Archive for the ‘Neo-orthodoxy’ Tag

Feast of Orange Scott (February 6)   Leave a comment

Above:  Wesleyan Chapel, Seneca Falls, New York, Site of the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

ORANGE SCOTT (FEBRUARY 13, 1800-JULY 31, 1847)

U.S. Methodist Minister, Abolitionist, and first President of the Wesleyan Methodist Connection

+++++++++++++++++++++++++

Ye are the salt of the earth:  but if the salt have lost his savour, wherefore shall it be salted?

–Matthew 5:13a, Authorised Version

+++++++++++++++++++++++++

One, acting on faith, may retreat from the world, giving up hope of transforming it for the better.  Alternatively, one acting on faith, may act in revolutionary ways that improve one’s society.  One may think of the world as the camp of Satan, therefore, give up on it.  A better attitude is to think of the world as one’s neighborhood, for which one is partially responsible.

Orange Scott acted in revolutionary ways to improve his proverbial neighborhood.

Scott, from a poor family and lacking much formal education, became a prominent abolitionist.  He, born in Brookfield, Vermont, on February 13, 1800, began working full-time at the age of 12 years.  After his conversion experience at a camp meeting in 1820, our saint joined the Methodist Episcopal Church.  Within a year, the Church had licensed Scott to preach.  He traveled the Bernard Circuit (200 miles long with 30 stations) on feet and a horse.  He, admitted to the New England Conference in 1822, became a Presiding Elder (in today’s terms, District Superintendent) in 1830.  At first, Scott was the Presiding Elder of the Springfield District.  By 1834, however, he served in that capacity in the Providence District.  Our saint, an effective evangelist, expanded his work from saving souls to reforming society.  He, a delegate to the General Conferences of 1832, 1836, and 1840, became an abolitionist in the early 1830s.  Despite warnings to be quiet, he remained vocal.  Scott paid the price by losing his Presiding Eldership after speaking out at the General Conference of 1836.

Scott’s final years in the Methodist Episcopal Church were difficult for him.  He was a pastor in Lowell, Massachusetts, for a year (1836-1837) before spending two years as a traveling agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society.  He, back in the pulpit in 1839, spoke out against slavery again at the General Conference of 1840.  His experience at that gathering convinced him to leave the denomination, which he did on November 8, 1842.  The Wesleyan Methodist Connection organized at Utica, New York, on May 31, 1843.

Scott was active in the new denomination.  He served as its first president (1843-1844) then as its book agent (1844-1847).  Our saint worked himself to death, though.  Scott, aged 47 years, died in Newark, New Jersey, on July 31, 1847.

The Wesleyan Methodist Connection, a predecessor of The Wesleyan Church (formed via merger in 1968), was radical during its earliest decades.  The Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls, New York, hosted the Seneca Falls Convention (1848), about women’s rights.  The denomination attracted social revolutionaries, including feminists (especially suffragettes), temperance activists, pacifists, and abolitionists.  Many Wesleyan Methodist churches were stations of the Underground Railroad.  Early Wesleyan Methodists tended to act on the belief that they could improve society.

As time passed, however, the torch of change passed to the mainline churches, which embraced the Social Gospel then the more sober-minded Neo-orthodoxy.  Wesleyan Methodists opposed these movements, as well as higher Biblical criticism and science; they became fundamentalists preoccupied with personal holiness.  This transition was part of what scholars of religion in the United States call the Great Reversal.

Scott understood the truth, though.  He knew that saving souls was not at odds with being salt and light in the world.  He grasped the importance of leaving the world better than one found it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 12, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK J. MURPHY, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCISCUS CH’OE KYONG-HWAN, KOREAN ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR, 1839; SAINTS LAWRENCE MARY JOSEPH IMBERT, PIERRE PHILIBERT MAUBANT, AND JACQUES HONORÉ CHASTÁN, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS, MISSIONARIES TO KOREA, AND MARTYRS, 1839; SAINT PAUL CHONG HASANG, KOREAN ROMAN CATHOLIC SEMINARIAN, AND MARTYR, 1839; AND SAINTS CECILIA YU SOSA AND JUNG HYE, KOREAN ROMAN CATHOLIC MARYTRS, 1839

THE FEAST OF KASPAR BIENEMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOSIAH IRONS, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; AND HIS DAUGHTER, GENEVIEVE MARY IRONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC HYMN WRITER

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Gracious Father, we pray for your holy Catholic Church.

Fill it with all truth, in all truth with all peace.

Where it is corrupt, purify it;

where it is in error, direct it;

where in anything it is amiss, reform it.

