Monthly Archives: August 2017

W(h)ither the Great Lutheran Hymns? – Trinity 9: “What Is The World To Me”

The chief hymn for Trinity 9 is “What Is the World to Me,” by Georg Michael Pfefferkorn, who, incidentally, is my favorite deceased musician named George Michael. Granted, he had the advantage of not being a degenerate. Also, talent.

This week’s post will be shorter. There just isn’t as much to say. Going forward, I will at least post the parallel versions and the scan from TLH way out ahead of time for convenience’s sake if people want to print it out and use it. Then, if I have commentary and time to add it, I will go back and do so and then update the post.

Here are the TLH and LSB versions of this week’s hymn in parallel:

TLH 430

LSB 730

1. What is the world to me
With all its vaunted pleasure
When Thou, and Thou alone,
Lord Jesus, art my Treasure!
Thou only, dearest Lord,
My soul’s Delight shalt be;
Thou art my Peace, my Rest–
What is the world to me!
1. What is the world to me
With all its vaunted pleasure
When You, and You alone,
Lord Jesus, are my Treasure!
You only, dearest Lord,
My soul’s delight shalt be;
You are my peace, my rest.
What is the world to me!
2. The world is like a cloud
And like a vapor fleeting,
A shadow that declines,
Swift to its end retreating.
My Jesus doth abide,
Tho’ all things fade and flee;
My everlasting Rock–
What is the world to me!
3. The world seeks to be praised
And honored by the mighty,
Yet never once reflects
That they are frail and flighty.
But what I truly prize
Above all things is He,
My Jesus, He alone–
What is the world to me!
2. The world seeks to be praised
And honored by the mighty
Yet never once reflects
That they are frail and flighty.
But what I truly prize
Above all things is He,
My Jesus, He alone.
What is the world to me!
4 The world seeks after wealth
And all that Mammon offers,
Yet never is content
Tho’ gold should fill its coffers.
I have a higher good,
Content with it I’ll be:
My Jesus is my Wealth–
What is the world to me!
3. The world seeks after wealth
And all that mammon offers,
Yet never is content
Though gold should fill its coffers.
I have a higher good,
Content with it I’ll be:
My Jesus is my wealth.
What is the world to me!
5. The world is sorely grieved
Whenever it is slighted
Or when its hollow fame
And honor have been blighted.
Christ, Thy reproach I bear
Long as it pleaseth Thee;
I’m honored by my Lord–
What is the world to me!
6. The world with wanton pride
Exalts its sinful pleasures
And for them foolishly
Gives up the heavenly treasures.
Let others love the world
With all its vanity;
I love the Lord, my God–
What is the world to me!
7. The world abideth not;
Lo, like a flash ’twill vanish;
With all its gorgeous pomp
Pale death it cannot banish;
Its riches pass away,
And all its joys must flee;
But Jesus doth abide–
What is the world to me!
8. What is the world to me!
My Jesus is my Treasure,
My Life, my Health, my Wealth,
My Friend, my Love, my Pleasure,
My Joy, my Crown, my All,
My Bliss eternally.
Once more, then, I declare:
What is the world to me!
4. What is the world to me!
My Jesus is my treasure,
My life, my health, my wealth,
My friend, my love, my pleasure,
My joy, my crown, my all,
My bliss eternally.
Once more, then, I declare:
What is the world to me!

Obviously you have only half the number of verses in LSB as you get in TLH. That’s sad, if you ask me. Thankfully, the verses that you do get are relatively unmaimed, but the language has been modernized because, again, you just can’t understand Jacobean (or Elizabethan, etc.) English unless you’re praying the Lord’s Prayer.

Personally, I’d rather have the extra page or half-page with the four deleted verses of this wonderful hymn than any modern hymn whose printing required the same amount of ink. I mean, I would have been glad to see some of the Methodist hymns from TLH get the axe so that previously absent Lutheran chorales could be included. Yet if LSB isn’t as thick with Methodist hymns as TLH, it is far thicker with bad hymns in general—hymns that I won’t ever review in this column because, one, they’re never appointed as the chief hymn (mercy), and two, they’re just so bad.

Anyway, as you look at this week’s hymn (below), just remember that instead of four extra verses of wonderful, comforting doctrine, you got a two-page spread of schlock about high school chemistry class, construction work, and the pep band at a football game.

(Note: I haven’t cropped the second page of this hymn. The hymn that follows it in TLH, “The King of Love My Shepherd Is,” is beautiful. Sadly, the version of this hymn in LSB is set to another melody, which, for all of its merits (I personally find it kind of Schwaermerisch), was not written by Michael Praetorius. Abandoning a melody by Praetorius is pretty much always a downgrade.)

W(h)ither the Great Lutheran Hymns? – Trinity 8: “In God, My Faithful God”

I think this will be the featured image for all of these posts from now on. It’s the perfect visual representation of the damage which is being done to our heritage.

I should probably start out with a big “thank you” to the Calvinists who put together hymnary.org. Their felicitously inconsistent website has been an invaluable resource for me as I’ve been working on this project. Here is the index for TLH, and here is the index for LSB. It won’t surprise you to learn that more of TLH is available in facsimile scans, as it is a much older book. By the same token, many more actual TLHs are available for free or cheap. Many churches still have them squirreled away somewhere in one of their labyrinthine closets. Get a torch and go exploring. You just might find them.

