Monday, December 13, 2010

A useful discussion

When I posted the response from Rev. Dr. Torgerson I did not expect that Rev. Dr. Becker would himself stop by for a discussion. While I am saddened at the latter's insistence on his false doctrine, and frustrated by his continual obfuscation - the discussion was, I think, a fruitful one.

I have just posted another reply from Fr. Torgerson in the comments that he sent to me privately. I think it puts a good cap on that discussion.

However, several questions were posed to Fr. Becker that did not receive a response as they were just off the main course of the discussion. I think the questions are important, and do relate very closely to the question of women's ordination and the world-view that allows for that aberration. I list the questions below, and if Fr. Becker would like to answer them and engage in further discussion, I think that would be informative for all sides.

I asked: Does Fr. Becker believe that the Pastoral Epistles were written by St. Paul himself. Or are they, rather, deutero-Pauline or even pseudepigraphic?

Father Krenz asks: "Thanks for the clarification to my question... Please indulge me with one more: Do you believe our Lord Jesus Christ could just as well have become incarnate as a woman? Why or why not? Because it seems to me that this is more than just a practical question."

Several readers asked about the connection between the ordination of women and the approval of homosexuality. I think Fr. Ramirez was most to the point:

"I have talked to many NALC folks/conservative ELCA folks who are opposed to blessing homosexual sin, but support WO. Many in Missouri have pointed to the connection between the two issues, but I have never been satisfied with arguments of how one can support one and not the other.

"So anyway, how do you support one and not the other?"

+HRC

64 comments:

  1. "A useful discussion"

    From the prior thread it looks like Dave Petersen will inquire with his bishop about the procedure of filing ecclesiastical charges against professor Becker for his relentless promotion of WO within the LCMS.

    A useful discussion, IMHO, would be if the LCMS refuses to hear and accept ecclesiastical charges against Dr. Becker. If that were to happen, what would that say about the LCMS? It is declared that one of the essential marks of a true church is discipline. If LCMS refuses to exercise appropriate and biblical discipline against the pro-WO agitators, is LCMS slip-sliding down a slope from which it will be difficult to recover from?

    While this might be a test of doctrinal convictions for Dr. Becker, it certainly also is a test of the ecclesiastical backbone of the LCMS too.

    Lastly, kudos and applause to Dave Petersen for bringing this matter to its logical conclusion. All parties, including Professor Becker and the LCMS hierarchy, should be appreciative.

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  2. Having just read the entire stream of traffic on this debate (which began only last Thursday), I have come to the point of thinking that perhaps we have arrived at a defining moment on the matter of Dr. Becker's involvement in the WO matter in the Missouri Synod.

    I will be encouraging people to read all the posts in this matter, for they are clearly articulated on both sides, it seems to me.

    And, as Rev. McCain has shown, this is evidently something Dr. Becker did not do when he was examined by the Synod some years ago.

    So this changes things.

    Although I certainly join in calling for Dr. Becker's repentance, I for one will not bother pleading with him to leave the Synod. I would much rather see the Synod deal with him properly from their end.

    Every Synodical administration in our history has been in opposition to the ordination of women. While we at Gottesdienst certainly do not wish to cause headaches for the current administration, it appears to me that this particular headache is not something we caused.

    In any case, now it needs to be addressed. If Dr. Becker will not repent, he needs to be removed.

    I can already hear the complaint that this is another example of lovelessness and legalism. But if calls for removal are in themselves examples of lovelessness, then the bishops at Nicea were also loveless, to say nothing of St. Paul.

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  3. Paul M.,

    The questions that were put to me by the presidium (and how did you know about them, since you were not then or ever have been a member of the presidium?) were loaded questions, using language that our synod has not used. I answered the questions directly and honestly and I stand by what I wrote then. If asked the same questions today, I would give the same responses.

    The assumption of the second question is that the synod cannot ever be in error on the issue of the question. In fact, this is an assumption that many of you on this list seem to share. I do not share this assumption.

    When I was ordained in July 1989, I freely, willingly, and publicly vowed to teach in accord with the doctrinal content of the holy Scriptures and in accord with the Lutheran Confessions as a faithful exhibition of the doctrinal content of the holy Scriptures. I have sought to fulfill this vow to the present day. On that hot July day I did not make any vows with regard to the LCMS.

    The Synod, as a human institution, remains subordinate to and normed by the doctrinal content of the Holy Scriptures and the witness to that doctrinal content by the Lutheran Confessions. Semper ecclesia reformanda.

    With respect to the question of the ordination of women to the pastoral office, this is a question of practice, not a matter of the faith. I do believe the doctrine of the gospel does relate to the issue, as I have indicated in my writings. This practice falls into the category of actions that are acceptable because those apostolic injunctions that relate to them have been set aside with time and cultural change.

    The Bible does not clearly say women cannot be pastors. There is absolutely no clear passage that supports this conclusion. Why? Because there are many other passages which speak of women praying and prophesying in early Christian congregations (Corinth), teaching doctrine to men (Priscilla), sharing the gospel publicly with their fellow villagers, being called an apostle (Junia), receiving Spiritual gifts, being called co-workers with an apostle. If even Corinth didn't have female prayer leaders, then why the need to give women instructions there for how they were to pray publicly within that Corinthian congregation?

    I would say that “oneness in Christ” – actual oneness-- is the issue and Paul’s other statements have to be reconciled to this primary value.

    I do not think that the Apostle Paul wrote the pastoral letters. There is much in them that conflicts/contradicts his teaching of the gospel contained in the authentic letters. And there are other, good reasons for concluding as I have, but I don't have space here to outline them.

    Matthew Becker

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  4. Pr. Ramirez,

    I am not a teaching theologian in the ELCA and was serving in Reutlingen, Germany at the time that a letter was circulated and signed by many of them with respect to the issue of homosexual pastors in the ELCA. If I was a teaching theologian in the ELCA and had been asked to sign that letter, I would have signed it.

    Matthew Becker

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  5. Brian Westgate,

    You asked, "Would 'I believe one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church' be a confession against women being ordained?"

    No. This is a confession of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church, which is an article of faith.

    To make this confession does not mean that one must accept all apostolic commands. There is complete harmony between this confession and one's legitimate rejection of those apostolic commands that are outdated and/or of no use in the contemporary mission of the church, e.g., the apostolic commands to avoid eating blood, to reject food offered to idols, to honor the emperor, for slaves to be obedient to their masters, for women to wear head coverings when they pray or prophesy in the divine service, for women not to wear expensive jewelry, for men to have short hair, for women to have long hair, and so on.

    Some apostolic teachings are no longer binding on Gentile Christians who live and serve Christ within egalitarian societies in the modern western world. For freedom Christ has set you free! Gal. 3:28! Don't be yoked again to laws that are useless and downright harmful to Christ's contemporary mission.

    Matthew Becker

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  6. Matt,

    Just to clarify, do you believe the decision the ELCA made in August 2009 was a correct decision?

    Why? Why not?

    Thanks,
    PTM

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  7. Truth unites...,

    I didn't "backtrack" when I stated that the ordination of women is an adiaphoron. It is an adiaphoron. I've never said otherwise. It falls into the same category as the liberation of slaves. That, too, was an adiaphoron.

    I think there were good reasons why nineteenth-century abolitionists fought to end slavery in this country. Did they have a clear command from God to do so? No. Is there a clear command from God to perpetuate slavery? Again, no. It is an adiaphoron, one that nevertheless is addressed, at least in part, by the Christian gospel, the doctrine of creation, the doctrine of baptism, and the dictates of Christian love.

    Precisely because slavery was an adiaphoron, and because both pro-slavery and anti-slavery Christians could appeal to their favorite biblical texts to support their position and attack their opponents, slavery was not ended within the church. Slavery ended in this country only by means of violent conflict. Even Pres. Lincoln was surprised that the civil war brought about the end of slavery, which was never Lincoln's original intention.

    And of course the outcome for the civil war did affect attitudes within the Christian churches toward the free slaves and their descendents.

    A similar situation faces the LCMS today regarding female pastors. Those of us who are setting forth arguments to support the practice of female pastors are doing the same kind of thing that abolishionists did in nineteenth-century America. And just as Gal. 3:28 was important then, so it is important now.

    I do not think there is a clear command against women pastors nor do I think there is a clear command to ordain women. But many of us in the LCMS today do think there are good reasons for recognizing that God indeed calls women by His Spirit to serve as pastors in our contemporary western world.

    Actually, from what I can tell, there are NO passages in the entire NT that directly address the practice of ordination to any office in the church. If I had the time, I think I could demonstrate that what we call "ordination to the pastoral office" is a later development within early Christianity, one that was undoubtedly affected by anti-Montanist, anti-female prophetess, and anti-Gnostic sentiments and attitudes in second- and third-century Christian communities.

    Matthew Becker

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  8. Dear Truth Unites....and Divides,

    The Bylaws of the MO Synod forbid either the accuser or the accused from publicizing an official accusation of false doctrine. Therefore, if some member of Synod decides to pursue a complaint against Prof. Becker, do not expect to hear anything about it.

    You can read about the whole process in the LCMS Handbook, Bylaw 2.14. It is available online. It's quite a long and arduous process.

    +HRC

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  9. Fr. Becker,

    And I suppose that Ephesians and Colossians are right out as well? That was what I experienced during my brief existence in NT studies grad school: any book with a Household Code in it just couldn't be from St. Paul. . .

    It is so easy to hold to one's aberrant theology when any text you don't like is simply set aside.

    +HRC

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  10. Fr. Becker,

    One more thing - you have all the space you want to outline your reasons for tossing out the Pastoral Epistles (and Ephesians and Colossians?). Send them to me via email and I will be happy to post them (the comments do limit character counts, but as editor I can post longer texts.).

    +HRC

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  11. What I wrote about the Preuses comes directly from the new book by James Burkee, "Power, Politics, and the Missouri Synod," which will be published by Fortress early next year. The foreword is by my friend and mentor, M. E. Marty.

    This is a revision of Burkee's dissertation (Ph.D. in history at Northwestern), which sets forth a damning portrait of the Preuses and several others, e.g., Marquardt, Scaer. What makes Burkee's investigation so convincing is the fact that he is anti-Seminex and a conservative LCMS layman (on the faculty at Mequon).

    So I don't believe I have anything to repent of in what I wrote about the Preuses.

    Matthew Becker

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  12. "I didn't "backtrack" when I stated that the ordination of women is an adiaphoron. It is an adiaphoron."

    Sez you.

    Q: Since you regard WO as adiaphoron, why are you then so relentlessly persistent in your agitation for WO, causing division and other bad maladies within the LCMS with those who don't think it's adiaphoron and who are no-WO?

    If I think something's adiaphoron, I gladly defer to the other Christian brother, following the biblical counsel to put the other brother's interests first.

    Why don't you do that? Since you think WO is adiaphoron, simply defer to those LCMS brethren who are against WO and who don't regard it as adiaphoron. Why continue to agitate and be an internal subversive? As I said on the prior thread, why be a WO parasite on the LCMS host?

    You really can't have it both ways, Dr. Becker. If you think it's adiaphoron, then peaceably defer and cease hurting the LCMS body with your relentless promotion of WO.

    Or if you think WO must be an approved practice within LCMS, then please cease from calling it an adiaphoron.

    You're being logically incoherent. Please realize that.

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  13. Matt,

    You might have missed my question in all the kefuffle here.

    Do you support the decision made by the ELCA in August 2009 regarding homosexual clergy? Why? Why not?

    Thanks,
    PTM

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  14. Prof. Becker,

    I am familiar with the document of which you are speaking (provided in next post).

    I guess my question is moot. By saying that you would have signed this document, you obviously support

    1. the church recognizing and supporting homosexual relationships; and

    2. ordaining/rostering people in homosexual relationships.


