Luther’s bar tunes

Luther used bar tunes in his hymns, right?  So we too can use the pop music of the entertainment industry for our church songs, right?  Once again, as I have explained before, a “bar tune” in music history is NOT a song that was sung in our kind of “bars”!  Peter Berg explain:

Luther did not use bar songs but rather his own creations and the musical heritage of the church catholic. The term bar refers to the type of staff notation used in medieval musical composing.  . . .

The musical notation was simply a repeat sign, known in Luther’s day as a “bar”. Yes, believe it or not, some wacky American Lutherans saw Luther’s reference to “barred music” in German and changed the repeat sign into a pub!  Why did Luther write positively about “bar(red) music”?  Because it describes the musical form A A B.  He thought that the repetition of the music of the first phrase would help in learning, and then the B phrase would give the balance of variety.  Hence, many chorales are written in this way.  The reason “bars” were used for notating this form was  used to save ink & paper.  Today we simply call these “repeat signs”.  You see this even in 19th and early 20th-century hymnals: the music for the first line ends with a repeat sign, and then the second verse of the first stanza is written in.

Example:

First line of music (A)

Salvation unto us has come, by God’s free grace and favor (repeat sign)

Good works cannot avert our doom, they help and save us never.

SECOND line of music (B)

Faith looks to Jesus Christ alone, who did for all the world atone; He is our one Redeemer.

via Steadfast Lutherans » Did Luther Endorse “Bar” Music for the Church? by Phillip Magness.

Cranach’s book of portraits

Thanks to Paul McCain for tipping me off to this remarkable book of portraits by Lucas Cranach (or possibly his son or his workshop), now made available in digital format online by the Dresden State Archives and Library.

It’s called Das Sächsische Stammbuch: Sammlung von Bildnissen sächsischer Fürsten, mit gereimtem Text; aus der Zeit von 1500 – 1546. That is, in my rough translation, The Saxon Family Album: A Compilation of Pictures of the Saxon Nobility with Rhymed Text, from 1500-1546. It consists of a hand-written manuscript with portraits of the Saxon Princes, Counts, and Electors and their families, virtually all of whom were key players during the Reformation.

Here is John the Steadfast, along with his wife Elizabeth. He is known as “the first Protestant”–the first “protester” of the Church of Rome to be called by that name–and without his forceful defense of Luther (even more so than his father Frederick the Wise) and his practical provision for the evangelical churches, the Reformation would have been crushed.

If anyone can make out and translate the accompanying verses (the larger page is here, he or she will receive the thanks and accolades of us all.

UPDATE: This portrait is Duke John of Saxony, not John the Steadfast. Thanks to Martin Winter who did make out and translate the German verses, so we heap on him the thanks and accolades that we promised. John the Steadfast is on p. 213 of the book, which you can easily find via the link. Martin translates the verses about him, and they are very inspiring. (Go to the comments.) I wonder who wrote those verses, if they too are by a Cranach.

Would proof of God eliminate Christianity?

Joe Carter takes on an intriguing argument:

Would evidence for God mean the end of atheism and Christianity? Yes, says Matt J. Rossano, a professor and department head of psychology at Southeastern Louisiana University. In a peculiar article at The Huffington Post, Rossano argues that scientific evidence for the existence of God is fatal to both the faith of the atheist and the believer.

via Would Evidence for God Mean the End of Atheism and Christianity? » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.

Rossano reasons that indisputable proof of God would violate free will, which is necessary to Christianity.  Joe shows, on behalf of Reformation theologians everywhere, that this notion of free will is NOT essential to Christianity.  Rossano would do better to argue that scientific certainty would eliminate faith, which IS essential to Christianity.

Joe does anticipate that line of thought.  He argues that faith is NOT believing without evidence, that, in fact, there is an abundance of evidence for God’s existence.  It is true that for Christians and even non-Christians in the past, the question of God’s existence was not even an issue. Even doubt was not about whether God exists, but whether God is gracious to me and whether I can trust Him to keep His promises.

But given that faith is not just “belief in whether something exists,” does faith still require the hiddenness of God (to use a Reformation concept)?  Would knowing God as we know other scientifically verified facts involve walking by sight and not by faith?  If faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen, that would connote a kind of certainty, but would faith be undermined if everything were seen?

The Huguenot Cross

I learned that in France, Protestants–particularly Protestant women–can be identified by their wearing the Huguenot Cross. The Huguenots (the origins of the name are uncertain) were French followers of the Reformation. Sometimes they thrived, but other times they endured horrible persecution. In the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre (August 24-October 3, 1572), as many as 25,000 were slaughtered. At any rate, this legacy has given them a certain defiant attitude. In Strasbourg, which has a strong Protestant heritage to this day, both Reformed and Lutheran, I noticed waitresses in cafes and others wearing this cross:

Huguenot Cross

As it was explained to me, the cross is Trinitarian.  The circle represents the Father; the cross represents the Son; and the dove is the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son.  It exists in different versions, with the French fleur de lis, as here, hearts, etc.  The cross itself is a Maltese Cross, which is the sign of the order of the Hospitillers, the Knights of Malta written about by Bo Giertz in the novel “The Knights of Rhodes” translated by our Bror Erickson.  (He’s got a new edition coming out!  More on that later!)  The reason is that the original patron of the Hugeuenots, King Henry IV, had a connection to that order.  I was told that it points to not just the crusading of that order but of their opening hospitals, and so it symbolizes works of mercy.  Actual Huguenots followed the theology of their fellow Frenchman Jean Calvin, but I saw Lutherans also wearing this cross.

At any rate, it’s a cool piece of jewelry.  I got my wife one.

Martin Luther’s Body

I was browsing through the library, when imagine my surprise when I saw the latest issue of the American Historical Review with a big picture of Luther and Melanchthon on the cover.  The lead article is entitled “Martin Luther’s Body,” focusing on how fat he was (contrasting to the skinniness of the medieval saints) and on how his language, thinking, acting, and theology were all so physical.

The article is alternatively humorous (as when the author discusses and defends Luther’s scatalogical language), absurd (discussing the social construction of the body), and insightful (relating Luther’s physicality to that of Lutheran spirituality, with its insistence–against both Catholicism and other Protestantism–that Christ’s presence in the Sacrament is physical and in physical bread).  She also notes Lutheranism’s embrace of the physical realm, in its relatively positive views of sex, food and drink, the body, and earthly life (what we would call “vocation”).  The thing is, the scholar seems to get Luther and Lutheranism!

Like most scholarly journals, this one is only available online with a subscription, but here is a description from the journal’s press release:

Lyndal Roper takes a fresh look at Martin Luther in the April 2010 issue of the American Historical Review, focusing on the way depictions emphasizing Luther's “monumentality” and his own relationship to his body informed the theology of Lutheranism.

“This was a man whose body was fundamental to his personality,” writes Roper, a fellow and tutor in history at Balliol College, University of Oxford. Unlike saints and other pious figures, whose thinness illustrated their aversion or indifference to the temptations of the flesh, Luther’s stoutness was an unmistakable feature of his iconographic representations, she notes. . . .

In “Martin Luther’s Body: The ‘Stout Doctor’ and His Biographers,” Roper explores the way Luther constantly referred to the body — and specifically his body — in his writings and pronouncements, especially in the famous Table Talk.

Rather than seeing his preoccupation with the body as a character defect or neurosis, she proposes that Luther “offered a religious worldview that did not separate soul and body but incorporated a robust, redoubtable, and often mucky physicality.” Luther’s physicality — “his bulk, his digestion, his anality” — was intrinsic to his theology, including his views of the devil, she writes. Portraits of “the stout doctor” during and shortly after his life helped establish the emerging identity of Lutheranism.

via AHR for April: Luther’s body, suicide in Africa, the state in South Asia: IU News Room: Indiana University.

The Spirit of Antichrist

The Swedish dissident pastor Fredrik Sidenvall’s paper on “Confessing the Faith in an Anti-Christian Culture,” which was delivered on his behalf at the recent Congress on the Lutheran Confessions in Minneapolis offered a fascinating Biblical and Confessional study of what is meant by “Antichrist.”

In Lutheran usage, it is not some political figure who seizes power before the last days, such as End Times enthusiasts are always trying to identify. Though the last days will indeed involve the reign of an antichrist, there are actually many of them throughout history, as the Epistle of John indicates, and they arise WITHIN the Church.

They also have different marks. An antichrist will be a “man of lawlessness”; he will be a “destroyer of truth”; and he will offer a “new gospel.”

With these criteria and others, the Reformation identified the papacy as antichrist. Sidenvall argues that today, those who best fit those criteria are LIBERAL THEOLOGIANS.

I would add that St. John says that the antichrist will deny that Jesus has come in the flesh. To my knowledge, popes have not done that. But liberal theologians–the neo-gnostics, those who distinguish between the “Christ event” and the historical Jesus, and the rationalists who reject the Incarnation–do make that very denial.


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