Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Punching Your Ticket

An article entitled, “Drifting toward universalism?” from the April 2014 Lutheran Core Connection by Pastor Don Brandt, really demonstrates just how far some in the ELCA have fallen. In the article, Pastor Brandt cites an essay written by Peter Marty, entitled “Who Gets Saved”, published in the March 2014 edition of The Lutheran. Marty is an ELCA pastor from Iowa and a regular contributor to the Lutheran, but based on the content of his essay, his words actually hinder the Kingdom of God. It is sad enough that so many in the secular world do their best to persecute and demean Christianity, but Marty does as much or more harm to the faith as any member of the Freedom from Religion Society. Lutherans are typically very good at finger pointing and getting stuck in the law. Far too many of us fall into the trap of charging those who disobey God’s law as sinners, unfit to gain salvation. But, Marty revels in his accusations, rather than pointing to the proper way to behave as a Christian, celebrating his harmful words that chastise Christians and demean the faith he has been charged to uphold.

Marty wants credit for any use of his words. So be it. I hope he is proud. I hope he properly appreciates the controversy his words have prompted. I hope he asks God for forgiveness for his disregard of the promise he made when he pledged to preach the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ and endeavor to lead the lost to Him. Marty seems to exude a gleeful defiance as he chides those Christians that he claims believe that they belong to an exclusive club and hold tickets to that velvet roped VIP section in heaven. While the leaders of the ELCA preach unity, Marty elects to use words that divide. As with most essays penned by the learned clergy of the wayward ELCA, it is littered with words that appear to be so right. Believers do have responsibility to testify to help others know God’s love is for all. After all, God does love all of His children unconditionally. Unreturned love is another matter. If someone is born in India, it is the Christian’s responsibility to bring the Gospel to them, so that through the power of the Holy Spirit, they may come to belief in the Risen Christ. Sorry Marty, it does matter whether or not we believe. Just because the ELCA neglects our Lord and Savior’s call to reach the lost, instead relying upon their doctrine of accompaniment, or the more literal translation “we’ve already done enough evangelizing in the world”, does not relieve you of that responsibility.

Yes, we Christians that believe in the authority of Scripture often do get it wrong. Yes, we often place far too much emphasis on the law and neglect the fact that it is all about the saving grace granted to us through the sacrifice of our Risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. How about an essay about forgiveness, that since we have received the ultimate gift of absolute forgiveness, we should endeavor to learn to share forgiveness more freely? It certainly is easy to sidle up to those progressive “Christians” that reinterpret Scripture to better co-exist with our modern, secular society. After all, they host the better parties. Accolades by the secular elite apparently carry much more weight and secure the instant gratification, especially when it entails disparaging those knuckle dragging Bible thumpers. Pleasing God is not often accompanied by such an immediate response.

Then there is the idea that Christ is not held bound by any religion. Christ is there for everyone. One only needs to open their heart and allow the Holy Spirit to enter. Only then can we come to believe. No, Christ is not bound to any religion, we are bound to Him. Without belief in the Risen Christ there will be no salvation. Jesus said in John 14:6-7, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” Not much to challenge in that statement. If someone is born on the other side of the world to a family that does not know Christ, it is our responsibility to witness to him or her. It is our responsibility to make disciples of all nations. Neglecting our duty to God in this matter only shows that we are ashamed of Him. Jesus said in Luke 9:23-26, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” No, this was not said at a theological summit, but trust me, through His words it is certain that my God, Jesus Christ, is better than your god! Our faith begins at the cross and is fulfilled at the empty tomb with Jesus’ resurrection. Without our Risen Savior, there is nothing but a broken humanity on the outside looking in.

It is all well and good to rile up the faithful with heretical statements and it may please the secular elites, but it does nothing to promote God’s Kingdom. Marty casts his accusatory rhetoric at fellow Christians, all the while patting himself on the back for his supposed open-mindedness in bestowing grace upon the world. Marty, I don’t think it’s up to you to make that decision. Just sayin’. Seems to me that if our Lord and Savior said that there is but one way to gain salvation, that is good enough for me. It should be noted that while some of us “inerrancy folk” are accused of taking Scripture out of context, Marty simply cites verses he imagines that bolster his claims. Marty cites John 3:16 as evidence that Jesus is universal Lord and Savior, he neglects to place that verse in the full context as Christ was quoted. John 3:16-21, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”

