Showing items filed under “May 2017”

In Honor of Robert Jenson

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Robert Jenson once wrote a book about the great Puritan thinker Jonathan Edwards, whom he called, America’s theologian. In fact, Jenson himself could rightly receive this title as he nears the end of his own theological career. I write only to commend his rich and demanding work, and to note how suitable such reading would be in Easter. In the blog entry it would be silly to attempt more concerning such a complex mind.

And yet, in certain way, he is a writer whose main points can be stated simply. That is a measure of his profundity and faithfulness. The Trinity is first of all God’s name, which means he is this God, and not some other, not one we devise to our own needs. And that name in itself displays the sheer vitality and action who is God. Jenson famously called God a “fugue,” a single but complex and beautiful sound.

That triune identity is at once revealed and expressed in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Everything we want to say as Christians is packed into that one phrase. The God of Israel is decisively at work for His creatures. A new horizon of hope is opened up for humankind.   The status of sin, death, and judgment are changed, and can only now be understood in relation to God’s true identity in Christ. Time is not what we had supposed.

One way to put the matter is this: theology is rethinking everything about the world working from the assumption that Jesus is truly risen from the dead. This doesn’t mean that we stop thinking about all we know of the real world. But reality now includes this fact, which is a kind of depth charge to all our former conclusions. There are other theologians who might equally be numbered among those who so conceive the theological task. Thomas Torrance is one - he wondered especially how resurrection reworks our notions of time and space (which a good deal of reading modern physics in there too!)

Thanks be to God for thinkers like Jenson, realists of a higher order, who remind us that the world is stranger, and more ultimately hopeful, than is dreamed of our merely secular philosophies.

Peace

+GRS

On Shrines

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To be an Episcopalian, i.e. an American in the Anglican tradition, in Texas is to live at several intersections. We are inhabitants of a relatively new country and, for us, continent (relatively). We aren’t old enough to have a shrine, and we aren’t great at venerating anyway. At the same time, we live where others have lived, longer, and before us. There is an older tradition of pilgrimage and asceticism in the Catholicism of Spanish New Mexico, not to mention native people who had sacred places, which we could little understand. Meanwhile as Episcopalians we always live at the intersection of catholic and reformed. For the former the shrine, relic, and pilgrimage were important aspects of the Christian life, ways to partake of an on-going history of devotion. For the latter these are the things, which must come down if true worship of Christ is to rise. Meanwhile, in our own culture, pilgrimage is making a big comeback, and I can see why. Walking, slowing down, leaving the busyness, feeling kinship with fellow travelers, thinking about something older- they are all good for us, spiritually as well as personally. Who doesn’t look at that map of trails headed to Canterbury or Durham or Santiago or even Taize with interest and dial up the travel agent?

 

Walk on, I say! But bring with you the state of being of two minds (here different from the ‘limping between two opinions ‘ of the Old Testament). Give your heart to the journey, and question it too. For to the reformed catholic these things have a qualified validity. They are to make us see through them and on to Christ. They are to erase their own traces. They are to relocate their sanctity into that place which is His ascended presence, which is actually, equally everywhere. Something similar can be said of that sacred space which is your local parish. Getting in your car and driving there is also supposed to have a pilgrim metaphoric value. We are religious creatures, and pilgrimages are appealing, but on our own religious experience we place no trust, but only on the one to which, redeemed and redirected, such experience points. The reformed catholic affirms and relativizes all these things, because he or she sees them as symbols of that new and true temple which is first His crucified and risen body, and secondly his people wherever they may be.

Peace

+GRS

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