Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Further Reflections on 1967 LCMS Resolution 2-02

Dr. Richard Jungkuntz was inducted into the office of executive secretary of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) of the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod (LCMS) in March 1966. He worked full-time in that position until he was forced out by President J. A. O. Preus, who was elected president of the Synod in 1969. How quickly the tide turned between 1966 and 1969.

In 1966 the executive committee of the CTCR was comprised of Alfred Fuerbringer (chairman; then-president of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis); Herbert Bouman (secretary); Theodore Nickel; J. A. O. Preus; and Frede Mortensen. The ex officio members were Jungkuntz (executive secretary) and Oliver Harms (then-president of the Synod). Others serving on the CTCR at that time were Albert Meyer, Samuel Roth, Carl Gaertner, and Norbert Mueller.

The eight individuals who served on the hermeneutics committee were selected by the CTCR, "by vote, from a list of candidates submitted by a committee and augmented by the CTCR" (1967 Workbook, 51). Clearly, there was a real attempt on the part of the CTCR to reflect in this hermeneutics committee the basic perspectives toward Scripture that were then current in the Synod. For example, the two systematic theologians, Bob Bertram and Robert Preus, lived in two very different theological worlds and were oriented toward very different ends. I think one is not too far off to say that Preus lived, at least theologically, in the 17th Century, whereas Bertram lived in the 20th (informed by the best evangelical insights of the 16th and 19th). Burkee's recent book is sufficient to demonstrate that these two men also lived in different political worlds. Today Preus comes off very bad in light of that scholarship. His Machiavellian machinations (in league with his close friends, Herman Otten and Kurt Marquart) put him in a different world from Bertram. But there was further diversity in the other theological areas that were represented on that committee: Walter Bartling and Martin Franzmann were the New Testament scholars, Raymond Surburg and Walter Roehrs were the Old Testament scholars, Heino Kadai was the one historical theologian, and H. Armin Moellering the lone parish pastor. Dr. Jungkuntz served as convener and was the real "driving force" of this core working group. Anyone familiar with the times knows that R. Preus, Moellering, and Surburg can be grouped on the one hand (representing the repristinationist camp), and Bartling, Bertram, Franzmann, and Jungkuntz can be grouped on the other (representing the hermeneutical significance of Article IV of the Apology and a basic openness to the legitimacy of historical criticism of the Scriptures in service to the gospel). Overlapping both groups were Kadai and Roehrs.

According to the official minutes of the 1967 convention, the delegates "commended [the hermeneutics committee] for the study of Biblical hermeneutics of the [CTCR] to the Lord's guidance" (Resolution 2-15 adopted in Session 3 on July 8). Though awkwardly constructed, the sentence is clear enough in meaning. Then, in the sixth session (July 10), "the convention commended the document 'A Lutheran Stance toward Contemporary Biblical Studies' for study and declined Overture 2-07. An amendment to commend the document for study to pastoral conferences was defeated" (Resolution 2-02A and 2-02B). The convention then "commended the [CTCR] and encouraged it to continue its important work" (Resolution 2-01).

Here are the resolutions that were acted upon by the convention that year:

Resolution 2-13: To Invoke God's Blessings on Hermeneutics Committee
Whereas, The 1965 convention of the [LCMS] instructed the [CTCR] to plan and produce a comprehensive study of Biblical hermeneutics, based on the Lutheran Confessions and oriented to the church's primary task of proclamation and edification (Resolution 2-07, Proceedings, 1965, p. 95); and

Whereas, A subcommittee of eight men has been appointed by the [CTCR], which committee is working full time this summer and will regularly report to the [CTCR]; therefore be it

Resolved, That we commend these men for their work and call upon our Lord to bless their work and given them His guidance for their future efforts.
Action: Adopted. (1967 Proceedings, p. 91)

Resolution 2-02: To Commend "A Lutheran Stance toward Contemporary Biblical Studies" for Study and Discussion

Whereas, The Detroit convention (Resolution 2-07, Proceedings, 1965, p. 95) resolved that the [CTCR] conduct a comprehensive study of Biblical hermeneutics; and

Whereas, This assignment does not declare a moratorium on Biblical study and scholarship throughout the Synod, but on the contrary the church's scholars as well as all other members of the church are expected to continue their daily study of the Scriptures; and

Whereas, Questions have been raised regarding the essential elements that characterize sound Biblical studies in our time and a Lutheran stance toward such studies; and

Whereas, The [CTCR] has provided the membership of the Synod with a document, "A Lutheran Stance Toward Contemporary Biblical Studies"; therefore be it

Resolved, That the document "A Lutheran Stance Toward Contemporary Biblical Studies" be commended to the Synod's membership for study and discussion.

Whereas, The responses which the [CTCR] received from members of the Synod have been very helpful; therefore be it

Resolved, That we encourage those who have concerns regarding any part of the document "A Lutheran Stance Toward Biblical Studies" to present these concerns to the [CTCR] for clarification of the document; and be it further

Resolved, That Overture 2-07 be respectfully declined.
Action: Adopted. (An amendment to substitute "pastoral conferences" for "the Synod's membership" in the Resolved of 2-02A was lost.)

And what was Overture 2-07 that was respectfully declined?
Overture 2-07: To Reject "A Lutheran Stance Toward Contemporary Biblical Studies"
This overture, submitted by St. John's Ev. Lutheran Church, Clinton, Iowa, criticizes the CTCR's document because it "approaches the Bible with the preconceived notions of modern theology's 'new hermeneutics,'" and "whittles 'necessary controversy' down to issues which have a bearing on 'the Gospel itself,'" and "opens the door wide to the destructive principles of Modernism's devastating 'historical-critical method'"; and "enables one to sit in judgment over the Bible by alleging that this sacred book contains an endless amount of unspecified 'literary forms' ('and so on'), which could include myths, legends, beefed-up accounts, contradictions, and the like."

The resolution concludes with this single resolved:
"That the Synod reject 'A Lutheran Stance Toward Contemporary Biblical Studies,' as does St. John's Ev. Lutheran Church." (Workbook, 60-61).

The folks in Clinton knew that for the Synod to adopt Resolution 2-02 it would be commending a document that itself commends the legitimate use of the historical-critical method. That is why they opposed the resolution and sought to have the Synod adopt their own overture. But the Synod acted differently. The convention commended the CTCR's document, with its commendation of the historical-critical method, and rejected the overture from St. John's Clinton.

Then, the convention commended the CTCR itself:

Resolution 2-01: To Commend Commission on Theology and Church Relations
Whereas, the [CTCR], which was established by the Synod at its convention in Cleveland, 1962, has continued faithfully during the past 2 years since the Detroit convention the work assigned to it; and

Whereas, This commission with the assistance of its executive secretary, Dr. Richard Jungkuntz, has provided the members of the Synod with several important documents and studies dealing with theological issues referred to it by the Cleveland and Detroit conventions; therefore be it

Resolved, That the [CTCR] be commended for its dedicated labors; and be it further

Resolved, That the commission be encouraged to continue its important work, supported by our prayers for the aid and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Action: Adopted.

So, for the next several years, the members of the Synod (pastors and congregations) were encouraged to study A Lutheran Stance Toward Contemporary Biblical Studies, a document that commends the legitimate use of historical-criticism among the Synod's membership. This document that was commended by that 1967 convention and re-commended by the 1969 convention is still commendable today.


  1. Thank you for providing a fuller text of the resolution. I would recommend that your readers also go to the LCMS website and download the CTCR study from 1967, and then study this document for themselves. It can be found here: http://www.lcms.org/page.aspx?pid=681 (or through the Theology and Church Relations site at lcms.org.)

    One initial question: You list Franzmann as having "a basic openness to the legitimacy of historical criticism of the Scriptures in service to the gospel." As your readers may be familiar with some of his CPH publications in past years, especially his well known THE WORD OF THE LORD GROWS (1961), can you point out where he demonstrated this openness in his public writings for the church?

  2. Martin Franzmann had a basic openness to the use of historical-criticism, as he and the others on that hermeneutics committee defined this method. He and they commended to the Synod the "basic and legitimate elements of the so-called historical-critical method" that had also been set forth by the Ecumenical Study Conference that met in Oxford in 1949.

