A few years ago, when I was part of an Evangelical Lutheran Church of America congregation, I took part in their youth event in New Orleans as a youth leader. Always one to open my mouth, I mentioned that the ECLA was really dropping the ball on ordaining homosexual pastors, as this would be just as wrong as having serial adulterers behind the pulpit.
At this point, the leader whose job was to lead us young adults was flabbergasted: “Aren’t you from New York? I’d expect to hear that in Colorado, but not New York.”
The ELCA has a major problem, as do all mainline denomination liberals. They correctly identify that faith renders the believer righteous (well, at least some of them do), but they have no clear doctrines concerning sanctification or obedience. The point I made to the three different women I was conversing with (who have attended seminary or were presently doing) was that the faithful must desire to be obedient to God.
I didn’t understand the doctrines of grace then, so I didn’t quite understand that the reason we do good works is because God gives believers new hearts and the desire to walk in his ways (Ezek 36:26). After all, God has given believers good works to accomplish since before the creation of the world. Faith, without works, is dead and not substantive faith.
Even though all of these ideas were not neatly bound up in my head, by divine revelation I knew what repentance was, and I knew I had a desire to constantly turn away from sin and pursue righteousness. I also knew that these things did not make me righteous, but I had this deep desire to do them anyway. Lastly, even though homosexuality didn’t bother me on a personal level, I knew that God’s word said that is sin.
Therefore, to pursue a homosexual lifestyle and not repent of it clearly is disobedient to God and no pastor can effectively lead his (or her in the ECLA!) flock and yet so purposefully and willfully continue on sinning. “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins” (Heb 10:26).
In the exchange that ensued, it became clear that they simply didn’t believe the Bible. “The Bible was written for a certain time and place, things are different now.” “Why are you being judgmental, they’re not hurting anybody!” What they couldn’t respond with was what the obedient Christian life looks like and what it meant to be faithful to God. Instead, all of this was drowned out by yelling about tolerance and how “works can never save, only faith does.” After all, such a gospel appeals to everyone, who wouldn’t want to believe it?
So, in good ECLA Christian fashion, later that day we took a walk through the red-light district of the city. I was quite appalled to see all of the hedonistic excess and strip joints. During this walk, one of the youth leaders among us started talking about how she sleeps with her boyfriend.
This whole conversation brings into light the complete weakness and inadequacy of the false gospel preached by the ECLA. It sort of went like this:
Loose girl: Yeah, I sleep with my boyfriend.
Leader: But, you’re not married and…
Loose girl: Well, we all sin, who am I to judge?
Leader: But you need the “hardware,” first. (Points at wedding ring) Hardware!
Loose girl: Do we really?
Leader: But the hardware! Hardware!
Loose girl: No you don’t, really…
After that we crossed a road, and being that this conversation occurred seven years ago, or something like that, I can’t remember exactly happened next. Nonetheless, what was immediately obvious to me is that the ECLA’s “love everyone, judge no one” mentality rendered their religious leaders unable to convey any real beliefs. Instead of talking about the faithfulness of Sarah, the virtues of chastity, or going into anything the Bible has to say about how God wants us to be, all we heard about was “hardware.”
You see, by calling a wedding ring “hardware,” the leader was trying to be cool and edgy. I suppose her logic was, “If I out ‘coolify’ and ‘edgify’ this young woman to accept traditional forms of morality, for whatever reason we should even adhere to such ethics anyway, she’ll just do it without a good reason!”
And I saw right there how well that works.
The Gospel does not spread by being cool. Men do not believe because they can be convinced intellectually, or tricked to it by manipulating their supposed sensibilities. Men believe because the Gospel has power to convert, not because it is worded nicely or molded a certain way.
Peter preached: “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know— this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power” (Acts 2:22-25).
What occurred after this?
Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit…Be saved from this perverse generation!” (Acts 2:37-38, 40)
Three thousand men, at once, were brought to Christ. Worked a lot better than, “but the hardware,” right?