Monday, September 19, 2022

Clearly Scripture is not as clear as clearly many would like it to be!

How clear is Scripture on matters of importance to its readers?

More technically, is Scripture "perspicuous"?

Is Scripture clear/perspicuous on some matters and not on others?

Is Scripture clear on a matter in one generation but not in another?

Lee Gatiss, Director of the Church Society, has recently spoken critically of Lambeth 2022 and some things Archbishop Welby said during it.

A text version is here and a video version is there.

Essentially, his critique of Welby is this (my bold):

"That was the issue at hand as he spoke: can we bless same-sex marriage, or not? And rather than clearly identify the glaringly obvious deviation from historic Christian orthodoxy, he spoke very highly of those who deny the truth: their “long prayer” and “deep study” and their view of scripture and of Christ. Those who would have been seen as heretics by every previous generation of Christians across the world were invited and treated as brothers and sisters in full communion."

Or, Scripture is completely clear on blessing same-sex marriage (i.e. Scripture says No), those who think otherwise are clearly heretics. Ergo, the ABC is wrong not to exclude churches which either do not think Scripture is clear on this matter, or may think Scripture is clear that the answer is Yes.

Now, you could probably predict where I might want to go on this: Scripture is not actually clear on such blessings (because it does not address the particularity of our age). Actually, that would be to go down a pathway often gone down here. No further need!

Let's go in a slightly different direction and focus on the general question of the clarity/perspicuity, or otherwise of Scripture.

Let's assume, by the way, that Scripture is clear on matters of salvation.

Is Scripture unclear on other matters?

I've been recently thinking that there has been and is something of a challenge re the clarity or perspicuity of Scripture when we shift from reading Scripture about our relationship with God and read Scripture about our relationships with each other, about our human experience of relationality.

Take the relationship between humans known as slavery. Good Christians argued for and against the keeping of slaves in days gone by. Fair enough in many ways because no text in Scripture unambiguously says, Stop keeping slaves. Put in other words, Scripture is clearly not against slavery but arguably unclear whether it is in favour of slavery or simply in favour of making the best of a systemic feature of ancient economies. Most NT texts speaking about slavery focus on masters treating slaves well and slaves impressing their masters with their virtuous and diligent service. That now Christians are very clear that we should not keep slaves, that there should be no slavery anywhere is not a triumph of the perspicuity of Scripture! 

(Ironically, we might also note that the nearest we come to Scriptural clarity about employers/employees is to read the texts on masters/slaves and make appropriate translation to modern working conditions. We make that shift in relating Scripture to modern life. Do we do so on other matters?)

We could then look at marriage and divorce. A rough trajectory through Scripture is that marriage is permanent (Genesis 2) but reasons for divorce press on the making of Israel's laws (other books in the Torah) and divorce is permitted in some circumstances. Through subsequent centuries discussion about divorce continues and by the time of Jesus two schools of rabbinic thought debate with each other, one "hard" and one "soft" on the matter. When Jesus is asked about divorce, our best take is that he sides with the "hard" school and either (in his original response) gives no grounds for divorce or only one ground (adultery). Yet Matthew's Gospel in chapter 19 provides a so-called Matthean Exception and Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 provides a so-called Pauline Exception so there are signs that the earliest church faced questions (as Moses did) and came up with some variation to what the Lord had laid down. Fast forward to the 20th and 21st centuries, and we see further variations being worked out through time in the main Christians traditions, none of which is clearly taught by Scripture. No annulment process is laid down in Scripture for Roman Catholics, no variations in the character of weddings for second or even third marriages is set out Scripturally for Eastern Orthodox, and Protestantism has engaged with questions unknown to Scripture such as a wife leaving and divorcing an abusive husband.

Incidentally, each such main Christian approach is reasonable on the basis of seeking to match Scripture with life, and each such approach develops a tradition of interpretation of Scripture and yet Scripture as "supreme authority" cannot readily dislodge where each church has gotten to on these matters because the reasonable, traditional response developed has precisely evolved from finding Scripture to not offer a once and for all circumstances authoritative answer to human questions.

