Thursday, November 2, 2017

95 Vital Theses for Today's Church

Continuing in Reformation celebration vein, the most vital 95 theses you will read about the state of the church today :)


Anonymous said...

Peter, I am tempted to offer a cash reward-- better yet a stein of real beer-- for comments here with three unique links to OPs on the approaching Quincentennial that--

(1) Are on different Anglican sites.

(2) Show some acquaintance with and interest in Luther's actual theology.

(3) Are not trying to be funny.

Three Catholic links? Three dozen would not be hard. But Anglican bloggers seem to be either passing on the commemoration altogether, treating as a secular event (eg the ABC), or passive aggressively deflating it. Not that these gestures do not have a social psychological interest. But then that interest is in trying to figure out why the protests against the Protestant are so indirect. Embarrassment at something too shameful to be acknowledged, of course. But what?

I have not yielded to my temptation. But then... What could be more pleasant for Anglicans who know their tradition than to talk Luther over a couple of steins of microbrew just a few weeks after celebrating Easter Fools Day? And since we will know that Luther knew that St Paul knew that Christ knows that all in him are *simul just et peccator*, those humiliated by their secret, whatever it is, will be welcome nevertheless, even if they prefer to sip ale.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman
I think your cash is safe.
A cursory glance across the internet does not yield much which satisfy your reasonable request for interest in Luther's theology.
Tending, but perhaps not what you are looking for are:

There seems in such (and other) posts more interest in (a) the Continental Reformation generally; (b) the five solas.

But not much actual engagement in Luther's theology (e.g. of sacraments, of church, of princely power).

Nor, indeed, do I see much sign of Anglicans or others getting worked up over Luther's flaws, especially his appalling attitude to Jews.

Jonathan said...

"The other Martin" (Martin Bucer) could profitably be commemorated too! I have a feeling he had something to do with calming the waters on the meaning of Holy Communion...

Anonymous said...

Yes, Jonathan, we will do that when we drink beer on April 26, for on that fateful day in 1518 both Martins attended the disputation in the Heidelberg house of the Augustinian friars-- Luther contrasting Aristotle's notion of love with the Bible's narrative of the Creator's love; Bucer realising that the Augustinian's argument had undone his years as a Dominican studying Aristotle.

Have the waters on the meaning of Holy Communion been calmed? Nevertheless, Richard Hooker was able to dismiss Zwinglian memorialism as not the view of the Church of England in part because, on that matter (pun intended), the influence of Bucer had overtaken that of Cranmer. Perhaps one could tell a Bucer-centred story in which he, with Johannes Brenz and John Calvin, tried to find a post-Aristotelian eucharistic doctrine adequate to the gospel.

Bucer of Strasbourg died in Cambridge. To us, he is a reminder of the internationalism of the first two generations of the Reformation and of what much later came to be called, misleadingly, Anglicanism.


Father Ron Smith said...

Here is an interesting development in the stand-off between Anglican and Orthodox theologians on the subject of the 'Filioque Clause; in the Nicene Creed. It would seem that some degree of agreement has been reached in the recent Meeting, in Dublin, of theologians from both parts of the Church This link should get the academics among us waxing lyrical:

Anonymous said...

Father Ron, I haven't recited the Filioque since the Moscow Agreed Statement of 1976. The Dublin statement, although excellent, says nothing new. This is as close as we can get to the two great branches of the Body of Christ trying-- and failing?*-- yet again to agree that water is wet.

Nobody so far as I know seriously argues for the permanent legitimacy of the interpolation of the Filioque; the usual excuse for that is that it seemed to make local pastoral sense once upon a time in an age that had not foreseen the coming schism. And while most westerners have to have the phrase's mere existence pointed out to them, most of the East views it as something nearly as grave as a second fall of man, so one would have thought that mutual accommodation alone would have been reason enough for non-papal churches to drop it and for Rome to misfile it someplace. But no-- the Dublin statement is asking for the same action that the Moscow statement asked for a generation ago, and is giving the same basic reasons for it. There is no serious opposition; there is also little serious interest.

