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Commemoration of Adam and Eve – Why Believing That They Were Actual, Historic Persons Matters

December 19th, 2013 34 comments

Today is the day appointed in my church to remember and thank God for Adam and Eve. After I share the prayer appointed for this day, please continue reading for why defending and holding fast to their historicity matters, a lot.

We pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, You created Adam in your image and gave him Eve as his helpmate, and after their fall into sin, You promised them a Savior who would crush the devil’s might. By Your mercy, number us among those who have come out of the great tribulation with the seal of the living God on our foreheads, and whose robes have been made white in the blood of the Lamb; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

I’ve been following debates/arguments/discussions/conversations about the historicity of Adam and Eve. For our Lord Christ, the fact of the creation of Adam and Eve by God, and their union to one another, ordained by God, is the very foundation of marriage and all human sexuality. Precisely because the Lord taught this, this has an enormous impact on how the Church and the faithful, should—no not should, that’s way too soft a word—absolutely must—affirm the historicity of Adam and Eve. Justin Taylor had a blog post recently on this, that puts it rather well.

Reformation21 reprints an essay by Michael Reeves (Theological Adviser for UCCF in the UK) on “Adam and Eve,” from the book Should Christians Embrace Evolution? edited by Norman Nevin (IVP-UK, P&R). In particular Dr. Reeves takes on Denis Alexander’s proposed “third way” of understanding Adam and evolution.

Here’s the conclusion:

When theological doctrines are detached from historical moorings, they are always easier to harmonize with other data and ideologies. And, of course, there are a good many doctrines that are not directly historical by nature. However, it has been my contention that the identity of Adam and his role as the physical progenitor of the human race are not such free or detachable doctrines. The historical reality of Adam is an essential means of preserving a Christian account of sin and evil, a Christian under-standing of God, and the rationale for the incarnation, cross and resurrection. His physical fatherhood of all humankind preserves God’s justice in condemning us in Adam (and, by inference, God’s justice in redeeming us in Christ) as well as safeguarding the logic of the incarnation. Neither belief can be reinterpreted without the most severe consequences.

Why the Lutheran World Federation is a Fraud

February 1st, 2013 Comments off

Fraud

Fraud: A false representation of a matter of fact—whether by words or by conduct, by false or misleading allegations, or by concealment of what should have been disclosed—that deceives and is intended to deceive another so that the individual will act upon it to her or his legal injury. Fraud is commonly understood as dishonesty calculated for advantage. A person who is dishonest may be called a fraud. 

Disclaimer: I am well aware that there are well-meaning, sincere confessional Lutherans who have chosen to affiliate with the LWF and there are a variety of historic reasons for this; however, they need to be aware that the Lutheran World Federation, as an “institution” or, as they insist on referring to themselves, as as “communion” of churches is simply a fraud. It is not Lutheran. It is not a Biblical “communio.” Those who continue to affiliate with LWF should do so only under ongoing protest against the insidious anti-Lutheran agenda that has the LWF in a vice-grip of error. Years ago when it was first

Liberal ecumenists and academics throughout much of world Lutheranism will recoil in horror when, or if, they read the assertion: “The Lutheran World Federation is a fraud!” Nonetheless, it is a truth that can not, and must not be, ignored or avoided, or swept aside with the polite tut-tutting of the ever-so proper and gentile pursuers of ecumenical agendas. The Lutheran World Federation is a fraud precisely because it is not Lutheran but wishes to assert itself as such, deceiving the innocent laity and pious who actually still may believe that the Six Chief Parts of Luther’s Catechisms are, wholly, Biblical truth.

The LWF insists on no clear confession of the Lutheran confession of God’s Word. It can not even insist that members confess even the simple truths of the Small Catechism as binding dogmatic statements on all who would wish to be, and remain, Lutheran. For example, when the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America waxes eloquent about homosexuality and ecumenical agreements with Calvinists and Catholics, this is simply the fraud of the LWF on display for all to see. When the LWF claims to represent 70.5 million Christians, this is yet another fraud. It does not see the Lutheran Confessions as a pure exposition of God’s Word, but can only wimper about seeing “in them” a pure exposition of God’s Word. Fraud and more fraud.

Oh, yes, there is much nostalgia about Martin Luther and the Reformation, but the large, liberal Western Churches that ostensibly bankroll the Lutheran World Federation bureaucracy with its incessant conferences, meetings and pious-blathering issuing forth from keyboards in Geneva, have long ago set aside any semblance of orthodox Lutheran Christian confession. No more across their seminaries and institutions of higher learning are the condemnations of the Lutheran Confessions held forth as true for our day, in fact, quite the opposite.

Any such notion that the Calvinist confession of the Lord’s Supper is false is regarded as “rigid dogmatism” or that the Roman view of Justification is contrary to the very Gospel is now regarded as “harsh confessional arrogance” and the like. Many years ago, Herman Sasse was sounding the alarm, which went unheeded even among The LCMS’ academics who were looking all starry-eyed at the notion of Lutheran union in America and in Europe.

Are we who wish to be and remain confessional Lutherans in the United States of America willing to recognize reality and speak against it and in support of the truth of the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions which so beautifully set them forth? Will we continue to welcome the scandal of being a confessional church? We do see encouraging signs coming from member churches of the LWF, rising up to reject and condemn the homosexual and feminist agenda that has exploded throughout liberal Lutheran Churches as the fruit, rotten to the core, born by the great trees planted and watered by the liberal theologians who for many decades have controlled the theology of USA and European Lutheran organizations, churches and “unions” of all kinds.

Keep in mind when you read the following quote from Sasse he was writing this many decades ago, long before the large liberal Western churches that control the LWF had gone even further down the road of compromising the Lutheran Confessions with Reformed, Calvinists, Roman Catholics, etc. and had embraced a social/moral agenda including abortion on demand and homosexuality!

Thus, Sasse:

“According to its very nature, the Lutheran Church, the Church of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession, is a confessional church in the strict sense and can only exist as such. This is the unmistakable lesson of American church history.

“There would be no Lutheranism in America today if Lutherans had lacked the courage to present to the world, also and particularly to the Christian world, the skandalon of a confessional church. They knew from Holy Scripture that there is no heart that believes without a mouth that confesses (Rom. 10: 9– 10). They had learned from Luther that faith comes by preaching, the preaching of the pure Gospel, and that the church lives by the Word of God taught in its truth and purity and the Sacraments administered according to the institution of the Lord Christ. Despite the religious and irreligious trends of their century, they were not ashamed to identify themselves with the great dogmas of the orthodox church of all the ages, with the doctrines of the Lutheran Confessions, because they had come to recognize in them the true exposition of Holy Scripture as the inerrant [untrüglich] Word of God.

“Thereby American Lutheranism became an enigma to its environment. For with the exception of a few remnants of old Reformed Churches, American Protestantism is not familiar with a doctrinal type of Christianity. Only by means of this “rigid” (as the world calls it), firm, and clear position was Lutheranism able to maintain itself. There was no Lutheranism that was receptive to the influences of the world, that was broad-minded, liberal, and modern. There were indeed Lutherans who became liberal. But then they ceased to be Lutherans.

“Really that was also the case in Europe. What makes men like Söderblom and Harnack 19 look like Lutherans is finally merely a sort of nostalgia for the Lutheran Church. What is Lutheranism without the actual incarnation, without the miracles that belong to the enfleshed God-man, without the real presence of the body and blood of Christ, without the washing of regeneration? There is no Lutheranism save that which is “orthodox.” Anything else may be a beautiful, congenial humanitarianism and Christianity, but it is not Lutheranism. That must be kept in mind, even when one is, with an all-embracing love, gathering those who adhere to the Church of the Augsburg Confession. Our Church does not burn heretics nor judge consciences. But it does concern itself about true doctrine and must concern itself about it. A Lutheran Church that would not do that, a Church that would not train and guide its pastors to this end, a Church that no longer shields its members against false doctrine is no longer a Lutheran Church.

“There is a connection between this doctrinal character of the Lutheran Church and the fact that in the modern world it invariably functions as a foreign entity. This, by the way, has been the case ever since Luther parted company with Erasmus. The great truths of Lutheran doctrine call forth the ridicule of the world: beginning with the doctrine of man and his sin, which runs counter to all natural anthropology; continuing with the doctrine of justification, which implies the end of all natural morality; culminating in the doctrine of Christ and of salvation, and the doctrine of the church and the Sacraments. But this estrangement over against the world [Weltfremdheit] is the alienization of the true church. This unreasonableness is the unreasonableness of the true Gospel.”

Source:

Herman Sasse, Letters to Lutheran Pastors: Volume 1, “Letter Ten: On the Problem of the Union of Lutheran Churches-1949.” (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2013), p. 167-168.

A New Name for God? Stupid Is as Stupid Does

October 24th, 2012 6 comments

Beware liberal mainline protestants who “reimagine” God, who rename God, who stop using male pronouns to refer to God, and, yes, who start proposing a “new” name for God. Christian Century published this article on its web site. I really am trying to think of a better way to put this, but I can’t, so I’ll just say. This is just so, so stupid! Fundamentally stupid, at every possible level. There is nothing “new” about the Hebrew word “El” which is the somewhat generic Semitic word for “God.” It is an ancient word. And suggesting we use this word for “God” is just….oh, wait…I already said it. OK, it’s also just so, so silly.

Be warned: the more liberal mainline protestant churches tinker with the name of God the further away they move from the one, true God and are ever more embracing a false religion.

The Name that is above every name is “Jesus.” The name “Yahweh” is that unique self-revelation God gave to Moses, the name means, simply, “I am” or “The being one.” [More like an assertion of what is, rather than a name]. But for any one claiming to be a Christian to be chatting up a “new name” for God is … well, I won’t repeat myself.

Here’s the article:

I have a new name for God, at least new to me. The old three-letter word “God” is worn out. Words only last so long before they need to be retired for a season. The word “God” has too much freight on it and too many associations.

I have begun to use a Hebrew word for deity: el. It’s pronounced like the English word ale. (This is an idea I borrowed from Madeleine L’Engle.) El is a simple word, found in the Bible, but it doesn’t have any history for me, and I never use it in my work as a pastor. I walk on the trail in the mornings and talk to el, who hides in the trees. Actually, el is hidden deeply in all things.

I bought a new prayer book to help me talk with el at other times. My old prayer book was looking decrepit, and the cats gnawed off the ribbon markers. My prayer book is published by the Presbyterian Church and includes the psalms along with traditional prayers. It has a Celtic cross on the cover and readings from the daily lectionary in the back, which I read in the Good News Bible or the NRSV. A new prayer book goes well with a new name for God.

I have a new practice too: yoga. I took part in a great yoga group at church over the summer, and now I am taking formal yoga classes downtown from a woman who has studied in India and calls the poses by their Sanskrit names. Yoga is teaching me to befriend my body, which weighs 70 pounds less than it did last fall. Yoga also helps me find what my teacher calls ‘spaciousness within.’ Maybe that spacious place is where el lives in me. Yoga poses remind me of the different postures of prayer the psalms place us in.

A new name, a new book, and a new practice. These are new seeds taking root in me now.

On his blog, Dr. Gene Edward Veith has this excellent, brief, response:

First of all, “El” is not a new name for God, simply a word for God in another language.  If a person wants to pray in another language, fine.  If in Biblical Hebrew, so much the better.

But I wouldn’t want to fool with the “name” of God.  The name of God is a concept I suspect we don’t fully appreciate.  In the Bible, God’s “name” is  fraught with spiritual power and taboos, from the Commandment (“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain”) to the injunctions to glorify God’s name and Christ’s promises about praying and acting in His name (talk about a claim to divinity).

Of course, “God” isn’t the name of God–just a noun for who and what He is.  The name of God is expressed in the Tetragrammaton, YHWH, and is connected to the verb “to be,” as in what He said to Moses, “I am who I am.”  Now that Christ has come, we have a name by which we are to baptize and to worship:  “In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

Coming up with different names for God, though, cuts us off from the historic and universal church that extends back through time and across the whole world.  Making up your own individual name for God enshrines the individual–not YHWH, not the Trinity–as the locus of devotion.

