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Ecclesial Plurality

Started by Randy Bosch, July 21, 2020, 10:03:21 AM

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Brian Stoffregen

Quote from: Mark Brown on July 31, 2020, 05:12:03 PM
I remember reading this prior and having two reactions at the time. 1) It was a bunch of pettifoggery to avoid making clear statements.  2) He had half a truth.  Rereading I think a paragraph from page 33 is part of the key.

QuoteWhen someone in my church, or within the Christian fold more generally, says or does things that I believe to be terribly wrong, or terribly mistaken, I have many options available to me but among them is not the declaration that 'you are not a child of the kingdom, you are a child of the evil one. You are a weed.' That is, if I am going to obey the teaching of this parable, I have to treat this person as a brother or sister, as one of my fellow children of the kingdom.

Jacobs' half a truth is how we are bound, at least initially, to treat as fellow children.  That is the law, the golden rule.  Treat others as you'd like to be treated.  But what he mumbles away is the gospel.  Individually - if it is "someone in my church" - I should be speaking the gospel to a wayward brother.  And that gospel is repent, for the kingdom is near.  And he continues to mumble the gospel away in that proclaiming the gospel is the very purpose of the church.  The church has the burden of saying repent, for the kingdom is near.   I also then have the responsibility to accept that repentance 70 x 7 if it is offered.  I have gained my brother, rejoice.  But much like he invokes the context of de-Nazification for his main support from Thielicke, Jacobs' context is World War LGBT and to extend it a bit the entire crit-studies paradigm.  And the responsibility of the gospel is exactly what Jacobs wishes to avoid.  He want's the easy path of saying "we are all following different ideals" which is no different that the person who says "all roads lead up the same mountain".  All roads do not lead up the same mountain.  The Way of Jesus is unique and narrow.  If we were arguing about Reformation era doctrines that are beyond the 10 commandments and the creed, yes, different places have developed "saints" of remarkable difference.  That is Lewis' image of the house and the hallway.  But when you are talking the way the world was created, the natural law, what he has done is destroyed not the foundation of the house but the basement walls.  You can't support all the rooms of the great house when the basement wall has been intentionally destroyed.  Nobody enters the house except through repentance.  And a church that won't ask for it is denying the gospel.  It is denying entry into house, not inviting the poor in spirit into it.


As long as you're talking about taking a road up the mountain, you've got the wrong Jesus. He came down the mountain to the folks in the valley who are too beat up to even take one step up any mountain.
I flunked retirement. Serving as a part-time interim in Ferndale, WA.

Dan Fienen

I note that Charles has apparently lost all interest in discussing the essay by Alan Jacobs' essay and its implications for the mission of the church.
Pr. Daniel Fienen
LCMS

Dan Fienen

Quote from: Charles Austin on August 01, 2020, 01:03:57 PM
Why do you say that, Pastor Fienen? Because I don't pounce on every little thing said here?
Maybe I'm waiting until I hear some comments worthy of response.
Maybe I'm busy doing other things.
Some of us don't "live" on this forum.
It's just that earlier you complained that this essay was being neglected, particularly by me, even though I had found time to make other posts that annoyed you. But I understand, you don't find my comments worthy of response. Unsurprised.

Pr. Daniel Fienen
LCMS

readselerttoo

Quote from: Mark Brown on July 31, 2020, 05:12:03 PM
I remember reading this prior and having two reactions at the time. 1) It was a bunch of pettifoggery to avoid making clear statements.  2) He had half a truth.  Rereading I think a paragraph from page 33 is part of the key.

QuoteWhen someone in my church, or within the Christian fold more generally, says or does things that I believe to be terribly wrong, or terribly mistaken, I have many options available to me but among them is not the declaration that 'you are not a child of the kingdom, you are a child of the evil one. You are a weed.' That is, if I am going to obey the teaching of this parable, I have to treat this person as a brother or sister, as one of my fellow children of the kingdom.

Jacobs' half a truth is how we are bound, at least initially, to treat as fellow children.  That is the law, the golden rule.  Treat others as you'd like to be treated.  But what he mumbles away is the gospel.  Individually - if it is "someone in my church" - I should be speaking the gospel to a wayward brother.  And that gospel is repent, for the kingdom is near.  And he continues to mumble the gospel away in that proclaiming the gospel is the very purpose of the church.  The church has the burden of saying repent, for the kingdom is near.   I also then have the responsibility to accept that repentance 70 x 7 if it is offered.  I have gained my brother, rejoice.  But much like he invokes the context of de-Nazification for his main support from Thielicke, Jacobs' context is World War LGBT and to extend it a bit the entire crit-studies paradigm.  And the responsibility of the gospel is exactly what Jacobs wishes to avoid.  He want's the easy path of saying "we are all following different ideals" which is no different that the person who says "all roads lead up the same mountain".  All roads do not lead up the same mountain.  The Way of Jesus is unique and narrow.  If we were arguing about Reformation era doctrines that are beyond the 10 commandments and the creed, yes, different places have developed "saints" of remarkable difference.  That is Lewis' image of the house and the hallway.  But when you are talking the way the world was created, the natural law, what he has done is destroyed not the foundation of the house but the basement walls.  You can't support all the rooms of the great house when the basement wall has been intentionally destroyed.  Nobody enters the house except through repentance.  And a church that won't ask for it is denying the gospel.  It is denying entry into house, not inviting the poor in spirit into it.

In the Gospel of Mark Jesus calls people to repent and believe in the Gospel.  Somehow what gets in the way of the Gospel must be repented of first.  Repent of whatever and believe in the Good News that reconciliation has arrived.

Dan Fienen

Quote from: Charles Austin on August 01, 2020, 04:35:06 PM
My reluctance, Pastor Fienen, to write more was because I was a little surprised that the essay did not produce more reactions from people here. I was waiting (and hoping) for some more voices, (but I think I know why they were not there.)
I did not take heart with your comments of July 30, and was going to let them pass, so I withheld what I was going to post then. (And don't whine, I did not find them "unworthy," just not energizing.) But here we go.
You write:
In the opening paragraphs of his essay, Jacobs pointed out a fundamental problem in constructing a consistent, convincing, Biblical theology. It is an incontestable fact that over the last couple of millennia Christians have looked at the same texts and constructed diametrically different doctrinal systems. Doctrinal systems that simply cannot be reconciled with each other in the sense that at least at some points, they cannot both be true.
I comment:
Actually, I'm not sure that is what he means. Is it possible, we are asked, that there can be a "plurality of truths" even on the same subject? Is truth only all in or all out?
I suspect that we are reading Jacobs differently. Truth, I suspect is actually more complex than we imagine, than we even can imagine, especially when dealing with God, His inner workings, and His interactions with us. Thus all of our descriptions of reality are limited and subject to the distortions inherent when dealing with simplifications of reality. Consider if you will the multiple ways that have been devised to portray the surface of the globular earth on two dimensional maps. Each map distorts the reality of the earth in some way, they don't come close in doing the representation the same way and end up looking very different. Yet each map projection is true in some ways and false in others. It is essential to know the limits. But even with that "plurality of truths" maps can be drawn that are not just a different simplification and distortion of the truth about the earth, but flat out false. The hard part is deciding which is which.


One way of understanding the reason for the divisions in interpretation and thus theology among the divisions of the church is to assume that the Bible contains a plurality of mutually incompatible theologies. Pick the one you like. This is my understanding of the Pluralism that Jacobs rejected.


The other is that we have different sections written within different simplifications that each portray a portion of the whole. That would be comparable to the different methods of projecting the earth globe onto two dimensional maps. That would be what I take Jacobs' talk of plurality to be. The problem is that while we can compare our two dimensional maps to a globe and clearly see where they are accurate, where they have distorted reality to fit the flat surface of the map, and how they can work together, the totality of reality is beyond our comprehension.


Unfortunately, God has not made available to us the answers in the back of the book that will resolve all our quandaries. That must await the eschaton.

Pr. Daniel Fienen
LCMS

Dan Fienen

Quote from: Charles Austin on August 01, 2020, 04:35:06 PM
You write:
Great mischief results when we attempt either to anticipate the eschaton and bring the kingdom of God to its full flowering before He does or take us all back to the primordial garden.
I comment:
Where do we get the idea that God intends to take us "back to the primordial garden"? I though we were headed for a "new creation." Your reference to an "attempt" to "bring the kingdom" rings the old, rusty chime "Be careful! You're not bringing the kingdom! So don't try to do too much here!" I find that a problem because then we focus on the ethereal rather than the actual.
You are misreading me here. God does not intend to take us back to the garden, but we sometimes want to go there.


Many articles and books have reflected on the Golden Age of the Church, the New Testament church when there was only one church and it grew so mightily. Why can't we recapture that age and once again be one church and grow mightily. Some of that nostalgia is a myth. Conservatives and traditionalists have often been accused, with some justification, of wanting to repristinate to an earlier age of orthodoxy.


