Great Stuff — Clearing up the Confusion

Found over on Predigtamt – Musings of a Country Pastor:

In the words of Jimmy Stewart, “This is a very interesting situation!”

Briefly, the Saint Louis Seminary published an article which proposed damnable heresy (day does not mean day). The Wyoming District called them on it. The Seminary Faculty said we were being mean, and could not understand such matters – being very academic and all. Our District President wrote a nice letter that made clear we did understand it, we were not confused, they were confusing “mean” with “shepherd”, and that we would love to talk to them one on one, instead of having them impugn the integrity of two Districts worth of pastors and their Presidents.

Earlier this week, our synod’s President wrote a nice article for the Lutheran Witness, in which he (as all faithful Lutherans should) re-affirmed the importance of a six-day creation. In it, he quoted (As did the Wyoming District, the Faculty Majority of CSL, and the original article) the Brief Statement from 1932. It turns out, we all agree that the Brief Statement is really important.

Both sides are now commending President Harrison for his article. That is good to see. I rejoice to see that no one in the current debate (which seems to have left the original author behind some time ago) is denying the obvious importance of saying that day means day.

But then, how did the original article get published? The article from Dr. Arand can help explain it. “As we continue to develop resources related to the creation debates within Evangelicalism and a ‘Lutheran option’ to those debates…” He also uses a word I have heard numerous times from him: “conversation.” Now, conversation is not a bad word, if it is used lawfully. Inquiring after clarity where there is confusion is a legitimate use of the word. Inquiring after knowledge where there is ignorance is a fitting use of the word. But constant discussion, with no end in sight, no goal, and no purpose is not a right use of the word.

Nor is it a right use of the word to allow debate to continue ad infinitum, supported by a stubborn refusal to reject error as well as confess the truth. And note: both must be done. As an example, we can not accept that Jesus is “Of the same substance with the Father” and “of a similar substance with the Father”. We can not confess that “Baptism now saves” and that Baptism is merely “an outward sign”. We can not confess that “that the Body and Blood of Christ are truly present, and are distributed to those who eat the Supper of the Lord; and they reject those that teach otherwise” while also confessing “that ‘with’ bread and wine are truly exhibited the body and blood of Christ to those that eat in the Lord’s Supper.”

One of the foundational principles of logic is that “A” and “not-A” can not both be true. One of them must, by definition, be false. “I will eat meat for dinner” and “I will not eat meat for dinner” can not both be true. So, in the church, it is not enough that we confess the truth. We must also reject error. If we fail to do that, we are like a shepherd that builds a wall and gate to protect the sheep, but then refuses to close the gate to keep the sheep in and the wolf out.

Postmodernism tells us that we can have both “A” and “not-A” at the same time. What, after all, is meat? We call the good bits of a walnut the “meat”. But it is not. Rome says that fish is not meat. In Wyoming, Chicken is a vegetable. What does it mean to “Eat”? Can it mean also to drink? Some monks subsist on only beer during the season of Holy Lent. Do they eat? What about a feeding tube? Is that eating? Can I be administered a steak through a feeding tube, and say “I ate no meat”? What if I blend the steak? I could drink it. And what is “dinner”? In Indiana, dinner is at noon. In other places it is in the evening. Is 4 pm evening? In the summer it is still bright. In the winter, that is dusk. If 4 pm is not evening, is 4:59? Is 5 pm evening? At what precise moment do we go from afternoon to evening? And who even decides that? Because we can not precisely define our terms, we can not know with certainty that either statement is true or false. So, while I will affirm “I will eat meat for dinner”, I will also affirm “I will not eat meat for dinner”.

This is the problem. Our synod’s court theologians feel they must “stay current on the intellectual trends”. The current intellectual trend is post-modernism. It would actually be almost impossible to find modern theological resources that are not either post-modern or a specific reaction against post-modernism. This means that the heads of our theology faculties are steeped in this appalling anti-theistic mess. One of our professors even wrote a post-modern hermeneutic textbook. I doubt it will prove to be of value once post-modernism fades.

I truly believe they do not realize the harm they are causing. They believe this really is a discussion that can be had. But it is not. There can be no admittance of “day is not day” into a faithful scriptural understanding. That is the way of Seminex, of the AELC, and of the ELCA. It leads to destruction. Even if they support the Brief Statement, even if they “hold to and teach… both the thesis and the antithesis” regarding the creation, it is insufficient, if they will not reject that which is thereby rejected. It is not enough to agree with a rejection, if you do not thereby also reject the thing rejected. Melanchthon got confused about this when it came to the Variata – to his eternal shame. And it seems our seminary faculty in Saint Louis is not clear on it either.

It is not a conversation. It is for them to clarify their teaching – not what they affirm regarding the creation, but what they are willing to reject as an error. It is a part of the Ordination vows – do you confess… do you reject… They seem to have no problem confessing, but no appetite for rejecting.

My question to them (and they have no obligation to me to answer, other than to confess the truth before men), and the question that they will one day have to answer before someone who is most assuredly “above my pay grade” is whether they confess the truth of the creation, and reject anything that would deny that truth and that confession. Because right now, they want to have it both ways. They want a conversation that has no boundaries, no goal, no end, no rules, no order, and no point. Much like evolution itself. And we don’t need evolutionary conversations in the church, any more than we need evolutionary teachings being let in under the guise of “conversation” or “intellectual”.

If “intellectual” is going to become a byword for error, if “credential” is going to become the code word for hireling, then we need to rethink how we staff our seminary faculties. Maybe they need to be a bit less smart, a bit less trained, and whole lot more willing to confess the truth and reject error. The first requirement needs to always be faithfulness. And if we have strayed from that, it’s time for a return.

Dr. Arand, you probably won’t even read this. But if you do, I implore you for the sake of your eternal salvation, repent. Continue to confess the truth. But also recognize the error and reject it. I promise, it won’t kill you. It may just save you.

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