Then they threw him under the bus.
Carl E. Braaten, Because of Christ, Memoirs of a Lutheran Theologian, Eerdmans, 2010, 210 pages paperback.
When Mrs. Ichabod and I were in college at Augustana, Braaten was the boy wonder at the newly merged Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago. LSTC included Augustana Seminary, the ULCA Maywood Seminary, a Nebraska seminary, and some easily forgotten promises to the Finns.
The seminary merger was one reason why I never considered going to LSTC.
Braaten was the son of Norwegian Lutheran missionaries to Madagascar, growing up on that gigantic island. He came back to the States in 1946 to attend St. Olaf College (ALC) and Luther Seminary. In between he got a Fullbright Scholarship to study philosophy in Paris.
Braaten graduated from Luther Seminary in 1955 and entered the doctoral program at Harvard University. "Paul Tillich meant a lot to me," he wrote on page 32. Nothing is said about the appalling infidelities of Tillich, whether marital or doctrinal. Tillich's wife published a book about her wandering husband, who liked photos of women crucified, slept with the wives of his students, and behaved like a jerk. For example, he sold the same theology title to two publishers at once. The Fortress Press biography of Tillich, written by one of his academic friends, noted Tillich's bizarre inclusion of pagan myth in his Systematics. Tillich also bragged up his own importance in various ways. He wanted a job in Hitler's Germany because he was instrumental in promoting the cause of national socialism. His biographer said that Tillich did little beyond talking in coffee shops! Similarly, Tillich acted as though Columbia University's philosophers had great respect for him when he taught at Union Seminary (The Devil's Playground) in NYC. In fact, they did not.
But one does not make a dent in academic theology while pointing out these verities, even in class. I dared to mention some details in the Frank Fiorenza class at Notre Dame. Fiorenza (Roman Catholic) and Tjaard Hommes (liberal Dutch) were furious that I dared to say such things, even though I left out the whips, affairs, and girls-on-crosses. Frank said, "Lutherans do not understand Tillich." I responded with, "Lutherans do not understand a Lutheran?"
Tillich wrote from a philosopher's point of view, which must have harmonized well with Braaten's interests. Modern philosophy displaces theology, using the categories while expelling the content. Almost all of modern theology is written that way, providing a nifty income for closet atheists who moan about teaching nine hours a week - if that.
Tillich won many awards, which allowed him to study in Europe. He also heard Karl Barth lecture in Basel. He was thrilled to hear Barth, but Tillich was clearly his favorite. Tillich and Braaten worked closely together, so Braaten was happy to see Tillich emerge as a famous theologian in Germany and in America. Tillich was on the cover of Time magazine at one point. Few theologians can equal that.
Tillich and Barth are in the same boat as intellectual frauds. Neither one was remotely Christian in thought. Both of them borrowed heavily from the labor of others. Barth let his mistress, Charlotte Kirschbaum, do most of the work in the Dogmatics. Tillich let his grad students did an inordinate amount of his work. Graduate students were not going to kick about doing Tillich's work for him, since he had the power to make careers, as he did for Braaten.
Critical thinking is not an attribute of modern theology. To address the theologians' lack of faith in the Word of God is academic suicide. Apostates are quick to put everyone through a quick colloquy. They do not allow believers into their club.
Braaten has nothing but scorn for "Fundamentalists," which is his word for those who still believe in the authority and inerrancy of the Scriptures. Braaten goes back and forth. He condemns his church opponents for not being confessional, but no one opposed Christian theology more boldly than Braaten in his glory years.
He brags about his Braaten/Jenson Dogmatics, which attacks every article of faith in the Apostles Creed. The crucifixion of Christ is compared to a man hit by a truck, an accident meaning nothing. The gigantic two-volume set is a travesty in writing. To borrow from Luther, it is not even a pile of manure served on a silver platter. The serving dish is a garbage can lid, the inept style of closet atheists trying to act important. They wrote about basic Christian doctrine - Luther believed it, we do not.
And they were trying to rescue ELCA from the radicals. Read the paragraph above again, slowly. Add that the Trinity, in that book, is nothing more than "God, the man Jesus, and the divine spirit of the community." (I paraphrased that statement from memory.)
Braaten also helmed a journal called dialog, the lower case title serving as a reminder of how trendy they were - at the time. He enjoyed being a subversive until his troops over-ran his own position, took away his leadership, and kicked him to the curb.
