Thursday, July 9, 2009

What are the issues?

Recently a meeting was held in London to establish the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, within the Church of England, indeed, for I am sketchy on details, probably within all the Anglican churches of UK and Ireland.

At the meeting Archbishop Peter Jensen gave a major address which you can read here. I think it as fine a statement of theology from the FCA (and it's related conference, GAFCON) as you will read. But that does not make it infallible, and More than a via media has published a post on 'The flawed hermeneutics of FCA' with special attention to ++Peter's address. I post an excerpt here which represents some of the hermeneutical challenges FCA faces ... but of course, faced by all who 'take the Bible seriously' in this day and age:

"... Back to hermeneutics. +Sydney declared that two incompatible views of Scripture exist in contemporary Anglicanism:

"Those who hold that the Bible is the inspired word of God will see in it a unity which holds all things together. Those who regard it as a human witness to God, drawn together as a sort of library, will find contradiction and tension throughout".

Admittedly the Archbishop was constrained by time and content, so it might be unfair to read too deeply into those words. Nevertheless, they do appear to be very simplistic. On the one side are the liberals - they are the ones who see only contradiction and tension, because they do not recognise Scripture's status as inspired. On the other, the - what shall we call them? - traditionalists. Because they know Scripture is inspired, they are not hampered by any contradictions or tensions in the text.

The problems are obvious with +Sydney's choice of words. He demeans, almost overlooks, the human participation in the writing of Scripture. It appears to be a form of Docetism - it looks like a human document, but it's not. N.T. Wright's language that Scripture is "one of the points where heaven and earth overlap and interlock" (alongside the Incarnation and the sacraments) is a necessary correction to the Archbishop's words.

But there is the other problem - only liberals, he tells us, are hampered by "contradiction and tension" in the text of Scripture. Yesterday in the daily office lectionary in the Church of Ireland we had 1 Samuel 15 as one of the readings. ..."

I encourage you to read the whole post.

1 comment:


    Hi Peter,

    I tried to post this on your "Hermeneutics" blog but keep getting an "operation aborted" message.

    More than a via media mentioned docetism. I first heard of Biblical docetism this year. Reading about it cured me of any residual tendency to view Scripture, as we have it now, as 'inerrant' in all its parts. It also gave me an enhanced appreciation of God's graciousness towards us in using us fallible human beings as his agents. But though Biblical docetism says that the Bible, "looks like a human document, but it's not", the corrective, surely, is not to say that it looks like a human document, and that's exactly what it is and all that it is. It's to say that it looks like a human document, and it is, but it's also a divine document, written for us so that we can know God truly.

    That being the case then whatever, "contradiction and tension", can be found within the Bible's pages may be due to the text itself or to how the person reading the text perceives its meaning. So Mark 14:72 says that the rooster would crow twice before Peter denied Christ three times but Luke 22:61 says that Peter would deny Christ three times before the rooster crowed. Big deal. Standard human faulty memory. I understand that this is the sort of minor inconsistency that tends to show that eye witnesses to an event are independent and haven't colluded in their testimony.

    But More than a via media writes of 1 Samuel 15:3 that it is,

    impossible to read that text without experiencing contradiction and tension between it and the rest of Scripture, above all with the revelation of the God of Israel in the Incarnate Word.

    I would ask whether he arranges himself under (i.e., submits to) God according to what God has had to say about himself all through the Bible or whether has he brought to this particular text a preconceived idea of God based on what he thinks God must be like according to how he thinks God is revealed in Jesus. People can get very prissy about the violent parts of the OT. In my experience they often assert that they would never do anything so brutal and unkind, especially not to nursing babies and dumb animals. It never occurs to them that they are setting themselves up as judges of the creator of the universe who knows the end from the beginning and is the author and owner of all life, including their own.

    There are worse things than dying and it's better to trust in God's goodness than to suspect one's own goodness may be superior to his. I can never forget that I came to Christ largely because of a book that I was given because it's former owner, a young man with a wife and a newborn child, had recently died following an accident on a glacier on Mt Cook. I don't know for sure whether the young man was a Christian though I suspect, from the subject matter of the book, that he was. So it's very likely that he's OK. But that God could take a young man's life so that I could be reborn and live made me fully aware that he might require my life if the taking of it would, somehow, save someone else that he loves. That's fine by me. I just hope that, if the time comes, I get to die as quickly as the young man did and don't have to suffer like that Maccabaean fellow must have done.