Posts tagged Luther
In the early 1980s, around the time the Voyager space craft were making discoveries, Carl Sagan’s Cosmos premiered. Growing up in the 1980s, I remember watching Cosmos and traveling on the “Ship of the Imagination,” soaring through the solar system out through the galaxy and beyond. Cosmos taught about how vast is the universe, about the Voyager program, atoms, the Big Bang, evolution and natural selection, and the future of mankind in the universe. Even as a child, I recognized that much of what Cosmos taught was not in accord with the faith I had been taught. The show had value in showing the wonders of creation, how vast creation is, and to make one familiar contemporary scientific theory on the origins of the world. From the perspective of contemporary cosmology, contemporary theory on multiverses, and contemporary physics many of the ideas in Carl Sagan’s Cosmos is outdated, passé, or even incorrect. For instance, Carl Sagan did not have a conception of “dark matter” or “multi-verse.” This is why a new, updated and improved series was needed. Although creators of the new show acknowledge that there is new science, the stated purpose is not to teach but “The goal is to show why this new understanding of the world continues to affect us deeply as an individual, as a nations, as a species.”
The new show is called Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium, and created by Seth MacFarlane, the creator of “Family Guy” and other comedies. President Barack Obama even introduced Cosmos calling for us to open our eyes and imaginations to what could be the next new discoveries. Perhaps, President Obama’s endorsement of the show is part of what he meant when he he vowed in his first Inaugural Address to “restore science to its rightful place.” Neil Tyson believes that religious dogma hinders science, and in an interview said, “If you don’t know science in the 21st century, just move back to the cave, because that’s where we’re going to leave you as we move forward.” The new Cosmos is updated with the latest in computer generated special effects and with the latest cosmological theories, many of which were not conceived of or were incipient when Carl Sagan hosted the show in the early 1980s. Rather than hosting the show on PBS, the show was hosted on the Fox Network with the intention of reaching millions more viewers than might otherwise be possible. In many ways, the new Cosmos is a significant effort utilizing the President of the Unites States, a famous astrophysicist, the creator and executive producer of a major sit-com, and a large television network to proselytize many people into a secular-humanist view of the origins of the universe that seeks to demonstrate that there is really no benevolent force organizing the universe and that human beings are insignificant specs among the vast cosmos.
The first episode of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey is “Standing Up in the Milky Way.” Tyson on the “Ship of the Imagination,” takes us on a tour of the Solar System, across the Milky Way identifying the location of the sun in the galaxy, and beyond into the local cluster of galaxies. A tenet of astronomy is that the further away from the earth one goes, the further back in time one goes, all the way to the very beginning of the universe. Eventually, Tyson reaches the beginning of the universe at the moment of the Big Bang. He also discusses how our universe might be one universe among many, a bubble among many other bubbles. The conclusion of all of this is that the earth is one planet among an almost uncountable number of other planets within the Milky Way galaxy, orbiting a nearly uncountable number of stars among a nearly uncountable number of galaxies that make up the universe, and as suggested by the episode, our universe might be only one among an unknowable number of other universes. Such thoughts might recall the words of the Psalmist, “What is man that you are mindful of him.” (Psalm 8:4) Indeed, the vastness of creation can make human beings feel rather insignificant. Yet the Christian faith holds that human beings are not insignificant, but the very special creation of God. Such believe lives in the realm of faith. However, much of what is presented as science, particularly regarding the origin of the universe, is not science as science is usually defined as a “testable explanations and predictions.” Much of what is presented in Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey is not testable, reproducible, or predictive, especially in regards to the origins of the universe. What is presented as science really enters the realm of metaphysics, which is the same realm occupied by faith and religion.
|Bronze statue of Giordano Bruno by Ettore Ferrari from Wikipedia|
The first episode delved deeply into religion when it featured Giordano Bruno (1548 – February 17, 1600), who was one of the last people executed by the Roman Inquisition. Giordano Bruno is presented as a 16th century visionary who wanted to help people understand the infinite creation made by the infinite God he believed in (Watch the short clip by visiting this link). The message of Cosmos is that religious dogma hurts science, and leads to the persecution and execution of people like Giordano Bruno. However, according to this episode of Cosmos, the Roman Catholic church was not alone in persecuting 16th century “astronomers” and “scientists” but also guilty were the Calvinists and Lutherans. In fact, Tyson explicitly mentions Martin Luther as rejecting the views of Copernicus. As for poor Giordano Bruno, Tyson states that both the Calvinists and the Lutherans excommunicated him. Apparently, historical facts are not of great concern to scientists, in particular regarding Giordano Bruno, about what he taught, or how the Lutherans regarded him.
Giordano Bruno was a Dominican Friar and a philosopher, who traveled from Italy, to Geneva, to France, to Germany, and back to Italy where he died at the hands of the Inquisition in 1600. He went from place to place seeking patrons to support him and to find universities where he might teach. In 1584, Giordano Bruno wrote a work (cited by Cosmos) called, “On the Infinite Universe and Worlds.” In this work, Bruno argues that there is no source of certainty and that truth may be inferred from many sources (one might argue that he is proposing a relativism that would be attractive to Western people in the 21st century). He also argues that the universe is infinite. Following Lucretius and his work On the Nature of Things (a book well known in the 16th century contrary to what Cosmos reported), Bruno reasoned just as matter was made up up an infinite number of “atoms” (Lucretius), so the universe is made up of an infinite number of stars, of which the sun was one of them. Bruno also held, “Innumerable suns exist; innumerable earths revolve around these suns in a manner similar
to the way the seven planets revolve around our sun. Living beings inhabit these worlds.” Contrary to common thought, the notion of “atomism” (that all we see is made up of tiny composite parts) is not a modern theory but dates back before the ancient Greeks, and was represented by Epicurean philosophy. Lucretius argued that everything that happens is caused by chance and not by divine intervention (another idea favored by many in the contemporary world). Both Lucretius and Bruno’s works are more philosophical and theological than “scientific” or “astronomical.” In fact, Bruno is considered by many to have a rather poor understanding of astronomy even by 16th century standards; for instance, Tycho Brahe (14 December 1546 – 24 October 1601), a Danish Lutheran astronomy, born the year of Martin Luther’s death and died a year after Bruno, rejected Giordano Bruno’s theories.
In 1585, Giordano Bruno matriculated to German lands. First he went to Mainz where he remained for twelve days, but was unable to find any means of sustenance. Then he went on to Wittenberg, Germany, where he taught at Wittenberg University. (Boulting, William. GIORDANO BRUNO HIS LIFE, THOUGHT, AND MARTYRDOM. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co. Ltd, 1914, 195.) Bruno called the University of Wittenberg, the “German Athens.” Contrary to how Tyson portrayed the Lutherans, Bruno found life at the University of Wittenberg to be rather free. Boulting writes, “Bruno never before breathed so free an atmosphere as Wittenberg had generally enjoyed since Luther s days up to those when he first came there: there was no small measure of such religious toleration and philosophic liberty as the sixteenth century understood.” (198) While in Wittenberg, Bruno published three books. The books were neo-platonic in nature and corrected certain errors in the philosophy of the medievel scholastic theologians. In Wittenberg, anything that attacked the “schoolman” would be received with some favor.
One of the books published in Wittenberg, The Lamp Of Thirty Statues, provides a glimpse into some of the thoughts that would later play a role in his heresy trial. In this work, he cloaked his philosophical ideas, a theory of the atomic constitution of the material world, with the “vestments of orthodox Christianity.” (203) Everything material in the world is an accident of one substance. This view could be understood in an atheist materialistic way (such as some of the Greek Epicureans might desire) or in a panentheistic way (one of the heresies the Roman Inquisition charged him). His anti-Trinitarian views, another heresy the Roman Inquisition charged him, also took shape. “The Trinity becomes a philosophic concept; the Father is Substance; the Son, Universal Intellect; the Spirit, the Soul of the World; or the Father may be said to be Immediate Universal Intuition; the Son, Intellect; the Spirit, Love with Power; but these are merely distinguishable aspects of the One Absolute, to whom past is not past, nor is the future to come, but to whom eternity is entirely present, all things together and complete.” (203) He also writes that the individual is a spark of the Universal Spirit. He believes that the Son of God came “to raise us up from brutality and barbarism to the practice of love.” (204) For Bruno, the essence of Christianity is found in love, not dogmas.
Giordano Bruno departed Wittenberg in the spring of 1588 over a dispute between the gnesio-Lutherans (the genuine or authentic Lutherans who signed the Formula of Concord — those who founded the Missouri Synod would be in agreement with the gnesio-Lutherans) and the Philippist Lutherans (Crypto-Calvinists). Ironically, it was the gnesio-Lutherans who generally favored Bruno, while the Philippists (Crypto-Calvinists) did not. At his trial before the Inquisition, Bruno told his Roman Catholic judges, “At Wittenberg, in Saxony, I found two factions the philosophic faculty were Calvinists and the theologic were Lutherans. The old Duke was a Lutheran, but the son, who succeeded him at that time, was a Calvinist and favoured the opposite party to the one which favoured me ; wherefore I left.” (207) Bruno delivered his final lecture and farewell address at the University of Wittenberg on 8 March 1588. In his address he praised wisdom and wise Germans in particularly such as Albert Magnus, Landegrave William of Hesse, the patron of Copernicus, and of course, Martin Luther. Of Luther, Bruno said, “From Germany, from the banks of the Elbe. . . .
Out of the darkness of Orcus your Hercules dragged forth the monster with the triple crown, bursting open the steely gates of Hell, triumphing over the city guarded by triple walls and the nine-fold stream of Styx. Thou hast seen the light, O Luther ; thou hast regarded it ; thou hast heard the awakening spirit of the Lord and hast obeyed it; thou hast confronted and overcome the adversary girt about with power, and thou hast despoiled him.” (208) Despite this praise of Luther and his praise for opposing ecclesiastical tyranny, Bruno was no fan of Luther or Lutheranism. Bruno considered the Lutheran Reformers to be more ignorant than himself. (209)
Despite some of Giordano Bruno’s teaching which departed from orthodox Christianity, Bruno found Wittenberg to a place of academic and intellectual freedom. His stay at Wittenberg might have been the freest of his academic career. From Wittenberg, Bruno traveled to Prague and Helmstedt (1588-1590). In Helmstedt, Bruno encountered Lutherans once again. Like in the past, Bruno found favor with princes while encountering problems with the theologians. The Lutheran superintendent of Helmstedt excommunicated Giordano Bruno. In a letter to the rector of the university, Bruno complains of his excommunication and states that he was given no ability to publicly respond to the charges. With no other means of support, Bruno left Helmstedt and in the middle of 1590. It should be noted that the Luther pastor did not excommunicate Bruno due to his views on cosmology, or for holding to Copernican views as Tyson suggested in Cosmos, but for doctrinal reasons.
|Giorando Bruno Trial Before the Inquisition|
In 1591, Bruno returned to Venice, eventually this led to his arrest and trial by the Roman Inquisition. His trial lasted for 8 years. He was charged with holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith, holding opinions against the Trinity, the divinity of Christ and the incarnation, the virginity of Mary, and the existence of a plurality of worlds and holding to their eternity (in other words Panentheism). He was not tried and executed for holding to the Copernican view of the solar system, but primarily for being anti-Trinitian and rejecting the divinity of Christ. On 17 February 1600, Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake as one of the last people tried by the Inquisition.
Although we should not condone the execution of a person by the Roman Inquisition, we must recognize that Giordano Bruno was not “persecuted” for holding advanced scientific theories only finally accepted in the 20th century, but Bruno fell out of favor with Reformed, Lutheran, and Roman Catholic theologians for holding views against Orthodox Christianity. Bruno was not a martyr for science. Also despite being excommunicated in Helmstedt by the Lutheran superintendent, he found academic freedom at the University of Wittenberg among the Lutherans until he attempted to ingratiate himself to a crypto-Calvinist prince. The Lutherans themselves held a variety of views regarding cosmology. Tycho Brahe and Kelper studied the solar system and developed mathematical solutions to calculating the orbits of planets. The Lutheran faith was not challenged by such theories, even if some or most theologians did not agree with them.
While an astrophysicist like Neil deGrasse Tyson may not be able to distinguish between the teachings of orthodox Christianity and that the teachings of those who deny the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus Christ, he (or the researchers) should be able to check the historic record. The goal of Cosmos was not to accurately reflect how Calvinists, Lutherans, and Roman Catholics regarded Giordano Bruno, but to show that the Christian religion is against science, not just Roman Catholics, but also Lutherans and other Protestants. Whatever education and entertainment value of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey must be tempered against its desire to discredit religion and to promote secular humanism. Indeed in the end, both those who accept the Christian’s confession of the Creation of the world in 6 days and those who accept the Big Bang and perhaps a multiverses live by faith not science. The question is where is that faith placed, in the Word of God, or in various scientific theories. One also would hope that scientists dedicated to “knowledge” and “testable theories” might get history right, particularly when it comes to Lutherans.
[Note: This sermon was preached in Chapel at the International Center, on the Festival of the Reformation, October 31, 2013. Longer versions were also preached in St. Paul, Munster, IN, and St. Paul, Readlyn, IA, the weekend before. + Herbert Mueller, LCMS First Vice President.]
We observe Reformation Day, not because Lutherans are better, but we observe it for the sake of the Gospel.
Our Church is always reforming, always coming back to the Word of God, always being reformed to focus on Christ.
And a church that is always reforming is also always repenting, daily. The first of the 95 Theses Luther put up for debate October 31, 1517, reads:
When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent,” He willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance. (LW 31:83).
- This is simply to admit our need for Christ.
- To know that Christ dwells only in sinners.
If you don’t believe me, just wait. The Law that exposes sin will come in full force when you are facing death – because the wages of sin IS death.
Yes, the Law is a curb against sin. Yes, the Law is a guide for Christians, but when we are talking about our standing before God, the Law always accuses.
Now we know that whatever the Law says it speak to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the Law no human being will be justified in His sight (Romans 3:19-20)
We are all, each one of us, held accountable to God. I know we are tempted to say – Yes, but…
Yes, but I tried my best. Isn’t that good enough?
Yes, but why is this happening to me?
Yes, but I don’t deserve to die? Not yet.
Yes, but God is not being fair.
God’s law says STOP. Hold your mouth. Stop the excuses. Like a parent with a child trying to excuse his behavior – stop, stop trying to justify yourself.
This is a “bad news/good news” situation.
The bad news is that you cannot do it. It doesn’t work. You have no excuses, even if you are a pastor or work at the International Center. You cannot justify yourself.
But here’s the really great good news.
You don’t have to! It has already been done.
Been done by God in Jesus Christ.
He did it all.
There is no distinction, Scripture says, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. And that ALL includes you and me. In fact, it BETTER include you and me, or the promise doesn’t apply to us either.
Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith (Romans 3:23-25).
God justifies! God speaks. God declares us righteous for the sake of Christ. And when GOD speaks, it is DONE. And God does this by grace as a gift – undeservedly.
In other words, God does not give US what we deserve, but He gives us instead what JESUS deserves. And God can give us what Jesus deserves, because on the cross God allowed JESUS to have what WE deserved for our sin. He took it all for us.
That’s what the word propitiation means. He took it all! Christ is the sacrifice in our place, the sacrifice that takes away our sin. He is the place of mercy, the one who soaks up all the wrath of God for sin – in our place.
And it’s all done – for us.
It is never our working, but always God’s doing, in Jesus.
We simply receive it through faith – it’s a gift.
Believe it and you have it!
In his Galatians commentary, Martin Luther explains:
“Here we work nothing, render nothing to God. We only receive and permit someone else to work in us, namely, God… We do not perform, but receive righteousness. We do not have, but accept, when God the Father grants it to us through Jesus Christ.” (LW 26:5f)
What does this mean? Practically speaking? Justified through faith means there is so much we do NOT have to worry about.
- We don’t have to worry about the guilt of our sin, because Christ took it all.
- We don’t have to worry about how you look before God, because in Jesus you are covered in HIS righteousness. GOOD!
- We don’t have to hide from God like Adam and Eve in the garden or make excuses…
- You don’t have to defend yourself before God, because Jesus did that already, far better than we’d ever be able.
- You don’t have to dwell on past sins and failures, because they’ve all been put on Jesus, they’re all atoned for, all forgiven.
- And the blood of Jesus really DOES set the guilty conscience FREE.
- You don’t even have to worry about your future, or worry about your death, because Jesus rose – you will rise.
- You don’t have to compare yourself with other Christians, to see how you measure.
- You don’t have to…
Because you are justified.
You are set free.
Christ has got you covered.
As a result, here’s now what we GET to do:
You get to
- revel in God’s grace – the gift given.
- live free – in the freedom of sins forgiven.
- walk right into the throne room of God in your prayers to pour out your needs before God – He won’t say – hey! who are you? But welcome, my child. Here’s all the good I have for you.
- You get to love the people He has given you because you know Jesus loves you and Jesus loves them.
Even if you feel bad, feel ashamed, or feel guilty… none of your FEELINGS can CHANGE God’s promises.
For HE is righteous, and HE justifies us.
In ourselves, we have nothing, but in Christ and the cross, we have everything. That’s what this means:
Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the Law (Romans 3:27-28).
And this Christian life of repentance Luther talks about in the 95 Theses is simply a life of looking away from my sin, of looking away from my death, from myself to see Christ only, FOR ME.
I am crucified with Christ, therefore I no longer live, but Christ lives in me, and the life I live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20).
You have to hear one more bit of Luther on this:
Now these words, “who loved me” are filled with faith. … He who was completely God gave everything He was, gave Himself FOR ME. For me, I say, a miserable and accursed sinner… Now I have Another, who has freed me from the terrors of the Law, from sin, from death, and who has transferred me into freedom, the righteousness of God, and eternal life. He gave Himself FOR ME.” (LW 26:177).
For each of you!
And that’s why we observe Reformation Day!
In the name of Jesus – Amen!
Today in Helsinki, Finland, the 12th International Congress for Luther Research began at the Helsinki Lutheran Cathedral. The theme of the 12th Congress is “Luther as Teacher and Reformer of the University,” and will meet in Helsinki from 5th through the 10th of August 2012. The International Congress for Luther Research first met in 1956, and now meets every five years. In 2017, the International Congress for Luther Research plans to meet in Wittenberg, Germany.
Dr. Albert Collver (LCMS) and Dr. Roland Ziegler (CTSFW) Pictured Outside the Cathedral Crypt
Of the approximately 180 Luther and Reformation scholars registered for the conference, by my count (based upon the registration list) 15 are from the LCMS. Both LCMS seminaries are well represented with a combined total of ten professors attending, including: Dr. Gerhard Bode, Dr. Timothy Dost, Dr. Erik Hermann, Dr. Robert Kolb, Dr. Naomichi Masaki, Professor John Pless, Dr. Robert Rosin, Dr. Paul Robinson, Dr. William Schumacher, Dr. Roland Zeigler. Other LCMS attendees include, Dr. Albert Collver, LCMS Director of Church Relations – Assistant to the President, Rev. Jason Lane, Dr. David Lumpp, Rev. Jonathan Mumme (LCMS Missionary / Professor at Westfield House), Dr. Anthony Steinbronn. This evening I personally saw about half of those from the LCMS who registered. Several of the LCMS participants are making sectional presentations.
Dr. Scott Hendrix, the well known Reformation and Luther scholar from Princeton, opened the International Congress for Luther Research with an address. His opening address was followed by Bishop Emeritus Eero Huovinen, who presented “Doctor communes? The ecumenical significance of Martin Luther’s theology.” His lecture concluded with the following, “In summary, may I dare to contend that Martin Luther, in his Catechisms and his writings on Holy Communion, speaks as doctor communis, not attempting to develop new doctrine but rather striving to express and interpret the common faith of the undivided Christendom. Thus his writings still bear ecumenical fruit.” Indeed, Dr. Luther did not invent new doctrine and his teaching especially as confessed in the Small and Large Catechisms and in the Augsburg Confession is that of the catholic Church through the ages.
After the opening address and lecture, a reception was held in the Cathedral’s Crypt. Tomorrow begins the first full day of the International Congress for Luther Research. Looking forward to several days of stimulating papers and discussion on Martin Luther. A few pictures from the Cathedral are provided below.
The Cathedral’s chancel.
The organ in the Cathedral.
A statue of Martin Luther in the Cathedral.
The entrance to the Crypt.
The Lutheran Cathedral in Helsinki was consecrated in 1852 and named the Church of St. Nicholas. The church was modeled after the Kazan Cathedral in St Petersburg, Russia. After Finland obtained independence from Russian in 1917, the Cathedral became known as the “Great Church.” In 1959, it was named the Helsinki Cathedral and is one of ten cathedrals of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland.
— Posted by Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, Director of Church Relations on 5 August 2012.
"None of these can harm them: Sin, Death, the Devil, hunger, thirst, cold, heat, the sword or any misfortune."
“… and from Jesus Christ…, him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father.” (Rev. 1)
The faithful are righteous Kings. Not that they wear a golden crown on their head or bear a golden sceptre or appear dressed in silk, velvet and garments of gold and silk. The truth is much more splendid: they are lords over Death and the Devil, Hell and every sort of misfortune. To them, shame is honor; Hell is Heaven; Death is Life; the Devil is a man made from straw; Sin is Righteousness; unhappiness is happiness; poverty is wealth. For they are lords over everything and they need nobody, because they are of God and they have God as a friend – indeed, as a loving Father – and in God they find wealth, great treasures and every sort of good and enjoy great abundance. Therefore none of these can harm them: Sin, Death, the Devil, hunger, thirst, cold, heat, the sword or any misfortune.