Where it is is right, strengthen it;

where it is in want, provide for it;

where it is divided, reunite it;

for the sake of Jesus Christ your Son our Savior,

who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Ezekiel 34:1-6, 20-22

Psalm 12:1-7

Acts 22:30-23:10

Matthew 21:12-16

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 735

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Feast of James D. Smart (January 23)   Leave a comment

Above:  Logo of the Presbyterian Church in Canada

Fair Use

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

JAMES DICK SMART (MARCH 1, 1906-JANUARY 23, 1982)

Canadian Presbyterian Minister and Biblical Scholar

++++++++++++++++++++++++

In Jesus Christ God was reconciling the world to himself.  Jesus Christ is God with man.  He is the eternal Son of the Father, who became man and lived among us to fulfill the work of reconciliation.  He is present in the church by the power of the Holy Spirit to continue and complete his mission.  This work of God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is the foundation of all confessional statements about God, man, and the world.  Therefore the church calls men to be reconciled to God and to one another.

–The United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., The Confession of 1967

++++++++++++++++++++++++

James D. Smart comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via The Interpreter’s Bible, for which he wrote the introduction to and the exegesis of the Book of Jonah in Volume VI (1956).  He described that story as a postexilic parable, a position I take for granted.  Based on Smart’s academic analysis of the Book of Jonah, I responded with surprise when I read one source describe him as conservative.  I grew up around many self-described conservatives, who considered such talk heretical.  Smart was a Barthian, a position many fundamentalists (especially hardcore Calvinists) consider heretical.  Smart was Neo-orthodox, a position many fundamentalists consider too liberal.

Words such as “liberal” and “conservative” are inherently relative and of limited value.

Smart, a Presbyterian, grew up in a Presbyterian family.  He, born in Alton, Ontario, Canada, on March 1, 1906, was a child of John George Smart and Janet Dick Smart.  The Smarts raised their son firmly in the faith.  Our saint studied at the University of Toronto (B.A., 1926; M.A., 1927) then at Knox College (Class of 1927).  Smart continued his studies, focusing on the Old Testament, at the Universities of Marburg and Berlin (1929-1930) before returning to the University of Toronto to complete his doctorate (1931).

Smart married and had a family.  He married Christine Mckillop on September 24, 1931.  The couple raised three daughters:  Margaret Jean, Mary Eleanor, and Janet Ann.

Smart became a Presbyterian minister.  He, ordained into the Presbyterian Church in Canada in 1931, served the Ailsa Craig Presbyterian Church, Ailsa Craig, Ontario, from 1931 to 1934.  Then our saint was pastor of Knox Presbyterian Church, Galt, Ontario (1934-1941), and St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church, Peterborough, Ontario (1941-1944).  While pastor in Peterborough, Smart wrote a book, What a Man Can Believe (1943).

That volume earned Smart his next job, Editor-in-Chief of the Christian education curriculum in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., from 1944 to 1950.  Our saint’s ability to communicate theology effectively to lay people proved useful in his new position.  He overhauled the curriculum, shifting it away from progressive, secular, student-centered theories of education, especially learning by doing, and to Bible-centered lessons that presented doctrines and Biblical scholarship.  Sunday School enrollment in the denomination doubled and the curriculum helped to strengthen other practical aspects (such as home visitation and the training of parents) of Christian education.

Smart worked in Canada again from 1950 to 1957. He served as minister of Rosedale Presbyterian Church, Toronto, Ontario; lecturer in Christian education at Knox College (1951-1957) and at Ewart College; Professor of Hermeneutics, Knox College; and Editor-in-Chief of Curriculum Publications for the Presbyterian Church in Canada.  Our saint also found time to write more books, including The Teaching Ministry of the Church (1954).  He linked the recovery of theology to the revitalization of ministry.

Smart was the Jesup Professor of Biblical Interpretation at Union Theological Seminary, New York, New York, from 1957 to 1970.  He also traveled around the world as a lecturer.  Smart’s theological fingerprints were all over The United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.’s Confession of 1967, a document to which many self-described conservatives objected strenuously.

