Saturday, January 14, 2006

Grizzly Feast

My husband and I settled in last night to watch a movie, Grizzly Man. Now and again a nature documentary is fun. The last one we watched, March of the Penguins, sent us both to zombie-land quickly. I guess we just didn’t “get it.” Grizzly Man had a different effect.

While the Alaskan scenery and the animal footage were beautiful and entertaining, the human antics should have earned this film the title Silly Man. It is a compilation of thirteen years’ worth of Tim Treadwell’s attempts to live with grizzly bears. According to his own words, he wanted to become one of the grizzlies. It ended when he literally became one with the grizzly on October 6, 2003. That’s when a grizzly killed and ate him and his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard.

Throughout the film Treadwell is not portrayed as a sainted tree-hugger who died trying to make the world a better place for grizzlies. His detractors are given voice as well. One cautionary note is good to remember: Bears and people have their own separate place on this same earth. The Indians have respected this fact for generations. It is not good for the species to attempt to mix. It is not safe. Bears cannot be tamed into thinking that people are something other than another food source. They will eat you.

There is a theological lesson in this. There are those who think they can rationalize adiaphora, those things which are neither commanded nor forbidden, to accommodate a blanket of immunity for their worship styles and practices. According to them, if God has made no specific Law against it, then the church is free to engage in it. There is even an argument that suggests that, because there is no specific command which states, “Thou shalt not ordain women,” women may be ordained.

This is not how Jesus speaks. He tells His apostles to teach His baptized to observe all His commands (Matt 28:19-20). When He taught of Himself (Lk 24:44), it was from Moses and the Prophets. Paul says the church is built on the same, Eph 2:20. Jesus said the Church is built on the confession of Peter, which is to confess Christ as the Son of the Living God (Matt 16:18). It is only through Scripture that knowledge of the Christ is revealed. Scripture is the whole counsel of God teaching what Jesus taught. As such it is to be regarded when considering adiaphora as they have effect on the church’s confession of Jesus Christ as the Son of the Living God. Therefore, things adiaphora, although they may be matters of indifference, are often not neutral in the church’s confession.

Treadwell regarded only his own desires to be one with the grizzlies. He did not heed the biological evidence that he was not a bear, and the numerous precautionary warnings he received alerting him of the dangers he was exposing himself to. In the end, not only did the enemy consume him, it also ate the one who tagged along with him. Huguenard planned to leave Treadwell as soon as they returned from their last campout, but the bear got them both first.

Formula of Concord X states that not all ceremonies must be alike. It also states that in times of persecution the church may not give the appearance of being at one with her enemies. That is the “Treadwellian error” of many congregations today with their Open Communion and Contemporary Worship. They do not give serious consideration to the enemy who constantly prowls about as a hungry lion. Just as the species maintain their limits with respect for each other, so we ought to regard what Luther spoke to Zwingli, “You are of another spirit.” There is a reason to practice according to that which Jesus taught. We are in this world; we are not of it.

Adiaphora cannot be the bridge for fellowship, but it can easily become a bridge to heterodoxy.

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