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Bound Conscience, whats the deal?

Some in the twitterverse have suggested or implied that applying bound conscience ends up replacing scripture with experience. Certainly history has shown time and time again, when other factors triumph over scripture, whacked theology and abusive practices show up in spades.

By the same token, experience does play a role in scriptural interpretation. Wesley’s quadrilteral, ie, scripture, tradtion, reason, and experience is very true even for Lutherans, but how we implement it is different. We like to discard the quadrilertal, and say scripture alone… but to be totally honest, if we threw out everything but scripture, we’d likely be in a vastly different place. Imagine if each parishoner had to reinvent the Augsberg confession from scratch, or even the Nicene Creed for that matter.

This is not to say tradition, reason, and experience should triumph, or even balance with scripture. But more so, I think we must admit they do play a role, even if only a small part in our interpretation.

As far as divergent beliefs, we can look towards our own recent history of a couple hundred years. We had pietists, rationalists, pro-slavery, anti-slavery, high church, low church, Missourians, anti-Missourians, and a host of others (the term election controvery is commonly used, but that seems merely a catch-all phrase to me). Then throw in that within some communities, there was a mix of Mormon and Reformed theology within the Lutheran church as well… yet if asked, many likely would say, scripture alone.

In light of such diversity, it is commonplace for there to be divergent thoughts on any number of issues over interpretation. Both sides will state they have the right interpretation. Both sides will provide solid scriptural support for their views, albeit each side likely will doubt how solid that support really is on the part of the other side, even more so if they use differing methods of interpretation. Some might even get out a hammer to pound their view into the heads of the other party, but to no avail.

This is where bound conscience enters in. I think Luther said it quite well.

Luther:  For I am neither arrogant nor so eager for vainglory that for this reason I would be ashamed to revoke ill-founded doctrines. Indeed, it will please me most of all if the truth is victorious. However, I do not want to be compelled to affirm something contrary to my conscience, for I believe without the slightest doubt that this is the meaning of Scripture.

Luther: Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in the councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience.

When 2 parties are thus at odds over an interpretation, both likely hold views very similar to Luther. In effect, if one wants to maintain some sense of unity, the really only solution is to agree to disagree, and in doing so respect one anothers views. A Hammer has no place in this.

Luther quotes taken from

15 Sunday morning rambles

1. When writing an extended paper defending a theological position, don’t make a major error in the 2nd paragraph of the first page. It kills credibility fast. I’m sure I’ll do the same, or have done so and dont know yet… but still, EEK

2. If guest preaching, know something about the host preacher. Ie, Billy Sunday condemned tobacco at Charles Spurgeon’s church, apparently not aware of the man’s love for cigars.

3. I always wondered why the ELCA seems to emphasize parts of the Book of Concord more so than the others. Its historical. Many early Norwegian Synod Lutheran churches were not aware of it in its entirety. (and even if they were, they might have selectively disagreed with parts of it, some churches were really close to reformed theology)

4. There were folks called anti-Missourians in the mid 1800’s, yep the disagreements among Lutheran has gone on for a long time.

5. Some how or another, in pre-internet, like 150 years ago, folks all over the midwest had serious theological arguments. Its not unlike an online theology message board, just a lot slower. Folks had to really think things through, as you couldn’t just pound on a guy 2 minutes after he said something. How the average Joe on the street became so interested in Christiological matters is fascinating. It was said it was via newsletters and such. Today we have email… but egads, if I did a newsletter covering a small section of Christology. I’d probably have zero subscribers. They had whole multitudes. Gotta learn more on this.

6. Small towns in the area were chosen for major theological conferences. It just seems hard to consider that today, when everything is in Chicago or Minneapolis. Back then Kenyon, MN Rushford, MN and even Roland IA, were where huge issues where discussed. Thats cool!

7. I have a hypothesis as to the secondary effects of an over emphasis, or worse a solitary emphasis on the penal substitutionary theory of atonement.

8. Always frustrated with spell checkers in that they don’t have theological words in their dictionaries.

9. Thinks that if one is writing about anothers faith practices, it should be confirmed by a few first hand witnesses. People mess up their own explanations of faith all the time, to say nothing of occasional errant teachers, and its worse when such are propagated as truth by others outside of said faith practice.

10. Todd Rhoades is pretty funny when he says “When did we lose sexy? Where did he/she go? And how did the church find him/her?” And of course, the comments trail took off in another direction for a bit, but they are still worth a read.

11. Major bummer on loosing Grace Matters from SDS News. First Issues gets cancelled last spring, faith stories last summer and now GM, radio ministry is taking some serious hits.

12. Great news… but Ken is ambiguous, we shall be in suspence… wonder whats up at 63ft and 100Watts! (I checked the FCC database for radio stations, it would be cool if they return!)

13. Pastor Alan’s John the Baptist impression was ubercool. Just wish he would put that photo on his blog, although Tommy and I both thought he should eat locusts and honey. 🙂

14. This afternoon, I need to add more to my blogroll. Pastor Eric’s The Heart of a Pastor is way cool… he is in SW MN, I may need to expand my geological place holder, as I haven’t found any more faith blogs in Southeast MN, and statistically, there should be a lot, but google is not friendly on geo search it seems.

15. Almost wish I were back doing the youth ministry thing… got some cool ideas for text messaging as a youth group activity. Sort of running with the  Lent on Twitter idea, combined with an occasional shot of Graingers live interactivity during youth meetings, and then some type of group collaboration afterthat. Maybe I should open source it.

We’re planning a missions trip to St Paul, MN

was a message I recieved from a friend of mine a while back… and the thing is, she lives in Australia! Its like cool, we could finally meet up after all these years of online communications… but in the back of my mind, I was going whoa.

Why travel across the globe, especially when there are so many to be reached, and why St Paul where there are churches everywhere, and many of them have long term missionaries, and send folks out on short term mission trips all over the world. That was until I saw an discussion by Tad DeLay concerning Ed Stetzers book on church planting. Some interesting and somewhat discouraging stats:

– In 1900, there were 28 churches for every 10,000 Americans.

-In 1950, there were 17 churches for every 10,000 Americans.

-In 2000, there were 12 churches for every 10,000 Americans.

-in 2004, the latest year available, there are 11 churches for every 10,000 Americans.

– There are 120 million secular undiscipled people in the United States.

– The U.S. is the largest mission field in the Western hemisphere.

– The U.S. is the fifth largest mission field on earth.

I really like what Tad came up with, so rather than further commentary, I’ll direct you to his blog.

Dr Don Shaw on Christian Unity

I read a newspaper column written by Pastor Don Shaw where he talked about measurable success in ministry, and its an absolutely fascinating article… but alas it deserves a much longer entry than what I have time for today, thus I’ll jump on that next week. 🙂

In part of researching for my own writings, I thought I’d do a little digging and see if I could find any of his sermons online, as he sure sounds like a real cool guy, with a ton more history and experience than he readily shares. (He appears exceedingly humble) And sure enough, I found one last night at a church he visited. Sure wish he had a blog or podcast though, this guy is way cool

I listened to it last night, and have been taking notes on and off, as there is just so much good material. Granted as a Lutheran who leans emergent, our beliefs are going to be somewhat at odds since he is a conservative Baptist. Otoh, like many of the pastors I listen to with differing beliefs, there is a ton more common ground than not, and what he had to say as concerns Christian unity was amazing.

He started out this section discussion eschatology… and something we all agree on, well somewhat short of full preterist views, is Jesus will return. Beyond that, we run into headaches with premill, amill, and posmill viewpoints, but ultimately we agree on Jesus returning. That is where unity can be found.

And this is his premise, and I think its pretty cool…

Iif we are to die on the hill, it better be important to
The Gospel

Its well worth taking a listen, this is one smart pastor with a ton of wisdom and experience.