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.
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: