A Linkspam

Thursday, 9 June 2011 07:49 am
cjbanning: (St. Thomas)
I have a few things I'd like to share, but don't really have enough to say about to justify a post for each on its own, so I'll compile them here:
  • Ross Douthat in the NYT: Dr. Kevorkian’s Victims and Suicide and Abortion. "If we allow that the right to die exists, the arguments for confining it to the dying seem arbitrary at best." Of course, if one believes, as I do--and this has been my consistent position for as long as I can remember--that there exists a universal, positive right to take one's own life (just as I believe there exists a positive right to terminate one's own pregnancy), then the logic seems both obvious and not particularly problematic. Douthat recognizes much of this himself this morning with his blogpost What's Wrong with Suicide?: "The slippery slope that I discussed in the column doesn’t amount to much if you don’t disapprove at all of people deciding to take their own lives." I'd argue the right to suicide flows naturally and inevitably from the understandings of autonomy, self-determination, and human dignity which are foundational to liberal democracy (and as such, to progressive Christianity). As such, any religiously-motivated argument against suicide should of course be considered irrelevant to our public policy. But I also don't think the so-called "Christian" argument against suicide is as well-supported as most people seem to assume. Scripture seems to be largely silent on the issue, so far as I can tell. (Then again, I don't claim to have an encyclopedic knowledge of the Bible, so if I'm missing a particularly salient verse or set of verses, feel free to point it/them out to me.)
  • Sarah Posner writes at Religion Dispatches that The Problem with Ayn Rand Isn’t Atheism. I'd say that the problem isn't with atheism or atheists in general--to reject someone's policy insights because they don't believe in God would of course be foolish in the extreme. But at the same time, to treat Rand like a libertarian who just happens to be an a theist as well is to misunderstand both Ayn Rand's psychology and Objectivism as a system down to their respective cores. Just as Rand's hatreds of communism and of the Church shared many distinctive features, so do her rejections of altruism and of theism ultimately stem from the same poisoned well. Richard Beck at Experimental Theology asks a similar question with Can a Christian Be a Follower of Ayn Rand?
  • Dear Reese Witherspoon: All Girls Are ‘Good Girls.’ "If we are dedicated to promoting the collective power of girls and women, we cannot police their sexuality in an attempt to make girls 'good.'" Amen.
  • Mike King, in asking How has evangelism changed in the past two or three decades? puts forth what I think are two useful models of the ecclesiology/evangelism interaction: believe-behave-belong ("If we can just get people to believe the gospel, they will begin behaving properly, and eventually they can belong to our churches") and belong-behave-believe ("Evangelism happens quite naturally when we are entrenched in faith communities that are actively caught up in cooperating with God’s compelling work of restoration").
cjbanning: (Palm Sunday)
This morning, Tony Jones embedded the following video on Christian orthodoxy tests in one of his blog posts:

(For people reading this from the Facebook crosspost, which strips out embedded video, rather than from my Dreamwidth journal, you'll want to watch it here.)

Christians who believe homosexuality is a sin are a lot more socially damaging, more obstructionist in the building of the kingdom of God so to speak, than those who believe that the Holy Spirit flows only from the First Person of the Trinity and not from the First and Second Persons, but I take the point. We--with "we" being the entire catholic Church, or at least all of Western Christianity (i.e., Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism, and Protestantism; I don't make any claims to knowledge about Eastern Orthodoxy)--don’t talk enough anymore about the Trinity, about the Holy Eucharist, etc. (Although I think this criticism is particularly levelable against the emergent church movement, which sometimes seems to eschew high-falutin’ theology in favor of “relational dialogue.” And yes, Circle of Hope definitely falls as subject to that criticism as anyone--not that I think the Episcopal Church is any better on the macro level, and my home parish certainly isn't on the micro level.) As Christians, we need to talk about these things much more, although probably as well as rather than instead ofthe more sexy culture war issues.

I wonder how this understanding fits into Jones' anti-denominationalism, however. I mean, there’s nothing I can think of which would stop a Unitarian and a Trinitarian from breaking bread together inside an emergent church faith community (although Jones points to the relational nature of the Trinity as one of the central themes of emergent-ism in another post), and a move away from denominationalism opens up the potential for a dialogue between them which wouldn’t exist if they both stayed with home churches which each taught their own particular brand of theology. But what would a belief in transubstantiation look like outside the context of an ordained prebyterate? And what would dialogue look like between someone who accepts the authority of the deuterocanonical books of the Hebrew Scriptures and one who doesn’t?

I guess another way of asking my question is: Is there an implicit claim about normative theological authority already structured into the emergent praxis? And if so, what is it? In what ways does emergent praxis structure the content of our theological doctrine in addition to the methodology of our evangelization? Is the emergent church's particular style of "being Church" going to lead us to a different conclusion on, say, the nature of Hell, than would an alternate ecclesiology?

The larger point, of course, is that the authenticity of any person's Christianity shouldn't be called into question based on any sort of test of orthodoxy, whether it surrounds cultural/political issues or fine points of doctrine. I agree with that, and have posted to that effect before. (Of course, that's no reason we can't make a distinction between Christians we think have fallen into error and those on a better path, while still accepting our erring siblings in Christ as real, authentic members of the Body.) But it also seems to be the case that there might just be more tensions in an Anglo-Catholic understanding of emergence than just whether the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church requires the historic episcopate.
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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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