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LCMS kerfuffle

Started by Donald_Kirchner, December 08, 2017, 09:55:49 AM

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Donald_Kirchner

Quote from: LCMS87 on January 05, 2018, 02:02:23 PM
Quote from: Pr. Don Kirchner on January 05, 2018, 12:44:02 PM
Quote from: LCMS87 on January 05, 2018, 12:24:28 PM
Show me where [the Creeds] address President Harrison's question, "If I reject what Scripture teaches as history about creation, why should I not then reject everything else (including the resurrection itself) that appears contrary to reason?"  Why?  What's the principle the creeds, the fathers, and sound Lutheran exegetical work teach?  That's what I've been seeking.

"I believe..."

Nice. 

"I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. . . ."

So
Quote from: LCMS87 on January 05, 2018, 12:24:28 PM
It's a matter of God's mercy. 

Indeed.
Don Kirchner

"Heaven's OK, but it's not the end of the world." Jeff Gibbs

pearson

Quote from: RDPreus on January 05, 2018, 10:30:35 AM

Yes, it is a matter of hermeneutics, and more fundamentally, a matter of faith.  Rev. Harrison wrote, "If I reject what Scripture teaches as history about creation, why should I not then reject everything else (including the resurrection itself) that appears contrary to reason?"  Specifically, Harrison addressed the rejection of the historicity of the biblical account.  The Christian religion is rooted in history.  Stated more generally, he is asking: if I place my reason above the teaching of the Scriptures on one matter, what is to keep me from placing my reason above the teaching of the Scriptures on any matter?  I see nothing rationalistic about such a question.  Rationalism would rather be the spirit behind the denial of the biblical historical accounts.


Is President Harrison himself suggesting that there is some sort of opposition between reason and faith?

I'd like to read President Harrison as he would want to be read.  Thanks.

Tom Pearson

pearson

Quote from: LCMS87 on January 05, 2018, 11:21:00 AM

I had hoped, though, for some sort of principle for when science and reason should be allowed to trump divine revelation and when they shouldn't.  God's command out of nothing and I trust that's true and--as a matter of faith--isn't provable.

. . . .

I'm interested in understanding on what basis people who believe that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin, did a bunch of miracles then was crucified, died, and rose from the dead reject the revelation of the same Scriptures concerning the creation of the universe.  What is the rationale for doing so, or is it just a matter of personal preference and choice?


This is an excellent question, LCMS87.  I'm not sure there is any "principle" that can be clearly articulated to distinguish "when science and reason should be allowed to trump divine revelation and when they shouldn't."  To come at it from the other direction: it's rather like asking for a principle to distinguish when we should reject what science says when it comes to contemporary versions of Neo-Darwinian evolution theory from when we should accept what science says when it comes to medicine or communications technology.  Some folks scoff at the pretensions of scientific claims regarding contemporary evolutionary theory, but those same folks routinely accept what science says when undergoing medical diagnoses.  Is there a principle at work here, one that allows us to delineate clearly and consistently when science should be taken seriously, and when it should not?  I can't find one.  Why should I accept ordinary medical science, but not ordinary evolutionary science?  I dunno.  Likewise, I'm not sure there is a definitive principle or basis for declaring what are the conditions under which we may rely on science, and what are the conditions under which we may rely on revelation.

I suspect that Pr. Staneck may be offering the most reliable way to discern how to make such distinctions.  As the theology of the catholic tradition of western Christianity has matured over the past couple of millennia, it appears the biblical teaching that grounds Christology and soteriology have a central role in that theology.  Other biblical teachings (such as a doctrine of creation) may play a supporting role, but they are neither central, nor adiaphora.  When Luther portrayed the doctrine of justification by grace through faith as implying, "if this article stands the church stands; if this article collapses, the church collapses," he wasn't quoting scripture; he was doing theology.  Quoting scripture is not the same thing as doing theology.  But there is no clear principle that marks off the decisive divide between the conditions under which doing theology trumps quoting scripture, or vice versa.

I've found useful a general heuristic device offered by the philosopher W.V.O. Quine (he is only one of several who have suggested this same analogy).  Quine describes our intellectual convictions ("beliefs") as resembling a web, like a spider's web.  The threads that are closest to the center are the strongest, and most resistant to being disrupted.  The threads of the web that are furthest from the center, near the periphery of the entire web, are the most vulnerable to being torn loose and damaged.  But as long as "the center holds," the web can retain its integrity.  In the same way, there is often no single principle, in science or theology, that can finally define what can stay and what can go.  But in Christian theology, as long as "the center holds," the integrity of our confession remains intact.  And, I am convinced, it is the Spirit, working through the Church, that has held "the center" together in Christian theology the past 2,000 years.

Tom Pearson

Charles Austin

 And that is a very good point Dr. Pearson. When the center holds we are all right. To make something like biblical  inerrancy or a particular view of creation or the historicity of one particular Bible story as essential is to ignore the center. I have always told people, when I am teaching, that in all of the centuries of church history and struggles over doctrine and teaching and practice, the Holy Spirit seems to have held the center intact.
Iowa-born. Long-time in NY/New Jersey, former LWF staff in Geneva.
ELCA PASTOR, ordained 1967. Former journalist. Retired in Minneapolis. Often critical of the ELCA, but more often a defender of its mission. Ignoring the not-so-subtle rude insults which often appear here.

LCMS87

Quote from: pearson on January 05, 2018, 03:08:33 PM
Quote from: LCMS87 on January 05, 2018, 11:21:00 AM

I had hoped, though, for some sort of principle for when science and reason should be allowed to trump divine revelation and when they shouldn't.  God's command out of nothing and I trust that's true and--as a matter of faith--isn't provable.

. . . .

I'm interested in understanding on what basis people who believe that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin, did a bunch of miracles then was crucified, died, and rose from the dead reject the revelation of the same Scriptures concerning the creation of the universe.  What is the rationale for doing so, or is it just a matter of personal preference and choice?


This is an excellent question, LCMS87.  I'm not sure there is any "principle" that can be clearly articulated to distinguish "when science and reason should be allowed to trump divine revelation and when they shouldn't."  To come at it from the other direction: it's rather like asking for a principle to distinguish when we should reject what science says when it comes to contemporary versions of Neo-Darwinian evolution theory from when we should accept what science says when it comes to medicine or communications technology.  Some folks scoff at the pretensions of scientific claims regarding contemporary evolutionary theory, but those same folks routinely accept what science says when undergoing medical diagnoses.  Is there a principle at work here, one that allows us to delineate clearly and consistently when science should be taken seriously, and when it should not?  I can't find one.  Why should I accept ordinary medical science, but not ordinary evolutionary science?  I dunno.  Likewise, I'm not sure there is a definitive principle or basis for declaring what are the conditions under which we may rely on science, and what are the conditions under which we may rely on revelation.

I suspect that Pr. Staneck may be offering the most reliable way to discern how to make such distinctions.  As the theology of the catholic tradition of western Christianity has matured over the past couple of millennia, it appears the biblical teaching that grounds Christology and soteriology have a central role in that theology.  Other biblical teachings (such as a doctrine of creation) may play a supporting role, but they are neither central, nor adiaphora.  When Luther portrayed the doctrine of justification by grace through faith as implying, "if this article stands the church stands; if this article collapses, the church collapses," he wasn't quoting scripture; he was doing theology.  Quoting scripture is not the same thing as doing theology.  But there is no clear principle that marks off the decisive divide between the conditions under which doing theology trumps quoting scripture, or vice versa.

I've found useful a general heuristic device offered by the philosopher W.V.O. Quine (he is only one of several who have suggested this same analogy).  Quine describes our intellectual convictions ("beliefs") as resembling a web, like a spider's web.  The threads that are closest to the center are the strongest, and most resistant to being disrupted.  The threads of the web that are furthest from the center, near the periphery of the entire web, are the most vulnerable to being torn loose and damaged.  But as long as "the center holds," the web can retain its integrity.  In the same way, there is often no single principle, in science or theology, that can finally define what can stay and what can go.  But in Christian theology, as long as "the center holds," the integrity of our confession remains intact.  And, I am convinced, it is the Spirit, working through the Church, that has held "the center" together in Christian theology the past 2,000 years.