Marty infers that Christians receive a club access card because we uttered a specific theological formula about Jesus and that by virtue of our faith believe that we have a privileged access to God. This is simply a false narrative. He uses this conspiracy theory to bolster his idea of an ideal religion, not the faith that our God intends. Yes, we all need to be filled with the Gospel every day. Yes, we need to remember that is not about us and all about Him. Yes, we need to forgive as He first forgave us. We are a broken humanity that needs Christ to fill our empty and sinful hearts. Knowing this is a good start to live in a manner that pleases God. The verdict is in, Christ does want to gather ALL people to Himself and it is our responsibility to lead them to Him. It is time to leave the chastising of those who believe and respect the authority of Scripture to those influenced by the evil one.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Historically Critical

The historical critical method is one way that literary critics use to examine origins of ancient manuscripts in an attempt to interpret the historical and experiential prisms used by the author. This method of ascertaining intent attempts to identify the historical context in which it was written. Historical critics seek to reconstruct ancient texts by delving into the historical records of the time when it was composed. These critics attempt to recreate the historical facts known from that time and piece them together with the data compiled by the author. This method of research, when done appropriately, should allow the critic to properly interpret the historical significance of those documents. Most importantly, the researcher should have no preconceived notions regarding the specific text that is examined, using whatever facts that are available to uncover the truth.

Many of the historical critics of today tend to minimize the historicity of the Bible, maintaining that most of the information contained within is either fictional or are simply exaggerations by the authors. Further, many maintain that the original documents were altered by the scribes that translated the Bible into different languages in an effort to bolster claims made by the authors of Scripture. Many historical critics tend to lean on the notion that the Bible is primarily a literary collection from the early history of Israel. Many of these critics state that although it is a historical fact that Jesus Christ did exist at the time described in the Bible and it can be proven that He was a valid figure in the history of Israel, they remain skeptical of the miracles attributed to Him and His status as the Son of God. Some of the most prominent ELCA theologians have made it clear that they have made up their minds regarding the authority of Scripture.

Contrived doctrines, such as bound conscience, are evidence that ELCA theologians regard their opinions over the word of God. They pick and choose which verses of Scripture tend to advance their preconceived notions and desired conclusions. Abandoning the tenets of Lutheranism and replacing sound doctrine with human reasoning and opinion only prove that Biblical scholars in the ELCA truly do not believe in Scriptural authority and more often, fall in line with many of the secular critics. And those that hold fast to Biblical authority continue to be called out by ELCA pastors. In an April 5th edition of Salina.com, an on-line feature of the Salina Journal, ELCA pastor Lorna Paulus, in an article entitled, Ultimate Truth of Message , denounces those Christians that adhere to the authority of Scripture and believe God’s word to be without error. In a stunningly dishonest comment she states, “However, the ELCA does read Scripture differently than many of the groups who like to talk about "inerrancy." We believe that all Scripture is inspired by God. It is the norm for our Christian life. It is not, for us, as Beckmann quoted Borg, just a "human cultural product." But we refuse to take isolated verses of Scripture out of context and treat them as if they were the whole message as many of the "inerrancy" folk tend to do. We believe that taking Scripture out of context distorts the message of Scripture and can be used to twist Scripture to say things God never intended.” I could hardly believe this when I read it. Talk about having a plank in one’s eye!

Perhaps, Paulus should take the time to read the ELCA statement, Human Sexuality-Gift and Trust, and determine if, in fact, the ELCA Biblical scholars cherry pick Scriptural verses when attempting to justify behavior that God prohibits. Perhaps, she should educate herself as to how ELCA theologian, Tim Wengert disregards Scripture while he misinterprets and/or outright contrives illogical arguments to bolster the false doctrine of bound conscience. Obviously not all ELCA pastors are this misguided in their interpretation of the “new things” that are affecting the doctrine of the largest Lutheran Church body in the United States. But, pastors like this do lead their respective flocks and those in the pews listen to what these persons, ordained to preach the Gospel proclaim when they are in the pulpit. When our brothers and sisters in Christ have this type of preaching imposed upon them when they attend worship, some will come to believe and accept this as God’s will. We need to continue to proclaim the Gospel, loud and proud, so that all will come to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior, and make certain that those who have come to believe, do not fall away.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:1-2