Monday, March 10, 2014

Spong at work?

"Maybe you’re religious, and maybe you’re not. Maybe you’re one of many who claim to be spiritual but not religious—which I take to mean that you hold many of the values espoused by one religion or another, but you’re highly suspicious of organized/institutional religion and its failure to live out its stated values. It reminds me of G.K. Chesterton’s famous line: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”...
Much of what you will read here will be critical of organized religion, since along with Chesterton, I believe in Christianity but seldom see it put into practice. Love is the central theme of the Bible, and yet we find it so hard to live lives of love. The enemy of love is not hate, but fear. When confronted by those who seem filled with hate, I try to ask “What are they afraid of?” with as much sympathy as I can muster. Responding to hate with love is one of the most daunting tasks of those who claim to follow Jesus. 
This column will also go far beyond Christianity. God is infinite, and it comes as no surprise to me that there have developed, over time, many credible and faithful approaches to understanding God. In the end, no religion holds a lock on the reality of God. Each religion grasps only a part of the infinite God and offers insight into God’s reality, and we would do well to exercise a good measure of humility in claiming we know God’s will. Better to begin each pronouncement we make about God with “In my experience…” or “From my perspective…” or simply “For me….” At the end of the day, no matter how much we believe we know God’s will, we must acknowledge that each of us is only doing the best she/he can."
Sounds like Spong. But it is not. More like 'channelling Spong.' The author is a bishop of an Anglican church. To that Anglican church the Diocese of South Carolina once belonged. Here is a useful illustration of why that Diocese has said Enough is enough. A bishop, intended within Anglican polity to be a teacher of the faith, belittles his own religion and its claim to have received the fullness of God's revelation in Jesus Christ by declaring 'Each religion grasps only a part of the infinite God.' Further, as a bishop authorised by the church to proclaim the Word of God, the best he can do is boil down all proclamation of God's truth to 'In my experience.'

This is not Christianity. Nor is it Anglicanism as a manner of being Christian which is both catholic and reformed.


Bryden Black said...

Love it!! Proves once and for all that "the issue" is far, far more basic than this man's sexual mores (even if such mores are a vital aspect of human being).

danielj said...

No. gene is a good follower of Jesus and accurate proclaimer of the reign of God. Sorry if your religion is too small to see Jesus working in the world in what this bishop does.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Daniel
In response:
1. I make no comment about whether Gene is a good follower of Jesus or not.
2. I do not think he is an accurate proclaimer of the reign of God (on the basis of what he has said and written over the years).
3. On what basis in truth would you know that Jesus is working in the world in what this bishop does? (That is a serious question because you are implying that Jesus is working in someone who consistently relativises the message of Jesus so I think it fair to ask how you know).
4. My only claim about how large or small Christianity is, is that it is as large or small as the revelation of God in Jesus Christ made through Scripture. If I thought the truth were larger and wider than Scripture then I would (a) cease to be a Christian (such a narrow claim!) (b) cease to be Anglican (how could I belong to a subset of something I did not think reliably and accurately conveyed the real truth about God) (c) not be bothered to blog in the way I do. Possibly, (d) I might blog as Sea of Faith Down Under!!

Father Ron Smith said...

I think this post is hardly worthy of you, Peter, certainly not worth a response from any 'Thinking Anglican'. Just more of the same!

This hardly enhances the reputation of what once seemed to be a site where reason is engaged - outside of the theatre of war in Anglicanism.

Bryden Black said...

“The reign of God” as proclaimed, declared and demonstrated in Jesus of Nazareth can ever only be the one we all see witnessed to in the NT Scriptures. That is the objective norm for all to either accept, acknowledge and adhere to - or one may construct their own. The latter course was of course an option pursued early by some in the history of Christianity. History tends to lump them together as Gnostics. If you are in effect saying Gene is a good Gnostic, then I might agree. His religious/spiritual knowledge is derived from a generic grab all approach.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
Are you saying that it does not matter whether a bishop of the Anglican church is a faithful teacher of the orthodox faith of the church?

Your answer is important. If you say 'No, it does not matter' then my worst fears about the state of global Anglicanism will receive another confirmation.

If you say 'Yes, it does matter' then I would appreciate you pointing out why my post is 'unworthy'.

Bryden Black said...

Ron; the question is one of historical reality: either you and I as ordained members of the Church Catholic adhere to the communal history of this Community of Faith, or we go another way, construing another version of history and belief.

Of course, any church member, or anyone else, is free to follow another interpretation of Jesus’ mission. But should they do so, then it is - as a matter of sheer reason and logic, let alone moral integrity - the case that they are not members of the Church Catholic, as historically/traditionally defined.

