peter krey's web site

scholarship, sermons, songs, poems, weblog writing on

Archive for September 2010

Helene Fischer, a German Popsinger with wonderful lyrics

leave a comment »

Check her songs out: these are some of my favorites. It would be nice if she gave a concert over here. You can find many of her songs if you start. When I get the lyrics I’ll translate the portions that think are really wholesome and kind.

1. I Want only to “Forgive, Forget, and trust [each other] again”

2. “Let Me into Your Life”

You are not free, and you are afraid to commit yourself, reason speaks against it; [for you] the risk is too high

You only need yourself and alone you look for rules, yes, so you greet my soul, why?

Let me into Your Life, look deep into your soul, you are somehow another part of me.

Just let me into Your Life, I want to understand you? (I’m unsure of this line)

In the labyrinthe of your heart there is a door and it leads to you

3. “In the Middle of Paradise”

4. “Here to Eternity”

5. “Only Those who can Still Dream” can change the world,  (The melody is “Ode to Joy”)

only those who believe can touch move other hearts

we need to find peace and it all depends on it

6. “You Catch Me and Let me Fly” never hold me too tight

send me away into the world, but my heart is like a boomerang, it always comes back to you

She has many more lovely love songs!


Written by peterkrey

September 24, 2010 at 9:46 pm

Posted in 1

Make Friends with Unrighteous Mammon: Luther’s Explanation

leave a comment »

Make Friends with Unrighteous Mammon: Resolved

Luther’s Sermon of August 17, 1522

Luke 16: 1-13

This version comes from copies of notes taken from Luther’s sermon that made it to publication. Thus it is rather repetitive and unpolished. Luther, disturbed because of it, published his own version later.

Sermon on the Next Sunday after the Ascension of Mary

This is a veritable priest and monk’s Gospel that will make them some money, if we don’t guard against it. Now, before we get into it, we have to learn some language usage, especially concerning the word “mammon.” The Jews used this word in the Hebrew language and we have to learn how they used it, just like the word “Alleluia.” Amen. Kyrie eleison. So “mammon” is a Hebrew word that means “riches” or “wealth” and not simply “wealth,” but left-over wealth, that is, one of an overflowing measure. What is called “mammon” can be understood as two things. Knowing it before our Lord God and according to the truth, then many of you would have mammon. If we want to measure it before the world and people, however, then you would be few, because our masters have taught us that everyone should look to his or her place and what they need for it and measure their goods accordingly. If someone is a man and has a wife and child, then he has to have proportionally more, because where there are many, there has to be much. And when you measure it all that way, then no one has anything left over, but everyone would rather still have more. Even one who has two thousand gulden, says, “I have to have them for my household so that I can support myself, my wife and my child.”

And so, one is not held responsible for helping, even in the most desperate need, and this Gospel was thereby completely annulled, so that no one needed be helpful to another. In the meanwhile they built churches and even there they did not attend the greatest need until the vaults cracked and the church stood there roofless. They gave here simply beyond measure and smeared their gold on the walls.

Now “mammon” means that some one has left over provisions, with which one should help the other, and not spoil him or herself. [In the latter case,] the Lord calls it “unrighteous mammon.” One should then call the goods that one has left over, the mammon of iniquity (mammon iniquitatis), because after all, the unrighteous are using it daily, even if they say, “Goods bring courage.” The Heathen also called it a “provocation to evil” (irritamentum malorum). Likewise, St. Paul says, “Greed is the root out of which all evil grows,” for example, take war and bloodshed. That is why here it is also called “unrighteous mammon,” as it has such an evil use and is such a great cause of evil among people. Now [wealth] is also God’s creation, like wine and corn, and God’s creation is good; so why is it here called evil? This is the reason: because it provokes much evil, just like St. Paul says to the Ephesians, “Make the most of the time, for the days are evil” (5:16). Not that the days in and of themselves are evil, but that much evil takes place in them. Likewise, they are called “days of wrath and lamentation,” even though a day is good. But because wrath and lamentation go on in them, so days have to let themselves take that name. In the same way, the Gospel calls mammon that is used in evil ways, “unrighteous mammon.” That is, wealth and riches that one has left-over, and with which one does not help the neighbor, one possesses unjustly and it is stolen in the eyes of God; because before God one has the responsibility to give, to lend, and let take. Therefore the wealthiest big shots are the greatest thieves, according to the common saying, because they have the most left over and they give the least.

Now that that has been said about the usage of the [Hebrew] language, let us return to the Gospel. We can take the parable at face value; we do not have to look for subtleties as St. Jerome did, because it is not necessary to search for such sharp distinctions. One can stay with the milk [rather than going for the meat and potatoes]. The parable stands for itself: the householder, the steward, the manager has cost his Lord his possessions and has been found wanting in management and has been found deceptive and false, because it has never been right, for one who has earlier betrayed his Lord, to then negotiate deceptively with his goods, so that he has provisions for his future life. So we can leave it there, because the Lord also draws that conclusion. [Although] the action of this rascal is smart; it is not praised as if it were good. On the contrary, [the text] criticizes him that he had earlier [wasted and] destroyed the Lord’s goods and afterwards had deceptively dealt with them. What the Lord praises is [not] that he did not forget himself; he praises only his shrewdness, as when one sees a whore, who attracts the whole world to herself; then I could say, “That is a smart whore; she knows her art.” And we should also be like the manager, who is so shrewd in his action, in our winning eternal life. So [to help] you understand this, take the verse from St. Paul in Romans: “Adam is an early figure of Christ” (5:11). How can the Apostle compare Adam with Christ, when [Adam] made us inherit sin and death, while Christ makes us heirs of righteousness and life? He compares the Lord with Adam [from the viewpoint of] source and family, not of fruit and work. For Adam is a source and head of all sinners, as Christ is the source and head of all saints; for from Adam we did not inherit more than sin and condemnation and eternal curses; from Christ, however, [we inherit] righteousness and salvation. Now you cannot confuse the two, because sin is punishable; righteousness in praiseworthy. But he compares them in their source: just like how sin and death broke and entered all people through Adam, so through Christ came the in-breaking of righteousness and life. In the same way here, he compares the roguery to the righteous; that the one is smart with doing wrong and mischief; and in the same way, we should be smart in dealing uprightly with justice (mit recht im frümkait). The parable needs to be understood in that way. So he says, “The children of darkness are more shrewd than the children of light” and that the children of the light should learn shrewdness from the children of the darkness. The same way that they are shrewd in what they do, so the children of the light should be shrewd in what they do.

Now there are truly three big questions that our adversaries spring up against us and the Gospel, namely: “Make friends with unrighteous mammon, so they take you into eternal shelters.” There they argue that we have to work first in order to become upright, because here it says, “Make friends with mammon” and that, of course, is work. At the same time, God is here praising works and not only praising them, but also rewarding them, because here it is all about work and reward and nothing is said about believing, [about faith]. Thirdly, as if it wanted to establish the comfort and help of the saints, as it says “Make friends, etc. so that they receive you in the eternal shelters.” In this way the Gospel stands opposing us completely, because it says, “Make yourself friends,” which is as much as saying, “Do good works so that they take you into the eternal homes.” That seems to say, “Earn it beforehand, so that they take you into the eternal homes.” These three parts have driven the pope and priests [to the point where] his indulgence can be called the Mammon of iniquity.

We have to answer when they attack us in this way. So above all things, notice without doubt that faith and love are right, as we always learned, that inwardly we become upright through faith and outwardly we prove it through works. Now, I have often said that the Scriptures speak of people in a twofold way. One way is from an internal perspective. The other way is external, because the Scriptures have to speak by making distinctions. For example, the way I speak of my foot, I cannot, of course, speak about my nose. Therefore the Scriptures speak to us of the spirit and how it must stand before God through faith. There God lets the Word go forth, the Word that we hold onto, and according to it God lets his spirit follow. So the tree has to be good beforehand, as you now heard. No one can become upright unless one already has grace in his or her heart. If I am to make a friend of mammon, then I have to be upright beforehand, and then both [perspectives] are held together.

No evil tree can bear good fruit and again, no good tree can bear evil fruit. Now judge for yourself. Should I do good and give away mammon, [my riches] as gifts, then I have to already be upright in my heart beforehand, because God looks at the heart, and judges the work according to it. I only say that so that you do not let works tear into your heart, because the heart has to be upright beforehand through faith, so that [good works] flow out of it. Otherwise you will not do anybody any good and you will also give it when it is not in your heart. Thus reason concludes that I have to be upright beforehand, before I do good works. It does not build itself in from the outside.

One cannot start building [a house] with the roof, but you start with the floor. Thus faith must already be there. After that, [the Scriptures] speak of us according to our outward persons, as in our flesh and blood, we live our lives among people. Now, whether or not I am upright, you do not know, nor do I know. There I have to make my faith certain for myself and [for other] people and I have to do good [things] for my neighbors, so that my faith gives proof of itself. Therefore outward works are only signs of internal faith. The works do not make me upright, but they are a sign that I am upright and witness that it is a right faith.

This is the way you also have to understand the Scripture, “Give mammon, [give away riches,] so that you make friends,” that is, “Do good, so that your faith becomes certain. So be sure to notice what pertains to the spirit and what pertains to the fruit of the spirit. So here St. Luke has given a description of the fruit of the spirit: “Give to the poor and make yourself friends;” as if he were to say, “I do not now speak of faith, but how you give evidence for your faith:” [and that is,] by being giving and wherever you can give, you give from the heart: then you will be sure that you have faith.

So once [the Scripture] speaks of fruit and another time it speaks of faith. Likewise, in another place, it also speaks of fruits: “I was hungry and did not give” (Esurivi et non dedistis)(Mat 25:42).  That is, you have not believed and I will prove it to you by your own works. The Scriptures speak in places partly about outward behavior and partly about the internal [side]. Now would you take what is said about the external, take it into the heart and mingle it with things there? Then you don’t take it right; so you have to keep it differentiated. The verse, “I was hungry, etc.,” however, is directed toward external behavior and means the following: “You did not lead an external kind of life that gave evidence for your faith, and I will take poor people as witnesses of it.

Therefore faith alone has to be present first, which makes us upright, and that is the tree. Afterward come the works that provide the evidence for our faith, and those are the fruit, which is now one of the works.

Now the other

is much more difficult: “Make yourself friends of mammon, so they take you into eternal life.” You say that you should not do good works to attain eternal life; and look, there it is written otherwise! Now what will we ever do? There are verses that go this way and that. “Insofar as we have earned it;” with that they want to overthrow [our reliance] on the mercy and compassion of God and that will lead to doing good works that are sufficient [to attain] God’s righteousness. Guard against that with your life! But just stay and leave pure grace and mercy alone and say, “I am a poor sinner; O God, forgive me my sin; I would be glad not to speak about what I earn. Only do not to speak about your judgment.” As David says, “Do not enter into judgment with your servant” (Psalm 143:2). That is why Christ was given to us as a mediator. If we now wish enter God’s court of judgment with our good works, then we bump Christ out of the middle, and then we cannot stand. So let him be your mediator and hold you under his wings. “Under his wings you will find refuge” (Psalm 91:4). So say, “O God, with my works I do not wish to earn anything before you, but I direct them alone to serve my neighbor and rely completely on your mercy.”

Therefore take notice that eternal life consists two kinds of things, faith and following: when you go and believe and you do good to your neighbor, there eternal life must follow, even if you never think about it again. It is just like when you have a good drink; the taste has to follow as soon as you drink it, even if you do not look for it. And it is just the same with hell, one does not look for it, but it follows unlooked for and unwanted, and one must enter, whether one wants to or not. The Apostle says the same thing: “They have been filling up the measure of their sins. [Sins] alone follow us, until our sin is completed” (1 Thess 2:16) and they press on always more and more with sins, until their hearts have become completely hardened. Thus here the Scriptures also say, we want to do good so that we are saved; but that is not to say, that we are to earn it beforehand with good works, but believe, so it will follow of itself. So notice this well, so you do not take what follows [the result] for what is sought [the effect] and guard yourself from works.

Do you think God will give us heaven for a work? No, no. God has already given it to us for nothing, out of mercy and compassion. Therefore, because it follows, give. So notice that the verses have to be understood twice. Once, that one look for it with works: that is false. Second, for what follows and that is right. So you should not look [for heaven] with any or even one work, but do your works directed freely and then it will follow that eternal life will come of itself without your looking. Then if I should see the heavens standing open and I could earn it by lifting a straw, I still would not do it, so that I could not say, “See, I have earned it.” No, no, not with my deserving. For God has the honor, (who has given to me his Son), and [who] let my sin and hell be eradicated.

Thirdly, “that they take us into the eternal tabernacles”: Look, there it is written that they lead us into heaven. So how can you say that we should not make the saints our mediators before God, because they could not help us in heaven? So let it be understood that we have but one mediator before God and that is Christ. For as St. Paul also says, “There is one God and there is also one mediator between God and humankind, and that is Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2: 5). Likewise, “I am the way” (John 14: 6). “No one comes to the Father except through me.” That is why we should not place our faith in any saint, but alone in Christ, through whose merit alone we and all the saints are saved. Therefore I would not give a cent for the merit of Saint Peter and that he should help me; he cannot help himself. For what he has, he has from God through faith in Christ. Now if he cannot help himself, what can he do for me? Therefore I have to have [only] one and that is Christ.

Now why does it say here, “Make yourself friends that they take you into the eternal tabernacles?” Now when Christ [one day] will say, “I was hungry and you did not give me anything to eat, etc.” (Mat 25:35f.) they will

, “When did we see you?” Then he will say, “Truly, truly, what you have done for the least of these who belong to me, you have done unto me.” With that Christ shows you who the friends are: they are the poor. As if he were to say, “If you made them your friends then you made me your friend, because these are my members.” Now how will they take us into the eternal tabernacles as our text says? Will they take us by the hand and lead us? No, but when we come and stand before God’s court of judgment, then a poor person, for whom I had done some good, will be standing there in heaven and say, “He washed my feet, etc.” and he will be the friend; he will be a witness to my faith. Therefore a beggar will be more useful to me than St. Peter, who will do nothing. But when a beggar comes and says, “O God, he did that for me as your member.” That will help me. For God will say, “What you did for him, you did for me.” So they will not be helpers, but witnesses, so that God will take us in, those who help witness faith.

With that I do not want to knock your honoring St. Peter, because he is a member of God. But one does more when one gives one’s neighbor a penny than when one builds St. Peter a golden church. Because the one is commanded; the other for St. Peter is not commanded. So now go and run to the Compostelle of St. James and look for the saints, and let the poor people, who are the really holy ones, sit here and lie in the alleys. End.

Translated on the 21st of September, 2010 (from the Weimar Edition of Luther’s Works, vol. 10.3: 273-282), by peterkrey

Written by peterkrey

September 22, 2010 at 12:06 am

Blogging my Thoughts: Bishops versus Runners in Chess and the Investiture Controversy

leave a comment »

Blogging my Thoughts:

Bishops versus Runners in Chess and the Investiture Controversy

The famed Norse Chessmen, made out of the ivory of walrus tusks that were discovered in 1831 on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides in Scotland are rather telling for insights about bishops in history.[1] The controversy brought up in this New York Times article is if they were made in Iceland or Norway.[2] Made between 1150 and 1200 A.D., they feature bishops after the king and queen and the fellows arguing for their Iceland’s origin, claim they were called runners and not bishops at that time in Norway. Actually, in German we still call them runners (Läufer). In Iceland these chess pieces were already called bishops in the tenth and eleventh centuries. A counter argument insists that the origin for calling the pieces bishops derives earlier from England and then spread to Iceland and Norway.

Be that as it may, the medieval investiture controversy never entered the chess game it seems. The pope wanted the sole right and power to ordain bishops, while kings wanted to have that power, because bishops could have no heirs, legitimate ones anyway, and their property and holdings would revert back to the king as they did at the time to the church. Secular nobles, who were vassals of the king, always sought their advantage and rights for their heirs, giving their kings the royal headaches of power struggles.

So when you play chess, remember that there is no pope on the board, and the bishops with battle-axe in hand, are on the field fighting for their king as if his kingdom, the church, and the kingdom of God were all one and the same. Chess is a medieval game!

[1] “Reopening History of Storied Norse Chessmen,” New York Times, (September 9, 2010), p. C2.

[2] A comment opposing the theory of Icelandic origins made me laugh: “Iceland was a bit of a scrappy place full of farmers”  according to Dr. Alex Wolf. “The pieces are also exquisite works of art,” and, “You don’t get the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Iowa.” My mentor Prof. Robert Goeser came from Iowa and was always very sensitive to comments disparaging his home state. He would have winced at that one. No rebuke, I’m sure, for our Wartburg in Dubuque!

Written by peterkrey

September 9, 2010 at 6:33 pm

Bible Study on 1 Peter 3:13-20a (September 6, 2010)

leave a comment »

Bible Study: 1 Peter 3:13-20a for Sally

This epistle was probably written between 70 and 90 A.D. St. Peter or an elder writing in his name, is sending this letter from a sister church in Babylon, (the code word for Rome after it destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D.), to the churches in the five Roman provinces of Asia Minor, because the Christians had already disbursed into those regions and were converting the people there. St. Paul had preached and established churches in these provinces about 60 A.D.

Christianity was a despised foreign religion to the Romans and families became furious when their members converted to it. Because Romans were patriarchal, they feared that the new religion would disrupt their strict hierarchy and women would misbehave. Romans felt that Christians would introduce immorality, especially adultery, insubordination in the household, and sedition against the state.

In 64 A.D. a huge fire burned in Rome and the people suspected that Nero had started it. We still say, “He fiddled while Rome burned.” To undo the suspicions they had against him, he blamed it on the Christians, hung them on crosses, covered them with skins of animals, and let dogs tear them up. He acted the part of a charioteer driving among them.[1] At night they lit up the crosses so that the Christians became human torches to light up the slaughter. It backfired on Nero, because the Romans thought that it was less a punishment, than the satisfaction of the ferocity of one man, Nero.

Christians have a deep love for one another, which disturbed the hard and fast hierarchy of the Roman household. The Roman father could kill or raise his children, could execute a disobedient son, and break his children’s marriages if he willed.[2] If he had this kind of power over his family, imagine the power he had over his slaves! But the slaves were becoming Christians as well as many of the women.

In these early Christian persecutions, which were not yet official and systematic as later under Emperor Decius in 250 A.D. and under Diocletian and Galerius (302 A.D., ending with the edict of Milan in 313), Christians could have been tempted to fight back, or in the freedom of the Gospel, really disrupt the Roman sense of morality.

So they can’t be of help if they suffer because of wrong-doing, but only if they suffer for righteousness or Christ’s sake. They should rejoice if they have been chosen to suffer, to carry the cross of Christ (verse 13). They should not fear what the Romans feared, but they should fear God (14). Here Peter is referring to Isaiah 8:12: “Do not call conspiracy” – I believe the word “sedition” is here implied, “what they call sedition.” Because Christians honored and obeyed the emperor, they just wouldn’t worship him. But the Romans required that they worship him, too, so they called them seditious.

Christians were to fear God and in their hearts sanctify Christ as Lord (15). They could not do that as required by the Romans for Caesar, but only give him outward honor and obedience. Deeper still, we pray: “Hallowed be Thy name.” That requires us to live a holy life, because what we do either blemishes or lifts up and makes holy the name of our Father in Heaven. Our sins take away from the good name of Jesus Christ.

That so-called preacher in Florida, packing a gun, and threatening to burn Qur’ans on 9/11 dishallows Christ’s name, as do all those who identify Islam with extremism, as if all Christians were like the K.K.K.

What sense does an apology or defense of our faith make, if we persecute others? And when people notice the good faith that is within us and the deep love we have for one another, our readiness to forgive, our willingness to suffer for the unrighteous, then we tell people about who has changed our lives: we too are sinners and even though we don’t deserve it, we are saved by grace. We don’t boast. We are all sinners and fallen short of the glory of God. But Christ died for us on the cross even though we were still sinners. Body guards take a bullet for dignitaries, but Christ took a bullet, so to speak, for someone worthless, a completely sinful nobody, like me. Somehow we have now died with him and entered a new life with him. Our testimony, our witness must be told with gentleness and reverence.

We need to stay on the moral high ground to keep our consciences clear (16). People won’t be redeemed if we are punished because of a scandal we’ve committed. A kid stole a bike and was punished by his father. “How the righteous must suffer!” he complained. Of course, “no good deed goes unpunished,” – but then the bottom drops out for that sort, because like Nero, they discover that their ferocity against the innocent backfires. Disfavor like burning coals, gathers over their own heads.

Christ suffered and died on the cross for us – the sinners that we are, so we, too, have to carry the cross for others, rejoicing in our suffering. In this way Christ turned our hearts to God and we need to do the same by becoming a Christ to the sinners of today, our neighbors.

Verses 18 and 22, commentaries think may have come from an old hymn. “Christ was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit” (18). Our old Adam and Eve die in the death of Jesus Christ on the cross (and also in our baptisms), and we are raised up with Christ into the spiritual life. We are already getting a preview of the coming attractions on the other side.

