Saturday, October 28, 2017

Reformation Day 500: Is Halloween Christian or not?

The Origins of Halloween

Halloween/All Saints' Eve has been corrupted and co-opted with a great deal of commercialism, mysticism, and Modern Neopagan/Wiccan influence. But the origins and purpose of the holy day are uniquely Christian. It did not originate in Celtic practices.

And despite the many articles and documentaries which may make the claim: Halloween does not come from pagan origins, witchcraft, or the occult. It was in no way attached to these kinds of belief systems in its origin. Only in the last 2 centuries have these other religious movements started to claim the day and integrate their own rituals with Halloween/All Saints.

This link has more full discussion with documentation:
(All Saints' Eve, All Saints' Day: Origins and Samhain-ization)

Here is a brief summary:

The development of Halloween as a Church Holy Day began over 1,000 years prior to any known evidence of a Celtic day or festival with the name Samhain (pronounced "Sow-in"). The All Saints' day practices originated in non-Celtic areas and were widespread before the Celtic churches adopted the practice. Annual dates varied from region to region and became fixed on Nov 1 in the 8th century. The Celtic churches adopted this date from Rome and the Frankish kingdoms. This date was adopted by the Celtic Church nearly 2 centuries before there is any known mention of Samhain in Celtic literature.

The Reformation and Halloween

All Hallows' Eve/All Saints' Day is an historically significant day in the western Church not only because of the Church feast, but also because of the events that took place in Wittenberg in 1517. This year we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. It is more than a little ironic that the popular modern corruption of All Saints' Eve centers on fear, the supernatural, death, and the state of those who have died. This topic is addressed at this link: All Hallows' Eve in the Mediaeval Church and the Reformation.

If You're Really Into Learning More

I've put together a timeline/slideshow that highlights the development of Halloween, Samhain, and Celtic influences. It is available here.

And I have a short article dealing with some specific claims about a prehistoric megalithic tomb in Tara, Ireland. It is often claimed that this tomb must be evidence that Samhain is ancient, even pre-Celtic. But the claims do not really hold up. The article is: Samhain and The Mound of Hostages, Tara, Ireland.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Précis: Mazza, Roberta 2005 “Dalla Bruma ai Brumalia. Modelli di cristianizzazione tra Roma e Costantinopoli.”

A Précis of:
Mazza, Roberta
2005 “Dalla Bruma ai Brumalia. Modelli di cristianizzazione tra Roma e Costantinopoli.” in A. Saggioro (ed.), Diritto Romano e identità cristiana. Definizioni storico-religiose e confronti interdisciplinari. Carocci Editore, Rome, pp. 161-171.

Roberta Mazza is Lecturer in Graeco-Roman Material Culture at Department of Classics and Ancient History, University of Manchester, England. Her interest are Graeco-Roman Egypt, focusing on the Byzantine period, and the rise and spread of Christianity in the Roman Empire. She is a Research Fellow of the John Rylands Research Institute and Academic Honorary Curator of Graeco-Roman Egypt at the Manchester Museum. She has done extensive research and publication of Christian Papyri and Egyptian artefacts.

Précis by Joseph Abrahamson.
I took up this article because it discusses aspects of Brumalia and its relationship to the development of the liturgical calendar in late antiquity. The article is in part a response to Marguerite Harl’s 1981 “La dénonciation des festivités profanes dans le discours épiscopal et monastique, en Orient chrétien, à la fin du IVe siècl,e” and uses John Crawford’s 1919 “De Bruma et Brumalibus Festis.”

“From Bruma to Brumalia. Models of Christianity between Rome and Constantinople.”

1. Introduction

Mazza begins with noting the the work of M. Harl’s 1981 paper where the latter scholar noted the purpose of the Eastern Church Fathers in the late 4th century was “not so much the suppression of feasts as their limitation and purification.” (p. 161) For Harl this reflected the difficulties the Church faced in imposing a Christian festival calendar. Harl enumerated three kinds of festivals: Christian, Jewish, and Greek. But she did not elaborate on the Jewish festivals. Harl focused on the how the Fathers were leading the Christians to come to terms with the Greek festivals which permeated the culture around them. These pagan festivals were not merely rituals, but were complex expressions of social relationships, power relations, economic functions, and so forth. The term “profane” sums up all features of those feasts that cannot be done by Christians in their strictly religious character.

