Comments: Opinion - 26 May 2018

It is nonsense for Ruth Wilde to suggest that Bishop Michael's sermon was criticised for him not speaking like a "white person". Had the wonderful oratory of the bishop been as flat as the tones of the Dean of Windsor, 2 billion people may have fallen asleep. It is precisely because Bishop Curry preached like an African American that he stirred the souls of countless listeners.

Posted by FrDavidH at Saturday, 26 May 2018 at 2:44pm BST

"Called to pray, read and learn. Sent to tell, serve and give. " Paul Bayes

No mention of love. Seriously?

Posted by Kate at Saturday, 26 May 2018 at 2:59pm BST

Re the James Woodward article: "The criticisms of the voices of both the Dean of Windsor and the Archbishop of Canterbury set against an unnecessary comparison between their voices and voice of Bishop Michael Curry have been persistent, critical and at times ferocious"

Can someone shed some light on what Woodward is talking about?

Posted by Rod Gillis at Saturday, 26 May 2018 at 6:55pm BST

Kate I find the word 'love' four times in +Paul's address. And I find the whole tone as loving as it is challenging.

Posted by David Runcorn at Saturday, 26 May 2018 at 9:48pm BST

The advantage of the word 'serve' is that it is obviously about action. So was 'love', in the New Testament, but nowadays most people use it to describe an emotion.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Saturday, 26 May 2018 at 10:22pm BST

Dear Kate, with Rod I did note the mention of the word 'Love' in Bishop Paul's message. Further, it speaks of where that love is derived from - the very basics of the Christian life: Prayer, worship and contemplation. This is the root of Christian Love. There is none other.

"Come, Holy Spirit, re-kindle within us the fire of your Love, through Christ our Lord. Amen."

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 26 May 2018 at 10:24pm BST

It isn't nonsense FrDavidH. Perspective really depends on your social media "bubble." There were a lot of negative comments about ++Michael's homily that used words like, wasn't dignified, lacked class, inappropriate, insulting to mention slavery, etc. Those all boil down to not speaking white. I also saw some outright racial slurs. From my perspective, Ruth Wilde is spot on.

I do agree with Woodward that there's no need to compare ++Michael with Justin or the Dean of Windsor, but I didn't see any of those comparisons in my social "bubble," so I don't know what prompted the article.

Posted by Cynthia at Sunday, 27 May 2018 at 1:46am BST

" "The criticisms of the voices of both the Dean of Windsor and the Archbishop of Canterbury set against an unnecessary comparison between their voices and voice of Bishop Michael Curry have been persistent, critical and at times ferocious"

Can someone shed some light on what Woodward is talking about?'

I have seen some of those criticisms of both the Dean and the Archbishop. There was also a gif of an impassioned Curry against the background of a stolid Dean. Some people are comparing Bishop Curry's lively presentation with what they see as the dull and stuffy Dean's and Archbishop's. And yes, some of the criticism has been pretty fierce.

I get that the Dean is selflessly erasing his own personality to let the liturgy shine. I ran across that theory/attitude early on in my ministry, having started off in a cathedral. I've never thought it made sense, though the intentions are good. The widely positive reaction to Curry's sermon, and surprise that a preacher could actually communicate enthusiasm, show that we've been missing a trick. Curry's passionate delivery was effective; many were turned off by what they saw as the lack of sincerity in Welby's and the Dean's delivery.

I think the 'erasing personality' model is not only an ineffective communication tool, it's also theologically mistaken. What does God do when he wants to communicate with his people? He sends someone with a big personality - Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, Leah & Rachel; kings and prophets, poets and mystics - and of course Jesus himself. They don't erase their personalities - their personalities are essential to the message. It's not for nothing that the Bible is full of stories rather than essays.

On the other hand, I've also seen a lot of criticism of Curry as being 'shallow' and 'inappropriate'; and 'how dare he mention slavery in front of the Queen'. Much of it has been about a clash of cultures - which was frankly what I enjoyed so much about the wedding, having roots on both sides of the Atlantic. And some bordered on racism. But a couple of close analyses of the sermon which I've read show that it was very carefully thought out and crafted.

It's remarkable that a sermon should have had such an impact, and especially a sermon in that context and setting.

Posted by Janet Fife at Sunday, 27 May 2018 at 9:35am BST

Not to mention the negative reactions in the Quire from some of the royals. I hardly think the Dean of Windsor would have had similar reactions, if he had preached for 13 minutes.

No, those were reactions to style and delivery and perhaps even accent. Mistaken reactions, of course--to an African-American style of preaching that was outside certain comfort zones.

They got that wrong. Ed Miliband got it right, and signaled the error to those who apparently needed a signal.

Posted by Jeremy at Sunday, 27 May 2018 at 1:02pm BST

Rod Gillis. I haven't been aware of this storm of criticism, but I only read The Guardian. My recollection of watching the wedding is that the Archbishop and the Dean both had standard Church of England voices: formal, dignified, and a bit remote. Bishop Curry preached - and a sermon is different from a marriage liturgy - in a way that was direct and passionate and powerful. I thought all three were appropriate.
Although my political position is republican (in the U.K. sense) I think some journalists' comments have been unfair to the royal family. They have written about members of the family smirking and looking vacant. I had imagined they might actually be just smiling because it was a happy occasion. And if the Queen's granddaughter Zara Phillips was looking less than interested, given that she was in the final weeks of pregnancy I would think her main thought might be just that she was feeling uncomfortable.
Journalists have to create a story. One of my sons is a journalist and I have some idea how that trade works.

Posted by Flora Alexander at Sunday, 27 May 2018 at 3:02pm BST

The word love might be in the address but it is not in the slogan. Contrast that with Bishop Michael's address which - rightly - made love the centre of everything.

Serve is most definitely not a substitute. There is no fire.

It is time we dropped all these trite and unhelpful slogans and get back to what Christ taught us about love. Love the Lord your God with all your might and your neighbours as yourself. That's it. We don't need modern inventions which send people off in the wrong direction.

Posted by Kate at Sunday, 27 May 2018 at 3:46pm BST

Kate ... and Michael Curry's sermon was criticised by some because there was 'only' the language of love and he gave the word no content. Hard to win I say (and no - I don't agree with the criticism either). But here we have been copied in to a message from a warmly including and inspiring bishop to the folk in his own diocese. I have no trouble hearing the love in it and I for one trust him to know how to speak to the communities he knows - and that they will understand his message.

Posted by David Runcorn at Sunday, 27 May 2018 at 5:20pm BST

Thanks to Janet Fife and Flora for casting some light on the comments made in the James Woodward article. Re: Flora'a observation, "...some journalists' comments have been unfair to the royal family. They have written about members of the family smirking and looking vacant."

Agreed. Body language is more easily misread than read. People smile. What is its meaning? Are they amused? Bemused? Condescending? Nervous, or perhaps afraid?

More broadly, many post wedding comments about this or that culture were purely partisan. For folks who have a vendetta with TEC, it would not have mattered what the PB said or how he said it.This is clear from glancing at some of the more apoplectic Anglican blog sites. Likewise, folks frustrated with the C of E or its leadership make comments targeting a particular cultural manifestation.

In that sense Woodward's larger point is a helpful corrective for many of us. At least I found it so.

One even finds examples of the sardonic or wry Jesus. This morning's reading, the exchange between Nicodemus and Jesus according to John, is illustrative. Both characters in the narrative have their colourful zingers.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Sunday, 27 May 2018 at 5:25pm BST

Since we are still on the Royal Wedding, can anyone throw light on why the Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London said a prayer at the service? The service was obviously carefully composed to reflect the interests of all concerned, but I can't see the connection in this case. If it was 'ecumenical' then one has to point out that there was no Free Church or Roman Catholic representation.

Posted by peter kettle at Sunday, 27 May 2018 at 7:50pm BST

'We don't need modern inventions which send people off in the wrong direction'

'Whoever wants to be first of all must be servant of all...The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many'.

That's hardly a modern invention.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Sunday, 27 May 2018 at 10:34pm BST

Read about Coptic Bishop Anba Angaelos on Wikipedia. There is an impressive listing of his service to many interfaith organizations. The Queen awarded him an OBE for services to international religious freedom.

Posted by Richard at Sunday, 27 May 2018 at 11:15pm BST

'Whoever wants to be first of all must be servant of all...The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many'.

But that's an explanation not an exhortation or commandment. So by all means include that in the address but in terms of exhortations stick to the one about love and drop the slogans which mislead by directing focus away from love.

I know Bishop Paul means well but I disagree with him nonetheless.

Posted by Kate at Monday, 28 May 2018 at 6:15am BST

I think he is a friend of Prince Charles who has shown a special concern for the diminishing and persecuted ancient churches of the Middle East.

Posted by Perry Butler at Monday, 28 May 2018 at 8:28am BST

"So was 'love', in the New Testament, but nowadays most people use it to describe an emotion."

Just as "heart" in the OT meant the seat of the will, so too it has come to be identified with emotion. Feelings.

Posted by crs at Monday, 28 May 2018 at 10:48am BST

Archbishop Angaelos involvement can be seen as a gesture of solidarity with the persecuted Christians of the Middle East, 80% of whom are Coptic.

Through his work on these issues he has become friends with Prince Charles who is also very concerned about their plight, taking seriously the Queen's role as Defender of the Faith. He also shares Charles' interest in Christian-Muslim dialog.

As someone born in Egypt and raised in Australia he brought an African/Australasian dimension to a service dominated by Europe and America.

He has succeeded Richard Chartres as President of the Bible Society

Although General Bishop of the Coptic Church in the UK since 1999, it was only last November that the Pope of Alexandria made him first Archbishop of London. This followed a meeting with the Queen.

The Royal attitude to this move by the Pope of Alexandria is very different from that of Queen Victoria to a similar move by the Pope of Rome in 1850, appointing an Archbishop of Westminster and 12 bishops, including one of Liverpool, which had no Protestant bishop until 1880, and had recently acquired a large Catholic population following the Irish Famine.

Amongst widespread rioting Queen Victoria demanded "Am I Queen of England, or am I not?" By inviting the first Coptic Archbishop of London to pray at the next big occasion after his enthronement (that is the word they used) Her Present Majesty shows a more ecumenical spirit.

Re the point about RC and Free Church, if involving clergy of Other denominations (apart from CofE or CofS) is intended to represent their members then involving the same denominations in every royal occasion still leaves some permanently excluded . Inviting leaders of smaller denominations to the lesser events and RC and Free to greater ones may be the most accomodating method practicable.

For many reasons, an inspired choice.

Posted by T Pott at Monday, 28 May 2018 at 10:50am BST

Bishop Paul struck a number of wrong notes.

Among them: "as we submit to Christ’s rule in our lives...."

So much for a "liberating" God. And yes, I know we are meant to find perfect freedom in service. But I get a bit worried whenever anyone, much less a bishop, tells us that we should "submit." And submit publicly, too, apparently....

Substitutionary atonement, mentioned above, meanwhile, is an ancient concept, but hardly one that has wide credibility or broad adherence. Theological guilt-tripping gets us nowhere.

Posted by Jeremy at Monday, 28 May 2018 at 2:09pm BST

Often read this blog and fascinated to see that no one has commented on the barriers to Ordained Ministry by more ordinary folk. I thought that article was so very true.

