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Where We Stand — In the Word

Prof. Glenn Reichwald

1970 Synod Convention Essay


In 1968 the Evangelical Lutheran Synod was privileged, by the grace of God, to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary. Members of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) looked back across fifty years to 1918, when a small but faithful band of witnesses stood up for the truth of the sola gratia, salvation by grace alone through faith in Christ. Because this band of witnesses stood for the truth, they refused to compromise with error. That was a courageous Christian stand on their part. Today the ELS enjoys the fruit and blessing of that act: the preaching of the Gospel in all its purity and sweetness.

This fiftieth anniversary, just celebrated, also reminds us that much time has passed. The events of 1917, the merger of the various Norwegian–American Lutheran synods on the basis of a shaky theological agreement, fully justified the creation of the ELS in 1918, or rather the continuation of the Scriptural position of the older, pre-1917 Norwegian Synod in the ELS.

But this is 1970. Much time has passed; one must honestly face the question: “Is there a valid reason for the existence of the ELS today?” There are, of course, critics of the ELS who would answer with a loud “No!” But that question must also be answered by every delegate to a synodical convention, every member of each synodical board before they proceed with any business, and, especially, every member of the ELS.

The continued existence of the ELS cannot be justified merely on the basis of an event which occurred fifty years ago, or because there happens to be a synodical organization existing today. A Christian church body can only justify its continued existence by valid theological reasons; there must be stronger reasons than habit or tradition.

What then can be said? An examination of the visible Christian church, including most of the Lutheran synods in the United States, will fully justify the existence of the ELS. Its Scripturally based, conservative testimony is needed as much today as fifty years ago — and even perhaps more, if one may venture a value judgment. In 1918 the majority of American Lutherans accepted the Bible as the inspired Word of God. And yet the controversy which led to the formation of the ELS was over a doctrine of the Scriptures. Today the very Scripture itself is under attack.

In far too many places Scripture has ceased to be the authority for doctrine in the visible church; the words of Christ, “It is written” (Matthew 4:4.7.10), are no longer echoed. The Scriptures are criticized for the way they are written, for their content, and for their theology. These criticisms are over a wide range, from near conservative to wildly liberal. Furthermore, these differences are not mere academic arguments over words. The very heart and center of Christian theology, salvation by grace alone through faith in Christ, has suffered by being twisted or even denied. St. John’s statement of purpose for the Scriptures is forgotten: “These are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God: and that believing, ye might have life through His name” (John 20:31). But where the Scriptures are denied or made unreliable, how can anyone really know Christ as his Savior?

Upon this situation the ELS must give an answer to where it stands and also the reasons why. The issues cannot be avoided, but rather must be joined. But when all is said and done, we will find ourselves strengthened in the stand we have taken in the Word of God. Yes, when we are asked where we stand in the fellowship of our Synod, we will all give the answer, “In the Word!”

A. The Old Way

In former — and happier — days the ELS had no problem in agreeing with the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod ( LCMS) on the doctrine of the Scriptures. In fact, the Brief Statement of the LCMS, published in 1932, summarized and still summarizes the position of the ELS on the Scriptures. It is not the ELS that has become confused on the doctrine of the Scriptures. The Brief Statement says:

We teach that the Holy Scriptures differ from all other books in the world in that they are the Word of God. They are the Word of God because the holy men who wrote the Scriptures wrote only that which the Holy Ghost communicated to them by inspiration, 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21. We teach also that the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures … is taught by direct statements of the Scriptures, 2 Tim. 3:16; John 10:35; Rom. 3:2; 1 Cor. 2:13. Since the Holy Scriptures are the Word of God, it goes without saying that they contain no errors or contradictions, but that they are in all their parts and words the infallible truth, also in those parts which treat of historical, geographical, and other secular matters, John 10:35.1

Conservative Lutherans, who hold this position, have summarized this position in the phrase “plenary and verbal inspiration.”

Critics of this position seemingly have attempted to give the impression that this position is rather new. Philip A. Quanbeck, in When God Speaks, says: “Some Protestant Christians, especially in the last hundred years or so, have answered the question” of the authority of the Bible “by answering that the Bible is a perfect book.”2 While there has been considerable refining and defining of the doctrine of inspiration in recent years, this activity was necessary because of the extensive attacks on the Scriptures. But the doctrine of a perfect Bible has been a part of Christian doctrine from the earliest days.

The position of the early Christian church on the Scriptures is plain enough. L. Gaussen, in his old but excellent defense of the inspiration of Scriptures, summarizes the early centuries of the church as follows:

With the exception … of Theodore of Mopsuestia, it has been found impossible to produce, in the long course of the EIGHT FIRST CENTURIES OF CHRISTIANITY a single doctor who has disowned the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures, unless it be in the bosom of the most violent heresies that have tormented the Christian Church.3

Luther’s position on the Scriptures as the perfect Word of God was ably and completely presented to the 1964 convention by the Reverend Arnold Kuster in his essay “Luther and the Word of God,” which showed very clearly that Luther held a high view of the Scriptures.4

The Lutheran Confessions have no specific doctrinal article on the Scriptures. This does not mean, as is sometimes heard, that the fathers of the Lutheran Church were not interested in the doctrine of the inspiration of the Scriptures, but rather that they were agreed on the doctrine, Hence, there was no need for a specific statement. Yet when the Confessions do refer to the Scriptures, they have the highest praise for them. The Formula of Concord, as an example, states:

We believe, teach, and confess that the sole rule and standard according to which all dogmas together with (all) teachers should be estimated and judged are the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures of the Old and New Testament alone. …

The Holy Scriptures alone remain the only judge, rule, and standard, according to which as the only test-stone, all dogma shall and must be discerned and judged, as to whether they are good or evil, right or wrong.5

The fathers of the Lutheran Church appealed to the perfect Scriptures as a perfect measure of Christian doctrine.

This is not a conclusion of the writer alone. Dr. Ralph Bohlmann, who made a special study of the attitude of the Lutheran Confessions toward t11e Scriptures, states in his excellent book Principles of Biblical Interpretation in the Lutheran Confessions:

For the confessions, Holy Scripture is the divinely authored and infallible Word of God throughout which God speaks the condemnatory word of Law and the forgiving word of Gospel in order to make men wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.6

This respectful attitude toward the Scriptures was typical of all of historic Protestantism:

Classical Protestantism, both Lutheran and Reformed, had accepted the Bible as a unique, authoritative, and infallible revelation of God. All information contained in this holy volume was considered to be historically and scientifically accurate. Every matter of Christian faith and life was to be determined by its declarations. The function of human reason was to understand and to apply the truth of the Bible, but it was intrinsically impossible for the mind of man to improve upon it. Difficulties … were attributed … to the inadequacy of human reason to grasp the deep things of God.7

When in the nineteenth century liberalism took over in Europe, conservative Lutheranism was transplanted to the United States, especially to the Midwest. While a number of the Eastern synods were liberal, the Midwestern synods generally held to the Scriptures. When there were doctrinal controversies, appeal was made to the authority of the Scriptures. This is mentioned only as a general observation here. The authority of Scripture has disappeared within many church bodies — and Lutheran church bodies are included. Liberalism of various kinds has taken root in the Lutheran Church. The result is theological confusion. As we look around today, too often we can see that the old has given way to the new.

