Dr. Becker’s Ever Shrinking Word of God

Dr. Matthew L. Becker[1] is known for teaching publicly that qualified women should be ordained as pastors.[2] Many wonder how he can reach this conclusion, since they believe God’s Word plainly says pastors should be qualified men. The explanation lies in his perspective on the Word.

When laypeople just don’t like something the Bible says, they casually cast it off. For an ordained theologian, there are restraints against casting it off as casually. For them, it takes a lot more work because they need to justify false teaching professionally and theologically.

Shocked man holding shrunk shirt and looking at camera isolated on white background

Therefore Dr. Becker’s view of the Word is involved and tedious. Through a series of stages, some of which are orthodox and others of which are not, he gradually shrinks the Word of God until it is so small that it no longer has anything to say against women as pastors.

In this article we will take an overview Dr. Becker’s use of:

  • Jesus as the Word versus Scripture as the Word
  • Canonical disagreement
      • Pseudepigrapha (false writing)
      • Apocrypha (hidden writing)
      • Antilegomena (spoken against writing)
      • Homologoumena (agreed upon writing)

Two subsequent posts will further demonstrate Dr. Becker’s minimization of Scripture under the following headings:

  • Contains the Word; A witness to the Word
  • Canon within the canon
  • Gospel reductionism
  • Science
  • Culture
  • Provisionalist concept of truth

Jesus as the Word versus Scripture as the Word

To begin, Dr. Becker rightly points out that Jesus is the Word. On the single, glitteringly attractive premise that Jesus is the Word, he spins a false conflict between Jesus as the Word and Scripture as the Word. This is to give us a wary stance toward Scripture where we always are to question whether, by believing Scripture, we might be opposing Jesus, or in the alternative, that by misidentifying a text as part of Scripture, we are opposing Jesus. This is something of a defection from the Lutheran understanding of the means of grace. It heads in the direction of an immediate (without means) knowledge of Jesus by which we would test and qualify Scripture.

He says, quoting Luther twice and then Paul Althaus once:

If necessary, for the sake of the gospel, Christ and Scripture can even be pitted against each other.  “Scripture is to be understood, not against, but for Christ: either it must be referred to him, or else it must not be held to be true Scripture…  If my opponents have urged Scripture against Christ, we urge Christ against Scripture.” “You urge the slave, that is, Scripture—and only in parts…  I urge the Lord, who is King of Scripture.” “Thus if the text of Scripture is opposed to Luther’s gospel-centered interpretation of Scripture, his interpretation becomes gospel-centered criticism of Scripture…  Sacred Scripture is its own critic.”[3]

In the context where Luther said that, he had a reason. Luther was writing with a pointed pen for that reason, which Dr. Becker omits from his discussion. Dr. Becker spreads the ink of Luther’s statements with a roller brush, well beyond the use Luther was making of it.

Dr. Becker pits Jesus and Scripture against each other despite what Jesus himself says about Scripture. “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.” John 5:39 “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Luke 24:27 “Scripture cannot be broken.” John 10:35 Jesus sounds unaware of the supposed conflict between himself and Scripture.

As Dr. Jack D. Kilcrease said in an online discussion, “The larger point is that [Becker] doesn’t really believe fully in the implications of the incarnation. If God can fully communicate himself in Jesus, then He should have no trouble doing it in the words of a book!”[4]

Canonical Disagreement

In the early church, various writings were treated as new scripture. For some time, however, there was no general agreement. Different people drew up lists of writings they accepted as the canon of the New Testament. The lists varied.

For example, the church at Laodicea rejected the book of Revelation. That might not be so hard to understand considering what it says about them in 3:14-22. The difficulty is not as bad as some people make it.

