My assignment is to evaluate how Scripture is used in the
"Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality" published in March of
2008. I will for the most part limit my focus to that single
topic. All references to the document are by line number.
Use of the Bible
 By design, I start with a study of the document's specific
uses of the Bible. From that narrower starting point I will
expand into broader issues.
Accurate Use of the Bible
 I define an "accurate use of the Bible" in two
ways: a) a citation or quotation of the Bible that
supports what the document says it supports; b) a
citation or quotation of the Bible that clearly fits the argument
into which the document places it. Meeting either criterion
constitutes what I label an "accurate use of the Bible." The
criteria are standard criteria used in biblical scholarship.
 Using the criteria, I identify twenty-six times that the
document uses the Bible in an accurate way. So, for example, 2
Corinthians 5:16-21 is used to support this statement: "Our
first calling as ambassadors for Christ is not to judge others but
to testify to God's costly reconciliation for the world"
(302-5). When one reads the 2 Corinthians passage, one sees
that it does indeed support what the document says it supports, as
do the other uses listed in note 2. Admittedly, there may be in
this category a usage or two that some might question. In
addition, it is striking that when Mark 10:7-9 is cited (1005-7)
there is no indication that most of that saying from Jesus is a
quotationfrom Genesis 2:24. The same approach is taken at the
beginning of the document, when Matthew 22:36-40 is quoted-but with
no reference to the fact that most of the material is a quotation
from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. Still, these many
uses fall into the "accurate" category.
Inaccurate Use of the Bible
 On the other side of the ledger, there are ten times that
the biblical material seems to be used inaccurately according to
the criteria outlined. Only a few examples can be
given; readers are invited to check out other passages on
The document likes the phrase "law of love," which is never
clearly defined. None of the passages listed uses that term
(15: Romans 13:9-10; Galatians 5:14, 6:14), and the final
passage does not deal at all with the concept.
Colossians 1:19-20 is cited to support the idea that God values
our bodies, but the passage does not refer to bodies (105).
2 Corinthians 5:19 is quoted as support for God's entrusting
people with "the care of the neighbor and with the preservation of
good social order enacted through law" (607-9). Unfortunately,
within the context of 2 Corinthians the passage has nothing to do
with the way it is used in the document.
The use of Matthew 10:37 is especially problematic
(641-42). The document reads, "While Scripture places family
as secondary to the community of God's people," which is followed
by citing Matthew 10:37 and 12:49. But the issue in 10:37 is
the believer's relationship with Jesus and contains no reference to
"the community of God's people."
 In other instances the document cites a passage in a way
that is partially but not fully correct.
Thus 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 is cited to support a statement about
the cross and resurrection (405-7). The passage does not
The document wants to affirm that "Christian social and
political thought long has centered on the idea of the common good"
(1212). Then Galatians 6:10 is quoted-but only the first half
of the verse, "So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us
work for the good of all." The other half of the verse (still
the same Greek sentence) reads, "and especially for those of the
family of faith." The second half of the verse qualifies both
what is quoted and the point the document wants to make.
 Thus the document needs to exercise greater care in the use
of biblical material to make sure that it truly supports what the
document says it supports.
Non-Use of the Bible
 More striking are the many times the Bible is not used in
the document. The reader traverses vast stretches of the draft with
nary a biblical signpost.
 An illustrative set of examples follows.
Sin is discussed with no reference to any text, including Romans
1, which is never cited in the document (57-58, 132-33).
"God cares about our bodies," a theme easily supported by the
Bible, although not here (111-12). What about 1 Corinthians
6:12-20 (never cited) or 1 Corinthians 15?
The section running from 142-207 is especially odd. The
topic is that "the Apostle Paul and Martin Luther emphasized the
important role of the law …." (142). All of the
supportive material is from Luther. There is not one quotation
or citation from Paul. The closest is an allusion to Galatians
(173-75), but only Luther is quoted, and there is not even a
specific citation from Galatians. See also 238-39, where the
only reference to the Bible is Romans 10:9-as used by
Luther! One could argue that Luther has a stronger lobbyist
than does Paul!