B. The New Way

When the Apostle Paul thought of his ministry and its objectives, he told the Corinthians: “I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2). It centered in Christ. Nor was there any room in Paul’s thinking for a subjective approach to theology, for he saw the doctrine which he had preached as a gift of God to be handed on. Thus he could tell Timothy: “O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust” (I Timothy 6:20). (Note the Greek: Paratheken.) Furthermore, Christ had no complaints about the quality of the Scriptures, for He said: “The Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). The reason for the quality and the blessings of Scripture are stated in II Timothy 3:15–17: “From a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”

Many of the voices lifted in the visible church today do not echo these inspired thoughts. They reflect, rather, the wide gulf which has developed between the position in the Scriptures and the position of many liberal theologians today. This conflict cannot be stressed too much, lest some think that this is merely an argument over words. It is much more a struggle for the survival of the Christian faith.

There are many symptoms of a change. Mary Merryfield, in the January 7, 1970, issue of the Chicago Tribune, reported an interview with several students from the Garrett Theological Seminary:

The discussion turned to the Bible. “It’s not that the Bible is no good,” one says. “It’s just that when you bring it into the classrooms and start talking about it, divorced from life, suddenly the New and Old Testaments become meaningless. As to how we feel about Jesus and his disciples being real people — to me they are very real myths. Not that they didn’t exist, but we don’t know what they really were like.8

The Bible and the Christ of the Bible were uncertainties at best.

A similar example was found in the “Letters to the Editor” section of Newsweek. One of the columnists of Newsweek, Stuart Alsop, had been critical of Yale Divinity School in his column. The president of that school responded to the criticism, and Alsop commented further on his experiences at that school:

Last year, at Yale, I interviewed three Divinity School students. … I was naive enough to ask them whether they studied the Bible much, and was informed that one was specializing in “New Left Politics,” another in “the causes of campus unrest,” and the third in “revolution and theology.”9

These students were much more interested in sociology and social action than in any kind of theology. In fact, it would seem that social action was their theology. Neither of the schools referred to above is Lutheran, but it is an interesting indication of what is going on in some seminaries.

The Scriptures themselves are suffering today from man’s mishandling. They are seen not as the authoritative Word of God for men, but rather as records of the subjective experiences of men. The concept of objective truth disappears. Dr. Philip Quanbeck of the American Lutheran Church (ALC) asserts of the four Gospels:

The Gospels are documents of faith; they are responses of believing men to something absolutely decisive which happened in their midst and to which they were compelled to bear witness. Their authority rests, not in such historical perfection as we might be willing to claim for them, … but in the fact that they are adequate responses to what happened among them.10

Terrence E. Fretheim, assistant professor of the Old Testament at ALC’s Luther Seminary in St. Paul, says essentially the same thing:

Thus the authority of the Old Testament as the Word of God for us, the point at which it has relevance for our day and age, rests … in that faith that is reflected in each of the biblical texts.11

Thus, in this view, the Scriptures are “true” insofar as they reflect the experiences of the men who wrote the Scriptures. The Scriptures, accordingly, may contain the “honest mistakes” of their writers insofar as the Scriptures reflect the imperfect knowledge of the men who wrote them. More will be said on this later.

There must also be quoted here the words of two professors from St. Louis Concordia Seminary of the LCMS. Dr. Arthur Carl Piepkorn concludes in an article entitled “What Does ‘Inerrancy’ Mean?” wherein he lists a number of difficulties as he sees them in the Scriptures:

We quite properly shy away from “contradictions,” “errors,” and “mistakes.” Yet such euphemisms as “paradoxes,” “discrepancies,” “disagreements,” and “variations” are hardly better.12

At the end of his article he states that it would be best “to refrain from using the term ‘inerrancy’” in connection with the Scriptures and to speak of the Scriptures as “true and dependable.”13 That last phrase sounds rather innocent until one remembers that Dr. Martin Scharlemann of the same faculty stated in a paper delivered to that faculty: “In this paper I propose to defend the paradox that the Book of God’s truth contains errors.”14 These words supplement the words of Dr. Piepkorn.

Dr. Frederik Schiotz, president of ALC, also severely limits the value of the Scriptures for Christians and empties the doctrinal paragraph of his church body of all its meaning when he asserts: “The ALC holds that the inerrancy referred to here does not apply to the text but to the truths revealed for our faith, doctrine and life.”15

All of the above seem to make the very unique claim for the Scriptures: While the written words are not always too reliable, what they say in religious matters can be believed. This seems to the writer of this essay to be a very basic internal contradiction in their method.

When one discusses the Scriptures and their reliability in passing on to us the information God wanted men to have, both Law and Gospel, this is not just an argument about words, for it affects the very Gospel itself. Dr. Horace Hummel, associate professor of Old Testament at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and rather liberal in his approach to the Scriptures, replies to comments on an earlier article of his in the Lutheran Forum:

It plainly is fashionable (at best) in many quarters to be vague, “poetic,” and less than certain about not only the facticity of the basic biblical events, but of the Christian proclamation of their redemptive meaning as well. Anyone who takes a clear firm stand with the Bible’s “Thus says Yahweh,” “I know whom I have believed,” etc., is almost automatically suspect!

As a Lutheran writing to Lutherans, I would have at least assumed some working definition of “Gospel” like “the good news of eternal salvation in Christ’s death and resurrection for everyone who believes” could have been assumed. However, quite a few of both my positive and negative respondents have insisted that no such assumption can any longer be made, and hence, it is said, we must learn to live with our “pluralism.”16

With the disappearance of the certainty of Scriptures, the Gospel becomes unclear, and, what is worse, the Gospel actually has developed into a variety of ideas.

At this point it would be well to introduce an example of how this modern approach to the Scriptures affects Christian theology. It was rather difficult at first to decide which type of a model to use, moderate or extreme. Ultimately it seemed better to use a more radical example. After all, the extreme is the logical result of any position. The example chosen How Jesus Became God by Conrad Henry Moehlman.17 The reason for its used is that it is rather dearly written and speaks very directly. Moehlman very clearly what he thinks of Christianity and where mistakes were in the past. One can group his comments by topic.

