Monday, July 30, 2012

A Piece of LCMS History Comes Alive: The "Blue Book" Is Now Available on the Internet

Back in the ‘70s the door was opened wide to liberal theology in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. The Historical-Critical method of Biblical interpretation, in part imported from Europe, was taking its toll on many of the Concordia Seminary professors in St. Louis. That, combined with the spirit of the times, influenced the teaching at the seminary, which in turn influenced the beliefs of many of the students. Sola Scriptura was gradually being replaced by whatever we wanted. It was a serious threat. Had it not been overcome by the diligence of those watching on the walls, the LCMS would have gone the way of the ELCA. God’s Word would have been thrown out the door like a monarch in the French revolution. It serves to illustrate the importance of diligence in maintaining the purity of our doctrine.

One way to remain vigilant is to study the errors of the past, so that they will not be repeated. With that in mind, a very significant event just occurred in cyberspace – the digitizing and placing on the internet of the “Blue Book.” The Blue Book, so named for its blue cover, was the 1971 report of then Synod President J. A. O. Preus on the doctrinal situation that existed at Concordia Seminary at the time. It included portions of the transcripts from the interviews of the seminary faculty, as well as previously printed documents. The release of President Preus’s report, plus the preceding hard work by a handful of individuals, revealed to the world the serious nature of the doctrinal problems that then existed. A few quotations from the report:

President Preus stated in his summary:
…The majority hold a view of the Scriptures which in practice erodes the authority of Holy Writ. Verbal inspiration, as it is commonly understood in the Synod, is not taught by all. The inerrancy of the Scriptures is severely limited. The Gospel (the primary teaching of the Scripture) is regarded as virtually exclusively normative in such a way as to detract from the normative authority of the whole Scripture. This is sometimes called “Gospel Reductionism.” (22)
A statement from the Exegetical Department of Concordia Seminary in 1970:
We recognize, however, that the devout application of scientific historical methodology, even under the presuppositions of faith which we bring to it, have at times led us to exegetical conclusions which surprise and disturb some observers. To this we must say that the precise results of Biblical study cannot be guaranteed in advance. Any attempt to prescribe an official exegesis must be resisted as the imposition of an authority above that of the Scriptures themselves. As men work prayerfully and critically, they may indeed uncover data or reach conclusions that are surprising, even disturbing, to themselves and others. Yet the Biblical word must be permitted an audience, even when it is disturbing. (64)
From the transcript of Prof. “Q”:
It isn’t important whether I think it happened, but the thing is it’s important that I understood what the Lord was doing when He was walking on the water and what the text is saying that He was trying to tell me through that event. (75)
From the transcript of Prof. “B”:
PROF. B: …God intervenes in the process which He himself started and by a special manipulation puts His image into these two people.
COMMITTEE: So you are saying that out of the mass of ape-like creatures running around God picked two and called them Adam and Eve and then it takes off from there?
PROF. B: This is right; He chose a segment of that earlier creation and made it into the human race, right. (94)
These quotes sound like what is being preached today in mainline Protestant denominations, as well as by those elsewhere who claim to be searching for a more “authentic” Christianity. The “battle for the Bible,” as it was called then in the LCMS, has never really ended. It will continue on until Christ returns. If you haven’t had an opportunity to read the Blue Book in the past, now is a good time to brush up on your history. Otherwise, it just might repeat itself.

The Blue Book was digitized by Dr. Robert Smith, the Electronic Resources Librarian at Concordia Theological Seminary. You can download it here in pdf form, though it may not show up in the CTS Media Server home page catalogue for a few weeks.

For more information on the LCMS “battle for the Bible,” you can read these books as well:

A Seminary in Crisis: The Inside Story of the Preus Fact Finding Committee, by Dr. Paul Zimmerman; CPH, 2007.

Anatomy of an Explosion: A Theological Analysis of the Missouri Synod Conflict, by Dr. Kurt Marquart; Concordia Theological Seminary Press, 1988.


Anonymous said...

I also recommend this little paper for additional insights and perspective. I have personally heard some of the people in that paper: it was scary then, and it's scary now.

Joe Strieter. Here's the link:

Kari said...

Thank you, Scott, for supplying this info for us. It is so important not to forget history. Today we can see where that we need to continue holding steadfast to the Truth.