Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 31 January 2024

Colin Coward Unadulterated Love The difference between the unconditionally loving God of Jesus and today’s abusive, unhealthy omni-God

Helen King sharedconversations Resets, settlement, commitments and explorations… A further update on LLF

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David Chillman
David Chillman
1 month ago

I find it interesting (and ironic) that most conservative evangelicals, whilst loudly proclaiming that they (and – by implication – only they) are ‘orthodox’, are frequently de facto Monophysites – a belief declared heterodox at the Council of Chalcedon. Their emphasis upon the divine nature of Jesus Christ is such that his human nature is often swamped, becoming little more than a ‘shell’ in which the divine nature dwells. The early Christian Church spent a long time arguing and debating about the relationship between the human and divine natures of Christ, coming to the conclusion that affirmed that Christ was… Read more »

David Hawkins
David Hawkins
Reply to  David Chillman
1 month ago

David Chillman
That’s extremely interesting. Thank you !
I think I understand Monophysites but not how that belief applies to Conservative Evangelicals.
Could you please either elaborate or suggest further reading ?

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  David Chillman
1 month ago

The council dealing with alternating natures in Christ (Nestorianism) was Ephesus (Cyril). It would not be my judgment that moderns struggle with the human Jesus, but are likely closer to Nestorius. Jesus is ‘somehow’ divine, alongside his indubitable humanity. So, we have three quests of the historical Jesus, and not a single ‘quest of the divine Jesus.’ So no, in the late modern West in particular, we have assuredly not ‘lost sight of the true humanity of Jesus.’ It is the default position. But more generally, a discussion about the ‘abusive omni-God’ is one the Council of Chalcedon would be… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  David Chillman
1 month ago

‘Most conservative evangelicals…are frequently de facto Monophysites.’

I agree it’s an issue, but I’d question the word ‘most’. Are there particular evangelical theologians you’re thinking about?

Charles Read
Charles Read
Reply to  David Chillman
1 month ago

Yes – so glad to see someone putting a finger on this. Apart from the fact that labelling oneself as the only orthodox person in the village – as some conEvos are doing – is insulting by implying others are not orthodox, this is ironic as some evangelicals have slipped into classic forms of unorthodoxy. It used to be said that evangelicals can spot a heresy at 50 paces but they don’t always see the problems in their own position. Thus the previous bishop of Maidstone (PEV for headship evangelicals) has a bit on his website grounding male headship in… Read more »

David Hawkins
David Hawkins
1 month ago

Just two examples. Two Christian women are shot dead inside a Christian compound in Gaza. A father is forced to amputate the leg of his own daughter on their kitchen table because it is unsafe to go outside. I have often wondered what it would have been like to lived in the 1930’s Now I know. Faced with moral evil, the Archbishop of Canterbury is silent. What is the point of priests who collude in evil ? I struggle with my faith, I need the support of people with a more robust faith. I need pastors I can respect and… Read more »

James H
James H
Reply to  David Hawkins
1 month ago

To put it mildly, I am surprised that the issue you raise is not discussed much more on sites like this. It is a complex one, to be sure with the Scylla and Charibydis of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia to snare the unwary. But I feel it is time we challenged the toxic theology of fundamentalist Christian Zionists more strongly. That is a Christian “in house” matter and we ought to be able to do it without sounding hostile to Jews.

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  James H
1 month ago

Further to recent commentary, this is a new survey of Christian Zionism in the US just published: https://global.oup.com/academic/product/christian-zionism-in-the-twenty-first-century-9780197649305?prevNumResPerPage=100&prevSortField=8&resultsPerPage=100&sortField=8&type=listing&start=800&lang=en&cc=gb#. The authors (who are both members of the European Jewish diaspora) note: (i) the greater diversity of opinion towards the Israel/Palestine problem amongst the Gen. Z (18-29) cohort of evangelicals (c. 30% pro-Israel, c. 30% pro-Palestine, and the residue supporting neither); (ii) the importance of the Abrahamic covenant to those evangelicals who are pro-Israel; (iii) the impress of limited sources of information during the cold war period on the formation of opinion amongst older cohorts; and (iv) the susceptibility of younger cohorts… Read more »

James H
James H
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

Thanks Froghole. This looks very interesting and at first glance even sounds possibly a just little hopeful.

John Davies
John Davies
1 month ago

I must admit I’m very surprised that the conservative evangelicals say Jesus, did not fully share our humanity. Surely that is the very tap root of his ability, and indeed right to be our saviour? I’m not sure about the second part, about being unequal in our nature to his divinity. On a personal level, I wouldn’t have thought that, left on our own, we were equals to him, that its only his indwelling spirit that brings us up to his level. As John Bunyan put it, Christ lends us his own divine goodness, of which he has more than… Read more »

John Davies
John Davies
1 month ago

First of all, thank you, Helen for the calm and measured tone of this piece. It helped me understand something of recent events a little better. It struck me that the two archbishops have instigated a kind of cooling off period, allowing time for some reflection.As a very ordinary, (silent majority?) Anglican I’ve grown increasingly concerned in the last few weeks about the polarisation of views and the harshness of some recent statements, particularly the ‘add-ons’ to traditionally agreed orthodoxy. Some public statements suggest that the tail is very fervently wagging the dog, and the middle ground point of view,… Read more »

Evan McWilliams
Evan McWilliams
1 month ago

Lumping ‘traditional, orthodox, biblical’ together with ‘Trump’ in an effort to discredit conservative (small-c) theology is like trying to discredit Charles Gore by lumping him together with Spong. I use this example advisedly as I read such a comparison recently on a genuinely Trumpian ‘Christian online news-source’.This kind of reductionism is intellectually sloppy and not representative of where most of us are on the spectrum of belief.

Peter
Peter
1 month ago

Conservative evangelicals do not say Jesus does not share fully in our humanity.

That is a piece of pure fiction.

We have enough to cope with trying to settle our actual differences. Please can we not start inventing new ones that have no basis in reality.

Last edited 1 month ago by Peter
c52
c52
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

In a few decades in conservative evangelical, mostly CofE, churches I have not heard a preacher or read a book that suggests anything less than ‘fully human and fully divine’. I am regrettably prone to spotting heresy, and inexpert at it. In the last month the con-evo church I attend had sermons on Jesus’ humanity and his divinity. But something in the offending sentence in the article rings true with me. It may be that we are wrongly influenced by what St Paul says about ‘flesh’. I half-moved to an Anglo-Catholic church a few years ago, and when a particular… Read more »

Peter
Peter
Reply to  c52
1 month ago

I really do not agree with the point you seem to be making.

When we think of other people we do not dwell on those aspects of their humanness that obviously merit a sense of modesty and discretion.

We honour the dignity of each other by not giving our thoughts to such things.

That is all. You make far, far too much of it if you are wanting to build it into an aspect of Christology.

John U.K.
John U.K.
Reply to  c52
1 month ago

“Blessed by the breasts that suckled thee” Or should it be “Blessed be the breasts that suckled thee” Based, no doubt, on Luke 11:27 “And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked.” and reminiscent of Heber’s hymn. 1 Virgin-born, we bow before thee; blessèd was the womb that bore thee; Mary, mother meek and mild, blessèd was she in her child. 2 Blessèd was the breast that fed thee; blessèd… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by John U.K.
Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

I had two thoughts while I was reading Colin’s latest essay. First, his version of Jesus seems a lot more cuddly than the Jesus I read about in the gospels. I was reminded of a line in one of C.S. Lewis’ letters to his friend Arthur Greaves (I paraphrase because I don’t have it in front of me): “I’m coming to believe that you can only get what you call ‘Jesus’ out of the gospels by leaving a lot of things out.” Second, the more I read of Colin’s writings in this series, the more I wonder why he isn’t… Read more »

Aljbri
Aljbri
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

Tim, I always relish your posts. Your last point here made me laugh. I suppose I am a high church piskie, but I have been known to say, not frivolously, that many Anglicans, myself included, ought really to be Quakers. And I recall a post on this site from someone saying that many in his Quaker meeting were former Anglicans. Food for thought.

