Saturday, June 12, 2010

Rowan Williams: The State will not get far in its government of Britain without the Church

The full text of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s sermon to the new Parliament in St Margaret’s, Westminster, is reproduced below.

“‘Give Caesar what belongs to Caesar’: this alone is not a recipe for a sustainable society or a trustful one,” he said. “At best it will create a controlled or managed social order. For a social model more clearly focused on the flourishing of committed and creative citizens, we need a strong ground for the affirmation of fixed and non-negotiable dignity in all human beings.”

There are some theological gems: “Good government from a Christian point of view is about the acknowledgement and reinforcement of human dignity…”.

The vision of shared dignity was one that would “never allow the weak, the supposedly ‘unproductive’, the very old or the very young, the mentally ill and physically challenged and terminally ill to disappear from the radar; on the contrary, it will always ask what are the strengths that they bring, the contribution without which society would be poorer”.

The Archbishop was gentle with them: he knows they’re despised and rejected, and he knows how that feels. People had felt, he said, “that those who hold both financial and political power have exercised it for self-interest, not for the common interest. Some of that perception has been unfair. Most of those in the worlds of finance and politics have been individually honourable and generous. But the ineradicable impression has been of systems that have rewarded or connived at casual greed and routine sharp practice.”

But, unlike most of their critics, he offered them a solution: “If government is visibly working for dignity in citizenship, trust will follow.”

Dr Williams urged Parliament not to ignore the Church when attempting political renewal: “Political renewal is not religious renewal. But a political renewal that looks for a vital, decisive commitment to human dignity and social trust will not get far without a capacity to tune in to the themes of religious practice, the narratives and rhythms of embodied faith, not least, though not exclusively, in the life of the Established Church… No one looks for a revival of discriminatory privilege for any faith, still less for some kind of religious censorship in public life. Yet our society is not so rich in resources for the celebration of a dignity which can exist in straitened circumstances just as much as in abundance that it can afford to go on regarding religious communities with the mixture of patronage and nervousness that has become uncomfortably common of late.”

Also on Tuesday, Dr Williams appeared in the House of Lords to ask about the proposed reform of the Second Chamber. He asked Lord McNally: “Given the historic role of this chamber as representing the interests of non-partisan civil society, will the minister give us some assurance that the proposals before us do not represent an increase in underlining the partisan character of this House?”

In reply, the minister said that the committee looking at the matter would address such concerns in its deliberations.

The full text of the St Margaret’s address:

Give Caesar what belongs to him, says Jesus. And how do we know what belongs to him? It has his image on it. Then: give God what belongs to God. The implication isn't spelled out, but it's clear enough. What belongs to God can be identified in the same way; it has his image on it.

Human beings, who are made in God's image, 'belong' to God – not in the sense that they are God's property but – like Caesar's coinage – they carry the stamp of his authority. A lot has been said and written in recent decades about the evil effects of the old doctrine that humanity reflects God's sovereignty within creation, encouraging people, so it is said, to see themselves as endowed with unrestricted powers over the rest of the world, with license to exploit and wreck it. But the picture of humanity as God's image in the world is originally about a particular kind of liberty and dignity, not the unlimited right of ownership but the creative responsibility to make something of the world for the glory of God; to make and to protect a whole environment that speaks of God.

So perhaps to give God what belongs to God is to set human beings free to relate to God and to fulfil their calling to be creative in the world. 'Giving' humanity to God is acting in such a way that the image is made more visible. It is bringing human dignity to light. So in the gospel story of the tribute money, Jesus refuses to make a neat opposition between Caesar and God, as his critics want him to. By all means, he says, pay your debts to the political order, give Caesar what belongs to him. If you are profiting from Caesar's government, don't grumble about paying Caesar's taxes. But never forget that the ultimate point of any human political order is giving God what belongs to God – setting human agents free, acknowledging and reinforcing the dignity in which God has clothed them.

There is the big picture for every politician who seeks to be more than a mere manager of the state's business, a part of the mechanism of collecting Caesar's taxes. Good government from a Christian point of view is about the acknowledgement and reinforcement of human dignity. And to see it in this way may help us out of the useless standoff that sometimes arises when we try and talk about what 'strong' government is and whether it is desirable.

