Thursday, November 10, 2011

Lesson Learned from Ethiopia

I heard two true stories from Ethiopia today, both told by a colleague who has frequent contact with the Lutheran body there, the Mekane Yesus Church.

The first involved a theologian of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the body of which I'm a member and which has wandered so far from God, Christ, and the authority of Scripture. This ELCA theologian was invited to teach a class on the Gospels at an Ethiopian Lutheran seminary.

One class was devoted to discussing the miracles of Jesus. The professor told the class of Ethiopian seminarians that his wife had a doctorate in Chemistry and had confidently assured him that it would have been physically impossible to change water to wine, as the Gospel of John says that Jesus did during a wedding in the village of Cana. All the miracles, he went on to say, were added into the New Testament narrative to buttress the first century Church's claims that Jesus is God-enfleshed and Savior of the world.

One student wasn't sure that he'd correctly heard the American theologian. So, he asked the visiting professor to repeat what he'd said. The professor did so.

The student closed his book and walked out of the class room, as did all the other Ethiopian seminarians.

The professor was mystified. This had never happened to him in the States.

Soon, the president of the seminary came by to confirm what had happened. He, like the students was offended by the professor's assertion, and asked the professor if he believed in the Trinity, the teaching supported by Scripture that God is one God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

"Yes," the professor replied.

Then why, the seminary president wondered, would he teach something totally contrary to God's revealed truth about the Trinity in the Bible?

The doctrine of the Trinity affirms that God the Father is the Creator of the universe, the One Who invented chemistry. The doctrine also says that Jesus is God the Son. If God the Father is Lord over the chemical elements of the universe, how could anyone say that God the Son couldn't be Lord over those same chemicals to perform a miracle which affirmed His identity as God on earth?

In too much of the mainline North American churches, we've gotten to the point where we think we're smarter than God and have the right to rescind the clear witness of Scripture. We put too much stock in our own intellects, emotions, and experiences, rather than in what God has revealed through His Word over the centuries. That's why views like that of the ELCA professor who went to Ethiopia are widespread among bishops, pastors, theologians, and even church members in our denomination.

To confess that, "Jesus is Lord" is to say that God is greater, wiser, and smarter than I am.

To confess that Jesus is Lord is to say that when His revelation conflicts with what I think or feel or have experienced, what God teaches in His Word wins the conflict.  Period. End of story.

A Lord Who can't turn water into wine--or kill the power of sin and death for all who believe that He died and rose to life again--isn't worth following, no different from any of the fallible human beings, from football coaches to CEOs, from theologians to reality show participants, that people often hold up as examples or heroes. (Or whose prominence they invoke as an excuse for believing or doing what they want to do, whether their beliefs or actions agree with God's will or revealed truth or not.)

Fortunately, the Church in Africa, Asia, and Latin America is teaching the rest of us who have forgotten what it means to say that Jesus is Lord. Thank God!

I pray that all of us in my own Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (and all Christians in North America and western Europe) will learn and live this truth, too. We need to connect to God again! The world needs for us to connect to God again.


James Young said...

Don't hold your breath. The arrogance of these people is astounding, which is one reason why we are now LCMS Lutherans.

Rebecca said...

Praise God for the witness of the Ethiopian Christians. They have COURAGE and we in the West should sit down at their feet to learn. Praise God for the quiet witness of the Ethiopian Christian who left the class. They are not afraid to call false teaching what it is.

Two Wheeled Explorer said...

What happened to the second story, or did I miss something?

Mark Daniels said...

Here is the link to the other story.

God bless!