Monday, February 26, 2024

More on new "universalist" theologian-missioner

At the foot of this post I cite a couple of comments (parts thereof) from the previous post. They raise pertinent questions for my quest/plea in that post for a new Paul/Origen - a theologian with universal appeal and a message to unite us in response to the "new world" of this millennium.

First things first: whether we ever get what I seek here; and when that person "arrives" is beyond our control. While we wait, we can and should act well to do what we can to be better - better Christians, better church (see Liz's comment below). We male leaders can act better towards female leaders. We all can be better at welcoming the outsider into our midst. We can work on systems of accountability and of training on issues of the day in order to end abuse (of all kinds) in the church. We can be better and we do not need to wait for the new Paul/Origen.

Second things equally first ... Yes, a new "universalist" will have important things to say to people of other faiths (see Mark's comment below). Such things will of course involve great skills in listening to people of other faiths. But what shape are we in to have new inter-faith conversations if we are not renewed in our own faith? (Noted, of course, is that Christianity is not the only fissiparous global faith to be found in our world today!)

What kinds of things might we hear or read this putative Paul/Origen of our day saying?

First, and in line with Liz and Mark's comments, what we will see (what we could be looking for) is that which enables a radical new and uniting vision for what it means to be men and women in the one church of God and for what it means to be godly humans in a world of diverse global faiths. 

This "that" will - I presume - involve new (or renewed) thinking about what we now know about human life through discoveries of modern science, and, in turn, that will involve a new vision for the connection between knowledge through human experience and knowledge through divine revelation.

Secondly, and following from the first point immediately above, we will need to be led into a new vision for the role of Scripture in our faith. We need - desparately I believe - to understand Scripture as God's book of good news and not as God's book of rules. Only so will we escape from the incessant conflicts: creationism v evolutionary biology; "young earth" v astronomy/physics/paleonotology; complementarianism v egalitarianism; Calvinism v Arminianism; and paralysis or schism as responses to differences in human sexuality. That is, we need a "unified theory" of how Sciptural knowledge relates to other forms of knowledge. There can only be one truth!

Thirdly, and flowing out of the second point, we need a new vision of who the God of Jesus Christ is. Who and what and why is God? This must be a very big vision, one which moves beyond the many understandings of God today which seem (on close analysis) to be little more than projections of our human ideals for a "leader" or "lord." 

In all kinds of ways we Christians seem to fall prey to the trap of a limited vision of the Godness of God. We think of God as a Being among us beings and not as the ground and source of all being. We (being creatures with finite minds) limit the extent of the Love which is God and the God who is Love. 

A new Paul/Origen will excite us with new insight into those passages in Scripture which challenge us to expand the finiteness of our minds so we better grasp the infiniteness of God's Love (see, for instance, Romans 8; 1 Corinthians 2:9-10; Corinthians 15:27-28; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 1-3; especially Ephesians 3:18-21; Colossians 1:15-20; 1 John 4:7-21). 

The end of my post for this week. Comments below from last week's post:


Renewal of our global Christian mind needs renewal of our global Christian heart! +Peter, you did a post a while ago about unity and need for humility.. that has to be a good start. Reaching out to all means to welcome all and offer safe refuge, friendship, love, understanding and true justice. Universalism of Christianity might look like warmth of caring across racial and gender divides and across class, being informed about systemic injustice and power inequities, commitment to maintaining safe space for all. Diversity in leadership. Leaders of wisdom and character. Responsiveness. Transparency and accountability. Clear moral and behavioural expectations (and in the event of wrongdoing, a just response). When things go wrong.. holding leaders accountable for their actions and provision of practical and pastoral support for survivors/advocates. Learning from mistakes. Commitment to truth, and growing a healthy inclusive community. Integrity, courage and strength to resist divisiveness and power plays!


In terms of "universalism" and our contemporary age, I might see this question a little differently: we live in a time of unprecedented knowledge and contact between the great faiths. We can no longer claim ignorance of what other religions believe and practice, nor be in any doubt the people full of grace, truth, and with a deep, sincere commitment to God exist outside the boundaries of the Christian churches.

The ocean of grace has many shores.

For the sake of God, truth, and love, we need unifying, mainstream Christian voices that move us beyond hostility, limited conceptions of infinity (God), or merely thinking of our own patch (i.e. Christianity). The need for such a voice, in terms of current political and religious violence, is even more urgent and necessary.


Liz C. said...

Thank you +Peter for your thought-provoking and helpful post.

"knowledge" .. "human experience" .. "divine revelation"

The situation in Alabama (the Supreme Court declared fertilized frozen embryos are people) illustrates how a particular theological perspective has big implications for people, especially if theology drives legal decisions.

The [dominion] theology influenced Chief Justice...

Parker wrote that Alabama had adopted a “theologically based view of the sanctity of life” and that “life cannot be wrongfully destroyed without incurring the wrath of a holy God.” To support his legal opinion, Parker repeatedly cited the book of Genesis, including a passage asserting that all people are created in God’s image.

Perspective of a Texas cancer survivor...
WaPo gift article:

“I grew up in Catholic school, and my mom is a Catholic activist, so I have been very familiar with this kind of fetal personhood movement for a long time,” Madeline said. But she noted that individuals within the movement, including her mother, often have trouble reconciling their antiabortion beliefs with their support for fertility treatments — including her own.

“They can’t quite connect the cognitive dissonance that exists between the pro-life views and what they imply,” Madeline said.

Mark Murphy said...

Because of both Christian history and world cultural history, I'd suggest that the person you are hoping for Peter would need to have an undeniable, deep, and authentic experience of God (so they are not just words in the wind), as well as a life of exemplary service, of walking the talk... someone like Desmond Tutu, Gandhi, the Dalai Llama, or even Pope Francis....

*as well as* appealing intellectually and heartfully to a large cross-section of the Christian world.

Stephen Garner said...

Thanks for this post (and the previous one), Peter. I've been thinking about them over the past month or so. Question from me: Are you sketching a "person" singular or perhaps a group of people who serve in that theologian-missioner role? Are is universal appeal possible across cultures and geographic locations while maintaining local relevance?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Steve
I am thinking of a singular person for the most part: a "giant" of the stature or Origen, Augustine, Gregory, Aquinas, Luther, etc.

But such giant influences of the past have included small groups: the Cappadocian Fathers for example; or we might consider Luther and Calvin twinned together as (differing) giants of the Protestant Reformation.

Today we could consider the role that, say, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Pope and the Patriarch of Moscow could play in action on the ending of war. Wait, did I include the Patriarch of Moscow in that hypothetical group? :)