Saturday, 6 August 2011

cjbanning: (Symposium)
[librarything.com profile] myopicbookworm at LibraryThing passed on the following article from the BBC: Dutch rethink Christianity for a doubtful world. I find myself mostly encouraged by the ability of these Dutch churches to live out a Christianity which encourages questioning, critical reasoning, and faith-enriching doubt, but I do find myself left with a couple of criticisms.

1. Liberal historicism and the Ebionite heresy. I find myself frustrated with the Rev. Kirsten Slattenaar's quoted comments:
"I think 'Son of God' is a kind of title," she says. "I don't think he was a god or a half god. I think he was a man, but he was a special man because he was very good in living from out of love, from out of the spirit of God he found inside himself."

Mrs Slattenaar acknowledges that she's changing what the Church has said, but, she insists, not the "real meaning of Christianity".

She says that there "is not only one answer" and complains that "a lot of traditional beliefs are outside people and have grown into rigid things that you can't touch any more".
This, I think, is not only admittedly and unequivocally heretical, but falls into the sort of "liberal historism" which represents one of my main criticisms of contemporary liberal theology, as I've discussed in my posts Historicity and Faith and Why the Quest for the Historical Jesus is a Spiritual Dead End. In the latter post, I wrote:
My bias is to think that properly understood (where "properly understood" of course means "understood the way Cole wants it to be understood") Chalcedonian Christology presents us with the antidotes to both types of fundamentalism. Worship of the Word-Made-Flesh, eternally begotten from God the Mother, both fully human AND fully divine, two natures in one person: this, I think, is about as far removed from a cult of personality as it is possible to get.

Of course, there are those who would argue that my account of "Word made flesh" is implicitly docetist. I'd argue that the fact that "made flesh" is in the title automatically negates any possibility of a fall into the docetist heresy (not that I'm any advocate for orthodoxy for orthodoxy's sake, exactly), but I understand the argument that the "made flesh" is meaningless without an emphasis on the particularity of the incarnated human being within history. I understand it--but I still think it's wrong.
I much prefer the Rev. Klaas Hendrikse's approach. If you click on the image above his quote "You don't have to believe that Jesus was physically resurrected," a video will play (after a short advertisement) in which he explains the different spiritual meanings "life" and "death" can hold even if there was never an actual historical figure named Yeshua bar Yosef, from Nazareth, crucified under Pontius Pilate. This requires a reevaluation, but not an abandonment, of Christian orthodoxy.

As one of the parishioners at Exodus Church puts it, this "is using the Bible in a metaphorical way so I can bring it to my own way of thinking, my own way of doing." I'd object to the typically Protestant, individualist emphasis on "my own way of thinking"--I think we need to always do our thinking within the context of the sacramental lives of our community, drawing on our catholic tradition--but I can't argue with the need to be open to questions and challenges.

2. Antipathy towards Tradition. After all, at its heart, that's what the Church is: constantly in conversation, questioning and challenging. Another parishioner of Exodus Church "believes traditional Christianity places God in too restricted a box," and there is of course a sense in which that has been true for the entire life of the Church of Rome. Yet Exodus Church seems to be reacting most strongly to something which is not "traditional" at all--the sort of reactionary, legalistic, conservative Protestantism which has flourished (to a degree) in the last two hundred years (and which seems to have overtaken the Church of Rome in many ways over the last two or four papacies). If we examine Christian tradition in its fullness, the questioning, critical spirit (dare I even say Spirit?) has been pushing forth the evolution of the Church since her earliest days.

At the end, challenging the tradition is the tradition.
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"This is my prayer: that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best."
-- St. Paul's Epistle to the Philippians 1:9-10

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