Meat Is Murder. Delicious Murder.

I have recently stumbled upon some very fine Irish bloggers who happen to be Christians. Welcome Bob and Steven to the game, children. That’s right. Wedgie them gently the first time. Blogs have been removed from my blogroll today. In one case it is just the gentleman owner of the site is too busy to update over the last 5 or 6 months. In the other case, the guru behind another site has reverted to just taking photos of himself. As fascinating as that would be if I didn’t know him, I do know him and see him every week and he rarely changes.

I have a tendency to get obsessed with strangers’ photos. My house is covered with photos of strangers that I take while travelling. Or hiding in bushes. Don’t judge me until you see my collages.

One of the things yarr! has been thinking about recently is Orthodoxy and I will rudely barge in on his thoughts and rob them to make an entry that you’ll all think is astounding. Or at least not a total waste of your time. Until you finish the entry and go to the loo and then reassess your life and try to estimate how many hours a week you waste at your browser. Then you’ll hate my entry and my journal and you’ll hate me and my father for siring me. But you’ll still come back. I know you will. Because when it gets right down to it, I am a better use of your time than Emmerdale or WoW or your crying baby or any of the other things seeking to distract you.

Orthodoxy means correct thinking. Bob got thinking about orthodoxy because as he read the great theologian Karl Barth he realised there were problems in the ideas that a writer and artist called Francis Schaeffer had. Schaeffer didn’t like Barth and one of the big reasons is because Barth did not believe the Bible is inerrant. One shouldn’t be surprised nor dismayed that there are so many tiny debates raging in theology. Theologians did give rise to the idiom about how many angels can dance on a pinhead after all. What should surprise and dismay you is how fiercely these debates can rage. Inerrancy is one of the fierce debates. Inerrantists believe that the Bible is without error. The primary problem with this, for me, is that the Bible is read by people who are filled with errors. (We could have a theological in-joke here with an alternative to the “tree falls in a forest and no one hears it” riddle with “a book without error that is never read is…”) The Bible doesn’t come in the form of a manual or a FAQ or a catechism. It is almost entirely narrative and so you can only get the right answers by asking the right questions. Inerrancy seems to me to be an irrelevant battlefield destined for pitiful failure or at best, phyrric victory. It should definitely not be considered a litmus test for orthodoxy.

Bob asks this question, can we be orthodox even if we are not inerrantist? “Not inerrantist” is not the same as errantist, by the way. There is the position I hold, which I think is the majority, which believes the Bible is divinely inspired as originally given and is the supreme authority in all matters of faith. For what that authority amounts to, consult the last entry. For what sense there is in declaring something which we’ll never see (the original manuscripts) as being divinely inspired, refer to the chapter entitled “Christian faith” in your family’s handbook of Major Psychological Conditions. So what is orthodoxy? And who decides it?

The organisation I work for (for another 8 days) has played a huge role in the development of the evangelical churches in the 20th Century. It has sought Christian unity around the core truths that make up orthodoxy, so that lots of Christians from wildly diverse backgrounds would come and work together without fighting all the time about whether our stained glass windows should depict blood transfusions. Theoretically, like. Or other such insanity. They utilised a distinction that has proven hugely profitable to allow this to happen. This solution has huge faults but it was essential for the mission to begin, nevermind see completion. What cleverer men than you will ever meet, like John Stott, did was to differentiate between the really key truths that all Christians shared. These posts marked out the smallest set of Christian belief that was common to everyone. The real heart of the issue. We call these (it turns out there are 11) truths the primary issues.

Secondary issues aren’t unimportant issues. Whether you baptise babies or wait until people are adults is a huge question for all Christians to answer. But no one has a basis for saying that their view of baptism is the only view permitted by the Bible. That makes it secondary. These 11 points are: Trinity, God’s soverignity, the Bible (as outlined above), the fall, the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, resurrection, the Holy Spirit as our source of regeneration, faith alone for salvation, the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit, the church and the future return of Jesus. Whether you are a member of a bible-bashing Baptist church or attend services at your laidback, broad Anglican parish church or are a member of the Ukrainian Uniate church offering allegiance to Rome, every Christian agrees with these things. I think this is orthodoxy. That which has been and continues to be believed as the essential doctrines of Christianity.

I believe women and men are equally gifted and called by the Holy Spirit for service in the church. I know some crazy fools who deny this. But they believe in the Trinity and the Resurrection of Christ as the first-fruits and so on doxologically until the end of the world. So I don’t deny that they are Christians and instead I put my arm around them and say, “Father Reilly, you crazy fool, you’re lucky you don’t get married in heaven because all the women will be angry at you for a long long time”. Equally idiotic people think that the universe is about 14 billion years old and the differentiation in all species, including, homo sapiens, can be explained increasingly well by the theory of evolution. (I know! Insane! Maybe the world is round too you maniacs!) Thankfully most of those righteous souls who deny the evidence and insist on (a new) reading Genesis 1 as if it is making a scientific argument are happy to bow their heads and pray with me. My rejection of 6 Day Creationism shouldn’t mean to them that I am not a Christian.

