A bit of Quaker history: 8-13-09
Identifying potential clergy: 8-15/16-09

The nature of salvation: 8-14-09

A month or so ago a small storm erupted in the American Christian world over something said by the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori. (I took this photo of her when she last visited Kansas City.)

Jefferts-1

I was traveling and busy with a million other subjects at the time, but I want to return to her remarks and to the uproar they caused to see if there's something all of us can learn from this incident.

Speaking to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, which was meeting in Anaheim, Calif., Jefferts Schori, whom I've met and interviewed, said that "the great Western heresy (is) that we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God. It's caricatured in some quarters by insisting that salvation depends on reciting a specific verbal formula about Jesus. That individualist focus is a form of idolatry, for it puts me and my words in the place that only God can occupy, at the center of existence, as the ground of being." (Her reference here is to a common "Jesus prayer," with various wording, that confesses one's need for a savior and accepts Jesus in that role.)

I've used -- and linked you to -- the Associated Baptist Press account of this because I found it to be one of the more complete and fair reports on the subject.

The reaction to her remarks was swift and sharp.

For instance, the Rev. Canon Julian Dobbs of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), which is made up generally of people who have split with the Episcopal Church, called the statement "appalling and indefensible." Dobbs said Jefferts Schori's agenda has no place in faithful, biblical Christianity.

CANA, by the way, a missionary effort of the Anglican church in Nigeria, says of itself that it "consists of more than 75 congregations and 160 clergy in 21 states. CANA was established in 2005 to provide a means by which Anglicans living in the USA who were alienated by the actions and decisions of The Episcopal Church could continue to live out their faith without compromising their core convictions."

Among their core convictions is that it was unbiblical to elect and install V. Gene Robinson, and openly gay man, as bishop of New Hampshire.

But let's return to what Jefferts Schori said.

In traditional Christian theology, there is a creative tension between the self and the community. That is, although it is acknowledged that ultimately we will stand alone before God, we never do that unrelated or unconnected to what, in my Reformed Tradition, we call the covenant community. Indeed, the church is at its healthiest when it can maintain a good balance between individualistic theology and community theology. Beyond that, traditional Christianity would say that what matters most in this life is how we live out our individual faith within a community of faith.

My reading of Jefferts Schori's words is that she was trying to suggest that the over-emphasis often found in some Christian circles on individual salvation creates an out-of-balance religion. And I agree with her. But her words were not artfully chosen and did not, in the end, illuminate her subject in useful ways. She spread more heat than light by seeming to attack one approach to the faith rather than constructively critique it as a way of advocating a more communal approach.

In some ways, the bishop was guilty of what I've several times accused Pope Benedict XVI of, which is being tone deaf. That is, B-16 has said things that, had he considered ahead of time more carefully how his words would be taken, might have said them in a different way.

The reality is that Christianity is a team effort and cannot be thoroughly understood outside of that concept, despite the important and necessary emphasis on individuals deciding to make a commitment to Christ by accepting what we Christians call God's saving grace.

Perhaps the same p.r. person who should be pre-reading the pope's speeches could do double duty and pre-read Bishop Jefferts Schori's remarks, too.

(By the way, Jefferts Schori will be visiting St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Mission, Kan., on Oct. 25. She'll be free then to disagree with me in person.)

* * *

SAVE 'CREATIONISM' FOR SOMEWHERE PRIVATE

A mayoral candidate in Tulsa wants a creationism display in the local zoo. The editorial writers at the Tulsa World think that's an awful idea. Which it is, of course. Creationism is a religious idea that should be neither promoted nor disparaged by government. Why is that concept so difficult for some politicians to grasp? Oh, I get it: Because going against the concept wins them votes.

Comments

adam harrison

Iggy, you just drop in on women pastors?

I wonder if they know about the kinds of filth you belch over here?

About the bragging you do? You know, about owning guns and "sharp knives".

Weren't you bragging just awhile back about all the successful businesses you were running, going to St Joe and St Louis and Springfield and all over.

It seem like you have time on your hands. Did the businesess flop?

You know, considering how you RAN AWAY from a chance to debate James Christensen, I don't believe your story about dropping in on all these pastors.

You never offer a lick of proof, and your text messages are always a dead end.

Now, am I saying you are lying?

Well, uh, yeah! I guess I am! LOL!

You and Susan make a lovely couple, by the way! (chuckle)

IN closing, Your NEW ATHEIST QUOTE FOR THE DAY!

"Some propositions are so dangerous, that it may be ethical to KILL people for believing them!

Sam Harris, TEOF, pages 52-53

RichB

I agree that individualism can be pushed too far. In the fourth century, monasticism went to the fringe, and people were going off into the desert by themselves, without any community. St Basil the Great had to reform these monks into communities in order to live the Gospel. The main idea is that one cannot love in the abstract, or in order to love the God we cannot see we must love the neighbor we can see.

By the same token, Paul had to get on the Corinthians' case because some ate because *they* felt hungry--without thinking about their brothers and sisters.

I think that excessive individualism is a result of sin, not of being American.

Red Biddy

Susan,
You haven't answered DJpreachers question yet: if God told you to do it, would you ?
This is one of those trick questions, Xians think they are very clever asking - unfortunately they are not - being very clever, I mean !
This is a test...the most famous example being dotty old Abraham willing to kill his only son because he thought God had asked for the sacrifice of the most important and loved person in his life.

If you start hearing voices telling you to do the unthinkable I would head for the nearest medical center and get some medication !
Praying to God is one thing, like having a telephone conversation with no one on the other end, but if a voice answers or you believe a voice has answered, then I think this would indicate a serious mental problem.

Susan

LOL, just in case someone was just skimming through my last post in a hurry -- I thought I should clarify that "Barbie" was a Barbie-doll and not one of my children.

Of course, I'm sure everyone here thinks way too highly of me to believe that my children are sitting cooped up in the house all day, completely naked because I can't find any clothes for them! But just-in-case, I thought I should clarify that I was talking about a Barbie doll.

And now, a happy Friday evening to all!

Red Biddy

Richard Dawkins's new T shirt has far too many words on it. People wouldn't have time to read all that, to make any kind of an impact.

I've seen better, like "Smile, there is no Hell" or my own which I got from FFRF with a large Apple with a bite out of it saying "Eve was framed!" Had some "funny" looks from men for that one though most women seem to agree !

"Richard Dawkins is Hawking a new Anti-Semitic T shirt" - adamh, to-day

Dawkins is not being anti-semitic, at all by his attacks on the Old Testament God. Nor is Sam Harris. It's the old time religion they are attacking not the PEOPLE who believed or might believe in it to-day. You can't think that modern Jews or Christians, for that matter, still believe in the old thunder god of the OT. Religion has evolved since then, for heaven's sake !

The Old Testament is a HISTORY - a testament mostly oral, of a very ancient culture, full of tales of talking snakes, magic, and very flawed heroes at times !

We had an interesting session at Community of Reason last Sunday. Presenter was Dr.Anton Jacobs (pastor of Good Shepherd Church - Presbyterian I think) who gave a talk on earliest critics from WITHIN the religion. As samples he quoted from Isaiah and Elijah particularly - they apparently were not in favor of burnt sacrifices, saying God didn't like the smell of burnt flesh etc...but I thought and suggested he should add Jesus to his list of critics. "Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." He agreed !
It's still a work in progress for Dr.Jacobs but I thought his ideas were very interesting.

a.theist

Reviewing a few days in the last 2 years of posts, I find the following posters (Ignoring people with only a few posts)

Patricia (Atheist No Longer Posting)
Corbin (Catholic No Longer Posting)
PreacherDJ (Believer Still Posting)
JustThinking (Believer No Longer Posting)
Why Is This So Difficult (Believer No Longer Posting)
Jenkins (Atheist No Longer Posting)
Kansas Bob (Atheist No Longer Posting)
Dolores Lear (??? Still Posting)

Three Atheists No Longer Posting
Two Christians No Longer Posting

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