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Title: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Richard Johnson on March 03, 2009, 10:12:27 PM
“Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust”
and
“Report and Recommendation on Ministry Policies,”

A Critique by Carl E. Braaten

Introduction

My critique of the first “Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality” prepared by the Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality, written and disseminated in April, 2008, offered this conclusion: “This ‘Draft’ fails to take seriously distinctive Lutheran principles of theology and ethics regarding human sexuality. Either the Task Force is woefully ignorant of the Lutheran confessional tradition regarding theological ethics, or it willfully ignores it to reach some pre-conceived conclusions for ideological reasons.” My criticisms included the following assertions: 1) it confused law and gospel; 2) it reversed the order of creation and redemption; 3) it wrongly represented Lutheran ethics of sex as deriving from Christology and the doctrine of justification; 4) it was antinomian; 5) it did not deal with the Law of God and the Ten Commandments; 6) it did not exegete the biblical passages that deal with sexuality, and in particular homosexuality; 7) it avoided the use of the proper name of the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; 8 ) it drew only upon Lutheran sources, displaying a sectarian attitude that ignores the teachings of the Great Tradition; 9) it disregarded the Lutheran view of homosexual acts as sinful. I ended my critique by saying that the social statement of the Task Force is “not only deeply flawed from a Lutheran theological perspective, it is also so poorly written that I believe there is very little in it to salvage.”

Now we have before us a revised version of the social statement on sexuality proposed by the same Task Force that produced the first draft. My first observation is that it is vastly improved in substance and style. A serious effort has been made, it appears, to take seriously the criticisms that I as well as others made of the document. It uses traditional Lutheran theological concepts and language more intelligibly. Many Lutherans who read this statement will encounter an array of familiar Lutheran symbols, slogans, and shibboleths that will possibly dispose them to accept it.

However, they are mostly an ornamental covering that hides its egregious departure from the biblical, doctrinal, and ethical teachings of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church affirmed by the Lutheran Confessional Writings as well as the Constitution and Confession of Faith of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Let there be no mistake about this: If the ELCA were to adopt the social statement and approve the recommendation of the Task Force to ordain men and women living with sexual partners of the same gender, that would constitute a radical departure from the overwhelming consensus that has prevailed in historic Christianity through twenty centuries. The social statement proposed by the Task Force fails to make the case that this is a wise and legitimate decision for an orthodox Christian church to make.

I. On Theological Method
There is no real theology in this social statement. At best what it offers are numerous descriptive statements of what it presumes Lutherans have confessed and believed. That is history and not theology. Simply to state and re-state what this church (the ELCA) teaches about this or that does not make it true. The document fails to make theological statements that have any merit in the face of other Christians and churches.

What Lutherans believe, teach, and confess is not true simply because they say so. Sixty million Lutherans saying something doesn’t make it true. We must demonstrate that what we assert is true on the basis of Holy Scripture in continuity with the classical creeds and confessions which the ELCA accepts in its Constitution.

There is no biblical exegesis in this social statement. A number of times it makes the gratuitous claim that it has “drawn deeply on our Lutheran theological heritage and Scripture.” (“Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust,” line 606) It states that “it seeks to tap the deep roots of Scripture and the Lutheran theological tradition.” (“Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust,” line 1179) But it fails to do precisely that. For example, the statement refers to the “seven texts” in the Bible that specifically address the issue of homosexual behavior. No effort is made to explain or interpret these texts. They are not identified or quoted, let alone exegeted or interpreted. Instead, the social statement has implicitly accepted the opinions of some recent biblical scholars that these texts have no bearing on the kind of homosexuality that they are talking about -- sexual relations between same-gender oriented persons.

Lutherans affirm that Scripture is both source and norm of their attempt to hear the Word and heed the Will of God. Well, what about these seven texts? Do they or do they not express the intention of God for human behavior? Does not what Paul says in Romans 1: 26-27 merit any consideration by a Task Force of the church that produces a social statement on human sexuality, especially when it proposes to overturn the unanimous convictions of Christians and churches the world over for the last two millennia? After careful reading I can reach no other conclusion: This social statement does not take Scripture seriously, and does not even try. Nor does it take church tradition seriously, choosing instead to go its own way, which is the definition of “heresy” -- to choose an opinion at variance with orthodoxy. This is the kind of evidence a sister Lutheran Church can use to bolster its nasty accusation that the ELCA is heterodox.

The Task Force is clearly confused about how to construct the ethics of sex from a Lutheran theological perspective. In its first draft it stated that the Lutheran understanding of sexuality is founded on the incarnation of God and the doctrine of justification. Those two doctrines fall under the rubric of the “right hand” rule of God in Jesus Christ. In this its final draft the Task Force places the ethics of sexuality under the rubric of the “left hand” rule of God through the structures of creation. It is difficult to have any confidence in the theological competence of this Task Force that shows such utter confusion on theological method.

II. The Wrath and Judgment of God
In my first critique I quoted H. Richard Niebuhr’s quip about the theology of preaching going on in liberal Protestantism: “A God without wrath brought people without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministry of a Christ without the cross.” This social statement is not reluctant to talk about sin. It describes how sin pervades all human relations, including sexual relationships. But it depicts a God without wrath and without judgment. God’s only response to sin is “love.” God is love. God loves and cares for everybody; it doesn’t matter what they do. God is a prisoner of his own love. He can’t do anything else. Voltaire said, “God will forgive, that’s his job.” This is not the God of the Bible; this is not the God of the great teachers of the church, Irenaeus, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther and Calvin. Luther preached Christ against the backdrop of the wrath of God. Take away the wrath and judgment of God, and you have the wishy-washy God of liberal Protestantism.

The Luther-renaissance established beyond all doubt that the idea of the wrath and judgment of God in relation to everything that opposes his will is fundamental to Luther’s understanding of salvation, the atonement, and his theology of the cross. This document no doubt represents the idea of God held by the Task Force; it most certainly does not faithfully reflect the Lutheran understanding of God. For Luther the five tyrants or enemies from which Christ on the cross delivered humankind were wrath, sin, Satan, law, and death. This statement asserts that “God brings in the coming world of Christ’s rule where sin, death, and evil will reign no longer.” (“Human
Sexuality: Gift and Trust,” line 308) Luther’s “unholy trinity” were sin, death, and the devil. There is no Devil in this document. In liberal Protestantism the Devil has faded into invisibility, and here too. In Lutheran theology there can be no talk of God apart from his diabolical Other. “No Devil, no God,” said John Wesley. Luther would agree with that, as he hurls his ink well against the wall.

III. The Word of God and Church Unity
This is what Lennart Pinomaa writes about Luther’s concept of the wrath of God: “Albrecht Ritschl and his school were never able to take seriously Luther’s talk about God’s wrath; to them such talk was virtually medieval superstition. In this respect theology has since made a complete turnabout. God’s wrath and judgment now represent a reality that has its own peculiar function. God lets us know how far we are from him. Because of our uncleanness and hardness of heart we are an abomination to him. The judgment of God’s wrath also demonstrates that power belongs to him and that there is no escape from his hand.” (Lennart Pinomaa, Faith Victorious, Fortress Press, 1963)

In Lutheran theology the Word of God meets us in two forms, as law and as gospel. And it is important to make the proper distinction. The summary of the law is love to God and neighbor. This summary, however, does not nullify the force of the individual laws and commandments of God. They are binding on the people of God, the church of Jesus Christ. In our first critique we accused the social statement of repeating the typical “Lutheran heresy” that reared its ugly head at the time of the Reformation and against which Luther fought with all his might and mane. That is the heresy of antinomianism. This social statement never brings it up, never mentions the word, and the charge is never refuted. Why? The answer is that this social statement collapses the three uses of the law into two, admitting that it “streamlines its discussion of law by focussing solely on the two uses.” (“Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust,” p. 6, n. 8 ) Since it is the third use of the law that is at stake when the church discusses ordaining clergy involved in homosexual behavior, this use of the law should have been treated at length, and not swallowed up into the first two, neither of which lies at the center of the churchwide controversy.

But there is an even more serious misinterpretation of the law that bears upon the unity of the church. The statement makes a number of questionable assertions, such as: “We believe that the way we order our lives in matters of sexuality, although important for us as people of faith, is not central to the Gospel itself.” (“Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust,” line 300) Here is another: “Thus, we realize that this church’s deliberations related to human sexuality do not threaten the center of our faith.” (line 326) And another: “The task force recognizes the deep love that all hold for this church and the shared commitment to remaining together in spite of differences on these matters.” (“Report and Recommendation,” line 225) And another: “In this regard the task force believes that, as this is a matter of God’s civil realm, ‘God’s left hand,’ this church is free to live with a diversity of opinions in this matter.” (“Report and Recommendation,” line 465) What the task force is asserting in these statements is that matters having to do with the laws and commandments of God, and not with the core principles of the gospel, cannot be church-dividing and are not basic to church unity. Matters that fall under the rubric of the “left hand of God,” namely, the will and rule of God in the orders of creation (political, economic, and social structures, including marriage, family, and sexuality), are not central to the gospel as such and therefore cannot be foundational for church unity.

The Task Force is mistaken. The church is founded upon the Word of God, which includes what it believes about God’s activity in both creation and redemption, both law and gospel, both the kingdom on the left and on the right. The church is not founded on only one half of the Word of God. Consider this: the Lutheran World Federation raised the task of resisting apartheid in South Africa to a matter of status confessionis. This meant that opposing apartheid becomes a necessary implication of the church’s confession of faith. The white Lutheran congregations protested that the racial struggles in South Africa had nothing to do with the gospel, but only with the kingdom of God on the left hand. Ergo, the struggle for racial justice, whatever side one takes on the issue, cannot constitute a status confessionis for church fellowship. If the LWF was right in its declaration, it shows that the gospel cannot be separated from the law, the kingdom on the right from the kingdom on the left. Lutheran Churches in the United States faced the same issue in the struggle for civil rights when the system of racial segregation meant that Blacks and Whites were not welcome to celebrate Holy Communion together. The Lutheran Churches in Germany under Hitler were confronted by the same problem. The theologians supporting National Socialism declared that its anti-Semitic policies regarding the Jews have nothing to do with the gospel, therefore they have no bearing on church unity and fellowship. The Lutherans in Chile under General Pinochet faced the same kind of issue.

The Task Force is unrealistic to believe that the majority of members in the ELCA will so easily separate the law and the gospel, the left hand and the right hand kingdoms of God. Separating the law and the gospel, the two integral forms of the Word of God, is as pernicious in church life as confusing or equating them. The Task Force nowhere acknowledges that many pastors and congregations, anticipating that the ELCA was heading in the direction of ordaining same-gendered pastors, have already left the ELCA, and many others are lining up at the door ready to make their exit. The Task Force seems to have adopted the slogan of that great American prophet, Rodney King, who asked, “Can’t we all just get along?” If the ELCA adopts the recommendations of the Task Force, many pastors and congregations will choose not to leave, but to remain and protest as a confessing movement. They will not leave the church in which they have been baptized and surrender it to those trying to take it in a direction that negates what Lutherans, along with all other Christians, have always believed and taught.

Continued on the next post
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Richard Johnson on March 03, 2009, 10:13:08 PM
Continued

IV. What Is Marriage?
According to church tradition the ethics of sex must be elaborated in relation to the institution of marriage. The social statement defines marriage “as a covenant of mutual promises, commitment, and hope authorized legally by the state and blessed by God. The historic Christian tradition and the Lutheran Confessions have recognized marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman.” (“Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust,” lines 502 ff.) No, they do more than that. They define marriage not merely as a human institution that has evolved through the centuries but as an institution ordained by God. God is the author of marriage. Should not that be the first thing that the church says about marriage? Marriage is God’s plan for a man and a woman who enter into a partnership for the whole of their lives.


V. Same-Gender Orientations

Many men and women have deep-seated homosexual tendencies. As a rule people do not choose their sexual orientation. All persons must choose how to live with the condition in which they find themselves. This goes for heterosexuals as well as homosexuals. Their options are different according to church teaching. But both are taught that celibacy is the moral option apart from marriage. Many heterosexuals who have never found a marriage partner remain celibate their entire lives. That is true not only of the many sisters and priests we know in the Catholic Church who have voluntarily chosen celibacy. It is equally true of many Protestants who have never found the right mate and have therefore chosen celibacy as their only moral alternative. What about homosexuals?

The church has always taught that, like their many heterosexual brothers and sisters who happen not to have found the right person to marry, homosexual persons are called to a vocation of celibacy. Many have responded and lived faithfully according to that call.

The Task Force is now proposing that a life of sexual relations with persons of the same gender is open to the ordained clergy of the ELCA. Everyone should be clear that the issue before the church is not the sexual orientation of a person seeking ordination. All churches welcome homosexual persons with respect and pledge themselves to reject every form of social discrimination. The church has always had homosexuals among the ordained clergy. So clearly the issue is not orientation but behavior. The Task Force is proposing that the sexual behavior of homosexuals should be no insuperable obstacle to ordination. Persons in “publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, samegender, committed relationships” will be acceptable for ordination in the ELCA.

Who are these persons living in “publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, samegender committed relationships”? Where are they? How many are there? I have been an ordained Lutheran minister for over fifty years and I cannot think of a single person who would qualify.

What do those qualifications for the ordination of homosexuals mean? What does “publicly accountable” mean? This is a desideratum that has proved to be unworkable even among heterosexual pastors? Pastors by the hundreds up and leave their spouses with virtual impunity. Where is the “public accountability?” None to speak of. What would it mean to hold practicing homosexuals publicly accountable?

What does “lifelong” mean? The marriage vow used to mean “as long as life shall last.” Now it has become “as long as love shall last.” How long is “lifelong?”

