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Commemoration of Adam and Eve – Why Believing That They Were Actual, Historic Persons Matters

December 19th, 2013 34 comments

Today is the day appointed in my church to remember and thank God for Adam and Eve. After I share the prayer appointed for this day, please continue reading for why defending and holding fast to their historicity matters, a lot.

We pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, You created Adam in your image and gave him Eve as his helpmate, and after their fall into sin, You promised them a Savior who would crush the devil’s might. By Your mercy, number us among those who have come out of the great tribulation with the seal of the living God on our foreheads, and whose robes have been made white in the blood of the Lamb; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

I’ve been following debates/arguments/discussions/conversations about the historicity of Adam and Eve. For our Lord Christ, the fact of the creation of Adam and Eve by God, and their union to one another, ordained by God, is the very foundation of marriage and all human sexuality. Precisely because the Lord taught this, this has an enormous impact on how the Church and the faithful, should—no not should, that’s way too soft a word—absolutely must—affirm the historicity of Adam and Eve. Justin Taylor had a blog post recently on this, that puts it rather well.

Reformation21 reprints an essay by Michael Reeves (Theological Adviser for UCCF in the UK) on “Adam and Eve,” from the book Should Christians Embrace Evolution? edited by Norman Nevin (IVP-UK, P&R). In particular Dr. Reeves takes on Denis Alexander’s proposed “third way” of understanding Adam and evolution.

Here’s the conclusion:

When theological doctrines are detached from historical moorings, they are always easier to harmonize with other data and ideologies. And, of course, there are a good many doctrines that are not directly historical by nature. However, it has been my contention that the identity of Adam and his role as the physical progenitor of the human race are not such free or detachable doctrines. The historical reality of Adam is an essential means of preserving a Christian account of sin and evil, a Christian under-standing of God, and the rationale for the incarnation, cross and resurrection. His physical fatherhood of all humankind preserves God’s justice in condemning us in Adam (and, by inference, God’s justice in redeeming us in Christ) as well as safeguarding the logic of the incarnation. Neither belief can be reinterpreted without the most severe consequences.

Commemoration of Daniel and the Three Young Men

December 17th, 2013 1 comment

Shadrach, Meshach, AbednegoWhen I was a boy, my favorite Bible story was the account of Daniel and the three young men in the fiery furnace. The story captivated me and still does. I’m happy that today our attention is drawn to remember Daniel, the great hero of faith.

Daniel the prophet and the Three Young Men—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—were among the leaders of the people of Judah who were taken into captivity in Babylon. Even in that foreign land they remained faithful to the one true God in their piety, prayer, and life. On account of such steadfast faithfulness in the face of pagan idolatry, the Three Young Men were thrown into a fiery furnace, from which they were saved by the Lord and emerged unharmed (Daniel 3). Similarly, Daniel was thrown into a pit of lions, from which he also was saved (Daniel 6). Blessed in all their endeavors by the Lord—and in spite of the hostility of some—Daniel and the Three Young Men were promoted to positions of leadership among the Babylonians (Dan 2:48–49; 3:30; 6:28). To Daniel in particular the Lord revealed the interpretation of dreams and signs that were given to King Nebuchadnezzar and King Belshazzar (Daniel 2, 4, 5). To Daniel himself the Lord gave visions of the end times.

Lord God, heavenly Father, You rescued Daniel from the lions’ den and the three young men from the fiery furnace through the miraculous intervention of an angel. Save us now through the presence of Jesus, the Lion of Judah, who has conquered all our enemies through His blood and taken away all our sins as the Lamb of God, who now reigns from His heavenly throne with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Source: Treasury of Daily Prayer

Commemoration of St. Lucia: Martyr – Antidote to Holiday Escapism

December 13th, 2013 7 comments
Saint_Lucy_by_Domenico_di_Pace_Beccafumi

Domenico Beccafumi, Saint Lucy. Pinacoteca Nazionale di Siena. 16th century.

During this time of Advent and Christmas, there are an ever cascading series of commemorations of various Christian saints, and various minor feasts and festivals, providing us with a good “reality check” to what can only be described as escapist types of celebrations of Christmas. What do I mean by that? Many miss the true joy of the season: which is found in prayerful reflection on the Incarnation of our Lord, the light that the darkness does not overcome.

Into a world of sin-filled darkness, comes the One who is our light and our life. We do not escape from the realities of evil that confront us in this present age, rather, we meet them head one: not with endless parties and drinking and gluttony, but with the watchful and waiting perspective of those who recognize that in this world there will be trouble, but we take heart, because Christ has overcome the world. And so, even in the face of a horrible death such as experienced by St. Lucy, we remain steadfast and immoveable in Christ. This is why these various commemorations and minor feasts and festivals are important for us to observe along with the main Sunday festivals of the season. Here is more information about Lucy.

