Thursday, June 30, 2011

Oh dear

No time to post this morning. Apologetic energies have been taken up drafting up a response to an opinion piece in this morning's Press (A13), arguing that our "Cathedral no longer has a place at centre of city". By one George Sweet, self-described as "a Christian atheist." It is true. I read it in the newspaper!


James said...

We have one such Christian atheist (or at least, something very much like an atheist) on the Anglican Consultative Council Standing Committee.

Bryden Black said...

I recall enduring an address (with PowerPoint slides mostly of a curious pop-art kind) at one national gathering of our Systematic Theology Association of Aotearoa New Zealand, which exemplified this late modern/postmodern construal of religious faith. My response was to ask how Amos might have answered her (see ch.7), with reference to idolatry.

Both this speaker and Trisk, and I suspect the writer in today’s Press, George Sweet, and certainly Lloyd Geering whom he quotes, are of course yet further examples of the sort of thing in Paul’s sights in 1 Cor 1-4. They trumpet “contextual theologies” and “self construed meanings”, while being totally blind to the fact that their ‘theology’ has been captured by complete accommodation to ‘this world’. Yes; back to Rom 12:1-2 folks! Rooted in the philosophy of Feuerbach, and found in such expressions as Marxian “false consciousness”, genuine Christian theology, and notably that derived from the current renewal of Trinitarian doctrine, not only has nothing to fear from this “gruel”, it trumps it in every way! The trouble of course is that a few religious professionals - such as the STAANZ speaker - “do not know either their scriptures or the power of God”.

Brother David said...

Wow, James, you have found your soulmate, Little Stone Bridges is as well equipped as you to weave and sew together snippets here and there to paint a condemning picture of someone.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David,
I, for one, find it quite unsatisfactory that "Sea of Faith" adherence is present in the Standing Committee. If the Standing Committee wishes to be serious about steering the Communion through these present choppy waters, the one thing we do not need is reason to think the Committee is not wholeheartedly committed to the creeds of our orthodox faith.

Bryden Black said...

"Little Stone Bridges": Er, "please explain", Brother David. Some reference to some Aztec ruins perhaps??

The target of course is NOT "someone", but clearly and accurately their supposed theological views. Just so we are both sure about WHAT is being indeed "condemned".

Anonymous said...

Bryden is right to accentuate a "Systematic Theology Association of Aotearoa New Zealand" is as oxymoronic as a "Christian atheist".

Peter, however, misses the irony in complaining about the make-up of the Standing Committee to whom he seeks to hand over our autonomy!


James said...

With "Little Stone Bridges" David is referring to Sarah Hey, who in this article, shows herself to be an extraordinarily capable and dedicated researcher for all who believe that those who lead the Anglican Communion should believe in God; and - I'd say, for those Christians who think that it's important for Christians to believe in God (in the "plain language" sense of believing in God).

I think it's also important for persons who are interested in what the Communion, in practice, is committed to theologically; this is important for anthropologists, historians, and many other areas of academics.

It's also worth noting that one of the commenters in the thread poses a serious objection to the article and is proven wrong.

It's also worth noting that this article was posted more than six months ago; that the ACC has convened since then. The commenters clearly thought that there would be some response in the Anglican world to this issue; but it's been quite silent, seeming to indicate tacit assent to the general idea:

It's not really very important whether or not Anglican Christians believe in God. The Anglican variant of Jesus-following is about something other than this.

This is what we have become; this is what we are.

Out of honesty and simple human respect - I'd say it's important that we inform those church bodies we've considered our "friends" that this is the case.

James said...

Correction: it's been nearly a year, since the article was posted in August of last year.

James said...

If this is in some way "damning" - it's not so much of Janet Trisk herself, or "about" Janet Trisk as a person. It's damning of those in the Communion who not only consider themselves to be Trinitarian Christians, but who also claim God the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit to be central to their faith.

We've long had the habit of ordaining persons who confess to belief in God, but then say their driving passion is justice and human rights; and who consider such things as the resurrection to be "details" in which they may or may not believe. These persons are not nearly as culpable here (if there is any culpability).

It's "the conservatives" who have really failed to the greatest extent. There's any number of interesting topics of reflection here, for what this means for our faith and our life together, if we wish to be Trinitarian Christians in practice. But somehow we act as if we don't care, as we go on about other topics.

This also opens the door wide open for anyone who believes in a non-Trinitarian form of monotheism for church leadership in the Communion, just as many in TEC can point to Spong - "My teachings aren't as unorthodox as his, so there's really no point to your claims that my views are unorthodox; if you take orthodoxy seriously, raise your issue about Spong." Any priest or bishop can now say: "I most certainly have more belief in God than one of our Standing Committee members - you, there, shut up."

Doesn't this relative silence speak volumes about what we have become? Is it that we're afraid no one will listen, or that we'll be derided as Nasty, that "there's no point" but somehow a point to commenting on new measures for same-sex blessings, etc. etc..? Do conservative Anglicans care more about sex than they do Jesus and God?

Brother David said...

I, for one, find it quite unsatisfactory that "Sea of Faith" adherence is present in the Standing Committee.

And aside from the spittle flecked ravings of Stand Firm in Faith, Peter, do you have any evidence about the priest in question? Have you accepted Sarah's pontification as to who the Revd Trisk is and what she may be about as the Gospel about her?

I do not have much respect for the Archbishop of Cape Town, he is a bit to whiny, compared to his excellent predecessors, for my taste. But he is her primate and he, with the ACiSA, seem to respect this woman, certainly enough to select her from among all whom they could have elected, so maybe there is more there than you seem willing to dig out.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David

Sarah Hey is a good researcher. Not everything at Stand Firm is spittle-flecked.

I am quite sure that every member of the Communion's Standing Committee is very competent in all manner of ways and means. It would be difficult to comprehend how someone lacking ability could work their way to such a position because so many eyes are on those who beging to represent one part of the church then another and then another.

I am also sure that those on Standing Committee represent a variety of theological commitments, not all of which I find congenial. I can live with quite a lot of theological difference, but my experience of the Sea of Faith is that its theological currents move away from orthodoxy, not towards it.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Steve,

No autonomy is going to be handed over to the Standing Committee.

What will be handed to the Standing Committee is a role in considering a dispute between member churches. Thus it is vital that the Standing Committee is transparent and able to be scrutinised. That will keep them up to the mark of their responsibilities.

Your alternative scheme for resolving disputes between member churches of the Communion is what?

Brother David said...

You have deflected my inquiry Peter. You did not state anything that you know for sure about the Revd Trask, but appear to be settled into accepting Sarah's innuendo and guilt by association. You ignored the fact that she has the respect of her church and its leaders.

Peter Carrell said...

On the face of it, Sarah's research is clear, Trisk is a member of the Sea of Faith network (i.e. no innuendo or guilt by association).

Yes, Trisk also has the respect etc of her church. How could she not, in order to get to that position in the Communion.

James said...

David, think about your phrase "guilt by association."

Bryden Black said...

Brother David; seeing you would like some other perspective(s) upon Rev Trisk, I know where I might find it: in retired Bps of CPSA, whom I know. Will inform you of the outcome!

Brother David said...

It seems far fetched that an atheist would have the respect of her church and that church's leadership.

Anonymous said...

"It seems far fetched that an atheist would have the respect of her church and that church's leadership."

I am sure you have heard of "Bishop" Richard Holloway. His atheism didn't begin the day his first pension check arrived. The slide into unbelief is gradual and incremental - even unnoticed, because, as someone said, the future arrives on kitten's feet.

Unbelief and declension from trinitrarian belief is endemic in "western" Anglicanism. Spong and Borg,whom "Brother David" defends, are decidedly NOT creedal Trinitarian Christians as Anglican clergy are sworn to be. Some people know how to takes oaths with their fingers crossed. Others just wander away but lack the integrity to resign. I have respect for those (like a woman I knew) who realize they no longer believe and resign. I have none or hypocrites like Holloway.

Brother David said...

Peter the Greek, do you put my name in scare quotes because you do not accept me as a fellow Christian?

Anonymous said...

If it bothers you, David, I will leave in the speech marks in your nombre de ordenador. I assumed "Brother" wasn't part of your legal name (or name in religion, like Catholic orders) but just a self-styling.
I honestly don't know what you believe, whether you accept the Trintiy, preexistence of Christ, his two natures, bodily resurrection, ascension etc - all those clauses of the Creed. You can clarify if you wish, but you're not answerable to me. I only know (from their own explicit writings) that Spong (whom you commend and call a "Christian") and Borg don't believe in these doctrines and so are not auhentic Anglican Christians. This tells me nothing about their character. Socrates was not a Christian (how could he have been?) or a Jew but his honesty and integrity are generally recognized.

Anonymous said...

Now if Brother David wishes to defend the case that Spong and Borg do faithfully teach what Anglicans have always professed, I would be interested to hear such a defense.



Brother David said...

Actually it is a name in religion. I have lived professed vows as an Anglican solitary since 9 AUG 1998.

My friends call me by my Christian name.

James said...

here is an interesting article about Unitarian Universalists. A congregation in Maryland recently had a controversial incident: part of the service was a hymn which made mention of the word "God." This was deemed as potentially offensive by one of the members.

From the article:
But Bumbaugh has made the rounds recently at regional UUA conferences, encouraging them to publicly wrestle with foundational questions.

“What do we believe? Whom do we serve? To whom or what are we responsible? Those are the questions with which every viable religious movement must wrestle,” Bumbaugh has said.

“So long as those essential questions remain unaddressed, the dream will remain unfulfilled.”

An internal UUA report from 2005 suggested that more than dreams could die. The whole association could go toes up if members continue to muffle religious discussion, the report said.

“The consensus of experts from an array of fields—from organizational development to systematic theology—is that to grow effectively, a religious organization needs clearly defined boundaries,” the report states.

“And one cannot put even the most permeable boundary around nothing.”

I'd suggest that if we do not carefully study our polity - not only "official documents" and "structures," but actual behavior of individuals and parties, to understand how we've gotten where we now are - we will likely, in a few decades, be in a similar position.

Anonymous said...

“No autonomy is going to be handed over to the Standing Committee.” Peter Carrell

You regularly write about the dangers of focusing on autonomy including in a post more recent than this. If your blog is to be more than point-scoring and have some substance over style, please can you explain to whom, then, autonomy is going to be handed?


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Steve,

As far as I can tell, no autonomy of any member church is going to be handed over to the Communion's Standing Committee.

Member churches at all times will retain the right to make a decision to engage with Covenantal processes, to implement an SC decision or recommendation, or not. The "not" outcome to the expression of autonomy may have consequences, but they will be 'Communion' consequences, not local consequences since the Communion has neither police force, military force, economic force, nor prison service.

I remain interested in any alternative vision you can bring to this or another thread about how the Communion might resolve disputes between its member churches.

Peter Carrell said...

PS Steve,
Its not compulsory to read this blog. If it reads as point-scoring and style not substance - to be honest a charge which bemuses me - then I am curious as to why you come here to read what appears to displease you?

liturgy said...

OK, Peter - we've waited 2 days for your response of your original post. Where is it?


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,
Good question!
I offered it to +Victoria and Dean Peter Beck for consideration, and out of that consideration and other reflections on the best way to respond to George Sweet's article came a letter from Dean Peter in this morning's Press. I am very happy with this process and its outcome as an appropriate 'Diocesan' response to George Sweet's opposition to the rebuilding of the cathedral at the centre of Christchurch.

Brother David said...

So are there links to these Press articles?

Peter Carrell said...

Not that I can find, David.

Our local paper offers people the opportunity to submit opinion pieces, as George Sweet does, but (as far as I can see) does not publish these online. Nor does it publish Letters to the Editor online (which was the form of reply which the Dean took up).

Anonymous said...

My question was: "Now if Brother David wishes to defend the case that Spong and Borg do faithfully teach what Anglicans have always professed, I would be interested to hear such a defense."

/tumbleweed AND crickets -
I take his silence to be an admission that Spong and Borg do not in fact teach historic Anglican doctrine. These unitarians Spong and Borg are in fact no more Christian (and no less) than the Jehovah's Witnesses and other sects. Deos David agree with their theology or Christology?

Peter Carrell said...

Comment from James, slightly moderated. Hint, James: do not discuss people in the way you do, please.

"Peter Palailogos, I agree with you that Borg and Spong are not Trinitarian Christians in what they teach (which isn't to say I know of their eternal destinations, etc. etc..). And I am delighted with your passion for safeguarding the teaching on Christ within the church.

In my experience, fwiw, asking people who have been influenced by Spong or Borg to defend their views needs to be done with the utmost care, and best personally rather than in groups. With clergy - we can usually assume that it will be very, very difficult to reason with them about the living Christ (though sometimes headway can be made even there); with laypeople there is much more chance for an unfolding and growth of faith. They aren't in positions of authority where they feel they have to defend themselves and their authority. Asking them to defend Borg or Spong in public, where a number of eyes see their responses ... they are more likely to become "entrenched" in these views, beginning to identify with them more in the act of public defense. Asking them (lovingly) in private ... they are a lot more likely to begin actually considering things, instead of entering a defensive frame of mind in which they see themselves as defending the cause.

This is actually something that we Anglicans score poorly on - issues of "apostasy" in the church. We tend to be quite clueless in general and haven't done much thinking in this area. In a situation where a very strong argument can be made that we haven't seen a church in the last millenium as deeply and widely apostasizing as the Communion - one would think we'd do the right thing and begin studying up on various aspects of apostasy - e.g., best ways of caring for individuals who have been touched by it and think they need to teach in the church, but also don't believe in the Risen Christ. But of course, being Anglicans, we're not doing this either.

I'm mentioning that here as a "fwiw" sort of comment not only for your benefit, but for anyone who comes across this ... it's important for us to begin thinking in different ways, since we are no longer in a church that "makes sense" or is functioning like a church ... we must become very, very creative (and fed by Scripture) in our responses or the whole will surely perish.

Blessings to you, and especially to all who realize that the organic whole in which we take part is no longer functioning according to one's expectations of "a church" - and that we can no longer act with the same, "traditional" expectations. Persons like this are in particular need of blessing since with this wisdom comes great grief. "

James said...


Thank you. Point taken.

Anonymous said...

James, I was asking a public, objective question about the public teaching of two men, one a bishop sworn to uphold the Trinitarian faith, who have been very influential in contemporary Tec thinking and polity. In principle it should be easy to answer; in fact, Tom Wright has publicly debated Borg; I don't know if anyone has done the same for Spong. I don't want to get into the question of individuals' own feelings. Biblical exegesis (like literary criticism) and historical theology (like the history of ideas) are fairly objective exercises (e.g. 'This is what these ancient texts mean, even if I don't believe them'- which is what Spong has done with the Bible), and it is no longer a crime to dissent from the Bible and the Creeds.
The endemic liberalism of Ecusa, at least from the days of Jim Pike, created a 'safe place' for ever more heterodox ideas (a la Walter Bauer's view of Christian origins, then modern identity politics) to strike root, with little effective dissent. FWIW, I consider Tec past the point of restoring to Anglican orthodoxy, and think our energies are better spent elsewhere. This includes controling the contagion on the one hand, and carefully making the historic case on the other.
I appreciate your posts, but can't say I've ever cared much for Marx! So wrong on so many things ...

Brother David said...

I take his silence to be an admission that Spong and Borg do not in fact teach historic Anglican doctrine.

You know what they say about when you assume, Senior Pedro, el Greco, "You make an ass out of u and me."

I do not know enough about the personal theology of either man to respond to your inquiry Peter. To be truthful, not being Statesonian, I did not even realize the Borg were Anglican.

James said...

Peter P, thanks for your kind and judicious response, and I am quite in agreement. About my remark on Marx to Bosco on liturgy - it's primarily what later Marxists have made of praxis in their study of language and culture, and not with the intention of calling anyone to embrace Mr. Marx himself. Fortunately, with the world-political climate changed, we can speak more freely of various political and cultural ideas without fear of the political consequences we had during the cold war. There is much of interest in the Frankfurter Schule which helps cast a light on how "bourgeois liberalism" flattens and alienates mankind; and in this respect is a very good counterpoint to the type of "Anglican liberalism" which is currently in vogue. But you're right in that there's - obviously - a lot of rather nasty stuff in Marxism which does not belong in a Christian world view. But then again - this is true of just about every secular world view. It's up to us to use what we can use; and to discard what we must discard.

Re. Spong and Borg - of course this is quite the antithesis of what Anglicans believe - for we believe in Jesus Christ. Though in each one will find bits which are very true indeed. However, there is one tremendous advantage of Marx: No one claims him as a Trinitarian church leader. So we may deal rather freely with Marx; but must avoid Spong, Borg, and the institutions which raised them to prominence as church leaders by a very wide margin.

We needn't "fight" Spong and Borg - but we must be very, very vigilant in raising a voice against whatever powers and principalities maintain them in positions of prominent teaching in the Communion - and our problem now is this has risen to the very top level of the Communion itself, and thus means we must speak out against the Communion.

Anonymous said...

David writes: "I do not know enough about the personal theology of either man to respond to your inquiry Peter. To be truthful, not being Statesonian, I did not even realize the Borg were Anglican."

Are you serious, David? You have said on this site that you have spent time with Spong, you say you consider him a Christian, and you have a Master's in Divinity. Even I, who have no interest in Spong, have a very good idea of what he has taught in his numerous books and public pronouncements. Even Anglicans in Christchurch NZ have heard him (in their once beautiful cathedral, IIRC). I find it very hard to believe that you cannot compare his teaching with historic Anglican doctrine about Christ and the Trinity.
Tu segundo parrafo es un chiste, verdad? Marcus Borg is very well known in Tec circles. I would be very surprised if you did not know about his work - as you know, he contributed to "Living the Questions". Tell us if you think he and Spong stand in the historic Anglican mainstream.

Bryden Black said...

Just to add some concrete pieces of evidence to these last comments. When KJS came to Christchurch in June 2010, among her addresses/talks/sermons, she gave one entitled “Science and religion: your context or mine?” at the University of Canterbury. I attended and made very full notes: it was not recorded and I knew it would not be. She cited very few ‘authorities’; hers was a typical piece of postmodern ‘narrative’. But she did mention her “religious studies” being greatly helped by ... Marcus Borg. QED.

Lastly, I have read and heard more than enough of Spong, both here and in Melbourne to form a considered opinion. Neither gentlemen are orthodox Christians by any stretch of the imagination. Period!

Even as they may naturally be other things besides.

James said...

a few remarks:

1) David: "I do not know enough about the personal theology of either man" - as QEI said, we do not assume to gaze into the windows of persons' souls - what's more relevant is the public teachings of these men; moreso even, that teaching which is commended by the church. Christianity is an exoteric rather than esoteric religion; assuming that theology is merely "personal" falls into pitfalls of pietism and 19th century thinking.

It's highly important that we make appropriate distinctions regarding teaching and belief. A priest may struggle in belief about the Resurrection - but still honor this teaching by refraining from making statements implying that it is unimportant.

2) Peter: I understand that it can seem odd that an Anglican who is supportive of TEC might not know about some of the teachings of Borg and Spong, but I've come to realize that in many areas of TEC, only part of their teachings are emphasized, with many not realizing the full implications. I've known at least one TEC priest who was quite unaware of much of this. So it's entirely possible that David hasn't been exposed to that which is objectionable - or hasn't done the work of critically working out the implications of some of the things which he has heard - as more than one TEC clergymember I've known hasn't. In another thread, he clearly states he's a Trinitarian Christian. This makes me personally inclined to brush aside possible ignorance about highly objectionable teachings of Borg and Spong. I'd like to hold out the likelihood that he does appreciate the importance of faith in the Living Christ (in plain language) and the bodily resurrection - but that the increasingly complicated contexts within Anglican discourse have simply cast a shadow over that which is clearly antagonistic to Trinitarian Christology.

Brother David said...

Peter the Greek, I live in Mexico. Until 14 years ago I lived in a small agricultural valley in northern Hidalgo State. I studied for my Masters degree in the US over 20 years ago, during which I took a summer class from Spong in Canada. I know that during that summer I met a very humble man who was dedicated to Christianity and believed in the Resurrection. In fact, our class was based on his book Resurrection; Myth or Reality, which had just been published. He explained to the class that his title of the Book was Myth and Reality, but the publisher wanted it more controversial to sell more books! The man believed in the Resurrection.

Borg I know was connected with the Jesus Seminar and also with the Q controversy. But I have not read any of his books. I had no idea that Borg was connected to TEC until I read it here. Nor anything about the Living the Questions program.

Until I started writing on blogs on the internet some four years ago, my English had become very rusty. I was not reading theology in English, I was in pain for a number of years from the sudden death of my partner. I hid myself in the earthy work of the coop which is the agricultural community where my family lives and I was born and reared.

I also entered the vowed life of an Anglican religous, believing that I was going to found a community. There was very little interest in a community here in Mexico. Later, the bishop under whom I made my vows was deposed for stealing US$1 M from the Diocese of the North and his successor trusts in nothing that the man did, including me, and has very little to do with me. I send him an annual report on my ministry. I also heard recently from some friends that he has occasionally mentioned me in passing and called me Brother David, so I at least now know that he believes me to be an Anglican solitary!

Anonymous said...

David, thank you for taking the trouble to reply and for sharing personal information. Spong's heterodoxy goes back a long way, and was only interesting because it was espoused by a bishop rather than a seminary professor (nobody expects them to believe). His book 'Born of a Woman' (1992) denies the virgin birth, 'Resurrection: Myth or Reality?' (1994) denies the bodily resurrection, and his 'Twelve Theses' (1998, helpfully issued in time for Lambeth) completes the trifecta by denying theism itself. I find it difficult to see how you can say "The man believed in the Resurrection" unless he was involved in elaborate equivocation, since he plainly believed that Jesus' body naturally decayed. Resurrection doesn't mean post-mortem survival of the soul; it's a physical term to do with the body. Of course it is possible to begin one's life with a conservative or traditional type of belief, and then to move away from it, while still trying to cling on to the language or sentiments. But in the end this proves impossible, a Spong's journey into "non-theism" (for want of a better term) and Holloway's journey into atheism indicate. This (I believe) is what people like James and I concerned about: the unraveling of a (still) significant branch of the Christian church under the impact of liberal ideas that can seem persuasive in isolation but together sap spiritual vitality and lead to unbelief.
The liberal critique of the Bible and traditional Christian belief is quite easy to understand and not to difficult to pursue, either. In fact it's the default position of many journalists and leftist pundits. But the constructive and apologetic task is more demanding. And there is nothing new about unbelief, only its manifestations.

James said...

Br. David,

Spong makes things complicated with regards to the resurrection. He does believe that something incredibly significant took place, which he calls "the resurrection;" to put things shortly, this is not what Trinitarian Christians refer to as "the bodily resurrection of Christ." Spong teaches the resurrection of a spiritual body - one of the reasons that this is so problematic is that it's difficult to determine what a "spiritual body" would be - and at times this seems close to what Husserl would call an "ideal object," or Dawkins would call a "meme" - i.e., simply memories of the things that Christ taught and did. Much of what I've seen in Spong's treatment of the resurrection points in this direction. It would be difficult to get into the problems and complexities here. I don't wish to "blame" Spong himself too much for what's happened in TEC - I think that church, if acting responsibly and caringly, would have found ways to "call him back." So seems to believe TEC Bishop Whalon in a beautiful article. In so doing, Spong may have stopped defending his views, re-assessed, and come to faith in basic Trinitarian Christology. Or he may have continued to defend his views - but then doing so safely, without being a bishop of the church charged with defense of good teaching. Then the current issue and problem would not exist. Scholars who have church ties would also feel more comfortable addressing his views, instead of feeling they must simply avoid him (which has largely occurred). But I don't think he would have had much of a chance here - if he didn't find ways to significantly "tighten" his scholarship, and better ground his claims.

Here, Borg is easier, since he makes more clear that he simply doesn't believe in the bodily resurrection. Borg has high-class scholarship in helping resurrect the study of the historic Jesus - when many found that this was impossible or unfruitful. This does not mean, however, that his scholarship should be dealt with as "accepted fact." It's simply research and viewpoints in the ongoing discussion regarding the historicity of religious claims regarding Jesus Christ. Scholarship can be wonderfully valuable, even when it's decided that its premises or conclusions are false. And much of what Borg writes about religion is profoundly true.

Both make clear that they see themselves as devoted followers of Jesus. But in neither case is this Trinitarian Christianity, or does this encourage faith in, and worship of the Risen and Living Christ. Both may be discussed; but what's dangerous is, by virtue of their positions as teachers in the church, non-Trinitarian Jesus following is commended to belief. A writer for EpiscopalCaf├ę noted this indirectly six months before Borg was made a Canon in TEC - note the part he chose to put in bold letters - stating that Borg was free since he wasn't "dealing with a spiritual community." He's denied the resurrection again, since he's been Canon Theologian.

Navigating intellectual material which touches on faith issues can be difficult. We all need good spiritual guides; and this can be especially the case when dealing with intellectual issues. Faith formation can responsibly occur when one's also guided to read texts which will give a "balanced" view and at least sure one's having an opportunity to see all the facts. Otherwise - as on any topic - one can be swayed, by reading statements where one doesn't notice the presuppositions. There are many such presuppositions in various places in both Spong and Borg.

Brother David said...

Some questions for El Greco and James -
Was Lazarus resurrected from the dead? If so, was the resurrection of Lazarus different from the resurrection of Jesus? If Lazarus was resurrected, then how is it that the Church teaches that Jesus is the first fruits of the resurrection and not Lazarus, who was resurrected first?

What about the Gospel account of all the other dead who were resurrected at the time of Jesus' resurrection? What happened to them? Why is there no civil record of hundreds, thousands, possibly millions of folks long dead and buried, bodily resurrected and walking the streets of the earth? How wide an area did this occurrence cover; just the Levant, just the Mediterranean world, the entire Roman Empire, Eurasia, Eurasia and Africa, the islands of the sea, the entire planet earth?

James said...

(1/2) Br. David - I'd like to echo Peter's thanks in your sharing a bit of your story. It helps, you become more of a real person and that makes discussion more enjoyable. I'm sorry about the previous bishop and the situation that put you in, but pleased to hear of your steadfastness.

I'll add a bit to what Peter is saying here regarding "liberal." I tend to avoid the word when I can, as "liberal" can mean so many different things. There are ways that I'm profoundly "liberal," others where I'm terribly "conservative." A person can be "liberal" on issues of sexual ethics but then "conservative" on any number of other things. I for one tend to think that the position of recognizing the fully incarnate and risen Christ is itself an incredibly "liberal" and mind-bogglingly humanist proposition - that God became man, dwelt with us; and that His very body - which so associates Him with us - was raised - and not shed like a husk, or left to decay. This says a great deal of His being God and being man. It says a great deal about His being "God with us." It may even, for Christians, unravel some of the logical mysteries of consciousness - as for philosophers, consciousness is, in some ways, a thing which shouldn't exist. But in the first place, it is what it is - the bodily resurrection of Christ. By virtue of being what it is - it also "means" these various "meanings" which we attribute to it - and much more as well which we do not realize, or have yet to explore.

Bryden noted in another thread how some of the things we associate with "liberal" in theology are rather old 19th century ideas - which I'd add, have been - outside of consumerist pop culture - abandonned for better, more thoughtful models of consciousness based on a great deal of rational investigation - specifically in the areas of phenomenology and hermeneutics - with much of this thought then completely cast to the side with post-structuralism. And I hate using the word "liberal" since many who are e.g. "liberal" on sexual ethics, abortion, gun control, etc. might well think "then I should look into liberal theology" - and might come across this stuff.

Anyways, what we now associate in a more "academic" sense with "liberalism" associates this with laissez-faire capitalism which tends to turn everything into economic commodities and marketable goods - "flattening" and reducing things into saleable packages. The same goes for thought, ideas, values - that which can be packaged and somehow used to turn a profit, is valued - that which isn't making a profit, is re-shaped (and reformed/deformed) into something that will. Actually, most of the things associated with "liberalism" in Europe are called "conservatism" in the States - with the exception that "liberalism" here tends to be supportive of such things as pornography, recreational drugs, and prostitution, which American "conservatives" usually oppose (while many American "conservatives" are incredibly naïve in how complicit they are in flattening, reducing, and packaging-up all sorts of ideas, cultural things, and other non-material items for sale and consumption - including even, at times, church doctrine - behaving exactly like European "Liberals"). It's not uncommon for Christian Democrats and Socialists in Europe to work together in resisting measures proposed by Liberals. But this is, of course, a rather "narrow-minded" and "conservative" definition of "liberal."

James said...

(2/2) Sometimes, movements in the church associated with "liberalism" - the less thoughtful ones - do have a lot in common with this political liberalism with its origins in the rise of the nation-state. John Milbank (who, btw. supports gay ordination) has been particularly good at pointing out the underpinnings of thought on "the secular" and attempted "secularization." But most certainly not all - some are also highly aware of, and resistant to this trend.

When people in churches speak of "liberal" and "conservative" theologically - I tend to want to find the exit. My experience in ministry also tells me: the more we're able to describe theological positions in terms other than these - the more likely it is for ministry to flourish, and theological discussion to remain clear and understandable, without drawing party lines in the sand before we've even started.

There are many things we won't share, and I'm happy enough with that. But I do hope we can share our love for a risen Christ, and appreciation for warmly (and not bluntly) fostering faith in Him in His whole identity - as God, as man, as risen, as living - and not as a kind of 19th century neo-Kantian mascot for ethical values - which seems to be largely where Borg is headed, surrounded by a pop-religion stylized version of "the mystical" (and misunderstanding of the Enlightenment, the place of belief in human action and cognition, and many other such things). And agreeing on this doesn't mean you necessarily need to share my opinions on TEC, and I don't doubt we'll cross swords on this topic again - when we both try to be honest about things we're terribly passionate about, in our own ways.

In my experience, most Christians who consider themselves as "Progressive Christians" have never heard of the Center for Progressive Christianity, nor do they know much about Marcus Borg, or that Borg is by and large the most prominent figure of this movement. They don't know what this means for the creeds, or that this doesn't embrace Trinitarian Christianity (and is frequently antithetical to it). This goes for most "progressives" I've met in TEC, as well. I most certainly don't want to "smear" them with this, and I would like to do whatever I can to help disassociate them from this, if reasonable.

One can most certainly have a "progressive" view on sexual ethics, with nothing whatsoever to do with this non-Trinitarian movement.

Blessings to you, to your family, and all involved in your ministry.

Bryden Black said...

Brother David, I found your brief piece of autobiography very helpful; many thanks indeed!

As for a small follow up on James's post: may I suggest something like the co-authored Marcus Borg & NT Wright, The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions (Harper, 1999), which will lay something of the ground out rather clearly. Enjoy!

James said...

I'm fairly agnostic on most of the issues you're asking here, David; as for the number resurrected, I doubt it was thousands and tended to imagine something more like less than fifty, something more than 14. We also don't have many civil records from the first century; as far as we know, an account like this may well have existed - most likely written off as a spectacular claim by locals. However, neither these things ... the raising of Lazarus, or those who rose from the dead at the passion ... begin to approach the importance of faith in a Living, Risen Christ. This type of exercise, of speculating on more detail than is revealed, is not always helpful. I suppose we could "go there" if you want ... but many have believed in the resurrection, with doubts about other occurrences in the New Testament. If your mind is reluctant to "go there" - give it some rest, pray about it. Faith does not grow in all people in the same way. There are many kinds of faith that I should have, but don't yet. But faith in the bodily resurrection is truly a wonderful gift, and a very, very important one for Trinitarian Christians.

On a further note - not all language in Scripture means "in every last case, at all times, in precisely the same way" - as our language in general has tended toward the more precise. It's necessary to look at language and context in order to interpret properly. When I read about Christ the firstfruits in I Cor 15 ... this is strongly associated with resurrection. But it's Christ Himself that is the firstfruits ... it is: who Christ is. So in short: "firstfruits" does not intend a rigid chronological statement, nor is it primarily chronological in meaning, imho. As Papias wrote of Mark - New Testament writers aren't always obsessed with chronology.

I suppose it's worth asking: are these things which truly bother you about the resurrection, or are you mostly bringing them up for sake of discussion? There's always the chance that we end up bringing up more, and more, and more things ... as there are many legitimate reasons for doubting the resurrection. Perhaps what would help if you truly have intellectual qualms about this, is to think for yourself ... in plain language ... what rises to mind most when I think about belief in the resurrection, or its incredibility?

Bryden is correct here - talking to me about the resurrection won't shine much of a light compared to what you could read in Wright. And you could also read Borg on the resurrection while you're at it. Do note - Wright's remarks on Borg were made before he was made a Canon Theologian.

Brother David said...

So you are sure about the NT account of the resurrection of Jesus and just exactly what it means, but you slide away from the plain teachings of scripture about "other" resurrections!

Bryden Black said...

Hi there Brother David,

1. A question: did Lazarus die after being raised from the dead? Yes! For his coming back to life was the final “sign” to intimate the Glory that was specifically Jesus’s, of the Father. That’s how the FG is written.

2. Did Jesus die again? No! That’s the whole point of 1 Cor 15, and the likes of Rom 6. We are dealing here with a radical transformation of the human condition, a proleptic anticipation of the End itself in the middle of history.

Once we’ve got these sorts of things sorted, other things might fall into place - for us all.

James said...

David, I think you're just being contentious here, as I'm not "sliding away" from any "plain teaching" about other "resurrections."

I had actually never really thought about this, and had a google as to what others had to say, and indeed they were thinking more clearly than I was.

The resurrection of Christ - our that of ourselves - is not comparable to Lazarus and others who arose from the dead. In the latter, of course, they will, again, die - though they do live a while longer. This is not the "resurrection" of which Paul speaks.

I think you'd really do best consulting a source, rather than asking questions here.

I'm sure you'll agree, though, that denying the bodily resurrection of Christ is not compatible with Trinitarian Christology. But I most certainly can't "convince" you and I don't think answering your questions here is helping anyone.