November 2004 Archives

From N.T. Wright (Christian Origins and the Question of God, Vol. III)


"Proposing that Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead was just as controversial nineteen hundred years ago as it is today." (10)

"There was once a king who commanded his archers to shoot at the sun. His strongest bowmen, using their finest equipment tried all day; but their arrows fell short, and the sun continued unaffected on its course. All night the archers polished and refeathered their arrows, and the next day they tried again, with renewed zeal; but still their efforts were in vain. The king became angry, and uttered dark threats. On the third day the youngest archer, with the smallest bow, came at noon to where the king sat before a pond in his garden. There was the sun, a golden ball reflected in the still water. With a single shot the lad pierced it at its heart. The sun splintered into a thousand glittering fragments.

"All the arrows of history cannot reach God. There may, of course, be some meanings of the word 'god' that would allow such a being to be set up like a target in a shooting-gallery, for historians to take pot-shots at. The more serious a pantheist someone is, the more likely they will be to suppose that in studying the course of events within the natural world they are studying their god. But the god of Jewish tradition, the god of Christian faith, and indeed the god of Muslim devotion (whether these be three or one does not presently concern us) are simply not that kind of god. The transcendence of the god(s) of Judaism, Christianity and Islam provides the theological equivalent of the force of gravity. The arrows of history are doomed to fall short.

"And yet. Deep within both Jewish and Christian tradition there lies a rumour that an image, a reflection, of the one true god has appeared within the gravitational field of history. This rumour, running from Genesis through the Wisdom tradition, and then into Jewish beliefs about Torah on the one hand and Christian beliefs about Jesus on the other, may yet offer a way for the circle to be squared, for the cake to be both eaten and possessed, for the transcendence of this god to come within bowshot." (11)

belief

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The traditional understanding of the Anglican three-legged stool comprises: Scripture, Tradition, and Reason. Some may re-order the list - Anglo-Catholics may put Tradition first, Anglican-Evangelicals will leave Scripture first, and liberals or progressives may place Reason in the first slot. Wesley, to his death an Anglican priest and early in his life an Anglo-Catholic, added a fourth element: Experience.

The "Wesleyan Quadrilateral" thus comprises: Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience. I think this may be a more realistic and frankly accurate portrayal of how people come to belief and understanding, at least in the Anglican tradition, within which I include Wesley (and Methodism in general, although they have abandoned the more sacramental and liturgically catholic notions).

The Episcopal Church likes to think of itself as the "thinking person's church," because we are not fundamentalist, and we allow for a messy openness as we attempt to know and discern God and God's will for this world. There is an allowance for diverse opinions, theologies, pieties, and practices within certain boundaries of our common prayer. At least that is the theory. What I have come to realize through study and by antidotal evidence is that because Experience generally is not included in the Anglican system, many Episcopalians do not have an experiential faith, an experiential relationship with God/Jesus. They have a belief system to ascent to, a pattern to follow, a method of seeking, but with not much behind all that. They see the edges of the forest and trees and attempt to explain it all, but never enter into the forest. They learn about the man from a distance, but never know him personally.

So, we read all these different theologies and theories of the origin and development of scripture, of God, of salvation, etc., and it all becomes so anthropocentric. New theories and new formulations of Christ, of God, of humankind, of belief, of evidence, of anything just so that it is different than traditional understandings of all these things. They are welcome in the mix of thought and practice of Anglicanism.

Yet, without experience, these theories often destroy the faith of people. Without an experiential relationship with God - the reality of it – they are all just theories, just good lessons, just nice ways to live, all is reconfigured and reformulated and reinterpreted to fit into a cosmology that cannot allow for anything other than the material.

I can read all these different theologies and say, well, that there may be aspects of truth in each and they may all contribute to our overcoming the fact that we see through a glass dimly. However, my faith is not a bit shaken when I encounter a theologian who reconfigures the resurrection story to be just that - a story told by primitive peoples attempting to understand life and to hand-down their understanding to their children. My faith is not a bit shaken when the Jesus Seminar strips scripture of almost any authenticity concerning the human Jesus and his sayings, his mission, and his understanding of himself, let alone being God incarnate.

