Monday, March 18, 2013

O Little Town of Wellington

A bit of a round up of some weekend reading ...

Apparently God has got one or two things wrong in the course of salvation history. So thinks Jeremy Top Gear Clarkson as he praises New Zealand. We won't burn him at the stake for questioning God's wisdom, just send him on holiday to ... well, people read this blog from all over these islands so I won't offend anyone living in certain parts of NZ which are not as nice as other parts :).

Views on gay marriage/blessing of civil unions rumble on here (cf. comments over the weekend), there and everywhere. A few thoughts today:

- a possible candidate for best speech in favour of gay marriage goes to Chris Auchinvole MP speaking in favour of the proposed changes in our parliament recently. There is something worth thinking about when he offers penetrative elucidation of catechetical teaching about being made in the image of God.

- a very interesting presidential address has been given by Bishop James Jones of Liverpool as he moves into retirement. In the course of it he says, "if the Church now recognises Civil Partnerships to be a just response to the needs of gay people then surely the Church now has to ask the question whether or not it can deny the blessing of God to that which is just". But that way of putting things raises many questions about the authority of the church. Accepting that we have the authority to bless what God blesses, and to deny blessing that which God blesses, do we have the authority to bless what is 'just' (in our eyes) or to bless what we have no assurance is blessed by God? I am struck in relation to such questions by John 4 and Jesus' attitude to the Samaritan woman and her 'domestic situation': he neither condemns her nor blesses the situation. Are we facing a changing social acceptance of domestic relationships with an either we condemn or we bless them approach? Might the 'what would Jesus do' question be answered by 'Neither'?

To be orthodox is to know Jesus Christ. That is all. Thus I have no time for the following approach to 'orthodoxy' (in an NPR interview):

"SIMON: Before Pope Francis was selected, you wrote that you'd hoped to see the new pope deploy doctrinal orthodoxy. What do you mean by that?

EBERSTADT: Well, what I meant is that if you study the history of churches, over time the churches that have tried to lighten up the Christian moral code and put forth sort of kindler, gentler version of Christian as they see it, have not done well. They haven't done well demographically and they haven't done well financially.

Churches that stick to orthodoxy do better over time, in part because it's only those kinds of churches that tend to create families that can be of size and carry on the Christian tradition. So, in saying that the pope would do best to stick to orthodoxy, I was talking in part about what it would take to strengthen the Catholic Church.

SIMON: So if I were to remind you about some of these polls we've all seen in recent days showing 66 percent of U.S. Catholics favor allowing women to become priests, 79 percent favor the use of artificial birth control measures, what does that mean to you?

EBERSTADT: Well, it means in part that you have to be careful about what you are calling Catholic. In other words, are you Catholic if you say you're Catholic? Are you Catholic if you were baptized Catholic? Are you Catholic if you haven't been in church in five years? What you tend to find is that the more observant people are, the more orthodox their opinions tend to be. That's one point.

But the other point is that for Catholics like that, for Catholics who want married priests, women priests, who want again to lighten up the Christian moral code, there is a place for people like that. The place is called the mainline Protestantism. And the point is that mainline Protestantism is in serious disarray. The pews are graying, they have few children in them.

By contrast, the Protestant churches that have hued closest to a sort of strict Christian moral code have done best. Those would be the evangelical churches and churches like the Pentecostals are thriving, and not only in the United States but around the world.

SIMON: So you don't accept the premise that part of why the Roman Catholic Church seems to be losing some strength in the United States and Western Europe is because of positions like priestly celibacy or prohibiting birth control measures.

EBERSTADT: Well, the Catholic Church is not in the best shape and I'm certainly not saying that. Obviously, we've had 10-plus years of sex scandals. We've had problems in the Curia. And I'm not saying that the church is in the best position.

What I am saying is that it will do best over time to stick to orthodoxy. And the fact is, the pope doesn't have a choice in this arena. Americans often don't understand. We tend to think because we are such a self-created people that the pope has someone like a CEO or someone who is a master of his own fate.

This isn't true and the pope sees himself as the divinely appointed custodian of the truth - capital T. Truth that's been hammered out over 2,000 years. And the kinds of teachings that modern people most dislike about the Catholic Church are actually teachings that were hammered out from the earliest church fathers on up."

(Tobias Haller adroitly sticks the critical knife into this dog's breakfast of an argument).

Orthodoxy is simply right believing about Jesus Christ. For Christians, orthodoxy is knowing Jesus Christ (or, knowing Jesus Christ truly). Adding extras such as priestly celibacy or not ordaining women as priests or a strict moral code into what we assert orthodoxy to be is either traditionalism or conservatism. There may be very good reasons for promoting traditionalism or conservatism but it is nonsense to equate orthodoxy with either.

Yesterday's gospel reading, John 12:1-8, poignantly underscores that orthodoxy is knowing Jesus Christ. The woman, Mary, scorned by the dinner party guests is affirmed by Jesus. Morally she wasted money which could have been used for the poor. Her presence and her actions (casting an eye back to Luke 7:36-50) may have offended righteous men as they ate. But Jesus affirms her because God's plan is all about him: 'you will not always have me'! Mary got it. She was orthodox!

The minimal requirement for Christians to be orthodox is believing the Nicene Creed because that creed, summing up centuries of debate about the meaning of revelation in Scripture, guides our right understanding of who Jesus Christ is. Slagging off 'Protestants' or (for that matter) Catholics who think women could be ordained priests for not being 'orthodox' confuses orthodoxy for something else.

(Incidentally, speaking of Roman Catholicism and its character, Theo Hobson offers a brilliant insight into what makes the inner heart of Catholicism tick. Even when many Romans are unhappy with their church, they will not leave for the obvious alt.Catholic church. I hasten to say that relics still leave me unmoved in the direction of festal celebration. Though icons are another matter ...)

I am moved to write about orthodoxy in this way, not only because my attention has been drawn to the interview cited above, but also because here on ADU there are occasions when comments from a Reformed theological quarter give the impression (to me of unsound mind, at least) that orthodoxy is believing a set of propositions only made clear by God with the teaching of Calvin. No. The only thing required for orthodoxy is knowing Jesus Christ. The thief on the cross was not promised paradise by the Lord because he both absorbed and agreed with the Institutes. It was because he knew Jesus. Many people across all churches know Jesus. The orthodox are everywhere!

To return to Wellington, should anyone have read this far, the pakeha bishops of this church are meeting there today (Monday 18 March), in a church near to the airport, in order to prayerfully discern who the next pakeha archbishop of our church will be. Some of us think that person has already been discerned so we trust the bishops praying together will cement their unity around God's disclosed will for the church. Ditto the Inter Diocesan Conference when it meets on Saturday to receive the bishops' nomination.

As a blessing to those who persevere to the end, here is my current favourite worship song:




80 comments:

carl jacobs said...

Peter

The only thing required for orthodoxy is knowing Jesus Christ.

You say something that is true, and yet you have said nothing at all. As always, the orthodox shell covers the opaque miasma that forms the essence of the statement. For I will ask you "What does it mean to know Jesus?" I will say to you "The Mormons claim to know Jesus. Jehovah's Witnesses claim to know Jesus. Muslims call Him a Prophet. Do they not know Jesus?"

And you will respond (as you did before) "I didn't mean them." You thus admit that knowing Christ is made manifest by right belief. And when I ask you the contents of that right belief, you will respond (as you did before) by pointing to the Nicene Creed.

And when I ask you what the Nicene Creed means, you will (as you did before) duck and bob and weave and evade and avoid and dodge and parry and fudge and shift and slip and flee. You would not even call out FRS when on this very weblog he cast aspersions on the reality of the physical resurrection. You said his statements were within the bounds of orthodoxy when they clearly were not. What then is the use of your standard when you will not even defend it? In fact your standard of "knowing Christ" appears much more beholden to your own notions of temporal fraternity than to any concept of eternal truth.

carl

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl,
The Nicene Creed rules out Mormons, Muslims, Jehovah's Witnesses and followers of Spong-Crossan revisionism from'knowing Jesus Christ truly.' As far as I can tell, I am as clear and convicted about that as you are.

The question of the resurrection and orthodoxy is trickier, not because everything is opaque about the reality of the resurrection but because the intrinsic nature of the resurrection is that it is an event beyond the limits of our everyday language about bodies, physicality and death. Thus I suggest it admits of a little width in the possible statements about the resurrection which are consistent with the Nicene Creed.