Posted by Working Class Rev at Monday, 28 May 2018 at 2:15pm BST

Concerning Paul Bayes: I am glad I am in the Diocese of Lichfield not Liverpool, for the reasons Jeremy cites, and more. My pastoral experience is that talk of Jesus often repels, whereas talk of God often intrigues. I could go on, but there's no point: individual pastoral exchanges matter - prolixity does not. And substitutionary atonement is to me as abusive as anything can be.

Working Class Rev: I wrote on another TA thread about my experiences as an Asst DDO. In short: I was sympathetic to candidates without post-school qualifications, they were ALL rejected by BAP, the bishop nevertheless ordained some of them, they are wonderful priests. At a BAP I pointed out frank discrimination against two 'working class' candidates. I was silenced by the oleaginous chairman. I am a product of Penrith Grammar School (then as now a state school) who went to Cambridge, but otherwise have no particular axes to grind other than sympathy for the underdog and hatred of injustice.

Posted by Stanley Monkhouse at Monday, 28 May 2018 at 3:44pm BST


Perhaps, he'd be happier in Islam, for which the key-word is "submit?"

Posted by MarkBrunson at Tuesday, 29 May 2018 at 5:32am BST

I am puzzled by the negative assumptions here about the word ‘submit’. To say I am a follower of Jesus is to say I seek to live in willing submission to his will and teachings. 'Submit' is a key Christian word too Mark Brunson. But is there any religion, spiritual system or way of life that does not require ‘submission’ to teaching, values or practices is there? The issue is not whether I ‘submit’ - but who or what I submit to and why.
I would even argue that submission is core to the understanding of the work of substitution I believe to be at the heart of the gospel - that the saving gift of incarnation and cross flows out of the eternal, loving, self-giving, mutual submission that is the life of the Trinity. Now there has always been more than one expression of the doctrine of substitutionary atonement around. Some could certainly be described as abusive. I am not clear which one Stanley Monkhouse is rejecting here (unless he is rejecting any element language of substitution in the Christian teaching of salvation)?
A ‘rule of life’ is an ancient and very practical way of seeking nurturing shapes of living in otherwise chaotic times. A rule to to enable us to be faithful to what we have freely and lovingly submitted our lives too. I am presently involved in working on something similar in Gloucester diocese.

Posted by David Runcorn at Tuesday, 29 May 2018 at 9:52am BST

A Nigerian bishop, Felix Orji, wrote an article that said that following regarding Bishop Curry's address at the royal wedding: "I wish he had preached penal substitutionary atonement because that is the crux of the gospel", adding that "royalty and celebrities ... desperately needed the gospel".

Posted by Richard at Tuesday, 29 May 2018 at 12:46pm BST

I don't get Jezebel's Trumpet these days, but the article on class barriers to ordination did ring true - except a little care does need to be taken. 'Working class' - at least on my memory of being brought up most emphatically working class (parental occupations semi-skilled, council house, etc)- embraces a multitude of categories. For some, the concerns expressed in the CT apply, for others they do not.

It always struck me that barriers to further education were felt most keenly by those who lived under one or more of the following constraints:
poverty; poor environment for home study (eg no quiet space); shift work.

It's the latter as gets overlooked, I feel- Dad was a railwayman and his shift pattern made any sort of night school or regular day commitment impossible.

Bursaries may help the less well off (who can be in groups other than the traditional 'working class' - when I went to train I couldn't have afforded to do non-residential, but was lucky enough for it to be long before the present funding arrangements came into play), but the increasing army of shift workers isn't going to be helped much by having books and transport paid for. Seems to me that's going to become a bigger and bigger issue with the 24/7 assumptions of society.

Posted by David Rowett at Tuesday, 29 May 2018 at 12:51pm BST

I thought "He died to save us all" -- the conclusion of the hymn Curry cited, and which he said is the manifestation of divine Love -- is Atonement language. How is it so many seem to have missed that?

Posted by Tobias Stanislas Haller at Tuesday, 29 May 2018 at 4:05pm BST

Tobias, to the extent we are parsing "There Is a Balm in Gilead" as an authoritative statement of atonement theology, you are misquoting it.

The last two lines of the refrain are:
"You can tell the love of Jesus,
And say He died for all."

Which is not quite as atonement-y as your "died to save us" rewrite.

Besides, "save" begs the question, don't you think? Atonement--dividing God into bloodthirsty Judge and innocent Victim--is not necessary to the concept of salvation.

Jesus saves us because he shows us--the crucifixion being the ultimate example--what love really is.

Posted by Jeremy at Tuesday, 29 May 2018 at 5:50pm BST

The shift work point is a good one, I think.

I think the threshold for ordination is set too high. We should lower it, ordain people and grant people PTOs with little or no training - selecting on personality and spiritual gifts not education. Those who want a permanent office / tenure etc can train for that *after* ordination. I don't see why ordination requires much training, although I understand that offices do.

Posted by Kate at Tuesday, 29 May 2018 at 6:09pm BST

I met the Dean of Windsor many times when he was Bishop of Lynn. He is a delightful, amusing and unstuffy person - and was a loss to the diocese of Norwich when he went to Windsor. Had he preached, his personality would doubtless have shone through. His role in the royal wedding was confined to the introductory part of the wedding service and the final blessing; why he should be criticised for not making this as 'exciting' as a sermon is beyond me.

Posted by Marc S at Tuesday, 29 May 2018 at 6:23pm BST

Marc, some of the criticism of the Dean was on his passive demeanour as Curry preached. I pointed out (on another forum) that when the preacher is situated behind you you can't watch them, and if you move you run the risk of distracting people from the sermon.

Posted by Janet Fife at Tuesday, 29 May 2018 at 6:48pm BST

It's possible to "submit" to love. Not a word choice I would use, but if submitting to love means practicing sacrificial, redemptive love, then great. In a pinch, I'm more likely to submit to the darker angels of my nature; it takes an act of faith to reverse that, and it doesn't seem to me like "submitting." Falling in love, however, can be submitting.

