Tuesday, March 26, 2013

St. Francis | The Middle Age of Penance

"But it was out of all these fragmentary things of feudalism and freedom and remains of Roman Law that there were to rise, at the beginning of the thirteenth century, vast and almost universal, the mighty civilisation of the Middle Ages.


It is an exaggeration to attribute it entirely to the inspiration of any one man, even the most original genius of the thirteenth century. Its elementary ethics of fraternity and fair play had never been entirely extinct and Christendom had never been anything less than Christian... It was the twilight of the morning; but it was still a grey twilight...

The monastic institution itself, of course, was far older than all these things; indeed it was undoubtedly almost as old as Christianity. Its counsels of perfection had always taken the form of vows of chastity and poverty and obedience. With these unworldly aims it had long ago civilised a great part of the world. The monks had taught people to plough and sow as well as to read and write; indeed they had taught the people nearly everything the people knew.

But it may truly be said that the monks were severely practical, in the sense that they not only practical but also severe; though they were generally severe with themselves and practical for other people. All this early monastic movement had long ago settled down and doubtless often deteriorated; but when we come to the first medieval movements this sterner character is still apparent...

First, the ancient social mould of slavery was already beginning to melt... Many lords were freeing slaves and serfs altogether. This was done under the pressure of the priests; but especially it was done in the spirit of a penance. In one sense, of course, any Catholic society must have an atmosphere of penance; but I am speaking of that sterner spirit of penance which had expiated the excesses of paganism. There was about such restitutions the atmosphere of the death-bed; as many of them were doubtless were examples of death-bed repentance. A very honest atheist with whom I once debated made use of the expression, "Men have only been kept in slavery by the fear of hell." As I pointed out to him, if he had said that men had only been freed from slavery by the fear of hell, he would have at least have been referring to an unquestionable historical fact.

Another example was the sweeping reform of Church discipline by Pope Gregory the Seventh. It really was a reform, undertaken from the highest motives and having the healthiest results; it conducted a searching inquisition against simony or the financial corruption of the clergy; it insisted on a more serious and self-sacrificing ideal for the life of the parish priest... celibacy...

The third example is in one sense the strongest of all. For the third example was a war; a heroic war and for many of us a holy war; but still having all the stark and terrible responsibilities of war...


Everybody knows that in the very darkest hour of the Dark Ages a sort of heresy had sprung up in Arabia and become a new religion of a military but nomadic sort; invoking the name of Mahomet... Its objective character was that of a military danger to Christendom and Christendom had struck at the very heart of it, in seeking to reconquer the Holy Places. The great Duke Godfrey and the first Christians who stormed Jerusalem were heroes if there were any in the world; but they were the heroes of a tragedy.


Now I have taken these two or three examples of the earlier medieval movements in order to note about them one general character, which refers back to the penance that followed paganism.

There is something in all these movements that is bracing even while it is still bleak, like a wind blowing between the clefts of the mountains. That wind... is really the spirit of the time, for it is the wind of a world that has at last been purified. To anyone who can appreciate atmospheres there is something clear and clean about the atmosphere of this crude and often harsh society. Its very lusts are clean; for they no have longer any smell of perversion. Its very cruelties are clean; they are not the luxurious cruelties of the amphitheatre. They come either of a very simple horror at blasphemy or a very simple fury at an insult.

Gradually against this grey background beauty begins to appear, as something really fresh and delicate and above all surprising. Love returning is no longer what was once called platonic but what is still called chivalric love. The flowers and stars are have recovered their first innocence. Fire and water are felt to be worthy to be the brother and sister of a saint. The purge of paganism is complete at last.

For water itself has been washed. Fire itself has been purified as by fire. Water is no longer the water into which slaves were flung to feed the fishes. Fire is no longer that fire through which children were passed to Moloch. Flowers smell no more of the forgotten garlands gathered in the garden of Priapus; stars stand no more as signs of the far frigidity of gods as cold as those cold fires. They are like all new things newly made and awaiting new names, from one who shall come to name them.

Neither the universe nor the earth have now any longer the old sinister significance of the world. They await a new reconciliation with man, but they are already capable of being reconciled. Man has stripped from his soul the last rag of nature worship, and can return to nature.

While it was yet twilight a figure appeared silently and suddenly on a little hill above the city, dark against the fading darkness. For it was the end of a long and stern night, a night of vigil, not unvisited by stars. He stood with his hands lifted, as in so many statues and pictures, and about him was a burst of birds singing; and behind him was the break of day."


Otherwise, more St. Francis by G.K. Chesterton:

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Monday, March 25, 2013

The Epistles of Heraclitus V-VI



V. "Heraclitus to Amphidamas

... If my body should become waterlogged before I heal it, it will sink into its fated spot. My soul, however, will not sink, but, since it is something immortal, it will fly up on high. Celestial dwellings will receive me...

In my disease, I have become somewhat gentler, because I do not encounter men, but am ill all by myself. Perhaps my soul is already prophesying its release from this prison and as it peeps out of this quivering body, it recalls its ancestral lands. When it comes from there, it donned a body--this dead thing, which others believe to be alive--flowing with phlegms, bile, pus, and blood, held firm by nerves, bones and flesh. If our emotions did not rationalize the punishment, would we not long ago have left behind the body and exited from it?"

VI. "To the same person,

... Amphidamas, these men [Heraclitus' doctors] and impiously, since they pretend to skills which they do not possess; they treat matters which they do not understand, and kill men in the name of medical science. Thereby they do injustice both to nature and to science.

It is certainly shameful to admit ignorance. It is even more shameful to profess knowledge when one does not have it. Why do they find pleasure in lying? Is it in order to obtain money by their deceit? It would be better for them to beg for it. For then they would at least be pitied, but, as it is, they are hated because they commit harm and lie. The other arts are simpler and hence are easily tested, but the more complex ones are difficult to examine.

So many men in the city have come to me! Not one of them is a physician, but all are cheats and quacks... They do not know that God heals the great bodies in the cosmos, that he equalizes their imbalance, unifies what is broken up, hastens to compress what has slipped apart, gathers what is dispersed, brightens what is dark, confines what has been carried off, pursues what escapes, illuminates the darkness with light, imposes limit on the boundless, gives form to the formless, and fills with vision that which is insensate. He penetrates all being, harmonizing, molding, dissolving, hardening, liquefying. He melts what is dry into something wet and constitutes it in a liquid state. He makes incense go up in smoke, and thickens the flaccid air. He continuously impels some things down from above, and settles others from below. This is therapy/healing for an all cosmos. I shall imitate this in myself and to the others I bid farewell."


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Translated by Harold W. Attridge in "First-Century Cynicism in the Epistles of Heraclitus."

Read more of Heraclitus letters:

<-| I-IV |-| V-VI |-| VII |->


St. Francis | The Darkness St. Francis Found

"[The end of the Dark Ages] marked the moment when a certain spiritual expiation had been finally worked out and certain spiritual diseases had been finally expelled from the system. They had been expelled by an era of asceticism, which was the only thing that could have expelled them. Christianity had entered the world to cure the world; and she cured it in the only way in which it could be cured...


[The disease] might almost as truly be called the mistake of being natural; and it was a very natural mistake. The Greeks, the great guides and pioneers of pagan antiquity, started out with the idea of something splendidly obvious and direct; the idea that if a man walked straight ahead on the high road of reason and nature, he would come to no harm; especially if he was, as the Greek was, eminently enlightened and intelligent...

The wisest men in the world set out to be natural; and the most unnatural thing in the world was the very first thing they did. The immediate effect of saluting the sun and the sunny sanity of nature was a perversion spreading like a pestilence. The greatest and even the purest philosophers could not apparently avoid this low sort of lunacy. Why? ... The truth is people who worship health cannot remain healthy on the point. When Man goes straight he goes crooked. When he follows his nose he manages somehow to put his nose out of joint, or even to cut off his nose to spite his face; and that in accordance with something much deeper in human nature than nature-worshippers could ever understand.

It was the discovery of that deeper thing, humanly speaking, that constituted the conversion to Christianity. There is a bias in a man like the bias on a bowl; and Christianity was the discovery of how to correct the bias and therefore hit the mark. There are many who will smile at the saying; but it is profoundly true to say that the glad good news brought by the Gospel was the news of original sin.

Rome rose at the expense of her Greek teachers largely because she did not entirely consent to be taught these tricks. She had a much more decent tradition; but she ultimately suffered from the same fallacy in her religious tradition; which was necessarily in no small degree the heathen tradition of nature worship. What was the matter with the whole heathen civilisation was that there nothing for the mass of men in the way of mysticism... Long before the end, we find nature-worship inevitably producing things that are against nature.

What had happened to the human imagination, as a whole, was that the whole world was coloured by dangerous and rapidly deteriorating passions; by natural passions becoming unnatural passions. Thus the effect of treating sex as only one innocent natural thing was that every other innocent natural thing became soaked and sodden with sex. For sex cannot be admitted to a mere equality among elementary emotions or experiences like eating and sleeping. The moment sex ceases to be a servant it becomes a tyrant. There is something dangerous and disproportionate in its place in human nature, for whatever reason; and it does really need a special purification and dedication...

It was not so much that the pagan world was wicked as that it was good enough to realise that its paganism was becoming wicked, or rather it was on the logical high road to wickedness. I mean that there was no future for "natural magic"; to deepen it was only to darken it into black magic. There was no future for it; because in the past it had only been innocent because it was young. We might say it had only been innocent because it was shallow. Pagans were wiser that paganism; that is why the pagans became Christians. Thousands of them had philosophy and family virtues and military honour to hold them up; but by this time the purely popular thing called religion was certainly dragging them down. When this reaction against the evil is allowed for, it is true to repeat that it was an evil that was everywhere. In another and more literal sense its name was Pan.

It was no metaphor to say that these people needed a new heaven and a new earth; for they had really defiled their own earth and even their own heaven. How could their case be met by looking at the sky, when erotic legends were scrawled in stars across it; how could they learn anything from the love of birds and flowers after the sort of love stories that were told of them? It is impossible here to multiply evidences...

Nothing could purge this obsession but a religion that was literally unearthly.

It was no good telling such people to have a natural religion full of stars and flowers; there was not a flower or even a star that had not been stained. They had to go into the desert where they could find no flowers or even into the cavern where they could see no stars. Into that desert and that cavern the highest human intellect entered for some four centuries; and it was the very wisest thing it could do.

Nothing but the stark supernatural stood up for its salvation; if God could not save it, certainly the gods could not. The early Church called the gods of paganism devils; and the Early Church was perfectly right. Whatever natural religion may have had to do with their beginnings, nothing but fiends now inhabited those hollow shrines. Pan was nothing but panic. Venus was nothing but venereal vice. I do not mean for a moment, of course, that all the individual pagans were of this character even to the end; but it was as individuals that they differed from it... It was no good to preach natural religion to people to whom nature had grown as unnatural as any religion. They knew much better than we do what was the matter with them and what sort of demons at once tempted and tormented them; and they wrote across that great space of history the text; 'This sort goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.'

Now the historical importance of St. Francis and the transition from the twelfth to the thirteenth centuries, lies in the fact that they marked the end of this expiation. Men at the close of the dark Ages may have been rude and unlettered and unlearned in everything but wars with heathen tribes, more barbarous than themselves, but they were clean. They were like children; the first beginnings of their rude arts have all the clean pleasure of children.

We have to conceive them in Europe as a whole living under little local governments, feudal in so far as they were a survival of fierce wars with the barbarians, often monastic and carrying a far more friendly and fatherly character, still faintly imperial as far as Rome still ruled as a great legend.

But in Italy something had survived more typical of the finer spirit of antiquity; the republic, Italy, was dotted with little states, largely democratic in their ideals, and often filled with real citizens. But the city no longer lay open as under the Roman peace, but was pent in high walls for defence against feudal war and all the citizens had to be soldiers.

One of these stood in a steep and striking position on the wooded hills of Umbria; and its name was Assisi. Out of its deep gate under its high turrets was to come the message that was the gospel of the hour,

'Your warfare is accomplished, your iniquity is pardoned.'


Otherwise, more St. Francis by G.K. Chesterton:

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Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Epistles of Heraclitus I-IV

I. "King Darius salutes Heraclitus of Ephesus, a wise man,

You have committed to writing an account of nature which is both difficult to understand and to interpret [in his Fragments, translated on the left]. When it was expounded in some details according to your intent, it seemed to me to display a certain theoretical force in dealing with the cosmos as a whole and with subsidiary phenomena, namely those which are in a state of quite god-like motion. Most of its doctrines, however, seem to inhibit research and learning... King Darius... wishes to hear you lecture and to acquire some abstract learning... Come immediately to my presence at court..."

II. "Heraclitus sends greetings to Darius the King,

Whatever mortal men there are keep far from truth and right. They are intent on greed and ambition, out of base folly. I, who have no personal recollection of any vice and who disdainfully shun in every matter that surfeit which is linked with envy, I certainly would not come to Persian territory, since I am satisfied with a few things, in accord with my set principle."

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III. "King Darius to the Ephesians,

A virtuous man is a great boon to a city. He makes people virtuous by leading them at the proper time to good deeds with fine speeches and laws. Yet you have sent into exile Hermodorus, the best man, not only among yourselves, but also among all the Ionians... You lodge shameful charges against a virtuous man... If you have decided to wage war against your royal master, get ready! I am sending an army which you will not be able to resist.--For it is disgraceful for a king not to assist his friends.--If, however, you are attempting nothing of this sort, bring Hermodorus back and restore him to his ancestral estate..."