Next up is the relationship between women and men in the life of the church, a question partly discussed in relationship to the Christian family: the relationship between husband and wife; and partly discussed (in some churches) in relationship to the (im)possibility of ordination of women to positions of responsibility in the ordering of the church: deacon, priest/presbyter or bishop.

On the former we have faced the challenge of Ephesians 5:22 (and similar verses) and (unless otherwise belonging to a school of thought called "complementarianism") determined that this might not mean what it looks like it means, e.g. because it is governed by Ephesians 5:21. But doing this (which I do happen to do), does rather call into question the clarity with which (e.g.) Anglicans once held on the matter, expressed in the Book of Common Prayer marriage service which asked the wife to be to declare that she would "obey" her husband, but asked of the husband to be to declare that he would "love" his wife.

On the latter we have faced the challenge of a variety between texts of Paul (or his Pauline imitator(s)), some of which seem to support women in leading roles (Romans 16, references elsewhere to Priscilla and Aquinas, a possibility in 1 Timothy 3 that women as deacons is supported, all in keeping with the genderlessness of Galatians 3:28 and the apostolicity of Mary in John 20) and some of which appear, in a similar spirit to Ephesians 5:22, to subjugate, even silence women to the authority and voice of men (1 Corinthians 11, 14; 1 Timothy 2). 

Possibly the school of thought known as complementarianism may have a virtue of consistency in believing Scripture is clear on this matter; but the overwhelming tendency in contemporary Christianity (Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Prostestant, Pentecostal) is to explore, with a lesser or greater urgency re actual change, the possibilities for a new found recognition of the equality of women to men as both being fully human and fully alive and gifted in the Spirit of God. In some thinking among conservative evangelicals - I find - it is the apparent lack of clarity of Scripture on the matter which permits them to support the ordination of women. For some, this exploitable lack of clarity only extends to ordination to the diaconate; for others, it extends to presbyters or to presbyters and bishops.

This exploitation of lack of clarity on one matter only highlights the exploitation of clarity on other matters of humans relating to humans. Is there Scriptural clarity on the matter of how we interpret Scripture in favour of modern life when some texts are in tension with each other compared with when Scripture provides (or appears to provide) clarity?

Another matter of humans relating to humans concerns one human killing another human. Generally this is prohibited ("Do not kill"), through both Old and New Testaments, but exceptions happen and so debate occurs over those exceptions. Is war (which necessarily involves killing) such an exception? For some time in earliest Christian history, war was not an exception and Christians determined - with Scriptural clarity, with respect to the teaching of Jesus - they would not be soldiers. While a pacifist streak continues in Christianity, mostly we accept that sometimes war cannot be avoided and Christians will kill. For centuries Christians have presided over justice systems in which execution of criminals was accepted. Currently capital punishment is no longer possible in some jurisdictions in which Christianity has and may still provide a dominant religious influence on the framing of laws; but some strongly Christian jurisdictions, notably the USA make capital punishment an option. Such legal support for killing another human being seemed unquestionable as a clear outcome of (e.g.) Romans 13. Yet such clarity has not prevailed everywhere.

There has been and continues to be greater unity among Christians on the question of abortion, that is, on the question of not killing an unborn child. But, even on abortion, differences prevail on the question of whether access to abortion (whatever Christians think about abortion) should be a legal possibility for those who wish, for whatever reasons, to secure an abortion of their unborn child. Scripture is unclear on the degree to which being against killing means one should be against legal access to abortion (e.g. if one's support for access to legal abortion presupposes illegal abortions will be procured).

Conclusion

The approach I am taking above involves great clarity about Genesis 1:27-28. Men and women are made in the image of God, what does that mean for reading, interpreting and obeying Scripture in 2022?

I think it also involves questions of justice: what is fair and consistent treatment of another human being? Is an enslaved human being (no matter how well looked after) being treated fairly, given that an enslaved human being means another human being (i.e. the enslaver) is treated differently? Is it fair that men may speak out loud in church, but women should be silent? Or, that women, otherwise gifted and able to teach, may not teach because they are viewed as inherently untrustworthy relative to men?

