A glance at the religious, political and social situation has to force us to think of these words of the Lord to Timothy: “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof.” 2 Timothy 3:1-5.
With horror we must be aware of the godless spirit, which is an enemy of Christ, intruding into and ravaging every aspect of home and public life. With dismay must we see how family life is being destroyed, and that which is called education and civilization has sunk to being a haughty and self-willed materialism which works toward overturning all divine ordinances and social conditions. The god of this world is mighty in all kinds of secret societies and large mergers which undermine both church and state. People are living as they want and are guiding them-selves neither according to the Law of God nor of the land, but are pushing their own demands and are fighting for them with all their might.
If we ask about a counter-balance against this, then we find even there where a person could expect something better, namely in the church, also there, rationalism and the doctrines of reason at work. People are accommodating the testimony of the church to the demands of contemporary man. A person must not carry on any fight for the truth of God’s Word, or preach so that the world becomes angry or so that someone feels a sting which makes him to be a person who needs forgiveness of sin and grace. A person must only cultivate peace and quiet and show such love which flirts with everything and everyone and seeks to win the respect of the world through large numbers of men and means. It happens so easily and is so much in tune with the spirit of the time to mix Law and Gospel in such a way that Christ becomes a New Testament law-giver and a teacher of morals, and His message a conditioned Gospel whose con-tent is based on man’s attitude. But in this way however the foundation of the church is in reality destroyed, Christ’s message of grace to sinners denied, and something in man put in His place as the deciding factor.
But the work of Christ and the Comforter here on earth is still to convince the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment. Of sin, because they do not believe in Christ, of righteousness, because He is going to the Father, and of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged (John 16). But this message is foolishness and an offense to the world in general. Therefore many even in the Lutheran Church are taken up with reconciling Christ’s doctrine with the spirit of the times. That the departures from Christ occur in a subtle way is even worse because many people are being carried along in the strong current because they do not consider where it is leading.
With fear and heartfelt anxiety we must think of what the future holds for our children, our country and its people. If we look at the kind of dam which the great and mighty in the land have to set up against the raging current, then plenty of individual voices are heard saying that an education which is religion-less and at enmity with Christ does not save from ruin. He must be more than blind who does not see the handwriting on the wall even now after the violent revolutions in Europe and the increasing barbaric scene against law and justice in our own land.
Still, most statesmen and large universities just keep on recommend-ing more and more expensive education in only worldly things without once mentioning religion, the Word of God, or the fear of God. People are challenged to set high ideals for themselves, but what do those words mean for people who do not have confidence in or use for a single word of God for the instruction and bringing up of the youth.
We ought to consider that our public education, which is religion-less and often inimical to Christ, is so set up from the lowest class in the public school to the highest at the university so that through it people shall be made capable of attaining high ideals. That means, then, really the things which the world craves, namely, honor, power, riches and good days here in this life. But tell me then whether the pursuit of such things is anything other than craving for and cultivating the things which the Lord calls thorns and thistles which suffocate the good seed? (Mk. 4:19; Lk. 8:14) Men of the church also often recommend high ideals at school — and graduation festivities which are then also to be understood only of earthly things. Are not such words contrary to these words of the Lord: “Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate” (Ro. 12:16)?
Mere earthly wisdom cannot form any defense against foolishness and profligacy. “The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken: lo, they have rejected the word of the Lord; and what wisdom is in them?” says Jeremiah (8:9). “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding,” says Solomon (Pr. 9:10). “The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple” (Ps. 19:7). Only “godliness is profitable unto all things” (1 Ti. 4:8). We know that the Lord “has established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: that the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and de-clare them to their children: that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments” (Ps. 78:5–7).
We must confess that our fathers in the Norwegian Synod both taught us the will of God about the bringing up of children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, that they had several parochial schools, and that they used the Word of God in the home more than the case has been with us for a long time. Would that we now all could say to God with David: “Horror has taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake your law” (Ps. 119:53). Then we would have enough of both the will and the competence to care better for our children’s spiritual welfare than to let the state next to suppress them with only worldly things.
In the synodical report for 1873 there is an excellent report by President H.A. Preus on the school matter which ought to be studied and put into practice. If we will not obey God’s command about our own children’s regular instruction in and their bringing up in the fear of God, what then will we obey Him in? If we only talk nicely about this matter and complain without doing something serious about it, then the result of our work well becomes only a repetition of the ruin of the old Synod. And yet I can joyfully remind the Synod that some congregations, namely, Somber and Lime Creek, together with Bethany in Iowa and Albert Lea, Minnesota, have parochial schools in operation, just as Fairview congregation in Minneapolis has made a good beginning. I understand also that there is good hope that Western Koshkonong will soon begin a parochial school. On the Pacific coast there were at one time five such schools, while only one can be found there now, the one in Parkland.
