12 June 2014

With Great Zeal, and Little Thought

As mentioned in the first post of this series, one of the intents of Jesuit priest Richard Simon back in the 1670s–80s with his Histoire Critique du Vieux Testament was apologetic in nature: the Old and New Testaments as they've come down to us could not bear the weight of the formal cause or principle of the Protestant Reformation, sola scriptura, in that Protestantism lacked the means with which to determine the truth from a fallible text.

We then went on to see how for Dryden the Deists of his day suffered from incoherence: The best of their doctrines that they thought could be squeezed out of general revelation alone actually presupposed special revelation. What makes the Deists such "vain, wretched creatures" is their spitting in the face of the God who condescended to reveal himself in the life, death, resurrection, ascension, session and eventual return of his Son for the sake of a lost and dying world. They know better, in other words; they're sinning with a high hand (Num 15:30).

Next, we looked how Dryden in Religio Laici more directly challenged Simon's claim of the infallibility of tradition in order to save the revealed religion come to us in a fallible text. Dryden's answer in this matter, as with the others, was quintessentially Anglican (for his day): the Scriptures are sufficient unto salvation (even if errant in some of the historical minutiae of the OT, hypothetically speaking), and the few articles necessary thereunto (and contained therein) are so simple and self-evident that they are available to all grace-enabled people. Dryden wasn't out of bounds in his response. Two hundred years later, the so-called father of modern inerrancy, B.B. Warfield, could say that verbal plenary inspiration is, at most, a secondary doctrine:
Were there no such thing as inspiration, Christianity would be true, and all its essential doctrines would be credibly witnessed to, as in the generally trustworthy reports of the teaching of our Lord and of His authoritative agents in founding the Church, preserved in the writings of the apostles and their first followers, and in the historical witness of the living Church. Inspiration is not the most fundamental of Christian doctrines, nor even the first thing we prove about the Scriptures. It is the last and crowning fact as to the Scriptures. (“The Real Problem of Inspiration,” Presbyterian and Reformed Review [April, 1893]; HT Mike Licona)
This was the essential argument of the late seventeenth-century latitudinarian Anglicans in the face of nascent higher criticism: Granting errors in a few minor details did not undermine the veracity of the faith in any way, for the gospels and the apostolic letters are basically reliable eyewitness testimonies and teachings based on those reports. Add to this their universality and timelessness over the span of 1,700 years (the age of the Restoration), and you've got a faith and practice that is more true than any of its competition, which probability is the most we can hope for when embracing a fallible tradition.

Disparaging infallible tradition, however, does not a radical make. By the time of Dryden, the Protestant call for sola scriptura (while both scripture and tradition work together in the life of the church, scripture wields the primary authority, and thus is the final arbiter in matters of faith and practice) had already come to bear much schismatic rot as well as devolved more and more into the practice of solo scriptura (tradition has no bearing upon the church’s interpretation of scripture). So, finally, we come to Dryden's criticism of the puritans and their heirs, the nonconformists (at the time of the Restoration, these constituted everyone not under the rubric of the Church of the England).

It's important to recognize that while Dryden targets explicitly the purely rational theology of the Deists on the one hand and fideistic papists on the other, his critique of the more radical elements of voluntaristic nonconformity occurs indirectly.

As an Anglican, Dryden would not do away with tradition. Like Richard Hooker before him, matters of faith and practice are in part determined by that which “the church by her ecclesiastical authority” thinks and defines as true (Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, 5.8:2). Tradition, indeed, is not "useless here"—when "general, old disinteress'd and clear" (ll. 334–35). Through "the reverend Majesty of Age," the tried and tested commentary of the "Ancient Fathers" has the force of their catholicity confirmed (ll. 335–37). Dryden, like any good catholic Christian, assumes that the closer a church can get to the apostolical tradition (best ensconced in Scripture, the Apostles' Creed, and the seven ecumenical councils), the more robustly Christlike and truth-carrying she will be:
And still the nearer to the Spring we go
More limpid, more unsoyl’d, the Waters flow.
Thus, first Traditions were a proof alone;
Cou’d we be certain such they were, so known: (ll. 340–43)
Granting a relative amount of certainty regarding apostolic traditions, those traditions then come to define what the church ought to practice in matters of faith. But how (we might hear the Catholic retort) are we to determine which tradition is binding and which isn't? Being a realist, Dryden admits that "since some Flaws in long descent may be, / They make not Truth but Probability" (ll. 344–45). Then are we not hopelessly lost in a morass of equally competing sects of opinion? Hardly.
Truth by its own Sinews will prevail.
Tradition written therefore more commends
Authority, than what from Voice descends: (ll. 349–51)
So, then, there is probable cause to practice the faith one way and not another. There is not, nor can there be by definition in this fallen age, an infallible extra-biblical determining source (another quintessential Anglican response). But again I must be quick to point out that Dryden's not suggesting there's no determinative source (against the nonconformists, confessional though they may be), for tradition . . .
. . . as perfect as its kind can be,
Rouls down to us the Sacred History:
Which, from the Universal Church receiv’d,
Is try’d, and after for its self believed. (ll. 352–55)
This is rather more like the Eastern Orthodox Church's view of tradition than anything else (even if the Orthodox end up slipping infallibility in through the back door), the so-called Vincentian Canon: "Moreover, in the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all" (Vincent of Lérins, Commonitory ch. II, §6; NPNF Series II Vol. XI, p. 132). It's important to remember that when Vincent wrote this he had in mind the undivided church founded by Christ (giving further impetus to the reasons behind holding the first seven ecumenical councils to be universally and timelessly binding), which is precisely the church Dryden has in mind when he speaks of "first Traditions" that are "nearer to the Spring" (ll. 340, 342).

To put it another way, for Anglicans in general (Dryden included), universality, antiquity, and consensus are inextricably bound together: "first Traditions" stemming from "the reverend Majesty of Age" by "the Universal Church receiv'd" determine for God's people the content of their common faith and practice. Or, to paraphrase Irenaeus, the one church, expanded and scattered in the whole world, yet speaks with one voice, holding the same faith everywhere, as it had been handed down by the blessed apostles and preserved by the succession of the presbyters.

