Sunday, November 13, 2005

Consistent or not?

I came across this article about a recent letter that the 65 bishops of the ELCA sent to Congress regarding proposed budget cuts. Here is the relevant portion:

"For example, all 65 synod bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have signed a letter to members of Congress vehemently opposing the proposed budget cuts, saying in part, "The Biblical record is clear. The scriptural witness on which our faith tradition stands speaks dramatically to God's concern for and solidarity with the poor and oppressed communities while speaking firmly in opposition to governments whose policies place narrow economic interests driven by greed above the common good.""

Now what I find peculiar about this is how willingly and in fact vehemently the bishops of the ELCA will take a stand on this political issue and claim that The Biblical record is clear on this matter. Does anything strike you as odd about this? I certainly agree with what they say about God's concern for and solidarity with the poor, and that God speaks firmly against tyrannical governments. No problem there. But what I find odd about this is that the ELCA is willing to say the Biblical record is clear. What about the clarity of the Biblical record on homosexuality or gay marriage? What about the clarity of the Biblical record on women taking positions of authority in the church (i.e. pastors)? And there are certainly other things where the ELCA has departed from the clear Biblical record, suggesting or even expressly stating that the Biblical record is in fact not clear on these matters. How can the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America step to the plate so quickly on social/political issues, and hold up the Scriptures as authoritative and clear, and then on doctrinal and ethical issues, the Biblical record is somehow obscure or open to our reinterpretation? You can't have it both ways, in my opinion.

I'm not addressing the concern of the budget cuts here, as I'm not well enough informed of the situation, or whether it actually qualifies as being an example of the tyranny of government and the oppression of the poor. I just want to point out the inconsistency of using the Scripture as your 'weapon' only when it suits your own purposes. If we are to submit as Christians to the Bible as the inspired and authoritative Word of God, then we must hear what it says concerning all matters, not only those of our interest.

3 comments:

Joe Fremer said...

Hi Josh,

I think they think they can have it both ways, due to their basic view of the Bible. When you adopt the epistemological presuppositions of the historical-critical method, you wind up with a position where you say, "the Bible contains the Word of God" instead of "the Bible IS the Word of God." So when they say "the Biblical record is clear," they mean "that part of the corrupted and redacted document called the Bible--that part which we certify as authentically God's Word--is clear." They don't see it as having it both ways, because they don't look at the Bible the same way you or I do.

I don't know if this helps. I will be watching this space to see if any historical-critical theologians wish to challenge my characterization.

The bottom line: when you claim that the Scriptures are not inspired and inerrant, you create a situation in which someone gets the right to use the editor's scissors, to snip out the culturally conditioned parts and select what parts are God's Word. Of course, the editorial role brings power...

Josh S said...

I´m going to have to go ahead and disagree with Pr Fremer. It´s not about the Bible or epistemology. They could call the Bible ´´inspired and inerrant`` and arrive at exactly the same results. Why? It´s about what god the bishops of the ELCA serve. Their god isn´t YHWH, who brought his people out of Israel and sent his Son to redeem the world. Their god is politics. They look for salvation and redemption through the right social programs and seek justification through allegiance to the right political party.

It´s not a presuppositions issue. It´s a First Commandment issue.

CPA said...

I agree with Josh S. Take a look at the Calvinist theonomists. They accept the authority of the Bible, want to implement Mosaic law in America EXCEPT where it conflicts with the nineteenth-century doctrines of economic libertarianism and the sacredness of private property in land -- then they all of a sudden discover that the Mosaic law is for the land of Israel, not for us Gentile Christians, yada, yada, yada.