Friday, December 05, 2008

Holy Scripture and Authority in the Church

Sometimes I'm asked about where I stand on the doctrine of the "inerrancy" of Scripture. As a Catholic Christian - specifically an Anglican, I have philosophical problems when I try to interact with the 1977 Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. Here's what I can say.

I read and meditate daily upon the Bible, usually in the context of the Daily Office, and often in a practice of Lectio. My reading of the Scriptures continually guides me in understanding my own life within the larger story of God's salvation of the world and ongoing creation of his Church. In reading, marking, learning, and inwardly digesting the Scriptures, I am challenged and directed to grow more deeply into the likeness of Jesus Christ, and to give glory to the Father, empowered by the Spirit.

A discussion of the authority of Scripture is essentially shorthand for how God exercises his authority in the Church through Sacred Scripture.* The canonical Scriptures represent the theological basis for all development in the Church's teaching and piety, and as a "norming norm," it also critiques the faithfulness of those developments in terms of their fidelity to the person and work of Jesus Christ, the head of the Church. The biblical narrative offers the story of the triune God who created and loves the world, and seeks to save it through the Incarnation, the Atonement, and the sending of the Church which began at Pentecost. This narrative guides the Church in its faithfulness to this mission. The authority of the New Testament is expressed wonderfully in a statement from the bishops gathered at Lambeth in 1958:
"The church is not over the holy scriptures, but under them, in the sense that the process of canonization was not one whereby the church conferred authority on the books, but one whereby the church acknowledged them to possess authority. And why? The books were recognized as giving the witness of the apostles to the life, teaching, death and resurrection of the Lord, and the interpretation by the apostles of these events. To that apostolic authority the church must ever bow. 
Jesus Christ himself is the mediator and fullness of all revelation, and the New Testament authoritatively offers the apostolic witness to that revelation, from which we may never deviate. The Scriptures teach faithfully and without error that truth which God wished them to contain. As God sends his Church into the the world on mission, he continually calls us to receive afresh that apostolic testimony.

*See N.T. Wright's little book, Scripture and the Authority of God, or in the US, The Last Word.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Thinking about Mission

Two questions about mission... any takers?
  1. What are the riskiest ventures you see being taken to incarnate the Gospel in a particular milieu, rather than attract people to "church programs"?

  2. Where and how are our people working as missionaries to the undereducated, working class, or poor? What are some contexts in which Anglican missioners are faithfully preaching the gospel and engaging the poor in the worship of God?
Regarding the first question, some of my readers will be familiar with the distinction increasingly made in discussions about Christian mission, between "attractional" and "incarnational" practices of mission. In models of the former persuasion, people set up an attractive program that strangers will find attractive. Normal practices of this might include a "contemporary" worship service designed for people who would otherwise "find church boring," billboard ads, or giveaways. An incarnational model entails befriending people and teaching the gospel from in inside rather than on the outside of a social group.

Regarding the second, Anglicanism in North America finds much of its natural affinity with more educated populations. That's not necessarily awesome.