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quod pro nobis traditum est

Monday, April 30, 2012

up and down

We do not hear much about this but I have been thinking about the "low church" danger among us even as secularism maintains its steady attack. It seems to fit with a "low theology" (dumbing down) and "low ministry" zeitgeist. Some areas seem to support the liturgy but are low on the ministry. Other areas seem to be high on the ministry but low on the liturgy. Meanwhile, the lower the theology, the lower the church.

Friday, April 27, 2012

revisionism and red flags

In the study of history there is always the red flag of revisionism. However, revisionism is not something of the past . With the advent and advance in telecommunications and social networking it is not hard to notice revisionism in contemporary action. Even pastors may be defined, or redefined, via social networking. This leaves open two possibilities, avoiding social networking altogether or approaching it as an avenue to share oneself rather than being defined by the daily and hourly suggestions of the friends and apps of others. In other words, sometimes being a little bit "anti-social" may be a good thing, especially if one is not going to be totally defined by others in the cyber social sphere or one hopes to share and define oneself publicly in a thoughtful and constructive manner.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

a few pages

Since I do not have the time to appreciate reading as I would like, I pick up a book from my library and grab a quick read of a few pages as a break from the routine. This week I happened upon a section from a theological history book discussing the old scholasticism (in contrast with the later "high" scholasticism). Of particular interest was the few pages on the controversy between nominalism and realism which is an important debate but one I have not personally resolved for myself (Lutherans are supposedly heirs of the nominalist approach). Also, this is the period of Anselm of Canterbury who renewed the Augustinian tradition and is credited for founding scholasticism. He is considered a realist. The timing is appropriate too as the feast day for Anselm is this Saturday.

Protestants are familiar with the "faith alone" statement arising from the Reformation. This statement in itself is of ongoing controversy but is especially focused on the doctrine of salvation, or justification. Many centuries prior to the Reformation, Anselm (d. 1109) wrote a number of theological and philosophical writings, some of which are Why God Became Man and The Virgin Conception and Original Sin. He also proposed the ontological argument for God.

Some Christians are vehemently opposed to philosophy. Others say we can only come to know God through reason or natural means. The difficulty with the latter approach is that we may never get to know God. Anselm, apparently following similar thinking of Augustine, wrote in his Proslogion:

"Non tento, Domine, penetrare altitudinem tuam, quia nullatenus comparo illi intellectum meum; sed desidero aliquatenus intelligere veritatem tuam, quam credit et amat cor meum. Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam. Nam et hoc credo: quia "nisi credidero, non intelligam [Is 7,9]."

Translation (not mine):

"I do not endeavor, O Lord, to penetrate your sublimity, for in no wise do I compare my understanding with that; but I long to understand in some degree your truth, which my heart believes and loves. For I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, --that unless I believed, I should not understand."

It should be noted that the Proslogion or "Discourse," was written as a prayer and is not meant solely to be understood as a philosophical or theological treatise. What I appreciate about this quotation is that it supports the divine origin and priority of faith without denying the role of reason or understanding. In other words, reason does not undermine faith but is led by faith to greater understanding, all the while humbly realizing that perfect knowledge of God in this life is beyond us. In addition, faith does not mean an end to the use of our rational capacities, which are also gifts of God, nor does reason negate faith. Reason may be used in support of faith.

Finally, while this quotation does not bring any resolution to my understanding, or lack of, regarding realism and nominalism, it does help to resolve an understanding of the faith that undermines a polarization between faith as prayer (i.e., liturgy) and faith that permits learning (i.e., Christian education, catechesis, doctrine).

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

daily food

Some Lutherans can't get enough . . .

They listen to it on the radio or internet every day. They attend concerts on a regular basis. Their faith depends on it, so much so that Sunday can be no different than the other six days of the week. There is a concert or party on Saturday night. Let's have another on Sunday morning. Let's have a rock band in front of the altar and call it "Our" service. After all, isn't faith 24/7? "It's only Rock n' Roll, but I like it."

This "innovative" approach to Sunday morning is not solely a Lutheran phenomena but it goes against almost everything Christianity has understood and taught about worship throughout the ages. The difficulty comes when people no longer discern a difference between what entertains them in their daily lives and worship, between a Saturday night concert and a Sunday morning service. Worship becomes little more than what's in it for "Me". Faith becomes dependent on something's entertainment value and my feelings. Somewhere in all this the question arises, "Who, or what then, is "our" god?"

There is a time for everything under the sun. That means that some times are set apart for different (holy?) things and Sunday morning or the weeknight service ought to be unashamedly different than what I am used to at other times of the week.

As someone once said, "You are what you eat." That's what the altar is for.

An early look at the dating of Easter

Until 1970, in the Western Church, the feast for St. Anicetus, Bishop of Rome, was given to today. Anicetus and Polycarp discussed the dating of the Pasch (Easter), with Anicetus holding the Roman position of the day of Jesus' resurrection, Sunday, and Polycarp, together with the Church of Smyrna, observing the crucifixion of Jesus on the fourteenth day of Nisan (Passover), no matter the day of the week. They parted on friendly terms with no consensus. The question of the dating of Easter was determined centuries later and today Christians celebrate the Resurrection on Sunday. Anicetus forbade Montanism and opposed Gnosticism and Marcionism. He died in 168, possibly a martyr. (Note: The early Christian chronicler, Hegesippus (d. 180), visited Rome during Anicetus' time as Bishop.)

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Sing, My Tongue

"For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes." This week we pause to hear God's word and receive Christ's Body and Blood, which He gives us for the forgiveness of sins. The same night He was betrayed Jesus left this new covenant, a new testament, to His disciples. Jesus died on the cross, descended into hell and rose again in the body on the third day. These days are rich in history and meaning for Christians. With the joy of Jesus' resurrection, we look forward to His coming again even as He does now in the Holy Supper. Jesus' cross and the redemptive benefits God gives us through this sacrifice makes this a holy week. We are reminded of His Passion and live in His life and salvation. Blessings in this Holy Week.