Morgendämmerung, oder, Wie man mit dem Hammer theologirt.
Nescire autem quid ante quam natus sis acciderit id es semper esse puerum.
Orandum est ut sit mens sana in corpore sano.
Semper idem sed non eodem modo.

VDMA

Verbum domini manet in aeternum. The word of the Lord endures forever.
1 Peter 1:24-25, quoting Isaiah 40:6,8. Motto of the Lutheran Reformation.


Fayth onely justifieth before God. Robert Barnes, DD The Supplication, fourth essay. London: Daye, 1572.

Lord if Thou straightly mark our iniquity, who is able to abide Thy judgement? Wherefore I trust in no work that I ever did, but only in the death of Jesus Christ. I do not doubt, but through Him to inherit the kingdom of heaven. Robert Barnes, DD, before he was burnt alive for "heresy", 30 July 1540.

What is Luther? The doctrine is not mine, nor have I been crucified for anyone. Martin Luther, Dr. theol. (1522)

For the basics of our faith right here online, or for offline short daily prayer or devotion or study, scroll down to "A Beggar's Daily Portion" on the sidebar.

25 July 2009

Robert Barnes, DD, Martyr. 30 July 2009.

I like this guy. There aren't a whole lot of English Lutherans. I'm not one either. However, my ancestors are from Suffolk, and I professed the Lutheran faith, taught in Scripture and correctly stated in the Book of Concord, when I was 46. Close enough. At least to really admire Robert Barnes.

Robert Barnes was born about 1495 in Lynn, formally Kings Lynn, Norfolk, England. Norfolk, Suffolk; the North folk and the South folk of East Anglia, once its own kingdom, named after ourselves, the Angles, named in turn from where we came, Angeln, or Anglia in the international language of the day, Latin, in the modern state of Schleswig-Holstein in Germany, way up North damn near, er, just South of Denmark.

Before us, a Brythonic tribe called the Iceni lived in the area. Who are the Brythons? A Celtic tribe whose land it was before we, the Saxons, the Danes, the Vikings and yet more starting piling in. It's from them that we get the word Britain, British, etc. The Romans invaded Britain in 43 BC, called the place Brittania, and as they did in many places left the local stuff pretty much alone so long as they obeyed the Roman governors. Despite revolts here and there, including the great one by the Iceni queen Boudica, they held out until about 400 AD. That's when the Saxons from Germany moved in, uninvited, the bleeders.

We were invited. The Iceni ended up pretty much wiped out, but in 433 the Brythons asked us if we'd like to come over and settle since things were getting a bit sparse, and help against the Picts too. How about that -- in a world history of pretty much conquer and re-conquer everywhere, we were invited to come! We're all like that -- look at the irenic tone that steps back from controversy, the staid measured writing style, for which I am known throughout the Lutheran blogosphere. About 520, the North folk and the South folk united to form the Kingdom of East Anglia, one of seven kingdoms that emerged in what would become the United Kingdom.

East Anglia is called such to this day as a region of England, generally also including Cambridgeshire to the West and often Essex to the South too. Anglia is the root of the words England and English for the whole thing and its language, East Anglian or not.

Lynn, in Norfolk, shows its Celtic origins in that the name simply means "lake" in Celtic. Robert Barnes was born there, and went to Cambridge for the university there, where he was associated with the Augustinian friars, same as Luther. Seems that in 1209, some Oxford scholars upset at the hanging of two Oxford scholars for murder went to the school there and turned it into a university, the second oldest in the English speaking world. Ah, the pure pursuit of learning, when academic freedom also included no prosecution for murdering and raping locals. Call it academic immunity. Well, at least there actually is a bridge over a river Cam.

Anyway, Barnes also hung out at the White Horse Tavern, aka White Horse Inn, in Cambridge where starting about 1521 groups met to discuss Luther and his thought, including Thomas Cranmer, Miles Coverdale, William Tyndale, and others. In 1523 he graduated Doctor of Divinity, or Divinitatis doctor, from Cambridge. At Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve 1525, Barnes preached an openly Lutheran sermon, at St Edward's church in Cambridge. He was brought up on charges, examined by Thomas Cardinal Wolsey -- a Suffolk boy, from Ipswich -- Lord Chancellor to the King, Henry VIII, and ended up being sent to jail in 1526.

