March 9, 2009

Responsible Journalism

I have just about "had it" with The Living Church. The well-spun reporting has been an annoyance for some time, and the editorials for even longer. But the March 15 issue reaffirmed my sense that the continual pot-stirring — coupled with less than accurate reporting and whining opining — is not serving the church well, even if it is keeping the circulation of the magazine going. People like controversy — at least the readers of TLC, anyway — but I think the kind of writing that regularly appears in the magazine these days is not serving the church well. As I noted in the former post, the questers after truth may think they are doing well by the church; but when they are less than accurate, and argumentative to boot — well, I don't see how this serves anyone well.

For example, in David Kalvelage's editorial column in this issue, we are once again treated to more hand-wringing about a lack of General Convention's formal adoption in recent years of a resolution affirming the uniqueness of Christ. O.K., to each his own issue, I suppose. I find the BCP to be more than adequate as a statement of the theological position of the Episcopal Church, and don't feel the need for General Convention to act as a theological assembly. In fact, I don't really think I want General Convention to act as a theological assembly!

However, what really annoyed me in Kalvelage's essay is his misquotation of the Presiding Bishop. He writes

In an interview with Time magazine, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori described Jesus as "a vehicle to the divine."

Note the placement of the quotation marks. Here is what the Presiding Bishop actually said; this being, by the way, the entire answer to the question:

Is belief in Jesus the only way to get to heaven?

We who practice the Christian tradition understand him as our vehicle to the divine. But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box.

Some may say the difference between "a" and "our" is trivial. I don't think so. But I'm also ready to admit I don't like the language of "vehicle" — or of "getting to heaven" for that matter. But to put this answer in "my" language would be to say, "Christians understand Jesus as the means by which we are saved." Is that really unorthodox? I don't think so; in fact, I think it a fairly trivial observation that Christians believe themselves to be saved by Christ; that we "know God" through Jesus Christ. That's what makes us Christians.

It is the second part of the PB's response that raises the most hackles in certain circles, however. But does it rightly so? Do we in fact believe that "God cannot act in other ways than through Jesus" or that "God is unknowable in other ways than through Jesus"? That does not seem to be in keeping with the biblical witness either to God at work with the people of Israel, or even among the Gentiles through their perception of God at work in the natural world, as Paul said in Mars Field — though, of course, he also wanted to show them a more excellent way, and invite them into his "vehicle"!

There is, of course, also a more Christocentric way to read this doctrine; one that brings Christ back to the center; and I do think it a better reading than what the PB provides — so I'm not letting her off the hook entirely. (Then again, this was an interview, not an encyclical letter or a doctrinal thesis! And, to be fair, TLC is not a theological journal, and I'm finding fault with a misquotation in an editorial.) However, fair's fair, and just as it would have been better for Kalvelage to leave off the quotation marks or move them over by a word, so too it would have been better for the PB to affirm the doctrine that Christians also believe that Christ is the means by which God acts whenever God acts, and that when the world knows God — whenever and whereever God is known — it is Christ at work bringing the knowing. There are plenty of modern exponents of this notion, so one need not rely on the traces of this understanding in John's gospel, and in Paul's reference to the water-providing rock of the desert as "Christ." God in Christ is at work in spite of our ignorance of that work. All who are saved by God are saved by Christ.

This way of seeing God's saving work has some venerable tradition to back it up, as the early church wrestled with the issue of the virtuous who died before Christ's coming in the flesh, or who died after his coming but before hearing the saving gospel's proclamation. But as I say it has modern exponents such as Karl Rahner. Even C.S. Lewis, much beloved of evangelicals, cast his own metaphorical version of this in the final volume of the Narnia series, in which he reaffirmed the old doctrine that earnest seekers after God are found by God — God "overlooks" their specific errors on the basis of their general quest. God is, in fact, too big to put into any of our boxes.

And for that, I think we can all be grateful.

—Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

37 comments:

Tim said...

Hallelujah[pun intended], for you put your finger precisely on the thoughts I've had following a similar "uniqueness" discussion down (from here) in the CoE recently.

I see exactly where the problem of exclusivity raises its head; if Christ is "unique" then one is straight back down *that* reading of John 14:6.

