Archive for the ‘Adolf von Harnack’ Tag

Feast of William Adams Brown (December 30)   2 comments

Above:  Union Theological Seminary, New York, New York, 1910

Image Source = Library of Congress

Image Copyrighted by Irving Underhill

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-74646

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WILLIAM ADAMS BROWN, SR. (DECEMBER 29, 1865-DECEMBER 15, 1943)

U.S. Presbyterian Minister, Theologian, and Social Reformer

William Adams Brown, Sr., comes to this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006).

William Adams Brown, Sr., born in New York, New York, on December 29, 1865, grew up in a devout family with multi-generational ties to Union Theological Seminary.  He spent much of his life working at that institution.

Our saint, a son of Mary Elizabeth Adams and John Crosby Brown, a merchant banker, was well-educated.  After private education, he attended St. Paul’s Preparatory School in Concord, New Hampshire, followed by five years (four years as an undergraduate and one year as a graduate student) at Yale University.  Then Brown matriculated at Union Theological Seminary.  He graduated in 1890 then studied in Germany for two years.  Adolf von Harnack was one of his professors.

Brown taught at Union Theological Seminary from 1892 to 1936, when he retired.  He was an Instructor of Church History (1892-1893), an Instructor of Systematic Theology (1893-1898), the Roosevelt Chair of Systematic Theology (1898-1930), and a Research Professor in Applied Christianity (1930-1936).  Faith was active for Brown.  It led him to oppose corruption (Tammany Hall) in municipal politics and government and fight against prostitution and liquor.  Active faith also led Brown to lead the Missions Committee of the New York Presbytery of New York (Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.), the Board of Missions of the PCUSA, the Department of Research and Education (Federal Council of Churches), the Religious Education Association, and the American Theological Association.

That active faith also made Brown a target for many conservative Presbyterians.  He was on the side of Modernism in the Modernist-Fundamentalist controversy in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.  Community outreach to poor immigrants via the American Parish on the Upper East Side and the Labor Temple in the East Village placed our saint in the midst of alleged hot beds of socialism.  In 1895, he helped to form the Union Settlement in East Harlem.  Students from Union Theological Seminary volunteered to provide community services.  Brown, speaking at Harvard in 1910, allegedly committed heresy in “The Old Theology and the New.”  The General Assembly of 1914 acquitted him.

Brown was also an active wartime ecumenist.  In 1917 and 1918, he served as the Secretary General of the Wartime Commission of the Churches.  He helped to arrange for Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Jewish military chaplains, and to advise regarding religious issues.

Brown married Helen Gilman Noyes in 1892.  The couple had four children:  John Crosby (b. 1892), William Adams Jr., (b. 1894), Winthrop Gilman “Bob” (b. 190?), and Helen (1910-1928; died of polio before she would have matriculated at Vassar College).

Brown, aged 77 years, died in New York, New York, on December 15, 1943.  He left a fine legacy.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 5, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONIO MARY ZACCARIA, FOUNDER OF THE BARNABITES AND THE ANGELIC SISTERS OF SAINT PAUL

THE FEAST OF GEORGES BERNANOS, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC NOVELIST

THE FEAST OF HULDA NIEBUHR, CHRISTIAN EDUCATOR; HER BROTHERS, H. RICHARD NIEBUHR AND REINHOLD NIEBUHR, UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST THEOLOGIANS; AND URSULA NIEBUHR, EPISCOPAL THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH BOISSEL, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST AND MARTYR IN LAOS, 1969

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O God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served,

and to give his life for the life of the world.

Lead us by his love to serve all those to whom the world offers no comfort and little help.

Through us give hope to the hopeless,

love to the unloved,

peace to the troubled,

and rest to the weary,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60

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Feast of Peter Taylor Forsyth (November 11)   2 comments

Above:  Peter Taylor Forsyth

Image in the Public Domain

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PETER TAYLOR FORSYTH (MAY 12, 1848-NOVEMBER 11, 1921)

Also known a P. T. Forsyth

Scottish Congregationalist Minister and Theologian

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Revelation is redemption.

–P. T. Forsyth, quoted in Martin E. Marty and Dean G. Peerman, eds., A Handbook of Christian Theologians, 2nd. ed. (1984), 154

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P. T. Forsyth was, toward the end of his life, especially, too conservative for many liberals and too liberal for many conservatives.  The author of twenty-five books and hundreds of articles did, from 1893, anticipate much of the theology of Karl Barth and of Neo-orthodoxy.  Forsyth alarmed fundamentalist by affirming science and critical (in the highest sense of that word) Biblical scholarship while he rejected much of the theology of his contemporary, Adolf von Harnack (1851-1930).

Forsyth, born in Aberdeen, Scotland, on May 12, 1848, graduated from Aberdeen University then, in 1876, became a Congregationalist minister.  After serving in a few pulpits, he became the President of Hackney College, London, in 1921.  Our saint held that office until he died, on November 11, 1921.  In 1904-1905 he served as the Chairman of the Congregational Union of England and Wales.

Stale orthodoxy has inspired overreactions.  Philipp Spener (1635-1705) reacted and founded Pietism, thereby minimizing the sacraments, the role of the Church, and the importance of doctrine, as well as straying into works-based righteousness.  Adolf von Harnack, another German Lutheran, participated in the post-Enlightenment “flight from dogma,” as James Dunn called it in Jesus Remembered (2003).  Harnack argued that,

…true faith in Jesus is not a matter of creedal orthodoxy but of doing as he did.

–Quoted in Dunn, Jesus Remembered (2003), 38

In Harnack’s dogmaless version of Christianity, as Dunn wrote, the presentation was of

Jesus as a good example, Jesus as more the first Christian than the Christ.

Jesus Remembered (2003), 39

Forsyth had been a Harnackian.  Later in life, however, our saint quoted Harnack only while disagreeing with him.

Forsyth, without rejecting modernity, insisted that the church must define itself according to Christ, whom he referred to as “the Word,” knowable only via the Bible.  Biblical criticism has its place, our saint argued, but it must never be destructive, and must serve “the Word.”  In Forsyth’s Christocentric theology, the objective act of God in Jesus Christ is the origin of Christian faith.  Furthermore, the Gospel is always valid, regardless of whether one believes in it.

Forsyth’s break with Harnack was especially evident in his emphasis on deeds over words.  Our saint insisted that divine revelation was more a matter of deed than word, more a matter of act than declaration.  Forsyth argued that, although the words of Jesus are important, his deeds are more important.  In other words, our saint wrote that Jesus was like what he did, that the work of Christ revealed the person of Christ.  Furthermore, as Forsyth wrote, divine revelation in Jesus is an act that costs God much and restores human fellowship with God.  Forsyth’s focus on divine actions was consistent with his disregard for speculative theology–an attitude that led him to ignore aspects of official Trinitarian doctrine.

(Aside:  I do not criticize Forsyth for that last point.  My attempts to understand the orthodox Trinitarian theology lead me to confusion quickly and tie me into logical knots.  For example, if one holds that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are co-eternal, how can one then say that the Father begat the Son and that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and maybe also from the Son, depending on one’s position vis-à-vis the filioque clause?  I choose to think of the Trinity as a glorious mystery, and to affirm that the truth of the nature of God exceeds human comprehension.)

Forsyth’s theology of the Atonement was collective, not individualistic.  He argued that the Atonement was mainly for the human race, not for individuals.  Furthermore, our saint wrote, the cross represent both reconciliation and judgment upon himself.  Forsyth argued that God has objectively redeemed the world and curtailed the power of evil.  Therefore, our saint wrote, no Christian should ever feel overwhelmed by evil, for the battle between good and evil has ended; Christ has overcome the world.

Forsyth’s Christology was orthodox.  He wrote that Jesus was fully human and fully divine, and that the fully human portion of that reality indicated human limitations–the self-sacrifice of God.  Yet, our saint argued, Christ did not sin, despite moral struggles.

Unlike many Protestants, Forsyth held a high view of the sacraments.  He wrote that they are not merely memorials but actually means of grace.

Forsyth contributed greatly to Christian theology.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 24, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATTHIAS THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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Almighty God, your Holy Spirit gives to one the word of knowledge,

and to another the insight of wisdom,

and to another the steadfastness of faith.

We praise you for the gifts of grace imparted to your servant Peter Taylor Forsyth,

and we pray that by his teaching we may be led to a fuller knowledge of the truth

we have seen in your Son Jesus, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Proverbs 3:1-7 or Wisdom 7:7-14

Psalm 119:89-104

1 Corinthians 2:1-10, 13-16 or 1 Corinthians 3:5-11

John 17:18-23 or Matthew 13:47-52

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 61

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Feast of Emil Brunner (April 5)   Leave a comment

Above:  Dr. Emil Brunner

Image in the Public Domain

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HEINRICH EMIL BRUNNER (DECEMBER 23, 1889-APRIL 6, 1966)

Swiss Reformed Theologian

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The Protestant theology of our day is in a state of rapid dissolution….The substance of Christian theology, the content of Christian faith, is in a state of compete decomposition.  Christianity is either faith in the revelation of God in Jesus Christ, or it is nothing.

–Emil Brunner, in The Theology of Crisis (1930); quoted in Martin E. Marty and Dean G. Peerman, editors, A Handbook of Christian Theologians–Enlarged Edition (1984) page 410

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Emil Brunner and Karl Barth were the most influential Protestant theologians of the twentieth century.  The latter, however, has become more famous than the former.  Furthermore, Willard Learoyd Sperry was openly critical of their Neo-orthodox theology.  Coincidence has caused the feasts of Brunner and Sperry to fall on the same date on my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.  This project of mine has sufficient breadth to include theologians who criticized each other.

Brunner was Swiss, as was his contemporary and critic, Barth.  Brunner, born on December 23, 1889, at Winterthur, drew from a variety of influences.  One early influence was pastor Christoph Blumhardt (1842-1919), of southern Germany.  Another influence was Hermann Kutter (1863-1931), a student of Blumhardt.  Brunner studied theology at the University of Zurich.  His professor, Leonhard Ragaz (1868-1945), taught him the works of Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), who influenced our saint profoundly.

Brunner traveled and lectured around the world.  He studied in Berlin for a semester in 1911; he found both the city and Adolf von Harnack 1865-1923) unimpressive.  Our saint visited England in 1913-1914 and quickly became fluent in English.  He was back home, serving in the Swiss army, in 1914-1916, before becoming the pastor at a church in Obstalden, in the canton of Glarus, in 1916.  Brunner studied at Union Theological Seminary, New York, New York, in 1919-1920.  In 1924 he became Professor of Systematic and Practical Theology at the University of Zurich.  He also continued to preach in churches.  Throughout the 1920s Brunner lectured in the United States and in the United Kingdom.  The Third Reich banned his books and forbade him to teach in Germany, but he did not slow down.  From 1938 to 1939 Brunner was a visiting professor at Princeton Theological Seminary.  He was also active in the Faith and Order Movement and the Life and Work Movement, forerunners of the World Council of Churches, organized in 1948.  After World War II Brunner became a theological advisor to the Y.M.C.A.  In 1949, for the Y.M.C.A., he traveled and lectured in Asia.  From 1953 to 1955 our saint was a professor at the International Christian University, Tokyo, Japan.  There he engaged in ecumenical and interfaith dialogues.  In 1955, on the way back to Switzerland, Brunner suffered a stroke, which slowed the previously vigorous pace of his scholarly work.

In 1916 Brunner married Margret Lauterberg, niece of his mentor, Hermann Kutter.  Our saint was a loving husband and father.  The couple raised four sons, two of whom they buried.

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A person literate in Christian theology can understand why one can find criticisms of Brunner from both the right and the left on the Internet.  According to certain critics from the left, he was much too traditional.  Yet, according to those who condemn our saint from the right, he was a heretic and a destroyer of faith whose insidious influence remains.

Brunner, who considered himself neither a traditionalist nor an innovator, held to a theology based to two related factors:  love and the revelation of God in Jesus Christ.  He rejected fundamentalism and dogmatism on the right  and vague religious values on the left.  Brunner was, simply put, in the middle, with many critics from both his right and his left.  For example, as our saint stressed the primacy of Jesus as the Word of God and insisted upon the unique and unrepeatable nature of the Incarnation, he remained skeptical regarding the Virgin Birth.  The miracle of the Incarnation, Brunner wrote, was greater with a human father.  Furthermore, our saint insisted, one need not affirm the Virgin Birth as being essential to accepting the divinity of Jesus.

Brunner also pondered how God and mere mortals can relate to each other.  Our saint, being himself, rejected the extremes of literalism and dogmatism on the right and of experience and feeling on the left.  He wrote that God and people meet in Jesus Christ and that only God can take the initiative to bridge the gap.  People, he argued, have the ability to reject God or to accept God.  Furthermore, the revelation of God is ongoing–via the Holy Spirit, including in the scriptures at the present time.  The reign of God on earth will become a reality also.  In the meantime, Brunner argued, there must be a point of contact in sinful human nature for one to perceive the divine revelation.  This assertion prompted Barth too write his famous rebuttal Nein! (1934), in which he argued that divine revelation creates its own point of contact ex niliho.  Brunner referred to Nein! as “that terrible book” as late as the 1950s.

For Brunner the definitive Christian virtue was love–self-sacrificing love, the kind Jesus had.  This love, our saint wrote, Christianizing Martin Buber‘s I-Thou theology, binds people to God and to each other in relationships.  The responsibility to live in community with each other and with God, Brunner wrote, is inherent in us.  Furthermore, we might be unaware of this duty or even reject it, but we can never escape it, he argued.  The basis of this responsibility, according to Brunner, was the image of God.  He criticized violations of this responsibility, wherever he saw them–in capitalism, communism, Christian congregations and denominations, et cetera.  Worse than the scandal of schisms, Brunner wrote, was the lack of spiritual brotherhood in Christian community.

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Brunner, a man well-informed in matters of theology, science, music, and painting, died at Zurich, Switzerland, on April 6, 1966.  He was 76 years old.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 15, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZACHARY OF ROME, POPE

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JAN ADALBERT BALICKI AND LADISLAUS FINDYSZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS IN POLAND

THE FEAST OF OZORA STEARNS DAVIS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF VETHAPPAN SOLOMON, APOSTLE TO THE SOLOMON ISLANDS

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Almighty God, your Holy Spirit gives to one the word of knowledge,

and to another the insight of wisdom,

and to another the steadfastness of faith.

We praise you for the gifts of grace imparted by your servant Emil Brunner,

and we pray that by his teaching we may be led to a fuller knowledge of the truth

we have seen in your Son Jesus, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Proverbs 3:1-7 or Wisdom 7:7-14

Psalm 119:89-104

1 Corinthians 2:6-10, 13-16 or 1 Corinthians 3:5-11

John 17:18-23 or Matthew 13:47-52

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 61

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Feast of Edwin Hatch (November 11)   Leave a comment

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Above:  University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Between 1890 and 1901

Published by the Detroit Publishing Company

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-D4-12742

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EDWIN HATCH (SEPTEMBER 9, 1835-NOVEMBER 11, 1889)

Anglican Priest, Scholar, and Hymn Writer

Edwin Hatch, born at Derby, grew up in a Non-Conformist (non-Anglican) family.  Yet he took Holy Orders in The Church of England and served a London congregation.  Most of Hatch’s career, however, was academic.  From 1859 to 1862 the Oxford graduate was Professor of Classics at Trinity College, Ontario.  Then he was both Professor of Classics at Morrin College, Quebec City, Quebec, and Rector of the high school there.  Our saint returned to England in 1867 to become the Vice-Principal of St. Mary’s Hall, Oxford.  He delivered the Bampton Lectures (The Organization of the Early Christian Churches) in 1880.  Three years later our saint became the Rector of Purleigh, Essex, followed by the position of University Reader in Ecclesiastical History in 1884.  He delivered the Hibbett Lectures (The Influence of Greek Ideas and Usages on the Christian Church) in 1888.

James Moffatt wrote of Hatch:

A man of great learning, original mind, and force of character, he won a European reputation by work of rare independence and thoroughness in historical research; in this field he was acknowledged a master.  [Adolf von] Harnack [1851-1930] translated his Bampton Lectures into German and said of him:  “In his learning that of England’s great old theologians, Ussher and Pearson, lived to me again.  He was a glorious man, whose loss I shall never cease to mourn.”  Profound as his learning was, his published sermons show that his piety was as simple and unaffected as a child’s.

Handbook to The Church Hymnary (London, UK:  Oxford University Press, 1927, 363)

That piety is also evident in “Breathe on Me, Breath of God,” a hymn Hatch wrote.

Edwin Hatch combined scholarship, literary beauty, and deep piety to great effect.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 25, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST, 1957

THE FEAST OF JAMES WELDON JOHNSON, POET AND NOVELIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM OF VERCELLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT; AND SAINT JOHN OF MATERA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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O God, you have endowed us with memory, reason, and skill.

We thank you for the faithful legacy of [Edwin Hatch and all others]

who have dedicated their lives to you and to the intellectual pursuits.

May we, like them, respect your gift of intelligence fully and to your glory.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Psalm 103

Philippians 4:8-9

Mark 12:28-34

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 6, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CHRODEGANG OF METZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF EDMUND KING, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF LINCOLN

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