Friday, 13 April 2007

The Mystery of Salvation

The Church Times reports in Dean stands by Radio 4 talk on cross by Pat Ashworth that:

Dr John writes in his letter that the teaching of his talk was exactly in line with the guidance given by the Church of England’s Doctrine Commission in its 1995 report The Mystery of Salvation. He quotes the report: “The notion of propitiation as the placating by man of an angry God is definitely unchristian.”

What he said in full on this point was :

The most recent statement by the Church of England on the meaning of the Cross is the Doctrine Commission’s report The Mystery of Salvation (1995).

It restates the view of the 1938 Commission that “the notion of propitiation as the placating by man of an angry God is definitely unchristian” (p. 213). It also observes that “the traditional vocabulary of atonement with its central themes of law, wrath, guilt, punishment and acquittal, leave many Christians cold and signally fail to move many people, young and old, who wish to take steps towards faith. These images do not correspond to the spiritual search of many people today and therefore hamper the Church’s mission.”

Instead, it recommends that the Cross should be presented “as revealing the heart of a fellow-suffering God” (p. 113).

The Church Times also reports that:

The Bishop of Durham, Dr Tom Wright, reportedly also criticised the BBC for allowing such a prominent slot to be given to such a “provocative argument”.

The Sunday Telegraph report quoted him as saying: “[Dr John] is denying the way in which we understand Christ’s sacrifice. It is right to stress that he is a God of love, but he is ignoring that this means he must also be angry at everything that distorts human life.”

But it doesn’t mention that Dr Wright was himself a member of the Doctrine Commission.

The full text of the letter is at the bottom of the news report linked above.

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Comments

Splendid posting! Well done Dean John and editor for presenting the contradictions around this issue.

Posted by: Etheldreda on Friday, 13 April 2007 at 10:00am BST

The problem is overstatement of his case and words like "pyscopath", "insane" etc.

The exclusion of PSA is not credible.

Posted by: NP on Friday, 13 April 2007 at 10:06am BST

The problem with 'The Mystery of Salvation' was that salvation was more of a mystery by the end than at the beginning. The Report states on page 1, "if we are to speak of salvation in a Christian sense we have also to seek more clarity about the peril in which the world is believed to stand". To this, we should add we must also seek more clarity about how the cross addresses that danger. This, however, is something the Report singularly failed to do.

On the question of propitiation, in referring to the 1938 Doctrine Commission, the Report notes that "modern biblical translations ... are influenced ... by the fundamental biblical principle that God is primarily the subject of the atoning action." The Report agrees, therefore, that atonement does not involve "the placating by man of angry God", but does not reject the concept of God's anger or of its being in some sense placated through the cross. After noting a distinction between expiation and propitiation, the Report's authors conclude, "It is nevertheless true that in Paul's thought the effect of expiation is the same as that of propitiation - to neutralise the sin that is the cause of God's displeasure and so to avert God's wrath (however that should be understood)." (p 213)

The question remains, therefore, whether or not Jeffrey John is in line with 'The Mystery of Salvation' at this point (or indeed, the Apostle Paul).

As to the significance of past Church reports, given the willingness of Jeffrey John and others in the Church of England to 'move on' where so desired, it is to be wondered how much weight they should be given in justifying one's position in the present. Surely, in the modern climate, every contemporary position must rest on a contemporary, rather than a former, justification?

Posted by: John Richardson on Friday, 13 April 2007 at 10:10am BST

The comment of the Bishop of Willesden could and should be applied to himself. Why did not he, and the Rt. Reverend the Bishop of Lewes, use measured language in their response? There are a variety of theories used to interpret the atonement, Penal Substitution being ONE of them. But from what these clerics presented people would be forgiven for thinking that it was the only one, an essential to salvation, and that it must be whole-heartedly believed. How very sad it is that, given a second chance to comment, the Bishop of Willesden did not begin with an apology for HIS rash use of language.

The words attributed to the Bishop of Lewes put him in another category altogether. He clearly does not accept the views of the Church of England Doctrine Commission. But from his position with the movement called 'Reform' that is not surprising.

The sudden and unusual silence from the Bishop of Durham, a co-author of the Doctrine Commission's Report 'The Mystery of Salvation', invites the Church of England and the wider Communion to see him in a new light. Would that he, too, were quick to apologise where he has been quick to criticise. Did he not recognise his own scholarship in the "provocative argument"?

Posted by: Anglicanus on Friday, 13 April 2007 at 11:05am BST

I have just read the entry on 'Anglican Mainstream' relating to this. The Very Rev'd Dr John is called upon once more to 'repent' by those who hold that Penal Substitution is the only way to understand the Sacrifice of Christ. At the risk of bringing the wrath of the Evangelical co-horts upon myself, I'd would like to say that I consider salvation to be won through the Incarnation, the Passion, the Death and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. This, as a whole, is the saving action of our God.

And if they cannot 'repent' of asking for Dr. John to 'repent', could these people at least stop doing it?

Posted by: Anglicanus on Friday, 13 April 2007 at 11:18am BST

'Behold I show you a mystery!'

But it sure aint the mystery of salvation ! It is a mystery to me that members of the C of E, including establishment figures like a bishop of Durham, feel the need constantly to criticise the attempts of others to live or to articulate their faith. The more creative, imaginative or thoughtful the thinking or acting the worse for them. They used to love to do this to John Robinson, of course, and beat him back into their comfort zone, Honest to God abandoned rather than lived out and taken forward. David Jenkins too, they loved mindlessly to attack --attributing a lightening strike to him ! Rowan Williams hasn't had a moment's peace since he was mooted as a possibility for Canterbury. His membership of that very Christian body, the Gorsedd of Bards, being attacked as pagan--and any other pretext for the ignorant and small minded to attack from behind, in underhand ways. These people were all married,unlike Jeffrey John-- and so he is being attacked in a specially nasty way, as is Vicky Gene Robinson , who even has women's names--- goodamit ! Harry Williams, another creative communicator of the gospel, who happened to be gay, still has much to say to us today. Another one largely ignored by the Church establishment, whose contribution of personal integrity has been enormous, to a Church which at best discourages it, and at worse savages those who speak and do the truth.

I find 'faith' or rather dogma used as a battering ram particularly unpleasant to behold. For me faith isn't dogma. It is a kind of openeness to life, to each other, to thinking outside the box, and action beyond our own comfort zones in ways creative and compassionate. I could have said openness to God as the conservative dogmatists might then excuse me. But I find the word 'God' so over used, that it often ammounts only to 'god', let alone G-d. The word over used, but the reality often feels strangley ignored or absent. However, my experience is that when I am open to myself, to life and others, that 'is' openness to G-d. The word 'God' is as inessential to me, as the experince is essen-tial ...

