Archive for the ‘Reinhold Niebuhr’ Tag

History Puns   4 comments

  1. Amelia was delayed.  Yes, she was a late Bloomer.
  2. A Medieval knight’s last name was his sir name.
  3. Russian Revolutionaries washed their linens.
  4. We know that Catherine the Great was German, not Russian, because she wasn’t in a hurry.
  5. Kant you imagine how I thought of this pun, given the volume of material at my Plato?  I had to be a Realist about the matter, though, not letting the details of philosophy become Greek to me.
  6. I went Russian off to read about czars.  Ural be glad I did.
  7. The wandering czar went Romanov.
  8. The cherry tree George Washington cut down was presidential timber.
  9. Are you linkin’ Abraham Lincoln to Presidents Day?
  10. Was William of Orange fond of citrus products?
  11. Visiting Mount Rushmore can be a heady experience, one requiring an executive decision.
  12. The honest Merovingian was just being Frank(ish).
  13. If one finds a Roman coin in New Orleans, does one have a Latin Quarter?
  14. The newly-minted knight received his sir-tificate.
  15. Was the son of King Edward IV a new York?
  16. Are jokes about philosophers punderous?  Kant I tell that joke quite predictably?
  17. A monkey who stands on a pillar for 37 years is St. Simian Stylites.
  18. I suppose that Reinhold was a good Niebuhr to those who lived around him.
  19. Boaz was ruthless before he met his wife.
  20. If I were to recount an incident from early in the life of Origen (185-254), would I tell an Origen story?
  21. Is a Roman Catholic collector of large and heavy books a Tome-ist?
  22. Immanuel Kant take a stroll at the time each day, can he?  And might he not rue the decision to walk the same streets again and again?
  23. Was the theologian who experienced an existential crisis a Doubting Thomist?
  24. Did John lock the door then begin writing on his blank slate?
  25. There is only one Messiah, but there are scores.  (Can you Handel this joke?)
  26. Did Voltaire enjoy eating Candide yams?
  27. How does a philosopher buy a car?  He Hegels.  I Kant stop telling these puns.  Perhaps I will need help to Sartre myself out.  Maybe I have too much on my Plato.  Or is that Realistic?
  28. A Turkish social networking website is called Fezbook, and that is no Istanbul.  (Are bad jokes a Constantinople on this blog?  If they are, there is no good reason to continue Sultan over that fact.)
  29. The historical account of facial hair was a Beardian analysis.

Feast of Robert McAfee Brown (May 28)   3 comments

Above:  Stanford University

Photographer = Carol M. Highsmith

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-highsm-21158

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ROBERT MCAFEE BROWN (MAY 28, 1928-SEPTEMBER 4, 2001)

U.S. Presbyterian Minister, Theologian, Activist, and Ecumenist

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In conscience, I must break the law.

–Robert McAfee Brown, October 31, 1967

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Robert McAfee Brown comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via my library.

Above:  Two Books by Robert McAfee Brown

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Brown stood in the finest tradition of the Hebrew prophets and centuries of Christian tradition.  He, born in Carthage, Illinois, on May 28, 1928, was a son of Ruth McAfee (Brown) and Presbyterian minister George William McAfee.  Our saint was also a grandson of Cleland Boyd McAfee, a professor at McCormick Theological Seminary.  Brown, a 1944 graduate of Amherst College, married Sydney Elise Thomson on June 21, 1944.  The couple had three sons and a daughter.  Our saint, a student at Union Theological Seminary from 1943 to 1945, studied under Paul Tillich (1886-1965) and Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971).  After graduating, Brown served as a chaplain in the United States Navy in 1945 and 1946.

Brown spent most of his life as an academic.  He was an assistant chaplain and an instructor in religion at Amherst College in 1946-1948.  Then he studied at Mansfield College, Oxford, in 1949 and 1950.  Our saint, an instructor at Union Theological Seminary in 1950 and 1951, earned his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1951.  He led the Department of Religion, Malacaster College, St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1951-1953.  Our saint served on the faculty of Union Theological Seminary in 1953-1962.  Then, in 1962-1976, our saint was a Professor of Religious Studies at Stanford University.  Brown returned to Union Theological Seminary in 1976 as Professor of Ecumenics and World Christianity.  Our saint was Professor of Theology and Ethics at the Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, California, in 1979-1984.  Then he retired.

Brown was an ecumenist.  In the early 1950s, when unapologetic anti-Roman Catholicism was prominent in U.S. Protestantism, our saint campaigned for Minnesota Congressman Eugene McCarthy, whose Roman Catholicism was a political difficulty.  Brown and Gustave Weigel (1906-1964) collaborated on An American Dialogue:  A Protestant Looks at Catholicism and a Catholic Looks at Protestantism (1960).  Time magazine called Brown

Catholics’ favorite Protestant

in 1962.  Our saint was even an observer (on behalf of global Calvinism) at the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) in 1963 and 1965.  Brown also attended the Fourth Assembly of the World Council of Churches as a delegate in 1968.  Seven years later, he delivered the keynote address (“Who is This Jesus Who Frees and Unites?”) at the Fifth Assembly of the World Council of Churches.

Social justice was essential to Brown’s faith.  He, a pacifist, had no moral difficulty serving as a military chaplain after World War II.  Our saint’s pacifism led him to oppose the Vietnam War, of course.  His conscience led him to protest the military draft, to speak and write against the war, to commit civil disobedience, and to go to jail for doing so in 1971.  That conscience also let Brown to join a delegation that met with Pope Paul VI (1897-1978) in  January 1973 about ending the Vietnam War.

Brown was also a longtime civil rights activist at home and abroad.  He, a Freedom Rider in 1961, went to jail in Tallahassee, Florida.  Our saint addressed the immorality of Apartheid when he spoke at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of South Africa in September 1972.  Brown also advocated for women’s liberation and the civil rights of homosexuals.  Furthermore, he was active in the Sanctuary Movement, for he cared deeply about justice in Central America.  This led our saint to collaborate with Liberation Theologian Gustavo Gutiérrez (b. 1928).

Brown also helped to raise consciousness about the Holocaust.  He, a friend of Elie Wiesel (1928-2016) since the middle 1970s, served on the United States Holocaust Memorial Council from 1979 to 1985.  Our saint resigned after President Ronald Reagan visited Bitburg Cemetery, containing graves of Waffen SS troups.

Brown became a novelist late in life.  He published Dark the Night, Wild the Sea in 1998.

Brown, aged 81 years, died in Greenfield, Massachusetts, on September 4, 2001.

One of Brown’s volumes invaluable for Bible study is Unexpected News:  Reading the Bible with Third World Eyes (1984).  Passages covered came from Luke, Exodus, 2 Samuel, Jeremiah, Matthew, and Daniel.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

WEDNESDAY IN EASTER WEEK

THE FEAST OF SAINT OLGA OF KIEV, REGENT OF KIEVAN RUSSIA; SAINT ADALBERT OF MAGDEBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT ADALBERT OF PRAGUE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MARTYR, 997; AND SAINTS BENEDICT AND GAUDENTIUS OF POMERANIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 997

THE FEAST OF SAINTS DAMIEN AND MARIANNE OF MOLOKAI, WORKERS AMONG LEPERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT FLAVIA DOMITILLA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NOBLEWOMAN; AND SAINTS MARO, EUTYCHES, AND VICTORINUS OF ROME, PRIESTS AND MARTYS, CIRCA 99

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUNNA OF ALSACE, THE “HOLY WASHERWOMAN”

THE FEAST OF LUCY CRAFT LANEY, AFRICAN-AMERICAN PRESBYTERIAN EDUCATOR AND CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST

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

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

Help us, like your servant Robert McAfee Brown,

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, 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 Angus Dun (May 4)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Flag of The Episcopal Church

Photograph by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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ANGUS DUN (MAY 4, 1892-AUGUST 12, 1971)

Episcopal Bishop of Washington, and Ecumenist

Bishop Angus Dun comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via The Interpreter’s Bible (1951f), a project on which he was one of the Consulting Editors.