Braaten's Bitter Fruits
Merger was the first game that burned Braaten. The radicals thrown out of their leadership in the LCMS--led by WELS' own Jungkuntz, a UOJ fanatic--were known collectively as the Seminex bunch. They were blooded veterans of many battles, from a synod where vicious in-fighting, kidnapping, and cover stories began with C. F. W. Walther.
The tiny, fading AELC (Seminexers) were allowed to dominate the ELCA merger talks. They created the gay-feminist quota system that would remove every single person like Braaten from any influence. The radicals opposed the traditional Name of God, but Braaten's book did the same. The memoir sounds like "No fair when you play our game of subversion. We had a blast doing it, but you are going too far." I see a parallel with the current leadership of Missouri, WELS, and the micro-mini sects. What they conceived and carried to term is an ugly little bastard child, who keeps growing and biting his parents.
I went to LSTC for research and also to visit the president of the seminary, Bill Lesher, in discussions about publishing the book. He kept confusing the words "biography" with "bibliography," which made the church history professor roll his eyeballs. Lesher pointed out that they could not keep several Midwestern seminaries going at once. Seminex merged into LSTC and Wartburg has been insolvent, but LSTC (Bergendoff's dream school) is still in deep trouble financially. Nota bene, defenders of WELS schools, this seminary meltdown was discussed 29 years ago. Ba-zing.
Seminex Drives Braaten Out
The Seminex faculty came to LSTC as a team, and they quickly took over. The chapel services conducted worship by avoiding male names or pronouns for the Trinity. Braaten was offended and quit coming to chapel. Boo-hoo Braaten. Did he oppose it at the service? No. Did he organize the other students who opposed this? No. He wrote a letter and quit coming. Does that sound familiar, WELSians? He wrote a letter.
The homosexual issue quickly took over, too. Deppe, as a Seminex professor, was arrested for soliciting a male policeman at a public park in St. Louis. Nevertheless, he still came over with the Seminex faculty. The rogue AELC seminary was also the official seminary of the homosexual Metropolitan Community Church, training and certifying their pastors, male and female, homosexual and lesbian. Did that give LSTC pause? Apparently not.
But Braaten complained about the Lavender Mafia's work at the seminary and in ELCA. Braaten stayed in ELCA but left LSTC.
Here are some quotations and insights, from his book, which perfectly parallel the sects considered more conservative than ELCA. The methods are exactly the same.
"The theology that backed up the 'paradigm shift' at LSTC was either antinomian or a close relative." (Everyone is already forgiven - UOJ and Seminex's Gospel Reductionism, led by WELS' own Jungkuntz.)
Quotas for Blacks did not increase Black membership in ELCA. (Nevertheless, WELS embarked on multi-culturalism with ELCA and Missouri.)
"Nobody who bucks the system gets elected to any office in the ELCA. This is why only retired bishops dare to speak out against the ordination of gay clergy in partnered relationships and the blessing of same-gender unions in the church. Even theological professors have become muted for fear of appearing out of sync with the rising trends in church and society. So much for the 'here I stand' courage of the founding father of the Lutheran movement. not even faint echoes of that are to be heard in the church establishment and its publications, for example, the Lutheran Magazine, Lutheran Partners, as well as books published by Augsburg Fortress Publishing House. Censorship is massive, complete, and effective, however it works."
"From where I was sitting, the handwriting on the wall was so clear, I felt a person had to be blind not to see it."
Braaten also wrote about professors telling him they were too terrified to do or say anything about ELCA's deviancy.
Braaten enjoyed the comforts and prestige of an academic life, the security of tenure, high pay, numerous grants for study tours. He created the foundation for everything that turned the ELCA into a nightmare for anyone with a shred of faith. The extreme radicalism finally stirred up Braaten's memories of Biblical memorization, catechetical instruction, the good old days.
That is how the Word blinds people. The more time and energy they devote to attacking the Scriptures and mocking the Reformation, the blinder they become. One cannot juggle the Word, which always has the divine power of God, and come away unscathed.
The faculties of WELS, Missouri, and the Little Sect think they can ignore their own apostasy while saying "Naughty naughty" to ELCA. All Thrivent has to do is toss some money in the air, rent some rooms at the Notell Conference Center, and the Four-letter Synods are there, tongues hanging out.
The co-founder of Earth Day murdered and composted his girlfriend.