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Posts Tagged ‘theology’

Collect of the Day:

Almighty God, You revealed to Your Church Your eternal being of glorious majesty and perfect love as one God in a Trinity of Persons. May Your Church, with bishops like Basil of Caesarea,Gregory of Nazianzus, and Gregory of Nyssa, receive grace to continue steadfast in the confession of the true faith and constant in our worship of You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who live and reign, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Intro:  Basil and the two Gregorys, collectively known as the Cappadocian Fathers, were leaders of Christian orthodoxy in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) in the later fourth century. Basil and Gregory of Nyssa were brothers; Gregory of Nazianzus was their friend. All three were influential in shaping the theology ratified by the Council of Constantinople of 381, which is expressed in the Nicene Creed. Their defense of the doctrines of the Holy Spirit and Holy Trinity, together with their contributions to the liturgy of the Eastern Church, make them among the most influential Christian teachers and theologians of their time.

(Source: The Treasury of Daily Prayer)

Reflection:  I have not read much by the Gregorys, but I have read St. Basil’s On the Holy Spirit.  I find the book faith-strengthening.  It is faith strengthening, not because of Basil’s ‘personal testimony’ but he taught the orthodox Word of God. After all, a Mormon’s personal testimony will be radically differ from a Lutheran’s ‘testimony’. How is heresy refuted?  By personal testimony or by the Scripture?  By appeals to the self or appeals to the work of the Holy Spirit, that is, Christ and the Bible? Now Basil was responding to a heresy that denied the equality of the 3 persons of the Holy Trinity.  The heterodox were claiming the subordination of the Holy Spirit to the Father and the Son, instead of the Trinity being co-equal.  These heretics taught that the conjunctions (of, and, etc) used in the Bible, referring to the Holy Spirit,  demonstrated this.  Basil goes through and logically shows this is not the case by a word by word  study of the conjunctions in the Bible!   The translator of this work takes up the subject that theological work is boring and dry, as taught by Basil, and the translator comments:

 It is this translator’s opinion that  a good dose of dry logical Cappadocian theology can serve as an effective antidote for the subjective emotionalism in which modern Christians frequently find themselves engulfed.  Doctrine these days is often ignored, taken for granted or replaced with individualism, and perhaps the fathers can help us by reminding us (often with many words!) that God became man to show us the truth which gives life and freedom a truth which is eternal.”(David Anderson, On the Holy Spirit by St. Basil, 1980, St. Vladimir’s Press)

Boring and dry?   Yes, at times, but other times, exciting and wet, wet with  Holy Baptism in God’s Holy Name! C. S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity that doctrine is like a map.  Maps are not themselves the  geography but can show us the way of the terrain of false doctrine and heresy to the truth to guide the way.  Updating that word picture, doctrine, like the Nicene Creed is like GPS,  showing us the way in the summation of God’s righteous deeds finally and fully in Jesus Christ. The Nicene Creed is Scriptural, check it out here.  At the words of the Nicene Creed, “…and was made man”, the practice is to bow or even kneel at the confession of the Incarnation.  Luther thought this was meet, right and so to do.  Still is.  After all,  every knee shall bow in heaven or on earth at the Name of Jesus, see  Philippians 2:9-11.  Truth is not found in my heart or your heart, with all the subjectivism and sin we are prone, but in the true doctrine as the Church Fathers confessed and lived, there, objectively in Jesus Christ in the glory of God the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost, received by faith. This pure doctrine, the pure Word purifies the heart, that is the will, and the mind. 

The first quote below is Basil’s response to his task of  answering the heretics’ use of  ”syllables”, the minutiae of small words, as integral to teaching and preaching the Truth. The remainder of the quotes stand on their own and also show that Justification by Grace through Faith in Jesus Christ (as in Holy Baptism) was not an invention of the blessed Reformers, but is in the Scripture as testified by many of the Church Fathers:

