The Fruit of Doctrinal Indifference… a sad story.

I stumbled across this story on the ELCA and how the great turbulence after the 2009 Assembly has largely disappeared.

Here is the link to the article in the Great Falls, MT newspaper:

http://www.greatfallstribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2011105080301

What saddened me most is a quote from Bishop Jessica Crist which stated that “I definitely see positive coming out of it. Those who are staying are staying because they choose to.”  This has become true, those who stayed in the ELCA (as congregations and individuals) have chosen to do so.

This is the fruit of decades of doctrinal indifference from the pastors and laity, resulting in many people choosing to be a part of a church which believes and teaches false doctrine which also goes against natural law.

I am reminded of a quote from C.F.W. Walther in one of his addresses to new members of his congregation.

“It is a settled fact that whoever is indifferent to false doctrine is indifferent also to pure doctrine and his soul’s salvation, and has no right to bear the name Lutheran and the name of Christ.”  (from The Motives and Qualifications of Genuine Church Members)

How much of this poison of indifference can be found among us?  How best can we raise awareness to the presence of such destructive attitudes?  How can laity help wake clergy up?  How can clergy help wake laity up?  To the Word, to the Word.  Preachers, to your pulpits, hearers to your pews – take what you learned there into your daily lives.  God does not desire the death of sinners but repentance to come – repentance born of the Spirit working through the Word.

 

 

 

 

About Pastor Joshua Scheer

Pastor Joshua Scheer is the Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is also the Editor-in-chief of Brothers of John the Steadfast. He oversees all of the work done by Steadfast Lutherans. He is a regular host of Concord Matters on KFUO. Pastor Scheer and his lovely wife Holly (who writes and manages the Katie Luther Sisters) have four children and enjoy living in Wyoming.

Comments

The Fruit of Doctrinal Indifference… a sad story. — 47 Comments

  1. I agree with you regarding indifference being the htreat that it is. I do not agree with the bishop, however. People do not stay in their congregations because they choose to stay. Rather, they do not choose to leave, which is somewhat different. One lesson of the 1970s for the LCMS was that it takes a great deal to make people leave their churches. Apparently, the ELCA’s sexuality votes were not enough. Inertia is too great. (And so is either the indifference about which you spoke, or misguided ignorance as a result of trusting false teachers.)

  2. The reason[s] many people don’t leave is because that is where they were married, their children were baptized, they have friends there and if they leave to join another congregation – will they make any friends there? Other times they have years invested in the congregation because they taught Sunday School, VBS, Confirmation, etc. The emotional investment and personal ties keeps my own folks in the ELCA along with many people their age.

    I think it is easier for people leading more transitory lives (moving from one job to the next throughout life) to switch than it is for people who stay planted in one community their entire life. I would also conjecture that these same people have unwittingly valued their earthly home over their heavenly home thanks in part to the doctrinal drift and indifference they have been immersed in over their respective lives. It’s a vicious circle where one feeds the other.

  3. @Larry Kleinschmidt #1
    “One lesson of the 1970s for the LCMS was that it takes a great deal to make people leave their churches.”

    Denominational loyalty is a powerful force. Many of those who leave, simply go to another offshoot of the ELCA that still ordains women. Some do leave for more conservative churches like the LCMS. And one has to wonder how many have left the ELCA not necessarily because of false doctrine but because they are opposed to homosexuality, doctrinal considerations aside.

    One effect of the teaching that was going on at St. Louis prior to the blow-up is poor catechesis. That is, those who were taught this stuff are, for the most part, poor teachers of our doctrine. When the Bible is up for grabs, doctrine goes with it.

    Johannes

  4. It think the quote below is the indication of the roots of the doctrinal indifference later on the article:

    “Strom (ELCA lay member) said he believes the ELCA does good work in the community and in the world. Allowing for gay clergy in the church didn’t change anything in his mind, because pastors have to be called to churches by the congregation. If a church doesn’t want a gay pastor, they don’t have to call one, he said.

    “There’s so much in the Bible. I don’t take everything literally,” Strom said. “The basic teachings of Jesus — I think that’s the main thing we should go by. I think if someone wants to go out and do good in the world, they should do that.””

    1. As a former ELCA pastor I heard what Mr. Strom said in various ways: after all, we do not have to call a gay pastor. One member at my former parish said, ‘I want to keep my head in the sand’ (literally!) and ‘all this does not affect me’. There is no sense of Church, as the Body of Christ. The indifference is one of a faulty eccelsiology. Ecclesiology is reduced to a virulent congregationalism. As an ELCA pastor, for instance, I could not point with any confidence to any of the ELCA seminaries to direct a young man to the Ministry. In fact,as an ELCA pastor, I would have directed such to one of the Concordia Seminaries! Now as an LCMS pastor, in our little mission of those who left our previous parish, I try to mention and extol the LCMS seminaries as those who teach truly the Scriptures and Confessions. Two of our children are now in or will be at college: both in towns with solid LCMS parishes. I think pastors need to keep in front of a congregation the solid work of the Church, her congregations and parishes, that is occurring, all the while being honest of the sins of the church. In an age of ‘me-ism’, 1 Corinthians 12 is paramount.

    2. The second paragraph points to the doctrinal indifference as Scriptural. Mr. Strom has been catechized well in the Biblical criticism of his pastors over the years. I would be more enervated on a Sunday after a Bible study than anything else: ELCA congregations, from their predecessor church bodies, have had pastors steeped in historical critical methodologies for at least 50 years. I am a slow learner but I eventually realized those members thought Scripture was something to be debated, not taught. Doctrinal indifference can only be addressed by Scriptural study and imbibing at the font of the Word of the Lord, not in the cesspools of our reason apart from the Word.

    3. The doctrinal indifference to salvation by Jesus Christ, received in faith by His grace alone for us sinners is then complete: note that Mr. Strom has reduced everything (with most liberal Prots) to salvation by good works. There are no sinners in such a congregation: only the sins of the politically incorrect kind. In a lesser degree, I have heard many an ELCA sermon in politically conservative congregations, preached which are an infomercial for congregational programs. If salvation is about us and our social activism or congregational involvement, then doctrine fades into the background. And yet, there are sinners dying to hear. The crisis is only addressed by the love of catechism and the catechism being taught beyond confirmation, in all its chief parts, prayerfully, for the entire Church. As Luther wrote, I will forever remain a pupil of the Catechism. For instance: CPH’s publication of a paperback Book of Concord is a God-send. In addition to the Scripture in everyone’s hands, now the Confessions as well!

  5. The last Church wide Assembly forced many in the ELCA out of their comfort zones. It was a thorougly unpleasant experience for those who pride themselves on being the ‘nice’ Lutherans, who never argue or start a fight. But if even if you do object to the decisions of the CWA, what can you do to defend your position? If your hermeneutic is faulty, you have no defense. And so people take the fall back position of dealing with the effect rather than the cause, trying to create yet another comfort zone in which to hide. I have family in the ELCA, I continue to pray for them and their church. We in the LCMS should take care to not think that such things cannot happen in our Synod.

  6. @Pr. Mark Schroeder #4
    You quoted, “Strom (ELCA lay member) said he believes the ELCA does good work in the community and in the world. Allowing for gay clergy in the church didn’t change anything in his mind, because pastors have to be called to churches by the congregation. If a church doesn’t want a gay pastor, they don’t have to call one, he said.”

    Mr. Strom, unwittingly perhaps, has given us a theological mouthful (if not a snootful). As I said above (#3), the H/C method leads to doctrinal indifference, and poor catechesis. What takes its place? I’ve observed that an overemphasis on social ministry, for one thing. The ELCA has always stressed the social ministry, and that is to its credit. However, an undue emphasis on sanctification is another mark of the Historical Critical teaching. On one hand, the Third Use is eschewed, but on the other, an over-emphasis on sanctification results–a strange dichotomy, to be sure.

    As for choosing whom to call, Mr. Strom had better beware, though. Many ELCA bishops are dictatorial–a congregation near us has been told that their next pastor will be woman. They have always called men, but no more! This is the identical pattern to the church in Sweden. At first it’s tolerance, then dictatorship. There is a great probability that, in time, Mr. Strom’s church will call whomever the bishop dictates–and it could well be a gay woman. It simply won’t matter what Mr. Strom or anyone else prefers.

    Pr. Schroeder, you have characterized Mr. Strom’s 2nd paragraph correctly and succinctly. This is, to my thinking, Gospel reduction at its most blatant. Mr. Strom and many others need our prayers.

    Johannes

  7. @Johannes #3
    Correct, in many cases the Catechism if it is taught at all is presented as Lutheran ‘tradition’ rather than ‘doctrine.’ However I will say that I’ve met a few ELCA pastors who teach the Catechism more faithfully than some LCMS pastors do.

  8. @Johannes #3

    Two thoughts on the effect of Seminex on catechesis:
    1. Seminarians were explicitly told not to mention anything they were taught at Seminary (specifically the “new” theology) to the laity until all the older members had died off because “they won’t get it.” I think it may be possible that this “they won’t get it” attitude has remained into the present.

    2. The faculty majority showed by their actions that they felt the pastors could be taught, but the laity were just sheep who would follow their shepherd wherever he went. Hence their campaign to inform the pastors of what was going on but not the laity. Obviously, events proved the “inertia” theory to be more valid than the “sheep” theory!

    A lot of what I’ve learned at Seminary has run counter to these two ideas (“they won’t get it”/”they can’t be taught”). In fact, not only our Education classes but also our Systematic and Exegetical courses encourage us to be diligent in catechizing our congregations. Of course, there are a few “they won’t get it” things (such as “don’t open the text criticism can of worms during a sermon!”).

  9. @Concerned Seminarian #9
    Of course, there are a few “they won’t get it” things (such as “don’t open the text criticism can of worms during a sermon!”).

    That’s not “they won’t get it”; that’s “the topic needs much more time, like a Bible class”.
    And the sermon is to preach Christ’s Word, not man’s opinions.

    De emphasizing Lutheran catechesis is a great way to lead the congregation into non Lutheran practice. I hope the brakes are being put on non Lutheran programs! We can’t afford them in any sense of the word!

  10. @Concerned Seminarian #9
    The faculty majority showed by their actions that they felt the pastors could be taught, but the laity were just sheep who would follow their shepherd wherever he went. Hence their campaign to inform the pastors of what was going on but not the laity. Obviously, events proved the “inertia” theory to be more valid than the “sheep” theory!

    My impression is that at the time of Seminex it was still pretty unusual to have second-career pastoral candidates. My recollection is that all of the vicars that I met in those days were young, single men. I wish that so many of them had not followed the professors into false teachings, but I think that it was much more possible then because of those demographics than it would be now.

    The millstone analogy almost applies.

    These pastoral candidates were, by and large, idealistic, capable, intelligent, and very young and inexperienced men who believed that they had a specific calling into the Office of Holy Ministry, and were raised in a time when the LCMS emphasized total doctrinal reliability in everything that they did and published and taught, and also conveyed almost no preventative information about extant heresies and false teachings. These men were extraordinarily vulnerable to the influence of faculties who were held up as the bastion of all of this–the highly educated pastors who taught other pastors.

    Yes, they ‘could be taught;’ and what a shame that this was exploited as it was.

  11. When the laity are upset with the doctrinal direction their parish
    is headed, then they vote with their feet and checkbook. They
    stop attending worship, cease financial support, and join another
    congregation.

    When a significant number of families follow this course of action
    it gets the attention of the parish leadership. Dwindling church
    attendance, many membership transfers, and budget deficits can
    indicate an unhealthy parish. Apathy is when the parish leaders
    fail to respond to the situation. As a Circuit Counselor in the
    LCMS I have seen this scenario played out repeatedly.

  12. That Bishop is lying. I personally know of three churches that are being held hostage by the ELCA and are not being allowed to leave. Many churches in the ELCA have it to where the denomination gets all church property if the members decide to leave and the ELCA has promised to take everything the congregation owns if they do leave. I also know of pastors that have broken off communion fellowship with their Bishops. Many congregations are still trying to figure out a seperation process where they can keep their land and building that the congregation has worhsiped in for more than 100 years. Also, there are many churches who are still leaving. One church from my home town just voted to leave 2 months ago so it is going through the leaving process. Like I said, that Bishop is lying.

  13. Rev. Allen Bergstrazer :@Johannes #3 Correct, in many cases the Catechism if it is taught at all is presented as Lutheran ‘tradition’ rather than ‘doctrine.’ However I will say that I’ve met a few ELCA pastors who teach the Catechism more faithfully than some LCMS pastors do.

    Oh, yes! Where the H/C was/is taught, poor catechesis is often the result. Matters not which denomination you belong to.

    Rev. Allen Bergstrazer :@Concerned Seminarian #9 The unsung heroes of the Seminex days were a well catechized laity.

    Absolutely. Those people were warriors. If you have had the privilege of speaking with any of them, you will understand. And, I might add, many of them are being “sung.” Mr. Walter Dissen is being honored at CTSFW commencement with the “Miles Christe” award. He is most deserving, not only for his continuing service to the Lord, but for his dogged and faithful pursuit of truth as Secretary of the Board of Control during the pre- and post-walkout days. Spend an hour or two with him, and you’ll have a new appreciation for the work those people did.

    Johannes

  14. According to the numbers in the article, the ELCA in Montana lost 17 of 147 churches, well over 10%. A 10% loss is significant. Montana may be more conservative than other parts of the country, but even a 5% loss nationwide would be very significant. I think it might be hard to determine numbers, with so many churches in process, and a process that often fails to take a church out, but still I would like to see some kind of analysis.

  15. @Robert Franck #16
    I would be happier with them, if they had started the “process” when they were handed women in the pulpit. There is one now in my childhood (ALC, that was) church, which I would never have believed could happen.

  16. @helen #10

    I misspoke, so I apologize. It’s not that the laity “won’t get it” with text criticism, genres, etc.; it’s that you don’t want to bring it up during a sermon when you can’t discuss it. Talking about Jonah (it’s not a parable; it’s actually a really well-written narrative) or the ending of Mark would be great for Bible studies, however.

    @Rev. Allen Bergstrazer #11

    Indeed! My profs said that the real reason the Conservatives won at 1973 was a layman (forget his name) whose day job was as a plumber but who spent all his free time organizing delegates. Apparently he was even organizing them with a walkie-talkie during the Convention!

    @Old Time St. John’s #12

    It’s not that there weren’t any second-career students at Seminary; it’s that they were all at the “right” one. At that time it was still standard practice for “system guys” (first-career) to go to St. Louis while second-career guys went to Springfield. There were more exceptions on both sides in the 1970s than the previous generation, however.

  17. @Concerned Seminarian #18
    Talking about Jonah (it’s not a parable;

    Who suggested it was a parable? Haven’t you noticed that Jesus seldom gave the characters of his parables proper names? But when he talks about Jonah, Abraham or Elijah, etc., they are named.

  18. @James #19
    The address and name of the congregation. Other than that… it doesn’t appear to be much. The false hermeneutic that the ELCA is built upon has been carried over as far as I can tell. I think we should be in dialogue with these congregations and their pastors, the law of God is written on their hearts. Perhaps we can be of some help rather than merely criticizing them. However without some significant changes in the rudiments of theology, they’ll end up back with some other problem caused by the use of the Gospel to nullify the law. Until then, they’ll end up dealing with the effect rather than the cause.

  19. @helen #20

    Not to go into it too much, historical criticism says that whales cannot swallow human beings; therefore the story of Jonah in the whale must be a parable. That was actually one of the big points of concern during the Seminex controversy.

    The issue with it is that Jesus uses it as a type of His death and resurrection. If you take it as a parable, then does that turn the resurrection into a parable also? Also, Jesus seems to suggest by His usage of Jonah that He believes Jonah to be true. If we do not take it as true, what does that do for Jesus’ omniscience?

    As far as not naming characters in parables, there’s the “Lazarus and the Rich Guy” story which may or may not be a parable (depending on who you talk to!).

  20. @Concerned Seminarian #22
    Particularly important to remember when we get to the New Testament is Form criticism and Redaction criticism which presume that the evangelists were more concerned with presenting their own theological picture of Jesus than with recording accurate information about him, and also that they cut and pasted from recieved material with little or no editorial input. This obviously introduces scepticism of the reliablity and historical accuracy of the Gospels, particularly in the miracles which you righty point out, as well as causing some quite sweeping conclusions, based upon comparatively small variations in texts.

  21. Concerned Seminarian :
    @Johannes #3
    Two thoughts on the effect of Seminex on catechesis:
    1. Seminarians were explicitly told not to mention anything they were taught at Seminary (specifically the “new” theology) to the laity until all the older members had died off because “they won’t get it.” I think it may be possible that this “they won’t get it” attitude has remained into the present.

    Isn’t it actually the case that the older members would get it? People who have lived long enough to see all sorts of shenanigans are less likely to fall for nonsense. People who actually know the truth and what they were taught as kids, will know what they are hearing is false. This brings me to my perpetual saw; the children. I can leave and quit supporting a congregation, but the kids are at the mercy of the congregation. Donating resources to a denomination that will in turn use them to lead the youth the wrong way is the most unkind thing members do. These kids don’t know better and no one is going to tell them. That is hardly good social ministry. This wrong doctrine doesn’t just hurt people in the world to come, it hurts them right here and now in this life. It is just plain wrong to have more loyalty to a 23 year old denomination than to God’s word.

  22. @James #19
    Very true, the formative principle for LCMC and NALC is really women pastors. One LCMC district even said so, that they could not deny the call of God upon so many women.

    They may not stumble into the homosexual issues, but they will follow along a horrible path leading to all sorts of other false doctrines unless they examine the roots of what caused the ELCA decisions.

  23. @Mrs. Hume #24

    I’ve discovered (not just with “non-theologically trained” laypeople, but with myself (a “theologically trained” layman for the next couple years)) that laymen do have a good sense of what is right and wrong theologically, what I like to call the “Grandma Schmidt Reaction.” Basically it can be summed up as: “I don’t know exactly why, but it sounds wrong,” which is a response born (as you said) from remembering what you were taught as a child. You may not be able to articulate exactly what the false doctrine is, but you can instinctively sense that it just doesn’t jive with what you already know to be true. I suspect that what the Seminex profs meant by “they won’t get it” was that the Gospel Reductionism and historical criticism would trip the older members’ “Grandma Schmidt Reaction” (which is a good thing).

    For some people, the “Grandma Schmidt Reaction” can be a little too finely tuned; for others it can even be mis-calibrated (something that good Bible classes can help with). For children, however, it hasn’t even developed yet, which is part of the reason why parents, pastors, and congregations need to be careful about teaching the faith to their children.

  24. @Concerned Seminarian #18

    Dear Concerned Seminarian,

    The concerned layman who helped organize conservatives in 1973, and many other years, was named Henry Hilst. We should not forget these names. Thanks to James Burkee’s new book, “Power, Politics, and the Missouri Synod,” their names will not be forgotten, although Burkee’s “spin” is upside down!

    A unique thing about the LCMS is how its doctrine of the ministry, as found in Walther’s “Kirche und Amt,” makes laymen responsible for the doctrine taught and preached in their church. When they see their pastor, or other LCMS clergy, departing from the Bible or the Lutheran Confessions, they have the RESPONSIBILITY to question, and even oppose their religious leaders.

    The ELCA, and its predecessors, did not give that responsibility to its laymen. The Lutheran Quarterly, in an article published a couple of years ago, demonstrated how Henry Melchior Muhlenberg was able to defeat and humiliate a layman (a “mere” baker) who dared to disagree with him based on the Book of Concord. That has been the way things were in the PA Ministerium, General Synod, Buffalo Synod, Iowa Synod, General Council, ULCA, old ALC, LCA, new ALC, AELC, and now the ELCA.

    Insofar as WELS and ELS have followed Walther in this matter, their churches have the same strength. It results in a more theologically intelligent and articulate laity, and at least a slightly more humble clergy, both of which are good in my opinion.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  25. For some reason I have been put back on the e-mail list for our local ELCA Synod. Below is Bp. Mark Hanson’s letter to all ELCA Synods before their spring assemblies. It is a piece of pure schwarmereism . I think it speaks to Pr. Scheer’s posting: Bp. Schwarmer knows how to capitalize on doctrinal indifference by pointing out without batting an eye that we are absolutely doing God’s will in all our hands do. I think folks just nod their heads with a rote: “oh, yeah”. The Bp. believes it. And I apologize beforehand for any theological nausea my posting of this letter causes!

    Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
    God’s work. Our hands.

    Spring 2011

    “For freedom Christ has set us free … only do not use this freedom as an occasion for self-indulgence, but serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:1, 13)

    Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

    Greetings to you in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord!

    As we gather in Christ’s name for the spring 2011 synod assemblies, we have much to celebrate. God continues to bring the new creation in Christ to our life together in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). We can be confident that our hands are doing God’s work in our communities locally and globally. Working together, we are a church known for rolling up its sleeves and solving problems, for being a catalyst, convener and bridge builder. Recently, as I boarded a plane in Los Angeles, a woman pointed to my clerical collar and asked, “What church?” When I told her, she startled everyone by bursting out, “We LOVE Lutherans! I work for FEMA and we know that you’re the ones who are there until the work is done.”

    Why do we do this work? What compels us as the ELCA to raise money for those affected by the Pacific earthquake and tsunami or to plant new congregations in Seattle and Philadelphia? It’s not to call attention to ourselves, but to be about God’s healing of a broken world. We act not out of obligation, fear or guilt but out of gratitude for all we have been given.

    Even in the midst of change, the ELCA is the church it has always been, one that is being renewed daily in the freedom that comes from Jesus Christ alone. The liberating power of the gospel releases us from our human limitations so that we may reach out in love to our neighbor. Thanks be to God! We are freed in Christ to serve.

    “Freed in Christ to Serve,” the theme of my message to the 2011 synod assemblies, expresses the very heart of our faith. Freedom is God’s gift that has been flowing to us and through us since the day of Christ’s death and resurrection. Through word and sacrament, freedom flows to the center of our being, transforming our very life and making us into servant vessels of the Spirit’s liberating work.

    As the living water of the gospel flows into your synod and congregations, it flows out through your serving as everyday evangelists. When the Spirit’s liberating power flows through our church body, we serve the gospel as we plant new congregations and accompany our partner Lutheran ministries throughout the world.

    Our work is on a scale and scope that would be inconceivable as individual congregations or synods. The stories in the video shown at your assembly capture the spirit of a church that is freed in Christ to serve.
    • When an Arizona congregation left the ELCA after the 2009 assembly decisions around sexuality, nearly 100 families kept their commitment to this church by starting a new congregation. Members at New Journey Lutheran Church are energized by their relationship to the ELCA, where they each find a home and a sense of vocation.

    • Sunday services at Calvary Lutheran Church in North Dakota are standing room only. It’s a nice challenge to face in this rural-based community. Congregational members know that their ability to share the gospel is rooted in a communal decision-making process.

    • In the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, the ELCA accompanies partners like the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti. They have clearly said, “We will not be defined by rubble, but by restoration.” Together, we will continue to do this relief and redevelopment for as long as it takes. As you gather for your assembly, I extend my gratitude for the creative and imaginative ministry of service flowing through this church—through each of you, our more than 10,000 congregations, our 65 synods and our churchwide ministries. Together we share our commitment to do God’s work with our hands throughout the world.

