Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘C. S. Lewis’ Category

In a 5/31/14 Wall Street Journal book review of new biography of Bonhoeffer, Strange Glory by Charles Marsh, the reviewer spends a sizable portion of his article on Marsh’s assertion, summed up by the reviewer:  “Dietrich  Bonhoeffer was gay”. Even saying that, note, makes the picture above suspect. Now the reviewer says that the author does not quite say that but that something funny was going on between Bonhoeffer and his best friend, confessor, fellow pastor and eventual biographer, Eberhard Bethge.  For instance that Bonhoeffer had an “unanswered longing” for community was an indication of his homosexual bent. So that would mean a man’s desire to shoot firearms must mean he is a murderer?  I do not think so. They wrote tender letters to each other.  Even if one has an inclination does not mean a man will act upon it. In a Lincoln biography, an author said that Lincoln and, I think it was, Herndon, had a homosexual tryst, indicated by sharing beds (which would have been customary on the road in the 19th century) . Anytime two men are close, then they are probably homosexual these days, as liberal theologians  assert in same fashion that since David and Jonathan were close, as Jonathan loved David as “his own soul” (1 Sam. 18: 1), that they also were lovers.  But I will let C. S. Lewis weigh in here.  He is by today’s corrupt standards, political incorrect, but as Lewis wrote, it is we who are out of step.  The following quotes are from his The Four Loves,the chapter on Friendship:

To say that every Friendship is consciously and explicitly homosexual would be too obviously false; the wiseacres take refuge in the less palpable charge that it is really – unconsciously, cryptically, in some Pickwickian sense – homosexual. And this, though it cannot be proved, can never of course be refuted. The fact that no positive evidence of homosexuality can be discovered in the behaviour of two Friends does not disconcert the wiseacres at all: “That”, they say gravely, “is just what we should expect.” The very lack of evidence is thus treated as evidence; the absence of smoke proves that the fire is very carefully hidden. Yes – if it exists at all. But we must first prove its existence. Otherwise we are arguing like a man, who should say “If there were an invisible cat in that chair, the chair would look empty; but the chair does look empty; therefore there is an invisible cat in it.” A belief in invisible cats cannot perhaps be logically disproved, but it tells us a good deal about those who hold it. Those who cannot conceive Friendship as a substantive love but only as a disguise or elaboration of Eros betray the fact that they have never had a Friend. The rest of us know that though we can have erotic love and friendship for the same person yet in some ways nothing is less like a Friendship than a love-affair. Lovers are always talking to one another about their love; Friends hardly ever about their Friendship. Lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each other; Friends, side by side, absorbed in some common interest. Above all, Eros (while it lasts) is neccessarily between two only. But two, far from being the necessary number for Friendship, is not even the best.

Bonhoeffer and Bethge had much in common and were brothers in Christ side by side.  They certainly had a common interest, actually interests:  Christ and faith, and the fight for faith and against Nazism.  Lewis continued:

The homosexual theory therefore seems to me not even plausible. This is not to say that Friendship and abnormal Eros have never been combined. Certain cultures at certain periods seem to have tended to the contamination. In war-like societies it was, I think, especially likely to creep into the relation between the mature Brave and his young armour-bearer or squire. The absence of the women while you were on the warpath had no doubt something to do with it. In deciding, if we think we need or can decide, where it crept in and where it did not, we must surely be guided by the evidence (when there is any) and not by an a priori theory. Kisses, tears and embraces are not in themselves evidence of homosexuality. The implications would be, if nothing else, too comic. Hrathgar embracing Beowulf, Johnson embracing Boswell (a pretty flagrantly heterosexual couple) and all those hairy old toughs of centurions in Tacitus, clinging to one another and begging for last kisses when the legion was broken up… all pansies? If you can believe that you can believe anything. On a broad historical view it is, of course, not the demonstrative gestures of Friendship among our ancestors but the absence of such gestures in our own society that calls for some special explanation. We, not they, are out of step.

 

Read Full Post »

Introduction:  Today’s appointed Psalmody is Psalm 119: 9-16.  Pr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer (+9 April, 1945) in his unfinished commentary on the longest single chapter in the Bible, Psalm 119, has these sharp observations on verse 9

How can a young man keep his way pure?
    By guarding it according to Your word.

A young man here asks the question of his life, and he asks it not because of flaming idealism or enthusiasm for the good and noble in general, but because he has experienced the power of the Word of God and his own weakness.

Does this question about the blameless and pure way sound inconsistent with youth, freedom and affirmation of life?  If so, it is only because we have become accustomed to a very godless conception of youth and are no longer able to understand the power and fullness of life which is found in innocence.  It is very presumptuous and wrongheaded to that a man has to become entangled in the guilt of life in order to know life itself, and finally God.  We do not learn to know life and guilt from own experience, but from God’s judgment of mankind and His grace in the cross of Jesus Christ.

It has become clearer in my studies that  pre-war, pre-Nazi Germany had a large youth movement just we had in our country the 1960s.  In both time periods youth were extolled as the measure of the good and the noble.  A Lutheran pastor and theologian, Kurt Marquart, wrote in an 1978 article on liturgy, the following trenchant comment on the Church:

Who, after all, could respect an institution which is, after two
thousand years’ experience, so confused about its functions as
to say, in effect: “Dear children, help us! We are no longer
sure about what we ought to be doing. Perhaps you might
have some good ideas?” Who could possibly take seriously the
play -worship prefixed with that horrid word, “experimental”?
The fact is that no healthy. viable society lets its children
arbitrate its values. It is for the elders of the tribe to guard its
cultural heritage and to transmit it solemnly to the younger
generation-never vice versa. Also in our society the problem
is not with the youth but with their elders. 

In Bonhoeffer’s time, before World War II, after the utter devastation of the first World War, a youth movement began in Germany that was looking for a leader, (German: Führer) to lead them to a new day. In 1933, after Herr Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, Bonhoeffer gave a radio address, “The Younger Generations’ Altered Concept of Leadership” based upon “Führer Princip” or Leader Principle”.  It was cut short, history can only guess who cut it short and Bonhoeffer later gave it again. I wrote an article about this principle at Brothers of John the Steadfast.  Yet it all started in a youth movement. One musical caught the incipient terrors of this youth movement, Cabaret, in a song written for the musical (set in prewar Nazi Germany) which almost sounds like a song of that era:

It seems to me at least that in Bonhoeffer’s comments on Psalm 119: 9 that  he is reflecting a saying of this new understanding of youth. He calls it “godless”.  Growing up in the 60s, I was told that you have to become thoroughly immersed in “living” to understand life.  No, says Bonhoeffer, based upon God’s Word:  we learn of life, it’s guilt and redemption only in God’s Word.  I was never directly taught that it is good to be innocent,as it was derided as naiveté.  Look at what youth, unrestricted by any wisdom, Biblical or traditional, wrought in Germany.  Look what has happened with my generation dictating, not merely bad liturgy, but what we wanted:  drugs, pot, ‘free’ love, narcissism, abortion, STDs.  Look at what has been wrought.  Bonhoeffer:

“Not good intentions, burning ideals, nor even work and fulfillment of duty can keep the way pure, only God’s Word can do that.

We need the Word of Lord more than ever, beloved in the Lord.

Read Full Post »

In my last posting, Faith:  A Family Affair I commented on the daily lection for that day from Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy.  The daily readings from 2 Timothy concluded 1 February 2014.   The focus of Paul’s second epistle to Timothy centers on the Word of God, the Scriptures  as the Apostle encourages Timothy to, “…follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.”  (1: 13) The “sound words” (literally “healthy words”, “clean words”) are the Scriptures.  God’s Word is clean (cf.Psalm 19:8-10).  His Word in Holy Baptism, over which He has placed His Name, cleanses (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:10-12 ).   

The Apostle begins his  epistle by gently reminding his brother pastor that Timothy was taught the faith from his mother and grandmother, and further he was ordained a pastor to preach and teach the Word of God “in and out of season”, when it is favorable or not:  see 2 Timothy 4:1-3.  In another word of encouragement, the Apostle Paul wrote Timothy, again reminding him of the faith which was kindled by the Scriptures:

3: 14 But as for you,continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

Immediately after the verses above, the Apostle writes the concise statement of the origin and purpose of the Scriptures in the life of pastors and people in the Body of Christ, His Church:

3: 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God 

The more usual translation of “breathed out” is “inspired”.  Lutheran Pastor and Professor, Dr. Paul Kretzmann, in his Popular Commentary (1924) describes the verse from 2 Timothy as both witness to veracity of the Scripture and to the correct way of understanding “inspired/God breathed”:

What the apostle has stated concerning the Holy Scriptures, of the power of God in them, of their glorious purpose and blessing, he now summarizes in a powerful sentence, which is a strong bulwark for the inspiration of the Old Testament. He writes: All Scripture, inspired by God, is also profitable. The term used by the apostle is so general that it seems to include not only the books of the Old Testament, as in use in the Jewish Church, but also the writings then being penned by inspiration of God, the gospels and the letters of the various apostles and evangelists. At any rate, there can be no doubt that the so-called Old Testament canon is the inspired Word of God. St. Paul writes that Scripture was inspired by God, not in the manner of a mechanical transmission, but in such a way that God breathed His holy Gospel, His Word, into the minds of the writers, incidentally making use of their intellect, of their mental ability and equipment, in producing a series of books which plainly show the peculiarities of the writers, and yet are, word for word, the product of God Himself.

Please note that both the Muslims, who say that an angel dictated word for word the Koran to Mohammed (dictation theory),  and the Mormons both believe in  a “mechanical transmission” of their false works-righteous, false doctrinal books, even to the point that Joseph Smith said it was literally mechanical: “golden-plates” and “crystals” to see them aright!  Natural man, without Gospel, only invent more works-righteous religions. There is nothing mysterious about that at all, Look at me!  How I saved me!    The Scriptures lead us continually to Jesus Christ, the mystery of His love seeking the lost, kindling faith. The “peculiarities of the writers” show us the way the Lord found them in their lives.  A shepherd, David, writes the Shepherd Psalm, Psalm 23.  The priest in the Temple, Isaiah, is cleansed in the Temple to preaching the cleansing Word of God.  The murderer of Christians, Saul, is called to preach Christ and Him crucified thus making Christians and so in Christ, eternal life, not eternal death.  Each of their differences are read in their writings, yet all preach and teach the one Word of God.

Please note purpose of Scripture as Paul continued,

and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete,equipped for every good work.

Reproof and correction is hardly part of too many pastors’ and congregations’ understanding of Scripture and the life in Christ Jesus.  We are supposed to be continually “affirmed”.  No one says “no” and we don’t want to be the Church of “no”, in other words, we don’t want to teach God’s Law.  The word “heresy” is from the Greek which literally means “choice”.   “All Scripture…”, Law and Promise, and not just the parts we like.  Scripture is teaching the Lord’s sound doctrine of Law and  Promise.  Scripture is for teaching Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.  Scripture for reproof and for correction, showing us where we have strayed and missed the mark, to warn us, Woe! and Whoa!  The Lord’s salvation is at stake!  Scripture is for training in righteousness, the alien righteousness given us by grace through Jesus Christ that we are His, that His alien righteousness, foreign to sin and the Old Adam, have a home here  and now for every good work,the fruit of faith which is love.  And all of this, teaching, reproof, correction, training is the Lord’s package deal in His written Word.  

