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In a 5/31/14 Wall Street Journal book review of new biography of Bonhoeffer, Strange Glory by Charles Marsh, the reviewer spends a sizable portion of his article on Marsh’s assertion, summed up by the reviewer:  “Dietrich  Bonhoeffer was gay”. Even saying that, note, makes the picture above suspect. Now the reviewer says that the author does not quite say that but that something funny was going on between Bonhoeffer and his best friend, confessor, fellow pastor and eventual biographer, Eberhard Bethge.  For instance that Bonhoeffer had an “unanswered longing” for community was an indication of his homosexual bent. So that would mean a man’s desire to shoot firearms must mean he is a murderer?  I do not think so. They wrote tender letters to each other.  Even if one has an inclination does not mean a man will act upon it. In a Lincoln biography, an author said that Lincoln and, I think it was, Herndon, had a homosexual tryst, indicated by sharing beds (which would have been customary on the road in the 19th century) . Anytime two men are close, then they are probably homosexual these days, as liberal theologians  assert in same fashion that since David and Jonathan were close, as Jonathan loved David as “his own soul” (1 Sam. 18: 1), that they also were lovers.  But I will let C. S. Lewis weigh in here.  He is by today’s corrupt standards, political incorrect, but as Lewis wrote, it is we who are out of step.  The following quotes are from his The Four Loves,the chapter on Friendship:

To say that every Friendship is consciously and explicitly homosexual would be too obviously false; the wiseacres take refuge in the less palpable charge that it is really – unconsciously, cryptically, in some Pickwickian sense – homosexual. And this, though it cannot be proved, can never of course be refuted. The fact that no positive evidence of homosexuality can be discovered in the behaviour of two Friends does not disconcert the wiseacres at all: “That”, they say gravely, “is just what we should expect.” The very lack of evidence is thus treated as evidence; the absence of smoke proves that the fire is very carefully hidden. Yes – if it exists at all. But we must first prove its existence. Otherwise we are arguing like a man, who should say “If there were an invisible cat in that chair, the chair would look empty; but the chair does look empty; therefore there is an invisible cat in it.” A belief in invisible cats cannot perhaps be logically disproved, but it tells us a good deal about those who hold it. Those who cannot conceive Friendship as a substantive love but only as a disguise or elaboration of Eros betray the fact that they have never had a Friend. The rest of us know that though we can have erotic love and friendship for the same person yet in some ways nothing is less like a Friendship than a love-affair. Lovers are always talking to one another about their love; Friends hardly ever about their Friendship. Lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each other; Friends, side by side, absorbed in some common interest. Above all, Eros (while it lasts) is neccessarily between two only. But two, far from being the necessary number for Friendship, is not even the best.

Bonhoeffer and Bethge had much in common and were brothers in Christ side by side.  They certainly had a common interest, actually interests:  Christ and faith, and the fight for faith and against Nazism.  Lewis continued:

The homosexual theory therefore seems to me not even plausible. This is not to say that Friendship and abnormal Eros have never been combined. Certain cultures at certain periods seem to have tended to the contamination. In war-like societies it was, I think, especially likely to creep into the relation between the mature Brave and his young armour-bearer or squire. The absence of the women while you were on the warpath had no doubt something to do with it. In deciding, if we think we need or can decide, where it crept in and where it did not, we must surely be guided by the evidence (when there is any) and not by an a priori theory. Kisses, tears and embraces are not in themselves evidence of homosexuality. The implications would be, if nothing else, too comic. Hrathgar embracing Beowulf, Johnson embracing Boswell (a pretty flagrantly heterosexual couple) and all those hairy old toughs of centurions in Tacitus, clinging to one another and begging for last kisses when the legion was broken up… all pansies? If you can believe that you can believe anything. On a broad historical view it is, of course, not the demonstrative gestures of Friendship among our ancestors but the absence of such gestures in our own society that calls for some special explanation. We, not they, are out of step.

 

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Introduction:  Today’s appointed Psalmody is Psalm 119: 9-16.  Pr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer (+9 April, 1945) in his unfinished commentary on the longest single chapter in the Bible, Psalm 119, has these sharp observations on verse 9

How can a young man keep his way pure?
    By guarding it according to Your word.

A young man here asks the question of his life, and he asks it not because of flaming idealism or enthusiasm for the good and noble in general, but because he has experienced the power of the Word of God and his own weakness.

