Generous Orthodoxy  




Friday, February 22, 2008

A nifty sentence from the WSJ

In a Wall Street Journal review of Jaroslav Pelikan's Whose Bible Is It? the reviewer, George Sim Johnston, says this about the "Gospel" of Thomas and all of its ilk:

"The fuzzy, nonbinding spirituality of these so-called gnostic gospels makes them popular among modern intellectuals."

Couldn't have said it better. (And it's a highly favorable review.)

Interesting that Pelikan, a lifelong Lutheran, became a member of the Eastern Orthodox Church not long before he died. His little book about Bach is one of my constant companions.

(Sorry, no exact date for the WSJ article but it's probably March or April, certainly 2007.)


Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Queen weighs in

I don't usually keep up with the complicated doings of the Archbishop of Canterbury (it gives me a headache) but this latest is really interesting. Click on this link to the English newspaper The Telegraph:


Postscript:
Life with Islam is going to be ever more complex and challenging in years to come. A recent news article about the headscarf controversy in Turkey noted that Kemal Ataturk, the grand (albeit morally compromised) architect of secular modern Turkey, firmly believed that as his countrymen and women became more educated and more Western, religion would die away. Ha!

Another link, to The Guardian, favored newspaper of the moderate left, gives a more balanced view of Rowan Williams' tribulations and the extraordinarily difficult challenges posed by the presence of so many Muslims in England. Here are some excerpts:

The Archbishop of Canterbury is expected today to improvise a speech to the Church of England's 550-strong national assembly so he can directly address the furore sparked by his comments on sharia law. Rowan Williams has torn up his original speech, choosing instead to respond to the criticism he has faced since raising the questions of the possible adoption of some aspects of Islamic law in Britain.

Originally he was expected to speak about the political turmoil in Zimbabwe and the ordeal of Christians living under Robert Mugabe's regime. But officials advised last night that the intense media interest prompted by his speech last week should now be challenged head-on.Last night Williams was still working on the revised speech. Lambeth officials suggested he was prepared to improvise the 30-minute address to mark the opening of general synod, a biannual gathering of bishops, clergy and laity, "with notes" to clarify his position.

Despite the welter of political criticism, church commentators yesterday expected the archbishop to receive a positive reception at Church House, Westminster, with one predicting a "standing ovation" to reflect the anger some feel over the way he has been vilified. Another member of general synod said it would take an "immense amount of personal courage" for the archbishop to enter the room and lead the assembly in prayer. Christina Rees said: "I am angry and frustrated at the way he has been treated. He has been vilified. Nobody is responding to what he said at the lecture, which was highly nuanced and complex, and delivered to a sophisticated audience."The atmosphere would be tense, heightened and anxious, she predicted. "Everything depends on what he says and how he welcomes us. There is no way but up." She was also disappointed that Williams's advisers had not done more to protect him and manage the backlash. "They are on salary to help him and I'm very cross because they've let him down."

The Bishop of Gloucester, the Right Rev Michael Perham, said he felt the remarks had been taken out of context and should be studied more carefully. "The archbishop did not advocate the adoption of sharia law. What he did plead was for an understanding of it ... He doesn't deal in soundbites, but in careful rather scholarly discussion. That doesn't easily transfer into popular news coverage, so he gets himself into trouble with people who get a distorted picture of what he is saying."

Lord George Carey, Williams's predecessor, said in a News of the World article: "He has in my opinion overstated the case for accommodating Islamic legal codes. His conclusion that Britain will eventually have to concede some place in law for aspects of sharia is a view I cannot share."There could be no exceptions to the laws of the land which had been so painfully honed by the struggle for democracy and human rights, he added. "His acceptance of some Muslim laws within British law would be disastrous for the nation."

This intervention has delighted traditionalists calling for Williams to resign, but some synod members believe there will be few brickbats for him today. Giles Fraser, vicar of Putney, said: "I expect him to get a warm reception. The people putting the knife in do so at every opportunity. They've been calling for him to go since his installation in 2003. He has been badly treated, especially by the tabloids."

Yesterday, Williams enjoyed a rare day off. On Saturday he made his first public appearance since his controversial lecture, at a memorial and thanksgiving service in Cambridge. He did not refer to the row. One orthodox commentator, David Virtue, wrote on his website: "Mounting pressure from nearly all quarters in the church make his job untenable since he has single handedly offended almost every group in Anglican Christendom."The debate over the archbishop's comments are the latest in a number of perceived public relations mistakes. His perceived dithering over the ordination of gay bishops has led to some archbishops and dioceses refusing to attend his flagship event, which starts in July.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Justice Scalia sounds off

This morning on the BBC World Service Newshour, Justice Antonin Scalia talked freely about his views in a way that I have never heard any Supreme Court Justice do. Apparently he has chosen the BBC as his preferred microphone. His subjects were torture and the death penalty, and I for one found his observations deeply shocking--but also an interesting window into how a "strict constructionist" thinks about the Constitution. If we had to interpret the Bible the way he interprets the Constitution, we would still be following everything in Leviticus.

Scalia's disdain for European values was manifest. America, he thought, had no responsibility for "foreigners," no investment in common law. The BBC interviewer pressed him hard, in the inimitable fashion of the BBC broadcasters. Scalia's scorn only increased. He seemed infatuated with the "ticking time bomb" scenario, which has very little resonance among those who really understand these matters--it is better suited for television dramas like "24." It was surprising, to say the least, to hear a Supreme Court Justice in a crudely credulous mood.

I tried to find a link for this interview on the BBC World Service Newshour website, but was unsuccessful. There will be much coverage around the world as the Guantanamo detainees are brought to trial (if they are), so we can expect a lot more. Here in the New York suburbs we are very fortunate to have the BBC from 9 to 10 each morning.


Sunday, February 03, 2008

"Evangelicals a Liberal Can Love"

Nicholas Kristof has been away from his column on book leave. Thank the Lord he's back. Click on this link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/03/opinion/03kristof.html?em&ex=1202187600&en=2cfd097c329edbb3&ei=5087%0A