I had to hear this one for myself. Presiding Bishop Mark Hansen of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has called for an ecumenical council to convene in order to resolve the question of biblical interpretation in the church. Calling for the global council, Bishop Hansen called upon Pope Benedict XVI, leaders of the Eastern Orthodox churches, and mainline Protestant leaders to convene the council in order to stem the tide of what he called “fundamentalist” readings of Scripture.
“Christianity is in the midst of a global identity crisis because we have not addressed ecumenically the questions of authority and interpretation of scripture,” Hanson told the ELCA’s Churchwide Assembly last week. Religion News Service reported that the bishop also “called for Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran churches to come together to combat a ‘fundamentalist-millennialist-apocalypticist reading of Scripture.'”
Christianity certainly is “in the midst of a global identity crisis,” but that crisis is the result of theological accommodation and confusion — not biblical literalism. In this context, biblical literalism is code language for any assertion of biblical authority or biblical inerrancy.
The RNS report also included this: “Although Hanson did not elaborate, mainline churches traditionally are uneasy with literal readings of Scripture, particularly in fundamentalist churches, regarding the end of the world and political unrest in the Middle East. In addition, mainline churches have been divided over what the Bible says about hot-button issues such as homosexuality and women’s ordination.”
The claim that the ELCA, along with most other liberal Protestant denominations, is deeply divided over issues like homosexuality is truly an understatement. The liberal denominations long ago liberated themselves from anything close to a literal interpretation of Scripture. Over the past half-century, various heresies, aberrant beliefs systems, and theological movements have found a safe home under the umbrella of the “mainline” denominations. Now, Bishop Hansen want to convene a global council to combat literalist interpretations of the Bible.
There once was a time when the great councils of the church defended theological orthodoxy. Whatever happened to Nicaea, Chalcedon, and Ephesus? We can only imagine where this bizarre council might meet. The Council of Greenwich Village? Harvard Yard? Riverside Drive? I suggest the Council of Laodicea. The possibilities are endless.
SEEING IS BELIEVING: Hanson’s address is available in video format, courtesy of the ELCA.
R. Albert Mohler Jr.
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