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Introduction
to Commentary on Journey Together Faithfully -
part 2

by Gary Jepson Pastor, Pilgrim Lutheran Church, Pulyallup, WA

July 9, 2004


The introduction below contains a brief analysis of the philosophical milieu in which we find ourselves and which we believe influences Journey Together Faithfully, part 2 (JTF-2). It also contains a brief description of the theological assumptions with which we begin this critique/commentary. Those who are not interested in this analysis and description might choose to skip to the critique of the actual Sessions themselves.

photo of Pastor JepsenOur culture is in crisis – we live in a time of great moral and spiritual confusion. We are daily bombarded with worldviews, lifestyles and attitudes that just a few short decades ago would have been considered not only unthinkable but anti-social. Now they are both acceptable and avant-garde. Thus, everywhere we turn our psyches are bombarded with images of sex and raw sensuality. Even waiting in line at the local grocery store is an entrance into the culture of cleavage, sex advice and the implicit permission to engage behaviors that are anything but chaste.

In addition, there has been an almost open assault on the innocence of our children. For Madison Avenue, young people are now simply a new market demographic to exploit. Children, especially little girls, are being turned into sex objects. They are encouraged to dress like little harlots – Britney Spears look a likes – exposing their God-given (sic) little bodies. Peddlers of internet smut seek to create a whole new generation of porn addicts with demographically targeted pop-up obscenity. And, tragically, our culture has chosen to be powerless when it comes to protecting the children. The “rights” of pornographers outweigh the needs of children to be protected from these degrading images.

Add to this the fact that our senses are constantly tantalized with images that would be the envy of any Freudian analysts. Sexual innuendo coupled with clever writing has contributed mightily to the degradation of our culture. Sit-coms have convinced us that vulgarity and promiscuity are not only clever, but normal and healthy. The subtle use of androgynous images in advertising blur the lines of gender identity for young people particularly at a time when they are already experiencing ample gender confusion. Hermaphroditic images seem to be the poster child for a new movement. But the poster child for what exactly? Who is recruiting whom?

We have been seduced by lie after lie. Purveyors of deception and falsehood have convinced us of the most ridiculous notions. “Give 110%,” we are told, never stopping to think that when you give 100%, you die; that’s all you have and are! We have been told that we need to stay connected “24-7”. So, with cell phones in hand, we engage in banal conversations that would bore a tadpole. Yes, we are told, that humanity has come of age, but have we really? Or, have we regressed?

And the strangest thing is that in the midst of all this irrationality and gross vulgarity, hardly anyone seems to notice. Hardly anyone blushes anymore. We are numb. Common decency is no longer common. Modesty is seemingly a lost virtue. In short, we seem to be, as someone once said, a culture “with its feet firmly planted in mid-air”. We are a culture, as M. Scott Peck put so succinctly, that is sorely lacking in “civility”.

AN ATTEMPT TO FIND ORDER AMIDST THE CHAOS

It is in this context that our church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, seeks to engage in moral deliberation regarding the sanctioning of same-sex unions and ordaining persons active in monogamous homosexual relationships. As the above paragraphs indicate, we do not engage in this deliberation in a vacuum. We are not immune to the influences of the culture around us. Except for those rare instances where we as church people actually “blow up the TV and throw away the paper”1 , the same images, atti-tudes and lifestyles are piped into our living rooms and psyches. Virtually every media form – talk-radio, pop-music, the internet, cinema and so on – are just as readily at our disposal as they are to everyone else, the decent and the perverse.

How then are we to engage in moral deliberation? What is it that sets us apart as a church from the culture that surrounds us? Do we simply acquiesce to the culture? Do we take the path of least resistance? After all, we don’t want to seem “square” or “out of it”, so ought we simply to blend in? Go along with the crowd?

On the other hand, Jesus says of His disciples that they are to be “in the world” but do “not belong to the world” (John 17:11 & 14). Similarly, in Romans 12:2, the Apostle Paul says to believers past, present and future,

“Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect”?

So, how ought we to orient our lives, especially in light of the controversy and challenges that are before us? Are we to be both in the world and of the world? Are we to allow the world to define us? Or, are we to have a transforming effect on society? Are we to be the light of the world that the Lord calls us to be? (Matt.5:14-16) Are we to have a leavening effect on our society, rather than the other way around? (Matt.13:33; 1Cor.5:6)

It is the perspective of this essay and critique that we are to have a transforming and leavening effect on the world. We do this, not by letting the world dictate to us what we ought to be doing, or stands that we ought to be taking. We do it by orienting our lives towards Christ and His Word. Thus, the only responsible answer for Christian persons of faith is to endeavor to follow Paul’s admonition and thereby be light to the world, a city of hope on the hill. We cannot truly do that by accommodating ourselves to the world, but we ourselves must be truly transformed by the Word.

However, not to be “conformed to this world” does not mean escape from it. It does not mean that we, to borrow the old saw, be “so heavenly minded as to be of no earthly good”. It does not mean to be oblivious to the issues and voices around us. But it does mean that we must be conversant with the mores of our time and engage them in thoughtful critique from the perspective of faith and scripture. We must be mindful not only of the symptoms of cultural collapse, as were so briefly described above, but also of some of the philosophical underpinnings of this present malaise.

THE PRESENT PHILOSOPHICAL SITUATION

This is neither the time nor the place to attempt a full description of the philosophical milieu in which we find ourselves. Nevertheless, it is safe to say that we live in a time in which moral relativism is the philosophical “flavor of the month” afflicting our culture. We too often hear such slogans as “your truth is not necessarily my truth”, as if truth has no other basis than personal opinion or preference. Thus, with the proverbial moral compass having been thrown out the window, along with most moral absolutes, is it any wonder that there is great moral confusion. While each individual is seeking to find his/her own truth, they have little to guide them as all cultural and religious markers have been destroyed?

As a result, our culture has become what some have termed “perspectival”2 – meaning that there is no real truth, only a variety of perspectives on almost any topic or issue – with no one perspective being any better or worse than another.

* * *

A story that is sometimes told to illuminate the present mood is that of a painter who has just painted a house.3 He stops one evening to clean his brushes and he is amused to overhear a debate between two hikers who have just passed by his the house – one to the west of the house, the other to the east. The one who looked at the house from the west, with a beautiful sunset behind him, insists that the color of the house is a brilliant reddish-orange. The other looks at the house from the east and sees it silhouetted against the sunset. He insists the house is not a brilliant color at all, but a dull dark gray. Which one is correct? Could both be right? Was the house painted two different colors? Or, is it merely a matter of perspective?

* * *

The last option is the answer our culture would give us. We are told with compelling conviction that all things are relative – one’s truth simply depends on one’s perspective. And to a certain extent there is some validity to that assertion. The house did appear red to the person looking from the side of the sunset and the house did look grey to the person looking at the shadowed side of the house.

However, for some advocates of relativism it is not enough to stop there. They would go on to say that, because there is some truth to the notion of relativity or perspective, there is therefore no real truth in life at all because all we have is relative perspective. We are told that words themselves have no real meaning. For example, as someone once said, “It all depends on how you define the word ‘is’.” It is asserted that even history is perspectival and relative because it is written “by the winners”, dead white European males. So the lessons of history and tradition are increasingly relativized and replaced with new agendas with their even more questionable goals.

Regrettably, even in the hallowed halls of academia, where logic, reason, and rationality are to prevail, tenured professors are adapting the tools of relativism in the attempt to deconstruct meaning out of history and doctrine4 and employ these tools in the dubious endeavor to further whatever ideological Trojan horse they happen to be pushing. All of this is allegedly done in the name of academic freedom, of course, but tragically they leave in their wake an abyss of chaos, despair, and often even ruined lives. Even in church related colleges and universities many exultantly proclaim, like Nietzsche before them, “God is dead! All things are possible!” But now, after a century of unprecedented barbarity and butchery (Two world wars, Hitler, Stalin, Mao Tze Tung, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, and others ad nauseum), people are no longer exultant. Instead there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, “God is dead,” they say, “all things are not only possible but probable – even hell on earth!”

A PROBLEM WITH THE PARABLE

There is, of course, a major problem with the fore-mentioned parable about the house and the two hikers, namely, that at least one person knows the true color of the house – the painter who painted it! Yes, the house might appear reddish-orange to one hiker and dark gray to the other, “depending on their perspective”. But the painter knows its true color; he knows what in fact he painted the house. If the hikers will only ask him, he will tell them. If they come back again during broad day-light, they will see the house as it really is. They will see what the truth of the matter actually is.

Christian apologist, Ravi Zacharias, shares a similar analysis regarding the familiar story of the blind men around the elephant – one touches the elephant’s leg and says an elephant is like a sturdy tree; another touches the elephant’s ear and says an elephant is like a palm tree leaf; another touches the trunk and says it is like a huge python snake; and so on. This is an illustration used by many to argue for relativism and the perspectivalist approach – after all, each blind man is right in the sense that he has part of the truth, how things appear from his own perspective. Zacharias then says there is one thing wrong with this analogy for relativism and perspectivalism, and that is this: the person who can see knows that all these perspectives are inadequate and thus ultimately wrong. The person who can see sees what the blind-men miss, the whole elephant.

By analogy, Jesus Christ is the one who can see and who came to give sight to all who are blind; He came to us! He says, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” (John 9:39) Similarly, by analogy, He is the painter who knows exactly what He did with the house – i.e., with creation – and thus He is the One who can correct our faulty perceptions. And that is exactly what He does through the witness of scripture! The Bible gives witness to the One who gives sight to the blind (Luke 6:18) and who corrects our faulty perspectives, if we have but ears to hear.

TO WHOM OR TO WHAT SHALL WE LISTEN?

As we engage in this moral deliberation in the ELCA, to which voice shall we hearken, the secular voice of relativism and deconstruction that has gripped our culture OR to the voice of God who reveals Himself and who speaks through the witness of Holy Scripture? The answer to that question at one time would have been clear in the Lutheran church. We can no longer take that for granted, not even in the Lutheran church!

At a recent synod assembly of the Southwestern Washington Synod of the ELCA, a resolution came to the synod floor in which one of the “whereas clauses” recognized scripture as the “norm” for the faith and life of the church, very traditional Lutheran language!5 Much to the chagrin of some, the resolution ultimately failed (it was tabled indefinitely). Even worse was the fact that speakers on the assembly floor openly mocked the word “norm”. Regrettably, this derision of the word “norm” not only went unchallenged (even by yours truly who was too shocked) but it also revealed both an ignorance of and contempt for Lutheran tradition – by Lutherans! Pastors who promised at their ordinations to preach and teach in accordance with the Scriptures and the confessions of the Lutheran church were openly defiant of their vows, or blissfully unaware of the departure from those vows that was taking place right before their very eyes. Whatever else might be said, one thing is clear; the discussion on the assembly floor demonstrated a triumph of relativism and deconstructionism over scripture, tradition and confessions.

Thus, by extension, it is clear that the deliberation in which we are now engaged is not just about the role that homosexuals will play in the life of this church; it is also about what role if any that Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions will play in the life of this church. Those who present the case otherwise are sorely deceiving themselves.

A WORKABLE VIEW OF SCRIPTURE.

“ORDERS OF CREATION”

It is the purpose of this section to lay out a hermeneutical principle that will provide an adequate context for dealing with the issues before us from a biblical perspective. This principle is called “orders of creation”. By “orders of creation”, it is important that we not carry forward any of the baggage that might have been associated with it from the past. Timothy Wengert, in an essay presented to the ELCA Task Force on Sexuality, briefly outlines some of the history of this concept, including misuses that have taken place since it was first proposed by Gottlieb Christoph Adolf von Harless in his book, Christliche Ethik, first published in 1842.6 Von Harless used the term when discussing three orders – marriage and family; state; and church. Unlike later distortions which tried to use “orders of creation” to support Nazism, various forms of racism and other political causes, Von Harless never came close to approaching those misrepresentations. However, Wengert points out, there has been a renewed interest in the idea of “orders of creation” in recent years that is more in keeping with von Harless. Wengert says, “The point of this renewed teaching, in line with Article XVI of the Augsburg Confession, prevents the Christian from fleeing from the world but instead forces the Christian to find in the world the continuing presence of God as Creator. Moreover, what happens in these ‘orders’ (now called arenas of life, mechanisms of regulation, or orders of interaction) does not lead to human salvation. Instead, they are given by God to help preserve life in the face of chaos.7

Our use of the phrase “orders of creation” is in keeping with the “renewed teaching” Timothy Wengert mentions. We mean by it the fact that creation was intentionally called into existence by God, that there is a purpose and plan for what God has made, and that God has woven the principle of order into the fabric of creation. As Wengert says, “they (aspects of order) are given by God to help preserve life in the face of chaos.” Intima-tions of this order may be found in many sources: natural laws, civil law (the need for order/government), marriage and family, forms of church organization and so on. While these “laws” and such do not save us, they do point to the fact that God is a God of order, not of chaos (1Cor.14:33), and that it is therefore incumbent upon us as creatures and faithful servants to humble ourselves before God’s plan and purpose. Our lives as both individuals and corporately take on greater harmony when we endeavor to live according to God’s purposes.

So, if we begin at the beginning, we find that the book of Genesis is clear in its affirmation that the universe is not an accident. The universe (including the earth and all its inhabitants) exists solely on the basis of the will of God. In fact, it is only because God created us by willing us into existence ex nihilo that we can refer to the universe as “creation” and to ourselves as “creatures”. Unlike secular Darwinians, we believe creation came into existence not as an accident of random, undirected, chemical and biological processes, but creation came into existence through the will, purpose and conscious intent of God. “God said, ‘Let there be light…’ God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our own image.’” And it was so!

Therefore, our existence and the existence of all creation is not an accident; it is due to the will and purpose of God. In fact, we believe that God has been intimately involved throughout this creative process as Creator and Sustainer. And one aspect of the order God wove into creation is that of sexuality. Human sexuality was not meant to be the chaos we presently find, due to human sin and creation’s brokenness. It was designed to be a joy and a blessing when stewarded as God intended.

Scripture consistently upholds the idea of the “order” that God decreed for sexuality. We are not talking here about one story in Scripture which, when taken out of context, makes a case for heterosexuality over against homosexuality – thus the debate over the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Scripture consistently and unfailingly upholds the notion of “male and female” as God’s intention for sexuality and it regards any deviation from that pattern as contrary to God’s design. Yes, even the male and female design can be abused – e.g. polygamy, incest, infidelity, pedophilia and so on. But, these are considered aberrations from God’s intent for the male-female order. Nonetheless, homosexual behavior is considered a more fundamental deviation from the male-female archetype. The Bible never wavers from its commitment to God’s plan and design for sexuality.

ORDERS OF CREATION

VIS-À-VIS CULTURAL CONVENTION

The question then arises as to how we are to differentiate between the demands of scripture that are still binding and those that are not. For example, must every demand in Scripture be adhered to as if it has come directly from the mouth of God? That is, of course, the problem with the Koran and the Book of Mormon. Adherents of Islam and Mormonism have little choice regarding various parts of their holy books as they are considered not just divinely inspired but divinely dictated. That is a difficult thing to get around.

The Bible, on the other hand, never claims to be divinely dictated – “Inspired”, yes! – 2Tim. 3:16; but dictated, no! God did not give dictation to scribes for every word of the Bible. Instead, the Bible is believed to be inspired by the Holy Spirit, although at the same time having human authors who contributed a human element. Sometimes these writers interject their own opinion or influence. For example, the Apostle Paul in 1Corinthians 7:25 gives his opinion regarding marriage as opposed to remaining single,

“Now concerning the unmarried, I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy.”

While Paul’s opinion carries weight, it is not considered at all times binding, especially when other passages militate against the position he takes in a given verse. On the other hand, there are times when biblical writers write as if they had received a direct oracle from the Lord. Again, Paul, when he writes concerning Holy Communion in 1Corinthians 11:23,

“For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you…”

So, the weight of authority a particular passage carries depends on whence the insight originated. Is it seen as mere human opinion or does it have a loftier origin?

So, what we are getting down to here is the distinction between an “order of creation”, which would be binding at all times, and a “cultural convention” or tradition. A cultural convention, for example, might be a particular form of church governance. That there be some form of church governance is required to maintain order over chaos. However, the particular form or expression of church governance can vary from place to place and denomination to denomination (congregational, presbyterian, episcopal and so on). Order is something we are called to but the particular form of church polity may vary as that is a “cultural convention”.

Another way of discerning the difference between a “cultural convention” and an “order of creation” is to see how consistently it is maintained. For example, unlike the anarchists, the Bible never disputes the necessity of having some form of government. However, that government must be grounded on a sense of stewardship from God and a love for righteousness and justice. However, when government becomes tyrannical or despotic it looses its legitimacy and becomes worse than anarchy; it becomes a demonic force for chaos spewing injustice and oppression in its wake.

In addition, another way of distinguishing between an “order of creation” and a “cultural convention” is to employ the tool “scripture interprets scripture”. Looking at the overall witness of Scripture can help us clarify the meaning in passages that seem confusing or contradictory. For example, Paul says on one occasion that women should keep quiet in church (1Cor. 14:33b-35). Yet, on other occasions it appears that women have voice and leadership (Priscilla and Chloe - Acts 18:26; 1Cor.1:11). Euodia and Syntyche are two women whom Paul refers to as “co-workers” who have “struggled beside me in the work of the gospel” (Phil. 4:3). Therefore, the silence of women in church appears to have been a cultural convention that Paul regarded as important for that setting in Corinth but not as binding in all occasions. Thus, it is not an “order of creation”.

Or, if we take the fact that polygamy was practiced in parts of the Old Testament, does that mean it is okay for a man to have multiple wives? Is monogamy between one husband and one wife really an “order of creation” or is it merely another “cultural convention” as was polygamy? Solomon, for example, had 700 wives plus 300 concubines (1Kings 11:1-3). Does this mean that because Solomon had many wives, polygamy is okay? The more the merrier?

We need to remember that the Bible records many things of which it does not ultimately approve. That Solomon had many wives would be one example of an event that is recorded but not approved. Another example: the Bible clearly prohibits the sacrifice of children to Molech (Lev.18:21; 20:1-5), yet Solomon allows that as well. He “did what was evil in the sight of the LORD” (1Kings 11:6) and built altars and such to Chemosh and Molech and sacrificed to the gods of his foreign wives. “And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the LORD” (11:8). Thus, we have another item that is recorded in the Bible but not approved.

Yet, even if there were passages in the OT about polygamy which were of something other than a passing cultural anomaly, those passages would be superceded by the teachings of Jesus and the New Testament. The teachings of Jesus always take precedence over other seemingly contradictory passages. For example, quoting the Genesis 2:24, Jesus makes very clear that, “a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” Notice one man and one woman - the two shall be come one flesh, not the three or the four or more; not man and man or woman and woman. By referring to this in the context of responding to a question about divorce, Jesus not only addresses the issue at hand but affirms the principle of the divine plan laid out in Genesis 2.

Similarly, the Apostle Paul picks up on this theme and says that for any man to be a leader in the church, he should be the husband of one wife (1Tim.3:2 & 12; Titus 1:6).

So, because of who He is, the clear teaching of Jesus always takes precedence in a dispute over a cultural convention of whatever sort – such as polygamy which was permitted early in the Old Testament but had already been clearly disavowed in Judaism by New Testament times (thus the conflict between Herod Antipas and John the Baptist in Matt.14:3f). Heterosexual monogamy thereby becomes an “order of creation” due to the authority of Jesus.

Now, here’s the problem for those who would throw out the notion that there is an order to God’s creative purpose: the whole structure of the biblical story of redemption culminating in the gospel message crumbles because there would then be no sin! There is no missing the mark (amartia)! And if there is no sin, then there is nothing from which we need to be saved! Jesus would then become irrelevant, or at best, a mere purveyor of some vague notion of tolerance, ready for the new age speakers’ tour. His death becomes merely a tragedy and His resurrection just a fiction or fantasy. And, “If Christ has not been raised… we of all people are most to be pitied” (1Cor.15:17ff).

In short, to throw out the notion that there are “orders of creation”, to deny that there is an order, plan and purpose to what God intended for His creation, is to deny a fundamental aspect of basic Christian teaching. It would be a denial that would undermine the gospel’s story of redemption. It is, of course, a free country and individuals are free to believe whatever they wish. However, as Lutheran Christians we have a strong theological tradition based on the Bible and the Confessions that keep us from such a denial, or we would cease to be Christian or Lutheran in any meaningful sense.

STEWARDSHIP OF THE LUTHERAN PERSPECTIVE.

The Lutheran Church ought to be very well equipped to engage in this deliberation. God has given us a stewardship of the “Lutheran” perspective. We have a responsibility to that perspective, and to Him who gives it. We must not abandon that perspective nor its stewardship for worldly success or popularity.

This commentary begins with the conviction that the Bible and the Confessions are clear with regard to their teaching on homosexuality. Scripture is not ambiguous but clear in its rejection of homosexual behavior. However, the Bible is also clear in its witness to the compassion Jesus showed compassion towards all sinners. Nonetheless, we dare not confuse compassion with acceptance or the normalization of homosexual behaviors. This is just one place where this commentary parts company with JTF2.

THE PURPOSE OF THIS COMMENTARY.

The purpose of this commentary and critique is to further dialogue regarding the study on human sexuality that is presently being used by many congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, “Journey Together Faithfully, Part Two - ELCA studies on Sexuality” (henceforth referred to as JTF-2). The commentary is intended to help round out the discussion by presenting material and perspective that was overlooked or glossed over in JTF-2 as published. It is not our intention to suggest that JTF-2 was intentionally slanted, but it does fall short of what we had hoped for and expected from a Lutheran church.

The methodology we have chosen is to provide the text of JTF-2 and then to provide critique and commentary in boxes to either side of the original text, with a line (where appropriate) pointing to the portion of text in question. This will necessitate some changes in the formatting and appearance of the JTF-2. The font has been changed as well as changing the paper size from letter to legal size. In addition, some portions of JTF-2 not pertinent to this discussion were left out, e.g., Bishop Hanson’s letter, some of the material that gave the history leading up to this study and so forth as these are merely invitations to study or mere bits of information. They are available on line or in the JTF-2 study document itself. JTF-2 material has been presented as faithfully as possible (in the changed format as mentioned above) although sometimes giving only the reference to a biblical text or other material rather than printing that reference.

Thus, for ease of presentation, only the body of the text of the JTF-2 study document has been provided. The reader will note that the basic page numbering of Journey Together Faithfully, part two has been approximated as closely as possible.

A CONCLUDING OBSERVATION.

Whether agreeing with the perspective presented here or not, the reader has at least some idea of the assumptions with which this critique and commentary begins. Although not in anyway a complete systematic theology, the concerns, assumptions and viewpoints that stand behind this critique have been clearly stated. Unfortunately, we find no similar statement in JTF-2. In the course of this critique, this glaring omission will occasionally be pointed out. It is just one of the weaknesses of JTF-2 that there was not even an attempt to outline the philosophical assumptions that undergird the effort. Readers, whether lay, clergy, or professionals of whatever stripe, ought to be informed of what the authors of JTF-2 think about the Bible and the Confession so these readers can decide if they accept the assumptions of the authors and where those assumptions seem to be taking the document. In short, how can we adequately debate, critique and discuss the issues when we don’t know where the writers of JTF-2 are coming from and thereby cannot discern if they are in harmony with Scripture and the Confessions? This omission was most ill-advised.


Endnotes

1. From the song, “Blow Up Your TV” by John Prine on John Denver’s album, “Aerie”.

2. Stanton L. Jones, Mars Hill Audio, Vol.50, May/June 2001, track #4.

3. Ibid

4. “Deconstructionism,” is a leading tool of many academics today. A French philosopher by the name of Jacques Derrida basically inaugurated the school of deconstructionism. A term tied very closely to postmodernism, deconstructionism is a challenge to the attempt to establish any ultimate or secure meaning. Basing itself in language analysis, it seeks to “deconstruct” the ideological biases (gender, racial, economic, political, cultural) and traditional assumptions that infect all histories, as well as philosophical and religious "truths." Deconstructionism is based on the premise that much of human history, in trying to understand, and then define, reality has led to various forms of domination - of nature, of people of color, of the poor, of homosexuals, etc. Like postmodernism, deconstructionism finds concrete experience more valid than abstract ideas and, therefore, refutes any attempts to produce a history, or a truth. In other words, the multiplicities and contingencies of human experience necessarily bring knowledge down to the local and specific level, and challenge the tendency to centralize power through the claims of an ultimate truth which must be accepted or obeyed by all. (see www.pbs.org/faithandreason/gengloss/decon-body.html)

While there is much in Derrida and Deconstructionism that is problematic for the Christian, struggling with the issues can be helpful in avoiding the absolutizing of a text or one’s own personal understanding of a text. It should foster humility in dealing with a text regardless of one’s ideology. As Horace A Underwood wrote, it “demonstrates the failure of all philosophical theories that seek to pin down the Absolute.”

5.“We believe, teach and confess that the prophetic and apostolic writings of the Old and New Testaments are the only rule and norm according to which all doctrines and teachers alike must be appraised and judged…

“Holy Scripture remains the only true judge, rule and norm according to which as the only touchstone all doctrines should and must be understood and judged as good or evil, right or wrong.” (FC., Epitome, I-1 & 7)

“We pledge ourselves to the prophetic and apostolic writings of the Old and New Testaments as the pure and clear fountain of Israel, which is the only true norm according to which all teachers and teachings are to be judged and evaluated.” (emphasis added - FC., Solid Declaration, Rule and Norm, #3,)

6. See the ELCA website – www.elca.org/faithfuljourney

7. Ibid.