A Generous Orthodoxy - Printable Version
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- Rick Henry - 23-07-2007 01:32 PM
Dear John, and All,
There is a very fine line between a full blown theological agnosticism and a belief that, at times, Truth lies beyond the choice between affirmation and negation.
When I read, as has been said elsewhere by one of my favorite scholars, about another controversy:
Quote:. . . the Chalcedonians had attempted to define too closely in human words the Infinite Mystery which would always lay just beyond the horizon of our understanding.
I cannot but consider how this directly applies to our present conversation, and I feel compelled to share this at this juncture, as I also am looking to others here for some input.
"This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church."--Paul (Eph 5:32)
A Generous Orthodoxy - John Charmley - 23-07-2007 03:52 PM
So often, as in the formulations of the Creed, we define in an apophatic way - by what is not rather than by what is. St. Cyril of Alexandria rightly warned against the impiety of trying to capture the Infinite in our reasoning and our words; were that possible whatever it was we should have caught would not be the Infinite or the Ineffable.
In this country there is a direct tradition back to the early Church, but it is a complex and fractured one. As an Anglican I felt part of that tradition - as I do as an Orthodox; but I am conscious not so much of having added something to what I knew as an Anglican, but rather by discovering what was inferred and perhaps implicit.
Much is made, and rightly so, by the Orthodox of the Patristic heritage; but it is more problematic and contested than perhaps we admit or know. How many of us have read through even the volumes of the Fathers that are available in English translation? I am struck, when I do, by the way in which they build on readings of the Scriptures; but they do not often build on each other - for fairly simple reasons in many cases. So what is this Patristic consensus and who proclaims it?
It seems easy enough to reply that it is the 'Church', but that gets us back to where we started; what is that Church? On another site I am excited by Peter Farrington's expositions of the writings of St. Severus and St. Dioscoros, painfully conscious of how little of either I have read. I am treasuring the letters of St. Severus published by the Oriental Orthodox Library, but as I read them I am aware of wanting more from such a great pastor and Christian thinker. But then I am brought short with the realisation that to some Eastern Orthodox St. Severus is an anathematised heretic; and I then think that he cannot be so to anyone who has read even the small amount I have read.
On the other hand are all those legions of nineteenth and twentieth century Russians bits of whom I have read, but about whose corpus I know little beyond obvious titles.
Then there is my favourite of all the Fathers, St. Cyril of Alexandria, whose writings are not even in the modern reprints, but from whose commentaries (thank you Peter!) I have derived so much edification.
Beyond these come those from my own old tradition - men like Launcelot Andrewes, Keble, Pusey and Newman. The notion that these men add nothing to a Christian's appreciation of his/her faith is ungenerous to the point of silliness. Whatever label you affix to him, I can see Newman as nothing but Orthodox- and yet he began an Evangelical Anglican, became a High one and then went over to Rome.
A generous Orthodoxy seems to be a sine qua non. Newman and company reminded English speakers long ago of the importance of the Patristic inheritance; but he also added to that heritage in his own writings. We can see where the Church is not - but sometimes it seems to be in places where we might not expect it - a sign, surely, of our limitations?
- Rick Henry - 24-07-2007 01:19 PM
As you suggest I would think a Generous Orthodoxy is an essential element of any who claim to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. And, yes, in this same vein of thought, I appreciate your comments about determining and adding to in a contrived way, as opposed to a process of discovery--these are two completely different things.
But, now we move to the meat and potatoes, so to say . . . to the heart of the matter, when you say in the following:
Quote:Much is made, and rightly so, by the Orthodox of the Patristic heritage; but it is more problematic and contested than perhaps we admit or know. How many of us have read through even the volumes of the Fathers that are available in English translation? I am struck, when I do, by the way in which they build on readings of the Scriptures; but they do not often build on each other - for fairly simple reasons in many cases. So what is this Patristic consensus and who proclaims it? It seems easy enough to reply that it is the 'Church, but that gets us back to where we started; what is that Church?
I am fond of the expression, "In the End, the Beginning," as it has been used by some from T.S. Elliot forward; however, I do not appreciate it when it demonstrates a circular reasoning such as you pointed to above. When it is used in this way, it is a "ring around the rosy" whereby in the end there is really only just the end--ashes and death.
To be sure, if one desires to speak of the Holy Tradition of the Church as the Spirit of Life of the Church, as the work of the Holy Spirit. Then one speaks of a very Beautiful Living Tradition.
But, if one would speak of the Tradition of the Church as being a justification for one's own way of thinking and living, then one has clearly carved an idol which serves to only affirm/validate and edify one's self. Then to varying degrees there is a veneration of a god created in our own image, or worse yet, a worshipping of one's own self in the end.
To me it is a very frustrating thing, but more so, a very sad thing. Initially, when I was first exposed to such ways of knowing and being I observed that this way of living was primarily fear driven. And, fear is a huge part of this circular reasoning which serves as the foundation for such 'religious' justifications, for the way we live and understand. However, I have since come to realize that at the heart of the matter, this is a very old way of operating here, a methodology that can be observed from the first days of creation in the Garden in fact.
But, more to the point here John, you have asked three pointed questions in the following:
1.) What is this Patristic consensus?
2.) Who proclaims it?
3.) What is that Church?
and, at the present, I think we would be doing very well to even just scratch the surface of the first question.
When we speak of a Patristic consensus, what are we really talking about? I hear this phrase batted around all time. Usually, when I hear this phrase employed, it seeks to serve as an authentication of what has been said. It seems to be a stamp or a seal of genuineness as it is used. But, to be honest with you, most of the time, it sounds to me more like when someone tells you something, and then when you ask them what they base their assertion on, they say, "I read it in a magazine somewhere." To which one normally replies, something like "Oh," and then the conversation is over, it just comes to an end.
But, let's keep going with this . . . let's take this to the next level, clearly there *are* different 'schools of thought' to be found in the thinking of the Church Fathers, just as there are today in the thinking of contemporary Orthodoxy theologians. From the varying opinions on which books of the Bible are considered cannon by the Fathers, to thinking as it relates to doctrine and pastoral care, one can appeal to different sources within the History of the Church and the History of Christian Thought to establish varied positions. This goes without saying that there are 'different schools of thought' to be found within Orthodoxy both ancient and modern day. If one disputes this fact, then one has never read the writings of the past or today . . . or, if one has been Orthodox for a period of time at all, then one must live in a hole of some kind to not be able to see this.
So, yes John, what is this Patristic consensus?
Where I am sitting right now as I bang away on this keyboard, I am surrounded by my silent companions. I have books on shelves from the floor to the ceiling. I have a Church History section, a Theology section, a Language section, a Biography section, a Biblical Studies section, a Bibliology section, a Hermeneutic section, and a large section devoted to Bible Commentaries. And, I am very familiar with most of my books, with most of the authors. As I'm sure most here know, we become aquainted with the authors as people when we read them. We almost feel like we know them after a while. After a while, we start to understand where they are coming from and why they say what they say. We learn more about them as people and the events and circumstances that shaped their lives as they grew into the men and women that they were as they put down words on paper.
But, and here's the thing . . . I am so familiar with these authors that I can say anything that I want to, and I know exactly where to go, I know exactly which shelve(s) to go to in order to pull "the right ones" who will agree with me!
Do you see what I am saying here? Within reason, I can say whatever I want to say about Church History or Theology or Pastoral Care, or really whatever . . . and I can appeal to the proper source to back up what I have just said. And, the more books that I pull from the shelves to back up what I am saying, the more of a consensus that I will build--the stronger my position becomes.
In this sense the more I am trained and the more experienced I am at doing this, the more of a chance there will be that I will overwhelm the ones who have no training or experience. Even if what I am saying just doesn't sound right to the less 'knowledgeable,' after a while they will *simply* be overcomed by what I am saying and be forced to either give in or suffer the modern death called apathy.
But, in the end, what is the difference between 'giving in in this fashion' and succumbing to apathy? In both cases one is really just overwhelmed and suffers a death of sorts.
But, let's say I have convinced one of the consensus that I have demonstrated, and he has decided to subscribe to what I am saying. Then when this convert begins to teach others what he has 'learned,' when tries to remember what he was taught and he attempts to parrot back the same thing which overwhelmed him . . . at best, what is it that will be reproduced here??? What is it that he or she really knows and is pointing toward now?
Is this proclaimer pointing to the Church based on a true consensus?
Or, more to the point, what is it that forms the foundation for this proclaimer's way of knowing?
What type of mindset is he or she modeling when he or she operates from this state of being?
Or, worse yet, what is going to happen to this person and his or her disciples when someone else comes along who knows which books to pull off of the shelves which will completely contradict what they were taught by the first person?
And, possibly right now some are thinking, well this chap really likes to work in the hypothetical or the land of "what if," doesn't' he? But, if this is the case, please allow me to suggest that unless you live in a hole, there is a very good chance that you are participating in the above way of knowing and being right now! If you cannot see that there is nothing hypothetical at all about what is being said above as it relates to the different schools of thought to be found within an historic Orthodox approach, then chances are you have been overwhelmed at some point as mentioned above.
Take the case of the two teachers (pullers of books) above. Consider their particular groups and schools of thought that they represent. Can you imagine a chance meeting, one day, of two disciples, one from each group? Say one day on the plane, these two people strike up a conversation. At first they learn the they are both "Orthodox" and they are glad to have this chance encounter. But, eventually they 'learn' that they have both been taught different things. And, since they each have based their whole philosophy of Christian living around these things, there is some tension that begins to build. On an increasing basis, their facial features begin to tighten, and their voice tones begin to change in pitch. Eventually, when neither can support what either is saying, they resort to using such terms as Patristic Consensus or the Treasury of the Apostolic Witness, as if this is to wave Harry's wand and overwhelm the other--or as if this is to be the end all or to prove one's position beyond the shadow of a doubt! But, how absurd this is to think that such a magic phrase will cast a spell of some kind that will persuade a thinking man or women. Or, back to our point here, how absurd it *is* to consider two adults waving their magic wands and uttering special phrases at each other while attempting to defend the words of another which represent nothing more than an alter of remembrance of the day they were overwhelmed. Before these two stop speaking there will be a volley of "Well, I was taught this" and "Well, I was taught that." Before the newspapers go up in front of each persons face, so that he or she can escape from this madness, an exercise, or better yet a dance will take place, one that takes place every day in the real world. And, this is frustrating, but it is also very sad, because this type of thing promotes only division and schism, the opposite of any kind of unity/union/communion, and the opposite of what is spoken of in the Royal Law of Love.
Yes, John . . .
1.) What is this Patristic consensus?
2.) Who proclaims it?
3.) What is that Church?
a generous orthodoxy - kirk yacoub - 25-07-2007 08:27 AM
At the risk of being brief (!) I believe that whatever the Fathers did or did not say, whatever is or is not implied by those who seek to use the authority of the Fathers, is it not much simpler to return to the Gospel and read the words of our Lord and God Jesus Christ? Having absorbed these words, not so much into our minds as into our hearts, we can then check not only Patristic statements, but also whatever is taught regarding these statements.
- admin - 25-07-2007 11:10 AM
Dear Rick et al
I've been thinking about my transition from being part of a Plymouth Brethren community to being part of an Orthodox one, and trying to think about how I understand the differences.
I can see that in my own experience I was part of a Brethren community without being entirely Brethen, but I am now part of an Orthodox community while having only begun to be Orthodox. So I have and had no sense that membership of the community was related to being perfectly representative of a theology or praxis. I was part of that community and am part of this community because in both cases there was a commitment to a group of people and to a sense that this was the place to live out my Christian life.
On the positive side I would want to say that there was a great love for Christ among many people I worshipped and lived with. Some had a great knowledge of the Scriptures, though that had become rarer. There was a general desire to be more holy, more Christ-like, more devout. I would not wish to suggest otherwise, and though there were inter-personal issues in that community, there are such issues everywhere.
But there was much which even then I found missing. For most people, and certainly in the public teaching of the community, we had no spirituality beyond the daily scripture reading and brief prayer. (Though I do not doubt that there were some elder folk who were earnest in intercessions and loved the Scriptures). We rejected fasting, liturgy, saints, all sacraments and the particular priesthood. Indeed while I was there we had no full time ministers. I cannot remember praying even the Lord's Prayer there, and the one occasion the Apostles Creed was said together was when I was leading a service. We had no knowledge of any fathers at all, and Luther was considered an early Brethren figure, although had anyone visited a Lutheran Church they would probably have been horrified.
So I suffered from the loss of all these things, despite the love of Christ which was there, and I think we all suffered.
Because we were functionally congregational we also had the tendency to form interest groups and agitate for change in our direction. There was no overarching Tradition to prevent this. If you could get it approved by a majority then it would often change as desired. I have seen this in my own parents-in-laws church, a Baptist one, where a vote took place to allow church membership without the requirement of having been baptised - and this is a Baptist Church! The vote was defeated by one vote but I am sure it will come back. Indeed in the years I have known it the whole community has changed out of recognition, as did my own Brethen assembly. Not because of a lack of love for Christ, but because the democratic vote is the arbiter of theology and spirituality. Not a patristic consensus but a democratic one.
But many of us were looking for something more, and I have to say deeper, because that was a word we used. Self-help books that offered everything in three easy stages were not satisfying!
What am I saying? I think I am saying that while I will not judge any of those I shared my life with then, I can judge the system in which we lived, because we also judged it as defective. But I began the journey to Orthodoxy while I was there. I did not one day cease to be Brethren and become Orthodox. I was a Brethen on the way to becoming Orthodox for many years, and then someone on the outside of Brethrenism still following an unclear pilgrimage, and then only after many years did I become Orthodox while still becoming Orthodox every day. The journey does not end.
I wonder then if our Generous Orthodoxy is a communion of those on the same journey. Are we fellow pilgrims with all others who are looking for the same Kingdom? Perhaps we start from different places along the way? Perhaps others are still on the side roads but are walking towards the straight and narrow way? Should we be asking where folk are heading rather than where they have come from or where they presently are?
Just a 2p worth.
Re: a generous orthodoxy - Rick Henry - 25-07-2007 07:29 PM
kirk yacoub Wrote:. . . is it not much simpler to return to the Gospel and read the words of our Lord and God Jesus Christ?
Assuming you are aware of the issues surrounding your suggestion above, I would say yes, a thousand times yes[!] this sounds very good to me. But, possibly, as you know there are those who would burn both of us at the stake for suggesting such a thing (if the jail time were not so lengthy).
And, when you follow this up with:
Quote:Having absorbed these words, not so much into our minds as into our hearts, we can then check not only Patristic statements, but also whatever is taught regarding these statements.
I think again, how well put.
But, as we consider what you are suggesting here, especially as it relates to this discussion as a whole, we see even upon a superficial glance that the tide is against what is being proposed. Beginning with the production of the LXX, Septuagint and through today things are not approached this way as a rule.
For example, I have just begun studying what I will refer to as Orthodox Bibliology. Normally, when one studies Bibliology there is a focus on transmission and translation of the manuscripts and the versions that are derived from these, among other things. But, accuracy and translations faithful to the text are what is striven for here, and held up as the standard. And, I am probably not telling you anything that you don't already know here; but, I am working towards a point in all of this.
And, this point is that it appears the new Orthodox Study Bible of the Old Testament that is about ready for sale has an interesting history behind it. In fact as it relates to the field of Biblology, I am not sure where exactly this one fits, hence my reference to "Orthodox" Bibliology. What I am getting at here is this OSB is not a translation of any Hebrew Texts or even the LXX itself; but, this is a case where the New King James Bible has been taken and adapted to suit "Orthodox" beliefs. I find it interesting that the project manager and chief editor seems to have no language training. But, possibly this is explained in the following post from another site about the methodology being employed here:
Quote:The OSB project is using this foundation [New King James Bible] to bring forth a reverent, elegant, but readable text in English that conforms to the Orthodox textual tradition and interpretive norms.
I wonder if you caught the last part there . . . just after "Orthodox textual tradition" we see that this Bible is being conformed to Orthodox "interpretive norms."
And, this speaks to a mindset here, doesn't it Kirk?
But, let's say that even if this project would have begun with the LXX (let alone the Hebrew Scriptures), I wonder if things would have been any different in the end? Because, I am finding that the method used to prepare the OSB in terms of 'interpretive norms,' is the same as was employed by the ones who prepared the LXX. And, to help here I will quote another from another site, a priest/monk to make this point:
Quote:The LXX did represent changes from the Hebrew but of a kind which were seen as conveying the tradition of the Church in the context in which it found itself.
Yes, we did produce a Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures, and yes, we did change the meaning of the words used in the text (possibly an early manifestation of the 'humpty dumpty clause'/HDC?), but it's okay because this was done to convey the tradition of the Church in the context in which it was a that time.
So, even though I fully agree with you when you say, wouldn't it just be much simpler to return to the Gospel and read the words of our Lord and God Jesus Christ? . . . I find myself in the minority here with this sentiment. And, it is not in reality a simple thing but a very complex thing in my neck of the woods, and possibly yours too?
What you have proposed stands in complete opposition to such things as what I have come to recognize as being an Orthodox hermeneutic as well as an Orthodox bibliology.
And, I am not familiar with your background; but, I would go so far as to say that the majority view, to be found within some parts of Eastern Orthodoxy, would support the position that what you have suggested is anti-Orthodox.
So on one hand, I agree with you it would be much simpler, but on the other hand this is a complex issue.
Thank You - Rick Henry - 25-07-2007 08:21 PM
Thank you for the heartfelt sharing provided in your last post. Especially in the following:
Quote:. . . still following an unclear pilgrimage, and then only after many years did I become Orthodox while still becoming Orthodox every day. The journey does not end.
For what it may be worth, I think this is a very beautiful picture that you have painted of a Generous Orthodoxy. This common ground that you describe, one of 'all others who are looking for the same Kingdom' gives me encouragement as it reminds me that as you imply above, the journey
continues . . .
a generous orthodoxy - kirk yacoub - 26-07-2007 09:35 AM
In many ways you've answered the problem by telling us that the "OSB is
not a translation." If some people wish to "adapt" Biblical texts to suit their own particular purposes, then that will be to their enormous spiritual
I believe that it is quite simple to compare the various English language translations of the Bible to understand what was meant. Yes, ultimately, for those who have the time the study of the Hebrew, Greek and, very importantly, the Syriac texts will be the ultimate test. Yet this makes everything seem complicated, and the beauty of Christ's words is that they are not complicated, but extraordinarily straight forward.
Regarding relations between the two Orthodoxies (itself a misnomer),
the simplest thing is to start off with Christ's commandment to love our enemies and pray for those who do us harm.
- Rick Henry - 26-07-2007 02:46 PM
I don't want to bore everyone to death by taking the time to explain why your post speaks to me on such a deep level, but please know that it does and it is appreciated. Sometimes we minister to people in real ways without even realizing it, I think.
But, you have touched on a couple of things here that really do speak to the subject at hand. And, as you speak of loving others and praying for others, what better mindset, what better starting place could we ask for knowing that we do not all have the same calling.
I don't really want to get into bibliology much deeper here. Possibly, I may start another thread on this subject and we can really go to town on this. As you say it is quite simple to compare various English texts, but I wonder if you know how many of these English texts are adaptations of one another? As the NKJV serves as the "boiler plate" for the OSB, according to the 'Chief Editor' of the OSB project (love that term 'boiler plate' by the way) . . . I wonder how many are aware of which modern versions serve as 'boiler plates' for each other. So when the various English versions are laid down side-by-side, what is it that we are comparing? Or, if we were to look at the texts supporting the ones that were actually translated (as opposed to being 'adapted' as you well say), I wonder if we may well find that a strong reliance on the Latin text of Jerome, for example, has provided a 'boiler plate' of sorts for one of the major Greek texts [during a race to finish first] which is used by one or more of these English 'translations.' And, then the deeper you dig, the more you learn/know, it is true the more the Beauty is lost in some ways. And, then at the end of the day when it is acknowledged that while we have many manuscripts/fragements, we do not have any of the original "autographs." And, then from here we are back to where we started in some ways in terms of our Faith being a matter of faith.
And, even here, we see the same thing as in the above posts/questions. We can appeal to various manuscripts/texts/translations/versions/adaptations to provide both a foundation for our philosophy of Christian living and a foundation for our Christian apologetics, can't we? Just as we can appeal to various schools of thought to be found within Orthodoxy (which is One as you say), we can appeal to various church fathers, saints, lay and clergy writing theologians to provide a "theoretical justification" for all that we do and say.
But, at the end of the day, we are still left with the matter of our calling and the command to love each other (again as you well say, even our enemies!). And, as it relates to a Generous Orthodoxy, in relation to both the individual and the individual living in the community (if you will permit me to phrase it that way), there are two different schools of thought here. And, even this part of the discussion here in this thread is *not* a short conversation and needs much development, but we can dip our toe into these waters with a piece Peter Farrington has written in the past:
Quote:In all times and places and circumstances, love casts out fear.
And, to this, for your review, I would like to add another piece written elsewhere by a man known as "Herman the Simple:"
Quote:Everything we need to know about love, an infant already knows. We spend so much of our lives forgetting it. I relearned this from my grandchildren. Faith/Trust at its most elemental is so simple that it is scary. That is why we recoil from it and seek solice in esoteric "knowledge". But also, God challenges us according to our ability. Thankfully, being a bear of very little brain, God keeps it simple for me. For others, able to soar in the lofty Meyendorfian spiritual heights, He gives deeper understanding and perhaps appreciation. Of course, to the servant who is given much, much is expected, and for the servant who does not "use" his talent, even what he has will be taken away.
So, I guess enough here for today . . . but, again, please accept my humble thanks for your last post--it was appreciated.
A Generous Orthodoxy - John Charmley - 26-07-2007 04:23 PM
Dear Rick, Kirk, Peter,
An interesting discussion here, and the line opened up by Kirk is a most intriguing one, and not, I suspect, just to us.
Like, I guess, many here, I grew up in a household which whilst not very religious, was of the opinion that what was necessary for salvation was contained in the 'Good Book' and that if I read it and did what it said I should not go far wrong; looking back from this vantage point I know now there was more wisdom in that simplicity than in many 'clever' things said to me since!
One of the things which drew me towards Anglicanism in my teenage years was a growing realisation that however right this view was, it also had huge limitations. The fact that the early Church had no 'Bible' as such, and that the canon came out of the life and consensus of the Church pushed me towards wondering how my feeble candle could illuminate what it had taken a Church to produce? Would I not, I thought, be better relying on the wisdom of the Church alongside my own reading, modifying the latter where it conflicted with the consensus?
That took me along a very well-trodden Newman-like road in relation to the Fathers, and since, unlike Newman, it did not draw me to Rome, I could rest sufficiently content, it seemed, with the 'Branch' theory of Anglicanism. Some hope! Along the way there were those who claimed to be able to read in the Bible support for almost anything they wanted; but this always seemed to involve reading particular texts out of a broader context, and interpreting them in a particular way. It was often very clever - but I often wondered whether it was right?
I found what Rick had to say about argumentative methods very true and horribly familiar. I remember once being quite overwhelmed by a very forceful female vicar who had at her fingertips more quotations than you could count to support the line she favoured about the ordination of women; but when I asked her where the idea came from, she was very honest in admitting that for her it was part of a wider agenda of female empowerment, and a little disconcerting in saying that as I generally supported such causes, she was surprised to see me taking such a reactionary line!
My own protestations that it was not 'reactionary' but simply 'orthodox' clearly lay outside her range of references, which were essentially the secular ones of 'progressive = good' and 'conservative = bad'. I could see that in a sense there was a 'group think' phenomenon in operation. It set me to wondering about the extent to which even something like an 'Orthodox mindset' might also be a 'group think', but decided, given the extent of Patristic writings, that the group was very large and persistent, and might even match up with Newman's 'what has been believed at all times and everywhere'.
The question 'by whose authority do you teach this?' seemed then, and seems now, the most relevant one. The Roman Catholics have a very form answer to this as it relates to divining the Word of God; for the Orthodox there is no single earthly authority - which somehow still seems to me more genuinely attuned to the idea of a Patristic consensus - which is why I raised that as a theme.
The temptation offered by the idea of a 'Generous Orthodoxy' lies perhaps in a syncretic 'anything goes' direction. One of the attractions for some of contemporary Anglicanism is that if offends few coming to it from outside. It makes few, if any demands, and forces few, if any, to search their souls. Is that really a generous reaction to a fallen world though?
I envy Kirk's gift for brevity - so will pause here!
- Rick Henry - 27-07-2007 03:59 PM
I have never shot fish in a barrel before; but, if I did, I'm sure that I would find it has absolutely nothing in common with attempting to interact with your thinking/writing! (it's Friday, can we have a little fun--we don't' want to be too serious all the time--American whimsy and all ).
And, now in lieu of a smooth transition . . .
When you concluded your last post with the following:
Quote:The temptation offered by the idea of a 'Generous Orthodoxy' lies perhaps in a syncretic 'anything goes' direction. One of the attractions for some of contemporary Anglicanism is that if offends few coming to it from outside. It makes few, if any demands, and forces few, if any, to search their souls. Is that really a generous reaction to a fallen world though?
