Monday, July 26, 2010

A Bit More

There is another truly wonderful bit to pull from that icon of Adam I like so much.

Just as the Ancient of Days calls Adam to life with His breath of life and gives him a name and vocation, standing by his side as he fulfills it, so too the Ancient of Days calls us to life in Baptism. We then are all “Little Christs,” growing from His vine going about our vocations with Him beside and in us. We are remade in His image as God’s own sons (Eph 1:5; Col 3:10).

Wherever there is such faith and assurance of grace in Christ, you can also confidently conclude with regard to your vocation and works that these are pleasing to God and are true and good Christian fruits. Furthermore, such temporal and physical works as governing a land and people, managing a house, rearing and teaching children, serving, toiling, etc., also develop into fruit that endures unto life everlasting. Thus the holy patriarch Abraham and our holy ancestress Sarah will be commended and praised on Judgment Day for their marital life. Although the married estate will come to an end and be no more, as will all the life and activity of this world, yet this holy Sarah, and others with her, will receive their little crowns because they were pious spouses and mothers, not by reason of their works per se—for these had to cease—but because they did these works in faith. In like manner, the works of all Christians are performed to God’s everlasting pleasure; they will not be despised, as will those of non-Christians, but will have their eternal reward also in yonder life, because they are works done in Christ and grow from the Vine. (LW, 24, 220-221)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Adding Woman to the Narrative

One of my favorite icons depicts the Ancient of Days bringing Adam to life in the upper right portion, while Adam is naming the animals with God by his side in the lower, major portion of the work. The former work preceded the latter; God’s single work of breathing life into the clay that would become Adam is prior to Adam’s given work of naming the animals. Adam’s features are evocative of those of Christ’s own in other icons. This is to signify that Adam is God’s own son as Luke names him in Chapter 3 of his Gospel. 1Cor 15:45 makes the connection between Adam and the Last Adam. Christ took on Adam’s image for our sakes, as this icon makes clear for us to see. This is an icon of Adam before the fall, of Adam in his purest state. It is not a depiction of Adam when God declared that all was “Very good.”

For that a woman was required. And for that Adam was put into a deep sleep. This icon demonstrates Christ as the Agent of Creation, taking the woman from Adam’s side as he sleeps. After this was accomplished, God would say that His created world was “Very good,” and rest.

Now, feminists are not happy with this tale and even accuse Christianity of “not touching” the woman’s side of the story in this. In the first, Adam not only names the animals, he also, after the fall, names his wife. In their eyes, this reduces the woman to the same status as the animals because she isn’t allowed to choose her own name—ignoring the fact that Adam didn’t choose his own name either. That name was given him by God. The headship progression is already established: God names Adam, husband names wife. It’s Trinitarian. Jesus’ Head is His Father (as is demonstrated abundantly by the Gospel John; the husband’s head is Christ; the wife’s head is her husband. Paul lays this out for us in Ephesians 5:

23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Even Peter, speaking to the baptized, gives witness to this when he writes of Sarah.

1 Peter 3:5 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.

However, 1 Corinthians 11:4 makes the case the clearest, “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.”

When we speak of the work of God’s creating and of either man’s or woman’s part in it, we are also speaking of the work of the Trinity behind them. Therefore, when we speak of Creation prior to the fall, we may also look at God’s work as a view of paradise. There is no reason to call anything God does in His act of creation either on His own or through His agent, the man Adam, as evil, inappropriate or improper. What God calls “Good” and “Very good” is beyond our standards of those labels.

Far from never examining the role of the woman in this narrative (as Aileen Kraditor claims), the church went forward from the time of the fall and built herself around the story of Eve. It was the woman who was deceived in the fall (Ge 3:13). Yet, it was upon Adam, as head of the race, that the burden for the sin fell. This did not relieve the woman of her sin. Adam, as the first of all mankind, pointed to Christ, who would bear his image to rescue all of mankind in by taking on all mankind's sin in His flesh. He would not be deceived as the woman was. He would protect His wife, as Adam ought to have done (Mt 4; Mk 1).

Having been found in sin, Adam blamed God for “the woman whom you gave to be with me” (Ge 3:12). As for the woman, the serpent was to blame. She was deceived into not being able to keep to God’s word. Now, an easy solution would have been to place each in a hemisphere and let them go their separate ways. The world was large enough. Adam was essentially asking for separation from the woman anyway. It was her fault, and none of his own. He wanted out. The woman might have agreed.

God would have none of it. Married they were, married they’d remain. Their lives would be hard, but He gave them hope. He gave them a promise. One day His own Son would be born, and that One would crush the head of the serpent, their enemy (Ge 3:15). It is at that time Adam names his wife Eve, Mother of all living. This is a play on words. Sin has not taken everything from them. They will still have the blessing of children. Not only that, one of those children will save them from their sins. Eve is the prototype of the Church, even taken from her husband’s side while he slept.

That Adam and Eve trusted in God’s Promise is indicated by the fact that they came together as husband and wife. Eve rejoiced in the birth of her firstborn, even thinking he was the Promised One, exclaiming (as the Hebrew makes clearer), “I have gotten a man, the Lord!” (Ge 4:1). It wouldn’t take long before Adam and Eve knew that Cain was not the Promised One. One of the remarkable things of Ge 5 is the constant refrain “and he died,” reinforcing the fact Paul makes clear in Ro 6:23, “The wages of sin is death.”

Eve, the Mother of all Living, is the mother of Mary, who bore the Second Adam, the Son of God. The Second Adam is the sinless Son of God, just as Adam, the created son of God was sinless before he fell in the Garden. However, the Son Mary bore was not created, but existed from eternity, conceived of the Holy Spirit, not by any human father. The God of Creation becomes our Father also when the Second Person of the Trinity takes on human flesh and becomes a Son whose sole purpose is to take on our sins and lead us back to His Father as sons (Jo 14:6). This is the Son of Mary’s womb, the one before whom John leapt inside his own mother’s womb.

Eve is the prototype, the foreshadow, of the church. Mary, as the Theotokos, is the Christbearer, the type. In Mary we see Christ within her, just as Christ is within the church. It is in the womb of the church that Christians are born by water and Word, and sustained by Christ's own Body and Blood in the bread and wine and the Word He serves us through His agents through preaching and Absolution. We can speak of Mary in a way that is healthy, without it becoming Mariolatry, and we should. Tying the threads of scripture unites the One Voice by which it was written. Eve leads to Mary, and there are a lot of women along the path that serve as a part of the story, too.

Far from women being the neglected or untouchable as feminists are wont to claim, God knew that Man needed a helper. His creation was incomplete without a woman. God built one for Adam in the Garden while he slept. While Christ, the WOrd of God, slept a tomb in another garden, the Church was being built from the blood and water that flowed from His side. The Christbearer, as the one who bore the Last Adam into the world, makes that proclamation of “Very good” ring even more joyfully now. The angels sang it so when Jesus was born, “Peace on earth, good will to men!” It is so even now when the chosen agents of Christ speak His word of Peace to us in the liturgy from the womb that is the church where Christ is present in His Word and Sacraments.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Honesty in Choices

Many thanks to my good friend the Rev. Mark Schlamann for alerting me to this blog posting. My position has long been “return to the source,” and here is a prime example of why this should always be done in the case of feminism.

In his blog article Albert Mohler identifies the problem as this, according to Antonia Senior:

If you are willing to die for a cause, you must be prepared to kill for it, too." That statement, published for all the world to see, perfectly distills the inescapable logic of the abortion rights argument. It is based on a willingness to kill - and on the horrifying audacity to call this killing "the lesser evil."

Feminists for Life make a brave front in their contention for both feminism and pro-life issues. They will even boast Elizabeth Cady Stanton as their hero, claiming she was staunchly against abortion. That she was against abortion and for feminism may be true. But there is a greater dichotomy undergirding Stanton’s position that eventually leads to where Antonia Senor goes, that of sacrificing the Greater Good for the lesser good.

I am not saying that those who are of the FFL would all (or any) agree with Antonia Senior. What I am saying is that feminism shares a common root with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and that root bears both a vine and branches which are connected. That there could be similar ideas from both is not beyond the bounds of coincidence. Elizabeth Cady Stanton worked to destroy the very foundation of motherhood in women's lives. With what has it been replaced? What does the world now catechize its women with regard to the sanctity of life and choices?

In other words, one evil is accommodated by another, so one must choose which evil should be in support of the other. It's application is seen in all walks of our life, whether one is pro-choice or against abortion. However, there is truly only one way to walk in this life, truly, and that is catechetically. But we will get to that later.

