Friday, August 28, 2009

Unzipping the world with Plato and the gospel

I really appreciate the wisdom and insight of the site More than a via media (which has no named author but can be described as a post liberal Anglican living in Northern Ireland; I shall call him or her "MVM"). In a recent post MVM neatly skewers the critique of ++Rowan and +Wright by the Modern Churchpeople's Union:

"MCU declares that Anglicanism must be open to change:

"While holding fast to tradition is sometimes the right thing to do, at other times we are called to welcome new developments and insights".

So change, innovation is a good thing in the eyes of the MCU. Yes? Well, er, no.

The MCU encyclical takes aim at +Canterbury and +Durham for their support of the Anglican Covenant. But according to MCU, the ecclesiology of the Covenant is to be condemned as ... wait for it ... an innovation.

"It has never been a formal part of the Anglican Communion's governance ... To make the governance of the Anglican Communion fit this idea would ... be a major innovation".

"New developments and insights", it seems, are good and positive only when they accord with a revisionist agenda - communion for the unbaptised, lay presidency at the eucharist, the ordination of those in same-sex relationships. As for developments which serve Anglicanism's catholic and evangelical witness, they are to be rejected 'major innovations'."

But MVM's latest post makes a point I had not thought of but which corresponds with a lurking concern in my mind as I follow debates in the Communion: are we a Communion with a clear and confident sense of the transcendance of God, of God as Being able to break into our world with revelation, power, and judgement? MVM's point is that a lot of thinking about God presupposes the 'closed universe of the Enlightenment'. Although MVM's concern is how we go about evangelism, I think his observation also applies to much Anglican theology. The solution? According to MVM it is to rediscover Plato! I won't reproduce what he has to say ... please read it all for yourself!

Kind of changing the topic, but there is also an excellent post to read from John Richardson on the seemingly endless question "What is an evangelical?" I like the way he pushes the priority of evangelism to the forefront of the distinctive features of evangelicalism. I am sure Plato would approve :)

PS John Richardson's post on being evangelical is part of a series - read them all!


Anonymous said...

New developments and insights, it seems, are good and positive only when they accord with a revisionist agenda - communion for the unbaptised, lay presidency at the eucharist, the ordination of those in same-sex relationships, “remarriage” of those divorced, ordaining women, allowing usury, forbidding slavery, dividing the church into “cultural strands”, allowing a well-known scandal to continue undisciplined, blessing divorces, having two equal bishops in one diocese, ordaining without training, …

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Anonymous,
It is a tricky task to distinguish between good innovations and bad innovations, indeed between actual innovations and things which look like innovations, to say nothing of thinking creatively yet carefully about what the grounds for making such distinctions could be, and whether they will seem sound to intelligent critical scholars.

One feels a lifetime of work is involved in (for example) sifting through the list you provide in your comment :)

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Anonymous
A more serious response: I see MVM as making the point that one is on poor grounds arguing against innovation A while promoting innovation B if the argument involves a supposition that innovation should not take place, is a bad thing, etc.

On the list you adduce are issues which can be argued on their merits, none should be forbidden/shut down merely because it is an innovation.

You are also raising, at least implicitly, the issue of consistency in the life of my church ACANZP as it tackles, or refrains from tackling, various matters. Not being the Autocrat of our church I cannot readily, or as readily as I sometimes think you think I might be able to, work on a more consistent polity in our church.

Anonymous said...

Let me say first that I have *never* heard of MCU-type revisonists supprting 'lay presidency at the eucharist' - such a thing would be completely anathema to them because it would undermine their clericalist agenda. On this point liberal revisionists become stridently traditional. Sydney cannot be bracketed with Tec here. Sydney's claim is actually based on radical Reformation 'ad fontes' grounds, that the NT church knew nothing of 'presbyteral presidency' of the eucharist, that such a development is post-biblical. I suspect they may be correct on this point, but don't have the scholarship to be sure.

As for the mixed bag of other comments by 'Anonymous', a mixed response is called for:
* “remarriage” of those divorced
- since the NT allows divorce (as the Orthodox have always undestood), the possibilty of remarriage has to be entertained
ordaining women
- not found in the NT or tradition (other than for nuns)
* allowing usury
- allowed by Jesus in Matt 25.27
forbidding slavery
- the NT opposes slavery (1 Tim 1.10, the same verse which condemns arsenokoitia)
* dividing the church into “cultural strands”
- that's Kiwi pragmatism for you; it used to be called 'separate development' in the DRC
* allowing a well-known scandal to continue undisciplined
- you keep referring to this without specifying what you're talking about. May not be that well-known Explain or be silent.
* blessing divorces
- divorces are not 'blessed', people beginning a new marriage are prayed for. important difference.
* having two equal bishops in one diocese
- ill-thought out Kiwi pragmatism again. A bit like the (non) bishop of the (non) Diocese of Navajoland
* ordaining without training
- a pragmatic attempt to provide folk priests for rural regions in church with few clergy and less money. Lay presidency, anyone? Yes, better training is definitely needed. Go, Bishopsdale!


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Anon1
There is much to debate - sometimes in the substance, sometimes in the detail or nuance - of these issues. I won't attempt it here!

Anonymous said...

Re evangelical; I've always felt that justification by faith should be a central and loudly emphasised tenet, closely in connexion with the cross and a strong doctrine of atonement - and a very high view of scripture. For all the accusations of individualism levelled at evangelicals, a proper scriptural basis leads to a high view of the church, and indeed in our local brethren and baptist churches there is a strong conception of the body of Christ.
One rarely comes across an attachment to Luther and Calvin except among evangelicals. However it makes perfect sense to talk of high church evangelicals, and in practice one meets liberal Christians who are motivated by an evangelical faith but who ask very divergent questions.

Anonymous said...

The suggestion that all, most, or even many of the remarriages of divorcees fit a fair reading of the New Testament is blatantly incorrect.
So can Anon1 clarify: are you against ordaining women?
That Matthew 25: 27 is read by Anon1 as “Jesus allowing usury” shows the quality of his/her scholarship. Read it in context, Anon1! Usury is condemned in the Bible as a capital offence Ezekiel 18:13. Jesus’ parable is about a “hard man” – he is clearly not moral as he suggests his servants engage in an abomination. The Catholic Church condemned usury until 1918.
Slavery & 1 Tim 1:10 (cleary Anon1 hasn’t read Titus 2:9 etc) The ESV footnote clarifies the person condemned in 1 Tim 1:10 “That is, those who take someone captive in order to sell him into slavery” – slavery is nowhere condemned in the Bible.
The scandal – the blog author has acknowledged on this site that this scandal is well known, not dealt with, and that he has decided (for unspecified reasons) not to pursue dealing with it. If you have a need to know the specifics, contact the blog author privately as he is unwilling to use this site, including comments, to deal with it.
Divorces are blessed in the Anglican Church in NZ. The rite is called “Liturgy for recognising the end of a marriage.” It is used at every level of the church.
Kiwi pragmatism is Anon1’s brushing off other revisionism.
Anon1 clarifies he/she does not know the NZ situation well by limiting “ordaining without training” to “rural regions” – major NZ cities have many such clergy. There are central urban parishes completely run by such.

Anonymous said...

Hello, Anonymous:
I can respond only briefly to your remarks.
1. I didn't say most or all remarriages today would pass the NT test, only that I believe the NT permits remarriage.
2. *You* need to read in context! The wicked servant calls the master 'a hard man'. The OT banned interest among Israelites but allowed it in loans to Gentiles (Deut 23.20).
3. Slavery had numerous causes in the ancient world (debt slavery, POW, punishment, kidnap) and took numerous forms, some a lot better than others. It was a fact of life, but the NT never saw slavery as a positive good but rather something to be overcome - eventually - by the gospel's tranformation of relations. Many slaves did become liberti. Read Gagnon on the subject.
4. A “Liturgy for recognising the end of a marriage" doesn't appeal to me but there's a difference between 'blessing' and expressing sorrow/repentance over a failed marriage.
5. I am NOT in favor of Kiwi pragmatism, or downgrading classical theological training and preaching. Part time courses only makes a church more ignorant and liberal.
On WO, I don't really know what I think, except that I don't think it's been an unalloyed blessing to Anglicanism, either to NZ or North American Anglicanism, which are both in remorseless decline. I think churches are healthiest when they are led by spiritual fathers.