Thinking Anglicans

this week's opinion columns

In The Times Geoffrey Rowell writes of An imperative call to Christian unity as Archbishop meets Pope.
In The Tablet there is a very valuable article by R William Franklin When Rowan goes to Rome.
The opinions of Rowan Williams on all this are in the Church Times.

There is also a leader column in The Tablet, related to the recent joint CofE-RC bishops meeting, Danger of Growing Paranoia.

In connection with all these see also the opinion of the editors of the Catholic Herald whose leader column is titled: An archbishop with whom we can do business.

Turning to other topics, the Guardian has a column by David Haslam on Hinduism. The Times has a column by Jonathan Romain on Judaism.

The Church Times has a column by Giles Fraser When the believers are the rebels. Another piece by Giles Fraser was his Thought for the Day on Friday on the BBC: Fundamentalism proposes a God built from layers of human insecurity.

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Mark Bennet
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Mark Bennet

I am interested, as always, in what Giles Fraser has to say. It also interests me that many of the ‘moderate’ christians I have met have in part had their faith shaped by a fundamentalist phase. There are some quite respectable theories of human/faith growth which suggest that a fundamentalist phase is normal, or at least not abnormal – so fear of fundamentalism is the fear of something far from extraordinary. [On my bookshelf I have descriptions of the theories of Fowler, Scott Peck and Erikson (adapted by Capps). These theories can separate the mode of belief from the content… Read more »

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

“For one thing upon which they all agree is that any expression of God sculpted by human need is to be called an idol.”
This is so true.It’d be interesting to see how the various streams of thought in our own communion would react to that statement.

Christopher Shell
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Christopher Shell

God is not sculpted by human need (Giles Fraser) – Amen to that. Most heresies are of precisely this nature: projecting our own psychology or culture onto our vision of God. That is the number one reason why people have argued against GF’s view of homosexual practice: arguing that it has nothing to do with God and everything to do with the particular culture and time in which he and his ilk find themselves. Yes: God is not a reflection of a particular culture.

Cheryl Clough
Guest

The need for “unity” can become a need to become like the other, to render us into self-perpetuating amoebas with no diversity. I wonder whether instead of striving for unity, we should be striving for respect. Like with the SE Asian Tsunami, the problems facing humanity are huge, and there is simply too much ground to be covered by any one faith or denomination. In some ways the fighting between and within the faiths is the equivalent of a medical team arguing over who should be resusitating the dying patient. The patient is secretly adoring the nurse, because while the… Read more »

drdanfee
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drdanfee

My fears of fundamentalisms of many sorts boil down to three repetitive digs of meanness which these habits of mind and heart regularly commit, or at least talk about committing or prizing as core pledges: (3) At least for now, most of the fundamentalisms that do and should worry us as believers involve having us sign off on some effort in church or society to obtain, wield, and maintain power. Even the most die-hard secularist, atheist, or agnostic can easily see – from outside the eternal safety of the Ark of Fundamentalist Salvation – that obtaining, wielding, and maintaining power… Read more »

laurence roberts
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laurence roberts

I don’t understand ‘GF’. Should I /

laurence
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laurence

Yes, the piece on Hinduism and the dalits was interesting and heartrending. But all the voluminous comments by Guardian bloogers, constituted a wonderful and mixed amplification of it. Jonathan Romaine was as insightful and witty as ever. I loved his hilarious story of the Pope, and the two rabbis ! promote trust between Jews, Christians and Muslims in Ukraine. While bringing the faiths together there will be groundbreaking, there is as much interest in the composition of the Christian contingent. Also I liked this and thought it brought a good dose od reality to be on the Christian scene :-… Read more »

dave willliams
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dave willliams

Drdanfee Wrote “If so many fundamentalisms now so active among us, including so many of the Christian varieties, simply cannot scrutinize and give any critical intellectual account of their own hermeneutic choices in ethics and in reading scripture/tradition; they are equally unable or unwilling to reflect upon their drive to power.” I’m interested to know who these Christian varieties are that you’re referring to. Otherwise wouldn’t it be better rather than having the 21st century equivalent of reds under the bed to acknowledge that each one of us fails to spot the weaknesses in our own arguments. We all fail… Read more »

laurence
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laurence

While on things Jewish thanks to Rabbi Romain, I want to say how much I enjoy on Thought for the Day Mondays. This week he endearingly told us of three times in his life when he experienced angels. One was a night in bed with another in a Youth Hostel, and what a warm revelation taht angel was for the young Lionel. (I also enjoy Giles Fraser on Fridays, and feel the programme to be improving in terms of doing my heart good. I can’t stand patronisng churchy bilge!). also did others her the Chief Rabbi and John Humphries ?… Read more »

