Thursday, July 11, 2019

The Norman Conquest left a legacy of churches. . .

An article begins, "At the Bayeux War Cemetery in Normandy there is a Second World War inscription that puts history in perspective: “Nos a Gulielmo victi victoris patriam liberavimus,” (We who were once conquered by William have now liberated the land of the Conqueror.) British soldiers with a classical education knew a paradox when they encountered it.

The William mentioned in this inscription was the Duke of Normandy who became William I of England in 1066. This was the last conquest of England; the Normans are considered the progenitors of the dynasty now represented by Queen Elizabeth II. In the century before 1066 the Normans had been marauding Vikings (“Norsemen”) with an eye for anything lootable. They settled in northwestern France, giving their name to the land that featured so prominently in recent commemorations of the D-Day Normandy invasion."

It suggests that far from the legacy of some rather stark castles, the Normans built some 7,000 churches and these were marked with a graceful line and attention to the Roman arch (perhaps they could be called Romanesque).  Here is an interesting slide show of some of those buildings, elegant in their simplicity and serene in their identity as churches.

In the century following 1066, the Normans were an industrialized machine of builders and 15 of England's cathedrals were begun in this period (13 still standing though with alterations that may mask their Norman beginnings).  Stone was the medium of choice not only for structure but for decoration and the short slide show attests to the elaborate stonework that not only functions to support the building but as its adornment.

There are those who love to comment on this blog who like to argue about simple worship, simple buildings, and simple music.  I put these up to show that simplicity is not barren nor dull but profound.  This, in contrast to our modern penchant of warehouse churches replete with all the creature comforts people expect but empty of any adornment, is the point.  The Normans found a way to make the structure the art.  They would not find the bare steel buildings with exposed HVAC runs and structural supports consistent with their own goal to make the essential also the artistic.  

We, however, live at a time when our people have been dulled by raw steel and glass until the only place to seek art and adornment is on screens that project an image that is real but not where it is shown.  Music has likewise become the domain of technology with CD and playlists replacing live musicians.  In the end, it cannot take long before many will wonder why bother with the assembly at all when the image of the whole experience can be livestreamed or podcasted into their bedrooms where they watch in sleep pants while feasting on breakfast delivered from McDonalds.

Sadly, Lutherans have hidden too much of their theology under one word (adiaphora).  They do not see how this is a problem or why we should should not follow the example of the non-denominational leaders whose approach to church is much like retail with the overarching emphasis on satisfying personal preference rather than the mystery of God and the assembly where the stewards of that mystery deliver the gifts of God through the means of grace.  Because it can be done, they do it and fail to differentiate between what is good and the minimum that might be done.  In this regard it will not be long before we take communion with a pill and worship God in the solitary confinement of our homes, through technological devices that render to us a virtual church in place of a real and dynamic assembly in which the Lord speaks, acts, washes, feeds, and equips a people to be His own and to live under Him in holiness and righteousness.

Okay. . . . rant off.  So you who love to comment can ignore what I have said in order to defend your Lutheran lite (if not on theology, on liturgical identity!).

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

One has to choose to remain ignorant, invincibly so, to suggest that when and where they could, Lutherans *addded* to the beauty of any church they inherited at the time of the Reformation. It was the Calvinists and Radical Reformation that were the iconoclasts, tearing out and tearing down. Lutherans preserved, retained and enhanced the beauty of interior spaces, and they chose the Crucifix as the most characteristic piece of church art through the age of Orthodoxy. Elsewhere, you can visit hundreds of Reformation era churches throughout Central Germany and you will see the preservation of statues, images, high altars and the like. When the had a chance to do so and the funds, Lutherans would add beautiful decorative pulpits, or enormous altar paintings and the like.

The thought that it is more true to Luther's Reformation to worship in sterilized spaces, with white walls, blank altars, little decoration is simply factually wrong.

Here is the book for anyone who wants to understand these points

https://www.amazon.com/Magnificent-Faith-Identity-Lutheran-Germany/dp/0198737572

Anonymous said...

correction: first line "That Lutherans *did not* add..."

Anonymous said...

Anon at 7:15

Please re-read chapters one and two of the fine book you reference.
There's a little more nuance there that you are missing.

Daniel G. said...

What the iconoclasts forgot is that we are 3 dimensional beings and therefore when we worship, we worship not only spiritually but corporally; that is, will all of our senses. To be fair, as a Catholic, there are some Churches that are just over the top with art and decorations. Perhaps I'm coming from a 21st century mindset and judging the art of that time from the point of view of what is en vogue today. There are some beautiful, minimally decorated churches that I've been to but they are far and few between. In any event, when I'm in a sterile sacred space, then the worship seems to be sterile.

Anonymous said...

Anon...and you, sir, persist in cherry picking to prop your pre-conceived ideas, which I sense are born of the thought that the real "high point" in Lutheranism is to be located in 1950s, TLH only LCMS Lutheranism.

David Gray said...

At least TLH Lutheranism didn't feature pop music and sermons about having your best life now. Indeed it still doesn't.

Anonymous said...

It is a shame somebody here keeps misusing Heal's research to prop up erroneous notions about the place of images and church decoration and ornamentation in the Lutheran Church. Let's hear Heal out:

"Luther's teachings set the scene for a rich tradition of Protestant visual piety...his emphasis on Christian freedom resurfaced agin during the second half of the sixteenth century in disputes with iconoclastic Calvinists; his belief in the efficacy of the preached Word was used to justify the preservation of pre-Reofrmation images; and his willingness to use images for instruction and commemoration inspired numerous illustrated Bibles and catechisms. Moreover, against the traditional notion of the Reformation's 'Entsinnlichung' and "entemotionalisierun' of Christianity—the loss of the sensual and emotional elements of late-medieval piety—we should place Luther's clear conviction that faith is felt and not learned. For him images—both physical and mental—helped the Christian to understand Scripture and experience faith, aiding int he process by which the Word of God is impressed on human hearts....It was in the conjunction of seeing images, hearing the preached Word and reading texts that Lutheran confessional consciousness and religious identity was formed."
Heal, p. 38; conclusion of Chapter 1

"By the time of Luther's death in 1546 the first steps had been taken along the path oby which images became an important part of Lutheran confessional culture...Lutherans had, during the first decades of the Reformation, found theological justifications for images, defended them as signs of religious moderation and used them in pastoral care and instruction in the crucial work of disseminating the Gospel. .... The series of princely conversions within the empire, *with their attendant iconoclaims, reaffirmed the Lutheran conviction that images were necessary signs of religious moderation. They, like particular liturgical rituals, became litmus tests of confessional allegiance in the struggle against Calvinist reform. Images might have been indifferent in salvific terms but they were nonetheless, as the Marburg example suggestions, an important part of what it meant to be Lutheran. ...moments of confessional conflict in Electoral Saxony and Brandenburg, ... reveal the strength of Lutheran attachment to images, but also left a lasting legacy, embedding images more firmly than ever in Lutheran confessional consciousness."
Heal, p. 73; from Conclusion of Chapter 2.

"For Lutheran theologians confronted by Calvinism, religious images—especially altar pieces and crucifixes—served as confessional markers. The iconoclasts of the later sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were equated in Lutheran polemic with the radicals of the 1520s, with Karlstadt and his supporters. Now, even more than during the early decades of the Lutheran Reformation, images were part of Lutheran confessional identity. In 1616 Simon Gedicke preached a sermon in the Cathedral at Meissen in Electoral Saoxy on the occasion of its restoration...he recounted the traumas that the church and its furnishings had endured during the Peasant's and Schmaklakdic War...he referred to its survival during the 'Calvinist poison' of 1590, when proponents of the Reformed (Calvinist) faith wanted to attack the altar, organ, images and especially the crucifix. 'God protect us from their zeal and venom' he pleaded."
Heal, p. 95

And so, Anon, you either have not actually read and studied the book, or if you have, you can not understand what you are reading and you are only looking for a few references to prop up your preconceived misunderstanding of the era post-Luther to the Book of Concord in 1580.

Read the whole book!

Anonymous said...

Gray, that much is true, but I know from hard experience that the zealous "TLH only" congregations were the first ones to fall victim to the promise of contemporary worship, "We have to change to keep this congregation alive and to keep young people coming back." The use of TLH was often done without understanding and appreciation, but simply because "we've always done it that way before." In such a climate of ignorance about Lutheran worship, history and practice, it laid the foundation for its abandonment.

David Gray said...

So people who insist on using an old hymnal also want pop music?

Our congregation still uses TLH and we have nothing even vaguely associated with contemporary worship.

Anonymous said...

Gray...read my comment and stop putting words in my mouth.

Anonymous said...

David, is this your congregation?

http://www.zionatcrosby.com/?page_id=322

Anonymous said...

LOL at Anonymous at 9:46 always probing for personal information about people posting on Lutheran blogs...
Is this for your database? Is this the Main Nag?

Anonymous said...

Luther, Third Invocavit Sermon:

"But we must come to the images, and concerning them also it is true that they are unnecessary, and we are free to have them or not, although it would be much better if we did not have them. I am not partial to them."

"Therefore it should have been preached that images were nothing and that God is not served by their erection, and they would have fallen of themselves. That is what I did; that is what Paul did in Athens, when he went into their churches and saw all their idols. He did not strike at any of them, but stood in the market-place and said, “Ye men of Athens, ye are all idolatrous.” He preached against their idols, but he overthrew none by force. And you would rush in, create an uproar, break down the altars and overthrow the images? Do you really believe you can abolish the images on this wise? Nay, you will only set them up more firmly. Even if you overthrew the images in this place, do you think you have overthrown those in Nuremberg and the rest of the world? Not at all. St. Paul, as we read in the Book of Acts, sat in a ship on whose prow were painted or carved the Twin Brothers. He went on board and did not bother about it at all, neither did he break them off. Why must Luke describe the Twins at this place? Without doubt he wanted to show that outward things could do no harm to faith, if only the heart does not cleave to them nor put its trust in them. This is what we must preach and teach, and let the Word alone do the work, as I said before. The Word must first capture the hearts of men and enlighten them, — we cannot do it. Therefore the apostles gloried in their service, ministerium, and not in its effect, executio."

Anonymous said...

Ah, now let's play, "cherry pick" Luther quotes, misunderstand them, fail to consider when/where/why he said what he said....ok...here you go.

“I will first discuss images according to the Law of Moses, and then according to the gospel. And I say at the outset that according to the Law of Moses no other images are forbidden than an image of God which one worships. A crucifix, on the other hand, or any other holy image is not forbidden. Heigh now! you breakers of images, I defy you to prove the opposite!” (AE 40:85-86) In fact, he clarifies just what this means all the more when he says, “Now I say this to keep the conscience free from mischievous laws and fictitious sins, and not because I would defend images. Nor would I condemn those who have destroyed them, especially those who destroy divine and idolatrous images. But images for memorial and witness, such as crucifixes and images of saints, are to be tolerated.” (AE 40: 91)

Unknown said...

Martin Luther encouraged the display of some religious imagery in churches, seeing the Evangelical Lutheran Church as a continuation of the "ancient, apostolic church".[1] He defended the use of "importance of images as tools for instruction and aids to devotion",[2] stating that "If it is not a sin but good to have the image of Christ in my heart, why should it be a sin to have it in my eyes?"[3]

1. Lamport, 138. "Lutherans continued to worship in pre-Reformation churches, generally with few alterations to the interior. It has even been suggested that in Germany to this day one finds more ancient Marian altarpieces in Lutheran than in Catholic churches. Thus in Germany and in Scandinavia many pieces of medieval art and architecture survived. Joseph Leo Koerner has noted that Lutherans, seeing themselves in the tradition of the ancient, apostolic church, sought to defend as well as reform the use of images. "An empty, white-washed church proclaimed a wholly spiritualized cult, at odds with Luther's doctrine of Christ's real presence in the sacraments" (Koerner 2004, 58). In fact, in the 16th century some of the strongest opposition to destruction of images came not from Catholics but from Lutherans against Calvinists: "You black Calvinist, you give permission to smash our pictures and hack our crosses; we are going to smash you and your Calvinist priests in return" (Koerner 2004, 58). Works of art continued to be displayed in Lutheran churches, often including an imposing large crucifix in the sanctuary, a clear reference to Luther's theologia crucis. ... In contrast, Reformed (Calvinist) churches are strikingly different. Usually unadorned and somewhat lacking in aesthetic appeal, pictures, sculptures, and ornate altar-pieces are largely absent; there are few or no candles; and crucifixes or crosses are also mostly absent.

2. Naaeke, Anthony Y. (2006). Kaleidoscope Catechesis: Missionary Catechesis in Africa, Particularly in the Diocese of Wa in Ghana. Peter Lang. p. 114. ISBN 9780820486857. "Although some reformers, such as John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli, rejected all images, Martin Luther defended the importance of images as tools for instruction and aids to devotion."

3. Noble, 67-69

David Gray said...

People should really use their names.

Anonymous said...

Is that your congregation, David?

David Gray said...

Who are you?

Anonymous said...

Don't answer, David!

The Main Nag will revoke your LCMS membership card!

Bob Schmidt said...

That article about this "Machine" in The LCMS and the other nutso claims in that piece was hilarious, but apparently the person who wrote it is suffering from significant mental delusions, so in that sense it is not funny.

Cheers,
Bob

Anonymous said...

I just read through the comments...pretty interesting how when somebody actually quoted the facts, is shut down the conversation from the crowd trying to advance the "TLH only is best" perspective, the "simple is best" perspective.

They know that the minimalist perspective is bull crap, and yet, they keep trying to tell everyone that just because THEY do not want to receive the Lord's Supper every Sunday none of the rest of us should.

A ten year old with any brains realizes they can't even comprehend the clear assertions in the Lutheran Confessions.

These bozos keep trying to demand that just because THEY do not have a desire to receive the Sacrament every Sunday means that WE who do should be deprived of it.

Sick stuff.