Missouri’s “Death by Degrees”

On the other hand I confessed intense misgivings regarding the entire matter of university degrees or their equivalent. We are not only teachers in Concordia Seminary but are to be examples of efficient and consecrated workers in Christ’s vineyard. Let the students once conceive the opinion that the university is the avenue to larger success in the church, and a number of things will follow: 1) The more ambitious and gifted students will turn to the university. 2) Of these some will lose their faith. 3) Some will become warped in their religious views and will find the ministry or professorship in our Synod uncongenial and will drop out of active service (Five or six cases on record now.) 4) Some will absorb Modernism and instead of dropping out will remain with us. 5) Working from within, such unfaithful professors or ministers will first of all destroy the personal standing, if possible, of those who oppose them. They will do this by belittleing [sic] their scholarship, taking advantage of their faults, and otherwise ruining their influence. 6) They will certainly in the end gather disciples about them and thus make Modernism an issue also in the Missouri Synod.

Theodore Gräbner to Martin Gräbner, December 10, 1927. Quoted in “Log Cabin to Luther Tower”, page 110


I regard the action of you [P.E. Kretzmann] and Prof. [J.T.] Mueller as the beginning of the end of our orthodoxy. When the future church historian will trace the downfall of Missouri Lutheranism he will point to you two. You are breaking down the dividing line between truth and error. It is not possible for you consistently to tell your students, that all false doctrine is an abomination before the Lord, a thing they should avoid even to the extent of never attending a Sectarian church service. Our young men will get the impression, that the St. Louis Seminary is all right [sic] in its way, but that for real efficiency one must attend other schools of theology. Even now many of our young ministers are gathering much of their sermon material from other sources than our own, and the St. Louis faculty at this time has no more important work than to combat this tendency by precept and example.

– Letter from Martin Gräbner to P.E. Kretzmann, December 28, 1927. Quoted in “Log Cabin to Luther Tower”, page 192


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