Luther: On The Sorry State of the Church’s Ministers and Members

When in my mind I look about at the churches of all the lands, which I include in my prayers, it is not without great sorrow that I consider how few capable ministers there now are, and how even among those who are considered the best how great is their weakness and, in some, even their error. Next, I lament also the contempt for the Gospel among the people, who have no concern for religion, no zeal to uphold the ministry, who do not fear the dreadful wrath of God and do not change their ways. –  Martin Luther

Things are worse now, Martin…

Happy Thomas Becket Day

A year after the death of Theobald, April 18, 1161, Becket was appointed by the king archbishop of Canterbury. He accepted reluctantly, and warned the king, with a smile, that he would lose a servant and a friend. The learned and energetic Bishop Gilbert Foliot of Hereford (afterwards of London) remarked sarcastically, perhaps from disappointed ambition, that “the king had wrought a miracle in turning a layman into an archbishop, and a soldier into a saint.”

Becket…. he’s what happens when Kings meddle in the Church.

Today with Zwingli: His Adversary, ‘That Cumæan Lion’

zurich1522“You should know that a certain Franciscan from France, whose name indeed was Franz, was here not many days since and had much conversation with me concerning the Scriptural basis for the doctrine of the adoration of the saints and their intercession for us. He was not able to convince me with the assistance of a single passage of Scripture that the saints do pray for us, as he had with a great deal of assurance boasted he should do. At last he went on to Basel [on 18 April, 1522] where he recounted the affair in an entirely different way from the reality—in fact he lied about it. So it seemed good to me to let you know about these things that you might not be ignorant of that Cumæan lion, if perchance he should ever turn your way.

“There followed within six days another strife with our brethren the preachers of the [different orders in Zurich, especially with the Augustinians]. Finally the burgomaster and the Council appointed for them three commissioners on whom this was enjoined—that Aquinas and the rest of the doctors of that class being put aside they should base their arguments alone upon those sacred writings which are contained in the Bible. This troubled those beasts so much that one brother, the father reader of the order of Preachers [i. e., the Dominicans] cut loose from us, and we wept—as one weeps when a cross-grained and rich stepmother has departed this life. Meanwhile there are those who threaten, but God will turn the evil upon His enemies.

“I suppose you have read the petition which some of us have addressed to the Bishop of Constance.… But I must return to Schuerer upstairs, where he is having some beer with several gentlemen and jokes will be in order.”*

* S.M. Jackson, Huldreich Zwingli: The Reformer of German Switzerland. p. 170–172.

On Universalism’s Popularity: An Observation

Universalism is popular today because wishful thinking has replaced biblical thinking.

Celebrity Christians: An Observation

‘Celebrity christians’ are celebrities precisely because they are not actually Christians.

Scripture for the Day

May their own table prove a trap for them, and their abundance a snare; may their eyes grow so dim that they cannot see, all their muscles lose their strength.  Vent your fury on them, let your burning anger overtake them. Reduce their encampment to ruin, and leave their tents untenanted, for hounding someone you had already stricken, for redoubling the pain of one you had wounded. Charge them with crime after crime, exclude them from your saving justice, erase them from the book of life, do not enrol them among the upright. (Ps. 69:22-28 NJB)

Let the reader understand.

Cultural Shifts and Ritual Transformations in Reformation Europe

This volume honors the work of a scholar who has been active in the field of early modern history for over four decades. In that time, Susan Karant-Nunn’s work challenged established orthodoxies, pushed the envelope of historical genres, and opened up new avenues of research and understanding, which came to define the contours of the field itself. Like this rich career, the chapters in this volume cover a broad range of historical genres from social, cultural and art history, to the history of gender, masculinity, and emotion, and range geographically from the Holy Roman Empire, France, and the Netherlands, to Geneva and Austria. Based on a vast array of archival and secondary sources, the contributions open up new horizons of research and commentary on all aspects of early modern life.

Contributors: James Blakeley, Robert J. Christman, Victoria Christman, Amy Nelson Burnett, Pia Cuneo, Ute Lotz-Heumann, Amy Newhouse, Marjorie Elizabeth Plummer, Helmut Puff, Lyndal Roper, Karen E. Spierling, James D. Tracy, Mara R. Wade, David Whitford, and Charles Zika.

Festschriften (I just can’t drag myself to say ‘Festschrifts’) tend to be quite technically oriented.  They are written by colleagues of the honoree and reflect, generally, the interests of said honoree.  Given that they are by scholars for scholars, it is utterly unsurprising that they are not ‘popular’ and are not intended for a general reading public.

This volume is no different in that respect.  It aims to please its recipient, and, given her glowing appreciation expressed at a recent conference I think that it well achieved it’s aim.

Naturally this suggests that while she may have found it extremely good, other readers may not have the same reaction, since the essays are not written in appreciation of them, but of her.  Yet that suggestion would be wrong, because this is a collection that will be of great interest to all scholars of the Reformation.  These essays are astonishingly engaging, even when their titles may hint at a bit of dust.

  • Luther and Gender
  • High Noon on the Road to Damascus: A Reformation Showdown and the Role of Horses in Lucas Cranach the Younger’s Conversion of Paul (1549)
  • How to Make a Holy Well: Local Practices and Official Responses in Early Modern Germany
  • Advice from a Lutheran Politique: Ambassador David Ungnad’s Circular Letter to the Austrian Estates, 1576
  • Above the Skin: Cloth and the Body’s Boundary in Early Modern Nuremberg
  • Masculinities in Sixteenth-Century Imagery: A Contribution to Early Modern Gender History

These and the other essays in this book may have somewhat unconventional sounding titles (for Reformation studies) and they may seem to be super-specific (and they are), but potential readers ought not let that ‘scare them off’.  These contributions are festooned with incredibly interesting historical facts.  And, as the foreword reminds us

Despite the fact that the editors of this volume have divided its articles neatly into sections that reflect the progression of Karant-Nunn’s intellectual journey, the perceptive reader will quickly recognize the influence and inspiration of the entire spectrum of her oeuvre across each of the sections. That that influence reflects many of the broader trends in the study of the Reformation should come as no surprise: to a significant degree, such developments have Karant-Nunn to thank.

A book organized according to the intellectual journey of its honoree is not only a very good way to do things, but a very good way to allow others to investigate topics of interest to themselves and interact with the views of the honoree.  But the volume also includes, aside from brilliant text, a fairly extensive number of color and black and white illustrations that are sharp, crisp, and detailed.  These add immensely to the usefulness of the volume.

A sample worth sharing is from, in my opinion, the best of the essays in the volume- that of Amy Nelson Burnett, who writes in her Streitkultur Meets the Culture of Persuasion: The Flensburg Disputation of 1529

In April 1529 a public disputation was held in Flensburg, located in the duchy of Schleswig near the Danish border, that pitted the furrier and lay preacher Melchior Hoffman against the Lutheran clergy of the region. Because of Hoffman’s later career as an Anabaptist leader, it might be thought that the disputation concerned the issue of infant baptism, but in fact the disputation centered on the substantial presence of Christ’s body and blood in the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper. Held six months before the more famous Marburg colloquy between Martin Luther and the Swiss reformers, the Flensburg disputation was the first public disputation devoted specifically to the Lord’s Supper. Susan Karant-Nunn was one of the first historians to consider the Protestant Lord’s Supper from the perspective of social and cultural history rather than theology.

Reformation scholars, persons interested in gender studies, and those inclined to the investigation of the minutest details of early modern European history will all enjoy making their way through this collection.  I think you will enjoy it.  And so I recommend it to you.


Biblical Studies Publishing: An Observation

How Biblical Studies Publishing works:

  1. scholar with initials: I have another book on Paul to publish.
  2. publisher: oh, yay! is it different than the other 29?
  3. swi- no, I’ve just changed some sentences around, but I’m famous so here it is.
  4. publisher: oh yay!
  5. scholar without initials, and not well known: I have a book on Paul I’d like to submit for publication.
  6. publisher: oh I’m sorry, we aren’t taking any new books on Paul. The market is flooded.
  7. sw/oi: how depressing. Why bother. Gives up, leaves academia, and becomes a coffee brewer at a local hipster place.

The moral of the story?  There are many younger scholars who have something really interesting to say and worth saying, but they can’t get a hearing because the self aggrandizing celebrity scholars suck all the air from the publishing room and use it up themselves.

Postmortem Opportunity: A Biblical and Theological Assessment of Salvation After Death

One of Jesus’ most basic commands to his disciples was to tell the world about the good news of his life, death, and resurrection. From the earliest days of the church, Christians have embraced this calling.

But for those Christians who emphasize the need for an active response to the gospel in order to be saved, this raises some difficult questions: What about those who did not hear the gospel before death? Or what about those who heard an incorrect or incomplete version of the gospel? Or what about those who were too young or who were otherwise unable to respond?

In light of these challenging questions, theologian James Beilby offers a careful consideration of the possibility for salvation after death. After examining the biblical evidence and assessing the theological implications, he argues that there is indeed hope for faith—even beyond death.

Hmmm….  Let’s see if he can convince a skeptic.  Or will he prove Tertullian right again when he notes that ‘Philosophers are the patriarchs of heretics’.  More anon.

Obadiah, Jonah and Micah: An Introduction and Commentary

Obadiah’s oracle against Edom. Jonah’s mission to the city of Nineveh. Micah’s message to Samaria and Jerusalem. These books are short yet surprisingly rich in theological and practical terms. In this Tyndale commentary on these minor but important prophets, Daniel Timmer considers each book’s historical setting, genre, structure, and unity. He explores their key themes with an eye to their fulfilment in the New Testament and their significance for today.

The Tyndale Commentaries are designed to help the reader of the Bible understand what the text says and what it means. The Introduction to each book gives a concise but thorough treatment of its authorship, date, original setting, and purpose. Following a structural Analysis, the Commentary takes the book section by section, drawing out its main themes, and also comments on individual verses and problems of interpretation. Additional Notes provide fuller discussion of particular difficulties.

In the new Old Testament volumes, the commentary on each section of the text is structured under three headings: ContextComment, and Meaning. The goal is to explain the true meaning of the Bible and make its message plain.

A review copy arrived today.  I’ll let you know what I think.

A Warning from HH Rowley and AT Robertson

One who made it his life’s work to interpret French literature, but who could only read it in an English translation, would not be taken seriously; yet it is remarkable how many ministers of religion week by week expound a literature that they are unable to read save in translation!” — HH Rowley

The Greek New Testament is the New Testament; all else is translation.” – AT Robertson

And there it is.  Via ANE Studies at Fuller

On April 17 Luther Wasn’t Very Bold

The first appearance Luther made at the Diet held in Worms made an impression on his Catholic opponents.  But it wasn’t a positive one.  One of the delegates wrote the Pope after the April 17th session:

The heretical “fool” entered laughing, and left despondent; that even among his sympathizers some regarded him now as a fool, others as one possessed by the Devil; while many looked upon him as a saint full of the Holy Spirit; but in any case, he had lost much of his reputation.

However, as Schaff opines

The shrewd Italian judged too hastily. On the same evening Luther recollected himself, and wrote to a friend: “I shall not retract one iota, so Christ help me.”

Luther emerged from Worms a resolved Reformer and not a trembling child.

Heinrich Bullinger: On the Sub-Christian Nature of Polygamy and the Nature of Marriage

450px-Zwingli_und_BullingerBullinger writes

But it is not appropriate that in lawful matrimony any more should be than two alone, to be joined together under one yoke of wedlock.

For the use of many wives, which our fathers usurped without any blame, may not stablish polygamy for a law among us at these days. The time of correction is now come to light, and Messiah now is come into the world, who teacheth all rightly, and reformeth things amiss.

He therefore hath reduced wedlock to the first prescribed rule and law of matrimony. “Two,” saith the Lord, “shall be one flesh.” And the apostle saith: “Let every man have his own wife, and every woman her own husband.”

The multitude of Solomon’s concubines therefore appertain not to us. We have not to follow the example of Jacob, who married two sisters.

For Christians, even marriage takes its cue from Christ and not from culture.  For Christians, marriage consists of the joining together of one man and one woman.  Period.

But what about divorce?  Bullinger, along with the rest of the Reformers, frowned on it, though they saw it as a concession to the weakness of many.  Still, the divorced were not free to remarry.  Period.

But what if the spouse dies?  Bullinger writes

And yet, notwithstanding, the word of truth condemneth not the second, third, or many marriages which a man maketh, when his wife is deceased.

Marriage, for Christians, means something more than it does for the larger society.  The culture may root like pigs in the trough but Christians are called to a better, less porcine, life.


Libertines name every call to holy living and obedience ‘Pharisaism’ in order to demonize holiness and justify disobedience. Because they desire to be neither holy nor obedient.

Liberty U is Suing Little Falwell for 10 Million

It couldn’t have happened to a more well derserving reprobate.

Things just got super messy and potentially very expensive for former Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. The Christian university founded by his father on Friday sued Falwell Jr. for $10 million, alleging breach of contract and fiduciary duty and claiming that he withheld scandalous and potentially damaging information from the school’s board of trustees in 2019 while negotiating a generous new contract for himself. The suit alleges that Falwell also failed to disclose and address “his personal impairment by alcohol.”

Hezekiah Was a Selfish Jerk: Don’t Be A Selfish Jerk Like Hezekiah- Especially Now

At that time the king of Babylon, Merodach-Baladan son of Baladan, sent letters and a gift to Hezekiah, for he had heard of his illness and his recovery. Hezekiah was delighted at this and showed the ambassadors his entire treasury, the silver, gold, spices, precious oil, his armoury too, and everything to be seen in his storehouses. There was nothing in his palace or in his whole domain that Hezekiah did not show them.

The prophet Isaiah then came to King Hezekiah and asked him, ‘What have these men said, and where have they come from?’ Hezekiah answered, ‘They have come from a distant country, from Babylon.’ Isaiah said, ‘What have they seen in your palace?’ ‘They have seen everything in my palace,’ Hezekiah answered. ‘There is nothing in my storehouses that I have not shown them.’ Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, ‘Listen to the word of Yahweh, “The days are coming when everything in your palace, everything that your ancestors have amassed until now, will be carried off to Babylon. Not a thing will be left,” Yahweh says. “Sons sprung from you, sons fathered by you, will be abducted to be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” ‘

Hezekiah said to Isaiah, ‘This word of Yahweh that you announce is reassuring,’ for he was thinking, ‘And why not? So long as there is peace and security during my lifetime.’ (2 Ki. 20:12-19)

Hezekiah was a selfish jerk. Don’t be like Hezekiah, only caring about yourself and not thinking of the well being of anyone else.  Especially now.

Luther Gets to Worms

Luther arrived in Worms on Tuesday morning, April 16, 1521, at ten o’clock, shortly before early dinner, in an open carriage with his Wittenberg companions, preceded by the imperial herald, and followed by a number of gentlemen on horseback. He was dressed in his monastic gown. The watchman on the tower of the cathedral announced the arrival of the procession by blowing the horn, and thousands of people gathered to see the heretic.


A Parable:  The Painter and the Branch

A lot of Christians are like the painter: they would rather work around than stoop down.

Richard Baxter’s Advice to the Prideful #HumbleBrag

‘Be sure you mistake not the Spirit of God and its motions, nor receive, instead of them, the motions of satan, or of your passions, pride, or fleshly wisdom.’—It is easy to think you are obeying the Spirit, when you are obeying satan and your own corruptions against the Spirit.

By these fruits the Spirit of God is known:

  • 1. The Spirit of God is for heavenly Wisdom, and neither for foolishness nor treacherous craftiness.
  • 2. The Spirit of God is a spirit of Love, delighting to do good; its doctrine and motions are for love, and tend to good; abhorring both selfishness and hurtfulness to others.
  • 3. He is a Spirit of Concord, and is ever for the unity of all believers; abhorring both divisions among the saints, and carnal compliances and confederacies with the wicked,
  • 4. He is a Spirit of Humility and self-denial, making us, and our knowledge, and gifts, and worth, to be very little in our own eyes; abhorring pride, ambition, self-exalting, boasting, as also the actual debasing of ourselves by earthliness or other sin.
  • 5. He is a Spirit of Meekness, and patience, and forbearance; abhorring stupidity, and inordinate passion, boisterousness, tumult, envy, contention, reviling, and revenge.