I hope I have been personally clear (previously) that I believe the physical tomb is empty of the physical body of Jesus of Nazareth and that the reason for that emptiness is that God raised Jesus from death (as we understand it) to life (as we can only begin to understand it through the apostolic witness to the resurrection of Jesus).

There is a certain concreteness to my expressions here which leads me to be slightly unconvinced by your characterization of my beliefs!

Michael Tamihere said...

I've got you on my RSS feed in Outlook so only the YouTube link shows at the end.

I have to say I was really hoping it would lead me to this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlVBg7_08n0

Father Ron Smith said...

"Accepting that we have the authority to bless what God blesses, and to deny blessing that which God blesses, do we have the authority to bless what is 'just' (in our eyes) or to bless what we have no assurance is blessed by God?" - Peter Carrell -

Peter, I would remind you, again, of the Maundy Thursday antiphone: - "Where Charity and Love are - there is God". Assuming that all legally-sanctioned monogamous partnerships are a blessing to the community in which we find ourselves; could we not assume that these could be blessed by God? Or is God only interested in procreation?

Sometimes, Christian charity demands a surrender of what we may think is pleasing to God. Society once shunned the company of lepers (sufferers from a sexually-transmitted disease) - until Saint Francis, in embracing a leper, experienced 'the sweetness of Christ'. Makes yer think - eh?

I have long accepted that God made me a priest - not to curse, but to bless! I once was in the Asisi Basilica of Santa Chiara, where the presiding priest stood in silence in the pulpit before delivering this message: "Amore di Deo!" And throughout his preachment, this was repeated - until I knew that God loved me - just as I am! And I must learn to love other people - just as they are! - even conservatives in the Church who may want to limit God's love for me.

Love is one of the few charisms that actually increases - by being 'given away', recklessly.

(I've just noted that the last 3 letters of my code here are FOC. This means Free of Charge - The great Love of God as revealed in The Son!)

Father Ron Smith said...

Carl, in answer to your strivings to qualify what it might mean to 'Know Jesus; my response is:To Live 'en Christo'. There is no other way!

In my baptism into Christ, I am baptized into his Life, Death, Resurrection and Glorification. This is His work - not mine own.

Your approval and acceptance of me is not a necessary factor in the salvation that Jesus has already wrought for me.

I can only say: Thank you, Jesus!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
Francis followed the example of Christ in resisting the example of society as he embraced lepers.

Our question regarding relationships is not solely solved by 'Where love and charity are' but also by reflecting on the example of Christ and the teaching of Christ.

As I try to say in my post, it is not clear that where Christ refrains from condemning, he is thereby authorising blessing.

On your logic where I come across a loving, charitable (but also sexual) relationship between a brother and a sister, or between a husband and his prospective second-that-is-additional-to-the-first wife, I should bless it. Well, I won't. I hope you will not either!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Michael
I am relying on Revtalk to publish such videos!

Father Ron Smith said...

Thank you, Michael (Tamihere) for this thoughtful video presentation. worth looking in on for everyone.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlVBg7_08n0

"Where charity and love are - there is God" (Maundy Thursday Liturgy)

Father Ron Smith said...

"On your logic where I come across a loving, charitable (but also sexual) relationship between a brother and a sister, or between a husband and his prospective second-that-is-additional-to-the-first wife, I should bless it. Well, I won't. I hope you will not either!" - P.C. -

Peter, you may not have noted, but I did mention the qualification of 'legally-sanctioned' relationships, as being the basis on which they can be embraced and blessed.

Neither polygamy nor incest are 'legally-sanctioned' relationships. On this issue, I think we can actually trust society's legal distinction.

Even the much maligned 'society' has its limits.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
Point taken, but it is not that strong a point!

Why be limited by 'legally-sanctioned' if love and charity are present?

If 'legally-sanctioned' limits the blessing of God, then God cheerfully refrained from blessing (say) an illegally-married mixed race couple in apartheid South Africa or in certain states of the USA a few decades back!

Incidentally, I am far from trusting that blessing comes through what society 'legally sanctions' re relationships. Us poor folks pay more tax than we need to because rich folks are legally-sanctioned to work their earnings through 'legally-sanctioned' trust arrangements.

Nope, the more I think about it, I am far from persuaded that the blessing (or lack thereof) of God depends on decisions made by society through its governing structures.

(PS I agree with you that 'society' is not all bad).

Andrei said...

Hmmm

Reality check in post Christian New Zealand.

For all the snideness about Catholics in this post as adherence to the Faith has collapsed in this country one denomination has held its own and that is the Catholics.

In 1956 about 14% of New Zealanders for better of for worse were Catholic. In that same year 36% of New Zealanders were Anglican.

It has been suggested that the next census will reveal that less than 50% of New Zealanders will subscribe to some form of the Christian Faith - in the last census, 50 years after the 1956 census was taken we see that about 14% of New Zealanders were Catholic, much the same as 50 years before but the protestant denominations have collapsed, in particular Anglicans are now only mrginally more numerous tha Catholics at 14.8%.

Do you think that all those teachings of the Catholic Church that the modern world find so abhorent, like not using birth control, despite perhaps not being rigourously followed, might have something to do with this?

And while a Presbyterian lay minister, now back bench mp can play to the gallery and get gushing coverage from the secular media in so doing, not one person will be bought to the Church from his rhetoric, not one - indeed those high falluting words just might convince many of the Church's irrelevance to the modern world.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Andrei,
I am being 'snide' about one particular Roman Catholic's understanding of the success of Roman Catholicism. If I have given an impression of being snide about Roman Catholicism in general then I very much regret that.

My general experience of Roman Catholicism in NZ is that people think it is strong because it offers continuity, consistency and camaraderie (e.g. through connection between school and parish). Yes, there is a certain conservatism which is important, but not to the point of presuming that celibacy is part of orthodoxy. (Most Catholics I talk to about these matters would joyfully welcome a married priest to their parish).

I agree with you that Roman Catholicism has an impressive strength, especially relative to decline in Protestant denominations, including the Anglican church in these islands. What Anglicans could learn from Roman Catholicism here is: develop a more egalitarian schooling system; stick to the creeds; find a common eucharist and follow it; walk in tune with other Anglican churches in the Communion.

What could Roman Catholics learn from Anglicans? Engage in genuine synodical government so the laity have a voice in the affairs of the church; open up power structures to the involvement of women; be kinder to divorced persons and welcome baptised Christians to the Lord's Table. It is his table and not ours!

Bryden Black said...

No doubt Peter you have heard the phrase “generous orthodoxy”. Once coined by Hans Frei, it has been subsequently popularized by that somewhat over prolific writer Brian D McLaren, in whose hands it was given a distinctive tweak. That tweak finishes up not too differently from Theo Hobson’s take on his vision of Anglicanism - siting in a Guardian’s journalist’s chair - via the link you provide. Yet, as Stephen Sykes observes famously in his Identity of Christianity, the Christian Faith will always, inherently prompt (provoke?) debate re its contours and substance; and so we should expect the Mary Eberstadts and Tobias Hallers to both proffer their tuppence worth.

With all that as preamble, my own throw-hat-into-the-ring comment, prompted by this latest thread, concerns the Nicene Creed you highlight - or rather, try to highlight. For the problem is this. Despite its being surely incorporated into just about every Anglican Prayer Book around the globe, including all the sundry revisions these past 30-40 years, we still have supposedly reputable folk saying things like, “we may hold to the Nicene Creed loosey-goosey” (or should that be Lucy-goosey?!). That is, while we have the text before us - well; the Latin text which includes the filioque, to be sure! - we are still justified in interpreting it as we see fit.

The bottom line therefore becomes, for those of the McLaren/Hobson/Haller line(s), that any due “generosity” runs every likelihood of repeating the famous George Tyrrell line, “The Christ that Harnack sees, looking back through nineteen centuries of Catholic darkness, is only the reflection of a liberal Protestant face, seen at the bottom of a deep well”. For Harnack now substitute Spong, Crossan, Borg, McLaren - whosoever takes your hermeneutical fancy through whose ‘liberal’ grid you wish to ‘read’ Nicaea.

In other words Peter; I fancy the contemporary upshot is far more problematic than you try to conclude in this thread ... And the institutional consequences are therefore just far more problematic than most of us realize - longer term.

PS: BTW - I agree that ME’s argument here as written up is all over the place. I have encountered her often before, and mostly find her less than cogent - even as she tries to “side with the angels” ...!

carl jacobs said...

Peter

I have never been concerned about what you believe but about what you require others to believe. And, just as important, what you demand that others reject. This is the basis of fellowship - your evaluation of their testimony. And that evaluation must ultimately be doctrinal in its formation. This is why I have appealed and exhorted and pleaded with you to define a clear boundary. But you have resisted lest you find some of your comrades falling outside of it. This is what you have told me.

There is no latitude in the Nicene Creed to allow for a spiritual resurrection only. That is the possibility at which FRS hinted. What does the Creed say - the Creed to which you appeal? On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures. Those last five words are important. We don't know everything about the resurrection, but that doesn't mean we don't know anything. We know what the Scriptures tell us. Specifically, we know He came forth from that Tomb in his body. We know it because He said so. There can be no room for Gnostic imaginations of a spirit with the body still in the tomb.

carl

carl jacobs said...

FRS

Carl, in answer to your strivings to qualify what it might mean to 'Know Jesus; my response is:To Live 'en Christo'. There is no other way!

And yet you have also said nothing. Whether to define or defend this statement, you will appeal to subjective experientialism. You will assert moral imperatives just as strongly as I, but you will never present an authority by which those imperatives may be established. It is the fatal weakness of every argument you present. You speak as one with authority, and yet you never state the authority. You merely say that you are living 'en Christo.' And how am I to test that assertion in the same way the Bereans tested Paul?

carl

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl,
I am inclined to be generous to those who explore the nuances re the resurrection. If, however, someone here, or there, continues to believe that the body lies in the tomb (or was stolen from it and lies somewhere else) then, I am with you, they are not in fellowship as orthodox Christians, sharing in the Nicene belief of the church (at least on that matter; Filioque differences between East and West acknowledged as an ongoing point of difference).

Peter Carrell said...

But, Bryden, isn't any formulation of doctrine susceptible to loosey-gooey manipulation. Lloyd Geering grew up theologically in the Presbyterian church and learned how to say the Reformed words and mean something else. I do not want to put such a hedge around the Nicene Creed in an attempt to overcome the loosey-gooseys that, effectively, I am arguing that one is a Christian if one believes the Nicene Creed-and-Calvin's Institutes (substitute some other authority and his works as suits your theological commitments).

So the Nicene Creed is fine by me and the conscience of any professor saying it and meaning something else is judged by God! And there may not be a job for them at any theological college I run!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl,
I take seriously that someone such as FRS is making the claim re en Christo as (1) a baptised Christian, (2) a faithful participant in the Eucharist in which Christ has promised to nurture those who receive his body and blood. Are these not 'objective' authorities in respect of any claim by any baptised, eucharistically nourished Christian to be 'en Christo'?

carl jacobs said...

Peter

Are these not 'objective' authorities

No, they are not. There are legions of unbelievers who are both baptized and regularly communed. Should I therefore listen to them? And, again, this does not address the fundamental question. What connects the assertions made to the authority cited? Are any such assertions authoritative? How do I test the assertion for truth? This whole mechanism makes an authority of the man himself.

carl

Peter Carrell said...

What then is your test of true belief?

carl jacobs said...

Conformance with the Scripture. The same test the Bereans applied.

carl

Father Ron Smith said...

"And yet you have also said nothing. Whether to define or defend this statement, you will appeal to subjective experientialism. You will assert moral imperatives just as strongly as I, but you will never present an authority by which those imperatives may be established. It is the fatal weakness of every argument you present. You speak as one with authority, and yet you never state the authority. You merely say that you are living 'en Christo.' And how am I to test that assertion in the same way the Bereans tested Paul?"

- Carl Jacobs -

Carl (perhaps more respectfully than you grant to my assertions here), my 'experience' is, indeed, my experience. I, unlike you, have no other sriterion to express my faith in Christ, crucified, risen and glorified. It is purely both objective and subjective. It is MY Faith - and not yours.

Please do not have the temerity to judge the veracity of another's Faith. It is a gift from God for that person, and not subject to any other criteria - even well-meant (and I suspect your is not).

I am a child of the Church - the Body of Christ - and, in Baptism have become a Child of God in Christ. Neither you, nor anyone else can take that away from me. If I do not conform to your private understanding of what it might mean to be a follower of Jesus, then I cannot help you think differently.

However, please accept my own understanding of God's place in MY life.

Father Ron Smith said...

"And while a Presbyterian lay minister, now back bench mp can play to the gallery and get gushing coverage from the secular media in so doing, not one person will be bought to the Church from his rhetoric, not one - indeed those high falluting words just might convince many of the Church's irrelevance to the modern world."

- Apocalyptic Horseman -

I've just clicked into your website: 'Conservative', Andrei, and now understand where your arguments are coming from. You speak from the conservative lobby, but maybe not from the Gospel of Jesus Christ that I experience.


You assert that "not one person will be brought to the Church from his rhetoric". However, the real question is - not whether anyone will be brought 'to the Church', but will anyone be encouraged to believe in Jesus Christ of the Gospel? I believe that acceptance of people, in Love, is a very important tool of Christian Evangelism. Perhaps God in Christ might judge people's responses differently from you.

"Where charity and love are - there is God" - Maundy Thursday Liturgy.

Father Ron Smith said...

Carl, I'm most interested in your test of Christian discipleship. When you speak of 'conformity with "The Scripture"'; which one are you talking about? Are you speaking of one aspect of the O.T. and N.T. Scriptures? Or are you speaking of one particular understanding of the Scriptures?

Is there only one understanding of the Scriptures that all Christians can agree upon as being totally infallible? And if so, why is there any need for supplementary guide-lines - like the Creeds, the 39 Artifacts - etc.?

If there is only one baseline for 'being a Christian', then let us all in on your great secret! We're waiting! (My answer is being Baptized into Christ, what's yours?)

Father Ron Smith said...

"How do I test the assertion for truth? This whole mechanism makes an authority of the man himself."
- Carl -

"et tu Brute"

As you judge, so shall ye be judged!

You are not my disciples, carl; but then, neither am I yours. My Master is Jesus!

Andrei said...

Fr Ron;

However, the real question is - not whether anyone will be brought 'to the Church', but will anyone be encouraged to believe in Jesus Christ of the Gospel? From my understanding it is more or less the same thing, beliveing in "Jesus Christ of the Gospel" makes you a member of the body of Christ ie the Church.

I believe that acceptance of people, in Love, is a very important tool of Christian Evangelism.

Well of course Fr Ron, But when our kids were young and where told NO to what they asked for the plaintif wail would sometimes be heard you don't love me" or "us" depending on how many were doing the asking.

But of course we did and do love them but sometimes the answer to what is desired is NO and appropriately so. In this world we don't always get what we desire and sometimes maybe often this in the longer term is to our benefit.

The way you use the word "love", to me has a sickly cheap Valentines day card feel about it, to me at least.

Sometimes "love" is firm and strict because sometimes what a person wants is not good for their welfare and we all know spoiling a kid and giving him or her whatever she wants does not lead to a well rounded well adjusted adult but one with a sense of entitlement.

Being opposed to gay "marriage" does not make you anti gay, a homophobe, a hater or any of the other insults that a flung at those who do. There are profound reasons to be concerned about this innovation - not the least in worldly terms is that a culture which does not place a prority on replenishing iteself is doomed and religious or not marriage is at its heart about replenishing and transmitting the culture - that in part in the significance of my previous comment on this thread. Catholics in New Zealand are better at having babies who grow up Catholic than Anglicans are at creating Anglican babies.

Spiritually I see gay "marriage" to be in direct confrintation with God's creation, a challenge to it.

And the use of reproductive technologies to pander to and create "non traditional families" fills me with alarm, not for me but for my childrens future

Father Ron Smith said...

"The way you use the word "love", to me has a sickly cheap Valentines day card feel about it, to me at least."

- Apocalyptic Andrei -

NO! The way you interpret my use of the word 'Love' may, indeed be sickly - simply because it seem to you to be undeserved, weak and foolish. But may I remind you, Andrei, that 'The foolishness of God is wiser than men"; and that God says: "In your weakness, I am made strong".