Paul addresses and false doctrine in this letter.  Paul gives a necessary concrete example of false doctrine in their day in time, in the Epistle:

But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. 19 But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” (chapter 2)

“…their talk will spread like gangrene.”  Gangrene is a powerful image of death spreading because of false doctrine.  If the resurrection has already happened, then one is sinless, and so sin won’t affect a resurrected body, so have fun.  Scary, isn’t it?  It just leads, “…into more and more ungodliness”.   The denial of the historicity of Scripture is a cottage industry in academia and has been for over  a century. Just look at the way the Scriptures have been put into a paper shredder by modern Biblical scholars, as in there is no bodily resurrection, beginning with Jesus Christ.  If there is no Resurrection, there is no judgment and no salvation, so go for the all the gusto today. Yes, we can see it all around in us the culture but I think it began in churches where the devil does his best work.

C. S. Lewis’ fantasy allegory, The Great Divorce is about a bus ride from Hell to heaven for the inhabitants of the former to meet the celestial people of Heaven.  In one conversation, two former priests in the Anglican Church, who were friends meet.  Dick, from heaven and his friend, the bishop in hell.  The ‘bishop’ speaks first:

Ah, Dick, I shall never forget some of our talks. I expect you’ve changed your views a bit since then. You became rather narrow-minded towards the end of your life: but no doubt you’ve broadened out again.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, it’s obvious by now, isn’t it, that you weren’t quite right. Why, my dear boy, you were coming to believe in a literal Heaven and Hell!”

“But wasn’t I right?”

“Oh, in a spiritual sense, to be sure. I still believe in them in that way. I am still, my dear boy, looking for the Kingdom. But nothing superstitious or mythological. . . .”

“Excuse me. Where do you imagine you’ve been?”

“Ah, I see. You mean that the grey town with its continual hope of morning (we must all live by hope, must we not?), with its field for indefinite progress, is, in a sense, Heaven, if only we have eyes to see it? That is a beautiful idea.”

“I didn’t mean that at all. Is it possible you don’t know where you’ve been?”

“Now that you mention it, I don’t think we ever do give it a name. What do you call it?”

“We call it Hell.”

“There is no need to be profane, my dear boy. I may not be very orthodox, in your sense of that word, but I do feel that these matters ought to be discussed simply, and seriously, and reverently.”

“Discuss Hell reverently? I meant what I said. You have been in Hell: though if you don’t go back you may call it Purgatory.”

“Go on, my dear boy, go on. That is so like you. No doubt you’ll tell me why, on your view, I was sent there. I’m not angry.”

“But don’t you know? You went there because you are an apostate.”

“Are you serious, Dick?”

“Perfectly.”

“This is worse than I expected. Do you really think people are penalised for their honest opinions? Even assuming, for the sake of argument, that those opinions were mistaken.”

“Do you really think there are no sins of intellect?”

“There are indeed, Dick. There is hidebound prejudice, and intellectual dishonesty, and timidity, and stagnation. But honest opinions fearlessly followed-they are not sins.”

“I know we used to talk that way. I did it too until the end of my life when I became what you call narrow. It all turns on what are honest opinions.”

“Mine certainly were. They were not only honest but heroic. I asserted them fearlessly. When the doctrine of the Resurrection ceased to commend itself to the critical faculties which God had given me, I openly rejected it. I preached my famous sermon. I defied the whole chapter. I took every risk.”

“What risk? What was at all likely to come of it except what actually came-popularity, sales for your books, invitations, and finally a bishopric?”

Paul is writing also about “sins of the intellect”.  He warns about the incessant quarreling about words, i.e. see the endless threads of endless blogs. “Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. ” 2 Timothy 2: 14  I am more and more convinced that hell is an endless  thread of an endless blogging, just as the bishop wanted to continue the endless dialogue about doctrine only to deny it.  “Before God, who searches hearts and minds, he was to remind the ministers of their duty. They should exclude, as altogether useless and unprofitable, the custom of striving with words, of quarreling endlessly, 1 Timothy 1:5-7 ; Titus 3:9” (Kretzmann).  The Lord does not want us revolving  around ourselves, but go to Him, His Word, His Grace, His Mercy, for in Him our sin is forgiven and our lives quickened.  Remembering what the Word says:

8 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, 9 for which I am suffering,bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. 11 The saying is trustworthy, for:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—

for he cannot deny himself. (2 Timothy 2)

Read Full Post »

This posting is a follow-up to the previous one regarding Lucas Cranach the Elder‘s painting, “The Allegory of Law and Grace“.

There is not one painting with the theme of Law and Grace by Lucas Cranach the Elder, but many paintings and in addition his drawings and woodcuts on the same theme.  This theme was so popular that another German artist, Hans Holbein the Younger painted the same allegory.

Lucas Cranach and his family were friends of the Luthers.  Their friendship in Christ is most likely responsible for the differences between two paintings of the theme Law and Grace by the artist.  Note the differences below.  The first one is the earlier Prague painting, the next one is the later Gotha painting.  What are the differences?  

“Prague”

“Gotha” Type

Let’s first look at the less obvious change.  In the “Prague” painting, on the Law side we see depicted a group of tents in the background illustrating the narrative of the bronze serpent in the wilderness (Numbers 21:8-10  ) which our Lord used to describe His Messianic role, see John 3:13-15 Note that in the second painting the “Gotha” panel it has been moved into the Gospel side.  John Dillenberger in his book, Images and Relics in the time of the Reformation and the Renaissance, notes the high probability, given the friendship between Cranach and Luther that Cranach  made this change of  depiction, because Cranach had bee more fully catechized by Dr. Luther.  But why the change?

 Luther did not distinguish between law and gospel in terms of Old Testament and New Testament, for there was law in the New Testament, and gospel in the Old. The other subjects fell easily into either the Old or New Testament divisions. But law and gospel did not easily fall into one or the other testament, thus requiring a decision. The scene of the serpents that devoured the people, who then were saved by their looking at the elevated serpent, is recorded in the Old Testament; but it is actually the symbol of grace. The church had interpreted the serpent being lifted up as a prefiguration of Christ having been lifted up. Luther, looking at the Cross, could…speak of the “brazen serpent Christ,” thereby showing his radical reading of the Old Testament from a Christological perspective.[1]

A correction on the quote above:  the Church did not interpret the bronze serpent being lifted up as a prefiguration of Christ’s crucifixion, no, Christ did! Again, Luther did not come up with “his radical reading of the Old Testament” from the perspective of the accomplishment of salvation in Jesus Christ  (“christological”) on his own.  St. Augustine centuries earlier said that the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed. This unity of Testaments in Jesus Christ is inherent in the texts of both Old and New Testaments,  Dillenberger is right on target, though, that the notion that the OT   equals Law and NT equals Gospel/Grace is incorrect.

Now to the obvious difference in the paintings:  the Man, that is Adam, in the earlier painting is smack dab in the middle.  In the later painting, he is on both sides. Dillenberger in the quote above correctly wrote that the earlier painting suggests a decision by Adam as to which side he wants to be in.  Indeed, Luther may just have corrected his friend!

“…the Gotha panel becomes the norm, perhaps because it was closer to what Luther meant. It provided a picture of the ramifications of law and gospel for each person, rather than a demand that either law or gospel be accepted.[2]

It sure looks like in the earlier panel Adam, that is all of us, needs to make our decision for Christ.  The panel of the Law shows the depth of sin, death and the power of the devil.  Only the spiritual use of the Law, showing us our sin, can we know the depths. First, given the graphic illustration of the Law, it’s a “no brainer” as to a decision!  But even so the Old Adam tenaciously will hold onto the “dearest souvenirs of hell”(C. S. Lewis). And the subtle serpent will not present himself so baldy, but in disguise as “light”. We can not make the move by our decision from the left panel to the right panel:  only the Lord can and has through the preaching and teaching of the Gospel does the Holy Spirit literally transfer us from Law to Grace:

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14/ emphasis my own)

So that, we are not under Law but under grace:

 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6: 13-14)

The Law is necessary in the second panel to show us our sin and point us ever to our Savior lifted up on the Cross, so we do not present our “members” as instruments for unrighteousness, but      “…to God as instruments for righteousness”, because as the Apostle plainly states, “SINCE,  you are not under law but under grace.” (emphasis my own).  Luther posted his 95 Theses on purpose on the eve of All Saints Day, November 1.  The second painting depicts more closely the Scripture and the verses cited.  It is a wonderful reminder not only of God’s grace in Jesus Christ but the power of His overwhelming  Sacrifice which alone, ALONE transfers us  in His rule and reign, saints by grace, not our works, so that by His grace we will produce fruit pleasing in His sight. So note, the tree in the middle is fruitless on the law side, but fruitful unto salvation in Jesus. 

By grace! None dare lay claim to merit;
Our works and conduct have no worth.
God in His love sent our Redeemer,
Christ Jesus, to this sinful earth;
His death did for our sins atone,
And we are saved by grace alone

Blessed Reformation Day and All Saints Day!


[1] Pages 98-100, Images and Relics by John Dillenberger (Oxford University Press, 1999)

[2] Page 100, ibid

Read Full Post »

“Unless we return to the crude and nursery-like belief in objective values, we perish. If we do, we may live, and such a return might have one minor advantage. If we believed in the absolute reality of elementary moral platitudes, we should value those who solicit our votes by other standards than have recently been in fashion. While we believe that good is something to be invented, we demand of our rulers such qualities as ‘vision, ‘dynamism’, ‘creativity’, and the like. If we returned to the objective view we should demand qualities much rarer, and much more beneficial—virtue, knowledge, diligence and skill. ‘Vision’ is for sale, or claims to be for sale, everywhere. But give me a man who will do a day’s work for a day’s pay, who will refuse bribes, who will not make up his facts, and who has learned his job.” From the last paragraph of C. S. Lewis’ essay, The Poison of Subjectivism

Read Full Post »

It is quite congenial to the wisdom of God, that he bestows his blessings by simple means. If he employed great means the blessings might be ascribed to their greatness; but when they are simple, the blessings can be ascribed to him only. St. Paul saith, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” 2 Cor 4:7. The feebler the instrument seems by which mighty works are wrought, the plainer the omnipotent hand of God is to be seen.”

 The quote is from  Rev. Pr. David Henkel[1] (born 1791, Staunton, Virginia, died 1831 in Lincoln, NC), ” Flood of Heavenly Regeneration”, in which he teaches the Biblical doctrine of Baptism.  The means of grace, Word and Sacrament are words, and water, bread, wine.  Just think: when the Church moved out into the Roman Empire, the great cities had pagan temples with magnificent services and ceremonies and they were mega-services.  The Christians had words, water, bread and wine, ordinary…in one’s home, in the catacombs.  By them the Lord built His Church in a pagan world against all odds. By them the Lord gives us His Word to fill us, wash us, cleanse us, feed us.  Pr. Henkel points out that if one does great spiritual works, like fasting, long prayers and giving to others everyone praises those works (see Matthew 6:  1-18).  We ascribe greatness to the means not to the Savior.  We live in a time when people applaud mega-churches, mega-worship, mega-pastor personalities, that is praising the means as great.  This is so far away from the truth of the Scriptures. I love the liturgy of the Church but when a liturgy becomes simply “smells and bells”, and very grand,  folks may say, Oh, what a wonderful service!  “‘Tis mad idolatry that makes the service greater than the god”, as quoted by C. S. Lewis on ‘creative worship’[2].


