Thursday, March 4, 2021

Significant Theology Books, 1989 - 2021

 So, this list is highly subjective. I haven't read all of these books, and I've also had to eliminate very significant books because of this list's constraints.  Occasionally I've picked a less famous book because I believe it to be "better" in some way than the really popular one(s) that were published that year. 

I was inspired to make this list because I was contemplating the key Christian books from my own lifetime (born 1989), and it occurred to me that a neat project would be to have a shelf in my study one day filled with only the most important theological books written during my lifetime, one book per year. 

I present my list of the most mind-blowing, epoch-making, paradigm-shifting theology (and biblical studies) books of the last 31 years: 

The Most Important Theological Books from 1989 - 2021


1989 - Resident Aliens, by Stanley Hauerwas and William H. Willimon

1990 - Method in Theology, by Bernard Lonergan

1991 - The New Testament and the People of God, by N. T. Wright

1992 - The Spirit of Life: A Universal Affirmation, by Jurgen Moltmann

1993 - Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason, by John Milbank

1994 - The Disabled God: Toward a Liberatory Theology of Disability, by Nancy Eiesland

1995 - Divine Discourse, by Nicholas Wolterstorff

1996 - Exclusion and Embrace, by Miroslav Volf

1997 - Systematic Theology: Volume I: The Triune God, by Robert Jenson

1998 - The Powers that Be: Theology for a New Millennium, by Walter Wink

1999 - Systematic Theology: Volume 2: The Works of God, by Robert Jenson

2000 - Theology, Music, and Time, by Jeremy S. Begbie

2001 - Jesus, Humanity, and the Trinity, by Kathryn Tanner

2002 - A Theology of the Built Environment: Justice, Empowerment, Redemption, by Timothy J.Gorringe

2003 - The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth, by David Bentley Hart

2004 - Scripture and Metaphysics, by Matthew Levering

2005 -  The Liberating Image: The Imago Dei in Genesis 1, by J. Richard Middleton

2006 - After the Spirit: A Constructive Pneumatology, by Eugene F. Rogers

2007 - Surprised by Hope, by N. T. Wright

2008 - We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry, by G. K. Beale

2009 - Eccentric Existence: A Theological Anthropology, by David Kelsey

2010 - To Change the World, by James Davison Hunter

2011 - The Cross and the Lynching Tree, by James H. Cone

2012 - Paul and Union with Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study, by Constantine Campbell

2013 - God, Sexuality, and the Self: An Essay ‘On the Trinity,’ by Sarah Coakley

2014 - The Holy Spirit, by Anthony Thiselton

2015 - Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ, by Fleming Routledge

2016 - One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions, by C. Kavin Rowe

2017 - Awaiting the King: Reforming Public Theology, by James K. A. Smith

2018 - Seeing God: The Beatific Vision in Christian Tradition, by Hans Boersma

2019 - The Mosaic of Atonement: An Integrated Approach to Christ’s Work, by Joshua McNall

2020 - The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, by Carl Trueman

2021 - The Same God Who Works All Things, by Adonis Vidu

Monday, December 14, 2020

Response to Professor Jerry Coyne

 Recently Yahoo News published an article by an evolutionary biologist named Jerry Coyne at the University of Chicago. 

Here is a link to the article:

Here is my response:

I admire Professor Coyne’s credentials and his willingness to pursue the truth. As a distinguished scientist in one of my favorite cities of the world, Chicago, he is carrying out important research that is improving the lives of people today. I commend him for that.

However, his recent article titled “Yes, there is a war between science and religion” is deeply flawed, not the least because he begs the question about truth in the first instance. A 21st century critic, theorist, or activist might read his article and think, “This man talks about truth and facts? How funny. He still accepts those old, tired ideas.” His reference to Plato, Hume, and Kant is also amusing. Are these white men even acceptable guides in today’s world? (As an aside, Plato was also deeply religious, which Coyne fails to mention. Just look at the place that priests serve in Plato’s Republic or, more especially, in The Laws. Plus, the esteem which Kant held the Bible should not be overlooked.) Today or one day in the near future, those schooled in the Critical Theory of the Frankfurt school and other bastions in Post-Modernity will reject Professor Coyne’s own scientific project and assert that the scientific seeking after truth is, itself, a product of modernism, Euro-centrism, and even racism. Professor Coyne’s article was outdated before it was even published. What does it matter to the 21st century person that his or her beliefs are incompatible or irrational? Life is all about group power and personal choice after all. Coyne’s view about facts could lead to objective statements about things which might alienate groups who chose to hold onto different facts due to tribal culture, religious background, or something else. To the post-modern, it is deeply problematic that there could exist a viewpoint which assumes there is a “truth” out there to apprehend, and that there are “facts” that can lead to a better existence. 

