Thursday, March 24, 2016

Reading for the Weekend

I may add to the following links to articles which may be of Anglican interest at this time (e.g. in the run up to ACC at Lusaka, as well as Easter):

ADDED ON HOLY SATURDAY

We might not expect the Communist Party of Britain to publish a thoughtful article about the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, but they have, and readable it is too.

What happened on the cross? Atonement, that's what. But what is atonement? Josh Taylor guides us to the considered thinking of a group of theologians on a bunch of theories.

Oh, and for those concerned about my feelings about the loss of the referendum on changing the NZ flag, or just generally interested, then Steve Braunias, as per usual, has a great Diary post.

ADDED ON GOOD FRIDAY (though not necessarily related to Good Friday)

A report from a Diocese of South Carolina taskforce re affiliation for that diocese. Spoiler Alert: here is a key sentence, " Because GAFCON and the Global South recognize the ACNA, our best opportunity to have an influence in the wider Anglican Communion is also from within this province."

A review of the film Risen - posted by Bosco Peters

A superb poem by NZ's greatest poet (and greatest Christian poet), posted by Bishop Kelvin Wright - and this does have a lot to do with Good Friday!

Catholicity and Covenant reminds us of Cranmer's superb rendering of an ancient Good Friday collect:




Giles Fraser has written a Good Friday column both poignant and provocative.

ORIGINAL LINKS

TEC PB Easter Message

++Peter Jensen on Communion

Wesley Hill on True Fulfilment

Thinking Anglicans Links re Lusaka (noting especially links to a letter by ++Justin to boycotting churches and response by ++Eliud of Kenya)

50 comments:

Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Peter, I began to read this article with an unexpected agreement with the writer, Peter Jensen - even though I was not disposed to, but simply because you had put it in your blog for us all to read. I found the appeal for unity in the Church - in the first few paragraphs - to be quite compelling, and in accord with my own catholic understanding.

And then, suddenly, amazingly, on this Holy Thursday, when one of the antiphons for today's Mass, with its Foot-Washing ceremony, reminds us all of the need to respect and love one another; I came across this departure from the eirenic outer message:

"The answer is simple:

First, since the teaching of Scripture is that the practice of homosexuality is a sin, the novel activity is an assault on the authority of Scripture. Who is in charge of God’s church?"

Clearly, the some-time Chair of GAFCON, who has been behind some of the movement towards separatism in the Church, on the basis of an ideal of 'purity', is using the language of the Bible to cloak his own disinclination to obey the call of Jesus, "Friend of Sinners", to maintain the Unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace (and love).

I'm deeply sorry you felt the need to share this item during Holy Week.

"Where charity and love are, there is God."

Jeuy, mercy, Mary, Pray

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
It is Holy Week but it is also a busy week in the life of the Communion with public letters etc. I offer links to articles in a list such as this to keep before readers (should they choose to read) the variety in our life as Anglicans.

Brian Kelly said...

Glad to hear that the Crosses of those great Christian Saints and Martyrs will continue to fly alongside the Cross of the southern heavens.

A Blessed Pascha to you all.

Anonymous said...

Peter, news is news, and to some down under, something Peter Jensen says might have a certain human interest, just as some here up yonder might pay attention to a comment from Katharine Jefferts Schori. But personally I wish both retired prelates every blessing as they prepare to meet their Judge, and took the substance of Jensen's remarks somewhat as Father Ron did.

Maundy Thursday (from Latin "mandamus") is after all the day on which we recall the new commandment "that you love each other." Read in its context, the commandment corrects both the moral error that the deepest love between persons is sexual (as we also see in your link to Wesley Hill), and the ecclesiological error that eternal separation from Christ is a disease that even the faithful can catch from others by contagion. Communion-- and the proper authority of the rule of faith and scripture-- flourishes where teachers of both errors are anathema.

Bowman Walton


Peter Carrell said...

Apparently Brian out flag is like Aspects of the Anglican Church ... Locked in the past and resistant to change!
But, he says with forced grace, Pascha greetings to all on both sides of the debate :)

Brian Kelly said...

Saints Andrew, George and Patrick will never be locked in the past to me: they are part of that great cloud of witnesses that surrounds us in our earthly pilgrimage.
But resistance to change when change means error: Yes! Stand firm.

Proud to be Kiwi, proud to be British, humbled to belong to the unshakable Kingdom.

Father Ron Smith said...

Good Friday - a day when we remember some words of Jesus about today's sacred commemoration: "I, when I be lifted up, will draw ALL people to myself" -i.e., not some, not the pure and holy, but All, ALL people.

Peter Carrell said...

There are saints of the Southern Cross, Brian, who can be likened to leaves on the one silver fern of God' Own Country!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
Jesus draws all to himself, but not all come.
Judas in the end held back from true embrace of the One who loved him.
I also fail to see how suicide bombers, intentionally killing fellow human beings, without discrimination re men/women/children, are doing anything but resisting the loving embrace of the God who through Jesus draws all to himself.

Pageantmaster said...

So, Wonder Woman's knickers are not going to be hoisted up your flagpoles?

Ah well, at least you will fight on under the crosses of Christ and his Apostles.

Good Friday dawns, and the cross is more imminent than ever. Blessings for this Eastertide and gratitude for the love that does not count the cost but conquers all.

Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Peter, I don't think you take my quotation quite far enough. Yes, there is a need for a positive response. However, that does not prevent the positivity of the invitation of Jesus: to ALL. Maybe, just maybe, we, who know the power of jesus' embrace, may be putting people off any response by placing conditions that Jesus might not, himself, be privy to. Anyway. Good to see you on Holy Thursday. May you enjoy the Pasch.

Peter Carrell said...

There is indeed, Ron, an ever present danger of Christians putting off people coming to Christ.
I do understand that!
Paschal blessings in the spirit of last night's lovely service,
P

Anonymous said...

Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all [people] to myself. ~ St John 12:31-32 ESV.

νῦν κρίσις ἐστὶν τοῦ κόσμου τούτου, νῦν ὁ ἄρχων τοῦ κόσμου τούτου ἐκβληθήσεται ἔξω· κἀγὼ ἐὰν ὑψωθῶ ἐκ τῆς γῆς, πάντας ἑλκύσω πρὸς ἐμαυτόν. ~ St John 12:31-32.

http://biblehub.com/text/john/12-32.htm

Please note that the translators have supplied the word in brackets. Others would instead supply the word "things," having in mind several passages such as this one--

For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. ~ Colossians 1:19-20

--and this one--

That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: ~ Ephesians 1:10

--and also Jesus's testimony elsewhere in the Fourth Gospel about who is "drawn" to him--

No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. ~ St John 6:44-45

Because God means to reconcile the entire creation to himself, Jesus may be saying in St John 12:31-32 that his death will break the spell of evil in the cosmos and subject all things to his rule.

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman and Ron
It is indeed apposite on Good Friday to consider the full implications of the cross (as graciously revealed to us in the scriptures).
God is in the business of reconciling all things, including people.
But what does this mean in respect of people, when some texts lead some theologians to understand salvation as universal and other texts lead most theologians and most Christians to think salvation is limited (i.e. those who believe in the Lord Jesus will be saved and, at best, we can only be uncertain about the salvation of those who do not believe)?
For me I accept God is Sovereign and if that means Hitler, Pol Pot and Genghis Khan walk through the door of judgement with me, then so be it. But I cannot see that such prospect is revealed in Scripture. Rather Scripture makes clear the duty of Christians to preach a gospel of faith and repentance, and a life of discipleship following conversion.
Even in John's Gospel there is a sizeable group of people who are not Jesus ' disciples, or walk away from following him without Jesus' running after them!

Brian Kelly said...

'pantas' is masc. accusative plural and naturally means 'men' ('people'). 'all things' would be 'panta'.
It is *impossible to read John's Gospel as teaching universalism. The message of judgment on unbelief is very strong. Liberal religionists preach 'another Jesus' of their imagination, not the Jesus of the Bible. Opinions are free - and worthless, especially when they amount to no more than self-preening virtue signalling ('I'm kinder than you, you bigot!').
The context of John 12.32 is the coming of 'Greeks' to seek Jesus, so the naturally meaning is that Jesus draws 'all kinds of people' to himself.

Father Ron Smith said...

re your lasst post, Peter;
I do sometimes wonder at the purpose of Jesus' descent into "Hell" - presumably the 'place of departed spirits' - maybe even the realm of 'paradise' to which Jesus invited the penitent thief? Could this have been a 'second chance', for the departed to recognise Jesus as the Son of God, and secure their redemption?

Could there, even then, have been an opportunity for ALL departed spirits to see the Crucified Christ and accept him as their Saviour and Redeemer? After all, it is said that some Orthodox Christians believe that even Judas will be included in the final redemption. Surely, this may not be beyond the power and will of an all-loving God?

Peter Carrell said...

It is God's prerogative to offer a second chance beyond the grave, Ron, but what has not actually been revealed definitively to us is that there IS a such a second chance.

At the very least the reason for no such revelation is that it would undoubtedly take the edge and urgency off our preaching in this age!

Anonymous said...

Father Ron, do you use a crotalus?

https://churchpop.com/2016/03/23/rarest-liturgical-objects-crotalus/

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Father Ron, Peter, and Brian for more or less paschal reflections on St John 12:31-32. Bible study-- why oh why don't we do this more often?

Much could be said for, against, and about universal reconciliation (UR). If it is the subject of an OP here someday, I may say a little of all three. With gratitude to Churchill, one might say about argument on this topic that it has not come to an end, nor even to the beginning of an end, but that it has perhaps come to the end of the beginning.

For now, we may best agree with Hans Urs von Balthasar that, although the salvation of every soul has not been revealed, neither has it been foreclosed by revelation, so that it is proper for the Church to both call for repentance now and pray to God for the eventual salvation of all.

http://www.ignatius.com/Products/DWH2-P/dare-we-hope-2nd-edition.aspx

It is an important topic for Anglican evangelicals seeking the historical origin of the distinction between *Anglicanism* and Reformed orthodoxy. It was openness to C17 *hypothetical universalism* (eg John Davenant, Article XXXI) that first isolated the Church of England from the churches of the Continental Reformed and the English Puritans who were embracing *limited atonement* and *double predestination*. By the later C19, an Anglican appealing with scrupulous care to scripture, reason, and tradition penned a classic of modern UR--

http://theologicalscribbles.blogspot.com/2015/07/thomas-allin-universalist-book-now.html

http://tentmaker.org/books/ChristTriumphant.htm

Those seriously interested in the contemporary theology of UR can do no better than to follow Fr Aidan Kimel's blog Eclectic Orthodoxy--

https://afkimel.wordpress.com/essential-readings-on-universalism/

Because Fr Kimel is a refugee from The Episcopal Church who writes today as an Orthodox priest, his theological interests have a truly ecumenical scope. His original thinking on preaching predestination as the gospel is particularly interesting. With respect to UR, he naturally emphasises Orthodox teaching, but does not neglect evangelical arguments such as those from Robin Parry (aka Gregory MacDonald), and Thomas Talbott.

https://wipfandstock.com/the-evangelical-universalist.html

http://wipfandstock.com/the-inescapable-love-of-god.html

https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2015/02/11/book-review-the-inescapable-love-of-god/

Readers on UR will soon discover that scriptural arguments on both sides appeal to rather subtle (re)definitions of a few Greek words, as we see here--

https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2013/09/15/from-here-to-eternity-how-long-is-forever/

To orient oneself for those arguments, it is best to *start* from a disinterested Greek lexicon of recognised excellence such as Liddell Scott Jones--

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/morph?l=pantas&la=greek#lexicon

Arguments on both sides are also based on their respective (re)visions of the Western medieval concept of hell--

http://zondervanacademic.com/products/four-views-on-hell

As with the *hypothetical universalism* of Article XXXI four centuries ago, the plausibility of the arguments about UR to any given person depends somewhat on her or his prior convictions about what scripture reveals about the shape of time and the character of God.

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Some food for thought at those links, Bowman!

Peter Carrell said...

A further thought, while working on readings for tomorrow, including 1 Corinthians 15:19-26.

v. 23 speaks of "in Christ all will be brought to life" (so far so universalistic) but goes on "Christ the firstfruits, and afterwards, at his coming, those who belong to Christ." (so far so limited, to those who "belong to Christ").

Not the last word, to be sure, but a salutary (!!) reminder of the general sense of the NT, that it matters whether we belong to Jesus Christ or not.

Brian Kelly said...

A bit surprised to see Robin Parry's name here as I knew him when I was involved on the committee of the Tyndale Fellowship and chatted about his work on Genesis 38. Still, non-conformity has always had an independent streak (which is why it keeps splitting).
Al Kimel's work I followed while he was still in Tec, then he left and flitted between Rome and the East. A great deal of personal sorrow in the family.

Christos aneste!

Jean said...

This is probably not all that theological of a comment on the universalism of salvation scripture, however, I shall share it anyway.

When wondering what 'the will of God was' because the bible says 'if you pray according to his will it will be done' I was advised by an older and wiser woman of faith that what was in the bible was God's will. At least I had one answer.

So I started to pray for a friend, okay you may call it argued with God on occassion, that He said in His word that He 'would draw all men to himself' therefore that included my friend. Against many odds the friend was drawn by God (definitely not by me); after two years he was baptised.

So while I agree with you Fr Ron in regards to 'when I am lifted up on high I will draw all men to myself'; I sense the one being drawn needs respond. It is Christ's being 'lifted up' his dying once for all which effectively bought salvation for all, the salvation secured for anyone who turns to receive it - for love offers free choice. In the case in question the friend's in order to respond included needed to turn from following another 'god'. For others there may differing stumbling blocks that 'set themselves up against the knowledge of God'

As for the many I know and love who do not follow Jesus, I can but say I do not know, and can only pray and trust God is more merciful than I.

Brian Kelly said...

A good rule of thumb is that if you have to use exegetical tergiversations to reach your conclusion "from the Bible", then it's almost certainly wrong. The Reformers codified the clear implication of the New Testament (written in koine for ordinary folk) that Scripture possesses 'claritas'.
Liberalism appears more honest or direct here. I can still recall Paul Oestreicher addressing a group in All Souls in London where he said flatly 'Nobody is in hell.' I went up to chat with him afterwards but didn't have the courage or the knowledge then to challenge his pronouncement.
Of course, a good sceptic can deny that Jesus ever said 'Fear him who can destroy both body and soul in Gehenna' and such like (and I have known those who do), but once you wield that excising knife, you never know what (or who) it will cut.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Peter, 1 Corinthians 15:19-26 is one of the Many Texts over which those for and against UR have argued.

Although each side has about half a dozen NT texts that seriously challenge the other, there are many more that are claimed by both. On those shared texts, the differences in interpretation often seem to arise from a contrast in their backstories of divine judgment-- those who find UR in the texts see Christ taking positive if sometimes purgative steps to transform every creature and reintegrate it into the New Jerusalem, whilst those who see the Final Separation (FS) of sheep and goats in the texts see him cleaning up the cosmic neighbourhood by getting rid of the riffraff.

