In the context of the present Anglican situation I've been calling for more of a theology of innovation. If all the emphasis is on one Church not offending another Church on the basis of, say, that Advent Letter of 2007 by the Archbishop of Canterbury, then the whole weight of active theology is on slowing down and slowing down until there is nothing of any innovation anywhere that isn't centrally approved. The genius of post-colonial Anglicanism has been to be responsive to local culture as well as present its central core messages. The present attempt to centralise - which ought to be resisted - would overturn what it means to be particularly Anglican.
I am more than grateful to have been in receipt of some books recently, and there is clearly available a theology of innovation - if not called that, but it could be so developed. It is linked to diversity. Twenty years back in Clarke, P. A. B. and Linzey, A. (eds.) (1988), Theology, The University and The Modern World, London: LCAP, Andrew Linzey wrote a chapter himself called, simply, 'On Theology', 29-66. In this he used his own considerable understanding of Karl Barth (he did his Ph.D on him) to move on to a theology that would focus more on Spirit (Barth might have done such himself). From a position more orthodox than I can produce, the result is a rounded trinitarian belief that demands diversity of expression, a critical approach and a responsiveness to matters arising. This is the theology of inspiration and achievement, and creativity: doing something new. Andrew Linzey writes there, after a passage from Paulos Mar Gregorius on the God as dynamic and the universe as dynamic:
This it should be emphasised is not 'theological liberalism'... the emphasis is not upon what we cannot know but rather what God cannot be if he is to be what we traditionally claim him to be. Some fundamental open-mindedness is essential not because we cannot know what God is really like but rather because without this prerequisite of open-mindedness we cannot know God at all. We have to be open because God has and is opening himself up to us. (1988, 49)
The Church itself needs to mirror the very unity in diversity that God the Trinity expresses, he states (1988, 49). In later writings (also received!) the same position goes on to reject centralisation towards a communion (Linzey, A. (2005), Has Anglicanism a Future: A Reponse to the Windsor Report, London: LGCM) and to express diversity and indeed a sort of listening, responsive innovation: Linzey, A., 'In Defense of Diversity' in Linzey, A., Kirker R. (eds.) (2005), Gays and the Future of Anglicanism: Responses to the Windsor Report, Winchester: O Books, 160-198.
My argument has been a little more sociological than that, but amounts to the same thing: that the Churches being the points of unity are more responsive, flexible and quite capable of applying the core message to local situations in place and time.
I am fascinated by that definition of religious liberalism:
'theological liberalism'... the emphasis is not upon what we cannot know
That is right too. This is more my position, where I will emphasise what I cannot know, and then write about what I do know as best I can. It is why I have become interested in some of the wider ideas of Ernst Troeltsch in that he too looked at what cannot be known as theology was seen as an academic subject along with history and sociology and philosophy. Since the loss of optimism the modern theologians - Barth, Bonhoeffer, Tillich, Bultmann, the Niebuhrs - have given a special space for theology separate from other academic subjects. A special, revelatory space went along with one-way Christ narrative, Christianity in the secular, ultimate questions for Christian answers, demythologising not quite everything and either own-life responsiveness to the narrative or social and economic pragmatism.
This is where I differ (just) from Andrew Linzey, as in the 1988 chapter as above:
Certainly I would want to say that the affirmation of Christ as ousia with God the Father is not only intellectually defensible but true. For all kinds of reasons I think that those who attack this doctrine are mistaken. But even here I cannot persuade myself that the conception of the unity between Christ and the Father expressed in the Chalcedonian definition by way of the term 'ousia' is the only or best conceivable way of understanding that unity. (1988, 63)
I don't attack it; I don't understand it. Of course I understand what it is saying, but I don't have a space for its operation other than in the realm of myth.
Now myth I regard as important. Myth is like art, and art is important. Meanings in our world are not simply centred around physical causality. However, I don't have a space for the objective existence of something like 'ousia' and that is not because I tend to the postmodern.
I look at the figure of Jesus and see many. I see a figure in traditions and I see one that might be historically reconstructed, with great difficulty, as a messianic Jew seeing a Kingdom coming with all speed and vitality. I see early Christians' Jesuses. What I don't see is some sort of essence that is a given, from beyond. I could just be blind; I might, in Calvinist terms, be one of those people chosen by God to be damned. Or I could just be rather sensible. I don't know, but I don't see it.
In the end the Jesus figure or figures is a reflective personality, that a kind of dialectic relationship on what is important in one's own and the community life. It is like a challenge, a reference point (among others).
When it comes to God, then we clearly have, in the arts in particular, but in all sorts of mundane and inspirational moments, signals of transcendence. When Richard Dawkins expresses wonder and amazement for the evolved world, we have a signal of transcendence. They give clues to transcendence, but only clues, and the dots of transcendence may not join up. Again, theological liberalism is about what is missing.
So it is too, that whilst one can talk about a human spirit, but does not have to objectify it into something other (I see how Hindus do this: the Atman becomes part of the Brahman) so one can talk about a Spirit at work. But, for me, this is mythological talk. There is no objectivity in it, beyond the possibility of objectivity. Clearly diversity is a means to open up, and opening up allows things to happen. Is that 'the Spirit' at work? Well, I don't know.
What liturgy does is gives a content and arts-supported pathway towards reflection. It was constructed, and maintains that construction even when translated into modern speech forms, in a mythological age. It expresses things in other terms of reference from the way people today practically think and operate. Too many people throw a religious switch and talk in one manner, very defensively sometimes, only to actually act and work in every day life in an entirely secular thought-frame. Quite simply, I am looking for more consistency than this. So much of the mythic language when objectified becomes inconsistent, and actually becomes surplus. Not only can I not understand it, I cannot see the point of it.
Thus is my theology: I thought, at this point, I'd better explain for the sake of clarity. As you get deeper into disputes that are going on, people start claiming you as their friends, so I ought to lay some cards on the table in case they need other friends.