Thursday, July 29, 2021

The dangers of an (understandable) obsession with Entsittlichung

      "As in German Protestantism generally, so also in Hamburg [the] political 'rebirth' of Germany and [the] religious as well as moral 'renewal of the German people' circulated 'as diffuse rallying cries [(Reizworte)] and allowed the current situation of the church to appear as a kind of Babylonian Exile' (Kurt Nowak).  Thinking and feeling mostly as German nationalists, persevering in fear of [a] Bolshevism inimical to Christianity [(kirchenfeindlichen)], and giving credence to the NSDAP’s affirmations of 'positive Christianity,' an overwhelming majority of Protestants saw in the 'national outbreak [(Aufbruch)]' of Hitler’s cabinet a signal that a powerful national politics—the re-Christianization of society and the moral elevation associated therewith—[had] again now made an appearance in Germany.  Community spirit, clear political leadership, and the Christianization of society constituted, so Kurt Nowak, an intersection between what National Socialism promised and what those in the church wished for.  The affinity of the Protestant milieu for the NSDAP was therefore [an] expression of the problematic faith [that] the aporias of modern political and social organization could be overcome by the production of 'unequivocality [(Eindeutigkeit)' in a ‘community of the people [(Volksgemeinschaft)].''"

     Erik Eichholz, "Gefangenenseelsorge und nationalsozialistischer 'Strafernst':  zur Politik der hamburgischen Landeskirche in der Gefangenenfrage," Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte 12, no. 1 (1999): 173-174 (172-188).  A specialist could tell right away by the way I've translated these catchphrases that I have done very little reading in this area!

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

"Where no binding relation to the truth exists, the Word dies."

"Wo kein bindendes Verhältnis zur Wahrheit besteht, stirbt das Wort."

     Reinhold Schneider, as quoted without a citation in Heinrich Wilhelmi,
Die Hamburger Kirche in der nationalsozialistischen Zeit 1933-1945 (Göttingen:  Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1968), 295.  Whether "Word" should be capitalized, I don't know.  Just before this Wilhelmi quotes Hans Buchheim, citing "Struktur der totalitärien Herrschaft und Ansätze totalitären Denkens," Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte 8 (1960):  180:

The darkening, indeed in many cases even the destruction of our relation to the truth is . . . that which stands at the outset of every kind of totalitarianism, and for which we bear complete intellectual responsibility. 
Die Trübung, ja in manchen Fällen sogar die Zerstörung unseres Verhältnisses zur Wahrheit ist es also, die am Anfang des Entstehens jeder Art von Totalitarismus steht, und dafür tragen wir die volle intellektuelle Verantwortung.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

God isn't in the business of "sanctify[ing] our present way of life"

"Accept, O Lord, we pray, the offerings which we bring from the abundance of your gifts, that through the powerful working of your grace these most sacred mysteries may sanctify our present way of life and lead us to eternal gladness.  Through."

"Suscipe, quaesumus, Domine, munera, quae tibi de tua largitate deferimus, ut haec sacrosancta mysteria, gratiae tuae operante virtute, et praesentis vitae nos conversatione sanctificent, et ad gaudia sempiterna perducant.  Per."

     Super oblata, Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Missale Romanum (and earlier).  The  problem with this translation is that though conversatio can certainly mean "way" or "manner," and though God is certainly interested in making our present ways of life progressively more holy (i.e. transforming them), it can give the impression that God is in the business of "sanctifying our present way of life" in the sense of giving it, unconverted, a kind of stamp or imprimatur.  (Also, the direct object of sanctificent is nos, not praesentis vitae . . . conversatione.)  So here's my stab at a more accurate rendition:

"ut haec sacrosancta mysteria . . . et praesenti vitae nos conversatione sanctificent, et ad gaudi sempiterna perducant":  that these most sacred mysteries may both sanctify us in the midst of (or even via (ablative of means)) the affairs of th[is] present life, and conduct [us] through [the latter] to joys eternal.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

"if the Quakers were creative in their heterodoxy, they were remarkably unimaginative when it came to proving their orthodoxy."

      Madeleine Pennington, Quakers, Christ, and the Enlightenment (Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2021), 114.  116:

even in its earliest form, the letter [to the Governor of Barbados] reflected Fox’s aspirations to demonstrate the Quakers’ theological reputation. 
Yet it also ultimately reflected how ill-equipped he was to do so. It drew on none of the Quakers’ own theological resources or distinctive insights. Fox’s use of the Apostles’ Creed in his description of God as ‘Creator of all things both in heaven and in earth’, and of Jesus as ‘Conceived by the Holy Ghost, and Born of the Virgin Mary’, was particularly surprising given the Quakers’ general position on conciliar authority. What purpose was served by quoting the creed in this manner, if not to deflect aspersions regarding one’s orthodoxy? And yet, Fox did not—could not—speak entirely with his own voice in this regard.

Shades of Marcellus of Ancyra?

Edward "Burrough defended the Quaker position on the historical Jesus, explaining that whilst Christ 'is one with the Father, and was with him before the world was', he was also 'made manifest in Judea and Jerusalem. … and was persecuted of the Jews, and was crucified … was buryed & rose again, according to the Scriptures'. Nonetheless, he went on to state that 'the same that came down from Heaven, is ascended up to Heaven, and the same that descended is he that ascended'. This suggested a denial of any true hypostatic union, as it implied that a spiritual presence had descended to earth, separate from humanity, and had returned to heaven untouched by the Incarnation. The same was reinforced by his highly spiritualized understanding throughout the piece, constant reiterations that God is Spirit, and reluctance to talk about Christ’s body."

     Madeleine Pennington on early Quaker spiritualism in general, Quakers, Christ, and the Enlightenment (Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2021), 97.  On Marcellus of Ancyra, see this post.  Cf. the Quaker George Whitehead in 1669:  "Where doth the Scripture speak of a Humane Nature of Christ in Heaven?" (111)  And again in 1674 (Christian-Quaker, 141):  ". . . we cannot own these to be Scripture Language, viz. 1. That Jesus Christ consisteth of human Flesh and Bone.  2. That the glorious hypostacical Union consists of a human and divine Nature, or that they are hypostatically one. . . ."  Though this seems damning enough, I have not nosed around in context, but am relying, for now, on Pennington's reading (126).  Some of what Whitehead says (just above this point) of the Son seems patently orthodox.  But he wants to restrict the concept of a hypostatic union to the doctrine of the Trinity, where it would be profoundly unorthodox, and denies to it here, within Christology (its only home!), any place whatsoever for a human nature.  Wow.  I'm beginning to see why it might once have been—to speak only of roots very, very deeply buried—a surprise to me to learn that God (which is to say, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity) is still—and will be forever—incarnate.  It's not "Scripture Language" to be sure, but then that's why you need the rest of the canonical tradition.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Early Quaker dualism

"we must not allow instances where [early] Friends implied an indwelling celestial flesh [of Christ] to distract from the more critical point that they were highly dualistic in their worldview."

     Madeleine Pennington, Quakers, Christ, and the Enlightenment (Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2021), 82.  82-83, underscoring mine:

Admittedly, Quakers were reluctant to describe Christ as 'humane', and Fox explicitly referred to him as a 'heavenly Man'. Nonetheless, they also made explicit claims that the flesh of Christ was 'took of the virgin', so shutting down readings of the Incarnation which tried to attach celestial significance to the flesh of the human Christ before His resurrection. In this sense, they did not affirm the importance of Christ’s flesh whilst denying that it came from Mary—rather, they resisted the significance of the flesh altogetherIndeed, even where they did imply such a belief, what they affirmed seems not to have differed ontologically from the purely spiritual nature, and the importance of this pure spirit to the Quaker vision is stressed time and time again. This is reflected in Richard Hubberthorne’s 1654 publication, The antipathy betwixt flesh and spirit. The very title of the publication demonstrated Hubberthorne’s acutely spiritualized religious concerns—and so, his distinction between 'terrestrial' and 'celestial' bodies, later in the same publication, must be read in the context of his obvious suspicion of physical matter. . . .
The implications of this context are twofold. First, only the 'celestial' body seems to have been afforded any real value at all. Secondly, Hubberthorne’s description of the celestial body was indistinguishable from how one might talk about the spirit alone: he did not elaborate on its nature except to distinguish it from carnal flesh. Neither did this passage equate to an affirmation of the centrality of Christ’s humanity or the Incarnation. Rather, he was simply using scriptural language as a shorthand to speak about Christ in a spiritual rather than physical sense, entailing the essential superiority of the spirit more strongly than ever—and indeed, this specific criticism would soon be levelled directly against the Quakers.
Again, that is not to say that Hubberthorne denied the Incarnation or the historical Christ: on the contrary, elsewhere he drew extensively on Jesus’s life and teachings to argue against the former royalist chaplain and priest, Richard Sherlock. Yet this was in the context of his fundamental assertion that the flesh was unable to bring forth 'the fruits of the spirit'. . . .
This is followed by a very illuminating contrast with the Muggletonians (84-86), in reaction to whose materialism "the early Friends were uncompromising in their understanding of God (and Christ) as pure spirit" (86).
     In short, the early Quakers were reluctant "to grant the flesh (even the flesh of Christ) any positive soteriological value" (86), and it was "for their spiritualized understanding specifically of Christ" (88, italics mine) that they were criticized by their contemporaries (local ministers, for example).  "the rector of Abbot’s Ripton in Cambridgeshire, Thomas Drayton, was happy to affirm that 'I am, I praise God for it, usually guided and assisted by that Spirit, which is alwayes infallible'. Drayton himself was identified as ‘perfectionist’ by the Anglican clergyman Jeremy Taylor. Yet this did not prevent him taking deep offence at the Quakers' perceived denial of all authority besides the Light (particularly that of the Scriptures) and apparent belief that Christ had no independent existence outside individuals" (88-89).