Tuesday, 31 August 2010

But Weren't the Huguenots Calvinists?

Following on from my recent couple of posts about Huguenots, I’ve had a couple of responses along the lines of “but weren’t the Huguenots Calvinists“? The implication being, I think, that a Lutheran should not commemorate these folk who were, after all, on the other side, so to speak, in the great intra-Reformation debates.

It's a good question and one which I do not wish to dodge. I certainly assert that a Lutheran cannot regard the Huguenots without ambiguity. The French Confession of Faith, around which the Huguenots rallied after an initial period of persecution, was co-authored by John Calvin, and along with orthodox Trinitarianism and a good statement on forensic justification it contains a Calvinistic understanding of election and a pious sounding but unbiblical devaluation of the sacraments as means of grace. We also know that a subtle shift in the weight Calvin gave to the doctrine of justification in his overall system would come to give quite a different character to the Reformed understanding of the Christian faith as compared with the Lutheran. For these reasons I do not commemorate the Huguenots in the formal sense, but in spite of them I do regard and remember them as faithful Christians (and as ancestors - hence my interest in them).

As we point out these errors, let us acknowledge too the geographical, cultural and political context of the Huguenots. They were up against a Roman Catholic state which was prepared to act treacherously against its own citizens in the name of purity of religion. The ties of nationality and language meant that the evangelicals of Paris and southern France would inevitably be drawn into the orbit of Calvin, who, whatever his shortcomings as a theologian, was a master organiser and indefatigable defender of the French Protestants. Would God permit these geographical and historical "accidents" to shut off the French evangelicals from the Word of Life? We hope and pray not.

It is one of the mysteries of God’s providence, undoubtedly closely connected to the fact that the church always lives under the cross, that the Reformation was permitted to fracture into more than one party and to suffer from treachery within its own ranks that would result in much of the territory of the German-speaking lands once one for the pure Gospel being subjected to Calvinism or succumbing to the Jesuits. The role that theological and doctrinal error, as well as political intrigue, played in this drama cannot be excused or papered over. However, we must make a distinction between the teacher of error and his hearers, who may, either by God's grace or a felicitous inconsistency in their reception of erroneous teaching, be preserved in the true faith in Christ.

But in any case it is not their errors which we remember and praise the Huguenots for, but their steadfastness under persecution over many decades which showed the sincerity of their faith in Christ. The Lutheran Church has never, thank God, declared that the only true Christians in the world are found within it. It recognises that true Christians, albeit heterodox in faith, also exist in other communions. To quote the great Missouri Synod dogmatician, Francis Pieper, “Though God desires that all congregations be orthodox, and though all heterodox communions exist only by God’s sufferance and contrary to God‘s gracious will, still it is a fact that also in the heterodox communions there are believing children of God. The term “Christians” covers a wider field than the term “orthodox Christians”…Luther never thought of making the orthodox Church, the Lutheran Church, co-extensive with the Una Sancta. Vigorously as he fights against the Papacy and expressly declares it an institution of Satan, he nevertheless does not doubt that God has at all times under the Papacy preserved for Himself a Church, yes, the elite of the Christians” [Christian Dogmatics, III, p423-424].

Mutatis mutandis (with the necessary changes), we can perhaps acknowledge the same regarding the French Protestants known as Huguenots.

Cf. also Walther, "Whoever is in fellowship with Christ is in fellowship with all those in whom Christ dwells, that is, with the invisible Church. Accordingly, he who restricts salvation to fellowship with any visible Church therewith overthrows the article of the justification of the poor sinner in the sight of God by faith alone in Jesus Christ" [Walther and the Church p70; also cited in Pieper].

Friday, 27 August 2010

The deaf composer

First we had the “blind watchmaker” of Richard Dawkins, now we are apparently being asked by scientists to believe in the “deaf composer”. No, I'm not referring to Beethoven, but to that remarkably intelligent - though blind and deaf - creative force: evolution!

While working on a research project last night, I kep an eye on and an ear tuned to a fascinating program on the TV called, I think, The Music Instinct, presented by a professor of neuroscience named Levitin and the popular singer Bobby McFerrin. And it really was fascinating and well done. It piqued my interest because in one of our congregations recently we had a thanksgiving service for music as one of God’s gifts to humankind.