One of the victims of the great persecution under the Roman emperor Diocletian, Lucia met her death at Syracuse on the island of Sicily in the year A.D. 304, because of her Christian faith. Known for her charity, “Santa Lucia” (as she is called in Italy) gave away her dowry and remained a virgin until her execution by the sword. The name Lucia means “light,” and, because of that, festivals of light commemorating her became popular throughout Europe, especially in the Scandinavian countries. There her feast day corresponds with the time of year when there is the least amount of daylight.

O Almighty God, by whose grace and power Your holy servant Lucia triumphed over suffering and remain ever faithful unto death, grant us, who now remember her with thanksgiving, to be so true in our witness to You in this world that we may receive with her new eyes without tears and the crown of light and life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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Slappy Christmas! Get to Know the Real “Santa Claus” – Saint Nicholas

December 6th, 2013 18 comments

6a00d8345168f369e201053640f564970b-500wiToday is the day we commemorate and remember Nicholas of Myra, aka, St. Nick, aka Santa Claus.

Today is the day in the church year when we remember and commemorate St. Nicholas. You have to love the old guy, as opposed to that jolly old elf impersonating him these days. Dr. Gene Edward Veith reminds us of the sturdy stuff of which our dear Saint Nicholas was made, when he slapped Arius around for heresy. If you are interested in a really great book that tells the true Christian story of St. Nicholas, here it is. Dr. Veith’s story is below.

Known for his generosity and his love of children, Nicholas is said to have saved a poor family’s daughters from slavery by tossing into their window enough gold for a rich dowry, a present that landed in some shoes or, in some accounts, stockings that were hung up to dry. Thus arose the custom of hanging up stockings for St. Nicholas to fill. And somehow he transmogrified into Santa Claus, who has become for many people the secular Christmas alternative to Jesus Christ.

But there is more to the story of Nicholas of Myra. He was also a delegate to the Council of Nicea in a.d. 325, which battled the heretics who denied the deity of Christ. He was thus one of the authors of the Nicene Creed, which affirms that Jesus Christ is both true God and true man. And unlike his later manifestation, Nicholas was particularly zealous in standing up for Christ.

During the Council of Nicea, jolly old St. Nicholas got so fed up with Arius, who taught that Jesus was just a man, that he walked up and slapped him! That unbishoplike behavior got him in trouble. The council almost stripped him of his office, but Nicholas said he was sorry, so he was forgiven.

The point is, the original Santa Claus was someone who flew off the handle when he heard someone minimizing Christ. Perhaps we can battle our culture’s increasingly Christ-less Christmas by enlisting Santa in his original cause. The poor girls’ stockings have become part of our Christmas imagery. So should the St. Nicholas slap. Not a violent hit of the kind that got the good bishop in trouble, just a gentle, admonitory tap on the cheek. This should be reserved not for out-and-out nonbelievers, but for heretics (that is, people in the church who deny its teachings), Christians who forget about Jesus, and people who try to take Christ out of Christmas. This will take a little tweaking of the mythology. Santa and his elves live at the North Pole where they compile a list of who is naughty, who is nice, and who is Nicean.

On Christmas Eve, flying reindeer pull his sleigh full of gifts. And after he comes down the chimney, he will steal into the rooms of people dreaming of sugarplums who think they can do without Christ and slap them awake. And we’ll need new songs and TV specials (“Santa Claus Is Coming to Slap,” “Deck the Apollinarian with Bats of Holly,” “Frosty the Gnostic,” “How the Arian Stole Christmas,” “Rudolph the Red Knows Jesus”). Department store Santas should ask the children on their laps if they have been good, what they want for Christmas, and whether they understand the Two Natures of Christ. The Santas should also roam the shopping aisles, and if they hear any clerks wish their customers a mere “Happy Holiday,” give them a slap. This addition to his job description will keep Santa busy. Teachers who forbid the singing of religious Christmas carols—SLAP! Office managers who erect Holiday Trees—SLAP! Judges who outlaw manger displays—SLAP! People who give The Da Vinci Code as a Christmas present—SLAP! Ministers who cancel Sunday church services that fall on Christmas day—SLAP! SLAP! Perhaps Santa Claus in his original role as a theological enforcer may not go over very well in our contemporary culture. People may then try to take both Christ and Santa Claus out of Christmas. And with that economic heresy, the retailers would start to do the slapping.

Source: WORLD Magazine
December 24, 2005, Vol. 20, No. 50

 

Commemoration of John of Damascus: Theologian and Hymnwriter

December 4th, 2013 1 comment

John (ca. 675–749) is known as the great compiler and summarizer of the orthodox faith and the last great Greek theologian. Born in Damascus, John gave up an influential position in the Islamic court to devote himself to the Christian faith. Around 716 he entered a monastery outside of Jerusalem and was ordained a priest. When the Byzantine emperor Leo the Isaurian in 726 issued a decree forbidding images (icons), John forcefully resisted. In his Apostolic Discourses he argued for the legitimacy of the veneration of images, which earned him the condemnation of the Iconoclast Council in 754. John also wrote defenses of the orthodox faith against contemporary heresies. In addition, he was a gifted hymnwriter (“Come, You Faithful, Raise the Strain”) and contributed to the liturgy of the Byzantine churches. His greatest work was the Fount of Wisdom which was a massive compendium of truth from previous Christian theologians, covering practically every conceivable doctrinal topic. John’s summary of the orthodox faith left a lasting stamp on both the Eastern and Western churches.

