dictating to God the conditions under which I will believe. It is dangerous because it might just be that God has not in fact provided us with that kind of guarantee.

In the final analysis the verbal inspiration method is based on a theory—a human theory about the nature of the Word of God. Now the test for the validity of any theory is how well it explains the facts, and one can only say that this theory does not explain the facts very well. It is based on human logic and once its logic is broken the entire position collapses all at once.[4]

The walkout was an earthquake because the rediscovery of Luther’s original methodology meant overthrowing an erroneous methodology:

These two methods are quite different and there has existed, I believe, an unresolved tension between them. It is the main contention of this essay that Lutheran theology does not need the verbal inspiration method because it always has had, at its best, a method quite its own which is better and more in accord with the scriptures themselves. Furthermore, I believe that what we are witnessing in the church today is a recovery of this original methodology.[5]

Moreover, there is no big tent that can embrace both methods. One must choose, as Forde writes:

Finally, what is at stake in this conflict over method? Must we make a choice between them today? If so, why? I think we must….We are fighting for the restoration of the gospel.[6]

Early Forde/Late Forde: The plumbline holds

Did Forde become more biblicistic as battles changed? No. As he said in 1990:

Disenchanted Lutherans today are attracted by both possibilities….When free-choice pietism has lost its moorings in the external Word, the only way to get it back in line is by turning to authority structures with the clout to do it.  One can find that either in Roman-type hierarchicalism or in Biblicism. In either case, satis est non satis est. The gospel and the sacraments are not enough. They never are when they don’t bring the eschatological end and new beginning.  An authority structure above and beyond the gospel must be added – a kind of substitute eschatology to assuage our impatience!

Do these hermeneutical alternatives define the parameters of our fate today? Are these the only possibilities available to us? I believe not. But I do think that if there is any fire left now, it will have to come more from Luther than our Melanchthonian tinged pietism.[7]

See also Forde’s theological autobiography (1997):

The surrender of biblical inerrancy to various versions of “truth as encounter” and other existentialist ploys seemed to lack the bite of the older views of biblical authority. Perhaps it was that something of the offense was gone. Yet there was no way back. Older views of biblical inerrancy were not an offense, they were just intellectually offensive.[8]

“Doing the text”

Forde’s directive: “Do the text”[9] – may seem like a formula for a simplistic use of scripture. When preaching, retell the text with enthusiasm, throw in a few anecdotes, and end with a performative utterance like: “I forgive you all your sins for Jesus’ sake.”

Using the Bible is not like using a Ouija Board: The preacher simply “does the text,” and then the Lord does the rest. That is not what Forde means by “doing the text.”

Consider Forde’s sermon, “On Death to Self.”[10]  He takes the text’s major theme of dying to self. But he doesn’t “do the text” if that means preach it. Rather, he turns the text into a second use of the law. In short, this is not the “literal” original message of the text, but it is the gospel.

Necessary consequences

Election and being a theologian of the cross have necessary consequences, according to Forde. As he wrote after the 1962 Luther College walkout: Law/gospel, rightly understood, is incompatible with the older verbal inspiration/inerrancy method of using the Bible and preaching.

The dilemma for Fordians today is the same. The problem is not about patching together a “bigger conservative Lutheran tent” or pretending no choice is needed because “time will tell” if a new configuration of Lutherans will work.

In a way, it’s 1961 all over again. The same-old problem is back. It’s a matter of salvation. And that demands “the absolute,” certainty, assured faith. This is what the Reformation was actually about. As Forde writes: “We are fighting for the restoration of the gospel.” [11]

For this reason one cannot claim Forde and add “inerrancy,” or a vague “high view” of scripture.  Or even infer inerrancy with the new slogan: “Just preach the Word.”


 

[1] Quoted in Marianna Forde, Gerhard Forde. A Life (Minneapolis; Lutheran University Press, 2014) 37 from Gerhard Forde, “The One Acted Upon” [Theological Autobiography], dialog 36/1 (Winter 1997): 33.

[2] Jonathan Preus, “Fall 2009 Class Agent Letter,” Luther College.

[3] Marianna Forde, 37.

[4] Gerhard Forde, “Law and Gospel as the Methodological Principle of Theology,” A Discussion of Contemporary Issues in Theology by Members of the Religion Department at Luther College. (Decorah, Iowa; Luther College Press, 1964) 56-57. Emphasis in the original. This seminal piece is available here under “Proper Use of Scripture.” It is not found in the Lutheran Quarterly collections of his writings.

[5] Forde, “Law and Gospel,” 52. Emphasis added.

[6] Forde, “Law and Gospel,” 67. Emphasis added.

6 Forde, “Satis Est? What do we do when other churches don’t agree?” Unpublished lecture given to ELCA Teaching Theologians’ Conference (August 1990)11-12. Emphasis added.

[8] Forde, “The One Acted Upon,” dialog 36:1 (Winter 1997) 57-58.Emphasis added.

[9] Gerhard Forde, Justification by Faith: A Matter of Death and Life (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1982) 96-97; Forde, Christian Dogmatics (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984) 2:462-63; Forde, Theology is for Proclamation (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990) 155-58.

[10] Forde, “On Death to Self,” The Captivation of the Will, Lutheran Quarterly Books (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005) 108-11.

[11] Forde, “Law and Gospel,” 67.

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L/RC dialogue VIII: The One Mediator, The Saints, and Mary

The One Mediator, The Saints, and Mary. Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VIII. Edited by H. George Anderson, J. Francis Stafford, and Joseph A. Burgess. Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1992.

The “Lutheran Reflections” section of Round VIII of the US Lutheran/Catholic dialogue was adopted unanimously by the officially-appointed AELC, ALC, LCA, and LC-MS members of the dialogue team.

CS       Common Statement

  • Sections of “The One Mediator, the Saints, and Mary,” of this volume.

* * *

Lutheran Reflections

(1) What does this Common Statement mean for actual life in Lutheran churches? Very much indeed. In summary fashion, it is possible to see that we have much in common with Roman Catholics on the subject of the sole mediatorship of Christ, the Saints, and Mary.

Read the whole text here.

Multispiritual: Adoration of the Sacrament/Communing the Unbaptized

ELCA Press Release: The adoration of the sacrament will help us grow spiritually.

Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton and a delegation of ELCA leaders recently returned from what they describe as an “ecumenical pilgrimage” to London, Geneva, and Rome.

In a meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, the ELCAers asked him to recommend “a spiritual practice to ELCA members to help us grow in our faith lives.”

He answered: “Start where people are, not where you think they should be….And, if they are interested in contemplative prayer or adoration of the sacrament, encourage them to explore this devotion which will help them grow.”

Most Lutherans are familiar with side altars in Catholic churches where the reserved sacrament is kept for adoration.

Lutherans, however, have historically – and recently – rejected this practice because it implies the elements are transubstantiated, that they contain Christ’s presence apart from their use in the communion service.

The national Lutheran/Catholic Dialogue III found an “increasing convergence” between Lutherans and Catholics on the real presence of Christ in communion. But the convergence fell apart on the issue of the reservation of the sacrament:

“Lutherans speak of the whole liturgical action as usus: the consecration, distribution and reception (sumptio) of the sacrament … Lutherans do not speak of Christ being present before or apart from ‘use.’” [1]

Lutherans teach that Christ is present in, with, and under the elements, but, apart from their use in the sacrament, they remain bread and wine.

Lutherans, of course, treat the unused elements respectfully, but reservation and adoration of the sacrament is not Lutheran practice – for gospel reasons.[2]

On the one hand, taking a look at the adoration of the sacrament, Anglo-Catholic spirituality. On the other hand, taking a look (at the request of the 2013 Churchwide Assembly) in the opposite direction from Anglo-Catholicism, at changing The Use of the Means of Grace to commune the unbaptized so they feel welcome.[3]

Whatever “spiritual practice” helps “us grow in our faith lives.” Multispiritual, multicultural. Whatever.



[1] The Eucharist as Sacrifice. Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue III, ed. Paul C. Empie and T. Austin Murphy (Minneapolis: Augsburg, [1967]) 191-97; here 193, footnote 24.

[2] How the Lutheran Confessions write about the Lord’s Supper:

1. Christ is truly present in doing what He commanded, in the use, the action. (Formula of Concord VII, ¶¶85-87; Book of Concord [Tappert], pp. 584-85. Also ¶73, pp. 582-83.)

2. Christ is not truly present apart from doing what He commanded, apart from the use, the action—in the so-called reservation of the host or otherwise.[6] (FC VII ¶108, p.588; ¶¶126-27, p. 591.

[3] “Discuss why a congregation might welcome all people to the Lord’s table. What does that invitation say about one’s understanding of Communion?” From the ELCA Study Guide, “Table and font: Who is welcome?” p. 12, question #3, available at www.elca.org/worship. When the Episcopalians took up this issue at their 2012 General Convention, the reaction from the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox churches was unanimously negative.

Paulson: Other Than Fordian

 Click here to view or download a .pdf copy of this document.


From the Augustana District (LCMC) announcement of their February 2014 guest speakers, Steven Paulson and Mark Mattes: “And both espouse a Lutheran theology in the tradition of Gerhard Forde.”

Have times changed since Forde died (2005) in such a way that he must decrease while a new pan-Lutheran (LCMC, the NALC, LC-MS) consensus on election and inerrancy must increase?

To be sure, Paulson, heir to Forde’s chair at Luther Seminary, is strong on election. But Forde’s heritage and the wider twentieth century Luther renaissance is being transposed into a view of the Bible and its use that Forde strongly rejected.

1. Would Paulson praise inerrancy if Forde were in the audience? Forde wrote explicitly and repeatedly against inerrancy. A few of many such statements in Forde:

In the final analysis the verbal inspiration method is based on a theory—a human theory about the nature of the Word of God. Now the test for the validity of any theory is how well it explains the facts, and one can only say that this theory does not explain the facts very well. It is based on human logic and once its logic is broken the entire position collapses all a once.[1]

So in its practice it [Lutheranism] has resorted mostly to a dogmatic absolutism largely dependent on a view of scriptural inerrancy, which usually brought with it disguised moral absolutisms of various sorts as well.[2]

Disenchanted Lutherans today are attracted by both possibilities….When free-choice pietism has lost its moorings in the external Word, the only way to get it back in line is by turning to authority structures with the clout to do it. One can find that either in Roman-type hierarchicalism or in Biblicism. In either case, satis est non satis est. The gospel and the sacraments are not enough.[3]

Paulson, in contrast, has high praise for “Scripture’s inerrancy.” In a 2011 lecture response to (Wisconsin Synod) Dr. John F. Brug’s strong defense of inerrancy, Paulson said:

Thanks to Dr. Brug for standing for Scripture’s inerrancy against the silly experiments in the ELCA that have attempted to read Scripture as a book of the history of religions, then to demythologize the history and leave a kernel of truth that confronts hearers with an existential moment of decision.…No doubt he is right, that the ELCA lost track of the original source of Scripture, which is the inerrancy in the letters that come through an inerrant Holy Spirit.[4]

Really? Fordians share with Missouri and the Wisconsin Synod a belief in “the inerrancy in the letters”?

Not at all.  What happens when an inerrant text is made the prior miracle to revelation in the cross? The centrality of the Word of the cross is lost. As Forde writes:

I am in effect saying to God that unless he provides me with the kind of guarantee which I expect and want, I cannot believe. Then I am in a very dangerous position because I am dictating to God the conditions under which I will believe. It is dangerous because it might just be that God has not in fact provided us with that kind of guarantee.[5]

If Forde had been in the audience when Paulson praised inerrancy, would Forde have applauded?

2. Paulson deviates from Forde on the “clarity” of scripture. Forde points out how the uniqueness of Luther’s thought was rediscovered in the modern era over against Lutheran Orthodoxy:

Beginning in about the 1840s, when J.C.K. von Hofmann appealed to Luther in the argument over atonement, Luther was for the first time set against Lutheran orthodoxy on a substantive doctrinal issue (Hirsch, 1954, vol. 5, p. 427) and the uniqueness of Luther’s own thought began to emerge as a viable alternative.[6]

As a direct consequence of this rediscovery, in the ninth round of the Lutheran/Catholic dialogue, of which Forde was a leading member, the Lutheran team calls attention to the difference between Luther and seventeenth century Lutheran Orthodoxy on the clarity of scripture:

Jesus as Messiah, Son of God, and Savior is the essential Word from God, the content and center of the entire Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments (die Mitte der Schrift).28

Fn 28: Everything in the universe of Luther’s Reformation stands or falls with the thesis of the clarity of Holy Scripture….The function of the thesis of the clarity of Scripture, however, is only properly recognized when the essential content has been somewhat correctly determined. For Luther it is not a question, as is later the case with Orthodox dogmatists, of the quality of transparency (perspicuitas), which statements of Scripture should in a specific way have.[7]

Paulson, however, in commenting on the theme of the clarity of scripture, quotes approvingly of the Lutheran Orthodox view of the perspicuity of scripture:

That reversal of direction assumes that Scripture is clear and is in no need of specially empowered interpreters, thus removing subjectivism in either its individual or collective forms.19

Fn 19: At this point a person could fruitfully consider Luther’s two kinds of clarity (external and internal) as he discusses them in the Bondage of the Will. And one could also take up the Orthodox Lutherans who distinguished “obscurity in the object contemplated and that which lies in the subject contemplating it.” As Quenstedt put it, “The words of the Testament are in themselves very perspicuous, but are variously interpreted; because many, neglecting the literal and proper sense, studiously seek a foreign one…because of the perverseness or imbecility of men. The obscurity which lies in the subject must not be transferred to the object [!]” Quoted in Schmid, The Doctrinal Theology of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, 73.[8]

The exclamation mark is added by Paulson. He approves of Quenstedt, who held a dictation theory of inspiration, as Missouri does today.[9]

In contrast, Forde quotes Quenstedt to show the problem of Lutheran Orthodoxy’s claim that the obscurity which lies in the subject must not be transferred to the object:

What is the thinking behind this position? According to Francis Pieper, the celebrated Missouri Synod theology of the turn of the century, it is so because it is a position which is established a priori. What does this mean? It means that it is so because it must be so in order for the scripture to be considered the Word of God. That is, if you believe that the scripture is the Word of God, then you must believe that it cannot contain any errors before you begin to read it, otherwise you would not read it as the Word of God. The position must be established a priori, before the actual examination of the evidence, otherwise it cannot be considered a sure basis for faith. Now lest you think I am exaggerating here, let me quote for you the statement of one of the 17th century orthodox fathers, Quenstedt, which draws out the full implications of this position:[10]

As Forde points out,[11] the modern Lutheran renaissance recovered the uniqueness of Luther’s thought over against Lutheran Orthodoxy.[12] This uniqueness includes the discovery that “the thesis of the clarity of Scripture, however, is only properly recognized when the essential content has been somewhat correctly determined”[13] – over against the seventeenth century dogmaticians’ claim for the perspicuity of scripture.

3. Inerrancy, disguised moral absolutes, and Paulson on homosexuality. Forde writes: “[Lutheranism] has resorted mostly to a dogmatic absolutism largely dependent on a view of scriptural inerrancy, which usually brought with it disguised moral absolutisms of various sorts as well.”[14]

Is there a “disguised moral absolute” in Paulson’s argument against homosexuality below?

In Luther’s day a dispute arose when the clever preacher John Agricola proposed that the way to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ was to leave out the preaching of the law entirely….Wouldn’t that be nice for a preacher? No more need to accuse anyone or bother with the law even when it is plainly in the Scripture to be preached.

They [ELCA pro-gay supporters] believe they are the messengers and purveyors of a new and higher law than had ever existed before in church and world—even laws given by God himself. Furthermore, this new and higher form of law comes in the person of the Holy Spirit who gives them new spirit-led revelations that are not in Scripture but are supposed to be part of God’s hidden plan.

Fanatics think that the Holy Spirit has given them a new word not found in Scripture that approves of homosexual acts….

They know, even though they have no word from God to stand on.[15] 

Paulson would surely deny being an inerrantist. Yet his argument in this citation against homosexuality is based on what “is plainly in the Scripture to be preached.” However negatively phrased, his message is that biblical prohibitions against homosexuality are “Word of God” and decisive for today.

Forde, in contrast, in writing against homosexuality, rejects such proof-texting and instead distinguishes two uses of law and Christian freedom to change law:

It is not enough just to say that a given command is ‘The Word of God’ … in questions of the civil use of laweach case has to be argued individually …. The fundamental concern of the civil use of the law is for the care of the social order . . . What the law enjoins is love of and service to the neighbor. That is its fundamental and ineradicable content.[16]

For faith in the end of the law leads to the view that its purpose is to take care of this world, not to prepare for the next. That means that we do not possess absolute, unchangeable laws. If the law no longer takes care of this world, it can and must be changed. As even Luther put it,[17] we must write our own decalogue to fit the times.[18]

At the same time, a theology seduced by nomism (all too often the case in the church) is ill equipped to do battle with antinomianism. Since it has already compromised the eschatological gospel, it can fight only from the position of law and charge its opponents with the ‘terrible heresy’ of being anti-law. Thus, the term ‘antinomian.’ One gets the impression that whereas other heresies are relatively mild, being antinomian is about the worst thing one could be! At any rate, to defend itself, nomism appeals to already given anti-gospel sentiments, compounding the confusion. So the general victory of nomism over antinomianism in the church is hardly cause for celebration. Nothing is solved. No insight into the nature of the problem is gained. The war of words is only inflated and the issues obscured.[19]

The theology of the cross, properly understood, rejects both antinomianism and biblical nomism. For Forde, Bayer, Lønning, and other scholars of the twentieth century Luther renaissance, revelation is “the cross,” not “the inerrant Book” – as is the case for Lutheran Orthodoxy, Missouri, Wisconsin – and in the argument by Paulson, who ridicules pro-gay supporters because they “have no word from God to stand on.” By inference he has such a word from God.

4. Paulson waffles on the third use of the law. What of the third use of the law? Missouri insists on it; Forde rejects it. Where does the Paulson trajectory lead?

Paulson would surely disavow a third use. Yet such a disavowal is not consistent with the way he uses the New Testament, that is, the way he distinguishes between ceremonial and moral law:

Because of the absolute certainty of their cause. Leviticus tells you to sacrifice a goat. So there. Why don’t you sacrifice a goat? A fanatic cannot make the proper distinction between the law and the gospel and to identify where the law applies and where it comes to an end. A fanatic cannot make the distinction. Now Lutherans and Lutheran theology should know better. It should know there is a distinction between the law and the gospel and as Paul says very clearly it is not the law but faith which makes one righteous. We can go right to Romans 3:28. Right at the end of the chapter. I think it’s verse 33 where he says what then shall we say? Does this remove the law altogether? No, it establishes the law. It puts the law in its proper place. But the proper place for the law is not the means by which you are made righteous. This is a fanatic opinion. A fanatic opinion thinks that its judgment on homosexuality is going to be a righteous one that will make them righteous. And it will actually impart righteousness to another human being apart from the forgiveness of sins entirely. This is the way fanaticism operates, and it can’t make a distinction between the law and the gospel any longer. Anybody who spends any time discussing the distinction between law and gospel knows there is a distinction now between the law of the Decalogue, the law of the ten commandments that we’re talking about here, and the so-called ceremonial law that identifies how it is that you do a sacrifice of a goat. This is why we teach the Ten Commandments at the beginning of the Small Catechism. We don’t teach the sacrifice of a goat.  But you’ll find both of these in the Old Testament. You have to make the proper distinction. Of course the issue of sexuality is an issue now of the Decalogue and the proper establishment of the law and the way we teach and preach that law.[20]

Forde, in contrast, attacks the traditional distinction – between ceremonial and moral law – which Paulson supports:

Theologically, both before and after the Reformation, the most common move toward domesticating freedom has been the attempt to qualify the Pauline claim that Christ is the end of the law to those of faith. ‘Reason,’ as Luther would put it, simply cannot entertain such an idea, the conviction that in Christ the law comes to an end, that law is over and freedom begins. As we have seen, freedom as usually conceived needs law as the mediator of possibility. What shall we do if there is no law to tell us what to do? But is Paul then wrong in his claim? Theologians as usual, however, have found a way to have their cake and eat it, too. They made a distinction in the content of the law – something Paul never did – between ceremonial or ritual laws on the one hand and moral law on the other. Then they proceeded to say that Christ was the end of ceremonial law but not the moral law. Christ ended the necessity, that is, for sacrifice, circumcision, food and ritual regulations, etc., but not the demands of moral law (e.g., the Decalogue). “Christ died, it seems, to save us from the liturgiologists! One might grant, of course, that this is no small accomplishment, but the price does seem a bit high![21]

5. Paulson: Other than Fordian. Paulson is a popular speaker and leader among conservative Lutherans, not only in the Augustana District of LCMC but elsewhere.

