PROPTER CHRISTUM: The Survival of Lutheranism
Recent years have seen a re-alignment of church bodies, Lutheran and otherwise, as fallout from decisions made regarding sexuality. Some new church bodies, Rev. David Scaer argues, are putting themselves in an untenable position. Their views on scripture and the ordination of women will lead to the same problems which they are currently fleeing. Scaer addresses this question in his contribution to Propter Christum: Christ at the Center, Luther Academy's forthcoming book. Below you will find some of Scaer's thoughts on the issue.
In order to reserve your copy of the rest of this essay, visit LOGIA's website and take advantage of the pre-order price of $24.99 (a savings of 30%) for Propter Christum: Christ at the Center. This offer will expire at the end of August, so order now!
The book, in honor of the retired director of Luther Academy, Daniel Preus, provides a confessional Lutheran perspective on today's world. Essays address women's ordination, church relations, global challenges to Lutheranism, and other contemporary issues. As such, the book is a great resource for understanding and interacting with the world we live in.
Cultural and Theological Readjustments and the Survival of Lutheranism
— David P. Scaer
Culture inevitably influences what people believe, even to the extent that a church may come to believe that its faith is indistinguishable from its culture. Some have recognized this cultural invasion and have left such churches to form new ones. At its August 2009 convention, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), swept along by prevailing cultural winds, accepted the ordination of practicing homosexuals as well as the blessing of same-sex alliances and marriages in states where these practices are allowed by law. This cultural accommodation has resulted in some leaving the ELCA to form the North American Lutheran Church (NALC) and the less ecclesiastically structured Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC). Similar exoduses have taken place from mainline Episcopal, Reformed, and Presbyterian denominations.
These newly formed churches have a common interest in maintaining traditionally held beliefs. Other issues are reasons for separation, but the blessing of same-sex marriages and the ordination of practicing homosexuals are the most prominent. While these new churches are not debating the legitimacy of women's ordination, this is the real issue-and if it is not addressed, these churches will be little different from the ones they left. For Lutherans in America, the step towards ordaining practicing homosexuals came when the churches forming the ELCA adopted the ordination of women in the 1970s. Women's ordination long has been accepted in the mainline denominations and likely will continue in the new churches. Here is the dilemma for the newly formed churches: They want to establish themselves on a more solidly biblical basis in tune with ancient church practice, but ordaining women as ministers does not belong to the catholic tradition. Commitment to biblical inerrancy does not assure a positive outcome, since Evangelicals who hold to this commitment are divided on women's ordination and the baptism of infants. A prominent argument for Roman Catholics is that the ordination of women deviates from tradition. Paul uses the catholic argument in 1 Corinthians 14:33-34 when he says that in all the churches women are forbidden to preach. For those not up to sifting through the biblical objections to the practice, the catholic argument may be the most convincing. A church is not allowed to go off on its own or make its own rules for the ministry. With a keen ELCA interest in keeping relations with Rome intact (for example, the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification), its dissidents now in the NALC have good reason to reevaluate retaining women clergy. Supporters of women's ordination in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) who favor closer alliances with Rome should also reconsider their position. . . .
A church's challenge is preaching the gospel in terms that can be understood by the people of that time, but it dare not allow it to be swallowed up by its culture. Bible translations are cultural adjustments that allow speaking in terms people can understand. Sermons take the task further in addressing the word of God to issues Christians face in their time, but the church dare not be overcome by the culture. The Old Testament contains the accounts of how Israel was often shaped by its surrounding polytheistic culture and engaged in pagan worship; succumbing to the worship of the neighborhood gods could be a subtitle for the Old Testament. Christians in Corinth did not entirely divest themselves of Greek philosophy, so some denied the resurrection of the dead. No church is immune from being overtaken by its surrounding the culture-not even professedly confessional churches. Recent events are nothing new. As mentioned, ELCA decisions on homosexuality mirrored first culture and then state laws recognizing same-sex marriages, but this was already happening in discussions about ordaining women. At the time this practice was adopted by Lutheran churches, the eventually failed Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was making its way through state legislatures. . . .