Attempting to end an impasse

28 Nov

WordPress have just updated their “Add Media” button – it took some for these images to load.

In a recent post, “Hey Mate!” one commenter, Pastor Wally, has had extreme frustration with your authors’ Scriptural understanding and the tools used at arriving at that understanding. We also have had extreme frustration when our language and world views seemed to be misunderstood.

We felt that continued dialogue was pointless.  At that stage Cdonges then commented, in a moderator’s role, asking questions of Wally and us. Here’s the recent comments:

As this conversation is wasted at the base of dozens of comments under a post, we have created a full post in order that the Katie and Martin community, might share and participate.

Thanks Chris for stepping in where there seemed little hope of communicating.

We believe that Scripture was penned by fallible humans, writing within a culture and worldview, which we no longer adhere to, are part of, or subscribe to.  I believe that Scripture is the inspired Word of God.  Our task is to discern God’s will with all the tools of modern theological scholarship.  We will therefore place more value on certain texts than others, not just when it comes to internal textual contradictions but also when it comes to right and just values that have evolved with society.

Opponents of this method of reading Scripture deem it to be ‘liberal’.  It appears to be the same issue in the LCMS that precipitated the walkout from Concordia Seminary by professors and tutors in 1974.  The accusation from conservative clergy was that historical criticism was being used by Concordia lecturers and that it was heretical. In Australia the argument is not generally as focused but the issues underneath remain the same.

Arthur Carl Piepkorn, a colleague of Pr Norm Habel (who was at Concordia Seminary when the paper was presented) and (according to some) “one of the most significant theologians in the 20th Century”, wrote an important paper on “inerrancy”.  It demonstrates that the word, which didn’t exist in English until recently, has an evolving meaning.

It is an 18 page article.  We quote from p588 III

It does not seem to this writer that we are serving the best interests of the church when either we continue formally to reaffirm the inerrancy of the Sacred Scriptures or even continue to employ the term.  Outside our circles, with the possible exception of the Roman Catholic Church, the term “inerrancy” has in general become the shibboleth of sectarians, often of obscurantist sectarians.  For them the term usually implies the commitment to certain traditional interpretations which they place on certain Bible passages and which they apparently deem essential to their spiritual security.

If ALC graduating students wish to be ordained they have to swear that the Bible is the inerrant and infallible Word of God.  This is part of the current LCA structure and was introduced recently (research needed) but isn’t part of the Confessions.  I suggest that the use of such language will one day be examined in the LCA.


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25 responses to “Attempting to end an impasse

  1. cdonges

    November 28, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    The image isn’t working for me. My name is Chris btw. Which apparently means ‘bearer of Christ’ – not sure I manage to live up to that…

    • Katie and Martin

      November 28, 2012 at 4:24 pm

      Thanks Chris. I am struggling to work out why the images aren’t loading. Still persevering.

  2. Katie and Martin

    November 28, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    Sorry about the delay in getting the images up. The uploading process now looks decidedly different, so WordPress engineers have been beavering away to improve their wonderful application.

  3. aussietap

    November 28, 2012 at 9:51 pm

    I have always disagreed with the term inerrant – what I would say was that it is only as “inerrant” as its interpretation – language itself is a problem in conveying meaning. I tend to believe that it may even be wrong to speak of the Bible as the “Word of God” because often the very words from the Bible are used in hurtful ways – Jesus is the Word and the scriptures point to him. Interesting topic, will read through some of the links – thanks.

  4. Katie and Martin

    November 28, 2012 at 10:00 pm

    Thanks for that insight! Jesus is our Word. Anything else needs to be interpreted through what we understand of Jesus.

  5. janine

    December 3, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    but where’s wally?

    you set up a place for him to discuss his issues, and he hasn’t come back.

    • Katie and Martin

      December 3, 2012 at 6:39 pm

      Perhaps when we said, “There’s no point in continuing the conversation,” he didn’t hear the next question. Sadly, he may have signed off.

  6. Wally

    December 4, 2012 at 4:02 am

    Well may you ask: Where’s Wally! You, of all people, Janine!

    Frankly, it is probably best that I not be here, given what I have read in recent days. The same old tone continues, especially in some of the posts under “The ‘shame’ of honour killings” – that topic should probably be referring to “the shame of those who tear others down by attacking the church through mis-judgment, mis-interpretation of comments and insinuation”. Choosing to slag off at the former LCAi and those who contributed to it and making implications on what individuals wrote there when that is not actually what they wrote, or it is not in context is just another indication of the level to which the debate has sunk. But, I have raised this before and I expect to get the same reaction again.