 

Source.

Commemoration of Noah

November 29th, 2013 2 comments

Noah, the son of Lamech (Gen 5:30), was instructed by God to build an ark, in which his family would find security from the destructive waters of a devastating flood that God warned would come. Noah built the ark, and the rains descended. The entire earth was flooded destroying “every living thing that was on the face of the ground, both man and beast” (7:23). After the flood waters subsided, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. When Noah determined it was safe, and God confirmed it, he and his family and all the animals disembarked. Then Noah built an altar and offered a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God for having saved his family from destruction. A rainbow in the sky was declared by God to be a sign of His promise that never again would a similar flood destroy the entire earth (8;20). Noah is remembered and honored for his obedience, believing that God would do what He said He would.The world had become extremely corrupt, so God instructed Noah, the son of Lamech (Genesis 5:30) to build an ark to provide security for his family and selected living creatures from the waters of a devastating flood that God warned was coming (Genesis 6). Noah built the ark, and the flood came soon after its completion (Genesis 7). The entire earth was flooded, blotting out “every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. (7:23)”

Lection

Psalm 29
Genesis 7:1-5, 11-12, 17-23
1 Peter 3:18-22 or Hebrews 11:1-3, 7; 12:1-2
Matthew 24:36-44

Collect

Lord God, heavenly Father, You kept Noah righteous in the midst of a sinful world and, through him, delivered life from the Flood’s destruction, continuing also the human line of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ and foreshadowing the destruction of sin in Baptism and the preservation of new and eternal life in the Ark of the Holy Christian Church. Grant that we, the heirs of Noah by birth would likewise be heirs in faith of all Your promises, for the sake of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

 

Source: Treasury of Daily Prayer.

Commemoration of Clement of Rome

November 23rd, 2013 3 comments

Saint Clement of Rome, Pastor and Bishop (ca. A.D. 35–100) is remembered for establishing the pattern of apostolic authority that governed the Christian Church during the first and second centuries. He insisted on keeping Christ at the center of the Church’s worship and outreach. In a letter to the Corinthian Christians, he emphasized the centrality of Jesus’ death and resurrection: “Let us fix our eyes on the blood of Christ, realizing how precious it is to His Father, since it was poured out for our salvation and brought the grace of repentance to the whole world” (1 Clement 6:31).

Early accounts claim that he suffered a martyr’s death by drowning — specifically, he was said to have been tied to an anchor, hence his normal symbol is an anchor. Before his death, he displayed a steadfast, Christ-like love for all of God’s redeemed people, serving as inspiration for future generations to continue building the Church on the foundation of the prophets and apostles, with Christ as the one and only cornerstone. His Epistle to the Corinthians addresses what he considered to be the improper dismissal of a bishop. It works both for good order and for abounding charity among the Corinthian Christians.

The beautiful icon that adorns this blog post was written by: ChristianIconStudio.com

Here follows an excerpt from his Epistle to the Corinthians:

Let the one truly possessed by the love of Christ keep his commandments. Who can express the binding power of divine love? Who can find words for the splendor of its beauty? Beyond all description are the heights to which it lifts us. Love unites us to God; “it cancels innumerable sins,” has no limits to its endurance, bears everything patiently. Love is neither servile nor arrogant. It does not provoke schisms or form cliques, but always acts in harmony with others. By it all God’s chosen ones have been sanctified; without it, it is impossible to please him. Out of love the Lord took us to himself; because he loved us and it was God’s will, our Lord Jesus Christ gave his life’s blood for us — he gave his body for our body, his soul for our soul.

See then, beloved, what a great and wonderful thing love is, and how inexpressible its perfection. Who are worthy to possess it unless God makes them so? To him therefore we must turn, begging of his mercy that there may be found in us a love free from human partiality and beyond reproach. Every generation from Adam’s time to ours has passed away; but those who by God’s grace were made perfect in love and have a dwelling now among the saints, and when at last the kingdom of Christ appears, they will be revealed. “Take shelter in your rooms for a little while,” says Scripture, “until my wrath subsides. Then I will remember the good days, and will raise you from your graves.”

Happy are we, beloved, if love enables us to live in harmony and in the observance of God’s commandments, for then it will also gain for us the remission of our sins. Scripture pronounces “happy those whose transgressions are pardoned, whose sins are forgiven. Happy the one,” it says, “to whom the Lord imputes no fault, on whose lips there is no guile.” This is the blessing given those whom God has chosen through Jesus Christ our Lord. To him be glory for ever and ever.
.       .       .
Let us fix our attention on the blood of Christ and recognize how precious it is to God his Father, since it was shed for our salvation and brought the grace of repentance to all the world.