Christ receives rather harsh treatment from Moehlman:

“Jesus was not a Christian: he was a Jew.” … It was only after his death that the eschatological congregation at Jerusalem made a Christian of him. …

Jesus’ first appeal to his contemporaries was as a prophet and a rabbi and probably as an exorcist. Placing himself at the converging point of a group of humble men and women … they regarded him as the son of Joseph and Mary. … Some of his disciples … tried to turn him into a Son of David, Messiah, a political leader, and his career came to a sudden and humiliating end through the intervention of the Roman procurator, Pontius Pilate. … In the defeat of their grand hopes they as religious persons sought light and comfort in their Holy Book, the Bible of Judaism. They read there in the Book of Daniel about another type of Messiah from the Son of David. … They boldly substituted him for the Son of David. … Later when they were saturated with this idea, they composed their reminiscences, predating the Son of Man and writing their gospels from the point of this new faith.

Jesus evidently discriminated between God and himself. He was not God! He was a teacher sent from God.

The resurrection faith in its earliest form arose very soon after the crucifixion. Power of the personality of Jesus produced it. … Karl Barth in his Resurrection of the Dead, page 79, holds that Christ’s resurrection is a “fact as ambiguous as are all earthly facts.”18

This picture of Christ is not the picture we receive from the Scriptures or confess in the creeds.

The Scriptures are similarly handled very roughly by Moehlman; the same methodology is applied to them as to Christ. The Gospels are seen as containing several layers of teachings. Regarding miracles Moehlman states: “The oldest tradition is relatively free from emphasis upon Miracle.”19 Thus to Moehlman the early Christians were guilty of adding details to the life of Christ which fitted their concepts of Him. Furthermore, according to this author, the early Christian Church misused the Old Testament:

Thus by allegorization the Old Testament can be made to prove any Christian contention. … The Jerusalem church apparently first discovered that it could transform any passage whatever in the Old Testament that it needed for the messiahship of Jesus from what it originally and historically meant by the medium of allegorical interpretation. … They searched the Scriptures and often completely reinterpreted them to meet their needs.20

What these words really seem to say is that there is no prophecy in the Old Testament; the Christian Church read Christ back into the Old Testament.

According to Moehlman the Gospel went through several steps before it became what it finally became. By piecing together statements from his book the following steps supposedly occurred according to him:

Last but not least in the background of Jesus is his acquaintance with John the Baptizer, a very popular preacher of righteousness. … His [John’s] message was ethical. … Jesus then can be understood only in this Jewish setting. Jesus’ first appeal to his contemporaries was as a prophet and a rabbi and probably as an exorcist. … Some of his disciples … tried to turn him into a Son of David, Messiah, a political leader, and his career came to a sudden and humiliating end through the intervention of the Roman procurator, Pontius Pilate. … In the defeat of their grand hopes they as religious persons sought light and comfort in their Holy Book, the Bible of Judaism. They read there in the Book of Daniel about another type of Messiah from the Son of David. He was not a political Messiah. … They boldly substituted for him the Son of David. … They fitted him into this framework as Son of Man. … A dead Messiah demanded some reconstruction. … This is the supernatural and pre-existent Messiah now at the right hand of God. … He would return again as world judge. … Thus the entire Son of Man dogma was taken over by the eschatological Jerusalem community. … The first Christians awaited the return of the Lord in person during their life. … How did the second generation of Christians survive so terrible a disappointment? They began to say that the Lord was a long time coming. … Another suggestion that occurred to some Christians when the Lord’s return was postponed was to identify the church and the Kingdom of God.21

The picture here given is one of a confused group, jumping from belief to belief. Christ supposedly was an ethical teacher, then a political failure, then a supernatural king Who would return soon to the early Church, and finally a ruling Savior.

The worship of Christ also was based on misunderstandings, according to Moehlman:

It was axiomatic that the Greek churches should call their cult hero, Kyrios. … The one Lord Jesus Christ is opposed to the many lords of the Greek cults. … But after this reference to Christ had become at home in the churches, it was read into the Old Testament and so bestowed the holy name Yahweh upon Jesus of Nazareth! Only in this way can the remarkable development be accounted for. … Jesus as Lord became the object of Christian faith.22

What these words do is to make Christ into a religious freak, the result of misunderstandings and misapplications in the early Christian Church.

We are often told that radical religious beliefs really have no effect on the Gospel and salvation, the only difference being in the approach used. Certainly the above quotations show that radical methods in handling the Gospel also radically change the Gospel itself. Incidentally, Moehlman dedicates his book to Wilhelm Bousset, Hans Lietzmann, Rudolph Bultmann, and several others, whom he characterizes as “Giants all from whom I learned to appreciate historical method.”23

Perhaps too much time was spent in quoting this book by Moehlman, but it is hoped that the quotations will work a reaction. But the other citations should not be ignored either. Certainly questions arise in one’s mind: “How can social action be substituted for the Christian Gospel?” “What has happened to Christ’s command: ‘Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature’ (Mark 16:15)?” “What happened to Christ’s evaluation of the Scriptures: ‘The Scripture cannot be broken’ (John 10:35)?”

It is also disturbing to serious-minded Christians; this goes against what they read in their Bibles, what they have learned at the feet of faithful Christian pastors over the years, what they sing in their hymns, and what they pray in their prayers. Furthermore, it is troubling that such learned men have taken such a strong stand against everything they believe. One wonders how he can hold to his faith when such mighty minds oppose his beliefs. It is even more disturbing when such literature pours off the printing presses to assault the old beliefs. For example, Augsburg Publishing House of ALC, in its Tower Book Series, has adopted a very critical attitude toward the Scriptures. The new attitude toward the Scriptures is simply assumed to be true; traditional beliefs are pushed aside.

One must be careful to maintain his perspective. The real problem, of course, is not that learned men suddenly have made the Bible into an out-of-date book. There are many learned men who hold to the plenary and verbal inspiration of the Bible. Education or lack of education really has nothing to do with the accepting of the Bible as God’s perfect book. What really has happened is that a new approach to the Scriptures — which is really not new — has gained wide acceptance in the visible church and in American Lutheranism. This new approach, a philosophy really, is very critical of the Bible and has been accepted in varying degrees. It is to this approach that this paper is especially directed.

C. Our Stand — In the Word

In a sense the ELS has stood still theologically. It has not moved with the tremendous tides of theological change which have swept the visible church. These changes were illustrated in the few quotations above and are in the area of theology and of the purpose of the church. These changes, furthermore, are tremendous in their scope; they are not merely arguments over words. Because of this one must react. One cannot play Gamaliel and say that time will decide one way or another whether what is happening is the work of men or of God, arguing that the work of men will fail in time (Acts 5:37–40). This may be true in the light of eternity, but Christ requires a stand now. “He that is not with Me is against me” (Matthew 12:30). The Apostles, after Gamaliel’s speech, went right back to testifying to the Word of God (Acts 5:41–42).

Christ’s position on the Scriptures is dear enough. When Jesus judged the quality of the Scriptures, He said: “The Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). What the Scriptures said could not be denied. When Jesus passed judgment on those who permitted their theological imagination to run wild, He was blunt: “Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God” (Matthew 22:29). These words were spoken to the Sadducees, the modernists of Jesus’ day, the Sadducees who denied the supernatural and the Scriptures. Jesus said that when they asked the question of the woman married seven times, they showed their ignorance of the Scriptures and God’s power to accomplish His purposes. When one looks at modern aberrations, the very same causes lie at the root of the problem. The Scriptures are not being followed, nor is God given credit for His gracious power in the lives of men.

What do these liberal, modern theologians believe? Hummel, rather liberal in his approach to the Scriptures, states:

It never ceases to amaze how those who find biblical authority so problematic can at the same time be so beholden to philosophy — whichsoever one they select.24

These men who are so quick to reject the authority of the Scriptures are just as quick to seize upon some philosophy — some system of human thought — and judge the Scriptures according to that philosophy, which becomes “the truth” for them. Guided by that system of philosophy, they begin to find all kinds of things in the Scriptures. Philosophy becomes the basis for judgment in theology, not the Scriptures. Because men have likings, the answers given by these various men will, of course, vary in many ways.

Once philosophy was largely outside the visible church, in greater or lesser degree depending upon the period in history. But in the Eighteenth, Nineteenth, and Twentieth Centuries the full pressure was felt. It began with a movement known as the Enlightenment, which interpreted everything in terms of natural laws. It was argued that nothing could happen contrary to these laws; therefore, it was reasoned, miracles could not happen. God was reduced to a mere force in nature (Deism) and even identified with nature (pantheism). In the Nineteenth Century a related philosophy, naturalism, which left even less room for the supernatural, dominated philosophy. Rational explanations were insisted upon for everything. This philosophy dominated the German universities, where many of the clergy were trained. It had disastrous results in Christianity.

The Bible’s statements regarding itself were ignored, and it was treated like any other book — even worse. Miracles of the Bible were denied, and the possibility of an inspired, God-given book was rejected. It was in this period that many of the theological novelties which still trouble the church today had their origin. On such a basis theological leaders operated in their handling of Christianity. The picture of Christ particularly suffered. Rejecting the clear words of the Scriptures, these mistreators of Scripture saw Him as many different things: a man trying to establish a Jewish kingdom; the product of Christian imagination; and many other things. Having left Scripture, they had only their own philosophy and imagination to rely upon. These were the so-called “quests for the historical Jesus.”25 Again it must be said that one’s attitude toward the Scriptures does also affect one’s picture of Christ.

Early Twentieth Century writers continued this approach. Adolph Harnack, whose view of Christianity is summarized in the phrase, “the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man,” saw Jesus as a mere man teaching an ethical religion. Another school of thought, the history-of-religion school, saw Christianity merely as another religion which developed in the history of the world; in this group hardly anything of the importance of Jesus was retained.26

Albert Schweitzer, himself a liberal in his theology, then appeared on the scene. He pointed out what conservatives had been saying, but he obtained a hearing. His point was that earlier liberals, by treating Jesus according to their own notions, always ended up by creating a Jesus Who agreed with their concepts. But Schweitzer also set out to find what he thought Jesus to be: a man Who saw Himself living at the end of the world and who had a sense of mission to create on earth the kingdom of God, but failed to do so.27

Perhaps too much time has been spent in considering what these men of the past did not believe about the Bible and Christ. But it does help us to understand that, when men follow their own notions, they do get rather far away from the Biblical picture of Jesus. Furthermore, in their handling of the Bible and of Christ, they certainly were most critical. In the long run, these men committed theological suicide, destroying the very faith — and the object of that faith — they should have preached for the salvation of souls. Supposedly “salesmen” of Christ, they were critical of the product they were to “sell” to people. It is no small wonder that there was a great weakening of the Christian Church in the beginning of the Twentieth Century.

One other name must be mentioned at this point, Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768–1834), who has been called the “father of modern liberal theology.” If the previous mentioned group of theologians could be recalled rationalistic subjective theologians, then Schleiermacher can be called a mystical subjective theologian. Schleiermacher, troubled by the rationalism of Enlightenment, turned to mysticism, as James I Packer testifies:

He … argued that Christianity is essentially not knowledge but a feeling of dependence upon God through Christ. The Christian faith is simply an infectious historical mysticism, “caught” (like measles) from contact with others who have it. Doctrines do not create Christian experience, but is created by it. … The proper study of theologians is man; theology is an account of certain human feelings, and its method is that of a psychological science. … On his principles, divine revelation must simply be equated with human advance into God-consciousness. Thus, his legacy to the Church can be summed up in the axiom that, whatever else revelation may be, it is not a communication of truth from God to man.28

Nor are the views of Schleiermacher theological antiques, for they are clearly reflected in the writings of Paul Tillich and J.A.T. Robertson, author of Honest to God.29 This latter book denies the fundamental Christian doctrines of the incarnation, the atonement, and many other doctrines. Schleiermacher is becoming important again and is being quoted, used, and praised.

Where Schleiermacher’s approach was followed, objective truth in Christianity disappeared. Religion was built upon the feelings of the individual. This approach only served to strengthen the position of the rationalists.

Both Schleiermacher and the rationalists were optimistic about the powers and abilities of man. This feeling was reinforced by Darwinism, the theory of evolution. While Darwin wrote especially in the biological area, social scientists and theologians were quick to apply evolution in the social and religious area. Actually, evolution was very old, but Charles Darwin gave it a pseudoscientific basis. Thus the hope of human progress was reinforced by a pseudoscientific theory which seemingly offered the hope of a virtually continuous progress toward human betterment in this world. This idea of progress also expressed itself in the social gospel, the concept that it would be possible through continued progress to solve all of the social ills of this world. The social gospel is a complete substitution of human works for salvation through faith and a sanctified life flowing from love of Christ.

Then came the terrible ordeal of World War I, and the hope of the liberal theologians for a heaven on earth collapsed in Europe. This false optimism continued for a longer period in the United States. American liberal theologians, who tried to follow the ideas of Europe, generally are several steps behind the European liberals in running after new forms of theology. Two new schools of thought appeared in Europe after World War I. The first was under the leadership of Karl Barth, who championed the dialectical, crisis theology. Unlike the liberals who saw God in nature and in the processes of human life, Barth saw God as completely transcendent and as One Who could not be identified with anything in this world, not even the words of Scripture. Knowledge of God comes only through a personal encounter with God. The Scriptures are, according to Barth, not the Word of God, but are only human words which are a vehicle for contact with God. They become the Word of God when they acquire such a meaning for the reader.30 The second view to come forward was the so-called “Bible Theology” of Edwyn Hoskyns, who argued that the Bible was not merely a book of history, but a confession of the church in a God Who has spoken and still speaks.31 It was a subjective report of the church’s faith.

These two systems of thought represent the first layer of change after liberalism. In a sense, they were a considerable improvement, for they at least placed more emphasis upon God in their systems. Yet they certainly did not treat the Scriptures as the God-given inspired book that it is. Both schools of thought followed the methods of higher criticism. Packer judges them very accurately:

The aim proposed is, not to withdraw the Bible from the acid-bath of rationalistic criticism, but to find something to add to the bath to neutralize its corrosive effects. The problem is, how to enthrone the Bible once more as judge of the errors of man while leaving man enthroned as judge of the errors of the Bible; how to commend the Bible as a true witness while continuing to charge it with falsehood. … It is proposed, by drawing certain distinctions and introducing certain new motifs, so to refashion the doctrine of revelation that the orthodox subjection of heart and mind to Biblical authority and the liberal subjection of Scripture to the authority of rationalistic criticism appear, not as contradictory, but as complementary principles, each presupposing and vindicating the other.32

Both scholars of thought did just that. For the first the Bible was a human book where one might meet God, and for the second the Bible was a human book which recorded the subjective experiences of the writers, who could be guilty of mistakes, honest misunderstandings, and false notions. Both of those views failed to see the Bible as a God-given book.

Out of these two views have arisen today a variety of views, which conflict directly with what the Bible states of itself. Dr. John Baillie, whose book The Idea of Revelation in Recent Thought has had considerable influence among liberal Lutherans, is an existentialist in his approach:

According to the Bible, what is revealed to us is not a body of information concerning various things of which we might be ignorant. If it is information at all, it is information concerning the nature and purpose of God — that and nothing else. Yet in the last resort it is not information about God that is revealed, but the very God Himself incarnate in Jesus Christ our Lord.33

Scripture, to him, is the crossroad where man and God cross paths, no more. He does not hesitate then in seeing imperfection in the Scriptures; the Scriptures are human products.

In what is given by God there is no imperfection of any kind, but there is always imperfection in what we may be allowed to call the “receiving apparatus.”34

To Baillie inspiration is merely “the illumination of the prophetic and apostolic mind,”35 i.e., they received special insights. But this is not the Scriptural view of inspiration. I Peter 1:10 states that the prophets pondered and explored their written words to find the meanings God placed in them. Furthermore, II Timothy 3:16 connects inspiration with what is written: “all Scripture.”

Dr. Theodore G. Tappert, a Lutheran, limits inspiration in another way:

The Scriptures are Word of God only insofar as or only because they are witnesses to the message of and about Christ.36

Tappert sees the Scriptures only as witnesses, and not, if one understands him correctly, the objective inspired message from God. Furthermore the quality of the Scriptures to him is in direct proportion to theirs, the Scripture’s, message of Christ to the reader. Tappert’s statement was an essay entitled “The Word of God According to the Lutheran Confessions. Dr. Robert Preus, an outstanding student of the Lutheran Confessions himself, answers just the opposite:

Why is the Scripture authoritative? Edmund Schlink of Heidelberg answers, “Because Cod saves through the Word proclaimed by it” (Theology of the Lutheran Confessions, p. 10). But this is no answer to the question and confuses the issue. God saves also through the Word proclaimed in hymns and sermons and Christian literature. No, Scripture is authoritative because it is God’s Word. How often do our Confessions contrast God’s Word in Scripture to any human being’s writings and insist that all our doctrines be drawn “out of God’s Word”! … Because our Lutheran Confessions believe in such infallible authority they cite the Scriptures hundreds of time (sic!) and regard Scripture’s answers to the great problems and issues of their day as final.37

Preus certainly makes the better case.

Still another view sees the Scriptures as inspiring, rather than inspired. C.H. Dodd, a liberal, states:

The question “Is the Bible inspired?” is the wrong question to ask. We want to ask, granted that these writings are inspired, what the specific value of their inspiration for religion? … What we are concerned to report is that inspiration does not carry inerrancy, nor is it inerrancy that gives authority. It is the capacity to explore independently the regions of the spirit and to convince others of the reality of that which one has discovered. This the prophets possessed. Their words, without being infallible, carry creative power.38

The quality of Scripture, according to Dodd, may be imperfect, but its value rests in the effect it has on others, stimulating them spiritually. Thus for Dodd Scriptures are inspiring rather than inspired.

It is rather difficult to see how one can derive any certainty in spiritual matters from a book which Dodd sees as not being infallible. How one can derive spiritual certainty from an imperfect book just does not make sense. The Bible, because it was written by inspiration of God, docs have the quality of infallibility and, for that matter, inerrancy. Both of these terms describe Scripture well:

“Infallible” denotes the quality of never deceiving or misleading, and so means “wholly trustworthy and reliable”; “inerrant” means “wholly true.” Scriptures is termed infallible and inerrant to express the conviction that all its teaching is the utterance of God “who cannot lie,” whose word, once spoken, abides forever, and that therefore can be trusted implicitly. This is just the conviction about Scripture which our Lord was expressing when He said: “The Scripture cannot be broken,” and “It is easier for heaven and earth to pass than one tittle of the law to fail.”39

Certainly these qualities are present in the Scriptures, for they were written by holy men of God who were moved by the Holy Spirit (II Peter 1:21). Furthermore the blessings promised by Scriptures — “that the man of God may be perfect,” KJV, or “complete,” ASV, II Timothy 3:17 — could not come from an imperfect book. Jesus prayed for the success of the Word: “Sanctify them through Thy truth; Thy Word is truth” (John 17:17).

One could continue by adding other variations on what men think about the value and origin of the Scriptures. But in the end it must be said that all views of the Scripture which do not hold to the plenary and verbal inspiration of the Scriptures build on man, on man’s notions of what is important, and on what man wants to believe about or in the Bible. Packer is very correct when he interprets the present situation in the visible church:

The nineteenth century Liberals tried to remodel the doctrines of human nature and grace in the light of the theory of evolution, maintaining that sin was just a transitional stage in the steady march of mankind, under Christ’s leadership, toward inevitable perfection. And their twentieth-century children (the present-day critics of Evangelicalism), though they have generally returned to a more biblical view of man and his redemption, are anxious today to remodel the doctrine of revelation in the light of the rationalistic biblical criticism, which they have inherited. All attempts of this sort to refurbish faith by reason rest on the same assumption, implicit if not explicit — namely, that the human mind, working by its own light, is the final arbiter of truth, even in the things of God. …The true antithesis here … is not between faith and reason … but between a faithful and a faithless use of reason. … The real difference between Evangelicals and those who call them obscurantists lies in the realm of method. … Our critics … accept what they do accept, not simply because it is in the Scripture, but because it satisfies some further criteria of credibility which they have set up; so that even when they believe the right thing, insofar as they are consistent subjectivists they do so for the wrong reason. Their whole approach to the Bible is fundamentally unbiblical.40

What the present-day liberals are doing is to serve two masters. On the one hand they are trying, in varying degrees, to hold on to Christian theology; on the other hand, they are trying to make the religion they have created palatable to man.

