Englische Übersetzung des Briefes an den damaligen Präses der amerikanischen Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Syonod (WELS)
Erlangen, March 13, 1989
Dear Pastor Mischke!
You are aware that in West Germany there no longer exists a Lutheran Church and that is why I have affiliated myself with the WELS. And now I am compelled to read in an „open letter“ of August 18, 1988 by Pastor Trapp that it may be a sin under certain circumstances to be a member of the WELS. Trapp’s declarations invoke the fear that the WELS may likewise perish as did the Lutheran Church perish in a part of Germany. In the already closed history of the West German Lutheran Church we are able to look back upon that event as survivors who are able, in retrospect, to recognize which were the early symptoms that led to its death.
The churchly decline was not only marked by doctrinal deviations, but also by the failure in the area of sanctification. It therefore becomes the more painful for me, as one that is concerned, to find that in the meantime serious accusations are being made against leading personalities in the WELS.
Since all Scripture is given to us for the acknowledgement of sin and „for instruction in righteousness“, 2 Timothy 3:16, we aught never to lose sight of the biblically frightening examples of going in the way of ruin. The Pharisees slipped gradually in their battle against their own Messiah. This battle was so enormous and so unprecedented that in the following history it remains unparalleled. Nevertheless, it is good for us to set the facts of these enormous occurrences of that time before our eyes as a warning so that we ourselves do not tread in the way of ruin which the Pharisees trod.
In all of this, the Pharisees were not liberal theologians like the Saddusees who denied the resurrection. Paul needed only to mention this provocative term in order to evoke a quarrel between them, Acts 23:6-10. Paul acknowledged them as having a zeal of God, Romans 10:2. And Jesus speaks to the people, Matthew 23:3: „All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say and do not.“ According to the words of Jesus, the Pharisees were evildoers while at the same time having a pure doctrine.
In another place, Jesus warns the disciples of the leaven of the Pharisees and Saddusees, Matthew 16:6 and 12. The Pharisees, in fact, failed to understand that it is God Himself who extends His kingdom. But they ascribe to their activities considerable importance. They were really very active. Jesus acknowledges their zeal of mission, Matthew 23:15. It is, however, the fact that they refused to recognize the exclusiveness of God’s own working who only utilizes the services of men; they were under the constant temptation to set up the kingdom of God by their activities. They were under the temptation to further the kingdom of God by deviating somewhat from the ways of God. Thus, the „objective“ had to be sanctified by the „means.“ The evil fruits which this „ethical“ deviation could bear is shown by the ecclesiastical-political activities through the ecclesiastical leadership of that time which brought about the crucifixion of Jesus. The decision to kill Him was made after Jesus had resurrected Lazarus from the dead, John 11:53. An essential motive to murder was also the concern that their personal influence would diminish, John 11:47f. Because many Jews believed in Jesus following the resurrection of Lazarus the enemies of Jesus wanted to also kill Lazarus, John 12:10f. Here we see clearly that in the fundamental readiness to serve the kingdom of God by deviating somewhat from the ways of God are added also definite human motives.
The case against Jesus had been determined. The ecclesiastical leadership of that time had fixed in it’s vision the church-political goal, to rid itself of the pestilent opposition by disposing of the uncomfortable preacher of repentance. Even the imagined adherence to the law by the high priests did not deter these to evoke Judas Iscariot to actions which they themselves considered to be sinful, Matthew 27:6.
A German saying goes this way: „Give the devil the little finger and he will take the whole hand.“ The ecclesiastical leadership of that time was ready to serve what they considered to be the things of God by resorting to small sins. In spite of external observance of the law, the adversaries of Jesus at the same time entangled themselves in ever greater sins. In order not to defile themselves, they could not enter the judgement hall of Pilate, John 18:28. Yet, the imagined centre of their belief, namely the Messiah-belief, this they could deny. For the high priest said to Pilate: „We have no king but Caesar,“ John 19:15.
The adversaries of Jesus had so entrenched themselves in their spiritual blindness that not even the multiple, unusual occurrences, such as the darkening of the sun, the veil of the temple rent in two, the dead leaving their graves, would move them to reconsider their ways.
