We were taught not be ashamed of the Gospel “for it is the power of God.”
We learned that good sermons teach the truths of God faithfully and clearly. Listening to Christ-Centered, Cross-focused sermons from Rev. Bill Cwirla, Rev. Will Weedon, and Dr. David Scaer were favored by all. When we applied the sermon diagnostic tool to the Christ-less sermons so prevalent today we were appalled.
We now know what we believe, teach, and confess as Lutherans because of Dr. Lawrence White, Dr. Karl Barth, Rev. Peter Bender and Dr. Ken Schurb who provided catechetical instruction grounded in God’s Word.
Instruction in the proper distinction between Law and Gospel was provided by Dr. Carl Fickenscher, Dr. Tom Baker, Dr. Cory Maas, and Dr. Richard Eyer. They brought to bear the teachings and C.F.W. Walther.
There was a battle for the Bible during the 1970’s. Thanks to Dr. Zimmerman and Dr. Barth we now know what was at stake. And as I speak we are seeing first hand history repeat.
Life issues such as stem cell research, abortion, and euthanasia were addressed by Wesley Smith, Scott Klusendorf, Greg Koukl and Dr. Jim Lamb. We were taught and equipped to “defend life from beginning to end.”
We are more informed about Islam and other world religions thanks to scholars such as Dr. Alvin Schmidt and Dr. John Warwick Montgomery. We now know the two faces of Islam – one when in the minority and another when in the majority.
We studied many Hymns including “What Child is This” and “Stricken Smitten and Afflicted” with Dr. Art Just and Pastor Henry Gerike. Lutherans gave the church hymns because hymns teach us doctrine. Through hymns we praise God by telling everyone what he has done.
We unpacked the myths about Luther and Worship with Rev. Will Weedon and Dr. Ken Schurb, and in so doing learned that worship is not about what we do for God, but about receiving his gifts and hearing God’s Word.
The doctrine of vocation was thoroughly explored by Dr. Gene Edward Veith and Dr. Steven Hein. The purpose of vocation is to serve and love one another - we are all masks of God. “God doesn’t need our good works. But our neighbor does.”
We were taught “Why Bad Things Happen” from Rev. Matt Harrison. We learned how suffering is the Lord’s alien work as Martin Luther would say. Suffering drives us to Jesus for he is the way.
Our seminaries were well represented by Dr. Jeff Gibbs, Dr. Larry Rast, Dr. Cameron MacKenzie, Dr. David Adams and many others. They spoke on such topics as Scripture and Tradition, The Bodily Resurrection of Jesus, Fundamentalism, and Civil Religion.
Where would we be without a clear understanding of how Doctrine and Practice affect one another? Rev. Klemet Preus’s book “The Fire and The Staff” and numerous discussions were invaluable it is true. Doctrine is what you believe about Jesus—His life and death and their meaning to you.
Articles of faith such as Repentance, Prayer and The Person and Work of the Holy Sprit were clearly expressed by Dr. Rod Rosenbladt, Dr. Andrew Steinman, and Dr. Richard Schuta. We believe faith in Jesus Christ is a gift from God, given by the power of the Holy Sprit; thus all the glory belongs to God alone it is not something we merit.
Justification is the doctrine on which the Church stands or falls and Sanctification not rightly understood can turn into Law. Dr. Daniel Preus, Dr. Steve Hein and Dr. Carl Fickenscher clearly explained from scripture how God works to save.
We were introduced to a new generation of defenders of the faith including Rev. Brain Wolfmueller, Rev. Steven Parks, and Chris Rosebrough who addressed important topics like Baptism, God and Suffering, and Christ-less Christianity.
We studied books of the Bible with Dr. John Seleska and Tim Seleska including the Psalms. Each week we prepared for our Sunday school lesson with Deaconess Pam Nielson. What important insights and knowledge we were able to glean.
History was another topic often discussed with Dr. Paul Maier and Dr. Martin Noland. The topics included The Events Surrounding the Death & Resurrection of Jesus Christ, The Reformation, Roman Catholicism, and Early Christian Historian Eusebuis.
The errors of Pietism and the Church Growth Movement were exposed by Aaron Wolf, Dr. Larry Rast, Rev. Rod Zwonitzer, Craig Parton, and Chris Rosebrough. We learned what the true marks of a church involve - the means of grace and salvation, the proclamation of the Gospel and sacrament administration.
We may never have known of such great theologians as Dr. Norman Nagel, Dr. Louis Brighton, and Dr. Ron Feuerhahn who were eager to share their insightful instruction on Eternal Life, The Presence of God, The Lords Supper, and Papal Authority & Roman Doctrine.
Luther’s explanation in the Heidelberg Disputation of Theologians of the Cross was clearly conveyed by Dr. Paul Grime, Dr. Steven Hein, and Dr. R. Scott Clark. “That person deserves to be called a theologian who comprehends what is visible of God through suffering and the cross.”
Culturally relevant topics were discussed by Dr. Mike Horton and Dr. Laurence White. They involved American Evangelicalism, Christianity and Pop Culture, and the Secularization of the Church. We were taught that there is no such thing as Evangelical style and Lutheran substance. “It’s not style or substance; its style forms substance.” In the church, what we believe establishes what we do and who we are.
And let us not forget the thought provoking and educational articles published in the Issue etc. Journal including: “Locus and Focus,” Purpose Driven or Forgiveness Given,” and “Mere Monotheism.”
Such a wide range of topics were discussed on each and every show with guests including Ed Meese, John Shelby Spong, Dr. Alveda King, Bishop N.T. Wright, Dr. Albert Mohler, and Robert Schuller,. This speaks to Jeff Schawrz’s dedication and abilities as the Issues etc. producer to compile a guest list with the likes of these.
I would be remiss in not recognizing the invaluable contribution of Pastor Todd Wilken. Not only were his questions insightful and probing, but the fact that he too was able to address all of the topics mentioned from a scriptural and cultural perspective was nothing short of astounding.
Thanks to Issues Etc. I don’t want to be Emergent, Purpose-Driven, or to Become a Better Me. I want Jesus, only Jesus, nothing but Jesus who lived a perfect life and died for me.
This list is by no means exhaustive, yet I hope it conveys the blessing received from Issues ETC. There is much appreciation especially from the laity who received an education worthy of a degree.
While this “voice in the wilderness” has been silenced for now, “God works all things together for good for those who are called according to His purpose” and I can’t wait to see how.
Mark Dowell, Columbia IL