Nevertheless, all said above is prolegomena to detailed, depth consideration of the issues I have referenced with just a paragraph or two above.

The argument above is pretty simple: that we should recognise that Scripture may not be as clear as we either think, or would like it to be, on matters involving humans relating to humans.

Whether this makes any difference to arguments on That Topic is the discussion! Even this week I have had engagement on Twitter with a leading English evangelical in which his thesis amounts to: Scripture is clear on That Topic, end of discussion; but not clear on the ordination of women, so we may so ordain. So, please don't assume that my "prolegomena" above settles anything on That Topic or another issue. 

But if my prolegomena prompts any reader to think again about Scripture's perspicuity in general, re human relationships, my post for this week's job is done!




26 comments:

Father Ron said...

Dear Bishop Peter,

I'm interested in your use of the word; perspicuity, (clarity of purpose?) - especially in view of the fact that quite a bit of Jesus' teaching was delivered in parable form. This form of teaching was obviously not very welcomed by the Scribes and Pharisees, who possibly thought of it as being too undisciplined and capable of interpretation. What they obviously preferred was absolute clarity. However, as you indicate here, even the Scriptures themselves are not always precise in their instruction for matters that involve the behaviour of human beings.

The Decalogue, however, is pretty clear as to a basic discipline for believers. The historic creeds, also tell us about the basis of our faith, e.g; the Trinity, the humanity/Divinity of Christ, The doctrine of the Holy Spirit, etc. Christian Ethics, however, do seem to have morphed into what we might call 'Situation Ethics', which take into account the ongoing revelation of the social and biological aspects of modern life.

The problem is, do we believe that the conception and Incarnation of Jesus as God's Word-made-Flesh ought to have made any real difference to the ancient Jewish understanding?

Anonymous said...

Ten thoughts.

(1) It would be less dangerous for the Communion if archbishops of Canterbury stopped, to use Sarah Coakley's phrase, "wallowing in weakness." We may someday need for an ABC to exercise the traditional discretion that ++ Justin keeps denying that his office has. Lee Gattis is right about that.

(2) Jesus said, "You are servants no longer but friends, for a servant does not know what his master is about." Thus for a magisterial Protestant, revealed dogma controls the ethos, ethics, and so action of disciples. Otherwise, their doing and not doing lacks the fully human intentionality of moral action generally and of friendly life in Christ especially.

(3) For this reason, no trustworthy guidance circumvents teaching about kingdom and new creation through strung together bits of scripture (eg slaughtering Amalekites, plucking out eyes, castrating oneself, etc).

(4) Rather, to test a rule for disciples, those who are illumined by the Word begin with Jesus's kingdom and new creation, and then show how a suggested discipline supports life attuned to them. This is the obvious, organic Way.

(5) Discipline throughout the Body is centripetally tethered by universal dogma and the unity of creation, but centrifugally fitted to place, so that it is intelligible, and to case, so that it is pastoral. Thus the inspired authors wrote with precision about Ezekiel's duty to warn individuals, St Peter's *binding and loosing* with the keys of the kingdom, and St John's recollection that sins forgiven or retained on earth are forgiven or retained in heaven.

(6) "He shall come to judge the quick and the dead." Indeed, Jesus himself has said that he has all power in heaven and on earth. That sounds like the only supreme authority that can possibly be, either behind the hedge or over it. And as we have recalled, he has delegated this in the ministry of binding and loosing.

(7) The episcopate, and so the Communion, rests on that authority. Without self-contradiction, Lambeth Conferences cannot impose uniformity where God in holy writ has commissioned subsidiarity.

(8) The ancient and divine order of the Communion is undermined today chiefly by those who zealously promote norms not well correlated to the kingdom and new creation, whether these are rationalised with bare prooftexts from the Bible or with merely permissive canons approved by synods. Both have a purpose but neither suffices as the Way revealed by God for souls.

