Getting Past Bread: A Holy Week Reflection — The Bossuet Project

I have an Iranian office mate. My contact with the Iranians has been educational in my understanding of the Scriptures. One thing he’s really big on is bread. One time we went to a bakery where he brought a loaf of sourdough bread, which he consumed in its entirety–in one sitting. I bring bread from […]

via Getting Past Bread: A Holy Week Reflection — The Bossuet Project

You Can’t Always Get What You Want When You’re the State Church

That was certainly the case with Peter Ball, whom John Major appointed to the see of Gloucester, much to then Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey’s horror:

LORD CAREY has expressed his horror that the former Prime Minister John Major was persuaded by a senior aide to choose Peter Ball over another candidate for the see of Gloucester against the wishes of the Crown Appointments Commission (CAC — now the Crown Nominations Commission).

That’s basically the deal with a state church: the church gets the privileges of official status but must submit to the state’s will.  I’ve noted this problem before (and so did Bossuet, who preached at the court of Louis XIV,) but it hasn’t stopped many in North American Anglicanism from pining for communion with Canterbury, even as the drift in the culture was reflected in the attitude of the state.

I think now that the consequences of this signal weakness are apparent to just about everyone, as was evidence as the recent GAFCON meeting.  Better late than never.

As far Ball’s appointment being recommended by Sir Robin Catford, recalling this is impossible to resist:

That could be applied to a large number of Anglican and Episcopal prelates and clergy as well…

Chesterton to be Canonised? Bossuet Hasn’t Been Either

His canonisation is being considered:

Is he or is he not on the road to being canonized?

In the coming weeks, the fate of Gilbert Keith Chesterton will be known.

Soon, all eyes will turn upon Canon John Udris as he presents his written report to the bishop of Northampton, England, with, thereafter, a decision being made.

I’m not optimistic about seeing “St. Gilbert” anytime soon, although the Roman Catholic Church is full of surprises.  Some of that is due to his anti-Semitic remarks, which should endear him to the current Labour Party.  But frankly I’m surprised that the RCC in England, as liberal as its hierarchy is, is even allowing consideration of Chesterton for anything.

On a broader view, the Roman Catholic Church has always had an aversion for canonising or even celebrating its best post-Reformation thinkers and preachers.  Whether you’re an Old Folk Mass or #straightouttairondale type, Catholics in parishes are presented with some of the most banal examples of Catholic thought and life out there.  For the better ones, one in particular whose cause is a main item on this blog is Jaques-Bénigne Bossuet.  AFAIK, he’s never been considered for canonisation, although he is the Church’s best and most eloquent defender since Trent.  Perhaps it is best that Chesterton be left to his fans to insure his legacy.

In the UK, he is known mostly for the Father Brown series; his magnificent apologetic works are mostly admired outside of Old Blighty.  With Bossuet it’s different; the French still consider him a major literary figure of the XVIIth Century, in some ways the country’s Golden Age.  But then again the French are better at appreciating their literary heritage en bloc, as they did recently when they re-entombed Simone Veil (a Holocaust survivor) in the Pantheon.

Another good reason for Brexit?

My Dialogue with an ACNA Priest re the Reformation and Anglicanism

Not too long ago I reviewed a book entitled Was Jesus an Evangelical? by the Rev. Thomas Reeves, an ACNA priest in Roanoke, VA.  He’s come back with some interesting points (most of which are in his book, in more detail) and he’s given me the opportunity to post then and comment.  We’ll start here:

While it may sound reductionistic, this is one reason that I am convinced that an honest look a the Nicene Fathers and what they believed (in a shared, core way) about the church, the sacraments, conversion, etc. could help us to cut through the divisions that have occurred in Anglicanism since the Reformation.

One way of looking at Anglicanism is that it is an attempt to restore a Patristically based Christianity.  There are those who would object to this characterisation but I think there’s enough evidence that at least some important people in the early years of the Church of England desired to do just that.  The retention of the episcopacy and the liturgy make that desire evident.

The problem with this was pointed out by Bossuet in his History of the Variations of the Protestant Churches: where do you stop?  The Roman Catholic Church claims continuity both in its institution and in its carrying forth of tradition.  Protestants say that somewhere in there the church excessively erred from the Scriptures.  Bossuet’s question is valid: where do you draw the line?

Let’s take the example of Vigilantius, a priest in fourth-century Gaul.  The main thrust of his writings (as best as we can tell) was as follows:

  1. Devotions to the relics of martyrs is superstitious.  Also, offering prayers to saints and martyrs, was unnecessary since they were with God, and pagan.
  2. The observance of all-night vigils was unacceptable.
  3. The ascetic ideals of fasting, monastic withdrawal and virginity were not necessary for Christianity, and that included a celibate clergy.
  4. He proposed ending sending alms to Jerusalem and the monks who lived there.

Vigilantius was savaged for these ideas by Jerome in a fashion that anticipated the online abuse we see today.  For its part the Church of England pretty much went along with Vigilantius on all of these.  But Jerome was not only a Father of the Church but a Doctor.  So where do we stop?  We also have the case of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, which commended the veneration of icons and relics, and is held to be on par with the other six (including Nicaea.)

If the Reformation was truly only a response to the abuses of the Medieval Church (in ethics, practice, and theology), then the unity of the Patristic theology  behind the creeds should be a reasonable starting place for discussions among Anglican thinkers. However, I believe that the Reformation in the end became the wholesale rejection of Western Catholicity.  The Creeds just became historic documents that Protestants reinterpreted out of their original contexts.

I think you’re basically right about this.  One enduring problem in the Anglican/Episcopal world is that the creeds (Apostles’ or Nicene) are recited but many of the ministers–and laity too–who recite them don’t believe them!

Of course, my belief is that the Reformation had much more to do with societal and cultural changes desired by the populous who wanted more say and freedom and the Reformation was swallowed up very quickly by Pietism which then became rampant sectarianism. Thus, the Reformation quickly devolved into an over-reaction which essentially cherry-picked the theology of the creeds according to “whatever groups” Reformational,  limited, and desired theological assumptions.

The largest movement to come out of Pietism (with apologies to the Continentals) is Wesleyan Methodism and its progeny, and I don’t think that this has “swallowed up” the Reformation or Reformed Christianity.  In fact, one of the major challenges of Wesleyans (and that includes modern Pentecost) is to keep Reformed theology from making inroads.  The Baptists have the same problem for different reasons.

Some of the problem here is that the creeds don’t cover the issues that resulted in the fracturing you describe.  That includes the nature of the Eucharist, election and perseverance.  The creeds crystallised fairly early before these issues came to the forefront.  In the case of Eucharistic theology, problems came with the Reformation.  For the other two, Augustine’s theology (which anticipated but is not identical to Calvin’s) was accepted (after a fight) in the West but not the East.  The only creedal difference between the two is the filioque clause, which is far less important than Augustinian theology!

I submit Anglo-Catholicism, while important, is still caught up in propping up their own particular sectarianism as the ONLY WAY…

If one looks at the Oxford Movement at the start, one sees an admirable attempt to bring unity between Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism.  That ran into two large obstacles: the unwillingness of the Church of England to move in that direction, and the unwillingness of Roman Catholicism to move at all.  The latter ultimately inspired people like Newman and Manning to “swim the Tiber.”  Those two immovable objects have bedevilled Anglo-Catholicism ever since.

One the one side, the Anglo-Catholics have had more success outside of England than within.  Part of that may be because they weren’t saddled with “unEnglish and unManly” like they were in the old country, but that’s another post…the 1928 BCP was, in many ways, an Anglo-Catholic triumph.  And it’s not an accident that the first group to bolt the TEC and set up institutional alternatives were the Continuing (Anglo-Catholic) Episcopalians; their boldness inspired the Dennis Canon.  Other provinces (notably the West Indies) were deeply affected by this movement.

On the other hand, frankly I am surprised that the Ordinariate has gotten as far as it has.  I didn’t see that happening.  What I think happened is that the conservative Ordinariate served the purpose of Traditionalist Catholics (like Benedict XVI) in their struggle with the more liberal wing of the church.

That brings us to the greatest fault of Anglo-Catholicism, one they share with the Orthodox, St. Pius X and #straightouttairondale types: the idea that tight liturgical precision is the key to great churches and great church life.  On the Anglican side, we have the church Robin Jordan joined, with the 1928 BCP as the ne plus ultra of Anglican life.  On the Catholic side, the broadest-based liturgy, incorporation elements of Eastern and Western worship alike, is the Novus Ordo Missae, but don’t tell that to the trads, some of whom don’t believe the Mass it celebrates is sacramentally valid.

Anglo-Catholics’ ultimate goal is reunion with Rome, with Rome making concessions.  That’s about as realistic as the unrequited (and declining) desire of many in the ACNA for full communion with Canterbury.  Since both Rome and Canterbury are under shaky leadership these days, the best course for Anglo-Catholics would be to clean up the careerism in their ranks, unite institutionally, and act as a witness to the Gospel as they see it.  Who knows, they just might pick up a #straightouttairondale Catholic or two on the way.

I submit that a future for Anglicanism is not MY theology getting adhered to (or any other sectarian groups particular theology), but a return to OUR theology with clarity regarding what is essential to an Anglican definition or what is not. However, very few seemed interested this discussion.

I think getting agreement to the creeds is the easy part.  But the issues beyond the creeds is where things get tricky.  There are too many people involved whose agendas are driven by purism, nostalgia or both.  They’re justified in being wary of “innovations” (the TEC is enough to cure anyone of that) but they don’t have the theological framework to work through the problems.

This is what so few seem to understand: We don’t have the right to cherry pick the creeds, and it is a reason that the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church (with all of their own problems) in part has had fewer problems being shaped by the cultures around them in their core theological (and ethical) beliefs. The Patristics gave us a unified set of scriptures and the Creeds. Why do we think we don’t need their grounding as a starting place?

I think that Patristic theology is the best place to start, but you need to be aware of the issues that block that other than ignorance.

The first is the “stopping point” issue I mentioned above.

The second is that the Patristic method of allegorising Biblical interpretation is going to be a hard sell in seminaries, which are too centred on the German methods.  (Modern philosophies and theologies, I think, are an obstacle to progress in many ways.)  The ancients had good reason to go that route, and our butting heads with the atheists (who routinely shove back a literalistic interpretation) should tell us something.

The third is that the differences between Patristic and Charismatic views on the church and the move of the Spirit are different.  I don’t think this problem is insoluble; it’s one that has occupied my thoughts (and much space on this blog) for many years.  Frankly modern Pentecost’s greatest enemy is cessational Reformed theology, and Patristic thought goes a long way to address that.

I would love to hear another option to true Christian Unity than getting back to a generally unified theology of those attending Nicea.  With these “gogles” then, we could more clearly start evaluating our numerous mind-numbing amount of ever developing, sectarian, and individualistic streams. It isn’t that there is no place for such streams, but without a clarifying unity regarding core beliefs and practices,

One thing that would mitigate this is an understanding that differences in fundamental belief are more important than mode of worship.  But it’s simply too easy to turn lex orandi, lex credendi into a reductio ad absurdum.  Anglicanism is supposed to be “comprehensive,” but the divisions over the fundamentals has shattered that broad nature.  Putting it back together again–or at least the part which wants to stick with the basics–is a daunting task.

Anglicanism will just continue to be an every fragmenting, self-supporting, sectarian Protestantism. A Christianity that I submit that has little lasting future beyond this century.

And that would be a tragedy of the first magnitude.

Bossuet: Elevations On The Temptation And Fall Of Man

This series from Jaques-Benigne Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries, and specifically the Fifth Day, is complete.  The table of contents for this is below.  There is more here on the Bossuet Project.

  1. The snake.
  2. The temptation. Eve is attacked before Adam.
  3. The tempter proceeds by underhanded questioning to first produce a doubt.
  4. Answer of Eve and reply of Satan who reveals himself.
  5. The temptation and the fall of Adam. Reflections of Saint Paul.
  6. Adam and Eve perceived their nudity.
  7. Enormity of Adam’s sin.
  8. The presence of God is fearful for sinners: our first parents increase their crime by seeking excuses.
  9. The order of God’s Justice.
  10. More excuses.
  11. Eve’s torment and how it is changed into a cure.
  12. Adam’s torture, and first the work.
  13. The clothes and the injuries of the air.
  14. Following the torture of Adam, the derision of God.
  15. Death, true punishment of sin.
  16. Eternal death.

Elevations On The Temptation And Fall Of Man: 16, Eternal death.

This is one in a series from Jaques-Benigne Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries, and specifically the Fifth Day.  There is more here on the Bossuet Project.

But the great penalty of sin, which alone is proportionate, is eternal death, and this punishment of sin is locked up in sin itself; for sin being nothing other than the voluntary separation of man from God, it follows from this that God also withdraws from man, and forever withdraws from him, a man having nothing by which he can reunite himself; so that by this single blow which the sinner gives himself, he remains eternally separated from God, and God is therefore forced to withdraw from him; until, by a return of his pure mercy, he is pleased to return to his unfaithful creature; that which arrives only by a pure goodness which God does not owe to the sinner, it follows that he owes him nothing but eternal separation and subtraction of his goodness, grace, and presence; but from that moment his misfortune is as immense as it is eternal.

