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Posts Tagged ‘Theology’

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+Andy Doyle, the Bishop of Texas, with a lights out lecture he gave to the Christian Formation Conference at Camp Allen in September, 2010.  It is really good to see a bishop articulating not only the uniqueness of the Christian faith & Jesus, but also the uniqueness of the Episcopal/Anglican church (I use church here purposefully).  Too often I here Episcopalians speak of our church as if it is just one more denomination with certain products to offer on the religious marketplace rather than a unique expression of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic church with claims to “catholicity” as strong and legitimate as the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox churches.  We are English Catholics, the historic catholic church of english speaking peoples… a reformed catholic church.  Anyway… I digress, back to +Andy.

A few excerpts:

“The Gospel testifies to the uniqueness of Jesus Christ in God’s plan for the salvation of the world.”

“There can be no greater theme – no higher calling for the church to bear witness to salvation in and through Christ.” (Sharing the Gospel of Salvation, GS Misc 956, Report to General Synod Church of England, 2010, from forward, SGS)

“…The Christian story is, quite simply, the most attractive account of the world and the human condition.”

“Theology, [how we believe, how we communicate about God] is not an adjunct to the social sciences – on the contrary, Christian theology is the prism through which the social sciences make the most sense.”

“The task of Christians is not to persuade others of the truth of the gospel story through propositional argument (which, John Milbanks – Anglican theologian – claims, always carries undertones of violence) but to “out narrate” other, rival and less attractive narratives.”

“Christians must so live out their faith, in communities which embody the gospel (especially in practices of worship) that others are attracted by the sublime beauty of God reflected in the Church.” (SGS, 72)

“The Church…is called to be a “community of character”, embodying “the peaceable kingdom.”

“It is not called to prop up other social institutions, such as democracy or capitalism, however useful they may be, but to exhibit in its corporate life the radically alternative life of those who follow Christ.”

“Others will wish to join this community, not because they are convinced intellectually of its argument but because they are captivated by its example of virtuous living.”(SGS, 73)

And further:

Anyone can carry out reconciliation, love, forgiveness, healing, justice and peace. But we understand it is God’s work.

Anyone can confront the tensions in the world. But we do so faithfully trying to live out the life of God’s will and sacred narrative.

Anyone can engage in prophetic action, advocacy and collaboration in our contemporary global context. But only we can engage through the unique prophetic witness of the Good News of Salvation.

Anyone can lift every voice and reconcile oppressed and oppressor. But only we can do the work out of the particular understanding that it is the love expressed through God in Jesus Christ our Lord.

And that’s not all:

The Gospel testifies to the uniqueness of Jesus Christ in God’s plan for the salvation of the world.

You and I as Christians are challenged to “out narrate” and to communicate our work of “virtuous” living to the world around us. Specifically, we are called to do this work in our given mission context.

We are to be working hand in hand with Jesus Christ to transform the world around us.

You and I, as uniquely created Episcopalians, must reclaim our mission and ministry and tell the story in such a way that when those who retell it and those who hear it reshape the world into the reign of God.

There is more here worth quoting, but you’ll have to read it for yourself.  Find it here.  Not a reader?  You can listen to his podcast here.

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Confronted with a universe more terrible than ever in the blindness and the destructiveness of its potentialities, men and women must be led to Christian faith, not as a panacea of progress or as an otherworldly solution unrelated to history, but as a gospel of Transfiguration. Such a gospel transcends the world and yet speaks directly to the immediate here-and-now. He who is transfigured is the Son of Man; and as he discloses on the holy mountain another world, he reveals that no part of created things, and no moment of created time lies outside the power of the Spirit, who is Lord, to change it from glory to glory. (The Gory of God and the Transfiguration of Christ, p. 147)

From Into the Expectation

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In honor of today’s feast, I offer this from The Byzantine Anglo-Catholic:

For today’s Feast of the Transfiguration we turn to Norman Russell’s Fellow Workers with God: Orthodox Thinking on Theosis (St Vladimir’s Seminary Press 2009). What happened to Jesus on the mountain during the Transfiguration was a manifestation of the theosis of his human nature. However, theosis is not limited to Jesus; it is the destiny of us all. But it is not accomplished without suffering. The excerpt is found on pp 109-111.

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The Transfiguration…is a revelation of the true stature of our human nature, a stature which our first parents in the Garden of Eden failed to attain. They listened to the voice of temptation, which suggested to them that they had been forbidden to eat of the tree of knowledge because God jealously wanted to keep them in a state of immaturity…But knowledge in itself does not make us like God. Our twentieth-century history has taught us that only too painfully. “Adam”, as St John Damascene says, “longed for deification before the proper time”. Knowledge needs to be accompanied by humility, thanksgiving, purity of heart. The glory indicated by the Transfiguration is only to be attained through the self-emptying of the Passion. “It is only through this free kenosis [self-emptying]” says Metropolitan John Zizioulas, “that the ascetic is led to the light of the Resurrection. The light of Mount Tabor, the light of the Transfiguration, which the Hesychasts claimed to see, was given as a result of participation in the sufferings, the kenosis of Christ. ” We arrive at our true human stature through sharing in the glory of Christ, having first shared in his Passion.

The Church Father who brings out this aspect of the Transfiguration most clearly is St Cyril of Alexandria. In his homily on the Transfiguration…he sets the narrative as Luke tells it within the broader pattern of the divine economy. The immediately proceeding discussion is of the greatest significance: “If anyone wishes to come after me let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it” (Lk 9:23). “This teaching” St Cyril comments, “is our salvation”. It prepares us for heavenly glory through the acceptance of suffering for Christ’s sake. The converse is also true: the vision of heavenly glory granted to Peter, James and John prepares them to accept the suffering that is shortly to come upon them…To see the Transfiguration is to see the kingdom of God. The radiant humanity of the Lord shows the apostles the destiny that awaits them. The Lord can now go to his suffering and death and the apostles can follow him, confident in the glory that can only be attained through sharing in the Cross.

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The Rev. Matthew Gunter (intotheexpectation.blogspot.com), rector of St. Barnabas’ Church, Glen Ellyn, Ill, recently wrote this article for The Living Church.   It addresses the issues surrounding the practice of reserving Eucharist for only baptized Christians.   

Elizabeth Newman identifies “a pervasive feature of late modernity: a gnawing homelessness, a lack of a sense of place. If we are truly to envision and embody a faithful hospitality, we must see how deeply our current understanding and experience of ‘home’ and ‘place’ have up to now prevented us from living a profound hospitality” (Untamed Hospitality, p. 34).

This is particularly true in contemporary America where our hyper mobility means few of us live in the communities in which we were raised, surrounded by and connected to family and neighbors with whom we have long history and a sense of place characterized by particular customs and traditions. Absent that sense of place, we are reduced to detached individuals roaming context-less space as tourists and consumers. The public space of the shopping mall is the clearest manifestation of this condition, but it is pervasive.

If we are not careful, our worship will reflect and reinforce that formation and that training. And then we

will be unable to offer Christian hospitality, a practice that relies on a sense of place, a shared tradition, one in which we are not strangers in the universe (or to each other) but part of God’s good creation, created so that God might love us and so that we might in return love God, each other, the stranger, and even the enemy (Newman, p. 44).

In such an environment, what does our practice of Eucharist signify? Inviting anyone to participate wherever they are on their spiritual journey reinforces the ideology of the individual as consumer. It signifies that a church is like other public spaces where individual consumers go to satisfy a felt need. The church is then like a sort of religious restaurant with spiritual food on the menu catering to individual customers who come and go through its public space. Is this costly, or “radical”?

Far better to communicate to newcomers that here is a place where people belong to one another and to God, who gives them an identity as members of a diverse body with many members, “made” in baptism and Eucharist. Accordingly, the Church promises, after Jesus’ own pledge, that he will be present as Redeemer and Judge in the waters of baptism and in the bread and wine of the Eucharist.

To reserve the Eucharist for those who are baptized does not limit God. As Luther insisted, Jesus — risen and ascended — is present everywhere and can surprise us in our cabbage soup, if he so desires. Indeed, I agree with Sara Miles, in her book Take This Bread, that God has so surprised even the occasional unbaptized eucharistic communicant. We need not try to protect the purity of the Eucharist.

The discipline of reserving the Eucharist for those already baptized is, however, about maintaining the very boundaries of identity that make a place in which to be formed as a community that can properly practice hospitality. And it is about being honest about who we are called to be as members of Christ’s body, and respectful of the real otherness of those who are not yet committed to the loyalties of such a communion.

The body of Christ is a eucharistic community with all that that entails; and we are baptized into Eucharist.

Read it all here: http://www.livingchurch.org/news/news-updates/2010/7/16/essay-baptized-into-eucharist

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From Anglicans Online:

The beliefs of Anglicans can be considered quite diverse. The official standard is the Book of Common Prayer but some parts of that book are more clearly doctrinal than others. The Catechism of the Episcopal Church USA summarizes the faith in question-and-answer format.

The ecumenical creeds, both Nicene and Apostles, are used by the Anglican Communion in its worship day by day and week by week. They are ancient and universal statements of Christian faith. In addition, many Anglican churches follow ancient tradition and include the Athanasian Creed among their statements of faith.

The Diocese of Texas offers an ‘Anglican primer’ online, and you might like to look at the sections on Scripture, tradition, and reason in the church; the Book of Common Prayer; the Sacraments; the Creeds; and ‘being Episcopalian’. This latter section is directed particularly to people in the USA wondering about the Episcopal Church.

Another very important ancient statement of faith is the Chalcedonian formula, which defined the limits of Christological orthodoxy.

The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral describes the general ecumenical principles of Anglicans.

The Thirty-Nine Articles were important at the Reformation, but are less so today.

The BBC World Service has produced a Basic Christianity web page that is well done, though not specifically Anglican.

A Beginner’s Guide to the Anglican Church. You’ll find the basics of Christian belief, Anglican understanding, what happens in church, and a brief glossary of terms. The Beginner’s Guide is from the Church of St John the Evangelist, Roslyn, New Zealand, but is general enough to be useful throughout the communion.

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If Easter makes any sense at all, it makes sense within something much more like the classic Jewish worldview: heaven and earth are neither the same thing, nor a long way removed from one another, but they overlap and interlock mysteriously in a number of ways; and the God who made both heaven and earth is at work from within the world as well as from without, sharing the pain of the world – indeed, taking its full weight upon his own shoulders. From this point of view, as the Eastern Orthodox churches have always emphasized, when Jesus rose again, God’s whole new creation emerged from the tomb, introducing a world full of new potential and possibility. Indeed, precisely because part of that new possibility is for human beings to be revived and renewed, the resurrection of Jesus does not leave us passive, helpless spectators. We find ourselves lifted up, set on our feet, given new breath in our lungs, and commissioned to go and make new creation happen in the world.

— NT Wright in Surprised by Hope

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Once again, from The Byzantine Anglo-Catholic:

Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626) Response to Cardinal Bellarmine

Christ said “this is my body.” He did not say “this is my body in this way”. We are in agreement with you as to the end; the whole controversy is as to the method. As to the “This”, we hold with firm faith that it is. As to the “this is in this way”, (namely by the Transubstantiation of the bread into the body), as to the method whereby it happens that it is, by means of In or With or Under or By transition there is no word expressed [in Scripture]. And because there is no word, we rightly make it not of faith; we place it perhaps among the theories of the school, but not among the articles of the faith…We believe no less than you that the presence is real. Concerning the method of the presence, we define nothing rashly, and I add, we do not anxiously inquire, any more than how the blood of Christ washes us in Baptism, any more than how the human and divine natures are united in one Person in the Incarnation of Christ.

Edward Bouverie Pusey (1800-1882) The Holy Eucharist a Comfort to the Penitent

…while I believe the consecrated elements to become, by virtue of his consecratory words, truly and really, yet spiritually and in an ineffable way, His Body and Blood, I learnt also to withhold my thoughts as to the mode of this great Mystery, but as a Mystery to adore it. With the Fathers, then, and our own great Divines…I could not but speak of the consecrated elements as being what, since He has so called them, I believe them to become His Body and Blood…

M. R. Carpenter-Garnier (The Divine Guest)

The principal underlying the Incarnation is that spirit is expressed through matter, the inward through the outward, the invisible through the visible. So God became man. So Christ entered into human life, and lived and loved as a man…It is in line with this that, when he gives to his people this divine gift, this gift of himself, he should use the same method. As once at Bethlehem he hid the divine glory through uniting with it the weakness of our nature, so now that self-same life he hides under simple material forms. It is, then, to God Incarnate that we come in Holy communion.

Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941) Worship

In the Christian sacrifice, the Logos enters the time-series and is self-given under fugitive species to the creature, that by feeding on Reality the creature may be transformed: receiving by infusion the gift of charity to strengthen, purify, and at last supernaturalize his own imperfect love, and thus bring a little nearer that transfiguration of the world in Christ which is the creative goal of Christian worship.

Rowan Williams (1950- ) Resurrection: Interpreting the Easter Gospel

The Eucharist demonstrates that material reality can become charged with Jesus’ life, and so proclaimed hope for the whole world of matter. The material, habitually used as a means of exclusion, of violence, can become a means of communication. Matter as hoarded or dominated or exploited speaks of the distortion and ultimate severance of relationship, and as such can only be a sign of death…The matter of the Eucharist, carrying the presence of the risen Jesus, can only be a sign of life, of triumph over the death of exclusion and isolation…If the Eucharist is a sign of the ultimate Lordship of Jesus, his “freedom” to unite to himself the whole material order as a symbol of grace, it speaks of creation itself, and the place of Jesus in creation.

Marilyn McCord Adams (1943- ) Christ and Horrors

God’ unitive aims in creation lead not only to the evolution of the material into the personal, but also to Incarnation, to God’s expressing divine love for material creation by becoming a human being. But God loves material creation by loving us. The Inner Teacher is omnipresent and ever helpful but difficult for personal animals to recognize or pay attention to. As animals we focus easily on what is sense-perceptible, on what we can see and touch and handle, on what is concrete and locatable in space and time. To grow up and flourish as human beings, we need embodied persons to care for us, to be role models of how to be embodied persons, of how to personify matter in wholesome ways. In the Incarnation, God enters into personal intimacy with material creation, not just through His Divine nature and across the metaphysical size-gap, but through His human nature. Jesus relates to Peter, James and John, to the women suffering from hemorrhage and spinal curvature, to blind men and lepers, embodied person to embodied person…Christ’s earthly career climaxing in His passion, death, and resurrection…does not bring an end to our need or the benefit to us as human beings of contacting God, embodied person to embodied person–of seeing, touching and handling God in a determinate place and time. Our need for concrete interaction is all the more urgent given that our being embodied persons in a material world such as this exposes us to horrors. To suppose that God–even God Incarnate–is aloof from horrors while we continue to be exposed to them is alienating. If we are vulnerable to God and to the world, but God is now impassible in all His natures, then God is no longer meeting us on our own level as He once did.

Wouldn’t, why wouldn’t, a God Who loved material creation, and who loves us as a way of loving material creation, want–in Luther’s language–to continue the Incarnation by becoming really present for us in the very sacrament that rivets our attention on horrors by showing forth the Lord’s death?

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Anglicans have long respected and used as normative the writings of the Church Fathers.  Here is a small collection of short texts dealing with the Eucharist that I thought were very useful.  Use them, not for study, but for spiritual encouragement (to put courage into yourself). Regular participation in the Eucharist is a big part of my own spiritual practice and I go on the assumption that Jesus is somehow really present in the consecrated bread and wine. When we receive the Eucharist we establish a mystical but very real connection with Jesus, and since Jesus is divine, with God himself.  The Eucharist is, thus, one of the ways that we meet and find union with God.  I will try to follow this up with other posts dealing with Anglican Eucharistic teaching.

Ignatius of Antioch (d. between 110-117)

Each one individually and all of you together are united in one and the same faith in Jesus Christ, Son of Man and Son of God, in obedience to the bishop and the priests, in harmony, breaking one loaf of bread which is the medicine of immortality, an antidote to death that gives eternal life in Jesus Christ.

Irenaeus of Lyons (130-208)

As far as we are concerned, our thinking accords with the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in its turn confirms our thinking. We offer to God what is his own, as we proclaim the communion and union of flesh and Spirit. For in the same way that earthly bread, after having received the invocation of God, is no longer ordinary bread but Eucharist, made up of two components, one earthly the other heavenly, so our bodies that share in the Eucharist are no longer corruptible, because they have the hope of the resurrection.

Ephraim of Syria (306-373)

Fire and the Spirit are in our baptism. In the bread and the cup also are fire and the Spirit.

Cyril of Jerusalem (315-387)

We pray God to send the Holy Spirit on the gifts laid here, to make the bread the body of Christ and the wine the blood of Christ. For the Holy Spirit sanctifies and transforms all that he touches.

Gregory of Nyssa (330-395)

What then is this remedy? Nothing other than that glorious body which showed itself stronger than death and has become the source of life for us. Just as a little leaven, according to the Apostle’s words, is mixed with all the dough, so the body that was raised by God to immortality, once it is introduced into our body, wholly changes it and transforms it into his own substance…

The Word of God…once it became incarnate…provided his body with the means of subsistence in the usual suitable ways: he maintained its substance with the help of…bread. Even in normal conditions, when one sees bread, one sees in a sense the human body, since bread absorbed by the body becomes the body itself. So here, the body in which God had become incarnate, since it was fed on bread, was in a sense identical with the bread–the food transforming itself, as we have said, to take on the nature of the body. It was recognized, in fact, that this glorious flesh possessed the property common to all human beings: like them it was maintained with the help of bread. But this body partook of the divine dignity because of the indwelling of the Word. We are therefore entitled to believe that the bread hallowed by the Word of God is transformed to become the body of the Word…

As the bread transformed into that body was thereby raised to divine power, a similar change happens to the bread of the Eucharist. In the former case the grace of the Word hallowed the body that drew its substance from bread, and in a sense was itself bread. Likewise in the Eucharist the bread is hallowed by the Word of God and prayer…It is transformed at once into his body…as expressed in these words: “This is my body”…

That is why, in the economy of grace, he gives himself as seed to all the faithful. His flesh composed of bread and wine is blended with their bodies to enable human beings, thanks to their union with his immortal body, to share in the condition of incorruptibility.

Ambrose (334-397)

You here it said that every time the sacrifice is offered, the Lord’s death, resurrection and ascension are represented, the forgiveness of sins is offered, and yet do you not receive this bread of life every day? Anyone who is wounded looks for healing. For us it is a wound to be liable to sin. Our healing lies in the adorable heavenly sacrament…

If you receive it every day, every day becomes for you Today.

If Christ is yours today, he rises for you today. Today has come.

John Chrysostom (344-407)

On high, the armies of the angels are giving praise. Here below, in the Church, the human choir takes up after them the same doxology. Above us, angels of fire make the thrice-holy hymn resound magnificently. Here below is raised the echo of their hymn. The festival of heaven’s citizens is united with that of the inhabitants of earth in a single thanksgiving, a single upsurge of happiness, a single chorus of joy.

Just as the head and the body constitute a single human being, so Christ and the Church constitute a single whole…This union is effected through the food that he has given us in his desire to show the love he has for us. For this reason he united himself intimately with us, he blended his body with ours like leaven, so that we should become one single entity, as the body is joined to the head.

Do you wish to honor the body of the Saviour? Do not despise it when it is naked. Do not honor it in church with silk vestments while outside you are leaving it numb with cold and naked. He who said, “This is my body”, and made it so by his word, is the same that said, “You saw me hungry and you gave me no food. As you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.” Honor him then by sharing your property with the poor. For what God needs is not golden chalices but golden souls.

From Byzantine Anglo-Catholic

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Doctrine is nothing other than the attempt of rational believers to make sense of every aspect of their experience of Jesus Christ. If conversion involves the mind as well as the soul, doctrine is its inevitable outcome, as the believer brings his or her mind to bear on the implications of faith. To be a thinking Christian is to be aware of the need for, and importance of, doctrine.

Doctrine thus attempts to make explicit the implicit assumptions of faith. For example, faith believes that we have been saved through Jesus Christ; doctrine asserts that this belief implies that Jesus must be both God and man if this is to be possible. Doctrine is basically the outcome of taking rational trouble over the mysteries of faith. To prohibit this rational reflection in order to develop a ‘Christianity without doctrine’ is to deny Christians the right to think about their faith. Doctrinal reflection is the product of a passionate search for truth, combining intellectual curiosity and honesty.

To be concerned about doctrine is not to be obsessed with petty matters; it is to be aware of the enormous responsibility placed upon us, as we try to grasp exactly what God is like, and what that might entail for our hearts and minds. Doctrine matters because God matters – and because we matter to God. If God has taken so much trouble to enter into our pathetic and sinful world, the very least we can do is to be attentive to him. Doctrine is the outcome of a caring and committed attentiveness on our part to God telling us about himself.

Only a fool would imagine that doctrine pretends to state exhaustively everything about God in the form of human words. But words are the only means at our disposal to tell others about God, and about his nature and purposes. That means we must get those words right. It means taking care to use words responsibly. Doctrine aims to assist our talk about God, guiding us as we try to explain the gospel to outsiders, or gain a deeper understanding of it ourselves, or think through its implications for our society. To those who mutter darkly about doctrine getting in the way of the real business of life, it may be said that doctrine does not preclude, but informs, action. It forces us to think through what sort of action is most in line with the patterns God himself has set us, in the person of Jesus Christ and in the testimony of scripture. As church history makes painfully clear, not all the actions of the church merit the name ‘Christian’. Doctrine aims to ensure that our actions do. There is far more to Christianity than doctrine. The Puritan slogan ‘truth in life’ has much to commend it. Doctrine affects life. It determines values, and thus actions. It is like the bones which give strength and shape to the human body. It is like the steel rods which reinforce concrete structures. Without doctrine, faith becomes shapeless, weak and vulnerable. Doctrine addresses, interprets and transforms human experience, in order that a dynamic, living and resilient faith may result. Doctrine inside the head is an irrelevance; life without doctrine is an impossibility-Doctrine and life complement each other – and are meant to complement each other. The doctrine of a loving God who became incarnate in his world gives rise to loving people, who aim to serve God in that same world. The doctrine of the forgiveness of our sins gives birth to a forgiving people, just as the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead brings into being a people of hope, who know their final destiny lies outside this world. Doctrine enables God’s story to express itself in our story, and transform it.

Read it all here.

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