I had a really interesting question in Bible class today that led me to this post on the ELCA. As I was talking about the ELCA’s quatenus subscription to the Lutheran Confessions, as opposed to the proper quia subscription, and their position that the scriptures contain errors, one of our members who is a former ALC Lutheran (the old German Lutheran denomination that joined with the LCA to form the ELCA) made an interesting point. He said that he was taught in the ALC in confirmation class in the 1970’s that the Bible is without error. I explained to him that it is not a black and white issue from congregation to congregation. There are still some ELCA congregations yet today that do not accept all of the liberal teachings of their denomination just as there were and still are LCMS congregations and pastors that do not believe the scriptures are without error.
As you can see, this is an important issue for the Brothers of John the Steadfast to consider. The further point I went on to make about the ELCA and the existence of the devil is also important for us to understand as we continue our quest to remain steadfastly Lutheran and scriptural.
After making the point about how liberalism and conservatism vary from congregation to congregation within Lutheran synods I felt compelled to share a clear example of how the ELCA has given up on the truth of the Bible as a denomination.
A few weeks ago when I was doing a Bible study on the Lutheran Manifesto (I hope to get it on the website one of these days but it still needs a lot of editing and cleaning up) I was doing some research on the existence of the devil. Thesis three of the Manifesto asserts this:
With Article 19 we affirm that there exists an evil angel known as Satan, who, with his demons, is the originator and perpetuator of all evil, and continues to afflict men with lies and temptations.
The ELCA website says this on their “Dig Deeper” page:
Does this evil being exist?
We must begin by saying that there are ELCA Lutherans who understand Satan (or the Devil) to be a very real being, author of evil, prompter of sin, destroyer of humankind. Other ELCA Lutherans view Satan metaphorically â€” as the personification of evil forces in this world that oppose and obstruct God’s will in every age, be they human or spiritual. Adherents of both views would agree that sinful, evil forces do exist and oppose God’s will for humankind, that in God’s plan for humankind these forces were defeated on the cross, are under God’s power and authority, and will ultimately be destroyed under God’s judgement.
There you have it. In the ELCA it is your choice as to whether or not you want to believe in a real being known as Satan or the devil. This is what happens when a church body gives up on the truth of Scripture.
This prompted me to see exactly what they say publicly about Scripture. For years the ELCA has held the doctrinal position that the Bible contains errors and is not the word of God but only “contains” the word of God but the little bit of checking of their official website over the years has led me to beleive that they were not quick to make overtly public statements about such things but that has now changed. Check out this definition of scripture, again from their official website, After asserting that the Bible is God’s word they qualify it with this:
At the same time, we also find in the Bible human emotion, testimony, opinion, cultural limitation and bias. ELCA Lutherans recognize that human testimony and writing are related to and often limited by culture, customs and world view. Today we know that the earth is not flat and that rabbits do not chew their cud (Leviticus 11:6 ). These are examples of time-bound cultural understandings or practices. Christians do not follow biblically prescribed dietary laws such as eliminating pork from one’s diet (Leviticus 11:7) because the new covenant we have with God has replaced the Old Testament covenant God had with his people. Because Biblical writers, editors and compilers were limited by their times and world views, even as we are, the Bible contains material wedded to those times and places. It also means that writers sometimes provide differing and even contradictory views of God’s word, ways and will.
Listening to the living Jesus in the context of the church, we therefore have the task of deciding among these. Having done this listening, we sometimes conclude either that the writer’s culture or personal experience (e.g., subordination of women or keeping of slaves) seems to have prompted his missing what God was saying or doing, or that God now is saying or doing something new.
The Bible’s authority is interpreted through Jesus
By no means does that human presence in sacred Scripture detract from the Bible’s testimony to God. Rather, this human testimony provides layers of faith and insight by those who contributed to the canon. The Bible’s reliability lies not in reading it as science or proscription, but as humankind’s chief witness to God, reflecting on faith as it is to be lived.
Notice that in the last sentence above they state that the Bible is “humankind’s chief witness to God, reflecting on faith as it is to be lived.” That is entirely upside down and backwards. The Bible is not man’s witness to God but God’s witness to man.
It is crucial that the Brothers of John the Steadfast understand what is going on in Lutheranism today. President Kieschnick is right. This is not your grandfather’s church. It is this view of scripture, still existing in the LCMS, that leads congregations such as Bethlehem, Renton – Washington, to promote lesbian and gay activities on their website and to hire a gay and lesbian activist as a music director. While President Kieshcnick says that he believes in the inerrancy of scripture, he has yet to do anything about this situation in Washington in the synod he is responsible to supervise. Besides that, in practice, President Kieshcnick’s promotion of the church growth movement in the LCMS undermines his stated position on the inerrancy of scripture. He and others like to claim that we all believe the same doctrine but just have different forms of practice. Don’t be fooled by that for a minute. Doctrine and practice are inextricably tied together. Godly practice grows out of good doctrine. Check out this church in President Kieschnicks own back yard and you will see that there are plenty of LCMS churches that claim to have true doctrine but their practice is not in keeping with the theology of scripture as spelled out in the Lutheran Confessions. (Be sure to check out the page on “communion nights” where elders of the church are administering holy communion in members homes and small groups.) You can also see more of the Ablaze hall of shame at the Save the LCMS website.
Upholding the truth of God’s word is a part of a steadfast Christian life. All around us, the word of God is being abused and compromised by Lutherans. According to the largest Lutheran denomination one doesn’t even have to believe in the devil anymore. What’s next, belief in God being optional? Stay steadfast! Resist the temptation to compromise the pure Gospel of Christ.