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Chapter Nine: The Law

And the Lawless Legalists


The work of the Holy Spirit through the Law has been fatally neglected in this century. Lutherans have also suffered from the lawless legalists, church leaders who invent their own laws and make them necessary for salvation, while living contrary to the divinely ordained Ten Commandments. The Kokomo perversion of justification can also be viewed as a result of the improper teaching of the Law. Another manifestation of the neglect of God’s Law is the failed attempt to merge Christianity with psychology, giving us many examples of lawlessness, where feelings are normative. Yet another manifestation of the wrong use of the Law in counseling is legalism, where healing can come only through works of the law: you must build up your self-esteem.[1]

The classic work on this topic is C. F. W. Walther’s The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel, his Luther lectures reproduced from notes. Often called Law and Gospel, this work is justly called the greatest theological work published in America. Lutheran pastors and laity should own it, study it, and use it constantly as a reference book. However, we should read it in conjunction with Luther and the Book of Concord. Lutherans from the Synodical Conference have tended to make the Missouri Synod founders the only men deserving the name “church fathers.” Walther would have been the last one to think that his works could replace the study of Luther and the men who wrote the Formula of Concord. Walther was a dedicated student of Luther, so we will follow his example best when we start with Luther.

One of Luther’s great insights was the division of the Bible into Law and Gospel. That does not mean that the Old Testament is all Law and the New Testament all Gospel. We can discern that passages are either Law, making demands and condemning sin, or Gospel, offering forgiveness apart from the works of the Law. This distinction is emphasized again in the Book of Concord and in all Lutheran theologians following the Concordists. A proper distinction is so important that many difficulties can be diagnosed as a confusion of Law and Gospel. For instance, a father caught a large softball deliberately tossed by his daughter at the china setting on the table and then returned it to her without comment. From that response we can conclude he was offering the Gospel to the unrepentant. When an individual is told he must give up all his sins before he can be forgiven, that is a misuse of the Law, mixing it with the Gospel, just as the Galatian false teachers told their victims that they must be circumcised to be real Christians.

Non-Lutherans do not discuss Law/Gospel distinctions and find this topic both opaque and confusing. The Church of Rome proclaims salvation through the Law and condemns to Hell anyone who teaches with Paul that salvation comes to us through faith apart from the works of the Law. The Reformed are far more subtle in making Law demands, and the mixture of Law and Gospel can take place in many ways. The convert may be told he must suffer and tarry before he can be forgiven, a new atonement to energize the atonement of Christ. Or he may be forced to give up certain carnal sins, as if this Lenten sacrifice cleansed him from sinfulness. Or he may be told that he must have a conversion experience which he can describe and also attribute to a moment in time. He may be forced to speak in tongues after a severe and sweaty session of coaching. He may be told that his faith will shrivel away if he does not offer public testimonies about what God has done for him, a threat not easily harmonized with the Gospel. He may be told that all of God’s future success is dependent upon his efforts: God has no arms but yours, no tongue but yours, no bank account but yours. He may be forced to fund free world tours of mission executives by being told that all those dying without faith are his personal responsibility. In short, there is so much misapplied Law in the visible church that many people define Christianity not as a message of comfort for sinners, but rather as a list of rules, demands, and prohibitions, all of which are badly observed.



"But the fanatics soon torment us with works, and profess to have a nobler spirit; they urge and insist upon our doing something first of all, and permit faith and love to be overlooked. This of course is not of the Holy Spirit. Christ first takes possession of the conscience, and when it is right in faith toward God, then He also directs us to do works toward our neighbor. But He first highly extols faith and keeps works in the background.:

Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, V, p. 200. Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity, Matthew 9:1-8


From Legalism to Lawlessness – G.A.


In my opinion, the rotten state of the Lutheran Church today is largely based upon the transition from the legalism of its recent past to the lawlessness of today. A false view of the Word lets people think that they are righteous through obedience to the Law, even if it is only ever-changing synodical law. In this atmosphere, the only sin is questioning what the synod is doing and teaching. The worst example of this process is the secret initiation rite known in the Wisconsin Synod as GA, the capstone of a series of abusive initiations in the WELS school system. The initials GA stand for Gemuetlicher Abend, a misleading term which translates as “friendly evening.” All the facts below are based upon my eye-witness observation of GA and a similar ceremony leading to GA, called Bonecruncher. I have also heard many different reports about the initiations in WELS. My initial observations, sent by someone else to WELS pastors, also elicited some interesting and revealing responses.

GA is the secret initiation rite for Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, but the effort to create a cult begins much earlier. Although WELS is taking apart its education system, the ideal Wisconsin Synod pastor was once someone who began parochial school in kindergarten in the state of Wisconsin, went to prep school and college in Watertown, and then attended Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. Northwestern College is gone, but the old system continues to have its toxic effects. The ideal student who attended Mequon had already endured two previous initiation rites. Prep schools have a system called sechs-ing, based on the German term for first year student (Sechstaner). Older students in WELS prep schools are allowed to boss freshmen around, forcing them to carry lunch trays, and do odd jobs. The tradition is innocent enough, but many older students cannot control their sadistic attitudes and their need to get even with smaller students. One student was held out of the second story window by his legs, and then dropped accidentally, breaking some bones. One rule is absolutely enforced in WELS schools - no one tells. If various facts get back to the dean and he takes action, the male student who reported the infraction is picked up by his nipples, causing excruciating pain. When the wife of prep school board member Brownie Schmitzer heard about this tradition, her husband said, “That’s what we always did.” She did not want her children to attend a WELS prep school. Her husband, schooled in the Wisconsin Synod tradition of sadism, did not view it as a problem.[2]

Northwestern College also had an initiation rite for freshmen students. The older students could use the time for innocent fun, but they could also brutalize younger students. It depended on the class, not the faculty. The faculty did almost nothing to stop the abuse. One event involved having students run a gauntlet where older students socked the victim with pillows. Obviously, that would not hurt. But one older student filled his pillowcase with books, hit a student in the head, and knocked him out cold. Another tradition concerned the famous Sprinter statue, now at Martin Luther College. The older students forced every single freshman to simulate anal intercourse with the statue. Anyone who objected was shunned as a sissy and tattle-tale. One class stopped the physical brutality and deviant behavior, but a later class of students in charge of initiation was suspected of returning things to abnormal.

Amazingly, Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary even has an extra initiation rite just before GA. In the past, when the future seminary students were all at Northwestern College in Watertown, a short distance from Milwaukee, the seminary had a special event called Bonecruncher (which I observed). Once again, the idea could have been fun, but many seminary classes abused their power over the younger students. One perverted tradition was to give the students a new name, often an obscene name based upon his surname. For example, someone named Knollmueller was renamed “Hole-filler,” amid hoots of laughter and mock disapproval. The students were told to wear their best clothes to the dinner and basketball game, and then they were forced to ruin their best suits by sitting on food and performing various monkey acts for the amusement of upperclassmen, future WELS pastors all. Wives and girlfriends also attended. The students were told that cleaning bills would be paid, but no one was expected to be a sissy and complain.

The name of Bonecruncher is derived from another weird tradition. Each student is given a bone based upon the seminary students’ attitude toward him. If the man was a square-jawed athlete with an IQ smaller than his chest size, he was given a large bone amid shouts of approval. If he was a quiet, studious man, he might get a jar of water with bone powder dissolved in it. The future pastors are amazingly proud of how they inflict pain and disapproval upon their future colleagues, especially when they note who gets the jabs. The goal, as Church Growth leader James Huebner noted, is to have everyone “exactly alike.”[3] That tradition is why ELS pastors call Mequon “the sausage factory.”

This superfluity of initiation rites has several intended results. First of all, no one attending Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary is unaware of the initiation system and what happens to those who object. Secondly, the initiation system has weeded out those who do not wish to conform to sadistic and perverted acts. Thirdly, the faculty is pleased to have students who already expect to be beaten down and abused when they resist utter and mindless conformity. Those who puzzle over the strange attitudes of WELS pastors do not understand the secret initiation rite called GA.

The president of Northwestern College referred to GA in his history of the college, when he wrote about Dr. Martin Luther College defeating his school in football, below.



“In 1981 DMLC defeated NWC for the first time. The Northwestern team and its followers were crestfallen; they felt they had let their school down. Alumni at the seminary predicted that dire things would happen to the seniors at GA (Gemuetlicher Abend) the next year.”

            Carleton Toppe, Holding the Course, Northwestern College 125, Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 1990, p. 136.


If all has gone well, the first-year student at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary enters with a vague and fearful concept of GA. All GA veterans are sworn to secrecy. When I observed GA, I was told repeatedly that I could not tell my son, my wife, or anyone about GA. Once, when I mentioned some little item in front of my family and a WELS pastor, he glared at me and said, “You have said too much already.” Although WELS leader Vic Prange called GA “our Masonic Lodge,” GA is actually far more secretive than the Masonic rites. I am publishing this information to help close down the sadistic system forever. Two times in the past, students decided to end GA because of abuses. However, others brought it back. Seminary professor, ecumenist, and GA pope James P. Tiefel wrote from his parish in Saginaw to express concern over GA being shut down. GA started again, thanks to efforts like Tiefel’s.

GA begins the school year for the entire school. No classes are held for a week. The first event in GA is a fake debate and vote on whether to hold GA. This debate happens every year, getting students to call their fathers (who are pastors) and say, “Dad, they may not have GA this year.” The fathers laugh over the fact that their sons are being fooled! One student was still in the dark at the end, saying that a former lawyer argued convincingly against having GA. “They even voted on it,” he said. This opening move of GA is very important for understanding the WELS compulsion for lying about everything. Missouri works with ELCA, supports Fuller Seminary, and admits it happily.

WELS works with ELCA, adores Fuller Seminary, and denies everything. One WELS pastor said, “It bothers me that our leaders lie even when everyone knows they are lying.”The second important aspect of GA is division of upperclassmen into “hards” and “softs.” The softs are also called Pietists. The hards constantly persecute and threaten the first year students, but the softs offer comfort and support. The students become increasingly reliant upon the softs for guidance and then finally realize at the end that everyone was lying. Hards were working with the softs all along and laughing about student reactions.

GA causes enormous family tensions and scandalizes those who have qualms about the Wisconsin Synod. As one Roman Catholic father said to his son, “You say you are against secret societies, but GA is a secret society.” Employers find men missing from work and unable to explain why they were gone. Although this is supposed to be taken care of, the upper classmen do not care about the damage they do to relationships.

Not surprisingly, GA involves both emotional and physical abuse. One pastor told me about how they knocked out someone’s tooth and then paid for the man’s dental work as a class. Every so often, they would ask to look at “the class tooth.” According to some, bones have been broken and blood has been drawn. This abuse is defended because it is like boot camp for Marines. GA leaders have students pull a hay wagon and various other useless chores. I saw men being forced to do push-ups while students poured beer down on their heads. One veteran of GA said that students put cigar ashes and filthy pond water in the chili and forced students to drink it. A pastor’s widow thought GA led to her husband’s ill health, which is not impossible if he got a strep infection from the sewage laced pond.

One great honor is to become the GA pope. The GA pope gets to dress up and order people around. I saw the GA pope demand that the students find his bowling ball, lost in the pond, an annual event. The students were expected to wade into the pond and go under water to find the missing ball. I saw this taking place. Behind me, Professor James Westendorf stood and grinned as he remembered the good old days. When the men returned from the pond, most of them took all of their filthy clothes off outside before going up to their rooms. Needless to say, I was a little shocked at seeing the first-year class buck naked outdoors. The WELS pastor who invited me said, “The cafeteria women always work near the windows when this part of GA takes place.” The windows of the kitchen offer an excellent view of the male strip show.

The GA week builds up to a climax where each student is certain that the hards will get him. Students who know this is not true are really given the business during GA. The student body waits in a lounge while each first year student is brought to the doors with the idea that this is his last chance to escape, if he only runs hard enough. A soft has guided him to this escape and he is told the hards are waiting to get him. Inside, everyone makes a lot of noise. When the door opens, the student runs in with a white face, truly afraid. Two or more seminarians catch him, tell him it is all over, and calm him down. Quickly he realizes that the entire week was an enormous deception. Individually, each student is captured until everyone is together and drinking beer. Afterwards, the GA committee has a party for students, faculty, and synodical workers.

One pastor noted that GA forever changes pastors, even those who hated every juvenile minute of it. Because most of the WELS ministerium has passed through this initiation (and several previous ones), an unwritten code unites them. A non-conformist must be driven out and abused. No one is spared. Once the Mischke backyard barbeque bunch decided to get rid of Northwestern College, no previous position or synodical seniority helped those who objected. The previous seminary president was “senile” because he opposed the amalgamation, as it was so delicately called. A senior pastor was denounced as brain-damaged for publishing a paper against Church Growth and amalgamation. In fact, he had a stroke after he wrote the paper. When I leaked the essay to Christian News, Pastor Tim Buelow phoned to rant at me for giving away “secret” information. Someone sent me the paper to leak, omitting the cover page which sought to restrict its readership.[4]

GA has many different consequences. WELS leaders enjoy criticizing all synods, especially the only one in fellowship with Wisconsin, the tiny Evangelical Lutheran Synod. (May God have mercy on the ELS pastor who openly criticizes WELS.) However, no one is allowed to say that anything is less than perfect within WELS. Anyone who points out an obvious wrong is disloyal, a trouble-maker, and worthy of being driven away. This oppression makes the ministerium the most timid in America. The WELS district presidents keep everything a secret among themselves, and no one is allowed to ask—“Because it is a secret.” The entire synod is run more like a little boys’ club, where the worst bullies are the most esteemed for their sadism. One ex-WELS member wrote to me that her former pastor, newly graduated from seminary, spent an inordinate amount of time bragging about the dirty tricks he had played on his classmates. This arrested state of emotional development is so obvious because the pastors get together and begin acting just like Cub Scouts who recently burned down an outhouse or two. We attended a WELS pastor’s wedding. One feature was throwing marshmallows at the groom during the reception. He got worked up and began throwing them back at everyone. He was elected the district secretary soon after, divorced and out of the ministry in short order. The divorced women in the congregation wept openly when he left the ministry.

Not all the WELS pastors suffer from the GA syndrome, but they cannot escape the consequences of serving in a synod where GA is cherished by the seminary faculty and where the editor of the synod’s hymnal was the GA pope. Two students went to the dean of the seminary, John Brenner, now a graduate student at a Jesuit school, and objected to GA in advance.[5] That tradition is the rule for WELS, and it has the benefit of identifying anyone who objects to anything. Dean Brenner, grandson of the last decent WELS synod president said, “The benefits of GA outweigh the bad side.” Neither student is a WELS pastor now. More than one student has avoided Mequon because of GA. They want no part of it.

One former victim of WELS clergy abuse asked me to write about GA. I did it with reluctance, because I had many previous experiences with WELS getting even with me and members of my family.[6] However, I believe that the truth will eventually break the back of WELS abuses, especially if a few lawsuits identify the culprits who have blessed abusive behavior which is clearly contrary to the law. My doctrinal bulletin went to Lutherans of all synods and one person decided to put it on the WELS clergy chat mail service. Suddenly I began getting abusive email from various WELS pastors. One person claimed that the faculty knew nothing about GA. The next one said GA was fine because it was faculty approved. Another person denounced me for writing about something I never saw, even though my bulletin clearly identified my eyewitness experiences with GA and Bonecruncher. My favorite email was already quoted in the chapter on false doctrine. It came from someone I knew. He did not know my motivation for writing the description, he said, but then said I was motivated by bitterness. I was amazed that this man could pretend to read my mind when he has had no contact with me for about 8 years. A number of people accused me of publishing the bulletin in Christian News when it was never sent to the periodical and never appeared there. But this was the sin of sins, the ad hermanem argument: anything published in CN against WELS was twice cursed.

In the aftermath of the GA email dust-up, one person sent me a packet of GA songs, gathered and reprinted by Pastor Jon Balge, a son of the seminary professor. The former WELS pastor kept his Balge edition of GA songs for years, leaving them behind in his office when he left his wife and children for his mistress. One of the songs is printed below.


G. A. Never Sleeps

“My, my; hey, hey;

Kinder, would you like to stay?

It’s better to endure than to run away,

My, my; Hey, hey.


A little bit blue, a little bit black

You’re afraid of this, afraid of that.

And once you start, you can never turn back

You’re in the lagoon, and the mud is black.


On a day that will not soon be forgotten

Last one in is an egg that’s rotten,

It’s do or die—no questions asked

On a day we call “Gemuetlicher Abend.”


Hey, hey; my, my;

Don’t worry, you won’t die

But you might throw up, and you might cry

Hey, hey; my, my.”[7]


When I first wrote about GA, I looked up information about another secret society, Skull and Bones at Yale University, whose members include former President Bush, Governor George W. Bush, and many other famous civil leaders, such as William F. Buckley. Certain parallels between GA and Skull and Bones amazed me, because one would never connect the two, except for their secretive nature. Both cults give new names to the initiates and have special songs that are sung only at their gatherings. Initiations include the new persons and the old veterans as well, who come back for the reunions. The rituals are kept secret, but they are very much like the Masonic Lodge, where one is born again into the new way of life. Loyalty is rewarded in both cults. Someone who partakes in the new paganism is sealed for life, even if he has the deepest regrets. There are homosexual overtones in both rituals. One WELS pastor wrote about GA: “Jackson has a point with regard to the homosexual jokes. They ought not to be. Homosexuality is a serious problem for some. It is even possible that at an all male school the problem can be triggered in some. ‘Avoid even a hint of sexual immorality.’[8]



“Having read Jackson's expose on WELS Initiation rites (this is a Latanism, [sic] isn't it?), I am shocked to read of the abuse suffered by our beloved Sprinter. Statue rape? I am appalled. Do such things actually happen? Let Synod appoint a special prosecutor to conduct a thorough investigation of this brutal deed, and if the perps be caught, I say,
condemn them to be ministers of independent Lutheran congregations.


PS. And no, I didn't rat to Jackson. I haven't told my wife much about GA. My dad won't even tell me what happened to him in 1941, except I discovered some really great photos of him, dressed up as the Pope, the mere mention of which gets him to smile. I guess August Pieper got a real charge out of it.”

Nathan R. Pope


From: Ryan Heiman <heimanr@wls.wels.net>

Date: Tuesday, November 03, 1998 8:29 PM

Subject: in christian love




I am not going to argue with someone that is saying lies and many other false doctrines, but I would just like to point how the correct way of doing things in christian love is not to go out and print some crazy article in a magazine but go to them and talk with them in privat [sic] first. Hopefully you will see your sins and repent to God that he will in his mercy show you the gospel truth and work the correct faith in your heart again.



Ryan Heiman



From: David E Koehler <koehlerd@juno.com>

Date: Wednesday, November 04, 1998 9:12 AM


Dear Mr. Jackson,


I recently received your piece on the WELS and initiation for the CN. I was just a bit curious as to your motivation for writing this excellent work. I can only assume that it was done purely out of Christian love. I am sure that a man of your exceptional moral fortitude would never blatantly break the 8th commandment. I am also assuming that you talked to the people involved personally before you turned the story over to a tabloid. I would definitely love to give you the benefit of the doubt. Although I would never accuse you of being a blatant liar or slanderer, I would definitely say you write with half-truths and exaggerations. It gives credence to "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing." You obviously possess a little knowledge on this subject. I was moved by your article in two ways. The first way was laughter. You knew so little about the actual events that I laughed out loud. It almost seemed that you were trying to blow the cover off of it, but in reality I think you enhanced the mystery. Way to go. The second way I was moved was to sadness. I was sad that you would blatantly attack the reputation of faithful called workers in God's kingdom. It was shameless. Like I said before, I am sure your motivation was strictly out of Christian love to help these men and they were not ad hominem attacks to settle personal vendettas. Believe me I am trying to give you the benefit of the doubt. I don't think it necessary for me to sit here and defend the practices of our synodical institutions. That would just give credit to your article of lies and exaggerations…


Well, I tire of you, but I have one last comment. Check your Bible for the commandments and see if the eighth has been removed from yours.


Vicar David Koehler

MLS Class of '92

MLC Class of '96

WLS Class of 2000


Effects of Lawlessness


Unfortunately, those who think they are escaping the Law-monkey of Pietism end up carrying it around with them in the form of hedonistic lawlessness. The Wisconsin Synod has had far more than its share of scandals, all covered up by the GA-trained hierarchy. Two church workers have murdered their wives, escaping any serious penalty. It is true that Al Just went to prison after being convicted, but he did not spend many years behind bars. He was recently seen with a WELS youth group. Pastor Taber joined the Wisconsin Synod with a group of people he took out of the LCR congregation in Cape Girardeaux, Missouri. He did not serve any time for the murder of his wife, which took place in his Milwaukee congregation, although his girlfriend did suffer the consequences of participating in the act. District President Ed Werner was arrested and convicted of molesting young girls in his congregation. He is currently in the state prison in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The sexual abuse had been going on for years. The pastors who kept electing him district president would not allow their wives or daughters to be alone in the room with Reverend Werner. The cloak of secrecy did not benefit Ed Werner’s soul, nor help the victims of his attention, nor his family. Retaliation against anyone who finds out such information and reports it has only served to protect the worst offenders. To this day most members in WELS do not know about the two spouse murders, the vicar and the district president in prison.

When I was serving a mission congregation in Columbus, Ohio, Pastor Fred Adrian chaired the powerful District Mission Board. During this time a married vicar, Scott Zerbe, had an affair with a minor girl, who subsequently took the congregation and WELS to court. Zerbe went to the state prison in Michigan for his offenses. The synodical lawyers pleaded their innocence. They knew of no other incidents in their entire synod, even though a district president was in state prison at that moment. The plaintiff’s lawyer presented evidence that WELS was not telling the truth. Finally the judge ordered WELS to produce evidence. The jury looked at the facts and found Pastor Fred Adrian, his congregation, and WELS guilty of poor supervision. The initial judgment was $400,000, which was immediately contested by WELS. The plaintiff’s lawyer was disgusted with her dealings with the Wisconsin Synod. When the jury announced the award for the plaintiff, the Michigan District kept it a secret from their own pastors, even though it was in the Grand Rapids newspaper. This is such a common pattern in WELS that more examples would be wearisome.[9]


The Holy Spirit Works Efficaciously Through the Law



"All Scripture ought to be distributed into these two principal topics, the Law and the promises."

Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article IV, Justification, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 121. Tappert, p. 108.





"But the chief office or force of the Law is that it reveal original sin with all its fruits, and show man how very low his nature has fallen, and has become [fundamentally and] utterly corrupted; as the Law must tell man that he has no God nor regards [cares for] God, and worships other gods, a matter which before and without the Law he would not have believed. In this way he becomes terrified, is humbled, desponds, despairs, and anxiously desires aid, but sees no escape; he begins to be an enemy of [enraged at] God, and to murmur, etc. This is what Paul says, Romans 4:15: 'The Law worketh wrath.' And Romans 5:20: Sin is increased by the Law. [The Law entered that the offense might abound.']

Smalcald Articles, Third Part, I. 3. Of Sin. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 479. Tappert, p.



“Thesis VIII In the fourth place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when the Law is preached to those who are already in terror on account of their sins or the Gospel to those who live securely in their sins."

C. F. W. Walther, The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel, trans., W. H. T. Dau, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1928, p. 101.


When Lutherans speak about the efficacy of the Word, we should never neglect the power of the Holy Spirit in working through the Law. Although Christians in general seem to acknowledge the Law, and Lutherans often mention the concept of Law and Gospel, in practice the Law of God has been almost completely abandoned. Once again, it is because Lutherans have lost their trust in the Holy Spirit working through the Word alone. The evidence is all around us. Lutheran seminaries clamor for counseling expertise in their students. Counseling can be extremely valuable. The Christian faith has a long history of the Care of Souls, called Seelsorge in German. But the counseling which is advocated and put into practice today is a horrible hodge-podge of Freud, Jung, Masters and Johnson, Carl Rogers, and Reformed authors who vainly seek to Christianize a method plainly pagan and materialistic in origin. For instance, the analysis of dreams pioneered by Freud and his disciple Jung is nothing more than a rehash of Jewish occultism from the Kabala. Masters and Johnson, the dreary and sad looking sex experts from St. Louis, have turned the Scriptural revelation of “God is love” into “Love is god,” or rather, to be more precise, “Sex is god.” Carl Rogers, an apostate, bragged that he began a revolution by teaching all counselors to be non-judgmental. Some call his method “aren’t you counseling.” If a boy says he would like to kill his father, the properly trained pastor will respond, in a flat and non-judgmental voice, “You are angry, aren’t you.”

Reformed authors are even worse than the classical secular leaders. The case of the Journal of Pastoral Care is instructive. Clinical pastoral education began in part with the work of Anton Boisen, whose mental illness and divinity school background prompted him to work toward helping people by training ministers to be comfortable in the hospital setting. Boisen emphasized the Christian faith and influenced others to create organizations to promote the training of current and future pastors for hospital work and individual counseling. Seward Hiltner, Princeton Seminary, established the Journal of Pastoral Care with this idea in mind. In the 1970s, the Journal of Pastoral Care was written for ministers with an emphasis on theology. Later, the same periodical adopted the style and method of the psychological journals. The message was completely secular, because pastoral counselors look at psychiatrists the way socialists look at Marxists. A psychiatrist is the real thing, the expert who gains everyone’s attention. I recall a speaker in Cleveland stating quite bitterly that Elisabeth Kuebler-Ross got all the credit for grief counseling (from writing On Death and Dying) after working on the subject with two pastoral counselors.

The larger Lutheran synods established required Clinical Pastoral Education quarters for all their students. The standards in training were not Christian, but secular and were based upon the tendencies of the individual chaplain in charge. Most of them were ministers who were eclectic, borrowing a little here and there, depending upon what was popular at the moment. One Waterloo Lutheran Seminary program featured two Methodist ministers in charge of Lutherans, Mennonites, and Dutch Reformed.[10] We spent a lot of time studying various therapeutic methods, including Carl Rogers and Masters/Johnson. When I took a second quarter of CPE at Yale’s alcoholism center after the required work at Waterloo, the psychiatrist in our group made fun of my comments about forgiveness through the Gospel, saying, “Should we tell the alcoholic to put his hands on the television and be healed?”

Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary has students studying the so-called Christian counseling books of Reformed authors. Walther’s Law and Gospel would be much better, but the WELS Pietists are smitten and will not be parted from the sanctimony of the Reformed. If we look at their attempt to add a tint of Lutheran doctrine to this effort, The Counseling Shepherd, we find the Fuller influence writ large. The authors present Presbyterian Jay Adams as if he were a Lutheran who believes in the efficacy of the Word alone! According to this standard WELS and ELS seminary text, Larry Crab, a favorite psychologist for the Church Growth Movement, is good reading for the shepherd who counsels his sheep.[11] Interestingly, false doctrine in The Counseling Shepherd led the Church of the Lutheran Confession into the same error – that God commands us to love ourselves.



“Low self-esteem enters in when we see things in ourselves that prevent us from having the love of self that we normally have or would like to have…


As objects of God's love, we can properly love ourselves...The same love of God which redeemed me has also reached out to my neighbor. This fact gives motive and meaning to the Lord's command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' It leads me to see my neighbor as someone for whom the Savior died, and it compels Gospel outreach. Such love of my neighbor helps me avoid both pride and low self-esteem. It leads me to the kind of self-love that gratefully and humbly rejoices in the gifts, talents, and blessings of God which can be used in loving service to my neighbor."

Armin Schuetze and Frederick Matzke, The Counseling Shepherd, Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 1988, p. 199. Cited with approval by David Schierenbeck.


Pastors David Schierenbeck and Paul F. Nolting accepted this nonsense and began promoting it in the so-called Church of the Lutheran Confession, causing enormous conflict. Several ministers left or were fired by the CLC. Three congregations left the CLC. Nolting made matters worse with his paper, delivered at an annual clergy meeting in his role as chairman of the board of doctrine. No one promoting self-love or self-esteem in the CLC seemed to care that it was just a regurgitation of WELS rehashing the false doctrine of Fuller Seminary, Robert Schuller, and James Dobson.



"A man loves his wife because she brings him a variety of pleasures, satisfies his needs, etc. His wife satisfies his love of himself. Is he sinning by loving his wife which satisfies his self-love? A young man desires the office of a bishop. He loves to preach the gospel. He derives satisfaction and fulfillment from preaching. Is he sinning because preaching satisfies his love of himself? These questions need to be raised because of the contention that all self-love is sinful."[12]

Paul F. Nolting, "The End-time Heresy of the Cosmic Gospel of Self-Salvation," CLC Pastors' Conference, Eau Claire, Wisconsin, June 20-22, 1995, p. 8.


Therefore, the abandonment of trust in the Law of God has had the effect of letting Lutherans turn to the secular leaders of psychiatry or to the Reformed amalgamation of false doctrine and psychiatry. Either form of leaven spreads quickly and turns into hedonistic Unitarianism. Lutherans have already become used to this leaven and no longer wish to hear the pure Word of God. Once Christians are introduced to self-love in the sermon, the Bible class, and synodical press and thus after being exposed to it at work, they view the irritation of their Old Adam as the sign of bad preaching, bad pastors, and bad karma. They will not abide this and desire only to be praised and told God loves them. In truth, if the Law is removed, the Gospel also vanishes.


Part One: Attributes of the Law


The Law Convicts Us of Unbelief



"However, here the Lord speaks quite differently, and says: 'The Holy Spirit will convict the world in respect of sin, because they believe not on me.' Unbelief only is mentioned here as sin, and faith is praised as suppressing and extinguishing the other sins, even the sins in the saints. Faith is so strong and overpowering that no sin dare put it under any obligation. Although sins are present in pious and believing persons, they are not imputed to them, nor shall their sins condemn them."

Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, III, p. 127. Fourth Sunday after Easter, Second Sermon John 16:5-15.


When the Reformed and Roman Catholics teach about sin, most people think they mean spending too much money on slow horses and fast women. Both confessions place their emphasis upon sanctification rather than faith. However, Jesus taught about sin in a different way.


KJV John 16:7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. 8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 Of sin, because they believe not on me;


BYZ John 16:7 avll evgw. th.n avlh,qeian le,gw u`mi/n sumfe,rei u`mi/n i[na evgw. avpe,lqw eva.n ga.r evgw. mh. avpe,lqw o` para,klhtoj ouvk evleu,setai pro.j u`ma/j\ eva.n de. poreuqw/ pe,myw auvto.n pro.j u`ma/j 8 kai. evlqw.n evkei/noj evle,gxei to.n ko,smon peri. a`marti,aj kai. peri. dikaiosu,nhj kai. peri. kri,sewj\ 9 peri. a`marti,aj me,n o[ti ouv pisteu,ousin eivj evme,\


Non-Lutheran preaching of the Law focuses upon sins of the flesh, providing a constant source of guilt without a clear sense of forgiveness. Such Law preaching is usually followed by Law solutions. To pay for his sins, a Roman Catholic must do something: acts of contrition, masses, payments (reparations). The Reformed believer is given a variety of Law solutions: he must yield his life to Jesus, become a prayer warrior, or give up a particular habit. The sins identified are outward and easily visible, in contrast to coveting which cannot be seen and yet prompts so many other sins.



"You may tie a hog ever so well, but you cannot prevent it from grunting, until it is strangled and killed. Thus it is with the sins of the flesh."

Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, II, p. 247.


Luther preached against the sin of not believing the Word of God. False teachers are inclined to exemplify this sentiment, “I will preach about those things which inflame me, but I cannot support parts of the Bible that are contrary to reason or my confession.” Thus there is only a short step between the Reformed who cannot believe in the Real Presence of Christ and the Jehovah’s Witness saying he does not believe in the Trinity. As a recent Jehovah’s Witness said to me, “I cannot believe that Jesus as God prayed to God.” I said, “A cow cannot believe it either.” The greatest work of the Holy Spirit in working through the Law can be seen in showing us that we do not trust the Word completely. We should be thankful that the Holy Spirit has revealed the Gospel to us and nurtured the faith He created. Human reason cannot grasp Christ crucified for our sins.

In the last few decades, conservative Lutherans thought they were mighty fine fellows when they preached in favor of the inerrancy of the Scriptures, a minority view in this age. However, in the Christian Church this is no more remarkable than defending the moistness of water or the color of the sky. A pan-Christian inerrancy conference reveals that the confessions gathered together do not agree on anything except inerrancy, which is also defined in various ways. Lutherans now need to preach against the sin of selective belief in the Bible, showing how the Scriptures are the Book of the Holy Spirit, an integrated and harmonious truth revealed for our salvation and blessings. The sin of unbelief can be seen in many different ways today in the Lutheran Church:

1.     People do not trust in the forgiveness of their sins through the atoning death of Christ, so they remain anxious and seek after other cures.

2.     Pastors and congregations look for material proof of their success, forcing visible results upon the Gospel when Jesus promised only a cross.

3.     Synods, pastors, and congregations do not trust the Gospel, so they lash people with the Law and then provide Law solutions.

4.     The constant displays of resentment, grudges, and retaliations in the Lutheran Church indicate that few believe in the forgiveness of sins.

5.     Kokomo justification has had such a toxic influence on the Wisconsin Synod, ELS, and parts of the LCMS that faith seems to be something evil rather than the reason for preaching the Gospel.



"If remission of sins without repentance is preached, the people imagine that they have already forgiveness of sins, and thereby they are made secure and unconcerned. This is a greater error and sin than all error of former times, and it is verily to be feared that we are in that danger which Christ points out when He says, Matthew 12:45: 'The last state of that man shall be worse than the first.'"

C. F. W. Walther, The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel, trans., W. H. T. Dau, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1928, p. 123.


Our carnal nature, because of Original Sin, is tainted and corrupted in every respect. The Reformed and Roman Catholics do not believe this. The Lutherans say they believe in Original Sin but carry on in the worst Pietistic, sanctimonious, holier-than-thou way. A major step in listening to the Holy Spirit speaking through the Law is to confess, “It is true. Even my noblest thoughts and actions are tainted by sin, so I should stop bragging about what I have done and instead confess what Christ has done for me.”



"No work is so evil that it can damn a man, and no work is so good that it can save a man; but faith alone saves us, and unbelief damns us. The fact that someone falls into adultery does not damn him. Rather the adultery indicates that he has fallen from faith. This damns him; otherwise adultery would be impossible for him. So, then, nothing makes a good tree except faith."

What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed., Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, I, p. 475. Matthew 7:15-23.


Using the Law to show unbelief is especially important in this age of Pelagianism. People truly believe they can perfect and save themselves. One amusing example was the grim young couple shown on TV who admitted they did not like fish but forced themselves to eat it twice a week to make themselves healthier. Others are on a campaign to save Planet Earth by recycling, without ever giving God credit for the miracle of compost. Still others have grasped various cures, therapies, clinics, and movements to find their earthly and heavenly Xanadu. Anyone who denies that this movement has invaded Christianity is delirious. When we met two Fundamentalists at a hotel, they began speaking about Paul Y. Cho, who had just given a speech at some Christian gathering. I tried to tell them that Cho’s occult religion put him outside of the Christian faith, but they smiled glassy-eyed and repeated their devotion to him. In another situation, a Presbyterian woman started asking me about studying the Bible. At one point she asked about reincarnation. I pointed out the pagan and anti-Christian nature of the concept, but she smiled dreamily and said she still believed in it. Later, when I attended a Church Growth seminar, I sat next to a Church of God minister. He had the look of a man just getting off the plane in Las Vegas, grinning in hyperbolic anticipation. The minister asked me what I thought about the seminar, so I responded about Fuller being anti-inerrancy, inviting Cho, and undermining the faith. He fire-walled me with one terse comment, “I like it.”



"Today nothing is so common as turning right into wrong and wrong into right by employing all sorts of clever expedients and strange tricks."

What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed., Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, III, p. 1294.


The challenge of Lutheran preaching and teaching today will be to bring this passage—John 16:7— to the forefront. This challenge involves teaching against selective belief and hearing - against cafeteria Christianity where only the favorite dishes are chosen. (No thanks. I do not want that cross. It is much too large for me.) Although this duty will seem to be too difficult for many, and they may likely rebel in many different ways, the message also has within it a source of great comfort. The more we listen to Luther’s sermons, the more we understand how the Holy Spirit alone works contrition through the Law and forgiveness through the Gospel. Luther also helps us see how much pure Gospel is contained in the Old Testament and in each phrase of the epistles (where we may overlook it).

There are really three different styles of preaching in the Christian Church today.

1.     The Reformed or Pietistic preacher says, “You are horrible sinners, but if you do what I tell you to do, God may ease up on the judgment you so richly deserve.”

2.     The Roman Catholic priest says, “You are horrible sinners, but if you submit to my authority and perform various acts of contrition, I may get you some time off of Purgatory.”

3.     The sincere Lutheran pastor says, “We are sinful, weak people, tainted by Original Sin and unable to save ourselves. Nevertheless, Christ has paid for our sins through His death on the cross and has provided the Means of Grace to distribute this forgiveness, which we receive in faith. When God says our sins are forgiven, His efficacious Word removes them forever. Where sin is forgiven, eternal life springs up.”

Many Lutheran pastors now combine the Romanism of the synod with the Pietism of the culture, so their members hear little of God’s Law and even less of the Gospel.



"A penitent heart is a rare thing and a great grace; one cannot produce it by thinking about sin and hell. Only the Holy Spirit can impart it."

What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed., Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, III, p. 1212.



"Now God drives us to this by holding the law before us, in order that through the law we may come to a knowledge of ourselves. For where there is not this knowledge, one can never be saved. He that is well needs no physician; but if a man is sick and desires to become well, he must know that he is weak and sick, otherwise he cannot be helped."

Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, II, p. 370. Second Sunday after Easter, Second Sermon John 20:19-31.



"For the heart is ever hostile to the law and resists it with inward disobedience."

Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, III, p. 140. Fourth Sunday after Easter, Third Sermon John 16:5-15.



"Therefore the Holy Spirit rightly and justly convicts, as sinful and condemned, all who have not faith in Christ. For where this is wanting, other sins in abundance must follow: God is despised and hated, and the entire first table is treated with disobedience."

Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, III, p. 141. Fourth Sunday after Easter, Third Sermon John 16:5-15.



"It breaks in not piecemeal on certain works and actions, but reduces to nothing and condemns everything that reason and worldly wisdom propose. In short, He convicts and censures them in and for the very things they do not wish to be convicted in, but rather praised and lauded, as teaching and doing well and right."

Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, III, p. 138. Fourth Sunday after Easter, Third Sermon. John 16:5-15.


The Law Always Condemns



"I have often told you, dearly beloved, that the entire Scriptures consist of two parts, of the law and the Gospel. It is the law that teaches us what we are required to do; the Gospel teaches where we shall receive what the law demands. For it is quite a different thing to know what we should have, and to know where to get it. Just as when I am given into the hands of the physicians, where it is quite a different art to tell what my disease is than to tell what medicine I must take so as to recover. Thus it is likewise here. The law discovers the disease, the Gospel ministers the medicine."

Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, V, p. 31. Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity, Luke 10:23-37.



"This is the situation with him: the greater his external restraint from evil, the greater his inward hatred of him who restrains. His character is in the scales; when one side goes up, the other goes down. While outward sin decreases, inward sin increases. We know from experience that those youths most strictly reared are, when given liberty, more wicked than young men less rigidly brought up. So impossible it is to improve human nature with commandments and punishments; something else is necessary."

Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VI, p. 268. New Year's Day, Galatians 3:23-29.


The Law is the work of the Holy Spirit, but it is limited to condemnation and threats. For that reason, the Law can never provide the perfection it demands. Lutherans should be especially aware of this limitation, because the Reformed solutions provided by mission boards, evangelism experts, and synodical officials are all Law, but man-made law at best. Luther’s analogy, comparing Law and Gospel to diagnosis and treatment, is still good to use today. I was waiting with a family while the head of the household was in surgery. A former Roman Catholic began talking about her change from the Church of Rome to Pentecostalism. She was much happier as a Pentecostal. I knew that my chance to say something was quite limited, so I pointed out that the Law was the same as getting an x-ray, but all the x-rays in the world would not cure an ailment. Only the Gospel of forgiveness could provide healing. She brightened up when she heard this and I hope paid more attention to the Gospel in the future. Many people I know would have said, “You have to quit the Pentecostals and join my synod.” That would be a Law solution and the wrong one, as far as the immediate problem was concerned.

Because the Law always condemns, it can bear no fruit. The Law can be enforced on anyone and often produces comical results. For instance, mission boards love mission reports but seldom read them. Two pastors tested this principle by sending in phony, inflated, and hilarious reports for months. They had the audacity to tell the mission executive that they would not send any more reports because he did not read them. “Of course I have!” They taunted him into opening the file and reading them, provoking an angry response unbecoming to a minister of the Gospel. The Law by itself produces guilt and moves people to obey, but they cannot love God’s Law through hearing the Law alone. Consequently, correct Lutheran teaching includes both Law and Gospel, with the Gospel predominating.



Luther: "The lawmonger compels by threats and punishments; the preacher of grace persuades and incites men by setting forth the goodness and mercy of God."

Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, 3 vols., trans., Walter W. F. Albrecht, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1950, I, p. 79.



"What is said there concerning the servant is true here concerning the pupil. Paul employs the two figures to teach us the office of the Law and what it profits. We must, therefore, again refer to the Law and its works, to the fact that works are of twofold origin. Some are extorted by fear of punishment or prompted by expectation of pleasure and gain; others are spontaneous, cheerful and gratuitous, not performed to escape punishment nor to gain reward, but inspired by pure kindness and a desire for what is good. The first class are the works of servants and pupils; the second class, of children and free heirs."

Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VI, p. 267. New Year's Day, Galatians 3:23-29.



"As for example when we feel in our conscience that God rebukes us as sinners and judges us unworthy of the kingdom of heaven, then we experience hell, and we think we are lost forever. Now whoever understands here the actions of this poor woman and catches God in His own judgment, and says, Lord, it is true, I am a sinner and not worthy of Thy grace; but still Thou hast promised sinners forgiveness, and Thou art come not to call the righteous, but, as St. Paul says in 1 Timothy 1:15, 'to save sinners.' Behold, then must God according to His own judgment have mercy upon us."

Sermons of Martin Luther, ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, II, p. 153. Matthew 15:21-28.


The Law Produces Contrition



"The Law, in condemning sins and setting forth the gravest threats of God, is that hammer (Jeremiah 23:29) through which God breaks rocks, that is, crushes the spirit, renders the heart contrite and humbles it, so that truly and earnestly acknowledging the multitude and magnitude of sins and of the wrath of God over sin, the mind begins to hate and detest sin, to fear the wrath and judgment of God so that it is unwilling to perish eternally under them but sighs and struggles with groaning that it may be freed from them."

Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, trans., Fred Kramer, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1986, II, p. 556.



"The Holy Spirit thus uses the Law to bring us to despair; it is a despair of ourselves and our own righteousness before God; and then through the Gospel He shows us Christ."

George Tiefel, Jr., "God the Holy Spirit Acts in Both Law and Gospel," God The Holy Spirit Acts, ed., Eugene P. Kaulfield, Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 1972, p. 50.



"The Word of the Law (nomos pneumatikos), as it is revealed in Holy Scripture, has the inherent power to work such a knowledge of sin that man realizes his eternal damnation and despairs of all self-help (contritio, terrores conscientiae). Romans 3:20: 'By the Law is the knowledge of sin.' True, man may arrive at a partial knowledge of his sinfulness by virtue of the divine Law as it is written in the heart of natural man also after the Fall. But while this knowledge suffices to give man an evil conscience, it is not sufficient to effect a complete collapse of man before God and to cause him to despair of all self-help. Natural man rather turns from one form of self-help to another, even to suicide."

Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, 3 vols., trans. Walter W. F. Albrecht, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1950, I, p. 315f.


