“Have You Ever Helped Split a Church?”

That’s the first line of Joel Belz’s op-ed piece in the July 17, 2021, WORLD Magazine (“Menders or splitters?”, 8). You might not have before, but it’s highly likely you’re about to. And it will be over the equivalent of meat sacrificed to idols.

That is, it will be over a middle thing that is neither commanded nor forbidden. And the one doing the splitting is the one who takes a middle thing and ever so lightly nudges it on the side of commanded or forbade by God.

You can’t in good conscience vote for Joe Bidden because he is Pro-Abortion. You can’t vote for Donald Trump because he was caught on tape advocating sexual assault on women. You must wear a mask or you don’t love your neighbor. You must never wear a mask or you’re a government stooge.

One side is telling me I must not vaccinate using any vaccine that can be traced to a fetal cell line; that smacks of wokeism to me. Consider the abominations that were perpetuated by white men against black men, women, and children over the last 400 years? It’s true. It’s shocking, ugly, inexcusable. Therefore, anything derived from such crimes against humanity must not be used, supported, or furthered. For starters, that would be these United States.

The argument that anything that has evil origins can only be evilly used is from criminal justice. It’s called “Fruit of the Poisonous Tree.” Any evidence obtained by an unlawful search is deemed “poisoned” for use in prosecution. To take this principle of men and apply it to the Church is, in my mind, doing the same thing as the Reformed do. In man’s law, a 3-year old can’t be charged for shooting someone. They are not accountable under the laws of men. Baptist’s and other deniers of Infant Baptism apply this principle to Original Sin and say it doesn’t apply till a child has reached the age of accountability. The Reformed who believe the 4th Commandment has a statute of limitation that activates at the age of majority do the same thing.

From “Thou shalt not murder” we’re adding, “Thou shalt not get a vaccine derived from fetal stem cells.” To do so is to breach another wall, maybe two. One, you’re actively encouraging the use of fetal stem cells and by extension the abortion industry or you’re at least not discouraging it. This is Rabbinic Judaism building a wall of 39 laws so as to protect you from breeching God’s Sabbath.

What is going on here among those who would bind your conscience concerning vaccinations or even nudging it the direction of “Thus saith the Lord” is the equivalent of what a Catholic archbishop did in the First Gulf War. He declared it was unjust and therefore a Catholic could not participate in it without sinning. Do you know what that did for tens of thousands of Catholic soldiers? It made their participation immoral. That pronouncement should not have been done singlehandedly. You have to know all the facts before doing that. The archbishop thought he did.

And that’s what those willingly to pollute the consciences of millions of Christians who have vaccinated themselves and their children claim. They know all the facts absolutely. Outside the Wisconsin Lutheran Synod, I know of no other Confessional Lutheran seminary, college, district, or circuit who have publicly declared the truth that the common, every day, most used form of birth control, the Pill, is an abortifacient. That has been going on for 60 years. None of them sounded this warning, but the warning that some vaccines are linked to fetal cells from aborted babies has been sounding for decades, so Christians can make informed decisions. Now some are seeking to bind consciences or at least nudge them with God’s Word.

This is meat sacrificed to idols. This is telling a father who’s struggling to put food on the table, who’s watching his children waste away, you dare not give such meat to your children or you sin. In the midst of fearmongering, politicization, and upheaval rampant in society today, those saying, implying, or using the medical “best practices” standards in theology, are doing the same.

Luther is well-known for being in favor of the individual’s conscience in regard to 6th Commandment issues. For example: “‘Where you find that the law is causing confusion in the conscience, then override the law confidently – with the force of a millstone over a spiderweb – and deal with the matter as though there had never been a law. And if outwardly, in a temporal setting, you cannot manage to do so, then let it be, and trample the law in your conscience. Better to allow the body and possessions to fall prey to the law’s confusion than to victimize the conscience and the soul.'” (Bornkamm, Luther in Mid-Career, 607). “He [Luther] knew only too well that one could not always apply principles, but that one had to deal with facts….In his conclusion he once more advised the pastors not to deal with marriage matters unless people asked them for advice for their consciences. It was conceivable that consciences could be aided only if one ignored laws and regulations. In this case conscience had to take preference over earthly law codes. Conscience should not become entangled in laws. Especially was this true for things past which could no longer be altered.” (Luther, Brecht, II, 282-3). Of course, we want to point out following his principles, Luther was heavily criticized for his advice to Phillip of Hesse, but Luther wouldn’t talk about it. It was a pastoral decision for and about that individual. He apparently wouldn’t let precedent be set for him or others by that one decision.

If Luther did it with 6th Commandment conscience issues can’t we do it with 5th? We do. You can be a conscientious objector and refuse to serve as a combatant. We for decades recognized that Pro-Life Christians could vaccinate or not based on the dictates of their conscience. What neither side did was claim a “Thus saith the Lord” where there was none. That splits churches.

British author, Susan Howatch’s, Church of England series has a character say the most important question a pastor ask is: Could I be wrong? Luther, I think would agree. In reference to those who “exalt their own opinion above God and His Word,” he said, “If they truly believed in the God who created heaven and earth, they would also know that the same God is a Creator over their opinion, and makes, breaks, and judges it as He pleases. But if they do not allow Him to be a Creator over themselves and their opinion even in such a small point, it cannot be true that they believe Him to be the Creator of all creation” (LW, 75, 313).

Wow! That won’t split a church, but it might wake a person up.

About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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