Our ambition should be to work the works of our Father and not be stinting in efforts to spread His Gospel and His love in the earth. That also means working to benefit people in need in all areas of their lives, the material as well as the spiritual. Christian have far too often thought of people as souls temporarily trapped in bodies so that the spiritual needs are important but the physical can be neglected. That ignores the anthropology of the Bible that we are created to be body and soul. It also ignores the ultimate resurrection where the souls of the dead that had been temporarily separated from bodies will again be body and soul together.


The problem comes when we get ahead of ourselves and figure that we can establish what the new heaven and new earth will be like and scrunch everybody into that model. That is the problem of utopians. Not content to try to make a better society and a better life, they want to make the perfect society where everybody can life the perfect life. Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, Communist China, Cambodia under Pol Pot, and others set out to make perfect societies. We remember where they ended up. The Voltairean aphorism, "The best is enemy of the good," applies here. We have plenty to do to serve our neighbors without trying to bring the Kingdom of God on earth.


Some may use the fact that we cannot usher in the Kingdom as an excuse to do little. In that they are wrong. But it is God who knows what the Kingdom will actually be like, and we need a bit of humility to recognize our limits and focus on the good that we can do.

Pr. Daniel Fienen
LCMS

Dan Fienen

#21
Quote from: Charles Austin on August 01, 2020, 04:35:06 PM
You write:
I observe that there are several ways that this way of despair can and has played out. One avenue is to adopt a philosophical school of thought, using that as the model for constructing a systematic theology and adapting scripture Procrustean like to fit the model.
I comment:
Another old, rusty and out-of-tune chime. "You just want to make scripture say what you want it to say!"
Some people do end up making scripture say what they want it to say. I've been accused of that. It is a danger and a temptation that all of must face. We need to be careful.

Quote from: Charles Austin on August 01, 2020, 04:35:06 PM
You write:
In the eary Christian centuries, Platonic, Neo-Platonic, and Aristotelian philosophies were often used. In more modern times we've used Existentialism and Marxism (often in combination) and of course more recently the canons of Post-Modernism.
And I respond:
So what? We have to use something of our time and intellect to understand things, do we not?
Yes, the problem is when we allow these intellectual paradigms to determine what we believe. Like every attempted by humans to create a comprehensible model of reality they are limited and to cram Christianity into that model would be like taking a two dimensional map as the reality of the earth.
Quote from: Charles Austin on August 01, 2020, 04:35:06 PM
You write:
Another way is to declare that all disputed matters are not really all that important and differences of opinion in those areas insignificance. Theology becomes in theory only that on which we can all agree. Several problems here.
I comment:
More old familiar chimes being rung, ignoring – once again – my frequent statement that differences matter, but that all difference do not matter to the same ultimate degree.
Yes.

Quote from: Charles Austin on August 01, 2020, 04:35:06 PM
You write:
There is very little if any Christian teaching that all can agree on, so there is very little if anything that we can affirm, believe, teach, and confess. There is also insufficient theology left by which we can organize our life together.
I comment:
This is a vast vast vast overstatement; but I will excuse it because I do not think you have had enough exposure to or experience with broad and intense ecumenical experience and dialogue. I am flashed back to the famous  "Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry" text adopted by the World Council of Churches Faith and Order Commission in 1982 after a meeting in Lima, Peru. That text found many – repeat many – "Christian teachings," especially about the three subjects in the title, on which Christians could agree. And I am recalling the prolific reports from the Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogues nationally and internationally which laid down many things on which Lutherans and Roman Catholics could agree. Furthermore, it is discovered in those – and in numerous other – dialogues that some of our disagreements were not necessarily divisive of fellowship, supporting, I believe, the idea of a "plurality" of ecclesiastical "being" that is not necessarily terrible.
   You, Pastor Fienen, are very quick to point to what you see as "problems" of plurality; and you find examples of those problems, the ELCA in 2009; some differences in LCMS practices regarding women. Those two topics are by no means parallel or even the most important; but I do note that – up to now – the LCMS has managed to hold itself together while some of you prevent women from reading scripture or serving as communion assistants and some don't. Plurality? In a way, yes.


I look at this as more a matter of the reality of the plurality than the problem. It has long been an ambition of some with ecumenical ambitions to reunite all the churches. But given the reality of pluralism we may not do justice to the plurality that exists within one church body. Sometimes it can. But do you really want to affirm that all of the four positions on homosexuality identified in HSGT are equally respected in the ELCA and that the ELCA's polity gives equal room to all four? With the best of intentions I do not think it possible.