Theology is an inherently historical project. In a few years, when I become a real theologian, I will be sitting on top of 2000 years of collected thought that I must engage with, learn from and critique. Orthodoxy should be defined in this light- what has been common and core for Christians at all times across the generations. It turns out that (although we should never draw a line under the answer and set it in stone) these key (or primary) issues are recognisable. You probably even know them off by heart. We learnt them as children in primary school. Refresh your memory and consider the Apostles’ Creed or the Nicene Creed as the mark of orthodoxy.

What about if Orthodoxy was not so much about what we thought but how we thought? I am no big fan of Brian McLaren’s thoughts (he might appreciate how I love the reasons for his thoughts) but maybe he has some valuable thoughts about orthodoxy when he says, that his orthodoxy, “Generous orthodoxy”, means not just reaching correct conclusions about issues but requires “right processes to keep on reaching new and better conclusions”. I can’t tell you what his point means, but I can tell you I like it (that could be a t-shirt slogan for the Emergent Church) when the final sentence in his book reads,

And so for this reason also, the adventure of generous orthodoxy is always unfinished and

Check out the “Note For The Curious” at the end of this Wikipedia article. The guy who did that is one of my best friends. I know. You want to be me. I might let you touch me.

Your Correspondent, Doesn’t know his claret from his beaujolais

8 Responses to “Meat Is Murder. Delicious Murder.”

  1. Steven says:

    Don’t be expecting any deep thologoical musings from me. Uninformed heresy perhaps but I appreciate the shout out.

    To give one example I’ll ask you a question that troubles me concerning the Fall.

    If every person starts out with original sin how does one account for babies who are aborted? They can’t make the decision to accept/reject Christ. What happens to them?

    Random passer by, with plenty of spanners left

  2. John says:

    You! Scoundrel! Perhaps I was dead eh? What would you do then? You’d be feeling pretty bad right about now wouldn’t you? Pretty bad indeed!

    Lucky for you I have saved you from depression by staying alive. The Hot Anorak blog is dead. I have been a busy boy though.

    I am just starting a new blog, one with a point!

  3. […] Note to the reader: The last couple of posts have been ruminations on a theme. Sadly, I haven’t had the skills or patience to express myself concisely and the posts, which deal with what is truly Christian, may alienate the majority of people who drop by Zoomtard who aren’t Christians. You are all better looking than the Christians too, have I told you that lately? Much more stylish too. So if these posts bore you, comment on how boring they are and come back for more inclusive Zoomtard fare at the weekend. Mea culpa to all of you who are confused, angered or bored by the first post on what is and is not orthodoxy, the second post on the impact of Karl Barth or this post on what is the core of orthodoxy. […]

  4. zoomtard says:

    Steven, maybe you can deal with that humdinger yourself. Don’t come over here and make me actually apply my thoughts to anything. How rude!

    Seriously though, I’ll add it to the list and get around to it soon.

    John, I apologise profusely. Your new blog is back on the roll and I look forward to reading it!

  5. Lucas says:

    So then, just wondering, what kind of relationship is appropriate with the Roman Catholic Church who have justification by works in addition to faith and who don’t consider the Bible as the sole source of truth for Christianity?

  6. zoomtard says:

    Would your questions need further discussion if I clarified that the Roman Catholic Church believe in Justification by faith and hold Scripture as the supreme authority?

  7. Lucas says:

    Oh okay, I thought that the emphasis was on justification by faith alone and nothing else, and not justification by faith and works and whatever else.

    I also thought, but I’m sure you know more things about it than me, that the Roman Catholic church held that scripture was not the supreme authority in Christianity but rather the authority (the papacy) which holds the tradition of interpretation of scripture. I thought they thought that scripture cannot be properly interpreted by just anyone but must be mediated to the faithful through the Papacy’s divinely guided (the holy spirit) interpretation.

    From what I remember I think they consider that the authority of the papacy is not only to be derived from its function as the proper interpreter of scripture (such that without scripture there could strictly be no papacy) but that its divinely aided character allows it to establish truth from outside of direct revelation (scripture). An example of this I think is the traditionally positive evaluation of the human mind to discover at least part of the ultimate truth, that which Christianity reveals. Pope John Paul II was a particular exponent of this view; he had a philosophy doctorate and was professor of a philosophy department for a while.

    This is the way I had though the way things were. Perhaps you can see factual errors here.

  8. zoomtard says:

    Well type Karol or John Paul II into the Zoomatron Search Engine (Patent Pending) and you’ll see I am a huge fan of his theology, philosophy as well as his poetry and drama. If I had seen him play goalkeeper, I am sure I would want Man City to sign him too.

    But JPII advocated a lot of things that are not official Catholic doctrine. Papal authority certainly doesn’t mean that the Church shifts in emphasis with the shape of each new leaders’ personality. Benedict XVI may believe the VW Golf to be the best compact family car in the world but not all priests are compelled to go buy one.

    I think that the secondary school history curriculum in Ireland is the source of these simplifications that hold Protestantism to be for “faith alone” and Catholicism to be for “works righteousness”. Consider even this challenge to that false dichotomy: the prevalence of parish bible study groups in every diocese in Ireland where the parishoners read, study and absorb the Scriptures for themselves in small groups.