27 September 2007

When Wright's Wrong.

I've often thought that N.T. Wright should stick to what he knows - New Testament history, and when he does he is brilliant. Joseph Loconte critiques Wright's political thinking:

The historical analogy to European fascism has its limits, and no one really knows how much of the Islamic world endorses, or sympathizes with, the objectives of Osama bin Laden. Yet the ferocity, ruthlessness, and staggering vision of his cult of nihilism--the establishment of a global Islamic dictatorship--is plain enough. Why, then, do numerous Christian leaders and institutions seem ambivalent or chronically naïve about this threat? The problem is not confined to liberal theological voices such as the National Council of Churches or Chicago Theological Seminary, or to cranky pacifists such as Stanley Hauerwas or Jim Wallis. The unwillingness to confront the rise of Islamic extremism extends to theologically conservative thinkers and educators: those who are influencing a generation of believers on issues of church and state, war and peace.

The latest and perhaps most troubling example is that of a British church historian much admired by American evangelicals, the Anglican Bishop N.T. Wright. The Christian church owes a great debt to Bishop Wright's scholarly work on the resurrection of Jesus and the life of Paul. Indeed, it's hard to name a living academic who has done more to defend the historical integrity of the New Testament. "I'm a classical historian," he once told the BBC. "And I have used all the tools at my disposal to discover more and more about who Jesus was." Wright has employed those tools--careful analysis, a willingness to weigh evidence, intellectual curiosity--to advance the claims of the gospel over a long career.

Since being named Britain's fourth-ranking bishop, from Durham, Wright's views on various religious and social issues have received widespread attention. A few years ago he also joined Britain's House of Lords, a political position, and recently has applied his mind to the war on terrorism. A careful look, however, at his political thinking--in writings, sermons, interviews, and public statements--suggests that Wright has abandoned the critical tools that served him so well in the academy.

Just consider Wright's most recent commentary for Newsweek's "On Faith" blog, anticipating the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Remarkably, Wright sees little difference between the ideals of Western democracies and those of Islamic terrorists. "What I wish we could say to terrorists and others: Look, we take our religion seriously too, and it leads us to different conclusions from you. We might be wrong; so might you; but in the name of whichever god you invoke, would it not be a better thing for us all to talk together about the issues at the heart of our respective faiths than to try to achieve dominance by violence?" Adding to the ambiguity, he closes with this line: "Unfortunately, they could quite well come back at us and say, 'You mean, like you westerners have been doing in Iraq and Afghanistan for the last five years?'"

We expect to hear this sophism of moral equivalence from spokesmen at Al Jazeera television or the Arab League--not from orthodox Christian ministers. Yet it somehow has emerged as a central argument in Wright's critique of the war on radical Islam.

Here's the whole thing.

25 September 2007

Mirror, Mirror, On The Web.

Christine Rosen in The New Atlantis on the narcissism and false friendship of MySpace, Facebook, &c.:

Today, our self-portraits are democratic and digital; they are crafted from pixels rather than paints. On social networking websites like MySpace and Facebook, our modern self-portraits feature background music, carefully manipulated photographs, stream-of-consciousness musings, and lists of our hobbies and friends. They are interactive, inviting viewers not merely to look at, but also to respond to, the life portrayed online. We create them to find friendship, love, and that ambiguous modern thing called connection. Like painters constantly retouching their work, we alter, update, and tweak our online self-portraits; but as digital objects they are far more ephemeral than oil on canvas. Vital statistics, glimpses of bare flesh, lists of favorite bands and favorite poems all clamor for our attention—and it is the timeless human desire for attention that emerges as the dominant theme of these vast virtual galleries.

Although social networking sites are in their infancy, we are seeing their impact culturally: in language (where to friend is now a verb), in politics (where it is de rigueur for presidential aspirants to catalogue their virtues on MySpace), and on college campuses (where not using Facebook can be a social handicap). But we are only beginning to come to grips with the consequences of our use of these sites: for friendship, and for our notions of privacy, authenticity, community, and identity. As with any new technological advance, we must consider what type of behavior online social networking encourages. Does this technology, with its constant demands to collect (friends and status), and perform (by marketing ourselves), in some ways undermine our ability to attain what it promises—a surer sense of who we are and where we belong? The Delphic oracle’s guidance was know thyself. Today, in the world of online social networks, the oracle’s advice might be show thyself.

Here's the whole, very worthwhile, thing.

More Steenson. (Update)

Bishop (for the nonce) Steenson in the London Times:
Referring to another meeting of the Church’s bishops this year, he said: “I was more than a little surprised when such a substantial majority declared the polity of the Episcopal Church to be primarily that of an autonomous and independent local church relating to the wider Anglican Communion by voluntary association. This is not the Anglicanism in which I was formed, inspired by the Oxford movement and the Catholic Revival in the Church of England. Perhaps something was defective in my education for ministry in the Episcopal Church, but, honestly, I did not recognise the church that this House described on that occasion.”
Here's the whole thing.

Bishop Steenson's statement to the House of Bishop's is here; it indicts, in a gracious way, both TEC liberals and "federal" conservatives.

24 September 2007

"The Suicidal Aspect Of Their Moral Reasoning."

Today on the First Things blog, Nicholas Frankovich continues an argument supporting the thesis that choosing to support abortion rights introduces a kind of suicidal germ:

We know what abortion does to the aborted. To the aborting it does the psychological equivalent. “Do unto others . . .” is a principle that moves along a straight and narrow path and, please note, in both directions. As I would have others do unto me, I ought to do unto them. And so if I have already done unto them, I am now committed to wishing the same for myself. If I abort my unborn child, well, that’s nothing I would deny my parents had the right to do to me.

Self-hatred is what I end up with when I carry to its logical conclusion the proposition that abortion rights are morally necessary, that justice demands them. I repress that thought because self-hatred hurts. I sequester it in a mental sac, as the body will sometimes form an abscess to contain an infection. If you puncture it in the course of one of those uncomfortable exchanges people are always having about abortion, the toxins will spill into my bloodstream, whereupon I will instinctively spin my wheels to try to convert them into something anodyne. I will say I choose abortion because I esteem myself enough to choose not to suffer and, moreover, because I love my child and choose to spare him too. I choose to spare him the peculiar set of hardships he would suffer by being born into the unique set of complex circumstances that would define his difficult life.

Here's the whole thing.

22 September 2007

Bishop Steenson Speaks.

If your following the House of Bishops' meeting, I highly commend this video interview with Bishop Steenson (Rio Grande) over at Stand Firm.

Update: Perhaps Bp. Steenson's frank conversation was the fruit of spiritual release; he is resigning his bishopric and orders and seeking full communion with Roman Catholic Church. Bless him.

21 September 2007

Speaking The Truth In Love.

Archbishop Mouneer Anis, Primate, of Egypt, Jerusalem and the Middle East, addressing the Episcopal Church House of Bishops in New Orleans:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Thank you so much for inviting me here to come and listen to you and for giving me the opportunity to share my heart with you. I am very aware of my own shortcomings and weaknesses, but every word I want to say is out of love and concern for the unity of the Church of Christ.

I do not come with great authority, nor am I the primate of a province with a great number of Anglicans; I do however, come from a region where Christ walked and where the Church was born. I come representing the Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East.

The Church ion this region has faced many challenges since the first century. Our brothers and sisters in the early centuries were ready to sacrifice their very lives to stay true to the Faith they received from the Lord and his Apostles. Their blood was not in vain; rather it became the seed of the Church across our entire region. Many disputes and heresies took place in our region. In face of all the challenges, persecutions, and heresies our ancestors—people like St. Athanasius, St. Clement, Origen, and Cyril from Alexandria, along with Tertullian, Cyprian, and St. Augustine from North Africa—kept the faith of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. We are constantly learning from our ancient martyrs and forebearers how to serve the Kingdom of God faithfully.

Today our Anglican Church in the Middle East still lives within a very exciting and challenging context. We live among the Oriental Orthodox, the Greek Orthodox, the Catholics, the Jews and the Muslims. We greatly value our ecumenical relations and continue to work for unity.

We also deeply respect and appreciate our Muslim friends and value our interfaith relations while in no way compromise our faith. I have to tell you that many of these relations were severely strained after your decision to consecrate Gene Robinson as bishop in 2003. We are seen as the new heretics and this has hindered our ecumenical and interfaith relations as well as our mission in the region

My friends, like you, we want to be relevant to the culture in which we live. More importantly, we want to be salt and light to our societies. That is not an easy calling but it means we must remain distinct and humble at the same time. Without being distinct we cannot be salt and light; without humility we will not represent the one who said, “I am meek and lowly in heart.” We are also continuously challenged whether we should allow the culture to transform the Apostolic Faith we once received, or if we should allow the Gospel of Jesus Christ to transform our culture as it has in the past. As we struggle to answer this question we must never divorce ourselves from the faith that countless men, women and children died to protect. I believer that if we faithfully serve the Church of Christ, He will continue to fulfill his promise that the gates of Hades will not prevail against her.

Rupertus Meldenius said, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity”. Our hope is to be united on the essentials of faith which are defined only by the whole church. WE are not in any way trying to impose rigid views on you. Like you we celebrate diversity, but we believe that such diversity should not be unlimited and should not contradict the essentials of our faith. We are not schismatic, but we are diligent to preserve the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. We want unity but not unity at any expense.

Anglicans are aware with humility that we are not “the” church but we are one member of the body of Christ, the one Holy Catholic Church. We proclaim this every week in our churches. This places upon us the responsibility to listen to and respect our ecumenical partners.

My friends, you may believe you have discovered a very different truth from that of the majority in the Anglican Communion. It is not just about sexuality, but about your views of Christ, the Gospel, and the authority of the Bible. Please forgive me when I relay that some say you are a different church, others even think that you are a different religion.

