Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The flowering glory of reason. . .

It strikes me that although Luther had some words to say about the primacy and authority of reason, we Lutherans have succumbed to the tyranny of reason quite easily.  We have fallen into the fallacy that if you cannot understand it, it must be suspect, that if you cannot explain it, it must not be real, and if you cannot appreciate the wisdom of it, it must be false.  Of course, it became obvious when we began to approach things to do with, pardon the expression, gender.

Women's ordination was promoted largely as an appeal to reason and experience more than Scripture or tradition.  We know women, how smart and caring they are, and how they are able to fulfill the functions, so it would be unreasonable and therefore unjust to deprive them of their equal place among the clergy.  We then mined the nether regions of Scripture for passages that we could use to support the conclusion our minds had already reached.  The Lutheran Church in Australia is in the throws of that process of study to reach a predetermined judgement.  Missouri is being judged for not wanting to talk about it (which really means not willing to change our minds about it since the talk is not to illuminate darkness or enlarge understanding, no, it is to change the mind). 

The whole issue of homosexuality and its gender of many letters as well as the legal issue of same sex marriage is an appeal to reason or at least to experience (usually anecdotal).  After all, say those who promote an openness to this and who advocate welcome and embrace of the LGBTQ, look at what good people these are.  Different, yes, but not disordered.  Not like us but that is not bad.  Look at how sincere they are and would it not be unjust to deprive them of what we enjoy simply because we are heterosexual?  So again, the mind has been changed and a rationale must be found and so it must be that Scripture does not mean what it is saying or that it does not say what we have thought it said or meant.  It is the tyranny of the mind as well as feelings.  If it is not reasonable, comprehensible, it if does not sought right, and if it offends the values we have determined to be right, then it must be wrong.

Is this not how many justify their change of minds?  Yes, we once thought this way but not any more.  Things change.  To the mind, this is thoroughly logical and reasonable and the fact that it offends the Word of the Lord that endures forever and the Christ forever the same, well, it is a small thing that must be sacrificed for the greater good.  Hardly ever has the church ever looked at a text and made a change because we actually found that the words we thought meant this or that now mean something different.  It always begins with the mind first.  And so doctrines and creeds and confessions are either booted out the door or rendered moot by speaking the words but not believing them.

I read where a priest was talking to a Roman Catholic couple asking about mass times.  When they wanted to attend, the mass was in Polish and the only other time they could attend it was in Vietnamese.  They could not do these languages.  They could do English.  Funny, when you think about it, the mass does not change because of the language that is spoken.  The words mean the same in Polish and Vietnamese and English and, yes, even Latin.  Perhaps this was clearer when the mass was in a language that most folks did not speak or understand.  Now we have become captive to the mind.  If I do not understand it, it must be not be real and it certainly cannot be beneficial.

We have high expectations of the Word, of the sermon, of the hymns, and of the liturgy.  We expect them to appeal to our sense of reason, of logic, and of the realm of our experience.  If they do not confirm what we already think or have witnessed or judge to be logical, we will not believe it.  I cannot believe in a God who. . .  well, you fill in the blank.  We are the "I" in the center of the storm and at the core of that "I" is the triumphant power of the mind, along with the normative power of the heart.  I need to get it, I need to affirm it according to my experience, and I need to feel it.  What is that in the face of Scripture's own definition of faith/trust?

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  [2] For by it the people of old received their commendation. [3] By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

[4] By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. [5] By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. [6] And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. [7] By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

[8] By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. [9] By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. [10] For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. [11] By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. [12] Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.

[13] These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. [14] For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. [15] If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. [16] But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

[17] By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, [18] of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” [19] He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. [20] By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. [21] By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. [22] By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.

[23] By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king's edict. [24] By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, [25] choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. [26] He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. [27] By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. [28] By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.

[29] By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. [30] By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. [31] By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

[32] And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—[33] who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, [34] quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. [35] Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. [36] Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. [37] They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—[38] of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

[39] And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, [40] since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

(ESV)Hebrews 11


Anonymous said...

Faith is edified and sustained by God appealing to our senses and our reason. Think of the stimuli of Christian art and architecture, the Liturgy, the means of grace hearing the Word and taking into our mouths the very body and blood of Jesus. Think of all the archaeological discoveries that continue to affirm faith. Think of the cloud of witnesses we see all around us in the Church militant. All these are taken in by the senses and do not result in a blind, uninformed faith, but in faith that does not wilt under stress. Whatever faith is, it can be strengthened to overcome the old nature or it can be neglected, ignored, and finally set aside.

ginnie said...

Thank you, Anonymous.

Anonymous said...

Within the Analogy of Faith, all things are reasonable. What are not reasonable are the fundamental truths underlying the Analogy of Faith. These we receive by revelation from God through His Prophets and Apostles:
Isaiah 48:
1“Listen to this, you descendants of Jacob,
you who are called by the name of Israel
and come from the line of Judah,
you who take oaths in the name of the Lord
and invoke the God of Israel—
but not in truth or righteousness—
2you who call yourselves citizens of the holy city
and claim to rely on the God of Israel—
the Lord Almighty is his name:
3I foretold the former things long ago,
my mouth announced them and I made them known;
then suddenly I acted, and they came to pass.
4For I knew how stubborn you were;
your neck muscles were iron,
your forehead was bronze.
5Therefore I told you these things long ago;
before they happened I announced them to you
so that you could not say,
‘My images brought them about;
my wooden image and metal god ordained them.’
6You have heard these things; look at them all.
Will you not admit them?
“From now on I will tell you of new things,
of hidden things unknown to you.
7They are created now, and not long ago;
you have not heard of them before today.
So you cannot say,
‘Yes, I knew of them.’
8You have neither heard nor understood;
from of old your ears have not been open.

The only way we can understand the mysteries of God is not through reason or our senses, but through the work of the Holy Spirit dwelling in each baptized Christian. 1 Cor. 12: 3 “Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says "Let Jesus be cursed!" and no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit.”
Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

Anonymous said...

Throes, not throws.

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

Great article!I've enjoyed your meanderings😉

The article below lends insight into the development of faith and reason from a Catholic perspective.

"Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth…” (Pope St. John Paul II, Fides et Ratio, no. 1).