Monday, September 07, 2009

On being rudderless

The commentary in the wake of the ELCA's majority vote granting non-celibate homosexual ministers the privilege of serving as rostered leaders in the ELCA has been interesting. There are those who celebrate it, and there are those who are using this as an opportunity to truly reflect on the problems inherent in the roots of Lutheranism itself.

Chris Blosser calls our attention to an essay written by ELCA Lutheran Robert Benne, who is director of the Center for Religion and Society at Roanoke College. In the essay, Benne seems to recognize the root of their current predicament as something that is thoroughly embedded in what Blosser calls "the very fabric of their tradition". Benne writes:
What was truly chilling about the Assembly's debates was that the revisionists seemed to quote Jesus and the Bible as knowledgeably and persuasively as the orthodox. Passages reinforcing their respective agendas were selected and then brilliantly woven into their arguments. Both sides seemed to have the Bible on their side. The revisionists "contextualized" and relativized the relevant texts. The orthodox claimed a plain sense reading of Scripture. The Lutheran Confessions were utilized effectively by both sides. There was no authoritative interpretation conveyed by any agent or agency in the church. The church was and is rudderless.

Sola Scriptura, a Lutheran principle adopted by evangelicals, did not seem to be sufficient in such circumstances. An authoritative tradition of interpretation of the Bible seemed to be essential. More was needed than the Word alone. Protestants seem to lack such an authoritative tradition so they fight and split. In this situation the option of swimming the Tiber [i.e. becoming Catholic] seems all the more tempting.
Of course, other Protestants are responding to this by inviting folks to join their own particular sects, and based solely on their own interpretations. We can easily see why the Church needs a rudder, lest souls be endlessly thrown about by the waves of the world until they are beaten against the rocks and drowned.


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