Then, after this, it was brought to their attention, not from the disciples but from the heathen, that is, from the Roman soldiers, that Jesus was risen from the dead, Matthew 28:11ff., then it was obvious that God Himself had revised the death sentence. But even then they did not repent. On the contrary: In order to hide their obvious sinful actions they bribed the heathen soldiers to slander the disciples by saying they had stolen the body of Christ, Matthew 28:13. The circumstances surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus should warn all future Church leaders to avoid the minutest deviation which leads into the way of ruin.
Jesus shows the continuity of the Pharisees in the murderers of the prophets, Matthew 23:29-33. Contemporary deviations from the narrow way are also to be found in the continuity of later Church history. Not even the reformers – similar to the Pharisees – were able to withstand the temptation to serve the kingdom of God by deviating at least a little from the way of Christ. Luther discovered the biblical two-kingdom doctrine. Since then he was an Opponent of heretic inquisitions (WA 51, p.184f.), Yet, in contradiction to this, he encouraged authorities to burn the synagogues in which Jesus was, without controversy, blasphemed (WA 53, p.523). Melanchthon wrote that the authorities should punish the Anabaptists with the sword and Luther adds: „Placet mihi Martino Luthero“ (Corpus Reformatorum IV, 737-740). The Luther student, Flacius, acquiesced to the imprisonment of the theological adversary, Striegel. So sinful the Reformation started; nevertheless it is glorified today.
Prior to the Reformation there existed a State Church which was so ingrained in the people that it continued to exist after the Reformation. Political leadership, as also ecclesiastical leadership, supported the wrongdoing of one another. Politicians persecuted heretics, Pastors glorified the shameful deeds of politicians; at the least they often failed in many instances to exercise churchly discipline upon the princes who at the same time were also members of the congregation. Where, however, in Luther’s time the princes were exigency bishops, theologians of subsequent times twisted the two-kingdom doctrine in such ways as to make it compatible with the infiltrated abuses. Already in the Introduction to the Formula of Concord one can read that it is the Obligation of the (secular) authorities to „suppress false teachings“ (BSLK 743, 39-49).
It was similar to the State Church that the idea of the papacy continued to remain in the heads of the people. Luther discerned rightly that the papacy in Rome was an invention of the devil. In spite of this he was unable to prevent, contrary to Jesus‘ word, re: „One is your master“, Matthew 23:8, a misuse of himself as a source of information, even while still living, but especially after his death. Later the confessional writings as well as other theologians came into the picture. The Confessions were misused broadly; they were used as eyeglasses through which the Bible was read.
This deplorable state of affairs is, in the more current period, curiously evident: Many „Lutherans“ shield themselves against minor errors which can be compared to gnats. But they swallow the camels of the historical-critical method against which the Confessions supposedly do not shield themselves. That which by the Catholics is the papal school is with „Lutherans“ the abuse (norma normans) of the Confessions. Certainly the Pope of Rome spreads false doctrine; the pope of the „Lutherans“, in contrast however, proclaims the way of salvation. Yet it is not exclusively because the Roman papacy spreads false doctrine that it is to be condemned, but also because it institutes its own authority next to that of Jesus. The Lutherans rejected the papacy passionately, but were still so imbued with the papal mindset of thinking that in actuality they soon erected an alternative papacy.
State Churchdom and Papacy continued to exist side by side also in the minds of Lutherans. However, they were both no longer of a worldwide dimension, but were limited in domination to the various princely estates. The Formula of Concord was instituted as State law and was signed by politicians. In the year 1581 in Wittenberg two professors of medicine, two professors of law and one professor of mathematics were fired, because they refused to sign the Formula of Concord.
At the end of the introduction to the Formula of Concord, among other things, a censorship of printing was recommended as a „remedial means“. And in the Formula of Concord (Epitome XII2 and SD XII9) one can read that the errors of the Anabaptists „is to be tolerated or allowed neither in the Church, nor in the commonwealth and secular government, nor in domestic life“. (quoted from Concordia Triglotta, page 839). In this connection not only political enemies but also peace abiding Anabaptists were executed by „Lutheran“ rulers. It must, however, be added, by way of mitigation, that the primary purpose was not to kill Anabaptists. Rather, it was desired that they be persuaded to emigrate. „Lutheran“ theologians often cloaked such activities with a garment of piety regardless of the two-kingdom doctrine.
Jesus criticizes the Pharisees that by adding the traditions of the Elders they made the commandments of God of none effect, Mark 7:1-13. “Lutheran“ theologians did similar. They bent the doctrine in such manner that the narrow way was considerably widened. In this manner they were able to institute a national church which embraced all inhabitants of the land. They, in fact, accomplished that their churchly proclamations reached into every household. Nevertheless, is it right that the means are to be sanctified in order to achieve the purpose? Is it God-pleasing to abandon the ways of Jesus in order to establish the kingdom of God?
Together with the bloody deeds and horrendous sinning in the area of ethics, it was also in the area of dogma that there was growth of the leaven. The faulty development began already during Luther’s lifetime. A disastrous influence was instigated from Melanchthon. He was a Humanist. He wanted to make a better world: he wanted to promote virtue. The reasons for the deterioration of conditions in the Church he saw in the decline in education. Through education and science he wanted to make better people. He desired to return to the pure sources, both those of heathen as also of Christian sources.
In contrast to Luther, Melanchthon did not go through trials and tribulations. Without the inner battles of the reformer he only assumed the reform developments. It is in this basic different circumstance that there can be found the difference between Luther and Melanchthon. For Melanchthon the discovery of the new reform upheaval was not based on the certainty of the forgiveness of sins, but rather in the pursuit of true virtue.
Melanchthon had narrowed the teaching which he had assumed from Luther with rationalizations. With Melanchthon, faith was agreeing with every Word of God. Such agreement is not absent in Luther’s belief of faith, but it becomes the central point with Melanchthon. In this way, faith is turned into an intellectual strain. Between faith as an affirmation and faith as a trust in the promises of Godly mercy in Christ, Melanchthon was not able to establish any theological connection.
Therefore, already with Melanchthon, we are faced with the beginnings of faith and doctrine reductionism. It is certainly no coincidence that it was not Luther, but rather Melanchthon, who composed the first Lutheran dogmatic. It is through Melanchthon that certain tendencies began in Lutheranism, that is, to set the biblical message within a System of rationalistic dogmas.
Even the doctrine of Justification did not remain untouched by this. It was during the period of the inner battles that Luther recognized that the Justification wrought by Jesus‘ death was not brought into question by his failure in the area of sanctification. The biblical recognition that Justification and sanctification are to be kept separate was enmeshed into a rationalistic system of dogmas. The Justification as a free gift from God is independent from the degree of achieved sanctification. Sanctification, however, must follow Justification. One can compare this form of thinking to a railroad car which is preceded and pulled by the locomotive. In this parable or picture the locomotive represents justification and the rail car represents sanctification. The misconception seems quite obvious, that is, it is not always seen that the locomotive remains a locomotive without the car so also is it not always seen that Justification remains Justification even though sanctification is uncoupled. Is it then incorrect, perhaps, to say that we do not earn eternal salvation by the works of sanctification?
Melanchthon rearranged Luther’s recognition into a new form. By this it could be disseminated more readily in churchly instruction. However, the other side to this is that something became lost of biblical truth. Melanchthon had overlooked that Justification not only is a forensic judgement, but that it also possesses a cleansing dimension.
The recognition that Justification is not only forensic is the moment of truth in the position of Osiander during the disputes after Luther’s death. This was not recognized either by Melanchthon or by Flacius. In this way the deviations from the exegetical findings brought about devastating results. If the Justification wrought by the blood of Jesus, by which alone we are saved, is not contingent upon sanctification, then the danger exists that an undercurrent may render sanctification as superfluous. It only takes slight deviations to change the doctrine of Justification to an indulgence for little sins which one intends to continue.
The Spiritual development following Luther’s death was in the direction of rationalizing. Already during the time of Zwingli and Calvin the Reformed took pieces of their doctrine out of their rational mind. For example they believed in the Lord’s Supper that the finite can’t include the infinite. The Lutherans attempted to withstand currents of rationalizing, but they themselves were entangled in it. Thus, as an alternative, they instituted a structured System of dogmas. Although the dogmas were subjectively drawn from the Bible, yet the mentality, by which exegetical thinking and perception was utilized, was lost. As one deals with mathematical equations and develops from mathematical principles additional equations, so also did theologians think in terms of theological principles and, by these, new theological principles and perceptions were developed. In this manner it was possible to position rationalism opposite a closed system of structured biblical doctrine. However, the disadvantage was that the readiness and the ability to continually renew again the biblical treasure was stunted. In this manner the irregularities in the doctrine of Justification were retained. Additionally it was preserved in the mentality of the papacy.
More and more, faith itself was reduced to conform with the orthodox dogmas. In life and in sanctification we are and remain sinners. But we are not justified by works, but alone through faith. For this reason the doctrine must remain pure. And faith was considerably reduced to conform with the separate doctrines. The more that these doctrines congealed to dead formulas so much the less became the resistance against unchristian believing. False and godless living were rampant among the leadership in the „Lutheran“ Church. Fornication among students of theology, who obviously became Pastors later on towards the end of the 18th century, was the rule rather than the exception. Pastors supported the sins of congregational members who were princes within the earthly empire. Of excommunicating such persistent sinners there could be no question; not even leaving the Church was possible. That in the 19th century the social democrats, with their fiendishly unchristian tendencies, were able to receive such a great following among the working class was also caused by the fact that many Pastors supported the unchristian conduct of capitalists. They desired to remain on good terms with those from whose abundance they personally gained. The downfall of the „Lutheran“ Church was marked both by false doctrine as also by unchristian living. Between the two there was an interdependent relationship.
The deplorable state of affairs in theology and Church in the former Century occasioned 800 people from Saxony (Germany) to make a new churchly beginning in Missouri. Theologically these bound themselves to the traditions of Lutheran orthodoxy which had in consequence that certain faults were assumed which were already established in Germany’s Lutheranism. A weak point in Lutheran orthodoxy was the mentality concerning the papacy. In this respect Franz Pieper and Walther constantly referred to Luther and the orthodox theologians. After the death of the former these also became like popes whom others could subsequently reference.
It was under the influence of Missouri that the WELS developed into an orthodox church body. Nevertheless, the ailments which had beset Lutheranism since the time of Luther were not overcome. This had manifested itself during the Protes’tant Controversy. Faith was intellectually constricted to a great extent in order to make it harmonize with the paragraphs of orthodox dogmatic. One tended to lose sight of the fact that to follow Jesus is an essential part of faith.
It was not noticed that the orthodox fathers, in their legitimate polemics against the Roman workrighteousness, did not sufficiently reckon with the fact that Jesus repeatedly speaks of doing the will of God (for instance: Matthew 5:19; 7:21; 25:40; Luke 8:21; John 3:21; 13:17; 1 John 2:17). They were not fully aware that without sanctification no one would see the Lord (Hebrew 12:14). The nature of a Christian does not consist in the memorizing ability of knowing all the paragraphs of Pieper’s dogmatic, but rather the mark of a Christian is to immerse oneself in the footsteps of Jesus: to die with Jesus, to be buried with Jesus, to live the sanctified Christian life with Jesus after the resurrection (Romans 6:1ff). This dimension of the faith appears to have fallen short in the WELS proclamations. Otherwise WELS high school students of 1924 would not have embarked jointly on a thieving excursion at Watertown.
This scandal was on the mind of Pastor Beitz when, at a Pastoral Conference, he presented the following referendum: “God’s Message to Us in Galatians: The Just Shall Live By Faith.“ In this referendum he directs himself against a material separation of Justification and Sanctification (Paul Hensel, The Wauwatosa Gospel: Which is it?, p.2). He writes: „The law cannot bring about justification nor sanctification. Yes, it can add absolutely nothing to justification. Yes, it can add absolutely nothing to sanctification, for the JUST SHALL LIVE BY FAITH. The JUST – the believers, the Christians – SHALL LIVE – have life by FAITH in HIM that has made them ‚just.‘ The Christian is sanctified by the same means that justifies him. We find LIFE, both justification and sanctification, at the foot of the Cross“ (Hensel p. 2). „You will find repentance at the foot of the Cross“ (Hensel,p.11).
In his conference paper Pastor Beitz had maintained that the representatives of the churchly establishment had made mistakes and sinned. One did not want to tolerate such an accusation. For this reason Beitz had to be excommunicated. To do this, however, it was necessary to charge him with false doctrine. In that obviously no false doctrine could be found it was determined that the sentence: „You will find repentance at the foot of the cross“ be classed as false doctrine („Gutachten“, Hensel, p.63).
Only such a one can class this sentence as false doctrine who does not think in exegetical terms, but rather manipulates formulated rules in the same manner as does a mathematician dally with mathematical formulas. The theological-mathematical deduction would be possible in this manner:
Cross Preaching = Gospel Preaching
from this it follows thus:
Cross Preaching ǂ(doesn´t equal) Law Preaching
Since there obviously was no research of Greek vocabularies, such as metanoia but one’s thinking was according to the formal German language, one reasoned thus:
Repentance Preaching = Punishment Preaching = Law Preaching.
If, however, Cross Preaching ǂ (doesn´t equal) Law Preaching then: Cross Preaching ǂ (doesn´t equal) Repentance Preaching. From this it follows: Whoever says that repentance is found at the foot of the cross is a false teacher. With that reasoning Beitz is a false teacher. In order to show a basis for this conclusion one is referred to the declarations of the Formula of Concord (F.C. V & VI), but not to Romans 2:4 where it says; „Not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance (metanoia)?“ It was also not considered whether the malefactor who was crucified together with Jesus (Luke 23:42f) found repentance at the foot of the cross or not. This shows again that theological work did not concern itself sufficiently in researching the Word in the Bible.
I am not aware that the rejection contained in „Gutachten“ (Opinion) was ever publicly represented as containing falsehoods by the WELS faculty or church leadership. On the contrary, even in 1978 a WELS Pastor evaluated the „Gutachten“, in which it is disputed that repentance is found at the foot of the cross, as „Scriptural“ (Mark A. Jeske: A HALF CENTURY OF FAITH-LIFE, p.23).
From this, one could draw the conclusion: The WELS rejects the following doctrine: „Repentance is found at the foot of the cross.“
I have asked many WELS Pastors whether repentance is found at the foot of the cross or not. They answered me: Where else can one find it if not there? And also in a sermon which was mailed from the „Special Ministries Board,“ professor Wayne Mueller writes: „Luther himself would not have objected to calling Lent the season of repentance. For it is at the foot of the cross that we learn above all how terrible and punishable our sins are, and at the same time how infinitely loving our Saviour God is.“
It appears obvious that no one intends to exercise doctrinal discipline upon these Pastors. This admixture concerning doctrinal questions can only be understood in the sense that doctrine is permitted distortion so that it agrees with church-political requirements.
The question of how the cross of Christ is to be understood is of paramount importance for eternal salvation. For this reason I implore you to arrange that WELS groups (faculty, church leadership…..) proclaim from the housetops (Matthew 10:27) whether repentance is found at the foot of the cross or not. My question is not whether Pastor Beitz, since deceased, was a false teacher, but rather my question is whether the saying: „repentance is found at the foot of the cross“ is false doctrine or whether it belongs to the unchangeable Gospel from which not one „jot“ is to be removed. Under no circumstances could I reconcile myself should this most important question remain unanswered.
The paper from Pastor Mark Jeske also shows another lifethreatening sickness in the WELS. On page 31 we read: „Whether or not the suspensions (of Beitz sympathizers) were just, though, they were approved formally on three separate occasions by the vote of a considerable majority, and as such deserved to be recognized as authoritative within synodical membership“. And on page 21 Pastor Jeske writes: „In case after case, the individual Protes’tants knew who the brethren were that were under discipline and knew that the District (rightly or wrongly) forbade pulpit and altar fellowship on pain of suspension, and in case after case they deliberately flaunted their fellowship involvement with disciplined Protes’tants,…“ Do Popes and churchly decision-making groups establish church fellowship or, rather, does the Word of God? If it is the Word of God that decides church fellowship, then synodical resolutions are to be adhered to only when they conform to the Word of God. The various quotations show that „papal“ mentality has survived the Reformation and the Lutheran orthodoxy, and also continues in the WELS.
The fact that the WELS is not completely free from the mentality of the Papacy can be detected from the dogmatic-sheets which are given to the students of theology. These are full of Latin and German quotations of righteous theologians. If the Bible were the only source of acknowledgements then the proof, that the various dogmatic expressions coincide with those of tradition, would be without meaning to establish the factual correctness.
The mentality of the Papacy and the widening of the narrow way of Christian sanctification are the twin life-threatening ailments also within the WELS. The biblical two-kingdom doctrine need only be bent a little and the narrow road is widened considerably. Lutherans from various parts of the earth are in full Church fellowship to the extent they are in agreement on all questions of doctrine. They are citizens of one and the same kingdom of God. In their function, however, as soldiers of the secular powers they kill each other, yet this does not destroy the fellowship between them in the kingdom of God. There is here a clear rejection of the mixing of the two kingdoms. This is in stark contrast to the Jehovas Witnesses and other false teachers who mix the two kingdoms and thereby refuse to kill each other.
