"Living the good life: Rowan Williams on Marilynne Robinson" | New Statesman
This is, at one important level, a novel about the inadequacy of goodness. The world of Gilead is full of virtue and kindness; but it survives by denying something. When Lila, newly baptised, hears Ames and Boughton having a mild theological dispute about the fate of unbelievers, she suddenly grasps that all the people who have kept her alive up to this point are “outsiders” to faith and grace, strangers to the kindly old pastors; and she is filled with revulsion at her own “insider” status. She goes to the river and rubs water over her body to “cleanse” herself from baptism, from the pollution of her betrayal of Doll and her graceless friends and travelling companions.
What Lila discovers and slowly formulates for herself is what finally emerges in the last pages of the book, where, almost for the first time, a strong, lyrical passion infuses her reflections: if there is heaven, it has to be filled with those who are there because others could not bear to be without them, whatever they have done or been. There cannot be anyone who is not needed somewhere, in some way. The longing for safe goodness is trumped by the hunger of and for solidarity.
And this is what the merely good do not know. The Lilas of the world are those who challenge the ways in which the good refuse to know what they do not know. This is why Lila in the earlier, but chronologically later, novels can function as a point of (near-silent) reference by which the rhetoric of others is to be judged; why she is an absolving as well as a disturbing presence, aware of the irony of being who she is where she is, but neither rebelling nor colluding, simply stating by her presence that things might be different.
Pastoral ministry is apostolic practice. Its origin lies in the apostolic vocation of the church: in the fact that the church as a whole and its pastors in particular are called and sent to be ambassadors and heralds of Jesus Christ, the one who is himself sent from God and who in his person constitutes and announces the gospel. From this origin and vocation, pastoral ministry derives a definite content and task: the ‘matter’ which is to govern and direct all its activities is Christ and his gospel. The gospel reaches back into the infinite ocean of God’s own life (‘in the beginning was the Word’) and reaches forward into the created world which is the object of God’s unrestricted benevolence (‘the Word became flesh and dwelt among us’). In the gospel we find God’s loving instruction of guilty and sad creatures, whose treason against their creator is such that they have lost their way, and no longer know who or where they are or how to reach out to happiness. To these creatures – to us – the gospel holds out illumination and healing. As it is set before us, we come to know who God is, what we are made to be, where we have gone astray, how we have been sought and recovered, in what way we may begin to flourish. Pastoral ministry in all its various undertakings – in teaching and preaching, in administering the gospel sacraments, in seeking the lost, in offering consolation and correction and direction – is the indication, extension and application of apostolic truth in all its goodness and restorative power.John Webster, “Why Study Theology?”
That music you hear in the distance? It’s St Augustine, St Teresa, Teilhard de Chardin, Pascal, Kierkegaard and Simone Weil all singing together, and what they are singing is that, as Christ commanded, we are supposed to love God with our minds, as well as with our hearts and our souls and our strength. It is an illusion to think that there is any necessary conflict between a Christian commitment and free, adventurous thinking. No-one ever does their thinking on a blank sheet of paper. Every intellectual of every kind is in a conversation with some set of ideas, doctrines, ways of seeing the world, and that’s what makes their own thinking serious. The Christian conversation with Christian ideas, and with every other kind of idea, need not be defensive or imprisoning. Why is there a stereotype that says you have to choose between faith and thought?Francis Spufford (via ayjay)
Oliver Burkeman, “It’s time to face the facts: autumn is better than summer”
Cold weather is better than hot weather. For the discerning minority of us who grasp this objective fact, the current turning of the seasons brings a delicious thrill. And frankly, we deserve a delicious thrill – because life as a cold-appreciator most of the time is tough. There are the daily micro-aggressions of weather forecasters who refer to warm weather as “good”. There’s the dawning reality that our warming climate may gradually be shifting the entire calendar on behalf of the heat fetishists. But mid-October is our moment. Months of chilly days stretch out invitingly before us. At the office, our brains start functioning properly again; outside the office, open fires and hot whiskey drinks can finally replace sunburn, insect repellent and stifling humidity…
Crucially, cold weather also facilitates coziness – a phenomenon so important, and so ill-served by the weedy word “coziness”, that the Danes have made it a central part of their (unusually happy) culture. They call it “hygge”. Hygge can mean hot chocolate by the fire while it’s snowing outside, but it also implies camaraderie and intimacy: it’s a social coziness, a coming together with people we love, against the encroaching cold. I know sunshine enthusiasts have their equivalent pleasures: chilled drinks on a beach with friend, say. And they probably imagine they’re just as good. They are wrong.
Phillip Cary, reviewing Michael Horton’s new book
Horton argues that the underlying theology behind oft-heard calls to be wild and crazy radical believers—as if Christianity were an extreme sport—is works righteousness in a new, consumerist mode. For some time, radical has been a favorite word of advertisers and ideologues alike. Every website with something to sell now routinely promises a transformative experience.
Instead of another call to be radical, extraordinary, or transformative, Horton would have us return to the ordinary means of grace, those practices of the church in which God has promised to make himself known: preaching the gospel, teaching the faith, administering the sacraments, and worshiping with a local congregation. Instead of advertising life-changing experiences or the next big thing, the aim is a sustainable faith for the long haul. The great strength of being ordinary, after all, is that you can do it for a lifetime.
It will come as no surprise that Andrewes’ understanding of memory is sacramental: the anamnesis, the not-forgetting of the act of Communion is at the heart of sacred memory. Andrewes’ Hebraic knowledge will also recall that the act of remembering in Biblical texts does not mean the act of synthetic recall implied by the English word — it is perhaps unavoidable that our modern sensibilities will reach for the superficial analogies of digital visual record, the automatic replays of the recording machine. That is not what is meant by Biblical remembering. Instead it is an act which re-members — which brings into the present, through deep immersion and symbolic re-presentation, the events which are its substance. To remember Christ’s sacrifice is to bring the single moment of bodily giving into the present. It isn’t a repetition. It’s not that there were lots of moments of breaking and giving away. There was one moment, but it remains present through all time; and in the Sacrament its continual present-ness is recalled, made concrete. Andrewes had quite a lot of time for the doctrine of transubstantiation, considering how unpopular it was in the Protestant English devotional imagination; but it seems to me that he would not have made all that much distinction, essentially, between it and memorialist understandings of the Sacrament of the most uncompromising kind. The command to remember is consonant with the command to do the Gospel in the act of reading, to incarnate God’s salvation.Jessica Martin, “Sermon on the 388th anniversary of the death of Bishop Lancelot Andrewes,” Southwark Cathedral, Saturday, 27 September 2014
Clay Shirky, “Why I Just Asked My Students to Put Their Laptops Away”
Jonathan Haidt’s metaphor of the elephant and the rider is useful here. In Haidt’s telling, the mind is like an elephant (the emotions) with a rider (the intellect) on top. The rider can see and plan ahead, but the elephant is far more powerful. Sometimes the rider and the elephant work together (the ideal in classroom settings), but if they conflict, the elephant usually wins.
After reading Haidt, I’ve stopped thinking of students as people who simply make choices about whether to pay attention, and started thinking of them as people trying to pay attention but having to compete with various influences, the largest of which is their own propensity towards involuntary and emotional reaction. (This is even harder for young people, the elephant so strong, the rider still a novice.)
Regarding teaching as a shared struggle changes the nature of the classroom. It’s not me demanding that they focus — its me and them working together to help defend their precious focus against outside distractions. I have a classroom full of riders and elephants, but I’m trying to teach the riders.
I suspect that some forms or shades of homosexuality are distortions of the longing for friendship. Our culture has made it much easier (especially, but not only, for men) to acknowledge intense, poignant longing for intimacy with another person of the same sex if we construe that longing as sexual rather than non-sexual.Eve Tushnet, being thoughtful and interesting, as per usual
Much of the freshest and richest biblical scholarship today is, accordingly, oriented to this ecclesial context of biblical interpretation. I think, for instance, of Markus Bockmuehl’s recent work on the apostle Peter, which locates the significance of the New Testament witness on a trajectory that includes consideration of the Bishop of Rome. Or I think of Walter Moberly’s new Old Testament Theology, whose readings of select Old Testament passages would have been impossible without the history of Christian spirituality and prayer, even as they serve to root that history more firmly on biblical terrain. Or I think of C. Kavin Rowe’s work on the Gospel of Luke, which highlights the continuity between Luke’s portrayal of Jesus as the “Lord,” the kyrios, and the later Nicene doctrine of the Trinity. Or I think of a forthcoming volume on “Reformation readings of Paul,” which lets biblical scholars engage Pauline texts with interpreters such as Luther, Calvin, and Cranmer, demonstrating along the way how deep a conversation is possible when we assume that the “theologians” of an earlier time weren’t simply imposing their own assumptions and convictions on biblical texts but were, like us, trying to grasp the text’s subject matter and state it afresh in their own day.me, commending some recent trends in “theological interpretation of Scripture”
My working process is no doubt much the same as yours and the same as many other people. The artistic process seems to be mythologized quite a lot into something far greater than it actually is. It is just hard labor… As anyone who actually writes knows, if you sit down and are prepared, then the ideas come. There’s a lot of different ways people explain that, but, you know, I find that if I sit down and I prepare myself, generally things get done.Nick Cave (via austinkleon)
[I]t appears Cruz has no meaningful exposure to the actual experience of Middle Eastern Christians, nor does it seem he is even aware that there are millions of Middle Eastern Christians (and Jews, for that matter) who are strongly opposed to the official political and military policies of the modern state of Israel.
The phrase that ignited the disagreement is particularly telling: “Christians have no greater ally than Israel.”
What kind of worldview or theological bias would allow for such a statement? Only one that presumes there is a definite conformity between the needs and desires of Christians everywhere and the Middle East policy of the United States of America. It seems to me, in other words, that when Ted Cruz says “Christians have no greater ally than Israel,” he really means that “America has no greater ally than Israel” — and that the subjects of those two sentences are identical in his mind.
This is my commonplace book and sometime-journal.
I blog at SpiritualFriendship.org.
My book is here: Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality.
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