Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Short author, title, book makes tall impact

I am noticing, wandering around the internet, a book making an impact, being spoken favourably of and generally well regard.

It is God is No Thing by Rupert Shortt (published by Hurst & Co).

Rupert Shortt is a British journalist and this thin book is a thick argument for the existence of God.

A helpful review is here.


Bryden Black said...

“The perennial question at the heart of human existence [is] who are we? Are we merely the product of random evolutionary development – or do human beings have a divine destiny?” (Jack Carrigan, Catholic Herald, of Rupert Shortt’s book, God is No Thing)

For a number of years I have been premising much of what I have concluded about a number of western social and cultural debates around a very similar pair:

1. Either we humans are creatures made in the divine Image, with therefore both a most high calling and a due responsibility, in relation both to the rest of creation and directly to the Creator (however we might have actually emerged on this planet, with regards to biological processes);
2. Or we are most to be pitied, being to a degree self-conscious yet essentially only and merely animals, along with all the rest of ‘nature’ (deliberately in single inverted commas, since how one views ‘nature’ is not at all self evident, being a socially mediated notion, and so culturally specific).

How this translates into our 21st C debates is this. The outcome of #2 is that people view themselves as self-positing autonomous personal subjects. Yet the irony should not be missed. This very notion is itself a partial result, genealogically, of #1, which has bequeathed to the world a direct fruit of the Gospel - that ultimate reality is Trinitarian, so that a key aspect of the Divine Image, in which humanity is created, is that we are relational, personal beings.

And here lies the rub! Western Christians are time and again finding themselves straddling these divides, this chasm - and with most painful, and curious, results. For we often seek to have a foot in both camps, ‘naturally, obviously’; and yet we are not too aware of why exactly this tension befalls us - individually, collectively.

In point of fact, I would suggest only this last week we in ACANZ&P have encountered just this tension most dramatically in the outcome of the WFG’s Report and its being “lain on the table” until 2018 re Motion 30 etc.

When the Ma Whea Commission’s own Report appeared, and as Motion 30 itself resulted, I asked here on ADU three key questions - which I now repeat; they are still most relevant:

1. How is it that we as a western church have reached this position, with two seemingly utterly opposed ‘camps’? What is it about our history that we have come almost inevitably to this stale-mate? Naturally, I have my own ‘read’ on this very history these past 300-350 years. Yet the question remains pretty well unresolved ...
2. How is it that people become mistaken, genuinely so, in ‘good conscience’? And the key here is not simply their being mistaken, but their becoming so, over a specific historical process and time-frame. And of course, this question cuts both ways, impacting both ‘camps’ in 1 above.
3. Assuming for the moment (and despite much debate around the topic recently, here on ADU specifically) that there are indeed “two integrities” at play here in ACANZ&P, what sort of integrity might any single body have that seeks to house, under a single institutional roof, BOTH of these integrities, these ‘camps’?

Readers who have followed me thus far have probably begun to see just how vital such a book as Rupert Shortt’s might be ... Tolle lege!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bryden
Two quick comments
- "How" have we come to a stalemate from a unified beginning point? Well break the unity slightly, then, as all mathematicians (and railway line layers) know, if two lines keep diverging, an infinitesimal gap at the beginning will eventually become an infinite gap.
- I think all thinking about "two integrities" must be posited on whether we already have those integrities in our midst and thus what may happen continues those. My own support for the possibility of "two integrities" is not posited on proposing a new way of being Anglican, never experienced before!

Bryden Black said...

Two quick replies Peter:

- The seemingly unified beginning point was also complex: state versus church; individual versus collective, to name but two key ones. And these (and others: nominalism versus rationalism) grew into not only diverse positions but also opposing ones.
- Talk of two integrities is parallel precisely to my first two questions above - hence their overall order. If we were not in the situation of 1 & 2, then 3 simply cld not have emerged. YET given the illogicality of 3 (IMHO) and its inability to continue in a single "midst", then further analysis of 1 & 2 will expose the sorts of things I suspect all along, and just so the kind of opposition that the review quote also highlights. Either human being IS the triune God's creature; OR, it's all a mess of potage ... The Eschaton will decide!!!

Jean said...

In listening to one of Philip Yancey's books today I came across a question that made me think:

Given the minute probability of the life coming into being (of its own accord) Dawkins apparently just shrugged and said yes the odds were extremely unlikely to put it mildly. The question then posed in the book was if such statistical improbability was reversed and applied to creation would those who adhere to the common scientific viewpoint of evolution, scientists or atheists even bother entering a debate?

Thanks for the book reference.

Father Ron Smith said...

I thought, Peter, you had intended not to continue the debate on That Subject. I was looking forward to a time of Peace, but obviously Dr.B.B. is anxious to continue his own particular slant on how ACANZP plans its Way Forward. Is this blog going to be a one-way street now until G.S.2016? If so, I might leave y'all to get on with it.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I am planning on not posting on the matter for a while, for as long as possible.
That doesn't mean that people cannot bring the matter up in comments.
But I take your point: I don't need to keep debating :)

Bryden Black said...

Dear Ron, there is nothing obvious or anxious about my position as outlined above re That Question. Motion 30 etc merely illustrates.

For example, the very same two opposing premises undergird the euthanasia debates - which are fast bearing down upon NZ society. In fact, they undergird what JP2 termed the entire Gospel of Life.

Father Ron Smith said...

I don't get your 'logic' here,Bbryden. How does the prospect of death (euthanasia) equate with the prospect of Same-Sex Blessings? Be reasonable!
This sounds like paranoia to me.Not at all helpful in the present situation.

Bryden Black said...

OK Ron; I shall attempt to show you how this all works, and totally reasonably.

Most of those who claim (assert) the right to die function on the basis of, as I say, human beings as self-positing autonomous personal subjects. Individual self-determination in the face of dying one way rather than the perception of another drives their ‘choice’. It is actually really rather simple and straight forward - and by their lights, reasonable.

Au contraire; if human being is viewed as a creature made in the divine Image, with therefore both a most high calling and a due responsibility, in relation both to the rest of creation [including other people, I’d now add] and directly to the Creator, then, as JP2 strongly canvassed in his Evangelium Vitae, 25th March, 1995, we may NOT try to assert ourselves even at this most extreme point of our existence - perhaps, especially at this point, in fellowship with Jesus Christ (Rom 14:7-9)! On the premises of the Christian Faith, this view too is totally reasonable. [There is far more to the debate than these lines of argument, but suffice for now ...]

QED: it is all a matter of basic assumptions about the nature of human being.
But once more, the irony should not escape us. The first view offered here is historically and culturally the bastard step-child of the second. That’s the point of researching the history of the past 300-350 years.

Now for That Issue! One of the driving forces culturally and historically behind the movement which we now see in most western countries re SSB and/or SSM is once again premised upon how human being is basically viewed. Do we have the view that we may express ourselves and engage our bodies in ways that we deem “fit” (the word is taken from the WFG’s Report)? Or, do we have the view, derived from Scripture and rehearsed through Tradition, that it is unreasonable to engage in intimate sexual relations with a person of the same gender - either casually or in a long term arrangement? Now; all sorts of attempts have been and are made to bolster this position, this exercise of a particular sexual choice. The recent history of the 1970s through to the present have seen a number of avenues argued. You happen to favour “God made us/them” this way, which came to prominence over the past couple of decades. I’d simply point out - again perfectly reasonably - that the Christian view of how things appear in ‘nature’ is not quite as the secular naturalist would. We Christians, via Scripture and the Tradition, view ‘nature’ as a twin phenomenon, via a twin lense, as it were: it is both essentially good yet also fundamentally flawed (where those adverbial qualifiers’ etymology is decisive: Latin from esse and fundus; they are not synonyms; there’s an asymmetry about Creation; Christians are NOT dualists). And this view of ‘nature’ including naturally, reasonably human being is decisive for the debate we are all engaged in. Teri on the “Justice delayed” thread and I just happen to both find your position and the position of the secular humanist untenable. I also (and I say this, not Teri - so far) also wish to point out that your position on SSB/SSM matters is caught up in that invidious, western, Christian stance of having/trying to have your feet in BOTH camps, attempting to straddle these divides, this chasm - and with most painful, and curious, results (as I’ve said before). And this entire assessment is strictly reasonable, both in articulating basic assumptions and proceeding logically.

One last thing, it is also most noteworthy that you continue to fail to engage hermeneutically with either of my short pieces on ADU on the Johannine literature and Paul. We simply may not pick and choose what bits of Scripture we like, that we think “fit” our ‘position’. Rather; it is the full canonical sway from Genesis to Revelation to which all the Church is beholden - stet!

Father Ron Smith said...

If I could only understand what you're going on about, Bryden, we might get somewhere.

Bryden Black said...

Well Ron; if you can’t (won’t?) understand, then I cannot understand why you may hold so strongly the position(s) you do ... Actually; I can: it’s a case of per hominem, de homine, which is not an ad hominem remark; just a reasonable conclusion from all you do say.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I am not going to publish all your latest posted comment here.
The omitted words, in my view, do not do justice to the theological argument presented here by Bryden.
But since he used Latin in his latest comment, I am prepared to publish what I have published.

Comment from Ron:

Saint Paul wrote a very interesting paragraph about 'speaking in strange tongues': "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am nothing worth".

He also said this: "When I am in the presence of the community, I would rather say five words that mean something, than ten thousand words 'in a tongue' [...]

Father Ron Smith said...

I must protest, Peter, that you have allowed Bryden to respond to my (alleged, and expunged) 'ad hominem' with an outright insult to my intelligence. Not all of us were privileged to attend boarding schools to access the Latin education he apparently had access to. It is a 'dead language' for most of us and hardly suitable for perpetual blog use.

I suspect my Trinitarian theology is accessed more by spiritual experience than mere academic theological word-games that seem to be common among the classroom exegetes.

Anyway, On Sunday evening, I will be leading the celebration of Solemn Evensong at St. Michael and All Angels, Christchurch, wherein we will praise the 'Trisagion, ever and aye' - together with the celebration of the vocation of the BVM in the English version of 'Magnificat'

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron/Bryden

Ron: You are correct, I have failed in my moderation of Bryden's comment at 1.24 pm and I am deleting it and reproducing it here, redacted.

Bryden: More care, please.

Bryden's Redacted Comment:

Apologies Ron for my six words in that once most prevalent of school boy languages, let alone that of Christendom and the Liturgy. [...] They merely summarize concisely the earlier comments of mine above - while suggesting a wholesome pun, of which the Romans were most fond, and many a Christian writer thereafter too!

Happy Feast Day this Sunday [...][re this coming Sunday having a name drawn from Latin] blame Tertullian! He it was who first coined the word Trinitas. He was also responsible for the two key Latin terms, persona and substantia, which have passed into common Christian-speak. Even if of course the Nicene Creed, which no doubt SMAA recites, was first written in Greek!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bryden
Another redaction I am afraid ...

Bryden's comment:

Well Ron; I surely pray your celebration on Sunday Evening is fulsome!

May I too quietly point out that your own comment @ 12:09 is [...] once more trying to set love over against truth. For that is precisely what my contrast is setting up in previous comments: God's truth versus what human beings suppose is their own truth, derived from themselves and so based on their own authority.

[Peace and joy]

Bryden Black said...

Dear Ron, In reviewing this entire thread this morning, it seems I have not satisfied either which way. I apologize for this, and will try to do better in future. For either what is said is seemingly hard to “understand” (May 18, 2016 at 2:17 PM) or I seem to “insult your intelligence” (May 19, 2016 at 6:25 PM). Nor is this the only problem: our human search for “truth” appears to clash with “love/charity”. And finally, a theology of the Trinity apparently clashes with a due spirituality (May 19, 2016 at 6:25 PM again).

By way of reparation I would only say this - as well as apologize - since the fact that all this comes under a thread on a book on the existence of God should not go unnoticed. If one were to read what I myself have written on “the Nature of the Christian God as Trinity” in The Lion, the Dove, & the Lamb (2015), one should see quite readily that the proposed model of the trinitarian nature of God integrates fully both spirituality and theology; indeed, one of the goals was just this task, in the spirit of classic theologia. In addition, the model completely integrates the fullness of real love and authentic truth - which is not all surprising as we are dealing with the Trinity! And finally, the model itself was developed in confirmation classes with teenagers, who got it pretty quickly - so that perhaps not unlike the description of the Fourth Gospel itself, that most explicitly trinitarian of the four Evangelists, any good and appropriate Christian model enables one to “paddle with infants in the shallows and swim in the depths with elephants” - or so a number of readers are kindly informing me of their experience of reading the book.

So; enjoy Sunday Evensong Ron; and in the spirit of Luke’s picture of Mary, may the fulness of the Trinity envelop you all in that place - and so look out ...!

Father Ron Smith said...

Thank you, Bryden for your apology. My favourite (popular) reading about the Trinity is from Bishop John Taylor's 'Go-Between God', wherein he seems to be able to explain the sacred Mystery of Trinitarian theology with a facility rarely managed by our more systematic theologians. I'm all for simplicity (as far as possible) for dialogue about Christian spirituality. If I seem at all too 'familiar' in my description of my own relationship to God, then blame the irruption of the Catholic-charismtic movement in the 1960s that made a permanent impression on me - and became a well-spring in my later vocation. Also, as a one-time Franciscan Brother (SSF) one tends to simplicity.

Of course, I am aware of the use of both the Latin and Greek languages in worship, where I find they have a rich meaning. However, I am not equipped to use them in every day conversation.

From one sinner to another: Agape! and Kyrie eleison.