Saturday, April 07, 2018

Selling the Alabaster Jar

So, I was led through some link to where someone styling himself "Archbishop Cranmer" is making a typical sort of denial of divine presence in the church:
Except He’s not: His Spirit might be brooding in the chocolate-box parishes of England, but the Lord is actually in Calais; walking the streets with the homeless, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, comforting the destitute and dying.
Sorry, but I don't buy this. Charitable works are not all there is to Christian life, and while I don't have experience with the Church of England parish scene, my impression is that except for a few flagships, they rather often are chocolate boxes that have been left out in the sun or sat upon, after someone has already been through and picked out the good pieces. And it's very comfortable to say that
If the Lord were to visit the Vatican, He’d tear down the papal portraits and smash the marble statues, barking something about idols and dens of thieves. If He were to enter Westminster Abbey, He’d refuse point blank to pay a £20.00 admission fee, daring to remonstrate with the Dean about the righteousness of royal peculiars and the hollowness of the dead curating the dead. He’d attend no banquet at Lambeth Palace, nor feast on a state dinner at Windsor Castle. He’d decline invitations from princes to chat about the need for benevolence; and from prime ministers to pore over political policy.
...but he didn't toss Nicodemus out on his ear, so I'm thinking "not" on that last claim. And while it would be a good thing to get rid of the admission fee to Westminster Abbey or Washington National Cathedral, the money for building upkeep needs to come from somewhere. Oh, sure, the paintings in the Vatican could all be sold off and the building sold to the Muslims (hey, it worked for Hagia Sophia, right?). And then what?

People like to think that the old churches are swimming in wealth, but a major reason why these cathedrals and palaces have an admission fee is that they otherwise cannot afford the upkeep. Look, closing the cathedral parish is getting to be a trend in the Episcopal Church, and while frequently you can sell a closed church to an evangelical megacongregation, those guys aren't entirely made out of money, and about the only other thing that one can use such a big church for is a nightclub; really most such buildings are passed down the ecclesiastical food chain or are demolished. The Vatican palaces perhaps could be sold to a mafioso, but that's it, and in the irony department, there's the conversion of the "Crystal Cathedral" to the cathedral of the Catholic Diocese of Orange because Schuller's family business couldn't meet the mortgage.

At any rate, the first thing about this sort of "prophecy" is that it's cheap, because there's no risk of it ever being voluntarily carried out. But the second thing is that it's only half of the Christian life. "Love your neighbor," yes: that is the second great commandment; but the first is "Love God." And that's the part that progressive Christianity seems to have trouble with.

Worship arises out of the recognition and acknowledgement of transcendence. And when I read the theological literature on the progressive God, I find Him not. I constantly come upon a fractured mix of enlightenment deism, reductionism, and Edwardian spiritualism. I am therefore presented with a fixation upon immanence that is constantly tempted into self-worship as the emotional end of finding God only in ourselves. But God both is and is not in us. We are overshadowed by the Spirit; Christ is our food at each communion; and yet we are still caught between the old alienation of sin and the reconciliation which we have in the ecclesiastical union. God is in us, yes, this we believe; but God is even more so outside us, boundlessly greater than all of creation, and eternal as we are finite. And God, being real, has a particular story in this particular world, not a myth which can be restyled to fit the age.

2 comments:

Unknown said...

Merry Christmas,
You are so interesting! I don't believe I've truly read through anything like that before. So wonderful to discover another person with a few unique thoughts on this issue. Seriously.. many thanks for starting this up. This website is something that is required on the internet, someone with a bit of originality! If you want to read merry christmas quotes for coworkers you have to see the link
Thank you,

Unknown said...

Hi,
The very next time I read a blog, I hope that it does not disappoint me as much as this particular one.Happy New Year Greetings I mean, I know it was my choice to read, but I truly thought you would probably have something useful to say. All I hear is a bunch of crying about something that you could possibly fix if you were not too busy searching for attention.
Thanks