Dr. Becker says:

The first person to identify the 27 writings that would eventually be included in most NT canons was Athanasius, whose 39th Festal Letter (written in ad 367) contains such a list. Nevertheless, that letter was not a formal decision. It merely indicates for those who read it which NT writings were in use among mainstream Christians in Egypt at that time.[5]

He says the first formal decision did not occur until the 16th century when the Roman Catholic Church at the Council of Trent identified which writings are to be used in Roman churches.[6]

The Roman canon is coterminous with the Latin Vulgate translation, a list that contains some apocryphal writings. Apocrypha means “hidden.” Protestants are accustomed to hearing about 400 years of God’s silence between the close of the Old Testament and the coming of John the Baptist during which God never spoke by any prophet. The Latin Vulgate and the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, include additional books written between 300 BC and 100 AD that were hidden in the sense that the Jews rejected them as scripture. The Council of Trent, however, accepted them.

The apocryphal books often are printed between the Old and New Testaments or after the New Testament. They include Judith, The Wisdom of Solomon, Tobit, Ecclesiasticus (Wisdom of Jesus son of Sirach), Baruch, The Letter of Jeremiah, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, Old Greek Esther, Susanna, Bel and the Dragon, The Prayer of Azariah, The Song of the Three Holy Children, The Prayer of Manasseh, 1 Esdras, 2 Esdras, 3 Maccabees (Ptolemaika), 4 Maccabees, Psalm 151.

The Reformed churches also established a canon, a list of 66 books familiar throughout Protestantism.

The Lutheran church never has drawn up a canonical list nor assented to anyone else’s canon. Dr. Becker notes: “The evangelical-Lutheran Confessions never identify the Bible per se as ‘the word of God.’”[7]

Books rejected from mainstream canonical lists are called pseudepigrapha, “false writings.” They are deemed false either as to who their author is purported to be, as to their content being irreconcilable with the mainstream canonical scriptures, or as not having been inspired by the Holy Spirit. Various pseudepigraphal writings are accepted as scripture, however, by various people. Among the more familiar of these are Gospel of Thomas, Acts of Paul, Shepherd of Heermas, Revelation of Peter, and Epistle of Barnabas.

In review, look at the trajectory toward shrinkage. At its widest, Scripture would be the writings Protestants usually think of, together with the Apocrypha and all of the pseudepigrapha. But because of flaws in the pseudepigrapha, some obvious, some more subtle, we reject those writings. That leaves us with the Reformed cannon of 66 books plus the Roman Apocrypha. But Protestants (not necessarily including Lutherans) reject the Apocrypha for reasons more or less the same as when the Jews rejected those writing. That brings us down to the 66 books of the Reformed canon that Americans and Canadians usually see.

Most of us have no great problem with that because we are used to it. But the trajectory does not stop there. Within the 66 books, there are still more problems.

It may come as a surprise or even a shock that within the 66 books of our familiar Bibles, there are some called antilegomena, “spoken against.” These are books that made the 66 book canonical list, but that still were spoken against by some from early times, and continue to be noted by many as having a lesser assurance of being Scripture. The antilegomena are: Hebrews, James, 2nd Peter, 2nd John, 3rd John, Jude, and Revelation.

Some NT documents that claim to be apostolic and authoritative remain within the antilegomena and thus they are always open to the possibility that they are non-apostolic, non-canonical.[8]

What that leaves is the homologoumena, the “agreed upon” books. These are: the 4 Gospels, Acts, the 13 letters of Paul, 1st Peter, and 1st John.

For the lay people, if this is making your head spin, I recommend the article, “Canon of the New Testament,” in the Lutheran Bible Companion, vol. 2, pp. 156-64 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2014).

As to canonical disagreement, so far, Dr. Becker has said nothing that does not accord with orthodox Lutheran teaching. The problem is not what he has said this far, but the use he is making of these orthodox observations. He uses them to create a momentum of reduction. He deploys the observations to set a trajectory of shrinkage not just to either the 66 books or the agreed upon books, but a trajectory of perpetual shrinkage. His trajectory continues the shrinkage even in the agreed upon books. His review of the shrinkage up to this point is for the purpose of making us comfortable with shrinkage as a principle. After establishing comfort with shrinkage, he can leave the realm of orthodox observations to his own shrinkage of even the homologoumena – shrinkage of the agreed upon books – so that only parts of them remain normative or authoritative. While denying to the Church any authority to establish the canon, he will himself exercise an authority to apply new criteria of canonicity by which more and more of the Bible become rejected. He applies criteria such as Gospel reductionism, science, and culture.

He says: “The evangelical-Lutheran Confessions never identify the Bible per se as ‘the word of God.’”[9]

He says:

What is meant by the word “Scripture” here? It appears to be a reference to “the Bible.” Which “Bible?” Which biblical books? The Canon of Trent? Luther’s Bible, which included the Apocrypha (and which contained the antilegomena in the back on unnumbered pages and unlisted in the table of contents)? Or the typical Reformed Bible that omits the OT Apocrypha and makes no distinction between the homolegoumena and the antilegomena?[10]

He says:

No church or sect, neither the Roman one nor any other, is in a position to define the canon. For this reason, too, as is well known, the evangelical-Lutheran Confessions contain no article on the Bible or its authority. The Formula of Concord merely underscores that “the only rule and guiding principle according to which all teaching and teachers are to be evaluated and judged are the prophetic and apostolic writings of the Old and New Testaments alone” (FC Epitome, Preface, 1). The Formula does not identify those writings nor does it clarify their attributes or the nature of their authority. More helpful for understanding that authority is the use to which the Scriptures are put in Apology IV, to sharpen the distinction between the law and the gospel in service to faith in Christ. Only later did some Lutheran theologians seek to counter the development of an infallible teaching office in the Roman Church by developing specific attributes for Holy Scripture and by dwelling at length on what it means to say that Holy Scripture is “the inspired word of God.”

The church has no right to coin new doctrines, not even when they concern the authority of Holy Scripture. The church’s doctrinal authority resides solely in its responsibility to set forth the evangelical sense of the prophetic and apostolic words in Scripture. On occasion, too, Luther acknowledged that not everything in the Scriptures, not even everything that the apostles taught, is of binding and normative authority for contemporary Christians. That position, too, which is reflected in the twenty-eighth article of the Augsburg Confession, has surely contributed to further disagreements among latter-day Christians about what is and is not normative in the NT.[11]

He says:

Is there a single verse or set of verses in whichever Bible is being referenced here that makes reference to the contents of the Christian Bible as a whole? Is it not the case that the first person to refer to the writings of the Old Testament and the New Testament collectively as “the Bible” was Chrysostom, who lived in the fourth century? While the prophetic and apostolic writings certainly contain passages that refer to “the word of the LORD” and that make reference to “God-breathed” writings (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21), can anyone be absolutely certain which writings are being referred to here? Or what the phrase “pasa graphe heopneustos” really means? Because of the presence of the OT Apocrypha and the NT antilegomena within most Lutheran Bibles, the application of the above two biblical passages to the entire Bible is problematic. At best 2 Tim. 3:16 refers to the Septuagint (which included the OT Apocrypha), but we cannot be certain of this. Because there are legitimate concerns about the canonical character of some OT and NT biblical writings, the traditional Protestant biblical canon as such cannot serve as the “rule and guiding principle” of Christian theology, nor is the totality of this canon “the pure, clear fountain of Israel” (FC SD, Preface, 3), as Martin Luther’s prefaces to the biblical books also make clear (see LW 35:235ff.). Not every biblical book or biblical passage is of equal canonical, theological weight.[12]

He says:

While the Lutheran Church has refrained from identifying an authoritative list of canonical writings, it has been concerned to maintain the ancient and venerable distinction between the homologoumena and antilegomena and to keep open the question about the margins of the canon. One cannot avoid the fact that the antilegomena within the NT itself cannot shirk questions about their apostolicity, antiquity, catholicity, and especially their orthodoxy. It was because of questions about the latter that Luther famously passed judgment on some antilegomena books in the OT Apocrypha and in the NT (especially James, but also Jude, Hebrews, and Revelation). To be sure he did not exclude these antilegomena from his edition of the Bible, but it is interesting to note that his 1522 edition of the NT did not list these writings in the table of contents and these books themselves were put in the very back of the book on unnumbered pages! He clearly did not want people focusing on these writings, which he, like the ancient biblical scholars, thought contained teaching that was at least inconsistent with authentic apostolic teaching, if not outright contradictory to the gospel.[13]

