Category Archives: Theology

Geschichte des Gottesdienstes in Zürich Stadt und Land im Spätmittelalter und in der frühen Reformation bis 1531

Zwinglis liturgische Reformen umfassen sämtliche Feierformen von Abendmahl bis Sakramentenspendung. In vier Teilen führt der erste Band zur Zürcher Gottesdienstgeschichte ein in Formen und Praxis, die Zwingli in Zürich vorfand. Alfred Ehrensperger gibt einen Überblick über die Klostertopografie in Stadt und Land und zeigt insbesondere an den Originalschriften Zwinglis die theologische Argumentation und Zielrichtung der neuen Auffassung von Gottesdienst. Neue Formen, die Rolle der Heiligen Schrift und sein besonderes Verhältnis zur Musik lassen erkennen, wie der Zürcher Reformator in die Tradition eingegriffen und was er beibehalten hat.

Alfred Ehrensperger belässt es nicht nur bei einer kritischen Aufarbeitung der Quellen, sondern überprüft an diesen auch die verbreiteten Urteile über Zwinglis gottesdienstliches Wirken.

Alfred Ehrensperger provides readers with a volume that is extraordinarily rich in both secondary information and in primary sources.  He begins, in Part One, with an examination of the situation of the Zurich Church at the cusp of Zwingli’s arrival in the city.  In rich detail the piety of the people, their rituals, saints days, celebrations, ministers, and church services are all described.

Part two is a thorough examination of religion in the cloisters of the city.  Part three turns to a description of the efforts of Zwingli to reform worship and city.  Everything from the disputations to the reforms in worship music to the education of the clergy in the Prophezei are meticulously discussed with primary sources aplenty taken to hand and utilized.  Of particular interest to the present reviewer is the subsection dealing with Zwingli’s traditionalist opponents and their efforts to undermine his reform.

Part four goes into more detail about the reformation of preaching, the mass, and the first Church Ordinance enacted by Zwingli and his cohort.  The body of the text completed, readers then turn to a variety of indices of primary and secondary materials.

If I were to attempt to describe this book’s contents succinctly I would do so by calling it a primary sourcebook of historical significance.  Our author understands the historical enterprise so well that he is able to offer readers precisely what they need in order to understand what the Zurich Church was like before Zwingli arrived, what it was like while he was there, and what he was attempting to do in his reforms.  No one working in the field of Reformation History can afford to overlook this hefty work.

And no one working in the field of liturgy can afford to ignore it.  The liturgical reforms that Zwingli instituted were profound.  And they have abiding significance.  And readers of this work are allowed to understand what those statements fully mean.

TVZ is in the habit of publishing works that bring to our hands materials that no one else can or does.  Once more, the publisher is to be congratulated for doing work that really matters- not just in the short term, but for many decades and centuries to come.  And our author is to be congratulated as well, for doing the work of a team of researchers and presenting it in such a way that it is both engaging and stimulating.

History can sometimes be dull.  But there isn’t a dull line in this book.

A Most Interesting Passage From Heinrich Bullinger on the Bondage of Sin

Now we come to the second part of bondage. The spiritual bondage hath a certain likeness to the bodily servitude. For Adam by his own fault became a bondman; and we of him are all born bondmen He was once at liberty, and had the Lord to be his friend and favourer; but he did disloyally revolt from God, and got himself another master, the devil, a tyrant as cruel as may be, who for his sin having gotten power over him did, like a merciless lord, miserably handle him like a bond-servant.

Now we of our corrupt grandsire are born corrupt and sinners, and for our sin are also under the devil’s dominion; we are in danger of the law, and of the curse thereof: for we are the bond-slaves of sin; we are made subject to sundry calamities by reason of our sin. This therefore is called the spiritual bondage, not because it is only in the mind of man, but because of the opposition whereby it is opposed to the bodily bondage.

For otherwise sin hath made our body also subject to the curse: neither do we sin in mind alone, but in the body also; for every part and all the members of our bodies are subject unto sin, and infected with iniquity. Therefore we serve in most miserable bondage, while, being under the devil’s dominion, we do the things that please the flesh, by the egging on of evil affections, to the bringing forth of fruit, or rather to the making of abortion with peril of our lives, to the devil, our cruel and our rigorous master; for this verily is our hardest and most lamentable servitude and bondage.*
*The Decades of Henry Bullinger: The Third Decade (9th Sermon) (T. Harding, Ed.) (pp. 304–305).

‘Grounded in the Faith’ & ‘Internalizing the Faith’

These two little books arrived today from the publisher for review:

I’ve thumbed through them and they are both brief and will be easily read in an hour or so.  Look for my review as soon as I get to them and through them.  More anon.

A Volume of Potential Interest to you, Dear Reader


Kommentare zu den neutestamentlichen Briefen: Hebräerbrief – Katholische Briefe

Appearing in August

God Established ‘Government’, But No Current Manifestation of Government Was Established By God

Instead, in modern government politics is sin manifested; governments are interested only in the aggrandizement of power in the hands of the few for the purpose of the exploitation of the many. This is true of all human political systems, regardless of their position on the right or left or even in the center.

None of the systems of government presently in place are God’s plan.  Instead, they are evidence of the rebellion against God which stains every human undertaking.

God, according to Paul in Romans, established ‘government’.  But mankind has corrupted and mangled this too, like it has everything it touches.  Because there is not a single human government that abides by its divine mandate of existence and purpose:

Government is God’s servant to you for good. … Government is God’s servant, an avenger that brings wrath on the one who does wrong. (Rom. 13:4)

I.e., governments purpose is to do good and to punish evil. Outside of that mandate, any governmental act is a distortion of its mandate. Outside of that mandate, government is corrupt.

Hell as Everlasting Misery

Matthew Hafenreffer opines-

“They are the most exquisite pains of soul and body (for both had sinned), arising from the fear and sense of the most just wrath and vengeance of God against sins, the most sad consciousness of which they carry about with them, the baseness of which is manifest, and of which, likewise, no remission afterwards, and, therefore, no mitigation or end can be hoped for. Whence, in misery, they will execrate, with horrible lamentation and wailing, their former impiety, by which they carelessly neglected the admonitions of their brethren and all the means of attaining salvation; but in vain.

For in perpetual anguish, with dreadful trembling, in shame, confusion, and ignominy, in inextinguishable fire, in weeping and gnashing of teeth, amidst that which is eternal and terrible, torn away from the grace and favor of God, they must quake among devils, and will be tortured without end to eternity. These future torments of the damned far surpass all the penetration of the human mind, so that we are not sufficient to ever comprehend in thought their greatness; therefore, what they will be, or of what nature, cannot be at all expressed in words. Scripture, nevertheless, in order to show that these tortures are the greatest and most exquisite, likens them to those things by which, in this life, pain both of soul and body is accustomed to be excited.

For this reason they are compared now to the gnashing of teeth, now to worms, now to the most sorrowful darkness, and whatever other matters of sadness and of the most complete pain can be mentioned, Is. 66:24; Matt. 5:22; 8:12; Rev. 19:20.”*

*Heinrich Schmid, The Doctrinal Theology of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Verified from the Original Sources (trans. Charles A. Hay and Henry E. Jacobs; Second English Edition, Revised according to the Sixth German Edition.; Philadelphia, PA: Lutheran Publication Society, 1889), 659–660.

Calvin: On Ridding the Church of Wicked Pastors

This is becoming more and more important.  Churches should pay attention and act accordingly:

We recognize no other pastors in the Church than faithful pastors of the Word of God, feeding the sheep of Jesus Christ on the one hand with instruction, admonition, consolation, exhortation, deprecation; and on the other resisting all false doctrines and deceptions of the devil, without mixing with the pure doctrine of the Scriptures their dreams or their foolish imaginings.

To these we accord no other power or authority but to conduct, rule, and govern the people of God committed to them by the same Word, in which they have power to command, defend, promise, and warn, and without which they neither can nor ought to attempt anything.

As we receive the true ministers of the Word of God as messengers and ambassadors of God, it is necessary to listen to them as to him himself, and we hold their ministry to be a commission from God necessary in the Church.

On the other hand we hold that all seductive and false prophets, who abandon the purity of the Gospel and deviate to their own inventions, ought not at all to be suffered or maintained, who are not the pastors they pretend, but rather, like ravening wolves, ought to be hunted and ejected from the people of God.*

*Calvin: Theological Treatises (p. 32).

Help Fund a New Translation of Calvin’s Institutes

Right here.

Do you want to be a part of bringing John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion to a new generation of readers? This new edition will be highly accessible to readers who want to deepen their understanding of the Reformed faith, and students discovering and exploring the Reformation.  Our team is A.N.S. (Tony) Lane, general editor; Raymond A. (Randy) Blacketer, translator and associate editor; Drs. Jeannette Kreijkes, associate translator and editor.

This project was originally proposed by Richard A. Muller and will be published by Crossway / Good News Publishers. The project is well underway, but Crossway, as a non-profit, is seeking more funds to complete this exciting work, which will take approximately six years. Dr. Randy Blacketer will be working full-time on the project.

The target goal is high, but it represents our total fundraising goal. We expect other donors apart from our campaign. Crossway has already committed $250,000. If you have a profound love for the Reformed faith and/or for Reformation history, and want to further this worthy cause, any donation will help make an impact. We thank you in advance for your contribution to this project.

More information about Good News Publishers: Crossway is a not-for-profit ministry that exists solely for the purpose of proclaiming the gospel and the truth of God’s Word through publishing and all other means.

Click here for a detailed summary of the project.

Do People Have Guardian Angels?

In a word, no.

The view that there are special guardian angels for individual persons, places or callings is contested almost by all dogmaticians (after Calvin’s precedent) as a Popish heresy.

Calvin says (I, xiv, 7): “Whether separate angels are posted to individual believers for their protection I should not dare to affirm as a certainty.—What is certain is that not merely is each of us in the care of one angel, but that the whole body of them with one accord watch over our salvation. It is said of all the angels together, that they rejoice more over one sinner turned to repentance, than over ninety and nine righteous persons who persist in their righteousness, Lk. 15:7. It is also said of many angels, that they bore the soul of Lazarus to Abraham’s bosom, Lk. 16:22.”

—Accordingly Riissen (VII, 34) gives to the question: “Whether any man has his own particular guardian angel, or even one good, another bad” the answer that “it is denied against the Papists”.

Of course individual doctors represented the opposite view, e.g. Bucan (VI, 28) who teaches: “That as a rule to each elect person a certain particular good angel is appointed by God to guard him, may be gathered from Christ’s words, Mt. 18:10, where it is said ‘Their angels do continually behold the face of my Father.’ Also from Ac. 12:15 where the believers who had assembled in Mark’s house said of Peter knocking at the door, ‘It is his angel.’ These believers were speaking according to the opinion received among the people of God.”

—But it was only now and again that belief in guardian angels was represented in the Reformed Church. This is Voetius’ account (I, 900): “There are some of ours who putting their co-religionists in the second place admit as a probable opinion that a good angel guards individual men, or is at least assigned to believers, among whom Zanchius De oper. creat. lib. 3 c.13. And recently the view has been specifically defended by Alsted in the supplement to Chamier’s De eccles. lib. 5 c. 7. Most recently also Vossius pretty plainly indicates his inclination towards this view, lib. 1. De idolol. c. 7. In his notes on Matt. 18:10 (see that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven) Grotius seems to stand for this opinion: ultimately however, he put it aside or left it undecided. Both of them seem to be moved to some extent by patristic authority.

We, however, embrace the view of Calvin (in Instit. lib. I cap. 14, 7 and comm. in Ps. 91 and in Mt. 18) and of other Reformed, who reject the view in question as vain and curious, and we think that something has stuck here to the early Fathers from the Platonic philosophy and the mythological theology of the Gentiles.”

—Mastricht (III, vii, 31) gives an account of the view later prevalent in the Church: “The Reformed believe that the angels as a whole minister to the salvation of the elect, because Scripture attests this, Heb. 1:14 (Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to do service for the sake of them that shall inherit salvation?), Ps. 34:7 (The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him), Ps. 91:11 (He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways) compared with Mt. 4:6, Lk. 15:10 (joy over one sinner that repenteth) 16:22 (angels took Lazarus to Abraham’s bosom).

But they cannot believe with divine faith in single angels appointed to single tasks, spheres, men, because (1) Scripture nowhere says so, nor can it be made known to us from any other source; in fact (2) it rather says the opposite, when it at times assigns several angels to one as well as one angel to several, Gen. 28:12 (Jacob’s ladder) 32:12 (angels who met Jacob at Mahanaim) Ps. 34:7 (The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them) 2 K. 6:16–17 (the chariots and the horsemen of Elisha) Lk. 16:22 (Lazarus); because (3) it paves the way for ἀγγελοθρησκεία; because (4) it means collusion with Gentiles, Moslems, Jews.”

– Heinrich Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics.

The Good Old Days

The good old days were a time when theologians spoke like fearless theologians and not simpering accommodationists.  For example-

Nicholas Ridley (1500-55): —  “As you have banqueted and lain by the whore in the fornication of her whorish dispensations, pardons, and idolatry, and such like abominations: so shall you drink with her … of the cup of the Lord’s indignation and everlasting wrath, which is prepared for the beast, his false prophets, and their partakers. For he who is partner with them in their whoredom and abominations must also be partner with them in their plagues, and on the last day will be thrown with them into the lake burning with brimstone and unquenchable fire.”

That’s straight talk right there.

Via Ralph *The Righteous* Keen

Quote of the Week

“If we consult the Holy Scriptures we can have no doubt that God promised his church here on earth a better state than this.”  — Philip Jacob Spener

«Den wahren Gott recht erkennen und anrufen»

Der Schaffhauser Reformator Johann Konrad Ulmer arbeitete jahrzehntelang an seinem Katechismus und schuf damit ein theologisch und pädagogisch herausragendes Werk: klar aufgebaut, theologisch sauber durchdacht und inhaltlich auf das Wesentlichste konzentriert. Im Zentrum des Buchs stehen die Edition einer bisher unbekannten Abendmahlskatechese, der unedierten Erstfassung des Katechismus (1568) und der gedruckten Fassung von 1569. Für die Kommentierung wurde auch nahezu unbekanntes Archivmaterial verwendet. Untersucht werden ausserdem sprachliche Probleme, die verschiedenen Auflagen und die Verwendung von Liedern im Katechismus, die analog zu den Fragen und Antworten gedruckt wurden.

TVZ sent a review copy in a box today, along with the volume previously mentioned and one to be mentioned next.

Barth lesen: Zentrale Texte seines Denkens

«Am folgenden Morgen fand ich mich, umgeben von einem Stoß von Kommentaren usw., vor dem Römerbrief des Apostels Paulus mit der, wie mir schien, ganz neu aufzuwerfenden Frage nach dem, was denn nun eigentlich dastehe.»

Karl Barth hat die Theologie des 20. Jahrhunderts wie kaum ein anderer geprägt. Dieses Lesebuch enthält eine repräsentative Auswahl seiner Texte. Sie zeigen die wichtigsten Themen und Stationen Barths in seinem Leben und in seiner Theologie auf.

Neben dogmatischen Texten finden sich deshalb auch Briefe, Predigten, Vorträge, Gespräche und autobiografische Notizen. In allen Texten schimmern Karl Barths Witz und seine theologische Brillanz durch und machen das Lesen zu einem Vergnügen. Die Herausgeber stellen jedem Kapitel eine kurze Einführung voran und ermöglichen auf diese Weise einen niederschwelligen Zugang zu Barth. Wer diese Texte liest, ist über Barth gut informiert.

TVZ have sent a copy for review.  Stay tuned.

Zwingli on the Death Sin Brings, and the Slavery

Zwinglidenkmal_EinweihungIn John 8:34, Christ says: “Everyone that committeth sin is the bond-servant of sin.” Adam sinned. Therefore he became the slave of sin.

Paul, writing to the Romans, puts it thus, Rom. 6:16: “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves as servants to obey, his servants ye are whom ye obey?” Adam yielded himself to sin, for if he had not yielded himself, he never would have touched the forbidden fruit. Therefore he became its servant and slave. For unless, resolved to make himself like God, skilled in the knowledge of good and evil, he had first yielded himself to the counsel of the Devil, he would have had such a repugnance to the fruit that he would not have deigned to look at it.

Our first parent, then—not to go on offering kindly excuses—willingly and gladly yielded himself to the servitude of sin. Now, by virtue of his condition, a slave neither can nor ought to listen to anyone but the master to whom he has bound himself. Man, therefore, meditates the sin which his master orders.

But there is sin the moment man, disregarding the law of the Creator, has preferred to follow himself, rather than the standard of his Leader and Lord. He is the slave, I was saying, of him to whom he has gone over. But he has gone over to himself, abandoning the love of God through love of self. He is, therefore, his own slave: he loves himself more than God, more than anyone even. And this, at last, is to be dead, this is the death that is sin, this is the character of corrupted and fallen man.

Bravo, dear Huldrych.  Bravo.

Theology as Freedom: On Martin Luther’s »De servo arbitrio«

Veröffentlicht auf Englisch. Andrea Vestrucci präsentiert eine Analyse von Martin Luthers »De servo arbitrio«, einem der anspruchsvollsten Werke christlicher Theologie. Von Gottes Verborgenheit zur Vorherbestimmung, von der Rechtfertigung zur Ontologie, von der Logik zur Ästhetik erforscht Vestrucci Perspektiven der theologischen Sprache, die einen Paradigmenwechsel auslösen.

Visitors to this link will be able to download a PDF of the front matter and table of Contents.  Please do so before proceeding as that will serve as our point of departure for the present review.

The purpose of the present volume is to prove one simple point:  theology is freedom.  To prove that point, Vestrucci does a thorough deconstruction of Luther’s important work on Free Will.  Or perhaps dissection.  Or perhaps dismemberment.  All of those metaphors point in the direction of what is here accomplished.

Beginning, then, with a description of the conceptual framework that will serve as the skeleton of the argument, V. turns to a consideration of Erasmus’s work and ideas.  Paradox is next on the menu and then philosophical notions which are at play in Luther’s rejoinder to Erasmus.  We are then led down the path of the reception of Luther’s notion of freedom as it is understood by Barth, Ebeling, and others.

The book then turns a corner and moves away from the notions of the major players to a discussion and exposition of the main ideas: the possibility of freedom, forgiveness, justification, nature, grace, and virtually every other branch of theological enquiry.

A chapter devoted to Kant’s relationship to Luther concludes the second major division and frankly seems out of place.  To be sure, Kant and his notion of freedom is philosophically important, bust as one of the sections in the chapter recognizes, Kant was no theologian.  He, it seems to me at least, does not belong here.

The third division (and again, see the linked pdf above for the TOC) is the highlight of the book and everything leads to this fantastic crescendo (except for the sour note of Kant).  Here readers are exposed to the meat of the issue: Election, Salvation, Predestination, and Grace.  Here Vestrucci does the best work.  Here the issues are explained in clear, precise, intelligible, forceful, and helpful language.

The conclusion is the end of the matter and summarizes the aims and achievements of the volume in concise language.  It is a brief 4 pages and it should be read first and last.  A decent bibliography along with indices of the usual sort round out the volume.

Vestrucci is to be thanked for this good work.  My one criticism is of the inclusion of Kant.  The chapter interrupts the flow of the volume and annoys more than it enlightens.  Aside from that, this tome is a joyful experience.  Joyful and informative.

It’s True

I’ve noticed that when people say “So-and-So” is a better preacher, they almost always mean the enjoyable delivery of the messenger, not the doctrinal fidelity of the message. – Michael Svigel

Amen and Amen

“Every expression of God’s anger falls like a drop of scalding lead into a man’s eye; the conscience of the believer, when once awakened, feels every frown of God like as an hell” (Anthony Burgess, 1651).

Via Ralph *The Vindicator* Keen

The Deaths of Churches: An Observation

Churches die for three simple reasons: people stop attending; people stop ministering; people stop financially supporting. It’s easy to kill a congregation. Just stay home, refuse to minister, and keep your money for yourself.

Trinity Sunday: The Mystery Only Heretics Try to Explain