Tuesday, 31 July 2012

The Shape of Apostasy in the Modern Church

Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
George Santayana (1863-1952)

Here is an extended gloss, by American Anglican theologian Leander Harding, on a now old, mostly forgotten book which contains reflections upon the church's struggle against Nazism ex post facto from some of those who were in the thick of it:  
"Man’s Disorder and God’s Design, published by Harper and Brothers in 1948, is a remarkable collection of essays prepared for the first assembly of the World Council of Churches at Amsterdam. The authors include some of the most respected theological voices of the 20th century: Karl Barth, H. Richard Niebuhr, George Florovsky, Gustaf Aulén, and Lesslie Newbigin. Sober reflection on what European churches learned from Nazi persecution and the war years is a dominant theme in the book.A powerful section, “The Shame and the Glory of the Church,” provides one of the most moving accounts of Church life which I have ever read, written by Edmund Schlink, who was a professor of systematic theology at Heidelberg. This essay on the life of the Church under Hitler speaks, as the editors say, “for the Church upon whom fell the first and the hardest part of the struggle to manifest God’s glory amidst man’s disorder” (p. 77).
 Schlink reports that there was a great falling-off among Christians. Many people became ashamed of the name of Christ and stopped attending church. Some preferred the neo-pagan ceremonies offered by the state to baptism and marriage in the Church. “Families were torn asunder: children denounced their parents, husbands opposed their wives, brothers and sisters took opposite sides in the cleavage between faith and error. Love grew cold in many hearts. Its place was taken by delusions and hardness of heart” (p. 98). The defections reached into the clergy: “Many became preachers of the anti-Christian myth and entered the service of the Nazis to replace the loyal pastors and church leaders that had been deprived of office. Many became false teachers and then persecutors of the Church” (p. 98).
 For Schlink, even more stunning than the apostasy was “the way in which it was usually taken for granted with an easy conscience. When the Nazi philosophy began to influence Christians, many of them did not even notice that this Nazi talk about ‘the Almighty’ and His ‘providence’ had nothing to do with the Living God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, but that it was directly opposed to Him. … It became evident that people were not all that clear about Christian teaching. In many churches, even before the Nazi regime, preaching had become an arbitrary religious explanation of personal destiny and world events. Otherwise, when the crucial moment came, it would have been impossible for a man of our own time to gain such an ascendancy and for him, with his personal philosophy, to become the object of such widespread faith and hope” (p. 99)."
Schlink's comments are very illuminating as to the shape apostasy takes in the modern church. Read Harding's entire piece here

If I remember correctly, Edmund Schlink was Doktorvater to my lecturer in the Lutheran Confessions, Comparative Symbolics and Church History, Maurice Schild, who studied in Heidelberg in the early 1960s and  succeeded Sasse in the chair of Church History at Luther Seminary, Adelaide c. 1970. I don't remember Dr Schild mentioning Schlink often, but I do I remember references to Sasse and Peter Brunner, who "wouldn't hurt a fly" and yet was imprisoned by the Nazis. It would be very interesting, to say the least, to have a couple of hours with Dr Schild and record his experiences and memories of these men, not least for what they may have passed on about the shape of apostasy in the modern church.

Further reading: Lutherans Against Hitler: The Untold Story by Lowell Green (Concordia Publishing House, St Louis Mo 2007) 

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Sermon Text Index for Luther's Church and House Postils

My friend and colleague Pr Michael Lockwood has put together an index of the sermon texts for Luther's church and house postils (sermons) which can be found in English as The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther in the seven volume edition published by Baker Books (currently out of print, but new and second hand copies can be sourced through Amazon, etc). This index will make this collection much more useful to preachers, so with Michael's permission I'm posting it here for wider distribution. I would suggest adding volume numbers for the House postils and volume and page numbers for the Church postils as you work your way through this list, so as to make future navigation easier. Also, when copying the list, double check that the references align on your copy as below - it took me a couple of attempts because my margins were tighter than the original and I'm no computer genius!    

