Tuesday, May 14, 2019
Playing with the language of God. . .
An example of this lies in the implementing resolution for a new ELCA social statement on the very topic of faith, sexism, and justice. While it does not remove the Trinitarian name of God, it requires that the Church develop gender inclusive and gender expansive language for God. This is much more than simply be sensitive to how things sound but requires the ELCA to make the ordinary name of God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) merely one of many forms and names used by the church body to name God. While some might suggest that this is not at all dangerous, it is will inevitably diminish the Biblical names of God and make orthodox trinitarianism optional. And, as we all know, Neuhaus' law is well proven that where orthodoxy becomes optional, it will eventually be outlawed.
"To call upon the Conference of Bishops, synods, and the churchwide organization to use gender-inclusive and expansive language for God, and to direct the ELCA worship team a) to use such language whenever it commissions, curates, or develops new liturgical and related educational resources, and (b) to supplement existing resources toward that end." Implementing resolution #9 for Proposed Social Statement “Faith, Sexism, and Justice: A Lutheran Call to Action (p 47).”
I am NOT singling out the ELCA for this; I only wish that it was alone among the offenders. I know that orthodoxy is constantly under threat even from church bodies that think themselves conservative (like the LCMS to which I belong). The danger is not to the ELCA but to our ears and minds. After we begin hearing as customary other names for God, the Biblical name for God becomes at least exceptional and perhaps even strange to our ears. A year or so ago I listened to the ELCA Presiding Bishop being interviewed on Issues, Etc., and found her constant use of God or Godself to avoid using Him or Himself jarring but it does not take long before that becomes normal and Him or Himself becomes the exception. Again, the problem is not merely substituting other names for God from time to time but learning to depart from Scripture. This is not about how God is described (by His works, for example, Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier) but about how God is named -- in prayer, worship, witness, catechesis, and confession. It all begins, of course, with a departure from Scripture as both the source and norm of how we know and speak of God. Where Scripture is but one of the norms that apply to the way we talk about God, it is no longer Scripture at all.
We cannot be casual about this. This goes to the heart and core of our confidence in the words and actions of God. When we tinker with God's name, is it still baptism? When we tinker with the elements, is it still the Lord's Supper? Who is to say? And that is the point! Who IS to say! In other words, that about which we should be most confident is thrown into confusion and doubt. This is what happens when orthodoxy becomes optional, when the Biblical name of God becomes one among many names, and when we apply to God and to Scripture the lens of the moment to define what we hear and how we repeat it back. This is no longer about a few flower children trying to sow their 1960s oats but about churches, faith, and the people of God needlessly set adrift on a sea of doubt because we no longer hear the Word of God as unique or understand that Word to define our faith and our liturgical and confessional language about God.