I know an ordained minister who left his wife with five children to enter into a “lifelong, monogamous, committed relationship” with another man. He was removed from the rostered clergy. Would such a person qualify to be reinstated? Many similar cases come to mind. And what does monogamy mean in this context? The Webster Dictionary defines monogamy as 1) marriage with only one person at a time, in contrast to bigamy or polygamy, 2) the practice of having only one mate, which goes also for animals, 3) the practice of marrying only once during lifetime. The social statement does not state what it means by monogamy. It’s no big deal in our society to be married with only one person at a time. Even Elizabeth Taylor or Larry King would qualify by such a definition.

This highfalutin category of ordained clergy who are supposed to enter into a “publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender, committed relationship” is an arbitrary concoction of the Task Force. On close inspection its criteria do not even hold for heterosexual clergy.

VI. Lack of Consensus in the ELCA

The Task Force is correct in observing numerous times that there is no consensus in the ELCA on the rostering of homosexual persons in same-gender relationships. The Task Force postulates that the difference between the traditionalists and revisionists is a matter of conscience. The statement asserts that there are “differing and conscience-bound understandings about the place of such relationships within the Christian community.” (“Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust,” lines 607 ff). This is a specious non-theological appeal to conscience. Of course, when facing a critical moral decision, it goes without saying that persons should follow their conscience. What else should they do? But that does not mean that one’s subjective conscience is right. I have my conscience, you have yours. So what? The question is, what is right in the sight of God? Has God not said anything about sex, marriage, and family, so that we are left in the dark to follow our own subjective feelings? For the church private personal conscience does not have the last word. It needs to be instructed and illuminated by the Word and Spirit of God.

Luther said he was bound by his conscience; it was bound by the Word of God. It is the church’s responsibility to enlighten conscience, to teach the Word of God. This social statement fails to be a teaching document of the church. It professes not to know the difference between right and wrong on crucial matters of human sexuality. If reflects the cultural Zeitgeist, the spirit of the age. The church has spent a million dollars to be informed by this Task Force that there is no consensus in the church on human sexuality.

Since there is no consensus in the church, why not keep the status quo? Why not follow the sage advice, when in doubt, stick with the tradition? The recommendation of this Task Force to accept practicing homosexuals for ordination does not necessarily follow from the social statement, “Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust.”

This statement states that all of us in the ELCA should show deep respect for the conscience-bound beliefs of those with whom we disagree. Luther showed little respect for the beliefs of Erasmus of Rotterdam when he wrote his diatribe, The Bondage of the Will. St. John showed little respect for the beliefs of Cerinthus, as he exited the baths when he saw that Cerinthus the gnostic was inside. Athanasius showed little respect for Arius who denied the divinity of Christ. Augustine show little respect for Pelagius who taught that the human will is free in relation to God and the offer of salvation. Christian truth and church teaching are not decided by individual conscience. Every heretic in the church was convinced by his conscience that his doctrine was true, even biblical.

Amazingly this Task Force claims that those who advocate for changing the ELCA policy regarding practicing homosexuals “affirm the same biblical and confessional doctrines as the advocates for present policies.” (“Report and Recommendation,” line 151) No they don’t. Otherwise, the proposed social statement and its appended recommendation would not have set loose such an avalanche of negative criticisms throughout the church, including this one.

VII. When In Doubt, For the Tradition
The ELCA is at the crossroads. The Task Force has not helped to enlighten the church as to what is right or wrong. It makes a proposal to the church that takes one side of a controversial issue on which it does not expect that a consensus will emerge soon or ever. It flies in the face of the church’s tradition, not only Lutheran but virtually that of all others. It offers no biblical warrant to reverse the magnum consensus that has prevailed in Lutheranism until recently. By recently we mean since the ELCA was born twenty years ago. Yet, the Task Force presents recommendations that it knows the majority of Lutherans do not favor, but which it believes the ELCA might accept at its 2009 assembly in Minneapolis. It is a bold and risky move. No matter what is decided, the church will pay a heavy price. The issue of homosexuality will not go away. Whichever side loses will regroup and rise to fight another day. God help the ELCA! This is no way for the church of Jesus Christ to function. There is an authority crisis in the Lutheran Church glaringly exposed by the fiasco of having to deal with the report and recommendations of another theologically challenged Task Force.

VIII. Back To A Low Congregationalist Polity
The acceptance of the Task Force’s “Report and Recommendation on Ministry Policies” would return the ELCA to the kind of individualistic congregationalism that characterized American Lutheranism during the 1900’s. The past fifty years of ecumenical dialogues have taught Lutherans something about the nature of the church. The LCA, the ALC, and the AELC entered the merger process that brought about the ELCA with differing ecclesiologies. The Article on “The Nature of the Church” in the Constitution of the ELCA came a long way in leaving behind the congregationalist polities held by some of the predecessor church bodies. We were pleased to observe that the ELCA was moving toward a higher ecclesiology that aims to manifest the Church as one, apostolic, catholic, and holy. All of its ministries and programs are to express that unity, anchored in the apostolic tradition of faith that is passed on from generation to generation.

The doctrine of the church reflected in this social statement is perhaps the worst that has ever appeared in the history of Lutheranism in America. Congregations and synods are invited to go their own way and to reach their own decisions with respect to the ordained ministry, based not on what is essential to the church’s witness and proclamation as a whole, but on what seems relevant to the cultural vision of a new age. That kind of individualistic mindset puts the ELCA adrift in the ever-changing tides of culture. The people of the ELCA will then merit the epitaph applied to the people of Israel in the Book of Judges: “EVERY MAN DID WHAT WAS RIGHT IN HIS OWN EYES.” (17:6)

Carl E. Braaten

cbraat@cox.net
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: bajaye on March 04, 2009, 08:54:59 AM
It would appear that my old teacher hit the nail on the head.  Again.

Brian
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Brian Hughes on March 04, 2009, 09:04:12 AM

  Anyone know if Robert Jensen has written a response?  Didn't have Braaten for Confessions, but Jensen was not a bad substitute. 

Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: DCharlton on March 04, 2009, 11:11:53 AM
There are two points in Braatens critique that I'd like to hear discussed:

1.  He takes for granted the Third Use of the Law.

2.  He argues that the Church must come to agreement on the whole Word of God, the Law and the Gospel and not just the Gospel.

I tend to agree and think he has pointed out two of the main flaws in ELCA Lutheranism.  I'd like to hear what others think on those to points.

David Charlton

P.S.  Whether it was due to my neglect or that of others, I cannot recall any major discussions of these issues while in seminary. 
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Pr. Jerry Kliner on March 04, 2009, 12:05:13 PM
There are two points in Braatens critique that I'd like to hear discussed:

1.  He takes for granted the Third Use of the Law.

2.  He argues that the Church must come to agreement on the whole Word of God, the Law and the Gospel and not just the Gospel.

I tend to agree and think he has pointed out two of the main flaws in ELCA Lutheranism.  I'd like to hear what others think on those to points.

David Charlton

P.S.  Whether it was due to my neglect or that of others, I cannot recall any major discussions of these issues while in seminary. 

Look, I'm not a trained Theologian but I don't get how anybody who knows Luther's Small Catechism disputes the "Third Use" of the Law...  It's implicit in Luther's explanation of all ten of the Commandments whilest the "First Use" is only explicitly stated in eight of his explanations; the explanation of the First and the Sixth Commandments being the noteworthy exceptions to the rule.

Let us not be confused here...  The "Third Use" is still the Law.  It is not a confusion of Law and Gospel, it is not somehow asserting that "if you do these things...you will live."  The "Third Use" is what God commands of us, even as the "First Use" commands us to not do certain things.  We can never be justified by the "Third Use" of the Law, it remains Law and convicts us of certain judgment.

Now, to the SC...  Let us pick a Commandment at random, oh say the Fifth Commandment: You shall not murder.  What does Luther say on the issue?  "We are to fear and love God, so that we neither endanger nor harm the lives of our neighbors, but instead help and support them in all of life's needs."  Can we agree that the Commandment indeed has a salutary effect?  Certainly we are not to kill or endanger the lives of our neighbors, but Luther doesn't stop there.  No, he continues and says that the Law commands us to "help and support" our neighbors in all of life's needs.  This is the "supposed" Third Use. 

So, Braaten "takes for granted the Third Use of the Law."  Yup.  Because in Luther's own explanation of the Commandments the Third Use is present.  Is this not exactly what we confess when we say "By what we have done and what we have left undone..."?  Sins of omission are every bit as damning as sins of comission.  But how can you have a "sin of omission" without the "Third Use" of the Law?

It gets a little more sticky with the Sixth Commandment, because Luther himself explains it with these words: "We should fear and love God, and so we should lead a chaste and pure life in word and deed, each one loving and honoring his wife or her husband."  (BOC/Tappert)  Where is the "First Use" of the Law in Luther's explanation?  Certainly there were sexual sins well known enough that, had he wanted too, Luther could have ennumerated them.  But he doesn't.  Instead, Luther's own explanation of the Sixth Commandment is only in terms that might be spoken of in the "Third Use" of the Law.

Clearly I'm not trying to say that the "First Use" has no place with the Sixth Commandment.  But, on the other hand, I think Braaten is quite right to speak on this issue as if the "Third Use" is assumed and implicit in Luther's understanding.

Not that anybody who denies the existence or propriety of the "Third Use" will be swayed by my argument... 

Pax Christi;
Pr. Jerry Kliner, STS
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: DCharlton on March 04, 2009, 12:27:11 PM
Thanks Jerry,

I agree with your assessment. 

I often wonder where I was when that lecture was given in seminary.  Was I sleeping in, or was it never discussed?   ;)

David Charlton
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: anonymous on March 04, 2009, 01:59:10 PM
Thanks Jerry,

I agree with your assessment. 

I often wonder where I was when that lecture was given in seminary.  Was I sleeping in, or was it never discussed?   ;)

David Charlton


I make that three and may our Father in heaven grant it!  :) Seriously, a good post by Jerry.

Let's hear the argument against it.

BTW, David, I had Braaten in seminary and no one slept through his lectures. Not that he was that popular, but he began speaking the moment he walked into the door and was a commanding presence. It's right that he "takes it as a given". He didn't speak on it a lot but I do remember him speaking about it.
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on March 04, 2009, 02:00:10 PM
Now, to the SC...  Let us pick a Commandment at random, oh say the Fifth Commandment: You shall not murder.  What does Luther say on the issue?  "We are to fear and love God, so that we neither endanger nor harm the lives of our neighbors, but instead help and support them in all of life's needs."  Can we agree that the Commandment indeed has a salutary effect?  Certainly we are not to kill or endanger the lives of our neighbors, but Luther doesn't stop there.  No, he continues and says that the Law commands us to "help and support" our neighbors in all of life's needs.  This is the "supposed" Third Use.
Those who object to a distinctive third use place the "doing good to others" under the first use -- it is part of keeping and promoting order in society. Or, in other terms, achieving civil righteousness.
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Dan Fienen on March 04, 2009, 02:12:36 PM
Is what we have here a dispute between "clumpers" and "splitters" or is there something more going on.  "Clumpers" tend to group things together into fewer categories than do "splitters" who tend to be more alert to distinctions and want separate categories for each one.  In this case, does grouping the "third use of the law" under the first use of the law change anything significant.  Can the first use of the law function in all ways as the third use of the law?  If so, this is perhaps less of a controversy than a matter of style.  However, since those who wish to dispense with a "third use of the law" seem also to perceive the law saying little about homosexual relations that it does not also say about heterosexual relations, perhaps there is more going on here than simply clumping the two uses together under one heading.

Dan
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Team Hesse on March 04, 2009, 04:07:06 PM
Is what we have here a dispute between "clumpers" and "splitters" or is there something more going on.  "Clumpers" tend to group things together into fewer categories than do "splitters" who tend to be more alert to distinctions and want separate categories for each one.  In this case, does grouping the "third use of the law" under the first use of the law change anything significant.  Can the first use of the law function in all ways as the third use of the law?  If so, this is perhaps less of a controversy than a matter of style. 

It may appear to be a matter of style, but what I have experienced is that people will make the claim that now that they are converted, they do a better job of fulfilling the law in a third use way, as described by pastors Kliner and Charlton upthread.  And such people will then wonder how "any supposed Christian" could do some of the things they do.  The teaching of the people I hang out with is that no one fully keeps the law, in either its positive language (which is called third use above) or its negative language (which is called first use).  If no one keeps the law and we all feel accused, why does it not then fit under Luther's description of two uses of the law in the Smalcald Articles (to curb sin and drive to Christ)?  Which is also the language Luther uses in his Galatians commentary.

Quote
However, since those who wish to dispense with a "third use of the law" seem also to perceive the law saying little about homosexual relations that it does not also say about heterosexual relations, perhaps there is more going on here than simply clumping the two uses together under one heading.        Dan

The people I hang out with do not make this move; indeed we consistently name ourselves 'chief of sinners,' along with St. Paul.   My experience has been that revisionists tend to be just as legalistic and third use of the law oriented as any pietist; it's just that their law is different.  They can be very intolerant of those who don't see issues the same way they do.  It's very rare one runs across a true antinomian.  Even prison inmates have their hierarchies of law.

Lou
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Kurt Strause on March 04, 2009, 05:06:51 PM
Those who object to a distinctive third use place the "doing good to others" under the first use -- it is part of keeping and promoting order in society. Or, in other terms, achieving civil righteousness.
This can really only be true in a society that considers itself explicitly Christian. However, in a society that is not so, the positive commands enumerated by Luther in the SC aren't so easily applied to civil society as a whole. They are expectations for Christians, but can't be enforced on non-Christians. Thus, third use can't merely be collapsed into first use.

Kurt Strause
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Team Hesse on March 04, 2009, 05:34:03 PM
Those who object to a distinctive third use place the "doing good to others" under the first use -- it is part of keeping and promoting order in society. Or, in other terms, achieving civil righteousness.
This can really only be true in a society that considers itself explicitly Christian. However, in a society that is not so, the positive commands enumerated by Luther in the SC aren't so easily applied to civil society as a whole. They are expectations for Christians, but can't be enforced on non-Christians. Thus, third use can't merely be collapsed into first use.

Have to disagree with this because in the Ten Commandments we are dealing with natural law.  They are found universally throughout cultures, Christian and pagan, in words similar to the Biblical ten.  So when Paul speaks of 'elemental principles' in Galatians, for instance, he is speaking of the laws written on the heart.  Luther made no such distinction in his explanations to the ten commandments, that this part of the law is for everybody, and this part is solely for Christians...
It is part and parcel of our righteousness coram mundo.  I had posted a quote several months ago from The Genius of Luther's Theology by Kolb and Arand which speaks about this notion of two kinds of righteousness.
Lou
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: mariemeyer on March 04, 2009, 05:43:56 PM
There are two points in Braatens critique that I'd like to hear discussed:

1.  He takes for granted the Third Use of the Law.

I may have read Braaten's critique too quickly, but I missed where he takes the Third Use of the Law for granted. 

Marie Meyer 
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: anonymous on March 04, 2009, 05:56:45 PM
It's half way down on page 6 (of the pdf):

Since it is the third use of the law that is at stake when the church discusses ordaining clergy
involved in homosexual behavior, this use of the law should have been treated at length,
and not swallowed up into the first two, neither of which lies at the center of the churchwide
controversy.
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on March 04, 2009, 06:17:54 PM
Those who object to a distinctive third use place the "doing good to others" under the first use -- it is part of keeping and promoting order in society. Or, in other terms, achieving civil righteousness.
This can really only be true in a society that considers itself explicitly Christian. However, in a society that is not so, the positive commands enumerated by Luther in the SC aren't so easily applied to civil society as a whole. They are expectations for Christians, but can't be enforced on non-Christians. Thus, third use can't merely be collapsed into first use.
Ironically, the Ten Commandments were originally given by God to the Jewish people. It is part of their religion and how to order their civic life together. There is nothing particularly Christian about the Ten Commandments. (The Ten Commandments is the topic from Luther's Small Catechism for our midweek Lenten worship tonight.)
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on March 04, 2009, 06:27:10 PM
Those who object to a distinctive third use place the "doing good to others" under the first use -- it is part of keeping and promoting order in society. Or, in other terms, achieving civil righteousness.
This can really only be true in a society that considers itself explicitly Christian. However, in a society that is not so, the positive commands enumerated by Luther in the SC aren't so easily applied to civil society as a whole. They are expectations for Christians, but can't be enforced on non-Christians. Thus, third use can't merely be collapsed into first use.

Have to disagree with this because in the Ten Commandments we are dealing with natural law.  They are found universally throughout cultures, Christian and pagan, in words similar to the Biblical ten.  So when Paul speaks of 'elemental principles' in Galatians, for instance, he is speaking of the laws written on the heart.  Luther made no such distinction in his explanations to the ten commandments, that this part of the law is for everybody, and this part is solely for Christians...
It is part and parcel of our righteousness coram mundo.  I had posted a quote several months ago from The Genius of Luther's Theology by Kolb and Arand which speaks about this notion of two kinds of righteousness.
I've been thinking lately about the two kinds of righteousness as related to the uses of the Law.

Civil righteousness comes about by obedience to the first use of the law, which some of us refer to as the curb and the prod. It curbs bad behaviors and prods us to do good deeds. Both the curbing and prodding functions help bring order to society, to a household, or to a church. In a sense, civil righteousness is about creating right relationships between peoples on earth. As I have studied the fruit of the Spirit, it struck me that many of those are about our relationship with other people (so also are many of the works of the flesh).

I'm not sure of Luther's term for the other righteousness, but I'll call it divine righteousness -- it's concerned about creating the right relationship between God and humankind. It comes about only as a gift from God to sinners. For this the second use of the law and the Gospel work together. We are convicted of sins and our sinfulness state so that we might repent and throw ourselves on the mercy of God's grace by by Jesus through the gospel.
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: mariemeyer on March 04, 2009, 07:19:03 PM
Thanks, I missed it   Jet lag after a 48 hour return trip from India blurred my vision.

Marie Meyer
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Pr. Jerry Kliner on March 04, 2009, 08:28:59 PM
Is what we have here a dispute between "clumpers" and "splitters" or is there something more going on.  "Clumpers" tend to group things together into fewer categories than do "splitters" who tend to be more alert to distinctions and want separate categories for each one.  In this case, does grouping the "third use of the law" under the first use of the law change anything significant.  Can the first use of the law function in all ways as the third use of the law?  If so, this is perhaps less of a controversy than a matter of style. 

It may appear to be a matter of style, but what I have experienced is that people will make the claim that now that they are converted, they do a better job of fulfilling the law in a third use way, as described by pastors Kliner and Charlton upthread.  And such people will then wonder how "any supposed Christian" could do some of the things they do.  The teaching of the people I hang out with is that no one fully keeps the law, in either its positive language (which is called third use above) or its negative language (which is called first use).  If no one keeps the law and we all feel accused, why does it not then fit under Luther's description of two uses of the law in the Smalcald Articles (to curb sin and drive to Christ)?  Which is also the language Luther uses in his Galatians commentary.

Quote
However, since those who wish to dispense with a "third use of the law" seem also to perceive the law saying little about homosexual relations that it does not also say about heterosexual relations, perhaps there is more going on here than simply clumping the two uses together under one heading.        Dan

The people I hang out with do not make this move; indeed we consistently name ourselves 'chief of sinners,' along with St. Paul.   My experience has been that revisionists tend to be just as legalistic and third use of the law oriented as any pietist; it's just that their law is different.  They can be very intolerant of those who don't see issues the same way they do.  It's very rare one runs across a true antinomian.  Even prison inmates have their hierarchies of law.

Lou

Lou;
That's why I was careful to note that the "Third Use" is still the Law.  It is not a matter of "doing a better job fulfilling it" anymore than those who claim that they are better than "sinning less" with the First Use...

So frankly I think you're objection is a bit of a "straw man," set up to beat an imaginary opponent rather than to deal with the substance.  Because self-justification can happen just as easily without a "third use" than with it...

Better is the objection, I think, to note that Luther himself never names or claims an explicit category of "Third Use."  But then we still have Luther's explanations of the Commandments in the SC to deal with.

Pax Christi;
Pr. Jerry Kliner, STS
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Richard Johnson on March 04, 2009, 09:26:37 PM

Ironically, the Ten Commandments were originally given by God to the Jewish people. It is part of their religion and how to order their civic life together. There is nothing particularly Christian about the Ten Commandments. (The Ten Commandments is the topic from Luther's Small Catechism for our midweek Lenten worship tonight.)

Gosh, really? How lucky we are to have such a champion exegete to reveal these wonderful hidden truths to us. Why, you're almost as stimulating as Bart Ehrman! How fortunate your midweek worshipers will be tonight to get this new insight!  :o
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Paul L. Knudson on March 04, 2009, 10:12:07 PM
John Pless in an article referred to recently on this online forum addressed two different Lutheran theologians, one being Gerhard Forde.  As I read his article, he seemed to be emphasizing that the real issue is whether antinomianism is in order and leading us astray.  While Forde is not enamored by the third use of the law manner of speaking, Pless shows that Forde clearly attacks antinomianism as destructive to the faith.

Instead of us getting back into one more lengthy debate about the third use wouldn't we be better served by dealing with the antinomianism that Braaten sees in the document?
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: MaddogLutheran on March 04, 2009, 10:14:43 PM

Ironically, the Ten Commandments were originally given by God to the Jewish people. It is part of their religion and how to order their civic life together. There is nothing particularly Christian about the Ten Commandments. (The Ten Commandments is the topic from Luther's Small Catechism for our midweek Lenten worship tonight.)

Gosh, really? How lucky we are to have such a champion exegete to reveal these wonderful hidden truths to us. Why, you're almost as stimulating as Bart Ehrman! How fortunate your midweek worshipers will be tonight to get this new insight!  :o
I'm sure glad that you are the moderator and get to write what I'm thinking.  ;)  Thanks!

Sterling Spatz

Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: DCharlton on March 04, 2009, 11:00:09 PM
Those who object to a distinctive third use place the "doing good to others" under the first use -- it is part of keeping and promoting order in society. Or, in other terms, achieving civil righteousness.
This can really only be true in a society that considers itself explicitly Christian. However, in a society that is not so, the positive commands enumerated by Luther in the SC aren't so easily applied to civil society as a whole. They are expectations for Christians, but can't be enforced on non-Christians. Thus, third use can't merely be collapsed into first use.

Have to disagree with this because in the Ten Commandments we are dealing with natural law.  They are found universally throughout cultures, Christian and pagan, in words similar to the Biblical ten.  So when Paul speaks of 'elemental principles' in Galatians, for instance, he is speaking of the laws written on the heart.  Luther made no such distinction in his explanations to the ten commandments, that this part of the law is for everybody, and this part is solely for Christians...
It is part and parcel of our righteousness coram mundo.  I had posted a quote several months ago from The Genius of Luther's Theology by Kolb and Arand which speaks about this notion of two kinds of righteousness.
Lou

Perhaps someone who has studied under Kolb and Arand could tell us their position on the Third Use. I'd be interested to know.

When I read The Genius of Luther's Theology, I was surprised by how positively they were able to talk about good works under Active Righteousness.  They talked specifically about the good works that are done by Christians and that grow out of faith.

David Charlton
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Team Hesse on March 04, 2009, 11:37:38 PM
That's why I was careful to note that the "Third Use" is still the Law.  It is not a matter of "doing a better job fulfilling it" anymore than those who claim that they are better than "sinning less" with the First Use...

So frankly I think you're objection is a bit of a "straw man," set up to beat an imaginary opponent rather than to deal with the substance.  Because self-justification can happen just as easily without a "third use" than with it...

Better is the objection, I think, to note that Luther himself never names or claims an explicit category of "Third Use."  But then we still have Luther's explanations of the Commandments in the SC to deal with.

Pastor Jerry,
     In Luther's explanations in the small catechism, he never makes any distinctions about use of the law.   Those distinctions are made elsewhere in the confessions.  Jesus' language of the two greatest commandments are stated positively (love the Lord your God with your heart, mind, soul, and strength -- and-- love your neighbor as yourself).  Do we not hear explicit accusation in those positive statements?  Do those expressions of law not make us realize we have fallen short and despair of our own abilities?  I see only two uses, and in fact, I feel more condemned by falling short of the 'shoulds' than of the 'shalt not's.  After all, I've never killed anyone, but I have not loved everyone as I should.
    Lou
     As long as we are in the flesh the law will continue to accuse, whether it's shalt nots or shoulds. 
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Team Hesse on March 04, 2009, 11:39:18 PM
Perhaps someone who has studied under Kolb and Arand could tell us their position on the Third Use. I'd be interested to know.
When I read The Genius of Luther's Theology, I was surprised by how positively they were able to talk about good works under Active Righteousness.  They talked specifically about the good works that are done by Christians and that grow out of faith.

I think that's the only way one can properly speak of good works -- fruits of the real presence of the Holy Spirit within us, having nothing to do with the law.
Lou
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Team Hesse on March 04, 2009, 11:44:27 PM

Ironically, the Ten Commandments were originally given by God to the Jewish people. It is part of their religion and how to order their civic life together. There is nothing particularly Christian about the Ten Commandments. (The Ten Commandments is the topic from Luther's Small Catechism for our midweek Lenten worship tonight.)

Gosh, really? How lucky we are to have such a champion exegete to reveal these wonderful hidden truths to us. Why, you're almost as stimulating as Bart Ehrman! How fortunate your midweek worshipers will be tonight to get this new insight!  :o

Actually, esteemed moderator Richard, I think you went a little too far in this post towards snarky.  Sometimes Brian is a little prideful about his exegesis, but Christian charity should ask us to examine the content of his posts rather than remembering past indiscretions.  Some people do forget that the ten commandments are an expression of natural law.
Paul, in Galatians, refers to the elemental principles that the Galatians were aware of prior to ever knowing or meeting a Jew.
Lou
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: DCharlton on March 04, 2009, 11:50:43 PM
Perhaps someone who has studied under Kolb and Arand could tell us their position on the Third Use. I'd be interested to know.
When I read The Genius of Luther's Theology, I was surprised by how positively they were able to talk about good works under Active Righteousness.  They talked specifically about the good works that are done by Christians and that grow out of faith.

I think that's the only way one can properly speak of good works -- fruits of the real presence of the Holy Spirit within us, having nothing to do with the law.
Lou

I agree with you up to the point you say, "having nothing to do with the law."  If I read Kolb and Arand correctly, they are not against being specific about what good works are.  Whether it's teaching Christians about the Table of Duties, the Ten Commandments, or Christian virtues, when there is specific content to the teaching, it involves the law.  Otherwise the term good work is without form and content.

David Charlton
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Richard Johnson on March 05, 2009, 01:44:34 AM

Actually, esteemed moderator Richard, I think you went a little too far in this post towards snarky. 

Ah come on, after his nearly 8,000 posts and my many swats at people who seem to think Brian is at the root of all the problems of the ELCA and maybe the universe, aren't I allowed one little whiff of snarky?
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: FrPeters on March 05, 2009, 07:40:56 AM
Snarky?????   I guess I have been away from this thread too long...
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on March 05, 2009, 10:00:22 AM

Ironically, the Ten Commandments were originally given by God to the Jewish people. It is part of their religion and how to order their civic life together. There is nothing particularly Christian about the Ten Commandments. (The Ten Commandments is the topic from Luther's Small Catechism for our midweek Lenten worship tonight.)