I am fully convinced that this is our most important home and foreign mission: To establish English-language Lutheran schools for children to which there are gathered all the children one can get, in order to instruct them about God’s great love to all men and to bring them up to be conscientious Christians and citizens. People are going to experience sufficiently with time that not so few parents learn to set a price on using such schools. Therefore I believe that mission money cannot be used better at the present time than with helping Lutheran congregations, especially in the larger cities, to establish and maintain such mission-institutions for children. Or are we to think that we ought to continue with neglecting our own children, but send money and workers far away in order to do mission work? I wonder if that is really, in that way, working toward transferring the candlestick from us to others. We know from the Word of God, and we experience it daily, that even with long and expensive instruction in schools, people cannot be preserved in their baptismal covenant or be made into good citizens of the country without the discipline of the Word of God.
Would that everyone in our church body would remember that the Lord is like a best friend who is close to us when He speaks to us in the Scriptures about our children’s instruction and upbringing in the fear of God so that we therefore will listen to Him. Then we would soon get a conscience so awakened and a burning feeling of our responsibility over toward the will and command of God that we got no peace in sending our children to schools that are religion-less and at enmity with Christ, but learned to know and to follow the Lord’s will.
Then shall we see that we are competent because the Lord certainly keeps words like these also: “And it shall come to pass, if you shall hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord your God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command you this day, that the Lord your God will set you on high above all nations of the earth: and all these blessings shall come on you, and overtake you, if you shall hearken unto the voice of the Lord your God. Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, and the fruit of the ground, and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds, and the flocks of your sheep. Blessed shall be your basket and your store. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out,” etc.
“But it shall come to pass, if you will not hearken unto the voice of the Lord your God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command you this day; that all these curses shall come upon you, and overtake you: Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the field. Cursed shall be your basket and your store. Cursed shall be the fruit of your body, and the fruit of your land. … Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out. The Lord shall send upon you cursing, vexation, and rebuke in all that you set your hand unto to do,” etc. (De. 28:1–6;15–20). In the rest of the 28th chapter of Deuteronomy the Lord enumerates many weighty judgments to the Jews. Though His own people, they should be plucked up and dispersed, which we know has happened as a warning and instruction for us. “Hear, and give ear; be not proud: for the Lord has spoken” (Jeremiah 13:15).
But as an objection against the establishment of Christian schools this word of the Lord is often quoted: “You fathers, bring up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ep. 6:4), as if the fathers must do this important work alone without the teaching ministry in the congregation. It is certainly the duty of fathers to care for each member of their family. They are certainly doing it also who through their rights as citizens have arranged for and are paying for the public school which does not have so serious and difficult things to instruct in, as in the way to salvation. And if there are fathers or mothers in the congregation who have time, accommodations, ability and training for repeating for the children all the counsel of God unto salvation, Law and Gospel, as diligently as the Lord prescribes, and as one finds that the children need in order to be well prepared for the seriousness of the spiritual life and equipped against the dangers and temptations of the times, then let such become the teachers also of other children whose parents do not have the time and ability to do the Lord’s command fully.
Parents who really want to bring up their children to be citizens of heaven will soon find that the least expensive and best arrangement is to establish Christian schools together with other Christians and not send their children to a school which does not instruct about God or His grace or uses the Word either as a means for encouragement and discipline with which they can teach the children to know and to master the old Adam.
I dare to lay such emphasis on this matter, frankly, because it is my conviction that we do not need to build our own institution of higher-learning or to install several teachers if we do not want to, but can still get pastors and teachers well trained if only we could send to confessionally faithful Lutheran institutions, pious and conscientious youths who in faith and love to God want to serve His church among us. It is my wish that our church body could reach an agreement with our Missourian brethren in the faith so that we can assist in and use their institutions of higher learning as though they were our own, so long as they, as now, train capable and faithful workers in the church.
Since I have had abundant opportunity for several years now to ob-serve close up the confessional principles and the work of several newly trained young pastors and teachers, I dare to give the Synod this counsel frankly.
As a great blessing and comfort for our work we surely do hold fast to the doctrines and principles on which the old Norwegian Synod stood firm during the entire time from 1853 to 1911. The few weaknesses which appeared were warded off and corrected through clear testimony. We do not need to waste time and strength in long discussions with ecclesiastical opponents. We do, however, now have experiences of how useless and harmful they have been. People know our faith and doctrine, or people can easily ascertain them without our engaging in further discussions. If someone wants to show honorably and openly that he cherishes the important doctrines which gave our fathers in the Synod wisdom and ability even during periods of poverty to do so much for the founding and success of the church among our people in our country, then we are always willing to extend the fraternal hand. It is up to every one of us to remain at his post and to believe in the acknowledged truth unto the end.
It is painful to observe that even now only individuals from our former brethren in faith have declared themselves free of responsibility for un-Lutheran doctrine and un-churchly practice in “The Norwegian Lutheran Church in America.” I wonder if they really comfort themselves with the deplorable statement which the majority in the Norwegian Synod adopted in 1913, that “the Synod, as a church body, will not be responsible for the statements of individual men, whether orally or in print, unless it is in one or another manner the same as the synod has sanctioned.” The Lord certainly does not bow before what a majority wants or does not want. Because he says to everyone in Leviticus 19:17: “You shall in any wise rebuke your neighbor, and not suffer sin upon him.” And Ezekiel 33:8: “If you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at your hand.”
It is my hope that the Synod will not yield to the temptation to set up other large or small funds than the ones which we now have to help churches and schools through interest-free loans, or the church not be drawn into worldly business with unsafe banking business or lending money, lawsuits and foreclosures, even against poor church members. With Luther and our Confessions in the Smalcald Articles we must bemoan the fact that “usury and avarice have burst in like a deluge and have taken on the color of legality” (Preface of Dr. Martin Luther, Tappert Edition, p. 290).
It cannot be proven with Christian reasons that believers ought to set up any other pension fund or life insurance than the one which the Lord Himself has set up with His glorious and unshakable promises about His fatherly care for soul and body in time and eternity. Can anyone assure us that the promises of financial help after death or accident are not an invention of the old serpent in order to mimic our Lord’s promises about great glories after a blessed death in faith?
They who believe God are never forsaken. They who do not believe God or are not satisfied with God’s promises to His bride, the church, have no right to bring in alien evils by setting his paltry guarantees along-side the Bridegroom’s own. If anyone becomes impoverished, even though he strove to be a good steward over God’s many kinds of grace, then the Lord has provided for it so that Christians will gladly help out where they hear of need. According to Christian love they must presuppose that no one is too proud to have his true plight known.
Even seemingly innocent pension funds tempt to questionable things. As an example the following can be mentioned which has brought on mis-givings and complaints. A moderately well-situated pastor, who like everyone else can subscribe to the pension fund or let it be, first begins to pay money into the fund later in life, but not long afterward he is one of them who according to the rules draws a yearly pension which soon surpasses what he has paid into the pension fund. What must they then think, who perhaps in more meager circumstances, have paid annual contributions for a long time, when they see such things done by better situated brethren in the ministry?
As Christians we surely believe that silver and gold belong to the Lord and that He gives everyone his appointed portion. If He had wanted that we should have a supply of them as security for our own or our children’s bodily subsistence then He would easily have been able to tell His church where silver and gold were to be found. But He has said explicitly: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust do corrupt … For where your treasure, there will your heart be also … Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things will be added unto you” (Mt. 6:19.21.33).
[The next paragraph reports that a congregation in the synod lost its church and cemetery to a minority merely because the majority could not accept Opgjør. President Gullixson encourages the congregation on the basis of 1 Peter 3:14.]
[The next paragraph reports two church dedications and one ordination within the synod during the previous year.]
[In the next paragraph President Gullixson reports briefly on his activities as president before saying:]
The fact that all kinds of counsel and instruction are not being asked of the officers of the synod ought to be a good sign that everyone is seeking through study in God’s Word and prayer to stand on their own feet and to carry out their important ministry as shepherds in faith and obedience under the direction of the Word. At any rate we must hope and pray that no servant of the Lord is giving room to temptations to think ill of the flock committed to him or to asking others about a better Call. We can ask our heavenly Father about whatever we want in the name of the Lord Jesus, but no officer among us is Lord over any Call which he can offer others.
[President Gullixson concludes his message and report by mentioning certain committee reports which will be considered during the convention, and three congregations which will be joining the Synod at this convention.]
George Albert Gullixson
Translated by J. Herbert Larson, 2004