Isa 9:1-7
Isa 60:1-6
Micah 5:2
Ecclesiasticus 15:1-8
Matt 1:18-25
Matt 2:1-12
Matt 2:13-23
Matt 3:13-17
Matt 4:1-11
Matt 5:20-26
Matt 6:24-34
Matt 7:15-23
Matt 8:1-13
Matt 8:23-27
Matt 9:1-8
Matt 9:18-26
Matt 11:2-10
Matt 13:24-30
Matt 15:21-28
Matt 18:1-10
Matt 18:21-35
Matt 20:1-16
Matt 21:1-9
Matt 22:1-14
Matt 22:15-22
Matt 22:34-46
Matt 23:34-39
Matt 24:15-28
Matt 25:31-42
Matt 25:31-46
Matt 26
Matt 27
Matt 27:62-66
Mark 5:21-43
Mark 6:17-29
Mark 7:31-37
Mark 8:1-9
Mark 14
Mark 15
Mark 16:1-7
Mark 16:1-8
Mark 16:14-20
Luke 1:5-80
Luke 1:26-38
Luke 1:39-56
Luke 2:1-14
Luke 2:10-12
Luke 2:13-14
Luke 2:15-20
Luke 2:21
Luke 2:22-32
Luke 2:33-40
Luke 2:41-52
Luke 5:1-11
Luke 6:36-42
Luke 7:11-17
Luke 7:36-50
Luke 8:4-15
Luke 9:28-36
Luke 10:23-37
Luke 11:14-23
Luke 11:14-28
Luke 14:1-11
Luke 14:16-24
Luke 15:1-10
Luke 16:1-9
Luke 16:19-31
Luke 17:11-19
Luke 18:9-14
Luke 18:31-43
Luke 19:41-48
Luke 21:25-36
Luke 21:35-36
Luke 21:25-38
Luke 22
Luke 22:7-20
Luke 23
Luke 23:32-43
Luke 24:13-35
Luke 24:36-47
John 1:1-14
John 1:19-28
John 2:1-11
John 3:1-15
John 3:16-21
John 4:46-54
John 6:1-15
John 6:44-51
John 8:46-59
John 10:1-11
John 10:11-16
John 12:12-19
John 14:23-31
John 15:26 – 16:4
John 16:5-15
John 16:16-23
John 16:23-30
John 18
John 18-19
John 19:13-30
John 19:31-42
John 20:19-31
John 21:19-24
Acts 1:1-11
Acts 1:1-12
Acts 2:1-13
Acts 2:14-28
Acts 2:29-36
Acts 2:14-36
Acts 6:8-14
Acts 7:57-8:3; 9:1-25; 22:14-16; 26:16-18
(conversion of St Paul)
Acts 10:34-43
Acts 13:26-33
Rom 6:3-11
Rom 6:19-23
Rom 8:12-17
Rom 8:18-22
Rom 11:33-36
Rom 12:1-6
Rom 12:6-16
Rom 12:16-21
Rom 13:8-10
Rom 13:11-14
Rom 15:4-13
1 Cor 1:4-9
1 Cor 4:1-5
1 Cor 5:6-8
1 Cor 9:24 – 10:5
1 Cor 10:6-13
1 Cor 11:23-26
1 Cor 12:1-11
1 Cor 13
1 Cor 15:1-10
1 Cor 15:20-28
1 Cor 15:35-50
1 Cor 15:51-57
2 Cor 3:4-11
2 Cor 6:1-10
2 Cor 11:19 – 12:9
Gal 3:15-22
Gal 3:23-29
Gal 4:1-7
Gal 4:21-31
Gal 5:16-24
Gal 5:25-26 – 6:10
Eph 3:13-21
Eph 4:1-6
Eph 4:22-28
Eph 5:1-9
Eph 5:15-21
Eph 6:10-17
Phil 1:3-11
Phil 2:5-11
Phil 3:17-21
Phil 4:4-7
Col 1:3-14
Col 3:1-7
Col 3:12-17
1 Thess 4:1-7
1 Thess 4:13-18
2 Thess 1:3-10
Tit 2:11-15
Tit 3:4-8
Heb 1:1-12
Heb 9:11-15
