In praise of Amazon

The variety of information Amazon makes available for each book title grows each month. The Amazon ‘See Inside’ function takes you to the Amazon Online Reader (their equivalent to Google Book Search).

The ‘See Inside’ function now works for The Eschatological Economy : it opens the Amazon Online Reader, which allows you to select ‘Excerpt’ which shows you the beginning of Chapter One.

I now realise that The Eschatological Economy starts with a very steep climb, because the opening of Chapter One is quite dense. I wish the Online Reader showed the Introduction instead, where I set out as simply as I could what this book is about, and briefly what each chapter contains.

But the ‘Search’ function of the Amazon Online Reader is a wonder.

So far I have used it on The Eschatological Economy to search on ‘death of Christ’, and ‘resurrection of Christ’ (and have realised that the ‘of’ complicates matters) and ‘atonement’. Best of all, ‘Holy Spirit’, referred to on 35 pages of The Eschatological Economy. Not bad, eh?

Then you get a list of three-line excerpts in which the search word appears, just enough context to know which references are worth pursuing. Then a click brings up the relevant page.

Though The Eschatological Economy is all about the atonement, I don’t use that word all that much. Nonetheless ‘atonement’, ‘reconciliation’ and ‘salvation’ all take you to the relevant discussions in the book. Here are some search results for ‘Atonement’ as they appear in the Amazon Online reader:

6. on Page 142: “… tradition, Karl Barth decided against employing sacrifice as a model for his discussion of the work of Christ. Though the atonement could be presented in sacrificial and priestly terms, Barth believes that these are now antiquated and so presents his account …”

8. on Page 82: “… God has broken through to sweep all sins finally away. Whether hilasterion means the event or the site of atonement, the sins of Israel were all dealt with together on that one day in the year. The atonement of the …”

9. on Page 84: “… talk of representation and substitution is alien to Israelite sacrifice, I suggest that we should see Old Testament talk of atonement of place as a solution, not a problem. If we make a hard distinction between individuals and persons defined by …”

10. on Page 119: “… Israel and the character of Israel’s God.” Comprehension and appropriation of these practices are not secondary to the rituals of atonement themselves, for the rituals are responsible for the formation of Israel’s new mind. According to Milgrom, all Israel’s sacrifice is …”

28. on Page 237: “… itself. The economy of modernity, and all the human and social sciences that support it, is a massive effort of atonement that constitutes this secular so- ciety. It is led by the discipline of economics, itself an ethic masquerading as a …”

29. on Page 244: “… will be justice, both for us and for those who have been denied justice by us. Critics of the forensic atonement ask by what right God brings us to court to try us as sinners. We exercise this right against each …”

Modernity’ brings up 70 pages. ‘God’ brings up ten pages of results, because the word appears on 261 pages of the book, ‘man’ on 63 pages. At least we know what The Eschatological Economy is about now.

What will the ecumenical cost be?

Rowan Williams

If in a few years time we are looking seriously at the practical possibility of women ordained as bishops – what will the ecumenical cost be? We know it will in many ways be heavy and serious. But granted that, what will be the ground on which we pursue ecumenical conversation and relationship from that point on. I would like to say that the ARCIC documents do give us a theology which we need to return to and try to make sense of in that long-term view, because we do there have a remarkably rich deposit of reflection on the ordained ministry, agreed between the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches over the last thirty years…

Archbishop of Canterbury Speech given during a debate in the Church of England’s General Synod on Women in the Episcopate

We have claimed to be Catholic, to have a ministry that is capable of being universally recognised (even where in practice it does not have that recognition) because of its theological and institutional continuity; to hold a faith that is not locally determined but shared through time and space with the fellowship of the baptised; to celebrate sacraments that express the reality of a community which is more than the people present at any one moment with any one set of concerns. So at the very least we must recognise that Anglicanism as we have experienced it has never been just a loose grouping of people who care to describe themselves as Anglicans but enjoy unconfined local liberties…

My commitment and conviction are given to the ideal of the Church Catholic. I know that its embodiment in Anglicanism has always been debated, yet I believe that the vision of Catholic sacramental unity without centralisation or coercion is one that we have witnessed to at our best and still need to work at.

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Address to the General Synod of the Church of England

Kimel on Wright and Stanhope's reply to Kasper

Al Kimel of Pontifications has set out the theological issues around ordination and Church unity with his usual clarity and patience.

In a recent post he takes a look at the response of the Anglican bishops of Durham and Salisbury, Tom Wright and David Stancliffe to Roman Catholic Cardinal Kasper, and explains what is at stake in this issue of who may be a bishop. In his address to the bishops of the Church of England (June 2006) Cardinal Kasper pointed out that the leaders any part of the Church chooses are leaders of the whole Church, and have to represent that wholeness of the Church, and the wholeness of its teaching. Its choice of leaders therefore demonstrates the degree to which the Anglican church understands, or does not understand, that it is its wholeness and indivisibility that makes Church’s distinctive witness to the world. The Church is one, and holy, because God is one, and holy.

The context is the desire of Anglican and Episcopalian parts of the Church to operate in isolation from the Church as a whole, and to choose leaders who do not represent the wholeness and distinctiveness of the Church. But the whole Church must insist that such parts do not operate unilaterally, and so it must give these (Anglican and Episcopalian) churches and their leaders a refresher course in ecclesiology and theology, to remind them of the distinct identity of the Christian people and the extraordinary privilege it is to be that people, for the world’s sake.

Here is Al Kimel:

‘Bishops Wright and Stancliffe are convinced that Scripture authorizes the ordination of women to priestly orders, but they disagree with each other on whether Scripture authorizes the blessing of same-sex unions. Bishop Wright was a member of the committee that drew up the Windsor Report, a report which rebukes the American and Canadian churches for breaking from the received moral tradition before the creation of a new consensus within the Anglican Communion. But should not the same reasoning be applied to the question of women’s ordination? Should not the Anglican Communion be rebuked for moving ahead on women’s ordination before the creation of wider catholic consensus. Why, in this age of ecumenism, does the opinions of only Anglicans count? Does it not matter to Anglicans that by embracing the ordination of women to the presbyterate and episcopate they are effectively negating the possibility of ecclesial reunion with the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church?’

Pontifications The death of Anglican/Catholic ecumenism?

Oxford looks for Oliver O'Donovan's replacement

‘The Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology is appointed to lecture and give instruction in Moral and Pastoral Theology, in the duties of the Pastoral Office, and in such subjects as Christian Ethics, both Social and Individual, Ascetic and Mystical Theology, and the study of the various types of Christian Experience. The formal duties are set out below. The appointee will be a scholar of distinction who will exercise leadership in research and develop graduate studies in his or her area of specialisation. He or she will also be expected to take a leading part in developing the work of the Faculty of Theology generally.’

(i) Candidates should either be ordained in Priest’s Orders in the Church of England or in an Episcopal Church in communion with the Church of England or eligible for and prepared to accept ordination. A canonry at Christ Church is annexed to the professorship.

(ii) An outstanding research and publications record in the broad field of Moral and Pastoral Theology, which will contribute to and enhance the profile of Moral and Pastoral Theology and the Faculty of Theology.

(iii) The ability and readiness to lead and inspire academic colleagues, and in particular to take responsibility for Moral and Pastoral Theology and its courses, undergraduate and graduate, and for the scholarly direction of the subject at Oxford.

It will be interesting to see whether Oxford University’s appointments panel will appoint somebody who can do this job (Nigel Biggar, Michael Banner, Bernd Wannenwetsch,.. ) or will continue to make appointments without regard to the selection criteria contained in the job description they have published.

The imperialism of the Roman approach to ecclesiology?

Bishops Wright and Stancliffe have responded to Cardinal Walter Kasper’s request for no unilateral Anglican decisions about ordaining women bishops until a Church-wide consensus develops. But their response is not quite as rigorous as they hope:

‘One of the most important points at which Cardinal Kasper seems to us to misrepresent the Anglican situation comes at the point where he indicates that he and others look to the Church of England as holding a place of decisive significance within Anglicanism, so that despite the fact that there are already women bishops in some Provinces of the Anglican Communion the decision of the Church of England would somehow be key or crucial. That may be an accurate indication of how we are perceived, but the Church of England does not occupy the place in the Communion that the Vatican does in our sister church. Indeed, that imperial model – Ecclesia Anglicana telling the colonies how to behave – is precisely what we have done our best to avoid for several generations. As set out in the Windsor Report, we have a modus operandi according to which a potentially contentious issue can come to the Lambeth Conference, to the Anglican Consultative Council, and to the Primates’ Meeting. To put it simply, if the Lambeth Conference gives a green light to a proposal, it is then up to an individual province to decide whether to adopt any new development for itself. We must not for a moment collude with the impression that the Church of England occupies a position analogous to the Vatican and that the Lambeth Conference is merely an expensive piece of window-dressing. This tells heavily against the argument, sometimes advanced from within Anglicanism itself, that the decision we now face in the Church of England is the real defining moment. The Lambeth Conference has already given the green light to ordaining women to the episcopate; all we are being asked now is whether we, in our Province, want to adopt for ourselves something to which worldwide Anglicanism has already given approval, and which can therefore not be seen within our own inter-provincial polity as communion-breaking.’

