Thursday, April 2, 2009

Thanks be to God for His Servant John Paul II

Four years ago today the world lost one of the greatest saints of church history. John Paul II - poet, playwright, actor, priest, youth minister, philosopher, theologian, pastor, teacher, peacemaker, lover of God, lover of humanity, preacher of the Good News - we miss you!

Take time today to watch and listen to him at:

When I listen to him speak and read his writings, I am overwhelmed by the clarity of the gospel, the firmness of his convictions and the vibrancy of his hope. Whereas in liberal Christianity there are only questions, confusion and a depressing moralism, in John Paul II there is a joy and delight in the will of God that beckons us into the faith. What a gift he was! How wonderfully God used him! What joy to think that we will see him again in the life to come along with the Lord he served!


David said...

Thanks for posting this Craig. I needed something uplifting after reading Katherine Ragsdale's sermon yesterday.

I'm also enjoying your dialog with Benedict on liturgy. Ragsdale, I fear, stands as a challenge to Benedict's view of liturgy. Liturgy for Benedict resists the tyranny of the secular imagination. It refuses the illusion that the world is not in relationship with, and subject to, the will of the sovereign God. It's a training in how to see the world as from God, it's a bulwark against the tyranny of the banal that is the secular. Surely liturgy (and within episcopalian liturgy there's a limit on how much you can mess up!) should have shaped Ragsdale? Yet she seems to reduce the meaning of things and persons to their utility, sentience, socially contrived functionality or some of the other modern secular categories that enable the murder of the unborn.
If Benedict is right, then I wonder how can liturgy fail so spectacularly? Ragsdale is not a minority position within Episcopalianism and this is really starting to affect my reading of Benedict, and indeed Von Balthasar and even Catherine Pickstock who understand liturgy in a similar fashion. Surely, at the very least, Christian liturgy should challenge the modernist, secular understanding of life that fuels Ragsdale's murderous words?

Craig Carter said...

You raise a very important issue. How could the liturgy fail? I have been really wrestling with the closely related question of how a creedal Church could act as if the creeds did not exist. John Spong has never been disciplined for heresy in TEC and he has never explicitly denied the creeds even while teaching doctrine that contradicts them. There seems to be an attitude that as long as one officially says "I believe the creeds" one is free to deny all three articles in practice. Believing in the creeds seems to be separated from believing their content. For example, to affirm the doctrine of creation and then to affirm the androgeny of pansexualism seems blatantly contradictory, but materialistic Darwinism is the operative view of nature even though the creed is "affirmed."

When it comes to the liturgy, I suspect that if we got an expert on liturgy and plied him with questions, we would discover that the theology of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer was watered down in a series of revisions that really took hold in the past 40 years. The doctrines of sin and repentance, personal faith, God as Judge, the moral law of God, the transcendence of God and the atoning death of Jesus Christ have all been de-emphasized. (The common thread is that morality is removed from the heart of the faith.) In short, I don't think Ragsdale was formed by the traditional Anglican liturgy that had deep roots in the pre-Reformation Church and the theology of Cramner.

Without faithful bishops the liturgy will be watered down and the creeds ignored. The rise of the creeds, the canon and the bishops in the early church were all connected and all came after the litury for the purpose of protecting the liturgy. There is a dynamic interaction between Scripture, bishop, creed and liturgy that is the work of the Holy Spirit.

For example, people in my church have been reading "The Shack" and so as Theologian in Residence of my church I will be teaching on it next month. There are some serious theological errors in the book and I will explain them even as I try to encourage thought about some of the good points the book raises. This is the role of bishop. To what extent is this book in line with the creeds? What is the Scriptural basis for what I say? How does what the book teach impact our worship? This is the work of the bishop.

Ragsdale was ordained by John Spong, who grew up low Anglican. One shudders to think where the next generation will be. But there is no substitute for orthodox bishops if creeds and Scripture are going to be used properly and good liturgy preserved.