I have written Thy Strong Word for one purpose, to teach the Biblical doctrine of the efficacy of the Word and thereby utterly destroy the Church Growth Movement in the Lutheran Church. I have puzzled over how this could be accomplished. One pastor noted a few years ago that identifying the errors of the Church Growth Movement did not solve the problem of Fuller Seminary enthusiasm. Nevertheless, I wrote “Truth on the Scaffold” as the first chapter to this book to identify the false doctrines inherent in the Pasadena disease. The chapter was removed because the abundant Church Growth quotations polluted an otherwise worthwhile book.
A second delay developed upon realizing that the book required a Biblical foundation and not just a group of chapters based upon my doctrinal database. One pastor correctly observed that the Lutheran Church has suffered from too many propositions unsupported by Biblical exegesis. When I began working on the Biblical chapters, I found that the material supporting them was rather scanty in the Lutheran literature and naturally absent among the Reformed. Until recently, the efficacy of the Word was taken for granted by all Lutherans, even by the liberals who went to war over open communion, Biblical errancy, women’s ordination, and unionism. Lutheran doctrinal books did not deal with the efficacy of the Word to the same degree as they dealt with other conflicts. Other difficulties were more important at the time.
Now we have a generation or two of pastors and laity who cannot refute the Reformed errors cunningly promoted by their own synodical leaders and seminary professors. This book was written to provide pastors and laity with the material to counter the official rejection of the Means of Grace. I welcome partial xeroxing of the printed version. If a congregation or pastor has purchased a copy, copying sections for study is encouraged as a means of spreading the Word.
Some people will object that Thy Strong Word is not an ordinary theology book. I intended to collect and use as much material as possible, from as many sources as possible, to promote confidence in the efficacy of the Word. For that reason I decided to use quotations and hymn verses in the text so they could be copied easily without losing the reference. Conventional quoting of sources divides the statement itself from the publication information by using footnotes. Doubtless several more years of work would allow me to have a broader and fairer representation of all the authors, but I never wished to write the last or the only book on efficacy. I would like pastors and laity to become acquainted with the many Lutheran authors—Luther most of all—who have remained faithful to the Word on this topic.
I hope that the numbering of the quotations will allow people to suggest to others that they consult certain sections of the book. After many years of working with quotations, I know how easy it is to lose a favorite statement. I began entering the quotations in this book about 10 years ago, using an old database program known as Professional File. Our son Martin showed me the value of a database many years before that by entering the values of his Transformer toys into an Atari database. Suddenly I realized that a database was a fast, efficient, and organized note-card file for writing papers and books. The 3,000 verbatim quotations in my database support articles, letters, and discussions all over the Lutheran Church, much to the dismay of false teachers everywhere.
Quotations are not a substitute for individual study, but we receive spiritual wisdom by knowing and remembering what faithful Lutherans have said in the past about these topics. In my first parish, Sig Rein gave me What Luther Says, and I often relied on the work to develop sermons. The same set is right above my head at my desk, worn, marked, underlined. Later, I bought Luther’s Sermons and read them. Far better it is to know the best of Lutheran doctrine than to read dozens of books where God’s Word is mocked as dead and lifeless unless marketed by slickers armed with graph paper and believer beaver puppets.
I have worked to destroy the influence of Reformed doctrine in the Lutheran Church because false teachers destroy faith and murder souls. Many Lutheran congregations and pastors have been wrecked to facilitate the goals of men who hate the Gospel of Jesus Christ but cannot make a living without it. They say “Lord, Lord” and perform many signs and wonders in His Name, as they constantly remind us, but the thoughts of their hearts are revealed by what they say against the Scriptures, against Christ, against the Holy Spirit. Those Lutherans under the sway of Reformed doctrine are nothing but self-centered Law salesmen.
Thanks are due to many who made this work necessary. The so-called Columbus circuit of the Michigan District, Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, was my Harvard and Yale College. The entire circuit never met for five years, except for the two times when I insisted. Paul Kuske, Roger Kovaciny, Floyd Stolzenburg, Roger Zehms, Marc Schroeder, and Robert Schumann all motivated me to undertake a thorough study of Luther and the Confessions by their constant attack on Lutheran doctrine and their support of Reformed doctrine. When I had a chance to discuss the Means of Grace in a paper at an Ohio Conference, the Columbus pastors were joined by Wally Oelhaven and Fred Adrian in their outrage that I supported the Confessions rather than their beloved Church Growth Movement. Oelhaven and Adrian said, “Just because we went to Fuller does not mean that we agree with their doctrine.” Moreover, Gerald Schroer, John Seifert, and Richard Krause were fully informed about the situation. Nevertheless, they completely supported Stolzenburg and Church Growth doctrine when it mattered most.
Eventually I found that the Ohio Conference, in harmony with WELS and the ELS, would not tolerate the efficacy of the Word or the Means of Grace when they could have tricks, gimmicks, and fads instead. In addition, no other pastor had a problem with Stolzenburg being removed from the ministry for infidelity and then serving as a WELS Church Growth consultant, preaching and teaching without a divine call, colloquy, or even joining the synod. Today, Stolzenburg remains actively involved and recognized as an “independent” pastor with the Evangelical Lutheran Synod and WELS, and the two conservative synods praise him as a fine, orthodox pastor. In other words, they take his congregation’s money through Thoughts of Faith (WELS/ELS), with Roger Kovaciny, John Shep, and Jay Webber serving as the collection agents.
Many people have had similar experiences with the established synods. However, I believe the Columbus circuit and Michigan District Mission Board set a record in their violations of the Ten Commandments and their contemptuous scorn for civil behavior. I have spent hundreds of hours talking and writing to people who have also been betrayed by their supposedly conservative synods. We now belong to the largest Lutheran synod of all, the 5,000,000 people who are Lutherans but refuse to attend the synodical franchise congregations. Some of us have started independent congregations. A number of us are actively engaged in publishing. The Internet allows us to publish all over the world for little or no cost.
Many people who ordered this book do not know me, so I will mention some of the teachers I have had in the past. I either took classes from or attended the lectures of: Roland Bainton, Sydney Ahlstrom, Martin Marty, John Howard Yoder (church history); Elisabeth Schussler-Fiorenza, Nils Dahl, Robert Wilson, Abraham Malherbe (Biblical studies); Stanley Hauerwas, Paul L. Holmer, (ethics); Robert Preus, David Scaer, Kurt Marquart, Klemet Preus (theology). My purpose has always been to gain a better understanding of what we believe and to convey this in the clearest possible language.
Many phone calls and letters from laity and pastors from all the synods have shown me how horrible the situation is today. Decades of political activity have resulted only in entrenching the apostates, not surprisingly, since one cannot win God’s war using Satan’s weapons. Jesus told us to be as innocent as doves and as crafty as serpents, but conservative Lutheran politicians are as innocent as serpents and as crafty as doves. The only way to win this battle is to use the Sword of the Spirit, the Word. For that reason I have prepared a reading list to use with this book in general and for each chapter. If the reader buys the books I suggest, he will be too broke and too smart to buy another Reformed book for the rest of his life.
Reference works for the whole book:
Chapters One and Two – Biblical Texts
Chapter Three – Creation
Chapter Four – Catechism
Chapter Five – Justification by Faith
Chapter Six – False Doctrine
1. Francis Pieper’s booklet, The Difference between Orthodox and Heterodox Congregations, is a classic on false doctrine, as true today as when it was written. Anchor Publications has this essay and many old Synodical Conference works.
2. Liberalism: Its Cause and Cure explains how apostasy took over the mainline denominations. NPH.
3. What’s Going on among the Lutherans? by Leppien and Smith, explains the false doctrine of the ELCA and where it came from, with abundant documentation. ELCA has boycotted several bookstores for selling this book. NPH.
4. Kurt Marquart’s Anatomy of an Explosion is an excellent treatment of the Seminex adventure in the Missouri Synod. Order from CPH.
5. Marquart’s Church Growth as Mission Paradigm is the best treatment of the Church Growth Movement. Available from Christian News.
