Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Challenge of the Old Testament; reasons for being Anglican

I haven't made the progress I would have liked on a slow writing post so here are a couple of articles that have caught my eye this past week:

On the challenges of the Old Testament.

On reasons for being Anglican


Father Ron said...

Thank you, Bishop for these links. I was particularly struck by one of the 2 comments on this article,as follows:

"Matt Stone16 hr ago
As a Baptist of sorts with Orthodox leanings I hear you on the deficiencies, but the sort of Anglicanism you’re espousing really isn’t an option here in Sydney. Not unless you’re prepared to travel long distance to the few that aren’t GAFCON style."

This reflects the obvious GAFCON-leaning theology of Ridley College and it's near similarity with Moore College in Sydney. Both retain some of the Baptist-style theology that the author of the article still retains. This may be the Anglicanism of conservatives of Sydney and Melbourne, but I believe it does not reflect the more inclusive Anglicanism of ACANZP. It may, however, well reflect the theology of the departed Anglicans of the new affiliate here of the ACNA and GAFCON.

I doubt the majority of Australian Anglicans would feel at home with this 3-stages-to-get-there Anglican. They are more used to the 'Unity in diversity' that is classic Anglicanism.

Father Ron said...

Again, Peter, I have singled out a sentence from the author's article that helps to affirm, for me, the dangers of Biblical Literalism (whether O.T. or N.T.) - the belief that 'every word in the Bible is true' and to be accepted as 'God's Word' the indisputable record of what God 'said' to individual human beings :-

"I can’t give a satisfactory explanation of why Deuteronomy 20 should be in our Bibles. But I also can’t turn away from countless Old Testament texts that have inspired me to love peace."

Like the New Testament (likewise, 'written for our learning') it is always prudent to be accepted as an interpretation of the what the writer understood as a message from God to them at the time it was written and in the circumstances that were being addressed.

The sole "Eternal Word" was in Christ Jesus, whose interpretation of the O.T.Scriptures was often more eirenic and helpful than the Scribes and Pharisees were willing to accept or to teach. This was one of the sources of their traditional rejection of Jesus as the Messiah, the fulfilment of what the main thrust of the O.T. was pointing to. Jesus spoke of these interpetera of The Scriptures on one occasion, in this way: "They say to you..BUT I tell you...", obviously reflecting a difference of interpretation by the Scribes, whose own knowledge of God was obviously inferior to that of Jesus.

SO, if the Scribes and Pharisees can misrepresent the tenor of God's Words in Scripture, what are the odds on our theologians of today sometimes getting it wrong - not only with an interpretation of the O.T. but also with their interpretation of the Gospels and Letters of the New Testament? This, I guess, is why Anglicans are urged to bear witness to the 3-legged stool of 'Scripture, Tradition, and REASON'. (A recent R.C. Scholar wants us also to consider the value of a 4th leg - that of Experience - a capacity that we Anglicans are learning to incorporate into the fulness of our Faith Journey. T.B.T.G.)

If a Canon of The Scriptures were to be re-assessed today, in the era of new knowledge about the Cosmos and its biological inhabitants, I wonder if it would turn out differently? After all, even the authoritarian Church of Rome has given way on some of the cosmic and biological understadnings from the Middle Ages - and further back in its historical scientific evaluation of the human condition. (Is there something to be learned, I wonder, from the habit of Jesus to be teaching 'in parables' - rather than historical facts? also, is potential 'scripture' being written today in new theological writing?)

Unknown said...

God raised Jesus from the dead.

That was meaningful to Jews who witnessed this. We call them apostles. They organized a new Judaism that eventually included Gentiles.

Then they died. Their direct testimony was replaced by three (3) things that together present the resurrection to later generations: the creed, the canon, and the episcopate. These three work together and fail separately.

Israel had no official canon of scriptures and a few unofficial ones are known. After the destruction of the Temple, rabbis and bishops gravitated to one that had evolved among the Pharisees. But rabbis read it through the lens of the Mishnah (writings about the Temple) and Talmud (conversations of rabbis about the law of Israel), while bishops read it through the lens of the NT (St Paul's letters bookended by gospels and writings of other apostles) and the creed. No historic religion tries to read a naked Bible as holy writ.

If you have a basically Judaic faith illumined from within by the Resurrection, and you sit on the three-legged stool of creed, canon, and episcopate, the OT presents no problems to you. For you, as for early Gentile believers, it nourishes your understanding of the civilization in which the Resurrection had meaning. Traditionally, Anglicans sit on that stool.

