Friday, July 5, 2013


Alerted by a friend I have visited an intriguing Kiwi blog, That is Logical!. Joshua Taylor (another Joshua Taylor, not our diocesan youth worker) has decided to visit ministers in Auckland to interview them about what they believe. His first interview is with Glynn Cardy, Vicar of St Matthew's in the City, Auckland who occasionally features on this blog. The interview is a great opportunity to attend to what Glynn believes. Or is it?

I found as I read the interview that I was often agreeing with Glynn! Yet I think there is a huge gulf in belief between us. What is going on?

I think it is this. There is always agreement between people. Even the most divided of groups agree that the sun will rise tomorrow but one day hence will run out of energy and rise no longer. Further, agreements may mask big differences. All sorts of agreements about the sun are possible in a divided group (a year is 365.25 days, red sky at night shepherds delight, the light of the moon is a reflection of the sun's light, etc) but a group could be wracked by fundamental division over whether the sun is the centre of the universe.

Thus I find myself in agreement with a number of Glynn's answers as they are worded yet I think the tendency in his answers betrays the gulf between us. For example on the authority of the Bible I agree that "It has the authority that the communities have given to it." I also agree broadly that "it is a human document it wasn't written down by, you know, a god with, you know, an anthropomorphic god that had a pen and paper and wrote it down or dictated it like "Moses write what I tell you". This was written by human beings and of course it is open to the fallibility of human beings. But it has a spiritual power, in the sense of when people live out some of that love and compassion that comes through in stories. It also has horrible killings and rapes and other things in there that aren't of course not meant to be emulated." (Just before you hit the comment button, I think the dictation element which Glynn denies is too quickly denied. Parts of the Bible are dictated by God (e.g. parts of Daniel, Ezekiel, Revelation). 'Open to the fallibility' is not the same as 'fallible'.)

The tendency inherent in the answer given re the Bible is something else. The tendency is towards a liberal approach to the Bible in the sense that what is believed about the Bible fits with a liberal theology and bits of the Bible which do not fit with that theology are denied. Thus,

"Me: OK. So you would drift from the conservative christian position that it is the inspired infallible word of God?
Vicar Glynn Cardy: Absolutely. You have probably guessed that I am not a conservative christian!"

Anyway, one could go on exploring all the interesting answers given in the post. Today's available minutes are too short. But I am grateful to Joshua Taylor for offering this extended record of what one of our most controversial vicars Down Under believes.


Mikaere Greenslade said...

Kia ora Pita,

Nga mihi nui ki tenei wiki o te reo Maori. It is fun to see the ongoing struggle we have as we grapple with the intersection of our thinking and our belief. When someone does not think the same way as me, it can be hard to recognise that we may still share what we believe. I am pleased to recognise the belief and faith I share with my brother Glynn, even though there are aspects we mentally construct and express differently.

Mauri ora,

Doug Chaplin said...


You say "Parts of the Bible are dictated by God (e.g. parts of Daniel, Ezekiel, Revelation)". Can I ask you to develop what you mean there further both in light of the writers' visionary experience, and treating apocalyptic seriously as a literary and cultural genre?

As a bald statement I find your formulation somewhat problematic!

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks, Mike

Hi Doug,

Yes, I see what you are getting at. When Ezekiel etc say that God told them to write something down, it could be that the writer is conforming to a genre expectation.

But it is also possible that the writer is writing down what they genuinely believe God has told them to write down (even as they also conform to a genre expectation).

Father Ron Smith said...

Apparently, there was much more written material available to the Church Council that decided on what was acceptable for Christians to believe as God-inspired. Some of it was obviously rejected. The question might be; why was it rejected and upon what basis?

The very fact that some scripture was rejected suggests, surely, that some scripture was not given by God for future use by the Church - even though its writers may have been convinced that God inspired their writings.

Is it not possible that those who discerned what should, and should not, be included in the canon of the Scriptures might, themselves, have been fallible? If, indeed, they were, then this might suggest that the meaning of Scripture has to be be freshly discerned for every age of human development.

This reality has to be borne in mind by every single preacher of The Word, whose own Holy Spirit-guided understanding might have to be invoked anew for each and every preachment.

The 'True Gospel' emanates from direct experience of the Word-made-flesh in Jesus Christ, and is not limited to static words in a book - no matter how revered.

Doug Chaplin said...

These time zone differences make conversation interesting!

I'm open to the writers having visionary experiences in which they hear / see God speaking. But the texts as we have them also show signs of literary editing and construction. Revelation with its detailed use of the OT within a known genre is a good example of this.

But also there's the intersting phenomenon of early readers continuing to edit Daniel in translation (Song of the Three, Susanna etc), which suggests their view of its inspiration did not embrace dictation.

Peter Carrell said...

It is complicated, Doug. In part I am reacting to the blanket dimissal by some commenters on Scripture that no words occur within it that come directly from God to the writer. Scripture is more complicated than that ...!

Kurt said...

Hmmm. The Bible contains the inspired Word of God but I don't believe in an infallible book any more than I believe in an infallible bishop.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY