Thursday, 30 October 2008

Arian Roman Catholic

Mad Priest says Chalk another one up to the Unitarians. There is a Roman Catholic Church in Brisbane that is radical, by any measure, and the press report in The Daily Telegraph and more fully in The Australian is recent about a priest's apparent Unitarianism. This is Peter Dresser of Coonamble in the Diocese of Bathurst. There may well be a booklet for sale but the web blog, where much of this text of this unitarian Catholic is found, has this:

I have just received some propaganda from The Bible Society in Australia which in part stated that during the Olympic Games 2000...

It's hard to tell how old is this writing, but if it is over eight years old then this priest has held these views in this radical parish for some time.

As for others in the parish, there is a part pertinent to the other controversy regarding Anglicans and lay presidency at Sydney. Here is part of the report from The Australian:

Recently, the priests at St Mary's -- Peter Kennedy and Terry Fitzpatrick -- also canvassed the idea of Catholics celebrating the Eucharist in their homes, without a priest.

A discussion paper handed to parishioners by Father Kennedy and written by Charles Kelliher said the lack of priests in the 21st century should prompt the faithful to look back to the first 200 years of the church, before the priesthood and the church hierarchy came into existence.

"Like the house church of the first 200 years, it is the community of believers who can concelebrate and bring about the presence of Christ in the eucharistic celebration. Let us embark on the journey as a community of believers in the modern day house church.

"The community of believers would call forth one of its members to preside at this memorial service. This person could be either man or woman, married or single ... with no special designation except being chosen or called forth to leadership by the community."

Well this is quite remarkable. Peter Dresser, meanwhile says much that makes him an interfaith relativist, perhaps a universalist across the religions, and is quite similar to John Hick.

God speaks to us and shows himself to us in a comprehensive way in the life and teachings of these unique persons, these avatars. In them the transcendent God becomes immanent. Early in John’s Gospel the words of the writer could easily be painting the man Jesus as an avatar: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us...

There have been many such avatars in the course of world history and there will surely be many more to come. They usually appear at times of stress or crisis in the world or in a particular society, during times of social and political upheaval or tension. A Hindu writing states that like the countless numbers of rivers that are created by the ocean (presumably through evaporation and rain) which never runs dry, so are the countless Incarnations of our Lords. Indeed something like 21 avatars have been suggested which include Moses, Christ, Buddha, Confucius, Zoroastra, Mohammed, Krishna, and Mahatma Gandhi...

Some would regard Bahaullah as the most recent avatar. All these avatars teach and preach the same or similar principles in different words, make similar claims regarding themselves and lead their hearers to different levels of understanding and intellectual horizons. One is not better than any other...

Now Brahman according to the Hindus is the Word out of which the concrete sensible world then evolves. This creative urge is especially made present in the avatar - the avatar being the descent of God, whereas the ordinary man ascends toward God. In John's Gospel Jesus claims to have come from the Father and he is the way the truth and the life. But when the sayings of other world's teachers are examined we find that they make almost identical statements, equally declaring themselves to be incarnations of the Godhead. Thus, for example, Sri Krishna: I am the goal of the wise man, and I am the way, the Lord, the sustainer. And the saying of Buddha: You are my children, I am your father; through me you have been released from your sufferings. I am the saviour of others and so on...

Jesus and the other avatars did not simply encase themselves in a human body; they actually used the human body to express the divine. In a sense the human and the divine became one. This was one of the issues of the early Church Councils - whether or not Jesus was a divine person or a human person. The conclusion arrived at was that Jesus was a divine person but having both a divine and a human nature. So he was God in person according to the teaching of the Church. The conclusion of the learned and the clever! But one has to raise a disclaimer in all these matters. God is big. Real big. No human being can ever be God. And Jesus was a human being. It is as simple as that! It would have been much better and certainly much healthier had the Arians had their way in the days of those early Church Councils. They insisted that Jesus was a human person. Certainly today among many theologians the conclusion has been arrived at which is fundamentally closer to an Arian way of thinking...

I think these extracts say enough. He is a little wrong about this Arianism. The stress in early Arianism was the subordinate divinity of Jesus who was the first born of all creation: it is reformation Arianism that stresses Jesus's humanity, and thus has a reduced divinity compared with God. He also produces a very bizarre Jesus in his multi-religious approach, starting with something quite credible:

I am quite sure that although he felt an extremely close intimacy with a God whom he called Abba, he himself would never have thought of himself as God or a god. A prophet perhaps - but never a god. After all Jesus was a Jew and a good one at that. It would have been the ultimate blasphemy to have seen himself as God....

But much further down he goes off the rails:

Jesus is the Christian Avatar with a message from God addressed to Christians. It is only natural that in his youthful exuberance he may have wanted his message preached to all nations and to have everyone baptised as his followers (Matthew 28:18). But other nations and other people living in different places and in different times will have their own avatars. They may very well be lost souls but lost souls that do not have to rely on the words of Jesus to save them. They will have their own avatars, their own saviours. Let us as Christians respect and honour Jesus but let us also respect and honour all those avatars who make the presence of God felt in our world.

Jesus in his youthful exuberance? Addressing a message of God to Christians? Matthew's gospel here is not a reliable transmitter of the historical Jesus, in its keenness to promote the early Church. Jesus would not have wanted to reach anyone but Jews, the Gentiles only later invited into the idealised Kingdom on earth.

The issue is the appropriateness of applying the term Avatar to Jesus. In the end, and Avatar is a value judgment about a ministry, and it deifies (as intentionally in Hinduism). Peter Dresser seems to be a Reformation Arian, following on from Faustus Socinus.

He ends with this:

When our own very beautiful Christian religion is becoming increasingly irrelevant and meaningless in today's world and where our Catholic voice seems to be way out of touch with reality, I find it kind of bizarre that we should be telling other people what to do, what to believe and what to think.

Let us respect each other's Gods. Let us respect each other's Avatars.

I would agree with the sentiment of all this, but one wonders where is Peter Dresser now though the others continue the radical tradition? My own view is that the issue of divinity affects both Christ and God, so that there is a crisis of meaning of both, and therefore the language of Avatar does nothing to tackle the crisis of meaning in God the Father and the metaphorical shifts that some then went on to suggest.


Sarko Sightings said...

So does this mean that my avatar can be saved but I may not be saved? j/k Thanks for you blog!

Eliyahu said...

This is perhaps the most odious to catholics and yet is so close to revealing history:

"I am quite sure that although he felt an extremely close intimacy with a God whom he called Abba, he himself would never have thought of himself as God or a god. A prophet perhaps - but never a god. After all Jesus was a Jew and a good one at that. It would have been the ultimate blasphemy to have seen himself as God...."

But there is the enduring error of names. Names after all do say something about the person. You can have J-e-s-u-s. It has a meaning. But in reality Yehoshua was the only man to have actually lived, walked, and talked.

He "was a Jew and a good one at that." This is a fact of history. If you deviate from logic based upon this fact i.e. you build a story, even write (or rewrite), a "gospel" then you may create a cause but you certainly only have a very dangerous fiction that will in the end die along with it's adherents, because it is deceptive and deficient. It simply is not a part of the Perfect Creator Singularity and at death will be separate from Him forevermore.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

Ask Rowan Williams. Apparantly the question is not whether there is deity but whether we live the life of deity, according to Mark Vernon's review of his book on Fyodor Dostoevsky - see Mad Priest's blog: