Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I confess

Another meme, about theology. This one might be a bit more interesting than usual.

I confess: to finding Christianity intellectually, emotionally and personally exciting and fulfilling - more than I ever dreamt possible.

I confess: to believing that most theology, especially most theology of the last two hundred years, is garbage. However, that theology which isn't garbage is life-saving, literally. I'd like to spend more time reading that latter sort, and sharing its insights with the faithful. Most of why I think this is because of Wittgenstein, who has undoubtedly influenced me more than any theologian.

I confess: I'm fed up of working for an established church. If the institution of the Church of England ceased tomorrow I'd feel quite excited. I'd rather be unfettered by incumbency, by which I don't mean being embedded in a parish, I mean being embedded in the clinging ivy of canon law and inherited practice. Being embedded in a parish is essential for my spiritual health, but if someone said to me that from tomorrow I would never again have to a) take the funeral of someone unknown to me; b) take the marriage of someone unknown to me; c) baptise the child of someone unknown to me; d) deal with canon law, especially with regard to churchyards - then I would sing Hallelujah. Though I should say that whilst I hate establishment, I am more and more persuaded of 'the genius of Anglicanism'.

I confess: I sometimes suspect that I'm an evangelical 'in the closet'.

I confess: I don't think you can celebrate Holy Communion properly without incense. I also think that communion is the only form of worship which isn't ultimately foreplay.

I confess: to thinking very seriously about converting to Roman Catholicism. And deciding against it.

I confess: to not believing in the Virgin Birth in anything like a literal fashion. (Though I wholeheartedly accept John 1.12-13). I believe that orthodoxy is essential, however, so this is an ongoing spiritual problem for me.

I confess: to having a very sober expectation of witnessing a revival in my lifetime.

I confess: that John Robinson's 'Honest to God' paved the way for my coming to be a Christian.

I confess: that I haven't read that much theology 'in the original'. Most of what I know about theology and theologians has come via secondary sources and conversations.

I confess: I can read Rowan Williams without struggling too much, and mostly because I think he's wonderful, as both a teacher and as a Christian man.

I confess: that the worst mark that I ever got in any school examination was for Religious Education. In my defence, I was a militant atheist at the time, and I thought it all nonsense.

I confess: that I first started reading the Bible for myself when I was about six years old. I read through the first few chapters of Genesis before getting stuck. I have now read through all of it, at least once, but I am vastly more familiar with the gospels than anything else.

I confess: that I read and enjoyed and was much persuaded by a Jehovah's Witness tract on Creationism when I was about 14. I then thought I'd read an alternative point of view and read Richard Dawkins' The Blind Watchmaker. That's when my atheism became militant.

I confess: that if I wasn't a Christian I'd be a Buddhist.

I confess: to the zeal of the convert when it comes to pondering atheism. Having thrown of its intellectual shackles myself, I get a bit impatient with those who still think it's anything like a tenable understanding for human living. I don't think there will be much atheism in another generation or two.

I confess: to believing that theology is the queen of the sciences.

I confess: to believing that the Bible teaches works-righteousness when taken as a whole. Which I don't think is in contradiction to sola gratia, it just describes the form that grace must take.

I confess: to finding traditional language of hell, Satan and the demonic more and more relevant and applicable as time goes on. I'm fully sold on the idea of spiritual warfare.

I confess: to not having doubted the existence of God for at least ten years, possibly more. My acceptance of God is more fundamental in me than my acceptance of my own self. I've tried to doubt, I'm just incapable of doing it.

I confess: to believing that my most formative theological influence may be Stephen R Donaldson's Chronicles of Thomas Covenant.

I confess: to desiring a third section of the Bible containing works of the Church Fathers, to be given equal authority with the Old Testament.

I confess: to believing that historical Christianity failed to develop a proper theology of the body, which is responsible for most of the havoc in that regard that we now experience. We need a Christian martial art.

I confess: that the idea of lay presidency appals me. It's either a redundant aim (because communion is celebrated by everyone) or it's simply an expression of immature and astonishingly impoverished theology. Priesthood is a differentiation sideways, not vertically, so what precisely is being objected to? I can't see this as anything other than being haunted by a 16th century ghost.

I confess: to believing that most people, including most theologians, have got absolutely no idea how implicated in worldly structures of thought Christianity has become. The sort of people I think do have an idea about this are Fergus Kerr and Nicholas Lash, mainly because they've 'got' Wittgenstein, and someone like Eugene Peterson - because the Holy Spirit is with him, probably via Yoder.

I confess: that I was once sorely tempted to sign up to Radical Orthodoxy, whereas now I see it as the last flowering of precisely that worldly pattern of theology. Just what is their view of Scripture, pray tell?

I confess: to once saying I would never allow a guitar to be used in worship. I have changed my mind on this.

I confess: I'm still tempted by the thought of a PhD.

I confess: that I'd like to train as an exorcist.

I confess: that if I'd become ordained sooner I'd probably be a member of Forward in Faith. The Lord's timing is always perfect.

I confess: that I am utterly convinced and convicted of my own status as a sinner. I don't expect that to change in this world, but I do trust that it won't prevent me from enjoying the next.

I confess: that when I let myself, I am prone to visions. I don't let myself very often, because they're very disruptive. They're also usually about Jesus. I don't think that in and of themselves they are theologically all that significant, although they most certainly are significant for me and my spiritual growth.

I confess: that I believe that "eternal life" is at least as much about what happens in this world as in the next.

I confess: that I have changed my mind about the role of excommunication in church discipline, mainly from reading Cavanaugh. I also confess to having absolutely no idea of how to take this forward.

I confess: to feeling closest to God when I can sing in worship, especially the Exsultet. It's a wound to me to be apart from a congregation where singing the eucharistic prayer is natural. It seems as if the celebration is always limping and fragmentary; and I'm tempted to say it's better off not being sung at all - that way at least there is a unity amongst the people.

I confess: this list has gone on too long. I could probably keep going all night, but that wouldn't help anyone.

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