Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I Promise

After midterms, I'll get back in the habit of writing here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Pope on Being 'Saved in Hope'

The Bishop of Rome asks a pertinent question in his encyclical Spe Salvi or Saved in Hope:
How could the idea have developed that Jesus's message is narrowly individualistic and aimed only at each person singly? How did we arrive at this interpretation of the “salvation of the soul” as a flight from responsibility for the whole, and how did we come to conceive the Christian project as a selfish search for salvation which rejects the idea of serving others?
I also found his explanation of the nature of freedom to be interesting:
Since man always remains free and since his freedom is always fragile, the kingdom of good will never be definitively established in this world. Anyone who promises the better world that is guaranteed to last for ever is making a false promise; he is overlooking human freedom. Freedom must constantly be won over for the cause of good. Free assent to the good never exists simply by itself. If there were structures which could irrevocably guarantee a determined—good—state of the world, man's freedom would be denied, and hence they would not be good structures at all.
More to come.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Rene Girard on American Fundamentalists

I found this interview the other day. Rene Girard is an interesting thinker and his work on violence is amazing. He was asked what he thought of the religious right in America and responded:
What we see in America today is more the rise of the Republican Party than the religious right. I don't think there are more Christian fundamentalists in America today than 30 years ago; it is just that they have become politicized. Republicans have focused on issues that bring them to the ballot box. And that is a big change indeed.

The problem with the Christian fundamentalists, though not as much as with the Muslims, is their view of the violence of God. They often talk these days about the Apocalypse. And there is certainly reason to be concerned about where the world is headed. But the violence will not come, as they suggest, from God. I find that incredible. It is we humans who are responsible. That, in many ways, is one of the key messages of the Gospels.

The whole point of the Incarnation is to say that the human and divine are interrelated in a way that is unique to Christian theology, unthinkable in any other religion and, in my view, absolutely superior.

Whether in the case of Muslims focused on martyrdom or the fundamentalist Christians focused on the Apocalypse, the old Greek conception of a God apart from man is not enough. That is really the meaning of all my work.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Anglican Ecclesiology

The Rt Revd Pierre Whalon, the bishop of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe does a beautiful job trying to work towards an Anglican Ecclesiology. He notes that the Anglican communion was born as a unique via media. Have a read:
A number of scholars recently have been focusing on the question, is there, in fact, an ecclesiology proper to Anglicans? We have never defined one, per se. But in fact, I would argue that we do in fact have a distinct ecclesiology of our own. The conundrum that Anglicans have had to face since the first intimations of the break with Rome is how to be the One Church when unity is no longer available. Of the four “notes” of the Church, “one, holy, catholic and apostolic,” unity is first. “Is Christ divided?” Paul sarcastically asked the Corinthians (I Cor. 1:13). That would be obviously absurd. Yet unity has been broken. The Reformed way of solving this conundrum—that the true Church had disappeared for centuries and has now only re-appeared—did not convince the first Anglicans. The Roman Catholic solution, submitting everything to the papacy—was of course not acceptable to them. They were the Catholic Church in England. They knew in their bones that their church was no sect.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Canterbury Responds

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has responded to the final declaration of the Global Anglican Future Conference with the following statement:

The Final Statement from the GAFCON meeting in Jordan and Jerusalem contains much that is positive and encouraging about the priorities of those who met for prayer and pilgrimage in the last week. The ‘tenets of orthodoxy’ spelled out in the document will be acceptable to and shared by the vast majority of Anglicans in every province, even if there may be differences of emphasis and perspective on some issues. I agree that the Communion needs to be united in its commitments on these matters, and I have no doubt that the Lambeth Conference will wish to affirm all these positive aspects of GAFCON’s deliberations. Despite the claims of some, the conviction of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as Lord and God and the absolute imperative of evangelism are not in dispute in the common life of the Communion.

However, GAFCON’s proposals for the way ahead are problematic in all sorts of ways, and I urge those who have outlined these to think very carefully about the risks entailed. A ‘Primates’ Council’ which consists only of a self-selected group from among the Primates of the Communion will not pass the test of legitimacy for all in the Communion. And any claim to be free to operate across provincial boundaries is fraught with difficulties, both theological and practical – theological because of our historic commitments to mutual recognition of ministries in the Communion, practical because of the obvious strain of responsibly exercising episcopal or primatial authority across enormous geographical and cultural divides.

Two questions arise at once about what has been proposed. By what authority are Primates deemed acceptable or unacceptable members of any new primatial council? And how is effective discipline to be maintained in a situation of overlapping and competing jurisdictions?

