Saturday, August 22, 2009

UPDATED: Lutheran storm chasers! (Or, What Abraham said to the Rich Guy in Hell)

Well, the blogosphere is having fun with the downtown Minneapolis tornadoes, which happened to damage the steeple of a prominent downtown ELCA church and ding the Convention Center where the Lutherans were picking culture over the Bible as their guide to church belief and practice.

It is an interesting theological debate - was the tornado a coincidence or a message from God? There are advocates lining up on both sides. You can make good cases either way but they both hinge on "proving" some big assumptions like a) God exists and b) God intervenes in nature/human events, ideas which are equally large theological, metaphysical and philosophical debates with advocates on a variety of sides. (And what about last night's Minnesota miracle - Tavaris Jackson going 12-of-15, 200+ yards, 2 TDs and no interceptions? How do we interpret THAT?)

What came to mind as I read the tornado debates was Jesus' parable about a rich man and a beggar.

Long story short (sorry, Lord), rich man dies and goes to hell, the beggar he ignored dies and is in heaven, next to the great Patriarch Abraham. Negotiations go on, but the rich man realizes he ain't getting out of hell. So he asks Abraham to send the beggar back from the dead, to warn the rich guy's living brothers so they won't end up in hell, too. To which Abraham replies:

"If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead."

What's that have to do with Lutherans?

IMO, God did not need a tornado - a miraculous intervention like "someone rising from the dead" - to warn ELCA. God had provided obvious warnings in non-miraculous events. Just as the rich man and his brothers had long-standing moral law and interpretation to keep them out of hell, ELCA had all the evidence it needed to keep it from caving in to culture trends. Rich guy and ELCA simply chose to ignore the warnings - ELCA is chasing a tornado of its own making.

ELCA had the on-going disaster of the Episcopal Church (TEC) in front of it. TEC's own State of the Church report, released earlier this year, was brutally honest about the amount of harm done to the denomination by taking the path that ELCA now follows.

And ELCA had the 20th century witness of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, arguably the best modern theological mind to wrestle with (and suffer under) the tensions between church and culture. His famous Cost of Discipleship took on weak German culture Christianity and its "cheap grace," a condition that would leave the church impotent against the rise of National Socialism (aka Nazism, aka Hitler, aka WWII and the Holocaust). But last week ELCA chose American platitudes of "fairness" and "rights" over Scripture, tradition and formative Lutheran teaching.

So, a tornado wasn't necessary, unless God was trying to reach the pagans among us. (The New Testament miracles frequently took place to demonstrate the presence of God to lookie-loos. But Jesus' miracles were mainly demonstrations of divine favor, such as healing, rather than cataclysmic signs to strike fear.)

For those who profess Christianity, the message of Abraham to the rich guy should be sufficient: "You already have God's Word, and you've seen what happens when you ignore it. Won't change your hard heads a bit to send a tornado."

UPDATE: The Lutheran Coalition for Reform (CORE) has renounced ELCA's Minneapolis direction and (funnel cloud forming...) has taken the "bound conscience" language used to justify LGBT agenda items to in turn justify witholding funds from ELCA! Other language of differentiation and possible separation is in CORE's news release.


Floridian said...

Seems like Eden, the same old serpent hissing, 'did God really ssssay???' ' shall be as gods, knowing good AND evil.'

The ELCA, like Adam and Eve, fell for it.

Now they will really know evil....right in the church.

They have discarded all of I Corinthians chapters 5 and 6...and Romans 1:18-32; Acts 15:20,29; Acts 21:25, Galatians 5 and 6, most of Deuteronomy, Leviticus, Revelation 3,....really, looks like they have chucked most of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation.

TLF+ said...

Floridian - that's exactly what they've done (chucking the whole Bible). In the news reports from Minneapolis, the quotes against the changes were always affirmations of God's word as the church's authority.

The apologists for the new direction always talked in cultural slogans about "fairness" and "imaginative thinking."

Anonymous said...

I didn't see it as a warning, more a visual representation of a candlestick being removed.