Exploring Church History

Reflections on History and Theology

Tag: Lutheran

Summer Reading List

As summer is fast approaching, here are the books on my shelf waiting to be read!

Irena Backus, Leibniz, Protestant Theologian

1. Irena Backus, Leibniz: Protestant Theologian

Though best known for his philosophy, Backus offers a different perspective by examining Leibniz’s theology. Backus works through the relationship of Leibniz’s Lutheran theology and his philosophy, leading up to the Enlightenment.

Continue reading

Share Button

Philipp of Hesse and the Reformation: A Review of David M. Whitford’s A Reformation Life

There is no shortage of works addressing the Reformation. Roland H. Bainton’s Here I Stand remains a must read, in addition to other standards such as Diarmaid MacCulloch’s The ReformationDavid C. Steinmetz’s Reformers in the Wing, and Michael Reeves’ The Unquenchable Flame. The field is crowded, yet scholars continue to find insightful approaches to Reformation studies (check out Andrew Pettegree’s Brand Luther and my review). David M. Whitford’s latest work on Philipp of Hesse is no exception.

Whitford’s A Reformation Life: The European Reformation through the Eyes of Philipp of Hesse (Praeger, 2015; source: publisher) begins with a conclusion. As Whitford states, wherever he looked he ended up running into Philipp of Hesse. The landgrave of Hesse had his hand in all matters of the Reformation. It was clear that all roads led to Philipp, but the how and why remained unanswered. A Reformation Life explores these routes.

Continue reading

Share Button

Great Masterpieces: A Review of Terry Glaspey’s 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know

75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should KnowThe task of narrowing down centuries’ worth of “masterpieces” in a “best of” list is not one I would like to undertake. Deciding what is a masterpiece is a struggle in and of it itself, let alone having to provide a definitive list. Terry Glaspey’s 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know (Baker, 2015; source: publisher) is a balanced choice of art, literature, music, and film.

Following a chronological ordering, Glaspey begins with the Christian catacombs of Rome (75 Masterpieces, chapter 1). From the second century to the fifth, the underground maze served as a communal burial ground for Christians in times of peace and persecution. Images such as the good shepherd decorated these grounds as a sign of life after death.

Continue reading

Share Button

Luther and Print: A Review of Andrew Pettegree’s Brand Luther

Andrew Pettegree, Brand LutherThough it may seem like 2017 is far away, the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses is fast approaching. Plans for the celebration are being finalized and publishers are lining up works to be released leading up to the anniversary. Anticipating of all this, Andrew Pettegree’s Brand Luther (Penguin, 2015; source: publisher) starts things off with a biography of Martin Luther.

Though I say biography, Brand Luther does not follow the traditional format of a biography on Luther. As with other biographies  such as Bainton’s Here I Stand or Oberman’s  Luther: Man Between God and the Devil, Pettegree writes in a chronological order and provides accounts of the key events within Luther’s life. However, Pettegree’s main objective attempts to answer “how, in the very different communication environment of five hundred years ago, a theological spat could become a great public event, embracing churchmen and laypeople over a wide span of the European landmass” (Brand Luther, x).

Continue reading

Share Button

Johann Georg Hamann on Eros and Sexual Holiness Continued

Hamann, Essay of a Sibyl on MarriagePicking up where we left off (see the previous post), we continue our discussion of Hamann’s wedding present to Johann Friedrich Hartknoch and Albertine Toussaint.  The unconventional gift was a short work interpreting Genesis 1 and 2 through the guise of a sibyl. Hartknoch, being Hamann’s publisher, found the gift worth publishing in 1775. We first took a look at how Hamann understood the relationship between God and Eros. Now we turn to the issues of the image of God and marriage.

 

Continue reading

Share Button

“Wondrous as Love, and Mysterious as Marriage!”: Johann Georg Hamann on Eros and Sexual Holiness

Hamann, Essay of a Sibyl on MarriageIn the first of a two-part series, I will discuss Johann Georg Hamann’s Essay of a Sibyl on Marriage (1775) and his theology of sexual holiness.

Wedding gifts run the gamut from fine china to kitchen appliances, from cheese domes to French presses. I am not sure what one gets someone in eighteenth–century Prussia, but what Johann Georg Hamann gifted Johann Friedrich Hartknoch is as good as any. In the early hours of August 26, 1774 Hamann was awaken by Hartknoch and his bride, Albertine Toussaint. Overjoyed by their visit and recent good news, Hamann welcomed his guests with a promise of an essay to commemorate their nuptials.

Continue reading

Share Button

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “After Ten Years”

Dietrich BonhoefferIn class, we recently finished our unit on Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Here is my review of Charles Marsh’s Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer). It gave us an opportunity to read Bonhoeffer’s “After Ten Years” and some of his ethics. He begins the short work with his social commentary of “people with so little ground under their feet” (After Ten Years, 3). Despite the plethora of options in our modern day, “every available alternative seemed equally intolerable, repugnant, and futile” (After Ten Years, 3). Coupled with this seemingly hopelessness is the masquerade of evil. Witnessed in Hitler’s claims for justice after World War I, evil hides itself in the good.

Continue reading

Share Button

“Wondrous like Love, and Mysterious like Marriage”: Johann Georg Hamann on Sexual Holiness and the Image of God

This Saturday I have the opportunity to present a paper at the Midwest Region Evangelical Theological Society conference. This year’s theme is “The Church and its Call to Sexual Holiness.” My paper, “’Wondrous like Love, and Mysterious like Marriage!’: Johann Georg Hamann on Sexual Holiness and the Image of God,” examines Hamann’s work Essay of a Sibyl on Marriage (1775).

The work, like the majority of Hamann’s corpus, is an occasional piece. Hamann was awakened early one morning by the arrival of unexpected guests. The guests were Johann Friedrich Hartknoch and Albertine Toussaint, who had just gotten married. In honor of their nuptials Hamann set out to write on marriage, a wedding gift fitting for Hamann’s publisher, Hartknoch.

The Essay of a Sibyl on Marriage plays off of Theodor Gottlieb von Hippel’s essay “Über die Ehe” (1774; On Marriage) but also uses Genesis 2 as the foundation for the work. Hamann argues that Eros is a matter of divine love, witnessed in the Trinity and creation. This is not to say that God participates in Eros, but rather, divine love defines Eros. Human expressions of Eros must originate from the divine image in which we are created and the divine command to procreate.

As Eros is rooted in the love of the Trinity and the Trinity’s act of creation, human expression of Eros must not deviate from this foundation. However, Eros is part of the human makeup. It is not antagonistic to what it means to be human. At the same time, no amount of human love can produce a rich and vibrant expression of Eros. Nor should Eros be understood as a postlapsarian alteration due to sin. For Hamann, Eros is not a passion of love but a quality of love.

Eros, as a human characteristic, is solely due to the fact that we are created in God’s image. The “pensive god of love” “took counsel with himself” to proclaim: “Let us make human beings, an image, which is like us.”[1] This is where Eros becomes part of the human makeup. We are created in God’s image to possess, experience, and express Eros. Love and Eros is part of what it means to be created in God’s image. In other words, the question of sexual identity is not merely a matter of hetero, homo, or bi. Such categories have not fully perceived the issue of sexual identity. Rather, sexual identity is a matter of divine identity.

[1] Johan Georg Hamann, Sämtliche Werke, 6 vols., ed. Josef Nadler (Vienna: Herder, 1949-57), III, 199; Gen 1:26

Share Button

Martin Luther and the Three Walls

Martin Luther1517 and the posting of his 95 Theses has often been seen as Martin Luther’s breaking point from Catholicism to Protestantism. Certainly, the 95 Theses contained many Protestant elements and voiced his concern over indulgences. These grievances are a result of Luther’s study and subsequent lectures of various books of the Bible. However, the act of posting on the Wittenberg church’s door was a common scholastic practice, intended as an invitation to discuss these matters further. Furthermore, this act lacked some of the theological conviction central to Luther after 1520.

Following these early years in which Luther worked out his evangelical theology (“Protestant” being a term used after 1529 when a number of princes and other governmental officials protested against Emperor Charles V), Luther was put on the defense. Whether it was the 1518 Diet of Augsburg and his dealing with Cardinal Cajetan or the 1519 Leipzig Disputation and his debate with Johann Eck of Ingolstadt, Luther was occupied with explaining, defending, and justifying his beliefs.

Continue reading

Share Button

Hamann on Kant’s Enlightenment

In the December issue of the Berlinische Monatsschrift, Johann Friedrich Zöllner pondered the question ‘what is enlightenment?’[1] While this remark found in a footnote received much attention, it was Kant’s response which became the hallmark answer to the question.[2] In December of 1784 Kant presented his “An Answer to the Question: ‘What Is Enlightenment?’[3]

Though Hamann never sought to answer Zöllner’s original question, he did react to Kant’s essay. Hamann’s response, however, is not found in a subsequent publication but rather in a letter. Christian Jakob Kraus (1753-1807), professor of practical philosophy at Königsberg and mutual friend of Kant and Hamann, had mailed Kant’s essay to Hamann. On December 18, 1784 Hamann sent his thanks to Kraus along with his opinion of the essay.[4] This letter expounded Hamann’s thoughts on Kant’s metaphor of self-incurred immaturity, the role of the guardian, and the juxtaposition of public and private reason.

Continue reading

Share Button

Socratic Memorabilia: Hamann on the Wisdom of Ignorance

Soctraic MemorabiliaPicking up from where we left off, part 1 ,1759 was a significant year for Johann Georg Hamann. After a dissolved engagement, Hamann moved back to Königsberg to take care of his father. Over the summer, Hamann was berated by longtime friend and would-be brother-in-law, Christoph Berens, to renege his recent conversion. In support of these efforts, Immanuel Kant stepped in as an appeal to Hamann’s intellect. Hamann rebuffed the two, the latter being the only one who would remain on good terms. The Socratic Memorabilia is not only Hamann’s response to their endeavors, but the initiation to a lifelong career of writing.

Before addressing Socrates’ life, Hamann takes a moment to examine the discipline of history. According to Hamann, history serves as a revelation of God’s truth. Coupling history with nature he states, ‘As nature was given us to open our eyes, so history was given to us to open our ears.’[1] The significance of properly understanding history is not merely an issue of accuracy. Rather, as God’s revelation, we must understand that history is a reflection of ‘God’s invisible being, his eternal power and Godhead.’[2]

Continue reading

Share Button

Johann Georg Hamann: Theologian, Philosopher, and Enlightener

Johann Georg HamannGiven that Johann Georg Hamann was born on this day in 1730, I thought it fitting to briefly address the “Magus of the North.”

As a member of the German Enlightenment, Hamann was mentor to Johann Gottfried Herder and Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi. He served as a catalyst for the Sturm und Drang. Deemed one of the leading minds of the eighteenth century by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Hamann was a significant influence on the young Goethe and many other German Romanticists. Søren Kierkegaard recognized Hamann as the greatest humorist and was singled out as the one he had learned most from.

Continue reading

Share Button

The Real Luther: A Review of Timothy J. Wengert’s Reading the Bible with Martin Luther

Timothy Wengert, Reading the Bible with Martin Luther

Our reading of the past can often be obscured by various factors. We all come with presuppositions and theological convictions. Other times our methodology causes us to arrive at conclusions different than others. The list goes on. Timothy J. Wengert advances a more simple reason why we misinterpret history.

For Wengert, our misunderstanding of someone like Martin Luther is due to the simple fact that we are not reading his writings. Our preconceptions of what Luther should say, or our assumptions of what he said, replace the act of reading his works and discovering what he actually said.

Continue reading

Share Button

Top Ten Summer Reading List

Summer is always a great opportunity to catch up on some reading. Here is my top ten reading list for this summer.

Tim Townsend, Mission at Nuremberg1. Tim Townsend, Mission at Nuremberg: An American Army Chaplain and the Trial of the Nazis 
The work is an account of an army chaplain commissioned to minister to the Nazis held at Nuremberg.  Sure to be thought-provoking.

Continue reading

Share Button

Late Medieval Theology and Luther: A Review of Berndt Hamm’s The Early Luther

Berndt Hamm, The Early LutherAs Timothy J. Wengert notes in the forward, the early years of Martin Luther has been a long time interest for researchers and readers alike. Roland Bainton’s Here I Stand dedicates half of the work to Luther’s life up to 1521 (This classic work is still the best introduction to the life of Luther). Berndt Hamm’s The Early Luther (Eerdmans, 2014) continues this trend in this volume translated by Martin J. Lohrmann.

Instead of a negative depiction of Luther’s monastic days, Hamm deems Luther’s early years as instructive to his mature thought. He situates Luther firmly within his late medieval, Catholic, and monastic context. As an eager student, Luther worked in conjunction with these traditions for many years, formulating much of his theological categories. Hamm demonstrates not only his years of research in medieval thought, but also rightly conveys Luther’s debt to late medieval theology.

Continue reading

Share Button