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IV. "Heraclitus to Hermodorus, Greeting,

Do not grieve any longer about your own affairs... Euthycles... has charged me with impiety, thus reproaching in his ignorance a man outstanding for wisdom. The accusation was that I wrote my own name upon the altar which I set up, thus making myself, who am but a man, into a god. I shall then be accounted among the impious by an impious man. What would you expect? Shall I seem to be pious to them when I hold opinions about the gods opposed to what they think? Indeed, if the blind were to judge what is sight, they would say that blindness is seeing!

But, you stupid men, teach us first what god is, so that you may be trusted when you speak of committing impiety. Also, where is God? Is he shut up in temples? You are a fine sort of pious men, who set up God in darkness! A man takes it as an insult if he is said to be stony; but is a god truly spoken of whose honorific title is 'he is born from crags?' You ignorant men, don't you know that God is not wrought by hands, and has not from the beginning had a pedestal, and does not have a single enclosure? Rather the whole world is his temple, decorated with animals, plants, and stars.

I inscribed upon the altar, 'To Heracles the Ephesian,' thus making a god of your fellow citizen, and not, 'To Heraclitus the Ephesian.' If you do not understand letters, your ignorance is not my impiety; learn wisdom and understand. Don't you want to? I won't force you. Grow old in ignorance, delighting in your own vices.

Was not Heracles a man? Indeed, he was even murdered of his guests, as Homer fabricated it. What, then, deified him? It was his own virtue and the most noble of his deeds, when he had successfully concluded so many labors, therefore, sirs, am I not myself virtuous?

I have made a mistake in asking you, for even if you answer in the negative, nevertheless I am virtuous. I, too, have successfully completed many very difficult labors. I have overcome pleasures; I have overcome money; I have overcome ambition, I overthrew cowardice; I overthrew flattery; fear does not contradict me; drunkenness does not contradict me; grief fears me; anger fears me. The struggle is against these opponents, and I have been crowned victor, not by Eurystheus, but by controlling myself.

Will you not stop insulting wisdom and attributing to us faults and indictments proper to yourselves? If you could be reborn and live once again five hundred years from now, you would find Heraclitus still alive, but of yourselves, you would not find even the trace of a name. On account of Culture I shall never be silenced and shall live as long as cities and lands. Even if the city of the Ephesians should be sacked and all the alters destroyed, the souls of men will be my memorials. I, too, shall take a wife a Hebe [goddess of eternal youth]... Virtue bears many daughters, and she gave one to Homer, another to Hesiod, and Culture betroths Renown to each individual who is some way virtuous [that they may live forever].

Euthycles, am I not pious, who alone knows God? Are not you both bold and impious; bold because you think you know him, and impious because you think him to be who he is not? If an altar of a god is not established, he is not a god, according to your reasoning; while if an altar is established for one who is not a god, then he becomes a god, so that stones are witnesses of gods [he's pointing out how observed their reasoning is.]! [Heraclitus' seemingly more-accurate reasoning is:] In fact, his [God's] works bear witness to what he is like. Do not night and day witness to him? The seasons are his witnesses; the whole fruitful earth is his witness. The orb of the moon, his handiwork, is his heavenly testimony."

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Translated by Harold W. Attridge in "First-Century Cynicism in the Epistles of Heraclitus."

Read more of Heraclitus letters:

<-| I-IV |-| V-VI |-| VII |->

St. Francis | The World St. Francis Found

"To begin the story of St. Francis with the birth of St Francis would be to miss the whole point of the story, or rather not to tell the story at all...

It is necessary to say something about the great movements that led up to the entrance of the founder of the Franciscans. It may seem to mean describing a world, or even a universe to describe a man. It will inevitably mean that the world or the universe will be described with a few desperate generalisations in a few abrupt sentences. But so far from its meaning that we shall see a very small figure under so large a sky, it will mean that we must measure the sky before we can begin to measure the towering stature of the man.

And this phrase alone brings me to the preliminary suggestions that seem necessary before even a slight sketch of the life of St. Francis. It is necessary to realise, in however rude and elementary a fashion, into what sort of a world St. Francis entered and what had been the history of that world, at least in so far as it affected him. It is necessary to have, if only in a few sentences, a sort of preface in the form of an Outline of History...

To write history and hate Rome, both pagan and papal, is to hate everything that has happened. It comes very nearly to hating humanity on purely humanitarian grounds. To dislike both the priest and the soldier, both the laurels of the warrior and the lilies of the saint, is to suffer a division from the mass of mankind for which not all the dexterities of the finest and most flexible of modern intelligences can compensate. A much wider sympathy is needed for the historical setting of St. Francis, himself both a soldier and a saint. I will therefore conclude this chapter with a few generalisations about the world St. Francis found.

Men will not believe because they will not broaden their minds.

...The broad historical fact of Christianity, as it might appear to a really enlightened and imaginative person even if he were not a Christian. What I mean at the moment is that the majority of doubts are made out of details. In the course of random reading a man comes across a pagan custom that strikes him as picturesque or a Christian action that strikes him as cruel; but he does not enlarge his mind sufficiently to see the main truth about pagan custom or the Christian reaction against it. Until we understand, not necessarily in detail, but in their big bulk and proportion that pagan progress and that Christian reaction, we cannot really understand the point of history at which St. Francis appears or what his great popular mission was all about.


...The twelfth and thirteenth centuries were an awakening of the world. They were a fresh flowering of culture and the creative arts after a long spell of much sterner and even more sterile experience which we call the Dark Ages. They may be called an emancipation; they were certainly an end; an end of what may at least seem a harsher and more inhuman time. But what was it that was ended? From what was it that men were emancipated? That is where there is a real collision and point at issue between the different philosophies of history. On the merely external and secular side, it has been truly said that men awoke from a sleep; but there had been dreams in that sleep of a mystical and sometimes of a monstrous kind.

In that rationalistic routine into which most modern historians have fallen, it is considered enough to say that they were emancipated from mere savage superstition and advanced towards mere civilised enlightenment. Now this is the big blunder that stands as a stumbling-block at the very beginning of our story. Anybody who supposes that the Dark Ages were plain darkness and nothing else, and that the dawn of the thirteenth century was plain daylight and nothing else, will not be able to make head or tail of the human story of St. Francis of Assisi.

The truth is that the joy of St. Francis and his Jongleurs de Dieu was not merely an awakening. It was something which cannot be understood without understanding their own mystical creed. The end of the Dark Ages was not merely the end of a sleep. It was certainly not merely the end of a superstitious enslavement. It was the end of something belonging to a quite definite but quite different order of ideas.

It was the end of a penance..."



