The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist in Residence

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Luther's Sermons, Lenker Series
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Monday, November 7, 2016

Thoughts on Theological Education

The ELDONA seminary will go online
once they install electricity and cable at St. Ignatius.
The master plan includes indoor plumbing.

Someone was asking me about theological education, so I decided to post my comments here, since the issue comes up from time to time.

First of all, avoid denominational seminaries. They are designed to produce loyal, obedient, non-thinking workers for the denomination. Seminaries like to be trendy, pushing the new agenda for the denomination without the agreement or participation by the denomination, which always more conservative since believers exist everywhere except seminary faculties.

The reason why is simple - a seminary board determines the hiring of professors. The board is controlled by a few people, and the apostates always make sure they have

  1. an equal share, 
  2. then a majority, and 
  3. finally total dominance of the board.
One only needs to look at a denomination's seminaries, colleges, and campus ministries to see how far off they are. They will allow a few old troglodytes to hang around, even after retirement. But that will pass soon enough and no one will replace them. Mordor had Mudslide and Balge still on the faculty when I was at Mequon. Balge was appalled when one of the Church Growth star-students gave a CG sermonette for homiletics class, but his son Jon suggested continuing education at Fuller, Trinity Divinity, and other hell-holes of Evangelicalism. The two generations were already apart. Jon grew up at Mordor, where Kelm was the contact person for those attending the Billy Graham School of Evangelism (sign on President Panning's door).

I saw the Lutheran Church in America change from traditional marriage in a few years, the seminaries completely revised, updated, and collapsing soon after. I was interviewed at the Philadelphia LCA seminary, around 1981, and heard one seminary professor congratulate another on his essay about traditional relationships in The Lutheran magazine. Today that would mean the expulsion of both seminary professors and the magazine's editor. But ELCA is a safe place now - it will never happen again.

 Everyone imagines that money is the only means of grace today,
yet money has done nothing for Lutherdom except
inflame the hearts of the leaders with greed.


Likewise, the LCMS seminaries and the Little Schoolhouse on the Prairie (Bethany ELS) are agenda driven - no matter what their claims are. The cost for students is outrageous, because the denominations took away support for their schools so they could spend the money on themselves, salaries, and perks - always calling it "missions." 

So I hope that waste of money is thoroughly exposed. One more thing - If someone borrows enough and works his wife enough to get through seminary without being hated out, there is a distinct possibility he will be removed from his first parish for a variety of reasons. He will then have a mountain of debt and a worthless education.

End of Jeremiad, Part I.

So what is left? The concept of the divinity school remains, and that offers freedom. Some will cry out, "But those are liberal!" Oh - and the denominations are not? Grab your Ovaltine, snuggle up with a favorite plush toy, and listen to the facts.

The main benefit is having the freedom to learn without the structure of the denomination, which decrees certain relatives can do nothing wrong and others can do nothing right. What someone learns at a divinity school is entirely up to him. He has access to a vast supply of books, theological resources, and opinions.

At Notre Dame, in a doctoral seminar, the Catholic professor (Frank Fiorenza) and the seminarians were free to criticize the infallibility of the pope. A parish priest from the area said in a frustrated burst of emotion, "I don't know why most of you are here." Parish priests tend to be more conservative and obedient to the papacy. Students and faculty were free to express themselves. As I wrote before, two Roman Catholic religious (belonging to orders) said, "There is no use talking to you," when I said I certainly believed in the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection of Christ. One became the president of a famous Christian Brothers college. The other religious taught at a Roman Catholic school, even though he married his mistress and left the priesthood. 

In the same class, a Holy Cross father with a PhD said, "Luther was right about justification." Of course, he would be kicked out of WELS, the ELS, and the CLC (sic) - but he was not kicked out of Rome or Notre Dame or his order.

I am not going to suggest a given independent school. An education is what the student makes of it. 

What happens next? An independent school may give an MA, an MDiv, or doctoral degrees. Almost every group recognizes a degree from another school. The Great Walther only had a bachelor's degree from a rationalistic university, plus years of training in abusive Pietism. And yet, he is the Rosetta Stone for all of theology, Luther, the Bible, everything.

A graduate degree allows someone to teach, and those opportunities are increasing with online education. The old study at a bricks-and-mortar school concept is dead, so the education side and the teaching side of theology are not limited by location (non reciprocity of the location - one can live in Bovine Falls or Steam Corners and be in class with people from all over the world). In other words, the divinity school is not limited by human geography.

Denominations are collapsing with their abandonment of their own avowed principles, so the traditional congregational structure is passing away. 

Altar design and Photoshop by Norma Boeckler.
Congregations do not need marble and gold,
only the Word of God.


A Final Thought
Lutherans have had all kinds of seminaries for a long time in America. They are far less interested in Luther and his Biblical doctrine than they were in the 1960s.

Most of those graduates were seldom exposed to the writings of Luther because the faculty members had no interest in the Reformer. Roland Bainton, a United Church of Christ liberal at Yale, had more knowledge of Luther and interest in the Reformation than any of my "Lutheran" teachers.

Seminaries teach denomination worship and "aren't we the greatest!" if there is a competing school. There always is a competing school. The CLC (sic) growls about and covets WELS. The Wisconsin sect growls about and covets Missouri. The LCMS looks down on ELCA and invites the ELCA apostates to lecture them and lead them unto the green pastures of Thrivent grants.