Archive for the ‘St. Clement of Alexandria’ Tag

Feast of James Woodrow (January 17)   Leave a comment

Above:  James Woodrow

Image Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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JAMES WOODROW (MAY 30, 1828-JANUARY 17, 1907)

Southern Presbyterian Minister, Naturalist, and Alleged Heretic

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Let the Church show herself the patroness of learning in everything…and let her never be subjected by mistaken friends, to the charge that she fears the light.

–James Woodrow, November 22, 1861; quoted in Ernest Trice Thompson, Presbyterians in the South, Vol. 1, 1607-1861 (1963), 508

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Above:  Logo of the Presbyterian Church in the United States

Image Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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James Woodrow, brother-in-law of Joseph Ruggles Wilson (1822-1903) and uncle of President (first of Princeton University then of the United States of America) Thomas Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924), comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via two authors.  For this post I draw from Clayton H. Ramsey’s article about Bethany Presbyterian Church, Greene County, Georgia, in the Autumn 2018 issue of Georgia Backroads magazine.  I also derive information from the first two volumes of Ernest Trice Thompson‘s magisterial three-volume work, Presbyterians in the South (1963-1973).  I also derive information from Journals of Southern Presbyterian General Assemblies.

James Woodrow, a native of England, spent most of his life in the United States.  He, born in Carlisle on May 30, 1828, emigrated with his family as a youth.  He graduated from Jefferson College, Washington, Pennsylvania, in 1849.  Then he studied under naturalist Louis Agassiz at the Lawrence Scientific School, Harvard.  After teaching in Alabama, Woodrow was a professor at Oglethorpe University, Midway, Georgia, from 1853 to 1861.  He taught geology, botany, chemistry, and natural philosophy.  Our saint also took a few years off to earn graduate degrees at the University of Heidelberg.  When he graduated in 1856, he could have become the Chair of Natural Sciences at Heidelberg, had he accepted the offer.  Woodrow studied theology after returning to Oglethorpe University.  He became a minister in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (Old School) on October 15, 1859; the ordination occurred at Bethany Presbyterian Church, Greene County, Georgia.

Columbia Theological Seminary, Columbia, South Carolina, created an endowed professorship, Woodrow’s next job, in 1861.  Judge John Perkins, of Mississippi, provided the funding for the position, with the intention that the Perkins Professor of Natural Science refute Evolution and prepare seminarians to do the same.  Woodrow, who started the job in late 1861, insisted on academic freedom, though.  He also carried into the professorship his conviction that God could not contradict himself in the Bible and in science, and that any seeming contradiction between the Bible and science must result from the misinterpretation of scripture.  This position left Woodrow, who refused to dismiss rock layers and fossil records, open to accepting Evolution, which he did by 1884.

The Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America (PCCSA) formed at First Presbyterian Church, Augusta, Georgia, on December 4, 1861.   Wilson became a charter member of the new denomination.

The Civil War disrupted elements of church life in the South.  Columbia Theological Seminary closed for most of the conflict.  Furthermore, The Southern Presbyterian did not always go to the presses.  Woodrow remained busy, though.

  1. He edited The Southern Presbyterian.
  2. He became the Treasurer of the PCCSA’s Foreign Mission Committee in 1861.
  3. He became the Treasurer of the PCCSA’s Home Mission Committee in 1863.
  4. He taught chemistry at the College of South Carolina.
  5. He managed the Medical and Chemical Confederate Laboratory, which made silver nitrate for wound care.

In December 1865, after Confederate defeat, the PCCSA renamed itself the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS).

When Columbia Theological Seminary reopened and The Southern Presbyterian resumed publication, Woodrow’s roles at them resumed, also.  He was one of the more progressive members of his denomination; he favored friendly relations with the “Northern” (actually national) Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.  As Woodrow became more accepting of Evolution, he moved in a direction opposite of that of the PCUS.  By 1884 his alleged heresy had become so controversial that the seminary closed for two years, reopening in 1886.  The seminary board requested in 1884 that Woodrow resign; he refused.  The heresy trial, held at Bethany Presbyterian Church, Greene County, Georgia, in 1886, ended in an acquittal.  Nevertheless, the seminary board fired our saint on December 8, 1886.

The PCUS General Assemblies of 1886, 1888, 1889, and 1924 passed resolutions taking the position opposite of Professor Woodrow.

Life went on for James Woodrow, who remained prominent in the PCUS.  He, the editor of The Southern Presbyterian consistently since 1866, continued in that role until 1893.  On the side, he continued to teach at the University of South Carolina, where he had been on faculty since 1869.  The seminary board forbade Columbia students to attend his lectures, though.  Woodrow went on to serve as the President of the University of South Carolina from 1891 to 1897.  Furthermore, he was, for a time, the President of the Central National Bank, Columbia.  In 1896, when the Presbytery of Charleston sought to prevent African-American men from becoming ordained ministers, Woodrow sided against the presbytery and with the Synod of South Carolina.  The General Assembly supported the position of the synod.

Woodrow retained the ability to create controversy at the end of his life.  The General Assembly of 1901 elected him the Moderator for a year.  The following year, at the General Assembly, our saint offended many in his sermon; he recognized the Roman Catholic Church as a Christian organization.  The General Assembly of 1902 passed a resolution NOT to print his sermon.

Woodrow, ailing in 1906, had surrendered his leadership roles in the church.  That year, as he neared death, the Board of Directors of Columbia Theological Seminary passed resolutions praising him for his piety and orthodoxy.

Woodrow, aged 78 years, died in Columbia, South Carolina, on January 17, 1907.

The General Assembly of 1969 affirmed:

Neither Scripture, nor our Confession of Faith, nor our catechisms, teach the creation of man by direct and immediate acts of God as to exclude the possibility of evolution as a scientific theory.

Woodrow would have approved.

Good science should always overrule bad theology.

The Christian Church has a mixed record regarding science, faith, and reason.  On the positive side are giants such as James Woodrow, Nicolaus Copernicus, and Galileo Galilei.  The Society of Jesus has a venerable tradition of astronomy.  One may reach back as far as St. Clement of Alexandria (d. 210/2015), the “Father of Christian Scholarship,” who affirmed the value of truth, whether or not of Christian origin.  One may also continue that line through his pupil, Origen.  When one skips a few centuries, one arrives at St. Albert the Great (d. 1280) and his student, St. Thomas Aquinas, who affirmed the compatibility of faith and reason.  On the negative side are figures such as St. Robert Bellarmine (who confronted Galileo and whom I will never add to my Ecumenical Calendar) and William Jennings Bryan (who, likewise, has less probability than  a snowball in Hell of joining the ranks at my Ecumenical Calendar).

All this is easy for me to write, for I am unapologetic product of the Northern Renaissance, the Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment, and the best of Roman Catholic tradition.  My intellectualism and my acceptance of science inform my Christian faith.  God is not the author of confusion.  Furthermore, God does not deceive us with manufactured fossils and rock layers meant to test our faith.  God cannot lie, but human beings are capable of misunderstanding.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 6, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE TRANSFIGURATION

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God of grace and glory, you create and sustain the universe in majesty and beauty:

We thank you for James Woodrow and all in whom you have planted

the desire to know your creation and to explore your work and wisdom.

Lead us, like them, to understand better the wonder and mystery of creation;

through Jesus Christ your eternal Word, through whom all things were made.  Amen.

Genesis 2:9-20

Psalm 34:8-14

2 Corinthians 13:1-6

John 20:24-37

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 738

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Feast of St. Justin Martyr (June 1)   1 comment

Above:  St. Justin Martyr

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR (100/110-166/167)

Christian Apologist and Martyr

St. Justin Martyr was a major figure in early Christian history.  He, a student of Greek philosophy, pioneered the project of reconciling faith and reason.

St. Justin grew up a pagan.  He, born at Flavia Neopolis (formerly Shechem, Samaria; subsequently Nablus, in the West Bank of the River Jordan), spent years studying and mastering various schools of Greek philosophy.  Our saint sought meaning.  Circa 130 St. Justin found that meaning after a meeting with a Christian on the beach at Ephesus.  Our saint, while acknowledging the wisdom and truth present in Greek philosophy, came to regard Christianity as the sole rational religion and the only

safe and profitable philosophy.

One of the people he debated was one Trypho, a Jew, who argued that the New Testament distorts the Hebrew Bible.  St. Justin replied that the latter actually foreshadows the former.

Circa 150 St. Justin moved to Rome, where he founded a school and where he spent the rest of his life.  Our saint wrote influential texts, some of which have survived.  St. Justin addressed the First Apology (circa 155) to the Emperor Antoninus Pius (reigned 138-161) and his adopted sons, Marcus Aurelius (reigned 161-180) and Lucius Verus.  Our saint refuted allegations of immorality against the Church, argued for the reasonableness of Christianity, and described contemporary Baptismal and Eucharistic rites and theology.  The bases of the Dialogue with Trypho were encounters at Ephesus.  The audience for the Second Apology (161) was the Roman Senate.

St. Justin, orthodox according to the standards of the time, became something of a heretic post mortem, as did other Ante-Nicene Fathers, notably Origen and St. Clement of Alexandria.  St. Justin, for example, concluded that God the Son is subordinate to God the Father, a position antithetical to subsequent orthodox developments in Trinitarian theology.

Circa 165 St. Justin debated the Cynic philosopher Crescens publicly; this led to the demise of our saint and six of his pupils.  Apparently Crescens was an unsavory character; St. Justin accused him of being immoral and ignorant.  The revenge of Crescens proved St. Justin’s first point.  The Cynic philosopher denounced St. Justin and six of his pupils as Christians.  (The authorities could have arrested St. Justin for years, if they had been of a mind to do; he was living openly and writing apologia to imperial officials, after all.)  When St. Justin and the others refused to sacrifice to the gods, they endured scourging then met their martyrdom via beheading.

These martyrs had the courage of their convictions.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 16, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PACHOMIUS THE GREAT, FOUNDER OF CHRISTIAN COMMUNAL MONASTICISM

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROBERTO DE NOBOLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF GREVILLE PHILLIMORE, ENGLISH PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF RICHARD MEUX BENSON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND COFOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST; CHARLES CHAPMAN GRAFTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, COFOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST, AND BISHOP OF FOND DU LAC; AND CHARLES GORE, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WORCESTER, BIRMINGHAM, AND OXFORD; FOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE RESURRECTION; THEOLOGIAN; AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE AND WORLD PEACE

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O God, who has given your Church wisdom and revealed deep and secret things:

Grant that we, like your servant Justin and in union with his prayers,

may find your truth an abiding refuge all the days of our lives;

through Jesus Christ, who with the Holy Spirit lives and reigns

with you, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016)

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Almighty and everlasting God, you found your martyr Justin wandering from teacher to teacher,

seeking the true God, and you revealed to him the sublime wisdom of your eternal Word:

Grant that all who seek you, or a deeper knowledge of you, may find and be found by you;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 7:7-9

Psalm 16:5-11

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

John 12:44-50

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 401

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Feast of Sts. Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp of Smyrna, and Irenaeus of Lyons (February 23)   2 comments

ichthys

Above:  Ichthys

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH (CIRCA 35-107/115)

Bishop of Antioch and Martyr

His feast transferred from October 17

met and wrote to

SAINT POLYCARP OF SMYRNA (69-FEBRUARY 23, 155/156)

Bishop of Smyrna and Martyr

His feast = February 23

met

SAINT IRENAEUS OF LYONS (CIRCA 130-CIRCA 202)

Bishop of Lyons and Martyr

His feast transferred from June 28

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So gird up your loins now and serve God in fear and sincerity.  No more of the vapid discourses and sophistries of the vulgar; put your trust in Him who raised our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, and gave Him glory and a seat at His own right hand.  All things in heaven and earth have been made subject to Him; everything that breathes pays Him homage; He comes to judge the living and the dead, and God will require His blood at the hands of any who refuse Him allegiance.  And He that raised Him from the dead will raise us also, if we do His will and live by His commandments, and cherish the things He cherished–if, that is to say, we keep ourselves from wrongdoing, overreaching, penny-pinching, tale-telling, and prevaricating, and bear in mind the words of our Lord in His teaching, Judge not, that you be not judged; forgive, and you will be forgiven; be merciful, that you may obtain mercy; for whatever you measure out to other people will be measured back again to yourselves.  And again, Happy are the poor and they who are persecuted because they are righteous, for theirs is the kingdom of God.

–St. Polycarp, the Epistle to the Philippians, Logion 2, in Early Christian Writings:  The Apostolic Fathers, translated by Maxwell Staniforth and Andrew Louth (New York, NY:  Penguin Books, 1987), page 119-120

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This post replaces three older posts and emphasizes the relationships and influences that bound these three saints in faithful witness.  After all, one of my goals during the ongoing renovation of my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days is to emphasize relationships and influences.

ignatius-of-antioch

Above:  St. Ignatius of Antioch

Image in the Public Domain

We know little about the life of St. Ignatius of Antioch, whose other name was Theophorus, or “Bearer of God” or “Borne of God.”  He was either the second (if one takes the word of Origen) or the third (if one believes Eusebius of Caesarea) Bishop of Antioch.  In 107 or 115 (depending on the source one consults) ten Roman soldiers escorted St. Ignatius on a long route from Antioch to Rome, to die by becoming lion food.  The purpose of the extended parading of our saint was to humiliate him.  Nevertheless, St. Ignatius conducted himself with dignity and therefore converted many people to Christianity.  Along the way St. Ignatius met St. Polycarp of Smyrna and wrote seven epistles:

  1. To the Ephesians,
  2. To the Magnesians,
  3. To the Trallians,
  4. To the Romans,
  5. To the Philadelphians,
  6. To the Smyrnaeans, and
  7. To Polycarp.

As St. Ignatius wrestled with his anxieties he encouraged others in their faith.

Since I had been impressed by the godly qualities of your mind–anchored, as it seemed, to an unshakable rock–it gave me much pleasure to set eyes on your sainted countenance (may God give me joy of it).  But let me charge you to press on even more strenuously in your course, in all the grace with which you are clothed, and to call all your people to salvation.  You must do justice to your position, by showing the greatest diligence both in its temporal and spiritual duties.  Give thought especially to unity, for there is nothing more important than this.  Make yourself the support of all and sundry, as the Lord is to you, and continue to bear lovingly with them all, as you are doing at present.  Spend your time in constant prayer, and beg for ever larger gifts of wisdom.  Be watchful and unsleeping in spirit.  Address yourself to people personally, as is the way of God Himself, and carry the infirmities of them all on your shoulders, as a good champion of Christ out to do.  The heavier the labour, the richer the reward.

–St. Ignatius of Antioch, the Epistle to Polycarp, Logion 1, in Early Christian Writings (1987), page 109

St. Ignatius, no advocate of sola scriptura, encouraged the frequent celebration of the Eucharist and considered Christian factionalism to be “the beginning of all evils” (the Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, Logion 8).

polycarp-of-smyrna

Above:  St. Polycarp of Smyrna

Image in the Public Domain

We also know little about the life and much about the death of St. Polycarp of Smyrna (69-115/156), who studied under St. John the Apostle/Divine/Evangelist.  St. Polycarp, a native and the Bishop of Smyrna, in Asia Minor, was a link between the Apostles of Jesus and St. Irenaeus of Lyons (circa 130-circa 202), the first great Catholic theologian.  St. Polycarp defended Christian orthodoxy against heresies, especially Marcionism (which sought to remove Jewish influences from the canon of scripture) and Valentinianism (a variety of Gnosticism).

In 106 or 114 our saint traveled to Rome to meet with Pope St. Anacetus (reigned circa 155-circa 166).  They agreed to disagree regarding the issue of Quartodecimanism, the position (dominant in churches in Asia Minor) that the churches ought to celebrate Easter on the date of 14 Nisan (the date of the Passover), regardless of the day of the week upon which that date falls.  St. Polycarp favored Quartodecimanism; the Pope thought that the celebration of Easter should always fall on a Sunday.

In 107 or 115, shortly after returning to Smyrna from Rome, St. Polycarp became a martyr.  Authorities arrested him at a pagan festival and burned him at a stake.

St. Polycarp’s Epistle to the Philippians, perhaps a composite of two epistles (in the style of 2 Corinthians), has survived, fortunately.  (Many ancient documents have not survived, sadly.)  One Evarestus wrote The Martyrdom of Polycarp, which has also survived.  These two documents have provided much invaluable information about St. Polycarp.

Such then is the record of Polycarp the Blessed.  Including those from Philadelphia, he was the twelfth to meet a martyr’s death in Smyrna; though he is the only one to be singled out for universal remembrance and to be talked of everywhere, even in heathen circles.  Not only was he a famous Doctor, he was a martyr without a peer; and one whose martyrdom all aspire to imitate, so fully does it accord with the Gospel of Christ.  His steadfastness proved more than a match for the Governor’s injustice, and won him his immortal crown.  Now, in the fullness of joy among the Apostles  and all the hosts of heaven, he gives glory to the Almighty God and Father, and utters the praises of our Lord Jesus Christ–who is the Saviour of our souls, the Master of our bodies, and the Shepherd of the Catholic Church the wide world over.

–Evarestus, The Martyrdom of Polycarp, Logion 19, in Early Christian Writings (1987), page 131

irenaeus

Above:  St. Irenaeus of Lyons

Image in the Public Domain

St. Polycarp met a very young St. Irenaeus of Lyons (circa 130-circa 202).  We know little about the native of Asia Minor, who studied at Rome and became a priest and Lyons.  We do know, however, that St. Irenaeus was a tolerant man.  Even as he argued against certain heresies he contended for the lenient treatment of heretics.  In the case of the Montanists, apocalyptic ascetics in Asia Minor, St. Irenaeus, who argued against their theology and practices, carried to a letter on their behalf to Pope St. Eleutherius (reigned circa 174-189) in 177/178.  Our saint favored toleration fo the Montanists.  The Pope, who did not consider them to be threats, did not countenance any actions against them.

In our saint’s absence Pothinus, the Bishop of Lyons, became a martyr.  In 178, when St. Irenaeus returned to the city, he became the next bishop.  As the Bishop of Lyons our saint wrote to Pope St. Victor I (reigned 189-198) in support of Quartodecimanism.  St. Irenaeus, the first great Catholic theologian, also wrote against Gnosticism.  Whereas St. Clement of Alexandria (circa 150-circa 210/215) refuted Gnosticism with a Christian Gnosis, St. Irenaeus argued against that heresy by citing the goodness of creation and the resurrection of the dead, quoting scripture, and affirming Apostolic Succession.

Sts. Irenaeus seems to have become a martyr in 200, give or take a few years.

Sts. Ignatius, Polycarp, and Irenaeus were foundational figures in Christianity.  They were spiritual giants to whom we who follow Christ in the twenty-first century owe a great debt of gratitude.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 6, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICETIUS OF TRIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP; AND SAINT AREDIUS OF LIMOGES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABRAHAM OF KRATIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, BISHOP, AND HERMIT

THE FEAST OF HENRY USTICK ONDERDONK, EPISCOPAL BISHOP, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS OF MYRA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Grant, almighty God, that following the teaching of

Sts. Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp of Smyrna, and Irenaeus of Lyons,

we may know you as the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent,

that we may be counted worthy ever to be numbered among the sheep who hear his voice;

through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Nehemiah 8:1-8 or Wisdom 7:7-14

Psalm 119:97-104

1 Corinthians 2:6-16

Matthew 13:51-52

–Adapted from The Church of South India, The Book of Common Worship (1963), page 67

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Feast of Sts. Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas (January 28)   15 comments

Royal 19.A.ix,  f. 4. detail

Royal 19.A.ix, f. 4. detail

Above:  Master and Scholars, by Gautier de Metz

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT ALBERT THE GREAT (CIRCA 1200-NOVEMBER 15, 1280)

Roman Catholic Theologian and Bishop of Ratisbon

His feast transferred from November 15

teacher of

SAINT THOMAS AQUINAS (1225-MARCH 7, 1274)

Roman Catholic Theologian

His feast = January 28

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These two saints, both Doctors of the Church, influenced the course of Roman Catholic theology.

St. Albert the Great, a.k.a. St. Albertus Magnus, born in Lauingen, Bavaria, circa 1200, came from German nobility.  He studied at Bologna and Padua before entering the Dominican Order in 1222.  The the saint studied then lectured in theology in Dominican houses in Germany.  In 1241 St. Albert relocated to Paris, where he began his study of the works of Aristotle.  There, from 1245 to 1248, he was a chair of theology.  In Paris the saint also met and taught St. Thomas Aquinas, allegedly a “dumb ox.”  St. Albert knew better, though.

Aquinas, born at Roccasecca, Italy, in 1225, came from Italian nobility.  When he was five years old his parents sent him to study at the monastery of Monte Cassino; they intended for him to become the abbot there.  At the age of 15 years Aquinas began to study at Naples, where he became interested in joining the Dominican Order.  His family, alarmed by this possibility, kept him under house arrest for 15 months.  Eventually, though, the saint became a Dominican in 1244.  He studied under St. Albert the Great at Paris from 1245 to 1248.  St. Albert introduced Aquinas to the works of Aristotle.

St. Albert’s project, which Aquinas took up also, was the question of the relationship between faith and reason, especially in the context of Aristotelian philosophy.  Both saints considered Christianity and Aristotelian philosophy to be compatible.  Islamic scholars had preserved the works of “the Philosopher,” as Aquinas referred to him, and translated them into Arabic.  The Latin translations of Aristotelian works were not direct translations from Greek; they were translations from Arabic.  Aristotelian philosophy contradicted Platonist philosophy, favored by luminaries such as St. Clement of Alexandria and Origen, who lived about a millennium earlier.  Sts. Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas found Aristotelian philosophy helpful regarding Christian doctrine, especially Transubstantiation.  This approach proved controversial during the lifetimes of both saints.

Teacher and pupil moved from Paris to Cologne, where St. Albert founded a new Dominican gymnasium generale, in 1248.  At Cologne the two saints parted company; Aquinas returned to Paris as a lecturer in 1252, and St. Albert began a three-year-long stint as the Provincial of the German province of the Dominican Order the following year.

Aquinas taught and wrote for the rest of his life.  He became a Doctor of Theology in 1256.  Three years later he left to teach in Italy, specifically at Anagni and Orvieto (1259-1265), Rome (1265-1267), and Viterbo (1267-1269).  He spent three years (1269-1272) again, before returning to Naples (1272-1274).  He halted work on the Summa Theologica in December 1273.  Aquinas concluded:

I cannot go on….All that I have written seems to me like so much straw compared to what has been revealed to me.

–Quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (New York, NY:  The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997), page 50

Aquinas died on March 7, 1274, en route to the Council of Lyons, which St. Albert attended.  The main achievement of that council was the brief union (1274-1289) of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches.

St. Albert was also busy between 1256 and 1274.  For a time he served as a judge in disputes between ecclesiastical and secular parties.  Then, for two or three years, he was the Bishop of Ratisbon; he restored order to the administration of that diocese.  St. Albert resigned that post.  In 1263 and 1264 he preached the Eighth Crusade in Germany.  (I make no excuses for the Crusades, for the concept of warfare as prayer is antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.)  Finally, St. Albert lived in a series of Dominican houses, the last one being at Cologne, starting in 1269.

The catalog of St. Albert’s writings included treatises and biblical commentaries.  He composed commentaries on the Gospels, Job, and some of the Hebrew prophets.

St. Albert died at Cologne on November 15, 1280.  The Roman Catholic Church dubbed him “the Great” in the 1300s, beatified him in 1622, and canonized him in 1931.

As great as St. Albert was, Aquinas was greater, at least in the estimation of the Roman Catholic Church.  The Dominican Order imposed his teachings on its members in 1278, just four years after he died.  His canonization in 1323 vindicated Aquinas fully.

I am aware of a variety of well-informed positions within Christianity regarding Sts. Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas.  I know, for example, that Holy Mother Church embraced Thomistic theology thoroughly for centuries and that Thomism remains a prominent strain within Roman Catholicism.  I also know of the appeal of Thomism, with its respect of the intellect and human reason, for me.  Furthermore, I know that the great Reformed missionary and theologian Lesslie Newbigin (1909-1998), no intellectual slouch, objected to what he considered a false dichotomy.  According to Newbigin and those who embrace his position, certainty cannot exist apart from faith, so reason cannot exist apart from faith all knowledge depends upon the assumption (via faith) that x, y, and z are accurate.  (I know that this statement applies to Euclidian geometry.)  Perhaps that proposition is correct.  Regardless of the truth of that matter, one should honor Sts. Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas for bringing their intellects to matters of faith and for not being afraid of new (to them) knowledge, as their Platonist forebears Sts. Clement of Alexandria and Origen did.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 25, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM HILEY BATHHURST, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JAMES OTIS SARGENT HUNTINGTON, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF THE HOLY CROSS

THE FEAST OF PETRUS NIGIDIUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN EDUCATOR AND COMPOSER; AND GEORG NIGIDIUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SQUANTO, COMPASSIONATE HUMAN BEING

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Almighty God, you have enriched your Church with singular learning and holiness of your servants

Sts. Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas:

Enlighten us more and more, we pray, by the disciplined thinking and teaching of Christian scholars,

and deepen our devotion by the example of saintly lives;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Wisdom of Solomon 7:7-14

Psalm 119:97-104

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Matthew 13:47-52

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 195

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Feast of St. Macrina the Elder, Her Family, and St. Gregory of Nazianzus the Younger (January 14)   6 comments

holy-family

Above:  A Family Tree

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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SAINT MACRINA THE ELDER (CIRCA 270-CIRCA 340)

Bridge of Faith

Her feast = January 14

mother of

SAINT BASIL THE ELDER (300S)

Attorney and Teacher of Rhetoric

His feast transferred from May 30

husband of

SAINT EMILIA OF CAESAREA (DIED MAY 30, 375)

Abbess

Also known as Saint Emmelia of Caesarea and Saint Emily of Caesara

Her feast transferred from January 11, May 8, and May 30

mother of

SAINT MACRINA THE YOUNGER (CIRCA 327-379)

Abbess and Theologian

Her feast transferred from July 19

sister of

SAINT NAUCRATIUS (300S)

Hermit

brother of

SAINT PETER OF SEBASTE (CIRCA 340-391)

Bishop of Sebaste and Theologian 

His feast transferred from January 9

brother of 

SAINT GREGORY OF NYSSA (CIRCA 335-CIRCA 395)

Bishop of Nyssa and Theologian

His feast transferred from March 9

brother of 

SAINT BASIL THE GREAT (CIRCA 330-JANUARY 1, 379)

Bishop of Caesarea and Theologian

Father of Eastern Communal Monasticism

His feast transferred from January 2 and June 14

friend of

SAINT GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS THE YOUNGER (CIRCA 329-389)

Archbishop of Constantinople and Theologian

His feast transferred from January 25

Alternative feast date on this calendar = February 25

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A HISTORY OF FAITH, FAMILY, AND FRIENDSHIP

In this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, I transfer feast days frequently.  The most common reason for doing so is to facilitate the telling of narratives of holy men and women who have influenced each other and worked together.  Retaining ecclesiastically approved feast days obstructs that purpose sometimes.  With this post I move some feast days write about nine saints, with an emphasis on intergenerational influences.

For the purposes of this post I choose to begin with St. Macrina the Elder, although I could easily back up a few generations before her.  That, however, would create a post quite difficult to follow.  Focusing on three generations of one family and adding one friend, who came from a holy family also suffices.

I have covered St. Gregory of Nazianzus the Younger in the context of his family is a separate post.

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Our story begins in Neocaesarea, Cappadocia, in modern-day Turkey.

For nearly 30 years the bishop there was St. Gregory Thaumaturgus (circa 213-268), whose relics St. Macrina the Elder (circa 270-circa 340) kept.  She and her husband had converted from paganism to Christianity in that city, where the late bishop had kept the flame of Christian faith alive in his small flock during times of pestilence and persecution.  St. Macrina the Elder and her husband, whose name has not survived the ravages of the passage of time, endured many hardships for their faith.  Galerius, Caesar of the East (293-305) and Maximinus II Daia, Caesar of the East (305-310) and Augustus of the East (310-313), persecuted Christianity severely.  During this time St. Macrina the Elder and her husband had to live in the woods and forage for seven years.  The couple returned to Neocaesarea after the death of Maximinus II Daia, but the local authorities seized their property and forced them to beg on the streets of the city.  Eventually circumstances improved for the couple, who had a son, St. Basil the Elder.  His father died when he was young, so St. Macrina the Elder, a widow and a single mother, had to raise him.

St. Basil the Elder became an attorney and a respected teacher of rhetoric, a prominent position in that culture.  He, educated at Caesarea and Athens, settled down at Caesarea and declined an opportunity to teach in his hometown.  He married St. Emilia (a.k.a. Emmelia or Emily) of Caesarea (died in 375), who came from a wealthy family.  Her father was also a martyr.  St. Basil the Elder and Emilia had ten children, nine of whom lived to adulthood and five of whom became canonized saints.  The sainted children were:

  1. St. Macrina the Younger (circa 327-379),
  2. St. Basil the Great (circa 330-January 1, 379),
  3. St. Gregory of Nyssa (circa 335-circa 395),
  4. St. Peter of Sebaste (circa 340-391), and
  5. St. Naucratius.

