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Is the ELCA Lutheran? Paperback – November 1, 2004
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"Sure to cause controversy among Lutherans." -- Night Owl Reviews
From the Publisher
A Retired ELCA pastor had these comments: A must read for ELCA members, both clergy and lay, Christine Goble has written a down-to-earth assessment of the problems within this denomination. She combines concise, disturbing, indisputable facts with clarity and a sense of humor. Written for the Lutheran in the pew, it spells out clearly how the ELCA is surrendering its heritage for the sake of ecumenical unity in the church. Not only has the ELCA tossed aside the Lutheran confessions, but now they are declaring that Scripture does not speak clearly on matters of sexuality. This book is a must read for Lutherans and Christians who want to understand what is going on in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
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Top Customer Reviews
While there is a kind of peace for now, what all the disagreements point to is a basic conflict in how Scripture is read and explained. Truth be known: there are actually very few "literalists" within whatever variety of Lutheran Church you look into. Almost all Lutherans are open to one school of Biblical scholarship or another. Instead, it is more useful to speak of a continuum of "high" to "low" views of Scripture. Those of the "high" view tend to be respectful of academic Biblical scholarship--even the historical/critical school--but ultimately believe that Scripture is inspired. Those of the "low" view tend to view Scripture as human-made and not divinely inspired--or inspired only in the loosest sense. Naturally, there are degrees along each side of the continuum; but the description holds up pretty well. The ramifications come out in the question of how seriously to take the actual written text of Scripture and what weight to give individual experience in discovering the "truth". Those of the "low" view tend to speak of discovering what Scripture has to say in light of the "modern context". More to the point, what was true at the time a particular passage was written may not be true today. Instead, the focus should not be on the particulars within the passage, but with the underlying theme as we understand it today. Such a theme may in fact overrule the apparent lesson of the passage. Those of a more radical bent will hold that there is no objective truth in Scripture except that which is discovered to be "true for me". Those of a "high" view accept the human origins of Scripture; but also believe that Scripture came about by the intentionality of God. Thus the written text is taken seriously. Not every piece of Scripture is of equal value and this is where the proper division of Law and Gospel is helpful. In this view, scholarship is respected when it helps explain the meaning of Scripture. Scholarship which destroys meaning and is hostile to the devotional use of Scripture is viewed with critical suspicion. As opposed to those of the radical "low" view, "high" view folk hold the God's truth is true whether it is experienced or not. While there is rarely a Lutheran who is a "pure" high or low, there is actually very little middle ground between the two sides. What is at stake is not just how to interpret any particular passage of Scripture; it is a conflict on what meanings will be assigned to the world around us. Taken on a national scale, it is easy to see why the ELCA finds it so difficult to achieve real consensus on any particular issue.
All this is compounded by the real world disconnect between the national leadership and the local congregation. This is hardly a situation unique to Lutherans but it results in different visions of what the Lutheran Church is supposed to be. The national offices tend to be of the more progressive bent. More important than that the milieu the leadership moves in is that of the university and the upper leadership of other Christian denominations. Thus many of the enthusiasms which animate the national leadership proceed directly from the current social vapors of higher education. This at times results in a vision of the Church as a university writ large with all the features of multi-culturalism, a wide variety and number of points-of-view, and a one-sided initiative for social advocacy. Local congregations, however, are more customarily Lutheran--in a word: conservative. While the local ELCA congregation's frequency will have women for Pastors and will have "open" communion for other Christians, in many ways there are little practical differences between an ELCA Lutheran and other Lutherans belonging to the more strict Missouri or Wisconsin Synods. Life of the congregation centers around
Word and Sacrament as it has for the last 500 years. Preaching the Gospel and the spread of the Faith are the primary concerns. As a rule, most congregations do not engage in direct political activities; on the other hand, most do engage in charitable measures. While in practice there are Lutherans of many different stripes, most do not see diversity of viewpoints as a virtue in and of itself. Indeed, there are boundaries beyond which one can no longer meaningfully call oneself a Lutheran.
And this is really the final unanswered question: will the ELCA continue on until it is not longer Lutheran in essence? All Churches must change in order to be the Church for each succeeding generation. The reality is for most Churches the question isn't "what shall we change?' but rather "what shall we keep?" In this regard, the passing of time is ruthless and thousands of valuable treasures are lost along the way. So it is and so it always has been. For all our worries and gnashing of teeth, the Lord will decide what his Church will look like and will rescue her when all looks dark--as He always has.
Martin Luther was about getting closer to the meaning of the Word. That has not changed. And this sort of ant-Christian attack on the good people who seek to show the love of Christ in this world is unfortunate.
Goble dares to do what few do in the face of a rabid gay lobby---to take a long, clear, honest look at data on the effects of homosexuality. Bravo.