When you live in an ivory tower, it’s easy to get rather out-of-touch with the common man. For our seminaries, there is a danger that they will lose the ability to communicate effectively with the man in the pew. I mention it only to say I understand why, in the latest dust up between Concordia Seminary Saint Louis, and those who insist that the Word be proclaimed rightly, they have made a few tactical errors. It’s not their fault really. (Well, the promotion of false teaching is totally their fault. But I will give them a pass on the tactical errors).
So, in order to help them going forward, I thought I would offer a nickel’s worth of free advice regarding how to speak to the church. This is from my many years as a pastor, as well as my detailed study of the “Battle for the Bible”.
When you say things like, “Trust us, we are super smart”, it really sounds like you’re saying, “You are too dumb to understand.” Don’t insult your audience.
Similarly, “This is how scholarship is done today” sounds to us like you’re saying “You are not up on the latest heresies.” Because that’s the same excuse your predecessors used, shortly before they decided to start a new seminary named “Half-Dead.”
Also, don’t tell us “We are violating the bonds of brotherhood” in the synod. The bonds of brotherhood in the synod are based on agreement in the Gospel and all her articles, and in the proper administration of the sacraments. It is not based on some collegial ideal of deference to the one with the most letters after their name.
And don’t even try the old “impugning the integrity of the seminaries” line. It’s 1 seminary that is promoting false doctrine regarding the creation. We have no problem with the other seminary, unless they also promote or teach falsely. And we are not impugning your integrity. We are pointing out what you teach and comparing it to the word of God. If that makes you look bad, then you need to stop teaching or promoting false doctrine.
Hopefully, those tips will be helpful the next time you write a letter to those in the church who actually hold the highest office. They understand it is an office of service. And, in general, they know how to deal in love with people. You might look to them to see what to do.
Oh, and a quick message to Ecclesiastical Supervisors. I know it can be difficult to speak publicly on controverted issues. But this one is not controverted. We fought this battle 40 years ago. The truth won the day. Those who are attempting to confuse the issue with re-hashed false doctrine and the same excuses their vanquished predecessors used need to be reminded of their solemn vow to teach in accord with Holy Scripture. And if they refuse to do that, they need to be relieved of the responsibility that came with those vows.
And if that’s too hard a task in your office of “Ecclesiastical Supervisor”, we understand. The bylaws are complicated, and carrying them out can be too much to handle. It would not be the first time and the hoi polloi in our synod had to take seriously their office of “elector” and make the hard call themselves.