Otherwise, more St. Francis by G.K. Chesterton:

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

St. Francis | G.K. Chesterton

"We may at least get a glimmering of why the poet [St. Francis] who praised his lord the sun, often hid himself in a dark cavern, of why the saint who was so gentle with his Brother the Wolf was so harsh to his Brother the Ass (as he nicknamed his own body), of why the troubadour who said that love set his heart on fire separated himself from women, of why the singer who rejoiced in the strength and gaiety of the fire deliberately rolled himself in the snow, of why the very song which cries with all the passion of a pagan, 'Praised be God for our Sister, Mother Earth, which brings forth varied fruits and grass and glowing flowers,' ends almost with the words 'Praised be God for our Sister, the death of the body.'"


"A man will not roll in the snow for a stream of tendency by which all things fulfill the law of their being. He will not go without food in the name of something, not ourselves, that makes for righteousness. He will do things like this, or pretty like this, under quite a different impulse. He will do these things when he is in love.

The first fact to realise about St Francis is involved with the first fact with which his story starts; that when he said from the first that he was a Troubadour ["The texts of troubadour songs deal mainly with themes of chivalry and courtly love."], and said later that he was a Troubadour of a newer and nobler romance, he was not using a mere metaphor, but understood himself much better than the scholars understand him. He was, to the last agonies of asceticism, a Troubadour. He was a Lover. He was a lover of God and he was really and truly a lover of men; possibly a much rarer mystical vocation. A lover of men is very nearly the opposite of a philanthropist [a lover of humanity]... A philanthropist may be said to love anthropoids. But as St. Francis did not love humanity but men, so he did not love Christianity but Christ...

In such a romance there would be no contradiction between the poet gathering flowers in the sun and enduring a freezing vigil in the snow, between his praising all earthly and bodily beauty and then refusing to eat, and between his glorifying gold and purple and perversely going in rags, between his showing pathetically a hunger for a happy life and a thirst for a heroic death. All these riddles would be easily be resolved in the simplicity of any noble love; only this was so noble a love that nine out of ten men have hardly even heard of it...

The modern reader will almost always find that if he could only find this kind of love as a reality, he could feel this kind of extravagance as a romance...

The reader cannot even begin to see the sense of a story that may well seem to him a very wild one, until he understands that to this great mystic his religion was not a thing like a theory but a thing like a love affair...

Part of the modern world... finds in St. Francis a certain modern difficulty; which can admire him yet hardly accept him, or which can appreciate the saint almost without the sanctity. And my only claim even to attempt such a task is that I myself have for so long been in various stages of such a condition.

Many thousand things that I now partly comprehend I should have thought utterly incomprehensible, many things I now hold sacred I should have scouted as utterly superstitious, many things that seem to me lucid and enlightened now they are seen from the inside I should honestly have called dark and barbarous seen from the outside, when long ago in those days of boyhood my fancy first caught fire with the glory of Francis of Assisi... at no stage of my pilgrimage has he ever seemed to me a stranger..."




Otherwise, more St. Francis by G.K. Chesterton:

<-1-2-2.1-2.2->


The Landscape of History | The Present



"St. Augustine doubted that the present even exists, describing it as something that 'flies with such speed from future to past, as not to be lengthened out with the least stay.' But the historian R. G. Collingwood... took just the opposite view: 'The present alone is actual,' he insisted... So what's the problem here?

It may be that neither Augustine nor Collingwood had heard of singularities, those strange things that exist at the bottom of black holes (if black holes have bottoms) which cannot be measured, but which nonetheless transform all measurable objects that pass through them. I prefer to think of the present as a singularity... a funnel... or a wormhole...through which the future has got to pass in order to become the past. The present achieves this transformation by locking into place relationships between continuities and contingencies: on the future side of the singularity, these are fluid, decoupled, and therefore indeterminate; however, as they pass through it they fuse and cannot then be separated...

By continuities, I mean patterns that extend across time. These are not laws, like gravity or entropy; they are not even theories, like relativity or natural selection. They are simply phenomena that recur with sufficient regularity to make themselves apparent to us...

By contingencies, I mean phenomena that do not form patterns. These may include the actions of individuals take for reasons known only to themselves... They can involve what the chaos theorists call 'sensitive dependence on initial conditions,' situations where an imperceptible shift at the beginning of a process can produce enormous changes at the end of it. They may result from the intersection of two or more continuities: students of accidents know that when predictable processes come together in unprecedented ways, unpredictable consequences can follow. What all of these phenomena have in common is that they don't fall within the realm of repeated and therefore familiar experience: we generally learn about them only after they've happened.

We might define the future, then, as the zone within which contingencies and continuities coexist independently of one another; the past as the place where their relationship is inextricably fixed; and the present as the singularity that brings the two together, so that the continuities intersect contingencies, contingencies encounter continuities, and through this process history is made. And even though time itself isn't structured this way, for anyone who's stuck within time--and who isn't?--this distinction between past, present, and future is close to universal..."

John Lewis GaddisThe Landscape of History pages 30-31.


Καιρός (Watchmen)


"Because you have done this,
cursed are you...

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;

He shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel."

"She will be saved through childbearing."



He will not grow faint or be discouraged
till he has established justice...

I have called you in righteousness;
I will take you by the hand and keep you;

I will give you as a covenant for the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes that are blind...

Behold, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare..."



and the kingdom of God is at hand;

repent and believe in the gospel."

for thus it is fitting for us
to fulfill all righteousness."



and everything that is written
about the Son of Man
by the prophets will be accomplished."

a man of sorrows,
and acquainted with grief...

he was despised...
we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows...

we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God,
and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions...
crushed for our iniquities...
the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed...


He was oppressed,
and he was afflicted...
he was taken away...
cut off out of the land of the living...

he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors."


"For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles
and will be mocked
and shamefully treated
and spit upon.

And after flogging him,
they will kill him..."


'Let him be crucified!'
...
'His blood be on us and on our children!'
...
Then the soldiers...
They stripped him
and put a scarlet robe on him,
and twisted together a crown of thorns,
they put it on his head...

They mocked him...

And they spit on him...
and struck him on the head...

When they had mocked him,
they stripped him of the robe....
and led him away to crucify him."

"From the sixth hour there was darkness
over all the land until the ninth hour..."

"Jesus, knowing that all was now finished,
said (to fulfill the Scripture).
'I thirst.'
...

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said,
and he bowed his head
and gave up his spirit."



The Doomsday clock has been ticking ever since the first Watchmen comic. No one was ever quite sure what or how or why it was ticking down. But, everyone was certain that it was.

Whether it be a nuclear war or an alien invasion, the end was nigh. And, the same thing happens in the Christian story.

Ever since the Fall, the clock has been ticking. We knew there would be an end. There had to be a time to make things right. There would be some sort of salvation from our own demise. But, no one seemed to know what exactly would happen, when, or how. The past had been filled with prophecies and revelation, foretelling not only of an end, but a particular Savior. One Man. One God. This person would come, to save us from ourselves, finally making us righteous once again in the Lord's eyes. But, he would also bear our sufferings on his back.

