Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Not Three Hierarchies, but Four Estates

In the post just below, I hinted at the long Indo-European and European feudal antecedents of the social model of Three Estates or Three Hierarchies, beloved of Lutheran thinkers up to the nineteenth century. By contrast, this model of three functions cannot be easily traced in the records of ancient Hebrew civilization, at least in that form; warriors and farmers in the Israelite commonwealth are the same people.

This is not to say, however, that the Old Testament teaches anything like Whiggism (i.e. what is usually called "conservatism" or "classic liberalism") or Social Democracy (i.e. what Americans call "liberalism"). Perhaps the most illuminating attempt to in some way relate the social structure in the ancient Israelite confederation and kingdom to the social order found within historic times in Europe was given by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in his 1829 work, On the Constitution of the Church and State According to the Idea of Each. In this last swan song of England's old Tory order before it was reformed out of existence in 1832, he divides the estates of the well-ordered society (both pre-Reform England and ancient Israel) into a series of estates each dependent on property of a particular type.

Coleridge did not indeed think that this system of estates was in any way exclusive to ancient Israel or was divinely revealed for the first time to Moses. Writing of the Levitical priesthood and lands, he denies that this was in any way a novelty with the Hebrew constitution and therefore that, as a social institution, it was in any way made obsolete by the Christian religion. Its purpose as a foreshadowing of Christ's priesthood was indeed fulfilled, but not its role as a social institution, analogues of which, he contended, existed among all peoples.

. . . not the principle itself [of such a body of men dedicated to instruction and supported out of public lands], but the superior wisdom with which the principle was carried into effect, the greater perfection of the machinery, forms the true distinction, the peculiar worth, of the Hebrew constitution. The principle itself was common to Goth and Celt . . . [that is] common to all primitive races, that in taking possession of a new country, and in the division of the land into hereditable estates among the individual warriors or heads of families, a reserve should be made for the nation itself (p. 168 of Coleridge's Writings on Politics and Society).

Similarly, Coleridge thus speaks of the Church of England or National Clergy as a dual body. In one sense it is simply that part of the English nation set apart for the cultivation of knowledge, both worldly and divine, and its dispersal among the people. In another, separate, sense, it is a part of the Christian church as a whole. As he says,

in relation to the National Church, Christianity, or the Church of Christ, is a blessed accident, a providential boon, a grace of God . . . As the olive tree is said in its growth to fertilize the surrounding soil; to invigorate the roots of the vines in its immediate neighborhood, and to improve the strength and flavor of the wines -- such is the relation of the Christian and the National Church. But as the olive is not the same plant with the vine, or with the elm or poplar (i.e. the State) with which the vine is wedded . . . even so is Christianity, and a fortiori any particular scheme of Theology . . . no essential part of the Being of the National Church (p. 181).

These two concepts of the Church must, he argues, be kept separate, and it is only in the first, not specifically Christian sense, that the National Church is an analogue of the Levitical priesthood.

Here I will briefly summarize how Coleridge saw the structure of society in estates:

First there is the division of the Propriety and the Nationalty: the first comprising all the property divided among particular families, and the second comprising all property held in common by the nation as a whole and devoted to the support of the National Church and the relief of the poor.

Within the Propriety there is a division into the Landed Interest and Personal Interest. The former represents all those families who are invested in land-holding and bound to immovable property, while the later represents all those who make a living by moveable possessions, skills, acquired knowledge, and commerce. In particular he divides the persons comprised in the Personal Interest into the mercantile, the manufacturing, the retail traders, and the professional classes. The Landed Interest is divided into the major barons and the franklins or minor landholders.

Within the society as a whole, it is the Landed Interest which represents the principle of Permanence while the Personal Interest represents the opposite principle of Progression. As exemplifying the principle of Permanence, the assignment of land to the families invested in the Landed Interest is thus legitimately bound by primogeniture, entail, and other limitations on free alienation.

A striking element of the constitution of Israel, he notes, is that the Personal Interest was comprised essentially of foreigners. All land in Israel was distributed to true Israelite families and was in principle not to be alienated from the original family, while the cities, where all property, real or not, could be freely bought and sold, were inhabited mostly by the not truly Israelite "mixed multitude" that followed the Israelites from Egypt into the Promised Land, or surviving Canaanites, or else immigrants from Phoenicia, Philistia, and further off countries. As Coleridge notes,

with the Celtic, Gothic, and Scandinavian, equally as with the Hebrew tribes, Property by absolute right existed only in the tolerated alien . . . "The land is not yours, saith the Lord, the land is mine. To you I lent it." The voice of trumpets is not, indeed, heard in this country. But no less intelligibly is it declared by the spirit and history of our laws, that the possession of a property, not connected with especial duties, a property not fiduciary or official, but arbitrary and unconditional, was in the light of our forefathers the brand of a Jew and an alien; not the distinction, not the right, or honour, of an English baron or gentleman (pp. 171-72).

Yet the comparison itself shows, that such absolute propriety became, as the Personal Interest, a legitimate part of the constitution, with the specific purpose of being more open to innovation than the rural Landed Interest.

In view of the oft-asserted "egalitarianism" of the Israelite tribes, it is worth noting that the Law of Moses gave the eldest son a double portion, twice that of the other sons. (Colonial Massachusetts enacted the same law, but it was overthrown during the egalitarian reaction that followed the American Revolution.) Add to that the fact that the redemption of clan land fallen vacant would naturally fall to the wealthier representatives of the clan, and the reality of a distinction in Israel as well of two orders of Landed Interest, the few senior lines and the mass of junior lines becomes apparent.

In conclusion a kind of table of estates within the Hebrew-English polity can be made, putting Coleridge's term first and then the English and Hebrew equivalents:

National Church and Nationalty
Church of England and church lands
Levitical Priesthood and Levitical cities

Landed Interest: Major Barons, Minor Barons or Franklins
English Gentlemen and Barons: Peers,
Full-blooded Israelite Tribesmen: Senior Israelite Lines, Junior Israelite Lines

Personal Interest
Merchants, manufacturers, retailers, and professionals
City-dwelling non-Israelites

Coleridge does not discuss the peasantry as such, but again, the Biblical documentation makes it clear that much of the land, especially in the lowlands, was actually worked by non-Israelites, whether Canaanites put to tribute, aliens, or the "mixed multitude" servant class imported in Canaan with the Israelites.

Does this model have any applicability in the modern world? It might seem not. The Nationalty has been sold off, the limits on transfer of wealth abolished, and distinctions of birth rejected. Even land in most modern societies is now assimilated to the Personal Interest and rarely stays in one family for more than a few generations.

Yet curious similarities can be found: the setting aside of land for land-grant colleges in the settlement of the Midwest under the Northwest Ordinance, the much-remarked on contrast between the conservative, rural, mostly old-stock, population in the "Red States" who represent permanence as a principle, and the urban, mostly immigrant stock, population in the "Blue States" who represent progression as a principle. Coleridge might suggest that both are necessary for a balanced social life that combines stability with adaptability, but that the trend of the age, against which precaution should be taken, is for the latter principle of progress to subvert the former of permanence.

For these reasons, Coleridge's old schema is still worth another look, especially by those seek to apply the Old Testament to social issues and problems of today.

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Saturday, September 24, 2005

C.F.W. Walther on the Three Hierarchies

Over on a thread at Here We Stand, the issue of Lutheran views of Cromwell and English Civil War (1640-1660) came up. The usual modern view of this struggle (see 1066 And All That) sees Cromwell's Roundheads (the Puritans and Parliament) as "right but repulsive" and King Charles's cavaliers (divine-right monarchy and the bishops) as "wrong but wromantic." By contrast, the father of the LCMS, C.F.W. Walther, made it clear where he personally stood:

When Cromwell, the miscreant, who sentenced his liege, the king, to death and instituted murderous and bloody trials throughout England, was at the point of death, he became alarmed. Summoning his chaplain, he asked him whether a person who had once been a believer could lose his faith, which the miserable chaplain negatived. Cromwell thereupon concluded that all was well with him, because he knew that once upon a time he had been a believer. Remembering the profound impression which the Word of God had made upon him at certain times in his life, he relied on the abominable comfort which his chaplain offered him, viz., that since he had had faith once, he still had it. This instance shows the awful effect of this doctrine of the Calvinists (Walther, The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel, p. 215) .

Similar obiter dicta about "the so-called Wars of Deliverance from that monster Napoleon I" (p. 259) and how "People see the rule of the Antichrist in pantheism, materialism, atheism, socialism, nihilism, anarchism, and other horrible isms to which the modern age has fallen heir" (p. 68), put Walther in the conservative camp that saw the French Revolutionaries and their epigones as deeply pernicious in their espousal of a "right to rebel" and a replacement of the traditional estates with ideologically motivated mobilization.

At the same time, his "so-called" in front of the Wars of Deliverance and his insistence that is the Papacy, as the force anathemizing the Gospel which is the true Antichrist show that Walther resisted giving religious force and sanction to purely political struggles against the French Revolution and its legacy.

Walther's positive social vision was centered on the archaic division of society into three estates:

All mankind, you know, is distributed among three estates, appointed and ordained by God himself: the estate of teachers, of producers, and defenders, the Lehrstand, Naerstand, and Wehrstand, as the Germans call them. In view of the statement of David in Ps. 111:3 "His work is honorable and glorious," none of these God-ordained estates is to be esteemed lightly; for in each one of these estatats a person can pursue his way to heaven, please God and God's children and serve God and his fellow-men. What more do we need? In the estate of teachers we have those who teach in the Church and in the schools; in the estate of producers we have peasants, artisans, artists, and scholars; in the estate of defenders we have governors, state officers, jurists, and soldiers (Walther, Proper Distinction, p. 284).

While not specifying these as hereditary, this division is of course roughly the medieval division of clergy, nobility, and the third estate (peasants and bourgeois). Certainly this thinking is, while not specifically anti-democratic, not really in line with modern political thinking, whether of the Whig (free-market, liberty-centered) or Social-Democratic (government-managed, equality-centered) version.

This three-fold division in fact is much older than the Middle Ages and goes back to the ancient Indo-European division of society into three hereditary functions: the priests, the warriors, and the producers of wealth. This division is reflected in the social classes of India: brahmanas (priests), kshatriyas (warriors), and vaishyas (herder-farmers); of Iran: athravan- (priests), rathaestar (warriors), and vastriyo-fsuyant- (herder-cultivators); of Rome: flamines (priests), milites (equestrian knights), and quirites (plebeians). As summarized in this volume, linguistic, folkloric, and archeological research suggests this structure goes back to the common cultural progenitor of the European and Indo-Iranian peoples, in Ukraine and Southern Russia, around 4000-3000 BC.

What is particularly innovative and interesting about Walther's recasting of this three-fold distinction is his assignment of artists and scholars to the estate of producers, not teachers. In other words, creative minds are not "unofficial legislators" as the Romantic poets contended, and still less are analogous to priests as Matthew Arnold (about artists) or Richard Dawkins (about scientists) pretended, but with the humble craftsman. Painting the Sistine Chapel, or refining quantum mechanics is a worthy activity, but one more analogous to a cobbler making boots than to a schoolteacher instructing children or to a pastor building up a flock. I think present-day debates on the arts in church could benefit from this reconceptualizing the artist and researcher as producer, rather than teacher.

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Thursday, September 22, 2005

Songs of Zion in a Foreign Tongue

For a long time, Anglicanism and Lutheranism were sisters, yet rivals, in the idea of "Conservative Reformation." This similarity yet difference can be seen in the following poem by Henry Vaughan (1621-1695), the cavalier "metaphysical" poet who published his collection Silax Scintillans: Sacred Poems and Private Ejaculations, in 1650 while England was under Puritan rule. The theme is Lutheran, the treatment much the same, but some subtle differences are also apparent. Many, however, will just wish to enjoy the poem:

The Law, and the Gospel

Lord, when thou didst on Sinai pitch
And shine from Paran, when a fiery Law
Pronounced with thunder, and thy threats did thaw
Thy people's hearts, when all thy weeds* were rich
And inaccessible for light,
Terror, and might,
How did poor flesh (which after thou didst wear,)
Then faint, and fear!
Thy chosen flock, like leaves in a high wind,
Whispered obedience, and their heads inclined.

But now since we to Sion came,
And through thy blood thy glory see,
With filial confidence we touch even thee;
And where the other mount all clad in flame,
And threatening clouds would not so much
As 'bide the touch,
We climb up this, and have too all the way
Thy hand our stay,
Nay, thou tak'st ours, and (which full comfort brings)
Thy Dove too bears us on her sacred wings.

Yet since man is very brute
And after all thy acts of grace doth kick,
Slighting that health thou gav'st, when he was sick,
Be not displeased, if I, who have a suit
To thee each hour, beg at thy door
For this one more;
O plant in me thy Gospel and thy Law,
Both faith, and awe;
So twist them in my heart, that ever there
I may as well as love, find too thy fear!

Let me not spill, but drink they blood,
Not break thy fence, and by a black excess
Force down a just curse, when thy hands would bless;
Let me not scatter, and despise my food,
Or nail those blessed limbs again
Which bore my pain;
So shall thy mercies flow: for while I fear,
I know, thou'lt bear,
But should thy mild injuction nothing move me,
I would both think, and judge I did not love thee.

John xiv 15
If ye love me, keep my commandments


Academic Nomads

Just wonderful stuff in Jay Nordlinger's "Impromptus" today, one of my favorite features on the National Review Online. Perhaps because he too is an intellectual "internal exile" from a liberal academic environment, I feel like we're really sympatico. (Plus when I email him he always takes the time to send a reply!)

I've blogged about one item below, and I'll add another now. Mr. Nordlinger writes about the Paton building on the University of Michigan campus at Ann Arbor. It's being torn down, and the son of the man for whom it was named, UMich Professor William A. Paton, the "father of modern accounting," wrote a letter to the trustees asking them to reconsider:

It has come to light that — following large gifts from Stephen M. Ross — the Business School plans major construction that apparently may include razing the Paton Accounting Center. Before making a major mistake, the Regents should reflect upon the history of this building and its honoree.

Born in Michigan, Professor William A. Paton received three degrees from The University of Michigan: A.B., 1915; M.A., 1916; Ph.D., 1917. Beginning his teaching career at The University of Michigan in 1915 as an instructor in economics, he gained the rank of assistant professor in 1917, associate professor in 1919, and full professor in 1921. He retained his appointment in the economics department until his retirement in 1959. In 1947, Professor Paton was appointed Edwin Francis Gay University Professor of Accounting.

Professor Paton was one of the first professors in the School of Business Administration, founded in 1926. His scholarship, teaching, and writing attracted students from all over the United States and the world. With accounting at its core, the Business School flourished and achieved national and international reputation. Professor Paton taught some 20,000 students and worked tirelessly to assist in their placement in accounting practice, teaching, and other fields. He wrote five textbooks and dozens of articles in The Journal of Accountancy, The Accounting Review, The Journal of Political Economy, and other publications. . . .

For a professor reading this today, this encomium could have come from the moon for all it has to do with the way we live now. Professor Paton never switched institutions. He never moved away. He got all his three degrees from the same place. He never tried to get a six-figure salary by moving, or threatening to move, to some new institution head-hunting for name talent. His whole life was a standing affront to Stanley Fish's dictum that an academic loses value during every year that he stays at the same school. And yet at the end of it, he had a building named after him.

For those who don't know, things don't work that way now. In the normal run of things, B.A. and Ph.D. must be from different schools. Your first tenure-track position must be from a different school than you Ph.D. school. As your reputation rises, you must then trade up to higher prestige institutions; and if you don't it's assumed you can't, and you can't, because you're just not good enough. And your home institution will say, if he's not good enough, why pay him the same we pay the academic stars? In short, an academic who wants to be successful has to be on the move as much as an army officer. But unlike an army officer, he or she does not move within a single institution with a strong sense of esprit de corps.

Now there's a reason for this: in a word, competition. Every professor of (say) French literature is, first and foremost, not a member of UMich or Princeton or Claremont College, but a member of the trade of French literature professors, each competing to be the best. The schools benefit from being able to select the best, and the professors are spurred on by fear (of obsolescence), ambition (for a high salary), and vanity (about the praise of being the best) to keep working hard, developing new theories, finding new sources, and moving the field (well, if not forward, at least in a new direction). American universities are, still, by and large, the best in their field largely because of the size and number of institutions and scholars competing. By contrast in Britain, or France, or Germany, or Japan, the small number of competing institutions renders the sting of competition less bitter, the innovations less uninterrupted, and the results correspondingly less impressive.

But there is a human and intellectual cost to this and they both go the same way: the spur of competition makes the successful academic rootless, both intellectually and in life style. Far from being rooted in their state, the professoriat of, say Auburn University in Alabama, is no more Alabaman than the football team is. No matter how heartily the football team and the academic departments at Auburn loath each other, they share one thing: the pressure to excell among their peers leads both to recruit nationally. In fact, (I'm doing this from memory), studies found 40% of all professors in the US received Ph.D.'s from just five schools: Harvard, University of Michigan, Princeton, Berkeley, and Stanford). The constant mobility undoubtedly takes its toll on marriages and furthers integration into the national republic of letters, i.e. the section of the public that pays far more attention to what they read in the New York Review of Books than to what they hear from the "townies" around them. Combined with the steadily declining position of those in thinking positions (professors, pastors) in salary and prestige, compared to those in management positions, this goes a long way to explain the notorious liberalism of academia. Those who wish to stay in one school for the sake of their families, or their roots, or for the position they've built up in their home institutions, will pay a price in scholarly reputation.

John H at Confessing Evangelical, has discussed how capitalism breaks up community. I'm not sure capitalism is the right word. Rather I would put the emphasis on competition, and the size of the pool. When the pool expands, competition grows more intense, and institutions get more work out of their employees. Like I said, the fact that America is one pool of almost 300 million (not to speak of international scholars), while academically, Europe is still a set of small ponds, the largest of which (Germany) is only 85 million, is part of the dynamism of our academic system, a dynamism unchanged by the ritual genuflections on the altar of anti-capitalism and anti-individualism. In international competition, the big pool wins against the small pools. Someone committed to research can't help but support a measure that will work against the nature indolence and "stick-in-the-mud-ism" of human nature. But there is a price.

Live not by Lies

A few weeks ago, a new school was opened in the Vendée, France, called the Alexander Solzhenitsyn school. As far as I know, this is the first school named after this forgotten hero of the Christian struggle against revolutionary tyranny. And why in the Vendée, an area along the western coast of France, just south of Britttany? Well because the people in the Vendée have some memories about Christians suffering under revolutionary tyranny. The title of a recent book on the Vendee during the French Revolution (1789-1799) says it all: A French Genocide: The Vendee. During the years of the Revolution, initially supportive Catholics were driven into opposition and rebellion by the Jacobins' increasingly open attacks on the Christian religion. By 1793, when a new church and a new calendar replaced the old, the people of the Vendée rose up. In response, (from a review of Reynald Secher's study here),

Secher quotes one [Jacobin] as saying "We must crush the internal enemies of the Republic or perish along with it." The Vendéans were labeled as brigands who "must be exterminated." A call went out to "depopulate the Vendee." The Vendéans were spoken of as a race apart, and a call was made to "purge the soil of freedom of that cursed race."

Of the Vendéans, Secher writes that "At least 117,257 people disappeared between 1792 and 1802," that more than 14 percent of the Vendéans were exterminated.

In this context, the comments of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's son, Ignat, the conductor of the Philadelphia Chamber Orchestra, are all the more significant. (I will gratefully crib Jay Nordlinger's translation here):

Standing here, in front of this new school bearing the name of my father (who has a special affection for France), I think back to the words he spoke here, twelve Septembers ago, and, in my turn, reflect upon the lessons of the Vendée. History is woven not solely out of actual events, but also out of myths, and the Vendée has become a universal myth, for she symbolizes resistance to oppression and the uprising of conscience. Its message is still current in our world today, where there rises a new mortal menace, the feral delusion of possessed madmen seeking to drag humanity into yet another form of that "radiant future" into which we were pushed by Robespierre, Lenin, Hitler, and Pol Pot. . . .

. . .

A collège is a cradle of culture, enlightenment, and, most of all, thirst for knowledge. To any school one would wish successes, flourishing, the calm concerted work of dedicated pedagogues and assiduous students. All of this, I (the son of two teachers — something that is not widely known) wish you with all my heart. But may the collège that bears the name of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn become something greater, something more profound. May it come to embody my father's call to all, even us citizens of the rich free world, to throw off our habitual cloak of intellectual duplicity, and to live not by lies. . . .

A universal myth? My mother, a Ph.D. and an educated woman, had never heard of the Vendée and had no idea that the guillotine was used on more than a handful of recalcitrant royalists. Obviously, the crimes of the Left, particularly those parts of the Left that we identify with, are not part of the educated person's curriculum. Pol Pot, Mao, we can recognize their crimes, because after all, as I've been told, that's completely irrelevant to the history of the Left in the United States. But the French Revolution: that is the Left of the Atlantic world.

Live not by lies.

UPDATE: Persecution of Catholics under the French Revolution is perhaps best known through Poulenc's opera, "Dialogue of the Carmelites," based largely on Georges Bernanos's version of this story (only available in French). William Bush, a Protestant convert to Orthodoxy, has written a devotionally oriented, yet historically grounded English account of this famous guillotining of sixteen Carmelite sisters in 1794.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Hate to Say It But . . .

The map here of Germany's election looks pretty much:

traditionally Evangelical (=Protestant) districts go Social Democrat
traditionally Catholic areas go Christian Democrat

Since the Social Democrats won in part by exploiting anti-Americanism, are on the wrong side of life and family issues, and are appear to be simply in denial about Germany's economic problem, that's kind of embarrassing (at least to this very pro-life, more or less pro-market Lutheran in America).

The correlation with traditional religious affiliation appears to be considerably better than that with unemployment fears, a map of which Medienkritik David Kaspar provides.

The only big exceptions are West Pomerania which voted for the homeland girl and Lutheran pastor's daughter, Angie Merkel, Saxony (home of the Reformation--that's better!), and Schleswig-Holstein. Also traditionally Lutheran Wuerttemberg followed the rest of the rural south and voted Christian Democrat.

This points up another thing, how accidents (more or less) of geography make a big difference in how we perceive countries. Without East Germany, the Christian Democrats would have just won their second term. Had Quebec voted for secession, Canada would be hardly less conservative than a United States that lost the South (see here). And without the Celtic fringe, or even with an honest weighing of English votes to match those of the Scotch and Welsh, Tony Blair would now be writing his memoirs as ex-Prime Minister (see here; and I can't help advertising this awesome bit of psephological cartography).

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Lutheran Champ . . .

374 years ago today, in 1631, the Swedish armies under their king Gustavus Adolphus met the armies of the Catholic Holy Roman Emperor, the Austrian Habsburg, Ferdinand II, and defeated at Breitenfeld. That victory came at the nadir of Protestant fortunes during the Thirty Years War and marked the defeat of Ferdinand's Counter-Reformation project. Begun with a national and constitutional revolt in Bohemia and Moravia (today's Czech Republic) against Austrian absolutism, the war had already seen the crushing of that rule and the exile of 150,000 Protestants. Then followed the "Edict of Restitution" which aimed to return to Catholicism all the populations and lands gained by Protestantism between 1555 and 1628. In Augsburg, for example, to which Ferdinand paid special attention as the "holy city" of the Lutherans,

after certain discussion with the municipality, the exercise of the Protestant religion was altogether forbidden and its ministers were exiled from the city. Augsburg collapsed without a sword drawn or a shot fired. Eight thousand citizens went into exile, among them an old man, Elias Holl, who had been master-mason for thirty years and had but recently completed the town hall which was the burghers' greatest pride. . .

In this atmosphere of despair and weariness, the expedition of the Swedish King was accompanied by delirious accolades from the Protestant world. The German Protestant rulers themselves, after thirteen years of brutal war were, however, more wary. Their leader, John George of Saxony, was only a reluctant ally, and his troops played an ignominious role in the great battle. In the years to come, after the King's death in battle at Luetzen, the Swedish army would become just another foreign mercenary gang ravaging Germany. The final settlement, after sixteen more years of agonizing war, revoked the Edict of Restitution but left the status quo in Bohemia and Moravia. Germany had lost perhaps a third of her population; Augsburg's Protestants could go home, Bohemia's couldn't.

The quotation above comes from pp. 237-238 C.V. Wedgwood's classic history, The Thirty Year's War. Readable and well-balanced, her account stands out for her brilliant portraits of the leaders of the war, and her famous judgment:

After the expenditure of so much human life to so little purpose, men might have grasped the essential futility of putting the beliefs of the mind to the judgement of the sword. Instead, they rejected religion as an object to fight for and found others (p. 506).

Here is here description of Gustavus Adolphus (pp. 260-263):

At the time of his landing, Gustavus Adolphus was thirty-six years old. Tall, but broad in proportion so that his height seemed less, fair, florid, his pointed beard and short hair were of a tawny coloring, so that Italian soldiers of fortune called him 'il re d'oro', and his more usual sobriquet, 'the Lion of the North', gained additional meaning. Coarsely made and immensely strong, he was slow and rather clumsy in movement but he could swing a spade or pick-axe with any sapper in his army. In contrast his skin, where it was not tanned by the weather, was as white as a girl's. He held himself erect, a King in every gesture, no matter to what task he lent himself. As the years went by, he stooped a little forward from the neck, contracting his short-sighted light blue eyes. The King's appetites were hearty and his dress simple: he wore for preference the buff coat and beaver hat of a soldier, relieved only by a scarlet sash or cloak. He could look as well in the ballroom as in the camp, but he did not on that account evade the toils of campaigning: he would sweat and starve, freeze and thirst with his men, and had stayed fifteen hours at a stretch in the saddle. Blood and filth mattered nothing to him --the kingly boots had waded ankle-deep in both.

Yet no greater mistake could be made to imagine that Gustavus was simple because he was soldierly. Ambassadors, who were shocked by his too easy manners and the tactless directness with which he expressed his opinions, overcame their initial repugnance when they discovered the concentrated thought and practical knowledge behind his rapid judgments. Courtiers who took advantage of his friendliness raised a storm that they could rarely allay; servants who lingered to ask unnecessary questions were sharply send about their business, and ambassadors whose credentials were not correctly inscribed with his titles could find no admission until the mistake was set right.

Educated from his earliest childhood to the task of kingship, he played in his father's study during the transactions of state affairs almost before he could stand upright. At six years old he had accompanied the army on campaign, at ten sat at the council table and given voice to his opinions, and in his teens received ambassadors unaided. He had a smattering of ten languages, an interest in learning, perhaps a little perfunctory, and a passion for practical philosophy; he carried a volume of Grotius with him everywhere.

Not excepting either Richelieu [the French cardinal who led his country's policy and subsidized the Swedish war], or that prince so much advertised among his contemporaries, Maximilian of Bavaria, Gustavus was the most successful administrator in Europe. In the nineteen years of his active reign, for he had been king in word and deed since his seventeenth year, he had stabilized the finances of Sweden, centralized the administration of justice, organized relief, hospitals, postal service, education, evolved an elaborate and successful conscription scheme for his army and tackled the problem of an idle and ambitious nobility by forming the Riddarhus, an assembly of nobles who were responsible to the Crown for the government of Sweden. He was in no sense a democratic king; his theory of politics was aristocratic, but while his guiding hand controlled the aristocracy, one and a half million people in Sweden and Finland enjoyed the smoothest rule in Europe. Moreover he had encouraged commerce and developed the natural resources of his country, her mineral wealth especially. Sweden had the materials to manufacture her own armaments and she had used them; there had hardly been a full year of peace since the accession of the King. In these circumstances, it was hardly remarkable that the Swedish Estates in 1629 had unanimously voted the subsidies for a three years' war in Germany.

Gustavus had applied to war that same ardent and adventurous intelligence which he applied to the affairs of peace. An admirer of Maurice of Orange [who had defeated Spain and secured the independence of the Netherlands], he had developed the tactics of that prince so as to get the utmost mobility and efficiency from his troops. He had brought over Dutch professionals to instruct his men in the use of artillery and in siege warfare, and had himself experimented in the manufacture of a light and mobile form of cannon. His so-called 'leathern' guns were, however, only partly successful and he relied in general on quick-firing four-pounders, light enough for one horse or three men to move.

Like all great leaders, Gustavus believed in himself as well as in his cause. Repeatedly in the moment of crisis he declared his unshaken conviction that God was with him. By education he was a Lutheran, but his toleration of the Calvnists more than once aroused doubts among his subjects and allies. He was nevertheless convinced of the peculiar rightness of his own broad Protestantism, and could not easily conceive how any many could be persuaded by force to change his religion. Yet he was tolerant at least in this respect, that as he scorned those who were converted by compulsion, he scorned himself to use it. He was willing to allow the defeated, of whatever faith, to continue in their errors.

Gustavus was a brilliant administrator, a skilful soldier, fearless, resolute, impetuous; but these characteristics alone do not explain his power over his contemporaries. The cause lay rather in his own mind, in that terrific confidence in himself which hypnotized not only his followers, but those who had never seen him. An Italian in Gustavus's arm, a soldier of fortune with neither nation nor faith to make him love the Swedish King, was paid to shoot him. More than once he levelled his pistol for the act, yet though the opportunity were never so favourable, he could not fire; for as he looked his heart would turn to lead and his hand refused to act. Did fate indeed endow the King with supernatural armor, or did his own gigantic confidence, imparting itself to others, give him his virtue? 'He thinks the ship cannot sink that carries him'; that was the King's secret, that his revelation, the inspired egoism of the prophet.

After describing Gustavus's preparations and landing in Germany, Miss Wedgwood assesses his relations with the French Cardinal Richelieu, who subsidized the Swedes to defeat the Habsburg dynasty ruling Spain and Austria and so relieve the threat to France (p. 239):

In his struggle against the Habsburg, Richelieu intended to make good use of the surplus energies of such inspired champions as the King of Sweden. The people of north Germany were already flocking to his banners, their ministers praying for him, their sons hastening to join his ranks. The Protestant Cause was alive again. But Richelieu and his secretaries in the stuffy anterooms of the Louvre imagined they knew better. The exploitation of courage and spiritual ardour has been the opportunity of the practical politician since the world began, and at Baerwalde [where the Franco-Swedish treaty was signed] the King was -- they thought --limed and taken.

They were mistaken. The King's faith was genuine, his desire to help oppressed Protestants was since, but he was neither simple soldier nor fanatic. 'He is a brave prince,' Sir Thomas Roe meditated, 'but wise to save himself, and maketh good private use of an opinion and reputation that he is fit to restore the public'. He stood, the English diplomat considered, even now upon the banks of the Rubicon, but 'he will not pass over unless his friend build the bridge'. Richelieu would hardly have described his policy as building a bridge for the King of Sweden; rather the King of Sweden was to build a bridge for him. But the Cardinal and his agents had overreached themselves and the King of Sweden had signed the treaty of Baerwalde with his eyes open. With the help of French money he would shortly make himself independent of French policy: exploitation is a game that two can play.

But of course, not all Lutheran rulers of the time were such champs. Indeed to outside observers in the Thirty Years War, such as the English or the Dutch, the Lutherans of Germany generally stood out only for their venomous verbal attacks on Calvinists as a "dragon pregnant with all the horrors of Mohammedanism," while all the time standing ready to join hands with the Emperor and betray the Protestant Cause. These accusations were pointed especially at John George, elector of Saxony. Miss Wedgwood's portrait of him is as sensitive, as understanding, and as beautifully readable as that of the King of Sweden; read on below . . .

Also posted at Here We Stand.

. . . And Lutheran Chump

Miss Wedgwood also has a brilliant portrait of John George, a man who was the Elector of Saxony, the standard bearer of Lutheranism in the "Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation," and quite a contrast to Gustavus Adolphus.

John George's role in the Thirty Years War was to be always expostulating vainly for moderation and "German liberties." He was wary of the expansion of the prerogatives of the Catholic emperor, but even less sympathetic with Calvinists upsetting the existing detente between Catholics and Protestants in the empire, and most fearful of all of foreign intervention, whether by Spain for the Catholics, or by Sweden (and behind her, the paymaster France) for the Protestants. In the war's first campaigns in Bohemia, he hoped to limit the possibility of a wider war by assisting the Catholic Emperor Ferdinand in crushing the Calvinist led revolt in Bohemia and Moravia, after receiving guarantees that Lutheran churches would be protected, and only Calvinist and Hussite churches would be fed into the Counter-Reformation hamburger-grinder. Of course, Ferdinand broke his promise and Lutheran pastors too soon joined their despised Calvinist and Hussite colleagues in jail or exile. In 1631 he was dragooned into fighting in Gustavus Adolphus's crusade against the Emperor, but after the king's death in 1635 he soon dropped out of the coalition and went back to the Emperor's side, vainly issuing pleas for everyone to be reasonable. John George felt for Germany and her immense sufferings in war, but somehow his compromises never brought peace.

But enough of my commentary, I give you Miss Wedgwood (The Thirty Years War, p. 62-64):

John George, Elector of Saxony, was a little over thirty; a blond, broad, square-faced man with a florid complexion. His outlook on life was conservative and patriotic; he wore his beard in the native fashion, clipped off his hair and understood not a word of French. His clothes were rich, simple and sensible as befitted a prince who was also a good Christian and a father of a family, his table generously supplied with local frit, game and beer. Three times a week he attended a sermon with all his court and partook of the sacrament in the Lutheran fashion. According to his lights John George bore out his principles, leading an unimpeachable private life in an oppressively domestic atmosphere. Although hunting was a mania with him he was not without culture, took an intelligent interest in jewellry and goldsmiths' work, and above all in music. Under his patronage, Heinrich Schuets performed his miracle of welding German and Italian influences into music that foreshadowed a later age.

In spite of these claims to culture, John George had preserved the good old German custom of carousing in a manner that shocked men under French or Spanish influence, Frederick of the Palatinate [the Calvinist prince elected by the rebels as king of Bohemia in 1619] and Ferdinand of Styria [the Catholic emperor of the Habsburg dynasty]. John George, who scorned foreign delicacies, had been known to sit at table gorging homely foods and swilling native beer for seven hours on end, his sole approach at conversation to box his dwarf's ears, or pour the dreges of a tankard over a servant's head as a signal for more. He was not a confirmed drunkard; his brain when he was sober was perfectly clear, and he drank through habit and good fellowship rather than weakness. But he drank too much and too often. Later on it became the fashion to say that whenever he made an inept political decision that he had been far gone at the time, and the dispatches of one ambassador at least are punctuated with such remarks as, 'He began to be somewhat heated with wine', and 'He seemed to me to be very drunk'. It made diplomacy difficult.

But it did not alter the situation, for John George, drunk or sober was equally enigmatical. Nobody knew which side he would support. There was no harm perhaps in keeping the two parties guessing if John George himself knew which side he favoured; unhappily he was as much in the dark as his suitors. He wanted above all, peace, commercial prosperity, and the integrity of Germany; unlike Frederick or Ferdinand he had no mission and did not wish to risk present comfort for doubtful future good. Seeing that the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation was in danger of collapsing, he knew no remedy save that of shoring it up again. Between the two parties that were wrenching the structure apart, between German liberties and Habsburg absolutism, he stood for the solidarity of ancient things. First and last he was a constitutionalist.

Of the three leaders he was probably the most intelligent, but he had neither Ferdinand's self-confidence, nor Frederick's confidence in others; he was one of those who, seeing both sides to every question, have not the courage to choose. When he did act his motives were wise, honest and constructive, but he always acted too late.

Two people exercised great though not decisive influence on him, his wife and his Court preacher. The Electress Magdalena Sybilla was a woman of character, virtuous, kind, conventional and managing. Her insight was limited; she believed that Lutheranism was right, that the lower orders should know their place and that a public fast was a seemly way of meeting a political crisis. She controlled the Electoral children and the Electoral household admirably and was partly responsible for the close sympathy engendered between her husband and his people, being one of the first princesses to recognize the importance of a middle-class standard of respectability in building up the prestige of a royal family.

The Court chaplain, Doctor Hoee, was an excitable Viennese of a noble house, whose education among Catholics had given him some understanding of their outlook; the Calvinists, he said, had forty times more errors in their creed. On the other hand he was a sincere Protestant and like his master a constitutionalist. As venomous a writer as he was an eloquent speaker, he had an unslaked passion for print, first displayed in his sixteenth year, and was known as a controversialist all over Germany. The Calvinists, making a play on the pronunciation of his name, called him the high-priest -- Hohepriester. Intellectually vain and socially exclusive, the learned Doctor was an easy target for ridicule. 'I cannot thank God enough,' he had been heard to say, 'for the great and noble gifts that His holy omnipotence has bestowed on me.'

Posterity has not been kind to John George and his advisers. As the defenders of a nebulous constitution and a divided people they had a thankless task, and as events showed they performed it badly, but the Elector must at least have credit for some qualities unusual enough in the years to come. He was always honest, he always said what he meant, he worked sincerely for peace and for the commonweal of Germany, and if now and again he put Saxony first and grasped more than he should for himself, the fault was of his time and at least he never asked the foreigner to help him. History knows him as the man who betrayed the Protestants in 1620, the Emperor in 1631, and the Swedes in 1635. In fact he was almost the only man who preserved consistent policy among the veering schemes of enemies and allies. Had he been different he might have found a via media for his country that would have saved her from disaster. It was one of the major tragedies of German history that John George was not a great man.

Gustavus Adolphus or John George of Saxony: which is the truer exemplar of confessional Lutheranism in political life?

Also posted at Here We Stand.

A Different Perspective on Dix

For those interested in Dom Gregory Dix (my assessment is here), William Tighe has drawn my attention to his review of the biography of the man. It's here and greatly illuminates his life and work.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Harriet Beecher Stow on Raising Children

Over on "Be Strong in the Grace" I made the following comment:

I've seen a lot of Reformed types (used in the real sense, Presbyterians, particular Baptists, etc.) push a model of parenting that stresses punishment according to strict rules without display of anger. But that's not how I see God disciplining His people in Scripture. There, He's pretty lax for a while, lets His people take a mile when given an inch, until suddenly He blows up and gets really furious. But when the kids repent, He's all over them in hugs and kisses. I'm Biblical enough to believe this model of child-rearing rather than "every punishment exactly proportionate to the offense" type. And I think it works better . . . Harriet Beecher Stowe has a great speech on this in the person of an old grandma in her Oldtown Folks novel talking about the "by the rule" child-raising. I'll blog on it sometime soon.

As per my promise here it is (from pp. 1116-1121 of the Library of America edition of her works).

In the chapter, "Miss Asphyxia Goes in Pursuit," a young waif has been adopted by the old spinster Miss Mehitable Rossiter. This starts a discussion of child-rearing, and Aunt Lois, a spinster enthusiast for order, says:

"Well, old Parson Moore used to preach the best sermons on family government that I ever heard," said Aunt Lois. "He said you must begin in the very beginning and break a child's will -- short off -- nothing to be done without that. I remember he whipped little Titus, his first son, off and on, nearly a whole day, to make him pick up a pocket-handkerchief."

To which Lois's mother, the grandmother of the narrator, replies:

"FIDDLESTICKS! . . . Wish you could have tried yourself with that sort of doxy when you was little. Guess if I'd a broke your will, I should ha' had to break you for good an' all, for your will is about all there is of you! But I tell you, I had too much to do to spend a whole forenoon making you pick up a pocket-handkerchief. When you didn't mind, I hit you a good clip, and picked it up myself; and when you wouldn't go where I wanted you, I picked you up, neck and crop and put you there. That was my government. I let your will take care of itself . . .

"People don't need to talk to me," she said, "about Parson Moore's government. Tite Moore wasn't any great shakes after all the row they made about him. He was well enough while his father was round, but about the worst boy that ever I saw when his eye was off from him. Good or bad, my children was about the same behind my back that they were before my face, anyway."

Aunt Lois then talks up the neighbor Sally Morse's method:

"Everything went like clock-work with her babies; they were nursed just so often, and no more; they were put down to sleep at just such a time, and nobody was alllowed to rock 'em, or sing to 'em, or fuss with 'em. If they cried she just whipped them till they stopped; and when they began to toddle about, she never put things out of their reach, but just slapped their hands whenever they touched them, till they learnt to let things alone."

"Slapped their hands!" quoth my grandmother, "and let learnt them to let things alone! I'd like to ha' seen that tried on my children! Sally had a set of white, still children that were all just like dipped candles by natur', and she laid it all to her management; and look at 'em now they're grown up. They're decent respectable folks, but noways better than other folks' children. Lucinda Moore ain't a bit better than you are, Lois, if she was whipped and made to lie still when she was a baby, and you were taken up and rocked when you cried. All is, they had hard times when they were little, and cried themselves to sleep nights, and were hectored and worried when they ought to have been taking some comfort. Ain't the world hard enough, without fighting babies, I want to know? I hate to see a woman that don't want to rock her own baby, and is contriving ways all the time to shirk the care of it. Why if all the world was that way, there would be no sense in Scriptur'. 'As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you,' the Bible says, taking for granted that mothers were made to comfort children and give them good times when they were little . . ."

Miss Mehitable timidly suggested some government was necessary, to which

"O yes. Of course there must be government," said my grandmother. "I always made my children mind me; but I wouldn't pick quarrels with 'em, nor keep up long fights to break their will; if they didn't mind, I came down on 'em and had it over with at once, and then was done with 'em. They turned out pretty fair, too," said my grandmother complacently, giving an emphatic thump with her pudding stick.

Miss Mehitable then brought up John Locke's treatise on education.

"Well, one live child puts all your treatises to rout," said my grandmother. "There ain't any two children alike; and what works with one won't work with another. Folks have just got to open their eyes, and look and see what the Lord meant when he put the child together, if they can, and not stand in his way; and after all we must wait for sovereign grace to finish the work: if the Lord don't keep the house, the watchman waketh but in vain. Children are the heritage of the Lord, -- that's all you can make of it."

Horace the narrator then recalled:

My grandmother, like other warm-tempered, impulsive, dictatorial people, had formed her theories of life to suit her own style of practice. She was to be sure, autocratic in her own realm, and we youngsters knew that , at certain times when her blood was up, it was but a word and blow for us, and that the blow was quite likely to come first and the word afterward; but the temporary severities of kindly-natured, generous people never lessen the affection of children or servants, any more than the too hot rays of the benignant sun, or the too driving patter of the needful rain. When my grandmother detected us in a childish piece of mischief, and soundly cuffed our ears, or administered summary justice with immediate polts of her rheumatic crutch, we never felt the least rising of wrath or rebellion, but only made off as fast as possible, generally convinced that the good woman was in the right of it, and that we got no more than we deserved.

I remember one occasion when Bill [the narrator's mischievous cousin] had been engaged in making some dressed chickens dance . . . A howl of indignation from grandmother announced coming wrath, and Bill darted out of the back door, while I was summarily seized and chastised.

"Grandmother, grandmother! I didn't do it -- it was Bill."

"Well I can't catch Bill, you see," said my venerable monitor, continuing the infliction.

"But I didn't do it."

"Well, let it stand for something you did do, then," quoth my grandmother, by this time quite pacified: "you do bad things enough that ain't whipped for, any day."

The whole resulted in a large triangle of pumpkin pie, administered with the cordial warmth of returning friendship, and thus the matter was happily adjusted. Even the prodigal son Bill, when, returning piteously, and standing penitent under the milk-room window, he put in a submissive plea, "Please grandmother, I won't do so any more," was allowed a peaceable slice of the same comfortable portion and bid to go in piece.

After another such scrape, the narrator is allowed to sleep on his grandmother's lap, and hears his grandmother's response to Aunt Lois's complaint that boys ought to have a regular bed time:

"Law, he like to sit up and see the fire as well as any of us, Lois; and do let him have all the comfort he can as he goes along, poor boy! there ain't any too much in this world, anyway."

"Well for my part, I think there ought to be system in bringing up children," said Aunt Lois.

"Wait till you get 'em of your own, and then try it, Lois," said my grandmother, laughting with a rich, comfortable laugh which rocked my sleepy head up and down, as I drowsily opened my eyes with a delicious sense of warmth and security.

Say what you like about this theory but it does seem a lot closer to how the Lord God dealt with his children Israel that Parson Moore or Sally Morse's rule-book parenting. Warm-tempered, impulsive, dictatorial . . . autocratic in his own realm . . . having temporary severities, but kindly-natured and generous: to me, if it be not blasphemous to say so, this portrait seems a good picture of the character of the God who emerges from the pages of Scripture.

Harriet Beecher Stowe on God's justice here.
On theology and monarchy here.
"The Battle of the Infinites" here.
On the political conflicts that led to the disestablishment of the Congregational church here.



Communist Heroes in a Post-Communist World

The news from Mongolia is that the remains of her two Communist-era heroes have been turned out of their mausoleum in front of the government palace.

The two heroes are Sukhebaatur (also spelled Sukhbaatar), the machine-gunner turned general who helped lead Mongolia’s Soviet-supported national revolution, and Choibalsang (also spelled Choibalsan), the dictator who smashed Buddhism, personally ensured the execution of at least 20,000 Mongols on trumped-up charges, and turned Mongolia into a full-fledged Communist dictatorship.

Despite this demotion, the two heroes retain their place in the nation’s pantheon. Sukhebaatur’s statue is still in the square named after him, and that of Choibalsang is still in front of the National University. Their cremated remains were relocated with honors to Altan-Olgii, the state cemetery. In their place in front of the government palace will be a new Genghis Khan (Chinggis Khan to the Mongols) memorial complex, the latest step in the often kitsch-infested recrudescence of the Mongols’ long-standing reverence of the conqueror as their political founder and culture hero. The new memorial is being built to honor the 800th anniversary of Chinggis Khan’s unification of the Mongols in 1206.

Ironies abound:

The remains of Choibalsang, whose greatest achievement was destroying Mongolian Buddhism, was given a Buddhist cremation conducted by five lamas headed by G. Purewbat at an astrologically determined time.

Likewise, Sukhebaatur’s death in 1923 was blamed by Soviet doctors on poisoning by the lamas. After 1990, many believed Sukhebaatur was poisoned by the Russians. (In fact, there is no reason to believe General Sukhebaatur’s death was not natural.)

The two Communist-era heroes were demoted in favor of Chinggis Khan by a coalition government of the old Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party, founded in part by Sukhebaatur and Choibalsang in 1920, and the only legal party from 1924 to 1990, and a coaltion of democratic parties formed in the 1990 Democratic Revolution. In its day the MPRP had criticized Chinggis Khan as a feudal oppressor whose wars had "damaged the productive forces" all over Eurasia. The Democratic coalition, which had controlled the Presidency from 1993 to 1997 and the Parliament and Prime Ministry from 1996 to 2000, had left the old Communist heroes in place.

The tomb in front of the Government Palace was built after World War II as an imitation of Lenin’s tomb in Moscow, but Sukhebaatur had died too long before for his remains to be remotely viewable, and Choibalsang’s embalming was botched, so the unviewable corpses were enclosed in marble sarcophagi.

Above these ironies is the greater one that the national narrative, the story of Mongolia, has now seamlessly sewn together so many new regimes each determined in the beginning to make a clean sweep of the past. And Mongolia is typical, not exceptional of Communist states in this regard.

After the fall of the Soviet bloc in 1989-1991, the expectation in the West was that Communism would be seen, like Nazism, as some strange aberration, a demon from the past to be exorcised by a new democratic regime. A few, however, figured the deluded East blockers would soon realize their mistake and rehabilitate the ideology of Marxism-Leninism as their bulwark against neo-liberal corporate domination.

With the exception of the strongly Westernized countries of Central Europe — Poland, Hungary, Lithuania, and so on — where Communism had always been an unpopular import neither scenario happened.

In some places, like Russia, Communism has been succeeded by one-man boss rule with a democratic facade, in others, like Turkmenistan, by weird megalomaniac isolationists evidently bent on following the successful model of North Korea. In a few — Mongolia being the prime example — real multi-party democracy has been established. But east of Estonia, the new regimes have not, and most likely will never, rewrite the national narrative to make the Communist era a fleeting episode of madness or tyranny. Lenin, Stalin, Sukhebaatur, Choibalsang: these figures will remain part of their national narratives alongside Boris and Gleb, Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, and Chinggis Khan.

On the other hand, there is no point of view more dead in the old Soviet block than the internationalist, culturally radical, and resolutely materialist and rationalist Marxist left. Everywhere the ideologues and alienated poets most desperately nostalgic for the Communist regime are the same ones peddling xenophobia, cloudy national messianism, and religion in its most rigid, pre-modern, and ritualistic forms (Orthodoxy, Islam, Buddhism, whatever, as long as its traditional), and most fervently denouncing feminism, sexual degeneracy, declining birth rates, and missionaries for "cults."

What those expecting de-Communization failed to realize was the degree to which Communism had become identified with twentieth century history in nations like Russia or Mongolia. Nor did the Russians, like the Germans or Japanese after World War II, by and large accept that they had been perpetrators of a criminal imperialism. Instead all the fragments of the East block viewed themselves as victims, even the Russians. And in Mongolia, it was the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party that presided over the entire introduction of the twentieth century in Mongolia: not just vaccinations, universal literacy, automobiles, and airplanes, but even voting (even if only for one candidate), defense attorneys (even if largely perfunctory at the best of times), bills of rights (even if at times grotesquely disconnected from the reality of universal terror), and equal rights of all citizens (even if at times that only meant an equal right to be tortured into confessing to imaginary crimes). Theoretically, Mongolia might have gone farther and better under a modern, democratic government from the 1920s on, but such a modern, democratic government was never in the cards. It was a tough neighborhood and the Mongolians had to make their choice: satellite of Soviet Russia, with all the internal repression that implied, or else neglected colony of China to be swamped by immigrants and deliberately kept under the dukes and princes and incarnate lamas so as to keep the commoners in line. Those Mongolians who had a choice chose the former and never regretted it.

Communism may look like a failure to those in the West, but for many it was a success in one thing: making the country big and feared on the international stage. Under Stalin, Russia finally achieved the kind of international weight and admiration that Russians had long come to expect of their nation as the Third Rome. Under Mao, Chinese saw their nation battle the Americans to a stalemate in Korea (the Americans! The ones who had destroyed the same Japanese who had held China in a humiliating occupation not five years before!), and become the center of world revolution.

And even little countries could argue that the Communists at least made their nation something. Whatever one think about Fidel Castro and Ho Chi Minh, they did humiliate their nations’ traditional enemies. And in Mongolia, it was Choibalsang and his Communist regime that won recognition of national independence from China in 1946 and got the nation into the UN in 1961. Can the Tibetans under the Dalai Lama say that much? In each case there was a price to be paid – was it really worth it for Cuba to be renting her soldiers out as mercenaries for Russia in Africa? – but as the fable of the horse seeking revenge against the stag shows, those in the grip of humiliation do not finely calculate the odds.

It is easy to misread this continued cult of Communist heroes as necessarily reflecting admiration for the ideology they ostensibly believed in. In Mongolia, the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party is, despite its name, thoroughly and completely converted to market democracy (its main achievement in the 2000-2004 Parliament was initiating the privatization of residential and farm land). Choibalsang and Sukhebaatur are honored not as MPRP leaders, still less as Marxists or part of the international Communist movement, but as Mongols who saved their country from becoming a degraded and oppressed "autonomous region" of China. Nor do the Mongolians despise their parents and grandparents who believed in the Communist system. For them (85% in the latest polls), the 1990 Democratic Revolution was a great thing, but at the same time, they do not see their ancestors as having been bad people for not anticipating it in their thoughts and feelings. Just as a Southerner might be firmly convinced that the end of Jim Crow was a good thing, and yet resist the (supposedly logical) inference that his parents and grandparents were bad people for not joining the struggle to end it, so in the same way most Mongols see the end of Communism. For them, the old regime before 1990 was not some aberration, but a partial good that may well have been necessary under the unforgiving conditions of the time, but one which had by 1990 definitely outlived its purpose, and fortunately gave way to a different and better reality.

This ability of histories to swallow up conflicting ideologies and passion in one pantheon of nation-builders gives clues for the future of China. Given what we see in Russia and Mongolia, Mao is unlikely to be ever dislodged from his position as a national hero, even in a post-Communist China. His vinidication of China’s unity (with the loss only of Mongolia) by crushing the warlord armies, his ability to stick a finger in the eye of America, Japan, and Russia, the sheer scale of the events surrounding his life, even the vulgarity and sensuality evident in recent warts and all biographies will all contribute to making him a classically Chinese character, the lovable, bad-tempered, roguish, and brutal dynastic founder like Zhu Yuanzhang of the Ming or Liu Bang of the Han. A minority will continue to argue that he was more of the cold despot like Qin Shihuangdi or Han Wudi, but given that recent China movies like Hero glorify even those figures as nation-builders and unifiers, such a charge, even if made to stick, would hardly dent his reputation.

Marx's ideology has been a flop, mystifying the real workings of history and power far more effectively than any miracle-mongering religion, but the nationalist heroes it created will live on.

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Saturday, September 10, 2005

More on Sacrifice

Well, my previous post on Dix and the "sacrifice of the mass" (abominable or not) generated not a whole lot of comments (thanks, Eric, for yours!), so I am giving the ungrateful blogosphere a second chance.

What's going to follow is a brief restatement of the issue and some comments raised by the conclusions I've reached so far.

The Issue
In the ante-Nicene church, sacrificial language is routinely applied to the Eucharist. The question is, can this language of sacrifice be squared with the Lutheran Evangelical doctrine of justification by faith alone, and the understanding of the sacrament as a gift or promise of God which needs only faith to be received.

Dix said, No it can't, and that's why justification by faith alone is inconsistent with the apostolic Christian faith. Dix then went on to advocate the idea that through the offertory+eucharist the church as a whole participates in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, thus through her actions propitiating God.

My answer is yes it can, but only under the fairly stringent conditions:
1) the material of the sacrifice be understood as the gifts of the offertory, which are then used (in part) as the elements of the Eucharist, and not the Body and Blood of Christ. That understanding, that the priest re-presents Christ's passion as a propitiatory sacrifice cannot be found before Cyprian (c. AD 255) although it soon swept the boards.
(Here it must be remembered that in the ante-Nicene church, the actual bread and wine used in each Sunday's Eucharist were brought that day by the congregation and put on the altar during the offertory by the congregation. The switch to special communion wafers and wine laid by in the church has broken this visual-liturgical link of the offertory with the Eucharist proper.)
2) the nature of the sacrifice be understood as a thanksgiving sacrifice, not a propitiatory sacrifice. While the ante-Nicene fathers are pretty vague on this whole distinction, the preponderance of early evidence shows that thanksgiving is indeed the strongly dominant note.
3) The thanksgiving sacrifice of the offertory be kept conceptually and theologically separate from the benefit of receiving the Body and Blood of Christ -- forgiveness of sins, peace, and immortality. And indeed, the major ante-Nicene authors who write on the Eucharist, Ignatius, Irenaeus, and Justin, show no sign of connecting these elements.

Let us note another point: both the Lutheran and Tridentine understanding of propitiation have benefitted from the immensely greater theological precision and the higher view of sin introduced into the Christian churches in the Middle Ages. Neither Evangelicals nor Catholics can go back to the cloudy, perfectionist ideas of St. Irenaeus or Justin Martyr and both have adopted dogmatic formulas that no one before Cyprian, let alone St. Anselm, would recognize.

William Tighe has very generously sent me a copy of an article by Oliver K. Olson, in the Lutheran Quarterly 19 (2005), pp. 199-207, in which he argues against any sacrificial understanding of the Eucharist on the grounds that it would be a betrayal of the Lutheran confessions. His occasion of disagreement is principle 43 in ELCA's new "Principles for Worship":
The biblical words of institution declare God's action and invitation. They are set within the context of the Great Thanksgiving [note: eucharist is simply "thanksgiving" in Greek]. This ecuharistic prayer proclaims and celebrates the gracious work of God in creation, redemption, and sanctification.

Olson makes a lot of good and blessed Evangelical points. He rightly points out that "participation in the redeeming deed of Christ" is downright blasphemous. Agreed -- I said the same at the conclusion of my previous post. He adds that such "participation" implies that the crucifixion is still going on, but "that the atonement is finished is clearly reflected in Luther's doctrine of the mass as testament. At communion, the believer does not participate at Calvary. Instead, the believer is granted the results from Calvary." I agree wholeheartedly, adding only that the results of the world's one truly propitiatory sacrifice are given in precisely the form that they are given in the general sacrificial practice of humanity, a share of the meat and contact with the blood of the sacrifice. I would not support principle 43 as it stands. Practically speaking, our offertory hymn gets it just about right:

Let the vineyards be fruitful, Lord, and fill to the brim our cup of blessing.
Gather a harvest from the seeds that were sown, that we may be fed with the bread of life.
Gather the hopes and dreams of all; unite them with the prayers we offer.
Grace our table with your presence, and give us a foretaste of the feast to come.

I find the third line a bit treacly in phrasing, but theologically this stands firmly on the common ground shared by Martin Luther and Irenaeus.

What this illustrates is that the distinction between communion which is purely a testament, a gift, a promise, in which we give nothing but purely receive from God by faith, and the service of the sacrament as a whole, from the offertory to the dismissal, which also has an aspect of a thanksgiving to God in which we do something (i.e. we offer to God our tithes and offerings, including the bread and wine used in communion). No language of sacrifice of any nature can be allowed to infect our understanding of the former. Holy Communion is not something we do. But we do need to be aware of the sacrificial aspect of the latter, because not just the ante-Nicene fathers, but the apostles themselves treat the offertory as a spiritual sacrifice.

As it says in Romans 12, when Paul moves from expounding the accomplished nature of our salvation to our response, he says:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

What is the content of that "living sacrifice"? Well he enumerates it, beginning with the renewing of our minds, and including

Distributing to the necessity of saints

which distribution comes from the offertory. When he receives such a gift from the offertory of the Philippians, sent by Epahroditus to him in prison in Rome, he writes

But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God.

Likewise in Hebrews 13:16, after exhorting us that we have an altar which the Jews who offer sacrifice in the Temple cannot approach, the apostle asks us:

By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

And Peter likewise speaks of the church as a spiritual priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices:

Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

The generosity of our offering is miserably inadequate to be acceptable to God in itself, but when we have faith in the propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:25, 1 John 2:2 and 4:10) then even our thank offerings are a sweet savor to God.

It is common in anti-"Gnostic" polemic to emphasize the earthy, practical, ritual nature of Christianity. But we must also remember that the early Christians inherited and largely agreed with a long-standing Greco-Roman critique of Jewish ritual practice. This critique focused on Jewish rituals, arguing that they were unworthy of the highest religious ideals, by being ethnocentric (limited to a particular people, like the Sabbath) and also simply irrational (such as the idea that a sinner offering the blood of a bull can propitiate God). This latter critique had a long history in the prophets of Israel (e.g. Psalm 50, Is. 1:11, Hosea 6:6, Jer. 7:21-22) and many Jews, such as Philo, in the intertestamental period had set about reinterpreting the food and calendar laws, as well as the sacrifices, as fundamentally ethical, teaching institutions, expressing spiritual ideas and gratitude to God, not ritual actions possessing inherent efficacy.

It is common today for anti-"Gnostic" Christians to ridicule such "spiritualizing" interpretations, but this is in fact the background from which, for example, the writer of Hebrews is coming, when he points out the uselessness of the Jewish sacrifices. Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho relies fundamentally on this skepticism about ritual propitiation of God. The Evangelical categorical rejection of the idea that anything a sinner does, week after week, no matter how divinely commanded, can propitiate a holy God is so fully in line with this long-standing critique, one which the apostles so clearly accepted, that the burden of proof lies with those wishing to claim that in fact the apostles would have accepted any propitiatory action in the Eucharist.

Now this skepticism about ritual propitiation can go in two directions: 1) toward ethical propitiation (we turn aside God's anger by doing right), and 2) substitutionary penal atonement -- the CROSS of CHRIST. Philo and the philosophical critique of Mosaic ritualism went toward the first, and regrettably early Christian apologists such as Irenaeus and Justin followed. But in the apostolic writings, no one can deny that it is the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross only, accomplished once for all time, which is treated as the propitiation, the turning away of the wrath of God. In the wake of this once-for-all atonement, we have only two ways of response: 1) to return to it, repenting of dead works -- this is receiving communion; and 2) to follow God's commands by diligently attending to prayer and thanksgivings, both verbal and material. This is our worship, the thanksgiving sacrifice, the offertory, and our songs. But as always, the once for all atonement is the sole basis for our acceptance by God.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

He's At It Again!

Nicholas Kristof, fresh from making bogus comparisons with Cuba's infant mortality rates (the falsity of his comparison is demonstrated here), has written another column, with similarly bogus comparisons with infant mortality rates in China and India.

He writes:

If it's shameful that we have bloated corpses on New Orleans streets, it's even more disgraceful that the infant mortality rate in America's capital is twice as high as in China's capital. That's right - the number of babies who died before their first birthdays amounted to 11.5 per thousand live births in 2002 in Washington, compared with 4.6 in Beijing.

Indeed, according to the United Nations Development Program, an African-American baby in Washington has less chance of surviving its first year than a baby born in urban parts of the state of Kerala in India.

The national infant mortality rate has risen under Mr. Bush for the first time since 1958. The U.S. ranks 43rd in the world in infant mortality, according to the C.I.A.'s World Factbook; if we could reach the level of Singapore, ranked No. 1, we would save 18,900 children's lives each year.

Now, the first point to remember is that in the US hospitals treat as live births and try to save premature babies that would not even be registered as born alive in virtually any other country, or in America itself even a decade ago. This produces a good deal of the appearance of "high infant mortality rate." What's the rest? Why do Beijing and Singapore have such strikingly low birth rates? Well if you have a culture and government committed to eugenics and a liquidation of the handicapped, then babies with "problems" are also not going to be treated as live births, but disposed of as miscarriages (that is, if they survive the amniocentesis-abortion gauntlet in the first place). I mean, does Nicholas Kristof really not know that the a premature baby born with birth defects in China has essentially no chance of being treated as a live birth?

And then he goes on to poverty.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported a few days ago that the poverty rate rose again last year, with 1.1 million more Americans living in poverty in 2004 than a year earlier. After declining sharply under Bill Clinton, the number of poor people has now risen 17 percent under Mr. Bush.

. . .

Japan has tried hard to stitch all Japanese together into the nation's social fabric. In contrast, the U.S. - particularly under the Bush administration - has systematically cut people out of the social fabric by redistributing wealth from the most vulnerable Americans to the most affluent.

It's not just that funds may have gone to Iraq rather than to the levees in New Orleans; it's also that money went to tax cuts for the wealthiest rather than vaccinations for children.

Mr. Kristof is inexcusably ignorant or flatly dishonest. There is no other way to read this other than as saying, 1) "President Bush's tax cuts are responsible for a decrease in child immunizations" and 2) "President Bush's tax cuts are responsible for a rise in the poverty rate."

About the first claim, here are the most recent facts:

Record levels of American children are receiving recommended vaccinations against dangerous diseases . . .

An estimated 81 percent of children aged 19 to 35 months received the full series of immunizations last year, according to the 2004 National Immunization Survey, released Tuesday to kick off August as National Immunization Awareness Month.

"For the first time, we have broken the 80 percent coverage barrier for the full immunization series at 2 years of age," Dr. Steve Cochi, acting director of the National Immunization Program at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a news conference. "This is five years ahead of the Healthy People 2010 schedule." In 2003, 79.4 percent of children were fully immunized.

There were also sizable gains in the proportion of young children receiving the relatively new chickenpox and childhood pneumococcal vaccine. In 2004, 87.5 percent of children received the chickenpox (varicella) vaccine, compared with 84.8 percent in 2003. Coverage for three or more doses of pneumoccoccal conjugate vaccine rose to 73.2 percent from 68.1 percent for the same time period.

Moreover, if he knew anything poverty rates, he would know that, as reported in a helpful Washington Post article, they are calculated based on pre-tax income. Therefore, NOTHING President Bush did or did not do in regard to "TAX CUTS FOR THE RICH!" has any relevance to the poverty rate.

As the article states:

. . . household incomes may be understated because they do not include non-cash income like food stamps. The earned income tax credit was created during the Reagan administration specifically to raise the working poor out of poverty. But by government counting, the program has not lifted a single person above the poverty threshold, Michael said. Since poverty rates are based on pre-tax income, refunds like the earned income credit do not count.

Indeed as the article states, other factors may make the real poverty rate higher than the official one. But what all ways of counting share in common is that they try to measure poverty before government intervention to reduce poverty, whether through non-cash programs, or through tax rebates. Hence any rise or fall in government intervention to reduce poverty is, by definition, not responsible for changes in the "poverty rate." As economists know, poverty rates and incomes lag in the business cycle, not rising until the economy has been growing for several years in a row.

In fact, data here shows that the percentage of their income paid in federal taxes by the bottom 40% of Americans declined to its lowest level in a long time under the Bush administation, while data here shows that the percentage of federal revenues paid by those in the bottom 40% percentile likewise decreased due to the Bush tax cuts.

Statistics are a great gift. All the greater is the responsibility when people misuse them.

UPDATE: Nicholas Eberstadt today (Sept. 9) in his op-ed column "Broken Yardstick" presents a strong case against believing anything about the official "poverty rates" in America. Since NYTimes registration is required and this is very much worth knowing, I'm going to risk the wrath of the paper's lawyers and excerpt large chunks of it.

. . . many news editors, like policymakers in Washington, know the dirty little secret about the poverty rate: it just isn't any good. Truth be told, the official poverty rate not only fails to calculate trends in impoverishment with any precision, it even gets the direction wrong.

. . .

In 1972-73, for example, just 42 percent of the bottom fifth of American households owned a car; in 2003, almost three-quarters of "poverty households" had one. By 2001, only 6 percent of "poverty households" lived in "crowded" homes (more than one person per room) - down from 26 percent in 1970. By 2003, the fraction of poverty households with central air-conditioning (45 percent) was much higher than the 1980 level for the non-poor (29 percent).
Besides these living trends, there are what we might call the "dying trends": that is to say, America's health and mortality patterns. All strata of America - including the disadvantaged - are markedly healthier today than three decades ago. Though the officially calculated poverty rate for children was higher in 2004 than 1974 (17.8 percent versus 15.4 percent), the infant mortality rate - that most telling measure of wellbeing - fell by almost three-fifths over those same years, to 6.7 per 1,000 births from 16.7 per 1,000.

The poverty rate is out of step with all these other readings about deprivation in modern America because it was designed to measure the wrong thing. The poverty rate has always been derived from reported household income. . . . But a better gauge of a household's material deprivation is not what it earns, but what it spends.

. . .

In the Labor Department's latest Consumer Expenditure Survey (2003), the average reported income for the bottom fifth of households was $8,201, while reported outlays came to $18,492 - well over twice that amount. Over the past generation, that discrepancy widened significantly: back in the early 1970's, the poorest fifth's reported spending exceeded income by 40 percent.

Unfortunately, economists and statisticians have yet to come up with a clear explanation for this gap (which is not explained by in-kind payments like food stamps or other assistance).

. . .

But whatever its cause, it does drive home the unreliability of using reported household income as a benchmark for poverty.

For now, however, we should recognize that America has already achieved far more success in the war against want than our sorry poverty rate can admit - and that we need much better guidance systems for the anti-poverty battles still ahead than this one, arguably the single worst measure in our government's statistical arsenal.

It ain't what you don't know that hurts you, it's what you know that just ain't so.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Lutheran Hymn-Mutilators Censor Evangelical Theology!

OK, now that I've got your attention, here's my beef.

You know, of course, the famous hymn, Amazing Grace, right? And you know of course, the second stanza, the one that goes like this:

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Except of course, if you worship in a Lutheran church, you're not going to know that verse, now are you? You see, the Lutheran hymn mutilators have apparently determined that the fear of God has nothing to do with GRACE. No, only the LAW teaches the fear of God, and the LAW is opposite of GRACE. So they've substituted in this stanza instead:

The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures.

The new hymnal has no improvement. Of course, Lutherans are always suspicious of Evangelical doctrine, but this time they seem suspicious of Augsburg Evangelical doctrine! Here's what Phillip Melanchthon wrote about the fear of God and grace:

Therefore the ancient definition [of original sin] . . . denies [in man] the knowledge of God, confidence in God, the fear and love of God or certainly the power to produce these affection. For even the [scholastic] theologians themselves teach in their schools that these affections are not produced without certain gifts and the aid of grace. In order that the matter may be understood, we term these very gifts the knowledge of God, and fear and confidence in God.

The fear of God, like the knowledge of Him and confidence in Him, is a gift of grace -- this is the assertion of the Augsburg Evangelical confessions!

Has any of these hymn mutilators grown up an atheist? Does any one of them know the horror of suddenly waking up to the realization that one is perfectly capable of living without any thought whatsoever of one's Creator? Evidently not, or else they would not deny that grace is at work when a man begins to feel like this:

How then did God bring me back? I came, over time, to feel a greater and greater horror about myself. Not exactly a feeling of guilt, not exactly a feeling of shame, just horror: an overpowering sense that my condition was terribly wrong.

This is law, this is grace, because God is gracious to us, even in making us feel and fear His law. Melanchthon knew that, because with all his later errors, he always had a deep and profound heart-knowledge of justification by faith alone.

Pick up and read!

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Dix on the Ante-Nicene Theology of the Eucharistic Sacrifice

In his comments of Martin Luther (see here for previous discussion), Dom Gregory Dix's Shape of the Liturgy points the reader to pp. 111ff. and 273ff. for his explication of the issue of sacrifice (in context, he means his refutation of Martin Luther's idea that no sacrifice, but only a sacrament, is involved in the Holy Supper.) Together, his comments on these pages do indeed set forth a theology of the Eucharist. And by theology I mean that 1) he believes this to be the dominant ante-Nicene understanding of the Eucharist; and 2) he is unmistakably promoting this is a, if not the, crucial theological insight into the Eucharist. His argument is not just historic, but clearly also normative/theological.

This post is in four parts:

I. Dix's general statement of the theology
II. His reading of this theology in the ante-Nicene fathers
III. My evaluation of his argument
IV. My evalutation of his theology

I. Dix's general statement of the theology

The account on pp. 273-4 is more general and worth examining first. Dix first emphasizes, against skeptical critics, that the sacrificial understanding of the crucifixion was not added on later, but the only possible interpretation of the crucifixion that could make sense and allow the continued existence of movement formed around Jesus:

We have to bear in mind that no belief whatever in Jesus as Messiah could make head against the ignominy of Calvary except upon the sacrificial interpretation of His death (p. 273).

This sacrificial understanding extended to the whole action of Christ's death, resurrection, and return to His Father:

In the light of Calvary, Easter and Ascension together (understood in combination as the sacrifice and acceptance of the Messiah) no other interpretation [except as a sacrificial action] of what Jesus had said and done at the last supper was possible for jews.

He then emphasizes the absolute centrality of sacrifice to the covenant-people of God. (This is not restricted to the Jews, either, but can be argued for humanity in general.) This he argues was not lost, but preserved in both the Jewish and Gentile churches:

For the purely jewish church of the years immediately following the passion, sacrifice was necessarily of the essence of a covenant with God,not only for the inauguration of a covenant but as the center of the covenanted life. . . . The fact that the Messiah by His sacrificial death had instituted a New Covenant did not destroy the inherited idea of the centrality of sacrifice in any divine covenant. On the contrary it enhanced it.

The center of the covenanted life: that means the Eucharist. Dix interpreted the Last Supper as the meal of a chaburah common in Judaism of the time (see pp. 50ff and 76ff). The chaburah are basically small groups which meet weekly over a meal, to which each member contributed. The meals of such chaburoth (the plural) began with "relishes" over which each person would say his own blessing, and then formally began with a short thanksgiving/blessing (beraka) on the bread said by the host or president of the chaburah, followed with a thangsgiving/blessing on all other foods as they appeared, and concludedwith a final, longer, thanksgiving/blessing said by the host over a special cup of wine.

What was new with the Eucharist was, then, not the idea of a weekly meal, or the idea of a blessing over bread and wine (the actual meal was rapidly separated from the Christian Eucharist and held separately as an agape meal or love feast), but the two ideas of doing it in "re-calling" or "in memory of" Christ and the idea that it is His body and blood of His covenant. Put them together (as Dix argues they almost immediately were) and the chaburah meal thus becomes a sacrifice, in rivalry with and superior to the sacrifice performed in the Temple with sheep and oxen (cf. Hebrews 13:9-14, esp. v. 10).

The prayer of thanksgiving/blessing, merging that said over the bread with that over the wine, is thus the start of Eucharistic theology. What elements were found in this theology? 1) The idea of a thanksgiving sacrifice a "Thanksgiving for the New Covenant." As he notes:

It was the common jewish expectation that the 'Thankoffering' alone of all sacrifices would continue in the days of the Messiah.

To the thanksgiving for creation as found in the bread and wine is attached the anamnesis or "remembrance/recalling" of Christ's death. This parallels the twofold interpretation of Christ's death could be compared to the Passover sacrifice, as the annual commemoration of the actual historical events by which redemption was achieved, or as the Day of Atonement, as the anamnesis, the re-calling of the effects of redemption (p. 274).

2) The idea of offering the food back to God, implicit in the berakah (thanksgiving prayer for meeting), which is then, by the blessing of the Name (of God) released back for consumption by the faithful.

II. Dix's reading of this theology in the ante-Nicene fathers

Moving on to his reading of the sources in pp. 111, he cites the words of Clement of Rome, Justin Martyr, and Hipploytus. As he summarizes their data, he finds great unanimity:

Every one of these local liturgical traditions at the earliest point at which extant documents permit us to interrogate it, reveals the same general understanding of the eucharist as an 'oblation' (prosphora) or 'sacrifice' (thusia) -- something offered to God; and that the substance of the sacrifice is in every case in some sense the bread and the cup (p. 112)

We can add that in the reading the sources he presents, nowhere do we see the idea that the Body and Blood of the Lord is actually being offered to God by the bishop or church.

He adds that in Clement's letter to the Corinthians we find the whole church involved in the prospheron/offering: the communicants/members bringing it up, the deacons/assistants presenting it, and the bishop/pastor offering it. It is thus "at all points, from being first placed on the table by the communicants to being distributed by the bishops 'the gifts of Thy holy church'" (p. 112) -- and not only so after being consecrated as the Body and Blood of the Lord.

Despite this picture of unanimity, he then acknowledges that there one can find two different theological understandings of the Eucharist in ante-Nicene sources, the Irenaean and the Cyprianic (p. 116).

For Irenaeus, the eucharist is an oblation offered to God, but with a peculiar sense (it should be noted that this sense is "peculiar" only in the context of subsequent "Cyprianic" understanding, but fully in line with the berakah prayer which Dix had argued was the origin of the Eucharist).

Primarily it is for him a sacrifice of 'first-fruits,' acknowledging the Creator's bounty in providing our earthly food, rather than as 're-calling' the sacrifice of Calvary in the Pauline fashion. It is true that Irenaeus has not the least hesitation in saying that 'The mingled cup and the manufactured bread receives the Word of God and becomes the eucharist [i.e. thanksgiving] of the words 'in the New Covenant' to 'the first-fruits of His own gifts.' Irenaeus is clear, also, that the death of Christ was itself a sacrifice, of which the abortive sacrifice of Isaac by his own father was the type. But when all is said and done, he never quite puts these two ideas together or calls the eucharist outright the offering or the 're-calling' of Christ's sacrifice (p. 114).

By contrast for Cyprian, writing in Africa about sixty years later,

the whole question of how the eucharist is constituted a sacrifice is as clear-cut and completely settled as it is for a post-Tridentine theologian: 'Since we make mention of His passion in all our sacrifices, for the passion is the Lord's sacrifice which we offer, we ought to do nothing else than what He did (at the last supper) (p. 115).

He then goes on to state that while Cyprian's understanding was continued by Cyril of Jerusalem and came to prevail, that of Irenaeus virtually disappeared, remaining only as a kind of liturgical fossil, "though it passed out of current theological teaching" (p. 116).

III. My evaluation of Dix's argument

Thus far Dix's argument. In evaluating this, it is clear that he has in fact concealed in plain sight some facts of rather serious importance for a theological evaluation in terms of Reformation and post-Reformation categories accepted by Catholic and Evangelical theologians (see here). First of all let us return to his description of Irenaeus's theology. He says Irenaeus believes two things of the Eucharist: 1) that the offering of the created things by the church as a whole is a thanksgiving sacrifice for the gifts of creation; and 2) that it is the true Body and Blood of our Lord. Dix honestly points out that Irenaeus never identifies the Eucharist as the "offering or the 're-calling' of Christ's sacrifice." Now at this point, we can suddenly notice that the "offering" of Christ's sacrifice and the "re-calling" of Christ's sacrifice are in fact not the same thing, or at any rate, not the same words, and that by his own account, in Clement, Justin, and Hippolytus, the offering of bread and wine are offered and Christ's sacrifice is re-called. Dix himself throughout implies that offering the bread and wine is synonymous with offering Christ's sacrifice (as opposed to the church's own sacrifice of thanksgiving), but without offering evidence that any ante-Nicene father before Cyprian treated the issue in the same way.

When it comes to Cyprian himself, he notes the innovation but adds, "There is no reason whatever to suppose that Cyprian was the inventor of defining the eucharistic sacrifice, or in any intentional way its partisan" (p. 115). But there is not reason to suppose he wasn't either. There appears to be no evidence either way, since the idea that the Eucharist "offers the Lord's passion" is simply unknown in any previous source. He implies that this was the "African doctrine", but then honestly acknowledges that the only specific reference to a theology of the Eucharist in Tertullian, the only known previous African father, is closer to Irenaeus and in any case "we get no theory of the nature of that sacrifice from him" (p. 115).

Dix also argues that Irenaeus and Cyprian are simply emphasizing different sides of Justin Martyr's theology. In Dialogue with Trypho, chap. 117, Justin Martyr speaks of the Eucharist as a "pure sacrifice" and as "for the re-calling (anamnesis) of their sustenance both in food and drink, wherein is made also the memorial (memnetai) of the passion which the Son of God suffered for them." But is Justin's theology of the Eucharist as sacrifice actually unclear? In chapter 41, he writes:

"And the offering of fine flour, sirs," I said, "which was prescribed to be presented on behalf of those purified from leprosy, was a type of the bread of the Eucharist, the celebration of which our Lord Jesus Christ prescribed, 1) in remembrance of the suffering which He endured on behalf of those who are purified in soul from all iniquity, in order that we may at the same time 2) thank God for having created the world, with all things therein, for the sake of man, and for delivering us from the evil in which we were, and for utterly overthrowing principalities and powers by Him who suffered according to His will. Hence God speaks by the mouth of Malachi, one of the twelve [prophets], as I said before, about the sacrifices at that time presented by you: 'I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord; and I will not accept your sacrifices at your hands: for, from the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same, My name has been glorified among the Gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to My name, and a pure offering: for My name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord: but ye profane it.' He then speaks of those Gentiles, namely us, who in every place offer sacrifices to Him, i.e., the bread of the Eucharist, and also the cup of the Eucharist, affirming both that we glorify His name, and that you profane [emphasis and numbering added].

There is more theological meat here than Dix seems to have recognized, meat which clearly aligns Justin's understanding of the Eucharistic sacrifice as a thank-offering for creation and redemption. In fact, Justin is clearly not saying that this rememberance of Christ's sacrifice is a re-presentation, a renewed propitiatory action (to use Tridentine terminology) of Christ's death. So far from being some sort of intermediate between Cyprian's doctrine of the Eucharist as a propitiatory offering of the Lord's passion, and Irenaeus's doctrine of it as a thank offering for creation and redemption, Justin Martyr is clearly simply expounding the Irenaean viewpoint. Assuming, as would seem legitimate, that Irenaeus certainly accepted that the Eucharist was a memorial/re-calling/remembrance of the Lord's Passion, one can thus say that all of the ante-Nicene authors, except Cyprian, understand the Eucharist in a three-fold way:

1) as a thanksgiving sacrifice of created things by the church as a whole to God for the gifts of creation and redemption;
2) as a remembrance/re-calling/anamnesis of the Lord's passion
3) that it is the true Body and Blood of our Lord

None link sacrifice to anamnesis so as to make it an offering of Christ's sacrifice. As far as pre-Cyprianic writers are concerned, it is indeed the prayer of the Eucharist that sanctifies the offering, but as a thanksgiving and as a setting aside of the offering from a common use to a holy one, just as in the Jewish berakah (blessing) over the bread and wine of the chaburah meal.

It is worth noting that the Didache (ch. 14) which uses the same typological reading of the same passage of Malachi 1: 11 (with a further citation from 1:14) about sacrifices being offered from the rising to the setting of the sun, again clearly associates the sacrifice solely with the offertory, and not with any consecration:

On the Lord's Day of the Lord, come together, break bread and hold Eucharist/thanksgiving, after confessing your sins that your offering may be pure; but let none who has a quarrel with his fellow join in your meeting until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice not be defiled. For this is that which was spoken by the Lord, "In every place and time offer me a pure sacrifice, for I am a great king," saith the Lord, "and my name is wonderful among the heathen."

The references to the defilement of the offering by the offerer's quarreling makes it clear that the sacrifices predicted in Malachi is not an offering of the Lord's Passion, but of the individual Christian's goods, his bread, wine, and first fruits to the church (cf. Didache 13). The difference here from Justin Martyr's reading of Malachi is purely in nuance; he too speaks of the value of the offering lying in the sincerity of the offerer, not the consecration of the church:

Now, that prayers and giving of thanks, when offered by worthy men, are the only perfect and well-pleasing sacrifices to God, I also admit [chap. 117]

Here he is agreeing with his Jewish opponent Trypho. Far from drawing any contrast between the unreal nature of "spiritual sacrifices" of praise and thanks and the "real sacrifice" of the Eucharist, he is in fact arguing that Christian sacrifices achieve most truly the rationalist Jewish ideal, found since the time of Philo, of a ethnically universal and purely ethical idea of sacrifice.

IV. My evalutation of Dix's theology

In conclusion, coming back to Luther, Dix has in no sense proven his point that the propitiatory offering of the Lord's passion, to use a combined Cyprianic-Tridentine way of speaking, is either a part of the pre-Cyprianic Christian doctrine, or that Luther was a bizarre exception in holding to the Real Presence apart from a propitiatory-sacrificial understanding of the Eucharist. In fact, read critically he does quite the opposite. His argument for such an understanding ultimately boils down to a word study of anamnesis (pp. 161-162, and repeated on p. 245), emphasizing that it refers to a re-presentation, not just a remembrance. Since this word is of course found in the words of institution, the crux of his argument is then not something that depends on great patristic erudition to address one way or the other.

The three elements of the Eucharist found in the pre-Cyprianic sources -- as a thanksgiving sacrifice of the church to God in the offertory; as a remembrance of the Lord's Passion; and as the real Body and Blood of our Lord: all of these are fully consistent with justification by faith alone. The second two are of course explicitly endorsed by the Augsburg confession and Apology, and while the first element is not explicitly found there, it is consistent with them and implied in Melanchthon's category of eucharistic sacrifice, as opposed to propitiatory sacrifice.

Dix is certainly correct that justification by faith alone is absolutely inconsistent with a priest (even acting in the role of Christ) participating in the propitiation of God. This synergy of sinner and Christ in propitiation is exactly what Luther taught as the blasphemous and abominable aspect of the Mass. But Dix's theology of the Eucharistic sacrifice generates a result more wildly synergistic than anything that came out of Trent. Dix emphasizes the "liturgy" in which every Christian played a part in the early church, the organic link of the offertory with what he insists is the offering of Christ's passion, and the identity of the body of Christ with the Body and Blood on the altar, in the offering up of propitiatory sacrifices to God the Father (as he [mis]interprets 1 Peter 2:5). In effect he combines the ante-Nicene theology of the thank offering in the offertory with the Cyprianic and Tridentine idea of the propitiatory sacrifice of the priest in offering in the stead of Christ His passion to the Father. But let us compare: if having a single select man, ordained in the apostolic succesion, and subject to a strict and rigorous discipline of life that sets him apart from his fellows, participate in the propitiation of God be a disastrous synergism, then what will we say about a doctrine that implicitly sees every communicant Christian in the church, regardless of his life, participating in the propitiation of an absolutely holy God? And this by as little as writing a cheque that will buy the bread to be consecrated as the church's offering of Christ's passion? Dix's view may be very "communal" and give an "active role for the laity" and emphasize "the people of God", but it has a far more abominably low sense of sin than even the worse of Tridentine ritualism.

No wonder it's popular!

More thoughts on sacrifice here.