Monday, January 14, 2019

Holiday musings

As I resume blogging - approximately once a week in this new era in my life - I am also winding out of holiday mode into picking up the tempo as we go working mode. Here I will stick with "holiday musings", perhaps next week taking up "work musings."

Teresa and I, along with 4 million plus Kiwis were blessed this post-Christmas holiday period with some hot summer weather. It was not obvious before Christmas that this would be so. Nor, indeed, the day before we left Christchurch when I watched a day's cricket at Hagley Oval with a nippy wind in my face!

That eventual heat made us appreciative of opportunities - sometimes quite briefly -  to be in some of our special Down Under summer spots, with special reference to water: Kaikoura Coast, Tahunanui Beach, Pohara, Tata Beach, Gisborne, Tolaga Bay, Tokomaru Bay, Te Araroa, East Cape, Raukokore, Opotiki, Gisborne (again), Mahia Beach, Lake Waikaremoana, Napier. Also appreciative of cars with air conditioning!

Exploring the East Coast of the North Island was new to me. I had been to Napier and Gisborne before, but never driven the road between these two towns, nor driven the coastal route from Gisborne to Opotiki. Our journey took in some memorable places, generating some pics below.

Memorial to Sir Apirana Ngata, outside St Mary's Memorial Church, Tikitiki

Extraordinary stained glass window in east wall of St Mary's Memorial Church, Tiktiki. Two WW1 Maori Battalion soldiers kneeling at the foot of the cross, the crucified Jesus and slain soldiers set within Paradise.

Christ Church, Raukokore - the North Island's corresponding church to the South Island's Church of the Good Shepherd on the shores of Lake Tekapo?

Hicks Bay - one of a series of famous East Coast beaches.

Mahia Beach - arguably as nice a beach-to-have-a-holiday-home-beside as any beach in Aotearoa NZ!
The occasion of our visit to this lovely but remote part of Down Under was the Unveiling of the Memorial to Archbishop Brown Turei, at his marae and nearby urupa (cemetery) at Whangaparaoa, on Saturday 5th January. Everything went well and we were privileged to be participants in this occasion of great importance for Archbishop Brown's whanau, for Te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa and for our church as a whole. The following day, back in Gisborne we were also privileged to be guests of current Archbishop and Pihopa o Aotearoa, Don Tamihere.

Now, these brief reports do not tell the whole story of all places and churches visited recently, nor or people met and books and articles digested. And, in comments on my previous post, below, there continued to be much food for thought. And, and ...  I notice continuing "events" in the wider, global Anglican story of our times ... and I note that these mostly continue to be about That Topic. So my "holiday musings," here below, are not solely catalysed by our East Coast adventure.

Musing 1: holidays can be an opportunity to recall, again, what an extraordinary world we live in. I thank God not only that God created our wonderful world but also that we have One whom we can thank. A musing through these past few weeks has been about whether as church we bear witness to the God Whom We Can Thank for the gift of life and of love. We worry about whether atheists pray or not when in a foxhole on the battlefield, but what do atheists do when absorbing the beauty of an East Coast beach?!

Musing 2: holidays can also be an opportunity to be reminded that many Kiwis are happy and contented with their lives. Finding well patronised restaurants and cafes in holiday places, with happy, laughing patrons, or walking the beaches and meeting people enjoying sea, sand and sun, I find myself musing that the progress of the gospel Down Under is difficult because life here is so darn good for lots of people. Now - of course - I do not wish for misfortune to drive us back/forward to God but my musing is that we continue to have a huge challenge communicating to fellow Kiwis that God is worth bothering about, that the truest, deepest, enduring secret to life (Colossians 1:27) is Christ and not Kiwiana! Working also from Colossians - an epistle I have been reading especially these past few weeks - our question today is how we can make the secret "clear" to our fellow Kiwis (Colossians 4:4).

Musing 3: nevertheless, while not wishing this to be so, I have also been musing on whether we are very close to (climate) catastrophe? That same summer heat at times has felt unusually hot. We know the climate is changing. Recent news reports have talked about the heating of the planet's seawater and the probable acceleration of general global warming as a result. How close are we to a global catastrophe with respect to climate?

Musing 4: I have kept reading Jenson's Systematic Theology, including his chapter on the resurrection. Coincidentally, there is an emerging controversy over the newly appointed Interim Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome, the Very Rev'd Dr John Shepherd, because of some remarks he once made about the resurrection (see news reports here and here). Jenson himself is very careful and nuanced about the resurrection and would have words to say to Shepherd's critics (to the extent, e.g., that they throw terms like "literal" around without nuance). But Jenson makes one of the best points ever about why the tomb was empty: concluding discussion on what "body" means in respect of human bodies, the body of Christ in sacrament and as the church, he writes

"The organism that was Jesus' availability - that was his body - until he was killed would have as a corpse continued to be an availability of this person, of the kind that tombs and bodies of the dead always are. It would have been precisely a relic, such as the saints of all religions have. Something other than sacrament and church would have located the Lord for us, would have provided a direction for devotion; and that devotion would have been to a saint, and so would have been something other than faith and obedience to a living Lord. The tomb we may therefore very cautiously judge, had to be empty after the Resurrection for the Resurrection to be what it is." (p. 206, Vol 1 Systematic Theology).

UPDATE: Shepherd has responded to his critics here. AND we could add this in here (Rowan Williams on John Spong ...).


Father Ron said...

Welcome back to the coal-face, Peter. Glad you and Teresa had a warm and picturesque vacation - mainly in the North Island, where the history of our Church first began. At SMAA we pray for you at our daily Mass celebration; that God will give you the wisdom, strength and fortitude to equip you for your call to episcopal authority in our diocese. We look forward to your upcoming Ordination and Installation
Happy New Year!

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Ron!
Prayers very much appreciated ... and needed :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Peter, for many things as usual, but particularly now for the postscript to your last OP and for your expansion of it in the new one. Over several days, the former crossed my mind in encouraging ways, and some sustained prayer about it has been rewarded.

Yes, when you haven't time to write, do send pictures! I still think now and again of the photograph of crisscrossing streams that you posted here two or so years ago. It looks as though you had a refreshing time.

"I've been rich and I've been poor. Rich is better." -- Beatrice Kaufman et al

When I was young, I was taught to believe as Shepherd believes, and to say what he says. I had no difficulty with that so far as I then knew, but then the mystery deepened its impression on my mind to one Gattiss could approve, and my faith and self have been undeniably stronger because of this. Now illumination is of reason from a source beyond reason, so I would not try to argue someone into believing as I do, but I could say in retrospect that in two ways my former thinking was less reasonable than it is now-- (1) my knowledge of the mechanisms of physical nature led me to overlook the possibility that it could have latent emergent properties, and that led me to overestimate the determined stuckness of everything in a way that I no longer do; (2) without a regenerated human Person at the centre of it, the several articles of my belief did not fit together into the resonant, regenerative whole that they are in scripture or in the lives of the saints. Today, I cannot imagine falling back into either mistake.

In every culture and time, something about faith will be tricky. If I had had to believe all that I do now as a sceptical teenager, I might not have been a Christian today-- ponies before horses-- but it is hardly a burden to believe in the Resurrection when one is able to absorb the whole apostolic gestalt around it. When the usual objections are posed there are the usual responses to them, but my own friendly advice is to weigh the human need for heroic hope and to ponder circumstances under which it would be reasonable.

Cheery Kiwis on the blessed isles probably still want to experience Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's *flow*, the happiness that comes of absorbing tasks that are challenging, exercise skill, and have meaning. The secret of which you speak is the meaning of being an image-bearer with a vocation without which tasks that demanding are just drudgery.

Inspired by your fine OPs and good company here, my penance for Lent this year will be a blog on prayer and related topics beginning on Ash Wednesday. Details will follow.


Anonymous said...

Oh, "nuanced" be damned! The tomb was either empty or it wasn't. If it was empty, that was either due to tomb robbers or a resurrection. The dead body either stayed dead and decayed - or it was restored to immortal life and appeared tangibly, audibly and visibly. And if the body remained dead, there wouldn't be any church or sacrament to prattle about, just some short-lived sect of Judaism. So forget all this faux-catholic speculation about "relics" or "saints" and "availability".
Trying to stay on good terms with one's old Bultmannian teachers (while scolding fundamentalists with "some words") may be required behaviour in the guild of academic theologians, but it ends up producing obscure and turgid prose that normal people (i.e. non-theologians) don't care to read. A dose of Bayesian logic is more useful.

William (laying down his razor)

Peter Carrell said...

Your (sort of) name sake, William - Rowan Williams - has something to say, - have added the link to the main body of the post.

Fair point about a dose of logic, either/or, but I think language assists communication. Old Bultmannians need persuading as does the person in the street and fundamentalists.

Anonymous said...

Those who came of age in the middle C20 were a generation with two cross-talking quarrels about the Resurrection--

(a) Historicity. Did God do something to Jesus's body that is verifiable by an empiricist then or now?

(b) Significance. How should we respond now to whatever it is that God did then?

Unpleasantly, those with loud opinions usually only cared about one of them. I knew Reformed evangelicals influenced by Old Princeton to whom it was urgent to answer (a) affirmatively for the sake of a general confidence in the reliability of the Bible. And of course I knew Anglican liberals (too) distantly influenced by Bultmann who were so confident about God's answer to (b) that they were gleefully indifferent to (a). The bitterness of the disputes between the factions was psychologically interesting to a student of emotions-- the same sort of angry gridlock has recurred again with That Topic-- but neither position made sense of the actual scriptural narrative read in church Easter after Easter after Easter.

Scripturally, Mary Magdalene did not rush back to tell the apostles that the Bible was implausible before but could now be believed, nor that we had been unable to see Jesus in the eyes of our neighbours, but now could. Reasonably, it would not have made sense for her to say either thing. Nor do the faithful traditionally greet each other in the old countries at Pascha saying things like--

"The Bible is verified!"
"Indeed, the Bible is verified!"

-- or--

"I see Jesus in your eyes!"
"I see Jesus in your eyes too!"

Both of the warring sides could have believed and lived as they did had the Bible skipped from the crucifixion to Pentecost. They were wrong.


Anonymous said...

Tunneling deeper into these questions, miners of both (a) and (b) have met underground. Although we still hear from happy warriors who grew up on that battlefield and are lost in more civil times, the Resurrection can be discussed more justly and productively, if perhaps disruptively, today.

N T Wright's Victory of the Son of God has answered (a) more exhaustively and exhaustingly than most persons asking it could have believed possible. More than any other single work in Wright's oeuvre, it led Benedict XVI to invite the Bishops of Durham to address his Synod of Bishops in Rome. So today, it is post-Christian scholars like Bart Ehrman who quibble, agreeing that the gospel accounts are about an event known to witnesses, but saying that they professionally do not know its cause. More importantly, Wright's historical answer (a vast, independent expansion on Jens's insight above) is integral to the rest of the NT in a way that the old C19 positivism could not have been. For that reason among others, reasonable believers today cannot just check "Believe in the Resurrection" off on a list, and then think what they like about other things. If they read the NT, at least, they now have to wrestle with (b) as a soteriological question: how is God's raising Jesus from the dead then saving me and the world now? Or else, as St Paul said, their faith is in vain.

Down the other mineshaft, several waves of ecumenical biblical scholarship-- the narrative turn, the New Perspective on Paul, canonical reading, re-engagement with the fathers and the East, Jewish scholarship on the NT, the EHCC, etc-- offer plenty of help in answering just that question. Summarizing all of that and how it helps requires book length treatment, and from every major confessional tradition such treatments have been written. Most explore new creation, the reconciling work of Christ, and the proper work of the Holy Spirit in ways unimaginable in more modern times.

If science advances one funeral at a time, mainstream churchmanship advances as seminary professors stop assigning superseded reading to new students. Old Princeton theology retains a small constituency that prefers its anti-metaphysic (Reid's common sense realism), but it is startling to notice that many Anglican seminarians have never heard a purely forensic soteriology until they meet it in a church history course. (The battle at Virginia Theological Seminary that led to the foundation of the Trinity School for Ministry was joined at just that point-- control of the history syllabus.) Some kind of Resurrection-centred piety from a range of bad, blah, and good influences is all they know.

Peace has broken out, along with its mundane problems. Have the warring Anglican tribes have laid down their arms? The depth of the polarisation over That Topic along similar lines suggests that they have mutually decided to war on, not with theological work persuasive to the mainstream of the Body, but with synods and anti-synods thinking in the receding past.

Disruption? Yes, as the reader may recall from my comments on Blacksoil, Christians whose theological reflections start from such themes as new creation, the reconciling work of Christ, and the proper work of the Holy Spirit do not understand the Body or its Life as most of our teachers did. The young Blacksoiler who said, "Read Romans 1. Diabetes is sin. Sin that is personal, ecclesial, industrial, political, and cosmic," believed not just some different things, but also in a different way.


Bryden Black said...

Cannot resist it Bowman: diabetes type I or type II? If the latter, then we’re on the same page. If the former, then we need to revisit the significance of Jesus’ Res for right now ...
Bultmann et al never did have any traction in my diocese of origin, Mashonaland. Our front lines were drawn up elsewhere ... even if I had read MH et al.

Anonymous said...

"Read Romans 1. Diabetes is sin. Sin that is personal, ecclesial, industrial, political, and cosmic."

"If the latter, then we’re on the same page. If the former, then we need to revisit the significance of Jesus’ Res for right now ..."

A fair point, Bryden, and not an unimportant one.*

The Blacksoiler's sentence seems to refer to type II-- I think that you are indeed on the same page-- until we hear "cosmic," which could either be attributing type I to the Fall or else minimising the distinction altogether as some on the paleo diet do. The former raises questions about human responsibility; the latter about the moral law.

In the conversational moment, I let that ambiguity slide to press on to the ecclesiological question how much independence of industrialised agriculture he believed necessary to render the invisible Body visible to the world again. The garden by the firehouse was a potent symbol, I acknowledged, but was it enough? He returned to Romans 1, saying that the Body was mostly invisible wherever its members had been standardised by society into practice that was contrary to the integrity of the human person. Most obvious to an agricultural scientist like him, food, but also education, social work, housing, medicine... Each Blacksoiler's field stood in need of some reform; they were Christians because they were Christ's reformers. Christ Against Culture, as Niebuhr would classify it.

* On the molecular level, conditions invisible mostly attributable to some behavioral stress on cells (eg type II diabetes) often resemble conditions mostly attributable to mendelian inheritance (eg type 1 diabetes). For example, to investigate a dementia associated with unusual levels of several proteins, one might delete combinations of the genes that code for each protein from samples of murine DNA and induce their expression in mice whose protein levels can be measured over time. In principle, this data should enable one to hypothesise, with greater confidence than before, which proteins cause the dementia and which are its results.


Anonymous said...

I hope, Peter, that you somehow enjoyed the Feast of the Confession of St Peter. Petrine ministry has never been more interesting than it is today.


Anonymous said...

Richard Florida explains populism in cities.

To understand Donald Trump, understand Rob Ford.


Peter Carrell said...

Dear Bowman
This Peter confesses never to having heard of that feast day, let alone enjoying it in 2019!
Slightly fearful that I am not only "low church" about feast days but also ignorant, I checked our annual lectionary-come-calendar: it is not there for me to notice.
Wiki tells me that "some Anglican" churches celebrate it!
Not ours ...

John Sandeman said...

More on John Shepherd. His earlier remarks are far from nuanced. Has he changed his mind or his language?
From John Shepherd's original comments iin the west Australian in 2003 "“He said many traditional teachings had been added to Christianity to reinforce the message that Jesus was divine and to boost the Church’s authority. It was not necessary to believe the Gospel descriptions of Jesus appearing to his disciples after his resurrection, as they were only symbolic stories.
“‘Nor is it necessary to Christian faith to believe that Jesus physically and literally ascended to heaven after 40 days ,’ he said.”

Father Ron Smith said...

Another gem, perter from the Jesuits. This time by an Australian Anglican priest featured in an English Jesuit magazine:

He describes his spiritual life now that he has been prescribed medication (akin to Prozac) that actually helps him to cope with the reality that; what is necessary for a follower of Christ is to trust in God that he knows the 'thoughts of our hearts'- rather than our outer (maybe rigorously academic) intentions - because God knows us better than we know ourselves!. Good stuff!

Anonymous said...

The Confession of Saint Peter January 18

Almighty Father, who didst inspire Simon Peter, first among the apostles, to confess Jesus as Messiah and Son of the living God: Keep thy Church steadfast upon the rock of this faith, so that in unity and peace we may proclaim the one truth and follow the one Lord, our Savior Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

-- The Episcopal Church (1979) The Book of Common Prayer, p. 187.

Peter, the contrary seasons of the antipodes may explain your unfamiliarity. In my enthusiasm for petrine persons and ministries, I forgot that the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is rarely observed in the vacation season of the Southern Hemisphere. Cockaigne observes it with the local Catholics and anyone else who wants to come in from the snow; Parador, apart from one notoriously eccentric priest high in the Andes, is in siesta through it all.

To be clear, we are not talking here about the ancient and ecumenical feast on June 29 of the martyrdoms of SS Peter and Paul--

Almighty God, whose blessed apostles Peter and Paul glorified thee by their martyrdom: Grant that thy Church, instructed by their teaching and example, and knit together in unity by thy Spirit, may ever stand firm upon the one foundation, which is Jesus Christ our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (TEC BCP 1979, 190)

--that the CoE still dimly recalls as St Peter's Day--

O Almighty God, who by thy Son Jesus Christ didst give to thy Apostle Saint Peter many excellent gifts, and commandedst him earnestly to feed thy flock: Make, we beseech thee, all Bishops and Pastors diligently to preach thy holy Word, and the people obediently to follow the same, that they may receive the crown of everlasting glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP)

Rather, the feast of Peter's Confession is a bit more than a century old. And thereon hangs a tale.

Anonymous said...

In 1898, a priest and a lay woman organised The Society of the Atonement, an order for the religious life in TEC that was Anglican, Franciscan, and mildly papalist. Reviving the rule attributed to St Francis of Assisi in a farmhouse up the Hudson from New York City, their double community was overseen by TEC's Bishop of Delaware. Nevertheless, for the sake of Christian unity, they also recognised at least the hypothetical primacy among bishops of the Bishop of Rome. Their ecclesiology seemed untenably contradictory to most of The Protestant Episcopal Church, and in 1909 the community was received as a whole into the RCC. But even as Episcopalians, the Society's members had developed the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity and had begun to urge Episcopalians and Catholics to pray it.

From late antiquity to 1960, a commemoration of the Chair of St Peter was observed in the Latin rite on January 18. In 1903, the Society proposed that this be supplanted with a week of intensive prayer begun with the Confession of St Peter on January 18 and ended with the Conversion of St Paul on January 25. Taken as a whole, this octave implicitly emphasises ecclesial unity over papal power, balances the Catholic and Protestant imaginations, and stresses evangelism as the whole Church's mission. At that time, only Anglicans could have imagined these moves, and in the collects recited up here I detect TEC's belated recognition that her persecuted Franciscans had been right after all. Two early C20 popes, Pius X and Benedict XV, recognised the brilliance of the Octave from the start, and approved the devotion for ecumenical use. In 2015, the RC Archdiocese of New York opened a *cause for canonization* of the Society's founding priest, Father Paul Wattson.

So that it would sound less foreign to Protestant ears, the World Council of Churches promoted it as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Observance of it here up yonder seems to have risen and fallen with the wave of ecumenism. But Down Under and elsewhere in the Southern Hemisphere, high summer has been adjudged a poor time to promote ecumenism for eight straight days. On your side of the world, I have been told, ecumenists interested in the devotion have transferred bits of it to other seasons.

Coming soon, but perhaps not to a church near you--

The Conversion of Saint Paul January 25

O God, who, by the preaching of thine apostle Paul, hast caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world: Grant, we beseech thee, that we, having his wonderful conversion in remembrance, may show forth our thankfulness unto thee for the same by following the holy doctrine which he taught; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

-- The Episcopal Church (1979) The Book of Common Prayer, p. 187.


Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Bowman!
In case the rest of the Ang World thinks we are complete calendrical slackers, The Conversion of St Paul is in our calendar!!

Peter Carrell said...

Dear John
Great question ... which only Shepherd can answer.

Anonymous said...

A Judaic cosmology, which was not that of pagans, medievals, or moderns, informed the scriptural narratives of the resurrection among other things. If you can see the world in that Judaic way, the resurrection is startling, not because it does not make sense, but precisely because it does.

John Sandeman classifies a few early comments of John Shepherd as liberal. Each of these seems to reassure listeners or readers on two points--

(1) Even if they cannot make their minds think Judaic thoughts about the resurrection of Jesus, this is "...not necessary..." They still can be Christians, and will not be rejected by God for that imaginative deficiency.

Hypothetically, even an apostle who had himself the imagination of a bag of nails but met the Risen Lord could agree with (1). Trust me, he might say (eg 1 John 1).

(2) Understanding the resurrection narratives in their own Judaic mind is no good anyway. Symbols, stories, myths, power, blah, blah, blah...

These are bridges to nowhere. Why, I wonder, does anyone try to build or cross them?


Father Ron Smith said...

re the controversial Primacy of Peter (for Bowman's information); I pray for the Bishop of Rome as Head of the Roman Catholic Church, as I pray for the ABC and our ACANZP bishops - whose common task in to shepherd the Flock of Christ. We are ALL in this together - despite the tendency of schismatics to separate out. "We are one Body, for we all share in the Communion of Christ!"

Anonymous said...

Good for you, Father Ron; that makes sense.

I myself pray for the Petrine charism active in all ministries of discerning unity-- local bishops and synods (eg yours), patriarchs and councils (Pope, EP, ABC, etc), heads and congregations of religious orders (eg the Protos in Karyes, the Superior of SSJE, Jean Vanier of L'Arche, etc)-- and in a more occasional way among ministers and congregations beyond the visible Body. The standard liturgical prayers modeled on the ancient diptychs are very appropriate in church, of course, but my private prayer starts from the scriptures upstream of them.

Papal primacy, as the Society of the Atonement understood it, is not in itself controversial among ecumenical Christians today. As Episcopalians, the SA believed in it because it is already implicit in the C4 canons (Nicaea, Constantinople, Apostolic Constitution) and in the episcopate itself. Later doctrine about the papacy is better understood, but not widely or uniformly believed.