on Saturday, 2 April 2016 at 10.00 am by Peter Owen
categorised as Opinion
Sam Keyes The Living Church Food of life, food of death
Giles Fraser The Guardian The resurrection isn’t an argument. It’s the Christian word for defiance
Some Easter sermons
Archbishop of Canterbury
Bishop of Liverpool
Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church
Archbishop of Armagh
Archbishop of Armagh (dawn service)
Archbishop of Dublin
Bishop of Waikato
Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem
And some from Holy Week
Archbishop of Armagh
Excellent final paragraph by Giles Fraser which sums up exactly and succinctly where we are as a national church. I can however trump his record as there has been a church here on the hill of Bex with a priest since 772. When the Conquoror landed nearby had he looked up on his way to do battle he would have seen a little Saxon church that had been there for almost 300 years before he landed here from Normandy. As for a church that is supposed to be dying – I am pleased to say that at the main Resurrection… Read more »
Having read Giles Fraser (always first choice), I followed up with Archbishop Welby’s Easter Sermon. ( no time to get to the others just yet). Interesting that both Fraser and Welby begin with a reference to the Easter Vigil. The Vigil always reminds me of the “yet, but not yet’ aspect of Resurrection, a sense of the eschatological dimension. An additional similarity between the two, Fraser and Welby, is that both are paying a lot of attention to social issues–although it is interesting to ponder the different way in which each navigate the same terrain. My favorite line from Fraser… Read more »
Giles Fraser believes the resurrection is an act of defiance. And he makes good points to back up his argument. His parish is disadvantaged with many social problems. And this is just the territory where defiance Christian-style can make a big difference. I sometimes wonder if it isn’t more difficult doing Christianity in a well to do area.
Of course, both Giles Fraser and Justin Welby are attempting to proclaim the hopeful Gospel at Easter 2016 as they ought and well done. But perhaps one query: I do wonder whether there might be too much of a dichotomous clash of nature vs Grace or Faith vs reason somewhere. So the Resurrection (unhelpfully put in categorical terms) has to be unnatural: “There is nothing natural about resurrection. At Easter God is completely disrupting the pattern of life and death.” Yet earlier on, and more helpfully, His Grace has “… the reality of purpose and achievement which is the gift… Read more »
Giles Fraser sanctifies failure: if he’s representative, little wonder the progressive wing of the church is dying; with resurrection unlikely to follow.
Suffering’s combated not with magical thinking, but by identifying the cause of the problem, and working to fix it. Evidence is crucial to that endeavor. That Fraser declares evidence and reason irrelevant to his faith ought to nix any surviving illusions that he’s any kind of a liberal.
Post modernism’s brought us to this, and it’s a sorry place.
@ keithmcianwil. Interesting observation, and interesting to know how either Giles Fraser or Justin Welby would respond to it. Fraser’s article is responding, of course, to general social perceptions about religion at present. Readers get a clue by following the link via the word “religion” at the beginning of his article. His third paragraph is key. More people scan media articles than listen attentively to sermons. Empirical types tend to respond to creed code i.e. “I believe/we believe in this, that, or the other mystery with tweets or sound clips popularized by new atheists. In this regard Giles is helpful.… Read more »
Giles Fraser’s moving article reminded me of the final episode of Rev a couple of years ago: the tiny, beleaguered congregation breaking into the boarded-up church to proclaim the resurrection. ‘The darkness has not overwhelmed the light of the Word.’ And Bishop Paul Bayes once again made me grateful that he is our bishop in down-but-not-out Liverpool.
@ James Byron, “Post modernism’s brought us to this, and it’s a sorry place.” James, could you expand on this? ( I appreciate Fraser’s columns, but I’m certainly not a post-modernist). Be interesting to re-read Fraser in the light of an expansion on your comment.
“Suffering’s combated not with magical thinking, but by identifying the cause of the problem, and working to fix it. Evidence is crucial to that endeavor.”
said Jesus never…
James Byron. I don’t know how many times I have said this. I am absolutely not a liberal.
Rod, by post modernism, I’m referring to Fraser’s repeated habit of rejecting the search for objective truth (did the resurrection happen?) and prioritizing subjective meaning (do I get emotional fulfillment from believing that it happened?). What matters isn’t truth, but “my truth.” Ironically for a movement that began among left-wing academics, po-mo suits conservatives who want to reject modern science and other discoveries, since when there’s no objective truth, evidence can be discarded; and since it leads to ideas that don’t work, junking evidence is inherently dangerous. Alastair, true: and if Jesus hadn’t thought Adonai was about to enter history,… Read more »
McAteer’s “thinking” as represented in Keyes’ article in TLC is a perfect example of why metaphors are metaphors and only metaphors, and, in every case, can be strained to the breaking point. Certainly using them as a basis for dogmatic or moral theology is very thin ice indeed. In this case, I’ll simply leave it as saying that it’s unsound.
Pam, I like your comment, although I’ve had to learn to temper my suspicion of, well, well-to-do parishes. Somnolence can, I think, afflict any part of the church that’s tempted to be satisfied with itself. It happens to me a lot.
Giles Fraser’s article strikes me as working on the edge of meaninglessness, using religious metaphors when a more direct and simple language would do and thus making those metaphors vacant. Everyone sees this sleight of hand, and it’s hardly sleight of hand – it is cumbersome, and everyone sees not only how the trick is done but that it ceases to be a trick. He and I might agree on resurrection and incarnation, except I don’t believe it and he uses the words in some chuck-about extended use manner.
@ James Byron, ok thanks for the reply James, for your take on Giles Fraser in relation to post-modernism. I reckon Fraser is the best guy to reply about the application of your analysis to his take on things ongoing. All I can say is that I like Fraser’s columns although although I don’t always agree. I liked this one. I suspect it is the social contextualization that appeals to me. Theologically I tend to live in a kind of Lonerganian space, if somewhat eclectically. Heart and mind, love and knowledge, thoughts and intentional feelings are all in the horizon.… Read more »
Thanks for commenting, Giles. I don’t dispute that you reject liberalism: like I said, it’s a misconception that’s often expressed, and should be put to rest.
«Rod, by post modernism, I’m referring to Fraser’s repeated habit of rejecting the search for objective truth (did the resurrection happen?) and prioritizing subjective meaning (do I get emotional fulfillment from believing that it happened?). What matters isn’t truth, but “my truth.”» – James Byron Science is very seriously considering that we might inhabit just one of an infinite number of parallel universes and/or whether we are merely a simulation or projection from a high dimension objective reality. Against that sort of science then subjective reality might be the only reliable reality. «Ironically for a movement that began among left-wing… Read more »
I don’t always agree with Giles Fraser either (in fact, I don’t think there’s anyone I always agree with), but this piece was brilliant. There is a danger for our religious words to become purely spiritual and theoretical, something we can feel strongly about during a moving Service. But when you’re in a parish like Giles’s, faced with that level of deprivation and all the resulting apparent meaninglessness of anything individuals can do to try and make a difference, it is reasonable to ask what a lofty word like Resurrection can mean, in that context, now, if it’s not to… Read more »
It was interesting to hear + Richard Chartres reflect on 20+ years as Bishop of London in this interview with the team at St Mellitus College
Kate, I agree that science doesn’t offer immutable truths, but that’s no reason to embrace solipsism; same goes for speculation about alternative universes. If reality’s so out-there, it’s all the more reason to adopt the most vigorous testing, to avoid misleading ourselves. Fraser’s shrug of “it doesn’t matter” is no answer. I also agree that science is different in kind to philosophy, but that being so, philosophy must be bounded by it. If Fraser’s arguing not only that God arbitrarily suspends natural laws, but that we can reasonably believe this extraordinary claim on the basis of mere feelings, he’s opening… Read more »
The resurrection of Christ transcends science.
@ Kate, “The resurrection of Christ transcends science.” An Interesting statement, but I’m not sure where it leaves the modern believer? Resurrection is a one of the mysteries of the Christian Faith which is to say it is a mystery that is revealed. The mystery as expressed in the NT is expressed in and to a world of myth. It is the task of NT interpreters, doctrinal theologians and systematic theologians to work on what is meant by Resurrection. It is the task of preachers to proclaim what is meant. In that regard Giles Fraser. Justin Welby, The Primus of… Read more »
I think the first thing a modern believer needs to do is to understand the limitations of science. Science cannot – yet at any rate – explain life or consciousness and therefore present day science cannot be authoritative on resurrection. I am a mathematician by training and have a different perspective than those who rely on science. For me, irrational numbers exist but clearly set just outside a purely scientific reality, complex numbers even more outside that reality. Topologies of higher dimensions and non-Euclidean geometries take us even further from the observed physical realm studied by science. So by high… Read more »
There’s a very witty and quite accessible blog post on Scientific American which discusses solipsism as a consequence of quantum theory:
That’s not to say that solipsism is necessarily the “correct” philosophy (in either a scientific or theological sense) but to the extent that Giles Fraser’s views include elements of solipsism, I don’t see them as inconsistent with present-day scientific understanding.
@ Kate, “I think the first thing a modern believer needs to do is to understand the limitations of science.” Well of course. But, conversely, the modern theologian needs to understand the importance of science, its methodology, and its field of operations, and the limitations of theology. Just as an aside, such would be the case in inter-disciplinary work in the area of bio-ethics. “Science cannot – yet at any rate – explain life or consciousness and therefore present day science cannot be authoritative on resurrection.” This statement seems to conflate two distinct areas of investigation i.e., the data of… Read more »
@ Kate re science, math, resurrection etc. You might be interested in Lonergan’s book, Insight, if you have not considered it already.
The first 5 chapters of Part I, Insight as Activity, treats mathematical issues e.g., positive integers, algebra, classical and statistical laws, theorems, Euclidean Geometry, motion and time and the like. Part II, Insight as Knowledge, treats the differences between mythology and metaphysics, the notion of mystery, notion of truth, and general and special transcendent knowledge.
Part of Lonergan’s skill set, in addition to philosophical theology, included formal training in mathematics. He studied economics as well.
I suspect I would find Insight outdated. Most such treatments, particularly of that vintage, rely upon infinity being countable. With the work of the amazing Prof John Conway, we now recognise there are uncountable infinities.