This question has become a hallmark of Dr. Eugene Boe’s teaching. As seminary students grapple with the many issues of theology, their quest for the answers does not end in a textbook. It ends in the Book, as their teacher asks, “What does the Word say?”
They are taught to ask this question at Lutheran Brethren Seminary because the Word of God is our foundation. The Word is the only foundation we can depend on. The Word is the one and only foundation that we can trust.
Jesus himself relied on this foundation as he faced Satan in the wilderness temptation. Satan had attacked the Word in the Garden of Eden. “Has God said…?” He openly lied to Eve by contradicting the Word. In the wilderness as he attacked the Word made flesh, he twisted God’s Word in tempting Jesus to doubt that he was the Son of God. Each time, Jesus met the temptation with the same dependence on the foundation: “It is written.”
So can we. When we feel alone, it is written in God’s Word that our Great High Priest has promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5, ESV). When we fear the future, it is written in God’s Word that the King of kings has promised, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore,” and “Behold, I am coming soon” (Revelation 1:17-18; 22:12, ESV). When we doubt that our sins are forgiven, it is written in God’s Word that through our Savior’s death and resurrection we can trust this promise, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Rev. A.A. Pedersen, a past president of LBS, illustrated the value of having this solid foundation of the Word with this story. He told of a pastor who was visiting with an elderly parishioner, a woman who had begun to doubt that her sins were forgiven. The pastor pointed to the Scriptures which should have assured her that Jesus had taken all her sins to the cross. He almost chided her for not believing the promises. She remained unaffected.
So, he took a different tack. He asked her about the home where she lived and if she owned it. It had been her home, but she had deeded it to her son. He asked how long she could plan on staying there. She responded that her son had promised that she could stay until she died. Then the pastor asked, “What happens if your son decides not to keep that promise?” To this question she had a ready answer. “Oh, he must keep his promise. I have it in writing.”
That’s when she realized the answer to her bigger question, “Are my sins forgiven?” She was now assured by the promises from the Word. She had it in writing. The promises were in the solid foundation of God’s Word.
Back in my farming days I learned the importance of a solid foundation. A construction crew was digging footings to pour a foundation for building a 60-foot-tall concrete silo. The backhoe seemed to be scooping out dirt far deeper than I thought necessary. Knowing that I would be paying for the cement to fill those deep footings, I questioned the construction foreman. He pointed out that the building site had several feet of fill that had been added over the years. He silenced my question by saying, “We need to dig down to solid ground for the foundation.”
Like paying for all those yards of cement for that foundation, our students pay dearly for their foundation in the Word. They invest more than $20,000 in tuition and at least 2,500 hours in study while earning their degrees, as they learn to answer the question, “What does the Word say?” But the investment in this solid foundation is worth it, so that they can confidently tell you, “Your sins are forgiven. You have it in writing.”
Dr. David Veum serves the Church of the Lutheran Brethren as President of Lutheran Brethren Seminary.