A Message from Pastor Hale
This is a short article written for the Lutheran Concerns Association newsletter. I was asked to give an overview of the implications of the recent Chicago debate on Scripture. Dr. Kloha, a St. Louis professor, has some troubling views on the Bible (as written about previously). These academic views do affect how theology and preaching is done, since all divine truth is connected. Christ made the truth and gave it to us in Scripture for our comfort. --Pastor Hale
[The debate between Dr. Montgomery and Dr. Kloha can be seen in this article.]
Dr. Kloha's errors seem to revolve around the narrow field of textual criticism, constructing the best text of the Bible. Those listening to the recent Chicago debate between Dr. Montgomery and Dr. Kloha might ask: “where's the beef?” How does this connect to the daily life of the Church, where forgiveness is to be preached. This was not a mere academic debate over theories and definitions. Being able to condemn sin, speak of doctrine with certainty, and forgive sins with all the authority of Christ are at stake.
In a confessional church all the doctrinal answers are given. We believe they are prerecorded and predetermined in the 1580 Book of Concord. But professional interpreters see the Bible, and therefore Christianity, through a critical lens. In the elevation of academic experts (and their necessary insight), the Bible, by default, is made unclear. Kloha admitted that he cannot talk about the Holy Spirit in explaining the origin of the Bible to his scholarly peers. Why? From the critical perspective of atheistic scholarship, nothing can be assumed, not even God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It must be asked: is a seminary professor who is an expert in his field also under God's Word? Not even the learned Dr. Montgomery is qualified to speak on textual criticism, according to Kloha. But if God's Word does not rule over all men, it is not an authority that be can trusted by anyone. Is the Bible and the doctrine derived from it for everyone or do only professors have the right to define and interpret it?
This is a dangerous attitude, since Jesus has given His truth to us only in Scripture. Kloha speaks like liberal theologians (when speaking to them), so he can accrue worldly “credibility” to defend Scripture. But in doing so, the use of Scripture radically changes. Kloha stated in the 2013 Oberursel presentation: “Past use of [1 Cor. 14:34–35] within the LCMS has been in the propositional style exegesis, where the text presents divinely-inspired propositional statements devoid of historical setting, context or pragmatics.” This text authorizes only male pastors and speaking in the assembly. In Kloha's (academic) words, this Scripture verse needs to be contextualized by the trained scholar. The simple Christian is seemingly not qualified to understand and apply God's Word. Man and his learning replace God and His truth, when theology becomes a secular, academic endeavor.
Throughout history simple Christians have taken the Spirit's words in Scripture and directly applied them. But in this modern, critical stance, nothing is certain or settled (even the text itself). Scholars are good at asking questions, but never arrive at any final, definite truth, since their method (including the throughgoing eclecticism of Kloha) elevates their own reasoning above God's words. But the Spirit's words are better than any interpreter. He alone gives the truth and imparts it to man. No priestly seminary mediator is needed to make God's words true or meaningful.
The issue is authority. Is the Bible for all Christians, even those without advanced degrees? Look to the apostles. The Spirit's power is not in worldly learning. Every baptized Christian is given the Spirit and can use God's Word. All pastors' and professors' public teaching must be judged, to see who may be a wolf in sheep's clothing. We should not blindly trust any man, who is not the Lord Jesus Christ. Kloha's academic writings are at odds with the orthodox portrayal of himself to laymen. “As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No” (2 Cor. 1:18).
The end result of godless approaches to Scripture will be the loss of confidence in Christ. Loss of confidence in His Scripture causes dependence on the methods, feelings, and pragmatics of man. What “works” replaces “thus saith the Lord.” All doctrine, and therefore Christ Himself, will become merely ideas to reflect on, but not truths revealed by the Creator to which one should submit. Subtle doctrinal erosions will culminate in the loss of Christ who died for sin.
Scholarly experts can appear orthodox, but do not have the conviction to speak against the world's and the academy's idolatry. Scientific doubt is never certain. This is the opposite of the Christ's Spirit, who is no skeptic. We believe in Christ's teaching with boldness, because He gives us the doctrine which brings His mercy. If pastors and church authorities cannot speak under the authority of Scripture, nothing will be secure, from the law to the Gospel. Lord protect us from this. Amen.