He says, “For Christians today, only the homologoumena writings in the NT serve as the principal source and norm of Christian teaching.”[14] With all the preparatory observations recounted above, he has conditioned his students to be ready to accept that overstatement. Academics may support that statement, but he said, “for Christians today,” not “for academics today.” Christians hear texts of the antilegomena in the One-Year Lectionary and the Three-Year Lectionary. They pray texts of the antilegomena in the liturgy. As to his claim of “today,” a notable example is the relatively new and highly popular “This is the Feast” stemming from the antilegomena Revelation 5:12-13, 19:5-9. Popular Bible verses that ordinary Christians can recite or closely paraphrase are antilegomena. For example, “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit,” is the antilegomena 2 Peter 1:21.

Dr. Becker also fails to account for Luther’s own use of antilegomena at critical points. For example, when Luther realized that he was going to have to reform the canon of the Mass or the Reformation would be lost through corrupted, anti-evangelical liturgy, he gained the core insight of his reform from the antilegomena Hebrews. From various passages in Hebrews, he zeroed in on the paramount idea of his reform, that the Mass is a testament of forgiveness, a sacrament God gives to us, not a sacrifice we give to God.[15]

 

________________________

[1] Dr. Becker is on the roster of ordained clergy of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. He is an impressively accomplished Professor at Valparaiso University. He has done fill-in or vacancy work in congregations, including teaching confirmands. He publicly teaches a variety of doctrines that are, to put it politely, at variance from those of the Synod. These teachings touch on the office of public ministry, creation, the order of creation, the fall, sin, Scripture, and I don’t know what all (but I keep reading more of it, and it’s voluminous). See of his writings, e.g., Curriculum Vitae of Dr. Matthew Becker (DOC format | PDF format). See, for example, Fundamental Theology: A Protestant Perspective (New York: T & T Clark, 2014); “The Scandal of the LCMS Mind” (revised), The Daystar Reader (Portland, Ore.: Daystar.net, 2010), 165-184. “Talking Points about Doctrinal Authority in the LCMS,” The Daystar Reader (Portland, Ore.: Daystar.net, 2013) (also at Transverse Markings here, August 20, 2013) ; “A Case for Female Pastors and Theologians,” in The Daystar Reader (Portland, Ore.: Daystar.net, 2010), 126-140; “An Arbitrary Confessional Basis in the LCMS (Pt. 1), Transverse Markings: One Theologian’s Notes, July 8, 2014; “An Arbitrary Confessional Basis in the LCMS (Pt. 2), Transverse Markings: One Theologian’s Notes, July 8, 2014; “An Arbitrary Confessional Basis in the LCMS (Pt. 3),” Transverse Markings: One Theologian’s Notes, July 8, 2014; “A Letter from President Harrison to the CTCR,” Transverse Markings: One Theologian’s Notes, June 12, 2013; “Creationism and the Doctrine of Creation in the LCMS,” Transverse Markings: One Theologian’s Notes, May 14, 2013; “The Being of Adam, the New Adam, and the Ontology of Pastors,” Transverse Markings: One Theologian’s Notes, August 1, 2011; “Further Comments on the Ordination of Women to the Pastoral Ministry,” Transverse Markings: One Theologian’s Notes, June 18, 2011; “Concern over the Ordination of Women to the Pastoral Ministry in the LCMS,” Transverse Markings: One Theologian’s Notes, May 18, 2011. “For the Record,” The Daystar Journal, March 22, 2015. Also see, Matt Harrison, “Regarding a recent decision of a panel not to proceed with charges regarding a public false teacher in the LCMS,” Witness, Mercy, Life Together, January 26, 2015. “When a public teacher on the roster of Synod can without consequence publicly advocate the ordination of women (even participate vested in the installation of an ELCA clergy person), homosexuality, the errancy of the Bible, the historical-critical method, open communion, communion with the Reformed, evolution, and more, then the public confession of the Synod is meaningless. I am saying that if my Synod does not change its inability to call such a person to repentance and remove such a teacher where there is no repentance, then we are liars and our confession is meaningless. I do not want to belong to such a synod, much less lead it. I have no intention of walking away from my vocation. I shall rather use it and, by the grace of God, use all the energy I have to call this Synod to fidelity to correct this situation.” Scott Diekmann, “Rev. Dr. Matthew Becker: Nature Interprets Scripture,” Stand Firm, April 16, 2012. Larry Beane, Quid Est Veritas? Gottesdienst Online, March 23, 2015.