Peter Carrell said...

I encourage all Thinking Anglicans to think about what Bishop Robinson is saying.

Is what he is saying worthy of a bishop?

Does his take on the truth about God accord with Christian Trinitarian doctrine or spell out a new revelation and thus a new religion?

Has God perjured himself, implying through Scripture that the God of Jesus Christ is unique when, in reality, the God of Jesus Christ bears little resemblance to that presentation of God, since many religions are needed to provide a fuller picture of God?

Edward Prebble said...

Peter, I did not notice the quotation marks in your posting, until I came to the penultimate paragraph, and assumed it was your words I was reading. I was very impressed to hear you express (and beautifully)some sentiments that seemed rather broader than those I normally assume to be your position. You seemed to be saying (but now I know it was +Gene, and now I know you disagree with him) that we need to approach the faith and spirituality of others with a deep humility, knowing that we may well encounter God's truth in them.

Yes, I agree, and I am sure +Gene agrees, that our Gospel claims to include, in the person of Jesus Christ, the authoritative expression of the Love of God, and that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. And yes, I am good enough at logic to acknowledge that such a claim must have an exclusive implication - at its most crass, "We are right, and everyone else is wrong". Putting it in such terms of course illustrates why this is referred to by theologians as the Scandal of Particularity.

But we live in an increasingly diverse, multi-faith world, and we need to know how to live with, work with, and talk to the good Muslim, the good Buddhist, and the good "I-am-spiritual-but-not religious" person next to us. Their faiths also include exclusive claims, so we need to avoid the two extremes of "I am right and you are wrong" and "Well, we all believe the same thing don't we". The first means no discussion can take place, and the second means there is no point.

But the important thing, as Newbiggin, Hans Kung and others have argued is that the conversation takes place. I think that is what +Gene was trying to say. I agree that his wording "Each religion grasps only part of the infinite God" is a bit unfortunate, as it opens him to precisely the objection you have taken, but as a whole, I think his piece is totally worthy of an Anglican Bishop.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Edward
Would you trust your life to an otherwise seaworthy boat which had no bung? Changing metaphor's a chain is only as strong as its weakest link: there is a very weak link in Bishop Gene's writing and it is most unworthy of a bishop given a bishop's particular duty to uphold and not undermine the teaching of the church.

To the extent that you, Bishop Gene and myself wish to see genuine conversations between people, doors open to dialogue between people of differing faiths and none, and warm appreciation of the possibilities for discussion with those who are spiritual but not religious, then we are all on the same page.

But what does the conversation consist of if a Scientologist has as much insight into God as a Marxist?

MichaelA said...

I like the opening three or four sentences of +Robinson's article - he is clearly trying to reach out to those that don't have a connection with church.

But he then goes on to distance himself from the church to such an extent that he is likely to have the reverse effect to what he intends. There is a very astute passage in the Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis about a liberal priest:

"The two churches nearest to him, I have looked up in the office. Both have certain claims. At the first of these the vicar is a man who has been so long engaged in watering down the faith to make it easier for a supposedly incredulous and hardheaded congregation that it is now he who shocks his parishioners with his unbelief, not vice versa. He has undermined many a soul's Christianity. His conduct of the services is also admirable. In order to spare the laity all "difficulties" he has deserted both the lectionary and the appointed psalms and now, without noticing it, revolves endlessly round the little treadmill of his fifteen favourite psalms and twenty favourite lessons. We are thus safe from the danger that any truth not already familiar to him and to his flock should ever reach them through Scripture. But perhaps your patient is not quite silly enough for this church--or not yet?"

Its something to be careful of.

Bryden Black said...

Dear Edward, Very good to have you on board with this particular discussion, one that I am very familiar with over the years due to where in the world I have ministered.

In my reading and conversations with Küng and Newbigin, I’m not sure I’d put them together as advocating the same approach. For while it is surely correct “the conversation take place” (as opposed to either literal bombs or silence), the manner of that conversation will be greatly governed by their respective approaches.

For example, if I too may be “crass”, with Küng there would seem to be really rather more wiggle room around the particularity of Jesus’ revelation of the divine. Moreover, it seems to me (admittedly now an interpretation of Küng’s work, and I am no great scholar of his oeuvre) that an important premise of his Incarnational theology, permitting this wiggle room, is pretty well Hegelian - albeit modified. And I don’t find that to be uppermost in Newbigin’s approach at all. Here we have an unashamed Barthian, engaging in deep cross-cultural missiology. [Yes, yes; I am aware some Barth scholars would say the early Barth did not escape the allure of Hegel! Just as I am aware Küng tries to make Barth into some sort of “postmodern paradigm” - Part D of Theology for the Third Millennium.]

At root, we do have to answer a basic set of questions around ‘general revelation’ and ‘special revelation’, and about ‘natural theology’ and ‘revealed theology’, let alone ‘religious culture’. For it does seem crucial to determine whether one’s spirituality is governed by our quest for God or God’s quest of humanity; and/or to determine if there’s some overlap. All of which become the means of assessing what might be deemed to be the nature of humanity’s ‘core plight’. Nor are these questions novel exactly; they are the matrix of the entire NT and the Early Church, with claimants to deity being two-a-penny there and then.

That +Gene’s piece is “a bit unfortunate” is a most generous appraisal, IMHO. That his piece is “worthy of an Anglican bishop” is not quite how I’d summarize. On the contrary, while it is sadly rather characteristic of a certain type of contemporary Anglican bishop, I’d agree, I would have to conclude that that entire approach has long since side-stepped the scandal of particularity, selling out to a revised notion of neti, neti. At least, that was what governed the eventual answer from +Gene’s PB when she was here in Chch to a question I directly put to her - after a really rather long silence I have to also add ...

Father Ron Smith said...

"Pope Francis, for his first Holy Thursday, spurned the ancient Basilica of St. John Lateran (the usual venue for this occasion) and went to Casal del Marmo juvenile prison. There, he washed the feet of 12 prisoners. On his knees on the stone floor the 76 year-old Pope, vested like a deacon, washed feet which were black, white, male, female, tattooed and un-tattooed, and then kissed each one. The owners of the feet were Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Muslims and atheists. And two of them were women. No pope had ever washed the feet of a woman before"

- from 'Pope Francis, Untying the Knots' by Paul Vallely -

Thank God Pope Francis, the Roman Catholic Christian, can show us non-Catholics the way of Christ's love for ALL people. Mahatma Ghandi would have loved him!

Jesus said: "They'll know you're my disciples - by your love"

He did not say, 'by your doctrine'

(incidentally, the cryptogram for my posting happened to contain the word 'Likeness'. How appropriate!

Father Ron Smith said...

" a chain is only as strong as its weakest link " - Peter Carrell -

I wonder Who is was that said? :

"In your weakness, I am strong".

The trouble is, most 'theologians' insist that only they are right. Dogmatic enunciation never saved anyone. It may be that God saves us, despite our singular dogmatism

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
If Pope Francis is such a wonderful example of love over doctrine, how come he doesn't let us non-Catholics partake in the eucharist?

If Jesus cares nothing for doctrine, how come he spent so much time teaching his disciples? And said, 'The truth will set you free' ...

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I don't belong to a church where the theologians insist they are right; I belong to a church which insists the (orthodox) theologians are right!

Tell us, Ron, are the creeds documents of our common doctrine or mere guidelines to the unknowable aspects of the true God unknown to any one religion alone?

Bryden Black said...

Dear Ron, once again you would want us forced upon the horns of a false dilemma: love vs. truth. I think we’ve done that to death on ADU recently ...

Father Ron Smith said...

Well, Bryden; here's a little teaser for you: If God is Love and Jesus is God; and Jesus said they will know you are my disciples by your Love; what does that say about doctrine - apart from the need to be en Christo?

The words catholic and protestant are just word; whereas Jesus Christ is The Way, The Truth and The Life - for everyone who belongs to Him. I belong to Jesus through my Baptism and my participation with Him in the Eucharist. There is nothing more I can do except obey the words of Jesus, Who is The Word.

Now, what's your provenance?

Now, Peter, for your question - about Pope Francis' and the Eucharist. I do not believe that Pope Francis would ever believe that a faithful Anglican, who, like himself, believes in the real Presence of Christ in the Mass, would want Anglicans separated off from him at the Lord's Table. What the catholic Church is concerned with, is the fact that many protestants do not believe that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist. Why would a Believer, like the Pope want to pretend to share Christ with a non-believer?

Incidentally, in the current climate of the papacy, I believe it will not be too long before Anglicans (who want to and believe in the real Presence)will be welcomed to share at the Mass.

I. myself, have sometimes been welcomed to receive the Sacrament at the hands of a R.C. priest - even once, from the R.C. bishop of Auckland who knew who I was and welcomed me. So you see. Peter, it's all a matter of whether, or not, one recognises Jesus at the Mass. It's as simple as that.

When Protestants are clear about their theology of the Eucharist, things will change. That's why I have a problem with the outdated limitations of the 39 Artifacts.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
You have got me beat. I admit defeat. I am flabbergasted.

You see I cannot see how you can write what you write about the unimportance of doctrine in one paragraph and in another write,

"Now, Peter, for your question - about Pope Francis' and the Eucharist. I do not believe that Pope Francis would ever believe that a faithful Anglican, who, like himself, believes in the real Presence of Christ in the Mass, would want Anglicans separated off from him at the Lord's Table. What the catholic Church is concerned with, is the fact that many protestants do not believe that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist. Why would a Believer, like the Pope want to pretend to share Christ with a non-believer?

Incidentally, in the current climate of the papacy, I believe it will not be too long before Anglicans (who want to and believe in the real Presence)will be welcomed to share at the Mass.

I. myself, have sometimes been welcomed to receive the Sacrament at the hands of a R.C. priest - even once, from the R.C. bishop of Auckland who knew who I was and welcomed me. So you see. Peter, it's all a matter of whether, or not, one recognises Jesus at the Mass. It's as simple as that.

When Protestants are clear about their theology of the Eucharist, things will change. That's why I have a problem with the outdated limitations of the 39 Artifacts. "

If your understanding of the eucharist is not doctrinal (and somewhat dogmatic at that), then 'doctrine' is a word devoid of content and meaning!

Incidentally, I would love to know why you are not a Roman Catholic. There appears not to be a Protestant bone in your Anglican body!!

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter. I'm sorry you seem confused about my simple and elemental approach to faith in Jesus. You see, it is mostly a heart thing. having used, to the best of my ability, my mental faculties to discern where to find God; having found Him, in the Eucharist, my concentration is now upon Him, in the form that He left to us. it's called 'philokalia'.

It is from thei perspective, being 'en Christo' - as far as is possible in the present context of my life - that I feel emboldened, like Paul, to preach Christ Crucified, Risen and Glorified.

I don't always do it well, and am often thwarted by my sinful human nature, but I truly believe that, if to the best of my ability, I present the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ as God of Love,
I am being a disciple of Christ.

God have mercy on me, a sinner!

Father Ron Smith said...

Thank you, Peter, for your last discerning sentence. Indeed, I an thankful that I am a catholic Anglican - I do not protest against Pope Francis. I did once protest against a papacy that dogmatised endemic injustice.

My Eucharistic theology is not the result of dogmatism; it is pure experience of jesus' Presence. Now you're not going to tell me that Jesus would withhold Himself from someone who had not gone through theological school, with a perfect understanding of the doctrine?

Jesus did say: "Seek, and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you" I guess that's just the reward of faith.

Peter Carrell said...

Oh, Ron, let me be utterly serious: I am not at all unconfused by what you said above. There your 'simple and elemental approach' cheerfully sided with the Pope and all Roman authorities in excluding people from the Mass on the basis of what they do not believe. That is called DOCTRINE.

I suggest you are confused if you are now calling it something else such as philokalia.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
Re your comment at 9.47 pm:

There is no necessary connection between theology school and doctrine. Doctrine is teaching, many have taught Christian teaching without being educated at theological college (Jesus being the most notable example) and many have imbibed doctrine without going to theological college (see many children in churches prepared for communion and for confirmation).

I have found some Roman Catholics who have never darkened the doors of a theological college quite dogmatic about the meaning of the eucharist and the reasons why mere Protestants cannot share in the Mass.

I cite back to you your own words above, "What the catholic Church is concerned with, is the fact that many protestants do not believe that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist. Why would a Believer, like the Pope want to pretend to share Christ with a non-believer?" I say again, if that is not doctrine applied with dogmatic fervour then I do not know what constitutes doctrine, or dogma!

Father Ron Smith said...

Well, that must have been an important thing for you to say, Peter, to have said it twice!

However, I don't want to prolong this conversation. Suffice to say that the only agency of salvation for me, is to know Christ, and Him Crucified, Risen and Glorified. What I am trying to say - and not very well, obviously for your satisfaction, is that the Faith is more 'caught than taught'. If you are not open to the Holy Spirit's work within you, than no amount of dogmatic or philosophical exercise will convince you.

And here is the paradox. For those of us who struggle to make sense of it all, God has given us the means to suss out the theology and the doctrinal basis for our faith. BUT the mere knowing, does not make one a Christian. Living into and with Christ on a daily basis - in contact with and a loving regard for others, and the creation around us, is perhaps the most important factor involved.

And, by the way, Peter, I do subscribe to the historic Creeds embraced by our Church.

Bryden Black said...

Ron: “Now, what's your provenance?” Good question Ron!

Let’s just stick with John’s Gospel for simplicity’s sake and since you cite him from a few places, often. My answer:

1. Jn 1:12-13
2. Jn 1:14
3. Jn 1:18 (which closes off as a literary book-end 1:1)
4. Jn 1:29-34
5. Jn 1:38-9 (the verb at the end of the disciples’ reply = menein, v.38, crucially; it begins to direct us to “THE provenance” indeed!)
6. Jn 1:51 - bethel!
And we are only at the end of ch.1!!

I’ll be briefer therefore:
1. Jn 3:1-16
2. Jn 4:5-26
3. Jn 5:19-40
4. Jn 6:32-58
5. Jn 7:37-39
6. Jn 8:31-32 (31-58)
9. Jn 11:17-44
10. Jn 12:23-32
11. Jn 13:1, 31-32 (+ of course your own 33-35!)
12. Jn 14:15-23

There should be more from the Upper Room discourse, notably re the Paraclete’s mission, and ch.17, but half a dozen plus a full dozen has a certain ring to it - though we do omit the glorious cry of 19:30 ... I conclude however with Jn 20:19-23. For here we have the climactic fulfilment of the Hour - the Father begets other sons and daughters through the Son’s breathing over them the Holy Spirit. I.e. my “provenance” = the triune God Himself, who IS Life and Light, Love and Truth, Freedom and Glory - all Johannine depictions derived directly from the words of Scripture. I hope that’s not too ‘doctrinal’. Satisfied now ...?

A wee PS - though it’s ‘naughty’! “Parce que ce n’est pas notre service mais la service de Dieu.” And with that the Augustinian abbot got me robed to the hilt to concelebrate with them all at the Feast of the Epiphany. When my second son spotted me eventually at the altar, he was reported to have said to his mother, “Far out! That’s dad!” I think Francis might have a smile on his face already ...

Father Ron Smith said...

O.K., Peter, if you're going to be dogmatic about it.

Have a good Lent in the parish!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
With your 10.18 pm comment I am much in agreement.
It strikes me that in it you are agreeing on the importance of doctrine. What I think you are against is a reduction of Christianity to a series of doctrinal propositions with tick boxes along side them and a conception of following Christ that reduces to ticking those boxes. If so, then we are in hearty agreement!

hogsters said...

Re Rons: Thank God Pope Francis, the Roman Catholic Christian, can show us non-Catholics the way of Christ's love for ALL people. Mahatma Ghandi would have loved him!

Jesus said: "They'll know you're my disciples - by your love"

He did not say, 'by your doctrine'

Arguing from silence is never the most convincing of methods I feel. The apostle Paul, in light of all the God has done for us and in us by through Christ Jesus and the work of the cross, said this. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. There is a strong link between thinking aright and living aright. behaviour follows belief. If I think God is sovereign and he holds me accountable I will judge my actions accordingly. The love you so often talk about, and important it is, is important primarily because of who God is. If we don't see him aright we have a problem and such is certainly a reality in our wishy washy liberal climate that may well see the Anglican ship going down the gurgler.



Father Ron Smith said...

"Let’s just stick with John’s Gospel for simplicity’s sake and since you cite him from a few places, often. My answer:" - Bryden Black -

No, Bryden, that's Scripture's answer. What is YOUR answer, for the Faith that is in YOU?

"The Word has come near to you', BUT, it needs to become flesh in a particular person to breathe life.
Christ, the Word Incarnate, must be evidenced in a life to be seen and experienced - and shared with humble love and mercy with other seekers after God.

Edward Prebble said...

I blanched this morning when I saw that comments on this thread had increased from 12 to 27. I feared that I would have to respond to a whole lot of evangelical champions in addition to Bryden. Then I see that most of the 15 posts represent you and Ron burning the midnight oil together. you two are obviously having fun there, and I will not add to that part of the discussion.

Bryden, it is very gracious of you to welcome me on board, but I think I will only stay on the boat, bung or no bung, briefly, if doing so requires the level of erudition you demonstrate. You are clearly an expert in this subject - I most definitely am not.I have only dipped into either Kung or Newbigin, and I did not mean to suggest that they agree with each other, just that both of them, in their different ways would argue against a "we have all the answers", or "we have the only access to the Truth" approach.

With some real hesitation, as I knnow I am on dangerous ground in quoting from a secondary source without adequately checking the context, I offer one quote from "Newbigin .... [returns] to the true nature of the church's mission, one in which the church "seriously expects the Holy Spirit to take what belongs to Christ and show it to the church, thus leading the church into new truth."
That comment appears to be acknowledging that we do not yet have access to all the truth, which is what I think +Gene was trying to say, and what St Paul expresseed famously as "Now we see in a glass darkly".

I'd like to get back to the beginning of the discussion, Peter's contention that +Gen's article was either unworthy of an Anglican bishop, or presenting a religion other "true" Christianity. I contend that it was nothing of the sort. +Gene was offering the first of a series of comments from a Christian and Episcopal perspective to a secular paper of some sort, and in doing so, was expressing a quite appropriate note of humility: "Yes, I am a bishop, and a real 'insider' in the church, but I am not claiming that I, or we have all the answers. Others may have found ways to Truth independently of what the church has to offer".

I don't think I need to do in depth research into "special revelation", "revealed theology", or "religious culture" to be able to say that I appreciated +Gene's article and hope I get to read some of his future offerings.

Jean said...

Hi Peter I decided not to comment any more as I do tend to write too much on posts, but I can't help myself. Perhaps this should have been my lent fast?

Your post clearly exposes why dioceses such as SC are left in a very difficult situation if this is an indication of the teaching of those within their communion.

I have been fortunate to have many very close friends who grew up in different faiths. Also I have studied Hinduism at university, along with seeking to understand other religions by doing my own research. Through this I say my opinion is their beliefs are not compatible with the Christian faith.

Perhaps one of the difficulties with the false belief that all religions in some way lead to the infinite God (being the God of Christianity) in western countries is we often view other religions with rose coloured glasses. Those I have found who have been born and raised mostly in Asian countries have no such illusions.

A Chinese friend of mine was dedicated by her grandmother to a demon deity, and when her family became christians she underwent real exorcism. Another Buddhist friend said when he came to realise the love Jesus had for Him he felt he had to make a choice and he said rightly or wrongly he felt at that time if he did not accept the gift Jesus offered he may not get the chance again. Another friend - a Hindu - described his upbringing as living in the dark, and knowing and encountering a number of christians until one finally explained the core of the gospel that Jesus died for our sins and because of that we have eternal life. He said at that point it was like his eyes were opened and he shared the gospel with all he met. When he shared his testimony with me he just kept saying over and over I am so rich, I am so rich (NB: he is materially poor).

For these people, more so than myself (having grown up in a christian context) they are unwavering in their conviction that "Jesus is [I am] the way and the truth and the life and there is no way to the Father except through Him [Me]."

Peter Carrell said...

That is a wonderful set of testimonies, Jean!

Thanks for sharing them here.

Bryden Black said...

Ah Ron; you do miss the obvious sometimes. Not sure why, nor shall I venture a suggestion why. What you have missed is this: faith is God’s gift within me; nor is it mere faith, as if it were some existential ‘faith in faith’; faith has as well its due object, which too is that divine gift within me - nothing less than an enactment of the New Covenant, whereby the torah (or in this case, the Scripture of the NT, as well as the OT) is duly written on my heart by the Spirit, resulting in nothing less than (as per Jn 1:12-13 and Jn 20:19-23) my adoption through the Son Incarnate-&-his-work within the Life and Light, the Love and Truth, the Freedom and Glory of the triune God. That is my provenance - nor does it get any richer, ever! All that remains (pse note the double entendre) is the epektatic transformation from one degree of glory to another.

Now; what effect all that has is barely for me to actually display - Matt 6 and all that! Rather; it’s for others to thank God for - which apparently they often do ... much to my chagrin! But that is already too much ...

Father Ron Smith said...

" If we don't see him aright we have a problem and such is certainly a reality in our wishy washy liberal climate that may well see the Anglican ship going down the gurgler." - Andrew -

Dear Andrew, I can only see Jesus with the 'eye of Faith' that He has given to me. I cannot see Jesus from your point of view - nor that of anyone else - except when I identify in others, the very same Jesus that I experience.

I, personally, don't see the ship named 'Anglican' going down the gurgler - simply because, if it has any viability at all it is God's little barque - not ours, yours or mine to manipulate.

I believe as long as there are Anglicans accessing the life of Jesus in the Sacrament of His love, who earnestly seek the Mind of Christ for their life and His mission of love in and to God's world, the gates of hell will not prevail against her. Deo gratias!

"Have mercy upon us O Lord, in your great kindness".

Bryden Black said...

Edward; no worries, as they say in these parts. You may wish to interpret +Gene’s piece as a reflection of the sort of thing Newbigin might say about how the missionary God engages with both his world and his Church, as the Gospel spreads and the Faith grows. On the basis of past performance(s) by +GR I reckon that is over-generous. For in reality I strongly suspect his ‘bottom line’ about the Church’s apprehension of ‘truth’ is, as I said earlier, more akin to his PB’s neti, neti than anything Newbigin would espouse. For again, I agree there is far more truth ‘out there’ than either the world or the Church presently appreciates. And yet, that said, when more truth dawns, it may be married perfectly with what we already know of Jesus and the God he has revealed - only reconfigured more richly. And that sort of acknowledgment I find missing in this piece of +GR’s.

Bryden Black said...

Thank you indeed Jean; these stories of Christian faith from a non western provenance are gems - and part and parcel of my own experience as well.

Chris Spark said...

At the end of the day, all the religion stuff aside, what worries me here is Jesus. You can't seriously know the Jesus that the Spirit has revealed to us through Scripture and yet imply that he is less than the full authoritative revelation of God in the way this seems to do. Humility is vital, but this is seems a lack of humility before whom the most humility is needed.
It Jesus' honour, his glory and his wonder that hurts here 'in my opinion'.

(I don't mean to demean the church, it is vital and I love it, but Jesus as he is in himself is my first concern here - the church and Christianity flow from that)

Jean said...

Thanks Peter.

As a note of warning never pray to God, "I don't really have much of a testimony to share with others having grown up in a christian context and returned to it" -

Although I've shared little of my own testimony/ies I now have so much to testify about, and have equally been through so much, I seriously wonder about God's sense of humour!

I appreciate the knowledge you share on your blog about what is happening in the wider context of the Anglican Church and the church in general, as what is happening will impact us all in some way. It is good to get an understanding of this as a christian whose sphere of interaction with the global picture is at this time limited.

Keep Smiling. God Bless.

Peter Carrell said...

May God bless you too, Jean!

Bryden Black said...

One last pertinent comment for this thread - for Edward and Daniel and even +GR in particular.

As a Lenten exercise, may I suggest you purchase and read Nabeel Qureshi’s Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity. There is much to learn about the ways of truth from this beautiful account; salaam!

Father Ron Smith said...

What, more books? God save us from the plethora of words, when The Word-made-flesh is sufficient.

"One ounce of experience is worth a tonne of words".

"Preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words"

Eliza Doolittle: "Don't just speak words; show me!"

"Silence (en Christo) is golden".

Praxis worth more than Theory?

(Saint Francis of Assisi was very suspicious of 'learned tomes'. And he became of of God's Little Saints)

Jean said...

Bryden you may also be interested in reading, "I dared to call him Father" the story of a Pakistani aristocrat (female) and her journey also to becoming a christian - if you haven't already.

MichaelA said...

"What, more books? God save us from the plethora of words, when The Word-made-flesh is sufficient."

Is that the teaching of Fr Ron?

Its not something the Word-made-flesh ever taught... :)

Bryden Black said...

Thanks Jean. I know it and agree it’s a great book and most important, especially when written by an ex Muslim woman, given sadly some Islamic societies’ treatment of women. I love too its central contention: “Abba! Father!” - beautiful and glorious.

The really beautiful thing about Nabeel Qureshi's Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus is its honouring of what is indeed good in Islam. He spends more than half the book describing (mostly for the benefit of ignorant Christians) his upbringing and his parents’ devotion and loyalty with great care and love. This chimes in well with what +Gene is himself wanting to say but not doing with sufficient care and discrimination. That’s one reason why I recommend this story. Another reason is its equally clear dismantling of Islam’s claims both per se and re its views on the Christian Faith. It is an astounding demonstration of diligent apologetics. Just so, it refutes utterly the sorts of silly conclusions we also so often hear from the likes of the PB and sadly +Gene - and others. And so, finally, it is right on target regarding the main point this thread seeks to address.

Father Ron Smith said...

Here's a good Lenten task for all of Bryden's devotees here. try to find a theological tome he has not read! And test him, here.

Bryden Black said...

Great letter in today’s Press BTW, Ron; thanks! As for this wee jest/joust: actually, I dared to call him Father is no tome. It’s a beautiful piece of testimony, of the kind I think you will like, being a follower of St F and all. As for Nabeel’s book, it is exceptionally well written, and again is no tome. That’s a word I would reserve for the likes of Hans Küng, Karl Barth or Eberhard Jüngel’s work - door stoppers! Blessed Lent!

Father Ron Smith said...

I loved this sentence in Bishop Gene's testinmoy to God's love:

:As Dr. King was fond of saying (paraphrasing 19th century Unitarian minister Theodore Parker), “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”

Thank you, Bryden. Peace & Joy!

Mark said...

I'd like to stick my nose into the Anglican scene despite my complete lack of understanding or experience with the Anglican church. I unitentionally stumbled across this blog a while back and have been sneaking back every now and then for a read.

A quick background - I'm not a trained scholar of the Scriptures and have not listened to preaching by trained Biblical scholars. I do have some understanding of God's Word although I'm unlikely to be any match with many commentors written ability. As such, take my thoughts as those of a simpleton and do what you like with them.

As I don't know any of the people commenting on here I have no idea what importance any of you place on Scripture. I believe that it is the inerrant Word of God. I believe that it is God's revelation of himself to us. Your viewpoint on this is fundamental to how you respond to the bishop's apparent inclusion of other religions and experiences as a part of God's revelation. Personally, I disagree with the Bishop's statement that "there have developed, over time, many credible and faithful approaches to understanding God" as I don't believe that is what God's Word teaches.

God reveals his nature and character to us in Scripture.
God reveals our nature and character to us in Scripture.
Without either of these revelations we cannot recognise our sinful state and our need for salvation and respond as we should to the grace and mercy that God has shown us (in the Scrptures) in and through His Son Jesus Christ.

I believe that salvation through anything other than Christ is not the salvation explained in Scripture. If there is "another way" other than that shown in Scripture then Christ's death was pointless and we are nothing more than fools.

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks for reading and commenting, Mark!

Father Ron Smith said...

Just to show I continue to look over the arguments, I found this pericope from Bryden:

" And yet, that said, when more truth dawns, it may be married perfectly with what we already know of Jesus and the God he has revealed - only reconfigured more richly "

Yes, Bryden, I think that goes for each one of us. Our experience of God-in-Christ (different for each one of us) will hopefully be seen to have coincided with the Truth of God that is yet to be revealed.

I guess that means we ought not judge, in advance, how 'our' truth might be superior in quality to that of others.

I always remember The Revd. Doctor George Armstrong, tutor at St. John's College, Auckland; commenting on the story of the Sheep and the Goats; warning us against premature judgement of other people's faith - against the possibility that we might find ourselves among the goats.

Also, we might be surprised at who ends up in the other queue.

I think that helped us students to think again about our tendency to smug self-righteousness.

Kyrie eleison!

Anonymous said...

Ron: Would you please point us in the direction of the place in the writings of Francis, or early biographies of him, where he said, 'Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words?'

I have read several books about Francis and I have been unable to discover any early documented source for this quote. And since we know very well that Francis was a great preacher, it does seem rather unlike him.

So: source, please? I'd be glad to be proved wrong.

Tim C.

Anonymous said...

Test comment from Peter Carrell

Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Tim, please look at my post to which you here refer and think again. You will notice that I gave no reference to St, Francis of Assisi as having provided this lovely word of advice.

So there, dear brother. One point to me, I think, this time around.

P.S. I'm glad you are interested in the Legenda of Francis. He is supremely worth reading about.

Peace and All Joy!

Anonymous said...

You are correct, Ron - you gave the quote in a list of quotes, and then mentioned Francis at the end, and since I have seen this quote attributed to Francis so many times, i naturally assumed that was your intent. Wrongly, of course, - my apologies.

Not that I'm keeping 'points'!

Tim C.

Bryden Black said...

Thanks Ron for continuing to pay attention to such things as this wee “pericope”. I shall return the favour and attend to your response.

I do however find the way you transpose my initial ideas intriguing but not surprising. They echo many a contemporary stance - indeed, you and +Gene might be cut from similar cloth. How so?

My emphasis was in the first place upon “truth”. There is quite simply objective truth - full stop/period. Thereafter, such notions as ‘your’, ‘my’, or ‘our’ truth might be short hand for how specific individuals or groups appropriate that truth itself. Or it may be rather an expression far more attune with how contemporary westerners have discarded any notion of “objective truth” and have instead opted for trendy notions of mere perspectival approaches.

For this then overlaps with your comment: “... that goes for each one of us. Our experience of God-in-Christ (different for each one of us) ...”. For here the emphasis is straight away on “experience”, and notably individual experience. True; there is of course an experiential element to Christianity - has to be! BUT the centre of gravity is firstly upon the Truth we encounter in Jesus, the Word made flesh and revelation of the Father; and then secondly upon our appropriation of that in a relationship with him - as you say often, “in Christ Jesus” through the Holy Spirit.

The trouble with the trendy perspectival view of things is that it rides upon a form of epistemology that assumes we may never actually know things in themselves, only their appearance(s). But who deems this to be the case?! And why?! We are however not left in the place where we have to just accept each and everyone’s ‘opinion’ or ‘perspective’ - or “different experience of each of us”. That way lies utter fragmentation and confusion - babel indeed! That is only the dictate of radical postmodernism.

At root, how might you and I know we are indeed experiencing “one and the same” God-in-Christ? And not only “with the Truth of God that is yet to be revealed”; but far more importantly, with the Truth of God that has already been revealed, historically, and witnessed to in the NT Scriptures, and already “passed on” by the Catholic Church (1 Cor 15:1-5). THAT is the challenge to the likes of +Gene, and I suspect yourself, if we are not far more circumspect with our formulations and means of conveying faith.