I see the Love of God in the Crucified Christ, Andrei! Jesus was crucified because His Love was directed towards sinners like me. Now if that's weak or unprincipled, then maybe you are right, and God's Love is too sloppy, too generous and too unlimited. I know in Whom and in What I believe - and it is bigger than you or me - hidden with Christ in God. Stronger than death!

Bryden Black said...

Thank you Andrei for couching the issue in the way you have in your latest post. The word “desire” is most helpful - not least as it drives home a vital aspect of St Augustine’s massive oeuvre.

If I mention him, it is because he (among others) focuses especially well on how we humans have a tendency to fix our desires on the wrong ends. What is noteworthy too is his careful distinction between those ends that appear good, because they are often the very goods of creation itself, and The Good Who is the Creator Himself. We fail to see that the benefits of these created goods are meant to turn our hearts to thank and worship the Source of all these goods, the One Who Is Goodness itself. This failure occurs especially when these very goods are tweaked by the creature to serve our own ends in ways that appear to ourselves satisfactory but are in fact distortions of their true end. Sexuality - and love generally - is of course just such an end in St Augustine’s calculus.

What all this does is to provide yet another way into our current dilemmas. Of course sexuality is a wonderful dimension of human being, to be celebrated and not despised. And of course it itself has various ends/purposes - all those traditionally enjoined upon us in the BCP’s service of Holy Matrimony. [BUT NB the alteration nowadays in the order in which these are presented!] Today’s secular search for forms of validation among the LGBT communities is a typical distortion of what are perfectly proper human desires - to love and be loved, and to express that loving sexually. Their tragic nature also however should not escape us, notably those who abide in the Christian Community whose ‘culture’ knows - should know - better. For supposedly we are those to whom some insight has already been granted as to the depth and reality of the created order under the One Supreme Good. Traditionally, we may term this a “sacramental ontology”, a way of ‘reading’ the reality of things that displays genuinely something of the nature of this One, who IS Goodness, Truth and Beauty. The tragedy is that often human eyes are blinded to this dimension of reality through false desire.

So Andrei is perfectly correct to draw our attention to both the inappropriate behaviour of children and his fears for his grandchildren. Our present day secular culture knows little restraint of its desires, either biological or technological. And St Augustine helps greatly our ability to parse our way through this quagmire of mixed desires. Once more, those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it!

Father Ron Smith said...

In response to Bryden. I don't know whether you actually have any grandchildren. I do - 3 of them, and they are delightful, full of fun; of potential for the good, and aware of God's love for them - through us, his parents and grandparents. They are being taught respect of all people.

They will not be 'put off' by what you see as a cultural problem, simply because they trust that God is love, and that in every act of loving there is something of God. We have no FEAR for them or their future. They are children of God.

Father Ron Smith said...

"And the use of reproductive technologies to pander to and create "non traditional families" fills me with alarm, not for me but for my childrens future - Andrei -
March 18, 2013 at 8:49 PM

Alarm! OFF!

It occurs to me, Andrei, that you may not be aware that the situation of the birth of Jesus Christ made Him a product of what you are disposed to call a 'non-traditional family'.

His Mother, Mary, did not conceive Him by her husband Joseph. but he was conceived of the Holy Spirit. Now what less 'traditional' family situation is that? This makes your assertion a little suspect.

Today, is the Feast-day of Saint Joseph, foster father of Jesus and Protector of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Another 'different' factor here, is that Jesus took his lineage from King David through his foster-father Joseph.

Now how 'traditional' is that?

Andrei said...

If you seriously think that men in white coats extracting an eggs from a desperate woman to fertalize them in a petri dish before implanting some of them into another desparate woman's womb to incubate, culling some of the fetuses if too many develop to create a child with two fathers is a metephor for the incarnation I just don't know what to say Fr Ron.

If you are seriously interested in social justice the exploitation of third world women by wealthy western homosexuals in this manner alone, regardless of the gross immorality involved the process, should raise your condemnation

Bryden Black said...

Dear Ron,

I am indeed a grandfather. And I suspect that many a grandfather in the 1920s, after the war to end all wars, was suitably predisposed to venture there would never be another. For were not the swinging 20s just that?! Scott Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby and all that!

In addition, I also venture to ask that you refrain from drawing fanciful analogies that border on the irreligious. While St Joseph’s feast day is an admirable celebration - Solemnity! - the fact of the virginal conception of Jesus only throws light upon the New Creation. And all such matters as human marriage would appear to be confined to the Old Aeon - at least, so you yourself have argued. Of course, the only reasons that marriage is so confined are twofold: 1. The procreative element is no longer required (so Lk 20:34-38); 2. The res to which the sacramentum of human marriage between a man and a woman directs us has itself arrived, with the Wedding Banquet of the Lamb. So; I’m not sure any mention of dear St Joseph helps any such causes as ss ‘marriages’ - quite the contrary!

Father Ron Smith said...

The situation of Jesus' conception & birth obviously makes no difference to you at all, Bryden. But you really must concede that it could make a difference to a thinking person's understanding of the infinite variety of God's participation in human biological reproduction. After all, Jesus was fully human - as well as Son of God. The fact that Jesus' human conception and birth was different makes my point. God is not limited by human understanding of God's ways in God's creation.

For you, the Incarnation of Christ may have, perhaps, bypassed the pattern set for human creation by God, by not utilising Mary's natural human biological process. That is not my understanding. I am content to let God be God - without questioning the infinite variety of god's amazing Creation.

What I do know is: "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us - the Only-Begotten of the father, full of grace and truth". That's good enough for me. The Word (Whom I worship) did not remain in a Book - Holy or not - but became flesh of our flesh - a wondrous mystery.

Father Ron Smith said...

Andrei, once again, you are giving way to the tendency to put words into my mouth - that I did not say.

Bryden Black said...

G’day Ron! Perhaps all I can say in response to your comments re my supposed views re the BVM and associated phenomena is ... as you yourself assert re Andrei’s comment re aspects of the practice of hi-tech human reproduction. Nuff said!

MichaelA said...

Just a comment about references above to "children of God":

Scripture is clear that no-one is born a child of God, nor are we ever promised that being baptised by itself will make us a child of God.

It is necessary to "become" a child of God, and that is only granted to those who "receive" Christ and "believe" in his name (John 1:12-13). May all know this greatest blessing.

Shawn Herles said...

The process Andrei is talking about involves the murder of numerous post-conception babies and the financial exploitation of the poor, who effectively become baby factories for the rich.

I do not believe that can be equated with the incarnation and doing so displays an appalling lack of awareness of the serious moral issues surrounding reproductive technologies and their potential abuse.

"Another 'different' factor here, is that Jesus took his lineage from King David through his foster-father Joseph.

Now how 'traditional' is that?"

Very traditional in fact. It was a common practice at the time, and recognised by law, and it still is. Adopted children take the name and become their heirs of their new father. It was a very common practice in Roman times and considered a traditional, venerable, and socially accepted practice.

A traditional family is mum, dad and their children and extended relations. As far as that goes, Jesus' family was traditional. The fact that Joseph was Jesus' adoptive father makes no difference to that, as adoption was (and is) a common practice, and thus 'traditional'. Roman law recognised adoption, and in fact Paul uses Roman law as a metaphor for our adoption by the Father. The Roman Emperor at the time of Christ was the adopted heir of Julius Caesar.

Yes, the incarnation marks out Jesus' family as unique and different, but it is also true that God in chose a perfectly normal, traditional arrangement of mum and dad, brothers and sisters. Nothing "radical" about that.

Note, that's mum and dad, not mum and mum, or dad and dad!

"The Word (Whom I worship) did not remain in a Book - Holy or not".

The book remains the Word of God, and Christ is incarnate in it's words, just as much as in the eucharist.

Peter Carrell said...

Father Ron Smith has left a new comment on your post "O Little Town of Wellington":

"Scripture is clear that no-one is born a child of God, nor are we ever promised that being baptised by itself will make us a child of God."

- MichaelA -

So you, Michael, are completely unaware that Baptism is actually the experience of Being Born Again! I find this quite deficient in any proper understanding of the words of Scripture. I think one needs to read the New Zealand Prayer Book preparation for Baptism, to see what Peter has to say about this.

[sentence omitted by moderator as it contains an inference which lends more heat and light to the situation]

True Anglican, Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians are fully aware that the Sacrament of Baptism is more about what God is doing than anything we might contribute.