 Quotes from On the Holy Spirit by Basil the Great

  • “Instruction begins with the proper use of speech, and syllables and words are the elements of speech. Therefore to scrutinize syllables is not a superfluous task…If a man spurns fundamental elements as insignificant trifles, he will never embrace the fullness of wisdom. ‘Yes’ and “No’ are only two syllables, yet truth, the best of all good things, as well as falsehood, the worst possible evil, are most often expressed by these two small words.”
  • “What makes us Christians?  ‘Our faith,’ everyone would answer. How are we saved?  Obviously the regenerating grace of baptism.  How else could we be?  We are confirmed in our understanding that salvation comes through Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Shall we cast away the standard of teaching we have received?”
  • “If there is any grace in the water, it does not come from the nature of the water, but from the Spirit’s Presence, since baptism is not a removal of dirt from the body, but an appeal to God for a clear conscience. (1 Peter 3: 21)  The Lord describes in the Gospel the pattern of life we must be trained to follow after the (baptismal) regeneration:  gentleness, endurance freedom from the defiling love of pleasure, and from covetousness. We must be determined to acquire in this life all the qualities of the life to come. To define the Gospel as a description of the what resurrectional life should be like seems to be correct and appropriate, as far as I am concerned.”
  • “For creatures, holiness comes from without;  for the Spirit, holiness fills His very nature.  he is not sanctified, but sanctifies.”
  • “Are you not ashamed, my opponent, when you hear the Apostle’s words: ‘You are God’s temple and God’s Spirit dwells in you’? (1 Cor.3: 16) Is a slave’s house honored with the title of temple?  How can someone who calls Scripture ‘God-inspired’ (since it was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) use language that insults and belittles Him?”
  • “We worship God from God, confessing the uniqueness of the persons, while maintaining the unity of the Monarchy.”
  • “Moses was wise enough to realize that triteness and familiarity breed contempt, but the unusual and the unfamiliar naturally commands eager interest.”
  • “…every time we bend our knees for prayer and then rise again, we show by this action that through sin we fell down to earth, but our Creator, the Lover of Mankind, has called us back to heaven.”  

Addendum:   This recitation was done at Trinity Lutheran Church, Klein, TX during the March 4, 2012 church services by three members of Trinity as part of Lutheran Schools week. These three members, and students (former and present) are: Mr. Erich Klenk, 97 years old, confirmed in 1928, past Chairman of the congregation, charter member of the Men’s Club in 1946,  and Trinity’s oldest member. Lyle Lovett, great grandson of Trinity founding father Adam Klein, confirmed in 1971, singer/songwriter, and winner of four Grammys. Erin Pali, class of 2016 and current 4th grade student of Miss Marilyn Peterson/ Erin’s Dad Brett also had Miss Petersen in 4th grade during his years at Trinity. This video was posted to YouTube by Pat Blake.

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Augustine

 We turn to You, the Lord our God and as best as we can give we give You thanks.  We beseech You that in Your goodness You will hear our prayers and by Your power:  drive evil from our thoughts and actions, increase our faith, guide our minds, grant us Your holy inspirations, and bring us to joy without end through Your Son our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.              (A prayer adapted from a benediction by which St. Augustine ended at least two of his sermons)

About Augustine of Hippo, Pastor and Theologian: Augustine was one of the greatest of the Latin Church Fathers and a significant influence in the formation of Western Christianity, including Lutheranism. Born in AD 354 in North Africa, Augustine’s early life was distinguished by exceptional advancement as a teacher of rhetoric. In his book Confessions he describes his life before his conversion to Christianity, when he was drawn into the moral laxity of the day and fathered an illegitimate son. Through the devotion of his sainted mother, Monica, and the preaching of Ambrose, bishop of Milan (AD 339-97), Augustine was converted to the Christian faith. During the great Pelagian controversies of the fifth century, Augustine emphasized the unilateral grace of God in the salvation of mankind. Bishop and theologian at Hippo in North Africa from AD 395 until his death in AD 430, Augustine was a man of great intelligence, a fierce defender of the orthodox faith, and aprolific writer. In addition to Confessions, Augustine’s book City of God had a great impact upon the Church throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:  St. Augustine was contemporary to the fall of Rome.  This is from a summary of Augustine’s magnum opus, The City of God (Sparknotes: “St. Augustine: The City of God”) and what prompted the Bishop to write this book: 

In A.D. 410, a pivotal moment in Western history, the Vandals, under the command of their king, Alaric, captured the city of Rome. Rome was known as the Eternal City because the Romans thought that it would literally never fall, and the year 410 shook this belief to its foundations and ultimately led to the collapse of the Roman Empire. The world itself seemed to have been destroyed, and everyone sought answers about what to do and what to believe in. Those who adhered to the waning pagan faith were quick to blame the Christians, claiming that the gods had abandoned Rome because many Romans had forsaken them and taken the new faith. These Romans claimed that Christians were not patriotic enough because they asked people to serve God rather than the state, and they advocated forgiveness toward enemies.(emphasis my own)

One of the accusations that pagan Romans leveled at Christians was they were ‘atheists’.   The Christians were not worshipers of the gods, that, is non-believers or atheists.  As the quote above indicates, Romans considered the gods and goddesses as instrumental for Rome’s success, and so the further charge of not being patriotic, or  traitorous atheism.  God and the state were considered one, even to the point that the State was god in the form of the Caesars who proclaimed themselves deities.  Christians did not serve the State as god.  The revolution in Christ then and now is Christians prayed for Caesar but not to Caesar (Pr. Lou Smith).  The accusation that the Christians served God rather than the state is one we hope will be heard in our day as well.

