Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Unconventional Wisdom

Much of what you are going to read is synthesized from a book titled Meeting Jesus (Again) For The First Time.  It was written by Marcus J. Borg.  

Our recent experience in the Episcopal Church has a lot to do with John David Schofield, Jack Iker, Peter Jensen, Peter Akinola, Henry Orombi, James Packer and many others.  Most of the flock that followed John David Schofield did so because they believe that John David Shofield would not lead them astray.  We have heard a great deal about Robert Duncan and how he would lead the entire Anglican Church of North America.  Everywhere we turn these days there is this strong personality type that is leading.  We generally refer to them as purple-shirted thugs.  Well, believe it or not there is biblical comment about this, Marcus Borg wrote about it.

Marcus refers us to the first four chapters of Paul's letter to the community at Corinth.  He specifically addressed the issue of factions within the church identifying with leaders such as "I belong to Cephas" or "I belong to Apollo" or "I belong to Paul."  Paul divided up Christianity into to radically different ways of being: First, "living under the law by works"; and, second, "living by grace through faith."   Justification by works and/or life under the law is the conventional wisdom.  Life by grace through radical faith is the alternative wisdom given to us by Jesus Christ, it is the wisdom of God.    Paul was convinced that those who made statements such as the I belong to ... statements were clearly living with the wisdom of this world.  Conversely not under the alternative wisdom of saving grace through faith.  

hear what Mark Thompson has to say about just this issue:
"At this present moment of crisis, there is hardly a more important issue for us to address than that of authority in the church. It is certainly true that God’s people need to keep returning to the question of authority."

Certainly sounds to me like the conventional wisdom Paul spoke of in Corinthians and Borg references.

In the GAFCON Communique on establishment of Primates Council the document begins with this:

"The twofold task of the Council is ‘to authenticate and recognise confessing Anglican jurisdictions, clergy and congregations and to encourage all Anglicans to promote the gospel and defend the faith.’ The Primates have therefore laid the basis for the future work of both the Council and the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA)."

More conventional wisdom.

Keep in mind that justification is a legal metaphor, according to Borg, a verdict but not necessarily innocent or acquitted (see pg. 104).  For Paul, it was a means by which one is made right with God.  Paul believed that the real "formula was "justification by grace through faith."  Justification by works remains, for Paul, life under the law.   It is a means of becoming right with God by works of the law.  I get to be okay by some form of performance that I do.  Keep in mind, this is not life under the Torah, for that would mean that life under Christian requirements now makes life under the law attainable, but in fact it is not.  Paul's point is justification by grace is freely given by God as a gift.  (page 105).    I will quote from Borg's book who in turn quotes from Paul's letter:

We are now justified by God's grace as a gift through through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
Christ is the end of the law.
For freedom Christ has set us free.  Stand firm,  therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

So, let's now look at the GAFCON statement.  Here is the first item:
The Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), which was held in Jerusalem from 22-29 June 2008, is a spiritual movement to preserve and promote the truth and power of the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ as we Anglicans have received it. 

Notice the the kicker "as we Anglicans have received it, not as Christ delivered it and not as God gave it but as "we received it."

Again, in the Jerusalem Declaration the document espouses justification under the law:

Our fellowship is not breaking away from the Anglican Communion. We, together with many other faithful Anglicans throughout the world, believe the doctrinal foundation of Anglicanism, which defines our core identity as Anglicans, is expressed in these words: The doctrine of the Church is grounded in the Holy Scriptures and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular, such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal.

The GAFCON group continues to hang onto the law -- looking to things that "give guidance" -- the law instead of things that give grace -- God.  

In n earlier chapter Borg demonstrates what Jesus' alternative wisdom lloked like.  For example, "What kind of world is it in which a Samaritan - a heretic and an impure person- can be good - indeed be the hero of a story? What kind of world is it in which a Pharisee- typcially a righteous and pure person - can be pronounced unrighteos and an outcast can be accepted?  What kind of  world is it where a Bishop in the Anglican church - typically a good and holy man - can be rejected and a homosexual can become a bishop?  The humble exalted and the exalted humbled?  It is not only a paradox but a reversal of the conventional wisdom.  It is alternative wisodm.  It is the Jesus - Sophia -  the wisdom of God.  

If this still doesn't get through try this song.  I would put it up via youtube but it isn't there.  Here is the lyrical version of what this is really all about.

Noel Paul Stookey
©1991 Neworld Media Music Publishers, ASCAP

In the beginning, as life became form,
The oceans heaved, the mountains were cleaved,
The firmament stormed.
At the center of being, immensely small
Was the master of now, don't ask me how
The Love of it all

And the seasons were many.
Creation was new.
And there on a tree (deceptively free)
A forbidden fruit
Upon leaving the garden, after the fall,
One thing was clear; we chose not to hear
The Love of it all

But for the Love of it all
I would go anywhere.
To the ends of the earth,
What is it worth if Love would be there?
Walking the thin line between fear and the call
One learns to bend and finally depend
On the Love of it all

"Irresistible targets"
I heard someone say.
They were speaking of angels
Who are so courageous day after day
Gunned down on a highway (as we often recall)
I hear a scream; I have a dream
The Love of it all

Still the world is in labor,
She groans in travail.
She cries with the eagle, the dolphin,
She sighs in the song of the whale.
While the heart of her people
Prays at the wall.
A spirit inside is preparing a bride
For the Love of it all

For the Love of it all,
Like the stars and the sun,
We are hearts on the rise,
Separate eyes with the vision of one.
No valley too deep, no mountain too tall,
We can turn back the night with merely the light
From the Love of it all.

And so we are marching to 'to give peace a chance'
Brother and sister as one in this mystery dance.
Long ago on a hilltop where now the curious crawl
A man on a cross paid the ultimate cost
For the Love of it all

For the Love of it all
We are gathered by grace
We have followed our hearts
To take up our parts
In this time and place.
Hands for the harvest,
Hear the centuries call:
It is still not too late to come celebrate
The Love of it all

"Eli, eli, lemana shabakthani"
The Love of it all

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