J. C. Fisher
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J. C. Fisher

“There are some quite respectable theories of human/faith growth which suggest that a fundamentalist phase is normal, or at least not abnormal – so fear of fundamentalism is the fear of something far from extraordinary.” Mark Bennet, I don’t fear fundamentalism. As you say, it’s a normal (juvenile) faith-stage. No, I resent *fundamentalists* (especially those who are in a kind of arrested-development, and lead their age-appropriate young followers to embrace fundamentalism’s most destructive aspects). It’s fundamentalists, being humans, who seize power, and try to exert that power over those of us who’ve long outgrown that -ism ourselves. It’s when you… Read more »

Cheryl Clough
Guest

Dave Williams I agree that it is easy to go looking for the bogeyman. Funnily enough, I blundered across an article the other month that referred to the anti-religious right as being in alliance with the reds, and that it would be better to be dead than listen to their arguments. Sigh, I did not note that one at the time. One of my concerns is that some people seem to think that the issue is who is doing the bullying, and that peace comes if you are the bullying one in control of the situation. I would argue that… Read more »

DaveW
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DaveW

Giles Fraser wrote “The most dangerous people in the world all have one thing in common: they think they have a monopoly on the truth. And they can be atheists or believers.” Why is that necessarily any more dangerous than those who don’t think they know any absolute truth? Just wondering about this, doesnt that make Giles Fraser a self confessed ‘one of the most dangerous people in the world’, assuming he believes Jesus Christ is THE truth THE way and THE life. I would say that’s a good thing to know Jesus Christ as the truth way and life… Read more »

Giles Fraser
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Giles Fraser

No Dave W. You need to work on your logic. The force of my statement is that ‘believing you have a monopoly on the truth’ is a necessary condition of being in the class ‘most dangerous people in the world’. That does not mean it is a sufficient condition.

dave williams
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dave williams

Dave W

Christians who believe that Jesus is the Truth certainly are dangerous. The question is “Who or what to?” and the follow up question is “is that a good or a bad thing?”

DaveW
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DaveW

Dear DaveW,
Well quite. Well said! But infact how can Christians not believe that Jesus Christ is the truth the way and the life when thats what Jesus Christ says. Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 4:12, Matt 25:31-32, John 14:6, John 8:31.
But as to dangerous, no more dangerous than those who dont believe in an absolute truth. The dangerousness should surely be judged on what the absolute truth or lack of it entails.

DaveW
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DaveW

Dear Giles Fraser,
It is far harder for people to speak out in public like you did, than people like me to criticise, so thank you so much for replying to my comments.
However you have misunderstood my statement. I dont believe I have the monopoly on truth, in fact I am not sure I have any claim to truth, all I believe is that Jesus is the truth.
So your logic is faulty, I have a monopoly on my belief that Jesus is the truth. Your view as to whether Jesus is the truth is entirely your perogative.

dave williams
Guest
dave williams

Dave W My point is that Christians may well be the most dangerous people in the world! Sorry for being a bit mischievous here… but if Christianity offers a completely different worldview to what the rest of society offers If people really are worshipping idols in opposition to God then we are going to unsettle the situation somewhat -we are a threat to the world. The Sanhedrin rightly identified that Jesus was a danger. The Roman Empire recognised that early Christians were a threat Christianity is seen as a threat to plenty of states around the world. Why have we… Read more »

DaveW
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DaveW

Dear Dave Williams,
Well quite!.. I agree with you

Cheryl Clough
Guest

“The force of my statement is that ‘believing you have a monopoly on the truth’ is a necessary condition of being in the class ‘most dangerous people in the world’. That does not mean it is a sufficient condition.” This comment opens up a plethora of contemplations. The first one that sprang to mind is that another condition is being prepared to use whatever force is necessary to affirm that you have the monopoly on the truth and to impose that truth upon others. Souls can be absolutely convinced of the exclusivity of their paradigms. But a hermit meditating on… Read more »

Cheryl Clough
Guest

On DaveW’s biblical passages John 8:31 is a call to trust Jesus, but does not preclude advice from others. John 14:6 is mitigated by John 14:2 and 10:6 – which refers to sheep not of “this” pen. And in Matthew 25:33, Jesus says that that sheep (Christians) will be on his right, and that the goats (others) will be on his left. In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus was given all authority until the end of the age. Ages come and go, and this statement encourages us to introduce others to Jesus, but it does not demand their conversion. Acts 4:12 quotes… Read more »

Merseymike
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Merseymike

I don’t think the conservative evangelical worldview reflects all of Christianity.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

Dave Williams, again we agree! We aren’t seen as a threat to consumerist Western society because we aren’t a threat. We don’t challenge the institutions of Western society, in fact in many cases we helped set them up. I firmly believe we are called to be a threat, to challenge the society we find ourselves in, which is why I believe strongly in separation of Church and State. We are divided in what we should challenge, though. For some, the great sin of Western society is its lax sexual mores, for some it’s rampant consumerism and greed. We have hobbled… Read more »

laurence
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laurence

david williams d0nt flatter your religion–it’s replete with idols including Molochs…..

Dave Williams
Guest
Dave Williams

Ford,

Yep we are definately in agreement on all of that. But it also should NOT be a moral or social crusade! If Christianity is rightly setting those things in the context of God’s Grace through Jesus Christ then it is a threat to the religious establishment as well!

Laurence,

You seem to have missed my point which is exactly that the Church has been guilty of idolatry which is why it is not the threat it should be.

My point is that the Gospel of Christ calls us away from idols! So I’m not interesting in flattering anyone!

Dave

DaveW
Guest
DaveW

Dear Cheryl Clough, You wrote “The first one that sprang to mind is that another condition is being prepared to use whatever force is necessary to affirm that you have the monopoly on the truth and to impose that truth upon others.” But in the case of Christianity that would then cease to be the truth as we see from the NT teaching that we make disciples of believers and there will be people who reject the gospel and us, but we must love them all the same. As to John 8:31, I agree with your assumption that it doesn’t… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
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I’m sorry Dave,

but Merseymike just pointed out to you that Evangelicalism is it’s own Idol. Don’t project that away!

DaveW
Guest
DaveW

Dear Göran Koch-Swahne,
You wrote “but Merseymike just pointed out to you that Evangelicalism is it’s own Idol. Don’t project that away!”
I dont know which Dave you were addressing but I have been addressing the NT record of Jesus Christ and His teaching, how what Merseymike is refering to with his classifications, fits in with that, is not yet clear.

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Giles Fraser is correct that he is stating that it is only a *necessary* (not sufficient) condition for belonging to the group ‘most dangerous people’ that one believes oneself to have a monopoly on truth. But he is not correct that the most dangerous people in the world all think they have a monopoly on the truth: (a) To be concerned with truth at all is a sign of integrity. So concern for truth is always a positive place to start. By contrast, the most dangerous people in the world will presumably be more likely to be the people with… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

Dave WIlliams, I have a bit of a problem with social crusading for the sake of it, but I do believe that social action is part of our duty to be Christ in the world. It is easy, however, to fall into the mindset that marching and agitating are the be all and end all, and that simply giving food to the hungry is “mere charity” that is actually demeaning and perpetuates the system. While there is truth in that, it is also a fact that I don’t do anybody any favours if I let them starve to death as… Read more »

DaveW
Guest
DaveW

Giles Fraser wrote “The most dangerous people in the world all have one thing in common: they think they have a monopoly on the truth. And they can be atheists or believers”
I am not sure what he means. Believers in what?
A believer in Christ believe Jesus Christ is the truth, which is what Christ says. So a believer cant think they have a monopoly on the truth. And indeed a believer in Jesus Christ believes He as the truth died for all.

dave williams
Guest
dave williams

Ford,

Well I’m all up for disestablishing the Anglican Church as soon as possible! But we need a bit more than that.

