Saturday, January 29, 2005

In Defense of the East and the West

The debates concerning the infamous filioque clause have been a major part of the fuel, fanning the fire of divide between East and West. Sparked by discussion of Barth's Dogmatics and re-reading a few pinches of Eastern theology, a few thoughts occurred to me.

First, it seems to me that 70-80% of the division is based upon undue process. Barth concedes this, and he cites at least one other theologian, admitting that the acceptance of the clause by West into the creed was done poorly. Related is of course the doctrine of the Roman church concerning the supremacy of the Roman Pontiff which the East adamantly denies. Thus this addition to the Creed was a tangible point upon which the West might be called to account, but the decision was made solidifying tensions, leading to schism. Creeds are ecumenical statements which should require the voice of the entire Church, and where the Church is not yet one voice, it should not speak, at least not creedally.

Barth points out however that the original Nicene formulation was worded fully realizing that it could have included this phrase. However, in their battle against Arianism, admitting procession from the Son in addition to the Father ran the risk of denying the Holy Spirit's equality with the Son whose equality with the father was established in the second article of the creed. Some Arians of the day were already speaking of the Spririt's procession from the Son, but of course their theology placed the Son in a first creation or supreme creation status, nonetheless, certainly not very God of very God. Not including the filioque clause was a further stab at the Arians. The Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father was a clear establishment of His Godhead.

It is also maintained that the writers of the original creed never intended to exclude the true unity of the Son and Father in the sending of the Spirit. East and West alike are cited to show that it was commonly believed on all sides (unsurprisingly, given the language of the NT), that the Spirit was in fact the Spirit of the Father and the Son. Given this reality and the fact that the West surely failed in properly bringing this phrase into official liturgical use, it could be argued that a first step in reconciliation between East and West would be dropping the phrase from the Western Church.

Secondly, it appears to me that both sides of the debate have things to repent of. The West is right, I believe in insisting upon the unity of the Godhead. The Holy Spirit throughout the NT is spoken of as the communion of the Father and the Son, the culmination of their love, and the person of God who indwells the Church drawing us into union with the Father and the Son. It is also right in insisting that there is only way to the Father. Popular caricatures not withstanding, the East has from time to time tended to suggest dual paths to God, distinguishing the Son and Spirit as two possible options. I admit that this is probably more popular distortion than true dogmatics, but regardless, there is a mystic strain throughout the East that suggests that there is something to this.

Nevertheless, it appears to me that the East is correct in insisting upon the language of Scripture. We do not confess that the Son was begotten of the Father and the Spirit. This is primarily true because this is the language of Scripture. But this does not mean for a moment that we do not believe that the Holy Spirit is intimately involved in the begetting of the Son. The Son is begotten of the Father through the Spirit. Likewise, it appears to me that the East is right concerning the word "proceeds". The term is used only once in the New Testament (Jn. 15:26), and it is used in reference to the Spirit proceeding from the Father. Thus, if we are to be true to the language of Scripture, which the Creed is certainly supposed to do, it means that the Bible does not teach that the Spirit proceeds from the Father. However, and this is important, this does not mean for moment that the Spirit is not the Spirit of Christ and the Father, as the New Testament so clearly teaches. Just as the Son is begotten of the Father through the Spirit, so the Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son.

Consequently, it appears to me that to be consistent, we (the West) either need to drop the filioque clause (though not denying all that we mean by it), or we need to insert another clause to the creed: "... begotten of the Father and the Holy Spirit before all worlds..." Given the current state of dividedness, I would favor dropping the filioque clause for now, although I would not necessarily be opposed to reinserting both clauses at some time in the (probably distant) future when the Church is more united and mature. But perhaps the Church would decide not to. Perhaps it would be wise to protect "begotten" and "proceeds", fencing them with the very words of Scripture.

Gladly, this sort of decision is not facing us currently, but for the present it seems that both East and West have things to get over, pride to swallow, and unity to pursue. May the Triune God be so kind.


Monday, January 24, 2005

War Between the States Pt. 2

As we have seen throughout this year, the world is as complicated as people. Virtues and vice, the image of God and our fallen nature, greed, lust, and wisdom are the tangled realities of the world we live in. This was no less true of the War Between the States. But given the fact that it occurred means that it was part of God’s working in this world, even given the confused and complicated snarls that are entailed. But this means that we must recognize that God sovereignly oversaw, planned, and brought about the war, even in all of its shocking cruelty.

God of Calamities
“I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the LORD, do all these things.” Is. 45:7

By the mouth of Isaiah, God declares who he is. He rules over all the affairs of men, whether war or peace, whether good or evil. And not only does he rule over them and plan them, He in the mystery of providence actually does them. It is the Lord who does “all these things.” In Amos it is written: “If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid? If there is calamity in a city, will not the LORD have done it?” Amos 3:6

But we know that the Triune God is not Zeus. He is not a petty god with whims and mood swings. God is righteous and holy, and though he uses evil things for his own good purposes, he has no delight in wickedness. This means that there is a ‘method to the madness.’ The disasters, calamities, and horrors of life are delivered by the God of heaven for a reason. There are not the random temper tantrums of an erratic deity. While this does not mean that we can figure out everything or that every hardship is easily traced, God does deal with humanity through covenants. A covenant is essentially a solemn bond or friendship with sanctions (blessings and curses). This means that God has given us some insight into how He runs the world. And Scripture bears this out: “Hear, O earth! Behold, I will certainly bring calamity on this people -- The fruit of their thoughts, Because they have not heeded My words, Nor My law, but rejected it.” (Jer. 6:19) Here God plainly states why calamity is being brought upon Israel: they have rejected God’s ways. In another passage we read: “'And they came in and took possession of it [the land], but they have not obeyed Your voice or walked in Your law. They have done nothing of all that You commanded them to do; therefore You have caused all this calamity to come upon them.” (Jer. 32:23) Again, disobedience brings God’s judgment. Thus we may state that generally speaking, calamity is God’s method of discipline. Just as a faithful father exhorts, rebukes, and spanks his children (Prov. 22:15, 29:15, Eph. 6:4) so our heavenly father disciplines us his children (Heb. 12:9-11)

But we must also recognize that the covenant is not cosmic vending machine. God has revealed himself to us, but his purposes and plans are still beyond our full reach or comprehension. We see now only dimly the plans and purposes of God. This means that we must live by faith, and we must be humble. Luke records the following: “There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? "I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. "Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? "I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish." (Lk. 13:1-5) Here Jesus teaches the disciples at least two things. First, no one is innocent. We are all sinners before God, and thus God is just in dealing us any hardship or tragedy. Life is far better than we deserve, even under the worst circumstances. Secondly, Christ teaches us that we must not consider ourselves better or more invincible to God’s judgments than others. Our immediate response to disaster whether in distant lands or in our own lives must be to search our hearts and lives for sin to repent of. Otherwise, as Jesus says, we will “all likewise perish”.

Lastly, we should remember the following story related in John’s gospel: “Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.” (Jn. 9:1-3) Here, we are reminded that even though God has given us His covenant, He is still free to do as he pleases. This is also the story of Job. God sent disaster upon Job, utterly destroying his family, health, and welfare. Job’s friends council him to confess his sins that God will relent, but Job insists throughout that he is righteous. As it turns out Job was righteous, and that was precisely why God sent the hardships upon him to display him to Satan and (presumably) the rest of the world, a faithful man of God even in the midst of horrific tribulation. The blind man and Job remind us that God is still God, and we cannot account for everything. But there is one constant, and that is the love of God. Whether he is chastening a wayward people or trying the hearts of his faithful or merely preparing to show us some amazing deliverance, he does it all in love. This is the mystery of God.

The Loss of War
Thus we return to the war. War is never lovely. While it is true that the battlefield is often the greatest display case of valor, courage, and duty; regardless of its outcome or real necessity, it is always a disaster. And the War between the States was no different. Perhaps there it was also magnified in ways never seen before by human eyes. Where in the past, guns had been poorly made and unstandardized munitions and equipment the norm, the Civil War was perhaps the first experience of the horrors of modern warfare. It is true that in every war women loose husbands, children loose fathers and older brothers, and those that do return are often maimed, sickly, and spiritually scared from the intensity and devastation of the conflict. But because of the train system, North and South alike were enabled to mass transport soldiers to any given area for battle. Thus it became the norm for armies of tens of thousands to meet on a given day, and thus casualties and mortalities increased at the same rate.

One of the first battles known as Bull Run was fought between armies of 22,000 and 30,000 men with large losses on either side. Antietam was the single bloodiest day of the war, with 23,000 casualties. A general described one battle at Malvern Hill, “As each brigade emerged from the woods, from 50-100 guns opened upon it, tearing great gaps in its ranks. Most of them had an open field half a mile wide to cross, under fire of field artillery and heaven ordnance. It was not war—it was murder.” As Perryville, where there were 7,600 casualties, a soldier writes, “It was an awful sight to see there men torn all to pieces with cannon balls and bomb shells. The dead and wounded lay thick in all directions.” At Shiloh there were 23,000 casualties, and a couple days after the battle of Antietam, a soldier reported that field smelled horrible covered with about “5 or 6,000 dead bodies decaying over the field…I could have walked on the bodies all most from one end to the other. A day after Chancellorsville where there were about 30,000 casualties, a man wrote, “the shrieks and groans of the wounded… was heart rending beyond all description.” A soldier from Maine wrote after Gettysburg, which had around 50,000 casualties, “I have seen… men rolling in their own blood, some shot in one place, some another… our dead lay in the road, and the Rebels in their haste to leave, dragged both their baggage wagons and artillery over them and they lay mangled and torn to pieces so that even friends could not tell them.” In all, it is estimated that around 620,000 men lost their lives in the War Between the States.

Major Events
After the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, almost immediately the seven states of the ‘deep south ‘ seceded from the Union: Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida. Intense debate continued in the central states until the outbreak of war in 1861. At that point, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Caroline, and Virginia also seceded. Incidentally, West Virginia was first recognized as a separate state at this time. Western Virginia refused to participate in seceding from the Union. Thus it was recognized as loyal to the Union in 1861 and formally entered the Union as a separate state in 1863. Only Missouri, Kentucky, and Maryland remained undecided.

Fort Sumter was the site of the first fighting of the war. Where almost every other federal fort or arsenal had been seized by the southern states, Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina held out. Finally Jefferson Davis, the new president of the Confederate States of America realized that if the confederacy was to be taken seriously they would have to use force, and he ordered the Confederate troops to attack.

Scare tactics and house arrests swung elections in Maryland and Kentucky toward the favor of the Union, and by the end of the year, Maryland, Missouri, and Kentucky were all securely held by the Union. However, to the surprise of many, the first two years of the war generally favored the South. Although many of the battles were stalemates or slight victories for the South, the North was generally on the defensive. The Seven Days Battle, Second Battle of Bull Run, Antietam, and Fredericksburg were fought in 1862, with huge casualties on either side, the South nevertheless seemed to have the greater head of steam.

