September 15, 2019

The Lutheran Church and Creation Days

The Lutheran Church and Creation Days

The Christian Post has an article that notes “The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod passed a resolution at their convention affirming the belief that God created the Earth ‘in six natural days.’”  The article is commented on in Jim Kidder’s blog “Science and Religion: A View from an Evolutionary Creationist”.   The Post reports that:

At the 67th Regular Convention of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod on Tuesday (July 23, 2019), the theologically conservative denomination adopted Resolution 5-09A, titled “To Confess the Biblical Six-Day Creation.”

“We confess that the duration of those natural days is proclaimed in God’s Word: ‘there was evening and there was morning, the first day,’” resolved the resolution.  The resolution also declared that the creation of Adam as the first human being was a “historical event” and rejected the claims of the theory of evolution.

This is why my Science and Faith postings remain relevant in our conversations in the “Great Hall” about Jesus-shaped spirituality.  The LCMS is the eleventh largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., with about 2.3 million members.   That is a significant number of Christians who have officially proclaimed a blatantly anti-science resolution.  Now, to be fair, it is notable that the vote was 662 in favor and 309 against, so there was quite a bit of dissent about the resolution.  Nevertheless, the resolution also called on pastors to equip congregations with resources on faith and science.  Really?  Where are those resource on science supposed to come from?  Perhaps from their 1932 resolution:

“Since no man was present when it pleased God to create the world, we must look for a reliable account of creation to God’s own record, found in God’s own book, the Bible. We accept God’s own record with full confidence and confess with Luther’s Catechism: ‘I believe that God has made me and all creatures.’”

Ah, yes, the “were you there?” argument.  As noted in the article and Kidder’s blog, dissenting members decried the lack of clarity in that what the heck is a “natural” day before there was any sun in the sky.  How do you have an “evening and a morning” without a sun, because, remember, the Genesis account says the sun wasn’t created until the FOURTH DAY? (You can read a convoluted and incoherent explanation from Answers in Genesis that basically says God created a light source on Day One, which was replaced with the sun on Day Four).  Yeah, because that’s the plain reading of Scripture /sarcasm off.

Why does this bother me so, and what does it have to do with Jesus-shaped spirituality?

  1. Instead of defending the Scriptures as inspired by God this type of argumentation denigrates the Scriptures by insisting scientific nonsense is the proper interpretation.
  2. Scientific illiteracy in the American public in general and professing Christians in particular is further exacerbated by this type of proclamation.
  3. It substantiates anti-religious atheistic viewpoints that religion, and Christianity in particular, is harmful to society.
  4. You can’t have Jesus-shaped spirituality without the truth. We are supposed to be following He who is Truth Himself.  You can argue scientific questions don’t have bearing on spiritual truth, but that is not so.  Because physical reality and spiritual reality are aspects of the one reality.  If you can’t grasp reality, you are subject to deception and illusion.  The sun is the center of our solar system.  We revolve around the sun and have the seasons, we revolve on the earth’s axis and have “evening and morning”.  The authors of scripture didn’t know that when they wrote Genesis, but we know that now.  Pretending otherwise is dangerous spiritual deception.

Those of us that know better need to continue to speak out against this nonsense.  Despite the fact that the LCMS members that voted for this resolution are our brothers in Christ, this is not a “both sides have point” issue.  That they are headed for heaven the same as me in no way minimizes the societal damage this wrong-headed resolution engenders.  Some might say that issues like the separation of young children from their parents and their subsequent incarceration in order to discourage asylum-seeking is a more serious problem more worthy of our attention.  But I’m telling you the same gullible mindset is at work in both situations.  Well, I’d be interested to hear from some of our LCMS readers; what say you?

Comments

  1. Technically, I’m a LCMS member, but I don’t agree with this resolution. Not sure if that makes me an “apostate” within the church.

    Here’s the thing–I have never felt that I needed to march in lockstep on every single pronouncement the church leadership puts out. There are a few things in the LCMS doctrine that I just…quietly ignore. I make my own decisions. I listen and respect the role of pastors and church leaders, but I don’t believe they have any special insight into God’s ways. They are just human beings. Sometimes they may be right. Sometimes they may be wrong.

    I’m not particularly worried about this particular proclamation. I think the Church’s greatest danger right now is its alliance with Donald Trump and the Republican party. Now THAT is going to hurt the Church’s witness for years to come.

    • Christy, I think that your opinion on the resolution is common with many people of many other denominations. My Mother in Law is a good Catholic who attends Mass and is involved. However , I know she is what some would call a cafeteria Catholic who picks and chooses on the teachings in issues. As we am not regular church goers my wife and I go with anyone in the family or friends who invite us, it is always good experience. So my sister is a Baptist , she is a cafeteria Baptist I guess you can say, picks and chooses . As with my Mother in Law that are the basics of their faith that are absolute but the non deal breakers I believe they take your approach.

      So in your closing comment, Is the LCMS officially supporting Trump or is it the majority of its members did/are going to vote for Trump. I know when we go to a Protestant church service, I live in Georgia and travel quite a bit, the majority of the members are conservatives and I assume Trumpers but there is no official endorsement by the church , at least not ;;public. I do not know of any denomination that officially supports D. Trump nor did I know of any that support President Obama. So is the alliance from the LCMS official or a grassroot support , big difference to me. Thanks for replying

      • This teaching kept me, however, from considering being an ordained minister in the denomination (along with some other unacceptable doctrines/practices).

        • Adam Tauno Williams says

          Yep. Congregants may walk the buffet line, but these things do filter leadership, which can draw the trend line of an organization.