I understand that it is difficult for you in your context to accept the standard teaching of the Anglican Communion. That is why you refused to accept Lambeth Conference Resolution 1.10. You also ignored all the warnings of the Primates in 2003, 2004, and 2005. Your response to the Windsor Report is seen by the Primates as not clear. You cannot say you value being a member of the Anglican Communion while you ignore the interdependence if the member churches. The interdependence is what differentiates us from other congregational churches. I would like to remind you and myself with the famous resolution number 49 of the Lambeth Conference of 1930 which declares “the Anglican Communion is a fellowship of churches that…are bound together not by a central legislative and executive authority, but by mutual loyalty sustained through the common counsel of the bishops in conference.” With respect, I have to say that those who would prefer to speak of laws and procedures, constitutions and canons, committees and process: you are missing the point! It is our mutual loyalty and fellowship, submitting to one another in the common cause of Jesus Christ that makes us of one Church one faith and one Lord.

It is clear that you actions have resulted in one the most difficult disputes in the Communion in our generation. You may see them as not core doctrinal issues. Many like me see the opposite but the thing that we all cannot ignore is that these issues are divisive and have created a lot of undesired consequences and reactions. For the first time in centuries, the fabric of our Communion is torn. Our energies have been drained and our resources are lost and it is difficult for both of us to continue like this.

My friends, if you really believe that the truth revealed to you is different from that shown to the rest of the Communion, then you need to uphold that claim with boldness even at the risk of losing unity. If you think it is right and necessary to ordain and consecrate practicing homosexuals and that you should bless same sex partnerships or even marriages, you should be true to what you believe is right and accept the consequences.

However, if you appreciate being members of the global Anglican family, then you have to walk along side the members of your family. Those who say it is important to stay together around the table, to listen to each other and to continue our dialogue over the difficult issues that are facing us are wise. We wholeheartedly agree with this, but staying around the table requires that you should not take actions that are contrary to the standard position (Lambeth 1.10) of the rest of the Communion.

Sitting around one table requires humility from all of us. One church cannot say to the rest of churches “I know the whole truth, you don’t”. Archbishop Rowan reminded us in his paper “Challenge and Hope” that “the whole truth is revealed to the whole church”. Sitting around one table requires that each one should have a clear stance before the discussion starts. It also requires that true openness and willingness to accept the mind of the whole. We do not have to be in the communion to sit around the one table. We do so when we dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox and with other faiths. It would be extremely difficult to sit around one table when you have already decided the outcome if the discussion and when you ignore the many voices, warnings and appeals from around the communion.

Today I appeal to you to respond with great clarity to the requests that were made in Dar Es Salaam. If you accepted the Primates’ recommendations, would you be able to give assurances to the Executive Committee of the General Convention of TEC would ratify your response? It is the responsibility of the bishop to guard the faith as we promise during our consecration. In many of not most parts of the Communion and the historic churches, present and ancient, matters of faith and order, is the responsibility and therefore the authority of the Bishops to safeguard and teach.

If you don’t commit yourself to the Dar Es Salaam recommendations would you be willing to walk apart at least for a period during which we continue our discussions and dialogue until we reach a common understanding, especially about the essentials of our faith? Forgive me when I say that for many of us in the Communion, we feel that you have already walked apart at least theologically from the standard teaching of the Communion.

I know that you value personal freedom and independence. The whole world learns this from you. You need to demonstrate this by securing freedom for the American orthodox Anglicans who do not share your theological direction. Show your spirit of inclusiveness when you deal with them. I am afraid to say that without this more and more interventions from other provinces is going to happen. No one wants this.

I pray for wisdom and grace, for myself as well as for you, and I pray that God will lead us both in the right direction. Remember the illustrious history of God’s church and remember future generations who will sit in judgment on us. Remember also that the whole world is waiting and watching what you do.

Please forgive me if I have said anything that offends you.

May the Lord bless you.

+Mouneer Egypt


18 September 2007

Back On The Trail.

I now have a computer on my desk and have been looking for the right item with which to end this several months' blogging hiatus, and here it is:

MONCKS CORNER — They were feasting on roast pork and dancing the Macarena while picnicking at Lake Moultrie on Sunday afternoon when a man in snorkel gear stumbled through the tree line, grasping at his left shoulder where his arm used to be.

Blood gushed from between his fingers.

'Call my wife, call my wife,' the man said through a snorkel mask.

Five nurses who were among those at the gathering quickly laid the man on the ground. They put ice on his wound, instructed him to take deep breaths and told him stories to keep him awake.

One of the picknickers, Jerome Bien, traced the bloody trail through the tree line and to the shore where he saw a pool of blood in the sand. About 25 feet out in the water in front of him, the eyes of a giant alligator stared back. The victim's arm remained clenched in its jaws.

'He was just smiling at me,' Bien said

Here's the whole thing, and here are the pictures, if you can handle it.

And then there's this: "Police are investigating the death of a man who collapsed after being headbutted by an armless man in a fight over a woman."