It could be different in British-English. We (Brits and Americans) are, after all, two peoples separated by a common language. I find that especially true of theological speak. When Justin Welby gave a sermon here in the US, a year or so ago, people didn't know what to make of it. It was as if the language was not so common. Some got offended, so I read the sermon carefully in the hopes of "translating" for them (having lived and worshipped for a bit in England and reading TA), with limited success. I don't remember all the particulars, but TEC doesn't have Evangelicals à la Justin. Further, while we certainly believe in personal sin, we tend to feel that the Bible is overwhelming about love - creating a just society, caring for the poor, etc. It is a significantly different worldview and theology. I wonder if it is the result of the extensive interfaith work we do because I've heard rabbi's express that view of Torah. Whatever the cause, some words and concepts don't fall the same, and that could be true of "submit." [NOTE: I think I just made Erika Baker's case in a discussion we had recently!].

Posted by Cynthia at Tuesday, 29 May 2018 at 7:19pm BST

Surely, the Dean of Windsor is one of the finest preachers in the Church of England - both theologically sound and spiritually uplifting. We should thank God for such a great proclaimer of the Good News of the Gospel.

Posted by Father David at Tuesday, 29 May 2018 at 9:04pm BST

Jeremy, you are correct and I misremembered the verse. However, I think it still describes the Atonement -- which does not require the substitutionary model (only one of many, including the Exemplary that you reference.) In all of these models, the cross is prominent, and the death of Christ as central to salvation -- however it "works"; as you say, showing us what love really is. And that was Curry's point.

I understand salvation in the sense of healing -- which is the point of the "balm in Gilead" hymn: anointing the primal wound of human separation from God, made whole and at-one with humanity through Christ, and his self-giving love.

Posted by Tobias Stanislas Haller at Tuesday, 29 May 2018 at 10:13pm BST

Tobias - thanks. I think we agree on Curry's point.

I also agree with Janet about the Dean's dilemma. He was in the frame but facing another direction. That is a real pickle.

Like Janet I think he did right by being impassive and not moving--thus minimizing distraction. It was the responsible and indeed courteous approach.

Posted by Jeremy at Wednesday, 30 May 2018 at 12:37am BST

Substitutionary atonement doesn't have to be penal. 'Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures' doesn't necessarily need to mean 'Christ took the punishment for our sins according to the scriptures'. Joel Green and Mark Baker examine this and many other New Testament images of atonement in their very fine book 'Recovering the Scandal of the Cross' which I highly recommend.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Wednesday, 30 May 2018 at 1:12am BST

"Jesus saves us because he shows us--the crucifixion being the ultimate example--what love really is."

I readily agree with this.

I see no reason to invoke substitutionary atonement. During WWII, Chemin de la Liberté offered an escape route from occupied France over the Pyrenees. Like all high mountain passes it is dangerous if you don't know the way, particularly in the dark. What you needed was a guide. Someone with exceptional survival skills who had pioneered the route and could show the way, either by guidiing escapees in person or by describing the route to them.

Isn't that what Jesus did? He had to go first but then he has left us guidance on how to follow Him. There is no substitionary atonement in that metaphor but still, without Jesus, the path would not be open to us.

Posted by Kate at Wednesday, 30 May 2018 at 4:41am BST

No, David Runcorn, it isn't. Sorry. "Love" is. "Follow" is. "Submission" is used most often in relation to civil authority. Slaves submit. Children love and follow. If you wish to use the actual word from the Scripture, hupotasso indicates a sort of military support, ordered under, or the idea of being in support of. Submission is mindless, unquestioning, and external. To support indicates, as Christ said, that the law is written on our hearts. "Obedience" can be said to be key to Christianity, but enforced obedience through mere submission is false obedience. We are enjoined to submit to events, to civil authority, to catastrophe, but we are called to follow and obey God, which is not the same as helpless and hopeless submission. "It's gonna happen to you anyway," while useful in dealing with life's inevitable problems, is far from indicating either all-giving love or free will, which are two rather major components of Christianity.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Wednesday, 30 May 2018 at 5:23am BST

"Atonement--dividing God into bloodthirsty Judge and innocent Victim--is not necessary to the concept of salvation.

Jesus saves us because he shows us--the crucifixion being the ultimate example--what love really is."

This account of the work of the Cross succeeds in being terribly inaccurate and also vapid.

When Jesus himself says he comes to give his life as a ransom he doesn't mean the Love Boat. A self-giving death on a Cross isn't an "example" of anything. All great minds at work on grasping this fact -- including even Abelard -- avoided this error.

Your complaint may be on extrapolations in the mode of Anselm, but the arbiter is the NT's own statements, not "examples" of something you already know well enough without any work of Christ.

Posted by crs at Wednesday, 30 May 2018 at 8:26am BST

Mark Brunson. Thanks - but I wonder how you read Eph 5.21 then ... ' 'submit yourselves to one another out of reverence for Christ'. This is a call to a mutual submission in community that imitates Christ (vs1 sets the context for this passage). A military or civil authority concept of submission is clearly not in mind here. In my posts I deliberately used words like loving, freely chosen, mutual, self giving to make clear I am distinguishing Christian submission to God and each other from something enforced or coercive. There are good and there are very bad forms of submission. I do not support submission that is 'mere' or 'false obedience' or mindless. Nor does the NT. That kind of submission is Godless and destructive. We would agree on that I think. But I do think that 'submission', 'following', and 'obedience' are interrelated ways of expressing the call to Christian discipleship.

Posted by David Runcorn at Wednesday, 30 May 2018 at 9:16am BST

"Just as "heart" in the OT meant the seat of the will, so too it has come to be identified with emotion. Feelings."

Christopher I think you must be reading a rather different Old Testament to the one I've been reading these last 59 years. Is there any other collection of books more descriptive of emotion and feelings?

Posted by Andrew Godsall at Wednesday, 30 May 2018 at 10:01am BST

Hi AG.

The seat of the emotions in Hebrew is the bowels.
KJV retains a lot of this in its literalistic psalter translation.

A good primer is HW Wolff's Anthropology of the OT.

Hebrew leb (heart) is the seat of decision making. Will.

The point has nothing to do with emotionalism in the OT but following on from Tim Chesterton, how words like 'love' and 'heart' get morphed by readerships.

Let your reins rejoice.

Posted by crs at Wednesday, 30 May 2018 at 11:19am BST

My experience in various English cathedrals (and, for that matter, most churches) is that clergy remain impassive during a sermon by a visiting preacher. That seems totally appropriate. Isn't all the fuss about the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Dean of Windsor just modern 'hype' - ignorant, disrespectful and unnecessary? This was a 'Solemnisation of Holy Matrimony' in contemporary form with the solemn parts (including, of course, the final blessing) properly solemn. Overall, the service was a joyful occasion and, surely, the two elements were complementary to each other.

Posted by Rowland Wateridge at Wednesday, 30 May 2018 at 12:08pm BST

"The point has nothing to do with emotionalism in the OT but following on from Tim Chesterton, how words like 'love' and 'heart' get morphed by readerships"

Pull the other one Christopher. I knew exactly what point you were making, and it wasn't that.

All kinds of words get morphed - not just words like 'love' and 'heart' that you seem so petrified of. Haven't you noticed? Read some Shakespeare.

Posted by Andrew Godsall at Wednesday, 30 May 2018 at 2:15pm BST

Andrew, I'm rather surprised at your reaction. Neither CRS nor I are downplaying the importance or role of emotion (I'm a folk musician, how could I???). We're simply saying that the biblical authors tended not to use the word 'heart' to symbolize it. As CRS says, they used the bowels instead (hence the KJV 'bowels of mercy' - or, to use the contemporary N. American phrase, 'scared s__tless'!).

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Wednesday, 30 May 2018 at 4:08pm BST

David Runcorn, the word 'submit' has come to have negative associations because of its use by various sects and branches of the. Church to enforce inequality and abuse of power by leaders and others. For instance, some insist on the submission of women, and especially of wives to their husbands. This scenario has arguably fed into domestic violence and abuse. Others enforce submission to pastor, priest, elders, or other leaders, often leading to spiritual abuse. House churches, networks like the North Circuit, Abundant Life & Coastlands, and various cults have done this. And iota course it has negative and frightening associations for many who have suffered sexual abuse.

I ha v for many years avoided the words 'submit' and 'submission' for those reasons and tend to be wary of those who use them.

However, I agree that as we follow Christ we try to conform to his teachings. I have for some years followed a Way of Life based on Celtic spirituality which I have found immensely helpful.

It's just the language which can be difficult and throw up some barriers.

Posted by Janet Fife at Wednesday, 30 May 2018 at 5:31pm BST

Blest is the man whose bowels move,
And melt with pity to the poor,
Whose soul by sympathizing love,
Feels what his fellow saints endure.

His heart contrives for their relief
More good than his own hands can do;
He in the time of general grief,
Shall find the Lord has bowels, too.

His soul shall live secure on earth,
With secret blessings on his head,
When drought, and pestilence and death
Around him multiply their dead.

Or if he languish on his couch,
God will pronounce his sins forgiv’n;
Will save him with a healing touch,
Or take his willing soul to Heav’n.

Isaac Watts

Posted by John Roch at Wednesday, 30 May 2018 at 8:34pm BST

Janet Fife I completely agree with you and only use this word with great care. I joined this discussion to respond to the idea the word ‘submit’ was not a Christian one at all. It is – but it is not the only word traditionally used to express Christian life and following that is not fraught with difficulty – obedience, sin and repentance, service, Father, Lord, authority, self denial etc. But whilst there may be times we feel we cannot use some of them at all, we are not at liberty to set aside the challenge of their content.
I’m in no doubt you how carefully you will have thought this through and it is a conversation I would enjoy having with you over a coffee. Thank you.

Posted by David Runcorn at Thursday, 31 May 2018 at 7:33am BST

"...not just words like 'love' and 'heart' that you seem so petrified of" -- quoi?

You do seem to get worked up.

One lovely Hebraism is rehem (for compassion). Derived from "womb."

I do recommend Wolff's fine book. All emotions in Hebrew are psychosomatic, not abstractions.

Blessings on your day in Exeter!

Posted by crs at Thursday, 31 May 2018 at 7:54am BST

"Neither CRS nor I are downplaying the importance or role of emotion. ...We're simply saying that the biblical authors tended not to use the word 'heart' to symbolize it."

Thanks Tim (and Christopher -although I'm not sure he would necessarily agree with you Tim). I am aware of it, and don't need an OT primer to be aware of it. It's the kind of thing I mentioned as a curate in sermons 30 years ago.

My point is that words have always 'morphed' and the fact that Greek or Hebrew or Aramaic might have a zillion different words for 'love' or 'heart' or 'emotion' is neither here nor there. The excitement of discipleship is when God, through Jesus Christ, meets a person *where they are* - in their context, and when that relationship comes alive, loving, heartfelt, and full of emotion. Other contexts are interesting and helpful to understand, but they don't devalue the current ones. If some find display of emotion, or romantic expression, difficult, then that's their problem - not the problem of the people who are displaying it. And once again, you only have to read the OT to know how true that is.

Posted by Andrew Godsall at Thursday, 31 May 2018 at 9:19am BST

"My point is that words have always 'morphed' and the fact that Greek or Hebrew or Aramaic might have a zillion different words for 'love' or 'heart' or 'emotion' is neither here nor there"

Which is God-inspired, the original meaning or does God inspire linguistic shifts as part of an active effort to keep His Word fully relevant?

Posted by Kate at Thursday, 31 May 2018 at 11:08am BST

David Runcorn, if you're ever in Whitby do pop in for coffee and a chat. I can offer free parking less than 10 minutes' walk from the town centre.

Posted by Janet Fife at Thursday, 31 May 2018 at 11:26am BST


"You do seem to get worked up." mean heartfelt? Emotional? Passionate? All are a sign of strength rather than weakness dear man.

"All emotions in Hebrew are psychosomatic, not abstractions." Talk about generalisation.....!

Posted by Andrew Godsall at Thursday, 31 May 2018 at 1:31pm BST

I agree entirely with Tim's point, which I took to be about love as embodied in service.

The fact that emotions are fully embodied in Hebrew anthropology--to the point of having no register other than somatic ones--I take to be profound and also corrective. The love of Jesus Christ is the total giving of himself, his body, for the sake of the world and its rectification before the God whose life he shared fully and surrendered into flesh for our salvation.

"Love" apart from this embodied reality -- and it is a love of submission, sacrifice, obedience, compassion, steadfastness -- struggles endlessly and in each age to find a solid register of agreed meaning.

It is restless until it finds its rest in Him.

all grace and peace in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Posted by crs at Thursday, 31 May 2018 at 1:40pm BST

crs Beautifully put. Thank you.

Posted by David Runcorn at Thursday, 31 May 2018 at 3:32pm BST

If I may offer one last word here, it seems to me part of the difficulty lies in thinking of love in primarily emotional terms. While love does involve the emotions, it also involves the will, especially in marital love (hence the important choice of words in the betrothal, "Will you... I will." This is also true of the love of God we are to have: and the heart is a seat of such love, in Hebrew: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart..." Such love is far more than emotion. It was to this love that Bishop Curry turned the attention of his listeners, a love so strong it can change the world; not romance, but self-giving fidelity.

Posted by Tobias Stanislas Haller at Thursday, 31 May 2018 at 5:03pm BST

As the rain begins to fall in Provence can I please thank TSH and David R for both of their comments and upstream.

May the compassion at the very center of the Lord descend on us all. Wherever we may be, wherever His Love reaches.

Posted by crs at Thursday, 31 May 2018 at 6:18pm BST

Kate wrote "Which is God-inspired, the original meaning or does God inspire linguistic shifts?"


cf. Wittgenstein: "don't look for meaning; look for *usage*."

It's the big issue of our time - restoring perception to its rightful place, rather than say "that's just subjective".

No truth, event or dogma is an island, bolted and nailed (rusted even?) to the deck.

Hence the Germans' rolling question: "who is Jesus Christ today?"

Posted by Michael Skliros at Friday, 1 June 2018 at 11:28am BST

"Hence the Germans' rolling question: "who is Jesus Christ today?""

Answer from Germans: nobody.

The data says that 7% of all English folk claim to be Anglican Christians, as against 10% Roman Catholic and 6% Muslim.

In Germany the numbers are no better.

Wittgenstein or not. Look for usage = nada.

Posted by crs at Saturday, 2 June 2018 at 7:14am BST

So you got out of bed on the wrong side, crs!
The question was not “how many for Jesus?” (did “C of E, I suppose” count when figures were high?) but “what does Jesus mean to those left who do care?”
Andrew Brown nailed it (imo) when he said that the sharp decline in the C of E was not entirely the Church’s fault; it came about because the “England” it was “the Church of” had disintegrated. So we were only an appendage of Englishness, after all.
Now that’s gone, we’re left with little more than rather soggy, ill-thought-through beliefs in the supernatural, which no one believes in anyway today. It’s a largely cause-and-effect world, with a healthy dose of randomness to ensure we retain a sense of humour, and a need to adapt and survive to keep us sharp.
Angela Tilby got it pretty right when she asked “but is it (Christianity) true?” Better: “in what sense is it true?” Much reordering of our perception of the Christian truths is needed. A wholly naturalistic understanding of the divine “engine” sustaining our evolving universe is quite possible, as Peacocke and other theologians have been saying for 50 years. Moreover it is clearly a very personal engine “in which we live and move and have our being”. The old categories don’t all have to go, though the old-man-with-long-white-beard one is not all that helpful today.
Remind me of the name of this blog/website, crs, and treat yourself to a good lie-in next Saturday!

Posted by Michael Skliros at Saturday, 2 June 2018 at 9:58am BST

It always puzzles me, this belief that in order to make Christianity appeal to people around us, we have to make it differ as little as possible from what they already believe and practice. Why would they choose to become Christian disciples if it turns out it would make so little difference to them? They could lie in on Sunday mornings and save themselves the trouble (not to mention saving on the tithe!).

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Saturday, 2 June 2018 at 4:33pm BST

Tim Chesterton asks why we try to make Christianity as indistinguishable as possible from what people already believe. Surely the short answer is that people don’t like their entire worldview, such as it is, to be changed. Softly catchee monkey. One might also ask why do some evangelists seem to go out of their way to do just that – shock. Both approaches are in the Good Book, but one sometimes doubts the motives of those who employ them.
Oddly enough, I did try to answer that one (the hankering after safety of religious folk) when I was in your homeland, Tim. Someone seemed to like it and ‘put it up’. So with due immodesty:
It’s quite good, which means it was almost certainly lifted from the Church Times. At least they didn’t pay me for the articles.

Posted by Michael Skliros at Saturday, 2 June 2018 at 7:17pm BST

You have said it exactly TC.

Tarting up Christianity gives 7% confident Christians.

Happy to wake today and praise the Lord.

Long white beard?

Posted by crs at Saturday, 2 June 2018 at 7:25pm BST

Re:Michael Skilros, intriguing short snapper attributed to Wittgenstein i.e. " "don't look for meaning; look for usage." One looks for instances in which meaning and usage are isomorphic. The question is, when are they exactly so?

