Scripture has been opened up anew by historical-critical scholarship and, I admit, locked up anew as well. It has been opened up anew: thanks to the labors of exegesis we hear the Word fo the Bible in a completely new way in its historical originality, in the variety of a developing and growing history, with […]
Of all the prayers we used to pray from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer at Bethesda, probably my favourite was what the Prayer Book called “A General Thanksgiving,” but I normally attached the definite article to it. It’s especially appropriate now and here it is: Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we, thine unworthy […]
One of the more interesting items on this blog (some don’t think there are any, but I digress) is the McPherson-Bogard Debate, between one of the most important figures in early modern Pentecost and one of the most illustrious representatives of fundamental Baptist belief and practice. The fact that the Pentecostals were represented by a woman does relate to the current topic, but that’s for another post.
In those days the two disputants got into a church with a crowd and went at it. Today in the Anglican/Episcopal world two or more get on a blog or blogs and produce extended pieces which many won’t understand and hopefully won’t degenerate into a food fight. Mercifully the recent debate between Emily McGowin on the one side and Lee Nelson and Blake Johnson on the other didn’t do that. It concerns the possibility of ordaining women to the priesthood or not, a debate that has continued in the Anglican Church in North America since its founding.
It’s easier to start with the rejoinder: at the risk of oversimplification, Nelson and Johnson state that, since Christ was male, it is necessary for a male to represent him at the altar, thus women cannot do this task. This is familiar to any one who has moved in the Roman Catholic world. The problem with this is that it presupposes an unbiblical ecclesiology. It requires that the celebrant, as a priest, represent Christ at the altar, and thus be empowered to effect the transformation of the elements as Our Lord did at the Last Supper and Paul enjoined us to continue in the Eucharist. That in turn leads to the whole concept of the Mass as a present sacrifice, which I deal with elsewhere.
At the risk of being repetitious and otiose, let me remind my readers of the following:
Again, new Levitical priests are continually being appointed, because death prevents their remaining in office; but Jesus remains for all time, and therefore the priesthood that he holds is never liable to pass to another. And that is why he is able to save perfectly those who come to God through him, living for ever, as he does, to intercede of their behalf. This was the High Priest that we needed–holy, innocent, spotless, withdrawn from sinners, exalted above the highest Heaven, one who has no need to offer sacrifices daily as those High Priests have, first for their own sins, and then for those of the People. For this he did once and for all, when he offered himself as the sacrifice. The Law appoints as High Priests men who are liable to infirmity, but the words of God’s oath, which was later than the Law, name the Son as, for all time, the perfect Priest. (Hebrews 7:23-28 TCNT)
We don’t need a priest representing God any more. We have one perfect priest, Jesus Christ. We may appoint someone to represent us before him when we gather together, but Our Lord needs neither representative nor substitute. I’ve debated this subject in the past and you can read that here and here.
Once that is posited, Nelson’s and Johnson’s case collapses. That doesn’t entirely solve the issue, and it brings another one to light: the whole nature of the church. When the ACNA was started I noted that there were two major issues of division that remained unresolved: WO (this one) and the Reformed-Anglo-Catholic divide. The two are related; McGowin actually touches on this issue in her response but doesn’t really pursue it. In American feminism the custom is to superimpose postmodern ideas of equality on existing structures without considering the merits of those structures to start with, and the result is cognitive dissonance. The same problem applies to same-sex civil marriage: it never occurred to anyone to debate whether civil marriage was working for heterosexuals before extending the franchise to same-sex couples.
Anglicanism is metastable in its ecclesiology; it started out by combining a Reformed (how Reformed it is depends on whether you equate Reformed with Calvinist or not) theology and an episcopal church structure. The Anglo-Catholics called their bluff and today we have a “communion” which doesn’t have a unified ecclesiology. That’s the source of many of Anglicanisms problems today, and it’s going to take more than GAFCON or a covenant to ultimately resolve them.
It’s actually been “out there” for almost two months, but I just found out and it’s worth repeating: Stand Firm in Faith, the once and future premier conservative Anglican blog, is back with Matt Kennedy, his snow-shoveling wife Anne Carlson Kennedy, and Tim Fountain standing firm in faith against People Who Shovel Something Else.
Honestly I’m glad to see this: Stand Firm’s disappearance created a void in my online routine that hasn’t quite been filled by anything else. And it obviously brings up another question: is the blogosphere, which in many ways got us where we are, still relevant? For conservative Anglicans, the answer is “yes” for two reasons. The first is that is allows the long (sometimes too long) treatment of topics that the Anglican/Episcopal world likes but social media (especially Twitter) doesn’t allow. The second is that social media is a fickle business: Matt Kennedy was booted from Twitter for a season because he spoke the truth to the transitionally transgendered Jessica Yaniv, and none of us know when the social media equivalent of the “fickle finger of fate” will point at us.
Welcome back, it’s not been the same without you.
I probably spend more time than I should online following seminary academics. That’s not just considering their impact on me: sometimes they bite back, especially if they’re of a Reformed background. In any case a series of events has led me to discover something called anatheism, which is the discovery (for want of a better term) of one Richard Kearney of Boston College.
So how did I get interested in this? Well, I was asked to find the latest publication of one Austin Williams, a PhD student at Boston College (and probably a protégé of Kearney.) Austin is the son of my church’s pastor, Mark Williams. (I get a whiff from his Twitter feed that Austin is bailing on Bill Clinton’s Eucharistic Theology, of which his father is an adherent. If that happens, it would be a major triumph for me.)
So I discovered this book review of Richard Kearney’s Anatheistic Wager: Philosophy, Theology, Poetics in Pneuma. It piqued my interest. So what, you ask, is anatheism? The best way to answer that question is to go to the man himself, and he explains it (in a pithier way than many seminary academics manage) in this video.
