Rev. Dr. Lothar Schwabe

April 3, 2013

photo of Dr. Schwabe

We have leaders in the ELCA ands ELCIC who believe that the future of the church lies in adopting the theology of Progressive Christianity promoted by theologians like Spong, Borg, et al.

I want to provide some practical suggestions on how ELCA and ELCIC Lutherans can get themselves ready to make the change from being confessional Lutherans who stick to the theology of Martin Luther and the Reformers to being radically welcoming full-fledged modern Progressive Christians.

First of all, you must not believe everything the Bible says. It is not helpful to take the Bible as the inspired Word of God if you want to become a Progressive Christian. You must accept that most of the New Testament does not present what Jesus taught. You must have the courage to clean up the Bible and get rid of all miracles. You must delete anything that refers to the redemptive work of Jesus. Jesus died on the cross as an ordinary criminal, but he did not die for our sins. You must ask how God can be so cruel to have His own son tortured and killed for us. You must also delete anything that refers to the Easter story and the resurrection of Jesus. You may keep everything that relates to Jesus caring for the poor and being inclusive. After you are finished with that your Bible becomes very manageable and is reduced to few pages. You do not have to carry around that heavy book anymore.

Secondly, you must convince yourself that anything in the Bible that cannot be proven with scientific methods is not true. Logically that should cause a problem when it comes to the teaching of Progressive Theology that the real Christian faith is all about God unconditionally loving us. Because if there is no objective scientific test that proves that God’s love exists other than being a subjective feeling in the minds of people then how do you know that God’s love really exists? It is inconsistent to reject anything that offends human reason and then talk about God’s inclusive love. But for Progressive Theologians that does not seem to be a problem, after all, no theology is perfect.

Thirdly, when it comes to the gospel of inclusiveness and being radically welcoming, you must be prepared to make some exception. Yes, God certainly loves all regardless of their sexual orientation and your church welcomes everyone with open arms. But when it comes to confessional Lutherans, who believe that Jesus died for their sins, well, there is a limit as to how inclusive and welcoming one can be.

Finally, you must trust your leaders and the theologians they chose to promote. After all, if a bishop and some pastors lead us into a more “modern” understanding of the Bible, how can you doubt them? They have theological training and have studied the issue and you are just a simple lay person. It is also helpful not to ask the question how the church will deal with its past in which it stood for confessional Lutheranism as stated in the Article on “Confession of Faith” in our constitution. It would be a public relations nightmare to publicly admit that everything about Jesus dying for our sins was a lie. It would be unsettling to admit that generations of old pastors have mislead their people in believing that the Bible is true and can be trusted. So you better not touch that one.

Anyway, good luck. For any further questions ask your pastor.