Comments: opinion at Christmas

After experiencing so many years of Runcie, Carey and Rowan bashing in the Press it is good to read some positive and affirmative coverage concerning Archbishop Welby. However, I was sorry to hear that the Primate missed delivering his Christmas sermon in Canterbury cathedral due to illness. Archbishop Justin has been in the top ecclesiastical job for less than two years and has travelled tens of thousands of miles visiting the vast majority of overseas Anglican Provinces in addition to his onerous duties here at home. This must take its toll physically, mentally and spiritually. I would urge the Archbishop to pace himself and make sure he has plenty of time in his 2015 diary for rest, relaxation and refreshment. The last thing we need at present is a burnt out Primate of All England.

Posted by Father David at Saturday, 27 December 2014 at 1:59pm GMT

I can't see the point of Ian Paul's revision. None of the nativity is historical anyway. To make it 'more historical' when it isn't makes the thing worse. May as well leave it alone as a fantasy.

Posted by Pluralist at Saturday, 27 December 2014 at 5:46pm GMT

If you take the Nativity stories seriously, Jesus was born in the spring, not wintertime. Shepherds abiding in the field, lambs, and all that. But, springtime itself is a symbolic time. A time of renewal, re-growth, etc. And lambs are a constant symbolic reference in the Gospels. Meaning, we don't have a clue as to when Jesus of Nazareth was born, and therefore -- December 25 is as good a day as any.

I’m going to focus on one minor point of Mr. Eichenwald’s long article on the Bible.
Mr. Eichenwald uses American politician Michelle Bachmann as an example of a religious hypocrite, because Ms. Bachmann proclaims she believes in the Bible while simultaneously ignoring injunctions in Timothy that women should keep silent. Interestingly, when Ms. Bachmann decided to run for president of the United States, some Christian ministers opposed her candidacy, not for any reason of disagreement over political doctrine, but solely and precisely because she was a woman, and therefore was unfit to have authority over males. Which I say is all the more reason to leave the Bible out of secular discussions. I disagree strongly with just about everything Ms. Bachmann stands for. But, she met the US Constitution requirements for serving as president of the USA, and if she wants to run, I’ll defend her right to do so, even as I vote for her opponent. And, if, as Mr. Eichenwald states, Timothy was not written by Paul, but by someone else, then Mr. Eichenwald is hypocritical for using a book he himself does not think is authentic to make a point about Ms. Bachmann. Some of the more religiously devout here may disagree, but all of this reinforces my belief that the Bible has no place in secular political discussions.
Treatment of gay people, for example, can be discussed and debated over, with opposing viewpoints, without any need to resort to “the Bible says homosexuals are doomed, doomed!”

Posted by peterpi - Peter Gross at Saturday, 27 December 2014 at 8:52pm GMT

'Why female bishops could be the Church of England's saviour'???

I think that job's already taken. Talk about setting up impossible expectations!

I was puzzled by the article's quotation from Linda Woodhead, citing the experience in Denmark after female bishops were allowed in 1995, and claiming that this move had 'saved' the church. In what sense, I wonder? Statistically, about 2.4% of Danish church members attend church weekly, so whatever it is that they're offering, it's apparently only attractive to a tiny percentage of their own members. What does it mean to say that the church has been 'saved'?

And as for Linda Woodhead's statement that Danish people claim that male bishops were only interested in church politics, whereas female bishops were interested in pastoring and healing and so on - I'd like to see a source for that. My observation of male and female bishops in North America is that there does not appear to be a great deal of difference. I've seen male bishops that were highly pastoral, and female bishops who were as interested in power as any member of the old boys' club.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Saturday, 27 December 2014 at 10:48pm GMT

Interesting article, Jesus Wasn't Really Born in a Stable by Ian Paul which he re-cycled from last year. Preachers and interested others will find a very detailed and erudite treatment of all the issues raised by Paul, including Greek vocabulary and grammar, extensively analyzed in Raymond Brown's, Birth of the Messiah. Paul and Brown make very interesting comparative reading. As for the comment by Pluralist, that it is all "fantasy", sure they are not "historical", but wouldn't mythology be a better term than fantasy? Brown points out that the purpose of the infancy narratives is to transition from the Old Testament to the Gospels, presenting the evangelists' Christology using imagery from the Old Testament. Paul and Brown both get us closer to the texts as they were intended to be read. And for preachers, that's a good thing.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Saturday, 27 December 2014 at 11:16pm GMT

Eichenwald's article is a mess. Some of its claims have support in modern scholarship and some of its claims are just bizarre. For an example of the latter:

"About 50 years later, in A.D. 381, the Romans held another meeting, this time in Constantinople. There, a new agreement was reached—Jesus wasn’t two, he was now three—Father, Son and Holy Ghost."

That council clearly did not make an "agreement" to that effect. Moreover, I've never heard of anyone, Christian or not, claiming that's what the doctrine of the Trinity means.

Posted by dr,primrose at Sunday, 28 December 2014 at 4:32am GMT

@ dr. primrose, "Eichenwald's article is a mess."

Dead on! A long winded regurgitation of material any theology 100 student from the past half century or more knows about, coupled with a polemic, hitched to the theater that is American politics, the latter being its one redeeming quality.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Sunday, 28 December 2014 at 4:11pm GMT

Eichenwald's piece wasn't a complete mess. There "are" differences between the various ancient manuscripts, such as editing and copying errors, etc. The oldest complete manuscripts are from centuries after the events they describe. And translation invariably involves approximation, which can lead to editing to suit one's viewpoint.