This, then, serves as our only recourse in the face of competing interpretations. For example, arguments over christology: 
We hold, and say we prove from Scripture plain,
That Christ is GOD; the bold Socinian
From the same Scripture urges he’s but MAN.
Now what Appeal can end th’ important Suit;
Both parts talk loudly, but the Rule is mute. (ll. 311–15)
Not just with respect to indifferent matters (but not less than), Dryden goes on to critique the blind sectarianism of both radical and conservative nonconformists. In lines 400–16, we see that when the "Book thus put in every vulgar hand, / Which each presum'd he best cou'd understand," the tried tradition of "Sacred History" became the prey of the "rabble" (i.e., the nonconformists). The guy with the loudest mouth was the one most able to expound Holy Writ ("gifted most that loudest baul'd"). Spirit-led private interpretation of scripture over against reason, learning, tradition, and church discipline (i.e., solo scriptura) became most highly prized:
Study and Pains were now no more their Care;
Texts were explain'd by Fasting, and by Prayer:
This was the Fruit that private Spirit brought;
Occasion'd by great Zeal, and little Thought. (ll. 413–16)
No doubt such criticism is not without its political overtones given Dryden's time and place (the puritans had not too long ago brought civil strife to the nation, and the nonconformists of the day were thus more reprehensible than Catholics). What good is "great Zeal" with "little Thought"? The proof was in the historical pudding. To all such sectarians who continued to act divisively against the established church (remember that religion and politics were on the same continuum back then)—especially the nonconformists—Dryden would say, simply, submit:
. . . after hearing what our Church can say,
If still our Reason runs another way,
That private Reason ’tis more Just to curb,
Than by Disputes the publick Peace disturb.
For points obscure are of small use to learn:
But Common quiet is Mankind’s concern. (ll. 445–50)
In short, with respect to matters inessential to salvation, go with the traditional flow. Embody the latitude with which Jesus calls all, without exception or prejudice, to come to him. For Dryden, this meant to shut up about "obscure" nonconformist or Roman Catholic adiaphora and, if not join the Church of England in her fight against the rising tide of Deism, at least refrain from destabilizing society with disputes that disturb the "publick Peace."

05 June 2014

Ever-Day Has Begun

Not only does the church suffer from an open wound of schism, she is weak, and unsurprisingly so, in this time between the times. The former continues in disobedience; the latter is just the way it is, at least until that final day.

Has anything ever been decreed absolutely by God (when it comes to his contingent creation), without any expectation of meeting certain conditions on our part, without any response on his part to intervening historical contingencies? Taking our cue from the sacred Scriptures, we see that even those decrees (oracles, prophecies, apostolic utterances, etc.) that appear at first glance to be absolute (e.g., Jonah 3:4), are nevertheless laden with conditions (when dealing with humankind in particular).

I submit that the same holds true with respect to the people of God and their calling to be one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.

Put another way, I'm talking about a God who called out of the massa perditionis a Christ (the eternal Son of God who took upon himself our nature), in whom people are united (through baptism and faith), which people are then called to be what they are. Being thus made posse non pecare they are given the tasks laid out in various places throughout the Scriptures of embodying what it means to be corpus Christi, and, by virtue of the indwelling Spirit of God, are thus able to do so. In doing so, they falter, they err, and all the while their loving and patient God struggles with them, responding to them, and continually goads them on toward the unity (of will and purpose and substantiality) that is shared among the Godhead, the great Three in One.

And the reality is, the church continues to fail in this particular calling toward unity set before it, a church of the open wound. So far as this world and our finite perspectives are concerned, Christianity, with all its divisions, worldly alliances, demagoguery, and heterodoxy, does indeed look false. But there's hope with each dawn, which will be fully realized on that final morn when there will be no more night, for the Lord God himself will shine (Rev 22:5); indeed, the city will have "no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb [will be] its light" (Rev 21:23).
No-nightness comes.

Ever-day has begun to encroach upon the lightless land,
and we, lamp-stands all, called to remove the basket covering.
But how is the church "rightly" weak today? Perhaps it's better stated this way: the church has always been weak, and we have the tools to recognize it as such, and therefore we have the tools to better "let our good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise our heavenly Father" (Matt 5:16).

Recently, an essay over at First Things by Matthew Rose on "Karl Barth's Failure" produced some critical responses by a few Protestant bloggers. One, in particular, stood out: David Congdon's "In Defense of Modernity." In brief, Congdon writes, "Put plainly: modernity is Protestant, so to reject modernity is to reject Protestantism. Perhaps that is the underlying message of Rose’s article. Barth finally fails, because he remains, at the end of the day, "a theologian of the Reformation."

And what are some of the contours of that modernity? You can read Congdon's post to see, but I'd like to highlight one—the rise of historical consciousness as a genuinely theological event. He quotes Gerhard Ebeling at length to unpack the point:
The sola fide of the Reformation is directed not only against justification by works and thereby against a legalistic exposition of scripture, not only against mysticism and against multiplication of the revealing reality in the form of saints and against materialization of the revealing reality in the form of sacred objects. But the sola fide has undoubtedly also an anti-sacramental and an anti-clerical point. To the sola fide there corresponds solus Christus. Revelation and the present are separated from each other in such a way that only one bridge remains: the Word alone—and indeed, lest any misunderstanding should arise, the Word interpreted as salvation sola gratia, sola fide. All other bridges have been broken up. The whole system of Catholicism has thereby collapsed. There is no such thing as a simple, matter-of-fact presence of revelation. (emphasis mine; Word and Faith, 35–36)
"There is no such thing as a simple, matter-of-fact presence of revelation." The sola fide of the Reformation implies a rejection of all absolute institutional claims, of all offers of restored taken-for-granted institutional certainty (to paraphrase Peter Berger). But does this mean that no institution is left standing? No. But what type of institution can we then speak of? Extraordinarily weak associations of individuals with no deep commitment. Can such institutions survive? They can and do. (I'm a member of a vibrant parish in a decidedly progressive mainline diocese, and it has much more in common with its traditionalist counterparts in Roman and Lutheran churches, and yet is not filled with parishioners who maintain a posture of alleged certainty. And this phenomena occurs regularly within the old mainline churches, often cast in less traditional forms, whether broad-church or evangelical.)

No doubt the certainty of Rome’s institution has been considerably weakened by historical scholarship and the social sciences. The same holds true, of course, for Protestant institutions as well. Every time the structures of Protestant orthodoxy sought to recapitulate Rome's absolute claim—in order to maintain a "strong" institution, one that has a "foundation of taken-for-granted verities, requiring representatives who exude an air of self-assured certainty," so Berger—those structures have also come tumbling down. It's one of the unintended consequences of the Reformation—the divine and human protest again any absolute claim made for a relative (i.e., socially constructed) reality, which immediately turns directly back on to itself.

