Posts Tagged ‘government’

Frederick III, the Wise (1463-1525)

Frederick the Wise, elector of Saxony from 1486 to 1525, was Martin Luther’s sovereign in the early years of the Reformation. Were it not for Frederick, there might not have been a Lutheran Reformation. Born in Torgau in 1463, he became so well known for his skill in political diplomacy and his sense of justice and fairness that he was called “the Wise” by his subjects. Though he never met Luther, Frederick repeatedly protected and provided for him. In all likelihood he saved the reformer from a martyr’s fate. Frederick refused the pope’s demand to extradite Luther to Rome for a heresy trial in 1518. When Emperor Charles V declared Luther an outlaw in 1521 at the Diet of Worms, Frederick provided sanctuary for Luther at the Wartburg castle. On his deathbed, Frederick received the Lord’s Supper in both kinds–a clear confession of the evangelical faith. (LCMS Commemoration Biographies)


After the dramatic confrontation at the Diet of  Wurms, Luther, a declared heretic and under the Imperial Ban, could have been killed on sight, so,

Frederick the Wise had decided to hide him, and gave instructions to court officials to make the arrangements without divulging the details, even to himself, that he might truthfully feign innocence. Spalatin, however, might know. Luther and one companion were apprised of the plan. Luther was not very happy over it. He had set his face to return to Wittenberg, come what might. With a few companions in a wagon he was entering the woods on the out skirts of the village of Eisenach when armed horsemen fell upon the party and with much cursing and show of violence dragged Luther to the ground. The one companion, privy to the ruse, played his part and roundly berated the abductors. They placed Luther upon a horse and led him for a whole day by circuitous roads through the woods until at dusk, loomed up against the sky, the massive contours of Wartburg Castle. At eleven o’clock in the night the party reined up before the gates.” (From Here I Stand by Roland Bainton)

Luther was so imprisoned for nine months and he called this castle, “My Patmos” but while there he began another momentous event in the history of the Reformation and indeed, the whole Church:  he began translating the Bible into German.

Frederick the Wise may have been Luther’s model of the God-given vocation of the Christian prince, or as we would understand it:  the vocation (calling) by God of those who serve in government.  Frederick the Wise protected his subjects and notably, Fr. Martin Luther.  Prince Frederick eventually stopped meddling in spiritual matters.  His collection of relics was immense but eventually he abolished it (1).  Luther and the blessed Reformers saw the inherent tyranny when there is a confusion of the two vocations, spiritual and temporal, the kingdom of God and the kingdoms, or nations, of this world.  They saw a clear distinction between the two in their respective vocations.  From The Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XXVIII: 

There has been great controversy concerning the Power of Bishops, in which some have awkwardly confounded the power of the Church 2] and the power of the sword. And from this confusion very great wars and tumults have resulted, while the Pontiffs, emboldened by the power of the Keys, not only have instituted new services and burdened consciences with reservation of cases and ruthless excommunications, but have also undertaken to transfer the kingdoms of this world, 3] and to take the Empire from the Emperor. These wrongs have long since been rebuked in the Church 4] by learned and godly men. Therefore our teachers, for the comforting of men’s consciences, were constrained to show the difference between the power of the Church and the power of the sword, and taught that both of them, because of God’s commandment, are to be held in reverence and honor, as the chief blessings of God on earth.

Look what happens when the Church wants to wield the sword!  Look what happens when government meddles in the life of the Church!  Luther saw in Frederick the right vocation of the government:  to preserve and protect life in this world. This falls under the rubric of the 1st Article of The Apostles Creed and the second table of the 10 Commandments.  The two vocations/kingdoms are united by two realities:  the Lord is God of both and Christians are citizens of both.  I think that the  basis of our first amendments rights in regards to religion is a distillation of this keen insight from the Scriptures, in the Lutheran Confessions:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

Frederick the Wise, if you will, protected Luther’s free exercise of religion.  Frederick also protected Luther’s printing of his many pamphlets and books.  Again the 1st Amendment of the Bill of Rights, the next phrase after the religion clause, “or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”.  

Now Frederick was thoroughly a man of his times, as we are of ours.  He was no Jeffersonian enlightenment man.  Yet, I think he was a precursor of the proper role of government: to protect freedom of religion (yes, even freedom from religion) and free speech.  In our day and time, this is again under acute attack by those who would deny both freedom of religion and speech by the forces of political correctness denying the Christians’ right to speak for the marriage between a man and a woman because of the howling of the gay activist movement.  Government, according to the Constitution, has the vocation, as did Frederick, to protect those rights.  Even the right of someone to make fun of both Christianity and Islam, but also to stop those who are offended to the point of killing those who so satirize.  Frederick the Wise protected his subject, Luther.  And for Frederick’s fulfilling of his vocation as a Christian prince, we give thanks to the Lord. I pray we can give thanks to the Lord for our elected government officials fulfilling their high calling.

(1)  “The collection included one tooth of St. Jerome, of St. Chrysostom four pieces, of St. Bernard six, and of St. Augustine four; of Our Lady four hairs, three pieces of her cloak, four from her girdle, and seven from the veil sprinkled with the blood of Christ. The relics of Christ included one piece from his swaddling clothes, thirteen from his crib, one wisp of straw, one piece of the gold brought by the Wise Men and three of the myrrh, one strand of Jesus’ beard, one of the nails driven into his hands, one piece of bread eaten at the Last Supper, one piece of the stone on which Jesus stood to ascend into heaven, and one twig of Moses’ burning bush. By 1520 the collection had mounted to 19,013 holy bones. Those who viewed these relics on the designated day and made the stipulated contributions might receive from the pope indulgences for the reduction of purgatory, either for themselves or others, to the extent of 1,902,202 years and 270 days. These were the treasures made available on the day of All Saints.” Frederick never became a Lutheran by public confesssion but maybe by faith: in 1523 Frederick the Wise abolished his relic collection.    (Quote: From Here I Stand by Roland Bainton)


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A C. S. Lewis Quote

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The image above is quite familiar as it is The Great Seal of our country on the one dollar bill.     The translation on the lower half is:  “New Order of the Ages”.  The top half’s Latin saying is a little more complicated:  

an·nu·it coep·tis:   Latin. He (God) has favored our undertakings: a motto on the reverse of the great seal of the U.S. (adapted from Vergil’s Aeneid  IX:625).

But it’s etymology is what makes this complex: 
Annuit Coeptis  on the Great Seal of the United States of America, condensed by Charles Thompson, designer of the seal in its final form, from Latin:  Juppiter omnipotes, audacibus annue coeptis “All-powerful Jupiter favor (my) daring undertakings,” line 625 of book IX of Virgil’s”Aeneid.” The words also appear in Virgil’s Georgics. (both citations from dictionary.com)

 As a child, I thought this symbol was as a friend wrote recently, “creepy”.  I would think in the zealous enthusiasm of our nation’s founding, they sincerely thought the USA was and is “the new order of the ages” which ‘God’ has blessed.  They borrowed symbolism from Egyptology and Masonry.   The “All-Seeing Eye” is generally thought to be the “eye of God”.  We have a tendency to think when we hear the word “God”, the God of Israel, who sent His Son Jesus Christ, is automatically being referenced.  I maintain it is not.  First the phrase “eyes of the Lord”, plural, is used 29 times in the Bible, whereas, “eye of God, not once and “eye of the Lord, twice.  

Secondly, I think the favored use of the plural is significant.  The Lord’s eyes became the eyes He created to see the world from a feeding trough and from the Cross to save us.  The eyes of the Lord are living for He is the living God.  The “all-seeing eye” is set upon an image of a pyramid, remembering the purpose of the pyramids of Egypt: tombs.  This symbol is the eye of a dead idol which can not see.  It also brings to mind the “eye” in the Lord of the Rings of the dark lord, Sauron.  Simply put: the symbolism on the dollar bill is and can not be construed with the Lord our God.

Further,  after the disclosures regarding the IRS and the NSA, the “all-seeing eye” atop the pyramid takes on even more sinister characteristics than before. The President has declared that he wants to make our nation “100% safe”.  This is not possible in a fallen world, but fallen man buys into that goal and will do anything to make it so, even to the point of giving up political liberties.  The never-ending war of Orwell’s 1984 is here in the “war on terror” for which the State is always vigilant to protect us.  I think that terrorism and terrorists are  real but they are not all powerful. Fear motivates our leaders to do anything to protect us from “terror”, with our frightened consent, whereas many more people are killed on our highways and abortuaries, and we don’t bat an eye.

I think it was Fr. Richard John Neuhaus who said that when the Church becomes like the world, then the state will become the ‘church’.  This has been happening at an ever-increasing pace.  The government becomes the all seeing eye to protect us from “all evil” and take care of us in every way,  from womb to tomb, and that is the definition of totalitarianism.  The state has even granted the authority to murder the unborn.  Jupiter favors these undertakings but not the Lord.  This is the old age of present evil age (see Galatians 1:3-5) from which we have been delivered to stand and confess Jesus Christ to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:11)  and say no to the devil and his empty promises (The Rite of Baptism, Lutheran). 

Titus 2: 11

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

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“…all authority flows and is propagated from the authority of parents…”

The quote above is from Martin Luther’s teaching on the 4th Commandment, Honor Thy Father and Mother, in The Large Catechism.    Luther’s understanding of the 4th commandment was commonplace in Western civilization and history.  It has come under attack for years now. In Luther’s day, the papal church held that other ways of living, that is, monasticism, were of greater ‘spirituality’ than of marriage.  As he taught the 6th commandment, Thou shalt not commit adultery:

…this estate (of marriage)  should not be despised nor held in disrepute, as is done by the blind world and our false ecclesiastics (church officials), but that it be regarded according to God’s Word, by which it is adorned and sanctified, so that it is not only placed on an equality with other estates, but that it precedes and surpasses them all, whether they be that of emperor, princes, bishops, or whoever they please. For both ecclesiastical and civil estates must humble themselves and all be found in this estate

When by God’s grace, Luther re-discovered the Gospel, he also rediscovered marriage between man and woman and the centrality of the Christian home.  The “…blind world and false ecclesiacrats” (“ecclesiacrats’=denominational officials) in our day, in many denominations, especially in Protestantism,  assault marriage and the family unrelentingly:  abortion, living together, alternative ‘families’, same-sex marriage and the like, all as good for, or  equal to, marriage between man and woman.  The blind world certainly does, as Luther wrote in  another context: “All heretics have denigrated matrimony and have sought for and begun some newfangled and bizarre way of life.” (Luther’s Sermon on John 2: 1—11, 1533, Luther’s House Postils, vol. 1)  

Note  the order of the commandments:  the 4th, the home, the 6th, marriage and in between, Thou shalt not murder.  Home and marriage is for life, not abortion and death,but helping our first neighbors, our families, our children to live and live well. Every impartial study I have read on the family points out that those raised in a two parent, mother and father, household fare better than in other type of household.  This does not mean that single-parent homes are to be disregarded but it is not encouraged as a way of life.  Single parent homes need the help of the church and all neighbors. Those who were divorced, spouse died or unmarried parent, generally want marriage. Marriage is the universal experience of humankind.  Luther:

For both ecclesiastical and civil estates must humble themselves and all be found in this estate…Therefore it is not a peculiar estate, but the most common and noblest estate, which pervades all Christendom, yea which extends through all the world.

But the blind world and false ecclesiacrats are harmful in this reality because they espouse ways that are sinful.  It is clear in our very DNA and the way we are made, as Luther wrote above, family and marriage “…extends through all the world.”

Luther clearly taught, based upon Scripture, that the purpose of government is to protect the family, not replace it.  He understood this is one of the purposes of the government:  to help the family, to serve families, not for families to serve the government.  I will be forthright.  Mr. Romney’s acceptance speech for his party’s nomination for the office of President prompted this reflection, especially when he said,

“President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. MY promise…is to help you and your family.”

This is the first time I have heard any politician plainly state the proper of the government.  The proper role of government is servant, not master. I pray and hope Mr. Romney, as President, with the Congress, and the American people, can restore government to it’s proper constitutional role, which is the Biblical role.

In the movie Fiddler on the Roof, the rabbi is asked by his students, “Is there a proper blessing for the Czar?”  “A proper blessing for the Czar…hmmm. Ah!  God bless the Czar and keep him far away from us!”. 

Lord, keep this nation under Your care. Bless the leaders of our land that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to the other nations of the earth. Grant that we may choose trustworthy leaders, contribute to wise decisions for the general welfare, and serve You faithfully in our generation; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, we pray.

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