Their god is their gonads

Dr. Duane Priebe- professor emeritus of systematic theology at my alma mater, Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa- would never come right out and state that everybody will eventually go to heaven. He merely allowed for the possibility- as does the dognatics textbook by Carl Braaten and Richard Jenson which was standard in ALC seminaries back then.

But the message of justification by grace, for Christ's sake, without faith certainly got through in his lectures, and infected class after class of future pastors. There are faddish ideas that can be reconciled to Lutheranism only by such incredible intellectual gymnastics that one wonders why anyone would bother. But Dr. Priebe would often find a way.

His favorite theologian was Wolfhart Pannenburg. Not, mind you, that Dr. Priebe would necessarily commit exclusively to one particular theological system, as opposed to others which might even directly conflict with it. Suffice it to say that Dr. Priebe will never be confused with the reincarnation of Athanasius or C.F.W. Walther (though of one of my classmates declared a belief in reincarnation, I would in no way be surprised).

I've already posted this quote. But on the day when the the allegedly Evangelical, allegedly Lutheran, alledged Church in America officially approved the rostering of non-celebate gay pastors, and at the end of the week in which it formally declared anal intercourse between two men to be the moral equivalent of conjugal relations between husband and wife, it's worth repeating.

Thus speaks Dr. Preibe's favorite theologian, Wolfhart Pannenberg:

If a church were to let itself be pushed to the point where it ceased to treat homosexual activity as a departure from the biblical norm, and recognized homosexual unions as a personal partnership of love equivalent to marriage, such a church would stand no longer on biblical ground but against the unequivocal witness of Scripture. A church that took this step would cease to be the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.

The ELCA took that step this week. It made it clear that its god is not the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. True, its god is not its belly. That god is located somewhat lower on the anatomy than the belly.

The ELCA worships a god who permits what the God of the Bible, the Holy Trinity, forbids. More than that, it proclaims grace to the manifestly impenitent, and promises salvation to those expressly warned by the Apostle Paul that, absent repentance, they will not see the Kingdom of God.

This moment became inevitable when, in 1991- only three years after it was founded- the ELCA officially pronounced that homosexuals are "sinners only in the sense that all of us our sinners" (what an elegantly equivocal phrase!), and invited them, with no mention made of repentance or abstinence, to "participate fully" in the lives of its congregations.

It was inevitable when I and a handful of others stood up at assembly after assembly and warned the ELCA's laypeople that this moment would happen, pointing out that the arguments advanced by the homosexualists were not based on exegesis (scholarly interpretation of a biblical text based on the best available information) but eisegesis (the imposition on a text of a wholly alien meaning based on the interpreter's desire to force it to say something it does not say on its own terms).

We warned that this was no mere disagreement over an obscure theological point; that to accept the homosexualist position was not simply to give in to the contempt for scriptural authority and the willing embrace of eisegesis in the place of exegesis already manifest at every level in the ELCA (often fraudulently masquerading as "scientific scholarship"), but actual apostasy. The false teaching that it is possible to live in open rebellion against God and in unrepented, deliberate sin and still retain justifying faith- an argument repudiated in no uncertain terms by Jesus, by Paul- and, yes, by Luther and the Lutheran Confessions- was already a cardinal assumption of the ELCA as an institution. But officially extending a divine blessing to an entire class of unrepentant sinners as a church body makes the matter impossible to ignore. From this moment onward, it simply is not possible to pretend that, as an institution this wretched denomination acknowledges the same God Paul and Luther and their own grandparents worshipped.

Despite the mantra we kept hearing from the official ELCA ever since that sneaky committment to the full acceptance of homosexuality was slipped past most of us back in 1991, the acceptance of homosexuality as appropriate behavior for Christians is an inherently church dividing issue. It is an issue which makes concrete and therefore impossible to ignore the fact that the ELCA is in error on the article of faith by which, according to Luther, the Church stands or falls: the article of justification.

As of the events of this week, the ELCA as a church body is not only in error on the doctrine of justification, but is in the business not only of promising salvation to people to whom Scripture denies it- even placing them in positions in which they are shepherds of Christ's flock and called to teach and even exemplify the Christian life to those they serve.

It's not enough to say, as I've said for years, that the ELCA is no longer in any historically or theologically meaningful sense a Lutheran church body. The events in Minneapolis this week make it impossible to ignore the fact that ELCA antinomianism can no longer be dismissed as merely a heresy which happens to be held by a considerable number of ELCA pastors and laypeople, and which informs its every theological decision. With the bald equation of sodomistic fornication with conjugal marital relations between man and wife, and the intentional decision to ordain and install in the pastoral office individuals who, according to scripture, absent repentance will not see the face of God, the ELCA as a church body is now in formal heresy on the doctrine of justification.

It has been said that the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy nor Roman nor an empire. Well, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is no longer merely neither evangelical nor Lutheran. Pannenberg is exactly right: it is also no longer the Church.

So what should Christians who remain members of ELCA congregations do? Simple: everything in their power to get their congregations out of the ELCA, just as soon as proves feasible. And the moment it becomes clear that getting their congregations to leave the ELCA is itself not feasible, it is their absolute duty before God to leave those congregations. As long as they remain members of them, their public witness- whether or not this is their intention- is of support for the abominations which took place in Minneapolis this week.

I spent twelve years trying to turn first a suburban St. Louis ELCA parish and then two Iowa ELCA congregations into something they had not been before: Lutheran, by the standards the grandparents of their members would have assumed as self-evident. The problem in one case was a history first of Pietism, and then of liberalism, in the pulpit; the problem in the other was the ten-year pastorate of a charismatic immediately before my own which taught the people in the pews to deal with the things of God with more witht their emotions than with their intellects.

During all that time, and two different synods, I tried to warn my flocks that this day was coming. I well remember the day when ELCA mission executive Mark Thompson- confronted by a group of us confessional pastors moments before he was to address the Southeast Iowa Synod Assembly- got up on the rostrum and blurted out, "Why, it may take ten years to convince you people to accept homosexuality!"

It actually took a bit longer than that. But given the events in Minneapolis this last week, nobody desiring to be faithful to Christ and to the Christian faith can pretend anymore. The events of this week are not going to be reversed. From this moment onward, one can be a follower of Jesus, or one can be a member of the ELCA.

One simply cannot consistently be both a Christian and an ELCAn.

Let there be no talk any longer of a "faithful remnant." The hour of confession has arrived; our brothers and sisters in the ELCA- crippled as they are, for the most part, by generations without sound, confessional Lutheran teaching and preaching- need at this very hour to declare themselves.

Choose this day whom you will serve.

You can follow Christ, or you can burn incense to the emperor.

But you cannot do both.


Pomeranus said…
I fear there will be few pastors who will make the good confession. How often were you and I told by pastors that they would stand with us, only to abandon us when confessing could have made a difference. Any who consider themselves orthodox and trusting that their bound conscience will be respected are fools. Recall how our call for respect for our consciences was dealt with when we asked that we not be forced to support abortion on demand through the health plan.
The revisionists are liars and children of the father of lies.
Lord have mercy on the faithful. The wolves are free to tear the sheep.
Michael Zamzow
Tragic though it is, I agree. I'm already in dialog on Facebook with an ELCA woman who not only can't see that to remain a member of an ELCA congregation that isn't going to leave the ELCA is to publicly assent to the abominations of the past week, but defends the ordination of women on the ground that even though Scripture explicitly forbids it, "God blesses the ministry of women pastors."

One thing that is becoming clear very quickly is that confessional Lutherans have nothing really in common theologically even with conservative ELCAns. The influences of Pietism and the ravages of a generation of American post-modernism and cultural relativism sadly testify to the necessity of setting our faces as firmly against conservatives who remain in the ELCA as against the ELCA itself.

Now, as in the days when you and I were fighting this battle, it is they who make the abominations of the openly apostate in the ELCA possible.
Pomeranus said…
I remember when Pannenberg's comments first appeared in a German publication. I translated them and made copies to share with faculty members at Wartburg Seminary. I ran into Prof. Priebe in the hall and gave him a copy. After he read it, he ran after me and said, "You aren't going to distribute those are you? There was almost panic in his eyes. It should also be noted that the comments seem to have been redacted over the years. I recall a distinct reference to "Lutheran" in the original.

Michael Zamzow
Fascinating. Not surprising, mind you. But fascinating.

If you ever run across the original, I'd appreciate a quick translation and a holler. This version is pretty devastating, of course. But it sounds like the original provides yet another footnote for the observation that whatever else the ELCA may be, it is not Lutheran.
Now might be the time that the ELCA break apart as they were before 1986-88. I know that if I were a member, I would not longer be a member today!
Won't happen, guys. I was ordained in The ALC back in 1986, and the theological wheels had pretty much come off even then. Some of the AELC folks are among the most radical in the ELCA. I'm afraid this rotten egg won't unscramble; it's going to have to be simply thrown out.

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