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Friday, 13 April 2007 at 11:23am BST

"but he is ignoring that this means he must also be angry "

Only if you're abusing God to exert your own power, locked in the middle ages.

Although funnily enough, I do think it's a bit of a shame that only soundbites make their way out - the public media is not the best way to learn about the various doctrinal options. You want peer-groups with educated folks and good research material for that. And a population more receptive either to new ideas, or the fact that other folks have different ideas. But then that's what the media plays upon anyway.

Posted by: Tim on Friday, 13 April 2007 at 11:47am BST

John Richardson seems to have found the TMoS unhelpful in not finding a clear answer to the question 'from what are we saved?' As one of the group which produced the study guide, I have to say I found the report's raising of this important issue, and the honest acknowledgement that it was difficult to tie down what 'salvation' might mean to have been one of its strongest points, and a good place to start real thought about these carelessly flung terms whose content in terms of meaning to many folk is nil.

Posted by: Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) on Friday, 13 April 2007 at 11:55am BST

“The notion of propitiation as the placating by man of an angry God is definitely unchristian.”

Mmm. Jeffrey John deliberately misunderstands penal substitution. Propitiation is not about man placating an angry God. It is about God responding to His own anger. It is the Trinity UNITED in action.

And Anglicanus I'm afraid you are right: penal substitution * is * essential to salvation. The other Scriptural models relating to what happens at the Cross are all incomplete without the core: penal substitution. So deny penal substitution and you indeed have no salvation. So the Bishop of Lewes and the Bishop of Willesden have nothing to apologise for. The Dean of St Albans Cathedral on the other hand has deliberately publicised a deep error which cuts out the heart of Biblical salvation. His is a false gospel.

Dr John's accusation that penal substitution makes God out to be "psychopath" and a "monster" are shocking and offensive in the extreme. It is the undermining of this core Scriptural foundation as allegedly "Ugly", "illogical", "repulsive", "nonsensical" and "insane" which makes the obstacle to mission.

Posted by: Neil Barber on Friday, 13 April 2007 at 12:27pm BST

This just proves the point that traditionalists actually know nothing of the Tradition but seek to justify their own particular beliefs. If indeed Dr. John is in line with statements going back to the 1930s, one would expect bishops who presume to comment on the matter to know this, no? And I have to ask again, why, of all the various ways of looking at the Atonement is this relatively new interpretation so attractive to Fundamentalists that they would even deny the evidence of history to claim for it some sort of historical authority, and, worse, why do they love it so much that they insist the rest of us must believe it exclusively? Why do they claim that if we do not believe PSA, we do not believe in Atonement? It is not enough to say that Scriptural penal imagery proves the eternal truth, in some sense, of PSA. There are numerous other images of Atonement in the Bible. Indeed, some of them would be in opposition to PSA. Why do they believe that, in order for their to be Atonement, there must be punishment?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 13 April 2007 at 1:14pm BST

Jack Spong said a few years ago:

"The view of the cross as the sacrifice for the sins of the world is a barbarian idea based on primitive concepts of God and must be dismissed."

"...Charles Darwin ... related human life to the world of biology more significantly than anyone had heretofore imagined. He also confronted the human consciousness with concepts diametrically opposed to the traditional Christian world view. The Bible began with the assumption that God had created a finished and perfect world from which human beings had fallen away in an act of cosmic rebellion. Original sin was the reality in which all life was presumed to live. Darwin postulated instead an unfinished and thus imperfect creation out of which human life was still evolving. Human beings did not fall from perfection into sin as the Church had taught for centuries; we were evolving, and indeed are still evolving, into higher levels of consciousness. Thus the basic myth of Christianity that interpreted Jesus as a divine emissary who came to rescue the victims of the fall from the results of their original sin became inoperative. So did the interpretation of the cross of Calvary as the moment of divine sacrifice when the ransom for sin was paid. Established Christianity clearly wobbled under the impact of Darwin's insights, but Christian leaders pretended that if Darwin could not be defeated, he could at least be ignored. It was a vain hope."

Posted by: Hugh of Lincoln on Friday, 13 April 2007 at 2:33pm BST

These people only know their way. They're not interested in another way. This is why the broad church is in jeopardy. I think we expect them to do something they can't which is to acknowledge that other people see things differently and that's ok: for them it's not ok!

Posted by: BobinWashPA on Friday, 13 April 2007 at 3:19pm BST

Back in 1962 and 1963 Bishop John Robinson was criticised for his questioning of God, and the metaphors used that did affect understanding of prayer.

Then in 1984 came Bishop David Jenkins being criticised for denying the virgin birth and possibly the bodily resurrection whilst affirming the incarnation and resurrection. His God was very God.

Now we have a would have been bishop criticised for denying penal substitution theory. Jeffrey John in this talk inhabits the whole supernatural framework and cannot be called anything but orthodox.

You get the distinct feeling of going backwards.

As for Tom Wright, he just seems to like criticising anyone else on the miniumum of information.

Posted by: Pluralist on Friday, 13 April 2007 at 4:15pm BST

Dr John's letter was good but questionable in three ways:

(1) It is irrelevant what people want to hear in this day and age: the question is whether it is true or not. Anyone can tell the people what they want to hear. The Sun newspaper does that and so do charismatic (small c, even sometimes big C) orators. That is demagoguery.

(2) Who told him that God is centrally love? Why should he believe that this is true? Is this information something he deduced or is the fact that it appears in 1 John not wholly irrelevant? In that case, why affirm the NT in that context and not in others? Answer: because he is affirming the bits he likes and not the bits he doesn't. (Capitulating to the pick and mix age.) Well, anyone can do that.

NB It is not simply a matter of Romans 3.25 whose translation is hard. Dan Bailey worked for over a decade on a thesis on that one, and ended up with the translation 'mercy seat' for 'hilasterion' in obedience to septuagintal usage. It is the entire picture: the references to blood, the logic of Isaiah 53 which is a chapter that permeates the NT.

(3) If God is centrally love, how can he not be angry at sin which spoils the loved ones? In fact, the more he loves, the more angry he will be at this, in direct proportion, if we use the analogy of a good parent. This point has however been made thousands of times - just it has not been listened to thousands of times.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Friday, 13 April 2007 at 5:08pm BST

I have been thinking further on this. I feel it relates to other questions facing the Anglican Communion. It seems we are in danger of over defining Anglican belief and practice. Instead we could consider the tensions and questions being raised as creative space in which to explore, listen and pray, without necessarily rushing to condemn. I appreciate this may seem pietistic, but I do see some hope in the wrangling in which the Anglican Communion seems to be engaged, providing we keep open and keep wide a space for expolration.

Posted by: Awdry Ely on Friday, 13 April 2007 at 5:57pm BST

When you think of it, per PSA we are saved from the wrath of God. Therefor God is the enemy. The ancient Christian "Oh Thou who lovest mankind" is thus made a lie, since how can the enemy love us? And what is there to love in such a God? I'm still waiting for an Evo to tell me why this is in any way attractive, let alone not a slander of the character of God.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 13 April 2007 at 7:38pm BST

Lawrence
your lovely posting made me realise yet again that there is an almost unbridgable gap between those whose faith compels them to diver deeper and deeper into the Christian mysteries and the mystries of faith and life, and those who need their faith to be a tight set of rules and easy answers to keep them safe from all uncertainty, and who will do everything precisely in order to keep the mysteries at bay.
No wonder we're forever talking cross purposes.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 13 April 2007 at 8:14pm BST

This is an interesting discussion and as it has been evolving I have found myself asking some questions.

Let's just say that Jesus was an atoning sacrifice (although it was really more a consental suicide). The latter is important, a sacrifice that is made that does not come from the heart does not count before God.

There is the whole discussion about God and God's character which others in this thread are handling nicely. I won't trounce further over that ground at this stage.

My question to the penal substitution camps is "who did Jesus' sacrifice cover?" We have started to discuss this elsewhere.

For today, did it cover Eve's original sin? If Eve herself were to confess that she had made a mistake and ask for Jesus' forgiveness, would she be forgiven? Why are all women condemned for the sin made by another woman (who may or may not even have really existed according to some camps)?

If a soul who is meant to have existed before Jesus sacrifice confesses her sin and asks for forgiveness, who decides whether or not she is forgiven?

If she is not forgiven, on what basis and how does that then apply for every other souls' confessions and pleas for forgiveness?

Did God really intend for the curse against Eve to continue in perpetuity; not even mitigatable by Jesus?

If we declare Jesus' sacrifice and advocacy for Eve void, which others souls salvation no longer counts.

If we are found to be in error in denying Eve's salvation, which other souls have we erronously denied acknowleding their salvation?

Sometimes the best way to test a theology is by looking at a prime example. Look at the precedent and consider the consequences.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Friday, 13 April 2007 at 11:18pm BST

No so, Mr. Shell.

The roots of our emergent believer doubts about penal substitution atonement have slowly grown up over long eras.

Some of us began to doubt when we read about the alternative views of past saints and holy people in past ages, so the whole matter became open ended for that reason. Some of us began to doubt PSA when we saw that, strictly on earthly terms, punitive approaches do not save or heal or set right anything, for any one. The parents of the murdered victim are just as bereft before the lethal injection of the assailant as they will be after it, and learning to survive such a loss has little or nothing substantially in common with penal retributions. The victim who survives also may learn that penal retributions do not set right what went wrong when they were attacked; and even if the full measure of earthly retribution is levied, what does it exactly do on any level to make the people whole again? Some folks start to question when they deeply inquire into how, say, a Truth Commission in South Africa could set things right in ways which punishment fails to do.

One could simply go on and on and on, but many of our different global voices will be needed to hear and acknowledge the widening ranges of reasons so many people now question the whole penal business.

If penal justice on earth cannot be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth - we are encouraged to also wonder about things heavenly.

Can we claim to discern God's wrath clearly and well when we have so little inquired into the roots and origins and errors of our own human wrath? When we avert our worshipful gaze especially from human wrath parading in religious doctrines?

Thus. PSA cannot truthfully be said to be self-evident, complete, or beyond question.

The cover story we often hear preached, i.e., that asking questions about self-serving church penalisms is nothing but heresy and falsity is just a self-righteous manner of snubbing anybody who for any reason has found themselves, often in the most tragic human situations, already swept far beyond what penal frameworks can value, know, judge, or restore to goodness.

Posted by: drdanfee on Friday, 13 April 2007 at 11:36pm BST

Some of you may be interested in this Unitarian view of substitutionary atonement given in a sermon in Hull by the late Rev. Ernest Penn, followed by my criticism of it (link at the bottom of that page).

http://www.change.freeuk.com/learning/relthink/epennpassion.html

http://www.change.freeuk.com/learning/relthink/eppasscrit.html

Posted by: Pluralist on Saturday, 14 April 2007 at 2:00am BST

For once I agree with NP: "The problem is overstatement of his case and words like "psychopath", "insane" etc."

In fact the distortions he is aiming at need to be focused far more precisely. Otherwise he would seem to be dismissing such great theologies of the Atonement as those of Calvin, Barth and even St. Paul himself. If the alleged distortions have arisen, they have done so on a high theological plane, not as crude heresies or fits of irrationalism. This ill-judged polemic shows a lack of the theological tact and justesse that we expect from Anglicanism.

Posted by: Fr Joseph O'Leary on Saturday, 14 April 2007 at 5:04am BST

"When you think of it, per PSA we are saved from the wrath of God. Therefore God is the enemy."

Actually, God is the judge of sinful humankind; this is what Luther called the opus alienum Dei.

But God's proper work is to redeem, save, forgive. This is what Luther calls the opus proprium Dei.

In the Law God is the judge of sin; in the Gospel he forgives sin. Christ bears the condemnation of the Law on our behalf in his death on the Cross; he becomes accursed and "sin" for our sakes.

" The ancient Christian "Oh Thou who lovest mankind" is thus made a lie, since how can the enemy love us? " Not so at all. God's mercy triumphs, not through dismissing the stern demands of righteousness but by having Christ fulfil them on our behalf and then clothe us with his own righteousness.

"And what is there to love in such a God? I'm still waiting for an Evo to tell me why this is in any way attractive, let alone not a slander of the character of God." God is first feared, and then, when he reveals himself as a God of mercy and compassion -- in Christ -- God is loved in return; we love God because God first loved us and showed his love in giving his Son on our behalf. All of this language is very anthropomorophic and has to be spiritually interpreted in light on one's experience of guilt and forgiveness, condemnation and absolution.

Posted by: Fr Joseph O'Leary on Saturday, 14 April 2007 at 5:16am BST

"Who told him that God is centrally love? Why should he believe that this is true?"

It's (rhetorical) questions like this, Mr. Shell, which lead me to wonder if you've ever really be EVANGELIZED (in any meaningful sense of the terms "Good News")?

"In fact, the more he loves, the more angry he will be at this, in direct proportion, if we use the analogy of a good parent."

Oh brother: now you're giving *evidence* of psychopathology?! (love = good . . . = anger? WTF???)

"This point has however been made thousands of times - just it has not been listened to thousands of times."

Yes, inmates tend to make the same points over and over and over . . . still doesn't mean they should be running the asylum (or the Church, if that Church is to preach the GOOD News!)

Posted by: JCF on Saturday, 14 April 2007 at 6:29am BST

Mynsterpreost wrote, "I found the report's raising of this important issue, and the honest acknowledgement that it was difficult to tie down what 'salvation' might mean to have been one of its strongest points".

And here we are, twelve years on and still no clearer, it would seem.

Here's the challenge the Report posed: "What is the danger in which we stood until God chose to act as saviour through the life and self-offering of Jesus Christ?" (p2).

Any answers, anyone?

Posted by: John Richardson on Saturday, 14 April 2007 at 8:04am BST

"What is the danger in which we stood until God chose to act as saviour through the life and self-offering of Jesus Christ?"

The danger of falling prey to the anti Cosmic attitudes of hierarchically de-valuing Alexandrian Philosophy/Gnosticism.

The affirmation of God's very good Creation in the Incarnation and Resurrection saved us for ever from believing Alexandrian philosophy.

(well, some of us ;=)

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Saturday, 14 April 2007 at 11:15am BST

Dear Göran

Haven't got a clue what you're on about. :-)

John

Posted by: John Richardson on Saturday, 14 April 2007 at 11:52am BST

As one who has little belief in original sin and all that (though I do see people making a mess of things) I have no idea in what danger we have stood (John Richardson's question).

And let's look at this, Fr Joseph O'Leary. Suppose there is a God angry at me (I'm sorry to hear this), and then says well I won't kill you but I'll kill my human mainfestation instead, though it won't kill me, but the human being who for the time will be feeling much pain. Am I supposed to respond by saying, how I love you? Of course I would not. I'd say no thanks; if you have an issue with me, tell me, and carry out the justice with me, not him.

This is such a mythological construction. It depends on those nasty Romans killing people at a drop of a hat. How good it was for that period of history to exist to get a saviour who died for others. What sort of "history" is involved should the saviour have arrived in contemporary England? God so loved his only Son that he was told to move on a lot and the magistrates frustrated him?

You know, read comments that follow these arguments in the secular press. The ordinary thinking people think the religious believers with these arguments are nuts. And I rather agree with them.

Posted by: Pluralist on Sunday, 15 April 2007 at 1:44am BST

But is there a key in the roots and meanings of the word 'salvation' do you reckon ?

salve healing health wholeness wholistic holism

The English takes just a little rooting around to get to it. (But do we always?) In Welsh this is completely clear. Whether saying : savation & saviour in worship; or the National Health (Service); or "Good health" in the pub, the root of 'health ' (iach; iechyd) is the same in each case. THAT is how down to earth salvation or wholeness is or could be. Seems incarnational, relational, rational-emotional-spiritual to me -- and far from "nuts" !

Either healing-wholeness applies in the love-bed & death-bed, at work, in politics, in our endeavours, projects, families, and arts as well as worship, or it is just a ghetto notion.

Why don't we take our cue from this, and look for more *every day* anglo-saxon langauge, instead of being so latinate and translate 'salvation' / wholeness into words every one can get, with out degrees in Bible and Theology?

*Would 'quotidian' do it for you ?!

Outside theology, people in may fields, including sciences & arts have considered versions of the salvation project. I think Buddha, Cervantes, Beethoven,Freud, Jung, Marx,, existentialists and feminists, did a huge amount to demonstrate what we are saved from, as well as, saved for --- and attempts at making a bridge (or raft) from one to another.

Let's get translating back and forth.

Posted by: LaurenceRoberts on Sunday, 15 April 2007 at 9:02pm BST

"In fact, the more he loves, the more angry he will be at this, in direct proportion, if we use the analogy of a good parent".

This is one of the saddest most profoundly shocking comments I've read on TA and it betrays much more about the writer's experience of parenting than about an understanding of the God the Bible is talking about.

Do you have children? Do you know, however fleetingly, that there are moments when you can see they are doing wrong and have to be corrected, but you understand perfectly why they're doing wrong and you're full of understanding rather than anger?

When a toddler throws bricks at her baby brother you understand exactly why she does it. You also have to stop her, firmly. You don't feel angry with her at all, you know too much about child development and anyway, you know enough about your own jealousies to understand exactly how she feels. Nevertheless, your toddler will believe that you are angry when you stop her, however gently you try to do it.

When she finally sobs and say she's sorry you forgive her, because you know she needed to learn that she had done wrong, and once she had understood it she needed to be forgiven to lift that burden of wrongdoing and the guilt from her. You forgive her for her sake, not because you needed her to apologise for your own sake.

If we can love like that, how can God's love be less?

I know that whenever I was angry with my toddler it was because I was tired and preoccupied, and I snapped in situations in which I would not normally have snapped. The fault was all mine, I was the one who needed to apologise for my anger.

That's not to say there can't be moments in life where a deliberate hurt does not result in rightful anger.... but I wonder whether that's again just rightful because we're looking from a fallible human perspective.

For God to whom all hearts are open, there can be no anger. If we must ascribe human emotions to him, there can only be deep sadness. And love. And patience. And more love. And more patience.
Because THAT's what good parenting is about.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 16 April 2007 at 7:52am BST

Hi JCF

I think you misunderstood my original point. I too think God is centrally love - but I don't think this because I am myself a fan of love, even though I am. God is perfectly entitled to have qualities I may not like, and even if he does there is nothing you or I can do about it.

To deny this is more or less to admit that God is made in our own image. He does not exist - he is the sum of our own ideals. His precise coincidence with our ideals would be deeply suspicious. Therefore we would expect him not to coincide with them from time to time.

I was simply suggesting that 'God is love' is an idea JJ derived at least partly from the NT. The same NT where he dismisses the bits that he does not perfectly like. Conclusion: his source of authority is not the NT but his own likes and dislikes. A typical postmodern pick and mix.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Tuesday, 17 April 2007 at 12:31pm BST

Hi Erika

I think if you read what I said I never once mentioned being angry at a child, but rather being angry at whatever would harm that child, ie the reverse of the other option. Are you telling me you would not be angry at a drug-pusher, or even a creeping ideology, that would harm your own child? E.g. my own baby 11 months.

This confusion of issues with persons is at the root of a lot of the current disagreements. I feel the root of it is that many people are not used to talking about issues but only used to talking about other people - with the result that they tend to try to turn the discussion that way.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Tuesday, 17 April 2007 at 12:36pm BST

"Christ bears the condemnation of the Law on our behalf in his death on the Cross; he becomes accursed and "sin" for our sakes."

Father, I don't disagree, neither do I disagree with

"God's mercy triumphs, not through dismissing the stern demands of righteousness but by having Christ fulfil them on our behalf and then clothe us with his own righteousness."

I do have a problem with PSA as the only way of understanding atonement, and I don't agree with the conflating of "sacrifice FOR sin" with "punishment by proxy OF sinners". I've emailed you through your blog with a link on which I would be interested in your comments. I am, as you can probably tell, struggling with this, and I understand very little as yet.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 17 April 2007 at 3:27pm BST

Most Penal Substitutionists (for want of a better description) that I know wouldn't want to treat PSA as the only explanation of the Atonement. They would probably see it as the central explanation that holds them all together -how did Jesus win the victory, what was the nature of his ransom. It's not a case of choose your favourite model of atonement as see how the Bible uses a number of descriptions of what Christ did. To ignore the victory over Satan and death would be silly but so too would be to play down the way that Christ takes our place and what we deserve.

Ironically Tom Wright endorsed Steve Chalke's book that used as provocative language about PSA (may JJ thought he could rely on his support too)

Posted by: dave williams on Tuesday, 17 April 2007 at 5:03pm BST

Christopher
Of course I would be angry with a drug pusher, but I'm not the drug pusher's parent. What I have talked about is the love that a parent feels for a child, which, when it is most perfect, includes no anger just sadness, patience and love.

I know that we find it hard to love each other like that (your drug pusher is a good example of that). But my analogy was about a parent-child relationship. There can be no doubt that God loves him as much as he loves you or me or the child the pusher potentiall harms.

It seems scandalous to us, but that amazing love of God is precisely the scandal of the gospels.

It's also what's at the heart of the conservative-liberal debate. Too many conservatives just cannot imagine a truly wide love that does not require anger, punishment, which is why they stick to ever more closely defined moralistic rules. It's much easier than to abandon yourself completely into God's love. But the sense of liberation and freedom you get when you finally accept the immensity of the love is worth the scary initial steps.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 17 April 2007 at 5:37pm BST

"Most Penal Substitutionists (for want of a better description) that I know wouldn't want to treat PSA as the only explanation of the Atonement."

From what I understand, if you don't sign on to PSA, you can't be a priest in Sydney. Then again, I doubt many in Sydney would want to be priests anyway. I stand to be corrected on both points.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 17 April 2007 at 7:45pm BST

There are some important questions about love and wrath here.
Is God centrally love -John Frame says yes and no in that a a number of attributes must take centre stage to inform each other in turn. God is love but also light and a consuming fire.
Are conservatives unable to imagine a love that is wide enough to exclude anger etc. Yes-sure we are able to imagine that -but is that the love that the authors of the Bible "imagine" indeed is an angerless love any kind of love at all to the victims of rape, genocide etc.
I no more want moralistic rules than Erikka -conservative/reformed theology is after all about God's grace about undeserved merit, salvation that cannot be earned. But I must be ready for the possibility that God might disagree with me in terms of my ideals, plans and actions

Posted by: dave williams on Tuesday, 17 April 2007 at 9:26pm BST

Dave,
"But I must be ready for the possibility that God might disagree with me in terms of my ideals, plans and actions"

I fully agree with this!
If we're attentive to God we become very aware of this in our own lives and try to purify our own lives as much as we are capable. Not to obey rules out of fear, but because it's the only appropriate response to Love.


But returning to my analogy of human parenting, you can perfectly disagree with your child's ideals, plans and actions and do everything in your power to influence her to change. But it does not mean that you have to be angry with her or that you need to be placated for your own sake.

When it seems difficult to understand how God might be like that in the face of all the evil in the world, I keep coming back to the knowledge that if I can do it, even if only occasionally, in my own small life, how much more can God do it in all our lives. He is always greater than we are, never smaller.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 18 April 2007 at 9:16am BST

Hi Erika-

Yes, but that is not the point. We doubtless believe exactly the same as each other about the love of God - I have for over 30 years. The issue I raised was a different one: namely, if someone loves a person, they hate and are angry at whatever would harm that person to preceisely the degree of their love. That is: the more they love, the more thay are angry/hostile towards whatever would wilfully and evilly harm.

Jeffrey John seemed to be saying that one could have the love without the hatred of evil. As a parent I don't see how that is possible. I didn't see it even before I was a parent.

If one is not supposed to hate evil things (things, not people), what is one's attitude towards them to be? Indifference? Apathy? 'Tolerance'? Acceptance? Towards the Virginia shootings? No way, Jose.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Wednesday, 18 April 2007 at 12:18pm BST

Ford - I hope you are aware of the wonderful growth and strength seen in Sydney Diocese for decades now

Posted by: NP on Wednesday, 18 April 2007 at 12:48pm BST

NP,
What does that have to do with anything? What is it people are being attracted to? A bishop that refers to Roman Catholics as sub-Christians, who is actively hostile towards and plots to destroy non-Evangelical congregations under his care, and who denies some of the basic teachings of the faith with regard to the sacraments. Yeah, that's just great. So the pews are full, you know what I'm going to say about that. NP, is your belief that "liberals" are seeking the approval of the world based on the fact that you obviously think that popularity with the world means one's teaching is correct? I've had online discussions with Sydney evangelicals. No doubt they are a specific group within the Sydney Anglican population, but if the teachings of my Lord of Sydney can produce people like that, then I want no part of them.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 18 April 2007 at 2:44pm BST

Erika,

I think there is a risk in trying to define God's love and God's anger in terms of human parenting.

Firstly because God's fathership is first and foremost in relation to the Son. So he is our father by adoption. The parent child relationship is perhaps not a good analogy then for dealing with God's attitudes to activities outside of his family.

The reality is that parents do get angry with their children. Even if they do -is it the right sort of anger? Is it comparable to God.

We are better to start with how the Bible talks about God -his attributes and his actions. What does it say about his love, what does it say about his wrath.

I may not be comfortable with human expressions of anger -but if I find out that a wrath of God is revealed -what does that then mean?

Posted by: dave williams on Wednesday, 18 April 2007 at 3:51pm BST

Ford,

I'm not sure if Sydney Anglicans would use the word "priest" to describe pastors/presbyters in their churches -if not that is a good thing. I hope all Sydney Anglicans consider themselves "priests" as part of a nation of royal priests.

I also am encouraged to hear that you have to agree with Penal Substitution to be a Sydney Presbyter. I hope that you also have to beleive in Christus Victor as well. Atonement isn't a buffet lunch where you pick and mix. Christ wins the victory by paying the penalty. Without paying the penalty he doesn't win the victory, if he doesn't win the victory the the penalty was pointless.

God Bless

Dave

Posted by: dave williams on Wednesday, 18 April 2007 at 3:54pm BST

First of all, Dave, the priesthood of the believer in no way negates the ordained priesthood. If they refuse to use the word, it is NOT a good thing, since it reveals a number of beliefs about Holy Order and Eucharist, for starters, that are not part of the catholic faith. I also understand, though again, I may be wrong, and stand to be corrected, that the requirement for PSA is exclusive. And I don't necessarily agree that the way to win the battle is to pay the penalty. A sacrifice for sin is quite different from a victim punished for sin, especially the sins of others.

You are not an Anglican, I think, and thus have a very different theology of sacrament and priesthood than we do, or some of us anyway. We have for a long time had different groups within Anglicanism having very different attitudes on this. I simply do not agree with you. Indeed, my entire faith is predicated on things that you would likely find objectionable, even idolatrous. I suspect the same could be said of me in relation to your beliefs. It is thus pointless for us to argue. We will talk past each other. I don't think my priesthood is such that I can make Eucharist, that is for someone who has received the Holy Spirit for that work in the Church. The Eucharist is an act that transcends time and space, it is the sacrament of unity, we make anamnesis, 'bringing into being through remembering', and our sacrifice is joined to the once only sacrifice of Christ. It isn't just a matter of thinking piously about something we believe happened 2000 years ago.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 18 April 2007 at 4:47pm BST

But Ford, you do realise that Archbishop Jensen is not deviating from Anglican teaching or tradition..... you speak of him as if he is leading some heretical sect in the AC but he clearly is not out of step with the Primates or most of the AC - is he?

Posted by: NP on Wednesday, 18 April 2007 at 5:34pm BST

In supporting lay presidency he most certainly IS deviating from Anglican tradition. He and his brother certainly have an unrecognizably, from this Anglican's perspective, low understanding of Eucharist. That's just for starters. From what I have been able to read about Sydney Anglicans, and most of the ones I have run into would style themselves Sydney Evangelicals with little or no interest in the Anglican connection, what is going on there bears little resemblance to any Anglicanism I am familiar with. He seems to me to be just another fundamentalist, an intelligent one, no doubt, but not all that closely tied to the Anglican tradition.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 18 April 2007 at 7:06pm BST

Ford,

We don't have to talk past each other. My experience of Anglicanism is probably as much as many people on parish electoral rolls!

On priesthood -within Anglicanism there is a rich tradition of not referring to the presbyter as priest

As per my previous post -and as per the booked just published "Pierced for our transgressions" PSA does not have to be held exclusively

So we can choose to disagree on views -but I think there was a factual clarification needed here

Posted by: dave williams on Wednesday, 18 April 2007 at 7:42pm BST

But Ford, as you know, lay presidency does not at all contradict the bible - where does it say that only "priests" should preside?

(Smart move by the National Union of Priests to get this exclusive deal for themselves!)

Posted by: NP on Thursday, 19 April 2007 at 9:30am BST

Dave Williams,
Anglicanism has many rich traditions. It's a complicated history. The basic rich Anglican tadition is of trying to be a place where everyone can come to God. Actually, it was about finding a place where everyone would agree to be loyal to the Crown in the religious politics of the day, but the idea is that if we could put aside our differences for the sake of domestic peace, and keeping our heads on our shoulders, then surely we can do it now for the sake of a much greater Kingdom. I think God led us through that political turmoil to teach us how to get along despite our differences, actually, and our current behaviour is proving we haven't been very good learners.
I am merely trying to point out to the Consevos who would split the Church over a gay bishop and gay marriage, that there are others in the Church who are just as appalled at THEIR beliefs as they are over the whole gay thing, who feel there are lines beyond which one ought not go without severely distorting the faith, and that sex isn't the only issue some would find to be communion breaking. We don't break communion, however. Why must they?

Posted by: FOrd ELms on Thursday, 19 April 2007 at 11:36am BST

Ford,

I think the issue is - and I think that is perfectly Anglican in the true tradition of Cranmer and others - that Anglicanism isn't simply unity for unity's sake. So it isn't a question of do you break communion by an activity, rather are there things that are right and wrong and what then is the basis for that right and wrongness.

It is worth noting that some of us are excluded from the Anglican Communion even though we agree with plenty within it because of some things at the moment - lay presidency may for example make anglicanism something that I can relate to. In the same way women priests made anglicanism more palatable for some whilst driving others away.

You can't assume that Anglicans will always be anglicans in a particular way - and just as Evangelicals have made decisions often about how they relate to others - so you will have to decide how to relate to Sydney on this matter.

Posted by: dave williams on Thursday, 19 April 2007 at 12:02pm BST

Ford,

I'm also interested -is there a link between rejecting penal substitution and an insistance on the presbyter acting as priest?

Dave

Posted by: dave williams on Thursday, 19 April 2007 at 2:26pm BST

Dave,
As to your last question, maybe. I haven't thought of it in that light, but I would consider a high sacrificial understanding of Eucharist to be linked with a far more cosmic understanding of the Incarnation and the Atonement than that it is about letting us humans go to Heaven in spite of our being criminals. It speaks to an understanding that Christ has recreated all of Creation. It is somewhat abstract and I'm sorry I'm not expressing it well, but one glimpse of what I am saying is in the orthodox idea that the day of the resurrection was the eighth day of creation whereby fallen creation was perfected and made new. I see nothing so mystical in those who are attached to PSA.

As to unity for the sake of unity, that is precisely what the Elizabethan Settlement was about. What's more, even the BCP is constructed so that as many as possible can have something to hang on to. Those with a high sacramental understanding of the Eucharist and those for whom it is little more than an act of pious remembrance can all say "Amen" at the end of the anaphora in Cranemr's liturgy. A pretty crafty thing, IMHO. Those who need an epiclesis can convince themselves it is there, those who despise such things can convince themselves it is not. That's what it is to be Anglican. That said, your statement has finally given me empathy for the position of the conservatives. Lay presidency for me is like a gay bishop for them, something that would mean that I am no longer able to believe the Anglican Church has the Truth. I'd swim the Bosporus in that instance, despite there being no orthodox congregation here for me to be a part of. I feel that strongly about it.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 19 April 2007 at 5:51pm BST

Ford - but you do accept that lay presidency is not at all in contradiction to the scriptures?

Posted by: NP on Friday, 20 April 2007 at 7:20am BST

Ford-
As I see it, the trouble with your position is that you see the BCP as a more important document than the primary sources on which it is self-confessedly based.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Friday, 20 April 2007 at 12:48pm BST

Ford,

Catholics and dissenters under Elizabeth I would be surprised to here that she beleived in unity at any cost. Besides Elizabeth was one person in the fight for the soul of the CofE and not the founder. You are ignoring Edward completely.

As for PSA and recreation etc -the best I can do at the moment is point you in the direction of "Pierced for our Transgressions" by Sach, Ovey and Jeffreys or The Cross of Christ by Stott. I'm afraid that your criticisms are of one poor misrepresentation of PSA not the full doctrine in all its splender. I don't know that something has to be mystical to be wonderful -depends on what you mean by that word. I do know that I along with plenty of other PSA advocates emphasise the recreation -that doesn't require turning the Eucharist into a continuing sacrifice.

Posted by: dave williams on Friday, 20 April 2007 at 2:48pm BST

"you do accept that lay presidency is not at all in contradiction to the scriptures?"
It IS in contradiction to the faith "once and for all delivered to the saints" as the Spirit led us to understand it over 1500 years. Just because it is something we came to understand after the last full stop of Revelation makes it neither wrong nor unnecessary. Scripture says little about who breaks the bread and blesses the cup. The Church has always understood episcopate, and the sacerdotal priesthood that evolved out of it, to be vital. Why should it cease to be so?

"you see the BCP as a more important document than the primary sources "
No, I don't. In fact, as my understanding of liturgy has grown, I find the BCP more and more inadequate, while maintaining my love of its language. It is, however, obviously crafted to be as broadly interpretable as possible.

"doesn't require turning the Eucharist into a continuing sacrifice. "
I'm not "turning" the Eucharist into anything. The Church has always had this view of the Eucharist. It was the Protestant Reformation in the West that turned the Eucharist into something it had never been before. What's wrong with it being a continuing sacrifice? It is one of the most solid underpinnings of my faith that it is precisely that. It is the sacrament of unity, across space and time. It is, in the words of a group of North African martyrs in the time of Diocletian, "what we do".

"the full doctrine in all its splender"
Please explain this, since what you see as splenderous I see as distorting the nature of God. That you don't certainly suggests there is something I'm not seeing.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 23 April 2007 at 3:49pm BST

But the question is: what authority does the BCP have that obliges us to accept its broad interpretations and/or fence-sittings?

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Wednesday, 25 April 2007 at 12:47pm BST

So, you won't be quoting the 39 Articles any time soon then? In Britain, I believe it has the authority of the law of the land. Other than that, tradition, maybe. You'd have to ask the Prayerbook Society. I'm far happier with the theology of the Canadian BAS despite the fact that it is linguistically ugly, changed things merely for the sake of change, and requires liturgical resources most parishes cannot avail of, so I don't feel bound to accept the broad interpretations of the BCP. That said, it was the Anglican liturgical document for 500 years, and, on the principle of lex orendi, lex credendi, it was a major expounder of doctrine, and I'd say the way most of us learned what we now believe. That we believe such different things shows how widely it can be interpreted.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 25 April 2007 at 1:59pm BST

'the way most of us learned what we now believe':
Surely you are not implying that we believe the first thing we hear/read. Of course, many people grew up with it, but how does that make it right (as opposed to being of sentimental value)?

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Thursday, 26 April 2007 at 12:19pm BST

Not the first thing we heard, Christopher, why would you say that? I grew up hearing the BCP every Sunday. I would read it sitting in the pew before Church started. Was the BCP used so rarely in your home parish during your growing up? It was so much a part of church for me, that it has taken me a long time to get used to not using that kind of language in prayer, and I find it amusing that today, when a mixed group of Christians prays the Our Father in public, it is still the reflex way we address God. For all the reforms of the liturgy, God is still Thou in those instances. Lex orendi, lex credendi, so what we prayed from the book was supposed to be our faith. I now know it to be deficient in some areas, especially in the Eucharistic liturgy, though it still forms the base of the Eucharistic Liturgy in my parish, and I have no problem with that. I'm not sure what you're getting at. I made the claim that the BCP was constructed to be as broadly interpretable as possible, in opposition to the claim that in the Tudor period, the monarchy was NOT interested in fending off civil war by striving for a religious praxis that could include as many as possible, perhaps paving the way for burning the rest, but still. How did we get into a discussion of the authority of the BCP? Until you asked, I didn't even address the issue.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 26 April 2007 at 4:30pm BST

I think your point of view is based on the principle 'lex orandi: lex credendi'. Which is a neat little proverb, but makes in my view little sense. People will, left to themselves, want to worship in the way that is aesthetically and psychologically pleasing to themselves. But one cannot base *belief* on aesthetics or psychology - in fact, it would be dangerous to do so, since the truth is very rarely what we would aesthetically or psychologuically want it to be.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Friday, 27 April 2007 at 12:40pm BST

"People will, left to themselves, want to worship in the way that is aesthetically and psychologically pleasing to themselves"
While true, Christopher, in the context of this discussion, this is a red herring. Lilturgy is certainly a product of the worshipping community, but it comes down to us from ancient times, and is the prayer of the Church. Lex orendi, lex credendi doesn't mean the people just coming up with what they believe, it is the Church saying this is how we state what we believe in our corporate prayer. Liturgy, at least as I use it, refers to the modern recensions of the ancient forms by which the Church worshipped for 2000 years. It is not something made up during the week because "We need 'a liturgy' for the kids to give flowers to their mothers on Mother's Day". While these are in a sense liturgies, I am referring to the corporate prayer of the Church across time. I agree with your premise, however, which is one of the reasons why I have difficulty worshipping in "non-liturgical" churches, I don"t feel like we are following any kind of tradition, and I feel cut off from the Church across the ages. Your assertion seems more fitting in the context of the worship in "non-liturgcal" churches than directed at the BCP.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Saturday, 28 April 2007 at 11:07pm BST

The various reasons I take a different view:
(1) The need for a distillation of doctrine and worship into a standard form was greater in the pre-printing pre-education days.
(2) The whole 'the liturgy' thing which people talk about bears no relation, as a concept, to anything Jesus or the NT spoke about or prioritised.
(3) The fact that the church has always done/said something can mean different things. Perhaps it means we are forever bound to the forms that became current through the offices of a few individuals in the early centuries.
(4) What if these individuals were those in power and unrepresentative of the powerless?
(5) Biblical literacy is in my experience lowest precisely in those assemblies that have what they call 'the liturgy'.