What this means is simply this: "For the sake of Christ, take pleasure in your weakness . . . . For when you are weak, then you are strong" (2 Cor 12:10). Knowing you're weak, recognizing the gaping wound in the side of our Lord's bride, reshapes the mission each of us have been called to in this American life.

02 June 2014

Strange Confidence: On the Infallibility of Tradition

Previously we looked at the occasion of Dryden's writing of Religio Laici, and then we looked briefly at his dealings with the Deists. Those "vain, wretched creatures" argued for a rather robust revelation extrapolated from nature alone; but as it turns out (according to Dryden), their arguments themselves were made possible only through the special revelation put forth in God's holy Word. In short, "Reveal'd Religion first inform'd thy Sight, / And Reason saw not, till Faith sprung the Light" (ll. 68–69).

You may also remember that Dryden's approach to matters of faith and reason and tradition was quintessentially Anglican, indeed, Hookerian, and now we'll see how that position played itself out poetically "as a via media . . . maintaining a proper equilibrium between a purely rational theology (Deism) on the one hand and fideism (Catholicism) and voluntarism (Puritanism) on the other."1 Specifically, in this post, Simon's claims for an infallible magisterium in response to a fallible received holy text will come under Dryden's scrutiny.

At the outset, it's worth to note the majority Anglican approach to both tradition and the church's authority2: Both are contingent, and are not absolutely necessary for salvation (but nota bene: the church isn't contingent). The orthodox Anglican view in Dryden's time had been to affirm the truth and sufficiency of a few articles of faith, such as the Apostles' Creed (as understood by the early church Fathers), with all other matters adiaphora ("things indifferent"), and hence liable to differences of opinion. Note, however, that this can be overstated quickly.

The Anglican position by the late seventeenth century and into the "Age of Lights" grew increasingly latitudinarian, and thus shared greater similarity with other Protestant groups in its approach to this matter than it had previously. Note also that just because a particular group of Protestants deem much of the Christian tradition to be a matter of traditions (plural) and thus filled with things indifferent, doesn't mean that its opinions on, say, ecclesiastical polity (or how Christ is present in the Eucharist, or eschatology, etc.) are held lightly or loosely. In other words, this isn't subjectivist theological reductionism for the sake of sidestepping the Catholic solution to the pluralism problem; it's objective salve for the sake of the soul oppressed by the demagogic eclipse of the simple gospel: "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Rom 10:9).

At any rate, Dryden, like his orthodox Anglican forebears, argued that the Scriptures were sufficient unto salvation and that the few articles necessary thereunto (and contained therein) are so simple and self-evident that they are available to all grace-enabled people. Thus he writes that Scripture "speaks it Self, and what it does contain, / In all things needfull to be known, is plain" (ll. 368–69). To show humankind his way, God furnished a "Sacred Volume" in which is contained all that is sufficient and clear to that end (see ll. 121–67). Reason attests to this canon (even if it's limited in its attestation of saving faith), just as it did to the early church Fathers.

Here we come to the crux of Dryden's response to Simon's higher critical history: he asserts the fallibility of tradition, and consequently the necessity of weighing the evidence by the light of reason (not fideistic reliance on tradition), which is exactly what the formulators of that tradition did, having no other option open to them (whether at Jerusalem, Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus, or Chalcedon). While agreeing with Simon that many errors have crept in through the copyists' and translators' fault ("And where Infallibility has fail'd," l. 251), Dryden disagrees with him on how to resolve that tension. He articulates the Catholic argument thus:
Oh but says one, Tradition set aside,
Where can we hope for an unerring Guid?
For since th' original Scripture has been lost,
All Copies disagreeing, maimyd the most,
Or Christian Faith can have no certain ground,
Or Truth in Church Tradition must be found. (ll. 276–81)
To this argument for the primacy of an enduring church tradition to fix the problem (and its necessary correlation—an infallible church), Dryden replies sarcastically:
Such an Omniscient Church we wish indeed;
'Twere worth Both Testaments, and cast in the Creed:
But if this Mother be a Guid so sure,
As can all doubts resolve, all truth secure,
Then her Infallibility, as well
Where Copies are corrupt, or lame, can tell;
Restore lost Canon with as little pains,
As truly explicate what still remains:
Which yet no Council dare pretend to doe;
Unless like Esdras, they cou'd write it new:
Strange Confidence, still to interpret true,
Yet not be sure that all they have explain'd,
Is in the blest Original contain'd. (ll. 282–94)
With no small amount of irony, Dryden remarks that were it true that church tradition be infallible, we would wish indeed for "Such an Omniscient Church." Scripture, however, is another matter. Its adequacy unto salvation rules out the need for such an infallible guide:
More Safe, and much more modest 'tis, to say
God wou'd not leave Mankind without a way:
And that the Scriptures, though not every where
Free from Corruption, or intire, or clear,
Are uncorrupt, sufficient, clear, intire,
In all things which our needfull Faith require.
If others in the same Glass better see
'Tis for Themselves they look, but not for me:
For MY Salvation must its Doom receive
Not from what OTHERS, but what I believe. (ll. 295–304)
Here we have it—the quintessential modern Anglican answer to Simon's higher criticism and its attendant Catholic apology. Such a position finds itself immune to the more destructive (unintended, in the early years) consequences of higher criticism to the faith, given that whatever is necessary for salvation is in Scripture "uncorrupt, sufficient, clear, intire," even if it is "not every where / Free from Corruption, or intire, or clear."3 Added to this is Dryden's commitment to the idea that such fundamentals of the faith must eventually be a matter of fiducia on the part of individuals—one cannot simply rely on what others believe to save her (which he thinks is implied by the Catholic Church's assertion of an infallible magisterium with respect to matters essential to salvation).

Lest we miss it, Dryden's arguing specifically against Simon's apologetic here (re-read ll. 282–94): if indeed the Catholic Church has recourse to an infallible magisterium, why doesn't it "Restore [the] lost Canon" (something that "yet no Council dare pretend to doe," by the way)? What "Strange Confidence" indeed, to pontificate infallibly on scriptural matters that the pontiff itself is unsure are even contained in the original autographs. It's much more modest to conclude reasonably that "God wou'd not leave Mankind without a way" and that that way would reflect the reality of the world as it is, rather than so much wishful thinking.

I must quickly point out that Dryden, however, cannot be put to service in the ranks of modern Western Christianity, with all its repudiation of the catholic tradition in favor of solo scriptura. After providing his answer to Simon's apologetic (which apparently didn't hold for terribly long—remember he converted to Catholicism by 1687), he turns his attention to the Puritans and their heirs, the Non-Conformists (at the time of the Restoration, these constituted everyone not under the rubric of the Church of the England). We'll dig into all this more deeply when we look at the next portion of the poem.

The Anglicans are, by definition, governed by tradition, which tradition they deem closest to the apostolical tradition, and which is best ensconced in Scripture, the Apostles' Creed, and the seven ecumenical councils. This is, of course, basic to the Anglican position that its churches are more robustly catholic than many of Rome's churches.

This is not to suggest that therefore the Anglican church becomes an end in itself, for then we run the risk of making sacred an open wound. It is to suggest, with Dryden, a "much more modest way": God's breath-out word, much like his Son the Word, is a "Common Largess to Mankind," not more for Roman Catholics "than every Man design'd." The "welcome" good news, the simple heralding that God's Messiah is now king of kings and lord of lords, having begun to make all things new through his victory over Sin and Death, "is in the Letter found." In a fragmented state of ecclesial affairs, there is no one "Carrier," like, for example, the Roman Catholic Church, that's "Commission'd to expound" (ll. 364–67). To suggest otherwise would be to assume, . . .
                                 . . . with wondrous Art,
Themselves to be the whole, who are but part
Of that vast Frame, the Church: . . . . (ll. 358–60)
So much for Dryden's response to the "father of higher criticism"—Richard Simon—and the Roman Catholic apology he employed alongside his hermeneutical work. I don't find Dryden's response groundbreaking or anything, but it is pretty impressive in that it's cast entirely in the "plain and natural" yet "majestic" heroic couplet (see last paragraph of Religio's preface for Dryden's explanation for using this style).

In the next and final post, I'll wrap it up with Dryden's commendation to go with the traditional flow in matters inessential to salvation.

1 Thomas H. Fujimura, "Dryden's Religio Laici: An Anglican Poem," PMLA, 76.3 (June 1961): 205-217, at 207. Fujimura's essay is especially important when discussing the "theography" of Dryden, who converted to Catholicism by 1687. What part does Religio Laici (1682) play in Dryden's journey of faith? Fujimura's answer to the "widely accepted view that it is a Catholic poem in spirit" is that this is "completely unsound, and that [Religio Laici] is, in most respects, a conventional work of Anglican apologetics" (205).

2 We've already discussed the typical Anglican understanding of how faith relates to reason, i.e., that the two are not opposed but rather complementary. Neither anti-rationalistic nor rationalistic (though the latter certainly was a temptation, given that many of the Deists came out of the Church of England), Anglicans typically recognized the limitations of reason in the realm of faith, but they also understood that it played its part in the apprehension of God's Word and the formulation of conclusions "by force of reason" (to use Hooker's words).

Beyond our scope here is the possibility that by Dryden's time, and quite probably in reaction to the misuse of reason in the direction of Deism and Socinianism, churchmen in general began to follow the Cartesian divorce of the spiritual and natural realms. With the rise of early modern empirical investigation, "reason was delegated more and more to the domain of natural knowledge, and the domain of religion was handed over to faith" (Fujimura, 206).

3 This principle, incidentally, was adopted by all the early higher critics who remained Protestant churchmen: They had no intent of acting destructively against the faith. But they thought that such criticism is the appropriate tool for investigating the historical ground and theoretical formulation of theology. While personal faith could not be harmed in this manner, theology, which is a matter of public and objective expression, requires the full arsenal of critical scholarship.

21 May 2014

Vain, Wretched Creatures

Having discussed briefly the occasion of Dryden's writing of Religio Laici, we now get to turn to the piece itself.

Remember that Simon's Critical History raised the ire of both traditionalist Catholics and Protestants. It met flames in Paris, prompted by Jacques-Bénigne Bousset, and the few copies that made it to England in 1678 received just as "warm" a welcome.

It's not clear as to when or how deeply Dryden became familiar with Simon's work (was it as late as 1682 when the first English translation was produced?), but in any event, he set out to write Religio in order to reason his readers "into Truth"—a particularly Anglican version of it, in contrast to the claims of Deists, papists, and the non-conformists surrounding him. True, reason is dim light (l.1), but nevertheless it is a guide (l. 7); it simply pales before the blinding light of supernatural revelation (ll. 10–11). Put another way, Dryden's view of faith and reason and tradition is quintessentially Hookerian; that is to say, there is a hierarchical ranking when approaching matters of faith and practice: (1) “What Scripture doth plainly deliver”; (2) That which may be concluded “by force of reason”; and (3) That which “the church by her ecclesiastical authority” thinks and defines as true.
How can the less the Greater comprehend?
Or finite Reason reach Infinity?
For what cou’d Fathom GOD were more than He. (ll. 39–41)
Starting with the caveat that finite reason cannot reach the infinite (a version perhaps of the Reformed notion of finitum non capax infiniti), Dryden begins his section against the Deists. We won't spend much time covering this part of the poem, suffice to say that he thinks the Deists are self-refuting—the truths they assert are arrived at only after faith had shown the way for their reason:
These Truths are not the product of the Mind,
but dropt from Heaven, and of a Nobler kind.
Reveal'd Religion first inform'd thy Sight,
And Reason saw not, till Faith sprung the Light.
Hence all their Natural Worship takes the Source:
'Tis Revelation what thou thinks Discourse. (ll. 66–71)
A fine example of early modern presuppositional apologetics, yes? He then wonders if the Deists think they're all smarter than Plato, Aristotle, Plutarch, Seneca, or Cicero, none of whom saw these truths so well? The implication is clear: the Deists are borrowing from revealed religion in their extrapolations from the natural world. "Vain, wretched Creature, how art thou misled / To think thy Wit these God-like notions bred!" (ll. 64–65)

Dryden then moves on to assert how in the end the Deists stand lost, forsaking as they have all the essentials of salvation revealed to us in Holy Scripture (the incarnation, the sacrifice, the atonement, etc.). And then he allows the Deist one objection: the problem of pluralism. What about those who never "saw the Light" (l. 183) of God's Messiah revealed in the scriptures? Dryden's answer is fairly typical among the latitudinarians of his day (which is a widely misunderstood term, not least since its meaning changed over time; cf. Griffin's Latitudinarianism in the Seventeenth-Century Church of England). He has hope, hope that God's "boundless Wisedom, boundless Mercy, may / Find ev’n for those be-wildred Souls, a way" (ll. 189–88). It's the chief objection to the Christian faith in an increasingly spherical and undiscovered world in a heliocentric solar system; so Dryden wonders, "Who knows how far transcending Goodness can / Extend the Merits of that Son to Man?" (ll. 194–95) But reason ("Charity") alone doesn't afford him this speculation, St. Paul grants him the impetus as well: In his paraphrase of Romans 2:12–16, Dryden sees a direct correlation to those . . .
. . . who follow’d Reasons Dictates right;
Liv’d up, and lifted high their Natural Light;
With Socrates may see their Maker’s Face,
While Thousand Rubrick-Martyrs want a place. (208–11)
Perhaps this pushes the envelope a little (not least in his Catholic or Remonstrant interpretation of Rom 2), but that many theologians and thinkers during this time faced the new pluralism and answered it similarly is a matter of fact.

Next time, we'll dive into Dryden's "digression" about Simon's Critical History and his Roman Catholic claims.

19 May 2014

Finding the Pure Language of God

One of the intents of Jesuit priest Richard Simon back in the 1670s–80s was apologetic in nature: the Old and New Testaments as they've come down to us could not bear the weight of the formal cause or principle of the Protestant Reformation, sola scriptura (while both scripture and tradition work together in the life of the church, scripture wields the primary authority, and thus is the final arbiter in matters of faith and practice), which had already by the time of the seventeenth century come to bear much schismatic rot as well as devolved more and more into the practice of solo scriptura (tradition has no bearing upon the church’s interpretation of scripture). Simon wrote:
There is no one, Jew or Christian, who does not recognize that these Scriptures were the pure language of God. . . . but since men were the guardians of the sacred books, indeed of all other books too, and since the first originals have been lost, it is in all ways impossible that there have not been many changes, as much because of the length of time as by the negligence of copyists. (Histoire Critique du Vieux Testament, Rotterdam: 1678, p. 1)
By raising doubts in particular about the integrity of the Hebrew text—due to the redacted emendations of the public scribes who came along after the original authors—thus allowing for certain inaccuracies in the minutiae of detail (such as didactic abbreviated renditions of certain events, dischronology, etc.), Simon concluded that scripture should not be viewed as presenting an inerrant chronological history, setting forth the full history of Israel. As an offshoot of this conclusion, he sought to expose the Christian’s need for a teaching authority upon which these doubts could be put to rest. Enter: the magisterium of the Catholic Church (or the collegiate episcopal magisterium of the Orthodox Church). Such an authority could helpfully clear away the crisis of interpretation caused by this thicket of textual problems revealed through the application of proper (higher/source critical) hermeneutics. Protestants, by contrast, did not have any sure means with which to restore the "lost originals" of scripture or to know which translation or interpretation most closely approximated the Bible's "original" texts.

Woodbridge's 1685 ed. of Histoire
In the debates that followed—both with traditionalist Protestants and Catholics and radicals like Jean Le Clerc (the father of Red Letter Christianity), Simon stood in the much more moderate position of appropriating Augustine (who held like the traditionalists that the Spirit accommodated the cultures and language of men to convey God’s meaning—but without error), arguing for divine inspiration, but then pushing the envelope toward higher criticism with his views about the "errors" contained in the church’s received holy text. With respect to intellectual history, it’s easy to underestimate Simon’s reach and influence: Modern biblical criticism in many ways started with Simon in France and only then worked its way into Germany. Ask most Old or New Testament scholars today in what geographical locale the majority of their studies focused. Germany will most likely be their answer. France may not even show up.

Even though much of what Simon wrote wasn't necessarily new (e.g., Ezra's denial of total Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch; Cappel's work on vowel points and accents in the Hebrew text; Morin, who followed Cappel in his depreciation of the Masoretic text; and La Peyrère's pre-Adamite theory, to name a few), he nevertheless stands out precisely because of his modern (Enlightenment) position: Unlike earlier commentators who failed to exegete apart from their church's doctrinal presuppositions, Simon would, in "perfect neutrality," simply translate and interpret unbeholden to any particular tradition (it's amazing how long this sort of approach has enjoyed influence).

But back to the main point of this post, which is really just a longish introduction to get to some poetry, namely, John Dryden's Religio Laici. In 1682, right on the heels of the English translation of Simon's Histoire, Dryden wrote Religio, dedicating the piece to "an ingenious young Gentleman my Friend; upon his Translation of The Critical History of the Old Testament, compos'd by the learned Father Simon." In the poem, Dryden takes on Deism as well as Roman Catholicism, in favor of Anglicanism. I want to get much deeper into his response in coming posts, particularly as it relates to the issues raised above about textual instability and ecclesial authority.

But for now, whether or not you think the text of scripture is unstable, inerrant, or whatever, on what basis do you place your belief about scripture’s authority (assuming you have this belief)? The answers, depending (perhaps ironically) on your tradition, are invariably: the authority of the church (whether magisterium, creed, or confession), the testimony of the Holy Spirit, the testimony of the scriptures themselves, the basic historical reliability of the texts, and any combination of these. Did I miss any?

Dryden's Religio Laici and the Question of Authority: Series Overview

"Finding the Pure Language of God"

"Vain, Wretched Creatures"

"Strange Confidence: On the Infallibility of Tradition"

"With Great Zeal, and Little Thought"


08 May 2014

Reading Genesis 1–2 with Richard Averbeck

In Reading Genesis 1–2: An Evangelical Conversation, Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages Richard Averbeck wrote that his attempt to present an "honest reading of Gen 1 from a literary, exegetical, historical, and theological point of view" is not "a matter of somehow finding more time in Gen 1 to accommodate the vast ages of evolutionary science." Affirming something like a division of labor, Averbeck noted that as Old Testament scholars "we are not scientists," even if the "discoveries in physical sciences most certainly cast a long shadow over the conversation."

