ELCA makes it official: people (maybe everybody!) might be saved without faith in Christ
The page said, among other things, the following:
Because Jesus is the unique and universal savior, there is a large hope for salvation, not only for me and others with the proper credentials of believing and belonging to the church, but for all people whenever and whereever they might have lived and no matter how religious or irreligious they might have proved to be themselves. It is God's clearly announced will that all people shall be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.
Apparently it wasn't enough for the ELCA to reject the sexual ethics of both Testaments and two thousand years of Christian teaching last summer with its embrace of homosexuality, and to redefine the basic building block of human society- the divine, pre-political institution called Holy Matrimony- by equating human arrangements between individuals of the same sex with it. It appears from its website that this pseudo-Lutheran denomination has also finally gone ahead and made explicit what what effectively has been its position even before the 1988 merger: a denial of the biblical and Lutheran doctrine of justification, the article by which Luther claimed that the Church stands or falls.
The ELCA has pubicly confessed- in the face of the clear and consistent testimony of Scripture- its conviction that everybody, whether they believe in Christ or not, may finally be saved. The page where this confession was made, and to which this paragraph originally linked has, however, been altered to remove the statement in question.
Personally, if universalism- or any broader scope to salvation than the Bible puts forth in justifying faith in Christ- turned out to be true, I'd do cartwheels. The problem, of course, is that Scripture leaves no room for that possibility.
This leaves the ELCA unfazed. The standard textbook for ELCA seminaries even before the 1988 merger, when they still belonged to the LCA and The ALC and the AELC, was Braaten and Jensen's Christian Dogmatics. Its universalism was frank and open. Many, if not most, professors of Systematic Theology in those seminaries agreed with that position. True, they conceded that Scripture would not allow us to say with certainty that everyone would finally wind up being saved. Some of the more intellectually honest even conceded that we could not say for certain that anybody at all would be saved without what the New Testament (and certainly the concept of justification by faith) presents as a requirement for salvation, namely faith in Christ.
Of course, as with the revisionist "biblical" case for the acceptence of homosexuality, so with the notion that the New Testament, taken as a whole, leaves any room at all for the separation of justification on one hand, and faith in Christ on the other: when properly motivated, ELCA pastors and theologians seem capable of dismissing any quantity or quality of evidence in their determination to impose their preferences upon the content of the Faith Once Delivered to the Saints.
In those days, when well-informed laypeople chided bishops, theologians and church officials for the prevalence of universalist and quasi-universalist belief in ELCA theological circles, the latter often either "tap-danced" their way around the subject, or simply lied. Others chose not to know, to seek to excuse their lack of candor through willful ignorance of the facts. Well, they've stopped lying, and the truth can no longer be rationalized away. It's all out there in the open, reaffirming exactly what the public confession is that any member of the ELCA makes by merely remaining in that apostate church body, and how far it is from the confession of the apostles and the martyrs and the Lutheran reformers.
The possibility of salvation for those who do not believe in Jesus has been publicly proclaimed by the ELCA on its own web page.
Theologians, bishops and pastors were not the only ones who found it more convenient not to acknowledge what the church's future pastors were being taught. I tried to warn my own congregations about the vast gulf between their Catechism faith and the working theology of the church to which they belonged. By and large, they refused to believe me. I guess now they know better. But vindication is just as bitter when it comes to the ELCA's making explicit its apostacy with regard to the doctrine of justification as it was last summer when it made its contempt for Scriptural authority explicit in embracing homosexuality. Its trivialization of the Lutheran understanding of the Sacraments has been uncontroversial for a long time, since it has declared intercommunion with so many denominations which deny both the Real Presence and baptismal regeneration.
I wonder how much longer anyone at all in the ELCA will be able to be sufficiently dishonest with themselves as to remain in denial about just what it is they belong to. It certainly is neither evangelical (in any sense of the word), nor Lutheran.