    When he wrote "The Word of the Lord Grows" (CPH 1961), Franzmann acknowledged his debt to Adolf Schlatter, one of the key German NT historical critics of the late-19th and early-20th c. (Franzmann borrowed heavily from Schlatter, often without attribution, when he wrote his commentary on Matthew.) Chapter one begins with a frank acknowledgment of the historical character of the NT world. "The word of the Lord grew. The whole NT is the rich and various unfolding of this proclamation... And nowhere, IN ANY ASPECT OF IT, does this word lose its character as history..." (p. 19).

    When Franzmann is critical of the two-source and the four-source hypotheses for solving the synopic problem, he is nonetheless engaged in historical criticism (pp. 212-15). When he attends to the results of form criticism, yet another result of modern historical-critical investigation into the NT (cf. the works of Bultmann, Schmidt, and Dibelius, to which Franzmann alludes), he is engaged in historical-critical investigation (pp. 216-18), even if he is somewhat dismissive.

    But the best evidence for his positive use of historical criticism is his 1975 essay, "Historical-critical Method," which he delivered at a theological convocation at Concordia Seminary, SL, in April of that year. In that essay he wrote, "Whatever we may decide about the terms, we cannot avoid the thing, cannot avoid being both historical and critical--unless we are content to lapse into a quasi-magical history-less and undiscerning appreciation of Holy Writ and substitute the God of the philosophers for the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and Jesus of Nazareth and substitute in our Creed some bloodless abstraction for the words 'suffered under Pontius Pilate.' ... We CAN decide to avoid the terms 'historical' and 'critical' when they have become ambiguous and misleading. We CANNOT decide to be unhistorical and uncritical. For if we do, the living word of God will rise up and make damned fools of us all... ...If we would read the Bible on its own terms, we must needs read it HISTORICALLY, which we have tried to do in our traditional Christian education, where the Catechism and Bible History both have retained their place of honor. And we must read it CRITICALLY, if by 'critically' we mean with 'discriminating appreciation' (Kendrick Grobel, 'Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible,' s.v. 'Biblical Criticism' I p. 413a). Basic to such discriminating appreciation would be the capacity to recognize history when one sees it, even when it appears in forms that we should not immediately classify as 'historical' in the foot-noted Ph.D. sense of history" (Martin Franzmann, "Historical-Critical Method," in "The Nature and Function of Holy Scripture" [St. Louis: CPH, 1975], 16-17).

    Again, his use of "forms" here indicates a basic appreciation that the Bible contains many different forms and genres and these must interpreted with "discriminating appreciation."

    Remember, too, that Franzmann had been the head of the exegetical department at the SL seminary when historical criticism was routinely used in the classroom and in published writings by members of the department, including himself.

  3. Franzmann was head of the department from 1946 to 1956. I think it risky to characterize him as sympathetic with historical criticism merely based on the fact that some professors may have utilized the method during those years. Obviously much more occurred in the nearly 20 years following before the walk-out. Richard Brinkley in his book THY STRONG WORD: THE ENDURING LEGACY OF MARTIN FRANZMANN (CPH, 1993) notes that "In the late summer of 1960 Franzmann was at the Counselors and Fiscal Conference held at Valparaiso University. Much of the conference was devoted to a discussion of doctrinal issues. Franzmann presented a paper on 'Revelation - Scripture - Interpretation.' In it he defended the inerrancy of Scripture and criticized the 'historico-critical' method's 'demythologization,' which he felt 'cuts the heart out of the New Testament message.' (25) In having used some of Franzmann's materials, I fail to see his true sympathy for the full use of historical criticism. It would seem that he was not as sympathetic or supportive as you characterize.

  4. Franzmann was a leading member of the CTCR's hermeneutics committee that commended the essential and legitimate elements of the historical-critical method to the Synod and encouraged its use. He himself used that method, as is clear from his 1975 essay and other writings, including the paper he gave at Valpo University in 1960. Yes, he was critical of Bultmann's program of de-mythologizing--so were a lot of people--but that criticism didn't keep him from using "the basic and legitimate elements" of historical criticism. One of these "elements" is form criticism, one of Bultmann's other contributions to NT studies, which attends to biblical forms and genres.

    During Franzmann's tenure as head of the exegetical department at SL historical-critical methodology was introduced at the seminary by Martin Scharlemann and Horace Hummel and then utilized by many others to positive effect.

  5. So based on your previous post and the effect, you believe,the historical-critical approach should make on certain teachings within the LCMS, why do you think that Franzmann was not openly critical of the Synod's traditional literal understanding of the creation account in Genesis or its view on the ordination of women? As far as I know he did not champion the interpretations you present even after he moved to England. So do you think that he and the others ended up ultimately understanding the historical-critical method in the same way you now do?

    You seem to indicate that the Synod commended in 1967 a use and understanding of historical-criticism in the way you understand and apply it today. After reading the document myself I realize that it is general enough to allow many people to use it in different, even conflicting ways.

  6. Rev. Engebretson,

    When Norm Habel's little booklet on the form and meaning of the fall narrative appeared, a book that was guided by the best of historical-critical scholarship on the first chapters of the Bible, Franzmann appeared before a special gathering in the S. Dakota District and defended Habel's use of form criticism and the theological conclusions he set forth there.

    Here is what my friend, Ed Krentz, himself a practitioner of historical criticism in the Synod between the early 1950s and mid-1970s, wrote to me about his colleague:

    I was a member of the exegetical department from 1953 to 1974. It was an interesting time. First George Victor
    Schick was department chair. After him Martin Franzmann was chair.

    Later I moved into into faculty house 11, right next door to the Franzmanns. When he and Alice moved to England I inherited some books from him--plus an
    antique rocker, night stand, and clock.

    In that period it began with Franzmann quite conservative; the radical in the early sixties was the other Martin, Scharlemann. After the Cleveland convention
    of 1962 their positions began to change. MHS turned right, joined later with R.Preus and R. Bohlmann and R. Klann. MHS now attacked historical criticism, which he had earlier defended (along with Horace Hummel). Franzmann was a conservative, absolutely honest scholar. He moved to the left of MHS. I recall sitting on our front steps talking with him on a summer evening. We agreed that we did nothing different in interpreting the New Testament than what we both did--or had done-- in interpreting classical texts. Franzmann stood for
    historically conditioned interpretation.

    After the Seminex exodus JAOP convened a theological conference at 801 that was to solve the problems and bring the synod together. I was there. Ralph Klein had
    a paper on historical criticism. The planning committee brought Franzmann back from England to present a paper. He disappointed the conservatives by a presentation in which he said historical interpretation was absolutely necessary and that one had to read the biblical text critically.

    Was Franzmann a radical critic. No way. He admired Adolf Schlatter--as did Ernst Käsemann. And Schlatter stressed that exegesis must be free from dogmatic
    influences and presuppositions. Franzmann imbibed that. He was one of my teachers, from whom I learned a great deal, including the view that the text is the major determiner in exegesis. Ed Krentz

    Historical critics may come to very different conclusions about the genre, form, and meaning of biblical texts, but such differences are matters of judgment and not a matter of their usage of the "basic and legitimate elements in the so-called historical-critical method."

  7. Thank you for the insights on Martin Franzmann. I am still curious about my other question concerning the nature of the 1967 document A LUTHERAN STANCE and how you interpret its intent. Do you believe that what the Synod then regarded as a "legitimate use of historical-criticism among the Synod's membership" (as you phrase it) is essentially what you practice today? Do you see yourself in harmony with the original intent of the document? Would the original authors have seen a "legitimate use of historical-criticism" as calling into question the Synod's stance on creation/evolution and the role of women as you brought up in your first post? Again, I fail to see that this document envisioned calling these teachings into question as a function of historical-critical study, despite the rather general nature of the paper. I can read A LUTHERAN STANCE and see it support my historical-grammatical approach just as equally. In no way does it seem to commend calling into question the established teachings of that time.

  8. Pr. Engebretson,
    The steps outlined in that CTCR document are ones that all Bible scholars follow, at least if they are interested in historical understanding and critical reflection about ancient literary forms, genres, and expressions. Please note, too, that the document calls for balancing between what an ancient biblical text likely MEANT to its original hearers/readers and what it MEANS for contemporary people who live in a different time and place. Those two concerns, what a text meant and what it means, are not necessarily the same, at least when one is dealing with ancient cosmological understandings and social hierarchies.

