Christianity 2000

Can Scripture Speak?: Biblical studies towards 2000:

James Carleton Paget.

Looking at trends in studies, and the way things may continue to go.

Starting with the Old Testament, looking at archaeology. Recent North Syrian finds, eg at Ugarit, reveal some interesting things, such as psalm-like writings concerning the worship of God. Also important is the information we receive about the type of religion against which the Prophets inveighed (eg worship under trees). Arch. not only confirms biblical details, but there is also the new arch: to illuminate the culture from which the OT emerged.

Sociology is important too; the Israelites are no longer seen as coming out of Egypt but also out of Canaan; developments in agr. techniques let people move into the uplands of Canaan forming a separate group (this is a theory from Sociology).

Pentateuchal studies have also been important (they are a German victory). Four tendencies have long been seen here: Elohist, Jawistic, Deuteronomistitic (exile) and Priestly. (This was started by Belhausen.) But now it is questioned whether we can say who wrote what, ad literary study has said not to look at the theology of individual tendencies, but to take it as a narrative instead of a collection of information. It will also accord more with how it was constructed, ie at one time but from pre-existing sources.

Literary studies of the OT have flourished recently; how for example the tale of Jeremiah is told. It is now said the Bible should be read as a novel; a movement from the diachronic to the synchronic.

The return to wisdom: previously history (and covenant) was seen as central to the study of Israelite religion; now it is said that the wisdom literature should be studied to counter this: it is more creation-centred (which was also present in surrounding religions; it could be more primitive, primary in Israelite religion).

Now onto the New Testament, taking a more sympathetic account, since the WWII, of the judaic origins of Christianity. There used to be a (guilt-wrapped lutheran) view that Judaism was law-based; there is now more emphasis on the free choice of God to choose Israel,

Now more is seen of the variability within Judaism; phariseeism, Zealots, rabbinical judaism, Qumran etc. And where are the boundaries of Judaism? Did Paul regard himself as anything other than a Jew? Why has Christianity broken from its mother religion? Why do Jews say we are not part of them?

How has this affected the way Jesus has been looked at? We are re-thinking whether Jesus was killed for preaching grace, apparently against the legalistic kernel of Judaism. People are now attempting to place him in the background of the time and its preachers.

Claremont Divinity School in USA is trying to establish the most original forms of Jesus' sayings -- not so much Jesus the Jew but Jesus the Gnostic -- looking at the Gospel of Thomas as being early.

Thee are other sources that are relevant, for example the Dead Sea Scrolls, about which there are many theories. The majority of these texts come from the first and second centuries BC, so their relevance to the Jesus movement is not direct. Their contents are obscure; claims by Eisenman that they are Christian texts are fragile.

What then is the use of the Dead Sea Scrolls? Well, here is a group that did isolate itself from mainstream Judaism. They were messianic, and had apocalyptic writings. They may give us an insight into the atmostphere out of which Jesus emerged.

AN Wilson's book, claiming that Jesus would not have had messianic self-consciousness and that Paul created Christianity. But there are many texts of the time giving indication of messianic hope, so it was quite possible that Jesus knew he was the Messiah. Why, then INRI at the top of the Cross?

Recent work has shown that while Judaism is monotheistic, there are angelic ideas, eg a Logos mediating the creation, angelic figures such a Melchizedek, so Christian theories are not a hellenization introduced by John.

Within the study of the NT there has been a movement away from historical studies to studying the Gospels as literature -- why are the Gospels written as a story rather than as letters, for example?

Some reflections: Schweitzer, on the search for the historical Jesus: he comes to us as one unknown, as he came on the lakeside to those who knew him not.

In the end, our attempts to get back to the real characters will always be flawed, but we must not despair on that, as that despair would lead to a form of fundamentalism that depends on attestation, rather than reflection on that attestation.

Christianity and the Future of Europe.

Canon John Nurser

S. Benedict was proposed as a patron saint for what is now the EEC; also S. Francis. We now take it as normal that the Eucharist is the main service, that the laity have a role, there is a common liturgical structure at the Eucharist, a common diaconal action in society. These have been developed in common with Christians in mainland Europe. SCM 1948: Ut omnes unum sint. In Germany, still, ecumenism is not just a churchy word. So to look for unity in Europe was not surprising.

What had been 12 fully sovereign states entered into the Union of European states, of which citizenship is possible.

