Lutherans/A Seeker


Dear Pr.Eldred,

First I want to say that I don't ask this question in a spirit of animosity but rather a spirit of genuine inquiry. So, please don't think of me as being harsh toward your church for asking a difficult question. I'm part of a conservative christian congregation. We believe in the inerrancy of scripture and many other doctrines which flow from that. I am always wrestling with issues and want to know the truth wherever it may lead me. I've thought of joining a more "liberal" or mainline church like ELCA because sometimes I'm turned off by conservative evangelicalism, and want a more open minded church--mainly because I want a religion that isn't based on fear of eternal Hell. But part of me dislikes the ELCA and other such denominations because I can't understand why I'd want to be a Christian anymore if I don't believe the Bible is inerrant.. and it makes me want to give up on Christianity altogether. Something inside of me doesn't want to do this however. So, my question is how do you in the ELCA know what doctrine is? Obviously you don't hold to the Bible's teaching on marriage exclusively as one man and woman? Or female ordination, Hell and so forth. How do you know which parts are true and which parts are false. It seems like your church just goes by whatever the convention votes on. There's hardly a consensus because other churches don't agree with you so nobody can really say that the "Holy Spirit" is guiding them or else they'd all come to the same conclusions.

Why be a Christian when it seems so subjective? If such major doctrines and interpretations can change so much how do you know the rest of it is true--like Jesus resurrection?  

I know it's a big question. And one more, that I would really like to know the answer to is this: if we can redefine marriage from one man to one woman into two people who love each other then how come we can't go further? After all 3 people could want to get married, why not polygamy? Or incest? Or not marriage at all? I don't ask this disrespectfully? I would love to find a way to accept same sex marriage but I just can't see how it makes any sense? If we say marriage is no longer between men and women then how can we say polygamy is wrong or just forming any kind of relationship we want is wrong as long as it's consenting?  How can the ELCA hold on to monogamy while taking it from the other understandings of marriage? If you still believe in monogamy between partners how do you prove that biblically while denying what it says about homosexuality?  

Thanks very much


Thank you for your question, sorry for the delay.  
I would say that the Bible is the word of God since it points to THE Word of God--Jesus Christ (Cf. John 1:1).  Luther made that distinction that the Bible is "the manger where the Word of God (Jesus) is laid".  It is the inspired words of God that point us to the complete revelation of God in Jesus Christ.  While is written by human beings as their experience with God in their time and place, we also believe that the Holy Spirit guided the process and that we have received the necessary words that show us God's love and grace for Creation.

That being said, we hold that it is true in that it points us to the Truth in Jesus.  We don't need to dissect it's historical or scientific facts since that is not the purpose of the Bible.  The truth of the Bible is primarily reserved for how it reveals Jesus Christ (The Way and the Truth) to humanity.

In this way we can be assured that the Bible reveals to us what we need to know about salvation and reconciliation to God through the grace given to us in Jesus.  That is, of course a faith statement.  I cannot "prove' that this is fact, but I believe that it is true.

I hope that this is helpful.


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Martin W. Eldred


I have been a Lutheran Christian for 56 years and a Lutheran pastor for almost 28. I can answer most general questions about Luther, Lutheran History, Lutheran Theology, and a Lutheran approach to Biblical Interpretation. I am ELCA, for those who know what that means, and I tend to be moderate theologically. I hope that I can converse with those that are either more conservative or liberal than I, and especially with those who are really just seeking.


Pastors are "generalists" and generally have a working knowledge on many subjects. We are also used to working with a variety of answers from a variety of people. I teach a great deal, especially in the area of the New Testament. I particularly enjoy the Pauline literature. I have a PhD in New Testament and my dissertation was on II Corinthians.

I have been a member of the Society of Biblical Literature, an international gathering of biblical scholars and teachers, since the late 1980s.

I have written a few book reviews for the journal, "Lutheran Quarterly."

I have a B.A. from Pacific Lutheran University in Religion (Biblical Studies)and a Master of Divinity from Wartburg Theological Seminary. I also have PhD in New Testament.

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