This seems a very tortuous fence-sitting exercise - a test of faith in a rather crude way. On the one hand, those who see that all religions offer an insight onto God because God is by definition the God of all people and peoples; on the other, those who would push a conservative agenda and provoke division.

Perhaps the angle you don't so explicitly state is the problem in the first half of the sentence, (personal) "belief in Jesus" - that is a very different thing from the *work of Christ* intrinsic in His person.

Leonardo Ricardo said...

Thank you

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Thanks, Tim. That tension is present even in the great "faith" statements in Paul -- and how they are translated is problematical. This is where the distinctions between "faith in" and "faith of" are important, and it's sad to see the NRSV has drifted in the former direction when the latter, as found in the KJV, makes more sense. (Note most especially Gal 2:16,20 3:22) It is the faith of Christ -- his faithfulness unto death -- that saves us. In one sense, salvation rests entirely in God coming to us, rescuing us. This is also why I have difficulties with the language of "getting to heaven" -- which seems to be a rather pale way of talking about salvation and eternal life. I prefer to emphasize the work of God in Christ because I trust God's work more than I do my own!

Michael Merriman said...

St. Augustine of Hippo, no liberal he, said that there are those who are of the body of the Church but not of its spirit, and those who are of the spirit of the church but not of its body.

Thomas+ said...

Tobias,

Let me take another approach. I largely agree with you re TLC. It represents certain constituency (subscribers) and their approach to news will be naturally biased towards their perspectives. They must keep their subscriber's base (funding) after all! Fair enough. If one is a Republican probably would like FOX or Limbaugh rather than other TV or radio stations.

Now if a publication (or blog, for that matter!) shrouds itself under the banner of Orthodoxy and literal biblicism, what needs to be questioned is what they make of their own allegiance to "Thou shalt not bear false witness" with half-truths and "editorializing" (like the change of "our" into "a"). For, after all, if the Scripture is to be taken seriously, well, shouldn't be the whole Bible?

I would suggest that in the editorial boards or the circle of friends of some publications/blogs,
in this regard Sun Tzu looms larger that Jesus!

Thomas+

TheraP said...

I have a quote in lovely calligraphy in my office that says: The Mystery of Christ is a at work in everything - no matter how humble or humdrum.

Now perhaps that is not completely what you are getting at. But I love that. It really tells us, to my mind anyway, that there is nothing that is not touched and infused with the "Mystery of Christ." That, to me, says we simply can't escape the Mystery. But I also love the word mystery. A sacredness - everywhere, in everything, everyone. Every stone. Every grain of sand. Every person. Every event. The Mystery of Christ is at work.

I know some people like to pin down that "mystery" - but I am not only content but in awe of the "mystery" aspect.

And if that is so, the Mystery of Christ is also at work in every groping toward God - or even away from God. We simply can't escape it!

Again, I may have misunderstood the "problem" - but that's what came to mind. And it seems to fit with your idea that some people see problems where I might see Mystery.

Anonymous said...

It would be so simple for your PB to affirm as you put so well that "Christians understand Jesus as the means by which we are saved." and "Christians also believe that Christ is the means by which God acts whenever God acts, and that when the world knows God — whenever and whereever God is known — it is Christ at work bringing the knowing."
It would put many minds at rest. I can't understand why she has not done it - unless perhaps (and I can't tell) she has a difficulty with the doctrine.
Obadiahslope.

Christopher said...

You know, Fr Haller, what concerns me is the want to narrow down our range of acceptable teaching that was embedded in that amendment proposed on the uniqueness of our Lord. It was a particular form of vicarious atonement teaching that would have forced us through an eye of a needle we needn't go. I'm reading a fascinating book, "Doctrine in the Church of England: The Report of the Commission of Christian Doctrine Appointed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York in 1922". How much more supple, thoughtful, and respectful of a range of theological perspective is this book than some would currently allow.

I wasn't particularly moved by our PB's way of putting things. It seems a weak version of Rahner. But, I was even more disturbed by the reactions to her explanation.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Obadiah, I in essence agree. I think many liberals in our church are allergic to such plain speaking. I don't think they don't believe it, but that they are so eager to be "politically correct" that they find these odd paraphrastic ways of saying things. Again, my problem with this is the conservative taking these statements at their worst interpretation rather than their best.