Many consider Gettysburg the turning point in the war. A gigantic clash of armies, it appears that the North had the advantage in position, and the South had somewhat of a disadvantage in communication. Lee, leading the armies of the South, had at least one officer under him who was reluctant to follow his orders, another officer who simply went missing for the day of July 2, and perhaps most devastating of all, his favorite officer Stonewall Jackson, beloved by all, had died in the months previous, due to wounds inflicted by friendly fire at Chancellorsville. Invading Pennsylvania, General Lee hoped to deal the Union forces a decisive blow on their own territory. Beginning on July 1st, the two massive armies faced off. There were huge losses on either side, culminating for the Confederate Army in what is remembered as “Pickett’s Charge” and attempt to break the center of the Union army in two. But Union lines held, and the Confederate troops returned in tatters.

Hopefully it is not difficult to see how brutal and sickening war is. It should be enough to read of these events for intelligent men to hate and detest the great loss it accrued to all sides. But we must simultaneously recognize that these are the kinds of calamities that the God of the Bible brings upon societies. May merely studying these calamities be enough, causing us to turn from our evil ways lest the Lord come smite us with His wrath.


Wednesday, January 19, 2005

David B. Hart

Please do yourself a favor. Go to google and search for "David B. Hart". Look for the articles "The Pornography Culture" and "Christ and Nothing." I'd find the links for you, but well you should have to work for these kinds of jems. Seriously: he's an Eastern Orthodox theologian/philosopher who has been blowing my mind for the last day or so. Read him. Then read him again.


War Between the States Pt. 1

Introduction and Review

The War Between the States and all that led to it was the first major breach of trust and unity among the American states. Having fought side by side in the War for Independence, the War of 1812, and the Spanish-American War, to turn and face each other with the same vehemence and passion that had formerly been pointed at other countries was no light matter in any estimation. What must be understood from the outset is that the Civil War was fought over the nature of the United States government. It was over which direction American culture and society would take.

Related to the vision for what America ought to be, was the question of ‘rights’. What are ‘rights’? And where do you get them? In the Christian way of thinking and speaking, there is strictly, no such thing as ‘rights’. There is nothing in this world that we are entitled to simply because we exist. We live in the world that God made which means that everything is a gift. Gifts are not deserved or earned. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness those basic values that the framers of the constitution sought to protect are not rights. No one deserves or is entitled to those things apart from them being given by God. But even once they are given we are not allowed to assume that we are now entitled to them. We must use the gifts that are given according to the guidelines that are given to us. To take life for an example, no one has a right to life. God’s Word gives instructions regarding the protection of life. However, God also gives instructions for when it is right and proper for life to be taken. Life is not a right; it is gift for the duration of God’s pleasure.

The American Civil War erupted in the height of the romantic period. As we have seen, one of the tendencies of the romantics was the care for the less fortunate and a passion for living well and whole heartily. Depending on the goals and the means, this desire was at times both praiseworthy and utterly wicked. The French Revolution was no sunny day.

Differences: North and South
Throughout the beginning of the 19th century, things were changing dramatically in the North. Factories began appearing in cities, the railroad became a normal and expected reality, and a large influx of immigrants changed the landscape throughout the northeast. Factories produced textiles, shoes, woolens, milled flour, and worked metals. By the 1850s, Isaac Singer sewing machines and John Deere plows were multiplying and making production and agriculture easier and more efficient. But in the big picture, while southern farmers prospered greatly, particularly through the cotton plantations, it was the North that was booming industrially. The diversity of productions, agriculture, and technology was not only impacting the overall culture of the North, it was setting the northern states up for greater stability in the long run.

In addition to these economic and industrial developments, a greater and deeper divide had already begun to show its face. While the faith of Americans was Puritan and Calvinistic from its colonization, the influence of the Enlightenment had made its imprint in America no less than Europe. While we cannot know all the hows and whys of this transition, the North gradually, from the time of American independence onward, had embraced a less doctrinally sound form of Christianity. In some places this took the form of an orthodox faith watered down with a great amount of sentimentalism, likely related to the Romanticism of the day. In other places, it was the Unitarian faith that prevailed. Ultimately denying the doctrine of the Trinity, the Unitarian Church was also heavily motivated by social concerns at the expense of truth and orthodoxy. On the other hand, the South was by and large a stronghold of the orthodox faith handed down from the reformation: Calvinists, Presbyterian, and Episcopal (by faith or family). While there were also many faithful in the North, the population of the North was also over double of the South, most of its surplus found in immigrants from northern and central Europe.

Why War?
But given even these differences, even conceding the fact that southern people talk funny, why did it come to war? It is important to point out here that the issue of slavery was not the central concern of the war. While it was a tangible issue related to the conflict, it was not ultimately the reason southern states seceded from the Union or why the Union fought so hard to retain them. Abraham Lincoln, the president of the Union who ordered the United States Army to overrule the secession of the Confederate States stated plainly that his reason for going to war was not in order to free any slaves. It was not until 1863, two years into the war that Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation that freed the slaves of the South. This was a thoroughly political move that was intended to further jeopardize any stability that the South may have had as well as give a pretense that would rally many of the abolitionists of the North to his aid. Lincoln, simply put, needed a boost from the North and anything he could do to disrupt the South was worth the effort. It was a brilliant move, and it succeeded perhaps far beyond what Lincoln and his advisors had hoped. It should be added also that there were slaves in the North and the South, and the Emancipation Proclamation freed only some slaves in the South and none of the slaves in the North.

At any rate, disputes began between the North and the South over the matter of the rights of a state. You’ll remember that the framing of the Constitution was itself a compromise of epic proportions between the Federalists and those who favored more decentralized rule (i.e. the Democrats). The radical change in wording from the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution (We the States… vs. We the people…) was being put to the test as the United States expanded its territories. Each new state being formed (e.g. Texas, Missouri, California, etc.) was required to enter the union as either a “free” or “slave” state. The titles are somewhat misleading because it was not as simple a difference as that.

The North was an industrial society seeking to export its products throughout the world. The South was an agricultural society seeking to sell to the highest bidder. Furthermore, the southern states developed trade agreements with Great Britain which some believed threatened the success of the North. Great Britain was producing textiles and other products at a rate untouchable by any other country in the world. While the South imported some products from the North, much was a result of trade with Britain. The northern states, seeing this, began clamoring for trade restrictions and tariffs (trade taxes). The big business men of the North in turn demanded that the federal government step in and protect the North’s growing industrial concerns. However, the South contended that it was none of the federal government’s business how each state traded and with whom they traded. Trade and business were to be free and uninhibited by the federal government. It was only the duty of individual states to oversee trade and business. Otherwise, free trade was to run the day.

Put to this tangle, when new states entered the Union, it was not merely a question of whether slavery was to be legal or not, it was a question of who would get to move in and develop the new land. If slavery was outlawed, big plantation owners would be prohibited from moving in to begin growing cotton because without slaves they could not keep up with the demand. In their place, northern businesses and factories might move in securing growth for the North. Thus in 1820, when this had come to the fore, it was the Missouri Compromise that calmed everyone down for a little while. The Missouri Compromise established that states would only be allowed to enter the union in pairs, one ‘slave’ and one ‘free’ state together at one time. While this was an attempt at keeping some sort of balance, it did not lessen the tensions between the North and the South in the following years. The South grew increasingly concerned that the agenda of the federal government was more and more favoring the North. Meanwhile, the North grew increasingly concerned that the South be made to cooperate with its booming industry.

Abolition & Secession
Throughout the United States, north and south, racism was a prolific reality. The belief whether explicit or implicit that the country of one’s heritage or the color of one’s skin is adequate information for considering them of lesser value or aptitude is and was a terrible sin afflicting the entire country. Many people in the North and South alike recognized this and were involved in various means to correct the confusion. However, even some of those who detested the practice of slavery were thorough going racists. Such was the situation and it is difficult to draw any fine lines or make any nice distinctions as much as modern intoleristas would like us to believe the contrary.

While there were some large plantations in the South with many slaves, the majority of southerners did not own slaves. It should also be remembered that some northerners also had slaves, the major difference being that where in the North and South alike a gentleman might have one or two slaves, there were some plantations in the South with hundreds. This fact means that slave treatment varied considerably. Where some masters were certainly cruel and wicked men, others cared for and loved their slaves. While it was not the universally origin of every slave, the practice of kidnapping Africans, bringing them to America, breaking up families, and selling stolen people was a hideous and disgusting practice, and many people in the South recognized this. But where the North and South fundamentally disagreed was over how to change. Extremists in the North who had both money and influence were adamant that slavery be abolished immediately without compromise. But the vast majority of people (North and South) favored a gradual phasing out of slavery in order to responsibly deal with all of the necessary changes. Again central to these concerns was over who had the authority to make these decisions and enforce them. It was the South’s firm conviction that states retained these rights.

However, when Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United States in 1860, knowing the general direction of his policies, which blatantly favored the industrial North, one by one the southern states held conventions and one by one they seceded from the Union. Within months a new union had been created by the southern states known as the Confederate States of America. Viewing this as a catastrophe on economic, political, and romantic ideals, Lincoln ordered the United States Army to invade the South and enforce unity between the states.

As with most conflicts, this was a tangled mess of rights, wrongs, and misunderstandings. However, when sides were drawn up, men everywhere hurried to enlist. In many ways, this was the first modern war. While battle tactics were not much different than previous wars, the improved technology of weaponry, the ability to mass transport soldiers, and enhanced intelligence options made the war far more horrific than many could have imagined.


Friday, January 14, 2005


There is no shame in confessing sin. No matter the heinous nature of the fault. The only shame, and it is great, is that sin which is not confessed. That which the impudent clutch with all their might close to their chests refusing to be relieved of their poison. That is a great shame. For there is nothing noble about the proud.


Obedience of a Christian Man

First published in 1528, this treatise is one of the lesser known accomplishments of William Tyndale (1494-1536).

Tyndale's aim is to simply lay out the structure of a Christian society and free the common layman to be obedient in his place. His style is very polemic. A rightoues indignation pervades most of the book, as Tyndale cites, bewails, and rebukes the abuses and scandals of the established Papal church. Tyndale pleads that the Scriptures be made available to all men. He traces both Scripture and history showing the necessity of simple knowledge of the gospel and basic morality which have been fantastically ignored, disguised, and hidden from the view of common Christian.

The causes of abuse are plentiful. Tyndale mocks the absurdities that pile up demanded by the four fold interpretation of the medieval period. "Of what text thou provest hell, will another prove purgatory, another limbo, and another shall prove of the same text that an ape hath a tail." He pleads that the Scriptures be read and preached in the common tongue. Tyndale then labors to show all of the basic obediences that are owed: wives and husbands, servants and masters, children and parents, subjects and rulers. Spending more time on the civil rulers, he insists that the Pope is not a temporal ruler over the kings and princes of the land. Rather, that he too must submit to the civil authorities even as Christ did.

At the heart of obedience, Tyndale recognizes love as the chief motive. Recognizing that out of the salvation won in Christ flow all of the virtues of Christian living. And this is justification. He says, "Faith that loveth God's commands justifieth a man." Tyndale is chest deep in the trenchs of a battle that is somewhat peculiar to his day. From his vantage he sees somethings better and somethings worse. The Pope is the anti-Christ, the job of bishops is only to preach, Judas was the first pope, a pastor cannot proclaim forgiveness, and cloisters are from hell. He, like everyone, was a man of his time.

But Tyndale is still catholic, recognizing the efficacy and potency of the two sacraments. He explains that the others, in one way or another, can be subsumed under the two. Penance, confirmation, confession, and even some of the other rites that had grown up can all be found in the realities of baptism. Baptism works in much the same way "[a]s a child receive the full soul at the first day, yet groweth daily in the operations and works thereof." And the effects of baptism continue until the believer is "full baptized at the last minute of death." He says in another place, "For though that the washing of baptism be past, yet the power thereof, that is to say, the word of God which baptism preacheth, lasteth ever and saveth forever."

Tyndale is fervent and irenic, but he is also humorous. I posted his reference to bishops' testicles earlier this week, and there is more where that came from. Tyndale calls the monks and friars the "belly brotherhood". Saying, "cloister love is belly love, cloister prayer is belly prayer..." He goes on to say that if you want anything from them you have to "offer unto their bellies and then they pray bitterly for thee." While dismantling the doctrine of absolution, he comments on Purgatory: "[The Pope] taketh authority also to bind and loose in Purgatory. That permit I unto him for it is a creation of his own making. He also bindeth the angels. For we read of popes that have commanded the angels to set divers out of Purgatory. Howbeit I am not yet certified whether they obeyed or no."

Perhaps the biggest piece missing is the duty to Mother Church. But this omission is hardly surprising given the climate Tyndale finds himself in. The Church has betrayed him and her people. Friars, monks, priests, and bishops are basking in their filthy riches and vile fornications while the commoners tremble to lift a finger fearing for their very souls. This betrayal broke that trust and gentle balance that must exist for true authority and true submission to take place in the Church. For all that I disdain of the splinters in the modern Church, for all the pettiness and divisiveness of Christians on all sides, the reality of the gross debauchery of the Papal regime during this era is foul and smells like hell. For as Tyndale says, "Christ said to Peter, the last chapter of John, feed my sheep, not sheer thy flock."

For this Tyndale lived and died. For after completing the first ever translation of the Holy Scriptures into English, he was condemned as a heretic, devested of his preisthood, and finally publically strangled and burned on October 6, 1536.


Monday, January 10, 2005

Exercita Latina Una

Quid est hoc? Hoc est capitulum primum ut tempto in lingua latina scribere. Hodie, in schola incipio docere quomodo usare infinituvus. Unus modus ut objectivus est. Per exempla: Si magister dicit: "Marcus est disciplus stultus." Et unus discipulus (qui 'Quintus' appellatur) mala aures habet. Is interrogat ad alium discipulum, "Quid dicit magister?" Aliusque dicit, "Magister Marcum discipulum stultum esse dicit." Intelligatisne? Ecce: Si quidam dicit quem alium dicere, illa verba in caso accusativus ponentur. Verbumque in infinitivo ponitur. Scio hoc facile esse sed in scripto hoc scriptum, melior intelligo.


Friday, January 07, 2005

From Napoleon to Bismarck

Periodically, I would like to post my history discussion notes here. Here's the first of (hopefully) many.

While Napoleon was exiled to the Island of Elba down in the Mediterranean, the world powers set out to reformulate France and bring some semblance of order to Europe. While the Bourbon family was once again in power via Louis XVIII (and he was at first welcomed) the émigrés who rushed in at the first signs of peace had many other ideas for the future of France. Napoleon gave the French a year and allowed the Quadruple Alliance (Russia, England, Austria, and Prussia) to busy themselves with the Congress of Vienna which was tasked with the object of putting Europe back together. Boundary disputes, as well as trying to figure out which countries should or should not exist and who ought to be their rightful rulers kept things moving fairly slowly.

Meanwhile, Napoleon escaped from his exile in Elba and landed in France on March 1, 1815. Many French joined Napoleon’s forces, and he marched north towards Belgium. The allied forces united once again, and under the command of the Duke of Wellington, Napoleon was soundly defeated at Waterloo. Here another peace treaty was signed with France, albeit where the first treaty had been a mere slap on the hand this new treaty actually punished the people of France for their uprising. This time, Napoleon was exiled to a British colony named St. Helena, a remote island in the South Atlantic. You can find it on a map near 15° south of the equator between Brazil, South America and Angola, Africa. This was finally enough for Napoleon to make an end of his political career.