His stance is congenial to the Institute for Lutheran Theology (ILT), which formally endorses the view of the clarity of scripture held by seventeenth century Lutheran Orthodoxy and the present day Missouri Synod.[22]

The ILT has a significant Missourian presence: One of three consultants is Missourian (Manske), as are several adjunct faculty members, including Jack Kilcrease, who notes approvingly that in contrast to Forde “Paulson accepts lex aeterna or eternal law.”[23] Kilcrease’s lengthy analysis of Forde is based on the (Missourian) presupposition that “the objectivity of the content of the law [is] revealed in nature and Scripture.”[24]

In addition to LCMC, Paulson has ties to CORE and the NALC through his doctor father, Carl Braaten.

The NALC’s Pittsburgh seminary center has hired long-time Forde critic, David Yeago. One Missourian notes approvingly: “Yeago has cleared the ground for a positive, or third, use of the Law, without using the term.”[25] Though methodologically different, Paulson, too, because of the way he uses the Bible, has cleared the ground for a third use of the law without using the term.

In short, Paulson is in sync with conservative leaders in both LCMC and the NALC. But it is not Forde’s legacy that is being carried forward.

6. “The price does seem a bit high!”

Some say that Fordians should not be fractured but join in building a big Lutheran conservative tent, regardless of conflicts over inerrancy and the third use of the law.

It would be nice. Numbers do matter. At the same time one must count the cost. As Forde said: “The price does seem a bit high!”[26]

The price is high because it means retreating into the long shadow of Biblicism out of which Forde and others have led the way – the way which has led to the recovery of the uniqueness of Luther’s theology over against Lutheran Orthodoxy.

As Forde himself wrote in the 1960’s battle among Lutherans over inerrancy:

Finally, what is at stake in this conflict over method? Must we make a choice between them today? If so, why? I think we must….We are fighting for the restoration of the gospel.[27]

Rightly understood, Luther’s theology of the cross includes a rejection of inerrancy and the third use of the law.



[1] Forde, “Law and Gospel as the Methodological Principle of Theology,” A Discussion of Contemporary Issues in Theology by Members of the Religion Department at Luther College. (Decorah, Iowa; Luther College Press, 1964) 57.

[2] Forde, “Radical Lutheranism,” Lutheran Quarterly 1,1 (Spring, 1987) 13. Emphasis added.

[3] Forde, “Satis Est? What do we do when other churches don’t agree?” (Unpublished lecture given to the ELCA Teaching Theologians’ Conference, August 1990) 11-12. Emphasis added.

[4] Paulson’s response to the paper by John F. Brug, “Luther’s Doctrine of the Word,” at the Lutheran Free Conference, November 2011, was revised for LOGIA, Epiphany XXII,1 (2013) 53-54. Emphasis added.

[5] Forde, “Law and Gospel as the Methodological Principle of Theology,” 56. Emphasis in the text. See further: “The DNA of the Missouri Synod” at www.crossalone.us.

[6] Forde, “Lutheranism,” The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Modern Christian Thought. Ed. Alister McGrath (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1993) 357. Emphasis added.

[7] Scripture and Tradition, Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue IX. Eds. Harold C. Skillrud, J. Francis Stafford, Daniel F. Martensen (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1995) 29 and 55.

[8] Steven D. Paulson, “Lutheran Assertions Regarding Scripture,” Lutheran Quarterly 17,4 (2003) 380, 385.

[9] It is notable that two of three back cover endorsements for Paulson’s one major book, Lutheran Theology (New York: T&T Clark, 2011) are Missourians: John Pless and Robert Kolb. Moreover, Pless and Matthew Harrison (now President of the Missouri Synod) are co-editors of Women Pastors? The Ordination of Women in Biblical Lutheran Perspective. A Collection of Essays (St. Louis: Concordia, 2009). This collection of essays attacking women’s ordination did not keep Paulson from using Pless’ endorsement for his own book, published in 2011.

[10] Forde, “Law and Gospel as the Methodological Principle of Theology,” 52-53.

[11] Forde, “Lutheranism,” The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Modern Christian Thought, 357.

[12] Paulson briefly mentions (p.198) but does not discuss the twentieth century Luther renaissance in his book, Lutheran Theology. This omission is significant for three reasons: 1) The book is part of a series focusing on “the origins of a particular theological tradition, its foundations, key concepts, eminent thinkers and historical development” (inside cover); 2) Omitting discussion of the twentieth century Luther renaissance minimizes its achievements and importance for discerning Lutheran identity; and 3) Paulson has six inconsequential footnotes to Forde and no references to Forde in the index, thus overlooking Forde’s role as a major thinker in the twentieth century Luther renaissance.

