Monday, May 15, 2023

Strict Anglican v Latitude Anglican?

Preamble: this is not another excursion into the rights and wrongs of Anglicans taking position A rather than position B on matters of homosexuality. For the purposes of this post I am assuming there are two such positions (or more) and am not seeking to review them. Rather the focus here, and the preferred focus for any comments you wish to make is on the implications of these positions in the specific light of the recent GAFCON 2023 conference for the shape and character of global Anglicanism.

The post: John Sandemann, commenter here on ADU, Anglican media expert in the West Island, has written two interesting articles relating to the recent GAFCON 2023 conference in Kigali, Rwanda.

First, you might like to read his report on The Sexual Politics of Gafcon. This is a helpful, brave account of the inside story of the nuances and subtleties as the drafting of the Kigali Commitment took place. John, if you are reading this: thank you. 

Much understanding comes from this article, even if I nevertheless remain no less concerned about where the Archbishop of Uganda stands on the proposed legislation in his country - as well as remaining concerned that "the sexual politics of Gafcon" could not be consistent within the final Kigali statement, in respect of public comment on Anglican Communion matters which, not unreasonably, could be expected to critique both the Instruments of Communion, various provinces, including my own AND Uganda! 

Secondly, at the foot of that article is a reference to something Archbishop Kanishka Raffel, Sydney, said in a Q and A session in a post-conference visit in Africa, already noted in comments to my post here (1 May 2023). The fuller report is here

++Raffel is clear in what he says, and while - of course - not every Gafconite would agree with refusing communion to worshippers who are in a same sex marriage, it is difficult to see an official line in a Gafcon statement ever demurring from such strict policing at the communion (Communion?) rail.

What is going on? What is Gafcon really in respect of what it means to be Anglican?

The line out of the 2023 conference has been that a majority of the Communion's primates will be working on a "reset" of the Communion. The Instruments are broken, the ABC deserves no respect being hopelessly compromised by decisions within the CofE, etc. Thus a large number of primates - possibly a majority since Global South is getting closer to Gafcon - could work out a reset of the Communion. Some commenters think this won't actually happen; but it is too early to tell.

But ...

I wonder if there is a counter line. Another take. A line which says something like this:

Yes, there is a reset of the Communion taking place.

It is a reset into two forms of being Anglican.

One is very strict. The Bible says this and this and no Anglican can deny it and if they do they are not a proper faithful or orthodox Anglican. The only form this Strict Anglicanism is going to take anytime soon is very conservative in respect of morality, mostly but not entirely in respect of women being ordained as priests and bishops, but it will take evangelical, charismatic and anglo-catholic forms. The strictness, if you like, is ethical-theological and not "party-spirit." 

One is comfortable with latitude, with breadth, with including grey as well as black and white in working out and working through what we can live with as we disagree respectfully. The form of Latitude Anglicanism will be mistaken for "Liberal/Progressive" Anglicanism but Latitude Anglicanism will include many categories of self-identifying Anglicans. It will not be comfortable with, e.g. strict policing of the communion rail (per Archbishop Raffel's remarks above), and it won't be comfortable with questioning the considered decision-making of individual Anglican provinces, except in extreme circumstances (such as a province supporting a draconian bill against gay people).

An obvious challenge is when both forms of Anglicanism advertise themselves in the same suburb or small town. Should one be called Anglican and the other not? (And who decides?)

It is also notable that Anglicanism has gone this way previously!

The English Reformation of the 16th and 17th centuries included a huge drive towards a "strict Anglicanism", exemplified, for example, in the shift between the 1549 and 1552 Prayer Books and in the demands of the "strict Anglicans"/Puritans of King James' day, only one of which he gave way to, the one which resulted in the King James Bible (1611).

The drive was resisted, not only by King James but also by Queen Elizabeth (with the aid of Richard Hooker and his via media between a Catholicising Anglicanism and a Puritan Anglicanism). The result for centuries illustrated by and expressed through the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. (Indeed, the 17th century, after theological controversies and civil wars in England produced a movement of toleration and sitting light to dogma called Latitudinarianism.)

Now, it is quite true that the broad Anglicanism of the 16th and 17th centuries won the day because at some equivalent to GAFCON or Lambeth Conferences, a majority of  broad-minded prelates, clergy and laity were in ascendance. There was a majority parliament of laity to enforce the contemporary spirit of the Church of England.

That is, in the 21st century some care needs to be taken in assuming that the "true" or "genuine" or "authentic" spirit of 21st century Anglicanism rests on the course of histories through those earlier centuries if only, say, we could get the English parliament (not that there is such a thing - there is a UK parliament) to continue the enforcement.

Clearly, in the 21st century the spirit of Anglicanism, whether it be Strict or Latitude in character, is not going to be determined by a parliament which represents, say, "middle England" or "the open-mindedness of the West", let alone "the intended spirit of global peace and goodwill of the UN." Anglicanism's (or Anglicanisms') character will be determined by Anglicans meeting in a variety of synods, conferences and forums. Likely it will not be determined in one single gathering. Indeed, if our history since Henry VIII is anything to go by, it may take centuries to reach some kind of "settlement".

And, dear readers, you will be quick to point out that any "settlement" won't suppress the unsettling spirits of Anglicanism since whatever was previously settled is now, again, unsettled :).

Back to the 21st century. There is, I suggest, a settlement of sorts going on, in which a mooted "re-set" of the Anglican Communion is re-setting the state of global Anglicanism for the time-being, into two forms of Anglicanism, Strict and Latitude, each claiming to be genuine/true/authentic Anglicanism.

Likely, if Global South does align closely with Gafcon, then Strict Anglicanism will be able to truthfully claim to be in the ascendance with a majority adherence.

In that case the challenge for Latitude Anglicanism is not to get in an Anglican huff about the re-set but to focus on what we believe, how we behave and how we belong, working hard to read Scripture and apply it, worship liturgically according to our synodical agreements and develop episcopal leadership and synodical governance in ways which are transparent, just and territorially respectful of other Anglicans.

It will also be important that Latitude Anglicanism carefully and wholeheartedly embraces all conservative Anglicans who choose to be conservative-with-Latitude Anglicanism. The long run claim for Latitude Anglicanism through present and future time is that it is what it says on the tin, embracing of all Anglicanism who will live with difference and disagreement.


Anonymous said...

Hmmm ...

Strict/Latitudinarian does capture zealotry on one side and accommodation on the other. But weighty counterexamples exist: TEC can be very strict (liturgical practice), Gafconian prelates beyond latitudinarian (church order).

And "reset" implies institutionalized nihilism-- whatever prelates make up will be the church because it's just a human work anyway-- about the givens of episcopal order in the tradition of Lambeth Conferences. An International Society for the Restoration of Tudor Churchmanship is neither Anglican nor a Communion in the old senses of those words.

Drumbeating about identity breaks out precisely when the latter is no longer clear or secure. In this instance, the lost identity may be Protestantism.

Gafconians who would excommunicate to make a disputed point about public morals seem not to have an integrally Protestant understanding of communion as a pastoral act (cf George Herbert). But then the C20 eucharistic rites of churches in communion with Canterbury have perfected the C16 order of service in such richly patristic and ecumenical ways that Cranmerian language has sometimes been heard from Catholic altars.

Decades ago, C Fitzsimmons Allison, an Episcopalian and evangelical bishop of South Carolina, wrote a scholarly history recounting what he called The Rise of Moralism. In his view, Protestants are broadly for sound morality, as persons of all religions are, but mere moralism is the decadence that sets in where the promotion of moral scruples has supplanted the gospel as the ethos of the Body. While this aggressive weed could hypothetically attack any sort of church, in his own day he ironically saw it choking the life out of Evangelicalism in America.

As an antidote, he prescribed preaching a law/gospel dialectic of grace. He took pains to clarify that keeping the BCP 1662, 39A etc as a medieval cathedral might have kept the tooth or toenail of a long-dead saint was not actually Protestant unless the spirit of preaching and teaching was also *evangelische*. In TEC, one could then hear that preaching of grace in city churches down the Atlantic Coast.

Peter Carrell said...

Yes, I recognise that there are counter examples, perhaps especially when it comes to liturgical strictness or latitude.

Anonymous said...

Today, TEC has Katherine Sonderegger, ACNA Hans Boersma. There are Protestants, even Reformed Protestants, in both camps. But neither as a whole has an identity continuous with the whole magisterial Reformation such as the Church of England had at the time.

Each can seem uprooted from Protestant tradition in startling ways, and both typically know more than was ever true about the Reformation of the West. It's just a caricature and not altogether fair, but one imagines young Episcopalians sure that the Tudors wanted to stay Catholic but broke with Rome to ordain women and young Gafconians unsure what bishops are or why there was once such a thing as Lambeth Conferences.


Peter Carrell said...

I interpret your latest comment, BW, to mean that even as global Anglicanism is (arguably, per my post) diverging into two distinct groupings, each grouping is itself an evolution of (or on from) Anglicanism as "once known to Joseph" (so to speak).

Moya said...

I don’t know if the local breakaway parishes here call themselves Anglican or not, but if they do, we have two Anglican churches here already. What their bishop presides over I am not sure, but he is here too. It’s very peculiar and unsettling. I think I am a ‘conservative-in-Anglican’ church member but like +Peter and Liz, prefer a church that permits rather than prohibits for love’s sake.

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Moya
The "local breakaway parishes" belong to the Church of Confessing Anglican Aotearoa New Zealand but (when I looked some time back) some of the new churches are very clear on their websites that they are "Anglican" and some less so.

Mark Murphy said...

Are Gafconites really forwarding an Edward VI vision of Anglicanism? Some of their American intellectuals.

I would have thought the majority of 'Strict Anglicans' are more influenced by a global realignment of Christianity, that has less to do with the 39 articles and more to do with Hillsong, hypermodernity, and vigorous (adolescent, early adulthood) identity formation.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Mark
Gafcon keeps asking Ashley Null to speak and he is a Cranmer, 39A expert!
Sydney folk I read are not keen on Hillsong's theology.
The general cry against "the revisionists" is that they are expounding one part of Scripture contrary to another, which is straight from the 39A.
But, granted, Hillsong has some great songs and they will be sung by Strict Anglicans; and, I hope, by Latitude Anglicans: I like most of them :)

Moya said...

We gained two lovely faithful couples from the breakaway and lost a beautiful worship leader. When churches fracture people get hurt. We used to sing, ‘they will know we are Christians by our love’ but in division it is lost, sadly.

Anonymous said...

Still pondering your distinction as theology, Peter, I"m wondering whether the *third use of the law* (aka tertius usus legis), the authority of magistrates and bishops, or the mutability of law (cf rabbinical responsa) is the first fork in the road.

Confessional Lutherans teach that laws in the scriptures show God's character and sinners' need for grace but that they are not sufficient guides to life. St Mark vii, x.

Richard Hooker notes that things change, and that as they do there is a natural and so reasonable duty to trust leaders (eg bishops, parliaments) to make the right adaptive decisions. In his view, generalized distrust is irrational and so sin.

Rabbis believe that the law is in the scriptures, but that as the scriptures show God changing his own mind in response to events the law is not immutable. And anyway his act of entrusting the written law to a human community for application necessarily commits him to accept that community's decisions. Surprisingly to many, the highest view of the scriptures leads to flexibility in the application of them.

Any of these three view make sense of Jesus's rather rabbinical words about binding and loosing in St Matthew xvi and about retaining or not in St John xx. Which any Christians who aspire to be orthodox must do.


Mark Murphy said...

I was more thinking of Hillsong as what it symbolizes in terms of it being a productive of hypermodernity, and the arc of it's rise and fall. I'm not thinking Strict vs Latitude is really about theology as Anglican culture wars.

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks BW … wise Hooker!

Fair point, Mark!

MsLiz said...

"binding and loosing" -- BW, it just occurred to me that when Jesus didn't condemn and stone the woman accused of adultery that he was "loosing", and when he stated a stricter definition for adultery, that was "binding". Is that an acceptable way of understanding those terms?

The Civil War book you mentioned above, Scribd isn't letting me look at it so I wanted to ask if you think this'd be a useful source for me - I'd only intend to buy one kindle-book on the subject so would this be a good choice?

Mark Murphy said...

That Hooker quote is very convenient for those already in power. The Archbishop of Uganda might make swift use of it!

Nonconformists have more to offer postmodernism than Richard Hooker perhaps. For postmoderns, distrust of institutional authority is a prerequisite for conscious participation in the world. For nonconformists, it is a royal road to God.

MsLiz said...

Q : "Orthodox Christian"....meaning?

Re the young US Air Force guy who released classified documents online (I've put an asterisk instead of the name).

What I'm interested in is the use of "Orthodox Christian", twice in the WP article, what does that even mean? ~he lived in Massachusetts, worked at Cape Cod.

"...suggest that he was readying for what he imagined would be a violent struggle against a legion of perceived adversaries — including Blacks, political liberals, Jews, gay and transgender people — who would make life intolerable for the kind of person T* professed to be: an Orthodox Christian, politically conservative and ready to defend, if not the government of the United States, a set of ideals on which he imagined it was founded.

"Already united by their love of guns and their Orthodox Christian faith,..."

Anonymous said...

Liz, I nearly always use *orthodox* with an eye roll at the pretensions of those who use it as what the English call a boo word.

But *Orthodox* as in *Orthodox Christianity* roughly refers to Eastern churches normally in communion with the Patriarch of Constantinople.


MsLiz said...

BW, I guess in this case they're the eye roll variety!

BTW I started on the Christian Nationalism book you alerted me to last night, and so far I really like it (because it brings together into one narrative much info I've gathered on CN/Dominionism via my browser bookmarks). And being 2022 pub. date it's pretty up-to-date for a book, so thanks for that.

Mark Murphy said...

I think, and Peter and Bowman can correct me if I'm wrong, "Orthodox" means I'm the right, best, and true form of Christianity vs perceived inferior other (form of Christianity) to be raged at, condescendingly tolerated, or even destroyed (more dualistic identity formation). It's a very old game in Christian history that was really set off by the disaster of the creeds etc.

Anonymous said...

*binding and loosing* (cf Isaiah xxii 22; St Matthew xvi 19, xviii 18; St John xx 23)

Liz, this phrase of Jesus is rabbinical.

If you love the Lord your God with all your heart etc, then you want to act within his law. But in particular circumstances you may be uncertain about what his law requires of you. In that case, God permits you to lay the matter before a rabbi for situational guidance on which you can rely with confidence that God will hold you blameless if you follow it in good faith.

If the rabbi rules that you have an obligation under the law, then if you act on that obligation in the usual way, heaven will accept that you have acted properly. Conversely, if the rabbi rules that you do not have this obligation, then you do no wrong in heaven's sight if you forget about it. If after consulting the rabbi you do not follow the guidance given you then, having been warned if need be, you take your chances.

Kindly note that in Jesus's culture, you have an obligation to study the law for yourself. And when you are sure of your obligations, you have no duty to ask the rabbi. Indeed, it is expected that, after decades of study and occasional guidance, you probably will know the law better and apply it more wisely than a rabbi who is younger. Ordination does not make a rabbi smarter; it blesses his heart for God and the community.

(Speaking of Orthodox, I have seen angry Russian grandmothers beat a new priest with their prayerbooks for unintentionally forgetting to recite a prayer. The Byzantine rite is so extraordinarily beautiful that some follow it as ardent fans follow sports or singers. But it is also so extraordinarily complex that it takes a lifetime to pray it all with full understanding. Hence the old babas-- in Slavic languages, *baba* means *grandmother* or *sorceress*-- who have been in church whenever the doors were open generally know the services far better than all but monastics and the oldest priests.)

