If you follow the ALPB's "Your Turn" discussion board, you may have seen my name in several posts over the last week or two. After following various discussions over the years I finally decided to dive in and actively participate. What prompted my involvement was the postings from Dr. Matthew Becker. Dr. Becker's writings on ALPB, his own blog, and on the Daystar Jounal have been documented and reviewed on this blog many times. Until recently I had only commented on his public writings, but had never actually engaged him in active discussion. The time seemed overdue to take that next step. The discussions on the topic "Valparaiso University and the LCMS" are now closed. Pastor Speckhard, the site monitor, realized that it had more than run its course. I agree. However, while it lasted it did prove to be a lively, at times contentious, but very revealing discussion. It often surprised me how open Dr. Becker was about his views since he freely embraces Evolution, Women's Ordination and the Higher-Critical method of biblical interpretation, to name only a few of his beliefs that are at odds with the public confession of his denomination. To his credit he is a highly intelligent and well-informed scholar. He could be dismissive, at times, of his opponents, seeing their defense of conservative and confessional viewpoints as narrow minded and ill-informed. One had to be ever vigilant to catch the tricks of debate that diverted you from the topic. For me it was a good exercise in theological reflection and defense.
Having graduated from Concordia Seminary - St. Louis in 1988, I find it amazing how liberal his views have now become. I graduated from the sister seminary in Ft. Wayne the year prior, and knowing graduates from St. Louis from this time and since, it was not my impression that a wave of liberalism was active in those years. It would seem that his studies at the University of Chicago had a lot to do with the turning of his theology, not to mention his admiration and friendship with liberal scholars outside the LCMS (such as Dr. Ed Schroeder.) As is typical of those within the ELCA, he strongly insists that he is within the mainstream of Lutheran thinking, often invoking Luther and the Confessions to show that his convictions are all well supported by the sources. He utilizes the "Gospel Reductionism" of a previous era, easily dismissing some sections of scripture he feels are in conflict with the gospel, even going to the point of proposing the "abrogation of the law," seeing the books of Moses as having little value to the theological enterprise today. As one can see from his review of Dr. Scott Murray's book, he is among those who take issue with the Third Use of the Law, although they will still embrace FC, Epitome VI and insist that the conservatives simply misinterpret the whole point.
As was made evident by more than one poster Dr. Becker's theology is clearly that of the current ELCA. Some questioned how he could feel comfortable in the LCMS considering his highly conflicting views of many theological areas. I also pondered on this prior to my involvement with the ALPB site. My reflections then still seem to hold. To be honest, I am not really sure why he stays. Part of me wonders, as I did before, if he sees himself at the vanguard of a movement to recapture the LCMS and direct it back to those old days before the Walkout. He does not, however, give an indication that this is necessarily his plan. He insists that there should be room for people such as him and for people such as me. We should all be able to coexist together. What is troubling, though, is that this is not a matter of simple differences on practice. His theology was clearly condemned in New Orleans in '74, and were he on the faculty of Concordia-St. Louis today, I cannot see a reason why they would not bring him up on charges of false doctrine as they did the faculty then. Is he then 'baiting' the LCMS to see what it will do? Is he looking to be a modern day martyr of liberalism to make the Synod look bad if and when they finally take official action? Or is he flaunting his freedom before the rest letting them know there is absolutely nothing they can do? I don't know. But it troubles me.
I am comforted by the fact that our seminaries are solid and that the theology Dr. Becker holds does not represent the mainstream of the Synod's ministerium. As I noted before on this blog, those who still hold to the old Seminex theology are aging and passing from the scene. The "Battle for the Bible" represents another era long gone. So, perhaps I should just put this one to rest and chalk it up to an interesting experience. Feel free to review the Valparaiso discussion site and let me know if I missed something. It was, at times, a bit confusing to keep up with all the issues.