Above: Altenburg, Circa 1650
Image in the Public Domain
KASPAR BIENEMANN (JANUARY 3, 1540-SEPTEMBER 12, 1591)
German Lutheran Minister and Hymn Writer
One of the pleasures of consulting hymnals of different denominations is expanding my grasp of hymnody. Not surprisingly, hymnals of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) contain translations of German hymns–fine ones.
Kaspar Bienemann (1540-1591), a native of Nuremburg, was a son of a burgess of that city. Our saint studied at Leipzig, Jena, and Tubingen. Emperor Maximilian II (reigned 1564-1576) sent our saint to Greece, the part of the Ottoman Empire, as the translator for a diplomatic mission. In Greece Bienemann took the alternative surname Melissander, or “Bee man.” Upon his return to Germany our saint became a professor at Lauingen, Bavaria. Later he served as the abbot at Lahr then as the pastor and General Superintendent at Pfalz, Neuberg. The Synergistic Controversy forced his resignation.
The Synergistic Controversy focused on the role of human free will in salvation. The official position of the Lutheran Church was that three causes–God’s Word, the Holy Spirit, and human free will not resisting God’s Word–cooperate to convert a person. Other Lutherans–Gnesio-Lutherans, or Flacians–so named after Matthias Flacius (1520-1575)–affirmed total depravity (in the style of Double Predestinarian Calvinists), therefore the inability of human free will to respond positively to God’s beckon. The term “synergistic” referred to the incorporation of human free will into the process of salvation, as in the Formula of Concord, Article II, which makes clear that this theological position is not Semi-Pelagianism. (I read the germane text in my copy of the Book of Concord.) Bienemann was a Flacian.
This argument sounds like one between Double Predestinarian Calvinists and Arminians or Single Predestinarian Lutherans or Calvinists, does it not? As for me, I grew up a United Methodist (therefore a proponent of free will as an agent in salvation or damnation) and have become a Single Predestinarian Anglo-Lutheran.
Bienemann’s life continued. He received his D.D. from the University of Jena in 1571, the same year he became tutor to Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Sachsen Weimar. Two years later, however, the Crown Prince’s father, Duke Johann Wilhelm, died, and the Crown Prince was a minor. A regent controlled the ducal court from 1573 to 1583, when Friedrich Wilhelm began to rule. With the regency came the influence of Calvinists in the ducal court, so our saint lost his tutoring job. By 1578 he was pastor and General Superintendent at Altenburg, where he died in 1591.
The English translation of the first stanza of one of our saint’s hymns, Herr, wie du willst, so schick’s mit mir, as The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) contains it, reads:
Lord, as Thou wilt, deal Thou with me;
No other wish I cherish.
In life and death I cling to Thee;
Oh, do not let me perish!
Let not Thy grace from me depart
And grant an ever patient heart
To bear what Thou dost send me.
That text fit well into the life of Kaspar Bienemann.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
APRIL 13, 2015 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF SAINT HERMENEGILD, VISIGOTHIC PRINCE AND ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR
THE FEAST OF SAINT HUGH OF ROUEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP, ABBOT, AND MONK
THE FEAST OF MIKAEL AGRICOLA, FINNISH LUTHERAN BISHOP OF TALLINN
Dear God of beauty,
you have granted literary ability and spiritual sensitivity to
Kaspar Bienemann and others, who have composed hymn texts.
May we, as you guide us,
find worthy hymn texts to be icons,
through which we see you.
In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 44:1-3a, 5-15
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
APRIL 20, 2013 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMATOR OF AUXERRE AND GERMANUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT MAMERTINUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT MARCIAN OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK
THE FEAST OF JOHANNES BUGENHAGEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR
THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF EMBRUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP
THE FEAST OF OLAVUS AND LAURENTIUS PETRI, RENEWERS OF THE CHURCH