Benke Confesses Jesus Christ is the Only Savior
By Rev. Jack Cascione


We asked the question, and even though others have told me he would not answer or he would give the wrong answer, the following reply from Atlantic District President David Benke is actually better than the question that was sent to him. President Benke's reply is reproduced in its entirety and further comments follow it.


Please print this response in its entirety.

Your question is "Is Jesus Christ the only Savior of the world, and are all those who seek salvation in any other God than Jesus Christ eternally lost." Without quibbling, the answer to the first half of the sentence is "Yes." The second half of the sentence is less than satisfactory in my opinion because for whatever reasons it does not reference the Triune God, but only the second person of the Trinity. However, I am most comfortable confessing and responding with a "Yes" - there is salvation in "no other Name" than Jesus. Indeed, that is the meaning of my prayer at Yankee Stadium.

The first "official" time I answered the question of the exclusive claim of the Christian faith in the affirmative was at my Confirmation in 1960. I then answered it in the affirmative at my ordination in 1972. During all that time I was answering it in the affirmative each time in worship or private devotion when I confessed my faith by speaking one of the church's creeds. The creedal confession spoken by me and those around me most often is the Nicene Creed. These creedal confessions evidence the exclusive claims of the Christian faith, and I confess them daily in private devotion and weekly in the Divine Service.

It needs to be stated that no one who knows me here "on the ground" in New York or in most circles in the Missouri Synod would ask the question you ask. It would be viewed as unnecessary, since I have spent my ordained ministry in mission outreach to those of other religions or no faith, presenting the exclusive claim of Christ in word and deed in New York for nearly thirty years. I have baptized and confirmed people coming from Hindu, Muslim and Jewish backgrounds. I am instructing two such families as a parish pastor right now. Last year the Atlantic District, which I serve as President, began more new ethnic missions than any other District in the LCMS. Two of those mission starts were targeted to Muslims, two to Hindus, and one to those of the Jewish religion. Our District motto is "Every Congregation is a Mission Station."

98% of the 1000 + letters and e-mails that I have received regarding my prayer participation at Yankee Stadium have been positive. Those people all understood that my prayer "in Jesus' precious Name" was a simple and powerful witness to the exclusive Christian claim. Those 1000 + letters and e-mails, plus a huge volume of voicemails and phone/personal conversations, represent tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people, LCMS Lutherans, other Christians and even some non-Christians. They did not and do not feel that my prayer witness was weak, ineffectual, or subverted in any way. They understood it to be highly appropriate and have been incredibly grateful that a witness to Christ was made in my brief prayer.

Those who know me "on the ground" here in New York understood that I was simply representing them - to "know Christ and make Him known," in exactly the same way I have attempted to represent them as a parish pastor and District President in New York for thirty years.

Anyone desirous of following the course of my thoughts in regards to the prayer at Yankee Stadium can access the Atlantic District website,, for articles and updates (a recent Advent "Letter to Pastors and Leaders" has just been added), as well as a variety of reports on the ministries and missions of the District and its activities through Lutheran Disaster Relief. Given the pressures of time and energy on my life right now in the ministries being carried on by all of us in New York, I'm most comfortable for the time being directing you and your readership to the website rather than engaging in further dialog with either you or them.

Thanks for the consideration.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Dave Benke
President, Atlantic District
Pastor, St. Peter's Lutheran Church

Some observations by Reclaim News:

We thank President Benke for his reply. As stated above, his answer was better than the question. Benke's high regard for the Nicene Creed is the purest confession of the Gospel. His mission emphasis with the proper catechetical instruction is the lifeblood of the LCMS.

Benke's appeal to 98% positive responses for actions in Yankee Stadium means his critics and many of the readers of Reclaim News are not writing to him. The pastors' conferences of three LCMS Districts and the Eastern Canadian District have all taken issue with his actions. A 99.999% positive response is not enough. Correct doctrine and practice is only determined by the truth of the Bible and then the Lutheran Confessions as the correct interpretation of the Bible. If 99.999% disagree or agree is irrelevant to the determination of the truth. John the Baptist stood alone with Jesus Christ. Poling, and more important voting, only determine who agrees with the truth of God's Word, they do not establish the truth.

While thanking God for President Benke's clear and unequivocal confession of Christ as the only Savior, Benke's prayer offered in Yankee Stadium, in this writer's opinion and the opinion of others, should have contained more of what he writes above. Future releases will contain some of his critics' opinion about his prayer.

However, Benke is to be applauded for being forthright on the issue and recognizing his accountability to the entire Synod as a District President. There are far too many LCMS church officials who wish to insolate themselves from accountability to the lay people, who are the LCMS.

As an example, we have Doctor Waldo Werning who writes about the Voters' Assembly of Redeemer Lutheran Church: "Dr. Waldo Werning will not be tried in the 'kangaroo court' of Redeemer Lutheran Church Voters' Assembly . . ."

While the fanatics rage about "Church Growth" techniques and their love for souls, the lay people are virtual dirt under their administrative feet. Too many LCMS officials position their teaching and practice above and beyond the judgment of the lay people. Now the CCM has circled the wagons and claims for the first time in LCMS history, that the doctrine of President Gerald Kieshnick cannot be questioned or judged by lay people between Conventions. The CCM also knows full well the President gets to pick all members of the Committee preparing a resolution to judge him at the Convention. Such tactics must result in the continued loss of tens of thousands of more disillusioned lay people who learn that protecting official LCMS derrieres is more important than protecting lay people's souls.

Unlike so many others, in President Benke, we have a District President who is willing to speak out, to be heard, and be accountable to the laity. For this he is to be complimented and applauded! He is an extraordinary District President because he is also a full-time parish pastor. The Synod would be better served if all District Presidents would return to the parish.

We quote Luther from the following article written in 1523, Luther's Works, Vol 39:


"Thus we conclude that wherever there is a Christian congregation in possession of the gospel, it not only has the right and power but also the duty-on pain of losing the salvation of its souls and in accordance with the promise made to Christ in baptism-to avoid, to flee, to depose, and to withdraw from the authority that our bishops, abbots, monasteries, religious foundations, and the like are now exercising." Page 308

"For no one can deny that every Christian possesses the word of God and is taught and anointed by God to be priest, as Christ says, John 6[:45], 'They shall all be taught by God,' and Psalm 45[:7], 'God has anointed you with the oil of gladness on account of your fellows.' These fellows are the Christians, Christ's brethren, who with him are consecrated priests, as Peter says too, 1 Peter 2[:9], 'You are a royal priesthood so that you may declare the virtue of him who called you into his marvelous light.'" Page 309

Rev. Jack Cascione is pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church (LCMS - MI) in St. Clair Shores, Michigan. He has written numerous articles for Christian News and is the author of Reclaiming the Gospel in the LCMS: How to Keep Your Congregation Lutheran. He has also written a study on the Book of Revelation called In Search of the Biblical Order.
He can be reached by email at

December 15, 2001