Sunday, July 13, 2008

Essentials

July 13, 2008 (3)

Continuing the thought about what is essential in faith (see previous entry), I keep coming back to thinking that something essential at the heart of Christian Faith is personal commitment to following Jesus. This can take a number of forms and be phrased in any number of ways, but which must involve conscious choice and decision at some point in the life of the believer. There is nothing wrong with inherited faith, but at some point that must become ‘owned faith’ or it will be a flabby and useless thing. That decision, however expressed, will lead to our experiencing the promised of the Gospel as personal transformation in some way that makes manifest the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

I re-read John Fowles’ Daniel Martin over the past two weeks. Our flight attendant on the way to Paris had been a student of his and wanted to buy my ‘first edition’ of the book. The Sunday Times the first weekend we were away had a n article about Fowles and an affair he had with a much younger woman, almost acting out his book The French Lieutenants’ Woman. This novel which I believe was his last was an attempt to articulate non religious humanism and the essence of what it is to be English. I found myself variously gripped and bored as I made my way through the novel. I was reminded of some of Iris Murdoch’s writing in which she attempts to substitute some notion of ‘the good’ for any talk of God. They both succeed in avoiding the dark underbelly of religion with all its tendencies to become expressions of power and control. But they also leave me cold. There is no heart in the humanism. If you have ever been to one of those celebrations where someone without religion tries to find a way of marking the end of a life without the benefit of ritual, you might know what I mean. For a person of faith, these things seem somehow impoverished and wanting.

On the larger screen the world of religion and especially Anglicanism seems impoverished and wanting. The Church of England approved moves that should lead to the consecration of some women as bishops in four or five year’s time. The usual howls of complaint with inevitable threats to depart from those who feel that this is deeply wrong were well reported. There will probably be some unholy alliance of Evangelicals and Anglo Catholics in England to prevent this move before it happens.

This was tied up in some ways with the GAFCON meeting in Jerusalem who rather than doing the honest thing and separating themselves from what they cannot abide, and within which they do not seem to be able to persuade a majority to agree with them, they have decided to keep on behaving as they have been, (crossing diocesan boundaries, demanding right thinking bishops, talking about their pain and so on) which is destructive of the faith and order that has marked Anglicanism over the years. They argue that the actions of the American Church and the Diocese of New Westminster were what were really destructive. Even granting the merits of that position, (which I do not), since when do two wrongs make a right?

I am struck again by the reported comments and blog entries of some who style themselves conservatives that in the face of being unable to be persuasive by argument they resort to declarations of pain and ad hominem attacks on those with whom they disagree. (You are being un-loving, unbecoming a clergyman, condescending, racist, forcing me out, abandoning orthodox faith and on and on and on.)

It could be that my desire to be ‘uncluttered’ and remember what is essential is a bit escapist in nature. But there is also something liberating about getting clear as to what is important and getting on with the business of saying our prayers and proclaiming the good news that God desires that we be freed from all that seeks to enslave us. What might be the distinctive marks of the community of All Saints’ that helps us to do that day by day? (a la communities of Jerusalem—see previous entry.)

2 comments:

Edward said...

Escapism promises relief, and so does uncluttering, but ultimately uncluttering can't remove or obscure the truth, and if you're not escaping from the truth, then it doesn't seem like escapism. Just my 2 cents.

Edward said...

I'd be interested to know what blogs you read.