Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Something New

It seems the simple reality that we can never know enough in order to be certain about what we believe is far too difficult a concept for some. Which is fine. Resting in their certainty, they may well have the kind of peace that passes understanding in their own way.

Me, I'd rather assume, from the get-go, that I pretty much don't know anything.

Over the past few days, thanks in no small part to the links provided by the blog Faith & Theology, I have encountered the most generous blessing. Yet another theological blog, Per Crucem ad Lucem, has explored the thought of Anglican lay theologian William Stringfellow. When I say "explored", I mean that I stopped at nine posts on various of Stringfellow's writings and his life.

I wish to post here, in part, some of what Stringfellow wrote, in a book entitled Instead of Death on how the transformative power of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer changes even our sexuality. I would urge anyone to go and read this, indeed all, the posts on Stringfellow. The tantalizing hints in the works cited seem to show he was one who, as T. F. Torrance has said of all good theology, thinks in Jesus Christ. Anyway, enough of my babbling. Here's Stringfellow:
How then shall one discover who one is as a human being if sex provides neither the means nor the answer? And how shall one be emancipated from the power of sin in sex and in other realms as well?

In Christ.

In Christ. That means in beholding Christ who is in his own person the true human, the person living in the state of reconciliation with God, with himself, with all men, with the whole creation.

In Christ. That means in discerning that God ends the search for self by himself coming in this world in search of men. For the person, [sic] who knows that he has been found by God no longer has to find self.

In Christ. That means in surrendering to the presence and power of death in all things including sex and , in that event, in the very midst of death, receiving a new life free from the claim of death.

In Christ. That means in accepting the fact of God’s immediate and concretely manifest love for human life, including one’s own little life. Finding, then, that one’s own life is encompassed in God’s love for the world.

In Christ. That means in knowing that in the new life which God gives to humans there is no more a separation between who a person is and what a person does. That which one does, in sex or anything else, is a sign of who one is. All that one does become sacraments of new life.

In Christ. That means in realizing radical fulfillment as a person in the life of God in this world; such radical fulfillment that abstinence in sex is a serious option for a Christian though it is never a moral necessity.

In Christ. That means in enjoying God’s love for all humanity and all things in each and every event or decision of one’s own life.

In Christ. That means in confessing that all life belongs to God, and but for him there is no life at all’.
In a previous discussion of the relationship between Stringfellow's possible homosexuality and his life of faith and theology, the blog writer cites a discussion of some thoughts of Rowan Williams, the current Archbishop of Canterbury. This summary of Archbishop Williams does indeed capture the living heart of what Stringfellow says in the above passage:
1. The gospel, the good news spoken by God to the world in Jesus Christ – is God’s command. To put it the other way around, the command of God is not extraneous to the gospel, as if God, while saving us in Christ by the Spirit, said, ‘Oh, and there’s another, unrelated thing I wanted to talk to you about’.
2. The connection between gospel and command is intelligible. That is, it is possible for us by attending to the Gospel to understand how and why we are commanded and such understanding is the fundamental task of Christian ethics.
3. The gospel so understood provides the criterion by which we discover what truly is a binding command upon us. Faced, for instance, with a range of biblical commands about slavery, women, usury, polygamy, and sexual relationships, the fundamental theological question is not, ‘Which of these is culturally conditioned?’ but ‘How, if at all, do these matters relate to the gospel?’ Theological ethics is a matter, we might say, of taking every thought captive to Christ.
4. Because this attention to the gospel is the fundamental task of Christian ethics, any approach that simply stops with the apparent demands we find in Scripture, without asking whether and how they connect to the gospel, fails to take the command of God seriously.
5. If there is some intelligible connection between the gospel and sexual relationships, there would be a binding Christian sexual ethic (a command of God regarding sexual behaviour) even if there were no passages in Scripture that explicitly treated sexual matters.
These thoughts, this way of thinking in Jesus Christ, with the Gospel as the central reality of our identity, bringing new life out of all the empty tombs in which we dwell, are tantalizing indeed. I am going to enjoy, over the ensuing days and weeks, reading more from Stringfellow. It is a good thing to encounter a challenge, something new and different, life-affirming and faithful.

Virtual Tin Cup

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