Archive for the ‘Evolution’ Tag

Feast of Samuel Simon Schmucker (February 29)   Leave a comment

Above:  Samuel Simon Schmucker

Image in the Public Domain

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SAMUEL SIMON SCHMUCKER (FEBRUARY 28, 1799-JULY 26, 1873)

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

Samuel Simon Schumucker comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006).

I recall, while growing up as a good United Methodist boy in rural southern Georgia, hearing people say,

There are Baptists then there are Baptists.

That principle applies to Lutherans, too; degrees of Lutheran confessionalism exist.  If one, for example, labels The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, despite its strong confessionalism and social and theological conservatism, as being too liberal, one has a selection of Lutheran denominations from which to select a church home.

Samuel Simon Schumucker changed throughout his life; he was human, after all.  Lutheranism within the United States of America also changed during his lifetime.  Schmucker effected much of that change, but other change made him, once a prominent leader, an increasingly marginal figure in many quarters.  Yet Schmucker’s legacy has remained relevant within and beyond Lutheranism in North America.

Schmucker came from a devout and large Lutheran family.  He, born in Hagerstown, Maryland, entered the world on February 28, 1779.  Our saint’s mother was Elizabeth Catherine Gross (1771-1820).  His father was the Reverend John George Schmucker (1771-1854), the President of the German Evangelical Lutheran Ministerium of Pennsylvania and Adjacent States (the Ministerium of Pennsylvania, for short) in 1820 and 1821.  Our saint was one of the best-educated young Lutheran ministers in the United States.  He had graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton Theological Seminary.  In 1820, when young Schmucker was preparing to assume pastoral duties in New Market, Virginia, he and his father helped to found the General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the United States of America (the General Synod, in short).  The General Synod was the first national confederation of Lutheran synods in the United States.  Schmucker, who grew quickly into a leader of the General Synod, attended every convention through 1870.  At its founding, the General Synod encompassed almost all of the U.S. Lutheran Synods and the vast majority of U.S. Lutherans.  Within a few years, however, doctrinal disputes reduced the membership of the General Synod; the Ministerium of Pennsylvania defected in 1823.  (Then it rejoined in 1853 and departed again in 1867.)  Proposed union with the German Reformed Church caused another controversy in 1830.  Our saint saved the General Synod in 1823 and 1830.  Although some synods left the General Synod, others formed and affiliated with it over the years.

The General Synod was too liberal for many Lutherans in the United States in the 1800s.  This was especially ironic in the 1820s.  Our saint was relatively conservative; he advocated for an increased prominence of the Augsburg Confession (1530) in U.S. Lutheranism.  He also sought to purge all traces of Deism from U.S. Lutheranism.  Schmucker, like many Christians of his time, held an overly strict position on “worldly amusements;” the following entertainments (a few of them actually sinful), among others, were forbidden:

  1. Playing games of chance,
  2. Playing checkers,
  3. Playing chess,
  4. Casting dice,
  5. Playing cards,
  6. Listening to opera,
  7. Attending vocal performances in concert halls,
  8. Using tobacco,
  9. Consuming liquor, and
  10. Wearing fashionable clothing.

If Schmucker was too liberal, what was the standard of conservatism?  Perhaps his position that intellectual rigor was no threat to Christianity marked him as a liberal and an alleged heretic.  As time passed, so did his abolitionism, opposition to the U.S.-Mexican War (1846-1848), and acceptance of Evolution.

Schmucker and his father recognized the need for a Lutheran seminary in the United States.  They helped to found Gettysburg Theological Seminary, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in.  Schmucker, Sr., served as a trustee.  Our saint served on the faculty and as the President for nearly four decades.  The seminary gave rise to another institution, Pennsylvania College (now Gettysburg College) in 1832.

Schmucker wrote a textbook, Elements of Popular Theology, with Special Reference to the Doctrines of the Reformation, as Avowed Before the Diet at Augsburg, in MDXXX (1834).  This volume indicated our saint’s concept of orthodox Christianity.  He defined orthodox Christianity according to a common creedal core, which he defined as

fundamental doctrines of Scripture,

while eschewing overly specific creeds and allowing for disagreement in secondary matters.  Parts of some creeds were optional, Schmucker argued.  Orthodox Christianity, according to our saint, was Protestant yet did not include all Protestants.  Roman Catholics, Unitarians, Campbellites, Baptists, and Deists were not orthodox Christians, according to Schmucker.

Schmucker’s critics, starting in the 1830s, in particular, found more and more theological ammunition to use against him.  The General Synod permitted much theological latitude.  Our saint’s Eucharistic and Baptismal theology was closer to that of Calvinism than to that of Lutheranism.  (He did graduate from a Presbyterian seminary.)  He, influenced by the Second Great Awakening, was also a revivalist, to a point.  Puritanism and Pietism were prominent in his theology.  (Pietism had been part of a segment of Lutheran theology for some time by the 1800s.)  Schmucker’s “American Lutheranism” made him open to ecumenical relations with non-Lutherans he defined as orthodox.

This became evident by 1838, when Schmucker proposed church union–confederation, really–on what he called

the apostolic basis.

This plan offered six points of union:

  1. Variety in liturgy, polity, and discipline;
  2. Toleration of theological diversity within the ecclesiastical confederation;
  3. A common creed;
  4. Full communion and open communion within the ecumenical confederation;
  5. Cooperation in matters pertaining to “the common cause of Christianity;” and
  6. The Bible as the main textbook for religious and theological instruction.

Schmucker manifested other evidence of his liberalism as he aged and the General Synod became increasingly confessional and conservative, yet never sufficiently conservative, according to many U.S. Lutherans.  In 1855 our saint worked on the proposed American Rescension of the Augsburg Confession.  The controversial proposal, which most synods of the General Synod refused to accept, deleted the condemnations of non-Lutheran groups, removed mentions of baptismal regeneration, denied Consubstantiation, and argued that the Augsburg Confession (1530) contained errors.

Schmucker was also a liturgist.  He, as the head of the General Synod’s Committee on Liturgy of 1866, in lieu of the Liturgy of 1856.  The Provisional Liturgy of 1866 influenced the Washington Service (1876), which, in turn, presaged the Common Service (1888).  The Liturgy of 1856 was noteworthy for reintroducing The Apostles’ Creed (complete with “the holy Catholic Church”) to corporate worship.  A greater influence on the Common Service was the Reverend Beale Melanchton Schmucker (1827-1888), the more conservative, formalistic, and confessional son of our saint.  Beale, whose liturgical sensibilities were evident in the Ministerium of Pennsylvania’s Liturgy for Use in the Evangelical Lutheran Church (1860) and the General Council’s Church Book for the Use of Evangelical Lutheran Congregations (1868), was one of the greatest experts on liturgy and liturgical development.  He was, according to accounts, a walking encyclopedia on the subjects.  He was one of the main reasons the General Council had a stronger liturgical  tradition than the General Synod.

Schmucker lived long enough to witness the General Synod divide twice.  The General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Confederate States of America organized in 1863.  This organization became the General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America in 1866 then the General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the South in 1876.  Ten years later, with the addition of the Tennessee Synod, the Southern General Synod became the United Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the South.  The General Synod (1820) suffered another schism in 1867, when the General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America came into existence.  The merger that created The United Lutheran Church in America (ULCA) in 1918 repaired the schisms of 1863 and 1867.  The General Synod (1820) moved to the right as the General Council moved to the left.  The two confederations moved toward each other.

Schmucker married three times and outlived his first two wives.  He married Eleanora Geiger (1799-1823) in 1821.  Wife number two was Mary Catharine Steenbergen (1808-1848).  Our saint’s third wife was Heisther (Esther), who died in 1882.  Schmucker fathered at least four children.

Schmucker, aged 84 years, died in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on July 26, 1873.

I, as an Episcopalian, am creedal, not confessional.  I also accept science and oppose all forms of slavery.  Anglican collegiality is one of the defining characteristics of my faith.  Therefore, I find much to admire about Schmucker.  I also recognize points of strong disagreement with him.  Yet, whenever I ponder denominational full communion agreements, such as the one the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and The Episcopal Church share, I think Schmucker would approve.

Alex Haley advised,

Find the good and praise it.

I praise the good in the legacy of Samuel Simon Schmucker.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 9, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DENIS, BISHOP OF PARIS, AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 250

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN LEONARDI, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF THE MOTHER OF GOD OF LUCCA; AND SAINT JOSEPH CALASANCTIUS, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS

THE FEAST OF ROBERT GROSSETESTE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC SCHOLAR, PHILOSOPHER, AND BISHOP OF LINCOLN

THE FEAST OF WILFRED THOMASON GRENFELL, MEDICAL MISSIONARY TO NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR

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Almighty God, we praise you for your servant Samuel Simon Schmucker,

through whom you have called the church to its tasks and renewed its life.

Raise up in our own day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit,

whose voices will give strength to your church and proclaim the reality of your reign,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 46

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

Mark 10:35-45

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60

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Feast of William Reed Huntington and William Reed Huntington (July 27)   Leave a comment

Above:  Huntington Family Tree

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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WILLIAM REED HUNTINGTON (SEPTEMBER 20, 1838-JULY 26, 1909)

Episcopal Priest and Renewer of the Church

grandfather of

WILLIAM REED HUNTINGTON (1907-FEBRUARY 18, 1990)

U.S. Architect and Quaker Peace Activist

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INTRODUCTION

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One of the occasional happy accidents of writing hagiographies is starting with one saint and learning about another one.

July 27, in The Episcopal Church, is the Feast of William Reed Huntington (1838-1909).  The official collect for the occasion is:

O Lord our God, we thank you for instilling in the heart of your servant William Reed Huntington a fervent love for your Church and its mission in the world; and we pray that, with unflagging faith in your promises, we may make known to all people your blessed gift of eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 489

The assigned readings for the feast in that volume are Job 22:21-28, Psalm 133, Ephesians 1:3-10, and John 17:20-26.

To that commemoration I add this saint’s grandson William Reed Huntington (1907-1990), a Quaker peace activist.

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THE EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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William Reed Huntington was a pioneer and an influential priest in The Episcopal Church.  Our saint, born in Lowell, Massachusetts, on September 20, 1838, was a son of Elisha Huntington (1796-1865) and Hannah Hinckley Freeman (1800-1859).  He, an 1859 graduate of Harvard College, taught chemistry at Harvard in 1859-1860, before studying for the Episcopal priesthood.  Huntington, ordained in 1862, was the Rector of All Saints Church, Worcester, Massachusetts (1862-1883) then Grace Church, New York, New York (1883f).

Huntington was active in denominational affairs in various capacities.  He attended the General Conventions of 1871-1907 as a member of the House of Deputies.  In 1871 Huntington made the first motion for the Church to investigate creating the order of deaconesses.  Evangelical opposition contributed greatly to the 18-year-long delay in establishing that order in The Episcopal Church.  Our saint also prompted the adoption of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral (1888), with roots in The Church-Idea:  An Essay Towards Unity (1870).  At the General Convention of 1880 Huntington made the motion that led eventually to The Book of Common Prayer (1892), a volume he helped to edit.  One of our saint’s liturgical revisions was making the Feast of the Transfiguration (August 6) a holy day in The Episcopal Church.  Huntington also composed the collect for the occasion:

O God, who on the mount didst reveal to chosen witnesses thine only-begotten wonderfully transfigured in raiment white and glistening; Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may be permitted to behold the King in his beauty,who with thee, O Father, and thee, O Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth, one God, world without end.

–Quoted in James Thayer Addison, The Episcopal Church in the United States, 1789-1931 (1951), 227

Huntington also perceived no conflict between good science and good religion, especially in the context of debates over Evolution, which he affirmed.  In 1875 he told the Church Congress:

…the theologians must learn to look upon the naturalists as their allies rather than their antagonists….Truth is truth, however, and whencesoever obtained, and we can never have occasion to be either afraid of it or unthankful for it.

–Quoted in Addison, 249

Huntington, aged 70 years, died at Nahant, Massachusetts, on July 26, 1909.  His lifespan barely overlapped with that of the next saint, his grandson.

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THE QUAKER PEACE ACTIVIST

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The Huntington family produced some distinguished contributors to society.  In the generation of the first saint’s grandchildren, for example, were a state assemblyman (Prescott Butler Huntington, 1905-1988), a monsignor (Christopher Huntington, 1918-2007),  and a Quaker peace activist.

William Reed Huntington (1907-1990), a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Virginia, was an architect by profession.  He was also a Quaker and a peace activist long active in the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).  During World War II he directed a camp for conscientious objectors at Big Flats, New York.  After the war he was a co-commissioner of relief efforts for the AFSC in Europe.  In 1958 Huntington and other Quakers, the crew of the Golden Rule, sailed the vessel to the site of a U.S. nuclear weapons test at an island in the Pacific Ocean; their intention was to disrupt the test.  Caesar’s loyal men, in the name of law and order, obeyed their lord and master, sending the noble, non-violent resisters, who served Christ, the Prince of Peace, their lord and master, instead, to jail for 60 days.  In 1961-1963, during the Algerian War for Independence, our saint was the director of refugee assistance in Algeria and Tunisia.  Then, from 1963 to 1970, he was the representative of the AFSC to the United Nations.  Later Huntington directed the Quaker program at the U.N.

Huntington retired as an architect in 1982.  He died in Norwich, Vermont, on February 18, 1990.  He was 83 years old.

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CONCLUSION

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The William Reed Huntingtons were great men who made their positive marks on human events.  Both of them earned places on my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 10, 2018 COMMON ERA

PROPER 5:  THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES OF NISIBIS, BISHOP; AND SAINT EPHREM OF EDESSA, “THE HARP OF THE HOLY SPIRIT”

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GETULIUS, AMANTIUS, CAERAELIS, AND PRIMITIVUS, MARTYRS AT TIVOLI, 12O; AND SAINT SYMPHOROSA OF TIVOLI, MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANDERICUS OF PARIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF THOR MARTIN JOHNSON, U.S. MORAVIAN CONDUCTOR AND MUSIC DIRECTOR

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Almighty God, by your Holy Spirit you have made us one with your saints in heaven and on earth:

Grant that in our earthly pilgrimage we may always be supported by this fellowship of love and prayer,

and know ourselves to be surrounded by their witness to your power and mercy.

We ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ, in whom all our intercessions are acceptable through the Spirit,

and who lives and reigns for ever and ever.  Amen.

Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 2:7-11

Psalm 1

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Matthew 25:1-13

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 726

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Feast of Carl J. Sodergren and Claus A. Wendell (September 5)   2 comments

Augustana Synod Logo

Above:  Logo of the Augustana Synod

Image in the Public Domain

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CARL JOHANNES SODERGREN (SEPTEMBER 5, 1870-NOVEMBER 2, 1949)

U.S. Lutheran Minister and Theologian

colleague of

CLAUS AUGUST WENDELL (APRIL 24, 1866-SEPTEMBER 18, 1950)

Swedish-American Lutheran Minister and Theologian

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THE CONTEXT

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Both saints I am adding to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days with this post were ministers of the Augustana Synod, formed in 1860 by Swedish Lutheran immigrants to the United States.

When I draft a blog post adding someone to the Ecumenical Calendar I seek to present information in an orderly manner.  This entails avoiding the temptation to chase too many proverbial rabbits.  Know then, O reader, that I understand far more about the Augustana Synod then I will reveal in this post, which is about Sodergren and Wendell, not the synod.  If you want to read more about the Augustana Synod, consult C. Everett Arden, Augustana Heritage:  A History of the Augustana Lutheran Church (1963), published during the year following the Augustana Synod’s merger into the Lutheran Church in America (1962-1987).

The Augustana Synod had several names during its lifetime.  It formed as the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Augustana Synod in North America.  In 1894 the denomination dropped “Swedish” from its name.  Then, in 1948, the body became the Augustana Lutheran Church.  The Augustana Synod was originally ethnically Swedish, worshiping in that language.  By the end of the nineteenth century, however, the question of how often to use English was a subject of serious debate.  Our saints argued for the greater use of the English language in worship, for they understood that there the future of the synod lay.  The Augustana Synod made that transition, but not without much sturn und drang.  The fact of nativism in the United States during World War I did much to accelerate that process.

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CARL J. SODERGREN (I)

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Carl Johannes Sodergren, born on September 5, 1870, at LaPorte, Indiana, was a child of Swedish immigrants.  His mother was Brita Sodergren (1847-1919) and his father was the Reverend Carl Henrik Sodergren (1840-1905).  Young Carl studied at Augustana College and Theological Seminary (one institution until 1948), Rock Island, Illinois, graduating as the valedictorian in June 1891.

Biographical information about Sodergren has proven difficult to find, but I have been able to determine certain facts about him:

  1. He became a minister in the Augustana Synod.
  2. On June 30, 1897, at Chesterville, Texas, Sodergren married Elizabeth Chester (1873-1958).
  3. The couple had five children:  Carl Wendell (1898-1963)Una Elizabeth (1900-1985), Miriam Agatha (1904-1978), Anita Linnea (1907-1991), and Leila Ingeborg (1909-1911).
  4. The Augustana Synod designated the Lutheran Companion as its official English-language magazine in 1911.  Sodergren served as its editor, vacating that post in 1915.
  5. In 1913 Sodergren joined the theological faculty at Augustana College and Theological Seminary.  The installation ceremony occurred on March 11.

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CLAUS A. WENDELL (I)

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Claus August Wendell was a Swedish immigrant.  He, born Claus August Anderson at Sodia Ving, Vastergotland, on April 24, 1866, was a child of Lars Gustav Anderson, a farmer.  The family relocated to the United States when our saint was three years old and settled at Sycamore, Illinois.  Claus attended the country school there then studied at the Academy at Augustana College and Theological Seminary then at the college proper.  (Many colleges in the United States used to have academies and high schools attached to them.)  Our saint, as a young man, persuaded his parents to relocate to Rock Island, Illinois, where he graduated from the college with his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1893.  Claus, who changed his last name legally to Wingquist then to Wendell, remained in Rock Island for a few years, filling in the chair of English literature and philosophy (who was on a leave of absence) in 1894 then working on his Master of Arts degree (awarded in 1897).

Wendell married Anna Charlotte Norlin (1872-1965) in 1897.  The couple had two daughters, Anna Theolinda (born circa 1899) and Margaret (born circa 1909).

Wendell worked as an educator then a journalist for a few years.  He taught history at Rock Island High School from 1897 to 1902.  Then he joined the fifth estate.  Meanwhile Wendell was undertaking theological studies under the guidance of Dr. Conrad Emil Lindberg (1852-1930), who taught systematic theology at Augustana College and Theological Seminary from 1890 to 1930.  Lindberg, the most influential teacher in the Augustana Synod for a time, was, according to G. Everett Arden,

a conservative Lutheran, who saw the theology of the sixteenth century through the spectacles of the seventeenth-century Lutheran orthodox scholastics.

Augustana Heritage, 249

Wendell, ordained in 1905, served as the pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran Church, Rockford, Illinois, then of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Evanston, Illinois.  In 1914 he transferred to Grace Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota, from which he retired in 1947.  Wendell doubled as a staff correspondent for the Lutheran Companion, working under the editor, Carl J. Sodergren.

In 1918 and 1919 Wendell helped to found the Lutheran Bible Institute, located in the Twin Cities of Minnesota.  This proved to be ironic, for The Bible Banner, the Institutes’s official organ, championed fundamentalism, which Wendell opposed.

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SCIENCE AND REVELATION

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Sodergren and Wendell were, by the standards of the Augustana Synod in the early twentieth century, liberals.

I use that term precisely, not loosely (as many do) or as an invective (as many also do), because they were liberals, not revolutionaries.  If one uses the analogy or reinventing the wheel, one finds the following statements to be accurate:

  1. A reactionary thinks that the current wheel is nouveau and prefers the previous design.
  2. A conservative proposes that the wheel is fine as it is.
  3. A liberal agrees that the design of the wheel is generally sound yet requires some modification.
  4. A revolutionary argues that the current design of the wheel is flawed beyond repair and therefore favors reinventing it.

Sodergren and Wendell were Confessional Lutherans who belonged to a Confessional Lutheran denomination.  They affirmed such core Lutheran doctrines as baptismal regeneration and consubstantiation.  They stood within their tradition and argued by arguing for its continued relevance by avoiding the rigidity of fundamentalism on one side and the denial of Christ on the other side.  They stood in the theological lineage of St. Clement of Alexandria (died 210/215), who affirmed the validity of proved knowledge, regardless of its source.  Sodergren and Wendell stood in the best tradition of Christianity with regard to the reconciliation of faith and reason, along with luminaries such as St. Albert the Great, Robert Grosseteste, Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Pope Sylvester II (died 1003).

Charles Darwin did not originate the Theory of Evolution, but he did write two seminal books on the subject and became a proverbial lightning rod.  The debate over the relationship of faith and science, especially evolution, spread to the Augustana Synod.  In the December 16, 1914, issue  of the Lutheran Companion Sodergren, as editor, scandalized many in his denomination by waiting the following in the publication:

The time has arrived, it appears, for someone to say that the theory of evolution is not necessarily atheistic, and that is might be quite consistent with the Bible and with a Christian belief in God as the Creator of heaven and earth.

–Quoted in Augustana Heritage, 285

The fact that Sodergren published that editorial in character, for he had already advocated for the acceptance of modern Biblical criticism, such as saying that Moses did not write the Torah, that the Bible contradicts itself in places, and that David did not write all those Psalms attributed to him.  Sodergren had balanced this position by arguing for the “plenary inspiration of the Bible,” meaning that the Bible is the inspired word of God and is normative for faith and practices but without committing to any particular theory of inspiration.

In 1925 Sodergren published a book, Fundamentalists and Modernists.  He affirmed Christ while rejecting fundamentalism, advocating for a form of evangelical confessionalism instead.  His evangelical confessionalism valued both faith and scholarly investigation, including history and science.  Sodergren’s form of Christianity openly rejected the verbal inspiration of the Bible.  That theory, he insisted, was inconsistent with the reality that divine inspiration has a human element to it.  The theory of verbal inspiration of scripture, Sodergren wrote, tended toward the heresy of docetism, which stated that Christ only seemed to be human.  Furthermore, Sodergren wrote, the classic Lutheran confessions of faith do not affirm the verbal inspiration of the Bible.

Wendell, in The Larger Vision:  A Study of the Evolution Theory in Its Relation to the Christian Faith (1923), also affirmed the science, especially evolution.  God is the source of both science and revelation, he wrote.  Wendell also affirmed salvation via Christ in that book and in a chapter in What is Lutheranism? (1930), edited by Vergilius Ferm.  Wendell summarized Lutheranism this way:

Lutheranism then we should say, means three things:  (1) It means adherence to the Confessions, comprising the Book of Concord, not as so many cement walls for man’s incarceration but as a witness to the faith of the fathers and a guide to their followers.  (2)  Faith in the Holy Scriptures, not as a fetish on the one hand nor a mere human document on the other, nor as an arsenal of theological polemics, nor as a textbook of history and natural science, but the inspired Word of God, whose purposes it is to make us wise unto salvation; and (3) Above all else, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, not as a mere reformer or teacher or “pattern for young men,” but as the Redeemer of the world and the everlasting Rock upon which the church is built.

–Quoted in Augustana Heritage, 286

That answer did not satisfy ultraconservatives within the Augustana Synod.  Vocal critics were legion.  The Bible Banner heaped scorn on Ferm and Wendell, both of whom Dr. Samuel Miller, head of the Lutheran Bible Institute, attempted to have the Augustana Synod expel from the denomination on charges of heresy.

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THE AMERICAN LUTHERAN CONFERENCE (1930-1954)

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The Augustana Synod, a longtime (1870-1918) member of the General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America (1867-1918), withdrew from that umbrella organization rather than merge into the mainly ethnically German United Lutheran Church in America (ULCA).  Opposition to ULCA prompted mergers and closer cooperation among certain more conservative Lutheran denominations.  The American Lutheran Church (1930-1960) was the union of several relatively conservative and mostly Midwestern synods.  In 1930 this denomination, the Augustana Synod, the Norwegian Lutheran Church in America, the Lutheran Free Church, and the United Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church (the “Sad Danes,” in some referred to them, as opposed to the “Happy Danes” of the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church) constituted constituted a new alliance, the American Lutheran Conference, which disbanded 24 years later.  Three of the four members of the American Lutheran Conference merged to create The American Lutheran Church (1960-1987).  The Lutheran Free Church joined the new denomination in 1963.

The American Lutheran Conference existed to witness against ULCA.  The Conference affirmed the Galesburg Rule (1875) and the Minneapolis Theses (1925).  The former arose within the General Council over the question of pulpit and altar fellowship.  The Galesburg Rule was, verbatim:

The rule is:  1.  Lutheran pulpits are for Lutheran ministers only; Lutheran altars are for Lutheran communicants only.  2.  The exceptions to this rule belong to the sphere of privilege and not of right.  3.  The determination of the exceptions is to be made in consonance with these principles by the conscientious judgment of pastors, as the cases arise.

–Quoted in Abdel Ross Wentz, The Lutheran Church in American History, Second Edition (1933), 328

The Minneapolis Theses (1925) came into being as part of the process of the creation of The American Lutheran Church (1930-1960).  They affirmed the inerrancy of the Bible and asserted the doctrinal content of Lutheran confessions.  Whereas ULCA recognized the Christian character of all churches confessing Christian doctrine, the Minneapolis Theses did not go that far.  No, they recognized the reality that true Christians are present in a range of Christian denominations and stated that unanimous agreement

in the pure doctrine of the Gospel and the confession of the same in word and deed

presupposes ecumenical fellowship.  Church fellowship with non-Lutherans was, in other words, out of the question.  The Minneapolis Theses also condemned secret societies and stated that no Lutheran minister should belong to one.  Furthermore, they insisted, Lutheran clergymen should try to persuade lay members who belonged to any secret society to leave it.

Sodergren and Wendell opposed the Galesburg Rule and the Minneapolis Theses.  In The Augustana Quarterly in 1937 Sodergren protested the “exclusive confessionalism” of the Minneapolis Theses.  He wrote:

In spite of appearance to the contrary, the present generation is deeply religious; but its spirit fails to find in the old forms the body in which it can dwell.  But the reply to this prayer for the means of a daring adventure in faith–the reply of the established order–is only an exaggerated emphasis of the latter, of external observances, and of the old status quo…While the priests of yesterday are looking backward to the past and laboring to conserve its values, the prophets of tomorrow are facing the future and trying to give direction to movements of today.

–Quoted in Augustana Heritage, 287

At its 1937 convention the Augustana Synod censured and threatened with disciplinary actions some ministers accused of laxity with regard to the Galesburg Rule and the Minneapolis Theses.  This angered Wendell, who published his protest in the September 2, 1937, issue of the Lutheran Companion.  He wrote in part:

Orthodoxy is good.  It means adherence to the truth, and no sane man would willingly surrender that.  But orthodoxy without love is dangerous.  It provides fertile soil for bigotry, hatred, spiritual pride, self-conceit, and a score of other evils which hide the Holy One from the eyes of the world.  It turns men into merciless heresy hunters, the most contemptible vermin on earth.  It aligns us with the scribes and pharisees, the priests and high priests of the time of Jesus.  Nobody ever questioned their orthodoxy, but because it was loveless, it blinded them to His divinity and made it easy for them to spike Him to a cross.  We are not worried about the trumpet calls to orthodoxy which for some reason have begun to blare among us lately, but we do fear that the blare may drown out in our hearts the still small voice which prays for unity and love among all Christ’s disciples.

–Quoted in Augustana Heritage, 287-288

In the longterm Sodergren and Wendell won the argument, for they and people like them influenced the next generation of leaders of the Augustana Synod.  By the late 1940s work on the Service Book and Hymnal (1958), the joint service book-hymnal of eight Lutheran denominations, including ULCA and the members of the American Lutheran Conference, was underway.  The second American Lutheran Church came into being via the merger of three bodies in 1960.  The Lutheran Church in America formed in 1962 when four denominations united.  The American Lutheran Church expanded by means of a second merger in 1963.  Eight ecclesiastical bodies had become two denominations that used the same service book-hymnal.

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“THE LANGUAGE PROBLEM”

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Language is about far more than words, for it conveys culture as well as meaning.  This is especially true for those who speak in a language other than the dominant tongue in their nation-state.  A reading of the history of the immigrant churches in the United States reveals examples of ecclesiastical bodies that functioned as both agents of evangelism and of the cultural perpetuation.  Such a reading also informs me of the manners in which many people struggled with assimilation into the dominant American culture.  One might, for example, think of the Dutch immigrants and their descendants in the Christian Reformed Church in North America, the German-American Lutherans of various denominations, the Danish-American Lutherans in their two synods (the “Sad Danes” and the “Happy Danes”), and, of course, the Swedish-Americans of the Augustana Synod.  Furthermore, one might recall reading that rampant domestic xenophobia, often expressed via law and violence during World War I, accelerated the pace of the transition to English in all these cases.

Sodergren and Wendell led the pro-English language camp within the Augustana Synod.  Wendell even served as the chairman of the Association of English Churches.  In 1891 the General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America, to which the Augustana Synod belonged, founded the English Evangelical Lutheran Synod of the Northwest for congregations from the Great Lakes region to the Pacific coast.  The Synod of the Northwest appealed to many Confessional Lutherans who preferred to worship in English.  Ethnic enclave synods generally did a poor job of reaching out to this audience for a while, and many Midwestern and Western Lutherans who preferred to worship in English had to join non-Lutheran congregations.  Over time the geographical span of the Synod of the Northwest shrank due to territorial division.  Despite the necessity of the Synod of the Northwest its existence upset many in Augustana Synod officialdom, for they thought of it as a competitor on their home turf.

Sodergren and Wendell favored providing opportunities for younger Augustana Synod members who wanted to worship in English to do so, without depriving those who favored Swedish-language worship of those services.  Sodergren editorialized in the Lutheran Companion in the July 15, 1911, issue:

No one wishes to rob the old folks of the Swedish….In all our Swedish congregations the old folks are welcome, and will be for years to come, to half of the services, and that the better half–the Sunday morning service.  And no Christian will starve to death on this and a weekly meeting….But if we are considerate toward the old people and respect their admitted rights, we should also be equally careful not to refuse to give our young people their spiritual support.  We should be as concerned about their spiritual welfare….To have English services only once a month, or even every other Sunday evening, is almost worse than nothing.  It hurts the Swedish, and is of no conserving value to the English element.  It is merely a poor excuse….This plausible (?) selfishness which makes a language an end instead of a means is not a good conservative policy if our Synod is to live….It will not do to sacrifice souls on the altar of nationality.  Our congregations have a far higher calling than to be a mere “National-forening….”

–Quoted in Augustana Heritage, 245

He wrote in the August 30, 1913, issue:

Dear old Swedish language!  We all love it–but some of us don’t like it.  We feel for it a sense of loyalty and respect akin to what good children naturally feel for their parents.  Nevertheless, a new generation, born and reared far from the doughty little kingdom which once was the land of our fathers, is prone to conform to the customs of the country in which it finds itself, and to speak the language which is generally employed as a medium for the expression of thought.  The children, the young people (and ever so many old people), almost invariably use the English language in ordinary conversation….God wants us all to be saved.  Why not tell His message in an as natural and intelligible a manner as possible; in Swedish to those who think in Swedish, in English to those who think in English….What would we suggest!  That our children be taught Christianity by means of the English language, even in our Swedish congregations…None of us are in a hurry to “get rid of the Swedish,” but we are “in a hurry” to preserve these souls with or without Swedish.  And if that can be done by means of the English language we are guilty of murder or at least criminal neglect in failing to anticipate and make due provision.  The Companion stands for neither Swedish nor English.  It stands for the cause of Christ and the welfare of souls.  If shortsighted language-conservatism should prove to stand in the way of Christ and the future of our Church, we have no choice but to do as Luther did:  let the Latin go and insist on using the German in the interest of the common people.  They are or more value than much Latin.  The word of God is not Swedish; the Church of Christ is not Swedish; Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are not Swedish.  Nor are any or all of them English.  It is not a matter of language….

–Quoted in Augustana Heritage, 245-246

Both Sodergren and Wendell served on the committee that crafted The Hymnal and Order of Service (1925).  The Augustana Synod, recognizing the necessity of an English-language hymnal in 1895, ordered work on what became the Hymnal and Order of Service for Churches and Sunday-Schools (1901).  That volume, with 355 hymns, was always supposed to be an interim hymn book.  Work on the revised hymnal started in 1910 and lasted for 15 years.  The hymnal of 1925 offered 670 hymns.  Wendell, who joined the hymnal committee in 1920, wrote a paraphrase of Psalm 139:23-24 for the project.

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CARL J. SODERGREN (II)

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Sodergren became involved in another controversy within the Augustana Synod.  The denomination controlled the Augustana College and Theological Seminary, Rock Island, Illinois.  Sodergren, at least as early as 1925, sided with those who wanted to separate the college from the seminary, leaving the latter under denominational control and the former with a separate board and president.  The debate, which became quite bitter, dated to 1886.  Sodergren perceived that the only way to preserve the unity of the Augustana Synod was to divorce the college and the seminary.  As the college expanded faster than the seminary the latter received fewer necessary resources than the former.  Other issues in the debate included mere conservatism and the conflict of vested interests.  The separation of the college and the seminary finally occurred in 1948.

Sodergren wrote at least 16 books; I found listings for that many at WorldCat.  Aside from Fundamentalists and Modernists (1925) he wrote a book of Bible stories for use in Sunday schools, two courses in Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, and commentaries on various books of the Bible, as well as other works of theology.

Sodergren’s last residence was in the Twin Cities of Minnesota.  There he died on November 2, 1949.  He was 79 years old.

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CLAUS A. WENDELL (II)

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Wendell, who received a Doctor of Literature degree from Gustavus Adolphus College, also received a Doctor of Divinity degree from Augustana College and Theological Seminary in 1939.  He wrote at least eight books; I found listings for that many at WorldCat.  Some of those were literary works.  There was, of course, The Larger Vision (1923), about science and religion.  Wendell also wrote books of church history.

Wendell, who sat on the board of directors of the Augustana Book Concern, was, despite the attempt of one ultraconservative to have him declared a heretic and removed from the denomination, a widely respected and much-loved man.  He died at Minneapolis, Minnesota, on September 18, 1950.  He was 84 years old.

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CONCLUSION

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The names of these two saints came to my attention a year ago, when I was reading Augustana Heritage.  Sodergren and Wendell impressed me so much that I made a few notes about them and filed them away for future reference.  A few days ago I took many more notes then began to draft this post.

The legacies of Sodergren and Wendell can teach one several valuable lessons.  Among them is that, much of the time, one should stand within tradition and resist both the fetish of ossifying it and the temptation to dispose of it in favor of something new and shiny.  Tradition for its own sake is no virtue; the final words of a dying institution are:

We’ve never done it that way before!

Likewise, change for its own sake is no virtue either.  One risks throwing out the proverbial baby with the equally proverbial bath water.  As much as holding on to a certain tradition can constitute resisting social justice, overturning helpful traditions is destructive also.

Sodergren and Wendell understood that well.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 11, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BARNABAS, COWORKER OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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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 servants

Carl J. Sodergren and Claus A. Wendell,

and we pray that by their 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 Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (April 10)   2 comments

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Above:  Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Image in the Public Domain

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PIERRE TEILHARD DE CHARDIN (MAY 1, 1881-APRIL 10, 1955)

Roman Catholic Priest, Scientist, and Theologian

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Lord, since with every instinct of my being and through all the changing fortunes of my life, it is you whom I have ever sought, you whom I have set at the heart of universal matter, it will be in a resplendence which shines through all things and in which all things are ablaze, that I shall have the felicity of closing my eyes.

–Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, quoted by his friend, Father Pierre Leroy, S.J., in the biographical sketch in The Divine Milieu:  An Essay on the Interior Life (first Harper Torchbook edition, 1965), page 42

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Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), 73 years old, died of a stroke on Easter Sunday, April 10, 1955, in the City of New York.  He was more famous as a scientist than as a theologian, for the Roman Catholic Church, of which he was a priest, had forbidden him to publish any spiritual, theological, or philosophical works since the 1920s.  He was, by the standards of the Roman Catholic Church at the time, a heretic.  His funeral was a small event, with ten friends present.  Teilhard de Chardin’s reputation grew posthumously with the publication of once-forbidden works.  His death created the opportunity for his spiritual, theological, and philosophical writings to go to the printing presses.

Cinephiles among the readers of this post might know The Shoes of the Fisherman (1968), a pious movie with a flawed script which leaves too many dangling plot threads.  Anthony Quinn does a wonderful job of portraying Pope Kiril (I), a native of the Ukraine.  Kiril is a compassionate man with a Pope Francis-like common touch and desire to effect peace where military conflicts rage.  Among Kiril’s friends is Father David Telemond, whose theological orthodoxy is suspect.  Telemond is the Teilhard de Chardin figure in the story, based on Morris West’s 1963 novel.

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Our saint was a Frenchman.  The native of Orcines, Auvergne, France, was the fourth of eleven children of Emmanuel and Berthe-Adele Teilhard de Chardin.  Emmanuel was a gentleman farmer, and Berthe-Adele was a great-grandniece of Francois-Marie Arouet (1694-1778), a.k.a. Voltaire, snarky author of Candide, or Optimism (1759) and one of the most famous author of the Enlightenment.  The 18-year-old Teilhard de Chardin entered the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) at Aix-en-Provence in 1899.  The realities of French government policy required him to continue his studies in Jersey, England, from 1902 to 1905.  Our saint taught chemistry at the Jesuit high school in Cairo, Egypt, from 1905 to 1908.  Then, from 1908 to 1911, he studied in Hastings, England.  There, in 1911, he became a priest.

A scientific career followed.  In 1912 Teilhard de Chardin commenced doctoral studies in paleontology and geology at the Sorbonne.  World War I (1914-1918) interrupted those plans, for he was a stretcher-carrier in the French Army for a few years.  After the war our saint returned to the Sorbonne, where he completed his doctorate in 1922.  That year he became the Chair of Geology at the Institute Catholique, Paris.

That was when the trouble started for Teilhard de Chardin.  Pope Pius X (reigned 1903-1914), with the anti-intellectual mindset he learned from his peasant background, was a theological stalwart.  He condemned Modernism, born out of an effort to reconcile faith and theology with developments in science and other secular knowledge.  Among these developments was evolution, extant since Greek antiquity yet restated and revived powerfully in the writings of Charles Darwin (1809-1882) and Alfred Wallace (1823-1913).  Pius X (beatified in 1951 and canonized three years later) unleashed what J. N. D. Kelly described in The Oxford Dictionary of Popes as

a widespread, often embarrassing harassment of scholars which widened the breach between the church and the intelligentsia.

–Page 314

Although Pope Benedict XV (reigned 1914-1922) calmed that conflict, official Roman Catholic suspicion of evolution and Modernism persisted for decades.  For example, in Humani generis (August 12, 1950), Pope Pius XII (reigned 1939-1958) wrote:

A glance at the world outside the Christian Fold will familiarize us, easily enough, with the false directions which the thought of the learned often takes.  Some will contend that the theory of evolution, as it is called–a theory which has not been proved beyond contradiction even in the sphere of natural science–applies to the origin of all things whatsoever….These false evolutionary notions, with their denial of all that is absolute or fixed or abiding in human experience, have paved the way for a new philosophy of error….The Teaching of the Church leaves the doctrine of Evolution an open question, as long as it confines its speculations to the development, from other living matter already in existence, of the human body…..Original sin is the result of a sin committed, in actual historical fact, by an individual man named Adam….

–Quoted and excerpted from The Papal Encyclicals in Their Historical Context:  The Teachings of the Popes from Peter to John XXIII (edited by Anne Fremantle, 1963), pages 294-298

The opening of the proverbial church windows to the world had to wait until Pius XII’s successor, John XXIII (reigned 1958-1963).

Teilhard de Chardin’s superiors suspected that he stood outside of Roman Catholic tradition.  In some ways he did.  Roman Catholicism has long contained mutually exclusive traditions, actually.  Critics in the mold of Pius X stood in the anti-intellectual tradition, which has existed within Roman Catholicism for more than a millennium.  Distrust of scientific knowledge has long run amok there.  Teilhard de Chardin stood within the also longstanding Roman Catholic tradition of reconciling faith and reason, informed by science.

Teilhard de Chardin not only accepted human evolution as fact but gave it a prominent place in his theology.  He wrote that the emergence of humans constituted the birth of reflection.  Physical evolution, he wrote, had gone about as far as it could.  The current phase of evolution, he insisted, was human socialization, that is, cultural convergence toward a single society in which love is the highest radial energy, or inward tendency, toward self-perfection.  The culmination of evolution, Teilhard de Chardin wrote, will be the Second Coming of Christ, the physical center of evolution, and the source of the love energy in that process.

Teilhard de Chardin’s optimistic theology had Christ at its center.  Our saint understood the human-divine relationship as being properly collaborative.  Jesus, he wrote, was the Divine Milieu, always at work in creation.  Since “milieu,” in French, indicates both “center” and “environment,” the use of that word was especially expressive and compact.

Certain critics noted that our saint did little theologically regarding issues of sin and evil, and that his treatment of them was either wrong or inadequate.  St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) had, for example, defined sin as disordered love, which was not Teilhard de Chardin’s opinion.

No human being is perfect, hence no human system of theology avoids flaws.  No theologian has ever been infallible, so yes, Teilhard de Chardin committed some theological errors, as did his critics and St. Augustine of Hippo also.  My primary question regarding our saint’s theology is whether the core of it was sound.  Integrating science and religion and placing Christ at the center of the evolutionary process seems sound to me.

Teilhard de Chardin got into trouble with Holy Mother Church initially because of a paper he wrote on the relationship to original sin to human evolution.  No draft of it satisfied his ecclesiastical superiors, who forced him to sign official renunciations of the views contained in that paper.  In 1925 the Jesuit Superior General removed our saint from the position of Chair of Geology at the Institut Catholique, Paris.  The Vatican forbade Teilhard de Chardin to publish anything in the realms of spirituality, theology, or philosophy, and in the late 1920s, exiled him to China.  Our saint spent most of the next almost twenty years in Asia, living in China until 1934 and again from 1939 to 1946.  He participated in many expeditions, including the one which discovered the 400,000-year-old school of Peking Man in 1929.  Teilhard de Chardin visited France periodically, and traveled in India, China, Japan, and the United States from 1934 to 1939.

Troubles with the Church continued to follow Teilhard de Chardin after World War II.  He returned to France in 1946, but had to leave after a few years.  Our saint served as the director of research at the National Center for Scientific Research.  In 1948 the Jesuit Superior General prevented him from standing as a candidate for the Chair of Paleontology at the College de France.  Teilhard de Chardin eventually left for the United States, where he accepted a position with the Wenner-Grenn Foundation for Anthropological Research.

Our saint had a joie de vivre, for he enjoyed pleasures such as good food and humor.  Nevertheless, official rejection and interference caused him much distress.  Teilhard de Chardin’s friend, Father Pierre Leroy, S.J, wrote:

There was no contradiction in his soul, no ambiguity between his humble loyalty as a son of the Church and the boldness of his philosophical views.  But in the depths of his being there raged the excruciating torment of reconciling his complete submission to the Church with the integrity of his thought.

–“Teilhard de Chardin:  The Man,” in The Divine Milieu:  An Essay on the Inner Life (first Harper Torchbook edition, 1965), page 37

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Teilhard de Chardin left an astounding legacy.  He wrote 10 volumes of hard science and 15 of anthropology, philosophy, spirituality, and theology.  He had to endure the Vatican’s official frown during most of his life, but recent Popes have affirmed parts of his theology.  Our saint wrote in The Divine Milieu (written, 1926 and 1927; published in French, 1957; published in English, 1960):

Nothing is profane to those who know how to see.

By that standard, Roman Catholicism knows how to see better after the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II, 1962-1965) than it did before.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 15, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER

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Eternal God, the whole cosmos sings of your glory,

from the dividing of a single cell to the vast expanse of interstellar space:

We bless you for your theologian and scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin,

who perceived the divine in the evolving creation.

Enable us to become faithful stewards of your divine works

and heirs of your eternal kingdom;

through Jesus Christ, the firstborn of all creation,

who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns,

one Gd, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Isaiah 55:6-11

Psalm 65

Revelation 21:1-6

John 3:31-35

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 321

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POSTSCIPT

I have not attempted to write a comprehensive account of Teilhard de Chardin’s life and theology, for others have done that already.  For more complete yet not tome-length accounts, O reader, I refer you to three sources:

  1. The American Teilhard Association;
  2. “Teilhard de Chardin:  The Man,” by Father Pierre Leroy, S.J., in the Harper Torchbook edition of The Divine Milieu; and
  3. The chapter on Teilhard de Chardin in A Handbook of Christian Theologians–Expanded Edition (1984), edited by Martin E. Marty and Dean G. Peerman.

There are also Teilhard de Chardin’s writings, of course.

KRT

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