Bishop Michael Jackson: Anglicanism, blessing or curse - the Irish experience

Posted by Kendall Harmon

I hold doggedly and dearly to the primacy of Scripture. It forms the bedrock of both my faith and my action. It constantly and properly confronts me with inadequacies and failures along with inspirations and opportunities. At the same time, I see no way in which contemporary people can continue to fly in the face of what, for example, a scientific discipline such as Genetics may yet reveal about why any of us is as we are. But through-out my main point is that the dynamic, pro-active theological method of Scripture, Tradition and Reason contains within it an elasticity of approach and a faithfulness of intention to new situa-tions, problems and difficulties: with Scriptural authenticity; within the total Tradition; informed by Reason both in terms of Hooker’s understanding of the natural law as revealing something vital
of God and in terms of rigorous criticism, scholarly acumen and scientific credibility. For none of these I make an apology in an Anglican world. The Church of Ire-land is not a confessional church and the
Anglican Communion is not a confessional Communion. Anglicanism is built on a foundation of the saving work of God in Christ but also on the utter provisionality of existing ecclesial institutions and earthly articulations of belonging. This is to do nothing more radical than to say that Anglicanism, in its self-definition, takes eschatology very seri-ously. I see a great deal of sense in the final sentence of the Editorial of The Church Times of June 20th 2008 following events in St Bartholomew’s Church, Lon-don: ‘The challenge for the Lambeth Con-ference, and for GAFCON before it, is to demonstrate how Christians can disagree profoundly and yet recognize the work-ing of the Holy Spirit in those with whom they disagree.’ This, my friends, is where The Tower of Babel meets The Day of Pentecost and is redeemed in the encounter.

Read it all.



Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican IdentityAnglican ProvincesChurch of Ireland

24 Comments
Posted August 28, 2008 at 9:10 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Dan Crawford wrote:

[I see a great deal of sense in the final sentence of the Editorial of The Church Times of June 20th 2008 following events in St Bartholomew’s Church, Lon-don: ‘The challenge for the Lambeth Con-ference, and for GAFCON before it, is to demonstrate how Christians can disagree profoundly and yet recognize the work-ing of the Holy Spirit in those with whom they disagree.’ This, my friends, is where The Tower of Babel meets The Day of Pentecost and is redeemed in the encounter.]

Huh?

August 28, 9:32 am | [comment link]
2. Jeff Thimsen wrote:

It seems that the Holy Spirit brings confusion, but somehow empwers or redeems the confusion. Confusing, huh?

August 28, 9:53 am | [comment link]
3. RLundy wrote:

God is not the author of confusion.

August 28, 10:04 am | [comment link]
4. Milton wrote:

“For how can two walk together unless they be of one mind?”

August 28, 10:35 am | [comment link]
5. David Wilson wrote:

The parts about Irish Church history I found fascinating and well written.  I am, however, an Irish-phile having ministered for six weeks in a parish of the cross border diocese of Derry and Raphoe in the summer of 2005.

August 28, 10:39 am | [comment link]
6. Undergroundpewster wrote:

Would someone please explain what he means in paragraph 2 page 7 when he states,

“I would like to argue that within Angli-
canism: diversity is here to stay, in fact
that diversity is our friend, and also that
permission to experiment needs author-
ity.
The absence of any or all of these
leads to what I can only call: an anarchy
of tyranny
. I say this because enforced
uniformity issues in exclusivity and the
withholding of permission to experiment
leads to the same end. My understanding
of the dynamic and organic understand-
ing of authority is that it requires diver-
sity if it is to take all three strands of the
Anglican theological method together
and in creative and progressive tension:
Scripture, Tradition and Reason.”

Did he mean “a tyranny of anarchists?”

August 28, 12:00 pm | [comment link]
7. D. C. Toedt wrote:

I like John Polkinghorne’s metaphor (paraphrasing from memory): The scriptural documents are laboratory notebooks in which are recorded observations from humanity’s encounters with God.

August 28, 2:18 pm | [comment link]
8. libraryjim wrote:

I always heard that the Day of Pentecost was Babel reversed.  That whereas God cursed Mankind with a variety of languages for their pride of wanting to reach God by their own devices, The Holy Spirit overcomes that obstacle with speaking in tongues, through the Grace of God.

August 28, 2:37 pm | [comment link]
9. palagious wrote:

The Holy Spirit is at work at one of, but not both positions, it is an impossibility.  People can be sincere, but sincerely wrong.  They can be motivated by honorable intentions: fairness, tolerance, love and humility, but their intentions can be wrong, however fine the character of the service to their cause.  You can claim salvation is for everyone without qualification and without Jesus on a cross—you had better be right!

August 28, 3:09 pm | [comment link]
10. Larry Morse wrote:

I do love “a tyranny of anarchists.” Now, I suppose that one can have a tyranny of anarchism,  a society in which anarchism refuses to permit any form of organized government. But not of anarchists, because they could not, by definition organize so as to produce a despotism. The essay at stake, in short, is silly and carelessly written, a Mere Device (to quote Thurber) to advertise a homophile agenda.

  Good evening, Mt. Toedt. What does this facile phrase actually mean? Are we to suppose that Man encounters God in some literal way and then gets it all wrong when he writes it down - or something like that? And if scripture is indeed a lab notebook -  a sketching out of hypotheses which are merely hypothetical - then it must mean that a scripture is wholly unreliable, and that we may make out of these notebooks what we will, since nothing can be clearly demonstrated? Is this it? And can we assume, if the above is true, that, in this life, we will never have anything more authoritative than these rough sketches.

  I h ave been out in trawlers nd draggers oftren enough, but never with one whose compass pointed in several directions at once, each of which is arguably north. Magnetic north varies, mile by mile, and yet, north is always roughly north, close enough so that I can find my way in a fog. if that’s what I need for a compass in this world, why should I accept a spiritual compass which only offers me an uncertain number of options. Whatever the variations, Scripture always points north, so that most of us can find our way through the fog. Larry

August 28, 7:27 pm | [comment link]
11. Marcia wrote:

“Church of Ire-land is not a confessional church and the
Anglican Communion is not a confessional Communion.”

What are the Creeds, then?  Do the Irish never say them?  Or is this statement false?

#7 DC Toedt, I read the Bible as one long story of God reaching out to humans, not a lot of short stories of people hunting for God.  It is God’s actions recorded by the participants and witnesses as events happened.  The climax, of course, is Jesus’ Crucifixion and Resurrection.  #8 libraryjim’s statement follows this approach, relating long-separated acts of God, with the Gospels in between.

August 28, 8:08 pm | [comment link]
12. NWOhio Anglican wrote:

Larry, as a scientist I’m not so sure Mr. Todt quite understands what a lab notebook is, since he’s on record as saying that the Bible is badly mistaken.

A lab notebook is a careful, accurate recording of what was observed, with speculations separated and carefully marked as speculations. Notebooks are legally binding documents, used to settle patent and priority claims.

IOW, you can’t have a lab notebook recording an observation and propound a theory that makes that observation impossible.

August 28, 8:32 pm | [comment link]
13. Sarah1 wrote:

RE: “This, my friends, is where The Tower of Babel meets The Day of Pentecost and is redeemed in the encounter.”

Dan Crawford, it’s as clear as day.  The Tower of Babel gets redeemed.

; > )

August 28, 9:52 pm | [comment link]
14. Sarah1 wrote:

RE: “The scriptural documents are laboratory notebooks in which are recorded observations from humanity’s encounters with God.”

DC demonstrates yet once more the two mutually opposing gospels that reside within the TECan organization.

Not a surprise, again, but nice to see articulated over and over and over.

August 28, 9:53 pm | [comment link]
15. D. C. Toedt wrote:

Larry Morse [#10} writes:

And if scripture is indeed a lab notebook - a sketching out of hypotheses which are merely hypothetical - then it must mean that a scripture is wholly unreliable, and that we may make out of these notebooks what we will, since nothing can be clearly demonstrated?

You’re hopeless, Larry. Once again, it’s not either-or, diamonds-or-dog [feces].

———————-

Larry writes:

Magnetic north varies, mile by mile, and yet, north is always roughly north, close enough so that I can find my way in a fog.

Maybe that’s OK in the open sea with lots of maneuvering room.  On the other hand, if you’re trying to make port in a channel with little margin for error, you’d better be on the alert for magnetic declination error or you’re likely to run upon the rocks.  Ditto with Scripture.

—————————

NWOhio Anglican [#12] ,  you have an exalted view of lab notebooks; observations can be wrong,  improperly recorded—or faked.

August 28, 10:15 pm | [comment link]
16. Robert A. wrote:

#15: Lab notebooks can also be 100% accurate, yet the scientist be too stupid or pigheaded to understand or accept what he recorded!

August 29, 2:49 am | [comment link]
17. D. C. Toedt wrote:

Robert A. [#16], historically the problems with lab notebooks that I listed (erroneous observation, improper recordation, or outright fakery) seem to have been far more numerous than the one you cited (the scientist refusing to understand or accept what he recorded).  I would venture to say the same is true about religious writings.

August 29, 7:42 am | [comment link]
18. NWOhio Anglican wrote:

D.C. #14 wrote, among other things,

observations can be wrong, improperly recorded—or faked.

Conceded.

OTOH, I think (as a lawyer) you take a far-too-adversarial relationship with what’s been recorded. Fakery and maladroit observation/recording have to be both proved and justified; “accurate until proven otherwise” is the rule.

Some examples:
—Fleischman and Pons are almost never accused of faking their notebooks, in spite of the silliness of cold fusion. Instead, people pick holes in their technique, and rightly so. They don’t contradict what was observed; they point out that other things were NOT observed.
—Priestly’s not-so-ridiculous adherence to the notion of phlogiston doesn’t invalidate what he observed about the generation and behavior of gases. And anyone who proposes an idea that flatly contradicts what Priestly observed had better be able to explain why he thinks Priestly screwed up.

BTW, “recordation”?? WTH is that? wink

August 29, 8:16 am | [comment link]
19. Larry Morse wrote:

Actually I don’t mind being hopeless. It’s better than being lost. As to your position of the imperfect and unreliable nature of lab notebooks,  my application of your analogy to scripture is not a simple either or distinction. If a lab notebook is inherently unreliable, and scripture is a lab notebook’ equivalent, then scripture is inherently unreliable. You have established the either-or, not I, for you have in essence asserted that if scripture is not to be taken literally because of an established incorrectness, then all the scripture has the same inherent weakness and cannot be trusted completely - if genuinely trusted at all.

  But there is another way to read scripture, for most of life’s important truths are outside the scope of the lab notebook, even if it is most scrupulously kept (as it should be, and as most are, I suspect) Scripture should be read as one reads Paradise Lost (e.g.), a long narrative poem interspersed with short lyric poetry. Or it may be that, as EB White said, there is no such thing as a long poem, and Paradise lost should be seen as a complex narrative with intense periods of lyricism. What ever one argues, one needs to ask, not “What does it mean?” but “How does a poem mean?” (to pinch the title of Whathisname’s text on poetry). Scripture is NOT like that lab notebook, not in any way, for scripture truth is poetry’s truth (by and large, as is the case with Milton). Poetry undertakes to say with words what words cannot ordinarily say, an undertaking made necessary because the order of truth that poetry addresses is not primarily verbal, and this is the case with scripture. Because this is so, discussing the truth of scripture is like discussinig the truth of the visual arts or music - wine, for that matter. As you will have observed, the vocabulary is strangely off-center, vague, analogical, and scientifically incommensurable. And yet, for all this “inaccuracy” the compass points north, magnetic north, not true north. Can I follow its variabilities into a Portland harbor? Well, WE can, because we have local knowledge, and this is precisely what one needs to bring to scripture. Scripture is NOT a white line down the middle of the road and a mileage signi; it is the best compass we have. You wish to get through death and end up in a better place than Jersey City? Do you want me to believe you cannot find the way, given the directions you have?  Hopeless in Maine

August 29, 8:19 am | [comment link]
20. D. C. Toedt wrote:

NwOhio Anglican [#18] writes: “‘accurate until proven otherwise’ is the rule.”

Agreed — presupposing, that is (among other things), that the reporter was in a position to observe what s/he is reporting, and that the record was made more or less contemporaneously with the observation. 

Consider a lab notebook written by an unknown person who reported what he claimed another had observed, years before, in a faraway place.  We wouldn’t necessarily dismiss the notebook out of hand. But without more, we’d be extremely reluctant to give it a high level of credence. Before making decisions that could harm others on the basis of the notebook, we’d want to get as much corroboration of the reported observations as possible, and also to try to rule out plausible alternative explanations.

[BTW, “recordation” refers to “the act or process of recording”; it’s commonly used by, say, the Copyright Office and county property-records offices.]

——————————

Larry Morse [#19] writes: “Scripture is NOT a white line down the middle of the road and a mileage signi; it is the best compass we have. You wish to get through death and end up in a better place than Jersey City?

The problem, Larry, is that we simply don’t know for sure that anyone has ever gotten through death and ended up anywhere.

We can hope that there is such a thing as life after death.  We can hope that following the Bible is indeed a reliable guide to getting there.  Absent evidence to the contrary, this hope is not an unreasonable basis for making choices in our own lives:  we can provisionally decide to act as though these things were true, even though they haven’t been demonstrated. 

But hope is not a legitimate basis for acting in ways that hurt others.  There may be valid pragmatic reasons for (say) limiting marriage and its benefits to straights, and for limiting the episcopacy to those who are sexually active only within a male-female marriage.  (I’m not aware of any that would justify taking such action.)  But it’s unconscionable to assert that biblical teachings alone are a sufficient justification for these actions.

August 29, 10:00 am | [comment link]
21. Sarah1 wrote:

RE: “But hope is not a legitimate basis for acting in ways that hurt others.”

Right—but as Christians believe that Scripture is truth and God’s word written, then we know that the strictures against sexual relations between same genders are not at all hurtful to others, they are in fact helpful.

People who do not believe the gospel of course have some reason to believe that such strictures are “hurtful” since they have no need of taking into account what Scripture reveals.

But their arguing with Christians that Christian beliefs are “hurtful to others” is really a circular argument since the non-Christian does not accept the assertions of Scripture, and the Christian de facto believes that the Scripture’s statements about healthy human beings and the context of sexual expression are of course helpful and not hurtful.

August 29, 11:44 am | [comment link]
22. Larry Morse wrote:

The problem, Larry, is that we simply don’t know for sure that anyone has ever gotten through death and ended up anywhere.

We can hope that there is such a thing as life after death.  We can hope that following the Bible is indeed a reliable guide to getting there.  Absent evidence to the contrary, this hope is not an unreasonable basis for making choices in our own lives:  we can provisionally decide to act as though these things were true, even though they haven’t been demonstrated. 

  The above is from DCT. Now, the problem lies precisely here, that he has used “know” in a characteristic way. Know here means “truth as demonstrable and historically self-evident.” And t here is the element of “scientific” replicability and commensuration. But to ask for this “truth” is to ask scripture for “scientific” evidence it was not intended to give.

  To be sure, I over simplify this with the above, for sometimes scripture speaks clearly and without qualification.  Such is the case concerning homosexuality and marriage. If you wish to dodge this directness, you can only do so by declaring the text outdated because it is time and circumstance bound, and these have changed so that what was irrefutable is now outmoded. Who can stop you? It hasn’t stopped Schori et al.  But such an argument means that all scripture is plastic to serve the agendas of any group.

  There is another kind of truth which I mentioned above. Y ou have read the descriptions and criticism by experts concerning the visual arts and music. The language is vague and allusive and imprecise because there is no vocabulary for their meaning. Consider, on the other hand, poets talking about the same subjects: Auden in Musee des Beaux Arts, t he last stanza of Yeats’ Sailing to Byzantium, MacLeish’s You, Andrew Marvell, or best yet, MacLeish’s Ars Poetica. Which set comes closest to the “truth?” The poets, by far, because they do not tell you, they show you, that is, their replace discursive knowledge with experience. Scripture, therefore, is to be experienced, and so known. Hume and Berkeley argued that physicality was merely a construct: Sam J. kicked a stone and said to Boswell that THUS are they refuted. You have seen the Lascaux caves’ art. Is it true? Who can doubt it? Can all men, even those who are not artistically inclined, know it? Who can doubt it? Were the animal photographically represented? No, obviously. Would they have done better if only someone had trained them? Please. Here is the truth, clear and incontrovertible, but outside ordinary wordiness - which is where, presumably, God is.

  And if I read Ars Poetica, can I only “hope” that it speaks the truth? On the contrary, I know with certainty, but there are no words for me to convey this to you. Not clear, discursive, logical, denotatively incontrovertible words. Am I deceiving myself? Well, if so, there I have massive company in this deception. Larry

August 29, 2:35 pm | [comment link]
23. D. C. Toedt wrote:

Larry Morse [#22]—

1. You speak of the scriptural writings as having a “feel” akin to poetry.  I don’t share that perspective, but I certainly can’t refute your experience of it.

It’s another question entirely, however, whether the “feel” experienced by some people is sufficient justification to cause other people to experience suffering.  I speak here, for example, of the subjective suffering that gays and lesbians report from not being allowed to have legal status comparable to marriage.

And if we allow “feel” to provide justification for inflicting suffering, where do we draw the line?

2. In any case, reasserters’ claim of scriptural primacy has never been based on any kind of “feel.”  It’s based on ancient accounts of (what are alleged to be) hard historical facts.  Fair enough.  In assessing that claim, though, it’s incumbent upon the reasserters to explain why we should not apply the same standards to the supporting accounts as we do in other cases of equally-grave import.

August 29, 5:57 pm | [comment link]
24. Larry Morse wrote:

The above is inaccurate and VERY misleading I did not speak of “feeling” as taking the place of knowing. Rather I spoke of a different kind of knowing, (which I sought to describe to those who can understand). I have said in fact that reading the text as “poetry”  is the best way to get at its characteristic truth.  T his has nothing to do with “feeling.” It has to do with a certain kind of insight that is distinct from what we commonly mean by cognition. Consider the opening to Ars Poetica: A poem should be palpable and mute as a globed fruit/...” The denotations of the words are clearly contradictory, and yet, we all know exactly what he means, do we not? In short, has he spoken the truth, in spite of the fact that the denotations are in open contradiction? He clearly has, and we actually know something as a result of his declaration, but what we now know cannot readily be put into discursive form, for the truth is not cognitive. We can try to put his phrase into standard formal English, but the result is a failure: “A poem should have the same experiential quality to match the tactile quality of a fruit like a grapefruit, and our experiential response should be that which we have when we squeeze the soft, resilient, and yet firm, flesh of a grapefruit, its firm flexibility, giving it a ‘touchability’ and therefore a reality that cannot be got from squeezing, say, an apple or an avocado.”  There you have it, but MacLeish said this all in three short lines and he said a good deal more in the process.

  This has nothing to do with how we feel, but how we feel - if I may make such a joke. Touchy feeliness - which Mr. Toedt implies - has nothing to do with this process. And the Bible needs to be read this way. When Christ tells Peter to tend his flock - thrice tells him - we are dealing with poetic expression. When Christ is asked about a woman who marries multiple times and who then dies, Christ’s response is what happens when the literal mind meets the “poetry” of supersensory understanding. When Thomas wants to touch Christ’s wounds, we should think ...palpable and mute…. When Christ gives his disciples ordinary wine and bread, he changes nothing (in a literal sense) but he speaks a poetic truth which we are to experience, not “know.” 

  I cannot respond to feeling inflicting suffering. This makes little sense and is merely the agent, not of meaning, but of an agenda.
It is worthwhile noting that Christ himself inflicts suffering, e.g., his telling Peter that he will deny Christ thrice before the cock crows.
Well, I have bothered the rest of you enough. Mr. Toedt will make of this what he will.  Larry

August 30, 12:01 am | [comment link]
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