Sunday, 2 August 2009

Jefferts-Schori: "Is the only way to God through Jesus?"

Can you guess what her answer is yet?

I do think, though, that this video is very important for showing what is clearly the Presiding Bishop of the United States's 'best answer' to the question.

The problem is, it is not at all clear what she thinks is the way to God. At one level, her answer could be taken as meaning 'it is all by grace' - that God has made promises to Jews and to Muslims (and to Christians), which he is bound to keep, not because of any goodness on their part, but out of faithfulness to his promises. But she does not touch on the human side of this - what a person in each of the three 'Abrahamic faiths' must do to respond to God in Covenant faithfulness, or where Jesus might fit into that. We can only conjecture.

On another level, though, her answer might be taken to mean it is 'through a life which displays the fruits of the Spirit', whatever one's religion and irregardless of whether we know of any promises God has made. That must, inevitably, suggest works - though again, it could be all grace.

Perhaps what this shows is that the question is not the best one to ask! Perhaps a better question might be a negative, something like: "Is a person who rejects Jesus as God's answer to the human problem of our relationship with him lost to God?"

That would seem to tie in with St Paul's verdict on Israel - not that the promises of God had failed, but that Israel had stumbled over the 'stumbling stone', which is Jesus (Rom 9:26-10:4).

Sometimes what we say 'no' to is more important than that to which we say 'yes'.

John Richardson
2 August 2009

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  1. 'Sometimes what we say 'no' to is more important than that to which we say 'yes'.'
    I would argue that in God's economy any 'yes' to connecting with God, even if a misguided attempt, is always preferred to a 'no'. I have reacted to some of this here but only first shaky thinkings which need praying through.
    God bless you

    Always edifying, John. :-)

  2. Rachel, I think you've slightly missed my point. Any 'Yes' to God is good (and any 'No' bad). But what I was trying to get at is the kind of question which would usefully tell us what someone believes.

    To give a 'for instance', I would never ask a potential vicar (as I may soon have to) whether they believed in the resurrection, because everyone in a dog-collar says 'Yes' to that. To discern someone's spirituality needs some more enlightening questions.

    So similarly, asking someone like KJS if Jesus is the only way to God isn't going to help you understand what she actually believes. Her answer is 'No', but the problem is what the nuances are.

  3. "I'm not too worried about the mechanism"

    can you picture anyone standing at the foot of the cross and saying that? However, I doubt her answer sets her apart from thousands of other folk on the liberal wing of the Anglican church, including many in the UK. But it's useful to hear it from her own lips, rather than on hearsay.

    David Keen, Yeovil

  4. I still don't get you John, your explanation is too nuanced for my brain cells - what do you mean?

    Is there ever going to be a 'question' which is sufficient within the bounds of limited human language from which an 'answer' about what one believes will actually really capture the essence of what one believes or even whom Jesus is? Since being able to speak in tongues, I am realising that human language, beautiful as it is and given to us by God, is never going to fully capture the reality of who Jesus is, now I am not saying I am capturing that reality in language necessarily (I don't understand what I am saying, only God does) even the Bible points only to the living Word - Jesus Christ. Language fails us when we talk of God, we need to talk of God in our actions, by the communities we shape and we might express more of him in our groanings and uncertainties than we ever will by all our supposed 'knowing' and language.
    Loving the journey, fellow traveller

  5. Hi Rachel
    I have more confidence that your speaking in tongues through the Spirit of Jesus approximates to the reality of Jesus as incarnate Word of God, crucified Son of God, and risen and exalted Lord of all, than the Qu'ran.

    My problem, which I share with John, is being uncertain whether the Presiding Bishop of one of the dominating-on-the-Anglican-landscape churches understands that the limitations of the Qu'ran on Jesus, relative to the limitations of the Bible on Jesus, make it worthwhile seeking the conversion of Muslims to Jesus as their Lord and Saviour

  6. Thank you Peter, yes, in effect, is KJS fully obedient? Does she take Matthew 28 seriously as her mission? I understand. In effect she might be offering the world a ministry which leaves much of the world impoverished if it is not about her helping, as God's co-worker, to spread the message of salvation through the unique Christ, the perfect, absolute and only expression of God the Father. This is God's call on her life. Is she understanding this? I'm not sure either.

    Thanks for this.

  7. Rachel, it seems to me from your reply to Peter that you've understood KJS precisely. But what a thing to have to say about a Presiding Bishop - does she take the Great Commission as her mission?

    The problem with her stated view is that Islam consciously denies key Christian tenets - not least that Jesus died on the cross. Indeed, unlike Judaism, Islam developed as a deliberately adversarial theology towards Christianity. Islamic apologetics are anti Christian. Now if someone is not merely ignorant of Christ but, faced with the claim that Christ died on a cross for our sins denies that, we have to ask of KJS, "How do you think God works through Christ in this to bring Muslims to him through the promise you say he has made to them?"

    At that point, I suspect coherence disappears.

    BTW, don't underestimate language. In the Beginning was the Word, and the Word became flesh.

  8. PPS, I too speak in tongues, but I still reckon that God is encountered authentically and essentially through his Word:

    "Then the Lord spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice." (Deut 4:11)

    In the same way, today, we see no 'form' to God, but we hear him speak through the sound of words.

  9. I absolutely agree with you John - there just seems to be more fullness in tongues. This is how it feels to me at the moment - it is as if all our Bible translations and all the dialect differences within all the languages of the world use words to speak of the love of God and do indeed capture that love when the Spirit teaches the mystery of these great truths to us.

    However there is also debate amongst humanity about which words we should use in our Bibles, this debate reflects our imperfect relationship with the Spirit, who can be quenched when we do not listen. so humanity struggles to communicate this love, we have the Spirit but we also have sin which causes us to sometimes focus on difference - translation, denomination etc There are countless examples of our tendency to overemphasise difference.

    But, praise to the Father, who has the way, his love is perfectly captured by the expression of the Living Word - Jesus.

    This love is also very fully spoken of in tongues when God testifies to our spirit about it with his Spirit and has us express it in our angelic utterances. So really there are just very subtle degrees - each communication system is beautifully engineered by God to bring him glory.

    If I want to speak of love, at this point in my spiritual journey - Christ is the perfect fulfillment of that love - it is to him whom I point and I do that by living the word in the power of the Spirit and then my soul testifies to that love in tongues.

    Wow - how Great is our God - sing with me - how Great is our God.

    Such Holy Fire

    Thanking you

    Let it all be to his glory
    In Christ

  10. But I would add, Rachel, that not only is the only way to God through Jesus, but the only way to Jesus and the gospel is through Scripture. (And if you're worried about translation, learn Hebrew!)

    "You search the Scriptures, thinking that in them you have eternal life, and it is they that bear witness to me."

    "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures ..."

    "Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures."

    “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”

  11. Yep - I hope to make a start on Hebrew in September - wow - I'll need to pray for the brain cells!!
    Thanks John. Word alone. Christ alone. Faith alone. (no particular order!)

  12. Jesus = Son of God
    You = Son of God
    We are all Son's and Daughter's of Almighty God. Praise the Father and give your thanks, but only you can bring Heaven to Earth if you wish to be ready for Judgement day, and your next step towards Holy Infinity.

    Everything belongs to the Holy Father. Place the credit where it belong's and The Truth shall set you Free.

    I love you all.