Some readers have detected a bit more bite between the lines of the section on how the Holy Spirit makes the true Church One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. That may be meant to demonstrate again that without the Filioque the creed still does everything that it needs to do. Or it may be saying, ever so so sweetly but perhaps too subtly, "if you ignore or bungle this, you are none of these things."

Anonymous said...

Why the passive aggressive stuckism on the creed of all things? The trouble with ecumenism is that it implicltly challenges the present-day authority structures of young churches by making them responsible for, and accountable to, the Spirit's past work in the ancient ecumene. And while these diplomatic consensusocracies would be pained to appear to favour disunity among Christians, they are deeply uneasy with just about everything required to restore actual unity-- ecumenism offends their presentism, their doctrinal distinctives, their corporate independence, their imagined preeminence, and their representative populism. In the modern scheme of things, these stewards just stand in for the little Constantines we no longer have**, but in their own late modern minds they stand in for Christ. They cannot see why they should have to listen to or obey anybody else, including their own denominational superiors. That they hesitate to restore the licit text of the creed just shows that there is no cost low enough for them to pay.

In fairness, I have also heard the predicament of an individual synod member described this way: you are told that the high voltage line from the generator to the city is down, and your synod is in charge of getting it fixed. If you are not an electrician yourself you cannot fix it. If you are an electrician you still have no contract to fix it. The synod cannot give you a contract because then you would be in charge and they would not be. And anyway, many argue that high voltage power lines ought not to be something that only electricians get to fix because everybody has to use them. A few say that batteries bought at the store are better anyway. There is a class of problem that quasi-parliamentary synods lack the intrinsic authority to treat and ecumenical questions belong to it.

Please note that, apart from the most blessed isles perhaps*, these sins have corrupted those we call conservative just as much as those they call revisionist. The Immediacy of mission conference evangelicalism is just as resistant to ecumenism as the Progress of social justice warriors who look back to the past only to disdain some evil in it. ACNA for example has acted --good!-- to keep the Filioque-- absurd! (Where is GAFCON when you need them? Primates please: either step up or shut up.)

But the fast are eating the slow. Like the Holy Roman Emperor and the Most Christian King of France, the fuddy duddies may only give up power when the Holy Spirit pries it out of their cold dead fingers, but then that is happening as the Gardener trims the Vine. If Orthodox, Catholics, and Pentecostals inherit the earth, as many think likely, then the dialogue that will have mattered will be between the first and the last of these. And that is somewhat heartening.

* Somewhere I have gotten the impression that ACANZP permits recitation of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan creed without the Filioque, but that the illicit phrase remains in the approved liturgical texts of the blessed isles.

Bowman Walton

Father Ron Smith said...

I don't want to start an inter-Church riot here, but the clause is still extant in NZ.
The Charismatic Movement has not clarified its stance - while yet emphasising the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit in the Church and the world. I don't have qualms of conscience, myself, about the Filoque. I leave that to the dogmatic theologians. I do believe though that the Holy Spirit, as a respected Anglican Bishop (John Taylor) once described Her/Him, is truly "The Go-Between God"

Father Ron Smith said...

I don't want to start an inter-Church riot here, but the clause is still extant in NZ.
The Charismatic Movement has not clarified its stance - while yet emphasising the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit in the Church and the world. I don't have qualms of conscience, myself, about the Filoque. I leave that to the dogmatic theologians. I do believe though that the Holy Spirit, as a respected Anglican Bishop (John Taylor) once described Her/Him, is truly "The Go-Between God"

Anonymous said...

"I don't want to start an inter-Church riot here..."

Father Ron, I am laughing. Thank you for the hilarious image of you trying to start an inter-church riot :-)

"...but the clause is still extant in NZ."

As in nearly all provinces, a few of which permit its omission.

"The Charismatic Movement has not clarified its stance - while yet emphasising the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit in the Church and the world."

Charismatics tend not to recite creeds in the first place.

