Martin Scharlemann on Koinonia Project

Of course, +Martin Scharlemann+ entered the church triumphant almost 30 years ago.  However, in Paul Zimmerman’s book on the Fact Finding Committee, he includes items from a letter written by Dr. Scharlemann to Dr. Preus that details some of the theological disagreements which were to be found at 801 DeMun.  They are instructive as we begin to discuss the theological divide that now exists in our synod.

  1. Considerable ambivalence as to what the Gospel really is;
  2. Reluctance to use the distinction between Law and Gospel as a factor in the interpretation reality in light of the Biblical revelation;
  3. A curious neglect to point out the functional difference between the prophetic and Apostolic scriptures as inspired by the Holy Spirit and the concept of “inspiration” as applied to the contemporary task of receiving and interpreting the living Word of Scripture;
  4. The kind of commitment to social action which has not reflected sufficiently on the distinction made in our Lutheran Confessions between the kingdom of Christ and political structures;
  5. An elastic use of the word “ministry” which results in apparent denigration of the pastoral office and glamorizing “special ministries”, including involvement in radical social action;
  6. A strange kind of accent on human relations as something of a means of grace, quite similar to the thought expressed in “Openness and Trust”, which says, “we affirm that people use God today also in human relations.”
  7. A neglect in dealing adequately with that unity in and of God’s actions to which all prophets, apostles and evangelists testify, stemming from a rather fragmentary view of individual pericopes, passages and books of Scripture;
  8. A deep cynicism on the part of many students to the significance of the theological task as such;
  9. Disturbing talk that is not really necessary to verbalize the Gospel;
  10. Prevalence of the notion that God’s presence can be found in the turmoil of the streets and that, perhaps the world is a more appropriate place to worship than the sanctuary.

I believe #5, 6, 8 & 10 continue to afflict us.

The Lutheran Annual category list seems adequate proof that #5 is true.

#6 can be seen reflected in some of the Ablaze materials, which make our efforts the key to the spread of the Gospel, rather than the power of the word.

#8 is especially seen in the denigration of theological conversation throughout our synod, especially at circuit fora, district conferences and the like.

#10 is the problem which has borne the most fruit (of a bad sort).  Now, instead of saying that the world is a better place to worship than the sanctuary, the sanctuary itself has become virtually indistinguishable from the streets.

There is much to learn from history, both recent and distant, if we are willing to listen.  As Dr. Wienrich has said, “It is not a question of whether you will be a historian, but of whether you will be a good one or a bad one.”


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