Thursday, February 21, 2008

Fortescue on the Church's Worst Enemy

This year is the one hundreth anniversary of Adrian Fortescue's book, The Greek Fathers. So I thought it would be a good time to get back into that fine introduction. I think I became aware of Fortescue by way of his liturgical work before I knew of his patristic scholarship. In fact, for a man who was a parish priest his whole career in England, he had a remarkably keen appreciation for the Church in the East. He was the kind of man who was completely unafraid of making seemingly out of place or outrageous statements. In that way he reminds me of David Scaer. At one point, Fortescue, a Roman Rite priest, mind you, says that Damascus is "the real eternal city." So much more ought to be said about this great churchman. But for now I just wanted to make an observation based on a point he makes in his book, The Greek Fathers.

In his discussion of Saint Athanasius, Fortescue sets the scene by explaining how the age of persecution actually gave way to an even more tragic era, viz., that of the great christological heresies. He writes, for example,

"The great heresies were coming as successors to the great persecutions, and the Church was to be more troubled and to suffer greater evils from her own children than she had from the sword of the Roman magistrates."

The evil of the age of heresies in the fourth and fifth centuries is manifold. First is the obvious evil of good churchmen suffering banishment and exile. Athanasius himself suffered this fate five times. Another evil to result in this situation, though, is perhaps even more troubling, namely, the great confusion it must have caused to the common man. As Fortescue puts it,

"Under five emperors and five popes, he was the one tower of strength and rallying point to all Catholics in that hopeless confusion of synods and anti-synods, banishments and userpations."

And later he writes,

"During the very lifetime of the heroes who could show the glorious wounds they had received under Diocletian, the Christian Church was tossed by a raging storm that nearly wrecked her. Bishops fell on every side, intruders and counter-intruders filled every see, Anathemas and counter-Anathemas thundered across the empire from Tyre to Milan, so that the wretched layman who wanted to serve God in peace may well have wondered whether the old cry of Christianos ad leones were not on the whole pleasanter than the shouts of Homousios and Homoiusios, of which he understood nothing except that, whichever he said, someone was sure to excommunicate him."

"Homousios" and "Homoiusios," by the way, are two different ways of conceiving the Son's relationship with the Father, the former confessing that the they are of the same substance, the latter promoting the false notion that they are of merely similar substance. The next time you say the Nicene Creed in the Mass, think about how deadly important these issues were to the Church of the age that gave us this creed.

Fortescue's discussion on the trouble within the Church in the age of Arianism makes me think of how it tends to always be the case that the Church's worst enemy is herself. I recall Robert Rahn of the Lutheran Heritage Foundation giving a sermon at Zion, Ft. Wayne about forteen or fifteen months ago, in which he made the point that Lutherans around the world are suffering...at the hands of Lutherans. One need only think of the church's situation in Finland, or Sweeden. Of course it happens on much smaller scales as well. Christians can so easily trip across the line bewteen doing the Lord's work and using their power to actually fight the Lord's will. Oh, to have a new Athanasius for the Church today.

Nuffer in hospital, orate pro eo

Pray for Richard Nuffer, professor at Concordia Theological Seminary. He has suffered a heart attack, and is recovering at Parkview Hospital.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Saint Valentine's Day & Tradition

A few days ago our popular Western culture celebrated, in its own way, St. Valentine's Day, and two thoughts struck me.

1. The funny thing about the Lutheran Church (most elements of it) on St. Valentine's Day is that, although you will see it on wall calendars & desk calendars, you will find nothing stirring in your church on that day, not even the church mouse.

2. The funny thing about the modern Roman Catholic Church on St. Valentine's Day is, similarly to what I just observed regarding the Lutherans, the Roman Catholics have forgotten about this feast as well. It has been suppressed, and in its place, the 14th of February in the modern Roman Rite is now the memorial of Saints Cyril and Methodius, whose feast is traditionally kept on the 7th of July.

I find it interesting that our culture knows full well what 14 February is, and to put it the other way, it knows when St. Valentine's Day is. Built into the heart and mind of man is a sense of tradition. Ask the average man on the street when St. Valentine's Day is, and he will tell you: it's the 14th of February. Ask him what the 15th of February is, and he will know that too. Namely, it is not in fact, Philemon and Onesimus' Day; rather, it is the day after the day he was supposed to get some flowers for his wife. And he is, in fact, more right on that count than the makers of modern Lutheran books, like Lutheran Service Book.

Christ's Church has an awesome opportunity before her. She can take full advantage of this basic traditionalist tendency on the part of those who would hear her message. For we in the Church have a great heritage, which we have received, and which is ours to hand on and share. That tradition is a Person, Christ Himself, our Immanuel, who desires to enter men's hearts, by water and the Word, to give them the forgiveness of their sins, and all that goes with it, namely, eternal life with Him, and true and sure salvation. And what better way to impart and inculcate this great tradition than by means of the opportunities given us in the manifold evangelical aspects of the tradition of the Church.

How do we do this? Some would argue that the best way is to follow the latest liturgical trends (like LSB), which have improved in many points upon the practice of our immediate past, such as the inclusion of St. Valentine's commemoration on 14 Feb. There is much else LSB does beside its improvements, but that is for another discussion. I suggest the best way is for the Church itself to employ a traditionalist approach to her own magnificent traditions. As I say, people in general are already prepared for such an approach. They would take the Church's lead. Such an approach does not depend on the latest trends promoted at the offices of church bureaucracy, whether in a Lutheran "synod" of delegates or a Vatican synod of bishops.

Traditionalism will take courage (not exactly heavily promoted at seminary today), study (on this count as well I have seen many seminarians get by without much of that), consistency (hardly found in modern service books), and practice. With the help of Christ, though, these things can be renewed in our time. Such is my prayer.

Chanting the Psalms

I have found a beautiful example of the Psalm chanting, which I'd like to share here. I commend to you the following post by Jeffrey Tucker over at The New Liturgical Movement site:

http://thenewliturgicalmovement.blogspot.com/2008/02/art-of-singing-psalms.html

Be sure to click on the youtube video. You are in for a treat.
LHG

absurdity or reality?

I rarely have the time or patience for the type of e-mail that is often sent from acquaintance to acquaintance...to acquaintance...to co-worker...to complete stranger, with either a humorous or "spiritual" or patriotic theme. You know the type of thing I have in mind. The endless "forwards" one sometimes finds in his inbox. It is likely that you have received them, or indeed that you are the one sending them out.

Once in a blue moon, though, I find something truly interesting. My boss gave me a copy of the following. What would happen if the worldly thinking of many of today's ecclesiastical bureaucrats were applied to the earliest Church? Here is one theory:

JORDAN MANAGEMENT CONSULTANTS

Jesus, Son of Joseph
Woodcrafters Capenter Shop
Nazareth, Israel 25922

Dear Sir:

Thank you for submitting the resumes of the twelve men you have picked for management positions in your new organization. All of them have taken our battery of tests; and we have not only run the results through our computer, but also arranged personal interviews for each of them with our psychologist and vocational aptitude consultant. The profiles of all tests are included and you will want to study each of them carefully.

As part of our service and for your guidance, we make some general comments, much as an auditor will include some general statements. This is given as a result of staff consultation and comes without any additional fee.

It is the staff opinion that most of your nominees are lacking in backgroubnd, education, and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you are undertaking. They do not have the team concept. We would recommend that you continue your search for persons of experience in managerial ability and proven capability.

Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper. Andrew has absolutely no qualities of leadership. The two brothers, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, place personal interest above company loyalty. Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale. We feel that it is our duty to tell you that Matthew has been black-listed by the Greater Jerusalem Better Business Burreau. James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus definitely have radical leanings, and they both registered a high score on the manic depressive scale.

One of the candidates, however, shows great potential. He is a man of ability and resourcefulness, meets people well, has a keen business mind, and has contact in high places. He is highly motivated, ambitious, and responsible. We recommend Judas Iscariot as your controller and right hand man. All of the other profiles are self-explanatory.

We wish you every success in your new venture.

Sincerely,
Jordan Management Consultants

Sunday, February 17, 2008

An Example of Christian Womanhood

I was blessed to come across a letter recently, written by a woman in 1681. My boss, Dennis Hutchings, has been able to do extensive genealogical research on his family, and he showed me a book containing the letter of Sarah Goodhue, a seventeenth century ancestress, something like a sixth great grand aunt in his family tree. He consented to loaning me the book, entitled History and Genealogy of the Goodhue Family in England and America to the Year 1890, published in 1891. In this letter, Sarah Goodhue composed thoughts she wished to be read after her death, which she feared and sensed was fast upon her. Indeed, her final pregnancy must have been a difficult one, for three days after delivering two children, she died.

I do not know what sort of church she was part of, though I get the sense that it was some sort of Reformed church. A Lutheran in the same circumstances writing such a letter would have given much greater and explicit emphasis to the sacramental treasures of Christ, such as Holy Baptism and the Blessed Eucharist. There are aspects of the faith I would have written differently than she did. Nevertheless, the letter exhibits a profound faith in Christ, and shows Christ to be the hope of those who suffer the hardships of this life.

We need the example of women who exhibit Christian humility, combined with a healthy pride in the dignity of their own vocation, what Alice von Hildebrand calls the privilege of being a woman. We need the example of women who express their trust in Christ with a passion for the salvation of her children, and with great intelligence and a clear knowledge of the Sacred Scriptures. We need the example of women who are ready to give their lives over completely to marriage and motherhood. We need, I suggest, the voice of women like Sarah Goodhue from the seventeenth century. I am happy, then, to share this letter, unabridged, found after her death, on 23 July, 1681. It is long, and at some points you might find yourself wondering what the point is of reproducing such a long winded letter. I thought that the best way to share Sarah’s attitude toward her life, her vocation, and the people in her life, was to just share this, whole, and as is. I don’t necessarily expect you to read this all, but I do invite you to do so, and just to ponder her seemingly poor, short life, and how she might speak to us in our own time.

Dear and loving Husband, if it should please the Lord to make a sudden change in thy family, the which I know not how soon it may be, and I am fearful of it. Therefore in a few words I would declare something of my mind, lest afterward I should have no opportunity. I cannot but sympathize and pity thy condition seeing thou has a great family of children and some of them small, and if it should please the Lord to add to thy number one more or two, be not discouraged, although it should please the Lord to deprive thee of thy weak help which is so near and dear unto thee. Trust in the living God, who will be an help to the helpless, and a father to the motherless.

My desire is, that if thou art so contented, to dispose of two or three of my children. If it please the Lord that I should be delivered of a living child, son or daughter, my desire is that my father and mother should have it, if they please; I freely bequeath and give it to them.

And also my desire is that my cousin Symond Stacy should have John, if he please. I freely bequeath and give to him for his own if thou art willing. And also my desire is that my cousin Catharine Whipple should have Susannah, which is an hearty girl, and will quickly be helpful to her, and she may be helpful to the child, to bring her up. These, or either of these I durst trust their care under God, for the faithful discharge of that which may be for my children’s good and comfort, and I hope to thy satisfaction. Therefore, if they be willing to take them, and to deal well by them, answer my desire I pray thee, thou has been willing to answer my request formerly, and I hope now thou wilt, this being the last, so far as I know.

Honored and most loving father and mother, I cannot tell how to express your fatherly and motherly love towards me and mine. It hath been so great and in several kinds, for the which, in a poor requital, I give you hearty and humble thanks, yet trusting in God that he will enable you to be a father and mother to the motherless. Be not troubled for the loss of an unworthy daughter, but rejoice in the grace of God that there is hope of rejoicing together hereafter in the place of everlasting joy and blessedness.

Brothers and sisters all, hearken and hear the voice of the Lord, that by his sudden providence doth call aloud on you to prepare yourselves for that swift and sudden messenger of death; that no one of you may be found without a wedding garment; a part and portion in Jesus Christ; the assurance of the love of God, which will enable you to leave this world, and all your relations, though never so near and dear for the everlasting enjoyment of the great and glorious God, if you do fear him in truth.

The Private Society to which, while here, I did belong, if God by his providence come amongst you, and begin by death to break you, be not discouraged, but be strong in repenting, faith and prayers, with the lively repeatal of God’s counsels declared unto you by his faithful messengers. O pray, each for another, and with one another, that so in these threatening times of storms and trouble you may be found more precious than gold tried in the fire. Think not a few hours time in your approaches to God misspent, but consider seriously with yourselves to what end God lent to you any time at all. This surely I can through grace now say: that of the time that there I spent, through the blessing of God, I have no cause to repent, no not in the least.

O my children all, which in pains and care have cost me dear, unto you I call to come and take what portion your dying mother will bestow upon you; many times by experience it hath been found that the dying words of parents have left a living impression upon the breasts of children. O my children be sure to set the fear of God before your eyes; consider what you are by nature, miserable sinners, utterly lost and undone; and that there is no way and means whereby you can come out of this miserable estate, but by the mediation of the Lord Jesus Christ. He died a reproachful death that every poor humbled and true repenting sinner, by faith on God through him, might have everlasting life. O my children, the best counsel a poor dying mother can give you is to get a par and portion in the Lord Jesus Christ that will hold when all these things fail. O let the Lord Jesus Christ be precious in your sight.

O children, neighbors and friends, I hope I can by experience truly say that Christ is the best, most precious, most durable portion that all or any of you can set your hearts’ delight upon. I forever desire to bless and praise the Lord that he hath opened mine eyes to see the emptiness of these things and mine own, and to behold the fullness and riches of grace that is in the Lord Jesus Christ. To that end, my children, I do not only counsel you, but in the fear of the Lord I charge you all to read God’s Word, and pray unto the Lord that he would be pleased to give you hearts and wisdom to improve the great and many privileges that the Lord is at present pleased to afford unto you; improve your youthful days unto God’s service, your health and strength whilst it lasteth, for you know not how soon your health may be turned into sickness, your strength into weakness, and your lives into death; as death cuts the tree of your life down, so will it lie; as death leaveth you, so judgment will find you out. Therefore be persuaded to agree with your adversary quickly, whilst you are in the way of these precious opportunities; be sure to improve the lively dispensations of the Gospel; give good attention unto sermons preached in publick, and to sermons repeated in private. Endeavor to learn your father’s hand, that you may read over those precious sermons that he hath taken pains to write and keep from the mouths of God’s lively messengers, and in them there are lively messages. I can, through the blessing of God, along with them say, that they have been lively unto me; and if you improve them aright, why not to all of you! God upbraideth none of the seed of Jacob that seek his face in truth. My children, be encouraged in this work, you are in the bond of the covenant; although you may be breakers of covenant, yet God is a merciful keeper of covenant.

Endeavor as you grow up to own and renew your covenant, and rest not if God give you life, but so labour to improve all the advantages that God is pleased to afford you, that you may be fit to enjoy the Lord Jesus Christ in all his ordinances. What hath the Lord Jesus given himself for you? if you will lay hold of him by true faith and repentance. And what will you be backward to accept of his gracious and free offers, and not to keep in remembrance his death and sufferings, and to strengthen your weak faith. I thank the Lord in some measure I have found that ordinance a life-making ordinance unto my soul. Oh, the smiles and loving embraces that they miss of that hold off and will not be in such near relation unto their Head and Saviour. The Lord grant that Christ may be your portions all.

My children, one or two words I have to say more: In the first place, be sure to carry well to your father; obey him, love him, follow his instructions and example, be ruled by him, take his advice, and have a care of grieving him. For I must testify the truth unto you, and I may call some of you to testify against yourselves, that your father hath been loving, kind, tender-hearted towards you all, both for your temporal and spiritual good.

You that are grown up cannot but see how careful your father is when he cometh home from his work to take the young ones up into his wearied arms; by his loving carriage and care towards those, you may behold as in a glass, his tender care and love to you every one as you grow up. I can safely say, that his love was so to you all, that I cannot say which is the child that he doth love the best. But further I may testify unto you, that this is not all that your father hath been doing for you, and that some of you may bear me witness that he hath given you many instructions, which hath been to the end your souls might enjoy happiness; he hath reproved you often for your evils, laying before you the ill event that would happen unto you if you did not walk in God’s ways, and give your minds to do his will, to keep holy his Sabbaths, to attend unto hearing it preached with a desire to profit by it, and declaring unto you this way that he had experienced to get good by it; that was to pray unto the Lord for his blessing with and upon it, that it might soak into the heart and find entertainment there; and that you should meditate upon it; and he hath told you meditation was as the key to open the door to let you in, or that into your heart, that you might find the sweetness of God’s word.

Furthermore, my children, be encouraged in this work. Your father hath put up many prayers with ardent desires and tears to God on behalf of you all; which if you walk with God, I hope you will find gracious answers and showers of blessing from those bottled tears for you. O carry it well to your father, that he may yet be encouraged to be doing and pleading for your welfare. Consider that the Scriptures holdeth forth many blessings to such children that obey their parents in the Lord, but there are curses threatened to the disobedient.

My children, in your life and conversation live godly, walk soberly, modestly and innocently; be diligent, and be not hasty to follow new fashions, and the pride of life, that now too much abound. Let not pride betray the good of your immortal souls.

And if it please the Lord you live to match yourselves, and to make your choice: Be sure you choose such as first do seek the kingdom of heaven.

My first, as thy name is Joseph,
Labor so in knowledge to increase
As to be freed from the guilt of thy sins
And enjoy eternal peace.

Mary, labor to be so arrayed
With the hidden man of the heart
That with Mary thou mayest find
Thou hast chosen the better part.

William, thou hadst that name
For thy grandfather’s sake,
Labor so to tread in his steps
As over sin conquest thou mayest make.

Sarah, Sarah’s daughter thouh shalt be
If thou continuest in doing well.
Labor so in holiness among the daughters to walk
As that thou mayest excel.
So my children all, if I must be gone
I with tears bid you all-Farewell.
The Lord bless you all.

Now dear husband, I can do no less than to turn unto thee; and if I could I would naturally mourn with thee.

And in a poor requital of all thy kindness, if I could, I would speak some things of comfort to thee, whilst thou dost mourn for me. A tender hearted, affectionate, and entire loving husband thou hast been to me several ways. If I should but speak of what I have found as these outward things; I being but weakly natured in all my burthens thou hast willingly with me sympathized and cheerfully thou hast helped me bear them, which although I was but weak-natured, and so the more unable to go through those troubles in my way, yet thou hast by thy cheerful love to me helped me forward in a cheerful frame of spirit.

But when I come to speak or consider in thy place, thy great pains and care for the good of my soul; this twenty years experience of thy love to me in this kind hath so enstamped it upon my mind, that I do think that there never was a man more truly kind to a woman. I desire forever to bless and praise the Lord, that in mercy to my soul, he by his providence ordered that I should live with thee in such a relation; therefore, dear husband, be comforted in this (although God by his providence break that relation between us, that he gave being to at first), that in thy place thou has been a man of knowledge to discharge to God and my soul that scripture commanded duty, which by the effects in me wrought through the grace of God, thou mayest behold with comfort our prayers not hindered, but a gracious answer from the Lord, which is of great price and reward. Although my being gone be thy loss, yet I trust, in and through Jesus Christ, it will be my gain.

Was it not to this end that the Lord was pleased to enable thee and give thee in heart to take (as an instrument) so much pains for his glory and my eternal good, and that it might be thy comfort. As all thy reading of scriptures and writing of sermons, and of repeating of them over to me, that although I was necessarily often absent from the public worship of God, yet by thy pains and care to the good of my soul, it was brought home unto me. And blessed be the Lord who hath set home by the operation of his spirit, so many repeatals of precious sermons and prayers and tears for me and with me for my eternal good. And now let it be thy comfort under all; go on and persevere in believing in God and praying fervently unto God. Let not thy affectionate heart become hard, and thy tears dried away; and certainly the Lord will render a double portion of blessing upon thee and thine.

If thou couldst ask me a reason why I thus declare myself, I can say no other but this, that I have had of late a strong persuasion upon my mind, that by sudden death I should be surprised, either at my travail, or soon after it; the Lord fit me for himself.

Although I could be very willing to enjoy thy company and my children longer, yet if it be the will of the Lord that I must not, I hope I can say cheerfully “The will of the Lord be done.” This hath been often my desire and prayer.

Further, if thou couldst ask me why I did not discover some of these particulars of my mind to thee before, my answer is, because I knew that thou wert tender hearted towards me, and therefore I would not create thee needless trouble.

Oh, dear husband, dearest of all my bosom friends, if by sudden death I must part from thee, let not thy trouble and cares that are on thee make thee to turn aside from the right way:

O dear heart, if I must leave thee and thine here behind,
Of my natural affection here is my heart and hand.

Be courageous, and on the living God bear us thy heart in so great a breach as this.

Sarah Goodhue

Dear Husband, if by sudden death I am taken away from thee, there is infolded among thy papers something that I have to say to thee and others.

July 14, 1681

Monday, February 4, 2008

Nonfeministic Christian Femininity

The modern Western world is an increasingly feminized culture. The Christian is rightly offended by some of the more extravagant expressions of this culture, such as the abortion industry, or the spectacle of women literally “fighting our battles” for us, as, for example, Fr. Hollywood discusses so well.

Our culture has become so fundamentally defined by feminism, however, that we must consider the very real probability that even in the Church we cannot quite see the forest for what it is, since we sit in the midst of it, and our eyes are understandably focused on some of the more gruesome trees. Feminism has affected, infected, the very thought processes of our daily lives, to an extent of which we cannot know for sure. Therefore I suggest that it would be quite helpful for us to look back to examples of Christian manhood and womanhood in a premodern, more inherently Christian age.

This goes against what we are so often told, and maybe even the way we so often ourselves think, which is that the way men and women lived and related to each other in times past is utterly irrelevant to our lives today. We have evolved, ie, we know so much more than our ancestors knew, psychologically, medically, technologically, etc. Yet are we really more evolved?

Abortion has already been mentioned, and indeed, I imagine that most Christians would immediately say they are opposed to it as senseless killing. Yet, how far are we willing to think through the whole issue of life and reproduction, whether negatively or positively? On the negative side, for example, some preachers even proclaim in their sermons and teaching that there must be certain, albeit rare, exceptions to any abortion ban. The average “conservative” has been led in this country to think of such as only reasonable. On the positive side of the issue, we may ask, for example, just how open our marriages are to life. Too many Christians have bought in to the assumptions of the birth control culture, a mode of thinking that would have utterly appalled Luther.

Never mind Luther. He is ancient history. He is hopelessly medieval. Yet I fear that most Lutherans are unaware that today’s birth control mind set would have also shocked those who have gone not too long before us. If one consults the Missouri Synod web site’s “frequently asked questions,” one learns that the Missouri Synod does not have a position on birth control. Indeed, many Lutherans are taught that it would be Romanist to take a position on such a question. Once we decide it is okay to look beyond our own time for guidance, however, we begin to see that the Missouri Synod certainly seemed to have a position in 1917, if official Synod publications are any indication.

We have, for example, this from an article titled “Children” on page 82 of the March 20, 1917 issue of The Lutheran Witness: “But what shall we say of those couples who want no children, and who deliberately prevent their coming? The usual excuse is that the wife is not strong enough to pass through the ordeal. In nine cases out of ten that is a mere subterfuge, and the real reason is selfishness on the part of the woman-unwillingness to face the pains and trials of childbirth, or unwillingness to forego ease and pleasure for the sake of children. Is it any wonder if those who set God’s purposes at naught lead married lives that are unhappy because they are unblessed of God?-if the husbands lose all interest in their homes and their wives because these wives deny them the children for which they yearn?-if the wives, instead of assuring themselves care-free and pleasant lives, become nervous and physical wrecks? Whoever refuses the happiness that God offers him will seek other happiness in vain. Empty pleasure he may find and hollow enjoyment, but true happiness will avoid his threshold.”

Consider also the following, from an article titled “Birth Control a Curse” on page 196 of the June 26, 1917 issue of The Lutheran Witness: “The world is stricken with reform madness. To the reformers of our time nothing is so sacred that it must not be tampered with. Institutions that have grown old with the world and are of divine origin must needs submit to the activity of the “reformer”; nor can God expect anything else: where He Himself has been “reformed” out of existence, His institutions can hardly expect to be spared. One of the reformers of to-day makes the following statement: “It now seems to many people that the time has come to take childbirth out of the realm of chance, that the birth of human beings is too important to be left to irresponsible nature.” How wide -spread the reform movement referred to has become may be understood when the reformers assert: “Today men if high standing, scientists of international reputation, physicians, psychologists, political economists, sociologists, and literati advocate birth control as a counter-move against poverty and disease.”Every Christian will readily perceive that this “reform” is a curse to the individual and the State. Dwelling on this point, a Roman Catholic writer says: “Duty and conscientiousness are to throw their mantle of protection over practices that tamper with the very fountains of life and defy the will of the Creator to the destruction of individual, family, and State as exemplified in the fall of pagan Rome.”Church people are, however, not the only ones who are becoming alarmed at the activity of these reformers. The subject was discussed before a gathering of club-women at Chicago recently, and, addressing the club, Mrs. Leonora Z. Meder said the following:“Birth control is making us a retrogressive people, returning to the days of Sodom and Gomorrah.” “Birth control is immoral, degrading, and stupid. It is a perversion of a natural faculty; it logically and inevitably leads to deliberate childless marriages; it does not attain its purpose of human welfare, and leads to luxurious vice, compared to which the suffering involved in rearing children is a blessing, indeed.”

In regard to the natural order within married life, the Missouri Synod was not unwilling to give the following counsel in an article titled “Love and Obey,” on page 33 of the February 6, 1917 issue of The Lutheran Witness: “But I hear the modern ‘female rights’ advocate in strident tones: ‘Yes, that’s just the trouble with the Bible! It gives all the rights to the man, and has no use for the poor, down-trodden woman! According to the Bible women are to be slaves to men,’-and so forth, and so on.-Calm yourself, madam! I might point out to you that the Biblical relation between husband and wife seems also to be founded in nature; for all nations of which I have any knowledge, ancient and modern, savage and civilized, have adopted it, though many of them were ignorant of the Scripture warrant. I believe also that women in their hearts consider it the natural relation; for I have noticed that they despise a hen pecked husband above all other creatures, and that they resent as an insult the intimation that they themselves rule their husbands. But to dwell on these things would be hauling iron to Pittsburg; for when God has spoken, the matter is settled. And God has spoken clearly and distinctly.”

It seems that the Missouri Synod in 1917, the anniversary year of the Reformation, was, among other things, actively promoting a Christian view of life and boldly taking a stand against the rising culture of death, while the Missouri Synod today is actively attempting to convert a billion people (or whatever the magic number is) by the next anniversary year of the Reformation, to a faith that has no official position on sensitive matters such as this.

It is a stunning fact, which bears reflection, that no church, as far as I am aware, caved in to the assumptions of the birth control culture until the Anglicans did so at their Lambeth Conference in 1930.

As I stated earlier, and as these passages in Missouri’s recent past illustrate, it would do us much good to seek guidance from the wisdom and example of former times. The passages just quoted are from a time when the Church was beginning to put up a fight against the feministic onslaught. So it is very instructive for us, for in some ways our church has given up the fight. Yet it would be even better, as I have said, to go back even further, to a time before the fight against feminism was dreamed of, to a more purely Christian culture. (This I will do tomorrow by sharing here a letter I found from the seventeenth century.)