Mazza will focus on the historical development of Bruma, or Brumalia, a feast of gentile origin, and its development from late antiquity to the 10th century. The christianization of the calendar was a long, drawn-out process. The strategy of using Imperial political authority to shape the calendar appears to be more successful than the parallel condemnations of at least part of the Church.

2. The first attestation of the feast of Bruma/Brumalia

In the 10th chapter of De Idolatria Tertullian urges Christians against becoming school teachers because they might receive gifts contaminated by idolatry. One of the gifts Tertullian specifically mentions are Brumae honorariums. He mentions Bruma a second time as one of several examples of festivals from which he urges Christians to abstain.

Tertullian considered participation in Saturnalia, Ianuaria, Brumae and Matronalia as particularly grave offenses. The people he addresses were not particularly burdened with a heritage of Jewish festival practices, but the gentile pagan practices were very much a part of their cultural heritage. Tertullian works to create a distinct division between the Christian and the Gentile-pagan social practices through teaching. The idea was to prevent social mixing of pagan traditions with Christian ideology.

Neither Tertullian nor the reference in Martial indicate a particular date, only the common tradition of exchanging gifts. In other Latin literature the term Bruma indicates the shortest day of the year, winter, or the winter dark. But Martial’s reference of Bruma in relation to the festival of Saturn could imply that Bruma might even be the beginning of winter. Three later documents identify Bruma with November 24th. These identifications of date are found in the Calendar of 354, Laterculus Polemii Silvii [a 5th century list of Roman emperors and provinces], and twice in the 10th century Geoponica compiled for  Byzantine emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus. This last work indicates uncertainty in the 10th century about the precise date of Bruma.

Crawford in his 1919 “De Bruma et Brumalibus Festis” argued that the date of November 24 is an anticipatory celebration of the winter solstice. Crawford bases his argument on the calendar of Claudius Tuscus which John the Lydian translated into Greek from Latin in his De Ostentis. This calendar identifies the winter solstice by its similarities to November 24-the day to which the term Bruma is attached.

A 14th century Byzantine Codex from the Bodleian Library contains excerpts of 11th century monk/historian Michael Psellos. S. Weinstock in 1948 proposed an identification with the Greek word for “sunset” found on November 22 in this document with the beginning of winter. While there is no note of “sunrise” in this calendar, Weinstock proposed a connection between the dates and the Helios-Kronos myths, so that the Calendar of 354’s use of N. Invicti on December 25 be interpreted as the “birth of the sun.” He then listed anniversaries noted in Roman and Byzantine literature which corresponded to these two dates.

Thus what can be stated about Bruma is that it is a festival of late antiquity; the name is associated with November 24, the beginning of the darkest season, celebrated in a similar way to that of the festivals of Kronos, ended with the festival of Saturnalia and the winter solstice; connected with Sol Invictus.

[Note: It should be emphasized that the era in which Bruma/Brumalia developed is late antiquity, well after the Christian church associated Christmas with December 25th. Even so,  I believe there are too many associative leaps made here. I do not think the data actually suggest or support the strong associations made by Weinstock. Nor do I believe that Mazza’s summary here has been successfully argued. I think there is too much emphasis on the parallels selected by Crawford and Weinstock rather than a comprehensive look at the actual data surrounding Bruma/Brumalia-Joe]

3. Brumalia in Justinian Age [A.D 518-602]
“The reference to chthonic cults is made in De Mensibus (158) of John the Lydian during the age of Justinian, when the evidence regarding the celebration are more frequent:” (p. 165) Mazza cites a longer passage from De Mensibus where John is reflecting upon the historic past to explain certain festival behaviors associated with Brumalia that he states are apparent in his day. [Note: some 500 years later].

“The impression derived from the passage in question is that the author, in line with his antiquarian taste and the spirit of his age, proceeded to systematize a diverse matrix of rites within the chronological scheme proposed for his 'Work on the Months.’ It is also clear that late-age progressive secularization of Gothic holidays had to cause a slow loss of meaning and memory of the origins of such rites and related myths, which explains confusion and overlaps” that we see in John the Lydian. (p. 166)

For Mazza the most interesting point in the passage is the “celebrating by name”. That is, the festival is now called by a name: Brumalia.  “This kind of reform of the Brumalia, as we shall see, was in all probability introduced or at least encouraged by Justinian, in an attempt to exhort and neutralize all those recurring events listed above, which according to Lido constituted the true essence of the festival, linked to ancient cultures 'infernal demons', so many and so true that the Church rejected such celebrations.” This “celebrating by name” is attested in the Histories of Agathias of Smyrna regarding the December 577 earthquake in Constantinople and a contemporary anonymous epigram. (p. 166)

Mazza has now argued that the generic and somewhat arbitrarily gathered festivities listed by John the Lydian were given the name ‘Brumalia’ in the 6th century because of a recently established practice of giving a name to festivities that occur during a particular span of time. John Malalas’ contemporary or recently prior Chronographia (bk. 7) shows a sort-of nationalistic interest in creating an etiology for the festival of Brumalia grounding it in the struggle of Romulus and Remus at the foundation of Rome. Malalas describes both an imperial setting for the promulgation of Brumalia and an alphabetical naming custom for the celebration. The etiology ties together the shortening of the day, the winter, and the seasonal cessation of military activities. Similar etiologies can be found in 6th century authors like George Choiroboskos.
[Note: the dating of George Choiroboskos is contested, some now believe he flourished in the 9th century. But even with this author’s dates in question the works of Malalas and Choricius of Gaza are enough to demonstrate the historical patterns Mazza points out.-Joe]

“A written oration on the Brumalia of the Emperor Justinian by Choricius of Gaza [late 5th century to early 6th] confirms the importance of recurrence and re-reflects all the elements emerging from literary works to date.”(p. 168) It also demonstrates the geographic dispersion of the festival. The oration contains the same alphabetic naming elements connected with Brumalia as well as the focus on its nationalistic importance and the seasonal cessation of military activities. Choricius’ oration on Brumalia is completely without reference to the Church or Christian religious topics. It is an imperial oration giving great space to political themes. In the Justinian era the civic estate and the ecclesiastical state are transforming the calendar to their own distinct purposes, but neither has exclusive or overwhelming power in that transformation.

A papyrus from Oxyrhynchus (xxvii, 2480, 37-40) dating from A.D. 565-566 demonstrates the reach of influence of the Justinian court to Egypt where Brumalia is listed as the occasion/date and greeting on a list of goods and services. This “testimony is very interesting because it reiterates the real plan of celebration and confirms what is found in the literary sources analyzed above,” including the suspension of military activity. (p. 169)

Most of the evidence we have is of the secular/civil festival as it took place in official contexts, though for the festival to recur it would need a level of popular acceptance. The more ‘conservative’ traditions mentioned by John the Lydian which were revived came perhaps from the common people. There is in the Corinthian Museum a  4th to 6th century funerary inscription of a Christian priest that testifies to the festival.

Mazza believes the evidence converges in a way that suggest the celebration by name of Brumalia was new to John the Lydian and built out of features from different cultic practices, given impetus or promoted by Justinian. (p. 170) Mazza identifies two possible aims for imperial intervention: in alliance with the Church one goal is the neutralization of paganism and its practices, and the strengthening of the ceremonial court with public and popular ritual, games, and festivities. Mazza gives examples from the life of Justinian which are directed at these aims. Justinian had to manage the tension between honoring the principles of Christianity and the pagan cultural heritage of the vast imperial culture. The traditions of the greater pagan cultural festivals would be especially ingrained, difficult to eradicate.  Repression of the pagan practices had been mandated and attempted on occasion, but some particular traditions were particularly significant to the civil public office. On other occasions after abolishing pagan practice the architecture was allowed to remain, but set apart for Christian use. In the East the limits upon civic authority and religious authority as well as the tension between them inhibited either estate from simple change by fiat either singly or as a united front.

4 The Endurance of the Festival beyond Late Antiquity

That the festival named Brumalia endured into the 7th and 8th centuries is shown in the explicit condemnation by the Council in Trullo cannon 62 (Quinisext held at Constantinople under Justinian II A.D. 691-2) and by a Synod of Rome under Pope Zachary in A.D. 743. At Constantinople a festival called Brumalia still existed in the 10th century, features of which are recorded in De Cerimoniis (bk 2, ch 18) which records observations that at this time the festival took place over two days and was of significant value to the throne. It involved explicitly Christian liturgical features and non-ecclesiastical traditions (e.g., singing, dancing, dining, processions, gift giving, candles and torch lighting). These last elements, Mazza, asserts had gone through a long period of secularization from their original gentile roots and are obvious evidence of pagan influence and symbolic or evocative of the winter solstice.

[Note: everybody had to use candles and torches during this time of year, even if they were not pagan. Sometimes a candle is a candle. Similarly the other elements are not of necessity uniquely non-Christian.-Joe]

Mazza closes with a final quotation and comment to show that Brumalia was understood in the 10th century not primarily as a religious issue but rather as an issue of Roman imperial identity strengthened by traditions surrounding its heritage from the founding of Rome.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Précis: Harl, Marguerite 1981 “La dénonciation des festivités profanes dans le discours épiscopal et monastique, en Orient chrétien, à la fin du IVe siècle”

A Précis of:
Harl, Marguerite
1981 “La dénonciation des festivités profanes dans le discours épiscopal et monastique, en Orient chrétien, à la fin du IVe siècle” D'Alexandrie hellénistique à la mission de Besançon Annales littéraires de l'Université de Besançon  Année 1981  Volume 262  Numéro 1  pp. 123-147

Marguerite Harl was professor of post-classical Greek language and literature at the Sorbonne (Paris-IV) from 1960 to 1986. She established a course on Christian writers (the "Greek Fathers") of Late antiquity. She founded the Editions du Cerf  collection La Bible d’Alexandrie, a commentary translation of the books of the Septuagint, of which she published the first volume, Genèse, in 1986. She has also published research on Philo of Alexandria, and early patristic writers Clement of Alexandria and Origen.

Précis by Joseph Abrahamson.
I took up this article because I saw it cited in works related to my research on Christian holy days and in my research in New Testament Textual Criticism.  The author generally gives quotation of the Patristic sources in endnotes, but there are several points which seem to me to be overly general and somewhat coerced into her thesis.

“The Denunciation of Profane Festivals in the Episcopal and Monastic Discourse of Eastern Christianity at the End of the 4th Century.”

Harl explains that her study is not on the theological significance or spiritual interpretation of the feasts. Rather, she is interested in the motive for the prodigious denunciations of secular festivities which seem deliberately confused with pagan religious feasts. The denouncements of the Christians focus on corporate expressions of joy, so then what is left to the Christian for expressions of joy in Christian feasts or for Christians celebration of secular festivals? The Christian writers use negative examples from these feasts to teach concerning proper Christian celebration of feasts. Their writings provide evidence of how they defined a unique Christian identity separate from the world in which they lived.

The data Harl selected comes from what she describes as “festival speeches” found in the Eastern Church dating from the last thirty years of the 4th century. The speeches are selected from those which focus on the annual liturgical feasts of the Christian Church: Christmas, Easter, Pentecost; or else on the commemorations of particular notable saints. The authors are notable leaders: Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, John Chrysostom; preaching in the cities of Cappadocia, Constantinople, or Antioch; who were experienced with monastic life. These writers show evidence of a topos (a literary structure consistent in rhetorical form) beginning with highlighting the Christian festival, the reason for observing the feast, and developing a point of doctrine to teach. Then the authors would move into the use of negative examples from pagan and secular feasts.

Part I: “The Praise of the Christian Festival”
After the brief introduction Harl presents a short discussion to highlight how these Fathers taught the appropriate use of the Christian feast to occupy the time and space of the church year as a model for the Christian occupying the time and space of the world. The Christian feast day as a “day” looks back to the work of Christ as the Savior-God-- particularly focusing on the “day” of Resurrection, teaches and enables the Christian to live in the world “today”, and builds the Christian to look forward to “the day to come” of Christ’s return.

The Christian feast is described as being for the faithful. The preachers emphasize diversity of the nations and social stations out of which the faithful have been called to be one unified body in Christ. The preeminent focus is the joy of the believer as a gift from God which celebrates the victory won by Christ’s resurrection, given to the believer in this world, and which will be fully realized at the Second Coming. The seasons of fasting and repentance stand in contrast to the feast day and enable the believer to appreciate the contrast of life in this world v. life in Christ. Regular occupations are to be put aside, but the day is not for “doing nothing.” The Christian is to be occupied the entire festival day with the liturgy, hymns, praise, thanksgiving and especially being taught God’s Word. [Harl does not particularly note this, but the liturgy would be a celebration of the Sacrament of the Altar]. The spaces for the festival are the interiors of churches or tombs of the saints, adorned with lights (lamps or candles), and other decorations. Christians are to dress festively in their finery. All of these aspects contribute to the brilliance of the festival. Christians are directed not only to joy but acts of joy, the exchanging of greetings, letters, gifts, acts of charity all as demonstrations of fraternal love, including the emancipation of slaves. The preacher emphasizes that the feast celebrated on this day is a foretaste of the marriage feast of the Lamb on “the day to come.”

Part II: “The Blame of Other Festivals”
After this survey of positive exhortations Harl turns to her focus on the denunciations. Previous discussions have concluded that the denunciation of other festivals was a rhetorical device used to highlight by contrast to enhance the praise of the brighter Christian festival. Harl believes the rhetorical approach neglects a proper understanding of the ideological function of the text. “I take these passages seriously, considering that they have an ideological and not just a rhetorical function in the text. From them I try to measure the efforts made by the episcopal discourse, in agreement with other official documents of the Church, in order to fight among the Christians the temptation of excessive profane festivities. My hypothesis is that the literary topos also has the value of argumentation and that it aims at a reality.”(p. 126, italics original)

The list of negatives is strongly patterned and build revulsion by each element.

The shortest form couples refusal to celebrate the “Jewish” with refusal to celebrate the “Greek” festivals. This double refusal parallels the Council of Nicea’s formula against Sabellianism and Arianism. “But the double refusal of the Jewish festivals and the Greek feasts also corresponds to a reality: Christians are tempted to participate in real festivals that take place in their cities: Jewish feasts, feasts of the Greeks. This is forbidden to them, since they must celebrate their own festivals, according to their own calendar, without confusion.” (p. 127) [Note: I would suggest that these formulae echo Leviticus 18:3 “After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do: and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk in their ordinances.”]

The second form of denunciation, also brief but four-fold, is based on Romans 11:13-14, placing the festival day in an eschatological context looking to the “day of days.” The Pauline list is "orgy and drinking, lying and debauchery." None of these are appropriate for a Christian feast. “By excluding Christian behavior from what they attribute to the licentious processions of Greek festivals, preachers actually aim for a reality that they know in their own community: Christians were drunk on the eve of Lent and at the end of Lent, for Easter. Several Easter sermons bear the double title: ‘for Easter and against drunkenness’.“ (p. 128)

“The longest form of denunciation can be read in the Discourses of Gregory of Nazianzen. The earliest text appears in the second Discourse against the Emperor Julian, which dates from 364.” (p. 128) This contains a list of eight features non-Church festivals with prohibitions but balanced by positive substitutions. “The rhetoric of negation and substitution gives a picture of what Christians must refuse: festivities in order of the body (embellishment, food, perfumes, music ...) must be replaced by corresponding acts in the order of the mind, or regulated by temperance. ‘You dance too, because you love festivals and festivities, do it; but do not imitate the indecent dance of Herodias' daughter. . . , imitates that of David after the deposit of the ark ... ‘" (p. 128)

The other long form is a big text from Gregory of Nazianzen is from his  Christmas Sermon of 380 at Constantinople. It parallels the Discourse against Julian but includes twenty-two negations. The preacher addresses concern that the Greek ways appeal to the senses, to the belly, to social acceptance, to personal vanity; while some involve direct violations of God’s command: drunkenness, orgies, etc. The ultimate danger is falling into idolatry by setting aside Christian cultural distinctives in the celebration of Christian festivals.

Harl considers this literary topos successful. This literary form of denunciation is found in three other festival addresses. These are  Paschal homilies of insecure attribution: the most complete is from Astrius the Sophist and combines the Pauline formula with the double refusal; another is attributed to John Chrysostom, the third, later, is from Leonce of Constantinople.

Harl turns to making some general observations apart from the local features of the festivals and the rhetorical form.

First: Secular festivals must be purified. She observes four consistent points across the denunciations.
  1. The Christian festival must be that of the mind and the heart, rather than that of the bodies;
  2. it must observe the measure by eliminating all excesses;
  3. it must preserve the diurnal character by expelling all the vices of the night-life;
  4. it must take place in an interior space (family and church) without deploying in the streets and public squares.

Second: The manner in which the festivities of the body, the excesses, etc., are denounced, is notable because the preachers hardly ever give a religious motivation to these condemnations. Their denunciations parallel the pagan Greek Moralists. There are some brief religious arguments, but the main point of condemning secular festivities is “as gross revels in the areas of drinking, eating, laughing, dancing, sexuality, etc. It is the sensual and licentious atmosphere of pagan ceremonies which is denounced.”(p. 130) Harl sees the preacher as desiring to bring out a contrast “to show the moral progress that Christianity brings to humanity.” (p. 131)

Third: “The will of the preachers is not to suppress the secular festivities but to limit them and above all to purify them.” Harl’s idea is that “to limit” means to discourage Christians from the excesses of a secular festival that are contrary to a proper celebration of a Christian festival. “The preachers know that the faithful need, especially after the periods of fasting and penance, these moments of ‘relaxation’, of collective joy. They do not want to suppress the manifestations of joy, but they recommend mastery, limitation, transformation as well.” (p. 131)

And Fourth: “The most important information that these warnings give us is that the preachers consider it useful to do so: they attest to the real competition that the pagan festivals still held at Christian festivals, as also the official documents of the Church.” (p. 132) Harl then turns to a brief examination of these Church documents.

The Synod of Ancrya (A.D. 314) and the Council of Laodicea (A.D. 364-5) prohibit Christians from (e.g.):
  1. Using the feasting places proper to the pagans,
  2. Celebrating pagan festivals with them the pagans,
  3. Banking with pagans.
  4. Observing the Jewish Sabbath laws.
  5. Celebrating Jewish feasts.
  6. Accepting gifts given by Jews which come from Jewish feasts.

Similar prohibitions are found in the Apostolic Constitutions (A.D. 370-85) and the Theodosian Code (A.D. 438). These were enacted with the force of law suppressing pagan festivities and setting Christian feasts apart with special protections.

Harl notes that these denunciations of pagan practices were for the renunciation of sin, but she asserts that these denunciations are better explained by the preachers’ higher social status as monastics. Concerning this assertion she makes three points.

One: The Church in the baptismal formula sets out a “principle of exclusion” renouncing Satan and his works and ways. Harl generalizes on the actual baptismal ritual asserting it was symbolical of protecting the five senses of the baptized. These five senses are paralleled in the denunciations of pagan festivals. The monastic ideal emphasizes this baptismal “principle of exclusion.” The main writers Harl surveyed are monastics. Generalizing a bit again she writes “Monastic literature makes known anecdotes and apophthegms which similarly condemn festivals.”(p. 135)

“These monastic texts invite us to distinguish two opposite attitudes towards festivals: that of the Christian people of the cities and that of the anchorites [those who withdrew from society]. The preaching of the bishops tends to bring into the urban Christian crowd an echo of the ascetic virtues of the monks. But there is an important discrepancy between these two environments, between the extreme rigorism of some and the taste for pleasure of others.”(p. 135)

Two: The rigor of the preachers is also explained by their duty in office. Harl asserts that this duty is complemented by the social status these men held. These bishops were aristocrats who would naturally disdain public excess of the masses. “They were chosen as bishops because they came from noble, rich families, that they were cultivated and trained in the technique of speech.” “Their concern to define the Christian festival in contrast with the pagan festivals, or at least with the immorality of the profane rejoicings, is the concern to ensure the Christian community in its moral identity and to carry on with it a work of education: they concede détente, provided that the excesses are restrained. Measure, self-control, temperance remain the rules.”(p. 135)

Three: The image of the Christian festival they seek to impose is a purified prefigurement of the Celestial Feast at the consummation of the age. “The long Greek ascetic tradition advocating the mastered body is evidently taken up in Christian preaching: it also evokes the body denied by monastic asceticism and the sublimated body: the angelic body promised to the hope of eschatology, of incorporeal, purely "spiritual" festivals.” (p. 136)

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Gregory, Brad S. 2017, "Rebel in the Ranks: Martin Luther, the Reformation, and the Conflicts that Continue to Shape our World."

This is just an example of the problems with Brad Gregory's recent book: "Rebel In the Ranks: Martin Luther, the Reformation, and the Conflicts that Continue to Shape our World."

Gregory identifies the root of all modern problems with Luther's Sola Scriptura.

Page 108: "Urging the average layperson to determine Christian teaching from the scriptures is like asking someone who's never worked a blacksmith's forge or operated a bellows to hammer out some horseshoes."
Well, Dr. Gregory's words are more fitting if made as an assessment of the poor condition of the teaching of the church at that time.

Assume that the common layperson were required to attend church at least once a week, more often than that would not be too presumptuous for the late Middle Ages. The comparison would be more accurate if likened to asking someone who has been required by church law to be instructed every week for his whole life by a blacksmith, shown how the tools work, and given personal instruction in the use of those tools, the hammer the bellows, the forge--someone who has even been shown by hand how to make a horseshoe and physically lead through doing the process by the blacksmith.

Why then should the layperson be unable or unqualified to make such a determination? I wouldn't assume that they were unqualified, unless, of course, the blacksmith was teaching them incorrectly or misleading them all those years about what it means to be a blacksmith.