Categories: Liberal Christianity

Episcopalians Lead the March Over the Cliff: Approve Rite for Blessing Homosexual “Marriages”

July 10th, 2012 12 comments

From Reuters News Service: The U.S. Episcopal Church is poised to become the first major religious denomination in the United States to approve a rite for blessing gay marriages after its bishops overwhelmingly approved such a liturgy on Monday. The proposed blessing was agreed by the church’s Chamber of Bishops at a meeting in Indianapolis and is expected to receive final approval from its House of Deputies later this week, Ruth Meyers, a chair of the Episcopalians’ Subcommittee on Prayer Book, Liturgy and Church Music, told Reuters. The decision would go into effect in December and make the Episcopal Church, an independent U.S.-based institution affiliated with global Anglicanism, the biggest U.S. church to allow a liturgy for same-sex marriages. The Episcopal Church is the 14th-largest denomination in the United States with nearly 2 million adherents, according to the National Council of Churches. The United Church of Christ, a mainstream Protestant denomination with about a million members, has gone further so far than any other U.S. church, voting in 2005 to support same sex marriage. The new Episcopal same-sex liturgy, called “the Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant,” would be a standard rite for same-sex marriage.

And there you go. Of course, the United Church of Christ and the ECUSA are now in full communion with the ELCA…just a matter of time there as well.

No Matter the Name, All the Same God … Says Interfaith Observance of 9/11

September 12th, 2011 12 comments

 

And the nonsense continues…in spite of Isaiah 42:8 in which Yahweh declares: “I am Yahweh, that is My name. My glory I will not give to another,

In New York, three faiths mark 11 September
ENI-11-0481

By Paul Bennett
New York, 12 September (ENInews)–In a ceremony commemorating the tenth anniversary of the 11 September terrorist attacks, a minister, a rabbi, and an imam took part in an interfaith bell-ringing ceremony at St. Paul’s Chapel in lower Manhattan. The 245-year-old Episcopal church, located just one block from the destroyed World Trade Center, in 2001 became for months a respite center for rescue workers.

The bell-ringing took place on the evening of 11 September, after a day marked by a ceremony at a new memorial plaza on the site of the former twin towers, attended by families of 11 September victims, President Barack Obama and other leaders. Thousands of commemoration services took place in the U.S. and around the world to mark the day on which nearly 3,000 people lost their lives in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

At St. Paul’s, as the sun set, the Rev. James Cooper, of sister church Trinity Wall Street, rang the “Bell of Hope,” situated on a stone pedestal in the churchyard. Behind the gathering of about 50 people, the partially-constructed One World Trade Center tower loomed, bathed in red, white, and blue light under an overcast sky.

“God is looking over our shoulders. Night has come, and we look forward to rest and recovery,” said Cooper before ringing the bell, which he said is used only on solemn occasions. The first series of rings was for fallen comrades, the second a “clear” ring. Like the front of the chapel, the bell was covered with white ribbons bearing the motto “Remember to Love.”

After a brief introduction by Cooper, Rabbi Peter Rubinstein of Central Synagogue in Manhattan spoke, saying that as long as men sought peace, humanity could not be said to be falling down.

Imam Al-Hajj Talib ‘Abdur-Rashid of the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood spoke of the terrorist attacks as a baptism not by water, but by ash, the results of which forced people around the world to become aware of their common humanity. No matter how people refer to God, he said, whether it be Allah, Yahweh, or any number of names, it is the same God, uniting all people.

After the prayers, people in attendance were invited to ring the bell. A single-file procession formed, and for several more minutes, the Bell of Hope rang into the night.

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Categories: Liberal Christianity

Interfaith Worship on the Rise Since 9/11

September 7th, 2011 1 comment

In U.S., interfaith worship doubled since 11 September
ENI-11-0473

By Piet Levy — ENInews/RNS
Washington, D.C., 7 September (ENInews)–Interfaith worship services have doubled in the decade since the 11 September attacks, according to a new study released 7 September, even as more than seven in 10 U.S. congregations do not associate with other faiths.

The survey by an interfaith group of researchers found that about 14 percent of U.S. congregations surveyed in 2010 engaged in a joint religious celebration with another faith tradition, up from 6.8 percent in 2000, Religion News Service reports.

Interfaith community service grew nearly threefold, with 20.4 percent of congregations reporting participation in 2010, up from 7.7 percent in 2000, according to the Cooperative Congregations Studies Partnership. After the attacks, “Islam and Islamics’ presence in the United States (became) visible in a way that you couldn’t ignore,” said David A. Roozen, one of the report’s authors and the director of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut.

National Muslim groups tried to build bridges to other faiths, who in turn “reached out in new ways to be neighborly,” he said. Reform Jewish congregations led the way, with two-thirds participating in interfaith worship and three-quarters involved in interfaith community service.

The largest percentage of interfaith-worshipping congregations (20.6 percent) was in the Northeast, which is home to a disproportionate percentage of more liberal mainline Protestant churches. About 17 percent of interfaith-worshipping congregations are in a big city or older suburb, where greater diversity makes interfaith activity more likely.

The study implies that the more liberal a congregation, the greater likelihood for interfaith activity. Approximately half of Unitarian Universalist congregations held interfaith worship services, and three in four participated in interfaith community service. By contrast, among more conservative Southern Baptist churches, only 10 percent participated in interfaith community service, and five percent in interfaith worship.

The study shows most of the 11,077 congregations surveyed reported no interfaith activity, a finding that troubled the Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, president of Washington-based Interfaith Alliance. “The reality in our nation now is we have a major problem with Islamophobia, and that fear is being fed by people in large enough numbers that we need probably ten times as many people involved in interfaith discussions and actions,” Gaddy said.

Even so, the fact that interfaith services and community projects have grown so much is something to celebrate, said Rabbi Marc Schneier, founder and president of the New York-based Foundation for Ethnic Understanding. “I’m not saying we are where we’d like to be, but the good news is the process has begun,” Schneier said. “Outreach to the Muslim community from a Jewish perspective is now becoming en vogue … Ten years ago, if I would have proposed anything like that, people would have thought I was from Mars.”

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Apostasy in the Raw: United Church of Christ Scratches “Heavenly Father” Out

July 11th, 2011 14 comments

 

UCC spokesperson Barb Powell told World Net Daily: “In the UCC, our language for God, Christ and the Holy Spirit … is preferred to be more open for different expressions of the Trinity. Heavenly Father is just one vision.”

If you have not heard about this already, you need to be aware that the United Church of Christ has recently, quite literally, lined through reference to God as Father in their governing documents. Friends, you will hear some theologians and pastors, perhaps even ones that claim to be conservative, try to justify this, or make excuse for it, or explain it away, or try to ignore this reality, but here it is: this is apostasy in the raw. There is no fuzz on this peach, no grey areas here. This is nothing more and nothing less than open rebellion against the Holy Triune God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

But here is where this raises huge questions for all Christians. Let me put a few of them forward.

How can a baptism performed in a United Church of Christ congregation be recognized as valid and legitimate any longer since the UCC has taken this step?

What implications does the fact that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is in full communion with the UCC have for that church body’s commitment to the holy, catholic faith? If the ELCA does not sever its full communion with the UCC over this, that means, frankly, that the ELCA is giving its de facto and tacit approval of this action? And in that case, the implications for any baptism performed in the ELCA are ominous, since full communion is an expression of fundamental agreement and unity in doctrine between church bodies.

Pastor Peters blogged about this and he wisely notes that this decision has implications for all parish pastors in all church bodies. He writes, “It seems that from now on we better check any baptism from the UCC on a case by case basis because any baptism not in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit cannot in confidence be a baptism at all…. just something to think about….”

I don’t think we can afford to stick our heads in the sand on this one.

Here are the important details of this disaster from the Louisville newspaper, the Courier-Journal

“According to a United Church of Christ spokesman, it isn’t news that the liberal Protestant denomination is moving to delete a reference in its constitution from “Heavenly Father” to “Triune God.” Decades of theological change lay behind it. Yet now it is putting the change on record.

The Rev. Bennett Guess told my colleague Cathy Lynn Grossman at USA Today:

“We no longer use exclusively male language to refer to God. We haven’t for a long time.”

The deletion prompted alarm among from a conservative activist group in the predominately liberal denomination.

It may not be new, but it’s still eye-catching to see the words crossed out in the constitutional change, even if the main point of the change was to merge five boards into one. The change would require ratification by two-thirds of the denomination’s 38 regional conferences by 2013. [PTM Note: I can't do a line through, so the words I've underlined are literally crossed out in the resolution passed by the UCC]

Here’s the salient paragraph from 13 pages of bylaw changes, with the revised language in blue and the deleted language crossed out. It was approved Monday at the denomination’s biennial governance meeting.