But it would be well to pull together some thoughts here about the plenary and verbal inspiration of the Scriptures. Enough time has been spent on the critics of the Scriptures. II Timothy 3:16 states: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” The entire last part of the verse is a translation of one word in the original Greek, Theopneustos. Its meaning is, to quote Benjamin Warfield, a conservative scholar of another generation:

What is Theopneustos is “God-breathed,” produced by the creative breath of the Almighty. And Scripture is called Theopneustos in order to designate it as “God-breathed,” the product of Divine inspiration, the creation of that Spirit who is in all spheres of the Divine activity the executive of the Godhead. … What it affirms is that the Scriptures owe their origin to an activity of God the Holy Ghost and are in the highest and truest sense His creation. It is on this foundation of Divine origin that all the high attributes of Scripture are built.41

To accomplish this event II Peter 1:21 tells us that the men who wrote the Scriptures were moved by the Holy Spirit. God used these men to produce a perfect book for Himself. Their personalities certainly were not destroyed in their writing the Scriptures, but the final product was God’s. Unlike modem liberal theologians, conservatives, following the Bible, emphasize the product and not the men.

Furthermore, conservatives, unlike the liberals, are not wrapped up in special methods of interpreting the Scriptures, but rather simply listen to what God has to say. Like Samuel of old who heard God speak directly to him, so conservatives listen to what God says through His book, the Bible, saying, “Speak, for Thy servant heareth (I Samuel 3:10). Nor do conservative Christians spend all their time defending the Bible just to give them something to do. The Bible is a book with a message and a purpose: “But these are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, you might have life through His name” (John 20:31). The Bible is the book of God’s good news of salvation through Christ. Unlike the liberal who is busy telling people what they cannot believe the Bible, the conservative Christian preaches Law and Gospel to show man sin and Christ, his Savior.

Conservatives, unlike the liberals, believe the words of the Psalmist about the clarity of Scriptures: “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105). Unlike the liberals who are busy reading many things into the Scriptures and “poor mouthing” the Scriptures, conservative Christians love their Bible because that book, inspired by God, “is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (II Timothy 3:16–17). They receive spiritual blessings from it. The Scriptures have made them “wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (II Timothy 3:15).

Liberals will immediately call this approach to the Bible obscurantism and not facing the facts. They will say that anyone who approaches the Bible critically will find all kinds of faults. Furthermore, they would claim that conservative Christians argue in a circle, quoting the Bible to prove the perfection of the Bible. This, they say, cannot be done. But there is a fallacy in their thinking. The first law of evidence is to hear the claims advanced by the person being tried, and to assume innocence until guilt is proved. Liberals too often are a “hanging jury” for the Bible, for, operating with their rationalistic and naturalistic prejudices, they refuse to consider the possibility of a perfect Bible.

Conservative Christians disagree with the liberal view. The God who created this world, could also cause a Bible to be written. The God who spoke directly to Adam and Eve, could speak through a book which He caused to be written. Bible-believing Christians have experienced through the Scriptures the power of God unto salvation through the Holy Spirit working in the Gospel. The Bible is not a dead book.

In much of the literature about the Scriptures, produced by liberals, the Bible is treated as a dead book, for these writers perform an autopsy, cutting the Bible to pieces. The criticisms of conservative Christianity which were voiced by Moehlman in the extended quotations, noted previously in this study, show this. One finds similar thoughts in many other books, even Lutherans.

Moehlman criticized the early Christians for reading Christ back into the Old Testament. Fretheim, also quoted earlier, states, for example, that Genesis 3:15 is not a prophecy of Christ’s triumph over Satan:

It has reference to the continual conflict between man and the forces of evil in all their various manifestations that seek to lure man away from God. … Man may sometimes be able to resist temptation, at other times he may fall, but no ultimate victory or defeat is envisioned.42

The idea that this passage could be the “first Gospel” is rejected. The source offered for Fretheim’s views is von Rad, a rather liberal German Old Testament scholar. The fact that Paul, in Romans 16:20, applies this to God defeating Satan is ignored (see also Revelation 12:9). But Fretheim’s position appears to be that of no real prophetic relationship existing between the Old Testament and the New Testament.

The favorite argument against prophecy is that it cannot happen. The argument is based on naturalistic assumptions. A man cannot predict accurately what is going to happen tomorrow or next week. Hence there can be no prophecy in the Bible, as it is a book written by men. The doctrine of inspiration, unfortunately, is forgotten here. Philip Quanbeck of ALC argues in this manner regarding the prophecy of Cyrus in Isaiah 44:28 and 45:1:

For Isaiah in the eighth century B.C. to know the name of a foreign ruler two hundred years later would be comparable to someone in the first part of the eighteenth century naming a national leader in the twentieth. … We are not saying that prophets did not on occasion make predictions. But we are saying that this sort of prediction is not either a historical or a religious probability.43

Quanbeck believes Isaiah is too explicit in naming Cyrus two hundred years before his appearance on the scene of history. Therefore these words must have been written two hundred years later than the book of Isaiah says they were. This indicates how the naturalistic approach works. Quanbeck actually has rejected prophecy, as shown in his quotation. Therefore the explicit prophecy must be wrong, according to him. On the other hand, and Moehlman was an example, Christians were accused of reading Christ and the New Testament back into the Old Testament, putting Him into the Old Testament passages which, it is claimed, have no real relationship with Christ and the New Testament. According to this view, the familiar words of passages like Matthew 1:22 — “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet” — simply reflects the enthusiasm of the early church for Christ.

These latter views, or any variation of them, are a denial of the omniscience of God in knowing the future and His direct participation in the writing of the Old Testament. Furthermore, both views in rejecting prophecy shows the bias of critics of the Old Testament. On the one hand, they accuse the Church of reading back into the Old Testament its notions about Christ in passages which they say have nothing to do with Him. Vague passages of the Old Testament are given inflated Christian meanings. But on the other hand, when a prophecy such as that of Isaiah is explicit, then it cannot be true because it is too definite. Such stubborn rejection of prophecy clearly indicates the biases of critics. Christ had no problem in seeing Himself in the Old Testament, for we remember His sharp words to the disciples on the way to Emmaus; “O fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken, ought not Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory. And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things conceming Himself” (Luke 24:25–27). This is Christ’s judgment concerning Himself in the Old Testament. Nothing could be more definite.

