Comments: opinion at the end of July

Though I have only got past reading the first link to the Very Reverend June Osborne's sermon at the consecration of the bishops in Salisbury, I had to leave word that I believe the sermon is splendid. I had chills near the end. Her words are truly inspired.

May God bless Bishops Nick and Adrian.

Posted by Grandmère Mimi at Saturday, 30 July 2011 at 4:00pm BST

On cathedral admissions charges, Matthew Engel of the FT:

"Durham Cathedral...unlike some of its southern equivalents...does not attempt to charge admission, even though it needs the money. In part, that’s a matter of principle, says the dean: “You can’t ever know why people are there.” Even the sternest pay-up-or-elsers such as St Paul’s (£14.50) and Ely (£6.50) try to avoid fleecing genuine worshippers."

Durham deserves credit for remaining a house of prayer and not becoming a theme park. Some cathedrals publish their annual report and financial statements on their websites, some do not. I wrote to the Church Commissioners about this and got the following reply:

"Apparently there is no obligation on cathedrals to publish their accounts on-line and many don't. But they do all produce them..."

And from the Charity Commission:

"...the Charity Commission does not regulate cathedrals in England. This is because the Dean and Chapter of a cathedral are an ecclesiastical corporation aggregate. Apart from in respect of trust property which the corporation administers, and apart from in respect of corporate property which is held for non-ecclesiastical purposes, the corporation is not a charity for the purposes of the 1993 Charities Act (see section 96(2)(a)). However, it may be a charity for other e.g. tax purposes."

It cannot be right that when even modestly endowed charities are required to publish their annual reports and financial statements online via the Charity Commission's website, some cathedrals with multi-million pound annual turnovers can get away with keeping their accounts a closely-guarded secret.

Posted by A J Barford at Saturday, 30 July 2011 at 9:03pm BST

Impressive interview with Marcus Borg. He's so right. Whereas Wright is so wrong.

Posted by John at Sunday, 31 July 2011 at 7:36pm BST

I worry about Marcus Borg's representation of the God and it's not particularly because he suggests that the Bible is sometimes wrong. He appears to have built a perfectly sealed box that contains his neatly dovetailed theology of God's responsibilities and human rights. Where the biblical record stands outside of that box, he declares that it's wrong.

In the case of Saul, (1 Sam. 14) Borg suggests that since God, by reason of love, is incapable of wholesale extermination Himself, He could not have commanded Saul to do so, especially as it involved the slaughter of innocent babies. Yet, most of the Old Testament presents the God who exterminates individuals, whole societies and civilisations by various means, including war, famine and natural disasters. Even the reasons seem weak, e.g. punishing by death an attempt to steady a cart carrying the emblems of His presence among His people. Soldiers are burned to death for merely carrying out their orders to capture Elijah. The treacherous schemers who conspired to have Daniel executed, are not punished alone, but with their whole families. The prophets regularly make these events instructive by declaring that what is suffered is not a mere coincidence, but an act of retribution commanded by God.

Should we believe that major disasters involving the indiscriminate loss of life are beyond the purview of an omniscient God? Is it not within His power to devise an ingenious form of suffering (if the theology box allows for it) that magically spares innocent, promising young lives? Oh, and old, frail ones too? Certainly, if I had everything that God has at His disposal, I would...In fact, God should...and if not, He, or those who present Him otherwise are wrong.

The Old Testament writers grapple with uncomfortable ideas about God, including the fact that suffering is not just permitted, but ultimately executed by exclusive divine prerogative. God doesn't give us easy answers to His use of prerogative. Theology can't successfully merge God's declaration that He runs the entire universe with the reality that, in many cases, severe suffering, brutality and ruin affects innocent lives. Yet, the OT prophets do move us away from the capriciousness of heathen gods.

My mind can't be privy to most of God's reasoning. If I was, I'd be God and I would magically make everyone good and drop a really big book from the sky called 'God made simple' instead!