Rather than get into a full-blown critique of the concept, I’d like to make some observations that perhaps will shed light on the subject and/or engender some conversation. (The last is a dangerous objective online.)
Most people obtain their faith beliefs while being raised (or discipled for adult converts) in “the system.” Generally the objective of “the system” is to bring people into some understanding of the faith without going over their head intellectually while at the same time minimizing the possibility that they would challenge what they’re being taught along the way. (I have this illustration of that process in the Roman Catholic RCIA.) The problem with this is that eventually, especially when people get to university, they’re confronted with hostile belief systems they aren’t prepared to deal with, which in many cases leads to them bailing on the faith for atheism or even this.
What Kearny is talking about is a moment when we are confronted with a choice (he characterises our response as either hostility or hospitality) between God and atheism, and then those of us who choose God have to make a wager to follow God. (That’s a nice touch for someone who teaches Pascal’s Law to his Fluid Mechanics Laboratory students, but don’t tell the Pope or James Martin.) Those who get through that, in Kearny’s view, return to “God after God,” thus anatheism.
His first illustration of that is Abraham, who actually has two anatheistic moments: the first when the three visitors come to announce the coming birth of Isaac, and the second when he takes same Isaac to sacrifice. In both cases he wagers for God, and as Paul reminds us “What then, it may be asked, are we to say about Abraham, the ancestor of our nation? If he was pronounced righteous as the result of obedience, then he has something to boast of. Yes, but not before God. For what are the words of Scripture? ‘Abraham had faith in God, and his faith was regarded by God as righteousness.'” (Romans 4:1-3 TCNT) That kind of encounter, although seminal in our salvation history, is one that is lacking in the experience of many Christians.
And that leads to the personal part: have I ever experienced this? In thinking back, yes, at least three times. The first was at the start, as I mentioned in my dialogue with Ron Krumpos. The second was my year in prep school which led me to “swim the Tiber.” (In fairness, I must say that my hapless school chaplain wasn’t alone in forcing this moment; he had a lot of help.) The third was the experience I had in the Texas A&M Newman Association. So I guess I have it. In all of these I should make a qualification: atheism wasn’t really the alternative. That’s in part because I came from a long line of secular people/Lodge dwellers who didn’t need outright atheism to marginalise religious belief and practice. To have that kind of experience is good, and does give you a different perspective on your walk with God, but it makes you an outlier in normal local church/parish life.
There are two other observations I’d like to make.
First, I get the impression that Kearney’s idea is that, if more people had this kind of anatheistic experience, they would be less dogmatic in their faith. I don’t agree with this. One good example of this is Mohammad, one which Kearney himself brings up. Another is Pascal, the person who advanced the whole concept of wager in both mathematics and religion. After his experience he became the most vociferous defender of the Jansenists, much to the regret of the Jesuits. It helps to have that experience but it doesn’t necessarily dampen the enthusiasm.
Second, I’m not sure how well any theistic concept works in Buddhism which, in the form the Buddha set is down, really has no need for a god.
I’m sure that there are philosophical and theological objections to the way I have presented my observations. But I don’t believe that it is good that the musings of academics be divorced from the reality of those in the pews that have to endure the sermons of those who emerge from seminary academic. Kearney has made in interesting contribution to Christian thought, one that deserves further discussion in an age when people are transitioning away from their faith at a significant rate.
Friends, please hear me, we Africans are not afraid of our sisters and brothers who identify as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgendered, questioning, or queer. We love them and we hope the best for them. But we know of no compelling arguments for forsaking our church’s understanding of Scripture and the teachings of the church universal. […]
Just saw the tweet at the right. I think it’s hilarious that people have started to refer to the Occupant of the See of St. Peter as “that man in Rome.” American history buffs will remember that some Republicans, unable to utter his name, used to refer to Franklin D. Roosevelt as “that man in the White House,” and I’m sure that my grandfather muttered ripe language when he had to visit him to help promote his 1933 Langley Day air meet. Even the thought of FDR made Republicans’ blood pressure rise and veins bulge in the temples.
I used to refer to Barack Obama as the Occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and I’ve thoughtfully transferred that to the Occupant near the Tiber (too near as it turns out!)
It’s also worth noting that some of the strongest people in Catholic Twitter are women. Such turns many peoples’ feminist construct upside down, but it was that way in the Anglican Revolt and the tradition continues with conservative Catholicism. Besides, it’s worth noting that the founder of #straightouttairondale Catholicism was no other than Mother Angelica, without a doubt the most influential American Catholic since Vatican II.
As documented in this piece today on CBS This Morning:
I can remember growing up on the Miami Herald and seeing the horoscope buried well past the front page. Now publications like Cosmopolitan put it front and centre.
That piece reminded me of a pithy observation by John McKenzie in his The Two-Edged Sword:
The more petty evils of the demons could be met by magical means and the tremendous mass of magical literature which Mesopotamia has left us is a pathetic witness to the superstition of one of the most intelligent, ingenious and charming peoples which the race has developed. Bouché-Leclerq concluded his researches into Greek astrology with the desperate remark that it is not a waste of time to study how other people have wasted their time.
I always took a dim view of my contemporaries who suddenly became “scientific” with climate change. Right or wrong, most of them have neither the aptitude nor the temperament to be really scientific about anything. Evidently that hasn’t changed down the line either.
The debates are intense! (Old but good meme…)
“The Burke critique is simple enough. Church teaching on questions like marriage’s indissolubility is supposed to be unchanging, and that’s what he’s upholding: “I haven’t changed. I’m still teaching the same things I always taught and they’re not my ideas.” What is unchanging certainly can’t be altered by an individual pontiff: “The pope is not […]