Bil Browning

Wow. So, yeah. There. What he said.

Filed By Bil Browning | August 27, 2009 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Media

I'm still not sure whether or this guy is anti-gay or not, but I doubt he knows either. While Kevin Leininger's News-Sentinel column "Lutheran gay debate shows 'change' isn't always worth believing in" definitely sounds anti-gay, I'm not sure he remembered it was about gay and lesbian Lutheran ministers.

Just as many Americans believe the U.S. Constitution should be interpreted in ways that reflect today's needs and sensibilities, so do many Christians hold a similar view of Scripture. Although the ELCA [Evangelical Lutheran Church in America] confesses that Scripture is "inspired" by God, it does not share the LCMS' [Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod] belief that the Bible is also infallible.

In other words, if your conscience disagrees with Scripture, maybe God needs to change.

But such relativism would never have appealed to Luther, who, when called before the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in 1521, insisted that conscience must be bound by Scripture - Scripture that proclaims a God who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. The Reformation, in fact, was not about change at all, but an attempt to restore the Gospel Luther and others thought had been obscured by centuries of man-made doctrines.
Whether the ELCA loses members or other denominations gain them because of what the convention did remains to be seen, but [Rev. Daniel] May is right about this: The Bible doesn't give us God's laws to make us miserable, but for our benefit: to move us to repentance, forgiveness and salvation and to liberate us from guilt - just like a condemned man pardoned from death row.

The church, in other words, exists for sinners, straight and gay alike. No church should feel compelled to change or obscure that fact - especially one that wants to be called "Lutheran."

So, yeah. There. Take that you gay ministers. Who are having sex. Unless you're married. And then, well, yeah...

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Wait. What? I'm not sure what point he was making, either. But I would like to address that line, "maybe God needs to change."

The relativism which the author seems to deride is simply a different viewpoint of the role of the Bible in one's faith. The literalists' way of looking at it puts the Bible at the end of all things; the world must be molded and shaped according to the Bible. Another way to see it is to put the Bible at the beginning of the process of faith. It is the structure upon which to build; our understanding is molded by the world around us. Cultural changes over time inevitably change the way we see those words. Thus the overall theme of the Bible is the driving force for interpretation of its words. Literal nitpicking misses the point.

The ELCA has chosen to follow the theme of the Bible, which is unconditional grace. In my opinion, they got it right.

In other words, if your conscience disagrees with Scripture, maybe God needs to change.

Leininger got the process right, but worded it wrong. He might just as easily have said, "If your conscience disagrees with the teachings of your Church, then maybe it is time for you to change churches." Such a statement is far less eyebrow-raising, yet it delivers the same result (unless you are running a denomination that is, ultimately, your real God).

Then, having claimed that all things are absolute, he hints at the contrary:

Whether the ELCA loses members or other denominations gain them because of what the convention did remains to be seen ...

Which is it, Leininger? Is there one unmistakable Truth that has been handed only to you and those who agree with you? --- Or do you decide which doctrine is correct based on how the worshipers vote with their feet?

Footnote: What it took me an entire childhood to figure out is that the LCMS believes that, not only is the Bible infallible, but that their interpretation of it is also infallible. The former they state explicitly --- the latter they enforce without ever stating it, only by not allowing any meaningful discussion of alternatives. Like so many literalist sects, they can require you to check your brain at the door on the way in, but they cannot prevent you from picking it up again on the way out.