St. Thomas Becket, pray for us!

This is a translated and expanded version of what I wrote in 2010 and in 2013.

Martertod des Hl. Thomas von Canterbury by Master Francke (c.1380-c.1440), painted c.1424-1436.

Today marks the feast day of St. Thomas Becket, bishop and martyr. Thomas was born c.1119 in Cheapside, London, on 21 December, the feast day of St. Thomas the Apostle, and died as a martyr in Canterbury Cathedral, 29 December 1170), as we can see from Wikipedia.

He was born into a Norman family and studied at Merton Priory from the age of 10 and later at a grammar school in London. Later, after some years with jobs and financial troubles, Thomas was able to study canon law in Bologna and Auxerre. In 1154 he was made Archdeacon of Canterbury by Theobald of Bec, then Archbishop of Canterbury, the same year that Henry d’Anjou ascended the English throne (at the age of 21, becoming king Henry II), and because of his skill, Thomas was recommended by the Archbishop to the king for the vacant post of Lord Chancellor. As Lord Chancellor, Thomas “enforced the king’s traditional sources of revenue that were exacted from all landowners, including churches and bishoprics” (according to Wikipedia). This was, according to the website of the Roman Catholic Church in Norway, the first English-born man to have such a high ranking office after the Norman invasion in 1066. (That doesn’t mean, of course, that Thomas was Saxon, as is claimed in the movie Becket, but that his Norman family has moved to England where he was born.)

Eventually, Thomas was made archbishpp of Canterbury in 1162, most likely because the king thought he would get ‘his own man’ in the Church. But Thomas took his appointment quite seriously and his “famous transformation … into an ascetic occurred at this time” (Wikipedia). He laid down his office as Lord Chancellor and said of himself, “From a patron of actors and a follower of hounds, I was made pastor of so many souls.”[1] Thomas eventually became a burden for the king, partly because he pushed for the right of the Church, and the king is supposed to have said to his court, “Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?” (though there’s no record of him saying this).[2] Because of his commitment to his post, and his conflicts with the Crown, Thomas was murdered. This was most likely not the king’s purpose, but four knights – Reginald Fitzurse, William de Tracy, Hugh de Morville, and Richard le Breton – took the king’s alleged question seriously and went to Canterbury Cathedral om 29 Desember 1170 where they murdered Thomas as he was praying vespers.

Poster for the movie Becket (1964).

Today I plan to pray vespers in his memory, and I plan to watch the excellent movie Becket, though it is not entirely historically accurate. It claims that Thomas was a Saxon, and it portrays him and the king as roughly the same age (and as almost buddies). In reality, Thomas was 14 years older than the king. The picture here is the poster or DVD cover. St. Thomas Becket, pray for us!

Let us pray:[3]

O God, for the sake of whose Church the glorious Bishop Thomas fell by the sword of ungodly men: grant, we beseech Thee, that all who implore his aid, may obtain the good fruit of his petition. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Who livest and reignest with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, forever and ever. Amen.


[1] See The Lives of Thomas Becket. Selected sources translated and annotated by Michael Staunton (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2001), 97.

[2] Ibid., 30, n18.

[3] This is a prayer taken from the Roman Missal. See here.

Why I didn’t enjoy evensong at Durham Cathedral

I went to Choral Evensong at Durham Cathedral a few days ago. It was very beautiful, sure, but I felt that the choir stole the whole service from me, including – horribly enough – the Lord’s prayer(!) and the Magnificat (which just feels weird to take away from the people, considering its content). Here is the order that was used, from the Book of Common Prayer. Of that we got to say exactly two things; the Creed and the grace at the end.

I can (sort of but not really) understand that the choir sings the Biblical psalms. But just about every response? I felt unwelcome and alienated. I felt that it wouldn’t have mattered one bit whether or not I was there. And that is not a feeling you want to have in Church. I felt like I was at a concert, not a prayer. I have prayed vespers for years and I came to evensong to pray the service, and I was denied that.* There wasn’t a single hymn to sing either, and the anthem was of course also the prerogative of the choir for some reason. Suffice it to say that I probably won’t be back for another evensong at the cathedral. I’ll prefer to actual be allowed to pray vespers when I’m at vespers. It’s not supposed to be a show or a prerogative for ‘professionals.’ It is the prayers of the people but it felt like the prayers of an elite.

* Well, almost. As the choir sang the psalms and responses I didn’t listen. I said them myself, out loud. Well, not loud per se, but in a low voice. I was there to pray, I wasn’t there to listen to Palestrina.

Why I am not, and will never call myself, a ‘Protestant’

I am very often called a ‘Protestant,’ mainly by American Evangelicals, Pentecostals, or Roman Catholics. But I have always rejected the term, and that is often perplexing to them. Since I am now a bit tired of explaining why, I have decided, after being encouraged, to just write a post about it.

Some (and mainly Americans) claim that ‘Protestantism’ (as it is often used these days) is, in some sense, a result of the Reformation. Baptists, for instance, who are undeniable part of so called modern ‘Protestantism,’ have their origin in the Anabaptist and radical reformations, yet these predates the Lutheran Reformation and are condemned by name in Confessio Augustana, art. 5, 9, 12, 16 and 17. These are ‘Protestants’ in the modern sense, yet to say that they are a result of the Reformation is, well, undeniably wrong, as they are condemned by it, and would therefore have to exist before or concurrent with it.

As for the use of ‘Protestant,’ allow me explain why this is an improper designation to use for Lutherans:

Some (American) Lutherans claim that “Lutherans were the original Protestants,” yet that is true only of German Lutherans in the Holy Roman Empire and perhaps their successors, yet I would say that this is dubious, as the term ‘Protestant’ is NOT, and have never been, a theological designation. It is a purely historical designation, and in its time it was political, not theological.

The origin of the name ‘Protestant’ was a protest not against any church body (so not against the Roman Catholic Church) but against the Holy Roman Emperor’s enforcement of the Edict of the Second Diet of Speyer in 1529, upholding the condemnation of Luther and Lutheranism in the Empire from 1521 (the Edict of Worms) and reversing concessions made to Lutherans at the first Diet of Speyer in 1526. Read more at Wikipedia, and in the included links. This decision was met by protest (hence the term ‘Protestant’) from “six princes of the Holy Roman Empire and rulers of fourteen Imperial Free Cities,” according to Wikipedia. They didn’t protest the Catholic Church but the Holy Roman Empire, and the term wasn’t theological, it was political. It was a protest against the religious politics of the Holy Roman Emperor (to use more modern terminology). To use a modern equivalent, both Lutherans and Roman Catholics in the US are ‘Protestants’ in the historic sense when they protested the HHS Mandate. The Wikipedia article notes: “During the Reformation, the term protestant was hardly used outside of German politics. People who were involved in the religious movement used the word evangelical (German: evangelisch).” Later, and gradually, the article notes, “protestant became a general term, meaning any adherent of the Reformation in the German-speaking area.” Note when it says that it was a general term it was general in the German-speaking area, and not in Lutheranism as such. It was, and remains, a political term, confined to the German situation.

It is understandable that many American Lutherans call themselves ‘Protestants’ (and underline that “Lutherans were the original Protestants”), as German Lutheranism has had a strong influence on American Lutheranism, more so, it seems, than Scandinavian Lutheranism (which is to be expected, the population of Germany far outnumbering the population of Scandinavia). Scandinavian Lutherans did not call themselves ‘Protstants,’ and I never will call myself that. In Norway we generally call ourselves ‘Lutheran’ or ‘evangelical Lutheran’ (no. evangelisk, not to be confused by the Norwegian evangelikal, used of the modern Evangelical Protestants) or often simply ‘Christians,’ though I find that to often be misleading. If someone asks me what I am, I don’t say simply ‘Christian,’ as I do not want to be put in the same box as Reformed, Baptists, Evangelicals, Pentecostals, and Charismatics. I would rather be mistaken for a Roman Catholic than for an Evangelical.

Scandinavia was never part of the Holy Roman Empire and as such the edicts mentioned didn’t apply to us. Historically, no Scandinavian Lutherans called themselves ‘Protestants,’ and it is an entirely historically contingent term. In fact, in Scandinavia we had the reverse. Here, the Reformation wasn’t ground up, as in Germany, but top-down, as in England, introduced by the rulers (though the process was more ‘ecclesially willed’ in Sweden, then in Denmark-Norway, AFAIK). So the ‘Protestants’ in Scandinavia were Roman Catholics protesting the religious politics of the King (Gustav I in the Swedish Empire, Christian III in Denmark-Norway).