We react against certain kinds of strong government or 'big' government on the grounds that we don't want to be patronised or bullied or stripped of the fruits of our own work. And the mistake is then to hand over all responsibility to non-state agents – which in practice often means non-accountable interests. Or, on the other hand, we try to make sure that government controls all outcomes and averts all risks by law and regulation. And this produces a culture of obsessional legislation, paralysis of initiative and pervasive anxiety.

Well, the last three decades have seen plenty of both these odd growths – the delinquent children of Milton Friedman and Sidney Webb. Is it a fantasy to think that we just might be on the verge of discovering another register for talking politics and doing politics? One thing that the remarkable recent election has surely told us is that some of the historic party identities of British politics are not making much sense to a lot of the electorate; party loyalties are not what they were, because people have been unclear about what the arguments really are (despite the high-profile debating). The leaders of a new government, a new leadership in opposition, have the chance to put the question of human dignity at the centre of public debate by affirming that strong government is government that makes strong citizens – not by resigning responsibility but by deliberately building capacity for co-operation, encouraging mutual dependence and skill-sharing, helping to create what some have called a 'social-quality market' in which people collaborate to define the goods they are seeking together instead of being reduced to the level of the simple relations between producer and consumer. The marketing – I use the term deliberately – of this latter model to every area of social interaction, including education and healthcare, has been one of the tragedies of the last thirty years and we need something better –something that assumes a shared dignity in citizens, shared across the differences of income and ability, race and class.

Shared dignity: it is this, rather than just a set of convictions and enactments around rights alone, that will provide the vision for a society in which the main concerns are to nourish the strength of citizens and enable them to use their strength for mutual care and service, and where the arguments are about how this is to be secured. It is a vision that will never allow the weak, the supposedly 'unproductive', the very old or the very young, the mentally ill and physically challenged and terminally ill, to disappear from the radar; on the contrary, it will always ask what are the strengths that they bring, the contribution without which society would be poorer. Shared dignity is the condition for what you could call 'civic warmth' – the sense of being able to trust not only immediate neighbours but the wider social fabric. If government is visibly working for dignity in citizenship, trust will follow.

And of course it is trust that has in the last couple of years been one of the most signal casualties of our national and international politics. It isn't only that people have felt they have not been told the whole truth about some matters; much more importantly, they have felt that those who hold both financial and political power have exercised it for self-interest not for the common interest. Some of that perception has been unfair. Most of those in the worlds of finance and politics have been individually honourable and generous. But the ineradicable impression has been of systems that have rewarded or connived at casual greed and routine sharp practice. Across the political parties, there is an urgency about recovering the trust that has been squandered.

And perhaps we could also say there is an urgency about restoring dignity to political life itself. The people of the United Kingdom do not want to see politics reduced to entertainment, slogans and personalities. There were telling points in the election campaign where it was clear that the relentless negativity of coverage and the relish with which individuals, including individuals of stature and integrity, were demonised or trivialised or both began to repel the public. No-one should look back on the campaign as a good moment for the dignity of our public life. But the harsh truth is that this kind of dignity has, more than ever, to be worked at. People want an alternative to cynicism – but it will require new levels of seriousness, patience and sheer reasonableness in political debate and relationships. And when one journalist, last weekend, wrote movingly of the dignity with which the grief-stricken people of Cumbria had responded to the horrors they had witnessed, we were reminded forcibly of the underlying seriousness and compassion that is still there in our national life at its best.

Our first lesson this morning was a rather scarifying summons to renewal. It shows a great political and religious reformer, a governor of Israel during the period of Persian imperial control, spelling out the consequences of fidelity to God and of infidelity. Faithfulness to the law of Moses means that people will be gathered – drawn together out of exile, out of isolation. Forgetfulness of the law means fragmentation, people losing touch with each other; it is its own punishment. And renewal does not come without acknowledgement of this fragmentation, something for which the entire community of God's people has to take responsibility, not one leader, not one party, but the people.

If we are serious in looking to a new politics of dignity and civic warmth, we must all recognise our responsibilities and the need to give creative, challenging and constructive support to those we have called to govern and to represent us. If we want dignity in our rulers, we must show that we all take responsibility for the dignity we accord to each other as citizens. The unfashionable idea of political virtue needs dusting off as something we can all acquire in our own spheres – a sense of the significance of our decisions, of patience with others and willingness to discover together what is good for a community, even an attitude of celebration of our common life as villages and cities and a variegated national community.

