ayjay + christianity   254

Religion, if there is no God--: on God, the Devil, sin, and other worries of ... - Leszek Kołakowski - Google Books
Sickness is the natural state of a Christian, Pascal wrote to his sister, Madame Perrier. Christianity may be viewed as an expression of what in human misery is incurable by human efforts; an expression, rather than a philosophical or psychological description. Thereby it is a cry for help.
january 2018 by ayjay
Robert Jenson, “Can Ethical Disagreement Divide the Church?”
Supposing that divisions in ethics sometimes truly divide the church, how do we tell when that is the case? What are the criteria? If, as seems likely, some ethical divisions are tolerable within communion and some are not, how do we tell the difference? And the third question is, When it appears that some of us cannot for reasons of ethics be in full fellowship with others whom we nevertheless regard as church, what are we to do about that? […]

I will argue that the unbroken unity in Christ of baptized believers divided in moral discipline or public moral witness obtains at the *same* level as does the unity of baptized believers divided in doctrine. In the case of doctrinal division, the contradiction between broken fellowship and deep unity in Christ is the very motive of ecumenical dialogue. That doctrinally separated communities of the baptized are nevertheless somehow one in Christ is a mandate to *argue* the differences, not permission simply to live with them. Indeed, this shared effort is itself a necessary part of their remaining unity. Just so, I propose, the contradiction between “unity in Christ” and division about what sorts of sexual behavior are blessed, for example, is a mandate for something much like traditional ecumenical dialogue, not permission to live with the dissensus. And the necessity of that effort is again an essential part of remaining unity in Christ. […]

Now, what about that label for such regulation, the word *marriage*? Plainly, a use of the noun *marriage* paired with, for example, *same-sex* has no overlap at all with its historical use. Much public discourse about *marriage* does not notice that, and thus is mere babble; The *New York Times*’ editorial discussions of the matter seem to be produced by someone who would think that the use of the vocable *ball* both for a spherical toy and for a formal dance must indicate some common essence.

But if the culture of the world decides in its own discourse to abolish the label’s previous use, there is not much the church can do about it. Maybe it will have to find a new label for the ontological fact affirmed in Christian doctrine. Anyway, the churches within their own discourse must reckon with what the word *marriage* now denotes — or rather fails to denote — for many others, and not allow their own discourse to be confused by mere linguistic mishap. We need to rule for our own discourse: what the world (or much of the world) now means by *marriage* is not what we mean by it — if indeed we are to continue using the word at all. […]

But sometimes also, as the structure of the American churches collapses, confusion will be the determining factor. Morally opposed groups may have no alternative but to live with *partly* broken fellowship. In strict logic, eucharistic and ministerial fellowship is either intact or simply broken, but history does not always obey strict logic and neither then does God’s providence—or indeed churches’ practice....
Christianity  ethics  ecumenism  from notes
august 2017 by ayjay
Friedrich Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography // Reviews // Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // University of Notre Dame
But there are three distinctive interpretive claims Young makes that are sure to invite challenges from the specialists. (The first two claims will be familiar to those who have already read Young's Nietzsche's Philosophy of Religion.) The first is that an overarching aim of Nietzsche's philosophy is to provide "a new religious outlook to re-found culture" (181, my emphasis). This may seem a wholly implausible claim to make on behalf of the man who wrote "God is dead" and was the author of the Antichrist. But what is meant by "religious"? If we suppose that what Young means is not much more than having a certain reverential attitude toward, well, something, then the claim is quite plausible. For Nietzsche certainly had that: he revered many things, including life, nobility, health, hardness, strength, and cultural achievement. And there certainly is a religious fervor permeating Zarathustra as well as Nietzsche's other passionate texts. So, to the extent that Young means only to say that Nietzsche had a kinda religiousy outlook upon what he understood as virtues, he is surely right. But in fact Young often means more than just this. He thinks Nietzsche maintains that the "higher men" will need to raise up divine beings, at least as heuristics to guide their efforts and orient their post-Christian society, and he comes awfully close to claiming that Nietzsche proposes a return to Greek polytheism (518). That is a bit much. Surely, one thinks, we can draw some distinction between the sort of "life-attitude" Nietzsche advocates and a temperament that is more properly understood as religious -- a distinction arising perhaps from the icy intellect Nietzsche thinks one must have in order to see things properly. It is hard to imagine returning to our idols, even as heuristics, once we have seen through them.

The second controversial interpretive claim is that Nietzsche, far from trying to demolish traditional morality, was out to "re-found" the sorts of values we might today identify with communitarianism. Young returns to this claim frequently throughout his book, and it must be said that he gathers up surprisingly good evidence for it. Nietzsche did see himself as a "good European," and consistently despised the growing German Reich, so it is no stretch to see his overall concerns as cosmopolitan. But in the end, on Young's reading, when we find out that Nietzsche wants a society infused with compassion and high culture, and that he might look favorably upon one that finds its unity in a shared effort to combat global warming (! - 479), one is left wondering whether Nietzsche has been tamed into something more familiar and friendly to our own moral sensibilities. Indeed, why would Nietzsche prophesy that someday his name would be associated with "something frightful -- of a crisis like no other on earth, of the profoundest collision of conscience, of a decision evoked against everything that until then had been believed in, demanded, sanctified" -- if in the end all he wanted to establish was that we as a community need to care more about one another and about higher culture? Young writes, thinking of Zarathustra, "For the ideal leader, indeed for any truly healthy person, the prosperity of the community (of humanity) as a whole is the defining meaning of their lives. For the healthy person, personal meaning is communal meaning" (516). But this would mean that very little of Young's Nietzsche would present much of a challenge to any contemporary liberal, which should alert us to the possibility that something important has gone missing. When Nietzsche urged that we move beyond good and evil, did he really just mean trading in the Ten Commandments for the Green Party?

The third controversial claim is that, by the end of his life, Nietzsche had repudiated the "will to power" doctrine, or at least had backed off it so that it was only a claim about the value of health to bring happiness to a human life. This brings us to a fine example of Young's sleuthing through texts. The short version of Young's careful account (over 536-549) is that Nietzsche started working on a sizable, definitive work entitled The Will to Power in 1885. It was to be his theory of everything. And so we find, in notes and publications continuing through 1888, many attempts to advance the will to power as a metaphysical doctrine. But in letters to his friends Nietzsche began to confess that the project was not coming together as he had hoped, and indeed "had gone down the plug hole [ins Wasser gefallen]." Some of his materials were repackaged into what became Twilight of the Idols, and other materials were designated for a new multi-volume work, the Revaluation of All Values. According to Young's account, the change in strategy resulted principally from Nietzsche (a) recognizing that the will to power doctrine, in its most sweeping, metaphysical guise, was simply implausible, as well as (b) coming to conclude that the overly systematic nature of the enterprise was in conflict with his own philosophical temperament. Vestiges of the will to power doctrine remain in Nietzsche's mature account of what constitutes a healthy psychology, Young maintains, but the big systematic metaphysics finally disappears from his horizon. I find Young's arguments for this claim compelling (though I do not fully agree with his account of Nietzschean health).
Nietzsche  religion  Christianity 
july 2017 by ayjay
Our Common Creed: Secular Humanism, Reimagined - @theosthinktank - Theos Think Tank
The strange fact is that secular humanism is rooted in Christianity. Its moral universalism is an adaptation, or mutation, of Christianity. And it is not just the humanism that is rooted in Christianity: the secularism is too. It is a paradox: secularism has Christian roots. And it is this interestingly paradoxical story that can give the creed solidity. Because of its surprising religious roots, secular humanism is not the bland obviousness that it is assumed to be.
Let’s put it this way. Our public creed, secular humanism, has two major problems. It seems vague, insubstantial, it melts into air. And it is difficult to articulate one aspect of it, its secularism, without alienating religious believers. These problems are largely solved when it is seen as a tradition deriving from Christianity. This story of its origins thickens it up, and involves rather than alienates religious believers. [...]

We must tell and retell this simple yet paradoxical story. Christianity gave rise to a post-religious creed, secular humanism. This story used to be widely accepted in some form: it was basic to the Whig worldview, and to British socialism (Tony Benn, for example, often highlighted the origin of socialism in the biblical prophets and radical reformers). Perhaps it is implied in the British constitution, which is narrative-shaped: religious unity gradually gives way to post-religious liberty. But increased secularization and multiculturalism edged it aside, made it seem a defunct assumption. And of course it was the sort of narrative that postmodernists competed in rubbishing. To some extent, such developments were healthy: the story of Christianity-begets-humanism had become complacent, unconsidered, stale. Clumsy versions of it had to be cleared away. But what other story do we have? If we do not tell this story, we have no serious story to tell about the nature and origin of our values. We either imply that they arise naturally, if people are rational (which is false), or we evade the issue altogether.

Our task is to find new freshness in this story. Only so can our shared creed be solidified, built up.

Will this task fall to Christians? To a large extent yes (semi-Christian agnostics might lend a hand, and so might Jews and others). But such Christians must defy the majority Christian view, which disparages secular humanism. The relationship between secular humanism and Christianity is inevitably tense. For secular humanism has an air of superiority: it is a non-religious form of moral universalism, and this allows it to be more fully universalist, in that it overlooks religious difference in asserting fundamental human unity. Of course this makes Christians wary: this creed seems to imply that religion is superseded, exposed as limited, divisive. But Christians should resist this reaction. The proper Christian attitude to secular humanism is to affirm it as the right public ideology, but to say that it is nevertheless thin, that it has no strong account of life’s meaning and purpose, but gravitates to an evasive shrug. It cannot say why we should affirm this moral universalism; it does not understand that this vision derives from the thicker narrative of religion. In other words, the right public (or political) ideology is necessarily thin. So the Christian should think on two levels: secular humanism is the right public creed, for the unifying of a diverse nation, and yet Christianity is very much still needed, as it provides meaning on a deeper level.
humanism  secularity  Christianity 
june 2017 by ayjay
How do you sell God in the 21st century? More heaven, less hell | Meghan O’Gieblyn | News | The Guardian
One of the biggest lessons of the past week, he began by saying, was that “evil is alive and well”. It was the first time I’d heard the word from his pulpit. He proposed that the evil we’d experienced was not limited to the men who flew the planes. He alluded to the terrorists’ accomplices and the people in other countries who were shown celebrating the tragedy. The pastor paused for a moment, and then said, “Let’s bring it close to home – what about the evil in me? Because boy, I felt it this week.” Hybels described his own anger when he was watching the news footage, his immediate craving for revenge. “What is it in us that makes some of us want others to pay a hundred times over for the wrong done to us?” he asked. “Well, that would be evil, and I felt it in me. Did you feel it in you?” With regard to the military response, he argued that Jesus’s teaching to not repay evil with evil was just as relevant at a national level. The vindictive rage we felt watching the attacks from our kitchen televisions was the same emotion that was creating hell all over the world.

I don’t know what prompted Hybels to diverge from the market-tested optimism that day, but it was a powerful sermon – people at Moody were talking about it all week. At the time, I didn’t appreciate just how radical it was. In speaking about his own capacity for revenge and hatred, he had opened up a possibility, a way of talking about evil that felt relevant and transformative. It wasn’t fire and brimstone; it wasn’t condemning the sinner as some degenerate Other. Rather, he was challenging his congregation to exercise empathy in a way that Jesus might have, suggesting that he among us without sin should cast the first stone. (Two weeks later he invited Imam Faisal Hammouda to speak at the Sunday service – an act that led to a huge backlash. People began to find tolerance tedious).
Christianity  violence  evil 
april 2017 by ayjay
The Beginning for the American Church – In a State of Migration – Medium
The data bears out as well that poor Liberal Protestant retention is the actual direct source of the growing unclaimed population. Pew Research finds that only about 45% of people born into Mainline denominations remain there today, vs. 65% for Evangelical Protestants, 59% for Catholics, 53% for Orthodox, 70% for historically black protestants. Jews, Muslims, and Hindus all have higher retention, while Buddhists and Jehovah’s Witnesses are quite low. Of those raised in each group, Mainline Protestant kids are the 3rd most likely to end up Unaffiliated, at 26%, behind Jehovah’s Witnesses (35%) and Buddhists (40%). Evangelical and Black Protestants are the least likely to become unaffiliated. So, yes, it really is the collapse of mainline denominations that gives rise to the large unclaimed or unaffiliated population and, to a lesser extent, reaffiliation by Catholics. For Millennials, just 37% of Mainline-raised remain in the Mainline, vs. 61% for evangelical protestants.