A point where I agree:
(1) Hymns can remain the same for hundreds of years - the peak of verbal-musical achievement - so why can't prose/poetry that is not set to music?

It is the exclusivity / unvaried diet I query. Just because you have a great and true piece of poetry/prose, does that mean you should repeat it every day/week and never include others equally great and true?

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Monday, 30 April 2007 at 1:17pm BST

1) I disagree. Look at what happens when your average Evangelical church changes pastors. What was acceptable last spring becomes Satan worship in the Fall.
2) The "liturgy thing!?!?!" Dear God! I really don't know what to say to this attitude, except that I find it odd that for 2000 years, the Church hasn't noticed the unBiblical nature of its worship! Thanks for pointing that out, we'll all change immediately!
3) I would say we need to respect these forms and work within them. Tradition is not a dead thing, but we don't need to reinvent the wheel every generation either.
4) Given that liturgy took its forms from the people, I find this an untenable statement. The liturgy was not shaped by a few people, it evolved as the Spirit led us.
5) Not surprising. Complacency is commonplace everywhere, indeed, I would say it is the driving force behind much Biblical literalism as well. What's more, such Churches would put more emphasis on the community of believers rather than the individual, would not consider individual interpretation of Scripture appropriate, and would consider that, authority lying with the Church, it is the responsibility of the Church's scholars to be on the forefront of our following the Spirit's lead. Thus, the laity would not need to be as Biblically literate as those for whom the Church is just a group of people individually striving for salvation. I do feel that we need more Biblical literacy, however. Are you suggesting the Roman or Eastern Churches aren't Biblically literate? What is your tradition, Christopher? If you come from an "aliturgical" backgroud, we probably have some very different understandings of worship.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 1 May 2007 at 5:24pm BST

In reply to the question 'What is your tradition?' surely it is necessary for purposes of impartiality and clear sight to have none. But to be in a position to draw on them all. Not that they are separate discreet entities anyway.

Although I have not much knowledge of the history of 'liturgy' your statement that the people made it as it is surprised me. My understanding was that 'liturgy' is typically a product of leaders.

However, surely you will not dispute that formal 'liturgy' is (in a Christian context) a later, non-foundational, invention. New Testament period gatherings (what we know of them) were much freer (see 1 Cor 14) - even into the time of Justin c150 when readings took as long as time allowed (no set time or set passages). Even when Jesus read aloud in the synagogue that was not pre-planned, nor did it need to be. No formal 'eucharistic' 'ceremonies' either: just common meals.

Posted by: Chirstopher Shell on Wednesday, 2 May 2007 at 12:28pm BST

Christopher,
"surely it is necessary for purposes of impartiality and clear sight to have none."
If we say we understand a tradition while standing outside it, we must be very careful. One of the first things the Orthodox address, for example, is developing "an Orthodox mindset", and you really need to understand the tradition for that. Also, I have often heard Evangelicals refer to liturgical prayer in disparaging ways which entirely miss the point. I likewise do not understand at all the Evangelical tradition. Why the disrespect for the way Christians have worshipped for 2000 years? Where is the attraction to reinventing the wheel every week? To feeling disconnected from the past?
I also do not agree that we see non-liturgical worship in the NT. Temple and synagogue worship clearly was liturgical, it was how Christ and the Apostles understood worship from their earliest childhoods, also Revelation, in it's allegorical descriptions of the Kingdom, describes liturgical worship. Besides, the NT is not trying to show us how Christians worshipped in those days, the best it shows are glimpses, and they seem to be glimpses of liturgy.

"Although I have not much knowledge of the history of 'liturgy' your statement that the people made it as it is surprised me. My understanding was that 'liturgy' is typically a product of leaders."

In which case you should read about the development of liturgy, like Dix's Shape of the Liturgy, for instance, or even a textbook on liturgics. It's far more complex than the leaders making things up. Even the freedom to compose extempore prayers was in the larger context of the community gathered to do something. Read also Kallistos Ware's The Orthodox Church, nothing specific, but he does talk about the role of the laity in this and other areas.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 3 May 2007 at 12:28pm BST

Well I have read a little on the topic - mostly re Lord's Supper. Dix is highly controversial (not to say doubted by most) on that matter.

This whole thing about 'Orthodox mindset' etc is precisely what one tries to avoid. That is denominationalism. Only by being a mere Christian open to all but constrained by none can one judge impartially. After all, if one develops an orthodox mindset it is hardly surprising that one will start coming to orthodox conclusions about things. That is a perfect circle.

I don't reinvent the wheel when I address my wife with different words each day. I simply shy away from the stagnation inherent in repetition.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Friday, 4 May 2007 at 12:38pm BST

Christopher,
"Dix is highly controversial (not to say doubted by most"

! Given the scope of the Liturgical Movement in Western Christianity, I would argue the point.

"Only by being a mere Christian open to all"
I've seen this attitude among, for example, Sydney Evangelicals. It sounds good at first, but, while is a great way to negate arguments you disagree with from other traditions as factional, it puts you at risk of ignoring your own assumptions. You assume, for instance, a stagnation that, frankly, is not there. Liturgical worship, for me, is vibrant, living, connected with the past, and expressive of what Christians believe. Nonliturgical worship, frankly, leaves me cold. It is not the way my soul talks to God. I'm sure others perceive the reverse, and that's great. You assume early Christian worship was NOT liturgical. Why? You claim the worship we see in the NT wasn't liturgical. This assumes the NT is trying to tell us how to worship. It is also in disagreement with others who see the exact opposite. Frankly, it doesn't make a lot of sense to me that people, both Jews and gentiles, whose entire experience of worship was liturgical would suddenly stop worshipping in that way. I admit God can do what He likes and lead us where He wills, all the same, so if He can make the change from Saul to Paul, He could certainly initiate a totally new way of worshipping Him, I just don't see any great evidence that He did.
Also:

"I don't reinvent the wheel when I address my wife with different words each day."
Indeed not, but you DO share a life together, and, while certainly not being in agreement on everything, you DO have a commonality of attitude, surely. We too use different words in our speaking to God, but share a commonality as well. It's just that for us this commonality is not only with those in the building, but with those in all buildings at all times who also worship in this way. "It is what we do."

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 7 May 2007 at 2:17pm BST
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