  9. I assume from your last comment that you are referring to #4 on page 11 which reads:
    "The undeniably necessary effort to hear a text of Scripture first of all in its particularity, its meaning 'then and there,' must be balanced by an equal effort to hear the text both in its integral relation to all the rest of Scripture and in its meaningfulness for all who hear it today."

    If this is what you are referring to, I do not hear the document posing a difference between the meaning a text had for its original hearers and the meaning for contemporary people, as if one potentially alters or changes the other, as in 'it meant that then, but people see this matter differently now, so we must proclaim it differently in the present time.' The document, in fact, reminds the reader of "the common witness to the one Truth that is as relevant now as when it was first proclaimed." But relevancy, according to the document, does not appear to mean an attempt to balance the meaning for the original hearer with that of the current one. The 'balance' is to hear the text in relation to the entirety of the scriptural witness with the awareness of its continued "meaningfulness" to those who hear it yet today.

  10. Rev. Engebretson,

    No, some passages of Scripture have a different meaning today from what they had in the distant past. This is a result both of scientific advance in our understanding of the cosmos (we don't believe the earth is unmovable or founded on a foundation nor do we believe the sun moves around the earth, "sunrise," "sunset," Ps. 19, etc.) and because of social changes (the passages about slavery in the Bible do not mean the same today as they did in the 18th c.)

  11. Dr. Becker,
    I understand what you believe, but I was specifically addressing what the 1967 document meant since your original post intended to conduct an 'exegesis' on that work. I assume that I identified the section correctly in my previous comment to which you were referring. So the point is whether the '67 CTCR document supports your approach or whether, as I indicated in that comment, it goes in another direction. Did the authors of that document intend for 'balance' to mean 'it meant something then, but means something different now' approach, or rather, as I said, to keep the balance between determining original meaning and yet also understanding the continued relevancy of the text to current conditions, or its "meaningfulness" as the document says. My question at this point is not to take issue or question your own approach (although it is clear we have different understandings of the interpretive process), but rather to determine if the '67 document supports your approach since your original claim is that it commends the kind of approach you take in your use of the historical-critical method.

  12. The 1967 CTCR document supports the use of the historical-critical method. I use that method as defined in that Synodical document.

    As the document also notes, one must balance historical-critical investigation of the Scriptures (i.e., investigation of the historical, social, and religious situations in which the biblical texts were originally written and received; investigation of all other factors that historically and culturally conditioned those Scriptures, including the antecedent literary forms and genres from the ancient world that are found within the Scriptures; investigation into the form and structure of biblical narratives and their original "Sitz im Leben," and so on) with the effort to set forth the contemporary "meaningfulness" of those Scriptures. In other words, "interpretation" always entails balancing "what a text may have meant" (or how it has been understood over time) with "what it means for us today." The document rightly stresses that such contemporary "meaningfulness" involves understanding specific biblical texts in relation to the larger Scriptural whole and the overall basic message of the Scriptures in their witness to law and gospel and in relation to one's present historical, social, cultural situation.

    This approach that is set forth in that 1967 document (the Synod's CTCR webpage incorrectly gives the date as 1966) and commended to the Synod is good, right, and salutary.

  13. Unfortunately, as Dr. Becker would perceive the situation, the 1967 CTCR document was never adopted by our Synod as a doctrinal statement, as was "A Statement of Scriptural and Confessional Principles." "A Statement" thus has binding authority on all members of the Missouri Synod, including Dr. Becker, whereas the 1967 opinion remains simply that, an opinion with no doctrinal authority or status in the Missouri Synod.

    An inconvenient truth, perhaps for Dr. Becker's agenda, but a truth nonetheless.

  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. As a person sitting in the pew who has been affected by this dispute throughout my faith journey, I'd suggest that the heart of this matter is NOT how we define the correct approach to hermeneutics. Rather, it is original sin and the resulting temptation to confuse certitude with faith.

    Scripture is God's Word, regardless of how we approach Scripture. The central message of Scripture - the revelation of the God who love us, the God who Creates us, the God who Redeems us, and the God who Sanctifies us - is true, irrespective of our inability to comprehend it by our own wisdom.

    The inconvenient truth is that Lutherans ought to be drawn together by a shared understanding of the doctrine of justification. Instead, we are driven apart by an argument about whether Lutherans ought to embrace a neo-Calvinistic approach to hermeneutics.