So to be clear: this isn’t just a question of demographic transition and aging. This is a question of some denominations doing systematically worse at retaining and attracting people over the last few generations.
Christianity  church  from instapaper
april 2017 by ayjay
Reclaim Human Rights by Mary Ann Glendon | Articles | First Things
Reno is certainly right that conditions for dialogue are often poor or nonexistent. He writes, “our moment calls for witness not dialogue.” But why not witness plus dialogue, at least whenever dialogue is possible? As Richard Neuhaus wrote in The Naked Public Square, unless our “engagement moves toward dialogue, we will continue to collaborate, knowingly or not, in discrediting the public responsibility of religion. . . . We will discredit it by giving a monopoly on religiously informed political action to the most strident moral majoritarians who show few signs of understanding the problems and promises inherent in the American experiment.”

As for human rights, my inclination is to say that a concept of human rights properly understood is still well worth promoting, and need not detract from the political responsibilities that Reno rightly says have been neglected. Why not do both? I see no reason why church leaders should cease promoting Christian understandings of human rights in public settings as a way of promoting justice, morality, and the common good. To do so would be to leave the field to those who use human rights as a mere pretext for imposing the views of the powerful upon the weak.
politics  Christianity  religion 
april 2017 by ayjay
Moral Minority | Patrick J. Deneen
“Politics will not save us,” Dreher concludes. Perhaps—but in the absence of a good polity, it’s unlikely a healthy culture can be cultivated and sustained. The monasteries were not only religious institutions, but also served as the center of political life for many medieval towns, with abbots functioning as civic as well as religious leaders. The Church was the source of Christian culture in no small part because she developed systems of law and courts, in addition to rules and practices governing markets. Aristotle understood that law and culture, like ethics and politics, must be mutually reinforcing. (One of the marked shortcomings of MacIntyre has always been his greater attentiveness to Aristotle’s Ethics than to his Politics, a reflection of MacIntyre’s Marxism rather than his Catholicism.)

Christianity is inevitably political. If Christians are to eschew Washington, D.C., as a lost cause, they should not imagine they can just build familial monasteries. Instead, we need to focus on our town and city halls, our neighborhood associations, seeking to foster the kinds of communities where our children can—and will—roam the fields again. At some scale, however small, the moral minority must become a majority again.
politics  Christianity  BenOp  from instapaper
march 2017 by ayjay
Paris Review - William Gaddis, The Art of Fiction No. 101
INTERVIEWER: To have a more detailed look at the novels now. The Recognitions takes its title from Recognitions, a work attributed to St. Clement of Rome. The Wyatt Gwyon of your novel is thus a Clement figure with a dispersed family—there are many more dispersed families in the novel—and with a story that becomes a dialogue between pagan and Christian ideologies, and becomes a search for salvation, to mention the most obvious parallels. What was your main intention in introducing a Clement figure into the twentieth century, in a story that starts a few years after the First World War and takes place mainly at the turn of the decades of the forties and fifties?

GADDIS: We come back to the Faust story and to the original Clementine Recognitions, which has been called the first Christian novel (I remember thinking mine was going to be the last one), about his search for salvation, redemption, and so forth. And I had these notions of basing The Recognitions on the constant presence of the past and of its imposition of myth in different forms that eventually come down to the same stories in any culture. I think they titled the Italian edition The Pilgrim or The Pilgrimage or something like that. In a sense it is that: a pilgrimage toward salvation.
fiction  Christianity 
february 2017 by ayjay
The Problem of Populism and the Promise of a Christian Politics – Opinion – ABC Religion & Ethics (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
Increasingly, European Christians seem to have gone back to defining their politics as neither right nor left but personalist - which is to say, based on an anthropology which regards the soul, relationality and human dignity as irreducible, in contrast either to a cult of pure individual rights or an outright denial of human dignity altogether.

So at no time in the recent past has it more looked as if a distinctly Christian politics were once more emerging, in an echo of the Christendom politics of the 1930s, even though this can also be a politics that appeals to the adherents of other faiths or to spiritually sensitive secular people.

It would seem clear that Christians cannot be content with a now challenged liberalism, whether economic or cultural. On the other hand, they have to regard with horror any atavistic or even neo-fascist alternative. The issue here is: how do we both respect people's right to their own identity and yet the need for universal human community?
Europe  Brexit  Christianity  from instapaper
february 2017 by ayjay
Harvey Cox’s Radicalism
Cox explored many of these arguments in his earlier works, including The Secular City, in which he argued that the rise of capitalism bred its own form of viral secularism. For Cox, it is capitalism itself that has parted Christians from some of their oldest convictions, with its culture, its economic and political norms, displacing religion as an organizing principle in the societies it governs. Whereas Weber saw capitalism as born out of the same worldly and disciplined tendencies of Protestant thought, Cox believed that capitalism ultimately marks a break from the communitarian and egalitarian impulses of Christianity.

In The Market as God, there is less of the optimism that gave Cox’s early work its buoyant expectations for the future. Perhaps what contemporary Christians need, Cox concludes, is less retrofitting and more recovery of early Christian values. “God is the original creator of all,” he argues, and “God’s purpose in putting people in charge of his wealth…is to meet the needs of all human beings.” This simple, ancient Christian notion has all the makings of the kind of liberation theology that could overcome the Vatican’s critique: It is both thoroughly orthodox and yet also entirely radical, and it brings the liberatory possibilities of the Gospel into our own communities. “We as human beings constructed [the market],” Cox writes, “and we can renovate, dismantle, or transform it if we want to.”
capitalism  Christianity  religion  from instapaper
january 2017 by ayjay
Communion of Love: Thomas Merton and Liturgical Reform – Opinion – ABC Religion & Ethics (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
But Merton also frequently expresses frustration with the willingness with which progressives were willing to rid the liturgy of that which had timeless value. Merton's frustrations come through clearly in a 1965 letter to an Anglican: "As I tell all my Anglican friends, 'I hope you will have the sense to maintain traditions that we are now eagerly throwing overboard'." He is particularly concerned about the ease with which Latin and Gregorian chant were being abandoned, even in the monastery:

"The monks cannot understand the treasure they possess, and they throw it out to look for something else, when seculars, who for the most part are not even Christians, are able to love this incomparable art."

And yet, the Merton who complains often about the loss of the Latin and who describes the English translations as "unbearably trite," is the same Merton who experimented with small group liturgies with nuns at his hermitage in 1967, describing one of these liturgies as "really groovy."
liturgy  worship  church  Christianity  from instapaper
december 2016 by ayjay
The Contarini Angle | Books and Culture
Some Protestants, including this one, will ask whether Eire has adequately captured the essence of Protestant spiritualty. After accurately describing the insistence of Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and other Protestants on predestination and justification by faith alone through grace alone, Eire concludes that Protestant piety "focused on an omnipresent, omniscient male deity who needed no intermediaries and favored no location in particular over another." Yes, in part. But as the book's own inclusion of Lucas Cranach's 1555 Weimar altarpiece illustrates, with blood from Christ on the cross pouring onto a Bible held open by Martin Luther, the main replacement in Protestant piety for Catholic saints, Mary, pilgrimages, and the like was an active Christology.

Protestant life, in admitted tension with some aspects of Protestant theology, throve on hymnody, like Luther's "were not the right Man on our side … . You ask who that may be? Christ Jesus it is he." Theocentric speculation regularly took flesh in Christ-centered exposition, as when Calvin discoursed so memorably in The Institutes of the Christian Religion on Christ as prophet, priest, and king. An ever-present Christ, and not a distant deity, inspired Anabaptists as an example to follow even through the fire. The same emphasis long endured as the heart of Protestant popular piety, as in the Heidelberg's Catechism assurance that "my only comfort, in life and death [is] that I belong … not to myself, but to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ." Protestants may have reduced the number of spiritual intermediaries, but the One who remained was far from cold, remote, or simply controlling.
history  reformation  church  Christianity 
november 2016 by ayjay
Literal interpretation of Bible 'helps increase church attendance'
Among the key findings are:

• Only 50% of clergy from declining churches agreed it was “very important to encourage non-Christians to become Christians”, compared to 100% of clergy from growing churches.
• 71% of clergy from growing churches read the Bible daily compared with 19% from declining churches.
• 46% of people attending growing churches read the Bible once a week compared with 26% from declining churches.
• 93% of clergy and 83% of worshippers from growing churches agreed with the statement “Jesus rose from the dead with a real flesh-and-blood body leaving behind an empty tomb”. This compared with 67% of worshippers and 56% of clergy from declining churches.
• 100% of clergy and 90% of worshippers agreed that “God performs miracles in answer to prayers”, compared with 80% of worshippers and 44% of clergy from declining churches.

The study also found that about two-thirds of congregations at growing churches were under the age of 60, whereas two-thirds of congregations at declining churches were over 60.
church  Christianity  from instapaper
november 2016 by ayjay
Benedict XVI’s Last Testament and his theological legacy – Covenant
Well, I can now pray the breviary deeply and slowly and thereby deepen my friendship with the Psalms, with the Fathers. And every Sunday … I compose a little homily. I let my thoughts be orientated towards that over the whole course of the week, so they mature slowly, so I can sound out a text from many different angles. What is it saying to me? What is it saying to the people here in the monastery? That is what is actually new, if I may put it so: tuning in to the prayer of the Psalms with even more silence, making myself more familiar with it. And in this way the texts of the liturgy, above all the Sunday readings, accompany me throughout the week.
prayer  Christianity 
november 2016 by ayjay
The Remarkable Mr. Graham | Christianity Today
We can’t say that Graham changed US political history as Lyndon Johnson or Martin Luther King Jr., did. But he did change Americans’ lives in important ways. On most things political, he pointed in a progressive direction.

On the landmark issue of civil rights, for example, Graham showed uneven but unmistakable progress. The youthful Graham—reared in the South—accepted segregation. But in the late 1940s, his conscience awakened. In the early 1950s, he took a succession of bold stands, despite withering attacks. In the early 1960s, unsettled by Black Power and disorder in the streets, he backed off. Temperamentally, he always preferred orderly process. But by the mid-1970s, he would embrace—or re-embrace—the goals, if not always the tactics, of the civil rights movement.

In 1982, in the patriarchal cathedral in Moscow, Graham said that he had undergone three conversions in his life: to Christ, to racial justice, and to nuclear disarmament. It was a long journey. Once a strident Cold War hawk, the mature Graham carried the torch for de-militarization on both sides of the Iron Curtain. He preached that civilization was on the brink of destroying itself. This move took enormous courage in an age when most Americans, not to mention most evangelicals, remained fearful of Soviet intentions.

When the culture wars arrived in the late 1970s, Graham resisted. He agreed with some of the Christian Right’s positions, but he also said its leaders didn’t talk enough about poverty and hunger. Besides, the pulpit should not become a soapbox. Graham insisted that there was a difference between partisan politics, which served the interests of the Democratic or the Republican Parties, and moral politics, which served the interests of the nation and of the world.

Graham’s mistakes in the political realm remind evangelicals that they dare not place anyone on a pedestal. He fell into dogged support for particular presidents, especially Nixon. Graham defended the president’s stand on the Vietnam War and on Watergate long after most Americans had given up on both causes. The press called him the “White House Chaplain.”
evangelical  Christianity 
november 2016 by ayjay
Nicholas Wolterstorff’s Cheap Shots | Wesley Hill | First Things
Clearly, there exists in the church today the possibility of genuine, reasoned, substantive debate over the rightness of same-sex marriage. Some of the most humane and beautiful Christian writing I’ve read in recent years has come from same-sex-marriage advocates like the Episcopalian Eugene Rogers and the British feminist theologian Sarah Coakley. And that’s why Wolterstorff’s lecture is particularly dismaying: By firing cheap shots and caricaturing the traditional views he hopes to overturn, he hampers a debate whose depth and maturity could be further deepened.

Several years ago, a Reformed scholar hoping to overturn some aspects of his tradition’s doctrine of God wrote these words:
I regularly tell my students that I will not allow them to take cheap shots against the tradition; they have to earn their right to disagree by working through the tradition and understanding it at its deepest level. Every now and then when they do take what I regard as cheap shots I say to them: “Would you still say what you just said if Augustine were sitting right across the table from you?” Or Anselm, or Aquinas, or Calvin? In short, it is our duty to honor those forebears in the Christian tradition.

The scholar who wrote those words was Nicholas Wolterstorff. Would that, in his case for same-sex marriage, he had heeded his own counsel.
sexuality  theology  Christianity 
november 2016 by ayjay
Homosexuality & The Church | Commonweal Magazine
I have little patience with efforts to make Scripture say something other than what it says, through appeals to linguistic or cultural subtleties. The exegetical situation is straightforward: we know what the text says. But what are we to do with what the text says? We must state our grounds for standing in tension with the clear commands of Scripture, and include in those grounds some basis in Scripture itself. To avoid this task is to put ourselves in the very position that others insist we already occupy—that of liberal despisers of the tradition and of the church’s sacred writings, people who have no care for the shared symbols that define us as Christian. If we see ourselves as liberal, then we must be liberal in the name of the gospel, and not, as so often has been the case, liberal despite the gospel.

I think it important to state clearly that we do, in fact, reject the straightforward commands of Scripture, and appeal instead to another authority when we declare that same-sex unions can be holy and good. And what exactly is that authority? We appeal explicitly to the weight of our own experience and the experience thousands of others have witnessed to, which tells us that to claim our own sexual orientation is in fact to accept the way in which God has created us. By so doing, we explicitly reject as well the premises of the scriptural statements condemning homosexuality—namely, that it is a vice freely chosen, a symptom of human corruption, and disobedience to God’s created order.
sexuality  theology  bible  interpretation  Christianity 
october 2016 by ayjay
Archbishop Chaput’s Address at the University of Notre Dame 2016 Bishops’ Symposium, “Reclaiming the Church for the Catholic Imagination.” – Archdiocese of Philadelphia
Here’s another example:  A theologian in my own diocese recently listed “inclusivity” as one of the core messages of Vatican II.  Yet to my knowledge, that word “inclusivity” didn’t exist in the 1960s and appears nowhere in the council documents. 

If by “inclusive” we mean patiently and sensitively inviting all people to a relationship with Jesus Christ, then yes, we do very much need to be inclusive. But if “inclusive” means including people who do not believe what the Catholic faith teaches and will not reform their lives according to what the Church holds to be true, then inclusion is a form of lying. And it’s not just lying but an act of betrayal and violence against the rights of those who do believe and do seek to live according to God’s Word. Inclusion requires conversion and a change of life; or at least the sincere desire to change.

Saying this isn’t a form of legalism or a lack of charity. It’s simple honesty. And there can be no real charity without honesty. We need to be very careful not to hypnotize ourselves with our words and dreams. The “new evangelization” is fundamentally not so different from the “old evangelization.” It begins with personal witness and action, and with sincere friendships among committed Catholics—not with bureaucratic programs or elegant sounding plans. These latter things can be important. But they’re never the heart of the matter.

When I was ordained a bishop, a wise old friend told me that every bishop must be part radical and part museum curator – a radical in preaching and living the Gospel, but a protector of the Christian memory, faith, heritage and story that weave us into one believing people over the centuries.

I try to remember that every day.
Catholic  Christianity 
october 2016 by ayjay
50 Years Ago Today: The Split Between John Stott and Martyn Lloyd-Jones
(1) Historically, they argued that the constitutional basis of the Church of England was Protestant and Reformed, seen in the Reformation formularies like the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion and the Book of Common Prayer. So evangelicals held the legal “title deeds” to the Church of England, and the liberals and catholics should get out, not them.

(2) Biblically, they argued that many New Testament churches were doctrinally confused or morally compromised, like the church in Corinth which was muddled about the resurrection, or the church in Sardis which numbered only “a few” godly people (Revelation 3:4). But believers in those churches are told to hold fast to the gospel, and to fight against false teachers, not to leave the church and set up a new one.

(3) Pragmatically, Stott and his friends argued that the Church of England provided many gospel opportunities for evangelicals, and that it would be a dereliction of duty to hand over their pulpits to unbelieving clergy. What then would become of their congregations?
Anglican  evangelical  Christianity  from instapaper
october 2016 by ayjay
The End of Christendom | Eamon Duffy
Yet one may well feel that whether in Gregory’s stark dissection of the leading ideas of Protestantism as the unwitting corrosive which dissolved the moral and religious coherence of Christendom, or in Eire’s more hesitant and nuanced analysis, there is something left unsaid. The principle of sola scriptura and Protestantism’s consequent inability to arrive at workable criteria to determine Christian orthodoxy certainly contributed to the breakdown of Christendom and the emergence of a secular society. But so too did the repressive authoritarianism of post-Tridentine Catholicism, the emergence of a Catholic ecclesiology inimical to true communitas by its overemphasis on clerical power and centralized authority, and the acceptance into Catholic theology, philosophy, and anthropology of a dualistic Cartesianism every bit as inimical to the medieval intellectual and moral synthesis (if such a thing can be said to have existed) as anything that emerged from Wittenberg or Geneva.
history  reformation  Christianity  from instapaper
october 2016 by ayjay
A Few Thoughts on “Purity Culture”
Confessional, orthodox evangelicals have a moral obligation to correct where the “purity culture” has abused, shamed, and alienated. We have a vested interest in holding the truth with love, in preaching a gospel where Jesus died and rose again, not so that our sex lives could be spotless but so that we could be accepted by God when they’re not. There is a moral imperative on evangelical Christians to teach what the Bible says about sexuality through a lens of redemption and wholeness, not through a lens of “Don’t mess this up or you’ll regret it.”

But at the same time, how can we do this if the voices setting the agenda are ones that fundamentally reject what Christianity teaches about the ultimate meaning of sex, marriage, gender, and even love? Healing those who were wounded by oppressive legalism and graceless shaming requires healing them with something, and that “something” has to be more than a narrative of autonomy and self-authentication. Trading in the purity culture for the hook-up culture isn’t a win.
ethics  sexuality  Christianity  from instapaper
september 2016 by ayjay
All the East is Moving by Tom Holland | Articles | First Things
The conceit that secular liberal democracy embodies an ideal that can transcend its origins in the specific cultural and religious traditions of Europe, and lay claim to a universal legitimacy, is one that has served the continent well. It has helped to heal the grievous wounds inflicted by the calamities of the first half of the twentieth century; to integrate large numbers of people from beyond the borders of Europe; and to provide a degree of equality for women and minorities. What do the sanguinary fantasies of either Breivik or of the jihadists who twice in 2015 brought carnage to the streets of Paris have that can compare? Only one thing, perhaps: a capacity to excite those who find the pieties of Europe’s liberal society boring. The more of these there are, the more—inevitably—the framework for behavior and governance that has prevailed in Western Europe since the end of the Second World War will come under strain. In question is whether the large numbers of migrants who have no familiarity with the norms of a secular and liberal society such as have evolved in a country like Germany will find them appealing enough to adopt; and whether native Europeans, confronted by a vast influx of people from a different cultural background, will themselves be tempted to abandon liberal values, and reach for a Holy Lance.

Otto the Great, despite the brutality with which he trampled down the Hungarians on the plain of the Lech, never doubted that migrants from beyond the limits of Christendom could be integrated into his realm. Baptism offered any pagans who wished to take their place among the ranks of the Christian people a ready entry visa. The defeated Hungarians were not alone in accepting it. In France and England, so did Viking chieftains cornered by their adversaries, and offered lands if they would only bow their necks to Christ. The forefathers of those same Normans who conquered Sicily back from Islam had been worshippers of Odin. Today, though, in a Europe that has ceased to be Christendom, no ritual comparable to baptism exists—nor could possibly exist. The nearest equivalents may be the classes given in Norway to refugees about the principle of sexual consent, or the cards issued by the Austrian government to migrants advising them that it is perfectly permissible for two men to kiss. Whether these rituals will inspire new arrivals to do as the Hungarians and Vikings did, and abandon the convictions and conventions of their homelands, only time will tell. If ideas of freedom and tolerance fail to gain universal acceptance, it may once again become necessary to acknowledge explicitly the Christian faith that was their wellspring and may yet prove to be their mainstay.
Europe  Christianity  history 
july 2016 by ayjay
If the Church Were a Haven | Wesley Hill
This week marks the one-year anniversary of Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court decision that guaranteed same-sex couples the right to marry. In its own way, as I’ve remarked here before, Obergefell too was about that same solidarity, that same elusive ideal of sanctuary. Many gay and lesbian Americans interpreted the Court’s decision as one in which the United States “found, at last, a name for [the gay] soul,” as Jonathan Rauch has memorably put it. That name was “not monster or eunuch. Nor indeed homosexual. It is: husband [or wife].” Future generations will perhaps telescope these two events in poignant juxtaposition: Both Pulse and the SCOTUS ruling are symbols of what gay and lesbian people have long had to seek without finding, the havens they have come to rely on.

But the question that haunts me in Orlando’s wake is this: What if Pulse—what if even Obergefell—hadn’t needed to be a haven in quite that way? What if gay and lesbian people, despite always being a minority population, had never needed to face bullying, discrimination, and hatred? What if their loves had not been scorned or overlooked for not being marriage, so that not having marriage wasn’t the liability it so often is in our contemporary culture? (Thinking counterfactually like this gets complicated, I realize: If there had been no discrimination or indifference from the majority who proudly positioned themselves as “straight,” would there even be a “gay community” as such?) Not that Pulse wouldn’t still exist, but what if it hadn’t needed to exist in the same way? What if, in other words, any club could have been a haven and a sanctuary? What if sanctuaries themselves—the Christian churches—had been the havens?
sexuality  Christianity  from instapaper
june 2016 by ayjay
Samuel Taylor Bloggeridge: Luther's Guitar: 'The Eolian Harp' (1796)
Coleridge never really gave up being an Anglican. It's true he was friendly with, and strongly influenced by, some of the country's most prominent Unitarians. Nonetheless, to read the 'Revealed Religion' lectures is to be struck by how wholly that influence fed into Coleridge's politics, and how little into his (for want of a better word) metaphysics. He certainly wasn't a 'Trinitarian', and the lectures include several sharp criticisms of prominent trinitarian theologians, like John Hey. But although it doesn't exactly misrepresent STC to call him a Unitarian at this time, it also oversimplifies his position. In a letter from this time to his friend the Rev. John Prior Estlin he wrote that his 'confessio fidei ... as far as regards the Doctrine of the Trinity' was one of 'negative Unitarianism, a non liquet concerning the nature & being of Christ'. There was never a time in the whole of Coleridge's evolving religious life when he considered Christ to be just a particularly moral and excellent man and teacher, as Unitarianism suggests; Coleridge never let go of his sense that, in some mysterious way, Christ was God.
criticism  Christianity 
june 2016 by ayjay
Tomorrow’s Headlines - Dale Kuehne
Yesterday’s discussions were about sexual morality and marriage. Tomorrow’s discussions are about human identity and purpose. If anyone wishes to revisit yesterday’s discussions, the road goes through tomorrow’s discussions on identity.