But theological liberals have a way of dealing with such passages. They say, as has been mentioned, that these passages reflect the thinking of the Church regarding Christ and were added later by the Christians. The words of Moehlman should be remembered here. The early Christians, in recording the lives of Christ in the Gospels, we are told, glamorized Christ by making these identifications with the Testament and, for that matter, adding the miracles to His life.

The position of not taking the Bible literally in the Gospels is illustrated by Rudolph Bultmann, who argued that the New Testament needed to be “demythologized,” i.e. the New Testament must be stripped of its “myths,” the thought forms used by the New Testament writers reflecting the concepts of their day, and the “kerygma,” the original message, must be uncovered. The method used by Bultmann was known as “form criticism,” the stripping away of layers of religious ideas until the original “truth” was uncovered. The following of Bultmann’s method resulted in literally becoming unknowable because Bultmann’s disciples went to various degrees of rejecting parts and portions of Christ’s life. Liberal theologians have gone on beyond Bultmann to new ideas, but his disciples are still preaching and teaching throughout the visible church. According to their view, Christ s life becomes nonmiraculous and the supernatural events such as the physical resurrection of Easter are denied; the cross merely represents a dying with Christ toward the old life and the resurection means rising with Christ to a new authentic life. When Bultmann talks about faith, he defines it thus:

This is what is meant by “faith”: to open ourselves freely to the future. But at the same time faith involves obedience. … It means radical self-commitment to God in the expectation that everything will come from him and nothing from ourselves.

This is pure existentialism. Lest someone be tempted to be charitable toward Bultmann, his comments on the redemption should be heard. Speaking of the cross of Christ, he says:

It certainly has a mythical character as far as its objective setting is concerned. The Jesus who was crucified was the pre-existent, incarnate Son of God, and as such he was without sin. He is the victim whose blood atones for our sins. … This mythological interpretation is a mixture of sacrificial and juridicial analogies, which have ceased to be of value for us today.44

What can be said to this view? This position certainly rejects the clear word of the Scriptures, of that there can be no denial. But one can go further than this. Bultmann’s position reflects a refined form of the earlier, older liberalism which made reason the measure of everything and so really denied the miraculous. This method, furthermore, has been adopted because many of the proofs of older liberalism, especially the later dating of New Testament books such as John, have been shown to be false. Hence, with the liberals having less time to explain away the doctrines of Christianity, this method has been adopted to explain away much of what the early Christian church taught. Under Bultmann’s system Christ becomes unknowable, because one can never know what is truth. The sound of religion may be there, but not the substance.

The scholars of Europe, however, are turning away from Bultmann. Some are turning to an atheism — for lack of a better name — which sees Christ as mere man and Christ’s influence as ethical, setting patterns for this life and no more. Others, reacting against Bultmann’s subjectivism, accept the “truth” of the Biblical record in general, but, because they cannot accept the doctrine of inspiration, do not know what to do with that “truth.”

What has really been shown here briefly is the terrible confusion which results when men leave the Bible and follow reason. Men who are supposed to be very learned theologically jump from one view to another, shifting this way and that way, but standing on the certain Word of God. It ultimately seems that they chase theological fads. A theological view is held for a time, criticisms develop, and off they rush to a new interpretation. Paul described them in I Timothy 3:7: “Ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” For all their talking, their many books and their playing follow the leader with this or that theologian, they would do better to hear the words of the Lord: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

One more area must be mentioned. The method followed by Bultmann and others today is really, in a sense, a method based on the older documentary hypothesis of the Nineteenth Century and earlier. This view argued for a multiple authorship of the books of Moses, who, it claimed, was not really the author. Fretheim, already referred to, in his book Creation, Fall and Flood, blandly accepts this view. He envisions four authors in the books of Moses, in accordance with the JEDP theory of Wellhausen, the oldest going back to about the Tenth Century B.C. and the books of Moses reaching their present form about 400 B.C. His reason for this, among others, is that he sees two different stories of creation in Genesis 1 and 2. But he also mentions that his basic approach to the Old Testament is based on form criticism, which means that he can lead his reader to distinguish among several things: the situation as it was in history, the situation as Israel saw it, and the way that they should have seen it, stripped of all their mistaken notions. Fretheim claims that he can reach back into history and tell his readers today what Israel really should believed, or did believe.45

This approach can seem impressive, and yet it is a house of cards. A conservative, Gleason L. Jr., bluntly states of the JEPD: “It is very doubtful whether the Wellhauson hypothesis is entitled to the status of scientific respectability.” Gleason’s reasons are very direct. The entire approach is based on assumptions that Israel’s religion developed like any other religion, that the liberals’ criteria for judging Scriptures are right, and that reason can and must explain event in the Old Testament. The witness of tho other Old Testament ignored, as is the witness of Christ, Who asserted: “Moses … wrote of Me” (John 5:46).46

When one considers the facts, the books themselves show an acquaintanceship with Egypt at that time. There are first-hand reports, Egyptian phrases, and many other specific items which argue for early authorship. Even the claim of two creation stories misses the point of the two accounts. Genesis 1 deals primarily with creation as creation. Genesis 2 is closely related with Genesis 3 and involves man with God, the Fall, and the promise of redemption (Genesis 3:15). In addition, the Dead Sea Scrolls, while much remains to be done with them, do show that the Old Testament canon was well established by 200 B.C., at a time when, according to liberal theologians, the Old Testament was taking its final form.

Many more areas, large and small, could be discussed. It is actually too bad that so much time must be taken to discuss these mistreatments of the Scriptures. It would have been perhaps more profitable to discuss some doctrine of the Scriptures from a positive viewpoint. Yet this negative approach must also be considered as part of giving an answer and standing for the truth.

In conclusion, the stand taken reflects back upon the Gospel. This has been said several times. Here again one might quote a few men as to their views. For Bultmann faith “means radical self-commitment to God in the expectation everything will come from him and nothing from ourselves.47 This is the existentialist approach to Christianity. The cross disappears as far as its having any redemptive meaning for us; present relationship is stressed. Fretheim seems to take a similar position:

God’s deliverance of his people at the Red Sea (the Exodus) is especially important. For Israel, the understanding that God had redeemed her was the center point of faith. All other aspects of that faith were formulated in the light of her experience of God’s action in history.48

This is, it would seem, pure existentialism, which implies not a Messianic relationship, but rather a different type of relationship. Quanbeck is equally hard on historic, conservative Christianity:

When Jesus was called the Christ it did not, in the time of his ministry, bear all of the meanings which later Christian reflection has brought to the term. Jesus himself was born to the Jews. Christians speak about the incarnation, about God acting in Jesus Christ, about God becoming a man. But Jesus was not man in general but a man. He grew up in the particularity of a Jewish family … His life was informed not only by the hopes for deliverance which many of his contemporaries must have shared, but also by various groups within his society … The Gospels are documents of faith; they are responses of believing men to something absolutely decisive which happened in their midst and to which they were compelled to bear witness.49

And what was to be seen? What is to be seen in the Bible?

Simply put, it is this, the one God of Israel is the God of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Bible what we actually encounter is the story of how this God related to Israel and the rest of mankind.50

These words speak for themselves.

We turn to the Word of God! Jeremiah calls to us: “Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways and see and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16). God has spoken to us. Christians “are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20). These prophets and apostles spoke the Word of the Lord to us about Christ. With Peter we say that we have a more sure word of prophecy (II Peter 1:19). God, in His divine providence, who had originally caused the Scriptures to be written for His people has preserved His Word to these last days. Through the inspired Scriptures Christ is made known to us, and the providence of God among His people is clearly seen. In the Scriptures Christ gives the water of life. “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst” (John 4:14).

How foolish man is to turn to his own ideas and notions which destroy certainty, which pervert in one way or another the Gospel, and which is tempting God. Then the condemnation of the Lord, spoken through Jeremiah, will fall on such: “My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken Me the fountain of living waters and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:14). It is tempting to follow reason and repeat the first temptation: “Yea, hath God said …” (Genesis 3:1).

Rather “Seeing then that we have a great high priest that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession” (Hebrews 4:14).

This brings us to the end of this study. The writer regrets that time prevented him from developing certain areas more completely. Certainly not all problems were answered nor will they be answered. But an attempt was made to point out a few answers to some of the criticisms of the Scriptures. If the readers of this essay now realize that there is more to the winds of theological change which are blowing through the visible church than mere words, they have learned something important. If this brief essay has prodded a few people to be a little watchful, it has achieved one of its purposes. Finally, when you hear your faithful pastors week after week preach to you from the Word of God, thank God that they treat God’s Word for what it is. Above all, stand fast! Stand fast in our fellowship. Stand fast together as brethren supporting each other. Stand fast together in the Word. Yes, when the cry is raised today, “Where does the ELS stand?” may the answer not be “With Barth, with Bultmann, with Bonhoeffer, with Dodd, with Pannenberg, etc. ,etc., but rather “In the Word of God, the Bible.” This is true loyalty to the heritage of 1918, but above all to our Savior and His Word.


1 Brief Statement of the Doctrinal Position of the Missouri Synod, #1.

2 Philip A. Quanbeck, When God Speaks (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1968), p. 96.

3 L. Gaussen, The Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures (Chicago: Moody Press, 1949), pp. 139–140.

4 A.V. Kuster, “Luther and the Word of God,” 47th Regular Convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, pp. 19–49.

5 Formula of Concord, Ep., “Of the Summary Content, Rule, and Standard,” #1 & #7, Triglotta (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921 ), p. 777, 779.

6 Ralph A. Bohlmann, Principles of Biblical Interpretation in the Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1968), p. 139.

7 Milton L. Rudnish, Fundamentalism & the Missouri Synod (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1966), p. 7.

8 Chicago Tribune, Jan. 7, 1970.

9 Newsweek, April 20, 1970, p. 14.

10 Quanbeck, pp. 121–122.

11 Terence E. Fretheim, Creation, Fall and Flood (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1969), p. 38.

12 Arthur Carl Piepkorn, “What Does ‘Inerrancy’ Mean” Concordia Theological Monthly, XXXVI, 8 (Sept., 1965), p. 588.

13 Ibid., p. 593.

14 Martin Scharlemann, “The Inerrancy of Scripture,” Christian News, May 12, 1969, p. 18.

15 Frederik A. Schiotz, “The Church’s Confessional Stand Relative to the Scriptures,” Christian News, March 3, 1969, 27.

16 Horace Hummel, “Humme Responds Again,” Lutheran Forum, Vol. 4, 3 (March, 1970), p. 8.

17 Conrad Henry Moehlman, How Jesus Became God (New York: Philosophical Library, 1960).

18 Ibid., pp. 1; 11–12; 15; 43.

19 Ibid., p. 26.

20 Ibid., pp. 50; 52.

21 Ibid., pp. 11; 12; 67; 82–83.

22 Ibid., pp. 88–90.

23 Ibid., “Dedication.”

24 Hummel, p. 9.

25 A. Berkeley Mickelsen, Interpreting the Bible (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1963), pp. 44–45; Charles C. Anderson, Critical Quests of Jesus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1969), pp. 11–24.

26 Ibid., pp. 25–30; 57–66.

27 Ibid., pp. 71–75.

28 James I. Packer, “Contemporary Views of Revelation,” in Carl F.H. Henry, ed., Revelation and the Bible (Grand Rapids: Duker Book House 1958), p. 92.

29 Colin Brown, Philosophy and the Christian Faith (Chicago: Inter Varsity Press, 1969), pp. 110–116, esp. 115.

30 Ibid., pp. 25–260.

31 Packer, p. 93.

32 Ibid., p. 94.

33 John Baillie, The Idea of Revelation in Recent Thought (New York: Columbia University Press, 1956, p. 28.

34 Ibid., p. 34.

35 Ibid., p. 66.

36 Theodore G. Tappert, “The Word of God According to the Lutheran Confessions,” in Herbert T. Neve and Benjamin A. Johnson, eds., The Maturing of American Lutheranism (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1968), p. 62.

37 Robert Preus, “God’s Word Always Must Be Used as Basis of All Lutheran Theology,” Lutheran Layman, April, 1970.

38 C.H. Dodd, The Authority of tile Bible (New York: Harper, 1929), pp. 128–129.

39 J.I. Packer, “Fundamentalism” and the Word of God (Grand Rapids: Eerdmaus Publishing Co., 1958), p. 95.

40 Ibid., pp. 138–140.

41 Benjamin Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1948), p. 296.

42 Fretheim, p. 88.

43 Quanbeck, pp. 32–33.

44 Rudolph Bultmann, et al., Kerygma and Myth (New York: Harper, 1961), pp. 19-20; 35.

45 Fretheim, pp. 7–8; 10–11; 45ff.

46 Gleason L. Archer, Jr., A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago: Moody Press, 1964), pp. 96–101.

47 Bultmann, p. 10.

48 Fretheim p. 3.

49 Quanbeck, pp. 120–122.

50 Ibid., p. 101.