Looking forward toward 2000 -- are things leading towards a common faith for Europe? Will the international declaration of human rights (pioneered by Christians and Jews) lead toward something further?

In 1988, the Pope described the European Act as a frankenstein, requiring a soul.

England as an unusual religious makeup, and if we are drawn into `ever-closer union' it will inevitably have an effect on the Church.

When Australia federated in 1901, the Dioceses, which were very varied, decided to have nothing to do with each other.

We are the only Church without a clear counterpart in mainland Europe. Catholic and Reformed (Geneva) traditions have been international for 1300 and 400 years now. But the Church of England, originally defined inpolitical terms as associated with the geographical boundaries of the nation. It was then fudged to cover the empire, starting with the Church of Ireland. (Our priests in Europe are Chaplains only.) We are the only one with a spectrum rather than an antagonism of churchmanship; but we are in danger of becoming an isolated anomaly.

It would be difficult to conceive of a European Union like the Russian Republic.

Much of the elite in other parts of the world are really branches of Europe.

Religion is certainly problematic as a force for peace and unity; Europe; Europe could become seen as an organized enemy of Islam.

We are still an island of resistance to learning other languages.

It seemed that MEPs etc were looking to the Churches to make a contribution. There is a commission of Church and society in Brussels.

Do we try to make it better, or abandon it to mechanistic, and possibly evil, forces?

M. Delors, a practicins Catholic, dreads that European union will be purely economic, and has set up a think-tank on cultural aspects.

How things develope is important, as precendents become conventions which become absolute rules. We must make some input into that.

Some would hope for the Decade of Evangelization to be christianization of the european institution; but there are other faiths in Europe, too. So what are to be civic values of `our common european home' -- perhaps human rights?

Council of European Churches in Prague recently: most leaders seemer preoccuiped in ancient quarrels rather than giving a vision as asked for by secular leaders. However, they agreed they could work hard for a common European spirituality.

Michael: we should be aware of the CAP etc.

Education 2000

Joyce Baird, introduced by Br. Anselm, who was a headmaster for 12 years

If we are to look at where education will be in 2000, we should first look at where it is now. We'll just look at compulsory / mainstream education. Joyce last worked in education just 3 years ago, and it has changed a lot since.

The positives: education is happening - children are designed to learn. For each generation, it is the education system. The system has a duty to make sure they can reach their full potential. The news often shows horror stories; but there are things that need improvement. The recent changes are meant to improve things, and to give more choice for the `consumer' (child? parent, in the govt's eyes).

The choice used to be independent vs maintained; it's more complicated now. 7.5% of school population is in independent. Remainder are state (county) schools. State schools are more autonomous than they used to be; Cambridge was a pioneer in this. Controlled schools (Church Aided) have the best of both worlds -- a religious ethos is a key part. An interesting new sector is grant maintained schools, which have opted out from the LEA, and so are now genuinely literally `state' schools. Invented to let schools get away from loony-left authorities; in practice, it was those in tightly-fund-controlled conservative areas who opted out to avoid cuts. City Technology Colleges were intended to get local industry to invest; this is slowly increasing.

So, all types of schools have more opportunity to run themselves than they used too; much more than when comprehensives started, and more than when there was the 11+ selection.

The basic duty of schools has been set out clearly in 1988 Education Reform Act: to exercise their functions with respect to Religious studies and the National Curriculum; supporting spiritual, mental, physical and moral development, and preparing people for adult life. The curriculum included foundation and core subjects, with targets at particular stages.

RE is not included in foundation or core subjects. Other things might get dropped between the gaps: health ed, sex ed, drama and others.

National Curriculum Council was set up. This is the first time that the country has had guidelines on what to teach, especially consistently across the country.

School Examinations and Assessments Council is the other half of things. (NCC is in York, SEAC in London! how will they work together?)

The tests were the controversial element. All but the most militant teachers accept that testing is desirable, to identify problems in children so they can be worked on; and for the government, to identify problems in schools. But testing is time-consuming, and extra help is needed. League tables have caused a lot of worry -- are they comparing like with like? Can they take into account what children bring in at the start? Do the tests drive the teaching?

These two quangos have now been made into School Curriculum and Assessment Authority. This is looking again at everything -- it was probably impossible to think of everything in advance.

The point of the new system was to raise the averages, but there are now `too many children below average'. But the Average Child doesn't exist! Aiming at the average does far too little for the above-average, and may be cruel to the below-average.

NC does not include RE, but 88 act specifies a broadly Christian act of corporate worship to take place daily. RE curriculum is not laid down by councils, but by Standing Advisory Committees on Religious Education in the local authority. Does the NC guarantee space for God?

Our teachers are expected to have a social service role -- unlike in any other country!

Parents have the responsibility to ensure their children are educated -- some now educate them themselves.

The government has a duty to make sure everything happens. The power of the Secretary of State increases with each new regulation.

Some of the changes are political footballs, but some are here to stay: NC, autonomy, for example.

Can care be costed?

By Revd. Dr. Richard Irons.

Prophecy or paranoia? Can care be costed, w.r.t. the Health Service?

It is in the process of being costed, we are told. We are in a setting where the standard of care is the cross.

At a meeting, there was talk about resources: there were going to be more resources in some areas, and less in others. When asked what resources were, an administrator said `money' and no-one seemed to notice anything at all.

When the health service started (1948?) it had a principle that it would be for the whole nation, and free of charge at the time of need, and everyone could get treatment regardless of circumstances. It became a national institution admired all over the world. There was a flaw; the assumption that health would improve and the cost go down; but in fact the cost has gone up. We live longer, and so more is consumed, and the cost goes up. Techniques have become more sophisticated and expensive, and our expectation have risen. The NHS has not kept pace with increased demand; classically, the response to increased demand has been to create a waiting list, eg 5 years for a replacement hip at age 75.

For about my first ten years as a Cambridge GP, I wouldn't have thought of suggesting anyone should take up private health care, but in the past 12 years, I've thought it's doing the NHS a service, and helping those who are less well off. Regardless of the flavour of government, something had to be done about organization. Now, with computerization, it is possible to observe and organize in more detail.

Now, as a political choice, an internal market has been set up, attempting to use price competition to improve standards. And now GPs can set up a fund, instead of the health service, to get hospital services. Speed may have improved in some areas; but it was meant to increase choice, but a lot of red tape comes in then. Addenbrookes, for example, has become a trust, being more autonomous, but probably giving the same standard. Medical need is no longer the primary control for admissions, but they can be delayed because of no more money for the year. Example, an injection for R+/- birth was refused to me by NBTS because he had no contract, so he went to the Rosie and eventually had to sign for it essentially fraudulently... this has probably been sorted out by now. There must be a unitary service.

A plea: the NFS should be a service; it should be aware of all its resources -- including the patients!

We must answer peoples' needs. But in the end, care has something to with salvation. Will the process ofassessment become an end in itself. In my practice, we seem quite concerned in gathering statistics for a fee. I'm not convinced that there is a true interest in what is happening in the NHS, but to check that we fulfill certain norms?

SSF discussion: Communications media.

John Rosselli

Br. Michael: Words are an important part of communication in all the mass media; to encourage or discourage us on lines which are frequently contradictory. There are those who practice words as a profession. In journalism, being on the Manchester Guardian in Manchester is the ultimate accolade -- as has John Rosselli...

John: ... that was 30 years ago. I will concentrate on how things may be by the year 2000. `Media' originally meant means of communication, other than face-to-face. They have been going for a very long time -- letter post for 3000 years; radio, television, wartime cinema are well-established. So, the problems are not new. We are on a continuum of change, but the change seems to be speeding up.

There are two extremes in society -- nothing but face-to-face, and almost entirely through media. Even in a society excavated in Orkney (life expt. 20) there were signs of media. Amazon Indians communicate a great deal with each other, with anthropologists, and with the natural world around them.

There will be increasing availability of information throughout the world. There is now an all-year shopping channel in the UK for example. The satellite station MTV-Europe beams to 55 million homes on Europe. Satellites will offer 150 channels in the US; 500 is hoped for soon. It is claimed, in the TLS, In the forests of Liberia, teenage guerillas watch Rambo and pornography and model their atrocities on them. A new game has a Sun photographer as its hero. Virtual reality would allow you to view a house ... in Holland this has increased house sales. It could replace aircraft simulators, thus saving money, and even for battlefield training.

The problems set by the media are set not only by these advanced media. What is the quality of life mediated by them? They are between us and reality. Estrangement or alienation can be produced by this mediation -- we experience more, but it is distant and transmuted. Kierkegaard: Our age is essentially one of understanding and reflection, of talking, of advertising and publicity; without passion. A passionate tumultous age would pull things down, but a passionless reflective revolutionary age subtly empties things of their meaningfulness. Intelligence transforms the real task into a trick, and reality into a play (wrt a skater on thin ice, but staying on what is safe) -- danger becomes an entertainment. The press in war-torn countries do bring our attention to things, but our attention is short. De Waal (TLS) again: watching a TV crew in a refugee camp is an appalling experience, they seek out the frailest and dying, wait for peoples' last breaths; chiefs line up stricken people photogenically; (papers are not to so bad); the media are trapped by the situation too.

What of the way forward to 2000? Computers, Comms, entertainment etc are all coming together. Technology will give more choice of access to information, which may counteract monopolism. We may be able to pick and mix what we see. Who pays, and what for? On cable, it is largely films and sports events that people are happy to pay for. It is almost seen as a right, just after bread.

What can the response of Christians, of the Church, be? Withdraw? Engage? Kierkegaard urges living as though withdrawn, but he was an arch-individualist. But there may be more need for Christians to communicate face-to-face as a way to witness. Engage: use of existing media for Christian purposes? In 2000, when people are at their video terminals, Christians will want to communicate with them through those channels.

But Christianity is about incarnation, not about virtual reality.


We are in the business of communication, not just words but the Word. One-to-one communication, and preaching, cannot be replaced.

Lorna: we ought to stand up against the journalists' lie that Good news is no news. Thank the Times for putting some good news on the front page!

John: Good news must be of a surprising kind to be noticed.

There may be a pattern of alternating between intensive viewing and aimless / violent behaviour.

The Religious Life

Br. Alistair SSF

Very important elements of care are priceless and are due more to grace than to anything that can be priced.

Assumption that Religious Life is celibate; this is not exclusively the case; most orders have some kind of associates, sometimes quite strongly defined as an order themselves, including married people living under vows.

Religious life has diversified over the centuries, and this is possibly to continue, as the Holy Spirit inspires individuals to explore this, possibly incognito like the Jesuits in Central Europe under communism.

Religious life is not an option in the Church (Michael) -- the Church is maimed without it. Groups which have rejected catholic-style orders appear to be like orders themselves, eg Society of Friends, early Methodists.

Anselm: the Religious Life is like a little current in the river of the Church, and what happens in it depends on what happens in the Church. There is readier growth in Solomon Islands and PNG than in Britain and America. More dialogue with other faiths is another new thing.

Alistair: what is and is not the Religious Life, and what is and is not the Church? The Body of Christ is not dwindling in Europe, but the institution of the Church is. SSF is not central to the institution like in RC, but on the edge; glad not to be caught up with the institution; glad to have a majority of lay-brothers. Two-axis picture: across: the things that unite them as brothers (office, work, care of older brothers) at left, and diversity at other end (ministries, beliefs, situations); vertical: at top, maturity (mixture of psychological and spiritual), at bottom, immaturity. Four quadrants: unity and immaturity is old-style religious life; unity and maturity (Alistair and many others prefer this) is towards community; maturity and diversity may be a dangerous current direction, not bringing people together, more of an organization than a community; diversity and immaturity no-one wants. They do want to stick together as a group with Christ at the centre, but also want growth in individual growth with Christ.

Peta: is the religious life an institution? Emphasis on not making the institution but on the life itself.

Michael: Anselm and Alistair seem to point out that there is still a place for religious vows. The ordinary family is breaking down nowadays, but the religious life runs in parallel with it -- another opportunity to be in a family with maturity and unity, not without structure and vows.

Alistair: Poverty, Chastity and Obedience are the same as the baptismal vows; don't get hung up on the vows. Concentrate on the community as the special thing. Taking vows was a move from a provisional life to a more committed one for him.

Anselm: a call was not a flash, but a knowledge that `this is for me'; that is the important thing; human response (noviciate etc) is secondary to that.

Michael; we can only live our own lives. How we be what he means us to be? We can look towards a group of people trying to do the same thing.

Anselm: doesn't think we're any more or less in the bottom left quadrant than in the past; we're all in all parts of the chart at once.

Alistair: A mixture of nature and grace.

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