From the Disk of the Pastor October 2009
Dear Friends in Christ,
The recent actions of the ELCA should remind us of a number of things. One thing that needs to be said up front. The problem with the ELCA is not the ordination of practicing homosexuals, approval of same sex marriages, or even the ordination of women. These are the symptoms of a greater problem - the complete redefining of the Gospel itself. Many in the ELCA see Gospel as our duty to make the world a better place. But this is not Gospel. Gospel is always what God does for us. Anything we are to do is law. The Gospel, at its root, is the message that Jesus Christ, God the Son, died for sins and gives us forgiveness and life. This is good news indeed. It frees us from a law that we could never fulfill. Yes, good works are to follow, but the Scripture’s picture of good works is a far cry from the calls for radical social justice that we hear from American liberals. So the redefining of the Gospel is the ultimate problem. However, that does not help us in understanding how the ELCA got to where they are today. In order to understand this, we must realize that while the redefining of the Gospel is the final and most catastrophic problem, it is likewise a symptom of the root problem.
The root problem in the ELCA is the denial of the authority and inerrancy of Scripture. Starting in the 1700's rationalism began to infect the church. From this came theological liberalism. A theological liberal does not believe that the whole Bible really comes from God and that it is filled with errors. Therefore the Bible cannot be a reliable authority for faith and life. We’ve had our liberals in the LCMS as well though we removed many of them in the Seminex controversy in 1974. A. C. Piepkorn, one the LCMS liberals, tried to make the Lutheran Confessions (Book of Concord) the authority for faith and life, in place of the Bible. But the Confessions themselves constantly point us back to the Scriptures as the true source and authority. The Confessions are only reliable because they accurately reflect the content of Scripture. Most liberals will, in the end, turn to subjective reason, which means truth is whatever each person says it is. A few will turn to the “authoritative” church as the source and guide for faith and life. But at that point one is back to the position of the Roman church.
For those who wish to deny Scripture there are two ways to go about it. One is the direct way, that we see in the ELCA. As I said there still some in the LCMS who would take us that way. For the most part however, the open liberals were forced out or have retired. The other way to deny Scripture is to use something to trump it. This is more common in our circles, but no less dangerous. It is also far more disingenuous. How does this work? Well, someone says, yes, I know that this is what the Bible says, but that will keep us from getting new converts. So we can’t follow that. Mission and outreach are the most frequently cited reasons for not following the Scriptures, and hey, who’s opposed to missions? We all want to grow, right? The problem is that we want God’s Church to grow - that is, we want more souls in heaven. That means, though some might be offended, we must preach a pure, uncompromised Law and Gospel. We must offend people to the point that they see their sins and come to repentance. If we compromise for the sake of missions we will not be adding souls to heaven, but in fact hardening hearts to the truth. Compromising the Word, even for a noble purpose, will only result in more people going to hell.
Herein we see the danger. The battle over the authority of Scripture is about people ending up in heaven or in hell. It is a serious business indeed. Let us keep vigilance so that the authority of Scripture is not compromised among us. In this way we preserve that pure, sweet Gospel message of forgiveness and life as a free gift for the sake of Jesus Christ.
Rev. Jody R. Walter