The connection between the resurrection body and the present
body is an important ethical insight (362-66, for example), which
would be strengthened by showing where in the Bible we find that
The section on faith (582-608) deals with another traditional
Pauline and Lutheran theme, but the section is all-but-devoid of
biblical material. The only biblical reference is to Hebrews
11:1-found in note 22, in a quotation from the Augsburg
Confession! One also searches in vain for Paul's important
insight that faith involves obedience (for example, Romans 1:5,
which is never cited), an understanding of faith that certainly has
implications for ethical behavior.
The sections on strong families (626-726) and protecting
children and youth (728-828) utilize as references three passages,
one of which is not used accurately (642; Matthew
10:37). Surely there are many texts in the Bible that deal
with both topics, including the New Testament tables of household
duties (Ephesians 5:21-6:9; Colossians 3:18-4:1; 1 Peter
2:18-3:7), which are never cited either positively or
No biblical material is utilized in the section on sexuality and
self (830-90), and where there are good places for using supporting
citations (863-65 and note 34, with Luther and not the Bible cited
in the note), they are not listed. There is also nothing from
the Bible in the section on gender and friendships
(892-948). The one passage in the section on commitment and
sexuality (950-94) is on indulging desires (978-80). No
biblical passages are used in the discussion of relationships
involving sexual relations outside of marriage (1054-1101).
The section on marriage (996-1052) presents a remarkable
instance. The one passage listed is Mark 10:7-9; as noted
above there is no reference to the quotation of Genesis 2:24, which
means that the reader does not realize the canon-wide approval of
marriage. The beautiful statement of Paul on marriage found in
1 Corinthians 7:1-6 is found nowhere in the document.
Many readers will want to know what the document says about
committed same-gender relationships (1103-55). Romans 3:21-26
and 5:1-11 are appropriately cited as indicating that God makes us
acceptable through the righteousness of Christ. There is,
however, no discussion of the passages from Genesis, Leviticus,
Romans, 1 Corinthians, and 1 Timothy that are at the center of the
discussion on same-gender relationships. The document clearly
wants to move the church in the direction of full acceptance, but
it has not entered into the discussion that needs to happen if it
wants to persuade Lutherans to accept the document's
Many other sections also contain no biblical citations,
quotations, or arguments (please see note 4).
 The only Old Testament material utilized in the document is
Genesis 1:26-27, 2:18, 2:23-25; Exodus 20:12; 2 Samuel 11 and
13; and Song of Songs 4. The great bulk of the Old
Testament is never touched, including the laws of Leviticus and
Deuteronomy, none of the Ten Commandments save one (Exodus 20:12),
and the prophets. Neither the Sixth Commandment (on adultery)
nor Luther's conclusion in the Small Catechism to his discussion of
the Ten Commandments, in which he refers to keeping the
commandments, is utilized. The Sermon on the
Mount/Plain (indeed, Luke is not used at all), Acts, Ephesians,
Philippians, 1-2 Thessalonians, 1-2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon,
James, 2 Peter, 1-3 John, and Jude are all missing, and in five of
the New Testament books that are used only one passage appears in
the document. The "I" of Romans 7 who struggles between good
and evil has no role, either, nor does the task of the community to
discern God's will (Romans 12:1-2).
 The current document has, therefore, a certain Marcionite
tendency and thereby sends the message, unintentionally I am sure,
that the Old Testament is not very important in developing Lutheran
ethical positions. Certainly the laws of the Old Testament are
not utilized. The New Testament fares better, but it also is
 That is not to say that all of the content is non-biblical,
but it is to say that the Bible is not incarnated in this
document. Certainly for a document to be biblically-based
it needs more than simply to cite or quote a lot of passages, but
the presence or absence of citations or quotations is an indication
of how thoroughly immersed in and based on the Bible a document
What the Document Understands the Role of the Bible to
 Readers looking for reassurance that the document
understands the Bible in line with traditional Lutheran thinking
will be encouraged. The document states that "our Lutheran
heritage" is "grounded in Scripture" (23), and in addition to the
Confessions and the Lutheran heritage of theological reflection,
"this church turns in hope to the witness and wisdom of Scripture"
(69-70). The section on Scripture and moral discernment opens
with a classic statement on Scripture within Lutheranism (390-99),
including reference to the ELCA Constitution's statement that "it
is the authoritative source and norm of this church's proclamation,
faith and life" (391-92). Many will also be heartened by the
identification of Scripture as "the basis for Christian ethics" as
it "functions as both law and gospel" (401-2). And the draft
identifies itself as tapping "the deep roots of Scripture and the
Lutheran witness" (30-31).
 A source of potential confusion is the view that "Scripture
cannot be used in isolation as the norm for Christian life and the
source of knowledge for the exercise of moral
judgment. Scripture sheds light on human experience and
culture" (417-19). True enough, but how does that view
coordinate with the constitutional view that Scripture is "the
authoritative source and norm"? Or another way to pose the
question: What norms human cultural experience and human
scientific views (424-29)?
 A question that also needs to be addressed in a future
draft is why the document prefers the term Scripture over the term
Bible. The word Bible is used four times in the document, with
two occurrences used in a pejorative sense. The adjective biblical is
used five times, with only one being negative. The term Scripture, on
the other hand, is used twenty-three times in the body of the
document and five times in the notes. The word scriptural is
used only once.
 I do not know the thinking of the authors. I do know
that I have lived (and been a Lutheran!) in Nebraska, Connecticut,
Pennsylvania, California, and Ohio, I travel widely in the ELCA,
and I rarely hear the term Scripture used but almost always the
word Bible. Not one of the ELCA seminary web sites refers to
their Bible Division as the Scriptural Division. The one place
I regularly hear the word Scripture is at the Catholic Biblical
Association. So an explanation for the use of this language or
an alteration of the document would be helpful.
 Finally, to state the obvious: there appears to be a
gap between the high view of the Bible enunciated in the document
and the relative lack of its use.
How the Document Makes Its Interpretive Moves
 A major question I brought to my reading was how the
document would evaluate Old Testament material, especially the
laws, use them, and move into the use or non-use made of them in
the New Testament. It does not appear to me that the document
does that work. So, for example,
What are the implications of Jesus' quotations of Genesis when
he talks of marriage (Mark 10:6-8/Matthew 19:4-5)?
What are the implications of Paul's use in Romans 1:18-32 of the
Genesis creation stories and of the Leviticus laws regarding
The lack of such attention to interpretive principles (or
hermeneutics) is especially telling regarding the second
example. The document leaves the readers on their own, without
guidance as to why the task force has not studied those and other
 One implicit move the document does make is to lessen the
role of the law as providing ethical guidance-what is usually
called the third use of the law. The document begins
well: "In our daily living we are thus rightly constrained and
guided by the wisdom of the law" (59-60; also 142-44 and note
8). But as the document proceeds, Paul's use of the law in
that way is not addressed, nor is Luther's use of the Ten
Commandments. Moreover, one wonders after reading note 19 if
there is, for this document, any positive use of the law that is
possible for Christians: "'Legalism' indicates a belief in the
need for literal adherence to or trust in commands and 'shoulds,'
whether from Scripture or elsewhere." If that is what legalism
is, then it appears that following any command from the Bible is
eliminated. Note 19 feeds the sense that the document has a
strong anti-nomian bent and has lost the Lutheran concept of the
law-gospel dialectic. And so, while the document elsewhere is
correct in saying that law without gospel can lead to legalism
(271-72), it fails to balance that view with concern that
gospel without law can lead to libertinism, for which we have ample
evidence in the problems that led to the writing of 1 and 2
 I have identified where I think the document is on
target. In addition to what has already been noted, I would
like to mention:
the good and balanced statement on sexual love (490-93);
the basically solid section on marriage (especially 968-74 and
997-1003), although the lack of biblical basis for the material
remains troubling (see above);
the discussions of sexual abuse (734-52) and the exploitation of
 Over and above earlier observations, I want to mention the
following areas of concern:
I find it strange that the document does not discuss divorce and
I need help in understanding why, in a document on human
sexuality, the concepts of holy/holiness and
sanctify/sanctification are missing.
While some may object to incarnation and justification as the
starting points of a discussion on sexuality, my
major question has to do with the rationale for starting
there. Note 6 reads, "Because sin has intervened, Christians
cannot ground their understanding of sexuality in nature or
creation itself." But has not sin intervened in our
understandings of incarnation and justification just as much as in
our understanding of creation? In general, the document may
fall too heavily on the already side of the already but not yet
dialectic it uses.
It is of note that the Response Form does not ask respondents
what they would like to see deleted from the document, nor are
respondents asked any questions about the use of the Bible in the
 My overarching concern remains twofold.
 First, the document is written in part to persuade people
to agree with the positions it takes. Lutheran people in North
America are very responsive to arguments based on the Bible. I
do not think that the present draft represents the task force's
best attempt to marshal the biblical support it desires for the
positions it has taken.
 Second, by not engaging the debate regarding same-sex
relationships, the document, I believe, has done a disservice to
gay and lesbian people, as well as their family members and
supporters. The document gives the impression that there is no
argument to be made, only assertions to be stated. Thus any
change to current practice that might be suggested will appear
arbitrary and in conflict with the Bible. If the task force
has a biblical argument to state, I think it needs to state it-for
the sake of the ELCA, but even more for the sake of the people
whose lives are most immediately affected.
 Having been involved since 1993 at a national level in the
ELCA's discussion of human sexuality, I appreciate the exhaustion
of the members of the task force and the pressure they as a larger
group and the writing team as a smaller group have experienced.
I know nothing about the details of the writing process, nor
do I know who was on the writing team. It does seem to me that
the Confessional and Luther material is significantly more
developed than the biblical material, and I have made many
suggestions for improvement. But I make those suggestions out
of deep pastoral interest for gay and lesbian people and their
families, who have written me and visited my office in large
numbers since 1993, and I make my suggestions out of gratitude to
the task force and writing team for what we all know is ultimately
a most difficult task.
I have looked up every citation in the NRSV and checked the
original languages in many cases to see if the document was
dependent on the original language rather than the NRSV. I
have not found an example in which the original language text helps
to explain a given use of the Bible.
5-9, 119-20, 139, 305, 322-23, 342, 344-45 (three different
Bible passages), 352, 355-57, 358-61 (Genesis 1:27), 376, 395, 441,
442 (two passages), 458, 525-26 (three passages), 978-80, 1005,
1125, 1126, 1222-27.
15, 105, 358-61 (Galatians 3:28), 407, 459, 607-9, 641-42,
1212-14, 1413, note 5 (Galatians 6:10 does not have the word
neighbor) (all passages are listed, including the ones
discussed in the body of the paper).
The fuller list of places where biblical material could have
been and often should have been utilized includes these
locations: 57-58, 84-86, 111-12, 132-33, 135-37, 142-207,
238-39, 247-316, 362-66, 582-608, 626-726, 728-828, 830-90,
892-948, 950-94, 996-1052, 1054-1101, 1103-55, 1157-84, 1246-90,
1292-1365 (1293-94 refer to the Large Catechism on idolatry but
that Luther's thought goes back to Romans 1 is not acknowledged),
1367-1403, note 23 (the New Testament has the same view).
Romans 13:9, cited with 13:10 at 15, does quote commandments
six, five, seven, and nine, but the document neither quotes the
verse nor details its content.
410-11, 412-14; the other uses are 84-86, 397-98.
310-11; the other uses are 329-31, 341-42, 521-26,
 Canonical Scriptures
and Holy Scriptures are, indeed, used in the ELCA's
Confession of Faith, which is part of the ELCA Constitution, 2.05
Except in the term Holy Spirit, the word holy
occurs zero times in the document, the word holiness
occurs zero times in the document, the word sanctify
occurs zero times in the document, and the word
sanctification occurs zero times in the document.
And indeed there are substantive questions to be answered
regarding the shift of human sexuality from the realm of law to the
realm of gospel, as opposed to how Luther handled sexuality.
© September 2008
Journal of Lutheran Ethics (JLE)
Volume 8, Issue 9