Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Arriving at an Unpolluted Jesus Christ Construct

Here is a sort of three-way debate. There is that CEEC Statement and a supporter of it like Andrew Goddard. There is then that statement (and Anglican formularies) and opponents such as Colin Coward with Changing Attitude. Then there is someone like me. My basic ethical agreement is with Colin Coward and Changing Attitude, but can he and it hold up the basis of the Colin Coward argument as highlighted by Andrew Goddard?

It is not possible to find an accommodation between teaching based on a fundamentalist interpretation of Scripture, the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer and the Ordering of Bishops, Priests and Deacons and the evolution of gay identity and the expectations of same-sex loving Christians. Changing Attitude’s prime loyalty is not to these formularies and this inheritance of faith but to the deeply personal call of God to us in faith and love. We test our inheritance against the example and teaching of Jesus Christ. Where there is conflict, and of course there is conflict aplenty, we opt to follow Jesus.

My argument from this is where does this construction of Jesus Christ come from? I posted this comment on Fulcrum itself, which (as I write) has yet to appear:

The question is whether there is a general 'thrust' of meaning and ethical intent as an interpretation of Scripture, the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer and the Ordering of Bishops, Priests and Deacons. It brings back the question of the basis of the declaration of assent. Colin Coward presumably thinks that in that collection of words is the essence of something he calls Jesus Christ; but if not then he is declaring a marginality regarding Anglicanism in that he is loyal to what he calls Jesus Christ whilst not caring too much what is in those formularies. So it might not just be 'experience' based, often given as a liberal basis of faith, but it might and it might be a form of religious humanism - what is wholly human, and therefore what is Christ about that.

I've written here that the [Anglican] declaration of assent is so worded that no one giving it is forced to agree with every item on the creed, or every article or formula. It just is not asked of any individual, though it is given that the Church is correct in having these. The individual is to give loyalty to the inheritance, and also to use exclusive forms of this Church. I personally think he is pushing it further than it will go.

I would ask what is his construction of 'Jesus Christ' and if it is, for example, based on the historical Jesus and how. Last Sunday the preacher in our Unitarian church is an Anglican and she referred in passing to Jesus's weak pastoral skills - he tends to give some people the brush off. Now if this is correct (and she has a point), how does that relate to the construction of 'Jesus Christ'? Is Jesus, for example, morally and ethically perfect and how do you know so? How do you locate such humanism? I suggest you can only say that from tradition, and if you can't say it from tradition that, actually, you cannot say it. If Jesus Christ is just a code word for ethical superiority then it may be good enough to argue as ethical superiority but it isn't good enough to argue as Jesus Christ.

It is why I argue that if you cannot say the declaration of assent, as I cannot, then these constructions of Jesus Christ start to fall apart. He might be the other side of the line from me. I still think there is a Jesus of Nazareth to work out, but it is not a code word for ethical superiority or guarantee of pastoral humanism.

Incidentally, earlier, I had cause to post a different kind of comment to the thread Should Orthodox Christians depart from Fulcrum ? after the usual repetitive reference was made about revisionist Anglicans and those irrelevant trolls from outside:

I come here wearing special trolling costume that gives out a funny if regulation smell to repel those who may be sunning themselves in evangelical short sleeved shirts and blouses. On my black hat it says 'Beware of the Troll',  and my visitor's ticket acquired at the guarded barriers reminds me that my views here are irrelevant. And as I sit on the park bench alone, giving off the putrid smell, I occasionally hear people talk about liberalism and liberal views, often without visiting where I have come from or nearby, or refer to other beliefs, or refer to matters experienced directly by me in neighbouring places [I] once inhabited if no longer resident, and so I might mutter something of that experience to the wholesome citizens. But all the while I am careful to show my pass and remind people to hold their noses so that they are not contaminated by my commitment to heterodoxy and become ravaged, as I am, by theological disease. Though, I have heard, all this might not be good enough, because people who have spoken to me and thought about the reply have caught bad colds and ended up in evangelical hospital, and sometimes left out the back door and gone over the border where, apparently, they've been told they are not ill at all.

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