    In God’s grace,
    Mark S. Hanson
    Presiding Bishop

  26. @Pr. Mark Schroeder #29

    It’s all about works, quotations from Galatians notwithstanding. How great we art!

    Apparently, “doing God’s work” does not include teaching the apostles’ doctrine.

    Johannes

  27. @Johannes #30
    It is an amazing feat that a ‘Lutheran’ pastor can take Galatians, of all the Epistles, which Luther called his “Katherine von Bora” and make it into works righteousness. BTW: one ELCA pastor said in response to that denom’s slogan God’s Work, Our Hands: it should be, God’s Work, Christ’s Hands.

  28. @Pr. Mark Schroeder #31

    As in all such letters and writings, it is important to study the language and the implications of what is written. For instance, why the connection between “freedom” and the “hands doing the work of God?” The language of inclusiveness is here, and so, I suspect that “reaching out” is reference to certain actions that the ELCA has taken recently. And that, I submit, may be, at least in part, what Bishop Hanson means by doing God’s work.
    He is a word-meister of the first order, and so one must read his stuff with a discerning eye.
    This is much more than mere “schwarmer” stuff. Think about it.

    As far as taking Galatians into works righteousness, the mis-application of Galatians 3:28 and blending that mis-application with Galatians 5:1, and 5:13-16, should not surprise us.
    After all, that is a large part of their argument for the assaults they have mounted on the Holy Ministry, and, indeed the Church, is it not?

    Johannes

  29. @Concerned Seminarian #22
    Not to go into it too much, historical criticism says that whales cannot swallow human beings…

    [Actually, according to a blog called the “Straight Dope” sperm whales live on squid and one weighing 405 lbs was taken intact out of a whale’s gut. So swallowing a human would be possible. Digressing: unlike Bart Ehrman and Robert Price, SD also credits Jesus with having lived, citing a couple of non Bible sources, Roman and Jewish, and that the writings about Him were not all that much after the fact.
    That the Jews mention Jesus, however disparagingly, is possibly the best evidence for his existence.]

    NKJV
    17 Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

    ESV
    17[c] And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

    NIV 1984
    17 But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.

    You want to get “Accentuate the positive” out of your head (if you ever knew it) and read the text. Not even in KJV is there a whale in it (in English, I concede.) [Gentlemen, what about the Greek?]

    Jonah is a real interesting story, and the first one the elca will challenge you on. Luther said, “You are not expected to understand everything. When you don’t, praise God and pass on.” I told my cousin it was a lot easier to accept the Bible as written than pick and choose what seemed logical to me.

  30. Oh, BTW, a whale is a mammal, not a fish. 🙂

    A Great White Shark is suggested as a possibility in our time.

  31. @Concerned Seminarian #22
    “The issue with it is that Jesus uses it [Jonah in the fish] as a type of His death and resurrection. If you take it as a parable, then does that turn the resurrection into a parable also? Also, Jesus seems to suggest by His usage of Jonah that He believes Jonah to be true. If we do not take it as true, what does that do for Jesus’ omniscience?”

    The common explanation of Jesus’ reference to Jonah is that he [Jesus] was a “child of his time.” That is, if I understand it, either in his human nature, he really believed that it was true, or, in his divine nature, he knew it was not true, but did not want to destroy the peoples’ illusions. Either way, H/C makes of the story that it is not true. The “Jesus was a child of his time” is a standard argument of the H/C practitioners. It’s simply a continuation of the “Did God really say?” question.

    Johannes

  32. @helen #33

    One thing to keep in mind is that our modern ideas of taxonomy were invented relatively recently (18th or 19th century I think), so you can’t really read them back onto the Bible. This also comes in with the Flood account: Instead of taking 2 of every breed of dog, Noah probably just brought 2 dogs, and they were able to reproduce to create all the breeds we know now.

    The Hebrew word used is “dag,” which appears 19 times in the Old Testament. My Hebrew isn’t as good as my Greek, but I will try my best to explain the “whale or fish” question. In general, “dag” is used in the context of “fish of the sea” (as opposed to “birds of the air” or “creeping things on the ground”). According to the lexicon, it means “fish.” This is the only verse where “dag” appears with “gadol” (great, large).

    The Greek phrase is “Kaytos mega” (great/large fish/whale). According to the lexica, “Kaytos” can mean “huge fish,” “sea monster,” “whale,” etc.

    The Latin is “pisces grandes” (big fish; not to be confused with the movie!).

    I don’t know if any of those languages have a word specifically for “whale;” “big fish” might be the closest they can come. Either way, it is a question of whether Israelites recognized whales as biologically different from fish. I don’t know, but a wiser mind may. Either way, I’m sure King Solomon would have (too bad his biology textbook never made it into the Bible!).

  33. @Concerned Seminarian #36
    Either way, it is a question of whether Israelites recognized whales as biologically fish.

    The Israelites/writer of Jonah didn’t say “whale” by your explanation so do we have to be concerned?

  34. @helen #37

    Concerned by what?

    I suppose I should clarify a bit: I’m not trying to suggest what the “great fish” actually was; we can’t know for certain unless we discover a Hebrew fisherman’s guide which explains what a “dag gadol” is. As far as I could tell from the lexica and parallel passages, “dag” can be used of anything which lives in the ocean: shark, whale, “leviathan,” squid(?), or even perhaps a 20,000-pound bass! The reason I said “whale” above was because most historical critics will take “dag gadol” to connote “whale;” whether that’s correct exegesis, I don’t know.

  35. Re: Jonah and the whale/fish/whatever.

    A miracle is a miracle is a miracle.

    j

  36. @Johannes #39

    Unless it was caused by a volcano! (oh, wait…)

    For those who don’t know, one of the more “common” theories in the fields of “scientific quackery” and TV documentaries to explain the plagues in Exodus is to try to tie them all to the after-effects of a volcanic eruption.

  37. I am in Great Falls and the church from which this group broke away is about six blocks from our church. The ironic thing (which this article does not mention explicitly) is that the Chapel of the Chimes in which this break away group is meeting is a funeral home. Insert your own joke here.

    Crist’s cheerful commentary to the contrary, it has been made difficult for churches to leave the ELCA here, even if they wanted to. According to an ELCA couple who joined our congregation, the active members of their congregation wanted to leave but, apparently, members of the congregation were literally dragged out of the woodwork (some of whom this active couple had never met before) for a voters’ meeting at which the motion to leave failed by one vote.

  38. @Pastor Steven Schlund #41

    It is sad that people resort to these kinds of underhanded tricks, even in church politics. One of my professors mentioned an incident in which his DP and a neighboring DP approached him about the possibility of starting a church plant in a building being vacated by an ELCA congregation. The two districts were going to give his church and the plant financial support while he served (for a few years) as pastor of both churches. It would have worked out very well, and most of the congregation members were behind the idea. However, the same thing happened where “members” who still happened to be on the books came in and spoke against it, so that it was defeated.

    I think all churches should have it in their bylaws that you have to be active for some length of time to be able to vote at a voter’s meeting.

  39. @Concerned Seminarian #42
    I think all churches should have it in their bylaws that you have to be active for some length of time to be able to vote at a voter’s meeting.

    One step further: people who have been dismissed from office for cause should not be used by district officers to gain possession of church property, as has now apparently been attempted in two LCMS districts, CNH and Northwest. [CNH tried to use the courts and lost after wasting a great deal of money; Northwest just used dishonesty & nepotism and is apparently succeeding!]
    How many more of these cases, I wonder, have not come to light?

    It won’t help to have rules in your constitution about voting membership if the voting membership is ignored by the district president, with the blessing of CCM rules!

    THe habits of the elca in regard to property are being adopted by lcms district presidents. Perhaps we should concentrate on cleaning our own house before elca’s?

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