[2] See, e.g., Matthew Becker, “An Argument for Women Pastors and Theologians,” in The Daystar Reader (Portland, Ore.: Daystar.net, 2010), 126-140.

[3] Matthew Becker, “For the Record,” The Daystar Journal, March 22, 2015.

[4] Dr. Jack D. Kilcrease, comment in thread on Confessional Lutheran Fellowship, Facebook, April 8, 2015, 11:11 a.m. used from the closed group by permission of Dr. Kilcrease.

[5] Fundamental Theology , Kindle Locations 6467-6469).

[6] Fundamental Theology (Kindle Locations (6459-6461).

[7] Matthew Becker, “Talking Points about Doctrinal Authority in the LCMS,” The Daystar Reader (Portland, Ore.: Daystar.net, 2013) (also at Transverse Markings here, August 20, 2013).

[8] Fundamental Theology, (Kindle Locations 6639-6640).

[9] Matthew Becker, “Talking Points about Doctrinal Authority in the LCMS,” The Daystar Reader (Portland, Ore.: Daystar.net, 2013).

[10] Matthew Becker, “The Scandal of the LCMS Mind” (revised), The Daystar Reader (Portland, Ore.: Daystar.net, 2010), 165-184.

[11] Matthew Becker, “Talking Points about Doctrinal Authority in the LCMS,” The Daystar Reader (Portland, Ore.: Daystar.net, 2013) (also at Transverse Markings here, August 20, 2013).

[12] Matthew Becker, “Talking Points about Doctrinal Authority in the LCMS,” The Daystar Reader (Portland, Ore.: Daystar.net, 2013) (also at Transverse Markings here, August 20, 2013).

[13] Fundamental Theology, (Kindle Locations 6648-6656).

[14] Fundamental Theology, (Kindle Locations 6616-6617).

[15] Bryan Spinks, Luther’s Liturgical Criteria and His Reform of the Canon of the Mass. Bramcote, Notts.: Grove, 1982. p. 28.


Comments

Dr. Becker’s Ever Shrinking Word of God — 18 Comments

  1. A good beginning to this series of articles, Mr. Halvorson. This reductionist principle employed by the likes of Dr. Becker is anything but new, but the revisionists of the 20th century’s liberal movements should be easy to see in parallel. From reading Dr. Becker’s works, he seems to style himself as quite the visionary, when in fact his products look and smell like the warmed over vomit of Bishop Spong.

    And we all know (or should know) where the apostate Bishop Spong helped lead The Episcopal Church. Give Dr. Becker enough leash, and he would lead the LCMS into the same theological and ecclesiastical barf bag, destined for the same cosmic incinerator.

  2. I believe it is deceptive to say that no one referred to the Old and New Testaments collectively as the Bible until Chrysostom in the fourth century. What of the fact that 2 Peter, written probably still in the first century, refers to Paul’s writings as Scripture along with “the rest of Scripture”? What of the fact that the Fathers say from the 2nd century on, “It is written” when referring to writings of the Old and New Testament? Becker’s selective claim, even if factual, is meant to give the impression that people didn’t consider the Old and New Testaments collectively to be Scripture until the fourth century, but all the evidence confirms this to be untrue.

    As Mr. Halvorson points out, Becker does the same with Luther, selectively quoting what suits his thesis, while ignoring the context. Again, the same is done with the Confessions. Surely Becker has read Ralph Bohlmann’s Principles of Biblical Interpretation in the Lutheran Confessions where Bohlmann proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Confessions identify Scripture with the Word of God. This liberal re-interpretation of the Reformation’s Scripture-principle was old in the 70s. Now it is growing stale and embarrassing. If you don’t want to believe Scripture is the infallible Word of God, fine. But don’t claim Luther or the Lutheran Confessions or the Church Fathers as support.

    [[[ edited by moderator ]]]

  3. @Elizabeth Peters #2
    Dear Miss Peters,
    I myself disagree with Dr. Becker on women’s ordination, he knows that; but as for Scripture and it being canon, and the canon that we profess now, some truth to what he says. Yes, Torah, Wisdom, and Historical books were canon, the rest, came about later.
    They all agree of course.
    I guess, don’t get into a historical battle, stay with what we have today, and yes, affirmed by the Confessions.

  4. In an earlier article here on BJS, I wrote, “We cannot judge Dr. Becker’s heart. We can judge only his confession.”

    Having said that, I am very appreciative of Elizabeth pointing us to Bohlmann’s work. I had read about that before, and now it must go onto the top of my reading heap.

  5. Dear Mr. Halvorson,

    Thanks for an excellent article. I look forward to the next two in the series.

    Regarding the homolegoumena / antilegoumena distinction, it is true that Luther adopted that distinction, but not all orthodox Lutherans followed him. I am not aware that the Lutheran Confessions discuss the issue. Robert Preus has a good discussion on the matter in: Robert Preus, The Theology of Post-Reformation Lutheranism, vol. 1 (St Louis: CPH, 1970), 304-306.

    The earlier Lutheran dogmaticians tended to follow Luther. Preus notes that Chemnitz said that “history forces the church to leave the New Testament canon open and take the problem of the antilegomna seriously” (ibid., p. 305). From Gerhard, and thereafter, the orthodox accepted the canonicity of the antilegomena, only questioning their authorship–which was the testimony of antiquity. Calov listed several criteria for canonicity: inspiration by the Holy Spirit, written by prophets or apostles, contains divine mysteries, written in Hebrew or Greek, recognized by Hebrew or Christian church, in use in the ancient church, and Christocentricity (ibid., 306). By these criteria, the antilegomena are in the canon.

    I prefer the terminology of Gerhard, who speaks of New Testament canonical writings of the first rank and the second rank. I think that sort of distinction communicates what Luther intended in his prefaces–not that we disregard those Scriptures.

    Thanks for finding these quotes from Dr. Becker and unpacking their meaning for this audience!

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  6. Even if that is the case, it does not justify Becker’s disregard for the Scriptures on women’s ordination, as the homolegoumena books include Paul’s books, which are the strongest statements about women not being permitted to be pastors.

    And I suspect that Dr. Luther and the early Lutheran dogmaticians would have some sharp words to say about Becker’s loophole-esque conclusions concerning what Lutheranism allegedly does not say about what is or is not identified as the Word of God.

  7. Do we have any good (possibly easily understood) resources on the canonical writings and their authority as well as how the bible was formed? Christians are often approached by a similar view of Dr. Becker, including his error on understanding how Scripture was organized or why the Apocryphal writings were not equal to the cannon. There are so few resources by Lutherans that describe the process. There is so much out there that suggests books like James and Revelation are inferior to the rest of Scripture. Thank you.

  8. @Doug #7

    Hi Doug. In the body of part 1 there is a recommendation of an article in the Lutheran Bible Companion. At the end of part 3 there will be a few further, more in depth recommendations. After you’ve looked at those, if they don’t fill the bill of what you are looking for, please comment again to let us know and we’ll try to recommend something that is a closer fit to to what you’re looking for.