And yes, Christopher: the resolution that came to us in 2006 was not only a blatant effort to narrow the Atonement down to the Substitutionary Model, but it was very strangely worded and referred to our salvation by "the substitutionary essence of the cross." Metonomy being granted, it is still a very strange turn of phrase, and I'm not entirely suire it is orthodox as I am not sure what it means!

Grandmère Mimi said...

Some years ago, my rector regularly passed on his copy of "The Living Church" to me. After reading several issues, I told him that he could stop. He asked why, and I told him that I couldn't put my finger on it, but I just didn't like the tone. This was not long after I joined the Episcopal Church, and the magazine didn't seem to represent the church that I thought I had joined.

WSJM said...

Thank you for a really excellent piece and subsequent comments, Tobias. I think it would be good if we would all radically rethink Paul's phrase pistis Christou Iesou -- the faith *of* Jesus Christ (not only the Galatians verses you cited, but also Romans 3:22, 3:26, and Philippians 3:9). Not only are we not saved by our works (of the Law, or of anything else), neither are we saved by *our own* faith. We are saved by the grace of God -- or, as you put it another way, by the faithfulness of Christ even unto death.

Jesus did not say "I came that they may have religion, and have it abundantly."

The notion that our own faith -- correctly placed and correctly understood -- is requisite for salvation is simply works-righteousness in disguise. It is depressingly ironic to have heard this notion all these years from the reformed and evangelical traditions.

Ormonde Plater said...

I would have preferred the PB to say: "Christians recognize Jesus as the means by which human beings can share in the divinity of Christ."

David |Dah • veed| said...

St. Paul is reputed to have said to be all things to all people. +KJS fails in this so miserably. Folks have so many hidden expectations of her. Perhaps she should be deposed.

Off with her head!

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

An earlier comment I attempted to leave appears to have disappeared into the ether.

Thanks for the additional thoughts, Michael, Thomas and TheraP. Mimi, I think you've sumamrized the editorial policy of TLC fairly well. They seem more interested in stirring the pot with bad news than in spreading the good.

Fr Bill, that's it exactly. Which is why I was so perturbed to see the NRSV continue along that "faith in Christ as works righteousness" line of translation, when "faith of Christ" makes so much more sense. If we fall into sin because of Adam -- apart from any choice or act of our own -- even so we are made alive in Christ by Christ -- apart from any choice or act of our own. Christ saves us, not because we deserve it but because he loves us. Perhaps we ought to remember this come Eastertide as we sing Pascha Nostrum!

Deacon P., yes, a good phrasing, and one which echoes the language of the old private prayer when "watering" the chalice: "Lord Jesus, as you shared our humanity, so by the mixing of this water and wine may we come to share in your divinity."

Dahveed -- I hope you don't think I intended to suggest there was anything wrong with our PB. My point is that people mischaracterize her and portray her offhand statements in the worst possible light. That doesn't mean everything she says is a gem of polished theological reflection -- few attain to that, I think. But what she said in this case, in the Time interview, is perfectly capable of an orthodox understanding.

Anonymous said...

Tobias,
I don't think it is as simple to line up the PB's statement with orthodox belief as you say.
She appears to imply that there are other ways to the "divine", other than Jesus. This raises a real difficulty in parsing her words.
But as you point out the statement is not very clear. It might be possible, just, to pummel something salvageable out of it. But should the poor old public have to?
I would have thought that on a subsequent occasion the PB might have made a clearer statement. After all, a perfect record in interviews is never possible and for that reason one might cut her some slack.
But she has a professional press office, and heaps of people, who like you, Tobias, could help her draft an easier to understand statement. I am sure you did not have to labour for hours to express your very clear wording!
So I am disappointed not to be able to find a clearer statement from her. If anyone out there has one, please point it out.
ObadiahSlope

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Obadiah, I did mean what I said when I stated her statement as it stands is completely orthodox. While it is capable of a different interpretation (to say there are other ways to God than Christ) is to make a number of changes to the text. Remember, the question concerns Jesus, who is Christ, the Son of God. But the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, existed before Jesus was conceived and born. So too Christ continues to be at work after the resurrection and ascension. These are important points, because this is what opens up the possibility for salvation open to those who lived before Jesus as well as those who never hear of him. In short, the work of Christ is not confined to those who believe in him. He is God, and God acts in many and various ways, speaking first through the prophets, and then in the Son, incarnate; and still through the Spirit.