No one has ever enjoyed hearing the Law, but we need the Law to crush our pride and realize our need for a Savior. Without the Law of God, the unconverted go on their way and think something is vaguely wrong, but they have no hunger for the righteousness of God. Each person thinks of himself as especially good, better than most, a fact attested to by the speeches of various incorrigibles in society. A drug dealer will say, “I never sold to children.” A man will steal millions and find a good reason for his actions. A synodical leader will destroy lives for the good of the synod. Every believer is tempted to think along the same lines. If we hear the Gospel without the Law, we take everything for granted, condemn others, and soon refuse to hear the Gospel or the Law.

Our society has substituted many different man-made Law programs to replace God’s Law, flattery by imitation. No self-improvement program has any Gospel in it. The latest substitute is an urgent appeal for people to love themselves. I can take a course on self-esteem for credit at Glendale College, because self-esteem is now the cure for everything. When my wife Chris lost weight through considerable self-discipline, a nurse nodded approvingly and smiled, “You must have been working on your self-esteem.” Both of us grimaced.



"Unless the rocky subsoil in their hearts has been pulverized by the Law, the sweet Gospel is of no benefit to them."

C. F. W. Walther, The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel, trans., W. H. T. Dau, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1928, p. 119.


Because pastors are taught not to trust in the Law to produce contrition for sins, they flail about and try almost everything else. One experience had a profound effect on me. I was talked into visiting a group of men in a county jail in Ohio. One of my members worked at the jail and knew the men. I was very reluctant because I did not know what to say. I was used to criminals who never get caught, not men who spend their lives locked up for a series of relatively minor crimes. I decided to have a Bible study where we would talk about Law and Gospel. Many other ministers had visited the same men. Several had a Christian background. One was a Lutheran. One day I was quietly talking about how the Word shows us we are sinners. I did not shout at them or tell them to yield their lives to Jesus. I put the whole group of us on the same plane and talked about how we all needed the Gospel because of our sinful nature. One man started crying, followed by the rest. I had never seen such a reaction. I knew it had nothing to do with the presentation. When they were acknowledging their sinfulness in a group confession, I drew upon Walther’s Law and Gospel. I did not want them to think in terms of sorrow for sin alone. Contrition is not the cure. The Gospel is the medicine we all need. So I emphasized the wiping out of their sin through the atoning death of Christ.

The Lutheran prisoner straightened out and finally stopped taking drugs that were being smuggled into jail. After he got out of jail, he went to his former addict friends and talked to them about the Gospel. Later he went to live with an uncle and sent me a thank-you card. It is difficult to know what happened to the others. The advantage they enjoyed over most people is that they knew they were sinners. Being locked up is a genuine and visible reminder of one’s shortcomings. The problem today is whether a man who knows his sinfulness will also hear the genuine Gospel. No one appreciates the forgiveness of God more than a man who faces the consequences of his actions.



"Therefore, I hold that the German proverb is true, that more souls go to heaven from the gallows than from the cemetery; for criminals have not so greatly practiced lack of confidence in the goodness of Christ."

What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed., Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, III, p. 1275. Isaiah 28:19.



"But now, if we are to know Christ as our helper and Savior, then we must first know, out of what He can help us, not out of fire or water, or other bodily need and danger, but out of sin and the hatred of God. But whence do I know that I lie drowned in misery? From no other source than from the Law, that must show me what my loss and disease are, or I will never inquire for the Physician and His help."

Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, V, p. 192. Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity, Matthew 22:34-46


The Law is Good, Holy, Just, Useful


KJV Romans 7:12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.


BYZ Romans 7:12 w[ste o` me.n no,moj a[gioj kai. h` evntolh. a`gi,a kai. dikai,a kai. avgaqh,.


When the limitations of the Law of God are discussed, some fall into the delusion that the Law is entirely bad, that they must escape and repudiate the Law. Lutherans believe in natural law, that God commands what is good for us. The negative aspects of the Law involve our sinful reaction to the perfect will of God, on one hand, and to the more glorious ministry of the Gospel, on the other hand. Nevertheless, the Law of God is holy, just, and useful. The Greek New Testament has two words for good. One is used for the Good Shepherd and is often translated as noble or beautiful. The other word for good can be translated as useful.

The Law is holy because it comes from God. Therefore, woe to the minister who cannot say, “Thus saith the Lord.” A faithful pastor is fully aware of all his failings as a sinful person, but he does not teach the Law of God as his personal opinion but as the very Word of God. The congregation should not say, “Who are you to tell me this?” but “Who are we to question and debate the Scriptures?”

The Me Generation has been loquacious in talking about fairness. The Law of God is always just, never favoring the rich over the poor, the powerful over the weak. It is easy for a congregation to have one set of rules for the influential and another set for the ordinary members. One Christian school had a written policy in its constitution. Drug use by a student meant expulsion. The student in question was not just using drugs but was caught selling illegal drugs. However, he was a star basketball player and the son of a board member. The board discussed how soon the boy could return to school and start playing again, ignoring comments about the expulsion (not suspension) written in the constitution. Although this boy never made it into professional basketball, even at the college level, he is an example of why so many professional players are immature and constantly in trouble with the justice system. The Law of God is just and will be executed in time, in spite of the failings of man.[13]

Although the Law is limited, it is still useful in accomplishing God’s will. The Law has three uses:

1.     The universal use of the Law is described succinctly as a curb. All nations recognize a system of right and wrong, even if their system is bad and corrupt. Even atheists are appalled by marital infidelity. Why? It is a testimony to their inner sense of right and wrong, even if their lips deny the Creator.

2.     The work of the Law in producing contrition, or godly sorrow for sin, is compared to a mirror. The Law reveals our sinfulness the way a mirror reflects our true image. When we see ourselves from the perspective of God’s holy Law, we long for forgiveness, comfort, healing, and love from our gracious Savior.

3.     The Law continues to be useful in the life of the believer as a guide. The explanation of the Ten Commandments in the Small Catechism is the best example. Luther clearly teaches us how we should obey each commandment through fear of God (the Law) and love of God (the Gospel). It is not enough to refrain from murder. We must also help the bodily needs of our neighbor.

Matthias Loy, the highly respected Lutheran leader and author, also wrote a fine hymn to help teach the proper distinction between Law and Gospel.



"The Law of God is good and wise

And sets His will before our eyes,

Shows us the way of righteousness,

And dooms to death when we transgress.


Its light of holiness imparts

The knowledge of our sinful hearts

That we may see our lost estate

And seek deliverance ere too late."

Matthias Loy, 1863, "The Law of God Is Good and Wise," The Lutheran Hymnal, #295, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1941. Psalm 19:8.[14]


The Isaac Watts hymn is also an excellent presentation about the difference between Law and Gospel. I wonder if anyone on an evangelism commission has sung it.



"The Law commands and makes us know

What duties to our God we owe;

But 'tis the Gospel must reveal

Where lies our strength to do His will.


My soul, no more attempt to draw

Thy life and comfort from the Law.

Fly to the hope the Gospel gives;

The man that trusts the promise lives."

Isaac Watts, 1709, "The Law Commands and Makes Us Know," The Lutheran Hymnal, #289, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1941. Psalm 19:9.[15]


The Law Works Wrath


KJV Romans 4:15 Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.


BYZ Romans 4:15 o` ga.r no,moj ovrgh.n katerga,zetai\ ou- ga.r ouvk e;stin no,moj ouvde. para,basij.



"But the chief office or force of the Law is that it reveal original sin with all its fruits, and show man how very low his nature has fallen, and has become [fundamentally and] utterly corrupted; as the Law must tell man that he has no God nor regards [cares for] God, and worships other gods, a matter which before and without the Law he would not have believed. In this way he becomes terrified, is humbled, desponds, despairs, and anxiously desires aid, but sees no escape; he begins to be an enemy of [enraged at] God, and to murmur, etc. This is what Paul says, Romans 4:15: 'The Law worketh wrath.' And Romans 5:20: Sin is increased by the Law. [The Law entered that the offense might abound.']

            Smalcald Articles, Third Part, II. #3. The Law. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 479. Tappert, p. 303. Heiser, p. 142.



"Chastize them when they deserve it, but accompany the correction with affectionate words so that they do not become disheartened and expect nothing good from you. It is very bad if a son loves someone else more than his father. The father should give some sort of proof that there is no intention entirely to crush the child. The Law alone serves no good purpose; in fact, it is intolerable."

What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed., Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, I, p. 142. V. Dietrich, 1533 Ephesians 6:4.


The Law by itself bears no fruit. How little do Lutheran leaders understand this teaching in their important roles! They should use the Law in defeating false doctrine and running scoundrels out of the ministry. Gospel admonitions would go far in supporting the essential work of the Means of Grace through faithful pastoral work. Instead, pastors find themselves caught between members ungrateful for the Gospel and synodical leaders intent on raising cash and lowering standards. Caught by man-made law on both sides, ministers have decided to leave the calling for which they took years to prepare. Children of church workers are no longer following their parents. The Lutheran Church will soon reach the point achieved by the Church of Rome years ago, when someone who wanted to be a priest got this reply, “Why?” Priestly candidates fell under great suspicion just because no one in his right mind would want to serve as one.

When pastors grasp how little the Law alone can accomplish, they are less inclined to think their task is to glorify man in budgets, asphalt parking lots, and larger buildings. Some of us grew up in the 1950s, when numerical growth of congregations was taken for granted through the blessings of the Baby Boom. Little attention was paid to doctrinal soundness or the spiritual needs of the congregation. Few said, “We teach the pure Word of God.” Most said, “We just built a new addition to accommodate our growth.” Those same buildings are hollow shells today, not only from lack of attendance by the members themselves but also (in a spiritual sense) from abandoning the Word in favor of fads.



"Work-righteous people have not this glory, for they have not the Word; but as the work is, so is the praise, they urge and compel us to depart from the Word to human work. But the Holy Spirit urges us from our works to the Word. The former boast of their works, the latter, where the Holy Spirit is, rejoice internally in the heart with God, that He has done this work, and they remain clinging to grace, and attribute nothing at all to their works."

Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, V, p. 203. Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity, Matthew 9:1-8.


Pastors and members torture one another today by declaring what the other party should be doing. This attitude is a perfect example of the law working wrath. Gospel fruits only come through the promises of God, not through the Law. Nothing is more anti-Lutheran than a minister telling the congregation they should be friendlier so that people will want to join. He is asking people to pick apples where there are no trees. Gospel preaching produces Gospel fruits. A congregation thankful for the forgiveness of sins will be gracious to one another and to strangers. Programs of friendliness are as easy to spot as policemen on a stakeout.[16] How many congregations have put together a squad of greeters who shake hands and say hello with the same robotic friendliness of airline stewardesses?

I once tried a phone calling campaign. The congregation received a grant and phoned thousands of people. We obtained a large mailing list of seemingly interested people and sent them many letters, including one in the form of a card. When the big day arrived, one family came. They knew about us from Christian News and wanted to add to our attendance that day. Not a single new family arrived from the phone blitz. Pastor Roger Zehms, who was taking credit for the phone effort at first, said ominously, “The card was not large enough. That’s where it went wrong. It had to be a large card.”