[13] Scripture and Tradition, Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue IX, 55.

[14] Forde, “Radical Lutheranism,” Lutheran Quarterly, 13.

[15] Paulson, Against the holy blasphemers,” Network News 10,8 (December 2009) 5-6. Emphasis added.

[16] Forde, “Law and Sexual Behavior,” Lutheran Quarterly 9,1 (Spring, 1995) 8-9, 18. Emphasis added.

[17] Martin Luther on the law as human and changing: “Indeed, we would make new decalogues, as Paul does in all the epistles, and Peter, but above all Christ in the gospel” (LW 34:112). “This text makes it clear that even the Ten Commandments do not pertain to us” (LW 35:165). “The Gentiles are not obligated to obey Moses. Moses is the Sachsenspiegel for the Jews” (LW 35:167).

[18] Forde, “Lex Semper Accusat? Nineteenth-Century Roots of Our Current Dilemma,” dialog 9 (1970) 274. Emphasis added.

[19] Forde, “Fake Theology: Reflections on Antinomians Past and Present,” dialog 22 (1983) 246-51, here 247. Emphasis added.

[20] Paulson at a Lutheran CORE meeting, Roseville Lutheran (11/18/2010). Transcript of the DVD at 25:52. Emphasis added.

[21] Forde, “Called to Freedom.” Opening Address to the Eighth International Congress for Luther Research, 1993 and reprinted in The Preached God. Eds. Mark C. Mattes and Steven D. Paulson (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007) 259. Emphasis added. See also Forde, “Justification and This World,” Christian Dogmatics. Eds. Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984) 2:447.

[22] “We hold to the internal clarity of Scripture, believing that Scripture is not merely a text from the ancient world whose meaning is obscure and only discernible through application of new scholarly approaches to the text, but that Scripture is in itself clear, and that any obscurity on Scripture’s part is due to the fallenness of human nature.” Foundational principles of ILT supported by the unanimous vote of the ILT Board. ILT Newletter, Feb 2009.

[23] Jack Kilcrease, jackkilcreaseblogspot.com, April 6, 2011.

[24] Jack Kilcrease, “Gerhard Forde’s Doctrine of the Law: A Confessional Lutheran Critique,” Concordia Theological Quarterly 75,1-2 (January/April 2011) 151-79, here 157.

[25] Scott R. Murray, Law, Life, and the Living God. The Third Use of the Law in Modern American Lutheranism (St. Louis: Concordia, 2002) 182.

[26] See footnote 18 above.

[27] Forde, “Law and Gospel as the Methodological Principle of Theology,” 67. Emphasis added.

Lutheran Ambassador-At-Large Warren A. Quanbeck

How did an expert in the New Testament and Luther become a Lutheran ecumenical leader? At least two reasons. After World War II U. S. Lutherans played a major role in diaconal, missionary, and refugee work; now they were ready to become involved in wider leadership in the Lutheran world. And around 1960 a new generation of theological leaders was about to step onto the stage. Quanbeck was one of this new generation, but ten years ahead, prepared to take part in this developing American Lutheran role. That was not without its problems. He liked to point out that because he had been cleared of “liberalism” by the ELC’s council of district presidents, he was one of the few who could state for sure that he was not a heretic.

q2World Lutheranism. From 1958-1970 he was a member of the LWF Commission on Theology. As such he was directly involved at the LWF Assembly in Helsinki (1963) in the famous or “infamous” statement on justification, which was much maligned by press reports claiming that Lutherans had been unable to agree on their key doctrine of justification. But Quanbeck noted that the Helsinki Assembly actually succeeded in its purpose, which was to place justification in its contemporary theological and cultural context. He was on the Board of Trustees of the LWF Foundation for Interconfessional Research, Strasbourg (1959-1971). At the LWF Assembly in Evian (1970) he was chairman of Section Two, Ecumenical Affairs. From 1971-1972 he was the LWF Lutheran Lecturer at Mansfield College, Oxford.

Roman Catholicism. Quanbeck was a LWF Delegate Observer at the last three of the four sessions of Vatican Council II (1961-1965), in his own words “the single most important theological occurrence of the twentieth century.” The observers met weekly for two to three hours with Roman Catholic bishops and staff of the Secretariat for Christian Unity, and they had a definite influence not only on the decree on ecumenism but also on the constitution on the nature of the Church. When, immediately after Vatican II, the US Lutheran/Roman Catholic Dialogue began, he was an obvious member. The Catholics challenged us by “running in their first team,” he stated, and, because over half of the members had learned to trust each other through contact at Vatican II, the usual maneuvering and hesitation at the start of a dialogue process could be bypassed.

Warren A. Quanbeck World Council of Churches. He was a member of the WCC Faith and Order Conferences at Oberlin (1957) and Montreal (1963). From 1958-1959 he was tutor at the WCC Ecumenical Institute, Celigny, Switzerland. He was a delegate to the WCC Assembly at Nairobi (1975) and elected there to the Central Committee of the WCC.