Perhaps the best that we can hope for is that there is a place for the various strains of Christian teaching somewhere within the plurality of Christian churches, and that we may cooperate when our various beliefs allow, and that we treat each other with mutual respect and dignity.
Quote from: Charles Austin on August 01, 2020, 04:35:06 PM
You write (my emphasis added):
While divisions within Christendom reflect our fallen state and the effects of sin among us, given our fallen state divisions need to accepted as inevitable and at times when the conflict between Great Goods great a better alternative that living in a perpetual state of civil war. Since we do not have the capability of resolving these conflicting understandings of God's will and revelation, perhaps when the conflict is too great to hold an organization together, it is time to divide and let each work out their understanding in peace.
I comment:
There again, you invoke your all-or-nothing approach, and are too eager, I believe to accept the divisive nature of disagreements or to flee from any disagreement.

Again, I think you misunderstand me. As I illustrated in the LCMS (and I'm sure that you can point to areas in the ELCA where you are able to work and live together despite differences) we can disagree and still work together (although we have had our small splits over the last decades) but we cannot assume that we can always make it work. Sometimes a separation will be necessary that we may be true to what we believe and how we feel that we are called. We still should strive to even in disagreement be respectful of each other and cooperative to the limits of our diversity of belief.

Pr. Daniel Fienen
LCMS

Brian Stoffregen

Quote from: readselerttoo on August 01, 2020, 08:21:30 PM
Quote from: Mark Brown on July 31, 2020, 05:12:03 PM
I remember reading this prior and having two reactions at the time. 1) It was a bunch of pettifoggery to avoid making clear statements.  2) He had half a truth.  Rereading I think a paragraph from page 33 is part of the key.

QuoteWhen someone in my church, or within the Christian fold more generally, says or does things that I believe to be terribly wrong, or terribly mistaken, I have many options available to me but among them is not the declaration that 'you are not a child of the kingdom, you are a child of the evil one. You are a weed.' That is, if I am going to obey the teaching of this parable, I have to treat this person as a brother or sister, as one of my fellow children of the kingdom.

Jacobs' half a truth is how we are bound, at least initially, to treat as fellow children.  That is the law, the golden rule.  Treat others as you'd like to be treated.  But what he mumbles away is the gospel.  Individually - if it is "someone in my church" - I should be speaking the gospel to a wayward brother.  And that gospel is repent, for the kingdom is near.  And he continues to mumble the gospel away in that proclaiming the gospel is the very purpose of the church.  The church has the burden of saying repent, for the kingdom is near.   I also then have the responsibility to accept that repentance 70 x 7 if it is offered.  I have gained my brother, rejoice.  But much like he invokes the context of de-Nazification for his main support from Thielicke, Jacobs' context is World War LGBT and to extend it a bit the entire crit-studies paradigm.  And the responsibility of the gospel is exactly what Jacobs wishes to avoid.  He want's the easy path of saying "we are all following different ideals" which is no different that the person who says "all roads lead up the same mountain".  All roads do not lead up the same mountain.  The Way of Jesus is unique and narrow.  If we were arguing about Reformation era doctrines that are beyond the 10 commandments and the creed, yes, different places have developed "saints" of remarkable difference.  That is Lewis' image of the house and the hallway.  But when you are talking the way the world was created, the natural law, what he has done is destroyed not the foundation of the house but the basement walls.  You can't support all the rooms of the great house when the basement wall has been intentionally destroyed.  Nobody enters the house except through repentance.  And a church that won't ask for it is denying the gospel.  It is denying entry into house, not inviting the poor in spirit into it.

In the Gospel of Mark Jesus calls people to repent and believe in the Gospel.  Somehow what gets in the way of the Gospel must be repented of first.  Repent of whatever and believe in the Good News that reconciliation has arrived.


μετανοέω is literally about "having a change in thinking." Thus, I think, it's more accurate to talk about what changes in our thinking need to happy so that we can hear, believe, and accept the Good News. It could also be stated, what needs to change in our thinking so that we manifest the reconciliation that has already been given through Jesus. As I read the New Testament, this is a reconciliation between us sinners and God, and also a reconciliation that is also to happen among people.
I flunked retirement. Serving as a part-time interim in Ferndale, WA.

Brian Stoffregen

Quote from: Dan Fienen on August 02, 2020, 06:02:28 PM
I look at this as more a matter of the reality of the plurality than the problem. It has long been an ambition of some with ecumenical ambitions to reunite all the churches. But given the reality of pluralism we may not do justice to the plurality that exists within one church body. Sometimes it can. But do you really want to affirm that all of the four positions on homosexuality identified in HSGT are equally respected in the ELCA and that the ELCA's polity gives equal room to all four? With the best of intentions I do not think it possible.


I would say that all four positions are respected within the ELCA. There are a number of ELCA clergy members in Lutheran Core who hold the more traditional positions. I believe that there many of us, like myself, who may have a different position; but who respect them and their ministries.


I believe that it's a different issue when you ask about respect by the ELCA. The Churchwide expression has taken a more progressive position.

QuotePerhaps the best that we can hope for is that there is a place for the various strains of Christian teaching somewhere within the plurality of Christian churches, and that we may cooperate when our various beliefs allow, and that we treat each other with mutual respect and dignity.


Some of that can happen when we see the rules that our church bodies have adopted are for our church bodies. A key example are Roman Catholic priests who accept and respect the ordination of women and married people of other denominations. We do not fall under their rules.


QuoteAgain, I think you misunderstand me. As I illustrated in the LCMS (and I'm sure that you can point to areas in the ELCA where you are able to work and live together despite differences) we can disagree and still work together (although we have had our small splits over the last decades) but we cannot assume that we can always make it work. Sometimes a separation will be necessary that we may be true to what we believe and how we feel that we are called. We still should strive to even in disagreement be respectful of each other and cooperative to the limits of our diversity of belief.


I believe that differences are necessary in the body of Christ. The foot cannot say to the eye, "You are not part of the body because you don't look like me, you don't act like me, you don't smell like me, etc." I think ecumenicism centers on the single question: Are they part of the body of Christ? Well, perhaps also the question: "Do they respect and consider us part of the body of Christ?


While I strongly disagree with many of the practices of the Baptist church, I still consider and respect them as part of the one body of Christ; and have to treat and work with them as such. (This doesn't mean that I won't try to enlighten them to a more orthodox way of thinking about God's ways with humankind; but I do that as a brother in the faith rather than opponents or enemies.)
I flunked retirement. Serving as a part-time interim in Ferndale, WA.

Dan Fienen

Seems to me that in this discussion i have reached a dead end. I can't seem to convey my concerns in a way that Charles or Brian are able or willing to see. I found Jacobs's article thought provoking and insightful.
Pr. Daniel Fienen
LCMS

Randy Bosch

Quote from: Dan Fienen on August 03, 2020, 07:46:20 AM
Seems to me that in this discussion i have reached a dead end. I can't seem to convey my concerns in a way that Charles or Brian are able or willing to see. I found Jacobs's article thought provoking and insightful.

Or vice versa.  The human condition fully applies to the discussion, and the discussion fits within Alan Jacobs' still developing thoughts about pluralism and Christianity. 

An analogy I often use (to the rolling of eyes from many who hear it, as seems true of most shared analogies) is that we are all looking into a courtyard from windows in the surrounding building.  Someone says "That tree is beautiful", someone replies, "There is no tree" since it isn't visible from their window.  Someone says "The sun is too bright through my window", and the response from across the courtyard is, "What are you talking about, the shade is glorious."

The problems appear to arise when some demand strict adherence to their viewpoint without attempting to understand that another's viewpoint may actually be looking into the same garden court.

The discussion of Jacobs' article and by extension pluralism has been most interesting predictable, and irresolvable.
 
Ὑμεῖς ἐστε τὸ ἅλας τῆς γῆς· ἐὰν δὲ τὸ ἅλας μωρανθῇ, ἐν τίνι ἁλισθήσεται; εἰς οὐδὲν ἰσχύει ἔτι εἰ μὴ βληθὲν ἔξω καταπατεῖσθαι ὑπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων.

Terry W Culler

Sometimes people are looking out the wrong window in the first place  ???
"No particular Church has ... a right to existence, except as it believes itself the most perfect from of Christianity, the form which of right, should and will be universal."
Charles Porterfield Krauth

Randy Bosch

Quote from: Pr. Terry Culler on August 03, 2020, 10:34:32 AM
Sometimes people are looking out the wrong window in the first place  ???

Bingo!
Ὑμεῖς ἐστε τὸ ἅλας τῆς γῆς· ἐὰν δὲ τὸ ἅλας μωρανθῇ, ἐν τίνι ἁλισθήσεται; εἰς οὐδὲν ἰσχύει ἔτι εἰ μὴ βληθὲν ἔξω καταπατεῖσθαι ὑπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων.

Richard Johnson

Quote from: Pr. Terry Culler on August 03, 2020, 10:34:32 AM
Sometimes people are looking out the wrong window in the first place  ???

Sometimes it's the only window in their apartment.
The Rev. Richard O. Johnson, STS

readselerttoo

Quote from: Richard Johnson on August 03, 2020, 02:29:02 PM
Quote from: Pr. Terry Culler on August 03, 2020, 10:34:32 AM
Sometimes people are looking out the wrong window in the first place  ???

Sometimes it's the only window in their apartment.

Lol 😆 and insightful as well

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