If we review the various ages of history, we will see that in every generation the Lord has “offered the opportunity of repentance” to any who were willing to turn to him. When Noah preached God’s message of repentance, all who listened to him were saved. Jonah told the Ninevites they were going to be destroyed, but when they repented, their prayers gained God’s forgiveness for their sins, and they were saved, even though they were not of God’s people.

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the ministers of God’s grace have spoken of repentance; indeed, the Master of the whole universe himself spoke of repentance with an oath: “As I live,” says the Lord, “I do not wish the death of the sinner but the sinner’s repentance.” He added this evidence of his goodness: “House of Israel, repent of your wickedness. Tell my people: If their sins should reach from earth to heaven, if they are brighter than scarlet and blacker than sackcloth, you need only turn to me with your whole heart and say, ‘Father,’ and I will listen to you as to a holy people.”

In other words, God wanted all his beloved ones to have the opportunity to repent and he confirmed this desire by his own almighty will. That is why we should obey his sovereign and glorious will and prayerfully entreat his mercy and kindness. We should be suppliant before him and turn to his compassion, rejecting empty works and quarreling and jealousy which only lead to death.

We should be humble in mind, putting aside all arrogance, pride, and foolish anger. Rather, we should act in accordance with the Scriptures, as the Holy Spirit says: “The wise must not glory in wisdom nor the strong in strength nor the rich in riches. Rather, let the one who glories glory in the Lord, by seeking him and doing what is right and just.” Recall especially what the Lord Jesus said when he taught gentleness and forbearance. “Be merciful,” he said, “so that you may have mercy shown to you. Forgive, so that you may be forgiven. As you treat others, so you will be treated. As you give, so you will receive. As you judge, so you will be judged. As you are kind to others, so you will be treated kindly. The measure of your giving will be the measure of your receiving.”

Let these commandments and precepts strengthen us to live in humble obedience to his sacred words. As Scripture asks: “Whom shall I look upon with favor except the humble, peaceful one who trembles at my words?”

Sharing then in the heritage of so many vast and glorious achievements, let us hasten toward the goal of peace, set before us from the beginning. Let us keep our eyes firmly fixed on the Father and Creator of the whole universe, and hold fast to his splendid and transcendent gifts of peace and all his blessings.

Commemoration of Elizabeth of Hungary

November 19th, 2013 1 comment

Elizabeth (Erzsebet, Elisabeth) of Hungary, born in Pressburg, Hungary, in 1207, was the daughter of King Andrew II and his wife Gertrude. Given in an arranged political marriage, she became wife of Louis of Thuringia (Germany) at age 14.

Her spirit of Christian generosity and charity pervaded the home she established for her husband and three children in the Wartburg Castle at Eisenach. Their abode was known for hospitality and family love.

Elizabeth often supervised the care of the sick and needy, even giving up her bed to a leper at one time. Widowed at age 20, she arranged for her children’s well-being and entered into life as a nun in the Order of Saint Francis. Her self-denial led to failing health and an early death in 1231 at the age of 24. Remembered for her self-sacrificing ways, Elizabeth is commemorated through the many hospitals named for her around the world.

Appointed Readings

† Psalm 146:4-9 or 112:1-9
† Tobit 12:6b-9
† Matthew 25:31-40 or Luke 12:32-34

Collect

Almighty God, by whose grace your servant Elizabeth of Hungary recognized and honored Jesus in the poor of this world, grant that we, following her example, may with love and gladness serve those in any need or trouble, in the name and for the sake of through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

As an aside, Elizabeth lived in the Wartburg Castle for  time and when you visit there today, there is a good deal of the interior art devoted to her memory and work.

Commemoration of Justinian, Christian Ruler and Confessor of Christ

November 14th, 2013 3 comments

Justinian was emperor of the East from A.D. 527 to 565 when the Roman Empire was in decline. With his beautiful and capable wife, Theodora, he restored splendor and majesty to the Byzantine court. During his reign the Empire experienced a renaissance, due in large part to his ambition, intelligence, and strong religious convictions. Justinian also attempted to bring unity to a divided church. He was a champion of orthodox Christianity and sought agreement among the parties in the Christological controversies of the day who were disputing the relation between the divine and human natures in the Person of Christ. The Fifth Ecumenical Council in Constantinople in A.D. 533 was held during his reign and addressed this dispute. Justinian died in his eighties, not accomplishing his desire for an empire that was firmly Christian and orthodox. By the way, the image on this page is based on a mosaic picture of Justinian, but reconstructed to reflect what he may actually have looked like.

Flavius Anicius Julianus Justinianus was born about 483 at Tauresium (Taor) in Illyricum (near Uskup); d. 565. The theory that he was a Slav by race is now abandoned (Krumbacher, “Byz. Litt.”, 237). He was the nephew of Justin I (518-27), being the son of Justin’s sister Vigilantia and a certain Sabatius. Already during his uncle’s reign he became the chief power in the state. Justin was an old man, weak in body and mind; he gradually handed over all power to his nephew. In 521 Justinian was proclaimed consul, then general-in-chief, and in April, 527, Augustus; in August of the same year Justin died, and Justinian was left sole ruler.

