Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Know your opponents

What would a gay professor of historical theology preach about Luther? Go here where you will find: "Luther’s “reformation” was nothing less than a wholesale rejection of this medieval understanding of Christian existence as the pursuit of holiness. Luther came to realize that his commitment to the monastic life was motivated by fear of God’s judgment. To avoid the possibility of eternal damnation, Luther entered the monastery, hoping thereby to evade God’s wrath against sinners. But soon he discovered that his efforts to be a saint led him to despair of himself. He confessed every impure thought that crossed his mind and engaged in ruthless self-examination to see whether he truly loved God with his whole heart and his neighbor as himself. Eventually, Luther concluded that his inherited understanding of the Christian life was at odds with the basic message of scripture which he believed to find in the teaching of the apostle Paul that we are “justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Rom. 3:28)."

Nothing too wrong with that, he actually preaches what (too bad) many say about Luther and holiness (which I don't believe at all-Luther taught we were to live beyond any self-righteous conceptions of holiness) but we can see that he is trying to abolish something and put something else it its place.

And so Capetz goes on to play around with Bonhoeffer too:

"I discovered later, and I’m still discovering right up to this moment, that it is only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith. One must completely abandon any attempt to make something of oneself, whether it be a saint, or a converted sinner, or a churchman...By this worldliness I mean living unreservedly in life’s duties, problems, successes and failures, experiences and perplexities. In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God….That, I think, is faith…and that is how one becomes a [human being] and a Christian (letter of July 21, 1944)."

Capetz spins it out:

"It’s striking that Bonhoeffer appeals to Luther’s example here. I think Bonhoeffer correctly grasped the radical character of Luther’s message about the freedom of the gospel and that he translated it into action in a dramatic way in the context of the modern world. Here was a person who set aside religious scruples to be a human being in solidarity with his fellow human beings and was willing to get his hands dirty with the moral ambiguities of life in this world. Because of his confidence that God accepts the sinner, Bonhoeffer knew that he had no higher calling than to be a human being—not a saint, not a religious type, but a human being, living a secular life in the midst of a godless world. He understood, as did Luther before him, that the gospel frees the conscience to act boldly in the face of life’s tasks. He realized, as did Luther before him, that the gospel frees us from pre-occupation with our own salvation so that we need not (indeed, must not!) withdraw from the world with its all-too-human sorrows and failures as well as its oh-so-human joys and wonders.

"Nevertheless, the gospel frees the human being to live in this world with the bold confidence that God accepts the sinner and, therefore, the sinner can trust in God’s grace."

So just go ahead and sin, right? YOu can read the whole thing here.

Let's see what Capetz does with "telling his own story":

"Although I have never been the victim of a hate crime such as that perpetrated against Matthew Shepard, my life and my career have been adversely affected by homophobia, specifically of the ecclesial variety. Eleven years ago I was ordained as a minister in this church and was called to teach at one of our Presbyterian seminaries. Before I had even packed my bags to assume my new post, however, an anonymous accusation on account of my sexual orientation threatened to take this job away from me. I later discovered, to my great shock and dismay, that this accusation had come from one of my own professors in graduate school. Since the substance of the accusation could not be proven and the person making it denied any responsibility when directly confronted, I was allowed to join the faculty after all. But an ominous cloud hung over my head, for I knew that my job would always be vulnerable to such threats. After a year I took another position at a seminary affiliated with the United Church of Christ which has allowed me to pursue my vocation unhindered by homophobia. While I was glad to find refuge with the U.C.C., there was much sadness, nonetheless, since I had to leave colleagues with whom there was an unusual and rare "meeting of minds" of the sort for which one always yearns yet seldom ever finds in academic settings.

"Nine years later, in the spring of 2000, I asked the presbytery to release me from the exercise of the ordained ministry.5 This decision was made in response to the passage in 1997 of so-called "Amendment B" which implied commitment to a life of permanent celibacy for a gay person holding an ordained office. Up until that point, I had been able to live within the bounds of the constitution in good conscience. To be sure, the "Definitive Guidance" of 1978 had already put into effect what was essentially a policy of "Don't ask, don't tell!" Yet there was still some space for gay officers to serve the church within these ambiguous constraints. The change in the constitution itself forced my hand. For me, the crucial consideration in relinquishing my ordination was a matter of principle: enforced celibacy without the possibility of marriage violates a fundamental tenet of Reformed theology. Previously there had never been a situation in the history of the Protestant church when celibacy was required of an entire caste of persons as a condition of their fidelity to the gospel.6 Remaining silent was no longer an option. I could not continue to represent the church as one of its ministers when the theological principles of its own heritage were ignored for the purpose of excluding gay people. In the meantime, another Presbyterian seminary invited me to apply for a faculty position, but when I explained the reasons for deciding to set aside my ordination, I was informed that there was no point in submitting an application since it could not be taken seriously. I mention these experiences not to make myself the focus of attention here, but simply to illustrate that gay people are not the only victims of homophobia. The entire church suffers the consequences insofar as talent is drained from the ranks of its leaders for the sake of a policy that I have no hesitation in decrying as immoral."

Read the whole remarkable thing here.

Capetz has had a busy career. Read this response to his revisionism of Luther.

There we can read a fellow Presbyterian professor responding to him:

"While every first-year seminarian knows that Luther considered the book of James an “epistle of straw,”only one reading of Luther claims that he created a “canon within the canon.” Luther never said that, nor did he eliminate James from the canon. He did not “reject James,” as Capetz says, for rather than driving a wedge between the formal and material principles, he threw his hands up, offering his doctor’s cap to anyone who could reconcile James and Paul. Both Calvin and Bullinger maintained sola fide and sola scriptura together, suggesting that Capetz is anachronistic in reading back post-critical categories on these arguments. Granted, there is some tension and ambiguity in the Reformers’ use of the Bible, which tension is exacerbated after the development of higher critical methods. But does this not increase, rather than decrease, the need for confessional documents in the public teaching of the church?"

Which is just to say what, that we live in a time where good minds are bent on turning and twisting words until they say what they want them to say, so we need to nail some things down?

No doubt Capetz has had his troubles, but he is hardly a victim. I found him while googling around wondering who had implanted the ideas that Megan Rohrer espoused below about Luther rejecting celibacy as an idea that relates to gay ministerial candidates today.

More reasons for the gay activists to leave the mainlines and start their own liberal church. They have professors, seminarians, laity, and lots of money. Perhaps they can convince themselves to go and sin boldly after all, and "do a Nike" (just do it).

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