Thursday, July 5, 2012

Hiddenness is the root of the matter

"We learn that our friend's land has been overrun by invaders or stricken by famine, or that our friend has died; or, much worse, we learn that our friend has forsaken the faith or has committed some moral offense that threatens death to his soul; and we learn all this impotently at the opposite end of the world.  Anyone who has lived in one country and had friends or family in another knows what Augustine means:  the very availability of communications crucifies us more perceptibly on the ineradicable fact of absense, which heightens the hiddenness that casts a shadow over the best of our social relations.
     "Hiddenness is the root of the matter.  No one, perhaps, before Kierkegaard was so vexed by the difficulties we experience in displaying our hearts to one another.  It is this, rather than the pride of original sin, the dazzle of glory, the iron rod of power, or the lure of sensuality, which casts a shadow over all social relations.  We may be deceived in one another.  To follow Augustine to the fourth stage, the Universe, is to see how this inexorable law applies also in our relations with the spirits and demons which imprint their character upon the institutions of the earthly city.  Empire, because it unifies us, tempts us to think that this constraint can be overcome; but. . . . It d[oes] not overcome the resistance of the human heart to mutual knowledge. . . . [Lucretia] sought death because 'she was unable to disclose the purity of her conscience to the world' ([City of God] 1.19).
     "These chapters are a microcosm of Augustine's social thought.  Either we find that they illumine the constraints of social existence as little else in Western literature can, or we shake our heads in bewilderment and ask, 'But why was he so gloomy?'  If it does not trouble us that we are ignorant of what our children are thinking, that our spouse may be sleeping with our best friend, that many inmates of our prisons may be innocent of the crimes for which they are being punished, that foreign relations are built upon a capacity to repel sudden and unforseen attack; or if we think that there are alternative patterns of political life available which are not vulnerable to treachery, stupidity, or simple conflicts of view, then we will find Augustine's somber rhetoric merely perplexing.  But in that case, Augustine will say to us, we are hardly fit to be citizens of the heavenly city, in which each will be transparent to all:  patebunt cogitationes nostrae invicem nobis (22.29.6)."

     Oliver O'Donovan, "The political thought of City of God," in Oliver O'Donovan and Joan Lockwood O'Donovan, Bonds of imperfection:  Christian politics, past and present (Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2004), 71-72 (48-72), small caps mine.  patebunt cogitationes nostrae invicem nobis:  our thoughts will lie mutually open to us (one another).

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

"doctrine must be carefully distinguished from life. . . . [W]e can be lenient toward errors of life", but not toward errors of doctrine.

"With the utmost rigor we demand that all of the articles of Christian doctrine . . . be kept pure and certain.  This is supremely necessary.  For this doctrine is our only light, which illuminates and directs us and shows the way to heaven; . . . We can be saved without love and concord [among churches] . . . but not without pure doctrine and faith. . . .  Therefore, as I often warn you, doctrine must be carefully distinguished from life. . . .  [W]e can be lenient toward errors of life.  For we, too, err daily in our life and conduct; so do all the saints, as they earnestly confess in the Lord's Prayer and the Creed.  But by the grace of God our doctrine is pure; we have all the articles of faith solidly established in Sacred Scripture.  The devil would dearly love to corrupt and overthrow these; that is he attacks us so cleverly with this specious argument about not offending against love and the harmony among the churches."

     Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians (1535) 5:10 ("and he who is troubling you will bear his judgment, whoever he is"), trans. Jaroslav Pelikan = LW 27, 41-42 = WA 40, p. 51 l. 15-p. 52 l. 25, as quoted by Carter Lindberg, in his "Luther's critique of the ecumenical assumption that doctrine divides but service unites," Journal of ecumenical studies 27, no. 4 (Fall 1990):  684 (679-696).
     "We can be saved without love and concord" is going too far (cf. e.g. the "faith which worketh by charity" of the Decree on justification (Trent VI.7)), but there is something to the point Luther is making here nonetheless.

"Doctrine and life are to be distinguished.  Life is as bad among us as among the papists.  Hence, we do not fight and damn them because of their bad lives.  Wyclif and Hus, who fought over the moral quality of life, failed to understand this.  I do not consider myself to be pious.  But when it comes to whether one teaches correctly about the Word of God, there I take my stand and fight.  That is my calling.  To contest doctrine has never happened until now.  Others have fought over life; but to take on doctrinethat is to grab the goose by the neck! . . . [W]hen the Word of God remains pure, even if the quality of life fails us, life is placed in a position to become what it ought to be.  That is why everything hinges on the purity of the Word.  I have succeeded only if I have taught correctly" (WA, Tischreden 1, pp. 294-295 (#624), as quoted by Lindberg (683), quoting Ozment; Lindberg, at least, gives no indication what a mishmash of Latin and German this is in the original!).

"It is not a fruit of the Spirit to criticize a doctrine by the imperfect life of the teacher. . . . I am not so much offended by the unfruitfulness of the spirit of Allstedt [Müntzer] as I am by his lying and his attempt to establish other doctrines.  I would have paid little attention to the papists, if only they would teach correctly.  Their evil life would not cause much harm. . . . For the Spirit of Christ condemns no one who teaches rightly, but bears with and supports and helps those who live rightly.  He does not despise weak sinners as this Pharisaical spirit [Müntzer] does" ("Letter to the Princes of Saxony concerning the rebellious spirit" (1524), LW 40, 57 (49-59), as quoted by Lindberg (684); cf. WA 15, 218 (210-221)).

But Luther wasn't always consistent:  "John Huss preached thus against the Pope from Matt. xvi. 18 — 'The gates of hell shall not prevail against my church. Is there there any obscurity or ambiguity? But the gates of hell do prevail against the Pope and his, for they are notorious throughout the world of their open impiety and iniquities. Is there any obscurity here either? ERGO: THE POPE AND HIS, ARE NOT THE CHURCH CONCERNING WHICH CHRIST SPEAKS'" (De servo arbitrio 37, trans. Henry Cole (discussion of the perspicuity of Scripture) =WA 18, 657, ll 21 ff.; note that there is no emphasis in the original as reproduced in the Weimarer Ausgabe).

Sunday, July 1, 2012

"I never saw the books!"

Thomas Dahill, Maria Grossmann (2006),
via Anne Miniver Press.
     Dr. Maria Schweinberg Grossmann, on why she returned to the Andover-Harvard Theological Library in 1979 after six years as the Librarian for Collection Development at Harvard more generally.  Russell Pollard, in "100 years young:  the Andover-Harvard Theological Library," a presentation of four Andover-Harvard librarians at the 2012 Annual Conference of the American Theological Library Association, Saturday, 30 June 2012.  Cf. Alan Seaburg, Maria and Walter Grossman, scholarly librarians:  a biographical bibliography (Billerica, MA:  Anne Miniver Press, An Anne Miniver Butterfly Technologium Publication, 2011), where this appears as well.