Saturday, 22 May 2004

Religion columns

In The Times Geoffrey Rowell writes about why Christian values must always face judgment and scrutiny. Starting from Tertullian’s question “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” he goes on to discuss the relationship Christianity should have with Culture today. He concludes:

Christians have therefore a twofold responsibility. They are called to find God in the undergrowth, the unexpected places of contemporary culture, and to welcome all who are explorers and searchers and seekers. But there can never be an uncritical endorsement of culture. Whether it be the rhetoric of multiculturalism and political correctness, or the pick-anmix individualism that makes subjective choice the measure of truth, or the popular cults of celebrities or consumerism, these are as much under the judgment of the God of sacrificial love as the ideology of Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia.
Likewise, the Church is always under judgment, for its compromises, its human weakness, and its failure to live out more plainly the deep compassion of Christ. But the saving grace is that at the heart of the Church’s life is the penitent knowledge of its weakness and failure and of the healing that can transfigure and transform it. The saints have always known themselves to be sinners in need of redemption, and have rejoiced in the love and grace which comes down to the lowest part of their need.
Christians live always as those looking up to the Ascended Christ, to the love that reigns victorious, and as those who know that love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit He has given to us. To live by that knowledge and vision is to live for that Christian culture and society, in which values, choices and judgments are shaped by likeness to Christ.

The Times also has an interesting report by Greg Watts on Theatre Ministry. Celebrating the theatre of faith.

Christopher Howse in the Telegraph discusses some religious books in A better bowl of cherries.
I failed to report earlier that last Monday the Telegraph also carried a news story about the Church of England that did not refer to sexuality. Church of England finds fertile ground in France.

The New York Times has a column by Peter Steinfels that is headed A Thorny Issue Begets Much Reading. This is occasioned by the US republication of The Way Forward? Christian Voices on Homosexuality and the Church. Below is some of what Steinfels has to say:

Despite the inevitable unevenness of any collection like this, and a disappointing sense that the evangelical authors of the St. Andrew Day’s Statement have not quite engaged their critics, “The Way Forward?” operates at a level far above the usual battling about a handful of biblical passages and the usual volleying of stereotypes and sentimentalities. Yet to read these essays is almost to despair.
For one thing, simply by way of contrast, they bring to mind how rarely it is acknowledged that the current debates about homosexuality involve matters that remain unsettled, matters about which serious thinking is still required and about which more than one side may have points worth considering. The prevailing attitudes are quite different: Either resistance to revising the traditional Christian teaching (or the traditional legal arrangements) can only be the fruit of bigotry or uninformed fundamentalism; or the demand for change must spring from accommodation to a permissive culture or surrender to relativism, individualism, hedonism, etc., etc.
But still more daunting is the fact that these theological essays are in fact genuinely theological. The St. Andrew’s Day Statement begins its brief exposition of underlying principles with the straightforward declaration, “Jesus Christ is the one word of God. He came in human flesh, died for our sins, and was raised for our justification.” And the essays, even where they attend to empirical and cultural issues, make God and God’s self-revelation, whether in Scripture, creation or tradition, the framework for their judgments.
This is not, in other words, psychology or sociology or political philosophy presented in a religious wrapper. It is theology. It is a theological exploration of a theological question. And who, in the sound-bite-driven state of religion no less than of secular culture, actually has the patience, the appetite or the resources for that?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 22 May 2004 at 10:03 AM GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Opinion

Speaking of Faith, a radio program of Minnesota Public Radio and distributed by Public Radio International, had a discussion last week on Gay Marriage with an evangelical perspective. I’ve posted the link. One of the featured guests was Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, whose writings I have enjoyed. Readers of TA and Simon’s blog can listen to the program from the url link; also there is a lot of background. I usually listen to this program in my car, when I’m out and about in the afternoon. Very good show. Thought I’d pass it on, particularly since gay marriage is now legal in Massachusetts.

Posted by: Jay Vos at May 22, 2004 03:12 PM