Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 24 January 2024

Colin Coward Unadulterated Love The tunic was seamless, woven in one piece throughout

Gavin Drake Church Abuse

Mark Bennet ViaMedia.News Marriage, but not LLF

Pete Ward ViaMedia.News The Magic Money Tree for Work with Children and Young People: Good News?

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

59 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
FearandTremolo
FearandTremolo
1 month ago

Writing my doctorate on what Scotus thinks about marriage whilst watching LLF has brought me to the conclusion that the CofE doesn’t really know what it thinks marriage is. I mean, the Prayer Book does outline the three Augustinian goods in the admonition at the beginning of the marriage service, giving the authorised liturgy an explicitly Scholastic (and admittedly not-quite Scriptural) interpretation of marriage as being about raising children in a family as Christians. Common Worship is less clear about what it wants (as seems to be so often the case), but even then draws attention to children. And, indeed,… Read more »

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  FearandTremolo
1 month ago

Thank you. One can quibble about the distinction you make between Augustinian or Scholastic in respect of marriage (the ‘goods’ of the ‘estate’ of marriage Augustine and the Scholastics only held, because warrants for each is found in scripture). One can dispute either the clarity of scripture (as now happens) or scholasticism (if one bothers). But not on the grounds that they are independent of each other on this matter. That said, your larger point is sound, in my view. (What the recent RC statement actually means is open to disagreement (and manipulation), and there is plenty of that on… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Anglican Priest
FearandTremolo
FearandTremolo
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

I mean, by ‘Scholastic more than Scriptural’ I mean something like “the walk from the marriage service to the Sentences is a lot shorter than the walk from the service to the Bible”. Although, Augustine’s De Bono is as much sociological as it is Scriptural, since he has to be able to make sense of non-Christian marriages too. It’s a fascinating history.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  FearandTremolo
1 month ago

Got it. Yes, the ‘dominance’ of the Sentences is something real. My only point, which I am sure you share, is that the ‘goods’ of marriage (as you point to them) are of course with scriptural warrant, which is why they arose (and in time found their way into the Sentences).

FearandTremolo
FearandTremolo
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

Oh yeah, of course. The good Bishop knew what he was doing

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  FearandTremolo
1 month ago

You are correct that the Church of England doesn’t know what marriage is, but wanting definitions for things like ‘marriage’ or ‘woman’ is a reductive behaviour of the 21st century, often intended to exclude. We have seen that within the Church of England with some people trying to define marriage narrowly so as to exclude some couples. I don’t think the correct response is to attempt an alternative definition. If a couple present themselves for marriage (and are legally able to do so), that should be sufficient. It doesn’t matter what marriage is since it is probably something different for… Read more »

FearandTremolo
FearandTremolo
Reply to  Kate Keates
1 month ago

I’d disagree that it’s a view of the 21st Century. Attempting to get a handle on what we’re really talking about has been the purview of philosophers since before Thales. Especially since – whilst the relationship being minted through marriage is always personal and unique – whether they are ‘legally able’ to be married depends entirely on what the law thinks marriage is and why it thinks that. Likewise, an attempt to define ‘marriage’ narrowly doesn’t tell us to give up on trying to understand marriage. It might just tell us that this, that, or the other definition isn’t very… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
1 month ago

Colin Coward’s latest thought-provoking blog reminds us of a God who was unworshipped for 13 billion years before human consciousness emerged. The development of religious stories, doctrines and dogmas is surely part of mankind’s religious awakening, part of which must be the doctrine of the Incarnation which, alongside Judaism, Islam, Hinduism etc, is part of religious anthropology. The idea of an outside ” intervention”, after billions of years of silence, sounds like a human story without much contemporary credibility. Discerning God’s will is usually another way of imposing our own views upon others. People who know exactly what God thinks… Read more »

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

“Colin Coward’s latest thought-provoking blog reminds us of a God who was unworshipped for 13 billion years before human consciousness emerged.” That’s untrue. Genesis tells us that Satan was in the Garden of Eden so the rebellion of Satan must have happened BEFORE the creation of the physical universe. God was in heaven more than 13 billion years ago and was worshipped by the angels and other eternal beings. The evidence is highly suggestive that the physical universe was created to bring mankind into existence. We aren’t told why, but my guess it has something to do with the redemption… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Kate Keates
1 month ago

Your contention that a myth written by a human hand tells us anything about what existed before the Big Bang is utterly incomprehensible.

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

There’s that 21st century reductionism at work again. ‘Written by human hand’ is an attempt to limit the meaning and importance of Genesis.

Rev Colin C Coward
Reply to  Kate Keates
1 month ago

Kate, thank you for commenting on my blog. I’m wondering whether or not you’ve worked out that I’m not a Biblical literalist nor a fundamentalist. I believe in myth. I don’t believe in Satan as an entity. I certainly don’t believe that Satan was in the Garden of Eden. I don’t believe the Garden of Eden was an actual place. I don’t believe God is a being who lives in a place named heaven. don’t believe Adam and Eve were real people who sided with Satan and rebelled against God. Yes, the Genesis story is a mythological tale of betrayal,… Read more »

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  Rev Colin C Coward
1 month ago

Surely myth is an attempt to represent facts without having the vocabulary to do so? Inevitably myth and fact are intertwined. As to the rest, the analogy I would use is of different rock climbers climbing a rock face. Each may use a different combination of hand hold and foot rests. They are like the beliefs in the Garden of Eden, or Satan, or this, or that, or something else. None is important of itself. All that matters is that the climber scales the wall. You are generously sharing your beliefs. They will resonate with some and help them find… Read more »

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Kate Keates
1 month ago

Thanks, Kate. Having read Colin’s new piece, and your comments, helps me recognise where I am – roughly somewhere half way between you both. Like Colin, for various reasons, I would interpret Genesis and everything before it as parable, rather than literal fact (I dislike the word ‘myth’ because of its ‘fairy tale’ connotations.) and yet would clearly go along with a lot of the ‘Christian’ beliefs catalogued in the opening of his article. The simple truth is that being finite beings with very limited comprehension, we will all not only see things differently but will, inevitably have bits which… Read more »

Evan McWilliams
Evan McWilliams
Reply to  Rev Colin C Coward
1 month ago

I don’t believe in a literal historical Genesis either, Colin. But I do believe in the virgin birth, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and that he died vicariously for my sins. It is entirely possible to hold a mythical view of the biblical origin story and an orthodox Christology. The dichotomy you continually set up between biblical literalists and enlightened progressives simply doesn’t reflect the reality on the ground anymore. Most of the Anglican clergy I know under age 40, a large number of them queer, are perfectly happy to accept the Fall as a metaphor while also insisting on… Read more »

FearandTremolo
FearandTremolo
Reply to  Evan McWilliams
1 month ago

Something I’ve always found interesting about Colin’s work is the place evolution has in it. To be candid, I don’t know any of my fellow Gen Zs – Christian or otherwise – who are particularly bothered by evolution. I’m sure you can find people online still ranging against (or for) Richard Dawkins, but on the ground it’s a debate that’s very much come and gone. We all accept that it’s true, and that truth has remarkably little impact on our day-to-day lives, outside of sometimes needing to get antibiotics. I think this is part of the generational shift though. We’ve… Read more »

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  FearandTremolo
1 month ago

In a oner.

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Evan McWilliams
1 month ago

Thank you, Evan. It’s taken me 52 years to reach that position. Your first three sentences set out exactly where I am. Just wish I could have got there sooner!

José Ribeiro
José Ribeiro
Reply to  Kate Keates
1 month ago

– “What was God doing before Creation?”
– “Setting up Hell for people asking such a question.”

José Ribeiro
José Ribeiro
Reply to  Kate Keates
1 month ago

Time begins with Creation.

Penelope Cowell Doe
Penelope Cowell Doe
Reply to  Kate Keates
1 month ago

Sorry but there is no trace of Satan in Genesis 2 and 3. The identification of the serpent with Satan is post biblical.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

‘Colin Coward’s latest thought-provoking blog reminds us of a God who was unworshipped for 13 billion years before human consciousness emerged.’

I’m curious to know how you can be certain of that.

FearandTremolo
FearandTremolo
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

I’ve never quite understood the idea that God was unworshipped for 13.5 billions years. Partly because angels, but also, like, Luke 19:40 suggests that the inert rocks were pretty delighted about the whole affair.

Ezlxq
Ezlxq
Reply to  FearandTremolo
1 month ago

Wherein lies my doctoral research 🙂

FearandTremolo
FearandTremolo
Reply to  Ezlxq
1 month ago

Excellent!

Peter
Peter
1 month ago

Colin Coward sets out, in clear and accurate terms, a summary of the criticisms that can be made of his position and the axioms which stand behind such criticisms. It is to his credit that he is willing and able to do so. (I am afraid I cannot refrain from observing that if the people running the Church of England would follow the example of Coward’s intellectual integrity, we would all be in a much clearer position). However, his intellectual honesty does not begin to compensate for the seriousness of his error in terms of his teaching. How can there… Read more »

Rev Colin C Coward
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

Peter, we are talking about the same Gospels and the same God and the same Jesus, each of us doing it differently. For me, your interpretation of Jesus drawing on the Gospels is different from mine. For you, mine is a serious error.

Andy
Andy
Reply to  Rev Colin C Coward
1 month ago

You may be talking about the same gospels but the same Jesus and God ? Are Jesus and God being contrary and two faced ? Or is it that one interpretation is right and the other wrong ? Or possibly are both wrong?

If someone is wrong what are the consequences?

Evan McWilliams
Evan McWilliams
1 month ago

I’m reminded of Lewis’ talk of the scandal of particularity which upsets and offends modern democratic sensibilities. What was God doing for the billions of years before Christ came? Who can ever know? And frankly it doesn’t matter. What is of supreme import now is that in a backwater province of the Roman Empire a Saviour was born who is Christ the Lord. And if he was not the Lord we might as well all put our feet up, enjoy ourselves, and take what we can by any means necessary until we die.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Evan McWilliams
1 month ago

It is a particularly arrogant suggestion that only belief in Christ prevents people from taking what they can and being lazy. Countless people of other faiths and none are engaged in works of compassion, service and self-sacrifice. As Christians, we have to see the good in others, rather than proclaiming our religious superiority. (And what was God doing for billions of years before Christ? He was watching creatures like the brontosaurus eat the tyrannosaurus)

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

“(And what was God doing for billions of years before Christ? He was watching creatures like the brontosaurus eat the tyrannosaurus)”

Nit-picking: It would have been the other way around, as bronto was a herbivore and t-rex a carnivore. {Plus, of course, they didn’t co-exist. Bronto dates from 146-156 million years ago; T-rex only about 75 million years ago.)

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

Yes. Nit-picking . My knowledge of paleoherpatology is somewhat limited. I was simply speculating about God’s boredom before Man arrived on the scene to keep Him occupied with debates on human sexuality.

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

D’you know the Jewish tale, about the rabbi who asked God why he didn’t answer his prayers, and got the reply “Why? Because you drive me mad with all your griping!” (Free translation from the Yiddish. Perhaps Peterpi can expound on it?)

David Exham
David Exham
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

Thank you, Pat, for this entirely appropriate nit-picking.

However, the initial question, ‘what was God doing for millions of years…’ is entirely misconceived. God is the creator of all that is, which includes time. God transcends, does not exist in, time. I’m not even sure that we can say that ‘God does things’. The way we talk about God matters but is very challenging. But we have to believe that God is not in space or time.

Any study of modern science makes one realise how difficult it is to understand time.

perplexed parson
perplexed parson
Reply to  David Exham
1 month ago

“difficult to understand time”. Perhaps that’s how Colin has lived through 70 decades…….? Thanks, Colin, for your insights which continue to challege me. Some I agree with, others not, but that’s the joy of coversation, which is what I thought this site was supposed to be about. Not ad hominem sniping as it has now too often become.

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  perplexed parson
1 month ago

I love this site for precisely that reason. How rarely else can I chat and share thoughts with so diverse a range of people? Seriously, this is probably the most enriching experience I have had for a very long time.

