Wyoming District President Responds to CSL Faculty Rebuke Letter

On behalf of the Wyoming District’s pastors our District President, Rev. John Hill  wrote and sent the following letter (and cover letter) in reply to the Concordia Seminary, St. Louis faculty rebuke of the Wyoming District pastors.

If you do not know the situation around the Summer 2017 Concordia Journal, Concordia Seminary, Wyoming and South Wisconsin District Resolutions and Faculty Rebuke letter, you can find them here.

Here is the cover letter [PDF]:

Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison, President of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod
Rev. Dr. Dale Meyer, President of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis
Rev. Dr. Charles Arand, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis
Rev. Dr. Brian Friedrich, President of Concordia University, Nebraska
Dr. John Jurchen, Concordia University, Nebraska
Rev. Dr. R. Lee Hagan, President of the Missouri District, LCMS
Rev. Dr. Richard Snow, President of the Nebraska District, LCMS
Rev. Shawn Kumm, Chairman of the Board of Regents, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis
Mr. Paul Schudel, Chairman of the Board of Regents, Concordia University, Nebraska
Pastors of the Wyoming District,

LCMS Dear Brothers in Christ, Greetings in Jesus’ name. Enclosed is an open letter that I ask you to include in the ongoing discussion regarding the Summer 2017 edition of the Concordia Journal. Our pastoral conference is, by its constitution, an occasional gathering which cannot dialogue as easily as a seminary faculty may do. However, by the encouragement, assistance and approval of our pastors I have written the enclosed letter on behalf of us all. It is my prayer that the letter will clarify our position, both for your own consideration and for the anticipated meeting between pastoral representatives of the Wyoming District, representatives of the faculty of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, and representatives of Concordia University, Nebraska.

I ask that you not mistake the fervor of the Wyoming District pastors for antagonism or pride. I pledge myself to act as pastor to them in keeping them focused upon the Holy Scripture and our confession of its doctrine, and in reminding them that our voice in the church at large is a voice that also serves for the love of our brethren. At the same time, I rejoice that our pastors are diligent to keep the Holy Scripture as Psalm 119 expresses. The great Advent text from Isaiah 40:8 is our teacher: “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” God bless and keep you all by the pure preaching of the Advent and Christmas Scriptures!

In Christ,

Rev. John E. Hill


Here is the letter to the CSL faculty [PDF]:

Dear faculty of Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis,

Thank you for your response and your expressed concerns to the Wyoming District Pastoral Conference’s Resolution condemning the false doctrine inherent in Dr. John Jurchen’s Concordia Journal article, “The Age of the Earth and Confessional Lutheranism.” We appreciate the time and hours you collectively put into answering our concerns.

You posit two concerns as to our Resolution, first regarding the approach to, and second the treatment of, the article. Please allow us to explain in the same order why we still find it necessary to insist on the correctness of our Resolution.

First, as to approach. You incorrectly cite Luther’s Catechism on the 8th Commandment in alluding to our Resolution as slander. First, slander is speaking an untruth. We spoke no untruth. Second, slander – as you employed it in your Open Letter – has to do with private altercations. This is no private matter. The sainted Dr. Luther explicitly and emphatically declares in his Large Catechism that nothing he says about private affairs should be taken to mean that we may not or should not confront public falsity publicly. In fact, he specifically mentions false doctrine as something that is public by nature and should be addressed publicly (LC I, 284). We did not post on blogs or the internet. We followed the brotherly approach of addressing false doctrine within the confines of our beloved Synod, in our District Conference. And we did so in brotherly love. It is a sad commentary on the situation in our Synod when professors take a public rebuke and condemnation as a personal affront and as contrary to the love that Scripture commands. God’s love is not the love of this world. We would commend to your reading our dear Savior’s words to St. Peter and to his beloved disciples in John 6, in Mark 8, and throughout the Gospels, where he strictly and directly condemns sin as sin. In the case of St. Peter, our Lord does so in front of the other disciples. He does not bring him aside and speak to him privately (Mark 8 :31-33, “He turned, looked at His disciples, and rebuked Peter, saying … “). And this because all of the disciples were affected by St. Peter’s vocal contradiction of God’s Word. Just so, we follow our Lord’s example in publicly condemning a public error. Cf. also Gal. 2: 14.

When you, in your Open Letter, express sadness that we did not come to Dr. Jurchen personally and individually, you ignore the fact that Dr. Jurchen and your seminary started a public conversation by publishing a public article, which we responded to publicly. It would be untenable and unproductive for the thousands of individuals offended by this public article to come to Dr. Jurchen privately and individually. Your publication of Dr. Jurchen’s article has started the public conversation in which we are now engaged.

Again, as to approach, you assume throughout your Open Letter that Dr. Jurchen’s article, and the statements we quoted from it, are somehow “unclear” or “confusing.” They are not unclear or confusing. They are not unclear even to our parishioners, who have come to us with grave concerns that our seminary and college accept the idea that the days in Genesis 1 are anything but regular days, as we presently experience the length of days. Dr. Jurchen expressly states that the LCMS should allow for the interpretation of days in Genesis 1 extending to an amount of time that aligns with modem theories of an old earth (CJ, 43.3, pp. 70-71). The Bible is very clear that the days of creation were normal days, as Genesis 1 shows together with Exodus 31: 17.

We do not need clarification about clear words. That is why we did not ask for clarification on this article. We know what the words say. And they contradict God’s Word. The proper response to a public contradiction of God’s Word is to call our brother to repentance, and since he is a teacher in the Synod, to inform the proper authorities about his error. This we did and we do in love.

Second, as to our actual treatment of the article, we did in fact discuss the article in Conference, requested quotations from it, and tabled another much more strongly worded Resolution precisely because it did not quote from the actual article and assumed things about it ( e.g. promotion of theistic evolution) which we were not willing to read into the words of the article. We took a measured and careful approach, again out of love for our brothers.

Again, as to the actual treatment of the article, our Resolution is specific in holding to the Bible’s clear words, as defended and stated in the Brief Statement of our Synod. When we say that the Scriptures do not allow for old-earth creationism and that the words of Scripture may not be taken to mean anything but the 24-hour days as experienced, we are faithfully presenting the clear position of our Synod, which stands alone on God’s Word of Scripture, as articulated in the Brief Statement.

We are therefore pleased to read that you unanimously declare your agreement with the Brief Statement on creation. But this also raises an obvious and important concern. Dr. Jurchen’s article uses the Brief Statement to say that the Synod has not taken a position on the exact length of days in Genesis or on the age of the earth (and by “age of the earth” Dr. Jurchen is talking about the categories of “Old Earth” vs. “Young Earth,” not about arguments over 6,000 vs. 20,000 years, as is seen in theories of skipped generations in the biblical genealogies of Genesis 5 and 10-11 ). What our Resolution condemns, however, is the assertion that old-earth creationism is consistent with the Scriptures or the Brief Statement, which is based on the Scriptures.

Your Open Letter therefore raises a concern as to this very point, since you confess the Brief Statement and yet ask us to retract our Resolution which upholds the Brief Statement and calls for repentance for denying the Brief Statement’s articulation of Scripture. Francis Pieper is very clear in his Christian Dogmatics that the length of days in Genesis is 24 hours (and neither he nor we have any wish to quibble about minutes). This also is the clear meaning of the Brief Statement. While we rejoice to see what Dr. Arand has recently written on concordiatheology.org, that not a single member of your faculty (nor even Dr. Jurchen) advocates day-age creationism and that you all believe the “most natural” and “plain” reading of “day” is “to regard it as an ordinary day,” the purpose of our Resolution is to address a public article, not the personal beliefs of members of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis or of Dr. Jurchen. More than this, the question before us does not yet concern outright advocacy or promotion of old-earth creationism, but whether this false doctrine should be allowed in our Synod. That is the point at issue in your publishing Dr. Jurchen’s article in Concordia Journal and our Resolution against it. We do not use the words “promote” or “advocate” in our Resolution, but instead simply quote from Dr. Jurchen’s article, which clearly allows for day-age creationism as an acceptable position in our Synod. And so our concerns have not been met. The article you published allows exegetical freedom for the false teaching that the world came about in immense periods of time and that the days of Genesis are something other than normal days.

Specifically, the Brief Statement states, “We reject every doctrine which denies or limits the work of creation as taught in Scripture. In our days it is denied or limited by those who assert, ostensibly in deference to science, that the world came into existence through a process of evolution; that is, that it has, in immense periods of time, developed more or less of itself.” Dr. Jurchen’ s article specifically allows for the interpretation that the world came into existence in immense periods of time. We have called on the appropriate authorities in Synod to reject this opinion. Openness is needed here. We are brothers in Christ We respectfully request clarification now, not from Dr. Jurchen, whose words are clear, but from you, the faculty of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.

You “unequivocally state that we hold to and teach in accordance with the Brief Statement’s paragraph on creation, both its thesis and antithesis.” Do you understand the Brief Statement to be saying that the world did not come about in immense periods of time and to be condemning and disallowing any interpretation that would say it did? If so, please join us in condemning Dr. Jurchen’s article and, as the faculty of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, which publishes Concordia Journal, retract this article “for its false teaching and for sowing discord among brethren.” If this is not how you understand the Brief Statement, that is, if you allow for the interpretation that the days of creation are immense periods of time, and you only reject the idea that the world came into existence in immense periods of time if this is stated with the evolutionary assumption that the world “developed more or less of itself,” then we again respectfully request that you make your position clear both to each other and to us and to the Synod at large. This is the brotherly, godly, and loving thing to do, so that there is no misunderstanding as to your position on Dr. Jurchen’s article and the interpretation of the Brief Statement. Allowance of false teaching turns into promotion of the same in due time. Dr. Jurchen’s article, published by Concordia Journal, allows false doctrine as an acceptable position in our Synod. This is, again, the point at issue.

This is a matter of conscience. You are professors in Christ’s Church and bear a great responsibility before God and his people. When our people are led to doubt God’s clear Word in Genesis 1, they are led down the road of doubting the clarity of all God’s Word. Our youth, in particular, need to hear a clear confession from the pastors and teachers of their Synod. Dr. Jurchen’ s article leads tender Christian consciences to doubt the clarity of God’s Word. It hurts them and their faith in Christ. We love our people. We love Dr. Jurchen. We love you, our brothers in Christ. And so we ask you to join us in removing the offense caused by this article and supporting us as we teach God’s children that his Word is clear and should never be doubted. God grant you Christ’s wisdom and humility in this matter.

In Christ,

Rev. John E. Hill, President

Wyoming District LCMS

On behalf of the pastors of the District


Dr. Arand’s blog posting referenced in the letter above may be found here.



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.


Wyoming District President Responds to CSL Faculty Rebuke Letter — 149 Comments

  1. @Jon Alan Schmidt #100

    I absolutely agree that God’s word is efficacious. It is the power of God unto salvation. This is one of the things that won me over to Lutheranism. That is why I homed in on infant baptism in a previous comment. As an American evangelical I did not have my infant children baptized and was thereby deprived of the comfort and peace that could have been mine.

    Having said that I believe that it is prudent for an evangelist to the people of Japan learn the language and culture of Japan. Likewise for anyone who has the heart to evangelize people of science.

    If you see a disconnect, once again, I suspect that you do not consider science to be either a language or a culture. And I continue to respectively disagree.

  2. @Jeff Stillman #101

    How would you suggest that the proclamation of the Law and the Gospel should be different to an English-speaking American scientist than to any other type of English-speaking American citizen? Which portions of Scripture should we share with one and not the other?

    I wonder if we are mixing up evangelism with apologetics. I agree that the latter task needs to take into account the other person’s presuppositions and thought patterns, but the Word of God itself is the same for all.

  3. @Jon Alan Schmidt #102

    For many years I have done all of my Bible reading from the Spanish RVR1960.

    There was a time when I grew weary of reading epistles written to problem churches. So I decided to read Paul’s epistle to the church at Philippi, a good church.

    I used the thumb indent on the edge of the bible to open it exactly at this point. The end of Ephesians was on the left page #1532 and beginning of Philippians was on the right page #1533.

    I ran my open hands palms down across both sides to smooth the paper. As I did this I was amused to see the following set off by itself on the upper left corner of the left page.

    “para que te vaya bien, y seas de larga vida vida sobre la tierra.” Efesios 6:3.

    This coud be loosely translated “May you live long and prosper.” (Star Trek anyone?) Due to page breaks it was physically disjointed from Epesians 6:2 and therefore presented out of context.

    The context is that of the commandment “Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise, that it may go well with you and that you might live long upon the earth”.

    Now consider the word of faith movement. Kenneth Copeland says that God does not want you to be poor. Benny Hinn says that God does not want you to be sick. Joels Osteen says that God does not want you to be unhappy or unfulled. And on and on.

    This theology of glory is buttressed by “May you live long and prosper”. I reject this theology in part because I refuse to break the commandment into two parts, ignore the first part, and raise the second part to the level of an independent major doctrine.

    Now let’s consider a law and gospel intrepretation of the biblical creation narrative.

    It was inspired by God (the creator) and written by Moses (the law giver). It ends on the seventh day and provides the justification for the commandment concerning the sabbath.

    I have found nowhere in the bible where six day creationism is ever seperated from the commandment concerning the sabbath. In the new testament it is never mentioned except by the pharisees as an excuse to persecute Jesus. But even they did not seperate six day creationism from the commandment concerning the sabbath.

    It appears to me that many in the LC-MS want to seperate the command concerning the sabbath from six day creationism, ignoring the command and elevating six day creationism to an independent major doctrine.

    If I object to the word of faith movement doing this to one command, why should I not object when the LC-MS appears to do something similar to a different command.

    I believe that the creation narrative and the commandment concerning the sabbath are inseperable. In my opinion that is an essentail part of a law and gospel interpretation of the biblical creation narrative.

    Now concerning the efficacy of God’s word. The Answers In Genesis crowd stresses the six days. I stress the words “And God said, and it was so”. Words that buttress the efficacy of God’s word.

    A sceptical scientist might scoff at six day creationism whether or not he acknowledges God. But when considering the possibility of a creator God, he might agree that if there is a God, his words should be efficacious.

  4. @Chris #92

    The point I was making is that Aquinas is a medieval theologian, not an early church father. His views on creation actually are the root of a lot of our modern problems. He, for example, did not think that animal death was a result of Adam’s sin. He’s wrong about that and a great many other things.

    The plain sense of Scripture is that the universe was created in six solar days about six thousand years ago. To say otherwise is to speak against the plain sense of Scripture. Nothing to which Scripture speaks (like the span of creation and when it happened) is adiaphora.

  5. @Rev. Charles Lehmann #104

    Rev. Lehmann,

    I apologize if there was any confusion caused by me. I did not mean to imply that Thomas Aquinas was an early church father, again, just that he was pointing out that there were many different views of creation from his reading of the early church fathers. I find this surprising as the early church fathers lived in the pre-modern scientific era, and didn’t have the old age of the universe from science to contend with like we do now and they still had philosophical and theological problems and disputes over specific parts of the creation narrative.

    I appreciate you pointing out that trouble you have with Aquinas on his view over animal death as a result of sin. I certainly do not think, nor did I mean to imply, that Aquinas is right about everything he ever commented on or is the final authority on all things biblical. Again, I was just trying to draw attention to the fact that on this specific issue of the age of creation, Aquinas appears to follow an important Lutheran hermeneutical principle of simply letting a question remain unanswered that is not explicitly stated in scripture.

    I also appreciate you sharing with me that you believe the Bible is explicit in this claim of the earth being 6,000 years old. Apparently, not all in the LC-MS church hierarchy do believe the same as it has never been made official church doctrine as far as I am aware of.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am not disputing that you are wrong on this point. I think it is a very reasonable conclusion to draw out of scripture. I myself definitely lean this way. My hesitation with creating a church dogma out of the genealogies contained in scripture is that to get this date of 6,000 years, you need to assume many more things about the genealogies than you do for other, more clear parts of scripture. It is not a simple declarative statement, like “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth..”, or “this is my body…”.

    At this point, I simply believe that God created the universe when and how he did. I still remain unconvinced that the when is recorded in scripture. I will continue to try and keep an open mind about it, though, and continue to research all sides of the issue as I am presented with more evidence. Thank you again for your comments.

    In Christ,

  6. @Jon Alan Schmidt #102

    I suspect that we disagree as to the extent to which apologetics and evangelism can be seperated. I have a sister who uses apologetics as her primary tool for evangelism.

    I was not born into a christian home. At a young age my family was evangelized by a gifted pastor/evangelist of the Evangelical Free Church of America. We remained in that church for 45 years.

    My mother drifted into Independent Baptist Fundamentalism through John R Rice’s Sword of the Lord publication. She had books by C H Spurgeon in her small library of christian literature.

    She ordered home delivery of milk instead of purchasing it in the grocery store so that she would have someone to witness to. The milkman and his family were lutheran. She kept at him until he became convinced that he and his family were not a true christians. At that point he quit his lutheran church and joined an Independent Baptist fundalmentalist church.

    Now suppose that you, as an apologist, have a scientist friend who has more questions than you can answer. So you refer him to the Answers In Genesis website. While there he stumbles upon Spurgeon’s teachings concerning what lutherans refer to as the means of grace (i.e. word and sacrament). He then comes back to you with questions about these issues.

    Will you then tell him that he can trust AIG concerning important things such as six day creationism but that you respectfully disagree with AIG concerning trivial things such the salvation of his soul? I hope not.

    My advice: Dare to be lutheran! Become an advocate for Law and Gospel, and Word and Sacrament. Do your best to avoid traps such as the one my mother fell into. Put up warning signs so that the unwary may avoid them as well, as I am doing here and now.

    Best regards, Jeff

  7. I love the creator. He reveals himself to me through his word and sacrament. Because I love him, I love his creation. I learn of his creation through the study of science. I have a degree in mathematics which is the language of physics.

    For more than 20 years I have been an avid amatuer astronomer. I delve into related fields such as cosmology, physics, and geology.

    Peter Tyson, editor in chief of Sky & Telescope, asked their science editor Camille Carlisle to write a piece because “… I was curious how an editor whom I respect so highly for her science-based skills and sharply rational mind could square faith and science”.

    Her piece ran in the June 2017 issue of Sky&Telescope. It included the following words.

    “I have heard, felt, and seen God – transcendent peace while reading Scripture, a Eucharist that at one moment is just a wafer and the next is a Presence radiating love so real I can almost see it shimmer, so powerful that I cry. God is real and he loves us passionately and tenderly.”

    Like her, I crave word and sacrament. She is Catholic. Unlike her, I understand scripture by rightly dividing it into law and gospel.

    While I may have pet peeves of my own, I try to subordinate them to three tasks that Jesus gave to his disciples: preach repentance from sin, proclaim the forgiveness of sin, perform acts of mercy in his name.

    I have been down the road which many in the LC-MS are pursuing. Here are the results that you may expect.

    1. Your six day creationists apologetics will win no arguments with those who are conversant in astronomy, cosmology, physics, and geology.

    2. Your association with the Answers In Genesis crowd will result in attrition of confessing lutherans to the independment fundalmentalist baptist movement.

    3. You will create and exsacerbate schism among those who remain in the LC-MS.

    4. Some of your followers will come to respect a convicted felon, who rejected Christ’s teaching concerning “render unto Ceasar”, who dragged his wife to jail with him , and when released became divorced and married a divorcee, and now advocates this as a soluion for marital problems.

    5. etc.

    Are you willing to accept these unintended consequences? I hope and pray not.

    You are running towards the things that I am running away from.

  8. @Jeff Stillman #107

    God’s blessings Jeff,

    I think you bring up some important points surrounding apologetic methods. I think that apologetics and evangelism do often get conflated in Lutheran circles, and in a sense, this is a good thing. Apologetics is just reasoned evangelism, after all. There are important distinctions in methods that can be made, though. To simply say to someone who on scientific grounds doesn’t accept the Bible as a trustworthy document that you should trust it because it is the word of God is not going to convince anyone.

    On this very particular issue over the age of the universe, I think that Lutherans have an opportunity to be a unique voice in the dialogue. This is the direction that I hope Dr. Arand takes his forthcoming blog posts on the topic. Currently, there are old earth creationists, who want to find ways to make their scientific conclusions work with the Bible. There are young earth creationists who want to make their biblical conclusions work with science. There are very uncommitted groups, like the Roman Catholic church that say you can have a variety of interpretations (literal, figurative, topical, etc.) leading to even the acceptance of theistic evolution as a viable option. I think that currently, Lutherans have a chance to stand apart from this entire crowd by speaking clearly where the Bible does and admiring we don’t know. Because we adhere to sola scriptura to norm all of our knowledge, we can rule out many things that are unscriptural (e.g. theistic evolution), but we can’t say that we know an answer to the specific question of how old creation is because the Bible explicitly doesn’t say.

    I admit that I may be wrong in this assessment in concluding that the Bible doesn’t give us an age for creation, but as many have pointed out, this is what we are hearing from many other pastors and is what is recorded in church documents (FAQ and Brief Statements). If this is not true, I hope that we get more formal direction out of these discussions, so that we all can be on the same page with the question of the age of creation.

    On the apologetics side, I would say that there is no reason to let the age of creation bother those among us who are more scientifically inclined. First off, all truth must agree with all truth, so there is no way that science and the Bible can ever truly contradict each other. We may see contradictions right now, but in our limited state of knowledge, these contradictions are just apparent and would dissolve if we knew more. When we do science, we are just studying God’s creation, after all. Because of the inductive nature of the scientific method, all of our conclusions are probable ones; they are subject to change given new and better evidence. We may simply be mistaken (and I think likely are) on some of the scientific conclusions surrounding topics of cosmogony right now.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love science and study it often. It has very important limits, though, and most people (especially scientists) do not study enough philosophy to understand these limits. Science can’t prove everything. Those who think so have fallen prey to scientism, which is a self-refuting position as you can’t prove with science that science is the only way we can know things! You need to use philosophy, proving we know things via other methods than just the empirical method.

    With a proper philosophical perspective and using proper theological methods, there is no reason to let science be a roadblock to the gospel.

  9. I am also reposting a few things I posted before in Dr. Edmon’s article “On Miracles and Science” about the limits of scientific knowledge as they seem pertinent here too. Again, I love science and think it a wonderful tool for humanity. It has limits, though, and we shouldn’t use it to drive our theology.

    Another few things to keep in mind about our current scientific understanding of the universe:

    We have no idea what 96% of the universe is. We just call it dark matter and dark energy.

    We have no idea how or why inflation happened (or if it really did). This is a short period of time at the beginning of the universe when the universe expanded at an incredible rate (some say faster than the speed of light, but this is somewhat misleading). This is just a complete mystery that we are supposed to accept because the math works.

    We have no idea what quantum mechanics is actually saying about reality. There are dozens of different interpretations of what any of it actually means, all of which paint a completely different picture of what reality is.

    We have no idea why the universe has a cosmological constant (the current rate of expansion) that is finely-tuned to 1:10^120

    There has been a recent reproducibly crisis in science. We shouldn’t just doubt all sciencetific findings, but science is no where near infallible:

    “According to a survey published in the journal Nature last summer, more than 70% of researchers have tried and failed to reproduce another scientist’s experiments.” BBC article “Most scientists ‘can’t replicate studies by their peers” Feb. 22, 2017

    Furthermore, there is always the discussion going on in science too if we are hitting the limits of what we can test and will just be left without an ultimate explanation and no way to peer “into” the universe any further. Reasonable Faith article “Have We Reached the End of Physics?”, March 13, 2016

    There are so many others one could list. I find it kind of sad that some people put so much stock and certainty into the idea that science proves we don’t need God to explain reality when every day we are really just learning how much more we don’t know.

  10. @Chris #108

    There is a saying: “What is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander”.

    Christians may say to scientists (groups that overlap by the way): “Go away and don’t come back until you have all of your ducks in a row and you agree among yourselves”.

    Scientists might then respond to christians with the same words.

    St. Paul the aposotle was willing to admit that even he “saw through a glass darkly”. Christian apologists need to acquire some of this humility.

    I have come to be at peace with science while at the same time remaining at peace with God, ala Camille Carlisle. Science is not the enemy of christianity.

    In the March 1997 issue of Natural History magazine, Steven Jay Gould wrote an article entitled “Nonoverlapping Majisteria”. As an aside, this issue also contains a fascinating artice entitled “New Spirits for Old” which is a must read.

    In his article Steven Jay Gould reports:

    “A very sincere and serious freshman student came to my office hours with the following question that clearly had been troubling him deeply. I am a devout christian and have never had any reason to doubt evolotion, an idea that seems both exciting and particularly well documented. But my roommate, a prosoletizing evangelical, has been insisting that I cannot be both a real Christian and an evolutionist. So tell me, can a person believe in both God and evolution?”

    Steven Jay Gould’s thesis is that one does not have to choose between science and religion because they are nonoverlapping majisteria, and that was his counsel to that student. Remain a christian. Study and enjoy science.

    I am not asking anyone to agree with Steven Jay Gould, nor am I defending him. I cite this as a general example that science and scientists are not the enemy that many christians believe them to be.

    Why must troubled christians turn to Steven Jay Gould for counsel in matters such as this?

    Go into any bookstore. The science section is relatively free of any heresy concerning our faith. But the christianity section contains much damnable heresey. For example, does anyone know Pastor John Hagee’s teaching concerning Jesus as the Jewish Messiah?

    If we insist on literal interpretations whenever the bible speaks about creation, must we thrown in the towel and join Rob Skiba’s Flat Earth cult?

    In recent days, the Democratic party thought that they could take the high road on sexual harassment and that they could control the narrative. It backfired on them … horribly!

    No! You do not bring something unique this dialogue. No! You will not be able to control the narrative. Yes! It will backfire on you … horribly.

    Will people such as I be forced to recant in order to remain in communion within the LC-MS. If so, after we recant, like Galileo we will probably mutter the words “and still it moves”.

  11. “I love science.” This is the refrain of our ages. And while it may not apply to the posters who are saying it here, and this is not meant to be a comment accusing them, it is the common refrain of our ages that reveals both a deification of science and a misunderstanding of what science even is. Again, Chris says much in this area, so I know those that both don’t deify or misunderstand what science is may repeat this phrase, so my comment is not a reflection on him or others that might repeat it. But too often scientists fall prey to the old conceited view that they are a god or that science is god. Any good scientists will not present their findings as truth, infallible, or certain. I’m reminded of the physics lectures from Feynman, which anyone can listen to online, and his comments about how even the general rules of physics that most take on faith as true, when examined closer, break down. There are clarifications, exceptions, etc. with the models and explanations physics gives us. Not to fall into the pattern, but science is great, but it isn’t everything that the “I love science” crowd thinks it is. It might be difficult to evangelize to a scientists, but woe to you that try to evangelize to someone who “loves science” but doesn’t even grasp what it is and what its limitations are.

  12. @ Jeff #110


    Thank you for response. A few quick thoughts.

    1. Nonoverlapping magisterial (NOMA) is a philosophical dead end.
    2. You can’t do science without important philosophical presuppositions, such as the uniformity of nature. The empirical method is greatly informed by the philosophy of David Hume and is rife with philosophical problems. You cannot make sense of science without formal causes and teleology, and yet Hume tried to do just this. You are left with the denial of all causation, and yet the entire scientific enterprise is built up from trying to study causation from a neutral standpoint. It just doesn’t work. I recommend Edward Feser’s The Last Superstition for more on this.
    3. Lutheran hermeneutics is the main reason why the reformation happened. To deny these principles is to cease to be Lutheran.

    I am not accusing you of anything. I honestly don’t know exactly what you are getting at with a lot of your statements. I can say that there appears to be a general sentiment of scientism, especially with your references to NOMA, and this is a very dangerous philosophical foundation to try and build your theology on.

    Please forgive me, for I mean no disrespect nor am I trying to be combative. The modern world has lost sight of so many key teachings of the church and I think we need a serious philosophical reawakening and discovery of our classical theism roots to overcome these challenges. Furthermore, the Lutheran hermeneutical method and the distinction of the theology of the cross vs. the theology of glory I do believe give us a unique voice in this conversation, and most importantly, it is the most biblical voice.

    God’s peace,

  13. @Justin Walker #111


    Very true comments. I can see how people fall into the trap of putting so much faith in science because it works so well and has given us so much. None the less, people do not realize that they are placing a large amount of “faith” in it.

    Sadly, most scientists also truly do not know the limits of science and use the term “prove” in conjunction with scientific conclusions far too often.

    There is nothing wrong with liking science. It is a good and proper vocation that God has given us. We do need to keep it, like anything, in proper theological and philosophical perspective. Right now, I am becoming more convinced each day that we desperately need to regain a proper philosophical perspective to help combat the postmodernism and scientism that seems to drive the culture today.

    Thanks and God bless!

  14. This is my understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ (I Cor 15:1-8)
    1. Christ died for sins according to scriptures.
    2. He was entombed.
    3. He was raised on the third day according to scriptures.

    It is difficult to evangelize because Christ crucified is (I Cor 1:23)
    1. a stumbling block to Jews,
    2. and foolishness to Gentiles,
    3. not because the target of our evangelism efforts is a scientist or loves science.

    Perhaps this simplistic version of the gospel could/should be expanded by mentioning additional things such as those contained in the creeds (i.e. Apostles Creed, Nicene Creed, Athanasian Creed).

    The people at AnswersInGenesis use six day creationism as an apologetic aid to evangelism. The people at ReasonsToBelieve use scientific creationism as an apologetic aid to evangelism. They use the same Bible to support their disparate views.

    Beyond there things get really wierd.

    Rob Skiba uses the Bible to promote Flat Earth and his version of Hebrew Roots as an apologetic aid to evangelism.

    Jailbird Jim Staley uses the Bible to promote Christian Identity as an apologetic aid to evangelism. You can ask Rev. Chris Rosebrough about this theological trap.

    I could go on and on but hopefully you get the picture.

    Four years ago I retired from an almost forty year career as a software developer. I used IBM’s High Level Assembler Language (HLASM) to develop software for large scale IBM maniframe networks. The software I helped develop is used worldwide by the largest corporations in the world. Some have paid over a million dollars to license this software.

    To survive for decades in this demanding environment I strictly adhered to the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid). I cannot help but bring this same principle to my other endeavors and passsions.

    With 15 years of lutheranism under my belt I have become passionate about Law and Gospel, and Word and Sacrament.

    You can convince a Reformed apologetisist to add efficacy to their list of attributes concerning scripture. After great effort I have managed to accomplish this. This is not enough. The efficacy of God’s word is not a truth to be believed, it is rather a reality to be experienced. We experience this reality in Word and Sacrament.

    The Reformed use the veracity of God’s word as an apologetic aid to evangelism. You can bring a horse (unbeliever) to water but you cannot make him drink (believe).

    I have essentially given up on apologetics as an evangelism aid. I prefer to rely upon the efficacy of God’s word. Towhit: Tell trouble sinners that their sins are forgiven them for Christ’s sake!

    I am currently working my way through Walther’s Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel. What a treasure!!

    For those who were shocked or offended by my comments, I beg your forgiveness. This was not my intent. But your replies did nothing to change my mindset.

    Blessed Advent and Merry Christmas to all.


  15. Bravo to Pres. Hill and his fellow pastors for this outstanding letter. I think it does a great job of addressing the issue in a way that is strong, effective, and still loving. CSL’s letter of rebuke is an outrageous affront. The false teaching contained in their journal is dangerous and the pastors had a duty to condemn it. Again, kudos to those faithful men. Merry Christmas to all. May God bless all of us and preserve us in the true faith and right doctrine to life everlasting.

  16. @James Gibbs #70

    James Gibbs wrote:

    Consider this poll on a FAR more controversial issue than the age of the earth: http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/religious-denomination/lutheran-church-missouri-synod/#beliefs-and-practices Scroll down to the very last bar graph on the page. If you console yourself by saying, “Those are LCMS laymen who don’t attend regularly or just need good instruction in doctrine,” think again. Lots of people in the pews sit there on Sunday or read blogs like BJS and hear you go on and on about “secular science,” and they are mentally shaking their heads.

    I’ll try to keep my vitriol to a minimum but I may not be able to control my sarcasm. Do you really think BJS confessional Lutherans would be shocked by this Pew survey? The reason this blog exists is because of the disunity rife in the Synod. The reason the ACELC was formed is because of disunity in the Synod. What are you trying to say? That we better tread lightly lest we upset half the Synod with our unenlightened medieval notions? There are many reasons, as I see it, for all the disparate views in our Synod on creation among which is the god-like influence science and science fiction have had on our collective psyches in public schools and the media. I grew up during the cold war space race and moon landings, watching Star Trek and James Bond. Our kids grew up watching Bill Nye the Science Guy. I remember being enthralled with Carl Sagan’s “award-winning 13-part PBS television series, Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, which became the most widely watched series in the history of American public television.” Juxtapose the role televangelists played in the corruption of American Christianity insulting the intelligence of many, not to mention clergy in the various Lutheran churches who were pressured by their enlightened Seminex peers agitating with their higher criticism of the Bible. Given a choice between Carl Sagan and the cadre of Oral Roberts, Jimmy Swaggart, and Jim and Tammy Faye, no rational person would choose the latter. My own intelligent mother never stopped believing in macroevolution all the while singing in the choir at her local LCMS church. Some LCMS members I have known have no problem working old earth theories into their personal theologies but stop short of accepting same sex marriage and ordination of women or homosexuals. No local LCMS church has complete agreement on anything political, cultural or theological; we get that. Does that mean we capitulate and stop trying to convince and influence those around us? God calls His church to pursue unity; unity of spirit in the bond of peace. Are we supposed to read the results of the Pew survey and scratch our heads and say, “Well, I guess we better stand down and just politely agree to disagree agreeably”? I can’t see that happening and neither can you. So what is your agenda coming to BJS? I feel badly for you because you are threatened by confessional Lutherans. Your doctrinal starting point seems to be that historical doctrine is unsettled and uncertain. You have questions that you have already answered and that have been answered by BJS but not to your satisfaction. Are you truly interested to know what BJS thinks or are you just trying to poke holes and challenge in defense of your agenda? You speak of not going anywhere without a fight, of not being silenced or kicked out. Then we are at an impasse. We are at an impasse in the LCMS, each one clinging to his own doctrine and practice. I am on the verge of leaving my local congregation over the disunity of those who want church to be what they think and say it is. Our congregation has a superficial or, one might say, a faux peace among a diversity of beliefs. Answers to these hard questions will determine to what extent your church has unity of spirit in the bond of peace.
    • Are we united behind the sanctity of human life beginning at conception and ending in natural death?
    • Are we united against same-sex marriage and other forms of sexual immorality?
    • Are we united in regard to evolution and man caused climate change?
    • Are we united behind the Lutheran Confessions as an accurate exposition of Holy Scripture? If so, why is it that we embrace women elders, open communion, and contemporary worship, and other “gateway” practices?
    Think of the exhortations of St. Paul for church unity in 1 Corinthians 1:10 and Ephesians 4:3. I do every time I go the Communion rail.
    We’ve known that the LCMS is not monolithic in doctrine and practice and probably never will be unless someone perfects the art of herding cats.
    Finally, I’d like say to you and others who sign on to this blog with the intention of clearing the air with your own agendas: Don’t be so thin-skinned when we don’t lay down to your extensive learning and reason. You’ve obviously invested a lot of time in preparing a defense of your worldview in an opposing venue such as this one. You should be congratulated for your courage to speak out in the arena of ideas. We should all be careful not to resort to the predictable dodge of playing the Pharisee card or the 8th Commandment card or the “Best Construction” card, so on, so forth. We engage vigorously here at BJS in monitored dialog. There is much at stake. Take your best shot and use the Gamaliel principle to judge:

    But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.

    We have been inundated with science and technology my entire life. I am hardly a Luddite but I don’t let them dictate church doctrine and practice.

  17. I like your letter, accept for the Gamaliel principle, which is really a church grwoth type principle. If it works it is of God. When I was at CSP years ago I approached a prof about false teaching in his class room, he said, “Well, I keep praying about it, and the kids keep flocking in, so obviously God is blessing my ministry.” He taught psychology. Outward numbers and acceptance is not necessarily a sign of God’s blessing.

