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Almost everyone knows Martin Luther's famous defense before the Diet of Worms: "Here I stand, I can do no other. God help me. Amen."

Not as many people can quote what he said just before that. "Unless I am convinced by proofs from Scriptures or by plain and clear reasons and arguments, I cannot and will not retract."

That quotation sums up the way the Lutheran movement began: as a demand for the church to operate under Scriptural authority.

When the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America passed its social statement on sexuality last summer, approving of gay unions and gay clergy, it made no effort appeal to Scripture at all. This frustrated and angered conservative Lutherans, who would have disagreed with the statement's teaching even if the document had appealed to scriptural authority. But to ignore Scripture entirely? How un-Lutheran.

In late August, I joined more than 800 conservative Lutherans in Columbus, Ohio, for Lutheran CORE's free theological conference. We listened to seven theologians (augmented by theologically oriented preachers and a banquet speaker) focus on the crisis in authority in their church.

The Tuesday-through-Thursday event was designed to frame a Thursday-through-Friday convocation which in turn gave birth to a new Lutheran denomination—a safe haven for congregations that find the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America too liberal and the Missouri-Synod Lutheran Church too "fundamentalist" for their comfort.

Senior statesman Carl Braaten, now 81 years old and cofounder with Robert Jenson of the Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology keynoted the event.

The Gnostic Flight from Authority

Braaten described the ELCA approach to authority as deficient in three "Gnostic" ways, deficiencies that played ...

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