Additionally, one looks for definition(s) in terms of accounting for all the data. The term 'love' for example is not a simplex. There is a feeling component, a knowledge component, and a responsive/responsible (moral) component.

Similarly 'marriage' is not simply a fossilized thing but a dynamic social structure. Consider the allowance for divorce or the dropping of 'obey' from the female vow as indicative of how marriage became something it was not prior to such reforms.

Like wise, one may look at the increasing use of the term 'marriage' for relationships that are not based on a dated understanding of the human sexual response in strictly male/female binary terms. Definition may follow usage--although not for some time in places where patriarchy and marriage are, well, 'married' to each other.

We have the tools for contending with the latter in the church. The ability to live with differing Christologies (monophysite, dyophysite, miaphysite) is perhaps a direction finder.

Who is Christ today? Interesting. I thought about the title of Ian MacQuarrie's (1991) Jesus Christ in Modern Thought.

Hat trick for me on this thread.(: Get your game on Vegas!

Posted by Rod Gillis at Sunday, 3 June 2018 at 7:45pm BST

'Ian MacQuarrie's (1991) Jesus Christ in Modern Thought.'

This made me laugh - the word 'modern' becomes dated so quickly. I'm reminded of a conversation my (then teenage) had with my wife.

D. 'We never sing any contemporary music in this church'.

W. 'Yes we do - we have the ______ song book'.

D. 'Mom, everything in that book was written before I was born!'.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Sunday, 3 June 2018 at 11:31pm BST

Thank you, Rod, though what I had in mind was the growing importance given now to *perception*, as distinct from what is being perceived. Till now, your categories (monophysite, etc, and all dogmas) have been set in concrete and the Church’s task has simply been to polish them (and fight over them) until “the true meaning” is exposed.
In these heady days of quantum mechanics, we read baffling phrases like “the very act of watching affects the observed reality”.
But nothing new there, surely? 2,500 years ago, Heraclitus showed that if a man steps into a river twice, he won’t be the same bloke 10 seconds later – he’ll have lost 1m skin cells for a start. No liberal preaches the same sermon twice, because it’s a different world from last Sunday, let alone 3 years before (did I get away with that?).
So how should we perceive (present?) Jesus Christ today?
Clunky, but short, analogy: how should we “do” Romeo & Juliet today?
1. As was, the traditional (=Catholic) way, in the hope that the magic will still do the trick.
2. Shakespeare in Modern Dress (=happy clappy). What you lose in dignity (“The Lord be with you.” “And with you, mate.”) you make up for in intelligibility.
3. Rejig it entirely, as in West Side Story, where surely the essential theme – young man falls in love with unsuitable girl – is perfectly preserved.
The world has moved on from times when we categorised some females as “unsuitable”.
Does that mean we should now say “love God and hate your neighbour?” Of course not. I’m simply asking if there is any radical thinking in the Church?
Again, nothing new there: the stranger on the Emmaus Road (“Beginning with the scriptures”) showed those two that it’s possible, just possible, that we can get religion . . . all . . . very . . . slightly . . . wrong.

Posted by Michael Skliros at Monday, 4 June 2018 at 10:44am BST

Re: Tim Chesteron: I was simply pointing out, re: the M. Skilros 'German' question, the ongoing state of any question in theological inquiry. If you have a unique critique of MacQuarrie (I'm certainly familiar with some) based on reading him, I'd be interested--but see below.

Re: Michael Skliros, "...perception, as distinct from what is being perceived." On the epistemological question I'm solidly in the camp of Bernard Lonergan and the Lonerganians re: the correlation between knowing and the known ( pensée pensant, intentio intenta, noema noesis). Lonergan has a section on quantum mechanics in Insight. One of the values of the Lonerganian approach is that many of its major proponents are science literate.

No need for me to give a poor man's tour here. See Lonergan's, Cognitional Structure.See also updating from T. J. McPartland, Daniel Helminiak, Nicholas Okeke and others. Okeke has recently done work in the area of mathematics, metaphysics, faith, values, and Lonergan.

I reject the epistemological premises behind the notion that we cannot know objectively and cannot account for data.

The reference to competing Christologies was simply my adverting to a possible model for living with theological differences.

Anyway,promised myself not to get dragged too deeply into debates here. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak; so that is it for me on this thread. Off to say a decade of the (Anglican) beads as penance. ( : Tks, ciao.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Monday, 4 June 2018 at 2:16pm BST

John MacQuarrie, I think, unless his friends called him Ian. IDK maybe it was his nickname.

On the substantive issues, I will say that it is good to remember from time to time that neither Christ nor God are plastic. Yes, theology is a human discipline, but there are certain givens. Big issues, deep issues, I know.

Posted by Wm "Bill'Paul at Monday, 4 June 2018 at 3:13pm BST

Not letting you off the hook that easily, Rod Gillis! Your “correlation between knowing and the known” leaves out the absolutely vital factor of *time*, which is what I have been banging on about, however badly. What was “known” then was only perceived and every truth, every past event, is perceived differently as each day goes by. I’m not talking about red herrings like “progress” or time travel, nor saying that differences in perception are merely passing sociological whims, as approval of same-sex affection is seen by some.
If you could abandon for a moment your purely theological-philosophical library, and quote instead from leading scientist-theologians, it could be more enlightening, as that is where the real debate is now taking place. Give us a bit of Alister McGrath, Keith Ward, John Polkinghorne, Simon Conway Morris, Joseph Silk, Simon Heller, or any other Templeton Prize winners for writing the best books to bridge the gap between the observed world of science (no, I didn’t say “the real world”) and the perceived world of religion. Hawking, even. Quantum mechanics rules OK. At the very least, we now know that time is funny stuff. The ancients didn’t.
This is not the same world as it was yesterday and my contention is that the Church, with its defined doctrines and other immovable furniture, hasn’t begun to comprehend “what the Spirit is saying to the churches” today. There’s certainly more to it than wearing sandals and open-necked shirts when administering holy communion. But neither is the truth for today to be found by looking back, back, back . . . always back.