(9) God willing, the Holy Spirit will give the bishops more consensus concerning the wisest dispositions of the several kinds of cases of conscience occasioned by That Topic. The Holy Spirit ignores human majorities and timetables.

(10) Those who believe in scriptures or church but not in God will yammer on in their confusion. Lord have mercy. Others with more holy fear will let bishops be bishops (and Archbishops of Canterbury).

We might best attend to what Jesus taught about the kingdom, what St Paul taught about the new creation, and the new Jerusalem that St John saw descending from heaven to earth like a bride to het husband.

BW

Anonymous said...

Peter, it has been instructive to see the evolution of your social thought over the years, from a conservative evangelical viewpoint to one that is essentially inoffensive to that of the typical agnostic New Zealander (now the majority in the Shakey Isles).
Your long post seems to make the Counter-reformation's very arguments against the Reformers on the claritas sive perspicuitas Scripturae, but ending up at a different destination.
Perhaps you could write your next post on salt and saltiness? I can recommend some helpful reading from the former Episcopal Bishop of Newark.

Pax et bonum,
William Greenhalgh

Anonymous said...

Bishop Peter, God did not create man in his own image. It is quite the other way about, which is the explanation for the profusion of gods and religions, and the fratricide both between and amongst faiths, over the centuries. One does wonder how civilisation has been stymied in development!

Anonymous said...

"Christian Ethics..."

Classical or scholastic Protestant theology treated ethics as a subtopic of dogmatics or systematics. So God's will for our lives was usually integrated into the loci for creation, *ordo salutus*, and eschatology. This is similar to the treatment in many Protestant catechisms, such as Luther's Small Catechism where the Decalogue is explained as an account of the world to come.

After Kant, the classical tradition culminated or suspended, leaving theological reflection on quotidian life without a churchly home. Thus academic chairs of a new field called "Christian Ethics" were endowed in the mid-C20, and their incumbents navigated a zigzag course between academic moral philosophy and the lives then being lived in liberal churches.

"do seem to have morphed into what we might call Situation Ethics"

At the University of Virginia, Joseph Fletcher (TEC) wrote a little book called Situation Ethics. Faith in Christ motivates altruism-- "act with love in every situation"-- but it does not pattern behaviour. The book was meant as a corrective to arid rationalism and a step toward a bit more Jesus in Christian ethics, but it was widely dismissed as too shapeless to ground any character, let alone one identifying with the Crucified.

That rejection set the stage for a wider reading of Elizabeth Anscombe's (RCC) famous argument in Modern Ethics: ethicists had failed because they were proposing moralities of law without belief in, or serious reflection on, a divine Lawgiver. She suggested that a return to the Aristotelian and Thomist ethics of the virtues would be better grounded and more adaptive.

Alasdair MacIntyre's book After Virtue took this up to become the most influential book on secular ethics from the 1980s to the present. His Virtue Ethics are not strictly speaking Christian, but relying as heavily on St Thomas as they do, they beg for adaptation.

Anonymous said...

Many fruitful careers have been devoted to that task. Two bear mention here.

In Stanley Hauerwas's (TEC) Community of Character, a narrative of Christ crucified informs a churchly ethos of the pauline virtues. When first published, Hauerwas's books startled Protestants with what I have been calling here a high hedge: only a rather serious Christian could possibly have the identification with Jesus to live this ethos out.

Indeed, one of Hauerwas's most famous essays argued that homosexuals were more praiseworthy than churchgoers because the community lifestyle of the former was so much more concretely value laden that the United States Army was afraid of it. To be salt and light for the world, believers need churches so soaked in the story of Jesus that they are not afraid to differ from their neighbours.

Linda Zagzebski (RCC) is a moral philosopher whose Divine Motivation Theory posits that worship of a divine exemplar changes the worshipper's emotional constitution thereby inculcating the motivations of virtuous action. She acknowledges that the Incarnation was the armature on which she built her system, but hypothesizes that something like this may also be at work in other religions with a human focus of devotion (eg Buddha, Muhammed). More recently, she has extended her exemplarist moral theory into the virtues of mind to construct an epistemology.

Zagzebski is an academic moral philosopher at a state university. Her work directly connects the being of a god to worship of that god to a god-shaped inner transformation of the worshipper that patterns the latter's behaviour into an ethic recognisably of that god and no other. For the love of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour, why oh why can't more preachers do that?

A certain skill in dealing with what emerges is part of the concept of a virtue. A virtues ethic, although grounded, is inherently more dynamic than a rules ethic.

"social and biological aspects of modern life"

"And I saw that there is nothing new under the sun."

"...ancient Jewish understanding?"

There were many kinds of Jews. But only two survived the loss of the Second Temple (AD 70) and thrived in the diaspora. One kind (Pharisees, rabbis) had already mapped Temple piety onto rituals in daily life (cf St Mark vii). The other kind (the Way, fathers) had mapped the functions of the Temple onto its meetings with the Messiah. Both were ready to carry on without the complex and its sacrifices.

After it was destroyed, Jews of pieties that had depended on it joined the rabbis and the fathers. However, in large Roman cities the communities overlapped as many families never chose one over the other. For centuries, a crowd in synagogue on Saturday was also in church on Sunday. In the C4-5, harsh things said by each of the two sides seem to be aimed at getting these double-dippers to choose a religion and stick with it.

Why couldn't they all be one community of YHWH? Just as the great rabbi Akiva had believed that the rebel Bar Kokhba was the divine messianic figure of Daniel vii 13, so rabbis could understand Jews who believed that this mysterious figure was Jesus. However, some apocalyptic piety acceptable to the rabbis was presumably beyond the pale for the fathers. And to the rabbis, Daniel 7 had no third throne for the Holy Spirit.

https://www.jstor.org/stable/41474570


BW

Peter Carrell said...

Thank you Ron, Bowman and William for your thoughts - much to ponder, and to learn.

William: it is an honour to have re invigorated the Counter-Reformation, all by myself! I don’t think any of the positions I gave some paragraphs to above represent any kind of change from my conservative evangelical convictions of decades. I am still against slavery and presume you are too! For me conservative evangelicalism is about reading and studying Scripture and re-reading and studying Scripture: digging deeper into its meaning, ensuring, as far as possible that the whole of Scripture is read, not just one’s favourite passages, always centred on Christ and him crucified, risen, ascended and glorified. In that reading and re-reading of Scripture I keep learning things, and some views change. I am more aware of the complexity of Scripture than I was 40 years ago. For instance, the Old Testament raises many questions about the theologies within it. Who tells the more accurate history of Israel, the Deuteronomist or the Chronicler? What is wisdom literature’s attitude to the Law? Etc. Why are there four gospels and what are their respective theological emphases? How do any or all cohere with the gospel according to Paul? Can we find a close correspondence between Luke’s Paul and Paul’ Paul?

Then, of course are the questions Bowman raises here and at one point above seems to raise the point of natural law in relationship to Scripture. Yet is some kind of situational ethic also in the kingdom of God a Christian ethic as we negotiate the evolution of life?

Anonymous said...

Natural law? Impossible before about April. Scholasticism is enjoying a modest revival in all traditions including our own, but it is not clear to me that the restorers have satisfied the old critiques or the postmodern condition. *Motivated reasoning* from zealots forces one to weed before gardening.

BW

Anonymous said...

There is a Reformed teeter totter that I try to avoid: biblicism sliding into rigourism v. refexive rejection of "traditions of men."

BW

Father Ron said...

Dear Sisters and Brothers; after viewing the excellent BBC filming of H.M. The Queen's Funeral service at Westminster Abbey. I have realised how a well-conducted Funeral Service can have the power to invoke, and renew, faith in Jesus Christ as Redeemer and Saviour of ALL who look to Him for these gifts of The Living God. The simple address by the ABC was to the point and inspirational - in which the problems, as well as the virtues, of the Departed were aired and duly celebrated. My own funeral will not be quite as formal or grand - but it will include a Celebration of the Life-Giving elements of Christ in the shared Holy Communion, which He gave to us as the guarantee of our continuing life in God, through Baptism and Eucharistic sharing
Thanks be to God for Her Majesty's testimony of Faith that has inspired may others to believe.

John Sandeman said...

Author John Dickson comments that the bible lit a slow-burning fuse (in Philemon) that would eventually destroy slavery. So perhaps we need to lay to humankind's obduracy the persistence of human bondage, not the scripture. And having abolished it, trans-Atlantic slavery was a reinvention of a practice that had been done away with. What other truths of scripture have we willfully ignored?

Father Ron said...

Certainly, John, most of the Church has evolved past, for example, the dietary laws and strictures against women being fully employed in the mission of the Gospel (BUT, maybe in your eyes these may not be 'truths of Scripture'?). This does beg the question of what we are to regard as 'the Scriptures' - as being 'from the mouth of God' for all time.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi John
I completely agree that Philemon is a slow burning fuse of a bomb under slavery. But it is a slow burning fuse etc and not a direct prohibition of slavery.

Mark Murphy said...

For the oppressed, slow-burning fuses is justice delayed and denied.

Anonymous said...

Have I missed something?

Upstream, some in and out of the Communion have objected to the participation in Lambeth Conferences of bishops from churches that permit blessings of SSM. Justin Welby, of course, invited them.

According to Gatiss, Welby notes: "their 'long prayer' and 'deep study' and their view of scripture and of Christ."

That is, Welby defended the participation of those bishops by defending their *epistemic virtue*. Faced with an unavoidable problem, they acted faithfully and well in seeking to know God's will concerning it. Which Lambeth Conferences also occasionally do.

In the matter of SSB, the objectors believe that these churches have reached mistaken results. But Welby implies that, even assuming (for the sake of argument) that they found the wrong solution, the proper way these member churches sought God's will warrants confidence that their bishops will also discern properly at Lambeth Conferences. Hence there is no reasonable objection to the participation of these bishops.

Gatiss himself: "glaringly obvious deviation from historic Christian orthodoxy"

On this occasion, Gatiss is appealing, not directly to scripture but to tradition. Why? Sidestepping both SSB and Welby's defense of member churches, Gatiss seems to complain that anyone in the role of Archbishop of Canterbury ought instead to have enforced "historic Christian orthodoxy."

*

G: He says it's raining. I think it's not. I do not trust him to know the weather.

W: But he has looked at the clouds, and stuck his tongue out. That's how we know whether it is raining or not. Surely you can trust him to know the weather.

G: Your job is not telling me whom to trust. Your job is pointing out that people are not believing the official forecast.

*

Each is making a sophisticated argument, albeit not with a theorem.

Neither argument seems to be about the scriptures or SSB.


BW

Anonymous said...

Postscript

I would be delighted to think that increasing use of the word *orthodoxy* showed that the blessings of cheerful dogmatism were being more widely enjoyed. But I'm not because I don't because it doesn't. What has actually spread is the habit of appealing to tradition to support claims that used to be argued more directly from the scriptures.

Moderns spoke as though evidences were immediately self-evident, and so deployed bits of scripture to prove things. But postmoderns see that data become facts through interpretation. Data still matter so scriptures still matter, but one cannot show how in any particular case without reference to some body of interpretive precedent. Tradition.

Saying that a conclusion is *orthodox* can be an appeal to catholic orthodoxy :-) But often it is just an insinuation that *people like us have always thought as I do so you ought to agree with me* :-(

What is only insinuated is not well argued. But it is not the dead horse of *nuda scriptura*.

BW

Peter Carrell said...

Appeals to “historic Christian orthodoxy” (alone, without added explanations) do not work well).

It’s the Lambeth Conference of1122 and the ABC is criticised for welcoming Scriptural studying bishops who both support the filioque clause and who do not support it, following a well-known bust up in 1054. “He should only have invited those who maintain historic Christian orthodoxy.”

