Fruits of Repentance

Yesterday, I wrote a post that will never see the light of day. It was very righteous, and very indignant. But that would only serve to vent my spleen. And that’s not really what I want this to be about. There are things that need to be said. I have said many of them before. In the Large Catechism, we confess that God continually teaches the same thing – from the beginning of the world until the end. So it should not surprise pastors that they say the same things repeatedly. It is how we teach what God would have us know.

I speak, once again, of the situation with Concordia Saint Louis. They have resumed publishing materials about creation. I am not surprised. They said they would do so. At the time, I recommended that they take time to reconsider this plan. I believe it may be harmful to them. Let me explain. If you have a finance person at the church, and they are dipping their hand into the offering plate, you may forgive them the offense. (Indeed, if they are repentant, you are commanded to do so.) But you do not immediately re-instate them to their office. You may, as a condition of dropping the matter, require that they never be near the church’s finances again. This is not a punishment, it is to keep them from a temptation they have shown they struggle to overcome. This is a loving act on the part of the church. To immediately return to them charge of the money bag would be unloving – and more than that, a danger to their eternal salvation.

A teacher of the church who publicly teaches falsely, one who allows that teaching to be promulgated, and especially those who call to repent those who correctly identify that false teaching, should consider themselves excluded from that discussion for a time. They should, in humility sit and listen to the Word of God more carefully. The church would be within her rights in demanding they resign their teaching position entirely. If such a teacher were allowed to remain in their position, they should do so with great humility. Not only to ensure they do not allow false teaching in an area they have shown that they do not properly understand – which could cause further confusion in the church. But also for the sake of their own souls. They have shown they have a blind spot. They should patiently listen while others – who can more clearly and rightly teach the matter – help them to understand the significance of their error, and to understand how better to teach in the future.

Sadly, this is not the course that the Seminary in Saint Louis has chosen. There has been no repentance for their false teaching. The faculty unanimously defended the false teaching. More than that, the faculty unanimously called to repent those who spoke rightly against that false teaching. They have not withdrawn that false charge. They have not withdrawn their defense of the false teaching. They have not repented of their mis-interpretation of the 8th commandment. One faculty member publicly stated that they were withdrawing the offending article, but defended the process by which it was published. These are the facts of the matter. You can confirm them with President Wille (South Wisconsin) or President Hill (Wyoming), who were both on the receiving end of such calls for repentance.

In addition, the seminary is continuing with their announced plan to share with us the latest in Evangelical scholarship on joining together scientific theories with the scriptural accounts.

Now, I do not want to be misunderstood on this point. There is important scientific work to be done regarding the nature of the universe. There is important apologetic work that is being done to show the inability of evolution to explain the origin of life. There are scientists of very high caliber working on those things . But conjoining the biblical record with the scientific evidence is not the province of theologians. The Evangelical efforts are doomed to fail – because they incorrectly make the task of the theologian a scientific justification of the biblical record. That is not our task. Certainly we are ready to give a defense for the hope that is in us. But we are not tasked with creating a synthesis between scripture and worldly opinion. And that is what the Evangelical efforts are aimed at. I have read many books on the origin of the universe – from Evangelicals, Secularists, Romanists, and most helpfully Lutherans. John Warwick Montgomery has done fantastic work in this area. He has edited books that greatly helped me de-tangle the mess that is evolutionary theory.

But evolutionary theory is not a scientific endeavor. It is a theological one. And our seminary faculties would help the church far more if they stopped looking at evolution/creation as a riddle to be unlocked with a scientific “Grand unification theory”, and started looking at is as the early church did – a specific attack against God the Father Almighty’s  proper place as creator of the universe, and an attack against the very purpose of our life which was given by God. This misdirection is a deliberate attempt on Satan’s part to keep our eye off the ball. And it is the mistake that is too often made in these debates. In treating evolution like a scientific theory, instead of a religious belief system, we have ceded the greatest argument against it before we have even begun speaking. Apologetics is always performed at a disadvantage. I get that. We can only use the tools that our opponents would recognize as valid. But that is an evidentiary question. It does not mean we must let them frame the question, the rules of debate, and the preconceived outcome. This is what happens with modern Evangelical apologetic efforts.

This isn’t intended as a commercial for my book, although it rather morphed into one. I do think that my book offers a better way of arguing. I have several Lutheran Pastors who also have advanced degrees in the sciences – including evolutionary biology – who agree with me. But this isn’t about credentials. This is about how best to teach the church, so that we can defend ourselves from the onslaughts of the world. The church does not need to prove that every fossil can be understood in a way that supports Genesis 1 & 2. The very task assumes that those fossils could be understood in a way that contradicts the scriptural record. We have allowed the question to be framed by our opponents in that case. And as any debate veteran can tell you, the one who frames the question has already won the debate.

The task of the church is to proclaim the Word of God clearly. And that word is unequivocal that human life is the pinnacle of creation. We are created by the very hand of God – knit together in our mother’s womb. Any theory that would denigrate that teaching is attempting to undermine the doctrine of the church – beginning with the sanctity of life, and ending with doctrine of justification.

So, what do I recommend that the good professors of the Saint Louis Seminary do? A reading list that begins with the Large Catechism would be a good step. They can do that here. But even more, I will offer to any Saint Louis seminary professor who cares to read it, a free copy of my book, if you agree to share your thoughts with me when you finish reading it, and if you like it, recommend it to your colleagues. Because I believe they are debating and teaching the wrong thing. Even if they no longer publish and encourage false teaching, they are attempting to answer questions that are not meant to be answered, and do not help our people to hold fast to the faith.

If you are a professor at the Saint Louis Seminary, and you are interested in a better way, contact me in the comments, on FB, or check the synod church-worker locator for my phone number. I am still losing money on my book. (Hint to my other readers… if you have already purchased a copy for yourself, this makes a great gift for friends. Lulu & Kindle) But I will send you a free review copy, that you can read. When you are done, give me a call. Let me know what you thought of it. Let me know if it changed your mind about how best to argue this. Because, “This is what the Evangelicals are saying” is not a great argument. We can – we must – do better. If you will not refrain from the debate for a time to consider whether your position agrees with God’s position, at least show the humility to read and consider the arguments that are being made in your own church.

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