Smart spent 1970-1982 in Canada.  He was a collegiate minister at Rosedale Presbyterian Church, Toronto, from 1970 to 1974.  He retired from ministry in 1974, but continued to write.  He died at home on January 23, 1982.  Our saint was 75 years old.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 31, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICODEMUS, DISCIPLE OF JESUS

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

We thank you for the faithful legacy of [James D. Smart 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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Feast of Gustaf Aulen and Anders Nygren (November 15)   1 comment

Above:  Flag of Sweden

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

GUSTAF EMMANUEL HILDEBRAND AULÉN (MAY 15, 1879-1977)

teacher and colleague of

ANDERS THEODOR SAMUEL NYGREN (NOVEMBER 15, 1890-OCTOBER 20, 1978)

++++++++++++++++

SWEDISH LUTHERAN BISHOPS AND THEOLOGIANS

++++++++++++++++

After World War I, Neo-orthodoxy became a major theological movement in English-speaking Christianity.  A similar movement in Swedish-speaking Christianity at the same time was Lundensian theologyGustaf Aulén and Anders Nygren were architects of that theology.

Aulén, born in Sjungsby on May 15, 1879, became a minister, bishop, theologian, and liturgist.  He, an assistant professor at the University of Uppsala (1907-1913) then Professor of Systematic Theology at the University of Lund (1913-1933), founded the Swedish Theological Quarterly in 1925.  He remained on the editorial staff into his retirement.  While at Lund, he wrote influential works (later translated into English):  The Christian Conception of God (1927), Christus Victor (1930), and The Faith of the Christian Church (1932).  Aulén, a student of Nathan Söderblom (1866-1931) at Uppsala, favored the Classic Theory of the Atonement over Penal Substitutionary Atonement, which St. Anselm of Canterbury favored, and the Moral Exemplar Theory, which Peter Abelard favored.  Aulén also taught Nygren at Lund then served with him on the faculty.

Nygren, born in Gothenburg on November 15, 1890, had a lifelong fascination with philosophy that influenced his scholarly and theological work.  He, ordained in The Church of Sweden in 1912, left parish ministry nine years later.  In 1921 he received his doctorate from the University of Lund and became a lecturer there.  Three years later, he became Professor of Systematic Theology, serving until 1948.  Lundensian theology incorporated philosophical methods and perspectives for the purpose of seeking to engage in theology in a scientifically responsible manner.  Lundensian theology was also moderate, avoiding anti-intellectualism on the right and disregard for tradition on the left.  That philosophical background was evident in Nygren’s Agape and Eros (two volumes, 1930 and 1936), which argued that agape and eros are polar opposites.

Both Aulén and Nygren became bishops.  Aulén became the Bishop of Strängäs, serving from 1933 to 1952.  He, as a bishop, contributed tunes to the new hymnal (1927) and helped to shape the new service book (1942).  Aulén also helped to form the World Council of Churches (1948), as did Nygren, the first President of the Lutheran World Federation (1947-1952).  Nygren served as the Bishop of Lund from 1948 to 1958.

Both Aulén and Nygren also continued to write after they retired.  Aulén wrote, for example, Eucharist and Sacrifice (1956) and Reformation and Catholicity (1959).  Nygren, in retirement, wrote Meaning and Method:  Prolegomena to a Scientific Philosophy of Religion and a Scientific Theology (1972).

Above:  The Title Page to Commentary on Romans

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Both men argued for continuity from Jesus to St. Paul the Apostle.  Nygren made that point in his influential Commentary on Romans (1944), a volume other exegetes of that epistle quote.  According to the Carl C. Rasmussen translation (1944),

Until quite recently it was customary for theology to draw a sharp line between Jesus and Paul.  Jesus preached the coming of the kingdom of God; but Paul, it was said, changed this to the doctrine of justification by faith.  Now there is room for no doubt that this view is false, and that the continuity between Jesus and Paul is essentially unbroken.  When, therefore, we seek to fix the basic thought in Paul’s view of the gospel, it is quite proper to point out how it has both its origin and its anchor in Jesus’ proclamation about the kingdom of God.

–9

Above:  The Spine of Commentary on Romans

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

The bishops died within a year of each other.  Aulén, aged 98 years, died on December 16, 1977.  Nygren, aged 87 years, died in Lund on October 20, 1978.

Their contributions to theology have never died, fortunately.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 28, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BINNEY, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND “ARCHBISHOP OF NONCONFORMITY”

THE FEAST OF ANDREW REED, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, HUMANITARIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ANNA JULIA HAYWOOD COOPER AND ELIZABETH EVELYN WRIGHT, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EDUCATORS

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH C. CLEPHANE, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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 Gustaf Aulén and Anders Nygren,

and we pray that by their teaching we may be led to a fuller understanding

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), 61

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Feast of Peter Taylor Forsyth (November 11)   2 comments

Above:  Peter Taylor Forsyth

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

Also known a P. T. Forsyth

Scottish Congregationalist Minister and Theologian

++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Feast of Harry Emerson Fosdick (October 5)   5 comments

Above:  Harry Emerson Fosdick

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

HARRY EMERSON FOSDICK (MAY 24, 1878-OCTOBER 5, 1969)

U.S. Northern Baptist Minister and Opponent of Fundamentalism

+++++++++++++++++++++++++

…we cannot harmonize Christ himself with modern culture.  What Christ does to modern culture is to challenge it.