Does this question about the blameless and pure way sound inconsistent with youth, freedom and affirmation of life?  If so, it is only because we have become accustomed to a very godless conception of youth and are no longer able to understand the power and fullness of life which is found in innocence.  It is very presumptuous and wrongheaded to that a man has to become entangled in the guilt of life in order to know life itself, and finally God.  We do not learn to know life and guilt from own experience, but from God’s judgment of mankind and His grace in the cross of Jesus Christ.

It has become clearer in my studies that  pre-war, pre-Nazi Germany had a large youth movement just we had in our country the 1960s.  In both time periods youth were extolled as the measure of the good and the noble.  A Lutheran pastor and theologian, Kurt Marquart, wrote in an 1978 article on liturgy, the following trenchant comment on the Church:

Who, after all, could respect an institution which is, after two
thousand years’ experience, so confused about its functions as
to say, in effect: “Dear children, help us! We are no longer
sure about what we ought to be doing. Perhaps you might
have some good ideas?” Who could possibly take seriously the
play -worship prefixed with that horrid word, “experimental”?
The fact is that no healthy. viable society lets its children
arbitrate its values. It is for the elders of the tribe to guard its
cultural heritage and to transmit it solemnly to the younger
generation-never vice versa. Also in our society the problem
is not with the youth but with their elders. 

In Bonhoeffer’s time, before World War II, after the utter devastation of the first World War, a youth movement began in Germany that was looking for a leader, (German: Führer) to lead them to a new day. In 1933, after Herr Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, Bonhoeffer gave a radio address, “The Younger Generations’ Altered Concept of Leadership” based upon “Führer Princip” or Leader Principle”.  It was cut short, history can only guess who cut it short and Bonhoeffer later gave it again. I wrote an article about this principle at Brothers of John the Steadfast.  Yet it all started in a youth movement. One musical caught the incipient terrors of this youth movement, Cabaret, in a song written for the musical (set in prewar Nazi Germany) which almost sounds like a song of that era:

It seems to me at least that in Bonhoeffer’s comments on Psalm 119: 9 that  he is reflecting a saying of this new understanding of youth. He calls it “godless”.  Growing up in the 60s, I was told that you have to become thoroughly immersed in “living” to understand life.  No, says Bonhoeffer, based upon God’s Word:  we learn of life, it’s guilt and redemption only in God’s Word.  I was never directly taught that it is good to be innocent,as it was derided as naiveté.  Look at what youth, unrestricted by any wisdom, Biblical or traditional, wrought in Germany.  Look what has happened with my generation dictating, not merely bad liturgy, but what we wanted:  drugs, pot, ‘free’ love, narcissism, abortion, STDs.  Look at what has been wrought.  Bonhoeffer:

“Not good intentions, burning ideals, nor even work and fulfillment of duty can keep the way pure, only God’s Word can do that.

We need the Word of Lord more than ever, beloved in the Lord.

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In my last posting, Faith:  A Family Affair I commented on the daily lection for that day from Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy.  The daily readings from 2 Timothy concluded 1 February 2014.   The focus of Paul’s second epistle to Timothy centers on the Word of God, the Scriptures  as the Apostle encourages Timothy to, “…follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.”  (1: 13) The “sound words” (literally “healthy words”, “clean words”) are the Scriptures.  God’s Word is clean (cf.Psalm 19:8-10).  His Word in Holy Baptism, over which He has placed His Name, cleanses (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:10-12 ).   

The Apostle begins his  epistle by gently reminding his brother pastor that Timothy was taught the faith from his mother and grandmother, and further he was ordained a pastor to preach and teach the Word of God “in and out of season”, when it is favorable or not:  see 2 Timothy 4:1-3.  In another word of encouragement, the Apostle Paul wrote Timothy, again reminding him of the faith which was kindled by the Scriptures:

3: 14 But as for you,continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

Immediately after the verses above, the Apostle writes the concise statement of the origin and purpose of the Scriptures in the life of pastors and people in the Body of Christ, His Church:

3: 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God 

The more usual translation of “breathed out” is “inspired”.  Lutheran Pastor and Professor, Dr. Paul Kretzmann, in his Popular Commentary (1924) describes the verse from 2 Timothy as both witness to veracity of the Scripture and to the correct way of understanding “inspired/God breathed”:

What the apostle has stated concerning the Holy Scriptures, of the power of God in them, of their glorious purpose and blessing, he now summarizes in a powerful sentence, which is a strong bulwark for the inspiration of the Old Testament. He writes: All Scripture, inspired by God, is also profitable. The term used by the apostle is so general that it seems to include not only the books of the Old Testament, as in use in the Jewish Church, but also the writings then being penned by inspiration of God, the gospels and the letters of the various apostles and evangelists. At any rate, there can be no doubt that the so-called Old Testament canon is the inspired Word of God. St. Paul writes that Scripture was inspired by God, not in the manner of a mechanical transmission, but in such a way that God breathed His holy Gospel, His Word, into the minds of the writers, incidentally making use of their intellect, of their mental ability and equipment, in producing a series of books which plainly show the peculiarities of the writers, and yet are, word for word, the product of God Himself.

Please note that both the Muslims, who say that an angel dictated word for word the Koran to Mohammed (dictation theory),  and the Mormons both believe in  a “mechanical transmission” of their false works-righteous, false doctrinal books, even to the point that Joseph Smith said it was literally mechanical: “golden-plates” and “crystals” to see them aright!  Natural man, without Gospel, only invent more works-righteous religions. There is nothing mysterious about that at all, Look at me!  How I saved me!    The Scriptures lead us continually to Jesus Christ, the mystery of His love seeking the lost, kindling faith. The “peculiarities of the writers” show us the way the Lord found them in their lives.  A shepherd, David, writes the Shepherd Psalm, Psalm 23.  The priest in the Temple, Isaiah, is cleansed in the Temple to preaching the cleansing Word of God.  The murderer of Christians, Saul, is called to preach Christ and Him crucified thus making Christians and so in Christ, eternal life, not eternal death.  Each of their differences are read in their writings, yet all preach and teach the one Word of God.

Please note purpose of Scripture as Paul continued,

and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete,equipped for every good work.

Reproof and correction is hardly part of too many pastors’ and congregations’ understanding of Scripture and the life in Christ Jesus.  We are supposed to be continually “affirmed”.  No one says “no” and we don’t want to be the Church of “no”, in other words, we don’t want to teach God’s Law.  The word “heresy” is from the Greek which literally means “choice”.   “All Scripture…”, Law and Promise, and not just the parts we like.  Scripture is teaching the Lord’s sound doctrine of Law and  Promise.  Scripture is for teaching Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.  Scripture for reproof and for correction, showing us where we have strayed and missed the mark, to warn us, Woe! and Whoa!  The Lord’s salvation is at stake!  Scripture is for training in righteousness, the alien righteousness given us by grace through Jesus Christ that we are His, that His alien righteousness, foreign to sin and the Old Adam, have a home here  and now for every good work,the fruit of faith which is love.  And all of this, teaching, reproof, correction, training is the Lord’s package deal in His written Word.  

Paul addresses and false doctrine in this letter.  Paul gives a necessary concrete example of false doctrine in their day in time, in the Epistle:

But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. 19 But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” (chapter 2)

“…their talk will spread like gangrene.”  Gangrene is a powerful image of death spreading because of false doctrine.  If the resurrection has already happened, then one is sinless, and so sin won’t affect a resurrected body, so have fun.  Scary, isn’t it?  It just leads, “…into more and more ungodliness”.   The denial of the historicity of Scripture is a cottage industry in academia and has been for over  a century. Just look at the way the Scriptures have been put into a paper shredder by modern Biblical scholars, as in there is no bodily resurrection, beginning with Jesus Christ.  If there is no Resurrection, there is no judgment and no salvation, so go for the all the gusto today. Yes, we can see it all around in us the culture but I think it began in churches where the devil does his best work.

C. S. Lewis’ fantasy allegory, The Great Divorce is about a bus ride from Hell to heaven for the inhabitants of the former to meet the celestial people of Heaven.  In one conversation, two former priests in the Anglican Church, who were friends meet.  Dick, from heaven and his friend, the bishop in hell.  The ‘bishop’ speaks first:

Ah, Dick, I shall never forget some of our talks. I expect you’ve changed your views a bit since then. You became rather narrow-minded towards the end of your life: but no doubt you’ve broadened out again.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, it’s obvious by now, isn’t it, that you weren’t quite right. Why, my dear boy, you were coming to believe in a literal Heaven and Hell!”

“But wasn’t I right?”

“Oh, in a spiritual sense, to be sure. I still believe in them in that way. I am still, my dear boy, looking for the Kingdom. But nothing superstitious or mythological. . . .”

“Excuse me. Where do you imagine you’ve been?”

“Ah, I see. You mean that the grey town with its continual hope of morning (we must all live by hope, must we not?), with its field for indefinite progress, is, in a sense, Heaven, if only we have eyes to see it? That is a beautiful idea.”

“I didn’t mean that at all. Is it possible you don’t know where you’ve been?”

“Now that you mention it, I don’t think we ever do give it a name. What do you call it?”

“We call it Hell.”

“There is no need to be profane, my dear boy. I may not be very orthodox, in your sense of that word, but I do feel that these matters ought to be discussed simply, and seriously, and reverently.”

“Discuss Hell reverently? I meant what I said. You have been in Hell: though if you don’t go back you may call it Purgatory.”

“Go on, my dear boy, go on. That is so like you. No doubt you’ll tell me why, on your view, I was sent there. I’m not angry.”

“But don’t you know? You went there because you are an apostate.”

“Are you serious, Dick?”

“Perfectly.”

“This is worse than I expected. Do you really think people are penalised for their honest opinions? Even assuming, for the sake of argument, that those opinions were mistaken.”

“Do you really think there are no sins of intellect?”

“There are indeed, Dick. There is hidebound prejudice, and intellectual dishonesty, and timidity, and stagnation. But honest opinions fearlessly followed-they are not sins.”

“I know we used to talk that way. I did it too until the end of my life when I became what you call narrow. It all turns on what are honest opinions.”

“Mine certainly were. They were not only honest but heroic. I asserted them fearlessly. When the doctrine of the Resurrection ceased to commend itself to the critical faculties which God had given me, I openly rejected it. I preached my famous sermon. I defied the whole chapter. I took every risk.”

“What risk? What was at all likely to come of it except what actually came-popularity, sales for your books, invitations, and finally a bishopric?”

Paul is writing also about “sins of the intellect”.  He warns about the incessant quarreling about words, i.e. see the endless threads of endless blogs. “Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. ” 2 Timothy 2: 14  I am more and more convinced that hell is an endless  thread of an endless blogging, just as the bishop wanted to continue the endless dialogue about doctrine only to deny it.  “Before God, who searches hearts and minds, he was to remind the ministers of their duty. They should exclude, as altogether useless and unprofitable, the custom of striving with words, of quarreling endlessly, 1 Timothy 1:5-7 ; Titus 3:9” (Kretzmann).  The Lord does not want us revolving  around ourselves, but go to Him, His Word, His Grace, His Mercy, for in Him our sin is forgiven and our lives quickened.  Remembering what the Word says:

8 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, 9 for which I am suffering,bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. 11 The saying is trustworthy, for:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—

for he cannot deny himself. (2 Timothy 2)

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This posting is a follow-up to the previous one regarding Lucas Cranach the Elder‘s painting, “The Allegory of Law and Grace“.

There is not one painting with the theme of Law and Grace by Lucas Cranach the Elder, but many paintings and in addition his drawings and woodcuts on the same theme.  This theme was so popular that another German artist, Hans Holbein the Younger painted the same allegory.

Lucas Cranach and his family were friends of the Luthers.  Their friendship in Christ is most likely responsible for the differences between two paintings of the theme Law and Grace by the artist.  Note the differences below.  The first one is the earlier Prague painting, the next one is the later Gotha painting.  What are the differences?  

“Prague”

“Gotha” Type

Let’s first look at the less obvious change.  In the “Prague” painting, on the Law side we see depicted a group of tents in the background illustrating the narrative of the bronze serpent in the wilderness (Numbers 21:8-10  ) which our Lord used to describe His Messianic role, see John 3:13-15 Note that in the second painting the “Gotha” panel it has been moved into the Gospel side.  John Dillenberger in his book, Images and Relics in the time of the Reformation and the Renaissance, notes the high probability, given the friendship between Cranach and Luther that Cranach  made this change of  depiction, because Cranach had bee more fully catechized by Dr. Luther.  But why the change?

 Luther did not distinguish between law and gospel in terms of Old Testament and New Testament, for there was law in the New Testament, and gospel in the Old. The other subjects fell easily into either the Old or New Testament divisions. But law and gospel did not easily fall into one or the other testament, thus requiring a decision. The scene of the serpents that devoured the people, who then were saved by their looking at the elevated serpent, is recorded in the Old Testament; but it is actually the symbol of grace. The church had interpreted the serpent being lifted up as a prefiguration of Christ having been lifted up. Luther, looking at the Cross, could…speak of the “brazen serpent Christ,” thereby showing his radical reading of the Old Testament from a Christological perspective.[1]

A correction on the quote above:  the Church did not interpret the bronze serpent being lifted up as a prefiguration of Christ’s crucifixion, no, Christ did! Again, Luther did not come up with “his radical reading of the Old Testament” from the perspective of the accomplishment of salvation in Jesus Christ  (“christological”) on his own.  St. Augustine centuries earlier said that the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed. This unity of Testaments in Jesus Christ is inherent in the texts of both Old and New Testaments,  Dillenberger is right on target, though, that the notion that the OT   equals Law and NT equals Gospel/Grace is incorrect.

Now to the obvious difference in the paintings:  the Man, that is Adam, in the earlier painting is smack dab in the middle.  In the later painting, he is on both sides. Dillenberger in the quote above correctly wrote that the earlier painting suggests a decision by Adam as to which side he wants to be in.  Indeed, Luther may just have corrected his friend!

“…the Gotha panel becomes the norm, perhaps because it was closer to what Luther meant. It provided a picture of the ramifications of law and gospel for each person, rather than a demand that either law or gospel be accepted.[2]

It sure looks like in the earlier panel Adam, that is all of us, needs to make our decision for Christ.  The panel of the Law shows the depth of sin, death and the power of the devil.  Only the spiritual use of the Law, showing us our sin, can we know the depths. First, given the graphic illustration of the Law, it’s a “no brainer” as to a decision!  But even so the Old Adam tenaciously will hold onto the “dearest souvenirs of hell”(C. S. Lewis). And the subtle serpent will not present himself so baldy, but in disguise as “light”. We can not make the move by our decision from the left panel to the right panel:  only the Lord can and has through the preaching and teaching of the Gospel does the Holy Spirit literally transfer us from Law to Grace:

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14/ emphasis my own)

So that, we are not under Law but under grace:

 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6: 13-14)

The Law is necessary in the second panel to show us our sin and point us ever to our Savior lifted up on the Cross, so we do not present our “members” as instruments for unrighteousness, but      “…to God as instruments for righteousness”, because as the Apostle plainly states, “SINCE,  you are not under law but under grace.” (emphasis my own).  Luther posted his 95 Theses on purpose on the eve of All Saints Day, November 1.  The second painting depicts more closely the Scripture and the verses cited.  It is a wonderful reminder not only of God’s grace in Jesus Christ but the power of His overwhelming  Sacrifice which alone, ALONE transfers us  in His rule and reign, saints by grace, not our works, so that by His grace we will produce fruit pleasing in His sight. So note, the tree in the middle is fruitless on the law side, but fruitful unto salvation in Jesus. 

By grace! None dare lay claim to merit;
Our works and conduct have no worth.
God in His love sent our Redeemer,
Christ Jesus, to this sinful earth;
His death did for our sins atone,
And we are saved by grace alone

Blessed Reformation Day and All Saints Day!


[1] Pages 98-100, Images and Relics by John Dillenberger (Oxford University Press, 1999)

[2] Page 100, ibid

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“Unless we return to the crude and nursery-like belief in objective values, we perish. If we do, we may live, and such a return might have one minor advantage. If we believed in the absolute reality of elementary moral platitudes, we should value those who solicit our votes by other standards than have recently been in fashion. While we believe that good is something to be invented, we demand of our rulers such qualities as ‘vision, ‘dynamism’, ‘creativity’, and the like. If we returned to the objective view we should demand qualities much rarer, and much more beneficial—virtue, knowledge, diligence and skill. ‘Vision’ is for sale, or claims to be for sale, everywhere. But give me a man who will do a day’s work for a day’s pay, who will refuse bribes, who will not make up his facts, and who has learned his job.” From the last paragraph of C. S. Lewis’ essay, The Poison of Subjectivism

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It is quite congenial to the wisdom of God, that he bestows his blessings by simple means. If he employed great means the blessings might be ascribed to their greatness; but when they are simple, the blessings can be ascribed to him only. St. Paul saith, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” 2 Cor 4:7. The feebler the instrument seems by which mighty works are wrought, the plainer the omnipotent hand of God is to be seen.”

