A new Lutheran church, gnosticism, and the Bible

A new Lutheran denomination is being formed, the North American Lutheran Church. It consists of ELCA congregations that are pulling out because of that body’s acceptance of homosexuality. Christianity Today did a story on a theological conference held by the organization that has started the new church body.

The story cites some annoying comments, with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod being dismissed as “fundamentalist” and criticized for following 16th century Lutheran orthodoxy rather than Luther. (Note to Christianity Today: If you want a big story about what is really happening in Lutheranism, cover the installation on Saturday of the new LCMS president Matthew Harrison, along with a whole slate of new confessional leaders. See that live at 11:00 a.m. ET here.)

At any rate, the NALC, quite properly, is realizing that it needs to come to terms with the authority of Scripture. I liked what Carl Braaten had to say:

Braaten described the ELCA approach to authority as deficient in three “Gnostic” ways, deficiencies that played a big role in the passage of last summer’s ELCA social statement on sexuality.

Deficiency 1: Like the ancient Gnostics, the ELCA is antinomian—it rejects the law of God.

Deficiency 2: Like the ancient Gnostics, the ELCA claims a higher knowledge—higher than anything available from an external Word of God. Gnostics trusted instead in enlightenment from within, which is where they locate God. So do those guiding ELCA’s decisions, said Braaten.

Deficiency 3: Like the ancient Gnostics, ELCA leaders sneer at the idea that we can look to a book as our authority—especially a book written by Jews. Antinomianism and anti-Semitism are always found together, said Braaten. . . .

Lutherans are feisty. Their founder was feisty. So it was not surprising to hear Braaten label certain proposals advanced by the ELCA as “cockamamie,” and to commend the Lutheran doctrine of justification by faith alone as a “Lutheran crap detector.” And when he was asked from the floor whether ELCA headquarters has any idea that Gnosticism is a problem today, Braaten quipped: “It’s a polysyllabic word.”

That’s well and good. But it’s hard to imagine how the new denomination will be able to uphold Biblical authority without taking the “fundamentalist” position of, you know, believing what the Bible says.


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