Monthly Archives: December 2011

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Sam Wells: Christmas is really for the Grown-Ups

Wonderful piece to consider on this second day of Christmas and feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr.  Hat tip to Bishop Graham Kings (@BishopSherborne).

Around 15 years ago I had the opportunity to be in northern India in December. The churches in Delhi had a remarkable tradition I’d never contemplated before. They had nativity plays, like everyone else. But all the adult characters – Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the angels, the wise men, Herod and so on, were played by grown-ups.

I was flabbergasted. How could the church in India have got it so wrong? Surely they must understand that the whole point of nativity plays is that they be performed by children.

Surely December is to be filled by fathers comforting their daughters with the reassuring words that not everyone can play Mary (and that Third Angel really is the crucial role), mothers finding squares of burlap that look convincing on the head of Joseph without being too scratchy, and Sunday School teachers persuading a reluctant wise man from the east that there’s a subtle but significant difference between frankincense and Frankenstein.

Everyone knows the unique charm of Christmas is lost if adults take it too seriously. I sat there in Delhi and thought, Don’t these people realize that Christmas is really for the children?

But look what happens when you see a nativity play performed by adults in a country like India, a place where to be a Christian is always to experience being in a minority, often to face cultural discrimination, and sometimes to find yourself in a place of physical danger. You start to see aspects of the story that get overlooked when it’s all about a little donkey on a dusty road.

You see for a start that Christmas is about suffering people.

Read it all via Christmas is really for the Grown-Ups – Opinion – ABC Religion & Ethics (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).

Division: Something to discuss

As I mentioned in the post below, I’ve just started reading Robert Jenson’s systematic theology. In the prologue Jenson makes the following claim, and I’d be interested to hear folks’ response to it:

The Western church in turn divided at the time of the Reformation, and Protestantism has since been notoriously fissiparious. The ecumenical dialogues have, however, revealed only one functioning line of continuing division between the parties of the Western church. It runs between Catholic and Protestant, that is, between the Roman Catholic Church, together with any Protestants who may on a given question side with her, and what is on that question the remainder of the Protestants (p. viii).

I thought this was an interesting way to frame things, and it seems accurate in many ways. Thoughts?

Robert Jenson

A Great Way to Begin a Systematic Theology

Robert Jenson
Robert Jenson

Though I’ve had it for a while, I’ve just picked up the first volume of Robert Jenson’s systematic theology, The Triune God. I’ve long appreciated Jenson’s writing, but I particularly appreciate the way he begins this endeavor. It would be easy to find myself quoting way too much of this text, but I wanted to share some from the prologue.

Publishing a system of theology is an irremediably hubristic enterprise (p. vii).

Awesome (and quite true) first line.

Theology is the church’s enterprise of thought, and the only church conceivably in question is the unique and unitary church of the creeds. Therefore theology may be impossible in the situation of a divided church, its proper agent not being extant–unless, of course, one is willing to say that a particular confessional or jurisdictional body simply is the one church. To live as the church in the situation of a divided church–if this can happen at all–must at least mean that we confess we live in radical self-contradiction. Also theology must make this double contradiction at and by every step of its way.

We commonly speak of such things as “Roman Catholic” or “Baptist” or “Lutheran” theology. Such labels can be used in a harmless historically descriptive sense, as one can say that “Orthodox theology” tends to a Cyrillean Christology. They may be used in a somewhat more ominous descriptive sense, as someone might say that “Reformed theology” cannot accept certain ways of asserting papal primacy. But a theologian who described her or his own work as “Lutheran” of “Reformed” or whatever such, and meant by that label to identify the church the work was to serve, would either deny the name of church to all bit his or her own allegiance, or desecrate the theological enterprise.

It is sharpened recognition of such stark alternatives that has driven a characteristic form of modern ecumenism, the search for healing of churchly divisions by theological “convergence.” The dialogues and the convergence-theology they practice have achieved marvels. But it is becoming clear that reestablishment of ecclesial fellowship between East and West and within the West across the divisions begun at the Reformation will not occur by any straightforward continuation of these efforts. It increasingly appears that no degree of theological convergence can by itself suffice to reestablish communion once broken. An act of God is needed.

Nor need this be a pessimistic prediction. The church must regard waiting as the most creative of activities, since she apprehends fullness of being only in the coming Kingdom. And God may act tomorrow. In the meantime, it is a great blessing specifically to theology that we need not wait for the church to be undivided to do theology for and even of the undivided church. For theology itself is a form of the waiting we must practice. (p. viii)

Random connections about giving and love.

Whatever happens,
those who have learned
to love one another
have made their way
to the lasting world
and will not leave,
whatever happens.

–Wendell Berry, Given: Poems, p. 55

starofdavid

Last SEVEN remaining Jews in Baghdad are named by WikiLeaks… leaving their lives in danger | Mail Online

Julian Assange is one arrogant SOB (as are the others at Wikileaks), having taken it upon themselves to reveal sensitive information as part of their self-appointed crusade, believing that they somehow had sufficient knowledge and right to endanger the lives of others and usurp the authority of officials elected and appointed by elected officials of multiple democratic governments. Answerable to no one, elected by no one, granted authority by no one, they decide to share everything they get their hands on, and now a tiny minority is under threat because of their actions. I agree with one of the commenters, if anything happens to these folks, Assange and his proteges ought to be charge at least with incitement, if not as accomplices to murder.

The seven remaining Jews in Baghdad have been named by WikiLeaks, leaving them in danger of persecution, according to the city’s Anglican vicar.

Their lives are now in immediate danger, according to Canon Andrew White, and they’ve been advised to hide their religion.

Canon White said Baghdad’s Anglican Church is trying to protect them, as they fear extremists might try to kill them if they’re identified.

Read it all via Last SEVEN remaining Jews in Baghdad are named by WikiLeaks… leaving their lives in danger | Mail Online.