How will Professor Coyne establish the reality of truth itself? What is truth? If it is mere “facts” then Professor Coyne’s own point of view is already contradicted.  His article is not a bare list of scientific facts; it is a pleading. Yet no amount of urging, pleading, or arguing can emerge from the facts but from the interpretation of the facts. Such an interpretation comes from outside the facts themselves and is essentially a religious exercise. Coyne’s article is deeply religious.  For example, a fact could be that it is dangerous for humans to consume even small quantities of lead. But it is belief to tell them about that.  For it is not facts but the moral or religious interpretation of the facts (in other words, beliefs) that guide our desire to teach people for their betterment.  It is a fact that someone murdered someone else; it is a belief that murder is immoral. One is a bare assertion of something having occurred; the other is an interpretation of that event based on a foundation of beliefs, such as “God said murder is wrong” or “For the good of society, people should not murder.” However, neither God nor society is “proven” by facts; both are accepted by faith, that is, a vision of the good life. As soon as Professor Coyne shows me how our morality is decided by evolution and can be proven by his scientific “facts,” I’ll be listening.  But then he has the burden of demonstrating why, if we now have this knowledge, we choose to slavishly obey it. If it can’t be otherwise, as he might argue, then the conclusion is that humans experience a determinist existence where nothing can be otherwise. That would make Coyne’s article completely irrelevant, as it would also make mine. It would also mean that everything we do with our minds and imaginations would be pointless. No, we write, we plead, we argue, because we want to find the truth. And the truth, as Christ says, will set us free.

I accept that human reason is a reliable instrument, but I accept that because of faith. As G. K. Chesterton put it, “Reason is itself a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all.” In response to his conclusion, I might say that it is irrational of him to “decide what is true in your daily life using empirical evidence, but then to rely on wishful thinking and old superstitions to judge the truths undergirding [sic] your faith.” The difference is that Coyne’s are new superstitions, not old ones. For me, I’ll rely on the storehouse of wisdom from women and men who lived before my little sliver of time. I’ll gladly read Plato, Moses, Christ; I will continue to reconcile my faith with my reason as most of humanity has done for countless years. We’ll see if Coyne’s 20th century modernist-atheism will blossom in this century and give rise to any poetry, art, or meaning of its own. It won’t.


Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Immanuel Tuesday Class (11/10/20)

 Jewish-Christian Disputations in the Middle Ages

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> Scriptural Starting Places: 

- John 5:16-18; 11:7-8; 19:15-16

- Acts 28:23 - 28

> Disputatio: (Latin) debate, argument. In French it becomes the familiar disputation. In the Middle Ages, a disputation was a formal debate between two sides in a philosophical or theological argument.

> There were three major (and several minor) disputations between Christian theologians and Jewish rabbis in the Middle Ages: 

- The Disputation of Paris, 1240

- The Disputation of Barcelona, 1263

- The Disputation of Tortossa, 1413-1414

> Background

- During the Middle Ages, there were several massacres of Jews and Christian riots in Jewish sections of cities. One of the most infamous massacre came in 1096 with the “Rhineland Massacres.” As the People’s Crusade gathered momentum in the Rhineland between France and Germany, several Jewish areas of Speyer, Worms, and Mainz were ransacked by Christian peasants and nobles and many thousands of Jews were killed. In Franconia there was a large massacre of about 500 Jews in 1298. However, Church officials often protected Jews and Jewish communities; it was the common rabble whose anti-semitism flared up in violent acts against Jews. In 1391, many Jews were massacred in Spain. This was the largest pogrom against Jews in Spanish history. 

- Jews were mistrusted in the Middle Ages. Certain areas, like Spain, afforded Medieval Jews much more freedom than places like Germany or England. Under Spanish nobles, Jews were often employed as teachers, bankers, and civic officials. In most places, Jews lived in fear of death, dispossession, persecution. Their books, especially their Talmuds, were often stolen and burned.

- Talmud: collection of ancient and early medieval Jewish writings (63 tractates). Divided between the Mishnah (earlier, rabbinic oral law) and Gamara (commentary on the law). There are two basic styles in the Talmud: halakah (statutes, laws) and aggadah (stories, narratives, riddles, folk tales). 

> The Disputations in Detail

- Paris, 1240

- Debaters: Nicholas Donin, Franciscan priest, convert from Judaism. Rabbi Yechiel of Paris, Talmudic scholar from northern France. A few other rabbis who were also interviewed. 

- Topics: The debate centered on the Talmud, especially its passages that were considered obtuse, outrageous, and blasphemous by the Christians. The result was a bull by Pope Gregory IX condemning the Talmud and ordering a destruction of every copy in Paris. 

- Excerpt: Donin: “Here is another passage in which both Jesus and Mary are blasphemed. The passage says that someone called Ben Stada, otherwise known as Ben Pandira, was hanged in Lydda on the eve of Passover. His mother’s name was Miriam, ‘the hairdresser’; her husband’s name was Poppos ben Judah, and her lover’s name was Pandira. So Mary is called an adulteress by the Talmud. (The judges cry out in anger at this.) Yechiel: Do not be angry until you have heard my reply. Mary was our flesh and bone, and we have nothing to say against her, for the Talmud does not even mention her. The ‘Miriam’ mentioned in the passage quoted by Donin cannot be the same person as Mary, for the locality mentioned in Lydda, not Jerusalem, where Jesus’ death took place, and where his Sepulchre is still to be seen.” 

- Barcelona, 1263

- Debaters: Pablo Christiani, Dominican friar and convert from Judaism. Nachmanides (aka, “Ramban”) a Jewish scholar, physician, and mystic from Girona, Spain. King James I of Aragon presided, gave Nachmanides protection. Later, the archbishop of Girona requested Nachmanides write a book containing his arguments from the debate. This has survived. 

- Topics: The Talmud, particularly messianic passages from the Talmud; the coming of the Messiah and His divinity; the “Christian-ness” of the Talmud; the “Greek” ideas behind Christianity; the difference between literal and allegorical interpretations of texts

- Tortossa, 1413 -1414

- Debaters: Over 69 sessions, numerous rabbis from Aragon and Catolonia participated, as well as some 70 cardinals, hundreds of church dignitaries, and Antipope Benedict XIII. Geronimo (Hieronymus) of Santa Fe, a Jewish convert, was the Christian spokesman. Rabbi Astruk Halevi, the chief Jewish participant. 

- Topics: The Messiah (including the question of why some Jews believe he has already come), religious toleration and religious autonomy, faith and reason, the “two tiers” of Talmud

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Immanuel's Tuesday Bible Class (11/3/20)

 The Fourth Crusade

The Divide between East and West 

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> Scriptural starting points:

- Judges 18

- Matt. 5:9 

- Gal. 5:19 - 21

> The Background 

- Second Crusade (1147 - 1150) had ended in disaster for the crusading armies, the bulk of which had come from France under Louis VII and Germany under Conrad. The forces were badly beaten in Anatolia and finally were crushed during an ill-fated siege of Damascus. 

- Third Crusade (1189 - 1192) was a response to the capture of Jerusalem by Muslim forces under Saladin in 1187. The Crusader states had also lost to Saladin in the Battle of Hattin in 1187. England, under Richard I the Lionheart, France, under Philip II, and Germany under Frederick Barbarossa. The crusade failed to retake Jerusalem, but several strongholds were established along coastal areas. 

- Pope Innocent III called for a new crusade in 1198, hoping that the fierce Richard would lead a contingent from France/England along with the French monarch Philip II. However, Richard died in 1199, after a long feud with Philip, who also declined to take the cross again. 

- At a tournament in the North of France in 1199, at Ecry-sur-Aisne, Count Thibaut of Champagne and other nobles and knights took the cross. During this time, Fulk of Neuilly, a French monk, preached Innocent’s crusade and claimed to have gathered 200,000. Thibaut died shortly after, and Boniface of Montferrat (N. Italy), an experienced soldier and heir to a long line of crusading leaders, took command of the crusading force. 

- After contacting the Pisans, Genoans, and Venetians, it was decided to sail out of Venice and make for Cairo, Egypt, to dominate the Mediterranean and establish a future crusading base. 

- The Venetians agreed to transport 33,500 crusaders for 88,000 silver marks. 

- Only 12,000 showed up by 1202! The Crusaders had to make a bargain with the Venetians. 

- Meanwhile, in Byzantium, Emperor Isaac II Angelos was deeply unpopular. Known for his extravagance and stupidity, he was deposed in a coup in 1195. His brother, Alexios III Angelos ascended to the throne. 

> The Siege of Zara

- A Catholic city located in what is today modern Croatia, Zara had been under Venetian control until it rebelled in 1181 and allied itself with the King of Hungary. 

- The Doge of Venice, Enrico Dandolo, convinced the crusaders to assist him in intimidating Zara and returning it to Venice (this was in lieu of the rest of the payment for transportation to Egypt). 

- The city fell after a 14 day siege in November of 1202. Innocent III excommunicated the Crusaders. 

> The Siege and Sack of Constantinople

- Meanwhile... Boniface of Montferrat had visited his brother, Philip of Swabia, and met the son of the deposed Isaac II Angelos, Alexios IV Angelos (born c. 1182). Alexios promised Byzantine funds, weapons, and soldiers if the Crusaders allowed him to retake the throne in Constantinople from his uncle. Boniface and Enrico Dandolo agreed. 

- The Crusaders arrived at Constantinople with Alexios IV on June 23, 1203. After some skirmishes in the suburbs, a major engagement happened on July 6 when a crusader vessel snapped the chain across the Golden Horn, Crusaders destroyed mercenary troops manning a tower across from the city, and Venetian ships sailed alongside the Constantinopolitan defensive walls. 

- Alexios III displayed cowardice during the siege, and when he led out a sally of 8,500 troops to smash the vastly smaller force of crusaders, he retreated without a fight. Meanwhile... the Venetians set fire to about 120 acres of the city; between the fire and the fleeing of the emperor, the Byzantines suffered confusion and a loss of morale. They re-instated Isaac II as Emperor, and, at the Crusaders’ insistence, elevated Alexios IV as co-emperor. 

- Alexios struggled to pay the crusaders. He even resorted to melting down sacred icons. Soon unrest broke out in the city. In retaliation, the crusaders and Venetians started a fire 19-21 August 1203 that burned many neighborhoods of the city. 

- A nobleman named Alexios Doukas ended up coming to power after the death of Isaac II and the imprisonment and strangulation of Alexios IV in February of 1204. Doukas took the name Alexios V. The crusaders launched attacks that were repulsed, before a successful breach of the walls April 12, 1204 and a general conquest of the city a day later. A three day-long sack followed. 

> The Consequences 

- “The Greeks were convinced that even the Turks, had they taken the city, would not have been as cruel as the Latin Christians. The defeat of Byzantium, already in a state of decline, accelerated political degeneration so that the Byzantines eventually became an easy prey to the Turks. The Fourth Crusade and the crusading movement generally thus resulted, ultimately, in the victory of Islam, a result which was of course the exact opposite of its original intention.” - Speros Vryonis

- This was the nail in the coffin of "The Great Schism" of 1054. Rather than limited and mutual excommunications, this was a vast political, cultural, and religious split between Eastern Christendom and Western Christendom.

- Latin Empire of Constantinople established (lasted until 1261). 

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Immanuel Tuesday Class (10/27/20)

 Has the Church Become Corrupt?

The Waldensian Movement


> The symbol of the Waldensians is a burning candle. The motto is LUX LUCET IN TENEBRIS, “Light shines in the darkness,” a quotation of John 1:5. 

> Who was Peter Waldo (c. 1140 - c. 1205)? 

- A merchant in Lyons, Waldo was deeply moved sometime around 1160 by a sermon he heard on the ascetic St Alexius of Edessa (a 4th century monk). 

- Around this time he also grew to reject the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, and,  tragically, he was shaken to the core when he witnessed the death of a close friend. 

- Soon he began living a “radical” Christian life, giving his possessions over to family members, distributing alms to the poor, and preaching. 

- Sometime around 1175, Waldo commissioned a translation of the New Testament into the local language of Lombardy, Franco-Provencal. This is now generally considered to be the first Bible in the vernacular, pre-dating Luther’s German New Testament by some 350 years. 

- Along with poverty, Waldo advocated the priesthood of all believers, and lay-preaching, even by women. 

- Summoned to Rome in 1179, Waldo had a somewhat favorable audience with Pope Alexander III. The Pope affirmed his vow of voluntary poverty, but forbade him from public preaching (as he was a layman). 

- In 1180, Waldo wrote up a profession of faith. Following the ecumenical creeds closely, it concludes: “And since, according to James the Apostle, ‘faith without works is dead,’ we have renounced the world; whatever we had we have given to the poor, as the Lord advised, and we have resolved to be poor in such fashion that we shall take no thought for the morrow, nor shall we accept gold or silver, or anything of that sort from anyone beyond food and clothing sufficient for the day. Our resolve is to follow the precepts of the Gospel as commands. We wholeheartedly confess and believe that persons remaining in the world, owning their own goods, giving alms and doing other good works out of their own, and observing the commandments of the Lord, may be saved.”

- Waldo was excommunicated in 1184 by Pope Lucius III

> What were the Waldensians

- Peter Waldo gathered a group of followers around him who also condemned the excesses of the clergy and papacy, advocated a simple lifestyle, sought to return to biblical models of faith and piety, and proclaimed these teachings as they traveled around southeast France and northwest Italy. 

- Originally referred to as the “Poor of Lyons” or the “Poor of Lombardy,” they were also labeled as “Waldensians” or “Waldenses.” 

- They were condemned as heretics by Pope Lucius III in1184, and they fled from Lyons, settling in valleys in southern France and northern Italy.

- The Waldensian movement moved underground during the Middle Ages. Small groups met and were ministered to by “barbes” (“uncles” - to set them apart from Catholic “fathers”). 

- During the Reformation, Waldensians met with Oecolampadius (1482 - 1531, professor of Theology at Basel, close associate of Zwingli), Martin Bucer (1491 - 1551, reformer and ecumenist from Strasbourg) and William Farel (1489 - 1565, French reformer centered in western Switzerland). They adopted many Reformation ideals, especially those of the Zwinglians, and spread the Reform to Italy in the 1530s. 

- Widespread persecution of the Waldensians occurred in Provence (southeastern France) in the 1540s, with thousands of Waldensians killed or displaced. 

- In Calabria (southern Italy) in the 1560s, there was also widespread persecution inflicted by the Catholic inquisition; several pastors were burned at the stake. 

- Waldensians increasingly joined with French Protestants in the 17th century, or fled to remote, Alpine valleys. 

- In 2015, Pope Francis visited a Waldensian “temple” in Turin, Italy. There he publicly apologized on behalf of the Catholic Church for the mistreatment and persecution through the centuries. 

> Scriptural Foundations for the Waldensian ideals:

- Poverty: Mark 10:17-27; Luke 6:20-21

- Priesthood of All Believers: 1 Peter 2:5; 1 Cor. 12:1-11

- Centrality of the Word: 2 Tim. 3:16-17

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Book Review

 Book Review: Live Not by Lies by Rod Dreher (2020)

Live Not by Lies is a powerful and quite timely book written by an outstanding columnist and Orthodox believer. It should find its way onto every Lutheran's shelf. 

