I met Keith Mascord in social media streams and I have just read his book ‘A Restless Faith – Leaving Fundamentalism in a quest for God‘. It is a biography – ‘my life so far’. As a former lecturer at Moore Theological College he was judged ‘unsound’ by the hierarchy in the ArchDiocese of Sydney and ultimately following a number of incidents wrote an open letter which was something of an issue is Sydney as it asked some serious questions about the way the Diocese is run and directions being taken.
The Archdiocese has seemingly moved in its own way over time. As a teenager growing up in Sydney I was aware that Sydney had the ‘true faith’ and their were a number of pale reflections around. I know that when I returned from Papua New Guinea I found that the Church had shifted and I had shifted in such a way that I no longer belonged. The rise of the Matthias culture, the Power of the Jenson factor, and a clear distinction between the redeemed and the lost had become issues. The tract ‘Two Ways to Live’ whose summary pasted here (from Matthias Press) is a central part of the message.
Of course the basic summary is a cornerstone of the preached message, and probably not a lot different to the message (at least in part) proclaimed Billy Graham, John Wesley, Ignatius Loyola, or Anselm. The difficulty I find with it, is probably not it itself, but what it does not say, and what it does not embrace, and how little it embraces the other.
The New Testament uses several salvation metaphors.
- There is the justification metaphor, which finds something of the legal declaration of innocence.
- The is the redemption metaphor, which sees some of the freedom of the slave being purchased by the master.
- There is the sanctification metaphor, whereby we are not Holy yet, but through the work of the Spirit of God we are being transformed from one degree of glory to another.
None of these metaphors is sufficient on its own, and even together they do not tell the whole story.
I have greater problems with some of the rest of the baggage that goes with the two ways to live.
The theory of Propositional Revelation. Roughly it goes like this, and I know this is crude, ‘God reveals himself in propositions, these propositions are contained in Holy Scripture, therefore the Holy Scripture is the inerrant word of God’. D B Knox, long time Principal of Moore College was a long-standing proponent of this theory. It is probably largely held by many in the Archdiocese of Sydney as being gospel, if not the Gospel. Many of us find this a long way short of satisfying, or even helpful.
God reveals is probably the core question. In the world of mortals when one person meets another, they reveal something of each other, and sometimes we reflect those things we know and appreciate, and sometimes true friendship grows and even great love. Sometimes that is an instantaneous thing, however mostly it is a process, a process which has leaps forward and steps back, and simply goes along sometimes dancing, sometimes, running, and sometimes a slow crawl. People do not reveal themselves in propositions. People reveal themselves in what they do, in what they say, in how they dress and present themselves, and these things are part, and only part of what goes on. I find it very unsatisfying to consider that God would be less rather than more than this. Does the sunrise reveal the Glory of God, or is God the revealing and the sunrise the instrument of revelation?
I also have a problem with that which follows this doctrine, namely some idea that there is no revelation outside of Scripture, and that God is somehow constrained (and/or contained in) to or by the library of the canonical books of the Bible. It is clear these days that we apprehend truth on many spheres, in many ways. Some of these things would seem, in part at least, not in Scripture. Darwin has proposed a Theory of Evolution and many, myself included, feel that there is good evidence and for the moment that is probably our best theory to date. Of course there are those who will then turn to the first chapter of Genesis and argue that this is on fact the true account of the process and therefore Darwin is wrong. Currently, I think it would be fair to say that Darwin’s theory is most often taught as fact, which I think is a little less satisfying. In a world that hungers for fact and for certainty, I guess that is the easy road, and allows people to comfort of knowing, rather than exploring. By and large the Bible condones slavery, whereas most of us today would regard that as unacceptable, and clearly counter to purposes of God. There are numbers of examples in similar areas, which I will not cite for the moment.
The issue that this leads to is the understanding of Scripture. Article 6/39 tells us that Scripture contains all things necessary for us the believe. Article 20/39 uses the phrase ‘God’s Word written’ in discussing the authority of the Church. How do we understand Scripture. This has been explained to me in a variety of ways. Firstly I grew up on the understanding that the Bible was ‘inspired by God’, and I take that to mean that the people who wrote the words were writing because their experience required them to write, however it was very definitely they who did the writing. The next theory I encountered was that the Bible was the ‘expired word of God’. This was not to suggest that it had passed its use by date but rather the writer held the pen and God framed each stroke the pen made, or in other words God is the actual author. The next option I was given was that Scripture represents the record of the revelation of God as accepted by the Church, which is to suggest that people experienced something of God and wrote about the experience – the Church has sifted through the collection of these records and deemed some of them canonical. I find this the most satisfying option for me intellectually. So of Article 20/39 I am left to ask, and when you reflect you realise the three references made to the Bible here are ‘Gods’s Word written’, ‘Scripture’, and ‘Holy Writ’, and one may conclude that the terms reflect the literary style and do not force a decision as to how the understand Scripture. Indeed to return to Article 6/39 there seems a clear understanding that not everything in the Old Testament is binding, or indeed moral.
Now when we look at the person Jesus it seems to me we find a fairly radical preacher, whose concern is not for the code, the tradition, or the law, but for the people. Rather than being liberated, people were held captive by the requirements of the law. It concerns me that the results of the propositional revelation argument ultimately end up in a legislative setting, where justification is the only acceptable salvation metaphor, and our concern is about who is out or in, and like cricket umpires and we end up being the contemporary Pharisees, rather than liberating Jesus people.
I believe that there are as many ways of being Christian as there are Christians, and that we can seek to codify and legislate, or also we can seek to reflect something of the heart and mind of Jesus in our own lives, and a creative way that allows our best to shine, and sure we won’t always get it right, and we won’t always get it wrong, but we will always have the humility to learn and the tenacity to have another go.
I believe that God reveals and we respond to what we grasp of revelation. I don’t think that the ultimate issue is about salvation and damnation, but rather love and other.
I don’t like Apple for the i-universe it has created with i-pads, i-phones, i-clouds, iii . I don’t like pork-barreling politicians who believe that voters only interest is financial self-interest whilst they are the ultimate altruists, and I don’t like the focus on self implied as the reason for responding to God implied in Two Ways to live.
We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark;
the real tragedy of life is when adults are afraid of the light.