April 25, 2017 - Kloha and Montgomery, the LCMS and the Academy
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Kloha and Montgomery,
the LCMS and the Academy
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. I do not receive glory from people. John 5:39-41 {ESV}

What is to be done? What are we to do, dear brethren, who have been entrusted with the ministerial office of the Lutheran Church in times so decisive for the Church and the world? Nothing would be more wrong than if we were to wait for others to act. The World Conference will take its course in accordance with the law by which it was guided at the outset. We cannot expect it to know what the Church of the Formula of Concord is and to act accordingly.... From it we can expect an inner renewal of Lutheranism as little as from any other ecclesiastical organization, including that of our own Church. Nor can we expect anything at all, from our bishops, synods, Church presidents, and faculties. 

As I watched the October debate between Dr. Kloha and Dr. Montgomery, many thoughts raced through my head. I was especially struck by Dr. Montgomery’s repeated attempts to pin Dr. Kloha down regarding statements in several of his published writings. Dr. Kloha simply dismissed the attempts. When Dr. Montgomery posed the possibility that Dr. Kloha speaks one way to the academic crowd and a different way to the LCMS crowd, Dr. Kloha, in a rather condescending way, said Dr. Montgomery (and others) simply didn’t understand the issues. It was then that I had a flashback to my seminary days.

I’m not sure when I first heard one of my professors use the term “academy,” but I am quite sure I had no idea what he was talking about. I assumed everybody knew about this institution except me, so I kept my mouth shut to hide my ignorance. I was pretty sure it wasn’t one of the military academies; my best guess was that it was either in Europe or Michigan. One day I finally confessed my ignorance to a fellow classmate and he solved the mystery for me. The “academy” wasn’t an actual school, but a generic term for the academic world. I couldn’t have felt more foolish.

As my time at seminary was drawing to a close, I was asked to consider staying on for an advanced degree (STM – Master of Sacred Theology). Two professors in the history department were pressing me hard, but my heart was in the Bible. My Hebrew was quite good at the time and so my favorite professor, Dr. Paul Raabe, invited me to travel with him and several other students to the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) conference in Tulsa. Dr. Raabe was not only brilliant with the languages, but he was Lutheran through and through. He was always reminding his students that the reason we study the languages is so that a pastor can bring the Word of God to the people entrusted to him.
As we prepared for the trip to Tulsa, I had little idea that I was about to enter “The Academy.” I should have seen the clues, but I didn’t. Whenever we would have a guest lecturer in class, we were told not to embarrass ourselves or the visiting professor by being “too Lutheran” or “too parochial.” I once overheard a professor scold one of my classmates for an improper question to his “Doctor Father.” As it turned out, that was nothing compared to Tulsa. We received the standard “don’t embarrass yourself” lecture, and tried to decide which presentations to attend. I naturally gravitated to the Old Testament lectures, and there were two presentations from Concordia, St. Louis graduate students. It was clear from the outset that most of the people who were there viewed the Bible as literature, not the Word of God. I heard a presentation on “The Metaphor of Clothing in the Joseph Story,” and in another we were told that Ruth and Naomi were inter-generational lesbians. There was no theology to speak of, except when a lecture on the Book of Judges used Deborah as an example of women’s ordination.

I couldn’t wait for the two St. Louis guys to present. Finally we were going to get academic excellence and Lutheran theology. The first presentation went off without a hitch. It was an exegetical paper that was full of linguistic and philological nuances, but said absolutely nothing theologically. My heart sank even farther when I realized that the second St. Louis presenter wasn’t even a Lutheran. He was a pastor (Assembly of God if memory serves me) working on his Th.D. His presentation was basically an extended sermon, and it was glorious. His exegesis was flawless and he connected every dot to Christ. I was so enamored with his words that at first I didn’t notice the response of those in attendance. People were talking among themselves, several walked out, and there was a general look of shock and anger on many faces. The look on Dr. Raabe’s face said it all. The cardinal rule of “The Academy” had been severely violated. I realized then and there that the cost of remaining a true confessional Lutheran and truly being a member of “The Academy,” was more than I was willing to pay!

The Kloha/Montgomery debate stirred up old memories for me, but as I reflect on the events of that October morning, I realize that nothing has changed. There really is nothing new under the sun.

What should we do, in this situation of our Church? And that means all of us, dear brothers, every pastor, every teacher of theology, who knows about the responsibility which he bears. We must first free ourselves of the superstition that what is to be done must and will be done by others, as those who are called to do something. The bishops and the great Church presidents will do nothing. None of them before Hanover (when the meeting is commenced) will stand up and state a simple and clear profession of the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper of the Lutheran Confessions, or profess its ecclesiastical consequences. Not one. At the meetings of the old World Convention, such a thing could still happen. Today there is no longer a Hein or a Reu. Even the great theologians will, when it comes to this question, grow very quiet. The times in which the professors were confessors are gone....So we must all speak, and in advance! (3)

So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. Matthew 10:32-33 {ESV}

Rev. Clint K. Poppe, ACELC President
Pastor, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Lincoln, Nebraska
If you would like to know more about the work of the ACELC, please visit our website and take some time to read some of our documents, watch some of our conference videos, or our full length film, "If Not Now, When?"  If you see what you like, join our movement by encouraging your congregation to become a member of the ACELC, or if that isn't possible, consider joining yourself as an Associate Member.
1. This article was originally published in the Eastertide, 2017 issue of Logia.
2. Herman Sasse, Letters to Lutheran Pastors, Volume I. CPH 2013, 15.
3. Ibid, 427.
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