  18. @Mark #117


    As far as “my agenda,” I disagree with the majority view on this website: that the days of creation have to be interpreted as ordinary days, and that the earth/universe is only millenia old. I don’t think Scripture, properly interpreted, demands that we believe either, and I see overwhelming scientific evidence for an ancient earth and cosmos.

    Vigorous debate? Fine. Not rudeness, like “jb” and others have sometimes shown me.

    But by speaking of those of us with “your own agendas,” you seem to be saying there is a party line at BJS, and those who disagree with that viewpoint really shouldn’t be here. Well, that kind of begs the question of who is right when we disagree! “Agenda” is kind of a loaded term, don’t you think? Maybe “viewpoint” would be better…

    But I appreciate your praise of the courage of those who wish to publicly disagree over issues. And, you are absolutely right–coming to agreement on issues like these will take a long time!

  19. @James Gibbs #121
    “I don’t think Scripture, properly interpreted, demands that we believe either, and I see overwhelming scientific evidence for an ancient earth and cosmos.” I am just wondering James, do you see overwhelming scientific evidence for the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting? Do you see any evidence at all for the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting?

  20. @James Gibbs #121

    Thanks, St. Stephen, for your insight above.

    James, I’m glad you’re here to challenge the status quo of orthodox belief. Challenges to the truth only strengthen it and make it shine all the brighter. My agenda is to promulgate what Confessional Lutherans believe, teach, and confess and, just as important, what we condemn and reject. I will agree with you to replace agenda with the word, viewpoint. We can “demilitarize” that word, if you like. However, you have been given solid answers by kind-hearted, intellectual commenters but remain unsatisfied. Okay. You complain of opposition to your ideas and highlight it as harsh, unfair treatment. You wonder if BJS really wants input other than the usual preach-to-the choir group-think remarks. We’re all sinners here. It’s inevitable that offense is given and offense is taken in a venue like BJS because we sometimes forget that we’re not in a saloon throwing punches around. I guess I’m wondering what you are trying to accomplish with your Sisyphean task of disagreement with the majority point of view. Where does all this debate lead in your way of thinking? Do you want your ideas to be embraced by the commenting community of BJS? Are you trying to gain acceptance of your arguments or affirmation of your uncertainties? Is there a narrative that you hope ultimately prevails in the Church? Do you want to change minds because it is unreasonable in your view to believe otherwise unenlightened ideas right out of the Dark Ages? Since there are no winners or losers in proving something that cannot be proved or disproved, save by the Word of God, we only end up where we began in this debate. I personally cannot intellectually reconcile an old earth to Romans 5:12 et al, and apparently you can. We are at an impasse that may not be resolved this side of glory. But I don’t want your assertions to prevail in the Church because she is under the constant assault of false teaching as it is and faith can be a fragile commodity and snuffed out. 2 Corinthians 5:7 means that sometimes we cannot trust what we see with our own eyes. I’m primitive enough to believe in the evil of this world, our own flesh, and the devil and in demonic deception. With the one exception of His revealed word, do we try to figure God out? No, He is inscrutable. Why should we expect to figure out and get to the bottom of His created universe, especially after the fall of humanity into sin? If God is eternal, immutable, almighty, omniscient, omnipresent, holy, just, faithful, good, merciful, gracious, and the epitome of love then why would I want to second-guess Him in His clear word? I pray God’s wisdom for me, you, and all who engage on BJS. Christ’s peace to us all.

  21. @Mark #123

    You wrote,
    “But I don’t want your assertions to prevail in the Church because she is under the constant assault of false teaching as it is and faith can be a fragile commodity and snuffed out.”

    I say ‘amen’ to that. I remember being told in my secular high school and college that the biblical creation narrative was false and that a world wide flood never occurred. Christians have long been belittled by the world for holding to these beliefs. It was refreshing to learn in LCMS churches and schools that a plain reading and understanding of Holy Scripture can be trusted. I hope and pray that that in the future the belittling of those who trust a plain reading of the Bible doesn’t come from inside the LCMS.

  22. @James Gibbs #121

    > coming to agreement on issues like these will take a long time!

    How can that be when it was done decades ago?

    You just don’t agree with the position of this church group.

  23. @St Stephen #122

    “St. Stephen,” you seem to be saying that my old-earth convictions mean I don’t believe ANYTHING in Christianity unless I see scientific evidence for it. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    (I do believe in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting, btw.)

    I don’t even think it’s possible for there to be scientific evidence for or against any of those things. Forgiveness is an interpersonal situation, and God’s forgiveness is something we receive from an invisible, supernatural Deity, so it cannot be perceived by the scientific method. Studying a million corpses and a billion graveyards cannot rule out the resurrection, because it is a one-time, miraculous event, and, by definition, beyond science. No astronaut can travel to Heaven, so NASA can never disprove that, either. You get my point.

    As far as the history and age of the earth and universe, science has a lot to say, since evidence of “deep time” is abundant in the stars, the rocks, etc.

    I also happen to believe that there are legitimate, plausible interpretations of Scripture that leave the question of the age of the earth open. Combine that with the evidence for its antiquity (the earth’s age, that is), and you can see my position clearly.

    If Scripture leaves a question open, and science has evidence which can help answer that question, I see no problem in principle. That’s why I accept an “old earth.”

  24. @Mark #123

    Mark, you feel my beliefs are heterodox. I don’t. I don’t see the Brief Statement as Holy Writ, and would like to see it amended. To many, that is tantamount to spitting on the Flag. I obviously disagree.

    We have changed doctrinal positions a number of times in the history of the Synod, and the sky has not fallen. Buying insurance was once regarded as sin. Women voting in civic elections was regarded as contrary to St. Paul. Walther said the slavery-abolition movement was un-Christian. We once taught that engagement (“betrothal”) was tantamount to marriage in the eyes of God. We decided as a church body that those interpretations were not demanded by God’s Word after all.

    Obviously, Francis Pieper rejected an old earth when he wrote the Brief Statement.

    He also believed (as stated in Vol. I of his Christian Dogmatics) that Copernican astronomy was contrary to Scripture, that there is an ocean of water beyond the stellar heavens, and that the heavenly bodies have no purpose beyond helping man on earth mark days, seasons, and years.

    None of us reject Copernicus, I seriously doubt many believe in a literal ocean beyond the stars, and I don’t think many LCMS clergy would have a real problem theologically if it turns out that “E.T.” is real and God has a purpose for worlds beyond our own. (C.S. Lewis’s fine space trilogy of novels springs to mind on that last point.)

    Saying the earth is “old” is, in my opinion, not contrary to Scripture. Lots of people, obviously, think it is the nose of “the heresy camel” poking under the tent!

    I plan to respond a bit more to you later.

  25. @James Gibbs #127

    > We have changed doctrinal positions a number of times in the history of the Synod, and the sky has not fallen. Buying insurance was once regarded as sin. Women voting in civic elections was regarded as contrary to St. Paul. Walther said the slavery-abolition movement was un-Christian. We once taught that engagement (“betrothal”) was tantamount to marriage in the eyes of God. We decided as a church body that those interpretations were not demanded by God’s Word after all.

    Nothing you cite proves that any doctrine held was wrong. Much insurance at the time of that opinion was fraudulent. Much of the suffrage movement was collateral to the abortion movement and other anti-nature philosophies. The idea of unisex policy in society put much pressure on agitators for unisex polity in the church. The abolitionist movement per se was radical and leftist; there was much bad “Christian” doctrine distorting all issues of servitude and needed to be fought. Many abolitionists were Christian heretics. Our church correctly pointed out that Scripture does not categorically condemn servitude. We still teach that engagement is binding.

    Your old-earth fallacy doesn’t surprise in light of your other fallacies.

    You don’t have to be reckoned as “bad” or anything else in order to recognize that you hold a different teaching from the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod. Feel free to start your own church group.

  26. @James Gibbs #126

    – forgiveness is interpersonal
    Scripture and our doctrine declare that God has justified the entire world in Christ. This is sometimes referred to as “objective” justification. You refer only to “subjective” justification.

    – forgiveness received only from invisible Deity
    Forgiveness is received in the visible and physical Elements of the Sacraments.

    – resurrection beyond science
    Christ was physically resurrected and could be seen and touched. A scientific experiment could be conducted. Is He really here? I shall ask two others in the room if they see and hear Him. And we shall determine whether we can grasp His hand. Then, we shall record our results. There shall be a historical and uninterrupted chain of documentation from here through the future. Science.

    – age of earth and universe
    cannot be measured. No experiment that _directly addresses_ the question can be conducted. You may object to God that this is unfair, but it’s how it is and any claim to superior science is void. Theories and belief systems are unavoidable in this question, no matter where you stand. Your confidence is _entirely_ on the consensus of those calling themselves scientists _in this age_. You rely on many constants that may not be constant. You ignore even 50-year-old physics that challenges many such constants in extreme conditions beyond what we commonly can observe. You exploit lay misperceptions of the stability of our understanding of physics. You ignore the philosophical requisites and foundations of “science” itself.

  27. @Mark #123


    “Challenges to the truth only…make it shine all the brighter”–come on, pal. We are disagreeing on interpreting Scripture, not pitting Good versus Evil. Have a little humility. We could both be wrong on our interpretations!

    “…kind-hearted…commenters”–a few, such as “Chris,” Paul Edmon, a man who was concerned about the Masons, and a lady who discussed animal death before the Fall, yes.

    Precious little kindness from the others, most of whom dismiss me out of hand as a heretic. Pastor Scheer’s initial response to me was to say I proved his point about the “dangers” of old-earth discussions like the Jurchen article. I have been cussed at, told to repent, and told I have made my own reason an idol. Argument I expect. Abuse and contempt, no. Not in a Christian forum. And, when I point this out, I have been told that Luther himself spoke this way to his opponents–as if that justifies it!

    As to what I am trying to accomplish–several things. One, I want to express my opinion, for what that’s worth. Free speech, yo. Two, I know there are lots of folks who read this website, and many of them have the same concerns I have. I want them to know they are not alone in their questions and concerns. Three, I would love to convince others here I am right (or be convinced by them I am wrong). Four, I hate bullies, and there are lots of them right here. Five, my original reason was to speak up for the original Jurchen article, and to say it helped encourage me.

    As far as “unenlightened ideas” from “the Dark Ages”–I never said any of that. Some “Dark Ages” ideas were good ones! I do think the young-earth viewpoint is mistaken, and I assume most Christians believed it in “the Dark Ages,” but its historical provenance is not what I care about. I just think it is not true!

    As far as Romans 5:12–again, it only refers to human death, not that of plants or animals. Lots of articles on OEC websites discuss that famous verse. But–the fossil record is real, and Noah’s Flood cannot explain most of it. So–if God is real and is the Creator (and I believe he is both!), then it seems to me that fossils are prima facie proof of death before the Fall. Otherwise, we are trying to make the facts conform to our expectation of what God would or would not do–something Job’s friends tried to do!

    As far as walking by faith, not by sight–I believe the context is about longing for heaven, which we cannot yet see. I don’t think Paul was saying we should ask old-earth (mainstream) scientists, many of whom are Christian, “Who are you going to believe–what your (lying) eyes and (untrustworthy) reason perceive, or what (my fallible interpretation of) God’s infallible Word says?” Plus, if our eyes are untrustworthy, how is that not an argument anyone could use against anything?

    I also think that the “man’s fallible reason” argument can be carried too far, resulting in terminal skepticism toward all science or other “secular” knowledge. That’s not how we live in the real world.

    In addition, it’s funny how often I hear “man’s fallible reason” used when I have responded to someone. It’s an objection that can literally be applied to anything, including what we think the Bible says! We have to trust our senses and our own judgment on something, or we can never know anything!

    As far as God’s clear Word–that’s begging the question. Does the Bible clearly say 6,000-10,000 years? That’s what we are arguing.

  28. @LW #124

    I would never say the Bible was false. Misinterpreted, yes. For example–years ago, young-earth creationists would often claim Genesis 2:5-6 meant it never rained before the Flood. Even Answers in Genesis rejects that interpretation now.

    Yes, the Flood happened.

    I have never intended to belittle anyone who holds to a young earth. I just believe that notion is mistaken, and wish to convince others that an old earth is Biblically “okay.”

    A “plain reading” or face-value reading is not always the correct one. Otherwise, why have commentaries? The clarity of Scripture does not mean no passages are difficult–think of the Ethiopian eunuch’s question to Philip the Deacon.

    The basics of the faith are what is clear. That we are all God’s good creatures–that is clear. How long ago the world was created–not so much.

  29. @mbw #125

    Decades ago, official statements (such as the Brief Statement) were adopted by majority vote (not unanimity). Many folks in the LCMS questioned a young earth back then, and many question it now. Of course, that makes the questioners ill-informed (in the eyes of most on BJS).

    The LCMS has “held loosely” to a young earth for many decades, without insisting on nailing down things like 24-hour days of creation. Now folks want a harder line in the sand, and those who are more flexible (“soft on heresy” to BJS) are being called on the carpet like poor Dr. Jurchen (who was never an old-earther himself) for daring to allow a little interpretive liberty.

    What I don’t agree with is the position of hard-line YEC’s in the LCMS.

    This is my Synod, too.

  30. @mbw #128

    @mbw #128

    That’s more historical than “scientific” evidence, but–good point.

    I guess what I meant was that you can’t use a laboratory experiment to prove or disprove God’s ability to raise the dead.

  31. BJS webmasters: is there a way to subscribe to updates on new posts and new comments except for comments by specified commenters?

  32. @James Gibbs #133

    > What I don’t agree with is the position of hard-line YEC’s in the LCMS.

    It has to be kept pretty simple; young or old; fit the Biblical timeline or not; a simple position need not be pejorated as “hard line.” Putting it that way is a prejudicial tactic in and of itself.

    As to what is yours, and what’s mine – the “synod” doesn’t fit either of those constructions. But it does have a history, and historical doctrines.

    Anything you can cite about waffling on doctrine (like less than unanimous support) can be taken as consistent with general doctrinal _decline_; citing it isn’t evidence that you are right.

    Many would still try to convince you. I think you waste their love and patience.

  33. @mbw #129

    “Insurance was fraudulent”–no, that wasn’t the issue. Buying insurance (even from a reputable firm) was taught to be “not trusting the Lord will provide”; i.e., breaking the First Commandment. Kind of like “using doctors is not trusting the Lord will heal you.”

    The old suffragettes were actually against abortion (many of them). And “unisex” is anachronistic when applied to the Progressive-Era struggle for the 19th Amendment. (Plus the fact that “unisex” is pejorative and unfair–if I want women to be treated fairly, does that mean I want to abolish all distinctions of sex? That’s just slander.)

    And the main point is still this: it is NOT a sin against the Bible for women to vote! Paul wasn’t even talking about the government when discussing men and women.

    And–this just points out the fundamental misogyny behind a lot of talk of “Biblical manhood and womanhood.” “The order of creation” really is, for some people, just a euphemism for the oppression of women. Any denomination that tells adult American citizens in this day and age they have no right to vote in civic elections simply because of their sex is unworthy of their allegiance!

    Who cares if some abolitionists held nutball ideas? As Mr. Lincoln said so well, “If slavery is not wrong, then nothing is wrong.” Walther defended slavery, like Luther defended anti-Semitism. Both men were horribly wrong! We need to let go of defending the darker side of beloved leaders!

    “The Bible does not categorically condemn servitude”–then why did God free the Hebrews from bondage? Why is enslavement constantly spoken of as a calamity? How can someone who believes in the Golden Rule own a fellow man? Why did Christians such as William Wilberforce lead the fight against the slave trade?

    You know that no sane LCMS spokesman today would dare equivocate on the truth that slavery is evil! And rightly so!

    “We still teach engagement is binding”–uh, where, exactly? Do we really teach that breaking an engagement can only be on the grounds for a “Biblical” divorce (as we used to)? Do we really teach that engaged couples who have sex before the wedding aren’t breaking the Sixth Commandment, but only the Fourth (as we used to)? My wife and I attended Lutheran Engaged Encounter in 1990, and I totally agree with their philosophy of “better a broken engagement than a divorce.”

    Why don’t YOU start your own church group–where you can tell people to give up all insurance, tell women to stay out of politics, tell prospective black members that the Bible doesn’t condemn slavery, and grill people with broken engagements about their personal business?

    I’ll stay in the LCMS–a sane, healthy, forgiving version of Christianity!

  34. @mbw #130

    Okay, I’ll let everything go here except this one point: if you research mainstream science (not “creation science”) on the age of the earth and universe, you will find evidence aplenty that simply fits better with an ancient cosmos than with one only thousands of years old.

    (Check out https://letterstocreationists.wordpress.com/2014/09/07/some-simple-evidences-for-an-old-earth/)

    It’s not that the evidence isn’t clear–it’s that people move heaven and earth to avoid the implications of it.

    Only when that evidence is unmistakable do people start rolling out the foggy “arguments” about “assumptions,” “man’s fallible mind,” “philosophy,” etc. In other words, (a) you claim science backs a young earth. Then, when that’s shown to be false, you suddenly (b) become skeptics about all science. Then, you (c) appeal to mystery (how can we figure out the infinite God, etc.), and, finally, (d) accuse your opponents of “denying the clear word of Scripture.”

    Of course, some people just go straight to (d). Uglier, but more straightforward.

  35. @mbw #140

    You’re welcome for the discussion! I enjoyed it!

    As far as “another side”–be glad to hear it. But I still feel no guilt for buying insurance, I’m still proud my mom was an active member of the League of Women Voters, Lincoln is still my hero, and I would tell my daughter to break her engagement in a heartbeat if she had any serious doubts about her intended.

    And–I still think the earth is “old,” and that that is OK Biblically. 🙂

  36. @mbw #141

    Again, I wasn’t clear enough (I guess).

    I should’ve said that the scientific method cannot RULE OUT (all-caps for emphasis, not shouting, btw) miracles, since they are by definition beyond nature (which science studies).

    Scientific or historical evidence FOR a miracle (such as the eyewitness accounts of the Resurrection recorded in the NT) are, obviously, not impossible of conception. Sorry I was not more clear.

    As far as Scripture’s “observations”–of course, the Bible is true. But the Bible was not written with what we think of as “scientific precision” in mind.

    Jesus said he would be “in the heart of the earth” for “three days and three nights,” but we don’t take him to mean his tomb on Holy Saturday was in the center of the earth, nor that the earth has a literal heart. Also, if the traditional chronology of the Passion is true, then he spent only two nights in the tomb–Fri. and Sat. The fact remains–he rose bodily, just as he had predicted.

    Some things should be taken literally, and others not. Case in point: the “firmament” of Gen. 1. Job 37:18 would seem to indicate that the ancients thought of it as a solid dome or canopy, holding back the “waters above the firmament” which Dr. Pieper thought were an actual ocean beyond the stellar heavens.

  37. @mbw #136

    Dr. Jurchen, who is a total young-earther, said in an article that someone (not himself) wrestling with the age-of-the-earth question MIGHT be allowed to interpret the days of creation as eons, since “24 hours” is never actually spelled out in our Synod’s official doctrinal statement.

    For THAT, the pitchforks came out, and he was forced to backpedal.

    I’d call that pretty “hard-line.”

    As far as historic doctrine–you say we should cling to it, always. I argue one particular point may be in error. You condemn my position. I cite four examples of LCMS teaching we no longer follow. My point remains: just because something is historic doctrine does not make it ipso facto immune to criticism.

    “Love and patience”–fine, whatever. To convince me, please answer my points–don’t just say I’m denying Scripture, etc. Condemnation does not equal refutation.

  38. @James Gibbs #126
    ““St. Stephen,” you seem to be saying that my old-earth convictions mean I don’t believe ANYTHING in Christianity unless I see scientific evidence for it. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
    No, James, I merely am inquiring as to how a scientist deals with these things, but things aren’t always as they “seem” to be.
    “Nothing could be further from the truth.” Really? Nothing? I don’t believe you.

  39. @St Stephen #146

    “St. Stephen”:

    If I misunderstood your initial response to me, I apologize. It sounded to me the other day that you were saying I refused to believe any article of faith unless science has endorsed it. I just re-read your initial response, and here’s what I would say now:

    I do believe in divine forgiveness, the resurrection, and in eternal life. I believe in those things because (a) the Bible tells me about them, (b) my parents and Sunday-School teachers taught me about them, and (c) I think much historical evidence and philosophical argument makes Christianity plausible. (I suppose I could think of other “evidences,” but those spring to mind right now.)

    I agree with you that things aren’t always what they seem to be. Lots of people thought Jesus was just another prophet back in 1st-century Palestine–he was more than that, obviously! Science tells us that, contrary to common observation, the earth is not motionless and the sun doesn’t circle our planet. Sometimes beloved celebrities are revealed to have led hidden lives of debauchery. Lots of ordinary folks we meet every day have “skeletons in the closet.” The list goes on.

    I’m not sure what you meant by your last remark, “I don’t believe you.” I hope you are not accusing me of lying about not demanding scientific evidence before accepting articles of our Christian creed. Lots of folks (I hope you are not one of them) seem to think that, because I disagree with a “young earth,” I don’t believe in any of the articles of our faith.

  40. @James Gibbs #147
    “I’m not sure what you meant by your last remark, “I don’t believe you.” I hope you are not accusing me of lying about not demanding scientific evidence before accepting articles of our Christian creed. Lots of folks (I hope you are not one of them) seem to think that, because I disagree with a “young earth,” I don’t believe in any of the articles of our faith.”
    No, I am not accusing you. It was tongue in cheek, but what I was getting at is the common expression “nothing could be further from the truth”; how does one test that scientifically? Perhaps you would you prefer I just take your WORD for it, i.e., take it on faith?

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