He escaped two years later, made his way to Antwerp and then Wittenberg, where he met Luther and was a house guest in his home. I'm guessing they spoke Latin to each other. Maybe he learned German, like me, hanging around with the fellas. While there, as Luther noted in his work to be mentioned below, he used neither his title nor his name, enrolling simply as Antonius Anglus (there's the Angle thing again).

In 1536 he was able to return to England, working as a liason between the English government and Lutheran rulers and churchmen in Germany. In 1535 they sent him back to Germany, to get Lutheran support for Henry's efforts to get a divorce from Catherine of Aragon and Henry's vision of reformation in England. He didn't get it, and Henry never forgot it. Later, he was asked to help in the annulment of Henry's marriage to his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, really Anna von Juelich-Kleve-Berg, (that's near Duesseldorf) daughter of the Duke there, John II, and promised at age 12 to be the wife of Francis I, Duke of Lorraine, but Cromwell thought she'd make a hell of a wife for Henry, Barnes was involved in helping with that, and it happened.

Henry was not all that into the idea, hoped Cromwell could find a way out, but there was too much at stake in alliances with the Germans for that, so they were married 6 January 1540 by bleeding Cranmer himself, but there was no consummation of the marriage and by Summer Henry wanted out, and an annulment was granted on the basis of the contract with Francis and there having been no consummation, which, in more contemporary language, means no sex. She fared pretty well in contrast to Henry's other wives, and for going along with annulment she lived out her life relatively well.

But those involved with setting the marriage up didn't fare so well. Henry already had refused to accept Lutheran theology, the Six Articles of 1539 effectively renounced Lutheranism and affirmed Roman practices considered abuses by Lutherans, and the annulment in 1540 worked against Barnes. He preached against Bishop Stephen Gardiner (another Suffolk boy), active in the enforcement of Catholic doctrine, in the Spring, was forced to recant, then recanted his recant and professed the Lutheran faith, for which he and two others were burnt alive for heresy under the Six Articles, along with three others for treason for denying royal supremacy over the church, on 30 July, 1540.

In Germany, Lutherans and Catholics alike were shocked and outraged. Luther took Barnes' final confession of faith, translated or had it translated into German, wrote a preface to it himself, and published it later that year (1540) as Bekenntnis des Glaubens.

Cromwell was executed 28 July 1540, two days before, by beheading in the Tower of London. Thomas Cranmer, who would become the first non-Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury, who believed in the right of the king to determine the faith of the nation and all its people, which makes it hard when you go back and forth between Catholic and "Anglican" monarchs, recanted his recantation of his recantation, whatever, and was burnt at the stake 21 March 1556 under the Catholic Queen Mary. The Six Articles, btw, affirmed 1) transubstantiation, 2) communion in host only, 3) clerical celibacy, 4) vows of chastity, 5) private masses, 6) auricular confession, private confession of sins to a priest.

Henry VII, in 1521 published Assertio septem sacramentorum, A Defence of the Seven Sacraments, which he had shown to Wolsey and then expanded as an attack on Luther's De captivitate babylonica of 1520 -- a key influence on me -- dedicated it to Pope Leo X, who in turn named Henry Fidei defensor, Defender of the Faith, on 17 October 1521, but after Henry decided he was head of the church in England in 1530 Pope Paul III revoked the title and Henry was excommunicated, but the English Parliament restored it as the monarch to this day remains Supreme Governor of the Church of England, formally above the "Archbishop" of Canterbury. Prince Charles said in 1994 he wants it changed to Defender of Faith, not the Faith.

Well, rock on Church of England/Anglican Communion. We needed Barnes then, and we need him now. Happily we no longer live under the idea that rulers are agents of God with the right to choose the religion of their people. Barnes himself struggled to find his way between the political reality of this idea in his time and spreading the Gospel in reforming Christ's church. In England, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England, with which the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod is in fellowship in the International Lutheran Council, is the heir of Barnes' work in England.

Yet, in this freedom now, Christianity and the church in general veers between the same two poles it did in those times, on the one hand the attractive exterior in which the errors of Rome and the Orthodox are couched, and on the other, the different but no less attractive exterior in which the errors of Calvinism and the Reformed are couched, most recently in American "evangelicalism".