  16. John, that's simply a facile way of dealing with this issue. As history has proven, beyond any shadow of doubt, for example, in the case of the ELCA, walking away from a faithful, orthodox understanding of the nature and basis of the authority of the Sacred Scriptures leads directly to denying the doctrine of justification, by grace alone, through faith, alone, on account of Christ alone. This is precisely what the ELCA did when it embraced the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. This also explains how and why the ELCA has walked away from any number of Biblical truths, ranging from the presence of Christ under the bread and wine of the Sacrament, to its embrace of the LGBT agenda.

  17. Paul - I can understand how you might conclude that the ELCA has walked away from the authority of your interpretation of Scripture. That is not the same as walking away from the authority of Scripture. And, to suggest that what I said is a facile way of dealing with this issue might well be a way to walk away from the pervasiveness of sin in the lives of all people, including those who profess faith in the doctrine of justification.

    Having said that and my previous post, it seems to me that people of faith ought to spend more time proclaiming the Gospel and living out the Gospel in our every day lives and spend less time drawing artificial distinctions among sisters and brothers in the family of God.

  18. "A Statement of Scriptural and Confessional Principles" was adopted by a resolution at the 1973 convention. This resolution was adopted by the slimmest of majorities. The status of the document, "A Statement," is questionable, precisely because it never was ratified by 2/3 of member congregations and because a large number of individual members have expressed dissent against some of its formulations and assertions. Such dissent did not end with the schism in the mid-70s, when a lot of those dissenters left the Synod. I'm certainly not the only current member of the Synod who is critical of the content of the document and the manner in which that particular resolution and document have been used over the past forty years to coerce consciences and to try to bind individuals to interpretations of Scripture that are wrong.

    The resolution that adopted "A Statement" has the same status and authority as any other resolution adopted by the Synod, no more or no less. Such a resolution and document are "for use and guidance." They are to be "honored and upheld" by members of the LCMS (workers and congregations) until they are overturned or changed, again by majority vote at another convention. (We also know that some synodical resolutions are also quietly ignored by significant numbers of Synod members who find them inapplicable or inexpedient in their local situation.)

    Meanwhile, dissenters can register their dissent and set forth their reasons for why a resolution or document is flawed doctrinally or theologically. Thankfully, the Synod does have a history of changing its doctrinal positions, as it did, for example, with prayer fellowship. The Synod has welcomed dissent, especially since it knows that the church should always be open to testing and judging doctrine and Scriptural teaching, as Dr. Martin Luther and C. F. W. Walther also maintained.

    No resolutions of the Synod are unconditionally binding upon the consciences of individual members. All resolutions of the Synod are to be "honored and upheld" until they are shown to be contrary to the word of God, a fact that is certainly possible, since popes, councils, and synods can err.

  19. Matt, are you going to post the CTCR's response to your dissent? I would think you would want to since you have so proudly announced you are in dissent from the doctrinal position of the Synod and also publicly announced you were sending your dissent to the CTCR.

    Why are you hiding it and keeping it a secret?


  20. Paul - again speaking from the perspective of the person sitting in the pew, when I took confirmation instruction, we used the 1943 cph edition of Luther's Small Catechism (I suspect that you did, too). Please explain how you get from Q's 7 - 17, p. 40 - 43, in that edition to the insistence that belief in an "inerrant, infallible Scripture" is a prerequisite to understanding that Scripture is God's Word.

  21. Paul,
    I am not in a position to make public the CTCR's letter to me. That you would know about this letter is not surprising, but you are certainly not in a position to make demands of me about it. You are not a member of the CTCR, a copy of the letter was not officially sent to you, and the process is still ongoing. Since the CTCR did not respond to the specific points in my dissent, I have sent them a subsequent letter in which I kindly ask them to do so.

  22. Hello Dr. Becker,

    It is nice to see your writing here. I always thought you were a good teacher, and in your writing, well-thought out, scholarly, and polite presentation comes across well. It is refreshing to see this style of writing. Of course, it is not surprising to you that I respect your ability to stand up for what you believe in. Also, I like that you will take positions on issues that are not popular. More later, Cheryl