Archive for the ‘Puritans’ Tag

Good Trees for God   5 comments

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Above:  A Visual Protest Against Police Brutality and Corruption, June 11, 1887

Artist = Eugene Zimmerman (1862-1935)

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZC4-4792

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The Collect:

O Lord God, enliven and preserve your church with your perpetual mercy.

Without your help, we mortals will fail;

remove far from us everything that is harmful,

and lead us toward all that gives life and salvation,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46

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The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 4:27-31; 5:14-16 (Monday)

Deuteronomy 17:2-13 (Tuesday)

Leviticus 16:1-5, 20-28 (Wednesday)

Psalm 119:65-72 (All Days)

1 Peter 2:11-17 (Monday)

Romans 13:1-7 (Tuesday)

Matthew 21:18-22 (Wednesday)

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These readings present us with some difficult material.  In the Torah an animal sacrifice atoned for unintentional sins, offering an unauthorized sacrifice led to death, and idolatry carried the death penalty.

So you shall purge evil from your midst.

–Deuteronomy 17:7b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Also, in the readings from Romans and 1 Peter, resisting authority is a sin, regardless of the nature of that government.    I will address these matters in order.

I.

One was supposed to keep a distance from the holy and approach God in a certain way in the Law of Moses.  Thus one had instructions to offer sacrifices just so, for example.  And touching the Ark of the Covenant was deadly.  In contrast, Jesus, God incarnate, ate with people, many of whom had dubious moral histories and bad reputations.  I side with Jesus in this matter.

II.

One ought to be very careful regarding instructions to kill the (alleged) infidels.  Also, one should recognize such troublesome passages in one’s own scriptures as well as in those of others, lest one fall into hypocrisy regarding this issue.  Certainly those Puritans in New England who executed Quakers in the 1600s thought that they were purging evil from their midst.  Also, shall we ponder the Salem Witch Trials, in which paranoid Puritans trapped inside their superstitions and experiencing LSD trips courtesy of a bread mold, caused innocent people to die?  And, not that I am equating Puritans with militant Islamists, I have no doubt that those militant Islamists who execute Christians and adherents to other religions think of themselves as people who purge evil from their midst.  Violence in the name of God makes me cringe.

When does one, in the name of purging evil from one’s midst, become that evil?

III.

Speaking of removing evil from our midst (or at least trying to do so), I note that Dietrich Bonhoeffer, after struggling with his conscience, participated in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler.  I let that pass, for if one cannot kill (or at least plan to kill) a genocidal dictator in the name of morality….Sometimes life presents us with bad decisions and worse ones.  Choose the bad in very such circumstance, I say.  In the Hitler case, how many lives might have continued had he died sooner?

IV.

Christianity contains a noble and well-reasoned argument for civil disobedience.  This tradition reaches back to the Early Church, when many Christians (some of whom became martyrs) practiced conscientious objection to service in the Roman Army.  The tradition includes more recent figures, such as many heroes of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.  Many of those activists suffered and/or died too.  And, in the late 1800s, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, hardly a bastion of liberalism at any point in its history, declared that the Ottoman imperial government, which had committed violence against the Armenian minority group, had no more moral legitimacy or right to rule.  Yet I read in the October 30, 1974, issue of The Presbyterian Journal, the midwife for the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) in 1973, that:

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.

–page 11

That was an extreme law-and-order position the editor affirmed in the context of reacting against demonstrations of the 1960s and early 1970s.  A few years later, however, the PCA General Assembly approved of civil disobedience as part of protests against abortions.

V.

If one assumes, as St. Paul the Apostle and much of the earliest Church did, that Jesus would return quite soon and destroy the sinful world order, preparation for Christ’s return might take priority and social reform might move off the list of important things to accomplish.  But I am writing in 2014, so much time has passed without the Second Coming having occurred.  Love of one’s neighbors requires us to act and even to change society and/or rebel against human authority sometimes.

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The barren fig tree in Matthew 21:18-22 was a symbol of faithless and fruitless people.  If we know a tree by its fruits and we are trees, what kind of trees are we?  May we bear the fruits of love, compassion,and mere decency.  May our fruits be the best they can be, albeit imperfect.  May we be the kind of trees that pray, in the words of Psalm 119:68 (The Book of Common Prayer, 1979):

You are good and you bring forth good;

instruct me in your statutes.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 15, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY OF NAZARETH, MOTHER OF GOD

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Adopted from this post:

link

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Regarding Asceticism and Fun-Damn-Mentalism   2 comments

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According to the Reverend Henry Harbaugh, these man were sinning.

Image Creator and Publisher = Bain News Service

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ggbain-33887

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Therefore, my friends, I implore you by God’s mercy to offer your selves to [God]:  a living sacrifice, dedicated and fit for his acceptance, the worship offered by mind and heart.  Conform no longer to the pattern of this present world, but be transformed by the renewal of your minds.  Then you will be able to discern the will of God, and to know what is good, acceptable, and perfect.

–Romans 12:2, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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Life is good.  My life is an enjoyable one, a time filled with graces small, medium, and large.  Today, for example, I ate lunch with my beloved.  It was a fine meal in terms of both cuisine and company.

During that meal my mind wandered into theological matters.  My recent background reading for a series, Liturgy in the Moravian Church in America, soon to debut at this weblog, has brought many details to my attention.  Among them is the porous boundary between the sacred and the secular in Moravian tradition.  Often one’s approach makes all the difference on that spectrum.  Yes, some matters in the secular realm can never be sacred, but many can.  Laurence Libin, writing in the Foreword to The Music of the Moravian Church in America, provided an excellent illustration of that principle on page xv.  Once a strict minister chastised some single members of the congregation for playing sacred music on instruments on Sunday and serenades on the same instruments during the week.  An elder replied that the pastor preached with the same mouth he used to eat sausages.

Asceticism is a religious tradition with Christian expressions.  In Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, from the time of early Christianity to today, one can find examples of people seeking to make themselves uncomfortable, if not miserable, for Christ’s sake.  A partial catalog includes wearing a hairshirt, flagellating oneself, living atop a pillar, and having oneself nailed to a cross on Good Friday.  A few years ago I read about an Eastern Orthodox monk (later canonized) who lived in a cramped cell at the top of a winding and incredibly narrow staircase.  Such practices are foreign to my spirituality, for I do not seek opportunities to make myself uncomfortable, if not miserable, for anybody’s sake.  Asceticism has functioned as a self-imposed substitute for enduring persecution and facing martyrdom.  That makes three more things I hope to avoid, not that I endeavor to live rather than renounce Christ.

Related to asceticism is fun-damn-mentalism.  The Reverend Charles Finney (1792-1875) was a killjoy.  He condemned anything he considered self-indulgent, such as the consumption of meat, tea, coffee, and pastries or the practice of women wearing ribbons in their hair of fashionable clothing on their bodies.  On the other hand, he instructed people to maintain good posture, clean their nails, and do their laundry for the glory of God.  (“Sit up straight, sit up straight for Jesus, ye soldiers of the cross….”  Sing along with me!)  Finney was suspicious of other appetites, such as that for fine literature.  He did not understand how a Christian could give time, attention, and shelf space to works of “a host of triflers and blasphemers of God,” such as William Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott, and Lord George Gordon Byron.  Likewise, the Reverend Henry Harbaugh (1817-1867), of German immigrant stock, had, in the words of Dr. Nathan C. Schaeffer, “hatred of every form of sham and humbug.”  This “sham and humbug” included not only such bad activities as drinking to excess and gambling, but dancing, reading novels, playing chess, playing dominoes, attending circuses, and wearing fashionable clothes.  (Be a joyless and overly earnest frump for Jesus!)

Contemporary killjoys, opponents of “worldly amusements,” continue to try to stamp out innocent entertainment.  I have heard (from a reliable source in Statesboro, Georgia) of quite strict Christian parents who will not permit their children to play soccer because the sport is “too worldly.”  Dancing has attracted criticism for a long time; the Roman Catholic Church condemned it before there were Protestants.  I can name at least one Protestant denomination which persists in its anti-dancing theological position.  These examples point to the misapplication of the Pauline ethic not being conformed to the world.  The Apostle did not mean to go through life as if one’s mother had weaned one on a dill pickle.

As for novels, just to focus on one of the targets of criticism by Finney and Harbaugh (and the Puritans before them), I make the following observations.  I have enjoyed a wide range of novels, from science fiction epics to historical fiction to comedy to serious works.  Some of them I classify as much theological as literary.  Others were just good reads.  Voltaire, a great intellect, writer, and smartass (It is better than being a dumbass!), gave us Candide, a hoot.  T. R. Pearson‘s A Short History of a Small Place, a hilarious story about life in a small North Carolina town from the perspective of a boy, contains an unforgettable account of a well-planned church Christmas pageant gone horribly wrong.  (The Virgin Mary dropped the baby Jesus, breaking his porcelain head, and startling the “camel,” who started barking uncontrollably.)  Graham Greene, a great Roman Catholic novelist, gave us both comedy and theology.  Our Man in Havana still makes me laugh, and I class The Power and the Glory with works of theology.  Frank Herbert‘s Dune and its sequels (I got lost in book five of six.)  are tales of politics, ecology, economics, religion, and struggles over scarce natural resources.  Philip K. Dick‘s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a meditation on hope, desperation, and what makes us human.  The book is much darker and better than even the final cut of the movie adaption, Blade Runner (1982), actually.  Graham Swift‘s Waterland, written in stream of consciousness, is a depressing tale which keeps me coming back for more.  The list of novels which has affected me deeply goes on and on.

Finally, where did I put my dominoes?  I feel like sinning again any moment now.  Wait, I cannot find them; perhaps I will have to settle for dancing instead.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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SOURCES (OTHER THAN MY MEMORY)

Haeussler, Armin.  The Story of Our Hymns:  The Handbook to the Hymnal of the Evangelical and Reformed Church.  St. Louis, MO:  Eden Publishing House, 1952.

Knouse, Nola Reed, ed.  The Music of the Moravian Church in America.  Rochester, NY:  University of Rochester Press, 2008.

Sellers, Charles.  The Market Revolution:  Jacksonian America, 1815-1846.  New York:  Oxford University Press, 1991.

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Religious Persecution II: Victims and Religious Persecution   3 comments

mary_dyer_being_led

Above:  The Quaker Mary Dyer Being Led to Execution on Boston Common, 1 June 1660

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Teach us, good Lord God, to serve you as you deserve,

to give and not to count the cost,

to fight and not to heed the wounds,

to toil and not to seek for rest,

to labor and not to ask for reward,

except that of knowing that we do your will,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 40

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 38:1-13

Psalm 6

Matthew 10:5-23

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Some Related Posts:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/05/28/a-prayer-for-those-who-are-tortured/

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/05/28/a-prayer-for-those-who-inflict-torture/

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My eyes are wasted with grief

and worn away because of all my enemies.

–Psalm 6:7, Common Worship (2000)

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Follow God and face persecution.

How is that for a message to use when recruiting and seeking to retain servants of God? Ebed-melech the Ethiopian risked his life to save the life of the prophet Jeremiah, who had sunk into the mud in a cistern. Jesus and most of the original twelve Apostles died violently and suffered before that happened. Nearly two millennia have passed since the time of Christ. During that span countless numbers of Christians have suffered for the faith. Many have become martyrs.

I am among the fortunate Christians who have not faced any form of persecution, partially because of the freedom of religion and the separation of religion and state. But I know that persecution and martyrdoms continue. Cases of them do not always make headlines, but they persist, unfortunately. And the blood of the martyrs continues to water the church.

Perversely, many people who make others martyrs do so in the name of God; they believe that they are acting righteously. This has been the case in the past and remains so in the present. Puritans who hanged Quakers in colonial New England in the 1600s thought they acted righteously to defend their community from a great threat—pacifistic egalitarians in a hierarchical society, actually. (People who kill pacifists do not impress me.)  In parts of the world Islamic extremists attack Christian churches, but many other Muslims defend their Christian neighbors’ houses of worship. And the shameful track record of anti-Semitism in Christian history, from merely bad attitudes to small-scale attacks to large-scale pogroms, needs no further comment here. May we criticize the extremists and mistake them as true representatives of entire faith systems.

One lesson to draw from such cases is, in the name of Christ, to act compassionately toward others, especially those with whom we disagree theologically. Torturing, imprisoning, and killing others in the name of Jesus, himself an innocent victim of capital punishment, is wrong, regardless of one’s concept of God. Yes, sometimes life brings us to some unpleasant circumstances with only bad choices—such as violent ones as the means of survival—but there is a difference between self-defense and religious intolerance acted out. I am not naïve about that reality.

Yet the definition of freedom includes liberty to those who differ from and with us. And moral absolutes do exist. Among them are the immoral natures of torture and religious persecution, terms one should never apply when they are not applicable. May we stand with the victims, not those who victimize them. And may we certainly never victimize anyone in the name of God or any other name.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 23, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DESIDERIUS/DIDIER OF VIENNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT GUIBERT OF GORZE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN BAPTIST ROSSI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS COPERNICUS, SCIENTIST

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/05/23/devotion-for-wednesday-after-proper-7-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Guide to Posts About Puritans   Leave a comment

Puritan Family

Above:  The Cover of My Copy of Edmund Morgan’s The Puritan Family

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Suffering and Glory:

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/26/suffering-and-glory/

Excesses and Errors of Pietism:

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/09/03/excesses-and-errors-of-pietism/

Agents of Divine Healing:

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/agents-of-divine-healing/

Love, the Final Arbiter:

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/04/love-the-final-arbiter/

The One and Only:

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/the-one-and-only/

Grounded in Love:

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/08/14/grounded-in-love/

Love God and Do Whatever You Please:

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/02/05/love-god-and-do-whatever-you-please/

Leaving Divine Judgment to God:

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/04/18/leaving-divine-judgment-to-god/

Job and John, Part XIX:  Alleged Heresy, Actual Orthodoxy:

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/11/06/job-and-john-part-xix-alleged-heresy-actual-orthodoxy/

The Freedom of the Sabbath:

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/the-freedom-of-the-sabbath/

Called to Bring People to God:

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/called-to-bring-people-to-god/

National Holiness:

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/03/national-holiness/

Victims and Religious Persecution:

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/victims-and-religious-persecution/

Good Trees for God:

link

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Posted February 8, 2014 by neatnik2009 in United Church of Christ Predecessors

Tagged with

Suffering and Glory   2 comments

cross-and-crown

Above:  Cross and Crown

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, on this day you open the hearts of your faithful people

by sending us your Holy Spirit.

Direct us by the light of that Spirit,

that we may have a right judgment in all things

and rejoice at all times in your peace,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 36

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 19:1-9a (47th Day)

Exodus 19:16-25 (48th Day)

Psalm 33:12-22 (Both Days)

Acts 2:1-11 (47th Day)

Romans 8:14-17 (48th Day)

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 19:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/10/22/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-the-last-sunday-after-epiphany-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/03/devotion-for-the-seventh-day-of-easter-saturday-in-easter-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Acts 2:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/fiftieth-day-of-easter-day-of-pentecost-year-a/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/08/02/fiftieth-day-of-easter-day-of-pentecost-year-b/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/23/fiftieth-day-of-easter-day-of-pentecost-year-c/

Romans 4:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/03/25/devotion-for-january-16-and-17-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/23/fiftieth-day-of-easter-day-of-pentecost-year-c/

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O LORD, you look down from heaven

and behold all the people in the world.

From where you sit enthroned you turn your gaze

on all who dwell on the earth.

You fashion all the hearts of them

and understand all their works.

–Psalm 33:13-15, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Take up thy cross, and follow Christ,

Nor think till death to lay it down;

For only he who bears the cross

May hope to wear the glorious crown.

–Charles W. Everest (1814-1877)

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The readings from Exodus and Acts have the flavor of prose poetry and of mystery, two things I will not attempt to minimize with regard to encounters with God.  Sometimes words prove inadequate; so be it.  May we learn as much as possible from them and embrace the divine mystery.

The Law of Moses contained rules for free people, who were all slaves of God, but no longer of the Pharaoh.  Since all the Israelites were free people, they had a day off from work, for example.  And nobody had any right to exploit another person.  This reality did not prevent exploitation, but the Law defined that violation.

If we are children of God, St. Paul the Apostle tells us down the corridors of time, we are also heirs with Christ, who suffered.  Therefore, if we are to share in his glory, we must also share in his suffering.  The last part of that formulation is not comforting, is it?  It is the part which I, as a North American Christian, am fortunate not to face as vividly in my daily life as many of my coreligionists elsewhere do in theirs.  Yet I know enough about colonial American history to be aware of Puritans hanging Quakers in New England in the 1600s and of the government of New York incarcerating unlicensed preachers in the late 1600s and early 1700s.  And I know of religious persecution around the world from the days of the Bible to today.  (Committing violence against nonviolent people does not impress me.)  I can still, regardless of circumstances, seek proper priorities and follow Christ.

At least there is good news accompanying the bad news:  Those who suffer for the sake of Christ will not do so alone; God will be with them.  And the power of God is marvelous indeed; no darkness can overcome it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTIETH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CANISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF KATHERINA VON BORA LUTHER, WIFE OF MARTIN LUTHER

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/12/20/forty-seventh-and-forty-eighth-day-of-easter-year-a-elca-daily-devotion/

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This is post #1050 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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Excesses and Errors of Pietism   46 comments

Excesses and Errors of Pietism

Above:  The Last Page of My Draft of This Post

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I am an Episcopalian.  I used to identify more as an Anglican, but many Donatists in North America have taken that label for themselves.  So now I identify primarily as an Episcopalian and secondarily as an Anglican.  Yet I embrace the broad, inclusive meaning of Anglicanism, with its acceptance, tolerance, and collegiality.  And I like the Anglican spirit of unity in worship, not theological orthodoxy–whichever version of it a specific church party might seek to define as normative.  So my religion is sacramental, ritualistic, and warm-hearted, given to good works.  And my religion is quite intellectual, for the human brain is a great gift from God.

Given my spiritual and theological predilections, I bristle against the excesses and errors of Pietism.  On occasion my expressions of this sentiment have caused offense to some in my family and beyond it.  Sometimes people have accused me of judging.  No, my offense (not sin) was to hold and state a contrary opinion.  For that I offer no apology.  As I sign I have says,

FOR EVERY ACTION THERE IS AN EQUAL AND OPPOSITE CRITICISM.

I do not apologize for the fact of another person’s thin skin.

Yet Pietism is not all bad.  It emerged in European Lutheranism shortly after the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648).  One Jakob Spener (1635-1705), responding to stale confessional orthodoxy, proposed six goals for Christian living:

  1. Individual Bible study;
  2. The practice of the priesthood of all believers;
  3. The priority of good works;
  4. The maintenance of charity amid theological controversy;
  5. The improved education and training of clergy; and
  6. The reform of preaching to fit the previous five goals.

Many Pietists, using slogans such as

LIFE VERSUS DOCTRINE

and

REALITY VERSUS THE APPEARANCE OF GODLINESS,

focused on a living faith–an excellent ideal.  And they engaged in many great charitable works which improved societies–also consistent with the best aspects of Christianity.

But excesses and errors developed early and spread abroad quickly.  They live today.

  1. Sometimes the focus on holy living has devolved into persnickety rules, such as prohibitions against playing cards or dancing.  The rejection of one form of stale orthodoxy–abstract theology–has led to another form of stale orthodoxy–legalism–really a heresy.  This also constitutes a purity code.  Jesus rejected purity codes of his day.
  2. The emphasis on regeneration (a term I have seen used so many ways that I have ceased to know what it means when someone uses it) reflects a basic flaw in Protestantism–too much emphasis on the individual and not enough on the faith community.
  3. This obsession with regeneration has led to a rejection of good liturgy, such as the church year, service books, and “smells and bells.”  I, as a ritualist, object to this error.  A stunted sacramental theology has hindered much of Protestantism, denying it the fullness it might have enjoyed and shared otherwise.
  4. The undervaluing of objective truth in favor of subjective experience has been unfortunate.  I, as one who values objective reality highly, take issue with excessive subjectivity.  In fact, I, as a history buff, like to apply universal, timeless ethical standards to historical figures.  Some tell me that I ought not to do this, but they are displaying excessive subjectivity.

Despite the historical origins of Pietism in late seventeenth-century European Lutheranism, I recognize a related mentality in the Puritanism (which rejected the priesthood of the believer in favor of a high view of the pastor as interpreter of the Bible) of the early-to-late 1600s.  As Professor Edmund S. Morgan wrote in The Puritan Family, Puritans emphasized rules of civil living

in order to convince themselves that they were sanctified.

–page 5

Unfortunately, some of these rules were quite strict–down to punishing people for humming or singing to themselves in public on Sunday and making church attendance mandatory.  But, as Roger Williams observed correctly, the only sincere prayer is the one a person offers sincerely.

I recognize excesses of Pietism in wrong-headed obsessions with “worldliness” and “worldly amusements.”  Some examples follow:

  1. In the 1870s the pastor and Session of Central Presbyterian Church, Atlanta, Georgia, carried out a “reign of terror” (a term from page 18 of the 1979 church history), excommunicating about half of the congregation.   The excommunicated had danced or played bridge or hosted a dance at home.  Deacon Frank Block, who published an eighteen-page defense of himself, had done the latter.  The pastor left under a cloud of controversy in December 1878 and the congregation took years to heal.
  2. Over a decade ago I heard a history professor at Georgia Southern University–a good liberal Episcopalian forced into home schooling by the local school system’s problems–speak of awkward moments at gatherings of the local home schooling association.  One other parent, for example, forbade her child(ren) to play soccer because the sport was “too worldly.”  The professor shook his head in dismay.
  3. The Church of God (Anderson, Indiana), founded in 1880, had liberalized by 1910.  Finally it resolved officially that any man who wore a necktie to church was not violating Biblical standards.  So, in 1910 and 1911, the Church of God (Guthrie, Oklahoma) separated.  Its leaders cited doctrinal drift and church “worldliness” as justifications for the schism.
  4. Gene Pollett (who told me the following story in the 1990s) served as the pastor of Andrew Chapel Methodist Church, Kathleen, Georgia, in the 1960s.  There was little for the youth of the community to do on Saturday nights, so parents from various churches agreed to chaperone a weekly dance held at the fellowship hall of Andrew Chapel.  One Saturday night a local Southern Baptist minister made a scene, confronting Gene and complaining about the sinful dancing taking place inside.  Unfortunately for that preacher, some portion of his congregation was present at the dance and heard his rant.  That Baptist congregation was seeking a new pastor shortly thereafter.

I know that some might beat me about the theological head and neck with Romans 14 and that others might merely suggest that I read it.  I have read it–many times, in fact.  And I have read other Pauline passages regarding one’s activities in relation to “weaker members,” as the texts refer to them.  My lifestyle is quiet and basic.  It is free of scandalous behaviors.  Yet I know that some “weaker members” might not understand even my simple lifestyle as I do.  I have decided, however, that I will try to live a good life because that is the right thing to do.  I have vowed to leave my corner of the world better than I found it because that is what I ought to do.  And I will not permit the potential confusion on the part of others to limit my choices.  If I were to do so, I would do little or nothing.  And then what good would I be in this world?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 3, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR CARL LICHTENBERGER, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF J. R. R. TOLKIEN, NOVELIST

THE FEAST OF JIMMY LAWRENCE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF PRUDENCE CRANDALL, EDUCATOR

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Amended on September 5, 2013

Amended on October 18, 2013

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ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Bowker, John, ed.  The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions.  New York, NY:  Oxford University Press, 1997.  I find this volume quite useful during my ongoing quest to understand the content of religious claims objectively.

Melton, J. Gordon.  Encyclopedia of American Religions.  4h. Ed.  Detroit, MI:  Gale Research, Inc., 1993.  This is a crucial reference work in my library.

Morgan, Edmund S.  The Puritan Family:  Religion and Domestic Relations in Seventeenth-Century New England.  2d.  Ed.  New York, NY:  Harper & Row, 1966.  Morgan was an expert of Puritanism.

Precht, Fred L., ed.  Lutheran Worship:  History and Practice.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 1993.  This work includes a strong Confessional Lutheran (Missouri Synod) critique of Pietism.  I agree with parts of that critique and disagree with others, for I am not a Confessional Lutheran–or even a Lutheran, although I could be a Lutheran under certain circumstances.

Smith, John Robert.  The Church That Stayed:  The Life and Times of Central Presbyterian Church in the Heart of Atlanta, 1858-1978.  Atlanta, GA:  The Atlanta Historical Society, 1979.  O, the treasures one finds at thrift stores!

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Agents of Divine Healing   2 comments

lamb-of-god-crozier

Above:  Lamb of God Crozier

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Acts 9:36-43 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request,

Please come to us without delay.

So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them. Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said,

Tabitha, get up.

Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up. He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive. This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. Meanwhile he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.

Psalm 23 (New Revised Standard Version):

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures;

he leads me beside still waters;

he restores my soul.

He leads me in right paths

for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,

I fear no evil;

for you are with me;

your rod and my staff–

they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me

in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD

my whole life long.

Revelation 7:9-17 (New Revised Standard Version):

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying,

Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!

And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, singing,

 Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom

and thanksgiving and honor

and power and might

be to our God forever and ever!  Amen.

Then one of the elders addressed me, saying,

Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?

I said to him,

Sir, you are the one that knows.

Then he said to me,

These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

For this reason they are before the throne of God

and worship him day and night within his temple,

and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.

They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;

the sun will not strike them,

nor any scorching heat;

for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd,

and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,

and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

John 10:22-30 (New Revised Standard Version):

At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him,

How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.

Jesus answered,

I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.

The Collect:

O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Twenty-Second Day of Easter:  Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year A:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/twenty-second-day-of-easter-fourth-sunday-of-easter-year-a/

Twenty-Second Day of Easter:  Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year B:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/31/twenty-second-day-of-easter-fourth-sunday-of-easter-year-b/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/02/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-fourth-sunday-of-easter/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/02/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-fourth-sunday-of-easter/

Acts 9:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/twenty-first-day-of-easter/

Revelation 7:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-19-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/13/all-hallows-eve-a-k-a-the-vigil-of-the-eve-of-all-saints-day-october-31/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/16/feast-of-all-saints-november-1/

John 10:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/devotion-for-february-29-and-march-1-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Feast of Saints Lydia, Dorcas, and Phoebe, Holy Women (January 29):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/15/feast-of-sts-lydia-dorcas-and-phoebe-holy-wome-january-29/

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Last Sunday in the Revised Common Lectionary, Jesus gave Simon Peter a commission to feed his (our Lord’s) lambs and tend his sheep.  This Sunday we see the empowered Apostle at work, raising from the dead one Tabitha/Dorcas of Joppa, a woman deemed essential in her community.  Restored to life, she could resume her

…good works and acts of charity.

–Acts 9:36b, New Revised Standard Version

The theme of shepherding also carries over from last week.  Tabitha/Dorcas was a shepherd to vulnerable people in Joppa.  Psalm 23, of course, depicts God as a shepherd.  The assigned reading from John 10 follows the Good Shepherd monologue immediately.  In John 10:22-30 Jesus, whose life is in danger, accuses the critics in front of him of not being among his sheep.  (They did want to stone him in John 10:31.)  And martyrs with robes washed white in the blood of the Lamb of God feature prominently in Revelation 7.  Those sheep have found their safe pasture posthumously.

Violence occupies a prominent place in two of the New Testament readings.  Unfortunately, many people over time have acted on their desires to commit violence against those who merely disagree with them.  New England Puritans, in colonial times, executed Quakers, who were, of course, nonviolent.  Anabaptists have faced persecution and/or martyrdom in the Old World since the 1500s.  Persecution has continued in the New World.  I regret that some of this has occurred in the United States, especially during times of war, when the U.S. Government had no patience with conscientious objectors.  Many of my fellow human beings cannot or chose not to abide differences, hence much violence.  Thus others become martyrs, often by the hands of professing Christians.  It was wrong.  It is wrong.

What causes fighting and quarrels among you?  Is not their origin the appetites that war in your bodies?  You want what you cannot have, so you murder; you are envious, and cannot attain your ambition, so you quarrel and fight….

–James 4:1-2a, Revised English Bible

Many of us want conformity, so we despise the nonconformists among us.  We do not understand them, so we hate them. We hate them, so we commit or condone violence against them.  As a lifelong nonconformist (often by default, for peer pressure has less influence on me than on many others), I have suffered emotionally from the taunts of others.  So I identify naturally with the picked-on, the despised, the misunderstood, and the oppressed.  They are of my tribe, whether or not I understand them.  So I attend church happily with heretics, homosexuals, and others who have incurred spiritual wounds in other Christian traditions.

May we–you, O reader, and I–be, by grace, agents of divine healing, not of spiritual harm or even of physical martyrdom.  May we love others, not seek their harm.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 9, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBA OF IONA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY AND ABBOT

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/twenty-second-day-of-easter-fourth-sunday-of-easter-year-c/

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