Showing items filed under “The Rt. Rev. George Sumner”

The State

main image

The Roman Empire was brutal, and built roads.  It killed Christians as subversives, and yet had courts of law (as Paul well knew).  We are not surprised that it was called the Whore of Babylon in Revelation; we are taken aback to hear Paul in Romans 13 to hear that the enforcement of their laws fulfills a mandate of God’s.  Clearly the early Christians could differentiate between their paganism, which they denounced, and their function of maintaining order and fairness, which they extolled. In other words, the State is a relative good, a necessity in this interim period among fallen creatures.  The State is neither to be divinized nor demonized.  They were not shocked to see how imperfectly they fulfilled this limited task.

But in our own case, what are we to make of the roots of Western culture, and of our nation, in the Christian tradition? To be sure, this influence is part of the story, as is the Enlightenment emphasis on the public square free of religion. How might this too be defended from a religious point of view?  What happens when the issues in that public square have direct theological implications? 

Specific questions reappear in history: is there a place for the witness of Christian pacifism?  What about the conditions under which war is justified? Ought the State to have an interest in the defenseless?  What about parts of history which have denied basic human dignity? The classic questions are not far from the front page today! At the very least we ought all to be clear that no ideology or political allegiance can be equated with the Gospel itself.

Read online about just-war theory and give an opinion.


main image

Since practitioners of various religions say prayers, we readily assume it is a shared, virtually universal activity, of which Christianity is one example. And in one way this is true. But in these entries we want to emphasize what is unique to prayers by Christians. How do we understand it as distinctive? How are our beliefs knit together inseparably from this practice?

First of all, prayer is not a work. It does not accomplish anything we can account to the credit of ourselves or others before God. Likewise we are never adept to who are ‘good at it.’ In his ‘Beginning to Pray,’ Metropolitan Anthony Bloom makes the point by saying that we are always beginners by the very nature of the activity. We must ask our Lord to teach us how we ought to pray. (Matthew 6:9-13)

And the paradigm prayer He gives us is His own, presuming His own relation to His Abba and anticipating His own ‘time of trial.’ In other words, Christians of themselves as called into a share, into participation, in Jesus’ prayer. In Romans 8:15-17, Paul makes the same point by saying that our prayer is to the Father through the power of the Spirit as ‘co-heirs,’ adopted, with the Son. Though we speak, in a deep sense, we are prayed through by the Spirit.

For this reason, our own incapacity, what Paul calls ‘groaning’, does not inhibit our praying. We live ‘between the times’ in every prayer, giving voice to the groaning of creation as it awaits the end (8:22). But our prayer also presumes the victory over sin and death in Christ Jesus (vv.37-39). Prayer too is always ‘already’ and ‘not yet’. It encapsulates and epitomizes the Christian life.

12345678910 ... 3839

Blog Home