Lutheran Spokesman

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Defending the Good Name of a Seminary Dean

Written by | November, 2010
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It all began as a book review intended for the Lutheran Spokesman. Early in 2009 your editor had in mind to inform our readers of a book of sermons titled Morning Bells at Our Saviour’s by Rev. Norman A. Madson(1886-1962)—a book compiled and edited by his son Norman A. Madson, Jr. in memory of his parents. Most of the sermons in the book were preached by Rev. Madson when he served in the pastoral ministry at Princeton, Minnesota, while he was a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS). He was called to and served as Dean of Bethany Lutheran Seminary (ELS), Mankato, Minnesota, 1946-1959.

One reason it was felt such a book might be of interest to Church of the Lutheran Confession (CLC) readers is its supplementary section called “Sermons for Special Occasions.” Within that section are a couple “CLC sermons” which this reviewer–at the time, a young CLC Seminary student–heard in person, including an October 1961 Reformation sermon (Turner Hall, New Ulm, Minn.) and a September 1962 Anniversary sermon (for and at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Mankato, for its 95th anniversary). Dean Madson’s earthly sojourn would come to an end in December, 1962.

This quick historical sketch suggests something which is not insignificant: during the last couple years of his life Seminary Dean Madson had—for conscience reasons based on the Word of God–severed fellowship relations with the synod and seminary which he had served so faithfully, admirably, and long, and had taken membership within the newly-formed Church of the Lutheran Confession.

The why and wherefore behind this action taken by Dean Madson is detailed in our book A BOOK REVIEW…AND AN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE—and aptly subtitled, Dean Norman A. Madson’s association with the Church of the Lutheran Confession.

Besides containing a review of the Morning Bells… volume, the book includes a number of personal memoirs of Dean Madson by other CLC pastors and professors who had the privilege to sit at his feet in Bethany Seminary, while also reprinting some of Dean Madson’s sermons, particularly those preached after he had become a member of the CLC. Readers of the book will discover that Dean Madson was by word and deed a staunchly confessional, orthodox Lutheran theologian, even as were his CLC colleagues such as Professors Edmund Reim (1892-1969) and C. M. Gullerud (1908-1995).

Readers Agree: An Interesting Supplement!

Lurking in the background as we wrote/compiled this book was a desire to “set the record straight” regarding off-hand comments heard over the years, particularly from folks connected with the ELS—that Dean Madson’s words and actions in his retirement years were those of a senile if not incipient Alzheimer-ish and even “crazy” old man. Against such a scurrilous insinuation (sins against the eighth commandment), our book presents abundant evidence to the contrary. We are happy–thankful!—that the good Lord has permitted us to defend the good name and reputation of Dean Norman A. Madson, a long-time powerful spokesman and influence for conservative, orthodox Lutheranism and faithfulness to God’s Word during some trying and difficult days in the Church Militant.

Allow us then to refer to more objective comments from a few of those who have purchased the book:

Item 1) “…I spent nearly all day Sunday reading your book. So much of it was relevant as we knew Dean Madson personally, but only in a social way and as a listener at his chapel talks at Bethany. Thank you for your time and efforts in remembering a great man.

Item 2) “Thanks again for a copy of your book. I have completed the reading of it, and I found it both edifying and heart-warming. By the way, the binding of the book seems good….It did not crack even when I laid the pages flat for easier reading.

Item 3) Passed along second-hand: “[A retired Bethany College, ELS, professor who read the book] did not feel the book was in any way harsh or unfair.

Item 4) Since the name of Dean Norman Madson appears a number of times in the CLC history book written by Pastor David Lau [OUT OF NECESSITY—A History of the Church of the Lutheran Confession], our book serves as an interesting supplement to Pastor Lau’s book, as is indicated in the following words of a reader: “Among many other things that I could write to express my gratitude and appreciation [for your book], let me say that the Addenda and Appendices ‘bring to life’ much of the early history of the CLC that, of course, could not be included in OUT OF NECESSITY…—so THANK YOU!

Item 5) A fellow servant in the CLC writes: “…I am afraid I do not have the courage of Dean Madson, to welcome being counted among the ‘trouble-makers,’ as your APPRECIATED book quotes Madson on p. 255….I thank you for your A Book Review…, for otherwise I would not have access to ANY of the Dean’s sermons…printed in the Addenda section. That’s a wonderful contribution you have made to the cause of the Truth!!

Dear reader, A BOOK REVIEW… deserves to be in the church library of every CLC congregation, right next to OUT OF NECESSITY…. At the same time, those having a copy of OUT OF NECESSITY… in their home would be equally well served having A BOOK REVIEW… next to it.

As the Dedication Page suggests, for younger (second, third, and future generation) CLC members, A BOOK REVIEW… presents both a word-and-action (doctrinal-and-practical) reaffirmation of the synod’s stance taken before the world in 1960 and which it continues to uphold fifty years later.

Then also A BOOK REVIEW… can be used for Christian witness and outreach. We say so because a careful reading will help folks understand what true Reformation Lutheranism—true Bible-based Christianity!–was and is all about, namely, the gospel of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen again, for the justification of the world of sinners before holy God.

The 276-page perfect-binding book A BOOK REVIEW…AND AN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE–Dean Norman A. Madson’s association with the Church of the Lutheran Confession sells for $12.95 per copy (copies to be mailed should add $2.50 postage) and is available through the CLC Bookhouse, 501 Grover Road, Eau Claire, WI 54701; clcbookhouse@ilc.edu. Or you may order directly from the author, Pastor Paul Fleischer, 1741 E. 22nd St., Cheyenne, WY 82001; paulgf@qwestoffice.net.

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