The Marburg Colloquy online

Noack_1869_MR-ReligionsgesprächDid you know that a transcript survives of the Marburg Colloquy (1529), in which Luther and Zwingli debated the presence of Christ in the elements of Holy Communion?  Did you know that it is posted online?

This meeting, attended by virtually all of the major figures of the early Reformation, was an attempt to settle the Reformation’s sacramental teachings once and for all.  Phillip of Hesse organized the event in an attempt to unify the Reformation side in the face of imminent military threat from the Holy Roman Emperor.  But Luther would not water down his teaching for pragmatic reasons. With the Marburg Colloquy, the Lutherans and the Reformed went their separate ways, with most subsequent Protestants following, in effect, a non-sacramental approach to Christianity.

The transcript reads like a play, or a screenplay.  (Suggestion:  Somebody perform this!)  For all of its theological give and take, it has quite a few dramatic moments:  Luther writing “This is my body” in chalk on the table beneath a tablecloth, continually referring to it in the course of Zwingli’s rationalistic arguments.  Luther at more than one point saying, “I’m tired–Phillip [Melanchthon], you take over,” only to erupt at the next thing Zwingli says without letting Phillip get a word in edgewise.  The emotional moments on both sides.  The ending with its pleas for reconciliation and Luther’s devastating “we are not of the same spirit.”

Read the beginning after the jump and go to the link to read it all.  Notice the different approaches not just to the Sacrament but to the Bible and, above all, to Christology. [Read more…]

C. S. Lewis, atheist

C. S. Lewis, one of the foremost Christian apologists, had been for 15 years a convinced and rather militant atheist.  My friend and former colleague Joel Heck has written a splendid study of Lewis’s atheism, published by Concordia Publishing House:   From Atheism to Christianity:  The Story of C. S. Lewis

There are many kinds of atheism, just like there are many kinds of Christianity, and Joel unpacks the influences, books, and ideas that defined Lewis’s particular variety of unbelief.  In tracing Lewis’s life and intellectual development from his school days through the early years of his academic career, the book is a compelling biography.

In his recreation of the intellectual atmosphere of pre-war Oxford, Joel shows the important influence of idealist philosophers, such as F. H. Bradley and Henri Bergson.  Most studies of early modernism focus on materialism and existentialism.  And yet, arguably, the idealists–who said things like “”the Universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine” (James Jeans)–may have been even more important.  After all, T. S. Eliot, a founder of literary modernism, wrote his dissertation on Bradley.  Certainly the artistic modernists–Yeats and Joyce with their mythmaking; Stravinsky with his neo-primitive music; Picasso’s Cubism, Dalí’s Surrealism, and Kandinsky’s Abstractionism–are hard to reconcile with the definition of Modernism as an “age of reason.”  [Suggestion for graduate students:  Lots of good material for dissertations here!]

Both idealists and materialists could be atheist, and Lewis seems to have vacillated between the two, but idealism best accounted for his personal and aesthetic yearnings.  This new book also describes in detail how and why Lewis gave up his atheism, turning first to belief in a personal though philosophically-abstract deity, and then to the God of Abraham who became incarnate in Jesus Christ.

C. S. Lewis fans, apologists, intellectual historians, and atheists will all want to read this book.

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The three causes of war

512px-Thucydides_pushkin02The great Athenian historian Thucydides said that there are three causes of war:  (1) honor  (2) fear  (3)  national interest.

Jonah Goldberg discusses those factors and cites modern historian Donald Kagan, who says that honor comes first as the reason why a nation goes to war.  That motive is far more common, he says, than national interest.

World War I was surely caused by many nations’ sense of honor.  World War II was caused by Germany and Japan’s radical sense of national pride and the honor (and territory) to which they felt entitled.  Other countries fought them out of the rational fear that leads to self-defense.  The Cold War conflicts were sparked by ideology–should that modern concept be added to Thucydides’ causes?–but our national honor, if not our national interests, were at stake in Vietnam.

More recently, the Iraq War had as its official reason our fear of weapons of mass destruction, but we were also humiliated and outraged at the 9/11 attacks and our sense of honor required us to strike back at somebody.  It is said that Muslims have felt humiliated by the West for centuries, and this is a major motive for Islamic terrorism.

Goldberg applies Thucydides to the Mexicans and the wall.  He says that having a wall on the border may well be a good idea.  But if it is worth building, we should pay for it.  There is no need, he says, to humiliate Mexico by somehow forcing them to pay for it.   Not that Mexico would start a war, but that foreign policy should avoid needless insults to the honor of a country.

Donald Trump is building up American honor in the course of “making America great again.”  Does that mean that an America conscious of its greatness would be more likely to start a war if another country insults us?  But Trump is saying that the driving force of his government will be the national interest.  Ironically, attention to the national interest is the least likely cause of war, and it can keep us out of conflicts based merely on honor or fear. [Read more…]

China pushing Communism to replace failing Democracy

3205545010_28e80765c7_zChina says Western democracy has reached its limits and has started to deteriorate (alluding to Donald Trump’s victory without saying so).  Global Communism will take its place, with China supplying new universal values.

When I have referred to “still-Communist China,” some readers have said, in effect, are you kidding?  China has become capitalist, what with all of their entrepreneurs and wealth-building.  But orthodox Marxism teaches that societies must go through a capitalist phase in order for socialism to emerge.  The problem with the Soviet Union and Mao’s China is that they attempted to go from a feudal economy straight to socialism, which can’t really work.  Capitalism and with it Western democracy will eventually fall from their internal contradictions.

China has come up with a style of Communism that is working, pragmatically.  It is centered on economic growth, but state ownership and, what is just as effective, state control of the means of production continues.

What’s new here is China’s plan to export not just its goods but its ideology around the world.  The Communists still think they will bury us. [Read more…]

Susan B. Anthony and the other early feminists were pro-life

Susan_B._Anthony_G.E._PerineFeminists today hail the pioneers of women’s rights, the suffragettes and 19th century activists who crusaded for women’s right to vote and equality before the law.  But they also crusaded against abortion.

Yes, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Mary Wollstonecraft, Elizabeth Blackwell, and Sarah F. Norton would not have been allowed to participate in the “Women’s March on Washington” because they were pro-life.

Marjorie Dannenfelser gives the details after the jump.

UPDATE:  See also this, which discusses the Saturday Night Live skit and has a beautiful pro-life quote from Anthony.

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Live-blogging the Inauguration

Trump_Inaugural_Logo.svgBeing unable to resist significant moments in history, I’ll be watching the Inauguration ceremonies today and making comments here.

Things get started at 9:30 a.m. ET, with the actual inauguration ceremony starting at about 11:30 a.m. ET.  The swearing in will be at noon, whereupon Donald Trump will give his inaugural address.  I’ll be devoting most of my live-blogging to the speech.  Please join me with comments of your own.

On Saturday from 10:00-11:00 a.m. will be the Interfaith Prayer Service at the National Pantheon, I mean, the National Cathedral.  I can’t bear to watch that, but if you do, feel free to report on it by making a comment to this post.

After the jump, a schedule of the day’s activities.

UPDATE:  Here is a transcript of the speech.

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