Saturday, March 5, 2016

First and Second Order Issues

Anglican Taonga reports on an announcement Bishop Victoria has made to the Diocese of Christchurch. She has invited Prof. Chris Marshall to speak in the Diocese on Friday evening 1 April 2016:

"Dear friends,

I am delighted to announce we have Professor Chris Marshall coming to St Christopher’s Church, Avonhead,  on 1 April at 7-9 pm to address how, in reading Scripture, we determine what constitutes a first and second order of doctrine.  This question has been raised with respect to the A Way Forward report which references first and second order doctrinal questions.  Professor Marshall will give a 45-60 address and then entertain questions.  Afterwards there will be opportunity to speak with him also over tea and coffee.

Prof Marshall is not addressing the blessing of same sex relationships but rather the theological foundations of how we read and learn from Scripture.  Chris is well known as an outstanding teacher.  He presently holds the Diana Unwin Chair in Restorative Justice at Victoria University although his doctoral work and early teaching appointments at the tertiary level were in the Department of Biblical Studies.  He was enormously appreciated as a speaker at the Anglican Schools Conference in Christchurch last year.

I look forward too seeing many of you at St Christopher’s, Avonhead, on 1 April.

In Christ,


Father Ron Smith said...

" He presently holds the Diana Unwin Chair in Restorative Justice at Victoria University" - Bishop Victoria.

I must say, this sounds promising. It looks as though we'll get a real academic theologian's understanding of what is actually basic Christian Doctrine, and what is merely adiaphoral, in terms of Gospel justice.

Jonathan said...

For those who can't make it, it would be wonderful if a summary of his address could be posted...sounds like a most worthwhile topic, and one on which there will be varying viewpoints!

Bryden Black said...

Well Peter; since I have a first order paternal duty the following day after this meeting is due to happen (with our son’s wedding), I guess I shall have to fire a salvo here first.

Let’s not get all fogged up and discombobulated about what is and what is not first and/or second order, creedal or non-creedal (cf. The St Michael Report, 2005). The history of such debates reveals things can be really rather tetchy ...

I have only one basic question - and basic in the true sense of that word - of Chris Marshall, which I sense cuts to the chase: what is human nature? And is the answer to that question a first order or second order matter - given the Incarnational Reality of the Christian Faith? And thereafter, to try to construe the most basic relationship amongst humans as second order - i.e. marriage - is quite simply evasion of the first order!

I would ask you to recall a segment of my post 25 Feb 2016, under A Way Forward to GS 2016:

At root I believe is the [historical] shift from viewing human being as a creature, made in the Image of God sub specie aeternitatis, therefore both endowed with great dignity and charged with glorifying the Creator , to viewing humans as self-positing autonomous personal subjects. Now, the latter simply could not have arisen without the former. For at root too are the notions of Ultimate Reality as Trinitarian and Christology, which are the bedrock of the social imagination. However, this modern view is not a direct descendant; it is more a bastard step-child. And people like Mahathir, former prime minister of Malaysia, with his claim that such things as ‘civil rights’ are a social construct of western culture, are both right and yet also wrong. The contemporary perception of human rights, despite the original use of the word “God” in the first drafts of the UN Declaration post WW2, are entirely secular, with any theistic notion long forgotten [- let alone a fully blown Trinitarian appreciation].

One can point out that the Nicene Creed and/or Chalcedon does not address much of this directly - but so what? Their questions were not immediately ours. However, their answers have direct and vital consequences upon how our own questions are both addressed and answered, given what I have written above. And so, to conclude as does The St Michael Report that, while being doctrinal (and so covered by the extra majority rules of their Province), a theology of marriage is not creedal/credal, forces a distinction which lawyers customarily term “nice”. It might satisfy the current canon lawyers of Canada (or it might not! See now the HOB report @, but it simply evades the real theological nub of the matter. Relegating therefore our present ‘dilemmas’ to some “second-order” status will only prevaricate and provoke; it will actually solve nothing.

Peter Carrell said...

Another way to tease out the matter, Bryden, could be to use the word "indifferent" (adiaphora) and ask:
- can the church be indifferent to the situation of change in social mores in the West? (No, IMHO)
- is marriage or blessing a matter on which the church can be indifferent to changes pressed by state or society? (No, IMHO)
- if, in answer to either or both the above questions, the church experiences sharp disagreement, heading towards division, can it be indifferent to itself and the probability of division? (No, IMHO)

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
Thanks for posting a comment here but I cannot publish it as it involves a critique of a person and not engagement with the issue at hand.
I will gladly post a comment from you that focuses on the issue at hand.

Father Ron Smith said...

It may interest readers of this blog to realise that our own Bishop Victoria Matthews had something to do with the original St. Michael's Report on Human Sexuality while a bishop in the Canadian Anglican Church. Also, I believe Bishop Victoria has given a talk on Christian Marriage to a Session of the Standing Committee of our General Synod.
Perhaps our Host, Peter, might be able to produce some material.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I don't know anything about a presentation to GSSC but anything Bishop Victoria has presented which is public in NZ is likely to be found at Taonga. The St Michael's report is easily find via Auntie Google.