  9. @J. Dean #6
    Since the article discussed homolegoumena vs. antilegomena, I thought that it might mention Dr. Becker’s opinion that the pastoral letters were not actually written by the Apostle Paul, and thus should be treated as antilegomena. Perhaps that will be covered in one of the future installments.

  10. @T. R. Halvorson #10
    The best that I can do right now are these two posts in the ALPB Forum from 2011:
    http://www.alpb.org/forum/index.php?topic=4037.msg239479#msg239479
    http://www.alpb.org/forum/index.php?topic=4037.msg239485#msg239485

    The second one summarizes Dr. Becker’s basic rationale, which is that the Formula of Concord only binds us to “the prophetic and apostolic writings of the OT and NT.” The argument is then over whether any given Scriptural text qualifies as prophetic and/or apostolic. Regarding 1 Timothy in particular, Dr. Becker claims that it “does not belong to the apostolic writings” because it supposedly “contains statements that conflict with the gospel as taught by the Apostle Paul in Galatians and his other central writings.” Earlier and later posts in that same thread are probably worth reading through, as well.

  11. @Jon Alan Schmidt #11

    It seems to me the term “the prophetic and apostolic writings of the OT and NT” is descriptive instead of prescriptive – i.e. the OT and NT testament are the “prophetic and apostolic writings”. Dr. Becker strains at a gnat and swallows a camel.

  12. @Harry Edmon #13
    Right, the issue is what constitutes normative Scripture. The BoC never spells out which specific writings (or portions thereof) are in that category; neither does Article II of the LCMS Constitution. Dr. Becker chooses to employ a very narrow definition.

    @J. Dean #14
    It may be left field from a conservative Lutheran perspective, but it is very much in the mainstream of modern historical-critical analysis.

  13. @Jon Alan Schmidt #15

    Once again I would read the BoC stating it is the whole OT and NT. Another name for them is “the prophetic and apostolic writings”. So I would employ a wide definition. As you know, once you start to pick and choose which Scripture verses you want to be authoritative there is no end to the mischief.

  14. @Harry Edmon #13

    I think the term “prophetic and apostolic writings of the Old and New Testaments” means simply “the prophetic writings, i.e., the Old Testament; & the apostolic writings, i.e., the New Testament.” This because the writings which constitute what we now call the New Testament were written at the diction if not by the hand of the apostles themselves, or those who heard directly from them (Mark and Luke); and those that constitute what we now call the Old Testament were from the hand of prophets: The Pentateuch(or Torah) from Moses who was the first prophet, The “Prophets” which need no explanation other than that “history” was invented by the prophets (I heard that somewhere, don’t ask for a reference :-), and given the “The Writings were headed up by the psalms, collectively given over to David, whom Jesus Himself called “prophet” – ALL of what we consider the Old Testament was the production of “the prophets,” hence “prophetic” (not to mention the fact that they all point to, or declare, [prophecy] the coming of Christ).

  15. Though I know it gauls most Lutherans to hear it, I think a certain nod to tradition is worthwhile in the discussion of the canon of Scripture.

    The authentic Church of Christ cannot be separated from the Word of Christ. The ancient traditions of the Church, at their best, declare the Word of Christ which is her source, sustainance, and salvation. This ancient tradition of the canon (rule) of Scripture is a confession of the Church’s fidelity to Christ and His Word. The efforts of the heretical and misguided in every century is to undermine that Word.

    Dr. Becker, and the Higher Critical movement, have no more appeal to the Church’s antiquity than they have reverence for the Holy Scriptures. And lest the forest be lost for the trees, Dr. Becker is not making any series of arguments found anywhere in the Fathers, when he weaves together his apostate doctrines. None of the Fathers I’m aware of discarded the writings of Moses and Paul, and sent their pupils off to distrust the Scriptures while placing their trust in the academy.

    He is an heretic, and should be defrocked, excommunicated, and excluded from any position of authority or teaching in the Body of Christ. The longer we protect him, the deeper our Synod descends into infamy and public scandal.

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