Thursday, April 28, 2011

More reading, less blogging

The internet was not working, then we had a power outage for half a day--and now the internet works again...

So, reading wise I finished the end of Brecht's third book on Luther on the "Jews, Turks and Pope".  This was instructive.  This section dovetails with a book I am also reading about the history of the Jewish people in Germany:

For a little idea I will tell you that the last bit I read was about the Shabbatean mysticism, which was a movement that calculated the arrival of the Messiah to a particular year, led by Shabbetai Zevi.  Calculating the year of  arrival of the Messiah was a pre-occupation of some streams of  Judaism, utilizing secret knowledge of numbers, etc. The Shabbatean movement swept across Jewish communities in Europe, including those in Germany, inducing individuals to sell their goods and make plans to go to Palestine:

After dividing up the kingdoms of the world among his followers, Shabbetai Zevi set sail in December for Constantinople.  But when his ship arrived there in February 1666, he was arrested and held by order of an alarmed vizier.  Undeterred, pilgrims came from afar to visit him, while preparations for the messianic age continued through the diaspora.  Shabbetai Zevi, brought before a court attended by the Sultan, was accused of having represented himself as the Messiah and was given a choice between death and conversion to Islam. In a mood of deep dejection, he agreed to submit to the Islamic faith, in which he nominally remained until his death in 1676.

Even this betrayal did not burst the bubble of Jewish ardor.  While the rabbinate tried to hush up the whole affair, true believers sought higher justifications for these stunning events, and the powerful effect of that intense messianic year, 1666, survived in Jewish culture as the core of an underground mystical doctrine that lasted into the eighteenth century.  It became a public scandal in 1751, when Jacob Emden, a rabbi in Emden, accused Jonathan Eybeschuetz, the eminent rabbi of Hamburg, of distributing secret amulets with Shabbatean inscriptions.  Although an international council of rabbis exonerated Eybeschuetz, the aura of shabbateanism clung to him...  p. 83

So much.  After that comes a section on "The Court Jew", who was apparently a richer individual "who served a prince or noble lord, most often as financial advisers and bankers but also as tax administrators, suppliers of military materiel [sic?] like horses, provisions, and weapons, or purveyors of jewels, antiquities, and other luxuries.  These Jews, who profited immensely from their opportunities, also lived in two worlds.  Dressed in the latest fashion, exempt from the onerous badge and other marks of Jewish dress, speaking several languages and well educated, they enjoyed the advantages of their wealth.  Yet serving at the pleasure of a prince who might prove fickle, whose mind might be turned against hem, who might suddenly die, made theirs a hazardous occupation.  Always the outsider and dependent on the goodwill of his patron, the court Jew was easy game for a discontented prince and a visible target for his subjects."  (p. 84)

 -- Ok, that's it for today.  (Since Luther's time the emperor had required the Jews to wear distinctive clothing featuring a yellow ring as an unmistakable sign of identification--or rather stigmatization.  Another result was the creation of  ghettos.)

I am also reading Heiko Oberman's "The Dawn of the Reformation:  Essays in Late Medieval and Early Reformation Thought".  This one has many untranslated sections in German, French and Latin, which I am very happy to report I can read, since I spent my entire childhood, so it seemed at the time, memorizing vocabulary in all those languages.  Now I know what all this torture was for ("aha" moment)--so one can read books such as this one. (Between my mother and the nuns it was language study and more language study. --  It's just I've never read a book like this, spiked through and through with not so short quotes in various languages.)

These essays are very precise.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter dinner

Easter Dinner here:  topics of conversation:  American deficit, currencies, Canadian election.

Puppy did not chew up any shoes.

It's nice out now.  We're getting into biking.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Dear Friend:

It is Easter time again and  like Christmas we will celebrate it again without some of our loved ones.  Our hearts are full.  It makes everything doubly-poignant and I am overwhelmed by it every time now.

How could we ever forget our loved ones?  We will never forget them. Since we cannot forget them, how could God ever forget them?  Each one of us is unforgettable and with inestimable worth.  God loves us and remembers us.

Martin and I read a psalm the other day (Psalm 88:3-9)  As it talks about suffering, Christ's and our's, it made me cry as I read it out loud.

For my soul is full of troubles,
and my life draws near to Sheol.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am a man who has no strength,
like one set loose among the dead,
like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more, for they are cut off from your hand.
You have put me in the depths of the pit,
in the regions dark and deep.
Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
and you overwhelm me
with all your waves.
You have caused my companions to shun me;
you have made me a horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
my eyes grow dim through sorrow.
Every day I call upon you, O LORD;
I spread out my hands to you.

One thing that struck me was that one of the features of suffering is the fact that your usual companions do shun you, as the Psalm alludes.  Jesus disciples dispersed except for a few.  In grief, after the initial wave of sympathy, no one knows what else to say and do.  It becomes a burden too heavy to bear.  So they think that someone else will sit with you, do things with you, counsel you.  Like with the disciples it is a matter of fear and self-protection. But when everyone else thinks that someone else will do it, in the end nobody does it.  This is a cruel effect of suffering which deepens it yet more.  And to some extent there is not much than can be done about that.

But while I have been able to live without sharing the sorrow with others much,  I have not been able to live without God's comfort.  We have needed him like never before.  We have prayed together, though we are not the types and it feels even too intimate for a married couple, though it is getting more natural.  All I can say from my vantage point:  there is no life worth living without prayer and praise.  Let God's words penetrate deeply.

There is much wonderful fun in life.  Sunshine, flowers, adventure, friends, music, love are all tremendous beyond description, just to mention a few things. There are myriad of pleasures great and small.  But it is all meaningless without prayer and praise.  It really, really is.  It is all dead and subject to decay.  Even the sun will have its end.  But in God and his word is life and hope and joy.  What else can we do with our troubles and whom else shall we thank?  All other things are faulty and fleeting to one degree or another.

Friend, if you have not been doing it, I encourage you this Easter to make your way to church and then go back every Sunday to celebrate God's life.  I encourage you to find your Bible or prayerbook on the bookshelf, if you do not have it handy and use it regularly.  If you do not own any, find someone who will help you buy a good one.  And talk with that person.

You may not think that you belong in church, but  by nature none of us belong in church.  We are all strangers to God's life, but he invites us into it.  Whether we have been broken by sin, people, hypocrites or death and grief, the church is the place of life for us because we have God's words and promises there, and this is where he opens heaven to us even while on earth.  It may not look it from your current vantage point, but it is the truth.  One has to have open ears, eyes and hearts.

Never think that you are too lowly to go to church.  A Christmas a little while back, I was at the cashier's in a store in a small town and I asked the lady, if she was going to go to a church service for the holidays.  She got very mad and said that all the people in church were hypocrites and put her down and there was no way she was going to church.  She got very agitated.

It is not really so with God, who invites all to come to him, no matter how heavily burdened.  Listen to a story Jesus told of the sinner and the hypocrite praying at the temple.  The hypocrite said:  "I thank you God that I am not like other people..."  The sinner said:  "Lord, have mercy on me a sinner."  It was the sinner who went away "justified" said Jesus.

Who tells stories like Jesus?  No one else.  Everyone else just tells you to be good.  Jesus has come for sinners and the lowly and despised and broken.  He is for me and you.  He is God.  Only God can know us so well and invite us to himself with our brokenness and tell such stories.  Go to him.  He is for you.

"For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." (John 3:17)

Messiah: Since by man came death...

Monday, April 18, 2011

"God Grant It" / Walther / On Hardening Hearts

With my last purchase of books from CPH, we also got C.F.W. Walther's "God Grant It",  daily devotions translated by Gerhard Grabenhofer.

God Grant It

It has so far turned out to be one of my husband's favorites.  He is not the one who reads the theological books in this house, but he feels he is getting great instruction from this one.  I quite like it myself and read to him at random as he asks for a devotion to be read.

This is one we had the other day, that he found helpful.  Now, I don't know how much I can paste here without copyright, so I will not post the entire devotion.  It starts on page 638.  This devotion also relates to the discussion with Reformed friends.  So I might refer to it.

"Read Exodus 10:20.
The large church fellowship known as the Calvinist Reformed maintains that all who become hardened come into this condition according to an eternal, absolute decree of God.  They base this view on Holy Scripture, which says, "So then He has mercy on whomever He wills, and He hardens whomever He wills"  (Romans 9:18), and notes that the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart so he would not let the Israelites go.  But this is a blasphemous use of these biblical remarks.  We cannot attempt to make God the author of a person's sin and damnation.  Indeed, Scripture expressly testifies, "For You are not a God who delights in wickedness, "  (Psalm 5:4), and  "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God,' for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself tempts no one" (James 1:13).  Moreover, the Bible testifies clearly that God neither wants nor has decreed the destruction of any person:  "As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?"  (Ezekiel 33:11), and "He destroys you, O Israel, for you are against me, against your helper"  (Hosea 13:9)
But doesn't the Bible also clearly say that God had really hardened many people?  Yes, but it also emphasizes that God hardens only those who have already hardened themselves by despising grace.  Christ says that the citizens of Jerusalem had finally fallen into the judgment of obduracy, not because God had decreed it from eternity, but "because you did not know the time of your visitiation"  (Luke 19:44).  If God ever visited any people in great grace, it was the citizens of Jerusalem.
The Son of God Himself, together with His twelve apostles, preached the Gospel among them and invited them a thousand times into the kingdom of His grace.  Faithfully, as a Good Shepherd, He followed them for three years with words, works and tears, admonishing and imploring them to turn from their wicked ways.  But when they all despised this grace, declined His kind invitation, and ultimately murdered Him, God finally withdrew His hand of grace and gave them up to the judgment of total hardness.
God always acts in this way.  No one who becomes hardened did not first experience a time of gracious visitation.  God's Word may be preached to him for a long time.  He may be exhorted countless times by teachers, pastors, parents, and fellow believers.  His own conscience and the Holy Ghost may often admonish and chastise him.  But if he wantonly and stubbornly resists all of this and remains in his sin, his pride, and his love of the world, God finally tires of extending him mercy and says,  "why will you still be struck down?  Why will you continue to rebel?  The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint"  (Isaiah 1:5).  At that point , he removes His hand of grace from such a person.  Holy Scripture calls this a hardening.  For when God no longer works in a person, he is left to his own devices..."

Ok, the end is missing.  Go buy the book.  :)

And more importantly, while we can only believe in Christ and God's favorable disposition towards us by the preaching of his word, we are also able to refuse this word.  Let this not be so for us.  Today is the day of salvation and mercy.  Thy kingdom come.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Emperor visits Japanese Evacuees.

This week, we watched a short clip on the news of the emperor of Japan and his wife visiting the earthquake/tsunami victims as they are camped in gymnasiums and such places.

The imperial couple knelt as the spoke with the people sitting on the ground.

This was apparently a huge gesture of humility and compassion.  In a hierarchical society this was a potent gesture.

It made me think about what Jesus did.  His dying and humiliation is to lift us up out of our dire situation, not to judge us.  He is God with us and for us.

Only what he did is even more:  he died for the ones deserving punishment, the righteous for the unrighteous, the lovely one for the unlovely.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Looking at the moon. "Der Mond ist aufgegangen."

It was light out quite late.  Winter seems to want to let up at some point.  The moon is almost full.  I was looking at it through my south window.

We always talk about God  being like the sun.

But  he is also like the moon.  Always there, day and night, visible or invisible.  All generations have sat in pensive nights and marveled at it.

And here I am in a new house and it's the same old moon.  The moon I've looked at from all the places I've lived in.  The same moon that other people talk, write and sing about.  We all have the same moon in all the world, through all generations.

He is there above us.  He shines his light.  He is the perfect companion on a dark night.

When I think at night about the moon I also think about the unceasing worship around the world.  As the earth turns others awake and go to sleep and say their evening and morning prayers, he steadfastly keeps guarding us, circling around us.  He makes me feel connected to everyone else.

In German we have a very famous song about the moon in our hymnbook.  "Der Mond ist aufgegangen." by Matthias Claudius.  Text in German and English here.  It is a lovely poem.  Read it and enjoy it.

The Passover and Easter are always celebrated according to a lunar schedule.  Thus people could travel to Jerusalem by moonlight.  Thus we are just about at Holy Week, again.

There are many renderings on YouTube.  I thought this one was nice.

This one is cool, too.  In Germany we used to memorize and we could sing our hymns anywhere and many verses.  See the people sing at this festival.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Back to the conflict over the Lord's Supper and "Pantheism"

Brecht:  Luther:  Shaping and Refining the Reformation. pp. 311-312

This time Luther wanted to concentrate on the words of institution.  His opponents appeared to him to be quite uncertain of their interpretation.  Once more he pointed out their disagreements, although he knew that there were no substantial differences of opinion between Zwingli and Oecolampadius.  He could easily illustrate how arbitrary the allegorical interpretation was, and he did so with great ridicule.  Several times he demonstrated to the opposing side what sort of absurdities could result from consistently following this "fanaticism."  Luther's strength lay in the text of the words of institution.  The necessity of a symbolic interpretation could not be proved convincingly.  The rational corollary that Christ's body could not be in heaven and in the sacrament at the same time was unacceptable to Luther.  It proved only his opponents' unbelief, which they would not admit publicly, but instead cloaked with rational arguments.
Nevertheless, Luther did discuss the christological problem.  "Sitting at the right hand of God"  was not to be understood in such a way that Christ was bound to a specific place in heaven, but it meant participating in God's omnipotence and omnipresence, which permeated all of creation, down to the tiniest leaf or seed.  Here emerged the realism of Luther's experience of God, derived from the Bible and in no way to be thought of in a pantheistic or metaphysical way.  It was precisely the omnipotent and omnipresent God who had fully entered the Christ who had become man, suffered, and died, and yet who was simultaneously the Son of God with the Father.  Unlike God's creatures, not only was God in this man, but this man himself was God.  Based on this concept of the divine omnipresence, the presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper was not a problem for Luther.  What was new and offensive, however, was his view that Christ's human nature also participated in the attributes of God.  He proved this by the nature of the resurrected Christ's being, which was no longer bound to a particular place or time.  The erroneous conclusion that one could therefore eat the omnipresent Christ everywhere was emphatically refuted.  Only in the Lord's Supper, where he gave himself for the believers, was he tangible to the believer. There he had condescended to come to sinners.  This, however, did not lessen his majesty.  The objections raised by the opposing side only revealed their lack of understanding and unbelief.  

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Luther's village school.

We have now started the other Brecht volumes.  I seem to be reading them simultaneously.

There is:  "Martin Luther:  The Preservation of the church. 1532-1546".  And then there also is:  "Martin Luther: His Road to Reformation.  1483-1521."

We'll share a couple little things I have highlighted so far.

Luther's opinions of his little village school in Mansfeld struck me.

Foremost among things taught in the school was grammar.  The pupils were divided into threee groups, according to the textbooks used.  The Fibulists studied from the "Fibel," the ABC book.  They were also know as Tabulists from the tables that were used.  The Donatists studied from one of the various versions of the grammar written by Aelius Donatus, a writer of late antiquity, and at first learned morphology.  ...  This material was drilled into them by means of a systematic method of questioning.  In the beginning some things were also explained in German.   The third group, the Alexandrists, studied syntax and meter according to the text which Alexander of Villa Dei had written in hexameter and which was first published in 1199.  ... Teaching according to Donatus and Alexander was later characterized by Luther as a waste of time and ineffective.  The children learned neither correct German nor Latin.  In this he was apparently criticizing the not-very-attractive Latin-German hybrid language employed by the learned, although he himself obviously used it , for example, in his Table Talk.
... Frequently, the material of instruction also contained churchly and religious elements.  Among other things the Fibulists learned the Creed and the Lord's prayer.  Surprisingly enough, Luther evaluated positively the fact that it was precisely in the small schools that the church had miraculously been preserved.   ...Music, chiefly ecclesiastical and liturgical, played a not insignificant role in school.  Instruction began and ended with a Latin hymn, usually with "Come, Thou, Holy Spirit, Come" and "Come, Holy Ghost, Our Souls Inspire."  Even in Mansfeld the teachers and students were required to participate in the ordinary and also the special services...  Thus it was in school Luther learned the antiphonal responsories of the worship services.  In this way the students were introduced to the church's liturgy, and it was through the liturgy that they were given the content of the Christian faith, which undoubtedly was not formally treated at all.
... The school did give him the ability to continue his studies.  He could study extremely efficiently and productively.  The ability to think in the Latin language, to use it and to express himself in it, he owed primarily to the school, and the university could build upon it.  Yet, on the other hand, the proper use of German was taught neither by the school nor by the university.  Luther owed his knowledge of German to the special demands of later years.  (pp. 14-15. His Road to Reformation.)

It is really quite inspiring that the village church with such humble means could inculcate some valuable skills.  The use of repetition and drilling reminds me of a good deal of my own education.  We memorized poems and hymns, lists of vocabulary, conjugations and declensions.  It is amazing what riches can really be passed on this way for future use and for future generations.  What a child needs, however, is a parent or grandparent who helps and supervises all this memory work.  Our parents used to provide this.  Now parents tend to be very busy or not value such activity and content.

My own parents were also quite poor as children attending poor schools after the war.  Memorization was the order of the day.  My father spoke about doing nothing but memorizing after the war because there were no books.  He had many wonderful and also funny things, which he could recite.

My children memorized the catechism for their classes and they also memorized the entire Suzuki syllabus for their instruments.  Children have a great ability for this which should be utilized one way or another.  Use modern technology, whatever, but keep going over it.  My little children owned a number of Disney videos.  They did not watch them a hundred times, but they had the entire dialogue and all the songs down completely.  It seemed like a marvel, at the time.  They had it word for word.

Several years, ago, there was an international study of school systems and education.  Germany did not come out anywhere near the top and people were really concerned about this.  However, some said that the German way of education is not comparable to some of the others.  It is different.  I am thinking this would be true because of the streamed system and because the higher schools emphasized a different method and content.

We can also see, how Luther's ideas for inculcating the small catechism grew out of his experience.  In the village school and through drills, the next generations thinking was formed fairly effectively; this included the use of music for content, worship and pleasure.

I have always in my mind combined the Suzuki parent experience (two children and two parents for years on end) with the idea of teaching the Lutheran/Biblical minimum.

All this can be combined with more modern methods.  But before one can progress to analytical skills, one could do well to just do some rote work.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Commenting on "Lex semper accusat."

Commenting here:

I was just told that I am misunderstanding Paul.  Romans 7 is something people can't deal with.  Simul justus et peccator is the genius of Lutheran theology.  It is also how I know myself to be.


We are at the very tail end of Martin Brecht's "Martin Luther:  The Shaping and Refining of the Reformation".

p. 451

In April and May 1531, Melanchthon completed his revision of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession for the press.  In doing so, he made drastic changes in the original version that had been presented at the diet on 22 September 1530.  Above all, he expanded the article on justification, making it as precise as possible.  Melanchthon was concerned about stating that only Christ had made satisfaction for sin.  On the basis of this satisfaction, God declared man righteous, and this was accepted in faith.  Thereby he deliberately avoided speaking about man's renewal in faith, i.e., about effective justification.  Faith finds its comfort in Christ's act alone.  This was a very clear interpretation of justification, but also a one-sided one, and its weakness lay in not considering the new reality of justification.  At the same time as Melanchthon, Luther seems to have been working on a German apology that would presumably incorporate the thoughts about justification he had had at the Coburg.  All that can be determined from his extant marginal notes on Melanchthon's Apology is that he was interested in the connection between forgiveness and man's active love that followed it.  He did not carry out his intention.  In October he complained that he wanted to write the apology, but that he was prevented by many other tasks.
In May 1531 Luther and Melanchthon engaged in a noteworthy exchange of correspondence with Brenz concerning the doctrine of justification.  In it Melanchthon accused Brenz, following Augustine, of making justification depend on the fulfilling of the law worked by the Holy Spirit instead of solely on Gods' imputation for the sake of Christ's work.  In so doing, Brenz was remaining perilously close to the views of their Catholic opponents.  The conscience could not draw peace and confident hope from its own qualities, but from God's declaration of righteousness alone.  It is noteworthy that in a postscript to this letter, Luther, without directly criticizing Melanchthon, put the emphasis somewhat differently.  He also wanted to ignore the qualities of the believer, of course, but he said that Christ was the ground and also the reality of justification.  The believer was incorporated into the creative power of Christ's life.  This was no so precise as Melanchthon's views, but it avoided making a separation between God's declaration of justification and actual justification.  Brenz then sought to come to terms with Melanchthon's objections, but he clearly sympathized with Luther's solution. 

I have to say, I don't really understand what is being said here in terms of the finer distinctions, but would like to understand it.

Also, with this theme, pp. 453, 454:

There was no getting around the alternative that either Christ or the law justifies;  the lectures tirelessly expound this.  Like Muentzer, the pope had placed conditions on the salvation that Christ had already won.  The believer was dead to the law, i.e., he was no longer subject to its demands, and he thus lived freely unto God alone.  This was the greatest comfort for a conscience when confronted with the fears of death, for all the powers of death had Been destroyed through the death of Christ.  "Christ is the executioner of my executioner," namely, of the law that kills.  to be sure, this applied only inasmuch as the life of the believer was indissolubly incorporated into the life of Christ.  But that could not be achieved by exceptional spiritual accomplishments, only through Christ' sacrifice "for me."
On this basis Luther, along with Paul, spoke about the vicious spell that had perverted the gospel and had caused a relapse into the law.  He saw this in Zwingli and Oecolampadius, just as it had already existed in Muentzer, and through their actions a serious danger to the Reformation had arisen.  The example of Abraham (Gal. 3:16 ff.) gave him an opening for great expositions of faith.  He again expressed the thought that faith glorifies God, and in a bold phrase he said, "Faith is the creator of the divinity,"  obviously meaning not God in himself, but God for the believer.  Faith believes God's statements, which to reason are impossible, false, foolish, weak, despicable, heretical, and devilish, and holds that they are true, life giving, and holy.  It offers its rational faculties to God and helps him attain his divinity.  On his part, God reckons faith, despite all its weakness, as righteousness for the sake of its trust in Christ.  Here Luther's formulation came very close to Melanchthon's trust in Christ.  Here Luther's formulation came very close to Melanchthon's, but he still maintained that this faith was Christ's doing.  Righteousness did not come from works, but only from the mercy and promises of God.  Only in this way, and in no other, was the process of justification put in motion.  In theology, faith had to come before any action.

Vis-a-vis justification through Christ alone, the law had to be restricted to is real function, which consisted of revealing sin and thus terrifying the conscience in order to [prepare for the promise in Christ.  Having become a child of God through Christ, one participates in Christ's being, and therefrom come corresponding actions, although, contrary to the Anabaptists, imitating Christ was not to be understood as a new law.  Unlike the scholastic tradition, Luther's teaching here was also decisively emphasizing the certainty of the believer that he was standing in faith, and this meant also having the gift of the Holy Spirit, even though the Spirit's activity in the weakness of a man might not immediately be identifiable. 

...Luther treated the last two chapters of Galatians with comparative brevity.  Paul was concerned about a conscience inwardly free from Gods wrath, and that meant having a gracious God instead of an eternally vengeful judge.  compared with the majesty of this "theological" freedom, all other freedoms, including political freedom, were nothing but a drop.  Being free from the bite of sin and the tyranny of the law was more than that, and it had to be defended against pope and monks.  Luther knew what he was talking about.  The formula of "faith working through love"  (Gal 5:6) was always advanced by the Catholic side as teaching that man cooperated in justification.  Luther understood it solely as a description of how faith was practiced.  For his intolerance of the enthusiasts, which is often held against him, Luther appealed to the image of the leaven that leavens the whole lump (Gal. 5:9).  He urgently warned his hearers:  in doctrine one must make no concessions, although otherwise one can be tolerant.  For this reason a theological compromise with the pope was impossible, and all that could be achieved was a political peace.

I do not understand how Melanchton and Luther slightly differ on this.  That's my open question, at this point. ???

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lex semper accusat

Disputation Against Scolastic Theology #38.

There is no moral virtue without either pride or sorrow, that is, without sin.

Heidelberg Disputation #7:

The works of the righteous would be mortal sins if they would not be feared as mortal sins by the righteous themselves out of pious fear of God.

Heidelberg Disputation #8

By so much more are the works of man mortal sins when they are done without fear and in unadulterated, evil self-security.

Heidelberg Disputation #11

Arrogance cannot be avoided or true hope be present unless the judgment of condemnation is feared in every work.

Heidelberg Disputation #26

The law says, "do this", and it is never done.  Grace says, "believe in this, " and everything is already done.

St. Paul:

So I find this law at work:  "When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God's law;  but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.  What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!  So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.  Romans 7: 21-25.

The fact that the law always accuses is a necessary point towards realizing that we are free of the law.  If we could be righteous through the law, we would have to put our trust in it.

Seeing my sin, always brings me before my Savior.  And only there does the law no longer accuse.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Copy-writing not in the Anglo-american tradition

Als Schöpfungshöhe (auch: Gestaltungshöhe, Werkhöhe) wird im Urheberrecht der Bundesrepublik Deutschland das Maß an Individualität(persönlicher geistiger Schöpfung) in einem Produkt geistiger Arbeit bezeichnet. Es entscheidet darüber, ob ein „Werk“ vorliegt und insofern Urheberrechte bestehen können. In der Praxis wird der Begriff vor allem als Ja/Nein-Option verwendet: Schöpfungshöhe muss gegeben sein, um einem solchen Produkt Werkcharakter und damit Urheberrechtsschutz zusprechen zu können, mangelnde Schöpfungshöhe begründet dagegenGemeinfreiheit. Die Schöpfungshöhe stellt als notwendige Bedingung sozusagen die Untergrenze des Urheberrechtsschutzes dar.

"Schoepfungshoehe" (the depth of creativity of an actual "work") is in German law the measure of individuality (depth of intellectual creation from a personal mind) in a product of intellectual work.  This measure is used in deciding if a "work" is truly present for the product in question.  In the actual decision making the answer will be YES or NO:  a certain amount of creativity has to be present in oder that such a product has the character of a "work" and can gain Urheberrechte (rights of the creator).  If there is insufficient creativity there is the reason for granting public use.  The "Schoepfungshoehe"  gives a necessary condition so that a protection will be granted.

Das Urheberrecht bezeichnet zunächst das subjektive und absolute Recht auf Schutz geistigen Eigentums in ideeller und materieller Hinsicht.[1]Als objektives Recht umfasst es die Summe der Rechtsnormen eines Rechtssystems, die das Verhältnis des Urhebers und seiner Rechtsnachfolger zu seinem Werk regeln; es bestimmt Inhalt, Umfang, Übertragbarkeit und Folgen der Verletzung des subjektiven Rechts.[1] Das Copyright des anglo-amerikanischen Rechts ist dagegen, wie der Name schon sagt, eher eine Art Verlagsrecht/Reproduktionsrecht, wird jedoch häufig damit verwechselt. Der Hauptunterschied besteht darin, dass das Copyright nur die Reproduktionsrechte des Reproduzenten regelt – im Gegensatz zur obigen Beschreibung des Urheberrechts.

The "Urheberrecht" [rights of the creator, as opposed to copy-right]  denotes first of all the subjective and absolute right of protection of intellectual property in the area of the ideas and in matters material.  As objective right in includes all the laws of a system of law, which govern the relationship between the creator and the inheritors of the "work".  The laws of Anglo-american system involving "copy-right" is rather more a right to reproduction of the work as owned by a publisher;  these two ideas are often intermingled [confused].  The main difference consists in this that the "copyright" governs only the rights of reproduction of the one who holds them--in contrast to the above description of the "Urheberrecht".

Love Life Conference 5, Concordia Edmonton--Video and Audio links

Luther's Small Catechism with Explanation Links plus Michael Spencer's Anniversary of Death Interview

Below, Michael Spencer with some points about Lutheranism and its presentation.

Michael is really quite unforgettable.  His insights were sharp.  His understanding of the good news was profound.

New reformation press features also some other excellent talks.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Some things about Luther's letters of encouragement and consolation.

Brecht, Shaping and Refining the Reformation, p. 378.

Luther was also interested in how things were going with those who were close to him. He exhorted Catherine Jonas to have courage in her approaching childbirth. Then he congratulated the father at the birth of his son. Shortly afterward he had to ask Melanchthon to inform Jonas that his son had died. For Luther, this personal grief accompanied political Anfechtung as the fate of a Christian in this world, but it did not shake one's hope. A few days later he himself wrote tenderly in this vein to Jonas, although, because of his illness, he considered himself an inept comforter. The child's death did not mean that he had been forsaken by God; it was a special way of God's "visitation." Soon afterward, Luther had to comfort Link on the death of a daughter. Luther never minimized the severity of the loss in his letters of comfort. He also did not gloss over the fact that such bitter experiences are part of our fate in this earthly vale of tears; however, they are surrounded by God's mercy and the hope of faith. This was true for the letters of consolation written during the next two years. In 1532 the wife of Master Ambrosius Berndt died in childbirth, along with her newborn son. Luther well understood the grief of her husband, but it could not be endless. He therefore wrote to Berndt. His wife had died with a sure faith while carrying out her God-given calling of bearing children, and there were also reasons to give thanks to God for her gifts. Occasionally he had to write to the parents of students who died. In those instances, an important comfort was for him to mention that the person had died strong in faith.

How often has Luther stood by us with a word, also, even though we only have his writings now.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Luther on Psalm 51

We are at the very tail end of the Brecht:  Luther:  Shaping and Defining the Reformation, which takes us into the early 1530's, the publishing of the commentary on Galatians, Melanchton's refining of the Apology to the Augsburg confession regarding justification, and a commentary on Psalm 51.

When confronted with the great Psalm 51 and its main themes of repentance and justification, Luther felt that he was truly a student who needed the Holy Spirit as his schoolmaster.  Nevertheless, his commentary may be called a masterpiece.   Luther's modesty came from the fact that it was impossible for a human to understand what sin, grace, and true repentance were;  this had to be given by God.  Because the papacy had not understood sin as an evil root and a sickness unto death, it was also unable to understand grace.  Therefore, Luther could not limit himself to a mere commentary, but also had to argue against this false view.  It is not by chance that in this context we find Luther's tersest definition of theology:  "The knowledge of God and of man is divine wisdom and true theology.  And it is the knowledge of God and of man that is ultimately related to the God who justifies and to man the sinner, so that the subject of theology is really man who is guilty and lost and the God who justifies and who is the Savior."  Anything in theology that is more than this is an error and worth nothing at all.  It really has to do with the eternal fate of man.  But by the God who shows mercy Luther means no one but the Christ who gives his promise.  He, and not the judge, as the whole tradition had said, is the righteous God.  This was the bridge over the deep chasm between God's righteousness and his mercy.  Contrary to all expectations, the sinner could plead for mercy.  The Christian life consisted of nothing but  grace.  Everything depended on whether one thought of God as vengeful or as merciful, for he would meet man accordingly.  To lose oneself in the depths of grace "is our true theology."  God had nothing to do with saints; a "holy man" was a fiction.  Even after a gracious God had forgiven him, a Christian needed God's help in his daily struggle against sin.  External crosses and dangers thus were some of the means that the Holy Spirit used to train Christians.
Man's sinfulness was not in his deeds.  On the basis of Ps. 51:7, it was part of his elemental nature.  However, Luther was cautious not to ascribe a special taint to marriage, procreation, and conception.  The original sinfulness of man was ultimately a mystery, although it was a primary theological statement without which the Holy Scriptures could not be understood.  But God loved those who acknowledged that they were lost.  He purified them and set them free.  "God is no other than the one who loves the contrite, the tormented, the perplexed, the God of the humble.  If I could understand this, I would be a theologian."   Anyone who came to God in a lost conodition brought him the most appropriate offering.  However, it was difficult to turn from this lost condition to trusting in God;  this was the "true theology."  In contrast to the preceding lectures, the exposition of Psalm 51 dealt hardly at all with the contemporary situation.  It concentrated completely on the real concern of theology, the God who was gracious to the sinner, As Luther had really done ever since his decisive discovery.  (pp. 456-457)

It would be nice to find a link to this commentary.  It sounds very worth reading.

In the meantime, and it being Lent, we can contemplate what it means to bring a real sinner to our merciful God, who is to be thanked and praised for his undeserved kindness for such as each of us.

"The Christian life consisted of nothing but  grace.  Everything depended on whether one thought of God as vengeful or as merciful, for he would meet man accordingly.  To lose oneself in the depths of grace "is our true theology."-- Wow. 

(...  I can't find the commentary on-line.  But we do have Psalm 51, itself!)

    For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.
 1 Have mercy on me, O God,
   according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
   blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity
   and cleanse me from my sin.

 3 For I know my transgressions,
   and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
   and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
   and justified when you judge.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
   sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
   you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

 7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
   wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
   let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins
   and blot out all my iniquity.

 10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
   and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
   or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
   and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

 13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
   so that sinners will turn back to you.
14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
   you who are God my Savior,
   and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 Open my lips, Lord,
   and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
   you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is[b] a broken spirit;
   a broken and contrite heart
   you, God, will not despise.

 18 May it please you to prosper Zion,
   to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
   in burnt offerings offered whole;
   then bulls will be offered on your altar.

Company is gone/ 27 months

It was a great pleasure to host my sister's family.  Thankfully, it was warmer and we could enjoy a variety of activities and outings.  Just before the roads had been nothing but treacherous ice.

Often it had been hard on me to spend time with Stefan's cousins as I would miss him among them and interacting with them.  This was very poignant for me and I wonder if it was for them.  But two years does seem like a time where things appear not as acute.  Still there are always different things that remind you of him and which hurt. There is always something else, something new.

For example we watched a movie together last week:  A Knight's Tale with Heath Ledger.  We all know who Heath Ledger is and that he died at 28 in the midst of life.  So when I watch Heath Ledger swing up and down the horse and be daring and win all his matches, see his blond hair fly, court a girl, be romantic writing poems, dancing... I have to think of Stefan.  He was like that:  active, blond, energetic, strong, romantic, busy, soulful, heroic, vulnerable.

All of our men are heroic and vulnerable.  It's an amazing thing to love them.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Eastertide sermon by Luther

An Easter-tide sermon of Luther's freshly translated in Luther's Works Volume 58 with an introduction to the section in the book by Andreas Poach.

I still need to sign up for the purchasing of the new books as they come out (30% off).  Go to CPH site.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Pink and Blue Bibles

The Pink and Blue Study Bibles are already gone.  Blue to a relative.  Pink to a renter.