Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Reformations in Germany and England: Lecture 5 Study Questions

As I started the heavy lifting on my paper today (or is this part the easier?), I stumbled across study questions for this lecture. I mistakenly overlooked them thinking that the essay would suffice for an end-of-section assignment. My bad. So now I'm playing catch up on my catch up. Last week's travel give me a lot of time to read but not so much time for paper writing. (Hey, maybe you can type on a laptop in economy class, but I can't.)

I also had to deliver the youngun to summer camp yesterday, so my weekend kaput with the drive up on Saturday and the drive back yesterday. Oh well. That's what I get for taking summer session. I will probably not take a class next summer. I'll need a break by then anyway.

What were the political and personal forces driving these movements in Germany and in England?

Luther's personal struggle with faith and penitence caused him to search scripture for some means of spiritual relief. The posting of the 95 theses was simply the moment at which his struggle manifested itself in the public sphere. He appeared to have a scrupulous conscience and grew more and more anxious and fearful that he had not confessed every mortal sin. At one point, a confessor told him, "Man, God is not angry with you. You are angry with God." Luther even acknowledged hating this God that he thought compelled obedience and penitence through fear.

Scripture, however, told of a God of mercy, and he struggled to make sense of this paradox—how to balance mercy with justice. Eventually he came to the conclusion that we could not ever be contrite enough or do enough penance, that all we could do is have faith, to trust in Christ's mercy and his atoning death on the cross.

His concerns about faith plagued him all of his adult life, and he grappled with depression on and off for years.

Luther's struggle coincided with popular unrest, referred to as the Bundschuh movement. Because of economic conditions, peasants and plebians occasionally broke out into open rebellion. In some cases, even minor nobility joined the side of the protestors. Clergy were caught in between as they benefitted from rents and revenues from Church lands but paid no taxes. Added to this was the general dismal state of the clergy at the time. Although there were certainly some good priests, there were far too many who ignored their vows and lived disreputable lives. Add to this corruption and scandal in the episcopacy and the Papal Curia, and the tinder was ready for someone to strike a match. Luther's protest against the selling of indulgences was the perfect catalyst for religious upheaval.

The situation was different in England. King Henry VIII was a seemingly stalwart Catholic king. He even wrote (or was credited for writing) a book defending the seven sacraments against Martin Luther's attacks. The people of England lived their lives around the liturgical calendar and celebrated the many holy days of obligation, fasted frequently, and showed devotion to Mary and the cult of the saints. Books on the liturgy in the vernacular were abundant. At the onset of the Lutheran reformation in the 1520s, few would have guessed that the same would happen in England.

All might have been well for Catholicism in England but for the problem of an heir. The Tudor dynasty was still young, and King Henry's marriage to Catherine of Aragon had resulted in only one child, Mary. Motivated both by lust and a desire for a male heir, Kind Henry began to question the dispensation of the impediment of affinity and whether the Pope had the authority to dispense a law of the Church. Notwithstanding Catherine's revelation that her marriage with Arthur (Henry's elder brother who died shortly after his marriage to Catherine) had never been consummated, Henry persisted in seeking an annulment. When the Church denied this to him, he severed ties with the Holy See. He never intended the doctrinal changes that eventually took place during his son Edward's reign. However, when he was no longer around to defend the doctrine of the faith from Puritan theology, the inevitable happened, albeit with considerable coercion of the popular will.

How did Luther’s rejection of the papacy differ from that of Henry VIII’s?

Luther set out to convince the Pope and the Church of the rightness of his cause. He truly believed that he had found the truth and could reform from within. Had some actual discussion taken place on his posting of the 95 theses, the schism could've been averted. However, over time he became convinced of the rightness of his position, and once Luther discerned that his views would not be accepted by the Holy See, he saw no other option but to reject the Pope's authority. Luther's initial protest stemmed from a clear abuse in which the Papacy had a hand, the selling of indulgences. Luther had a reasonable complaint but went too far in his doctrinal assertions.