In a culture that is increasingly functionalist and unsure how to celebrate, it is a matter of some significance that there still exist as part of the social fabric groups whose strongest means of self-identification is through celebration. Religious believers are not – contrary to what seems often to be taken for granted – individuals who happen to come together occasionally to reaffirm the eccentric opinions they hold. They are people whose imagination is constantly renewed by a celebratory sharing in the great narratives that hold them together, the narratives of God's actions which have brought them close to each other and whose resonances they recognise in each other. They are a reminder that celebration is not the icing on the cake of a prosperity that looks more vulnerable than it once did, but a simple matter of gratitude for being who we are and receiving what we have received, from God, from history, from our environment.

In this country, the Christian Church has historically been the main carrier of this celebratory vision, and its rhythms are still embedded in our calendar just as its buildings and worshipping communities are embedded in every landscape, urban and rural, in Britain. Political renewal is not religious renewal. But a political renewal that looks for a vital, decisive commitment to human dignity and social trust will not get far without a capacity to tune in to the themes of religious practice, the narratives and rhythms of embodied faith, not least, though not exclusively, in the life of the established Church.

This is perhaps specially true at a time when we are obliged to confront the possibility of a less individually and corporately comfortable lifestyle. No-one looks for a revival of discriminatory privilege for any faith, still less for some kind of religious censorship in public life. Yet our society is not so rich in resources for the celebration of a dignity which can exist in straitened circumstances just as much as in abundance that it can afford to go on regarding religious communities with the mixture of patronage and nervousness that has become uncomfortably common of late.

Give Caesar what belongs to Caesar: this alone is not a recipe for a sustainable society or a trustful one. At best it will create a controlled or managed social order. For a social model more clearly focused on the flourishing of committed and creative citizens, we need a strong ground for the affirmation of fixed and non-negotiable dignity in all human beings. You may or may not as an individual share the perspective of faith; but in the difficult years ahead it will be worth remembering that giving God what belongs to God is something that is not a matter of dry and unwelcome duty but a release of human possibilities that we all need to witness and in some degree share. May this Parliament mark a new level of enthusiasm and imagination around the call to honour God-given dignities by creating strong citizens of our nation and of the world; may the work of our elected leaders be for the sake of gathering and not scattering; and may the divine image in men and women, recognised or unrecognised, be the vision that directs us towards a fresh political energy and moral vision.

36 Comments:

Anonymous Anguished Soul said...

The AoC has lots of interesting things to say, Your Grace, but because he never preaches the Word and never mentions his Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, I can never summon the willingness to listen to him.

12 June 2010 at 10:40  
Anonymous Katy said...

How odd that a 'hairy lefty' has suddenly found how to speak now that the government is, erm, clean-shaven and not.

Anguished soul - but he did preach the Word; 'Give unto Caesar what is his' is a direct quote from Christ. There are a lot of words in the bible, and only together do they all form the Word...

12 June 2010 at 11:15  
Blogger Scrigg said...

Preparation speech for the flock about to be fleeced. And now we are not only ready but we will also be oh so grateful for it all.

Did he write this or was it handed to him by Dave so he could read it out to us?

12 June 2010 at 11:24  
Blogger Scrigg said...

Another blow job by the church to the government. Shallow, superficial and patronising.

12 June 2010 at 11:29  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Most of those in the worlds of finance and politics have been individually honourable and generous." HILARIOUS!

12 June 2010 at 11:45  
Blogger Bred in the bone said...

The bible refers to Man not human beings, Man and Woman, this Man Williams is Twittering without the initial 'T'

What of the soul Rowan?

What of salvation?

Is the Government damned or not?

12 June 2010 at 12:09  
Anonymous John Hayward, Jubilee Centre said...

As David McIlroy observes: "The insistence that government has limits may be one of the most important services that the church offers society."

12 June 2010 at 12:26  
Anonymous Anguished Soul said...

He doesn't preach the Word. He quotes from it on occasions, when it suits him. But it's more like a moralizing sermon, rather than proper expository teaching or preaching.

If you've heard the late Derek Prince preach the Word or someone like the Rev. Jacob Prasch, you know what true preaching is. Mr Williams doesn't preach.

12 June 2010 at 12:34  
Anonymous bluedog said...

Thank you for publishing the sermon in full, Your Grace. What Rowan really said and what the DT reported are quite different.

Whilst Rowan is right to blame the Webbs and Fabianism for their malign influence, he is misguided in his implied criticism of Milton Friedman.

Friedman influenced economic managers to track the growth of credit through monitoring of the monetary aggregates within an economy. The US Federal Resrve under Ben Bernanke dropped the practice in December 2006, at which point the trend was almost vertically upwards, indicating a potential problem. Normally this would have caused panic at the central bank, but at that point the view was that inflation targetting was a superior economic management technique. It was considered that tracking the monetary aggregates was a waste of time, misleading and irrelevant. Wrong. It seems to your communicant that when the figures got too hard to explain, Bernanke clapped his telescope to his blind eye and ignored that particular warning signal. Bernanke was not alone amongst central bankers in making this mistake. Friedman's insights, if not ignored because they were inconvenient, could potentially have limited the damage done by the GFC.

Rowan should do some reading. He seems to be blaming the wrong man.

12 June 2010 at 13:23  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bluedog

"He seems to be blaming the wrong man."

This is the crux of the problem, in that he only ever 'seems' to say things.

12 June 2010 at 13:58  
Blogger Sam Tarran said...

I cannot believe he's using "Give Caesar what belongs to Caesar" as the basis for an argument on a "social model". I've always shared the belief that "Give unto God what belongs to God" is a nonsense, which is most likely a phrase added to the original by some busybody translator over the centuries. It completely distorts the message, which is, frankly, a dismissal of his questioners, an affirmation that his kingdom "is not of this world".

12 June 2010 at 16:18  
Blogger English Viking said...

Anguished Soul,

You are correct Sir. Cherry-picking partial sentences from The Bible in order to make a political point does not pass for preaching in my neck of the woods either.

Mr Prasch would make mincemeat out of this so-called theologian.

12 June 2010 at 16:57  
Blogger Anabaptist said...

Mr Sam Tarran:

You quote Jesus as saying that his kingdom 'is not of this world.'

You need to be aware that the word 'of' in this saying means 'from'. Jesus was saying that the origin of his kingdom is not this world: 'My kingdom is not from this world.'

That is a very different proposition from the one you seem to be suggesting: that Jesus's kingdom is unrelated to this world.

You reject something that you call a social model. But the fact is that Jesus went around doing good to outcast people -- lepers, tax-collectors, women, etc. He spoke against those who accumulated riches, saying that their entrance into his kingdom would be extremely difficult. He told the rich young ruler to sell all that he had and give to the poor. His parable of the sheep and the goats speaks of the recognition he gives to those who feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty, and of his non-recognition of those who do not so behave.

If these facts don't refer to what you are dismissing as a social model, what then do you mean by that phrase?

12 June 2010 at 17:04  
Anonymous Samuel Buckett said...

This comes across as a bit of a political tract, albeit one that could please just about any party (ie one could also see it playing into Labour’s empowerment agenda). I do think that on this occasion the balance is too far towards easy pie-in-the-sky secular things and not far enough towards things spiritual. The only solid is the way he looks forward to the straitened circumstances coming this way soon.

Much as I usually (but not this time) love RW’s words, he never says anything that makes me think I might go back to church (perhaps the straitened circumstances will sort that one out).

12 June 2010 at 18:08  
Anonymous Alice said...

Give God what belongs to God? EVERYTHING belongs to God and everything should be used in His service, and in that way we will all live in harmony with God in the centre. What nonsense to make up some idea that humans belong to God and not everything else. Where does everthing come from if not from Him, therefore it is all His.

And then to talk of a "release of human possibilities" as being the outcome of belonging to God. Nonsense again. Humans flourish only when they realise their potential as pure lovers of God and offer everything they have to Him; their words, deeds, lives and hearts.

12 June 2010 at 18:50  
Anonymous Samuel Buckett said...

Alice - are you suggesting Matt 22:21 shd be expunged?

Your Grace - the title you gave this piece suggests an assertiveness that I wish I could detect but cannot.

12 June 2010 at 21:51  
Anonymous Some mouse or other said...

Mr. Buckett - I don't know what Alice will respond to you, but it has been previously mentioned on this site that Matt. 22 records Christ as having spoken these words in response to people who were trying to trap him: into saying something illegal about the Roman (and alien) masters of the Jews. The words 'Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's' [KJV] leave the hearer to decide what is due to Caesar, and also whether the coins a person has earned belong to the worker or the earthly ruler whose image they bear... etc.

I would argue that the position of the Jews then was similar to our own now - in relation to the euSSR, and the so-called government that we are supposed to believe we have elected.

So maybe the ABC is following Christ more closely than we realise... [and here's a thought... how does Cameron compare to Pontius Pilate?]

12 June 2010 at 22:34  
Blogger Bryan said...

There is no Spirit in this man's words. There is no Christ, no Word, in this man's speech. What is in his heart is between him and God, but he shares nothing of God to the listener (or reader).

All that remains is the mealy-mouthed meanderings of some pitiful old man trying to convince himself that the organization he panders for deserves a place at the table of power, while offering the people in power nothing but moral platitudes. And these based on nothing more than the very air which escapes his lungs whilst making these meaningless sounds.

There is only hope in God for the United Kingdom, the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is my fervent prayer that each shall turn to Him, before it is too late.

12 June 2010 at 22:45  
Blogger English Viking said...

Bryan,

I fear you are wasting your breath, it's over.

12 June 2010 at 23:20  
Anonymous not a machine said...

I think he is trying to explain somthing about order , which is agreeable , even in nations there is an order that reflects the order of God .
Where I am theologically unclear (and it seems some of my brothers and sisters) is wether the church allows defence of the faith anymore . Should we be warriors of quiet prayer and faith , or take the fight to the godless and profess it , as our forebearers once did ?.

There are also some questions about the way people now earn a living , which have a very strong sway over how and what they think , some patterns of life are abstract , there lives busied with the pace of unbounding interests and perpesctives , quite different from the more indvidual seeking and working of god understood from a time before 24hr news and click to donate eras , when community was more literally your own enviroment to improve .

The terms of reference are changing , god works through a persons lifetime and this compartmentalised life is making the old patterns awkard .This society may be a clever dynamic one , but even the natural events of life seem to be changed or surpressed in how we feel about them , we are atomised and them they wonder why people dont understand christian meanings . They may understand legal rights , know how to complain but I cant help but wonder if this is at best distracting or worse a sort of syntetic Israel. meanings and experiences have changed , we have cathedrals of shopping and consumerism "thought shalt find the best offer " and I somehow doubt God envisaged running a discount warehouse as his end interpretation.

Christianity has built this nation and it isnt a fairy story , but whay are we unable to break into this new dimness of being oblivious to god being laid down in so many peoples minds , how has our nation become divided and unsure at times of what is right by the christian faith .

The athiests of course like there godless existence and hope for us to accept some sort of old mind delusion based on a lack of knowledge .Yet now that knowledge is really a power and we are liberated as Dawkins puts it from superstition , people are struggling to see gods ways .They applaude as the impossibility of an equal society based on knowledge grows , failing to recognise that life lived in the mind alone , breaks trust and understanding .

I may add further that knowledge requires management , robbing people of there own growth and internal bank/savings of experience .It casts its own mould of people understanding equilbrium and not life .

Dr Rowan Williams is a great theologian , but with the suffering will come a great need for the church and that may not be at sunday service during this event . The church may have explain , rediscover pentecost apostolic understandings if it is to both reach and teach .

even our children/teachers have been brainwashed into accepting christian religion is a lesser subject, much to the pleasure of polictians who lost christianities signifcance , and convinced others it was a private matter , whilst athiesm was public practice .

I only thought Orwells 1984 was about politics not for moment did I envisage Winston Smith could be a member of the clergy .

Still might as well ask an 18yr old if they know who Barrabas was well as Winston Smith , if the reply is dont know to both, then somthing is not only wrong , but it has took hold , if Rowan Williams is not seeing that , then he has become a relitivist also ,so as to avoid being an extremeist, as if that will help the church .

12 June 2010 at 23:32  
Anonymous len said...

What stands as the greatest barrier to the gospel of Jesus Christ in the western world is the intellectual process, or mindset known as'Greek Thinking'.
(Mr Williams seems to personify this)
There is a web article that explains this 'Greek mindset 'and the spiritual powers behind it in some detail;

(The spiritual stronghold
of Greek intellectualism in Europe and the Christian church.)Jan Willem Bakker.

...................
The major problem with evangelising people in this fast becoming post Christian age is many (especially the youth) are without any knowledge of the Gospel, without any foundation,they have been indoctrinated in this Greek way of thinking which reinforced by spiritual powers becomes a barrier in their minds.

13 June 2010 at 08:40  
Anonymous mouse potato said...

Well, Len - exactly where does this guy say we've gone wrong? What is so misguided about our traditional Christianity, or about Greek/Roman rhetoric?

Greek scholarship certainly influenced us, especially at the time when Theodore and Hadrian came to Canterbury (c. 668-90) and developed their school; and we subsequently evangelized some euros (esp. Germans and Dutch) in our turn (cf. Boniface (680-754) and Willibrord (658-739) to Germany and Frisia respectively. And we returned some scholarship to a euroland increasingly ravaged by Vikings. However, why you have such a down on the vernacular literacy they encouraged, and the classical rhetoric they preserved, is a mystery to me. Could you give some specifics as to why I should believe you, but not everything I've studied for the last 60-odd years?

Or are you talking about the later germanic/marxist subversion and debasement of the tradition?
[[I would admit that subversion influence the language Dr. Williams uses here. His speech is rich with euro-buzzes like "social fabric groups," "self-identification," "variegated national community," "fragmentation," "high-profile debating," "non-negotiable dignity." It is interesting, though, that this marxist type now appears to criticise commie socio-economics.]]

13 June 2010 at 10:23  
Anonymous mouse potato said...

....'influences the language' ... regrets.

13 June 2010 at 10:34  
Anonymous len said...

Christianity started out in Palestine as a fellowship; it moved to Greece and became a philosophy; it moved to Rome and became an institution; it moved to Europe and became a culture; it went to America and became an
enterprise."
To intellectualise Christianity is to deprive it of its power and to relegate it to a mere philosophy.
True Christianity reverses the order of the fall and places the Spirit back in its rightful position.
..................
Logic verses Revelation.
The Hebraic way of learning and the Greek way of learning are poles apart. The Greek way is to analyze truth and facts to come to an understanding of those facts. Greek logic is a step by step logic that argues from premises and arrives at a logical conclusion. It is done in a coherent, rational, logical sequence. Therefore, the conclusion is limited to that point of view and limits that person’s view of reality. This reasoning can lead to a better understanding of how things work, but when applied to spiritual truth it can be devastating.
...........
Revelation Knowledge.
God designed man to be a daily recipient of revelation knowledge.

Satan’s Temptation - That man descend to reasoned knowledge.

Satan entered God’s perfect plan with a temptation: Man could become like God, and man could know right from wrong. Man would no longer need to receive revelation from God, but he could turn to his own mind and he himself could know – separate and apart from God (Gen. 3:5).

In suggesting to man that he could become like God and he could know, satan was suggesting to man two things: self consciousness, and reliance upon reason or rationalism as a way of establishing truth.

Mankind accepted this lie and fell from revelation to reasoned knowledge. As a result, he was cursed. Part of that curse was that God cut man off from the Tree of Life (Gen. 3:22), where Jesus was the vine and man was a branch and there was a flow of revelation through man on a daily ongoing basis (Jn. 15).

Moreover, man soon learned that by living out of reason or knowledge he is not able to fulfill God’s purposes for his life, because man’s thoughts are not God’s thoughts, nor are man’s ways God’s ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are God’s thoughts higher than man’s thoughts (Isa. 55:9).
.....
This as I said is the problem when preaching to people with a 'Greek thinking' mindset, or even to some in the 'traditional' Church.

13 June 2010 at 17:34  
Anonymous Oswin said...

len... again, excellent post; yet again more food for thought.

Or could it be the fault of Rome; in divorcing Christianity from Platonic philosophy?

Christ may well have had rather more of the 'Essene' about him, than Rome found comfort in.

It is known that HE enjoyed discussion with learned men, as equally as he did in preaching to the people.

Was Jesus then divorced from the Greek tradition too?

13 June 2010 at 19:06  
Anonymous bluedog said...

Len, wasn't Greek thought implanted in the synoptic Gospels when they were translated into Greek from Aramaic? In particular the gospel of St John, a non-synoptic gospel, is considered to have been written in Greek.

In the view of this communicant there is nothing wrong with Greek thought, it is what sets Christianity apart from Judaism. Len, in an earlier post you have commented that the Dark Age lasted between 500 AD and 1500 AD. Please correct me if I am wrong in quoting you this way, but I beg to differ. The early part of that period, say 500 to 1000 AD, was a golden age outside Western Europe. In general the English-speaking world is terribly ignorant of the Greek world in late antiquity when Christianity emerged. But it was in Greek speaking Nicaea that the Emperor Constantine drew the early bishops together and drafted a memorandum of Chritian belief, the Nicaean Creed, in 325 AD. You have previously quoted 315 AD.

Rome has never been the source of constructive development in Christian belief. Rome is simply SPQR with a crucifix, it retains the habits and the ethos of the Roman Empire. The great philosophical debates of the early Church took place in Constantinople. There were many, such as nestorianism, gnosticism, the debate over monophysitism and most importantly the filioque. These matters were resolved in the Orthodox Church and found their way to Rome before the Great Schism of 1054, just as Lutheran thought found its way to Rome five hundred years later.

Recommended reading; A Short History of Byzantium by John Julius Norwich.

13 June 2010 at 21:49  
Anonymous Oswin said...

bluedog at 21:49 - a scholarly appraisal!


We tend to forget that the lingua franca of both the area, and period, was Greek; and not Hebrew or Latin.

Aramaic/Hebrew scholars would be more than familiar with Greek in both language and thought....Aramaic having lost status at least two centuries before Christ.

Anyone involved in commerce, from simple Inn Keepers to rich merchants would, to some extent, understand Greek; as would the general citizenry.

We really cannot separate Christ from the Kristos, regardless of 'how Hebrew' we might otherwise believe 'Yeshua' to be.

14 June 2010 at 01:29  
Anonymous mouse potato said...

Len - I think it unfortunate that so many now define learning according to the franco-german perception of 'intellectual.' The use kowtows to the power of those bozos and their assorted mafias. I reckon that every time such 'aristocratic' euros force their supercilious sickness on us, our insular culture degenerates - it was so with the Normans, affective piety, the froggie (un)enlightenment, the Stuart period, and now the post Hegelian claptrap. Said euros are the ones who designate us 'proles' and turn us against our countrymen - the marxist socio-economic model is to their advantage, not to ours as Britons or as Christians. That same gubbins, of course, informs some of the argument we see on these pages. The system is, as you observe, limited; and I don't believe it prevails over opposing open-minded, educated, and scientific views.

So, in re-asserting our own tradition of learning, I absolutely support Bluedog's post of 21.49. I go further in claiming that 'Dark Ages' is a deliberate misnomer when applied to Insular and vernacular scholarship of the period.

We needs must, then, think in spite of the enemy; and the record of our thinking processes is venerable. It extends to the history of Indo-European contacts we share with other western cultures. Yes, the Greeks were the first to develop a literary tradition from that; but I argue that Insular races had preserved learning in oral traditions that were related to the Greek and Roman, so we ultimately took well to their method of formalisation - in writing and under the umbrella of Christianity.

I would augment bluedog's summary by adding that Romans, who used literacy for purposes of power and administration, modelled their rhetoric on that of the Greeks. After the empire fell, the Roman church taught little rhetoric - because it had been an instrument of secularity. But the Eastern Church maintained the knowledge; and Theodore, who was Greek and probably of an Antiochene tradition, brought those skills to the Anglo-Saxons so that they could convert the people in their own language. I omitted to mention above that the (unconquered) Irish, like the Welsh, had preserved the Latin version of the tradition in their Christian schools. Study of the Bible was necessarily included in all the insular monastery schools (and Hadrian was from North Africa- the home of Hebrew): so all this knowledge and skill met on our shores. The results were radiant and Christian.

PS: re the irony of the posing and posturing we witness here about 'logic' - the word derives from the Greek: "Logos" (= word). We have long used "Logos" to represent Christ: the Word of God Incarnate.

I've found the following studies helpful re British literacy:
1. Lapidge, Michael. “Gildas’s Education and the Latin Culture of Sub-Roman England.” Gildas: New Approaches. Eds. Michael Lapidge and David N. Dumville. Woodbridge: Boydell, 1984. 27-50.
2. Bischoff B. and M. Lapidge. Biblical Commentaries from the Canterbury School of Theodore and Hadrian. Cambridge Studies in Anglo-Saxon England, 10. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

14 June 2010 at 09:49  
Blogger Graham Davis said...

The most oft repeated word in is tract is dignity, a rather strange, unfashionable and unfamiliar word; we seem only to hear it these days in relation to dementia and death.
If it means respect for others and the innate worth of all human beings then few would ague with that, but it also has some less attractive connotations, “standing on your dignity” implies self importance and pulling rank.