Now why would Jesus use these words? His doing so clashes with nearly all of the notions about him popular at ADU.

And with respect to what law does he commission binding and loosing? In most preaching I hear, the law or some human representative of it is the villain.

Anyway, who is he commissioning? In the gospels, St Peter and the disciples. But who today?

I have some thoughts about the answers, but tonight it is better to savor the questions.


Anonymous said...

Mark, English connotations of Orthodox are not its denotation in the original Greek.

If we have no common ground, neither have we a conversation.

Faith is a gift from God.


Anonymous said...

Ah, but which Orthodox? The Ukrainian Orthodox or the Moscow Patriarchate? Have't they excommunicated each other?
Or should it be Moscow or the Russian Synod in Exile? Moscow or the Old Believers? We need orthodox Orthodox!

Full confession: one of my teachers was Father Jack Witbrock, who was formerly the Vicar of Lyttelton before he was ordained into the Antioch Orthodox Church and poverty. Later, Jack started a kind of Orthodox oratory in Rangiora. I don't know if Jack (a German graduate) knew much Old Church Slavonic - the Antiochians worship in English. I liked Jack a great deal and was sad to learn that his widow (still living somewhwere around Christchurch) died not long ago. The funeral was Romanian Orthodox.

I haven't read Boyarin yet but I would certainly caution against reading too much 3rd and 4th centuries Mishnaic Rabbinism back into the AD 20s and early 30s when Jesus ministered. If we are to believe Matthew (I do, Allison doesn't), Jesus had a generally positive regard for the Pharisees' teaching but not for their character, and not for their belief in the Oral Torah ('tradition of the elders', Mark 7.5). Matt 5-7 also make it plain that Jesus claimed dominical authority in interpreting the Law, putting himself above Moses. No Pharisee would have dared that. Rabbis and scribes were not priests, of course, but they came to adopt that position sociologically speaking in later centuries.

Pax et bonum
William Greenhalgh

MsLiz said...


a) Orthodox Christian(s) : just found online that American extremists have been joining some Orthodox churches, especially Russian Orthodox. I had no idea! New Orthodox parishes popping up in new places like Upper Midwest and Southern states. I'm pretty shocked my example above apparently really does mean Orthodox Christians.

b) "binding and loosing" : Matthew 16 and 18 both mention this (I didn't know) with Jesus speaking to Peter in one, and in the other more generally regarding discipline of a believer who's caused offence and won't heed repeated warnings.. "let such a one be to you as a gentile and a tax collector". So my crazy wondering leads me to ask if there's any connection with 1 Cor 5:5 and "...hand this man over to Satan..." (due to his immorality being worse than that found among the gentiles).. v12 "Are you not judges of those who are inside?"

So re your "Who today?" : Senior church leadership who must judge serious sin/wrong committed by non-repentant member(s) of their church (?)

I expect I'm way off but thought I'd hazard a guess.. looking forward to reading your thoughts, BW!

Mark Murphy said...

Hey Bowman. We don't need creeds, that privilege one group and persecute another, to have common ground or conversation

Mark Murphy said...

The Nicene Creed. The Thirty Nine Articles The Act of Uniformity. The Jerusalem Declaration...heavy, heavy casualties and a loss of the sheer variety of Christianity each time.

Anonymous said...

"Hillsong, hypermodernity, vigorous identity formation"

Here up yonder, this does not sound like ACNA at all. But as I've said before, GAFCON may be a global permission structure ("my enemy's enemy is my friend") that serves divergent purposes in diverse locales without having any organic unity that one could talk about. In that case, it would not be surprising to find say both a fundamentalist insistence on the BCP 1662 and the liturgical irregularity that Bosco mentions.


Anonymous said...

"that Hooker quote"

Is something I typed waiting in line for a sandwich. His book The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity presented an unimaginably more interesting case than I could attempt here.

And he is arguing for a rather modest and organic authority just because it was not in his day institutionalized to modern rigor mortis. He has, for example, a view of the royal supremacy that is surprisingly low.

It is possible that historians of the C25 will look back on the C16-20 as an unusual time when geopolitics, industrialization, imperialism etc led to more centralization at all scales of life than was normal before or after. In a retrospect like that one, your beloved free churches and my beloved Orthodox were not silly rebels but wise conservatives continuing themes of a more patristic and medieval and so organically Christian sensibility until churches could again take it up.


Anonymous said...

Three timely thoughts.

All religion is the adaptive transformation of ressourcement. Which is heartbreaking-- in blessed ways!-- to conservatives, anti-conservatives, and nihilists.

All persuasion udentifies common ideas and shows that they have implications surprising to some who believe them. Attack is just insult; critique does not persuade

All religion in the West does God and groups. Groups without God is secularism. God without groups is Asian.


Mark Murphy said...

"God without groups is Asian."

To take refuge in the sangha (community) is one of the sacred vows of Buddhism (as well as taking refuge in the Buddha and the Dharma).

Shinto enacts groups incessantly. I am just about to participate in one - the May Grand Sumo Basho (daily highlights on youtube).

The disciple-guru relationship is the path of religious transmission in most Indian religious forms.

Cutting carrots in the kitchen with others (seva, service) and singing together in worship are some of my fondest memories of ashram life.

It is westerners, generally, who have taken the groups out of Asian religious forms.

MsLiz said...

"you do very much want to make the acquaintance of Mark A Noll"

Spot on, BW! I've watched about half of the YouTube and it's so excellent I immediately bought the kindle version of the book. I'm fascinated by the idea of pro-slavery people being very scripture-minded and considering themselves the orthodox side. The first time I saw that in an article online I was really stunned! I'm looking forward to learning more from Mark Noll :) Thank you, BW

Peter Carrell said...

The reality of leadership in a church (especially today?) is that there is no one compendium of rules (and/or specific approach to the Bible as a book of rules) which deals with all situations and so, regularly, vicars and bishops are with Hooker, quoting BW above, "arguing for a rather modest and organic authority just because it was not in his day institutionalized to modern rigor mortis."

Moya said...

As far as I know Liz, the same is true of those who supported apartheid in South Africa. Slavery was “God-ordained’ from Noah and his sons. Another of the many things faithful believers have got wrong. Am I the same?

Anonymous said...

"God without groups is Asian," insofar as (a) observance is expected to deliver *individuals* as such to some better state, and (b) groups are instruments to that end but not ultimate ends in themselves.

That focus has intrigued and attracted Westerners who feel stifled by religion that is too often about group without soul. An informal sangha, say, they can tolerate and maybe enjoy-- the rituals are good-- but any further institutional rigamarole that does not advance their personal spiritual progress seems excessive.

When it works, Calvinism has the same energy. One is tempted to say that those earnest souls cross-legged in the meditation centers of cities throughout the West are the new puritans of the global village. After a fashion one could even describe them in words of the 39A as "congregations of..."

But Cain killed Abel. Religion in the West, from the patriarchs to Laudato Si, has ever since wrestled with angels to find a love of both God and an ever-expanding neighborhood of creatures. For all their wise insight, there is no passage in the Bhagavad Gita, the Tao Te Ching, or the whole Pali Canon like Romans 8.

Which is not a silly egoist argument that one sacred book can punch another in the nose. Rather: there is more than one item on humanity's spiritual agenda.

Samadhi, yes. Jesus spent forty nights in the wilderness. But also-- non-violent resistance to evil, visible unity in agape, and the royal priesthood that intercedes for all creatures to their Creator until the end of time.


Anonymous said...

Hi Liz

The reports at the link supplied are probably factual as far as they go. They show that the rhetoric of apocalyptic melancholy that we've heard since the 1970s is still out there, and that northeastern reporters can still be upset by faithways tolerated in other regions. I slept well last night.


MsLiz said...

Good for you BW! would you please clarify with respect to such apocalyptic rhetoric..

whether in your view this is the same old grandstanding that's been going on for decades, and you don't see it as any more widespread than previous decades,
and you're not concerned about escalating violence in their speech and actions?

Anonymous said...

In all kindness, Mark, your 9:43 and 11:04 are unpersuasive because they do not (a) identify shared ideas and (b) show that these ideas imply some further surprise. Personally, I mostly ignore without prejudice declarations that fail to persuade.

If you just wanted to hate some random documents, then we are presumably both content. You hate; I skip.

However if you actually wanted to argue that we should agree on something about that strange list, I cannot tell from your comments (b) what that something might be nor (a) on what available grounds one might be convinced of it. I did try.


Anonymous said...

Bowman, Mark can correct me if I am wrong, but I think he is a pragmatic Jungian and doesn't think any creed is actually true because the real truth (TM) is found in Jung. Jordan Peterson is, I think, a Neo-Jungian but probably considered a dangerous heretic by Gnesio-Jungians.
The idea that Real Christianity (TM) doesn't have any boundaries is really a neo-gnostic one promoted by Elaine Pagels, Carter Heyward, Jack Spong and other luminaries of the Episcopal Church.

Pax et bonum
William Greenhalgh

Mark Murphy said...

This feels tedious, Bowman. To persecuted so-called Arians (Nicene Creed), Quakers and Baptists (Act of Uniformity), and rainbow Christians (Jerusalem Declaration) these documents weren't and aren't so 'random' and the justification, if not the cause, of great hate.

Peter seemed to get my point, though, that our Christian dogmatic history is far from cheerful, that when we become very strict about who we let into the Good Group, a lot of violence ensues. This sort of sober recognition, perhaps, informs the spirit of 'Latitude Anglicans'. Clearly I'd take the point on creeds further than they might.

Mark Murphy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

A blessed Ascension Day to all, especially those who think it really happened.

Hail the day that sees Him rise, Alleluia!
To His throne above the skies, Alleluia!
Christ, awhile to mortals given, Alleluia!
Reascends His native heaven, Alleluia!

There the glorious triumph waits, Alleluia!
Lift your heads, eternal gates, Alleluia!
Christ hath conquered death and sin, Alleluia!
Take the King of glory in, Alleluia!

Mark, you might like to read up on the history of the Germanic Arians in Italy, Spain and North Africa, and the Arian attempts on the life of St Athanasius. The experience of Bowman's neck of the woods, the non-religious northeast United States, is that 19th century unitarianism (so rational and scientific) is simply a staging post of the journey from Protestantism to secular moralism - oh, with a bit of New Thought and Christian Science thrown in for good measure.

Pax et bonum,
William Greenhalgh

Anonymous said...

Hi Liz

Mark's *vigorous identity formation* is the best lens for understanding why some men bond around guns in several inland regions of the United States and a few places south of its border, but not in American coastal cities or Western Europe. Or why some women in say the Upper East side of NYC sit in circles at workshops to inspect their vaginas with specula and mirrors. Times change, people change, odd groups help, outsiders are shocked, reporters describe, researchers understand.

Why guns? From colonial times, crime in the Americas has been more violent than in Western Europe. Sicilian mafiosi find the amoral violence of Latin American cartels shocking.

Consequently and for a bit more than five centuries, more people in this hemisphere have owned guns for self-defense. During the covid lockdowns up here, many women in New York spent more time alone and so some bought their first pistols to feel more safe. It would be interesting to see a well-designed quantitative comparison of female gun acquisition during those years in say New York, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, Bogota, and Buenos Aires.

The innovation today is the magical thinking that associates a tool of self-defense against burglars and rapists with a fantasy of self-defense against more psychological threats. The gunman with whom I nearly crossed paths several weeks ago apparently shot eight people because he was angry that local businesses had chased him out for disorderly conduct. The same magical thinking motivates the desire to own combat weapons useless for hunting and excessive for lawful self-defense but grandiose in their capabilities.

Apart from such mass shootings, the clearest consequence of this innovation is not organized assault on say military bases or state capitols but the rising rate of rural suicide among men. The gunman just mentioned shot himself as 80% of mass murderers do; we might well think of these as suicides-with-murders rather than as crime sprees that inexplicably end in suicide. However, the occasions for most rural suicides are the collapse of a masculine sense of honor-- opioid addiction, wartime injuries, loss of family farms, etc.

Anonymous said...

A note on sources of information.

When Trump was elected in 2016, heartland journalists were not surprised, but coastal journalists were shocked. Since then, we have seen a steady stream of books and reports in which the latter sally forth into the interior to observe the natives thereof and explain their confusion to secular cosmopolitan consumers of news. A theme of these accounts is that inland Americans are still as religious as they are secular, religious ideas help to motivate not-so-secular behavior, and some of this behavior is dangerous. In 2017, the breaking news was still a small set of basic facts within the competence of ordinary journalists.

In 1979, we saw in the same media a similar cycle of neglect, crisis, investigation, and alarm after the Iranian Revolution. But that time, the same basic facts led serious journalists and their readers to move on from naive observations to methodical expertise-- Iranian history, Shia Islam, fundamentalist movements, West Asian geopolitics, etc. Broadly, we moved from surprise to facts to method to understanding to strategic empathy.

Now 2023, we are treating an analogous surprise with far less intelligence, pun intended. I still see new books and reports yet again telling us what we learned in 2017. Most of their authors are equally expert in cultural studies and oh E8. They have not learned enough history to know, culturally speaking, where their subjects live, and they do not have a reasonable method for understanding *other people's culture*, never mind *other people's religion*. The resulting products do have what journalists count as facts but not what ethnographers count as *emic* or *etic* understanding of what everyone outside the US recognizes to be a real difference.

There is a sort of Russia-Ukraine problem here: just as Muscovy insisted that it understood Ukraine because it was after all part of Catherine's Russian Empire, so journalists from say New York insist that they can effortlessly understand maybe the Upper Peninsula (Michigan), the Redoubt (Idaho), the Arizona Strip (Utah), or the Rio Grande Valley (New Mexico, Texas) because those are after all in the United States. When the motivation to understand people is merely political-- why do they vote for Trump?-- it is too shallow to excavate the deeper roots of local self-determination. Which is why not a few of the locals do not believe journalists, vote for Trump, buy grandiose guns, and occasionally, shoot themselves.

I can't give the United States or you a whole new media hub. Henry Luce (Cleveland) and Ted Turner (Atlanta) tried and failed; Rupert Murdoch should have tried and deserves to fail. But I can recommend some work by a classmate that gets at a bit more ethnographic truth. As a Christian, I find it more useful.

Mark can mention the influences-- that would be interesting-- on his own thinking about *vigorous identity formation*. Through the years, although well acquainted with Erik Erikson's work at Austen-Riggs and Harvard I have most returned to the research of an old teacher, Robert Kegan.


Mark Murphy said...

Happy Ascension Day, William!

Anonymous said...

We have a creed because we have baptism; we have baptism because Jesus started it; Jesus started it because human solidarity in him is a sign.

The rest is political history. The misrule of states in distant ages is not important to believers today. Their solidarity by force is not our solidarity in the Son.

Here up yonder, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or the free exercise thereof." So flailing away at Constantine here would be an odd pass time, but one could do that and still be cheerfully dogmatic.


Mark Murphy said...

Dear William,

I am not a Jungian, just an old man who dreams dreams.

My discomfort with Greek and English Christian creeds is not primarily about the philosophical or theological truth or otherwise of their contents. I am concerned that they arise for primarily political (authoritarian) purposes, for reasons of power and control, and are used that way. That they are an expression of the human 'will to power', and therefore, in a sense, sinful. On this, and other matters, you will see I am more cranky and less tolerant than Jung.

It has also been my personal experience, and I hear this is the case for many others too, that endlessly reciting creeds doesn't support our contact with the living God. But I do recognize that for many others, as Peter notes, they are a rich part of collective worship.

Anonymous said...

Mark, whatever you owe to Jung (for my part, I think his ideas are largely nonsense and fallacious, as are Freud's, and a profound distortion of Christianity), you should understand that creeds go back to the New Testament where credal statements in nuce can be found in many passages. 'For I delivered to you what I received ...', said St Paul. Your claim that "they arise for primarily political (authoritarian) pirposes' is easy to make (Foucault made a career out of playing the suspicion card), but mistaken: it doesn't stack up against the historical reality of the Apostles' Creed (the catechesis of new believers), or of Arianism which was tearing the Church apart (it dominated Gothic Christianity for centuries) or the genuine theological issues that the Chalcedonian Definition sought to settle. They are not an expression of "the will to power", they are part of the rational and divine calling to understand the divinely given truth and to teach it - as our Lord instructed the apostles (Matthew 28.20). All of us devise creeds, and some are better than others.

Pax et bonum
William Greenhalgh

Anonymous said...

I will add, however, that the use of creeds for religiously "justified" violence, added to the extension of pilitical power, has certainly happened in European history, most notably in the Albigensian crusade in southern France in the early 13th century (and still a mystery to us in many ways) as the French kings extended control there; and the introduction of the Spanish Inquisition (ah, I wasn't expecting that) in the 16th century to suppress Judaism and Islam after more than 700 years of the Reconquista, and a unified Spanish kingdom was a necessity for Ferdinand and Isabella. The Teutonic Knights also conquered pagan Lithuania.
But I cannot think of the death penalty for heresy existing before the High Middle Ages. I wonder if this development was a reflex of the violence of the Crusades. Up till then, the conversion of Europe happened peacefully enough (but no doubt with royal pressure) and Jews had a protected status (as "servi camerae").

Pax et bonum,
William Greenhalgh

Mark Murphy said...

William, I don't find your rationalism convincing, nor your historical views. I'm not a Freudian or Jungian, but everyday I see the wisdom and benefit of many of their ideas in healing the mind and heart.

Mark Murphy said...

I've also never felt compelled by the Gospel Jesus to spend a lot of time and energy on making and enforcing creedal statements. The Way (of the Kingdom of God) seems more of a Way, less of a formula.

Mark Murphy said...

Like the supposed threat and virus of Pelagians, what we have of Arius and the Arians was largely written by those who condemned him/them. The little we seem to know: Arius sounded very well liked and gentle, a composer of hymns for the people as you know. His view that the Father was older than the Son because he was a Father was taught to him and what many others had simply been taught too. It was a convenient moment for Constantine, however, who had just united the Roman Empire, to try to unite the Christian world too (a disunited faith would be harder to rule and harder to use). After his death, a statue of Arius was erected by Orthodox Nicene Christians and people were encouraged to come and urinate and defecate on him. As one historian has said, that's pretty much how he's been treated by subsequent history too.

Mark Murphy said...
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MsLiz said...

Hi BW,

Thanks for your generous response to my questions. I've got so much reading material I need time to read and think; I suspect for now I'm more likely to simply keep an eye on ADU posts and comments rather than participating in comments!

Some random thoughts. I'm used to guns being around as needed on farms or used in hunting, that doesn't bother me in the slightest. Guns as a fetish, held in some kind of reverence along with God, concerns me a lot. Politicians (and associated influencers) embracing spiritual warfare language while also demonising their real-life opponents, concerns me a lot. Political rallies held in the form of church services with 'prophets' hearing directly from God, a gospel of Christian Nationalism and a Trump saviour, and even baptisms, concern me a lot. If it's just something wacky and marginal I'd ignore it but in the context of a christian Republican Party that's increasingly at the mercy of far-right forces it does worry me. Not the least because if they get in power their influence is global. As my husband has just said, "Unfortunately, what happens in America doesn't stay in America".

Mark Murphy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark Murphy said...

I do like the image of a hedge around a mystery. Yes, Christian communities need ways of creating, maintaining, and transmitting their distinctive message and spirit.

Are formulaic, propositional, politically dubious creedal statements the best way?

Other ways of planting hedges and creating gateways into mystery include liturgy, hymns, methods of prayer, spiritual discipline, scripture reading etc.

What are the commonalities and differences in this regard between Strict and Latitude Anglicans?

Anonymous said...

Correct me if I am wrong, but I imagine, Mark, that you are basically a pragmatist and don't care if an idea is true or false but whether believing it produces some desirable short term result.
At least that's how I understand modern psychotherapy, a forest of mutually incompatible ideas and beliefs in constant flux - rather like the human phenomenon of religion, including the dominant left wing religion today, Expressive Individualism. Very different from the empirical and theoretical sciences like chemistry and physics which are measurable and predictable, rationally growing bodies of knowledge. Psychotherapy doesn't really develop, it just morphs: witness how much feminists today hate Freud, who wss once the atheists' god.
I wonder what posterity will say about that great New Zealander Dr John Money? Have his ideas finally arrived- or do they only believe in his name? (Please forgive the pun.) Too late for David Reimer, of course.
But ideas do have consequences. Many years ago I had dinner with Paul Oestreicher and it was clear to me he greatly admired Karl Marx. Even then I knew that Marx's ideas were the worst thing to happen to the world in the 20th century, the cause of 100 million deaths, slavery for eastern Europe and China, the horrors of North Korea and countless other evils - but still today plenty of people refuse to open their eyes.
Rationality is God's gift to us. The opposite of rationality is not creatvity, it is irrationality.

Pax et bonum
William Greenhalgh

Mark Murphy said...

Oh William, this obsession with naming the thing.

The brain is a giant tear duct.

Anonymous said...

"The brain is a giant tear duct."
It certainly is for those who engage in 'emotive thinking'. All along my one theme has been that God's rational creatures should use His gift of reason rightly and rise above the beasts and enslavement to emotional ways of thinking.
- Use the laws of logic correctly (thank you, Aristotle).
- Observe nature correctly and understand it (science and the natural teleology of things).
- Understand the Bible as God's Word according to logic, reason and proper sensitivity to texts.
- Worship and obey the Incarnate Lord as the eternal Logos (thank you, Athanasius).
As for 'this obsession with naming the thing', I have to agree with Confucius:
"'If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success." - Analects 13.3

Pax et bonum
William Greenhalgh

Anonymous said...

Hi Liz

"I need time to read and think."

So do we all. May your wisdom be contagious!

"...concern me a lot..."

Of course; it's all heresy. The Body needs to be rid of it, and to heed insight into the underlying errors.

"far right forces"

As a Christian with some direct experience of both policy and politics, I see the left/right frame distorting others' understanding of actual public affairs. Most entertainment or agitprop is never seriously tested against reality or voters.

Those who never ever see anything the other side does as reasonable tend to be either badly informed or too partisan to be intelligent. Conversely, the wise actors on all sides take the opposing arguments and successes seriously.

And no matter who is in power, events have a way of overtaking cherished plans. Administrations campaign against their predecessors but then quietly ratify their decisions once they get briefed.

So to be effective in the real world myself, I have kept polarized bullshit out of my head. That seems to have worked well.

"what happens in..."

Purely cultural happenings get around wherever the culture already is by a kind of sympathetic resonance. So Saudis and Moroccans both pay attention to what happens in Egypt.

But political dynamics do not spread so easily. They compete with local concerns for attention. They cannot be locally adopted without being locally adapted.

Also-- God reigns. What do you have to worry about? Relax.


Mark Murphy said...

We appear to be at an impasse, again, William, in danger of polarizing and cartooning the other. You, Reason, Me, Emotion, fighting for the hand of Spirit.

“And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.” (Matthew Arnold, Dover Beach)

Intellectually, we could reduce this to an argument about theological sources/epistemology. Is human knowledge, including theology, the growing triumph of (God-given, universal, ahistorical, objective) reason over the beastly enslavement and/or pragmatic relativism of emotive, subjective experience? Or is the personal encounter with and knowledge of God, discerned holistically using all of our faculties, the decisive thing (in a religion where God self-reveals as sheer presence, as I AM)?

