More subtle and difficult to discern is the iconolatry not of the icon, not of the prototype present on the icon, but of the theology of the icon, or the religious domain delimited by the icon. I have pointed out the evolution of the icon toward the theological schema. The danger comes from the fact that, through the exaltation of a particular theology, one allows the honor due the icon to reflect not onto the prototype but onto the system, which is, in fact, the only thing represented. The face becomes a pretext to rejoice in being a disciple of Saint Gregory Palamas rather than of Augustine, to be Orthodox rather than Catholic or Protestant.
The vision of the Nigerian church continues:
Commitment to Christ and obedience to the biblical injunction is weak and conformity to the standard of the world has engulfed the Church at all levels. There is need for rediscovery of the principle of “the priesthood of all believers” (1st Peter 2: 9-10, Ephesians 3: 1-11). Presently, there is no sufficient lay involvement in the ministry of the Church. The present liturgical rigidity which borders on insensitivity is not helpful and there is insufficiency in the coordination of the conduct of church services to integrate prayers, hymns and singing of Psalms, the reading of the Bible and the preaching of the word. Church services therefore appear unexciting to the youths who, as a result, leave for the new generation churches.
This is an interesting comment on the life of the church in Nigeria. I cannot speak on a macro level for we Anglicans in America. I don’t know if we lack lay involvement overall or not. I can merely echo what the Bishops in Nigeria have said and call for more lay involvement at every level and in every area of our churches.
The charge of liturgical rigidity would seem to apply more to the ‘Continuing’ churches or the Reformed Episcopal Church (REC) in America, rather than to CANA. These churches often seem to want to re-pristinate a past that can never be recaptured fully.This shows itself in rejection of the charismata and in devotion to Elizabethan English, which has long since lost its ability to effectively communicate to the masses. Integration of worship is a noble goal for churches on both continents, and may we learn from each other while we do it.
Of course atonement was part of the law and one could ‘keep’ the law. I have no quibble with that at all. The interesting thing to note that is coming from the reaction to the NP is that as Moises Silva writes:
“The fact is that the apostle nowhere (in Galatians or in his other letters) characterizes his opponents as people who are obedient to the law. He will admit to no such thing. In this very epistle, as many have pointed out, he specifically accuses them of not keeping the law (6.13). And in Phil 3:2-4, when describing a group of opponents who, to say the least, had some affinities with the Judaizers in Galatia, he deliberately depicts them as pagans.” (*Abraham, Faith, and Works: Paul’s Use of Scripture in Galatians 3:6-14; Westminster Theological Journal 63  251-67)
Gathercole addresses this in the context of Romans:
“It is an assumption of the New Perspective on Paul that the Judaism with which Paul was in dialogue shared a similarly patterened structure to his own, with a belief in election as the way in, and with works, combined with repentance and atonement to “stay in.” However, many traditional portraits
of Paul have treated Judaism as if there was no sacrifice system. In response, protagonists of the New Perspective maintain that Paul could not be accusing his dialogue partner of “self-righteousness” because any pious first-century Jew knew that he was a sinner (Prayer of Manasseh; 1QS 11) but that God had provided a means of dealing with sin, namely, the temple cult with its sacrifices. This approach is misleading for several reasons, which are relevant here in discussion of Romans 2. The minor objections are: first, there is evidence for a possible downgrading of the sacrificial system among various
groups within Second Temple Judaism well before the destruction of the temple. Second, one could raise the question of the validity of taking liturgical texts such as the Prayer of Manasseh or 1QS11 and deducing anything about the spiritual condition of people on the ground. The liturgy of any religious group could scarcely be described as an index of the spiritual vitality or its users.
Yet these are peripheral issues. The most important consideration that is consistently neglected is that Paul is essentially dealing with a dialogue partner (a representative, as we have seen, of the nation) *who is unrepentant*, and (though not visibly) an apostate. Thus, Paul would assume that the sacrificial system was not effective for him, and the interlocutor himself would have a wrong attitude toward it.” (pp. 205-206)
Gathercole goes on to quote Rom 2.5; 2.27-29; 9.31 and 10.2 in support of this thesis. I would add that David makes clear in Psalm 51 that sacrifices must be offered with a broken spirit and a contrite heart, that God “delights in right sacrifices” and that it was obviously very possible for even the sacrificial system to be of no effect for the prideful.
Lately I have been using OpenOffice Writer at work instead of Word (or in tandem with Word). I’ve messed around with Writer on and off for a couple years. But since I am in a job that has me stranded with Word until I can figure out something better, I have had to be creative.
My first project was a monster manual that I inherited. It gagged and locked up every time I tried to save it from Word to PDF. And then you have the normal Word quirks, formatting changes, and general frustrations. In a fit of madness I downloaded the OpenOffice suite at work. It’s not perfect, but it matches Word in my book and exceeds it in some ways. OO is free first of all, so you don’t have to keep paying for Microsoft’s ridiculous new ‘improvements’ every few years. Writer is the OO equivalent of Word. It seems far less intrusive in terms of reformatting your document when you click tab or accidentally click the wrong menu command. It easily saves to PDF at the click of a button. It displays a floating pallet on the side of the screen like Word 2004 for Mac and FrameMaker (and most other new tools). All in all it seems far more sound and usable than Word, although it isn’t enough for me because it doesn’t achieve all the ends I need.
I haven’t been able to use Word 2007 yet, so I don’t know how it stacks up. But if you face dropping more money for yet another version of the Office sweet, I’d suggest downloading the latest stable version of OpenOffice instead.
More from the Forbidden Image. For Philo (the Alexandrian Jewish philosopher):
The characteristic of an image is refused the body; it is only the sanctuary of the image, and will be abandoned when the image has attained perfection.
How different from the Christian notion of the body this is! I think the resurrection is the key event that changed this conception of the body.
As sin fades from the public view, the culture at large takes up external ‘sins’ that it can feel good about being against. So, while people don’t care much about the de-sacralization of sex, or blaspheming God, they get real emotional about global warming, smoking, and their bodily appearance. I’m not saying that their aren’t social ills, or group sins that we need to deal with. What I’m saying is that their seems to be a human need for righteous indignation with something or the other. Properly felt, it should be directed at least somewhat towards our internal evil. But lust is not talked about on national TV. The UN isn’t convening summits on how to deal with the global lust problem. Instead we have whipping boys like global warming and the lack of availability for abortions in the Developing world. That is our new public morality. You can’t legislate morality? Absurd. All legislation is by definition morality.
Blaine has a new article on God being on every path over at the Journal. Feel free to discuss it here.
Celebration church is gaining momentum lately and you can already see God knitting something together on the ground. Please come out and join us if you are in the Stafford, Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania or surrounding areas.
I am continuing to read and to love The Forbidden Image by Alain Besancon. He says of Plato:
Plato condemns art for being incapable of attaining truth and – this is a more serious matter – for turning men away from truth. Anyone who wishes to attain the true image of the divine must not take this path, but that of asceticism, an asceticism of body, soul, and intelligence.
So the roots of the perennial conflict between the lovers of life and its riches and the ascetics goes back to the beginning. Something strikes me as wrong whenever people think that asceticism is the higher path than that of a life fully engaged with art, work, and love. However, I don’t think they have to be mutually exclusive tracks. I see the need for asceticism, and I don’t doubt that holy men like John the Forerunner and Elijah were in some sense of the word ascetics.
Unrelated, but on an LDS note, Plato thought:
This world had a beginning; it was not created, but it was organized. Its “creation” was an imposition of order, and that order constitutes its beauty.
I find it interesting that the LDS critique of Christian “apostasy” is that we Hellenized some time ago. And yet the Platonic concept of creation is that of matter being organized – which is the same belief that Mormons hold. Perhaps they should think twice before casting the Hellenizing charge our way.
In light of my recent conversations with LDS folks, I wanted to ask some questions of Protestants and tradition. We hold to a Christology and view of the Trinity that are conciliar and were defined by the Church Fathers. Granted, we see proof texts for these views in the Bible, but most of the core definitions we have of ‘substance’ and ‘hypostases’ are from the ecumenical councils. And we are right to hold to these things.
I accept them by positing a view of inspiration, that the councils were led by the Holy Spirit. Now let’s say we have a pastor who does not hold to the two natures of Christ, or who is a modalist. We would all say he is a heretic (I think). But by and large our condemnation of non-Trinitarians or those who teach some incorrect form of Christology would derive from conciliar definitions. This leads me to these questions:
1. As Protestants, what should our view of the councils be?
2. Did the Holy Spirit inspire those councils in some sense?
3. How can we pick and choose amongst the findings of those councils and not make ourselves the ultimate authority?
4. Do we accept that the basis for much of our Trinitarian thinking is rooted outside of the text of Scripture?
Perhaps I am not phrasing this correctly, I hope you understand what I am driving at.
“The history of Graeco-Roman Christianity resolves itself largely into a criticism of that undertaking and of the ideas upon which it rested; viz. that it was possible to attain a goal of permanent security, peace and freedom through political action, especially through submission to the ‘virtue and fortune’ of a political leader. This notion the Christians denounced with uniform vigour and consistency. To them the state, so far from being the supreme insturment of human emancipation and perfectibility, was a straight-jacket to be justified at best as ‘a remedy for sin’. To think of it otherwise they considered the grossest of superstitions.”
from the forward Christianity and Classical Culture by Charles Norris Cochrane