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Does Faith in Jesus Matter? by Pr. Steve Shipman

  • July 27, 2017 - 10:47 am
  • lutherancore

Does Faith in Jesus Matter?

by Pr. Steve Shipman

The ELCA New England Synod is asking that the Great Commission be declared null and void. Of course, that isn’t what a resolution passed at their 2017 assembly claims it is doing, but it certainly would be the result.

In fact, their rather curious version of the Great Commission in the first “whereas” clause of the resolution states, “Whereas the evangelical mandate of Christ to his apostles in Matthew 28:18-21 calls us to make his teaching and presence known throughout this earth’s nations…” Funny, my Bible says that we are to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the Triune Name and teaching them to observe all Jesus commanded. Maybe they found a more ancient manuscript and haven’t told anybody.

Of course, this brings back memories of the first edition of the AugsburgFortress Lutheran Study Bible, which contained a long, windy commentary on the Great Commission that pretty much said that when Jesus said to make disciples of all nations, he didn’t really mean that we should make disciples of all nations. So this is nothing new. (After many objections, later editions simply have no commentary on Matthew 28:16-20)

The Resolution asks “…that the New England Synod memorialize the ELCA Churchwide Assembly to initiate a process to amend the phrase ‘bring all people to faith in Christ’ in C4.02b and its constitutional parallels in order to achieve greater consonance with both our understanding of Christian witness and sensitivity to our interfaith contexts.”

The synod website doesn’t include minutes of the assembly that we can find, but we understand that the resolution passed overwhelmingly, and the version on their website [click here] says “final.”

According to the resolution, its purpose, which is admirable, is to advance inter-faith dialogue in a context of mutual respect. Surely as Lutherans we understand that faith can never be forced but is a free act of the Holy Spirit as He comes through the Word and the Sacraments, which the resolution notes.

And it notes that we should not exclusively (in italics in the resolution) be trying to convert others, but reach out in love that genuinely values and respects our neighbors. And so far I agree with their expressed intent.

But in the end, any interfaith dialogue needs to be among partners who really believe what their faith teaches. So, yes, we should be trying to convert our dialogue partners and they should be trying to convert us. Otherwise we are pretty much saying that “it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you’re sincere,” a popular slogan which is utterly ridiculous (who is more sincere today than members of ISIS? In fact it is people who are sincerely evil who are the most dangerous!)

We of Lutheran CORE have been saying all along that the issues in the ELCA are not really about sex but about Jesus: Who He is and what He does. The action of the New England Synod certainly proves us correct.

The sainted James Burtness wrote an article many years ago as he saw this beginning in the LCA. You don’t have to read the article (which was in Dialog), because the title says it all: Does Anybody Out There Care Any More Whether Anybody Believes in Jesus?

We need to ask whether it was really necessary for Jesus to take on human flesh and die on the cross for salvation, or is this just a story invented by some ancient Jews to express “spiritual” truths? Is Jesus really the only Son of the Father, an eternal Person of the Trinity, or is he another great teacher along with the Buddha, Mohammed, and the famous rabbis?

While the intentions of those asking the ELCA no longer to seek “to bring all people to faith in Christ” may be honorable (and a cynic would note that the ELCA hasn’t been trying all that hard anyhow), in fact their proposal simply shows that too many in prominent positions in the ELCA no longer believe that faith in Jesus matters (the motion passed with little or no expressed objection according to our sources). Or at least they don’t believe that it matters in the sense the Bible teaches, that there is “no other Name under heaven by which we must be saved.”

Pr. Haug notes in this issue that the ELCA has been very sloppy in dealing with attacks on the faith from within. It is long past time for bishops and other ELCA leaders to stand up and shout, “Enough!” If faith in Jesus doesn’t matter, then the ELCA should go out of business, sell its property, and designate the proceeds to various good works. And let those disciples who believe “the faith once delivered to the saints” go about making disciples by baptizing and teaching as Jesus commanded.

Pr. Shipman is editor of CORE Voice, a retired ELCA pastor, and former Director of Lutheran CORE.


  1. Catherine Conrad

    July 27, 2017 @ 10:57 am

    Excellent article, Pastor Shipman.

  2. Eric Brown

    July 28, 2017 @ 10:20 am

    Outstanding! Thank you for putting into words, what I couldn’t.

  3. Joan Truman

    August 11, 2017 @ 5:19 pm

    Thank you for sharing. I wish our church council would share this with all our members.

  4. Ken Ruppar

    August 14, 2017 @ 9:00 am

    Thank you Steve for making me aware of events like this in other synods. Your article and the Burtness article will be good to share as this effort continues in other synods and nationally.

  5. M. Henry Pawluk

    August 16, 2017 @ 10:29 am

    Steve, Thanks so much for making this known about the NES. As a member of that Synod for over 30 years, this is no surprise and reflects the fact that New England is now ground zero for secular post Christian progressivism that is killing the Lutheran churches that exist there.

  6. Charles Kuntzleman

    August 16, 2017 @ 3:54 pm

    Thank you Pastor Shipman. Your work needs to be sent to every Lutheran, including New England. I am so saddened to see the rejection of Christ. Unbelievable! Charles Kuntzleman

  7. Stephen Bahorik

    August 20, 2017 @ 4:15 pm

    Pastor Steve,

    Thanks for “putting the bell on the cat”. As Christians we must stand for something or we stand for nothing. Yes, we must live in peace with all others, but our primary mission is not to pass out “warm fuzzies”. The intent of this resolution seems like an announcement of capitulation. Steve Bahorik

  8. Stephen Bshorik

    August 20, 2017 @ 4:29 pm

    Pastor Steve.

    Thanks for “putting the bell on the cat”. This proposed resolution sounds like an announcement of Christian capitulation. One of many dangers is that it will be another “crack in the block” allowing for further erosion of core beliefs. We are called to live out our Christian faith, not to reinvent it. Steve Bahorik

  9. Sherianne

    August 24, 2017 @ 5:10 pm

    Most excellent, valuable and needed resolution….wish my synod had thought of it…..but we did address bound conscience.

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