This listing, this “ecumenical bibliography,” is in no sense complete. Quanbeck was also, for example, a member of the US Lutheran/Presbyterian Dialogue from 1962-1966. But what this listing does begin to show is how he became a Lutheran Ambassador-at-large. Not only was he directly involved with Lutherans at the world level; he was also involved with Roman Catholics, Anglicans, the Reformed, and, through the WCC, with the Orthodox at the world level. Today, when it is frequently feared that ecumenism is “in a deep freeze” and its future is difficult to discern, it is important to look back two generations to a leader like Quanbeck who, to be sure, was standing on the shoulders of the giants before him, yet who also used his diplomatic skills to build bridges and forge deep personal bonds with other Christian leaders. Then, too, the battles were fierce.  Could we trust the Roman Catholics? Would the Orthodox find their way into the ecumenical movement? Where were the Reformed going, anyway? What about apartheid and racism?

What was needed was trust. What Warren Quanbeck was able to develop, as a kind of Lutheran Ambassador-at-large, was the confidence of those he spoke for, the Lutheran leaders who had come to know his work. At the same time he was able to gain the trust of ecumenical partners. It was not simply a matter of endless travel, endless meetings, more debate and more written statements of agreement. It was most of all a kind of ecumenical perception and integrity, learned and communicated. He wove a net of ecumenical alliances, bridges for wider Lutheran ecumenism.

But he was also a baseball fan, a skilled pianist, a frustrated architect, a social activist, a ready wit. And, not to be forgotten, he was an inspiring teacher (Professor, first of New Testament, subsequently Systematic Theology, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, 1948 -1979).

***

This article appeared in The Metro Lutheran 25:6 (June 2010) 5. In that article, however, the date which he became a full professor at Luther Seminary is incorrectly stated as 1958. It should be 1948 as in the last paragraph above. (In 1948 professors were elected to seminary professorships by the churchwide convention.)

Clergy Fight! Does the Pope need two-thirds to win…..?

Is Pope Francis going to be able to change the Roman Catholic Church’s doctrines on divorce, contraception, and even homosexuality?

2017 Lutheran Reformation

Lutheran/Roman Catholic Dialogue

  • From Conflict to Communion – 12 issues
    • 1. Lutherans and Catholics agree/disagree on Baptism
    • 2. C2C declares JDDJ has the “highest level of authority”
    • 3. Justification must decrease so that unity may increase
    • 4. C2C conceals the Catholic rejection of “faith alone”
    • 5. C2C’s focus on “Luther’s theology” disguises a caricature of Luther
    • 6. Why not rescind the 1521 excommunication of Luther?
    • 7. C2C creates a caricature of Luther on scripture by omitting its gospel center
    • 8. C2C hides the Vatican view: Lutherans are not really, truly “Church”
    • 9. C2C assumes papal primacy and infallibility are inevitable
    • 10. Mary, Mary, why are they hiding you?
    • 11. C2C glides over the ordination of women
    • 12. C2C kicks the can down the road: Lutherans must concede to unity on Rom’s terms
  • LTSP Faculty Evaluation of Vol 7 (1985)

Lifting the Condemnations

Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ)

Mary

Indulgences

Luther and the Jews

Forde

Oberman

Other

Forde got out of Biblicism; you can, too – 15

Romans 3:24: “[T]hey are justified by his grace as a gift….”

This verse is used by some to justify a semi-Pelagian view of salvation: To be saved, the gift of faith must be received by responding in faith. Thus the believer has a crucial role in salvation.

Forde: This semi-Pelagian interpretation of Scripture is wrong:

The assertion of “justification by faith” in the sixteenth-century Reformation can be understood only if it is clearly seen as a complete break with ‘justification by grace,’ viewed according to the synthesis we have been describing, as a complete break with the attempt to view justification as a movement according to a given standard or law, either natural or revealed. For the reformers, justification is “solely” a divine act. It is a divine judgment. It is an imputation. It is unconditional. All legal and moral schemes are shattered. Such justification comes neither at the beginning nor at the end of a movement; rather, it establishes an entirely new situation. Since righteousness comes by imputation only, it is absolutely not a movement on our part, either with or without the aid of what was previously termed “grace.” The judgment can be heard and grasped only by faith. Indeed, the judgment creates and calls forth the faith that hears and grasps it. One will mistake the reformation point if one does not see that justification “by faith” is in the first instance precisely a polemic against justification “by grace” according to the medieval scheme. Grace would have to be completely redefined before the word could be safely used in a reformation sense.[1]

See also the footnote to the above paragraph:

The recent penchant for combining grace and faith into the formula “justification by grace through faith” is perhaps understandable given certain modern developments, but (in spite of words suggesting such a formula in the Augsburg Confession IV) it is strictly speaking at best redundant and at worst compounding a felony. When one misses the complete interdependence of grace and faith (grace is the gift of faith; faith alone lets grace be grace), one turns faith into a “subjective response” and can only then cover one’s tracks by saying, “Of course, it comes by grace!” Faith then simply takes the place once occupied by “works” or “merit” in the medieval system and all the problems repeat themselves. Given such misunderstanding it is clear that one cannot use the formula “justification by faith” today without careful work of reclamation. [2]



[1] Gerhard Forde, “Justification,Church Dogmatics II:407. Italics in the original, bolding added.

