Monday, July 17, 2006

Toward A Litmus Test Litany

Happy William White Day -- he described in Lesser Feasts and Fasts as "a theologian of no mean ability [whose] gifts of statesmanship and reconciling moderation steered the American Church through the first decades of its independent life."

On his feast day, these reflections from my friend and clergy colleague Michael (no relation) Russell seemed particulary appropriate to offer in the hope that the God who "in a time of turmoil and confusion didst raise up thy servant William White" might endow those who continue to lead this church with the gifts of "wisdom, patience and a reconciling temper" we celebrate as his legacy.

Toward A Litmus Test Litany

I find it sad that in the present time we, and that includes me, do not assume the essentials about one another so that every time we meet we have to re-establish common ground before we can speak about other things. In essence there is no longer any "good faith" common ground presumed. We are always embryonic with the ontogeny recapitulatingthe phylogeny.

So what we need is for a new Conversational Entrance Rite. Somehow the SCLM missed this in all their extensive liturgical work for the BOS at the last GC. So I'd like to propose that we adopt a Litmus Litany so that we can quickly establish shared essentials and then get on to otherconversations. I am sure folks will have other suggestions, but here goes:

L: Do you believe in God?
P: I believe in God, Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth

L: Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God?
P:I believe in Jesus Christ, his only son our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontious Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heave, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

C: Do you believe in the Holy Spirit?
P: I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.

C: Will you continue in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in thebreaking of the bread, and in the prayers?
P: I will, with God's help.

C: Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin,repent and return to the Lord?
P: I will, with God's help.
C: Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
P: I will, with God's help.
C: Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
P: I will with God's help.
C: Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
P: I will with God's help

Now I think this proposed Litmus Litany would really be enough so that we could even wear like a little Sunday School button that was engraved with"LLC" for Litmus Litany Compliant. We could have it appended to our names like other honorifics: Michael Russell, MA, MDiv, LLC.

I am pretty sure that once we are all assured that we have common good faith ground in something as simple as this Litmus Litany then we could stop wasting time and flapping our jaws in immediate judgment of others when they do not begin their statements with those statements of faith we think most important at the moment or for all eternity.

We might actually function in that blissful state of Good Will and be happier ourselves. So I hope the SCLM will hop on the bandwagon here and create a much neededLitmus Litany for us all. I think the proposed one above is pretty darn good and comprehensive, although I have to confess that I did not write it myself.


Dave said...

Hee! I've been trying to say much the same for a while now, but you put it ever so succinctly.

I suggest perhaps the homophopalians need a refresher on this part, though:

C: Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of EVERY human being?
P: I will with God's help.

Bateau Master said...

A good start .... many have left the creedal beliefs, so as an establishment of common ground and common nomenclature – GOOD!

Now let's start defining evil, sin, and repentance; so we can speak in a common tongue.

Milton said...

Along the lines of bateau's comment...

As has been pointed out to me by many a reappraiser when I have quoted a Scripture passage that seemed appropros, they could just as easily turn it around and use it to support their viewpoint, being very different from mine.

I won't ask for a line-by-line clarification, just in anyone's own words from their own heart who cares to expand on this:

"He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontious Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again."

1. Was Jesus virgin-born as the "literal" text indicates? Would it make a difference if He had a human father? Why or why not?

2. What difference, if any, would it make in your life now, today, if Jesus had not died on the cross but had instead lived a normal, even fantastically (by human standards) successful human life?

3. Did Jesus rise bodily from the dead? Was He taken up to heaven (however you may interpret that accomodation to our limited intellect) in His risen, glorified, physical body or only as a spirit?

I would say these answers are a far more reliable "litmus test" than simply reciting the Creed that is heard in reappraiser and revisionist congregations alike. I'll be happy to post my personal answers later so as not to prejudice your answers, or now if you insist. Or, of course, ignore them entirely, as we all are free to do.

Catherine said...

Where do I get my LLC pin!

As for defining evil, it is the deprivation of good.

Anonymous said...

Evil is not the deprivation of the good. That is neutrality. Evil is the pursuit of the false good or of proper good in inordinate or improper ways. Evil has no self-existence and is parasitic.

Respecting dignity does not mean care blanche tolerance of anything, especially of anything contrary to God's Word and the Tradition of the Church. I repect fully your decision to step in fron of the car, but I do not have to enable you or fail to protest the existence of the laws of physics.

Catherine said...

For heaven sake, I was paraphrasing Aquinas, Inked. Mercy, have some already! DON'T make me go into a diatribe as I have disliked them ever since your ilk has been doing them here.

Not only have many left the creedal beliefs but apparently their baptismal vows as well.

At least I and some others here would pass the LLC, thanks be to God.


John Gibson said...

" I repect fully your decision to step in fron of the car, but I do not have to enable you or fail to protest the existence of the laws of physics. "

Yet you deny the reality of human sexuality.

Hiram said...

I like the Baptismal Covenant, so much so that I have written a 70 page study guide of it (beginning with the renunciations and affirmations made by the baptismal candidate) to use as preparation for confirmation.

My conviction as I wrote is that the terms of the Covenant are defined by what Scripture says, however. To me, it seems as though many read the Baptismal Covenant with the terms defined outside Scripture. They then read back into Scripture whatever supports their convictions.

(I subscribed to "The Witness" for ten years. I will never forget one writer -- I think it was Bp Harris before she was elected -- saying, "Make your theology fit your politics." Such a statement is a perfect example of putting the cart before the horse.)

The promise to respect the dignity of every human being is the final promise of the Covenant. As such, it depends upon all that has gone before it to give it its meaning. That includes the promise to study the teachings of the Apostles -- that is, the New Testament. Among those teachings is the reality of the fall and of human sinfulness, which have warped human nature. Respecting all people means taking them seriously and listening carefully and caringly -- but it also means humbly upholding the teachings of the Lord and of his Apostles in all things, including the proper use of human sexuality.

I do like the Baptismal Covenant -- but if I were to choose a "litmus test," it would be the Thirty Nine Articles.

Anonymous said...

john gibson -

I don't think anyone is denying sexuality. Is homosexuality a choice? If yes, then we have very little to talk about as willfully chosing a practice contrary to God's word speaks for itself (I hope).

If no, then it still leaves more questions ot be answered. A baby may be born with a hole in it's heart but that does not mean that it was God ordained, blessed, intended or even that God made a mistake. But babies with holes in the heart need them fixed. I make no guess as to when the orientation of sexuality happens, but I do know that God has said yes to heterosexuality and nothing else.

This is good news that Jesus came to give us, that we don't have to die in our sin. He is the Way the Truth an the Life.

I bet that even you would question a blind man who claimed to be able to tell you what a Monet painting looks like.

Anonymous said...

Acquinas? paraphrasing? Is that like Schorri and the Mother Jesus imagery allegedly attributable to various saints by those elitists in the know? Hmmmm. I gotta admit that one slipped right by me.

I don't deny human sexuality, by the by. I merely contend that it is subject to God's moral commandments right there with worship, honouring parents, and not lying, stealing, committing adultery, or coveting. It is not the raison de etre some make it out to be and is one aspect of personality that is to be markedly changed in the Kingdom in its fulness (but not by its presence as we understand it in this life, if I hear Jesus properly).

Catherine said...

Hat tip to Kinesis for her study of the Mother image of Christ as our Mother:

John Paul I, Angelus Message Sept. 10, 1978: “He (God) is our father; even more he is our mother.”

First up we have that well-known pagan, St. Anselm of Canterbury:

But you Jesus, good Lord, are you not also our mother? Are you not the mother who, like a hen, collects her chickens under her wings?

And if that's not enough to make your heart go aflutter, let's see what the great heretic Bernard of Clairvaux had to say on the subject:

Do not let the roughness of our life frighten your tender years. If you feel the stings of temptation . . . suck not so much the wounds as the breasts of the Crucified. He will be your mother, and you will be his son.. . (from Letter 322)

Oh dear, what is Teresa of Avila talking about?!

For from those divine breasts where it seems God is always sustaining the soul, there flow streams of milk bringing comfort to all the people. ( fromThe Interior Castle)

Then of course there's Julian of Norwich, who spent considerable time talking about Jesus in feminine imagery:

The Second Person of the Trinity is our mother in nature, in our substantial making. In him we are grounded and rooted, and he is our mother by mercy in our sensuality, by taking flesh. (from The Showings)

Oh dear, the western saints must have been completely corrupted! Let's turn to the East, shall we? What does Clement of Alexandria have to say?

This is our nourishment, the milk flowing from the father by which alone we little ones are fed . . . Therefore, we fly trustfully to the ‘care-banishing breast’ of God the father; the breast that is the Word, who is the only one who can truly bestow on us the milk of love. Only those who nurse at the breast are blessed . . . little ones who seek the Word, the craved-for milk is given from the Father’s breasts of love for man.The Word [Christ] is everything to His little ones, both father and mother. (from Christ the Educator)

Well, what does Scripture say?

Like a bear robbed of her cubs, I will attack them and rip them open. (Hosea 13:8)

You deserted the Rock, who bore you. You forgot the God who gave you birth. (Deuteronomy 32:18)

You whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth. Even to your old age and grey hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. (Isaiah 46:3–4)

Jesus said, “How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.” (Matt. 23:37)

Pagan? Hardly. References not in the Christian tradition? Uh uh. Radical Feminism? Don't think so. Straw man? Um, yeah.
(References:Caroline Walker Bynum, Jesus as Mother: Studies in the Spirituality of the High Middle Ages. Bynum also cites "Jesus as mother" references by Origen, Irenaeus, John Chrysostom, Ambrose, Augustine, Gregory of Nyssa, The Venerable Bede, Peter Lombard, Thomas Aquinas, Mechild of Magdeburg, St. Bonaventure, Catherine of Siena, Martin Luther, and John Calvin).

Me, dusting off my hands, with another hat tip to Kinesis and her valid research. It does you no good to be in denial...