You can still be the establishment and not a state church -look at the US.

And I’m not sure that we in the “Free Churches” can hold our heads up high just yet!

dave williams
Guest
dave williams

Goran, I’m not sure I get your point. Merseymike has not in any shape or form pointed out that Evangelicalism is its own idol. He has simply said that he doesn’t think that evangelical Christianity represents all of Christianity. Even if he is right on that it doesn’t make Evangelicalism an idol. I would agree with him if he means that Evangelical Christianity doesn’t represent all those who claim to be Christians. I would also agree with him if he said that not all Christians classify themselves as Evangelical or articulate their Christianity in an Evangelical manner. But I am… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

Well, Dave, it’s one thing to think that your beliefs are true. I believe Christianity is true. It gets to be a problem when you say that other people can’t believe their beliefs are true. It’s about extremists telling other people they CAN’T believe anything else. It’s about telling people their beliefs aren’t valid, or even legal. It’s about believing that, since you are right and your particular God will save or condemn, then you can kill them if they don’t agree. The terrorists who hit the WTC believed that, being good(as far as they were concerned) Muslims, they had… Read more »

dave williams
Guest

Hi Ford,

Belief in one’s views doesn’t entitle anyone to kill or to force conversions.

Please lets not muddy the water by equating a firm conviction between right and wrong and a desire to pursuade others to convert with such wicked behaviour.

As for whether or not we can say that someone is a Christian. This comes down to the definition of what is a Christian doesn’t it.

I posted on this a while back on my blog

DaveW
Guest
DaveW

Dear Ford, I still don’t think you have quite understood what I am saying. All I am saying is I believe Jesus Christ is the truth the way and the life which I think is what Christians must believe. I don’t think one can believe in Jesus and follow Him as a disciple without believing and following Him as that’s what He says one must do to be His disciple. But I don’t say that other people can’t believe their beliefs are true, on the contrary. You wrote “It’s about the mentality that says that because one is a particular… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

Dave Williams, My point was that there are many who quite happily define Christian to mean “those who agree with me” or “those who are of my church”. I grew up around Pentecostals who frequently preached that we Anglicans aren’t Christians. As I said, either the Archbishop of Syney or his brother (I don’t have time to Google which one it was) called Roman Catholics “subChristian”. They do this out of a kind of malignant certainty that they are right and the rest of us are wrong. This is more than firm conviction. Firm conviction in one’s beliefs is a… Read more »

Cheryl Clough
Guest

DaveW Your comment that ended with “…but we must love them all the same” is the crux of the problem. There are bullying Christians (and other dogmatics) who do not love them all the same. E.g. they gloat over suffering after the SE Asian Tsunami, or discount the plight of the African continent for decades. (Don’t tell me they don’t, whenever I raised the issue I was told not to worry about it because it was all part of God’s plan and will be fixed in the new heaven that is going to take away all of this world and… Read more »

DaveW
Guest
DaveW

Dear Cheryl Clough, You wrote “Your comment that ended with “…but we must love them all the same” is the crux of the problem. There are bullying Christians (and other dogmatics) who do not love them all the same. “ Well I am not here to judge individuals You wrote “Further, they repeatedly and aggressively advocate that only souls who completely agree with their theological paradigms will be saved. “ which theological paradigm are you referring to ? Is it what Jesus taught? You wrote “This is the cruelest image of God that I can imagine. That God would create… Read more »

dave williams
Guest
dave williams

The are Roman Catholics Christians is an important question though isn’t it! After all the question from Roman Catholicism is whether or not non Roman Catholics are Christians and the historical view has been no though with some recent accomadation at a sub level. A consistant Roman Catholic is right to question whether or not I am a Christian if he believes that salvation is within the Church and my congregation are not part of the true church and if he sees the sacraments as vital to my salvation. The force of “Evangelical Theology” is that people claiming salvation through… Read more »

Dave Williams
Guest
Dave Williams

Still up for grabs answer to the question what is the “Thinking Anglican’s” definition of what is a Christian?

Cheryl Clough
Guest

Those who have studied psychology (e.g. Jung and neurolinguistic programming) will tell you that telling someone not to do something is a sure fired way of making sure that it will be done. For example, if I tell you not to think about the colour pink, I can guarantee that you are now thinking about the colour pink. Well, I’m going to go off and think about the colour blue. So now you are thinking about blue? What happened to the colour pink? Now you are thinking about both? If God didn’t want us to eat of the tree, he… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

Well, I’m gob-smacked! It is up to you decide other people’s Christianity for them? See, I see it this way. Someone is a Christian if they call themselves a Christian, within a few recognizable limits. Trinitarian belief is one such limit, not being a Satan worshipper is another, but not the only other. I am free to say that their understanding of Christianity is wrong, I am free to tell them I think they are wrong, but I am not free to tell them they aren’t Christians! Would you tell Salvationists they aren’t Christians because they aren’t Baptised? I think… Read more »

Dave Williams
Guest
Dave Williams

And there is the problem. You are already defining and admitting limits to what a Christian is! By implication you’ve excluded a lot of people who want to be Christians.

What about the person who says he is a Christian because he was born in Britain?

What about the Jehovah’s witness?

Cheryl Clough
Guest

Ford and Dave Williams Now you understand why I am so passionate! These people deny salvation even to “other” Christians. If they can not recognise God’s ability to give grace within Jesus’ folds, then how can they possibly judge outside of Jesus? Especially when they denounce the OT and Jews, thus denying the origins that affirm Jesus and thus negating even Jesus himself. These are some of Jesus’ words on passing judgment: Luke 6:37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” and Luke… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

What about the Jehovah’s Witnesses? They are Arians. Even during the Arian controversy nobody said they weren’t Christians. To be a heretic you have to be Christian, just one who doesn’t understand the Truth. And I never said there should be no boundaries, I just believe the boundaries should be set quite wide. Certain definers of Christianity were established long ago, Trinitarian doctrine being one of them. And even then, what’s wrong with defining Trinitarian Christians as opposed to nonTrinitarian ones? Being born in a place doesn’t equate with being a Christian, that’s pretty obvious. I would suggest that a… Read more »

DaveW
Guest
DaveW

Dear Cheryl Clough,
You quote Luke 6:37 etc.
Do you think that makes a Christian or not if someone judges others? Or would you say judging others is just something a Christian does not do?
Ford Elms says someone is Christian if they call themselves a Christian within a few recognised limits, would you say this was one of the recognised limits?
Personally I would just say judging people is something a Christian should not do regardless of what type of Christian people might like to judge and label them as.

DaveW
Guest
DaveW

Dear Ford Elms, You wrote “Well, I’m gob-smacked! It is up to you decide other people’s Christianity for them?” The point both Dave Williams and I have made is people are defining others as ‘conservative evangelical Christians’ and as you now say we shouldn’t be deciding other people’s Christianity for them. You wrote “See, I see it this way. Someone is a Christian if they call themselves a Christian, within a few recognizable limits.” What are the recognised limits? Who recognises these limits? I mean Jesus was a prophet so if someone believes Jesus is a prophet they may be… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

DaveW, Answer the question. Why is it so important to be able to tell other people whether or not they, in your judgement, are Christians? Frankly, I don’t think about it often, so you’ll find my ideas a bit undefined. And, I try not to define other people’s Christianity. I regularly fail, I admit, as a result of bigotries that I have developed as a result of numerous experiences I have had with people calling themselves Evangelical. I do try to fight this though, it isn’t right of me. Most of the things I have said about “Evangelical Christians” apply… Read more »

DaveW
Guest
DaveW

Dear Ford Elms,
I have already answered that question. I have already said I think what Jesus describes in the NT to be His disciple, makes a Christian, not what you or I think or decide for ourselves or others. Evangelical Christians means nothing really unless they basically believe what Christ taught like any Christian.

Cheryl Clough
Guest

DaveW, you wrote and I agree with: “Personally I would just say judging people is something a Christian should not do regardless of what type of Christian people might like to judge and label them as.” What do you then say of leaders who at every tragedy (e.g. funerals, SE Asian Tsunami) rush to the pulpit to warn of judgment day and that every one is condemned who does not believe their paradigms? Or those who say that acknowledging Jesus is not enough? That you must also attend church regularly, and not just any church, but a church under their… Read more »