It’s the Lambeth Conference of 2032 and the King as Supreme Governor of the host Church of England is invited to address the conference but the Church Society rounds on the ABC for issuing the invitation. “The historic Christian orthodoxy on remarriage after divorce which prevailed at the time of the 1958 Lambeth Conference (circa the time when the Queen forbade her sister marrying a divorcee) should continue to clearly guide the ABC’s decisions.”

Anonymous said...

"Appeals to HCO (alone, without added explanations) do not work well."

No, they don't. What added explanations might supply is a road from the creed with which we are baptised through a traditional heuristic for the matter at hand to a customary practice.

Father Ron said...

There can be living words written by people today that echo the basic message of god's Love in Christ we are told about in the scriptures. Here are some words for today, from our friend:

"THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2022

“When faced with concrete and urgent needs, we need to act quickly. How many people in our world look forward to a visit from someone who is concerned about them! How many of the elderly, the sick, the imprisoned and refugees have need of a look of sympathy, a visit from a brother or sister who scales the walls of indifference! … Let us carry Jesus within our hearts, and bring him to all those whom we meet! In this beautiful season of your lives, press ahead and do not postpone all the good that the Holy Spirit can accomplish in you! With affection, I bless your dreams and every step of your journey.”
Pope Francis

Unknown said...

Postscript

Out and about, I meet people with three approaches to Doing What Jesus Would Do Today.

Some people try to emote as they think Jesus would have emoted and to act accordingly. In the abstract, this is much less crazy than it sounds to a rationalist. At a glance, its main defect is that it reduces the whole of moral life to rather rare crossroads decisions.

And it puts a greater burden on an emotivist's understanding of Jesus than it can usually bear. With only a passing knowledge of scripture, they merely project their own rather conventional ideas onto a caricature and then read them as The Very Will of God. About which they are emotional and in conversation unreasonable.

Resiling from that are the legalists. Again, not crazy. But again again, this is dependent in principle on a broader and deeper engagement with Jesus-in-Israel than scavengers for rules usually have.

And there are not enough rules to sustain an ethos equal to the richness of human life. It is paradoxically irresponsible to be fastidious only about the few clear rules. Legalism is perfectly adapted to a culture of careerism and consumption.

Lately, academics on the Way-- those I know anyway-- have more or less accepted that, while there are a few divine commands, serious disciples are mostly cultivating the virtues of Christ in all that they do. They are not always better acquainted with the Jesus of history, but they may be better informed in daily life by as much as they do know. And nothing in consciousness is beyond the reach of a virtue ethic, so one cannot be deluded into thinking that a few scruples makes a fine life.

But the self comes into view. Narcissism may be more a hazard here than in the other two.

Anonymous said...

What is needed is self-unconsciousness which is the essence of humility and virtue itself. (From “I will lift up mine eyes’ by Glenn Clark).
Moya

Father Ron said...

With all due respect; what is needed is a personal relationship with Christ - available through His own recommended reception of Him in Baptism and Eucharist - all the rest is theory. (Do this to remember me)

Anonymous said...

I couldn’t agree more, Father Ron, that is basic! But I found, having a personal relationship with Christ through baptism, Eucharist and surrender to him as Lord, I still needed help to understand how that is worked out in everyday life. Glenn Clark’s book on prayer that I mentioned was a key to that understanding. But I am glad you pointed out the basis of life in Christ.
Moya

Unknown said...

Exactly right.

Again, exactly right.

(Happily, Father Ron is easy to remember.)

BW

Father Ron said...

"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.
God's mercies never come to an end.
New every morning, new every morning;
Great is your faithfulness, O Lord! Great is your faithfulness"

Mark Murphy said...

I think we get into problems and become counter-productive (to the Gospel) when we insist that our saving relationship to Christ need take on this or that particular form.

I guess we all have lines in the sand past in terms of a *true relationship* that is truly with *Christ*, though I am inclined to hold such knowing much more lightly.

For myself, the sort of "personal relationship with Jesus my Saviour" that many speak about and promote has never sounded like my own experience of Christ.