Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Sound Doctrine?

The ELCA continues to question the validity of Scripture and how it pertains to the current age, most recently adopting doctrine to accept practicing gay clergy and allowing ELCA churches to bless gay unions. While some may disagree with this action, this is not a matter that affects the salvation of the individual that accepts this new doctrine. All of God’s children are welcome to accept Christ and receive the grace of God, no matter what their sin. And further, we must love and accept our brothers and sisters in Christ, because we all fall short of the glory of God. Bound conscience though, is another matter. This new doctrine, invented by the scholars and leaders of the ELCA, will have far ranging consequences for those that accept this doctrinal change. This errant doctrine disregards many of the tenets of our Lutheran faith. Martin Luther, in the Augsburg Confession, see Augsburg Confession, stated in Article II, Original Sin, “3) They condemn……who, to obscure the glory of Christ’s merit and benefits, argue that man can be justified before God by his own strength and wisdom.” The doctrine of bound conscience allows for man to use his experience and knowledge when interpreting Scripture, and further gives greater weight to man’s own understanding, even if it may be contrary to Scriptural intent. Bound conscience accepts the idea that one can use their own experience and judgment to interpret Scripture in any way they truly believe is true, and that other brothers and sisters in Christ must respect that person’s interpretation, even if it is in error.

Much of the rationale used to justify bound conscience is to allow those of differing opinions to remain in Christian fellowship. In other words, it really doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as we all get along and share our Christian love with one another. In one of his sermons, Martin Luther addressed those that attempt to use misguided schemes to alter traditional Christian teachings and replace the very tenets of our faith. “It is the duty both of preachers and of hearers first of all and above all things to see to it that they have a clear and sure evidence that their doctrine is really the true word of God, revealed from heaven to the holy, original fathers, the prophets and apostles, and confirmed and commanded to be taught by Christ Himself. For we should by no means ever let doctrine be manhandled according to the pleasure and fancy of the individual who adapts it to human reason and understanding. Nor should we let men toy with Scripture, juggle the Word of God, and make it submit to being explained, twisted, stretched, and revised to suit people or to achieve peace and union; for then there could be no secure or stable foundation on which consciences might rely.” While it is important to maintain our fellowship in Christian love for one another, this cannot be accomplished at the cost of disregarding Scripture.  Our faith affects our very salvation and the grace God gives us.  Our love for one another is secondary to our faith and must take a back seat when God's Word is at risk.

Luther’s teachings from almost 500 years ago are still relevant today. While the ELCA looks to maintain harmony in the church, they continue to cast doubt upon the very teachings of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It is difficult enough being a Christian in today’s modern and enlightened new world without having to further deal with our own church ignoring or minimizing God’s Word, thus bolstering the arguments of the opponents of Christianity. Although bound conscience is not to be used in matters that affect salvation, the ELCA leadership’s persistent skepticism of Scripture and long held truths of our faith is driving the greater ELCA away from our Lord. In a clear rebuke of the doctrine of bound conscience, Luther said, "The world maintains, as do many people who do not understand, that we should not fight so hard about an article and thus trample on Christian love; rather, although we disagree on one small point, if we agree on everything else, we should give in and overlook the difference in order to preserve brotherly and Christian unity and fellowship. No, my dear man, do not commend peace and unity to me when thereby God's Word is lost...The Word was given unto us for eternal life and not to further outward peace and harmony... Therefore, do not talk to me about love and friendship if that means breaking with the Word or the faith, for the Gospel does not say love brings eternal life, God's grace, and all heavenly treasures, but instead 'the Word.” Luther presents a case against the very argument the ELCA has used to uphold the doctrine of bound conscience, and he makes it very clear that it is contrary to God’s law and intent.

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