Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A very small note on confessional unity

Reading through 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus (the Pastoral Letters), one can hardly fail to be struck by the recurring emphasis on sound teaching, warnings against false and deceiving teachers, and one might notice that some forms of confession of faith seemed to be incorporated into the writing (e.g. 1 T 3:5-6; 2 T 2:11-13; and, just maybe, Titus 3:4-7). This is 'striking' because other Pauline letters have less overt emphasis on these things.

That raises the question about the 'occasion(s)' of the Pastorals. What kind of discussions, debates and dialogues (if not diatribes) were taking place in the churches being addressed through Timothy and Titus which occasioned this 'confessional' emphasis? What level of divisiveness had occurred, or had looked like being imminent, which provoked the need to talk about sound teaching and to warn about false teaching?

Two things can be deduced by considering the Pastorals against the background of the whole New Testament. (1) Concern for confessional unity (knowing and agreeing on the truth as basis for fellowship) is not always present. (2) Sometimes concern for confessional unity is very urgent.

In the Anglican Communion today some seemed unconcerned about confessional unity (indeed a few argue vigorously against any notion of confessional unity within Anglicanism) while others are urgently concerned about it. Is our situation an occasion for concern about confessional unity or not?

If it is such an occasion then it matters little that confessional unity may not have been a feature of the Anglican landscape in the past. The past is not always helpful in guiding us about present situations. We who live in Christchurch know all about that: the absence of locally generated earthquakes prior to 4th September led us to believe we would not be troubled by such an earthquake. But the past deluded us and we were rudely awoken to a new reality!

It is scarcely credible that the Anglican Communion in this first decade of the 21st century is not facing a new reality compared to the preceding centuries. The question before us is whether we are responding appropriately to the occasion or not. The fact that we can entertain the possibility of formally admitting we are no longer united in one Communion, that, indeed, we might even accept that unity is no longer worth working for, suggests that we are in such a situation that we cannot, and should not rule out reconsideration of the importance of confessional unity for our future fellowship in Christ.


Suem said...

I am not sure it is helpful to talk of "confessional unity" when different people of good and genuine faith conscientiously believe differently on the issue of sexuality and the ministry of women and when both groups have cogent grounds, scripturally, theologically and pastorally to support their convictions. What confessional unity cannot and must not mean is "I will force you to confess to what I believe in, even when it goes against your convictions, faith, sense of morality and reading of scripture."

But of course, the church has always denounced false teachers. Luther was denounced as such and people killed over the issue, although now I think we would see this behaviour as what? Insane? Unchristian?

Sometimes differences over our perceptions of what is false and what is true do lead to schism. This can be avoided in this situation, but not unless we are prepared to disagree yet still prepared to walk in communion. I tire of spelling out that which is so obvious. If you cannot reconcile yourself to such difference of opinion, then schism is inevitable.

Howard Pilgrim said...

Ah Yes, the Pauline corpus: now you are more on my home ground, Peter, so here is another very small note in response.

I agree with you that there is a clear shift on the importance of doctrinal correctness between Paul's more original letters and the Pastorals which show clear signs of having been updated by his disciples. Their move in this case is a simple one:- unsound teaching is anything not reflecting the apostles own teaching as they were taught and subsequently adapted it. In effect:- If you don't agree with us and what we remember of Paul's teachings, you are wrong. Not a very good place to start building confessinal unity after all this time!

As for the great apostle himself, it was even simpler:- If you don't agree with me, you are wrong!. Handy when your audience agrees that you are an apostle, not so handy when there are other apostles disagreeing with you, known to your audience. In those circumstances, Paul knew he had to argue each case on its merits, and did so with the full range of his spiritual powers and rhetorical skills, with the result that he achieved a clear pre-eminence over all rivals.

In our current situation of interacting disagreements the challenge I take from his example is that we must engage in robust debate over our differences rather than resorting to power politics. Hence, no Covenant! Q.E.D.

Peter Carrell said...

Well, yes, to a certain amount of what you say, Suem and Howard!

Some agreement to disagree is required in most occasions of human community if it is not to split. Cases should be argued on their merits rather than won on the basis of the power of the proposer, etc.

But I am wondering Howard if in your view anyone can ever be wrong so long as they continue to assert they are not!

And with both of you I would raise the question whether there are any times in the life of the church when our life is threatened by 'false teaching' (not 'different teaching') and thus there might be occasions for seeking and/or renewing the basis of our unity in terms of the confession of our faith?

The Covenant, I think, but you know I will say this (!!), is potentially both a good and a necessary confession of our faith (i.e. the first three sections). If we disagree on the viability of the fourth section, then the question remains whether we ever envisage disciplining those who teach falsely; and if we do, on what basis?

Remember, if we are unwilling to discipline false teaching then we must live with its continuing influence in our life. It does not go away if we pretend it does not exist!

Brother David said...

So line out the false teaching that you wish to root out Peter;

And we shall tell you if we even agree with you that it is false teaching. Unfortunately for you, I doubt that the three of us here with you in this conversation so far would agree with you that what you lined out was false teaching.

After that where would we go? Because we did not feel that what you think is false teaching is false teaching, would you then be persuaded to break table fellowship with us, refer to us as heretics, unrepentant sinners, infidels bound for the pit of hell and make sure that we were unwelcome in your church?

You see that has been the major part of my experience with fellow "Anglicans" who disagree with me about what is false teaching. They label themselves "Orthodox" believers and accuse me of being a revisionist, of believing/teaching another gospel, a false gospel, hence not Anglican, so definitely not Christian.

Opps, here we are back in the same place.

Howard Pilgrim said...

"Remember, if we are unwilling to discipline false teaching then we must live with its continuing influence in our life."

Why must it be all about disciplining false teaching Peter? What about refuting it with persuasive arguments? Isn't that one of our great tasks as theologians? The problem with resorting to discipline is that it tends to avoid and suppress the arguments. I'm with Paul on this one, backed up by 2000 years of theological debates! Was it all unnecessary? All we needed was more authoritative pronouncements from on high, from councils or el papa!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David,

I think it important for the purpose of this discussion to set aside the issues of same sex partnerships and the ordination of women, on the basis that at this time these are controversial issues rather than matters of true v false teaching. Afterall we cannot seem to get the meeting of Anglican worthies together that could agree to make a decision re true or false and also agree to abide by that decision!

Examples of false teaching that are worth a closer look, perhaps even 'rooting them out' are these:

(1) It is possible to find words being said liturgically at Anglican eucharists that signify adherence to a Roman understanding which (I thought) being Anglican, by definition, meant we did not agree with.

(2) It is possible to find Anglican bishops and theologians who either cannot or will not commit to confessing the uniqueness of Christ as the only name by which anyone can be saved.

(3) (To head in a different direction) There is a form of 'Anglican congregationalism' which is a false representation of Anglican ecclesiology.

But I think I am more intrigued by the unwillingness of Anglicans to see anything positive in being confessional than by examples of false teaching around us. If there is little of substance which we disagree on, why not embrace the concept of confessing together what we do believe?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Howard,

In certain kinds of worlds there is time to engage in refutation each time false teaching rears its head. But some of us do not have that time, or, at least, do not have time for each and every issue. 'Discipline' can be a short cut timewise to maintaining the truth. A couple of examples: I am the busy editor of a church magazine; an article is submitted which includes false teaching; I edit the false teaching out (on the basis that it fails to agree with the (written or unwritten) confession of the church. Or, I am responsible for organising a conference; some suggestions are made about speakers; one is likely to teach falsely; I demur at the thought of this person being given a plenary session (too much fall out afterwards to clean up!!); the suggestion is turned away; pastorally I follow up by explaining why this person is unacceptable; but I make it clear that I have not time to refute, idea by idea, what is wrong with the person's theology.

Howard Pilgrim said...

Neither of those two examples seems like an example of disciplining a false teacher, Peter. (NB:- I did not write "...Peter, a false teacher"). Just two everyday cases of exercising your right to decide who you want to associate with: an exercise of individual freedom and of your responsibility towards your readers/your audience. No need to justify your action, or spend time on refutations.

What you are calling for within the Communion is not simply the same thing on a larger scale. It might be more like this:- Your rejected author gets his article published by another church magazine so you demand that the other editor must be taken to task or the other magazine disowned by the church. In your second case, another conference makes room for the speaker in its plenary sessions, and you insist that none of those attending your event have anything to do with the other one.

Neither procedure seems very Anglican, nor very credible in today's world. Alternatively, as a theologian in the long and honourable tradition of those who are Valiant for Truth, you could make time for a refutation, if you are truly concerned about the false teachings.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Howard,
To an extent one of my concerns about false teaching abroad in the Communion is being met indirectly. Let me explain: for some decades we Anglicans endured the likes of John A.T. Robinson (in his Honest to God mode) and John Spong being able to sell their books on the basis that they were bishops, and when we looked to see if their churches would discipline them as false teachers, we found an unwillingness to do so. If it was unAnglican to discipline, apparently it was also Anglican to peddle heresy!

But one unexpected benefit of the last decades quarrels (I would argue) is that just about every Anglican bishop seems keen to present their 'orthodox doctrinal' credentials. "What me? Not believe in the resurrection? Of course I do!"

Perhaps the need for confessional unity is not as urgent as I am arguing here. But then the present crisis will pass and new Spongs will rise up. Nip them in the bud?

Brother David said...

I am sorry Peter, I have to be honest with you, those sound to me like really stupid things to be concerned about. Let alone looking to discipline someone over.

Call me back to the table when you have something that is actually important to discuss. Otherwise my brother, whom you think may hold a heretical idea or two and needs to be called to account and disciplined, and I have a date in a soup kitchen. Then we are taking communion to shut ins and those in hospital and hospice. Plus, I hear that there is a Habitat for Humanity project for which my sister who is not convinced that Jesus is the only way to God is seeking volunteers.

Howard Pilgrim said...

"Perhaps the need for confessional unity is not as urgent as I am arguing here." From your mouth to God's ears.

"But then the present crisis will pass"

"...and new Spongs will rise up. Nip them in the bud?" Just what they will love, like throwing Brer Rabbit into the briar patch. Spong thrives on the notoriety generated by ecclesiastical rejection, and withers when ignored.

"And that, said John, is that." Case closed, your honour!

Peter Carrell said...

One must remain ever vigilant about false teaching, Howard!

While some thrive on rejection, other just quietly get on with their work and affect ministry training in some places for decades.

Incidentally, I remain intrigued that talk of discipline is 'unAnglican': sounds like I am being disciplined for crossing the 'orthodox' Anglican line on such a matter. One of my arguments recurring here is that we Anglicans have unwritten covenants and unwritten confessions which have as much force as putative written ones. Would it not be more honest to have a written covenant?

Andrew Reid said...

Hi Peter,
I know this is straying from your original point about confessional unity, but the comments are heading in the direction of church discipline. It strikes me that I don't think I have ever seen an article, paper, blog post, or anything at all about what Biblical church discipline looks like at the individual, congregational, diocesan and national levels. If you or any of your commenters can suggest a helpful resource, I would be much obliged.
I wonder if one aspect of the troubles we are facing is that we have no idea how to do church discipline. Because we Anglicans rejected the Catholic and Orthodox hierarchical structures and have a less defined confessional basis, it becomes much harder to resolve issues of false teaching and unChristlike behaviour. After the child abuse scandals, there are much clearer processes for clergy/staff behavioural issues. But for people in the pews, or false teaching by clergy, I can't think of one effective example of Biblical church discipline. How do we apply passages like Mt 18:15-17 in a broader church context? Can it work at the diocesan, national or international level?
Note that I'm not calling for an Inquistition (No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!!!). But why did we take no action when so many bishops and clergy undermined the historicity of the Bible and the uniqueness of Christ for salvation over the last 50 years? Are autonomous dioceses and provinces more important than defending and upholding the apostolic faith?