Dun grew up in the Reformed Church in America.  He, born in New York, New York, on May 4, 1892, was a son of Henry Walke Dun (1853-1928) and Sarah Hazard Dun (1859-1929).  Our saint contracted polio at the age of 11 years.  Complications led to the amputation of one leg during his youth.  Dun matriculated at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, in 1910.

Dun spent most of his life as an Episcopalian.  He converted to The Episcopal Church in college.  After our saint graduated from Yale University in 1914, he matriculated at the Episcopal Theological School (hereafter, ETS), Cambridge, Massachusetts (Class of 1917).  Dun married Catherine Whipple Pew (1893-1978) in 1916.  The couple had two sons.  Our saint, ordained a deacon then a priest in 1917, simultaneously served in the Episcopal congregations in Lexington and Ayer, Massachusetts.  He also served as a civilian chaplain at Camp Devens during World War I.  In 1919 and 1920, respectively, Dun studied in Oxford, England, and in Edinburgh, Scotland.  Then he began his career (1920-1944) at ETS.  Our saint taught systematic theology, starting in 1920, then became the Dean in 1940.

Dun led the Diocese of Washington, encompassing the District of Columbia and part of Maryland, from 1944 to 1962.  He sought to proclaim to Gospel to all segments of society within the boundaries of the diocese, regardless of racial, economic, and other categories.  Our saint, a white man who opposed racial segregation in society and the Church, became a target of ire of many segregationists; he became “Black Angus.”  Dun, close to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was one of the officiants at FDR’s White House funeral in 1945.  Our saint, like Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971), another Christian Realist, tried to balance idealism and realism in the context of the common good.  In October 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, Dun stated:

The every-family-for-itself approach to fallout shelter construction is immoral, unjust, and contrary to national interest.

Many doctrinaire Christians, especially those not steeped in Christian history, objected to our saint’s acknowledgement that the Church made the creeds, not the other way around.  He was objectively and historically accurate, given the record of councils and synods.

Dun was also an ecumenist.  He became the Secretary of the American Theological Commission for the World Conference on Faith and Order, a predecessor of the World Council of Churches (WCC), in 1937.  His global ecumenism continued through the 1950s.  Our saint represented The Episcopal Church at the first Assembly of the WCC in 1948.  He also sat on the WCC’s Central Committee from 1948 to 1954.  Furthermore, Dun wrote books about ecumenism.  Titles included The Meaning of Unity (1937) and Prospecting for a United Church (1948).

Dun’s other books included:

  1. The King’s Cross:  Meditations on the Seven Last Words (1926);
  2. We Believe:  A Simple Exposition on the Creeds (1934);
  3. Not By Bread Alone (1942);
  4. Behold the City of God:  Meditations on the Christian Faith, the Christian Family, the Christian World, and the World Mission of the Church (1946);
  5. The Christian Conscience and Weapons of Mass Destruction (1950); and
  6. The Saving Person (1957).

Dun also served on the denominational level.  He sat on the Executive Committee of The Episcopal Church and chaired the Department of Religious Education and the Episcopal Joint Commission on Ecumenical Relations.

Angus Dun, Order of the British Empire (1953), retired in 1962.  He died in Washington, D.C., on August 12, 1971.  Our saint was 79 years old.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 18, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEONIDES OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 202; ORIGEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN; SAINT DEMETRIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND SAINT ALEXANDER OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT CYRIL OF JERUSALEM, BISHOP, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SIBBALD ALDERSON, POET AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN BACCHUS DYKES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAUL OF CYPRUS, EASTERN ORTHODOX MARTYR, 760

THE FEAST OF ROBERT WALMSLEY, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER

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O heavenly Father, Shepherd of your people, we thank you for your servant Angus Dun,

who was faithful in the care and nurture of your flock;

and we pray that, following his example and the teaching of his holy life,

we may by your grace grow into the stature and the fullness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ;

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

Ezekiel 34:11-16

Psalm 23

1 Peter 5:1-4

John 21:15-17

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 718

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Feast of Georgia Harkness (April 21)   1 comment

Above:  My Copy of Toward Understanding the Bible (1952)

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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GEORGIA ELMA HARKNESS (APRIL 21, 1891-AUGUST 21, 1974)

U.S. Methodist Minister, Theologian, Ethicist, and Hymn Writer

Georgia Harkness comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via Toward Understanding the Bible (1952) and The Interpreter’s Bible (12 volumes, 1951f), in my library.

Georgia Elma Harkness was a pioneer for women in her Methodist tradition and in the mainstream of Christianity in the United States of America.  She, born in Harkness, New York, on April 21, 1891, was the fourth of four children of Joseph Warren Harkness and Lillie Merrill Harkness.  Our saint, from a progressive and upper middle class family, members of the Methodist Episcopal Church (1784-1939), perceived her vocation when an adolescent.  The institutional church had other ideas, however.

Sexism remained a barrier for Harkness, who had received a call to ordained ministry.  She, a graduate of Cornell University (B.A. in Philosophy, 1912), could not matriculate at any of the theological seminaries in the United States because of her chromosomes.  Had Georgia Elma Harkness been George Elmo Harkness, such institutional barriers would not have existed.  After teaching high school for six years, Harkness matriculated at Boston University.  Her gender kept her out of the School of Theology, so she went to the School of Religion instead.  She graduate with her doctorate in 1923.  Her dissertation was, “The Relations Between Philosophy of Religion and Ethics in the Thought of Thomas Hill Green.”

Harkness became an academic.  She taught religion and philosophy courses at Elmira College, Elmira, New York, a women’s college, from 1923 to 1938.  She continued her studies during summers.  Our saint was a summer student at Harvard Divinity School, Yale Divinity School, and Union Theological Seminary, New York City.  She was Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Mount Holyoke College from 1937 to 1940.  The Methodist Episcopal Church ordained Harkness a deacon in 1926 and an elder in 1939.  However, given that no female could yet join a conference, our saint could not yet function as an ordained minister.  Delegates to the Methodist reuniting conference (1939) voted on a resolution to approve the ordination of women.  The resolution failed by a few votes.  The Methodist Church (1939-1968) finally authorized the ordination of women at the General Conference of 1956.  In the meantime, however, Harkness did make history by becoming the first woman to hold the position of professor at a theological seminary in the United States.  She joined the faculty of Garrett Biblical Institute (a predecessor of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary), near Chicago, Illinois, in 1940.  Our saint taught Applied Theology there for a decade then transferred to the Pacific School of Religion, a Congregationalist seminary in Berkeley, California.  Harkness retired in 1960.

Harkness’s liberal tendencies were prominent.  She, a pacifist, wrote materials for the Methodist Board of World Peace.  Economic justice, a major concern of Hebrew prophets, was another priority for our saint.  Harkness, an ecumenist, was active in the World Council of Churches.  She wrote the hymn, “Hope of the World” (1953) for the WCC Assembly of 1954.  Harkness also supported civil rights for African Americans and confronted Karl Barth (1886-1968) to his face (at the first WCC Assembly, in 1948) over his opposition to feminism.

Harkness wrote other hymns, too.  “Hope of the World” has become her most popular hymn.  Other titles were:

  1. “The Earth Thou Givest, Lord, is Thine;”
  2. “Tell it!  Tell it Out with Gladness;”
  3. “Speak Through the Living Silence;”
  4. “Speak Thou, O Lord, Thy Light;” and
  5. “God of the Fertile Fields.”

Harkness also served as one of the Consulting Editors of The Interpreter’s Bible in the 1950s.

Harkness had a practical bent and wrote most often for general audiences.  She preferred to write books many people would read and find useful.  Her publications included the following:

  1. The Church and the Immigrant (1921),
  2. Holy Flame (1935),
  3. The Resources of Religion (1936),
  4. The Recovery of Ideals (1937),
  5. How to Find Prayer More Meaningful (1946),
  6. Prayer and the Common Life (1948),
  7. Conflicts in Religious Thought (1949),
  8. The Gospel and Our World (1949),
  9. Through Christ Our Lord:  A Devotional Manual Based on the Recorded Works of Jesus (1950),
  10. Toward Understanding the Bible (1952),
  11. Christian Ethics:  Emerging Social Trends and the Future of American Christianity (1952),
  12. Eschatology in the Great Poets (1952),
  13. The Sources of Western Culture:  From Primitive Society to the Beginnings of Christian Ethics (1954),
  14. Religious Living (1958),
  15. The Bible Speaks to Daily Needs (1959),
  16. Does God Care? (1960),
  17. The Providence of God (1960),
  18. John Calvin:  The Man and His Ethics (1963),
  19. The Glory of God:  Poems and Prayers for Devotional Use (1963),
  20. The Methodist Church in Social Thought and Action (1964),
  21. The Dark Night of the Soul (1965),
  22. Disciplines of the Christian Life (1967),
  23. A Devotional Treasure from the Early Church (1968),
  24. Grace Abounding (1969),
  25. The Ministry of Reconciliation (1971),
  26. Women in Church and Society:  A Historical and Theological Inquiry (1972), and
  27. Understanding the Kingdom of God (1974).

For the sake of clarity, I make clear what Harkness meant by “liberal” and “liberalism” before I continue.  She described herself as a “chastened liberal,” standing between the overly optimistic Social Gospel of Walter Rauschenbush (1861-1918) and the Neo-orthodoxy of Karl Barth, Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971) and H. Richard Niebuhr (1894-1962).  Harkness, writing in Toward Understanding the Bible (1952), noted the common ground between liberalism and Neo-orthodoxy (acceptance of science, rejection of fundamentalism, et cetera) then argued that the difference was one of emphasis.  She wrote that Neo-orthodoxy emphasized human weakness and sinfulness but that liberal Christianity emphasized that

man is made in the spiritual image of God, and, as God’s supreme creation, is a living soul with a great, God-given responsibility to honor and obey him.

–124

Consistent with Harkness’s stance vis-à-vis Neo-orthodoxy, she stood with the Eastern Orthodox by rejecting original sin.  She told The Christian Century, regarding original sin,

The faster it goes, the better.

Yet Harkness, like Reinhold Niebuhr, recognized the power of sin in people and in social institutions.

By theological position, by the way, is Neo-orthodoxy.   I also describe myself as a theological, social, and political liberal.  I use “liberal” more broadly than Harkness did.

Harkness, 83 years old, died in Claremont, California, on August 21, 1974.

Engaging with writings of Georgia Harkness will provide one with much food for ethical and theological thoughts.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 5, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF KARL RAHNER, JESUIT PRIEST AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF AMBROSE PHILLIPPS DE LISLE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC CONVERT, SPIRITUAL WRITER, AND TRANSLATOR OF SPIRITUAL WRITINGS; FOUNDER OF MOUNT SAINT BERNARD ABBEY

THE FEAST OF SAINT CHRISTOPHER MACASSOLI OF VIGEGANO, FRANCSICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT EUSEBIUS OF CREMONA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ION COSTIST, FRANCISCAN LAY BROTHER

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Almighty God, we praise you for your servant Georgia Harkness,

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

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

whose voices will give strength to your church

and proclaim the reality of your reign,

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

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

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 46

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

Mark 10:35-45

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60

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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)   4 comments

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)   2 comments

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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