So the historical designation ‘Protestant’ doesn’t refer to me, or to many Lutherans, therefore ‘Lutherans were the original Protestants’ is simply not true of Lutheranism as such, only of German Lutheranism (and, arguably, only for those six princes of the Holy Roman Empire and rulers of fourteen Imperial Free Cities, and their subjects, who uttered their political protest against the religious politics of the Holy Roman Emperor).

But what about the more modern use of the word ‘Protestant’? Well, that is even more problematic. Many today simply say ‘Protestant’ every time they speak of a Christian who isn’t Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Oriental Orthodox (or perhaps Old Catholic, if they know of their existence). But that means that it has become utterly useless as a term. It doesn’t say anything about what we believe, only who we aren’t subject to. It doesn’t tell you anything about the person who is given the title. It just tells you what he isn’t. I know Lutherans (especially Americans) who time and time again has to explain that yes, they do believe in the real presence or yes, they have liturgy, because they get lumped together with everything from Pentecostals to Adventists. When Anabaptists, who are opposed to the Lutheran Reformation, are called ‘Protestants,’ we see that it has lost its meaning.

I am a non-Swede. I do not live in Sweden, and have never lived there. But non-Swede is not therefore a useful word to use about me. People from, say, southeast Asia are also non-Swedes but I have far more in common with Swedes than I have with people from southeast Asia. To illustrate the point, consider these two sentences: “As a Norwegian, I have far more in common with Swedes than I have with southeast Asians.” Or: “As a non-Swede, I have far more in common with Swedes than I have with non-Swedes.” The second sentence is utterly nonsensical an that tells us the uselessness of ‘non-Swede.’

So to with the word ‘Protestant’ (as many use it). I have fare more – theologically, liturgically, sacramentally, and ecclesially – in common with Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Old Catholics than I have with Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Baptists, etc. To use the same kind of sentence, I would have to say, “As a Protestant, I have far more in common with Roman Catholics than I have with Protestants.” It shows how useless the term is. But it goes beyond this.

To use a word – ‘Protestant’ – to denoted some kind of unity between me and these ‘Protestants’ over and against Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Old Catholics isn’t just useless and bizarre, it is misleading and, quite frankly, deceitful. It makes it look like there is some kind of unity between these so-called ‘Protestants,’ when, quite frankly, no such unity exists. It thus serves to cover up the fact that there is more unity between Lutherans and Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Old Catholics than there has ever been between Lutherans and, say, Evangelicals, Pentecostals or Baptists. To use ‘Protestant’ in this modern sense is basically to lie and deceive.

And that is why I am not, and will never call myself, a ‘Protestant.’

Nokre smått reviderte tankar omkring konfirmasjonen

Eg blogga litt om dette i forfjor også, og denne posten er ein ny versjon av den med litt nytt, basert på nokre diskusjonar på Facebook.

Sidan 1920(!) har konfirmasjonen i Den norske kyrkja primært vore ei velsignings- og forbønshandling, og ikkje primært ein teologi- og bibelkunnskapspresentasjon. Nokre eg har snakka med synst dette verkar rart. Men når eg har snakka med utanlandske vener, spesielt frå England eller USA, vert ein ofte overraska over at vi i Noreg i det heile (spesielt blant folk) ser på konfirmasjonen som ein slangs kristen Bar/Bat Mitzwa. For kva er eigentleg ein konfirmasjon? På nettsidene til Den norske kyrkja står det at konfirmasjonen er «en forbønnshandling,» at «alle konfirmantene kneler ved alterringen» i konfirmasjonsgudstenesta, og at «[p]resten eller konfirmantlæreren din ber for deg.» Dette er det nok ikkje alle som har fått med seg, og eg har fått spørsmål om kvifor ein ikkje lenger må stå å demonstrere bibelkunnskap og vedkjenning. Vel, det siste er ikkje heilt korrekt. Vedkjenninga og forsakinga er ein del av konfirmasjonsgudstenesta, for alle i kyrkjelyden, inkluderte konfirmantane. Vi kunne gjerne gjort meir ut av det, slik ein gjer det i Church of England, der konfirmatoren (biskopen) innleier ved å seie «Brothers and sisters, I ask you to profess together with these candidates the faith of the Church,» før han spør tre spørsmål: «Do you believe and trust in God the Father? … Do you believe and trust in his Son Jesus Christ? … Do you believe and trust in the Holy Spirit?,» der alle, etter kvart spørsmål, svarer ved å seie fram aktuelle trusartikkelen i den apostoliske truvedkjenninga. Sjå Common Worship: Christian Initiation (London: Church House, 2006), s.115.

Men sjølve konfirmasjonshandlinga er ikkje lenger ein presentasjon av teologi- og bibelkunnskap. Men det har det som sagt ikkje formelt vore sidan 1920! Då vart konfirmasjonen definert som ei velsignings- og forbønshandling, innleia av ei vedkjennigshandling. Men interessant nok er det jo dette som er den klassiske definisjonen av konfirmasjon, slik det vert praktisert i, t.d. Den romersk-katolske kyrkje og i Church of England.

I sistnemnde går konfirmanten fram til biskopen, og biskopen seier: «(name), God has called you by name and made you his own,» før han legg hendene på hovudet til konfirmanten, og seier: «Confirm, O Lord, your servant with your Holy Spirit.» Dette er faktisk den klassiske definisjonen av konfirmasjonshandlinga. Gud konfirmerer, stadfester, konfirmanten i den kristne trua. Sjå Common Worship: Christian Initiation (London: Church House, 2006), s.118.

Mange har lært at konfirmasjon tyder stadfesting eller bekrefting, og det er heilt korrekt, men mi erfaring er at mange, kanskje på grunn av samanblandinga av overhøyring og konfirmasjon, har blitt fortald at det er konfirmanten som stadfester at han vil halda fram i den trua som vart gjeve han i dåpen. Eg tenkte også sjølv slik då eg var konfirmant og fleire år etterpå. Men etter å ha lest bønene som vi faktisk ber i Den norske kyrkja, og bønene vi ser i den anglikanske konfirmasjonshandlinga, så er det vorte klart at det er Gud som stadfester konfirmanten i dåpsløftene. Det er Gud som styrker konfirmanten; det er Gud som gjev uttrykk for at løftene står ved lag. Det betyr sjølvsagt ikkje at vi ikkje skal handle på desse løftene, eller at ein ikkje også stadfester trua, t.d. gjennom lesing av credo, men det understrekar at Gud er den som primært stadfester/konfirmerer. Det er altså meir korrekt, slik eg ser det, å seie at ‘eg vart konfirmert då og då’ enn ‘eg konfirmerte meg då og då.’ Akkurat som at det heiter at eg vart døypt, ikkje at eg døypte meg.

Den norske kyrkja har altså gått tilbake til det klassiske utgangspunktet, der konfirmasjonshandlinga er ei forbønshandling der Gud konfirmerer konfirmanten, dvs. at Gud stadfester konfirmanten i dåpsløftene, og utustar han. Dette blir heilt konkret sagt i Dnk sitt informasjonsskriv om konfirmasjonen: «I Den norske kyrkja er konfirmasjonen ei forbønshandling. Ordet konfirmere tyder å stadfeste eller styrke. Det er ikkje ein føresetnad for konfirmasjonen at konfirmanten skal stadfeste noko, det er Gud som stadfester lovnadene sine slik dei vert gitt i dåpen.»

Overfor konfirmantane er eg tydleg på at konfirmasjonsdagen ikkje er eit kunnskapsframvisingsshow. I konfirmasjonen blir vi stadfeste i dåpen av Gud – slik kyrkja alltid har lært og slik Dnk lærer (i alle fall i fylgje informasjonsmaterialet). Eg trur det er viktig å understreke dette økumeniske perspektivet – spesielt sidan vi faktisk er i kommunion med Church of England. I Porvoo-kommunionen vert det understrekt at alle medlemskyrkjene anerkjenner sine konfirmasjonar: «A person who is confirmed in any of the Porvoo churches, whether by a bishop or by a priest, is considered to be confirmed in all other Porvoo churches.» Det må nødvendigvis bety at ein har grunnleggjande same lære om konfirmasjonen i desse kyrkjene. Vi skil jo også heilt medvite i Dnk mellom konfirmasjonstida og konfirmasjonen.