The clock ticks...

And, ticks...

And, ticks...

Through-out the Exodus and the Exile, the Chosen people have been waiting.

And, then, it happens.

The appointed time (Καιρός) has finally arrived. The clock has struck down.

But, the people weren't ready. They wanted someone to save them here, now. They wanted a warrior leader, a visible kingdom, and a golden throne.

They had not recognized their Savior because they had forgotten who they should be looking for.

A servant, scorned, beaten, and humble... A lamb being led to the slaughter.

The signs were all there. The blind saw. The lame danced. And, He was there. But, the people weren't ready to come back from exile. They didn't heed his warning to repent (turn back) from their wanderings. And, they became hateful shouting "Crucify!!" instead of cheering "Hosanna!!"

But, this is how it needed to happen.

This is how it always needed to happen.

The prophecies rang true.

And, in Christ's suffering and death, he bore the sin of many... In his chastisement, he brought us peace... by his wounds we are healed... Although, we esteemed him not... he was burdened with grief... and carried our sorrows... his blood poured onto us and our children is the one thing that is able to cleanse us from our own sin... our iniquity.

That is how it had to be.

The clock strikes.

He breathes his last.

The chapter's finished.

But, we're still not done with the story.










Friday, March 22, 2013

The Landscape of History | John Lewis Gaddis



"A YOUNG MAN STANDS hatless in a black coat on a high rocky point. His back is turned toward us, and he is bracing himself with a walking stick against the wind that blows his hair in tangles. Before him lies a fog-shrouded landscape in which the fantastic shapes... lay partly visible... The impression it leaves is contradictory, suggesting at once mastery over a landscape and the insignificance of an individual within it... It's impossible to know whether the prospect confronting the young man is exhilarating, or terrifying, or both."

...

"I've led you to believe all this time that it's we in the present who are contemplating them as they contemplate the past--or, as I've called it, the landscape of history. But what if we've got that wrong, and they're actually facing the future? The fog, the mist, the unfathomability, could be much the same in either direction."

John Lewis Gaddis' The Landscape of History pages 1 and 150.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Unattractive Works



That the works of God are unattractive is clear from what is said in Isa. 53[:2], "He had no form or comeliness," and in 1 Sam. 2[:6] "The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up." This is understood to mean that the Lord humbles and frightens us by means of the law and the sight of our sins so that we seem in the eyes of men, as in our own, as nothing, foolish, and wicked, for we are in truth that. Insofar as we acknowledge and confess this, there is no form or beauty in us, but our life is hidden in God (i.e., in the bare confidence in his mercy), finding in ourselves nothing but sin, foolishness, death, and hell, according to that verse of the Apostle in 2 Cor. 6[:9-10] "As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as dying and behold we live." And that it is which Isa. 28[:2] calls the alien work of God that he may do his work (that is, he humbles us thoroughly, making us despair, so that he may exalt us in his mercy, giving us hope), just as Hab. 3[:2] states, "In wrath remember mercy." Such a man therefore is displeased with all his works; he sees no beauty, but only his depravity. Indeed, he also does those things that appear foolish and disgusting to others.

This depravity, however, comes into being in us either when God punishes us or when we accuse ourselves, as 1 Cor. 11[:31] says, "If we judged ourselves truly, we should not be judged" by the Lord. Deut. 32[:36] also states, "The Lord will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants." In this way, consequently, the unattractive works that God does in us, that is, those that are humble and devout, are really eternal, for humility and fear of God are our entire merit.

Luther's Works 31.44 as quoted by Gerhard O. Forde in On Being a Theologian of the Cross, 33-34.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Compromise (Watchmen)



"Peter, do you limitlessly love me?"

"Yes, Lord. You know that I love you, like a brother."

"Do you limitlessly love me?"

"Yes, Lord. You know that I love you, like a brother."

"Do you love me like a brother?"

Peter was grieved because Jesus said this a third time. In the Hebraic tradition, saying something a third time brings it to its completion, its max, can Peter really love this much?

"Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you like a brother."

And, Jesus prophesied Peter's death saying, "Follow me."


This is an odd place to start. This is the end. But, it explains everything.


For a time, there was the "Nite Owl-Rorschach Team." While the other heroes had shied away, hidden from the public spotlight, Nite Owl and Rorschach carried on. There mission to help the innocent was never over.

Time and again, they proved themselves to one another. They became close, maybe even friends. But, they never lost sight of the point. They always had the people on their minds. Their focus remained solely on the lives they would have to save.

Well, at least that was true for Rorschach.


Although Nite Owl is pretty slick, the Batman of the Watchmen, time and again he finds himself lacking. There is always a temptress, a false god, or a selfish distraction that drives him away from their original goal.

No matter how good his motives are, he messes up. Rorschach can't believe it half the time. But, Nite Owl always seems to give in to temptation. And, he forgets his responsibilities.

I can never really understand why Thomas is called "the doubting disciple," when Peter has doubted so much more.

Peter reminds me of the seed that was sown on rocky ground. He shoots up, he immediately casts aside his fishing net to follow Jesus, he jumps out of the boat at the sight of him, and he springs into action at Christ's arrest. But, his roots are lacking. He wants to build a physical shelter for the transfigured Christ, as soon as he jumps out of the boat he calls out "Save me" giving in to the undertow, and when he lobs off the soldier's ear, he doesn't realize that Jesus is on a path. This is the way. This needs to be done.

Every single time Peter starts something, it seems like an act of faith. He's doing it for the right reason. He believes and trusts in his Lord, God. But, pretty soon afterwards, he stumbles. No matter how good his motives are, he messes up.

The most unbelievable time he does this, isn't when he's trying to walk on water or build a shelter for Moses and Elijah, but in a place that seems so much simpler.

Just moments ago, Peter was unwilling to compromise. "Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away." He says to Christ. And, when the time comes for Jesus to be taken away, he is the one who is willing to fight to the death. But, Jesus knows better.

He knows "Truly... this very night... you [Peter] will deny me three times." And, he scolds Peter for drawing his sword, "Put your sword back into its place... Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled?" "Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?"

Peter shot up, ready to defend his Lord. But, his roots are weak. He just doesn't get it.

And, to make matters worse, he finds out that Christ's prophecy was right. After Jesus was arrested, while he was standing before the high priest, "Peter stood outside the door... the servant girl... brought Peter in... [she] said to Peter, 'You also are not one of this man's disciples, are you?'

He said 'I am not.'"

While Jesus was still being questioned about his disciples and his teachings, Peter was standing by the fire warming himself,

"They said to him, 'You also are not one of his disciples, are you?'

He denied it and said, 'I am not.'

One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, 'Did I not see you in the garden with him?'

Peter again denied it,

And at once a rooster crowed."

"And he went out and wept bitterly."



Just as Nite Owl does in the movie, Peter finds himself lost, crying out. He cannot understand the horrors that he has let come to pass. He has denied God.

Not only that, he has denied Him three times... to the max.

He compromised.

Although he had followed a man who preached about limitless love and dedication, even though, he knew Christ taught that, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." He could not. Death scared him. And, how else would they repay him for admitting he was a disciple of Jesus?


But, this is not the end of Peter's story.

Christ dies and rises on the third day. He meets up with Peter once again. And, he gives him another chance. Those words, up at the top, they're from after Christ's resurrection. Although, Peter had denied his Lord to the max. Although, Peter had compromised in the face of death. Although, Peter had lived directly against Christ's teachings. Jesus came back. He forgave him. He still loved him and had grace towards him. And, instead of scorning him or becoming angry at him, the only thing that Jesus needed to know was...

"Do you limitlessly love me?"

Peter does love him. But, he cannot understand the love without limits. His roots are still weak. And, it is only by God's giving grace that his faith and trust in God is strong enough to keep him grounded. The Spirit that descends upon him at Pentecost secures him.

Although, he had compromised at the end of his world, he denied his faith at the hour of Christ's trial, God still gives him the chance to continue where he left off, to let his roots grow and his faith shine, He blesses him in the rest of his life, and still leads the way for him to follow after.

He does the same for us.

Although we try not to compromise, we do.

But, we may rest assured knowing that He will never compromise against us.

Not even in the face of death.

Amen.










Tuesday, March 12, 2013

BROKEN | Jonathan Fisk



If you haven't heard about BROKEN... You're missing out.

I got/read/devoured this book by the young/energetic/WorldviewsEverlasting-guy Pastor Jonathan Fisk when it came out.

It is pure, unadult-rated truth. And, it's exactly what this world needs to hear.

I've quoted one of his stories before. And, have been meaning to put more of his work up.

Until then, check it out.






Saturday, March 9, 2013

Tales of Courage (Cause)



"To celebrate the release of Tomb Raider, we are gathering stories of courage to raise $10,000 for Feeding America. Submit a story, a photo, or a video and you will move us closer to achieving greatness."

Once they get enough stories, Tomb Raider will donate $10,000 to Feeding America which helps provide food to over 37 million Americans every year.

"When developing the new Lara Croft for Tomb Raider, Crystal Dynamics was most inspired by the courage of everyday people thrust into extraordinary circumstances... and living to tell about it.

'We constantly found ourselves seeking out stories of these real survivors, then going back to Lara and saying okay, now this is what real courage looks like.'

Lara’s instincts, emotions and brave spirit in the game are a direct reflection of survivors like you. And now, in exchange for the inspiration, we are giving back, one survivor at a time."



What's yours?

How have you had courage in your life?

Submit your story here: http://gatheringcourage.com/


Friday, March 8, 2013

Better Know a Philosopher | Nietzsche



Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) was a German philosopher of the late 19th century who challenged the foundations of Christianity and traditional morality. He was interested in the enhancement of individual and cultural health, and believed in life, creativity, power, and the realities of the world we live in, rather than those situated in a world beyond... a father of Existentialism(Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

"We face what Nietzsche call "Das Nichte"—or, the nothing. Our public philosophy tells us that we are the result of blind force plus chance and/or necessity. Yet our movies are filled with romantic longings, visions of other worlds, the hunger for transcendence, and love stories between vampires or other worlds where there is a greater unity of life and being. In other words, we face a massive contradiction between what one set of experts tells us is real and what many artists compel us to hope for and reflect on. And somewhere in the middle are our own, normal, day-to-day lives." (A Slice of Infinity)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

What Makes a Theologian? | John Kleinig



"So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation...

As you come to Him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood...

You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation... that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light...

Abstain from the passions... which wage war against your soul..." 1 Peter

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I'm a theologian. You're a theologian. But...

"What makes a theologian?... We and our critics assume that we humans somehow produce theologians. From this it then follows that, if only we could get the system of training right, we would invariably turn out good pastors. But is that in fact so? What makes a theologian?...

Luther was a theological educator who thought hard and long about the learning of theology. At various times he touched on it from different points of view. While he, of all people, valued the liberal arts as the foundation for a good theological education, he knew that, by itself, even the best curriculum, taught by the best theologians, could not produce a good pastor. Something else was required.

Learning theology was a matter of experience and wisdom gained from experience... In theology, as in life, we have nothing that we have not received and continue to receive (1 Corinthians 47).

Luther developed this insight in a number of different ways. In a lecture on Psalm 5:11, from around 1520, he asserted, rather bluntly, that a theologian was not made by "understanding, reading or speculating," but by "living, no rather by dying and being damned."

Later in his table talk from 1532, he added that like medicine, theology was an art that was learned only from life-long experience. He refers to himself as a pastor and claims:

I did not learn my theology all at once, but had to search constantly deeper and deeper for it. My temptations did that for me, for no one can understand Holy Scripture without practice and temptations. This is what the enthusiasts and sects lack. They don't have the right critic, the devil, who is the best teacher of theology. If we don't have that kind of devil, then we become nothing but speculative theologians, who do nothing but walk around in our own thoughts and speculate with our reason alone as to whether things should be like this, or like that. 

There you have it, as starkly and offensively as only Luther could put it: "the devil is best teacher of theology." He turns a pastor into a true teacher of theology in the school of life, the university of hard knocks. No, I must correct myself. That is not quite right. He turns students of theology into proper theologians by giving them a hard time in the church. Theological training therefore involves spiritual warfare, the battle between Christ and Satan in the church. Conflict in the church is the context for learning theology.

In 1539, Luther developed these insights most fully and powerfully in his famous Preface to the Wittenberg Edition of his German writing. In this preface he outlines "a correct way of studying theology," a way that he himself had learned from much practice in it, "the way taught by holy King David in Psalm 119.

Despite his language, Luther does not, as we would expect, propose a theological curriculum, or even a method for the study of academic theology. Rather, he describes his own practice of spirituality that he himself had learned from singing, saying, and praying the Psalter. Yet even that is misleading. He does not advocate a particular method of meditation, but outlines the actual dynamics of spiritual formation for students of theology. This involved the interplay between three powers, the Holy Spirit, God's word, and Satan. Luther claimed that the dynamic interaction between these three forces was so powerful and effective that those who submitted to it, "could (if it were necessary) write books just as good as those of the fathers and council."

As Martin Nicol has shown, Luther distinguished his own practice of spirituality from the tradition of spiritual foundation that he experienced as a monk.' This tradition followed a well-timed, ancient pattern of  meditation and prayer. Its goal was 'contemplation,' the experience of ecstasy, bliss, rapture, and illumination through union with the glorified Lord Jesus.

To reach this goal, a monk ascended in three stages, as on a ladder, the ladder of devotion, from earth to heaven, from the humanity of Jesus to His divinity. The ascent began with reading out aloud to himself a passage from the Scriptures to quicken the affections; it proceeded to heartfelt prayer, and culminated in mental meditation on heavenly things, as one waited for the experience of contemplation, the infusion of heavenly graces, the bestowal of spiritual illumination. Four terms were used to describe this practice of spirituality: reading, meditation, prayer, and contemplation.

In contrast to this rather manipulative method, Luther proposed an evangelical pattern of spirituality as reception rather than self-promotion. This involved three things: prayer (oratio), meditation (meditatio), and temptation (tentatio)'. All three revolved around ongoing, faithful attention to God's word... The study of theology begins and ends here on earth.

These three terms describe the life of faith as a cycle that begins with prayer for the gift of the Holy Spirit, concentrates on the reception of the Holy Spirit through meditation on God's word, and results in spiritual attack. This in turn leads a person back to further prayer and intensified meditation.

Luther, therefore, did not envisage the spiritual life in active terms as a process of self-development but in passive terms as a process of reception from the Triune God. In it self-sufficient individuals became beggars before God...

I think that we have much to learn from him about the spiritual formation... Luther asserts that the study of theology has to do with the gift of eternal life. No human teacher can teach us about that, because no human teacher can give us eternal life. Nor can we gain eternal life for ourselves by using our reason to reflect on our experience of God or even to interpret the Scriptures in the light of our personal experience...

But we have no need to climb up by ourselves into heaven. The Triune God has come down to earth for us. God has become incarnate for us, available to us externally in our senses, embodied for us embodied creatures in the ministry of word. We have access to him through His word.

The sacred Scriptures not only teach us about eternal life; they actually give us eternal life as they teach us. We also have "the real teacher of the Scriptures," the Holy Spirit, who uses the Scriptures to teach us the things of God. Luther, therefore, advises the student of theology to give up trying to fabricate a theological system based on human reason and experience. Instead he should learn theology by praying for the gift of the Holy Spirit as his instructor... 

"Kneel down in your room and pray to God with true humility and earnestness, that through his dear Son, he would give you his Holy Spirit, to enlighten you, lead you, and give you understanding."

Two things are remarkable in this piece of advice: the Trinitarian dynamic of this prayer for the Holy Spirit, and the repeated request for the bestowal of the Holy Spirit. As beggars who kneel before our great benefactor, we are drawn into the Triune God and share in His work here on earth.

It would be all too easy to misapply these words of Luther, as some Pietists and Charismatics do, by advocating a method of spiritual exegesis. Luther, however, does not here reject the careful reading, grammatical analysis, and literary exegesis of the Scriptures, in favor of reliance on the direct mental guidance by the Holy Spirit. He does not claim that through prayer and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit the reader receives special insights into the text of the Scriptures, its true meaning. Rather, Luther presupposes that God the Father grants His life- giving, enlightening Holy Spirit through His word. So the student of theology prays for the enlightenment, guidance, and understanding that the Holy Spirit alone can give through the Scriptures.

He prays that the Holy Spirit will use the Scriptures to interpret him and his experience so that he sees himself and others as God does. In this way he trusts in God's word as a means of grace, the channel of the Holy Spirit.

The study of theology, then, is based on prayer for the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit turns would-be masters of theology, spiritual self-promoters, into humble, life-long students of the Scriptures. Apart from the Spirit and His empowerment, people know nothing about eternal life.

Without His illumination, the teaching of the Scriptures remains mere theory without any reality.

Prayer for God's ongoing bestowal of the Holy Spirit through Jesus and the ongoing reception of the Holy Spirit makes a theologian. In short, the Holy Spirit makes a theologian and this is a life-long undertaking.

Now if Luther is right, we... need to promote the work of the Holy Spirit and role of prayer for the Holy Spirit in the study of theology. We dare not down play the importance of prayer just because it is not a means of grace, nor dare we dismiss prayer for the gift of the Holy Spirit as a Pentecostal aberration. Like the apostles in Acts 6:4, we need to devote ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the word, for the study of theology depends on the ongoing reception of the Holy Spirit through both of these.

Meditation on the written word Luther claims that in the study of theology, prayer for the gift of the Holy Spirit needs to be accompanied by continual meditation on the Scriptures.'' The reason for this linkage is that "God will not give you His Spirit without the external word." The Scriptures are the God-breathed, inspirited word of God. The same God who inspired them with His life-giving Spirit uses them to inspire and energize us with His Spirit.

The word of God is the means of grace, by which God the Father grants His Holy Spirit through His dear Son. The Holy Spirit is therefore received through meditation on the word. The Spirit comes to us through the word so that He can do His work on us and in us through the word.

No word; no Spirit.

Likewise, no prayer; no Spirit.

When Luther speaks about "the external word," he criticizes two other kinds of meditation, both of which deny the incarnation?' On the one hand, he is critical of the method of meditation that he learned as a monk. It used the Scriptures as a kind of spiritual spring-board for the prayer of the heart and the mental or visionary appropriation of heavenly insights. On the other hand, he is equally critical of the enthusiastic practice of meditation on the inner word of the Holy Spirit, spoken in the hearts of God's people.

In contrast to both these ways of learning theology, Luther advocates meditation on "the external word." It is the embodied word, spoken from human lips, written with human hands, and heard with human ears. Like the light of the sun, the word is out there, addressed to us by a pastor, written in a book, enacted in the divine service.

So, since the focus of meditation is on the external word, it basically involves spiritual extroversion rather than spiritual introversion. It is indeed a matter of the heart, but not only of the heart. The way to the heart is from the outside through the ears. In meditation we hear inwardly what is spoken to us outwardly.

This understanding of God's word as the physical means for His bestowal of the Holy Spirit led to two profound changes in the practice of meditation for Luther. First, whereas he had been taught as a monk to regard meditation as mental act, a state of being marked by inward, silent reflection, he realized that Christian meditation was primarily a verbal activity. The person who meditates speaks God's word to himself and listens attentively to it with his whole heart "to discover what the Holy Spirit means in it."

In this he was influenced by his study of the psalms in Hebrew rather than in Latin.'He discovered that all the Hebrew words for the practice of meditation in the Psalter had to do with various forms of vocalization and sub-vocalization, ranging from speaking to murmuring, chattering to musing, singing to humming, muttering to groaning.

A person who meditates therefore listens attentively to God's word as it is spoken personally to him. He concentrates exclusively on it; he speaks it to himself again and again; he reads and rereads it; he compares what it says with what is said elsewhere in the Bible; he chews at it, like a cow with its cud; he rubs at it, like a herb that releases its fragrance and healing powers by being crushed; he concentrates on it, physically, mentally, and emotionally, so that it reaches his heart, his core, the very center of his being. He receives what God says to him and gives to him in His word...

