A Pastor's Notes

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Archive for February 2011

Brief Review: Calvin, by Bruce Gordon

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Bruce Gordon. 2009. Calvin. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Calvin‘s preface opens by naming its subject “the greatest Protestant reformer of the sixteenth century” (vii). The case for this pronouncement, however, is not made in what follows.

What does follow is an interesting read, focusing first on Calvin’s troubled political and working relationships, and second on his writings, often written in response to events relating to the first matter. The picture we are given of Calvin is necessarily sketchy, given the small sample of personal revelation Calvin himself left behind, but the man who emerges from this biography is at once supremely confident in his abilities, but whose reactions to criticism at the same time betray a deep insecurity; a man who kept up correspondences with theologians and politicians across the continent, but who himself hardly traveled; a man who longed for acceptance from, and authority on a level with those in political authority, but who was often at odds with, and lacked understanding of those same persons; and a man who had definite theological positions, but who was more than willing to bend those positions if it were politic to do so. The author demonstrates Calvin’s lasting influence, but in so doing shows just how little that influence mattered during the man’s lifetime, and how he was often eclipsed in importance by, and played second-fiddle to Bullinger and others; it is astonishing to think that someone who held such little influence for such a long time within the city in which he resided (Geneva) for most of his adult life, could have had such influence on matters theological as he has had after his death.

This book is worth reading especially for those interested in Calvin’s relationship with Lutherans and Lutheranism. Neither the author nor Calvin seem to have grasped the primary objections to Calvin’s positions, especially on predestination and the Lord’s Supper, from the Lutheran side; this lack of understanding comes clearly across in this account.

A note on the text of the book: there are one likely and two certain errors in the text in an approximately 20-page span about 2/3 through the book. One is a misspelled name; one is a missing period; another is a likely missing comma. These errors stand out, as the rest of the text appears to be well-edited.

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Written by pastor

15 February 2011 at 2:39 pm

Posted in Weekly Notice

Facebook vs. the Church?

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The central thread of this post by Richard Beck seems to me to be spot-on. We might boil it down to these two quotes: “Facebook friends tend to be our actual friends”; and “Facebook isn’t replacing `real’ relationships with `virtual’ relationships. It’s simply connecting us to our real friends”. Social media does not displace actual human interaction; instead, it tends to streamline and intensify it, for both good and ill (for instance, self-selected tribalism, at least on a small scale, will likely grow along with online social networks, further breaking down what we could before pretend was a generally-unified national/language-bound culture). What, then, becomes of proclaim the Gospel to those not closely entangled with us in our social webs, who are unlikely to “read our posts”, whether online or in person?

2/16/11 Addition: a follow-up post from the same blog.

Written by pastor

15 February 2011 at 10:53 am

Posted in Weekly Notice

“A greater feminine presence”

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Here is a translation of an interesting article from the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano. The problem is recognized; the solution is, however, off the mark. “A greater feminine presence” will, at best, drive abuses further underground, out of sight. What ought to happen, however, is for the sin-generating requirement of priestly celibacy to be eliminated, with priests and women religious encouraged to marry. This will by no means solve every problem, but it will allow marriage to serve one of its functions — as an arena in which sin may be battled together, and avoided.

These problems were pointed to many years ago in Article XXIII of the Augsburg Confession. What follows below is a portion that article:

There has been common complaint concerning the examples of priests who were not chaste. For that reason also Pope Pius is reported to have said that there were certain causes why marriage was taken away from priests, but that there were far weightier ones why it ought to be given back; for so Platina writes. Since, therefore, our priests were desirous to avoid these open scandals, they married wives, and taught that it was lawful for them to contract matrimony. First, because Paul says, 1 Cor. 7:2,9: To avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife. Also: It is better to marry than to burn. Secondly Christ says, Matt. 19:11: All men cannot receive this saying, where He teaches that not all men are fit to lead a single life; for God created man for procreation, Gen. 1:28. Nor is it in man’s power, without a singular gift and work of God, to alter this creation. Therefore, those who are not fit to lead a single life ought to contract matrimony. For no man’s law, no vow, can annul the commandment and ordinance of God. For these reasons the priests teach that it is lawful for them to marry wives.

It is also evident that in the ancient Church priests were married men. For Paul says, 1 Tim. 3:2, that a bishop should be chosen who is the husband of one wife. And in Germany, four hundred years ago for the first time, the priests were violently compelled to lead a single life, who indeed offered such resistance that the Archbishop of Mayence, when about to publish the Pope’s decree concerning this matter, was almost killed in the tumult raised by the enraged priests. And so harsh was the dealing in the matter that not only were marriages forbidden for the future, but also existing marriages were torn asunder, contrary to all laws, divine and human, contrary even to the Canons themselves, made not only by the Popes, but by most celebrated Synods. [Moreover, many God-fearing and intelligent people in high station are known frequently to have expressed misgivings that such enforced celibacy and depriving men of marriage (which God Himself has instituted and left free to men) has never produced any good results, but has brought on many great and evil vices and much iniquity.]

Seeing also that, as the world is aging, man’s nature is gradually growing weaker, it is well to guard that no more vices steal into Germany.

Furthermore, God ordained marriage to be a help against human infirmity. The Canons themselves say that the old rigor ought now and then, in the latter times, to be relaxed because of the weakness of men; which it is to be wished were done also in this matter. And it is to be expected that the churches shall at some time lack pastors if marriage is any longer forbidden.

But while the commandment of God is in force, while the custom of the Church is well known, while impure celibacy causes many scandals, adulteries, and other crimes deserving the punishments of just magistrates, yet it is a marvelous thing that in nothing is more cruelty exercised than against the marriage of priests. God has given commandment to honor marriage. By the laws of all well-ordered commonwealths, even among the heathen, marriage is most highly honored. But now men, and that, priests, are cruelly put to death, contrary to the intent of the Canons, for no other cause than marriage. Paul, in 1 Tim. 4:3, calls that a doctrine of devils which forbids marriage. This may now be readily understood when the law against marriage is maintained by such penalties.

Written by pastor

15 February 2011 at 8:47 am

Posted in Weekly Notice

Interesting Post on NT Text Stability

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Written by pastor

11 February 2011 at 11:41 am

Posted in Weekly Notice