One is quite aware of 'Baptism in The Spirit' - as a quickening of the Holy Spirit given in Baptism. This is 'theology', not mumbo-jumbo. One cannot be 'Baptized in the Spirit' without being first Baptized. Except, of course in one scriptural incident from the Early Church, where 'Spirit-Filled' people were in evidence, and the Christian response was 'What is to prevent these people from being Baptized - The evidence came before their Christian Baptism. God can act how God wants to, but the Church has a definite process.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
It would be most unwise for a baptised person to rely solely on their baptism as the sure guarantee of salvation if otherwise they were in an unrepentant state (our service clearly reads the Acts text, Repent and be baptised) and without faith in Jesus Christ.

The baptised child grows initially within the repentance of their family and the shared faith, also mentioned in our service, p. 379, of their family. When child becomes an adult, wisdom guides us to lead that child into a faith response of their own and a repentant lifestyle consistent with the declarations their parents made at baptism. To lead the child in any other direction, or to rest on the fact of their baptism while they lived openly as an atheist or notorious sinner as guarantee of salvation would be contrary to the letter and spirit of God's written Word.

But I would be praying to the God of grace that He would be faithful to his promissory note made in baptism that none should be lost to Him.

Father Ron Smith said...

"The book remains the Word of God, and Christ is incarnate in it's words, just as much as in the eucharist." - Shawn -

A rather spooky idea of what the word 'Incarnation - related to the birth of Jesus Christ - actually means.

I commend to your reflection the orthodox understanding of Christ's Incarnation in these words: "The Almighty Word leapt down" - here is a world of mystery & logic (logos).

Jesus did not leap into a book at the Incarnation, He leapt into the world of humanity that God has made. That is the radicality of Our Lord's membership of His Family. Unlike any other.

The Holy Eucharist is the living corporeal representation of the Incarnate Christ. "This IS my Body; this IS my Blood". That simply cannot be said of the Bible, which Book relates the true reality, but not entirely encapsulate it.

The Logos existed before Creation. That is The Word, I am speaking about, that 'became flesh'.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
By what means do we know that the Word became flesh, that We are meant to consume bread and wine become Christ's body and blood, and that only through Christ Jesus may we find salvation?

That Christ is, in a certain sense, 'incarnate' in the sacred writings of the church, is not spooky but plain theology of revelation. We feed on Christ when we read Scripture as our daily bread, we drink Christ when we read Scripture as living water to quench our thirst for more of Him, we receive Christ into our lives when we hear the Word proclaimed and receive that Word into our lives by faith - the Word that is which is proclaimed as Scripture is read and expounded.

To be honest, I am a little tired of your constant put down of the written Word of God. And I find it strange coming from one who otherwise is so enthusiastic about the various means of grace which God has granted to us for our blessing.

Shawn Herles said...

Actually my view is in line with both Roman and Orthodox understandings of Scripture, as well as Classical Reformed and Lutheran theology.

The words of Scripture are God-breathed, that is they are the work of the Holy Spirit, and thus the very Word of God incarnate in human language.

And Christ, the same Word incarnate in Scripture, also became incarnate as a human being.

Both the incarnation of God's Word in Scripture and the incarnation of God's Word in the flesh are part of God's one work of salvation through incarnational means. And the sacraments are a continuation of that incarnational work. All the means of grace, Baptism, Communion and Scripture are incarnational in nature, and all equally so. The one who's death and resurrection we share at Baptism is the same one who we eat and drink in communion and the same one who's incarnate word we read in Scripture.

Incarnational Anglican theology views all of God's saving work and means of grace, and the Church itself, as signs of incarnational reality.

Father Ron Smith said...

"Hi Ron. By what means do we know that the Word became flesh, that We are meant to consume bread and wine become Christ's body and blood, and that only through Christ Jesus may we find salvation?" - Dr. Peter Carrell -

I'm quite aware, Peter, that you are using me as a sounding board on this matter. Every Christian theological teacher knows that the scriptures are an integral source of knowledge on this subject. It is from the Scriptures - and through the church's interpretation of the Scriptures that we have this assurance.

I have never denied this reality.

What I am saying is that the pre-existent Logos (Jesus) actually took upon Himself our humanity at the Incarnation (cf John's gospel.

The biblical account is the medium; whereas the Incarnate Christ is the Message - the Word-made-flesh. When Jesus said: "He who eats my flesh has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day"; I might ask, what personal interpretation do you put upon that biblical reference? Do you believe that this has a direct bearing on the Church's celebration of the Eucharist? I do.

When Jesus commanded his disciples to: "Do this, to remember me", and "This IS my Body", He did not say - "This will represent my body". Those of us who believe in the 'Real Presence' are wont to worship the Christ therein not the words that describe the experience.

As Elizabeth I is quoted as saying: "He was the Word that spake it. He took the bread and brake it; and what the Lord doth make it, I do believe and take it" - and she was a Protestant! She did, however, distinguish between the biblical words that describe what happened, from the actual experience of The Word received in the Eucharist.

Notice, she said, and what 'The Lord' doth make it - the Word-made-flesh, not the biblical narrative.
___________________________________

re your note on the efficacy of Baptism, one might cite this saying of Jesus: "I will lose nothing of all that the father has given to me". I do believe that, at our Baptism, we are given to Christ by the Father. We would have to deny the efficacy of that for ourselves to break that contract.

Father Ron Smith said...

"To be honest, I am a little tired of your constant put down of the written Word of God. And I find it strange coming from one who otherwise is so enthusiastic about the various means of grace which God has granted to us for our blessing."

- Dr. Peter Carrell -

Peter, I've just realised the deep implication of your last comment here. In my protestation about the reverence given to the Scriptures - when it seems superior to the reverence given to Christ in the Eucharist; I am endeavouring though obviously not very well to readers of your blog) to demonstrate that Christian Scripture is the perfect entry point into the understanding of God in Christ. However, we do not 'worship' the scriptures. We are called to worship the Christ they proclaim. There is a world of difference here. Or do you not agree?

In the catholic world that I draw my spirituality from; in the Mass, the Gospel is carried in procession and is 'censed before being sung or read aloud by the deacon. This is often my privilege, and I perfectly well understand the significance of this ritual action.

It implies respect for the provenance of the Scriptures - but falling short of worship.

The One whom we worship at Mass is the Christ at the heart of it all.

You know, Peter, and I know, that without the Scriptures & Tradition, we would not have a Eucharist to identify with. Need I say more?

Father Ron Smith said...

Dictionary definition of the word:

'Incarnate': 'embodied in human form'

I rest my case.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
I am in large measure of agreement with you re The Word whom we worship (and won't at this late hour of the night attempt to explicate my own position re the Eucharist).

My and others' point here re Scripture has never been that we worship Scripture (bibliolatry, a charge made against evangelicals but never an assertion we make!). Rather we worship Christ whom we find in Scripture, and we reverence Scripture as the means by which we meet Christ and learn how wonderful he is. We do not place the Eucharistic bread as higher in importance than Scripture as bread, both convey the reality of Christ to the person with faith.

We can appreciate those who understand that in the bread we find the real presence of Christ because, indeed, 'This is my body' is capable of sustaining that meaning. But we suggest that it is a long bow which is drawn from Christ taking up a piece of bread to symbolise his soon to be broken body to understanding that, for instance, we are to reverence the bread of communion outside of a communion service, build a tabernacle to house that bread, let alone make claims about worship Christ in the bread in such a manner that we make the loaf more important than the Scripture which convey the bread of Christ's words.

Further, some, or at least I myself, understand John 6 not to be primarily a theology of the real presence of Christ in the eucharistic bread, but a critique of such a theology! John 6 teaches that Christ is the bread of life: he himself nourishes us, principally through our union with Christ and not through eucharistic consumption.

Peter Carrell said...

Re your 10.06 comment, Ron,

'The Word became text and is read among us' may not be written into Scripture, but it is nevertheless true (as Shawn wisely points out above, and well subscribed to by orthodox churches).

Father Ron Smith said...

I guess, Peter, that's the difference between a Calivnistic Reformation understanding, and a Catholic and Apostolic Reformed Anglican understanding.

I think even you will agree that amongst the Christians in the world, there may be more who believe in the 'Real Presence' of Christ in the Eucharist, than those who just look upon it a 'a piece of bread' (i.e.: without the validity of Christ's Presence). Maybe not?

MichaelA said...

"So you, Michael, are completely unaware that Baptism is actually the experience of Being Born Again!"

Err no, Father Ron, actually I am completely aware that it isn't! Is there a relationship between the two terms? Of course. But are they the same thing? Obviously not. There is a reason why the Apostles and theologians through the ages have used different terms.

"I find this quite deficient in any proper understanding of the words of Scripture."

I have no idea to what you are referring.

"True Anglican, Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians are fully aware that the Sacrament of Baptism is more about what God is doing than anything we might contribute."

Excellent, then that makes me True Anglican, Roman Catholic and Orthodox!

"One is quite aware of 'Baptism in The Spirit' ...etc"

Sorry, Father Ron, but I just have no idea how this section relates to what I wrote.

MichaelA said...

"It implies respect for the provenance of the Scriptures - but falling short of worship."

I found this aspect of the discussion (not just in Father Ron's posts) rather bizarre reading - I don't think I have ever met a Christian who 'worships' the Scriptures. However, I have met an awful lot who have trouble *obeying* them (myself included).

It all just seems a sterile discussion when the real issue is whether we are prepared to follow Christ's teaching when it is not convenient to do so.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
Unless you subscribe to a rather narrow understanding of Aristotelion metaphysics, the Eucharistic bread remains bread whatever view a Real Presence, or Calvinist, or Zwinglian, or Elizabeth the First Anglican holds as to the relationship between the bread and Christ's body.

Ergo, please do not prejudge my own view when I deliberately said I was not going to explicate it!

Father Ron Smith said...

And, Peter; please do not take me to be a fool. Of course the bread of the Eucharist remains bread! Catholic theology, though, tells me, that - after the consecration - that 'bread' is coterminously the Body of Christ. What some theologians (including me) call 'consubstantiation' - together with the bread: the Body of Christ.

I do have a problem with the Roman Catholic traditional term 'trans-substantiation'. But that's me - an Anglican Reformed Catholic.

For me, to consider that the Bread of the Eucharist does not contain the essence of the Body of Christ, would actually deny centuries of orthodox Christian tradition. There would be little point in God's people celebrating the Eucharist if Christ were not 'truly' present.

"Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is REAL FOOD and my blood is REAL DRINK. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in"
(John 6:24-26)

I am quite amazed that people who say they believe in every word of the Scriptures seem to have lost sight of this Dominical injunction.

From the above, one can see how devotees of Christ in the Eucharist might justifiably claim to be 'en Christo' This is Christ's promise!.

Peter Carrell said...

I am not at all taking you for a 'fool', Ron!

You are an eloquent advocate for a respected and respectable theology of the eucharist.

My disagreements here are not of the "I'm right, you are wrong, end of story" kind. Rather, of the "the mysteries are indeed a mystery, how deeply may we penetrate them within the confines of finite language" kind.

My point about bread remaining bread is not to deny the true presence of Christ in communion (while seeking, at least for the moment, to avoid defining what that true or real presence might be) but to raise the question of where faith in Christ connects with the bread and its reception.

If Christ is present in the bread at communion, is it a permanent presence (I suspect not; leftover bread left in the vestry does not contain the presence of Christ, not least because no one is present with faith to apprehend the presence of Christ; and the more so if we deny that the substance of the bread has changed)?

I understand Anglican eucharistic theology, even with its differences, to remain committed to the importance of the aspect of 'reception': the bread is the body of Christ to those who by faith receive it to be so.

The text you quote from John's gospel is tremendously important. But what was John saying about the eucharist? Why did he not explicitly connect this teaching with the institution of the Lord's supper (otherwise absent from his gospel) and why did he connect it with the feeding of the 5000? I suggest that what you cite from John's Gospel is a text which points us towards the importance of union with Christ (whether or not enhanced through the eucharist) and less to the importance of bread and wine made the body and blood of Christ. That union, of course, is open (in John's theological vision) to every believer, irrespective of whether a priest had presided over the elements.

Father Ron Smith said...

I'm intrigued, Peter, that you will allow generous 'nuance' in the interpretation of the Scriptures I have quoted and yet, as a 'sola scriptura' Christian, you are less prone to 'nuance' in other parts of Scripture - that do not support your own views (e.g.Matthew 19:11-12 - re eunuchs).

Your remark about the universal catholic theology of 'Eucharistic Reservation' - when most Anglican Cathedrals (& every R.C. Cathedral) holds the Blessed Sacrament in a pyx or aumbry for the purpose of communicating the Sick or disabled in their homes or hospital beds - is, to my mind, a very 'low church' impoverished understanding of the grace and power of Christ in the Eucharist.'Extended Communion' is actually a well-known practice.

One of my tasks in the parish of Upper Clutha, a some-time P.i.C., was to - with the permission of the Bishop - install an aumbry in two of the churches for the express purpose of the laity taking the Sacrament to the Sick - as an extension of the Eucharistic Celebration. This is a very common practice in Churches of our denomination - except, perhaps in parts of Christchurch - and, I guess, most of the Sydney Diocese.

I'm amazed you haven't heard of it.

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, just to let you in on my coherence with Anglican tradition; this morning at Daily Mass at Saint Michael's, we celebrated the memory of Thomas Cranmer, Martyred English Archbishop, whose compilation of the Prayer Book was a mile-stone in the understanding of the Scriptures for unlettered people - like myself. We have cause to be grateful for his provenance. Deo gratias!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
Yes, Cranmer is definitely worth a Mass! (Just remembrance at Morning Prayer from me, I'm afraid).

Of course I know of reserved sacrament, extended communion, why, I have even digested it!

The reserved sacrament could be venerated (because it is the body of Christ) but that is neither to my taste nor to my theology. The reserved sacrament is bread and wine consecrated for use on another occasion which is an extension of the communion of one congregation to another (albeit the congregation consist of two person, the sick and the distributor!). On the occasion of such distribution the faith of the recipient means that the mysteries are duly honoured, Christ is received and so forth.

But while the reserved sacrament lies in the vestry, whether in a box dignified with a special name or in a plastic container, the reserved sacrament is not the body of Christ in the sense that (for example) by popping into the vestry to collect the laundry, one is closer to Christ's 'real presence' than if one were out in the cemetery mowing the grass between the graves.

As for generous nuance: sometimes Scripture admits of that possibility, sometimes it does not. If Christ had said, for instance, 'This bread is a token of my body', I don't think there would be much room for nuance!

Father Ron Smith said...

"the reserved sacrament is not the body of Christ in the sense that (for example) by popping into the vestry to collect the laundry, one is closer to Christ's 'real presence' than if one were out in the cemetery mowing the grass between the graves."

- Dr. Peter Carrell -

As you will by now be perfectly aware, Peter, I, and many millions of Catholic and Orthodox Christians would profoundly disagree with you on this point.

In such Anglican, Roman Catho0lic and Orthodoz (by far the majority of Christians in the world) churches - where the Blessed Sacrament is 'Reserved' - it is not 'left in the vestry' but rather given a place of prominence in the sanctuary or side-chapel provided for the specific purpose of easily providing that Presence of Christ' in Whose company one can pray and contemplate the divine reality.

In churches where there is no such 'Presence', Catholic and Orthodox Christians may feel an 'absence' that deprives them of the comfort that can be spiritually available in such an authorised provision.

Of course, if one is not used to this tradition, the Sacramental Eucharistic Presence may be considered of no spiritual value.

I do not criticise anyone for this.
I merely am sad that they have no access to what many generations of Christians have long perceived to be a legitimate source of devotion.

"There, we, before Him bending, this great Sacrament revere".

Peter Carrell said...

It is a novelty, as you know Ron, within the reformed Church of England, for the sacrament to be reverenced, whether or not millions of others are doing so.

Father Ron Smith said...

Yes, Peter, the understanding of the Reserved Sacrament can be considered a 'novelty - for those who have never been exposed to it - in N.Z. for instance. However, from my own roots, in the Church of England, it has been a reality for at least 150 years. This is the reformed, reformed tradition of the Church of England - very novel to those more than 150 years old! I'm not there yet.

Anonymous said...

I have followed this antipodian Colloquy of Christchurch with interest..and wondered if either of you had read The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Anglican Tradition by H R McAdoo and Kenneth Stevenson Canterbury Press 1995 very helpful but it seems to have been hardly noticed ot reviewed..Perry ( Canterbury UK)#

liturgy said...

