Elizabeth Eaton was interviewed on Wednesday by reporter Robert Herguth during his podcast “Face to Faith.”
Herguth asked Eaton a variety of questions during the 42-minute discussion, from whether she has ever had doubts since becoming a minister, to how she has been received as the ELCA’s first female presiding bishop, to what Jesus will look like when He returns, to what she thinks Heaven is like.
When asked why, she explained it was because Jesus said He would draw all men to Himself and that she doesn’t believe God will give up on people.
“Jesus was clear in John 3 that when He is raised up, He will draw all people to Himself,” Eaton stated. “And if we take a look at salvation history, ever since we got booted out of the garden, it has been God’s relentless pursuit to bring His people to God.”
“Now, people wonder, ‘Well, can you say no?’ I imagine you can say no to God, [but] I don’t think God’s going to give up on us. And if God has eternity, then God can certainly keep working on those folks,” she said. “That might be a little bit of heresy along the lines of origin, but I don’t think God gives up.”
Eaton also outlined during the interview that while she believes that the Bible is inerrant, the ELCA does not view all Scripture as literal.
“How much of the New Testament do you think is literally true, in terms of Christ—how He operated [and] how He lived?” Herguth asked.
“Lutherans—at least our understanding—we’re not biblical literalists, and I would say that no one is a biblical literalist,” Eaton replied, “because Jesus said if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. Well, I’m seeing a lot of people with both eyes and both hands, and you can’t tell me there’s not been some sin going on there.”
“And also, when our Lord said that the mustard seed is the smallest seed, it isn’t,” she continued. “Does that mean He didn’t know what he was talking about? No.”
She said that rather Scripture needs to interpret Scripture and should not be cherry-picked, but that it should be accepted as a whole because it got the gospel right.
“I remember being with congregations after our decision in 2009 [to allow homosexuals to serve as clergy], where they thought, ‘Well, I heard the Bible describing human sexuality this way, and now you’re saying it’s another way.’ And you can see the arc going on (correlating), ‘So, if that’s not true, maybe [we’d think] the resurrection isn’t true.’ However, the entire New Testament was written after the resurrection of Jesus, so it has authority for us because it got that right.”
Jesus warned about Hell numerous times in the Scriptures, outlining in Matthew 25 that the wicked “shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal.”
He also explained in Matthew 7:21-23, “Not every one that saith unto Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven, but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in Heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? And in Thy name have cast out devils? And in Thy name done many wonderful works?’ And then will I profess unto them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.’”
Revelation 20:12-15 likewise warns, “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God. And the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hell delivered up the dead which were in them, and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and Hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”