Monday, October 29, 2012

The ABC's humanity and a vision of God's love

The Archbishop of Canterbury has preached a sermon now published at the opening eucharist of ACC. You can read the sermon here. It is a radical penetration deep into the meaning of God's ceaseless, causeless love for us. Excellent. But here we have our own penetrating analysis of an oddity about the sermon. For those of us who preached or heard preached Mark 10:46-52 yesterday, we will have been struck by the fact that the text of this sermon is John 15:17-end. A quick excursion to the lectionary reveals that this means the reading was part of the set prescribed for the celebration of St Simon and St Jude. But of St Simon and St Jude you will not read a word in the sermon. Which raises for me a question about preaching and the lectionary: if we are choosing to move from the mainstream of the lectionary (i.e. following the gospel for the year) should we make connection between the alt.readings and the reason for choosing them? After all, if we simply preach from (say) John instead of (say) Mark without such connection, are we implying that any gospel reading on any given Sunday will do? If we are, then, why follow the lectionary and not some other schema (such as, "This year, hmm, I think we will work our way through Matthew").

As a matter of fact, Mark 10:46-52 would have made a great reading for the beginning of ACC. As a local parish in Christchurch had it, the theme here is "Only those who see can follow." Can ACC see what the situation is for global Anglicanism in relation to who Jesus is?

By the way, the ABC is obviously a very human person and is as susceptible as any of us to having his photo taken with famous celebrities:

Some readers here will recognise that at least one of these young celebrities is the daughter of a non-celebrity blogger! Whatever the Youth Stewards are up to at ACC (quite a lot of work helping out), someone is taking lots of photos and this one is sourced courtesy of Facebook.


liturgy said...

Like you, Peter, I noticed the bizarre abandonment of our regular, systematic readings. Since this is not the patron of the building, one can only presume that the Archbishop of Canterbury, as one of his last acts, was handing our province and/or the Communion over to this patronage – patron of desperate cases and lost causes!



Father Ron Smith said...

While agreeing to the general rule of 'keeping to the lectionary'(I do it myself) - I do believe that the Archbishop of Canterbury may have particularly chosen John 15:17-end, because of its topical significance in the current situation in the Anglican Communion Churches - which together are represented at ACC15.

The whole idea of God's unremitting Love for ALL people is sometimes lacking in the attitude of some Provinces towards the marginalised of our Churches and of the world Christ came to redeem; and the Archbishop - and the conveners of the programme - possibly felt that we should be drawn back to the reason for the existence of the Church - God's unconditional love for the world that Jesus redeemed.

As this may well be the very last occasion the ABC has to address his fellow leaders in the context of the Sacrament of Christ's love in the ACC Eucharist, one has to ask one's-self; What would I choose as the most important message of the Church on this unique occasion?

After all, some of our evangelical colleagues can hardly critisise anyone for 'breaking the rules' on special occasions'.

Bryden Black said...

As a local parish in Christchurch had it, the theme here is "Only those who see can follow." - Peter

Love it. As one who first encountered Redaction Criticism via just this reading (as the climax of the entire section 8-10 on discipleship, noting especially the last key word, ὁδος), I've always found it most poignant. Your application to ACC is ... insightful!

Bryden Black said...

One crux for FG and 1 Jn is the contrast between “In the beginning” and “from the beginning”. For NB even that “father of lies” and “prince of this world” is the “murderer from the beginning”. Oops!
There is however one delightful way to read the ABC’s sermonic musings along the lines he suggests: that is, Barth’s doctrine of election. For such is the divine triune freedom that He determines to come both to Himself and for/towards us (pro nobis) in Christ Jesus, so that JC is both the Electing God and the Elected Human - in the sheer gracious freedom of divine triune love. And this is one of those explosively seminal insights ...

Anonymous said...

WLC. Q13.
Answer. "God, by an eternal and immutable decree, out of His mere love, for the praise of His glorious grace, to be manifested in due time, has elected some angels to glory; and in Christ has chosen some men to eternal life, and the means thereof: and also, according to His sovereign power, and the unsearchable counsel of His own will (whereby He extends or workings favor as He pleases), has passed by and foreordained the rest to dishonor and wrath, to be for their sin inflicted, to the praise of the glory of His justice."

Bryden Black said...

Thanks Shawn. Yet the trouble with the double decree view of things - and elements of TULIP generally - is that it finds scant Biblical warrant, and resides more in our over-rationalistic tendencies to want to wrap things up systematically. Take only 1 Jn 2:2, “... and not only for our sins but also for the sins of the whole world”, for example.

So; while I am happy enough with some of TULIP, it’s a mixed bag ... And the ABC is quite right to extol this awesome, irresponsible (pun intended) divine love which is staggeringly impartial.

carl jacobs said...

Bryden Black

and elements of TULIP generally - is that it finds scant Biblical warrant

Ironic you should say this since sound exegesis is the towering strength of TULIP. It literally drips off the page of Scripture. I am the living proof. I became a Calvinist simply from studying Scripture. At the time, I didn't know who John Calvin was, and I thought Reformed was a synonym for Liberal. It's not hyper-rationalism. It's John 6, and Romans 8, and Romans 9, and boatloads of other Scripture.

As a general rule, I have never found an objection to TULIP that wasn't fundamentally rooted in a rejection of Total Depravity. Once you accept the true nature of man, then all the other points inevitably follow. But man resists this first point. "God is allowed to be sovereign, but not over me. I must be the master of my destiny." That is why people gnash their teeth at the doctrines of grace.


Bryden Black said...

Thanks Carl - but one question: How do you square 1 Jn 2:2, “... and not only for our sins but also for the sins of the whole world”, with Limited of Limited Atonement?

Re the T: I agree wholeheartedly - but not with the sequitur you thereafter seem to construct. Grace per se does not need TULIP per se; only our systems require the sort of thing that TULIP seeks or stands for. IMHO.

Anonymous said...

Hi Bryden,

We will have to agree to disagree on that one as after several years of researching the issues of God's sovereignty and election I am convinced that TULIP is well grounded in Scripture.

Still, I agree with Calvin that election is a mystery that we should not try to delve into or over rationalize.

No systematic theology is perfect, but Reformed theology hews closer to Scripture than most and is a useful corrective to the sentimentality of much modern theology, and the tendency, even in some evangelical circles, to turn God into a whimpy gushing social worker who never offends anyone and never chooses one over another.

Last point; in Reformed theology election is impartial.

Bryden Black said...

I'm content to live with 1 Peter 1:12, thanks Shawn! And Wesley's hymn to that effect, "let angel minds enquire no more". As well as your summation of much that passes for modern theology. Still; we live in hope even there! Back to John & 1:5 especially. Though for me the favourite is 19:30 and those ten Greek letters: Τετέλεσται! Which I trust is sovereign enough for Carl.

Anonymous said...

"How do you square 1 Jn 2:2, “... and not only for our sins but also for the sins of the whole world”, with Limited of Limited Atonement?"

Maybe 'our' refers to the limited (!) circle of John and his 'little children' and he is reminding them of all whom God is going to save: 'God so loved the world ...'

Father Ron Smith said...

"Still, I agree with Calvin that election is a mystery that we should not try to delve into or over rationalize." - Shawn -

Well, I suppose we must all be grateful for that! Because "Man proposes and God disposes".

Bryden Black said...

Carl, you deserve a richer answer than a throw-away quip re Shawn!

Let’s just take Romans, that magisterial letter of Paul’s. To be sure, front and centre is the Lord God’s sovereign grace and mercy; it overarches everything he writes, and is the very stuff of what he writes. But, to focus upon that delightful section, which is often hurried over - but not by TULIP folk who have poured over it! - what of chs 9-11?

It has proven far too easy just to extract bits out of it and try to answer questions like, is Pharaoh saved? will Esau be in heaven, being among the elect? Rather, in my view, we’ve to ask other kinds of question altogether: what function does this section perform in Paul’s overall rhetorical argument? What sorts of links in HIS logical chain are provided here?

Well; where’s he headed? For me the answer to that question is 11:32. And where has he come from? The section 8:17-end. But what undergirds “hope”? (echoes of the P in TULIP here?!). In fact, 8:17-end unpack and conclude what Paul introduced back in 5:1-5 (look at the words here repeated in 8:17ff!). Yet on what is “hope” truly founded - if the Jews are, it seems for all intents and purposes, missing out here? But are they missing out? The exegetical link between 8 & 9 is “nothing can separate”, “I wish I was accursed”; the logical link is as I am suggesting re the foundation of hope. Which is: God’s faithfulness - expressed and declared and demonstrated in his Covenant relationship with Israel. But Israel’s role all along is to demonstrate also in microcosm how humanity writ large behaves - faithlessly, disobediently (1:5, 16:26, “the obedience of faith”). The entire drama of Abraham to Exile and beyond has only served to show we humans are simply incapable of fulfilling any covenant relationship ourselves; quite the opposite! I.e. we gentiles are being asked to see ourselves as if we were Jews: we’d be just the same! So 11:17ff. Therefore; enter on stage THE Israelite, the human covenant partner who may pull it all off - viz Jesus! - the TRUE VINE, who as Messiah now incorporates Jew and Gentile into One New Humanity (Gal and Eph here too of course). He fulfills the entire Torah, 10:4. And who is this One? Back to Barth: Jesus is the Electing God and Elected Humanity in “one and the same” (Chalcedon) person. I.e. our hope is in the final analysis founded upon God’s own trinitarian nature, whose immanent nature is declared and demonstrated in the entire economy of salvation, Gen - Rev.

Rich enough Carl?!

Anonymous said...

God disposes in Scripture, which is the one and only rule of faith and practice. Thus we must, within our limited human abilities, attempt to hew as closely to God's Word as possible. Thus I am convinced by Scripture that our salvation is by grace alone. And if that is so then Calvin is right, imho, that God is sovereign in election. Otherwise if that is not the case, then there is something other than grace at work.

carl jacobs said...

Bryden Black

Though for me the favourite is 19:30 and those ten Greek letters: Τετέλεσται!

Yes, that is a most important word. But the question immediately occurs. Was there a debt actually paid on the cross? Did the death of Christ actually propitiate the wrath of God against sin? Was anyone actually saved, or was salvation only made possible? That is the point of limited atonement - that Christ actually saved people by paying the penalty of their sin.

As for Romans 9, yes, I realize that there are many synergistic attempts to escape the implication of what it says. And yet the potter is still the potter, and the clay is still the clay, and Pharaoh was still raised up specifically to display God's glory. All you have to do is read Exodus to understand just how clearly he was raised up for just that purpose.

Romans 9 is btw my own personal metric for checking study bibles. It's a very fast way to determine if the study notes will be Synergist or Monergist. It has never failed me yet.


Bryden Black said...

Carl Greetings! As I sign off on this line of conversation, four things:

1. Addressing your first paragraph. I suspect we are, as the lawyers might say, “in heated agreement” by and large - granted of course certain leeway with the actual process of ‘models of atonement’, especially their complementary function.

2. Ah; yes: litmus tests! Useful; but perhaps the very language you thereafter use might give something away. For often such tests read as much eisegesis into as exegesis from texts. Hence my rapid tour of Rom 9-11, in its exegetical context and its rhetorical argumentative setting. In an attempt to NOT seek for pretexts for some presupposed grid - which I have come to the conclusion is the way TULIP mostly actually functions (even if surely there are multiple scriptures from which it was originally derived; those at the Synod of Dort were not ignorant idiots; far from it!).

3. Which leads me to a delightful description by a notable friend of mine of where TULIP mostly leads - “railway timetable theology”. I.e. go to any large metropolitan railway station and take one glance at the mammoth schedule boards they have displayed ... You get the picture!

4. Lastly, the very language of monergist/synergist is largely yet another casualty of the division between Latin West and Greek East. For we in the West have not had to wrestle with the likes of Maximus the Confessor’s attempted solutions to the entire matter of “two wills”. If we do do so, then it largely reframes the likes of Rom 9-11, removing it decidedly from a so-called “predestination” frame and into Paul’s reconstituting of Covenant History via the nature of its fulfilment in Jesus the Messiah - something he was at pains to accomplish, as he wrestled both with himself and other Jewish Rabbis in all their attempts to appreciate the fullest significance possible of what Yahweh was up to in the 1st C AD. And as the Church is now largely being removed from a western Christendom frame, so too we in the (Latin) West are providentially being forced to reexamine those very root paradigms with which we approach any Christian matter of faith - of life, theology, morals and institutional make-up. Sure; not automatically throwing over all that is past. My very framing of this last point gives the lie to that! But nevertheless, our Christian task into the 21st C is far harder than some would glibly take it to be, with their trendy, shallow methods.

Ciao for now! And every blessing!