Comments: opinions before Epiphany

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Sorry, Fixed Now.
S.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Saturday, 3 January 2009 at 2:47pm GMT

Thee is an interface between theology and authority, that is types of belief and how underpinned, with the sociology of charisma, tradition and bureaucracy, and interactive meaning, and management studies, all of which could be packaged up and be a practical course for people who both preach in and run churches.

As for a learning Church, a lot can be done locally, thus I devised something that looked at what modern theologians did to offer a corrective to liberal theologians, how the modern theologians fed into Anglican controversies, some wider themes and contemporary theologians of a very wide spectrum. Cost locally is near zero.

I'm baffled as how Darwinian perspective, that what happens is specific and local, that involves intense periods of environmental change, has a any hand of God on a tiller. If we are mammalian accidents thanks to the demise of the dinosaurs long before us, how then is God in a human other than and only as a piece of human myth making?

Posted by Pluralist at Saturday, 3 January 2009 at 4:35pm GMT

Depends what you mean by 'on a tiller'. I recommend Keith Ward's recent 'The Big Questions in Science and Religion', which has chapter on evolution.

Posted by john at Sunday, 4 January 2009 at 6:04am GMT

"What is revealed (in Epiphany) is the God of unconditional love. Jesus, the one who reveals him, is the way, the truth and the life, but it is part of that amazing grace that Jesus opens up for us the treasures of other religions, and the treasures of all Creatures who long for unconditional love — to receive it and to give it. That is the dance to the music of time, because it is the dance of divine and eternal love. - The Right Rev Geoffrey Rowell -

I think that here, the Anglican Bishop in Europe is saying something very important about the Epiphany theme. The Christ-Child giving audience to the Arab Kings is surely a good metaphor for our need to recognise the integrity of the other Abrahamic strands of Faith. The thought of the Messiah reaching out beyond his Jewish origins to welcome the worship of these first Gentiles must evoke in us all the wonder of a God who embraces all peoples, nations and religious traditions.

This spirit of convergence begins with the Feast of the Epiphany, wherein we may discover that salvation is meant for everyone - not just for those of us who have secured the grace of our baptism into Christ. Our task, like that of the Infant Jesus, is to reach out to all who seek to know the love of God-in-Christ. Who knows, it may be our antipathy to their beliefs that prevents others from finding in us the Christ who is our Light and Salvation?

Kalo Epiphania!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 4 January 2009 at 9:43am GMT

"...our need to recognise the integrity of the other Abrahamic strands of Faith."

Why the "Abrahamic" faiths? The Magi are not traditionally considered Arab, but Indo-European; Persians, actually. And the story is not about recognizing the validity of what is assumed to have been their Zoroastrianism, which is not one of the Abrahamic faiths, but of revealing the universality of the Gospel, it is for everybody, not just the Jews. Sorry. I understand your point about recognizing the validity of other cultures and religious systems, but I can't see anything about recognizing the validity of Abrahamic faiths in a story that is not about practiioners of an Abrahamic faith, nor does it recognize the validity of what they believe, but actually makes a claim about the universality, which I think implies the superiority, of what we believe.

Posted by Ford Elms at Sunday, 4 January 2009 at 6:33pm GMT

"The Magi are not traditionally considered Arab, but Indo-European; Persians, actually. And the story is not about recognizing the validity of what is assumed to have been their Zoroastrianism, which is not one of the Abrahamic faiths, but of revealing the universality of the Gospel, ... nor does it recognize the validity of what they believe, but actually makes a claim about the universality, which I think implies the superiority, of what we believe."

Really, Ford? I see, rather, the superiority of "universality" (i.e., universal salvation), available to ALL the Imago Dei, as they perceive it. [I don't see it that the Magi were tested on "The 4 Spiritual Laws", or even the 39 Articles! ;-/]

Posted by JCF at Sunday, 4 January 2009 at 10:02pm GMT

Views that came into Judaism had origins in Zoroastrianism: resurrection as a language for what happens at the last days and indeed as a description of Jesus being the first of the resurrection has origins there. That's why so much of this stuff is relative. These faiths are hardly unconnected and we might list them with some causal connections:

Zoroastrianism - Judaism - Christianity - Islam - Bahai: all use linear time, end time and revelation into time.

The fact that Zoroastrianism doesn't share the same patriarchal myth does not mean that it is not one of the linear time faiths.

Posted by Pluralist at Monday, 5 January 2009 at 2:34am GMT

"Thank you, Ford. I thought my effort might bring you out of your comfort zone. My own knowledge of Zorastrianism is pitiable. What I was trying to say - although obviously not too clearly for you -was the fact that this early attempt to portray the outreach of the Messianic influence to other cultures could encourage us Christians to think about whether we are attractive enough to draw others into an appreciation of the place of Jesus in the scheme of salvation. After all, Jesus was the unique incarnation of Yahweh, was he not?

Kalo Epiphania.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 5 January 2009 at 3:35am GMT

JCF, I don't understand what you are talking about. The Magi represent the Gentiles, and are evidence that the Gospel is for everyone. There was no restriction on their access to the Incarnate God because of their origin, except by Herod. Where did I mention any kind of "test" or exclusion? The whole point is that they came freely. I'm fascinated by your and Pluralist's reactions, and honestly don't understand where they're coming from. Is it that I implied there is a truth in Christianity, that Christianity is somehow better than other religions? Am I correct in reading your comments in that light?

"the fact that this early attempt to portray the outreach of the Messianic influence to other cultures could encourage us Christians to think about whether we are attractive enough to draw others into an appreciation of the place of Jesus in the scheme of salvation."

I got that, Fr. Ron. I was perhaps being a bit picky.

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 5 January 2009 at 11:43am GMT

"Is it that I implied there is a truth in Christianity, that Christianity is somehow better than other religions?"

A = B???

In my understanding of being a follower of Christ, I must resist my *human* inclination to engage in "better thans" (part of that leaving such judgments to God biz). OCICBW.

Posted by JCF at Monday, 5 January 2009 at 7:02pm GMT

"In my understanding of being a follower of Christ, I must resist my *human* inclination to engage in "better thans""

I totally agree. I believe, as I have said, that the worst serial killing child molestor is as loved by God as I am because, whatever damage has been done to his soul to make him do such evil, he is still a child of God, and God loves His children because they are His children. He grieves over all our offences, but He still loves us. So, no, I do not think myself better than others. But I still think, as the Orthodox sing at Mass "We have seen the True Light, we have received the Heavenly Spirit. We worship the undivided Trinity, for the same hath saved us." I believe Christianity is Truth. That doesn't mean I believe Muslims, for instance, are less than me. I am also not offended that Muslims believe that we got it wrong, that Jesus was just a man, albeit a prophet, and that their Prophet brought the Truth to them. They are entitled to their religious beliefs. I had this conversation with a Hindu friend once, and she agreed with me, we each thought our religious beliefs were Truth, but that didn't mean we thought ourselves somehow better, or that we disrespected each other's beliefs. There is a difference in confidently stating one's belief in the rightness of one's faith and thinking one'sself better than someone else. I would argue that the "human", or as I would put it, fallen, part of me is what makes me think myself superior because I have received the True Light, not my belief that Christianity is Truth. What would have been your reaction to the Aztecs? They thought it was their moral and religious obligation to feed still beating human hearts to the gods. It wasn't cruelty in their eyes, indeed, many of their victims danced up the steps to their deaths, believing they were paying back a debt to the gods whose blood they believed nurtured them. I don't think myself better than them, either, by the way, and can understand how for them something we see as unutterably evil was considered an act of supreme piety. But I still think Christianity is Truth.

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 6 January 2009 at 12:29am GMT

Because we are human--all of us, Christian or not--we cannot see God's Truth in full. We see "through a glass darkly." Therefore, I do not dispute anyone's belief that their particular religion is "true"...perhaps they ALL are, in different ways.

What I WILL dispute is those I think use Christianity (or their misunderstanding of it) to exclude or ostracize others.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Tuesday, 6 January 2009 at 12:10pm GMT

...which is why I asked if "A=B", Ford.

For me, Jesus Christ IS Truth. I don't know that conceptually, propositionally, cognitively---but in and through my RELATIONSHIP to him.

Christianity, however, as a belief-system, is just another human construct. That doesn't mean it's all bad, but it is what it is ("through a glass darkly", as Pat reminds us above).

I don't find it consistent w/ modelling myself after Christ (as piss-poor a job I do at it! ;-/), to rank a belief-system (least of all my own) as "better than" or "worse than" another.

[I'd prefer to not engage a "What if you were among the Aztecs?" scenario, as uselessly hypothetical. An essential part of my commitment to Christ, means commitment to non-violence: I'll leave it at that.]

Posted by JCF at Tuesday, 6 January 2009 at 10:29pm GMT

"Christianity, however, as a belief-system, is just another human construct."

That's where we differ. I believe Christianity is Truth, deep, underlying spiritual reality. Our interpretations of it, our understanding of such deep mysteries are human constructs. When we see "through a glass darkly" we are not constructing the religion, we are trying to understand that underlying, profound reality with our fallible finite human minds. So, no, I fundamentally disagree that Christianity is just another human construct, though much of what we have made of it is. And I don't think that the way we approach fundamentally different expressions of spirituality is "uselessly hypothetical", which is why I brought up the Aztecs, the most profoundly different spirituality I could think of. Your statement about non-violence would have meant nothing to them. Some of their victims, at least, voluntarily gave themselves to be sacrificed, believing it a supreme act of devotion, and they would have reacted to your assertions of violence with shock, and likely even have taken great offence that you would have seen what they did as a violent or even bad thing. You seem to be unable to separate "I believe my religion to be True" from "Therefor I think myself better than you are." The two are not irreversably linked, and I argue that that linkage is actually just another human construct. In fact, at the core of Christianity is the idea that none of us can ever say we are better than anyone else. If God's approval of us is something we have because of what we ARE, not because of what we DO, and surely God's validation of us is the only validation that really matters, than how can we call ourselves better than others who are, after all, exactly the same as what we are, and loved by God because of that? Differences in religion and the belief that our own religious beliefs are Truth don't change that basic reality.

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 7 January 2009 at 2:13pm GMT

All these faiths are human constructs: thus I prefer to say that they have insights rather than Truth (any one, or all), truths perhaps in different places in the faiths. It is possible also to join bits from different faiths to make your own. Some do.

Posted by Pluralist at Wednesday, 7 January 2009 at 3:30pm GMT

"You seem to be unable to separate "I believe my religion to be True" from "Therefor I think myself better than you are." The two are not irreversably linked"

Of course they are: they both are the product of the fallible "I" (regardless whether it's "I, JCF" or "I, Ford")

Your religion IS *you*, Ford. {*} Ergo, it's NOT Truth. Let it go, and Let God! :-)

{*} It doesn't exist, apart from Ford's Brain. In the same way Benedict 16's religion doesn't exist apart from Benedict 16's brain. His very own "Dictatorship of Relativism" produced within those confines, and then broadcast to the world (a world then accused of perpetrating a "Dictatorship of Relativism". Ack.)

Praise God, who made us to know God relatively, subjectively and (yes) fallibly! :-D

Posted by JCF at Wednesday, 7 January 2009 at 10:44pm GMT

On this important matter of revelation, and the complementarity of the understanding of God in different religious faith settings, I would like to repeat a story I have mentioned before - perhaps on another site:

When I lived and worked in the Fiji Islands, one of our Drivers, a Fiji-Indian Hindu believer, asked if i would like to join in his family's celebration of the Festival of Diwali - the Hindu *Festival of Light*. I was not at that stage of my life either a priest or theologically educated and my response was this: "Raj, you know that I am a Christian, and my Light is Jesus Christ!. With scarcely a pause, Raj said: "OK boss, you come, and bring your Jesus with you!"

How could I possibly resist such an invitation, made in generosity and respect of me and my own beliefs? I went to meet Raj's lovely family and enjoyed the Feast with them - knowing that the Jesus in me in some way was meeting up with what I believe to have been the Jesus in them.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 7 January 2009 at 11:09pm GMT

"Of course they are"

JCF, your assertion that to say one's religion is right is to say one is better than others is contradicted by my own experience. I live in a place that used to be torn by religious infighting, think Ulster, writ small. Catholics and Prots wouldn't even walk on the same side of the street. Now, I am godfather to a Roman Catholic young man, and at his confirmation I was allowed to receive communion, don't tell anyone. That wouldn't have happened even thirty years ago. So, we are overcoming, note not "have overcome", the bigotries of the past. In the past 8 years, I have worked with a Sikh, four Hindus, four Eastern Orthodox, two Copts, and somewhere around ten Muslims. We often discuss religion. I don't think I ever gave them the impression I thought myself better than them, nor did I get that impression from them, though we all openly claimed that we thought our religions were Truth. Finally, there is the experience of Fr. Ron. that he describes as something made:

"made in generosity and respect of me and my own beliefs".

I argue that claiming that someone is better than another on the basis of religion has nothing to do with believing your religion is right, and everything to do with our Fallen humanity, that always, in one way or another, puts our own needs and interests ahead of others. In so far as it reveals a lack of humility, I'd even think it a sin. But it is not, in my experience, necessarily linked to people thinking they are better, though, as I say, fallible fallen humanity might lead them to that assumption. It is quite possible to confidently believe the truth of one's own religion while respecting the right of others to believe the same about their religion.

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 8 January 2009 at 7:46pm GMT
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