Archive for the ‘Reinhold Niebuhr’ Tag

Thoughts and Questions About the Temptations of Jesus   4 comments

Above:  The Temptations of Jesus

Image in the Public Domain

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For St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia

Lent 2019

Texts:  Mark 1:12-13; Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13

Reading the Bible for spiritual formation is an ancient Benedictine practice.  My primary purpose in writing this short piece is to ask, how do the accounts (mainly the Lukan and Matthean ones) of the temptations of Jesus challenge us, both as individuals and a parish, to follow Jesus better than we do.

The Temptation to Turn Stones into Bread

Bread was especially precious in ancient Palestine, with relatively little arable land.

We are blessed to be able to purchase our bread inexpensively at stores.  Bread is abundant in our context, so we probably take it for granted more often than not.  We can, however, think of some tangible needs related to scarcity.

One challenge is not to permit tangible needs to overtake intangible necessities.  We all depend entirely on God and dwell within a web of mutual responsibility and dependence.  According to the late Henri Nouwen, this temptation is the temptation to be relevant.  Relevance is not necessarily bad; in fact, it is frequently positive.  However, maintaining the proper balance of tangible and intangible needs is essential.  Furthermore, Christ’s refusal to cave into the temptation to use his power to make bread—to cease to depend on God—ought to remind us never to imagine that we do not depend entirely on God.

Questions

  1. Do we permit tangible needs to distract us from intangible necessities?  If so, how?
  2. Do we manifest the vain idea that we do not depend entirely on God?  If so, how?

The Temptation to Jump from the Pinnacle of the Temple

Many scholars of the New Testament have proposed what the pinnacle of the Temple was.

That matter aside, this temptation is, according to Nouwen, the temptation to be spectacular.  It is also the temptation to attempt to manipulate God by trying to force God to intervene in a miraculous way.  That effort, like turning stones into bread, would indicate a lack of faith.

We humans frequently like the spectacular, do we not?  We tell ourselves and others that, if only God would do something spectacular, we will believe.  We are like those who, in the Gospels, only wanted Jesus to do something for them, and not to learn from him.

Questions

  1. Does our attraction to the spectacular distract us from the still, small voice of God?  If so, how?
  2. Does our attraction to the spectacular reveal our lack of faith?  If so, how?
  3. Does our attraction to the spectacular unmask our selfishness?  If so, how?

The Temptation to Worship Satan in Exchange for Earthly Authority

Many Palestinian Jews at the time of Christ thought of Satan as the power behind the Roman Empire and of the Roman pantheon as a collection of demons.  Jesus affirmed God the Father as the only source of his identity.

This temptation is about idolatry, power, and morally untenable compromises.

Many well-intentioned people—ministers, politicians, and appointed office holders, for example—have, in the name of doing good, become corrupt and sacrificed their suitability to do good.  They have sacrificed their moral integrity on the altar of amoral realism.

Some compromises are necessary, of course.  As Reinhold Niebuhr reminded us, we cannot help but commit some evil while trying to do good, for human depravity has corrupted social systems and institutions.

Questions

  1. Have we established our identity apart from God?  If so, how?
  2. How have we, with good intentions, committed or condoned evil?
  3. Have we made morally untenable compromises?  If so, how?

The Good News

The good news is both collective and individual.

I discover the principle, then:  that when I want to do right, only wrong is within my reach.  In my inmost self I delight in the law of God, but I perceive in my outward actions a different law, fighting against the law that my mind approves, and making me a prisoner under the law of sin which controls my conduct.  Wretched creature that I am, who is there to rescue me from this state of death?  Who but God?  Thanks be to him through Jesus Christ our Lord!  To sum up then:  left to myself I serve God’s law with my mind, but with my unspiritual nature I serve the law of sin.

–Romans 7:21-25, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Jesus has modeled the way to resist temptation—to trust God and to understand scripture.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 10, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF MARIE-JOSEPH LAGRANGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT AGRIPINNUS OF AUTUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT GERMANUS OF PARIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND SAINT DROCTOVEUS OF AUTUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OGLIVIE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACARIUS OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/03/10/thoughts-and-questions-about-the-temptations-of-jesus/

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Feast of Paul Tillich (October 22)   1 comment

Above:  Paul Tillich’s Grave Marker

Image in the Public Domain

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PAUL JOHANNES TILLICH (AUGUST 20, 1886-OCTOBER 22, 1965)

German-American Lutheran Theologian

Paul Tillich was a major theologian during the twentieth century–a peer of the great Karl Barth.  Both men shared some core ideas, such as the centrality of Christ, but differed regarding natural theology.

Tillich, born n Starzeddel, Prussia, the German Empire, on August 20, 1886, grew up in a devout Lutheran family.  His mother was Wilhemina Mathilde Tillich.  Our saint’s father, Johannes Tillich, was a minister.  Young Paul studied in Starzeddel (-1900) and Berlin (1900-1904) before studying at the Universities of Berlin, Tübingen, Halle, and Breslau (1904-1911).  Tillich, awarded his Ph.D. from Breslau in 1911, became a Lutheran minister the following year.

Tillich worked in his native Germany until 1933.  He, an army chaplain from 1914 to 1918, married Margarethe Wever in 1914.  She left him for another man in 1919.  Tillich remarried in 1924.  His second wife, until he died in 1965, was Hannah Werner-Gottschow.  Our saint taught at the Universities of Berlin (1919-1924), Marburg (1924-1925), Leipzig (1925-1929), and Frankfurt (1929-1933).  The University of Frankfurt fired Tillich for his vocal opposition to Nazism.

The Tillichs emigrated in 1933.  Our saint accepted a position (via Reinhold Niebuhr) at Union Theological Seminary, New York, New York.  Our saint was Professor of Philosophical Theology at UTS (1933-1955), University Professor at Harvard University (1955-1962), and Nuveen Professor of Theology at The University of Chicago (1962-1965).

Tillich, aged 79 years, died in Chicago, Illinois, on October 22, 1965.

Tillich’s theology was influential and nuanced.  Others have summarized it better than what follows.  Nevertheless,….

  1. God is not merely a being.  No, God is the ground of being.  God is being-itself.
  2. Christianity is the revelation of a new reality–one renewing the old reality–not a revelation of doctrine.
  3. Natural theology has the Incarnation of Jesus at its core.  Life is sacred because of its relationship to God, in whom the reconciliation of the religious and the secular is possible.
  4. Religion is not just “spiritual.”  No, it is also physical, germane to all of life.
  5. Salvation is more than individual.  It applies to the world, and is applicable to broken relationships.
  6. Kairos is what happens when eternity invades time, transforming humankind and society.  Kairos is central to Tillich’s understanding of history, defined as a series of transformational transitions, such as the Incarnation.
  7. Given the reality of human depravity, therefore of finite human freedom, mere ethics prove inadequate to lead to human reunion with God.  This reunion is possible only via divine action overcoming human despair and estrangement.
  8. Christ incarnate was the first “true man” because he was the first one united with God, the ground of being.
  9. The power of being, as in the Incarnation, is natural, not supernatural.

Tillich’s theology offers much to ponder for lengthy periods of time.  The categories of “natural” and “supernatural,” set in opposition to each other, seem artificial.  If something is part of the created order, is it not, by definition, natural?  The “supernatural” is actually natural, just in ways we do not understand or relate to in the same way as we do to sunsets, trees, rocks, and cats.  So, of course, the power of being is natural, not supernatural.  The incarnation is about as natural as possible, yes.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE TWELFTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL JOHNSON, “THE GREAT MORALIST”

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN FURCHTEGOTT GELLERT, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, EDUCATOR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ELLA J. BAKER, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF PAUL SPERATUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN BISHOP, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

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

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 Paul Tillich,

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

of the truth we have seen in your Son Jesus, our Savior and Lord,

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

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

Psalm 119:89-104

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

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

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 61

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Feast of William Scarlett (October 4)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Flag of The Episcopal Church

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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WILLIAM SCARLETT (OCTOBER 3, 1883-MARCH 28, 1973)

Episcopal Bishop of Missouri, and Advocate for Social Justice

Bishop William Scartlett comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via The Interpreter’s Bible.

Scarlett, born in Columbus, Ohio, on October 3, 1883, grew up to become a courageous, progressive Christian leader on the vanguard of various moral causes.  He was what certain cynical reactionaries of 2018 would have called a “social justice warrior.”  So were Hebrew prophets.  Our saint, influenced at an early age by Washington Gladden (1836-1918) and Walter Rauschenbush (1861-1918), proponents of the Social Gospel, graduated from Harvard University with his A.B. degree in 1905.  Scarlett, unsure about whether to study for ministry or medicine, worked on a ranch in Nebraska for a year.  He matriculated at the Episcopal Theological School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1906, and graduated three years later.  Our saint, spent the rest of his life in ordained ministry marked by a dedication to social justice dictated by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Scarlett cared deeply by outreach to the poor, the rights of industrial workers, civil rights, and other issues germane to human relations.  He was, in order:

  1. Assistant Rector, St. George’s Episcopal Church, New York, New York (1909-1911);
  2. Dean, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Phoenix, Arizona (1911-1922);
  3. Dean, Christ Church Cathedral, St. Louis, Missouri (1922-1930);
  4. Bishop Coadjutor of Missouri (1930-1933); and
  5. Bishop of Missouri (1933-1952).

Friend Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971) described our saint as

the conscience of the community.

Scarlett was on the avant-garde of The Episcopal Church with regard to social ethics.  He advocated for the liberalization of the denomination’s stance on remarriage after divorce.  In 1946 our saint edited Christianity Takes a Stand, in which various authors took a stand against societal sins such as racial segregation and the federal government’s recent internment of West Coast Japanese Americans.  Although the House of Deputies, at the General Convention of 1946, consented without debate to sponsor the publication of the book, the majority of Episcopalians were not ready to espouse those positions yet.

Scarlett, a Low Church Episcopalian and self-described Liberal Evangelical who wore a tie in lieu of a clerical collar, was a natural ecumenist.  He cooperated with members of other Christian denominations as easily as he did with Jews.  At Christ Church Cathedral, St. Louis, our saint scandalized many Anglo-Catholics by encouraging interdenominational Eucharists.  He also scrapped plans for a new Episcopal hospital in the city when he learned of a similar Presbyterian plan.  The result was cooperation, not competition, in the form of St. Luke’s Episcopal-Presbyterian Hospital.  He also favored the merger of The Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. in the 1940s.  The proposal did not survive the late 1940s.  It would probably have been impractical anyway.

(Aside:  I mean no disrespect to any Presbyterians, but the denominational cultures and certain theological-liturgical factors are too different for merger to be practical.  I suppose that many Presbyterians agree with that assessment.  Cooperation of many issues is feasible and desirable, however.)

Scarlett retired in late 1952.  His successor as Bishop of Missouri was Arthur Carl Lichtenberger (1900-1968), later the Presiding Bishop of the denomination.

In retirement Scarlett wrote the exposition on the Book of Jonah for The Interpreter’s Bible.  He wrote, in part:

If God has a controversy with his people, it is because there has been in our world too little concern for our brother, too little recognition that his fate is bound up in ours, and ours in his, even to the least, too much forgetting that word of old, “We are members of one another” (Eph. 4:25) and if one member suffers, “all the members suffer with it” (I Cor. 12:26).  A plain fact of the nineteen-thirties is that Hitler climbed to power on the backs of the unemployed in Germany, and it was this frustration, this sense of uselessness, in millions of lives that made his way easy.

The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VI (1956), 877

That is a chilling text in 2018.

The resurgence of fascism and of authoritarianism in general has been current reality in the world, from the Philippines to Europe to Brazil to Turkey to Europe for a few years now.  Many of the enablers of fascist and other authoritarian leaders have been professing Christians.  The call to “Make America Great Again” has echoed pre-World War II movements to make Italy and Germany great again.  The rhetoric of “America First,” originated before World War II in an openly anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi movement to keep the United States out of that war, has returned, still with racist overtones.  Calls for U.S. society and government to practice the Golden Rule have become subversive as many professing Christians have chosen to ignore the demands of that great commandment and embraced xenophobia and nativism, largely out of fear.

I encourage you, O reader, to read Scarlett’s exposition on the Book of Jonah and to oppose–resist–the deplorable resurgence of fascism and of authoritarianism in general.

Scarlett, aged 89 years, died in Castine, Maine, on March 28, 1973.  His wife, Leah Oliver Van Riper (b. 1889), had predeceased him in 1965.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 3, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE KENNEDY ALLEN BELL, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF CHICHESTER

THE FEAST OF ALBERTO RAMENTO, PRIME BISHOP OF THE PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENT CHURCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT GERARD OF BROGNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF JOHN RALEIGH MOTT, U.S. METHODIST LAY EVANGELIST, AND ECUMENICAL PIONEER

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Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image.

Help us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and to make no peace with oppression.

Help us, like your servant William Scarlett, to work for justice among people and nations,

to the glory of your name, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

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

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60

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

Above:  Lynn Harold Hough

Image Source =  Drew University Library

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

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

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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

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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.

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

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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

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Feast of Soren Kierkegaard (September 8)   1 comment

Above:  Portrait of Søren Kierkegaard, by Luplau Janssen

Image in the Public Domain

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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

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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

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Posting of Saints of July to Resume Soon   Leave a comment

Above:  The Author, June 1, 2018

Photograph by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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I understand the age-old desire of many saints to escape into a hermitage, cave, or other place and avoid the outside world.  Karl Barth and Reinhold Niebuhr might criticize me; the latter might remind me of my sad duty to create justice in an unjust world.  I have no such power, however.  My vote is usually in vain, actually.  It will make a difference again, one day–perhaps this year.

I have had enough.  I have had too much.

In my country, the United States of America, the lunatics stormed the asylum, so to speak, in 2016.  My desire to remain sane and not to become a perpetually angry and profane man has outweighed my desire to remain thoroughly informed as I have escaped into hagiographies, saints, and science fiction.  I have chosen the nurturing of piety over getting into pissing contests with skunks.  I have, however, worked political statements into many posts, many of them hagiographies or devotions.

For the last few days I have focused my blogging attention on LENTEN AND EASTER DEVOTIONS, where I have been adding posts for 2019.  I had written those drafts a few months ago, but I was waiting until after Pentecost to begin the process of creating new posts.  Today I began to take notes on saints with feast days from July 21 to 31.  So far I have taken notes on seven saints for four posts, leaving at least eleven saints in nine posts to go.  I have found that I need to set some blogging projects aside to focus on another blogging project for a time.  With the process of updating LENTEN AND EASTER DEVOTIONS nearly complete for another year, I have decided to return to hagiographies for a little while.

At least I am trying to do something positive.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR, CHRISTIAN APOLOGIST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAMPHILUS OF CAESAREA, BIBLE SCHOLAR AND TRANSLATOR; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL STENNETT, ENGLISH SEVENTH-DAY BAPTIST MINISTER AND HYMN-WRITER; AND JOHN HOWARD, ENGLISH HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMEON OF SYRACUSE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Feast of Myles Horton (July 10)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Flag of the State of Tennessee

Image in the Public Domain

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MYLES FALLS HORTON (JULY 9, 1905-JANUARY 19, 1990)

“Father of the Civil Rights Movement”

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From my mother and father, I learned the idea of service and the value of education.  They taught me by their actions that you are supposed to serve your fellow men, you’re supposed to do something worthwhile with your life, and education is meant to help you do something for others.

–Myles Horton

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Myles Horton was a radical, by the standards of his time.  He was so radical that he dared to love like Jesus and confront institutionalized economic and racial structures of injustice.

Horton, born in Savannah, Tennessee, on July 9, 1905, grew up in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.  His parents were Elsie Falls and Perry Horton.  Our saint, who started working in factories as an adolescent, became a labor rights activist at an early age.  He went on to study at Cumberland University, Union Theological Seminary, and The University of Chicago before studying folk schools in Denmark while traveling in Europe.  Then Horton’s work kicked into high gear.

In 1932, with help from his former professor, Reinhold Niebuhr, who wrote a fund-raising letter, Horton opened the Highlander Folk School, then called the Southern Mountain School, at Monteagle, Tennessee.  At the folk school people learned job skills and labor organizing tactics.  Racial integration was also a reality at Highlander Folk School, which became deeply involved in the Civil Rights Movement.  Many Southern African Americans, including Rosa Parks, studied there.  Luminaries who taught at Highlander Folk School included Rosa Parks; Fannie Lou Hamer; Martin Luther King, Jr.; and Eleanor Roosevelt.  In the late 1950s, for example, Roosevelt was teaching civil disobedience tactics at the folk school.  She traveled in the company of another elderly woman, without armed guards, as members of the Ku Klux Klan sought to assassinate the former First Lady.

Horton and the Highlander Folk School became targets of harassment and violence.  In 1986 Horton told Sojourners magazine that he had suffered broken ribs, a broken collar bone, a skull fracture, the knocking out of teeth, the slashing of his arms, and incarceration.  The school became a target for various law enforcement agencies, the Ku Klux Klan, and other members of the paranoid and fearful far Right Wing who mistook racial integration for a communist plot.  U.S. Senator James O. Eastland of Mississippi attempted to close the school.  The State of Tennessee succeeded briefly in 1962, but Horton moved the school to Knoxville and reopened it as the Highlander Research and Education Center.  Since 1972 the school has been in New Market.

Horton, who retired as leader of the school in 1973, continued as an activist until he died of brain cancer at New Market on January 19, 1990.  He was 84 years old.

The website of the Highlander Research and Education Center identifies the school’s mission and tactics:

We work with people fighting for justice, equality, and sustainability, supporting their efforts to take collective action to shape their own destiny.

That remains radical in much of the U.S. society and body politic in 2018, unfortunately.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 10, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE ASCENSION

THE FEAST OF SAINT ENRICO RUBUSCHINI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND SERVANT OF THE SICK; AND HIS MENTOR, SAINT LUIGI GUANELLA, FOUNDER OF THE DAUGHTERS OF SAINT MARY OF PROVIDENCE, THE SERVANTS OF CHARITY, AND THE CONFRATERNITY OF SAINT JOSEPH

THE FEAST OF ANNA LAETITIA WARING, HUMANITARIAN AND HYMN WRITER; AND HER UNCLE, SAMUEL MILLER WARING, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVAN MERZ, CROATIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC INTELLECTUAL

THE FEAST OF JOHN GOSS, ANGLICAN CHURCH COMPOSER AND ORGANIST; AND WILLIAM MERCER, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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

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

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

Through us give hope to the hopeless,

love to the unloved,

peace to the troubled,

and rest to the weary,

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

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

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60

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