No. 7.—On the Insufficiency of Grace, by the Rev. Dr. Carolus Fraile.

THE RUMOR THAT the Rev. Dr. Carolus Fraile, a respected Lutheran pastor at St. Lydia’s in Esplen, had written a manuscript treatise “On the Insufficiency of Grace” caused much consternation in the synod office. Was Dr. Fraile a heretic? It was not in the nature of Lutherans even to ask such a question, yet the subject was too close to the heart of Lutheran doctrine to ignore. Indeed, the sufficiency and necessity of grace were, as the whispers in the synod office said, the very foundations of Lutheran doctrine. In all his sermons and his writing, Dr. Fraile had given every indication of orthodoxy. Could such a man have written a work with so provocative a title?

Soon the existence of the manuscript was positively confirmed by Miss Sarah Nebb, an elderly sexton who, while dusting in the pastor’s office, found it necessary to move some of the pastor’s personal papers, and accidentally read a good many of them. She had not succeeded in accidentally reading “On the Insufficiency of Grace” before the pastor unexpectedly returned, but there could be no doubt that she had seen the title.

As the known existence of the manuscript was already causing some scandal in the synod, the matter was brought up before the Standing Committee on Doctrine, which met the second Thursday of every month in a special room without chairs at the Palace Inn. For the first time in the recorded history of the Committee, the word “heresy” was mentioned in a regular meeting. After some debate, it was agreed that no adequate definition of “heresy” was available to the Committee, which therefore referred the matter to the Committee on the Clergy for any necessary investigation.

This Committee met twice a year at the Synod offices, so it was some months before the matter could be brought up. When the Committee did meet, it was unanimously agreed that the question of Dr. Fraile’s manuscript was causing unnecessary scandal in the synod; and that, on the other hand, Dr. Fraile himself was a pastor of hitherto irreproachable reputation. It would be best, the Committee agreed, to interrogate Dr. Fraile personally, in a friendly and informal manner, without causing any undue uproar. Pastor Anna Strassenbahn was given the responsibility of conducting the interview, for which no particular parameters were specified.

When the committee met again six months later, Pastor Strassenbahn reported that Dr. Fraile was a very nice person, and that he seemed very sincere, although it had been very difficult to get an appointment with him—a difficulty he attributed to his overburdened secretary. When pressed, she admitted that she had not specifically brought up the subject of the manuscript, thinking that it would be somewhat indecorous to mention that its existence had become known when Dr. Fraile had made no effort to put it before the public. The Committee agreed that Pastor Strassenbahn had acted with becoming decorum, and referred the matter to the Committee on Missions, which met every other year at the Sideling Hill Resort and Spa.

When, after nineteen months, the matter was brought up before the Committee on Missions, the members expressed some bewilderment. They agreed that the matter was not within the purview of the Committee on Missions, and referred it to the West Central Division Council, as the governing body with immediate authority over the congregation of St. Lydia’s.

The Council met every four years at a different member church, but construction at St. Aquila’s caused the next meeting to be canceled. It was therefore seven years before the matter could be brought up before the Council, which by a curious coincidence was meeting at St. Lydia’s that year. As Dr. Fraile was himself acting as host, it was deemed inappropriate to discuss the matter at that meeting, so the question was referred to the Synod Office.

At that time, however, the bishop was on an extended tour of the sister synod in Madagascar, so he was unavailable for the next few years, and the bishop’s assistant was unwilling to make a decision of such import on his own. Three years later, the bishop unexpectedly resigned to pursue a career as a professional lacrosse player, and it was some years before a new bishop could be chosen.

Eventually, however, the new bishop was installed, and the matter of Dr. Fraile brought up before him. By this time, Dr. Fraile himself had died of chicken pox at the age of 112, but by means of a politely worded letter the bishop obtained permission from his heirs to examine Dr. Fraile’s personal papers.

When the manuscript was finally received, the bishop sent it to Dr. Theodore Hogwood, president of the Duck Hollow Theological Seminary, with a request that he examine the thesis and summarize the doctrines expressed in it.

In only a few months, the distinguished theologian was able to forward his report.

The manuscript began, said the report, with an invocation, and then a number of relevant quotations from the Psalms. It then proceeded to address the St. Lydia’s church council directly with a statement of the main thesis: that Miss Grace Pfolder, the secretary at St. Lydia’s, was not capable of handling by herself the weighty labor that had been thrust upon her by the gratifying growth of the parish; that it was absolutely necessary to hire an assistant to the secretary, as Grace by herself was entirely insufficient. The remainder of the manuscript was devoted to illustrative examples, illuminated by similar events from Old Testament history, and amplified by citations from the epistles of St. Paul. There was nothing, he said, counter to traditional Lutheran doctrine in the manuscript. Thus the matter was brought to a gratifying close, and, as the bishop himself remarked, the process (as he called it) was vindicated.

Since that time the manuscript has not been seen, but that may be largely because no one has looked for it.


  1. Rev. Levi VanVleck Tishman says:

    Grace, we were taught as children in the Presbytery, was allegedly free. Wrong. Like paying for your sins, we paid for Grace. And Trudy.

    Best fishes,

    L. VV T., Pastor
    St. Jezebel by the Sea
    Delaware, USA

  2. Jeff says:

    Heh. And worth every farthing, no doubt.

  3. Greybeard says:

    Dietrich Bonhoffer warned against the perils of Cheap Grace. Were they not paying Miss Pfolder enough?

  4. DJD says:

    It’s a good thing they never the second letter he penned at that time, “All We Need is Works”, in which he argued that the secretarial shortcomings in the parish could be alleviated by purchasing a copy of Microsoft Works.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *