ELCA Bishop Asks Rebellious Leaders to “Think Evangelically and Act Missionally.” Where have We Heard Those Terms Before? by Pr. Rossow

(We thank BJS reader J. West for pointing  this story out to us.)

The ELCA website has posted a letter from Bishop Mark Hanson written to the church  yesterday in preparation for the opening of the key ELCA dissidents group meeting in Indianapolis today. The CORE group is recommending that ELCA congregations upset at the recent apostate decisions on sexuality withhold their offerings to the ELCA and this makes Bishop Hanson “sad.” His answer is to ask the leaders of CORE and all leaders of the ELCA to “think evangelically and act missionally.”

Where have we heard that sort of language before? This of course is the gobbledy-gook that that the current leadership of the LCMS uses. “Think evangelically” is used by Hanson as a plea to get his members to be open-minded enough to tolerate the unscriptural  decisions his Assembly made. In the LCMS “think evangelically” is used by President Kieschnick to get LCMS members to set aside the traditions of their grandfathers church so that they can become the “Church of What’s Happenin’ Now” like the Alley in Minneapolis and Jefferson Hills in St. Louis. As we have pointed out before, there are eery similarities between the approach of the apostate ELCA leadership and the erring LCMS leadership. The LCMS is on the same compromising trajectory as the ELCA. The LCMS may or may not arrive at the same point of apostasy as the ELCA but that is not the main point here. The main point is that pleas to be “evangelical and missional” are used in both cases to trump Biblical faithfulness.

The term “missional” is particularly troubling. Bob Newton, the District President of the California, Nevada, Hawaii district of the LCMS gave a paper here in the Northern Illinois District a few years ago on this notion of being missional. It was a very confusing paper. It was destined to be confusing because “acting missionally” is a confusion of being. (Pardon a little philosophy and metaphysics here but it is a helpful way  to get at this. If you get confused, don’t worry – in a few paragraphs I will explain it without philosophical confusion.) From the 18th century on, western philosophy began to give up one of its hallmarks, the distinction between subject and object.  Being able to distinguish myself from the things I know is what makes  truth possible. For instance, through my sense perception I note that there is a cup of coffee on the table next to me. If you walk into the room you could notice the same coffee cup. Let’s say I want a sip of my coffee but cannot reach it since having my  computer on my lap  limits my reach. I ask you to hand me my cup of coffee. You oblige. We each have truly perceived and known this cup of coffee and have then used language to assist us in accomplishing this action. Sounds simple enough doesn’t it? There are objects outside of us. We can know them. We can use language to truly communicate about them.

This is the basic philosophy that we use  to describe  how it is that we can know nad communicate truth, including the true  statements of Scripture. (This is not to say that one must know philosophy to be a Christian. Scripture with the power of the Holy Spirit is able to create faith whether we know philosophy or not. We are simply describing the philosophical basis for knowing and communicating truth which is a helpful thing to do when Bishops and district presidents start throwing words around like “missional.”) Christ really came into this world and really died and rose again. Over 500 people saw this and the Holy Spirit then used words to communicate these truths. Of course, these words can be denied. That is unbelief. But on the other hand, by the same Holy Spirit  who moved men to write these words, we can also believe these words. That is saving faith. It is good and right to  take  a straight-forward approach to reality and language.

What most straight-forward thinkers  like you and me, who would accept the above description of reality and knowledge fail to realize is that the philosophically elite  do not accept this common sense understanding of reality and knowledge because they have given up on the notion of distinct and knowable objects.  This is what causes them to use silly terms such as “missional” and to reject straight-forward Biblical truth. They believe that reality is a nexus of interrelated things. The cup on the table is not best understood as an object distinct from me. It is a part of me. It’s reality and significance are bound up in my mind. They do not ask “what is the cup?” They ask, and this is the only really meaningful thing in their view of reality, “what does the cup mean to me?” I can only “know” things as they relate to me, as they are caught up in my being/world. This is the subjective turn in thought that has made such screwy terms as “missional” possible.

In our grandfather’s church they talked about  missions as a thing, not as some sort of abstract, noumenal, gobbledy-gook “missional” whatever.  Traditionally we would talk about how many missionaries we have in the field. Now church  leaders in both the ELCA and the LCMS  have turned the discussion of mission work and missionaries  into  the highly subjective and abstract language of “being  missional.” This is a dangerous  collapse of the subject-object distinction. It is a collapse of practice into being, which is the philosophical basis for Marxism. God did not make Adam and Eve as a part of the nexus of creation. He made them distinct beings who were  to rule over and steward the creation. (Notice how the collapse of the subject/object distinction leads to the nonsense we hear these days about the environment such as the notion that we are but one part of the unified organism known as “mother earth.”)

We ask, how can the ELCA take a clear word of God on sexuality and turn it upside down calling what God calls a sin, not a sin? The ultimate theological answer is because we are rebellious sinners seeking to be our own gods.  The philosophical answer  has to do with the collapse of the subject/object distinction which also leads to goofy talk exemplified by the phrase “being missional.”

If you do not wish to struggle with this from a philosophical angle that is fine. Try this. We do not think evangelically nor act missionally. We think scripturally and act in accordance with the Scriptures. To collapse the truth of scripture into the activity of evangelism and the weird, unknowable, abstract,  invented concept of “missional behavior” is an act against common sense.

Besides, like “leadership,” “missions” is not really a Biblical word. For sure, “missional” is not a Biblical word. It is a made up thing. But not even “missions” is a Biblical word. Do a word search on it in the ESV. (You can do that here on my favorite free Bible-search program.)

The ELCA and the mission-minded leadership of the LCMS, such as President Kieschnick, are on the same trajectory. Beware the call to be “missional.” How ironic that in an era when Bishop Hanson, President Kieschnick and District President Newton beg us to be “missional,” the number of real live, flesh and blood, subject/object distinguishable missionaries in real mission fields has decreased. There is no need to act “missionally” whatever that might be. Let’s just send missionaries into the mission field, wherever that might be, in real, live places with real, live human beings who need to hear the common sense, true Gospel. We here at the Brothers of John the Steadfast encourage you to think, not “missionally,” but  Scripturally and act in accordance with the Scriptures.

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