    But I want to get this straight. I know that there differences within the camp of the ELCA who wished changes on the matter of homosexuality. Some believe that homosexual behavior is fine, wonderful, to be celebrated, etc. (that God does NOT forbid it). Others,as illogical as it seems, believe that God forbids homosexual behavior, but still wanted/were ok with the changes.

    Do you believe that homosexual behavior is forbiden by God or no?

    Pastor David Ramirez

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  15. Dear Truth Unites...,

    I have given my reasons for why the male-only rule in the LCMS should be abolished. Just because something is an adiaphoron does not preclude one from making an argument for why that particular practice ought to be changed. Again, I see the issue as nearly identical to the abolition of slavery in the nineteenth century.

    In the nineteenth century there were many pro-slavery Christians who argued that slavery was an abiding order of the Creator. The abolitionists argued that slavery was not an abiding divine order, that the gospel of Christ and the doctrine of creation implied that the order of slavery could be abolished.

    If the gospel creates a new order wherein the old pattern of female subordination to men has been overcome, then ordaining female pastors is an acceptable practice.

    Or, to use another example, according to Paul, after the coming of Christ, circumcision is an adiaphorous practice. But to insist that circumcision is NOT an adiaphoron is to make a law out of what is a matter of Christian freedom. In that situation, then, the one who insists that said adiaphoron is an abiding law of the Creator that must be obeyed is acting as a Judaizer, and that one needs to be resisted.

    Of course the Judaizers in Paul's day had what appears to be very clear Scriptural passages about the abiding character of circumcision. For Paul to argue that the law of circumcision was no longer binding must have seemed to them a deeply anti-Scriptural position. But he was right, of course.

    With the gospel comes freedom. What counts is faith acting in love.

    Just so we're clear: I haven't actually participated in the ordination of a woman to the pastoral office. I am merely setting forth a dissenting theological argument from the position the LCMS has taken. I'm doing nothing different from those SELK theologians at Oberursel who have been setting forth public arguments in favor of the ordination of women in their church body. This is a matter of Christian freedom over against Judaistic rules.

    Matthew Becker

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  16. Dear Paul,

    As I wrote before, if I had been asked to sign the letter that many of the teaching theologians of the ELCA submitted on homosexuality, I would have signed it.

    I don't think that the decision at last summer's ELCA Assembly was the right one because sufficient consensus on the matter had not been reached.

    Matthew Becker

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  17. I don't wish to intrude on your intra-synodical matter here, except to commend those of you who have defended so articulately the clear Pauline (i.e., Scriptural, i.e., divine) doctrine of the order of creation and the distinct roles of men and women.

    I think I can safely speak for my brothers and sisters in the WELS when I say that we will give thanks to God if your synod has the theological and ecclesial fortitude to expel from your ministerium and from your fellowship any who persistently teach and adhere to false doctrine, like the ordination of women.

    Although Scripture (if left intact) is quite clear on this matter, it seems that some would relegate this doctrine to the arbitrary realm of "open questions" since the Symbols don't address it specifically. This reminded me of Walther's Theses on Open Questions which helped to unite our two synods long ago. If the LCMS still holds to these theses, then it has no choice but to take action. These especially come to mind:

    THESIS VII. No man has the privilege, and to no man may the privilege be granted, to believe and to teach otherwise than God has revealed in His Word, no matter whether it pertain to primary or secondary fundamental articles of faith, to fundamental or non-fundamental doctrines, to matters of faith or of practice, to historical matters or others that are subject to the light of reason, to important matters or others that are subject to the light of reason, to important or seemingly unimportant matters.

    THESIS VIII. The church must take steps against any deviation from the doctrine of the Word of God, whether this be done by teachers or by so-called laymen, by individuals or by entire church bodies.

    THESIS IX. Such members as willfully persist in deviating from the Word of God, no matter what question it may concern, must be excluded.

    THESIS X. From the fact that the church militant cannot attain a higher degree of unity than a fundamental one, it does not follow that any error against the Word of God may be granted equal rights in the church with the truth, nor that it may be tolerated.

    THESIS XI. The idea that Christian doctrines are formed gradually, and that accordingly any doctrine which has not completed such a process of development must be considered as an open question, militates against the doctrine that the church at all times is strictly one, and that the Scripture is the one and only, but fully sufficient source of knowledge in the field of Christian religion and theology.

    THESIS XII. The idea that such doctrines as have not yet been fixed symbolically must be counted among the open questions, militates against the historical origin of the Symbols, particularly against the fact that these were never intended to present a complete doctrinal system, while they indeed acknowledge the entire content of the Scriptures as the object of the faith held by the church.

    THESIS XIV. The assumption that there are Christian doctrines of faith contained in the Holy Scriptures, which nevertheless are not presented in them clearly, distinctly, and unmistakably, and that hence they must be counted with the open questions, militates against the clarity, and thus against the very purpose or the divinity of the Holy Scriptures, which is offered to us as the divine revelation.

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  18. Fr. Becker,

    "Just to be clear:" teaching false doctrine is the problem, not actual participation in an invalid ordination.

    +HRC

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  19. Fr. Rydecki,

    Thank you for your words of support.

    Sometime we are going to have to have somebody review John Brug's latest book in regard to all these questions. . .

    +HRC

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  20. "I don't think that the decision at last summer's ELCA Assembly was the right one because sufficient consensus on the matter had not been reached."

    What a weak and lame response on the subject of SS, as compared with his flagrant advocacy of WO. To be against something because "sufficient consensus ... had not been reached" amounts to saying "I'm not against, but not in favor at the present time" or even "I'm in favor, but the time is not yet ripe," which is a far cry from an unqualified rejection of Sanctified Sodomy. But perhaps Pr. Becker wil contend that the NT passages against it are interpolations or, if not, then "outdated."

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  21. Matt,

    What is your personal position? What do you believe, teach and confess about actively homosexual persons being allowed to be pastors and take up with their sexual partners in unions, etc.

    PTM

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  22. Prof. Tighe,

    I don't know if you have this particular pox of Gospel Reductionism in Rome. It's a fancy sort of Anti-Nomianism where the only thing that matters is "the Gospel" - which boils down to, "Christ died so that I can do as my gut and the Spirit of the Age tells me I should."

    I guess it's not that fancy after all...

    +HRC

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  24. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  25. Good Reverend Rydecki,

    I am glad to hear that you oppose the “ordination of women,” but that term is a bit of theological shorthand, and so what one means by it is important lest someone who operates with a different understanding misunderstand. In other words, I am not as sanguine about your comment as some might be.

    You and I both know that the WELS teaches that women may be in Office of the Holy Ministry and may serve in this Holy Office but not “in ways that exercise authority over men” (“This We Believe”). This puts one WELS foot in the boat with Dr. Becker.

    Your seminary Professor John Brug logically then writes, “Since ordination is not a scriptural term, and Scripture does not limit the laying on of hands to the pastoral ministry, women could be installed into permitted forms of public ministry with the laying on of hands.” (Essay “Addressing some misconceptions about the Wisconsin and Missouri Synod Positions on Church and Ministry,” p. 10.) I think I can safely say he speaks for the WELS on this point. The WELS Council of President has already stated that women may consecrate and officiate at the Sacrament of the Altar (for women only) though deeming it unwise for the moment.

    Having a bit of experience with the WELS in this regard I don’t believe one can safely oppose the ordination of women to the OHM in the WELS. But it is safe to oppose the ordination of women to the OHM but only to those “forms” (which in the WELS means those "functions") which would allow women to have authority over men (and what that means is a huge can of worms as well), but not to any other “forms.” In the interest of full disclosure LCMS readers to this blog should know what the WELS officially teaches, which, I assume, is what you teach. If I am wrong on your views please correct me, and if I am, praise the Lord, and, I think you may get a knock on the door.

    Pax,
    Rev. Fr. John W. Berg

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  26. Letter sent out by ELCA Teaching Theologians:

    ---------------------------------------------
    Appropriate Next Steps for the ELCA

    We the undersigned ELCA teaching theologians, and Christian theologians teaching at ELCA institutions, wish to affirm and support the four recommendations on Ministry Policies proposed by the Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality to the 2009 Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis (Report and Recommendation on Ministry Policies available at: http://www.elca.org/What-We-Believe/Social-Issues/Social-Statements-in-Process/JTF-Human-Sexuality/Report-and-Recommendation.aspx).

    We take this action on the basis of the rationale on lines 147-212 of the Task Force’s document, and we would specifically highlight the following points:

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  27. • We too affirm the authority of the Scriptures, but the seven biblical texts that are frequently cited on the issue of homosexuality are not directly pertinent to the 21st century discussion because some of them condemn specifically homosexual rape, deal with questions of “clean and unclean” that are not normative in the Christian community, do not take into account issues like “sexual orientation,” and presuppose that all would agree with a particular interpretation of what “nature” teaches.
    • The Task Force wisely proposes that both heterosexual and homosexual persons are expected to express sexual intimacy within publicly accountable, lifelong, and monogamous relationships. This has long been the expectation for heterosexual couples, and therefore is an appropriate expectation for homosexual couples as well.
    • The first recommendation of the Task Force rightly proposes that acceptance of same-gender relationships among all people of this church is a prerequisite to considering people in same-gender relationships for rostered leadership positions.
    • While not all Lutheran church bodies are of one mind on these issues, Scandinavian and German Lutherans have already taken similar actions to those being proposed now in the ELCA.
    • We who favor the changes being proposed pledge ourselves to honor and respect those sisters and brothers within the ELCA who for reasons of theology and conscience choose to oppose these changes.
    • We recognize that the unity of the church is based on one Lord, one faith, and one baptism, and that within this unity, faithful members may disagree on individual items of faith and life.

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  28. Specifically we make the following affirmations to the questions posed by the Task Force:

    1. Should the ELCA commit itself to finding ways to allow congregations and synods that choose to do so to recognize, support, and hold publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships? Yes.
    2. Should this church commit itself to finding a way for people in publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships to serve as rostered leaders of this church? Yes
    3. Can this church as it finds a way to roster people in publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, and same-gender relationships commit to doing so in ways that bear one another’s burdens, love the neighbor, and respect the bound consciences of those with whom they disagree? Yes
    4. Should the ELCA consider structured flexibility in decision-making to allow in appropriate situations, people in publicly accountable, monogamous, lifelong, same-gender relationships to be approved for the rosters of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America? Yes.

    The following ELCA teaching theologians and Christian theologians teaching at ELCA institutions support this statement:

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  29. There were 153 signatories on the letter at the time I saw it. I would also point out that an LCMS pastor, and a former professor of mine, Prof. Niedner, did sign it, a point which did and still does greatly disappoint me.

    I don't see how you guys at Valpo could ever sign or support something like this. It really baffles me.

    Pastor Ramirez

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  30. Father Berg,

    Greetings! Though we have never met, I've read a bit of your wit, and our mutual friend in Sierra Vista speaks very highly of you, and very lowly of your treatment in the WELS. Sorry - I was out of the country at the time.

    I was just trying to give credit where credit was due, not pick a fight over the OHM. You know full well that when I speak of ordination, I am referring to the pastoral office, to which women may never be admitted. Nor is any form of female ordination practiced in the WELS (as far as I know).

    The WELS Conference of Presidents is not an infallible body, nor do they speak for the WELS - nor do they necessarily speak as a unanimous body. Many of them - including my own DP - firmly reject even the concept of a "theoretical women-communing-women scenario" and deeply wish that such a statement had never been made.

    I'd be happy to discuss it further with you sometime. Gotta run at the moment.

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  31. "Many of them - including my own DP - firmly reject even the concept of a "theoretical women-communing-women scenario" and deeply wish that such a statement had never been made."

    Would that it were only "theoretical," but see these, Pastor Rydecki:

    http://fatherhollywood.blogspot.com/2009/10/girls-gone-wild-wels-edition.html

    or, rather, "this" link, since the page Q & A that I found on the WELS and passed on to Pastor Beane seems to have "gone down the memory hole."