As I say, this is more fulsomely expressed in documents of Vatican II and in the work of Rahner -- but the PB's statement as it stands is fully conformable to this doctrine. I am sure that she is well aware of Rahner's work, and, though I find her vocabulary sometimes a bit odd (she is a scientist and occasionally uses a technical language which, while accurate, is a bit tonally "off").

I believe she has said more in response to the controversy -- I certainly recall seeing something, though I don't have it at hand -- and you are perhaps right that her press and communication department haven't made the most of that. On the other hand, the carping and complaining and misrepresentation is so constant that there comes a time, as with Flat or Young Earthers, that it is best to just ignore them rather than waste one's time attempting to respond to every last instance of the Big Lie.

Davis said...

I've had it with TLC as well, but as the PB she could speak with more clarity.

Marshall said...

obadiahslope, look at her investiture sermon. It includes these two passages:

Some people who engage this journey we call Christianity discover that home is found... [in] the Way of following the one we call the Christ. The home we ultimately seek is found in relationship with creator, with redeemer, with spirit.

and

If God in Jesus has made captivity captive, has taken fear hostage, it is for the liberation and flourishing of hope. Augustine said that as Christians, we are prisoners of hope – a ridiculously assertive hope, a hope that unflinchingly assails the doors of heaven, a hope that will not cease until that dream of God has swallowed up death forever, a hope that has the audacity to join Jesus in saying, "today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

The point of "if," of course, is not whether it happened, but to emphasize why it happened.

I have heard her preach, and have been present at a meeting with diocesan clergy. She, like many of us, continue to believe God's capacity for love and redemption transcends our categories; and that God's means for love and redemption is in Christ - as opposed to any individual's awareness of what God has done in Christ.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Thank you, Marshall. I think the problem is that for many (by no means all) self-identified Evangelicals, salvation is always about the individual "getting to heaven." The more Catholic doctrine is far broader, and corporate.

This tread towards individualism leads to some peculiar (in every sense) readings of Scripture. One is reading Paul's discourse on the body being a temple as a kind of temperance discourse -- against smoking and drinking. They miss the shift from plural to singular and back to plural in 1 Cor 6:15ff. In the plural section, about the temple, Paul is referring to the body of believers collectively. The issue has an individual aspect ("don't bring fornication into 'the body'") but the temple is built of the many members, not each one individually. This is just one example of the tendency to read Scripture as about individual piety or practice, when the writers have a greater scope in mind.

Grandmère Mimi said...

I've heard the PB preach, I've read her words, I've watched videos and listed to her words preaching and in interviews, but I have never known her to commit unorthodoxy by words.

I'm sick to death of the folks who pick apart her every word to parse and scrutinize. Good grief! We all say things that we wish we had said better.

To those who judge the PB as not a Christian, I say, "Physician, heal thyself!"

dr.primrose said...

Obviously, the issues about who shall be "saved" are not new. In Romans, Paul struggled about the Jews who did not yet accept Jesus as the Messiah. He could not believe that they would be condemned. Ultimately, he believed that "ALL Israel will be saved" because the "gifts and calling of God is irrevocable." Romans 11:26 & 29.

I wish that those who are so critical of the P.B. would reflect at least some of the same struggle that Paul had on this issue and be much less quick (and apparently thrilled) to condemn non-Christians to everlasting damnation.

David |Dah • veed| said...

That what Abuela Mimí uttered, is what I too did mean in my snipety remark!

Lynn said...

Obadiah, it has been a long time since I've wrangled with you on matters of theology, but this time I cannot resist.

"Christians also believe that Christ is the means by which God acts whenever God acts, and that when the world knows God — whenever and wherever God is known — it is Christ at work bringing the knowing."

How do we mere mortals know how the Three-in-One God works on a "practical" level? This type of statement misleads those young in their faith, who have only begun to understand the mystery. Many of them feel that the Father and the Spirit are, in fact, instruments of the Son. It feeds the very real lack of human understanding of that which is unseen. The prosperity gospel, Jesus-as-Rambo, and many other selfish, non-spiritual beliefs so often follow.

In our prayer book, we make our confession of sin to the Father, asking for forgiveness in the name of the Son. Most of our prayers are petitions to the Father, in the name of the Son. This is, indeed what Jesus taught during his time on earth. And I don't think the Creeds do not support your statement.

What truly separates us from other believers in the God of Abraham is this: we see Jesus as part of the Divine, not as a mere mortal who was a great teacher, philosopher or prophet. We know it in our hearts, even though it cannot be proven in a scientific way. Indeed, that God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting.

Anonymous said...

Tobias,
you are an ingenious man, and a clever interpreter.
But you are having to make a complicated argument to defend your PB. I admire your loyalty.
Surely it is simpler to say "It was not a very clear answer, she should make a clearer statement on the uniqueness of Jesus"?
This is not disloyal, the best of leaders will sometimes need to return to a topic.

Jesus addresses the question of salvation for Jews who lived before him when he said "If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. " John 5:46 in the context of having said "There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. " John 5:32.
Those Jews somehow could look forward to their salvation through Jesus, and this is helpfully explored in Dominus Iesus, which rather than Rahner can be taken to be the catholic view on the subject.
ISTM that Tobias and Marshall are taking a Rahner-like attitude to "anonymous christians" here. This is not the Catholic view FWIW. I hope I am being fair to you both.
In the first post Tim refers to the CofE uniquness discussion, where the general synod vigorously endorsed the uniqueness of Christ in evangelical Paul Eddy's motion.
This may mean that a significant theological gap in the anglican communion may be between those like the CofE and most provinces who take a strong "uniquness of christ" position, and TEC (and others) who take the view expressed here.

I hope I am not being a bore by returning to this discussion, but it is a significant topic.
Obadiahslope

Grandmère Mimi said...

Obadiahslope, the CofE hardly speaks with one voice. One might even say that the Archbishop of Canterbury doesn't speak with one voice, but I would never say that.

Marshall said...

Oh, obadiah, never doubt that we appreciate you. You are always thoughtful and civil in disagreement, and those are characteristic of too few voices in this medium.

I am perhaps Rahner-esque. As for the official position of Rome: I don't know that I could speak to that, really.

I find much in the single verse John 3:17: if God's intent in Christ is "not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him," I cannot believe that God can fail. God will not be done until all the world has been saved. God's acts in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ are unique, and the sine qua non (quae?) in God's success.

That said, God's success is God's act, and not Creation's; and so it cannot be dependent on or hindered by our apprehension of it or lack thereof. If it were, that would make us more powerful than God.

Perhaps it's a matter of context. I've been in several diocesan conventions - and indeed, present for several General Conventions - in which resolutions on the uniqueness of Christ have been proposed. They have fallen for several reasons. First, we have said it in the Prayer Book, and so established it in accordance with the Church's Constitution. In that Prayer Book we repeat it weekly, and for many of us, daily. What is the real value of such a resolution, if not for our identity or formation? Yet those are more profoundly shaped by worship than by any resolution.

Second, the resolutions have, almost without exception, insisted on only one view of how God accomplishes redemption from sin - the Subsitutionary Atonement. Yet, the Catholic faith allows for more than that understanding, realizing that we can never appreciate fully the mysteries of God's actions. So, what is the value of the resolution, if it states so incompletely that component of the faith as this Church has received it?

In context, these resolutions, which cannot improve on the Prayer Book for formation and state so poorly how God acts in Christ for our redemption, are demonstrably exclusionary, triumphalist, and divisive. They are proposed with a thinly veiled purpose, less of helping us appreciate that we are loved by God, and more to make clear a corollary that some other person or group is not. To say the former is to appreciate our faith. To say the latter is to tell God what God can and cannot do, and how; a stance that convention after convention has refused to take, and that the Presiding Bishop refuses to take now.

JCF said...

[++KJS] appears to imply that there are other ways to the "divine", other than Jesus.

I don't know that there aren't.

More importantly, YOU don't know that there aren't, either, Obadiah. [The Bible doesn't say that there aren't!]

God only knows, I've hung on w/ TEC my whole life---through '79's "fidelity in [het] marriage, chastity apart", through the heresy trial of Bp. Righter, through B033.

But if GC adopted (per TLC's demand) a "Uniqueness" clause (ala the recent travesty of the CofE's General Synod), I'd seriously have to consider leaving. :-(

Look, that Jesus-of-Nazareth is "unique" isn't at issue: EVERY human being is!

But "putting [god] in a small box" is EXACTLY the issue that the "Uniqueness" lobby is after: "Accept 'GeeZus' as Your Personal Divine Lord & Savior, or Burn!"

Feh.

May I AGAIN state for the record, nowhere does the Bible say that? That only a TWISTING of the NT turns it into "GeeZus or Else!"?

JCF, disgusted...

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Thanks for the additional comments.

Dr. P., yes, that is a big part of Pauline "inclusivism" -- the "bigness" of God and the whole notion of grace. If salvation is earned, it is not grace. Simple, no?

Dahveed, thanks for the clarification!

Lynn, that was actually something I said. This goes to show how delicate is any conversation on the Trinity! I meant, of course, that Christ is God in action in the work of salvation. Obviously the Holy Spirit also is at work in the world too, primarily in the work of sanctification. It is alwyas a touchy thing to stay balanced between Tritheism at one extreme and Modalism at the other. The Orthodox doctrine is that since Christ is God whenever Christ acts, God acts; and the same goes for the other Persons. There is, however, a venerable tradition of attributing certain works to the various Persons -- Modalism goes further and suggests these are just "ways of working" of the one God, diminishing the distinction of Persons. The Nicene Creed itself, however, attributes "Salvation" to the Son, who "for us and for our salvation, came down from heaven." This is what I was referring to: whenever a person is saved, she is saved by Christ.

Obadiah, thanks for the compliments, but I don't think it takes "cleverness" to read the PB's statement as orthodox. In fact, I think it takes a degree of malice (or an over-attachment to a "Jesus alone" theology) to read it otherwise.

As to Rahner and his "anonymous Christian" -- while true that Vatican II did not adopt his language it clearly adopted the concept. In response to the ill-formed and ill-informed question, "Is belief in Jesus the only way to get to heaven?" the official Roman Catholic answer is: No. "Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things, and as Saviour wills that all men be saved. Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience. Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life." (Lumen Gentium, 16. "This holds true not only for Christians, but for all men of Good will in whose hearts grace works in an unseed way. For, since Christ died for all men, and since the ultimate vocation of man is in fact one, and divine, we ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery." (Gaudium et Spes, 22.

Of course, you may not agree with that position, but it could hardly be clearer that God's grace can act, and does act, apart from ones personal belief in Jesus, or in its absence; it is God's work, not ours, as Marshall noted. As Cardinal Ratzinger said in Dominus Iesus, "With respect to the way in which the salvific grace of God — which is always given by means of Christ in the Spirit and has a mysterious relationship to the Church — comes to individual non-Christians, the Second Vatican Council limited itself to the statement that God bestows it 'in ways known to himself.'" (VI.21)

These are admittedly more fulsome statements than the PB's brief response, but they are clearly congruent with it. And they do represent the official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.

When it comes to Anglicanism, if it's the Articles of Religion your concerned about, no one is suggesting that people are saved by the profession or discipline of their own sect or creed, and not by Christ. It is "Christ in the Spirit" who saves, always and everywhere.

Marshall, thanks for the additional clarity. And JCF, for the always Highly Decorated Text!

Also, fwiw, I have resolved that the next time a mom and apple pie resolution comes to Convention I will vote for it, unless like the recent example it necessarily ties us to the Penal Substitution Model of the Atonement. I can happily affirm the uniqueness of Christ, for instance, as adopted at the General Synod.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Oh, and Mimi... as to the ABofC not speaking with one voice. Might I suggest a brief visit to the Green Room? ;-)

You brought a much needed smile to this discussion.

IT said...

From where I sit, it makes perfect sense that Christians believe that you have to believe in Christ to get to heaven.

But it also makes sense that if God is omnipotent, then he has a way to take care of the non-Christians too. If you are telling me that a non-Christian like Gandhi or the Dalai Lama or one of my friends, the most moral human being I've ever met (and atheist) isn't going to heaven because he doesn't believe in Christ, then I don't think much of your heaven, even as a metaphorical construct.

COnservatives DO try to put God in a small box that they can comprehend, and you know, that just doesn't work for an omnipotent, omnipresent deity even in a purely hypothetical sense. Indeed, if he is as you say, then there is no WAY you can limit or comprehend him, and no WAY you can figure out what he can and can't do. And therefore it is the height of arrogance to assume you do.

The only one over which you have control is yourself and your beliefs. Which I think your PB has made very clear, at least from the outside.

All the rest of it is just arguing over angels on a pinhead.

IT

Anonymous said...

Well Tobias, we will have to agree to disagree on the question of what the PB's statement said. I realise me not agreeing with you is not of any great consequence!
It remains a pity she has not clarified it.
If you were to read the PB's statement to a number of ordinary people on the street and ask them to rewrite it in their own words it seems to me that many or most would say that it implies there are other ways to God besides Jesus Christ. And that is the problem it seems to me.
I urge all your readers to read Dominus Iesus for themselves. (JCF it tackles the issue you raise far better than I could).
Tobias, if you agree with the "uniqueness" motion passed at the CofE recently, why not move it at your GC?

ObadiahSlope

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Dear Obadiah, then disagree we must. I don't think truth is established by "vox pop" surveys.

As to motions at GC, as I said upstream that I don't find GC the best place to bring such resolutions, but that I wouldn't oppose one. I think it especially worrisome to make such profound matters of theology seem to hinge on the votes of an assembly -- even an Ecumenical Council -- as we have that warning in the Articles about these being assemblies of fallible folk, and hence liable to error.

Still, it might make a point if a group of progressives were to sponsor such a resolution. I'll check around and see what people think. I already was involved in a discussion with like-minded folks about not opposing such a resolution; but it might have more impact were we to bring it.

Peace and a blessed Lent.

Geoff said...

JCF wrote: But "putting [god] in a small box" is EXACTLY the issue that the "Uniqueness" lobby is after: "Accept 'GeeZus' as Your Personal Divine Lord & Savior, or Burn!"

It would seem all too often that the idea of Christ's necessity for salvation descends into that kind of rhetoric, when in fact believing that Christ is the unique means by which humans can achieve salvation absolutely does not mean that every individual must consciously profess Christianity in order to be saved. God will draw all sincere people to Godself; kudos to ECUSA for resisting attempts to say otherwise.

Lynn said...

Tobias, I do agree discussions about the Trinity can be delicate - and I honestly was only referring to the second part of Obadiah's suggestion for the party line on Jesus; it makes our Lord Christ sound like the CEO of the Kingdom of Heaven. There is a large group of Christians who think just that, and I disagree with them. And I just like to tangle with Obadiah once in a while.

WE do get down to fine points on the Trinity in Anglicanland. A dear friend of 25+ years did his MTS studies at a conservative RC seminary. We've often thought it would be fun to go to a town square and ask 100 Christians to define the Trinity in their own words. I suspect we'd hear the full range of heresies on the topic, and have to specify "you know - Father, Son and Holy Spirit" to a few as well. I suspect there's no great harm in a little ignorance about the catholic view of the Trinity.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Thanks, Lynn. I think your suggestion of a "vox pop" on the Trinity would reveal quite a range of opinion, even among those who style themselves "orthodox." (One thing that never ceases to amuse me is the extent to which people will veer into heresy in defense of some doctrine or other. I recall that one bishop some years back wrote a treatise against the ordination of women that was fulsomely Apollinarianist!)

Have a good weekend.

susan s. said...

How can persons in the street be expected to have a 'correct' notion of the Trinity? On Trinity Sunday, our rector often assigns the sermon to a seminarian or asks a professor at the seminary to preach to avoid all that. ;-)

Priscilla said...

Late to the table but I feel moved to add my 2 cents, even if dear Obadiah will quickly point out that I don't know what I'm talking about. : )

I took a simple reading of the PB's statement. It was humble and appropriate for the setting, the questioner, and the publication it was intended for, which goes to a very general audience of people, many of whom are not Christian nor even particularly religious.

She wisely refused to set herself up as a final arbiter on a topic which has caused untold deaths, wars, destruction, splits, divisions, and worry for 2 millenia. I doubt that anything she says in any context will ever be free of the orthoditic critique of her suspect Christianity. Whatever.

And, for what it's worth, I side with JCF and IT on this one. Reading this thread has brought back a lot of memories about why I left the RCC, the seminary, and ultimately Christianity. I admire the erudition but it is alien to my own experience of the Christ. Namaste