See Pastor Carnehl's Goodreads review here:

And his YouTube review here:

And, check out this article by Rod Dreher:

Monday, September 28, 2020

Immanuel's Tuesday Class (9/29/20)



"The Crusaders before Jerusalem"
by N. C. Wyeth (1924)

Scriptural Starting Points

Matthew 16:24-26 (ESV): Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

John 15:13 (KJV): Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.


Crusader crosses cover a wall at the Church of the Holy 
Sepulchre, Jerusalem (Photo by Rev. Carnehl)

- The crusades were “penitential war pilgrimages”

- 1095 marked the call to crusade from Pope Urban II, and the last military order of crusaders was established and disbanded in 1890. 

- Where? Eastern Mediterranean (i.e. the Levant), Baltic shoreline, North Africa, the Iberian Peninsula (i.e. Spain and Portugal), Poland, Hungary, the Balkans (i.e. modern-day Albania, Bosnia, etc.), and within Western Europe (i.e. Italy, France, and Germany)

- Who? Kings, knights, peasants, priests and eventually professional soldiers from Western Europe carried out crusades against Muslims, pagan Wends, Balts, Lithuanians, Mongols, Cathars, Hussites, and other “heretics.”

- What’s the big deal?  Today the Crusades are commonly held up as among the worst episodes in Christian history. However, there is so much confusion and mis-information regarding these “penitential war pilgrimages.” 

"The Battle of Dorylaeum" by Gustave Dore (1877)

Overview of Crusades

- First Crusade (1095 - 1099) captured Jerusalem, “Christ’s Patromony”

- Second Crusade (1147 - 1149) ended in disaster, except for the capture of Lisbon and decisive defeat of the Muslims there in 1147

- The Baltic Crusades (1147 on and off until 1316) was a series of drawn-out campaigns against various groups in the Baltic region

- Third Crusade (1189 - 1192), immortalized by King Richard the Lionheart, captured major Muslim cities, but failed to capture Jerusalem

- Fourth Crusade (1202 - 1204) was a disaster that led to the sack of Constantinople

- Albigensian Crusade (1209 - 1229) was essentially an act of genocide against a sect of Gnostic Christians living in southern France

- Children’s Crusade (1212) was a march to Italy with several thousand French and German youth that were attempting to reach the Holy Land. It ended with the children either starving, returning to their families, or being sold into slavery. 

- Fifth Crusade (1217 - 1221) was an attempt to capture Egypt and secure a base for future campaigns. After some initial victories, it ended in severe defeat. 

- Sixth Crusade (1228 - 1229) acquired Jerusalem and Bethlehem for the Kingdom of Jerusalem, more through diplomatic maneuvering than warfare. 

- Seventh Crusade (1248 - 1254) was another disastrous attempt at taking Egypt as a springboard to further action in the Holy Land.

- Eighth Crusade (1270) was the attempt by Saint Louis (King Louis IX) to seize Tunis.

- Ninth Crusade (1271 - 1272) was a series of successful Crusader raids in the Holy Land led by Edward I (“Longshanks”) of England. 

"Crusaders Capture Jerusalem" from the 
Description of the Holy Land, 14th century

1096: The First Crusade 

"The Church of the Holy Sepulchre" by Dean Cornwell (c. 1926)


- Crusading was considered an act of love: our idea of “violence” as inherently bad is a modern sensibility. The ancients and medievals had the view that violence was a morally neutral force and could be positively harnessed for protection, liberation, and discipline or negatively used for coercion, destruction, and evil.   

- Crusading was considered penitential: the act of crusading was seen as purifying and sanctifying. 

- Crusading was exceedingly costly: Most crusaders lost substantial sums of money, not to mention lands and possessions, in “taking up the cross.”

- Crusading was seen as liberation: the goal was the recovery and defense of Christian people and land in the East. 

- Crusading was a product of the medieval world view: It’s difficult for us to even remotely understand the crusading fervor of the time. It’s strange to us that so many “mystics” of the Church in the middle ages preached the crusades: Bernard of Clairvaux, Bridget of Sweden, and Catherine of Siena.  

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Thursday, September 24, 2020

Immanuel's Tuesday Class (9/22/20)

 The History of the Church:

The Investiture Controversy

1059 - 1122

Myers, Philip Van Ness (1905), 
A medieval king investing a bishop with the symbols of office

Biblical Starting Points:

Matthew 16:16-19 (NKJV) - Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.  And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.  And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Romans 13:1-7 (NKJV) -  Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.


We have come across these two passages again and again in our Tuesday Bible classes. They are verses of seminal significance throughout Christian history, and even today, they are widely debated! The two questions we must ask are, 1) What is the role of the Office of the Apostle Peter, and 2) What is the role of the Office of Emperor?

Interrelated questions would be: Is the Pope higher than the "governing authorities?" Does the Pope have the right to meddle in temporal affairs? Do emperors and kings answer to the Pope? 

All of these questions created major controversy in the early Middle Ages. What we will see is that the so-called "Investiture Controversy" was much more about absolute papal power than almost anything else. 

Caesar's Coin by Peter Paul Rubens (1612-1614)


Investiture: from the Latin investitura, "the investing of a power or authority," taken from the verb investio, "to clothe, to cover;" the formal bestowal of a prescriptive right. 

In the Middle Ages, the act of investiture was when the emperor or ruling nobility formally installed newly appointed church officials, giving them a staff and a ring and saying, "Accipe Ecclesiam tuam," that is, "Receive the church."  

Simony: taken from the name Simon Magus in Acts 8, simony is the buying or selling of church property, including land, buildings, relics, and offices. In the Middle Ages it was very broadly defined as any privately lay-owned church property. A Medievalist, Catherine Boyd, writes, "When a reformer in the eleventh century used the term 'simony,' he had before his eyes this whole complex of mercenary transactions which resulted from the growth of the proprietary system of churches and the extension of the proprietary idea to the parishes. It will be noted that the clergy as well as the laity exercised proprietary rights over the lower churches, treating them as if they were their private property and disposing of their revenues as if they were private income." 

Celibacy: from Latin caelebs, "unmarried, single," broadly defined in the Middle Ages as total abstinence from sexual/marital relations. Up until the 11th century, there was a popularly-accepted tradition of married priests, especially in Germany. Reforming popes in the 11th and 12th centuries were continually fighting against the sexual profligacy of monks and priests in Europe. This included marital intimacy, obviously accepted by Protestants and Orthodox for their pastors today. 

Key People: 

Pope Leo IX (1002 - 1054): a major reforming pope, Leo held a momentous synod (the "Easter Synod") of 1049 where, accompanied with Emperor Henry III, he once again called for clerical celibacy and an end to simony. His disagreements with the patriarch of Constantinople, Michael Cerularius, led to the so-called "Great Schism" of 1054. 

Pope Nicholas II (c. 990 - 1061): his papacy chiefly concerns us for the significant change that Nicholas spearheaded with his bishops gathered at a council in Rome in 1059. They decided to change the election procedure for popes. Up until this point, the election of popes had not always occurred in the same way; they were essentially chosen by their predecessors (up until the Constantinian era), then chosen by the Emperor and aristocracy of Rome and the Holy Roman Empire, and then, starting in 1059, by the cardinals themselves. This was a victory for the curia who took away more power from the princes. 

Peter Damian (c. 988 - 1073): declared to be a "Doctor of the Church" in 1828, St Peter Damian was a Benedictine monk and later Cardinal. His was a more moderate voice during the reforming movements of the 11th century. His 1051 work called the "Book of Gomorrah" is a scathing indictment of priestly abuses during his day. 

Humbert of Moyenmoutier (c. 1000 - 1061): a revolutionary monk, cardinal, and papal legate who was responsible for the excommunication of Michael Cerularius in 1054, precipitating the so-called "Great Schism." Humbert was a (perhaps the) chief supporter of papal supremacy during the battles against simony in the mid-11th century, and he was instrumental in the decisions behind the 1059 synod which changed the election procedure for popes. He wrote the fiercest and most important work against simony: Three Books against the Simoniacs

Pope Gregory VII (c. 1015 - 1085): THE key figure during the Investiture Controversy, Gregory (born Hildebrand of Sovana) is most famous today for the hard line he took against Emperor Henry IV, excommunicating him multiple times and insisting that simony and lay investiture (the investing of bishops by lay rulers) undermined the Church. Above all, Gregory hoped to free the church from all secular power. 

Emperor Henry IV (c. 1050 - 1106): ruler of the Holy Roman Empire from 1084 to his deposition in 1105 and the chief opponent of Pope Gregory VII. He believed that as emperor he was God's representative on earth, chosen to act as "vicar" over affairs of church and state. This severely clashed with the reformers' view of the papacy. 

Emperor Henry V (c. 1081 - 1125): son of Henry IV, he deposed his father in 1105 and allied himself with his father's enemies. The German princes opposed him and conflict erupted. In 1122 he signed the Concordat of Worms with Pope Calixtus II. It eliminated lay investiture but gave secular rulers some symbolic role in investiture and allowed them some influence during appointment. 


The importance of the Investiture Controversy probably can't be overstated. It changed the Middle Ages in Europe, and thus, it changed the Western world. The actual process of investiture was a technicality: the papal focus during this period was on authority and power. By taking away the secular ruler's right of investing, that is, installing church officials, the Pope communicated that even the highest ruler of the land had no authority directly from God. The Pope was supreme in matters secular and religious, and is therefore like a father to the emperor. T.M. Parker writes, "Lay investiture, the juridical act symbolised by the giving of the episcopal ring and staff to the elected bishop, was the means by which the 'honour' of a bishopric was conferred, and this demonstrated in the most vivid way possible the control claimed by the temporal power over local church, accompanied as it was by the spoken formula, Accipe ecclesiam tuam." Nicholas II had forbidden lay investiture in 1059, though it was not very precise. Gregory VII in 1075 made it more overt, but it was most firmly expressed in the Concordat of Worms in 1122. 

The point is, starting with these reformer popes in the 11th century, the absolutism of papal supremacy over the universal church (including Byzantium) and all secular authority (including the Holy Roman Emperor) was codified. Gregory's Dictatus Papae (Papal Dictates) of 1075 included 27 principles that changed the papacy forever. I take them from Wikipedia: 

  1. The Roman Church was founded solely by God.
  2. Only the Pope can with right be called "Universal".
  3. He alone can depose or reinstate bishops.
  4. All bishops are below his Legate in council, even if a lower grade, and he can pass sentence of deposition against them.
  5. The Pope may depose the absent.
  6. Among other things, we ought not to remain in the same house with those excommunicated by him.
  7. For him alone is it lawful, according to the needs of the time, to make new laws, to assemble together new congregations, to make an abbey of a canonry, and, on the other hand, to divide a rich bishopric and unite the poor ones.
  8. He alone may use the Imperial Insignia.
  9. All princes shall kiss the feet of the Pope alone.
  10. His name alone shall be spoken in the churches.
  11. His title is unique in the world.
  12. It may be permitted to him to depose emperors.
  13. It may be permitted to him to transfer bishops, if need be.
  14. He has the power to ordain the clerk of any parish he wishes.
  15. He who is ordained by the Pope may preside over another church, but may not hold a subordinate position. Such a person may not receive a higher clerical grade from any other bishop.
  16. No synod shall be called a "General Synod" without his order.
  17. No chapter and no book shall be considered canonical without his authority.
  18. A sentence passed by him may be retracted by no one. He alone may retract it.
  19. He himself may be judged by no one.
  20. No one shall dare to condemn any person who appeals to the Apostolic Chair.
  21. The more important cases of every church should be referred to the Apostolic See.
  22. The Roman Church has never erred. Nor will it err, to all eternity--Scripture being witness.
  23. The Roman Pontiff, if he has been canonically ordained, is undoubtedly made holy by the merits of St. Peter, St. Ennodius Bishop of Pavia bearing witness, and many holy fathers agreeing with him. As it is contained in the decrees of Pope St. Symmachus.
  24. By his command and consent, it may be lawful for subordinates to bring accusations.
  25. He may depose and reinstate bishops without assembling a Synod.
  26. He who is not at peace with the Roman Church shall not be considered "catholic".
  27. He may absolve subjects from their fealty to wicked men.

The historian G. Barraclough might be helpful here: "Rejecting the ancient doctrine that kings were sent by God, either as leaders of the righteous or as a scourge for the wicked, Gregory turned his back on the Christian dogmas of passive obedience and non-resistance. One of the most penetrating of Gregory's critics picked out the essential novelty of the pope's position, when he wrote: 'Christ alone, in unison with God, can give or take away dominion, according to the Scriptures; but Hildebrand teaches that he himself has authority over kings and kingdoms, and can do that which, according to the Psalmist, can be done by God alone, who abases the one and elevates the other.'" 

The 11th century was the seminal moment in Western Christendom for the advancement of papal prestige and power, and it should be remembered that this reform movement was radical. There was a weighty opposition, headed by prominent bishops. Such opposition led, eventually, to the revolt and reform of the 16th century. 

The Cathedral of Worms, where the 
Concordat of Worms was signed in 1122

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Tuesday Bible Study (5/26/20)

The Question of the End:

Apocalyptic Expectation in Early Medieval Europe

1000 A.D.

"The Last Judgment" fresco at the Camposanto, Pisa c. 1348
attrib. to Italian master Buonamico Buffalmacco

Scriptural Starting Places:

Matthew 24:29-31 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 - "For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words."

2 Peter 3:10 - "But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed."

Revelation 20:1-6 - "Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.  He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while. And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.  But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.  Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years."

>> Eschatology is from the Greek adjective éskhatos (ἔσχᾰτος). It means "last, at the end, final." Therefore 'eschatology' means the study of the end times, the "last things." The big question with eschatology is "When will all these things be"? In the New Testament, the way that Jesus, Paul, Peter and John talk might lead the reader to expect the immanent end of all things. Yet these teachings have come to us from twenty centuries ago; so we can say, "The end has not happened yet!" Further questions on the end involve concrete statements from the NT about the rapture and the 1,000 years. Such verses have been understood in a variety of ways throughout Christian history. Toward the "middle" of the Middle Ages, when the year 1000 A.D. approached, very many people expected the return of Christ and the judgment. We'll explore that movement in our study today as we conclude our year-long look at the first 1,000 years of the history of the Church.

>>> Note that the dating system of world history as "A.D." (meaning "year of the Lord") was devised by a Christian monk active in Rome.  A learned man from modern day Romania/Bulgaria, Dionysius the Humble devised the calendar around the year 525. He counted backwards to what he determined had been the birth year of Christ and based his calendar on it. The incarnation of the Word was thus the center-point of all history. 

>>>> In what precedes and follows I rely heavily upon Derek Cooper's book, Twenty Questions that Shaped World Christian History

Around the Year 1000:

As an anonymous pastor proclaimed in Old English in a homily from 971 A.D, "We know that the end of time is not far distant, for all the signs and portents which our Lord said should occur before doomsday have occurred, except only that the accursed visitant Antichrist has not yet come into the world. It is not long until the time when that must happen for this world must necessarily end in this age that is present. In this age then must this world end and most of it has passed, that is, nine hundred and seventy-one years in this year." 

Surrounding the year 1000 there were strong apocalyptic expectations in Western Europe.  Based on Dionysius' dating system, 1000 A.D. marked the 1,000th year since the Incarnation and redemption of humanity. Along with the suggestive verses in Revelation, the late 10th century and early 11th century were filled with strange astronomical events and other "miracles" witnessed by large numbers of people. For example, chroniclers around the year 1000 recorded an unusually violent earthquake in Western Europe and a strange episode of blood falling upon a certain group of worshipers during a Palm Sunday service. In addition there were comets, violent battles with the Vikings and Eastern European tribes, large-scale famines, planetary alignments, and other apocalyptic phenomena. 

Where writers and popular prophets differed was the exact time of completion for the 1,000 years. Would it be 1,000 years after the Incarnation or 1,000 years after the Passion (putting it at 1,033 A.D.)? Opinions differed.  

While it would be overly-simplistic to argue that Christians believed the world would end at the year 1000, it is certainly accurate to state that there was a heightened apocalyptic feeling at this point in the history of the Western Church. 

Fleury Abbey, founded in 640, is  in north-central
France. It is an important and celebrated monastery.

Major Voices:

Adso of Montier-en-Der (c. 910-992): abbot of a monastery in the Northeast of France. His most famous work is a book on the Antichrist where he points out that many Antichrists have already come, such as Emperor Nero and others, but that a final Antichrist will rise up and carry out horrible persecution of the Church. He surmised that the End would be near when the kingdoms that Rome had subdued would rise up against Rome and against the Papacy. "[The] time has not yet come, because, though we see the Roman empire destroyed in great part, nevertheless as long as the kings of the Franks who hold the empire by right shall last, the dignity of the Roman empire will not totally perish, because it will endure in the kings." Adso went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in preparation for the end. 

Abbo of Fleury (c. 945-1004): monk of Fleury Abbey who recorded an interesting memory that gives us a window into popular apocalypticism at this time: "When I was a young man I heard a sermon about the End of the world preached before the people in the cathedral of Paris. According to this, as soon as the number of a thousand years was completed, the Antichrist would come and the Last Judgment would follow in a brief time. I opposed this sermon..." 

Wulfstan of York (?-1023): monk and archbishop of York in Northern England. In five sermons on the End Times Wulfstan guessed that the end was near because the world was growing worse with each passing day. "A thousand years and more have now passed since Christ was among men in human form, and now Satan's bonds are greatly loosened and Antichrist's time is very close, and therefore things are in the world ever the weaker the longer it goes on." 

Ralph Glaber (985-1047): monk active near Dijon, France. His most important work is a five volume work called Histories in which he offers a literal interpretation of Revelation. Here he connects a 10th century heretic named Vilgardus with the release of the devil from prison at the end of 1,000 years. Glaber also notes many interesting events from around 1000 A.D. which anticipated the last age. Among other signs Glaber notes Halley's Comet: "[This] clearly portends some wondrous and awe-inspiring event in the world shortly after." 

Title page of a work by Abbo of Fleury. Note the name "Abbo"
written across the monk's neck. The date is c. 970.

Significance Today:

Our Lord teaches, "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority" (Acts 1:7), yet since the earliest times of the Church, indeed, since the time of the Twelve, disciples have wished to know the exact date of the End. 

In the Early Church, prominent writers such as Augustine and Jerome believed Revelation was a heavily symbolic text with figurative numbers and provocative, non-literal imagery. This has not always been the opinion. Other ancient Fathers such as Hippolytus and Tertullian had different views that would resonate more with modern day Dispensationalists than most Catholics or Lutherans. 

Around the year 1000 there were several monastic authors who looked around at the numerous terrestrial and heavenly "signs" and decided that the end was imminently near. Of course ten centuries have now passed, and we have historical hindsight to see that worse things have happened since that time! Tsunamis, famines, wars, genocides, and pandemics have plagued the world, and more Christians were slain in the 20th century alone than in all previous centuries put together. 

It is important for us as Christians to live in the tension of the "End Times" with the understanding that, since the Ascension, every age has eagerly expected to see the face of Christ as Judge and Victor. As disasters and wars take place, the Church catches glimpses of the End. Just as there are many Antichrists, there are many 'signs' and 'wonders' of the End. Indeed, the world is groaning under the weight of sin and is ready for the transfiguration of all things. The Church's mission is to prepare all of creation to meet her Author: the Messiah Jesus. 

 So, this list is highly subjective. I haven't read all of these books, and I've also had to eliminate very significant books becaus...