 The quote is from  Rev. Pr. David Henkel[1] (born 1791, Staunton, Virginia, died 1831 in Lincoln, NC), ” Flood of Heavenly Regeneration”, in which he teaches the Biblical doctrine of Baptism.  The means of grace, Word and Sacrament are words, and water, bread, wine.  Just think: when the Church moved out into the Roman Empire, the great cities had pagan temples with magnificent services and ceremonies and they were mega-services.  The Christians had words, water, bread and wine, ordinary…in one’s home, in the catacombs.  By them the Lord built His Church in a pagan world against all odds. By them the Lord gives us His Word to fill us, wash us, cleanse us, feed us.  Pr. Henkel points out that if one does great spiritual works, like fasting, long prayers and giving to others everyone praises those works (see Matthew 6:  1-18).  We ascribe greatness to the means not to the Savior.  We live in a time when people applaud mega-churches, mega-worship, mega-pastor personalities, that is praising the means as great.  This is so far away from the truth of the Scriptures. I love the liturgy of the Church but when a liturgy becomes simply “smells and bells”, and very grand,  folks may say, Oh, what a wonderful service!  “‘Tis mad idolatry that makes the service greater than the god”, as quoted by C. S. Lewis on ‘creative worship’[2].


[1] David Henkel, one of the founders of the Tennessee Synod was one of the most important theologians of nineteenth century confessional Lutheranism in North America. The Tennessee Synod had the distinction of being the first Lutheran church body to publish the entire Book of Concord in English, and its pastors were zealous missionaries, contending against false doctrine and proclaiming the truth of the Gospel. One of  Henkel’s contributions was a book contending against the errors of Unitarianism, and is still a valuable resource for responding to those who deny the scriptural teaching of the doctrine of the Trinity.

[2]There is no subject in the world (always excepting sport) on which I have less to say than liturgiology. And the almost nothing which I have to say may as well be disposed of in this letter.

I think our business as laymen is to take what we are given and make the best of it. And I think we should find this a great deal easier if what we were given was always and everywhere the same.

To judge from their practice, very few Anglican clergymen take this view. It looks as if they believed people can be lured to go to church by incessant brightenings, lightenings, lengthenings, abridgements, simplifications, and complications of the service. And it is probably true that a new, keen vicar will usually be able to form within his parish a minority who are in favour of his innovations. The majority, I believe, never are. Those who remain—many give up churchgoing altogether—merely endure.

Is this simply because the majority are hide-bound? I think not. They have a good reason for their conservatism. Novelty, simply as such, can have only an entertainment value. And they don’t go to church to be entertained. They go to use the service, or, if you prefer, to enact it. Every service is a structure of acts and words through which we receive a sacrament, or repent, or supplicate, or adore. And it enables us to do these things best—if you like, it “works” best—when, through long familiarity, we don’t have to think about it. As long as you notice, and have to count, the steps, you are not yet dancing but only learning to dance. A good shoe is a shoe you don’t notice. Good reading becomes possible when you need not consciously think about eyes, or light, or print, or spelling. The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God.

But every novelty prevents this. It fixes our attention on the service itself; and thinking about worship is a different thing from worshipping. The important question about the Grail was “for what does it serve?” “‘Tis mad idolatry that makes the service greater than the god.”

A still worse thing may happen. Novelty may fix our attention not even on the service but on the celebrant. You know what I mean. Try as one may to exclude it, the question “What on earth is he up to now?” will intrude. It lays one’s devotion waste. There is really some excuse for the man who said, “I wish they’d remember that the charge to Peter was Feed my sheep; not Try experiments on my rats,  or even, Teach my performing dogs new tricks.”

Thus my whole liturgiological position really boils down to an entreaty for permanence and uniformity. I can make do with almost any kind of service whatever, if only it will stay put. But if each form is snatched away just when I am beginning to feel at home in it, then I can never make any progress in the art of worship. You give me no chance to acquire the trained habit—habito dell’arte.”

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“In all of us God “still” holds only a part.  D-Day is only a week ago.  The bite so far taken out of Normandy shows small on the map of Europe.  The resistance is strong, the casualties heavy, and the even uncertain.  There is, we have to admit, a line of demarcation between God’s part in us and the enemy’s region.  But it is, we hope, a fighting line;  not a frontier fixed by agreement.” (Letters to Malcolm:  Chiefly on Prayer)

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