We are living in Roman times.  When God is removed from the public square then the State will become god, or the church (Fr. Richard John Neuhaus).  We might be there and while the world burns, churches fiddle as Nero did when Rome burned.  Churches fiddling around with changing worship services, dumbing down doctrine to no doctrine at all, accepting immorality as ‘alternative lifestyles’ or identifying the Christian faith as an American value. If we were a Christian nation, then we would be persecuted.  St. Augustine, with the Church, out thought, out prayed and so by God’s grace alone, out lived the fall of an empire.  We see the shaking of the foundations in our day and time. We serve in the city of man as good citizens and as citizens in the Kingdom of God, the Reign of Christ through His Word coming into the world and finally when He comes in glory. The Lord’s Church can not be fooling around any longer, we do not have the luxury to do so.  St. Augustine, as Pastor and theologian, meant he cared for God’s people through the Word and cared for the Word as a theologian. We do not need mega-congregation super star pastors who write shallow best selling books of works righteousness, but those who loved the Lord in His love serve and care for that Word for all people in our earthly cities, who think things through, by God’s grace in Jesus Christ for us sinners.  We are much afraid these days as I would guess the Romans were in their day.  I have only read selections from  Augustine’s City of God, but I am reminded of these Scripture verses that seems appropos on the feast of St. Augustine and The City of God:

Hebrews 11:

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations,whose designer and builder is God.

Hebrews 13:

14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.

Maranatha, Come, Lord Jesus come.

For further and better reflection:

Christmas Day:  Third Mass, John 1:   1—14, also addressed to the newly Baptized:

“For from the Gentiles we have come, and in our forefathers we worshiped idols of stone.  So we also have been called dogs (Mt. 25: 26)…But to you grace, has come.  As many as received Him, He gave them power to be made the sons of God.  See!  You have come here newly-born (by baptism):  he gave them power to be made the sons of God.  To whom did he give it? To them that believe in His Name.  And how do they become the children of God?  Who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. They are born of God, when they have received the power to become sons of God…The first birth is from a male and a female;  the second from God and from the Church.  Behold they are born of God…How has this come to be?  And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us.  Wondrous exchange!…Lift up your heart to the possession and enjoyment of higher things.  Do not stick fast in earthly cravings. You have been purchased at a price:  for your sake the Word was made flesh.

The Fourth Sunday in Lent, on John 6:  1—15:

“For the daily ordering of this whole world is a greater miracle than the feeding of five thousand men from five loaves.”

“We must also ask the miracles what is it they tell us of Christ:  for they have, if we understand it, their own manner of speech.  For as Christ is the Word of God, any deed of the Word is a sermon to us.”

Easter Sunday, on Mark 16: 1—8, addressed also to the newly Baptized:

“For this divine condescension cannot be truly understood, and human thought and language fails us, that without previous merit on your part this free gift has come to you.  And for this do we call it a grace:  because it is given gratis.  And what grace is this? That you are now members of Christ, Children of God; that you are brothers of the Only-Begotten!”

Second Sunday after Easter, on John 10:   11—16

“To you it is not said:  be something less than you are;  but rather, learn what you are. Know that you are weak, know that you a man, know that you are a sinner; know that it is He Who sanctifies you;  know that you are stained by sin.  Let the blemish in your soul be made manifest in your confession, and you shall belong to the flock of Christ.  For the confession of your sins invites the Physician to heal  you; just as when he who is sick says, ‘a am well’, he desires no help from the physician.  Did not the Pharisee and the Publican go up into the Temple?  The one boasted of how strong his soul was; the other showed his wounds to the Physician.”

Pentecost, on John 14:  23—31

But whom do you say that I am? And Peter as the leader of the others, one speaking for all of them, said: Thou art Christ, the Son of the Living God (Mt. xvi).

This he said perfectly; most truly. Rightly did such an answer deserve to hear: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood has not revealed it to thee, but My Father who is in heaven. And I say to thee, because thou hast said this to me; thou hast spoken: now listen; thou hast confessed: receive in turn a blessing. Therefore: And I say to thee: Thou art Peter: because I am the Rock, thou art Peter; for the Rock is not from Peter, but Peter is from the Rock; because Christ is not from Christian, but Christian is from Christ. Arid upon this rock I will build My Church: not upon Peter (non supra Petruin) who thou art, but upon the Rock (sed supra petrain) Whom thou hast confessed. I will build My church: I will build thee, who in this answer are in your­self the figure of the Church.

16th Sunday after Pentecost, on Luke 14:  1—11

“Do you desire to escape from an angry God?  Then fly to an appeased One:  fly nowhere from Him, only to Him.”

The Feast of All Saints, on Matthew 5: 1—12

 “Riches can indeed perish; and would that they perished before they caused you to perish.”

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