Pentecost Hymns: Part 3 of 3 Veni, creator spiritus

Come Holy Ghost, Creator blest,

Vouchsafe within our souls to rest;

Come with thy grace and heavenly aid,

And fill the hearts which thou has made.

To thee, the Paraclete, we cry;

To thee, the Gift of God most high,

The Fount of life, the Fire of love,

The soul’s Anointing from above.

The sevenfold gifts of grace are thine,

O Finger of the Hand Divine;

True promise of the Father thou,

Who dost the tongue with speech endow.

Thy light to every sense impart

and shed thy love in every heart;

Thine own unfailing might supply

To strengthen our infirmity.

Drive far away our ghostly foe,

And thine abiding peace bestow;

If thou be our preventing guide,

No evil can our steps betide.

Make thou to us the Father known,

Teach us the eternal Son to own,

Be this our never changing creed,

That thou dost from them both proceed.

(From The Anglican Breviary)

Pentecost Hymns: 2 of 3 Beata nobis gaudia

Blest joys for mighty wonders wrought

The year’s revolving orb hath brought,

What time the Holy Ghost in flame

Upon the Lord’s disciples came.

The quivering fire their heads bedewed

In cloven tongues’ similitude,

That eloquent their words might be,

And fervid all their charity.

In varying tongues the Lord they praised,

The gathering people stood amazed;

And whom the Comforter divine

Inspired, they mocked as full of wine.

These things were done in type today,

When Eastertide had worn away,

The number told which once set free

The captive at the jubilee.

And now, O holy God, this day

Regard us, as we humbly pray,

And send us from thy heavenly seat

The blessings of the Paraclete.

Thou once in every holy breast

Didst bid indwelling grace to rest:

This day our sins, we pray, release,

And in our time, O Lord, give peace.

(From The Anglican Breviary)

Pentecost Hymns: Part 1 of 3 Iam Christus astra ascenderat

Now Christ, gone thither, whence he came,

And throned midst the stars aflame,

Desired God’s promise to bestow,

The Father’s Gift to man below.

The solemn time was drawing nigh,

Replete with heavenly mystery,

On seven days’ sevenfold circles borne,

That first and blessed Whitsun-morn.

When the third hour shone all around,

There came a rushing mighty sound

And told the Apostles, while in prayer,

That, as ’twas promised, God was there.

Then from the Father’s light there came

That beautiful and kindly Flame,

To kindle every Christian heart,

And fervour of the Word impart.

With joy the Apostle’s breasts are fired,

Thus by the Holy Ghost inspired;

And straight, in divers tongues and speech,

The wondrous works of God they preach.

All nations to their voice give ear;

Barbarians, Latins, Grecians hear,

And lo, the wondrous word to all

Doth in familiar accents fall.

But Jewry, faithless even yet,

With mad, infuriate rage beset,

To mock Christ’s followers, combine,

As drunken all with new-made wine.

Thereat, with signs and works of might,

Stands Peter forth to teach aright

How Joel’s words, fulfilled this day,

Refute what there maligners say.

(From The Anglican Breviary)

Biographies from Church History: Part 3 of 3, F.D.E Schleiermacher

Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher (1768-1834) was a German Protestant theologian early in the nineteenth century and is commonly referred to as the founding father of liberal protestantism.[1] His theological approach emphasized the role of “feeling” and “expression” of one’s religious self-consciousness.[2]

800px-friedrich_daniel_ernst_schleiermacher_2Schleiermacher was born into a devout Christian family, and his father was a Reformed pastor with Moravian Pietism tendencies which emphasized personal faith, spiritual experience and devotional life. When Schleiermacher grew up, he attended a Moravian pietism seminary but became dissatisfied with the pietist theology, and so he transferred to the University of Halle to study philosophy. Later he became a pastor, professor and political activist spending most of his days in Halle and Berlin.[3]

Schleiermacher was dissatisfied with the pervading rationalism of his time, and so he was influenced by Romanticism, which emphasized feeling as over against reason. Thus, Schleiermacher in his first major work, entitled Speeches on Religion to the Cultured Among the Despisers, argued against religion as a scheme of knowledge or as a structure of morality.[4] From his perspective, “Religion is grounded neither in pure nor in practical or moral reason, but rather in Gefühl—a German word that is best translated…as feeling.”[5]

In his subsequent work entitled The Christian Faith, Schleiermacher expands his ideas concerning feeling by identifying feeling as being aware of the existence of the infinite and as being dependent upon the divine. This “feeling of absolute dependence” is the consciousness of dependence and is the foundation of personal existence and of Christian Theology. From this perspective, theology seeks to explain the implications of the feeling of dependence in the areas of the self, the relationship with the world and the relationship with God. Thus, everything in theology should be shown to be related to the feeling of dependence and if it does not, then it is not to be included in theological inquiry. [6]

Schleiermacher’s approach is a church theology approach emphasizing the feeling of the cooperate religious life. In other words, “the feeling of dependence takes a specific form in each religious community. The purpose of religious bodies is to communicate to others and to future generations their constitutive experiences, so that they may share the same feeling.”[7] According to Schleiermacher, the knowledge of God is revealed through the Christian community’s experience of redemption rather than through revealed propositional doctrine. With this perspective, he emphasizes the religious self-consciousness and de-emphasizes the objective nature of religious thought. Schleiermacher “gives priority to questions of meaningfulness rather than truth and locates the text’s referent in subjective consciousness rather than objective states of affairs.”[8] In summary, Schleiermacher theology posits that “the reality of God is located in human historical experience.”[9]

friedrich_daniel_ernst_schleiermacherAnother major work of Schleiermacher was his Hermeneutik which presented his method of interpretation. Schleiermacher emphasized the role of preunderstanding and the significance of linguistic and psychological aspects in the interpretive process.[10] “Preunderstanding enables the interpreter to grasp the text’s outward linguistic grammar and meaning as well as to penetrate the inward psychological dimensions of the text. By preunderstanding, the reader enters the inner structure of the writer’s own consciousness.”[11] According to Schleiermacher, behind every text there is a human experience and readers understand the writer’s human experience by bringing their own experience or preunderstanding to the text. Thus, readers should strive to understand the writer’s life and experience while connecting their own history which produces an interpretive backdrop for textual meaning.[12]

Schleiermacher was very influential during his day when the “despisers of religion” and romanticism had pushed theology out of societal discourse. His theology has influenced Protestantism to the present day, and so his life and thought is important to consider. The church should examine the strengths and weaknesses of Schleiermacher’s theology and the liberal theology that followed. Schleiermacher is an important voice in history, but his views should be critically examined by all Christians.

[1] González, The Story, Vol. 2, EPUB edition, pt.3, ch. 31, “Schleiermacher’s Theology.”     [2] Alister E. McGrath, Historical Theology: An Introduction to the History of Christian Thought (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 1998), 333. [3] J.B. Webster, “Schleiermacher, Friedrich Daniel Ernst (1768-1834)” in New Dictionary of Theology (NDT): Historical and Systematic, edited by Martin Davie et al. 2nd ed. (Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, 2016), EPUB edition. [4] González, The Story, vol. 2, EPUB edition, pt.3, ch. 31, “Schleiermacher’s Theology.” [5] González, The Story, vol. 2, EPUB edition, pt.3, ch. 31, “Schleiermacher’s Theology.” [6] González, The Story, vol. 2, EPUB edition, pt.3, ch. 31, “Schleiermacher’s Theology.” [7] González, The Story, vol. 2, EPUB edition, pt.3, ch. 31, “Schleiermacher’s Theology.” [8] Webster, “Schleiermacher, Friedrich Daniel Ernst (1768-1834)” in NDT EPUB edition. [9] Webster, “Schleiermacher, Friedrich Daniel Ernst (1768-1834)” in NDT EPUB edition. [10] David K. Clark, To Know and Love God: Method for Theology (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 2003), 104-105. [11] Clark, To Know, 105.              [12] Clark, To Know, 105.

Biographies from Church History: Part 2 of 3, Thomas Cranmer

25475c7900000578-3603692-thomas_cranmer_pictured_lived_in_the_home_before_henry_viii_made-a-45_1463950655676Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556) was educated in scholasticism, the Fathers and the Bible at Cambridge. During his education, he was influenced by Erasmus and followed his emphasis on Scripture over scholastic reasoning and preferred conciliarism to papal authority. He accepted justification by faith as the correct exegesis of Paul. Thus, Cranmer was one of the many who advocated for reform of the church in England. In 1532, Cranmer completed a residency in Germany serving as the king’s ambassador to Charles V. While in Germany, he married a relative of the Reformer named Andreas Osiander who further influenced Cranmer’s reform outlook.[1]

When King Henry VIII of England was having personal and political conflict with the Roman Catholic church, he persuaded the pope to name Cranmer archbishop of Canterbury. Thus, King Henry VIII called upon Cranmer to return back to England to work with him under his new developing policies. King Henry VIII sought to reform the church by restoring the rights of the king against the papacy. In 1534, King Henry declared himself as the supreme head of the Church of England resulting in a break from the Roman Catholic church. Cranmer believed that this new national church under the direction of civil authorities would pave the way for theological reform that he had hoped for several years. Although Cranmer tried to persuade King Henry VIII towards theological reform, the Church of England’s official theological position remained Roman Catholic under King Henry VIII. Nevertheless, the reformation ideas of Cranmer and others still spread throughout the nation.[2]

Cranmer ordered that the Bible be translated into English and a copy was to be displayed in every church where people could read it. This empowered the advocates of reform because it enabled them to show the scriptural support for their reformed ideas. The nation at the end of King Henry’s life was ripe for theological reform. Thus, when King Henry’s son Edward VI took the throne and was supportive of reformation ideas, this gave Cranmer the opportunity to reshape the teachings of the Church of England according to his reformed ideas.[3]

thomas_cranmerFirst, Cranmer supervised the development of the Book of Homilies which was a collection of sermons for parish clergy in order to guide them and the church in protestant theology. Second, he created a new national liturgy and ordinal called the Book of Common Prayer which was exclusively in English as opposed to Latin. The Book of Common Prayer emphasized the systematic reading of scripture, scripted prayers and the eucharist. The eucharist was viewed as spiritual in nature, “a holy communion in the heart of the believer through personal faith.”[4] Lastly, Cranmer established the foundation for theological belief through the Articles of Religion. The Articles of Religion affirmed the “orthodox doctrines of the Trinity, the person of Christ and human sinfulness and concerning their particularly Protestant emphasis upon justification by faith, the Scriptures and the two gospel sacraments.”[5]

After King Edward VI died, the Church of England swung back to its Roman Catholic roots under the leadership of King Henry’s daughter Mary Tudor. Most of the church reform that took place under King Henry VIII and King Edward VI was undone by Queen Mary and her reign was defined by her repressive measures and persecution against protestants giving her the nickname, “Bloody Mary.”[6] Queen Mary went after Cranmer and had him imprisoned. She wanted Cranmer, as the figurehead of the reform movement, to recant, so she forced him to watch the execution of his friends and bishops Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley. Cranmer did sign a letter of recantation but was still condemned to death. At the time of his execution by fire, Cranmer publicly withdrew his recantation and condemned his hand to be burned first by the fire. Thus, he stuck his hand in the fire until it was charred, and then the rest of his body was burned in effigy.[7]

Cranmer had a lasting impact on the Church of England, and he continues to have an impact on the present Worldwide Anglican Communion through the Book of Homilies, the Book of Common Prayer and the Articles of Religion. While the Book of Common Prayer has undergone several revisions since Cranmer, it still remains a treasured prayer book for Christians across traditions.

[1] J.A. Null, “Cranmer, Thomas (1489-1556)” in New Dictionary of Theology (NDT): Historical and Systematic, edited by Martin Davie et al. 2nd ed. (Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, 2016), EPUB edition. [2] Justo L.González, The Story of Christianity: Vol.2 Reformation to the Present Day, Rev. and Updated, 2nd ed. (New York: HarperOne, 2010), EPUB edition, pt. 1, ch. 8, “Henry VIII.” [3] González, The Story, Vol.2, EPUB edition, pt. 1, ch. 8, “Henry VIII.” [4] Null, “Cranmer, Thomas (1489-1556)” in NDT, EPUB edition. [5] Peter Toon, “The Articles and Homilies,” in The Study of Anglicanism, Rev. Edition, edited by Stephen Sykes, John Booty, and Jonathan Knight (London: SPCK/Fortress Press, 1998), 143. [6] González, The Story, Vol. 2, EPUB edition, pt. 1, ch. 8, “Mary Tudor.”[7] González, The Story, Vol. 2, EPUB edition, pt. 1, ch. 8, “Mary Tudor.”


Biographies from Church History: Part 1 of 3, Origen of Alexandria

Origen (c. 185-c. 254) was an early Christian scholar and defender of Christianity during the third century. He was well known “as a learned exegete, creative philosopher, master of spiritual life, and an active churchman.”[1]

origen3Origen was born in Alexandria and was the son of Christian parents. In 202 C.E. Septimius Severus persecuted Christians and Origin’s father was imprisoned and suffered martyrdom.[2] Shortly after the death of his father, Origen was recruited by the bishop of Alexandria, Demetrius, to train catechumens—candidates for baptism. Origen was still in his teens and so this was a serious responsibility and task for him to undertake. Nevertheless, Origen devoted himself to the role of a catechist and to the study of Scripture. Eventually, Origen’s devotion and study generated invitations to travel in order to preach and participate in theological forums. During this time, Origen became a famous teacher which caused conflict with Demetrius resulting in Origen’s departure from Alexandria and his arrival in Caesarea where he continued to teach and write for twenty years.[3]

A significant scholarly work of Origen was his Hexapla which was a study edition of the Old Testament in six parallel columns presenting the Hebrew text, a Greek transliteration and the translations of Aquila, Symmachus, the Seventy (Septuagint) and Theodotion.[4] Other scholarly works consisted of Bible commentaries, an apology entitled Against Celsus and a systematic theology entitled On First Principles.[5] His less scholarly treatises entitled On Prayer and Exhortation to Martyrdom show another side of Origen’s fervent spirituality and faith.[6]

Origen was a student of the Alexandrian School of thought which was influenced by Philo of Alexandria (c. 20 B.C.E- c. 50 C.E.) and later by Clement of Alexandria (c. 150 C.E. – c. 215 C.E.). Origen was a student of Clement, and so his theology is like Clement’s in that it attempts to relate Christian faith to philosophy, specifically Platonism.

An area of major contribution by Origen is in the field of biblical interpretation where he followed Philo’s emphasis on the allegorical method of interpretation. Origen had a high view of Scripture, and like Philo he believed there was a spiritual meaning beyond the literal that must be discovered. He believed that readers of the sacred text should not be content with a literal understanding, but they should look deeper for the spiritual truth which is beneath every passage or word of scripture.[7] Origen expanded on Philo’s twofold view (a literal and a spiritual meaning) by adding a moral meaning. According to Origen, “the wise interpreter of Scripture must move from the events of the passage (its literal sense) to find the hidden principles for Christian living (its moral sense) and its doctrinal truth (its spiritual sense).[8]

220px-origenOrigen’s interpretive methods produced significant contrasting eschatological ideas than those of other early Christian writers. With his threefold approach, he emphasized the spiritual truths of the last days rather than literal events. Thus, Christ’s return will not be physically in one place and there will not be a literal thousand-year reign by Christ on the earth.[9] He believed that at the future resurrection, bodies will be resurrected taking on bodies made of spiritual material. As a result, he posited that a future divine punishment (or hell) portrayed in the Scriptures was to be interpreted as spiritual anguish which will eventually rehabilitate and transform all fallen spiritual beings (even Satan) to their original state of communion with God.[10]

During the Decian persecutions, Origen was imprisoned and tortured and shortly after his release from prison, he died in Tyre at about the age of seventy years old.[11]

In view of Origen’s life and thought, the present-day church can apply many aspects of his life to the present-day context. Origin’s commitment to studying the scriptures and teaching Christian doctrine should be admired and imitated by Christians. He is an example of how Christians can use their knowledge of Christian doctrine as a defense of the Christian faith. Moreover, present day Christians can learn from his allegorical interpretative approach by examining the strengths and weaknesses of such an approach.

[1] E. Ferguson, “Origen” in New Dictionary of Theology (NDT): Historical and Systematic, edited by Martin Davie et al. 2nd ed. (Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, 2016), EPUB edition. [2] Justo L. González, The Story of Christianity, Vol. 1 The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation, Rev. and Updated, 2nd ed. (New York: HarperOne, 2010), EPUB edition, pt.1, ch. 9, “Origen of Alexandria.” [3] Ferguson, “Origen,” in NDT, EPUB edition. [4] Ferguson, “Origen,” in NDT, EPUB edition. [5] González, The Story, EPUB edition, pt.1, ch. 9, “Origen of Alexandria.” [6] Ferguson, “Origen,” in NDT, EPUB edition.[7] William Klein, Craig L. Blomberg and Robert L. Hubbard, Jr. Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, Third ed. (Nashville, TN: Baker Academic, 2017), 84. [8] Klein, Blomberg and Hubbard Jr., Introduction, 85. [9] T.A. Noble, “Eschatology” in New Dictionary of Theology (NDT): Historical and Systematic, edited by Martin Davie et al. 2nd ed. (Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, 2016), EPUB edition. [10] Gregg R. Allison, Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine: A Companion to Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), EPUB edition, pt.7, ch. 32, “The Final Judgement.” [11] González, The Story, EPUB edition, pt.1, ch. 9, “Origen of Alexandria.”

Enuma Elish and Genesis

There are a several similarities between the material in the Ancient Near Eastern text entitled Enuma Elish and in Genesis of the Hebrew scriptures. Firstly, the first several lines of Enuma Elish are similar to the first three verses of Genesis. Both stories emphasize the existence of matter at the time of creation and the emphasis is on the forming and naming of this matter. Secondly, humans are created in both stories. In the Enuma Elish, humans are created by Marduk from the blood of the fallen god, Kingu, and in the Genesis story, humans are created by Yahweh in his image. Thirdly, both stories give accounts of god(s) resting. The Enuma Elish portrays the gods resting after humans were created and after humans took over the basic work and maintenance of the earth, and the Genesis story portrays Yahweh resting after finishing his work on the seventh day.

These similarities are likely due to a shared “conceptual world” with regard to beginnings. This is not to say that Genesis, as the Word of God, is not unique, but that “it is an ancient story that reflects ancient ways of thinking.” It is the Theo-drama that includes in its theatrical backdrop other ancient creation narratives. While it is important to acknowledge and understand the individual and community stories of the ANE, we should affirm that the Theo-drama, as presented in the Judeo-Christian scriptures, is the meta-narrative of the ANE and of all of history. When we compare the Enuma Elish with Genesis it helps us better appreciate, experience and perform the script of the grand drama.