Monday, February 25, 2008


For a very long time, many years in fact, I have heard people ask questions about the differences between Concordia Seminary in Saint Louis and Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne. The questions were usually from pastors more than from lay people in former years, but more recently many concerned lay people have been asking the same questions.

The primary form of the question is: “Is the St. Louis Seminary more liberal than the Fort Wayne seminary?”

As an alumnus of the St. Louis seminary, I am very much aware that differences exist. As many people have observed over the years, the alumni of the two seminaries tend toward different actions in the parish setting. The biggest difference seems to be in manner or style, or perhaps attitude. At least this is what people generally observe.

But what is the real basis for the differences? Is it really a matter of one seminary being more or less liberal than the other? It is interesting to note that the question is usually phrased in this way rather than which one is more conservative (although in years past this was often the way it was phrased).

Sometimes the question is phrased as which seminary is more faithful to the Scriptures and Lutheran Confessions.

In reality, none of these questions really fit what is observed. Both seminaries as well as their staff and their graduates profess a quia subscription to the Lutheran Confessions. Both profess to adhere to the Holy Scriptures of God. Both profess to seek to prepare pastors for faithful service to the Word and to the Church in preaching the Gospel. Both profess to be urgently concerned for the salvation of lost souls. Both profess to embrace the historic Christian faith and the historic definition of the Church.

So then, why the perceived difference?

From my years of observing the difference I have concluded that it is a matter of how each seminary defines quia subscription to the Lutheran Confessions and how each defines faithfulness. What I will state below is a set of generalizations. Obviously exceptions exist.

Concordia Seminary — St. Louis, tends to subscribe to the Lutheran Confessions as true expositions of the Gospel because the LC-MS subscribes to them as such. Faithfulness tends to be understood as loyalty to the understanding of being LC-MS Lutheran Christians.

Concordia Theological Seminary — Ft. Wayne, tends to subscribe to the Lutheran Confessions as true expositions of the Gospel because the professors of the Ft. Wayne seminary (and certain professors in particular) subscribe to them as such. Faithfulness tends to be understood as loyalty to the understanding of being Concordia Theological Seminary LC-MS Lutheran Christians.

Both of these generalizations are over-simplified, but nevertheless they do fit as simple generalizations of what is observed. As these demonstrate, the two seminaries are not all that much different in that they both are absolutely dedicated to the preservation of the LC-MS and the promotion of Lutheranism as the best form of Christianity. Both seminaries claim to teach faithfully the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions. Both seminaries claim to embrace the historic liturgy as important to the Church. Both seminaries ultimately define both true Lutheranism and true Christianity according to what is decided in LC-MS conventions. Both openly profess to be in true fellowship with each other and with all who are members of the LC-MS.

So why is this even a question? It is because people are concerned about what they see happening in the churches. They hear different things being stressed by different pastors and congregations. They see different practices among those who profess to be one in the faith. They even hear different applications of the Word from congregation to congregation. People are concerned because the Scriptures declare that the Church is one in doctrine and practice, and this is not what is observed in the churches. They read in the Lutheran Confessions a clear reiteration of the Scriptural declarations and promises that the true Church is the gathering of the believers to the pure Word and Sacraments, and then they hear their pastors and churches declare that this cannot exist. They see their pastors and churches practicing disunity in doctrine and especially in the practice of that doctrine while simultaneously pretending to be one in the faith.

People tend to find this to be very disturbing because it does not agree with what is declared by the Scriptures. Somehow it is hard to understand how practicing disunity is the same as being truly one in the Lord.

The fact is that those who claim that this is possible are absolutely correct in saying that purity of doctrine and practice will never happen, at least not among those who embrace disunity and unity as coexisting reality.

The Scriptures declare a better way, a true way, and its dependency is not upon one’s seminary nor even upon one’s church body loyalties.


Anonymous said...

And some people notice that men who run away from their calls when the going gets rough, start their own congregations meeting in their homes, are probably not the best persons to be trying to give theological advice to anyone.

Nice "flame out" over on Wittenberg Trail, by the way, Siems.

Not Alone +++ PAS said...

Dear anonymous,

I never abandoned a call. In every setting I remained to the very end, even when offered the opportunity to seek a call elsewhere. Anyone who actually knows the facts knows that.

But that really does not matter. What matters is the truth. What matters is the Gospel.

If you mock me, that is of little consequence. But if you have a genuine issue on which to confront me regarding what I have said at any time, if you have any true reason to challenge me regarding something that I have said from the Scriptures or about some matter in Christ’s Church, please do present any such legitimate issue.

As for the matter in this post, some people are asking these questions and some people are struggling on account of the issues that they observe. Some people are even surrendering the faith entirely. Some others are letting the faith be eroded little by little. When people face these concerns, especially within their own church body, it is not helpful to avoid speaking of these matters from within that context. The truth is specific. The truth deals with real issues in real places in real time, just as people’s struggles and hurts and fears and concerns do.

For those who have such concerns, I desire to direct them to the fact that their true hope is not founded upon a seminary or a church body or a church leader, but upon the pure Gospel and upon the true administration of Baptism and the Holy Communion. Many people have become persuaded that because such purity cannot be found in their church body that it cannot be found anywhere. The Lord promises through His Scriptures that these pure means of grace and such a true communion do exist by His everlasting decree and that they shall be available where people truly gather not in their own names but in His.

If you are convinced that I have not pointed to Christ and His means of grace sufficiently, please do take the opportunity to do it better.

Anonymous said...

Shame on you for your comments regarding CTS-FW. Good and bad pastors come from both seminaries. As an ordained minister, you should know the 8th commandment with Luther's explanation.

Anonymous said...

It would be nice if some would read what is being said and the truth being taught by Pastor Siems... For the last couple years, God has used him to keep me in the one true faith.

It's just-as-if-I'd never sinned.
Such is the forgiveness of God through Christ Jesus.
Christ carried your sins to the grave, and left them there.

Thank you Pastor Siems.