Senior, even though she admits the contents of the womb is a child from the point of conception, is willing to kill for her cause, feminism. She is a mother, and still supports abortion rights. Mohler contends,

In this essay, published in one of the world's most venerable newspapers, Antonia Senior goes public with the argument that feminists should just admit that abortion is the killing of a human life, and then they should go on to assert that the right to kill an unborn human life is just the price that must be paid if feminism is to be defended.

Well, how did we get to this point, and so casually that the world didn’t explode with such news?

Elizabeth Cady Stanton saw her life’s work as the removal of scripture from women’s hands and the dependence of religion from their lives. She wrote in “The Degraded State of Women, 1896:”

I have endeavoured to dissipate these religious superstitions from the minds of women, and base their faith on science and reason, where I found for myself at last peace and comfort I could never find in the Bible and the church. I saw the first step to this was to convince them that the Bible was neither written nor inspired by the Creator of the Universe, the Infinite intelligence, the soul and center of Life, Love and Light; but that the Bible emanated, in common with all church literature, from the brain of man. Seeing in just proportion as women are devout believers in the dogmas of the church their lives arte shadowed with fears of the unknown, the less women believe, the better for their own happiness and development. . .

The honor and worship accorded the ideal mother, if the ideal man, has done naught to elevate the real mother of the real man. So far from woman owing what liberty she does enjoy, to the Bible and the church, they have been a greater blocking the way of her development. The vantage ground woman holds today is due to all the forces of civilization, to science, discovery, invention, rationalism, the religion of humanity chanted in the golden rule round the globe centuries before the Christian religion was known. It is not to Bibles, prayer books catechisms, liturgies, the canon law and church creeds and organizations, that woman owes one step in her progress, for all these alike have been hostile, and still are, to her freedom and development. . .

In her own efforts to teach, Stanton stepped up to the dinner plate.

I often saw weary little women coming to the table after most exhausting labors, and large bumptious husbands spreading out their hands and thanking the Lord for the meals that the dear women had prepared, as if the whole came down like manna from heaven. So I preached a sermon in the blessing I gave. You will not notice that it has three heresies in it: ‘Heavenly Father and Mother, make us thankful for all the blessings of this life, and make us ever mindful of the patient hands that oft in weariness spread our tables and prepare our daily food For humanity’s sake. Amen.” (Lutz, Created Equal, 201)

Such words are not unfamiliar to our ears, for they are the very words of feminist or inclusive prayers heard in many churches in our communities.

The language of choice rings well in our ears and throughout the land. We can’t get away from it. It is in our nature. Stanton was calling us back to it. Feminism thrives from that nature, clings to it. It is why Antionia Senior can hold on to two opposing dichotomies and yet be satisfied. She has her choices; her primal nature is being fed.

Scripture-less catechesis, as Stanton has already informed us, is one of those things of which we must rid our lives. The irony, of course, is that she set in motion her own form of catechesis. Consider this insight by Ravi Zacharias, “The establishment of new orthodoxies by the intellectual elite and the dismantling of others is not as formidable a task when the desired change propelled by scholars appeals to the common person’s autonomy while enthroning the elite at the same time.” (Deliver Us From Evil, 45). Granted, Stanton was no elite scholar. However, by systematically undermining the authority of scripture in the view of women, Stanton catechized women with a whole new set of ethics by which to live. There are no absolutes.

The “Woman’s Bible” comes to the ordinary reader like a real benediction. It tells her the Lord did not write the Book; that the garden scene is a fable; that she is in no way responsible for the laws of the Universe. The Christian scholars and scientists will not tell her this, for they see she is the key to the situation. Take the snake, the fruit tree and the woman from the tableau, and we have no fall, no frowning Judge, no inferno, no everlasting punishment, —hence no need of a Savior. Thus the bottom falls out of the whole Christian theology. Here is the reason why in all the Biblical researches and higher criticism, the scholars never touch the position of the women. (Aileen S. Kraditor, Up From the Pedestal, 119)

In fact, it is the absolutes of the Scriptures that give us the foundation of Christianity, of which the woman plays a major role. Feminism recognizes this, and yet, in her demand for choice, rejects what her Savior gives. Choice was the offer of the serpent, see Ge 3.

Of course, The Women’s Bible is not alone in catechizing women in choice. Choice is the airwaves we breathe. We are inundated with information overload that rips us away from the sacred and into the profane. There is hardly a TV show, radio station, commercial, movie, magazine, or internet site that doesn’t have an overtly feminist theme to it. And by feminist, I mean overtly sexual, choice-oriented, OMG-driven, sexually-oriented. Our lives are constantly driven to choose between the Greater Good and the lesser things, and in fact justify our choices and entitlement to the lesser things over and against the Greater Gifts from God.

At how many tables would it be clearly understood that even through much fuss and bluster, even though the pizza was delivered or the chicken brought home, God is the Giver of the meal? Only through catechesis can these things come to light to our children and ourselves.

The July, 2010, issue of For the Life of the World featured articles by Rev. John Pless, What does This Mean? Pastoral Forman: Thoughts About the Future), and Re. Brian Mosemann, (Forming Servants into the Future). Both articles were directed toward the formation of pastors. However, much insight can be gathered for a much younger set, and another sex.

This age seems to have adopted the Simone de Beauvoir ideology of childrearing: bear the child, and then outsource the raising. Underlying this system is the fact that the child will necessarily adopt the core values of his or her caregivers. If he or she goes through multiple caregivers, then he or she will have a multiplicity of catechetical choices already formed by the time he or she is ready for school (usually public), another major catechetical factory. It is rare today to find a child of seven who knows his Catechism as well as his ABCs, and yet, as the Jesuits would say, “Give me a child for seven years and I will show you the man.” Sounds an awful lot like Pr 22: 6.

Luther would have had it so.

These are the most necessary parts of Christian instruction. We should learn to repeat them word for word. Our children should be taught the habit of reciting them daily when they rise in the morning, when they go to their meals, and they go to bed at night; until they repeat them they should not be given anything to eat or drink. (LC, Short Preface)

That is where Luther would have us start. Here is where he suggests one stops learning the Catechism:

But this I say for myself: I am also a doctor and a preacher, just as learned and experienced as all of them who are so high and mighty. Nevertheless, each morning, and whenever else I have time, I do as a child who is being taught the catechism and I read and recite word for word the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Psalms, etc. I must still read and study the catechism daily, and yet I cannot master it as I wish, but must remain a child and pupil of the catechism—and I also do so gladly. These fussy, fastidious fellows would like quickly, with one reading, to be doctors above all doctors, to know it all and to need nothing more. Well this, too, is a sure sign that they despise both their office and the people’s souls, yes, even God and his Word. They do not need to fall, for they have already fallen all too horribly. What they need, however, is to become children and begin to learn the ABCs, which they think they have long since outgrown. (LC, P. 6)

The liturgical life of a seminarian can help to inform us how our own liturgical lives are meant to be. This is the liturgical life Stanton strove so hard to and, with others, in many ways successfully ripped away from both women and men who are also now caught the feminism that rules our age. Mosemann writes:

From the chapel. . . out into their daily lives where they die to self and serve the Lord by loving their neighbor. This rhythm of being filled with the Lord’s grace and living in that grace toward others forms servants in Jesus Christ who

• are strengthened in the Lord’s forgiveness and daily prayer,
• daily meditate on Scripture,
• grow in charitable ways in character and behavior,
• learn to live by the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s prayer, which will sustain them in their service an
• develop a healthy balance among all aspects of life: prayer4, worship, study, service, family and relaxation. (FTLOTW, July, 2010, 13)

The life of the Christian ebbs and flows from the liturgy of the Divine Service itself. This is where Mother Church feeds her young, and men and women alike first learn what God's design for motherhood is.

So what does FFL offer us in response to the pro-choice movement? Motherhood, yes, but what sort? Motherhood shared with fatherhood? Or that which is also considered smashingly wonderful between two mommies? And what of the Motherhood that can be received only from the womb that is the Church through the waters of Baptism? Absent the very foundation of which motherhood is in God's eyes, the FFL sacrifices the Greater Good for the lesser, for it springs from the same root as does all feminism.

The lesser of two evils is still an evil. Luther says to “sin boldly,” but he does not by that invite us to sin. We therefore do not rejoice in sin as the support for one’s chosen cause! The Fifth Commandment in Senior’s hands is a mere plaything. The lesser evil, killing one’s own child, as she would call it, is permissible for the sake of the Greater Good, feminism. However, abortion strikes at the heart of the Incarnation, for every child conceived is yet a reminder of the Babe born of Mary. Satan’s head is still bruised by the heel of that One’s foot! Still, if all sin is removed, as it is for women in feminism, then of what need is there for a Savior? No sin, no Savior. Yet Jesus only came for sinners (Mt 9:13). What then of mercy? Mercy is known only by what God gives through Christ. Oh, dear. What a Catch-22 we have here.

What a lost race we are when we decide what is we are to be or not to be.