I thought, "boo" syncretic 'anything goes,' and no[!], that is not a generous reaction to a fallen world at all! And, then possibly provoked by your story about the female vicar where she:
Quote:. . . was very honest in admitting that for her it was part of a wider agenda of female empowerment,
I began to consider what you had said as it relates to such things as agendas.
In many ways this takes us right back to the beginning of this discussion . . . what are our motives? what are our intentions? are we agenda driven? or are we driven by Something else?
Do you see what I am saying here? Do we desire the God's will be done and God's Kingdom come (above all other particular interests)? Or do we desire something else? And, as I said above in another post, we all have our own callings, don't we? We are not all prophets or evangelists or pastors, and so on. We do not all have the same gifts. But, we should all be driven by the same thing I think, the aspiration to live in and the service of the Kingdom of God.
I am thinking now of the Indian man that owns a store in Peter's neck of the wood. This Indian man who I think is a Hindu is praying for Peter, and Peter is praying for him. And, I realize that this example kind of clouds the issue a bit, but let's keep up with it. From Peter's point of view, I would think that Peter is praying for the path of this Indian man to be one of the Path of Christ. In other words Peter is praying for the salvation of this man. So in this case what is Peter's agenda? What method is Peter employing?
Peter is not condemning this Indian shopkeeper. He is praying for the salvation of this mans soul. Peter is not judging him as a disciple of Satan and then walking away in disgust. It appears that he is praying for this man in love that he would know the love of Christ and become a learner of Christ. And, even more so Peter stands ready with a Christian education program to offer to this man if this would ever become a reality in the life of this man. To which I would like to suggest is a very good definition of a Generous Orthodoxy.
There is not syncretism here, there is not comparative theology at work, and best of all no solipsism anywhere to be found in all of this (as you have defined it elsewhere)! But, at the same time, there is no anything goes way of thinking involved in Peter's prayers and hopes for this man. As evidenced by his work here on this site and in other places there are clear-cut lines drawn as it relates to the proclamation of Christ, it is freely admitted that in the end, Peter and this Indian man do in fact stand on separate shores. But, there is a most heavenly balance here, isn't there? There is a most divine equilibrium employed here whereby the Truth is spoken in Love! All motives and intentions are on top of the table in a way that I think demonstrates very well a Generous Orthodoxy.
A Generous Orthodoxy - John Charmley - 28-07-2007 11:25 AM
When you write:
Quote:we should all be driven by the same thing I think, the aspiration to live in and the service of the Kingdom of God.you cut to the heart of the matter. We pray every day 'Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven'; what is it we mean when we ask that the Kingdom of God should come?
Do we have more than vague ideas of what the Kingdom is? Does it matter if that is the case? How far does it translate for us into a vocation to live the Christian life here and now? How does that relate to 'right belief' and 'right worship'. One reason the Church matters so much to us is that it has been wrestling with these questions for nearly two thousand years, and can therefore provide us with a context in which can help work out our own answers; those answers are not 'our own' in the sense that we have to work them out and then assume they are right; we can derive them from the common stock available to us.
In that sense, Orthodoxy is generous to us all.
- Rick Henry - 01-08-2007 02:11 PM
Dear John, Dear All,
Yes, John, as you say "the heart of the matter."
When we pray 'Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven,' are we just parroting something here, (let alone do we understand what we are saying) does this have any real meaning to us?
My daughter likes birds. We have a cockatiel named Karl Barth. Actually, Karl laid an egg last Christmas so the name has been changed to Karly. But, my daughter is in the market for an African Grey parrot now, so I find myself at an expensive bird shop from time to time. In this one bird store, I notice that sometimes after a parrot says something, it gives an exclamation of sorts when it finishes with a BWWWACK! And, as it relates to our present conversation, to be very blunt, I wonder sometimes if instead of a pause for consideration, such as the Hebrew 'Selah,' as we see in the Psalms for example, we ourselves are not more like a bird in a cage who really does not know what he or she is saying.
So I think your questions are questions that need to be asked lest we start considering the mannerisms of an Ostrich now. When you ask:
John Charmley Wrote:. . . what is it we mean when we ask that the Kingdom of God should come?
These question/statments can be interpreted differently by different folks I think. And, as you move to the subject of interpretation or possibly a Kingdom hermeneutic in the following:
Quote:One reason the Church matters so much to us is that it has been wrestling with these questions for nearly two thousand years, and can therefore provide us with a context in which can help work out our own answers; those answers are not 'our own' in the sense that we have to work them out and then assume they are right; we can derive them from the common stock available to us.
I do not think it is an understatement to say that we are moving toward 'the heart of the matter' here with great speed--'to the heart of salvation.'
Let alone knowing why we believe what we believe--so that we are not speaking as bird in a cage--let alone knowing the Truth (for ourselves) as true disciples of Christ, how can we find any degree of true freedom lest we join the conversation that has been going on for two thousand years now. Lest we actually participate in the Spirit of Life-the Life of Christ, which includes not always ease and comfort, but wrestling and struggling at times, how can we not just in reality be true spectators in the true sense of the word.
And, as it relates to sitting in the seat of the spectator, or choosing to stick one's head in the sand, what does this have to do with our daily prayer, when we pray 'Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven?' What does this have to do with the life of the Spirit of the Church? Or, more to the point, what does this have to do with Union with God?
That's right nothing.
And, I realize that there is a high degree of rhetoric being employed here at the present, but sometimes, I think, when one is trying to communicate to another who has his or her head buried in the sand, or has fallen asleep in his seat in the stadium, at times straight talk is necessary to awaken or engage in a meaningful dialogue.
So, hopefully, at the least there is cause for a pause for reflection in this post. God willing, we will not find ourselves in bondage to a system that leads us to 'believe' in the system itself over and above the Person of Christ. God willing, as we work out our salvation for ourselves, as we examine (dokimaso!) ourselves we will consider the 'common stock' and 'context' of a Kingdom hermeneutic as pointed to by the Church. And, knowing there is a time to be on our knees or on our face, hopefully, what we are considering now, will be from a sober and alert posture which prefers the 'Selah' over the 'BWWWK.'
A Generous Orthodoxy - John Charmley - 01-08-2007 03:24 PM
One of the pleasures of having you here is that you move us to think about what it is we are doing; to make our Faith literally a lively one.
Perhaps I think I have Faith and believe that I am 'saved', but still the Tempter comes, and as St. James warns us (1:15):
Quote:1:14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.As St. Augustine wrote:
Quote:Because we are human, we live a most dangerous life among the snares of temptation[Letters, 250]Almost the most difficult thing at times is to obey the injunction in St. James 1:6 to 'ask in faith, with no doubting'. Yet if we have not Faith, we have nothing:
Quote:1:7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;
Bede told us that the person who doubts that he will receive the heavenly gifts
Quote:will easily abandon his faith when he is tempted and be carried away into various sins as easily as if he were blown about by the windsAny 'system' that is not rooted in the Risen Lord is, itself, double-minded in the sense which St. James writes about. That is one of the reasons why the Church, as the living embodiment of the Tradition is not just a 'system' or a spiritual museum. At its best it offers us the support we need to nourish that Faith through the trials of this life; but how often does it fall short of that itself?
As you have said in a previous post, He commands us to love one another; yet how easily Christians have left themselves open to the rebuke that they spend most of their time doing the opposite? Not long ago I remember reading a proclamation from some of the Athonite Monks laying into the EP for receiving Pope Benedict; whatever provocation they thought they had received, their language was deeply shocking; almost as much as the defence of it by some on the grounds that it was 'tough love'. Where is the line between 'tough love' and sheer human willfulness and love of one's own point of view? There never was a tyranny that did not defend itself with the argument that what others thought was wrong was done for the highest motives; that does not automatically make it right.
One reason I am attracted to a generous Orthodoxy is that it seems to embody that injunction to love even our enemies. It is not empty of doctrine, it knows the importance of right belief and right worship; but it knows that part of both is that we should love each other as He loved us. Here is both a beginning - and an end.
a generous orthodoxy - kirk yacoub - 02-08-2007 08:37 AM
Just to add that the great monastic Father, Anthony the Great warned us that we should expect temptation "to our very last breath." It has also been stated by other saintly monks that you can spend 99.9% of your life in prayer, fasting, vigil, and good works yet, at the very last moment, destroy the entire edifice by falling for one temptation. Hence the emphasis on vigilance, humility and self-blame.