Averbeck picked up that conversation again this past semester at TEDS, first by briefly walking through his current interpretative work on Genesis 1–2, and then by fielding a few questions concerning the ramifications of that work.

At the outset, Averbeck noted that exegetical debates on this topic often produce far more heat than light. It seems that no matter how irenic, how careful, one's interpretation is, it will polarize and offend.

Averbeck then recalled how for many years he had taken a literal day approach to the Genesis 1 creation narrative (and the often-attendant view that creation occurred recently), but the more he came across the various creation accounts throughout scripture (e.g., Psalm 104), the more he realized these other inspired accounts actually can help us to better work through how we should be reading Genesis 1–2.

Beyond the biblical canon, Averbeck brought his knowledge of ancient Near Eastern texts and culture to bear on the discussion. In answer to the anxiety this may cause some evangelicals, Averbeck argued that knowing the world in which this portion of the scriptures were written, including its own pagan versions of creation, helps to shed light on the biblical text in ways that both clarifies its context but also challenges many of the common assumptions of that ancient culture (for example, that Israel's God Yahweh alone is the creator God of the cosmos).

Averbeck likened Genesis 1:1 to a title, a snapshot, a kind-of introductory remark about God's creative activity, while the rest of the narrative (up to Gen. 2:3) unpacks that fact in terms of the observable world, that is, from a human perspective. It's driving home the point, in short, that "Yahweh did this." The days are also better seen as literary constructs, Averbeck said, rather than literal, 24-hour days, in order to bring home the importance of the pattern of 6/7—six days of work and a day of sabbath, both as a reflection of God's creative work and as a witness of faithfulness to the one, true God of Israel in the surrounding pagan culture.

Another particularly interesting point had to do with Averbeck's take on where the "image and likeness" of God is located in humankind. Too often we push the image of God into to the realm of metaphysics, or hyper-spiritualize it, Averbeck said. But it's concrete, rooted in this physical world. To be created in the image of God is to be erected on earth as the creator God's statue, meant to extend his wise dominion.

Also of crucial importance to Averbeck's view is his insistence on a historical Adam and Eve, without which, he argues, significant portions of scripture would make little sense (for example, Rom. 5). He noted that the "historical markers" in Genesis 2, such as the rivers Tigris and Euphrates, point us in the direction of seeing the first pair as historical figures.

Averbeck then wrapped up with what he deemed to be one of scripture's major themes, introduced in Genesis 4:26 (the end of the section beginning at Gen 2:4): It's the only solution given in the midst of the plight we see unfolding in these early chapters of scripture, and it is one that is often highlighted throughout the canon: "Calling upon the name of the LORD." The rest of scripture essentially tells the story of those who do and don't follow that charge, eventually culminating in the one who did so perfectly, even unto the point of death, for the sake of the whole world.

05 May 2014

Paul and Union with Christ via Con Campbell

This is not a book review (I have to read it in full!). That may come later.

One of the perks at work consists in attending presentations or lectures that strike my fancy, schedule permitting. Last week, Associate Professor of New Testament Con Campbell gave a presentation on his award-winning book Paul and Union with Christ (read the TOC and Introduction).

In this book, Campbell offers (according to the publisher) "a thorough exegetical exploration of the Greek phrases Paul used to express the idea of union, or participation, with Christ, and injects solid biblical insight into ancient and recent debates on the topic. His careful handling of the Greek text flows into theological and pastoral reflection on the importance of the believer’s union with Christ, and thus also serves as a helpful reference tool for students, scholars, and pastors to consult its treatment of any particular instance of any phrase or metaphor that relates to union with Christ in St. Paul's writings."

During the presentation, Campbell noted that since the Reformation the phrase "union with Christ" was often thought to have only one meaning. But he demurs, arguing that the phrase has multiple emphases, depending on its context. They are:
  • Union: spiritual, nuptial, modeled on the mutual indwelling (perichoresis) of the Trinity—it's real (though spiritual, i.e., effected by the Spirit) and corporate
  • Participation: sharing in the events of Christ’s mission—law-fulfilling, dying, rising, ascending, ruling, etc.
  • Identification: belonging to the realm of Christ rather than the old realm of Adam
  • Incorporation: built together into the body of Christ, the temple of God
Campbell was subsequently asked if he came to any conclusions while working on this book that surprised him. He answered:
  1. How Paul's "union with Christ" is inextricably and incessantly trinitarian. The Father is in Christ and by the Spirit we are in Christ. In other words (if I take his meaning correctly), "union with Christ" is shorthand for "union with the Holy Trinity."
  3. On the issues of justification and imputation: Are we justified via imputation or union? Campbell said he held to the former prior to this study. But the Pauline corpus clearly assumes that we are justified via our union with Christ—not through imputation (see pp. 399ff.).

    Where, then, does this leave the doctrine of imputation? It still has a place theologically, argues Campbell, in that it protects the idea that the righteousness with which we are given is an alien righteousness, i.e., not self-generated or infused. But "en Christo" allows us to better understand that Christ's righteousness now belongs to all those who are in union with him. To be sure, there is a legal and forensic element to justification (so long as we don't construe it as a material transaction in which righteousness can be passed around a courtroom), but primarily it has to do with a declared status—a vindicated status. Being raised with Christ, we now share in that vindication.

    Campbell went on to say that a lot of the contemporary debate is built on false dichotomies and mischaracterization. He found that for the early Reformers (not least both Luther and Calvin) it was obvious that justification is mediated via union with Christ (He cited Mark Seifrid's article "Luther, Melanchthon, and Paul on the Question of Imputation" as a helpful and clarifying work in this regard). In short . . .
    Imputation ought to be understood as the unmerited reception of a righteousness that belongs wholly to another, and this reception of 'alien' righteousness is facilitated through the 'un-alienation' of two parties; once believers are joined to Christ, his righteousness is shared with them. In this way, imputation and union with Christ coexist, with one flowing from the other. (401)
Check out Campbell's own take on his work:

