Were Luther alive it isn’t hard to imagine what verdict he would render on the acts presently taking place in #Ferguson. And it isn’t hard because in his own time he saw the consequences of violent uprisings. In his booklet ‘Against the Robbing and Murdering Hoards of Peasants’ he famously remarked
In the second place, they are starting a rebellion, and are violently robbing and plundering monasteries and castes which are not theirs; by this they have doubly deserved death in body and soul as highwaymen and murderers. Furthermore, anyone who can be proved to be a seditious person is an outlaw before God and the emperor; and whoever is the first to put him to death does right and well. For if a man is in open rebellion, everyone is both his judge and his executioner; just as when a fire starts, the first man who can put it out is the best man to do the job. For rebellion is not just simple murder; it is like a great fire, which attacks and devastates a whole land. Thus rebellion brings with it a land filled with murder and bloodshed; it makes widows and orphans, and turns everything upside down, like the worst disaster. Therefore let everyone who can, smite, slay, and stab, secretly or openly, remembering that nothing can be more poisonous, hurtful, or devilish than a rebel. It is just as when one must kill a mad dog; if you do not strike him, he will strike you, and a whole land with you.*
His readers in general reacted with the same shock as you probably have. He did have fans, though, among the Lords and Princes (as one can easily imagine). Afterwards, receiving not a little pushback for his pro-government anti-poor vitriol, Luther wrote
These advocates of the peasants do not consider this kind of mercy which rules and acts through the temporal sword. They see and talk only about the wrath and say that we are flattering the furious princes and lords when we teach that they are to punish the wicked. And yet they are themselves ten times worse flatterers of the murderous scoundrels and wicked peasants. Indeed, they are bloodthirsty murderers, rebels at heart, for they have no mercy on those whom the peasants overthrew, robbed, dishonored, and subjected to all kinds of injustice. For if the intentions of the peasants had been carried out, no honest man would have been safe from them, but whoever had one cent more than another would have had to suffer for it. They had already begun that, and it would not have stopped there; women and children would have been put to shame; they would have taken to killing each other, too, and there would have been no peace or safety anywhere. Has anything ever been heard of that is more unrestrained than a mob of peasants when they are filled with food and have got power? As Solomon says, in Proverbs 30 [:21–22], “Such people the world cannot bear.”
Are we now to have mercy on such people above others, and are we to let them rage on, doing as they please with everyone’s body, life, wife, children, honor, and property? Are we to leave them unpunished, and allow the innocent to perish shamefully before our very eyes, without mercy, help, or comfort? I hear reliable reports that the Bamberg peasants were offered more than they asked, provided only that they would keep the peace, and they would not. Margrave Casimir, too, promised his peasants that whatever others won with strife and rebellion, he would give them out of free grace; but that did not help either. It is well known that the Franconian peasants, out of sheer wantonness, planned nothing else than robbing, burning, breaking, and destroying. It is my own experience with the Thuringian peasants that the more they were exhorted and instructed, the more obstinate, the prouder, the madder they became. Their attitude everywhere was so wanton and defiant that it seemed as though they really wanted to be slain without grace or mercy. They most scornfully defied God’s wrath, and now it is coming upon them, as Psalm 109 [:17] says, “He did not like blessing; may it be far from him.”**
Luther valued order more than anything but God. And it showed. No booklet the man ever wrote got him into more trouble (and continues to get him into trouble) than this one except his terrible book ‘Against the Jews and Their Lies’.
Whatever you think of Luther’s remarks (and they are wretched) he was a man unafraid to express his view and base it, as he believed, on sound exposition of Scripture… Which may be the most troubling aspect of all.
*The Christian in Society III. (LW Vol. 46, p. 50).
**The Christian in Society III. (LW Vol. 46, pp. 71–72).
Things were heating up (literally and figuratively) in Zurich in August of 1524 when the City Council requested Huldrych Zwingli to compose a treatise to be sent to the Bishop of Constance concerning the Reforms taking place in the city. Zwingli did so and the Council signed off on it and sent it on the 18th of the month. It’s title, Christliche Antwort Burgermeisters und Rats zu Zürich an Bischof Hugo is interesting for two reasons. First, it’s in German. One normally would have addressed the Bishop in Latin (as Zwingli had done previously). And second, it begins with the word ‘Christian’ (implying, ever so subtly, that the Bishop will hear a truly Christian reason for the necessity of Reform).
The city, in short, was fully behind Zwingli and his efforts to reform Mass and rid the church of its many images and idols. The Bishop had sent along a 7 point refutation of Reform and each is answered by Zwingli (for the Council). Then he turned his attention to the issue of the Mass and ‘schooled’ the Bishop using Scripture and the Church Fathers.
The Bishop should butt out of the city’s affairs. It had theologians of its own who were more adept at exegesis and theology and Hugo’s guidance was no longer needed, or wanted. That, anyway, is the gist of it all when you boil it down to its essence.
… on August 17, 1540, Christopher Fabri wrote Calvin from Thonon, bidding him salute the wife whom they had heard he had recently married. The wife to whom he was at last joined, “with the aid and advice of Bucer,” was “a grave and honourable woman,” Idelette de Bure, widow of Calvin’s Anabaptist convert, Jean Stordeur of Liège, who had died some time before of the plague. The ceremony was probably simple, and Farel himself, there is reason to suppose, officiated.*
The tale of Calvin’s search for a wife is told by Petersen in a 1986 essay which begins
It is hard to say when the quest began. Until he turned 29 and took the pastorate of the French refugee church in Strasbourg, he hadn’t much time to think about marriage. Besides that, he once wrote, “I shall not belong to those who are accused of attacking Rome, like the Greeks fought Troy, only to be able to take a wife.” So he was in no hurry.
But Strasbourg was a bit of a refuge for Calvin. Shortly after he had arrived in the city, he moved in with Martin and Elizabeth Bucer. Martin was the warm-hearted pastor of the church of St. Thomas in the city. Elizabeth was as hospitable as he. Their home was known as “the inn of righteousness.”
Read the whole. It’s quite fun.
*John Calvin: The Organiser of Reformed Protestantism (pp. 235–236).
There’s a curiosity in the critical edition of Zwingli’s works. To whit-
De peccato originali declaratio ad Urbanum Rhegium is dated 25. August 1526, in Huldreich Zwinglis sämtliche Werke, vol. 5 (Leipzig: Heinsius, 1934) (Corpus Reformatorum 92).
Interestingly, in the English edition of Zwingli’s works -
[DE PECCA- | TO ORIGINALI DECLARATIO | Huldrychi Zuinglij, Ad Vrbanum | Rhegium. | 48 unnumbered octavo pages, of which pp. 2, 45–48 are blank. Signed on p. 44: Tiguri quintadecima die Augusti. An. | M.D.XXVI. Tigvri. Ex Aedibus Christophori Froschouer, i.e., “Zurich, August 15, 1526. From the press of Christopher Froschouer.” Printed in Opera Zwinglii, tom. II, fol. 115b–122b; Jo. Oecolampadii et Huld. Zwinglii epist. libr. IV (Basileae, 1536) fol. 54b–61b; Schuler and Schulthess ed., Vol. III, pp. 626–645; Finsler, Zwingli Bibliographie, No. 72. The following English translation, based on one made by Mr. Henry Preble, was revised throughout by the editor.
In the conclusion of the critical edition previously mentioned, we read
Vale, ac salvos iube Ranam et Agricolam, quibus tam abest, ut male cupiam, ut anxiis votis a domino petam, ut fidum eorum in euangelio ministerium et faciat et fulciat.
Tiguri quintadecima die Augusti anno 1526.
Tiguri, ex aedibus Christophori Froschouer.
The word in question is, of course, quintadecima. It means 15th. Why, then, do the editors of the critical edition have 25 August? Simple- The volume was concluded on the 15th and the printing was completed on the 25th. Zwingli wrote the book in a few days and the publisher printed it in 10.
A bit of background to set the stage for the tale of Servetus’s arrest on the 13th of August, 1553:
Servetus had determined upon going to Naples, and there practising as a physician: his way led him through Switzerland, fear of pursuers preventing him from passing over Piedmont. He wandered for about a month in France, and then went quietly to Geneva.
A homeless man, impelled by a peculiar fate, he had no sooner escaped from the fire than he rushed into new danger. An extraordinary delight in running hazards was one of his characteristics. He knew that Trie had sent his letters to Vienne; that Calvin could give him no safe-conduct; that he was, on the contrary, his accuser; but notwithstanding all this, a strange irresistible power drove him to Geneva.
He had many years before been led, in the same manner, to seek Calvin in Paris; subsequently he forced him into a correspondence, and now at last he came himself, in order to observe in secret this man whom he at the same time both sought and shunned.
Calvin had reason to remark, “I know not what to say of him, except that he was seized by a fatal madness to precipitate himself upon destruction.”
In the middle of the month of July, a man was seen, on foot, entering the gate of the old city; he turned into a little inn used by strangers, called the Auberge de la Rose, and situated on the lake. The night before he had slept in the village of Le Louyset, where he arrived on horseback. It was easy to recognize in the traveller a man of education; in the southern expression of his eye, there was deep thought and dreaming phantasy, and somewhat of passionate excitement: he indulged in some light expressions.
The people of the inn wishing to learn more about him, asked if he was married; he answered, that a man could find women enough without marrying. Some one observed him going to the church where Calvin preached.
And now to the arrest:
After remaining about a month at Geneva, he resolved on making a journey to Zurich. For this purpose he engaged a boat to carry him across the lake; but just as he was on the point of departing an officer appeared, and took him prisoner in the name of the council. This event occurred August 13, 1553.*
Servetus was drawn to Calvin like a moth is drawn to the flame. Literally. You can’t blame the flame when the moth perishes in its embrace.
*The Life and Times of John Calvin, the Great Reformer (Vol. 2, p. 192).
Public Lecture: Cranach zwischen altem und neuem Glauben: Überlegungen zum Kunstmarkt der Reformationszeit
Vortrag von Prof. Dr. Andreas Tacke: “Cranach zwischen altem und neuem Glauben: Überlegungen zum Kunstmarkt der Reformationszeit” am 12.09.2014 um 20.00 Uhr in der Europäischen Melanchthon-Akademie Bretten. http://www.refo500.nl/de/news/view/1063/vortrag-cranach-zwischen-altem-und-neuem-glauben.html
I very much like Cranach’s work but he is no Albrecht Dürer.
Claudio Moreschini: »A Christian in Toga. Boethius: Interpreter of Antiquity and Christian Theologian«
The author presents Boethius in the culture of the sixth century in Italy, outlines his great cultural project and discusses the problem of his Christian faith. (More information).
This too has arrived from V&R and it too is available in North America from ISD.
Aimed at students of philosophy this book, if I might put it so briefly, is comprehensible only to such. Reading through it was both arduous and confusing, not because the writing is difficult in and of itself but because the subject is so outside of my area. I enjoy stepping outside of my ‘comfort zone’ but, for me, this volume was a journey not just from one comfort zone to one zone of unfamiliarity, it was a journey from one reality to another; from my comfort zone to the twilight zone.
I genuinely wish I could say something more, but when the author moved past the first few pages in which he outlined his study and started discoursing on Boethius’ contributions to philosophy and mathematics I felt as though I were reading some as yet undeciphered ancient language.
I think others will probably find this volume both engaging and challenging. The same sort of people, I suppose, who enjoy wearing berets and oversized glasses and sipping wine from solo cups whilst discussing Sartre at the local pub.
I will, regrettably, have to leave an analysis to them of this doubtless (maybe, I don’t really know so I can’t really say) worthwhile volume.
Ryan M. McGraw: »A Heavenly Directory. Trinitarian Piety, Public Worship and a Reassessment of John Owen’s Theology«
There is a growing body of historical literature on the importance of John Owen. Ryan M. McGraw seeks to reassess Owen’s theology in light of the way in which he connected his trinitarian piety to his views of public worship. (More information).
V&R have sent a review copy of this volume and my observations follow (and residents of North America can pick it up here).
The value of a book like this is that it shows modern Christians just how deeply and profoundly our forebears thought about the things we rush through and past, like worship. Worship is so integral to the Christian faith that it cannot be dispensed with and yet so misunderstood, or in many cases not understood at all among modern believers as would doubtless send our ancestors into apoplectic fits.
On page 12 our author describes his purpose:
This project seeks to identify some of the central principles that run through Owen’s theology. The broad range of his writings reveals a consistent emphasis on a Trinitarian piety that culminated in public worship as its highest expression. The Savoy Declaration of Faith, which he helped produce, states that the “doctrine of the Trinity is the foundation of all our communion with God, and comfortable dependence upon him.” However, few have recognized that his continual emphasis on public worship stood almost on par with his emphasis on the Trinity. Fewer still have recognized that he self-consciously intertwined a practical Trinitarianism with public worship. This is true even though some authors have treated his contribution to building a distinctively Trinitarian piety. These tendencies result in a partial view of John Owen in his theological context.
M. will correct that imprecise and partial view in the pages which follow. Along the way, he portrays Owen not simply as a theologian making contributions to Christian thought but as a right good foe of apostasy and false teaching. M. writes, restating Owen,
The second major sign of apostasy is adding to the simplicity of worship with man-made ordinances. This occurs in various degrees, but in the case of the Roman Catholic church, “it is wholly perverted.” There is not a single ordinance of God in which she has not destroyed both its nature and its use. Rome had added even to biblically mandated ordinances, such as the sacraments (p. 110).
This bold statement raises the question of Owen’s view of Roman Catholic sacraments. The overwhelming majority of Reformed authors still accepted Rome’s baptism (ibid).
Owen feared neither Rome nor Geneva. But M.’s primary purpose is to illustrate Owen’s contributions to our understanding of worship-
It is almost astonishing how frequently Owen pressed the importance of regulating public worship by Scripture. In most of his books and at every stage of life, he exhorted his readers to limit divine worship to the prescriptions of the Bible. The principles governing public worship were not peripheral for him. Not only was communion with the Triune God at the heart of his theology and piety, but he inextricably intertwined this idea with the manner of public worship. God revealed himself in a Trinitarian manner. Communion with him is the purpose of Scripture and Scripture is the only source of genuine knowledge of God. Therefore, communion with God in public worship must be directed exclusively by the commandments of Scripture. Communion with God was both the foundation for and the goal of Owen’s principle of worship. By building his teaching on worship on communion with the Godhead, he carried the two principia of Reformed theology consistently into various aspects of his theology. This spiritual communion with a spiritual God takes place in the affections (p. 115).
It is simply astonishing, as one reads through this volume, how Owen is able to weave a theological tapestry so beautiful and yet so biblical. It is to be lamented that Christianity lacks thinkers of Owen’s depth in the present time. We have, to be sure, good thinkers. What we lack, unfortunately, are deep thinkers. M.’s book subtly, I think, challenges us to think about our faith more deeply. And accordingly, more profoundly.
As M. approaches the climax of his volume he states
John Owen contributed significantly to Reformed orthodox Trinitarian theology. He developed a practical Trinitarianism that he intertwined with his theology of public worship. William Perkins anticipated Owen’s emphases when he closed his book on worship with the words, “Trinuni Deo Gloria.” Perkins, however, presented the divine persons as the object of worship only. Owen stressed particular communion with each person in the Godhead. Communion with the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit stood at the heart of Owen’s doxological theology. In his view, the order of operation of the persons of the Trinity was a “heavenly directory” for the public worship of God (p. 219).
Worship which fails to be trinitarian in nature isn’t authentically Christian worship. Before we leave our volume, allow me one further citation which highlights the willingness of Owen to enter into controversies – especially when the opposing viewpoint undermined or attacked his trinitarianism:
To summarize: images of Christ distort rather than promote faith because believers desire to see the glorified Christ. The union of Christ’s divine and human natures in one divine person means that although the deity and the humanity of Christ are inseparable, his divine personhood makes him the object of worship rather than his humanity. Believers must set their minds on things above where Christ is seated in heaven. Images of Christ are meant to promote devotion to him, yet they cannot produce communion with the Triune God. Owen’s rejection of images of Christ and his corresponding emphasis on faith demonstrates the heart of heavenly-mindedness in public worship. He drew these conclusions from standard principles of Reformed theology (p. 227).
And well he did. Yet he integrated them in a profoundly new and practical way.
This little volume of less than 300 pages is vitally engaging. Vitally, because the topic is in such desperate need of modern implementation; and engaging because the reader is never bored because the book is never boring.
[On August 10, 1535, Farel] addressed the council of two hundred with such force and inspiration on the great principles of the evangelical faith, and concluded his discourse with so impressive a prayer, that objections and difficulties vanished, for God had heard his supplication. The greater part of the citizens joined the reformers, and the opposition of the canons was no longer of any avail.
Two days after the above occurrence (August 12), the people were freed from their bonds, and the performance of mass was prohibited by law.*
*The Life and Times of John Calvin, the Great Reformer (Vol. 1, p. 97).
In … 1519, the plague appeared in Switzerland. As it had not yet come to Zurich, Zwingli went on a holiday that summer to Pfaefers, about sixty miles south-east of Zurich. In the village was a large Benedictine monastery, in which he probably stopped. There Zwingli was when the news reached him that the plague had broken out in Zurich.
As it was the duty of the people’s priest to be on service in the city during plague time, he hastened back, and did his duty faithfully. The plague was very severe, for 2500 died of it out of an aggregate population in the three parishes of only 17,000. It broke out on St. Lawrence’s day (Wednesday, August 10, 1519), reached its height September 12th, and subsided in Christmas week, yet lingered for a year after that.
Zwingli fell a victim toward the end of September, and was very sick. By November he was able to write again. But his recovery was slow. On November 30th, he complains that the disease had left his memory weakened, his spirits reduced, so that his mind wandered when preaching, and after preaching he felt thoroughly exhausted.
On December 31st, he reported himself as well again, and that the last ulcer caused by the malady had healed. But his rejoicing was premature, as on March 27, 1520, he complains that he had eaten and drunk many drugs to get rid of his fever, and still his head was weak, although he was daily growing better.*
*Huldreich Zwingli: The Reformer of German Switzerland (1484–1531) (pp. 131–132).