Saturday, June 9, 2012

Some Calvinist Hymns AGAINST the Arminians

I just finished a really interesting book, Arnoud S. Q. Visser, "Reading Augustine in the Reformation: The Flexibility of Intellectual Authority in Europe, 1500~1620," (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011). The book offers an analysis of Augustine's reception in the Reformation period (both Roman Catholic and Protestant sides) by looking at the publishers and editors of Augustine's works; by looking at the development of text and reading habits in this period; by doing some case studies on Augustine's usage and application (based on the previous realities of his publishing/editing and reading habits) in the works of Vermigli, Cranmer, & Laud; and finally by looking at the consumption of Augustine in debate, in particular he looks at how this plays out both in the Catholic center of Leuven, and the Protestant center of Leiden. It is this latter center that I want to highlight by noting a popular way in which Augustine's reception played itself out in the so called Remonstrance (Arminians), and counter-Remonstrance (Calvinists) debates about predestination, free-will and God's grace---for those unaware, this is where the whole 5 Points of Calvinism find their conceptual genesis (in the 'counter-Remonstrance' movement, given voice in the Canons of Dort).

What I am drawing our attention to, is really just an interesting instance of how a counter-Remonstrant (5 Point Calvinist in our contemporary parlance) sought to undercut the teachings of the Remonstrants (or Arminians) as a song-writer. He wrote some hymns against the 'Pelagians' (a label used often---still to this day---by Calvinists of their Arminian opponents [for those unaware, Pelagius was a 4th century monk who taught that man, by his own nature, could receive God's salvation or not; i.e. that there was no such thing as God's predestination of some to eternal life and salvation]); here are those 5 Point (to speak anachronistically) hymns---the song writer (who was eventually condemned) is Pieter Martens 'from the town of Lekkerkerk in the province of Holland' (Visser, p. 127). Here we go, the tune is set to Martin Luther's hymn on the Lord's prayer, "Vater unser im Himmelreich" (Visser, p. 127); so if you know it, sing along as you put these words to that tune ;-), here we go:

O God, who is our Father,
We thank you through Jesus Christ,
That you saved us so mercifully from Pelagius's reign,
Which has now forcefully and collectively
Emerged again....

[The holy Spirit] who causes in us a stable, unshakeable faith, so that we resist through God's great power evil Pelagius and the devil, however deceptive he may be, for God comes to the rescue of his people.

The Second song, "to the tune of the second psalm," is of a more didactic nature (Visser, p. 127):
Why are these troublemakers raging frantically
Why are the Pharisees gathering
What makes them rave so much collectively
About things of which they should surely be ashamed?
All those Pelagians are united
Against Gods [sic] word and His correct doctrine;
They attempt  hurridedly to fight these,
And all His annointed.
~Pieter Martens cited by Arnoud S. Q. Visser in, Reading Augustine in the Reformation, 127

So next time you encounter a rambunctious Arminian (and we know they usually are ;-), just plug your ears and start singing these hymnodies, at them; it is sure to repel them ;-).

Seriously, it is interesting, to see how, at a popular (and even intellectual-academic) level nothing has really changed. These hymns come directly within the immediate time frame which the most acute Protestant form of this Augustinian-Pelagian inspired debate took its shape; the time frame in the early 17th century (1618 and immediately prior). The debate, of course, is the classically breathed Arminian and Calvinist debate; a debate, as I just noted that started with Augustine and Pelagius. Then given expression within Roman Catholic circles (which Visser discusses), taken up again by Calvin V. Pighius and Georgius (as my last post was noting something of), and given (for Protestants) a final form (which continues until today for many Protestants) in this Remonstrant, counter-Remonstrant movment (of Arminians V. Calvinists).

I just thought these hymns were an interesting insight into the early popular culture of this whole debate. Things, for many, unfortunately, really haven't changed much! But you could become an Evangelical Calvinist ...

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