James 1:16-21
1 Pet 2:11-20
1 Pet 2:21-25
1 Pet 3:8-15
1 Pet 4:8-11
1 Pet 5:5-11
1 John 3:13-18
1 John 4:16-21
1 John 5:4-12
I believe in Jesus Christ, who ... descended into hell; the third day rose again from the dead.
Meditation on Christ’s sufferings
On the reception of the Lord’s Supper
HP 3, 209; HP 3, 221; HP 3, 229; HP 3, 237; HP3,246
CP 6
HP 1, 208
CP 6
HP 1, 132
HP 1, 196; CP 1
HP 3, 255
HP 1, 216
HP 1, 312; CP 2
HP 2, 311; 2, 320; CP 4
HP 3, 7; HP 3, 16; CP 5
HP 2, 335; HP 2, 342; CP 4
HP 1, 242; CP 2
HP 1, 253; CP 2
HP 3, 79; CP 5
CP 5
HP 1, 59; HP 1, 69; CP 1
HP 1, 264; CP 2
HP 1, 321; CP 2
HP 3, 374; HP 3, 386
HP 3, 130; CP 5
HP 1, 278; CP 2
HP 1, 17; HP 1, 25; HP 1, 31; CP 1; CP 2
HP 3, 91; HP 3, 100; HP 3, 107; CP 5
HP 3, 146; HP 3, 157; HP 3, 169; CP 5
HP 3, 51; HP 3, 61; HP 3, 70; CP 5
CP 1
HP 3, 192; CP 5
CP 5
HP 3, 207
HP 1, 372; HP 1, 387
HP 1, 404
HP 1, 435
HP 3, 176; HP 3, 184
HP 3, 327
HP 2, 395; CP 4
HP 2, 327; CP 4
HP 1, 372; HP 1, 387
HP 1, 404
HP 2, 7
CP 2
HP 2, 126; CP 3
HP 3, 310; 3, 324
HP 3, 284; HP 3, 294
HP 3, 341; HP 3, 357
HP 1, 99; HP 1, 132; CP 1
HP 1, 109
HP 1, 121; 1, 138
HP 1, 144; CP 1
HP 1, 177; HP 1, 188; CP 1
HP 1, 294; HP 3, 274
HP 1, 153; HP 1, 165; CP 1
HP 1, 224; CP 2
HP 2, 283; HP 2, 295; HP 2, 302; CP 4
HP 2, 258; HP 2, 269; HP 2, 276; CP 4
HP 3, 24; HP 3, 30; CP 5
HP 3, 365
HP 1, 285; CP 2
HP 3, 299
HP 2, 401; HP 2, 412; CP 5
CP 2
HP 1, 329
HP 3, 36; HP 3, 44; CP 5
HP 2, 241; CP 4
HP 2, 250; CP 4
HP 2, 350; 2, 358; CP 4
HP 2, 223; CP 4
HP 2, 422; CP 5
HP 2, 380; 2, 387; CP 4
HP 1, 302; CP 2
HP 2, 365; HP 2, 375; CP 4
HP 1, 37; HP 1, 44
HP 1, 52
CP 1
HP 1, 372; HP 1, 387
HP 1, 452
HP 1, 404
HP 1, 420
HP 2, 18; CP 2
HP 2, 32; CP 2
CP 1
HP 1, 84; HP 1, 92; CP 1
HP 1, 233; CP 2
HP 2, 206; HP 2, 217; CP 3
HP 2, 185; HP 2, 195; CP 3
HP 3, 117; HP 3, 122; CP 5
HP 1, 344; HP 1, 351; CP 2
CP 3
HP 1, 354; HP 1, 362; CP 2
CP 3
HP 2, 73; HP 2, 79; CP 3
HP 1, 366
HP 2, 177; CP 3
HP 2, 144; CP 3
HP 2, 96; CP 3
HP 2, 85; CP 3
HP 2, 104; CP 3
HP 1, 372; 1, 387
HP 1, 404
HP 1, 466
HP 1, 435
HP 2, 54; HP 2, 60; CP 2
CP 1
HP 2, 112
CP 7
HP 2, 151; CP 7
CP 7
CP 7
HP 2, 166
CP 6
HP 3, 265

CP 7
CP 7
CP 8
CP 8
CP 8
CP 8
CP 8
CP 7
CP 7
CP 7
CP 7
CP 6
CP 6
CP 8
CP 6
CP 7
CP 7
CP 8
HP 2, 41
CP 8
CP 7
CP 8
CP 7
CP 7
CP 7
CP 8
CP 7
CP 7
CP 8
CP 6
CP 6
CP 7
CP 8
CP 8
CP 8
CP 8
CP 8
CP 7
CP 8
CP 8
CP 8
CP 7
CP 8
CP 6
CP 8
CP 7
CP 7
CP 7
CP 8
CP 8
CP 6
CP 6
CP 6
CP 7
CP 7
CP 7
CP 7
CP 8
CP 7
CP 8
CP 8
CP 8
CP 7
HP 1, 476

CP 2
CP 2

Friday, 20 July 2012

On Luther's Explanation of the Commandments

Here's a question an alert and observant confirmation student might ask: 

Q. Why does Luther explain the First Commandment as requiring us to "fear, love and trust in God above all things", whereas in his explanation of commandments two to ten he stipulates only that we "should fear and love God...". What happened to trust?    

A. The first commandment is foundational in that it requires our trust in God, which we also define as faith.

Such trust or faith is the root of obedience to the following nine commandments.

Thus, whenever we Christians "strive daily to live a holy life", using  the commandments as a guide to what pleases God, our willing obedience stems from our trust/faith in God.

Likewise, whenever we fall into actual sin by breaking God's commandments, the root of our disobedience is our lack of faith/trust in God. which is indeed "the original sin".

I therefore teach my confirmation students that when we sin, we always trespass against at least two commandments of God - the particular commandment we have broken in thought, word or deed, by things done or left undone, and the first commandment to have no other "gods" but God!

This is why, I go on to explain, people without true faith do not really please God with their "good works", as many mistakenly believe: without true faith, none of their good works merits anything towards salvation, although God may, out of grace, reward good works in this life with earthly goods - a good reputation, prosperity, a happy family life, and so on, although these rewards are, strictly speaking, undeserved.  

Consider Luther's own words from the Large Catechism in his conclusion of his explanation of the First Commandment from the Large Catechism:

"Let us, then, learn well the First Commandment, that we may see how God will tolerate no presumption nor any trust in any other object, and how He requires nothing higher of us than confidence from the heart for everything good, so that we may proceed right and straightforward and use all the blessings which God gives no farther than as a shoemaker uses his needle, awl, and thread for work, and then lays them aside, or as a traveler uses an inn, and food, and his bed only for temporal necessity, each one in his station, according to God's order, and without allowing any of these things to be our lord or idol. Let this suffice with respect to the First Commandment, which we have had to explain at length, since it is of chief importance, because, as before said, where the heart is rightly disposed toward God and this commandment is observed, all the others follow. "

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Sound Theology

Happy Independence Day

Happy Independence Day to my American readers and friends.

 If I had been around in those days I would most likely have been a Loyalist and emigrated to Canada (see my recent post on monarchy), but we've long since buried that hatchet, haven't we? Fighting side by side through two world wars and numerous lesser conflicts has sealed the bonds of friendship in blood. And there is much to admire and learn from in the American character and ethos, past and present. For all the criticism the US garners, some of it no doubt justified, at its best it remains a beacon of light and hope in this world. So, enjoy your holiday my friends and celebrate your highest ideals! (Yes, I know this post is dated 5th July, but we are c. 3/4 day ahead of the US, where 4th July celebrations should be in full swing)

The following article from the WSJ provides some historical background to the Revolutionary War: 
 "Almost every American knows the traditional story of July Fourth—the soaring idealism of the Declaration of Independence, the Continental Congress's grim pledge to defy the world's most powerful nation with their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. But what else about revolutionary America might help us feel closer to those founders in their tricornered hats, fancy waistcoats and tight knee-breeches?Those Americans, it turns out, had the highest per capita income in the civilized world of their time. They also paid the lowest taxes—and they were determined to keep it that way." Read it all here.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Rev Matthew Harrison on Religious Freedom in a Democratic Society

 Rev Matthew Harrison, President of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, has authored a letter defending freedom of religion which has been signed by several Protestant, Eastern Orthodox, and Roman Catholic church leaders in the USA. The context of the letter is the US Department of Health and Human Services' mandate that religious institutions should provide access to contraception as part of employee health benefits, which particularly impinges upon the Roman Catholic church. The issue of contraception, however, is but the flash point for a larger discussion on government coercion of religious bodies and their adherents to act against their beliefs in the practice of their religion in the public sphere. As such, it has relevance far beyond the situation in the USA and is apropos to all secular democracies where the practice of religion beyond the walls of the church, mosque or synagogue is under legal threat.
For example, in 2008 the parliament of the Australian state of Victoria decriminalised abortion, even allowing for partial birth abortions and restricting the rights of health care workers to intervene to save life when a baby survived an abortion, voting against proposed amendments designed to protect health care workers who conscientiously objected to participating in what they regarded as acts of murder. This despite the fact that the Australian Constitution forbids the prohibition of the practice of religion and that Australia is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including its Article 3 (Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.); Article 6 (Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.) and Article 18 (Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.)

                              FREE EXERCISE OF RELIGION: Putting Beliefs into Practice
                    An Open Letter from Religious Leaders in the United States to All Americans

Dear Friends,
Religious institutions are established because of religious beliefs and convictions. Such institutions include not only churches, synagogues, mosques, and other places of worship, but also schools and colleges, shelters and community kitchens, adoption agencies and hospitals, organizations that provide care and services during natural disasters, and countless other organizations that exist to put specific religious beliefs into practice. Many such organizations have provided services and care to both members and non-members of their religious communities since before the Revolutionary War, saving and improving the lives of countless
American citizens.
As religious leaders from a variety of perspectives and communities, we are compelled to make known our protest against the incursion of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) into the realm of religious liberty. HHS has mandated that religious institutions, with only a narrow religious exception, must provide access to certain contraceptive benefits, even if the covered medications or procedures are contradictory to their beliefs. We who oppose the application of this mandate to religious institutions include not only the leaders of religious groups morally opposed to contraception, but also leaders of other religious groups that do not share that particular moral conviction.
That we share an opposition to the mandate to religious institutions while disagreeing about specific moral teachings is a crucial fact. Religious freedom is the principle on which we stand. Because of differing understandings of moral and religious authority, people of good will can and often do come to different conclusions about moral questions. Yet, even we who hold differing convictions on specific moral issues are united in the conviction that no religious institution should be penalized for refusing to go against its beliefs. The issue is the First Amendment, not specific moral teachings or specific products or services.
The HHS mandate implicitly acknowledged that an incursion into religion is involved in the mandate. However, the narrowness of the proposed exemption is revealing for it applies only to religious organizations that serve or support their own members. In so doing, the government is establishing favored and disfavored religious organizations: a privatized religious organization that serves only itself is exempted from regulation, while one that believes it should also serve the public beyond its membership is denied a religious exemption. The so-called accommodation and the subsequent Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM)
do little or nothing to alleviate the problem.
No government should tell religious organizations either what to believe or how to put their beliefs into practice. We indeed hold this to be an unalienable, constitutional right. If freedom of religion is a constitutional value to be protected, then institutions developed by religious groups to implement their core beliefs in education, in care for the sick or suffering, and in other tasks must also be protected. Only by doing so can the free exercise of religion have any meaning. The HHS mandate prevents this free exercise. For the well-being of our country, we oppose the application of the contraceptive mandate to religious institutions and plead for its retraction.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Adventures in Norn (Nornia?)

                     The Lord's Prayer in Norn

Favor i ir i chimrie, Helleur ir i nam thite,  gilla cosdum thite cumma, veya thine mota vara gort o yurn sinna gort i chimrie, ga vus da on da dalight brow vora. Firgive vus sinna vora sin vee Firgive sindara mutha vus, lyv vus ye i tumtation, min delivera vus fro olt ilt. Amen.


 Pic: St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkvall, Orkney (12th C.), courtesy Sigurd Townie @ Orkneyjar. The bishop of Kirkwall exercised ecclesial oversight over the Norn-speaking people of Orkney, the Shetlands and Caithness, originally under the authority of the Archbishop of York but then under the Archbishop of  Throndheim in Norway from 1152. 

Here are some brief notes on Norn, the original language of my  ancestors in the Norwegian-Scottish Henderson line: 
Norn is an extinct language that was spoken for several centuries by Vikings and their descendants in the Orkney and Shetland Isles off the north coast of mainland Scotland and in Caithness in the far north of the Scottish mainland.  Norn is an Indo-European language belonging to the North Germanic branch of the Germanic languages. Together with Faroese, Icelandic and Norwegian it belongs to the West Scandinavian group, separating it from the East Scandinavian group which consists of Swedish, Danish and Gutnish. Norn is considered to have been fairly similar to the still spoken Faroese, probably sharing many phonological and grammatical traits with this language, and the two languages were highly likely to have been mutually intelligible. The last Norn speaker in Scotland reportedly died in 1850 although remnants of the language survive in place names and other nouns to this day (of course, Scandinavian languages have had a significant impact upon the development of English and also Scots). Some present day enthusiasts are trying to revive Norn. 

Map of Britain and Ireland highlighting areas of concentrated Scandinavian settlement, including the Norn-speaking Shetlands, Orkneys and Caithness at the northern tip of mainland Scotland, along with the Hebrides and western Scotland, the area around Dublin and, of course, northern and eastern England and East Anglia (constituting The Danelaw). 

Click here to read Scandinavian Britain, a standard history by W.G. Collingwood.