A Message from Pastor Hale
The error of evolution might seem to be a settled matter in the LCMS. It would be nice to assume so because its official statements are quite clear, but that is not the case as evidenced by a recent theological journal “issued by the faculty of the Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri.” Several articles have surprised and troubled many, in light of what some of our LCMS college and seminary professors are teaching. This is yet further evidence that the truth can never be taken for granted. We must be ever vigilant in defending Christ’s truth and not expect an institution or professional experts to safeguard it for us – it is too important for that!
John Jurchen, an associate professor of chemistry at Concordia University in Seward, NE, authored an article in the “Summer 2017 issue of the Concordia Journal, in partnership with Concordia, Nebraska,” entitled “The Age of the Earth and Confessional Lutheranism: Speaking the Truth in Love.” He does show in it that many churches have completely succumbed to the culture and its version of scientific truth. The Presbyterian Church (USA) officially states: “there is no contradiction between an evolutionary theory of human origins and the doctrine of God as Creator” (67). Unfortunately, one can easily end up with a different god than the God of the Bible, by going this route. The Episcopal church goes even further in blessing evolutionary teaching: “the theory of evolution provides a fruitful and unifying scientific explanation for the emergence of life on earth … and an acceptance of evolution is entirely compatible with an authentic and living Christian faith” (67). The ELCA is in full communion with both of these bodies, giving its tacit approval to their positions, so the name “Lutheran” on the outside of many churches and schools does not automatically stand for the truth of Christ.
Why do science, the age of the earth, and evolution matter? Creation is not just a historical fact
– it describes what man is and how he is to relate to Christ, the Lord, through whom all things were made. The fact of creation from nothing in six days is significant, but the denial of that fact radically changes preaching and teaching today. If we cannot clearly say how we were made, that God made me and all creatures directly by His Word, the obligation of the Law and import of the Gospel are impacted. Creation affects the doctrine of man, which affects the redemption of man, by the man Jesus Christ.
What is the temptation today in regard to the teaching of creation in Gen. 1-2? There is great pressure to tone down the scriptural doctrine of creation, to appeal to those who have been indoctrinated into scientific truth as the only absolute truth. I would argue that the greatest danger is not a flat denial of a six day creation (which is obviously wrong), but rather being ashamed of what Christ reveals to us in Scripture and afraid to apply the undiluted truth to sinners. It appears that those teachers in this camp do not wish to appear to contradict our church body’s established positions, but lack the confidence in the truth to speak incisively. While they would not consider it as such, aren’t they really playing nice with satanic error? But we should not handle the error of evolution and its many dangerous assumptions (including the anti-scriptural assumption of an “old earth”) with kid gloves. In general, these ideas aim to eliminate God’s involvement in creation and among mankind. Carried all the way through, they destroy Christianity, because “lots of time,” “chance,” and “randomness” end up replacing God the Father and His righteous Law. It leaves next to no purpose for man and little reason for our existence. It undoes the Father’s order for man and animal and the physically evident order between men and women. Without creation by a personal Creator, our redemption in Christ makes little sense and man is free to create his own sense of purpose, justice, and meaning of life.
Jurchen, in his now withdrawn article, stated:
Adherence to a young-earth creation perspective of six, twenty-four-hour days may be a historic position of the LCMS, as presented by the Society of Creation; however, for individuals struggling to reconcile faith in the God of Genesis with what is read in literature or heard in the media, six, twenty-four-hour days is not a requirement. As long as parishioners are able to accept the historicity of Adam and Eve, the corrupting influence of sin, and the gospel of salvation, they can expand the days of creation week to encompass unspecified [time] periods.John JurchenThe Age of the Earth and Confessional Lutheranism: Speaking the Truth in Love. [Concordia Journal, Summery 2017]
Why is this minimalist idea of truth legislated from the professor’s podium? As Charles Arand, a St. Louis Seminary professor, says in a companion article: “one of the primary reasons why many young people have left the church has to do with the conflict between science and their faith.” The issue, however, is not individual facts, but ultimate authority. In other words, which god do we have? Is all of Scripture God’s truth, inspired by His Spirit, revealing our salvation in Christ? Or, should we worship reason, compelling verifiable (or unverifiable) evidence, and sinners who want their atheistic theories accepted on their own personal authority? The issue is not science, in general, but which god is highest – the god of reason in us (the glue of science is to distrust authority and tradition and depend on one’s own observation) or the God who speaks in His Son. Nothing man says can limit God or what He says in Scripture. To even allow the possibility is to not take His Word and truth seriously.
Does a heartfelt and emotional “love” to save people overwhelm the truth of God, allowing lies to multiply in Christ’s name? It can, especially in an academic-revering and permissive culture. The tendency is to avoid conflict. So if there appears to be irreconcilable division, many want to allow the issue to be an open question, so as to not alienate anyone. But the truth is not academic; it demands submission, not Darwinian competition with alternative ideas. Struggling with the truth is good, but dumbing it down to avoid the struggle is unconscionable for a teacher of God’s Word. Those called to speak for Christ must answer to Him, not to what is respected in the world at this particular moment.
The two specific errors Jurchen advances, and claims are “the most significant implications in my experience teaching at an LCMS university” are the extent of the flood and the possibility of animal death before the fall into sin. Evolutionary assumptions cannot easily incorporate a universal flood after the existence of man. Jurchen, in his article, allows the rational possibility of only a local flood, showing how Scripture can be pigeon-holed into this demand of sinful reason. Then he asks: “Is animal death before the fall compatible with LCMS theology?” He answers, very unconvincingly: “The adopted resolutions [of the LCMS] have otherwise been silent with respect to animal death” (71-72). But Scripture clearly states sin is the cause of death – there is nothing natural about it: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12). It is difficult to put a good construction on wanting the death, and therefore the propagation, of animals, before the fall of man. It is succumbing to the world and its lusts.
It is not an “LCMS theology,” the prestige of an educational institution, or the reputation of a professor that we answer to. Truth belongs to God and the Spirit of Truth who dwells in every believer. If truth is a matter of opinion, no certain and final answer can be given and error cannot be adequately dismissed. But when God speaks, we may only say “Amen.” Anything less than this is an equivocation. Are our professors prepared to die for their frivolous academic dabbling? Then, it is not the truth of Christ they promulgate. It is sinful to allow human words to be on the same level as God’s clear and simple written Word. Man’s word is never more truthful or clearer than God’s Word. No god of science should be allowed to impede the import, authority, and implications of the divine Word.
Thankfully, people were riled up enough over Jurchen’s article to involve synodical officials, specifically Nebraska District President Richard Snow. With his help, Jurchen retracted his article and stated in response: “I was in error to imply that the LCMS has acknowledged Day- Age theory as an acceptable exegesis of the Creation account of Genesis 1 & 2.” That is a sign of repentance and I pray it causes a change of heart, because we must expect more from our teachers. Unfortunately, Concordia Seminary is beyond correction, it appears. They simply blanked out the pages online and refuse to deal with the statements they published and distributed in their seminary’s (and the LCMS’) name. Perhaps they have learned from the Kloha affair over Scripture that arrogantly and snobbishly arguing in the name of academic expertise will not deceive the simple people of God who demand solid biblical meat.
Both Jurchen’s and Arand’s articles are most disturbing in method. They seem to care more about paying lip service to the LCMS’ Committee on Theology and Church Relations printed statements and official synodical resolutions than the Word of God. That is treading on human traditions, the mere word of man. The authority of Christ, however, cuts through all man-made complications and fallibilities: “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (Heb. 4:3). The God who spoke us and all creatures into being instantly continues to uphold this world by His Word. May those who love Christ never be ashamed of what He says or made. Vigilance by God’s people is necessary until our Lord returns in glory to answer His critics. Amen.