Monday, April 12, 2021

An annual reflection on the resurrection accounts

Lots going down. Hans Kung has died. Prince Philip has died. (Incidentally, careful reading of some obituaries will yield the nugget of information that Prince Philip was a theologically informed believer.) This book may be useful for working out what it means to be an Orthodox Anglican. Try this blog also :).

It's early days in the Season of Easter so it is also okay to think a little about the resurrection narratives, which have been discussed here before (last year), and are also discussed at Psephizo (a recent updating of a previous foray into the subject).

1. The importance of the resurrection narratives are underscored by comments made by Bowman Walton to the previous post, themselves building on that critical and distinctive part of Romans - chapters 6-8 - where Paul develops the idea that a Christian is someone who has identified with Christ both in his crucifixion and in his resurrection. That is, the very nature of our life in Christ is connected by Paul to the resurrection as "event" and not as (say) a subjective experience in the minds of some of his followers who somehow attained the convction that Christ was no longer dead.

2. For Paul himself, according to 1 Corinthians 15, the evidence that Christ was raised from death was a series of appearances of the risen Christ to his followers (including, eventually, Paul himself).

3. In each of the four canonical gospels, the evidence is also that the tomb was empty (with Matthew 28 notably asserting that this was not because the body of Jesus was stolen). Three gospels include appearances of Jesus (Matthew, Luke, John) and Mark anticipates an appearance.

4. Unfortunately the gospel appearances do not tally neatly with Paul's list (which list is likely a circulating list among the churches, so not Paul's invention).

5. Also there are real or apparent contradictions between the gospels (perhaps most strikingly is Luke's persistent refusal to entertain that Jesus appeared to the disciples in Galilee, when each of the other gospels either anticipates or records such an appearance).

6. It is difficult (as I read the NT) to see how the many things said about resurrection could have arisen unless something like Paul's 1 Corinthians 15 list of appearances actually happened: that is, that both the leading disciples (apostles) and other disciples had encounters with Jesus after his death which convinced the whole Jesus' movement that Jesus was truly and victoriously alive and exalted to God's side.

7. The 1 Corinthians 15 list then means that there were multiple appearances of the risen Jesus Christ to individuals and to groups, and thus the gospel writers had some choice when selecting which appearances to focus on as each reported on the resurrection while also bringing their whole account of Jesus' life to a conclusion. (Obviously the appearances recounted by the gospel writers mean that appearances of Jesus other than those listed in 1 Corinthians 15 took place, notably those in which Jesus appeared to women who are unfortunately missing from the 1 Corinthians 15 list. For a full list of appearances according to the New Testament, see here.)

8. Note that Matthew narrates two appearances, Mark anticipates one appearance in Galilee, Luke narrates three or four appearances in Luke 24 and reports many appearances in Acts 1, though only narrates one encounter in detail, and John provides accounts of four appearances.

9. Just as each of the gospel writers selects events from the life of Jesus before his death and narrates them in ways which fit their respective overall purposes in telling the history of Jesus, so the gospel writers select appearances from the life of Jesus after his death and narrate them in ways which fit their overall purposes in telling the history of Jesus.



68 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Luke's persistent refusal to entertain etc" is a sloppy comment and sounds like you want to throw an obligatory piece of red meat to liberals who deny the bodily Resurrection - people like Australian Archbishop Peter Carnley or any number of leaders of The American Episcopal Church. It is an article of faith among liberals that Jesus's body was not resurrected, and this dovetails neatly with atheists like Ehrman and Crossley. That liberalism can be a trajectory to skepticism and atheism is an old but familiar story, and Bart Ehrman has taken that road.
Luke doesn't say that the risen Jesus appeared in Galilee but that is hardly the same as "persistent refusal". Who knows what he knew but didn't care to mention in his Gospel or Acts? You haven't interrogated him and he hasn't pleaded the fifth. Making a Bible writer say more than he actually does is a constant temptation in a trade where it is hard to say something new after 2000 years, but it must be resisted. More careful language, please.

Martin

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Martin,
I throw no meat to anyone.
I try to make sense of the accounts.
Luke, with Mark in front of him, takes Mark’s account of the angel directing the disciples to head to Galilee, and twists the words so the angelic messenger says something quite different, Luke 24:6.
Even Matthew can locate the Great Commission on a mountain in Galilee, consistent with Mark; and John can locate another important commissioning on the shores of the Sea of Tiberias.
We honour Luke by acknowledging the significance of Jerusalem for his history of the Jesus movement, and we understand that permitting himself to talk about any or all Galilean appearances of the risen Lord would have been to distract from his purpose in making the account of the post-resurrection mission a trajectory from Jerusalem to Rome.
You clearly think about these matters, may I ask how you account for the contradiction between Matthew’s commissioning and Luke’s commissioning: they involve different words as well as different locations?

Unknown said...

Martin,

As Bart Ehrman has long told it, he was a fundamentalist graduate of Moody Bible Institute writing his dissertation at Princeton Theological Seminary when he came to disbelieve in the Christian religion. His advisor persuaded him that there was a factual error in the letters of St Paul. Ehrman's faith was conditioned on the belief that the Bible is a Perfect Book, so that was the end of it.

When I met Ehrman at Chapel Hill about a year later, that was his story. As he was still dismissive of "liberal theology" then, it is hard to think that it played any role at all in his change of convictions. Given the consistency of his account through the decades, I do not doubt it.

By the way, my Greek friends do not use the vocative case in the paschal greeting. They think it silly to say "Christ is Risen, O Martin!" in the C21. But on reflection, the accusative case would probably have been most idiomatic. If real travel is possible again by the next Pascha, I'll put that to the test.

BW

Anonymous said...

Peter, some might say, even today--

Bultmann : Resurrection :: Hooker : Presence.

Hooker's point was that the quarreling Lutherans and Reformed should be content to agree that Christ was really present in communicants. So, some have argued, Bultmann was just completing that Reformation project when he suggested that moderns should be content to agree that the Resurrection is whatever happened to Jesus's body to predicate the presence in believers that Hooker was talking about.

Of course, we are not Bultmann's moderns, if indeed we are modern at all. We are so far from doubting the Resurrection event itself that we instead ponder the differences in the accounts of it. In that way, we are more believing than those Weimar Germans of whom it was said that they "can't" believe that the Resurrection or any miracle actually happened.

In another way, we are less believing than those old liberals. When Bultmann said that the Resurrection was a sign that Jesus had risen into the kerygma of the Church, some at least could make subjective sense of that. But we, who have a broad consensus for the historicity of the event itself, are very challenged to give any account of our knowledge in Christ of this fact.

I foresee-- and not only because I have a sense of humour-- that dyspeptic idiots will someday troll our descendents for being wicked "liberals." Liberals? Who believe that the Bible is right about the Resurrection, but not in having a subjectivity in the risen Lord like St Paul's.

Why not? "Postmodern humanity," some eminence will then be saying, "cannot seriously believe that one's autonomy can be qualified by daimonic possession by the Holy Spirit. We may (or may not) believe in Spirit possession, but we surely cannot doubt our personal autonomy."

BW

Anonymous said...

Luke "twists the words"? If that isn't a pejorative statement, I don't know what is. Be careful, Peter, you are on the Schori-Ehrman road of setting one text against another. I guess that is how things are done now in the liberal TEC-influenced ACANZP and I suppose it will continue as more evangelicals leave for the Confessing Church or other homes. Well, we know how that procedure worked out in the sexuality debates, so why not be consistent and go the whole spong? But the Articles which are routinely mocked here state that Anglicans do not "construe one Scripture so that it be repugnant to another" - which is what "twisting" does. The historic Anglican practice is sinply what the Church has done throughout the ages from the earliest times, and it was only Socinianism and Deism that took a different approach. Modern liberal Biblical studies is greatly in debt to Socinianism and Deism, and you will find nothing in a Crossley or an Ehrman or a Casey (not to mention NZ'z own homegrown liberal-turned atheist Lloyd Geering, who also denied the Resurrection) that wasn't anticipated by Reimarus or Lessing.
Contradictions, as you know, can be formal and verbal or substantial and real. And two separate statements that don't overlap are not actually contradictions - as anyone hearing testimony in a court should know. If Luke had expressly denied that Jesus appeared in Galilee, that would be the latter kind of contradiction. But he doesn't do that. And Matthew doesnt say:"After commissioning the disciples, Jesus departed into heaven and wasn't seen again." In fact, he doesn't mention Jesus's departure at all.
So what do *you think, Peter? Does Matthew *actually contradict Luke? Does Luke *actually contradict Matthew? Or do they in fact talk past each other and address different situations?
The harmonization of the Gospels is an activity at least as early as Tatian, and while some harmonizations may be better than others, the instinct itself is not wrong, and is indeed basic to any historical research. Craig Blomberg did this in the 1980s, summarizing the Tyndale House Gospels Project, and Richard Bauckham's "Jesus and the Eyewitnesses" is in the ssme vein.
Well, over to you, Peter: who is telling the truth, Matthew or Luke? Please answer quickly, it can be painful playing Twister.

Martin

Anonymous said...

BW:
I am familiar with Ehrman's story and that isn't quite how he told it. It wasn't over St Paul's writing but the reference to Abiathar in Mark 2.26, which he defended in a term paper but his professor commented, "Maybe Mark just made a mistake?" As Ehrman told the WSJ in March 2010, "Even though it was a tiny litle detail, it exploded the whole thing for me. Once I realized there could be a mistake, I started finding them all over the place ..." He went from being a fundamentalist to a liberal to an agnostic: "There's no way I would have leaped from fundamentalist to agnostic. It required a lot of transition." Liberalism provided that transition, as it has for many Protestants exiting Christianity, both in America and New Zealand. Ehrman went, over time, from detailing how the Bible "misquotes Jesus" to showing how the resurrection accounts are "hopelessly contradictory" to becoming clearly agnostic, and Peter seems to have found a key in the "contradictions" betwen Matthew and Luke who "twists" his sources. As I said, Reimarus worked this out long ago and this has been grist for the mills of Spong, Holloway, Carnley, Jefferts Schori and other low-wattage luminaries of the Anglican world.

