The Lutheran Option

Important Developments in the LCMS Lutheran Church

This last summer, I had the privilege of writing an article in the LCMS Lutheran Theology Journal. Chaos ensued, but not because of me this time. One of the other authors suggested that “day” could be interpreted as an age, and the crowds with pitchforks came.

A very interesting conversation has been playing out that is worth following. A couple of the key links I’m including here…

The Journal in question is here. I wrote the last article on a “Lutheran Voice in Science.” If there is interest, I’ll post that article here. https://concordiatheology.org/2017/09/concordia-journal-summer-2017/

A follow editorial to address the controversy was written by a seminary professor, @CPArand , who you might get a chance to meet at ASA. Brilliant and thoughtful guy. https://concordiatheology.org/2017/12/reflections-on-reactions-to-the-summer-issue-of-concordia-journal/

Unfortunately, the article on Day Age views of Genesis was retracted because the heat grew too much: https://concordiatheology.org/2018/01/regarding-the-article-by-dr-john-jurchen-in-concordia-journal/

For better or worse, the President of the denomination weighed in with a fairly political statement. https://blogs.lcms.org/2018/64959 On a positive note, this article from a LCMS Lutheran is in the mix and entirely on point:

Perhaps the most subtle error of all, the film leaves the Christian with the wrong cornerstone of faith. Scripture is very clear. The foundation of our faith is Christ and His life and work, most especially His Resurrection (1 Corinthians 15). However, the film explicitly sets up a literal reading of Genesis as the foundation of our faith ignoring the primacy of the Resurrection, which is never mentioned in the film to my recollection.
https://steadfastlutherans.org/2018/01/5-2/

Through this, however, Chuck has been putting together a multipart guide to origins debate. The first post is out, and it is really good. He makes, what I think, is an important observation about the absence of a Lutheran Voice in the origins debate, a voice that I hope can be recovered.

The Table of Contents

In the past, some people (e.g. @JonGarvey) have questioned what I meant by the origins debate being too one sidedly influenced by Reformed thought. It may makes sense what I mean as this series develops.

  1. What is Old Earth Creationism? https://concordiatheology.org/2018/02/a-travel-guide-to-the-evangelical-creation-debates-what-is-old-earth-creationism/

  2. The Gospel-Centered Christian https://concordiatheology.org/2018/02/the-gospel-centered-christian/

  3. What is Young Earth Creationism? https://concordiatheology.org/2018/02/a-travel-guide-to-the-evangelical-creation-debates-what-is-young-earth-creationism/

  4. What is Evolutionary Creationism? https://concordiatheology.org/2018/02/a-travel-guide-to-the-evangelical-creation-debates-what-is-evolutionary-creationism/

  5. A Few Reflections on Genesis One https://concordiatheology.org/2018/03/a-few-reflections-on-creation-in-genesis-1/

  6. An Exegetical Case for the Lutheran Option, TBA

  7. A Theological Case for the Lutheran Option, TBA

I’ve seen some early drafts of these posts. They are going to be uncommonly good. Its not typical to watch the inner workings of another denomination, but there is something really interesting happening here. It is worth seeing what we can learn. There is some real thoughtfulness going on here at Concordia. I predict these blog posts are going to rival most books in their insight on the origins debate.

Let’s see what the Lutheran option ends up looking like. @J.E.S is in this denomination. As this unfolds, I’m very curious to see his reaction.

The Missing Lutheran Voice

In the first article, he writes…

I feel four cautions are critical for us keep in mind.

FIRST, Lutherans have largely been silent in these debates, so only a minority of voices in any camp will be consistent with Lutheranism. We can and will find common ground with some of them, but we also do not want to lose our distinctive voice (See Josh Swamidass’ article in the Summer 2017 issue of the Concordia Journal).

SECOND, all these “camps” are more than mere positions, but complex groups of organizations and people. There is often significant diversity and disagreements within each camp. We usually will find a range of theological positions within each camp, which will not equally align with or oppose our own. Again, our distinctive theological voice was not considered as these camps formed, so we may come to very different assessments of individual positions within an individual camp.

THIRD, the seeds that grew into fruition in these various camps germinated in non-Lutheran theological soil. They grew in soil that we may say is (broadly speaking) Evangelical soil. This in turn shaped the specific Reformed/Calvinistic or Fundamentalist forms that they took in response to the intellectual winds of Western culture. This means that these schools of thought bring with them a certain relationship between faith and reason that we may not hold (and this is an old debate going back to the Reformation).

FOURTH, these camps were defined in the crucible of the culture wars that themselves grew out of a particularly premillennial-dispensationalist vision of a “Christian nation” in which America is the heir of Israel. Consequently, they are often caught up in the American “culture wars” in a way that is alien to Lutheranism, and may even explain why our voice has not been included.

I’m waiting for the Lutheran Option…

For these reasons, I caution against identifying too closely with any specific camp or approach to the science-faith issues they address. It would be better for us to define a distinctively Lutheran option that brings our theological values into dialogue with others, without losing our own voice.

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The Christ Centered framework exposited in Early Genesis would be the perfect fit for the Lutheran Option, because they do everything in a Law-Gospel framework. All the scriptures are pointing toward Christ in their view and so does this model. Just a few examples: Adam’s role is not as the sole male genetic progenitor of humanity, he’s not the “all father”. Rather he is a “figure of Christ.” His role is not to give rise to all of humanity but to give rise to the line of Messiah which will redeem already existing humanity. The Sabbath was not a 24-hour day that ended in the life of Adam long ago, but started with the fall and the morning of the seventh day occurred with the resurrection and is still ongoing. The flood of Noah was not targeted at all of humanity, but the line of Messiah who needed purging, pointing to the purging we admit is needed in us through baptism.

I can think of no denomination more suiting to this framework than MSLC. I am not much for denominations, but in many of our stops that’s where we attend. That’s who baptized my kids.

The Lutheran Option is not another model of Adam. Don’t preempt @CPArand on this one. This will be a very important addition to the toolkit.

You mean there IS a Lutheran option? Why does it say that there was a “missing Lutheran Voice”?

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@CPArand mentions our work here:

S. Joshua Swamidass (Washington University) and other scientists have also weighed in on the side of the genetic science, not by disputing how far back genetics takes us, but by disputing that such conclusions require a reconsideration of Genesis 2 and 3. Swamidass has argued that Christian scientists like Venema conflate and confuse the science of genetic ancestry with the science of genealogical ancestry.[16] He maintains that genetic ancestry does not deny or reject the special creation of an Adam and Eve. It simply doesn’t deal with it. In other words, there is nothing in genetic science to deny that Adam could have been specially created de novo and been ancestor of all of us[17] (http://peacefulscience.org/genealogical-rapprochement/).

Jeff Hardin of BioLogos addressed the debate in a Reformation post (https://biologos.org/blogs/deborah-haarsma-the-presidents-notebook/on-geniality-and-genealogy). The debate has not escaped the attention of others (https://discourse.biologos.org/t/so-what-is-biologos-problem-with-dr-swamidass/36971) including non-Christian evolutionists (https://evolutionnews.org/2017/10/trouble-in-paradise-at-biologos-theistic-evolutionists-fall-out-among-themselves/, accessed Feb. 26, 2018).

And to answer:

@CPArand has developed A Lutheran Option (@J.E.S, I hope you see this), and he has been building consensus privately around it. He will be publicly presenting it soon on the blog.

This isn’t even public yet, so it certainly is sensible to talk about a missing voice, as a reason to motivate finding it.

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@Revealed_Cosmology, I really encourage you to read this article. @AllenWitmerMiller, this is from the same author about the Lutheran’s artistic tree:

What do you guys think?

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That’s a beautiful paragraph!

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3 posts were split to a new topic: Mark Moore and LCMS Lutherans

@swamidass

I will be eagerly anticipating this development!

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Until a denomination can manage to “wrap its collective head” around the notion of an ancient Earth and come to terms with that, I wouldn’t be too optimistic about achieving much progress. Biological evolution is the least of the problems they face.

Wait and see.

I think there will be some progress, but I also predict schism, a mechanism for which Protestant groups have ample historical precedent. At some point, some professor somewhere is going to get kicked out. Hard-liners will either kick out others or spin out as separate group.

Schism based upon discernment is not a bad thing… too bad when it “has to” happen uncivilly, though.

I think feelings tend to get bruised when each side knows they are right and that the other is misinterpreting things.

Garrison Keillor had a funny description of a split in one of his books. I think it was in “Lake Wobegon Days”.

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Ahh, yes… the infamous, acrimonious, heart-breaking Lake Wobegon Range Wars Incident. In which life-long family secret potato salad recipes end up being withheld permanently from fellow church
members… : )

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Actually, a professor has been kicked out for not being YEC. It is puzzling why YEC has such a place in the LCMS, because YEC fits in with dispensationalism (the earth is on a seven thousand year timeline, we are at about year six thousand and then there will be a Millennial Kingdom and then the Last Judgment). All of this about dispensations and timelines and a millennium is VERY un-Lutheran. YEC tries to explain why the world is six thousand years old, so one can see why a fundamentalist dispensationalist church would see YEC as something of central importance. It is harder to see why YEC would have to be central to any Lutheran church.

I grew up in a Lutheran denomination, lived in the Bible Belt (so I have heard endless talk about the “Rapture” and timelines), and some years ago I checked out some LCMS churches. I found I could not even ask if YEC was optional in the LCMS, it was just assumed.

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Welcome to the forums @Intjer!

Can you give us some information about that? As I understand it, an article was retracted, but no one lost their jobs.

Exactly. Don’t you agree @J.E.S? The brand of YEC we see at AiG is product of fundamentalism, and Lutheranism is incompatible with fundamentalism.

That is not precisely correct. About 40% of LCMS Lutherans (in the pews), affirm theistic evolution, though almost zero percent among the pastors. There is a big gap between LCMS pews and pulpits.

I have noticed a more “aggressive” stance among young Lutheran pastors than older. Took me by surprise. I think there may be a drive to “strengthen” the Lutheran ranks thereby; I’m just concerned it will “backfire” in the pews, at least among the younger crowd.

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Maybe he means Matthew Becker? He was kicked out of the LCMS but retains a faculty position in an independent Lutheran university. (Note: Becker also calls for ordination of women, so that probably also contributed to his rejection by Harrison).

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Is the Catholic Church not a big enough denomination? I thought they wrap their heads around the notion of an ancient Earth a few hundred years ago.

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