Romanticism is a term that refers to a number of different ideas or movements from the French Revolution until around the middle of the nineteenth century. A ‘Romantic’ in this sense is not necessarily someone who is ‘in love’. But there is some connection. A ‘Romantic’ in this historical sense was someone who sought to live with his/her heart and mind. Many of this period believed that prior to this time, there had been too much emphasis on the intellect (just the mind). We considered this in our discussions about the Enlightenment (circa 1650ish-1750ish). Romantics wanted to be realistic and thoughtful, but they also wanted to be human, giving value to emotions and feelings. We have seen through studying the French Revolution that this is not always a good thing. The French were in many ways a very ‘Romantic’ people in this sense. They had passion for the eradication of the old medieval ways of life and the Christian foundations of their government.

The term ‘Romantic’ comes originally from the name Rome. The Roman language of Latin changed and grew up into several different languages: Spanish, Italian, and French. These languages were originally simply called ‘Roman’ but eventually became known as the ‘romance’ languages. Again this didn’t mean that you spoke these languages when you loved someone. It just referred to the fact that they had originated from Rome and the Roman Empire.

Romanticism expressed itself in many ways. Poetry and art experienced a renaissance particularly showing great interest in nature and history. Again, sometimes this was for the better, truly seeing Creation as the work of God, but other times it became a sort of Pantheistic worship (i.e. seeing God in everything and in no way independent of His creation). The study of history was good for some encouraging many to revert to the faith of their fathers and thus Christianity enjoyed somewhat of a rejuvenation. But for others, studying history was an opportunity to exalt the paganism of the ancients or to idolize particular portions of history, glossing over the failures and weaknesses of some men.

But Romanticism also valued the protection and care of the less fortunate. In England, John Howard started prison reforms in the 1780s seeking to make prisons livable. The Earl of Shaftesbury pushed legislation to protect women and children from being over worked. Church organizations were formed to protect orphans and widows. Clara Barton founded the Red Cross during this era. Missions exploded into many far reaching lands bringing with it not only the gospel but medical aid and education. The education of women and children came to have higher value. In America one Mr. Audubon sailed down the Mississippi looking for birds to paint or draw. His 435 depictions in 1838 were the beginning of the fabulous Audubon Guide series that is available today surveying many aspects of creation.

The Romantics loved a Hero. Sir Walter Scott is a fine example of a Romantic giving us historical tales full of color, action, love, and the Hero (e.g. Ivanhoe). The hero had no need of being perfect or flawless, the hero was merely a man or woman who could inspire imagination. Proof that this is the case is that Waterloo, the scene of Napoleon’s defeat, is a term always describing defeat. It is never used to describe victory even though it was the victory for the Quadruple Alliance. But the Romantics, though disposed not to have Napoleon as their leader, nevertheless loved him as their hero, a man full of vigor and life and wit.

Industrial Growth
Related to Romanticism was growth in industry and technology. The imagination and spirit of the ‘Romantics’ prevailed even in the sciences and technology, joining art to engineering. Furniture, carpet, doors, pillars, tombstones all became more common and expected. Biology was the science of the day, with Evolution catching the imaginations of many young naturalists. Electricity was also in the works. Napoleon said this in 1802: “I wish to award the sum of six thousand francs as encouragement to the person who will advance our knowledge of electricity. It is my aim to urge physicists to concentrate on that branch of physics, which in my opinion is the road to great discoveries.”

Other important advances were the use of levers and pulleys. Before around 1800 all work was done by hand or simple hand tools. But levers and pulleys made moving large objects or large quantities easier. The use of water and wind to manipulate objects and also began around this time. This large scale shift from using hand tools to various kinds of powered machinery had a great influence on life and culture during this period, particularly in England. For example, in the early 1700s, John Kay invented a ‘fly shuttle’ which allowed only one person to operate a loom rather than two. With this upsurge in yarn production, by the late 1700s, the ‘spinning jenny’ was invented that could weave multiple strands of yarn or threads together. Finally with the huge demand for cotton, it was difficult for farmers to keep up, but the ‘cotton gin’ was invented by the American Eli Whitney which made the removal of seeds from cotton much faster. The businessmen who ran the production of various kinds of cloth quickly realized that it was most efficient to have all of the production taking place in one place. These large buildings became known as ‘mills’ in England and ‘factories’ in America. The machinery on the farms tended to decrease the need for farm hands and the factories and mills (even with their new machines) tended to increase the need for workers. Thus many people moved from the country into cities looking for work and many ended up working in factories creating cloth, fabric, leathers, and other crafted items.

Nationalism and the Beginning of Germany
You should remember that there hasn’t always been a country named Germany. For a long time there were lots of different peoples that lived in that land that we now call Germany. The most prominent government that was ever there was the Holy Roman Empire, but that was still not what we would think of as a country. It had more to do with loyalties to an emperor. And even then, during and after the Protestant Reformation especially, the princes or barons of various counties and districts often had a kind of independence from the empire. It was not until Napoleon Bonaparte that the modern picture of Germany began to appear. Napoleon, after marching through Europe realized that the only way he would be able to rule it all was to organize it. Thus even though the Germanic peoples had never considered themselves one country, Napoleon saw that uniting them would make his job of governing them easier. He organized them into the Confederation of the Rhine.

Even after Napoleon, the Quadruple Alliance had continued to consider the Confederation in some ways as a single unit, and for various reasons the Germans themselves began to have inklings of the same idea. This growing sense of loyalty and identity with one’s country is what is known as Nationalism, and while it had been a growing reality in many other countries before now, it became a reality under the organization of Napoleon. It began merely as a loose confederation called the German Confederation recognized in 1815, after the removal of Napoleon. This confederation was made up of 39 states, the largest of which were Austria and Prussia down to a number of small kingdoms and a few free cities. This loose confederation was not much, but it was the beginning. In 1848, a series of revolutions echoed throughout Europe, sort of the last hurrahs of the French Revolution. These revolutions were small and scattered and were put down. The revolution that occurred in Germany was an attempt by a few to unite Germany into one common government. The attempt failed, but the movement was still on.

In 1862, the king of Prussia appointed a new chief minister, Otto von Bismarck. Bismarck was a ‘Junker’(pronounced "yoonker"), meaning that he had grown up in the ranks of the professional Prussian military. Bismarck was a Protestant Christian, and he was not a revolutionary. He favored the old hierarchies, but he was also a prudent and wise man and sought to bring peace and stability to his own Prussian people. Beginning in 1867, Bismarck began making huge steps towards uniting Germany. In that year, he united all of the kingdoms north of Prussia under a new Northern German Confederation. And by 1871, apart from Austria, a number of other kingdoms had been added. This unification was far strong than the first confederation and made the king of Prussia its head. This confederation or German Empire (as it is sometimes referred to) was largely the land and peoples that we know today as Germany. In fact Germany remained the same until 1918 after World War I. Bismarck accomplished this great feat of unification by eliminating the political leaders in his way and establishing a government that pleased the people.

Nationalism is perhaps one of the greatest rivals to Christendom. While simple loyalties and honor are always due to one's nation and leaders they ought not to ever become the center. As more and more people looked to their respective states with hope for a brighter tomorrow, they were simultaneously turning from the Church (many times unintentionally), the Mother who bore them. Of course this didn't begin with simple rebellion, it began with the utter failure and ruin of the Church. The utter debauchery of her leaders, divisiveness and rifts within the body of Christ, and growing disallusionment the earthy loyalty of faith all served to remove every semblance of glory.


Charles Williams

"Love you? I am you."

-cited by C.S. Lewis in The Four Loves


Communion of the Saints Part 2

The communion of saints is diachronic. Not only do we commune with the saints in China and England and South America, but commune with them through time. The same Spirit that unites peoples of different places, unites peoples of different eras. This is manifestly true by virtue of time zones, but the writer of Hebrews goes further, “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect” (12:22-23). Our communion with the saints is with the saints who are presently alive and with those saints who have died in the faith. In fact this reality is the grounds for the exhortation at the beginning of the chapter to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us”. Why are we to run this race with patience? Because “we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses”. Who are those witnesses? They are all of the saints that have died in the faith, many of whom are mentioned by name or deed in Chapter 11.

For this reason, following the historic church, it is proper for the deeds and saints of the past to be remembered in stories, songs, and pictures. In these ways, particularly as they appear in the Church building, we are reminded constantly of that cloud of witnesses of which we are a part. Furthermore, remembering particular saints on particular days through songs, prayers, and other traditions is also a fitting reminder of the communion we have with all of the saints of God.


Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Moses Was A Mountain Climber

Moses was a mountain climber. He climbed the Arabian height and made his way back down holding large pieces of engraved stone. He climbed a number of times, perhaps trying different routes. Out of breath, out of sight, he was there for days. For days alone on a crag splitting heaven open wide, its glories spilling out onto the lone climber. He returned on one occasion with a glory soaked face.

Everything is a mountain to my son, everything an ascent. He’s lying down reaching, rolling, drooling. Arms flail, fingers flayed, he tips a red, plastic object at the horizon of his vision. It’s gone. He turns, he groans. Where’s the next hold? He arches his back and twists. His arms and legs go taught. I pull him up by his arms and encourage him. He’s doing very well. Trust your legs, I say. His head wobbles. He’s getting tired. He reaches for my face. He smiles briefly, and his knees give way.

There’s a girl behind the counter. She sells equipment. In a clearing by the keyboard there’s a book on Mt. Rainier. Are you thinking of climbing, we ask her. She nods vigorously and says she’s longed to do the climb alone. My friend encourages her to have someone go along with her. He’s climbed Rainier. She insists that she prefers the solitude and enjoys the personal competition it inspires.

Jesus was a mountain climber and trained his disciples in the skill. The devil drove him to a great height and showed him the kingdoms of the world. Sometimes he climbed mountains to be alone, to rid himself of the multitudes who hounded him. Sometimes he climbed to teach: a couple times he fed the crowds. After having climbed and praying for most of a night, he was betrayed by a friend and arrested on the mountain top. Once he climbed to die.

I’ve never been outside. I’ve never climbed in the wild. All my climbs have been prepackaged inside a large building. I am my son on the floor. A climbing wall is designed to simulate, but its face is layered with many options, many routes. There are huge ‘bomber’ hold routes were the wall all but pulls you to the top. There are tiny squares of block bolted down with pointy edges made for finger tips of steel. Far up, my legs shake; my fingers scream. They refuse to work; they refuse to hold. I throw my arms like grappling hooks against the wall, praying that they’ll find some edge to hold. Gasping, shaking, my eyes peer over the top.

My son bounces. It’s a cross between energy and lack of strength. He has enough energy to climb anything, but he hasn’t smoothed out communication yet with his legs. They do his bidding maybe half the time. So he bounces. He bounces holding to the top of the chest. He stretches, pushing with his feet. His hand flings out lightly, groping for a hold. It finds a suitable edge. He makes it look easy. He bounces, tilting, looking up at me. Then his head veers down to his hold. His gums gnaw the edge of the chest, and he eyes me casually, assuring me that this is part of the plan. This is the route he has chosen.

Moses and Aaron died on mountain tops. They climbed their last ascents with sweat in their eyes. Aaron gave his priestly garments to his son on Mount Hor and there he died, in thin air, watching the world below. From the peak of Pisgah, Moses saw the promised land stretching out and meeting heaven. But where he’s buried no one knows, hid in a valley. When he wakes up there’ll be climbing to do.

The Church is a mountain called Zion. We were a rock made without hands. But we were flung into a statue and grew up. There was another mountain, but it fell into the sea. We are mountains climbing mountains. We are an entire range. We go piggyback on the ones who came before, and others will come after us. We are alone and together. We’re grasping at the peak; we’re rolling on the floor. We are hanging by a finger tip; our roots are beneath the sea. Everything’s a mountain to us. We’re bouncing, and we’re holding on. And heaven spills out onto our faces.


Ivan Eve

I wrote this at Christmas and meant to post it sooner, but well... here it is.

It’s 6,758 miles from here to Jerusalem. It’s Christmas Eve, and I’m listening to Dido while my 6-month-old son cries in the monitor on the counter. The tree next to me is gawking; it sits in the corner spilling out into the rest of the room like an adolescent with outgrown clothes, lanky arms and legs, knobby knees and elbows thrust out. It was cut down in central Washington by the owners of this house. Many children live here. They decorated it with paper and shiny balls and colored lights.

That there are other people—billions of other people—astounds me. I am a toddler on the living room floor. I am the sun in my universe. You revolve around me. But the stories are going simultaneously, millions of stories and one story: millions of suns and one sun. My story is a boy in an intensive care unit miles from here. He’s coming home soon, maybe for Christmas. My son has fallen asleep. The dogs are on the floor laying sideways, legs out, snoring. It’s freezing outside. The cows, there are two of them, only want to be fed. And there is more, much more, and in addition, there are many more than mine. How can God be one of us, a boy in a cave, wrapped in rags years from here?

St. Ivan of Suchava was born in the thirteenth century near the Black Sea, in modern day Ukraine. Ivan was charged with conspiring against the Sultan Oman and the Islamic faith in general. He was summonsed to a trial, convicted, and sentenced to torture and execution. He was offered mercy if he was willing to renounce the Christian faith. Being unwilling, Ivan was dragged to his death by racing horses through the streets of Ackerman, a city located on the Delta of the Danube River on June 2, 1278. He was buried in a nearby churchyard, and in 1402 his body was removed and buried in a church in Suchava, the capitol of Bukovyna.

It’s Christmas morning. The sun still slumbers. The cows are looking for breakfast. Ivan is coming home. There’s a baby for Christmas. We open stockings and unwrap gifts; we stuff garbage bags full of our holiday litter. America celebrates a high Sabbath; no one works today, there’s nothing open except maybe a gas station. I read about brothers walking around the world, the first known circumambulation of the earth. One was shot and killed in Afghanistan. The other was wounded, but a third brother flew in and helped him finish the tour. This was in the late seventies because Ronald Reagan was governor of California and gave them commendations.

And regardless of what the song may say, the cattle are not lowing. I wonder what kind of cows low. Maybe cattle low but regular old Angus beef cows just eat and sleep. I haven’t heard a sound out of them for the last several days.

But here's to you Ivan, may the world be your sidewalk, may race horses be your friends, and may you continue to imitate the Christ, even as you have today.


Communion of the Saints Part 1

What do we mean when we confess that we believe in ‘the communion of saints’?

We believe that the communion of saints means that the Church is truly catholic or universal. The communion of saints occurs through the action of the Spirit which is present with all who gather in the name of the Triune God. This reality is tied particularly to the Lord’s Day and the Lord’s Supper or Holy Eucharist. The term ‘Lord’s Day’ is only used once in the New Testament in Revelation 1:10. St. John was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day”. However, the word for ‘Lord’s’ is used one other time in the New Testament in 1 Corinthians 11:20. There Paul says that the Corinthians do not come together to eat the ‘Lord’s’ Supper because of their bickering and infighting. Thus the meal of the Lord’s Supper is connected to the Lord's Day lexically by the word ‘Kuraikos’. (Incidentally, 'Kuraikos' is the Greek word from whence we get the old English word Kirk. Which, in turn, gave us the word Church.) The fact of the Lord's Supper which takes place on the Lord's Day is the means and proof that we are in communion even if we go to different churches. "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread."

Therefore the Spirit is not only how we worship or the means by which we worship, He is also the location where we worship. This is how millions of Christians worship together communing with one another, giving glory to God. Though miles and continents apart we, by the working of the Holy Spirit, gather together in one place as one body, partaking of one loaf and one cup, feeding upon Christ.



The following quote comes from William Tyndale, English reformer, the first to put the entire Bible into English. Even if he's overstating his point, it kind of makes you glad to be on this side of the Reformation.

"The bishops therefore ought to bless us in preaching Christ and not to deceive us and bring the curse of God upon us with wagging their hands over us. To preach is their duty only and not to offer their feet to be kissed or testicles or stones to be groped." (P. 138)

The footnote mentions a popular story of the time of the legendary Pope Joan. She apparently tried to get by as a man. After that it was believed that all incumbent popes were tested for maleness. But of course Tyndale is not just referring to the Pope, he's talking about bishops in general.