Sjølv tenker eg at konfirmasjonen er ei stadfesting av dåpen der Anden blir gitt på ein spesiell måte til den som blir konfirmert. Dette er også den tradisjonelle tenkinga økumenisk sett, også i Church of England. Så vidt eg veit knyt Church of England dette til Apg 8,14-17. Der les vi om dei kristne i Samaria som hadde komme til tru. Dei vart alle døypte, men apostlane Peter og Johannes reiste dit etter dette og «bad for dei truande, at dei måtte få Den heilage ande» (v.15). For, «Anden var endå ikkje komen over nokon av dei; dei var berre døypte til Herren Jesu namn. No la dei hendene på dei, og dei fekk Den heilage ande» (v.16-17). Det er ikkje noko indikasjon i teksten at dei hadde fått noko inadekvat dåp, men at (denne spesielle) sendinga av Anden er noko heilt eige. Sjølv meiner eg vi burde tenkt sakramentalt om dette. Det krev sjølvsagt ei retenking omkring sakramenta der ein ikkje tenker at eit sakrament berre handler om synd og tilgjeving. Om retenking rundt sakramentsomgrepet vil eg tilrå å lese Wolfhart Pannenberg, Systematic Theology, vol. 3, s.336-369 (kap. 13,III, §3, «The Ambivalence of the Word “Sacrament” and the Special Case of Marriage»). Pannenberg skriv der også litt om konfirmasjonen.

Frå luthersk hald kan vi knytte dette til Luthers tenking rundt det å ‘praktisere dåpen.’ Les gjerne Bård Norheim sine tankar om dette. Han har ein relativ enkel artikkel om dette. Men elles vil eg tilrå å lese boka basert på doktorgraden hans; Practicing Baptism. Vi kan også seie at skriftemålet i praksis er å ‘praktisere dåpen,’ og eg vil påstå at Confessio Augustana held fram skriftemålet som eit sakrament.

Etter å ha skrive om kyrkja (i CA VII-VIII) får vi presentasjonen av sakramenta. Fyrst dåpen (CA IX), deretter nattverden (CA X) og så skriftemålet og atterløysinga, samt frukta som skal komme av dette (CA XI-XII). Fyrst deretter, i CA XIII, kjem artikkelen om bruken av sakramenta. Difor meiner eg at skriftemålet tydleg vert presentert som eit sakrament i vedkjenninga. Men det vert knytt til dåpen (CA XII) og kan, som sagt, kallast å praktisere dåpen (eller å gå tilbake til den tilgjevinga som ligg der). På same måte meiner eg at vi kan tenke om konfirmasjonen. Der stadfester Gud «lovnadene sine slik dei vert gitt i dåpen,» for å sitere Dnk sitt informasjonsbladet om konfirmasjonen. Dermed blir det sakramentalt på same måte som skriftemålet blir det. På same måte som vi i skriftemålet går tilbake til den tilgjevinga som ligg i dåpen så går ein i konfirmasjonen tilbake til Andens gåve i dåpen, jf. orda vi seier etter at vi har døypt nokon: «Den allmektige Gud har no gjeve deg sin heilage Ande, gjort deg til sitt barn og teke deg inn i sin truande kyrkjelyd. Gud styrkje deg [tenk latin firmare] med sin nåde til det evige livet. Fred vere med deg.»

Eg har teke tak i dette, og i kvar bøn eg ber når eg konfirmerer konfirmantane ‘mine,’ seier eg: «… styrk han/henne ved din Heilage Ande…,» då confirmare kjem frå firmare, som betyr å ‘styrke.’ Eg vurderer å gå over til «konfirmér han/henne med Din Heilage Ande,» men då må eg i så fall snakke litt om det i gudstenesta. Dette må vi understreke igjen og igjen. Dette handlar ikkje om vårt strev, men om at Gud stadfester at dåpsløftene står ved lag.