Comments: opinions at the end of August

I must say how well Jonathan Sacks writes. In one short article, he shows how Jewish faith is open to be lived using its words rather than a proof system to be repeated tying up its words. He leaves the words open and creative. There is something to be learnt from this man.

Posted by Pluralist at Saturday, 30 August 2008 at 4:47pm BST

I deeply appreciate Rabbi Sacks way with reflections upon the Hewbrew Scriptures - and that hot button book, Genesis, so beloved of so many rightwing believers in Anglican venues who are so wound up about dissing anybody who is not straight based on their obliquely eisegetic readings of Genesis - and I suddenly find myself wondering what keeps Rowan Williams from similar clarity and elegance of open-minded reflection?

Surely the rabbi supports a notion that some of our distinctive historical Anglican capacities for this sort of open thinking and faithfulness must stem from the great, long traditions of the rabbi's reflecting on God, revelation, and how to best live in daily life under any number of different cultural circumstances?

Canterbury, then, may short itself (and al of us, then, who are raptly listening?) by failing to attend deeply to these roots, for as we know, Jesus was just that sort of teacher in the NT witness, though the witness says he pointed at God rather than simply at himself as rabbi. Surely this, too, is what the best, most open Anglican thinking does as well.

I like being on a planet that also has Sacks in the mix. Maybe if Anglicanism goes so far right that progressive believers are no longer welcome - surely this is the main mean point of GAFCON and its heady disgust with all things modern except itself? - we may still find something of common pilgrimage and hope as we keep rubbing shoulders with progressive Judaism?

Thanks loads, Rabbi Sacks.

Posted by drdanfee at Saturday, 30 August 2008 at 9:03pm BST

"The more we know about the intricacy and improbability of life, the more reason we have to wonder and give thanks". - Rabbi Sachs

What a profound statement about the 'foolishness of God' that confounds the wisdom of the wise!

I wonder if the good Rabbi might think that this allows an insight into the complexity of human sexuality, and its diversity of expression?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 30 August 2008 at 10:37pm BST

Giles Fraser quotes a Reformed theologian who writes, "The concept of the intrinsically holy place was basically pagan..."

What about the centrality of Jerusalem and its Temple for Judaism? We may have "baptized" individual places of pilgrimage, changing them from pagan to Christian, but we took the concept over from Judaism, it seems.

Posted by BillyD at Sunday, 31 August 2008 at 3:46am BST

Although I'm not an athiest, I do subscribe to a lot of what Darwin gave us. I also, liked Rabbi Sacks "little talk." Kudos to Rabbi Sacks!


I think we can say that most right wing evanegelicals are uncomfortable with the uncertainty that comes from questioning the bible. I found with my former rector that she just couldn't live with the uncertainty, the not knowing. Funny though, she is one of Duncan's favorites and we all know what the bible says about women teaching men. How she believes all the bible except for the part stating she shouldn't be celebrating mass is beyond me!

I'll be glad when these people go into whatever oblivion they choose.

Posted by Bob in SW PA at Sunday, 31 August 2008 at 5:30am BST

I thought the Chief Rabbi on creation was brilliant...I would like to see him debate Dawkins..but there again you can't debate a scientific fundamentalist.

Posted by Robert Ian Williams at Sunday, 31 August 2008 at 1:04pm BST

I don't agree with the theologian that Fraser quotes.

Christians have recognised 'special' places right from the beginning - not least the resting places of the martyrs

Posted by craig at Sunday, 31 August 2008 at 2:46pm BST

"I think we can say that most right wing evanegelicals are uncomfortable with the uncertainty that comes from questioning the bible."

I think you are right, Bob. You must also include in this the fact that some of them consider the traditional position that the Church, guided by the Spirit, discerns the meaning of Scripture is, in itself, "questioning" the Bible. That's why much of traditional Christianity gets dismissed as "the traditions of men". Look at the comments made about Cardinal Newman's bones. There's nowhere in the Bible that we can, or should, venerate the remains of those whose path led them closer to God in this life than most of us get to attain, so therefor, it must be WRONG. The idea that we began to do this as our faith matured, and that it comes, not out of superstition, but an understanding of the implications of the Incarnation, is suspect, since that undestanding developed AFTER the Bible was written down. I sometimes see it as weakness of faith: that a well defined Law, the Bible, is needed so that we can know that, by obeying that Law, God MUST love us. I sometimes see it as selfrighteousness: a well defined Law gives us the ability to believe ourselves better in the obeying of it than those we feel do not.

Posted by Ford Elms at Sunday, 31 August 2008 at 6:49pm BST

Rabbi Sacks is Orthodox: that's what makes him so interesting. He is not part of progressive or liberal Judaism.

Posted by Pluralist at Sunday, 31 August 2008 at 6:53pm BST

OK, so this is off-topic in a way but I am a little surprised to see that the following has been overlooked this week:

Quote from the report:

'Health inequity "is caused by the unequal distribution of income, goods and services and of the consequent chance of leading a *flourishing life*". It is not a natural phenomenon, but "the result of policies that prize the interests of some over those of others – all too often a rich and powerful minority over the interests of a disempowered majority".'

Could we possibly have a bit more coverage of such issues? After all, the strapline of Thinking Anglicans includes 'justice' as well as 'spirituality'.

This is meant as a plea, by the way, not as a rebuke.

Posted by orfanum at Sunday, 31 August 2008 at 7:11pm BST

thanks Pluralist for the Jewish Orthodoxy reminder about Rabbi Sacks - still in USA I think I would find an easier, less rancorous entree among the reformed or even more liberal Jews as a sojourning Anglican/ex-Anglican perhaps; although I do seem to recall that some movement has occurred in my penultimate directions within Jewish Orthodoxy - admitting openly gay men to rabbinical schools and the leeway recently voted by the USA orthodox rabbi council if I am remembering it correctly.

Yes the orthodox Jews are still wrestling mightily with Leviticus and other authorities, like Jacob. And as the news often reminds us, the night is still long ahead, though glimmers of morn and Northern Lights streak the skies above us. (Please do not read that literally.)

Again I guess I just want to thank Rabbi Sacks for being such a clear-minded, yet open peace-monger. Right out in media, no less, speaking as a religious figure. This is just the sort of thing I would have been silly enough to imagine coming from Canterbury, and even from York, and even from a great many other global Anglican bishops or archbishops. This is just the sort of thing I used to uniquely credit to Anglicans, way back in the old days when I first was confirmed in college, but of course now we hardly take it for granted, nor weigh it as a distincitve sign of the new, conservatively realigned Anglicanism that is supposed to be sweeping all the silly cobwebs of modernity - me with them? - aside.

I really dwell blessedly in that Sacks paragraph where he summarizes how nothing important, pointed towards ultimate human concerns, can yet be proved. Print that one on my sweatshirt, carve it on my tombstone, set it to music for soloists or chorus.

Posted by drdanfee at Sunday, 31 August 2008 at 7:44pm BST

I think Pluralist it would be more accurate to say Rabbi Sachs is conservative. 'Orthodox' has different conotations in British Jewry. But certainly keeps the Jewish mizvoth etc including keeping kosher.

There is quite a sanity about most of UK Judaism. Its quite hard to go nuts within a Jewish framework of practice and prayer, in the way that Reform (C of E), Gafcon and CI do !!! ;-)

He is the chief rabbi of the Union of Hebrew synagogues of the Commonwealth.

But yes, he is certainly, not part of the Reform movement or the Liberal movement.

Posted by Treebeard at Sunday, 31 August 2008 at 8:29pm BST

I meant to add this url for Rabbi Sachs earlier, and omitted to ! ---

Posted by Treebeard at Sunday, 31 August 2008 at 10:24pm BST

It is indeed interesting that the good Rabbi sees Darwin dealing a death blow to the "argument from design," when he thereafter observes,

"The believer might wonder, as does Lord Rees, president of the Royal Society, in his Just Six Numbers, at the extraordinary precision of the six mathematical constants that determine the shape of the Universe, such that if even one were fractionally different neither we nor the Universe would exist."

This is precisely the sort of thing that those finding divine design in the universe look to. It is not what the Bible is about. It is more Greek that Hebrew. But so are most of us, in our thinking. It may be more an intimation than a proof, but obviously it is a kind of fact not unrelated to St. Thomas' "Fifth Way."

Posted by rick allen at Monday, 1 September 2008 at 2:25am BST

I have a rule of playing cards and showing someone else.

The cards come out in precise numeric order, though in any order of suits, and jokers at the end.

The cards are shuffled. If the cards don't come out like that, the cards disappear and time collapses.

Time begins again each shuffle and display - time only keeps going with four suits each in numeric order and the jokers at the end.

Someone seeing this says this must be intended: what are the chances of this arrangement of cards. Precisely the same as any other arrangement of the cards. But it is the only one you are permitted to see, or at least we suppose so from inside the pack.

Posted by Pluralist at Monday, 1 September 2008 at 12:47pm BST

"Today, in Face to Faith, Shahid Malik writes about Ramadan."

Over here we have had several of these articles extolling the Hellenists Virtues of Gnosticist/Platonist Abstinences, regardless of being (in part) part of a Tradition which once heavily Criticized and Refuted the same as “dirty sins of Monks” – and the accompanying Hypocrisies (does anyone remember Dr Martin?).

All too apparent with Ramadan, which far from being an exercise in Virtue and Humility and Charity for most, seems to be about Gluttony and Over-spending for the majority.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Thursday, 4 September 2008 at 7:29am BST

“Giles Fraser quotes a Reformed theologian who writes, "The concept of the intrinsically holy place was basically pagan..."

The same is claimed over here. Indeed, one of the famed Reformers, Olaus Petri Nericius, a Deacon at Stockholm St Nicolai (= the Cathedral), whose marriage was celebrated in 1525 with the first mass sung in Swedish, is quoted saying “Churches are good to have, when raining.”

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Friday, 5 September 2008 at 8:06am BST

"None the less, there are places where I am able to recognise more of the divine presence than others."

Those who consider holy places to be basically pagan miss this point entirely. It is NOT that God is more present at any one place, but that WE are more able to feel His presence in some places than others. It is not a consciously thought out thing. The idea that faith must be composed of such logical conscious ideas is, I would argue, far more akin to ancient paganism. It denies that only a portion of the brain God gave us is given over to conscious reasoning. The rest is under the surface, but it is no less us. At some point, we have to stop engaging God with our intellect, and let that other side take over. For me, it's when I go up to communion. This idea that encounters with God must be solely rational and conscious denies a large part of our humanity, and the effect of that has been felt in Protestantism. Why do you think that so many Protestants practice ecstatic worship? It is an attempt to engage God with that underside of who we are. It manifests in that form because, after more than two centuries of denying that such a side of us could exist or be anything other than ignorance and superstition, it found expression in those forms. It's about the only place that Fundamentalist Christianity allows for the "left brain" so to speak, having jettisoned all the spiritual side of Christianity long ago. That side of us, which must surely be as made by God as the rest of us, needs to be expressed, needs to engage its Creator, and it does it wordlessly, by visiting a place where something holy is supposed to have happened, or someone holy is supposed to have lived, or whatever.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 5 September 2008 at 7:33pm BST
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