In Statu Confessionis

Pastor Steven Tibbetts introduces a new blog, Lutherans Persisting, by Michael Root of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary.

Root began with this post:

The ELCA is now in crisis.  On the most obvious level, the decisions to permit same-sex blessings and to permit ordinations of persons in such same-sex relations will lead many individuals and congregations to contemplate leaving the ELCA.  Historically, fewer congregations leave than one expects, but some will leave and others will find ways to disengage from ELCA structures (e.g., by withholding contributions to synods and the national church).

Beyond those organizational results, the teaching and practices adopted represent a crisis.  For some, myself included, these are more than just mistakes, policies and ideas with which we disagree.  They are false teaching, teaching that directly contradicts the clear command of Scripture and the authoritative tradition of the church.  The ELCA is now not just a pilgrim church, an imperfect church on the way, but an erring church, a church which has, in an important part of its life, lost its way.

For many, these two items are the crisis.  But I think the crisis extends further.  A third aspect of the present crisis is the way tendencies present in Lutheranism since the early 20th century are now coming to a head.  One reason false teaching has captured the ELCA is that various views (a crude and static understanding of simul justus et peccator, a confusion between paradox and ambiguity, bad understandings of biblical authority) have come to be accepted as authentically Lutheran, even as defining Lutheranism.  Recent developments are not simply the outcome of ‘liberalism,’ but also of what we have come to think of as ‘Lutheranism.’  (What I worry about at 2 AM when I cannot sleep is that what we have come to think of as ’Lutheran’ actually is Lutheran, in which case the Reformation was just wrong.)  We will not come out of our present predicament without careful and extended thinking about basic questions of Lutheran theology.

Finally, a fourth aspect of the crisis are the propositions the ELCA has come to affirm in the course of adopting the recent proposals, e.g., that opposing ‘bound consciences’ can stymie consistent church teaching or that no disagreement on ethics can divide the church (unless one side of the ethical disagreement is inconsistent with the doctrine of justification).  These are bad ideas that will come back to haunt us.

2 thoughts on “In Statu Confessionis

  1. It’s really annoying to me that these guys, who built their careers on tearing down confessional and biblical principles of the Reformation, are now decrying the Reformation itself as the cause of their church’s malaise. They’re completely unable to bring themselves to admit that this is their doing. They removed the foundation with the intent of collapsing part of the house (women’s ordination, ecumenism, divorce), and, now that parts of the house they wanted to leave standing are falling down (homosexuality)…they’re blaming the foundation?

    It reminds me of Carl Braaten giving a lecture at the Colloquium at CTS-FW. He basically blamed the ELCA’s slouch toward Gomorrah on a lack of properly structured episcopal authority…but if you read his own writings from the 70s and 80s, you can see that he was vigorously and gleefully sowing this seed back then. He just can’t admit that this is the fruit, so we need to look to Rome for some kind of answer.

  2. I fully agree. They undermined scriptural authority (Jenson referred to “the theory of inspiration”–not “a” theory, but “the” theory that the Bible is inspired) and are now reaping the consequences.

    Symptomatic of this is that those who were against this still voted overwhelmingly for full communion with the Methodists–and the UCC, and the RCA, etc.

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