Tom Wright, Bishop of Durham, and David Stancliffe, Bishop of Salisbury Women Bishops:A Response to Cardinal Kasper

My understanding of catholicity is that it involves every part of the church in subordination to every other in love, and therefore also in obedience and truth. This does involve us in waiting for one another, and so it always has a cost: it is in fact Christian suffering. None of us can just do what we want; we are not servants or priests or bishops by right: we cannot make ourselves leaders of the church; we cannot unilaterally make decisions for ‘our‘ part of the church. We have to wait for the rest of the Church to see in us those gifts the Lord has given to us. The rest of the Church really is in authority over us. Those outside the Church might call this ‘imperialism’, but catholicity is what we call it.

Collegiality always requires a single authority, which involves an central office, an institution with a budget – a magisterium. This is what Canterbury (in my case) represents – despite Canterbury’s own denials – and beyond Canterbury it is all the other Archbishops and Patriarchs, gathered in mutual deference and love, around some single Patriarch, which, out of habit or tradition if for no other reason, means in effect Benedict in Rome. We Anglicans should try to keep up with Benedict – and of course gently and constantly offer our Reformed and evangelical correction to the Roman curia. There is no either-or about Canterbury and the rest-of-the-Church-conveniently-represented-by Rome. Rome does not threaten our Anglican identity – it only threatens our endless readiness to endanger the catholicity of the whole Church by our pursuit of every worldly agenda.

This Christianity lark is not easy: all this controversy is part of the suffering that comes as we are formed together in Christ. Let us be thankful for one another and for all on the other side in each of these struggles for the identity of the people of Jesus Christ.

The boldness of faith and the boldness of reason

46. It is not too much to claim that the development of a good part of modern philosophy has seen it move further and further away from Christian Revelation, to the point of setting itself quite explicitly in opposition. This process reached its apogee in the last century. Some representatives of idealism sought in various ways to transform faith and its contents, even the mystery of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, into dialectical structures which could be grasped by reason. Opposed to this kind of thinking were various forms of atheistic humanism, expressed in philosophical terms, which regarded faith as alienating and damaging to the development of a full rationality. They did not hesitate to present themselves as new religions serving as a basis for projects which, on the political and social plane, gave rise to totalitarian systems which have been disastrous for humanity.

As a result of the crisis of rationalism, what has appeared finally is ‘nihilism’. As a philosophy of nothingness, it has a certain attraction for people of our time. Its adherents claim that the search is an end in itself, without any hope or possibility of ever attaining the goal of truth. In the nihilist interpretation, life is no more than an occasion for sensations and experiences in which the ephemeral has pride of place. Nihilism is at the root of the widespread mentality which claims that a definitive commitment should no longer be made, because everything is fleeting and provisional.

47. It should also be borne in mind that the role of philosophy itself has changed in modern culture. From universal wisdom and learning, it has been gradually reduced to one of the many fields of human knowing; indeed in some ways it has been consigned to a wholly marginal role. Other forms of rationality have acquired an ever higher profile, making philosophical learning appear all the more peripheral. These forms of rationality are directed not towards the contemplation of truth and the search for the ultimate goal and meaning of life; but instead, as ‘instrumental reason’, they are directed, actually or potentially, towards the promotion of utilitarian ends, enjoyment or power.

In the wake of these cultural shifts, some philosophers have abandoned the search for truth in itself and made their sole aim the attainment of a subjective certainty or a pragmatic sense of utility. This in turn has obscured the true dignity of reason, which is no longer equipped to know the truth and to seek the absolute.

48. The link between faith and reason needs to be carefully examined, because each without the other is impoverished and enfeebled. Deprived of what Revelation offers, reason has taken side-tracks which expose it to the danger of losing sight of its final goal. Deprived of reason, faith has stressed feeling and experience, and so run the risk of no longer being a universal proposition. It is an illusion to think that faith, tied to weak reasoning, might be more penetrating; on the contrary, faith then runs the grave risk of withering into myth or superstition. By the same token, reason which is unrelated to an adult faith is not prompted to turn its gaze to the newness and radicality of being.

This is why I make this appeal that faith and philosophy recover the profound unity which allows them to stand in harmony with their nature without compromising their mutual autonomy. The ‘parrhesia’ of faith must be matched by the boldness of reason.

John Paul II Fides et Ratio – On the Relationship between Faith and Reason


We modern ethicists like to make out that we stand above all traditions and religions equally. We find each religion a sorry falling away from the truth of ‘religion as such’, which we call ethics, and by which we mean being ‘reasonable’ – you know, like us.

The greater part of our product, ‘ethics’, consists in identifying the particular practices that mark out some particular community, and belittling it, marginalising it, making the majority indifferent to it or resentful of it, until we can get rid of it by legislation. Our project – ethics – means standardisation or homogenization. But our levelling programme has no level at which it decides that it has been successful and switches itself off. It is a neurotic tic, a witch-hunt, in which those who pointed fingers will one day be under accusation themselves.

Liturgy is an action of the whole Christ

Catholic Catechism

s. 1136 Liturgy is an action of the whole Christ (Christus totus). Those who now celebrate it without signs are already in the heavenly liturgy, where celebration is wholly communion and feast.

1137 The book of Revelation of St John read in the Church’s liturgy, first reveals to us ‘A throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne’: ‘the Lord God’. it then shows the Lamb, ‘standing as though it had been slain’: Christ crucified and risen, the one high priest of the sanctuary, the same one ‘who offers and is offered, who gives and is given’.

1138 ‘Recapitulated in Christ’ these are the ones who take part in the service of the praise of God and the fulfilment of his plan: the heavenly powers, all creation (the four living beings), the servants of the Old and New Covenant (the twenty-four elders), the new People of God (the one hundred and forty-four thousand), especially the martyrs ‘slain for the word of God’, and the all holy Mother of God (the Woman), the Bride of the Lamb, and finally ‘a great multitude which no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues’.

1139 It is in this eternal liturgy that the Spirit and the Church enable us to participate whenever we celebrate the mystery of salvation in the sacraments.

1141 This ‘common priesthood’ is that of Christ the sole priest, in which all his members participate.

1142 The ordained minister is at it were an ‘icon’ of Christ the priest.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church – Part Two, Section One, Chapter One online at the Vatican and at Amazon

Properly worldly

The Church looks conservative only because the Church is the only public place in which the issues of what is worth doing, and so of truth and goodness – which previous generations used to talk freely about – get a public hearing. Because the Church is not in as much of a panic about time as the world is, the Church has the patience to host discussion of how to be human. No particular moment seems the right moment to get into a long discussion. It is always more convenient to carry on assuming that we all already know what is worth doing, how to live well, and that we don’t need to talk it all through again.

The Christians re-enter this discussion every Sunday when they line up behind the Son of Man, who is God’s own definition of life lived well, and they sing along with him back to God.

So it is the Church which knows how to be properly worldly. It has a better idea of what the world is to be than this world does. The Church tells the world how best to be worldly – by asking its maker if it may join his conversation on this subject.

The best thing the Church can do for the world is be distinct from it, and so remind the world that it has not yet arrived. The world is not yet all in all. So the Church must hold out hope to the world – and point out that this time is not yet the fullness of time, but it is the time to live well and to talk life through in good company.

O'Donovan – Freedom and its loss 2

If early-modern and mid-modern liberal societies were successful in securing their members’ cooperation and participation – and it is hard to deny them a measure of success – this was due to the moment of self-abdication instilled by their monotheistic faith. Through that religious moment they directed their members to become critical moral intelligences, taught them to see themselves as answerable directly to God. Thus they envisaged themselves as open to authoritative criticism and correction, and this lay at the heart of the reconciliation they effected between individual and social identities. In the face of conflicting expectations and hopes, a liberal society could make itself accountable before the throne of God’s justice. This opened up a variety of self-understandings for the dissenter, who could assume the role of critic, prophet, even martyr – all roles that could be socially learned and socially respected. It could even move a dissenting member to respond to it not merely with revolt but with compassion.

In abandoning their deference to transcendence, late-liberal societies have followed a perilous course. Losing the conciliatory strength of religious humility, they have gambled on majority support for a narrowly materialist and sensual sphere of public communications, inculcating by all means at their disposal the purely material expectations that conform to them. This strategy of moral under-education presumes as impoverished a view of human nature as classic liberalism presumed a rather exalted one. …The discontent that any human being can feel at being underestimated can, and surely must, undermine this a-moral majority, generating high waves of inarticulate dissatisfaction. …But the warning that needs hearing is even more solemn than that: liberal society, proceeding on its present course, may deserve a reaction, simply because it is incapable of taking the spiritual capacities of its members seriously.

Oliver O’Donovan Freedom and its Loss The Westminster Abbey Gore lecture 2002