[1] David Henkel, one of the founders of the Tennessee Synod was one of the most important theologians of nineteenth century confessional Lutheranism in North America. The Tennessee Synod had the distinction of being the first Lutheran church body to publish the entire Book of Concord in English, and its pastors were zealous missionaries, contending against false doctrine and proclaiming the truth of the Gospel. One of  Henkel’s contributions was a book contending against the errors of Unitarianism, and is still a valuable resource for responding to those who deny the scriptural teaching of the doctrine of the Trinity.

[2]There is no subject in the world (always excepting sport) on which I have less to say than liturgiology. And the almost nothing which I have to say may as well be disposed of in this letter.

I think our business as laymen is to take what we are given and make the best of it. And I think we should find this a great deal easier if what we were given was always and everywhere the same.

To judge from their practice, very few Anglican clergymen take this view. It looks as if they believed people can be lured to go to church by incessant brightenings, lightenings, lengthenings, abridgements, simplifications, and complications of the service. And it is probably true that a new, keen vicar will usually be able to form within his parish a minority who are in favour of his innovations. The majority, I believe, never are. Those who remain—many give up churchgoing altogether—merely endure.

Is this simply because the majority are hide-bound? I think not. They have a good reason for their conservatism. Novelty, simply as such, can have only an entertainment value. And they don’t go to church to be entertained. They go to use the service, or, if you prefer, to enact it. Every service is a structure of acts and words through which we receive a sacrament, or repent, or supplicate, or adore. And it enables us to do these things best—if you like, it “works” best—when, through long familiarity, we don’t have to think about it. As long as you notice, and have to count, the steps, you are not yet dancing but only learning to dance. A good shoe is a shoe you don’t notice. Good reading becomes possible when you need not consciously think about eyes, or light, or print, or spelling. The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God.

But every novelty prevents this. It fixes our attention on the service itself; and thinking about worship is a different thing from worshipping. The important question about the Grail was “for what does it serve?” “‘Tis mad idolatry that makes the service greater than the god.”

A still worse thing may happen. Novelty may fix our attention not even on the service but on the celebrant. You know what I mean. Try as one may to exclude it, the question “What on earth is he up to now?” will intrude. It lays one’s devotion waste. There is really some excuse for the man who said, “I wish they’d remember that the charge to Peter was Feed my sheep; not Try experiments on my rats,  or even, Teach my performing dogs new tricks.”

Thus my whole liturgiological position really boils down to an entreaty for permanence and uniformity. I can make do with almost any kind of service whatever, if only it will stay put. But if each form is snatched away just when I am beginning to feel at home in it, then I can never make any progress in the art of worship. You give me no chance to acquire the trained habit—habito dell’arte.”

Read Full Post »

“In all of us God “still” holds only a part.  D-Day is only a week ago.  The bite so far taken out of Normandy shows small on the map of Europe.  The resistance is strong, the casualties heavy, and the even uncertain.  There is, we have to admit, a line of demarcation between God’s part in us and the enemy’s region.  But it is, we hope, a fighting line;  not a frontier fixed by agreement.” (Letters to Malcolm:  Chiefly on Prayer)

Read Full Post »

Collect of the Day

Almighty God, your Holy Spirit gives to one the word of wisdom, and to another the word of knowledge, and to another the word of faith. We praise you for the gifts of grace imparted to your servant Athanasius, and we pray that by his teaching we may be led to a fuller knowledge of the truth which we have seen in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

Readings

Acts 20:19-35

Psalm 71:1-8

2 Corinthians 4:5-14

St. Matthew 10:23-32

About  Athanasius, Church Father:

  • Athanasius was an Egyptian by birth and a Greek by eduction
  • His parents were both Christians and wealthy and Athanasius received both a solid secular and catholic (Christian) education in the city of  Alexandria, Egypt.  Alexandria was a city noted for it’s learning and it’s martyrs.
  • Athanasius lived during the most horrible of the persecutions of the Church under Diocletius, and then Maximin, from when Athanasius was 5 till he was 14, when it finally  ended in Egypt 311.
  • During the time of the persecution, many Alexandrian Christians fled to the desert and thus some began monasteries.  The most known of the monks was Anthony.  Athanasius knew him and eventually wrote Anthony’s biography.
  • He was a teenager when the Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan in 313 making Christianity a legal religion in the Empire.
  • But after about six years after the Edict, a bishop, Arius, began teaching that there was a time, “…when Christ was not”, thus denying Biblical, catholic and orthodox doctrine.
  • But before the onslaught of the Arian heresy, Athanasius wrote two small books:  Against the Heathen, in which he refutes contemporary paganism (please note: paganism was in it’s pure form at that time, without heretics mixing in Christianity) and the demonstration of the possibility of the knowledge of God by the human soul.  The second one, On the Incarnation of the Word  of God, was on Word made flesh. “It is not speculative, it is not original…not even controversial”, because Arius had not yet started down the wrong path.  The photo above and the quotes below are from this volume, available at St. Vladimir’s Press.  This edition features an introduction by none other than C. S. Lewis.
  • Athanasius was present at the Council of Nicaea as a non-voting Deacon.
  • He was ordained in 328 as Bishop.
  • Athanasius lived his whole life in Alexandria except for the five times he was forced into exile for his preaching and teaching. He stood alone for the Faith delivered to saints once for all (Jude 1:3). Yet,he was known by his contemporaries as a kind and gentle man, of great education and humility.  He was short of stature.
  • His name is associated with the third creed of the Church, confessed in The Book of Concord, the Athanasian Creed, though most likely he did not write it,  nevertheless the creed is a solid reflection of Christian and orthodox theology as taught by the saint.
  • In 356, Anthony died at the age of 105. The desert monks gave support for their brother, Athanasius, especially when he went into exile.
  • After the fifth exile, Athanasius  had seven years of fruitful peace in his labors as a pastor and theologian.
  • He died on this date in 373 as Patriarch of Alexandria.
The information above and the quotes below are all from On the Incarnation, with Introduction by C. S. Lewis, published by St. Vladimir Press in a new translation.
 