Martin

Anonymous said...

"...the gospel writers select appearances from the life of Jesus after his death and narrate them in ways which fit their overall purposes in telling the history of Jesus."

So then, Peter, now that we are past ALL reasonable worrying about whether the event happened or not, our NEW interests in these narrative differences are (a) in the way encounters with the risen Lord funded those interesting "overall purposes," and (b) in the harmony (perhaps with discordant tones) in encounters that led the first disciples in such different directions.

The dead will bury their dead.

BW

Unknown said...

Postscript

What consensus about the event am I not just mentioning but emphasising, and where did it come from? The consensus is among those who try to account for the accounts we have as universal history. If nothing happened, then it is very hard to account for the existence of the Body, its writings, and their references to the founding event. Even Bart Ehrman concedes that.

Worth pondering: this view from outside the Body nevertheless recognizes that the Resurrection is, not just a story important because of the book that it's in, but rather is integral to who the first Christians were and what they were doing. Yet we call "Christian" methods of sin management, cultural and political projects, etc to which the Resurrection is not integral. Why?

BW

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Martin,
I will conceded that “twist” is provocative! But when we look at commentaries on Luke 24, the substance of the point made re Luke’s use of Mark is pretty much the same as “twist”: Luke takes the Markan prediction re the future and makes it a past statement.

On the Articles and reading Scripture non-repugnantly, I think one can be an Anglican theologian/preacher and proclaim the resurrection as a whole teaching without detailing quarrels between apparent and actual contradictions (as I have tried to do every Easter) while also being an Anglican student of Scripture and engaging with the differences if not difficulties in the NT texts.

Yes, one can harmonise; there is an ancient tradition of doing this (as you rightly note); and modern attempts such as Morrison’s Who Moved the Stone? But is this a satisfactory reply to the more public doubters and deniers (e.g. Eherman, Spong, etc)?

So, re Matthew and Luke: perhaps there is not an actual contradiction between their respective commissioning scenes (cf., of course, their respective birth narratives). But can we say there is only an apparent contradiction. Each gives a very strong sense that the commissioning scene with which they finish their respective gospels (and, In Luke’s case, his Acts report of Jesus’ last days on earth) is “the” commissioning and not one of a series of inspiring post-resurrection talks.

If we also take into account the Johannine commissioning in John 20 (to say nothing of the Johannine Pentecost compared to the Lukas Pentecost), is it not more faithful to their accounts to deduce that each is working with what they have received within the apostolic tradition (or, perhaps in Matthew’s case, observed as en eye witness) to bring their gospel accounts to a conclusion which fits both with the general substance and style of their accounts to that point, as well as charting the next stage of the Jesus movement?

I can answer that question affirmatively.

What I am unable to answer affirmatively is this question: can all apparent contradictions between the gospel accounts (and 1 Corinthians 15) be resolved through classic Christian harmonisation?

That question, of course, relates to other difficulties between gospel accounts ... were there two temple table overturning, or one? Is it really the case that if an Anglican answers that there was one (and likely John’s gospel involves some narrative artistry), then one is on the pathway of Spong, Schori etc. I think that would be a surprise to a number of Anglican scholars around the world!

Anonymous said...

Hey Martin now you need to watch your language.Describing Spong and Jefferts Schori the way you have is deeply disrespectful. They are Anglican heroes. Thanks be to God for them. Alexander

Anonymous said...

Naturally, Martin, I give greater weight to what Bart Ehrman told me himself near the time of interest than to your recollection of a reporter's interview with him several years later. But even your account confirms that Ehrman lost his faith on the fundamentalist road in which the Bible must be a Perfect Book or a Magic Book to ground one's faith. Christians who have faith in Christ without giving that hostage to fortune are plainly better off.

BW


Anonymous said...

BW: it is not "my recollection" of a reporter's interview, it is a direct quotation of the Wall Street Journal May 2010 that you can read for yourself. And I have heard Ehrman himself say precsisely the same thing on other times, such as on Justin Brierley's "Unbelievable" radio program that you can easily find on YouTube, like his debate with Peter Williams of Tyndale House.
I am not sure how to reconcile (harmonize?) these conflicting accounts of how he lost his faith. I suppose a 35 page term paper could be written on this, but the prof might comment, "Maybe BW just made a mistake?" :)
As Ehrman says (or should I say, "my recollection of reading the publicly available WSJ website yesterday"), the more he investigated the Gospels, the more he uncovered what he judged to be "misquoting of Jesus", "errors" and, most recently, "contradictions" in the resurrection narratives.
And, in his own words (not "my recollection" or "my account"), he moved, over time, from being a "fundamentalist" to a "liberal" to an "agnostic".
I suppose it's a bit like the sorites paradox: at what pont does a leaky vessel become unseaworthy? Or (more painfully in New Zealand), at what point does a leaky home become uninhabitable?
Of course, Ehrman's "journey of (un)faith" is not unique: the great Anglican liberal hero the Most Reverend Richard Holloway began his ministry as a traditional Anglo-Catholic until his "progressive faith" became progressive abandonment of it (one suspects this happened before he retired but a pension is a pension), while New Zealand boasts Professor Sir Lloyd Geering, a Presbyterian minister and academic actually tried (and acquitted) for his beliefs about the "resurrection: symbol of hope", who went on to abandon theism entirely. Whether they are "plainly better off" is another question.

Martin

Anonymous said...

Hey, Alexander, thanks for the laugh about "Anglican heroes"!
When I think of Schori, I'm reminded of that great line from "Ghostbusters": "Back off, man, I'm a scientist!"
Still awaiting one from Hollywood on Spong ...

Martin

Peter Carrell said...

Hello
I think we are done on Ehrman’s journey ... it sounds a lot like multiple testimonies in the gospel ... various versions have come down to us accurately recounted ... but the various versions have their foundation in one, personal source ... and he is not available to us for further interrrogation!

I am left wondering in this thread of comments why raising reasonable questions about the differing contents of the NT while also being committed to preaching the resurrection, professing the creeds etc invokes talk about Schori, Spong, Geering!

One can stand and stay on level ground asking questions. To ask questions is not to concomitantly step onto a slippery slope!

Anonymous said...

Well, it's your blog Peter, and you can close down discussion any time you like. But as for the (rhetorical?) questions you raise:
1. Ehrman's story is a matter of public record and anybody can check it from many sources on the internet and his own writings. I don't see what the mystery is, He is certainly available for further interrogation!
2. Why do "reasonable questions about the differing contents of the NT while also being committed to preaching the resurrection etc" invoke talk of Schori, Spong, Geering? Because that is precisely what they saw themselves doing as well! Surely you are familiar with Geering's "Resurrection: a symbol of hope" and how his ideas resonated around the New Zealand churches in the 1970s even till today? He is still on the register of Presbyterian ministers! Surely you have followed how Bishop Richard Holloway developed his revision of Christian theology from "differing contents of the NT" - exactly as Bart Ehrman did with greater academic knowledge? Jack Spong is hardly a serious or original thinker but he followed exactly the same procedure.
3. Holloway, Geering and Ehrman have all abandoned theism, from having been ptominent Christian teachers and leaders. Where do you think they "went wrong", if indeed they did? This is a crucial question for Anglicans like myself.
Martin
:

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Martin,
Ehrman is not available to us to quiz him on how he would reconcile what he said to BW and what he said in the article.

Questions about the resurrection are explored by other Anglicans - NT Wright springs to mind - who do not end up where Holloway and co end up.

How might an Anglican asking questions about the resurrection narratives not end up where Holloway and co end up? (From memory) by keeping NT Wright’s key point re the resurrection in mind at all times, that there is no smoke without fire, i.e. that the existence of the church cannot be explained without the fire of the resurrection as objective event.

Certainly, for myself, my engagement with Scripture on the resurrection is always anchored to the conviction of the apostles that the tomb was empty, that many witnesses attested to encounters with the risen Jesus and that the dynamism of the early church (recounted in Acts) is entwined with the resurrection.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for responding, Peter. This little exchange raises a number of questions that do, funnily enough, resonate with the actual historical issues of the Easter story. Logic, forensics and literary sensitivity all feature in this and not everyone is strong in all three areas.
I don't know BW except through his comments (I assume BW is male?), but perhaps his recollection of a conversation years ago is a bit mistaken (my wife tells me that mine often are!) and he is "misquoting Bart"? Or maybe Ehrman is mistaken in his recollection about himself?
But Ehrman IS certainly available to quiz him - just send an email to him at UNC Chapel Hill. He is always ready to answer.
Of course, I agree with Wright (and have often made this point myself) that the existence of the Church shows that the disciples *believed that Jesus was "risen" and "witnessed". But you will know that the actual nature of these events has been ferociously disputed, most notoriously in recent years in the Anglican world by David Jenkins of Durham. In short, the issues are these:
1. Were the visions subjective, God-created events in the minds of the disciples, as Anglican bishops Carnley believes and Jenkins seemed to be saying? Or were Carnley and Jenkins teaching heresy?
2. Did the vision stories "grow in the telling" with legendary accretions over 50 or 60 years when ( it is alleged) the Gospels of Matthew, Luke and John supposedly first appeared? E.g. has Luke "physicalised" an original story of "subjective visions" with a mythical meal at Emmaus - which is "really" about a later eucharist, now retold as an event?
3. Is the story of Jesus's burial in Joseph's tomb historical and true or a later legend in the generation after the crucifixion? In short, is the former Catholic priest Maurice Casey correct in denying that the burial actually took place and that the bodies of criminals were thrown into pits to be consumed by dogs?
4. Are the "tensions, differences, contradictions, twistings" (choose your preference) in the Empty Tomb accounts to be explained by bad memories or even myth-making over 50 or 60 years - or even more if a second century date is given to Luke, as some do?
So, in short, I don't disagree with your three final points (empty tomb, witnesses, dynamic church) but you will know that many have chipped away at the first two, and if you are willing to find some errors, unhistorical statements or falsehoods in the Gospel accounts, why not a few more? That is all that Ehrman and Geering have done (following Enlightenment naturalistic assumptions).Are they more courageous than you or I?
Of course, there is also an alternative:
1. That the Holy Spirit guided the writers and preserved them from error (sometimes called the "Perfect Book or Magic Book Hypothesis" but not by Augustine and Aquinas, who believed it, along with Calvin and Stott. Jesus appears to have believed something similar about the "Old Testament". Was he wrong?
2. That the Gospels and Acts were actually written much earlier than most NT teachers typically assert, within a few years of 1 Cor 15. If Acts was written shortly after 62 (as David Seccombe again argues in a recent Tyndale Bulletin), then we ae in the first generation after the crucifixion. And that would push the writing of Mark possibly into the 50s. But too many academic careers have been built on denying that!

Martin

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Martin,
Great questions, to which I would add one from Acts 10:41, Why didn’t God in and through the risen Christ make the resurrection appearances a matter of public history and not private-to-the-disciples history?

Yes, one can chip away as some prelates have done, but there is a very solid rock in the church’s existence!

Important names supporting perfection and inerrancy of Scripture notwithstanding, that is a difficult theory to sustain (e.g. why are we not clearer about what the OT consists of, whether Mark 16:9-20 is in/out of the Gospel of Mark; and why is there not then a perfect transmission of Scripture through the centuries?)

I myself am keen on an early dating for NT writings - not least it would undermine claims of “legendary growth in telling of tales.” (Bauckham on Eyewitnesses is important etc.)

Incidentally, when you mention Maurice Casey above, I think you are referring to John Dominic Crossan!

Anonymous said...

Yes, that should be Crossan. Casey suggests a common grave and both deny burial in Joseph's tomb.
Casey denies that resurrection was part of the original message and preaching and claims instead that the disciples believed instead in "visions of Jesus from heaven" - which really is no different from what Anglican Archbishop Carnley claimed and is - as far as I can tell - most likely what David Jenkins of Durham (remember him?) believed.
And of course, such a belief is *not a Resurrection. First century Judaism had no difficulty with the idea of a deceased holy man appearing in a vision, as there is plenty of literature describing heavenly visitors. If the long-dead Moses and Elijah could appear with Jesus from heaven, then he could do the same.
So if you want to argue that "one can chip away as some prelates have done, but there is a very solid rock in the church's existence", this would only have substance if the Empty Tomb was part of the faith *from the very beginning*. Which is to say, how do we know this "rock" wasn't soft and metamorphic? That the faith changed over time - as Casey claims, and as Carnley and probably Jenkins asserted as well?
A Muslim could also say, "The existence of the Ummah proves the prophethood of Muhammad,"
Why do so many Anglican bishops sit so loose to the historic faith in the Resurrection of the crucified body of Christ?
Martin

Unknown said...

So, Father Ron, what are you hearing from Francis about Easter? You know-- demons vanquished, myrrh-bearing women, relationships in Resurrection, return to Galilee, hope in the face of death, new life in Christ, beginning of the Church, God's new creation, not being the Ascension, etc? Easter.

On a desert island with natives who do not get it. Reading Kierkegaard until you reply.

PS-- Some say that the story of an apple dropping on Isaac Newton's head is a hoax. In which case-- is gravity real? Yes, somebody would fall if you pushed him through a window. But how do we know that it's the same as the apple fall?

BW

Father Ron said...

I find myself rather exasperated with the remark made at the tope of the list of comments by 'Martin' asking you, Bishop Peter, to be 'less sloppy' with your presentation of the Resurrection details: Here is Martin's own remark:

"It is an article of faith among liberals that Jesus's body was not resurrected..."

This really is th sloppiest remark I have heard from a conservative thinker since I started blogging some years ago.

If.Martin, you are going to accesue a bishop of our Church of 'sloppy Writing', you really need to subject yourself to a stricter rtoutine of self-examination.

I happen to be a 'liberal' (open-minded) theological thinker; and I have never doubted the physical resurrection of Jesus! As Saint Paul says, "If Christ be not risen from the dead, then is our faith vain". We might as well all stop writing about it and retire from religious speculation.

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Martin,
I have no idea why some Anglican bishops have questioned the physical resurrection of Christ. But it does seem to be a very few bishops. Th vast majority over the course of history have been orthodox on the matter even if liberal on other matters (cf. Ron’s point above).

Yes, the empty tomb is critical to the solidity of the church as the dynamic smoke to the resurrection’s fire. Again, I am not sure why prelates would question it - all four gospels, which don’t agree on everything, do agree on the emptiness of the tomb.

One of my particular arguments against the notion that the resurrection was “merely” visions of Jesus in heaven is that when we observe the tendency in apocalyptic literature for heavenly beings to be glorious, golden and garnished in appearance (Daniel 10:5-6; Revelation 1:13-16; etc), there is no sign of that in the descriptions of the risen Jesus in the gospels: he is quite matter of factly human.

+David Jenkins: when I was a doctoral student in Durham in the early 1990s, he was “my bishop” and I had his Permission to Officiate! When he came to our local parish church he preached one of the top five sermons I have ever heard in my life!

Anonymous said...

I suspect the number of doubters is rather larger than you would concede, Peter, especially taking into consideration the plethora of bishops in the Anerican Episcopal, where there is about one bishop per 6000 uSa.
The same holds for the Anglican Church of Canada.
The small liberal Anglican churches of the "west" with heritage money do tend to have a lot of bishops per capita, certainly many more than the Anglican heartlands of Africa and South Asia.
Besides Archbishop Carnley of Perth, who was clear about denying the bodily resurrection, Archbishop John Davies of Wales has also spoken in very "loosy goosy" way about the Bodily Resurrection in the style of David Jenkins. I don't doubt that Jenkins could speak impressively but when you analysed the content, what was he actually saying?
Very often it is what they refuse to clearly affirm that raises doubts in the minds of their hearers. Jenkins did this all the time, deflecting questions to talk instead about "the bigger meaning of the Resurrection etc".
As to why some Anglican prelates have denied the Resurrection, the simple answer is the lack of global doctrinal authority in the Anglican Communion which allows doubters (of which there are many in the ranks of the clergy) to become bishops in the first place. It is impossible to imagine that a doubter in the Resurrection could become a Catholic or Orthodox bishop - or priest.
Martin

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Martin
We are into speculation ... which is not very profitable.
It is up to each province of the Communion to work out through its electoral processes how rigidly the common standards of doctrine (creeds, prayer books, etc) are “enforced” (i.e. appropriate theological assessments of prospective bishops are made).
It would be difficult to think of any province signing up to BOTH (1) global doctrinal authority AND (2) that authority determining whether X could be a candidate to be a bishop or not.

Father Ron said...

I anyone on this thread could be accused of being 'Loosey-Goosey' in their statements, surely this one qualifies, with distinction:

"As to why some Anglican prelates have denied the Resurrection, the simple answer is the lack of global doctrinal authority in the Anglican Communion which allows doubters (of which there are many in the ranks of the clergy) to become bishops in the first place." (Martin). However, as WE all know:-

Christ is risen, alleluia! He is Risen Indee, Alleluia, Alleluia!

Father Ron said...

Dear Bishop Peter,

Despite Martin's dismissive reference to 'Liberals' perceived by him to not believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus; here is contra evidence from a well known Church of England 'Liberal' - Dr. Martyn Percy - who is currently being persecuted by Oxford University Conservatives. I think anyone who can write such a vivid description of a Rembrandt painting of Jesus at the table on the Road to Emmaus on the Day of His Resurrection is a true believer:-

Martyn Percy Meander Bread for the World

Anonymous said...

For several years, I lived in the Ohio countryside. Near the tiny town where I lived, a Baptist preached his fundamentalism, and an Orthodox abbot chanted his way through the hours.

One year, it seemed to them that each should experience Easter with the other. Since the Julian calendar lags the Gregorian one, the abbot and his monks went first to the Baptist service with a few cheerful hymns, an anthem the choir had carefully rehearsed, and a long disquisition proving to the most materialistic sceptic that Jesus did in fact rise bodily from the dead.

The brothers were impressed by the proof, but they were puzzled by its aftermath: people shook the preacher's hand and went home. A visiting Serb blurted out what they were all thinking: "When will you celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord?" The pastor was puzzled by the question. But they were puzzled that, when he had revealed the benevolence of God and the destiny of the cosmos, the heartfelt reaction of his people was to say "Nice sermon, pastor" and speed home to the roast in the oven.

The brothers brought him to the paschal vigil of a parish in the nearest sizable city. + Peter's readers here have probably experienced something like it. But the poor Baptist could not see why one would read twelve other Bible passages before finally reading the Easter gospel, nor why the parish's reaction to the service was so emotional.

Emotional? Despite being in a rather solemn minor key, the music expressed a fervent joy that was evident in the congregation. Only a few had tears in their eyes during the exchange of the peace, but even the stoics among them were as joyous as they could let themselves be.

He looked forward to hearing his colleague's message, but there was none. Instead, the ritual itself included St John Chrysostom's eloquent invitation to the joy of the feast for those who had neglected their Lenten fasts. And from the old country far away, the patriarch had sent his greetings to the faithful on the glorious occasion of the Lord's rising from the dead.

Orthodox ovens had also roasted meats, but these had been brought to church. After the service, all broke the fast together, each trading to others some food brought from home. And though it was past one in the morning, a band started to play so that people could dance.

As they watched the dancers' ancient steps, the monks clapped their hands along with the band. The pastor leaned over to his friend the abbot--

"Isn't this just a big party? How can you be sure that these people truly believe that the tomb was empty?"

"If the Resurrection inspires joy in your heart, then you believe," the abbot replied. "And if it doesn't-- if you feel nothing?-- then you do not. Not yet. Human nature being as it is, it is not possible to have a weak reaction to the truth of your life.

It was late, time for the last song. With its usual big beat, the band played the rhythmic troparion of the feast. The people sang along--

"Christ has risen from the dead, trampling down death with death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life."

BW

Anonymous said...

"Father Ron" has a very confused and mistaken idea of what is going on in Christ Church Oxford with its Dean Martyn Percy. It is certainly a complex story but it has nothing at all to do with "Conservatives", religious or political. It began over his salary and other matters, leading to a total breakdown in working relationships in the governance of the College.
Those who are trying to oust him are the Fellows of his College, the great najority of whom are politically liberal and not particularly religious, if at all. The story has been recounted many times in the "Archbishop Cranmer" blov in England as well as the English newspapers.
Among the two religious Fellows (or 'Students') who have signed motions of complaint against Percy are Jan Joosten, the former Regius Professor of Hebrew who is now in prison in France; and the Professor of Divinity Graham Ward, one of the founders of the "Radical Orthodoxy" movement and hardly a conservative (I knew him years ago and am familiarwith his work). Graham Ward was one of the movers of the Clergy Discipline Measure against Percy alleging unacceptable conduct toward a verger. The Bishop of Oxford has recused himself for some reason and referred this to another bishop for adjudication.
Ironically the most outspoken defenders of Percy are the evangelical Professor Nigel Biggar, a professor of Moral Theology at Christ Church (whom the dons are also trying to kick out, at least from the College premises where he runs the McDonald Centre of ethics) and the Rev Jonathan Aitken, former Conservative cabinet minister, jailbird, HTB convert and now prison chaplain.
No doubt the sins of conservatives are many but the persecution of Percy and the Martyrdom of Martyn is not one of them.

Martin (not a martyr)

Unknown said...

Postscript-- Truth is not only stranger than fiction, but funnier.

In those days, telephone companies still published directories where the names of subscribers appeared in alphabetical order alongside their telephone numbers. So, in the slender directory for that small town, two identical names appeared side by side. Our doughty Baptist had the same name as the fire-spitting village atheist.

So brides calling about wedding arrangements were invited to indecent entertainments. Mourners calling about funerals were urged to skip the expense and spend the money on some fun before they too were trundled off to a boneyard. Clergy from other towns would hear about the humbug of religion and the non-existence of God.

Perhaps the first troll?

BW

Anonymous said...

Peter says above (April 15 at 8.17 am) by way of criticism of the orthodox catholic doctrine of Scripture, viz. that the sacred writers were preserved from writing error by the Holy Spirit, a doctrine affirmed by Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin and in the 19th century by Anglo-Catholic divines like E. B Pusey and H. P. Liddon, "Why is there not a perfect transmission of the Scriptures through the centuries?"
Well, much as we would all like a 100% secure text (something which doesn't exist for any text from the ancient world), I am not sure about the force of this "objection" (one that increasingly troubled Bart Ehrman).
Consider this: if Christ really healed many sick people and raised a few dead people (as I believe He did), these were evidently miracles, supernatural acts in the world. Did these people become sick again and die? Evidently. Does that negate the historical miracle? Evidently not.
So, if the Holy Spirit guided the sacred writers to write what God wanted them to write (that is the historical meaning of the doctrine of biblical inspiration), this too was a supernatural act upon humans. Does it follow that the autographs would be necessarily preserved without any corruption throughout history? Or more humbly, that enough of their writings would be securely preserved to achieve its God-intended purpose of proclaiming and promoting faith in Christ as Lord and Savior (and any other purpose that God may have in His Word)?
There is a big difference betwen saying "This text is wrong" and "The transmission of this text may be corrupt".

Martin

Unknown said...

Yes, Peter, but what if the Anglican Communion had its own tabloid with GOSSIP! trashing the reputations of celebrity clergy? If the paparazzi checked facts after their fashion, would that be a global authority like papa Ratzi?

BW

Peter Carrell said...

Bowman: thank you for the lovely story from Ohio. Brilliant. If Baptist ad Orthodox were only options open to me, I would be Orthodox!

Martin: It doesn’t really matter what big names are rolled out in favour of a doctrine, what matters is whether it withstands scrutiny (and, as an aside, as it happens, on many debates about doctrines one list of big names is countered by a list of other big names).

First, it really matters to me that if we are pitching for “inerrancy” then we have credible explanations for (e.g.) the discrepancies between Chronicles and Kings, the uncertainty as to the ending of Mark’s Gospel, as well as for the differences between the Gospels.

My own preference is for teaching that Scripture gives us all that is necessary for salvation (summarising certain Anglican statements from memory, including from our own ACANZP catechism) because I think such statements stand up even as we observe/debate discrepancies, observe/ hypothesise over differences between manuscripts, debate the exact extent of the OT etc. (Scripture gives us more than that of course ... but that will suffice for this current thread).

I don’t accept your analogy re miracles/subsequent illness death.

If Scripture as originally given is given by God for the inerrant revelation of truth then it seems very odd of God not to also provide for the original manuscripts to be available to future generations.

I actually think we gain a lot by being a church which engages with Scripture with all the warts and woofs of its contents, the errors and conjectures engendered by transmission and the earnest debates inspired by translations of the original languages. Such engagement invites us to be a congregation which yearns to dig deep into the whole counsel of God.

I accept that, consequentially, there will be those such as Ehrman who make a different decision regarding Scripture.

Anonymous said...

"If Jesus Christ as originally given is given by God for the inerrant revelation of truth, then it seems very odd of God not to also provide for the original Jesus to be available to future generations."

I'm sure that thought occurred to Bart Ehrman when he went on to write "Misquoting Jesus". But second guessing the Creator of the universe is a hazardous enterprise for mortals, don't you think? He has certainly been accused of some "very odd things" in His time.
"How odd of God / To choose the Jews" wrote one wit, inspiring many replies, most famously: "But not so odd/ As those who choose/ A Jewish God / Yet spurn the Jews." Perhaps I could offer a variant doggerel expressing your conundrum:
"How very odd / That a perfect God / Should give a book / That turns out crook."
To which I reply: "How very odd / That the Son of God / Should do something hazardous / Like raising Lazarus / Only to see His beloved friend / Turn sick once more and die again."
Obviously that miracle didn't happen, did it? Or maybe ....

Martin

Anonymous said...

Craving your indulgence further, Peter, I recall (a little faultily perhaps) an anecdote from one of the Presbyterian laymen who brought charges of heresy against Lloyd Geering c. 1967. Professor Geering was still something of a theist then with a Bultmannian "respect" for Jesus. Like many able people who had an evangelical conversion in their youth (David Jenkins was one of them, so was Gene Robinson, as was Bart Ehrman) Geering could speak engagingly about the existential meaning of Jesus and he interpreted the Gospel miracles as symbols of the difference Jesus made in people's self-understanding etc. "Sight to the blind", said Geering, "really" meant spiritual ilumination, and so on. To which the laymen replied: "All very well. Now tell me, did Jesus *really* restore eyesight to Bartimaeus?"
I don't know if Geering punted that one or denied it outright but I know that subsequently he would deny it as just a fictional narrative - the mythopoeic instinct defined long ago by David Strauss that lies behind so much modern liberal Protestant exegesis from Germany.
Bottom line: it is possible to sound "evangelical" in rhetorical fervor (maybe as a product of one's upbringing) but to have a very different content. The bizarre sermon at Harry and Meghan's (second) wedding is a perfect illustration of this.

Martin

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Peter.

To be clear, that Baptist was a godly and intelligent man. But his evangelicalism was of the DIY sort that comes from IKEA in a big box with instructions for assembly. To convince others that they were going to end up with a dining room set, he really had to sell them the packers of the box, the draftsman who drew the diagram, etc.

To be truly DIY, the kit of parts had to be Perfect. And for people to love the IKEA aesthetic, the kit needed Magic too. He had a stable congregation, so DIY seems to have worked at least somewhat for at least some people.

But if one trusts the creeds etc, then one is not doing DIY religion, evangelical or otherwise. One does not fret about the parts and diagrams of the table and chairs you see in a store, never mind the ones your great-great-grandfather commissioned from an itinerant woodworker who learned his trade in Italy.

As I've said, DIY religion has hazards. But some who insist on it are more following a compulsion than making a choice. If they really can't buy from stores, then we may hope that the Holy Spirit will take care of them.

BW













Peter Carrell said...

Again, Martin, your analogy is not convincing. The original Jesus per resurrection and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit remains available through faith to all generations.

By contrast there is not a doctrine of Scripture which guarantees anything about Scripture in the same way in which the doctrines of christology and pneumatology guarantee matters pertaining to the living Christ in our midst.

There are statements within Scripture about Scripture but none of those statements provide certainty about the canon of Israel’s writings which become our OT nor about the canon of apostolic writings which become our NT.

As I am sure you know, the canon of the NT took a while to sort out and become settled in the life of the church.

What I am sure about is that the Scriptures we have (and the questions generated by them) are what God through the Spirit gifts the church, and through the Spirit’s illumination (of readers, of teachers, of scholars), we are able to both inhabit and be inhabited by the story of God as Creator of the world, Redeemer of creation including humanity and Giver of new life in Christ.

Anonymous said...

Well, you're not convinced, I can see, but I do think Jesus held such a view of the (Old Testament) Scriptures, as John Wenham argued years ago in "Christ and the Bible", and as for the canon of the New Testament, although the precise boundaries of that were not clear in the Catholic Church for a while, we know from Papias and the Muratorian Canon (c. 160) that the four gospels and most of the Pauline corpus were universally recognised early on. The second century writers understod that canonicity entailed either apostolic authorship or apostolic grounding (thus Mark was understood as enbodying Peter's testimony).
Nor do I accept your pessimism about the possibility of deriving a doctrine of Scripture from Scripture. The Reformers, whether continental, English or Scottish, affirmed the exact opposite! But what they did know (in dialogue
and controversy with Rome, which held pretty much the same understanding of Sacred Scripture) was that all doctrine, whether of Christology or pneumatology or of Scripture, cannot be simply "read out of the Bible", otherwise Athanasius would have had an easy job disposing of Arianism. Instead, it took took lengthy books and years of dangerous struggle, betwen 325 and 381, before what we now call orthodox Trinitarianism was established in the Church. Christian doctrine is derived synthetically from the statements of Scripture in dialogue with philosophy and historical studies. Philosophy helped clarify what we mean by "divinity" and "personhood", and it clarifies the nature of "revelation" as well. Unless we have good reasons for affirming that the Bible is God's Word Written (as the 39 Articles affirm), all our theological statements - however confidently we make them - are only castles in the air.
Ciao for now,
Martin

Anonymous said...

A. " all doctrine, whether of Christology or pneumatology or of Scripture, cannot be simply 'read out of the Bible'..."

B. "Christian doctrine is derived synthetically from the statements of Scripture in dialogue with philosophy and historical studies."

C. "Unless we have good reasons for affirming that the Bible is God's Word Written... all our theological statements... are only castles in the air."

+ Peter may possibly be arguing (a) Article VI, (b) a documentary view of scripture, and (c) that the Holy Spirit guided the recognition of many things in at least the early centuries. It is not hard to support those views from what Martin posted.

Martin seems to be arguing that (d) there is something inadequate about those views, and (e) a belief in inerrancy remedies that inadequacy. These claims are hard to evaluate because Martin never tells us what that inadequacy is, nor how inerrancy (as he would define that) helps it.

Moreover, when fuzziness arises, Martin relies on (c) just as + Peter does. Both would agree that the Holy Spirit led the Body from Arianism to the creeds. In that way, it makes no difference whether one believes only that the Bible comprises documents relevant to Christ, or that and also the further credendum that the documents are inerrant. For that reason, it appears from the above that Martin carries an extra burden of belief without an explicit motivation for doing so.

Does anyone else have an explicit motivation for this? (f) In the C20, especially the 1970s, evangelicals who had no common ecclesiology or creeds to use as a test of fellowship defined inerrancy for that purpose. (g) Some (but not all) readers of scripture sense that a firmer divine commitment to precise letters of the text makes it more intelligible as divine speech. (h) Some (but not all) Protestants with a Reformed and confessionalist sensibility believe that an inerrant text could be read for all purposes apart from the Body. Of course, these may not be Martin's own motivations, and I do not mean to suggest that they are. Nor are they categorically bad motivations for all persons in all situations.

But these are not motivations for churches in the contemporary Anglican Communion. (f') The Holy Spirit gave the undivided Body the canon, creeds, and episcopate at the same time. (g') In the providence of God, the scriptures were gathered for us, so that it is very profitable to read them, but they were not written directly to any one of us. (h') While the Holy Spirit does use the scriptures to bring unchurched persons nearer to the Kingdom, like all spiritual gifts they are oriented to the life of the whole Body.

That is, Anglican reading of the scriptures presupposes participation in the Body of Christ. This participation releases Anglicans from whatever need they might otherwise have had for believing in inerrancy. Plausible or not, the notion is not very useful to them.

BW

Peter Carrell said...

Hello Martin and Bowman
(With Bowman) there is more agreement between my views and Martin's views than Martin appears to explicitly concede (because we both acknowledge, with Bowman) the importance of (so to speak) the theological church interpreting Scripture theologically (with the aid of philosophy) to both end certain debates with the creeds and to begin a theological future in which the creeds are accepted as guardians of scriptural interpretation.

On the doctrine of Scripture I certainly want to be supportive of and guided by both Articles 6 and 20, though I likely get there by a different pathway than Martin does!
Ciao for now,
Peter.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, BW, I have read your last comment three times and still don't understand what you are saying about the Bible or about my beliefs. I'm assuming you do know that most "churches in the contemporary Anglican Communion", as you put it, are actually in Africa and not the northeast United States? I didn't think there was a mystery about my scriptural beliefs, I'm an evangelical Anglican in the line of Stott and that disappearing generation (certainly less common in Aotearoa New Zealand now).
I have never been much good at games with changing or invisible goalposts. So it would be helpful instead if you gave us a list of the actual errors in the Bible - geographical and historical yes but especially the theological and ethical mistakes - and then like that great divine Thomas Jefferson, i can excise them from my Bible? This will make theology much easier to follow and do.
(Speaking of Jefferson, when *are* you going to get rid of those statues of slaveholders on Mount Rushmore?)
Martin

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Martin, for an unexpected, but charming postscript.

From here up yonder, I know only what you argue in ADU, not what you try to believe or actually do. And anyway, I comment on ideas rather than persons.

My 2:55 does not say that the Bible has errors. It says that a proposed dogma that it has none is not helpful to Anglicans, just as certain flights of marian devotion are not helpful to Roman Catholics. The apostolic, ecumenical faith is robust without either idea.

In general, statues are like elections. We shouldn't try to overturn the ones we don't like; we should work for new outcomes that we like better.

Slaveholders and Confederate generals? My country would be more helped by a sane relationship to the complexity of its history than by the illusion that it was without failures, transitions, and false starts.

BW









Peter Carrell said...

PS from me, Martin/Bowman re "inerrancy":
1. I want an approach to Scripture which is not brought down by (e.g.) Luke being proved wrong on Quirinius (noting that no one has yet proved him right!); or by Martin/Bowman/Peter/etc agreeing that only one of Chronicles and Kings on Manasseh can be correct as an historical record.
2. I am thankful therefore that neither the 39A nor our ACANZP require me to sign up to some notion of "inerrancy."
3. Besides which, when I last looked at a substantial (as it happens) North American statement on Inerrancy (location Chicago? maybe 30 years ago? trying to dragoon evangelicals into line, as I recall), it had so many caveats re what counted and what didn't re inerrancy/errancy, it didn't strike me as worth the paper it was written on!

Anonymous said...

Peter, it's a fine line.

When I was overtaken by the reality of the Resurrection, I could see that some books by some inerrantists were as good as they are because their expectation gave them the confidence to trust the text when it took them to the unexpected. True or false, inerrancy worked for them.

But on the other hand, the more I read of say Bauckham and Hays, the more obvious it is that the Enlightenment notions of author, text, veracity, etc are not the ones that Jesus and the apostles knew. We cannot deny that we have passed through modernity, but we cannot treat the Bible itself as a modern book without distorting our view of it.

BW

Peter Carrell said...

Agreed, Bowman
I take it for granted that every biblical writer sought to tell the truth, none intended to dissemble, and all either conformed to standards of their time (e.g. historiography standards) or both conformed to them and invented new ones (as, e.g. Mark arguably did by writing a “gospel.”)

Anonymous said...

OK, guys, you punted my serious questions instead of telling me what you think are the actual errors in the Bible - matters which are actually a bit more central to Christian faith than the correct translation of Luke 2.2 (John Nolland surveys the issue) or whether the Chronicler had other supplementary sources on the fate of Manasseh than the author of Kings (see Wenham, "Windows on the Old Testament" for one view, Francesca Stavrakopolou for the polar opposite).
You know the questions I mean, on theology and ethics, to which modern liberal Protestant theology has given its verdict:
- that St Paul did not teach the mind of Christ on sex but interjected his own errors (Bill Countryman, Spong, Schori etc etc)
- that hell doesn't exist, whatever texts in Matthew and John say (David Jenkins: in 1994 he denied that hell existed - I remember preaching on his denial of the reality of hell);
- that John's Gospel isn't historical because it conflicts so much with the Synoptics in its portrayal of Jesus, his teaching style, language etc (this was the mainline liberal view throughout the 20th century and still may be for all I know)
- that the virginal conception of Christ is mythological and unhistorical and was no part of the earliest apostolic faith but a second generation piece of mythmaking (thus Marcus Borg, Ed Sanders etc)
- that the real Jesus never thought of himself as being divine or pre-existent, and texts that suggest otherwise are invented retrojections putting words in his mouth (Marcus Borg)
- that the Empty Tomb is a later legendary elaboration in the second generation of the church and was no part of the Apostles' original teaching, which was about "subjective visions from heaven" rather than a physical encounter and an empty tomb (Archbishop Peter Carnley of Perth; Archbishop John Davies of Wales; possibly what David Jenkins believed as well, although he often deflected attempts to clarify what he really believed. This view is very widely held in "western" Anglicanism, not just St Matthew's in the City.)
This is what I mean by "theological and ethical errors" in the Bible: Christological and soteriological questions that immediately and vitally impinge on what Christians should believe and how they should worship.
I agree with Peter's comment at 5.51pm April 19 that "every biblical writer sought to tell the truth" and "none intended to dissemble" - they would be scoundrels if they did! The only important question is: did they succeed in their intentions? Carnley, Borg, Countryman etc also believe they were sincere (and sincerely mistaken). That's what the doctrine of Biblical inspiration is about. Inerrancy isn't an Enlightenment invention, it's a very ancient belief, already implied in the Dialogues of Justin Martyr.
(Btw, when are Americans going to get round to renaming their capital from that man who died owning 200 slaves?)
Martin

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Martin,
I suspect the reason why Bowman and I didn't respond to the kinds of questions you raise is because on such matters the three of us are in heated agreement: the orthodox faith of Christianity is grounded in its Holy Scripture.

I myself do not think the Quirinius/Manasseh questions are quite as "light" as you make them out to be.

First, I don't think they are resolved in the way you suggest (which we could argue about because essentially commentators argue much about them).

Secondly, to the extent to which some of us care about the historicity of the narratives about the birth of Jesus, it is important to know whether Luke has got all or only some of his facts sorted out.

Thirdly, to the extent to which Manasseh was either totes a bad king or a bad king who repented, we have a set of Scriptures, the OT, which lives with the creative tension of disagreement and we do not have a Christian Bible which is some kind of seamless robe of uniform or smooth teaching.

Finally I observe here that you keep bringing out names such as Countryman and Borg whom I do not find are particularly influential among Anglicans I live and work with. Are you creating a straw man to rail against?

Anglicans in my experience are much more likely to be influenced by NT Wright, CS Lewis, Rowan Williams etc.

Anonymous said...

I didn't say the dating of Quirinius or Manasseh's late repentance (thus the Chronicler) were "light" matters, I said these interpretive (and grammatical) issues were less central to Christian faith than the great events from the life of Christ. I've actually researched the Manasseh question at some length and the question of whether the Chronicler had additional sources. My conclusion is that there isn't actually an irreconcilable contradiction between Kings and Chronicles, although Wellhausen made great play of their differences in his Prolegomena. I see it as differing perspectives and purposes - which is precisely how i look at differences among the four gospels as well.
My more immediate concern is with credal doctrines of the Virgin Birth and the Bodily Resurrection of Christ, as well as his teaching on hell, and I think everything I said above about the doubts or denials of these doctrines by Anglican Bishops Carnley of Perth, Jenkins of Durham and Davies of Wales is true.
No, I am not making a "straw man to rail against" in Countryman, Borg, Carnley and Jenkins. Countryman taught in Church School in Berkeley and has deeply influenced BW's church (I believe he is in Tec) and was widely followed among liberals in the Church of England as well. Maybe they read him at St John's Auckland? Similarly, Tom Wright co-wrote a book with Marcus Borg, so he takes his views seriously, even as he dissents from them. Every group of "Progressive Christianity" that I know of cites Borg.
At the heart of theological liberalism is skepticism that the Gospels really give us Jesus as he was, spoke and acted c. 27-30 but is seen through a distorting filter of 40 or 60 years. Like you, I don't believe that, and I believe the teaching of Christ on the nature of Scripture is a robust one.

Martin

Shawn said...

I am fairly sure that God did not make a global flood that covered the whole earth, and that all the land animals and birds were able to fit on a single boat which then saved them from that flood. In the literal-historical sense, the Bible is full of errors, or at least many things that are likely to be wrong. That this is so should not be surprising. The Bible was written by human beings. Human beings make mistakes, and are limited to the knowledge and understanding of their time and culture.

The question is, does it matter? That depends a great deal on how a person understands God's self-revealing. Protestantism in general, and Evangelicalism in particular, is hindered, or perhaps more accurately, crippled, by an unsustainable notion that in the books of the Bible God has spoken, clearly (to various degrees depending on the denomination) and uniquely, and at all times accurately. This is simply not credible. There is no evidence for the flood story as given in Genesis, and plenty of evidence to doubt it. There is no evidence for the enslavement of the Israelites in Egypt and the exodus story either.

Moreover, the ongoing debates and arguments between various theological factions in the Evangelical world (and elsewhere in the wider Church) prove that the Bible is not at all clear on many issues. Truth be told, no church really practices what they claim regarding their beliefs about the Bible's authority. None start with the Bible as a foundational authority, they start with theology. Theological traditions, not the Bible, are the real authority, in all churches. That theology is then read back into the Bible.

To take just one example of this, monotheism. Every church I am aware of would assert monotheism as a foundational doctrine. Yet monotheism is not anywhere found in the books of the Bible. The ancient Hebrews followed much the same religion as other Cananties, which is what they were. El was their High god, who with his consort (Asherah?) had 72 sons, who were placed each one over the nations of the earth, the god being placed over Israel being Yahweh. Pantheism, and later a form of Henotheism, is the real theology of the Old Testament. Even the New Testament is arguably unclear on this point, Paul's comment regarding Powers and Principalities is likely an affirmation of the 72 sons of God/Divine Council idea mentioned in the OT.

So, in practice, "the Bible alone" does not operate as an authority in any church. If it did, much of what counts as "orthodoxy" would have to be thrown out. One monotheistic God who alone created the world out of nothing? Not in the Bible. Three Persons and one substance? Not in the Bible. Two natures in one person? Not in the Bible. Theology is King, not scripture.

Admitting this does not require that we have to side with Borg, or Spong or Geering. I have no problem with the miraculous. While I don't know for sure either way, I have no problem with the possibility that Jesus literally turned water into wine and rose bodily from death. But my faith is not dependent on either being literally true, or on the Bible being ignorant. On the contrary, trying for years to convince myself that the Bible was literally true in all matters and without error nearly did make me an atheist. My faith in God was saved by giving this daft notion up and deciding that I no longer had to commit intellectual suicide to be a Christian.

Father Ron said...

"Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptize them in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit" {Matthew 29:19).

Biblical evidence, Shawn, of the Triune God in the New Testament of the BIBLE!

Anonymous said...

Hello, Shawn: I hope you don't claim to know better than St Paul who wrote: "And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith" (1 Cor 15.14). And if the doctrines you reference in your penultimate paragraph are "Not in the Bible", then where did they come from? There is no one "Theology", you know. Why choose one particular set of beliefs when there are hundreds of "theologies" out there? Are the Jehovah's Witnesses in error, for example in denying the Trinity and the homousion? Was Marcion correct? Was Arius? Or Sabellius? How would you choose among these options?
I think if anyone studied ths history of Christian theology (and I think you have), they would see that it has *always been a synthetic exercise in *Biblical* study, the attempt to make sense of the biblical documents which, if not read contextually and together, can lead to very diverse and even conflicting conclusions (as Irenaeus argued against the Valentinian Gnostics).
It's all about genre. I have never read Genesis 1-11 "literally" (as if it described what you could see if time travel into the past was possible) but I do affirm it as the true Word of God. Why? Because Jesus, Lord of the Church did, as any reading of the Gospels shows. But I am not going to go looking for Noah's ark any time soon. Christ's tomb in Jerusalem is a different matter.
Incidentally, I did once bring back a bottle of 'Cana Wedding Wine' sold by the church there, and it was the worst wine I have tasted in my life. One of our party said it was in desperate need of a miracle.
Martin

Anonymous said...

Ron and I agree on something!
I must go and lie down. Quickly, wine! No, not that one.

Martin

Shawn said...

Hello Ron.

Yes, there is a basic threefold formula in parts of the NT that might suggest a threefold understanding of the nature of God. Then again, they might mean something else entirely. As the history of the early church debates on the issue show there are a wide variety of possible ways to interpret this. It could be three Persons and One God. It could be one God in three manifestations or, to use the neo-Platonic idea, one God in three emanations. It could even be three gods. I do not think it is possible to decide which using the Bible alone.

So when a church or person claims the Bible as the sole, inerrant authority but then insists on theological doctrines like "Persons" and "Substance" (or many other theological assertions) they are in fact practicing the Bible plus, not the Bible alone. "Persons and Substance" as a doctrine is most certainly not in the Bible.

In practice, theological tradition, not the Bible, is the only real authority in any church.

Unknown said...

What finally made the lib/fundy battles of the C20 passe was that neither side was bringing a mature hermeneutic to a canon of documents from very different cultures. Without that, each got stuck in fights over superficial readings.

Liberals who woke up to this evolved into post-liberals (eg Robert Jenson), and fundies who did into neo-orthodox (eg Michael Bird). So today, they are the ones worth reading.

Each can recognize the integrity of the other. Both take the witness of the wider ecumene into account. Interest in themes like union with Christ, deep ecclesiology, theological interpretation, etc has arisen organically in both. This is not consensus, but neither is it the estrangement of half a century ago.

Meanwhile, in pop culture and synod-driven churches that follow it, the hermeneutical immaturity, and hence the superficiality and conflict, remains. Happy warriors who like to fight enjoy this; others ignore the noise and read the good stuff.

BW

Anonymous said...

Postscript.

Lots of people who are not academics read Proust, Joyce, etc. But in my experience they tend either to be very serious readers or at least vocational writers. Either way, they belong to some circle of readers that supports them in their practice.

The Bible may not be harder, but taken as a whole canon, it is not easier. We have all experienced passages of holy writ that flew straight to the heart. But we have no reasonable expectation that all bible reading will always be that effortless.

Serious readers of the Bible also need circles around them, not just to dwell on the "inspiring" bits, but to help them through its textual and hermeneutical challenges.

Where are they?

BW

Peter Carrell said...

Thank you for comments here.
It is a great thrill to me to have an exciting, and exacting thread of comments which are not about That Topic.
For all our differences we seem agreed that we read Scripture informed by the theology of the universal church and the universal theology of the church is (or, if not, ought to be) informed by Scripture, in a positive and virtuous cycle of interaction between God's Word written and God's living Word indwelling the Body of Christ through the Spirit.

Shawn said...

Hello Martin

Paul had opinions, some of which may be good, some of which may be less so, some of which may be wrong. St Peter was not entirely sure about some of what St Paul wrote either.

The Persons and Substance theology, along with our creeds, and much else came from the Church. They might be, to a degree, inspired by scripture. But they do not arise directly from it. They come directly from the Church. Obviously that was a long and complex process of discussion and debate amongst a large number of people, but in the end the Church created and decided upon theological doctrines to solve issues arising from unclear texts and stories that were open to widely differing interpretations. The Church has been doing that ever since. All churches do it. The difference between Protestants and Roman Catholics is simply that the Romans are honest about the process, and Protestants are not. Though not an RC myself, I admire that honesty and the utility of that approach: Scripture + Tradition under the teaching authority of the Church.

Anglicanism, having been birthed with an identity crisis, is never quite sure wether to follow Geneva or Rome on that count, or muddle through with a middle ground approach of Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and lots of discussion and messy debate. My preference is for the messy middle ground approach as it can be, at its best, more democratic, and sometimes lead to more humane and compassionate teaching.

That said there is a deeper question here, related to your question about who is right or wrong on various issues. What is the purpose of Christianity, or any religious tradition? Is it to come up with a set of intellectual propositions, turn them into dogmas, argue about them endlessly, destroy entire forests writing about them, and charge around the world trying to convince other people with different intellectual propositions that they are wrong and we are right and they better adopt ours or risk going somewhere unpleasant after death?

Or is it to be a container and bearer of great and holy Mysteries that can only be approached, with deep humility, through experience, rite and story, through the heart and the imagination, rather than the rational intellect? I think the former, which is why I take a very dim view of theologians in general, all of them. I have come to have far more respect for used car salesman.

The Bible cannot bear the weight we have placed upon it, and certainly not the weight of evangelical inerrancy. Much of the OT has been roped by Christians into a theological scheme to which it is profoundly alien. There are contradictions, historical inaccuracies, terrible opinions regarding the social status and treatment of women and children, horrific descriptions of "God" behaving like a psychotic, genocidal tyrant, and many other problems. If we instead approach the Bible as story and myth in a way more akin to a Jungian, esoteric approach, we are on much safer and far more spiritually useful ground. That does not mean we dump the creeds, or have no theology and doctrine at all. It means we hold those things provisionally, and with great humility, as a rough map of the journey, subject to possible change as we learn and grow.

Shawn said...

A correction to my last comment. I meant to say the latter rather than the former with regards to intellectual propositions and theology vs rite, story and imagination. I may be getting old as my eyesight is not what it used to be!

Anonymous said...

Hello, Shawn
Thank you for your reply and please forgive this necessarily brief response. If my recollection is corect, your own convvictions have changed markedly in the past few years, from biblical literalist to something that sounded more like John Hick and his "reality-centeredness" then back toward some kind of Christian liberalism. It seems you are still making your mind up, which is fine. So I will offer just a quick observations here on one of your points, and maybe moe later. Official RC theology is Thomistic, which centers on act/potential ontology as well as the grace/nature distinction for understanding the world and the reason/revelation distinction for understanding revelation. Questions of substance and person are subsumed here. Protestant theology has a more complex (and conflicted?) relationship to philosophy: reformed theology is also scholastic, but liberal theology is usually either Kantian or Idealist (Hegelian etc), for ill or for worse.
Most Protestant thinkers have never been trained in ontology or the philosophy of personhood, and this may be a source of much confusion in Protestant theology and ethics.
More reflection to follow, if time permits.
Martin

Anonymous said...

(Continued)
Shawn, you express a certain "admiration" for the Roman Catholic approach to theology and authority and maybe that is where your journey will take you next, quien sabe? In any case, I imagine you know something of the internet ministry of Bishop Robert Barron's Word on Fire commending Thomism to the world in a winsome way. However, he gives somewhat short shrift to Jungianism (most recently promoted in a new way by Jordan Peterson).
Your concluding paragraph on the ethical problems you find in the Old Testament is of course not a new one: Marcion struggled with the OT, so did Augustine before his conversion, and so too does liberal Protestantism up to this very day, much of which is imbued with Neo-Marcionitism. That's what Francis Watson said about Bultmann, and the roots of this anti-Judaism in Protestant theology go well back into the 19th century.
Most recently there have been numerous popular commentators (Spong, Chalke, Holloway, Rob Bell, Brian McLaren etc) who have denied that or wondered how the "psychotic, genocidal tyrant" of the OT could be God and Father of Jesus Christ, and if their interpretation of the OT is correct, there is a problem - not just about the status of the OT as Holy Scripture (which you appear to reject) but about Jesus's own status as Lord and Teacher of the Church. This is a central point to John Wenham's popular but penetrating books "Christ and the Bible" and "The Goodness of God" (also entitled "The Enigma of Evil"). There is actually no shortage of apologetic writings on the problem, most recently Paul Copan, "Is God a Moral Monster?"
You may not judge these apologetic efforts to be very good, but that will still leave you with three problems:
1. The Deuteronomy-quoting Jesus believed in the God of the Old Testament.
2. The Deuteronomy-quoting Jesus insisted that God is just and right in all His ways.
2. The Jesus of the four Gospels spoke and warned more about hell than any other person in the Bible.
Was he wrong?

Martin

Shawn said...

Hi Martin.

Yes, I was a conservative (more or less) evangelical for many years, and yes I have abandoned that in favour of something else. As far as labels go I prefer liberal/mystical/sacramental/mythical! I also have fairly settled views now.

I have no interest in ever joining the RC. While there are many facets of Catholic spirituality I like, and practice, the institution itself is just too problematic for me. I merely point out that the RC's approach of admitting to a need for more than just the Bible alone strikes me as a somewhat better approach than sola scriptura. That said, it has its own problems.

"not just about the status of the OT as Holy Scripture (which you appear to reject) "

That depends on what you mean by "Holy Scripture". If you mean the revealed Word of God in the standard conservative sense, then yes I reject that idea, not just for the OT but for the NT as well. I reject entirely the notion that the Bible is God's Word to us. The Bible is a collection of stories in the pre-modern mythic/fairy sense of story. They may contain historically accurate elements, but it's difficult to know for sure one way or another, and for me it simply does not matter. The point of mythic/fairy stories is to convey Wisdom, not rational, propositional intellectual facts or accurate history. Wisdom is its own reward.

The Bible was written by human beings, and not under any kind of special inspiration, at least not in the usual sense that conservative and evangelical Christians mean. That does not mean God cannot speak to us through the Bible, God can certainly do so, and in that sense the Bible can be said to be also be a sacrament, and even a means of grace. But the inerrant Word of God? No. I no longer find that to be a credible idea, even in the supposedly more nuanced way more moderate evangelicals approach it.

I disagree that a robust ethical critique of some of the ways the OT portrays God, or other issues, necessarily leads to Marcionism, neo or otherwise, or for that matter a total rejection of the OT at all. That strikes me as a straw man argument, and anyway I would also critique some of the ways the NT speaks of God. But all of this is only a problem if we insist on the idea that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God and is at all times speaking truth in the same way that 2+2 =4 is true. If on the other hand we understand the Bible in a mythic/Jungian/Wisdom way then dark/shadow portrayals of God are to be entirely expected and in fact are useful. The issue really is not about rejecting any part of the Bible, but how we understand what it is and what it’s not, and how it can and can’t be used.

Yes, I have read Paul Copan's book. Apologetics was a special interest for me when I was an evangelical, to the point where I had half a bookcase filled with nothing but apologetics. Copan's was one of the last I read before walking away from evangelicalism, and no, I did not find it even remotely convincing. In fact reading it played a role in helping me to walk away from evangelicalism, that’s how little I thought of his attempt at dealing with the issue.

"Was he wrong?"

On the first two issues you mention, yes, Jesus was likely wrong. That's not a problem for me. The creeds say Jesus was a human being, fully and completely. Human beings make mistakes. Wether we understand it literally or otherwise, the idea of the incarnation is that Jesus was fully human. Real human beings are sometimes wrong.

On the last one you mention, hell, again, we are back to the issue of taking all this literally, not to mention actually being sure that what Jesus meant by the word is what the Church came to understand by it. They may not be the same. But regardless, there are many ways of approaching the issue of hell other than assuming that God is literally going to send people to a place where they suffer horrifically for all eternity.

Anonymous said...

Once upon a time, in a theology blog far far away, there was a blogger who styled himself as conservative, orthodox, etc. Which he was, so far as I could see. Readers who stumbled into the usual heresies would hear in the comments about which heresies those were. So far, so good.

But then one day, another theology blog-- one that shared a denomination and some readers with the aforementioned one-- came out for the fiery, purgatorial sort of universalism. (Not quite fairly, I sometimes call this universalism Hell for Everybody to distinguish it from Hell for Nobody.)

Now differences between the blogs were commonplace; the bloggers have had very different journeys. But this time the second blogger surveyed the evidence that the ecumenical condemnation of universalism in its origenistic form had never happened. Which was to say that there is no dogma that God will certainly send some to everlasting torment (cf 42 Articles).

Well, that was an opinion up with which the first blogger could not put. OP after OP followed to defend nay vindicate the dogma brought into question. Readers piled on or pushed back in comments, and eventually the second blogger felt he had to reply. From the ferocity of the opinions, one could have thought that they were Anglicans debating sex.

Somewhere on the field of battle-- I forget which blog-- a reader opined that, although she had never thought Hell for Nobody was true, the sheer obsessed craziness of the defenders of Hell for Somebody had convinced her that the dogma, if indeed it is that, must be false. God, who knows human nature, does not reveal anything that further damages it, and the zealots for hellfire were plainly nuts.

I myself have never seen a dissertation argue "X is false because the more persons care about it the more hostile to others they become." (Hypothetically, one could easily quantify the two quantities related and calculate the strength of the correlation, but regression analysis is not taught in most divinity schools ;-) But it is intriguing that to some proposed reading of scripture or dogma of the Body X, a rebuttal often offered is that attachment to X is evidently vicious.

In principle, this sort of rebuttal is powerful. When disputants strive to show that their X has the most "objective" support, this sort of rebuttal counters with another criterion upstream in the discernment of spirits.

Presumably, authentic revelation from God stimulates knowing that is in itself virtuous, quite apart from its later consequences as a premise for action. Not to put too fine a point on it, that criterion stands far closer to faith in Christ than the details of churchly housekeeping or penumbra of doctrine that we mostly squabble about.

BW













Anonymous said...

Postscript

Richard Bauckham's essay on universalism is still the best introduction to the modern conversation about it.

For clarity here, bear in mind that the "universalism" that opponents love to inveigh against (a fire-free future for all), is not the one most proponents argue for (fire for nearly all, but not eternally). Roughly, one side likes punishment and viscerally wants to see somebody get theirs. The other expects purgation rather than mere punishment, and further expect it to be effective rather than endless.

Surprisingly, the former seem much more optimistic that fire can be avoided than the latter. If signaling that you are tough-minded, not sentimental, able to face hard facts, etc is your aim, then choose some purgatorial universalism to send the clearest signal.

BW

Anonymous said...

Thank you for responding with candor and clarity, Shawn.
I owe you the same. I know that Jung periodically resurfaces in liberal Anglican circles, especially, as the key to understanding. Morton Kelsey in Ecusa (as was) was a big advocate of Jungianism which he melded in some happy uncritical way with 1970s charismatic experientialism - all very American and therapeutic, I remember thinking. And diocesan spirituality advisors often swing back to Jungianism after enneagrams, labyrinths, MBTI etc.
Frankly, I think Jung is nuts and worse. Parasitic on Christianity, based on an unreal anthropology and - the deeper one goes into this - potentially demonic. But fortunately for you the demonic doesn't exist.

Shalom,
Martin

Anonymous said...

Thank you for responding with candor and clarity, Shawn.
I owe you the same. I know that Jung periodically resurfaces in liberal Anglican circles, especially, as the key to understanding. Morton Kelsey in Ecusa (as was) was a big advocate of Jungianism which he melded in some happy uncritical way with 1970s charismatic experientialism - all very American and therapeutic, I remember thinking. And diocesan spirituality advisors often swing back to Jungianism after enneagrams, labyrinths, MBTI etc.
Frankly, I think Jung is nuts and worse. Parasitic on Christianity, based on an unreal anthropology and - the deeper one goes into this - potentially demonic. But fortunately for you the demonic doesn't exist.

Shalom,
Martin

Shawn said...

Hi Martin,

"Jungianism which he melded in some happy uncritical way with 1970s charismatic experientialism"

Well, that sounds weird! Personally I think it melds well with Anglo-Catholic practice, which is what I have done.

On the issue of Jungian, to use that label does not mean I am simply reducing the faith to mere psychology, hence why I also use terms like mythic and fairy tale. None of these terms is very adequate in explaining what I'm getting at, but I certainly don't mean to say things are not true, real and powerful in some sense, just that they don't necessarily have to be literally true in terms of history. That does not mean they are not true and real and powerful in other ways. Nor I should point out does it mean they can never be true historically. I happen to think Jesus was a real person. I'm entirely comfortable with the idea that he may well have turned water into wine, raised Lazarus from the dead, and rose bodily from death himself. I say the Apostle's Creed every day happily. What I don't do is make my faith dependent on these things. If it were to turn out they are not literally true, it would make little difference to my faith in God and my practice in the Christian tradition. That's the mistake Erhman made.

"But fortunately for you the demonic doesn't exist."

On the contrary, it most certainly does. So do angels, and many other beings as well. The spiritual world, or the Otherworld, is every bit as real for me as it is for any Pentecostal, or as it was for any ancient Irish Celt. Again, understanding that the stories of the Bible do not have to be literally true in the narrow historical sense, or that they always mean just what they seem to say literally rather than having a deeper esoteric meaning, does not mean reducing them to mere psychology or metaphor in the modern sense. Jungianism and similar ways of looking at stories are a tool only in understanding the stories and how to approach them. Nor does it mean that the Powers being talked about in the Bible (or other sources outside of Christianity), holy or otherwise, are not real as well. It's just them being real for me does not hinge on Noah having actually, at some time in the literal historical past, built a boat to survive a global flood that covered the whole world, and managed to get every animal on earth onto said boat. Nor does it mean I have to believe that God literally commands genocide or intends to torture non-believers for all eternity.

One of the only views I have kept from my time as a conservative is a critique of the way in which modernity reduces everything to notions of "true" and "not true" in simplistically literal and superficial ways. The universe we find ourselves in is far more interesting than that. While I understand that there are some real differences between my views and theirs, my use of concepts like mythic and fairy tale with regards to scripture is much closer to what Tolkien and Lewis would have understood, rather than say a Borg or a Spong.

Meanwhile, to circle back to the beginning, to insist on literal inerrancy the ways Evangelicals do places the burden on them to adequately explain those parts of scripture that, if taken in superficially literal ways, turn God into a tyrannical, genocidal and psychotic monster, or contradict what we may know about history. I have read enough of their attempts to explain these things to think they have failed, quite spectacularly so, and that their approach is far more likely to drive people into atheism than someone like Borg.

Shawn said...

My last word before going back to my "don't comment on blogs" rule.

Inerrancy just does not work in practice and is no longer, if it ever was, a credible doctrine. The Bible clearly has historical errors, differing opinions, contradictory statements, morally dodgy claims about how "God" behaves, and myriad other issues which make the claim of inerrancy seriously questionable at best. The fact that the much of the OT, pre-Josiah at least, is not talking about a single monotheistic God but several gods, El, his consort the Queen of Heaven, their son Yahweh, and the 71 other sons they had between them, makes most standard theology, if if the Bible is inerrant, wrong.

The issue of "Gods" behaviour in parts of the Bible is a particularly serious challenge to inerrancy, and none of the attempts to answer that challenge by evangelical and conservative Christians have been credible or convincing to me, and I suspect they are not to most people.

The idea that the Bible can be used to discern truth from error is also seriously questionable. If that were the case, then there would be little to no disagreement about what the Bible teaches. Yet disagreements we have in abundance. When Christians cannot agree on things like child baptism, the nature of the sacraments, the end times, Arminianism vs Calvinism, faith alone vs faith and works, the role of women, and dozens of other issues, then how can the Bible be said to be functioning adequately as a tool to discern who is right and who is wrong? There are serious disagreements among the conservative Christians who do believe this. Everyone cites the Bible in these debates. Attempts to explain this problem are no more convincing than attempts to explain the previous problem. They amount to a shell game of claiming "core issues" being true and agreed upon (according to what objective standard do we discern what is a core issue or not?), or claims that "everyone would agree with my theological interpretation", but human beings are sinners so they don't. Other explanations for this problem are just as unconvincing. If God intended the Bible to be used as a way to discern truth from error He has failed, utterly and spectacularly.

The Bible can be viewed as a sacrament through which we can learn wisdom and through which God may speak to us, in a wide variety of ways. It does not have to be perfect and without error to function this way. The respect we give to it should come from it being a part of the tradition our ancestors in the faith have passed down to us, rather than from any special supernatural authority it has in and of itself. We can respect that tradition and allow it to inform our faith and practice, but we should not do so uncritically. Some of it, including views about the nature of the Bible, the status and role of women, and yes, THAT issue, need to go the way of the Dodo.

Some may claim this approach and other "liberal" approaches to the Bible are a convenient and self serving way to have our cake and eat it too. That we are just picking the parts of the Bible we like and ignoring the parts that are inconvenient or difficult. I don't think that's a fair claim, but even if it was, how many conservative Evangelical churches insist that women wear head coverings in church and teach that the celibate single life is superior to marriage? Not a lot I suspect!

Good debate. Blessings to all!

Anonymous said...

"Some of it .... need(s) to go the way of the Dodo."
Shawn, the dodo didn't die from natural causes or its failure to adapt; it was hunted to extinction by rapacious sailors and invasive species. Are you going to lead one of the foraging bands against other flightless birds?
Meanwhile, we knuckle-dragging Neanderthals who believe that the Incarnate Son of God didn't make mistakes will soldier on. After all, the Bible tells us the world will become a dark and hostile place, even in Ultima Thule Australis aka New Zealand - a nation essentially founded by Protestant missionaries where most of the population are now atheists and the Prime Minister is doing all she can to appease the demonic power of China: "Please eat me last, o Dragon!"
Fare forward, voyagers, as Eliot pictured Arjuna saying on the day of battle: Bart, Lloyd and Richard are awaiting intrepid explorers on the other side.
Shanti, shanti, shanti
Martin

Unknown said...

Thank you, Shawn (and Martin too, if applicable), for breaking your "don't comment on blogs" rule.

BW