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  32. Yes, Fr. Hollywood and I had a good little debate on that one last year.

    The matter in question was not done as part of regular or accepted WELS practice, but as a rogue aberration. (I am the last one to claim that my synod is pure as the driven snow.)

    And the Q&A link that you at one time found on the WELS website has "gone down the memory hole" intentionally. Our new (at the time) synod president found that and other Q&A's to be, how shall we say?, "improper."

    We're all trying, aren't we?

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  33. Reverend Rydecki,

    And our pistol packing friend speaks well of you. Thank you for your kind comments. As I noted, please correct me if I am wrong about your personal views vis a vis the WELS. One may be out of accord with one’s synod and be striving to change it through patient and quiet discussions (we can’t all have our “Worms” or “Motley Magpie” moment.) I appreciate the distinctions you are making, and further discussions would reveal whether they are real or mere distinctions without a difference (for official WELS they are distinctions without a difference) and I would be happy to discuss those with you.

    As you know there are fundamental differences in the way the WELS and the LCMS (and if I can say, the historic and Lutheran church) use the terms “pastoral ministry,” “ordination” and so forth and I have learned that many in both synods misunderstand what the other is saying. But finally, the WELS does say that women may be in the OHM and may be ordained. (For the WELS ordination vs installation vs induction or whatever is a mere distinction without a difference, they all put men and women into the OHM, so that women are not accorded “ordination,” is of little consequence, and so, in my opinion, a little disingenuous. I am not saying this is your view of ordination, but it is the WELS’.) So that our readers may know, the WELS teaches that the form of the ministry is up to the church to decide and that the “pastoral ministry” is but one form of that ministry and a “form of the pastoral ministry” can be created by the church in which women may serve (with the proviso they do not “bind the will of any man,” which begs the question - which is discussed in the WELS - when does a boy become a man.)

    I appreciate that you do not believe that women should function as pastors, however, the Lutheran Church knows of no form of the ministry to which women may be admitted, for indeed there is but one form which AC V defines kerygmatically and sacramentally through which all, women AND men, are served.

    I wholeheartedly agree that the WELS COP is not infallible (I think I said that in the “Motley Magpie,” hey, that got me into trouble!), but you might want to check on that speaking for the WELS thing. And, agreed, this is not the place to discuss the larger issue, but I am pleased to hear that you are questioning the party line, that is where I began and look where it led me.

    Pax,
    Fr. John Berg (John to you)

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  34. I really wish the WELS related issue could be moved to a private conversation, so we can stay focused on the discussion about Matt Becker's comments. I think it is kind of rude to gum up this topic with an unrelated conversation.

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  35. Paul M.,
    I don't preach, teach, and confess about pastors who are actively practicing GLBT.

    The WELS discussion is very apropos to my comments. Paul, you just want to find a way to kick me out of the synod; you strike me as not really being interested in having a theological discussion, but finding something that you can nail me on. I guess to be a follower of Jesus one must expect to end up on wood...

    Pr. Tighe,
    Obviously we differ on how the Christian church ought to make its decisions. I believe that striving for consensus and common understanding is better than majority rules, at least on matters about which there can be legitimate and faithful disagreement.

    It is for this reason, too, that I think that leveling charges against me or anyone else in the LCMS for their support of a theological rationale for the ordination of women will be counterproductive in the long run. It is much better to do what the SELK has done over the past 10 years, which was my original point in my initial blog post that got Pr. Torgersen upset.

    It is very clear to me that nobody on this list is interested in that kind of calm, respectful theological discussion. Some of the folks here have been downright rude. I'm grateful that the folks who are LCMS here only represent a portion of the synod's thinking on the matter of whether women may serve as pastors.

    Pr. H.R.,
    I have never said that the gospel alone is the only teaching that matters. Paul's principle is "faith that is active in love." If you are going to describe my views on doctrine and practice I would appreciate if you would recognize that matters of doctrine and practice ought to be understood in relation to the doctrine of faith and the dictates of Christian love. "All things are lawful, but not all things are beneficial." I would never describe Christian ethics as a matter of doing "what my gut and the Geist of the Age tell me to do."

    Thank you, Pr. Berg, for clarifying the doctrine of ministry as it is understood in the WELS. I am grateful for that one foot. And I agree that a WELSer will have a very, very difficult time prohibiting women from serving in the holy ministry in the WELS if the only basis is the one passage about women not exercising authority over men. Mark 10:43 and the other iconoclastic actions by Jesus toward social hierarchies put an end to male authority over women in the new creation.

    And I'm also grateful for your openness toward questioning the party line (at least in WELS, though I respect its position vis-a-vis women in the OHM). I have tried to be respectful, when I have questioned the party line in my own synod. But obviously people on both sides of the issue are quite passionate about their views. Thus the need for careful, frank, deliberate, evangelical, and fraternal discussion.

    I would only add that the leveling of charges toward one of the participants in the discussion is hardly conducive toward any kind of civil discussion.

    Matthew Becker

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  36. Reverend McCain,

    The WELS' view and the view espoused by Becker have the same genesis, which I personally find ironic, and relevant. Pass over what you don't like, I think you can handle it (or start your own blog).

    Fondly,
    Rev. Fr. John W. Berg

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  37. Matt,

    You are doing it again. Rather than speaking clearly and honestly, you are playing games.

    I ask you once more:

    What is your personal position on homosexuality?

    Paul McCain

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  38. Fr. Becker,

    Correct - what I said was not a repetition of your words, but my characterization of what I have learned here of your position. I think it is accurate.

    You keep referring to our "egalitarian society" and "our modern western world." I characterize that as "the Spirit of the Age."

    Your version of love I take to be your gut feelings - because you keep on disassociating yourself from any Law, which defines love for our fallen minds. If you toss the Law, all you are left with as the content of your "love" are your warm fuzzy thoughts.

    +HRC

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  39. Prof. Becker,

    I still would like clarification concerning your view of homosexual behavior. Do you believe it to be forbidden by God or no?

    Pastor Ramirez

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  40. Pr. Ramirez,

    I have answered your question already by stating that if I had been asked to sign the letter by the ELCA teaching theologians, I would have signed it.

    But that is a different issue from the one we have been discussing. For the record, I do think that people of good faith, such as those in the NALC, could agree that women may serve as pastors while practicing homosexuals may not. The biblical evidence for the one is more extensive than for the other.

    Matthew Becker

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  41. Matt,

    Once again you are dodging questions. If you want to compare yourself to Luher, and most recently, our Lord Christ, you are going to have to do better than this.

    You have avoided answering clearly both my question and Pastor Ramirez' question to you about homosexuality.

    PTM

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  42. Fr. McCain,

    I'm willing to take Fr. Becker's last comment as clear enough - but then again, like the old lady on Airplane!, I speak Jive. I will translate for you.

    Fr. Becker does not think homosexual acts and desires are immoral. His advocacy of that ELCS document says as much. But people of good will, you see, could still not think so because the case for homosexual behavior isn't quite as strong as that for women's ordination. No person of good will, therefore, could possibly be against women pastors.

    Why is this? Because the book of Romans so very clearly condemns homosexual desire and behavior as sinful - and Romans is one of the few books the establishment NT scholars consider Pauline.

    Therefore, although every book with a Household Code is not Pauline - and even that bit in I Cor is not really Pauline - they want to keep all of Romans intact. So, therefore, the case for homosexual behavior and desire is not as strong as women's ordination: it's harder to cut out the offending texts.

    It took a while for him to get around to it, but now everything falls into place. This is all boilerplate mainline denomination seminary and grad school stuff. Disappointing to find it in Missouri, but no mystery or surprises once you realize what it is.

    +HRC

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  43. Pr. H.C.

    Ah, thanks. Much more clear now.

    Matt, has Pr. H.C. captured your meaning here? Seems so to me, but would like confirmation from you.

    PTM

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  44. And who cares, really, whether a particular passage is by the echt Paul or an editor or interpolator (although I make this as a "datum sed non concessum statement; I am convinced both by the old arguments of JND Kelly in his commentary on the Pastoral Epistles and JAT Robinson's reasons in *Redating the New Testament* that they are Pauline); they are part of the "canonical scriptures" accepted by the Church and are authoritative as such, and not on the basis of a shifting and unstable "scholarly consensus."

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  45. I have a feeling that very soon we are going to see the "I'm much too busy for all of this foolishness, there are souls dying out there, get off of the computer" gambit played by someone.

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  46. they are part of the "canonical scriptures" accepted by the Church and are authoritative as such

    Thanks for making this point, Bill. I was about to comment on this myself.

    Scholarly research into the history and authorship of the Scriptures (and other ancient literature) is interesting and often even important; but it does not change what is and is not Scripture. That which the Church has received, and venerated, prayed, and used as Scripture is Scripture, full stop. Anything else is simply redacting one's own idiosyncratic holy book, a la Marcion.

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  47. I think what is most surprising to me about Matt Becker's theological methods and approach is that he assumes a nearly breathless excitement about arguments and positions that were made decades ago in the failed experiment called Seminex and appears to think that he is somehow putting something particularly new, fresh or even interesting.

    Odd that.

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  48. Here's a nugget I find interesting:

    Prof. Becker: "If the gospel creates a new order wherein the old pattern of female subordination to men has been overcome, then ordaining female pastors is an acceptable practice."

    But this is an unfortunate misunderstanding.

    The incarnation does not set aside the order of creation, but affirms it. What had in fact set it aside was the woman's eating of the forbidden fruit, thus reversing the way things were made.

    What Prof. Becker wishes to establish as a "new" order is in fact precisely that which was turned on its head in Eden. The incarnation of Christ as the second Adam restores the original order.

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  49. Another thing.

    I fail to see how calls for Prof. Becker's removal are rude.

    Rudeness is of a piece with impolite or discourteous conversation. If someone believes and states that removal is in order, how is that impolite?

    On the other hand, what stands out as impolite in this entire conversation is the flippant reference to certain body parts by Prof. Becker himself. I note that those on our side tend to be more careful in this regard. We might, after all, be in mixed company.

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  50. Interesting that Paul McCain calls for the WELS aspect of the discussion not merely to be moved, but to be moved to a "private" forum. What's up?

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  51. Dear Professor Becker,

    Although our discussion about whether WO is adiaphoron is much farther up the thread, I'd like to return to it for a moment.

    I know that you are making the case that WO is adiaphoron. And there is staunch disagreement with you on that score, and that WO is most certainly not adiaphoron. (On a sidenote: You cite slavery as an example of adiaphoron. I don't really understand your argument and how you can say that. It seems to me that slavery works against you and your argument of what adiaphoron is rather than for you. But anyways....)

    Let me spell out why WO is not adiaphoron. Perhaps you've heard it before, but let me just state it again. An attack on the Authority of Scripture is not adiaphora. Subverting the Authority of Scripture is not adiaphora. WO attacks the Authority of Scripture. WO subverts the Authority of Scripture. That's why WO is not adiaphoron.

    Furthermore, and it doesn't make me feel good to say this, but claiming that WO is adiaphoron may merely be a cloaking device, a passive-aggressive bully tactic to relentlessly promote WO to the detriment of the LCMS body.

    You state: "I'm doing nothing different from those SELK theologians at Oberursel who have been setting forth public arguments in favor of the ordination of women in their church body."

    But here's the outcome of your relentless WO assault according to Rev. Torgerson:

    "The mission outreach of SELK in Germany and its confessional witness to the nation almost came to a standstill -- because we were so caught up in discussing internal church problems.

    Relationships have suffered; friendships broke down. All because the WO proponents held on to the issue like a dog biting his bone."

    Goodness Gracious! Endless dissension over WO is inhibiting the Great Commission!!!

    Dr. Becker, WO is not adiaphoron. If you truly believe that it is, choose to do the biblical action and defer to your brethren who think that it's not. Otherwise, please acknowledge that you are not only held to be teaching and promoting aberrant doctrine, but in the course of doing so, you are also rending the LCMS body assunder with dissension and division. Which then hampers the Gospel Witness of the LCMS and its corporate command to carry out the Great Commission.

    WO is so not adiaphoron.

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  52. Paul M.,
    For the final time, the content of the letter of the ELCA teaching theologians reflects my basic view toward homosexuality. I would rephrase the letter in parts to read as follows:

    • I too affirm the authority of the Scriptures, but the seven biblical texts that are frequently cited on the issue of homosexuality are not directly pertinent to the 21st-century discussion because some of them condemn specifically homosexual rape, deal with questions of “clean and unclean” that are not normative in the Christian community, do not take into account issues like “sexual orientation,” and presuppose that all would agree with a particular interpretation of what “nature” teaches.
    • Both heterosexual and homosexual persons are expected to express sexual intimacy within publicly accountable, lifelong, and monogamous relationships. This has long been the expectation for heterosexual couples, and therefore is an appropriate expectation for homosexual couples as well.
    • I recognize that the unity of the church is based on one Lord, one faith, and one baptism, and that within this unity, faithful members may disagree on individual items of theology and Christian ethics.


    Paul, I've answered your questions. So far, you haven't answered a single one of the questions I've put toward your position. What is your view toward the apostolic Scriptures that give commands about slavery, eating food offered to idols, eating blood, women wearing a head covering, honoring the emperor, women saving themselves through childbearing, women wearing expensive jewelry? And what about Jesus' command not to call anyone "father" save our Father in heaven?

    Do you agree with AC 28 and Apol 28, namely, that contemporary Christians may legitimately set aside apostolic commands if they have become outdated and are no longer applicable in one's cultural setting?

    Matthew Becker

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  53. Pr. H.R.C.,

    I happen to think that Eph. and Col. are pauline.

    My question to you is:

    Are the household codes, as they were given in the first century Palestine in these NT Scriptures, and given what they meant then, still applicable today? In their entirety?

    Do we who live in an egalitarian society still understand and apply these household codes in exactly the same way as they were understood and applied in Christian communities in the first-century Roman Empire?

    Do you think slavery was a sin?

    Are you personally opposed to slavery?

    Do you think it is acceptable today for an individual to own another individual as a slave?

    Matthew Becker

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  54. Pr. H. R. C.,

    I also forgot another:

    Do you think it was and is sinful for a Christian to oppose the kind of slavery referenced in the NT letters?

    Do you think a freed slave could legitimately, that is, biblically serve as a pastor to a Lutheran congregation that had slave owners in its membership?

    Of course for C. F. W. Walther, slavery, too, was not an open question, but a settled issue in the Scriptures.

    Matthew Becker

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  55. Eph and Col make the cut! Mirabile dictu!

    The household codes still apply to the good created and redeemed orders of husband-wife and child-parent.

    I've already spoken here before about Paul's view of slavery. He thought it was wrong - but he accepted that it was part of his society and not worth turn society upside down to undo via force or rebellion. This is quite clear from his comments to "gain your freedom if you can" and "become the slave of no man" and from the letter of Philemon.

    But, unlike slave-master, Paul never said that man-wife was an unjust relationship to be tolerated but hopefully one day overcome. Quite the opposite - God created them male and female and set them in marriage back in the Garden - as Fr. Eckardt ably noted above.

    Likewise - children-parent is another relationship that does not pass away.

    Could a freedman serve as a pastor? I don't see why not - I'm quite certain many did in the first few centuries as they appear throughout the calendar of saints.

    Man-wife and child-parent are good, created orders that reflect God's desire for the fullness of humanity. He is, after all, the Groom and the Church the Bride.

    This is neither complicated nor new exegesis. Why, just today I was reading - I think at Weedon's blog - Chrysostom's condemnation of slavery as unnatural and contrary to the created order.

    I haven't read much Walther on slavery so I can't comment there.

    Do you imagine that in heaven we shall be sexless and genderless? Or that there will be no order - that everything will be a sort of bland homogeneous egalatarianism? I would quote to you the book of Revelation's ordering of heaven with the apostles and patriarchs up there nearest the throne . . . but you probably don't go in for arguments mined their either.

    +HRC

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  56. Matt,

    Thanks for "coming out" with your views on homosexuality, finally.

    I appreciate your honesty.

    I truly do not believe that in light of these public assertions you belong on the clergy roster of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

    You have also provided yet one more very good reason why I continue to warn people against sending their children to Valporaiso University, which is Lutheran in name only and quite deceptive toward its LCMS constituency, in leading LCMS folks to think it is just another fine Lutheran university, when in fact, it is not.

    PTM

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  57. Paul M. wrote:

    "I think what is most surprising to me about Matt Becker's theological methods and approach is that he assumes a nearly breathless excitement about arguments and positions that were made decades ago in the failed experiment called Seminex and appears to think that he is somehow putting something particularly new, fresh or even interesting. Odd that."

    Breathless excitement? That's a laugh.

    And my theological method and arguments are less new, fresh, and interesting than say the barely warmed-over 17th-century Reformed "order of creation" ideology you and others here keep proferring?

    Odd that.

    The political moves that led to the firing of 40 of 45 theologians cannot accurately be described as "an experiment."

    Burkee's book will be a fun read for you, Paul.

    Matthew Becker

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  58. Fr. Becker,

    In this I probably display only the biases of my young age: but I don't really care who was a jerk and was a nice guy back in the '70's. No more than I really care that Cyril was kind of an ass and Nestorius a grandfatherly bishop. What I care about is what folks teach.

    Now, if I had my druthers, Cyril would have been really nice and there would have been no crass politicking amongst the confessionals of yesterday or today. Likewise on the other side. That's a bummer all the way around. It's much better when folks are both open and honest about what they teach and play by the book.

    But Burkee's book will come neither as a surprise nor a changer of theological opinions.

    +HRC

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  59. I realize that the subject of homosexuality is a bit off topic from the original WO discussion. However, do I understand your affirmation correctly, Dr. Becker, that you support "publicly accountable, lifelong, and monogamous [homosexual] relationships" as acceptable behavior within the Christian church today (aside from whether it is acceptable for those in the pastoral ministry)? Do you believe that the scriptures do not clearly condemn homosexual behavior, but rather condone it? Or am I reading into your comments above?

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  60. Dear Professor Becker,

    I think it's safe to say that most, if not all of your interlocutors on this thread would greatly prefer that you genuinely repent of your teaching and promotion of WO (among other things). These are tears amidst the cries and prayers for your repentance.

    Failing that, and it really does look like you won't repent (for WO seems to be a settled matter in your mind), then ecclesial discipline is really the loving recourse, both for the health of your soul and for the corporate health of the LCMS body. And if ecclesial discipline doesn't occur, then LCMS deserves whatever corrosive consequences may occur for its failure to exercise corporate discipline.

    Please Dr. Becker, prayerfully repent.

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  61. Pr. BFE,

    The rudeness is not that some might/will act to remove me from the clergy roster of the LCMS. The rudeness came when individuals (whom I do not know) libeled me on this public forum by calling me: Dummkopf, Herr Dummkopf, Herr Doktor Dummkopf, Satan, liar, a parasite, a causer of a virus disease producing a rash of pimples that become pus-filled and leave pock-marks, a dude, one who denies the authority of God's Word, a relentless aggressor, dishonest, a coward, one who is long-winded, a prevaricator, a man of limitless hubris, a pawn and tool of the enemy, a disseminator of toxic poison (redundant, but that's what was said), unloving, a bully, one who cannot comprehend what he reads.

    Them's thar are fight'n words, if you ask me. This isn't the 16th Century. It might be good for folks to review Dr. Luther's explanation to the 8th Commandment in the SC.

    With regard to the woman eating of the forbidden fruit. You haven't read Gen. 3 very carefully. The Hebrew text clearly indicates that in the story Adam was with Eve when the two of them together ate from the forbidden fruit. She gave some to her husband who was with her. You perpetuate the complicating sin of Adam when you merely blame the woman for the introduction of sin into the world. God confronted Adam, Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the serpent, God judged them all, also for their blaming of others. See also Rom. 5.

    What may be Christologically significant is that Adam in Gen 1 is both male and female, androgynous. There have been some in the Christian tradition who have said the same about the second Adam. As an androgynous Adam, Christ redeems both male and females. Julian of Norwich and others in the Tradition come close to this position (Christ with breasts, for example, who feeds his church).

    The bride of Christ is but one metaphor for the church. There are many others: body of Christ, new Israel, new creation, holy communion.

    Pastors as members of the church, "the bride of Christ," are included in that female imagery. Christ is distinct from his bride, distinct from all of the participants in that bride. And yet the church, as the body of Christ, is inclusive of both male and female. The androgynous church! Or Christ as female, if you combine "Bride of Christ" with "Body of Christ"!

    Pastors certainly do not represent in their ontology the person of Christ. They represent Christ in their calling, in their words, in the holy absolution, in the administration of his sacrament, and in their actions. Qualified women may do these, too, just as men, esp. if the church is the body of Christ that is also the bride of Christ. In fact, women may better reflect that feminine side of Christ, as I have witnessed on my own campus here with the current female pastor (who is an ex-LCMSer). Another example of Missouri's many female losses. Thankfully, she has not been lost to the larger ecumene.

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  62. Paul M.,
    When have I ever compared myself to Jesus the Christ?

    Pr. H. R. C.,
    I do not "toss" the law of God. Rather, I preach and teach it in accord with the apostolic Scriptures and the doctrinal content of the Lutheran Confessions (e.g., AC II, III, IV, Apol IV, etc.; SD V, VI). There is a big difference between the law of God (lex semper accusat) and human laws (which may or may not be in accord with God's will). There is also a difference between the law of God from which only Christ can save us and the law of Christ which is faith active in love.

    Pr. Tighe,
    Do you acknowledge the ancient catholic and orthodox distinction between the antilegomena (Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, Revelation) and the homolegoumena? If so, do you also then acknowledge that the antilegomena do not have the same canonical status as the homolegoumena? Do you agree that Dr. Luther was correct to place the antilegomena in the very back of his Bible translation and not to have included them in the table of contents? Do you agree that Dr. Luther was correct to note in his prefaces that some biblical books are more central and more important in the canon than others? Do you agree with his judgment that Hebrews, James, and Revelation contain false doctrine? Or should Dr. Luther be lumped in together with Marcion?

    Pr. Roemke,
    I am too busy for all of this foolishness, but I'm willing to hang in here for some time to come.

    Matthew Becker

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  63. Fr. Becker,

    Androgynous Adam and Christ? Seriously?

    The mind boggles.

    Luther, and the later Lutherans, based their distinction between the antilegomena and the homolegoumena on the historic fact that doubt was expressed about these books in the 4th century. Since we can't get behind that historic wall, we accept these books with that understanding.

    You claim to be able to get behind that historical wall and just that homolegoumena books are to be tossed out.

    (An aside: since he is a Roman Catholic, I assume that Dr. Tighe actually holds to the canon of Trent which does not admit of such distinctions.)

    Father Becker, you have made your theological positions more than abundantly clear. We see where you are coming from. We believe, teach, and confess that you are dangerously incorrect. You teach false doctrine. You toss out whatever Scriptures (all homolegoumena, for the record) that you see fit. You have been counseled to avoid your false doctrine and have been shown where you are wrong.

    This forum is, of course, rather informal. But we are nonetheless very serious: please repent.

    Your breach with historic Christianity is alarming. I do hope you change your mind. And I do hope that the LCMS does the right thing in calling you to repentance in more formal ways.

    As for this forum, however, I'm making an editorial decision: we have reached the end of any utility in this discussion and the comments on this thread will be closed.

    I have been and will continue to pray for you.

    In Christ,
    +HRC

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