Tom Pearson

Thank you, Dr. Pearson, this is helpful. 

The analogy seems to fit well, and tends to justify both the concern President Harrison expressed and the one rejecting Fundamentalism.  The spider's web can survive with some threads being cut.  That doesn't, however, mean that the non-central threads are unimportant.  Cut enough non-central threads and the center won't hold.  I suppose the question then is with what level of risk you're comfortable.




With regard to President Harrison's perspective on faith and reason, I believe he embraces Dr. Luther's perspective:  Reason is a precious gift of God in its ministerial roll, but if it supposes to exercise a magisterial role, claiming authority to judge faith and Scripture, it is a whore.  Of course that doesn't give a simple answer regarding the article referenced earlier, but I think the fair way to read President Harrison is with this perspective of Luther in mind.

MaddogLutheran

Quote from: LCMS87 on January 05, 2018, 01:55:15 PM

My question has been concerning the doctrine of Scripture, what principle or rationale (some) people use to dismiss some Scripture passages on the basis of reason and science but not others. 
I would say it's because of the difference in how the events in questions occurred and were initially recorded.  Specifically contrasting the resurrection and the creation, only one (the resurrection) had human eye-witness testimony.  The only witness to creation was the Creator Himself.

The good news of the resurrection was immediately shared amongst Jesus' disciples, and it was something about which any human could understand--a dead body coming back to life.  The story of doubting Thomas is about all of us and how we might react to such impossible news.  The creation narrative has no such equivalent.  How does one explain to an ancient people the astrophysical detail of such an event?  That the universe that was created does not have the earth at its epicenter?  That the stars in the night are not mere specks of light but thermonuclear fusion balls just like the one that passes overhead every day?  The simple answer is you don't, because it's not relevant to the story and they have no frame of reference to understand.  Just like we have no "scientific" explanation about the process by which Jesus was resurrected.  Also not relevant to the story.

Again, the problem begins when one uses the creation accounts of the Bible to say that the current scientific explanation is "wrong".  It's not wrong, it's just answering the wrong question.  It's just as wrong when committed atheists like Richard Dawkins claim that science has proven the Bible "wrong".  It doesn't work like that.  Ask a fundamentalist question, get a fundamentalist answer.

Sterling Spatz
Sterling Spatz
ELCA pew-sitter

John_Hannah

"How does one explain to an ancient people the astrophysical detail of such an event?  That the universe that was created does not have the earth at its epicenter?  That the stars in the night are not mere specks of light but thermonuclear fusion balls just like the one that passes overhead every day?"

Thank you Sterling. I would add how would the Hebrew slaves of Pharaoh have understood the living cells which comprise all creatures. Would Ezekiel have grasped molecules? David, atoms? Hermann Sasse, a widely respected conservative Lutheran theologian (d. 1976), once pointed out that God in his compassion did not give Israel a scientific explanation of the creation that they could not have possibly understood.   :)

Peace, JOHN
Pr. JOHN HANNAH, STS

SomeoneWrites

Quote from: MaddogLutheran on January 05, 2018, 03:49:13 PM
Quote from: LCMS87 on January 05, 2018, 01:55:15 PM

My question has been concerning the doctrine of Scripture, what principle or rationale (some) people use to dismiss some Scripture passages on the basis of reason and science but not others. 
I would say it's because of the difference in how the events in questions occurred and were initially recorded.  Specifically contrasting the resurrection and the creation, only one (the resurrection) had human eye-witness testimony.  The only witness to creation was the Creator Himself.

The good news of the resurrection was immediately shared amongst Jesus' disciples, and it was something about which any human could understand--a dead body coming back to life.  The story of doubting Thomas is about all of us and how we might react to such impossible news.  The creation narrative has no such equivalent.  How does one explain to an ancient people the astrophysical detail of such an event?  That the universe that was created does not have the earth at its epicenter?  That the stars in the night are not mere specks of light but thermonuclear fusion balls just like the one that passes overhead every day?  The simple answer is you don't, because it's not relevant to the story and they have no frame of reference to understand.  Just like we have no "scientific" explanation about the process by which Jesus was resurrected.  Also not relevant to the story.

Again, the problem begins when one uses the creation accounts of the Bible to say that the current scientific explanation is "wrong".  It's not wrong, it's just answering the wrong question.  It's just as wrong when committed atheists like Richard Dawkins claim that science has proven the Bible "wrong".  It doesn't work like that.  Ask a fundamentalist question, get a fundamentalist answer.

Sterling Spatz

Solid response and I agree wholeheartedly
LCMS raised
LCMS theology major
LCMS sem grad
Atheist

aletheist

Quote from: pearson on January 05, 2018, 03:08:33 PMWhy should I accept ordinary medical science, but not ordinary evolutionary science?
For one thing, while ordinary medical (and other) science ascertains how the universe works in the present--experiments are conducted and results are obtained under the same or similar circumstances and time frames as how they will be applied--ordinary evolutionary science posits theories about events that allegedly happened in the very distant past.  While evidence discovered today can be (and is) interpreted as consistent (or inconsistent) with those theories, we cannot conduct direct experiments to test them at the macro level, because that would require the same thousands/millions/billions of years that it supposedly took for the whole process to play out the first time.
Jon Alan Schmidt, LCMS Layman

"We believe, teach and confess that by conserving the distinction between Law and Gospel as an especially glorious light
with great diligence in the Church, the Word of God is rightly divided according to the admonition of St. Paul." (FC Ep V.2)

SomeoneWrites

Quote from: aletheist on January 05, 2018, 06:29:53 PM
Quote from: pearson on January 05, 2018, 03:08:33 PMWhy should I accept ordinary medical science, but not ordinary evolutionary science?
For one thing, while ordinary medical (and other) science ascertains how the universe works in the present--experiments are conducted and results are obtained under the same or similar circumstances and time frames as how they will be applied--ordinary evolutionary science posits theories about events that allegedly happened in the very distant past.  While evidence discovered today can be (and is) interpreted as consistent (or inconsistent) with those theories, we cannot conduct direct experiments to test them at the macro level, because that would require the same thousands/millions/billions of years that it supposedly took for the whole process to play out the first time.

You, and others, would need to present evidence to why the macro level wouldn't work. 
There's well documented evidence for the transition of whales from land mammals, including the moving of the nostrils, the rear appendages/hips, the appearance of baleen, the consistency in the ear bone structure, etc. 
What evidence is there that physics operated differently 10k years ago?  Is there evidence that light would have behaved differently? 
What evidence is there that radiometric decay would operate differently?
What evidence is there for the geologic changes? The accumulation of chalk?
There are multiple lines of independent evidence that are well supported. 
LCMS raised
LCMS theology major
LCMS sem grad
Atheist

RDPreus

Quote from: pearson on January 05, 2018, 02:22:29 PM
Quote from: RDPreus on January 05, 2018, 10:30:35 AM

Yes, it is a matter of hermeneutics, and more fundamentally, a matter of faith.  Rev. Harrison wrote, "If I reject what Scripture teaches as history about creation, why should I not then reject everything else (including the resurrection itself) that appears contrary to reason?"  Specifically, Harrison addressed the rejection of the historicity of the biblical account.  The Christian religion is rooted in history.  Stated more generally, he is asking: if I place my reason above the teaching of the Scriptures on one matter, what is to keep me from placing my reason above the teaching of the Scriptures on any matter?  I see nothing rationalistic about such a question.  Rationalism would rather be the spirit behind the denial of the biblical historical accounts.


Is President Harrison himself suggesting that there is some sort of opposition between reason and faith?

I'd like to read President Harrison as he would want to be read.  Thanks.

Tom Pearson

I cannot speak for President Harrison, but I assume that he was taught, as I was, that we need to distinguish between the ministerial use of reason whereby we place our reason under the Scriptures as servant and the magisterial use of reason whereby we place our reason over the Scriptures as judge.  We need to use our reason to understand and apply what the Bible says.  But we may not presume to correct the Bible when it says something that appears to contradict what we think is reasonable.  The incarnation is the best example I can think of.  The little baby in the manger is the almighty God.  Reason cannot explain how this can be but it can explain that it is so.  Reading President Harrison in context, I think he is speaking primarily of matters of historicity.  If we deny the historicity of Genesis 1-3 because we think that to assert it is unreasonable, may we not also deny the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus, which is also unreasonable?  As I read him, this is his logic, and it makes sense to me.

RDPreus

When I was a 4th year seminarian, I was invited to participate in the founding convention of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy.  Most of the participants were Reformed.  There were several Missouri Synod Lutherans, including my father, Robert Preus.  I wrote my M Div thesis on that meeting.  It has been a long time, but as I recall, there wasn't any material difference between the Reformed and the Lutherans on inerrancy per se, but when it came to the Bible as a means of grace, we parted company.  For us Lutherans, the question of whether we believe the gospel because we believe the Bible or we believe the Bible because we believe the gospel is a false alternative, because the Bible is the primary means of grace, written that we may believe in Christ.  But we do distinguish between normative authority and efficacy.  When this distinction is blurred, confusion results.

When Missourians bring up the argument about how denying any article will lead to denying every article we are simply making the observation that when the normative authority of the Bible is gone, the theological task is fundamentally altered.  Something else will become the norm, and when that happens the gospel itself will be distorted and ultimately lost.  This doesn't mean that the gospel is a logical deduction from inerrancy.  It means that the Bible is the manger in which Christ lies.  You shoot up the manger and you shoot up baby Jesus.  That's no way to do theology.

Donald_Kirchner

Quote from: RDPreus on January 05, 2018, 06:52:57 PM
For us Lutherans, the question of whether we believe the gospel because we believe the Bible or we believe the Bible because we believe the gospel is a false alternative...

I don't read where anyone has suggested otherwise. You put up a straw man.
Don Kirchner

"Heaven's OK, but it's not the end of the world." Jeff Gibbs

aletheist

Quote from: SomeoneWrites on January 05, 2018, 06:38:22 PMYou, and others, would need to present evidence to why the macro level wouldn't work.
I figured that you would respond, and tried to head off your usual line of argument by acknowledging up-front that there is evidence that can be (and is) interpreted as consistent with evolutionary theory.  My point is that, unlike with medical research, you cannot conduct an experiment today to demonstrate that we can (and did) naturally evolve from non-life.  It would take billions of years for it to run its course, or at least many thousands of years just to observe the comparatively short step from apes to humans.  Any artificial measures to speed up the timeline would constitute the introduction of intelligent design, thus invalidating the entire exercise.
Quote from: SomeoneWrites on January 05, 2018, 06:38:22 PMWhat evidence is there that physics operated differently 10k years ago?  Is there evidence that light would have behaved differently?  What evidence is there that radiometric decay would operate differently?  What evidence is there for the geologic changes? The accumulation of chalk?
Substitute "the same" for "differently" and these questions are no more answerable.  In any case, how could we even presume to know what such evidence would look like from a scientific standpoint?  That is precisely the error of most so-called "creation science."  The traditional account includes an entirely supernatural Creation, a metaphysically significant Fall, and an entirely supernatural Flood.  Who (besides God) can say exactly what comprehensive effects each and all of these had on what we now see in the world before us?
Jon Alan Schmidt, LCMS Layman

"We believe, teach and confess that by conserving the distinction between Law and Gospel as an especially glorious light
with great diligence in the Church, the Word of God is rightly divided according to the admonition of St. Paul." (FC Ep V.2)

Dan Fienen

Is there any experimental data or present day observation that provides evidence that life evolved from non-living origins?  Life must have come from somewhere.  Is there evidence that shows non-living materials organizing themselves into living organisms?
Pr. Daniel Fienen
LCMS

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