08 April 2014

Reading Genesis 1 Roundup

In the weeks building up to and after the "debate" between Bill Nye and Ken Ham, my enduring series on John Walton's reading Genesis 1 responsibly has seen an influx of clickers. So, to make navigating it easier, here's a summary of the series, along with an addendum or two.
  1. In the Beginning: On translating culture and language
  2. Propositions 1–2: The ancient cosmogony that underlies Genesis 1 is function-oriented.
  3. Props 3–4: The word "create" in Genesis 1 primarily concerns assigning functions (not making materials appear).
  4. Props 5–6: Days 1–3 of Genesis 1 establish functions, and Days 4–6 install functionaries.
  5. Props 7–8: Divine rest occurs in a temple, and the cosmos (particularly the garden of Genesis 1) is a temple.
  6. Props 9–10: The seven days of Genesis 1 relate to the cosmic temple inauguration; they decidedly do not concern material origins.
  7. Props 11–13: This "functional" reading of Genesis 1 offers the most literal reading; other readings tend to go too far or not far enough, which can be avoided if we pay attention to the fact that the difference between origin accounts in scripture and science is metaphysical in nature.
  8. Props 14–15: God as "creator" and "sustainer" means almost the same thing. And Intelligent Design theory is all about purpose; by definition, it isn't science.
  9. Prop 16: Scientific explanations of origins (like, e.g., evolutionary theory) can be viewed in light of purpose, and if so, are unobjectionable.
  10. Prop 17: The theology proper (doctrine of God) that emerges on this reading of Genesis 1 is stronger, not weaker.
  11. Prop 18: Science education in public can only be (or ought to be!) neutral regarding the purpose of creation.
  12. Land of the Lost: Nutshell
When compiling this list, I was also reminded of the hubbub that occurred around the time I was reading through Walton's and others' works on this subject: Bruce Waltke taken to task for his comments about how the (evangelical) church will be destined for "cult" status if, in the course of time, all the data points decisively to something akin to the neo-Darwinian synthesis and the church still denies that reality. I followed this up with "Strawmen: A Fundamentalist's Trojan Horse."

24 January 2014

Photography Friday (10)

On this Photography Friday we're traveling from Eisleben to Erfurt. Our Lutheran pilgrims should like this one.

As I mentioned in passing in another photography post, no, I'm not wealthy. In the early 2000s, my wife and I had the privilege of going overseas a few times, mostly to Europe, to work on a history project with Ligonier Ministries. Basically, I served as her grip, while she shot tons of B-roll.

A few items of note I remember from this particular part of the trip:
  • Germany has a very fine selection of local wines from which to choose.
  • We met and were guided by international pilgrimage guide and now author Arthur Pahl on this trip (he went on to guide us on our subsequent three trips). One of the sweetest men you'll meet. "Pine Tree!" (sorry, inside joke.)
  • The High Relief Judensau on the facade of the Wittenberg Town Church, as well as the new monument beneath it.
  • Seeing R.C. Sproul teach on the (supposed) precise spot where Luther himself prayed, "Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen." For R.C., this was clearly a true spiritual pilgrimage. In both theology and demeanor, R.C. deliberately, if not a little unconsciously, seemed (at least up to that time) to model himself after Luther.
Per the usual, all of these photos were taken on a Canon AE-1 with E100VS (slide film). Click on an image to get a closer look. We're moving from north to south.

Stadtkirche Wittenberg (Town and Parish Church of St. Mary's)
It features a triptych by Lucas Cranach the Elder.

St. Andrews Church, Eisleben
Luther preached the last four sermons of his life in 1546 in this pulpit.

Site of Luther's birth house, Eisleben

Wartburg Castle
The Castle Keep (a bergfried tower)

St. Elizabeth's Boudoir (mosaics done ca. 1900), Wartburg

Augustinian Cloister, Erfurt
After 1505, Luther lived in the monastery and in 1507
he became priest in Erfurt Cathedral.

22 January 2014

On Certainty Mixed with Doubt

A recent rabbit led me to a trail upon which an old, forgotten (by me) book had been assigned by its author for a systematic theology class back in 2002. A portion of it had to do with "cognitive rest," or the coming to a certain position “because of the presence of something very much like a feeling . . . . It is the sense that now one can commit himself to the belief, that he can 'live' with it” (John Frame, Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, 152–53). Regarding Christian belief, coming to a cognitive rest “is achieving a ‘godly sense of satisfaction’ with the message of Scripture” (153). Cognitive rest means no more struggling against the truth but rather embracing it.

In the end, cognitive rest, wrought by the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit, is not new revelation but rather “the Spirit’s work [that] illumines and confirms the revelation already given” (156).1 Professor Frame concludes this brief discussion with the recognition that it does concede “some truth to the subjectivist position: I cannot regard any belief as justified unless it accords with my subjective inclinations . . . . Thus the godly sense of satisfaction may be defined in terms of Scripture. What satisfies me is what I believe Scripture warrants. Or it may be defined situationally as a feeling that I have understood the facts. The three perspectives are one!” (161–62).

This last sentence is of course an example of the main reason why many disagree with tri-perspectivalism: all the perspectives are said to collapse into the existential.

But maybe the good professor feels the weight of the inevitable relativity inherent in any human society, and thus tri-perspectivalism is an attempt to (re)construct an institution worth handing down, namely, a foundation for thinking and acting in this modern world? I'd suggest tentatively that those who kick hard against these goads are those who see the radical contingency of this present world and yet refuse to think that they are affected by it, that their deductive dogma renders them untouchable. Maybe the tri-perspectivalist has gone through an epistemological crisis—which crisis actually enabled tri-perspectivalism to begin with? What crisis would that be?

In a word, it is pluralism. Pluralism brings along with it the imperative of many choices, and along with that comes—necessarily—uncertainty. How do we face the notion that everything we do and believe is historically located, that the institution of religion itself is socially constructed and therefore unable to be known with any epistemological certitude? While this modern world seems to actually create the necessity of a presuppositionalism or fideism, I have yet to see the correlation between tri-perspectivalism and a presuppositionalism of the more dogmatic sort. In other words, tri-perspectivalism does not allow for the mere dogmatic (and axiomatic) assertion (of Christianity) for which many presuppositionalists are known.

Still, the question remains: with respect to the Christian faith, can anything be known without even a hint of doubt? Most Christians would say yes. Some might say the Word of God is certain (a certainty wrought by the internal testimony of the Spirit, no doubt). When it tells us something clearly, that something we are to hold with certainty. Also, it does appear that doubt is castigated at some points in Scripture—for example, those instances in Scripture where “unbelief” is found wanting as an excuse on Judgment Day.

