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.

Comments

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

  1. @Jonathan #50

    Thanks for your generosity in saving me some time. I appreciate it. But I don’t think you can conclude that the WY response is quite so focused on the “litmus test” statement. There are a lot of words there.

    About the second part. Without wanting to call you a legalist, which I’m not, I think it is a bit lawyerly, eh, to conclude what you do, or to reason the way you do. I don’t doubt you might want to say WY is being lawyerly as well. I’m not going to read all of this, but I don’t think they are basing their position much on MO canon; more on “Scripture and plain reason.”

    There’s a lot here that is not about the MO synod. In my limited life experience, simplifying it to the max, there are two camps, and we see the faithful camp as reckoning regular days and years starting at Genesis 1 to now.

    Just for me, this whole thing is very disheartening and further erodes any wish I had that the MO synod could be a leader in Christendom.

  2. @Jonathan #50

    I keep getting the feeling that people are talking past each other. I’m not quite clear we are all arguing the same point.

    I don’t follow how the resolution’s citation of Dr. Jurchen’s statement about not presenting the age of the earth as a litmus test for orthodoxy leads to them insisting that it is a litmus test. The authors of the resolution seem to agree that a “precise” age of the Earth is not known and not a litmus test. The citation to Dr. Jurchen’s statement on this is in the context and in relation to his claim that one can have an elastic interpretation of the period of time for the days of creation, whereas the resolution is saying that the interpretation is 24 hours.

    From this, I would think the two main discussion points are: (1) whether the creation days are to be interpreted as 24 hours and (2) is an affirmative to the former question a litmus test for LCMS membership.

    Can you clarify what your position on questions 1 and 2 are for me? (with the understanding that I am more interested in your answer and explanation for question 1) Thanks.

  3. About my comment on one statement in Okamoto’s article. That statement was staring at me when I opened the PDF and scrolled randomly. It was not a quote and contained enough context for me to comment on it.

    After skimming the article, I am sorry to say that it’s just shallow. Mentioning “science” without distinguishing the different popular overloads of that word is not very helpful. And a one line mention of deeper issues isn’t enough. He shallowly addresses shallow conceptions of “science.”

    I may have missed it, but I wonder how a universe that doesn’t “appear autonomous” would appear. Without addressing that, saying that things appear autonomous doesn’t mean anything! Would a non-autonomous universe have a cartoon hand of God intruding here and there, like in old Terry Gilliam cartoons (in Monty Python episodes)? I don’t mean to make light of it, really.

  4. Rev. John E. Hill, President

    Wyoming District LCMS

    wrote a very fine letter. It is greatly appreciated! However in his opening comments we note that he says he be a pastor to the pastors in the district. This is the WELSian view of the ministry. He is to be first among equals. But then does he have a divine call?

  5. He says, “I pledge myself to act as pastor to them …”

    I’m sure he meant this as a simile. He will act toward them the way (as) a pastor should. I noticed that too. But this is how I took it. I think it’s a fine way to speak.

  6. @James Warble #55

    Can’t any pastor act as a pastor to anyone on mutual agreement as long as it’s not parish turf war / sheep-stealing?

    Sounds like many pastors in that district trust and respect their DP.

    Wish it could be so everywhere.

  7. Wake up the echoes…

    The church “cannot afford to waste time on incessant internal purification at the expense of the lost in the world.” – Jerry Kieschnick, synodical president.
    “We have not the luxury of time and energy spent on incessant internal purification at the expense of the eternal destiny of the souls of men and women for whom Christ died, but who know not His name and have accepted not His saving grace.” – Jerry Kieschnick, synodical president.
    “My concern is that we can spend so much time in incessant internal purification that we do so at the expense of the eternal destiny of people who are dying every minute.” – Jerry Kieschnick, synodical president.
    “People, this is NOT a game. Our incessant internal purification at the expense of the eternal destiny of the souls of men and women for whom Christ died must stop!” – Jerry Kieschnick, synodical president.

    The Kieschnick acolytes are alive and well at CSL.

    We can wrestle with these issues, even as we keep in mind that God is not limited in his creative work.

    In other words, let’s don’t put God in a box.

  8. @Steve #17
    Steve said:

    The point of all of my examples above is that Lutherans approach the Bible in faith, as inspired and inerrant, and allow Scripture to interpret Scripture. In each case, seeming contradictions are resolved.

    That’s not entirely correct. While it is true that Confessional Lutherans walk by faith and not by sight, they do not presume to resolve seeming contradictions in every case. As a matter of fact, we live comfortably with Biblical paradoxes. We speak of the concepts of “both/and” and “now/not yet” both of which are not conducive to scientific observation. It is the radically Reformed theologians that must neatly tie all the loose ends as they see them in Scripture in order to fill in the blanks so as to make faith more rational and to align it with their reason. They pick and choose which verses are to be taken literally and which are to be taken as allegory, interpreting REV 20 as a literal 1000 years but dismissing Christ’s institution of his body and blood in His supper as mere symbolism. The issue with interpreting Genesis 1 as allegory or as scientifically explainable is old and hackneyed. How long did the resurrection take? Three days? What’s the scientific explanation for the resurrection? You either believe God’s word or you believe your eyes and explain it all away. Then you go and take your place among the skeptics. You can’t have it both ways. The wall that you run into is that Genesis 3 and evolution, theistic or otherwise, are incompatible and mutually exclusive. Combining the two worldviews is intellectually dishonest and self-serving and is to be rejected by those who claim the Church catholic as their own.

  9. @Roger Fehr #54

    If pastors don’t have pastors, then our polity is contrary to the Word of God. All Christians need pastors. That’s why God established the office.

    However, I’m fairly happy that my DP most definitely does have a divine call. He is a parish pastor. Part of me thinks that all pastors in our district should just transfer to his congregation. 😉

  10. @Justin Walker #52

    Hi Justin,

    Here is the relevant part of what I quoted earlier. I’m removing the other condemned statements for the sake of space:

    “WHEREAS… [W]e must not present the appearance that the age of the earth is a ‘litmus test’ for orthodoxy”; and
    “WHEREAS these words of Dr. Jurchen contradict the Holy Scriptures, deny their clarity, and are not to be tolerated in the Church of God, much less excused or defended;”

    I don’t know how the condemnation of the quoted statement could be any stronger. It can’t be “tolerated in the church of God” [!] — it can’t even be”excused or defended” [!!]. This is an outright rejection of the quoted statement in the strongest terms.

    And the rejected statement is that the age of the earth is not a “litmus test” for orthodoxy.

    A “litmus test” is itself a binary — the point is that you use it to make sure that something either is what it is or not.

    This means that the only way to take this rejection of the quoted statement is as an affirmation of the binary opposite.

    Which is all to say that, yes, rejecting the idea that something is not a litmus test is to assert that it is a litmus test.

    This is a new and novel doctrine, and it’s being promulgated by a district. The idea that the age of the earth is a litmus test for orthodoxy is simply false. This is the big news.

  11. @Jonathan #60

    Young Earth Creationism has been a litmus test for orthodoxy ever since Moses wrote Genesis 1-3 (or since Adam taught it to his sons… depending on how you take the toledoths). That the Wyoming District agrees with Moses (and Adam) isn’t news (or shouldn’t be).

  12. @Jonathan #60

    Jonathan,

    To say “we must not present the appearance that the age of the earth is a litmus test for orthodoxy” is to dismiss the clarity of Genesis 1 and the literal 6-day creation as open questions, outside of what it means to be orthodox. That’s what’s being condemned. It’s called Gospel Reductionism.

  13. @Jonathan #60
    @Rev. Charles Lehmann #61
    @Elizabeth Peters #62

    No one in this dispute is denying six-day creation. As I see it, the debate is over two other issues, neither of which is directly addressed in the Brief Statement or any other LCMS doctrinal resolution, as far as I can tell.

    (1) Must “day” in Genesis 1 be understood as a 24-hour period of time? The repetition of “evening” and “morning,” and (especially) the statement in Exodus 20:11 directly tying the days of creation to the days of the week, certainly point in that direction.

    (2) How long ago did the six days of creation take place? The geneaologies in Genesis 5 and 11 suggest roughly 6,000 years, based on when most scholars believe that Abraham lived.

    The question, then, is whether these plain-sense interpretations rise to the level of “litmus tests for orthodoxy.” The Wyoming District evidently thinks so.

  14. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    “Jonathan,” in his comment #60 above, and probably prior comments, illustrates why trying to discuss theology with anonymous people who disagree with the fundamental principles of our theology is a Sisyphian task (i.e., any progress made is quickly erased till you are back where you started).

    The purpose of civilized conversation about topics of “first things” importance is to bring about mutual concurrence on the chief matters, and to agree to disagree on subsidiary matters. In Lutheran theology, we identify the chief matters as “doctrine” and the subsidiary matters as “adiaphora.” Mutual concurrence is necessary for a stable and productive society.

    Either “Jonathan” disagrees with the purpose of civilized conversation, or he disagrees with the fundamental principles of our theology, possibly both. It could be that he is ignorant, but he seems intelligent and appears to believe that he is smarter than his discussion opponents here. My guess is that he doesn’t understand how Lutheran theology works and is ignorant of the commitments of our LC-MS church-workers.

    The fundamental principles of LC-MS theology are stated in “Article II. Confession” of our Constitution. I believe that the WELS and ELS, and many other smaller Lutheran synods, agree with that Article, though we differ in other areas. Article II. states that “The Synod, and every member of the Synod, accepts without reservation.” Stop there.

    So to be clear, the Constitution of the LC-MS is directly binding on all of its clergy and other ministers, including rostered parochial school teachers, rostered deaconesses, etc. It is also binding on congregations as a whole. We don’t demand this “binding” in order to restrict discussion, but in order to keep peace and harmony.

    Laymen of congregations are not directly bound by the LC-MS Constitution, but by whatever their congregation states is necessary for membership there. They are normally under the disciplinary authority of their pastor and elders, and can be held responsible for things that they say or do to upset the peace and harmony of the church.

    Back to the Constitution. II.1 “The Scriptures of the Old and New Testament as the written Word of God and the only rule and norm of faith and of practice.” Stop there.

    Because I am an ordained and rostered pastor of the LC-MS, I have to follow this statement and accept it as a fundamental rule of my theology.

    As it applies to the present controversy, I must accept that what the Scriptures say about the process of Creation is true. Furthermore, I must accept that such Scriptures are “the only rule and norm” of “faith,” i.e., they define any doctrine that pertains to Creation. Creation is a major doctrine of the church (see the first article of the Creed). So any point where Scriptures speaks on the matter, I must agree with it. Where it is silent, I may speculate (personally, I tried to avoid speculation), but I cannot say that such speculation is doctrine or that other people must be bound by my opinion.

    Scriptures speak clearly on the matter of the six-day-normal-day creation. Therefore I must accept that, absolutely. The day-age theory is therefore absolutely excluded. I promised to do this when I became a minister of our synod.

    LC-MS rostered church-workers who advocate the day-age theory are in violation of their ordination/commissioning vows.

    This is not because it is a litmus test. It is because Creation is a major doctrine of the church, it always has been so since the writings of the prophets and apostles, it was reaffirmed in the first creeds of the church and the Lutheran Confessions, and the Scriptures define that doctrine.

    What good does it do to say you believe a doctrine in Scripture, if you don’t let Scripture define that doctrine?

    Here is the strategy of Liberal Protestantism: affirm the doctrines of the church, but redefine them based on reason, philosophy, natural science, social science, or whatever hare-brained idea an “academic theologian” can convince his disciples to affirm. The average layman and unwary clergy accept this, because they hear the same words and the same doctrinal categories, but they don’t realize the biblical content has been gutted.

    Our forefathers fought against this strategy already back in Germany, and the LC-MS has always fought against it, except for when Liberals took over our Saint Louis seminary in the 1950s and 1960s, and when Liberals controlled some of our colleges too.

    I hope this will help clarify matters for BJS readers. I will not reply to “Jonathan” or his allies, because that would be a “Sisyphian task,” i.e., simply a waste of my time.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  15. @Martin #64

    Based on your comment, I’m thinking you can help clarify things for someone new to an LCMS congregation. It has been difficult for me to nail down the exact proposition in dispute. Perhaps that is the nature of online comments. If the proposition in dispute is whether the LCMS has a litmus test for the exact age of the Earth, it would seem all are in agreement that is not the case. If the proposition is that “day” in Genesis refers to a 24 hour period, it would seem there is disagreement between those commenting. And what I seem to keep reading is the argument that since the LCMS does not have a litmus test on the exact age of the Earth, they therefore do not have a litmus test that “day” in Genesis means 24 hours. But of course it is logical to say, I don’t know the exact age of the Earth, but I know it was created in 6 24 hour days. That seems like it is and should be a litmus test, and which is exactly what I take from my catechism class, Pastor’s teachings, and everything else I’ve read. But what about after that? I understand then that there is the issue of estimating an age range for the Earth based on the genealogies in Scripture. Is this the dividing line of young Earth v. Old Earth creationism? Or does old Earth creationism rely on the day-age proposition because they can’t get to an old Earth without it? What is the LCMS doctrine on this? What is the bounds for the doctrinal positions on what Scripture outside of Genesis gets you in terms of the age of the Earth? Thank you.

  16. @Jonathan #60

    I appreciate you taking the time to respond to me. My point was that I disagree with your formulation that the statements quoted from Dr. Jurchen are to be taken in isolation and out of context in determining the resolution’s condemnation of it. At the very least, the quote in regard to the litmus test statement must be paired with the other quotes in the recital that you did not quote in your comment, which specifically includes Dr. Jurchen’s statement “they can expand the days of the creation week to encompass unspecified periods”. The response was to the article and to the statements made by Dr. Jurchen that led to his conclusion. As I stated elsewhere, to say that the age of the Earth is not a litums test, while implicit in that statement is that one can dispute that a day in Genesis is 24 hours is entirely different than saying that it is not a litmus test to agree to a precise age of the Earth.

  17. @Justin Walker #65

    @Jon Alan Schmidt #63

    These are good summaries of the question regarding whether or not the age of the earth is a “litmus test” for orthodoxy.

    There is a lot of assuming the conclusion in the premises in a number of posts penned by others. This occurs in statements that assert that the Scriptures clearly teach 6, 24 hour days. This is precisely what is in question.

    It is of course true that if Scripture teaches a proposition, one should accept and assent to it. It is not acceptable to acknowledge that Scripture says something and then to reject it.

    But this is not the case regarding the debate over the age of the earth or the length of the days of creation. The debate is over what Scripture teaches on this matter, not over whether scriptural teaching is to be accepted.

    The LCMS has not seen fit to take a position on the age of the earth because Scripture doesn’t say how old it is (even the LCMS FAQ acknowledges this: https://www.lcms.org/Document.fdoc?src=lcm&id=552 ). Dr. Jurchen’s article was dedicated to describing the position of the LCMS in detail on these matters (not in prescribing one position or another), and his conclusion that the LCMS does not have a position is well sourced and argued. Those that disagree should respond to his arguments on the matter, using the same sources he does.

    In any case, to make the age of the earth a litmus test for orthodoxy is to substitute opinion for Scripture. Rather, this is an “open question,” the existence of which is something that the Brief Statement also recognizes and insists upon.

  18. @Jonathan #67

    Okay, so taking what you linked to, what do you make of the statement: “There is nothing in the Bible itself to suggest that the creation account is not meant to be taken literally. The Synod has affirmed the belief, therefore, based on Scripture’s account of creation in the book of Genesis and other clear passages of Scripture, that “God by the almighty power of His Word created all things in six days by a series of creative acts,” that “Adam and Eve were real, historical human beings,
    the first two people in the world,” and that “we must confess what St. Paul says in Romans 5:12” about the origin of sin through Adam as described in Genesis 3 (1967 Synodical Resolution 2-31). The Synod has also, therefore, stated that it rejects “all those world views, philosophical theories, exegetical interpretations and other hypotheses which pervert these biblical teachings and thus obscure the
    Gospel” (1967 Synodical Resolution 2-31).”

    Again, I confirm the statement that the LCMS does not have a doctrine on the precise age of the Earth. That is different than a doctrine that the creation account is meant to be taken literally. Can you help to point me to something other than a simplified FAQ that says the LCMS, by stating that the creation account is to be taken literally, did not mean that one should take “day” to literally mean 24 hours? That when the Synodical Resolution speaks to 6 days, they don’t mean 24 hour days?

  19. @Jonathan #67

    Dr. Jurchen’s statement “they can expand the days of the creation week to encompass unspecified periods”.