–Harry Emerson Fosdick, “The Church Must Go Beyond Modernism” (1935); quoted in Dewitte Holland, ed., Sermons in American History:  Selected Issues in the American Pulpit, 1630-1967 (Nashville, TN:  Abingdon Press, 1971), 377

+++++++++++++++++++++++++

Harry Emerson Fosdick was one of the most influential ministers in the United States of America during the twentieth century.  He, controversial in life, has remained so postmortem.

Fundamentalism is inherently ahistorical.  This is not an idea original to me.  Consider, O reader, Karen Armstrong:

…fundamentalism is ahistorical:  it believes that Abraham, Moses and the later prophets all experienced their God in exactly the same way as people do today.

A History of God:  The 4000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam (1994), xx

One might also consider G. E. Mendenhall, author of The Tenth Generation (1973):

Biblical fundamentalism, whether Jewish or Christian, cannot learn from the past because in so many respects the defense of presently accepted ideas about religion is thought to be the only purpose of biblical narrative.  It must, therefore, support ideas of comparatively recent origin–ones that usually have nothing to do with the original meaning or intention of biblical narrative because the context is so radically different.

–Quoted in W. Gunther Plaut, The Torah:  A Modern Commentary, Vol. IV, Numbers (New York:  Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1979), xiv-xv

Fosdick, born in Buffalo, New York, on May 24, 1878, came from a devout family with a tradition of valuing education.  His father was Frank Sheldon Fosdick.  Our saint’s mother was Amy Inez Weaver.  His brother, Raymond B. Fosdick, grew up to become an esteemed attorney, as well as a friend and associate of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. (1874-1960).  Our saint, baptized at the age of seven years, thought about becoming a missionary before deciding on domestic ministry.  He, having graduated from high school in 1896, matriculated at Colgate University.  He graduated with his A.B. degree four years later, and was the class poet.  Fosdick, ordained a Baptist minister in 1903, graduated from Union Theological Seminary the following year.  He married Florence Allen Whitney (d. 1964) on August 16, 1904.  The couple had two daughters.

Fosdick served in a few congregations and taught at Union Theological Seminary.  He, from 1904 to 1915 the pastor of First Baptist Church, Montclair, New Jersey, began his 38-year-long stint of teaching practical theology at Union Theological Seminary in 1908.  He was an instructor (1908-1915), a professor (1915-1917, 1919-1934), and a part-time faculty member (1934-1946).  In 1917-1919 our saint worked as a chaplain with the Y.M.C.A. in France.  After World War I he returned to New York City, to begin duties as assistant minister (1919-1925) of First Presbyterian Church.

Fosdick became a central figure in the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., a denomination to which he did not belong.  In 1922 he preached a seminal sermon, “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?”  He condemned the intolerance of fundamentalism and criticized minor theological disputes (such as arguments about the Virgin Birth) as distractions

when the world is perishing for the lack of the weightier matters of the law, justice, and mercy, and faith.

–Quoted in Holland, ed., Sermons in American History, 347

John D. Rockefeller, Jr., liked the sermon so much that he paid for the printing and mailing of the text to every Protestant minister in the United States.  Clarence Macartney (1879-1957), conservative pastor of Arch Street Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, replied via a sermon that year.  He asked, “Shall Unbelief Win?” and accused Fosdick of heresy and intolerance.  After much controversy, Fosdick had to resign in 1925.

Above:  Park Avenue Baptist Church, New York, New York

Photographer = Irving Underhill

Image Source = Library of Congress

Rockefeller, Jr., offered Fosdick another position, though.  Our saint accepted the pastorate of Park Avenue Baptist Church on four conditions, which he established:

  1. That baptism by immersion cease to be a requirement for membership;
  2. That the congregation become interdenominational, accepting Christians of all creeds;
  3. That the congregation move to a less swanky neighborhood; and
  4. That the initial salary cap for Fosdick be $5000 ($69,900, adjusted for inflation, to 2017 currency).

Above:  Riverside Church and Grant’s Tomb, New York, New York

Image in the Public Domain

Rockefeller, Jr., financed the construction of the Gothic edifice of the renamed Riverside Church, located near Columbia University and Grant’s Tomb.  The congregation’s first Sunday in the new building, dedicated in 1931, was October 5, 1930.  Fosdick wrote the hymn, “God of Grace and God of Glory,” for the occasion.  For 15 years 1931-1946) Fosdick was the most influential Protestant minister in the United States.  For 20 years (1926-1946) he preached on national radio.  He retired from Riverside Church in 1946.

Fosdick was a prolific author of books and articles.  Some of these were volumes of sermons.  Many other books were psychological-theological in nature.  Examples of these included Twelve Tests of Character (1923) and On Being a Real Person (1943).

Fosdick, who preferred modernism to fundamentalism, was critical of modernism, too.  In 1935 he preached a sermon, “The Church Must Go Beyond Modernism.”  Modernism, he said, was a necessary advance.  However, our saint stated, the church needed to move beyond it, for modernism was imperfect.  It was simultaneously preoccupied with intellectualism and too sentimental, according to Fosdick.  He also argued that modernism had

largely eliminated from its faith the God of moral judgment.

–Quoted in Holland, ed., Sermons in American History, 373

Our saint also asserted that modernism had accommodated too much to the world that it (modernism) had placed people at the center and relegated God to an advisory capacity.  Modernism, Fosdick argued, had also surrendered the moral high ground.  Our saint was arguing for Neo-orthodoxy.

Fosdick stood up for a range of controversial positions.  His adopted pacifism, evident in his hymn, “The Prince of Peace His Banner Spreads” (1930), was more popular at certain times than others.  Our saint also advocated for the civil rights of African Americans when doing so was often unpopular.  The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. (1939-1968) thought of Fosdick as a prophetic figure.  Fosdick, eschewing anti-Semitism, also sympathized with displaced Palestinians.  He, not a Zionist, opposed the creation of the State of Israel.

Fosdick wrote four hymns, all of which have remained germane:

  1. God of Grace and God of Glory” (1930),
  2. The Prince of Peace His Banner Spreads” (1930),
  3. O God, in Restless Living” (1931), and
  4. O God, Who to a Loyal Home” (1956).

Fosdick, aged 91 years, died in Bronxville, New York, on October 5, 1969.

Perhaps the précis of Fodick’s life was the following excerpt from “God of Grace and God of Glory”:

Save us from weak resignation

To the evils we deplore;….

Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 4, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF FRIARS MINOR

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM SCARLETT, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF MISSOURI, AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

O God, by your Holy Spirit you give to some the word of wisdom,

to others the word of knowledge,

and to others the word of faith:

We praise your Name for the gifts of grace manifested in your servant Harry Emerson Fosdick,

and we ray that your Church may never be destitute of such gifts;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit

lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Wisdom of Solomon 7:7-14

Psalm 119:97-104

1 Corinthians 2:6-10, 13-16

John 17:18-23

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 720

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Feast of Lynn Harold Hough (September 9)   Leave a comment

Above:  Lynn Harold Hough

Image Source =  Drew University Library

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

LYNN HAROLD HOUGH (SEPTEMBER 10, 1877-JULY 14, 1971)

U.S. Methodist Minister, Theologian, and Biblical Scholar

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Once more we are reminded that only God is to be met with a bended knee.  Even the high must not be given the place of the highest–even the good must not be given the place of the best.  The tragedy of mistaken loyalties is one of the greatest tragedies of the world.  Too late Wolsey realized that he had given to his king, Henry VIII, what belonged only to God.

–Dr. Hough’s exposition on Revelation 22:9, in The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 12 (1957), 545

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Lynn Harold Hough, with his Roman collar, Charlie Chaplin mustache, and keen intellect, comes to A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days via Volume 12 (1957) of The Interpreter’s Bible.

Hough owed much to Eunice Richey Giles (1856-June 3, 1937), his devoted, single mother.  She had married Franklin M. Hough, father of our saint.  The marriage had ended in divorce in 1877, and Eunice had moved back home, to Cadiz, Ohio, when she gave birth to her only child, Lynn Harold Hough, on September 10, 1877.  Eunice, a devout Methodist, raised her son in the faith.  She also worked hard to provide him with the best education possible.  In 1898 he graduated (with his B.A.) from Scio College, Scio, Ohio, where his mother worked as a cook.  Hough, ordained a minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church (1784-1939), served in churches in New Jersey, New York, and Maryland from 1898 to 1914.  He also became the head of the household, which included his mother until 1936, when he married.

Above:  Drew Theological Seminary

Image Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor from Matthew Simpson, ed., Cyclopedia of Methodism, Embracing Its Rise, Progress, and Present Condition, with Biographical Notices, 6h ed. (1876), 315

Hough continued his education, graduating from Drew Theological Seminary (now Drew Theological School, Drew University), Madison, New Jersey, with his B.D. in 1905.

Above:  Garrett Biblical Institute

Image Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor from Matthew Simpson, ed., Cyclopedia of Methodism, Embracing Its Rise, Progress, and Present Condition, with Biographical Notices, 6h ed. (1876), 389

Our saint, from 1914 to 1918 Professor of Historical Theology at Garrett Biblical Institute (now Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary), Evanston, Illinois, graduated from that institution with his D.Th. in 1918.  Our saint, from 1919 to 1920 the President of Northwestern University, host of Garrett Biblical Institute, established the graduate division of the university’s School of Commerce and laid the foundations, metaphorically speaking, for subsequent improvements at the university.  He resigned for health reasons.

Above:  Central Methodist Episcopal Church, Detroit, Michigan

Image Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor from Matthew Simpson, ed., Cyclopedia of Methodism, Embracing Its Rise, Progress, and Present Condition, with Biographical Notices, 6h ed. (1876), 294

Hough returned to parish work for the period of 1920-1930.  For eight years (1920-1928) Hough served as the pastor of Central Methodist Episcopal Church (now Central United Methodist Church), Detroit, Michigan.  Our saint was, the “preacher to the intelligentsia,” according to his contemporary, Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971), pastor of Bethel Evangelical Church, Detroit, from 1915 to 1928, and a fellow anti-Ku Klux Klan activist.  The outspoken Hough was not shy about expressing his opinions and opposing bigotry.  Our saint stated that the United States should have joined the League of Nations.  He condemned the Daughters of the American Revolution for being critical of Jane Addams (1860-1935).   In 1923 our saint described the second Ku Klux Klan as

the most diabolical organization this nation ever saw.

(That unequivocal statement was quite different from Donald Trump’s statement about the alleged presence of “very fine people” on both sides in he context of white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.  That statement’s most avid fans were white supremacists.  This pattern of giving aid and comfort to unapologetic bigots has not surprised me, given Trump’s public statements and over the years, as well as many of his policies, to the present day.  Nativism, xenophobia, and white nationalism have been present in him for a long time.There were no “very fine people” in the Ku Klux Klan, according to our saint.  In 1925 years later Hough’s assertion that Evolution and the Bible were mutually compatible nearly prompted a heresy trial.  Hough was usually a delegate to the denomination’s General Conference, which met every four years, but he was not a delegate in 1928.  The reason for Hough not being a delegate that year was the backlash against his article, “Why Not a Catholic President?” (Plain Talk magazine, 1927).  The article did lead, however, to an honorary degree from the University of Detroit (Roman Catholic).  Of the eleven honorary degrees Hough received, he was proudest of that one.  From 1928 to 1930 Hough was the pastor of the American Presbyterian Church (amalgamated into the Erskine and American United Church, extant 1934-2011; now amalgamated into the Mountainside United Church), Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  During that time he also doubled as the President of the Religious Education Council of Canada.

Hough was active in many organizations, including the Federal Council of Churches, the National Council of Churches, the Society for Biblical Literature, the Masonic Lodge, the Methodist Episcopal Church (1784-1939), The Methodist Church (1939-1968), and The United Methodist Church (1968-).  Furthermore, he traveled across the United States and the world, preaching at prominent churches and, in 1934, addressing the League of Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland, on “The Church and Civilization.”

Hough returned to academia for good in 1930.  At Drew Theological Seminary he was Professor of Homiletics (1930-1933), Professor of Homiletics and Comprehensive Scholarship (1933-1937), Professor of Homiletics and Christian Criticism of Life (1937-1947), and Dean (1934-1947).  Our saint, a well-read Anglophile with an expansive vocabulary, as well as a firm grasp of history and literature, founded the Department of Christian Humanism at Drew.  He retired in 1947.

Hough, like any properly functioning human being, changed his mind as time passed.  He, a pacifist, initially opposed U.S. entry into World War II.  Our saint was not naïve, though; he recognized the necessity of Allied victory, for the sake of civilization.  Hough, with his customary tolerance, supported the causes of conscientious objectors while supporting the war effort and ministering to military personnel.  He remained committed to peace as he adjusted to reality.  Hough’s theology also changed.  He settled into what he called a “new orthodoxy” more liberal than Fundamentalism, more conservative than Modernism, and distinct from the Social Gospel and Neo-Orthodoxy.  The Social Gospel, Hough argued correctly, was utopian, therefore not realistic.  Neo-Orthodoxy, he insisted, went too far by emphasizing the human inability to arrive at Christian faith.

I reject Hough’s critique of Neo-Orthodoxy.

Hough, being a staunch Methodist–a thoroughgoing Methodist, not a Baptist masquerading as one, per the old joke that a Methodist is a Baptist who can read–placed a high premium on the power of human free will.  He came very close to putting the Pelagianism in Semi-Pelagianism.  Karl Barth (1886-1968) and Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971), leading Neo-Orthodox theologians, had Reformed backgrounds, however.  Barth, a minister in the Swiss and Reformed Church, emphasized divine actions, not human ones.  Niebuhr, a minister in the Prussian Evangelical (Lutheran-Reformed) tradition, rejected the Social Gospel as placing too little stress on sin and assuming too much human agency.  He emphasized original sin, which he redefined beyond an individual focus to have a strong societal, institutional component.  Barth was probably more optimistic than the sometimes grimly realistic Niebuhr.  Original sin, having corrupted human nature, institutions, and societies, severely hampered one’s ability to act morally, even when one was trying very hard to do so, Niebuhr taught.  My reading of Barth and Niebuhr has convinced me that they were mostly correct.

I am, by the way, an Anglican-Lutheran Single Predestinarian, so my theology makes room for free will to have a role in salvation for those not predestined to Heaven.  My critique of Hough is that he placed too much emphasis on free will.  I hold that nobody finds God, but that God finds people.  Via free will those not destined to Heaven may obey the invitation of the Holy Spirit and say “yes” to God, and therefore find salvation and eternal life, in the Johannine sense of eternal life, which is knowing God via Jesus.

Image Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Hough wrote prolifically.  His catalog included 35 books (about one a year for a while) and many articles.  In retirement he, a visiting professor at various elite institutions off-an-on, wrote for The Interpreter’s Bible in the 1950s.  He wrote the exposition on the Book of Revelation in Volume 12 (of 12), published in 1957.  (I quoted a portion of that exposition at the beginning of this post.)

Image Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Hough also wrote “The Message of the Book of Revelation,” spanning pages 551-613 of Volume 12.

Hough, a Victorian in terms of morality, resided with his Eunice, mother (or rather, she lived with him) until 1936, when, at the age of 58 or 59, he married.  Our saint’s wife was Blanche Horton Trowbridge, a 57-year-old widow of a Congregationalist minister.  She had also been a missionary in Turkey then Egypt for a quarter of a century.  Sadly, Eunice Hough, who had devoted her life to her only child, died in New York City on June 3, 1937, after an automotive accident.  She was about 81 years old.  The Houghs died less than a year apart; the cause of death in both cases was heart attack.  Blanche, aged about 92 years, died on August 3, 1970.  Lynn, aged 93 years, died on July 14, 1971.

One might justifiably ask why Hough, one of the most famous preachers of his time, has fallen into obscurity.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I also composed the collect and selected the passages of scripture.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Compassionate God, you have created us in your image and endowed us with intellect.

We thank you for your servant Lynn Harold Hough,

who loved you with all his heart, mind, and strength, and who loved his neighbors as he loved himself.

May we likewise recognize your presence in history, literature, and each other,

as well as employ our intellects fully, as we confront forms of bigotry;

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who,

stretching his arms on the hard word of the cross beckoned all the world to himself.

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

Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 44:1-15

Psalm 1

Philippians 2:1-11

Matthew 7:24-27

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 9, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDITH STEIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND PHILOSOPHER

THE FEAST OF SAINT HERMAN OF ALASKA, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONK AND MISSIONARY TO THE ALEUT

THE FEAST OF JOHN DRYDEN, ENGLISH PURITAN THEN ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC POET, PLAYWRIGHT, AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF MARY SUMNER, FOUNDRESS OF THE MOTHERS’ UNION

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

Feast of Soren Kierkegaard (September 8)   1 comment

Above:  Portrait of Søren Kierkegaard, by Luplau Janssen

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

SØREN AABYE KIERKEGAARD (MAY 5, 1813-NOVEMBER 11, 1855)

Danish Philosopher and Theologian, and Father of Existentialism

Søren Kierkegaard comes to A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days via the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), and The Episcopal Church.  The Lutheran feast day (since 1978) is November 11.  The Episcopal feast day (since 2009) is September 8, also the Feast of Nikolai Grundtvig in The Episcopal Church.  I suspect that the decision to assign Kierkegaard the feast day of September 8, along with Grundtvig, is related to the rationale for group commemorations, but, in this case, without merging the feasts.

Not all those included in the Calendar need to be commemorated “in isolation.”  Where there are close and natural links between persons to be remembered, a joint commemoration would make excellent sense….