Psychologically, we could reduce our difference to a matter of temperament. There would be a lot in that, I imagine.

And perhaps our process here also says something about polarization, dualistic consciousness, and combative theological impasses/culture wars elsewhere in the Christian world?

MsLiz said...

BW, "God reigns". The holocaust still happened.

In Florida. "The state’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks of gestation has an exception for fatal fetal abnormalities. But as long as their baby’s heart kept beating, the Dorberts say, doctors would not honor their request to terminate the pregnancy."

She had to carry her baby knowing it would die, induced at 37 weeks, child lived for 99 minutes.

Such a decision should be for parents in consultation with their doctors, not for politicians.

Policies affect people. People are persons.

Baby's grandfather: “To me it’s just pure torture,” Rogell said. “The law has created torture.”

~from the Washington Post, 19 May

Peter Carrell said...

Two brief comments if I may be so bold:

William/Mark: I am doing a bit of thinking about Galatians 2:19b-20: It is no longer I who lives but Christ lives in me, etc. Is this emotional (per this thread) - experiential of what it means to be “in Christ” and “Christ in us”, or, rational (per one commentary I looked up, which said this had nothing to do with mysticism but all to do with the relationship between “law” and “person”? Could it be both?????

Liz: Yesterday I saw a witty cartoon re the theology of Stanley Hauerwas, which invoked the game of hangman on a blackboard with a lecturer saying something like, This is Hauerwas’ theology in summary, “Jesus is Lord and all the rest is b_ _ _ _ _ _ _.” - your opening sentence reminded me of this, not because the Holocaust is nothing (indeed, if the witty summary is correct, then Hauerwas is deeply wrong because the Holocaust, abortion, and the like is not nothing at all), but because the challenge of any “kingdom” theology, Jesus is Lord, God reigns, etc, is the challenge, “problem” of suffering (as the rest of your comment draws out). Yet, is it not also the case that if we let go of “Jesus is Lord” or “God reigns” then we have human existence as dreadful, meaningless, and very, very sad. So, what does Jesus Lordship, God’s reign mean in a world of Holocausts? The only answer that makes sense to me is that one day - the Day of the Lord - we will make some sense of it; and we have an obligation in this life to do what we can to prevent Holocausts and when they are not prevented to be agents for God in what healing work can be done in this life.

Mark Murphy said...

I'm going for both, Peter, for how can we cut ourselves into pieces and yet be gathered in the unity of Christ. But reading the passage, my first response is: this is an experiential statement, a transformative mystical experience, that changes how it's author views the world, that changes one's hermeneutics (of scripture, the law, what crucifixion and resurrection means etc).

MsLiz said...

Thanks +Peter, I think I understand what you've said and I agree. If I may respond..

"do what we can to prevent Holocausts". 100%. I think we should try to understand the truth of what's happening around us and how that affects people's lives.

"if we let go of "Jesus is Lord" or "God reigns""

Yes I agree. Jake Owensby (TEC Bishop) addresses this so well in his book 'Looking for God in Messy Places'. Incidentally, his mother nearly died in a German concentration camp. His book is about hope, and love, and experiencing God even in our messy places. Hard settling on a small quote but I'll share this:

"the greatest challenge to living the way of love is time [..] In some seasons, we experience a resurgence of hate, fear, envy, and violence — as if love has finally lost the day. We can grow discouraged and cynical. If we had only our own inner resources from which to draw, we might tumble into bitter resignation. But thankfully we are not alone. God is in this messy life with us. And God’s loving presence is the ultimate source of hope — a hope that is eternal."

Owensby, Jake. Looking for God in Messy Places (p. 23). Abingdon Press. Kindle Ed.

Mark in his comment above.. "God self-reveals as sheer presence, as I AM" ..great to be reminded of that! God is love. I'm trying to learn what that means for my own relationship to God and neighbour.

Meanwhile from Kansas which has a Republican supermajority, reported in a Kansas publication, 15 May:

Re Adam Peters, the GOP chairman in Ellis County at a 2-hour meeting...
There's actual quotes in the article, they're unbelievable.

"The conversation, secretly recorded and shared with Kansas Reflector, celebrated religious beliefs that correspond directly with policies embraced by the Legislature during this year’s session. From the meeting’s opening prayer to the ending prayer, a divine calling was made clear: Republicans must purge the state of anyone who disagrees with their extremist positions on the LGBTQ community, reproductive health care, education and race."

Anonymous said...

Mark, I will try to reply later when opportunity permits, but my brief reply here is that the passions (the old word for 'emotions') and imagination must be rightly related to the intellect.
It is not a question of reason v. emotion but reasonable emotion as opposed to unreasonable. (Also, it's about understanding the different sequence of association and habituation in the emotional realm, as opposed to the ideational process of logic.) There are things I *wanted to believe about others but the facts were stubbornly uncooperative. As someone has said, the facts don't care about my feelings. But anyone who's dealt with CBT knows what I mean.
All of this shows that those ogres of social media and public punditry, Enotional Reasoning and Narrative Reasoning and their love-child, Expressive Individualism, are the enemies of truth. And truthful theology. More later, perhaps.

Pax et bonum
William Greenhalgh

Mark Murphy said...

William, I'm happy to hear more.

My own simple model of spirituality/religion goes something like this:

1. *Encounter* (or experience) of God first.
2. *Discernment* (hopefully wise) of that experience second.

'First'/'second' here indicates priority rather than strict temporal sequence (and these processes are rarely linear).

Discernment as involving all aspects of reflective being, including reason, recourse to community ("tradition"), as well as textual study and contemplation ("scripture").

If we don't have a solid discernment process, then the results can be pretty chaotic and wild (e.g. ego inflation, narcissistic grandiosity, psychosis, Brian Tamaki etc). If we don't put encounter at the centre, then our religion lacks spiritual vitality (which is my criticism of liberal Christianity BTW).

Of course, we need to (minimally) discern what sort of experiences are spiritually safe and wise to open up to, and what we need to develop in order to safely let go/open. Of course, no one encounters Spirit/God/Christ in a tabula rasa state.

But when we come before the living God, or rather the Spirit comes suddenly or gradually before us, or wells up within and all around us, isn't our job at this point to surrender all our faculties (rational, emotional, physical etc), *as much as is wise and humanly possible*, and open our hearts to the incoming/upwelling presence and truth?

Emotion, reason, scripture, tradition - in a sense, and at a pivotal moment, we have to be prepared to set them all aside (for a time). Some have suggested that this is the meaning of Jesus' first Beautitude - the 'price' we pay to enter into the Kingdom.

Mark Murphy said...

To be sure....and at risk of going on...encounter with God sets off our faculties (feelings, images, sensations, ideas, words memories - of scripture etc).

It is an art - and perhaps the entire point of prayer, contemplation - to learn how to listen (to God) without taking over the conversation, so to speak. How often has my prayer/meditation ended in me just speaking to myself!

This is the point where a Spiritual Director can be extremely helpful. Quakers also believe that the Spirit can teach us directly (about how to surf this encounter process) - a sort of Christology of Christ as "Present Teacher".

So this is where I'm up to, William, where I presently find light and direction. I'm not asking you to agree with me, although I can be quite righteous and evangelical in the way I talk. I suppose I am 'pragmatic' to some degree in the sense that I don't see how the vastness and mystery of God could be approached by just one way, or even just one religion TBH. The intelligence that made the universe seems to be in love with variety, difference, dynamism, and diversity, as much as unity, harmony, continuity (of being, love, truth), and order.

MsLiz said...

+Peter, further to "paeans of praise" discussed on a previous thread I was surprised to find "paeans" in text I was reading a few minutes ago.. not a word that turns up much in my reading!

". . . Paeans to harmony alone won’t help us harness the redemptive power of love."

Anonymous said...

The Lisbon Earthquake happened.

The Holocaust and the Gulag, the Rwandan genocide, ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia, and the slaughter of Ukraine were planned and executed by zealots who thought that imprisoning or killing their others was the morally right thing to do and cowed most others to join in.

Jesus died for all. He did not have others. Neither can his disciples have others. So (when they are obedient) they do not build moralities, politics, identities, societies on othering.

Othering for Jesus is betrayal of Jesus.


Anonymous said...


Knowledge of the Bible can make one much less unrealistic about human prospects, but of course it is not a manual of political tactics. Nevertheless, acting in Christ for the unity of those that zealots would polarize has been the perennial resistance to modern political horrors from slavery to fascism and genocide.

So we do groups because in the Messiah there is just one group. That is the only Christianity and it is always being lost and found.

Is this interpersonal or horizontal faith different from or even in competition with a more solitary quest for God? Can peacemakers be contemplatives?

Demonstrably, they must be . Apart from Christ, souls are so easily seduced into believing and even propagating divisions in humanity-- especially when they think that they are being exceptionally righteous-- that apart from spiritual disciplines in him they cannot even see that unity.

James Lawson and so Martin Luther King Jr taught non-violent resistance not just as a tactic but as a spirituality. It was not after all easy amid the brutal violence on the bridge at Selma to match emotions to the unseen reality of beloved community.

And the hermits I met on the holy mountain were praying for the world. Not to do so would have been a grotesque misunderstanding of the whole point of the fasts, vigils, Jesus prayers, etc of the Philokalia. A hermit seldom sees his friends but he probably has more of them throughout the earth than any of us do.

What the Creator has put together let us not cast asunder.


Anonymous said...

It happens, BW and Liz, that just after publishing your comments, I came across this sermon by Tim Keller, , which underlines your comment, BW, about not othering!

MsLiz said...

Hi BW (and +Peter, just as I was about to reply I saw your Keller link)

"What the Creator has put together let us not cast asunder."

Yes (but with reservations). If those who want to engage in such othering, are then held to account say through protests, those people often appeal to "unity" to not only ignore the protesters but to get angry with them and denounce them for being disruptive.

I've seen this happen repeatedly and it really upsets me.

So in the book you suggested for me BW, which I'm finding to be a good read thank you, the portion of text that has my "Paeans" word (above, 10:38), is in full:

Genuinely talking “across the divide” requires honesty, and a commitment to truth—the whole truth, including both the ideals of America at its best and the shameful realities of the past and present. I agree with Kohler’s conclusion: “For love politics to realize its healing potential, it must recognize sins of the past and present and work to build something greater. That’s why the anger that fuels many of today’s social movements, from Black Lives Matter to #MeToo, is itself such an important force for a broader, more encompassing version of love. That passion must not be suppressed to achieve the abstract goal of ‘depolarization.’ . . . Paeans to harmony alone won’t help us harness the redemptive power of love.”

The Psychology of Christian Nationalism by Pamela Cooper-White

So re the Keller article, what I'm reminded of, is that in the gospels Jesus really "felt" with those who are suffering, and he both wept and got angry.

Mark Murphy said...

Bowman and Liz's conversation is reminding me my simple little model is missing it's third step: action.

Encounter: Discernment: Action

in mixed up, non-linear living.

Anonymous said...

Mark, of course I believe - in principle and in fact in direct religious experience ("encounter") but there are serious problems with such claims, so I would nrver prioritise them in theological construction fot these reasons:
1. Religious experience claims are by nature subjective and easily open to investigation.
2. Religious experience claims from different religions tend to cancel each other out - weeks ago I asked Bowman Walton about Episcopal Bishop Jobn Chane's claim that God sent Gabriel to speak to "Prophet Muhammad", whether this really happened or whether Muhammad was a TEC prophet, but Bowman so far has declined to answer, so I imagine he is unsure. Logic binds all of us: to deny it is not libersting but incoherence.
3. Non-religious people (and most people in psychology and psychotherapy are non-religious as far as I can tell) dismiss religious experience clains as the products of our own psyches and subconscious. I am sure you dismiss a grest deal of what Brian Tamaki claims are the revelations of the Holy Spirit. Well, sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Pax et bonum
William Greenhalgh

Anonymous said...

Part 2

4. The Apostles had immediate experience of the incarnate and resurrected Son of God. They heard his words, witnessed his acts, were commissioned by the Lord and received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. But I am not an apostle and any religious experiences I may have are subordinate to their authoritative revelation. This is where Quakerism went seriously wrong. Kierkegaard of course wrote a famous essay on "The difference between an apostle and a genius".
5. On the relation (or contrast) between reason and imagination or emotion, it is essential to note that reason is the exposition of ideas that are logically and semantically connected in the interest of speaking truthfully. Emotional reasoning deals with ideas which are often far from logically compelling but which appeal to us given our own emotional trmpers and background beliefs. This is a bad way of arriving at the truth.
6. Similarly, narrative reasoning reinforces a false way of looking at the world and oneself - this is what I meant above about Expressive Individualism being the love-child of emotional thinking and narrative reasoning. Post-Christian people today have learned to identify their desires, especially their sexual desires, with their identity and build their lives around the expression of these desires, and to treat opposition to these desires as "sin" as an assault on themselves.
7. The roots (and roots) of this thinking in Rousseau, Marx and Freud, via Wilhelm Reich, should be obvious - in other words, essentially atheist. For secular leftists that may be a commendation, but not for Great Tradition Christians like myself.
8. Basic to biblical and Catholic anthropology is that human nature is fallen and the Fall has had a noetic effect on our self-understanding: in a word, we are blind to our blindness and we need the grace of Christ to see again. Secular anthropology OTOH thinks we are basically good but victims and our problems are really caused by others. Narrative reasoning reinforces this view of the world.

Pax et bonum
William Greenhalgh

Anonymous said...

Yes, P C-W's book is a good read as far as it goes but her conclusion is a sort of way station. Nice to know that you like it, Liz, but as a Christian I am past all that.


Anonymous said...

One last comment:

"Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His works in vain.
God is His own interpreter
And He will make it plain."

Experience cannot self-exegete, any more than William Cowper's chronic depression described the truth of his standing before God. The danger of Emotional Reasoning: his hymns were true, his emotions were not. In a healthy person, emotions are controlled by truth and proportionate to facts. A healthy person seeks to undestand the role played in his or her life by libido, anger, jealousy, ressentiment, suspicion, pride and despair: there is a whole zoo of them inside us, as C. S. Lewis says somewhere, and other people's flaws are easier to spot (or imagine) than our own.
The Gospel is the true exegesis of our lives, and the task of Christian living is to bring our emotions and self-understanding into line with the Gospel, as nearly as grace-assisted sinners can in this "vale of tears".

The contemporary western cult of Expressive Individualism gets this exactly backwards because its anthropology is false. But the Gospel is about the mimesis of Christ, not the poiesis of that wild menagerie already inside me.

Pax et bonum
William Greenhalgh

Anonymous said...

My comment at 8.52 should read "NOT easily open to investigation".
How do I judge whether another has truly heard the Lord - or just listened to her own imagination? Note that very many, perhaps most, practitioners in psychology today are religious sceptics - which is what you should expect, given the reductionist nature of their education ("human beings ARE their bodies, ergo minds ARE brain states").
I'm a substance dualist, so I don't buy that. Thoughts are not just neurons firing. Abstract objects exist as the thoughts of God (Augustine's rationes seminales) and thoughts possess extra-mental intentionality - or at least my brain states tell me so.
I also believe that, quite apart from the special revelation of Christ and Scripture, our creation as language-using, meaning-discerning creatures, i.e. rational beings in the imago Dei, means that we are capable of a natural theology (discerning the existence of the powerful and wise Creator through His works, especially the mathematical nature of the physical world), and also aware of Natural Law - a universal phenomenon across cultures (what Lewis taught profoundly in "The Abolition of Man"). Of course, the Fall has its noetic effects, as St Paul explains in Romans 1.18, corrupting natural theology into polytheism and idolatry, the natural sexual instinct (intended for procreation and social union as the foundation for the family) into lust, and human relationships into exploitation and violence instead of loving cooperation and mutual respect. Christ's work is about restoring the devastated image, sinful man's work is about producing our own idols.

Pax et bonum
William Greenhalgh

Mark Murphy said...

Hi William,

You raise some important points and questions, some of which I'll let sit and brew and perhaps come back to. Briefly, for now....

In it's favour, encounter-at-the-centre

1. Looks more like what emerges in the life of Jesus and the early Christians. That is, we have a transformative experience that changes our thinking, feeling - our entire being - and emerges from the presence of God being encountered in the world in such and such a way. Rather than, say, people being won over through philosophical reasoning or compelling doctrines created by authoritative, scholarly experts (though who can limit how God works). Saint Paul, for example, explicitly says

“I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ." (Galatians 1).

2. Is wisely integrated with reflective discernment, as I've already stressed (and which I would recommend to Brian Tamaki). For as you say, we are often blind to our own distortions, addictions, and shadows. In the above Galatians account, Paul's goes on to say:

"But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus. Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.”

This is an intriguing passage and suggests the method of discernment Paul perhaps chose - to retreat, to spend further time (quite a bit) in God's presence, to not dive head on in with other Christians (again, Bishop Tamaki, if you're reading this ...) - as a way of working out his powerful life-changing conversion experience.

Whatever methods we choose, or God chooses, serious Christians will naturally want to cross reference their experience with scripture and tradition, to test the spirits, to dialogue with respected others, so as to be convinced that what they have experienced and understood is consistent and continuous with the love and being of God as revealed in Jesus Christ.

3. Raises the question of whether God's self-revelation has stopped by the end of the time of Jesus or the Apostles, or goes on through history and into our lives now. Our dear contributor/pilgrim, Father Ron, was fond of reminding us of Jesus's words in John 26:

"I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth...".


On emotion: I often hear you say emotion is subjective and therefore an unreliable guide. It corrupts rational thoinking. It's not the facts. These days, psychologists and psychotherapists don't really think in terms of emotion versus reason, or rational versus irrational, as if one is reliable and the other is not. We tend to think of all dimensions of our being as making important contributions and fitting together (interestingly, those who have suffered damage to the emotional sections of their brain struggle to make *decisions* in their lives, underlining the importance of healthy, mature yemotion in evaluation and discernment of meaning and purpose). We tend to see emotional life in terms of less mature emotional develomemt in contrast to more mature ways of feeling, much like we see cognition maturing (hopefully) from rigid, black and white thinking categories, to being more comfortable entertaining and exploring complexity, nuance, and uncertainty.

Mark Murphy said...

* Sorry, John 16 not 26. Fat fingers!

MsLiz said...

BW, been thinking how Christians who try to improve things in society often get criticised for their efforts, even by other Christians.

"Martin Luther King Jr taught non-violent resistance not just as a tactic but as a spirituality." ~and at the same time he was deliberately creating tension and getting criticised for his actions even *though* they were non-violent.

**As King explained in his letter [from Birmingham jail], sometimes actions out of the ordinary are necessary: “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.”

From the 'eight Alabama clergymen' statement that provoked MLK's letter from jail:

"We recognize the natural impatience of people who feel that their hopes are slow in being realized. But we are convinced that these demonstrations are unwise and untimely."

~ cf. Tim Keller from +Peter's link who speaks of "our need to humble ourselves, to recognize the need for change, and to do justice.

**I found this article really interesting.. describes how the actions of Rep Justin Jones of the Tennessee Three was in keeping with the reasoning of MLK and John Lewis, and mentions how they were an influence on what they did.

Anonymous said...

Mark, some brief comments.
!. Paul/Saul was already a Jewish believer (and had been from early childhood) when he encountered the Risen Christ on the Damascus Road. That experience did not convert him from atheism or agnosticism (the default position of most NZers today) but rather showed him that his 'kata sarka' understanding of Jesus of Nazareth (2 Cor 5.16) was false. You have as well the germ of Paul's trinitarian faith here. (Many years ago I read with profit the published version of Seeyon Kim's dissertation 'The Origin of Paul's Gospel' written under F. F. Bruce, which traced Paul's Christology to the Damascus Road experience). Today as then, very few people become believers through such direct revelations, although I am told quite a few ex-Muslims attest to converting visions. Most of us come to faith in the Johannine way, believing the preached message with the inner conviction of the Holy Spirit. Paul in Acts (and 2 Cor 12) testifies to a number of visionary experiences.
2. Gary Habermas uses the testimony of Paul's visit to Jerusalem to show how very early the message of Christ bodily risen was proclaimed (i.e., it was not a late development as Bultmannian liberalism has claimed but was part of the most primitive proclamation). Another key point is that the pre-Christian Paul could not believe in a crucified Messiah since such a figure would be under God's curse. Galatians 3.13 shows how Paul solved this conundrum. During this time, I think Saul was having to rethink his understanding of Tanak in the light the Damascus Road.
3. I am not so much saying that 'emotion is an unreliable guide' but rather that it isn't really a guide at all if you are trying to determine the truth of a matter, e.g. whether Jesus is the Son of God; or if there is life after death; or if one's spouse is cheating on you; or whether government bonds are a good retirement investment. The schoolboy who hates and misunderstands calculus is not entitled to proclaim it 'all rubbish' because he can't do it. Humility and respect would be a better response. My target all along has been Emotional Reasoning ('Because I feel this way, this proves x') and the closely related Narrative Reasoning ('My story trumps your argument'), which are rhetorical-political moves today - and wildly popular in a post-rational, image-manipulated culture. Of course, once I decide the truth or otherwise of an idea, there should be concordant emotions, i.e., emotions of love, fear, trust, dislike etc should be rational, truth-based and proportionate as well! But emotions and the imagination function differently in our minds than does ratiocination. The former work through an affective chain of association and memories (advertisers and politicians understand this well), the latter through the development of syllogisms with evidence.

Pax et bonum
William Greenhalgh

Anonymous said...

Hi Liz

As you see, you and I have started from different families, theologies, lives, callings, and interests. Your comments to me-- like Mark's-- seem to be directed at points of view that are not at all close to mine. No offense taken; ADU has no map.

Stanley Hauerwas is less distant. Scribd has plenty of readable Hauerwas. If you read any five of his writings-- short or long-- and think about them for a couple of weeks, you will probably recognize similarities. You may even see them in his Wikipedia page.

Will you agree with him if you read him? I have no idea. But since he is an Episcopalian, taught Christian ethics at Notre Dame and Duke, etc he may be an influence on other people you read. And after arguing with him a bit, your comments to me will probably land near enough to what I actually think that we will stop missing each other.

Will you then agree with me? Probably not. The gap between your implied christology and my explicit one is very hard to bridge. But neither of us is insecure enough to need the other to fail, be wrong, etc.

"if the witty summary [of Stanley Hauerwas's theology] is correct"

It is not. Love Suffering & Theology Grief and Suffering Ignoring and Acknowledging Suffering


MsLiz said...

BW, 8:27 is exactly what I suspected so I'm fine you've clarified where we are.. nevertheless I continue to learn from our various exchanges e.g. last night I finished listening to the first part of 'Explaining America's Nine Nations' that you gave me links for, so thanks for what you've shared in various comments.

Mark Murphy said...

The different temperaments, or balances of truth within our souls - what lovely French terms does Bowman use for this? - reflects not just our differences but also what we are called to be in the world, in the Body. You, William, a teacher right? Makes sense you'd be called to more scholarly knowledge, than me, a therapist.

I guess the question for Christians in robust conflict is: How do we talk across our differences, our gifts? Whatever our home burrows - Roman Catholicism, Quaker spirituality - I think that Anglicanism is both the stage for this dilemma right now, and has a certain genius or sensibility, and certainly a significant history, or holding differing temperaments and gifts.