A Reflection from Lewis’ Intro:

St. Athanasius has suffered in popular estimation from a certain sentence in the “Athanasian Creed”….the words “Which Faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly” are the offence. They are commonly misunderstood. The operative word is keep; not acquire, or even believe, but keep. The author, in fact, is  not about unbelievers but  deserters, not about those who have never heard-of Christ, nor even those who have understood and refused to accept Him, but those really believed, then allow themselves, under the sway of sloth or fashion or any other invited confusion to be drawn away into sub-Christian modes of thoughts. They are a warning against the curious modern assumption that all changes of belief, however brought about, are necessarily exempt from blame…

His epitaph is Athanasius contra mundum, “Athanasius against the world.” We are proud that our own country has more than once stood against the world. Athanasius did the same. He stood for the Trinitarian doctrine, “whole and undefiled,” when it looked as if all the civilised world was slipping back from Christianity into the religion of Arius—into one of those “sensible” synthetic religions which are so strongly recommended today and which, then as now, included among their devotees many highly cultivated clergymen. It is his glory that he did not move with the times; it is his reward that he now remains when those times, as all times do, have moved away.

Quotes from On the Incarnation:

  • “The Savior is working mightily among men, every day He is invisibly persuading numbers of people all over the world, both within and beyond the Greek-speaking world, to accept His faith and be obedient to His teaching.  Can anyone, in face of this, still doubt that He has risen and lives, or rather that He is Himself the Life?  Does a dead man prick the consciences of men, so that they throw all the traditions of their fathers to the winds and bow down before the teaching of Christ?  If He is no longer active in the world, as He must needs be if He is dead, how is that He makes the living to cease from their activities, the adulterer for his adultery, the murderer from murdering, the unjust from avarice, while the profane and godless man becomes religious?  If He did not rise, but is still dead, how is it that He routs and persecutes and overthrows the false gods, whom unbelievers think to be alive, and the evil spirits whom they worship?  For where Christ is named, idolatry is destroyed and the fraud of evil spirits is exposed; indeed, no such spirit can endure that Name, but takes to flight on sound of it.  This is the work of One Who lives, not of one dead; and, more than that, it is the work of God.
  • “For of what use is existence to the creature if it cannot know its Maker?”
  • “….it was our sorry case that caused the Word to come down, our transgression that called out His love for us, so that He made haste to help us and to appear among us. It is we who were the cause of His taking human form, and for our salvation that in His great love He was both born and manifested in a human body.”
  • “How could He have called us if He had not been crucified, for it is only on the cross that a man dies with arms outstretched?”
  • “He deals with them (“them”=us!  Please note: by this time in his book, Athanasius has portrayed Biblically and correctly man as an idolater, Romans 1, doomed to death on account of sin and disobedience and so the sheer wonder of the Incarnation-Pr. Schroederas a good teacher with his pupils, coming down to their level and using simple means. St. Paul says as much: “Because in the wisdom of God the world in its wisdom knew not God, God. thought fit through the simplicity of the News proclaimed to save those who believe.” (1 Cor. 1: 23) I Men had turned from the contemplation of God above, and were looking for Him in , the opposite direction, down among created things and things of sense. The Saviour of us all, the Word of God, in His great love took to Himself a body and moved as Man among men, meeting their senses, so to speak, halfway.”

 

Read Full Post »

https://i0.wp.com/orthodoxbahamas.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Bible-Study-Icon-of-Saint-John-of-Damascus.png
John (ca. 675–749) is known as the great compiler and summarizer of the orthodox faith and the last great Greek theologian. Born in Damascus, John gave up an influential position in the Islamic court to devote himself to the Christian faith. Around 716 he entered a monastery outside of Jerusalem and was ordained a priest. When the Byzantine emperor Leo the Isaurian in 726 issued a decree forbidding images (icons), John forcefully resisted. In his Apostolic Discourses he argued for the legitimacy of the veneration of images, which earned him the condemnation of the Iconoclast Council in 754. John also wrote defenses of the orthodox faith against contemporary heresies. In addition, he was a gifted hymn writer (“Come, You Faithful, Raise the Strain”) and contributed to the liturgy of the Byzantine churches. His greatest work was the Fount of Wisdom which was a massive compendium of truth from  previous Christian theologians, covering practically every conceivable doctrinal topic. John’s summary of the orthodox faith left a lasting stamp on both the Eastern and Western churches.

O Lord, through Your servant John of Damascus, You proclaimed with power the mysteries of the true faith.  Confirm our faith so that we may confess Jesus to be true God and true man, singing the praise of the risen Lord, and so that by the power the resurrection we also attain the joys of eternal life;  through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

(From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

Reflection:  John of Damascus was instrumental in the iconoclast controversy. He wrote On the Divine Images, as an apology, that is  a defense of the practice of venerating icons.   Our word “iconoclast” as one who challenges cherished beliefs, seems to come from that time.  It is from two Greek words and literally means, “breaker of images”. This was the word’s meaning then.  John was of the opposite position: an iconodule, “one who serves images”.  If you have ever been in an eastern Orthodox Church, especially during the Divine Liturgy, you have seen people venerating icons by bowing to one and then kissing it. This can be disconcerting for Protestants.     It was controversial then and still can be.

