Sunday, May 21, 2023

Sermon by the late Tim Keller

I am behind where I want to be in my post for tomorrow so let's see if I can complete by next week - it's more reflection on John's Gospel, not on the future of global Anglicanism!

I haven't gotten particularly into writings and communications such as sermons by Tim Keller, a famous US - NYC in particular - pastor, but he has a lot of respect around the world and now human sadness at his death announced in the past few days.

An English bishop Tweeted a link to a sermon which she was especially impressed by and I had a read of it - very good. So, in lieu of a post by me this week, I share the link with you:

Tim Keller's Sermon After 9/11 (posted by The Gospel Coalition)

This is, as it happens, on a passage from John's Gospel, and - obviously in the context of 9/11 - explores a theme which is often mentions here, theodicy.


Anonymous said...

Tim was a brilliant orator and hugely powerful in the realms of Theology. He had a genuine knack for presented scripture in the modern context of living life. I have read a number of his books and enjoyed The Reason for God. However, he did not persuade me in his conservative proposition(s). To me, God doesn't and can't exist as a seperate objective being, the Human conception of God is constantly experienced and viewed...very Tillich I guess. I will remain across the aisle as a Chrisitan Athiest.

MsLiz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MsLiz said...

The anger.. I hadn't come across the stronger term of 'anger' in this passage before so it came as a surprise and set me wondering.. (just curiosity, not to detract from Tim Keller saying, "He is angry at the tomb").

I ditched my previous comment to find better words..this quote offers a possible reason for anger--one I'd also thought about:

"After three years of teaching and healing by Jesus, these dear people and their friends remain despairing in the face of death. This leaves Jesus disappointed and angry." ~url:

I wonder re the 2nd mention of anger, if it was triggered by the "But" - some said that if he'd opened the eyes of a blind man couldn't he have kept Lazarus from dying? --was that a bitter jibe/complaint?

And whereas Martha offered Jesus an expression of faith, I wonder when Jesus wept with Mary if it was something deeper than sadness at her grief? He, the resurrection and life was right there with her but instead of looking to him she was kneeling at his feet lost in grief. Did he feel a pang of sorrow at not being fully recognised for all he is?

Lastly, a question re Mary.. is she the same Mary who initially thought the risen Christ was the gardener?

Moya said...

I wonder if the anger is maybe at the evil power that brought sickness and death into the world? Though I like your comment about Mary’s grief Liz.
This Mary is Mary of Bethany who sat at Jesus’ feet in Luke and anointed Jesus in John 12. The Mary in the garden is the Magdalene out of whom Jesus cast seven demons. Both Marys (if there are two) clearly loved Jesus but have often been conflated into one Mary Magdalene.

MsLiz said...

Thanks Moya! I feel you're spot on and also I'm guessing that's also exactly what Keller means by "the anger he directs at the tomb". Jesus' anger is mentioned in verses 33 and 38 so some of my wondering was if there might be more than a single cause for his anger? And thanks for letting me know about the Marys!

I found a good article about Tim Keller, interesting person..

Mark Murphy said...

I liked his emphasis on the appropriateness of both tears and promise/hope.

Great to hear of the original, much more visceral and emotional depth of the original words. Why does English translators water these down so much - a muted Bible, a watered down Christ? We have English language equivalents.

Reminds me, also, of services where the sermon is oh so very long. God bless the Presbyterians.

Mark Murphy said...

What happened to Calvinist pre-destinarianism?

Didn't Calvinism have more impact on 39article Anglicanism that any other Protestant theology? And certainly for Presbyterians, right?

A few generations ago, you could find it, at least in the dark private terrors of many British Protestants - am I really saved? Am I one of the elect?

But I don't seem to hear it much these days, even if English-speaking conservatives keeping banging the drum of the inerrancy of scripture and keep Preaching the Word as their orthopraxis.

Tim Keller, the internet tells me, was founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church and a founding member of The (conservative, evangelical, cross-denominational) Gospel Coalition. But this sermon is (thankfully) big on the love of God, not so big on the absolute justice of God etc.

Bowman, Peter...what happened to Calvinst pre-destinarianism?

MsLiz said...

"Why does English translators water these down so much?"

~Me too, Mark! I'm dying to know the answer.

Tim Keller offers, "Bellowing with anger, he came to the tomb."
If that's accurate, why don't translators use enraged?

I couldn't help wondering about 'Reason vs Emotion', would scholars balk at using such strong emotional language? Especially with respect to words about Jesus?

But that seems an unworthy thought and disrespectful of such scholarship. Perhaps there's disagreement among scholars?

At Bible Gateway one translation uses enraged in both verses 33 and 38 - but I don't know anything about the translation - it's called Jubilee Bible 2000.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Mark and Liz

Mark: I am not able to be of much help re your question, save to confirm that Calvinism was an influence on the 39A, though the 39A refuse to endorse so called double predestination (that just as some are destined for salvation, others are destined for hell).

Liz: Perhaps, being "English", "English" translations don't do emotions well?

But, as it happens, two translations handy to me, NRSV and REB do not do this one badly.

NRSV "he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved"
REV: "he was moved with indignation and deeply distressed."

Mark Murphy said...

Double predestination? You'd have to be a French lawyer to follow all that.

‘I thank[i] you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants...".


Thanks for the other translations, Peter, though there is a long way from "greatly disturbed in spirit" to "bellowing with rage."

Have we lost something of the fire of Jesus in English translation? William, what's your view of this?

MsLiz said...

Hi +Peter, I chuckled at the being "English" suggestion .
Full disclosure: my OH is English albeit thoroughly kiwi-ised :)
~truly, I didn't mean to write this much!

Warning: anecdote..
On Sunday I experienced being enraged.. full-on! I read an article about legislation in some US States (varies by state) that applies heavy fines, in some cases imprisonment, to librarians who violate obscenity laws. I've worked as a librarian in public and university libraries and I know the dedication of most staff, they generally have a real passion for best service to all folk whom their library system serves.

I'd read the Tim Keller article earlier in the day and yet in my anger I totally forgot about it. The interesting thing, to me anyway, was that initially I was shocked and totally incensed. Then I wanted to weep buckets, overwhelming sadness. That lasted a while and then I swung back into rage.. which still sits inside me in a cold, quiet way. Much later on, in retrospect, I realised my own outrage had played out in a surprisingly similar fashion to that of Jesus in the Lazarus story.

v33 Keller: “to quake with rage.”
v38 Keller: “to roar or snort with anger like a lion or a bull.”

So, with my recent experience in mind as well..

NRSV : I don't think these words really get to grips with the intensity of the emotion. My OH has just been in for coffee and I told him about this one, and his response was very cool. He said that it totally internalizes the anger without recognising the external aspect, and my thought was.. that really nails it!

REV : thank you, for me this has a better feel and captures both deep anger and deep distress. I can more readily relate to this.

JUB : v33 "he became enraged in the Spirit and stirred himself up"
: v38 "Jesus therefore, becoming enraged again in himself, came to the grave."

My hunch is that we're seeing Jesus experiencing an overwhelming mix of human and spiritual emotion. His anger at death itself, the loss of Lazarus, his empathy with the experience of pain and loss felt by those he loves, and then Mary and others weeping in grief but evidently not entertaining any hope that Jesus yet may have more to offer. They think that with death, this is really the end.. Jesus could've done something if only he'd got there sooner! They take it for granted death has the final say; and Jesus totally obliterates their assumptions and calls Lazarus to life!

MsLiz said...

"What happened to Calvinist pre-destinarianism?"

Mark, perhaps of interest? Alastair McIntosh discusses in an OP (2016), among other things: Calvinism, double predestination and limited atonement, the Isle of Lewis where Trump has relatives, America and walls...

"Mary (Trump) Macleod’s parents had been married in the Free Church of Scotland at Back on the Isle of Lewis. The church holds firmly to the Westminster Confession, and double predestination would have been central to the family cosmology. It remained so, even into my childhood."

Predestination starts at heading 3. Prejudice and Predestination

Mark Murphy said...

Thanks for the link, Liz. Interesting stuff. Maybe double predestination will stick in mind. I guess that it never does - I never instinctively get how predestination is rooted in the Gospel and the Kingdom - perhaps shows how thoroughly I was brought up in something radically different to this. But I still don't understand how it's gone from being a central pillar of reformed theology and creeds to hardly mentioned. Maybe it simply died a quiet death because it really was so loveless.

