Two Decades of Creationism

by Walter and Valeria Lang



When this author became involved with creationism, he developed what he refers to as a 100-year program. It began with a conversation held in a motel room. Rev. "Bud" Griesse, formerly dean at Concordia Teachers' College in Seward, Nebraska, had accepted the task of supervising student work in the Northwest District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. In that capacity he came to check on student work at the College of Idaho in Caldwell where this author was a pastor and also served Lutheran students at C of I. In a discussion in a motel room, Lang made the suggestion that to overcome problems within the LCMS church body, it was necessary to first change the thinking of educators and scientists. Griesse said this would be impossible; we could not even effect a change within the church, much less have an influence in schools and science. Lang granted that he was right if results were expected soon, but given 100 years, the job could be done. After all, it took Darwinism 100 years to become a dominant force in the world. Again, Griesse thought this impossible because, after all, how long could the two of them expect to live? But God is able to return a Christian culture to the nation through the creationist movement. It is embarrassing that Christian schools are being influenced by pagan educators and scientists when they should be taking the lead in this program.

In the twenty-three years since that conversation, Lang has not changed his thinking in spite of ridicule on the 100-year program idea. Over these past twenty-three years remarkable things have been accomplished. Beginning from almost zero in 1960 when Morris and Whitcomb published their first edition of The Genesis Flood,11 significant progress has been made. Since 1980, the media have picked up on the creation-evolution controversy, and the science establishment realizes that creationists are a threat to their pagan philosophy. Strong opposition is arising. To date only the foundation has been laid; the rest of the structure still needs erecting.

Harvard — A Bible College?

In that motel room in February of 1960 Lang predicted that, with the Lord's blessing, in 100 years Harvard would become a Bible college, even though today Marxists have a strong voice there. Noting the Lord's blessings over these past twenty-three years, he is not inclined to change that prediction.

President Reagan

Creation/Evolution has come of age. When Ronald Reagan ran for the presidency in 1980, he spoke at a church gathering in Dallas, Texas. Speaking at the same gathering was Judge Braswell Deen of Atlanta, Georgia, an unabashed creationist. When asked his view on creation/evolution, Reagan admitted his belief in the Biblical creation.
Conservative Movement in LCMS

Walter Lang's interest in creationism began because of his concern over liberalism creeping into the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. During the first twenty years of his ministry he worked in interracial churches, and his interest was in that area. In 1959 he was serving a church in Denver with a nearly equal membership of black and white. A new building had recently been dedicated to house the Christian Day School of eight grades and the church sponsored a day-care center.

In the spring of 1959 he accepted a call to Grace Lutheran Church in Caldwell, Idaho, and that summer he attended a convention of the LCMS held in San Francisco. He was concerned because the liberal element within the church body had gained control. This concern grew when he attended a District pastoral conference, where a paper upholding the liberal viewpoint was given by Dr. Martin Scharlemann, at that time Dean of Graduate Studies at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. Scharlemann had maintained there were errors in Scripture. Correspondence with him ensued. On sabbatical that year, Scharlemann was attending Union Seminary in New York. Lang was told that because he did not hold a doctorate, he really was not qualified to speak on the matter. The correspondence then ceased.

At other conventions where Scharlemann presented his paper, he was severely censured. Having previously served as a chaplain for his church in the military, he was disturbed by the rise of an anti-war attitude within the liberal element. During the Vietnam conflict students at even Concordia Seminary in St. Louis mounted anti-war demonstrations. It is gratifying to report that Scharlemann reversed his position and became a theological and political conservative. In 1974 when liberal faculty members and students walked out of Concordia Seminary, Scharlemann remained and, indeed, for a time served as acting president. It was a difficult period for him. He died in 1982.

Herman Otten and the Conservative Movement

In the spring of 1960 Lang contacted Dr. William Beck, who had served as his instructor during several summers in the early 1950s when he did graduate work at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. Dr. Beck was translating the Bible into modern English. At about that time there was discussion on publishing a conservative-oriented theological paper. Five years later, when Lang wrote to Beck offering to assist with such a project, Beck replied that his time was completely taken up with the Bible translation, and he suggested that Lang contact Herman Otten, a newly-graduated Concordia student. During his student days, Otten had zealously attacked the liberalism of his professors. For this he was denied ordination in the church which had called him. Lang and Otten gathered about 800 names of conservative pastors and teachers in the LCMS. The first Free Conference met in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1961 in connection with the Synodical Conference. Attendance was about 500. Though frowned upon by many Synodical officials, some of them attended in order to learn firsthand what was going on.

A group of conservative leaders met in 1962 in Chicago, and Grace Lutheran sent Lang to the meeting. At that meeting Otten solicited financial aid to publish the Lutheran News, later re-named Christian News.38 Some people credit Otten and his paper for much of the success of turning around the LCMS from a liberal theological stance back to the original conservative position. At the Chicago meeting a group of conservatives, led by Rev. Romoser of Chicago and Rev. McKenzie of Detroit, organized a new church body known as the Church of the Reformation. This group has been fragmented often and has given rise to other bodies, all of them still small, struggling groups.

At this time Otten was also working with Rev. Riley of Bisbee, Arizona, who was engaged in activities opposing communism. This work did not appeal to Lang at the time, and he suggested that Rev. Reinhold Goetjen, then of Coos Bay, Oregon, be recruited in his place.
Lang was not interested in political action to restore conservatism, but rather, he hoped Christians could regain the initiative through education and this would lead to a return of conservatism within the church. As evidenced by splitting of church bodies in the past, separation of itself does not guarantee conservatism.

Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod

During this period Lang considered affiliation with the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. During the summer sessions at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis in the early 1950s, Lang mentioned this to his father, Victor Lang, a former teacher in the LCMS. He predicted that no satisfaction would be found there either because they had no real solutions to the problem of liberalism. Still, Lang passed a colloquy and received a few calls, with the one to Battle Creek, Michigan seeming most appealing, Members at Grace Lutheran, however, pointed out that doctrinal issues were not completely resolved in the Wisconsin Synod either. Lang remained in Caldwell, seeking solutions through philosophical means rather than political. He continued to attend the Free Conferences, exhibiting creationist materials available at that time.

Lang has continued working with members of the WELS who are strongly creationist. However, there are still problems with separatism. For example, a wealthy layman offered to finance creationists who would set up an organization limited to their church members. However, when the Lutheran Science Institute was founded, the funds were not forthcoming. Similar organizations within specific church bodies are encouraged.

Returning the call to Battle Creek, Lang attended a conference of the Northwest District of LCMS, held in Portland, Oregon. He showed some Moody Science films and had a book table of the few creationist books and tracts available at the time, including a tract by Dr. Paul Zimmerman, then president of Concordia Teachers' College in Seward, Nebraska. Zimmerman was invited to speak at the next District meeting held in 1964. Meanwhile, the Sunday School teachers of the Southwest Idaho Circuit invited him for a week of talks on creation/evolution at Grace Lutheran in Caldwell.

Tour and Banquet

In the spring of 1965 Lang was invited to speak at churches in the Tacoma, Washington area. In the spring of 1966 the Langs used their vacation time for a three-week lecture tour. This included attending the LCMS District convention in Oklahoma City, a schedule in Little Rock, Arkansas, the LCMS District convention in Houston, Texas, talks in El Paso, and talks in the Los Angeles area. This included a significant banquet meeting at Knott's Berry Farm, attended by about 200 interested persons. Feature speaker was Dr. Walter Lammerts, known worldwide for his outstanding work in rose breeding.

Because of the significance of this first banquet, it was decided to hold another one fifteen years later, in the same general area, and inviting the original speakers, plus others. Speakers at the second conference included Dr. Bolton Davidheiser, Dr. Clyde McCone, John Read, Jolly Griggs, Dr.John Meyer, Fred Beierle, Dr. Robert Kofahl, Jean Sumrall, Nell Segraves, Fred Sill, Paul Hackstedde, Christopher Chui, John Doughty, and Walter Lang. Nearly $7000 was raised at this banquet for the work of Bible-Science Association.

Following the 1966 banquet it was apparent there was need for a full-time worker. Though it was pointed out there would be no financial security, Lang asked Grace Lutheran for a three-month period in which to arrange speaking schedules. In September of 1968 the Langs moved from the parsonage into a rented house and converted the basement into an office.

First Speaking Tour

The first speaking tour was in the area of Vancouver, British Columbia, and from there Lang continued on to Wisconsin. Though there was no group subsidizing this venture, and often necessary funds were lacking, operations were maintained. Early on, the meaning of the word "daily" in the prayer "Give us this day our daily bread" was learned.

Many people have been amazed at how much has been accomplished with so little. Dr. John Grebe visited that first office in the rented home and could not believe the work that was being done. In 1980 Dr. Eduard Osterman, industrialist from Austria who was active with the Billy Graham Crusades, visited the Minneapolis office (considerably larger and better equipped than the first office) and expressed amazement that so much could be done with so little. Some supporters give generously to BSA because they recognize their funds are well used.

Conference at Lucerne, California

In the fall of 1966 a series of talks was scheduled in the California Bay area. A visit was made to the San Francisco Baptist Seminary where Dr. Bernard Northrup, a Hebrew scholar, taught Old Testament Studies. At that time he upheld the "gap theory," which he has since discarded. This visit led to an invitation to hold a creation seminar at the Lucerne Conference Center, located at Clear Lake, 130 miles north of San Francisco. This type of conference was repeated for a number of years. Speakers at the first conference were Donald Patten, Dr. Walter Lammerts, Dr. Bernard Northrup, Gordon Ginn, and Walter Lang.

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