Generous Orthodoxy  

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Archbishop of Ireland says it precisely

Without this acknowledgement, no dialogue is possible

Excerpts from the Pitt Lecture given at the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale on October 12, 2005, by The Most Rev. Dr. Robin Eames, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, Chairman of the Eames Commission on Women in the Episcopate and the Windsor Report on the Nature of Communion.

"I cannot over-emphasize the strength of conservative feeling about the identity of authentic Christianity as being 'Biblical Christianity'....To a conservative Anglican it is the key issue. But what alarms me about our current crisis is the failure to engage in dialogue on an agreed playing field between two apparently opposing views. If Anglicanism is to maintain a global community, dialogue on an agreed transparent basis is essential. Sadly, so far I have found little evidence that such a process is taking place...

"I am suggesting that...there must be a new and urgent focus on 1) the Christian view of creation and 2) the Christian understanding of salvation. Whatever one's sexual orientation may be, we are all part of creation; and we all need salvation. If our view is 1) that homosexuality has been a part of the created world from the start and thus 'without sin,' we need to engage at new levels of sensibility with those who accept 2) that it entered with man's first fall and so is sinful [along with disordered heterosexuality, divorce, etc.] Surely, if unity is not to be fractured beyond recovery, this Augustinian approach must be a first, rather than a final, stage.

"At the present stage of the Anglican crisis what could be termed a "stand-off" exists between the two wings. As long as there is no agreement on approach, we will not be able to develop any lasting basis for dialogue; and my thesis is that dialogue is essential, whatever form it takes under God."

Bishop Eames ends with a passionate appeal for charity and familial love within the Anglican Communion as we seek dialogue, but that note has been sounded by many others. What seems distinctive about his analysis is his clear, concise delineation of the two irreconcilable points of view that are presently at a stand-off.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Why the mainlines are shrinking

Look no further than this notice from the Associated Press on June 19 to find out why the PCUSA is declining and the PCA is booming.

Dateline Alabama:
The divine Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, could also be known as Mother, Child and Womb-- or as Rock, Redeemer and Friend-- at some Presbyterian churches (USA) after action by the church's national assembly. Delegates to the meeting voted to receive a policy paper on gender-inclusive language for the Trinity. (The article notes that this is "one step short of approving it.")

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The liberalism we need today

Joe Klein (the famous anonymous author of Primary Colors) is one of the most astute observers of the political scene today. His review this week of Peter Beinert's new book about political liberalism, The Good Fight, is called "The [Harry] Truman Show." It seems to me that all Christians interested in politics (and all Christians should be interested....right?) need to be aware of what Mr. Beinert has to say. Here is one passage:

The need for American restraint and humility was at the heart of Truman's liberalism. It was the most significant difference between cold war liberalism and conservatism — and it is the most difficult part of Beinart's agenda to sell to the American public today. Conservatives passionately assume American exceptionalism, the uninflected righteousness of American power. But "in the liberal vision," Beinart writes, "it is precisely our recognition that we are not angels that makes us exceptional. Because we recognize that we can be corrupted by unlimited power, we accept the restraints that empires refuse."

If that gets your attention, and I hope it does, here is more, from earlier in the article:

Truman laid out the essentials in his 1949 Inaugural Address, offering a foreign policy with three pillars: a willingness to use military force to contain Soviet expansion, an aggressive effort to promote economic development abroad — especially in Western Europe's tottering democracies — and the resolve to remain humble in the process. "We all have to recognize — no matter how great our strength," Truman said, "that we must deny ourselves the license to do always as we please." A fourth pillar was implicit in the third: that in order to be respected in the world, the United States would have to work assiduously to perfect its democracy at home. Hence, Truman's insistence on programs like civil rights legislation and universal health insurance.

I am not sure I would share this enthusiasm for Truman in view of his decision to drop the A-bombs and his refusal ever to rethink that decision. However, this Klein/Beinart assessment is compelling. To orient you further, here's more, going back to the beginning:

Once upon a time — 60 years ago, to be precise — liberals were the moderates in American politics. They were flanked on the left by so-called progressives who were either unconcerned about the threat posed by the international spread of Communism or covertly sympathetic to it, and on the right by conservatives who wanted to use anti-Communism as a rationale for domestic demagogy and unilateral military crusades. The liberal "vital center" — to use Arthur Schlesinger Jr.'s phrase — was not, however, a force for milquetoast moderation or take-half compromise. It was a tough-minded, aggressively creative political movement. It was led by courageous politicians like Harry Truman and Hubert Humphrey, who received policy support from a remarkable generation of public servants that included George Marshall, George Kennan, Paul Nitze and Dean Acheson. Intellectual ballast was provided by Schlesinger, Kennan and the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, among others. Their immediate achievement was the containment of Communism. But Peter Beinart argues that cold war liberalism has enduring value as well: he believes it is the most plausible philosophical framework for an enlightened American foreign (and domestic) policy in the 21st century.

And finally, here is Klein's summary of the "global viruses" facing us (I find this a helpful concise list, for prayer and for preaching)

1) terrorism
2) plagues
3) transnational criminality
4) economic exploitation
5) environmental depredation

To read the entire article, cut and paste this link:

Sunday, June 04, 2006

C. S. Lewis in defense of St. Paul

Defending Paul the Apostle is a full-time job, as I discovered long ago. The bias against him persists almost everywhere, and even in those few places where Paul is appreciated he is mostly misunderstood. In many churches one simply never hears a sermon from any of the Epistles. Last year a clergyman told me (quite smugly) that he "never preached from the Epistles." Being of a certain age and no longer worrying as much as I used to about causing offense, I found myself saying, "Then you're not preaching the gospel."

Tonight while preparing to read Romans I was delighted to come across C. S. Lewis' foreword/introduction to J. B. Phillips' translation of Paul's Epistles, Letters to Young Churches. Here is a small part of what Lewis wrote:

A most astonishing misconception has long dominated the modern mind on the subject of St. Paul. It is to this effect: that Jesus preached a kindly and simple religion (found in the Gospels) and that Paul afterward corrupted it into a cruel and complicated religion (found in the Epistles). This is really quite untenable. All the most terrifying texts come from the mouth of our Lord [in the four Gospels]; all the texts on which we can base such warrant as we have for hoping that all men will be saved come from St. Paul. If it could be proved that St. Paul altered the teaching of his Master in any way, he altered it in exactly the opposite way to that which is popularly supposed. But there is no real evidence for a pre-Pauline doctrine different from St. Paul's. The Epistles are, for the most part, the earliest Christian documents we possess....