    Is it right for a member of an LCMS congregation to interpret “day” or Hebrew “yom” as a longer period of time than what we know of as a “day” today?

  20. @Martin R. Noland #64

    Pastor Noland,

    The LCMS website has said for years that Synod does not have an official position on the age of the earth. The Jurchen article quoted this exact same website statement.

    Dr. Jurchen also pointed out that even the Brief Statement does not define the six days of creation as 24 hours each.

    Yes, Francis Pieper, primary author of the Brief Statement, insisted on 24 hours. He also said heliocentrism was contrary to Scripture, that none of the stars have any independent meaning or function other than dispensing light to and indicating time and seasons for the earth, and that there is a literal ocean above the visible vault of the sky (see his Christian Dogmatics, pp. 468 and 471-473), all “based” on Genesis. I think it’s safe to say that nearly all LCMS clergymen accept heliocentrism, accept at least the possibility of life on other worlds, and interpret the “waters above the firmament” as clouds. All without being “false teachers.”

    We still us Christian Dogmatics as a textbook in the Synod. That doesn’t mean we can never, ever disagree with anything in it! The same goes for Synodically-adopted resolutions such as the Brief Statement. We don’t have to always interpret them in the strictest possible way! And, if there’s a problem with the Brief Statement over the age of the earth, why not amend it? It’s not Holy Writ.

    I recall well how the “old blue Catechism” said marriage began with engagement (“betrothal”). Seminarians used to be taught that engaged couples were already married in the eyes of God, so an engaged couple who had premarital sex were not breaking the Sixth Commandment–just the Fourth (!). We removed that teaching from the Cathechism, and the world kept on rotating.

    The late Dr. Walter Roehrs, editor the Concordia Self-Study Bible and Concordia Self-Study Commentary, said a nonliteral interpretation of the 6 days is an acceptable interpretation of Scripture. (See http://www.ctsfw.net/media/pdfs/RoehrsCreationAccountsGuidelines.pdf)

    The late Dr. Paul Zimmerman, a strong young-earther and founding president of Concordia-Ann Arbor, said in one of his books that the Bible does not give the length of the creation days, that the Christian Church has never made 24-hour days a dogma, and that the very nature of Creation (including the origin of time itself) may in itself rule out any common-sense notions of time when applied to the Genesis account. (See his Creation, Evolution, and God’s Word, copyright 1972 by CPH.)

    Yes, our Synod has leaned young-earth historically, but has always had a fairly “loose” stand on the age issue. Until now, if some have their way.

    People like you want to draw a line in the sand, make this a hill to die on, and accuse anyone who disagrees with a hard 24-hour-day stand of “disagree[ing] with the fundamental principles of our theology,” “disagree[ing] with the purpose of civilized conversation,” not “understand[ing] how Lutheran theology works,” or being a “Liberal.” Sticks and stones, Mister. Plus, that’s just name-calling.

    It’s easy enough to dismiss differing views as beyond the pale. Easier than grappling with people’s real questions and concerns!20.

    It seems obvious to me that hard-core 24-hour folks have been lying in wait, loaded for bear, waiting for an excuse to raise the cry of “Heresy!” over this issue, and try to get the next Convention to harden the LCMS stance on this issue. There are lots of folks like me who will oppose such a move. You want to silence us or kick us out. We’re not going anywhere without a fight!

    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. We need to engage people (as Dr. Jurchen said), not lecture them on their “mistakes.”

    You say replying to “Jonathan” and others is “a waste of time.” My family thinks I am wasting my time by writing this, because the “Brothers of John the Sarcastic” won’t listen to anything I could possibly say–the BJS “crowd” will just ladle on the the vitriol. Have at it, chums!

  21. @Justin Walker #68

    Hi Justin,

    Yes, I can point you to such a document. Please read Dr. Jurchen’s article that this whole kerfuffle is about. He deals with every relevant document in determining what the LCMS’ position is.

  22. @James Gibbs

    To be honest, I’m also starting to feel it is not worth commenting on this subject. But I am genuinely interested, so I have questions for you. In answering, it would be helpful not to conflate a loose standard about the precise age of the Earth with a loose standard on the definition of day.

    You mention that the Brief Statement did not define the creation days as 24 hour days. Did it define “day” at all? Did it expressly state that “day” was not being defined? Did it say “day” was open to interpretation?

    Or did the Brief Statement assume that it didn’t need to define ordinary words and that a reader would know the definition from the context and normal usage of the word?

    I know when I say “day”, I’m not talking about billions of years. I’m using it in its normal meaning. It would only be if I was giving it some unusual meaning that I would see fit to define what I meant when I said “day”. I would assume LCMS FAQs, Brief Statement, etc. would do the same. Is that not the case?

    Otherwise, it reminds me of that Princess Bride quote along the lines of you keep using that word, I don’t think it means what you think it means. You are essentially saying that they don’t know the definition of “day” when they use it.

    I get that you might disagree on whether the “day” in Genesis should be interpreted as 24 hours. I disagree with you there and haven’t seen anything that makes me think you are right here. But it seems an even bigger stretch to try to say that the LCMS does not mean a 24 hour day when they, not quoting Genesis but reconfirming Genesis, say that creation happened in 6 days. Your only basis for this seems to be the lack of an affirmative definition that they mean 24 hours when they use the word “day” in a way that any reasonable reader would understand to mean “day”. So can you point to something that would indicate that the LCMS FAQ, Brief Statement, or other Synod document is using “day” in a figurative sense that means something other than 24 hours?

  23. @71 Jonathan

    Thanks. I read Dr. Jurchen’s article. If that’s it, I guess I have my view on the matter.

  24. @Justin Walker #72

    Given that the authors the Brief Statement knew about the controversy regarding the length of days (the day age controversy goes back to the 19th century), what should be surprising to you is that the authors of the Brief Statement don’t specify 24 hour days. Either this was intentional, or they just weren’t particularly well informed. I’ll go with the former.

    On this presupposition, the authors of the Brief Statement knew that about which they wrote and chose to reflect biblical language (and not exceed that to which the Bible witnesses — in line with the doctrine of Open Questions) rather than importing later concerns onto it.

  25. @Jonathan #74

    Thank you, I understand the assumptions you are making. It is not surprising to me though that the Brief Statement did not define “day” explicitly to be 24 hours when they confirm that Scripture provides the infallible truth of an historical event that the space of time for creation was 6 days. My understanding was that it was not meant to respond to the “day-age” issue alone, primarily, or even really at all. If there was something indicating that I should read it from the perspective of it being a response to that issue, that might help. But for the moment, I think it is trying to find an opening for the day age argument where there isn’t one. But thank you though for your responses nonetheless.

  26. @Justin Walker #75

    Hi Justin,

    Yes, that’s the point — the day age theory was well-known by 1932, and the Brief Statement is not concerned to refute it. So it would seem that we agree on the fact that the Brief Statement does not respond to the “day-age issue” and perhaps also that the authors were aware of the day-age issue yet chose not to refute it (this second position is one that I’m not so sure that you’d share, though it does follow — that is, unless your position is that the authors of the Brief Statement were uninformed).

    In any case, God bless you. Your position is certainly defensible.

    However, if you want to also say that it is the only position that an orthodox Christian can take, then I think we have a major disagreement because it violates the synod’s position regarding open questions. I do not take you to be arguing for such an exclusive position that would take young-earth creationism to be a teaching of Scripture and so a litmus test of orthodoxy. Please let me know if I am wrong.

  27. @Jonathan #24
    Jonathan, I don’t see your argument as being valid at all. To follow your line of reasoning, if indeed I am following it, you might then say that Dr. Luther and the early confessors allowed for the possibility of abortion since they never specifically referenced it as a sinful act. The same would hold true, I think, for the reason why Luther didn’t speak specifically against the practice of withholding baptism from children — it was so clear to him/them that the false teaching didn’t even warrant a discussion. So, too, I think, with the Brief Statement and the so-called “days as ages” argument for the creation — they may have been aware of some who foolishly advocated it, but did not consider it valid enough to even address it. Take your argument off of the table, please — it would seem that you are trying to put words into the mouths of those who authored the Brief Statement. I hope that I’m making some sense to you here. Merry Christmas (well, unless you would happen to question the veracity of the virgin birth of Immanuel). 🙂 OK, sorry — that was a bit snarky. Peace to you from the Prince of Peace.

  28. What about the fact that many of the early church fathers didn’t think certain elements of creation should be dogma? This is a quote from Aquinas:

    “Those things that pertain to the faith are distinguished in two ways. For certain things are of themselves the substance of the faith, such as that God is three and one, and this kind of thing, in which no one is permitted to opine otherwise. . . . But other things are only accidentally the substance of the faith, insofar namely as they are handed on in Scripture . . . such as many historical facts which can, without danger, be unknown by those who are not obligated to know. And on this kind of facts even the Fathers held diverse opinions, explaining sacred Scripture diversely. Thus concerning the beginning of the world, there is something that pertains to the substance of the faith, namely, that the created world had a beginning, and all the Fathers agree on this. But how it began and in what order it was made pertain to the faith only accidentally, insofar as these opinions are handed on in Scripture, whose truth the Fathers, holding diverse opinions, handed on by diverse explanations.” II Sent., d. 12, q. un., a. 2, corp

    I personally would not advocate for a day-age interpretation of Genesis, as I think 6, 24 hour days is the the simplest and best way to read it. But, if this issue of the age of creation has historically been considered adiophora, on what basis should modern Lutherans change it to dogma now? The early church fathers didn’t even have a scientific consensus pointing to an old age for the universe to contend with, like we do now, and they still had philosophical and theological reasons to not want to make this issue dogma. Wouldn’t making a young-earth reading of Genesis a case of falling off the other side of the horse – taking sola scriptura too far by reading our young-earth presuppositions into the text?

    As Aquinas says, it is not a substance of the faith that the earth was created 6,000 years ago, in contrast to how it is a substance of the faith to say that God created the heavens and the earth. The former is not explicit in the Bible, and the later definitely is so. To me, Aquinas’s position in this case actually sounds like a very Lutheran approach to scripture. The age of creation isn’t explicit in scripture, and it is not a substance of the faith, so shouldn’t we just leave it a mystery? Isn’t mystery/paradox one of Lutheranism’s hermeneutical strong points (e.g. crux theologorum)?

    There is definitely an answer to this question of the age of creation, but apparently God, in His infinite wisdom, chose not to reveal it to us explicitly. As such, aren’t the current statements that the LC-MS has put out (FAQ and Brief Statements) a perfectly Lutheran approach to this topic? Isn’t speaking as far as scripture will let us and leaving the rest to mystery the proper Lutheran way in this matter?

  29. If the creation of the world is about geological science then woe be to us. If the creation of the world is about Christ then who cares what the “scientists” say. Jesus knows what a day is just like He knows what His body and blood are. He doesn’t need our scientific proof or theories. We just need His word plainly heard and we need to stop second guessing it. Call me a cynic, but the more you tell me the world had to be around for a longer period of time the younger I think the earth is.

  30. Just 2 more cents:

    -“litmus test” is a phrase used first by Dr. Jurchen himself (in this particular controversy at least). He’s a smart guy. He knows how to frame things to his advantage. Don’t get sucked in.

    -focusing singularly on LCMS documents that are not the Book of Concord is also a framework set up by none other than Dr. Jurchen himself. Let me repeat: Dr. Jurchen did not write his article haphazardly. It’s easier (and more effective) to build siegeworks first, so that when questioned, you can “truthfully” say that you haven’t actually attacked anything yet. I also want to note that the last sentence of his article sounds more smug than conciliatory.

  31. @Jonathan #76

    I’m starting to think that you are deliberately attempting to misinterpret to obfuscate. It’s already been pointed out, but it should suffice to say that agreeing that it is a possibility that the Brief Statement authors may not have been directly, solely, or particularly the day-age issue isn’t to say that the authors were deliberately endorsing that as an acceptable position. This is particularly true when the plain words of the Brief Statement provides a refutation of the day-age approach to creation and it being more likely that the authors were unconcerned with a matter as being already addressed and sufficiently on the fringe as not warranting the need to define day as 24 hours. Again, I’m unpersuaded that LCMS doctrine does not teach that the creation days were 24 hours when it relies on the argument that someone didn’t define day as 24 hours, so we are now free to redefine it as something other than a day. I will certainly admit that I don’t feel qualified to speak authoritatively on whether 24 hour creation days are LCMS doctrine, an LCMS litmus test of orthodoxy, a litmus test of orthodoxy, etc. I can only speak to my own belief that Scripture teaches that the Earth was created in 6 days, meaning 6 24 hour days. You seem to equate a belief in this as a teaching of Scripture, as also being what establishes one’s point of orthodoxy. So I guess that would mean that I believe 6 24 hour creation days is a litmus test for orthodoxy. Again, I’m less certain and more wary as a new member of an LCMS congregation in trying to speak for the LCMS, so I’m more focused on trying to learn and understand my own position. And I have to say that I get more and more convinced each time someone says, well yeah they said day, but they didn’t define it as 24 hours, so it could mean a billion years. Maybe that is a bit reductive of the position, but it is what I’ve taken from the position. But I do pray that the Holy Spirit continues to guide me, you, and everyone here toward the truth of God’s Word.

  32. Excerpted from The Argument of St. Augustine’s “Confessions.” Rev. Martin Samuel Sommer (1869-1949). Concordia Theological Monthly Volume: 5 Number: 3, 1934.

    “He (Augustine) was impatient with the demand that he ought to believe; he wanted to understand; he wanted all, also religious, tenets proved as we prove that three plus seven make ten. He was offended by the demand that in simple, childlike faith he should accept the teaching of the Bible. His pride rebelled against the command to believe – he wanted to see scientific proof. But it was just this rationalism which engulfed him in all manner of foolish superstitions.” p. 187.

  33. @Chris #78

    Isn’t speaking as far as scripture will let us and leaving the rest to mystery the proper Lutheran way in this matter?

    Practically everything we know about the triune God is a mystery; who and what He is, what He does and says in His word. If we know anything about God it is because He has communicated His will to us to reveal Himself – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – and His attributes. God is otherwise inscrutable and beyond our knowledge outside of His written word of revelation. But to explain away the controversy before us with the word, “mystery” in order to leave open the smallest passageway that leads to something He clearly didn’t say is to equivocate. To say that an informed reading of Genesis 1 using the original language is a mystery in order to leave open the remotest possibility of “day-age” evolutionary theory is an attempt to force Scripture to align with theory when we have it on God’s authority that everything was created in 144 hours. Confessional Lutherans can live with tensions found in the Bible and would no more attempt to accurately date the earth and universe than they would predict the date of the Second Coming. However, macro evolutionary theory does not stand the scrutiny of honest scientific inquiry which has been demonstrated and recited on this blog repeatedly. Still, there are those in the Church who just can’t relinquish it and concede God created everything but did it over a span of eons. Well He must speak very slowly because as it is written in Psalm 33:8-9:

    Let all the earth fear the Lord;
    let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!
    For he spoke, and it came to be;
    he commanded, and it stood firm.

    LCMS membership, or for that matter, being a Christian may not be predicated on the litmus test of how old you believe the earth to be, but misconstruing the clear words of Scripture usually sends up a red flag.

  34. @Rev. Alan J. Wollenburg #77

    Hi Rev. Wollenburg,

    What I am saying is that the Brief Statement doesn’t address the day-age theory, so on this it appears that we agree.

    I also agree that everything after this assertion is speculation as to what the intentions were — whether or not they saw the day-age theory as being important enough to address (which they could have done easily by saying 24 hour days, which they do not) or if they didn’t see the point in doing so as you argue above.

    But if you agree that the Brief Statement doesn’t address the day-age theory, then it doesn’t address the day-age theory. This means that it can’t be marshaled against those who argue for a day-age theory.

    What the Brief Statement does address quite clearly is the concept of (macro) evolution where life evolves more or less of itself over immense periods of time, and it rejects it explicitly.

    Not so the debates over the age of the earth such as the day-age theory.

    And that’s the point if one is interested in figuring out what the LCMS position is on the age of the earth or on the day-age theory in particular. The Brief Statement does not address it.

  35. @Justin Walker #81

    Hi Justin,

    You wrote: “but it should suffice to say that agreeing that it is a possibility that the Brief Statement authors may not have been directly, solely, or particularly the day-age issue isn’t to say that the authors were deliberately endorsing that as an acceptable position.”

    I think there is a confusion here regarding what I am saying.

    I am saying that the Brief Statement does not reject the day-age theory. In fact, it doesn’t have questions over the age of the earth in view except only tangentially in its concern to refute evolution.

    I never said nor do I believe that the Brief Statement “deliberately endors[es] that as an acceptable position.”

    I am sorry if I wasn’t clear on this point.

    To further clarify, I am not arguing for the position that one should adopt the day-age theory, either. In fact, I think such a theory has a problem with the idea that through sin came death and so is very problematic. I would argue against such a position and encourage one who held it to change his mind. What I would not do is use his acceptance of a day-age theory of the earth as a “litmus test” for his orthodoxy and then bring him up on charges if he doesn’t change (or pass a resolution against him). This is where the problem is, and it is this move made by the Wyoming District that I believe is wrong.

  36. @Chris #78

    Hi Chris,

    And not just Aquinas, Augustine, too:

    “Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field in which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although “they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.”” (Literal Meaning of Genesis I.19.39)

  37. @Jonathan #85

    Fair enough; maybe you aren’t claiming it endorses the position. You are claiming that it either deliberately left the door open for that position, I guess neither condemning or endorsing, or that it at very least one cannot get any insight into the LCMS position on day-age theory from reading it. I disagree.

    The Brief Statement may have been intended to more directly address macro-evolution, but it contains a statement on creation. It may have used the same language found in Scripture, but it was also using common language for an audience who spoke that common language. They didn’t quote directly from Scripture in saying that Scripture is the infallible truth and that creation occurred in the space of time recorded and in 6 days.

    That is a clear statement when read by me. I guess one could say conjecture that the authors knew of the day-age claim and so were implicitly leaving the door open to interpreting their use of “day” as being broader than the common definition, but again that gets us back to me finding it unpersuasive that anyone who does not explicitly define a day as 24 hours is somehow implicitly allowing for a definition that day means something other than day. I know Clinton and Calvin may think a lot can come from what the definition of “is” is, but I just don’t see the basis for claiming that the Brief Statement cannot be cited as containing a statement on creation that specifically says the historical account of creation in Scripture happened in 6 days just as Scripture says it did.

    The argument always come down to well no one knows what you mean by day unless you define it when using it; you can’t trust us readers to use common sense and understand our own language.

    I guess this difference in view feeds into what you feel is the more important issue, i.e., whether a District should teach that 6 24 hour creation days is the doctrine of the Church. I guess I’m just not surprised or feel they aren’t doing their duty in doing so.

    And with that, I think we’ve exhausted the topic. Bless you.

  38. I just do not see how anyone who is to be a teacher in the church would WANT to introduce into the minds of the faithful. Scripture uses plain language. If we do not acknowledge the use of plain language and the ministerial use of reason, then EVERYTHING which teaches us about God and His salvation is left doubtful. God is not a liar. God does not want to be cute. God loves you and wants the truth of His work for us to be made known. NEVER introduce doubt into people’s hearts/minds for to do so is to surround the forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation with doubt. Yeah, I guess I’m done with this conversation, too. Thank you, Pastors of the Wyoming District, and President Hill, and others, for having the courage to confront unclear language which may create a stumbling block for the faithful.

  39. @Justin Walker #88

    Hi Justin,

    Thanks for the conversation. As a last comment, no one is denying that creation occurred in six days. The question is what “day” means and how it should be interpreted.

    God bless.

  40. @Rev. Alan J. Wollenburg #89

    Hi Rev. Wollenburg,

    If Scripture doesn’t see fit to teach something on a topic, neither should we. This is why the Brief Statement included a section not just On Creation, but also On Open Questions. Using the age of the earth as a “litmus test” of orthodoxy goes against this and should be rejected.

    In any case, thanks for the conversation, and God bless your ministry.

  41. @Rev. Charles Lehmann #87
    Rev. Lehmann,

    Thank you for the response. I have a couple questions though, as I don’t think I understand what you are getting at.

    1. In the quote from Aquinas in my post, Aquinas is the one who points out there is not consensus among the early church fathers (Augustine and many others), so I don’t know what you mean when you say Aquinas is as much of an early church father as you.
    2. What is wrong with the argument that I put forth that in this instance, Aquinas appears to be following a Lutheran hermeneutical method of not declaring dogma on a topic for something that is adiophora; something that is a non-substance of the faith that isn’t explicit in scripture.

    I am just a layman, so I mean no disrespect or presume to try to be teaching pastors who have much more knowledge in these areas than I. I simply am searching for truth, and appreciate any and all corrections that can point me back towards God’s truth.

    God’s peace,
    Chris

  42. The narrative of creation is not an adiaphoron. Those wanting to adopt the world’s narrative are attempting to shift the point of contention to the age of the earth. This is a proxy war. No Christian ought to die on the age of the earth. Nevertheless, what his opponents really care about is letting the world speak louder than, and have the last word over, God’s Word. A Christian only cares about the age of the earth insofar as he cares to reject the special pleading of the world.

    If you fudge Genesis to defend billions of years, you have not helped any Christian or non-Christian. You’ve merely sacrificed your integrity and let in all manner of false doctrine that is precisely NOT the age of the earth.

  43. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    When I say that certain discussions are “a waste of time,” I meant that they are a low-priority use of my time, especially at certain times of year, like right now.

    My call as a pastor keeps me occupied more than 9-5, Monday to Friday, and sometimes I have no free time at all, because ministry to my own congregation (and spending some time everyday with my family) are always my top priority. That does not mean that these online discussions are unimportant. I apologize if I gave that impression.

    All that I am contending here for is the literal sense of what Scripture states in Genesis 1, that the earth and its heavens were formed and populated in six normal days. This is what is affirmed in the Brief Statement of 1932. Scripture does not tell us the actual age of the earth, so how can I affirm something on which it is silent.

    My personal vital interest in all this is that, as a pastor, I have two chief goals: 1) bring people to faith through baptism, evangelism and missions; and 2) keep them in the faith through the Word, prayer, the Gospel, and the means of grace.

    The Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article XI, section 21, describes how Christians are kept in the faith. It notes that God promises to “strengthen and increase in them the good work which he has begun [i.e., faith], and preserve them unto the end,” then adds the condition “if they cling to God’s Word, pray diligently, persevere in the grace of God, and use faithfully the gifts that they have received.”

    This is the “perseverance of the saints” without which a person cannot be saved. If a Christian does NOT cling to God’s Word, pray diligently, persevere in the grace of God, and use faithfully the gifts received, then they cannot expect to be saved, because then they are outside of the means of grace and God’s promise attached to those means.

    So my job, as a Christian pastor, is to ALWAYS, without ceasing and without exception, encourage Christians to persevere in their faith by clinging to God’s Word, praying diligently, etc. This is why I am always concerned about any human teaching that encourages people to NOT cling to God’s Word, but rather disregard or despise it.

    More than any other human teaching in our country, and our day and age, the teaching of evolution causes people to disregard and despise the Word of God. Unbelievers think that science disproves the Bible, which is why this discussion is important.

    If you encourage believers to NOT cling to God’s word, you will encourage doubt instead of faith, and it will eventually lead to unbelief. Then you will be to blame for their damnation. “Clinging to God’s Word” is a matter of eternal life and death, not armchair philosophy.

    Blessed Christmas to all!

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  44. @JonathanH #93
    Jonathan,

    Just to clarify, I certainly don’t think the doctrine of creation is adiophora.

    If you read my previous posts, I believe that I have been consistent in usage of the term specific to the topic of the age of creation. Likewise, I believe the previously mentioned LC-MS statements speak to all the points of creation that are essential to the faith and leaves the rest, like the age of creation, to mystery. This is the specific topic I see this debate centering on. Is young-earth creationism a church dogma? In my estimation, it would be a misuse of Lutheran hermeneutical principles to make it so. This is the question that I am interested in.

    I may be wrong, of course, and I welcome anyone who is willing to offer me correction if I have strayed from Lutheran principles and God’s truth.

  45. There is much that I would like to speak to on this topic, but given the prospective audience I suspect that it would be to no avail.

    Instead I will just state a few opinions as a lutheran lay person.

    1. I do not not believe that any of the aforementioned interpretations of the biblical creation narrative can be classified as lutheran “law and gospel” interpretations.

    2. My understanding of the office of holy ministry is that it is “word and sacrament” vocation, not a science vocation.

    3. As a former “american evangelical” I am astonished and disturbed by lutheran clergy who cozy up to the “Answers in Genesis” crowd and their ilk. Have any of you bothered to read their positions on the sacraments in general, or infant baptism in particular? I suspect not. These people are not your friends. Some are jailbirds.

    4. When a loved one has a desperate medical condition, do we call the elders for annointing and prayer, or do we demand the best that science has to offer?

    5. To be an effective evanglist to a people group we must learn to speak their language and understand their culture. From my perspective “six day creationists” neither speak the language of science nor understand the culture of science.

    6. Now concerning rebukes. Why is it that when a confessional lutheran pastor uses this site to go public about his “private sin”, this site is scrubbed and there is no public rebuke? Has God recently become a partial respector of persons? Why was I not informed of this change in policy?

    7. I belong to the “Mel Gibson – Passion of the Christ” school of theological thought. Towhit: To understand the bible you must first understand the passion of the Christ.

    8. I suspect that “six day creationists” belong to the “John Huston – The Bible” school of theological thought. To whit: To understand the bible you must first understand the book of Genesis.

    9. As a former “american evangelical” I have learned to highly value “law and gospel” and “word and sacrament”. Why are life long lutherans so eager to downplay these treasures away in pursuit of pet peeves? I have been there and done that. Count me out.

  46. @Mark #83

    Mark,

    It sounds like we are in agreement about basically everything you said. I think there are many things that we can say are not scriptural, or at the very least not in a Lutheran hermeneutical spirit, when talking around the doctrine of creation. Day-age interpretations, macro evolution, etc., are all things I don’t believe fit a Lutheran hermeneutical approach to the Bible. To stray from a 6, 24 hour days reading of scripture and leave the door open to these other ideas is dangerous indeed.

    That being said, based on scripture, I have yet to see anyone say why we should make the age of creation a dogma. It sounds like here, you also agree. I simply think this is a deeper question about Lutheran hermeneutics.

    Thank you for your comments and God bless!

    In Christ,
    Chris

  47. @Jeff Stillman #96

    To be an effective evanglist to a people group we must learn to speak their language and understand their culture.

    This is a very common misunderstanding among “American evangelicals.” As Lutherans, we recognize that effectiveness in evangelism is entirely in God’s hands, not ours. We faithfully proclaim the Law and the Gospel, and the rest is up to the Holy Spirit.

  48. @Jon Alan Schmidt #98

    My understanding is that Lutherans are “ceasationists”. Towhit: the gift of tongues as demonstrated at Pentecost has ceased, along with some other gifts.

    I think you error in that you do not accept science as either a language or a culture. Towhit: an English speaking American scientist speaks English as a language and is culturally an American, even while engaging in scientific endeavors.

    I respectfully disagree.

  49. @Jeff Stillman #99

    There seems to be an almost complete disconnect between my previous comment and your response. What does cessationism have to do with anything? Where did I say or suggest that I do not accept science as a language or culture? With what, exactly, do you respectfully disagree?

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