So let’s begin. I believe the prevailing cultural notion of identity, as something each of us can only discover by looking within ourselves is logically flawed. I do not believe it is possible for any of us to understand who we are merely by looking within because none of us can know who we are without a reference point outside of ourselves. The question we face concerns not whether we require reference points outside of ourselves, but which ones. Teaching needs to include the examination of external reference points to help people avoid getting lost in the abyss of the self.

If I am right, then our regime is wrong. If the regime is wrong then the consequences for ourselves, our children and coming generations is enormous. If the regime is wrong then we are embarking on a course that is destined to fail by teaching something about identity we know not to be true: that the only way we can figure out who we are is to look exclusively within.
identity  self  Christianity  ethics 
may 2016 by ayjay
'Being Disciples' - 2007 Fulcrum Conference Address
Our attentiveness is not just a kind of aesthetic attitude, an appreciation of beauty. It is also a willingness to bring an active and transfiguring love into that situation of expectancy, to keep company so that an action and a relationship may come to being. So, being a disciple means being in his company, learning stillness and attentiveness, expectancy, being willing to go when Jesus is going and to be in the company of those he's in company with, letting the action come through and the relation be made; letting his action come through us as the Father's act comes through him. Finally what seems to be suggested by these reflections upon the biblical identity of the disciple is that our discipleship in the company of Jesus is a trinitarian mode of life that is imbedded in the relationship of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit: that is, it is a contemplative mode of life (not in the sense that we might all become Carthusian hermits, tempting as that often appears); but that we've all got to grow into what I'll call a 'mature stillness', a poise and an openness to others and the world, so that thirdly, it can also be a transformative mode of living in which the act of God can come through so as to change ourselves, our immediate environment, our world.

A trinitarian living, a contemplative living, a transformative living: no opposition here (as there isn't in the fourth gospel) between contemplation and action. (And we do need to say that: it's one of the awful clichés that Christians have sometimes been trapped by: what matters more, contemplation or action? Perhaps the only answer to that is: just try and think of contemplation without action or action without contemplation, and you realize you're drawing up a charter for really sterile, and potentially even destructive, human living.) Hold them together – contemplation as your openness to the real roots of transforming action – and maybe it doesn't look like quite such a stand-off.
Christianity  contemplation 
may 2016 by ayjay
The Self-Defeating Sexualization of Gay and Same-Sex Attracted Christians | Spiritual Friendship
Some straight Christians seem to view everything we bring to our churches solely through the lens of our sexuality. I just heard a couple heartbreaking stories from friends who were told that the abuse they had suffered, or their struggles with addiction, were the result of their homosexuality. I’ve had friends whose pastors assessed friendships and other relationships solely on the basis of whether they helped the friend remain chaste—as if chastity were the only virtue, and friendship was a sort of chastity accountability partnership. Basically, gay people are sometimes treated as if all our experiences are unusually sexually-charged, and all our relationships are either a) focused solely on chastity, or b) near occasions of sin.

This sexualization harms us (and our churches) in a lot of ways.

It makes gay or same-sex attracted people afraid of intimacy, because every close relationship with someone of the same sex could be a temptation to sexual sin. It leads us to doubt God’s love for us, because we’re set apart from other Christians, treated as eternal outsiders no matter how much we strive to prove ourselves. (It can make our relationship with God and with the church become all about proving ourselves, or proving our chastity, rather than helping us trust that God and church are there for us when we fail.) It can lead us to ignore other sins and temptations we experience, such as temptations to despair or to self-righteousness.

It reduces us to our sexuality, which is dehumanizing.
sexuality  Christianity 
april 2016 by ayjay
'Do Not Be Afraid': Trust in God and the Politics of Fear – Opinion – ABC Religion & Ethics (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
"Jesus does not fear Herod, but the Herods of this world fear Jesus. They fear Jesus because Jesus challenges the presumption that tyrants like Herod are necessary to make us safe. They promise us protection by threatening anyone they think may tell us the truth. That truth being that we live in a dangerous world in which reliance on those who promise safety only makes the world more dangerous.

It turns out, therefore, that the people who are the offspring of Abram are a political alternative to the politics of fear. In a metaphor loved by Luther Jesus tells us he is our brood hen. He has gathered us under his wings. To be so gathered does not mean that we will be free of dangers. We do live in a dangerous world. But we can trust God to keep his promises. That God has kept his promises makes it possible for us, his people, to face down the fears that would make us less than we have been made in Christ."
Christianity  politics  church  from instapaper
march 2016 by ayjay
The American Scholar: I Will Love You in the Summertime - Christian Wiman
Twenty years ago, while watching some television report about depression and religion—I forget the relationship but apparently there was one—a friend who was entirely secular asked me with genuine curiosity and concern, “Why do they believe in something that doesn’t make them happy?” I was an ambivalent atheist at that point, beset with an inchoate loneliness and endless anxieties, contemptuous of Christianity but addicted to its aspirations and art. I was also chained fast to the rock of poetry, having my liver pecked out by the bird of a harrowing and apparently absurd ambition—and thus had some sense of what to say. One doesn’t follow God in hope of happiness but because one senses—miserable flimsy little word for that beak in your bowels—a truth that renders ordinary contentment irrelevant. There are some hungers that only an endless commitment to emptiness can feed, and the only true antidote to the plague of modern despair is an absolute, and perhaps even annihilating, awe. “I asked for wonders instead of happiness, Lord,” writes the Jewish theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel. “And you gave them to me.”
religion  Christianity  atheism 
february 2016 by ayjay
Walker Percy Interviews Walker Percy - Q Ideas
Q: What kind of Catholic are you?
A. Bad.

Q: No. I mean are you liberal or conservative?
A: I no longer know what those words mean.

Q: Are you a dogmatic Catholic or an open-minded Catholic?
A: I don’t know what that means, either. Do you mean do I believe the dogma that the Catholic Church proposes for belief?

Q: Yes.
A: Yes.

Q: How is such a belief possible in this day and age?
A: What else is there?

Q: What do you mean, what else is there? There is humanism, atheism, agnosticism, Marxism, behaviorism, materialism, Buddhism, Muhammadanism, Sufism, astrology, occultism, theosophy.
A: That’s what I mean.

Q: To say nothing of Judaism and Protestantism.
A: Well, I would include them along with the Catholic Church in the whole peculiar Jewish-Christian thing.

Q: I don’t understand. Would you exclude, for example, scientific humanism as a rational and honorable alternative?
A: Yes.

Q: Why?
A: It’s not good enough.

Q: Why not?
A: This life is too much trouble, far too strange, to arrive at the end of it and then to be asked what you make of it and have to answer “Scientific humanism.” That won’t do. A poor show. Life is a mystery, love is a delight. Therefore I take it as axiomatic that one should settle for nothing less than the infinite mystery and the infinite delight, i.e., God. In fact I demand it. I refuse to settle for anything less. I don’t see why anyone should settle for less than Jacob, who actually grabbed aholt of God and would not let go until God identified himself and blessed him.

Q: Grabbed aholt?
A: A Louisiana expression.
Christianity  Catholic 
february 2016 by ayjay
Revisiting "The Secularization of the Academy" | Books and Culture | James Turner
Vigorous though the latter debate was, it is unclear to me today how much it mattered. Religion has won a certain autonomy in the secular academy. More scholars now than two decades ago treat faith as a first-order phenomenon that cannot be reduced to biology or sociology. But Christian professors (in contrast, say, to feminist ones) have not proven adept at drawing on Christianity to propose new methodologies or fresh lines of research in their disciplines. Nor have Christian colleges and universities spent much capital egging them on. Such Christian scholarship as exists today (beyond biblical and theological studies) lies in the humanities and humanistic social sciences. (Methodist astronomy, anyone?) And arguments around it have lately been drowned out by wailing over the “crisis” of the humanities.

If all humanistic learning is to give way to scientific research and technical training, what’s the point in arguing about the Christian piece of it? The fascinating debate set off by The Secularization of the Academy begins to seem a relic of a moment that has flown.
humanities  Christianity  scholarship 
january 2016 by ayjay
'An End to Every War': The Politics of the Eucharist and the Work of Peace | William Cavanaugh
According to Augustine, real unity can only be the product of participation in God's life - human unity is not for its own sake, but for restoring unity with God. Unity among people in the earthly city is only the product of communal self-love. We see today in liberal secular social orders how, in the absence of anything else to unite us, the nation itself can become the object of devotion, and people kill - and try to avoid dying - for the flag.

For Augustine, this is simply idolatry. True sacrifice can never be the immolation of a victim, making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country. True sacrifice is nothing other than the unity of people with one another through the participation in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Christ's sacrifice reverses the idea that one must achieve domination over the enemy to achieve unity. Christ instead takes on the role of victim, absorbs the violence of the world instead of deals it out, and thereby offers a world in which reconciliation rather than violence can hold sway.

This is why the Eucharist is the antidote to war for Augustine. In the Eucharist, the whole economy of scarcity and competition that leads to war is done away with. Augustine makes clear that God does not need to be appeased as the Roman gods do. God is abundance, not lack, so participation in God's life in the body of Christ does away with competition over scarce goods among people. True sacrifice is unity, and true unity is the participation of the human community in God's life. As Augustine writes:
"the true sacrifices are acts of compassion, whether towards ourselves or towards our neighbours, when they are directed towards God; and acts of compassion are intended to free us from misery and thus to bring us to happiness - which is only attained by the good of which it has been said, 'As for me, my true good is to cling to God'. This being so, it immediately follows that the whole redeemed community ... is offered to God as a universal sacrifice."

This occurs most especially in the Eucharist. Augustine goes on to say:
"This is the sacrifice of Christians, who are 'many, making up one body in Christ'. This is the sacrifice which the Church continually celebrates in the sacrament of the altar ... where it is shown to the Church that she herself is offered in the offering which she presents to God."
theology  Christianity  war 
january 2016 by ayjay
What does the Primates’ Statement mean? | Psephizo
But the process has also reflected Justin Welby’s commitment to reconciliation and the importance of remaining in relationship with those with whom we disagree. It is worth revisiting his words in Monday’s opening address:

All of us here need a body that is mutually supportive, that loves one another, that stoops to lift the fallen and kneels to bind the wounds of the injured. Without each other we are deeply weakened, because we have a mission that is only sustainable when we conform to the image of Christ, which is first to love one another. The idea is often put forward that truth and unity are in conflict, or in tension. That is not true. Disunity presents to the world an untrue image of Jesus Christ. Lack of truth corrodes and destroys unity. They are bound together, but the binding is love. In a world of war, of rapid communications, of instant hearing and misunderstanding where the response is only hatred and separation, the Holy Spirit whose creative and sustaining gifting of the church is done in diversity, demands that diversity of history, culture, gift, vision be expressed in a unity of love. That is what a Spirit filled church looks like.

These are challenging words, particularly to evangelicals. When push comes to shove, evangelicals have often claimed that truth is more important than unity. Welby is responding to that, not by saying that, when push comes to shove, unity is more important than truth, but by rejecting the pushing and shoving. John Bingham offers a fair assessment of the statement in his early report. But by suggesting that this represents ‘a partial victory for traditionalists’, he is still operating with the assumption that there are two opposite views, and compromise sits somewhere on a straight line between them. Welby wanted to move the discussion away from that line to a different place altogether.
Anglican  Christianity 
january 2016 by ayjay
J. I. Packer on Aging
How should we view the onset of old age? The common assumption is that it is mainly a process of loss, whereby strength is drained from both mind and body and the capacity to look forward and move forward in life’s various departments is reduced to nothing. . . .

But here the Bible breaks in, highlighting the further thought that spiritual ripeness is worth far more than material wealth in any form, and that spiritual ripeness should continue to increase as one gets older.