A friend writes regarding the last installment:

I think that if you are going to continue this series, which you should, this will be a great convincing piece for people. It’s not the first, but it’s early in the series. And that’s great. But it’s sort of the thesis statement. It’s not anti-“guys who made the LSB,” but it also sort of is. It says, “Let’s judge the hymnal result, not the individuals on the hymnal committee.”

I don’t know if anyone found last week’s entry convincing or not, but I guess it was a bit of a thesis-statement, as my friend put it. To avoid repeating myself, I will take advantage of this. For example, when the LSB needlessly modernizes the language of a hymn, I’ll just say, “needless modernization – see post for Trinity 7,” or something like that.

Another friend writes:

LSB was kind of damage-control or patch-up of LW. And, yes, it is ultimately reflective of Kieschnick’s administration, though better than he would have liked. Jerry should take the blame for all the bad, and no credit for the good. But in the aftermath, the “confessionals” support it for the sake of unity.

That’s also true. Too often this line gets trotted out as a last ditch: “it’s not our fault, the confessional agenda was hamstrung by Kieschnick’s boys.” I’m not sure I buy that, at least not entirely. The “confessional agenda” was not and is not monolithic. In every project like this, there is a middle faction. They’re the ones who end up saying that while they might have wanted a horse at the outset, a camel is ultimately much better. Whatever they are, they are not traditionalists.

The chief hymn for Trinity 8 is “In God, My Faithful God,” by Sigismund Weingärtner. Very little is known about old Siggy the Wine-Gardener, other than that he wrote a wonderful hymn.

Here’s are the TLH and LSB versions in parallel:

TLH 526

LSB 745

1. In God, my faithful God,
I trust when dark my road;
Tho’ many woes o’ertake me,
Yet He will not forsake me.
His love it is doth send them
And, when ’tis best, will end them.
1. In God, my faithful God,
I trust when dark my road;
Great woes may overtake me,
Yet He will not forsake me.
My troubles He can alter;
His hand lets nothing falter.
2. My sins assail me sore,
But I despair no more.
I build on Christ who loves me;
From this rock nothing moves me.
To Him I all surrender,
To Him, my soul’s defender.
2. My sins fill me with care,
Yet I will not despair.
I build on Christ, who loves me;
From this rock nothing moves me.
To Him I will surrender,
To Him, my soul’s defender.
3. If death my portion be,
Then death is gain to me
And Christ my life forever,
From whom death cannot sever.
Come when it may, He’ll shield me,
To Him I wholly yield me.
3. If death my portion be,
It brings great gain to me;
It speeds my life’s endeavor
To live with Christ forever.
He gives me joy in sorrow,
Come death now or tomorrow.
4. O Jesus Christ, my Lord,
So meek in deed and word,
Thou once didst die to save us
Because Thy love would have us
Be heirs of heavenly gladness
When ends this life of sadness.
4. O Jesus Christ, my Lord,
So meek in deed and word,
You suffered death to save us
Because Your love would have us
Be heirs of heav’nly gladness
When ends this life of sadness.
5. “So be it,” then I say
With all my heart each day.
We, too, dear Lord, adore Thee;
We sing for joy before Thee.
Guide us while here we wander
Until we praise Thee yonder.
5. “So be it,” then, I say
With all my heart each day.
Dear Lord, we all adore You,
We sing for joy before You.
Guide us while here we wander
Until we praise You yonder.

Verses 2, 4, and 5 in the LSB have all been minorly but needlessly tweaked. These are”just because” changes. People who introduce “just because” changes in hymnody and liturgy should not be trusted. Whatever their intentions may be, they are presumptuous and solipsistic, and they do not know the worth of the things they handle. Remember that, because it’s true.

Verse 3’s mutations are equally needless, but quite a bit more significant. The last line in TLH’s version, “To Him I wholly yield me,” is probably the culprit. It suggests that you, as a Christian, actually do something as a baptized child of God. That’s “Law-talk,” and it has to go. People submitting their wills to God’s? That, like, has no place in my neo-Lutheran Christian life, man. I don’t have any reason or strength. I, like, just can’t even, so stop harshing my mellow.

I don’t know if such debased understanding is the cause or the effect of our neutered hymn poetics, but it’s everywhere in the Lutheran Church. Aside from the stoner slang which maybe no one uses anymore, the above is not a caricature.

I’m no scholar, but I have read the Book of Concord a few times. (It’s a good book, and all good books should be read more than once.) There are some pretty clear references in the Book of Concord to Christians striving and actively struggling in their lives under the cross. The Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 15, “Of Human Traditions in the Church,” paragraphs 45-46, says this:

And of the mortification of the flesh and discipline of the body we thus teach, just as the Confession states, that a true and not a feigned mortification occurs through the cross and afflictions by which God exercises us. In these we must obey God’s will, as Paul says, “Present your bodies a living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1). And these are the spiritual exercises of fear and faith. But in addition to this mortification which occurs through the cross, there is also a voluntary kind of exercise necessary, of which Christ says: “Take heed to yourselves lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting” (Luke 21:34). And Paul: “I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection” (1 Cor. 9:27), etc.

The version of verse 3 that you find in TLH fits right in with this. LSB’s, not so much. It’s covered with the fingerprints of people who just couldn’t leave a good thing be.

The real travesty in LSB’s version of this hymn, though, is verse 1. Not only has this verse been beaten with the ugly stick, it has also been doctrinally eviscerated. The last two lines of verse 1 in TLH give the Christian words to sing in the midst of affliction, reminding him that God has allowed him to be afflicted so that his faith would be strengthened:

His love it is doth send them [i.e., woes]
And, when ’tis best, will end them.

It is God’s love which sends us woes, grief, and calamity. What a comfort to know that even if God does not alter our suffering or take it away, that doesn’t mean that He has abandoned us—no, but opposite is true: when God’s hand is most heavy upon us, that is because He loves us. That is Him chastening our hearts and conforming us to the likeness of His Son. It brings to mind 1 Peter 4:12-13: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”

LSB’s version offers cold comfort by comparison. Instead of singing the hard but reassuring truth attested by the TLH version, we give voice to some anemic Reader’s Digest sentiment about the possibility that God might relent and alter our woes:

My troubles He can alter;
His hand lets nothing falter.

What, will God alter my troubles if I “have enough faith”? This is terrible. It introduces uncertainty. Instead of helping us to see that our sufferings themselves are the loving work of God, LSB’s version of verse 1 directs us to the possibility that God might alter our troubles, and sort of reminds you that you’ll “get through it.” So much for the theology of the cross—and I mean the actual theology of the cross, not just antinomians talking about how hard their lives are as a result of their sexy debauchery.

There’s no cosmic law that prohibits a LCMS church from putting TLH back into use; in fact, I know of several LCMS congregations which have done this—I know of others who have never adopted LSB to begin with. TLH is far from perfect, but it is far better than LSB. And you can go back to it. This realization, once it dawns on you, is very liberating, and not in the Tchividjian way.

LSB would be useful as a hymnal supplement. It has some Lutheran chorales and old Latin office hymns that were not included in TLH, and, I admit, this is valuable. But it’s inferior as a service book and inferior as a hymnal. And it’s pretty expensive as a hymnal supplement. I don’t know if it’s possible for a congregation just to get a digital version of LSB that allows them to print inserts, but that sounds like it might be the best option. So, here’s my advice:

  1. If you have LSBs, sell them.
  2. Buy the digital version of LSB so you can print off good hymns and make your own hymnal supplements/put them in your bulletin from time to time as inserts.
  3. Unpack the boxes of TLHs that are in your church closet, dust them off, and put them back in the pews. If you’ve already gotten rid of them, buy some new ones for cheap at the next CPH warehouse sale, or get some old ones from another LCMS church that is never going to use them.

As Dr. Anthony Esolen likes to say: begin. (Interesting fact: Esolen, a papist, was recently knighted by Concordia Theological Seminary in St. Wayne, Indiana. I wonder how Martin Luther would feel about this.)

Here’s TLH’s version of this wonderful hymn. I’ve stitched it together into one page for your convenience, and I’m posting this entry a week late, for your inconvenience.

Of White Knights & High Horses

An Editorial

Virtually subscribed by a quorum of the editors

Composed by Merovech

Pseudepigraphus admitted that he was wrong for using obscene language in what he wrote to Todd Whitworth. He did so because at that point he needed to clear suspicion of other Lutheran curmudgeons who also domicile in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and, as he admitted, what he said was wrong: he addressed someone whom he did not know in an obscene way, in anger. But I would like to note that this Todd Whitworth character—just a moment, please:

I would like to note that this Todd Whitworth character who is now “watching” The Cellar Door with a blog called—wait for it—”The Cellar Door WATCH” is a little bit less than honest. Pseudepigraphus repaid reviling for reviling, and that was indeed wrong, per 1 Peter 3:9 and other scriptures. But the reviling that he repaid was also wrong. Needless to say, Whitworth did not publicize what he himself (she? ze?) wrote in his two attempts to finger an IP address, because he thinks the ends justify the means. In his mind, the noble end of “exposing” The Cellar Door justified his own scurrility and vulgarity. True, Pseudepigraphus’s slam in response was nuclear by comparison: he implied that Whitworth was a homosexual. Although it looks like that might actually be the case, Pseudepigraphus didn’t know that, and if he had known it, he certainly wouldn’t have said it.

My own take is that the purpose of the first post over at “The Cellar Door WATCH” blog was just to mention that “lawyers” are involved. Yet I highly doubt that this is true. You don’t need a lawyer to set up an IP address trap. This isn’t HBO’s The Wire. If you want to trap someone’s IP address you can do it without an attorney, for free. I know of only one person who is so pretentious that he laces his communications with veiled threats to the effect that he’s going to lawyer up and drag other Christians into court. And that person is Bill Smith. Mr. Whitworth must be in contact with Bill. Bill, buddy, you need to stop doing this. I know that you hear decked-out power-brokers say things like “you’ll be hearing from my attorneys” and “the attorney I keep on retainer” right before they get into their Porsches and peel out, but for many reasons which we both know, that’s just not you. Knowing a guy in Chicago who used to practice law doesn’t mean that you now “have an attorney.” If so, I have like eight attorneys. Chicago is just that close to hell.

Pseudepigraphus still shouldn’t have said what he said, and he admitted that. Since that appears to have been dealt with, let’s proceed to “the bigger picture and problem” which Mr. Whitworth wishes to take up with The Cellar Door.

Assertion is not the same as argument. It is concerned with truth or falsehood, whereas argument, strictly speaking, concerns only validity. Assertions may stand alone, or they may serve as the premises of arguments. Assertions are substantially founded or unfounded depending upon evidence. Sometimes an assertion is made for which evidence is substantially, though not verbally, present. Sometimes evidence for an assertion is present, but not formally clear (q.v. Beaumains’ posts on LSB’s inferior hymnody—until you look at them side by side…). Sometimes everyone knows the evidence, but no one wants to make the assertion because they have become unable to distinguish politeness from cowardice, or a best construction from a fanciful reconstruction.