The Law Only for the Unrepentant



"Observe, God and men proceed in contrary ways. Men set on first that which is best, afterward that which is worse. God first gives the cross and affliction, then honor and blessedness. This is because men seek to preserve the old man; on which account they instruct us to keep the Law by works, and offer promises great and sweet...But God first of all terrifies the conscience, sets on miserable wine, in fact nothing but water; then, however, He consoles us with the promises of the Gospel which endure forever."

Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, II, p. 69.



"Contrition is altogether necessary in those who truly and earnestly repent. For there can be no true repentance in those who, persuaded of their own holiness, dream that they are without sin, or who disregard, minimize, excuse, cloak, and defend their sins, despise or ridicule the divine threats, do not care about the wrath of God, are not moved by His judgment and displeasure, and therefore persevere and continue in sins against their conscience, delight in sins, and seek and seize occasions for sinning and for whatever they intentionally heap up without the fear of God—in them, I say, there can be no true repentance...."

            Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, trans., Fred Kramer, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1986, II, p. 581.



"In like manner Moses must precede and teach people to feel their sins in order that grace may be sweet and welcome to them. Therefore all is in vain, however friendly and lovely Christ may be pictured, if man is not first humbled by a knowledge of himself and he possesses no longing for Christ, as Mary's Song says, 'The hungry he hath filled with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away,' Luke 1:53."

Sermons of Martin Luther, ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, II, p. 149.


Law/Gospel confusion proliferates in the hands of false teachers. One error is to preach the Gospel first and then the Law. According to one of my sources, the Wisconsin Synod pastors are writing their own catechisms (!) and putting the Ten Commandments at the end. Although WELS pastors are prone to give tongue-lashings to people without provocation, they imagine that one can teach Kokomo justification and broaden the Kingdom of God by telling people their sins are already forgiven, before and without repentance, before and without faith. The person who does not understand the Law of God is also in the dark about the Gospel of forgiveness. Such Law/Gospel confusion will produce the worst kind of character, a Pharisee one moment, saved by works, a lawless hedonist the next, rejoicing in a libertine Gospel.


The Gospel Only for the Contrite



"The Holy Spirit is given to none except to those who are in sorrow and fear; in them it produces good fruit. This gift is so precious and worthy that God does not cast it before dogs. Though the unrepentant discover it themselves, hearing it preached, they devour it and know not what they devour."

Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, III, p. 281f. Pentecost Sunday, John 14:23-31.


The Reformed and their Pentecostal allies sin terribly in withholding the promise of forgiveness from those who are sincerely sorry for their sins. Instead they teach that people must struggle, wrestle, and agonize until they feel a breakthrough of God’s grace. In effect, they teach people to earn God’s forgiveness by sweating for it. Pentecostal testimony on TV often revolves around how much someone moaned, cursed, cried, and thrashed about until he suddenly felt forgiven. Similarly, in a film about Roman Catholic missions, a murderer carried a large weight up a mountain until he felt he had suffered enough and was forgiven. Then he wept with joy as he let the heavy pile of metal fall down the mountain.

Those ministers who enjoy a feeling of power must relish the suffering of people who long for forgiveness but only receive additional requirements to fulfill, demands to earn with pain what Christ offers freely through His cross. Therefore, the minister assures those who are sincerely sorry for their sins that Christ has died for their sins, that all sins are forgiven except for rejection of the Gospel.[17]

However, if the minister sees a lack of contrition in an individual, it is wrong for him to say that his sins are still forgiven. Such assurances harden the heart of the sinner. One district president found out his district vice president was committing adultery. The district president assured him of forgiveness and also agreed to keep the sin a secret from the congregation, the man’s wife, and the district. The adulterer was given an administrative position and a public excuse – he was leaving the ministry because of depression. Obviously the adulterer was not contrite, because he wanted everyone deceived. The district president sinned in covering up for his friend and in rewarding adultery with a church related job. Later, the district president was forced to admit to everyone that he had lied to them. Still later, district pastors denied that this had ever happened at all, even though every single pastor heard the district president admit the deed. In addition, the parish pastor who found out about the adultery was punished severely by the district president’s hatchet man. The pastor told me, “I’m glad my dad is dead, so he doesn’t know what has become of his old synod.”

The Gospel Must Predominate



"I would much rather have people say that I preach too sweetly and that it hinders people from doing good works (even though my preaching does not do that), than that I failed to preach faith in Christ, and there was no help or consolation for timid, fearful consciences."

Sermons of Martin Luther, The House Postils, 3 vols., ed. Eugene F. A. Klug, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996, II, p. 115.



"To turn water into wine is to render the interpretation of the Law delightful. This is done as follows: Before the Gospel arrives everyone understands the Law as demanding our works, that we must fulfill it with works of our own. This interpretation begets either hardened, presumptuous dissemblers, and hypocrites, harder than any pot of stone, or timid, restless consciences. There remains nothing but water in the port, fear and dread of God's judgment. This is the water-interpretation, not intended for drinking, neither filling any with delight; on the contrary, there is nothing to it but washing and purification, and yet no true inner cleansing. But the Gospel explains the Law, showing that it requires more than we can render, and that it demands a person different from ourselves to fulfill it; that is, it demands Christ and brings us unto Him, so that first of all by His grace we are made in true faith.

Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, II, p. 67. Second Sunday after Epiphany. John 2:1-11.


"Since we are unable to keep the Law and it is impossible for the natural man to do so, Christ came and stepped between the Father and us, and prays for us: Beloved Father, be gracious unto them and forgive them their sins. I will take upon Me their transgressions and bear them; I love Thee with my whole heart, and in addition the entire human race, and this I will prove by shedding My blood for mankind. Moreover, I have fulfilled the Law and I did it for their welfare in order that they may partake of my fulfilling the Law and thereby come to grace."

Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, V, p. 188. Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity, Matthew 22:34-46.


Part Two: Lawless Legalists


An academic treatise would have one section about antinomianism and another about legalism. In the Lutheran Church the two are found together, mutual fellow travelers, each one following the other. Legalism is simply man-made law turned into a system of salvation.[18] For instance, when the false teachers bewitched the Galatians, they forced Jewish ritual law upon the Christians, using the excuse that Jesus and His disciples were observant Jews. This excuse made a certain amount of sense, and the issue troubled the early Christian church. The two greatest issues in the apostolic age were circumcision and food offered to idols. Legalism forces an activity not required by the Scriptures, such as circumcision, or forbids something not prohibited by the Word of God, such as eating food offered to idols.

Antinomianism (nomos means “law” in Greek) is the delusion that the Law of God is obsolete and no longer applies to Christians, who simply live under the Gospel. Once again, there are phrases in the Scriptures to prop up this concept, but only if they are twisted around to suit the needs of the antinomians. Agricola was a brilliant theologian during the Reformation, but he fell into antinomianism time after time. He also set a record for deceitfulness and treachery. The classic antinomian text is found in Galatians.


KJV Galatians 3:24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.


BYZ Galatians 3:24 w[ste o` no,moj paidagwgo.j h`mw/n ge,gonen eivj Cristo,n i[na evk pi,stewj dikaiwqw/men\ 25 evlqou,shj de. th/j pi,stewj ouvke,ti u`po. paidagwgo,n evsmen.


The antinomians say, “Aha! We no longer need the Law as our schoolmaster! We live under the Gospel!” Nevertheless, the antinomians lay down the law on everyone else and cry out in rage when someone violates this law, which conveniently does not apply to them. Dealing with the so-called conservative Lutherans has led me to the conclusion that the legalists are antinomians and that the antinomians are legalists.



"The Law continually chastises us as sinners and transgressors, and threatens us with death and hell, until Christ comes and bestows His Spirit and His love, through the faith preached in the Gospel. Then we are freed from the Law. No longer it demands, no longer chastises, but lets the conscience rest. No more it terrifies with death and hell. It has become our kind friend and companion."

Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VI, p. 281. New Year's Day, Galatians 3:23-29.



"Thus, mark you, has Christ given us spiritual freedom from the Law. He did not abrogate, did not destroy, the Law. But he changed the heart which before was unwillingly under the Law. He so benefited it and made the Law so desirable that the heart has no greater delight and joy than in the Law."

Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VI, p. 275. New Year's Day, Galatians 3:23-29.



"All preaching of sin and God's wrath is a preaching of the Law, no matter how or when it may be done. On the other hand, the Gospel is such preaching as sets forth and bestows nothing but grace and forgiveness in Christ. And yet it is true that the Apostles and preachers of the Gospel sanctioned the preaching of the Law, as Christ Himself did, and began with this in the case of those who had not yet acknowledged their sins and had felt no fear of God's anger."

Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, IV, p. 158. Fifth Sunday after Trinity, Luke 5:1-11.


In the Missouri Synod, the Seminex crisis was a perfect example of legalism and antinomianism. John Tietjen was shoe-horned into his position as president of Concordia Lutheran Seminary in St. Louis by the convenient resignation of Fibby, Al Fuerbringer, son of the conservative Ludwig Fuerbringer. This early resignation allowed Tietjen to take his position without the normal supervision of the synodical structure, a likely obstacle for the ecumenical liberal. When Jack Preus was elected president of the synod, replacing the liberal Harms, the doctrinal differences between the synod and Tietjen’s Union Seminary West began to emerge. The Tietjen faculty members, with certain exceptions, saw themselves as teaching the Gospel alone, free of the hidebound restrictions of Missouri’s orthodox past. However, they also lied about their doctrine. The liberals kept insisting that nothing had changed when the evidence pointed to just the opposite. This deceit encouraged the growth and popularity of Lutheran News/Christian News by Pastor Herman Otten. When people wanted to leak information about the seminary, they sent it to Christian News. Proof of the liberalism of the faculty came from photocopies of their theological articles. The liberals cried foul. It was not fair to print their words! Some warned in a sinister way about the copyright laws.[19]

I do not want to paint the Missouri conservatives as sinless angels. I recall hearing an audio tape from the late Robert Preus who admitted that his side did not always conduct themselves honorably. The crisis erupted when I was still in the LCA and heard only the liberal side of the debate. The Tietjen camp never considered themselves wrong in any way whatsoever. They were noble, pure martyrs of the highest order. The grandson of Missouri’s last great president told me that he gave a sermon in which he called Jack Preus an unprincipled blah-blah-blah. The Seminex cult accused Preus of dishonesty, but they set up a foundation to support their future work (F.L.U.T.E.) while still at the seminary. They accused the conservatives of cowardice, but they marched out of the school in exile, stopped at the nearby park, and came back to live and eat on the campus. Some exile![20]

The liberal camp filled the air with the gross injustice of their plight. Jack Preus and his evil partner Herman Otten had forced Missouri into the past, stealing the synod from them and interrupting their plans for a Lutheran union with the ALC and LCA. Oh darkest woe. When I met one of the first Seminex martyrs, a man who was fired from his call in Black Jack, Missouri for being a member of the ELIM group, he told me about how the exiles took as many books from the Concordia Seminary Library as they could. I had asked him about an account in the Cleveland Lutheran Messenger. “Is it true that the Seminex group emptied the library of its books and kept them?” He said, “They were ours to begin with.” In other words, the Seminex boosters could go into exile on TV, come back for lunch, steal the library books to establish their own new seminary, and then plead that they were innocent victims. Antinomians do not need to obey the Ten Commandments, but they insist that their opponents obey all of their laws. The faculty refused to work at Concordia, but they received their salaries for months and lived in school housing while crying and blubbering in public about how badly they were treated. The faculty and students were not expelled. They all “left” and came back on strike in solidarity with Tietjen, who alone was suspended.