Anonymous said...

"what happened to Calvinist (double) predestination?"

Mark, I'm just now seeing this in a particularly dull meeting. Quick answer: it decayed over time, and is now held by sheer confessional will, but is interesting today as an artifact of its era. A truly charitable, accurate, critical and useful reply is possible, but probably not today.

Meanwhile, a few related facts and observations.

Everybody has some concept of predestination, although such concepts have hauled different kinds and amounts of freight in diverse settings.

The full articulation of double predestination (2P) came, not with Calvin himself but with Beza.

Lutherans early, deeply, and interestingly rejected both 2P and its whole paradigm. In England and elsewhere, Anglican understanding of this radical alternative tends to be non-existent or superficial. Here both TEC and ACNA have taken it more seriously.

The CoE's 42A are plainly closer to 2P than the later 39A. Read historically, the articles were on a trajectory away from the Three Forms of Unity of the actually Reformed churches. So the 39A are seen by some as conserving links to the Reformed movement, and by others as the beginning of an official break with it.

(Yes, this is a very dull meeting.)

By definition, the confessional Reformed are still somewhat committed to confessions that define 2P. But Reformed critiques and reformulations exist-- Karl Barth, Thomas F Torrance etc-- and are still being developed here and there with different strategies.

Kindly note: to the classical proponents of 2P, it mattered whether God's allocation of souls happened before or after the Fall. In the C16-17, the soul-sorting that has so distressed the *sensus fidelium* over the past four centuries was just a spandrel of other reasonable concerns.

About twenty years ago, there was a notable resurgence of *Young, Restless and Reformed* interest in TULIP or Five-Point Reformed theology among kids to whom it was just shambling like a zombie to base one's life on the solipsistic sentimentalism that they heard in both mainline and evangelical churches.

(We decided this about twenty minutes ago. Why are people still talking?)

That was the constituency for Tim Keller s church plant in NYC. Today, while some are still Reformed, many have moved on to Lutheranism or Orthodoxy or lately traditionalist Catholicism or the Nones.

This explains both the intellectualism and the pugilism of say The Gospel Coalition or The Calvinist International. It also explains, to me, why TEC has been repulsive to the same cultural constituency.

(Can we please just vote and go home?)

Bluntly: when liberal theology itself decayed, it left behind churches that still care about social causes ( cf Ritschl) important to managers and professionals, but do not offer clarity about God, the world, and the soul. If one is inclined to cynicism, this decadence looks like a scam that substitutes the dubious satisfactions of righteous outrage for a soul-path oriented by articulate faith.

As so often, anti-liberal theology and its churches mirror the same decadence, so that they too offer mush where we expect religion, and are likewise vehicles for the causes of different social classes. In that way, churches of different classes press rival populism in what we call the culture wars.

So 2P probably does not matter today for the number of persons actually wondering whether they were relegated to hell before or after Eve and Adam ate forbidden fruit rather than the talking snake...



Mark Murphy said...

Thanks Liz for the Jubilee version: "enraged in the Spirit". That's the only version so far that isn't getting avoidant on holy anger. And I don't really know much about that version either. Cheers.

Mark Murphy said...

Thanks Bowman. Your boring meeting is felicitous to me. Much for me to chew over here. Now the Sumo's over, off to drop the kids off at the school.

No surprises to God in any of this.

Did he forsee Wakamotoharu's surprising take down of Hokuseiho this morning?

I suppose the opposite of pre-destinarianism might not be so much Arminianism as process theology?

Anonymous said...

For a New Testament in scruffy English, try David Bentley Hart's--

"I suppose the opposite of predestinarianism might not be so much Arminianism as process theology?"

As a system integrating many ideas, supralapsarian (pre-Fall) 2P has as many rivals as it has replaceable elements. Early Arminianism replaced God's election before time with his election when the believer believes. Process theology replaces God's transcendence in the aristotelian metaphysic formerly used for 2P with immanence in a whiteheadian one that could still be compatible with some 2P.

The absolute opposite? I have not tried to list the many alternatives, get their coordinates from 2P at the origin, calculate the milliorigens from that origin to their several locations, line up those distances from least to most resistant, and find the maximum. But a universalist system (there are a few) can be thoroughly Calvinist while also radically excluding all varieties of 2P.


Anonymous said...

Liz, have you found any difference between the Jubilee text and the Authorised text?


MsLiz said...

BW, after your Q, I returned to Bible Gateway to look at both.

Note: Jubilee's presented verse-by-verse (with paragraph markers), AKJV is presented in paragraph format.

I looked at John 11, and chose a few obvious differences to show you.

JUB I AM the resurrection and the life; he that believes in me, though he is dead, yet shall he live;
KJV I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:

JUB he became enraged in the Spirit and stirred himself up
KJV he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled,

JUB Jesus therefore, becoming enraged again in himself, came to the grave.
KJV Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave.

I do like the capitalised I AM in the Jubilee for v25, and prefer JUB in each case.
Although I've seen little of it yet, I'm taking quite a liking to the Jubilee!

MsLiz said...

Dear +Peter, given Tim Keller's sermon was in response to 9/11...

I wonder if it's ok for me to ask if you might be willing to share a few thoughts on your / the church's / the city's experience of major traumatic events there and where you might have some affinity (or not) with the content of his sermon? One thing on my mind is the destruction of the Cathedral - it was such a beloved icon to everybody whether religious or not!

MsLiz said...

"For a New Testament in scruffy English, try David Bentley Hart's--"

Love, love, this! what a treasure. Thanks much, BW

Even the Introduction's a pleasure to read, and this came as a surprise:

I suspect that many readers will be somewhat taken aback by the absence of many terms they are accustomed to finding in the New Testament—“eternal,” “forever,” “redemption,” “justification,” “repentance,” “predestination,” “world,” “hell,” and so on— and by the presence of very different terms in their places.

So I bought it --couple of example verses in case anyone's curious--

Matt 3v11

I indeed baptize you in water for the sake of transforming hearts; but the one coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry; he will baptize you in a Holy Spirit and fire:

Romans 5v12

Therefore, just as sin entered into the cosmos through one man, and death through sin, so also death pervaded all humanity, whereupon all sinned;

Hart, David Bentley. The New Testament. 2nd Ed. Yale University Press. Kindle Ed.

Anonymous said...


Mark, I don't much like my 1:32. Pondering my discontent with it, I realize that I do not know why you were curious about 2P. Are you besieged by old school Presbyterians?


Anonymous said...

Liz, if you do not mind so doing, please do keep us posted once in a while on your further explorations of translation style.

Why do I care? A relatively recent approach to textual criticism uses local variants to reconstruct physical communities of readers who share common spiritual lives.

If a group of manuscripts share both unusual variants and a provenance, then we may hypothesize a community of readers supported by the same scriptoria. This could go nowhere-- research worth doing always takes some risk-- or it could open a window on a world of faith that takes generations to explore and understand.

Your preferences reflect your own concerns, of course, but hint at kinds of variation that matter to others. Before digitization, before printing, before even translation, there are still more clues in the manuscripts: local variants in the text form, illumination and ligatures in the lettering, iconology of the illustrations, the source of the inks and surfaces, etc.

Anonymous said...

Scholars using this technique among others have already begun to reconstruct the communities of women-- beguines, monastics, mendicants, etc-- who pioneered much of the innovative spirituality of the C13-14 in Western Europe.

But every time Mark mentions George Fox, disparages academicizing religion, etc, I wish that we had a similar reconstruction of the monasteries for men, women, and both that had a spiritual affiliation to his obvious patron saint, Symeon the New Theologian.

Only three saints on the Orthodox calendar are known as Theologians. St John wrote the Fourth Gospel. St Gregory presided over the Council of Nicaea.

St Symeon had stormy confrontations-- actually, trials for heresy-- with academics and emperors over precisely Mark's usual preoccupations and a few more besides. All Orthodox know St Symeon; only historians look up his forgotten accusers.

Because monasticism in the East is more organic than institutionalized, governed by diocesan bishops rather than chartered orders, affiliations among monasteries and sketes are informal. It is not at all likely that St Symeon and his disciples had no influence on other monasteries in the East, and it would be more than good to find and know their spiritual world.


MsLiz said...

Mark, I couldn't help doing a little search on NZ/predestination/Presbyterian and found this (in an E-book which I've kept a copy of, because, having had a look I found I like his sermons!)

Quirkily for us Presbyterians it’s a biological version of our old Westminster Confession of Faith “predestination” doctrine. God predetermined how you would turn out. For us, either God or your genes predestined us. You know what we did with that Calvanistic doctrine — we gave ourselves exception from it and took back our responsibility for how we live life.

~Evan McAra Sherrard (1934-2015), NZ Presbyterian Minister and Pyschotherapist

BW, that's fine!

Anonymous said...


As Patriarch of Constantinople-New Rome, St Gregory (of Nazianzus) the Theologian presided over the ecumenical Council of Constantinople (381). Not Nicea (325).

The later council added phrases describing the Holy Spirit to the Nicene Creed (325) and then anathematized any who make further changes to it.

So then, why is he not remembered as St Gregory of Constantinople-New Rome?

At the behest of his friend Basil (of Caesarea) the Great, he was elected bishop of Nazianzus in Cappadocia. But because of a power struggle in the province, he was not accepted by the people of Nazianzus.

He moved to his uncle's house in Constantinople. The patriarch there was Arian, so Gregory's residence became the de facto Orthodox cathedral. When a new emperor took the city, he recognized Gregory as the true patriarch and convened the ecumenical council.

However, to preempt power struggles in the Body, a Nicene canon had forbidden the translation of bishops from see to see. Egyptian bishops therefore objected that Gregory had been translated from Nazianzus to Constantinople-New Rome.

Gregory had never wanted to be a priest, never mind bishop or patriarch. He resigned the see and retreated to the wilderness to contemplate the works of the Lord and write his memoir in verse.


Mark Murphy said...

Thanks Liz. I don't know Evan personally but I suppose that's what modern liberal Presbyterians did with it.

Alec Ryrie, who has a series of excellent, very entertaining lectures on the English Reformation available on YouTube, notes that when Calvinism was in the ascendency in England it simultaneously gave rise to some radical Protestant groups - such as the short lived, somewhat creepy "Family of Love" - that took more spiritualist positions (Quakers fit in here too). I suppose a smouldering Calvinism is some of the backdrop to Wesley's Arminianism.

Mark Murphy said...

Not beset, Bowman, just curious as to how the doctrine died.

Anonymous said...

"not beset"

Good to hear! I'll stop worrying.

Three quibbles.

There is plenty of daylight between Calvin and later "Calvinism." Doug Wilson, with whom no sane person always agrees, was nevertheless right to say that Calvin was too catholic to be ordained in a confessional Westminster church today.

Reformed or "Calvinist" theology was an international network of national movements with very different characters. The English Reformed were not the Scottish, French, Swiss, German, Czech, Hungarian... Reformed.

Wesley denied having "any disagreement with Mr Calvin," but obviously he was not what we loosely call a Calvinist and actually was a precursor of later Anglo-Catholicism. He used Calvin's operating system, but ran patristic software on it, and wrote code in the Arminian language. The Anglican establishment reacted, not to faults in his Calvinism, but to fear that identification with him would appear disloyal to the crown.


MsLiz said...

"He used Calvin's operating system, but ran patristic software on it, and wrote code in the Arminian language."

Fabulous description, BW! Yesterday when we were chatting, my OH chose to use "operating system" to refer to theologies that sit just above the foundation of a faith thereby providing a base from which other permutations develop. I thought that was cool and so it's really pleasing this morning to find you've taken that same form of description even further :)

MsLiz said...

"textual criticism uses local variants to reconstruct physical communities of readers"

BW, just read this article about New Mexican Spanish, not that it mentions scripture, but it does mention old prayers and a very particular community. Fascinating history, new to me. I thought of what'd you'd said to me above at 8:11, which I didn't feel I understood in any more than a superficial way.

But although sans scripture, is this the kind of special context you were describing?

"their language evolved to incorporate not only words carried from medieval Spain but also a mixture of expressions derived from Mexican Spanish, Native forms and eventually some English after the territory became part of the United States."

"Its best chance for survival is prayer. Traditional devotions have been passed down through generations by hermanos, easily memorized because of their ballad-style rhyming. Sometimes they are transcribed into notebooks called “cuadernos.” In an adobe niche in a chapel in Holman, some of the handwritten notebooks are 120 years old."

MsLiz said...

Tim Keller: "Miroslav Volf [...] Enormous problems happen, Volf says, when we exclude our enemy from the community of humans and when we exclude ourselves from the community of sinners, when we forget that our enemy is not a subhuman monster but a human being, when we forget that we are not the perfect good but also flawed persons..."

Raw for me, thinking of the Christchurch mosque shootings and how I feel about that.

~and so I just want to mention I found and read a really interesting discussion on this very thing, and it's a bit different because it's between a Sikh, Simran Jeet Singh, and Rachel Martin--NPR who was raised Christian. Unusually frank and deeply thoughtful:

Anonymous said...

"exclude... exclude..."

Some aids to better disagreement---

A calming trust in God's providence.

A calling to make peace in the Son

A capacity for pure listening.

The humility to see that others necessarily convince themselves.

Both emic and etic understanding. That is: both others' own understandings of what they say and do and also curiosity about how their situations have made their perspectives possible.

*Non-violent communication*. That's Marshall Rosenberg s term for dialogue that (a) acknowledges the triggers and emotions on all sides and (b) uses reason, not to coerce agreement, but to explore and clarify affinity with.difference.

Eclectic centers rooted and growing in the abandoned and besieged spaces between estranged and perhaps embittered poles.

Imaginative hypotheses of conditions in which one would prefer that the other hold power.

If not a maturation beyond anger, at least an antidote to its cognitive distortions.

A heart is in Christ when it participate in his reconciliation of God and the creation, heaven and earth, paradise and world, man and woman (cf St Maximus the Confessor, Ambigua, 41)..


MsLiz said...


"Some aids to better disagreement---" ~useful thanks

I found the following paragraphs interesting, because it's true of what I remember here from 1970s rural Brethren upbringing:

"The strong revivalist tradition in America doubtless contributed to the tendency to see things in terms of simple antitheses ... the universe was divided into the realm of God and the realm of Satan, the righteous and the unrighteous..."

"Transitions never occurred gradually, but were, like the conversion experience itself, radical transformations from one condition to its opposite."

"Both Darwinism and higher criticism postulated a natural process of development, and the new theology saw God working through similar means, emphasizing the synthesis of the natural and the supernatural, rather than the antithesis. Wherever revivalism had prevailed in American religious life, there was virtually no preparation for the acceptance of the new categories. Indeed, there was hardly a way to discuss them."

Fundamentalism and American Culture by George M. Marsden. (p. 283) Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

Anonymous said...

"special context"

From the perspective of the Five Eyes, downloads or streams of tunes from Hillsongs probably correlate well with calls, texts, and emails to other listeners. These listeners leave other traces in the physical or digital world, and some may not be erased with time. For example, their donations to churches may be in permanent financial records or they may be buried near churches about which something is known.

So hypothetically, there are statistical answers to questions like-- is the network of Hillsong listeners a community?; how often does this network share members with similar networks of listeners of Gregorian chant, shape note singing, or certain U2 songs? Of course, marketing executives already ask these questions of similar data. But in five centuries, answers to such questions may inform the standard chronicle of Christianity as it was way back in the early C21.

As an aside, one can easily imagine a future in which people mean just such networks when they say "church," although graduate students somewhere will still know that there were once these cumbersome things called denominations, and that weird people used to fight about them one at a time as if there were no others in the Body.

We already use data about other networks of physical traces to understand religious communities of the more or less distant past. The material sciences of history-- archaeology, epigraphy paleography, prosopography, etc-- have a lively dialogue with published and archival sources. And often the questions that we ask about them are often motivated by what this material evidence can show. Coursera has a free course on the spirituality of women in medieval Spain that shows this dialogue at work.


Anonymous said...

"how the doctrine died"

Mark implicitly makes a very useful point-- mere doctrines die. They have lives in time that begin, peak, fade, end.

Dogmas have shown much more resilience because they are properly basic, as Bryden used to say. They make faith legible.

One form of unbelief is not knowing the difference between the two.


MsLiz said...

"Coursera has a free course..."

~Fabulous, now enrolled. Thank you!

Mark Murphy said...

"O’Donovan starts from two words in the Pastoral Epistles. The first is ‘deposit’ (παραθήκη 2Tim 2.12). This is the essential apostolic message, to be ‘guarded’ as ‘the unchanging, permanent testimony of salvation’. The second word is ‘the teaching’ (διδαχή). This is the church’s continuous work of expounding and communicating the faith to successive generations. Doctrine is therefore both unchanging and changing as the ‘deposit’ engages with each new phase of the church’s missionary experience."

Mark Murphy said...

"For O’Donovan, doctrine is a reflection on experience, not simply an allegiance to a past declaration. Its work is to make the faithful ‘more equipped to meet the challenges of their contemporaries’. So, the work of doctrinal development is a continuing learning process. It is forward looking and open as it seeks ‘the discovery of what allows humanity to flourish, individually and socially’. ‘Of the future we know only this’, he says, ‘we should be led by the Holy Spirit into new understandings and new practices’."

Jean said...

Back to Tim Keller….

I am sure he will be a loss to the community and people with whom he lived and pastored. I have only ever read ‘patches’ of his writings and looking at the linked sermon it appears he was able to make easy connections for people between their lived out world and the words of scripture.

In the sermon itself I found myself quite taken by his quote from Dostoevsky and the idea of the suffering of this world being ‘undone’ and thought of C.S. Lewis before I saw he was also mentioned. Mainly because C.S.Lewis seemed to have that same pull to what I would call God’s transforming love - thinking of Aslan’s return when winter became spring - a grasp of redemption so all encompassing it permeated his writing … a sense that came through in C.S.Lewis’s own thought and life, leaving me longing for a greater vision myself…

MsLiz said...

Enjoyed the article you linked to Mark .. thank you!

part-paragraph, from Higton...

We can be made to rethink by those in the church who think differently from us … interrupted and unsettled by voices speaking from the margins – the voices of people who have been excluded or ignored or marginalized in the current life of the church, but who have from their vantage point seen in Scripture things that we have missed [including] how entangled some of our doctrinal claims are with the maintenance of power structures in and around the church.


Mark Murphy said...

I think, from my Catholic days, I understand the distinction you are invoking, Bowman, between doctrine and dogma. As I learnt it at least, dogma as the divinely revealed core beliefs, doctrine as the Church's teaching on the basis of dogma.

Something like that?

The trouble is how often Christians disagree on what constitutes dogma and even doctrine.

To Calvin, predestinarianism was very much divinely revealed, scripturally based 'dogma', properly basic. To Gafconites, marriage is 'doctrine' and now even the sort of doctrine on which the salvation of our souls depends. To some Anglicans', such as yourself, marriage as doctrine is not a very clear Christian priority.

Some contemporary Christians act quite effectively to seek and bring about the Kingdom without a theistic conception of God.

Another issue is whether this God self-reveals in 'dogma' in the first place. In one sense: of course not. God's revelation is existential, active, encounter based. Of course, this sets the faculties going, including the intellect.

Isn't it truer to our roots, and more ecumenical (in a way), to say that what is 'basic' in our religion is a story, a narrative, of God acting in the world in such and such a way - our intellectual reflection on that story is what generates dogma and doctrine, without there there being a great distinction between the two?

MsLiz said...

"what is 'basic' in our religion is a story, a narrative, of God acting in the world"

Mark, this reminds me of the content of a talk from Rowan Williams about hope and trust, and he has a lot to say about stories where the truth comes through. I'm mindful you're busy so you could start watching at 40:59 "So, a last word.." - he finishes at 45:30.

(And in this segment I particularly love the part where Rowan speaks of the Covenant or Promise which is in Hebrew scripture quite literally carved in stone, which is now carved in the stone that is the discarded blockage to Jesus's tomb)

Anonymous said...

Hi Mark

Ecumenical councils of the whole Body defined all the dogmas that will ever be from 325 to 787. All answered the question Who is God? with a Judaic answer in Hellenistic Greek. All explain what the Father and Holy Spirit did in the Son.
All are known for what they are today by perfectly godless historians who have no hound in the foxhunt. All are accessible on Wikipedia. They are what they are.

I have never spent a day of my life mad that there are only eight notes in a Western diatonic scale, although I will admit to playing a flat sixth to swing the blues. More notes within the octave will not help me play jazz, but stacking the usual notes in more interesting chords with contrapuntal voicing makes for better improvised polyphony. To do that, I practice scales. Eight notes.

Someone listening for atonal music will not stop to listen to me. Nor will someone who is listening for pop. Nor a lover of classical music. And all that rejection is fine with me. I play for those who recognize jazz because that's the ideas in my head sound like.


Mark Murphy said...

Hi Liz

Thank you for the link and thinking of my busyness! Yes, I'm flat out right now!

Dear Bowman,

Not the whole Body, Arians at least left out at the time. And how many ordinary Christians really cared or were affected by Greek Council Theology? (Matt 11: 25).

Mark Murphy said...

Why are the years 325-787, and male patristic theologians (hounded by Roman imperials), privileged for 'defining all dogmas for all time'?

Mark Murphy said...

Tim Keller on his cancer diagnosis...

Anonymous said...

Hi Mark

First off, thank you for both your 5:31 and your 7:11. In my haste to get to + Peter's new OP, I missed and so did not respond to your most salient ideas in my 1:43.

"Prove to me from reason that Shiva created the world!"

This is much like saying to Euclid, "Prove to me that a point has no extent!" If ideas can be inferred from other ideas they are not properly basic.

When we talk about dogma in a Christian context, we are talking about the properly basic ideas from which all the others can be derived. To use your example, it would be an unreasonable inversion to reason from 2P to a divine attribute of unchangeability because 2P cannot bear the weight of the whole religion in the way that its actual dogmas can and have long done.

Yes, as you say-- and in sharp contrast to Hellenistic monotheism-- our dogmas all have narrative content. Consequently, because the Enlightenment privileged non-narrative thought, dogma was misunderstood by the wise and ridiculed by the ignorant in the modern period.

Unsurprisingly, the most basic ideas are often the first ideas. For example, as noted in several past comments, a dogmatician today thinks more about say the relation of the OT *angel of YHWH* to the Son than was true a few centuries ago.

For that reason, the *definitions* of 325-787 are called that because (a) the seed ideas began a millennium or more earlier, and (b) they define YHWH over against the alternate monotheism of Hellenism although (c) necessarily using its Greek language. The rabbis and imams postponed this step by making their religions untranslatable. but both have eventually had to come to their own terms with Hellenism.

In the universe of world religions, it happened that the monotheism of the ancient near east perfected by the Jews was geographically adjacent to the monotheism of Plato and Aristotle. Had Moses led the family of Abraham to a land in say Transoxania or China the religion might have been differently defined. We cannot know that for certain.

Jesus substituted his Body for the Land as a new sign of human unity in YHWH. As the creeds define, unity is a necessary attribute of the Body and schism is a sort of unbelief. When the fathers defined the dogmas in 325-787, they intended to act in that unity, as their accompanying canons on church order make clear.

Anonymous said...

Roman emperors initially persecuted Christians, but then reversed themselves and gradually established a sort of Christianity. Why? Jesus's Body's unity entails *out-group altruism* that wove a new social fabric in Roman cities from the bottom up so that they were effectively ungovernable without the cooperation of bishops, just as today it would be difficult to be Mayor of New York if not for the massive network of Catholic social service agencies led by the Archbishop of New York. So the unity of the Body became the new unity of the empire, not vice versa.

Although emperors did indeed try to get the fathers to endorse their theological proposals from time to time, the big story is that the fathers messily but successfully resisted and humbled that influence because ultimately their bottom up civic power was greater. But if it were ever proven that a emperor actually imposed a definition, then by that very proof it would be easy to correct. For again, the decentralized, bottom up, and universal fabric of the Body's life did not make the ecumenical councils pools of power that could be disposed one way or another.
We should not imagine that the Body in antiquity had a centralized polity like that of modern churches.

Human unity necessarily includes a peace between the sexes. In the sources from that period, we see that peace in the influential participation of women in the religion as it was and in the absence of anything like a rival feminine version of Christianity. Today, when female scholars comment on what a religion more open to femininity than the old modern version might look like, that sounds to me closer to the actual dogmatic religion of antiquity than to the contemporary tinkering. I have no reason to dispute the sanity and sincerity of the many women monastics that I have known in my life who have founded monasteries, etc because they saw a plausible spiritual path in traditional Christianity.