ARTICLE V. LOCAL CHURCHES

The basic unit of the life and organization of the United Church of Christ is the Local Church. A Local Church is composed of persons who, believing in the triune God as heavenly Father, and accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and depending on the guidance of the Holy Spirit, are organized for Christian worship, for the furtherance of Christian fellowship, and for the ongoing work of Christian witness.

Guess said the denomination was dealing “with bylaws written decades ago, before the denomination’s commitment to using inclusive and expansive imagery for God.” (The term “bylaws” sounds more perfunctory than “constitution,” especially when the “basic unit” of the church is described.) Another spokeswoman said members are free to refer to God as father or mother.

The United Church of Christ recorded 1.08 million members last year, down nearly 3 percent from the previous year and down by about half since its peak in the 1960s.

It was formed by a merger of the Evangelical and Reformed Church — itself formed by a merger of two historically German Protestant groups, with several congregations in the Louisville area — and the Congregational Christian Churches, whose organizational ancestors included the Puritans. Therein lies a tale.

In more recent years, the denomination has made headlines as the affiliate of President Obama’s former church in Chicago, headed by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright; and a controversial TV ad showing bouncers keeping people out of church (in contrast to the UCC’s declared inclusiveness.)”

NEWS FLASH: Lutheran World Federation Seeks to Redefine Path!

June 10th, 2011 Comments off

I was very excited when this ENI story popped into my mail box recently. I hoped that it would be an article on how the LWF is going to finally embrace full-throated confessing Lutheranism and reject all errors contrary to it. Heck, I would have been happy enough with an announcement that it was even going to require all members to subscribe to the six chief parts of the Small Catechism, and reject errors contrary to them, but no…instead the LWF is redefining its path … to put more emphasis on climate change and disaster response. Shouldn’t they change their name to the United Nations or the Red Cross?

Lutheran community seeks to redefine path at meeting in Geneva
By Meritxell Mir

Geneva, 8 June (ENInews)–At a meeting taking place from 9 June through 14 June in Geneva, members of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) will vote on adopting a renewal process for the years 2012 through 2017 that places greater focus on responding to emergencies, especially those having to do with the environment. The new focus also includes proposals for increasing the role of youth and creating financial sustainability.

“There is a need to explore how to get involved in advocacy work that is linked to climate change,” said LWF General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge, who is leading the renewal process. Under the proposal, Lutheran churches hope to be able to better respond to human suffering through coordinated actions with partners.

The creation of regional hubs for emergency response in countries such as El Salvador, Nairobi, and Kathmandu will make it easier to distribute food, water, medicines, and blankets in the event of a natural disaster. Lutherans were on the forefront of issues such as AIDS and the environment, said Junge, and from now on this will make up a bigger part of the LWF agenda.

With membership of many big churches declining, the LWF needs to find new ways to ensure it can continue its mission. “We can have a reasonably realistic plan only for the next three years,” said Junge, “so we cannot say what the situation in 2017 will be. The organization has plans to develop relationships and raise funds, but if that doesn’t work, it will have to reduce expenses.”

LWF leaders think it’s crucial to give young church members a bigger role. “We believe young people should be able to participate in decision-making for the church as a whole, not just for youth programs,” said Junge. “Youth should not be treated as the future, but as the present of the church.”

The LWF’s proposed agenda comes in response to several factors, such as increased global connectivity, widening gaps between the rich and the poor, widespread natural disasters, more forced and voluntary migration, and increased secularization in the Western world. The new strategy consists of a more structured and efficient system for linking churches with training opportunities, scholarships, and education. The biggest challenge, according to leaders, is bringing different views and perspectives together in a way that affirms a shared vision for all Lutheran churches in a coherent, long-term strategy.

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Following Jesus While Rejecting the Bible? Another Tragedy in Mainline Protestantism

May 11th, 2011 5 comments

I was going to put up a blog post on this, but…Al Mohler’s remarks are so good, I will just pass them along.

 

Yet another denomination has voted to ordain openly homosexual candidates to its ministry. Yesterday, the Presbyterian Church (USA) presbytery of the Twin Cities in Minnesota voted to approve a change to the church’s constitution that will allow the denomination’s 173 presbyteries to ordain persons without regard to sexual orientation.

The Twin Cities presbytery cast the deciding vote in what is now a 33-year effort to remove all restrictions on homosexuals serving in the church’s ordained ministry. It became the 87th presbytery to affirm the action of the church’s 219th assembly last summer authorizing the constitutional change. The action not only concludes over three decades of controversy over the ordination standards; it also reverses actions taken in 1997, 2001, and 2008, when similar efforts failed.

In 1996, the denomination restated its ordination requirements to include “fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness.” That policy had also required that candidates “refusing to repent of any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin shall not be ordained and/or installed as deacons, elders or ministers of the Word and Sacrament.”

The new constitutional section will read:

Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life. The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of office. The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation. Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.

All references to marriage and chastity are gone, along with the language about refusal to repent of sin. The new language speaks instead of submission to the Lordship of Christ and being guided by Scripture and confessions. In any other context, that language might not seem revolutionary, but in this case, it means the denomination’s surrender to those pushing for the normalization of homosexuality.

Put another way, this church has now decided that “fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness” is just too restrictive.

Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the PC(USA) General Assembly, explained the meaning of the change: “Clearly what has changed is that persons in a same-gender relationship can be considered for ordination . . . .  The gist of our ordination standards is that officers submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and ordaining bodies (presbyteries for ministers and sessions for elders and deacons) have the responsibility to examine each candidate individually to ensure that all candidates do so with no blanket judgments.”

Why now? Parsons suggested that the victory by proponents of the ordination of homosexuals has come because of the exodus of larger conservative congregations from the denomination (approximately 100 over the last five years), the fact that many Presbyterians seemed “ready to get past this argument,” the growing acceptance of homosexuality in the larger culture, and the less controversial wording of this revision. He, along with others, expressed some measure of surprise and relief that the decision was made.

He told The New York Times, “We’ve been having this conversation for 33 years, and some people are ready to get to the other side of this decision. . . . Some people are going to celebrate this day because they’ve worked for it for a long time, and some people will mourn this day because they think it’s a totally different understanding of Scripture than they have.”

The Presbyterian Church (USA) now joins the Episcopal Church (US), the United Church of Christ, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in ordaining openly homosexual candidates to the ministry.

Both sides in this controversy understand the meaning of the decision. While this action deals specifically with ordination standards, it is really about the larger issue of homosexuality. Most observers expect that the decision to allow same-sex marriages will follow closely.

But even beyond the specific issue of homosexuality, the church faced two of the most fundamental questions of Christian theology — the authority of the Bible and the Lordship of Christ. In making this change, the church clearly affirms that one may submit to the Lordship of Christ without submitting to the clear teachings of Scripture.

That is a fundamental error that leaves this denomination now in the implausible position of claiming to affirm the Lordship of Christ while subverting the authority of Scripture. The removal of the constitutional language about marriage and chastity, coupled with the removal of the language about repentance from what Scripture identifies as sin, effectively means that candidates and presbyteries may defy Scripture while claiming to follow Christ.

Clearly, this action could not have happened without this denomination having abandoned any required belief in the full authority, inspiration, and truthfulness of the Bible long ago. This most recent decision sets the stage for the total capitulation of this church to the normalization of homosexuality — an act of open defiance against the Scriptures.

In a “churchwide letter” to the denomination, PC(USA) leaders stated:

Reactions to this change will span a wide spectrum. Some will rejoice, while others will weep. Those who rejoice will see the change as an action, long in coming, that makes the PCUSA an inclusive church that recognizes and receives the gifts for ministry of all those who feel called to ordained office. Those who weep will consider this change one that compromises biblical authority and acquiesces to present culture. The feelings on both sides run deep.

Well, the feelings no doubt run deep, but the injury to this church runs far deeper than feelings. This is yet another tragedy in the sad history of mainline Protestantism’s race toward total theological disaster.


I am always glad to hear from readers. Write me at mail@albertmohler.com. Follow regular updates on Twitter at www.twitter.com/AlbertMohler

Laurie Goodstein, “Presbyterians Approve Ordination of Gay People,” The New York Times, Tuesday, May 10, 2011.

Presbyterians to Allow Gay to Be Ordained Ministers,” The Minneapolis Star Tribune, Wednesday, May 11, 2011.

Jerry van Marter, “PC(USA) Relaxes Constitutional Prohibition of Gay and Lesbian Ordination,” Presbyterian News Service, Tuesday, May 10, 2011.

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Approves Change in Ordination Standard,” Presbyterian News Service, Tuesday, May 10, 2011.

Rob Bell: Universalist and False Teacher – A Warning

March 3rd, 2011 29 comments

Rob Bell has become very popular with his NOOMA videos. He continues to wander further away from Biblical Christianity, and in this video promoting another one of his works, he embraces what is known as “universalism” — the belief that ultimately all human beings will be going to heaven. WARNING to those who are using Bell’s materials. He preaches the Gospel of Christ, falsely. Pastors should not be using his materials in their ministry.

LOVE WINS. from Rob Bell on Vimeo.

Categories: Liberal Christianity

Highly Bendable and Amusing Toys

November 27th, 2010 Comments off

Leading Sheep Out of Danger is Not Sheep Stealing

September 27th, 2010 3 comments

“The Missouri Synod Lutheran cannot understand why a rightly called but heterodox pastor, one who is thus Lutheran in name only, is allowed to lead an entire congregation, even an entire generation of the flock that has been entrusted to his care, into heterodoxy or even apostasy, while the ecclesiastical authorities stand silently by or even maintain that the congregation is after all still Lutheran because the doctrine (publica doctrina) of the Lutheran Church still has official standing in it. Who can disagree with the Missouri Lutheran on this point? Who has the right to prevent the Gospel being preached to souls deceived by others?”

— Hermann Sasse

Confession and Theology in the Missouri Synod, (Letters to Lutheran Pastors No. 20, July 1951).

How To Know You are a “Progressive” Christian

August 16th, 2010 11 comments

A Lutheran congregation in California explains on its blog site why it regards itself as a “progressive” congregation. Here are the standards they strive to uphold:

By calling ourselves progressive, we mean that we are Christians who:

1. Proclaim Jesus Christ as our Gate to the realm of God.

2. Recognize the faithfulness of other people who have other names for the gateway to God’s realm.

3. Understand our sharing of bread and wine in Jesus’s name to be a representation of God’s feast for all peoples.

4. Invite all sorts and conditions of people to join in our worship and in our common life as full partners, including (but not limited to): believers and agnostics, conventional Christians and questioning skeptics, homosexuals and heterosexuals, females and males, the despairing and the hopeful, those of all races and cultures, and those of all classes and abilities, without imposing on them the necessity of becoming like us.

5. Think that the way we treat one another and other people is more important than the way we express our beliefs.

6. Find more grace in the search for meaning than in absolute certainty, in the questions than in the answers.

7. See ourselves as a spiritual community in which we discover the resources required for our work in the world: striving for justice and peace among all people; bringing hope to those Jesus called the least of his sisters and brothers

8. Recognize that our faith entails costly discipleship, renunciation of privilege, and conscientious resistance to evil–as has always been the tradition of the church

The Withering Away of Liberal Mainline Protestantism

August 10th, 2010 3 comments

I read this first on Dr. Gene Edward Veith’s blog, who read it at Joe Carter’s blog, who in turn found it on the Internet. OK, now that we have the hat tips out of the way, here is a great interview with Rodney Stark.

Read this interview with sociologist Rodney Stark on how the so-called “mainline” liberal denominations have dwindled into irrelevance: Are Evangelicals the New Mainline?. Among the many interesting points he makes is that the only congregations in those traditions that are doing well are those with conservative pastors. And when “evangelicals” decide to go liberal, as in the emergent church or progressive evangelical movement, they decline too. He goes into the history of this phenomenon and finds that it goes way, way back.

Communion Going to the Dogs: It was Neat and Made Everyone Smile

July 24th, 2010 18 comments

What will those Anglicans think of next?

Here’s the story of how a dog received the Sacrament in an Anglican parish recently:
http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/838717–can-a-dog-receive-communion

Here’s a snippet:

“In my opinion, Christ would have thought it was neat. It was just being human. And it made everyone smile.”