"The general sense of the NT [is] that it matters whether we belong to Jesus Christ or not."

Both schools would agree with that, but for different reasons. For those who find FS in the Bible, belonging to Christ can be an end in itself, as well as a way of being in the safe pile after the great winnowing. For those who find UR there, belonging to Christ is likewise an end in itself, but also exhibits the future of all things to the rest of the creation.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

Brian, you keep good company! It seems from his OP at the link above that Robin Parry is an Anglican now. We should remember Fr Kimel in our prayers.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

Alithos anesti, Brian!

I hope that all here experience at least one Pascha in Greece.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

"A good rule of thumb is that if you have to use exegetical tergiversations to reach your conclusion "from the Bible", then it's almost certainly wrong."

Whether good or simply lazy, that is the very rule that inspires Thomas Talbott in, for example, his 1999 discussion of universal reconciliation in St Paul here--

http://www.thomastalbott.com/pdf/chapter5.pdf

But of course the only way to judge how well Talbott, or any other exegete, has seen the sense and meaning of the scriptures is to dispassionately compare the text to the exegesis, and promptly adjust our views to what that comparison reveals. To do anything else with a disputed claim is to *derp*--

http://tinyurl.com/n5ddlqr

And do not even the pagans see our duty to resist *derpitude*?--

http://tinyurl.com/zy6qxec

Bowman Walton

Brian Kelly said...

"But of course the only way to judge how well Talbott, or any other exegete, has seen the sense and meaning of the scriptures is to dispassionately compare the text to the exegesis, and promptly adjust our views to what that comparison reveals."

But not to cherry-pick or 'to expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another' (Article XX). His exegesis of two evidently rhetorical passages (in which Paul contrasts 'all in Adam' and 'all in Christ') doesn't stack up against Paul's own words in 2 Thes 1.8-9, nor the words of Christ in Matt 10 ('Fear him who can cast body and soul into Gehenna') and Matt 24 or the teaching of Hebrews ('It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God') or Revelation (passim). Literary usage isn't the same as a legal document; in fact, there is nothing in the NT that should be read like a modern statute.
The Reformers taught the 'analogia fidei' and the Articles of Religion reflected this.
If you atomise the NT text (as liberal religionists do - as when writing 'church reports'), you can find pretty much what you want.

Anonymous said...

"His exegesis of two evidently rhetorical passages (in which Paul contrasts 'all in Adam' and 'all in Christ') doesn't stack up against Paul's own words in 2 Thes 1.8-9..."

Brian, sifting your last comment I find in the sieve a response to Talbott on St Paul. It is, roughly, "Talbott has interpreted St Paul's understanding correctly because he relied on texts that are rhetorically effective and therefore not as weighty as 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9." Fair enough. Obviously Talbott would reply by shifting the weight of that contrapposto onto the other foot. He would say something like, "Provided that one does not misconstrue *eternal* (Greek *aionion*), and keeps the Creator's revealed intention to perfect his creation in mind, it is clear that minatory passages such as 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 supply details that round out the overall Pauline picture of universal reconciliation (UR) with pastorally effective reassurance that the forces of evil will be defeated." If assessing UR is simply a matter of giving some texts more weight than others-- not my view-- then let the reader decide. Which is the St Paul you have known for years doing-- clothing a grand scheme of rewards and punishments in appealing rhetoric, or explaining that God is putting the world to rights and evildoers cannot stop him.

http://biblehub.com/text/2_thessalonians/1-9.htm

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

And, with respect to "liberal religionists," Brian, please note a certain asymmetry. To say that God's deepest will for his creation is a scheme of rewards and punishments is plainly to make a socially conservative choice. This is especially the case insofar as the punishment is, not a purgative one that transforms the sinner, but a strictly retributive one that assigns him to an eternal cosmic prison. That such a heavenly social order is the Feuerbachian mirror of a certain earthly one once contributed much to its plausibility.

But to say instead that God's deepest will is to defeat his enemies, release sinners from bondage, and renew his creation is just as plainly not a theologically liberal one. Punishment that purifies the sinner as fire refines gold is transformative rather than merely retributive, but it is punishment nonetheless. There is probably no road from Schliermacher, Harnack, and Bultmann to the retrieval of apocalypticism implicit in UR. And as a matter of history, much of the impetus for rethinking the eschatology of the late medieval West has been the recognition that many of the fathers and the Church in the East have framed eschatology differently.

Now it is true that this poses a question to evangelicals: should they resituate the insights of the Reformers in the whole tradition of the undivided Church, or should they double down in their defense of the pre-Reformation Latin eschatology that the Reformation as a whole took for granted? But that question has been posed as well by most other movements of retrieval from the New Perspective on Paul, to the burgeoning research on *union with Christ*, to readings of the NT that emphasise the apostles' roots in second temple Jewish apocalyptic. (A blogger for The Gospel Coalition a few years ago counted eighteen different evangelical movements for retrieval from patristic and medieval tradition.) All have been challenging for those most committed to a certain Reformed scholasticism, but then Anglicanism itself has been such a challenge since the debates that reduced the Forty Two Articles to just Thirty Nine that include Article XXXI. (You may recall that Warfield in his famous Plan of Salvation chart could not bring himself to class Anglicans among the Reformed.) So in choosing a way at the fork above, an Anglican evangelical stays nearest to his own tradition in *resituating the insights of the Reformers in the whole tradition of the undivided Church*.

