Leslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society
quoted in “Inerrantism is more Muslim than Christian: a thought from Lesslie Newbigin”
The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are being destroyed. But it is the power of God for those of us who are being saved. It is written in scripture: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and I will reject the intelligence of the intelligent.” Where are the wise? Where are the legal experts? Where are today’s debaters? Hasn’t God made the wisdom of the world foolish? In God’s wisdom, he determined that the world wouldn’t come to know him through its wisdom. Instead, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of preaching. Jews ask for signs, and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach [a crucified Messiah], which is a scandal to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. But to those who are called—both Jews and Greeks—Christ is God’s power and God’s wisdom. This is because the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
Look at your situation when you were called, brothers and sisters! By ordinary human standards not many were wise, not many were powerful, not many were from the upper class. But God chose what the world considers foolish to shame the wise. God chose what the world considers weak to shame the strong. And God chose what the world considers low-class and low-life—what is considered to be nothing—to reduce what is considered to be something to nothing. So no human being can brag in God’s presence. It is because of God that you are in Christ Jesus. He became wisdom from God for us. This means that he made us righteous and holy, and he delivered us. This is consistent with what was written: “The one who brags should brag in the Lord!”
|—||1 Corinthians 1:18-32, CEB|
But what of Mary’s relation to the people of Israel? Only once does Lumen Gentium allude to that relation, calling her “the exalted Daughter of Zion.” This image deserves far more attention than it receives in the document. When Scripture presents the people of Israel as a corporate reality, it normally speaks of the community using masculine language. When it speaks of the capital city of Jerusalem, however, the language is feminine. The city represents the corporate reality of the community in relation to God, her spouse, and the people themselves are her children. Just as Yeshua embodies Israel as priest, prophet, and king, so Mary embodies Zion, mother of all the faithful.
Mary is the type of the Church, but she becomes that type through her role as the individual representation of the holy city and of the temple that resided at its center. By neglecting this dimension of Mary’s identity, Lumen Gentium again accentuates discontinuity at the expense of continuity. As the Church is seen as a radically new reality, prefigured by but discontinuous with the old, so the imagery of Zion appears as but figurative prophetic foreshadowing of a new multinational community in which Jews are merely another redeemed ethnicity.
But is not Mary still a Jewish mother, just as Yeshua is still a Jewish messiah? In giving birth to the messiah, was she not an expression of Israel’s entire history and life, the sum of humble and faithful Jews through the centuries? If indeed Mary has a special place in the heavenly courts and if indeed she watches over her children on earth—do not her people according to the flesh have a special place in her heart among those beloved children?
Due to the influence of the [Liturgical Renewal Movement] and its influence in the upper reaches of liturgical thought in the Episcopal Church, the ’79 BCP ended up having a more catholic appearance due to 1) the recovery of historical ideals that also guided the reform of the Roman liturgy post Vatican-II and 2) ecumenical rapprochement with Roman Catholics. Furthermore the performance of the liturgy likewise took on a more catholic appearance with a proliferation of chasubles in places where they would have been anathema as ‘too popish’ just a generation before…
My crystal ball is telling me that Holy Women, Holy Men [the new TEC sanctorale] and the furor around it is emblematic of the liturgical issues that we will be dealing with in the next few decades. We are at the point where we must come to terms with the fact that we have inherited a prayer book with a greater catholic appearance but without catholic substance behind it. To put a finer point on it, we have a catholic-looking calendar of “saints” yet no shared theology of sainthood or sanctity. While a general consensus reigned that the appearance was sufficient, the lack of a coherent shared theology was not an issue. When we press upon it too hard—as occurred and is occurring in the transition from Lesser Feasts & Fasts into Holy Women, Holy Men into whatever will come next—we reap the fruits of a sort of potemkin ecumenism that collapses without common shared theology behind it.
Is there a catholic theology of sanctity in the Episcopal Church? Yes, in some places. Is there an inherently Episcopal theology of sanctity that proceeds naturally from the ’79 BCP that is in line with a classic Christian understanding? Without question! But is it known? No. Is there any common Episcopal understanding of sanctity? The arguments around the church especially as embodied in the discussions within the [Standing Commission on Liturgy and Ministry] lead me to answer, no—I don’t think so.
The struggle of this current generation will be to wrestle with a liturgy that portrays a catholic appearance but lack a catholic substance behind it. It’s not that the substance can’t be there—it’s that it’s not.
|—||Derek Olsen, “Liturgical Chickens Coming Home to Roost”|
Interviewer: Repentance, dying to self, submission—these are not very attractive hooks to draw people into the faith.
Peterson: I think the minute you put the issue that way you’re in trouble. Because then we join the consumer world, and everything then becomes product designed to give you something. We don’t need something more. We don’t need something better. We’re after life. We’re learning how to live.
I think people are fed up with consumer approaches, even though they’re addicted to them. But if we cast the evangel in terms of benefits, we’re setting people up for disappointment. We’re telling them lies.
This is not the way our Scriptures are written. This is not the way Jesus came among us. It’s not the way Paul preached. Where do we get all this stuff? We have a textbook. We have these Scriptures and most of the time they’re saying, “You’re going the wrong way. Turn around. The culture is poisoning.”
Do we realize how almost exactly the Baal culture of Canaan is reproduced in American church culture? Baal religion is about what makes you feel good. Baal worship is a total immersion in what I can get out of it. And of course, it was incredibly successful. The Baal priests could gather crowds that outnumbered followers of Yahweh 20 to 1. There was sex, there was excitement, there was music, there was ecstasy, there was dance. “We got girls over here, friends. We got statues, girls, and festivals.” This was great stuff. And what did the Hebrews have to offer in response? The Word. What’s the Word? Well, Hebrews had festivals, at least!
|—||Eugene Peterson, “Spirituality for All the Wrong Reasons”|
In context, Paul tells Timothy to flee from wanting to be rich, from desires awakened by the desire for wealth, from the love of money. Instead, Timothy is to pursue “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance, gentleness” (v. 11). These qualities are set directly in contrast to the pursuit of material wealth.
It is not simply that the Nazirite makes a vow, does his work, and then goes through rites to end the vow. Rather, he makes a vow, does his work, and then at the climax of that work ascends to Yahweh through purification, ascension, and peace. At that point, he can drink wine, but this is, in a sense, no ordinary wine-drinking; it is an “eschatological” wine-feast, coming at the completion of His labors. It is nearly (symbolically and ritually, though not literally) wine-drinking in the presence of God, something denied to the priests. This suggests that the Nazirite is not a quasi-priest, but rather a temporary super-priest, a priest who has arrived at the point of being qualified to sacrifice himself (= his hair) on the altar. He has become himself something of a sacrificial victim.
This sheds light on New Testament texts as well. Jesus takes a Nazirite vow at the Last Supper: “I will not drink the fruit of the vine until I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” … We can see that this follows the sequence of Naziritehood very strictly: Once He obediently completes His work as a “Nazarene,” Jesus draws near to the Father on the altar of the cross, so that He can feast with new wine in the kingdom.
This also sheds light on the scene in Revelation where the elders cast their crowns before the throne. They are Nazirites, casting down their hairy crowns because their work is completed, entering into the rest of the kingdom. The casting off of crowns is not so much an act of humility as of exaltation, for, like the Nazirite, the crowns cast before the throne ascend to Yahweh. The elders/angels were temporary priests, heavenly Nazirites, but now they make room for human beings, who will be priests and kings to God forever.
Having a personal relationship with God is not the same as having a personal relationship with another human person. Consider the fact that God does not talk to us face-to-face. We do not immediately experience his presence like we do when we relate to other people in the flesh. No one has face-to-face relations with Jesus any more - no one on earth, at any rate. He is absent in a very real and significant sense. A large part of the purpose of Jesus’ “upper room discourse” (Jn. 14-17) has to do with preparing his disciples for his departure. Since his ascension, we cannot touch, see, or hear Jesus speak apart from the mediation of other people. A Christian’s relationship with Jesus, therefore, is not immediate, but mediate. No doubt the “real absence of Jesus” ought to be explained in more detail, but my point is pretty simple: the language of “personal relationship” does not best describe the precise way in which the Lord and His people relate to one another. I’m not denying that God’s interaction with us is a “relationship” or that it is “personal”, but when you combine those two words the resulting phrase has connotations that do not really help us understand how God and man relate to one another.
The biblical word “covenant” is much better. When we hear it we are reminded that God’s relations with us have a particular form. Indeed a covenant is a formal personal relationship, if you will. That is not an adequate definition, of course, but it reminds us that covenants possess definitive content and structure. The covenant is the form or shape of God’s personal relations with us.
|—||Jeffrey Meyers, The Lord’s Service: The Grace of Covenant Renewal Worship|