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Aljbri
1 month ago

For me personally, I value the spirituality of the Quakers, but I need the mystery of the liturgy. I suspect I am not alone.

It is possible to have a foot in both camps.

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
Reply to  Simon Dawson
1 month ago

Indeed. Here in Canterbury I have come across several anglicans who attend both Church ( mostly for HC) and Meeting. They call themselves Quanglicans.

Richard Ashby
Richard Ashby
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

Unfortunately, Quakers don’t do liturgy, incense or Tudor Church music

Aljbri
Aljbri
Reply to  Richard Ashby
1 month ago

Indeed. But were I still living in England I think I would have decided by now that the spirituality on offer with the Friends was healthier than CofE warfare, and that liturgy, incense and music could be enjoyed as an occasional treat.

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

Tim, You wonder why Colin Coward isn’t a Quaker. I’m wondering if your wondering is what happens to each of us when we wrestle with newly articulated views i.e. attempt to categorize ? Besides even if Colin were to be ‘Quaker like’ (Wonder what a member of the Society of Friends would make of Colin?) wouldn’t his theological free flight still be applicable to Anglicanism? This notion ties in with something I read last week from a planet very different from TA i.e. a reminder about Krister Stendahl’s notion of our ‘holy envy’ of traditions other than one’s own. I… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Rod Gillis
1 month ago

Rod, you think much more naturally than I do in academic theological terms. It simply struck me when reading Colin (as I’ve just remarked to him) that his view of revelation seems much closer to the Quaker conception of the inner light than the traditional Anglican combination of scripture, tradition and reason. I’m not interested in ‘filing anyone under a category’; I’m interested in where people feel the spiritual gravitational force is pulling them. I feel that myself, living as I do at a weird meeting place of Anglican, evangelical and Anabaptist traditions. This has recently become more acute for… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

Thanks Tim. That does tends to be the way my brain works; but I get where your question was coming from now. Blessings with regard to the Mennonites. They are a good community. There was an outreach group that visited Nova Scotia after the recent hurricane and did immense work with clean up in poor Cape Breton neighbourhoods.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/mennonite-disaster-service-to-fix-home-in-cape-breton-1.6808524

Rev Colin C Coward
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

Tim, thank you for posing the question as to why I’m not a Quaker. It’s because I’m an Anglican. The Church of England for most of my life has been very amenable to my spirituality – and more than amenable – it has formed my spirituality – and faith and theology, pastoral practice and passion for justice, truth and love. It’s not got itself, thanks to developments since Lambeth 1998 (in part) and the evolution of Christian life in the broadest sense, into a screwed up mess and conflict that demands of me a vocal claim on the space for… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Rev Colin C Coward
1 month ago

Colin, the reason I asked the Quaker question was that your view of revelation seems a lot closer to the Quaker ‘inner light’ than the traditional Anglican ‘scripture, tradition, and reason.’

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
1 month ago

Are the Omni-God and Healthy-God the same god? I think the real importance of Colin Coward’s piece is that it allows us – indeed impels us – to consider that question. All the talk from the bishops about unity and walking together presupposes that the two sides just have a different view of the one God, but is that the case? Or to put it differently, how wrong can our view of God be before our worship ceases to be faithful? I don’t want to answer those questions. I don’t think I am capable of answering those questions, but in… Read more »

FearandTremolo
FearandTremolo
1 month ago

I’m fascinated by some of the moving parts in Colin’s work. Fr. Fergus Kerr has something somewhere (I think in After Aquinas…?) about how you can tell everything important about a theologian by what they fear. Now, I think that’s strong language – I’d replace ‘fear’ with ‘oppose’ or ‘dislike’ – but it makes a lot of sense here. The conservative evangelicals weald a claim to orthodoxy like a weapon, so we must oppose ‘orthodoxy’; they weald classical theism like a weapon, so we must oppose the ‘omni-God’; they make certain claims about Christ, so we must oppose that. I… Read more »

Rev Colin C Coward
Reply to  FearandTremolo
1 month ago

FearandTremolo, thank you for your comment, and for the many other comments above and below that dignify my blog with a serious, thoughtful, reflective engagement. I’m not a systematic theologian, nor a widely read priest in the Church of England. Contributors to comments on TA have a breadth of experience and knowledge far beyond mine. That’s partly the point of my risking committing my possibly dubious theological ideas to the public domain of the Unadulterated Love blog. I want to know if I’m no longer sufficiently in tune with the contemporary ethos and Christian essence of the Church of England… Read more »

FearandTremolo
FearandTremolo
Reply to  Rev Colin C Coward
1 month ago

Hello Father! Thank you for replying! I take it that there is a ‘correct’ orthodoxy epistemically, since ‘orthodoxy’ means ‘right belief’. Granted that one’s beliefs about the facts of a matter are true, one can claim to be orthodox. The problem is, I think, when we get into the idea of a political orthodoxy, which goes something like ‘the powers that be affirm P, therefore I affirm P’. The powers that be here can be senior members of a movement or they can just be the social force of the movement (neither Memestocks nor QAnon have a leader per se,… Read more »

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Rev Colin C Coward
1 month ago

Thank you, Colin. I’m like you, but at a much lower level; and I do enjoy asking questions about things. We learn through questioning and seeking answers. The disagreements are fine, so long as what is said repects the other person’s right to disagree and doesn’t ridicule them, or insult their intellectual capacity for thinking differently.

People who think (or believe) differently to us are not neccessarily a threat, although it saves us the need to challenge our own pet theories if that’s how we see them.

How can metaphysical truth be reduced to bald, dry statements of dogma anyway?

Bob
Bob
1 month ago

An alternative viewpoint of God’s unconditional love from John Piper, pastor, author and teacher “There is such a thing as unconditional love of God, but it’s not what most people mean by it. It’s not a saving love that he has for everybody. Else everybody would be saved, since they would not have to meet any conditions, not even faith. But Jesus said everybody is not saved (Matthew 25:46). It’s not the love that justifies sinners since the Bible says we are justified by faith, and faith is a condition (Romans 5:1). It’s not the love of working all things… Read more »

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
Reply to  Bob
1 month ago

Fine if you are a prelapsarian Calvinist.

Bob
Bob
Reply to  Perry Butler
1 month ago

Could you please explain which parts of John Piper’s account are untrue.

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
Reply to  Bob
1 month ago

I was simply pointing out that pre lapsarian Calvinism ( which seems to be the theological stance of John Piper ) is not the position of, Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Lutherans, Methodists, Congregationalists and many of his fellow Baptists ( who have espoused arminianism). Nor has it been espoused by many Anglicans since 1662.

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Perry Butler
1 month ago

I’m not sure what prelapsarian means, but my own theology is loosely Calvinist. I believe that God does indeed seek us out, and leads us to trust him; enables us to respond to him. There’s a far greater sense of personal security in a God who supports us through the biggest decision of our lives than there is – for me at least – in the more Armenian view which puts all the emphasis on an unsupported, rationally human ‘choosing for Christ.’ As a minister friend once said to me, Calvin, a lawyer by trade (like Nicky Gumbel) brought his… Read more »

Ian Houghton
Ian Houghton
1 month ago

A bit of reflection on binary thinking and dualism could be a way forward here. We have rather more sophisticated resources than the great Ecumenical Councils and might be capable of a more developed approach to Christology in C21st. Similarly we do not need to assume that approaching Quaker insights somehow disqualifies us as Anglicans. Such reasoning was probably used to disqualify Paul Oestreicher as a bishop in New Zealand in 1985 but we surely can do better than that forty years on? But then isn’t this whole issue of LLF and beyond getting a bit lost when it defaults… Read more »

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
1 month ago

From that famous evangelical Baptist on the humanity of Jesus: “Further, in thus being laid in a manger, he did, as it were, give an invitation to the most humble to come to him. “We might tremble to approach a throne, but we cannot fear to approach a manger. Had we seen the Master at first riding in state through the streets of Jerusalem with garments laid in the way, and the palm-branches strewed, and the people crying, “Hosanna!” we might have thought, though even the thought would have been wrong, that he was not approachable. Even there, riding upon… Read more »

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