David Rowett
Reply to  David Exham
1 month ago

IIRC there was a rabbinic opinion that God spent the seventh day day playing with the Leviathan, but that doesn’t help with the azoic Pre-Cambrian….. But re: whether or not we would all be moral shipwrecks without our personal Christian faith – an opinion I find questionable-to-obnoxious – I do find myself coming back repeatedly to the fascinating thought that if the universe is entirely subject to entropy amd that organic life is merely a random chemical scum upon its surface (hat-tip Tallis, ‘Philosophy Now’ 2012, original quote Hawking), and that consequently all our talk of meaning or purpose is… Read more »

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  David Exham
1 month ago

As Brian Cox said when explaining Einstein’s theory of relativity.

Our biggest problem is a very simple one. We have infinitely limited minds, even the best of us. How do we express belief, or experience of God, in intelligible terms without using anthropamorphic images which we can understand? Like the child who said Jesus was the best photograph God ever had taken!

Jesus, besides being the incarnate second member of the trinity is actually an anthropamorphic image. How else could we understand what God is like?

Evan McWilliams
Evan McWilliams
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

Can one not simultaneously believe in a universal Truth and see that others often do good? My point was simply that for Christians, Christ is our reason for living as we do and if Christ is reduced to a moral teacher or a revelation of God of equal weight with other revelations we might just as well pick any other person, belief, or philosophical system and run with it and its logical conclusions. Why Jesus Christ specifically, is a question that I ponder often.

Bob
Bob
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

Whatever God was doing He certainly wasn’t watching Brontosaurus (vegetarian) eat Tyrannosaurus (carnivore)! Was does Colossians 1 15-20 say about Christ? Isn’t He supreme? Isn’t it Christ that we follow, worship and preach?

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
1 month ago

Colin Coward continues his adventures in the New Religion. At some point the question will be, does anyone care? He is assuming he has a product people want (I guess he does). Since what he writes has been seen before in different guises, will his new forays prove at last more persuasive? That is, beyond the confines of a certain narrow cultural reality he believes he is addressing? Count me skeptical. Everyone is entitled to a pastime. His isn’t intellectually interesting and seems like recycled stuff.

Rev Colin C Coward
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

Not only am I not intellectually interesting, I’m not very intellectual at all – at least, not in my estimation. No degree, no intellectual pedigree. Anglican priest you get me wondering whether Jesus was or is intellectually interesting. What he absolutely has for me is a curious, subtle, earthy, deeply human wisdom that engages me at the deepest level.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Rev Colin C Coward
1 month ago

Oh, harbor no doubts about this. Jesus Christ, the image of the eternal God, is the most intellectually serious individual who ever lived. He is pure Wisdom. Colossians amid the consistent witness of OT and NT.

But fear not, I am simply stating that I find your New Religion ramblings not worth a lot of investment, unlikely to appeal to people, and something like a hobby. Hobbies can be useful for the one who takes them up. For wider edification? Not typically.

Rob Hall
Rob Hall
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

I am not getting involved in the theological discussion here. But I feel obliged to suggest that your second paragraph here is both a bit arrogant (‘I don’t find your thoughts interesting therefore no one else will’) and, more importantly, very rude in a personal way unworthy of the website. Please engage without snide dismissiveness.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

I fail to see how Colin Coward is asking anyone to invest in a New Religion. His stimulating writing is obviously based upon a lifetime of sincere promotion of an inclusive Gospel. To call this “ramblings” is very condescending.

Peter
Peter
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

Coward is advancing a contemporary form of mysticism. He appears not to have excessive scholarly pretensions. Furthermore, his analysis seems to be mostly a synthesis of contemporary anxieties. There is relatively little by way of deduction from history. Anglican Priest is an academic and is entitled to “fair comment” in regard to matters of scholarship. Coward alarms me for different reasons. He offers a new gospel to a church that has all but abandoned intellectual thought. The level of theological education amongst bishops is derisory. They will swallow anything if it has candy and chocolates thrown in. In fact, they… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

I agree the bishops have “swallowed anything”- particularly the evangelical fundamentalism you yourself display on this site. You are obviously threatened by any other interpretation of Scripture than your own . “Anglican Priest ‘s” academic credentials are no excuse for an arrogant dismissal of someone’s views he finds boring. Some readers comments on Amazon regarding the said academic’s books are often less than flattering.

Peter
Peter
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

You need to rid yourself of the chip on your shoulder regarding Christopher.

On your substantive point, I am not threatened by Coward’s teachings. I have acknowledged his willingness to say what he thinks. He also accurately quotes his critics, which is to his credit.

However his “ theology” is intellectually shallow and entirely without biblical merit.

I think it is a serious threat to the Church of England only because its leaders has lost the capacity to recognise junk when it is offered to them with a spoonful of empathy.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

Peter, can you not show a bit of courtesy and Christian love towards those with whom you disagree? It’s possible that any one of us, including you, may find ourselves mistaken.

Homeless Anglican
Homeless Anglican
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

Peter – His name by baptism is Colin – claimed by Christ as his own. As I read the comments here I am reminded of the German theologian Helmut Thielicke who said, “The gospel must be preached afresh and told in new ways to every generation, since every generation has its own unique questions. The gospel must constantly be forwarded to a new address, because the recipient is repeatedly changing his place of residence.” Which presents the constant challenge of being rooted, but also re-routed in the rapid exciting work of the Holy Spirit speaking, re speaking and helping us… Read more »

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

Condescending? Look, don’t take this the wrong way, but you have shown that that market is cornered. When I am asked to review books or manuscripts I sometimes say, I’m not sure this should be moved forward. Let’s let it go. Perhaps I misunderstood, but I thought this author wanted us to take his work seriously. Intellectually, historically, as well as spiritually. People here are doing that. Sincerity is a very poor barometer. There is an old saying, ‘there’s no such thing as an impious heretic.’ Marcion was a popular preacher from what we can read. He was sincere. Gnostics… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

For someone not invested in Colin’s arguments, you seem to spend a lot of time and energy posting about them.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Simon Dawson
1 month ago

Yes, and having done that, I am ready to move on.I thought that sentiment was coming through. Sorry not to be clearer.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

Rob Hall was quite clear in his comments above regarding your “very rude” and “snide dismissiveness” about Rev Colin Coward. You’ve ignored that. So let’s move on

Susanna ( no ‘h’)
Susanna ( no ‘h’)
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

I’m very sad to see another such fractious thread develop so quickly. I enjoy Rev Colin Coward’s writing because he is direct and accessible and I don’t mind in the slightest whether he has a degree or not- in fact I’m not sure why that matters unless someone is undertaking a piece of academic research themselves. Whether I agree with all he says or not, he makes me think. I partly agree with some comments in the thread where contributors are unhappy with many of our current bishops, but that is not because I think their education in theology is… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Susanna ( no ‘h’)
1 month ago

Appreciate your comment with regard to both the thread and your take on Colin Coward’s work. I’m following his installments with interest. I agree Coward is a catalyst for thought. I understand he has a background in architecture– a meeting place for science and art. I find his pieces thought provoking, artistic, poetic, creative, imaginative, visionary.

John Davies
John Davies
1 month ago

I intended to comment on the ‘magic money tree’ article, but got sidetracked with earlier parts of the correspondence. As I said then, I really enjoy these conversations – most of them, anyway – because they actually stimulate my own understanding and get me out of my own limited mental and spiritual environment. More power to them. As regards youth work; for many years I belonged to a Baptist church in a small market town, which had a Sunday school, and a congregation young enough to have a fairly large population of children. Someone had the idea of having a… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
1 month ago

Thanks to Gavin Drake for a very clear explanation of Gilo’s case and how it has developed over 40 years. Thanks also for the powerful letter to General Synod members. I hope and pray that they heed it – but prophets don’t do too well in the C of E.

John Davies
John Davies
1 month ago

Rather belatedly, can I throw my own tuppenny spanner into this particular works? Like Rod Gillis, I enjoy reading Colin’s thoughts as they stimulate my own, which can be no bad things. At times though, I feel he’s setting up exaggerated ‘straw men’ to emphasise a point he wants to make. With regard to his definition of Christian belief, I’d say,yes, I personally would agree with point one, that the cross solves the basic problem. But the real problem is not the anger of God – its our own sinfulness which separates us from the divine. Jesus didn’t just talk… Read more »

59
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x