"It is now plain to whom Paul addresses the words of this verse—the work-righteous, who would become godly through the Law and its work, who consider the first office of the Law sufficiently effective to make them righteous. This doctrine gives rise to a class who might be styled 'Absalomites.' For as Absalom remained hanging by his head, in an oak tree, suspended between heaven and earth (2 Samuel 18:9), so this class hang between heaven and earth. Shut up by the Law, they do not touch the earth; they are restrained from the things their evil nature ardently desires. On the other hand, since the Law, powerless to improve their nature, only irritates and provokes it, making them enemies to the Law, they are not godly and so do not reach heaven."

Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VI, p. 277. New Year's Day, Galatians 3:23-29; 2 Samuel 18:9.


The liberals can be extremely legalistic, especially since they love the trappings of power in the Church of Rome, which also suffers from TLC: triumphalism, legalism, and clericalism, as they used to say at Notre Dame). However, no one does legalism better than the remnant groups who see themselves as a boil on the backside of the next larger synod. Legalists do not see any need to obey the laws they apply to others. They live on such a spiritual plane that the Ten Commandments are void. They cry out “Eighth Commandment!” and “Matthew 18!” while violating both, because “that’s the way we are,” as Paul Kuske liked to say with a smug smile. Consider some examples.

1.     The Barry/McCain administration of the LCMS has made a lot of noise against the disgraceful capitulation of ELCA to the Church of Rome. They claim this development is a terrible wrong, but they continue to work with ELCA in every possible way. ELCA should not engage in unionism with Rome, but the Missouri Synod can engage in unionism with ELCA.

2.     The Wisconsin Synod has made a fetish of fellowship principles, not in observing them, but in talking about them. One would never guess from their constant carping about the Missouri Synod that WELS has been working with the LCMS and ELCA the whole time. When this unionism is pointed out, they fly into a rage.[21]

3.     The Evangelical Lutheran Synod pastors constantly moan about the Wisconsin Synod. Jay Webber, the ELS Ukraine seminary rector wrote, “I often call them our Weaker Evangelical Lutheran Siblings.” Nevertheless, the ELS never objects to the Reformed doctrine openly promoted by WELS.

4.     The Church of the Lutheran Confession has given itself a reputation for opposition to fraternal insurance. Pastors and members who joined the CLC thought they had to give up their AAL policies, even if they were uninsurable. When Internet surfing became popular, people soon learned from the AAL site that most CLC congregations had AAL branches, including the parish of Dan Fleischer, the president of the tiny synod, and the parish of Paul Tiefel, Junior, the mother church of the CLC in Eau Claire. The parish of Elton Hallauer, a vice-president of the synod, showed up as a participant in branch activities. The same CLC men who condemned everyone for participation in AAL suddenly began excusing AAL in their own synod. One person said, “It will take 400 years before we are all out of AAL.” Oddly, the AAL site suddenly showed no CLC congregations belonging to branches, leaving us to wonder if a revolution of conscience caused everyone to quit at once.







Most people do not realize this, but their synods are above the law. Synod presidents are hippies with short hair. They rage against all the slights against their organizations, but they do not hesitate to use any tactic against members of their own synods. I gathered some legal information from the Minnesota court system to show to a corporate lawyer. Most of the cases dealt with the Missouri Synod in Minnesota, where clergy had been deposed in violation of the synod constitution and the most obvious examples of basic contract law. The Missouri Synod pleaded that the courts cannot say anything about their conduct because it is a violation of church state separation. I asked the lawyer how corporations deal with such cases. He said, “This never happens in business. If a business operated the way the Missouri Synod does, no one would work for them and they would close.” That may be an indication why the LCMS will have a 77% vacancy in their pulpits in only a few years.

Likewise, the Church of the Lutheran Confession said that they do not have a divine call or a contract with pastors, even though the call letter is a written contract making certain promises in return for specified services. The CLC says that they hire and fire at will, the way a family hires a man to mow the lawn or fix the toilet, with no long-term obligations.

When the synods have to face the consequences of their lawlessness in the legal system, they cry out in horror, “You cannot take us to court. That is a violation of 1 Corinthians 6.”[22] They could easily sit down with the plaintiff and settle, but instead they run to the legal system and say they are above the law, use their lawyers to run up the legal costs of their victims, and rage to their members that the Word of God is being violated, while suing the pants off of anyone who gets in their way. The Missouri Synod used a spurious lawsuit to drain Christian News of all its funds, but the same administration that uses Pastor Herman Otten to placate the conservatives refused to offer any information to help Otten’s position. The lawsuit collapsed when the litigant got into trouble himself and suddenly left his position at Concordia Lutheran Seminary. He generated a huge legal bill for Christian News even though the lawsuit went nowhere.

When Ralph Bohlmann removed Dr. Robert Preus from his position as president of Concordia Seminary, Ft. Wayne, Preus was forced to use the legal system to protect his call. The antinomian legalists called down thunderbolts on this horrible violation of Scripture and the Missouri Synod way of life. But wait. C. F. W. Walther took a minister to court for slander.



"Walther himself initiated a lawsuit in the state of Indiana against a fellow Lutheran of the Ohio Synod who had been guilty of slandering him. Through his lawyer he even sought monetary damages from the man guilty of slander, although stating that any damages awarded would not be used for his personal benefit. Walther dropped his lawsuit only when the two individuals primarily responsible for slandering him had retracted their slander and apologized in writing, submitting their apologies for publication in 'Der Lutheraner.' (Der Lutheraner, July, 1884, p. 109)

            Daniel Preus, "Christians, Lawsuits and 1 Corinthians 6," Affirm, June, 1991, p. 5-6. Reprinted in Christian News.[23]


I was at the public meeting where Pastor Rolf Preus asked the new synod president, Al Barry, to apologize to his father for the wrongs done by the synod. Barry refused, even though he became synodical president largely because of the reaction against Bohlmann’s tactics. Bohlmann drove Preus out and Barry locked the door. Do the LCMS, WELS, ELS, and CLC leaders ever imagine that their jealousy, spite, envy, and peevishness have driven their synods into the ground? No doubt the very large clan of Robert Preus opponents will read this and begin confessing his sins, post-mortem. It is wonderful that they know the Law, but do they apply it to themselves and their political allies? I have criminal records in my files that tell me how selective the conservative Lutherans have been in applying the Law.

Several things protect clergy thugs. One is that additional exposure will only hurt their families and their victims, so one is not inclined to add to the harm done. Secondly, the greater the scandal, the greater the desire for synod officials to hush it up at once. Third, the cover up often removes as much evidence as possible, so people are reluctant to speak about something when actual evidence is lacking. Fourth, the person caught in scandal and preserved by his clergy connections will be as loyal as a puppy, since his livelihood could be taken away in a moment. Mutual blackmail preserves outward peace. One pastor told his child going to a prep school, “Don’t let the dean give you a hard time. If he does, I have five different things against him.”


Appendix: The More Glorious Ministry of the Gospel




"Concerning the article on the justification of the poor sinner in God's sight, we believe, teach, and confess on the basis of God's Word and the position of our Christian Augsburg Confession that the poor, sinful person is justified in God's sight—that is, he is pronounced free and absolved of his sins and receives forgiveness for them—only through faith, because of the innocent, complete, and unique obedience and the bitter sufferings and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, not because of the indwelling, essential righteousness of God or because of his own good works, which either precede or result from faith. We reject all doctrines contrary to this belief and confession."

Jacob Andreae, Confession and Brief Explanation of Certain Disputed Articles, cited in Robert Kolb, Andreae and the Formula of Concord, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1977, p. 58.



"It is the Word of God, that still remits and retains, that binds and looses. The pastor can only declare that Word, but the Word itself does effectually work forgiveness to him that rightly receives it. Not only can the minister carry this Word of God, this key of the kingdom, this power of God unto salvation, and apply it, but any disciple of Christ can do so."

G. H. Gerberding, The Way of Salvation in the Lutheran Church, Philadelphia: Lutheran Publication Society, 1887, p. 126f.



"The whole Gospel is nothing but a proclamation of the forgiveness of sins, or a publication of the same Word to all men on earth, which God Himself confirms in heaven."

G. H. Gerberding, The Way of Salvation in the Lutheran Church, Philadelphia: Lutheran Publication Society, 1887, p. 127.



"Every time a believer in Christ sits down beside a troubled and penitent one, and speaks to such an one Christ's precious promises and assurances of forgiveness, he carries out the Lutheran or scriptural idea of absolution."

G. H. Gerberding, The Way of Salvation in the Lutheran Church, Philadelphia: Lutheran Publication Society, 1887, p. 127.





"Observe, Christ is not put into your hand, not given you in a coffer, not placed in your bosom nor in your mouth. He is presented to you through the Word, the Gospel; He is held up before your heart, through the ears He is offered to you, as the Being who gave Himself for you—for your unrighteousness and impurity. Only with your heart can you receive Him. And your heart receives when it responds to your opened mind, saying, 'Yes, I believe.' Thus through the medium of the Gospel Christ penetrates your heart by way of your hearing, and dwells there by your faith. Then are you pure and righteous; not by your own efforts, but in consequence of the Guest received into your heart through faith. How rich and precious these blessings!"

Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VI, p. 135. Christmas Eve, Titus 2:11-15



"God, too, shows Himself to us through the Gospel as wholly lovable and kind, receiving all, rejecting none, ignoring our shortcomings and repelling no soul by severity. The Gospel proclaims naught but grace, whereby God sustains us and through which He kindly leads us, regardless of our worthiness. This is the day of grace. All men may confidently draw near to the throne of his mercy, as it is written in Hebrews 4:16."

Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VI, p. 143f. Early Christmas Morning Titus 3:4-8; Hebreews 4:16



"Dear friends, you know that the Gospel is nothing else than a sermon about one person who is called Christ."

Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, V, p. 328. Twenty-fourth Sunday after Trinity, Matthew 9:18-26



"To this end Christ is presented to us as an inexhaustible fountain, Who at all times overflows with pure goodness and grace. And for such goodness and kindness He accepts nothing, except that the good people, who acknowledge such kindness and grace, thank Him for it, praise and love Him, although others despise Him for it."

Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, V, p. 329. Twenty-fourth Sunday after Trinity, Matthew 9:18-26.



"Recognizing the weak and wounded condition of the offender, Christ's doctrine comes in a friendly way, teaching the real truth about human laws—that of Christian liberty. It is patient, bearing with him who does not immediately abandon his erroneous ways, and giving him time to learn to forsake them. It allows him to do the best he can, according to what he has been used to, until he is made whole and clearly perceives the truth."

Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VI, p. 33. Second Sunday in Advent Romans 15:4-13



"Therefore, whoever would have a joyful conscience that does not fear sin, death, hell, nor the wrath of God, dare not reject this Mediator, Christ. For He is the fountain that overflows with grace, that gives temporal and eternal life."

Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, V, p. 331. Twenty-fourth Sunday after Trinity, Matthew 9:18-26



"If sin terrifies my conscience and preachers of the law come and want to help me with their works, they will accomplish nothing. Christ alone can help here and no one else."

Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, V, p. 331. Twenty-fourth Sunday after Trinity, Matthew 9:18-26



"Now, the Christian hatred of sin discriminates between the vices and the individual. It endeavors to exterminate only the former and to preserve the latter. It does not flee from, evade, reject nor despise anyone: rather it receives every man, takes a warm interest in him and accords him treatment calculated to relieve him of his vices. It admonishes, instructs and prays for him. It patiently bears with him."

Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VI, p. 35f. Second Sunday in Advent Romans 15:4-13.



"For the Holy Spirit aids us, fortifying our hope and enabling us not to fear nor to flee from the disasters of the world; but to stand firm even unto death, and to overcome all evil; so that evil must flee from us and cease its attacks. Remember, it is hope in the power of the Holy Spirit, not in human weakness, that must do all this through the medium of the Gospel."

Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VI, p. 63. First Sunday in Advent, Romans 13:11-14



"This righteousness is offered us by the Holy Ghost through the Gospel and in the Sacraments, and is applied, appropriated, and received through faith, whence believers have reconciliation with God, forgiveness of sins, the grace of God, sonship, and heirship of eternal life."

Formula of Concord, SD III. #16. Righteousness of Faith. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 921. Tappert, p. 541. Heiser, p. 251.




"For here in the Sacrament you are to receive from the lips of Christ forgiveness of sin, which contains and brings with it the grace of God and the Spirit with all His gifts, protection, shelter, and power against death and the devil and all misfortune."

The Large Catechism, Sacrament of the Altar. #70. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 769. Tappert, p. 454. Heiser, p. 214.



"We further believe that in this Christian Church we have forgiveness of sin, which is wrought through the holy Sacraments and Absolution, moreover, through all manner of consolatory promises of the entire Gospel. Therefore, whatever is to be preached, concerning the Sacraments belongs here, and in short, the whole Gospel and all the offices of Christianity, which also must be preached and taught without ceasing. For although the grace of God is secured through Christ, and sanctification is wrought by the Holy Ghost through the Word of God in the unity of the Christian Church, yet on account of our flesh which we bear about with us we are never without sin."

The Large Catechism, The Creed, Article III. #54. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 693. Tappert, p. 417. Heiser, p. 195.



"Everything, therefore, in the Christian Church is offered to the end that we shall daily obtain there nothing but the forgiveness of sin through the Word and signs, to comfort and encourage our consciences as long as we live here. Thus, although we have sins, the [grace of the] Holy Ghost does not allow them to injure us, because we are in the Christian Church, where there is nothing but [continuous, uninterrupted] forgiveness of sin, both in that God forgives us, and in that we forgive, bear with, and help each other."

The Large Catechism, The Creed, Article III. #55. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 693. Tappert, p. 418. Heiser, p. 195.



"For now we are only half pure and holy, so that the Holy Ghost has ever [some reason why] to continue His work in us through the Word, and daily to dispense forgiveness, until we attain to that life where there will be no more forgiveness, but only perfectly pure and holy people, full of godliness and righteousness, removed and free from sin, death, and all evil, in a new, immortal, and glorified body."

The Large Catechism, The Creed, Article III. #58. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 693. Tappert, p. 418. Heiser, p. 196.



"Behold, all this is to be the office and work of the Holy Ghost, that He begin and daily increase holiness upon earth by means of these two things, the Christian Church and the forgiveness of sin. But in our dissolution He will accomplish it altogether in an instant, and will forever preserve us therein by the last two parts."

The Large Catechism, The Creed, Article III. #59. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 693f. Tappert, p. 418. Heiser, p. 196.



"Therefore we believe in Him who through the Word daily brings us into the fellowship of this Christian Church, and through the same Word and the forgiveness of sins bestows, increases, and strengthens faith, in order that when He has accomplished it all, and we abide therein, and die to the world and to all evil, He may finally make us perfectly and forever holy; which now we expect in faith through the Word."

The Large Catechism, The Creed, Article III. #62. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 695. Tappert, p. 419. Heiser, p. 196.



"Luther says the Gospel is not a law-book, not even a book of instruction, but a message of joy."

C. F. W. Walther, The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel, trans., W. H. T. Dau, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1928, p. 292.

Right and Wrong


“Truth forever on the scaffold,

Wrong forever on the throne.

Standeth God within the shadow,

keeping watch above His own.”[24]














[1] I endured pastoral counseling classes at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary, Lutheran Church in America, where adultery was considered a cure for one woman’s problems, where the Clinical Pastoral Education director chewed out a pastor for questioning a four-way marriage, where Lizzie Borden would have been told, upon confessing the murder of her parents, “You were angry with them, weren’t you.” One visitor to class condemned anyone who owned a color TV, yet advocated the use of illegal drugs at the same time. Not surprisingly, a homosexual activist was enrolled at Waterloo Seminary and began his field work by telling a very traditional older pastor about his progressive sexual views, leaving the man shaking with rage about the school his congregation had supported generously and selflessly.

[2] Usually reports about the abuse of students are met with this defense: “That’s an exaggeration!”

[3] He was speaking especially about anyone too interested in a given academic topic. The class would laugh at anyone who asked too many questions about one thing. He thought it bred harmony. I thought it bred mediocrity.

[4] I visited a WELS convention years later. The first order of business was to declare that no one could give news to any outlet without clearing the information with the official committee. I mentioned how controlling this was to a friend, who said, “That’s because of the essay leaked to Christian News years ago, the one Corky wrote.”

[5] Brenner is a student at Marquette University, named for the Jesuit missionary. Marquette boasts about its Jesuit tradition. The board is mostly Jesuit. The president of the school is a Jesuit. Many faculty members are Jesuits and most students are Roman Catholics. I wonder what Grandpa Brenner would have said, to see another John Brenner studying at the feet of Jesuits so he can teach at Mequon, a school largely built through the efforts of the elder Brenner.

[6] I was not concerned about attacks against me, since they roll through WELS all the time. I do not like WELS cowards going after my family, as they have many times. This time a WELS student claimed he had been harmed by my son during NWC initiation. Indeed, my son made him recite the Greek alphabet. When I asked the accuser how this hurt him emotionally or physically, he changed his tune.

[7] ORIGINAL: “Rust Never Sleeps” by Neil Young, WRITER: D. Sellnow, DATE: Bonecruncher in 1983. Collected by Pastor Jon Balge. Notice that the point of the song is to create a sense of fear months before GA begins. What a wonderful school, to have future pastors sing to younger students that they will be afraid, throwing up, crying, and bruised from their introduction to Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. It takes real men to welcome future pastors with threats of abuse.

[8] The email was sent November 4, 1998. Some things were forwarded to me anonymously, because of fear of retribution.

[9] A widow had to take WELS to court for squandering money entrusted to them. She won $1 million. Paul Kuske’s response was that WELS had to be more careful about the gifts accepted in the future. It was a bad gift! When an Episcopalian treasurer used up $2 million in church funds for herself, it was national news and openly discussed in their denominational paper. KJV Isaiah 10:2 “To turn aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless!”

[10] The Dutch Reformed minister now teaches at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary.

[11] Crabb did not invent the phrase “spoiling the Egyptians,” but he is cited favorably both by David Valleskey and Armin Schuetze. See Schuetze’s review of the Bobgan book which was critical of Crabb in Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly, Fall, 1991, p. 308.

[12] The Concordia Lutheran Conference began meddling with an independent Lutheran congregation, Faith in Jackson, Michigan, getting them to adopt the self-love doctrine of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. They had a hissy fit when I mentioned this in a paper. Apparently the false teachers in both CLCs are in touch with each other and have found a common ground, without being in fellowship.

[13] KJV Galatians 6:7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. BYZ Galatians 6:7 Mh. plana/sqe qeo.j ouv mukthri,zetai o] ga.r eva.n spei,rh| a;nqrwpoj tou/to kai. qeri,sei\

[14] KJV Psalm 19:8 The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.

[15] KJV Psalm 19:9 The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

[16] We were at a hotel with our young son Martin, who was about four years old. I noticed men in the lobby who were obviously not relaxed, who seemed to be busy and watchful at the same time. I let Martin look for the signs. “See that man. He is not really reading the newspaper.” Martin walked over to one policeman and said, “Is this a stake-out?” One officer scowled and the other almost burst out laughing.

[17] Christ died for all sins. We must be careful when talking about abortion, homosexuality, and other obvious sins so that people do not despair in thinking they can never be forgiven. “I’m OK. You’re OK” does not heal or comfort. The Law alone will not heal, comfort, or strengthen against temptation. KJV Matthew 12:31 “Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.”

[18] Contrary to the claim of David Valleskey and his disciple Richard Krause, opposition to false doctrine is not legalism.

[19] WELS feminists Richard Stadler, Michael Albrecht, and Iver Johnson did the same, promoting their historical-critical views and yet forbidding people from copying their article, “Heirs Together,” which I nicknamed “Errorists Together.” I was given a copy that looked like the 27th generation of reproduction. Stadler did not want to know what I thought about his treatise, when I asked, but he yelled on the phone that I should have spoken to him first before I discussed his published views in public.

[20] Few people realize that Northwestern College in Watertown was one of the spawning grounds for Seminex. NWC reunions often feature a multitude of cars with Seminex stickers. Why? The two Seminex martyrs, R. Jungkuntz and R. Gerke, both taught at NWC for years. The NWC students who loved these apostate professors are now the leaders of WELS. Many LCMS students went to Watertown before the alleged break between Missouri and Wisconsin in 1961.

[21] Kincaid Smith, part of the inner circle of the ELS, phoned Carl Mischke to protest the photo of the WELS president “conferring” with the ELCA and LCMS presidents at Snowbird. Is that not an example of Matthew 18 at work? Mischke later refused to endorse What’s Going On among the Lutherans?, according to Smith, because of this impertinence. Smith recanted and admitted that he should have used the proper channels, which are not direct. The Wisconsin Synod has unwritten canon law on how to deal with its errors. The direct approach is sinful and the indirect approach is a violation both of Matthew 18 and the Eighth Commandment.

[22] KJV 1 Corinthians 6:1 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?

[23] "Paul himself appealed to the highest civil authority, Caesar himself, to seek protection from the religious leaders of his own people (Acts 25-28). Yet the synodical president and others have cited Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 as proof of their charges that Robert Preus has sinned by appealing to the civil court for help. But nowhere in these verses does Paul state that it is wrong for a Christian to take his case to a civil court. He talks about bringing disputes before the ungodly (adikoi) and going to the law before unbelievers (apistoi)." Daniel Preus "Christians, Lawsuits and 1 Corinthians 6," Affirm, June, 1991, p. 5-6. Reprinted in Christian News.

[24] James Russell Lowell (1819-1891) The Present Crisis.