Howard Pilgrim said...

"sounds like I am being disciplined for crossing the 'orthodox' Anglican line". No, you are being argued with ... which is a sign of the respect in which we hold you.

Next lower level of respect would be arguing against your views in your absence.

The lowest level, total disrespect, would be taking disciplinary action to exclude you in some way, without even properly considering your views. Isn't that what Part 4 of the covenant is all about?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Andrew,
I would prefer to focus on confessional unity rather than church discipline. The latter tends to get 'manipulated' very quickly (e.g. the media focus on the disciplined one rather than the issue and before you know it there is a cult of the martyr developing!)

I agree with Howard that, if possible, refutation is better than reprimand.

No, I do not know what books to recommend.

Here in ACANZP we do actually have canonical means to deal with false teaching ... it's just that one would have to be on sure ground, and some false teaching is wily!

But I suggest there are informal ways operating which keep certain teachers and their teachings in check: non-invitations to parishes, conferences and the like being one of those ways.

liturgy said...

Peter writes, “(1) It is possible to find words being said liturgically at Anglican eucharists that signify adherence to a Roman understanding which (I thought) being Anglican, by definition, meant we did not agree with.”
Sorry, I struggle with this logic. Peter is suggesting that we disagree with Roman understanding “by definition”.
My reading is that we actually AGREE with Roman understanding on most things “by definition”. Eg. Trinity, Divinity of Christ, inspiration of the scriptures, etc.

Much more significantly ;-), Peter writes: “We who live in Christchurch know all about that: the absence of locally generated earthquakes prior to 4th September led us to believe we would not be troubled by such an earthquake. But the past deluded us and we were rudely awoken to a new reality!”
Again IMO absolutely the opposite is true.
A quick scan over our history shows between 1868 and 1910, for example, there were several significant earthquakes EVERY year. Many were strong enough to crack or destroy the Christchurch cathedral steeple which is now, because of this, not of stone, as originally, but copper.
Rather than having been deluded and “led to believe we would not be troubled by such an earthquake” in fact Christchurch has had stringent building codes and has been systematically earthquake-proofing our buildings so much so that when the Haiti-size quake struck, not a single person has died.

I think, similarly, the repeated crying that the Anglican sky is falling is actually an exaggeration and, on the other hand, a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Only a little examination of the many many protestant attempts at unity-by-lists-of-beliefs should convince anyone objectively that this is inevitably self-destructive. Lists of beliefs to tick always lead to greater disunity – not unity.

We are actually missing a prime opportunity for mission and ministry because we have degenerated to straining gnats while swallowing camels.

Fr. Bryan Owen said...

I once heard an Episcopalian say this:

"To claim that there is such a thing as 'the faith of the Church' and that the Bible, the creeds, and the liturgies of the Prayer Book embody that faith is merely a way of trying to impose one's own views on other people. The Episcopal Church doesn't have teaching that's binding on anyone. To say otherwise is to endorse indoctrination, not inclusiveness."

And again: "We all recite the same words of the Nicene Creed on Sundays, but many of us disagree on what almost every word of that Creed means."

It follows that there can be no such thing as "false teaching," because that would imply a standard of truth independent of the individual's interpretation that is, indeed, binding on everyone. Instead, all we have are rival interpretations from which we engage one another in debate (or polemic).

This quickly becomes political as the majority interpretation prevails over the minority interpretation via legislation. And so here we have an informal means of church discipline that excludes those in the theological minority from positions of power and influence. Which is fine, because there is no standard of truth external to the debate/polemic/political process to which anyone can be held accountable and which could show who is really in the right and who is really in the wrong. All we have are rival (and at times incommensurable) interpretations and rival wills to power.

So why bother with all of this talk of true vs. false teaching when what we should really be about is building houses and feeding the poor? (Note that this, too, is a normative claim that carries no more authoritative weight in this postmodern vortex than saying, "Jesus is Lord.")