The montage of screencaps of Cellar Door tweets which Mr. Whitworth featured in his recent post is quite the cutely-arranged piece of work and a nice little bit of gaslighting—several of them are mine, by the way, and I make no apologies. “Look at all of these blunt words! All of these things break the eighth commandment!” What a load of womanish keening. Blunt assertion does not necessarily break the eighth commandment; humorous roasting does not necessarily break the eighth commandment; commenting on public sins, false doctrine, outrageous practice, and other things which are often ignored, papered-over, and synod-splained does not necessarily break the eighth commandment. Even insults do not necessarily break the eighth commandment. Sometimes ad hominem and invective are legitimate, constituting true and salient assertion, valid argument, or both.

There are two things from Martin Luther which I personally have never felt the need to walk back: the first is On the Jews and Their Lies, which is great—the charge of “anti-Semitism” is most often made by people who haven’t read it. The second is Luther’s propensity for invective. Our Lord calls the Pharisees a “brood of vipers”; St. Paul says that he wishes the Judaizers would cut their penises off; various of the Church Fathers have some doozies that I can’t seem to recall right now; Luther says that Duke Henry of Brunswick is like Satan’s bedpan-filth flung into Germany, and that he hopes that Priapus—this guy—will break wind in the face of the Zwickau Prophets. Some language is appropriate in one context but inappropriate in another. Some language is always inappropriate for complex but ultimately valid reasons. Some language, such as blasphemy, is always inappropriate (to understate the matter), and the reasons are quite simple. Jesus is God, St. Paul wrote what he wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and neither of those things are true of Luther: no one would admit more readily than he of being guilty of sinning in his words. But I stand by what I said above: there is nothing inherently wrong with invective.

The analogy made between words and salt in Scriptures is apt. Everyone knows that salt is good on your eggs, bad on your cupcake, and worse in Carthaginian fields. Invective and insult can in fact be the needful salt with which a man savors his speech. It can be that which is useful for breaking a man down—another property of salt—in order that he may be built up square and straight and not perverted (Ephesians 4:29). It can also flag a degenerate and deceptive man as someone to be avoided. It all depends. Sometimes, of course, invective and insult do constitute a breach of the eighth commandment—for instance, if the implied or stated assertion which is bound up in the insult is demonstrably false. But The Cellar Door has published no lie, so you’d have to make your case on some other ground, if your heart were set on such a thing.

Most of the tweets featured in Mr. Whitworth’s latest post are blunt assertions, some of them are just the titles of our articles trotted out with grave unctuousness—quelle horreur! Yes, some of them are a bit bawdy—the reference to testicles, for instance. (Even there: why do pastors think they can publicly be jackasses to other men online, and then act shocked—just shocked—when they get a salty jest right back?) No doubt, the effect of Mr. Whitworth’s posting of all of these tweets in sequence is quite arresting, quite affecting. However, as averred once already, it is also a rather womanish tirade—not that it was composed by a woman, no; then it might be womanly, but that doesn’t say the same thing. “Womanish” describes a man acting contrary to his nature somehow. The difference between the sexes is manifest even in their vices. Men tend to aggress physically, but nowadays their nature is constrained by the fact that most of their interactions transpire online (this is by no means an unmixed good). Women, on the other hand, tend to aggress through attempts at shaming and ostracization, a tendency which is amplified in online interactions. I’m not saying that all women do this, but I am saying that when such things are done, they are typically done by women. For a man to do this is, as the Brits say, “bad form.” Whitworth’s display is womanish inasmuch as it evinces the manner in which women attempt to exert dominance and exact compliance. Whatever case Whitworth thinks he is making is obscured by effeminate pettiness. If you do poke through that layer of masque, there is nothing beneath it but fumes.

Our Twitter account is public. Our Facebook page is public. You can read all of Whitworth’s selection of greatest hits and more, as well as all of our boring Facebook posts—for a few more hours. Get your screencaps while you can, because we’re scuttling The Cellar Door social media. Too many irons in the fire, frankly, and none of us is very good at the short form, anyway. It might just be that the short form itself isn’t very good, that no digital form is very good, and that The Cellar Door has thus always been and cannot help but be a sound and fury, signifying nothing. If that’s the case, we are in good company.

This decision to pull the plug on Twitter and Facebook certainly is made in reaction to Mr. Whitworth’s recent virtue-signalling post, at least partially. However, it would be a mistake to think that this post is a reply, because this is not a conversation. We are talking to you, not to him. And to you we say this: don’t you think that his hyperventilating thus far is a bit strange? Do you wonder, “What is the meaning of this weird white-knighting from a high horse”? It just makes you think. More likely than not, this is all just a tempest in a teapot which no one is paying any attention to. But one wonders if he is bound and determined to keep up his “watching” for some other reason. Does he think that we at The Cellar Door sit athwart a pile of dirty laundry which he fears we will someday air? Heaven knows. Ordinarily I’d expect that a pearl-clutching scold like him would get exhausted, or at least bored, “watching” a blog and posting incredulous rejoinders every time its authors publish something, but perhaps Mr. Whitworth is fired with a tireless zeal, straight like an arrow to his purpose, and will prove steadfast. I don’t know. Of course he’s free to do as he wishes. Every man needs a hobby. I myself collect coins.

In closing, I want to acknowledge that The Cellar Door has received contact requesting that we adjust the tone of some of our commentary, as well as some contact from men whose office gives them the right to counsel, rather than merely request, the same (men who have not disgraced or abused the office in question and who do not occupy this office illegitimately). These requests, this counsel, etc., are well-taken. That is, we earnestly intend to take all of it well, and seriously, going forward.