King Henry, on the other hand, wasn't rejecting Catholic teaching, except for the necessary authority of the Pope. He attempted to preserve much of the faith, albeit with some reduction of the number of feast days on the liturgical calendar and with the suppression of religious orders. His claim hinged on a matter of Church law, the legitimacy of dispensations of laws of the Church. In his mind (and perhaps due to a flawed understanding of canon law), the Pope had attempted to dispense a Divine law, as opposed to a man-made, cautionary law instituted by the Church. His case was dicey on several accounts. First, he himself enacted the dispensation, so he was as guilty (if any guilt were involved) as the Pope. Second, he knew full well that Catherine's marriage to his brother hand't been consummated. Finally, neither his political or personal motive justified the sin of adultery.

[Technorati tags: Christianity, Catholic, Catholicism, Church History]

Friday, July 14, 2006

New Element Discovered

Chad at On the Silent Planet has the story on Governmentium.

Back With No Rattan Marks

I made it back last night after 32 hours in transit. That could've been about 7 hours shorter had United put me on a direct flight from San Francisco. Instead, they felt Denver would be a better route.

Because of the unscheduled delay in San Francisco on the way to Singapore, I had two days on the ground. I had barely managed my jet lag when it was time to return. I did et out a little on the second day. I attended Mass at Sacred Heart parish in downtown Singapore, about 6 or 7 blocks from my hotel.

Now, Singapore has a lot of Catholic churches, and most of them have an evening Mass. I was tempted to go to St. Theresa's, which has a monthly requiem Mass in Latin, but that church was considerably further by cab. I'd passed it to and from my business destination, and it looked like a beautiful church. So I chose Sacred Heart.

I will let the picture do the talking.

The liturgy was quite similar to what you'd experience in an average US parish using the the new missal, except that they do not hold hands during the Our Father, and they do not shake hands during the sign of peace but turn and acknowledge those close to them. The Liturgy of the Eucharist was celebrated more quickly, and the homily was quite a bit longer than what you'd typically get in a daily Mass at my parish. However, everything else was essentially the same.

Now I just need to play catch up. I have a paper due early next week and a daughter to drop off at summer camp tomorrow.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Did I say Singapore?

I must've meant Burlingame, CA, 'cuz that's where I am.

My flight our of Denver was delayed 90 minutes, so I missed my connecting flight to Narita. Well, at least I won't miss Mass this weekend. I'm heading over to St. Catherine of Siena not more than 2 miles away. I'm actually not so sorry I'm stuck here. I might feel different when I have to be at work at 9:00 Singapore time on Tuesday.

BTW, Eliot, I can spit on the sidewalk here.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Leaving on a Jet Plane

I'll be heading to the other side of the world for a few days (Singapore). I may just wind up blogging on a sleepless night, but I'm reeeaaaallly hoping I'll be so exhausted that I just fall right into a new sleep pattern that's merely 11 hours off of my current pattern.

Yeah, right.

[Technorati tags: Christianity, Catholic, Catholicism, Church History]

Monday, July 03, 2006

Coordinating Altar Service

My wife and I are currently considering whether we should volunteer to take over coordination of the altar servers at our church. Apparently the current coordinator doesn't really wanto to do it, and it does seem like a pretty thankless job given that the kids often fail to show up and rarely try to find a substitute. At the same time, the scheduling is usually not done until after people's plans for a month have been made, so I think there need to be some changes.

Now, for those who aren't familiar with St. John's Cathedral in Boise, we follow the new(-ish) missal. We don't have a Tridentine mass within reasonable travelling distance with the exception of an SSPX chapel. We occasionally have a Byzantine Rite Liturgy in the area, but not regularly enough for us to fulfill our weekly obligations. So we have altar girls. I'm not yet convinced that having altar girls are a bad thing in and of itself, but I do think there's something to the argument that the inclusion of altar girls has caused problems with attracting boys to the priestly vocations.

The fact is that boys at this age are not interested in mixing with girls yet, and forcing them to do so simply causes them to quit and find other things to do. You can see this factor at work in children's choirs. Like it or not, if we want boys to take part, we need to be realistic and sensitive to their needs.

So, here's what I'm thinking.

If my wife and I take this on, we'll push to set up service teams of three servers: one senior server with two less-experienced servers. These will be strictly separated. Boys will serve with boys, and girls will serve with girls. If altar service is to be a means of discerning vocations, I don't see why we would want to set up conditions that are different than for religious life. We'll also have assigned substitutes. Schedules will come up two to three weeks in advanced.

We'd also have regular meetings. Currently, the only meetings are held twice a year for basic and senior training and during Advent and Lent to prepare for special masses. I think these kids need to have more time spent discussing what they're doing. It would give us a chance to address errors that occur and changes that might come up. It also provides another means for faith formation.

Finally, we'd have stringent attendance requirements, as well as rewards for good performance. Three absences without a substitute or reasonable excuse kicks a kid off the team. We'd use a roster and ask the deacon to sign after each mass to verify attendance.

My father is in the cathedral's chancel choir, and those choristers who perform well are made senior or head choristers, have medals, and occasionally get other rewards as well (gift certificates, outings to water parks, etc.). As far as I can tell, alter service has no such rewards.

Any other suggestions? Can anyone suggest good resources for running an altar service program?

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Okay, not what I was expecting...

Maybe I need to stop taking these quizzes.

You Are Jan Brady

Brainy and a little introverted, you tend to think life is a lot worse than it actually is.
And while you may think you're a little goofy looking, most people consider you to be a major babe.

Hey, I chose "striped shirt and jeans" and did NOT select "finally beat your older sister in something." Sheesh. I could put up a photo of me next to Bobbie Brady, and you'd have a hard time telling the difference.

Back then, that is. I don't look like Bobby Brady anymore.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Luther and the Reformation

We're discussing the Reformation, and I've been neck deep in Luther's ideas for the last three weeks. I can't say I've truly mastered all of the material yet. We started with two essays by Augustine on the errors of Pelagius. Those might've gone much better if I'd had a different (read: cleaner) copy. The CCEL version is riddled with typos. Pelikan's explanation of the Reformation on the Continent was good, but frankly, three chapters simply isn't enough to cover all of the facets. If they had been on Luther's ideas alone, I might feel a bit more sure. Then the assignment included "browsing through" Roland Bainton's biography on Luther, a text we weren't required to have, as well as reading two of three other selections. 95 Theses is short enough. Bondage of the will is a rather lengthy fisking of Erasmus by Luther.

UPDATE: So, I saw that our local library has copies of the Bainton text, so after being unable to confirm their hours, I drove down, only to find that they close at 6:00 on Fridays. Guess I shouldn't complain, though. I'm frankly amazed they actually have something I need.

UPDATE 2: I managed to pick up Here I Stand by Roland Bainton at the library. Although we're only requested to browse it, I'll most likely read the whole thing. It's pretty engaging, although the author must undoubtedly by Lutheran. He occasionally throws in little comments like "even Catholic historians agree that such and such was a problem." That and the Old Catholic Encyclopedia have been helpful in clarifying my understanding of Augustine's thoughts on grace.

One thing I can say is very clear to me: private revelation can be a dangerous thing when one lacks discernment. I think that fact is most clear when one sees the dramatic change in Luther's theology. I find it interesting how he employs the words "bind" and "loose," as he should know full well to whom that authority was given, while at the same time disputing the authority of the Pope and the testimony of the fathers of the Church. Then, in the same breath, he seems to claim to know the mind of Christ better. Christ, though, gave no such seal to Luther.

So, what I notice from The Bondage of the Will are the following:

- Luther claims to know the Word of God better than the Church.

- Luther changes the definitions of theological terms to suit his purpose, then defeats those traditional usages that he deems unsuited for his purpose.

- Luther rails against the Sophists while employing sophistry.

- And, as a side note, Luther speaks of himself in the third person.