The thirty-eight years of Justinian’s reign are the most brilliant period of the later empire. Full of enthusiasm for the memories of Rome, he set himself, and achieved, the task of reviving their glory. The many-sided activity of this wonderful man may be summed up under the headings: military triumphs, legal work, ecclesiastical polity, and architectural activity. Dominating all is the policy of restoring the empire, great, powerful, and united. Of these many features of his reign — each of them epoch-making — it is impossible to give more than the merest outline here. Military triumphs

Justinian carried on the unending war against the Persians with mixed success. His general Belisarius lost a battle at first in 528, then completely routed the Persians at Daras, near Nisibis (June, 530); but on 19 April, 531, the Romans were defeated near Callinicum on the Euphrates; in September a peace was arranged on fairly equal terms. The emperor then conceived the plan of reconquering Africa and Italy, lost to the empire by the Vandal and Gothic invasions. In 533 a fleet of five hundred ships set sail for Africa under Belisarius. In two battles the Romans annihilated the Vandal kingdom, took the king, Gelimer, prisoner to Constantinople, and re-estabished the authority of Caesar in Africa. In 535 Belisarius sailed for Sicily. The island was conquered at once. After a reverse in Dalmatia that province was also subdued. Belisarius in 536 took Rhegium and Naples, entered Rome in triumph, seized Ravenna, sustained a siege in Rome till 538, when the Goths retired. A second general, Narses, then arrived with reinforcements from Constantinople; Milan and all Liguria were taken in 539, and in 540 all Italy up to the frontier of the Frankish Kingdom was reunited to the empire. In 542 the Goths revolted under their king, Totila; by 553 they were again crushed. Narses became the first Exarch of Italy. Verona and Brixia (Brescia), the last Gothic strongholds, fell in 562. The Roman armies then marched on Spain and conquered its south-eastern provinces (lost again in 623, after Justinian’s death.) Meanwhile the Crimean Goths and all the Bosporus, even the Southern Arabs, were forced to acknowledge the rule of Rome. A second war against the Persians (540-45) pushed the Roman frontier beyond Edessa. From 549 to 556 a long in Armenia and Colchis (the Lazic War) again established the empire without a rival on the shores of the Black Sea. So Justinian ruled once more over a colossal world empire, whose extent rivaled that of the great days before Diocletian. Meanwhile the emperor was no less successful at home. In 532 a very dangerous revolt (the Nika revolution), that arose from the factions of the Circus (the Blues and Greens), was put down severely. Bury says that the result of the suppression was “an imperial victory which established the form of absolutism by which Byzantine history is generally characterized”. (Later Roman Empire, I, 345). Legal work

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Commemoration of Martin of Tours, Soldier, Pastor and Bishop

November 11th, 2013 1 comment

martin-of-toursBorn into a pagan family in what is now Hungary around the year A.D. 316, Martin grew up in Lombardy (Italy). Coming to the Christian faith as a young person, he began a career in the Roman army. But sensing a call to a church vocation, Martin left the military and became a monk, affirming that he was “Christ’s soldier.” Eventually, Martin was named bishop of Tours in western Gaul (France). He is remembered for his simple lifestyle and his determination to share the Gospel throughout rural Gaul. Incidentally, on St. Martin’s Day in 1483, the one-day-old son of Hans and Margarette Luther was baptized and given the name “Martin” Luther. The following is an extended biographical sketch:

Born at Sabaria (today Steinamanger in German, or Szombathely in Hungarian), Pannonia (Hungary), about 316; died at Candes, Touraine, most probably in 397. In his early years, when his father, a military tribune, was transferred to Pavia in Italy, Martin accompanied him thither, and when he reached adolescence was, in accordance with the recruiting laws enrolled in the Roman army. Touched by grace at an early age, he was from the first attracted towards Christianity, which had been in favour in the camps since the conversion of Emperor Constantine. His regiment was soon sent to Amiens in Gaul, and this town became the scene of the celebrated legend of the cloak. At the gates of the city, one very cold day, Martin met a shivering and half-naked beggar. Moved with compassion, he divided his coat into two parts and gave one to the poor man. The part kept by himself became the famous relic preserved in the oratory of the Frankish kings under the name of “St. Martin’s cloak”. Martin, who was still only a catechumen, soon received baptism, and was a little later finally freed from military service at Worms on the Rhine. As soon as he was free, he hastened to set out to Poitiers to enroll himself among the disciples of St. Hilary, the wise and pious bishop whose reputation as a theologian was already passing beyond the frontiers of Gaul. Desiring, however, to see his parents again, he returned to Lombardy across the Alps. The inhabitants of this region, infested with Arianism, were bitterly hostile towards Catholicism, so that Martin, who did not conceal his faith, was very badly treated by order of Bishop Auxentius of Milan, the leader of the heretical sect in Italy. Martin was very desirous of returning to Gaul, but, learning that the Arians troubled that country also and had even succeeded in exiling Hilary to the Orient, he decided to seek shelter on the island of Gallinaria (now Isola d’Albenga) in the middle of the Tyrrhenian Sea.

