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Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Succumbs to Heresy
By Deacon Keith Fournier
August 23rd, 2009
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America abandons orthodox Christian faith and practice by a 'majority vote.'CHESAPEAKE, Va. (Catholic Online) - The media is filled with reports concerning the slide of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ECLA) into heresy. Yes, that is exactly what occurred when the leadership of that community "voted" to abandon Christian orthodoxy. The Associated Press in an article entitled "Lutherans' gay clergy vote hints at major shift", led with these loaded words "In breaking down barriers restricting gays and lesbians from the pulpit, the nation's largest Lutheran denomination has laid down a new marker.. The ELCA - the nation's seventh-largest Christian church - reached its conclusion after eight years of study and deliberation. That culminated Friday when the church's national assembly in Minneapolis struck down a policy that required any gay and lesbian clergy to remain celibate."
What really happened is that representatives of the ECLA succumbed to heresy. Oh, I can hear it now, "how dare he say such a thing?" Because. it is true, and there is nothing compassionate about failing to help fellow Christians to reject error. Christians abandoning the clear teaching of the Sacred Scriptures and the unbroken Christian Tradition is not a new phenomenon in the 2000 year history of the Christian Church. What is new is the massive support that such a sad turn of events receives from this kind of media report. There is a "fifth column" at work, determined to present the matter as a battle between orthodox Christians (who are disparaged with labels such as "right" or "conservative" or "fundamentalist".) and those who this kind of media report favors, the promoters of heresy and advocates of a new paganism.
All one has to do is look to the first few centuries of the Christian Church to see that this is not new. The same issues and struggles existed very early on. Irenaeus, the Bishop of Lyon, France, was born in Asia Minor in the year 125. His efforts are one example of the many early Church Fathers who contended for the truth and pulled no punches. His seminal work was entitled "Against Heresies" precisely because so much of his work was spent exposing and opposing false teaching in order to protect the Christians of that day from their poison. His treatise is a refutation of the teachings of certain "Christian" Gnostics whose followers fell for similar heresies as those which were voted upon by the ELCA this past week. Irenaeus' goal was stated in the Fifth Book of the treatise, to ".reclaim the wanderers and convert them to the Church of God" and to "confirm at the same time the minds of the neophytes" (Preface, Book V).This is still the truly proper response of the Church in our age. Irenaeus loved the heretical Christians enough to speak the truth precisely to try and lead them back to the faith. We must follow his example.
The AP report continued ".The ELCA - the nation's seventh-largest Christian church - reached its conclusion after eight years of study and deliberation. That culminated Friday when the church's national assembly in Minneapolis struck down a policy that required any gay and lesbian clergy to remain celibate." The length of time it took for this group to reject Christian orthodoxy and embrace this heresy has no bearing upon the matter. Truth is not subject to change based upon a vote! All "orthodox" Christians (Catholic, Orthodox, Evangelical or Protestant) need to see this sad vote in the ELCA in the light of two thousand years of Christian history. The struggle we are in today still involves a clash of worldviews, Christian and pagan. The positions being espoused by the "majority" who voted this way are heretical. The lifestyles being affirmed as "progressive" are anything but. They are an example of the regressive effort to turn the clock back to pre-Christian paganism.
It was the Christian vision of faithful, monogamous marriage, family, authentic human freedom, the dignity of every human person and the existence of objective truth from which we derive a common morality which has guided true social progress. In fact, it was these very insights which have helped to free people from the bondage of disordered appetites and unshackle them from the tyrannies - personal and social - rooted in sin and the structures which it fosters. It has been the Christian vision of the human person, the family, the just society and the true common good that has helped to overcome the slaveries which arose from flawed pagan ideologies and superstitions. From its birth, the Christian Church has been sent into cultures and societies filled with people who thought they were "progressive", when they were anything but. Many of those cultures, like the contemporary western culture, practiced primitive forms of abortion and even "exposure", a practice of leaving unwanted children on rocks to be eaten by birds of prey or picked up by slave traders.
Ancient Christian manuscripts such as the Didache (the Teaching of the Twelve), the accounts of Justin Martyr and other early sources, expose cultures not unlike the one in which we live today where people were treated as property, "freedom" was perceived as a power over others and unrestrained license masqueraded as liberty. The word "pagan" was not used as a disparaging term in those accounts but referred to a pseudo-"religious" worldview. I use it the same way in calling contemporary western culture increasingly pagan and not progressive at all. Many of the "gods and goddesses" of this pre-Christian worldview promoted lifestyles of selfish excess, homosexual practices, and hedonism masquerading as freedom. The myths concerning them had them acting in much the same way as we see in our day. The lies have simply been reintroduced, only the myths and the statues are different. They purport to be "progressive" when in reality they are regressive.
The early Christians did not back down from contending with the pagans of old. They knew then - and we must reassert in our own day - that what is at stake are two competing visions of the human person, human freedom, human flourishing and human progress. The early Christians demonstrated the superiority of their claims by their compelling witness of life. So must we. They lived in monogamous marriages, raised their children to be faithful Christians and good citizens, and went into the world of their age offering a new way to live. This "way" (which is what they first called the early Church) presented a very different worldview than the one that the pagans embraced. As a result, they sometimes stirred up hostility. Some of them were martyred in the red martyrdom of shed blood. Countless more joined the train of what use to be called "white martyrdom", living lives of sacrificial witness and service in the culture, working hard and staying faithful to the end of a long life spent in missionary toil.
Slowly, not only were small numbers of "pagans" converted and baptized, but eventually their leaders and entire Nations followed suit. Resultantly, the Christian worldview began to influence the social order. The "clash of freedoms" continued, but the climate changed significantly. It was the Christian faith and the practices of these Christians that began to win the hearts of men and women. The cultures once enshrined to pagan practices, such as plural marriage, active homosexuality, exposure and abortion began to change dramatically and this dynamic continued for centuries. It was Christianity that taught such novel concepts as the dignity of every person and their equality before the One God. The Christians proclaimed the dignity of women, the dignity of chaste marriage and the sanctity of the family. The Christians insisted that freedom must be exercised with reference to an objective moral code, a law higher than the emperor, or the sifting sands of public opinion; a Natural Law which could be known by all men and women, through the exercise of reason, because it was written on the human heart.
The Christian faith presented a coherent and compelling answer to the existential questions that plagued the ancients such as why we existed and how we got here. What was the purpose of life? Questions like how evil came into the world and why we could not always make right choices? What force seemed to move us toward evil and how we could be set free from its power? Christian philosophy began to flourish and the arts also flourished under the Christian worldview. Philosophies of government and economic theory began to be influenced by these principles derived from a Christian worldview. It offers the same genuine liberation to the contemporary age.
Some say we live in a post modern age; indeed others call it a "post Christian" age. I will not use either description. If anything, it is a pre-Christian age, ripe for the "New Evangelization" of the Church. The future belongs to the Church. The message and gifts she holds for every age pave the road of true progress. The contemporary re-emergence of ancient paganism, even within some Christian communities, is not the path to freedom and flourishing but to misery. It must be exposed,opposed and rejected.
Fortunately for Catholic Christians, we have a "Magisterium", a teaching office, which, continuing the apostolic mission, guards the deposit of faith against heresy. Many of our friends in other Christian communities do not. We need to pray for the faithful Christians in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, just as do for those within the Anglican/Episcopal communities who are also experiencing the devastation of unchecked heresy. We must also rededicate ourselves to standing "Against Heresies" in our own day by proclaiming the Truth which alone sets all men and women free, without compromise.
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