Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Open Questions

Pastor’s Window for March 2011
Open Questions

Beloved in the Lord,

St. Paul writes: “But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned” (Titus 3:9-11; ESV). Here St. Paul warns us against bogging down the body of Christ with “foolish controversies,” arguments about what we call in theology, “open questions,” i.e. questions about which there is not a clear answer in the Holy Scriptures. When possible, we should avoid strife and division in the Church. Whenever we have a legitimate open question, a question that Scripture does not clearly answer for us, we should leave the question open and not divide the Church on account of it. We can discuss it, but we dare not answer for God what He has not answered in His Word. Some examples of open questions are these: Whether Mary was ever-virgin (and along with that, whether Jesus’ brothers and sisters were Mary’s children as well as Joseph’s), what was the nature of the devil’s rebellion, where did evil come from in the first place (we can only back it up to the devil, but where did he get it?), and finally, THE unanswered question of the Bible (called the crux theologorum, the cross of the theologian), since all have the same guilt and are converted by God’s grace alone, why are some converted to faith in Christ and others not? You see, we have to leave that question unanswered. We cannot mine the depths of God’s unrevealed wisdom. Here we must follow Moses’ admonition: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever” (Deut. 29:29). In other words, God doesn’t answer all our questions, nor does He owe us an answer to every question. But in the Scriptures, He has given us all we need to know of Him and His will for us and our salvation. What the Scriptures do not answer, we must leave unanswered. To make such open questions into Church-dividing issues is sin.

But there is another danger: when we call something an open question that is, in fact, very much answered in the Holy Scriptures. One example: the ELCA (and most of mainline Protestantism) on the question of homosexuality. Because our culture has trained us to be “tolerant” and “affirming” of homosexuality, to regard it as another legitimate lifestyle, we begin to waffle on an issue that the Scriptures have very much answered. “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination” (Lev. 18:22). “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed and abomination” (20:13; cf. Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; 1 Tim. 1:9-10). We don’t like those verses. They are not tolerant. They are not affirming. They are not nice. So we pull an ancient trick. We say that we don’t really understand what these verses are saying. We say that the verses are not very clear, by which we mean that the verses can’t possibly mean what the clear words say. Or we just dismiss the verses as outdated. We make it an open question, just as the devil made an open question out of the commandment of God not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil: “Did God actually say…?” (Gen. 3:1). The ELCA now ordains openly practicing homosexuals into the holy ministry and has a liturgical rite for blessing same-sex “marriages.” How can they do this? Because they have made homosexuality an open question. They ask, “Did God actually say… that homosexuality is sinful?”

We could list a multitude of other examples where Christians have made open questions out of what is clearly answered in the Scriptures. Here are just a few: Women pastors (St. Paul, speaking about preaching: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet” [1 Tim. 2:12]); evolution (but Christians know and believe that God created all that is in 6 days [Gen. 1]); the real presence of Christ in the Sacrament (Jesus says, “This is my body… This is my blood” [Matt. 26:26, 28]); whether Baptism saves/ Infant Baptism (“Baptism… now saves you” [1Pet. 3:21]… “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children” [Acts 2:38-39; emphasis added]). Even the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is made into an open question! But the resurrection of Jesus Christ, attested in every New Testament document (and prophesied in the Old Testament!) is the linchpin of the Scriptures. If the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is not true, our faith is in vain. We are still in our sins (1 Cor. 15:17).

Thanks be to God, the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus for our salvation is not an open question. It is God’s ultimate revelation, the purpose and center of Holy Scripture. Scripture is absolutely trustworthy and authoritative because it is God’s Word to us. We believe it, because in the Scriptures Christ comes to us. Christ speaks to us. Christ forgives us all our sins and gives us eternal life. We dare cause no division over a matter about which Scripture is silent. But when Scripture speaks, which is to say, when God speaks, we cling to that Word for our eternal life.

Pastor Krenz

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