What Would Luther Do?

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Writing in USA Today this week, Skidmore College's Mary Zeiss Stange argues that Martin Luther would join her in blessing same-sex unions.  The basic argument for this is as conventional as it is false, namely, that the genius of the Reformation is its willingness to advocate controversial changes in the church.

Stange writes: "In the Augsburg Confession of 1530, Luther publicly agreed with other reformers of his day that biblical references that depart from New Testament inclusiveness -- abstaining from eating pork, for example, or requiring male circumcision -- not only can but should be set aside. A 21st century Luther would surely recognize that the few biblical proscriptions against 'sodmy' -- shakey in themselves as condemnations of same-sex love and rooted in a worldview vastly different from our own -- should not bar the loving union of two gay or lesbian persons. Equally, a 21st century Luther would affirm the ordination of such persons, as in line with his theology of 'the priesthood of all believers'."

Stange is right that the Augsburg Confession was in 1530.  She is also right that the Old Testament worldview is vastly different from our own.  But she is wrong about virtually everything else.  The reason that eating pork and requiring circumcision are set aside is that both of these OT laws are specifically superseded by the ethical and sacramental teaching of the NT, as required by the coming of Christ and his saving work.  But there is no parallel reformulation of the biblical teaching on homosexuality.  Quite to the contrary, both Jesus and Paul maintain the OT view of human sexuality, including the limitation of intercourse to a relationship in which one man and one woman are united in a love covenant for life. 

And whereas Luther certainly did have a theology of the priesthood of all believers, this did not entail a theology of the sexual immorality of all believers. 

The genius of the Reformation does not lie in its willingness to make controversial changes, but in its insistence on maintaining a biblical doctrine of salvation and a biblical view of the Christian life.  Sometimes taking the biblical view means reforming the church, as the Reformers rightly tried to do in the 16th century (and in many ways we need to do today).  At other times, however, taking the biblical view means standing against the moral anarchy of contemporary society and refusing to make changes that are not in keeping with Scripture. 
Posted July 12, 2007 @ 8:52 AM by Phil Ryken
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