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Commemoration of Martin Chemnitz, Pastor and Confessor

November 9th, 2013 8 comments
Chemnitz

Portrait of Martin Chemnitz in St. Martini Church, Braunschweig, Germany.
Photo © Paul T. McCain. All rights reserved.

 

Si Martinus non fuisset, Martinus vix stetisset. So goes the little rhyming quip, in Latin, that Roman Catholics used to describe Martin Chemnitz. It means, “If the second Martin had not come, the first Martin would not have stood.” His Roman Catholic opponents recognized how important Chemnitz was to the legacy of Martin Luther and came up with this phrase after Chemnitz wrote his magisterial The Examination of the Council of Trent, which, to this day, remains the most thorough and exhaustive study and refutation of the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church, as it was most formatively expressed during the Council of Trent. Quite the compliment, coming from his lifelong theological opponents and sparring partners!

The picture of Chemnitz was painted shortly after his death, and is displayed in a very ornate memorial frame that hangs to the right of the altar in Chemnitz’ church in Braunschweig, St. Martin’s. See the note below for more details on the painting.

Who was Martin Chemnitz? He was the most significant second-generation Lutheran theologian, whose efforts in the decades after Martin Luther’s death were, in large part, responsible for the preservation of the Lutheran Reformation. The portrait in this post is a photo taken in Chemnitz’ church in Braunschweig, Germany, where he served as Superintendent, or “Overseer” of the congregations, pastors and other church workers in Braunschweig. In addition to his pastor and church administration duties, he was a prolific author. We are fortunate to have preserved a brief autobiography that Chemnitz wrote, translated into English. You can read it here. Pastor David Jay Webber has a great web site that has a number of Chemnitz quotes on key topics that gives you a good insight into his thinking. Included on that web site are a collection of period engravings of Chemnitz’ works.

Martinikirche_02_1a

St. Martini Church in Braunschweig, Germany.
Photo © Paul T. McCain. All rights reserved

His most significant work we have already referred to, The Examination, but he also wrote the most definitive Lutheran explanation of the Bible’s teaching about Christ, which in the study of theology is called Christology in his The Two Natures in Christ, and a wonderful volume on The Lord’s Supper, which was the culimination of earlier works on the Supper. He prepared a volume for the examination and testing of clergy to make sure they were faithful and orthodox in their teaching and preaching, which, in English translation, is titled Ministry, Word and Sacraments: The Enchiridion. A lesser known work On the Lord’s Prayer, by Chemnitz, is also available in English. Other works by Chemnitz include a large volume of sermons for the entire Church year, and The Theology of the Jesuits, neither of which have been translated into English. He continued the work of Philip Melanchthon in preparing formal doctrinal presentations of the teachings of the Bible, as confessed by Lutherans. Chemnitz work Theological Commonplaces, prepared the way for the greatest of the Lutheran doctrinal theology books from the age of Lutheran Orthodoxy, Gerhard’s own Loci. The Wikipedia article on Chemnitz has a good bibliography of his many works. The best biography of Chemnitz available in English is Dr. J.A.O. Preus’ work The Second Martin.

Here is a very nicely done small biography of Chemnitz, by Joshua Zarling.

If Martin Luther is considered the greatest theologian of the Lutheran Church, then Martin Chemnitz is without a doubt our second greatest Lutheran Father. Chemnitz is certainly deserving of the title “the Second Martin”, and was the primary bulwark of orthodox Lutheran theology in the latter part of the sixteenth century. Born in Treuenbrietzen, in 1522, he was the last of three children given to Paul and Euphemia Chemnitz. Chemnitz’s life of education was varied and marked by constant moving (because of financial difficulties). He studied at Wittenberg (1536-1538), Magdeburg (1539-42), Calbe (1542), Frankfurt on the Oder (1543-44), where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree, again at Wittenberg (1545-47) under the tutelage of Melancthon, and Königsberg (1547-53). At Königsberg he was able to obtain his Master of Arts degree, and began his study of theology (from 1550-1553) in the Duke’s personal library. From there he again returned to Wittenberg, and was made a member of the faculty in 1554. Later that year, he accepted a call as coadjutor of Braunschweig to his friend Joachim Morlin and pastor of Martin Church, where he would remain until his death in 1586. During his time in Braunchweig he received his doctorate at the University of Rostock (1568), and took over the office of the superintendent (1567). It was the latter part of the sixteenth century that proved to be one of the greatest battlegrounds for orthodox Lutheranism, which found itself facing many opponents and varied controversies. The Catholic Church, newly revitalized from the council of Trent (1545-1563), was now ready to take a decisive stand against the Protestants. John Calvin had come onto the scene, along with his corrupt theology. It was in the doctrines of the Lord’s Supper and the Person of Christ that Calvinism posed its greatest threat to Lutheranism, with proponents of these errors masking their heterodoxy under the supposed title of “Lutheran” (these men were named “Crypto-Calvinists” because they hid their Calvinistic inclinations). Under the unsteady hand of Melancthon, Wittenberg itself became a hotbed for Crypto-Calvinists. Add to this the Osiandrian controversy, the Synergists and the Anabaptists, and one can clearly see that Satan was again hard at work trying to destroy the Gospel, which had been snuffed out in medieval theology, but God had again brought to light through Luther. It was in these turbulent times that God graced our Church with the second Martin, who, using Scripture as his guide, soundly defeated the errorists in turn. In response to the Catholics he wrote his famous, four-volume work Examination of the Council of Trent, one of the great masterpieces of Lutheran theology. Against the Crypto-Calvinists he worked tirelessly, writing De Coena Domini (The Lord’s Supper) in 1560, and De Duabus Naturis in Christo (the Two Natures in Christ) published in 1570, and expanded in 1578. But his greatest contribution to Lutheranism is his work in producing the Formula of Concord. In collaboration with Jacob Andreae, Phillip Selnecker, David Chytraeus, Andrew Musculus, and Christopher Korner, the Bergic Book was produced in 1577, which we today call the Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord. This was the flag under which orthodox Lutheranism rallied. Unbiased, it simply reproduced the Scriptural positions of the doctrines in question, taking its stance on the Bible and Luther. The doctrines of the Lord’s supper and of the Person of Christ were hammered out, so that there was no place for the Crypto-Calvinists to hide. The work itself, written primarily by Chemnitz, was ascribed to by most of the Lutheran parts of the empire (Chemnitz’s home town, Braunschweig, did not subscribe to it until years later, not because of doctrinal differences, but because of a personal quarrel between Duke Julius and Chemnitz). We in the WELS would do well to better acquaint ourselves with Martin Chemnitz, both his life and his works. Our second greatest Father, he stands out as a theologian and pastor in the truest sense, following in the footsteps of the first Martin and taking an uncompromising stand on Scripture. The 17th century saying is certainly true (written above in Latin), “If the second Martin (Chemnitz) had not come, the first Martin (Luther) would not have stood.”

*Is that a rosary in Chemnitz’ hand in the portrait? Maybe, maybe not. Regardless, we have no evidence of the use of the rosary by Chemnitz, or Lutherans. The conventions of the day when preparing portraits were very strict. Painters would routinely painting into portraits symbols of the person’s vocation and responsibilities: hence, in the portrait we see a quill pen and book, to indicate Chemnitz’ work as an author and scholar, and the rosary is included as a symbol of his faith and piety.

 

Commemoration of Martin Chemnitz: Pastor and Confessor

November 9th, 2013 8 comments
Chemnitz

Copyright Paul T. McCain. All rights reserved.

Martin Chemnitz, the second Martin, if you know him, you already love him. If you don’t know him, you will enjoy meeting him.

Martin Chemnitz was given the nickname “The Second Martin” by his opponents who recognized that he was largely responsible for preserving faithful Lutheran doctrine and practice in the years following Luther’s death in 1546. He played a crucial role in the development of and publication of both the Formula of Concord in 1577 and then the Book of Concord, in 1580. [Photo caption: Portrait of Martin Chemnitz in the church of St. Martin Church, Braunschweig, Germany. Photo copyright Paul McCain. All rights reserved.]

His Examination of the Council of Trent remains, to this day, the most definitive response and rebuttal of the Roman Catholic Council of Trent. His book on the Two Natures in Christ is perhaps the largest single volume devoted to the subject of Christology ever produced, and his work On the Lord’s Supper is a beautiful explanation of the Supper and its blessings. His handbook to be used both for the examination and instruction of clergy is an excellent summary for anyone to review. Additionally, there is a slim volume on the Lord’s Prayer that he prepared as a commentary. Not that these are al the works of Chemnitz. There are any number of other works he produced in his lifetime, including a very large volme of sermons for every Sunday and Festival Day in the Church Year, along with his Church Order for Braunschweig, which has been translated, but not yet published.

Since the early 1970s, Concordia Publishing House has published the most extensive collection of translations of the works of Martin Chemnitz from the original Latin or German into English. That’s the good news. The bad news? For years they have been published in books of different shapes, colors and formats. In the case of Chemnitz’ most extensive work of dogmatic theology, the Loci Theologici [Latin for: Theological Topics], this translation was published in two 8.5 x 11 paperback volumes, two column format, set in a san serif typeface, making the whole experience of reading and using this classic early Lutheran doctrinal text less than pleasant.