6. Chemnitz Examination of the Council of Trent is an outstanding example of how to refute false doctrine. Concordia Publishing House.
Chapter Seven – Zwingli, Calvin, and Pietism
Chapter Eight – The Visible Word
Chapters Nine and Ten – Law, Gospel, and Application
Repristination Press Northwestern Publishing House
Pastor James Heiser 800-662-6022
RR1, Box 285 Concordia Publishing House
Malone, Texas 76660-9720 800-325-3040
Christian News Christian Book Distributors
Luther’s Family Devotions Anchor Publications
Pastor Joel Baseley Pastor Al Tschopp, 402-372-5468
313-730-9094 P O Box 72
West Point, Nebraska 68788
I abbreviated very little, except for the names of Lenski’s commentaries, which are quoted often. For example, instead of The Interpretation of the Gospel of John, I have written only John. For the convenience of the readers I have included the page numbers for the Tappert edition of the Book of Concord and the Heiser reprint of the English-only Concordia Triglotta. When a spelling or grammatical error is in the quotation, I have added [sic], meaning that is the way the author wrote it. Square brackets in the Concordia Triglotta are in the original, because of variations in the German and Latin versions.
The numbering system was created for the quotations in the body of the text, to make it easy for people to locate and compare the statements. Initial readers have already used the system in their email messages to me. The first digit on the left indicates the chapter number, so J-101 is the first quotation in Chapter One. Extensions had to be used in two chapters, because the quotations exceeded 99.
Many people have helped in writing and editing Thy Strong Word, although they do not deserve any blame for what I have written, since I made the final decision on what was going to be published. The members of A Mighty Fortress Lutheran Church in Phoenix and Bethany Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota, were most encouraging throughout this long project. Starting two independent Lutheran congregations and building two chapels took extra time, and I trust that the Church Growth experts—who rule from their offices and avoid pastoral work—will understand. My wife Chris has been a constant source of encouragement during the 12 years I have gathered information and worked on this project. My mother, thrown out of the Church of the Lutheran Confession parsonage with us in New Ulm, has taken the changes in stride and helped generously with everything, in spite of her failing health at age 87. My brother Allen and his family have shown great friendship and help when others did not. I have also benefited from his legal advice.
Our son Martin, his wife Tammy, and their two wonderful daughters, Josephine and Danielle, are a constant source of joy, proving the blessing of the Biblical passage: “Children's children are the crown of old men; and the glory of children are their fathers.” (KJV Proverbs 17:6) My wife and I have enjoyed 30 years of marriage and consider our grandchildren to be our greatest source of happiness, the thrill of a roller coaster ride but without the fear.
Generous gifts to help this publication came from Mr. and Mrs. John Popp, Mr. and Mrs. Walter Boeckler, and Dr. and Mrs. Peter Moeller.
Various friends have helped me in the final version of Thy Strong Word: Pastor and Mrs. Martin Kalish, Pastor and Mrs. James Heiser, Mr. and Mrs. Dieter Becker, Mr. and Mrs. Walter Boeckler. Chapter Five is the result of many years of discussion with Dr. Peter Moeller, Gerald Parker, and others. A number of WELS and ELS pastors and laity have helped me, but I am omitting their names because of the certainty of synodical retribution. Dr. Stanley Radford and Pastor William Terjesen also provided good advice during the earlier drafts.
Many of my contacts come exclusively through the Internet, since I send out doctrinal bulletins and publish websites. Often when I thought this book was too obvious, too difficult to finish, or too unpopular to finance, email would arrive from various parts of the world: Australia, Japan, England, Finland, Canada, and Germany, thanking me for something recently sent out or posted on a website. So I trudged on, hoping that the worst reviews would say, “Badly conceived, poorly written, but well documented.” Like it or not, the false teachers of the Lutheran Church now have a standard by which they will be judged. Most will say, “My synod right or wrong,” but some will have a chance to study hundreds of clearly documented statements and compare them to current synodical offscourings.
Our Friend, Helper, Humorist, Internet Specialist
Cliff and Cleo Kiehler,
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KJV Proverbs 17:17 A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.