The first thing to know about the Orthodox understanding of icons is this:  an icon is written!  Yes, it is painted but it written as a prayer or even as the Word seen which is meet and right and so to do and so:   Second, the word, “icon” is right from the New Testament especially:

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
Romans 8:28-30

Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
1 Corinthians 15:48-50

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:17-18

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
Colossians 1:14-16

John argued in his treatise that we must remember why icons were written. The Word became flesh, the unseen God became flesh and we have beheld Him, therefore, icons/images are aids to worship the Lord.  Now I do not want to get into the particulars of this controversy but to remember: the confession that Jesus Christ,  the  true icon of the invisible God is itself controverted.  The impassable God becoming true man is contested by both Judaism and Islam.  It is a scandal as is the crucifixion (  1 Corinthians 1:23).  The Word, written and spoken was born of the Virgin Mary to be adored as He has saved us and thereby we might cling to Him in faith for His dear life.  This also teaches as C. S. Lewis wrote that to God matter matters, after all He created matter.  He became flesh to redeem those whom He created and loves.   Further, redemption is not dis-incarnate spirituality, He came to redeem His creation from it’s bondage to sin, decay and death.  He washes us in real water comprehended in His Word, His Name and in bread and wine, His body and blood.  His Word is preached and taught  into our hearts to sanctify us that we are more and more the icon of Christ in the world.  Our hope is in the life of the world to come.

John of Damascus, from the quote in the clip-art  above, knew the image of God was present thoroughly in the Scripture.  This has a better Authority than written icons of men!  I think churches can get far afield dwelling too much on such customs and forget the garden, as John wrote,  of His written Word, the Bible.

John  wrote hymns to picture in music and lyric the Word made flesh.  In the Lutheran Service Book are two hymns by John of Damascus, both Paschal (Easter) hymns:  “The Day of Resurrection” #478 and “Come, You Faithful, Raise the Strain” #487. The day of His birth points to the day of His Resurrection:  the Icon of the Invisible God bearing the marks of the Cross for us and our salvation.

1. Come, ye faithful, raise the strain
Of triumphant gladness;
God hath brought His Israel
Into joy from sadness.
‘Tis the spring of souls today:
Christ hath burst His prison
And from three days’ sleep in death
As a sun hath risen.

2. All the winter of our sins,
Long and dark, is flying
From His light, to whom we give
Laud and praise undying.
Neither could the gates of death
Nor the tomb’s dark portal
Nor the watchers nor the seal
Hold Thee as a mortal.

3. But today amidst Thine own
Thou didst stand, bestowing
That Thy peace which evermore
Passeth human knowing.
Come, ye faithful, raise the strain
Of triumphant gladness;
God hath brought His Israel
Into joy from sadness.

(from The Lutheran Hymnal)

Read Full Post »

https://i2.wp.com/www.strabaneparish.com/images/WakeUpBelieveRepent.jpg

But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man. St. Luke 21 

             Before Thanksgiving, Abe asked me to pick him up  in front of RE Lee Episcopal, around 5:30pm after his run in town.  I parked the car and walked around.  Daylight growing shorter and a storm front coming through, it was fairly well dark. Several older women were out and about, maybe leaving a function at RE Lee, and a car coming up Washington Street, without it’s headlights on,  and a young girl wearing dark colors was walking across the street and the driver had to stop suddenly for the young girl .  The women started waving their arms wildly to ‘tell’ the driver to put on the headlights.  As the car was in earshot, I yelled: “Put on your lights!”  I saw the driver fumbling with the controls to do just that, and just then 2 women had just crossed the street and the one commented, “People just need to be awake” and I said, “People need to be awakened.”  She gave me a curious look.

             All the arm waving and signs will do little, but a word clearly spoken will  reach into the ears and into the heart and hands. And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?  Jesus sounds a clear message about His coming again.  He sounds the distinct bugle call of reveille, while the world and our flesh sound the cacophony of revelry.  He awakens the sleepy and gives hope to the fearful.    The Word made flesh sounds forth the Word into our ears and hearts.

             He teaches both the fearful and those asleep.  It is not a question of “fearfulness” but fearful people.  I think it rather timely for us that our Lord teaches about nations in distress over the roaring of the seas and the waves as we hear about the secular end of the world scenarios of global warming/climate change.  After hurricane Sandy made that left turn into New Jersey and New York, the foreboding cry came up for sea walls to New York Harbor.  Yes, as Jesus said, the roaring of the sea perplexes us.  I am not equating climate change as an end-time sign, but the Lord teaches about the response in our generation and every generation:  foreboding, fear, perplexity.  These things have taken place.  These signs are like leafing of the trees means summer is near.  This is good news for the faithful, those whom the Lord has claimed as His own: your redemption is drawing near.  Lift up your heads!  Without Jesus Christ, it’s only one damned thing after another.  The secularists and pagans have tried for a couple of century to teach us that our only life is this one, trying to silence the hope of the new creation, that all our happiness is in this world, so grab all the gusto.  Buy hundreds of dollars of lottery tickets as the void approaches!  We’re on a trip to nowhere!  Love yourself above all things and people and love all things more than yourself and all people! C. S. Lewis preached the following (From “The Weight of Glory”:

“… almost all our modem philosophies have been devised to convince us that the good of man is to be found on this earth. And yet it is a remarkable thing that such philosophies of Progress or Creative Evolution (and we can add communism, socialism, secular humanism, progressivism, etc) themselves bear reluctant witness to the truth that our real goal is elsewhere. When they want to convince you that earth is your home, notice how they set about it. They begin by trying to persuade you that earth can be made  into  heaven,  thus  giving  a  sop  to your sense of exile in earth as it is. Next, they tell you that this fortunate event is still a good way off in the future, thus giving a sop to your knowledge that the fatherland is not here and now. (only thing I would change is that we are promised it can happen tomorrow or today, just ask candidates for office) Finally, lest your longing for the (eternal) should awake and spoil the whole affair, they use any rhetoric that comes to hand  to keep out of your mind the recollection that even if all the happiness they promised could come to man on earth, yet still each generation  would  lose  it  by  death, including the last generation of all, and the whole story would be nothing, not even a story, for ever and ever

             Jesus gives the wake-up call to be watchful as the day approaches.  But how? Watchful in prayer at all times.  As we enter the season of Advent, the lessons from the Gospels are focused on the Gospel according to St. Luke.  This Gospel has a special emphasis on prayer.  Luke knew prayer’s centrality in the life of the church in Christ.  Luke wrote his second volume Acts on the first years of the Church. He was there.  He knew the sustaining nature of prayer in the midst of many brothers and sisters arrested, harassed, beaten and imprisoned.  He knew the Christ Mass story very well from probably Mary herself.  What the world did not get, the Lord gave.  Christmas, really Christ Mass, is all about the eternal God entering fully into human history. Into the void, the Lord comes to save: the Son born of Mary, as the Son of God. Into the breach He came. As the Lord taught:  dissipation, drunkenness and the cares of this life burden us, weigh us down.  These are not the soil of prayer.  Dissipation is wearing your self out chasing things that never satisfy, like Christmas shopping!  We are not encouraged in our culture to wait on the Lord but wait in lines for stuff we don’t need.  Cares of this life are real but care should prompt prayer.  Drunkenness is not conducive for prayer, as is the insobriety of the philosophies that point to the self in self-righteousness.  I think there is drunkenness of many ideas.   Be watchful in prayer.  This is not the season to shop till we drop but drop to our knees in prayers of adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication.  ACTS. 

            The dissipation of a culture on the edge of the void and embracing it in pro-death, abortion, physician-assisted suicide, coitus non interruptus, same-sex marriage and other alternatives is frightening. The world is ending. It began it’s end in the flesh of the Son of God upon the Cross. No pockets on His Cross.  No credit cards on Golgotha but the debt’s been paid. We see the signs of the end all around us.  While the world sings gather ye rosebuds while ye may, the Church is to pray for the end and the new heavens and the new earth, groaning in travail, to be revealed. The world cannot rise to such heights. The Lord calls His Church to teach His Word.  Speak a word:  turn your lights on.  Speak a word:  The light of Jesus Christ shines on you.  Even more frightening is the sleep of not caring and not knowing.   

            This past week I watched on TV the last half of “A Charlie Brown https://i2.wp.com/1.bp.blogspot.com/-htyjTCzOnxw/TuY7hV5z_cI/AAAAAAAAAsQ/5PK59NKh8P4/s640/charlie-brown-christmas-tree1.jpegChristmas”.  It’s about Charlie and the gang putting on a Christmas show.  Charlie Brown wants to know the true spirit and meaning of Christmas but no seems to know and this perplexes him.  They want to put on a show for Christmas.  They need to get a tree for their play. So Charlie and Linus go the tree lot. Now this was made in 1965 when aluminum trees were all the rage…along with pink-flocked trees etc.  It was ghastly. (Off topic: this is good reason enough not to fool around with the liturgy.  Just think of those trees, and avocado green refrigerators and robin egg blue tuxes, which were all the rage!)   Charlie Brown and Linus go a tree  lot with garish pink, yellow, and multi-colored trees.  Charlie comes across a pitiful little tree, all bent over: this is it!, he cries. He picks it up and needles fall.Linus:  “But Charlie Brown, that tree does not fit into the modern spirit of Christmas” Yes, that’s right Linus. At the same time during the showing of Charlie Brown Christmas,  during a commercial, I flipped to NBC and lighting of the Rockefeller tree with 45,000 lights! But Charlie Brown, that tree does not fit into the modern spirit of Christmas.  Yes, that’s right  Even in 1965, Charlie Brown Christmas washttp://cbsdallas.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/the-rockefeller-center-christmas-tree-new-york-ny.jpg?w=600 controversial because Linus read a goodly portion of Luke 2: “Shepherds were keeping watch over their flocks by night…” In the TV show, Linus puts his security blanket around the base of the tree.  IN all the years of reading Peanuts, I think this may have been the only time Linus ever parts with his security blanket.  The Lord is Linus’ secure portion. This tree does not fit into the modern spirit of Christmas and that’s precisely the point. ( Matthew 5:13The tree of the Cross does not fit into the modern spirit of Christmas, in fact it kills it to make us alive in Him.  To the world it looks pitiful, folly, not powerful and great but to us who are being saved, Christ is the power of God unto salvation.  (1 Corinthians 1:22-24) It does not fit into modern spirit of Christmas. John the Baptizer with his clarion call to repentance does not fit.  A virgin giving birth to the Son of God for our salvation does not fit…but all of what the Lord does in His Word for you makes us fit by His grace, mercy and peace.  Unto us a Son is given, unto us a Child is given. (Isaiah 9:6)  We need to be awakened day by day by His Word. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not understood nor overcome it.  Wake up. Turn your lights on.

              And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »