Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Mere Orthodoxy Interview

Over at Mere Orthodoxy they are running an interview with your's truly. Andrew Walker asks the questions; I give the answers. Check it out here.

For those who are interested, part two of the interview at Mere Orthodoxy is now up here.

And now the third and final part is here.


Sze Zeng said...

Dr. Craig,

Thank you for sharing that interview.
Now I understand more about the shift in your change of political theology.

Gordon Hackman said...

Great interview. I appreciated hearing about how your change in views came about, too. In fact, it totally resonates with my own experience and observation over the last several years, and encourages me in my own trajectory of thought.

I have never really been a Yoderian but I go to a church whose leadership very influenced by his thought and I have numerous friends who are very Yoderian. In particular, I believe I have mentioned to you before that David Fitch has been a pastor, mentor, and friend to me for a number of years now. I emailed him a link to the interview and told him that I really resonated with where you were coming from and that it pretty much dovetailed with my own experience and perspective on things these days, and I told him I'd be interested in hearing his thoughts.

David said...

Hi Craig,
Great stuff. Your recent posts on Christendom have been among the most interesting and bravest I've read on this blog (and given that all are interesting and brave this is saying something). One of the reasons I find it very interesting is context it emerges in. Here's what I mean.
I think there is something of a crisis among young ("mainstream denomination") Protestant theologians in the current theological climate. The success of Milbank, and indeed Hauerwas before him, has created a very high Church theological environment. The person is shaped by the Church, which is, to greater and lesser extents, the sacramental body of Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit. The Church infects the person with the Holy Spirit in scripture and sacrament. This "infection" aligns the persons desires appropriately, makes seeing and knowing the good and acting in accordance with it possible. The Church, for much recent non Roman theology (Milbank and Hauerwas) is crucial instrumentally in bringing the kingdom into being. Milbank in particular has followed this theology through ecclesiologically and politically moving toward an outright support of the theological legitimacy of the teaching office of the Church and her magisterium and following this through in adopting political stances informed by this, much to the chagrin of those who liked the early "socialist" Milbank.
I think all this has been really challenging for some younger Protestant theologians. Take the focus on apocalyptic theology we see in people like Nate Kerr and others that resists the ecclesial context in favour of, well, I'm not quite sure what, but I'd like to interpret it in terms of a Barthian seizing of the person by God in God's revelatory self disclosure - direct, traditionless, without reference to any "sacrament" or the like. Kerr and others at blogs like Inhabitatio Dei are seeking to, I think, distance kingdom and Church (not that anyone ever conflated them) over and against Hauerwas, Milbank and, well Roman Catholicism, which sees the Church as instrumental in the bringing into being (however sporadically and opaquely in time) of the kingdom.
Of course other Protestant theologians in the blogosphere are simply reigniting the dying embers of good old fashioned silly liberalism based on trite history and un-nuanced theology, Church as instrument of domination empire racism, theology itself as essentially oppressive and other nonsense.
But because of this I'm sensing a unease in younger Protestant theologians with theological directions in the past 10 - 15 years and an attempt to resist the slide of Protestantism, orthodox and liberal, into a model of the Church which is alien to Barth, Bonhoeffer, Calvin (although I don't think Luther).
Against this backdrop your work in general, and recent posts in particular are just astonishing to me in terms of their ecumenical potency. They seem to be envisioning an alternative to the Roman Catholic "slide" seemingly necessitated by Milbank (who will, I'd bet, cross the Tiber at some stage) and the radical resistance to a high ecclesiology and coherent model of Church state relations.
It's all very interesting, very brave and very, well, "Carter".
Thanks for it :)
Warmest regards,

Craig Carter said...

Thanks for your very interesting comments. You probably see my thought as far more significant than it is; I suspect I'm just catching up with the Tradition, especially Augustine.

But if I understand your comments, you are saying that I am showing how it might be possible to be catholic (small c) without being Roman Catholic, which is no small thing because Protestantism seems to be dividing into one stream that is moving out of Christianity altogether by becoming heretical, i.e. liberal Protestantism, and another stream that is moving inexorably toward Rome. This raises the question of whether Protestantism has run its course and deserves to die, which is a question I have struggled with intensely for the past 5 years or so. Is there a way to be catholic while remaining Protestant?

Well, I think Calvin shows us how to do that without any help from me.

But I think you are right about Milbank heading toward Rome: it is either liberal heresy or Rome for him. He is no Calvinist. As for Hauerwas, I think in the end his life and theology do not cohere. As a liberal Protestant with a "high" ecclesiology, he should have become a Roman Catholic. By staying in the liberal Methodist Church his theology just makes no sense.

If I am providing an alternative to "high" ecclesiology (meaning the kind that leads one across the Tiber) and a kind of individualism arising out of a anarchist resistance to the ecclesiology of Hauerwas and Milbank (precisely out of fear that it does lead to the banks of the Tiber), then that can only be because I am recovering a different kind of high ecclesiology that is essentially Reformed in nature. And maybe the key to a Reformed ecclesiology is that it is Augustinian, which makes it catholic without being necessarily Roman Catholic (if that distinction can be permitted.)

Have I understood your comments correctly? Is this what you see as of value in my posts recently? Are you on board with the contention that the key is to be Augustinian, i.e. that Roman Catholics and Protestants can recognize each other as fellow Christians to the extent that and because each inhabits Augustine's thought?

David said...

Hi Craig,
That's exactly it. As always you manage to put it more clearly than I ever could - is there a properly Protestant trajectory that doesn't either lead to Rome or out of Christianity altogether. And I agree that Augustine is the answer.

My suspicion, however, is that if you were drawing a venn diagram with Augustine in one circle and Calvin in another the overlap would be much greater than if I were drawing it.

I suspect this as I (because Benedict is my boss!) tend to think about ecclesiology with reference to "subsistence". To what extent can the Church subsist in Christ and Christ in the Church?

I think Augustine answers this differently from some R. Catholic thought to be sure (contra donatist elements in Catholic thought) but also different from Calvin.

There is in Augustine (although less, I would suggest, as he ages) a sacramental economy wherein time becomes saturated by eternity, the banal by the triune life. We are no more capable of peace, caritas, hope, faith etc than we are of flight and so when we manifest such things it is not us but the presence of the peaceful one, the faithful one etc in us. The Spirit gives us faith hope and charity and in so doing conforms us to Christ who is the faithful, hopeful and loving one. The Church is brought into being by the Spirit in conforming us to Christ as a transubstantive act. We are substantially altered. We are Christless, of the flesh and become Christ filled, of the Spirit. This work of the Spirit brings diverse gifts and this diversity makes the Church as the gifts of Augustine, the bishop, are not the gifts of David Deane the layman.
Not just persons but water and oil and bread and wine can, by the power of the Holy Spirit, participate in the sacramental economy which refuses the dichotomy of time and eternity and makes the kingdom, however momentarily, come. The incorporation of the banal into the Triune life by the movement of the Triune life to it is at once the prefigurement and the momentary instantiation of the kingdom of God, heaven on earth.

I think such language would make Calvin queasy? I think Calvin can share such a grammar but only as it relates to the Word (Christ) the Word (scripture) and the Word proclaimed (preaching wherein the Word by the power of the Spirit can make Himself present through the words proclaimed). But the Church for Augustine, as a sacramental economy, subsists in Christ (because of Christ's graceful subsistence in it through the power of the Holy Spirit) beyond scripture. Augustine would only differ from Trent here, as I see it, in lamenting Trent's limiting of formal instrumental sacraments to 7.

How we understand Church State relations is predicated upon what we understand the Church to be. And while Roman Catholic donatists (who conflate the Church and the kingdom) need to be slapped around the head with the City of God, Augustine is also, in my opinion, very different from Master Calvin in this regard.

So I'm wondering about this overlapping area in the venn diagram of Augustine and Calvin? I suspect I perhaps simply need to read more Calvin or else, possibly, while agreeing that Augustine is the answer Roman Catholics like me and Catholics like you are working with slightly different Augustines?
Yours in Christ,