Wednesday, September 21, 2022

What God would or would not want. . .

The Pope said it so it must be true.  “God does not want us to be slaves, but sons and daughters,” Francis said. “He does not want to make decisions for us, or oppress us with a sacral power, exercised in a world governed by religious laws. No! He created us to be free, and he asks us to be mature and responsible persons in life and in society.”

Hmmmm.  Did Francis get special revelation from God to say this?  Is this in accord with what we know God has said in His Word?  Or is this Francis' own perspective and he is presuming God agrees with him?  Who knows?  Who cares?

My point is not to dig on Francis.  Lord knows, there is enough to dig on and enough diggers.  What is my point is how freely some presume to speak for God -- even on subjects where God has, presumably, already spoken in His Word.  That is the bane of Christianity in general and its undoing.  To speak where God is silent or to be silent where God speaks is bad enough but to posit your own viewpoint and words as God's is even more dangerous.

Progressive Christianity has been particularly fond of speaking for God when God has already spoken.  It is the framework that holds up the liberal acceptance of a sexuality, gender, and marriage debate which has literally consumed the churches for a generation or more.  The passages of Scripture that would apply are either conveniently overlooked and creatively recast so that they do not say what we do not want them to say.  The pro-choice, climate change, diversity, critical race, and social justice issues that have become the gospel for so many, replacing the cross and empty tomb, have turned the focus solely upon this life and its improvement -- according to the presumed goals and ethical norms of Jesus.  They would protest that they are holding to the heart of Scripture if not to its actual words. But progressives are not alone.

When a Christian not Lutheran approached me one Sunday morning to ask to receive Holy Communion, I asked what they believed.  We believe everything in the Bible, they said.  And I asked a bit more.  No, it turns out, they did not believe that God was doing anything in baptism or that there was anything more than a symbolic presence to the Lord in the Eucharist.  They did not believe that any man can forgive sins in God's name or bind them against the unrepentant or that the pastoral office is an order given to the church (as opposed to a job for which he is hired by people who could do whatever the pastor did).  They did not believe that the Word of God was itself the actor doing what it said and therefore was not efficacious [but that the believer had to agree, consent, and believe the Word before anything happened].  They kept on talking about what they did not believe until it became clear that they did not believe everything in the Bible as they had said.

The radical confession of Sola Scriptura is not really about a naked or lonely Word but it is about the Word that informs, defines, and norms what it is that the Church believes, confesses, and teaches.  It is about the radical view that Scripture does what it says and deliver what it promises as a living Word and not a restatement of facts or history or even the proposal of philosophical truths to be believed.  We Lutherans are not anti-tradition.  We do not disdain the teaching magisterium of the Church.  But we do place at the center of both the living voice of Scripture as that which informs, defines, and gives boundaries to our faith.  Therefore, we Lutherans should not be people who put words in God's mouth or paper over our disagreements with His Word with creative interpretations nor should we be silent about what God has said.

One more thing.  The Scriptures are a liturgical book.  They are owned by the Church for whom they were written and delivered.  They are not the possession of the individual who decides to believe them or of the exegete who unpacks what they really say or the Gnostic who can delve under the words to discern hidden truth.  They are Christ's voice and they speak Christ's redemptive love and through that speaking faith is created and disciples are formed.  Their fruit lies not simply in an intellectual assent to what they say -- as if we had the power to make them true or render them false.  No, their fruit lies in the assembly of those who hear that Word, who recognize it as the living voice of the Good Shepherd, and who know that God is at work in that Word that we might be His own and live under Him in His kingdom forever.


Anonymous said...

I dunno, the Pope sounds pretty Lutheran here to me. Maybe that time he spent in Lund rubbed off.

From the Book of Concord:

“For it is written, Gal. 5:1: Stand fast, therefore, in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not again entangled in the yoke of bondage. Also Gal. 2:4f: And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage; to whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour, that the truth of the Gospel might continue with you.”

And, “Likewise, the article concerning Christian liberty also is here at stake, which the Holy Ghost through the mouth of the holy apostle so earnestly charged His Church to preserve.”

I’m not sure that any serious Lutheran would state that the Scriptures are intended as a liturgical book owned by the magisterium of the Church. A serious Lutheran values the edifying traditions of the Lutheran Church while recognizing faith as true worship.

Pastor Peters said...

I think you miss the point. Francis is NOT referencing the Christian liberty you are but the whole idea that God desires a pattern and character to the world He made. Francis has already suggested God is good with a diversity of religions and here Francis is saying that God has really no will or purpose for the world He made for which Christ died except every free to choose, free to be, and free to live as they desire. This has nothing whatsoever to do with the Christian freedom of the quotes you mention. Francis is speaking of the world. You are addressing the Christian. While we all should agree that the Church is not placed in the world to rule by sacral power or enforced morality, to go past that and say that God -- the God who issued the Ten Commandments -- has no real interest in what this world looks like is a strange twist indeed.