Luther does not envisage the practice of meditation as an inward, mental activity, but as an outward ritual enactment. As such it was inspired by the liturgy and derived from the enactment of God's word publicly in the divine service. God commands the church to preach, read, hear, sing, and speak His word, so that He could thereby convey and deliver His Holy Spirit to His people. That external proclamation and enactment of God's word determines how the student of theology meditate. Just as the Scriptures are read in the Divine Service, so he reads them out aloud to himself as he meditates on some part of them. Just as the psalms are sung there, so he sings them to himself. Just as God's word is preached there, so he preaches it to himself. Just as God's word is spoken there, so he hears it addressed personally to himself...

Luther claims that the right study of theology culminates in experience. Both he and his teachers agreed on that. But they disagreed on what they experienced and how. The monastic tradition of meditation held that the proper practice of meditation led to the experience of contemplation, the experience of union with the glorified Lord Jesus.

In contrast to them, Luther taught that the receptive study of the Scripture in prayer and meditation led to the experience of God's word, the experience of its efficiency, its creativity, and its productivity. Strangely, the power of God's word, the power of the Holy Spirit at work in and through the word, is discovered and experienced most clearly in temptation.'

Thus Luther says: "Thirdly, there is temptation, 'Anfechtung.' This is the touchstone that teaches you not only to know and understand, but also to experience how right and true, how sweet and lovely, how powerful and comforting God's word is, wisdom above all wisdom."

The kind of experience that Luther describes differs quite radically from what we would normally regard as a spiritual experience. It is the experience of the impact of God's word on us and its effect in us. We experience the word of God. While this experience begins with the conscience, it touches all parts of us and integrates the whole person, mentally, emotionally, and physically.

The Spirit-filled word attunes us to God the Father by conforming us to His dear Son. We do not internalize it in us and assimilate it to our way of being; no, it assimilates us and makes us godly. We do not use it to make something of ourselves; it makes us theologians.

In temptation the student of theology experiences for himself the righteousness and truth of God's word with his whole being, rather than just with the intellect; he experiences the sweetness and loveliness of God's word with his whole being, rather than just with the emotions; he experiences the power and strength of God's word with his whole being, rather than just with the body. Temptation is therefore the touchstone for the assessment of any theologian; it reveals what is otherwise unknown.

Just as a pawnbroker uses a touchstone to test the presence and purity of gold in a coin or a piece of jewelry, so temptation tests and proves the reality of a person's spirituality.

When Luther speaks of temptation in this preface, he uses the word in a special way. In this case he does not refer to the enticement by the devil to sin, nor even to his condemnation of the sinner. The use of the German word "Anfechtung" indicates that it involves some kind of attack upon the person.

Luther makes it clear that this happens in the public domain; it involves public antagonism and opposition... It is an attack upon the ministry of the word. 

The devil does not attack the office of the ministry as such, because it can serve his interests if it operates apart from God's word and His Holy Spirit; his concern is for the source of empowerment in the office, the operation... by faith in God's word and the power of the Holy Spirit. That he will not allow at any cost, for it is his undoing.

As long as any pastor, or any student of theology, operates by his own power, with his own intellect and human ideas, the devil lets him be. But as soon as he meditates on God's word and so draws on the power of the Holy Spirit, the devil attacks him by stirring up misunderstanding, contradiction, opposition, and persecution. The attack is mounted by him through the enemies of the gospel in the church and in the world. All this happens to stop the work of God's word in the student of theology.

As soon as God's word is planted in his heart, the devil tries to drive it out, so that he will not be able to operate by the power of the Holy Spirit. The large number of laments in the Psalter indicate that this is quite normal. They show how the ministry of the word produces enmity and opposition; it arouses the ire of the enemy.

But paradoxically these attacks are counter-productive. Luther says:

"For as soon as God's word shoots up and spreads through you, the devil persecutes you. He makes you a real teacher (of theology); by his attacks (temptations) he teaches you to seek and love God's word."


Thus the attack of the devil on the student of theology serves to strengthen his faith because it drives him back to God's word as the only basis for his work in the church. In the face of an attack by the devil, he cannot rely on his own resources; he cannot depend on the affirmation of his theology by the world or even by the church. His own spiritual weakness and his lack of wisdom make him rely on the power of the Holy Spirit and the wisdom of God's word, "wisdom above all wisdom."

Through temptation the student of theology becomes a theologian; he learns the theology of the cross; more correctly, the spirituality of the cross.' He does not experience the glory of union with his heavenly Lord, but knows the pain of union with Christ crucified. He bears the cross together with his Lord and suffering with him in the church.

If we heed what Luther has to say about the role of the devil in the spiritual formation of theologians, we will realize... spiritual battlegrounds, contested places, rather than spiritual oases, places of refuge from temptation. We will also be able to... understand why they [theologians] and their families come under such concerted attack at certain points during their course of study. We may even welcome these attacks. They show that God is truly at work with us, making true theologians out of us and our students.

The life of faith is the vita pasiva, the receptive life.

In it we do not make something of ourselves, God fashions and forms us... We do not make theologians; God does. He creates them by calling them to be ministers of His word, just as He called the apostles. He trains them in His church through what is done to them there and through what they suffer there. He makes theologians through the gift of the Holy Spirit, the power of His word, and the opposition of the devil...

At best, we can establish a curriculum that is consistent with the divinely instituted dynamic for spiritual formation, foster a community that promotes its operation, and model how to keep on learning by living the receptive life of faith.

What then can we do to promote the receptive life for students of theology?

Here are seven brief concluding proposals.

1. The whole curriculum for the theological education needs to revolve around the worship of the community...

2. We would do well to begin all our lectures with a word of God and prayer for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

3. We need to be diligent in our own devotional life and help... [others] establish the practice of daily devotions, with an emphasis on meditation on God's word, prayer, and spiritual vigilance.

4. A course on Lutheran spirituality as the receptive life of faith could be made part of the curriculum...

5. The study of theology needs to be understood as part of the battle between Christ and Satan in the church. The better we do our work as students of God's word, the greater the opposition will be. That is not a bad thing, provided that we deal with the conflicts in our community and in the lives of our students spiritually as attacks by the devil rather than merely as personal, doctrinal or psychological problems.

6. ... Involvement in the community and their acceptance of authority, their participation in public worship and interaction with each other, our pastoral care of them and their pastoral care of each other, our provision of spiritual direction and their practice of spiritual self-appraisal, our readiness to apologize and their willingness to forgive.

7. ... Focus on the use of God's word in worship and life and ministry as the means of the Holy Spirit, for as Luther says, "God will not give . . . his Spirit without the external word." Apart from God's word no one could ever learn theology. That is what makes a theologian."


Kleinig had originally written this article to focus on strictly Pastoral and Seminarian training/atmospheres. But, I have attempted to de-relativize it so that it may also apply to all theologians... the entire priesthood.