I experience the reality of scripture, it seems because I believe that scripture can be true. Consider the lilies of the valley and the birds of the air - I have experienced the provision of God in ways beyond just coincidence or good fortune or luck. Consider it pure joy my brothers and sisters when you face trials of many kinds - I experience this. The joy of the Lord is my strength - I experience such things. I sense the presence of God in my quite-time, during worship, as I mumble through prayer (yes, “senses” and “feelings” can be fickle and deceiving). The psalmists wrote from their hearts to God and about God - I have experienced and realized so much of what they write. I experience God, and nothing a theorist postulates to explain away the wellspring, the source, the beginning point of these experiences traditionally understood has yet to convince me that my experiences have not been valid or true. To some the gift of healing, to others the gift of tongues and some others, prophesy - I have experienced such things.

Jonah and the whale - who knows? The lessons are valid, the lessons are knowable, and whether historically or literally true or not, they all speak of relationship with God and the writers' experiences with God, not simply an attempt to understand the world.

Too many people cannot believe in a god who is personal – a god who is experiential. They cannot believe because they do not allow for such a thing. There are many reasons why they cannot believe, I know, but I hear over and over again how this or that person read this or that certain theologian and suddenly their faith is shattered and they descend into this funk, and then they can no longer believe.

It is more than the Dark Night of the Soul. I think it is anyway. It certainly resembles such a thing, but what are the origins of the experience? God? Man?

I am so glad I began my spiritual life in a system that emphasized the experiential nature of God, descendents of Wesley, because if I started in the intellectualism of much of the Episcopal Church that puts far too much emphasis on the reason leg of the stool, I donÂ’t know whether I would be a Christian right now. I might be a Christian through the ascent to a belief system, but I donÂ’t think I would know and be with my Father in Heaven.

Republicans

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I have said repeatedly of late that I do not know what has happened to the Republican party. Well, I do know, it has been taken over, but I am perplexed that so many in the party have allowed it to be taken over.

More Republicans are asking the same question, and are determining to do something about it, if it isn't too late already. The party is no longer "conservative," unless one wants to define "conservative" to mean only that which deals with morals and family values as defined by a small group of men and women who lead American para-church organizations.

The following essay was written by Garrison Keillor. If sums up some of what I feel, although I do not necessarily agree with everything he writes. Here it is...

We're Not in Lake Wobegon Anymore
by Garrison Keillor

"Something has gone seriously haywire with the Republican Party. Once, it was the party of pragmatic Main Street businessmen in steel-rimmed spectacles who decried profligacy and waste, were devoted to their communities and supported the sort of prosperity that raises all ships. They were good-hearted people who vanquished the gnarlier elements of their party, the paranoid Roosevelt-haters, the flat Earthers and Prohibitionists, the antipapist antiforeigner element. The
genial Eisenhower was their man, a genuine American hero of D-Day, who made it OK for reasonable people to vote Republican. He brought the Korean War to a stalemate, produced the Interstate Highway System, declined to rescue the French colonial army in Vietnam, and gave us a period of peace and prosperity, in which (oddly) American arts and letters flourished and higher education burgeoned--and there was a degree of plain decency in the country. Fifties Republicans were giants compared to today's. Richard Nixon was the last Republican leader to feel a Christian obligation toward the poor.

the dark night

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The Dark Night
by: St. John of the Cross

"On a night of darkness,
In love's anxiety of longing kindled,
O blessed chance!
I left by none beheld,
My house in sleep and silence stilled.

In darkness and secure,
By the secret ladder and disguised,
O blessed venture!
In darkness and concealed,
My house is sleep and silence stilled.

By dark of blessed night,
In secrecy, for no one saw me
And I regarded nothing,
My only light and guide
The one that in my heart was burning.

This guided, led me on
More surely than the radiance of noon
To where there waited one
Who was to me well known,
And in a place where no one came in view.

O night, you were the guide!
O night more desirable than dawn!
O dark of night you joined
Beloved with belov'd one,
Belov'd one in Beloved now transformed!


Upon my flowering breast,
Entirely kept for him and him alone,
There he stayed and slept
And I caressed him
In breezes from the fan of cedars blown.

Breezes on the battlements -
As I was spreading out his hair,
With his unhurried hand
He wounded my neck
And all my sense left suspended there.

I stayed, myself forgotten,
My countenance against my love reclined;
All ceased, and self forsaken
I left my care behind
Among the lilies, unremembered."

Here, John writes of rejoicing in his union with God by the path of spiritual negation. Very sensual, which is common among the mystics.

There have been times past when the sense of God's presence and my great desire for God have been so great, that I have experienced spiritually, emotionally, and physically such things - such passion, such... I just don't know how to describe it.

That was a good while past. I don't know whether the passion has waned, whether the desire is gone, or maybe just different now.

Thanksgiving

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Off to Baltimore again this year for Thanksgiving. I could sense that my mother really wanted me to come home this year. All the concerns surrounding my grandmother and the problems concerning my uncle, my mother's brother, do nothing but add to her frustration and worry. She wanted to come to New York - she would have loved to have seen the balloons being inflated or even gone the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. That is not happening, and this is my last year here. They will be at my grandmother's for Thanksgiving.

Maybe I should have gone, but part of me just can't. Selfish? Maybe so. I will have an incredible Thanksgiving meal. I will be in a place that is so relaxing. I will be with people I am comfortable enough with, although...

Another Thanksgiving. What am I honestly thankful for? Am I far too removed from real life to stop, even for a moment, to think and be thankful?

compassion

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I have a great view of the children's garden a few stories below my bedroom window. The toddlers and kids up to around three or so are out there playing, and I heard one crying, only half paying attention.

I looked out my window and saw one of the kids just hugging another one and patting her on the back. She did this for a good bit of time, releasing and hugging again. After it ended, the hugee wiped her eyes and they went back to playing.

Kids are amazing things!

The name "Griffith"

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I have a more reputable source for the mean and origin of the surname, "Griffith." I heard from another Griffith years ago that the name was Welsh and stood for "red headed tribal chieftain." Thatç—´ a lot of description for one little word.

So, according to The Family Chronicle, here is the definition:

Griffith is British-Welsh and comes from the middle Welsh "Gruffund;" "und" means lord. The name is taken from or based upon the first name of the ancestor's father, which makes it patronymic.

And, according to The Sweetest Sound from PBS, it is number 358 out of a possible 55,000 of the most popular surnames in the USA. Go figure.

Ashton & Princeton

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Ashton coaches the Princeton Equestrian team. Today, they were high point team and one of the women was high point rider. They won by the highest point spread in the school's history. Ashton has been coaching them for less than a semester, but boy have they improved.

He also qualified for regional competition, on his way to nationals once again!

(There have been problems with this weblog since my website host company has some screw-up once again. I have spent all afternoon rebuilding this stupid thing, which means I have done nothing with my liturgy paper which is due tomorrow.)

Emergant Quote

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I find the Emergent Church movement very interesting. From what I observe, it seems to be an organic merging of many aspects of Evangelicalism (from the children who are tired and skeptical of the Baby-Boomer Evangelicals that have created the Religious Right) and aspects of the ancient sacramental and liturgical Church. Not really like true Anglican-Evangelicalism, but not far off. Not at all like the "Anglican-Evangelicals" that have become so reactionary and appear more like the worst of "American Evangelicalism" than honestly Anglican.

There are many aspects of this nascent movement that are very appealing to me, especially as an Anglican who thinks about evangelism, and especially considering unchurched young people.

There is a sea-change afoot in the Christian religious landscape in the West and a little further out in time in the world. If we are not careful, the worse of us will be triumphant in this country. I want to help keep that from happening.

What is authentic in a personal experience of the Divine - a relationship with God ("Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" as a name for God) through Jesus Christ? A different question: How do we authentically experience God and community as we worship God together - experience God in the community of faith?

"Christianity has not been tried and found wanting;
it has been found difficult and left untried."

G. K. Chesterton

Tired

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I am tired. I'm tired of a year through which we had to deal with aftermath of Bishop Robinson's consecration. I'm tired of a year through which we had to deal with a presidential election. I'm tired of month period where the Windsor Report was issued, and a president was elected.

I am tired of all the lies and fear mongering perpetuated by the anti-gay establishment in both the Church and the State.

I am tired of living in a society where few have really learned anything about loving one's neighbor as one loves one's self. Don't you think it is about time we start honestly doing what we are called to do as Christians?

Failures

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Here are three failures we can begin highlighting:

1. The near equal failure of Evangelical and Fundamentalist marriages as non-Christain marriages.

2. The tragic failures taking place in the ex-gay movement, a prime recent example is Michael Johnston.

3. The retrenchment in the status of women within many conservative denominations, the Southern Baptists and The Christian and Missionary Alliance, for example.

East German Lutherans

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Walter Bauman, a systematic theologian and retired professor of Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio, taught a Systematic Theology course I took a few years ago, commented on the role the East German Lutheran Church during the Communist period. He said that the East German Lutherans did not campaign against the godless communists in power, but decided that they would hold their communist leaders' feet to the fire and demand they actually do what their propaganda promised. The Lutherans held their public leaders accountable to the egalitarian and socialist ideals they said they believed in, they fought against public graft, corruption, and enrichment of leaders at the expense of the people, and they demanded that their leaders actually abide by the grand claims of the socialist and communist system.

If that is what the majority of people who voted for "moral values" want, then that is what we should hold them accountable for. If that is the language and schema they want to use, then so be it.

We should demand that they explain that they mean by "moral values," then demand that they prove their assertions using good exegetical and hermeneutical methods of Biblical interpretation, historical and cultural understandings that apply to those Scriptures, and not let them get away with the misuse and misinterpretation of Scripture. We should also be vigilant in demanding that they live up to their own rhetoric, and sadly make sure their failures are widely known. Of course, because we strongly believe in the merciful grace of God, which they claim also, by pointing out their failures we are fighting the sin of hypocrisy and we are actually helping them be free from that which enslaves them and helping them come to the freeing realization of God's grace, mercy, justice, and peace.

Honestly, what are we looking for as Americans? Honestly, what are Evangelical Christians looking for? Honestly, what are liberal Christians looking for? What do we all want?

"Many of us who call ourselves Christian long to be what we call ourselves, but we cannot see how to do it, granted our culture's basic assumptions about what it means to be a human being. If we assume with our culture that the goal of human life is individual self-development, how does this goal leave space for love that might thwart that development? How does the need for assertiveness in a world that despises the weak fit with the Christ who 'did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant" (Phil. 2:6-7)? How does an ethos of productivity fit with the image of the cross? We suspect that our culture's assumptions about human life may be wrong but it is hard to see what alternatives we have."

Roberta Bondi, To Love as God Loves

Stuff

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The fight for traditional-marriage is a front. Why, because heterosexuals are the ones who have brought traditional-marriage to its knees. Those who are conducting this campaign are not fighting for traditional, heterosexual marriage. If they were then they would be campaigning as strongly against divorce, adultery, and against whatever attitude has infected even Fundamentalist and Evangelical marriages, since they fail on par with non-Christian marriages. They are not putting the time and money into such campaigns - only against gay-marriage. No, what all this is about is simply hatred towards homosexuals. They won't admit that, and legitimately not all harbor hatred in their hearts, but way too many do. The fight is to deprive homosexuals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, of equal consideration and protection under the law. Couching their anti-homosexual attitudes and feelings in positive "save-marriage" language only gives them a feel-good justification for hatred and self-righteous indignation.

This is not humility and is not the love of God, or for neighbor and self. It is motivated by anger, fear, ignorance, and their impurity, haughtiness, pride, and for some vainglory. The desert fathers and mothers would not be proud, and would not recognize the Religious Right's attempts to be Christian.

Now that their zeal and numbers have won the election and constitutional amendments, their continuing crusade to define Christianity after themselves will go forward. They will attempt to deny the moniker "Christian" to those who disagree with their own particular and narrow view of doctrine and Scriptural interpretation. They will now, feeling even more embolden and justified, push forward in demanding that society capitulate to their concept of living as an American.

Nationalism is an idol. Patriotism is an idol. If we give ourselves over to this idea of "America," we are abandoning completely the "other" that Christ calls us to. The idols of nationalism and patriotism have caused many within the Church to redefine what "Christian" really is. They are giving themselves over the spirit of this age, to the world. Unquestioning belief is a liability to discerning the will of God. Gathering around oneself those who scratch one's itching ear is spiritual death. Far too many Christians are only willing to have their ears scratched, rather than have their minds and consciences pricked, challenged, and changed by the enduring Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Opinions

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Here is more viewpoints from blogger Adam Yoshida:

But, whatever, we won: to hell with the rest of them. Those who didn稚 support Bush can go and perform a certain anatomically impossible act. They lost, now they can sit in the back of the bus.

Thank God Almighty.

The election is over. The speeches have been made. Anyone can tell you that I do not lean very far to the left or right, but I am truly sad. You know, it isn't so much the man - Bush is just a man - but it is what so many Americans attribute to and give the man that is scary.

"He is God's man; he does God's will; he speaks with/for God, and whatever he does is God's will" - this is what so many are giving to this man.

I read stories yesterday from gay people across the country. I have no problem with people advocating their positions against gay-marriage and the like. It is their right in this country to express their opinions and desires. However, all the acrimony generated by the Religious Right against gay people (not just against gay-marriage or civil-unions, but against the people themselves) is giving so many the justifications to be bold and forthright about their hatred for gay people. It will be a long, dark night for the average gay person in the red-states, and even in some blue-states.

We will look back on this time and shake our heads. It was the "moral issues" that won this election. The primary moral issues are gay-marriage and homosexuality-in-general. It may have been couched in "family values" language, but it was anti-homosexual sentiment that got out the vote in many places. In the same way a majority of Americans look back on the 60's and shake their heads at want went on in the South, so will we look back and shake our heads at what went on in the red-states. Look for much more violence and discrimination against gay people. It is inevitable.


Here is an example from an e-mail to Andrew SullivanÂ’s webblog:

"I wonder if you noticed that yesterday all eleven states that considered the question of gay marriage voted to ban it. ALL ELEVEN. I think this sends a very clear message -- true Americans do not like your kind of homosexual deviants in our country, and we will not tolerate your radical pro-gay agenda trying to force our children to adopt your homosexual lifestyle. You should be EXTREMELY GRATEFUL that we even let you write a very public and influential blog, instead of suppressing your treasonous views (as I would prefer). But I'm sure someone like yourself would consider me just an "extremist" that you don't need to worry about. Well you are wrong -- I'm not just an extremist, I am a real American, and you should be worried because eleven states yesterday proved that there are millions more just like me who will not let you impose your radical agenda on our country."

And then, another e-mail:

"I'll tell you, being a 16 year-old gay kid in Michigan just got a hell of a lot worse. When I woke up this morning and saw the anti gay marriage proposal had passed, I was shocked. I realized the situation I'm faced with everyday in school - the American people have just shown my classmates that it's perfectly fine to discriminate. A direct quote from a 'friend' at school today: 'It's so cool that all these states just told all the faggots to eat shit and get the hell out...' Because of the above events, I am at a crossroads ... I'm the youngest card-carrying Republican in the county, and am constantly asked to get others involved for Bush/Cheney. Herein lies a problem, I can't bring myself to do that. Bush totally lost all my support (I know I can't vote - but I make a hell of a campaigner) when he supported the amendment to ban gay marriages, and I felt bad that in straying from Bush, I was abandoning Cheney, who I have an amazing amount of respect for. Many would say go Democrat... but I can't do that (that signals the absence of a spine up here), and in the next year, I'm considering dropping my membership to the party. Especially this year, despite how undercut and violated I feel as a gay person, I couldn't be happier that I am. I've got a stronger will because of it, and will lead my life just as strongly.

What more can be said.

Yes, we are at war and we truly need to be gravely concerned with the intent and actions of the Islamic Fundamentalist terrorists. Yes, we do need to be strong and forthright in protecting ourselves. But the answer is not “find ‘em and kill ‘em.” This attitude, expressed by both candidates, may be very American and may make us feel a little better, or stronger, but it is not the way of a Christian. Bring them to justice, bring them to trial, put them away for life, but to simply say we are going to hunt them down and kill them no matter what is against the call of Jesus Christ. It just is. Scripture and reason cannot, CANNOT, justify this kind of attitude, although perhaps it can be justified through tradition. Bush may steadfastly stay on his course and think that it shows resolve and strength, but if that course causes more people to become terrorists, increases terrorist activities across the planet, and alienates our allies whom we desperately need, then all the show of strength and resolve will simply add to the problem.

If he cannot see how his actions are counterproductive to truly solving this world-wide crisis, then it is not God who is directing his thoughts and actions!

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