Peter Berger (I know, I know) writes in “Protestantism and the Quest for Certainty” that pluralism affects us deeply in relation to how we believe (not what).2 “Pluralism ensures that socialization processes are not uniform and, consequently, that the view of reality is much less firmly held. Put differently, certainty is now much harder to come by." At any rate, Berger argues that the Reformation inadvertently created this situation. How? Because of its principle of individual conscience ("Here I stand . . ."), which carried with it the potential for an ever-expanding variety of Christian groupings. “History is always the arena of unintended consequences." Eventually, every religious tradition had to come to terms with the simple fact that it no longer controlled a captive population of adherents. The modern is faced with a plethora of choices, one of which is leaving a particular tradition only to try on another. Thus, nothing can be taken for granted any longer, which essentially means that all claims to truth are relativized. However, we are not left with a crass open-ended and unchecked relativism, nor are we forced into some variant of “absolutist retrenchment.” There is a middle way, and it expresses itself in “prototypically Protestant . . . language: . . . sola fide.” Berger argues further that once we recognize this situation, attempting to construct taken-for-granted institutions in this modern world would, over time, be difficult to fake. To him, the Protestant principle of sola fide implies a rejection of all absolute claims, “ipso facto of all offers of restored taken-for-granted certainty. It insists that the believer should live by faith alone—and that, by God’s grace, this is actually possible." The reader may see how this substantiates, for example, Esther Meeks’ view of certainty (that it cannot be without doubt), as opposed to Frame's tri-perspectival answer to the certainty question: Some things are to be known without doubt, because the Bible tells us that in some cases doubt is wrong. But consider the following from Berger, which I should “know” to be misguided, yet feel otherwise (I quote him at length):
Conventional Christian language maintains that there is a contradiction between faith and lack of faith, belief and unbelief. The implication is that unbelief is sinful. This has never been very persuasive to me. God has not exactly made it easy for us to believe in him, and, it seems to me, a just God will not hold it against us if we don’t manage the exercise. Be that as it may, it seems more plausible to me to propose a contradiction not between belief and unbelief but between belief and knowledge. If we know something, there is no reason to believe; conversely, if we say that we believe something, we are implying that we don’t know. A world that is taken for granted is one in which people know (more accurately, think they know) what is true; they don’t have to believe. Putting the contradiction in this way, one must then ask: Just what do we know when it comes to religion?
His answer is simply that what we affirm, we must affirm modestly and with no pretense of certitude. We ought to be a people “unsure of [our]selves, groping for a few glimpses of truth to hold onto, even where it seems that the roof is about to fall in.” The reason behind this posture is the paradox between Christ and culture. While Christians believe in the resurrection of Jesus and in his glorious return, that glory is obviously not yet. “The triumphant Christ is still coming; we are still in the aeon of the kenotic Jesus." The church therefore pronounces this coming triumph, yet it still bears the marks of Jesus’ kenosis.

I find this hard to deny. We gaze upon the conquered Promised Land, yet we wander in the wilderness, exiled, and in great need of repentance. Nonetheless, contra Berger, is there not even one object in which we can place our confidence that nudges up against something like certitude? Is it not this message of coming triumph? Whatever one’s views about inerrancy, are not the promises of God through Jesus the singular item that mysteriously comes to be believed with little doubt precisely because of God’s gracious call? Maybe everything else contained in the annals of historic, Christian orthodoxy should be under “permanent reflection,” but the coming triumph? So what if, for example, the kingdom of Solomon was greatly exaggerated, that doesn’t mark the difference between sheep and goats. What makes one a Christian, apparently, is personal trust, flowing from Word and sacrament, in he who is “able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted” (2 Tim. 1:12). In short, it is he who trusts and obeys God's Christ by the power of his Spirit. Anything resembling certainty with little or no doubt must be found there—yes, through (not in) the institution of the church, the religious experiences she gives, and the authority of the sacred text she proclaims.

To be sure, we still must exercise faith through such institutions (for such is the means by which beliefs and values are transmitted from generation to generation3), but taking them for granted is untenable is this modern world. All of them have been weakened: the certainty of church institutions by historical scholarship and the social sciences; the certainty of inner experience by psychology and the sociology of knowledge; the certainty of the biblical text by the findings of biblical criticism. Tri-perspectivalism perhaps attempts to prepare us for this very feeling of vertigo that comes when we are faced with the weakening of our beloved taken-for-granted institutions. Berger’s theory of the social construction of reality does much the same thing, though perhaps more consistently. Could the two be close cousins? Both, after all, are able to relativize the relativizers. Both undermine dogmatic assertions by recognizing the role of self and situation in the gaining of “knowledge.” Both affirm the existence of an absolute (i.e., the truth) that is knowable only through (to use a once-familiar phrase in Frame's classes) the participation of the other perspectives. Both force us to take a stand in the face of pluralism and place our trust in Providence, even while we approach most things as milquetoast “uncertainty-wallahs.”4

Our faith, then, is that God is really and truly present in the world, whether we receive him or not (much like the the proclamation of his Word and the administration of the sacraments). The same can be said for the other institutions mentioned above (the church, the experience, the text). The hope is held but cautiously. As a community of imperfectly glorified people, can we do much better? Maybe in the end sola fide does stand as the only non-Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox answer to this peculiarly modern situation. But while Saint Paul had much to distrust, underlying this contingency was a trustworthy God: “I know in whom I have believed.” I think we can say this too, while at the same time recognizing that our tradition is not immune to criticism, or put another way, to the relativity intrinsic to any social construction. To pretend that it can be immune, is nothing more than entering the world of self-delusion. This is not the Emersonian disdain for any and all institutions; rather, this is a simple affirmation that God, and God alone, is sure. All else is subject to change.

What other option is there in this time between the times?

1 Similarly, Kierkegaard wrote that there is “only one proof for the truth of Christianity—the inward proof, argumentum spiritus sancti.” He then cited 1 John 5:9–10 to substantiate this.

2 From The Christian Century, 115.23 (Aug 26, 1998).

3 In case the reader is wondering, so Berger: “Yes, such institutions . . . can survive—and sometimes they show a surprising vitality." All this means is that our choices must be deliberate. No longer can we unthinkingly ‘go with the flow.’

4 This idiosyncratic phrase is Berger’s way to describe himself and others who by free choice belong to “weak” religious institutions, that is, those institutions that are not founded upon taken-for-granted verities, and which are entered and left voluntarily. See also my description above about Christ being in paradox with culture.

Design by Free WordPress Themes | Bloggerized by Lasantha