Sunday, June 13, 2021

The outside God who works inside all our constructions of church and theology

The post below may not grab you so it may be enough to steer you towards this perceptive review of a pertinent book about a papal theologian.

Included in the review is this phrase,

"God's revelation comes to us from outside of us",

which, in the context of a review of a book by Protestant theologians evaluating and engaging the theology of Benedict XVI, reminds us that God is outside of us in all ways, not only as revealer, and thus all experience of God at work within each of our constructions of church and theology represents gracious choice on the part of God to be with us, to support us, to enable us to become what God intends us to be, even though I within my church or theology may think you in yours are quite wrong!

Put more simply: it is possible (in fact I am certain of it), that God is at work among all churches, no matter how they view each other's theologies and practices.

That does mean, of course, that I in my ecclesial corner and you in yours should take care not to leap from "God is answering our prayers" to "God is on our side (and not on yours)."

How is God at work in the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch?

That question sits alongside a very personal question for me in my role as bishop: How would I like God to be at work in the Diocese of Christchurch? (By which question I mean, Here is my list of problems I would rather like solved by tomorrow!!).

How is God at work in the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch?

One of the matters I have seen God at work in, and have expectations in faith that God will continue to work in, is the matter of supply of leaders for our ministry and mission.

We currently have two vacancies and some more are in the pipeline of the next six to twelve to eighteen months.

Sometimes I can "see" the resolution of a vacancy and sometimes I cannot. Cue a reminder that faith is part of the role:

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1)

It is an awesome thing to experience God at work - the outside God's gracious choosing to be inside the life of the church - God with us - Immanuel.

There are many other matters for which we need a divine response when human possibilities seem exhausted. It is scary and exhilarating to be called to have the faith which the writer to the Hebrews talks about!


Unknown said...

Read slowly, this is a very complex OP. How many weeks are you giving us, Peter?


Peter Carrell said...

I can be kind ... life is somewhat busy ... so a few weeks are possible!

Father Ron said...

Well, +Peter, from my perspective (at Saint Michael and All Angels, Christchurch) Church life in your diocese is alive and well. On Sunday last (my 92nd Birthday) our church was pretty full with school-children, parents, grandparent and alumni of St.Michael's School here in the parish, for the 170the Anniversary of the Foundation of the School - one of the first founded after the First Four Ships arrived from the U.K. here in our fair city.

After the devastation of the Earthquakes, the shool roll was decimated, but under the Headship of our very own Oxford (U.K.) Graduate, and with an active Board of Governors, we are now starting to grow again - with promise for a future when the school will be able to fend its own commercial viability - and that is quite something considering what happened.

These children are being schooled in The Faith, and hopefully will go our into the big wide world better educated to meet what challenges are still to come. Thanks be to God.

Father Ron said...

Regarding the commentary on the book which explores the comparitive theological expertise of Pope Penedict XVI with that of Protestant theologians; I was struck by this particular comment that ecumenism is "Built upon the unshakable foundation of Divine Revelation in and through the person of Jesus Christ".

I like that expression, simply because it concurs with the former Pontiff's emphasis on the role of worship, and especially the Eucharist, as being the most important touchpoint of our most intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, Lord of The Church. Benedict's concentration on this focus, Godward from ourselves, is perhaps the most important aspect of Catholic Teaching that non-Catholics could learn from.

We need to remember that the Word of God in the scriptures actually became 'Flesh' in the Person of Jesus The Christ. Our Baptism into the life, death and resurrection of Christ is the key to any further understanding of who we are - in relation to Christ - in order that we may encounter other people as being, also, images and likenesses of the God we worship.

When"The Word became flesh and lived among us", Jesus became the "new and living way" for those who then sought to be "alter Christus" (other Christs) in the world we presently inhabit. We are not the Christ (John The Baptist), but we are incorporated into Christ through our common Baptism and participation in the Eucharist, which Jesus instituted as the sole means of partaking of the Divine Nature that He, alone, through his Incarnate Being, could bestow upon us. As Jesus is the human expression of the Undivided Trinity, we human beings - in union with Him in our participation in the Eucharist Jesus left to us (according to the Scriptures, which talk about him but do not exclusively contain Him) - so that we could "Share in His Divinity, as He humbled Himself to share in our humanity":- the prayer used in the preparation of the Elements in the Catholic Mass.

Thus, supremely at the Eucharist, we together'Celebrate' our Unity with Christ and each other, bonded by the Holy Spirit into an eternal relationship with God the Father. What has been given to us "From the Outside", then becomes our motivation for proclaiming the Good News of God's Love from the Inside. We are no longer just 'pilgrims ands strangers', but actually partakers in the Kingdom into which we have been enrolled by God's Self.

Father Ron said...

Dear Bishop Peter - at the risk of appearing too keen to post on your excellent weblog - may I just mention my joy at ntoicing the following paragraph in a message from Richard ROHR,OFM:_

"[As Paul writes,] “By grace you have been saved” [Ephesians 2:8]. That’s one of the earliest insights in the Christian tradition: it’s not by what you do that you earn God’s love. Not because you are so bright and light and have purged out all the darkness does God accept you, but as you are. Not by doing something, not by your works, but gratis you have been saved. That means you belong. God has taken you in. God embraces you as you are—shadow and light, everything. God embraces it, by grace. And it has already happened."

This does remind me of the story of an English bishop on a train who was accosted by a fervent young Pentecostal Believer with the words: "Bishop, are you saved". The bishop thought for a moment and said these very wise words:- "I have been saved I am being saved, and I will be saved". This is the GOSPEL we believers need to proclaim! Knowing this for ourselves, we missionaries for Christ have only God's Love to bring to the people we meet. Of course, this requires teaching and an encouragement to worship, but also providing an example of what WE know of God's Love for us - that we can communicate to others.

Father Ron said...

Dear Bishop Peter, I thought it appropruiate here to mention the ongoing saga of the American Catholic Bishops who are currently discussing the possibility of barring Catholic politicians (including U.S. President, Joe Biden) from receiving the Eucharist - if their personal views on matters such as abortion do not concur with those of the official Vatican doctrinal tradition. In his remarks to the (virtual) Bishops' Conference, the Nuncio - the Pope's Representative - is here reported on his remarks about the purpose of the Eucharist:

"As the debate over the church's sacraments has roiled the bishops' conference in recent months, Nuncio Pierre told the body that "Holy Communion is not merely a 'thing' to be received but Christ Himself, a Person to be encountered."

"A Catholicism that confuses itself with a mere cultural tradition or which cannot distinguish itself from other proposals, including political or ideological ones that are based on certain values, will never flourish".

Herein lies the importance of the Eucharist as the definitive occasion of meeting with Jesus, Himself, who alone is the Mediator and Advocate with the Father we all so desperately need. This, I believe, is the bedrock of the Faith that Jesus wanted to be celebrated and perpetuated in and through the Body of Christ; the Church we also inhabit.

Anonymous said...

"...if their personal views on matters such as abortion do not concur with those of the official Vatican doctrinal tradition"

Many US Catholics do not support bans on abortion. The above is not an accurate description of their views.

A Catholic mind can disvalue abortion as traditionally as one pleases, but still not see a constitutional way for a secular American state to ban them. Although the Holy See once opposed most democratic institutions of the modern West, recent popes have generally acknowledged the legitimacy of the US Constitution, and so therefore do most Catholics. In the 1970s, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that women have a *common law* right to abortion against which no legitimate state interest countervails. Thus, as we would anyway expect, a Catholic president like Joe Biden follows American law as it is, just as the Mormon Mitt Romney would also have done. Over such matters, presidents have no power.

Much more to the point, eight of nine justices on today's SCOTUS are Catholic. Their "opinions" are rulings settling actual cases, and hypothetically they have the power to overturn the holding of their predecessors, making state anti-abortion laws legal again. But instead they have imposed gay marriage on the states.

So then, why do the (anti?)papists rage? Why do their bishops imagine a vain thing?

Another day...


Anonymous said...

Two reviews--


Anonymous said...

Father Ron, I'm just now noticing that you have reached your 92nd birthday :-)

Deo gratias!


Father Ron said...

Thanks, Bowman, for your greetings on my 92-not-out (yet) Celebration. Your music link gives me a foretaste of what I hope heaven will be like. Thank you. Hope you are more than just surviving! Agape!

Anonymous said...

Gorsuch and Breyer are not Catholics.
Roe v. Wade was *not* a "common law" ruling but a bizarre reading of the US Constitution. Just like Dredd Scott. As Scalia tirelessly pointed out, the US Constitution says nothing about abortion, a matter that he said should be reserved to the States, as the Constitution provides that all matters not reserved to the Constitution belong to the States. As observers know, the story of American politics is all about the battle between the Federal government and the States for supremacy and getting "your" man or woman on the bench. Hence the absurd psychodrama aimed at preventing Brett Kavanagh, and the paroxysms against Barrett. Of course Presidents have power: the power to nominate persons who could decide national law for as much as 40 years, long after the nominator has died.
As for the Federal/States battle, a very interesting one is now developing over the Second Amendment in 22 states.
"Disvaluing abortion" is a peculiar expression almost worthy of Winston Smith's employers. I look forward to statements "disvaluing" theft and "disvaluing" lying.
As for "Catholic" president Joe Biden, there isn't a single view he now apparently holds that he didn't take the opposite view thirty years ago. He has been consistent in only one goal, to become President and he rode whatever wave it took to get there. His "Catholicism" is as profound as Andrew Cuomo's or Gerry Adams'. It is painful watching him now and one wondrs when his minders are going to call time on him. A fall this fall, perhaps?


Unknown said...

"Not Catholics"

Indeed, not; thanks for the fact check!

Nevertheless, Catholic justices vote on abortion rulings and Catholic presidents do not. Catholic casuistry normally applies the *rule of proximate causes*.

While some later opinions on abortion have cited the 1950s *penumbra of privacy*, Roe v Wade held that the old common law relationship between physician and patient was unconstitutionally burdened by state abortion laws. Those who see no inherent governmental purpose in restricting abortion prefer the original argument, whilst those who believe that it is a woman's natural right prefer the penumbra.