Tish Harrison Warren on everyday practices

In this interview, Tish Harrison Warren is quoted on living as a Christian in the day to day environment of life:

Daily life, dishes in the sink, children that ask the same questions and want the same stories again and again and again, the long doldrums of the afternoon. These things are filled with repetition and much of the Christian life is returning over and over to the same work and the same habits of worship. We must contend with the same spiritual struggles again and again. The work of repentance and faith is daily and repetitive. Again and again, we repent and believe.

The Regulative Principle Redefined

I finished up Leithart’s From Silence to Song yesterday and found his writing illuminating as always. He discusses the Reformed “Regulative Principle” and recasts it in a very different light (a much better one). The Regulative Principle is usually held to mean that anything God hasn’t expressly commanded in worship is forbidden, you’ll often see it trumpeted in modern times by nuts like the Still Waters Revival folks who hold to no instruments in music and exclusive Psalmody.

Leithart contrasts this with the canonical example of David’s instructions for Temple and Tabernacle worship. He writes:

A strict regulativist living at the time of David would syllogize thus:

Major premise: Whatever is not commanded is forbidden.

Minor premise: Singing is not commanded in the Levitical Law.

Conclusion: Therefore, singing in worship is forbidden.

David appears to have reasoned by analogy:

Major premise: The Law governs worship.

Minor premise #1: The Law prescribes that trumpets be played over the public ascensions, in public worship.

Minor premise #2: The trumpet is a musical instrument.

Conclusion: Analogously, song and other music are a legitimate part of worship.

In place of a “regulation-by-explicit command” principle, David operated according to a “regulation-by-analogy” principle.

He qualifies this by showing that not all analogies are valid – pigs can’t be offered in sacrifice because cows are, so Scripture controls the application. Once again, Leithart’s writings are some of the best theological insights you can find today on a host of subjects.


Still Waters Revival Books

From Silence to Song

Shrove Tuesday Pancakes

I found this in an old issue of Notes and Queries and thought I would pass it along:

There is a curious tradition existing in Mansfield, Woodhouse, Bulwell, and several other villages near Sherwood Forest, as to the origin of pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. The inhabitants of any of these villages will inform the questioner that when the Danes got to Linby all the Saxon men of the neighboring villages ran off into the Forest, and the Danes took the Saxon women to keep house for them. This happened just before Lent, and the Saxon women, encouraged by their fugitive lords, resolved to massacre their Danish masters on Ash Wednesday. Every woman who agreed to do this was to bake pancakes for their meal on Shrove Tuesday as a kind of pledge to fulfill her vow. This was done, and that the massacre of the Danes did take place on Ash Wednesday is a well-known historical fact.

Notes and Queries, June 4, 1859

Medieval Protestantism

In the book Angels in the Architecture, Doug Jones and Doug Wilson offer a summary of a Protestant vision for middle earth which is a good starting point for Anglicans and all other Protestants. They say:

…a love of beauty, an Augustinian appreciation for the sovereignty of God, the chasm between pagan and Christian, the centrality of laughter, the importance of celebration, a covenantal wholeness of family and society, a submissive hierarchicalism, respect for good traditions, sphere sovereignty, anti-papalism, a harmonization of technology and humanity, an agrarian calm, disciplined silence, the glory of a unified Holy Church, a skepticism of novelty, and a triumphant, peaceful hope for the future of Christendom.

Halloween belongs to the Church

Yes, I used to think that Halloween was some sort of devilish night where Alister Crowley and Jimmy Page looked into a Palantir and Anton Levey stayed the night at the Hotel California. Back then I knew squat about church history. We need to love the calendar of the Church and the Church Year people. One day of that year is All Hallows Eve and another is All Saints Day. Learn about them. Halloween belongs to us and is for mocking the devil. Certainly there are abuses of the day – do you think Christmas and Easter are a bit abused too? 

Anyway, rather than write more about it here are a cornucopia of ecumenical links on the subject:

Wilson on the subject

Jordan on the subject

Spencer on the subject

Brown on the subject

Summarizing Leithart V

Visible Words

 A judge who says, “I sentence you to death” is not merely declaring a decision that has already been rendered in some other forum. Rather, by his declaration, the judge is passing the sentence. Speaking the words is doing the deed. Similarly, the captain who says, “I now name you the Queen Mary” has actually named the ship, and the pastor who says “I now pronounce you man and wife” has made the man and woman man and wife. Wittgenstein said it simply: “Words are deeds.”

Just as words are “performative,” so the sacraments as visible words actually do things. They not only remind us and teach us about Christ’s death, but confirm, sustain, and nourish our relationship with the Triune God. Through sacramental “words,” we make promises, receive warnings, establish or renew covenants. Sacraments are indeed “words” from God, but not so much visible as performative words.

Summarizing Leithart IV

More on Signs and Symbols

 “…for many Christians, ceremonies and symbols are more or less unnecessary adornments or enhancements of real life. The key assumptions in this view are that natural or literal reality can be isolated from its enhancements, that natural or literal reality is non-symbolic, and that “real [i.e. non-symbolic] life” is the foundation on which we set up pretty symbols. These assumptions are false.”

“With regard to language, there is no clear line between literal and symbolic. In an important sense, all language is “symbolic” because it employs visual symbols or sounds that mean something other than themselves.”