Sts. Basil the Elder and Emilia raised their family in luxury.  Some of their children developed an unhealthy relationship with wealth, but the eldest child, St. Macrina the Younger, seemed not to have done so.  While St. Basil the Elder instructed his sons in rhetoric St. Emilia made sure that her eldest child received a fine education.  For St. Macrina the Younger, with her cultivated mind made possible by money, wealth was a tool, not an idol; she was willing use that tool for the glory of God while she lived ascetically.  She paid close attention to the education of her brothers, whom she encouraged to pursue religious vocations, urged to live ascetically, and influenced theologically.  St. Macrina the Younger also encouraged her widowed mother to help her found to abbeys–a convent and a monastery–on the family estate.  St. Emilia served as the first abbess of the convent.  St. Macrina the Younger succeeded her in 375.

Of the canonized children the least famous was St. Naucratius.  At the age of 21 years he turned his back on his legal career to become a hermit living near his family.  He cared actively for the poor and helped to take care of his mother, who had to bury him after he died suddenly at the age of 27 years.

St. Macrina the Younger professed monastic life and preceded her brothers in it.  When she was 12 years old St. Basil the Elder had arranged a marriage for her, but the intended groom died before the wedding date.  St. Macrina the Younger decided to renounce marriage, remain by her mother’s side, live simply, and help the poor.  She followed that path faithfully.  In 379, the same year her brother St. Basil the Great died, she also died.  Another brother, St. Gregory of Nyssa, rushed to her bedside, her bed being two boards.  He wrote:

She was uplifted as she discoursed to us on the nature of the soul and explained the reason of life in the flesh, and why man was made, and how he was mortal, and the origin of death and nature of the journey from death to life again….All of this seemed to me more than human.

–Quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (New York, NY:  The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997), page 308

The Cappadocian Fathers were Sts. Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus the Younger.  Two of the three were brothers.  St. Basil the Great (circa 330-January 1, 379) became the Father of Eastern Communal Monasticism, for he wrote the Rule of St. Basil (358-364).  First, however, he studied at Caesarea, Constantinople, and Athens.  At Athens, he met and befriended St. Gregory of Nazianzus the Younger (circa 329-389), who also came from a holy family.  These two saints became theological colleagues.

St. Basil the Great became a Doctor of the Church.  He, influenced by the example of his mother and sister, visited the chief monasteries in the East circa 357.  Then, in 358, he became a monk at the monastery on his family’s estate.  There he remained for five years.  St. Basil, ordained a priest in 364, was largely responsible for the administration of the Diocese of Caesarea from 365 to 370.  Then, in 370, he became the Bishop of Caesarea.  St. Basil resisted the Eastern Roman Emperor Valens (reigned 364-378), an Arian who persecuted orthodox Christianity.  The saint, holding his own as he confronted an astonished prefect fearlessly, said,

Perhaps you have never before had to deal with a proper bishop.

Valens, who feared St. Basil the Great, divided the Diocese of Caesarea in an effort to reduce the proper bishop’s influence.  So, circa 371, St. Basil ordained St. Gregory of Nyssa, his brother, as the Bishop of Nyssa.  St. Gregory did not want the job, for which he knew he was not suited.  The incident created a rift between the brothers.  In time, however, St. Gregory grew into the position.

St. Gregory of Nazianzus the Younger (329-389), son of St. Gregory of Nazianzus the Elder, Bishop of Nazianzus, also became a bishop against his will.  The Younger met St. Basil the Great Athens, where they were classmates.  He and St. Basil the Great collaborated on a major work, a selection of writings by Origen (185-254).  The Younger’s true calling was to be a monk spending his life in contemplation, but people kept placing him in leadership roles.  In 362 his father ordained him to the priesthood.  Ten years later St. Basil the Great, in a move related to the politics of Valens and the consecration of St. Gregory of Nyssa, forced the Younger to become the Bishop of Sasima.  This created tension in the relationship between the two friends.  The Younger even refused to serve as the Bishop of Sasima, for, he considered Sasima to be

a detestable little place without water or grass or any mark of civilization.

The incident caused the Younger to feel like

a bone flung to the dogs.

He went to Nazianzus and assisted his father instead.  After a few years the Younger became a monk in Seleucia.  By the time St. Basil the Great died the Younger had made peace with his old friend, at whose funeral he presided in 379.  Later that year he relocated to Constantinople, where he preached against Arianism.  Then, in 381, the Younger served as Archbishop of Constantinople for a few weeks before returning to his family estate.  There he spent the rest of his life in contemplation.

St. Gregory of Nazianzus the Younger, a Doctor of the Church, helped the Church to formulate its rebuttal of Arianism, the proposition that the Second Person of the Trinity is a created being.  His partners in this work included the other two Cappadocian Fathers, Sts. Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa.  The Younger also argued against the Apollinarian heresy, the idea that Jesus was fully divine and partially human.

St. Basil the Great and his brother, St. Gregory of Nyssa, knew who they were, for good and for ill.  Both of them were sometimes tactless men who created and contributed to their problems.  As St. Basil wrote confessionally,

For my sins, I seem to fail in everything.

Sometimes this tendency to make enemies needlessly frustrated attempts to argue against heresies, as when St. Basil antagonized Pope St. Damasus I (reigned 366-384), his fellow opponent of Arianism.

Nevertheless, Sts. Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa, some of whose writings survive, cared deeply about the poor and acted to help them.  St. Basil condemned the wealthy who did not do all they could to help the less fortunate:

You refuse to give on the pretext that you haven’t enough for your own needs.  But while your tongue makes excuses, your hand convicts you–that ring shining on your finger silently declares you to be a liar.  How many debtors could be released from prison with one of those rings?

–Quoted in Ellsberg, All Saints (1997), page 260

St. Basil acted on his convictions.  On the outskirts of Caesarea he organized a new community and social services complex.  There the poor found health care and travelers and the poor found lodging.  They also had a church building in which to worship.  He lived in the community, for which he provided in his will.

St. Basil, a Doctor of the Church, fought the good fight.  He opposed simony, contributed to or wrote the influential Liturgy of St. Basil, and shaped the course of Christian theology.  He was also an outlier regarding classical pagan literature; he advised his nephews to use it as a tool for deepening their Christian faith.  This opinion put him in line with St. Clement of Alexandria (circa 150-circa 210/215).

St. Basil died on January 1, 379.  As he lay dying a crown waited outside.  When they heard that he had died, they proclaimed him a saint immediately.

St. Gregory of Nyssa followed in his father’s footsteps at first; he married and taught rhetoric.  (His wife was Theosebeia.)  Then he pursued a religious vocation.  As I have written in this post, St. Basil the Great ordained the Bishop of Nyssa circa 371.  St. Gregory did not seek this office.  In fact, he knew himself to be unsuited for it; he had difficulties being tactful and did not know the value of money.  False accusations of embezzlement provided a cover story for Arians to depose St. Gregory in 376.  He returned two years later, after the death of Valens.

St. Gregory of Nyssa, a mystic and an ascetic, came into his own and grew into his office after the death of St. Basil the Great in 379.  St. Gregory became a leading opponent of Arianism and, according to the First Council of Constantinople (381), a “pillar of orthodoxy.”  He died in 395.

St. Peter of Sebaste (circa 340-391) also defended Nicene doctrine.  He, like St. Gregory of Nyssa, had been an academic, but St. Macrina the Younger convinced him to pursue a religious vocation.  The youngest child of St. Basil the Elder and St. Emilia of Caesarea became a solitary ascetic.  Then, in 370, St. Basil the Great ordained him to the priesthood.  Ten years later St. Peter became the Bishop of Sebaste, in Armenia.  Although he did not write theological treatises, he did encourage St. Gregory of Nyssa to do so.

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I realize that you, O reader, have had to follow the proverbial bouncing ball.  I have led you on a journey through three generations that included two Macrinas, two Basils, and three Gregories.  Yet, given the frequent overlapping of the saints’ lives, I have decided that combining their stories into one post was the preferable method of writing about them.

This post is the successor to five posts, which I deleted shortly prior to taking notes for what you have read.  All of this has been part of an effort to renovate the Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, starting with posts for January 1 and working all the way through to posts for December 31.  My progress so far has been encouraging, but, as you, O reader, can tell, January 14 is closer to January 1 than to December 31.  The possibilities of what await me have caused me to anticipate the intellectual and spiritual journey that will take me to the end of the renovation project.

I hope that you, O reader, will find reading about saints–in this case, the nine for this post–at least as edifying as the process of creating this post has been for me.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 18, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL JOHN STONE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR TOZER RUSSELL, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT HILDA OF WHITBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS

THE FEAST OF JANE ELIZA(BETH) LEESON, ENGLISH HYMN WRITER

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Gracious Father, we pray for your holy Catholic Church.

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

Where it is corrupt, purify it;

where it is in error, direct it;

where in anything it is amiss, reform it.

Where it is right, strengthen it;

where it is in want, provide for it;

where it is divided, reunite it;

for the sake of Jesus Christ your Son our Savior,

who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns,

one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Ezekiel 34:1-6, 20-22

Psalm 12:1-7

Acts 22:30-23:10

Matthew 21:12-16

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

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

Augustana Synod Logo

Above:  Logo of the Augustana Synod

Image in the Public Domain

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

U.S. Lutheran Minister and Theologian

colleague of

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

Swedish-American Lutheran Minister and Theologian

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THE CONTEXT

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

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

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

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CARL J. SODERGREN (I)

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

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

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

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CLAUS A. WENDELL (I)

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

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

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

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

Augustana Heritage, 249

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

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

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SCIENCE AND REVELATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Quoted in Augustana Heritage, 285

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

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

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

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

–Quoted in Augustana Heritage, 286

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

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THE AMERICAN LUTHERAN CONFERENCE (1930-1954)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Quoted in Augustana Heritage, 287

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

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

–Quoted in Augustana Heritage, 287-288

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

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“THE LANGUAGE PROBLEM”

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

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

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

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

–Quoted in Augustana Heritage, 245

He wrote in the August 30, 1913, issue:

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

–Quoted in Augustana Heritage, 245-246

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

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CARL J. SODERGREN (II)

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

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

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

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CLAUS A. WENDELL (II)

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

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

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CONCLUSION

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

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

We’ve never done it that way before!

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

Sodergren and Wendell understood that well.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 11, 2016 COMMON ERA

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

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

and to another the insight of wisdom, and to another the steadfastness of faith.

We praise you for the gifts of grace imparted to your servants

Carl J. Sodergren and Claus A. Wendell,

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

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

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

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

Psalm 119:89-104

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

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

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

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Feast of George Berkeley and Joseph Butler (June 16)   1 comment

British Flag 1707-1801

Above:  The British Flag, 1707-1801

Image in the Public Domain

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GEORGE BERKELEY (MARCH 12, 1685-JANUARY 14, 1753)

Irish Anglican Bishop and Philosopher

and

JOSEPH BUTLER (MAY 18, 1692-JUNE 16, 1752)

Anglican Bishop and Theologian

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INTRODUCTION

These two men come to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days via The Church of England and The Episcopal Church.  Common Worship:  Services and Prayers for the Church of England (2000) lists June 16 as the feast day for Joseph Butler.  Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010) sets aside June 16 to commemorate the lives of Joseph Butler and George Berkeley.  Celebrating these two saints on the same day makes sense.  Yes, they had some major differences, but they had much more in common than not.  I, after taking notes on both men, have noted the following similarities, among others:

  1. They were contemporaries;
  2. They were great intellectuals;
  3. They, like John Locke, were empiricists;
  4. They criticized aspects of Locke’s philosophy;
  5. They influenced major subsequent philosophers;
  6. They were philosophers and theologians;
  7. They defended the truth of Christianity against assumptions of Deism;
  8. They were published authors;
  9. They were Anglican bishops; and
  10. They rejected speculative philosophy and theology in favor of practical theology.

The God of Deism was a non-interventionist figure.  He was like a watchmaker, for he, to follow the analogy, created the watch, wound it up, then left it alone.  The God of Deism was not the God to whom Psalmists in distress called out for help.  Deism was a theological system grounded in reason, not in reason and revelation or in revelation.  Its existence and prominence in the 1600s and 1700s fed a long-running debate in which our saints participated.  Another debater was the composer George Frederick Handel (1685-1759), whose Messiah (1742) argued against Deism.

I respond favorably to Christian intellectuals.  Christianity has an ancient and venerable tradition of reconciling science, reason, and philosophy with theology.

  1. One might consider, for example, St. Clement of Alexandria (circa 150-circa 210/215), the “Pioneer of Christian Scholarship,” who melded pagan Platonism with Christianity.  Truth is truth, St. Clement, insisted, regardless of its origin.  His star pupil, Origenes Adamantius (185-254), Origen, for short, carried on the good work.
  2. Pope Sylvester II (lived circa 945-1003; reigned 999-1003), unlike some of his contemporaries, did not fear technology (such as the abacus and the telescope) or classics of Greco-Roman literature and philosophy.  He did not care if valid knowledge and useful technology came from Muslims or ancient pagans.  For this reason many in the anti-intellectual wing of the Roman Catholic Church accused him of being in league with Satan.
  3. St. Thomas Aquinas (circa 1225-1274), who reconciled faith with reason, and Aristotelian philosophy with Christianity.
  4. St. Albert the Great (1200-1280), a Dominican priest and Roman Catholic Bishop, was also a scientist.
  5. The birth of modern science in the 1500s overlapped with the Protestant Reformation, the proper context in which to consider the Church’s shameful treatment of Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), a faithful Catholic who preferred good science to bad theology.
  6. The Society of Jesus has a mixed record regarding science, for many Jesuit priests have been scientists yet one of their greatest members, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), labored under a Vatican-imposed gag order because of his synthesis of theology, reason, philosophy, and evolutionary science.
  7. The Roman Catholic Church has, fortunately, been more accepting of science since the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), than it was during the period immediately Vatican II.

Unfortunately, anti-intellectualism persists in much of Christianity.  According to an old joke, a fundamentalist says to a liberal,

I will agree to call you a Christian if you agree to call me a scholar.

That witticism is, due to its genre, necessarily an exaggeration, but it contains such truth.  Although some of the greatest Christian scholars have been Evangelicals, Calvinist (with ties to the Christian Reformed Church in North America and the Evangelical Presbyterian ChurchMark A. Noll, who has joined the faculty at the University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana, found ample material to research and write The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (1994).  And Dr. Francis S. Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health since 2009, is an Evangelical Protestant who has led the Human Genome Project.  He wrote The Language of God (2006), in which he criticized Intelligent Design as failing to hold its own under scientific scrutiny.  He as received much condemnation for that last point.

I recall an awkward lunch I ate at home some years ago.  My father was pastor of Warwick United Methodist Church, Warwick, Georgia, U.S.A., in the borderlands of rural Worth and Crisp Counties.  One day I accompanied him to have lunch with two of his parishioners.  One of our hosts, a man I would never mistake for an intellectual, made a much too-broad comment about educational attainment and piety.  Well-educated people, he insisted, had a different (and implicitly inferior) type of faith than did others.  Both my father and I, aside from being well-educated, were also tactful in the moment.  Nobody created an unfortunate scene.

Now, without further ado, I proceed to summarize then lives and part of the thought of two saints who belied that man’s stereotype more than my father and I did.

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Bishop George Berkeley

Above:  Bishop George Berkeley, by John Smybert

Image in the Public Domain

GEORGE BERKELEY (MARCH 12, 1685-JANUARY 14, 1753)

Berkeley, a native of County Kilkenny, Ireland, was an empiricist and a metaphysical philosopher.  Our saint, of English ancestry, studied at Kilkenny school then at Trinity College, Dublin (1700-1704), from which he graduated.  He maintained an association with his alma mater until 1724, serving as a fellow (lecturing in the subjects of Greek, Hebrew, and theology) from 1707 to 1724.  He took some leaves of absence during that time, touring in Europe in 1713-1714 and 1716-1720, as well as spending time in London, where he associated with Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), Alexander Pope, and Joseph Addison.

Berkeley, a clergyman since 1709, served as the Dean of Dromore in 1721-1722.   In 1724 he resigned his fellowship at Trinity College, Dublin, to become the Dean of Derry, a post he held until 1733.  He sought unsuccessfully to found a college for colonists and Native Americans in Bermuda.  He married Anne Forster in 1728 then moved to Newport, Rhode Island.  There he encouraged higher education in North America until he left for Ireland in 1731.  He donated his library to Yale College (now University), New Haven, Connecticut, hence Berkeley College and Berkeley Divinity School at Yale University.  Another namesake is the city of Berkeley, California.

In 1734 Berkeley became the Bishop of Cloyne.  He retired in late 1752 and retired to Oxford, England.  There he died a few months later, on January 14, 1753, shortly after securing the admission of his son, George, as an undergraduate at Christ Church, Oxford.

Berkeley was a man of his time, responding to issues contemporary to him.  One issue was materialism, meaning not the accumulation of material goods but matter, that is, the stuff of which physical reality consists.  As a student at Trinity College, Dublin, Berkeley had studied the Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), by John Locke (1632-1704).  Locke argued for the following propositions:

Ideas originate in one’s brain because of the influence of the universe, a material system in which the universe’s “bodies” act mechanically, that is, by “impulse,” upon each other and upon human senses.

  1. Ideas are the only things of which people can be directly aware.
  2. Ideas of “primary qualities” represent accurately the real character of material things.
  3. Ideas of “secondary qualities” do not represent accurately the real character of material things.
  4. We humans mistakenly “attribute reality” to smell, taste, sound, and color.
  5. There are also “immaterial substances,” but Locke admitted that he did not know how to prove this point.
  6. Consciousness might be nothing more than a property of matter, one rooted in memory.

Berkeley argued against these points, preferring immaterialism.  He countered that the physical world exists only in experiences of it.  He found no good reason to accept the existence of matter, as Locke understood it.  Rather, the principle of

Esse is percipi,

or

to be is to be perceived,

held sway in Berkeley’s thought.  Ergo:

For the mind of God is present always and everywhere; all ideas are always in the mind of God, and it is by direct communion with His mind that human beings are supplied with the ideas that make up their experience.  It is literally true that “in Him we live, and move, and have our being.”  Thus, the reality of the everyday world is secured by being made directly dependent upon the mind of God, and the notion of “matter,” the very foundation of the scientific world view, is simply rejected.

Encyclopedia Americana (1962), Volume 3, Page 554

Berkeley, true to his Anglicanism, rejected abstract speculations in favor of practical theology.  He affirmed one of the core principles of the Law of Moses–complete human dependence upon God.  As for Berkeley’s rejection of the basis of modern science, that point is up for debate.  (I favor science and theology.)

Berkeley’s philosophical theory of immaterialism became influential after he died.  Thomas Reid (1710-1796) criticized it in Inquiry into the Human Mind (1764).  The theory influenced subsequent philosophers such as David Hume (1711-1776), Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), and Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860).  Another critic was John Stuart Mill (1806-1873).

Berkeley was a varied thinker and an excellent literary stylist.  Major works included the following:

  1. Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (1710) and its counterpart for the mass audience, Three Dialogues Between Hyles and Philonus (1713);
  2. An Essay Towards a New Theory of Vision (1709), a work of psychology;
  3. De Motu (1721), a work in Latin on the philosophy of science;
  4. Aleiphron, or the Minute Philosopher (1732), a defense of morality and religion against Deism;
  5. The Analyst (1734), a critique of Isaac Newton’s differential calculus;
  6. The Querist (1735-1737), regarding economic problems in Ireland; and
  7. Sirus (1744), regarding science and philosophy.

The author of the article about Berkeley in the Encyclopedia Britannica (1968), Volume 3, on page 508:

The most patent features of his style are precision, economy and a seemingly inevitable grace; with here and there salty satire and teasing wit; the roots of it are a natural logicality, a rare purity of sentiment and a deep philanthropy.

Archive.org provides copies of Berkeley’s works.  Examples include the following:

  1. The Works of George Berkeley, D.D., Late Bishop of Cloyne in Ireland; To Which is Added, an Account of His Life; and Several of His Letters to Thomas Prior, Esq., Dean Gervais, Mr. Pope, Etc. (1820)–Volumes I and II;
  2. The Works of George Berkeley, D.D., Formerly Bishop of Cloyne; Including Many of His Writings Hitherto Unpublished; With Prefaces, Annotations, His Life and Letters, and an account of His Philosophy (1871), by Alexander Campbell Fraser–Volumes I, II, III, and IV; and
  3. The Works of George Berkeley, D.D., Bishop of Cloyne (1897), edited by George Sampson–Volumes I, II, and III.

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Joseph Butler

Above:  Bishop Butler

Image in the Public Domain

JOSEPH BUTLER (MAY 18, 1692-JUNE 16, 1752)

Butler, a native of Wantage, Berkshire, England, was an empiricist thinker.  He differed from Berkeley by accepting science.  Butler’s rational orthodoxy stood in contrast to the Methodist enthusiasm of John Wesley (1703-1791), his fellow Anglican.  Our saint understood correctly that we humans act based on probabilities.  He also grasped that actions, not certainties, are the bases of religion.  Thus he rejected the quest for certainty, that idol of fundamentalism, and defended Christianity as a “rational probability.”

Butler, who came from a Presbyterian family, became a great Anglican theologian.  He was the youngest of eight children of a wealthy linen and woolen draper.  Our saint, educated at Gloucester then Tewkesbury, had once intended to become a Presbyterian minister, but he came to prefer Anglicanism instead.  He converted in 1714 and matriculated at Oriel College, Oxford, the following year.  He studied philosophy, one of his favorite subjects, if not his favorite subject.  Our saint found himself disenchanted with the conservatism of the course of study, for he noticed defenses of Aristotelian thought against Newtonian physics and the thought of Francis Bacon (1561-1626) and John Locke.  Butler complained:

Our people have never had any doubt in their lives concerning a received opinion.