Chemnitz' Works
But now all that has been changed. In the past year or so, we have been releasing the translation of Chemnitz’ works in a uniform set of volumes, all the same trim size. And, recognizing the potential for causing havoc for decades worth of materials quoting the original printings, we prepared these volumes in such a way that each existing volume appears just as it was, with the same pagination, but just in a new cover, nestled with other volumes. That means that it will not be impossible for people going forward to track down citations to these works in the past several decades of research. The exception to this rule, of course, is the Loci.

Just last Friday I received the two very large volumes of Chemnitz’ Loci and so now can report that the project is now complete, and the set is now on sale. Each volume is a 6×9 hardback, black, with colored banding on the spine to distinguish the volumes. The Examination of the Council of Trent has blue banding, the volumes on the Lord’s Supper, Handbook on Ministry, Word and Sacrament, and the brief volume on The Lord’s Prayer has a red band, the Two Natures in Christ is the volume with the green band, and the Loci are in the two volumes with a scarlet/burgundy band.

Commemoration of Johann Staupitz, Luther’s Father Confessor

November 8th, 2013 5 comments

staupitzJohann von Staupitz (ca. 1469–1524), was vicar-general of the Augustinian Order in Germany and friend of Martin Luther, was born in Saxony. He studied at the universities in Leipzig and Cologne and served on the faculty at Cologne. In 1503 he was called by Frederick the Wise to serve as dean of the theological faculty at the newly founded University of Wittenberg. There he encouraged Luther to attain a doctorate in theology and appointed Luther as his successor to professor of Bible. During Luther’s early struggles to understand God’s grace, it was Staupitz who counseled Luther to focus on Christ and not on himself.

Was Staupitz ever “converted” to Luther’s views? It is debatable. His last letter to Luther that we have, from 1524, laments the disunity of the Church brought about by the Reformation. On the other hand, his books on predestination, faith, and love were placed on the Index of Prohibited Books. So, his personal beliefs and convictions remain somewhat unclear, though there is no doubt that he was supportive of Luther’s general emphases and shared many of Luther’s concerns about the state of the Church.

Staupitz “motto verse” from the Scriptures was Psalm “I am yours, save me.” (Psalm 119:94), a text he shared and pressed on Luther when the young monk was despairing of God’s grace.


How to Honor the Saints

November 5th, 2013 Comments off

Lutherans did not throw out the observance of special days and commemorations and festivals in honor of Christian saints, rather, we reformed these observances to get rid of the superstitious false doctrine of Roman Catholicism. In a sermon on Matthew 22:1-14, Martin Luther explains beautifully how we are to honor and thank God for the saints, properly:

“These words beautifully picture to us and teach how we should make use of the life of the saints; namely, to introduce examples by which the doctrine of the Gospel may be confirmed, so that we may the better, by the aid of such examples and lives, meditate upon Christ, and be nourished by and feast upon him as upon fatted-calfs and well fed oxen. This is the reason he calls them fatted-calfs. Take an example: Paul teaches in Rom. 3, 23f. how the bride is full of sin and must be sprinkled by the blood of Christ alone, or she will continue unclean, that is, she must only believe that the blood of Christ was shed for her sins, and there is no other salvation possible. Then he beautifully introduces the example of Abraham and confirms the doctrine of faith by the faith and life of Abraham, and says, 4, 3: “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness.” That is a true ox, it is properly slain, it nourishes us, so that we become grounded and strengthened in our faith by the example and faith of Abraham. Again, soon after Paul lays before us a fine fatted-calf, when he cites David the Prophet of God and proves from him, that God does not justify us by virtue of our works, but by faith, when he says, Rom. 4, 6-8: “Even as David also pronounces blessing upon the man, unto whom God reckons righteousness apart from works,” saying in Ps. 32, 1-2: “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not reckon sin.” Behold, that fattens and nourishes in the true sense, when we use the example and doctrine of pious saints to confirm our own doctrine and faith. And this is the true honor that we can give to the saints.”

Source: The Sermons of Martin Luther, Baker Book House (Grand Rapids, MI, 1983), V:227-235.

Commemoration of Johann Heermann: Get to Know This Faithful Servant of God

October 26th, 2013 2 comments

 

In this humble servant and devoted and faithful pastor, God gave our Lutheran Zion a gifted poet and theologian. He wrote many hymns, and we are fortunate to have a number of them in English translation. Project Wittenberg offers a number of them on their web site.

I was not aware of this hymn before Lutheran Service Book [Hymn 421]. What a powerful hymn it is! Jesus Grant that Balm and Healing is even more meaningful when you get to know its author: Johann Heermann.  Here is what I found on Pastor Heermann from Pollack’s Handbook to The Lutheran Hymnal (CPH: 1942, p. 520):

Johann Heermann (1585-1647) was born on October 11, 1585, son of Johannes Heermann, a furrier at Raudten, Silesia, and was the fifth and only surviving child of his parents. He passed through a severe illness in his childhood, during which his mother vowed that if he woudl recover, she would educate him for the ministry, even though she had to beg for the necessary money.

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