Archive for the ‘Karl Barth’ Tag

Divine and Human Authority   Leave a comment

Above:  Conscientious Objectors at Camp Lewis, Washington, United States of America, November 18, 1918

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Twenty-Third Sunday after Trinity, Year 2

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Absolve, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy people from their offenses;

that from the bonds of our sins which, by reason of our frailty,

we have brought upon us, we may be delivered by thy bountiful goodness;

through Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth

with thee and the Holy Spirit, ever One God, world without end  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 228

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Isaiah 32:1-8

Psalm 146

Romans 13:1-7

Luke 13:23-30

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Don’t get me started about submission to government authority (Romans 13:1-7).  Okay, now that I have started, I am off to the proverbial races.

The Bible is inconsistent regarding submission to and resistance to civil authority.  Romans 13:1-7 represents one strain.  One may think of Shiphrah and Puah (Exodus 1:15-22), who let newborn Hebrew boys live, in violation of a royal order.  One may also recall the Book of Daniel, with more than one instance of remaining faithful to God by violating a royal decree.  Perhaps one recalls 1, 2, and 4 Maccabees, in which fidelity to the Law of Moses required disobedience to Seleucid kings, such as Antiochus IV Epiphanes and other  (1 Maccabees 1:15-9:73; 2 Maccabees 6:1-15:37; 4 Maccabees 4:15-18:24) .  I would be remiss to forget about Tobit, who violated a royal order yet obeyed the Law of Moses by burying corpses (Tobit 1:16-20).  Finally, the Revelation of John portrays the government of the Roman Empire as being in service to Satan.  In this strain, Christians should resist agents of Satan.

When one turns to Christian history, one finds a long tradition of civil disobedience within Christianity.  Accounts of Quakers, Anabaptists, and other pacifists suffering at the hands of governments for refusing to fight in wars properly arouse moral outrage against those governments.  The Third Reich presents a stark example that evokes apocalyptic depictions of Satanic government.  Anti-Nazi heroes included Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and a plethora of Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant martyrs, among others.

Furthermore, the Third Reich has continued to inform a strain of German Christian theology since the 1930s.  When to obey and when to resist authority has remained especially prominent in German circles, for obvious reasons.

Governments come and go.  God remains forever.  Wrong is wrong, regardless of whether one commits it independently or as part of one’s official duties.

Isaiah 32:1-8 depicts an ideal government at the end of days.  In Christian terms, this text describes the fully realized Kingdom of God.  That is not our reality.

Psalm 146 reminds us:

Put no trust in princes

or in any mortal, for they have no power to save.

When they breathe their last breath,

they return to the dust;

and on that day their plans come to nothing.

–Verses 3-4, The Revised English Bible (1989)

The bottom line, O reader, is this:  Love God fully.  Keep divine commandments.  Live according to the Golden Rule.  If doing so is legal, you are fortunate.  If doing so is illegal, love God fully, keep divine commandments, and live according to the Golden Rule anyway.  God remains forever.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 29, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LYDIA, DORCAS, AND PHOEBE, COWORKERS OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Opposing Corruption   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Micah

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Micah 3:5-12

Psalm 63:1-8

Titus 3:1-15

Luke 22:1-6, 39-53

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Psalm 63 is a royal text.  Titus 3:1 instructs Christians to obey civil authorities.  Yet in Luke 22 and Micah 3, the authorities (civil and religious) are corrupt.  The stance of faith is to confront corruption, not to support it or accept its bribes.

In full disclosure, the founders of my country rebelled against the British Empire.  I think of a line from Man of the Year (2006):

If dissent were unpatriotic, we would still be British.

Furthermore, nuances regarding obedience to the civil magistrate exist in Christian theology.  For obvious reasons, when to resist and when to obey civil authority has been a question in segments of German theology since 1933.  One may think, for example, of the great Karl Barth (1886-1968) and the Theological Declaration of Barmen (1934), anti-Nazi.  Nevertheless, extreme law-and-order-affirming Christian theology exists.  One historical prime example of this attitude I found during research into conservative Presbyterianism (the Presbyterian Church in America, or PCA, to be precise) comes from The Presbyterian Journal, the magazine that midwifed the birth of the PCA in 1973.  In the October 30, 1974, issue, the editor agreed with a letter-writer, one Joan B. Finneran, “an elect lady of Simpsonville, Maryland.”  Finneran wrote that God establishes governments and commands people to obey earthly authority, therefore

When a Herod or a Hitler comes into power, we must thereby assume this is the LORD’s plan; He will use even such as these to put His total plan into effect for the good of His people here on earth.

Finneran needed to read the Theological Declaration of Barmen.

What should we do in good conscience when systems are corrupt and inhumane?  Corruption leads to collective ruin, after all.  Timeless principles are useful, but they are also vague.  Proper applications of them varies according to circumstances.  If I say,

Oppose corruption and work against the exploitation of the poor and the powerless,

I sound like the Law of Moses, various Hebrew prophets, and Jesus.  I also provide no guidance about how best to follow that counsel.  Proper application of timeless principles depends upon circumstances–who, when, and where one is.

That guidance must come from the Holy Spirit.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 25, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT DISMAS, PENITENT BANDIT

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2020/03/25/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-in-lent-year-c-humes/

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Trust in God, Part III   3 comments

Above:  Annunciation of the Angel to Saint Zechariah, by Domenico Ghirlandaio

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Jeremiah 33:14-16

Psalm 25

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

Luke 1:1-25

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As Karl Barth pointed out, God, not human beings, properly occupies the center of Christian theology.  The overabundance of human-centered language in hymnals and in lyrics to music in church is never a good sign.

God is at the center in the readings for this Sunday.  God occupies the center of Jeremiah 33, with its prophecy of a restored Davidic monarchy and levitical priesthood.  God occupies the center in the prediction of redemption while all around looks dire.  God guides people spiritually and forgives sins.  God helps us empathize and rejoice with each other as we serve God.  God offers good news that seems unbelievable.

A Southern Baptist collegiate ministry sends people to stand in the quadrangle at the Oconee Campus of the University of North Georgia a few times each semester.  Sometimes someone stops me to ask me a few questions.  One of those questions is,

Do you believe in God?

My answer is always the same:

What do you mean?

I ask because my answer depends on the intent of the questioner.  A common understanding of belief in God is intellectual acceptance of the existence of God.  In the creeds and in many Biblical passages, though, belief in God indicates trust in God.  I always affirm the existence of God, whom I usually trust.

Trust is of the essence of in Luke 1:1-25.  In this Sunday’s Gospel reading, the lack of trust is a problem for Zechariah.  I do not condemn, though, for my response would also be in so many words,

Yeah, right.

We readers, if we know the Bible well, should think immediately of Abram/Abraham and Sarai/Sarah (Genesis 15:1-20 and 17:1f).  We ought also to remember Genesis 16, the beginning of the story of Hagar and Ishmael, as well as the faithlessness of Abram and Sarai.

Returning to Luke 1:1-25, if we continue reading that chapter, we find next week’s Gospel reading, which I mention here only in passing.  The contrast between Zechariah and Mary is multifaceted.  Trust (or lack thereof) in God is one of those facets.

I do not condemn Zechariah caution and skepticism.  I also rejoice that God does not asks us to cease to transform into gullible people.  Furthermore, divine grace continues to shower upon those who respond to seemingly unbelievable truths with

Yeah, right.

My favorite Biblical character is St. Thomas the Apostle; I affirm honest doubt.  It keeps one from falling for scams and joining cults.

Yeah, right

is frequently the correct reply.

When, however, the seemingly unbelievable is true and of God, we can turn to God and admit that our initial skepticism was wrong, even if it was understandable.  Sometimes we need hindsight to see more clearly.  And grace continues to abound.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 8, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF EDWARD KING, BISHOP OF LINCOLN

THE FEAST OF FRED B. CRADDOCK, U.S. DISCIPLES OF CHRIST MINISTER, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, AND RENOWNED PREACHER

THE FEAST OF GEOFFREY STUDDERT KENNEDY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN HAMPDEN GURNEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF GOD, FOUNDER OF THE BROTHERS HOSPITALLERS OF SAINT JOHN OF GOD

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/03/08/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-of-advent-year-c-humes/

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