    This is followed by what we have here:
    1) this topic was not set up at my request – all I did was ask for references to the Constitution and the DSTO that had been vaguely cited in support of criticising the President, but apparently that is the powder that must be kept dry and that we are not to be privy to. Readers will note that this has now been conveniently side-stepped by putting up this topic. Beyond that, I thanked Chris for his admission in relation to his understanding of Scripture. So, I don’t know where the thought comes from that this was particularly for me.

    2) The reply above:

    ‘Perhaps when we said, “There’s no point in continuing the conversation,” he didn’t hear the next question. Sadly, he may have signed off.’ Was there a “next question”?

    I didn’t see it. But, I do remember my question: Where in the constitution?

    3) I am well aware that an attitude prevails amongst participants on this blog that Scripture does not have the place that it does for me. When a statement is made:

    “I tend to believe that it may even be wrong to speak of the Bible as the “Word of God” because often the very words from the Bible are used in hurtful ways – Jesus is the Word and the scriptures point to him.”

    it is clear to me that, while the latter half of the sentence is indeed an appropriate sentiment, the first part unfortunately kills it. There is little point in arguing with that – past experience has shown me that it is a bad road to travel.

    I am also reminded that a comment was made at the Symposium at Luther Seminary in the late 1990’s by a strong advocate for the ordination of women, that “we have no scriptures on our side” or words to that effect. I think that explains the intense effort now being put into the issue of the inerrancy of Scripture! It can only be for one reason: that we can find a way to get this through, and the only way to do so is to lessen the place of Scripture.

    So, when I look at the whole situation with all this in mind, it is clear that there is little point in pursuing a conversation.

    There are ample resources available which deal intensively with matters relating to the old and new covenant. These need to be considered before we embark on the serious implications that are conveniently drawn from references like the Deuteronomy passage cited in “The ‘shame’ of honour killings”. A failure to take such study into account does not do the issue justice in any sense at all. I don’t see any consideration of such study here.

    Finally, it is entirely true that Jesus is the Word – but, pray tell me: How do I know that? The answer: through the Scriptures.

    • Karin

      December 4, 2012 at 8:41 pm

      Dear Wally

      You wrote:

      “Finally, it is entirely true that Jesus is the Word – but, pray tell me: How do I know that? The answer: through the Scriptures.”

      I am interested to know whether for you, the Holy Spirit plays any role in this process of knowing that Jesus is the Word. Is the answer only obtainable through Scripture as you claimed? And does the Holy Spirit play any role in how a person engages with Scripture at all?

      • Wally

        December 4, 2012 at 9:54 pm

        Yes, the Holy Spirit plays an important role. He certainly plays a role (not sure I like that term – but it will do for now) in together with the Word in reaching people’s hearts. I have not said that the answer is only obtainable through the Word. How ever did you arrive at that conclusion? Now you know why I have to continue to draw attention to mis-representation.

        • janine

          December 4, 2012 at 11:22 pm

          where does karin draw a conclusion? she asks a question.

          no one has misunderstood you, no one has misrepresented you. someone has asked a question and you have jumped to an unwarranted conclusion.

          • Wally

            December 5, 2012 at 3:36 am

            Karin says: ” . . as you claimed” – I didn’t claimed any such thing! It is obvious!

  7. Katie and Martin

    December 4, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    We’re not sure how to respond to your heavy heart Wally. You refer to many issues in time.
    The issue on this post is inerrancy. While you mention the Deuteronomy passage you don’t propose a way that the text might be inerrant. You don’t respond to the academic treatise from Arthur Carl Piepkorn. We don’t understand how inerrancy can be clung to under such oppressive texts.

  8. Katie and Martin

    December 5, 2012 at 12:54 am

    We all make some big leaps in our logic from time to time, so that is forgivable. It would be good however, Wally if you would explain what framing you use for justifying inerrancy in texts such as the Deuteronomy text. How can the stoning of a woman who has not bled on her wedding night justify her stoning by the village men? We understand that it was part of the culture of the day, which perhaps is a justification of some sort, but how can the text be inerrant when the civilised world today considers such judgement barbaric, abhorrent, devoid of human-rights and even evil.
    Is it inerrant because it’s in the Bible? If so, it lacks a certain strength of argument.

    • Christoph Donges

      December 5, 2012 at 1:18 am

    • Wally

      December 5, 2012 at 4:06 am

      The real issue is not really this passage, but an understanding of inerrancy and the relationship of the old covenant to the new. There are many passages in the Old Testament that need to be understand from that perspective. Until we come to a clear understanding of that perspective, we will merely be pursuing a human argument and as a result, we will end up going from one passage to the next and still reach no clearer understanding. In any event, there are others more capable of providing the material needed in the understanding of this whole picture.

      So, some useful material to assist in this understanding is the following (which have been referred to me by others whose scholarship far exceeds mine):
      Luther: How Christians Should Regard Moses (sermon);
      Luther: Introduction to the Old Testament (I don’t have any clearer reference for this one);
      J. Michael Reu: ‘Luther and the Scriptures’;
      (Reu started out wanting to show that Luther didn’t hold to inerrancy as it was formulated in the period of Lutheran orthodoxy. In the course of his research, though, he changed his mind and wrote this.)
      Ralph Bohlmann: ‘Principles of Biblical Interpretation in the Lutheran Confessions’
      (CPH 1983 – best basic text on Lutheran Biblical hermeneutics available)

      • Katie and Martin

        December 5, 2012 at 2:01 pm

        Sorry that we don’t have the resources to research your references.

        “The real issue is not really this passage, but an understanding of inerrancy and the relationship of the old covenant to the new. There are many passages in the Old Testament that need to be understand from that perspective.”

        Our perspective is what is under discussion. Did God’s perspective change with the coming of Jesus? Certainly God’s revelation, in Jesus, changed us, but we’re not sure that God changed. If God did change we’re not sure we liked the God of the Old Testament. If Scripture is inerrant, then each verse is inerrant, whether it’s the old or new convenant. The contortions required in attempts to substantiate the inerrancy of old covenant passages of violence are a challenge to academic integrity.

        If the traditional way of interpreting Scripture must be maintained then we understand the discussion about old and new covenant, and using such frameworks to justify inerrancy. If, however, you probe Scripture using all the tools available and consult the wealth of scholars in recent generations, then the maintenance of traditional interpretation is not the highest priority. As all Scripture is scribed by frail humans, no different to those who live today, then it will carry in its DNA something of the culture, the limited understanding, the world view and the sinfulness of the writer.

        Inerrancy then becomes a distraction and confusion on the journey that blurs the centrality of the love of God and sacrifice of Jesus for each one of us.

        We are one in Christ. We don’t need to be one in methods of interpretation. We can (in fact we must) live in diversity, for there is no other choice. We learned many years ago that to form community you must live in community. To solve all problems before beginning community only highlights differences. Those differences fade to insignificance when you live with and love each other.

        • Wally

          December 5, 2012 at 2:39 pm

          I am sorry that I cannot follow the full extent of what you have written. It seems a complete confusion to me. What is clear is that you seem to want to have something on your terms and you are prepared to dismiss what doesn’t suit you. I can only see one result – that the Word of God will no longer have any basis upon which to be called that.

          The Scriptures stand on the basis of being the Word of God – take anything away from that, and they fall. It really is as simple as that. Maybe the following quote will get us away from this constant pickyness and focus instead on the real essence:

          The Holy Gospel and the Holy Scriptures
          Now that we have defined the authority of Scripture and the meaning of the Gospel as our Confessions use these terms, we must address ourselves to the relationship between the Scriptures and the Gospel.
          There is much discussion today in Lutheran circles about the relationship between Scripture and the Gospel. Certainly there is a relationship! The Gospel we preach and teach and confess is set forth in the Scriptures and normed by them. At the same time, the Scriptures, inspired by God, were written for the sake of the Gospel.
          However, the idea seems to be current among some Lutheran theologians (perhaps because they have lost confidence in the inerrancy and absolute authority of Scripture) that Scripture is not the norm for Christian doctrine and therefore also for the doctrine of the Gospel. Rather the Gospel which, according to our Lutheran Confessions, is “the delightful proclamation of God’s grace and favor acquired through the merits of Christ” (FC Ep, V, 7) is such a norm. This is a dangerous idea, not only because it is wrong and utterly confusing, but because it sounds so pious. The Gospel is the norm, the saying goes. There is an attractive, though deceptive, evangelical ring to that statement.
          For instance, one Lutheran scholar today tells us that according to the Lutheran Confessions the Scriptures are authoritative not because of their divine origin but because of their power to judge and pardon. And another theologian says that the authority of Scripture is the power conferred upon it by God to save and to judge. The implication in both cases is that the authority of Scripture is nothing but the power of the Gospel it proclaims.
          Now such a position utterly confuses the function of the Gospel with one of the functions of Scripture. It confuses the power of the Gospel with the authority of Scripture. And thus it undermines both.
          Scripture is the authority for the Gospel according to our Lutheran Confessions. When Melanchthon debates with the Roman Catholics on the nature and content and function of the Gospel of justification by faith in his Apology of the Augsburg Confession (IV), his authority is always Scripture. And Scripture is authoritative, according to our Confessions, not because it contains and proclaims the Gospel–the Gospel is proclaimed in many writings–but because it is God’s Word (Ap, IV, 108; XV, 14; LC, 1, 121; FC SD , Rule and Norm, 10). Although our Confessions use the term “Word of God” in a number of senses, there is no doubt that they again and again identify the Scriptures with the Word of God. And that is why the Scriptures are authoritative for the teaching and preaching of the Gospel.
          But if Scripture is not authoritative because the Gospel is contained therein, it most certainly is authoritative for the sake of the Gospel. In other words, the Scriptures were written for the sake of the Gospel (John 20:31; 2 Tim. 3:15). And so were our Lutheran Confessions. The authority of Scripture is not an end in itself. Our great Lutheran Confessions do not just assert their confidence in the divine authority of Scripture and then leave it at that. Their concern is always that the church under the Scriptures might propagate the Gospel Word “that alone brings salvation” (Preface to the Book of Concord, p. 13). And so it is the function of Scripture to be the divine authority for evangelical teachers and teachings in the church. And it is the function of the Gospel to be the power for such teachers and teachings.
          It is significant that the New Testament never calls the Gospel an authority or a norm-nor do our Lutheran Confessions. Rather it calls the Gospel power, spiritual power, power to save us forever (Rom. 1:16; 15:16; 1 Cor. 2:1-5; Eph. 1:13; 1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 1:10). And so do our Confessions.
          According to our Confessions it is the Gospel that creates faith in someone’s heart, brings him the Holy Spirit, and comforts him with the treasure of salvation (SA, III, iv; AC, V, 2; Ap, IV, 73; LC, 11, 38). It is the Gospel that offers and confers consolation and continual forgiveness (SA, III, iii, 8). It is the Gospel by which the church lives and flourishes (Ap, VII, 20; Tr, 25; LC, 11, 43, 56). It is the Gospel that incites true piety which is pleasing to God (Ap, IV, 122 ff.). And it is for the sake of the Gospel that God’s fallen creation still exists (LC, 11, 61 ff.).
          The infallible authority of Scripture does not diminish the wonderful and saving power of the Gospel, but supports it. And the power of the Gospel does not vitiate the divine authority of Scripture. Let us leave the Gospel its power-not only when we may read it in Scripture, but wherever it is preached and taught in the church. And let us leave Scripture its authority. Then we will not only be talking sense, but we will be talking like confessional Lutherans.
          Getting into The Theology of Concord by Robert D. Preus
          (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1977), pgs.7-10.

  9. Katie and Martin

    December 5, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    Hmmm. No reply to anything that was written. What part didn’t you agree with?
    Regardless, thanks for trying Wally. It looks like our attempts to understand each other are not going to come to fruition. I wonder if “the Word of God will no longer have any basis upon which to be called that” contains the crux of the matter for you.
    When women’s ordination happens, as it will, for this is not the LCMS, your choice will be whether you can live with others who worship God under the Confessions and a different hermeneutic, or whether you will insist on only worshiping with those who use the same hermeneutic.

  10. Wally

    December 5, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    Surprising you should talk about “no reply”. I am still waiting on what part of the Constitution the President is in breach of.
    And, what is the problem with that which is the crux for me? And for the church!

  11. Katie and Martin

    December 5, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    Fair enough. “Nothing received” – as they say on UHF.
    No problem with your crux, just concerned that the isolationist framework does service to no-one.

    • Wally

      December 5, 2012 at 4:25 pm

      Well, I gave you good material and stated why your question was not really the issue, or, to put it better, not the right way to seek and answer. You on the other hand made an accusation against the President of the Church in respect of being in contravention of the Constitution and now you won’t back it up? Come clean or admit it is not the case.
      I am out now for the day.

    • Wally

      December 6, 2012 at 2:12 am

      Further, you refer to “the isolationist framework” – what do you mean? It seems to me that being isolated for ones belief is often to be expected of Christians, so what is the issue?


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