Thinking Anglicans

opinions on Easter Eve

John Polkinghorne writes in The Times about Motivated belief and the stringent search for truth.

And Tom Wright writes there also, see The Church must stop trivialising Easter.

Nick Jowett writes in the Guardian about the tradition of laughter at Easter.

Alan Wilson wrote on Comment is free: Belief about hearing the Easter story as if for the first time. Read Just tell Olive to get stuffed.

Jonathan Bartley wrote in last week’s Church Times about how the Church is in danger of undermining its own message. Read Actions speak louder than words.

Yesterday’s leading article in The Times is related to the preceding item, see The spiritual challenge.

Giles Fraser wrote in the Church Times about The real vampirism in society today and last week’s column was The ultimate rebrand of the cross.


  • I think Tom Wright continues his descent into who knows what.

    It is relatively simple. Jesus is telling his disciples the son of man will come before the generation passes away, or similar, and Jesus is doing what a Jew would do – acting to give God a nudge to bring in the Kingdom. But Jesus is dead, which means either that Jesus is the Messiah or he is nothing, and can no longer be a go-between.

    If Jesus sees his own coming end as part of a suffering servant plan, then despite any deflation the disciples will have the notion that it is not all over.

    The disciples continue to believe in the end time, and continue to expect, and the still continued to have Jewish festivals and meals, and in those still rituals is their own leader’s place.

    The historian and scientist is right to insist on two things. First, the human body dies rapidly and bones do not reconstitute into a form of body that can appear and disappear at will in response to theological messages in texts. Secondly there is no primary historical material for resurrection whatsoever, and already the material relates to an expanding Church and a split with Judaism. So the issue is why movements expand, and movements expand in high pressure, oppressed, changing situations for all sorts of reasons, including the stories that get inflated within such movements.

    And Paul was not met by a physical body of any kind, as far as the text indicates, so to try and redefine spiritual to push the body reconstituted is a excessive in itself.

    In my view nothing happened: nothing except a Jewish movement that expected the end, and a heavenly coming messiah, and a Gentile movement that attached to a salvation cult based on monotheism, which meant they didn’t have to hang around synagogues any more, or get into the complexities of deities when there was something higher up the explanatory ladder.

  • Richard Ashby says:

    No reference here to Giles Fraser’s article in today’s Guardian about the iniquity of the substitutional sacrifice theory of the meaning of the cross? ‘..a disgusting idea and morally degenerate’ which permeates so much of our hymnody and imagery for Good Friday. There is a New Life ‘church’ down the road from where I live, which proclaims this pernicious doctrine proudly on its website along with all its family friendly activities. Steve Chalke called it ‘cosmic child abuse’ and raised a storm but surely he is right as is Giles. The trouble is the doctrine does two things. It absolves us from all responsibility for our actions and it and it saves us from identifying Christ too closely with the poor and outcast for whom he died. So it’s an easy way out, except of course that it loads us with guilt.

  • JCF says:

    If Tom Wright is TRYING to drive seekers out of the Church—not to mention the millions of convinced Christians who know the difference between a “fact” (which can ONLY be established through empirical evidence, not by anyone’s bombastic “logic”) and FAITH—he’s doing a very good job.

    …fortunately, not a good enough to keep me from celebrating tonight Christ’s rising, that I have faith in. 🙂

  • JCF says:

    Oh, and one more thing:

    “Tom Wright writes there also, see The Church must stop trivialising Easter.”

    Bishop, de-trivialize thyself!

  • Father Ron Smith says:

    “When the Church begins to work with Easter energy on the twin tasks of justice and beauty, we may find that it can face down the sneers of sceptics, and speak once more of Jesus in a way that will be heard.”

    The Right Rev Dr Tom Wright

    One thing we might all agree on in Bp. Wright’s essay is the idea that he expresses in these words. Once the Church follows up its rhetoric about truth and justice by action, especially in the area of women and the LGBT community, then the world – which seems to understand these things sometimes better than the Church and wonders why the Church is not proactive on these issues – might just come to believe that we are in the business of being co-Redeemers with the Risen, Glorified Christ.

    “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us, therefore let us keep the Feast – not with the old leaven of malice and wickdness, but with the unleavened Bread of Sincerity and Truth.”

  • Either, or… Metafor or Fact ;=)

    Why ever not both?

  • Ford Elms says:

    “The Church has turned Jesus’s Resurrection into a “happy ending” after the dark and messy story of Good Friday, often scaling it down so that “resurrection” becomes a fancy way of saying “He went to Heaven”.”

    I find this really funny coming from an Evangelical. I think the majority of catholic minded Christians understand the Resurrection as something more than just a happy ending. It is Evangelical theology that bumps the Resurrection down a few notches. If redemption comes about because of the death of an innocent victim to appease an angry, corrupt judge, then that is accomplished once Jesus dies on the Cross. Hence we have the bizarre spectacle of some Evangelicals singing “Alleluia” on Good Friday. So what is the purpose of the Resurrection? Proof that the bribe worked, maybe? Is this an indication the Wright may be finally realizing the inadequacy of Evangelical thought to explain mysteries of this nature? A boy can dream. Live in hope, die in despair!

  • Christopher Shell says:

    hi Richard Ashby

    Crossed lines here. The question is not whether we, if we were God, would act in a substitutionary way, or approve substitutionary atonement. After all, we are not God, and assuming God exists, God is quite free to act in ways we either misunderstand, disapprove of, or both. One surely can’t deny that. You’re confusing two questions which are poles apart: (1) ‘do I approve of it?’ and (2) ‘is it true?’. There are, and always will be, plenty of things we approve of that are not true, and plenty of things we disapprove of that are true.

    The real question is twofold: (a) what do the primary documents say? and (b) do they correspond to something that really happened? Isaiah 53 clearly does speak of substitutionary atonement, and clearly is massively used in the New Testament.

    Anyone who proposes that God must always act in ways we both understand and approve of either has delusions of grandeur (effectively substituting themselves for God), or has no fear of God, or has no belief in God’s reality.

  • Ford Elms says:


    If Substitutionary Atonement is so “massively” evident in the New Testament, why did it take over 1500 years for it to be developed, and only then by some branches of the faith, and why is it still rejected by a significant number of Christians? I think the problem here is that some people are taking one particular, and quite valid if somewhat peripheral, understanding of Atonement and making it into a central doctrine, then falsely claiming that it was central all along. For me, it is the falsehood of the latter claim that is so infuriating, especially since PSA is not all that consistent with the rest of what God has revealed of Himself. You have to ask what motivates people not only to deviate so far from the Tradition, but to so willingly deceive themselves as to the extent of their deviation that they deny it is a deviation at all. The concept is incredibly complex, and it diminishes the faith to seek to destroy that complexity by enforcing one concept of something so difficult. And, this is not about proposing that God act in a way we approve of. The Orthodox do not support SA, are you suggesting their bishops all have delusions of grandeur, no fear of God, or do not believe in God’s reality?

    There definitely are penal elements in the traditional understanding of Atonement, but to claim those elements are the same as PSA and that PSA therefor is at the core of our understanding of Atonement is false, and represents a very distorted understanding of what the Church has always understood Atonement to be, and, I would argue, of what the Good News is.

    And your reliance on “primary documents” is also an error. Christianity is first and foremost a Tradition, of which the “primary documents” are intended to be explanatory. So, a more appropriate question would be not “What do the primary documents say” but “What does the Tradition say?” You are putting the User’s Manual in place of the Computer, so to speak.

  • Christopher Shell says:

    Hi again

    Quite clearly scripture/tradition is a false either/or, and in fact for two separate reasons. (1) The primary ‘scriptural’ documents are part of the tradition. (2) They are generally the earliest part of it, and for that reason generally to be preferred to any alterations or misunderstandings that came later.

    I am not speaking about any dogma of substitutionary atonement, whenever that may or may not have first arisen. I am speaking only of the primary documents (which predate and should undergird any dogmatic formula) in which SA is found.

    I suppose one good reason that people often treat it as the main/foundational atonement doctrine is that the pattern of illogical gracious complete ‘divine exchange’ is something *many* aspects of which are separately attested across *many* books of the NT. For example: Jesus became a curse so that we might become a blessing; became poor so that we might be rich; suffeered death that we might have life; etc.. There are about 7 such parallel patterns: see for example Derek Prince ‘Atonement’.

    For my money substitution is central, *penal* substitution less central but still a clear part of the overall picture. Always assuming that it makes sense to speak in terms of ‘centrality’ when in fact the point is to gain an *overall* and multi-dimensional understanding.

  • Father Ron Smith says:

    “Anyone who proposes that God must always act in ways we both understand and approve of either has delusions of grandeur (effectively substituting themselves for God), or has no fear of God, or has no belief in God’s reality.” – Christopher Shell –

    Precisely, Christopher. This is why your assertion; that the Scriptures are immutably the final and irrefutable ‘Word of God’, and that references to women and same-sex relationships are ‘God’s’ final word on sex and gender matters, is so presumptuous.

    The Holy Spirit did not cease ‘speaking’ with the publication of the Bible. Nor should we consider every word of Scripture to be the ineffable and irrevocable expression of the mind of God. No expression of ‘Holy Church’ is without fault, nor is the perpetuation of fallible human constructions of human sexuality, based on archaic biblical texts, any longer acceptable to the modern world.

  • Christopher Shell says:

    Hi Fr Ron

    I have no idea (what-so-eva!!) what you mean when you say ‘your assertion’. When did I make any such assertion? References please!

    I would not make any such assertion at all. If you read back over what I have written, you’ll see that I always distinguish the question ‘What does the Bible say?’ (a question which is so often answered wrongly) from the question ‘Is it true/right/correct?’.

    It is only logical to admit that whatever the Bible correctly says to be the case will have been true before (often, long before) the Bible said it. So how can the Bible’s saying something *make* that thing to be true?

    If you do examine my jottings you will immediately find that I always appeal to the authority of statistical evidence and logic and never to that of the Bible. I often try to clarify what the Bible does and does not say (wherever people seem to be misrepresenting this), but that is quite a separate matter from saying that what the Bible says is true. That is something that has to be separately established.

    ‘Archaic’: alas! Presumably the sun is cold because it is old. If we both consult the dictionary we’ll see that ‘new’ and ‘good’ do not have anything like the same meaning as each other. And if we both consult our logical faculties we will have to concede that some things get better, others worse, others stay the same. Your view is what CS Lewis called ‘chronological snobbery’.

    According to your statement, you replace the infallibility of the Bible by your own alternative (and obviously incorrect) fundamentalism: i.e. belief in the infallibility of what you call ‘the modern world’. Neither of these 2 fundamentalisms can be countenanced by critical thinkers.

  • Father Ron Smith says:

    “I always distinguish the question ‘What does the Bible say?’ (a question which is so often answered wrongly) from the question ‘Is it true/right/correct?’.” – Chriostopher Shell –

    Forgive me, Christopher if I have misjudged you. Perhaps there is another ‘Christopher’ whose bloggings are so obviously conservative on the issue of biblical fundamentalism that one is provoked into defence of the ‘Reason’ element of the Anglican ‘Scripture, Tradition and Reason’ philosophy.

    My own ‘fundamentalism’, if that is what you choose to call it, is based on the New Testament revelation of the inclusivity of Jesus in his outreach to all and sundry, on the basis of the fact that all are sinners, but God has chosen to prodigally forgive ‘all who truly repent of their sins’ – whatever proves to be actual sin, and not the automatic supposition of the institutional puritans. A Happy Easter to you!

  • Christopher Shell says:

    If after examination and research some conclusions are what you call ‘conservative’ how can one avoid that? I am not about to lie about the results of research, or cook the books in any other way.

    No doubt some of my conclusions are conservative, some radical and some moderate. But that could not be less relevant. What is relevant is whether they are reac hed in integrity by a truth-seeker, and also whether they are provisional, open to further enlightenment (which of course will, logically, not always be in what you’d see as a modernising direction. Sometimes it will be, sometimes it won’t.).

    Dishonest discourse is that which *always* comes to the same type of conclusion, suggesting a psychological motive. For example, conservative, culturally-conformist, maverick.

    It also needs to be said that to have one’s primary classification as old-fashioned vs new-fashioned (as in my experience many people do) is, as regards truth, a clear misunderstanding.

    You cite ‘the New Testament’ but I am not sure this squares with your talk of ‘whatever provces to be actual sin’. That is nothing like the New Testament way of thinking. In the New Testament plenty of things are sins intrinsically.

    Happy Easter.

  • Theodore A. Jones says:

    PSA, substitutionary atonement, paying a ransom for you, or any other statement that explains the concept “in place of” relative to Jesus’s crucifixion is error. For according to God there cannot be a direct benefit for anyone whenever any male human’s life is lost by bloodshed. Gen. 9:5 NIV.

    One fact that you all have missed is that a change has been made to God’s law AFTER Jesus’s crucifixion. Heb.7:12. Whom will you crucify in your places to rectify your disobedience of this law?

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