REFLECTIONS UPON THE USE OF TANGIBLE IMAGES IN THE WORSHIP LIFE OF THE CHURCH - PART THREE

By: Larry D. Harvey

We continue in this issue to slowly and deliberately consider the use of tangible images of God and the Persons of the Trinity within the worship life of Church and particularly within that physical space commonly referred to as the Chancel. In Part One, we considered several passages from the Holy Scriptures, and in Part Two we looked at what we believe about the Holy Scriptures, drawing upon Dr. Francis Pieper's Christian Dogmatics.

In that this series of articles will, most likely, follow the information provided in the order of argument within Martin Chemnitz's Examination of the Council of Trent (see Part One of this series), it might be advisable to discuss who Martin Chemnitz is and what was the Council of Trent. We will draw from the information provided by Fred Kramer, the translator of the English version of the Examination of the Council of Trent cited above, in Part One, the first book of the four books it took to contain the Examination.

Martin Chemnitz was born on November 9, 1522, in Treuenbrietzen, Germany. His whole life showed a love for books. He studied under Philip Melanchthon in Wittenberg, beginning around 1545. He studied Greek and mathematics, which, at that time, included astrology, the study of the planets and their movements and not theology. Having come to Wittenberg around one year before the death of Martin Luther and not having come to study theology, it does not appear that Martin Chemnitz knew Martin Luther well at all, although he apparently loved to hear Martin Luther preach and did hear some of Martin Luther's lectures.

It was later at K?nigsberg that Chemnitz developed an obvious deep interest in theology, and when the library at K?nigsberg had an opening for a librarian, Chemnitz petitioned the Duke of Prussia for that position and was appointed. This opened up a great opportunity for Martin Chemnitz to throw himself into the study of theology.

Martin Chemnitz fell out of the Duke's favor when Chemnitz opposed Andreas Osiander, a favorite of the Duke, during the controversy caused by Osiander concerning whether or not the doctrine of justification means that the sinner is justified by essential righteousness or imputed righteousness. Thereafter, in 1553, Chemnitz returned again to Wittenberg to resume his studies under the guidance of Philip Melanchthon and was soon lecturing on Melanchthon's Loci Communes, a systematic statement of the articles of faith. Later, Chemnitz accepted a call to serve as an assistant to Joacham M?rlin, a friend of Chemnitz's who had been previously banished by Duke Albert of Prussia, in Braunschweig. Before Chemnitz departed, he was ordained even though he had not been subject to a previous examination. Since you are laboring with me in this study, may you be uplifted, as I have been, to know that Chemnitz learned most of his theology by private study.

By the year 1557, the Duke had become convinced that Chemnitz and M?rlin had been correct in their firm position in the Osiandristic controversy, and the Duke sought to recall both Chemnitz and M?rlin back to his realm. After some extensive negotiations, the city council at Braunschweig agreed to allow M?rlin to return to Prussia, but with the condition that Chemnitz remain and become superintendent in M?rlin's place. Reluctantly, Chemnitz acceded to this condition, but only after obtaining the subscription of the city council, the ministerium, and the church treasurers setting forth certain regulations for the relationship between the members of the ministerium, all pastors, the superintendent, the city council, and the church treasurers.

"A short writing by Chemnitz against the then new Jesuit order brought him into conflict first with Johannes Alber of Cologne...and then ultimately with the more formidable Jacob Payva de Andrada, a Portuguese, who sought to discredit Chemnitz' exposť of he Jesuits but in the course of his writing revealed that he was really defending the theology of the Council of Trent." (Examination, Part One, Page 21).

In order to answer Andrada's arguments, "Chemnitz analyzed the canons and decrees of the Council of Trent in four books and showed by exhaustive evidence from Scripture and from both the most ancient and the purer among the more modern teachers of the church where the Council of Trent had departed from the teaching of Scripture." (Part One, Pages 21,22).

Although a more complete study of the Jesuits might be enlightening, and is found in Chemnitz's Preface (Part One, Pages 27-29), it is important for our purposes to know that the order of the Jesuits "was created most of all for the destruction of the churches in Germany" (Part One, Page 28) because the Reformation had led to the defection of so many in Germany from under the Pope's rule. The Jesuits were the principal authors of the canons and decrees issued by the Council of Trent. However, it should be noted that Andrada's arguments amplified and clearly shows the reasoning and purposes behind the language of the canons and decrees to the point that Chemnitz repeatedly addresses the arguments as lifted up by Andrada.

The Council of Trent itself met, with interruptions during, the years 1545 through 1563. The Council met to expressly "...put down what it considered the heresies of the Reformers, particularly of Martin Luther." (Part One, Page 21). Chemnitz wrote his Examination during the years 1565 through 1573. It is a work that should not only be commended but also read. Martin Chemnitz died on April 6, 1586. "His importance for the Lutheran Church has been aptly expressed in the saying 'if the second Martin (Chemnitz) had not come, the first Martin (Luther) would scarcely have endured.'" (Part One, Page 24).

Martin Chemnitz's examination of Images is specifically addressing the Decree of the Council of Trent Concerning Images issued from the twenty-fifth session of the Council of Trent (Part IV, Pages 53,54). However, our purpose is not so much to examine the Council of Trent's argument, rationale, and anathemas, but rather to make use of Chemnitz's order of argument in examining our own assumptions, thinking, and practices concerning images within the Lutheran Church of today. With this in mind, consider again Deuteronomy 4:15-18,23,24:

"Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under earth....Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make a carved image, the form of anything that the LORD your God has forbidden you. For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.'" (Emphasis added, ESV)

Moses wrote these under the verbal inspiration of God himself. They are truly God speaking then and now. They have and carry the full authority of God. They are a part of God's Word with the full power to work and form the willing obedience described. They are a part of God's revelation of all man must know and believe to be saved. They are clear such that the most ordinary man can understand the revelation of God's will set forth therein.

The question we will be addressing is the standard Lutheran question "What does this mean?"

God is speaking. Are we despairing of our own wisdom and sin corrupted senses and listening?

LDH

 

Copyright © 2011 Crossties Lutheran Ministry Resources, Inc
All Rights Reserved