For what can happen to the creature deprived of God, that is, of all good? What can happen to him, if not all wrong? Go, cursed, to eternal fire; and where will they go, these wretched ones, driven away from the light, if not into eternal darkness? Where will they go, far from peace, except to trouble, despair, the grinding of teeth? Where will they go, in a word, far from God, if not in all the horror that will be caused by the absence and deprivation of all the good that is in him, as in the source? I will show you all the good, he said to Moses, showing myself. What, then, may happen to those to whom he will refuse his face and his desirable presence, except that he will show them all evil, and that he will show them not only to see it, which is frightful; but, what is much more terrible, to feel it by a sad experience. And this is the just punishment of the sinner who withdraws from God, that God also gets rid of him, and by this subtraction deprives him of all good, and invests him irretrievably and inexorably will all evil. God! O God! I tremble, I am seized with fear at this sight. Console me with the hope of your goodness; refresh my bowels, and comfort my broken bones, by Jesus Christ, your Son, who bore death to deliver me from these terrors, and from all these terrible consequences, the most inevitable of which is hell.

Elevations On The Temptation And Fall Of Man: 15, Death, true punishment of sin.

This is one in a series from Jaques-Benigne Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries, and specifically the Fifth Day.  There is more here on the Bossuet Project.

In the day that you eat the forbidden fruit, you will die of death. In the very end you will die of the death of the soul, which will be immediately separated from God, who is our life, and the soul of the soul itself. But even though your soul is not currently separated from even body at the very moment of sin, nevertheless, at this moment, it deserves to be so; it is thus separated from it, because of the debt, though not yet by the effect. We become mortal; we are worthy of death; death dominates us, our body from there becomes a yoke to our soul and overwhelms us with all the weight of mortality and infirmity that accompanies it. Rightly, Lord, justly, because the soul that has willingly lost God, which was its soul, is punished for its defection by its inevitable separation from the body which is united to it; and the loss which the body experiences, by necessity, of the soul which governs and perfects it, is just torment of that which the soul voluntarily made of God, who gave it life by his union.

God’s justice, I adore you! It was only right that, composed of two parts of which you had made the union unchangeable, so long as I remained united to you by the submission I owed you, after I rose against your inviolable orders, I saw the dissolution of the two parts of myself so well matched beforehand, and that I see my body in a state to go rot in the earth, and return to its original dust. O God I submit to the sentence! And each time sickness attacks me, small as it is, I will only think that I am mortal, I will remember this saying: You will die of death, and of this just condemnation you have pronounced against all human nature. The horror I naturally have of death will be a proof of my abandonment to sin; for, Lord, if I had remained innocent, there would be nothing that could horrify me. But now I see death chasing after me, and I can not avoid his hideous hands. O God! give me the grace that the horror that I feel, and that your holy son Jesus did not disdain to feel, inspires me the horror of the sin that introduced it on earth. Without sin, we would have seen death perhaps only in animals; still a great and saintly doctor seems to say that she would not have entered them in Paradise, lest the innocent eyes of men should have been struck by this sad object. Whatever it is, O Jesus! I hate sin more than death, since it is through sin that death has reigned over all mankind from Adam, our first father, until those who will see you arrive in your glory.

Elevations On The Temptation And Fall Of Man: 14, Following the torture of Adam, the derision of God.

This is one in a series from Jaques-Benigne Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries, and specifically the Fifth Day.  There is more here on the Bossuet Project.

And God said, Give in to Adam, who has become like one of us, knowing good and evil. Let us take care, then, that one may put his hand on the fruit of life, and not live forever. This divine derision was due to his presumption. God says in Himself and to the Divine Persons, and if you will, to the holy Angels: see this new God, who was not satisfied with the divine likeness that God had impressed in the depths of his soul, he made himself God in his own way; see how wise he is, and how well he has learned good and evil at his expense. Let us take care that after having stolen knowledge so well, he still does not rob us of immortality. Note that God adds derision to punishment. The torture is due to the revolt; but pride attracted derision. I called you, and you refused to hear my voice; I stretched my arm, and no one looked at me; you have despised all my counsels, you have neglected my opinions and reproaches; and I, too, will laugh in your loss; I will mock your misfortunes and your death. It is, you will say, to push vengeance to cruelty; I admit it, but God too will become cruel and pitiless. After his kindness has been despised, he will push the rigor to soak and wash his hands in the sinner’s blood. All the righteous will join into this mocking by God: And they will laugh at the ungodly, and they will cry out: Behold the man who did not put his help in God, but who hoped in the abundance of his riches; and he prevailed by his vanity. This senseless vanity offered him a flattering resemblance of Divinity itself. Adam has become like one of us; he wanted to be rich with his own goods; see that he has become powerful. Thus these dreadful and holy derisions of divine justice, followed by those of the righteous, have their origin in those where God insults Adam in his torment. Jesus Christ, who put us under cover of the righteousness of God, when he bore the burden, suffered this derision in his torment: If he is the Son of God, let him come down from the cross, and we will believe in him; May God, whom he boasts of having as his father, deliver him. Thus he insulted the impious in his torture, mingling with cruelty the bitterness of mockery; so he expiated the derision that had fallen on Adam and all men.

It is in the midst of this bitter and insulting derision that God chases him from the paradise of delights to work the land from which he was taken. And here, at the door of this delightful paradise, is a cherub who rolls in his hand a sword of fire; so that this same place, once so full of attractions, becomes an object of horror and terror.

Elevations On The Temptation And Fall Of Man: 13, The clothes and the injuries of the air.

This is one in a series from Jaques-Benigne Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries, and specifically the Fifth Day.  There is more here on the Bossuet Project.

And the Lord God made garments of skins for Adam and his wife, and clothed them. Man becomes not only mortal, but exposed, by his mortality, to all the injuries of the air from which a thousand kinds of diseases are born. This is the source of the clothes that luxury makes so beautiful; the shame of nakedness has begun. Infirmity spread them all over the body; luxury wants to enrich them and mixes softness and pride. O man! come back to your origin! Why do you puff yourself up in your clothes? God first gives you nothing but skins for you to wear; poorer than the animals whose furs are natural to them, infirm and naked that you are, you find yourself having to borrow first; your lack is infinite; you borrow from everywhere to adorn yourself. But let us go to the beginning, and see the principle of luxury; after all, it is based on need: one tries in vain to disguise this weakness by accumulating the superfluity for the necessity.

Man has used the same in all the other of his needs, which he has tried to forget and cover by adorning them. Houses which are decorated by architecture, in their depths, are only a shelter against the snow and the storms, and the other injuries of the air; the furniture is, at their root, only a cover against the cold; these beds made so beautiful are, after all, only a retreat to support weakness and relieve work by sleep: it is necessary every day to go to die, and to pass so much of our life in this nothingness.

Elevations On The Temptation And Fall Of Man: 12, Adam’s torture, and first the work.

This is one in a series from Jaques-Benigne Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries, and specifically the Fifth Day.  There is more here on the Bossuet Project.

God said to Adam: Because you have listened to the word of your wife. This is where the accusation begins: the man is convinced at first of going along too much with the woman; it is the source of our loss, and this evil is renewed only too often. Let us continue: Because you have eaten fruit that I have forbidden you, the earth is cursed in your work; you will only eat your bread with the sweat of your face; and the rest. It is where the torture begins; but it is expressed by terrible words: The earth is cursed in your work; the earth had not sinned, and if it is cursed, it is because of the work of the accursed man who cultivates it: fruit is not torn from it, and especially the most necessary fruit, except by force and endless work.

Every day of your life, the cultivation of the earth is a perpetual care which leaves us at rest neither day nor night nor in any season: at every moment the hope of the harvest and the unique fruit of all our labors can escape us. We are at the mercy of the inconstant sky, which rains upon the tender shoot, not only the nourishing waters of the rain, but also the rust of the blight.

The earth will produce thorns and bushes. Fertile in its nature and producing the best plants by itself, now if it is left to its natural state. It is fertile only in weeds; it bristles with thorns: menacing and heartbreaking on all sides, it seems to even want to refuse us the freedom of the passage, and we can not walk on it without a fight.

You will eat the grass of the earth. It seems that, in the innocence of the beginning, the trees must of themselves offer and furnish to man a pleasant food in their fruits; but since the envy of the forbidden fruit had made us sin, we are subject to eating the grass that the earth produces only by force; and the wheat, of which the bread is our ordinary food, must be watered with our sweat. This is what these words insinuate: You will eat the grass, and your bread will be given to you by the sweat of your face. This is the beginning of our misfortunes; it is a continual work that alone can conquer our needs and the hunger that persecutes us.

Until you return to the land of which you were formed, and you become dust. There is no other end of our labors or rest for us, except death and the return to the dust, which is the last annihilation of our bodies. This object is always present to our eyes; death presents itself on all sides, the very earth which we cultivate puts it incessantly before the sight; it is the spirit of this word: Man will not cease to work the earth from which he is taken, and where he returns.

Man, behold your life, eternally torment the earth, or rather torment yourself by cultivating it, until it receives you yourself, and you rot in its bosom. Awful rest! Oh, sad end of continual work!