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“Customs and regulations of the church change” – Melanchthon

22 Jan

Philip Melanchthon, by Hans Holbein the Younger

This post started as a response to Barney, a regular commenter on this blog.  He takes a conservative line and has no time for those who suggest that the LCA would benefit by ordaining women.  We thought our response was worthy of a full post.

Barney, with a PhD in Biblical studies you will understand that truth is slippery. We have to consider the context, the era, the issues of the day, the audience, the world view, amongst other factors.  That’s the stuff that hermeneutics is based on. We will argue about much until we agree on a guiding concept.  We are sinners.  Luther, Melanchton, Semmler, the LCA, you and me all sin.  We can’t place eternal faith in individuals or earthly institutions. We need a guiding concept that becomes the lens through which we interpret Scripture and new issues in this ever-changing world.   If your guiding concept is, “Because the Confessions say so,” you will not be paying attention to the hurts and despair of people today and you will have lost contact with the work of Jesus in the world today.

As educated citizens (and Lutherans) we need to critically evaluate all that we read, along with everything in our society’s institutions.  Much has changed within the last ten years.  Tsunamis of change have happened in the last 500 years. Who would have thought a decade back that children would be taught the skills of critical literacy in primary schools today.  It is however, essential for us to have the critical skills to determine whether we support something or not.  It is not enough that a revered text says something, or to refer back to it as a list of decrees and rules for life today. In doing so you will be offensive to those around you.

However, we will quote from Shirley Wurst who quotes  Melanchthon in the Apology.  He acknowledged that customs and regulations of the church change.

“Many [canons] become obsolete from day-to-day even among those who favour traditions…Perhaps there were acceptable reasons for these ordinances when they were introduced, but they are not adapted to later times (Apology xxviii:67,73).”

Although Melanchthon is not focusing on women’s ministry in this section of the confessions, he is talking about rules and practices, instituted by the church leaders, that are contrary to the gospel.

In earlier periods of church history, it may have been necessary ‘for good order’ to restrict women’s participation in the public ministry of word and sacraments.  In contemporary Australia where gender equity is demanded by the law of the land, where diverse segments of our community are recognising and affirming the equality of women in every sphere of life, and valuing the gifts, skills and abilities of women, it causes offence to many people, both inside and outside the church, to restrict women’s service in the church.

Discrimination on the basis of sex does not enhance the gospel or commend it as good news for our community today.  Therefore it does not honour the head of the church, Jesus Christ.  It is rather a stumbling block, a scandal made by human hands, not God’s.  18/3/94

Shirley Wurst, Do the Confessions prohibit the ordination of women?

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10 Comments

Posted by on January 22, 2012 in Hermeneutics, history

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

10 responses to ““Customs and regulations of the church change” – Melanchthon

  1. PIchi

    January 22, 2012 at 6:49 am

    Yes.
    Inescapably true.
    No point in having rules that in no way match Biblical OR contemporary reality.
    Thanks, Barney

     
  2. Katie and Martin

    January 22, 2012 at 7:00 am

    Pichi, we guess you haven’t kept up with Barney’s comments. He gives no credence to those who argue for women’s ministry. The post is a response to Barney’s comments in various places on this blog.

     
  3. Barney

    January 22, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    K&M, as one with post-graduate studies in Engineering, Mgmt, and more importantly in Theology, I see TRUTH not as something slippery, but as something concrete, based upon and backed by demonstrable facts. Our Lord said; “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” and I a mere “justus et pecator” cannor see anything slippery in His words.
    The ‘stuff’ hermeneutics is based on is our guiding Word, i.e. the Holy Scriptures. I agree that we cannot place our eternal faith in human individuals [other that the man Jesus of Nazareth] or earthly institutions. My guiding concept [aided by the Holy Spirit] is and remains the Word of God; augmented by our Lutheran doctrine.
    Re “much has changed in the last 10 years.” What is 10 years in God’s time? Less than the blinking of one’s eye!
    Critical literacy is a subject close to my heart – even though English is not the language of my youth; if critical literacy is not wedded to proper grammar, it loses its value; many are the examples of today where ‘journalists’ confuse a singular verb and mix it with a plural noun.
    I regret that some cannot take the Holy Scriptures as a handbook for life, it is those who are offended by the Word of God who need to reconsider their position toward and compliance with His Word.
    If I am judged to be offensive to those around me in my support of the Word, then remember so was our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Barney

     
    • Katie and Martin

      January 22, 2012 at 9:55 pm

      Your approach is textbook conservative – “If it has been handed down then it must be valuable.” This, however, hides the myriad ways that you have to pick and choose from the Old Testament to form your theology. It seems to us that if the Bible is a book of rules, then you can’t omit any of them. Now that’s a formula for the absurd. https://katieandmartin.wordpress.com/2011/10/15/dear-dr-laura/

      Has truth been static around slavery in the last 400 years?
      Has truth been static towards the slaughter of neighbouring cultures?
      Has truth been static around Old Testament laws?
      Has truth been static towards conservation in the last 100 years?

      Each of these are part of God’s continuing creation and revelation.
      Our context has changed and even our theology has changed.

      What do you do with Melanchthon’s awareness that “Many [canons] become obsolete from day-to-day even among those who favour traditions…” By your statements I guess you would have him leave the church and form another one. Hmm. I guess that’s what he did.

      Regarding your last sentence: sadly there’s no glory to God in misogyny, just great damage to the Church.
      “Discrimination on the basis of sex does not enhance the gospel or commend it as good news for our community today. Therefore it does not honour the head of the church, Jesus Christ. It is rather a stumbling block, a scandal made by human hands, not God’s.”

       
      • Barney

        January 23, 2012 at 5:36 am

        K&M; I take your comment “Your approach is textbook conservative” as a compliment; yes, I’ll wear that tag with comfort. As educated Lutherans, we are obliged to live as Lutherans, doctrinally and socially. You are right, I give little or no credence to the arguments for Women’s Ordination – as separate of the ministry of all Christians. Too many “creative” interpretations of the Word have been forwarded to strengthen the feminine cause, so many that the cause itself has suffered on that account.
        I do not see a connection between my last paragraph in the previous post “If I am judged … ” and misogyny, perhaps you could explain further.

        On the quote from Shirley Wurst, could you please check the reference on “Many [canons] become …” and which version of the BoC was used. I do agree that customs and regulations of the Church do change, but please note that these changes are effected by ‘rule of men (anthropos)’. The Canons* are rules of men (anthropos) but the Word of God stands today and forever; c.f. Ps 33:11
        “the Counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His head to all generations.”

        Barney

        *Canon
        1.An ecclesiastical law or a code of laws established by a church council.
        2.A secular law, rule or code of law.
        3.A basis for judgement; a standard; a criterion.

        Hence Canons are rules made by men (anthropos).

        B.

         
        • Katie and Martin

          January 23, 2012 at 11:27 am

          How about reading the post and replying to it. If it’s rules you go by then you can’t pick and choose.

           
  4. dingo

    January 22, 2012 at 11:26 pm

    Don’t feed the trolls!

     
  5. Barney

    January 23, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    ‘I do not see a connection between my last paragraph in the previous post “If I am judged … ” and misogyny, perhaps you could explain further.’

    Is that not a response to your blog?

    Barney

     

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