STANDING FIRM FOR THE FAITH
October 31, 2012 marked the 495th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther’s bold stand for truth was strengthened through his knowledge that the Scriptures are the solid, immovable rock upon which the whole church should base all its doctrines and faith. In time other men and women of faith joined Luther in embracing the biblical principles of the Reformation— Grace alone, Faith alone and Scripture alone.
THEN AND NOW
Looking at the spiritual bankruptcy within much of the organized church today, especially the false doctrines and deceptions being promulgated by Bible-denying clergy and theologians, it is obvious that another Reformation is desperately needed.
If the Reformers were alive today, neither they nor their biblically grounded teachings would be accepted by liberal theologians. More to the point, were the Reformers alive today, they would totally reject the humanistic doctrines that the false teachers are now promoting. How do I know? Because many of the doctrines and practices being carried out in 21st-century mainline churches are a complete contradiction of the doctrines taught by the Reformers.
LEARNING THE LESSONS OF HISTORY
In the Fall 2012 issue of The Vine and Branches, we included an article about Henry Melchior Muhlenberg (1711-1787), known as the Patriarch of the organized Lutheran Church in this country. After learning more about this great man of faith, you will realize his core beliefs are no longer acceptable among today’s liberal Lutherans.
To paraphrase George Santayana—those who fail to learn from the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them. As Christians we need to take time to learn history, so we won’t be taken in by those inclined to rewrite and distort historical facts. If more people knew the teachings of the Bible and the history of the church, the deceivers would find it much more difficult to ply their lies and distortions.
THE ELCA, THEN AND NOW
Consider two predecessor bodies of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)— the United Lutheran Church in America (ULCA) and the American Lutheran Church (ALC). When the ULCA was formed in 1918, its constitution stated: “The United Lutheran Church in America receives and holds the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the inspired Word of God and as the only infallible rule and standard of faith and practice, according to which all doctrines and teachers are to be judged.” (Article II).
In 1960 the ALC Constitution stated, “The American Lutheran Church accepts all the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments as a whole and in all their parts as the divinely inspired, revealed, and inerrant Word of God, and submits to this as the only infallible authority in all matters of faith and life” (Article II).
Tragically, both church bodies eventually abandoned these doctrinal statements that date back to the Refor-mation and to the Lutheran Confessions.
The late Walter R. Bouman, former ELCA seminary professor, is quoted on the ELCA’s official website, regarding their position on the Scriptures:The church listens to and loves its Scripture as the “Word of God,” but it does not worship its book. It knows that it must trust some words of Scripture against other words of Scripture, that it must subject its book to relentless study, analysis, critique, that it must always listen to it anew, learn it
anew, translate it anew. For its book is “Word of God” only as it points beyond itself to the Lord who alone is Word and revelation. The principle of self-critique, critique of its traditions, critique even of its book is essential to the identity of the God who is Jesus, his Father, and the Holy Spirit.
What caused the seismic shift that moved these Lutherans from their high view of Scripture to the place where they now deny foundational truths their churches once proclaimed? What possessed them to embrace doctrines and practices contrary to God’s Word?
STANDING ON QUICKSAND
At the risk of contradicting my own premise, it wasn’t a lack of knowledge about church history that brought about these outrageous departures of the faith. Indeed, these errant theologians and clergy were aware of the church’s long-held confessions concerning the Scriptures. Furthermore, they knew exactly what the Bible said about the doctrines they had set aside.
The truth is this— because their hubris became so magnified, they could no longer accept the Bible’s teachings regarding its inspiration or its teachings on assorted moral issues. Thus, they set out to humanize the Scriptures and claim the books of the Bible are the flawed works of men from times past and are no longer relevant.
Furthermore, these false teachers preached thousands of sermons, wrote hundreds of books and penned scores of nonsexist translations of the Bible in order to inform and reprogram what they perceived to be the misinformed, misguided and biblically inept laity. In all these efforts, their number one message was, and remains, this— “The Bible does not mean what it says; it means what we say it means.”
Today deceived church members and their liberal leadership are no longer standing on the solid, immovable rock of Scripture where the Reformers once stood, instead they are wallowing in the quicksand of their own deluded reasoning. Thankfully, a faithful remnant has broken their ties with the compromising branch of the church, in order to uphold Reformation truths and the historic Lutheran doctrine regarding the infallibility of God’s Word.