The Bible’s view is that aging, under God and by grace, will bring wisdom, that is, an enlarged capacity for discerning, choosing, and encouraging. In Proverbs 1-7 an evidently elderly father teaches realistic moral and spiritual wisdom to his adult but immature son. In Psalm 71 an elderly preacher who has given the best years of his life to teaching the truth about God in the face of much opposition prays as follows:
You, O LORD, are my hope,
my trust, O LORD, from my youth. . . .

Do not cast me off in the time of old age;
forsake me not when my strength is spent. . . .

But I will hope continually
and will praise you yet more and more.
My mouth will tell of your righteous acts,
of your deeds of salvation all the day,
for their number is past my knowledge.
With the mighty deeds of the Lord GOD I will come;
I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone.

O God, from my youth you have taught me,
and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
your power to all those to come. (Ps. 71:5, 9, 14-18)

And Psalm 92:12 and 14 declare:
The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. . . .
They still bear fruit in old age;
they are ever full of sap and green.

This biblical expectation and, indeed, promise of ripeness growing and service of others continuing as we age with God is the substance of the last-lap image of our closing years, in which we finish our course. Runners in a distance race, like jockeys in a horse race, always try to keep something in reserve for a final sprint. And my contention is going to be that, so far as our bodily health allows, we should aim to be found running the last lap of the race of our Christian life, as we would say, flat out. The final sprint, so I urge, should be a sprint indeed.
aging  Christianity  wisdom 
january 2016 by ayjay
Let Wheaton and other Christian colleges be Christian | Tim Larsen
Wheaton College is a covenant community. We faculty members all voluntarily allow our beliefs and practices to be held to account by the standards of this community. We annually affirm the college's statement of faith and agree to abide by the manner of life in its covenant. Prayer, worship, study and work all exist side-by-side in the regular rhythms of our lives on campus. In most people's minds, I think this makes us more like the Abbey of Monte Cassino than the University of Illinois.

Indeed, for some of our most thoroughgoing critics it means that we are not at all like the University of Illinois. A statement of faith, they assert, prohibits academic freedom and thus disqualifies us from being a genuine institution of higher education.

It feels differently from the inside. The vast majority of the professors Wheaton hires come either straight from a Ph.D. program at a major, secular school or from teaching at a secular university. Again and again they revel in the luxurious, newfound academic freedom that Wheaton has granted them: For the first time in their careers they can think aloud in the classroom about the meaning of life and the nature of the human condition without worrying about being accused of violating the separation of church and state or transgressing the taboo against allowing spiritual reflections to wander into a conversation about death or ethics or hope.
wheaton  education  Christianity 
january 2016 by ayjay
Wheaton, Hawkins: Let Us Reason Together, Please | Mark Galli
Is there a better way? We think so, especially when the college’s statement of faith does not specifically address the issue at hand. Wheaton’s statement of faith says nothing about whether Christians and Muslims “worship the same God.” The administration says that the statement is clear enough to reject that idea. Hawkins and friends say there is plenty of room in the statement to affirm it, while also reaffirming their commitment to the uniqueness of Christ. It seems to us that if the matter is, in fact, not clear in the statement, and if members of that college community actually disagree about the interpretation of the statement on this point—well, the place to begin is not by assuming the worst on each side. The college doesn’t have to flex its muscles nor does the accused have to play the martyr. If in fact, there is a point in genuine dispute, does it not make sense, especially at a Christian institution of higher learning, to sit down together and take some time to study?
Christianity  Islam  Wheaton  theology 
january 2016 by ayjay
Noah Toly - Speaking Out on the Current Controversies at Wheaton College
So with regard to the current situation, to the extent that the inadequacy of Dr. Hawkins' response is the rationale for not reinstating her from her administrative leave, I am convinced the decision not to reinstate her was entirely misfit to the circumstances. To the extent that the initiation of termination proceedings emerged from that impasse, then I disagree with that step, as well. As far as I am concerned – and barring the release of information to which we currently do not have access – Dr. Hawkins should be in the classroom when the semester starts on Monday. When my class begins on Tuesday, I will be wearing my regalia in an act of embodied solidarity with her and with any colleagues troubled by the current sense of instability and ambiguity.

I will close with this: Someone asked me yesterday how the events of the past month affect my own relationship with Wheaton College. “I’m an alumnus,” I said, “and I’ve taught here for ten years. I have more than enough reason to love the college even when it lets me down. And loving it sometimes means helping to get things back on track when they go off the rails.” I hope for a resolution that reinstates Dr. Hawkins and initiates a transparent conversation about identity, governance, and process.
[With all the caveats in place that Noah makes throughout his post, I am in complete agreement with this, and I admire his courage in stating his position so clearly and so publicly.]
Christianity  education  politics  Islam  Wheaton 
january 2016 by ayjay
Resurrection? | The Economist
TO SEE the future of Christianity in Britain, go on a Sunday morning to an old Welsh Congregational chapel off the Pentonville Road in Islington. The building has been bought by a Pentecostal Ethiopian church; the congregation raises its hands in a show of unEnglish ecstasy to praise God in Amharic. A few hours later, something unexpected happens. A congregation of mainly white members of the Church of England start their service. This group, known as King’s Cross Church, or KXC, has grown from a handful in 2010 to 500 now.

The first service reflects a well-documented phenomenon: an immigrant-led surge in London churchgoing. Weekly participation in Christian services in the capital has grown by 16% since 2005. Most devout Londoners (88%) worship outside the ranks of the established church whose spires pierce the skyline; about a third are Pentecostal. But the second service shows that even some Anglican churches are bucking the downward trend in membership. London is one of several dioceses within the Church of England that are growing, if only a little (see chart)....

For liberals, the reasons for decline are obvious. “English society and the Church of England have gradually drifted apart in terms of values,” says Linda Woodhead, professor of the sociology of religion at Lancaster University. “This was true over issues like remarriage and the ordination of women, and it’s true of same-sex marriage.” Evangelicals say the church is right not to be swayed by changing social mores. They emphasise being counter-cultural and point out that many churches which are growing run against the liberal flow. “What is dying in England is not Christianity but nominal Anglicanism,” says David Goodhew of Durham University, author of “Church Growth in Britain”. The share of evangelicals in the Church of England rose from 26% to 34% between 1989 and 2005, says Peter Brierley, a church demographer, and could now be nearly 50%.
history  London  Christianity 
january 2016 by ayjay
A Crisis of Conservative Catholicism by Ross Douthat | Articles | First Things
Some of this liberal resilience was always visible; conservatives just tended to close their eyes to it. Many of the legacy institutions of Western Catholicism, the diocesan bureaucracies and national committees and prominent universities and charitable organizations, never reconciled themselves to the John Paul II era, or they went along with it half-heartedly, awaiting a different era and a different pope. And the fact that many conservatives think of some of these institutions as functionally post-Catholic doesn’t make them any less integral to the Church as an organism, a culture. They are part, often a large part, of the Catholic ­experience for the average Mass-goer and Catholic family. (Far more young American Catholics ­graduate from ­colleges and universities “in the Jesuit tradition” than graduate from, say, Thomas Aquinas or Wyoming Catholic College or Christendom or Steubenville.) In that sense, even after three decades and two ­conservative popes, conservative Catholicism is often still a counterculture within important institutions of the Church.
Catholic  Christianity  conservatism 
december 2015 by ayjay
Where Faith is Born: Seeing Ourselves Honestly, Seeing the World Differently – Opinion – ABC Religion & Ethics (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
The truth of God is the most comforting and joyful presence we can imagine; and also the most disorienting and demanding. There is a famous Old Testament story (2 Kings 5) about the great military leader of ancient Israel's fiercest enemy, who comes to the prophet Elisha to be healed of his leprosy; and the prophet tells him simply to wash in the river. He is indignant: surely there must be something more difficult and glamorous and heroic to do? No; it's perfectly simple. Go and wash, go and join all those ordinary humble folk who are sluicing themselves in the river after a long day's work, or beating their laundry against the stones. Go and join the rest of the human race and acknowledge who you are. That's the truest heroism and the hardest.

It is a foreshadowing of the New Testament invitation: repent and believe and be baptised. Turn round and look where you've never looked before, trust the one who is calling you and drop under the water of his overflowing compassion. Be with him. Join the new human race, re-created in the Spirit of mutual love and delight and service.

If Jesus is strange and threatening, isn't that - as the New Testament certainly suggests - a sign of how far we have wandered from real humanity, real honesty about our weaknesses and limits? "I am the great sun, but you do not see me" - the beginning of another wonderful poem, by Charles Causley. We are so fascinated by our own business, whether we call it religious or not, that we find it "hard and bitter agony" to turn away and be still and look at the mystery of love.
theology  spirituality  Christianity 
december 2015 by ayjay
Karl Barth on the Church
Are we then to deduce that we should forget God, lay down our tools, and serve men in the Church – as though there were no Gospel? No, the right conclusion is that, remembering God, we should use our tools, proclaim the Gospel, and submit to the Church, because it is conformed to the kingdom of God. We must not, because we are fully aware of the internal opposition between the Gospel and the Church, hold ourselves aloof from the Church or break up its solidarity; but rather, participating in its responsibility, and sharing the guilt of its inevitable failure, we should accept it and cling to it. — **I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience bearing witness with me in the Holy Ghost, that I have great sorrow and unceasing pain in my heart.** This is the attitude to the Church engendered by the Gospel. He who hears the gospel and proclaims it does not observe the Church from outside. He neither misunderstands it and rejects it, nor understands it and – sympathizes with it. He belongs personally within the Church. But he knows also that the Church means suffering and not triumph.

— from *The Epistle to the Romans*
church  Christianity  Barth  from notes
december 2015 by ayjay
Monastero di Bose - Fifty years
Letter to our friends - Advent 2015

Dear friends and guests and those of you who follow us from afar,

What can we say in these days that mark fifty years from the end of Vatican Council II and from the beginning of our adventure here in Bose? As regard the council, we have no other sentiment except that of thanksgiving to the Lord for the gift he made to the Church of an event the protagonist of which is the Holy Spirit. Thanks to that event, two indications of the Gospel emerged as urgent: visible communion among all Christians baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and listening to all of humanity, even the non-Christian, engaged in other ways of spirituality or inspired by conscience. This has been the authentic and concrete change in the Church’s position in the world’s history. That our own ecumenical monastic way of life in Bose has been possible is due to this event.

As for life in Bose, I am not certain about anything, except that it too has need of the Lord’s mercy. For this reason we do not commemorate and do not celebrate it, not because we want to be different from others, but because we put into the Lord’s hands the way already traveled and tell him repeatedly every day: “Kyrie, eleison!”. We have never wanted to “give witness” here and there, not even here in Bose. We would like to be able to give witness to Christ, the only Lord we recognize, while for ourselves ask from you only prayers and from the Lord his mercy.

We cannot say whether this way of life was willed by the Lord: we hope so. We cannot say whether we do it well or whether we are an obstacle to the Lord: this the Lord himself will say on the day of judgment. We do not know whether to each one of us it will be given to be called blessed, but we have tried to carry out in a human way what seemed to us to be human and not in contradiction to the word of God that we have sought and that we have believed to have found in listening daily to the holy Scriptures.

At the center of all our life is the Lord Jesus, this man who has taught us to live in this world, this man who passed doing only good, this extraordinary man, this man who recounted God in his flesh, his life, his words. He was and is God, truly an ambiguous word, but which for us means truth, eternity, what precedes us, accompanies us, follows us, here and beyond our death. Yes, we love him without having seen him and without seeing him we believe in him who gives sense to our lives, always inadequate in every lived relation, with the men and women that we meet and with him, in whom there is all humanity and all divinity.

When we commemorate him, when we invoke him, when at times we feel able to say with audacity that we live with him, then on our lips rises spontaneously the simplicity of “Kyrie eleison! Lord, have mercy on us!”. And we want to pronounce these words as the voice of those who are not able to express it, crushed by suffering and evil and sin, men and women who find it difficult to live and to hope, poor because needy, the last, anonymous, not recognized… “Lord, have mercy on us!” But we would like to be also the voice of trees that stand near us whispering at the breeze, of animals that cry and sing, of immobile stones that are called only to stand where they are.

Dear friends, for us this is the vocation that we hope to carry to completion when we will ask to be laid on the named earth for our exit from this life to the life forever, to be again together as we have been here, in love, in friendship, in the surprising adventure of meeting…

Pray for us, so that we do not give scandal to anyone and that no one may say that we have been indifferent to them. Pray that we may be freed from the “great temptation”. We pray for you.

br Enzo Bianchi, prior of Bose

Bose, 8 December 2015
50th anniversary of the closure of Vatican Council II and of the beginning of our life in Bose
monasticism  Christianity 
december 2015 by ayjay
The Ecclesiastical Failure of Christian America | James R. Rogers | First Things
These habits and practices, or the lack thereof, created all sorts of problems, even ignoring how they obscured the Gospel. Evangelicals naturally, if idolatrously, turned toward politics rather than to ecclesiology for the solution to the moral disorientation they saw in society. The Moral Majority, school prayer, “Take back America for Christ” campaigns, all reflected more of an attempt to reassert ownership of America’s moral public space than to save souls or spread the Kingdom or strengthen the life of the community of disciples in the churches. Recovering a full-orbed ecclesiology for the Church—not for the Church in the abstract, but for the practical lives of Christian layfolk and leaders in the churches—must be in initial imperative for the Church today.
church  politics  Christianity 
december 2015 by ayjay
Charisms | Snakes and Ladders
What if Christian colleges and universities were to think of educating their students into distinctive charisms? And took as their models some of the charisms of the Roman Catholic religious orders?

• Students called primarily to service would explore a Franciscan charism

• Those called to preach and teach: a Dominican charism

• Those called to live out their faith in commitment to a particular place: a Benedictine charism

• Those called to a scholarly life, with its inherent cosmopolitanism and pursuit of intellectual communities wherever they can be found: a Jesuit charism

Each of these paths could be pursued within a single institution, if its faculty and curriculum were flexible enough. In an ideal world — which we do not live in, mind you — a structure like this could replace, or at least complement, the more typical pursuit of a “major.”
education  university  Christianity 
november 2015 by ayjay
Suffering Poorly | Peter Blair | First Things
A foil for Chapman’s response to these correspondents is the attitude he calls stoicism. For him, stoicism refers to an attempt to place blame for desolation on the person who suffers, as if suffering was or springs from a kind of defect that a person should overcome. Chapman is emphatic that this is not Christian, and that in fact the Christian view is that desolation (which can include e.g. fears about lacking faith) is a gift God gives us to purify us. We do not have to worry about the fact that we suffer, or even work hard to bear suffering joyfully. Our inability to bear suffering well is in fact part of the process of purification; if we bore it easily, Chapman observes, it would cease to be suffering. Our Lord in the Garden asked for the cup to be taken away from Him—that is, He did not want to suffer. But He accepted His suffering insofar as it was the will of the Father, and He is as much our model there as elsewhere. For Chapman, our own internal state, our feelings and our own reflection on our feelings, is no measure of our progress as Christians—in fact, he goes out of his way to council people to think about their internal state as little as they possibly can (“The less we look into ourselves the better”). Chapman advises that it is a mistake to dwell on or worry about our suffering or anxieties—to feel like we have to “solve” or “fix” them in some way by tinkering around mentally in our own internal landscape. Rather, we should accept them as best we can, live in them as God wills, and make as little of them as we are able. (The same holds true for the consolations we receive.)
spirituality  Christianity 
november 2015 by ayjay
more than 95 theses - The purest and truest adherence of Christianity...
The purest and truest adherents of Christianity have always hindered and called into question its worldly success and so-called "power in history" rather than promoted them; for they were accustomed to place themselves outside the "world" and had no regard for the "process of the Christian idea"; for which reason they have as a rule remained wholly unknown and anonymous to history.
november 2015 by ayjay
Coming to Terms with a Post-Christian World | Christianity Today
This is the Benedict Option, and it will help us Christians to be, in the words of Gerson and Wehner, “distinct but not wholly apart” from our post-Christian culture. Where we differ, I think, is in our diagnosis of how radical the challenge is, and how radical our response must therefore be. My concern is that we will go so far to please the world that we will lose the knowledge and the practices that save.

The Wilberforce Option comes from Christian optimism; the Benedict Option comes from Christian hope. They are not the same thing.
politics  Christianity 
october 2015 by ayjay
Jesus Worship
One view is that the worship of Jesus as divine first appeared in the later decades of the first century, and likely in Gentile Christian circles (see the works of Dunn, Casey, and McGrath). But, over the last century or so, most scholars have agreed that the worship of Jesus as the divine “Lord” (Greek: Kyrios) began very early, within the very first years after Jesus’ crucifixion.

In an influential book Kyrios Christos, Wilhelm Bousset took this view, contending that this was the form of Christian faith that the apostle Paul was introduced to after his “conversion,” typically dated ca. 30-35 C.E. But Bousset also insisted that this treatment of Jesus as divine Kyrios couldn’t have happened in a thoroughly Jewish context (in which monotheistic concerns dominated), and so he placed the development in diaspora sites such as Antioch and/or Damascus (in Syria), where, he posited, pagan models of the divinization of heroes could have been influential.

In the last few decades, however, a growing number of scholars have argued that the earliest expressions of cultic reverence of Jesus as Lord were, indeed, in the very earliest years (likely earliest weeks or months) after Jesus’ crucifixion, but (contra Bousset) initially in Jewish circles of the Jesus-movement and in Roman Judaea (Palestine). Among the relevant works is my own One God, One Lord. Without getting into the details, my emphasis is on the constellation of specific devotional practices that expressed a reverence for Jesus as divine Lord.

Paul’s letters give every indication that the kinds of Jesus-reverence that he knew and affirmed were also practiced among Jewish circles of believers. The Aramaic liturgical expression, “Maranatha” (= “O/our, Lord, come!” cited in 1Cor 16:22), is one of several pieces of direct evidence that Jewish, Aramaic-speaking believers invoked the risen/exalted Jesus as “Lord” in their corporate worship gatherings. The basis for this remarkable development was apparently the convictions that God had exalted Jesus as “Lord,” that Jesus now shared God’s glory, name and throne, and that God now required Jesus to be reverenced accordingly (e.g., Phil 2:9-11).
bible  Christianity 
october 2015 by ayjay
Reformations, Plural
In the century after 650 BC, priests and scribes engaged in a massive revision of the Jewish faith, writing and re-editing many of the scriptures that we today know as the core of the Hebrew Bible. The classic tales of Moses and the Exodus were completely rewritten, and gained a massive new importance. It was probably during this period that Judaism became resolutely monotheist, something it had never been before, while the Jerusalem Temple acquired its position as the only central shrine of the religion.

Halpern places within this picture the prophetic tradition, which reached its height in the time of Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Second Isaiah: “ ‘Classical’ (ie literary) prophecy is another sign of the new situation, with its daring critique of the traditional cult, and its movement toward a distinctive aniconic [ie image-less] monotheism” (420).

Although these were revolutionary innovations, the reformers never admitted that they were introducing any new practice. They claimed throughout that they were just restoring things the way they should have been, and they produced scriptures to prove it. The book of Deuteronomy was a scripture invented afresh in order to give a faux-ancient basis to the innovations. Josiah’s image-breaking was thus the outward and visible sign of an inward cultural revolution that had already occurred.

Part of this story is the extensive rewriting of history demanded by the revolutionary paradigm. When Jewish reformers were attacking those shrines and sacred groves, they were in fact attacking ancient manifestations of the religion of the land and people. As history was rewritten, though, those practices had to be reinterpreted as syncretistic borrowings from foreign paganism. Or to quote one of Halpern’s reviewers, “Later monotheism arose not from the rejection of alien deities, but by the rejection of the gods of traditional culture.” Halpern himself remarks that the new order “successfully defined traditional culture as un-Israelite, as pagan, as inferior, a position that Western literary religions have continued to maintain ever since” (424).

If this view is correct, then historic Judaism itself was created from a “reformation” movement. The world of Josiah and Jeremiah illuminates that of Luther and Calvin, and vice versa.
history  reformation  Israel  Judaism  Christianity 
october 2015 by ayjay
Tool Kits | Peter J. Leithart | First Things
Emerson and Smith argue that “it is a necessity for evangelicals to interpret the problem at the individual level. To do otherwise would challenge the very basis of their world, both their faith and the American way of life. They accept and support individualism, relationalism, and antistructuralism. Suggesting social causes of the race problem challenges the cultural elements with which they construct their lives… . This is why anyone, any group, or any program that challenges their accountable freewill individualist perspective comes to be seen as a cause of the race problem.” The authors believe that evangelicals honestly want a colorblind society and want people to get along, but “white evangelicals’ cultural tools and racial isolation curtail their ability to fully assess why people of different races do not get along, the lack of equal opportunity, and the extent to which race matters in America.” As a result, in spite of being “honest and well-intentioned,” the evangelical outlook is “a powerful means to reproduce contemporary racialism” because “a highly effective way to ensure the perpetuation of a racialized system is simply to deny its existence” (89-90; note: Emerson and Smith speak of a “racialized” not a “racist” society, defining it as “a society wherein race matters profoundly for differences in life experiences, life opportunities, and social relationships.”
politics  ethics  Christianity 
august 2015 by ayjay
“Charity” and Benevolence in the Greek & Roman Eras | Larry Hurtado's Blog
I’m often finding valuable scholarly work on various matters pertaining to the world in which early Christianity emerged, such as this book: A. R. Hands, Charities and Social Aid in Greece and Rome (London: Thames & Hudson, 1968). It’s a well-researched and balanced discussion of ancient attitudes and practices toward the “less fortunate” in society, which provides a valuable context in which to view attitudes and practices reflected in the early Christian texts.

Here are some representative observations by Hands:

“In the vast majority of texts and documents relating to gifts in the classical world, it is quite clear that the giver’s action is self-regarding, in the sense that he anticipates from the recipient of his gift some sort of return.” (26)

In records of the time, “. . . the motive which is constantly ascribed to the donor by the recipient–and, indeed, asserted by the donor himself–is philotimia or philodoxia (love of honour or glory). . .” (43).

“. . . the classical preoccupation with philotimia left little room for any mention of pity–or of ‘the poor’ as peculiarly deserving of such pity.” (61)

Although there are commendable expressions of the notion that the wealthy should give more generally (and examples of this humanitas), “It is . . . among a comparatively few rare spirits, even within the cultured Latin-speaking class of the Empire, that this distinctive humanity is, if anywhere, to be sought.” (88)

The more common pattern of public provision by the wealthy was to direct the gifts to town councillors and others of standing in the town, or to give larger shares/portions to such people: “. . . discrimination by factors of three or five is quite normal.” (91)

Hands also touches on child-exposure, noting that the practice seems to have been particularly focused on disposing of unwanted female children. Families were often limited to one child, or perhaps two sons, but “more than one daughter was very rare.” (69-70).

Hands notes, however, that Jewish families (and then Christians as well) were known as not practicing child-exposure, at least as a group. (Note, e.g., the reference in Acts 21:9 to Philip who is ascribed there four daughters.)
poverty  charity  history  Christianity 
august 2015 by ayjay
Diversity and the Emergence of “Orthodoxy” in Early Christianity | Larry Hurtado's Blog
Royalty essentially shows that, although the term “heresy” (Greek:  hairesis) came to be used in the now-familiar pejorative sense sometime in the second century, the social and rhetorical dynamics reflected in this use of the term go back much, much earlier.  Indeed, not only earlier Christian texts, but also pre-Christian Jewish texts (e.g., from Qumran) exhibit these dynamics, which involve labelling certain views and practices as unacceptably deviant.  To cite Royalty, “I have shown here that Justin was part of a discursive tradition that developed in earlier Christian Gospels and post-Pauline literature. . . . The Christian notion of heresy and the rhetoric of heresiology [that emerged full-blown in the second century] draw on these earlier Christian and Second Temple Jewish discursive formations . . .” (172).

Actually, one of my PhD students, Troy Miller, reached and argued for essentially the same conclusions earlier in his 2002 thesis, “The Emergence of the Concept of Heresy in Early Christianity : The Context of Internal Social Conflict in First-Century Christianity and Late Second Temple Sectarianism.”  The University of Edinburgh Library catalogue entry here.  Indeed, as Miller, and now Royalty also, show, the critical engagement with diversity in belief and practice seems to have been there in earliest circles of the Jesus-movement, and reflected already in Paul’s own letters (e.g., Galatians, 1-2 Corinthians), because it was a feature of the Jewish tradition that was the matrix of the young Jesus-movement.

Moreover, careful study of the second and third centuries will show that, along with the now-familiar panoply of diverse forms of Christianity then, there was actually also an emerging early “mainstream” of Christian circles.  They themselves included a certain diversity, but saw one another as sufficiently alike to recognize one another.  This is reflected, for example, in the early stages of text-collections that later grew into our familiar New Testament:  especially the formation of a four-fold Gospel collection (which itself represents a significant diversity), but also the inclusion of writings ascribed to Peter, James and John, as well as writings ascribed to Paul (contra the Marcionite stance).  The second-century critics of Christianity, such as Celsus, also direct their fire against what seems a fairly recognizable form of Christianity.
Christianity  heresy  history 
august 2015 by ayjay
End of an Illusion | America Magazine
A peculiarly Catholic sort of civil religion has been a fact of life in the United States for a long time. And it will not die an easy death. Indeed, it is too desirable a commodity to be willingly relinquished. But if the Supreme Court has not killed Catholic civil religion, it has at least struck it a serious blow. I’m sorry, America, but that old, slightly quaint theology of positive law is, indeed, relevant to our situation. God and country may go together. But then again, they may not. The Court’s abortion decision has not changed everything. But it has changed something. The church and the state may yet bed down together once more. But things will never be quite so cozy again.

This article originally appeared in America on June 2, 1973.
politics  history  Christianity 
july 2015 by ayjay
Nicky Gumbel and the evangelisation of the nation
Is HTB to be the instrument the Holy Spirit uses to revive the Anglican Church?

A work of the Holy Spirit is taking place in the nation. And not just in the Anglican Church; actually some of the biggest churches now are not Anglican. You think of Life Church in Bradford, Audacious in Manchester. Think of some of the Newfrontiers churches, the Vineyard churches, Pioneer churches. I do think there’s an amazing thing going on. It’s almost like a hidden revival is going on. That’s an interesting way of putting it. People don’t see it yet. The statistics don’t show it because so many people are dying off at the other end. It will take time. It’s like a field that has been burnt and looks brown at one level, but then when you get a bit closer you can see the green shoots beginning to emerge. You have to look at bit closer to see what’s actually happening in the Church at the moment. And God’s not finished with the Anglicans yet? I love the Anglican Church. I love all the churches. I love the Catholic Church, I love the Pentecostal Church. I love every part of the Church. But the Anglican Church is my family, if you like, and so of course I feel passionately about it. We have an amazing opportunity in this country. After all, we have 16,500 church buildings. That is a great blessing. It’s a pity if those church buildings are converted into warehouses or pubs or private residences. Because when they’re filled with people, instead of people walking past and saying, ‘The king is dead,’ they will walk past and say, ‘Jesus is alive.’
England  London  Christianity 
july 2015 by ayjay
Introduction to Christianity - Pope Benedict XVI
Has not Christian consciousness acquiesced to a great extent — without being aware of it — in the attitude that faith in God is something subjective, which belongs in the private realm and not in the common activities of public life where, in order to be able to get along, we all have to behave now etsi Deus non daretur (as if there were no God). Was it not necessary to find a way that would be valid in case it turned out that God did not exist? And so actually it happened automatically, when the faith stepped out of the inner sanctum of ecclesiastical matters into the general public, that it had nothing for God to do and left him where he was: in the private realm, in the intimate sphere that does not concern anyone else. It did not take any particular negligence, and certainly not a deliberate denial, to leave God as a God with nothing to do, especially since his name had been misused so often. But the faith would really have come out of the ghetto only if it had brought its most distinctive feature with it into the public arena: the God who judges and suffers, the God who sets limits and standards for us; the God from whom we come and to whom we are going. But as it was, it really remained in the ghetto, having by now absolutely nothing to do.
theology  Christianity 
june 2015 by ayjay
Private Devotion in Medieval Christianity | Thematic Essay | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Christians in the Middle Ages expressed and strengthened their faith through public rituals, such as celebration of the Eucharist, and personal devotions conducted in a private chapel, a monastic cell, or simply a corner of one's home. Individuals sought to deepen their faith through study, meditation, and prayer, which might be guided by psalters or private prayer books (54.1.2; 1998.179). Images, usually modest in scale, helped in these spiritual endeavors, since they made tangible the object of devotional practices. Reflecting the wealth and rank of the individual, such images were produced in every medium, from vellum to gold, ivory to clay. The fervor with which individual Christians practiced their faith often took a toll on the objects that aided their devotion. Owners might repeatedly kiss and caress them, wearing away details carved into the surface and obliterating the features of holy figures (1987.23).
history  art  worship  Christianity 
june 2015 by ayjay
A Christian Buddha | Books and Culture
After brilliantly relating their story of the story, Lopez and McCracken offer their view of why the story endures, especially in the postmodern West. Their take goes beyond the fact that it is classic literature, "classic" in the sense that it touches on archetypal human themes that can be recognized across cultures and eras. And their take goes beyond Wilfred Cantwell Smith's modernist thesis of human solidarity, unity, and coherence. It is interesting, they say, that a story of an Asian sage becomes the story of a Christian saint, and it is interesting, they say, that different groups of modernists used this fact to argue their points: scholars and folklorists interested in cultural transmission, humanists interested in embarrassing the Christian church and its beatification protocols, Christian apologists (and Muslim and Jewish apologists) interested in showing their religion's superiority over Hinduism and Buddhism.

But the really interesting thing about Barlaam and Josaphat, Lopez and McCracken say, is the way growing numbers of 21st century readers take pleasure in using the story in their creation of a Christian Buddha. Now that the Buddhist origin of Josaphat is common knowledge, more and more readers jump right over scholarly pedantry, humanist pettiness, and Christian-Muslim-Jewish religio-cultural imperialisms, and read the story as a way of understanding Gautama through a Christian lens. The subtitle of their book is incomplete. It might better read, "How an Asian Sage Became a Medieval Saint and Then Became a Christian Asian Sage."
buddhism  religion  Christianity 
april 2015 by ayjay
Fra Angelico and the Sex-Hating Church
In a certain way realizing that sex can be analogous to prayer helps me better understand and accept celibacy. Sometimes when I pray I am able to experience in some way God as Creator. In the book I describe this as “see[ing] the Crucifixion shining through the apparent world,” but it isn’t always quite that flamboyantly Spanish. Sometimes it’s more like the merciful light which flows through Fra Angelico’s work. These moments are examples of what Catholics call “consolations.” They’re gifts of God, dispensed by Him seemingly at random. Infrequent, for me, but memorable. They aren’t the point of prayer, and you pray whether or not you receive these consolations; you accept that God will give you these experiences or not and it’s up to Him.

There may be reasons and rhythms behind God’s decisions to scatter or withhold these consolations. I assume He’s got his reasons. I do believe there are reasons, beautiful patterns, behind the Catholic sexual ethic. But I don’t have to understand or discern them in order to accept the ethic. I can be grateful for the ways in which I do get to enter into the beauty of the body, without demanding that I get to try all the ways, or demanding that I get to experience my body on my own terms. Reception of a gift is better than self-determination anyway–at least if you love and trust the giver.
sexuality  Christianity  from instapaper
january 2015 by ayjay
soli deo gloria: Karl Barth on apologetics
The Gospel does not enter into competition with the many attempts to disclose within the known world some more or less unknown and higher forms of existence.... The Gospel is not a truth among other truths. Rather, it sets a question-mark against all truths. The Gospel is not the door but the hinge. The man who apprehends its meaning is removed from all strife, because he is engaged in a strife with the whole, even with existence itself. Anxiety concerning the victory of the Gospel—that is, Christian Apologetics—is meaningless, because the Gospel is the victory by which the world is overcome. … It [the Gospel] does not require representatives with a sense of responsibility, for it is as responsible for those who proclaim it as it is for those to whom it is proclaimed. It is the advocate of both. … God does not need us. Indeed, if He were not God, He would be ashamed of us. We, at any rate, cannot be ashamed of Him.

— Karl Barth, The Epistle to the Romans, 6th Edition, page 35 [This appears in the commentary on Romans 1:16-17]
theology  apologetics  Christianity  Barth 
december 2014 by ayjay
Is the End of Mark Driscoll’s Church a Sign for Satellite Churches? | OnFaith
1. Video satellites make it impossible to know the pastor

This is certainly true, but it’s hardly a problem unique to video satellite campuses. Perhaps it would be better to recognize that pre-Internet technologies like cars and microphones made it relatively easy to have a church whose size exceeds the capacity for one pastor to know everyone. In fact, this is a good example of how new technologies (like cars and microphones) make certain new things possible­­ — large churches have the resources to support ministries small churches cannot — and other things impossible — in this case, knowing the pastor.

Advocates for video satellites will tell you that the satellite model actually works against the depersonalization tendency of megachurches by keeping campuses small and hiring a “campus pastor” for each location. Because the campus pastor doesn’t need to spend time preparing a sermon each week, he or she is free to spend more time with the local attendees, forming a tighter, more intimate community than would be possible with a single, larger auditorium.

In an alternative model, some churches in sparsely populated rural areas band together to hire a single pastor who rotates among the locations, beaming the video to the others in the network. The preachers for these churches function much like the Circuit Riders who ministered among early European settlers in America.
church  tech  Christianity 
november 2014 by ayjay
Saint Augustine on Science and Scripture
Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion. [1 Timothy 1.7]
science  theology  Christianity 
october 2014 by ayjay
Podcast: On Friendship | Alastair's Adversaria
One of the deep problems in our understanding of marriage today is that marriage vows have become about a shared narcissism, rather than about the service of something that transcends the couple’s emotional attachment to each other. The institution of marriage is ordered towards creating a new form of society together, within which children can be conceived and welcomed, a wider community served, holy lives lived, and which aims at something greater than individual fulfilment. The vows of marriage exist because marriage, by its very nature as a relationship involving the sexual union of a man and a woman, is ordered towards the creation of something that transcends itself. Having vows of friendship apart from an integral ordering to a greater end seems to me to fall into the same error as the diminished model of marriage in our society.

Rather than taking this route, I believe that the cause of friendship would better be served by attending to our other duties and the other vows that we make. Are we committed and bound to various forms of life that will form us in union with others? If we aren’t, this is where the friendship deficit most likely arises. Instead of vows of friendship, perhaps what we most need is to create common and committed forms of life beyond marriage. As we commit ourselves together to forms of life through which we serve something greater than ourselves we may find that profound kinships arise more naturally.
friendship  theology  ethics  Christianity  from instapaper
september 2014 by ayjay
David Martin, from The Future of Christianity
David Martin, The Future of Christianity

Numbers and metrics are kinds of control over what we assert, but they do not provide their own interpretation or hermeneutic. If we find that the proportion of people answering to 'no religion' increases we have to ask about changing meanings attached to religion just as we interrogate what people mean when they tick the box marked Christian. Language is not stable and social concepts are embedded in fluid usages, as the increasing 'use' of secularism in the media, and now among academics, indicates. Secularization, secularity and secularism are — or have been — different things, and it is characteristic of contemporary linguistic changes that important discriminations are elided, like the vital distinction for our analytic purposes in the study of religion between disinterested and uninterested.


In several important ways primitive Christianity is a secularizing movement, for example by removing the aura of the sacred from an elect people defined by ritual prescription in a promised land with a holy city and a holy temple, as well as by rejecting fate and fortune and the *sacramentum* of loyalty to the god-emperor. These shifts cannot be contained within a simplistic articulation of the religious-secular distinction, partly because what is sacred for Judaism in terms of ritual purity is profaned and secularized by Christianity in its quest for an inward and intangible purity of heart and its partial shift from rules to sentiments, and even to the sentimentality that now infuses public debate. The crucial shift occurs when Christianity itself succumbs to a partial secularization in terms of its original thrust by providing sacred insurance cover for the empire, which is something quite abhorrent to the secularizing impulse in the Hebrew Scriptures in respect of sacred kingship. In examples of this kind the meanings of the sacred and secular change places.
sociology  religion  Christianity  from notes
september 2014 by ayjay
Book Review: The Education of David Martin: The Making of an Unlikely Sociologist by David Martin | LSE Review of Books
There is a Retrospect to the book, in which I set out with what I mistakenly imagined was extreme clarity, the nature of my political and religious commitments. These the review misrepresents. The review says I did not ‘follow the neo-liberals all the way’ even though I ‘frequented’ the company’ of Margaret Thatcher and Keith Joseph. I met Margaret Thatcher twice and Keith Joseph once. I did not ‘follow’ neo-liberals at all, nor was I, according to some crude packaging of opinion, ‘on the right’. I was conservative with a small ‘c’ insofar as I believed selfhood and creativity nourished by settled modes of induction, by habit and by hard practice in mastering recalcitrant reality. I was liberal with a small ‘l’, but deeply sceptical of the liberal understanding of the malleability of violence and dependence on authority. I was also sceptical of the liberal expectation that the corruption of human affairs, especially international relations, will progressively respond to goodwill, reciprocity and reason.

In short I was an Augustinian theologically and a realist sociologically, the sociology reinforcing the theology. My reviewer says I was never ‘fully signed up to sociology’: on the contrary I am fully signed up to sociology and therefore to its bleak implications rather than to the required delusions of many of its practitioners. Sociology exposed my left-liberal pacifism as an irresponsible delusion providing the pleasures of righteous denunciation rather than sober appraisal of what can realistically be achieved. As someone who arrived at LSE late after reading sociology by private study while teaching nine-year olds, I regarded the students of the sixties as inter alia the creatures of that delusion and the modes of education spawned by it. What I cherished as hard-won privilege they despised as effortless entitlement. I regarded the resistant world as permanently defined by recalcitrant structures of authority and accumulated power.
sociology  religion  Christianity 
september 2014 by ayjay
“American Devotions” by Mark Jarman | Blackbird v11n1 | #nonfiction
But I have to begin with the most recent revival of the devotional poem as a practice of Christian worship. When John Berryman’s “Eleven Addresses to the Lord” appeared in his book Love & Fame in 1970, it was an effort not only to write a devotional poem but to reawaken the form and make it new. Robert Lowell called Berryman’s poem “one of the great poems of the age, a puzzle and a triumph to anyone who wants to write a personal devotional poem.” He also noted the poem’s “cunning skepticism.” I think the skepticism which Lowell noted in his friend’s poem is an essential element of any effective religious poem, at any time, but in our time it has to be foremost and not simply present in that necessary element of any metaphor—irony. “Eleven Addresses to the Lord” is replete with frank statements of skepticism. The last two quatrains of the first address are a good example:
poetry  Christianity  from instapaper
august 2014 by ayjay
Everything That Rises - Whatever You Say, Say It Radiantly
Image: Recently, in an interview, Thomas Kinsella said that he had been “maturing into disbelief’; and Seamus Heaney said not long before he died that he no longer had any religious belief. These writers emphasize the possibility of “going beyond belief,” reaching a stage that you might almost describe as mystical. Their lives are sufficiently engaged with love, truth, and integrity. Are we to believe, do you think, that these people are actual believers, whether they admit it or not? Or is that merely a way of trying to satisfy our own anxieties?

RW: When people like that say those things about belief, very often what they seem to mean is this: if you put me on the spot and ask me what I believe to be true, in the abstract, I don’t know where I’d begin. But in them you see a use of language going back to what we were saying earlier about poetry: it’s theologically informed in that it is dense, full of radiance, of claritas. Something theological is going on and they know it.

The last thing I’d call Seamus, for instance, is an agnostic, in the sense of somebody who floats uncertainly around; he has a real commitment to the language and all that it means. Very often we tie down the notion of belief to mean having a quick answer to what you think is true out there, rather than, how do you inhabit the world you’re in, the speech you speak, and the vision you see.

And at that level I feel faith goes on, God-relatedness goes on …

I don’t think that’s Christian imperialism. I’m not trying to take away the sincerity of people’s doubts; it is just to say, if you have any religious commitment, you’re bound to believe that some of this miraculous radiance in words will come through.
art  Christianity 
august 2014 by ayjay
Islam and the West: Lines of Demarcation | The Brussels Journal
CHRISTIANITY IS sometimes described as a synthesis of Jewish metaphysics and Greek ideas of political freedom. No doubt there is truth in this, given the historical context of its inception. And it is, perhaps, the Greek input into Christianity which is responsible for the fourth of the central features that I believe worthy of emphasis when addressing the Western confrontation with Islam: that of irony. There is already a developing streak of irony in the Hebrew Bible, one that is amplified by the Talmud. But there is a new kind of irony in Jesus’ judgments and parables, one which looks at the spectacle of human folly and wryly shows us how to live with it. A telling example of this is Jesus’ verdict in the case of the woman taken in adultery. “Let he who is without fault,” he says, “cast the first stone.” In other words, “Come off it. Haven’t you wanted to do what she did, and already done it in your hearts?” It has been suggested that this story is a late interpolation—one of many culled by early Christians from the store of inherited wisdom attributed to Jesus after his death. Even if that is true, however, it merely confirms the view that the Christian religion has made irony central to its message. This irony is shared by the great Sufi poets, especially Rumi and Hafiz, but it seems to be largely unknown in the schools of Islam that shape the souls of the Islamists. Theirs is a religion which refuses to see itself from the outside, and which cannot bear to be criticized, still less to be laughed at—something we have abundantly witnessed in recent times.
Islam  politics  ethics  Christianity  from instapaper
august 2014 by ayjay
ST JOHN OF THE CROSS by Hans Urs von Balthasar
John goes along, and points us toward, the essential way to God, and so he too, like Dante, brings the 'hereafter' into existence in this world, or rather, since in Christ the hereafter has entered the here and now, he shows us the depths of eternity within life itself. He too, like Dante, must enter the night of Hell, for only in the absolute distinction between the sinful creature and the absolute God in his total purity can the divine in its truth be perceived.

But it is a demythologized night; there is no Virgil for a guide, no conversations with the damned; I myself am Hell. 'Sometimes this experience is so vivid that it seems to the soul that it sees Hell and perdition open before it. These are the ones who go down into Hell alive.' Placed before the naked reality of the Absolute, which presents itself to her in the mode of privation and dispossession, the soul endures an 'infinite death' in her languishing and suffering, 'a living image of that infinite privation'.

This experience clarifies for John the meaning of the Old Testament, and he quotes in long passages from Job, Jeremiah and Jonah, whose lot it was to experience the wrath of God, total abandonment by God. "'Your wrath weighs upon me, and all your waves you have let loose"... for in truth the soul experiences the sorrows of Hell, all of which reflect the feeling of God's absence, of being chastised and rejected by him.... The soul experiences all this and even more, for now it seems that this affliction will last for ever.'
mysticism  Christianity  from instapaper
august 2014 by ayjay
You can’t make this up | The Christian Century
The spiritual-not-religious are likely to say they see God in their children, at least when they are doing loving things or saying something winning about God. These spiritual-not-religious adults don't want to hear about God at church, but they seem never to tire of hearing about God from their own children. These are the people who keep sending out the e-mails with "cute things kids say about God."

"My kid said, 'Mommy, I think God is like the rainbow.' Can you believe the wisdom of that?" says the proud spiritual-not-religious parent. These people's children are always theological geniuses.

I presume that like most children they are parroting back their parents' values. The children see God in nature—and because they are children and have bigger eyes and high voices, they do so in much cuter ways. "I think there will be doggies and birdies and grandma's candy bowl in heaven." But let's take that idea a little further. Will there be sharks and snakes in heaven too? How about vampire bats? How do you like that, you little junior theologians?
theology  Christianity  from instapaper
july 2014 by ayjay
Can Traditional Religion Survive A Wired World? | The American Conservative
From a theological point of view, what all of us Christians are living through now, and will live through, could be seen as God’s judgment on His people. Purification is painful; bourgeois Pelagians in the clergy and in the laity will be burned away. Increasingly, churches whose leaders cannot withstand the scrutiny of the all-seeing eye of the Internet will not survive over time. And not just churches.
july 2014 by ayjay
Real Transformation Happens When? | Christianity Today
This is not to say that we are not "being transformed … from one degree of glory to another" (2 Cor. 3:18, NRSV) even now. But it seems to me the greatest transformation is not necessarily in outward virtue, but in increasing levels of self-awareness—awareness of the depth of our sin—and consequently increasing repentance and humility. Not a humility that points to some virtue in our lives and says, "It wasn't me, it was the Lord working through me," but the deeper humility that sees the desperately wicked heart and desperately prays daily, "Lord, have mercy."

This is the only approach to sanctification that makes sense to me, the only one that grounds me in gospel hope, and paradoxically continues to motivate me to strive for holiness. Not because I actually hope to achieve some level of holiness in this life. But because holy is what I am to become, so I might as well try to live that way now. That is who I am in Christ.

As for progress or lack thereof, I tend to avoid thinking about it much. I leave it in God's hands. As for deciding whether my moral progress is the direct work of the Holy Spirit or the natural consequence of old age and learning from mistakes—that too is beyond my pay grade. My job is not to measure my holiness or that of others ("Do not judge"—Matt. 7:1), nor to despair when I continue to think and do awful things, nor to give others false hope. Our real hope—and the real reason for our lack of despair and our continuing joy—is the promise of future transformation in Christ.
may 2014 by ayjay
"Love Bade Me Welcome (Gazing Into the Abyss)" by Christian Wiman | On Being
So now I bow my head and try to pray in the mornings, not because I don't doubt the reality of what I have experienced, but because I do, and with an intensity that, because to once feel the presence of God is to feel His absence all the more acutely, is actually more anguishing and difficult than any "existential anxiety" I have ever known. I go to church on Sundays, not to dispel this doubt but to expend its energy, because faith is not a state of mind but an action in the world, a movement toward the world. How charged this one hour of the week is for me, and how I cherish it, though not one whit more than the hours I have with my wife, with friends, or in solitude, trying to learn how to inhabit time so completely that there might be no distinction between life and belief, attention and devotion. And out of all these efforts at faith and love, out of my own inevitable failures at both, I have begun to write poems again. But the language I have now to call on God is not only language, and the wall on which I make my taps and scratches is no longer a cell but this whole prodigal and all too perishable world in which I find myself, very much alive, and not at all alone. As I approach the first anniversary of my diagnosis, as I approach whatever pain is ahead of me, I am trying to get as close to this wall as possible. And I am listening with all I am.
attention  poetry  Christianity 
april 2014 by ayjay
« earlier      
per page:    204080120160

Copy this bookmark: