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“Study” Bound to God’s Word—or Not

The point of all the “further study” on matters of human sexuality, no matter the denomination, is simply to provide a path for eventual “normalizing” of those things which God’s Word condemns as sin. Once the goal of acceptance, and then dominance, has been achieved through ecclesiastical political maneuvering, there will be no need for “further study.” Once the Holy Spirit has brought about a new thing that allows the actual, divinely inspired text of Scripture to be set aside for whatever contemporary itch that needs to be scratched, there will be no going back. The guiding of the Spirit so desired to enact change to allow and enforce the acceptance of lifestyles outside the bounds of God’s revealed law will no longer be sought. “Further study” is simply the means to the end, setting aside absolute truth for that which some are convinced is what love must do, no matter what God says—after all, did God really say?study3150508

The recent Roman Catholic Synod on the Family, which received headline notice over the past few weeks, is simply one more example of how “study” will be required until the goal of those who desire to set aside God’s revealed will is achieved. The initial enthusiasm caused by an early status report from the Synod has been dampened somewhat. Language had been used in the early report which indicated a possible change in the Roman Catholic teaching on homosexuality and divorce. A new breeze blowing through the stuffy and decaying teaching on human sexuality taught through the centuries was detected. This was not about pastoral care for sinners caught, trapped, and dying in sin; rather, it was about the hope that such sinners would hear not the divine voice of forgiveness of sin, but the human voice of tolerance for sin. The final report excluded that earlier language which gave such hope, but more study is coming, led by a pope who is not satisfied with the church’s current teaching.

Pope Francis spoke after the meeting and said, “God is not afraid of new things.” This has been interpreted as signifying his hope that the church’s position on homosexuality and other family issues will change. I cannot help but be drawn immediately to the prescient words of Martin Luther, words which remain normative for the Lutheran Church to this day, words which provide a hermeneutic for discerning the spirit of these days:

In these matters, which concern the external, spoken Word, we must hold firmly to the conviction that God gives no one his Spirit or grace except through or with the external Word which comes before. Thus we shall be protected from the enthusiasts—that is, from the spiritualists who boast that they possess the Spirit without and before the Word and who therefore judge, interpret, and twist the Scriptures or spoken Word according to their pleasure (Smalcald Articles, III, VIII).

 The enthusiasts are out in full force. That is nothing new. Once more from Luther:

Enthusiasm clings to Adam and his descendants from the beginning to the end of the world. It is a poison implanted and inoculated in man by the old dragon, and it is the source, strength, and power of all heresy, including that of the papacy and Mohammedanism. Accordingly, we should and must constantly maintain that God will not deal with us except through his external Word and sacrament. Whatever is attributed to the Spirit apart from such Word and sacrament is of the devil (Smalcald Articles, III, VIII).

We do not presume immunity from such enthusiasm. That is why we mediate on God’s Word, pray to our heavenly Father, and seek His strength and comfort in all times of trial.

Grant peace, we pray, in mercy, Lord;
Peace in our time, O send us!
For there is none on earth but You,
None other to defend us.
You only, Lord, can fight for us.
Amen! Have mercy, O Lord. (ELH 584)

Pastor Thomas Rank serves the Scarville/Center Lutheran Parish in Scarville, Iowa.
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