My Experience

I am probably a bit older (maybe a lot) than most of you in class. I haven’t determined if that has made me any wiser or just more experienced. For my final post for our pre class assignment I wish to tell you a bit of my experiences in an effort to explain my view of scripture. I was raised in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. It is a very conservative church body that adheres to the inerrancy of scripture. That is my foundation of faith that I have in Jesus Christ. I wandered a bit through the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the Southern Baptist Convention, and ultimately the Christian Church.

What probably shaped my theology as much as my experience in the Missouri Synod was my experience in the ELCA.   My wife and I began attending an ELCA congregation in our home town. After attending about six months the congregation called its first female pastor. After a couple of years as I grew in the Word I came across the various scriptures that one could interpret to limit the role of women in the leadership of the church. From my background and belief in inerrancy I questioned her about her position as pastor/leader of the congregation as I had problems rectifying what the scriptures were saying to me and her role as leader. Ultimately, we left to return to the Missouri Synod before eventually finding a home in the Christian church. The reason we left was not so much that I could not justify her role as pastor with the scriptures of 1st Timothy and 1st Corinthians, but it was how she justified her role. I am sure some of you (maybe all) would disagree with my conclusions that leadership roles are for men and would use scriptures to justify your position just as I would use scriptures to justify mine. That wasn’t the case nor is gender roles the topic of this post. The issue was one of inspiration and inerrancy. I was told that the scriptures that dealt with those issues and with many more were not true as they were merely written in that time of history to deal with the culture of the time. Also other portions of the bible have been found to be in error such as the virgin birth, miracles of Jesus, and much of what Jesus said. These were all in doubt because the historical/critical method of interpretation has cast doubt on them.

 I then asked her how then do we know what is true? She replied it is only the scholars and seminary professors that know what is true in the Bible for they are the ones who have been trained in these methods of interpretation. Having been raised a Lutheran, it has always been my thought that one of the greatest contributions Luther made to the church was the translation of the Bible into German which took the Bible from the hands of the clergy and placed it into the hands of the people. And yet what she said seemed to me to be taking it out of the hands of the laity and placing it into the hands of the clergy once again.

 Let me make one thing clear. I do believe that the historical/critical method of interpretation is valid and useful. I do believe the Bible does not need to be defended for it will be with us long after my life is over for Jesus said his words will never pass away. But what needs to be defended is the people in the pews from historical/critical scholars who have run amok and have long ceased to examine the scriptures and instead have sought to undermine our faith in them.

 I leave you with this experience. Several years after I left the ELCA, I had the opportunity to visit with a retired pastor that once was at our Missouri Synod congregation. He had left our community to finish his ministry in South Carolina. He related to me the predominant Lutheran presence in the Carolina’s was the ELCA and now that he had retired he spent some time with retired ELCA pastors over coffee. One day the subject of inerrancy and the historical/critical method came up in the discussion. Each ELCA pastor lamented they wished someone in their denomination had stood up and said enough is enough for now there was not much left. The historical/critical method run amok had destroyed the faith of their people. That is my call to each of us, not to fear the method itself, but to pray to God for wisdom to know when we have crossed that line of searching and strengthening our faith into one of doubt

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3 Responses

  1. Thanks for sharing your experience. You are right, the historical critical method can be used to wreak havoc–especially when used by someone who has an agenda …

  2. Largely as a result of my profession (I often joke that school superintendents are the world’s highest paid migrant workers), my wife and I have also been a part of a variety of denominations, including a couple of those you mention.

    Your discussion of the “errors” reminds me of a time during my young adult years when my wife and I belonged to a church in which many pastors cast doubt on those same issues. (Virgin birth, miracles, etc.) We began to wonder if they simply ripped pages out of their Bible for the parts they didn’t like. I agree completely that we need to be careful in crossing the line between searching for strengthening vs. doubt.

  3. Bill, your comment regarding defending people in the pews reminds me of a comment a professor from another class said. He told us that we need to remember that the people in the pews are spiritual people and they are educated people- and educated people do seek God regardless of what some universities tell us.

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