Informally, their theologians (eg Simon Chan) and their Orthodox colleagues (eg Christos Yannaras) have found each other and the dialogue seems to be fruitful. The Orthodox have a rich pneumatological ecclesiology that the Charismatics appreciate, their hesychast spirituality is experiential yet doctrinal, and they are also pretty good at pinpointing what it is about Reformed-ish theology that is so crazy-making for most Charismatics. Charismatics put other things on the table for Orthodox trying to understand the convert-led growth in their new Western churches.

But the Charismatics encounter some suspicion from their church leaders that theology per se is not a solution but a problem. "If we're growing growing growing, then what we're doing must be be right, so what good can it possibly do to stop and to think about it?" There are Charismatics-- including a few Anglicans-- trying to do ecclesiology in a pneumatological way, but their ideas are not yet spreading.

"I don't have qualms of conscience, myself, about the Filoque... I do believe though that the Holy Spirit, as a respected Anglican Bishop (John Taylor) once described Her/Him, is truly 'The Go-Between God.'"

The obligation is church-level, not individual-level. Given the very expansive scope given to individuality and privacy in English society, it may be difficult for Anglicans to get their heads around the possibility that there can even be such a thing as a duty for churches that does not begin as a burning problem for individuals someplace. At worst, this can lead to the brain-eating algorithm--

X does not inspire me.
Therefore X does not inspire at least some individuals.
X only inspires the Body if it inspires every individual in it.
Therefore X does not inspire the Body.

--in which churches move at the pace of the most indifferent, no matter what the reason for this indifference.

Conversely, Greeks, Arabs, and especially Slavs have societies with a more vivid sense of the collective in which a body is simply unreal until it has obligations in its own right that its members perform without question.

"I leave that to the dogmatic theologians."

Were the fathers of 381 not inspired enough?


Anonymous said...

Postscript-- There is an alternative to (a) an omnivorous fascination with all things theological (which is fine, if that's who you are) and (b) a know-nothing simple faith (which is also fine, if that's who you are) and that is (c) an experimental yet traditional focus on the work that authoritative ideas do in the contagion of convert-led growth that results from our collective obedience to the Great Commission. A church probably should not consistently make members with (a) or (b) miserable, but neither has it any future in a way of life that always puts these reflexes first.

And in prioritising (c), which is its proper business anyway, a church's best moves may not be the ones most comfortable, theologically or otherwise, for its present members. Alas, most Protestant churches have a *politics of comfort*-- churches are God's customer service departments and *the customer is always right*-- that arises naturally from the representative governance of their institutions, and politics of this sort has not been compatible with the strategic and pastoral *discernment* that recognises and tends the authoritative ideas that attract and support a contagion of conversion. Why?

My guess-- the political act of voting to make majorities and the pastoral act of discerning patterns of change are too dissimilar to be blended in governance. In particular, the sort of leadership that is admired for its sagacious responsiveness to winds of opinion inside a church is not much like the sort of leadership that clears a gospel path through the maze of life that many outside a church will want to follow. Both have their gifts, but the gifts seem to be different ones.

On the face of it, this is not very different from the problem most businesses and non-profits have when they need to do something new. As the zigzagging line glides toward the bottom of the chart, everybody may see the need for innovation in principle. But in practise they want leadership style, status structure, resources, agenda topics, etc that optimise the old things that they already do. That does not give the very different challenges of trying something new a fair chance. This is all the more clear when we consider that many things must be tried before the right paradigm is finally discerned. To all but the very young, that will look like a waste of precious energy that could have gone instead to a dozen already effective initiatives.

Online discussion would appear to be the exception. This blog, for example, is not costing ACANZP very much at all; people appear to enjoy it, not least because we have a marvelous host. And it can be a pretty good space for trying new patterns for new people, provided that replies to them are not rushing to defend the old patterns for the old people (see the paragraph just above). So if I sometimes seem uninterested in the present constituency for this or that idea, it is because I am more interested in what can make converting sense to souls that do not today pass through our red doors. And if the connections being pursued are not obvious, that is what newness looks like.