In my sermon for that service I spoke about the role of music in Biblical worship past and present and speculated that our music at its best may be an earthly echo of heavenly music, just as the Temple was a copy of a heavenly prototype. If man is made in the image of God, I thought, then surely music is no mere accidental creation, but actually reflects a reality in the mind of God. Music, I mentioned, was intimately related to mathematics and physics and revealed ordered patterns set in creation by the Creator. For instance, all animate and inanimate objects in the universe apparently vibrate at certain pitches, a fact which engineers have to take into account in order to ensure the stability of the structures they build. A bridge, for example, will vibrate just like a plucked violin string in certain weather conditions, to the point of destruction - so engineers have to counter this by building corrections into the structure to alter the pitch, just like a violin string when depressed on the fingerboard will vibrate at a different pitch, producing different notes. (I’m no musicologist, not even a trained musician, so pardon any errors I’m stumbling into here).
Likewise, the rhythmic impact of waves on the pylons of deep sea oil rigs at a particular pitch causes the pylons to vibrate like a guitar string, producing the same note, as if in sympathetic response to the waves! But this threatens the integrity of the structure, so engineers have to build in the ability to alter the pitch at which the pylons vibrate so that the note can be changed, just like a guitarist changes the pitch of the strings of his instrument. It appears that the whole of creation, including man-made objects, is imbued with musicality.

So, I was interested to see in the program that neuroscientists are doing research which is discovering that music may indeed be a universal language. I would say this is because it is based on universals that the Word of God has sung into creation, like the octave for example, which all musical cultures seem to recognise and work with even when they conceive melody and harmony differently from western music. Babies, you may be surprised to learn, even cry in musical intervals, from the root note to thirds and fifths (would you believe it if science hadn't proved it!?) And just to be sure this wasn’t learned behaviour acquired in the womb as parents played music, they found the same phenomenon in the children of deaf parents. Of course, we know that babies can hear in the womb, but it seems that they can even appreciate music, and perceive the difference between discordant and concordant music.

The scientists had to acknowledge that the human ear seemed specifically “designed” to hear music. But, and here’s the rub, they were several times heard to blithely assert something like “this is all the most remarkable evidence of the creative powers of evolution”!

So, behold the advent of the deaf composer. Further confirmation, I think, that there are none so blind as those who will not see...and none so deaf as those who will not hear!

(The painting is The Music Lesson, by Vermeer.)

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Why do the nations rage?

Why do the nations rage,
And the people plot a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
And the rulers take counsel together,
Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying,
“Let us break Their bonds in pieces
And cast away Their cords from us.”
(Pslam 2:1-3, NKJV)

"Why is there such a fury against religion now? Why is it more advanced in Britain than in the USA? I have had good reason to seek the answer to this question, and I have found it where I might have expected to have done if only I had grasped from the start how large are the issues at stake. Only one reliable force stands in the way of the power of the strong over the weak. Only one reliable force forms the foundation of the concept of the rule of law. Only one reliable force restrains the hand of the man of power. And, in an age of power-worship, the Christian religion has become the principal obstacle to the desire of earthly utopians for absolute power."

Peter Hitchens, The Rage Against God (pp. 82–3)

(Illustration from a painting by Hieronymous Bosch)

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

St Bartholomew's Day

Today (i.e. 24th August) is customarily celebrated throughout western Christendom as St Bartholomew’s Day, commemorating the Apostle usually identified as Nathanael. Early church historians such as Eusebius relate that Bartholomew carried out a mission in India, which, given the then flourishing spice trade routes across the Arabian Sea might not be as fanciful as it sounds. The origins of Christianity in India are still shrouded in mystery, and likely to remain so. Of course, the Apostle Thomas is also connected with mission to India.

Collect for St Bartholomew's Day
O almighty and everlasting God, who didst give to thine apostle Bartholomew grace truly to believe and to preach thy Word; Grant, we beseech thee, unto thy Church, to love that Word which he believed, and both to preach and receive the same; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

More infamously, St Bartholomew’s Day also commemorates a massacre perpetrated in France in 1572 by Roman Catholics against the evangelical Christians popularly known as Huguenots. Beginning on the eve of St Bartholomew’s Day and continuing over several weeks as the violence spread out from Paris to the countryside, modern historians estimate the number of dead at up to 30,000. Instigated by Catherine de Medici, the mother of King Charles IX, the massacre was begun six days after a royal wedding which had brought many prominent Huguenots to Paris. The plotters planned to use this occasion to effectively rob the French evangelical movement of its leadership. Respected English church historian, Owen Chadwick, states that as news of the massacre and the circumstances spread across Europe, it "imprinted on Protestant minds the indelible conviction that Catholicism was a bloody and treacherous religion" (Chadwick, H. & Evans, G.R. (1987), Atlas of the Christian Church, Macmillian, London; p113). The massacre led to c. 200 000 Huguenot refugees fleeing their homeland to England, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, and eventually even as far afield as America and South Africa.

Is there any point bringing up these unpleasant details in our day? Shouldn’t we “forgive and forget?” Certainly those with Huguenot ancestors may well feel that this event should not be forgotten or merely consigned to history, for it then loses its power to teach us today concerning religious tolerance. But we certainly don’t want to encourage bitterness or ill-feeling today on the basis of an event that happened so long ago, and acknowledge that the descendants of the Huguenots should be prepared to forgive as our Lord teaches in his prayer. But then the event has not exactly been dealt with by Roman Catholic authorities in a manner that is open to the facts and therefore respectful of the memory of the dead and conducive to reconciliation.

Certainly, an apology was issued by Pope John Paul II at a World Youth Day mass in Paris on August 24, 1997. However, the apology failed to frankly acknowledge the role of the Papacy in inflaming religious hatred across Europe at the time and specifically inciting French Roman Catholics to murder Huguenots. As even the Catholic Encycopedia acknowledges, it was the dream of Pope Pius V to end the religious disunity brought about by Rome's response to the Reformation by the power of the sword, and he urged the King of France towards that end as far as the Huguenots were concerned. But Pope John Paul did not mention this history in his apology. Instead, he referred to the “very obscure, political causes” of the event. He also failed to mention the gleeful response of the Vatican to news of the massacre - a service of thanksgiving was held in Rome and a medal struck by the Vatican to commemorate the massacre is on display in the British Museum; it is inscribed ‘The Slaughter of the Huguenots, 1572’. We can well understand why the present-day Papacy - the same institution implicated in the massacre - may wish to gloss over its part in this event at the same time as it offers an apology, but Biblical teaching on reconciliation indicates that until such unpleasant facts are faced squarely and acknowledged by the Papacy, the Massacre de la Saint-Barthélemy remains an open wound on the Body of Christ.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that "the confession (or disclosure) of sins, even from a simply human point of view, frees us and facilitates our reconciliation with others. Through such an admission man looks squarely at the sins he is guilty of, takes responsibility for them, and thereby opens himself again to God and to the communion of the Church in order to make a new future possible." Well may we say to the Papacy then, 'Physician, heal thyself!'

The Huguenot Cross - note the dove, symbolising the church living under the cross.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Chrysostom on the Clarity of Scripture, with a Reflection Appended

"What do I come in for, you say, if I do not hear some one discoursing? This is the ruin and destruction of all. For what need of a person to discourse? This necessity arises from our sloth. Wherefore any necessity for a homily? All things are clear and open that are in the divine Scriptures; the necessary things are all plain. But because ye are hearers for pleasure’s sake, for that reason also you seek these things. For tell me, with what pomp of words did Paul speak? and yet he converted the world. Or with what the unlettered Peter? But I know not, you say, the things that are contained in the Scriptures. Why? For are they spoken in Hebrew? Are they in Latin, or in foreign tongues? Are they not in Greek? But they are expressed obscurely, you say: What is it that is obscure? Tell me. Are there not histories? For (of course) you know the plain parts, in that you enquire about the obscure. There are numberless histories in the Scriptures. Tell me one of these. But you cannot. These things are an excuse, and mere words."
From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (ed. Schaff), Series 1, Vol XIII, Sermons of St Chrysostom on Galatians, Ephesians etc., Sermon III on 2 Thessalonians 1:9-10, para 388.

The language is rather archaic but the meaning is clear enough: in a rhetorical dialogue with his congregation, whom he suspects of coming to hear him preach merely 'for pleasure', the 'Golden Mouthed' preacher of the ancient church chastises his hearers for their slothfulness in applying themselves to the study of holy scripture, whence arises the need for discourses or homilies in the first place. These should not be necessary, Chrysostom suggests, since "all things are clear and open that are in the divine scriptures; the necessary things are all plain".

By way of comparison to Lutheran orthodoxy, we quote from Abraham Calov (1612-1686), who comes very close to repeating exactly Chrysostom's thought, although in the language of dogmatics: "in those things which are necessary to be known in order to salvation, the Scriptures are abundantly and admirably explicit, both by the intention of God their author, and by the natural signification of the words, so that they need no external and adventitious light" [Systema Locorum Theologicorum, Vol 1, p.467, quoted also in Schmid, Doctrinal Theology of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, (Augsburg, Minneapolis, 1961, p.68).

Of course, there is more that can be said, including the following...

The Fourth Session of the Council of Trent, which set forth Rome's official response to the magisterial Reformation's doctrine of scripture, did not explicitly condemn this view of the clarity of scripture, although a rejection of the Reformation doctrine might be regarded as implicit in Trent's attempts to limit the free publication and interpretation of holy scripture apart from the permission and authority of the Roman church. Much later, in his encyclical Providentissimus Deus (1893), Pope Leo XIII said that scripture was somewhat wrapped in obscurity and therefore the authoritative guidance of the church was necessary to a right understanding of it, which we can regard as the official Roman position.

Roman Catholic apologists will often point to the multiplicity of "Protestant sects" as a practical argument against the clarity of scripture, but this response fails to take into account the orthodox distinction between internal and external clarity of scripture and the noetic impact of sin on the human interpreter, a reality of which the Lutheran theologians were highly cognisant. Indeed, that is why they developed the strictly historical-grammatical hermeneutic which is much more sober than either the allegorical flights of fancy of many of the Fathers or the later, highly speculative "assured results" of higher criticism, not to mention the 'doctrinal positivism' of the Papacy, which asserts dogmas of the faith to be believed by all on pain of loss of salvation without scriptural support at all.

The Roman Catholic apologist also typically ignores the large degree of consensus that the confessions which came out of the magisterial Reformation (Lutheran, Anglican, Reformed) have on the fundamental articles of faith (i.e. original sin, justification, scripture, etc), a consensus which was not apparent among the Fathers at Trent, let it be said. Also, where ecclesiastical authority is properly understood and ordered as subordinate to the scriptures, Reformation theology has no objection to a role for the church as guide and teacher (the formal principle of the Lutheran Reformation is sola scriptura, not solo scriptura!). That is one of the reasons why we have creeds, confessions and the preaching office.

In fact, the typical Roman Catholic apologetic position on the issue of the clarity of scripture and the absolute need for supplementary teaching by the church is fraught with difficulties itself. The oft-heard appeal to the Fathers as authoritative teachers can lead to some very "Protestant" opinions being uncovered (pardon the anachronism), as the citation from Chrysostom shows (see others at the blog Lutheran Catholicity - click on the post title). As for the much lauded consensus of the Fathers on doctrinal issues that many Roman apologists point to, it is difficult, if not impossible to locate; and just where can the deposit of the "authoritative interpretation of scripture by the church" to which we are urged to look for certainty be found? Such a deposit does not exist as far as we can determine, or if it does, it is scattered and hidden among two thousand years worth of theologising. Of what practical use to the Christian is a rule of faith whose contents cannot be identified? We are effectively left with the proverbial "coal miner's faith": "Q. What do you believe? A. I believe what holy mother church believes. Q. And what does your church believe? A. Holy mother church believes what I believe"!

Finally, Luther's experience of the late medieval church can be pointed to as the prime example of where the authoritative guidance of the church has dimmed, rather than enlightened Christendom as to the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. Indeed, Luther's twin re-discoveries of the authority and clarity of God's Word (sola scriptura) and the good news that we are justified freely by God's grace on account of faith in Christ (sola gratia, sola fide) are the nexus out of which the Reformation came to be and through which God was allowed to be God once again!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Friday, 20 August 2010

Follow Up On Oxford Uni Discrimination Case

As a matter of interest, this post follows up my recent reflection on an alleged case of discrimination/persecution in high academe, namely the former lecturer in Jewish studies at Oxford University who was seeking redress through an employment tribunal for alleged discrimination on the basis of her conversion from Judaism to Christianity. I used the case as a springboard to ask questions about how Christians should respond to pereceived discrimination/persecution.

The employment tribunal has subsequently ruled against the academic concerned, finding that no discrimination took place and that she was entitled to no financial or other redress. The lady concerned, Dr Tali Argov, is appealing.

It is, of course, impossible for us who know the details only second-hand to form anything other than a tentative opinion on this case; although the tribunal officer's finding must carry some weight in our minds, our sympathies are likely remain with the victim. Nevertheless, the question of the Christian's response to discrimination remains.

In any case, we wish Dr Argov well.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Greetings From A Recently Renovated Old Manse

Greetings readers! I've been absent from the blog for a week or so due to a number of factors - moving into a recently renovated old manse (thanks to the generous folk of Our Saviour's), pressures of ministry and a bout of winter flu (yes, northern hemisphere readers, remember it is winter in the upside-down, antipodean world the glossator inhabits!). I ask those awaiting correspondence from me to be patient (by correspondence I mean awaiting actual e-mails, not just blog posts; heaven knows you can all survive without my blog posts!). In the meantime, here's a couple of news stories that caught my eye while I was recuperating.

The first is a report via the Church of England Newspaper and George Conger's blog of an American study done in Mozambique on 'proximal intercessory prayer', i.e. prayer for healing done in the presence of the subject. This tweaked my attention initially because I recall a similar study done a few years back in England which produced similar results, except it was a 'blind' study in which the subjects had no knowledge that they were being prayed for. Click on the post title to go to Conger's blog and read the story.

Anyone who has had contact with 3rd world folk will immediately recognise the truth of the statement that 3rd world folk will 'convert' to a religious belief system which offers them healing. There's a lot to unpack in this context, but I'm sure it does go a long way to explaining the phenomenal growth of Pentecostalism in the 3rd world where medical care is often not available to the rural and urban poor.

The second story concerns another US study which found objective evidence that 'religious people' are less distressed by erros and mistakes, which finding the researchers then fed into some wider evidence that religious people are 'longer-lived, healthier and happier than unbelievers'. I've placed religiopus people in inverted commas because I'd like to know how the scientists define such and what the break-down of religious/confessional commitments are. There are some religous people I know whose religion actually makes them more anxious and unhappy, but that's another subject.
Go here to read the story - http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100804110337.htm

Saturday, 7 August 2010

What Osteen Says...

What Joel Osteen says to Christian people about eating pork and shellfish...

What God says to Christian people about the same...
"Are you so dull?" he asked. "Don't you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him 'unclean'? For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body." (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods "clean.") Mark 7:18-19

"Do not call anything impure that God has made clean." Acts 10:15b

"Do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink...these are a shadow of the things that were to come...the reality, however, is found in Christ." Colossians 2:16a & 17b

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1

I don't know about you (to borrow one of Joel's favourite phrases), but I think Joel has a major hermeneutical problem; it's called failing to distinguish law & gospel. On an even more basic hermenuetical level, he's failing to make the necessary distinction between the Old and New Testaments, not taking into account the progressive nature of revelation.