Luther writes: “Christ is spiritual flesh and blood, not according to the external senses. He does not sleep and does not wake. Yet he knows everything and is everywhere. This is how we too shall be. He is the First Fruits, the beginning, the First Born of the spiritual life….He is the first who arose and entered into the spiritual life. Thus Christ now lives according to the spirit, that is, He is true man, but he has a spiritual body” (Luther’s Works, vol. 30, page 112).

Our baptisms are like Noah’s ark that saved us from the death we lived and awakens us to live in the life given us by the resurrection of Christ. We too have become truly human and we await our spiritual bodies, having become children of God, with God as our very own dear Father.

Getting into verse 19, Luther writes: “This is a strange text and certainly a more obscure passage than any other passage in the New Testament” (page 113). He claims that he cannot understand it. “But if someone chooses to maintain that after Christ had died on the cross, He descended to the souls and preached to them there, I will not stand in the way” (LW: 30, page 113). This, of course, aligns with the Apostles’ Creed: “Christ descended into hell. On the third day he arose again, etc.” But Luther is not certain that the apostle wants to say this.

The risen Christ no longer preaches in a physical voice, but spiritually, Luther explains. Christ speaks to our hearts, preaches inwardly, in our hearts and souls. Luther notes that the text does not use the word “descended.” It says, “in the spirit, in which also he went and made proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the times of Noah” (verses 18-20). It says Christ just went and preached to the spirits in prison. Luther: We are commanded to preach in our bodies physically and orally. When we do, Christ himself comes, is spiritually present, and speaks and preaches to the hearts of the people, right while pastors and preachers proclaim the word physically and orally into the ears of the people. Luther: “Then Christ preaches to the spirits who are in captivity in the prison of the devil” (LW: 30, page 114). So Luther still understands this in a spiritual sense.

Now we see time in the sense of the past, present, and future. Spiritually from eternity, all times are present to God. “To the Lord, one thousand years are like one day and one day like a thousand years” (2 Peter 2:8). (I’m still following Luther here.) So Christ could also preach to the unbelievers in the time of Noah.

Now from another commentary: these unbelievers in Noah’s time were singled out because they were examples of the most evil sort. They were “sons of God,” who “saw that the daughters of human beings were beautiful and took wives for themselves, all that they chose” (Genesis 6:1-2). My thought: I think this could refer to divine kingship of old. Kings and emperors called themselves “sons of God,” for example, Thutmose, son of the god Toth; Amunmose, son of the god Amun; Ramses or Ramose, son of the God Ra. Caesar too want to be called divine. Moses never said he was a son of God, but the servant of God, Ebed Yahweh and stood up against the Pharaohs, (in Egyptian “Pharaoh” means “house of the king.” In ancient times, the “divine kings” gathered up all the women for their harems and then made the men their soldiers, so they would be killed and be without them. Solomon, for example, had a thousand wives. But Christ would preach spiritually even to such greedy, murderous, evil, and fallen sinners.

[1] See Documents of the Persecution of the Church: and Lost Gospel of Judas

[2] See Family Values in Ancient Rome:

Written by peterkrey

September 8, 2010 at 5:13 pm

The Book of Continuous Creation by Peter Krey September 5th, 2010

leave a comment »

The Book of the Continuous Creation

September 5th 2010

Goethe was reading Luther’s “Preface to the Psalms,” in which Luther called the Psalms the little Bible in the Bible, because it contained the whole Bible in a nutshell. Luther wrote that the Bible reflected everything in the world. So Goethe called the Bible, the World-Mirror (Weltspiegel).[1] The latter is a very interesting term.

In Medieval times a law code was referred to as a “mirror,” for example, the Sachsenspiegel or the Mirror of Saxony and it was the name of the law code of Saxony. In holding up a mirror to the society, it could see itself, get to know itself, it could detect the disorder and bring order to itself via the law code.

The Bible in the sense of a World-mirror, however, is more than just a law code. In holding a mirror up to the world, it also reflected nature and history to themselves or ourselves, because we are a part of nature and history. Now an order could be sought after in nature and one could also be looked for in history.

Reflected by a book, nature and history could be thought of as reflecting the book as well, the Scriptures, the Word of God, as well, and then the order in nature and history could be thought of as the Book of Nature and the Book of History, declaring the glory of God and our need for salvation. These books along with the Bible testified to the handiwork of God; the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Testaments of Nature and History. The Book of History reflected how God was at work in history; it reflected God’s saving acts among the people of God’s creation. Opening up these books opened up the Book of Creation.