Gosh, really? How lucky we are to have such a champion exegete to reveal these wonderful hidden truths to us. Why, you're almost as stimulating as Bart Ehrman! How fortunate your midweek worshipers will be tonight to get this new insight!  :o
While such things might be obvious to the participants in this forum, I don't know how many times I've had people say to me -- after they learn I'm an ordained minister -- "I try to keep the Ten Commandments" as if such attempts at keeping the Law are what make them Christian.
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Team Hesse on March 05, 2009, 10:06:43 AM
Actually, esteemed moderator Richard, I think you went a little too far in this post towards snarky. 
Ah come on, after his nearly 8,000 posts and my many swats at people who seem to think Brian is at the root of all the problems of the ELCA and maybe the universe, aren't I allowed one little whiff of snarky?

Given your normal modus operandi, it just seemed out of character.  It made me wonder if perhaps you'd been taking a whiff of something stronger than snarky.  Not really a very good witness to the outcome of an STS retreat, if one returns out of characteristically grumpy.  :)
Lou
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Team Hesse on March 05, 2009, 10:13:31 AM
I agree with you up to the point you say, "having nothing to do with the law."  If I read Kolb and Arand correctly, they are not against being specific about what good works are.  Whether it's teaching Christians about the Table of Duties, the Ten Commandments, or Christian virtues, when there is specific content to the teaching, it involves the law.  Otherwise the term good work is without form and content.         David Charlton

There's probably a lot to explore here, but just let me say now --
If -- the law always accuses and
If -- good works can't be accused by the law
Then -- the law has nothing to say to good works.
I suppose we could say the law establishes the form and content of a good work in a descriptive fashion by finding nothing to accuse in a good work (from our perspective), but that's about as far as I want to go.  I tend to work with the imagery of Matthew 25 (the sheep and goats) -- the sheep had no clue they'd done good works and the goats thought they had, but really hadn't.  So establishing what is a good work and what is not a good work in anything but hindsight is a very dangerous occupation... above my paygrade.
Lou
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Team Hesse on March 05, 2009, 10:16:41 AM
While such things might be obvious to the participants in this forum, I don't know how many times I've had people say to me -- after they learn I'm an ordained minister -- "I try to keep the Ten Commandments" as if such attempts at keeping the Law are what make them Christian.

It is the common witness of the Christian culture -- so much preaching is about doing good things, being good, prescriptions for good, ten rules for peacekeeping, how to love your wife better -- we could go on all day.  It's all about Law... there's no Christ in any of it.  And as Paul would say, I am sick to death of it. 
Galatians 2:19-20.
Lou
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Richard Johnson on March 05, 2009, 10:46:45 AM
Snarky?????   I guess I have been away from this thread too long...

From Urbandictionary.com:

Critical in a curmudgeonly sort of way. The adjective snarky is first recorded in 1906. It is from dialectal British snark, meaning 'to nag, find fault with', which is probably the same word as snark, snork, meaning 'to snort, snore'. (The likely connection is the derisive snorting sound of someone who is always finding fault.) Most dictionaries label snarky as "Chiefly British Slang." But for the last five or more years, it has become increasingly common in American publications, maybe ones infiltrated by British or Canadian writers and journalists.


Yeah, I learned it from a Canadian.  ;)
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Richard Johnson on March 05, 2009, 10:51:11 AM

Given your normal modus operandi, it just seemed out of character.  It made me wonder if perhaps you'd been taking a whiff of something stronger than snarky.  Not really a very good witness to the outcome of an STS retreat, if one returns out of characteristically grumpy.  :)
Lou

Oh, I'm a lot more grumpy than I sometimes seem. Just ask my wife.  ;)
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Brian Hughes on March 05, 2009, 10:54:04 AM

Oh, I'm a lot more grumpy than I sometimes seem. Just ask my wife.  ;)

  I have a theory.  I think the stench of the recommendations is getting to everyone.  Well, to the orthodox anyway.  Like I say, just a theory.
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Richard Johnson on March 05, 2009, 10:55:24 AM

Oh, I'm a lot more grumpy than I sometimes seem. Just ask my wife.  ;)

  I have a theory.  I think the stench of the recommendations is getting to everyone.  Well, to the orthodox anyway.  Like I say, just a theory.

Maybe, but I think I'm just congenitally melancholy. Used to walk around the Yale campus in a cape, pretending to be Kierkegaard.  ;D
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Team Hesse on March 05, 2009, 04:06:06 PM
Oh, I'm a lot more grumpy than I sometimes seem. Just ask my wife.  ;)
  I have a theory.  I think the stench of the recommendations is getting to everyone.  Well, to the orthodox anyway.  Like I say, just a theory.
Maybe, but I think I'm just congenitally melancholy. Used to walk around the Yale campus in a cape, pretending to be Kierkegaard.  ;D 

Oh, I see -- we have to accept you as you are -- you were born that way :D
Lou
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Richard Johnson on March 05, 2009, 04:30:20 PM
Oh, I'm a lot more grumpy than I sometimes seem. Just ask my wife.  ;)
  I have a theory.  I think the stench of the recommendations is getting to everyone.  Well, to the orthodox anyway.  Like I say, just a theory.
Maybe, but I think I'm just congenitally melancholy. Used to walk around the Yale campus in a cape, pretending to be Kierkegaard.  ;D 

Oh, I see -- we have to accept you as you are -- you were born that way :D
Lou

Ah, but I struggle against it. I even confess it and ask for mercy. I try to do better. Didn't you see the  ;D ?
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Michael_Rothaar on March 05, 2009, 04:31:19 PM
Some people do forget that the ten commandments are an expression of natural law.
Paul, in Galatians, refers to the elemental principles that the Galatians were aware of prior to ever knowing or meeting a Jew.
Lou

Preparing to preach last Sunday on the Covenant with Noah, I was reminded again how fruitful it is to review Jewish thought on a Universal Moral Code. For those who have never glanced in this direction, I found http://www.geocities.com/rachav/Chazon/Universal_Moral_Code_Seven_Precepts.html (http://www.geocities.com/rachav/Chazon/Universal_Moral_Code_Seven_Precepts.html) to be a helpful quick review.

Tom Pearson has repeatedly mentioned our Lutheran theological weakness when it comes to "natural law," and I keep suspecting that we (i.e. "I") should be doing more with God's governance of the Kingdom of the Left when I think about the sexuality statement.

As I understand it, Jews do not regard the 613 laws of the Torah as binding on anybody who's not Jewish. But the Ten Words -- except perhaps for the Sabbath observance -- encompass the code governing everyone.

As the Talmud has it, a universal moral code is clearly established. It includes:

1. Establish courts of justice - a systematic way of balancing responsibility, supplanting vendettas or other personal retributive action
2. Monotheism. Respect for the "higher power," called by whatever name in whatever state of ignorance
3. Do not set up idols - the deification of any object, being, or power other than the One God (especially prohibiting appeasement and fertility cults)
4. Do not murder - human life is to be respected
5. Do not commit incest or adultery - I understand both of these to imply and include the protection of children
6. Do not steal. Property is to be respected.
7. Humane treatment of animals (even those used for food)
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Paul L. Knudson on March 05, 2009, 09:32:38 PM
Is there any interest in discussing Braaten's section of his critique where he focuses on the proposal's conclusion that our varying views should not be dividing because it has nothing to do with the Gospel but with Kingdom on the Left?  I found it interesting that he showed the inconsistency of the proposal.  He reminded us of the major battle we fought back in the eighties over apartheid and the pension programs's investments in companies doing business in South Africa.  Braaten raised the issue of the Lutheran World Federation raising that issue to the level of Status Confessiones.  He then went on to speak of other issues where some defended segregation as simply a matter of the Kingdom on the Left and thus not dividing.  It seems to me that he raises here a significant challenge to the thinking in the proposal.

I was thinking about this also in relationship to Ken Kimball's point that if the policy proposals pass that he and others would work for their synod standing in opposition at the level of status confessiones.  I remember as an inner city pastor and moderately liberal back in those days willing to go to the mat so to speak on the apartheid issue.  Now that the issue is essentially reversed the current liberal position in the ELCA wants to minimize the differences.

Do you think Braaten is raising a significant issue, and why might you think as you do?
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on March 06, 2009, 02:08:27 AM
Oh, I'm a lot more grumpy than I sometimes seem. Just ask my wife.  ;)
  I have a theory.  I think the stench of the recommendations is getting to everyone.  Well, to the orthodox anyway.  Like I say, just a theory.
Maybe, but I think I'm just congenitally melancholy. Used to walk around the Yale campus in a cape, pretending to be Kierkegaard.  ;D 

Oh, I see -- we have to accept you as you are -- you were born that way :D
Lou

Ah, but I struggle against it. I even confess it and ask for mercy. I try to do better. Didn't you see the  ;D ?
Does that mean that you continually tried to be a better pretender of Kierkegaard?
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Richard Johnson on March 06, 2009, 10:32:08 AM

Does that mean that you continually tried to be a better pretender of Kierkegaard?

No.
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Team Hesse on March 06, 2009, 11:16:12 AM
Is there any interest in discussing Braaten's section of his critique where he focuses on the proposal's conclusion that our varying views should not be dividing because it has nothing to do with the Gospel but with Kingdom on the Left?  I found it interesting that he showed the inconsistency of the proposal.  He reminded us of the major battle we fought back in the eighties over apartheid and the pension programs's investments in companies doing business in South Africa.  Braaten raised the issue of the Lutheran World Federation raising that issue to the level of Status Confessiones.  He then went on to speak of other issues where some defended segregation as simply a matter of the Kingdom on the Left and thus not dividing.  It seems to me that he raises here a significant challenge to the thinking in the proposal.

I was thinking about this also in relationship to Ken Kimball's point that if the policy proposals pass that he and others would work for their synod standing in opposition at the level of status confessiones.  I remember as an inner city pastor and moderately liberal back in those days willing to go to the mat so to speak on the apartheid issue.  Now that the issue is essentially reversed the current liberal position in the ELCA wants to minimize the differences.

Do you think Braaten is raising a significant issue, and why might you think as you do?

The use of status confessionis is a significant issue and was discussed at a Task Force meeting, actually.  When it came up, and in particular in reference to the LWF action against apartheid, Jim Childs pointed out that status confessionis was taken by the LWF on apartheid not because of racism per se, but because black folks were being denied the Gospel.  Notice the distinction here (at least according to Jim):  status confessionis can only be claimed when the Gospel is at stake, not as a matter of law.  Whether Braaten would agree with that or not, I don't know.  I happen to believe that the Task Force recommendations can and should be a matter of status confessionis, because the ELCA, if she adopts the TF recommendations, will in fact be denying the forgiveness of sin to GLBT people by teaching people that GLBT practices are not sinful.  Of course, I also believe the ELCA is far advanced down this road anyway because she teaches that the orientation is not sinful, only the behaviors that flow from it, which in my view is a denial of article 2 of the Augustana.  The law has consigned all to sin, according to Romans.

When Pastor Kimball and his friends do move to status confessionis, if need be, I think care should be taken to ensure that it is framed as a matter of the Gospel and not simply the law.

Lou
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: DCharlton on March 06, 2009, 11:21:20 AM
Is there any interest in discussing Braaten's section of his critique where he focuses on the proposal's conclusion that our varying views should not be dividing because it has nothing to do with the Gospel but with Kingdom on the Left?  I found it interesting that he showed the inconsistency of the proposal.  He reminded us of the major battle we fought back in the eighties over apartheid and the pension programs's investments in companies doing business in South Africa.  Braaten raised the issue of the Lutheran World Federation raising that issue to the level of Status Confessiones.  He then went on to speak of other issues where some defended segregation as simply a matter of the Kingdom on the Left and thus not dividing.  It seems to me that he raises here a significant challenge to the thinking in the proposal.

I was thinking about this also in relationship to Ken Kimball's point that if the policy proposals pass that he and others would work for their synod standing in opposition at the level of status confessiones.  I remember as an inner city pastor and moderately liberal back in those days willing to go to the mat so to speak on the apartheid issue.  Now that the issue is essentially reversed the current liberal position in the ELCA wants to minimize the differences.

Do you think Braaten is raising a significant issue, and why might you think as you do?

Yes.  (As I stated earlier, this is one of the two issues that I believe need real attention among us.)  Why are we unclear about this?  In part because we want to hurry up and get to the Gospel.  My muddled understanding of the Law when I finished seminary was that it was "whatever made you aware of your sinfulness and your need for God's grace."  So the Law could be psychological, emotional, relational, existential.  Whatever got the job done was good enough.  The point was getting the person to the point that they turned to God's grace.  I focused entirely on the function and not at all on content of the Law.  In effect, I did not consider the Law God's Word in the way I considered the Gospel God's Word.  In other words, I was SEPERATING instead of DISTINGUISHING BETWEEN the Law and the Gospel.  As you probably can guess, I believe many others in the ELCA were and are making the same mistake.  

David Charlton
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: anonymous on March 06, 2009, 11:36:12 AM
I'll take up Paul's invitation with posting a section from carl's paper that I consider to be pure gold, the section on "the Bound-Conscience". The reason Benne and he go to twon on it is that it is so ridiculous, so petently false and easy to see through. The fact that this made it through theri muster shows they can't passs muster themselves, and anyone who thinks this is good work needs to have their head (theolgy too) examined (I know, "Eric, why don't you tell us what you really think."). I'll follow that up with the loci to which David was just speaking.

The Task Force is correct in observing numerous times that there is no consensus in the ELCA on the rostering of homosexual persons in same-gender relationships. The Task Force postulates that the difference between the traditionalists and revisionists is a matter of conscience. The statement asserts that there are “differing and conscience-bound understandings about the place of such relationships within the Christian community.” (“Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust,” lines 607 ff). This is a specious non-theological appeal to conscience. Of course, when facing a critical moral decision, it goes without saying that persons should follow their conscience. What else should they do? But that does not mean that one’s subjective conscience is right. I have my conscience, you have yours. So what? The question is, what is right in the sight of God? Has God not said anything about sex, marriage, and family, so that we are left in the dark to follow our own subjective feelings? For the church private personal conscience does not have the last word. It needs to be instructed and illuminated by the Word and Spirit of God. Luther said he was bound by his conscience; it was bound by the Word of God. It is the church’s responsibility to enlighten conscience, to teach the Word of God. This social statement fails to be a teaching document of the church. It professes not to know the difference between right and wrong on crucial matters of human sexuality. If reflects the cultural Zeitgeist, the spirit of the age. The church has spent a million dollars to be informed by this Task Force that there is no consensus in the church on human sexuality. Since there is no consensus in the church, why not keep the status quo? Why not follow the sage advice, when in doubt, stick with the tradition?
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: DCharlton on March 06, 2009, 11:39:19 AM
Is there any interest in discussing Braaten's section of his critique where he focuses on the proposal's conclusion that our varying views should not be dividing because it has nothing to do with the Gospel but with Kingdom on the Left?  I found it interesting that he showed the inconsistency of the proposal.  He reminded us of the major battle we fought back in the eighties over apartheid and the pension programs's investments in companies doing business in South Africa.  Braaten raised the issue of the Lutheran World Federation raising that issue to the level of Status Confessiones.  He then went on to speak of other issues where some defended segregation as simply a matter of the Kingdom on the Left and thus not dividing.  It seems to me that he raises here a significant challenge to the thinking in the proposal.

I was thinking about this also in relationship to Ken Kimball's point that if the policy proposals pass that he and others would work for their synod standing in opposition at the level of status confessiones.  I remember as an inner city pastor and moderately liberal back in those days willing to go to the mat so to speak on the apartheid issue.  Now that the issue is essentially reversed the current liberal position in the ELCA wants to minimize the differences.

Do you think Braaten is raising a significant issue, and why might you think as you do?

The use of status confessionis is a significant issue and was discussed at a Task Force meeting, actually.  When it came up, and in particular in reference to the LWF action against apartheid, Jim Childs pointed out that status confessionis was taken by the LWF on apartheid not because of racism per se, but because black folks were being denied the Gospel.  Notice the distinction here (at least according to Jim):  status confessionis can only be claimed when the Gospel is at stake, not as a matter of law.  Whether Braaten would agree with that or not, I don't know.  I happen to believe that the Task Force recommendations can and should be a matter of status confessionis, because the ELCA, if she adopts the TF recommendations, will in fact be denying the forgiveness of sin to GLBT people by teaching people that GLBT practices are not sinful.  Of course, I also believe the ELCA is far advanced down this road anyway because she teaches that the orientation is not sinful, only the behaviors that flow from it, which in my view is a denial of article 2 of the Augustana.  The law has consigned all to sin, according to Romans.

When Pastor Kimball and his friends do move to status confessionis, if need be, I think care should be taken to ensure that it is framed as a matter of the Gospel and not simply the law.

Lou

Lou,

I wonder if thiat would be a mistake.  In essence, we would be deriving Law from the Gospel.  That's one of the problems with Antinomianism.  When the Law is denied, or limited two only a preparatory role, then we begin to look to the Gospel for our rules.  

Furthermore, I think that assuming that status confessionis must be framed as a matter of Gospel concedes the issue in advance.  Afterall, the argument from revisionists is that since the Gospel welcomes all people, no further distinctions can be made.  "Since I am justified by God's grace, how can you call me a sinner," it will be said.  I think some in the LCMS call this Gospel reductionism.

David Charlton
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: anonymous on March 06, 2009, 11:41:25 AM
"But there is an even more serious misinterpretation of the law that bears upon the unity of the church. The statement makes a number of questionable assertions, such as: “We believe that the way we order our lives in matters of sexuality, although important for us as people of faith, is not central to the Gospel itself.” (“Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust,” line 300) Here is another: “Thus, we realize that this church’s deliberations related to human sexuality do not threaten the center of our faith.” (line 326) And another: “The task force recognizes the deep love that all hold for this church and the shared commitment to remaining together in spite of differences on these matters.” (“Report and ecommendation,” line 225) And another: “In this regard the task force believes that, as this is a matter of God’s civil realm, ‘God’s left hand,’ this church is free to live with a diversity of opinions in this matter.” (“Report and Recommendation,” line 465) What the task force is asserting in these statements is that matters having to do with the laws and commandments of God, and not with the core principles of the gospel, cannot be church-dividing and are not basic to church unity. Matters that fall under the rubric of the “left hand of God,” namely, the will and rule of God in the orders of creation (political, economic, and social structures, including marriage, family, and sexuality), are not central to the gospel as such and therefore cannot be foundational for church unity. The Task Force is mistaken. The church is founded upon the Word of God, which includes what it believes about God’s activity in both creation and redemption, both law and gospel, both the kingdom on the left and on the right. The church is not founded on only one half of the Word of God. Consider this: the Lutheran World Federation raised the task of resisting apartheid in South Africa to a matter of status confessionis. This meant that opposing apartheid becomes a necessary implication of the church’s confession of faith. The white Lutheran congregations protested that the racial struggles in South Africa had nothing to do with the gospel, but only with the kingdom of God on the left hand. Ergo, the struggle for racial justice, whatever side one takes on the issue, cannot constitute a status confessionis for church fellowship. If the LWF was right in its declaration, it shows that the gospel cannot be separated from the law, the kingdom on the right from the kingdom on the left. Lutheran Churches in the United States faced the same issue in the struggle for civil rights when the system of racial segregation meant that Blacks and Whites were not welcome to celebrate Holy Communion together. The Lutheran Churches in Germany under Hitler were confronted by the same problem. The theologians supporting National Socialism declared that its anti-Semitic policies regarding the Jews have nothing to do with the gospel, therefore they have no bearing on church unity and fellowship. The Lutherans in Chile under General Pinochet faced the same kind of issue. The Task Force is unrealistic to believe that the majority of members in the ELCA will so easily separate the law and the gospel, the left hand and the right hand kingdoms of God. Separating the law and the gospel, the two integral forms of the Word of God, is as pernicious in church life as confusing or equating them[/b]." [my emphasis added]

Pernicious!
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Charles_Austin on March 06, 2009, 11:42:54 AM
Eric writes:
The reason Benne and he go to twon on it is that it is so ridiculous, so petently false and easy to see through. The fact that this made it through theri muster shows they can't passs muster themselves, and anyone who thinks this is good work needs to have their head (theolgy too) examined (I know, "Eric, why don't you tell us what you really think.")

I comment:
But it is more useful to the discussion if you would stick to telling us what you think of the document, not putting down the people who produced it. It might also help if one were not so instantly dismissive of someone who might (I know it's a stretch, an unfathomable impossibility in your mind), but someone who might find the document and proposals agreeable or useful. Why should they engage in dialogue with you if you have decreed that they do not "pass muster," or need their heads examined?
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: DCharlton on March 06, 2009, 11:48:59 AM
Eric writes:
The reason Benne and he go to twon on it is that it is so ridiculous, so petently false and easy to see through. The fact that this made it through theri muster shows they can't passs muster themselves, and anyone who thinks this is good work needs to have their head (theolgy too) examined (I know, "Eric, why don't you tell us what you really think.")

I comment:
But it is more useful to the discussion if you would stick to telling us what you think of the document, not putting down the people who produced it. It might also help if one were not so instantly dismissive of someone who might (I know it's a stretch, an unfathomable impossibility in your mind), but someone who might find the document and proposals agreeable or useful. Why should they engage in dialogue with you if you have decreed that they do not "pass muster," or need their heads examined?


We'd be glad to hear from you Charles.  Why do you find the proposals agreeable or useful?

David Charlton
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Charles_Austin on March 06, 2009, 11:50:45 AM
DAvid Charlton writes:
Why do you find the proposals agreeable or useful?

I respond:
I have not said that I find the proposals "agreeable or useful".
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: anonymous on March 06, 2009, 11:51:35 AM
Ditto. Curious how someone could like Braaten's critique and that for which he whomps on.
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: anonymous on March 06, 2009, 11:56:07 AM
DAvid Charlton writes:
Why do you find the proposals agreeable or useful?

I respond:
I have not said that I find the proposals "agreeable or useful".

What is Astin trying to do except silence people then? (Can't wait for this reply: "I have never tried to silence anyone in my life. I have consistently tried to get peopel to express their dissatisfaction with the ELCA at the proper place, as an elected member of the Assembly).
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Charles_Austin on March 06, 2009, 12:02:33 PM
Eric writes:
Curious how someone could like Braaten's critique and that for which he whomps on.
I respond:
Is there a word or phrase missing in that sentence fragement?

Eric writes:
What is Astin trying to do except silence people then?
I respond:
Explain to me (and the gathered non-multitude) how anything I have said will "silence" people. You make the claim. Substantiate it. I think it's one of the dumber comments I've encountered here. Matter of fact, it would appear that my small, insignificant comments seem to propel people towards even greater wordiness on certain subjects. Perhaps I should apologize for that unintended consequence.
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: DCharlton on March 06, 2009, 12:11:23 PM
I love your ironic humor Charles.   :D
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: anonymous on March 06, 2009, 12:17:47 PM
I love your ironic humor Charles.   :D

 :) :) :)
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Charles_Austin on March 06, 2009, 12:30:51 PM
This time, Eric, I was not trying to be ironic. (You have a hard time with contextual criticism, and sometimes miss this.)
You say I'm trying to "silence" people, a serious charge. Substantiate it or withdraw it.
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: DCharlton on March 06, 2009, 12:38:16 PM
My point, Charles, was that you were being ironic without even trying. 

Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: anonymous on March 06, 2009, 12:38:34 PM
Let's just study what you wrote. You say you do not want to silence people but demand I make the words disappear. let's all think about that for a moment.

I may have a hard time with "context" (is that like reading people's minds?) but not too much trouble recognizing hypocrisy. Tell you what, I will quit telling you what to do and you quit telling me. You quit telling people how to spell and we can save quite a few posts per day.
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: anonymous on March 06, 2009, 12:44:00 PM
My point, Charles, was that you were being ironic without even trying. 



Charles thought I was the one who threw the ironic word. He mixes other people up with me a lot.
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: DCharlton on March 06, 2009, 12:53:30 PM
Getting back to things more substantive, my positive reaction to what Dr. Braaten wrote was personal as well as theological.  My appreciation of the two issues has grown over the last 15 years.  The "separation of Law and Gospel" and the neglect of the Third Use of the Law were among my personal blind spots.  I have suffered the consequences of these blind spots and have tried to learn from my mistakes. 

As I've mentioned before, I'm and ELCA pastor, not a product of the LCMS.  So don't think these ideas were "pounded" into my head in seminary.  For me it is the rediscovery of a part of Lutheran theology that had been overlooked.

David Charlton
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: anonymous on March 06, 2009, 12:59:02 PM
Right. I finished in '92. When did you? I had Braaten, but other than him, few did much more with Lutheran distinctives than as he referred to "Lutheran ornaments". Even Braaten will tell you that he himself is a hybrid. He leans ecumenical. But he, like I do, thinks if you are going to be a Lutheran Church, you should be Lutheran, not Liberal Protestant. Hence we have a whole lot of clergy and teachers who need a continuing ed program in Lutheran distinctives.
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Charles_Austin on March 06, 2009, 01:11:08 PM
Eric writes:
You quit telling people how to spell and we can save quite a few posts per day.
I comment:
I do not tell people how to spell. I tell them when they have misspelled. It is the rules of the language that tell us how to spell.
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Richard Johnson on March 06, 2009, 01:35:45 PM
Let's just study what you wrote. You say you do not want to silence people but demand I make the words disappear. let's all think about that for a moment.

Let's not. Let's leave behind the need to niggle and carp and expostulate on every post that [you name your favorite antagonist] offers. Let's just be quiet for a season.
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Team Hesse on March 06, 2009, 04:07:21 PM
I wonder if thiat would be a mistake.  In essence, we would be deriving Law from the Gospel.  That's one of the problems with Antinomianism.  When the Law is denied, or limited two only a preparatory role, then we begin to look to the Gospel for our rules.  
Furthermore, I think that assuming that status confessionis must be framed as a matter of Gospel concedes the issue in advance.  Afterall, the argument from revisionists is that since the Gospel welcomes all people, no further distinctions can be made.  "Since I am justified by God's grace, how can you call me a sinner," it will be said.  I think some in the LCMS call this Gospel reductionism.                        David Charlton

Pastor Charlton --

I'm not as well versed in status confessionis as I wish I were, and I could be wrong, but I believe there are some cautions which are important to consider if we start invoking status confessionis in matters of Law. 

1)  Do we want every matter of law that comes before the ELCA churchwide (I'm thinking here of global warming, fair trade coffee, Palestinian walls, etc.) to become a matter of status confessionis?  It seems to me it's wise to say that only matters pertaining to the Gospel should be dividing.  Of course everything properly viewed can be a matter of the Gospel, but let's at least agree that it is on Gospel grounds (and I mean forgiveness of sins) that we will part, if we part.

2)  The most famous case where status conf. was invoked is, of course, Bonhoeffer's opposition to the German church in the '30s.  This opposition was started before the Nazis were engaged in outright murder.  If status conf. had been invoked on the basis of Law, the opposition could have pointed out (this was done anyway) that Bonhoeffer was violating the 4th commandment by refusing to obey those authorities placed over him (the government) by God.  By arguing the matter as a matter of the Gospel (Jews, homosexuals, gypsies, and the mentally deficient were being deprived of opportunity to hear the Gospel) Bonhoeffer moved the argument away from obedience to law to the essence of the Christian faith:  the proclamation of the Gospel. 

3)  Article 7 of the Augustana states that the Church is where the Gospel is proclaimed and the sacraments administered according to the Gospel.  The Church is a creation of the Gospel, and while it is called to proclaim both law and gospel, it is not there if the Gospel is not proclaimed.  Given the tendency of fallen man to want to focus on the Law, it is best to keep visible churches focused on the Gospel as their reason of existence. 

More grist for the mill,
Lou
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: DCharlton on March 06, 2009, 05:19:11 PM
Right. I finished in '92. When did you? I had Braaten, but other than him, few did much more with Lutheran distinctives than as he referred to "Lutheran ornaments". Even Braaten will tell you that he himself is a hybrid. He leans ecumenical. But he, like I do, thinks if you are going to be a Lutheran Church, you should be Lutheran, not Liberal Protestant. Hence we have a whole lot of clergy and teachers who need a continuing ed program in Lutheran distinctives.

I finished in '92 as well.  I graduated from Trinity.  Now I have to make it clear that I'm not prepared to blame my teachers there for my blind spots.  Although I don't remember those discussions, that doesn't mean that, we didn't have them.  Walt Bouman certainly took the Lutheran confessions seriously.  I believe he was influenced heavily by Elert when was a young man in the LCMS, so I think his position would be closer to that of someone like Ed Schroeder.  That's just my guess, however.

David Charlton 
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: DCharlton on March 06, 2009, 05:24:47 PM
I wonder if thiat would be a mistake.  In essence, we would be deriving Law from the Gospel.  That's one of the problems with Antinomianism.  When the Law is denied, or limited two only a preparatory role, then we begin to look to the Gospel for our rules.  
Furthermore, I think that assuming that status confessionis must be framed as a matter of Gospel concedes the issue in advance.  Afterall, the argument from revisionists is that since the Gospel welcomes all people, no further distinctions can be made.  "Since I am justified by God's grace, how can you call me a sinner," it will be said.  I think some in the LCMS call this Gospel reductionism.                        David Charlton

Pastor Charlton --

I'm not as well versed in status confessionis as I wish I were, and I could be wrong, but I believe there are some cautions which are important to consider if we start invoking status confessionis in matters of Law. 

1)  Do we want every matter of law that comes before the ELCA churchwide (I'm thinking here of global warming, fair trade coffee, Palestinian walls, etc.) to become a matter of status confessionis?  It seems to me it's wise to say that only matters pertaining to the Gospel should be dividing.  Of course everything properly viewed can be a matter of the Gospel, but let's at least agree that it is on Gospel grounds (and I mean forgiveness of sins) that we will part, if we part.

2)  The most famous case where status conf. was invoked is, of course, Bonhoeffer's opposition to the German church in the '30s.  This opposition was started before the Nazis were engaged in outright murder.  If status conf. had been invoked on the basis of Law, the opposition could have pointed out (this was done anyway) that Bonhoeffer was violating the 4th commandment by refusing to obey those authorities placed over him (the government) by God.  By arguing the matter as a matter of the Gospel (Jews, homosexuals, gypsies, and the mentally deficient were being deprived of opportunity to hear the Gospel) Bonhoeffer moved the argument away from obedience to law to the essence of the Christian faith:  the proclamation of the Gospel. 

3)  Article 7 of the Augustana states that the Church is where the Gospel is proclaimed and the sacraments administered according to the Gospel.  The Church is a creation of the Gospel, and while it is called to proclaim both law and gospel, it is not there if the Gospel is not proclaimed.  Given the tendency of fallen man to want to focus on the Law, it is best to keep visible churches focused on the Gospel as their reason of existence. 

More grist for the mill,
Lou

Does that mean that you think we should not invoke statis confessionis over the issue of homosexuality?  Or do you think it can be done on the basis of the Gospel?  If so, how? 

I can think of one way that case might be made, but I'd like to hear your take.

David Charlton
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: anonymous on March 06, 2009, 05:44:48 PM
Right. I finished in '92. When did you? I had Braaten, but other than him, few did much more with Lutheran distinctives than as he referred to "Lutheran ornaments". Even Braaten will tell you that he himself is a hybrid. He leans ecumenical. But he, like I do, thinks if you are going to be a Lutheran Church, you should be Lutheran, not Liberal Protestant. Hence we have a whole lot of clergy and teachers who need a continuing ed program in Lutheran distinctives.

I finished in '92 as well.  I graduated from Trinity.  Now I have to make it clear that I'm not prepared to blame my teachers there for my blind spots.  Although I don't remember those discussions, that doesn't mean that, we didn't have them.  Walt Bouman certainly took the Lutheran confessions seriously.  I believe he was influenced heavily by Elert when was a young man in the LCMS, so I think his position would be closer to that of someone like Ed Schroeder.  That's just my guess, however.

David Charlton 

Bouman was like Ed Schroeder. Did you read Pless' article?
http://www.logia.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=77&catid=39:web-forum&Itemid=18
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: anonymous on March 06, 2009, 06:03:51 PM
Not sure what topic to insert this. This is interesting. If you have Luther's Works, go to LW 3, Gen. 17 (this Sunday's first lesson). The Hebrew is not going to come through so I tried to address that by including Stong's number and definition:

"The meaning of תַּם is “perfect and blameless,” that which is completely perfect, unspoiled, without defects, and uncorrupted. But here this word appears in the plural. “Be you perfect ones”; that is, let your life be blameless and uncorrupted, and walk before men without offense. The use of the plural is not without purpose; for the head of a family and everyone who holds some administrative position owes it not only to himself to commit no offense but also to those who are in his charge.
Thus Paul (1Tim. 3:2) wants a bishop to be [perfect and blameless ones] תָּמִים. Not only should his own life be blameless, but by strict discipline he should restrain his people from becoming guilty of anything unworthy of them. But those who do not want to be corrected should be expelled either from the home or from the church rather than be an offense to others. In this manner every ruler should be [perfect and blameless ones]  תָּמִים, not [perfect and blameless singular]  תַּם, not only in one commandment; he should be [perfect and blameless ones]  תָּמִים in all the commandments. So much for the exhortation to lead a blameless life. LW, 3:98

[8549 tamiym {taw-meem'} Meaning:  1) complete, whole, entire, sound 1a) complete, whole, entire 1b) whole, sound, healthful 1c) complete, entire (of time) 1d) sound, wholesome, unimpaired, innocent, having integrity 1e) what is complete or entirely in accord with truth and fact (neuter adj/subst)]

Looks like Hebrew did come through! (or am I the only one seeing the correct Hebrew fonts?) Anyway, imagine the implications. All those folk who think that the commandments aren't Christian! That Luther thought the gospel means we do not need to follow the law.

What are the implications on us! We are responsible to correct all under our care, family, congregation, ministerium.

Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Charles_Austin on March 06, 2009, 09:23:46 PM
The issue of status confessionis, needs to be approached carefully and accurately. Normally, the term is used at a time when something of the essence of the Gospel itself is compromised. When the white South African churches would not admit blacks or work with the black churches, it was deemed that the essence of the Gospel was corrupted. (In southern Africa, this was about more than "integration," it was about clearly stated attitudes and beliefs about black Africans.)
I'm sure someone is examining whether the term may be properly employed in the dispute over sexuality. I will be interested in reading the rationale, if one is discovered.
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: DCharlton on March 06, 2009, 10:03:51 PM
Right. I finished in '92. When did you? I had Braaten, but other than him, few did much more with Lutheran distinctives than as he referred to "Lutheran ornaments". Even Braaten will tell you that he himself is a hybrid. He leans ecumenical. But he, like I do, thinks if you are going to be a Lutheran Church, you should be Lutheran, not Liberal Protestant. Hence we have a whole lot of clergy and teachers who need a continuing ed program in Lutheran distinctives.

I finished in '92 as well.  I graduated from Trinity.  Now I have to make it clear that I'm not prepared to blame my teachers there for my blind spots.  Although I don't remember those discussions, that doesn't mean that, we didn't have them.  Walt Bouman certainly took the Lutheran confessions seriously.  I believe he was influenced heavily by Elert when was a young man in the LCMS, so I think his position would be closer to that of someone like Ed Schroeder.  That's just my guess, however.

David Charlton 

Bouman was like Ed Schroeder. Did you read Pless' article?
http://www.logia.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=77&catid=39:web-forum&Itemid=18


Yes.  I almost made reference to it, but wasn't sure just how close to Schroeder's position Bouman was.  I also know there was famous argument between Bouman and David Yeago at a Call to Faithfulness Conference on this issue, but I never seen a transcript of it, so I don't know what was said.

David Charlton
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: DCharlton on March 06, 2009, 10:10:35 PM
The issue of status confessionis, needs to be approached carefully and accurately. Normally, the term is used at a time when something of the essence of the Gospel itself is compromised. When the white South African churches would not admit blacks or work with the black churches, it was deemed that the essence of the Gospel was corrupted. (In southern Africa, this was about more than "integration," it was about clearly stated attitudes and beliefs about black Africans.)
I'm sure someone is examining whether the term may be properly employed in the dispute over sexuality. I will be interested in reading the rationale, if one is discovered.

So in at least on instance, you consider Braaten's critique to be incorrect, in that he states that the dispute with the Lutheran church in South Africa was over the Law.  Whereas, you believe that it was about the Gospel, not the Law.  Is that a correct?

David Charlton
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Charles_Austin on March 07, 2009, 02:46:03 AM
David Charleton writes:
So in at least on instance, you consider Braaten's critique to be incorrect, in that he states that the dispute with the Lutheran church in South Africa was over the Law.  Whereas, you believe that it was about the Gospel, not the Law.  Is that a correct?
I respond:
It doesn't matter what I think about Dr. Braaten's critique. When the Lutheran World Federation used this particular argument to suspend from its membership the two denominations in southern Africa, that is how that organization interpreted the situation.
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Team Hesse on March 07, 2009, 11:43:23 AM
The issue of status confessionis, needs to be approached carefully and accurately. Normally, the term is used at a time when something of the essence of the Gospel itself is compromised. When the white South African churches would not admit blacks or work with the black churches, it was deemed that the essence of the Gospel was corrupted. (In southern Africa, this was about more than "integration," it was about clearly stated attitudes and beliefs about black Africans.)
I'm sure someone is examining whether the term may be properly employed in the dispute over sexuality. I will be interested in reading the rationale, if one is discovered.
So in at least on instance, you consider Braaten's critique to be incorrect, in that he states that the dispute with the Lutheran church in South Africa was over the Law.  Whereas, you believe that it was about the Gospel, not the Law.  Is that a correct?                  David Charlton

As I stated upstream (or elsewhere), Jim Childs would say that Dr. Braaten's analysis on apartheid is flawed.  Jim made it very clear to us on the Task Force that the LWF action against apartheid was based on the idea that black folks were being deprived of hearing the Gospel.  I think this is an important distinction consistent with Lutheran teaching, that issues that are finally church dividing should be seen as issues of the Gospel and not matters of the Law.  As I posted upstream, the Law finally accuses itself in various ways, as is happening here.  The Law in sexual matters, given for the sake of young children, is banging up against the Law that we must be kind to all.

The GLBT issue can and should be framed as an issue of the Gospel, in my opinion, because it is finally about the nature of the Church's proclamation.  Do we proclaim "Your sins are forgiven for Jesus' sake" or do we proclaim "All are welcome in Jesus' name"?    If we bless what should be forgiven, we are denying the Gospel to whoever is receiving this false blessing.  That is no compassion at all, to encourage a person in their fallenness and deny them the comfort of the forgiveness of sins.  This last statement applies to a host of people, not just GLBT folks.  It is reminiscent of the first chapter of the Hammer of God when pastor Savonius first contacts dying Johannes, the only words of comfort he can offer to this afflicted sinner on the edge of death is "You weren't really that bad... your life was really fairly good..." and the like.  And poor dying Johannes lays there afflicted because he knows he's a sinner -- until peasant Katrina shows up and says "Yes, Johannes, you are indeed a sinner.  But don't you know that Jesus is a greater Savior than you are a sinner?"  And poor old Johannes hears the Gospel, accepts the sacrament and dies in peace.  Katrina showed more compassion by a country mile than Savonius did.  Fortunately, Savonius learned that.  Can the ELCA?

Lou
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: MRoot on March 07, 2009, 12:55:44 PM
When all else fails, see what the text actually says. 
The actions of the LWF  in 1975, declaring apartheid a matter of ‘confessional integrity,’ and in 1984, suspending to the two Southern African German churches, do not, I believe, bear out Jim Childs reading.  In both cases (unfortunately, I cannot find copies on the web to link to), the statements take a double line.  On the one hand, churches cannot be segregated in their internal life, especially at the altar.  On the other hand, the system of apartheid is so ‘perverted and oppressive’ that a church must reject it.  Both an ecclesial and an ethical reasoning is given. 
The 1975 statement concludes: “Political and social systems may become so perverted and oppressive that it is consistent with the confession to reject them and to work for changes.  We especially appeal to our white member churches in Southern Africa to recognize that the situation in Southern Africa constitutes a status confessionis.  This means that, on the basis of faith and in order to manifest the unity of the church, churches would publicly and unequivocally reject the existing apartheid system.”
The 1984 actions calls on the churches “to publicly and unequivocally reject the system of apartheid (separate development) and to end the division of the church on racial grounds.”  Because the churches had not done this, their LWF membership was suspended.  (The suspension was lifted in the early 1990s.)
These texts are not perfectly clear (‘consistent with’ is awfully weak in the 1975 statement), but I don’t think one can avoid the conclusion that they imply that an ethical difference (i.e., a difference over law) is a grounds for something like breaking fellowship. 
Michael Root
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: DCharlton on March 07, 2009, 01:02:20 PM
Thanks Lou,

I think I understand what you are saying.  It sounds very similar to one made by Gerhard Forde and to me it is convincing.  What I hear you saying is this:

Attempting to silence the Law by declaring that certain things are no longer sinful will not work.  Only the Gospel will silence the accusations of the Law.  We reject any change to V&E and the social statements of the ELCA because they would offer up a false gospel.  

The weakness I see hear is that it presumes that we know what the Law says.  But if agreement on the content of the Law is not important, how is that possible?  There are many who would agree with the statement above, but still maintain that it doesn't apply to the blessing of same sex unions.

I believe that kind of argument has been made here many times.  As long as we stipulate that all human relations are sinful (because none of us is without sin) then we will not violate the principle above.  Those in same sex relationships will be reminded that the still need to repent and believe the Good News.  As long as the same sex blessing does not create the illusion that the two partners are without sin, then no harm has been done.

"We don't have agree on the content of the Law, except to say that all people are sinners."  Does that sound familiar?

David Charlton  
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: MRoot on March 07, 2009, 01:09:11 PM
  I also know there was famous argument between Bouman and David Yeago at a Call to Faithfulness Conference on this issue, but I never seen a transcript of it, so I don't know what was said.

David Charlton
Yeago's piece, "Bouman on the Law : Amica Responsio," was published in Lutheran Forum, vol 29, issue 3 (1995).  Walt Bouman's piece was in the previous issue.
Michael Root
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: DCharlton on March 07, 2009, 01:17:43 PM
Thank you.

David Charlton
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: anonymous on March 08, 2009, 02:21:27 PM
I did the bullet treatment on Braaten's critique:

•   “Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust” and “Report and Recommendation on Ministry Policies,” A Critique by Carl E. Braaten

•   Familiar Lutheran language may dispose Lutherans to accept it, but they are mostly an ornamental covering that hides its egregious departure from the biblical, doctrinal, and ethical teachings. . .would constitute a radical departure from the overwhelming consensus that has prevailed in historic Christianity.
•   No real theology in this social statement [only] descriptive statements.
•   We must demonstrate that what we assert is true on the basis of Holy Scripture in continuity with the classical creeds and confessions which the ELCA accepts in its Constitution.

•   There is no biblical exegesis in this. . .For example, the statement refers to the “seven texts” in the Bible that specifically address the issue of homosexual behavior. No effort is made to explain or interpret these texts. They are not identified or quoted, let alone exegeted or interpreted. . .This social statement does not take Scripture seriously, and does not even try. Nor does it take church tradition seriously. . .This is the kind of evidence a sister Lutheran Church can use to bolster its nasty accusation that the ELCA is heterodox.

•    It is difficult to have any confidence in the theological competence of this Task Force that shows such utter confusion on theological method.

•   This social statement is not reluctant to talk about sin. . .But it depicts a God without wrath and without judgment. . . God is a prisoner of his own love. . .This document no doubt represents the idea of God held by the Task Force; it most certainly does not faithfully reflect the Lutheran understanding of God.

•   In Lutheran theology the Word of God meets us in two forms, as law and as gospel. And it is important to make the proper distinction. The summary of the law is love to God and neighbor. This summary, however, does not nullify the force of the individual laws and commandments of God. They are binding on the people of God, the church of Jesus Christ. In our first critique we accused the social statement of repeating the typical “Lutheran heresy” that reared its ugly head at the time of the Reformation and against which Luther fought with all his might and mane. That is the heresy of antinomianism. This social statement never brings it up, never mentions the word, and the charge is never refuted. Why? The answer is that this social statement collapses the three uses of the law into two, admitting that it “streamlines its discussion of law by focusing solely on the two uses.” (“Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust,” p. 6, n. 8 ) Since it is the third use of the law that is at stake when the church discusses ordaining clergy involved in homosexual behavior, this use of the law should have been treated at length, and not swallowed up into the first two, neither of which lies at the center of the churchwide controversy.

•   But there is an even more serious misinterpretation of the law that bears upon the unity of the church. The statement makes a number of questionable assertions, such as: “We believe that the way we order our lives in matters of sexuality, although important for us as people of faith, is not central to the Gospel itself.” (“Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust,” line 300) Here is another: “Thus, we realize that this church’s deliberations related to human sexuality do not threaten the center of our faith.” (line 326) And another: “The task force recognizes the deep love that all hold for this church and the shared commitment to remaining together in spite of differences on these matters.” (“Report and ecommendation,” line 225) And another: “In this regard the task force believes that, as this is a matter of God’s civil realm, ‘God’s left hand,’ this church is free to live with a diversity of opinions in this matter.” (“Report and Recommendation,” line 465) What the task force is asserting in these statements is that matters having to do with the laws and commandments of God, and not with the core principles of the gospel, cannot be church-dividing and are not basic to church unity. Matters that fall under the rubric of the “left hand of God,” namely, the will and rule of God in the orders of creation (political, economic, and social structures, including marriage, family, and sexuality), are not central to the gospel as such and therefore cannot be foundational for church unity. The Task Force is mistaken. The church is founded upon the Word of God, which includes what it believes about God’s activity in both creation and redemption, both law and gospel, both the kingdom on the left and on the right. The church is not founded on only one half of the Word of God. Consider this: the Lutheran World Federation raised the task of resisting apartheid in South Africa to a matter of status confessionis. This meant that opposing apartheid becomes a necessary implication of the church’s confession of faith. The white Lutheran congregations protested that the racial struggles in South Africa had nothing to do with the gospel, but only with the kingdom of God on the left hand. Ergo, the struggle for racial justice, whatever side one takes on the issue, cannot constitute a status confessionis for church fellowship. If the LWF was right in its declaration, it shows that the gospel cannot be separated from the law, the kingdom on the right from the kingdom on the left. Lutheran Churches in the United States faced the same issue in the struggle for civil rights when the system of racial segregation meant that Blacks and Whites were not welcome to celebrate Holy Communion together. The Lutheran Churches in Germany under Hitler were confronted by the same problem. The theologians supporting National Socialism declared that its anti-Semitic policies regarding the Jews have nothing to do with the gospel, therefore they have no bearing on church unity and fellowship. The Lutherans in Chile under General Pinochet faced the same kind of issue. The Task Force is unrealistic to believe that the majority of members in the ELCA will so easily separate the law and the gospel, the left hand and the right hand kingdoms of God. Separating the law and the gospel, the two integral forms of the Word of God, is as pernicious in church life as confusing or equating them.

•   The Task Force nowhere acknowledges that many pastors and congregations, anticipating that the ELCA was heading in the direction of ordaining same-gendered pastors, have already left the ELCA, and many others are lining up at the door ready to make their exit.. .many pastors and congregations will choose not to leave, but to remain and protest as a confessing movement.

•   The historic Christian tradition and the Lutheran Confessions have recognized marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman [but] they do more than that. They define marriage not merely as a human institution that has evolved through the centuries but as an institution ordained by God. God is the author of marriage. Should not that be the first thing that the church says about marriage?

•   The church has always taught that, like their many heterosexual brothers and sisters who happen not to have found the right person to marry, homosexual persons are called to a vocation of celibacy. Many have responded and lived faithfully according to that call. The Task Force is now proposing that a life of sexual relations with persons of the same gender is open to the ordained clergy of the ELCA. [However] the issue is not orientation but behavior. . .What do those qualifications for the ordination of homosexuals mean? What does “publicly accountable” mean? This is a desideratum that has proved to be unworkable even among heterosexual pastors? Pastors by the hundreds up and leave their spouses with virtual impunity. Where is the “public accountability?” None to speak of. What would it mean to hold practicing homosexuals publicly accountable? What does “lifelong” mean? The marriage vow used to mean “as long as life shall last.” Now it has become “as long as love shall last.” How long is “lifelong?” [The] category of ordained clergy who are supposed to enter into a “publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender, committed relationship” is an arbitrary concoction of the Task Force. On close inspection its criteria do not even hold for heterosexual clergy.

•   The Task Force is correct in observing numerous times that there is no consensus in the ELCA on the rostering of homosexual persons in same-gender relationships. The Task Force postulates that the difference between the traditionalists and revisionists is a matter of conscience. The statement asserts that there are “differing and conscience-bound understandings about the place of such relationships within the Christian community.” (“Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust,” lines 607 ff). This is a specious non-theological appeal to conscience. Of course, when facing a critical moral decision, it goes without saying that persons should follow their conscience. What else should they do? But that does not mean that one’s subjective conscience is right. I have my conscience, you have yours. So what? The question is, what is right in the sight of God? Has God not said anything about sex, marriage, and family, so that we are left in the dark to follow our own subjective feelings? For the church private personal conscience does not have the last word. It needs to be instructed and illuminated by the Word and Spirit of God. Luther said he was bound by his conscience; it was bound by the Word of God. It is the church’s responsibility to enlighten conscience, to teach the Word of God. This social statement fails to be a teaching document of the church. It professes not to know the difference between right and wrong on crucial matters of human sexuality. If reflects the cultural Zeitgeist, the spirit of the age. The church has spent a million dollars to be informed by this Task Force that there is no consensus in the church on human sexuality. Since there is no consensus in the church, why not keep the status quo? Why not follow the sage advice, when in doubt, stick with the tradition?

•    The recommendation of this Task Force to accept practicing homosexuals for ordination does not necessarily follow from the social statement, “Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust.” This statement states that all of us in the ELCA should show deep respect for the conscience-bound beliefs of those with whom we disagree. Luther showed little respect for the beliefs of Erasmus of Rotterdam when he wrote his diatribe, The Bondage of the Will. . . Athanasius showed little respect for Arius who denied the divinity of Christ. Augustine show little respect for Pelagius who taught that the human will is free in relation to God and the offer of salvation. . .Every heretic in the church was convinced by his conscience that his doctrine was true, even biblical.

•   Amazingly this Task Force claims that those who advocate for changing the ELCA policy regarding practicing homosexuals “affirm the same biblical and confessional doctrines as the advocates for present policies.” (“Report and Recommendation,” line 151) No they don’t. Otherwise, the proposed social statement and its appended recommendation would not have set loose such an avalanche of negative criticisms throughout the church, including this one.

•   The ELCA is at the crossroads. The Task Force has not helped to enlighten the church as to what is right or wrong.. . .There is an authority crisis in the Lutheran Church glaringly exposed by the fiasco of having to deal with the report and recommendations of another theologically challenged Task Force.

•   The acceptance of the Task Force’s “Report and Recommendation on Ministry Policies” would return the ELCA to the kind of individualistic congregationalism that characterized American Lutheranism during the 1900’s. . .the ELCA was moving toward a higher ecclesiology that aims to manifest the Church as one, apostolic, catholic, and holy. . .The doctrine of the church reflected in this social statement is perhaps the worst that has ever appeared in the history of Lutheranism in America. Congregations and synods are invited to go their own way and to reach their own decisions with respect to the ordained ministry, based not on what is essential to the church’s witness and proclamation as a whole, but on what seems relevant to the cultural vision of a new age. That kind of individualistic mindset puts the ELCA adrift in the ever-changing tides of culture. The people of the ELCA will then merit the epitaph applied to the people of Israel in the Book of Judges: “EVERY MAN DID WHAT WAS RIGHT IN HIS OWN EYES.” (17:6)

Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Gary Schnitkey on March 08, 2009, 05:59:30 PM
I have been disappointed by both Benne's and Braaten's response to the sexuality study.  This may be unfair to them in that I feel their errors are not substantive but rather are strategic.  As one would expect from academics, both Benne and Braaten provide academic responses countering points in the drafts.  This may be a useful exercise but it also causes their response to be wonkish and appear argumentative.  The revisionists will come up with their "experts" to refute Benne and Braaten and around the circle everything will go.

At this point, a more global perspective of what is at stake needs to be stated.   This may focus the attention of voters at the August meeting concerning what is at stack.  Something of the following is in order:

"Throughout history, the Christian sexual ethic has been that sexual relations should be restricted to husbands and wives united in marriage.  This ethic prohibits many sexual relationship including those between individuals who are not married.  It prohibits infidelity.  It also prohibits sexual relations between individuals of the same sex as they can not be married.  Given the Lutheran heritage, sexual relationships are not only prohibited in deed, but also in thought and word, which would prohibit many activities not specifically culminating in physical sexual activity.

Approval of the sexuality draft would breach this understanding by specifically allowing congregations to support individuals having sex in homosexual relationships through a "bounded conscience" doctrine.  This doctrine allows individuals to deviate from the orthodoxy because of "strong" feelings.  What consequence this deviation will have is difficult to ascertain.  However, it is safe to say that this one specific breach calls into question the ELCA's understanding of the Christian sexual ethic."
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: peter_speckhard on March 08, 2009, 09:29:19 PM
The GLBT issue can and should be framed as an issue of the Gospel, in my opinion, because it is finally about the nature of the Church's proclamation.  Do we proclaim "Your sins are forgiven for Jesus' sake" or do we proclaim "All are welcome in Jesus' name"?    If we bless what should be forgiven, we are denying the Gospel to whoever is receiving this false blessing.  That is no compassion at all, to encourage a person in their fallenness and deny them the comfort of the forgiveness of sins.  This last statement applies to a host of people, not just GLBT folks.  It is reminiscent of the first chapter of the Hammer of God when pastor Savonius first contacts dying Johannes, the only words of comfort he can offer to this afflicted sinner on the edge of death is "You weren't really that bad... your life was really fairly good..." and the like.  And poor dying Johannes lays there afflicted because he knows he's a sinner -- until peasant Katrina shows up and says "Yes, Johannes, you are indeed a sinner.  But don't you know that Jesus is a greater Savior than you are a sinner?"  And poor old Johannes hears the Gospel, accepts the sacrament and dies in peace.  Katrina showed more compassion by a country mile than Savonius did.  Fortunately, Savonius learned that.  Can the ELCA?

Lou
Lou, I'm not sure I understand this line of reasoning. You consistently claim that all our works are filthy rags. Everything we do is sinful because we are by nature in bondage to sin. This is true so far as justification goes. However, all a gay couple is asking your church to do is treat their "marriage" the same way your church treats your marriage to Deb. According to you, every aspect of your own marriage is 100% sinful because you and Deb are sinners. Ditto their gay "relationship". They aren't asking that the church say they aren't sinning in all they do; they're asking that the church treat their sin like your sin. I do not agree with them because I do not agree with you on this matter. I'm sure they'd be happy to acknowledge their relationship as sinful in the same sense that you acknowledge that your relationship to Deb is sinful. Your church is a RIC congregation when it comes to sinner husbands with sinner wives; what is the big deal with being RIC with two sinner husbands? Again, they don't want to be declared righteous in their relationship; they merely want to be declared no different than you in their relationship. Are they? If so, why?   
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Team Hesse on March 09, 2009, 03:20:26 PM

Lou, I'm not sure I understand this line of reasoning. You consistently claim that all our works are filthy rags. Everything we do is sinful because we are by nature in bondage to sin. This is true so far as justification goes. However, all a gay couple is asking your church to do is treat their "marriage" the same way your church treats your marriage to Deb. According to you, every aspect of your own marriage is 100% sinful because you and Deb are sinners. Ditto their gay "relationship". They aren't asking that the church say they aren't sinning in all they do; they're asking that the church treat their sin like your sin. I do not agree with them because I do not agree with you on this matter. I'm sure they'd be happy to acknowledge their relationship as sinful in the same sense that you acknowledge that your relationship to Deb is sinful. Your church is a RIC congregation when it comes to sinner husbands with sinner wives; what is the big deal with being RIC with two sinner husbands? Again, they don't want to be declared righteous in their relationship; they merely want to be declared no different than you in their relationship. Are they? If so, why?   

Our oldest godson baptized his firstborn yesterday, so Debbie and I have been gone to Forks, WA.  Yes, of Twilight fame...
Not an easy drive, snowy mountain passes, lots of ice, crooked road.  So I am slow to respond, but my response to pastors Charlton and Speckard is --
Yes, indeed, all is locked down under the Law.  None are found righteous.  So then how can we say that gay couplehood is worse than marriage?  In that, we go to scripture for command and promise.  As you know, we can find a lot of reference which commands the marital relationship, including one of the oldest commands of all, "be fruitful and multiply."  As Scott Y. has pointed out consistently, there is no positive reference to same-sex sexual liason to be found in scripture.  If all is locked under sin and there is no positive command which would enable a person to "sin boldly and even more boldly trust in the righteousness of Christ," then it seems to me we are dealing with something which simply cannot be encouraged.  When sinners try to locate their righteousness in anything other than Christ, they are going to be disappointed. 

I dispute the idea that a gay couple "would be happy to acknowledge their relationship as sinful in the same sense that you acknowledge that your relationship to Deb is sinful,"  (because even you don't, Peter).  Very few people do, finally, surrender that they are a sinner in EVERYTHING they do.

Lou
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: DCharlton on March 09, 2009, 04:19:59 PM
Lou,

You said:
As Scott Y. has pointed out consistently, there is no positive reference to same-sex sexual liason to be found in scripture.  If all is locked under sin and there is no positive command which would enable a person to "sin boldly and even more boldly trust in the righteousness of Christ," then it seems to me we are dealing with something which simply cannot be encouraged. 

Now what we have been discussing is the idea that, "Disagreements over the Law should not be church dividing.  Only disagreements over the Gospel rise to that level."

I believe that is a false premise.  Let me show you why.

1.  If we say, "Disagreement over the Law are not church dividing."

2.  And, "Both positive commands and negative commands are Law and not Gospel."

3.  And, "There are many negative commands and no positive commands concerning same sex marriage."

4.  Disagreement over same sex marriage should not be church dividing because it concerns the Law not the Gospel.

Either the premise that disagreement over the Law is not necessary is wrong or the Sexuality Statement is correct in saying that the issue of same sex marriage should not be church dividing.

David Charlton
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Team Hesse on March 09, 2009, 04:45:34 PM
Lou,

You said:
As Scott Y. has pointed out consistently, there is no positive reference to same-sex sexual liason to be found in scripture.  If all is locked under sin and there is no positive command which would enable a person to "sin boldly and even more boldly trust in the righteousness of Christ," then it seems to me we are dealing with something which simply cannot be encouraged. 

Now what we have been discussing is the idea that, "Disagreements over the Law should not be church dividing.  Only disagreements over the Gospel rise to that level."

I believe that is a false premise.  Let me show you why.

1.  If we say, "Disagreement over the Law are not church dividing."

2.  And, "Both positive commands and negative commands are Law and not Gospel."

3.  And, "There are many negative commands and no positive commands concerning same sex marriage."

4.  Disagreement over same sex marriage should not be church dividing because it concerns the Law not the Gospel.

Either the premise that disagreement over the Law is not necessary is wrong or the Sexuality Statement is correct in saying that the issue of same sex marriage should not be church dividing.

I think I see your point, and I think I see the distinction that still needs to be made.  Forde, in his book Where God Meets Man, points out that you can't label one thing as either solely Law or solely Gospel because it is in the hearing, what it does to the hearer, that determines what it is for that hearer.  This is true even of the pure statement "Your sins are forgiven for Jesus' sake" --  a hearer will hear that as Law (condemnation) if they don't believe what that statement refers to is actually sin.  It will be pure Gospel to a person who recognizes whatever you're speaking to as sin.

What bothers me is if the Law is considered church-dividing, then we can't have Democrats and Republicans or a host of other distinctions at the same altar.  To put this in scriptural terms, Paul would have to be seen as in error for insisting that circumcision could not be required.  As I was told in my Galatians class at Luther, Dr. Martin is considered the arch-heretic by the Roman Catholics because he, citing St. Paul, says nothing may be required other than the Gospel; and he declares the Pope to be the antiChrist precisely because he does require a whole bunch of other things than the Gospel. If I see raising taxes to fund welfare to the poor as a command of scripture, how can I be at the same altar with someone who insists that scripture says "if any would not work, neither should he eat"?  If both believe that we fall short in either our care or our work, then both can approach the altar and receive the promised forgiveness.  If one is convinced of his righteousness without a need of forgiveness, both can't approach the altar because one is "an open and apparent sinner" while the other is "righteous."  Take your pick which is which.

I think Law can be church-dividing IF the argument can be made that it changes the proclamation of the Gospel.  Apartheid was wrong because it denied black folks opportunity to hear that proclamation; Nazi Germany was wrong because it denied Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, and the mentally deficient the opportunity to hear the Gospel;  abortion is wrong because it denies the unborn the opportunity to hear the Gospel ... and blessing/encouraging something which should be properly placed under forgiveness is denying the hearer the Gospel.  Even if the hearer doesn't want to hear it.

Lou
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: DCharlton on March 09, 2009, 06:20:34 PM
I think we can agree that IN SOME CASES disagreement over the Law can be church dividing.  Disagreement over the Law is not necessarily Church dividing, and in some cases is should not be church dividing.

One issue we did not discuss was slavery.  I many cases slaves were allowed to hear the Gospel.  In some cases slaves were allowed into the same church as their owners.  So, if slavery did not necessarily prevent slaves from hearing the Gospel, should it have been church dividing? 

David Charlton
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Erme Wolf on March 09, 2009, 11:23:31 PM
I think we can agree that IN SOME CASES disagreement over the Law can be church dividing.  Disagreement over the Law is not necessarily Church dividing, and in some cases is should not be church dividing.

One issue we did not discuss was slavery.  I many cases slaves were allowed to hear the Gospel.  In some cases slaves were allowed into the same church as their owners.  So, if slavery did not necessarily prevent slaves from hearing the Gospel, should it have been church dividing? 

David Charlton

It may be possible, theoretically, to make an argument that slavery, under certain circumstances, would not have to be church dividing.  However, the institution of slavery as it existed in the United States prior to the Civil War is known to be an extremely harsh form of slavery.  The forced division of families, the legal non-existence of marriage for slaves, and the legal claim of the slave states that slavery existed in perpetuity from generation to generation all works to raise a legitimate question regarding what kind of "Gospel" was proclaimed.  Was it the true Gospel, or was it a false, deformed, sham gospel that in fact was evil masquarading as a message of God?  Certainly the Christian faith was proclaimed, but did this happen because of or in spite of those who supported and enforced the laws of the "Peculiar Institution"?  It would be interesting to look at the arguments of Lutherans in this country who opposed slavery, as to their arguments regarding this matter and whether they found slavery to be in opposition to the Gospel, and not just the Law.  I've never studied this from the standpoint of Lutheran church history, but it could be worthwhile to do so.
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: Harvey_Mozolak on March 10, 2009, 08:10:11 AM
Erma, yes and it would also be interesting to look not only at those who preached and defended slavery but discuss a bit about those who, while not owning, not sanctioning, not condemning slavery-- simply ignored it in pulpit, teaching and conversation.  Of course, there would be the tacit acceptance in commerce of anything that had gone through the hands or labors of slaves.  Can the church ignore and deliver the Gospel as a kind of side dish to what is on the world's table?   Sometimes Lutherans have been good at attempting that, staying above the fray so as not to dirty our hands with any bold sinning.  Say, like during the Viet Nam war for many, at the end, oh yes it was so clear that we really should not have done this, that, or all of it....  but during, protesting seemed so out of step with Christian quietism.      Harvey Mozolak
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: DCharlton on March 10, 2009, 02:22:45 PM
Erma and Harvey,

Just to further the discussion:

I agree that the gospel preached in the midst of slavery was a false gospel.  It was a false gospel that called evil good and good evil.  It was the kind of false gospel that Bonhoeffer talked about, which justifies the sin rather than the sinner. In that case, it was a false gospel because it refused to call sin what it is.  Calling sin sin is the job of the Law.  So because the Law was not proclaimed, a false gospel ensued.  The  Word of God to the obstinate slave holder would have been "Slavery is a damnable sin, repent" (Law).    To the repentant slave holder it would have been, "For Christ's sake, your sins are forgiven" (Gospel).

When we try to preach only half the Word of God, whether it is law or gospel, we are left with a false gospel.  This false gospel either tells us that we can save ourselves by moral effort or it tells us that God blesses our sin.  In either case it is a false gospel. 

David Charlton
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: G.Edward on July 08, 2009, 07:27:37 PM
Thank you, Rev. Dr. Braaten, for laying out a coherent and orthodox response.  You have given clear words to my many negative reactions to both documents as I read through this proposed "social statement."
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: dbturner85 on November 23, 2011, 05:21:10 PM
Quote
The  Word of God to the obstinate slave holder would have been "Slavery is a damnable sin, repent" (Law).

And here lies the problem we're faced with: the question of scriptural authority.  The scriptures which are to be the "norm, source, and rule," claim that the institution of slavery (all be it a very different one than that system which existed in the Southern US) is one to be left in place.  However, outside of the Pauline letters we find a different ethic.  For example, consider the Exodus from Egypt. 

We all most likely read the bible from a cultural-critical standpoint to some extent.  For instance, would anyone here claim that Sarah's calling Abraham "Lord" was laudable as 1 Peter 3:6 claims?  Also, does anyone here enforce the rule for women to wear head coverings in the church?  I would guess that inerrancy is not the stance of most of the contributors on this blog, which seems to beg the question: at one point are we being intellectually honest about our views of the bible?  What is merely culturally relevant and what is eternal truth?  To me these are the questions which the theological moderate must struggle with, if they are to be intellectually sincere.  We should not bury our heads in the sand on the problems of the inerrancy hermeneutic, but we do not want to dismiss the tradition, making a tyranny of the "democracy of the dead."

An exclusively male clergy had 20 centuries of tradition behind it too, but most self-identified "moderates" reject it.  Why is homosexual activity the dividing issue?  I personally am not that concerned about it.  If you don't want a gay pastor then don't call one.  I'm more concerned with losing the gospel to either liberalism or legalistic pietism than this (which I believe sadly characterizes the two opposing sides on this debate).  I think conservatives and moderates set themselves up as being portrayed as "homophobic" when they stay in a body which has endorsed many doctrinal ambiguities concerning the Justification of the human being before God without considerable debate yet jump ship when it comes to Gays and Lesbians.       
Title: Re: Carl Braaten's Critique of Sexuality Proposal
Post by: readselerttoo on November 23, 2011, 10:08:08 PM
Quote
The  Word of God to the obstinate slave holder would have been "Slavery is a damnable sin, repent" (Law).

And here lies the problem we're faced with: the question of scriptural authority.  The scriptures which are to be the "norm, source, and rule," claim that the institution of slavery (all be it a very different one than that system which existed in the Southern US) is one to be left in place.  However, outside of the Pauline letters we find a different ethic.  For example, consider the Exodus from Egypt. 

We all most likely read the bible from a cultural-critical standpoint to some extent.  For instance, would anyone here claim that Sarah's calling Abraham "Lord" was laudable as 1 Peter 3:6 claims?  Also, does anyone here enforce the rule for women to wear head coverings in the church?  I would guess that inerrancy is not the stance of most of the contributors on this blog, which seems to beg the question: at one point are we being intellectually honest about our views of the bible?  What is merely culturally relevant and what is eternal truth?  To me these are the questions which the theological moderate must struggle with, if they are to be intellectually sincere.  We should not bury our heads in the sand on the problems of the inerrancy hermeneutic, but we do not want to dismiss the tradition, making a tyranny of the "democracy of the dead."

An exclusively male clergy had 20 centuries of tradition behind it too, but most self-identified "moderates" reject it.  Why is homosexual activity the dividing issue?  I personally am not that concerned about it.  If you don't want a gay pastor then don't call one.  I'm more concerned with losing the gospel to either liberalism or legalistic pietism than this (which I believe sadly characterizes the two opposing sides on this debate).  I think conservatives and moderates set themselves up as being portrayed as "homophobic" when they stay in a body which has endorsed many doctrinal ambiguities concerning the Justification of the human being before God without considerable debate yet jump ship when it comes to Gays and Lesbians.     




Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me."  Here is where eternal truth lies...in this Person.  However, only the sinner can confess this.  Justification of the sinner before God rather than justification of the human being.  Moderns tend to neutralize the biblical realization that it is sinners who are justified by faith.  IOW, the human being as descriptor takes the place of the severity of where a person really is:  under God's wrath because one is a sinner.