Thank you President Harrison.

Harrison-web“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.”

Matt Harrison

Found over at:

http://wmltblog.org/2015/01/regarding-a-recent-decision-of-a-panel-not-to-proceed-with-charges-regarding-a-public-false-teacher-in-the-lcms/

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

Thank you President Harrison. — 116 Comments

  1. @Brad #48

    Brad, I agree that the texts present themselves in a particular way. That is actually my point. They do not present themselves as modern day type scientific texts. And in the case of Genesis 1, it presents itself as poetic.

    I also agree that we need to take into consideration the history of interpretation. The Rabbinical Council of America has this comment: “In light of the ongoing public controversy about Evolution, Creationism and Intelligent Design, the RCA notes that significant Jewish authorities have maintained that evolutionary theory, properly understood, is not incompatible with belief in a Divine Creator, or with the first 2 chapters of Genesis.”

    In a sense, it is not reasonable to rely on the early church fathers because they did their interpretation without the benefit of modern day scientific discoveries. Nevertheless, the early church fathers held a diversity of opinion with respect to Genesis 1-11. Some of them read it literalistically and some of them read it allegorically.

    St Basil the Great insisted that the scriptural account of creation is not about science, and that there is no need to discuss the essence (ousias) of creation in its scientific sense. Others followed a more allegorical approach, such as St Gregory of Nyssa who understood Genesis 1 to teach a rudimentary form of evolution, with the perfected creature as the final goal of evolution.

    Brad, you equate the Doctrine of Creation with a creationism that rejects any form of evolution. That is not what this doctrine is about.

    You may be surprised that I have not heard Jon’s arguments before, but since I have not, I am curious as to when this argument emerged. Can you provide me with a time frame (year or range of years) when such an argument was initially made?

    I will repeat to you what I said to Jon: If you want to carry on this conversation privately, don’t respond here. Instead, send me a message via Facebook or give me your e-mail address. I am certainly open to dialogue and discussion on whichever forum you choose.

  2. Frank Rothfuss: And yet you seem to agree with me that Genesis is not a scientific document.

    Of course – Genesis clearly does not rely solely on empirical investigation by means of repeatable experiments conducted by fallible humans; it is divine revelation.

    Frank Rothfuss: I’m not sure that you can make a compelling case for reading Genesis 1 as an historical document either. It is poetic. That seems pretty clear from reading it in Hebrew or in translation.

    I am not able to read Hebrew, but I suspect that Brad is, and he obviously disagrees with your assessment. In any case, why would being poetic preclude also being historical? Are you familiar with “The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Tennyson? Even “The Star-Spangled Banner” by Key is a poetic description of a particular historical event.

    Frank Rothfuss: First of all, a literalistic reading of Genesis 1 and 2 creates a contradiction: in Genesis 1 the animals were created before the man and in Genesis 2 they are created after the man.

    I guess it is my turn to address an argument that I have not encountered before. Genesis 2:19 in the ESV says, “Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast …” with a footnote stating, “Or And out of the ground the LORD God formed“. I take it that you favor the latter translation; but even if we grant that, it can be seen as simply stating a fact, rather than necessarily indicating a temporal sequence. It is considered good practice when interpreting any text to assume that it is not self-contradictory, as long as it can be reasonably construed that way.

    Frank Rothfuss: A literalistic reading also creates a contradiction in what God says in Gen. 2 (that “in the day that you eat of it you shall die”) and what actually happened. They did not die. This problem only occurs, however, if you take “death” here as physical rather than spiritual.

    This argument is more familiar. I notice that you left out a key word in your quote: “in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” In other words, as soon as you eat of it, your death is inevitable. Death became certain for Adam and Eve when they ate the forbidden fruit; that is when they began dying. If they had not eaten, they would have lived forever – obviously contrary to evolutionary theory.

    Frank Rothfuss: It is in a spiritual sense that Paul uses the term in Rom. 6:23.

    Do you have an argument for this, or just the bare assertion?

    Frank Rothfuss: So do you teach a six 24 hour day creation? How do you account for things like dinosaurs and trilobites and other evidence of a much older world?

    I addressed this already; “things like dinosaurs and trilobites” are only “evidence of a much older world” if we make certain assumptions.

    Frank Rothfuss: You ask for theological explanations for hundreds of millions of years of suffering and death. That assumes that there was no death in the animal kingdom prior to the Fall. I don’t find any Scriptural basis for this assumption.

    So you do, in fact, believe that suffering and death were part of God’s original, “very good” design for the universe, rather than a consequence of human sin. I don’t find any Scriptural basis for this assumption, either. Where is there evidence in Scripture that there was death in the animal kingdom prior to the Fall?

    Frank Rothfuss: And what did those carnivorous animals eat before the Fall if they didn’t eat other animals? Or were they herbivores before the Fall and then evolved into carnivores?

    Humans were strictly herbivores before the Fall – possibly until after the Flood. I see no Scriptural reason to assume that any other animals were carnivorous originally.

    Look, there is probably no point in us going back and forth with these kinds of arguments. Think of it in terms of narrative – Scripture tells one story about origins, and secular science tells another. I simply find the former much more plausible than the latter.

  3. @Jon Alan Schmidt #2
    Jon, thanks for your thoughtful reply. Let me take up the issues you raise one by one:
    1. Scientific: When I say that Genesis is not a scientific document, I mean that we cannot read it as if it provides scientific answers. In other words, Genesis 1 cannot be read as if it gives a scientific explanation about how God created the world.
    2. Poetic: Even in translation, one can see the poetic elements in Genesis 1 (e.g., there are verses and refrains). Hebrew poetry is characterized by parallelism, and there seems to be a lot of parallelism in Genesis 1. I agree that poetry often does describe historical events, but it does so differently than an historical document. I am not suggesting that God did not create the heavens and the earth. The issue is how God did it. As a poetic description of creation, Genesis 1 reveals more about God than it does about the mechanics of creation. It reveals a God of power and order. Theistic evolution offers a valid reading of this poetic account. To read Genesis as a document which trumps scientific or historical data is a misuse of a poetic account.
    3. Gen. 2:19 – the verse begins with a waw which is often used to mark a sequence of closely related events. The context and the pattern of waws in Genesis 2 suggests that this is not simply to be understood as a coordinate marker (“and”) but as a sequential marker (“then”). This interpretation is confirmed unequivocally by the subsequent narrative which clearly places the creation of the animals between the creation of the man and the creation of the woman.
    4. Surely: The reason that I left out the word “surely” in quoting Gen. 2:17 is because it simply is not there in the Hebrew text. (Yes, you are at a disadvantage in not being able to read Hebrew.) Therefore, your whole counter argument is based upon a word that is inserted in some translations – perhaps as a way of mediating the inconsistency for those who take a literalistic interpretation of these texts.
    5. Romans 6:23 – In vss. 20-23, Paul is contrasting death and life. He makes it clear that he is not talking about physical death or physical life by adding the adjective “eternal” to life. This is a clue that he is also speaking about eternal death.
    6. 6 days: So, Jon, does this mean that do you believe in a six 24-hour-day creation? How does that square with your literalistic interpretation of Genesis 1?
    7. Suffering and death: yes, saying that there was or was not death in the animal and plant kingdom prior to the Fall is based on two different assumptions. Since the Scriptures do not directly answer this question, it cannot be used as an argument against evolution. That was precisely my point.
    8. Here is the fundamental disagreement: you believe that there is a conflict between the Scripture and science. I do not. In fact, pitting science against the Scriptures is problematic, as the Roman Catholic Church learned in the Renaissance. If science proves that the sun does not revolve around the earth, then we have to understand Joshua 10:13 in light of science. If science proves that the world as it is came to be through a process of evolution, then we have to understand Genesis in light of science. This does not put science over Scripture any more than using the rules of grammar puts grammar over Scripture. They are both tools of interpretation.

  4. Frank Rothfuss: If science proves that the world as it is came to be through a process of evolution, then we have to understand Genesis in light of science.

    Science has not proven that the world as it is came to be through a process of evolution. It cannot prove such a thing, even in principle, because it can only draw conclusions about the past – especially the distant past – by making assumptions that cannot be proven, even in principle.

    Like I said, there is probably no point in us going back and forth with these kinds of arguments. Blessings to you.

  5. @Frank Rothfuss #3

    Frank,

    I think if you step back a bit, you’ll see how tortured your hermenuetics are of Moses’ Hebrew, Paul’s Greek, and of the Fathers, as well. You’ve twisted the Genesis Hebrew into a contradiction that doesn’t exist, so that you can fix it with your evolutionary theory. You’ve contorted Paul’s Greek so that fits your evolutionary theory. You’ve cherry picked the Fathers, to find substantiation for your evolutionary theory. You’ve quoted the modern liberal RCA to find substantiation for your evolutionary theory (which is nearly as laughable an exercise to reflect orthodox and historic Judaism, as quoting the ELCA to reflect historic and orthodox Lutheranism).

    The common factor, I think, is your wholehearted subscription to evolutionary theory, and your bent knee to the scientific establishment. You’ve put something you call science into a place of divinity, granting it the caprice to discard or morph the Word of God. This is the classical error of eisegesis, which we’ve warned seminary students about for many years– reading into the text what you want to get out of it, rather than getting out of the text what it actually says. Science has no more proven materialistic evolution, than it has been able to silence the mathematicians, physicists, and biologists who point out the practical impossibility of evolutionary probability (even on their exaggerated timescales for the age of the universe, let alone the earth.)

    If the BJS crew wants to establish a new thread for an exhaustive exposition of the original languages relative to Genesis and Romans, we can continue this there. Of course, there are plenty of good books in print to continue such studies, but my guess is that you’re not really interested in study– rather, you seem motivated to convert Biblical Christians into slaves of secularism. Liberal Christianity’s penchant for jumping on the secular bandwagon of evolution is ill fated, not least because the theory of evolution is increasingly demonstrated to be illogical, irrational, and unsubstantiable.

    But of course, the ultimate point at issue, is that we who have been given the Word written, must stand before the Word Incarnate, and give an account of our entire lives in light of it.

  6. @Brad #5
    Brad, do you have anything specific to offer in support of your arguments and your accusations? I think if you step back a bit, you’ll see how tortured your hermeneutics are.

    Show me where I have twisted the Genesis Hebrew? Show me where I have contorted Paul’s Greek. Show me how I have cherry picked the Fathers (step back and you will see that I said the fathers held a diversity of opinions – which goes to your implication that they all agree with you). If you have a problem with the RCA, show us where their understanding of Genesis and rabbinical teaching is flawed. You are quick with the accusations and make sweeping generalizations but you offer nothing of substance. Do you think that blowing hot air causes us to tilt at windmills?

    As for what I believe, you misunderstand me as much as you do Scripture – I do not subscribe to the evolutionary theory, I merely contend that it is not incompatible with Scripture. I do not bend the knee to the scientific establishment or put science over God, I merely recognize that science is a way of “thinking God’s thoughts after him.” When it comes to eisegesis, your unsubstantiated claims in interpretation are more eisegetic than mine. It is the classical error of accusing the other of one’s own tactics.

    I take no issue with your “bottom line” about the written and the incarnate Word of God. So this can hardly be the “ultimate point at issue here.” Once again, you seem to suffer from a case of misunderstanding.

    I’ll repeat it again: if you don’t want to continue this conversation here, then don’t respond to my posts here – take it up with me via e-mail.

  7. @Jon Alan Schmidt #4
    Jon, I never claimed that science has proven that the world came to be through a process of evolution. I only said “if.” But for argument’s sake, let’s assume that you are correct: evolution cannot be proven. That also means that it cannot be disproven. Which is my point. You cannot make scientific issues a matter of doctrine.

    I don’t understand why you think discussing this issue has no point. It is a real issue in some corners of the Church and therefore deserves to be discussed. To talk only with people who agree with you is really what is pointless.

  8. Frank Rothfuss: Jon, I never claimed that science has proven that the world came to be through a process of evolution. I only said “if.”

    Your statement was, “If science proves that the world as it is came to be through a process of evolution, then we have to understand Genesis in light of science.” Since you seemed to be arguing that we have to understand Genesis in light of science, I understood you to be claiming that science does, in fact, prove that the world as it is came to be through a process of evolution. Without that premise, the conclusion does not follow.

    Frank Rothfuss: But for argument’s sake, let’s assume that you are correct: evolution cannot be proven. That also means that it cannot be disproven. Which is my point. You cannot make scientific issues a matter of doctrine.

    I see at least two problems here:
    1. If evolution cannot be disproven – if it is not a falsifiable theory – then it does not qualify as science at all, at least according to Karl Popper’s commonly cited definition.
    2. Doctrine is not limited to issues that can be proven or disproven in the scientific sense; on the contrary, it primarily concerns articles of faith.

    Frank Rothfuss: I don’t understand why you think discussing this issue has no point. It is a real issue in some corners of the Church and therefore deserves to be discussed. To talk only with people who agree with you is really what is pointless.

    I was not saying that, in general, “discussing this issue has no point.” My statement was, “there is probably no point in us going back and forth.” You made your case, I made mine, and neither of us is likely to convince the other. Again, blessings to you.

  9. @Frank Rothfuss #6
    Your “twisting” of the Hebrew comes on account of the literal Hebrew text saying: Dying you shall surely die – the word for death appears twice along with some verbiage giving the understanding that it isn’t immediate fall cold to the ground death – but the dying process leading to death has begun. As for Genesis 2 saying something regarding man being created before the animals, that is also incorrect. Had – is emphasized, and ought to be translated as a pluperfect – showing it was a previously done or past action done earlier. The animals had been created, and now God was bringing them before Adam to be named. No contradiction there.

    The context of Romans 6 is dealing with both spiritual and physical life and death. If we are to say the wages of sin is death is purely spiritual, then we are ignoring everything Paul states in Chapter 6 regarding the resurrection of Jesus Christ and eternal life which is both spiritual and physical as the resurrection from the dead is a bodily resurrection as much as it is a spiritual resurrection, unless you are suggesting that Paul is a gnostic?

    I’ll slightly step off topic to give some food for thought- As far as scientific theories regarding the age of the earth or the age of the universe – If I purchase a relic’d guitar, does that make it old – or just having the appearance of being old? When God creates – there is going to be the appearance of age – a lot of it out of necessity. Adam and Eve were mature adults when they were created. Plants were fully grown, trees were full grown. Animals were mature. The very creation is given the appearance of age. Even placing the lights in the heavens – the stars must necessarily appear to be old in their recent creation otherwise we wouldn’t have light from the stars at night – given the amount of time it takes light to travel immense distances. Light from the nearest star (obviously aside from the sun) takes something like 4 years to reach earth – so the sky would have been pretty dark for the first four years of the creation unless God created a universe that though being young, appears to be much older than it actually is. Of course, that is apologetics and what not. Higher Criticism seeks to create drama in the Scriptures where it actually doesn’t exist. The whole JEPD and two creation accounts non-sense, that is just liberalism attacking Scripture for the purpose of undermining the faith which we confess.

  10. William, the idiomatic phrase (“dying you will die”) or a variation of it is found more than two dozen times in the Pentateuch. In most of these cases it is used to identify the legal penalty for breaking a law of God. While it can be translated “surely,” as a way of expressing a certainty, it never suggests that the dying is a long process (as in “you shall begin to die”). Then there is the phrase “this very day.” This phrase makes it clear that this verse does not mean “today you shall begin to die.” This verse is not talking about a process or something that will happen in the future – it is talking about something that would happen that very day. At least this is what a literal interpretation would require.

    Talk about twisting the Hebrew, your attempt to make the creation of animals in Genesis 2 prior to the creation of man flies in the face of the context and the cohortative verb “make” in vs. 18 (as in “I will make”). This is future action not past action.

    And I gather that you are postulating that God created an old world. That is a possible interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2, but it is not the only possible interpretation (nor is it, I would suggest the best interpretation). It is based on some uncertain assumptions and looks a lot like an attempt to prove a predetermined understanding of how God created the universe.

    As for Romans 6, Paul regularly uses the same term to refer to different (but often related) things (e.g., his use of the word nomos (“law”) in Romans. In this section, as I said, the context and content clearly suggest that Paul is speaking about spiritual death and life. Nothing gnostic about it. But you seem to be inclined to “twisting” yourself, and then accusing others of doing it.

  11. We need a synod president’s “blue ribbon task force,” if you will, to undertake a thorough review and revision/replacement of the entire DRP process. And/or, while that massive undertaking is being worked on, we could just do a “system restore” to go back to the pre-1992 adjudication system. The DRP got bad under Bohlmann in 1992 and got worse under Kieschnick in 2004, i.e., the “Benke Protection Act of 2004,” which is what we have now.

  12. @Charles Henrickson #13
    Does anyone (perhaps Rev. Noland) have access to the pre-1992 Bylaws, such that the relevant portions could be posted here for review and discussion? Again, the DRP is in a completely different section from the procedures for expelling members and officers; were both portions altered in 1992? Have there ever been provisions for removing Synod officers from office, short of also expelling them from membership?

  13. @Jon Alan Schmidt #14

    When I say the DRP needs to be overhauled, that’s shorthand for “the whole kit and kaboodle,” DRP and everything related to it, including Bylaw 1.8 “Dissent,” 1.10 “Dispute Resolution of the Synod,” 2.14 “Expulsion of Congregations or Individuals from Membership in the Synod,” and 2.15 “”Expulsion of a District President or Officer from Membership in the Synod.” The whole hot mess needs to be reviewed and repaired.

    A print copy of the 1989 Handbook is easily found on many shelves. But I’m not sure it could be found online.

  14. I thank God for our current leadership! My lefty friends are circulating a rumor (wishful thinking?) that President Harrison was duly counseled and pulled his post from anywhere on the web. A quick search revealed that, far from removing the call to faithfulness, he had actually strengthened his statement with the assurance that he was not abandoning his vocation, but would instead use it and any power available to him to return Missouri to the right doctrine. Now I see that this past Friday he posted another strong call to faithfulness on the official LCMS website, not just his personal Facebook page. Alleluia! The next COP meeting ought to be very interesting…

    “We must revise our system of ecclesiastical supervision and adjudication. A church that holds to the inerrant scriptures and a quia subscription to the Book of Concord, cannot have public teachers for decade after decade openly rejecting the church’s teachings and or acting against them. There are church bodies where women are pastors, the Bible is not regarded as infallible, sexual preferences are optional, etc. etc. But this is not the LCMS, and to the extent I have anything to say about it, won’t be the LCMS.” — Matt Harrison

    http://wmltblog.org/2015/02/reflections-of-a-synod-president/

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