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Saturday, 24 November 2012

Archbishop Rowan Atkinson?

The tragic state of the Church of England
This week has revealed the sorry state of the Anglican church like rarely before. After the vote went against ordaining women bishops, the Archbishop, Rowan Williams, said this, quoted from the BBC website:

"Whatever the motivations for voting yesterday, whatever the theological principle on which people acted and spoke, the fact remains that a great deal of this discussion is not intelligible to our wider society - worse than that, it seems that we are wilfully blind to some of the trends and priorities in that wider society."

He revealed in this short statement a fundamental flaw of the Anglican church - it prefers public opinion to Christ's word. In other words, for him the embarassing thing was that the Anglican church was running against the "trends and priorities" of the world.

If we were to ask why so much of the Anglican church is weak, we need look no further than the Archbishop's words......

Why should Christian discussion be intelligible to the world?
Why should Christian theology be intelligible to the world, whose thinking has become futile (Romans 1:21) and is in fact foolishness (1 Cor 1:20). And since the wisdom of God is foolishness to the world, why should they understand what we are on about? What is more, on the very subject of women bishops, how can the world understand the basic principle that lies behind God's order between the sexes, that there can be order without hierarchy (see later)?

Why should we follow the trends and priorities of the world?
I don't know if this is an 'established church' society-pleasing blind-spot, but the Archbishop has got things exactly upside down. The church is never to follow the world. We are called not to love the world or the things that are in the world (1 John 2:15-17), or the thinking of the world (Psalm 1:1). Rather we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2). In fact if the world is demanding something, it's a pretty good bet we are called in the opposite direction, for they are still in the dominion of darkness from which we have been delivered (Colossians 1:13). We are to expect hatred from the world, not applause or rewards, because it hated Jesus first (John 15:19).

It is truly disturbing to find the Archbishop lamenting the unpopularity of the church in the eyes of the world. He should instead be applauding the church for her stand.

Theology by Weathervane?
If we were to follow the Archbishop's logic, the church would meekly follow the world like Mary's little lamb. What shall we do next? Let us ask the present (and passing, for their opinions will change tomorrow) world what to do and believe?

There are lots of atheists out there, so let's abandon our belief in God!

There are some of anti-miracle scientists out there, let's abandon our belief in the Resurrection.

There are lots of pedophiles out there, and who is to say that one day the world will not recognise their practices as it has come to recognise the practice of  homosexuals? (If you think this is far-fetched, it's you that has the problem, not me: just pick up a history book, or check out the web article below. Present history alone proves the case: fifty years ago it would be unthinkable that a Prime Minister would be at the forefront of advocating the gay agenda. That is how fast social mores can change).

So should the church, following the world yet again, then acknowledge their practices and welcome unrepentant pedophiles into membership?

Doing theology by weather vane or the Mary's little lamb principle, you see, is a treacherous business. 

Women Bishops?
But what about the issue behind the vote? Should women become bishops? How do we determine such an issue? If we reject the Archbishop's method - ask the world what it thinks - what should we do instead? We should go to the Word of Christ, surely. And there we find a clear pointer, which the world will and can never understand.

Equal but different
Men and women are equal in God's eyes, both made in the image of God, but their differences go beyond physiology. According to Genesis 1 & 2 there is an order between men and women. God created man first, he gave his word to the man, he created the woman for the man, he created her out of the man. He gave responsibility to the man, for when Eve usurped that responsibility by replying to the serpent, God blames Adam for listening to his wife.

Adam and Eve are equal but there is an order between them. 

The world can never understand this, because it has no model to grasp the principle: that there can be order without a hint of hierarch. But we in the church have a wonderful example: the trinity.

In the Godhead, Father, Son and Spirit are co-equal, they are each God, yet, there is an order between them. The Father sends the Son, but the Son never sends the Father. The Father and the Son send the Spirit, but the Spirit never sends the Father or the Son. The Son constantly obeys the Father, but the Father, does not obey the Son.

Order but no hierarchy
Because of the abuse of power and position in the world, it cannot understand that there can be order without a hint of hierarchy. But there is perfect order without a hint of hierarchy in the Godhead. And this model is found between men and women in Scripture.

The husband is the head of the wife, says Paul, Ephesians 5:22-24. That does not mean he can go around bossing his wife hither and thither; no, he is called to love his wife and care for her.

And right throughout the New Testament, without a single exception, men are called to both lead the church and to be its teachers. Jesus, who was Mr Counter-cultural, could have chosen 6 men and 6 women, but he didn't. Paul could have chosen two sisters to lead his churches, but he chose Timothy and Titus. Without a single exception, all the leaders of the NT church are men. Women play an amazing and wonderful role, but they don't lead the church or preach to men.

Why? Because the creation order is expressed, not only in husband-wife relationships, but in church relationships too (it would be very strange if in the home life, a woman had to acknowledge the headship of her husband, but could then go and express headship over other men in the church).

Declining attendance
Perhaps the reason attendance of the Church of England is in decline is that she is so much like the world.

Why go to church when you can hear the same "doctrine" on the box, in the Sunday newspapers, or on the internet - and in the comfort of your own home, without going out to a cold breezy religious building?

Thankfully there are some Anglican churches and Anglican pastors who are faithful to Christ. We ought to pray for them. And pray that the next Archbishop might be more concerned about the honour of Christ than about pleasing the world.

The true underlying tragedy
The tragedy, for me, is that the Archbishop said not one word about Christ or his Word in his closing statements. His only concern was to be right in the eyes of men. If he had argued the cause of women bishops from Scripture, I wouldn't have written this blog - I would have disagreed with him - and done so in love.  But all he was worried about was what the world thinks.

I don't know whether we should laugh or cry.

If we thought that the cause of Christ in the UK was tied to the Anglican church we might weep.

But since that is not the case, perhaps we should laugh: I didn't get the Archbishop's name wrong in the title.

 A disturbing article about academics advocating "intergenerational intimacy" (read pedophilia). (It's not the only one)

1 comment:

  1. Fully agree with your last point, Roy! If those [wrongly] supporting women bishops were doing so with verses from scripture and a strong theological stance, then whilst I would have disagreed with them I would have had a nuance of respect for what they were proposing. As it was, it seems they just wanted to become a bit more worldly.

    Really good blog post that I will send to a couple of friends who I've discussed this issue with.