“Without the Word [there can be] no world.”[2] Without God’s speaking gentle and secure promises to us, the world becomes a “wasteland a thousand times, mute and cold.”[3] The “Word” can be understood to be Christ and the creation through the Word (Logos) or reason in the Greek sense or the word of command in the Hebrew sense. According to Oswald Bayer, Luther’s Gospel discovery was the efficacy of the word: God’s Word does what it says and says what it does, making God’s promises sure and certain.[4] Thus the Bible needs to be understood as a living book. When reading it “you have to listen to your God speaking to you.” as Luther says in the “Freedom of a Christian.”[5] With that the speaking of God recreates you, renews you, lifts you up in the voice of God to your nature and history; or more precisely, into your biography, that by God’s grace becomes your theography, as you become part of God’s new creation.

That places us squarely into the Book of your Life, your mirror, and how God is at work in your life. “We don’t live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”[6] So now we are speaking about living words that fill the living Bible of our lives. And we know that the law code came from Moses, but the grace and truth of the Gospel came from Jesus Christ our Lord. So we live by the promises of God and we let God know us, so that we receive the new birth, “not of the blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.”[7]

Let me return from the personal, from our human nature, to nature more or less outside of us. When disconnected from the Book of Life, from the living Book  that the Book of Nature was reflecting, the first Greek philosophers began giving natural explanations for natural events. And in discovering the order in nature and its relative intelligibility via reason, observation; and through the course of time, experimentation, including the scientific method, scientists ran the danger of encapsulating nature, (Think how mysterious the word “nature” is!) from the Book of Nature in which we also hear our God speaking to us. But rifling the secrets from nature by smashing the particles violently to divide and conquer them for the sake of technological control, and its depersonalized objectification, has made us no longer able to hear God speaking to us through nature. Luther tells that God is closer to us creatures, deeper, more internal, more present, than we creatures are to ourselves.[8] But we hide in the hand of our autonomy, even though without God we would evaporate from the earth and it too would evaporate in a nano-second, and for us, the voice of God has become mute.

Even so and here again, following Augustine, we have to think of the Happy fall, because God wants us to understand nature. But we have to take the joyous Ascent in Christ once more and understand nature as creation, in God’s words, whose doing is saying and saying is doing, in terms of the continuous creation, because the miracles of modern science – space ships, Internet, droids, iphones, molecular computers, or what have you, will not hold a candle to the miracle of God’s continuous creation, when we hear our God speaking to us via the living Book of Nature, the living Book of History, filled with all the promises of God for the new creation!

[1] Oswald Bayer,  Schoepfung als Anrede, (Tuebingen: J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebick), 1990), page 43. I have not finished this book. My thoughts probably anticipate some of Oswald Bayer’s conclusions.

[2] Ibid., page 44-45.

[3] Ibid., page 45: An apt description of our alienation in the world that Bayer takes from Nietzsche.

[4] Ibid., page 38. Here Bayer refers very precisely to Luther’s discovery of the performative. “[The speech act] does what it says and says what it does.” (Sie tut was sie sagt, sie sagt was sie tut.) In explicating Psalm 118, Luther exclaims, shaken to the very depths, “This is a great word, a great sound, and one to be feared, ‘Behold, the Word of God!’” See James Samuel Preus, ­From Shadow to Promise, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1969), page 253. J.L. Austin discovered the performative for our times in his William James Harvard Lectures of 1955, published in his book, How to Do Things with Words, J.O. Urmson and Marina Sbisà, editors, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1962 and 1975). For Austin, the significance of the discovery evaporated, because it was completely disconnected to God’s speaking to us.

[5] Philip and Peter Krey, Luther’s Spirituality, (New York: the Paulist Press, 2007), page 72. See page 268, footnote 18: “One who hears the word becomes like the word, pure, good, and just.”

[6] Deuteronomy 8:3.

[7] John 1:13.

[8] Bayer, page 30.

Written by peterkrey

September 5, 2010 at 10:02 pm

Blogging my Thoughts on Verlyn Klinkenborg’s “Real Looking”

leave a comment »

Verlyn Klinkenborg does some wonderful Rural Life writing on the New York Times editorial page. Today’s little essay he called “Real Looking.”[1] His observations and his ability to articulate them make reading him a real joy.

Today he challenged himself to really looking. Then I read about an 18th century thinker called Johann Georg Hamann, who had a theological response to his concern. First to Verlyn: he challenges himself: “Have you really looked at….” something? Sometimes familiarity blinds him to really seeing his bees as he gathers their honey. “Keep your eyes peeled!” he tells himself. He found himself really looking at a dragonfly. A little further on he writes, “There is no such thing as really looking.”

“What I want to be seeing,” he claims, “is invisible anyway: the prehistoric depth of time embodied in the form of those dragonflies, the pressure of life itself, the web of relations that binds us all together.” He finds himself trying to witness the moment when the accident of life becomes a continued purpose. [I submit he is trying to see a miracle.] He continues, “But this is a small farm, and, being human, I keep coming up against the limits of what a human eye can see.”

I’ve been working on a book called Creation Via Language, which has lead me to study Johann Georg Hamann (1730-1788), who was a friend and critic of Immanuel Kant. I’m reading about him in Oswald Bayer’s Schoepfung als Anrede, which title could be translated Creation as [the Language] of Address.[2]

Here are some of Hamann’s insights related to Verlyn’s frustration, whom he would feel is trying to uncover the seal covering God’s speaking to us through the miracle of creation. Hamann argues that both nature and history are covered by a seal and a key outside themselves is required to remove it. He finds that key in the incarnation revealed in scriptures: that God wanted to become a human being and be among us.

Let me translate from the Oswald Bayer’s German:

That and how Hamann engages the problem of natural theology – the “difference between natural and revealed religion,” is remarkable. His comparison of the painting and the person looking at it without the trained and perceiving eye, on the one hand, and the seeing and comprehending eye, on the other; says: God reveals Godself through everything worldly, speaks to us through nature and history, and allows Godself to be recognized through the works of God’s creation (cf. Romans 1:19f).[3] It is not the case that there is nothing to see! But the human being does not have the eye for that which is there to see. Not that there is nothing to hear. The world is not mute! “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:2).[4] But the human ear is stopped up. It has to be opened. A healing miracle has to first take place. Only in that way can nature be heard as creation. [And for Verlyn, I add “seen as creation.”] (This excerpt is from page 11.)

Hamann read David Hume, who said it would require a miracle to believe in God. And so it did. Hamann had his conversion experience in London, where he bottomed out. (He had been seduced by his Jesuit tutor when he was fourteen years old.) He found the key to the lock that sealed his life away from him by reading Luther’s account of the knight of Tungdalus in Luther’s Commentary on Matthew.[5] The Knight of Tondalo, as Luther calls him, has to cross a narrow bridge, no wider than the palm of a hand, crossing over a sulfurous moat filled with fire-spewing dragons. He carried a heavy pack on his back and from the other side of the bridge a dragon spewing fire was coming to attack him. Luther states that that is the plight of every Christian.

When Hamann read that he knew he had found the key to his existence. It would take a miracle, which only God could provide to save him. That last sentence is mine, because it is left unsaid by Hamann and Luther. It is the miracle of grace that saves us and via that miracle the seal is removed from nature and history and we hear God speaking to us, addressing us through creation.

Hamann makes it clear that the Book of Nature and History do not have the key that unlocks their understanding in themselves and out of themselves they do not allow themselves to be understood. But through God’s miracle of creation God communicates with us through the nature and history. The separation of the Creator and creation is that of the one who speaks and the one who hears.

Verlyn Klinkenborg is knocking from the human side for what only God can reveal to us from the divine side.


[1] New York Times (September 3, 2010), page A18.

[2] Oswald Bayer,  Schoepfung als Anrede, (Tuebingen: J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebick), 1990), page 11.

[3] Romans 1:19f: “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world God’s eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things God has made.”

[4] Psalm 19: 1-4: (God’s Glory in Creation) The heavens tell the glory of God and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech and night to night declares knowledge. There is no speech nor are there words: their voice is not heard. Yet their voice goes out through all the earth and their words to the end of the world.

[5] Luther’s Works, vol. 21: page 245; Luthers Werke, Weimar Edition vol 32, pages 502-503.

If you are interested in creation via language also see my post on a new approach to science: plug this title into Google. It will come up first:

Jürgen Moltmann: the speech of nature is directed to people

Written by peterkrey

September 4, 2010 at 5:01 am