The mainline denominations are based upon Pietism and Calvinism, and they include the LCMS, WELS, and the other ones claiming to be Lutheran while also despising Luther's doctrine. The slide into Universalism was inevitable, given the Pietistic foundation of the ELCA-LCMS-WELS-ELS. Stephan and his toady Walther came over as Pietists with cell groups, and the Synodical Conference promotes cell groups more than ever before. Pietism does not mix well with the Means of Grace: one excludes the other.
Pietism is a big topic to study. Fortunately, I came from a college where Pietism was its foundation, and they had no trouble discussing the topic - Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois. The Pietist was the name of the independent Swedish tabloid that influenced their escape to America.
In contrast, WELS-ELS-LCMS came from Pietism and cannot admit that simple fact. Mirthless Mark Schroeder claimed WELS had always been orthodox and still is. The Steadfast Lutheran (sic) Harrison fan-club imagines they are against Pietism when they discuss tobacco and alcohol! Both groups advocate Pietism's UOJ and argue against Justification by Faith.
Pietism's Real Church versus the Means of Grace
Pietism began as a revolt against the philosophical debates of the Lutherans and Calvinists.
The Pietists gathered around a given congregation, but the real church was the lay-led cell group. Pietism fostered the idea that their cell groups - for prayer and Bible study - set them apart and made them superior to the spiritually dead hedonists in the congregation and state church.
Therefore, they identified preaching and teaching the Word and administering the Sacraments as subordinate to their prayer and Bible study groups.
Walther's Bishop Stephan was a Pietist called to a Pietist congregation. Stephan organized a parallel group of Pietists to support him and to meet elsewhere with him (contrary to law). He claimed spiritual and sexual control over the women in his group, but seemed to specialize in young, single women.
Walther got his Easter absolution Objective Justification from Stephan and always taught that the entire world was declared righteous when Christ rose from the dead. This is the teaching of Pietism's Halle University, not Luther, Melanchthon, Chemnitz, or the Bible.
The Walther circle followed one abusive Pietist leader until he moved away and died, then latched onto Stephan, another abusive Pietist. This was the later state of Pietism, where those followers found relief from the rationalism in the state church. The state church considered them mystics and trouble-makers - and were not eager to ordain them or give them positions in the state church.
The Means of Grace were administered in the state churches by the rationalistic clergy who were seen as enemies of the Pietists. The state church passed anti-conventicle laws against the Pietists, which served to increase the alienation. Therefore, all Pietists - not just Lutherans - saw each other's groups as allies and the state churches of Europe as the enemy. The Pietistic Lutherans who came to America were inclined to join with any group that also promised to emphasize holiness and separating from the evil world. Many Swedes became Methodists and Mormons for that reason.
1. Doctrinal indifference. Pietists are annoyed and infuriated by doctrinal
2. Unionism. We find an unseemly zeal in Pietists to have all manner of
denominations in religious projects together. Some examples are James
Tiefel’s pan-denominational worship conference, Bethany College
having a Roman Catholic bishop as a featured speaker, and Wisconsin
Lutheran College aping Bethany by promoting Roman Catholic
Archbishop Weakland as a special speaker, along with other Roman
Catholic priests!388 The Missouri Synod has featured ELCA women
pastors preaching in their pulpits, always with a feeble and toothless
3. Lay led cell groups. According to Pietists, this is the real church. They
feverishly promote cell groups under a variety of names: home Bible
study, prayer, koinonia, care or share groups. Lutheran Pietists need
congregations to support their work, but they regard those who attend
cell group meetings as the only genuine members. Waldo Werning and
Kent Hunter, both listed in Who’s Who in Church Growth, heavily
promoted cell groups in the Missouri Synod and WELS. Cell groups
manufacture disciples, they claim.
4. The ordination of women. Cell groups have by-passed normal
synodical restrictions on women teaching men and usurping authority.
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Columbus, Ohio, introduced Serendipity
cell groups in the 1980s with a husband and wife leading the sessions.
Soon the husband disappeared. Then, when a man questioned how the
group was being managed, the woman snarled at him, “I’m in charge
5. Promotion of Reformed publications. Look up the Northwestern
Publishing House website and look at the evangelism books. Examine
the reading list for the Missouri Synod’s evangelism committees and
synodical commission. Read the Church of the Lutheran Confession’s
While There Is Day. Study footnotes in evangelism books. You will find
the muddy footprints of the Reformed. You will not find these
characters promoting orthodox Lutheran authors.
6. Spiritual gifts inventory. Lutheran leaders borrowed this from the
Pentecostals, dreaming that it would beef up their congregation’s
7. Denigration of the ministry, worship, and the Sacraments. Everyone is a
minister, so the divinely called pastor becomes a hireling to manage cell
groups. Worship must generate fuzzy feelings, so the Law/Gospel
sermon, the liturgy, creeds, pipe organ, and vestments must go.
Baptism can remain for now, but Holy Communion is pushed into the background as an obstacle.
Pietistic groups also insisted on a born-again experience, misinterpreting John 3, so that provided an identity and no lack of sanctimony among them, which remains a singular characteristic today. The Church Growthers - now called Missional - are the real Christians and their cell groups build the real church.
"What may be the reason why the Pietists, who were really well-intentioned
people, hit upon the doctrine that no one could be a Christian unless he had
ascertained the exact day and hour of his conversion? The reason is that they
imagined a person must suddenly experience a heavenly joy and hear an inner
voice telling him that he had been received into grace and had become a child
of God. Having conceived this notion of the mode and manner of conversion,
they were forced to declare that a person must be able to name the day and
hour when he was converted, became a new creature, received forgiveness of
sins, and was robed in the righteousness of Christ. However, we have already
come to understand in part what a great, dangerous, and fatal error this is."
C. F. W. Walther, The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel, trans., W.
H. T. Dau, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1928, p. 194f. Thesis IX.
"Meanwhile, back in Europe the corrosive effects of Pietism in blurring
doctrinal distinctions had left much of Lutheranism defenseless against the
devastating onslaught of Rationalism which engulfed the continent at the
beginning of the 19th century. With human reason set up as the supreme
authority for determining truth, it became an easy matter to disregard doctrinal
differences and strive for a 'reasonable' union of Lutherans and Reformed."
Martin W. Lutz, "God the Holy Spirit Acts Through the Lord's
Supper," God The Holy Spirit Acts, ed., Eugene P. Kaulfield, Milwaukee:
Northwestern Publishing House, 1972, p. 176.
Note - the heart of the rationalistic Seminex movement in the LCMS came from WELS' Northwestern College, two of its faculty members, and many of its alumni. NWC alumni meetings have often featured cars with Seminex bumper stickers.
"Pietism greatly weakened the confessional consciousness which was
characteristic of orthodox Lutheranism."
Helge Nyman, "Preaching (Lutheran): History," The Encyclopedia of the
Lutheran Church, 3 vols., ed. Julius Bodensieck, Minneapolis: Augsburg
Publishing House, 1965, III, p. 1945.
Jacob Spener published his Pia Desideria (Pious Wishes) in 1675 when
he was 40 years old. The famous book was simply an essay, published as a
preface to one of J. Arndt’s sermon books. Spener had the advantage of a free
promotional ride in a very popular and respected book. Much later, Arndt was
still regarded as highly as Luther, so Spener had the benefit of this association.
The Muhlenberg tradition regarded Pietism favorably, but the Missouri Synod
did not. Nevertheless, for all the sound criticism aimed at Pietists by name in
Law and Gospel, Walther did not name Spener in his classic work. Although I am
guessing, I believe that Walther spared Spener because of the man’s iconic
stature in the Lutheran Church. Spener’s proposals in Pia Desideria are
summarized by Heick below.
“It contains six proposals for a reformation of the Church:
(1) a more diligent study of the Bible;
(2) a more serious application of Luther’s doctrine of the general
priesthood of all believers;
(3) confession of Christ by deed rather than a fruitless search after
(4) prayer for unbelievers and erring Christians rather than useless
(5) reform of the theological curriculum with emphasis on personal
(6) devotional arrangement of sermons instead of formal arrangement
after the manner of rhetoric.”
Mark and Avoid Jeske, Pietist:
Pastor Mark Jeske offered almost the same program of Pietistic reform
in the Wisconsin Synod, when he addressed a conference:
Here are the top ten areas of our ministries in which I would like to see
1. Myself. I trust God too little...
2. We don't prize our synod and our ministry relationships enough... Our
called workers at 2929 will tell you that they take a lot more abuse than
3. We need to loosen up.... Our public worship/praise/prayer style seems
stiff, overly formal, unemotional, smotheringly doctrinal. I personally
do not think that our synod in general has a good balance of head &
heart in our worship life. There. I said it. [GJ- "heart" is a Pietism slogan]
4. Our schools are not being fully utilized to draw unchurched people into
5. We need to love cities more. [GJ - But live in the posh, white burbs, like him.]
6. We need to welcome diversity, prize new racial groups and the cultural
and ministry treasures that they bring. New people groups coming in to
the WELS will not pollute our "pure" (quotation marks in the original)
Lutheran practices. but enrich them.
7. We need a little more sanity and calm in our discussions of church
fellowship. Things I can't stand:
• Assigning a seminary professor a paper and then letting all
applications and conclusions become canon law instead of each of
us getting into Word [sic] personally.
• Passing off crude oversimplification as WELS canon law, such as,
"You can't pray with anybody who is not WELS," or "if anyone
rejects a clear word of God, he is in rebellion against the most High
God and you can't be sure that he/she is really saved.
• We have a very highly developed sense of what we can't do with
other Christians, to the point that it is safer to have nothing to do
with other Christians. We lack the positive side of dealing with
other Christians in practical ways.
8. I think we need a little more sanity in dealing with men/women role
issues in the church... sometimes the WELS position is described as
asserting male headship in all relationships: in family, church and
society. Scripture speaks only of the first two areas, and so should we.
| Jeske organizes these Change or Die! Conferences|
to emphasize unionism and women's ordination.
No one in his tribe (WELS) seems to mind.
He is a typical Pietist - sanctimonious and opposed to sound doctrine.