          • CM and ATW… you both point out why I’m glad I:

            1) Never went to any seminary, thus avoiding being boxed in by some denomination’s doctrine/dogma.
            2) Never became a pastor, which would’ve boxed me in with that denomination’s doctrine/dogma.

            I feel great sadness for leaders who have to hide their doubts or who can’t come out and say, “I see these theological points differently now.” It pretty much forces you to go all-in with your denomination’s “stuff.”

            Does anyone know a pastor/leader type who has openly adjusted their theological beliefs counter to the denomination their lead? And how did that go?

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says

              I feel great sadness for leaders who have to hide their doubts or who can’t come out and say, “I see these theological points differently now.” It pretty much forces you to go all-in with your denomination’s “stuff.”
              “Swear allegiance to the flag,
              Whatever Flag they offer,
              NEVER LET ON WHAT YOU REALLY FEEL…”
              — Mike and the Mechanics, “Silent Running”, 1986

            • Joshua Harris

  2. I’m an LCMS member. But I feel much more at home, to be honest, in an ELCA or Anglican (Episcopal) church.

    There’s only so much malarkey you can put up with.

    • ‘malarkey’ = the name of any powerful leader who defines everything his way and expects ‘loyalty’ or else

    • There are a lot of you in our midst, but it seems not nearly enough to reroute the ship. If reaffiliation helps you to be at peace, it might be worth whatever has kept you here this long. For some, it can feel a bit like a divorce, but there’s nothing like finding a good home where you fit in.

      • –>”but there’s nothing like finding a good home where you fit in.”

        TRUTH!

        I’m in a very good spot right now at a Nazarene church in which some of the “old ways” aren’t even mentioned any more. And I have several friends at that church who know Nazarenes don’t have everything right, so we can openly discuss different theological ideas without fear of being called heretics.

      • Some people don’t fit in anywhere Miguel.
        And the lucky ones amongst this tribe have learned to make their own homes wherever they may find themselves.

      • Good to see you Miguel, it’s been a long time.

  3. I was baptized into the LCMS and raised in it for my first 10 years, and attended an LCMS church in grad school. This sort of stuff doesn’t surprise me, nor should it surprise anyone – this train’s been a long time a’comin. The LCMS has been tacking towards full-blown fundamentalism for quite some time.

    • Even in the 19th century the Missouri Synod didn’t play well with others, and even outside its core territory was attractive to pastors of a dyspeptic disposition. It showed signs of getting over this in the mid-20th century, until the great purge of a half century ago.

      • The LCMS’ “closed communion” stance is the real deal breaker for me.

        • That’s a deal breaker for me in relation to a number of different denominations. Otoh, my wife was once subbing as organist at an LCMS parish in Northern Jersey, and I was with her. We had asked the pastor if it was okay for us as non-LCMS to partake of Communion; he said that as long as we believed in the real presence of Christ in the sacrament, and confessed our sins beforehand, it was fine. From what I’ve heard, his attitude is not uncommon among LCMS pastors.

          • I’ve run into the same “turn a blind eye” policy with other pastors there, too. They have been much more gracious in person than the denomination’s official stances would allow.

          • Do you mean to tell me there ARE pastors out there who put the heart above the Law and allow non-“whatevers” participate in communion?!?!

            There is hope for us all!!!

            • I know you may have a hard time understanding this, but believe it or not, the pastors who do practice closed communion are not a bunch of heartless legalists. Get to know a few!

              • Their attitude is not the point. The rationale behind closed communion is.

              • I guess I’d ask as a point of conversation: But who does this practice help, and who does this practice hurt, and do those who tell people “nah, you can’t partake of communion” ever ask themselves who this stance is helping and hurting?

                • Those are fair questions. TBH, of all the issues in the LCMS, this is one I understand the least. If you’re truly curious, one of the best ways to learn it is to look up a local Lutheran pastor that follows the practice. They are usually quite happy to explain it to enquiring minds!

          • Richard Hershberger says

            FWIW, in my ill-spent youth I considered a slightly softer version to be appropriate: put a paragraph in the bulletin talking about “real presence” and inviting anyone OK with that to come on up. Not that I ever favored grilling them about doctrine at the altar rail, of course. In my ever-more-lefty old age, I favor an unqualified invitation. I wouldn’t even put in anything about being baptized. I have come around to communion-as-hospitality. It is a meal: a symbolic meal, but still… We wouldn’t, after all, grill someone about their doctrine before inviting them to the potluck in the basement. Worrying about the niceties of eucharistic dogma just seems to miss the point.

            • We wouldn’t, after all, grill someone about their doctrine before inviting them to the potluck in the basement.

              If Jesus didn’t grill Judas about what he was planning to do later that night before allowing him to partake of the Last Supper (the first Holy Communion), we certainly have no business grilling anybody in search of their lesser offenses.

            • But the practice of the early church was not open in any way. Only baptized members in good standing were even allowed to stay for the Eucharistic part of the worship service; others had to depart. Those who invoke the church of the first centuries for our exemplary model in all things liturgical and sacramental will resist the idea of letting everyone, regardless of baptism or its absence, partake of the Eucharistic supper.

        • That’s interesting, because it’s a position that most of our congregations do not seem to follow. Depends on where you live, I guess.

    • From what I know of the LCMS, it doesn’t surprise me in the least. Nor would I expect its trajectory to change course on the basis of any opposing arguments, however compelling or sound.

    • “Tacking towards?” How is this any different from how they have always approached this and similar issues?

      I think they have refused to keep up with the leftward drift of society, but as I study the early history of the denomination, this doesn’t seem any more conservative or fundamentalist than what they were saying in the 70’s, 30’s, or earlier.