One appeals to the two-kingdom doctrine when it serves to widen the narrow road. Yet, in contradiction to the two-kingdom doctrine, congregations during Word War I, organized Liberty Loan drives (Jeske’s paper, p.4). The two-kingdom doctrine also did not hinder, in particular in connection with the first and second World Wars, that the U. S. flag came into WELS church buildings. Christian News (July 279 1987, p.17) published an article from me concerning this problem. Yet until now no one from the faculty at Mequon has advised me of anything that may be wrong in this article. Professor Schuetze merely said that it was „Dummheit“ (stupidity) without, however, to further substantiate this. I have received supportive letters and not only from none-WELS people.
If there are even WELS Pastors who cannot discern my „stupidity”, then that should be a reason for the faculty to expose my presumed errors and to make them public. In Germany the professors of theology are capable of defending their positions in controversial discussions. Why is it that WELS professors cannot do this? Perhaps inside they agree with me, but are afraid of the consequences that public support might evoke. In this way it becomes acceptable to widen the narrow way. The Northwestern Lutheran repeatedly (September 1 , 1984 and July 1986) featured letters which recommended the flag in the Church, but refused to publish letters which opposed this.
That the two-kingdom doctrine is insufficiently recognized is shown by the fact that purely political reports were published in church papers, re: „the good United States“ (Northwestern Lutheran of December 24, 1944, p.176). America is „the best country in the world“ (Northwestern Lutheran of July 1985, p.236). „Like thousands of others with deep Norwegian roots, in America as in other countries, he had volunteered to fight when the light of democracy flickered and died in Europe. Many of them gave their lives for the sake of our freedom. We are deeply indebted to all of them“ (Lutheran Sentinel, February 1985, p.10). The last quotation is from an ELS (Evangelical Lutheran Synod) publication which glorifies the youthful sins of a current ELS Pastor who, from an airplane, rained fire from heaven upon his sisters in the faith and upon their children.
The history of the Lutheran Church is filled with examples of theologians – as illustrated above – who glorified the crimes of the politicians. In this letter I am not going to dwell on the question of the reasons which led to World War II. Yet, for the history of the Church the reaction of theologians, concerning the ideology of the crusades which motivated a call to arms, has meaning. It was with these Reformed-chiliastic crusade-emotions that the war progagandists were able to enlist the believers in an holy war, in a decisive final battle for Christianity, freedom to believe, democracy and civilization. And the protectors of the „pure teaching“ failed dismally. This becomes so much the more weightier in that the number of active Pastors and professors were not reduced by war duty. The theological situation had a shocking similarity with that of Israel during the time of Isaiah, Is. 56:10: „His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber.“
The WELS supports an expensive school system in order also to instruct the secular curriculum from a Christian standpoint. However, to what avail is this if the alternative is limited to saying „No“ to evolution and falls to address other important issues. I am apprised from a book of an American Catholic that describes the crimes by Americans, including those atrocities committed by the Soviets, but which were tolerated by the USA, during the War, and especially after the War (Austin J. App; History’s most terrifying Peace, 1946). And yet, WELS schools, which are duty-bound toward „pure teaching”, portray the wartime and the post war developments, even today, in a pharisaic, sanctimonious „black-white“ picture. In conversations with erstwhile students of WELS schools I have experienced that the Masons, Roosevelt and Truman, were in no way criminals of the calibre of an Adolf Hitler. Many are not aware that the hunger, after the German capitulation, which added tremendously to the burying of the dead, was artificially instigated and that the Government of the „good old United States,“ in the early stages, refused to allow humanitarian assistance. But of the crimes of Hitler, the actual ones and the ones invented by the war propagandists, of these they are well informed.
Also in Germany the believers were the victims of the deceptions of their age. In the same manner in which the Pharisees judged the killers of the prophets, Matthew 23:30, the heretical Synod of the SELK has issued a documentary paper in which the sins of the free-Church fathers are branded. Yet in the „pure-believing“ WELS, obviously, not even this is being done.
You will probably wonder why it is that a Lutheran can portray the history of his own Church in such a dark picture. However, not even the Bible covers up anything in it’s portrayals of the enormity of sin, no, not even in case of the believing heroes. Abraham and Isaac had failed in Egypt, Jacob was a deceiver, Juda was a whoremonger, David an adulterer and murderer…! (see also 1 Peter 4:17, the translator).
A German, like myself, is even repeatedly warned by non-Christian politicians to constantly remind myself of the sins of the fathers. In contrast to America, however, where no monuments nor memorial days exist to commemorate publicly the destruction of the American Indians and be reminded of the Negro-slavery, the atrocities of recent times are constantly held before our eyes. Already in the East German schools they wanted especially to feature to me the criminal side of the German history. A Pastor of the State Church told me (who was born in 1952) that I was guilty of the gassing of the Jews. The top German Leader, Richard von Weizsaecker, does not risk lifting his eyes toward heaven (Luke 18:13), but beats upon his breast and speaks: You peace-loving people of the world have mercy upon us Jew-gassers.
Similar to Weizsaecker, so also did the Pharisees acknowledge sins when it was a question of someone else’s sins. They acknowledged, for instance, that the adultery of the adulteress was sin (John 8:1-11). However, in contrast to the German top leader, Jesus did not support the Pharisees in their self-righteousness. His endeavour was more to include them in the company of publicans, of sinners, of „Jew-gassers“ and all other malefactors, so that they also may find, at the foot of the cross and the empty grave, repentance (metanoia). Or should it ultimately not be found there? Publicans and sinners who are affected in this area are constrained to persist in a clear and unequivocal answer.
The danger in widening the narrow way and to pervert Luther’s doctrine of Justification to serve as an indulgence for small sins that one may commit in the future also exists in another area. In the WELS the preaching against abortion is not an unheard-of matter. Yet, it is largely unknown that the birth control pill is not free from effecting an early abortion. It makes ovulation less probable although not absolutely impossible. The success of the pill, consist also in this that the surface of the uterus is not sufficiently prepared for the reception of the little being and thus the undesired, already developed child, succumbs in death. In this way one could compare the use of the pill with the deed of a hunter who shoots randomly into a park, although he must realize that from time to time he may well shoot someone taking a walk in the park. The manner in which the pill works is broadly disregarded, but in the professions it remains uncontested. One can substantiate, in any medical Journal, the facts of such medical effects. Attention to these unquestionable facts also belongs to the preaching about Christian sanctification.
Besides the pure message of salvation there is in the church also the tradition of straying from the narrow way. The continuity proceeds from the killing of the prophets and from the adversaries of Jesus among the Pharisees to the perversion of the Lutheran doctrine of Justification into an indulgence for minor sins that one is going to commit in the future and also for church-political intrigues. This disastrous way led to the destruction of the West German Lutheran Church.
In addition to the already mentioned deplorable state of affairs the proceedings under „Reaching Out“ show that the deviation from going the narrow way continues yet today within the WELS. In July 8, 1987tPastor Nuckols presented a „Paper” titled: „Stewardship in the New Testament.“ In this Paper he illuminates, from an exegetical point of view, the practical aspects of „Reaching Out.“ In this endeavour he arrives at a destructive result. Since then he has been removed from the WELS Pastoral fellowship. Why? Is he a false teacher? If yes, what is his false doctrine? This is something that his adversaries should point out to the uninformed public. Or, was he perhaps removed from the Pastoral fellowship, because his repentance-preaching could not be tolerated?It was during Old Testament times that they killed the troublesome repentance preachers in the city of the temple at Jerusalem, Matthew 23:37. And during the time of the Apostles it was not much different, as the stoning of Stephen shows. Pastor Beitz was silenced by reputation-murder under the method of accusing him of false doctrine – and the accusation was supported by the faculty through the „Gutachten“ (Opinion). Now, the repentance-Preacher, Nuckols, has been removed from the ministry.
But in the WELS there also continues to exist another traditional vein. This one proceeds from the true Prophets into the disciples of Jesus and into those among the Pharisees who followed Jesus, Acts 15:5. This vein proceeds from Lutheran-orthodox Jesus followers of the calibre of a Paul Gerhardt and it continues to exist in the WELS. Thus, in the WELS both traditions, the good and the bad, are unified. In the Bible it is written: „A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump,“ The leaven is both false doctrine and false living, Galatians 5:9; 1 Corinthians 5:6.
The WELS is only standing one step away from the deadly abyss into which the Lutheran Church of West Germany has already fallen. In this letter I beg of you to restrain the WELS from a further, and possibly fatal, last step in the wrong direction.
If necessary, I will furnish copies of this letter also to other parties. Such a necessity will become a must should the question, whether repentance can be found at the foot of the cross remains unanswered.