“One day it was there, the next it was gone,” writes Curt Gentry in his apocalyptic novel, The Last Days of the Late, Great State of California, describing the effect of a cataclysmic earthquake on “the superlative state”—the state with “all the accoutrements of the ‘good life.’ ” A fictional production, to be sure; and yet the recent earthquake damage in California and the continuing menace of the San Andreas fault have given it a prophetic quality. Uncomfortable parallels exist with that bastion of the doctrinal “good life,” that “superlative synod” of biblical orthodoxy, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. The theological seismologist has no difficulty at all observing the deep tremors of this church body, and one need only extrapolate from present conditions to predict an ecclesiastical earthquake of the direst proportions.

In three articles appearing in this column during 1969 (January 17, March 28, June 6), I described the formation and present character of the Missouri Synod’s peculiar San Andreas fault. The intensive strains that may well result in the total fracturing of this church at its forthcoming Milwaukee Convention are caused by (1) an overreaction to the ghetto-like ingrownness of the synod’s early days, such that many in the church are seeking undisciplined theological “relevance” whatever the doctrinal cost; (2) the authoritarian, Germanic tendencies of the synod, which place loyalty to the organization and to its officialdom above virtually all other values, including—on occasion—even loyalty to Scripture and the confessions; (3) the untouchable role of professors at the seminaries, teachers’ colleges, and other educational institutions of the synod, by which in recent years a non-evangelical theology ...

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