Sunday, July 29, 2018

Does Dynamic Inspiration Entail An "Incarnational" Model of Inspiration?

Further to a note below re Michael Bird's post on "Dynamic Inspiration" (of Scripture), Bird has now also posted on why he doesn't think the "Incarnation" is a model for Biblical Inspiration, here.

Which is salutary for me, because I have often thought favourably of the idea of the Bible as similar to the Incarnation: the divine inhabits the human, the infinite dwells in the finite. And, possibly without ever thinking it through, I have associated the dynamic view of inspiration with the incarnational view: the living Word in the written Word is dynamic - not a dead letter!

Actually, I am not convinced that Bird does deal a final below to the Incarnation as a model for Biblical Inspiration.

So, yes, when Bird writes, after John Webster, he is definitionally correct:

"Incarnation is about hypostatic union, such a union is not the only mode of God’s gracious condescension to speak to human subjects nor God’s normative mode of self-communication. While Jesus is God and Man and Scripture is God’s speech inspired through human subjects, the differences in mode of divine communication here are so great that the analogy is tactless. While God identifies with his written word, he does not become the written word. This theory flirts with the danger of bibliolatry."

But is this the final blow? Sure, if we focus on "Incarnation" = "hypostatic union" then the Bible is not hypostatically unified with God. But Incarnation is not only about "the Word became flesh" (here, equals hypostatic union) but also "and lived among us" or, as commentators never tire of telling us, "set up his tent among us" (John 1:14). Might we properly speak of the divine words of God, the living word of Christ continuing to live among us via the Scripture as the written Word of God? Is it inappropriate to think of Scripture as the "tent" of the Word, the place wherein we find the words of God, and, via reading and hearing, meet the living word of Christ?

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The end of the parish system or a new beginning?!

A few posts down I drew attention to an article by Christina Rees re the future of the CofE.

Rees called into question the focus on parish work - in effect, parishes have had their day.

Or have they?

Michael Bird, also from Down Under, in a village on the West Island, has responded here.

What do you think?

Monday, July 23, 2018

Keeping Up (4)

Some more from Catholicity and Covenant, this time on the richness of Cranmer's sacramental theology ... and very helpful it is, too, re the meaning of the bread and the wine of communion being the body and blood of Jesus ... with useful distinctions re natural/corporal, carnal.

I hope to write something more on the eucharist before the week is out ... beginning with Brant Pitre's argument about Johannine chronology for the Last Supper!

Friday, July 20, 2018

Keeping Up (3) - Dynamic Inspiration

Following on from a post noted below, Michael Bird has published an - IMHO - most agreeable post on The Case for the Dynamic View of Biblical Inspiration.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Keeping Up (2)

Wesley Hill is an Episcopalian theologian, involved in TEC, a self-identifying celibate, gay man who does not agree with same-sex marriage (which TEC is rather keen on, recently deciding at its GC 2018 that rites for same-sex marriage must be available in all Dioceses where same-sex marriage is a civil right). Here he explains, in a manner at least agreeable to me, noting his focus on family and witness, why is is staying in TEC ... here.

Speaking of TEC and staying in it (or maybe not), the Communion Partner bishops have published a statement responding to changes for TEC as a result of decisions made at GC 2018, here.

Thinking about staying in the church and not leaving it, here is a fascinating article on ordinations under Delegate Oversight in the Diocese of London ... now they have a female Bishop of London. I post it here without comment - it may or may not be relevant to ACANZP's present situation. (In one way it is not relevant: each ordinand accepts the authority of the Bishop of London, whatever the gender of the Bishop of London.

Then, on a question of keen interest to some Christians - mostly "conservative" ones - Christians keen to conserve the power of Scripture and its authority in the church, sometimes we should think carefully about what doctrines underpin (explicitly or implicitly) our belief in the authority of Scripture. One such doctrine could be "the plenary verbal inspiration" of Scripture. Australian evangelical theologian Michael Bird critiques this doctrine here.

As previously noted in posts below, do not comment on the specific situation(s) the Diocese of Christchurch is working through at this time.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Keeping Up (1)

... with Pauline scholarship. Stephen Chester has written an important book which Michael Bird reviews here.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Future investment?

Two articles worth reading and reflecting on, with special reference to the future mission and ministry of ACANZP:

The Guardian first reports on the CofE spending 27m pounds on 100 new style churches, here.

Then, also in the Guardian, Christina Rees reflects on changes coming and needed for the new millennium, here.

This is the money quote for us Down Under to reflect on:

"But these initiatives need to be part of a bigger sea change in how the church approaches its work. The pattern of priests in single parishes may have served the church and the country well for hundreds of years, but society has changed.
This parish structure, with 16,000 churches, is failing because younger people are not joining churches. They do not have a pattern of going to services on a Sunday morning or evening. Rural areas recently have had some priests in charge of 12 or more parishes – with almost as many church buildings, many ancient and crumbling, all in need of heating and maintaining.
If the church wants to survive, and thrive, it will need to see itself in a new light – more responsive, and willing to embrace how people live today. Most people, especially young people, don’t want to have to step through the doorway of a church to engage with the big issues of life. They don’t want to sit in pews on Sunday mornings to listen to a sermon or a set, age-old liturgy. They want to know how to navigate the complexities of their lives and how to address their deepest longings, doubts and fears. And they want to feel safe.
So the whole church will have to become much more interactive and flexible. The pattern for the future may well look a lot more like the early church, with small groups meeting in each other’s homes."

And for someone in my role, as Director of Education in a Diocese, there is this challenge:

"A different way of working will demand different skills and talents, and therefore new ways of training clergy, who will need to learn to communicate without jargon and without any assumptions of a shared knowledge of the faith. They will need to be able to offer coherent Christian perspectives on contemporary issues and events, and expect lively debate."

Monday, July 9, 2018

Virtualism: key to 21st century Anglican eucharistic theology? [Updated]

UPDATE: Catholicity and Covenant has put a further post up, here. ALSO: Liturgy has a rejoinder here.

From it, and bearing on the matters mentioned below, I cite these wonderful words of Cranmer:

"His true body is truly present to them that truly receive him: but spiritually ... by whose passion we are filled at his table, and whose blood we receiving out of his holy side, do live for ever, being made the guests of Christ; having him dwelling in us through the grace of his true nature, and, through the virtue and efficacy of his whole passion, being no less assured and certified, that we are fed spiritually unto eternal life by Christ's flesh crucified, and by his blood shed, the true food of our minds, than that our bodies be fed with meat and drink in this life: and hereof this said mystical bread on the table of Christ, and the mystical wine, being administered and received after the institution of Christ, be to us a memorial, a pledge, a token, a sacrament, and a seal."

ORIGINAL POST: In a recent series of three posts Catholicity and Covenant introduces readers to an Anglican understanding of the eucharist called "virtualism." The three posts in chronological order are here, here and here. I confess to previous ignorance of the term "virtualism" but what virtualism is fits with what some of us Anglicans pretty much believe about the eucharist, even if we have never tried to pin down a definition.

Here is a definition which Catholicity and Covenant gives:

"*The site Anglican Eucharistic Doctrine provides a summary of virtualism via the 1938 report Doctrine in the Church of England:
Virtualism is described as being intermediate between real presence and receptionism. The virtualist "maintains that a spiritual change in the elements themselves is effected through consecration". The bread and the wine therefore do not become the body and blood of Christ in substance (as if they were being identified with the natural body and blood of Christ on the cross) but in spiritual power, virtue and effect.  This means that through consecration the bread and wine are endowed with spiritual power or virtue which make them the sacramental body and blood of Christ, but not the natural body and blood of Christ."

Another way of expressing this, given in another post, is a citation from Bishop Seabury of PECUSA (as it was then called):

"When we say that the Eucharist is a spiritual sacrifice, we still mean that the sacred symbols of Christ's body and blood are a sacrifice, and we call them a spiritual sacrifice, with reference to the effects which are wrought on them, and which they work in us by the power of the Holy Ghost. For after the bread and wine are set apart, to be the symbols of Christ's body and blood, and after we have solemnly offered them to God, we then proceed to invoke on them the descent of the Holy Ghost, to sanctify them, and to make them, not indeed in substance, but in power and efficacy, the body and blood of Christ. And it is in virtue of the spiritual power and efficacy thus imparted to the sacred elements, that they are called a spiritual sacrifice."

Catholicity and Covenant is arguing through the three posts that in an Anglicanism which is increasingly evangelical rather than Anglo-Catholic, there is real danger of (in my words) a low-grade appreciation of the eucharist and an impoverished eucharistic theology, but this need not be so. Evangelicals wary of a Catholic understanding of the eucharist need not go the way of Zwingli: it is only emblems and memories. Rather, we can retrieve a common heritage, when evangelicals and High Church Anglicans agreed, pretty much, on what the meaning of the eucharist is. This is captured in another citation Catholicity and Covenant offers:

"Prior to the rise of Tractarianism there was near consensus between Orthodox [i.e. Old High Church] and Evangelical churchmen regarding eucharistic doctrine.  This consensus survived the early phase of the Oxford Movement, but thereafter, the Tractarians diverged ...The two main interpretations of eucharistic doctrine shared by the Orthodox were virtualism and receptionism ... Virtualists maintained that the bread and win, once set apart by consecration, while not changed physically into the body and blood of Our Lord, became so in virtue, power and effect ... The Real Presence was taught, but that presence was not located in the elements of bread and wine ... In asserting a 'heavenly' Real Presence, the advocates of receptionism were at one with virtualists.  According to both views, the bread and wine were set apart for a new purpose by means of consecration while not altering in nature or substance.
Peter B. Nockles The Oxford Movement in Context: Anglican High Churchmanship1760-1857, p.235-238."

I like what I read through these posts and in particular through the cited passages I have also cited here. Virtualism, I suggest, but welcome your counter-suggestions, describes some familiar phrases from NZPB. Consider:

"Send your Holy Spirit
that these gifts of bread and wine which we receive
may be to us the body and blood of Christ,
and that we, filled with the Spirit's grace and power,
may be renewed for the service of your kingdom." (p. 423) 
"Almighty God, giver of all good things,
we thank you for feeding us with the spiritual food
of the precious body and blood of our Saviour, Jesus Christ." (p. 429) 
"As we eat this bread and drink this wine,
through the power of your Holy Spirit
feed us with your heavenly food,
renew us in your service ..." (p. 438).

Of course that is not all our NZPB has to offer: other phrases (e.g. pp. 467, 487) readily fit with an Anglo-Catholic understanding (whether that is Consubstantiation or Transubstantiation). Some phrases I find hard to pin any historic theology of the eucharist to such as:

"Bread and wine; the gifts of God
for the people of God.
May we who share these giftsbe found in Christ and Christ in us." (p. 472)

Back to Catholicity and Covenant. The following paragraphs summarise and express the argument he is making through these posts.

"What - if any - contemporary significance is there this series of posts on the Old High Church eucharistic doctrine of virtualism?  Readers might be forgiven for thinking that this is little more than ecclesiastical antiquarianism.
It's not.  It is, rather, to suggest that that the eucharistic doctrine of the Old High Church tradition - virtualism - offers a means of sacramental renewal for a contemporary Anglicanism that is becoming increasingly evangelical, in which Anglo-Catholicism is much less influential, and in which sacramental theology in notably weaker than a century ago.  In the words of Stephen Foster, the evangelical Anglican - now on the staff of HTB - who wrote the foreword to Andrew Davison's Why Sacraments?:
It is sometimes forgotten (not least by evangelicals) that the reformers saw both word and sacrament as the key marks of the true Church ... The contemporary amnesia of a theology of the sacraments within some parts of the Church must then be a matter of concern.
The eucharistic piety, practice and theological discourse of Anglo-Catholicism is highly unlikely to offer to evangelical Anglicans an acceptable means of renewing their own eucharistic thought and practice.  The virtualism of the Old High Church tradition, however, might do so.  It has its origins in the rich eucharistic teaching of Calvin.  It significantly shaped the Anglican Formularies and coheres with them.  It is flows from the historic Reformed critique of aspects of Roman Catholic eucharistic teaching and practice, while its emphasis on reception by faith - in the words of ARCIC I - is not "incompatible with eucharistic faith"."

As an evangelical Anglican, I see these posts as an inspiring challenge rather than as a challenging criticism: I love eucharistic worship, I am committed to a genuine ministry of Word and Sacrament, I want to see the eucharist led (or "performed") in such a manner that our love for Jesus, our thanksgiving for grace, our appreciation of the gospel of the cross is deepened and intensified.

But I am also keen to understand the eucharist - what did Jesus intend? what do we think happens when we participate in the eucharist? what are our reasonable expectations of the transformative power (virtue!) of eucharist?

The virtue of Virtualism is that it goes a long way towards answering such questions, without committing Anglicans to the dodginess of Aristotelian metaphysics or the barrenness of Zwinglianism.

I am not sure, however, that "Virtualism" is the best term in the 21st century for an understanding of the eucharist which evangelical Anglicans could embrace.

#suggestionsonapostcard ... or in the comments here :)

Thursday, July 5, 2018

More on GAFCON 2018

Fulcrum has posted this week a balanced, comprehensive statement following, and responding to GAFCON 2018. It covers all my own appreciations, concerns and questions.

I am happy to post comments about this statement and/or about GAFCON 2018. I will not post comments which mention, even slightly, our local, unfolding situation in the Diocese of Christchurch.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Personalism v individualism ... euthanasia

Reading this - as usual - brilliant paper by Rowan Williams, "What is a Person? Reclaiming Relationality in an Uncooperative Age," is a timely link to a unique experience on Monday ... I was part of a presentation, led by Dean Lawrence Kimberley, to the Justice Select Committee on the Right To Choose euthanasia bill which is being considered by our Parliament. "Unique" means I have never been in front of a Select Committee before.

Anyway, the Committee was kind and heard our Diocese's voice, which was centred around the content of the speech Dean Lawrence made to our recent Synod when we agreed to a motion which asked our then Bishop, Victoria Matthews, to write to parliament stating our position and our concerns. (Some news reports about the role of our Diocese and Bishop in speaking against the proposed bill are here and here.)

But a news agency, Newsroom has spotted that our bishops are divided on the matter of whether people should be assisted to die or not. This is not unexpected  - we do not have a specific doctrinal position on euthanasia which binds the bishops to a common teaching - and there are, of course, sentiments worth considering when considering how best to assist people towards imminent death in the midst of great pain. I support best possible palliative care but that does not mean I dismiss those who think there are some circumstance in which it is reasonable to move beyond assisting people towards inevitable death by actually assisting them to die.

Nevertheless, I am against assisting people to die. Two reasons are particularly significant for me.

First, once we breach the principle of respect for life, for extraordinary reasons (e.g. great pain), and become used to making decisions to assist people to die and then actually being part of the ending of life (killing?), it will be very easy to continue the breach for ordinary reasons (there are too many elderly people, this treatment for depression just isn't working, health resources are limited, if Grandma died we could pay off the mortgage with the inheritance). We will become a society with a cap on the length of life and guilt for living a long life will drive people to an early end.

Secondly, what ++Rowan says. If we believe we are persons and not individuals then we will take account of our families and friends before asserting the right to choose as an individual to do what we want with our lives. Their loss of us, their distress at our going should be important. They have a right, if we use the language of rights, to have a say in our choice. But these personalist considerations, I fear, for a bill being driven by the party leader of the party most insistent on the sovereignty of the individual, could be lost.