And That’s not the Worst of It

I was going to title this “St. Louis Seminary President Throws Fort Wayne Seminary Under the Bus,” but I thought it too long, and that was before I realized that wasn’t the worst of it.

The Rev. Dr. Dale Meyer, president of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis has an article in the Summer 2009 Concordia Journal article entitled “How Many Seminaries?”  It is basically a polemic for seminaries in general which I heartedly agree with.  Unfortunately, Dr. Meyer is drying to put out or at least dampen a conflagration that he helped set ablaze.  He is culpable in two ways.  He along with the Ft. Wayne president said there was nothing in the Ablaze! movement that was contrary to our Lutheran theology.  And both seminaries after valiantly (And I don’t mean this tongue-in-cheek or even cheekily.) trying to put a halt to the oxymoronic lay ministry program, enthusiastically signed on to the Specific Ministry Program.  This will produce men who can be called and ordained for ministry, but it will do so with very little time at a seminary.

Now for the throwing under the bus of the Ft. Wayne seminary.  Dr. Meyer says in the concluding paragraph of his defense of seminaries: “Personally, I don’t see how we can continue to sustain two seminary campuses in the Midwest if current demographics, membership loses, and giving patterns continue” (232).  So we could preserve the Gothic campus that has been located in the LCMS headquarter city since the 19th century, or we could sustain the Eero Saarinen campus where the Ft. Wayne seminary has been since 1976?

Years ago the suggestion was made that the Ft. Wayne campus be closed and the seminary moved to Concordia University, Irvine.  I don’t know where it will be located, but I will bet dollars to donuts that The Pastoral Leadership Institute will be running it.  This would return us to the days of yesteryear – which days the sainted Robert Preus labored to get us away from – where the St. Louis seminary was the theological seminary and the other one was the practical one.

Even though Dr. Meyer will be the president of the Last Seminary Standing, he is at great pains to say we must produce more practical pastors.  And it is in this connection that we get to the worst of it.  He may or may not have thrown the Theological Seminary at Fort Wayne under the bus, but he does the Bible.  He says, “I’m not just talking about upholding the Bible as the verbally inspired, infallible, inerrant revelation of God’s will.  I’m especially talking about it as the powerful and efficacious Word of God.  It’s a lively and active word…if it is handled rightly” (emphasis all mine; ellipses and error all his. 231).

In an effort to make sure all 4 wheels of bus do the job, Dr. Meyer explains himself, “Right handling is not only the proper distinction of Law and Gospel but also getting it into a person’s mind in a way that person can understand it.  If we don’t meet people at their level of understanding, we are binding the Word and the work of the Spirit, not giving the Word ‘free course’” (ibid.)

From a Collect that asks the Lord to enable the objective operation of His word (“Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty God, unto Thy Church Thy Holy Spirit and the wisdom which cometh down from above, that Thy Word, as becometh it, may not be bound, but have free course and be preached to the joy and edifying of Christ’s holy people…” (TLH, p. 14).), Dr. Meyer divines the necessity of us making it subjectively understandable.

As with all Church Growthism, there is a whiff of a commonsense truth here.  We don’t speak Hebrew or Greek to people.  But that’s not what this particular ism is about.  What it is about is the word “if” as spoken by Dr. Meyer: “It’s a lively and active word…if it is handled rightly.”  Rather than either of the seminaries being consigned to the bus would that this ism, this theology be.  If not, it won’t matter how many seminaries we have.

About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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