But if you don't, if you have a Christian social identity that is not centered on the Resurrection-- sin management is a popular alternative-- or if you are teetering on a one-legged stool with Bible but no creed or bishops, then you are going to have problems with the OT that early Christians did not. They had a cosmic context for the OT; you do not. You are trying to read a naked Bible as holy writ, making up your religion as you go.

Like a grumpy tourist who has never mentally left home, moderns in that predicament either complain about everything strange to them ("liberals"), or else overcompensate for perceived faults by believing extra things about the Bible-- it's a Perfect book; it's a Magic book; etc ("conservatives"). Either way, you will read the OT in a boring literalistic way because you do not have the faith to do otherwise. Lib-con fights about the Bible are interminable because both tribes of mote-pickers read it with the same planks in their eyes.

To have more fun with the Bible (and be a better, less annoying person too), become a Christian in fact, not just in social identity. That is, believe the apostles about the Resurrection and its meaning, and start applying that to your daily life as a whole. It takes a huge leap of the imagination to see the cosmos that way, but you can learn to jog, skip, jump, and eventually leap by reading the Bible, not as a grumpy tourist, but as a language-learner studying abroad to acquire native fluency. When you use the Bible to imagine what the cosmos must be if God raised Jesus from the dead, then you are finally reading as early Gentile believers did.

What if you get lost in that strange world, get off track? Recite the creed.

What if you do not know how to live or what to do? Ask your bishop.

What if you simply cannot get your head around the Resurrection, or cannot help but frame your life in God around law? Stop tormenting yourself; become a Jew.


Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Bowman and Ron for comments.

Resurrection life "so much more than sin management"!

Do we know what it means to live the risen life of Christ????

Father Ron said...

Thanks, Bishop Peter and Bowman.

I find great comfort in the saying of Saint Paul: "Why do I do the things I know I ought not to do, and why do I not do the things that I ought to Do". And, only then, is he able to say this :- "But thank be to God for the VICTORY in Christ Jesus". That gives me, a sinner a great deal of comfort. (I guess one might call it ; 'Reality therapy')

And, Bryden. I love the Creeds of the Church!

Anonymous said...

But Father Ron, if all you are taking from St Paul is comfort, then you are settling for *sin management* when you could have so much more!

*Sin management* is the late Dallas Willard's term for a practice of Christianity in which the sinner gladly accepts relief from guilt but not release from the power of evil, and so does not enter into a life of peace, obedience, and union with Christ. Although the flesh is indeed very inclined to this, it is inflammatory and inaccurate to tell sin managers that they are being hypocrites. So we don't.

Anonymous said...

Protestant denominations (I distinguish them from Protestant churches) have an historic weakness: their richly nuanced thought on *justification by grace alone though faith in Christ* tends to keep them from teaching effectively the *sanctification* and *vocation* that to St Paul was the really big Romans 8 news. That leaves ordinary souls in stagnation-- God feels better about their sins; they are greatly relieved that the Judge seems less hostile; they are otherwise no closer to him; they are not changed by an intimacy they are still far from having. Yet Jesus said, "Ye are servants no longer, but friends..."

On their own parallel justification track, many Roman Catholics are stuck in a similar rut. They know what Rome forbids, and what to say to whom when they do it anyway, but not that the Holy Spirit wants to give a new shape and direction to their lives. So Richard Rohr (Franciscan), like Dallas Willard (Baptist), proposes a spirituality that is less about their well-developed sense of sin, and more about who God is and how to unite with him.

Candidly, Father Ron, when you type exuberantly here about *mercy* and *ALL* etc, it depresses me. Your sentences are not wrong, of course, but they are far from being enough. Hearing them, someone contemplating a jump off a tall building because consciousness is painful and life is meaningless would just go ahead and spring into the traffic far below.

Getting out of an expected penalty is the end of bad news, but it is not actually good news. Nihilism about the good, the true, the beautiful-- the things that make consciousness worth having and life worth living-- is killing the churches of the West. What once relieved peasants does not inspire us, and we badly need to be inspired.

Does holy communion inspire us? It can, if we understand union with Christ as more than sin management. Indeed, it was to help souls toward a larger sense of what a relationship with Him is that Protestant churches have generally restored the ancient eucharistic shape to the liturgy and made it the principal service of the Lord's day. At least ritually, that situates the cup which we bless in several stories grander than the sins of frightened fidgets. But few guess that this is a foretaste of the messianic banquet in the world to come, or would know how to live with that if they did puzzle it out.

Hereabouts, I usually emphasize the rest of that sentence from Jesus: "...for a servant does not know what his master is about." All Jews knew that intimacy with YHWH is rooted in doing his will, but Jesus in several interesting ways says that true doing is willing participation in God's providence. Spirituality in this god cannot avoid explicit thought about his creating, sustaining, and regenerating of things. To keep our friend from diving off a skyscraper, we need for him to not only have those meditations on the Creator, but to grow into a new, life-shifting love of things because of them.

But if he is a fidget, then fear of God can shut all that out before he even gets to it. Perhaps there is a protevangelium for fidgets: the Creator wants every creature to be better, but he has not made every creature the same, and does not want each and all of them to do the same things. As the Author of all things, the Father is a trustworthy authority, but his Spirit furthers, not snaps to grids, but surprising yet organic change in those who live in the Son.

We often suppose that the Three is an advanced topic for fidgets, but it may well be that, until they have an emotional relation to each Person, they cannot lose the fear that makes them fidget. Like most people, fidgets imagine that God is like the human authorities we know that rule through standardization backed by intimidation. But when biblical authors describe God in himself, they-- OT or NT-- never describe him that way. God does use those authorities, but as the Creator he cannot be much like them.

More anon.

Father Ron said...

Dear Bishop, et all; I find Richard Rohr, O.F.M., to be a challenge and also an inspiration in times of trial - especially in today's world of excluvism and self-righteous presentation of Sola-Scriptuar-ism, which tends to ignore what the Bible is really saying about God's choosing of his children, and the fact that few choose to be 'chosen', becau of what they see of those of us who think exclusively about their own 'chosenness'. We shoul as this Franciscan Bor suggest, come to tnstand that ware cho, cpecifically to 'be Christ to others', so that they, also, can be enabled to recognise The Christ in themselves! :-

"The paradox is that God’s chosenness is for the sake of communicating chosenness to everybody else! As in the Jonah story, this often takes people a long time to learn. Here is the principle: We can only transform people to the degree that we have been transformed. We can only lead others as far as we ourselves have gone. We have no ability to affirm or to communicate to another person that they are good or special until we know it strongly ourselves. Once we get our own “narcissistic fix,” as I call it, then we can stop worrying about being center stage. We then have plenty of time and energy to promote other people’s empowerment and specialness. Only beloved people can pass on belovedness."

Christ is Risen, alleluia! Thanks be to God!

Anonymous said...

"Do we know what it means to live the risen life of Christ????"

Well, it includes this--

"...we are chosen specifically to 'be Christ to others', so that they, also, can be enabled to recognise the Christ in themselves! :-)

And although it is rather Franciscan to stress in this way the humanity that the elect and the rest share with Christ, Luther himself used similar language.


Anonymous said...

The NYT on a Maori vision for Antarctica's future--



Father Ron said...

Quoting Bowman, here:-

"Candidly, Father Ron, when you type exuberantly here about *mercy* and *ALL* etc, it depresses me. Your sentences are not wrong, of course, but they are far from being enough. Hearing them, someone contemplating a jump off a tall building because consciousness is painful and life is meaningless would just go ahead and spring into the traffic far below."

A challenge for Bowman: If you were in this hypothetical situation you have posited - that of a man standing on a precipice awaiting a word from you that might deflect him from his purpose. To which gesture might he respond, do you think: (1) a lecture on the dangers of his imminent destruction, or (2) A simple hug, reminding him that his life is precious to more than himself?

You also spoke earlier about the relevance of Eucharistic participation to the 'experience of Christ'. This, in fact, describes my own positive experience- of Christ present in the Eucharist - as Jesus said He would be. If I were given the choice between listening to a learned thesis on soteriology and the dangers of misinterpeting the Bible; or simply attending and partcsipating in the saving grace of the Eucharist; I would always choose the latter, having personally experienced its relevance to my own life and spirituality.

I notice you are fond of quoting the 'REFORM' representative of theology (Andrew Goddard) as representing your understanding of The Faith. Having personally heard him speaking in protest against the presence of Bishop Gene at a meeting in St.Mary's church, Putney in the U.K., I must say that I stand by my second paragraph of this comment - perhaps more assuredly in this instance. I believe that REFORM is dogmatically opposed to the intentions of LLF in the Church of England

Agape, Fr.Ron.