For evangelicals, such faithfulness may bring a bonus. UR implicitly concerns all four sides of the Bebbington Quadrilateral: Bible, Cross, Conversion, and Action. If careful investigation and critique of UR over the next century retrieves nuances of these themes from scripture, it may also light up paths of preaching and service unseen today.

Bowman Walton

Brian Kelly said...

"Brian, sifting your last comment I find in the sieve a response to Talbott on St Paul. It is, roughly, "Talbott has interpreted St Paul's understanding correctly because he relied on texts that are rhetorically effective and therefore not as weighty as 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9." "

No, not my view at all. I think he has wrongly interpreted 'all' in the two passages. It is not about being 'weighty' but saying appropriate things in context.

Father Ron Smith said...

And here we are, Christians in the West, arguing about things like the autenticity of the 39 Arctiles, and exegesis, when in Iraq, people like Fr. Giles Fraser are wondering whether, or not Christianity will survive in ancient Iraq. From the thick of the danger zone in Iraq, here comes Fr. Giles' poignant comment:

"Iraqi Christians have every right to place the protection of their families higher up the list of priorities than the historical continuity of Christianity in the Middle East. And I say this in full knowledge that this is holy week, when Christians are called to follow in the way of the cross. But going the way of the cross is not something academic in Mosul – Isis is still crucifying Christians. Yes, I’d probably run away too. So did the disciples, remember."

Having walked 'The Way of The Criss' in Holy Week, and through the Great Triduum into the Light of the Resurrection celebrations, I cannot but reflect on what the Christians of Iraq and the Holy Land are suffering in the here and now. Theologising is surely a luxury for those, like ourselves, not facing the real threat of death. May God give us a sense of shame at our questioning the veracity of the faith of other people, whose lives are different from our own.

O Saviour Jesus Christ, help us to understand the mystery of your suffering - alongside that of your disciples in today's Church, whose very existence is now under threat, for your Love's sake. Amen.

Father Ron Smith said...

"As for the many I know and love who do not follow Jesus, I can but say I do not know, and can only pray and trust God is more merciful than I." - Jean -

Dear Jean, not a bad understanding to live by - especially since we all should by now know that we cannot 'save' ourselves - not matter how hard we try. Salvation in in the hands of a loving Redeemer. Thank God. Our task, as Christians is, not to deny the prospect of redemption to anyone, but to demonstrate its power in our own lives, by proclaiming the benefits accruing to its earnest and humble expectation. a personal note: While singing the 'Exsultet' the Song Praise to the Light of Christ in the Paschal Candle ceremony on Easter Eve, I noted, again, the passage:

"O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which ganied for us so great a Redeemer"

A good Catholic reminder that perhaps signifies to us that even our sins can be re-cycled by God and something useful made out of them! This does not give us an excuse to sin, but it tells us quite plainly that God can actually deal with it. (In fact, has already done so!)

And, for Bowman. NO, I do not have an ecclesiastical 'rattle' in my possession. Nor, I think, would I want to use it to replace the silence of the sanctuary bell during the Sacred Triduum. However, you may be glad to know that, at SMAA in Christchurch, we still follow the ancient tradition of ringing many bells at the Gloria of Holy Thursday. Then, no bell ringing until the Gloria of the Vigil Mass of Easter. Christos Anesti. Alleluia!

Anonymous said...

Alithos anesti, Father Ron!

Yes, I am glad to hear that the prieat and people of SMAA Christchurch follow that glorious bell-custom.

The Sabaite Typikon is not your ordo, I realise, but I still imagine you all solemnly processing to the beach with banners and towels and cross and chairs and vestments and swimming attire for a Great Blessing of ALL Waters on Bright Monday.

May you have a blessed journey to Pentecost!

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

CORRECTION: Brian, sifting your last comment I find in the sieve a response to Talbott on St Paul. It is, roughly, "Talbott has interpreted St Paul's understanding INCORRECTLY because he relied on texts that are rhetorically effective and therefore not as weighty as 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9.

"I think he has wrongly interpreted 'all' in the two passages. It is not about being 'weighty' but saying appropriate things in context."

Yes, that is one of many points at which the two schools tend to disagree about exegesis, and even textual criticism. In the locus of UR, systematic theologies also collide like galaxies, each displacing stars in the other as they pass. Karl Barth's doctrine of election often intervenes in those collisions as a third force. Finally, there are debates about the dogmatic definitions related to UR (eg the disputed canons of the Sixth Ecumenical Council). So far as I can see, the advocates on the two sides are evenly matched in knowledge, intelligence, etc.

On universalism, the best interim report is that of Hans Urs von Balthasar. But as I said, it describes only the discovery that there was actually something to be worked out. Perhaps this is the place to mention that Stephen Holmes has done some quite interesting work to rehabilitate the Reformed understanding of Hell in the light of contemporary trinitarisn theology.

