Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Lord will provide

Daily posting on this blog is my aim, but sometimes time, and occasionally sheer lack of 'caught my eye' or 'I have been thinking' material eludes me. But there are times when I think another day will have to go by without a post only to find that, indeed, 'the Lord will provide'. Today, via his servant Glynn Cardy that provision has been made. Glynn is the Vicar of St Matthew's-in-the-City, Auckland. He is great company socially, stimulating conversation partner theologically (i.e. he and I do not always agree!!), and may or may not deliberately court controversy. He and his church are offering the following billboard for viewing this Christmas:

A news report is here which compares the advertisement to the proposed atheist bus adverts (posted about below). Which ad will be the greater conversation starter?

I suppose Protestants and Catholics might have different responses to the implications of the billboard!

(Later) Peter, you are slow off the mark! Way over in New York state, Matt Kennedy is on patrol, probing deeper into this story with a video link to Glynn Cardy. Read what Matt says at Stand Firm, but here is the video close at hand:

Now, here is a very deep and profound response to the video:

Why is Glynn, a priest for many years, wearing his stole as though he is a deacon?

Glynn, the foundations of theology are at stake, not only with what you say, but with what you wear!

There is much to challenge here in what Glynn says. Just two things:

(1) "To make the news at Christmas it seems a priest just needs to question the literalness of a virgin giving birth. Many in society mistakenly think that to challenge literalism is to challenge the norms of Christianity. What progressive interpretations try to do however is remove the supernatural obfuscation and delve into the deeper spiritual truth of this festival.

Christian fundamentalism believes a supernatural male God who lived above sent his sperm into the womb of the virgin Mary."

Umm, are people who believe in the Virgin Birth incapable of also delving 'into the deeper spiritual truth of this festival'? Do Christian fundamentalists believe that God sent his 'sperm into the womb of the virgin Mary'? This fundamentalist (or 'fundamentalist') simply believes God was able to effect the fertilization of an egg in Mary's womb. How God did this is a mystery not requiring the banal anthropomorphism of talking about God's sperm.

(2) "No doubt on Christmas Eve when papers print the messages of Church leaders a few of them will serve up this fundamentalist thesis wrapped in a nice story."

Perhaps that happens up in Auckland. The standard fare in the Christchurch Press is wheeling out a progressive Christian leader to make comment about the deeper meaning of Christmas.

On the other hand I am at one with Glynn on other points, for example, critiquing that theology which makes the Incarnation a mere hors d'oeuvre to the main course of Jesus' Death-and-Resurrection.

But when all is said and done about these kind of theological matters, I am troubled by the unexplained mystery of the reason why Glynn wears his stole diagonally. I look forward to enlightenment ...

Finally, back to Matt Kennedy's post:

One of the comments on Stand Firm has significant bite to it: (in my words) what is the difference between a Muslim and a progressive Christian who denies the divinity of Jesus?

There are other comments drawing attention to the theology of Jesus being God among the poor in contrast to the wealth of St Matthews-in-the-City ... those North Americans are well informed, methinks.


liturgy said...

Certainly St Matthew’s is to be congratulated for a magnificent piece of viral advertising – all over the web, on twitter, and in the newspaper. I still hope to write a blog post on it.

“I suppose Protestants and Catholics might have different responses to the implications of the billboard.” Clearly Anglicans ought not to differ from Catholics? Our formularies have Mary’s virginity perpetual – though, like our formulary on wearing a chasuble, generally more honoured in the breach than the observance. People are SO selective about which formularies they beat others over the head with!

The selectively biblically literalist (here termed “fundamentalist”) can devote so much time to biological distractions that the celebration of the incarnation is lost in wondering if God created sperm or God mysteriously fertilized “an egg in Mary's womb”. Atheists will answer the question “no”, selectively biblically literalist will answer the question “yes” – neither notices it is the wrong question. Luke isn't interested in where the other 23 chromosomes came from. It’s not a story about an anthropomorphic God. It is a story about us as theomorphic children.

Many Christians are Arians. Even more are Docetists. They think that Jesus is “God’s Son” because God got Mary pregnant. And Jesus just pretends to be learning Aramaic while he’s really toddling about seeing the errors in Einstein’s theories.

As to Glynn wearing his stole as if he is a deacon, clearly he’s one of these Anglicans who thinks he still is one. I have met more than one bishop who proudly proclaims to still be a deacon. These people think they are also still lay people – orders are like stamps and cards, you collect them. And you aren’t satisfied until you have the full set of four.

I’m not as impressed by Stand Firm and North American intelligence as you are. “What is the difference between a Muslim and a progressive Christian who denies the divinity of Jesus?” Well the first thing that immediately springs to mind is Muslims don’t accept that Jesus died on the cross.



Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco

I think we Protestant minded Anglicans need a "please explain where, how and why" it is thought that Mary's virginity being perpetual is a "formulary"?!

There are differences between Muslims and progressive Christians, but the closeness of progressive Christianity's doubts/denial about the divinity of Jesus to Islamic denial of Jesus' divinity never seems to give progressive Christians much pause for thought!

liturgy said...

The BCP as well as the NZPB, both formularies of our church, both continue to call Mary a virgin right up to the celebration of her death.

I am never very good, as you know, with different categories of Christianity - but I would have thought that some Christians might question whether Luke's story of Mary's virginity was symbolic or literal while holding firmly to Jesus being the human face of God; but Muslims would almost all accept the virgin birth story as history whilst struggling to make any sense of calling Jesus ('Isa) divine.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco
I understand the references to the Virgin Mary in our prayer books (and, say, even someone such as my good Prot self calling her 'the Blessed Virgin Mary') to mean that Mary is a celebrated woman both because she responded to God's call to serve him by being pregnant with and giving birth to his Son and was the recipient of the miracle of conception without intercourse (while a virgin). Thus 'Virgin' refers to her state as the young mother of our Lord but implies nothing per se about being a perpetual virgin.

Your second paragraph neatly brings out a further possible difference between Islam and progressive Christianity.

Of course I can understand how Islam can believe in the Virgin Birth (it is a faith open to the miraculous) but I cannot understand why progressives are so confident they know Jesus is the human face of God when they cast so much doubt on Scripture.

liturgy said...

Your response really will not do, Peter. We are all virgins until we are not. And some are virgins all their life. Your response that we call Mary the Blessed Virgin Mary because she once was one just doesn’t work. By your logic – everyone would continue to be called a virgin, and the term becomes meaningless (born-again virgins notwithstanding).

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco
That was not what I said!
Mary is the Virgin Mary even for Reformed and Protestant Anglicans because she was a virgin when our Lord was conceived in her womb. The state of being a virgin when conceiving a child is unusual if not unique rather than universal.

liturgy said...

I reply again, conscious of tipping the balance towards my own caution of “devoting so much time to biological distractions.”

In your opinion, after the birth of Jesus, Mary went on to have other children, and lost her virginity in doing so.
Yet you continue to call her a virgin even after you believe she is not (eg. at the foot of the cross, in the Pentecost upper room).
And you claim, contra “Progressive Christianity”, you are using the term “virgin” literally, biologically, not metaphorically or symbolically.

I hope while you find your way of thinking makes perfect sense to you, you might at least try and understand why it appears pretty strange to some others.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco
Yes, I can see how my thinking might seem strange to others, especially those who believe that Mary was perpetually a virgin.

However the discussion has arisen among us because you have suggested (if not asserted) that the wording in our prayer books requires us to believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary.

Perhaps I should have, at the very beginning, checked on the prayer books! I do not have time to go through all references to Mary, but I have in front of me NZPB p. 660 which marks the feast day of Mary as "Saint Mary, the Mother of Jesus" and offers two collects. One of these collects makes no reference to Mary by name (and, on other grounds, you and I might have a less than eulogistic appraisal of it :) ). The other collect begins thus,

"God of love,
you chose the blessed virgin Mary
to be the mother of your only Son ..."

I would understand this reference to affirm that Mary was a virgin when chosen to the mother of our Lord and to make no requirements with respect to believing in her perpetual virginity by so describing her.

It could be, to better clarify my understanding - from the Bible, of course - that Mary had other children and thus was not a perpetual virgin, that I refrain from phrases such as the capitalised "Blessed Virgin Mary", and consciously refer to her, in line with the ascription in capitals on p. 660, as 'the Mother of Jesus'!

liturgy said...

“I can see how my thinking might seem strange to others, especially those who believe that Mary was perpetually a virgin.”

Quite the opposite. Your referring to the virgin Mary standing at the foot of the cross would not make someone who accepted the extremely ancient tradition of Mary’s perpetual virginity pause for a moment. But it should make someone who denies that early tradition sit up and say – “hang on a minute, what did you just call her?”

Teri said...

So having listened to Cardy's speech as far as I can tell he:
- doesn't believe in the accounts of Jesus birth
- considers that Jesus was executed for his outrageous hospitality (although I notice Cardy doesnt mention his hospitality to the rich and unpopular - only the poor and deserving).
- Cardy also doesnt appear to believe that Jesus actually died on the cross - calling it "a symbolic vindication".

I am merely confused why he even calls himself a Christian and quite frankly wish that he wouldn't. Perhaps it's time for us to take church discipline a little more seriously?

Peter Carrell said...

I agree, Teri, it is time to take church discipline seriously. That might help de-confuse Glynn.

Teri said...

Thanks for all your enlightening postings on the current (and previous) topics Peter - I have so enjoyed your blog which I discovered this year. Always challenges me to think things through and helps me understand the theological underpinnings and implications of some of the massive turmoil going on in the Communion at the moment. Keep up the great work!