December 16, 2004

This Week in Church History

December 11, 1792.

One month from now, Louis XVI would be executed for crimes against the French people. But on this day, something more important happened.

Joseph Mohr was born in Salzburg Germany. He was illegitimate -- the son of a German soldier (Franz Joseph Mohr) and Ann Schoiber, whose family he was living with at the time. When informed of her pregnancy, Mohr did what too many soldiers have done in similar circumstances -- he ran, even deserting the army. Ann was left holding the bag, and was forced to bear the shame and fine alone.

Young Joseph loved to sing, and was allowed to join a Benedictine choir, and studied music with the choirmaster's other students. He excelled, learning several instruments by the age of twelve. He was ordained a priest in 1815.

Three years later, faced with a broken organ and no Christmas music, Mohr wrote the words to one of the most beloved Christmas carols of all time, "Silent Night, Holy Night."

Mohr never became wealthy because of the song; in fact, he died penniless, having devoted his money to a school for poor children. But his example -- a child who had no hope for any future, whose stigma could have prevented him from receiving an education, but was given a chance by people who loved him -- is an inspiration for us all.


Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute hochheilige Paar.
Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Hirten erst kundgemacht
Durch der Engel Halleluja,
Tönt es laut von fern und nah:
Christ, der Retter ist da!
Christ, der Retter ist da!

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Gottes Sohn, o wie lacht
Lieb' aus deinem göttlichen Mund,
Da uns schlägt die rettende Stund'.
Christ, in deiner Geburt!
Christ, in deiner Geburt!
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December 07, 2004

Today in Church History

{This should have gone up yesterday, but I goofed. Sorry.}

I've done one of these this week, but I have a couple more. Some important things happened, and we need to think about the implications.

December 6, 1273.

Throughout his life, Thomas Aquinas had fought to be able to express his beliefs. He was called a "dumb ox" by his fellow students. His wealthy family didn't want him to become a monk -- going so far as to hire a prostitute to seduce him.

Thomas prevailed, and the church has been indebted to him ever since. Without his writings and philosophy, the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church would be very different. His Summa Theologica is regarded as one of the most important writings of the Middle Ages. He is widely regarded as being one of the greatest thinkers in all of Christendom.

On this date, he received a vision. When he was asked to tell of his vision, he simply said "Such things have been revealed to me that all I have written seems to me as so much straw. Now I await the end of my life."

What did Thomas see? Nobody knows. I think that it's clear that whatever he saw, it was enough to show him that, in the long run, disputations and debate are meaningless. Aquinas' theology, and that of most of the medieval Scholastics, taught that reason alone was enough to get to a saving knowledge of God. Centuries later, Martin Luther realized that the endless string of "ergo" {therefore} was leading people nowhere. He realized that you can 'ergo' straight to Hell -- the key to saving faith is in the word "Nevertheless."

God is omnipotent
Jesus is God
Ergo Jesus is omnipotent
Ergo Jesus could have defeated the Roman soldiers and established His kingdom on earth.
NEVERTHELESS, He dies willingly for our sins.

God is holy
We are not holy
Ergo there is a separation between God and Man
NEVERTHELESS, God has made a way for us to be reconciled to Him.

That one word makes the difference.

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December 04, 2004

This Week in Church History

December 5, 633.

A church council was convened in Seville, Spain, ordered by Archbishop Isidore of Seville. The council ruled on a anumber of important issues -- some of which we should pay attention to today. They affirmed the unity of God, while also affirming the Trinity. The ruled that Christians should not force Jews to convert. They also ruled that once a person became a monk, it was for life. They even got a little political, backing the newly-crowned King Sisenand even thogh he had deposed the old king. In exchange for their support, the King freed the clergy from any mandatory state service, and made the Church tax-exempt.

They also ruled on a controversial new form of music -- hymns. Prior to this time, most of the songs sung in church were Biblical passages set to music, but recently some Christians were writing their own praises to God. This caused a huge stir in the church, as people wondered whether these works of mere men were suitable for use in the church of God.

In the end, it wasn't much of a conflict. The council ruled that the hymns written by holy men, such as bishops Ambrose and Hilary, could be considered fit for use in holy services. When we read some of these hymns, it's clear that the content of the songs are scriptural, the music was the same style as had been used before, and the character of the writer was unquestioned. The music was fit for use in the Church.

We face a similar "controversy" today -- the feud over "praise music" and "contemporary worship" in churches. The songs are the same, the message is the same, but the fight is over the style. Can "modern music" praise God?

It always has in the past. God doesn't give us a formula in Scripture about what kind of music He likes, and what kind He doesn't. Christians are commanded to "do all for the glory of God" -- that includes our music, no matter what we listen to. I'm amused at the ammount of time we spend fighting about this issue -- a church can have a growing ministry, a tremendous outreach, and fantastic expository preaching, but if they have a praise band and play CCM, we want to lump them in with the apostates who deny the Gospel, the Bible, and every teaching of Scripture! This is self-defeating. We have more important work before us, and we should be worrying about that, not what style of music God likes.

We need to remember that this fight has always gone on, and has always been regarded later in history as a petty debate. We need to get over it, and get about more important work.

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