An Apology to Todd Whitworth

Yes, I am an editor here at The Cellar Door.

Yes, I have access to The Cellar Door’s social media accounts, including the Facebook page and the Twitter account. It was I who clicked the bugged links which the author of a recent blog post alludes to— I can only assume that this is one Todd Whitworth, a man who contacted The Cellar Door via Facebook messenger. It was I who responded in sinful anger and derision to those messages. I have a bad habit of referring to people as “sodomites” when I think that they’re defending ideas and/or people which are deeply perverse.

I no longer have any way of contacting Todd Whitworth directly at this point in time, so I’ll just say right here, in the hope that he reads it, that I’m sorry, Todd, for foully insulting you. You were correct in noting that I am not very sanctified, and you were correct in saying that my lashing out at you was hypocritical in light of all that I say I am concerned about, i.e., rank antinomianism, lack of love for God’s Law, Lutherans aping the worldly, etc. I do not merely say that I am concerned about those things— I am very concerned about them. But I am a sinner, and as such I am worse than my principles. Thus I agree that the Law is holy, righteous, and good, and I am not. So please forgive me, Todd, not only for my hypocrisy but also for my sinful words against you. It is much easier to rail against antinomianism “out there” than it is to root out the antinomianism in one’s own heart. I would like to say that I would have eventually apologized for those words on my own, but I don’t know that I would have. It’s good to be found out, for that very reason.

I entertain no delusions about the fact that I have lost credibility because of this private outburst that was made public. All sin has consequences, and that is one of them.

I also imagine that, in the minds of some, this post sidesteps the “main issues” with The Cellar Door blog, namely the anonymity/pseudonymity of its authors and the blog’s putative “breaking of the eighth commandment.” I can’t comment on that. I’m not the sole author of content here at The Cellar Door, and I don’t presume to answer for anyone but myself. Anonymity can certainly be abused (as I recently and regrettably demonstrated), but for reasons which are adequately summarized elsewhere, I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with it.

“IP address tracking” for Lutheran landlubbers

Ronan McCabe here. That’s the Ronan McCabe to you. I’m your guide for today’s fun activity. All you’ll need is your computer, tablet, or smartphone, with internet access—I know you’ve already got the equipment, or else you wouldn’t be reading this.

Let’s begin.

  1. Visit this website: https://www.ultratools.com/tools/ipWhoisLookup

  2. Type in “doorcellarthe.wordpress.com”

  3. Hit “enter”

Wuzzit sey? San Francisco, California, baby.

No, it’s not because we started using a VPN—we didn’t, and we don’t need to. It’s because this is a WordPress blog and WordPress’s servers are in or around Silcon Valley.

Perhaps you’d like to graduate to Mid-Level Pet Detective and track the IP address from one of our specific posts. You wouldn’t have access to this information ordinarily, but I’ll let you peak at a screencap:

Go to the IP geo-location lookup tool on the same site, type in 192.0.89.186, and…

Marina Del Rey, CA. Without doxxing anyone, I can assure you that no one from our masthead lives there. But WordPress’s servers do.

So, a few days ago, we get this message from one Chris Rosebrah in our inbox (apparently we solicited feedback the other day), and it’s got this screencap of an IP address out of Cheyenne, Wyoming, at the top, with “The Cellar Door” typed out above it. And then, in this gay script-font, like what a kid would use for his ransom note if he didn’t want to go to the trouble of cutting letters out of a magazine, there’s this invitation…to “parley”! Get it? Parley, like, what pirates do. Then there’s this stream of ball-clicking gibberish about how “you think you know the things that you know but you totally don’t know them and I have documents and data to prove it”—basically, a variation on the same theme he was playing in a totally wigged-out Facebook message that he sent to us earlier:

O-K. Well, I don’t know about any “events,” but I suppose if I were a scandal-monger like you I’d be really interested right now.

Anyway, I’m sidetracking myself: I don’t know who it was who opened this thing first—the email, not the above screencapped FB message—but soon we were all reading it. Much merriment ensued, let me tell you. Here’s the working theory:

Rosebrah assumes that by monitoring the IPv4 addresses of visitors to his own website(s) and looking for patterns, he is going to “catch the culprit” in some big conspiracy that’s afoot to bring him down, a conspiracy which is presumably headquartered here at The Cellar Door. But you know what they say about assuming: it makes an ass out of Chris Rosebrah.

So the same night that we get this message, Rosebrah is on Twitter and Facebook just wetting himself, saying that he “tracked the Cellar Door’s IP address to Wyoming.” He posted this on Twitter, and we managed to gank it before it mysteriously disappeared:

This actually happened. Your favorite “discernment ministry” Pirate Cap’n and Issues, Etc. guest…

(a) puts words from a Star Wars movie in the mouth of Jesus Christ.
(b) slanders an entire town.
(c) does stuff like this, and then throws a tantrum when people don’t take him seriously.

“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain”—unless it suits your small-man purposes. What’s a little casual blasphemy, after all? The honor of Christ is a small thing to sacrifice for the sake of ROOTING OUT THE GRAND CONSPIRACY. What an impious child-man. In the above “meme” you see Chris Rosebrah’s entire M.O. in microcosmic form: there is nothing this grifter will not submarine to exalt himself and his pathetic little brand. The Word of God, the honor of Our Lord, the honor and dignity of the pastoral office, the honor of Holy Church—all of these he will gladly deep-six in his quest to control the narrative in his little adventure story.

Needless to say, we’re not “parleying” with Rosebrah because we’re not little boys playing pirates. I’m not even interested in whatever scandals he thinks we all know about. We’re not a hivemind, you know—I didn’t post the tweet that rustled his jimmies, but I’ve read it, and it sounds plausible. But I don’t really care. I don’t mean that I don’t care about people being harassed and threatened—insofar as I can care about such things in the abstract, I’ll do my best. What I mean is that, for my part, I don’t care about Chris Rosebrah. I see him as thoroughly discredited and transparently idiotic, and I don’t have any interest in his little dramatic spats (except for this one, which was too good to pass up commenting on). Philopponus wrote about Rosebrah once, like a year ago, and he wasn’t even the main topic, Higher Things was. Recently we published a guest post about his…um…”online church,” which, as far as I could tell, contained nothing that someone with decent Google Fu wouldn’t be able to uncover in two minutes. And that’s it. I will shed not a tear if no forthcoming content on this blog features anything about Chris Rosebrah. In general, you don’t have to expose exhibitionists. They expose themselves.

 

W(h)ither the Great Lutheran Hymns? – Trinity 7: “All Praise to God Who Reigns Above”

The chief hymn for Trinity 7, “All Praise to God Who Reigns Above,” is one of my favorite Lutheran chorales. Like many of the great seventeenth-century hymns, it was written by a guy who was so pietistic that he makes Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson look tame. Read about Johann Jakob Schütz here. J. S. Bach expanded on this hymn in one of his chorale-cantatas (see above), BWV 117, “Sei Lob und Ehr dem höchsten Gut.”

Here’s the damage:

TLH 19
“All Praise to God Who Reigns Above”

LSB 819
“Sing Praise to God The Highest Good”

1. All praise to God, who reigns above,
The God of all creation,
The God of wonders, pow’r, and love,
The God of our salvation!
With healing balm my soul He fills,
The God who ev’ry sorrow stills,–
To God all praise and glory!
1. Sing praise to God, the highest good,
The author of creation,
The God of love who understood
Our need for His salvation.
With healing balm our souls He fills
And ev’ry faithless murmur stills:
To God all praise and glory!
2. What God’s almighty pow’r hath made,
His gracious mercy keepeth;
By morning dawn or evening shade
His watchful eye ne’er sleepeth;
Within the kingdom of His might,
Lo, all is just and all is right,–
To God all praise and glory!
2. What God’s almighty pow’r has made,
In mercy He is keeping.
By morning glow or evening shade
His eye is never sleeping.
Within the kingdom of His might
All things are just and good and right:
To God all praise and glory!
3. I cried to Him in time of need:
Lord God, oh, hear my calling!
For death He gave me life indeed
And kept my feet from falling.
For this my thanks shall endless be;
Oh, thank Him, thank our God, with me,–
To God all praise and glory!
3. We sought the Lord in our distress;
O God, in mercy hear us.
Our Savior saw our helplessness
And came with peace to cheer us.
For this we thank and praise the Lord,
Who is by one and all adored:
To God all praise and glory!
4. The Lord forsaketh not His flock,
His chosen generation;
He is their Refuge and their Rock,
Their Peace and their Salvation.
As with a mother’s tender hand
He leads His own, His chosen band,–
To God all praise and glory!
4. He never shall forsake His flock,
His chosen generation;
He is their refuge and their rock,
Their peace and their salvation.
As with a mother’s tender hand,
He leads His own, His chosen band:
To God all praise and glory!
5. Ye who confess Christ’s holy name,
To God give praise and glory!
Ye who the Father’s pow’r proclaim,
To God give praise and glory!
All idols under foot be trod,
The Lord is God! The Lord is God!
To God all praise and glory!
5. All who confess Christ’s holy name,
Give God the praise and glory.
Let all who know his pow’r proclaim
Aloud the wondrous story.
Cast ev’ry idol from its throne,
For God is God, and He alone:
To God all praise and glory!
6. Then come before His presence now
And banish fear and sadness;
To your Redeemer pay your vow
And sing with joy and gladness:
Though great distress my soul befell,
The Lord, my God, did all things well–
To God all praise and glory!
Uh, what happened?

The translation of the first line of this hymn as found in LSB is closer to the German. That is the last nice thing I am going to say about the LSB version.

In fact, that isn’t really a positive, because it requires monkeying with a perfectly good rhyme scheme. I guess references to God “reigning” must be omitted, as they might make us think that God is a king or something, rather than a president whom we got to vote for. “God the highest good” might be closer to the German, but it makes God sound like Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover. Then we’re off to the races, rhyming with “understood.” Really? Does anyone think this is pretty? “Uh-un-der-stood”? It’s ridiculous.

In the last installment I criticized the change from third-person singular to first-person plural, as in that particular instance it introduced needless introspection at an inappropriate juncture. This doesn’t mean that I’m against the first-person point-of-view or introspection in hymns—I am not. But I am against random changes for no reason. For example, I’m against weirdly pluralizing the first person POV. Take another look at the changes above: every “I” is now “we,” every “me” is now “us,” every “my” is now “our.” Whatever is the point of this, besides tripping up bitter TLH-clingers? LSB’s edits in this regard aren’t even consistent, so it can’t be that they think it’s never appropriate for the whole church to sing as the singular Body of Christ, with each person confessing the faith personally (as we do in the Creed). With both last week’s hymn and this week’s hymn, everything ends up in the first-person plural: “we,” “us,” and “our.” Why?

The words “the author” are awkward to sing, as you get locked into a shapeless elided vowel. Most people are going to sing “thuh” rather than “thee,” and this only makes it worse. It’s another needless change. But it doesn’t hold a candle to “faithless murmur.” I don’t know if I can think of a word less given to being set to music than “murmur.” If you’re alone, try shouting the word “murmur” at the top of your lungs. It’s awful. “MURRRR-MURRRR!!!” Yeah, they got rid of “every sorrow” so that we could all sound like seven-year-old boys making sound-effects for our toy lawnmowers.

Then there’s verse 2. Verse 2 in LSB is garbage. It’s a prime example of a huge problem with LSB in general, so I’ll talk about the huge general problem first:

When you say the Lord’s Prayer, would it ever occur to you to say this?

Our Father in heaven:
Holy be your name,
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us in the time of trial,
and deliver us from evil,
For yours is the kingdom, the power,
and glory forever. Amen.

The above is from what is commonly called the ’69 Worship Supplement, whose merits, if it had any, were drowned in the sea of its nonsensical blunders. I hope it would never occur to you to use that version of the Lord’s Prayer. If you really think this modernized version of the Lord’s Prayer is good, I wouldn’t trust you as far as I could throw you. And if I met you, and I somehow had learned of your vile modernism ahead of time, chances are good that I wouldn’t even say “hello,” I would just try to throw you. I don’t care if you’re 300 pounds, I’d do my best.

Imagine this conversation:

“How about we change the Lord’s Prayer?”

“No! Are you crazy? The Lord’s Prayer is special. Everyone knows that.”

“But no one talks that way anymore.”

“So? That’s part of what shows you that it’s sacred: it’s set apart from our everyday speech. A fixed idiom symbolizes the unchanging nature of God’s Word. An older idiom reminds us that God’s Word, our great heritage, is from of old, and that it’s timeless.”

“OK. Well, how about we change the text of the liturgy so that it’s a weird mixed idiom where everything that’s sung is Jacobean and everything that’s spoken is modern? And let’s ‘update the language’ of random hymns.”

“Oh, that’s fine. The liturgy and hymns aren’t special. Only the Bible is. And not even the whole Bible—just the Lord’s Prayer.”

“OK. Here, I made you a hymnal. I call it Lutheran Service Book.”

“What’s that on the cover?”

“Clip art.”

I rest my case.

If we come across a hymn written in 1970, we shouldn’t expect it to sound like Victorian poetry (although given the general quality of that decade’s output, that would be a pleasant surprise). But when we come across hymns that were composed or translated in the Victorian era, we act like we can’t possibly understand them: “‘Keepeth’? ‘Thy’? ‘Ye’? What do these words mean? Why can’t everyone talk like me?”

Actually, we, the laity, don’t say that. Rather, the LCMS hymnal committee imagines that such people exist. If such people exist, their whims should be corrected, not indulged. And whoever they are, they’re not jonesing for language updates to the hymnal—they don’t even use the hymnal, or hymns, for crying out loud! They use projector screens and maybe Lutheran Service Builder, and they sing pitchy crap like “In Christ Alone” led by a “worship team.” They find the very idea of a hymnal to be confining. Ironically, they’re exactly the sort of people who would probably really dig verse 5 of LSB 585, “Lord Jesus Christ With Us Abide.” They’d probably sing it from a projector screen at their “traditional service,” set to keyboard, and they’d all think about those closed-minded people who would dim the words God’s Spirit wants them to sing by forcing them to use a hymnal/drop their Beth Moore study. Some of the aging soccer moms would read ahead quickly so that they could sing this line with their eyes closed and their hands raised. You know I’m right. “Language updates” are not made because a significant subset of the laity is requesting them. They’re just not.

No, “language updates” are made by synod-o-crats with little or no pastoral experience who think that the reason people don’t use the hymnal is because they don’t know what “thy” means. But this is absurd. The hymnal committee was not responding to this sort of feedback:

Yes, hello? My 1.2 children don’t know what ‘thy’ means in the hymns that we never sing in our church, because we only sing the Methodist hymns/do contemporary worship, and by the way we don’t even attend regularly—but that’s also because the hymns which we don’t sing make us feel unwelcome. In the next hymnal, which we won’t use, could you ruin all of those hymns?

Come on. The people who love and sing the great Lutheran chorales have never wanted or asked for the language to be updated, and the people to whom the updates are supposedly going to make these hymns “more accessible” never sang them to begin with and aren’t going to start singing them just because they now sound like crap. That’s called a failure of in-reach.

Here’s the thing: a poet or hymn-writer can reach back and make use of an older idiom, and his work can still sound beautiful. He doesn’t have to, but he can. The older idiom has stood the test of time. It is not just time-tested, but time-honored. To imitate it is to be informed by and defer to its wisdom and beauty. We need to kill this stupid notion that the essence of creativity is “being original.” That’s a load of godless secular crap. (I would use stronger words, but I don’t want to cut too much into the Jagged Word’s readership.) Good artists imitate. Good artists respect convention. Good artists incorporate the past into their present work. Bach did this all the time with the well-loved hymns of his day.

But it really doesn’t work in reverse. You can’t take something that was written in an older idiom and render it into a new one without doing violence to it. And you have no right to do so. Notice that little “alt.” after almost every author or translator’s name in LSB? Nine times out of ten, that means “we don’t have the talent to do our own hymn translations, but we will gladly screw with this one.” The analogy to this hilarious—yet horrifying—news story is too perfect:

Three separate photographs of “Ecce Homo” by painter Elias Garcia Martinez show extensive damage caused by an elderly woman who decided the masterpiece needed a little refurbishment.

But in a time of austerity, rather than calling in a professional to complete the job, the unnamed woman attempted to restore the mural herself – at a devastating cost.

The result was a botched repair where the intricate brush strokes of Martinez were replaced with a haphazard splattering of the octogenarian’s paint. Years of carefully calculated depth of expression simply washed out by copious amounts of red and brown.

The comparisons make themselves. Oy vey. Remember, this dear sweet lady had the best of intentions.

“Hey, but if you can’t take something that was written in an older idiom and render it into a new one, then we wouldn’t have the ESV.” Yeah, I know. And what a wonderful world it would be. The ESV is an absolute mule of a Bible translation. The King James Version is the most beautiful translation of Scripture out there. It’s not perfect, no, but it’s still the best. You modernists and your neverending quest for a perfect English translation have only ushered in confusion and uncertainty. If you don’t like the King James, I don’t know what to tell you. You’re probably a Philistine with a disordered soul. Get help.

I would guess that Martin Franzmann’s hymns have maybe twenty more years before an LCMS hymnal committee of the future decides to “fix” their archaic language. He wrote his hymns in the middle of the twentieth century, yet had the audacity to use fancy, confusing, purty-words. What a highbrow jerk! All confessional LCMS Lutherans seem to know and love “Thy Strong Word,” even though its not his best hymn (it’s still a good hymn, though), so let’s imagine what an updated version of it would look like:

Thy strong word did cleave the darkness;
At thy speaking it was done.
For created light we thank thee
While thine ordered seasons run.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Praise to thee who light dost send!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia without end!
Your strong word did cut the darkness;
At your speaking it was done.
You made light, so we say “thank you”
While the seasons run and run.
Alleluia! Alleluia! We praise you for justification!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Jesus has won.

You laugh, but this is what we do to the old translations of the great Lutheran chorales. Update the pronouns, rephrase things pointlessly, change the topic, and overcompensate for real or perceived weaknesses.

Make your own judgment about verse 3. LSB’s version is clearly inferior. Verse 4 is relatively unmaimed. Verse 5 is a train-wreck. In general, it is good English style to reserve the definite article “the” for things which are actually singular and distinct. This is one of the reasons why you sound like an idiot when you sing, “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart,” although this wouldn’t be improved by getting rid of the definite article. All I’m saying is, “Give God the praise and glory” sounds schmaltzy and is a definite downgrade in eloquence from “To God give praise and glory.” And the lovely parallelism of TLH’s version with its double refrain of “To God give praise and glory” gets scrapped so that instead we can exhort each other to “proclaim / Aloud the wondrous story.” This is a line written for a warbling choir of suburbanite women, but no one else.

LSB says that you don’t get to sing verse 6. In a way this is good, because one shudders to think what would have happened to it. I think I know why it got the axe: “To your Redeemer pay your vow” makes it sound like worship is something we owe to God. Zounds, it might even make you think that you have to go church. I’ve got news for you: it is and you do. I know that we recently called Pastor Hans Fiene a troll, but he said something awhile ago that was spot on: “Saying that you don’t have to go to church in order to be a Christian is like saying, ‘I follow Jesus except everywhere He goes.” Something like that. It was good. “Thou shalt sanctify the holy day.” As God’s redeemed children, we are not burdened by this command, but it is still a command. But in the antinomian LCMS, we durst not talk this way. Snip, snip. Goodbye, verse 6, which is written for a choir of strong male voices—another reason why it had to go. Too manly. Anyway, nothing is stopping you from singing this verse, un-gutted, un-maimed, and un … molested. Just pick up your TLH.

Overall, what we see with this week’s chief hymn are yet more needless changes. Why? So that some committeeman could put his personal stamp on this hymn? I don’t know, maybe each person on a subcommittee got to edit a stanza. That sounds nice and collaborative. No elitism here! So the next time you lament the destruction of one of your favorite hymns by the LCMS, comfort yourself with this thought: every time the Schmitzes and the Muellers come over to that guy’s house for Thanksgiving, he’s going to get out the LSB, turn to that formerly great hymn, find the verse in question, and say, “That right there is my little contribution,” and beam with pride. Mark this well: boomers will sacrifice anything for a warm fuzzy feeling of personal accomplishment. Even your heritage.

I don’t judge these men’s hearts. I am not condemning them. This is not the end of the world we’re talking about here, just the ruination of a hymnal. I don’t doubt that the air in those committee-meetings was thick with good intentions. But many of those men just did not know what they did not know. They shouldn’t have been put in the position of editing a hymnal. Others knew a lot, but had an anti-traditional agenda. Others were exactly the sort of men you’d want working on a new hymnal, but they were outnumbered…or kicked off the committee. Now we have to pay the piper. And the drummer, and the guitarist, and the worship chanteuse.

Alright, I’m done. I think I’ll start doing these a week ahead of time. That way if I manage to convince (or embolden) the odd pastor to use the TLH version of the chief hymn, he can save the image and print it out. If a high-resolution scan of the hymn is available from hymnary.org, I will include it at the end of every post.

Aside from that one guy on Facebook, I don’t know if anyone reads these posts, and I don’t presume to think of myself as some great influencer of opinion, public or private. I’m just giving voice to what we all know to be true but don’t want to say because of the insane social pressure, gossip, and backstabbing of the world of Facebook Lutheranism: this is our heritage, and we’re losing it.