Church Leaders in a Dilemma
IN THE latter part of 1955 the Northwest Synod of the United Lutheran Church of America had three heresy trials involving the clergymen Crist, Gerberding and Wrigley. Regarding the first of these the public press reported that Crist denied that Adam was responsible for man’s sinfulness, claimed that prayer is not answered by God, that prayer possesses only that spiritual force which encourages the petitioner to help himself or be of active service to others, denied the virgin birth of Jesus, the resurrection and ascension of Christ, and developed such naturalistic explanations of the miracles of Jesus Christ as the following, relative to the miracles of feeding the multitudes with a few loaves and fishes: “Perhaps He prevailed on those who had brought lunch to share it with those who had not.”
Commenting on these trials The Christian Century, undenominational weekly, in its issue of November 23, 1955, had the following to observe, among other things: “Luther was an ample and volatile Christian, who said a lot of different things at a lot of different times. . . . [It is] hard to imagine anyone claiming to know precisely what definitive Lutheranism is. . . . The trouble with Crist and Gerberding and Wrigley is that they believed what they were taught in their Lutheran seminaries. And those seminaries are related to the whole church. So sooner or later the denominational authorities are going to have to decide what is to be done with synod executives and local ministers who cashier other ministers for taking seriously what they have been taught in denominational schools.”
The editor next commented that he felt the same way as did these clergymen, saying: “The rest of us complain that the assured results of the best scholarship never seem to get to the congregations. Small wonder, if banishment is the fate of the few who make the effort!” He then derives comfort from the words that one of the foremost theologians of the United States, Reinhold Niebuhr, vice-president of Union Theological Seminary, sent to the congregation of one of these pastors: “I will consult with some of my colleagues because I think that Christian leaders should definitely support these young men, whose teachings are not heretical at all but in conformity with the main body of Christian conviction in the church.”
So the “assured results of the best [twentieth-century theological] scholarship” are the opinions expressed by Crist, namely, have no faith in the Bible as the Word of God and give its accounts no more credence than if they had been written by any novelist or historian of doubtful intelligence or integrity. So says the editor of one of the foremost “Christian” weeklies of the United States. And such is “in conformity with the main body of Christian conviction,” according to the vice-president of the Union Theological Seminary. Truly today, the ‘blind are leading the blind.’—Matt. 15:14.