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 744; A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016), A74

My father was a United Methodist minister in southern Georgia, U.S.A.  One morning, in Sunday School in one of those congregations, the teacher of an adult class made an assertion (the details of which I cannot recall, and do not matter anyway) then said that he had faith and had proof.  I recognized the elements (faith and proof) of the last part of that statement as being mutually exclusive.  Kierkegaard would have done more than arch an eyebrow, had he heard that Sunday School teacher’s statement.

Kierkegaard:  A Brief Biography

Søren Aabye Kierkegaard, born in Copenhagen, Denmark, on May 5, 1813, became more influential after his lifetime than he was during it.  His father was Michael Pederson Kierkegaard (d. 1838), an erstwhile farmer who had moved to the capital city and became a prosperous wool merchant.  Michael was also a melancholy, puritanical who passed his disposition down to his guild-ridden son.  Søren, initially planning to become a minister in the state Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark, studied theology at the University of Copenhagen from 1830 to 1840.  Although our saint never lost his faith in God, he became hostile to the state church, so he never pursued ordination.  He, living off inherited wealth, focused on writing books and articles (often under pseudonyms) in the fields of theology, psychology, ethics, and philosophy.  Our saint never married, for reasons biographers have interpreted in different ways.  He, engaged to Regine Olsen (1822-1904), in 1840-1841, broke off the engagement and never told her his reasons.

As I explained in the post about Bishop Grundtvig, the dominant strain in Danish Lutheranism at the time was Rationalism, which reduced ministers to teachers of morality and Christianity to an idea–a reasonable one, of course.  Grundtvig challenged Rationalism from within the state church, which he transformed.  Kierkegaard, however, condemned the state church as a mockery of Christianity.

In the thought of Kierkegaard proof negated faith.  If one could prove the Incarnation, the existence of God, and the truth of Christianity, one would negate faith and replace it with evidence.  A leap of faith was necessary.  Absolute knowledge was neither rational nor possible, our saint insisted, contradicting Georg Hegel.  Kierkegaard also contradicted a raft of Greek philosophers who taught that people have the truth inside them and need merely to become conscious of that fact.  No, our saint wrote, both the truth and the ability to understand it come from outside–from God, to be precise.

Kierkegaard had another objection to the Danish state church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark:  It made being a Christian too easy.  Challenges were inherent in the Christian pilgrimage of faith, our saint understood.  Did not Jesus command each person to take up his or her cross and follow Him?  The union of church and state in Denmark robbed the Danish state church of its authenticity and power, Kierkegaard argued.

Kierkegaard, aged 42 years, died in Copenhagen on November 11, 1855.  He had been paralyzed since he had collapsed in a street on October 2.  To the end our saint refused offers of ministrations by ministers of the state church.  He said,

Royal functionaries are not related to Christianity.

An Influential Legacy

Kierkegaard, although a prolific and widely read author during his lifetime, was also a frequently ignored one, especially by bishops of the state church.  Yet his influence spread posthumously, due in large part to translations of many of his works.  Oft-cited thinkers who owed much to Kierkegaard’s writings included the existentialist philosopher Jean Paul Sartre (1905-1980) and the Neo-Orthodox theologians Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971) and Karl Barth (1886-1968).

To that list I add another one none of my sources mentioned:  Lesslie Newbigin (1909-1998).  He taught that to argue for the truth of the Gospel based on an outside standard of reliability is to make the outside standard more important than the Gospel.  Nothing, Newbigin insisted, was more important than the Gospel, and the sole ground for a Christian’s proper confidence in the truth of the Gospel was Jesus.  Newbigin, like Kierkegaard, opposed efforts to make Christianity”reasonable.”  And Newbigin used gentler rhetoric than Kierkegaard did.

God continues to speak through the writings of Søren Kierkegaard, fortunately.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 7, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF COLBERT S. CARTWRIGHT, U.S. DISCIPLES OF CHRIST MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT GUGLIELMO MASSAIA, ITALIAN CARDINAL, MISSIONARY, AND CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF JOHN SCRIMGER, CANADIAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, ECUMENIST, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICTRICIUS OF ROUEN, ROMAN CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR AND ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Heavenly Father, whose beloved Son Jesus Christ felt sorrow and dread in the Garden of Gethsemane:

Help us to remember that though we walk through the valley of the shadow, you are always with us,

that with your philosopher Søren Kierkegaard,

we may believe what we have not seen and trust where we cannot test,

and so come at length to the eternal joy which you have prepared for those who love you;

through the same Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

Exodus 33:14-23

Psalm 22:1-11

1 Timothy 1:12-17

Matthew 9:20-22

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 569

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++