Monday, July 13, 2020

Who is NZ’s Saviour?

A week or so ago, at the NZ Labour Party annual conference, our Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour Party was introduced as “New Zealand’s saviour.

Fortunately our Prime Minister is a humble person and disavowed this particular ascription. Some leaders around the world today might have accepted the ascription!

But I think it was a brilliant use of the word “saviour” because it is exactly what the biblical talk of “saviour” is about: there is peril, danger and risk to the people - a desperate need for the people to be saved - for a “saviour” to come and deal with the peril, turn aside the danger and diminish the risk to health and wellbeing. 

From Joseph, Moses, assorted judges and kings through to our Lord Jesus Christ himself, the Bible has many “Israel’s saviours”. The Bible as a whole is a testimony to God as Saviour - whether sending saviours when Israel is in trouble, or intervening in other ways, or finally and ultimately coming in human flesh to save the whole world through Jesus Christ.

To the extent that NZ has been in peril, danger and risk from Covid-19, the leadership of our Prime Minister and her Government has, indeed, saved us (so far ... obviously this particular moment in history has some way to go).

Generally, in respect of evangelism today, “Jesus is your Saviour” or “you need to be saved” begs the question “Why?” Mostly in the West people don’t feel a need to be rescued from any peril, except possibly the stock market crashing or the housing market keeling over.

We need - obviously - to explain the “what” of our need for a Saviour and that takes quite a bit of work in which “sin” and “judgement” are almost forgotten from our culture.

But the Labour Party official who invoked Jacinda Ardern as “NZ’s saviour” showed that there are conditions and situations in which the explanation may be easier to make - not that any of us wish for a global pandemic to occur so that we have an imminent and terrifying threat to our wellbeing.


Anonymous said...

Not a 'saviour' to the many thousands of unborn New Zealanders who will be aborted without any legal defence now.
Not that that cuts any ice with an atheist like Jacinda Ardern whose understanding of human rights begins only outside the birth canal. If there is no God, there is no judgment, is there?
But what did the bishops of the NZ Anglican Church say about the abortion on demand law that Ardern's government brought in, with the avid support of the now dismissed Minister of Health, a Presbyterian minister? That unborn humans don't deserve any legal protection, that they are only detritus for the hospital waste departments?
Or just .... silence?
Racism, global warming, poverty - these all provoke commentary - but not this? Too embarrassing to talk about?
If you can't speak up for the unborn members of the human race, what's the point of saying anything? The Son of God was an unborn child once, too.


Father Ron said...

Being, normally, a National supporter, Peter, I have been impressed by the 'saving grace' of our Labour Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern. As you, yourself have already stated, Israel had many 'saviours' in their particular time, each of which came from God. It could be realistically claimed, by that criterion, that Jacinda was 'sent by God' to save New Zealanders from a worse outcome from the Coronavirus - in a similar way that Cyrus was sent by God to 'save' Israel from further calamity. This only proves that God can and does) use anyone to further God's plan of salvation - not only for God's 'elect' but for ALL HUMANITY THAT GOD HAS CREATED. From this simple fact, we may learn that "God has no favorites" From this reality, we may also learn that Jesus came to save the world - not just us Christians!

By the same token, God does not seem to have used Donald Trump in the same way that he has so obviously used Jacinda Ardern (Perhaps the willingness and the humilty to acept God's wise (yet anonymous) direction was missing?)

Anonymous said...

So Ron Smith is cool with abortion on demand? Does he not understand that abortion means the deliberate killing of unborn children and that the Catholic Church has condemned this as a great evil from the beginning? I know atheists like Ardern think this is the only life there is and there is no judgment to follow, but I think I'll stick with the catholic faith for the days I have left.
I don't want to have too many awkward questions to answer for on the Day of Judgment.
Nor will I presume to second guess Almighty God. Unlike some prophets and seers, I haven't been told by God who He is "using" and who He isn't. He has just told me (and all who read the Bible) that He is sovereign and in control.
Yes, New Zealand has, for the present, handled this storm well (although the economic cost is still ahead) - but so too have Australia under the Pentecostalist Scott Morrison, as have The crowded urban societies of Taiwan and Japan. I would caution against simple minded theologising on current events. Otherwise we would be hailing Joseph Stalin as the "saviour " of the Soviet Union. Let us as Christians reserve that title for the only One who deserves it and avoid any taint of blasphemy.


Anonymous said...

Hypothetically, Peter, one could use disasters in time as a type of the Fall in preaching. However (anti)heroes averting such disasters are notoriously not types of Christ. And figures using state power do not resemble our Antitype on the cross.


Anonymous said...

Yep, what I was saying. The pagan Roman emperor would be dubbed "Soter". Not an encouraging comparison. What did the Anglican bishops in NZ say about Ardern's law mandating abortion on demand? /crickets


Father Ron said...

Dear James, you 'slip is showing' in your comment here that openly conveys your fellow-feeling with the likes of the POTUS who has just, controversially though, re-introduced the death penalty in the U.S.A. (see the lates 'kiwianglo' with TEC's reaction to this).

I guess my question on all things 'moral', is "what is the most pastoral response?" to the situation being discussed. It seems to me that Jesus, himself, was thus inclined - as per his treatment of the 'woman caught in adultery' and the Pharisee and the Publican. Jesus was certainly more compassionate than Donald Trump. How do you fare on that scale?

Regarding your fear of The Judgement. Is your conscience perfectly clear on every moral issue confronting your own life and your judgement of others? You may find God a little more compassionate than you are with yourself.

I believe that Jesus' death on the Cross has already achieved salvation for those whose lives are committed to and nourished by Christ in the sacraments, and who 'look forward to their salvation' - not so much with 'fear and trembling' but with hope in the infinite mercy of a loving God. Deo gratias!

Anonymous said...

Ron Smith has a fixation with the American President, while I cannot help. My comments were entirely about abortion in New Zealand and the total silence of New Zealand Anglican bishops on a central matter of Catholic theology, the sanctity of life. I stand with historic Catholicism on this. I have no brief to speak for liberal Protestantism or secularism.


Anonymous said...

Father Ron, I have missed your comments. Welcome back :-)

Reading James's comments above a few times, I have not found a reference to Mr Trump in them. Nor has he, so far as I have noticed, given a current opinion on the president in other comments here.

Remarkably, the president and his best informed critics describe his own religion in the same way. Insofar as James fears the last judgment-- which is not incompatible with a lively sense of adoption in the Son-- his feelings are not the ones about God, judgement, and forgiveness that Mr Trump has said that he has.

Even many who oppose the legal protection for fetuses that James desires would find it to be compassionate in principle. In a contest between compassion for unwilling mothers and compassion for their fetuses, compassion per se is not very decisive.

Advocates for the fetuses do not deny the moral sentiment of compassion; they assert that the moral sentiment of sanctity is also indispensible to human morality and, if you will, breaks the tie. Similarly, some invoke that same moral sentiment of sanctity to settle a conflict-- when it arises-- between compassion for victims' families and compassion for those who commit violent crimes. On these moral questions, your views and James's may be closer even in disagreement than they at first seem.

Why should and how can the Body agree with our secular societies? In + Peter's OP, James's reply, and your response to that, I have not read a view of the *two kingdoms* that correlates the morality of the Body to acts of the secularised state. The apostolic writings about Jesus seem to deny the possibility of direct correlation.

Insofar as the Holy Spirit changes disciples on the inner Way, it is hard to see how canons wise for them can be laws just for all. Conversely, the best laws that states can devise will normally be animated by something very different from the Sermon on the Mount. The future is now, and is not yet.


Anonymous said...

"Racism, global warming, poverty - these all provoke [Anglican] commentary - but not this?"

Postscript-- James above poses an elegant question to which I offer an answer no less elegant. Is it the right answer? Let the reader decide.

Collectively, Anglicans do not do ANY Inside --> Out social ethics at all, but they still do Outside --> In religious ethics. That is, unlike say Quakers or Methodists, Anglicans have never *discovered* in the inner spiritual life of their churches any lived practice that they then commended to their civil societies on the basis that it is the Better Way To Be Human. But they do recognise just causes in their wider societies and promote them in their churches for the Benefit Of Society, and they have raised the funds to build social institutions like schools (myriad) and hospitals (most of the UK's NHS).

Taking up Jame's question, a churchly argument that fetuses should be protected by civil law is an Inside --> Out sort of claim, and Anglicans will have none of it unless they happen to be in a society where abortion is already and securely illegal. But in such a society, they may well go on to do Outside --> In religious ethics of sexuality generally. On the other hand, "Racism, global warming, poverty" are all Outside --> In opportunities to do religious ethics about things that our societies already care about.

Anonymous said...

My answer postdicts four things that we have actually seen.

(1) Anglican churches have been liberal when their constituencies were liberal and conservative when conservative. Taking Father Ron's example of TEC and capital punishment, the BCP before the last one up here had a rite to prepare prisoners for execution, but today TEC objects to the mere idea of capital punishment. Nothing essential to execution has changed in the past two centuries, and the arguments for and against it are the same as they ever were. As a church of the wealthy however, TEC was less squeamish about hangings, electrocutions, etc than it is today as a church of professionals and academics.

(2) So long as they could be related to the authorised Prayerbook, more or less, differences of devotion have been tolerated provided that they did not bring with them a new ethos that clashed with the social one. Quaker egalitarianism and Methodist perfectionism could not be accommodated in the CoE because English society would not live with them.

(3) Accepted Anglican eccentrics (eg Richard Holloway) flourish in the usual path of advancement. These are usually persons taking positions accepted in the society at large, but not in other similar churches. As Holloway's trajectory from Union, New York through the episcopate to the present shows, these positions are more likely to spring from a rather philosophical theology (eg Rudolph Bultmann, Paul Tillich) than anything like a *revisionary metaphysic* (Karl Barth, Robert Jenson; Henri de Lubac, Hans Boersma).

(4) Tolerated Anglican eccentrics (eg Hans Boersma, N T Wright) flourish only when they have a path of advancement outside of the church. These are persons taking theological positions often honoured in other similar churches but ignored by Anglicans because they are not perceived to fit the social ethos. Hans Boersma and Tom Wright are prophets not without honour in other churches, but Anglican bishops have not spent the past decades in earnest debate about Reformed *nouvelle theologie* or the historicity of the Resurrection.

Why the asymmetry? The Church of England model of churchmanship avoids making any hard distinction between an ethos native to the Body and the ethos of the realm as that may be. For example, part of being a well-bred Anglican is knowing to be nice to pacifists without ever letting go of as much just war doctrine as one's government's war-making requires. Thus, unlike Quakers or Mennonites, no Anglican church will ever discover positions on non-violence or non-resistance to evil close to the red letters of what Jesus said. Nor could any breakthrough in exegesis, theology, etc ever be enough to open what is firmly closed because that would compel the sort of Inside --> Out social ethics that Anglicans do not do.


Anonymous said...

David Brooks on Jesus and Beauty in the Storm--


Father Ron said...

Pope Francis, in his Daily Word, captures the savour of what salvation is really all about - not we we do - in our assumed state of self-righteousness - but what God has already done in Jesus Christ, Redeemer of ALL Deo gratias!

FRIDAY, JULY 17, 2020

“Jesus “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant” (Phil 2:7)… God saved us by serving us. We often think we are the ones who serve God. No, he is the one who freely chose to serve us, for he loved us first. It is difficult to love and not be loved in return. And it is even more difficult to serve if we do not let ourselves be served by God. But – just one question – how did the Lord serve us? By giving his life for us. We are dear to him; we cost him dearly… This astonishes us: God saved us by taking upon himself all the punishment of our sins. Without complaining, but with the humility, patience and obedience of a servant, and purely out of love. And the Father upheld Jesus in his service. He did not take away the evil that crushed him, but rather strengthened him in his suffering so that our evil could be overcome by good, by a love that loves to the very end.”

Pope Francis

Peter Carrell said...

Thank you all for recent comments.

I am currently in holiday mode (with a few projects on) so haven't found time to say much in response.

But here are a few minutes!

Bowman: Am not convinced about what Anglicans do and don't do re ethics inside/out/etc. Lately here we have said some things re a proposed change re euthanasia and (as James points out) said nothing much visibly about an enacted change re abortion.

James: If you are referring to and the absence of our Archbishops signing this letter, indeed we missed that ... and checking back to that point in March ... I see a discussion begun among us and am not sure how it ended ... we were somewhat overtaken by Lockdown matters. // I am loathe to share your judgment if you are referring to things signed or not signed by individual bishops ... e.g. I am pretty sure around that same time I co-signed a Christchurch church leaders' letter against the changes being enacted. I do not know whether my colleagues did something similar within their regions and/or wrote a letter themselves.

Anonymous said...

"Am not convinced about what Anglicans do and don't do re ethics inside/out/etc."

Enjoy your holiday, Peter ;-)

On ethics, if you think of some counterexamples, I would be interested to see them, of course.

Culture has consequences. Comparative religionists have long recognised that the world's major faiths have different conceptions of the ethical, and that accordingly, adherents of each tend to excel in rather different sorts of principled action. Buddhists are no less skilled in dialectic than traditional Jews, but their ethos has nothing like the Talmud. Conversely, the rabbis too have their traditions of spirituality, but the Buddhist reasoning on how actions colour the soul has no clear parallel among them. There are many such contrasts.

Similarly, comparative historians have noted that each of the territorial churches of Christendom gave its nation's welfare state a shape that reflects its own ethos. The contributions of say Abraham Kuyper in the Netherlands and William Temple in England are well-known, but are only two of several examples.

Thinking about this in a comparative and descriptive way makes it easier to elude the *confirmation bias* that comes naturally when we only think about a church's ethos as participants in some (speech-)act or the other. And it enriches our sense of what a church might do about something-- or be constitutively unable to do-- beyond making a more or less solemn statement to roll, bottle, cork, and cast into the sea.

For example, it is salient that Anglicans have founded so many schools and hospitals. Christians of some traditions have done much less. But it is no less striking that Anglicans have not often (ever?) inferred from their inner religious experience to an ethical precept for the public at large. By that sort of inference, however, the Quakers introduced practices that are still mainstream today-- eg fixed prices, moral treatment of the insane-- and the Methodists shaped the ethos of the English working class and began the tradition that evolved from Wesleyan experience through Holiness to Pentecostalism.

So I am happy to concede that my comment above is at best a first approximation. But if the concrete Anglican character of a church did nothing at all to shape its usual patterns of ethical action, that would be so odd as require some investigation and explanation.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman
A stab at a reply ...
1. "inside" Anglicanism is a strong sense of the Incarnation which in turn fosters a commitment to the dignity and value of each human being ... so, "outside" we have had a strong commitment to overturning apartheid in South Africa (Huddleston, Tutu, antiSpringbok tour marches here in NZ, etc) and, more generally, we are committed to ending racism (allied, probably, by Anglicanism as "Anglican Commmunion" or a network of Anglican churches of all human colours).

But that begs the question - pace James - why not a stronger "Anglican line" against abortion ...

2. "inside" Anglicanism is a strong emphasis on pastoral care (which I see rooted both in the theology of Incarnation and in the heritage of the established church: there church embedded in the life of the nation, a church for the whole of society) ... and I wonder if our commitment to pastoral care means that many Anglican pastors understand that abortion is not only an "ethical question" but also a human experience, often more widespread across a "typical congregation" than an initial survey by (say) a new vicar would guess at ... so, consequently, a hesitancy to declaim on the matter as though making a moral statement is a simple matter for an Anglican minister to make ...

If I am understanding you correctly, then 1 and 2 above represent a goodly understanding of what you are saying ...! or ?