The adoption of the doctrine of bound conscience has caused many people to accuse the ELCA of disregarding God’s Law and replacing it with a version more acceptable to modern society. Others believe it to be a way that people with differing opinions can still remain in Christian fellowship without conflict by respecting the opinions of others. "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" - Martin Luther. Apparently the ELCA scholars considered only the first part of this statement. Keeping harmony in the church at the expense of disregarding God's Word should be an anathema to the church. As Scripture is challenged by these ELCA Biblical scholars as the infallible Word of God, they cite Bible verses in order to support this new doctrine. On one hand the argument is made that the Bible is a “Book of Faith” and not always relevant to our society, but Scripture is always cited when it appears convenient to prop up secular ideals.
Bound conscience is obviously viewed quite differently by the opposing camps. The ELCA believes that bound conscience is primarily directed at those that feel that Scripture prohibits same sex relationships. They believe that those that adhere to Scripture and believe that homosexuality is sinful are to be allowed to have that opinion, even if the church doctrine determines otherwise. The traditional Lutheran is convinced that this doctrine places man in authority over Scripture and allows man to interpret Scripture in any way they so choose. Those traditional Lutherans believe that bound conscience falsely allows the church to legitimize those engaging in same sex relationships, a practice that is specifically prohibited by Scripture.
When Scripture was written, mortal men were inspired by the Holy Spirit to chronicle God’s own words for us. Some Scripture, especially in the Old Testament, can be somewhat troubling to this society that believes that it has reached the pinnacle of enlightenment. Some of the passages that seem to cause the most consternation are those involving the role of women in the church, human sexuality and slavery. The argument is made that these few passages, that are disconcerting to our more modern sensibilities, prove that the Bible is out of touch with our society. On the contrary, a church that embraces secular and progressive values is disconnected from and denies our Lord the proper role in their ministry.
It is very troubling that such a few in the vocal minority can have so much influence over not only the values embraced by our society, but on churches that have adopted doctrine to mirror this enlightened philosophy. In addition, our own ELCA has taken many of these secular causes and lifted them up as central to their ministry, prioritizing the J of (social) Justice instead of Jesus. With the adoption of the bound conscience doctrine, those that interpret Scripture are to have their opinions respected, even if that opinion is in error! Although this bound conscience doctrine is not meant to be applied in matters that affect salvation, it is already is being used to question the foundation of our faith. The ELCA already recognizes alternate ways to salvation, in other words, Jesus is not the only way. ELCA scholars cast doubt upon the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Birth in text explaining their disagreements over the "proper" interpretation of Scripture. Nothing in Scripture gives this doctrine of bound conscience any credibility. This bound conscience is of man and not of the Spirit.
Romans 6:15-18, “Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! 16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey – whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed you allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and become slaves to righteousness.” Since we are saved by our faith alone, it appears that some believe that the law is no longer relevant. This attitude, though, will lead to a lack of moral restraint. We need look no further than the actions taken at the 2009 ELCA assembly to see what happens when we lift up our earthy desires and disregard God’s law. We need to substitute our disobedience and sinful ways by placing our Lord first in our lives, which will lead to the path of righteousness. With our Lord as the central purpose in our lives, we will have no need for the sinful ways of this world.