Seminary Journal Clashes With CTCR on
June 25, 2012
“The End of Theology? The Emergent Church in Lutheran Perspective” in the Spring 2012 Concordia Journal presents a far more favorable view of the Emergent Church than the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod’s Commission on Theology and Church Relations and Dr. Carol Geisler in her essay “Reframing the Story: The End of the Emergent Conversation.”
During the last several years Christian News has published many articles exposing the anti-scriptural nature of the
. Some are reprinted in this issue. Emergent Church
Chad Lakies, a Ph.D. candidate in Systematic Theology at Concordia Seminary,
, is the author of “The End of Theology - The Emergent Christian Lutheran Perspective”. He recently accepted a call to serve as assistant professor of Theology at St. Louis , Concordia University . Portland, Oregon
Lakies writes in the Concordia Journal that he wants to show a different kind of evaluation than the CTCR and Dr. Geisler. The future Concordia Portland Professor
“To return to my criticism of Geisler’s methodology, then, this is the very place that her typical Lutheran approach fails. From the outset, the assumption, which is uncritically employed, is that Lutherans are plainly and simply right. From the very beginning, it is as if confessional Missouri Synod Lutheranism owns the market on theology. There is no question about this. Yet, in the spirit of Luther above, how can Lutherans possibly adopt such a stance, even implicitly? But the tone of Geisler’s evaluation (and that of the CTCR document on the emergent church) seems just so confident. Thus, Geisler proceeds (as does the CTCR document) to evaluate the emergents on the basis of propositional beliefs and whatever apparent confessional position can be cobbled together from their writings in order to point out just how unLutheran (and therefore, unorthodox, dangerous, and heretical) it is.
“It is here that one must wonder if Dr. Geisler and other Lutherans (and those of other faith traditions) who employ a similar methodology are the ones who have put an ‘end’ to the ‘conversation.’ Such a methodology of evaluating the beliefs and confessions of others is problematic for a whole slew of different reasons. But ultimately it assumes that ‘theology is over,’ that orthodoxy has once-for-all been established and is guarded and maintained in our Confession, and thus it is our God-given task to sound the alarm when others get out of line. But is this position not in itself entirely closed? It seems to be the very accusation Geisler levels against the emergents themselves when she says, “Before Lutherans join whole-heartedly in the conversation they may want to consider the discussion’s general direction because it is not an open-ended dialogue” (120).
“Emergents rightfully sense that there should be something more here. For emergent, believing in the resurrection means, for example, responding positively to the person asking for money who lives in the cardboard box and pushes the grocery cart full of his or her only possessions around the neighborhood (that could mean anything from giving money as one passes by to assisting in some way for the purpose of helping the person get off the street). For emergents, not doing so is tantamount to denying the resur- rection. Believing in the resurrection is not a matter of simply believing in an historical event. Nor should that even be the primary meaning of that statement. Believing in the resurrection as a Christian means living one’s life in light of the reality of the resurrection. Emergents are trying to say that what one really believes is evidenced in what one does” (121).
“Emergents do not want to end up simply repristinating the kind of ‘violent’ practices and positions from which they are ‘emerging’” (122).
“As for some of the positions which have been made public, such as those which Geisler notes in her article regarding women’s ordination, there is plenty of room for conversation on that topic (remember, ‘theology is NOT over’). But-and this is a significant ‘but’-whatever conversations we do engage in cannot be the kind of conversation which employs the method that I have been trying to show here is inadequate. We must do better than that. Are there good arguments in the Lutheran tradition against women’s ordination? Sure. But they don’t take the form of: ‘We’re orthodox and maintain the historical position of the church on this topic, and you don’t so you’re wrong.’ It requires careful biblical exegesis that flows from the narrative of Scripture itself, rather than treating the Bible as a book of facts, rules, or the presentation of a system of morals and order. It requires attentive awareness to the concerns about the demeaning of women within church culture as well as outside of it. It requires the kind of conversation which exhibits an epistemic humility that admits both sides might have something to learn from the other in order that both might come to agreement and simultaneously strengthen the position and practice of the church” (122).
“Two conclusions then can be drawn from this discussion of history and tradition. First, we can better understand emergents if we think of them as a voice of criticism calling the church to faithfulness. Not everyone is going to agree on the meaning of faithfulness (Luther and the Pope didn’t), but then again, not all emergents agree on what they mean either” (124).
“I have tried to offer here a different way of approaching the movement or sensibility known as the “emergent” church. I have done so by means of criticizing the typical Lutheran approach for critical evaluation of movements or church bodies as exhibited in the work of Carol Geisler and the CTCR. I have tried also to point out along the way various manners in which emergents ought to be perceived as sharing sensibilities built into the historic Lutheran tradition, that they even have something in common with Luther himself and how he did theology. It is my hope that this different approach might prove informative and helpful for those reflective practitioners who are attempting to navigate relationships with the emergent movement, perhaps within their own local context-even as close to home as with other members of the same local congregation. In this way, I also hope that my work has contributed to something of an “overcoming” of the love/ hate perspective on the emergent church. Since in many ways their voice is worth hearing, and there are elements of commonality between our tradition and their sensibility, we might more charitably hear what they have to say, just as we hope they might listen to our rich theological heritage as a strong and capable guide for their visions of the church in the twenty-first century” (125).
CN wrote to Lakies on:
Professor Chad Lakies
Concordia Seminary, St.
Dear Professor Lakies:
I have just read your “The End of Theology? The
in Lutheran Perspective” in the Spring 2012 Concordia Journal. Emergent Church
During the last several years, Christian News has published a good number of articles on the
. At times it is difficult to pin down exactly what the defenders of the Emerging Church believe just as it was 50 years ago. To find out what the young scholars of the time believed, like Pelikan and Marty, who were bringing in new insights to the LCMS, the best thing to do was to ask them questions. Emerging Church
The Concordia Journal says that you accepted a call to serve as assistant professor of theology at
, Concordia University . Dr. Matthew Becker formerly held such a position at Portland , OR . Christian News also asked him some questions. Portland
Would you please answer these simple questions?
Should there be room on the LCMS clergy roster and in the schools of the LCMS’s Concordia University System for professors and pastors who:
Deny that the Bible is inerrant in all matters? Yes___ No ___
Maintain that God used evolution to create the world?
Yes___ No ___
Insist that God did not create the world in 6/24 hours days?
Yes ___ No ___
Maintain that women should be permitted to become pastors in the LCMS. Yes ___ No ___
Teach that Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and other non-Christians can get to heaven without saving faith in Jesus Christ.
Yes ___ No ___
Believe there should be room in the LCMS for a theologian like your predecessor, Dr. Matthew Becker, who also wrote for the Concordia Journal. Yes ___ No ___
He makes it clear in The Day Star Reader that he champion’s evolution and women pastors.
Herman Otten, editor
x x x
The LCMS’s Commission on Theology and Church Relations in its “The Emergent Church – An Evaluation from the Theological Perspective of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod - January, 2011” says that Emergents “do not accept what they refer to as the doctrinal ‘gate keeping’ of denominations.” “Faith is thought of as a ‘journey’ and as a result questions and uncertainty are seen as marks of humility, while certainty and assurance are not highly valued.” “A third aspect of emergent belief and practice is a willingness to accept and celebrate plurality in belief and in the interpretation of Scripture.” “. . . plurality of truth or belief is expected and desirable as many voices contribute to the conversation.” Ones lifestyle “is often thought to be more important than one’s beliefs.” Emergents dislike “doctrinal statements.” “in some emergent circles the Christian message has been so altered that little if anything remains of the saving Gospel or of any stated need for it.”
Dr. Carol Geisler, who works at Lutheran Hour Ministries and the LCMS’s CTCR, writes in “Reframing the Story: The End of the Emergent Conversation”:
“Emergent voices affirm a fluid and plural truth that, along with the authority of Scripture, is subject to the whims of conversational flow. Scripture is thus open to ‘reframing,’ which generally means that if you do not like the answers you have in hand you must ask different questions. The reframing of the Christian story results in a new biblical narrative and new ideas concerning God, mankind, salvation, and the future. On this emerging framework global Christianity is being rewoven into a very different fabric.”
“Along with this desire to be free of institutions, emergents tend toward a selective view of their continuity with historic Christendom.”
“The reframed Jesus announces the good news that God loves all people and wants them to follow a new way and participate in the transformation of the world. In a common emergent narrative, Jesus dies on the cross primarily to show his solidarity with the suffering world and give courage to the oppressed. He does not die to reconcile human beings to God but rather to restore broken relationships among people in the world. The Jesus of the old (Greco-Roman) framework, the Savior sacrificed for the sins of the world, is irrelevant to the social problems of contemporary society. A different Jesus is needed, one who by his teachings and by his life provides an effective model to follow. Within the new frame, Jesus’ redeeming work is accomplished to save humanity only within history. Setting itself up in contrast to the Platonic, Greco-Roman narrative with its goal of ‘saving souls,’ the new framework tends to champion matter over spirit:”
“For some of the leading voices in the emergent conversation, the Christian faith has little to say about mankind’s rebellion against God or about God’s redeeming love in Christ, a ‘meta-narrative’ considered unbiblical, exclusive, and hopelessly outdated. In the new narrative (which of course is really not all that new) Jesus is an example to follow, a revolutionary who resisted the power of
as a model of resistance to the injustice of oppressive power structures, secular or sacred.” Rome
“If Missouri Synod Lutherans wants to join in the conversation, we need to be cautious about the emergent dismissal of history and institutions, about plural truth and individual narratives of personal feeling that obscure the great narrative of salvation in Jesus Christ. We need to approach carefully the sticky web of reframed Christendom that extends no farther than ‘this life only.’ There is no need to be humbly uncertain when we can in all humility express our certain confidence in Christ and the forgiveness found in his name. We do not need to apologize for a confessional framework that, rather than imposing itself on Scripture, provides a biblically anchored safety net (a much more substantial kind of web) that prevents spiritually disastrous falls in Christian preaching and teaching.”
Dear Editor Scholl:
The June 18, 2012 Christian News will have some articles on the emerging church and comments on “The End of Theology? The
in Lutheran Perspective” in the Spring 2012 Concordia Journal. Emergent Church
Have any of the members of the seminary faculty expressed disagreement with this article? May Christian News have permission to reprint all 11 pages of this article? I do not want to be accused of quoting out of context.
If the Concordia Journal published the CTCR document and Dr. Carol Geisler’s article on the emerging church, please let me know when they appeared in the Concordia Journal.
Could you please send me the e-mail address of Professor Lakies?
Herman Otten, editor
Dear Mr. Otten:
Thank you for your email. You have our permission to reprint the full article written by Chad Lakies in the Spring 2012 Concordia Journal, with proper citation and acknowledgement. The permission is only for printing the article in its entirety and not in selected parts or redaction.
Dr. Geisler’s article was published online at concordiatheology.org. Here is the link:
The CTCR published its document on its own. I assume you can get it by contacting the CTCR directly or looking for it on the Synod’s web site.
Chad Lakies has accepted a call to the theology faculty of
, Concordia University , and is in the process of moving. You would need to contact Concordia, Portland , to find out how to contact him there. Portland
Rev. Travis J. Scholl, M.Div.
Managing Editor of Theological Publications