Our beloved synod is greatly beset by this. May the works and example of Robert Barnes help us steer our course so as not to crash on the rocks under the influence of either of these siren songs, which unlike those of Greek mythology, are quite real.

From the last words of Robert Barnes, DD, martyr, on 30 July 1540:

Lord if Thou straightly mark our iniquity, who is able to abide Thy judgement? Wherefore I trust in no work that I ever did, but only in the death of Jesus Christ. I do not doubt, but through Him to inherit the kingdom of heaven.

(Quoted from "The Reformation Essays of Dr Robert Barnes", Neelak S Tjernagel editor. Eugene OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1963. Republished 19 October 2007.)

23 July 2009

Popular Pages

It's interesting what the two statistics applications I run on this blog show about what is getting read on this blog.

The great majority of visitors come to the blog itself and not any particular post.

However, of those who do land on a particular post, it's interesting that it isn't the annual cycle this blog runs -- called the blogoral calendar, spoofing terms from the church year like sanctoral calendar -- but posts I have done on specific things apart from all that.

The top posts from specific searches: one I ran in May 2008 when Issues Etc. made it back into existence; another from March 2009 on some stuff about the town I grew up in, Rochester MN; one from December 2007 on my experience that Vista Home Premium really doesn't run well on 1GB of RAM like they said but has been just fine since I popped another GB of RAM in my laptop; one from November 2007 on that great Nebraska delicacy, apparently well-known to Concordia-Seward grads, the Runza; one I ran in January 2009 on a quick line of Clint's in Gran Torino, when he says Everybody blames the Lutherans, to a Hmong neighbour in reference to Hmong refugee resettlement in the US.

Only two were really addressed at theological topics -- the one on St Nicholas (as in the RO saint the Tsar, not Santa Claus) and one on a phrase that is gaining some currency, liturgical pietism, but, both of those were this month (July 2009) so that may just be recency effect, so to speak.

But, a reader is a reader, and I'm glad you're here! Speaking of which, welcome to my Australian and Canadian and English readers, consistently the most frequent from outside the US. In fact, Toronto has been the city with the most readers therefrom for several days now, regardless of in or out of the US, which is pretty good considering that readers of this blog are between 2/3 to 3/4 from the US somewhere, and Australia typically comes in second.

Anyway, wherever you're from and whatever you read here, thank you, and you are all welcome here.

13 July 2009

A Different St Nicholas, 2009.

17 July 2009 is the 91st anniversary of the murder of Nicholas II, Emperor of all the Russias, with his wife (who began life as Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine, a Lutheran) and children in 1918.

The brutality of these murders would in time to come be visited upon millions of Russians, as the regime which ordered and carried them out blossomed into a world power. While we hear much about the six million victims of one group specifically targeted by Nazi Germany, that was only roughly half of the total number of the victims of that regime. And if relatively little is said about the other half, even less is said about the even greater number murdered under our ally against Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia under Stalin.

By the most conservative estimates, this would be 4 million from direct repression and 6 million from the results of enforced economic theory, namely, collectivisation, for a total of 10 million, and roughly equal to total estimates of Nazi victims. However more recently available material generally indicates a total of around 20 million, nearly twice by our ally of what our enemy managed to attain in toto, and over three times the 6 million of their specifically targeted group.

The course of the Soviet regime itself passed into history on 26 December 1991. On 17 July 1998, the 80th anniversary of their murders, the bodies of Tsar Nicholas and Tsaritsa Alexandra and three of the children (not all were then found) were buried with state honours in the Cathedral of Sts Peter and Paul in St Petersburg -- a city founded 27 May 1703 by Tsar Peter the Great and named by him after his patron saint St Peter, the capitol of Russia until the Communist revolution, known as Leningrad under the Soviet regime, the name restored in 1991. All Russian Emperors since Peter the Great are now buried there.

The President of post Communist Russia, Boris Yeltsin at the time, attended along with members of the House of Romanov, the Russian royal family. The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia had declared them saints and martyrs in 1981, and on 14 August 2000 the Russian Orthodox Church itself declared them saints and what are called Passion Bearers, people who were killed but not specifically for their faith, and who met their deaths with Christian humility and dignity. This is not a judgement on his rule, rather universally regarded as weak and incompetent at best, but rather on the why and manner of his death. On 16 June 2003 Russian bishops consecrated the "Church on the Blood", built on the site of the house where the royal family was murdered.

There is still a Russian Orthodox Church, there is still a House of Romanov, and there is still a Russia -- The Russian Federation.

Nicholas' feast day, following ancient custom, is 17 July.

07 July 2009

My "DOB"; "Liturgical Pietism".

Martin Luther once commented that a person should know his date of baptism as well as he knows his date of birth, because one was as truly born on the one as on the other, but in different senses.

My DOB, date of baptism, is 7 July 1950. That was at Holy Name Cathedral, in Chicago where I was born. If that sounds Roman Catholic, that's because it is. I professed the Christian faith, as taught in Scripture and correctly set forth in the Book of Concord, especially the Little Catechism, on 15 December 1996. I was not a convert from Catholicism. I had left that, and Christianity in general, in the Fall of 1973, just over 23 years earlier, and had no affiliation.

When I professed that faith, I was not baptised "again". I already was baptised. The profession was a further working out of the grace of the Holy Spirit begun that day. To amplify Walther a bit, one can no more come to faith by his own efforts than he can wake himself from the dead, and that is equally true as a newborn or at age 46.

In the course of time, as I learned more about the details of Lutheran history, I changed from the synod in which I made that profession, WELS, to LCMS, on 27 August 2006, because LCMS, or at least parts of it, seemed to reflect the correct confession of the Book of Concord more faithfully.

Among the many things I was to discover was that the revisionism I thought I had left behind with the RCC had now become the common property of pretty much all your so-called mainline denominations. I had a hint of that in 1984, when I wrote programme notes for a Lutheran choral group directed by one who would become prominent in what would become the ELCA. He gave me a copy of the Lutheran Book of Worship as a point of familiarity, but my reaction was, I can write the notes just fine, but as to something I'd look into for myself, if this is what Lutheran worship is, I'll stick with the 1960s Roman originals rather than this derivative drivel.

Which brings us to what some call "liturgical Pietism". This is not actually Pietism, but a reference to the practice of some to depart from the traditions and forms of Lutheran worship as found in our Synod materials and add additional traditions and forms not common or familiar in our circles generally and sometimes of non-Lutheran origin.

Actually that happens two ways, one in the direction of adopting and adapting things common in the worship of American "evangelicals", a different sort of services to express their non-Lutheran faith, and the other in adopting and adapting things of Roman Catholic, and sometimes Eastern Orthodox or Anglican, origin. The latter, which is a reaction to the former, is what is called "liturgical pietism" by some.

And they have a point. An excess in one direction is not corrected by an excess in another, excess itself being the problem. However, something is being ignored just leaving it there.

And that something is, that our recent synod approved materials already contain this excess, already depart from the traditions and forms previously found in our synod material and already add additional traditions and forms not previously common or familiar in our synod, and that because they did not exist prior to the non-Lutheran, Roman Catholic novus ordo coming out of Vatican II in the 1960s from which they are derived. A novus ordo which in its original Roman context effectively replaced the tradition which our Reformers sought to zealously guard and defend through reform.

Thus do our recent synod worship materials themselves contain revisions in harmony with our traditions and forms on an equal basis with revisions of non-Lutheran content not yet 50 years old. The calendar in evolving use for a millennium and a half, and a revision of Rome's new one, a lectionary in evolving use for a millenium and a hald, and a revision of Rome's new one. "Liturgical Pietism" between two synod-approved covers.

You say DS 3, I say DS 1. You say "historic" lectionary, I say three-year. You say "historic" calendar, I say three-year. You say Trinity 4, I say Pentecost 5. You say potayto, I say potahto. You say tomayto, I say tomahto. With that already in place, why would it not occur to some to say well why not say tater then too, or even (apologies to the Gershwins!) let's call the whole thing off.

The problem is not in the excesses of the two extremes, it is in the excess from which both are running, our recent materials. We need to start acting like Lutherans again, and if that means quit running after Willow Creek etc. and secular marketing style campaigns, it also means quit acting like Vatican II was in St Louis and running after what is now the common worship of all heterodox churches with a liturgical tradition.