Sunday, June 20, 2021

Perturbations, Mark 4:35-41, digging deep, trusting Tories

So, this week, the perturbations in the Christian global body include:

A lurch towards moderation

The Southern Baptist Convention cast a vote towards a modest amount of action on sexual abuse within their denomination (in the face of strident conservatives known as Pirates - let's take our church back - not wanting this to happen).

A (fairly well advance signalled) lurch towards (or reaffirmation of) conservatism

US Catholic bishops begin process which could lead to (e.g.) Joe Biden being refused communion. And simultaneously fired up the rumbling blaze between "conservative" and "liberal" Catholics in the US and beyond.

An apology from a Primate about a bishop's poor social media form in another Anglican province

Yes, The Archbishop of Canterbury, no less, has apologised for the actions of an "untrusting" Church of Wales bishop. (Her actions certainly needed an apology, but the ABC contributing an apology is somewhat bemusing).

Is there a link between Christian teaching on the subordination of women and domestic abuse of Christian wives?

Not far from here, just across the Ditch, a survey has highlighted a disproportionately high number of Anglicans, relative to the general population, experiencing domestic violence (here). Julia Baird is the leading journalist (as far as I can tell) on these matters. Six years ago she raised the question whether teaching on headship was a contributory factor to domestic violence in some Christian households (here). Six days ago, Jane, a former wife of an Anglican minister and domestic violence survivor writes in a more personal vein of her experience of hearing such teaching. She specifically questions the emphasis placed on such teaching in the Diocese of Sydney (here).

Today's gospel (as I begin writing this post) is Mark 4:35-41, the Stilling of the Storm, one reading of which is that the boat is the church, the storm is the perturbations which threaten the church as it sails through time and on the lake of the world, and the cry to Jesus to wake up highlights both the presence of Jesus in our midst and our lack of confidence in his care of the church.

We could have endless, nuanced discussions about each of these perturbations (for a brief example, note comments in the thread to the post below this re Biden. communion and abortion).

But each perturbation raises a simple question, what is the truth of the matter at hand?

This is my supplementary question: am I (are you) willing to dig deep into the matter so we do not stop at some convenient point and declare we have the truth already?

If there is - arguably - one connecting point for most of the perturbations above then it is that we reach a point of convenience when we declare that teaching X = mark of  Christian tribal identity. That rather shuts down further questing for the truth because we are combining the question of whether X is true with the question of who is in or out of our Christian tribe.

I want to come back to one matter in a forthcoming post, about "headship" teaching re men and women.

OK, the question of connection between communion and commitment to doctrine is also interesting so that might come up too.

Meantime, let's remember that Tories can be trusted. They are not all untrustworthy. The untrustworthy ones dominate the headlines but aren't the majority!

And to all bishops Tweeting out there, take care :)


Father Ron said...

'Male Headship' at Moore College. Why am I not surprised by this testimony - by a woman who actually experienced the delibilating effects of this dehumanising theory taught at this Sydney theological institution?

Unknown said...

About headship.

(1) It is not the striving for dominance of "the carnal man," but the unwise can only hear that meaning in it, and some men and women in every congregation are not wise.

(2) The sitz of this teaching is the post-Fall estrangement of the sexes as pagan culture experienced that. It recognizes that peace between the sexes arises from the Father's will, the Son's reconciling work, and the Holy Spirit's transforming love.

Unknown said...

(3) Hypothetically, Sydney and New York could both live with these facts, and at their actual best do. But where true teaching is heard through the *ressentiment* of either sex, it is heard falsely, with undeniably bad results. Alas, some places and their churches are heavily influenced by such *ressentiment*.

(4) That is, we see that the bare text of the Bible does not, whatever its perfection or magic, overcome the impaired cognition of fallen human nature. Only a heart changed by God enables some to recognize the holiness according to God's nature that it documents.

Unknown said...

(5) Generally, a modern ethos of empowerment is not conducive to the wisdom and maturity that the apostolic generations acquired because its churchways ignore the experience of the saints who achieve it. Indeed, it makes it very difficult for others to recognize them.

Unknown said...

(6) So about headship, the useful questions are these. Where do those who are holy see peace between the sexes supplanting estrangement? How shall we give thanks and praise to God for his work?


Father Ron said...

Perhaps,Bowman, by first acknowledging that 'Christ became fully human' - not just representing the male of the species. Also, Paul, (despite his inconsistencies of teaching - he was human, after all, and subject to error) did once affirm the reality that "In Christ, there is neither male nor female..." a thesis that even Rome, of late, is beginning to recognise, in the Pope's appointment of a female auditor at meetings of the House of Bishops - even if they do fall short of allowing women into the priesthood This, one day, will probably happen.

Unknown said...

Everything is better on the blessed isles, of course, but even here Father Ron, women angry at *men in general* (and vice versa) never complain about ordinations. The estrangement arises from more viscerally felt passions, and teaching probably cannot reconcile unless it addresses them directly.

In the C19, both Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics tried hard to retrieve languages for the heart from their excellent sources (Puritans and missionaries; medieval and Counter-Reformation saints). But today, although the secular culture has taken a therapeutic turn unimaginable then, neither tribe says much at all about the interiority of life in God. So they are already that step removed from talking about how one's life in God should affect one's relation to the other sex from a changed heart outward.

This is very odd. Both tribes have well-founded if worldly critiques of mores between the sexes. But neither relates its concern to something the Holy Spirit does with souls in Christ pleasing the Father. Secular ideologies rouse them; faith does not illumine them. They are but faithless instruments of social forces.

Still, whether we care about it or not, God acts in souls. St Maximus rightly and famously saw that every inspirited soul participates in Christ's mending of the divisions from the Fall-- God and creatures, things invisible and things visible, heaven and earth, paradise and world, man and woman.


Unknown said...

Peter, my quibble with making an ideal of *diversity* is that it seems to deny the proper work of the Son as eg St Maximus sumnarized it. Yes, if eg the Guelfs and the Ghibbelines (or Democrats and Republicans, or Capitalists and Communists, etc) are at war, then there is some sense in which the Body comprises redeemed souls and true ideals on both sides. But in the Son, it cannot embrace the conflict that his victory terminates. Indeed, doing so is the demonic resistance that this work has overcome.


Peter Carrell said...

Thanks for illuminating comments, Bowman and Ron.

My hope, Bowman, re diversity, is that I am only idealizing "unity in diversity", "diversity in unity" or "unity and diversity".

What is our common ground in Christ? must be asked as well as, What is the nature of Christ's inclusion of our human diversity?

Father Ron said...

In consideration of our conversation here, one cannot help but think what might have been behind Jesus' constant support of the (N.T.) women in his life - against the established patriarchalism present in the Judaic tradition. For instance, there was the occasion where Jesus rebuked the Scribes who advocated the stoning of the WOMAN caught in the act of adultery. After all, there was actually a MAN involved in this transaction, too. Was he not an active partner in her indiscretion?

And then, of course, there was the commissioning by the Risen Christ of Mary Magdaelen - a WOMAN - charged with the responsibility of imparting the Good News of his Resurrection to the MALE Apostles. This was surely an apostolic function given to a female. One wonders how the male disciples were enabled to cope with this - except by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, the sign of God's encouragement away from separatist patriarchalism?

From this latter consideration, one might easily assume that priesthood and oversight in the Church should be shared between women and men. Perhaps that integration in the not-too-distant future might become one sign of the Unity in Diversity paradigm suggested here? After all, it is not long ago that the very thought of a mixed race marriage was anathema in both Church and society - a situation that now, thankfully, no longer obtains. Are these progressive understandings a necessary part of the integration of ALL jhumanity that will need to come into bering before the 'Last Trump' heralds the Second Coming?

(n.b. the The American 'Last Trump' - Donald - did not want this to happen. That may be why he didn't win re-election in the recent U.S. Presidential race!)

Unknown said...

My guess, Peter, is that you are distinguishing a good *organic unity* (ie one that unites things according to their future natures in Christ) from a bad *uniformitarian unity* (ie one that unites things by molding them into a present shape that stacks well). Organic unity is an ecology like that of a forest or a body. Uniformitarian unity is reductive like bricks in a wall or cans on a grocery shelf.


Father Ron said...

I was amazed, Bishop Peter (but hardly surprised) to read this bit in your article about women's subordination in the Sydney Diocese:

" Six days ago, Jane, a former wife of an Anglican minister and domestic violence survivor writes in a more personal vein of her experience of hearing such teaching. She specifically questions the emphasis placed on such teaching in the Diocese of Sydney (here)."

If the accompanying link is kosher, the writer would appear to be the some-time wife of a well-known Sydney Anglican 'minister', Philip Jensen, (yes, of that lineage and notoriety!). Now had Philip actually been an ordained priest, would his behaviour have been different?

Father Ron said...

Dear Peter (with apologies for my error)

The way the article I referred to in my past comment led me to believe that the writer might have been the wife of Philip Jensen. However, he was just one of the (many) teachers at Moore College who taught Male Headship, but NOT the wife of the author of the article linked, nor the cause of abuse in the author's marriage. However, by his teaching he might well have contributed to the culture of abuse that obviously did occur in this woman's marriage - and maybe that of other women. Apologies for my error. (Fr. Ron)

Unknown said...

The horse is dead.


Anonymous said...

Ross Douthat on gender as it appears on US television--


Peter Carrell said...

Very interesting, Bowman,

It's a kind of revenge on 1 Timothy 2 (Eve responsible for sin).
Now its Adam = all us blokes!

Jean said...

A great day for NZ cricket +Peter!

In relation to the post, purterbations indeed!

I have been fortunate enough to ‘escape’ certain interpretations of male headship within my christian experience. When encountering the stringent use of the term through reading or hearing it, I have found it comes across as somewhat arrogant. Many texts, whether christian or not, can be used to affirm particular stances that have more to do with preferred social mores or status than their actual intention. Both headship and submission in their proper contexts can have wholesome and beneficial meanings. While I am sure authoritarian teaching around headship could encourage the mis-use of power it isn’t the only factor involved in the reason women or men stay within abusive relationships. That ‘the church’ however, would encourage or condone such behaviour itself requires the raising of awareness of the issue. I have recently come across a book about this topic although haven’t read it yet, “Dishonoured and Unheard” by Daphne Marsden of Project Esther in ChCh.

I agree BW with you reference to the passion behind the ‘gender wars.’ A personal crusade to ‘dis’ either sex belies a misunderstanding that will not ‘hear’ reason or yes scripture on the matter of relationships. With so many women in the church now and having encountered at some training events a few too many references to the treatment of women I am conscious of the now minority in the mix, men, and how the over emphasis of this aspect for which most have not personally contributed to is unfair. It is all too easy when there has at times been an imbalance to be tempted in addressing that imbalance to tip the scales too far the other way!

Peter in you post you comment “we are combining the question of whether X is true with the question of who is in or out of our Christian tribe.” From my observation this is a societal trend, not just within christian circles. People appear at present to so commit themselves to a ‘cause’ or ‘issue’ that if they encounter anyone who holds a counter-perspective they become almost instantly a person-non-gratis. Here I think is where the importance of Christ’s as ‘our common ground’ comes to the fore. Does our allegiance lie first and foremost with Christ or with our ‘cause’ even if that ‘cause’ has christian foundations? A basic example is I am an advocate of fair trade, I do not manage to live up to the ideal in my purchasing albeit it plays a part in my choices. When I encounter people who are thrilled because they got a ‘bargain’ $2 t-shirt and I inwardly cringe at what the ‘cost’ of that may have been in human terms, I still call that person a friend while I still advocate for what I think is fair and just.

Jean said...

Similarily in Christian ‘truth’ I am black and white when it comes to believing the Church should endeavour to keep all teaching as scripturally accurate to The Truth as it is able, however, in ‘Christ’ the call is to acknowledge He is the one who leads us into all truth and that as we are being led we are still loved. What comes to mind is a woman in America who had several abortions herself and worked for an abortion clinic, was then convicted that what she had become involved with was the taking of a chid’s life and became an advocate for protecting the yet to be born. What intrigued me was in her book she said when she first got involved in the abortion clinic she was going to an ‘anti-abortion’ focused church, and then by the time she had her ‘conversion’ she was attending a ‘pro-abortion’ focused church. Both times when her activities became known she lost her friends. It wasn’t the disagreement with her stance/s that was most notable to her but the withdrawal of love. Had both the churches this woman attended fallen into the trap of raising the import of the issue of abortion above the Gospel itself? It is in this way I concur with your statement Peter are we equating holding to ‘a truth’ with the premise the holding of it determines whether or not someone is deserving of the love of Christ?

Is it not possible to advocate for the truth found in scripture, to advocate for it - to persuade, to discuss, even to discipline if necessary, while still walking in the light of God’s love in Christ for all?

Anonymous said...

Hi Jean :-)

On headship per se, I commented on June 21.

(7) Peace with God is cooperation with the Three in their proper works.

(8) The *rule of faith* ("I believe in God...") guides souls into (7).

(9) The Son's proper work is to unify humanity and the creation under the Father. Speech and acts that rend humans apart are not in him. On the other hand, blessed are the peacemakers...

(10) The Body is wherever humanity and the creation can be seen to be at peace in the Lord. Obviously, this is why those in Christ view schism with such horror. Again, on the other hand, it is why bodies lively in the Lord formally or informally know their saints as indicative signs of his work in souls.

"...the Church should endeavour to keep all teaching as scripturally accurate to The Truth as it is able, however, 'in Christ’ the call is to acknowledge He is the one who leads us into all truth and that as we are being led we are still loved....Is it not possible to advocate for the truth found in scripture, to advocate for it - to persuade, to discuss, even to discipline if necessary, while still walking in the light of God’s love in Christ for all?"

Yes, it is indeed possible, even necessary, for those whose working piety is (7-10). In the Trinity, what you describe makes intuitive sense. For plain gospel people, Mike Bird (Anglican) and Miroslav Volf (free churches) have tried to make this trinitarian sense more explicit.

But the working piety of the perturbers is usually some dilute system of *sin management* (cf Dallas Willard) that has been severed from upstream knowledge of the Triune God. They are sometimes militant about their Christian identity, but as they do not have the fullness of God in mind, they are deluded in believing that they have one. Unsurprisingly, they bear bitter fruit. Even guns to the Capitol.

Nobody, I hope, blames them for being half-believers, the bad samaritans of the postmodern world. "Liberals" or "conservatives," they are the victims of a faithless Enlightenment tendency to dishonour the Trinity by disparaging the creeds and narrowing "religion" to techniques for coping with personal guilt.

But by Christian lights, they need to be converted from a bad copy to the true faith.


Anonymous said...


Ordinary Anglicanism is usually seen as *good religion*. Thus + Peter's focus on quarrels among Anglicans has given us few occasions to discuss *bad religion* at ADU. Here up yonder, however, it has become impossible to ignore.

If we did take up *bad religion* here, then we would have to comment in a still reasonable but less rationalistic way than we usually do. What makes our religion bad when it is bad is not so much a failure to properly prooftext doctrines as presenting scraps of them in complicity with forces and ideologies that resist the work of the Three.

In that complicity, recognizably Christian motifs are hijacked for use against the Kingdom. For example, because the West has preached for the past eight centuries on *justification*, very derivative applications of that notion are often used in ways that clash with the God and Kingdom upstream of it.

By forces, I mean social ones like *ressentiment* or *atomisation* or *polarisation* or *anarchy*. And by ideologies, I mean Theories of Everything native to an alienated tribe that discounts other perspectives.

On the ground, we often speak as though our most urgent evangelistic task were to preach the gospel to blank slate minds lying on a beach. That is mostly simplification for convenient discussion; none of us is that naive. But postmoderns actually preach to publics that have already heard gospel fragments as ideology. If they crave bad religion, they need therapeutic preaching that frees them from their unhealthy addiction to forces that disintegrate them. If they are disgusted by bad religion, then they need alluring preaching that pries the fragments free from their abuse and restores them to their beautiful Kingdom use.

Not that preaching is enough. Somewhere, there must also be a body of the Body in which converting souls experience the divine humanity of Jesus and the universal reach of his arms on the cross.


Ross Douthat, a conservative Catholic, wrote a fine book called Bad Religion.

Several decades ago, Karl Rahner SJ explored a similar notion that he called *cryptoheresy* in his Theological Investigations.


Jean said...

Hi Bowman

I think we are on the same page albeit you have the learning to articulate matters with a greater scholarly manner than I achieve. It appears there are many examples of almost a ‘narrowing’’ of the christian faith in some contexts, choosing to focus on one preferred or chosen aspect and subsequently leaving out the ‘big picture.’ And yes unfortunately those chosen aspects appear in some circumstances to align with current social forces. Is this an awful trend whereby the church has followed societies path rather than God’s?

As for NZ, no we are probably not as bad as North America in the sense of the deification of ideologies, however, you can definitely see it becoming more popular.

All the best

Unknown said...

Once upon a time, Jean,

I drafted some April Fool's fake news that the Anglican Communion had been saved from schism (over fox-hunting, as I recall) by its latest *instrument of unity*-- a gathering of Anglican choirmasters that met in country after country around the largest pipe organ in each. (After all, what instrument can unify like that one?)

Of course there were concerts broadcast to millions around the world. And guest choirmasters from Rome, Constantinople, Uppsala, etc cheerfully chanted along.

But the really deep deliberations were about the proper ways, old and sometimes new, of singing to the Lord. That is inescapably poetical and musical, yet doxological, business.

Are the Psalms to be chanted in Middle Earth's ancient elvish tongue of Quenya? Or is Sindarin more appropriate? Either way, how are they to be centuriated?

Sing unto the Lord a new song, of course. But should it praise him for imputing Christ's righteousness to us, or for giving Gentile believers the standing before him of Jews? More broadly, which new hymns are taking congregations nearest the heart of scripture?

And speaking of hymns, as distinct from canticles, they have always-- from about C7 Syria on-- been tugged in one way toward visionary personal expression to God and in the other toward impersonally voicing thanks and praise for humanity and all creatures. Choirs should understand what they sing for "that is our reasonable worship" but all choirs have moderns who are as squeamish about the mystical as they are embarrassed by the cosmic. Choirmasters like to hear how their peers explain devotion to God in Christ.

Or is that Christa? Other churchfolk may busy themselves with worldly matters, but a choirmaster who wants sopranos and altos (even, ideally, countertenors) simply cannot avoid women's and men's thoughts about how they imagine the God to whom they sing. Proficiency in music does not in itself make one a spiritual director, but working with voices does bring one close to souls.

I could go on, but you have likely caught the Spirit of the thing.

Now this would not be an instrument of *Anglican* unity if nobody anywhere were objecting to it. Two main tendencies throw rotten tomatoes at the choirmasters.

As you would expect, happy warriors for bitter causes hate a forum that pays no attention to them. Choirmasters, used to carrying on no matter who does not show up, just improvise around any threatened absences. And although many are not averse to at least hearing malcontents, the God-stuff is always ahead of them on an agenda that is never finished. "Yes, the holes of foxes are very important to the ecosystem, but whether the beatific vision has been seen in this life is quintessentially important to every soul in Christ."

More surprising is the irritation of theologians and bishops. From different corners, they pitch the same smelly tomato: "You're doing OUR jobs!" And that is true.

But then, those throwing the tomatoes were not. Some thinking Anglicans somewhere had to stand up. So the choirmasters, like Deborah leading Israel, raised their hands.

Now if we obey the first and great commandment, the second which is like unto it is much easier. But if we obey the second as an end in itself, then we become, as ++ Justin says, "an NGO with a steeple on top."

Everybody knows this. But moderns confected a kind of church that is slow to do God like he matters more than anything else. It is ripe for ideological entryism from all directions.


Jean said...

Thanks BW, I enjoyed reading what given the zone we are in has become my bedtime story. May ‘we’ gain wisdom enough to not get so distracted by those jolly foxes that we forget where our energy to pursue them comes from - our first love; ...”having a form of godliness but denying its power”.. Personally I do believe a bit of singing in the elvish tongue would be quite nice.

Anonymous said...

In last week's New Yorker, Peter Schjeldahl explains that he can see Cezanne's disruptive genius, but lacks the modernist faith to like his art--

"How good an idea was modernism, all in all? It disintegrated, circa 1960, amid a plurality of new modes while remaining, yes, an art of the museum. It came to emblematize up-to-date sophisticated taste, spawning varieties of abstraction that circle back to C├ęzanne’s innovative interrelations of figure and ground. It also fuelled a yen in some to change the world for the more intelligent, if not always for the better. The world took only specialized notice. Modernism’s initially enfevered optimism could not survive the slaughterhouse of the First World War and the political apocalypse of the Russian Revolution, which ate away at myths of progress that had seemed to valorize aesthetic change. Dedicated newness in art devolved from a propelling cause into a rote effect."