With feet planted squarely in the sixteenth century, octogenarian and retired theologian Carl Braaten has assumed the intellectual mantle as defender of Lutheran orthodoxy. On behalf of Lutheran Core (fellow travelers of the WordAlone network), he penned an open letter to delegates to the recent ELCA 2009 convention; later, he engaged in an ongoing debate with former Presiding Bishop Herb Chilstrom.
Presently, Braaten argues that ELCA Bishop Mark Hanson is wrong, our ELCA unity is not in Christ, as Hanson suggests, but in our Reformation era confessions. Braaten longs for the good old days of the Augsburg Confession (1530), but then he muses that even the Reformation was too radical: “When the first Lutherans lost the magisterial authority of the Roman Catholic Church, it had no sure authority to put in its place.” Too much democracy, that’s the problem. Too much enlightened thinking. Too much reason and rationality. Ah, if the Lutherans only had an authoritative, top down Magisterium like the Catholics, this slippery slope modernism would be held in check. Why, just look at who the ELCA’s ecumenical friends are these days! The Episcopalians, the UCC, the RCA, the Presbyterians, and the Methodists. Mainline Protestants all.
The Lutheran Core website claims that the ELCA convention’s approval of gay clergy and gay marriage has resulted in strained ecumenical relationships. With whom? Not with these mainline protestant ecumenical partners, but with the Roman Catholics and Missouri Synod Lutherans. A sharp turn to the right is in order, according to Braaten and the Lutheran Core reactionaries.
With tongue firmly in his cheek, Lutheran Pastor Erik Samuelson responds to Braaten:
Thank you for your comments. I have always held you to be one of the great doctors of the Church. Though I have never met you, through your writings[, you] are one of my teachers. I was hoping I would run into you at the Churchwide Assembly, where I was a voting member, so you could answer a question that came up for me while watching the lecture video LutheranCORE distributed.
In the video, you refer to Jesus’ teaching that remarriage after divorce is adultery as “one of the great absolutes of Jesus”. You even mentioned your own children who had been divorced (though didn’t mention that you have, as I assume you have, advised them to remain celibate so as not to enter into adulterous remarriage relationships).
My question is, how can the ELCA allow remarried pastors (unrepentant adulterers) and bless second “marriages”? Both of these actions and the underlying teachings put us out of line with the historical teaching (and 2000 year consensus on human sexuality) of the Christian Church and threaten our ecumenical relationships with both the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox churches? Why have we tolerated this open sin for so long in the ELCA? Might this be the next campaign for us to embark on? Perhaps LutheranCORE can tackle this next? This certainly affects more congregations and pastors than the homosexuality discussions have. Have you written anything on this that might help in our efforts?
Paul Sundberg, another commenter adds, “and what about those pesky women?”
Forward or back, whither shall we go?