No-one should for a moment impute selfish or malicious motives to those who have offered pastoral oversight to congregations in other provinces; these actions, however we judge them, arise from pastoral and spiritual concern. But one question has repeatedly been raised which is now becoming very serious: how is a bishop or primate in another continent able to discriminate effectively between a genuine crisis of pastoral relationship and theological integrity, and a situation where there are underlying non-theological motivations at work? We have seen instances of intervention in dioceses whose leadership is unquestionably orthodox simply because of local difficulties of a personal and administrative nature. We have also seen instances of clergy disciplined for scandalous behaviour in one jurisdiction accepted in another, apparently without due process. Some other Christian churches have unhappy experience of this problem and it needs to be addressed honestly.

It is not enough to dismiss the existing structures of the Communion. If they are not working effectively, the challenge is to renew them rather than to improvise solutions that may seem to be effective for some in the short term but will continue to create more problems than they solve. This challenge is one of the most significant focuses for the forthcoming Lambeth Conference. One of its major stated aims is to restore and deepen confidence in our Anglican identity. And this task will require all who care as deeply as the authors of the statement say they do about the future of Anglicanism to play their part.

The language of ‘colonialism’ has been freely used of existing patterns. No-one is likely to look back with complacency to the colonial legacy. But emerging from the legacy of colonialism must mean a new co-operation of equals, not a simple reversal of power. If those who speak for GAFCON are willing to share in a genuine renewal of all our patterns of reflection and decision-making in the Communion, they are welcome, especially in the shaping of an effective Covenant for our future together.

I believe that it is wrong to assume we are now so far apart that all those outside the GAFCON network are simply proclaiming another gospel. This is not the case; it is not the experience of millions of faithful and biblically focused Anglicans in every province. What is true is that, on all sides of our controversies, slogans, misrepresentations and caricatures abound. And they need to be challenged in the name of the respect and patience we owe to each other in Jesus Christ.

I have in the past quoted to some in the Communion who would call themselves radical the words of the Apostle in I Cor.11.33: ‘wait for one another’. I would say the same to those in whose name this statement has been issued. An impatience at all costs to clear the Lord’s field of the weeds that may appear among the shoots of true life (Matt.13.29) will put at risk our clarity and effectiveness in communicating just those evangelical and catholic truths which the GAFCON statement presents.

Readings from Kierkegaard

A quick snippet from The Sickness Unto Death:
God and man are two qualities separated by an infinite qualitative difference. Humanly speaking, any teaching that disregards the difference is demented-divinely understood, it is blasphemy. In paganism, man made god a man (the man-god); in Christianity God makes himself man (the God-man). But in this infinite love of his merciful grace he nevertheless makes one condition: he cannot do otherwise.
When reading Kierkegaard, I'm always impressed that I'm reading a writer who seems to be completely about God. He never takes the simple way out of a dilemma. In The Sickness Unto Death, he argues that God will make you miserable. No prosperity theology here. In Fear and Trembling, he argues that true faith requires belief in God, not a moral canon.

Father John Neuhaus wrote a great article in First Things back in 2004 called "Kierkegaard for Grownups". I recommend you check it out.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Belief and Relationship

I picked up Marcus Borg's book Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time yesterday at the library. I've only read the first chapter, but I found part of it intriguing. Borg gives his spiritual autobiography and concludes that he has reached a new place:
Now I no longer see the Christian life as being primarily about believing. The experiences of my mid-thirties led me to realize that God is and that the central issue of the Christian life is not believing in God or believing in the Bible or believing in the Christian tradition. Rather, the Christian life is about entering into a relationship with that to which the Christian tradition points, which may be spoken of as God, the risen living Christ, or the Spirit. And a Christian is one who lives out his or her relationship to God within the framework of the Christian tradition.
That paragraph is full of themes to be dissected (positively and negatively). But I want to focus on Borg's notion that Christianity isn't about "belief". It reminded me of the account of Jesus and Peter in John's gospel. After Peter has denied Jesus, he is reinstituted not by his belief or knowledge, but by his love. I don't know enough Greek to understand the agape/phileo (maybe one of you can comment on it), but I suspect that John may be attempting to demonstrate that the love of Jesus transcends linguistic boundaries.

James also provides another commentary on the shortcomings of "belief". Demons believe in Jesus; they even fear Him. But they don't have relationship with Him. He doesn't intercede for them. Demons aren't in communion with God.

When God asks us to believe in Him, He isn't asking us to have knowledge of His existence. For a Christian, belief necessitates taking up a cross and following Jesus. Belief isn't a thought pattern, but a concrete action.