–Quoted in Gibbs, The Middle Way (1991), page 48

Butler graduated with his B.A. degree in 1718.  Subsequent degrees from the same institution were Bachelor of Law (1721) and Doctor of Law (1733).

Our saint, ordained in 1719, found his niche in The Church of England.  From 1719 to 1725 he preached at Rolls Chapel, London.  He became the Rector of Stanhoppe in 1725 and maintained that title and received its income for 15 years.  From 1733 to 1736 Butler doubled as the Chaplain to Lord Chancellor Charles Talbot.  In 1736 he became the Clerk of the Closet to Queen Caroline of Ansbach (1683-1737), consort of King George II (reigned 1727-1760).  Butler and Queen Caroline became friends and engaged in theological discussions.  She spoke highly of him to King George II and recommended Butler for promotion.  (The monarch was the titular head of The Church of England.)  In 1738 Butler became the Bishop of Bristol, in charge of a poor see.  He remained as Rector of Stanhoppe until 1740, when be began to double as the Dean of St. Paul’s, London.  From 1746 to 1750 he did triple duty as the Clerk of the Closet to King George II.

As the Bishop of Bristol (1738-1750) Butler locked horns with John Wesley.  The founder of Methodism was preaching without authorization to miners in the Diocese of Bristol.  Wesley was not canonically resident in the Diocese of Bristol.  Butler ordered Wesley to go home and stated that he (Wesley) should cease to pretend to have received special revelations from the Holy Spirit.

Butler refused an offer to become the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1747.  According to an apocryphal story, he said,

It is too late for me to try to support a falling Church.

–Quoted in Gibbs, The Middle Way (1991), page 50

Our saint had complained about the “decay of religion” in England.  Certainly part of that decay was the influence of Deism.  His preferred method of supporting the “falling Church” in his final years was ritualism.  Thus Butler foreshadowed the Oxford Movement of the 1800s.  Critics accused him of having succumbed to Papism, an allegation tantamount to accusing one of being bound for Hell.

Butler, translated to the wealthy Diocese of Durham in 1750, died of stomach and intestinal disorders at Bath, Somerset, England, on June 16, 1752.  He never married, thus he lived in a manner consistent with his opposition to the marriage of the clergy.  He also lived simply and gave away the vast majority of his money.

Ernest Campbell Mossner, author of Bishop Butler and the Age of Reason:  A Study in the History of Thought (1936), wrote:

In the history of eighteenth century English culture, what Locke is to philosophy, what Newton is to physics, what Burke is to politics, Butler is to theology…And the spokesman is by no means unworthy of his distinguished associates.

–Quoted in Gibbs, The Middle Way (1991), pages 47-48

Butler affirmed science, reason, and orthodox Christianity.  He shared many yet by no means all of the points of Deism, for he argued against that system.  Our saint affirmed among other things, miracles, human sinfulness, the Incarnation of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus, and the Atonement.  He also accepted scientific developments and knowledge, and had a high opinion of human reason.  Scripture, tradition, and reason–Richard Hooker’s Three-Legged Stool–defined Butler’s theology.

Butler rejected speculative thought in favor of practical theology.  He insisted that religion is a matter of practice, not certainty.  In his theology probability, not certainty, is the grounding of human knowledge and actions.  Furthermore, Butler wrote, nature contains much mystery, perplexity, and obscurity; reason and order do not rule supreme there.  Via experience one can discern facts upon which to infer probable truth.  Ergo, theological and natural forms of knowledge are equally indispensable and probable.  Simply put, the grounding of Christianity is divine revelation, not nature.  One can access much of truth via science and reason, but one cannot perceive other aspects of truth by those methods.  There is more than one way to perceive truth correctly.

Butler also thought deeply about psychology.  He criticized John Locke’s theory of psychological continuity, based in memories.  Our saint opposed blind obedience to “received wisdom,” but he also evaluated alternatives critically, as he should have done.

Butler also critiqued the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), who argued that self-love directs all human actions.  That is simplistic, our saint thought.  He countered that benevolence is a second influence, benevolence, is also at work in human nature and in harmony with self-love.  Related to benevolence, Butler wrote, is conscience, which he understood to mean the voice of God inside one’s head.  According to Butler, therefore, the conscience is sovereign, to follow one’s conscience is to behave virtuously, and to obey the will of God, and conscience is consistent with reason.

Lee W. Gibbs wrote of Butler, who, like Berkeley, influenced David Hume and Immanuel Kant, that;

In short, the life and work of Bishop Joseph Butler was thoroughly representative of the middle way.  He exemplified that perennial Anglican openness to the changing historical circumstances of his day, while maintaining at the same time that continuous body of traditional beliefs held to be essential to the Christian faith.

The Middle Way (1991), pages 58-59

Archive.org makes available works by and about Butler.  They include the following:

  1. The Works of the Right Reverend Father in God Joseph Butler, D.C.L., Late Bishop of Durham; To Which is Prefixed, an Account of the Character and Writings of the Author, by Samuel Halifax, D.D. Late Lord Bishop of Gloucester (1828)–Volumes I and II;
  2. The Whole Works of Joseph Butler, LL.D., Late Lord Bishop of Durham (1852);
  3. The Works of Joseph Butler (1897), edited by William Ewart Gladstone (Prime Minister, 1868-1874, 1880-1885, 1886, and 1892-1894)–Volumes I, II, and III;
  4. Bishop Butler (1901), by William Archibald Spooner; and
  5. Bishop Joseph Butler (1923), by Albert Edward Baker.

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CONCLUSION

My Ecumenical Calendar of Saint’s Days and Holy Days recognizes a wide range of saints.  I imagine that, if by means of a time machine, I could gather all of them in one place and, via a universal translator, they could all understand each other, some fascinating discussions–even arguments–would occur.  I would, in such a fanciful and hypothetical situation, engage in some arguments.  If agreeing with me across the board were a criterion for inclusion on my Ecumenical Calendar, it would not exist.

I admit that I disagree with Berkeley and Butler on certain points.  That is fine, for they disagreed with each other.  They also share the same commemoration on the calendar of saints of The Episcopal Church.  Anglican collegiality permits such unity in the midst of differences.

I also admit that despite my attempts to understand that, despite my attempts to understand some of the philosophical arguments of Butler, I remain uncertain regarding the objective definition of what he wrote sometimes.  For example, the contents of his critique of Locke’s theory of personality and consciousness remain a mystery to me.  That is fine, for that fact has no bearing on my opinion of Butler as a saint and a seeker of God.  I still recognize him as one who engaged his intellect vigorously, thought deeply, and did so for the glory of God.  Butler, true to his convictions, avoided the opposite errors of idolizing “received wisdom” on one hand and more recent developments in science and technology on the other hand.  I respect that.

The process of taking notes, processing them, and drafting this post has taken parts of several days and constituted a workout for my intellect and my right hand, for the draft is lengthy.  Typing this post has given my fingers a workout also.  I am better informed for the process of creating this post.  May you, O reader, be better informed after reading it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 11, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ONESIMUS, BISHOP OF BYZANTIUM

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Holy God, source of all wisdom:

We give thanks for your servants George Berkeley and Joseph Butler,

who by their life and work strengthened your Church and illumined your world.

Help us, following their examples, to place our hearts and minds in your service,

for the sake of Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit

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

Isaiah 6:6-10

Psalm 119:89-96

Acts 13:38-44

John 3:11-16

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 431

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