Easter Season Greetings!

We would both know, I suspect, and in my case I certainly know, Godly people whose intimacy with Christ is intimately tied to deep prayer in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament reserved. God has a variety of ways through which he can draw us to intimacy with Him, and reverence for the Blessed Sacrament is certainly one that has been with the church for a very long time, and across much of Christianity currently.

I think, Peter, you are encircling your point carefully, but I think it is also worth picking up part of your point to see that it is not stretched too far:

“But while the reserved sacrament lies in the vestry, whether in a box dignified with a special name or in a plastic container, the reserved sacrament is not the body of Christ in the sense that (for example) by popping into the vestry to collect the laundry, one is closer to Christ's 'real presence' than if one were out in the cemetery mowing the grass between the graves.”

Receptionism is a model with very good pedigree (“…the faith of the recipient means that the mysteries are duly honoured, Christ is received and so forth…”) but it can be complemented by other models. In our denomination, as you know, we have agreements of practice that guard the piety of a variety of models.

Your section I quoted can be read towards a parodying perspective. Classically, within the Real Presence model, “Christ is not in the sacrament as in a place and is not moved when the sacrament is moved”. I do not think that those sitting in the back of a church where the Sacrament is reserved perceive themselves as further from Christ to those sitting in the front.

One could make a similar caricature of the Bible. I hold to the Bible as the Word of God. But one can over-intellectualise this: Is it the Word of God if it is poorly translated? (All translations have limitations!) Is it the Word of God if it is in the original language but there is a single error somewhere in the book? Is a page open of the Bible, the Word of God? If so – how many words need to be present on the page for it to be the Word of God? Is it the Word of God when the Bible is closed? Is it only the Word of God when it is read? When it is read with faith and the Holy Spirit by a Christian? Or in the Christian community? What if it is misunderstood?

I would be the last to mock someone who has the Bible placed (open or closed; whatever the version) giving it pride of place with flowers and/or a candle and/or icon in their room – as a sign and expression and extension of their devotion and living of the Bible as God’s Word to them day by day.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

Bosco

Anonymous said...

"Receptionism is a model with very good pedigree (“…the faith of the recipient means that the mysteries are duly honoured, Christ is received and so forth…”) but it can be complemented by other models. In our denomination, as you know, we have agreements of practice that guard the piety of a variety of models"

Bosco, one "can" do anything with "models" if one pleases, and the chief goal is to "get along" with others and not upset their piety (however soundly this is based), but the only question that matters is: is this "model" actually true? Reformed Anglicanism from Cranmer's time, and very explicitly in the 39 Articles, has always denied a localised presence of the body and bloood of Christ in the bread and wine, apart from faithful reception. One can ask the same questions, mutatis mutandis, which you do about the Bible (e.g., if mice or birds eat the elements, do they eat 'the Body of Christ'? - a serious question in some quarters!), to which I reply: Not unless they have believing faith, which I consider fairly unlikely, notwithstanding the avian sermons of St Francis of Assisi. None of this means that unused elements should be treated with disdain or indifference, anymore than I would casually discard pictures of my late mother. The bread and the wine have become holy symbols and should be respected as such. But "reserving" them or displaying them was never a part of apostolic worship, and this was Cranmer's point. At some point in the Middle Ages, scholastic theology followed through the logic of transubstantiation (whether or not it used this word) and this is the theological foundation for Reservation, Benediction in monstrance, Processions etc. All of which drew the Reformers' protest that bread and wine are for consuming, not contemplating.
All of which means you can't escape defining what you mean by 'real' when you talk about 'Real Presence'. 'res' had a specific meaning in scholastic theology that is often misunderstood today.

Martin

Peter Carrell said...

Helpful insights, thank you, Bosco!

I do not (of course) wish to caricature any Christian devotion.

Father Ron Smith said...

"Reformed Anglicanism from Cranmer's time, and very explicitly in the 39 Articles, has always denied a localised presence of the body and bloood of Christ in the bread and wine, apart from faithful reception."

- Martin -

Precisely! And that is one of the reasons modern Anglicans no longer refer to the 39 Artifacts as the 'basis of our faith'. Understanding - of the Church and the world - has moved on from Cranmer.
"Semper Reformanda!"

"Christ is RISEN from the dead". He is no longer in the tomb. Alleluia!

Shawn Herles said...

"Precisely! And that is one of the reasons modern Anglicans no longer refer to the 39 Artifacts"

Actually, only some, and I suspect a minority, have actually rejected Cranmer and the 39 Articles. Most Anglicans today do not, and most do not believe in any kind of localised presence via con or transubtantiantion.

A purely localised presence is contrary to Scripture, to reason, to the Anglican tradition, and to the principles of the Reformation. Luther himself rejected a localised presence is favour of Sacramental Union (and not Consubstantiation as is sometimes claimed).

The Word is present where two or three are gathered in His name. That is all we need to know.

While reserving the sacrament for the sick and the elderly is fine, the veneration of the elements is at total odds with Anglican tradition and the teaching of Scripture, and I believe, a form of idolatry.

Anonymous said...

"Actually, only some, and I suspect a minority, have actually rejected Cranmer and the 39 Articles. Most Anglicans today do not, and most do not believe in any kind of localised presence via con or transubtantiantion."

That certainly fits in with my experience, tho' I confess I don't have any direct experience of the places where the great majority of "modern Anglicans" live, viz. Nigeria, Uganda, and Kenya. I have met numerous Anglican clergy from these country and not one (I am sure) believes in localised presence via con- or transubstantiation. Not that I believe that truth is decided by a majority vote, either. "The whole earth groaned to discover it was Arian" - a crisis that rumbled on for centuries after Nicea.
Martin

liturgy said...

Easter Season Greetings

Yes, producing and using icons, praying in the presence of the Sacrament reserved, using a candle to focus in prayer, and placing the Bible in a significant position are all obviously idolatry, and the church is dying in the West because bishops are not condemning such practices and removing the licenses from clergy who allow such idolatry in church-financed contexts.

Let’s also ignore my point that a purely localised presence of Christ in the Sacrament is contrary both to classical theological understanding and actual devotional practice.

Let’s ignore that many encounter Christ’s presence in a variety of ways: nature, God’s creation, where two or more are gathered in His name, when reading the Scriptures alone or together, in sacramental actions, in worship alone or together, in heaven seated at the right hand of the Father, in love, in marriage … and let’s reduce Christ’s presence down to just one.

But what I really don’t understand - why isn’t anyone even attempting to answer my questions: Is the Bible the Word of God if it is poorly translated? (All translations have limitations!) Is it the Word of God if it is in the original language but there is a single error somewhere in the book? Is a page open of the Bible, the Word of God? If so – how many words need to be present on the page for it to be the Word of God? Is it the Word of God when the Bible is closed? Is it only the Word of God when it is read? When it is read with faith and the Holy Spirit by a Christian? Or in the Christian community? What if it is misunderstood?

Christ is Risen!

Bosco

Father Ron Smith said...

I do realise of course that many so-called 'Protestants' apparently do not believe that Christ is present in the Eucharist.

However, as a catholic Anglican - along with all other catholic Anglicans who believe according to the Catholic and Apostolic Faith of the Church - and every Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian - we have inherited this orthodoxy from our roots in Christendom.

I also realise that many Christians have no tradition in this matter, and therefore cannot be expected to actually believe that what Jesus said about the Eucharist Himself is actually true.

This is probably why they are unable to understand the healing power of the Eucharist that Jesus instituted with the words (recorded in Scripture): "This IS My Body; This IS My Blood". Do this to remember Me! - An invitation to share in His Incarnate Life while here on earth!

Christ is Risen, Alleluia!
He is Risen indeed, Alleluia, Alleluia!

Father Ron Smith said...

". I have met numerous Anglican clergy from these country (sic) and not one (I am sure) believes in localised presence via con- or transubstantiation." - Martin -

Could this be, Martin, because you do not choose to meet with the sort of catholic Anglicans that I meet with?

I guess such understandings are pretty subjective - for all of us.

I was recently in the company, in Aotearoa/New Zealand, with a recent Archbishop of Canterbury who is not only aware of the "Presence of Christ in the Eucharist", he once - as ABC - led a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady at Lourdes. This is one of the signs of catholicity that I, and many other Anglicans can relate to.

The number of clergy in N.Z. now required make an oath of specific 'obedience' to the 39 Artifacts is nil - as far as I know, However, I cannot be sure about ordinations in the Nelson Diocese. They seem to have a direct filial connection with the Sydney Diocese - for whom this may be a canonical requirement.

Shawn Herles said...

Hi Ron,

"I do realise of course that many so-called 'Protestants' apparently do not believe that Christ is present in the Eucharist."

Rubbish. Did you actually read what Martin and I wrote?

I am clearly saying that Christ IS present. The "mechanics" as to HOW He is present are not important to me.

For what it is worth I take the Reformed Protestant approach that He is present spiritually. Real Spiritual Presence is STILL presence.

"and therefore cannot be expected to actually believe that what Jesus said about the Eucharist Himself is actually true."

Jesus did not say what you claim. Jesus also says He is the bread of Life and the True Vine. Am I to take it that therefore He is a loaf of bread and a vine? At the same time?

"he once - as ABC - led a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady at Lourdes. "

Praying to mere human beings is forbidden by Scripture, thus is idolatry.

Semper Reformanda means bringing the Church back to the Word of God and to true Biblical religion, not to take it back to medieval Roman paganism.

Shawn Herles said...

"The number of clergy in N.Z. now required make an oath of specific 'obedience' to the 39 Artifacts is nil"

Not true. The 39 Articles may not be specifically referenced in the oath, but the oath is to the whole body of NZ Anglican teaching, and the 39 Articles are explicitly stated as being part of that heritage.

Now that said, I am perfectly happy to co-exist in the same church with Anglo-Catholics even if I have some strong disagreements with aspects of their theology.

And it should be noted that there are many High Churchmen and women who have a high understanding of liturgy and sacrament but do not venerate the elements or pray to saints, so Anglo-Catholics do not have a monopoly on what "Anglican and catholic" might mean.

What I DO object to is being told that I am not truly Anglican or catholic if I do not share the specific beliefs of Anglo-Catholics, or that I do not believe that Jesus is present in the celebration of the Eucharist unless I believe in either con or tran substantiation.

As I said, and you somehow managed to overlook, Sacramental Union is the Protestant Lutheran doctrine which affirms real presence without affirming an exclusively localised presence.

And Orthodox Calvinists believe in real spiritual presence.

Thus your claims that all Protestants reject the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, or that we are ignoring what Jesus Himself said, is totally wrong.

Shawn Herles said...

Hi Bosco,

Please, please, if I have misunderstood your post in any way, it is not intentional, and I am honestly trying to respond fairly. If I get anything badly wrong tell me, and I will happily retract the statement.

"Yes, producing and using icons, praying in the presence of the Sacrament reserved, using a candle to focus in prayer, and placing the Bible in a significant position are all obviously idolatry, and the church is dying in the West because bishops are not condemning such practices and removing the licenses from clergy who allow such idolatry in church-financed contexts."

Well I have not said anything remotely like that, I think. However, speaking solely for myself that is not the case, and I may be getting my wires crossed here with your conversation with Martin. It is sometimes hard to keep up with who said what to whom, especially on a multi-thread blog.

My wife is a very good traditional icon painter by the way. After all, as Calvin said, the whole world is an icon of God's glory.

"But what I really don’t understand - why isn’t anyone even attempting to answer my questions"

Time perhaps? Also sometimes following two or three conversations means (again speaking solely for myself) that I don't always catch every post.

That said, I am happy to have a go.

"Is the Bible the Word of God if it is poorly translated?"

It would depend on how poorly, but certainly if the actual meaning of entire chapters and books was so distorted by a seriously bad translation than I would say no.

"Is it the Word of God if it is in the original language but there is a single error somewhere in the book?"

Yes. A single error would make no difference.

"Is a page open of the Bible, the Word of God?"

Yes.

"If so – how many words need to be present on the page for it to be the Word of God?"

Enough to make a coherent sentence, or at least a coherent part of a sentence.

Let me attempt an explanation. If I say the word "and" on it's own, it means nothing as a statement. But, if I say "Bobby and Sally sitting in a tree, K.I.S.S.I.N.G" then the single word "and" acquires meaning in the overall sentence.

Thus when Scripture makes a coherent statement or proclamation, whether literal or metaphorical, whether through part of a sentence, a whole sentence, or a paragraph, then that is the Word of God.

"Is it the Word of God when the Bible is closed?"

Yes, because the meaning and proclamation remain.

"Is it only the Word of God when it is read?"

No, for the same reason mentioned, because the meaning and proclamation remain.

"When it is read with faith and the Holy Spirit by a Christian?" Or in the Christian community?"

Yes, but I would say it remains the objective Word of God regardless of who reads it and regardless of their faith or lack of it.

"What if it is misunderstood?"

It still remains the Word of God even if misunderstood, because the objective meaning remains true.

If you don't find that a satisfactory explanation, or would like more fully fleshed out answers to some questions, I would be happy to try again.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Shawn,
In publishing Ron's comment above I took his assertion at face value: neither critiquing 'all' Protestants, nor specifying any particular Protestants in his statement (e.g. yourself and Martin). If I had thought either was the case I would not have published the comment. His statement is still objectionable (I cannot think of any Protestants who think Jesus is not present in the eucharist).

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
Please take greater care with your assertions about Protestants. You drive a wedge between them and the apostolic and orthodox Catholic Anglicans, Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox. Might I remind you that in the reality of eucharistic understanding (at least perceptions thereof) neither Roman Catholics nor Eastern Orthodox officially and routinely welcome any Anglican of any adjectival description to communion.

I would also remind you of the singular contribution to the understanding of the eucharist which Protestant greats, such as Calvin, Luther and Cranmer have made to the understanding of the eucharist. Personally I also laud Zwingli as a contributor to our understanding but I am not expecting you to stretch your theological tolerance to agree on that one. But might you acknowledge that on the eucharist, Calvin, Luther and Cranmer were good theologians, pressing out the reasonable diversity of how we who follow Christ might understand the eucharist?

Paul Powers said...

"I cannot think of any Protestants who think Jesus is not present in the eucharist."

Actually, there are a number of Protestant denominations in the U.S. (most notably the Southern Baptists) that hold that the Lord's Supper is purely commemorative. I suspect that this position is very rare among Anglicans.

Peter Carrell said...

But, Paul, when 'commemorative' Protestants hold a eucharist, do they think Jesus is with them, present among them?

liturgy said...

Thanks, Shawn.

We appear to be on the same page in your description about the Bible. My point was, as I hope was obvious, that your responses are a model of what for many is the reality in the understanding of the Eucharist. I respect that this may not be a way of meeting Christ for you currently, just as others struggle to encounter Christ in an icon. I think there is a great deal of value in the old maxim – all may, some should, none must.

Christ is Risen!

Bosco

Paul Powers said...

Peter, I'm sure they believe Jesus is present among them ("Whenever two or three are gathered together in my name, I will be in the midst of them"), but they don't believe that he is "more present" in the bread and wine/grape juice, or that he is "more present" at services with communion than without.

This, by the way, isn't my view, which is closer to Article XVIII.

Shawn Herles said...

Hi Bosco,

Yes, I understand your point here. I would point out that while it Is not consistent with my own theology I nevertheless understand it and I understand that many find in the spirituality of a localised "literal" Presence a powerful way to experience Christ. And as I said I am happy to be in communion with those who believe and practice this particular interpretation of the Eucharist.

My primary objection was to the claim being made by one commentator that this view is the only true "catholic" view, the only view that affirms Christ's presence, and the mainstream Anglican position. None of those claims are true imo. The implication of those claims is that those of us who take a Reformed Anglican view are somehow bereft of the experience of Christ on the Eucharist, or are not really catholic in the broad sense of that term, or are ignoring what Jesus said at the last supper.

At the end of the day for me Christ is present fully and really in the celebration of the Eucharist and the partaking of Communion. The exact mechanics as to how and the various theological interpretations are not overly important to me.

liturgy said...

Once again, Shawn, we are on the same page! I have been eschewing "localised", and I am not sure what to make of "literal" Presence, but at the end of the day for me Christ is present fully and really in the celebration of the Eucharist and the partaking of Communion. The exact mechanics as to how and the various theological interpretations are not overly important to me.

Christ is risen!

Bosco