Sunday, 30 January 2011

Me, me, me.....?

A revealing article here on the attractiveness of "liberal Christianity."
There has been a lot of comment about Theo Hobson's view of the Episcopal Church of the U.S.A. (TEC. )
I won't add to it by very much, only to say that the problem with much of contemporary 'liberal' Christianity, wherever we find it, is that it seems always to be we who are questioning the Tradition and the Scriptures in the light of our own personal desires and wishes. There is little sense that Tradition and Scripture (and through them the Lord himself) are interrogating us, or (am I being unfair?) of that renunciation of self which the call to holiness of necessity involves. Ultimately that's what makes me so uneasy about the direction the theological liberals want to take us, which seems to be influenced more by the intellectual arrogance of modern culture and its smug acceptance of its historical insularity than by the imperatives of the Gospel. Where is the cross? What is the meaning of  redemption and salvation? Or is religious faith simply about being able to feel comfortable in our own skins?
Isn't that what really divides us?


  1. Yes you are being unfair.

    At their best, all forms of Christianity (including the most extreme liberal ones) are trying hard to realise the Kingdom of God revealed in Jesus.

    Even inspired Scripture can become a stumbling block to faith if it is seen and interpreted exclusively in its own context and not in that of a lively faith in Jesus. It goes without saying that Tradition (and Reason) are even more susceptible.

    Liberals who are genuinely seeking a lively expression of God's life here and now through Jesus have as much to say as does the Tradition. The problem arises when one or other is excluded from the debate (by personal decision or otherwise) - and that is I think why it seems such a burning issue now. Me, me, me is not the exclusive preserve of liberals or anyone else. It is a symptom of Original Sin.

    When we start seeking the good in each other is the time when the Kingdom starts to grow.


  2. Venno, yes, I agree up to a point. We are all sincerely and honestly seeking to realise the Kingdom of God revealed in Jesus, although we probably couldn't all agree on the meaning of either.
    But at least the subjection of one's own desires and wishes to the living tradition of the Church, and to Scripture as part of that infallible authority, guards against the rather amorphous subjectivism which seems to many of us to be inherent in the liberal vision. I know that in some ways begs far more questions than it answers and, of course, certainly assumes a far higher view of the Church than you would wish to articulate. It can't be a surprise, though, that this is the direction in which I am being impelled.

  3. I wouldn't make assumptions as to how high my view of the Church might be. I suspect it is still higher than yours, the difference being that I don't see it fully realised in any of the historic forms of Church. Hence the attraction of being an Anglican, where at the very least there is an honest appraisal of incompleteness and inadequacy, and a stubborn refusal to make overblown claims on truth.

    I have spent many long years studying and living within the Tradition of the Church, and the more I have learned and lived the more I am suspicious of any claims of infallibility whether vested in persons or teachings.

    Thinking about Thomas Aquinas last Friday, it was borne in on me yet again how simple he is to read in the Latin and how complex he seems in the English translations which are overlaid with post-neo-Scholastic assumptions, and where his straightforward terminology becomes unreal and over-complex. Don't know whether you have read much Thomas or whether your Latin is still up to it, but you might get what I mean when I say that the discussions I read from 'traditionalists' concerning the state of the Church and the Ordinariate are marred with wishful thinking and the overlay that comes from an habitual Anglican freedom which is incompatible with Roman practice in discipline and theology.


  4. Thanks. A second attempt at a response due to bad typing and a computer crash!
    Yes, I am a little familiar (I wouldn't say more than than) with St Thomas and of some of the accretions of 'scholasticism' attaching to the interpretation of his work, although it probably wouldn't surprise you that I'm more Augustinian than Thomist in my approach to theology. As a "cradle Anglican" and someone who has undoubtedly been at least partly formed by the "habitual Anglican freedom" of our tradition I'm afraid I'm a little more jaundiced than you are about the "the attraction of being an Anglican, where at the very least there is an honest appraisal of incompleteness and inadequacy, and a stubborn refusal to make overblown claims on truth." The difficulty I have is that the classical Anglican theological / historical method and our distinctive way of - sorry about the expression - "being Church" is almost nowhere to be found in the contemporary expression of Anglican identity.
    I know what you are saying, but for me at least there is no wishful thinking involved. Actually, I think most of those who are considering the Ordinariate option are doing so with their eyes wide open and are simply, as no doubt you are too, trying to follow where Christ wants to lead us. The search for a necessary authority vs a vital element intellectual freedom - where do we find the right balance? In terms of our respective journeys of faith, life is full of paradox, isn't it?


Anonymous comments will not be published