Posted by David Shepherd at Monday, 1 August 2011 at 12:19pm BST

The Tablet article, Ethical fund Raising is interesting. In what hopefully is not too big a reach from the subject at hand, folks may find this Jesuit article interesting (linked at Episcopal Cafe).

Posted by Rod Gillis at Monday, 1 August 2011 at 2:14pm BST


With regard to your second paragraph, surely it's complete orthodoxy to say that OT theology in these areas is 'trumped' ('sublated' is a useful word) by NT theology?

As for natural disasters, what's wrong with saying (a) that these things are absolutely inevitable in a universe constructed as it is; (b) that the universe has to be constructed as it is in order to produce 'carbon' beings like ourselves; (c) ultimately, all these things will be put right by the general resurrection/immortality? These things have been endlessly discussed, of course, but a pure 'sin narrative' isn't going to be able to cut it (which is why we get all those pathetic flounderings when bibliolatrous Christians are quizzed on them). I'm not saying we don't need a 'sin narrative', only that it is very unsatisfactory in this case.

Posted by john at Monday, 1 August 2011 at 2:34pm BST

Hi John,

Yes, I agree with most of your points. However, it's clear that the 'Thunder-boys', James and John were happy for a while to think that God would sky-fry (sorry, I couldn't resist) the Samaritans without hesitation and had to be censured by Christ.

However, Ananias and Sapphira still faced immediate fatal consequences for their deception. Luke also claims that King Herod's sudden demise is a consequence of his vainglorious acceptance of idolatrous worship.

Paul also mentions that some sicknesses of the Corinthians and even their deaths were attributable to irreverent behaviour while celebrating the Lord's Supper (1 Cor. 5). He also talks about handing over a particularly egregious offender to Satan for physical chastening.

Perhaps, these were merely transitional events from the Old Testament to New Testament experience of God, but they did, for a time, extend the 'sin narrative'.

I think the danger is when we over-simplify and over-emphasize the 'sin narrative' as those who remark, in a self-congratulatory way, on the suffering of others (Luke 13:1 - 8). Many fire-breathing evangelicals need to remember that we should be more willing to spare the fig tree for another year in hope of fruit, than to cut it down.

Let's both rejoice that the gospel is a resplendent outpouring of God's restorative love, (and not mere retribution avoidance) delivered at the expense of Christ's own life and the otherwise uninterrupted perfection of His relationship with God.

Posted by David Shepherd at Tuesday, 2 August 2011 at 9:46am BST

I was privileged to hear Dean Osborne preach at the "graduating" Salisbury Choristers' Sunday Evensong on July 17. She is splendid!

Posted by susan hedges at Tuesday, 2 August 2011 at 5:06pm BST

The more arguments I hear about Christian theology, the wiser it seems to me for God to become a Buddhist.

What utter uselessness in the face of reality, sound and fury signifying nothing. At. All.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Wednesday, 3 August 2011 at 5:37am BST


God does have great love for us, but he does actually ask that we love Him in return, a love that results in us seeking to follow His ways. You may say, that sounds a bit too much like rules. But His ways reflects his character, which is who He is. Rejecting His ways is rejecting Him, as the Amorites found out, although He was so merciful to wait 4 generations before bringing judgement on them, although in doing so he was showing love to the isrealites.

It doesnt seem to unreasonable that if you return nothing but hatred for His love that a place other than heaven is quite just.

Posted by David Wilson at Wednesday, 3 August 2011 at 5:49pm BST

Yeah, David W, that's persuasive.


C'mon, you know you can't treat the OT/Hebrew Bible as ANYTHING like historical fact? You do realize that? Right?

{Le Sigh}

I love the Bible, I do. Read/Mark/Inwardly Digest it All.The.Time.

But I don't treat it as anything other than *containing* "the words of God" (so to speak).

For the Word of God, I'm sticking w/ Jesus of Nazareth. Who loves us REGARDLESS of whether we "return nothing but hatred for His love."

Posted by JCF at Thursday, 4 August 2011 at 1:48am BST
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