      • Richard Hershberger says

        Certainly the writing was on the wall with the purge of Concordia Seminary in 1974. About 200 congregations left following the purge. This was the point where the LCMS went decisively conservative. That being said, any informed observer in, say, 1970, if asked which Lutheran synod would do this, would easily have identified LCMS as the likely candidate (eliminating WELS from the discussion on the grounds that it had been this way all along). Even in the 19th century LCMS didn’t play well with others.

        You are right, however, that the recent vote is a reaffirmation of existing doctrine. The difference is that it moves Young Earth Creationism from the category of something that is out there but not something we think much about (like the Athanasian Creed, for example) to the front and center. The next step is to require professors, and even pastors, to explicitly affirm YEC lest they be purged. I am very curious to see if the LCMS goes down this road.

        • I don’t think the 74 purge was not a “change” for the LCMS. It was exactly what you see here: Doubling down. People had hoped the LCMS would go the way of all the other progressive mainlines, but in order to do so would require significant change. Sure, some progressive ideas had been gaining support in the seminary faculty. But firing them wasn’t a “change of course.” It was enacting accountability for the course we had collectively determined to be on in the first place. Unelected seminary professors do not get to set the agenda for a denomination that can’t vote them out. The people get to make the decisions, not the ivory towers. There are pros and cons to both ways of doing things. But the ‘seminex” efforts to sink the synod and take the laity with them largely failed, because the laity were largely ready to support conservative leadership.

          Literally NOBODY should be complaining about the 200 congregations that left. They were part of the forming of the ELCA, so I cannot understand how that is not a win for everybody involved. I am in favor of individuals aligning with groups where they best fit, rather than trying to strongarm one group to be more like another group they’d rather be in. Go join that group! So much less internal conflict this way. There is much peace in “agreeing to disagree” in this manner (the anathema hurling wars of the time aside…). If there were no group out there for you, I could understand. But if the LCMS becomes the ELCA, they might as well just merge. As long as it remains a separate entity, we should expect differences. I was under the impression that progressives celebrated that kind of diversity over ideological uniformity, but sometimes it sounds like diversity is only acceptable within the parameters they define.

          I would be very surprised to see the LCMS purge anything. Current leadership is not the type for institutional grandstanding. He takes the slow road, and is much more conciliar than most conservatives in the denomination wish he was. Harrison is the only public denominational leader I am aware of that has ever publically apologized and admitted a mistake. It took Harrison a considerable time to get rid of ONE single pastor (who wasn’t even in the parish) that was teaching a large number of things contrary to synodical positions. And even that was a controversial move. But I do think a foot will be put down if people keep trying to drag the LCMS towards the left. We’re not a progressive group, the world just has to live with that. If that means we shrivel up and die, why would the critics complain?

          The LCMS is pretty much never going to “play well with others.” Refusal to do so in the first place is the reason for our existence in the first place, as we came to the USA to flee the Prussian Union which would require fellowship with those nasty Calvinists.

          • Correction: I do not think the purge WAS a change, not WAS NOT. Accidental double negative 😛

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says

              In Elizabethan English, double negatives were a sign of EMPAHTIC No.
              They didn’t become Taboo in Proper English until the Victorians.

              • Fascinating! Would you blame the change on grammar, or logic?

                • Richard Hershberger says

                  Neither. The change never happened. Double negatives ain’t going nowhere. What did change was the creation, starting in the 18th century, of a body of literature commenting on English usage, and rarely based on any understanding of how English actually works. A body of factually-challenged claims arose from this body, with the belief that English works like formal logic being one of the more bizarre. This literature mostly just makes people unnecessarily anxious, but it did manage modest success in influencing the formal register of English. This is why “ain’t going nowhere” would be odd in a formal context. But in an informal context? How often do people sing that they can’t get any satisfaction?

                  • Headless Unicorn Guy says

                    “Like formal logic” or “just like Latin”?

                    I remember all those complex verb conjugations from English class — “Shall Have Had X” and the like — which NOBODY ever used outside those textbooks. Heard later that was because Latin and other Prestige Classic Languages have complex verb conjugations, so English had to have them as well.

                    Never mind that English started out as a three-way trade pidgin of Saxon, Danish, and later Norman French, and pidgins strip such things as verb conjugations down to their simplest form. In English, instead of dozens upon dozens of forms of the verb itself, most of the conjugation comes from prefixing the verb (which only has about half a dozen variants) with auxiliary verbs (mostly forms of “to be”).

                    • Richard Hershberger says

                      There is some truth to the “just like Latin” notion, but not as much as is often supposed. It wasn’t so much a conscious attempt to copy Latin as it was that Latin grammar was formally described long before the modern vernacular languages, so it tended to be used as a model because that is what they knew.

                      Add to this that early English grammars often were English as a Second Language textbooks. Any foreigner using such a book probably already knew Latin, so if you wrote “this is how we do the pluperfect in English” they understood what you meant. Stating that in terms of any other language limited your market, and that other language probably didn’t have the vocabulary anyway.

                      Your description of English is a bit confused. There is a quasi-respectable claim that Middle English is a creole of Old English and Norman French, with a large dollop of Danish on the side. (“Danish on the side.” Now I am hungry…) A creole and a pidgin are different things. A pidgin is a combination language with most of the grammar stripped out. A creole is what the next generation speaks, when Mom and Dad have only a pidgin in common. A creole adds the grammar back in, though not necessarily the same as in the predecessor languages. In any case, this view of Middle English is not widely supported within historical linguistics. It’s one of those stories that is compelling, but doesn’t really hold up once you start digging a bit.

          • “I was under the impression that progressives celebrated that kind of diversity over ideological uniformity, but sometimes it sounds like diversity is only acceptable within the parameters they define.”

            When those parameters include the perception and impact of Christianity and the wider culture… Yes. When you close communion, that’s an internal theological matter. When you make proclamations on the basic interaction of religion and science, that affects almost everybody.

  4. Adam Tauno Williams says

    My entire family was LCMS when I was a lad, due to the merger of the NELC (the Finnish-American Lutheran Church) into the LCMS sometime in the 1960s.

    As I recall the LCMS has been “literal” Creation all along. So this resolution seems like double-down; it will excite who it is intended to excite.

    Today, in 2019, I cannot think of a single family member who would still identify as LCMS, much less attends an LCMS church.

    • Wow… There are a lot of us here who have or have had LCMS connections.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        IM has strong Midwest representation (pretty rare for an Internet site); also noticed many of the non-Midwest participants are/were part of the Midwest diaspora.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          In Left Behind: Volume 13, isn’t the New Heavens and New Earth one long American Midwest dotted with eternal Mayberries and Pleasantvilles?

          • Adam Tauno Williams says

            Probably, I’ve never read any of them.

            But what your describe sounds like Hell, to me.

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says

              I haven’t read them either (can’t risk the Sanity Loss); most of my info on LB comes from Slacktivist’s almost page-by-page review of (and snark on) them. I think he’s up to Volume 4 or 5 (out of 22) by now.

              • They are so bad I wonder why he even spends his time that way.

                • I think it’s because it has brought together one of the most interesting groups of people on the Internet. It has been a couple of years since he has reviewed a new chapter/book/page, but he’s re-running the old reviews on Fridays, opening them to new comments. We keep hoping that his life will give him a break so he can get back to “the World’s Worst Books,” but it hasn’t happened yet. Come check it out. Oh- there is also an index, and there are even a couple of volumes of his posts (but not the comments) available on Amazon.

      • Richard Hershberger says

        Even I do, despite having grown up LCA, one of the ELCA’s predecessor bodies. I moved to Flagstaff in the early 1990s. There were three Lutheran churches: two ELCA and one LCMS. I check out both ELCA churches and had a visceral response of “Not a chance!” to both. I couldn’t tell you at this point why, but it was unambiguous. I was about to try the Episcopalian church, but decided to give the LCMS church a shot. And it was good. When I asked to join, they took a letter of transfer from my old ELCA church without blinking. When, some years later, I moved out of state and joined an ELCA church, the Flagstaff church gave me a letter of transfer, again without blinking.

        The local congregation is what matters. My experience is that the LCMS has greater variability on the ground than on the national level, much less on the internet. Were I looking for a church, and the one that met my needs happened to be LCMS, I would not hesitate. That being said, my experience with LCMS is not current. I have seen suggestions that there have been crackdowns. Even with overt disciplining, hardening of positions in the seminaries will bring the congregations into line in the long run. I suspect that the chance of my finding an LCMS church that met my needs is much lower today than it was a quarter century back.

        • Having had a backstage view of some of the internal politics, I can only laugh when I hear the terms “LCMS” and “crackdown” used together. You are right, and we still have a high degree of variability. Much more so than some of us would like. However, our divergence is more driven by the revivalist church growth circus show than the theological left. You’d have a MUCH harder time getting that letter of transfer these days, but you could find congregations that look just like Willow Creek (WC association members, even!).

          The theological left wing of the synod is on hard times. Confessional theologians occupy most of the prominent pulpits. But we are still nearly as diverse in laity and clergy, only spread in different directions. The events of seminex and the formation of the ELCA did provide a reasonable jump-off point for many of those dissenters, so only those with strong family ties to the organization stayed. And they’ll tell you how long their geneology extends as a way to legitimize how much their new views are just as Lutheran as yours.

          We have a culture that bristles at most forms of accountability, and especially theological accountability. A pastor should take his ordination vows seriously. If he “progresses” beyond them, that doesn’t mean it’s time for the whole denomination to change.

    • –> “So this resolution seems like double-down; it will excite who it is intended to excite.”

      Not only does it seem like a double-down, it sounds like an “all in” and a “time to plant the flag and take our stand!” And yes… it’ll excite all those who think this is a way to show God they’re faithful and taking a stand for TRUTH.

      • David Greene says

        Sounds like a “time to lose members”, a “time to lose the next generation” and a “time to die.”

      • Looks like a lot of the conservative groups are looking for their hill to die on.

        One of the main reasons younger folks give for leaving the church is its being out of touch with science. The LCMS sounds like the latest batch of lemmings who complain that the others aren’t running towards the cliff fast enough.

  5. They also feel the same about women in ministry. They are the ultimate fundy group with a liturgy.

  6. Klasie Kraalogies says

    The last denomination I officially belonged to was the LCC, the LCMS’ sister denomination in Canada. Same approach, same documents, shared pastors etc. etc. But it is hardly surprising, as I have since discovered, since as as recently as 1925, the leading LCMS theologian, Pieper, was still saying that the heliocentric view of the solar system must be rejected because it is contrary to Scripture.

    • Luther had some similar remarks. However, heliocentrism is not nearly the paradigm shift for religion that science periodically puts itself through. You couldn’t have to more opposite types of disciplines than rigorous empirical investigation and dogmatic theology. FWIW, geocentrism has long been dead in the Lutheran tradition, for the most part, since Pieper. The recent “flat earth” revival is not stemming from our ranks, that I am aware of.

      • Klasie Kraalogies says

        Sure, I never met a Lutheran geocentrist in my all my time with the Lutherans (I have met geocentrists though, but never a flat earther. Very different theories…). My point is though that it speaks of a certain kind of culture, a literalist hermeneutic to the point of being rabidly fundamentalist.

        • I would be remiss if I did not concede that this caricature does rear its ugly head in our synod. One of the 4 pastors I have served with could fairly be described that way.

          But that culture is not the rule in this synod. I understand you had some experiences with it, and it’s not entirely uncommon, but neither is it realistic to boilerplate that stereotype across all YEC as if it were not possible to take a far more nuanced approach. I have found the discussion in the synod to be radically different from the fundamentalist evangelical world, largely in part because we are not so thoroughly infected with the cultural anti-intellectualism of many revivalist traditions. We are literally the most pro-education denomination in the USA.

          Flat eathers are great! According to their Facebook page, they have adherents around the globe!

          • David Greene says

            “Flat eathers are great! According to their Facebook page, they have adherents around the globe!”

            Haha, that is great! Can I meme that?

          • “But that culture is not the rule in this synod.”

            But now that YEC is a denominational mandate, what mechanisms are in place to prevent it from spreading?

            • What kind of mechanism exists for preventing the spread of any subculture? Doesn’t sound health, imo.

              Our YEC is separate from that subculture, though it is unfortunately too often mixed, I would say that we approach the issue theologically, rather than pedantically trying to argue with scientists and criticize their work. That is a very significant difference, and I think the Ken Hamites will weed themselves out as their children become Atheists or Episcopalians.

              • Hardly thinking here that “Atheists or Episcopalians (which I was raised as)” are to be considered weeds.

                • The point is that Ken Hamism seems to not be hereditary. They seemed like convenient opposites (and, as it happens, true stories!).

                  • It may not be hereditary, but it is environmental. Especially in an environment of enforced dogmatic teleological theology… The real question is, how far will the LCMS go in enforcing it?

                    • As far as we want. Tribes retain the right to self-police. If you don’t like it, find another denomination.

                      We have the right, as an institution, to self-define.

                    • –> “Tribes retain the right to self-police. If you don’t like it, find another denomination.
                      We have the right, as an institution, to self-define.”

                      Interesting, and perhaps valid, point. However, how Tribes treat those within their Tribe who suddenly don’t live up to the Tribes’ values can be quite damaging.

                    • Yes, it seems more like changing the rules halfway through the game than self determination. Perhaps those that want to change the rules should be the ones that leave the field.

          • Would Flat earthers who were clergy be called out on it by the higher ups or even fellow clergy?
            What would happen to a pastor who publicly held that creation happened over millions or billions of years?
            Ask Pastor Matthew Becker.

  7. I saw these results from the convention, and I KNEW this post was coming here soon. Ha! Well, I have been summoned, so here I am. 😀

    Where are those resource on science supposed to come from?

    Two things on this. On the one hand, unfortunately, influencers like Ken Ham have somewhat recently been able to infiltrate our camps, making activists out of our more ideological players.

    On the other hand, the synod HAS actually provided resources on this issue post-1932. If you wish to effectively criticize the denomination on this, you should probably make an effort to understand how they talk about it and why. This article sounds too much like “They don’t see it my way, thus they must believe this exact thing I’m always arguing against.” Life ain’t so simple, and neither are synodical politics. Ham style YEC is present in the rank and file, but it is not the decisive factor. (Hate the guy all you want, but DAMN does he know how to make a sale.)

    As for your four points:

    1. Though some may talk about this being an issue of scriptural authority, I really think it’s actually about interpretation. And not interpretation of Genesis, mind you, but the interpretation of later passages that refer back to it, circa the decalogue, the words of St. Paul, and the teachings of Jesus. Any mutual understanding on this topic will not be arrived at without addressing those primarily theological issues.

    2. This point needs to be demonstrated. My inside experience has been that scientific evolution is taught in our science classes. We also teach Young Earth Creationism, Old Earth Creationism, and other options. We make a point to teach which we agree with and why, but we recognize the necessity for literacy within the field. What you see in the LCMS is not the same that you see in the SBC where they politic to have THEIR view displace the consensus of the scientific community in public schools (and I use “consensus” lightly here, because leading academics in science range from strict naturalists to devoutly religious and traditional). But I can’t see how us announcing our position on something makes other people more illiterate. It might encourage the willfully illiterate to double down, but let’s not pretend you were gonna change their minds.

    3. It may substantiate anti-religious atheistic view points, but seriously, any disagreement with by religion on nearly any issue is enough to substantiate that in their minds. It does not demonstrate that Christianity is harmful to society. Or does it? Do enlighten me on the ways that my belief that the world is not actually millions of years old is hurting my neighbor. Cause that sounds fairly urgent, and is certainly an unintended consequence.

    4. Wow. “You can’t be like Jesus and disagree with me on this issue that wasn’t even an issue until LONG after Christ.” Look in the mirror. Do you not realize how much that rhetoric sounds just like the fundamentalists you criticize? You’re setting up an ideological litmus test that rules out incredibly large swaths of very kind people who are much more generous than that criteria. But I suppose all of us YEC’ers are nothing more than a bunch of angry, pulpit pounding bible-thumpers, right?

    You have to take off the Ken Ham colored glasses to understand a confessional Lutheran approach to YEC. Broad brushed arguments are not going to convince anybody if you don’t engage us with a discussion of our actual concerns. You might enjoy a conversation with Pastor Bill Cwirla. He’s a former iMonk panelist, a first career scientist, and may even have voted against this resolution. I certainly disagree with some of what I’ve heard him say on related issues. He could provide you some better insights into the complicated soup that is our political unfoldings on this issue.

    Or better yet, look up some of the resources we have put out on the topic. Links in the following comment.

    • Here’s a 2015 volume by the Commission on Theology and Church Relations:
      https://www.cph.org/p-28560-In-Christ-All-Things-Hold-Together.aspx

      • David Greene says

        I checked the link, it bothers me that this book appeals to “The Christian World View.” What is the TCWV anyway? I have seen several versions. It seems to me the that various Christian world views are just a bunch of idiosyncratic interpretive schemas.

    • –> “1. Though some may talk about this being an issue of scriptural authority, I really think it’s actually about interpretation.”

      Ah, there’s that word “interpretation” again. See, these folks are Bible literalists, and thus claim they know the LITERAL truth is six days. (And this gets back to their hypocrisy of picking and choosing what they take literally and what they don’t.)

      –> “3. …Do enlighten me on the ways that my belief that the world is not actually millions of years old is hurting my neighbor. Cause that sounds fairly urgent, and is certainly an unintended consequence.”

      Good rebuttal. My (mild) counterpoint to your counterpoint would be that some of these Christians view other Christians as “not really Christian” if they don’t believe in a Young Earth. That can be harmful and damaging, especially to newbie Christians or Christians who begin to have doubts about that theory.

      That said, do some of us who think science proves it was NOT literally six days view those Christians who DO as “not really Christian”?

      • Richard Hershberger says

        Hurting your neighbor: It is an indirect consequence, but creating false doubts about science in general leads to positive harm in other areas, e.g. vaccination and climate change.

        Are these people “not really Christian”? Of course not. They are misguided, and while I do believe it harms their neighbors, the harm is so indirect that I appreciate why they don’t see it. This is adiaphora.

        Now ask me about how Christian are people who turn away refugees.

        • It won’t let my comment to Rick through, so I guess I’ll try it here:

          Rick, you’re just wrong about #1. “These folks” are ME. I’m not talking about some different people over there.
          There are literalists among the LCMS rank and file (older boomers an earlier, the rest of us refer to them as “Bronze Agers,”) but our approach to dogmatics is remarkably consistent and not based on a ridiculously simplistic reduction such as “literal vs. metaphorical.” It’s more about the theological implications of what Christ and Paul say about the creation narrative, not about selective literalism (as I mentioned, ahem). We default to the “plain sense” of the text, but this is more of the idea that we do not reduce texts to metaphors without contextual warrant.

          Yes, there are those who say that rejection of YEC is tantamount to apostasy. Lutherans do not. Some in our denomination will say that it can lead one directly there, but that’s a pretty shaky denifition of “apostasy” if it includes that vast majority of the Roman Catholic Church, whom we generally consider to be “in a state of grace” despite following the antichrist. 😛

          The problem with this issue is every time a Lutheran says “literal six days,” all everyone else can hear is the anti-intellectual bible belt angry fundemantalist Baptists of their prior experience. There is SO much difference between the LCMS and SBC on so many issues (speaking as a current member of one, and former member of another). We are literally closer to Catholics than iconoclastic Evangelicals. Or at least, we’re supposed to be. You can find enough of us who didn’t get the memo, but their practices and views are quite plainly contrary to our common confession.

        • I don’t think so, Richard. Most of our people are very pro-science. We don’t criticize the discipline, but rather, we teach it in our very extensive network of schools. Only those who have succumbed to Ken Ham rah rah rhetoric.

          I’ve yet to see any link between YEC and anti-vaxers. They tend to be more hippies than Norwegian farmers.
          And climate change is an entirely different apple cart. Hardly a theological oriented issue, and you would have to provide some sort of demonstration of how one leads to another. Your only correlation is that conservatives tend to do both, but I haven’t seen how one causes another.

          Now since you brought it up, and I’m still learning about this topic, do you believe that every nation has a moral duty to receive every person who comes to them claiming to be a refugee?

          • Richard Hershberger says

            “Your only correlation is that conservatives tend to do both, but I haven’t seen how one causes another.”

            The correlation I stated was “creating false doubts about science in general.” I stick to that.

            “…do you believe that every nation has a moral duty to receive every person who comes to them claiming to be a refugee?”

            I see what you did there: a discussion of “refugees” has turned into a discussion of “every person…claiming to be a refugee”. Neat trick, that. I decline to dance this dance.

            • Richard, I just want to be a good Christian, so I was honestly looking to know what specific political position I’m supposed to have in order to do that. But if you’re too virtuous to condescend to spelling it out to this ignorant schmuck, perhaps I should just return to letting Fox News tell me what to believe?

              Heck, give me the answer to the question you think I SHOULD have asked. I just want to know what YOU think, if it isn’t too rude to ask someone’s opinion.

              I will concede that YEC can create false doubs about science. I do not think it keeps people from, say, going to the doctor, and the fears may be exaggerated (coming from a fairly strong YEC background in different traditions). I am confident that this was not the intention of the ecclesial decision under discussion, as the LCMS is otherwise demonstrably pro-science. I regocnize it can come as an unintended consequence, but fundies gonna fundie, and as a fellow LCMS Lutheran, I can assure you that you ain’t gonna talk them out of it, and they ain’t gonna hurt a fly. We’re not fostering a climate of anti-scientism that is rejecting advancements in STEM.

          • Klasie Kraalogies says

            As to anti-vax beliefs – your assumption is incorrect. Conservatives are less likely to vaccinate. See the following study:

            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5784985/

            • Agree with you Klasie. My experience with anti-vaxers is conservative, usually fundie Christian. Or conspiracy theory types.

              • Richard Hershberger says

                Anti-vax woo crosses traditional ideological lines. There certainly is a liberal strain, often associated with Hollywood celebrities. The difference is that within the broader left, such woo will get pushback, whereas within the broader right it seems to be gaining traction and threatening to go mainstream. Why the difference? Partly the two sides’ respect or disrespect for science. Partly the left is comfortable with a collective response to a collective problem, while the right is prone to “They’re my kids–I can put their lives at risk if I want to. Freedom!” and they aren’t equipped for discussions of collective issues such as herd immunity.

                • Klasie Kraalogies says

                  Agreed. I see a lot of pushback on the left again the anti-science on the left, but I still have to see the same on the right. For instance, a lot on the left is pushing back hard against the snake oil of Gwyneth Paltrow (like Jennifer Gunter, or Tim Cauldfield). I don’t see this type of thing on the right.

              • My experience with anti-vaxers is conservative, usually fundie Christian. Or conspiracy theory types.

                There’s considerable overlap between those two groups these days.

            • Well, “assumption” is exactly right. I mean, I only know two anti-vaxers. One is a cafeteria style American Zen Buddhist, and the other a hardcore libertarian that doesn’t question the science so much as insist the government has no right to make that decision on behalf of parents (a sentiment I’m ordinarily sympathetic towards, though not in this instance!).

              I won’t argue with data, it trumps my assumption based on limited exposure. But I’ve yet to run into any anti-vax sentiment in the LCMS (and I’m quite broadly networked in the denom), and we’ve been teaching YEC for quite some time. So…. correlation does not necessarily prove causation.

        • fearful people struggle with Christianity, because the teachings of Christ do not support or validate ‘fear’ as a coping mechanism;

          so there is an inherent conflict and divide between Christianity and Trumpism. Trumpism thrives on stirring up the fears of ‘the base’. Whereas Christianity proclaims a ‘good news’ that does NOT pander to fear-mongering.

          So the lines are drawn.

          And for those with a foot in each camp, they surely must be conflicted, or seriously divided in their loyalties.
          And that is what I find is more sad than not. Fearful people are not to be objects of Christian contempt, no.
          Although when some fearful people act out their fears against innocents and harm them, the ‘behavior’ of such destructiveness must provoke a response from all Christian people . . . . and it is not surprising that those in the Trumpist camp hold to their silence tightly and will not criticize his treatment of innocent asylum children.

          ‘Fear’ ?

          Trump or Christ

          You can place your faith in one or the other, but not both. It doesn’t work that way. Soon, there will be trouble for those whose religious beliefs contradict their political allegiances, and something will give way. And that is inevitable because there is no stability in holding to both the fear-monger and to the One who leads us out of our fears.
          Divided loyalties are signs of lack of integrity, and are also signs of instability and confusion. Sooner or later, the stress will give way, one way or the other. Hopefully fearfulness is overcome by grace, and the cries of the persecuted small children are heard again in the hearts of the faithful who cannot walk away from the One to whom those children belong.

    • Klasie Kraalogies says

      As to your number 3: Once blatantly anti-scientific theories are accepted, others tend to follow.

      For instance, there is a strong correlation between those that deny evolution, and those that oppose environmental protection laws ( https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/05/20/this-chart-explains-why-faith-and-science-dont-have-to-be-in-conflict/?noredirect=on )

      The same goes for creationism and climate change denial.

      Then, in a more general sense, teleological thinking and creationism are strongly linked (see a 2018 paper in Current Biology by Wagner-Egger et al). Teleological thinking correlates closely with belief in conspiracy theories.

      All in all, (young-earth) creationism thus provides fertile ground for social, political and economic movements that are profoundly damaging to society, the environment, and the entire well-being of this planet.

      Just one other point – you said that, and I presume you refer to schools in general and Christian private schools in particular, that YEC etc is taught alongside evolution. That is hardly comforting, as it provides legitimacy for blatant falsehood. It is like saying “Kids, after astronomy class we are going to astrology class”, and, once we are finished pharmacology at university, we also offer courses in witch doctoring and homeopathy. It is insane.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        “””All in all, (young-earth) creationism thus provides fertile ground for social, political and economic movements that are profoundly damaging to society, the environment, and the entire well-being of this planet.”””

        +1,000; basically, conspiracy [which is what YEC is] begets conspiracy.

      • Klasie Kraalogies says

        An additional note:

        Arizona is one of a handful of states where Charter Schools commonly teach creationism. So it is no surprise that, according to the Arizona Republic (17 April 2019) –

        Private schools and charter schools had disproportionately high rates of personal belief exemptions and low
        rates of vaccination coverage compared with district schools.The Republic’s analysis found that seven of the 10 schools with the lowest measles immunization rates for kindergarten, for example, were either charter or private schools.

        Anti-vaccination beliefs have started to affect the population at large, and, if followed will more wildly, are likely to result in widespread deaths, especially of the young, old and others. It is a deadly belief.

        • I don’t think the anti-vax movement is strong enough to block legislation. I’ve not been paying attention, but I was living under the happy assumption that they were a fringe minority.

          • They are not evenly distributed. It is a clumpy belief spread by person to person fear mongering.

            2 weeks ago my wife and I were in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. Passing through. I’d have not done it if we had not both had measles in our childhood. (Dating myself I am.)

      • That is hardly comforting, as it provides legitimacy for blatant falsehood.

        That looks like “moving the goal posts.” The complaint was that the YEC views directly causes scientific illiteracy. I show how that is not the case, and now the complaint is that this view should never be taught by anyone at all.

        So the real problem is that you do not like people disagreeing with you on this. That is understandable, given how most fundamentalists handle the issue, and the fact that the LCMS is being influenced by those trends.

        But just because irrational people believe something doesn’t follow that it must be irrational (though it does suggest a higher statistical probability). When broken clocks agree with working ones, the idea may need to be evaluated apart from the source.

        Environmental protection and climate change are different issues. But at this point, it sounds more like anyone who embraces conservativism or its general tendencies is likely to be dangerous.

        Yawn. You have to be pretty naive, even as a pro-science person, to not be skeptical of some of the politics driving those issues, on both sides.

        • When my kids were in middle school and high school and we discovered our church was all in YEC but covert about it I discovered a large overlap in these groups.
          YEC
          college lies about science
          government is evil
          public schools must be avoided at all costs
          doctors are evil (except when you’re at the emergency room)
          and more

          We left after a few years as our circle of friends became smaller and smaller and many other parents looked at us as if we might cast a spell on their kids at any moment.

  8. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Move over Jesus; once again YEC has pushed You under the bus to become THE litmus test of Salvation.

    After all, in the Judgment Day Scene in Left Behind: Volume 12, isn’t the only thing mentioned that Damns the Antichrist and False Prophet to Eternal Hell was they taught Evolution?

    • Nah, bro, not this time. Believe it or not, the majority of LCMS YEC’ers actually wish, pray even, for the salvation of those who disagree with us. We don’t send people to hell for this one. We might send them to the ELCA, but that’s not a very nice comparison, now, is it? Same house, different room. Meet you in the hall when it’s over.

      • Miguel, yeah, that’s the general vibe I get from my Lutheran sister and her family… They’re traditional in YEC, etc., but it wouldn’t occur to them to be other than gracious to anyone who disagrees with them on that or any other point. Ken Ham drives me nuts, but thanks for the reminder that not all YEC is derived from Kentuckian theme park operators.

        And, in general, thanks for stopping by. Been a while.

        • Yeah, I’m hardly to contribute to discussion like I would enjoy. What with a fourth kid, a new job, just moved to a new state, and ongoing graduate studies, I’ve become like a ghost to anything I didn’t just mention. Glad to see so many familiar “faces” still around, though!

      • Yes. It’s good to have someone who you can have an actual argument with – in the logical sense rather than the Argument Clinic sense. 🙂

  9. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Ah, yes, the “were you there?” argument.

    Ken Ham would be proud.
    “HOW DO YOU KNOW? WERE YOU THERE? HUH? HUH? HUH?

    • ,,,and now let’s all stand and sing our closing hymn, #456: “Were you there when they crucified my Lord…”

    • David Greene says

      Actually yes, I WAS there. Ken Ham does not know that because he was not there to see me.

      Seriously though, it is a very bad argument because, for example, they see a fossil fish today and claim it it was from the flood vs millions of years ago – but how do they know it was really a fish rather that a random collection of debris? They were not there when the fossil was made.

      They know it is a fossil fish only because they see fish today. So they allow for themselves the reality of what is seen today to interpret the past. Yet they would deny allowing real science to interpret the past using the reality of what is seen today by claiming “were you there.” It is ridiculous how they use different sets of rules for themselves vs those they do not agree with.

      • “Were you there” is a rah-rah defense meant to rally troops (and sell books/Ark tickets). I really appreciate your sarcastic rebuttal, and plan to steal it if I ever run into this question again!

  10. I’m completely surprised by this. Call it stereotyping or profiling, whatever. I have an image of all the mainlines that is not in lockstep with fundamentalism so today’s post and elaborating comments are an education.

    • Klasie Kraalogies says

      The LCMS is hardly mainline though.

      • They don’t really fit any sociological mold quite neatly enough. We’re too intellectual for fundamentalism, to conservative for mainlines, and too liturgical for Evangelicalism.

        • “We’re too intellectual for fundamentalism”

          To outsiders’ eyes, a denominational insistence on YEC would belie that claim.

          • But wasn’t the vote only 60/40 percent for YEC? I can see making a mandate in a political arena from that but not in a theological arena. They must have a lot of ticked off members.

          • There’s a lot more to academic rigor and historical depth than a position on a single issue. There is a world of difference between how YEC Lutherans approach science and how, say, an IFB congregation would. Hardly on the same planet at all. Indeed, most fundamentalists have little kind sentiments for Lutherans of any stripe. We, apparently, follow a man (Luther), instead of the Bible!

            • “There’s a lot more to academic rigor and historical depth than a position on a single issue.”

              True. But when that one issue is whackdoodle beyond the pale of any scientific or theological concensus, it does call everything else into question.

              • That’s your opinion of the issue. I find it to be quite easily defensible, and its critics to be oddly disproportionate in their outrage. Whackadoodle is getting bent out of shape over another person’s opinion that literally has no effect on you.

      • Hence my profiling. If it’s called Lutheran it’s mainline. End of story…or apparently not.

        • Every mainline has a conservative/confessional mirror denomination. The PCUSA has the PCA, so not all presbyterians are “mainline.” The UMC has the Free Methodists, who I believe are more conservative. The UCC has the CCCC (conservative congregationalists), the Episcopal church has the ACNA, etc….

          Heck, the American Baptists are a progressive group considered “mainline.”

  11. Just a shout out to Miguel for being the lone voice of a fairly unpopular stance here today, and articulating his position well and remaining civil in the face of some pretty serious pushback. Thanks for interacting today, and specifically your interactions with me.

  12. Before becoming a member of an LCMS church, I read up on this issue before joining to see if I would have to adhere to a YEC doctrine. I was really worried about this. I found out I did not have to do so and I joined a church in which the pastors do not make this an issue whatsoever . They steer clear and instead focus on God creating the universe and all that is in it . I have been there for a few years now and I have not yet once heard them making this an issue including the time that they reviewed the first chapters of Genesis in several messages. I love my church and I am so grateful that our pastors seem to understand what needs to be said. There is a reason that my church is very successful in this area of North Carolina which has one of the highest numbers of PhD‘s and scientists in the country.

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