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Scripture alone?

Nicolaus Copernicus rocked the church with his heliocentric view of the Solar System.

Nicolaus Copernicus rocked the church with his heliocentric view of the Solar System.

Theologians, both supporting and opposing women’s ordination, have claimed ‘Scripture alone’ as a basis for their arguments.  We Lutherans pay particular attention to such arguments as we hold Scripture as central, but the conflicting arguments for and against any issue, both adhering to ‘scripture alone’, make the term less convincing.

‘Scripture alone’ is well and good if you are arguing for something embracing, tolerant and uplifting – however, to do this, you need to strategically ignore many Old Testament terrifying passages. (Consider this theologian’s reflection on his 20year old understanding of his faith.) However, a simple understanding of ‘scripture alone’ has disturbing implications when used to uphold power structures and difference, for they are the foundations of misogyny, sexual abuse and domestic violence.

‘Scripture alone’ implies that Scripture has all that is necessary for us to decide on matters of contemporary life.  We suggest, on the contrary, that Scripture needs interrogating to find the core truths and to find the cultural unnecessary baggage.  Such interrogation is assisted with the tools of hermeneutics.

‘Scripture alone’ was not enough when it came to deciding on:

Now, it’s probably harsh of us if we condemn the church of old for its theology and action when knowledge was not what it is today, but you can’t have it both ways.  You can’t use ‘Scripture alone’ and yet rely on the benefits of the modern world (including science, research, medicine, democracy). Either you have it completely correct by just using Scripture, in the tradition of the Amish, or you rely on society, culture and science to help you in your quest to understand God in Scripture. Which is it?

The reality is that our knowledge of the world and the structure of the universe is changing.  We are intimately entwined with the world’s understandings, its social structures and its interpretations of justice.  When we are shielded from society we are blinkered, dangerous in our certainty and even sect-like.  Revelation is progressive and also comes through our secular citizens – not so shocking if we accept that God loves and works through us all, even if we are unaware of God’s grace.

While we can accept the principled theological intentions of the term, ultimately Scripture is not the only word on matters of contemporary importance, including the position of women in the LCA.

We thank God for academics, researchers, philosophers, scientists, educators, doctors, social scientists, astronomers…  That’s what makes society so rich.  Without embracing the growing wisdom from these disciplines and professions we are a reduced people.

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2015 in theology

 

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The bitter truth

Just as in the case of slavery, women’s suffrage or anti-Semitism, those people currently blocking women in the LCA from ordination (or perhaps their descendants) will one day claim that they weren’t to know any better.  They will assert, just as those who apologise for the torture of Galileo in his support for the Copernican understanding of the Solar System, that the level of knowledge in society was insufficient for them to understand how much they had erred.

It seems to us that no-one can know all things and so ignorance should not be condemned.  However, in Jesus we have the principle of love, which guides who we are, what we say and how we act.  This principle guides us in how we interact with our loved ones and adversaries.  It is a principle that would have us embracing each other in our hurts and disagreements.  It is a principle that would have us working to respect and build up our adversaries, while clinging to our own beliefs.  If we cannot do this what can we take from Jesus, apart from personal piety?  If that’s what it is to be Christian, we shall be called shallow indeed.

The small clip from Intelligence Squared makes the point succinctly.

Here is the full debate on whether the Catholic Church is a force for good.  Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry argue passionately that the Catholic Church is not a force for good.  They are both atheists and argue convincingly that the Catholic Church has much to answer for.  We’ll leave it to the reader to find relevance for the LCA

If the Church is to be a force for good it needs to be leading the way, reconciling adversaries, living with difference, living with tension, accepting contradictions, embracing multiculturalism, embracing different metaphors for the Creator God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and living with different perspectives on the place of women within the LCA.

We cannot hope that this issue will disappear.  It’s not going to happen.  Would Jesus tell his sisters to be silent?  There is only one option.

Equality will continue to be an issue until it is so complete that it ceases to be an issue.

 
20 Comments

Posted by on September 17, 2013 in politics, sociology, women's ordination

 

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