Monday, March 25, 2013

35 for 3 but the lead is only 274 runs and the fox got into the chicken coop

Today the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch is a bit like the overnight situation in the third test between NZ and England. NZ is 35 runs for 3 wickets in its second innings but has an overall lead of 274 runs. The innings score is challenging, the overall lead is pretty good but the fate of the match is in the balance. Yesterday parishes facing change through recommendations of the Structural Review Group heard what those recommendations are. For some parishes the recommendations might feel challenging, like 35 for 3. Overall the recommendations across many parishes are like NZ's overall lead, pretty good - see here from 25 March - but the fate of the Diocese, as a Diocese embracing change or refusing to change is in the balance. What will be our collective response to the recommendations?

We have a new Archbishop for the NZ Dioceses (= Tikanga Pakeha), Philip Richardson. A comment made here yesterday pointed to the possibility of theological disagreement with ++Philip. Well, yes, he is an archbishop not a pope! Now in this morning's Fairfax papers, who else but Glynn Cardy is talking up ++Philip as champion of the progressive cause of the day. Talk about the fox getting into the chicken coop. It is a kind of mayhem to have elected an archbishop one day only to talk him up the next in a manner likely to send the church into schism. I wonder if it ever crosses Glynn's mind that his speculations out loud in the public media might destabilize the confidence of our church in its leaders? I have sufficient regard for ++Philip to wish him a decent honeymoon in his new role as the wider church gets to know him. Now he will not be free of the tags Glynn has placed upon him!

An very interesting reflection on the situation before another archbishop, the new ABC, is posted by Brother Ivo on Cranmer. We should not underestimate ++Justin capabilities!

Meanwhile this is Holy Week and time once again to reflect on the sacred mysteries of this week. I suggest we work backwards from the Resurrection. If Jesus had died on the cross and that was the end of his life, what would his legacy have been? Not much, I suggest. A paragraph, perhaps, in the history of impact-making rabbis of Israel under the Romans mentioning some notable healings and memorable insights into the rule of God in the world. Maybe today scholars of Judaism would produce a monograph or two on ancient magicians among the rabbis, notably Jeshua ben Joseph. Perhaps there would be a brief headline making news item that the Teacher of Righteousness at Qumran had been identified by an unusually radical scholar as that same Jeshua ben Joseph.

It is the resurrection which makes the difference here, which sets the Jesus movement on a trajectory apart from Judaism and which drives the leaders of that movement to see in Jesus things which were not obvious to them when they walked the dusty roads of Palestine with him. We read the gospels forwards from Jesus' beginnings to his end because that is the way the narrative is told, but theologically we should begin with the resurrection and read backwards. What was it about the resurrection which led to the telling of the story of Jesus in the way that Matthew, Mark, Luke, John  and, yes, Paul told it?

That is why, to offer a first reflection this Holy Week, the question of the witness to the resurrection is vital to Christianity. Deny the resurrection and everything about our claims to truth falls over. Personally I find the variations between the gospels, 1 Corinthians 15 and, say, Acts 10:34-43 puzzling. Why isn't the account of that witness more consistent? Modern skeptics have driven a horse and cart full of doubts through the lack of consistency (even, some might say, inconsistency). Yet closer inspection yields more consistency than some are prepared to allow. At the bedrock of each gospel narrative is the empty tomb. They are consistent on the fact that the crucified body of Jesus was placed in the tomb, on the third day the tomb was empty, and thereafter the risen (i.e. raised up from the tomb) Jesus appeared to people.

This, further, is consistent with two accounts which do not explicitly mention the emptiness of the tomb, Acts 10:34-43 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-11. What is 'raised on the third day' phrasing in these passages about but an act of raising from the dead, a physical raising which leaves the tomb empty. Acts 10:40 beautifully distinguishes between the raising and the subsequent appearances, 'God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear.' So also 1 Corinthians 15:4-5, 'he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve'. If the tomb was not empty why mention the act of raising from the dead and not proceed straight to the accounts of the appearances of Jesus?

Running these accounts together, with all their variations, I suggest we can account for the variations in a couple of ways. First and foremost, we get the impression that Jesus appeared on a number of occasions to a range of witnesses. Between the four gospel writers and Paul's 'tradition' account in 1 Corinthians 15 we receive a set of accounts with heavy selection at work. Paul's tradition is focused on the appearances to the leadership of the Jesus movement, with the exception of the appearance to 'more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time'. The four gospels uniformly emphasise the immediate witnesses to the resurrection, women. Matthew, Mark and Luke (distinct from Acts 1) move quickly from the immediate experience of the risen Jesus to his departure (albeit somewhat implicitly in Mark). Only Acts 1 and John 21 imply a period of more than a few days or weeks in which Jesus remained with his disciples. Together these witnesses to the variety of Jesus' appearances do not provide anything like a coherent account of the history of Jesus between resurrection and ascension. That, perhaps, leads us to a second reason for the variations between accounts.

Secondly, we get the impression that the gospel writers in their gospels are focused on providing for their readers an account of the ordinary human life of Jesus, prior to death. The continuing presence of the risen Jesus via the Holy Spirit in the movement perhaps made unnecessary a prolonged account of the period between resurrection and ascension. (Luke, in his 'sequel' to the life of Jesus unveils in Acts many ways in which the risen Jesus post-ascension continues to engage with the movement). What their accounts needed was a wrap up and what we find is that the accounts of the resurrection are overlaid with conclusions to the gospels as a whole (or, in the case of Mark 16:1-8, we might say, denuded of a conclusion via intentional abruptness in the closing of the account - a kind of anti-conclusion).

Thus Matthew draws us rapidly to the Great Commission and Luke does so similarly, but in a challenging manner because in Luke 24 he almost conveys the impression that a long day (of about 25 hours?) elapses from raising to commissioning-and-ascending whereas Acts 1 is explicit that the period was 40 days. (Luke also manages the most flagrant rewriting of gospel tradition when he converts Mark's "you will see him in Galilee" into "as he said in Galilee", Mark 16:7//Luke 24:6, in the cause of confining the resurrected Jesus to Jerusalem and its environs).

John works in a different manner, having proposed through his gospel that everything is going on all at once ("my hour"): death and departure, cross and glory, descent and ascent. Thus his Pentecost occurs on the day of Resurrection but there is a epilogue or two as a week elapses before the appearance to Thomas and further time before the appearance to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias. But like his evangelical colleagues, John is all the 'resurrection' time wrapping up his gospel: this is a word to skeptics among the believers, this is a word to rival claimants for leadership of the church.

In the end, then, I am arguing that the accounts of the resurrection, between the gospels, Acts and 1 Corinthians have a coherency when we dig beneath the varied ways of wrapping up the narratives of Jesus' earthly life, acknowledge the basic facts which are shared (principally the emptiness of the tomb and the sheer multiplicity of appearances), and allow that different things mattered to different writers.

We need not doubt that Jesus rose bodily from the dead. That is the witness of the apostles. But what was the impact of the resurrection on understanding who Jesus was prior to death and is after resurrection? Jesus rising from the dead in the midst of ancient Judaism in Israel in the first century AD was like a fox in a chicken coop. A certain theological mayhem ensued. The epistles effectively tell us about the mayhem and that it was a good kind of mayhem!

16 comments:

Bryden Black said...

For may years Peter I have been struck by the simple parallelism of the early creed of 1 Cor 15: Scripture, event, consequence /// Scripture, event, consequence.

What is the normal inevitable consequence of death? Burial! What is the amazing inevitable consequence of resurrection? Appearance(s)!! And all according to the grand purposes of God as displayed in the Holy Scriptures. Stet!!!

May our Holy Week Pilgrimage climaxing in the Triduum be as glorious as the One whose Loving Truth seeks to embrace us!

Bryden Black said...

oops! May = many

Father Ron Smith said...

I was interested, Peter, in your mention of the activities of Glynn Cardy's reference to the inclusive theology of our new Archbishop, Philip Richardson, with your comment "Talk about the fox getting into the chicken coop"

You ended your excellent round up of the veracity of the the Gospels' account of Jesus' Resurrection with a similar statement, hereunder:

"Jesus rising from the dead in the midst of ancient Judaism in Israel in the first century AD was like a fox in a chicken coop. A certain theological mayhem ensued. The epistles effectively tell us about the mayhem and that it was a good kind of mayhem!

I take it that you value the 'mayhem' cause by Glyn's actions as being somewhat different from the 'mayhem' caused by Jesus' actions. Interesting, though, that you should use the very same paradigm!

Of course, every Christian worthy of the name has to believe in the Resurrection of Jesus. Paul tells us that "If Jesus be not raised from the dead, then is our faith vain" and I agree with him. How one interprets the resurrection of Jesus is mightily contested in Christendom. I take it you, with your mathematical brain, are not undertaking to give an entirely unequivocal rational explanation?

Where is the place of Faith in all of this? This is the question that should more inform our debate.

By the way, I do subscribe to the traditional Credal statements. It's the 39 Artifacts I have problems with. But then, that's me! Thank God I didn't have to swear to uphold them in their entirety at my ordination. Otherwise, I might never have been ordained.

MichaelA said...

Hi Peter, good account.

Re meaning: I suppose from the jewish perspective they had always known that atonement had to be made for sin. The law of Moses taught that in so many ways. But the reality of death and sacrifice, actual blood, to pay the price of personal sin is always confronting.

Many did not want to accept it - it is when we contemplate Jesus twisted slain body that we have to face the hard truth that we have indeed been "bought with a price".

Unknown said...

You have an interesting take on that Fairfax interview Peter. While I expressed my hopes I have no idea what Philip has publicly said on the issue of same-gender marriage nor how LGBT folk in Taranaki experience him - and I inferred as much. I think your paranoia sometimes leads you into chicken coops of your own imagination.

Peter Carrell said...

Is that you, Glynn?
I can assure you that the way the interview given was presented on the frontpage of the Press was a one-way ticket to judge ++Philip on whether he is or isn't supporting gay marriage.
Further I have heard expressed disappointment that you have tarred +Philip with this particular brush before he has even officially begun in the job.
No paranoia required on my part, or my imagination's!

mike greenslade said...

"Further I have heard expressed disappointment that you have tarred +Philip with this particular brush before he has even officially begun in the job."

It would be good for you to expand on this Peter. Who is saying what? If it is worth reporting, it is worth reporting properly.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Mike
I am saying I have heard expressed the view I reported. It is not my business to put names to views. My point is not to report a view per se but to note that it is pretty naive if anyone, including Glynn himself, thinks that you can respond to an interviewer in the way it happened and not make some impact on the reading public.

mike greenslade said...

Hi Peter,

This is problematic.
If it is your view, say it.
If it is a view shared in private conversation, you are breaking a confidence.
It the person/s who said are happy to have it known, name them.

Otherwise it looks like you are point-scoring by rumour-mongering. While that may be ok in some situations, this is not one.
You address this blog -at least partially - from your professional seat as a senior cleric who shares time with other senior clerics. Your reported comments are regarding a colleague.

It doesn't look good...

Shawn Herles said...

Given the sensationalist nature of the media, and the current level of attention being given to ssm, it would certainly be naive to make such a statement believing it would have no impact, unless it was made deliberately to have an impact, kinda like certain billboards a certain church likes to use use to also have an impact.

With the current situation in the NZ Anglican Church, especially the tensions and sense of wariness between pro and anti ssm advocates, this statement was at the very least self-indulgent and unwise.

At worst it raises one issue above any other consideration, including the very unity of our national Church, which to me looks very much like idolatry.

Peter Carrell said...

It is not rumour-mongering, Mike, to share perceptions, responses, and reactions to public expressions of opinion as a guide to how members of the church are receiving those public expressions. (It might be if I said "a bishop I talked to the other day ..." or "I have it on good authority that senior clerics are saying that ...". But that wasn't what I said).

All I was doing was pointing out that others than myself in our church do not think well of Glynn Cardy's prognostications. To not say something could, of course, be interpreted another way: no one minds what Glynn says, no one thinks any damage is done, all is well.

But, if it helps, let me simply say, for myself and from myself alone (and, if as you kindly say, as a 'senior cleric'), I think Glynn was unwise to respond to the interview opportunity in the way he did at this time.

Then let me ask, am I alone in thinking this?

Peter Carrell said...

Thank you Shawn for (unknowingly!) entering a comment which assisted the answer to my question in my previous comment above. That makes two of us, identified by name, as not happy with Glynn's media intervention!

Shawn Herles said...

Here to help! And I am sure there are many more who are not impressed with Glynn's Cardy's public pronouncements.

Peter Carrell said...

FROM GLYNN CARDY (sometimes it is difficult to post via Blogger!)

Hi Peter,

I have difficulty posting on your site - sorry. And yes that post was by me.

You may like to post this up if you think this discussion continues to be helpful

"Dear Peter, Fairfax rang me specifically to get comment on same-gender marriage - namely the issue of the moment as far as they are concerned. Like you I have an obligation to fairly represent a constituency and to signal to LGBT readers [just as you signal to mainstream evangelical readers] what my hopes are regarding the new Archbishop without boxing him into a corner. I'm not going to evade the issue, just as you don't."

Cheers,
Glynn

p.s. I hope I got a smile out of you with the line: 'change will not happen [under Philip] any faster or slower than that of his predecessor'

Bryden Black said...

First things first Peter and with reference to the title of this thread: my commiserations on the DRAW! Great Test match though!

Then; I guess Glynn’s now response is to be expected. Firstly, with his PS, that “change” would seem to be the order of the day, one or the other. Well; is it? And why so? Re the response itself: one more time we see the Church dissolve into identity party politics via his talk of “constituencies”. What has happened to any ECCLESIOLOGY?!

As to the Fairfax material: why would any due clergyman succumb to their creed in the first place? ... Silly me ...

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Glynn
This is my public and private reply to you, in a spirit of respectful friendship and collegiality even as we disagree on so many things.

(a) It is one thing to have an obligation to represent a constituency and another thing to respond to every phone call from the media.

(b) I suggest there is a case for making no comment in response to the enquiry made to you, on the grounds that the new archbishop should be interviewed first by Fairfax before other people begin commenting on what views he might or might not hold.

(c) A point of difference between you and me is that Fairfax do not ring me :)

(d) I respectfully suggest that you might be na├»ve (and/or unduly modest) about your role in the media: Glynn Cardy offering a view, especially on sex/church/episcopal leadership, is likely to generate a headline, a front-page story, a slant towards what you say rather than burying a comment from you in the middle of an article slanted another way. Thus responding to the Fairfax request had a high degree of likelihood that the story would become (so to speak) ‘sex and the archbishop’ rather than ‘moderateness of the new archbishop.’

(e) Yes, very droll re imperceptibility of change of pace. Reminds me of bowling tactics in cricket … :)

With best wishes,
Peter

PS Are clergy in your parish blessing same sex relationships with or without the express permission of your bishop? I have seen the photo …!