14 June 2010 at 10:50  
Blogger Andy Armitage said...

"For a social model more clearly focused on the flourishing of committed and creative citizens, we need a strong ground for the affirmation of fixed and non-negotiable dignity in all human beings," says Williams.

Yes, and can we not pull that off without the need to believe in impossible (certainly unproven and unprovable) things that have been made up for the purposes of control by generations of clerics and the like?

14 June 2010 at 12:07  
Anonymous len said...

Bluedog, Oswin, and mouse potato,
I read your comments with interest but feel perhaps I didn`t express myself clearly enough.
My point was that salvation through the Gospel isn`t a cerebral exercise but a spiritual experience.Christianity isn`t a philosophy and if that`s all it`s perceived to be the point of Christianity is missed entirely.
The intellect( especially that of the fallen man) is a hindrance to receiving the Gospel.
"The carnal mind is at enmity against, or in hatred against, God’s will (Romans 8:7)"
Religion without the Spirit is only good for 'dead works'only the Spirit can give Life.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate." Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.




The Truth about Jesus Christ can
only be perceived by revelation given by God himself.
Jesus said "No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draw him: and I will raise him up on the last day.'' (John 6:44).

Some seem to be suggesting that Christianity exists apart from Judaism I believe this is a false doctrine,Gentiles have been grafted in not existing as a separate issue.

Suggest reading YadaYahweh.com

14 June 2010 at 23:41  
Anonymous Oswin said...

Len - thanks, I now take your point.

15 June 2010 at 01:19  
Anonymous mouse potato said...

Yes quite, Len. Though I had to turn to KJV and D-R in order to trust the translation! The post-moderns place such limits by proscribing 'miraculous' signs for the Jews (rather than 'signs'); and they also limit I Cor 1.19. "...the prudence of the prudent," or 20. "...Where is the scribe [a copyist is/was not necessarily a scholar]? Where is the disputer of this world?" ... mind you, I shouldn't have raised that question round here!
Anyway, I think it's an extension of this thread - and also in agreement with your earlier post - to note that I now I have to evade the euro-agenda even of Biblical scholars, before I can say: "So that's what they meant when they said that!" So I do wish the ABC could help us to do the same...

Similarly with Romans 8.7: D-R doesn't allude to PC obsessions and directives about 'hate,' but translates: "Because the wisdom of the flesh is an enemy to God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither can it be." This helps me to understand that mankind must come to God through Free Will - encouraged by response to the senses. The idea leads me logically (!!) to 10 and the rest of the section from: "And if Christ be in you, the body indeed is dead because of sin; but the spirit liveth because of justification (KJV has 'righteousness')...

15 June 2010 at 09:07  
Blogger Young Mr. Brown said...

I've jotted down some thoughts about the Archbishop's sermon here.

15 June 2010 at 10:01  
Blogger Sam Tarran said...

This will probably never get read, but sod it ...

Anabaptist, I take many of Christ's commands to be absolute and unachievable. Since it's half eleven and I've had an exam today, I'll just take the example you use of Christ telling the rich man to divest himself of all his possessions and give all he has to the poor. This isn't a political policy. He isn't saying "Be nice to the poor", he's commanding the rich man if he wants eternal life to get rid of everything he has. No one is going to do that. If you read many of Christ's commands, they're unrealistic, not practical. I always Christ to be speaking mostly, if not always, of the Kingdom of Heaven.

I'd continue the debate, but I'm knackered.

15 June 2010 at 23:45  
Anonymous Broadwood said...

len:

"Some seem to be suggesting that Christianity exists apart from Judaism I believe this is a false doctrine,Gentiles have been grafted in not existing as a separate issue."

Reading your arguments with great interest and I do agree with much on what you say about the influence of Greek thought on Christianity - but it seems to me this is a function not of Greekness as such but human nature.

When you quote Paul on the futility of human wisdom you are quoting one who was raised in the intellectualism and dry legalism of contemporary Jewish authority, and came to reject it utterly in the face of the Gospel.

So, I agree completely with you that the intellectualising stance is the enemy of proper relationship with God, but you don't get rid of it by ascribing it to the Greeks. It's a weed that flourishes everywhere, and only a good dose of the Holy Spirit can cure it.

28 June 2010 at 12:20  

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