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Why Can’t Our Sons Belong to the Boy Scouts?


Pastors Answer Frequently-Asked Questions

It’s a legitimate question, and one that should be reviewed on a regular basis. Organizations change over time. Using outdated materials to evaluate them is both unwise and unfair.

At the moment, there are polarizing differences between us and the Boy Scouts
of America. It is not possible, in this brief space, to document them all. Please consider two
of them:

I. While we both believe in a higher being, Scouting intentionally leaves God undefined, while we intentionally state exactly Who He is, what He demands, and what He has done.  A Boy Scout can be Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, or anything else, so long as he states that he believes in a higher being.

The fact that the BSA requires a belief in a deity is not wrong in itself. In Romans 2:14-15, Paul explains, When Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them. The natural knowledge of God is hard-wired into every human heart from the womb. There is nothing wrong with this knowledge, as far as it goes. But it only goes so far. It does not tell us Who the true God is or how He has saved us.

Paul encountered this knowledge throughout the heathen world. In Athens, he noted the many altars to their many deities. He didn’t pass this off lightly, thinking, “At least they worship a higher being.” He seized the moment to proclaim the truth. Paul even explained the purpose this knowledge of God was to serve: “that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27).

This is our calling as well. We are ambassadors for Christ, missionaries of the most high God. Our witness is not to suggest that all religions are equal and good, but to proclaim the truth that all people need to hear. Joining an organization that requires only a belief in a generic god goes contrary to our calling.

II. The purpose of Scouting is different
from our purpose. Scouting is primarily
interested in character development and
civic righteousness. Our primary interest is in saving souls by preaching repentance and forgiveness of sins in Christ.

When a troop gathers to meet, its members recite the Scout oath: “On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.” The Scout Law is: “A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.”

The assumption is that people are basically good. The truth is that by nature we are anything but good—sinful from conception, blind to spiritual truth, and enemies of God. Where Scouting appeals to one’s own honor to live clean, moral lives, we appeal to the mercy of God in Christ.

When we gather to meet in worship, we confess the opposite of the Scout Oath: “I am by nature sinful and unclean. I have sinned against God by thought, word, and deed.” The two professions are light years apart in meaning and purpose. Reconciliation between these two beliefs is not possible.

There are other issues that stand between us and the Scouts. This is something your pastor can discuss more thoroughly with you if you wish.

James Albrecht is pastor of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Okabena, Minnesota.