Brian, if you wish to sit at the counsel table to argue against Talbott's or any other case for UR, then I hope that Peter gives you the chance with an OP someday. As the opponents of UR are outnumbered by the proponents at the moment, I am sure that you would be warmly welcomed. Personally, I am one of those sitting on the bench denying a motion for summary dismissal, and waiting to see how the arguments of the two sides develop. We should have a decision-- maybe even a dogmatic definition-- in about a century.

Bowman Walton

Father Ron Smith said...

Not entirely unconnected with your thread here, Peter, may I recommend - at least to your local readers, the excellent film at thew Academy in Christchurch (which Diana and I saw this afternoon - Easter Nomday:

'Francisco: The Man Behind the Pope'

Noted, particularly, was the humble, loving and courageous openness to ordinary 'sinners' that has already characterised this current, 21st C. pontificate. Also there were stunning scenes of a Vatican Consistory.
We were both highly impressed with the film's quiet evangelism.
Christos Resurrexit!

Peter Carrell said...

Excellent Ron!
I have also had good reports of Risen, another film to watch at Eastertide.

Bryden Black said...

Well Bowman; to toss in my tuppence worth here, I agree fully that perhaps Von Balthasar has summarized best the issue before re UR, and here I’d point to another resource of his, as it’s tighter. May I suggest a section within his Theodrama, V: The Last Act, “Aspects of the Final Act”, B 2 onwards especially, “The Question of Universal Salvation”. This is not try to subject readers to yet another tome; rather, it pleads that we acknowledge our assertions regarding the “love of God” accord with the full breadth of the Tradition, which Balthasar canvasses well, and within a pretty tight compass.

I shall let Karl Barth sign off for us: “The question is not whether God can save all men: what we have to oppose is the idea that this possibility implies the impossibility of its opposite.” The beautifully qualified logic of this sentence runs throughout his Church Dogmatics. For while his notion of the election of Jesus, the God-man, might project us towards universalism, yet his desire to honour the sheer authority of the Scriptures prevents him from avoiding the dire confessional weight of such Matthean texts re judgment that we have in particular, as well as Jn 17.

Anonymous said...

Bowman, I did reply to yours of 28 March, 9.23 am but Peter didn't publish it. Too long, I surmise.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brian (?)
Sorry but I cannot find that comment, not even in Spam!

Brian Kelly said...

I see it was rejected for exceeding 4096 characters - I'll try again (edited down):
“ ...To say that God's deepest will for his creation is a scheme of rewards and punishments is plainly to make a socially conservative choice.”
Well, I am a social conservative – but eternal life isn’t a reward, it’s a gift (justification of the ungodly).
“... a strictly retributive one that assigns him to an eternal cosmic prison.”
I confess I have no idea what ‘time’ means in the life to come. Space-time is our experience; is it God’s? I have no idea (but it’s a lively topic in evangelical philosophy, e.g. Helm vs. Craig). Perhaps I am an annihilationist (at least that’s how I think the texts can be fairly read). Many years ago Jim Packer gave a lecture on this but I regret I was too busy to attend. I feel the force of the argument ‘How is God glorified by souls suffering in hell for eternity for actions done in time?’ Although I re-read it recently, I can’t recall how C. S. Lewis handled George Macdonald’s concept of hell having exits to glory (if that’s what Macdonald said).

“That such a heavenly social order is the Feuerbachian mirror of a certain earthly one once contributed much to its plausibility.”

You should have guessed by now that I’m a reverse Feuerbachian!

“There is probably no road from Schliermacher, Harnack, and Bultmann to the retrieval of apocalypticism implicit in UR. And as a matter of history, much of the impetus for rethinking the eschatology of the late medieval West has been the recognition that many of the fathers and the Church in the East have framed eschatology differently.”

Well, it *is liberal if it denies simpliciter that hell doesn’t / couldn’t exist because God is love. I doubt if Rob Bell has read much of the Teutonic Three you mentioned. Wasn’t Barth a universalist too?

“Now it is true that this poses a question to evangelicals: should they resituate the insights of the Reformers in the whole tradition of the undivided Church, or should they double down in their defense of the pre-Reformation Latin eschatology that the Reformation as a whole took for granted?”
The whole tradition? Nobody can do that. I like the Cappadocians but I think Origen had some kooky ideas. So did the early Church. And Calvin owed a lot more to the Greek Fathers than is often realised.
“ ...(A blogger for The Gospel Coalition a few years ago counted eighteen different evangelical movements for retrieval from patristic and medieval tradition.)”
A salutary thing too. It really gets my goat how ignorant most evangelicals – clergy especially – are of church history. A church that almost entirely ignores Holy Week, can you believe it!

“(You may recall that Warfield in his famous Plan of Salvation chart could not bring himself to class Anglicans among the Reformed.) So in choosing a way at the fork above, an Anglican evangelical stays nearest to his own tradition in *resituating the insights of the Reformers in the whole tradition of the undivided Church*.”
I didn’t know that about BBW but I’m not surprised, given the liberal or liberal catholic character of 19th and 29th century American Episcopalianism. I don’t wonder what he would say today about American (or Scottish) Presbyterianism. No doubt in the apokatastasis, Donald Trump will put him right.

“If careful investigation and critique of UR over the next century retrieves nuances of these [Bebbington] themes from scripture, it may also light up paths of preaching and service unseen today.”

I hope it will have a century. Who knows what the future will bring for western Christianity? For my preaching and service, such as it is, I have four settled convictions: 1. God is love. 2. God is light. 3. I have no idea who is lost and God has not seen fit to tell me. 4. Woe is me if I preach not the gospel.
A blessed Paschal Evening to you. May Christ meet us on the Emmaus road of all our perplexities and make our hearts burn with love for Him and for the world.

Anonymous said...

A Clarification for Readers and Lexicographers

*Universalism* (U) and *universal reconciliation* (UR) are not the same. U is a flat prediction that nobody will ultimately be rejected by God. The prediction is believed for a variety of reasons. UR is an eschatology in which the Father's creative activity-- now in a new mode enabled by the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and session of the Son, and by the descent of the Holy Spirit-- completes his intention for the creation as a whole so that all are transformed. UR is believed as the Judaic faith in an active Creator God.

U and UR do not necessarily entail each other. Many who have never heard of UR believe U on the simple moral ground that any other outcome is incompatible with God's character as they understand it. One could subscribe to UR but believe that souls could be lost through annihilation or rejected in a hell that is somehow compatible with the Father's intentions (eg to respect human will).

It is true that most proponents of UR are also proponents of U. But it is also true that the U they envisage includes a purgation of sin that furthers the Father's creative intention. "Repent now or be purged by fire later."

It is also true that, despite that, most opponents of U are also opponents UR. They are, in both cases, defending Law as the ruling metaphor, even as the only metaphor, in our understanding of God.

The basic appeal of UR is that it emphasises what the scriptures say about God's transforming creativity about as much as the Latin eschatology emphasises what the scriptures say about God's law. It is reasonable to suspect that a binocular vision is better than either alone. But because readers from the two perspectives have historically read several passages of scripture differently (eg exegesis of Romans 5:12) they cannot simply be mashed together. Only a systematic comparative theology can hold the truths of both in focus while integrating them. That project has begun in the work of the most seminal scholars of our time, but it is not finished.

Bowman Walton

Bryden Black said...

Kia Ora Bowman! Having sat with Hans, I suspect the designated U is but a sloppy subset of UR, where the real action is.

Brian Kelly said...

"It is also true that, despite that, most opponents of U are also opponents [of] UR. They are, in both cases, defending Law as the ruling metaphor, even as the only metaphor, in our understanding of God."

Well, I am tempted to say 'Only a Sith deals in absolutes', except I couldn't bring myself to see the later films. In reality, it's a matter of trying to do justice to the actual texts of Scripture, including especially the admonitory words of Christ. Did he mean what he said about hellfire - or did he really mean 'Repent - or you'll spend thousands of years in purgatory until you see the light'? In which case, Luther was wrong to launch the Reformation and we'd better submit to Mother Rome tout de suite!
I don't know how Law is a 'metaphor' rather than a fundamental principle governing God's relation to his world. If we were discussing Islam, for example, Law would readily come to mind. But for the Christian, the fundamental relational concept is not Law but Love: 'God is love' (something no Muslim could say, for obvious reasons). What this means is that the Wrath of God is *not* the primary or final truth about God but rather the reaction of His holy character to rebellion in His creation. The question is discussed in Don Carson's little book, 'The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God'. In any case, let us admit the hazards in using analogical reason to assay God's justice.

Anonymous said...

Brian, our last comments seem to have crossed paths in the ether. Thank you so much for your very thoughtful reply! It deserves more than these few quick thoughts.

Rob Bell is not a universalist; he is a journalist.

Karl Barth's doctrine of election undercuts the *limited atonement* and *double predestination* of Reformed orthodoxy since Dort. Some do regard his thought as *universalist*, but others (eg followers of T F Torrance) read him in ways nearer to Lutheran *universal objective justification* (UOJ) and Anglican *hypothetical universalism*.

Donald Fairbairn, among other evangelicals, is blazing a trail through SS Irenaeus of Lyon, Athanasius of Alexandria, and Cyril of Alexandria to a theosis that avoids the direct union of the believer with the Godhead that is a feature of some early Eastern soteriologies. Following that trail, one should be able to retrieve the transformative aspects of UR without losing the most helpful aspects of Reformation soteriology.

In the falling numbers of churches, we are still struggling to distinguish several simultaneous processes. Were we to grasp their several stories, we would be less gloomy and would busy ourselves with different things.

(a) The average *product life* of congregations may be shortening. Many denominations have been expecting them to have medieval longevity in a fluid, postmodern social order. We may have to get used to the idea that as many as a third of them will be church plants, and another third in decline.

(b) The part of our lives that we spend in intentional congregations that are not all about marriage and family may be increasing.

(c) We are losing those for whom a light involvement in a church is a mark of good citizenship.

(d) But this is making room for those converts whose zeal has always been a bit awkward for the good citizens.

(e) Global migrations and trade are creating new pathways for evangelisation.

(f) Those same migrations are creating diaspora communities that sometimes challenge our assumptions. (A small and shrinking parish I know found solvency and stability as a landlord to Haitian and South Sudanese, so that a gay, liberal TEC bishop found himself hosting congregations allied with the Global South, and the congregations themselves were unsure whose leadership they should follow.)

(g) In some ways, the cathedral-centred diocese of the C4 seems better adapted to life in the C21 than the diocese of the C19 with more staff.

It will not have escaped the notice of our readers that some Anglican dioceses are not well-ordered to engage these realities.

We should really be paying much more attention to a different set of numbers that does not interest journalists but that should matter a lot to us.

(i) The number and location of adult baptisms.

(2) The percentage of congregations that are church plants.

(3) The percentage of congregations that have unsustainably low memberships.

(4) The actuarially projected lifespans of congregations.

(5) The diversity of the congregations sharing catchments.

(6) The number of new congregational types and their relative maturity.

(7) The accessibility of the cathedral to those in outlying parishes.

(8) Participating Christians from other lands.

(9) Rental income from ecumenical partners.

The C21 Church will fulfill many dreams of the C20. My only regret about this is that we will not live to experience it all for ourselves.

Blessings,

Bowman Walton

Brian Kelly said...

"Rob Bell is not a universalist; he is a journalist."

Ha ha, good one. There has in fact been a crop of young bucks hitting the buffers in middle age, men who were gifted youth pastors and independent church planters but not theologians: Steve Chalke in England, Bell, McLaren and that vulgar chap in Mars Hill whose name escapes me. Accountability and historical depth ('You are not the first person to wonder about this problem') are no bad things.
Yes, I pretty much agree with your list of issues, and as a demography bore I am interested in how these things project 10-15 years into the future: not hard to envisage in congregations with no children and scarcely anyone under 50.
Two other things to throw into the pot;
1. The Archbishops in the Church of England understand these questions and have thrown in their lot with the Holy Trinity Brompton approach to church planting and rejuvenation. For example, a new church is being established by HTB in London for the Midlands city of Derby which has a university but no lively Anglican evangelical church. Diocesan boundaries and legalistic talk about 'border crossing' (as if we were in the days of Prince Bishops!) don't cut it when survival is the name of the game. I expect a couple of English dioceses to disappear in a few years - and maybe a couple in NZ as well.
2. The special challenge in Europe is that the indigenous "white" youth is growing up 'non-religious' while those of immigrant stock are predominantly Muslim. Already Europe is fraught with this perplexity, in so many ways. Evangelising Europe's Muslims is one of the most pressing - and dangerous - tasks at hand. Is Anglicanism up to the job, not least in places where Muslims outnumber Anglicans?
Interesting times, as the Chinese say.

Bryden Black said...

Your line of thinking, Bowman, @ March 30, 2016 at 9:06 AM at the start, I sense to be really rather crucial as we seek greater rapprochement between Eastern and Western Christianity. See for example Myk Habets, Theosis in the Theology of Thomas Torrance (Ashgate New Critical Thinking in Religion, Theology and Biblical Studies. Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2009). True; I am perhaps a little biased since he is a friend and colleague in STAANZ (Systematic Theology Association of Aotearoa New Zealand). He also kindly wrote some of the blurb for LDL - and so of course I am biased! For all that, not only does Myk recast some of the Union with Christ language of Calvin and so Torrance; he delves into Torrance’s own patristic heritage and his use of the same - all rather important IMHO. Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

Bryden, Myk Habets's Evangelical Calvinism is on my laptop, and his coauthor Bobby Grow is an online friend of mine. I look forward to their next book.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...


Kia Ora Brian!

"In reality, it's a matter of trying to do justice to the actual texts of Scripture..."

Yes.

"...including especially the admonitory words of Christ. Did he mean what he said about hellfire..."

Who says he didn't?

"...or did he really mean 'Repent - or you'll spend thousands of years in purgatory until you see the light'?"

The sense and the meaning of aionion have been much debated.

"In which case, Luther was wrong to launch the Reformation and we'd better submit to Mother Rome tout de suite!"

Why? Nobody is suggesting justification by earned merit as the papal party of the C16 did.

"I don't know how Law is a 'metaphor' rather than a fundamental principle governing God's relation to his world."

Law is one of about five major relations of God to creatures in the OT, along with Spirit, Word, Presence, and Wisdom.

http://ntwrightpage.com/Wright_JIG.htm

Law becomes a metaphor when scriptural language proper to the other relations is either redefined in terms of the Law or simply ignored. Redefinition happens, for example, when St Paul's references to being released from the power of sin are flattened into juridical references to forgiveness. Neglect happens, for further example, when, despite St Paul's abundance of references to it, the work of the Holy Spirit fails to make any appearance in a soteriology, or when it appears only to enable compliance with the Law.

The revival of trinitarian theology in the C20 has brought greater sensitivity to what scripture is saying about Spirit, Word, Presence, and Wisdom. In response to that, many are shedding hypernomian excesses of the past, quite apart from any conscious thought of UR, as they retrieve Spirit, Word, Presence, and Wisdom from the inspired scriptures.

Bowman Walton