My Letter to President Harrison about the Large Cataclysm of 2023 (and More)

05 Feb

As most folks reading this blog would know by now, President Harrison has basically given the new edition of the Large Catechism a clean bill of health.

Clint Poppe, who has been a challenger to him for the LC-MS Presidency, has weighed in:

I continue to maintain that all copies of the book should have been destroyed and that Dr. John Pless, especially for allowing Steven Paulson to participate, should no longer be an LC-MS seminary professor (see my letter to Harrison about this below).

The LC-MS really needs to take the views of its sharp Gen Z members into consideration. See this short thread (also see here).

I like Larry Beane’s attitude. To a member who said he was deciding to leave the LCMS because his trust in pastors and church leadership was at an all time low and so would be a “churchless confessional Lutheran” the good pastor said this:

“Can you imagine living in the days when Arianism was was winning? When St. John Chrysostom was in exile? When Luther was excommunicated? When the king of Prussia forced Lutherans into a union with the Reformed?

This is our cross. We don’t have the option to flee. We live in the church militant.

There is literally nothing that is more worthy of fighting for than the truth of the Gospel – not family, country, or self-defense.

This is why Paul gives us the picture of the militant Christian in Ephesians 6.

Gird up your loins, sharpen your sword, grab a quiver of arrows, and let’s have at it.”

Here, by the way, is AALC seminary President Jordan Cooper’s evaluation of the project. I’ve commented on a few of his tweets there, including here:

It looks like Issues ETC. will be having him on. If you have good questions you’d like Pastor Wilken to ask him, consider contacting Pastor Wilken, who is on Twitter or at @toddwilken and also at

Here is my email to the President, which I sent before the decision was made, followed by the content of my two Facebook posts on the issue (also posted before the President’s decision):

President Harrison,

Greetings to you in Christ Jesus! My name is Nathan Rinne, and I am a Lutheran layman concerned about the direction our Synod seems to be taking as indicated in the CTCR’s new edition of the Large Catechism.

I know that you have put this project on hold. Nevertheless, my level of concern remains very high.

Even though I do share many of the thoughts of those who became aware of this issue through the 19-year-old layman Ryan Turnipseed (by the way, have you read this August 2022 post from Ryan at Gottesblog? In my mind, that a young man like this can make such astute observations speaks well of his future in Christ’s church!) – namely the issues pertaining to CRT and gradual capitulation to the demands of the “LGBTQ+” crowd – I think my concerns go even deeper.

I believe one of the most insidious things about this new edition of the Large Catechism is the presence of ELCA theologians, particularly Steve Paulson. In his 2011 magnum opus, titled Lutheran Theology, Paulson made the claim that Jesus Christ committed his own personal sin (see here for the briefest of summaries). When I heard Paulson had been published through CPH yet again (he was also in the most unfortunate The Necessary Distinction book), I decided to get involved with the online discussion (see here, for example).

Even though Paulson has been so bold to say that Christ committed his own personal sin, this has not stopped Concordia seminary professor John Pless from promoting his work at almost every opportunity. In a 2011 LC-MS Reporter article “ELCA’s Paulson to speak at Ft. Wayne seminary,” Pless said of Dr. Paulson that he “is an outstanding theologian with a deep grasp on insights from Martin Luther for contemporary Christians.” And David Scaer reports (in Scaer, David, “Is Law Intrinsic to God’s Essence?”, p. 11) that in 2018 Dr. Pless also wrote an article titled “Twenty-Five Titles in Twenty-Fives Years,” that touts Paulson’s same 2011 Lutheran Theology book. I am sure Dr. Scaer could fill you in on more of the concerns he has had about Dr. Paulson.

It pains me that Paulson wrote what he did and has never taken back what he said. I know some have asked him to at least clarify, but the one time I know that he did address his claims he really did not give an explanation at all, but really artfully dodged the issue.

Of course I would be concerned about all of this even if Paulson were not such a compelling and charismatic figure. But he is. I once wrote this about him:

“Now, I know Paulson’s teaching and style hold no appeal to many folks, even many highly intellectual folks. They find him confusing, even uninteresting, and ultimately not worth listening to. I, on the other hand, am drawn to it like a moth to the flames. Paulson is highly educated, knows his historical theology inside and out, is highly creative and sensitive to human nature, skewers contemporary philosophical outlooks (and ancient ones as needed), deftly alludes to and addresses our current cultural moment, and uses intense rhetoric which is clearly backed up with intense conviction and thought. In my mind, there is basically nothing not to like.”

Pastor Harrison, I appeal to you as the head earthly shepherd of one of our Lord’s most faithful remnants. I pray that you would feel some of the confusion and anger and horror that I know many of us feel when we think about what Paulson said, and how Dr. Pless has continued to unapologetically promote him.

I believe that John Pless – like Dr. Gene Veith has done when I talked to him about it – needs to publicly recant his support and promotion of Steve Paulson, and that if he will not do this (not to mention addressing all the other essays which he approved in this volume!) that he should be removed from his teaching post from CTSFW for the sake of the church.

As with Paulson, I bear no ill will towards Dr. Pless. I would write concerning Larry Vogel as well, the other editor, if I knew more about him. I do know what Pless must know, however, and has publicly said.

I hope you will prayerfully think on my words, and consider the kinds of things that I think need to happen. God bless you on your service and most difficult of callings!

Pax Christi,


PS – Please feel free to share my email with anyone you please.


Facebook post #1:

I am deeply grieved today.

I understand that my church body, the LC-MS, has published a new edition of Martin Luther’s Large Catechism and that it includes an essay from Steve Paulson, who has written that Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Innocent Lamb of God, committed his own personal sin.

Given some of the other questionable things about this new catechism as well, saying we are witnessing the fruit of out-of-control tolerance doesn’t even begin to do the situation justice.

I cannot comprehend this, and will explain why with a story from the early church, when men actually feared God (complements to Timothy Tennent, from whom I quote):

“According to the story, John, the Apostle of love, was inside a Roman bath house getting cleansed, as was the custom of his day. However, through the hot steam he suddenly realized that the heretic Cerinthus was sitting just across the room. John immediately jumped up and fled the bathhouse, explaining that Cerinthus was inside and he didn’t want to be killed when the building collapsed under the righteous judgment of God! Why such a strong reaction? Cerinthus was one of the gospel’s chief opponents.”

John wasn’t wrong about God’s judgment, even if he didn’t get the timing quite right. Lord have mercy.

Here is a screen shot of that post, which was shared 22 times:


Facebook post #2:

We didn’t start the fire.

Concordia Publishing House actually put forward an edition of the Large Catechism which included an essay from an ELCA theologian who has publicly proclaimed (in his 2011 magnum opus) that Jesus Christ committed his own personal sin.

I am convinced that tolerating things like this explain the many other deep problems with the “Large Cataclysm of 2023”.

Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod President Matthew Harrison announced yesterday the book was being withdrawn. As one highly respected pastor put it, “[Concordia Publishing House’s streak of publishing great resources has come to a spectacular end, a veritable crash-and-burn”

Who is ultimately responsible for this? It is easy to point to President Matthew Harrison, who wrote the forward to the book. That said, it may sadly be the case that President Harrison did not actually know the contents of the book, but trusted another.

Who is that other one? He is the eminent and highly respected Concordia Theological seminary professor John Pless. I’ve now done an updated review on one of Pless’s most important (and disturbing) books here:…/a-critical…/

Please note that Dr. Pless is also a good friend of Steven Paulson, who is the man who believes Christ sinned. He seems to never miss an opportunity to promote the propagator of this God-hating (that is what this is) teaching.

Why? Well, John Pless says that the problem in today’s church is that “The chief aim of the church is thought to be producing a culture that runs counter to that of our world, a culture defined by biblical values. The Gospel is pressed into the service of the Law. It becomes a means to morality, not a word from God that forgives for Jesus’ sake” (12).

Pless is exactly right that the proclamation of the Gospel is what is absolutely central to the church’s mission and that it must not be a “means to morality”. As he goes on to state:

“The Gospel alone has the power to forgive sins and make alive the heart that is dead to God. This is why Walther insisted that the Gospel must always predominate in Christian preaching and witness” (13).

One can understand Pless’ conviction that the church’s chief aim is not to produce a culture that “runs counter to our world”. Again, the Gospel is the main thing. At the same time, is not the proclamation of the Gospel also connected with, in a sense, a specific kind of “culture”? And one, indeed, that “runs counter” to that of our world?

This is one of the issues that any honest person must have with many contemporary “conservative” Lutherans. It doesn’t seem like even the best at our seminaries, with some rare exceptions (one who recently left), are able to think this way, recognize simple and obvious truths like this.

Thanks for reading.

Screen shot of that one:



Posted by on February 5, 2023 in Uncategorized


2 responses to “My Letter to President Harrison about the Large Cataclysm of 2023 (and More)

  1. Rex Rinne

    February 5, 2023 at 12:57 pm

    Nice.  I see MH has withdrawn his hold

  2. Infanttheology

    February 5, 2023 at 2:09 pm



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