It increasingly seems that the only heresy is believing that there is such a thing as heresy. And that the only absolute truth is there really is no such thing as absolute truth. You have the truth of your perspective, and I have mine.

I'm reminded of a quote from the late Richard John Neuhaus: "Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed." Church discipline, indeed!

Kurt said...

“It is possible to find words being said liturgically at Anglican eucharists that signify adherence to a Roman understanding which (I thought) being Anglican, by definition, meant we did not agree with.”

This is ambiguous, Peter; can you specify? This type of complaint could have been voiced 250 years ago by evangelicals about Scottish, American, or even some English priests (like John Wesley) who adhered to the Greater and Lesser Usages.

“It is possible to find Anglican bishops and theologians who either cannot or will not commit to confessing the uniqueness of Christ as the only name by which anyone can be saved.”

Again, Peter, this is ambiguous. I believe that “Christ is the only Name by which anyone can be saved.” But, because I believe that Christ came into the world to save sinners (not just Christian sinners) I would not at all presume to say that a Jew, Muslim—or atheist for that matter—are not also saved through Christ.

“There is a form of 'Anglican congregationalism' which is a false representation of Anglican ecclesiology.”

Tell that to Sydney, Peter!

Kurt Hill
In crisp, Autumnal Brooklyn, NY

Peter Carrell said...

In reply to thoughtful correspondents, Bosco, Bryan, and Kurt (thank you)

Part of Anglican definition has been distinction in eucharistic theology. We are very close these days, true; but (IMHO) we Anglicans are different from Romans in not offering a sacrifice to God, save for a sacrifice of praise. But some Anglican eucharists, just prior to the eucharistic prayer, deliberately add words about offering a sacrifice which are added from the Roman missal (and certainly not, here in NZ, from our prayer book or the BCP). (I am not about to seek the discipline of such presiders!! but I wonder where in our church we critically reflect on the validity of this practice ...).

Bryan makes my point better than me: despite protestations to the contrary, there is false teaching within global Anglicanism yet we have this distinctively Anglican reluctance to address the matter.

I agree with Bosco that some histories of confessional statements suggest that route is a poor one to take. But we could look within our own heritage and observe that the (now much maligned) 39A served us well for hundreds of years. Even Newman couldn't persuade people that they could be interpreted as meaning the opposite of what they were saying!

And, yes, Chch has had earthquakes - there are faults not far from here as one looks towards the mountains and the hills. But no one knew there was a fault just 20 miles or so away.

Finally, I also agree, Bosco, that talk of false teaching can be a straining at gnats exercise. But, taking a big picture sweep of Western Anglicanism over the past 150 years, I think it worth raising the question how well our mission has been served by some of our theologians and bishops as guardians of doctrine.

Brother David said...

I am sorry I am not thoughtful. I do not know of any better way to convey something than with the truth. However I did think a long time about my comment and edited it a few times. Those kinds of things are not anything that I would be concerned about with a brother or sister.

Kurt said...

“Part of Anglican definition has been distinction in eucharistic theology. We are very close these days, true; but (IMHO) we Anglicans are different from Romans in not offering a sacrifice to God, save for a sacrifice of praise.”

Well, Fr. Carrell, your formulation would certainly be very questionable to many High Church Anglicans. For some early Anglican theologians, such as Lancelot Andrewes, the sacrificial nature of the Holy Eucharist certainly concerned far more than the “sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving” allowed by you and certain Low Church Reformers. It’s my understanding that Andrewes believed that what is celebrated in the Holy Mysteries is "a representation of the memory of that sacrifice" of Calvary. That is, a Commemorative Sacrifice.

According to Australian theologian, Dr. Marianne Dorman, “Sometimes Andrewes referred to the commemorative sacrifice as a mystical sacrifice as it was Christ's mystical Body, and not His natural Body, which is offered up as the true, ‘all- sufficient’, and perpetual sacrifice at the altar. This emphasises the participation of the whole Church, angels and saints as well as the living and dead, evident in the prayer of oblation when we pray ‘that we and all Thy whole Church may obtain remission of our sins, and other benefits of His Passion.’ When Cosin commented on these words ‘we and all Thy whole Church’ in his Prayer Book notes he actually quoted this response of Andrewes to Cardinal Perron. He also added that it is plain that Christ's sacrifice was ‘for the sins and for the benefit of the whole world, of the whole church; that both those which are here on earth, and those that rest in sleep of peace, being departed in the faith of Christ, may find the effect and virtue of it.’”

Elsewhere Dr Dorman says: “Calvary was the heart of the sacrifice, but in his [Andrewes] replies to the Cardinals there was disagreement over the manner of this sacrifice.”

So, Anglican/Episcopal priests offer a sacrifice, but differ with the Roman Church over its manner.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

liturgy said...

A minor aside first: I do not read our history of divisions as confidently as you do to conclude that the 39 Articles have “served us well for hundreds of years” in keeping unity.

There is an irony in your suggestion, Peter, that Anglican churches in NZ are teaching RC eucharistic doctrine contrary to Anglican formularies only a day after a commenter, unchallenged on your site, repeatedly claimed Anglo Catholicism to be dead here!

There is nothing in the words added that prevent you from understanding this as a “sacrifice of praise” – in fact the words include “for the praise and glory of his [God, the almighty Father’s] name”.

I suspect (cf. Bryan’s point) that you and I (and others) might interpret the word “sacrifice” differently.

Our (doctrinally-binding) Anglican NZPB (p541) IMHO presents words “stronger” than the ones you point to. Our Prayer Book has “…you make our wine Christ’s living sacrificial blood to redeem the world…”

Adding the RC words is totally allowed by our NZPB formularies.

Your overseas readers may not be aware that our NZ Anglican formularies actually allow Anglican Sunday Eucharists to follow liturgical prayers and responses none of which are in our own prayer book or specifically authorised here. In fact the principal teacher of liturgy at our national Anglican theological college has produced a liturgical resource book in which eucharistic services are presented where none of the prayers or responses have an Anglican source.

To expand a little further in one direction about my gnats and camels point: I see a world starving for authentic spirituality. There is a doctrinal component to that, of course. But the tradition we have abandoned is that of presenting shared spiritual practice. To paraphrase you, “I think it worth raising the question how well our mission has been served by some of our theologians and bishops as guardians of that.” I certainly feel like a lone voice as “I wonder where in our church we critically reflect on this”.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David,
The misunderstandings of text! When I saluted three commenters for their thoughtful responses I had not intended to slight your comment. I had not responded to your comment (which is thoughtful and challenging re practice/theology) because it had included a declaration that you would not return to this particular table (though I had hoped you would return to other posts here :) ).

Now, since you are returned, I simply offer the response that not all concerns of theology will carry equal weight with everyone. There are other concerns people may have for which I, like you in this instance, would not be particularly bothered and would prefer to take up a hammer for Habitat or a ladle for the soup kitchen.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Kurt and Bosco,
Yes, to Kurt, my understanding of what distinguishes or should distinguish Anglicanism from R. Catholicism would not be shared by all; though I venture to suggest that my concern is a majority concern of Anglicans measured through time and across provinces.

Yes, to Bosco, the peculiarities of our canons mean that adding words to the liturgy is difficult to forbid (and even taking them away is hard to prohibit :) ). I guess my concern is raised not on the grounds of 'rules' but of 'theology' (as I understand Anglican theology) ... feeling that the Reformation was fought over something that mattered ... and thinking, to myself, that before you know it, the only difference between Rome and Canterbury, apparently, is that we do not like the papacy!?

liturgy said...

My concern, also, is raised not on the grounds of 'rules' but of 'theology'. Yes, Peter, like Old Catholics, with whom Anglicans are in full communion, historically foundational is the rejection of papal claims, and that is something that matters – all the rest has flowed from that.

Brother David said...

I am sorry again Peter for not being more explicit. I, first off, am not one to run off in a huff and not return to a conversation. Secondly, my table was more the metaphorical table around which we have been discussing our agreements and our differences, not this forum that you provide us by way of your blog.

I was a fundamentalist, conservative evangelical in my youth. I reread comments from my classmates in my prepa year books and threw them out in shame one day when I realized that my entire early life as a Christian was spent telling others where they were doctrinally in error, arguing with others from the realm of Bible legalism. I have no use for that form of Christianity in my life.

I have a four year, academic, Master of Theology degree. I could teach university undergraduate level theology had I the desire. But I now try to live a life based on the teachings of Jesus. I do not find that Jesus was orthodox. He was not concerned with what people thought. He was not concerned with the beliefs which they held. He was concerned with orthopraxy, how folks lived their faith as it related to God and to others with whom they were in contact during their lives.

I cannot see Jesus concerned with the liturgical expression of his followers. I believe fiercely that he would be at the soup kitchen, and the Habitat construction site and working prison ministry.

And so those are the things to which I am about in my life as his follower. I took vows as a solitary about a year and a half after my partner died. I revealed that recently at the Anchorhold, a blog with contributions from Sister Ellie, another Anglican solitary; WHAT IS SPIRITUALITY?

I could never return to conservative evangelicalism and its judgement and legalism. I do not see it filled with the teachings or the life breath of Jesus.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,
I will think further about the thought that the (only significant or concrete) point of difference between Anglicans and Romans is the papacy ...

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David,
Thank you for sharing your life here (and via the link on the other blog) - your openness is much appreciated.

I do not see things theological-in-relation-to-praxis in the way you do; but I agree that a constant challenge, often failed, for conservative evangelicals is to live life in the Spirit of Jesus. I think it can be done ... and our liturgies can draw us closer to Jesus or become a thing in itself which is a barrier to Jesus.

Anonymous said...

David's post shows that, in the end,there can be no meeting of minds between those committed to Jesus as testified to by the Scriptures and the Church's Creeds, and those who (in the words of the song) construct their "own personal Jesus". Jesus was not a social worker or a community organizer, any more than he was a Marxist revolutionary (the 1970s radical fantasy du jour).
Judgmentalism and legalism are not confined to one side of Christendom - I regularly find liberals to be full of moral judgments and condemnations (as well as selective exculpations).
Ex-Christian Richard Holloway was at least consistent in his liberalism which led him into atheism, though I suspect he stopped believing a good while before he retired.
Al M.

Brother David said...

So Al M, you are saying that the Jesus whom I know from scripture, is not there in scripture? That I have made him up from whole cloth?

Who is the Jesus of scripture? Tell me about him please.

Kurt said...

No, Al, I think it proves that non-fundamentalist Anglicans have little in common with people like the Puritans, whose intolerance started a bloody civil war; or the Calvinist evangelicals of later years who persecuted the Onderdonks, the De Kovens and the Tooths. Now, we have the latest wave of purity-cult arrogance regarding women, gays and libbruuls.

But you know, Al, these purity cultists always end up on the wrong side of history. Think about it. Puritans are despised today (even by most New Englanders) for their hanging of Quakers on Boston Common, their witch-hunts, etc. The evangelical Calvinists, who ended up splitting from TEC in the 1870s are not missed today (most Episcopalians have never even heard of Cummins), and the Catholic Revival has triumphed. And today’s bigots will be viewed with distain (if not pity) by future generations.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Anonymous said...

Unlike Kurt, I am not a prophet and cannot predict what future generations will say; nor do I particularly care, because historical judgments come and go, even as memory fades. Read Pliny the Younger's Letter to Trajan on the poor superstitious Christians he arrested and tortured in Bithynia. Only God's judgment - if you believe in such a thing; but if you are a universalist (as most of Tec is now), then there is no hell to fear, is there? But I do note the highly judgmental tone in Kurt's posting ('arrogance', 'bigot', 'purity cult' etc) which confirms my point that judgmentalism is pretty universal, but people are liable to be blind to their own betes noires. The leaders of Tec think gay sex is OK, and a significant number of them experience same-sex attraction, and they really can't understand any longer how people could think differently from them. Many of them feel the same about abortion as well. But the next generation (that is, if they do have kids, which is increasingly less likely)feels little need for uppercrust aesthetic religiosity, which is why most people in Tec congregations are over 55, and beyond reproducing. Now THAT didn't happen in the 19th century -so appeals to past history don't always work.
You do have an amusing theory about the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, though! I suspect, however, that Charles I and Laud had their share of blame too....

David, you can come up with pretty much any "Jesus" you like from Scripture, as long as you leave substantial parts of the cloth on the cutting room floor. How seriously do you take the Gospel Jesus's warning about hell, for example? Is that false?

Al M.

Kurt said...

“Unlike Kurt, I am not a prophet and cannot predict what future generations will say.”

Really? You should read more of what you write.
And you should read more of what others write, as well. Didn’t you read elsewhere on this blog about the rejection of the right-wing evangelical “message” by growing numbers of young people in the USA (and elsewhere)? Or that a recent Nielson study on the Episcopal Church shows that web sites that most discuss TEC are web sites that deal with mothering?

While I too have no crystal ball, it’s pretty clear that plenty of these young people who say they have no present affiliation, are thinking about the question of denominational affiliation. As parents, they want to raise their children in a tolerant church--not a Calvinist one. Those like you, Al, who scoff at the numerical "decline" of TEC may be singing a different tune in the next 20 years. Maybe many of us are too old to have kinds (55+), but we certainly are not too old to welcome young parents with kids into a faith community that respects them if they are girls/women, gay, straight, young or old, or of whatever color or national origin!

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Brother David said...

Al M, you mostly ramble on pontificating about how wicked the TEC leadership has become and misreading what is actually happening in the religious environment regarding falling or rising numbers.

I have asked a straight forward question about the Jesus of scripture which you have stated in your round about manner that I do not comprehend. Rather than give me a straight forward answer, you deflect the question with an obtuse query about Hell.

Tell me about the Jesus of scripture. Tell me about the Jesus of the 4 Gospels. Not about some theoretical Jesus explained in credal formulas, but about the real skin Jesus represented by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. What was he about? How did he treat folks? What was the everyday message he peddled to the folk who appear to have flocked about him to hear his teaching? What did Jesus say was most important regarding God and God's commonwealth? How did he say that folks should treat one another? This is the Jesus I claim to know and follow. The real one who even had to occasionally stop and use the rest room!

Peter Carrell said...

But, David, that Jesus does speak, somewhat uncomfortably to modern ears, about hell!

At the moment I am working on some material about Matthew's Gospel for some teaching for preachers with the next RCL year in view.

It is very difficult to be faithful to Matthew and not acknowledge the way he presents Jesus as one who not only warns about hell, but describes hell in colourful, but terrifying 'wailing and gnashing of teeth' language.

Fr. Bryan Owen said...

The following quote from William H. Willimon is relevant to asking what Jesus is in the Gospels is "really" like:

"It is odd that we have made even Jesus into such a quivering mass of affirmation and oozing graciousness, considering how frequently, unguardedly, and gleefully Jesus told us that we were sinners. Anyone who thinks that Jesus was into inclusiveness, self-affirmation, and open-minded, heart-happy acceptance has then got to figure out why we responded to him by nailing him to a cross. He got there not for urging us to 'consider the lilies' but for calling us 'whitewashed tombs' and even worse.

"Yet it is perhaps not such a mystery that we have attempted - Scripture be damned - to produce a promiscuously permissive, user-friendly Jesus. ... Our situation is that we view our lives through a set of lies about ourselves, false stories of who we are and are meant to be, never getting an accurate picture of ourselves. Through the 'lens' of the story of Jesus we are able to see ourselves truthfully and call things by their proper names. Only through the story of the cross of Christ do we see the utter depth and seriousness of our sin. Only through this story that combines cross and resurrection do we see the utter resourcefulness and love of God who is determined to save sinners (Romans 3:21-25)."

~ William H. Willimon, Sinning Like a Christian: A New Look at the Seven Deadly Sins (2005)