CS Lewis on the true Word of God

Thanks to Tim Chesterton for this quote from CS Lewis, which complements my rather similar recent quotation from NT Wright:

It is Christ Himself, not the Bible, which is the true word of God. The Bible, read in the right spirit and with the guidance of good teachers will bring us to him. When it becomes really necessary (i.e. for our spiritual life, not for curiosity or controversy) to know whether a particular passage is rightly translated or is Myth (but of course Myth specially chosen by God from among countless Myths to carry a spiritual truth) or history, we shall no doubt be guided to the right answer. But we must not use the Bible (our fathers too often did) as a sort of Encyclopedia out of which texts (isolated from their context and read without attention to the whole nature and purport of the books in which they occur) can be taken for use as weapons.

From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis: Volume III, p.246.

Another Emergent/Postmodern

Eddie seemed a little embarrassed to find that according to this quiz his theological worldview is Emergent/Postmodern. Well, I can encourage him by telling him that I am also, although only marginally. Here are my results:

What’s your theological worldview?
created with QuizFarm.com
You scored as Emergent/PostmodernYou are Emergent/Postmodern in your theology. You feel alienated from older forms of church, you don’t think they connect to modern culture very well. No one knows the whole truth about God, and we have much to learn from each other, and so learning takes place in dialogue. Evangelism should take place in relationships rather than through crusades and altar-calls. People are interested in spirituality and want to ask questions, so the church should help them to do this. 

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan
Neo orthodox
Reformed Evangelical
Modern Liberal
Classical Liberal
Roman Catholic

I note that Doug is proud of being 86% Roman Catholic and 0% Fundamentalist on this quiz. I am proud that I am also not very Fundamentalist but to an equal extent not Roman Catholic.

NT Wright on the authority of Scripture and the Christian hope


The phrase “authority of scripture” can make Christian sense only if it is shorthand for “the authority of the triune God, exercised somehow through scripture.” When we examine what the authority of scripture means we’re talking about God’s authority which is invested in Jesus himself, who says “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28:18, NRSV)

Too much debate about scriptural authority has had the form of people hitting one another with locked suitcases. It is time to unpack our shorthand doctrines, to lay them out and inspect them. Long years in a suitcase may have made some of the contents go moldy. They will benefit from fresh air, and perhaps a hot iron.

The point of following Jesus isn’t simply so that we can be sure of going to a better place than this after we die. Our future beyond death is enormously important, but the nature of the Christian hope is such that it plays back into the present life. We’re called, here and now, to be instruments of God’s new creation, the world-put-to-rights, which has already been launched in Jesus and of which Jesus’ followers are supposed to be not simply beneficiaries but also agents.

Bishop NT Wright, in this interview. Hat tip to Eddie Arthur.

Signing off

I will join several of my fellow bloggers and sign off now for a Christmas break. I don’t expect to be blogging, reading blogs, or using a computer at all to any significant extent until next Thursday evening or Friday.

Tomorrow I am busy at church and then out with friends. On Monday I am taking the train (trying to be environmentally friendly for once) to Taunton in south west England (200 miles west of here) to spend Christmas with my brother and his wife, in their interesting old house (partly 16th century) at which they offer bed and breakfast.

I wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas, filled with the love, joy and peace which Jesus brings. I expect to be back to wish you also a happy New Year.

Let me leave you with some thoughts from Pope Benedict XVI, quoted by Michael Barber:

I would like to mention an aspect that is strongly united to this mission and that I entrust to your prayer: peace among all Christ’s disciples, as a sign of the peace that Jesus came to establish in the world. We have heard the great news of the Christological hymn: it pleased God to “reconcile” the universe through the Cross of Christ (cf. Col 1: 20)! Well then, the Church is that portion of humanity in whom Christ’s royalty is already manifest, who has peace as its privileged manifestation. It is the new Jerusalem, still imperfect because it is yet a pilgrim in history, but able to anticipate in some way the heavenly Jerusalem.

The man who selected Rowan now abandons him

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has left the Anglican Church to become a Roman Catholic.

This is how the BBC starts its report of this long expected news – long expected at least by Ruth Gledhill, and indeed I was among those predicting it (and more) on the day when he left office.

I thank Tim from Oxford, the first commenter on the BBC report, for reminding me that it was this same Tony Blair who selected Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury. This is how the BBC reported this in 2002:

Prime Minister Tony Blair chose Dr Williams from a shortlist of two names, put forward by the Church after months of debate.

Now I am sure that Blair’s reasons for leaving the Church of England have little to do with Rowan Williams. But Tim suggests that it is not right that he has chosen to abandon the leader he chose. Well, I guess Tony Blair the private citizen has the right to choose his own religion, but his abandonment of Rowan and his church is certainly symbolically interesting.

Three Cheers for Rowan Williams!

Yes, the Archbishop of Canterbury has got things right for once, and it is the British press which has messed it all up. My title echoes the similar cheers in John Richardson’s post at Chelmsford Anglican Mainstream, which clarifies what Rowan actually said, as does Dave Walker’s post.

Despite the press reports, the Archbishop did not say that the nativity is a legend. The only thing he said was a legend was, it seems,

‘the three kings with the one from Africa’.

This part of the traditional story is not in the Bible, which mentions only an unspecified number of magi or wise men from “the east”, which would probably exclude Africa. So it is entirely uncontroversial to call this part of the story a legend.

Indeed I find all of what Rowan said in his interview (according to this transcript) to be very sensible. I would be interested in finding out more about what he thinks about the virgin birth. Warning, you might be offended by his use of “damn”.

So why did the British press, even the usually reliable Ruth Gledhill in The Times, write that

Dr Rowan Williams, dismissed the Christmas story of the Three Wise Men yesterday as nothing but “legend”


Jesus is not a demigod

According to Greek mythology, Heracles (the Latin Hercules) was the son of a god, Zeus, and a human mother. This made him in some sense a demigod, a person who was partly divine and partly human.

Orthodox Christian theology has decisively rejected the idea that Jesus Christ is a demigod in this sense. At the Council of Chalcedon in 451 a definition of the faith was agreed with the following words about the two natures of Christ:

one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ

In other words, Jesus is not half divine and half human, but fully God and fully man, without any kind of confusion or change in the natures, while also being one person.

While this definition does not explicitly rule out the idea that God the Father or the Holy Spirit took the role of a human father in the conception of Jesus, it certainly makes it more difficult to hold. Christians have often been accused of believing that Jesus is the product of a sexual union between God and Mary, but this has never been orthodox belief. I would conclude (along with John Robinson and Arthur Peacocke) that this Chalcedonian definition tends to support, without actually requiring, the kind of controversial explanation of Jesus’ virgin birth which I put forward yesterday.

Metaphors We Are Saved By – or maybe not

As part of my training to be a Bible translator I looked at the book Metaphors We Live By by George Lakoff. I don’t actually remember the book very well, but this is part of its synopsis (as at amazon.co.uk):

People use metaphors every time they speak. Some of those metaphors are literary – devices for making thoughts more vivid or entertaining. But most are much more basic than that – they’re “metaphors we live by”, metaphors we use without even realizing we’re using them.

This same principle applies to the metaphors we use to describe God and how he works in the world. Continue reading

Fully human and born of a virgin

A few days ago James McGrath of Exploring Our Matrix took a comment that I left at MetaCatholic and made it into his Quote of the Day. This has led to some discussion, partly because people took my comment in a rather more sexually explicit way than I had intended.

James has in fact made several recent posts on the seasonal topic of the virgin birth. I agree with his point that the child Immanuel in Isaiah 7:14 is not Jesus and the mother is not stated to be a virgin.

James also quotes concerning the virgin birth from Arthur Peacocke, who I knew as Dean of my Cambridge college when I was an undergraduate. Peacocke wrote:

for Jesus to be fully human he had, for both biological and theological reasons, to have a human father as well as a human mother … it was probably Joseph.

Indeed. Continue reading

"I send no cards and give no presents except to children"

This was C.S. Lewis’ custom at Christmas, as quoted by Ben Witherington, and the reason was because of “the horrid commercial racket they have made out of Christmas”. If it was good enough for him, it is good enough for me. Indeed in the 44 years since he died (I remember the day, but only because it was the same day that JFK died!) his reason for this has only become stronger.

Well, I do give presents and/or cards to my immediate relatives – but not to anyone else. So, sorry to anyone who is expecting a present or card from me, perhaps because they gave me one. I don’t want to be like Scrooge, but I don’t believe in wasting my time and money buying gifts for people who probably won’t appreciate them, when the real beneficiaries are the shops.

But I do wish all my readers and everyone else a very merry Christmas.