Saturday, 2 May 2009

opinion for the May Day weekend

Giles Fraser Church Times Why blogs can be bad for the soul

Theo Hobson Guardian: Comment is free Face to faith: Christians disillusioned with the churches should articulate an alternative

B P Dandelion Times Credo: Uncertainty speaks volumes in the sound of silence

Christopher Howse Telegraph Green men cut in church stonework

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 2 May 2009 at 12:23pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Opinion


Well said. I wonder if Levinas' philosophy extends to the practice of theology. Probably ... Eccl. 5:2.

I suppose that one way forward in this 'blog-eat-blog' world is continued, compassionate and courteous modeling of the implications of the Gospel ... even in blog comments. Far easier said than done, but maybe that's the mustard seed for us.

Posted by: Matt on Saturday, 2 May 2009 at 1:30pm BST

When it comes to blogging, I think one should try to focus on the policy and not the personality: however, personalities drive matters. You do have your own agenda too: mine is theological and partly political. In my own case, I combine all that with a bit of cartooning but it's not exactly Gerald Scarfe (I don't think I can get out of the box of aiming at recognition, that the said drawing is identifiably of the said person).

I wonder if my recent cartoon of Giles Fraser, from the awful 'skinhead' photo in the Church Times (which actually hides some useful features), as well as my comments connecting his views to those who so dislike his output, has led in part to his recent eruption? Or is it that he has been this consistent target of the hard right for so long and this now has spread over PSA?

Posted by: Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) on Saturday, 2 May 2009 at 2:47pm BST

Of course I approve of the stance of B. P. Dandelion (and not just his views seem to be spreading around a lot this year), but I'd combine the outlook with words and music and some worship structure...

Posted by: Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) on Saturday, 2 May 2009 at 2:51pm BST

My concern in reading some of these articles, notwithstanding Giles Fraser’s confusion over contributors and those who comment, is that we have lost that radically Christian concept of Holiness.

Holiness has all but been ignored lately in favor a kind of relevancy that accommodates the spirit of the age into Christianity. The demise of Quakerism into a Unitarian fellowship is a case in point – as cited by B. P. Dandelion. Holiness has never been accommodating but it has been the way – from NT Church times to the present – by which we seek to become Christ like. Christianity is so radically different because Christians follow Christ and not the sages and spirits of this world. To follow Christ is to be radically transformed in a constant process of conversion, from where we were to what we shall become in Christ. Christ’s Kingdom is not of this world. So why are we trying so hard to build some kind of secular Church that looks less and less like the Kingdom of God?

Those who pursue holiness, who pursue the radical claims of Christ for personal change and holiness in morals and ethics are usually typified as bigots, Puritans and made the objects of ridicule. In Roman times they became the spectacles in the arena while they died as martyrs. I fear that the kind of society advocated by some “Christians” will only create such martyrs for their “entertainment.” In the face of such we are still to pursue holiness, and to do so radically!

Posted by: Ian Montgomery on Saturday, 2 May 2009 at 3:14pm BST

"Those who pursue holiness, who pursue the radical claims of Christ for personal change and holiness in morals and ethics are usually typified as bigots, Puritans..."

And here, the (interesting) meditation on holiness disintegrated into yet more partisan blather. Pity.

Posted by: JCF on Saturday, 2 May 2009 at 7:03pm BST

Pluralist - no, I rather liked the cartoon (and you were quite right to out me as not being a liberal - too few people presume that I am one and they are wrong.) The response to my PSA was, of course, fully expected. The job of these short Church Times columns is not to tie up all the loose ends of an argument but to provoke debate. And the response to the PSA stuff was, of course, entirely expected. No, in terms of the rough and tumble of the web, I can look after myself. If you really want to know, what led to this 'eruption' (was it really an eruption?) was actually the way that Mary Midgley was being treated on Comment is Free over on the Guardian site. It was personal because I owe her late husband a huge debt of personal thanks. Mary is a great woman, incredibly wise, ninety or thereabouts, and was being attacked - anonymously, of course - as though she were an idiot. That got me very steamed up.

Posted by: Giles Fraser on Saturday, 2 May 2009 at 7:44pm BST

Ian Montgomery: up to a point. But, there is always the danger of using "holiness" to mean "holier than thou", which leads ultimately to sectarianism and persecution of the "unholy", and that is how Puritanism became so unpleasant the first time around: I'm surprised it's being peddled again so naively in the C of E nowadays.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Saturday, 2 May 2009 at 8:50pm BST

I wonder how often we stop to ask ourselves if what we call "holiness" is really just an excuse to follow the bigotry and brokenness of spirit in our lives.

Perhaps when we project our own dislikes upon God (remaking him in our image) the result is an ugly bigotry reinforced by the warm feeling that we are really only hating that which we imagine that God must hate. We can know and love what we imagine to be God because the message is so close to our own prejudices. It becomes convenient to follow our own projections and call them the "will of God."

And yet, for the sake of comparison and discernment, we have Paul's advice on what the real fruits of the Spirit will look like. Hardness of heart, anger and feelings of superiority are not items on that list.

Posted by: Dennis on Saturday, 2 May 2009 at 11:29pm BST

Like your sentiments, Ian. It's just that there are a large number of Christians who claim to be radically transformed, but all it seems to mean is that they have become bold in their aggression.

Giles' comments parallel my own contemplations in recent months. Many of the blogs are about organisational politics and who is controlling what or how they are doing things to others. That is human nature and it is necessary. But there does need to be that alternative.

Theo's suggests that the alternatives need to be articulated, which is incredibly hard - just look at ther recent history of censorship and sabotage. There are conservatives whose mission is to destroy the alternatives. Despicable mean-spirited souls.

Here's an alternative poem "All Is In God's Design" It is premised that Jesus is accountable to God, and reminding us of the character of God that existed before Jesus' annointment as Gaia's planetary guardian.

This was my daughter's favourite passage

God brings down the tyrant
along with their priestly sycophant
They are left no remnant

My favourite two were

The complacent and selfish had forgotten
that God recalls the forsaken
The greedy and selfish were overtaken
All witness God's authority over Creation


God is just
choosing to dwell amongst
the meek mild and outcaste

Posted by: Cheryl Va. on Saturday, 2 May 2009 at 11:49pm BST

Holiness, in some quarters, appears to equate to a rigid, conservative morality, inevitably including homophobia.

Personally, I think that it not the sort of idea which deserves following, and if that is Christianity, bring on the 'spirit of the age'

Posted by: Merseymike on Sunday, 3 May 2009 at 1:32am BST

re 'holiness' - I am reminded of the occasion when a would-be disciple addressed Jesus as 'Good Master'. The response of Jesus to him was: "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone!" (cf Mark 10:17-18)

Supposing that true holiness is being good, Jesus points out the difficulty of any human being (including himself, in his human condition) being able to claim that title. Therefore, to suppose that one might approach the sort of holiness that Jesus here is talking about, is to court the impossible.

This is why it is necessary to hold in awe the unique holiness of God, and not to 'think too highly of ourselves' as Saint Paul warns us. This is also why the new puritans in the Church need to take a fresh look at their protestations of being in any way 'holier than thou'. If Jesus, in his human persona, did not consider himself *good* (holy), how possibly could any of us claim to be holier than Jesus?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 3 May 2009 at 11:52am BST

The pursuit of holiness can indeed descend into holier than thou. However holiness held in humility will always seek God's way rather than man's way. God's way can only be revealed in Christ and in the Scriptures which are always to be our supreme authority. I cannot be satisfied ever with where I am as He always calls me higher. That "higher" can never countenance complacency or sin - which can only be congruent with Scripture as God's self revelation and God's revelation of his will and purpose. If a claim to "else" emerges and is not found to be congruent then it is not from God.

Posted by: Ian Montgomery on Sunday, 3 May 2009 at 1:46pm BST

Ian: but to talk about holiness in terms of submitting to authority is odd, isn't it? I do wonder why do some Evangelicals bang on and on about authority all the time - they seem to be the last people in Western society still to do so. My partner is an army officer, and even they have long given up seeing authority-talk as at all helpful as a method of enthusing personnel who could just as well opt to be doing something different with their time. Christians need to get beyond seeing the spiritual life as a question of titanic struggle to bend the knee to Power: there are many far healthier models within our tradition. James Allison has some good things to say about this.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Sunday, 3 May 2009 at 8:07pm BST

"God's way can only be revealed in Christ and in the Scriptures which are always to be our supreme authority." - Ian Montgomery -

But which authority do you claim to be superior - Christ's own words quoted in the Scriptures of the New Testament, or the less authoritative words of the Old Testament Scriptures on matters of morality and codes of practice?

It seems to me that the New Covenant of Jesus says much more about the primacy of Love over Law than we can find anywhere else in Scripture. This is what the Christian Church is charged to preach, teach and practise - incorporating whatever is revealed to is the world of modern scientific observation and codes of conduct.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 4 May 2009 at 1:44am BST

"That "higher" can never countenance complacency or sin - which can only be congruent with Scripture as God's self revelation and God's revelation of his will and purpose."

Come now, Ian M, let's quit beating around the bush.

IIRC, you see the spousal love of same-sex couples as NOT "congruent with Scripture as God's self revelation", whereas I see your POV as a *projection* of "Ian's self revelation" INTO Scripture. [The Scripture that I try, if always inadequately, "to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest"]

Of course, we both can (and SHOULD) strive for personal holiness---but that's not going to get us around the conundrum that we can ONLY read Scripture through each of our subjective little brains.

So, how do we live together DESPITE mutually-exclusive understandings of "God's revelation of his will and purpose"?

I honestly await your (talking-points free, please?) response.

Posted by: JCF on Monday, 4 May 2009 at 4:08am BST
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