Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Order your Lenten Studies for 2018 now!

It is that time of year again! Yes, yes, it is Advent ... which means Lent is coming :)

This set of studies has six for Lent and a bonus two for the Easter season.

Ordering is easy: pop over to

The studies are:

Study One: Hope for the world (Romans 1:1-17)                                                                                           
Study Two: Basis for hope (Romans 3:19-31)
Study Three: Hoping against hope (Romans 4:13-25)
Study Four: Enduring with Hope (Romans 5:1-11)
Study Five: Hope for Transformation (Romans 8:1-17)
Study Six: Suffering with Hope (Romans 8:18-39)
Study Seven: Rejoicing in hope (Romans 12:1-13)
Study Eight: Abounding in hope (Romans 15:1-13)     

A Kindle version is coming and may be of interest to overseas purchasers!                                                                      

Monday, December 11, 2017

Upstream: judgment

Advent is the time when we reflect theologically on various things ... Christmas ... shopping ... meaning of "Advent" ... whether we should have four Sundays in Advent if Christmas Day falls the day after Advent 4 (as it does in 2017) ... but, really, we ought to reflect on JUDGMENT.

When Christ came that first Christmas, the world was under judgment. According to the Magnificat, things were going to be turned upside down. Every time Jesus opened his mouth about his return - according to the Synoptic Gospels - he talked about an imminent, sudden, shocking judgment. We dodge the meaning of Advent if we focus on "coming" and do not talk about "coming to judge."

If we face Christ as Judge, if we have a day of reckoning in the divine court of justice, what might that mean for us? Would it, should it make any difference to how we live? And how we live, of course, is shaped by our understanding of Scripture. The prospect of judgment is the prospect of an inquisition about hermeneutical method!

At a biblical studies conference recently I was introduced to the idea that the first hermeneuticist was Eve, who questioned the meaning of what God had said. Perhaps not the best start to hermeneutics (!), nevertheless Eve's "Did God really say?" question is critical to hermeneutics. As all of us who freely ignore the Bible's entreaties against usury should know ...

I do not for a moment believe that at the Day of Judgement those of us who profess to being Anglican versions of Christians will be asked whether we faithfully believed all that the Thirty-Nine Articles teach us. Nor will we be quizzed on whether our use of modern Anglican liturgies represented a reprehensible departure from the eucharistic theology of the Book of Common Prayer.

No, on the Day of Judgment, we are going to face a Judge concerned with justice, with compassionate love and with how we have lived our lives as a gospel people (e.g. have we proclaimed the gospel? Have we followed Jesus by following his teaching?)

My question here is how the prospect of judgement, that is, of getting our hermeneutics right, measured by the "downstream" effect of accountability might affect what we think the "upstream" (deep background, hidden presuppositions) of Anglican theology means for how we live today. (See further the comment at the foot of this post).

(Put another way, every hermeneutical approach to Scripture has a theological starting point or "ground." And, re judgement, also an endpoint or "goal." Thinking "upstream" and "downstream" is thinking about what that theological starting point and ending point is. In 21st century language, we should ask, What is the "big picture" which shapes the details of our lives as Christians?)

Take the issue of the ordination of women as an example. It is entirely possible, and indeed happens in reality, that we take Scripture, a contemporary hermeneutic, thoughts about tradition, throw them into the melting pot and out comes a cast iron determination that women might be deacons, cannot be priests and certainly are not able to be bishops. But on that Day of Judgement, will that wash with Jesus the Just Judge? Will we get a commendation for "faithfulness to Scripture and tradition"? Or, will we be asked why we were confused about roles when we recognised that women could be doctors, judges, teachers but insisted they could not be priests and bishops? Such a question being driven, of course, by the matter of just treatment of one another as equal, participating human beings, made in the image of God and redeemed for life in the kingdom of God.

The "upstream" counterpart to this "downstream" could be asking whether Jesus came that gender roles as assigned by interpreters of Scripture might be reinforced? Is the "big picture" of creation and redemption not much, much bigger than a determination that the great work of God in the eternal plan for the universe is precisely forwarded by forbidding women from being successors to the Apostles?

This post sets the stage for another which I am hoping to post before Christmas. A seasonal reflection on the Incarnation and what it means for Christ to be incarnated in the world today, as he is through us, his body on earth. This post is NOT an invitation to resume discussion about That Topic. The Working Group is working on the Final Report and its publication will come soon enough. Fear not!

NOTE: In the background to this post and others in a series of "Upstream" posts is this comment by Bowman Walton, recently made here:

""I hope you will not despair of the loss of sight here of your appeal for debate about what is upstream rather than what is downstream."


It is worthwhile to try to identify the upstream assumptions that bedevil downstream discussion, so from time to time I try. My inspiration is the patient work of that 1922 CoE commission on doctrine that reported in 1938.

But even they admitted to a difficult problem: better thought had overtaken the positions that they were trying to reconcile. This could happen to That Topic in the C21 as it happened to the notion of *eucharistic sacrifice* in the C20. For subversive example, what if Romans 1:18-32 really is *prosopoeia*?

November 18, 2017 at 4:19 PM"

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Lead the Pope not into temptation and save us from a time of liturgical trial

We have not had a Pope like Francis in my lifetime. At odds politically with a US President we have not seen in my lifetime either, nevertheless there appears to be one thing they share in common: no thought goes unpublished. No temptation to air a view is resisted.

Today the Pope is in the news for airing a thought or two re changing the Lord's Prayer.

Indeed there is a restlessness abroad in the English-speaking world about the Do Not Lead Us into Temptation line in the Lord's Prayer, illustrated by ACANZP's adherence to "Save us from the time of trial" in the NZPB. Will we settle on an agreed translation in the course of the 21st century?

The issues around the Greek and presumptions about the underlying Aramaic are tricky (as the linked article hints above. See also Cranmer and The Times).

Perhaps we should say the Lord's Prayer in Greek, as we do the Kyrie Eleisons, on some occasions!

ADDED: A very sensible post from Ian Paul here. Also from Bosco Peters here.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Christmas this year should be 15th December

Top Five Reasons why we should celebrate Christmas on 15th December this year:

Counting down

5. Just as noone knows either the day or the hour of the Lord's Second Coming, so noone knows the day or the hour or the weight of the baby of the First Coming. A change of date from time to time would remind us of these uncertainties.

4. "Behold!", the church is not bound by tradition.

3. We spend all Advent preaching sermons about "being ready" and "expect the unexpected" about the coming of Christ so it would be a very good test of preparedness for the unexpected if we announced today, 7th December that Christmas was only eight days away.

2. No one (except clergy and choirs) really does any useful work between 15th and 25th December. So why not get on with Christmas ten days early?

1. Berries are essential to the joy of Christmas and here in the blessed Down Under, raspberries have incredibly started ripening in November. #thanksglobalwarming. I am very concerned that in my raspberry patch we may have reached peak raspberry on 6th December and there will be no berries left by 25th December. To be safe on the berry front, I commend bringing Christmas forward ten days.

But who does one write to about this? Is there a committee which sets the date of Christmas?

Friday, December 1, 2017

Priesthood - an anniversary

Today is the 60th anniversary of my father, Brian Carrell's ordination to the priesthood on 1 December 1957. In the low church tradition of our family there will be no special service to mark this anniversary. But we are noting it. It is a milestone. It has got me thinking about what might be noteworthy about such an anniversary, even within a tradition which takes great care about singling out such milestones lest an unwarranted distinction between clergy and laity within the priesthood of all believers widens further. Many friends and family have ministered in the church for those 60 years, not least my mother May Carrell, and more. And mostly not much is made of lay anniversaries for ministry. Occasionally I hear people note the years (say) since their confirmation.

Here is what I think is noteworthy about today's anniversary, even within a low church tradition.

It is 60 years of living life in a particular ordering through being available. To God, open to being placed where God and the bishop see fit, and to church and to community as priest - exercising roles of presbyter/elder, pastor, preacher and presider. In that ordered life there are responsibilities and privileges which are different to those of lay ministers of the church. Some of those responsibilities, for instance, are quietly significant and burdensome - by "quietly" I mean that as presbyters-and-pastors there are many instances in which confessions and confidences are received which few know anything about; difficult questions are asked by individuals which in the nature of the question cannot be widely shared in order to arrive at a wise and (because it is asked of an officer of the church) responsible answer for which the priest may later be held accountable according to the discipline of the church.

Secondly, in the priestly ordering of life, a priest is always accountable to an authority - to one's bishop, the local synod and the General Synod. Sixty years, in this case, of taking care to observe rules and regulations - more of which apply to clergy as officers of the church than to lay officers - to honour the church rather than to bring it into disrepute, and to respect the bishop, no matter what one thinks privately of the latest episcopal missive or appointment just announced.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Never underestimate the romantic appeal of a roast chicken dinner

Prince Harry, during a home cooked roast chicken dinner, proposed to Meghan Markle who was so excited by the prospect of appearing endlessly in the Daily Mail and NZ Woman's Weekly that she said "Yes" before he finished the question. I have watched Suits, once, and I see Harry's point of view: she is rather lovely.

The question, however, which is keeping the good ecclesiologists of Anglican Down Under awake at nights is how could ++Justin so readily step up to the mark as the marriage celebrant for this couple's wedding in a church? Meghan, famously, is a divorcee. Not so long ago, Prince Charles and Camilla could not marry in church. They had a civil wedding followed by a blessing in a church, conducted by ++Justin's predecessor, ++Rowan. What is the difference?

Ian Paul helpfully sets out the rules and regs of the C of E re marriage of divorcees here. And he explains the difference between Charles and Camilla's situation and Harry and Meghan's situation. Along the way Ian clearly explains why Anglicans accept the dissolvability of marriage whereas for Roman Catholics marriage is indissoluble.

I will NOT accept comments which seek to link questions of marriage, divorce and remarriage with same-sex marriage or same-sex blessings. There is a link but we are having a holiday of posts about the latter here so I see no need to have further comments re SSM or SSB. (If desperate they can still be made at the post below, About that submission). I am interested in your comments re the situation in the CofE re divorce, Ian Paul's explanation of what Jesus taught, the situation in your own church and the situation in ACANZP.

Monday, November 27, 2017

A great weekend, but not for blogging

I have been a bit distracted, in a good way, recently, so no posts since last Monday and not much engagement with comments in the last few days. Our youngest child turned 21 at the weekend and the celebrations involved our house and garden. Some intensive effort to prepare things and then some full on hospitality as family arrived home and other family arrived. Food and drink to be purchased.Oh, and not all has been purchased so back to the supermarket. It has been great and wonderful and heartwarming. But a 21 year old youngest child means I am, well, older myself and the intensive effort has been tiring, including muscles not normally used when typing words on a laptop.

Fortunately the greatest crisis or moment of change in the Anglican world seems to be the non-controversial restoration of the Archbishop of York's clergy collar, following Mugabe's downfall. If only all Anglican challenges were so simply resolved - albeit after many years, too many years of waiting for change.

Also noted, English cricket's perennial struggle to match Australia, innings for innings when playing in Australia!

A comment each on a couple of comment threads through last week.

Creation in Genesis - myth or history?

A fascinating exchange last week which (in my words) went something like this:

X: you can't claim Genesis 1-3 as historical facts

Y: you claim we are made in the image of God, which comes from what you call the "creation myth" in Genesis 1-3, so either Genesis 1-3 is true or it isn't. Which is it?

Critical here is that Genesis 1-3, before it is determined to be historical or mythical (or even both), is Israel's claim that in these chapters truth has been revealed about God, humanity and the world in which humanity lives. God is sole source of the life of the world and of the life in the world. Humanity is the apex of God's creation (Genesis 1) and the centre of the life God has created (Genesis 2). As apex of creation, humanity is distinguished from plants and animals by being created in the image of God. This theological claim cannot be confirmed by biology or archaeology. It is a theological claim because it is integral to Israel's "talk about God." Israel's God has both created the world and communicated with the world. In Francis Schaeffer's phrase, God is not silent.

What many Christians struggle with, in the modern age, is that the scientific narrative of the origins of the world and of the life within it, at best contrasts with and at worst (from a theological perspective) contradicts the theological narrative told through the first chapters of Genesis. (By "theological narrative" I mean that a story is told in which truth about God and God's actions as creator and communicator is conveyed to readers and hearers of the narrative.)

Something we who live within the modern age seem to rarely grasp about the Genesis narrative is that it was a response within a particular, non-scientific context. In a world of plural creation myths, Egyptian through to Babylonian, and most likely with particular reference to the latter, since Genesis was almost certainly finalised after Judah was exiled to Babylon, the Genesis narrative told Israel that the other myths were at best partial insights into what happened. There was only one creating God and that God had neither competitor nor delegated secondary God/god assisting or hampering creation.

Genesis had to respond to the myths of the day not to a forecast of Darwinian evolutionary theory some 2300 years hence!

Jesus himself (and Paul) worked with the world in which they lived, an Israelite context in which a bedrock "fact" was the single origin of humanity through the first couple, Adam and Eve. Jesus was incarnated into a specific context. We must not think of his brain pausing every time he mentioned (or implied or presumed the story of) Adam and Eve to work out how truthful he was going to be because he also "knew" all about Darwin. He lived and breathed the scriptural world of his fellow first century human beings.

And the mission of Jesus was to save those made in God's image. (Sorry, dogs and cats, but we have absolutely no reason to think you will be also saved. You may or may not be. You are just not important enough for Jesus (or Paul) to have bothered with inane - yes, I am deeply prejudiced against the salvation of animals - questions about those not created in the image of God)!

Has Anglican theology, or Anglicans theologising, gone deep enough into the theology of life, of church, of salvation?

I have a lot of material to digest via various posted links in comments made, as well as comments themselves about my critique of the Jerusalem Declaration (as well as some comments made on my last post on You Known What). I cannot guarantee I will get to much of this before Christmas. My daughter's 21st is a gateway to quite a lot of Christmas/End of Year functions coming up :). But a quick sense is that we Anglicans really, really need to dig deeper than we are doing. It is not just that we are going to the dogs by drifting away from orthodoxy/"orthodoxy" and only digging deeper will bring realisation of how close to the precipice we are going (cf. Bryden Black's recent comments here). It is also, I sense, that we are not even close to understanding what development/"development" of dogma and doctrine might mean for a rapidly changing world. By which I do not mean being progressive/"progressive." Indeed the fact that for some Anglicans we appear only able to consider "development" to be development when it is clearly "progressive" is itself a sign of the lack of depth to our theological ruminations.

Right, back to annual leave. There are some post-party developments in my garden (Eden!) which need attending to :)