Thinking Anglicans

opinion for the end of January

Jane Williams continues her Comment is free belief series: The Book of Genesis, part 7: The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. “Genesis raises some thorny questions about God’s morality, but to view them entirely through our own lens is disrespectful.”

Giles Fraser’s column in this week’s Church Times is Woods: it’s all about the scale.

Theo Hobson writes in The Guardian that American Anglicans made me change my mind on church. “Disillusioned with the C of E’s ambivalent attitude to liberalism, the US Episcopal church was like a breath of fresh air.”

Christopher Howse asks in The Telegraph: What’s that thing round your neck? He “was surprised by religious medals being called ‘charms’.”

In last week’s opinion article I linked to a lecture about Islamophobia by Baroness Warsi, and some responses to it. This week The Question at Comment is free belief follows this up with Is hatred of Islam now respectable? with replies from Nesrine Malik, Tehmina Kazi and Jenny Taylor.

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Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

Great to see some commenters on Jane Williams’ article actually arguing against the usual bunch of arch-atheists who respond to her work. I really cannot see even an atheist’s objection to her point: “read this work in the context of those who wrote and for whom it was written.”

And nice to see Theo Hobson point out the Episcopal Church *I* recognize!

Murdoch
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Murdoch

“…read this work in the context of those who wrote and for whom it was written.” Ah yes. But who wrote, and when? It looks very like the Hebrew scriptures were codified, if not written, in sixth century Babylon, to create a national identity for a group of exiles. Noah is obviously myth, Abraham not less so. The “covenants” are in the story, not in history. Ms. Williams calls Genesis a story of “how a faithful God continues to work with unfaithful people” — but to what were the people originally to give faith? We have millennia of human history,… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

My problem with the arch-atheists is that they generally ignore Williams’ attempts to explain the context of the story and just rant about how it is all so much claptrap.

Richard Ashby
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Richard Ashby

Following Theo Hobson’s article I wonder if TEC would like to do some border crossing into England? (Only slightly tongue in cheek!)

drdanfee
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drdanfee

Really so glad TH felt welcome in TEC; as that is rather our TEC point. Thank goodness, thank God.

Father Ron Smith
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I’m so glad Theo Hobson found a welcome in The Episcopal Church. I guess that ought to be the experience of All Anglicans – wherever they are in the world. Sadly, there are still certain congregations where one does not feel entirely welcome. Let’s all hope and pray that this current meeting of Communion Primates – or at least the ones who bothered to turn up – will do something about the culture of exclusivity that one can often find in the more fundamentalist congregations. We are all sinners – let’s act like we share that problem, and that we… Read more »

Spirit of Vatican II
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Spirit of Vatican II

“Noah is obviously myth, Abraham not less so.” Doubtful — Abraham is far more likely to have been a historical figure. ” The “covenants” are in the story, not in history. Ms. Williams calls Genesis a story of “how a faithful God continues to work with unfaithful people” — but to what were the people originally to give faith?” I think the “unfaithful people” topos first comes up in Exodus. The patriarchal clan of Abraham has incidents of naughtiness but no pattern of infidelity to the covenant (which entails no Law at this point). “the contradictions and outrages in the… Read more »

Murdoch
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Murdoch

There is a difference between the moral of a story and the lessons of history. Jane Williams consistently fudges them. Her “arch-atheist” critics don’t seek her out — she writes in a secular national newspaper, and some readers find her views irrelevant and inconsistent with what they know. The critics don’t seem “arch-atheist” to me, just people who, being outside the narrative, don’t find it as convincing as do people who repeat it among themselves all the time. Rather than bristle at them, one might consider what one has to say to them. “little to be outraged about in Genesis”?… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

“Legends and literature can reflect truths about human nature, but the grand narrative about God created by Hebrew writers and Christian theologians is being stripped of its historical assumptions. So, what next?” You see, I think those “historical assumptions” didn’t exist in the minds of the original writers and listeners of this narrative. I think they were assumed by later readers, beginning around the time of the Roman Empire’s adoption of Christianity. Even today, most Jews do not read Genesis or even Exodus as history…they read it as the mythic narrative of their people, the story of WHY they are… Read more »

Laurence Roberts
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Laurence Roberts

What Murdoch said. Arch-atheist is meant to be some kind of put down I understand (it is never explained).

Many these a-as are thoughtful and conscientious – who could ask for anything more ?

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

Arch-atheist is meant (by me) as a descriptive term for those who feel it necessary to comment negatively on every expression of religious belief, with words like “drivel,” “nonsense,” “superstition,” and “lies.” Read the comments on this week’s piece by Williams; go back and read the comments on previous ones…these are people who are not content to be non-believers themselves but to berate all those who believe in anything higher than themselves. If the situation were reverse, if it were a similar group of Christians who felt it required to post comments on every atheist writing, they would be scourged… Read more »

Murdoch
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Murdoch

“they were assumed by later readers, beginning around the time of the Roman Empire’s adoption of Christianity.” They WERE assumed then, for, oh, sixteen hundred years. Of course, current ideas of history and evidence didn’t apply at the time of writing. “most Jews do not read Genesis or even Exodus as history…they read it as the mythic narrative of their people.” The tradition has also been read as a real estate deed to the land of Palestine, where the Jews hadn’t held sovereignty since 700 CE. It seems to me that all sorts of theoretical claims are based on the… Read more »

Bill Dilworth
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Bill Dilworth

“Even today, most Jews do not read Genesis or even Exodus as history…”

Well, that depends on who you’re talking about. Worldwide, most Jews who identify as religious are, to some degree of affiliation at least, Orthodox. The Conservative and Reform movements claim a majority of affiliated Jews in the United States, not in terms of the worldwide Jewish population. And the Orthodox are not generally inclined to regard the Bible as “the mythology of their people.”

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

“…the Orthodox are not generally inclined to regard the Bible as “the mythology of their people.”

But neither are they generally inclined to read it as being literal history and truth. They are better educated than that.

Bill Dilworth
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Bill Dilworth

“But neither are they generally inclined to read it as being literal history and truth.”

I can assure you, Pat, that if you walk into any one of the Orthodox shuls in my city and tell them that they do not believe that the Children of Israel passed through the miraculously parted Red Sea, or that Abram/Abraham is a fictive character representing their tribal origins, they will tell you otherwise.

Bill Dilworth
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Bill Dilworth

“But neither are they generally inclined to read it as being literal history and truth. They are better educated than that.”

I’m sorry, but I really should have addressed this in my last post. It’s a mistake to think that the division between people who view the Bible’s account of history as trustworthy is between the well educated and some other group. I’ve come across people in the Ivy League who believe that God literally gave Moses the Torah on Mt Sinai. I’m sure that I could find Christians in the same setting who have a similar take.