Adolf Hoenecke


I was going to lead off with a bio but Timothy Grundmeier did a fantastic job and there's no need to reinvent the wheel. Read the whole thing at

Adolf Hoenecke is an critical figure in the development of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) although hardly anyone would recognize his name. Hoenecke was influential in making the WELS a confessional Lutheran body and was instrumental in the formation of the Synodical conference. Hoenecke was a seminary professor for thirty years and wrote the Evangelical Lutheran Dogmatics which were translated into English between 1999-2009 from his original German manuscript. If you are familiar with Pieper's Christian Dogmatics, Hoenecke's is far more clearly organized, less pedantic and overall, an excellent resource. 

He is also an excellent corrective to the so-called Wauwatosa Theology.* After Hoenecke's death the Wauwatosa theologians - John Schaller, John Philip Koehler and August Pieper - in dealing with the so-called "Cininnati Case of 1899" and their emphasis on exegetics over dogmatics - changed the WELS doctrine on the Ministry in ways Hoenecke would not recognize. (Hoenecke's Thesis 1 on the ministry states [Trigger warning for WELS pastors!] "The teaching office, by which we here mean the pastors, the estate composed of the servants of the Word, is divinely instituted." This is footnoted by the translator pointing the reader to the modern WELS point of view published long after his death) Hoenecke has been largely ignored and occasionally proof-texted** to try and support a more modern functional take on the ministry. 

In short - Hoenecke made us confessional Lutherans, and a careful study of Hoenecke can make us confessional Lutherans yet again. 


(* by this I mean the Wauwatosa Theology as we recognize it today and it is taught in our seminaries. The Wauwatosa Theology in part was a valid critique on an overemphasis on dogmatics and underemphasis of faith-life, but the WELS has taken it and turned it into an exegetical method, and "an unqualifiedly good thing by our Seminary" per a young pastor I discussed this with. More on this in future posts when we discuss Beitz, the Gutachen, and Paul Hensel's The Hardening)

(** very much antithetical to the Wauwatosa theology!)