[2] Forde, Church Dogmatics II: 407, footnote 7, on page 423. Italics in the original, bolding added.

14. Forde got out of Biblicism; you can, too.

“If our Melanchthonian based free-choice pietism has lost its substance, and if we are appalled or at least worried by the drift of the church toward cultural Protestantism, where do we turn? Here is where the hermeneutic will tend powerfully to influence the choice. If the kind of interpretation suggested by Lindbeck is right, there would seem basically to be two possibilities. The first and most obvious is to turn back towards Rome. If we are a confessing movement in the church catholic, and if, in Tillichian terms, we have pushed our protestant principle to the degree of losing our catholic substance, then the only real way to find our substance again is to go back to Rome, that preeminent custodian of such catholic substance. Rome has had long experience with this sort of thing. Rome knows how to grant free choice with one hand and take it back with the other!”

“The other possibility would be the old Protestant move: back to the Bible, to move, perhaps, in the direction of so-called evangelical or fundamentalist Protestantism, lately dubbed fundagelicalism. If we are denominational Lutherans, basically critical of or anti-Rome, and yet fear the loss of substance, we would likely be attracted by the so-called evangelical or maybe even neo-pentacostal movements in contemporary Protestantism. They too, you might say, have a certain ability to grant freedom of choice with one hand and take it back with the other. You are free to choose Jesus, but once you do you better toe the mark! And one cannot overlook the fact that around the globe these days such movements manifest considerable vitality!”

“Disenchanted Lutherans today are attracted by both possibilities….When free-choice pietism has lost its moorings in the external Word, the only way to get it back in line is by turning to authority structures with the clout to do it. One can find that either in Roman-type hierarchicalism or in Biblicism. In either case, satis est non satis est. The gospel and the sacraments are not enough. They never are when they don’t bring the eschatological end and new beginning. An authority structure above and beyond the gospel must be added – a kind of substitute eschatology to assuage our impatience!”

“Do these hermeneutical alternatives define the parameters of our fate today? Are these the only possibilities available to us? I believe not. But I do think that if there is any fire left now, it will have to come more from Luther than our Melanchthonian tinged pietism.”1


1 Gerhard Forde, “Satis Est? What do we do when other churches don’t agree?” Unpublished lecture given to ELCA Teaching Theologians’ Conference, August 1990, pp. 11-12; emphasis added.

Forde got out of Biblicism; you can, too – 13

The Bible says: “Repent and believe in the gospel.”[1] Does that mean that Forde was wrong? Does that mean that salvation is mostly God’s doing and partly ours?

Forde writes:

‘We have to do something, don’t we?’ – that is the pious sounding cry. Rather than face the question of death and life, we hope to get by with a little something! As Luther remarked, this kind of semi-Pelagianism is worse than full-blown Pelagianism.”[2]

Luther knew that one could use a text like Mark 1:15 against Christ, that is, in favor of saying salvation is 99% what Christ does and 1% what we do – repent and believe.

As Luther points out again and again, infants have faith, which is no surprise because in baptism God snatches us[3] in spite of ourselves.



[1]Mark 1:15.

[2] Gerhard Forde, Theology is for Proclamation (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990) 142; emphasis added. See also Forde: “It is interesting – and significant – that Luther could see much more validity in out-right Pelagianism than he could in semi-Pelagianism of the so-called Christian humanists. At least, he said, the Pelagians believed that man could and should apply himself with his whole being to the pursuit of salvation, where the semi-Pelagians seem to think it could be gained for a pittance – exercising that little bit of ability supposedly left in man,” in Where God Meets Man, p. 51 by Forde; italics in the text; bolding added.

Luther: “These friends of ours, however, though they believe and teach the same, make dupes of us with deceptive words and a false pretense, as if they dissented from the Pelagians, though this is the last thing they do; so that if you go by their hypocrisy, they seem to be the bitterest foes of the Pelagians, while if you look at the facts and their real opinion, they themselves are Pelagians double-dyed” (LW 35:328).

[3] See Luther: “[E]ven if infants did not believe – which, however, is not the case, as we have proved – still their Baptism would be valid and no one should rebaptize them…” Large Catechism, Baptism, #55, BC 443.

In baptism the infant receives the Holy Spirit (SC, Baptism #10, BC 349), who, of course, cannot be quantified as if the infant only receives a portion of the Holy Spirit or a kick-start. Nor, again of course, does baptism depend on a “decision” made by the infant. Some also misunderstand the metaphor “gift” (e.g., Romans 3:24) to imply that what God does in baptism is a “gift” that has to be “accepted” even though the context (Romans 3:19-23) does not allow such a misunderstanding.

“[W]hat a great and excellent thing Baptism is, which snatches us from the jaws of the devil…” LC, Baptism, #83; BC 446, emphasis added.

“I believe that by my own reason or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him” Small Catechism, Creed, Third Article, #6; BC 345.

See also John 6:44: “No one comes to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” And John 6:65, 15:16, Eph 1:4.