Friday, April 17, 2009

The Abandonment of Discipleship in the Denomination

Last blog: the Iowa Supreme Court decision that insists same sex marriage is a right. This blog: our denomination's (the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)) decision to try and amend our code of clergy conduct to include the ordination of openly gay and lesbian pastors and to permit the blessing of same sex unions. Oddly enough, the Iowa Supremes mentioned divisions within the Church on the topic of same sex unions as one of the reasons they thought they should order the practice to be allowed. Please, bishops of the ELCA, don't ever tell me again that there is no harm in discussing things like this. Behold! The results of your openness to discuss what is contrary to Scripture: the Iowa Supremes used you and other alleged spiritual leaders as justification for their decision.

Let's be clear about something from the very beginning. Jesus doesn't allow his followers to hate anyone. The opposition that I as a pastor and that Zion Church has to what is being called Gay ordination and the blessing of same sex unions isn't motivated by hate. It's motivated by our love for the Scriptures which identify homosexual (sexual) relations as a sin and our love for our neighbors and brothers and sisters who are being sold a bill of goods by those who have sworn an oath to teach and preach God's Word. Our argument is not against those engaged in the lifestyle, rather, our argument is with those who are teaching others to ignore Scripture and leading them down a path that leads to disaster. We are simply on record as believing that because such activities are forbidden by Scripture, the Church has no business practicing them or condoning them. Simply put, our high view of Scripture means that we trust God's Word above human wisdom. Those whom we oppose in this argument elevate human wisdom and feeling above Scripture.

As part of our efforts to call the denomination back to biblical faithfulness, we send letters to other churches hoping to inform them of what is going on within the denomination. Our opinion is that many of the people in the pews simply have no idea what the leadership of the denomination is doing. One such letter recently elicited a response from a pastor who told us that there was no prohibition against homosexuality in the Greek of the New Testament. While the term 'homosexual' wasn't developed until the 19th century, the various Greek words describing same sex relationships in the original Greek are quite clear and it's quite clear that such activity is forbidden. No serious scholar can disagree that the Bible says what it says. It's sinful behavior, period. It ranks right up there with adultery, murder, gossip, slander, false witness, stealing and other sins.

Since the Bible is so clear about calling it a sin, the proponents of Gay ordination and the blessing of same sex unions have only two arguments that remain:

1.) The Holy Spirit is doing something new here. God wants us to unsin homosexual acts because he has changed his mind about them. This represents a new initiative on God's part. The Holy Spirit has spoken to some of the leaders of the church through the witness of the Gay community and they are being led by Him to change the rules and their interpretation of Scripture. My goodness. If I made such an argument about anything else, I'd be defrocked. This argument doesn't even take on Scripture, it ignores it and claims "new revelation" as the basis for decision making in these matters. As one scholar said to me, "We believe that the Apostle Paul wasn't fully informed about the science behind being Gay." You can see why those of us who have a high view of Scripture cringe at this argument. What it means is that God has more to say than sending us Jesus. I can't even conceive of something more un-Lutheran or un-Orthodox biblically and theologically.

2. ) The second argument is the argument from feelings. Since we are called to love everyone we also have to accept their behaviors. Because people feel bad when we tell them their actions are sinful, we need to allow them to continue in their sinful actions as a way of affirming who they are. Wow. According that argument, there will be no more life change or conversion or even repentance in the Church. People won't be radically changed by an encounter with Christ, they will just keep on being the same. This denies the power of the resurrection, the very power of Christ. Yes, we need to love people, that is clear. But Jesus loved people so much he never left them as he found them, he left them changed. Can you imagine Jesus going up to the woman caught in adultery whom he had just saved from being stoned and instead of saying, "Go and sin no more," saying, "Go and keep on sinning"? This second argument denies the power of Jesus to forgive sins by unsinning sins and saying that some behaviors, previously sinful, no longer need his forgiveness. It also denies the power of Jesus to heal. The argument basically says, "this group of people over here is fine without your help, Jesus. They really aren't sick after all despite what Scripture says."

Here is where this leads: When you fail to believe what Scripture labels as sin isn't sin, how can you believe Scripture when it says that through Jesus you can be saved? You simply can't pick and choose what Scriptures you want to believe and which ones you reject. Scripture itself condemns that practice. And if you believe that there are people whose sins don't require forgiveness, are you not making a mockery of the suffering and sacrificial death of our Savior?

I know there are a lot of feelings about these issues. But I invite us all to take this debate back to Scripture. Ultimately the question at stake isn't Gay ordination or same sex unions, it's about whether or not we'll believe our own Holy book. If we don't believe it or pick and choose what we believe from it, how can we expect any one else to be swayed by it either? We won't make a single disciple by saying, "This is our Holy Book, we only believe half of it." And if we have no Holy Book, then we have no Holy Gospel, no Holy Savior, nothing to offer a world lost in great darkness.

Every survey of spiritual growth says the same thing: the one thing that is necessary for growing closer to God is a high view of Scripture. Why on earth would the denomination open the doors it has and then trample upon the Word of God? It defies explanation.

Thanks for reading. Please continue to pray that the Truth will carry the day. God bless you.

No comments:

Post a Comment