Although, ... "Jesus wasn't two, he was now three" is a gigantic whopper. What I think Eichenwald was trying to say got compacted into absolute, total nonsense, regardless of a person's view of the Trinity.
##########
Tim Chesterton on Saturday, 27 December 2014 at 10:48pm GMT, spot on comment. Excellently stated.

Posted by peterpi - Peter Gross at Sunday, 28 December 2014 at 7:23pm GMT

Rod Gillis says 'A long winded regurgitation of material any theology 100 student from the past half century or more knows about, coupled with a polemic, hitched to the theater that is American politics, the latter being its one redeeming quality.' I agree, as I often do, Rod Gillis with a caveat. A lot of people haven't taken Theology 100 and I am surprised by how many church going people are utterly ignorant of the basic material that Eichenwald covers. I agree that it could be done better but, judging from my experience in the CofE, a lot of teaching about the basics of biblical study needs to be done.

Posted by Daniel Lamont at Sunday, 28 December 2014 at 8:58pm GMT

A Roman Catholic acquaintance called attention to another of Eichenwald's egregious errors on his Facebook page, namely: "To understand how what we call the Bible was made, you must see how the beliefs that became part of Christian orthodoxy were pushed into it by the Holy Roman Empire" --Which didn't come into existence until several hundred years after Nicea.

Posted by Charlotte at Sunday, 28 December 2014 at 10:46pm GMT

I concur that Eichenwald's article is not a "complete" mess. But a lot of it really is a mess. And I say that as someone who's not remotely a bibical literalist and one who accepts much of modern bibical scholarship.

What annoys me the most about it (which is common with much writing about the Bible in the popular press) is the juvenile tone of the 17 year-old who's discovered that momsey and popsey have sex and aren't perfect in the way the child thought they were when they were eight. By the time people get to be 40, most people, having gone through many of the things their parents did when they were growing up, have matured enough to at least grudgingly accept that their parents have have done reasonably well under the circumstances they were facing at the time.

Eichenwald has this upper-form tone of thinking he's the first one who discovered that there are two creation stories in Genesis, that there are differences in the number of animals going into the ark (and a lot of other details in the flood narratives), that there are differences in the infancy narratives in Matthew and Luke, and there are differences in the resurrection narratives in all four Gospels.

Okay. Why are the differences there? Why did the OT redactors keep the differences in the final accepted text? So what? Does it mean anything? Is it good? Is it bad? Does it make any difference? Is there a deeper meaning there? If so, what is it?

Biblical scholars and theologians have noticed these things and tried to deal with them long before Eichenwald, much less Schleiermacher. But Eichenwald really doesn't deal with any of those deeper questions well at all.

Some grudging maturity in recognizing people have been struggling with these these issues would for centuries have made Eichenwald's article more credible.

Posted by dr.primrose at Monday, 29 December 2014 at 7:12am GMT

@ Daniel Lamont, "A lot of people haven't taken Theology 100 and I am surprised by how many church going people are utterly ignorant of the basic material that Eichenwald covers."
Totally Agree. While the information in Newsweek is hardly news to many of us, it is unfamiliar to a lot of church goers. Additionally it is under either under utilized or not utilized at all by preachers who often pass on the opportunity to engage in adult education with their parishioners. There are two reasons for engaging in a measure of scholarly exegesis with parishioners. Debunking the fundamentalist literal crowd that Eichenwald is writing about is one. A second is the kind of presentation made by Eichenwald himself. Getting critical exegetical information from an article like Eichenwald's is a lot like getting health advice and medical information from an internet site.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Monday, 29 December 2014 at 4:21pm GMT

4:21 pm ought to read, "Additionally it is either under utilized or not utilized at all by preachers who often pass on the opportunity to engage in adult education with their parishioners."

Posted by Rod Gillis at Monday, 29 December 2014 at 8:58pm GMT

Re the Cole Moreton article on the salvific potential of female bishops, readers may also be interested in this story from The Edmonton Journal. As the paper reports, the Anglican Bishop in Edmonton, The Rt. Rev. Jane Alexander, is female, born in England, the daughter of atheists, and now involved in the issue of poverty.

http://www.edmontonjournal.com/Daughter+atheists+Anglican+bishop+tackling+poverty/10680274/story.html


Posted by Rod Gillis at Monday, 29 December 2014 at 9:44pm GMT

"Cole Moreton Telegraph Why female bishops could be the Church of England’s saviour"

Does anyone else suspect the *Telegraph* chose that essay title simply to PROVOKE the obvious response (i.e., that JESUS is/ought to be the CofE's saviour, w/ the corollary response, "the CofE is apostate!")? The essay itself is FAR more measured than the OTT title would suggest.

Posted by JCF at Monday, 29 December 2014 at 10:24pm GMT

Jesus really wasn't born in a stable. Well, I suppose this make a pleasant seasonal change from the various vicars who annually ruin children's Christmas by saying that Santa Claus doesn't really exist.

Posted by Father David at Tuesday, 30 December 2014 at 4:10am GMT

Given the enormous and justified coverage of Libby Lane's appointment, it might have been hoped that Cole Moreton or the Telegraph subs would have got the date of her consecration correct.

Posted by Peter. Wood at Friday, 2 January 2015 at 6:10pm GMT
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