“Relationships do not exist “behind” the symbolic exchanges, as if the “real relationship” were a hidden “spiritual” reality of which the symbols are only visible or audible “expressions.”

“If sacraments are signs and symbols in the sense suggested here, then they are (with the Word and through the Spirit) the matrix of personal communion with the Triune God. The symbolism involved in sacraments is the symbolism of action, less like the symbolism of a painting or a metaphor than the symbolism of a handshake or a wave or a kiss. They are symbols by and through and in which personal, covenantal relationships are forged and maintained. Sacraments are not “signs of an invisible relationship with Christ.” Rather, the intricate fabric of exchanged language, gesture, symbol, and action is our personal relationship with God.”

Part VI is here.

Think with your body

James Jordan has repeatedly argued that one reason we are not to bow to images is that the human person is a deep construct – we have levels within us that we are not even aware of. We don’t know all the reasons why God says to do or not do something, but we can assume that it is important if he says it because he knows our make up far better then we do. Bowing to statues and pictures does something to us over time that we are not aware of. This news may uncover some of the reasons why it matter. It says in part:

The term most often used to describe this new model of mind is “embodied cognition,” and its champions believe it will open up entire new avenues for understanding – and enhancing – the abilities of the human mind. Some educators see in it a new paradigm for teaching children, one that privileges movement and simulation over reading, writing, and reciting. Specialists in rehabilitative medicine could potentially use the emerging findings to help patients recover lost skills after a stroke or other brain injury. The greatest impact, however, has been in the field of neuroscience itself, where embodied cognition threatens age-old distinctions – not only between brain and body, but between perceiving and thinking, thinking and acting, even between reason and instinct – on which the traditional idea of the mind has been built.

“It’s a revolutionary idea,” says Shaun Gallagher, the director of the cognitive science program at the University of Central Florida. “In the embodied view, if you’re going to explain cognition it’s not enough just to look inside the brain. In any particular instance, what’s going on inside the brain in large part may depend on what’s going on in the body as a whole, and how that body is situated in its environment.”

Or, as the motto of the University of Wisconsin’s Laboratory of Embodied Cognition puts it, “Ago ergo cogito”: “I act, therefore I think.”

Prayer to saints

When discussing prayer to saints, one thing I hear is that we are not asking the saints to do anything for us, we are just asking them to pray for us. In other words we are praying to God through them, not praying to the saints themselves and asking them to do anything. However, Orthodox and Catholic liturgies do not bear this out. Take this example from the Coptic Orthodox Compline:

O pure Virgin, draw the veil of thy speedy protection upon thy servant. Remove from me the billows of evil thoughts and raise my sick soul to pray and watch, because it has long lain in deep sleep; for thou art able, merciful, helpful and the birth-giver of the spring of life, my King and my God, Jesus Christ, my hope (Marsh 61).

The Virgin Mary is being asked for protection in this prayer. She is not being asked to in turn ask God for protection. And here is a Syrian prayer for the intercession of the Mother of God:

O Virgin Mother! Shield us from all menaces that confront us and keep far from us the stormy winds and tides of this world (Marsh 108).

Again, Mary is being asked for protection. One might press the issue and say that Mary would only protect us via her prayers, but that is not what is said in these prayers. Consider the Salve Regina from the Benedictine Daily Prayer:

Haily, holy Queen, mother of mercy, Our life, our sweetness, and our hope. To you do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To you do we send up our sighs mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, your eyes of mercy toward us and after this exile show us the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.
Loving Mother of the Redeemer gate of heaven, star of the sea, assist your people who have fallen yet strive to rise again. To the wonderment of nature you bore your Creator, yet remained a virgin after as before. You who received Gabriel’s joyful greeting, have pity on us poor sinners (Johnson 933).

I think it stretches belief to think that all that is being asked in prayers like this are for the saint to pray for us. The saint is indeed being invoked. Indeed, Hildegard von Bingen says:

You the redeemer’s kindly mother,
you who are still the open gate of heaven
and the star of the sea:
help a falling people
that strives to rise.
You gave birth, as Nature looked on in wonder,
to your own holy maker;
O virgin before and after,
receiving that holy Ave from Gabriel’s lips:
have mercy on us sinners (Sequentia 12).

Who is being asked to help and have mercy on sinners in this case? Mary is. These prayers are not limited to Mary; in the following example St. Benedict is invoked:

Admirable Saint and Doctor of Humility, you practiced what you taught, assiduously praying for God’s glory and lovingly fulfilling all work for God and the benefit of all human beings. You know the many physical dangers that surround us today often caused or occasioned by human inventions. Guard us against poisoning of the body as well as of mind and soul, and thus be truly a “Blessed” one for us. Amen. [link]

It seems clear to me that praying to the saints involves much more than just asking them to pray for us – which in itself is presumptuous, Scripturally unwarranted, or as the Anglican formularies say “…repugnant to the Word of God” [Articles of Religion XXII].

Johnson, Maxwell ed. Benedictine Daily Prayer, A Short Breviary. Collegville, Mn: Liturgical Press, 2005.
Marsh, Richard ed. Prayers from the East. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2004.
Sequentia. Canticles of Ecstasy. BMG, 1994.