Based on his writing, I can surely see why he was very persuasive. However, I can also see how much of his theology arose from his own personal torment—his own struggle with sin. Heck, I can commiserate, but that I blame on my own scrupulosity, not on a failure of Catholic dogma.

Anyhoo, to the questions...

What is the point of disagreement between Pelagius and St. Augustine?

The point of contention Augustine has with Pelagius is the latter's claim that works of the free will can initiate the process of justification, which suggests that faith is not due to a gratuitous gift of grace. He denied original sin. Augustine, on the other hand, posited that faith was a response to God's grace, hence an act of the free will in cooperation with grace. Pelagius also disputed the need or value of infant baptism and suggested that grave was simply an expedient to salvation but that one could gain faith and, hence, salvation through freely chosen virtuous behavior. This is in distinction to the Catholic doctrine that grace impels one to faith and, with the cooperation of free will, leads to additional actual graces, salutary works, and justification. As Augustine notes numerous times in "On Nature and Grace," Pelagius' thought, if true, renders Christ’s sacrifice meaningless.

Is the position of Luther and his followers in agreement with Augustine?

No, although Luther clearly thought it to be. Luther saw no difference between the grace that prompts man to faith and that which results in salvation. Augustine, on the contrary, seems to have thought it something that worked to prompt faith and continued to impel choices to sanctification. For Luther, faith is a one-time event, a fiduciary event that we gain solely by God's will and without any free choice of our own. Augustine seems to express himself in hyperbole to the point that one unfamiliar with all of his works could certainly come to misunderstand him. I think that Luther's own preoccupation with his guilt as well as his limited exposure to Augustine's thought left him to accept faith as a completely gratuitous act with no cooperation of the human will.

What are the differences between Augustine’s and Luther’s positions?

While Augustine saw grace as a purely gratuitous gift from God, he affirmed that grace required cooperation of the free human will for faith. Luther, though, disputed the existence of free will at all and considered God's will to be immutable. The idea of someone willing not to have faith and resisting God's will was absurd. It necessarily follows from this thinking, then, that God must will only the Elect to salvation. For Augustine, God wills all to be saved. However, because of the free will of man, God's will in this instance must be conditional. He absolutely wills some things, but for most humans, their salvation is a conditionally willed by God.

Luther's notion of justification is clearly different and seems to be a one-time event. In this, it more closely seems to be related to sanctifying grace than to justifying or actual grace. Luther's justification is a state, whereas Augustine demonstrates a belief in the process of justification, of grace and the cooperating free will leading to faith, which leads to actual grace, which leads to salutary acts.

For Luther, grace is either present or not. For Augustine, sufficient grace is always present but only becomes efficacious with the cooperative will. Hence, salutary acts have meaning in Augustine's salvation economy, where good acts are simply a product or end result in Luther's economy, with no salutary effect.

How does Luther propose that one can be both just and a sinner at the same time

According to Bainton, Luther's understanding of justification comes from the duality of the Greek term that renders into justice and justification in English. First, God renders justice, which means He condemns or rewards as does a judge. However, as Judge, He can justify someone, that is, essentially suspend a condemned man's sentence and reclaim his instead of "exaction of a pound of flesh" (page 64). The idea is essentially that in God's mercy He gives clemency, which doesn't remove guilt but withholds punishment, with the expectation and confidence that the sinner will sin no more. In this way, God simply chooses to ignore the guilt. This notion counters the Catholic concept of justification, which results in a purification or sanctification process. To Luther, one's guilt is covered and hidden by God. To the Catholic, that sin is expunged, and the wound it left is healed over time.

Oddly, Luther sought to bring relief to those who were scrupulously concerned about confession, himself primarily. Judging from Bainton's words, Luther didn't seem to have a clear understanding of the requirements for confession and absolution and believed that even those sins he had forgotten to confess would be held to his account. I suspect this ignorance on his part was probably widespread among Catholics of the time.

Feel free to leave comments. Although I think I have Luther's take down pretty well, I'm still working to understand Augustine. The CCEL copies I have and my limited exposure to his work are hindering me in that regard.

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