Hermeneutics is the art, theory and practice of interpretation; in this case we are talking Biblical hermeneutics, which most pastors study as undergraduates. The proper distinction between Law & Gospel and the necessary distinction (distinction, not separation, mind you - the Bible remains a unified book) to be made between the Old and New Testaments are theological principles which guide the preacher to a correct interpretation of Biblical texts, i.e. one that leads to the proclamation of the Gospel and the salvation of hearers. When a Biblical expositor is ignorant of these principles, then at best confusion ensues, but at worst a false Gospel is proclaimed and people are encouraged to rely on their works, even if only partly, for salvation. It shouldn't surprise us then that Osteen says something like "When I do my best, God does the rest" part way through this message, a formulation that the medieval Occamist Gabriel Biel would have been happy with!

But even if Joel doesn't 'get' those hermeneutical principles, because he hasn't been to seminary or bothered himself too much with theology, is he not familiar with the clear scripture passages I have quoted? No, he is without excuse. Behind the boyish looks and the down-home, winsome manner, he is touting a death-dealing legalism just as spiritually lethal as the worst medieval works-monger. That so many Christian people seem willing to sit at his feet and imbibe what he says uncritically is surely testimony to the ignorance of the Gospel that reigns in much of popular evangelicalism (and elsewhere).

And that is the other side of this tragedy, that Biblically and theologically illiterate laity often respond positively to such legalism as Joel Osteen subtly teaches because it has the appearance of spiritual wisdom, at least according to fallen human standards. I'm reminded of the ex-Lutheran couple I once chatted to at a wedding...they left the Lutheran Church for Seventh Day Adventism because Lutheranism was "not strict enough for us". Not enough Law, too much Gospel freedom, eh folks?

Indeed, man inevitably feels more comfortable religiously when he is given something special to do in his religion, be it following a peculiar diet, the wearing of distinctive garb, the observation of special days and sabbaths, embarking on sacrificial pilgrimages or what have you. Harmless activities in themselves, perhaps even helpful for some people in objectifying their religion - up to that point, that is, when these practices become connected with meriting God's grace. And make no mistake, there is a powerful impetus within fallen man to elevate such indifferent things to that level. Is it really any wonder that Roman Catholicism, with its respect for the natural man, imported his natural theology into its system of doctrine?

The old evangelical theologians had a term for this stubborn delusion - they called it the opinio legis, after the phrase in the Apology of the Augsburg Confession : haec opinio legis inhaeret naturaliter in animis hominum - "this opinion of the law [i.e. that works merit remission of sins] inheres by nature in men's minds." It's the fundamental dogma shared by most religions of the world, regardless of what name they go by.

The opposite of the opinio legis is faith in Christ and his Gospel, which God has revealed to us by his Holy Spirit in his Word.

Well, I'm off to thank God for his mercies and have a ham sandwhich for lunch!

HT R. Scott Clark @ The Heidelblog

Friday, 6 August 2010

Commemoration of Robert Barnes, English Lutheran Martyr

While on the subject of persecution...As I was moving house last week I didn't have time to mark the commemoration of the death of Robert Barnes, English Lutheran martyr. An excerpt from the Encyclopedia Britannica follows. A link to Barnes's treatise on justification is available in the right-hand column under 'Essays'.

Robert Barnes the Martyr (c. 1495 – 30 July 1540) was an English reformer and martyr.

Barnes was born in Lynn, Norfolk in 1495[1], and was educated at Cambridge, where he was a member of the Austin Friars. He graduated Doctor of Divinity in 1523, and, soon after, he was made Prior of the Cambridge convent.

He was apparently one of the Cambridge men who gathered at the White Horse Tavern for Bible-reading and theological discussion in the early 1530's. At the Christmas Midnight Mass at St Edward's Church in 1525, Barnes gave an openly evangelical sermon proclaiming the gospel and accusing the Church of its heresies, now sometimes considered to be the first sermon of the English Reformation. [2] As a result, in 1526 he was brought before the vice-chancellor for preaching a heterodox sermon, and was subsequently examined by Wolsey and four other bishops. He was condemned to abjure or be burnt; and preferring the former alternative, was committed to the Fleet prison and afterwards to the Austin Friars in London.

He escaped to Antwerp in 1528, and also visited Wittenberg, where he made Martin Luther's acquaintance. He also came across Stephen Vaughan, an agent of Thomas Cromwell and an advanced reformer, who recommended him to Cromwell: "Look well," he wrote, "upon Dr Barnes' book. It is such a piece of work as I have not yet seen any like it. I think he shall seal it with his blood" (Letters and Papers of Henry VIII).

In 1531 Barnes returned to England, and became one of the chief intermediaries between the English government and Lutheran Germany. In 1535 he was sent to Germany, in the hope of inducing Lutheran divines to approve of Henry's divorce from Catherine of Aragon, and four years later he was employed in negotiations connected with Anne of Cleves's marriage. The policy was Cromwell's, but Henry VIII had already in 1538 refused to adopt Lutheran theology, and the statute of Six Articles (1539), followed by the king's disgust with Anne of Cleves (1540), brought the agents of that policy to ruin.

An attack upon Bishop Gardiner by Barnes in a sermon at St Paul's Cross was the signal for a bitter struggle between the Protestant and reactionary parties in Henry's council, which raged during the spring of 1540. Barnes was forced to apologise and recant; and Gardiner delivered a series of sermons at St Paul's Cross to counteract Barnes' invective. But a month or so later Cromwell was made earl of Essex, Gardiner's friend, Bishop Sampson, was sent to the Tower, and Barnes reverted to Lutheranism. It was a delusive victory. In July, Cromwell was attainted, Anne of Cleves was divorced and Barnes was burnt (30 July 1540).

Barnes was one of six executed on the same day: two, William Jerome and Thomas Gerrard, were, like himself, burnt for heresy under the Six Articles; three, Thomas Abel, Richard Fetherstone and Edward Powell, were hanged for treason in denying the royal supremacy. Both Lutherans and Catholics on the continent were shocked. Luther published Barnes' confession with a preface of his own as Bekenntnis des Glaubens (1540).

Some historians have concluded that Barnes was crucial in having the English Protestants and Catholics alike understand the Reformation around them

From the Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th edition, 1911 (in the public domain).

Persecution in the Academy: Soft & Subtle?

Further to my last post on the Oxford University academic who experienced veiled persecution after her conversion from Judaism to Christianity, here is a more general account of how things stand with Christians in the academy. National Public Radio in the US has carried a story on the often soft and subtle forms persecution that Christian faculty in the secular academy have to bear (click on the post title to view).
Another side to this story, I'm sure, would be the degree to which Christian students in the secular academy have to shy away from expressing their faith in their academic work in order to receive good grades. More than one university student in the Australian context has told me of how they have had to publicly accomodate themselves to the often agressive anti-Christian bias of university lecturers and professors. I do know, though, that the ethos of secular universities vis a vis religion generally and Christianity in particular, can differ quite markedly from one university to another in Australia, and I assume the same applies elsewhere too.

The irony behind all this, of course, is that the university as we know it is itself an idea largely conceived in the womb of Christian civilisation which was to be dedicated to searching out universal knowledge, of which religion was an essential part.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Blessed are those persecuted for righteousness' sake...

The UK's Daily Telegraph has reported on the case of a lecturer at Oxford University's Centre for Jewish Studies, Dr Tali Argov, who claims to have experienced ostracism and discrimination in her workplace because of her conversion from Judaism to Christianity (click on the post title to view the article). Dr Argov attributes her recent redundancy to the negative attitude shown to her by her former employers following her conversion. She is seeking redress from a discrimination tribunal.

This raises an interesting and very real dilemma that I believe Christians will be forced to face in the future as persecution increases in post-Christian societies: Christians in a civil society certainly have every right to expect the law to protect them from persecution, and in many legal jurisdictions they also have the right to pursue redress in courts and tribunals for any financial and emotional damage inflicted on them by such persecution. Like any other citizen, they have a right to seek justice. But the question is, should Christians pursue such remedies at all? Or should they accept persecution as a cross given them to bear in this life, and patiently await reward, restitution and perfect justice in the next life? What is most pleasing to God in such situations? And which course of action will contribute more to our growth in faith and love, not to mention our willing submission to God's will, as we journey on through this 'vale of tears' to our heavenly home?

After all, our Lord did say 'Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds fo evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great...'