Posted by Michael Skliros at Monday, 4 June 2018 at 5:52pm BST

Point of info: The two books of his I have in hard copy ( JC in Modern Thought & Principles of Xtian Theol. 2nd ed.) are published under the name of John Macquarrie. The Oxford NDB lists him as John [Ian] Macquarrie. My divinity school prof in Hebrew bible, also a Scot, was listed as John but used the name Ian. Sorry my preference for the Scottish version of the name may have caused confusion. Tks for noting that. Here is The Rev. professor Macquarrie's obit from The Guardian.

cheerio, - The Rev. Canon Roderick J. Gillis (ret'd)

Posted by Rod Gillis at Monday, 4 June 2018 at 7:17pm BST

Re: Michael Skliros, I'm letting myself off the hook;and I'm not letting anyone else put me back on it. ( : I think you might enjoy the article by Nicholas Okeke.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Monday, 4 June 2018 at 11:57pm BST

Oh dear, Lonergan again! Not only has he critics of his conclusions, there are mutterings about his methods – namely knowing the answers he wanted (“theology works the same way as science”) before asking the questions. That only gets a ‘maybe’. When comparing the intellectual rigour of thinking in science and religion, there’s just no contest.
His sidekick, John Polkinghorne, is much better at physics than theology, though see below.
As for input into right ear before exiting left, we had the brothers Chadwick in full flow, my own tutor, dreaded John Robinson, at Clare; Charlie Moule (also Clare) was good, as was the self-effacing Geoffrey Lampe. John Burnaby and JJ Farmer (“inhisssstorisation”) had both written big books and John Habgood was around somewhere. We were not deprived of good theology; it was the ethos at Cambridge that was different. On departing, the message was “enjoy life; don’t take yourself too seriously! And, by the way, here’s your degree thingy if you want it.” Hawking, when asked by gushing admirer: “where do you find black holes”, replied “in black socks, mostly”. Good Cambridge man. The great Albert E said much the same: “the whole of physics should be explainable to any barmaid who is willing to listen.”
I’ve known a few willing barmaids, and though I doubt many of them could have got their heads around his Theory of General Relativity, He was right in hinting that that was probably because the explainer didn’t understand it, or was trying to impress, or both. My first degree was ‘Nat Sci’ which I frequently find difficult to explain, for the first of those reasons.
To get back to the point – how religious thinking should perceive correctly in an ever-changing world, we have had Attenborough (another Clare man!) pinpoint the elemental truth that ‘adapt & survive’, coupled with ruthless disposal of the unfit, is what underpins this universe and which, by definition, is therefore God’s “M.O.”. That doesn’t mean that social Darwinism should be the name of the game – even Dawkins shrinks from that. It could mean, though, that the Church should be in the forefront of promoting “tough love”, rather than the sentimental kind. The Spirit works in strange ways, and it may mean that if seemngly rough-and-ready methods or institutions are promoting restoration, healing and self-confidence of the right kind, we should back them.

Posted by Michael Skliros at Tuesday, 5 June 2018 at 10:53am BST

(See above)
John Polkinghorne was brilliant in bringing the Bell Theorem to our attention.
In Sunday-School-speak it says: if two fundamental particles collide, they “remember” the occasion. So if one goes off to the other side of Mars and gets into trouble, the one left behind “feels its pain”.
Better than Laplace’s “billiard ball universe” (materialism), which explained everything in terms of cold, impersonal colliding atoms. Asked by Napoleon where God fitted into that, he replied famously “sire, I have no need of that hypothesis”.
But a universe where everything, but everything, is one interacting wave form (past, present . . . and future?), is intriguing and one doesn’t have to be a theologian to start thinking about that like mad.
So God is back in business, albeit differently perceived, as “He” should be.

Posted by Michael Skliros at Tuesday, 5 June 2018 at 11:24am BST

Re: Michael Skliros. Thanks for the stream of consciousnesses replete with a rogue's gallery. Mind you, I have absolutely no idea what you are on about. Good luck with it, though. One must soldier on.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Tuesday, 5 June 2018 at 1:24pm BST

John Macquarrie was a popularist theologian when I was in seminary (1977), and easily the most accessible for 1st year students, and so chosen over other options. I believe the textbook was Principles of Christian Theology.

"Oh dear, Lonergan again! Not only has he critics of his conclusions, there are mutterings about his methods – namely knowing the answers he wanted (“theology works the same way as science”) before asking the questions. That only gets a ‘maybe’. When comparing the intellectual rigour of thinking in science and religion, there’s just no contest."

We will say a novena that RG does not come undone over this characterization.

Maybe there is an Ian Macquarrie I do not know about. John Macquarrie, working from memory, was a liberal catholic Anglican trying to popularize the existential theology of Paul Tillich. The latter's work was easily accessible in English so it is hard to know why a 'sacramental' version of it for Anglicans was necessary.

Posted by crs at Tuesday, 5 June 2018 at 4:16pm BST

'If you have a unique critique of MacQuarrie'

Good grief, no! You completely misunderstood my point, which was simply amusement about how quickly the word 'modern' becomes dated (and how slowly those of us who are, or are getting close to, 'north of 60' fail to notice the fact.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Tuesday, 5 June 2018 at 5:20pm BST

Re: CRS, "We will say a novena that RG does not come undone over this characterization." How very kind of you. Prayers are always welcome.

One must be prepared for criticism and face it head on. It comes with the territory. As Socrates said, "It was a good hemlock....but not a great hemlock." ( :

Posted by Rod Gillis at Tuesday, 5 June 2018 at 6:30pm BST
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