Thursday, 10 July 2008

Knowing the mind of Christ?

This week I was listening to BBC 5live and there was an amazing interview in the wake of the CofE vote to allow women to be Bishops. Richard Bacon was interviewing a conservative Canon who felt deeply betrayed by the decision and Bacon asked him why he objected. After a few words on tradition that Bacon gently challenged the Canon stated, about the fact the Women should not occupy this position, that 'we know the mind of Christ' on the matter. Bacon was audibly taken aback by this amazing statement and asked something like 'sorry, you are saying you know exactly what Christ thinks about this?'. He continued by pointing out that the very office of Bishop only arose after Christ. Yet the Canon was adamant that he 'knew the mind of Christ'.
Now I guess I kind of admire the single minded and sure place of the Canon but I, like Bacon and probably many millions of listeners was disturbed by the absence of humility and open acknowledgement of interpretation and 'faith' that lay behind this statement. It was not in anyway provisional and so sounded almost tyrannical. Worse still it did not see tyranny in its own construct, its obvious complexity and its vulnerability to being used as a tool of oppression. The saddest thing was that the bearer of this position did not take responsibility for all this, for his interpretation and its potential, but all the images of tyranny that it conjured were projected not even onto the church but straight into the very mind of Christ. Whether or not one agrees with the Canon on who can be a Bishop surely this is dangerous stuff.
I don't think I can ever 'posses' the mind of Christ but I am, by the spirit, possessed by Christ. That's very different. In 1 Cor 2 Paul does say v16 "For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ. Wow but I see Paul says we 'have' not 'know' - it is not ours to instruct God - how crazy, proud and ultimately self destructive for all of us would that be. So what is it to 'have' the mind of Christ, it seems to be about being indwelt by the Holy Spirit v10-12 The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.
So for me all this 'knowing the mind of Christ' might better be knowing/communing with God in me to understanding just what God has gifted me (which is perhaps a very different emphasis to telling someone else what God has not gifted them). Interestingly in the very next lines of his letter Paul begins to address divisions in the Corinthian church. The 'jealously and quarrelling' that have arisen from them still thinking and acting in a worldly way using their facts as power over another rather than thinking 'spirit'ualy . Craziness, we are the temple where God's spirit lives, how can we even think of violating one another.
Actually, says Paul, don't ever claim to wise at all - be fools - Ch3 v 18Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.
So perhaps it would be better to lay down this anti wisdom of 'I know' and take up the fool's cap. Acknowledging that for now we see in part and that our call is to continuously seek by faith after an obvious oxymoron - the understanding of the unimaginable gift of God. And this seeking is not just in thought but in deed. And in so doing we may, in a very humble way, on 5 Live and everyday, be able to point people beyond our own straw Gods to Christ.
Phil 2 v5-8 (NKJ) Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
I am sure that in the background of my mind behind this post is not just the affable ex Blue Peter Mr Bacon but also the great book I just finished by Pete Rollins - 'How (not) to Speak of God' - buy it, its great, heck I'll buy it for you if you want.


mark said...

Interesting! Just been watching 'Mock the Week' and they said that Rowan Williams had been asked about women bishops, "What would Jesus do?" Apparently, he gave an answer, which they thought was ludicrous - how could anyone know what Jesus thought? But they said it would be very handy if you had an argument - what video shall we get out tonight? What would Jesus choose?

By the way, I suspect R.W. was misquoted, but still confidence about what Jesus would do is hardly uncommon.

So, how do you square this blog with a previous one of yours on conviction?

DS said...

Thanks Mark a good question -

You know I don't think i feel the need to 'square' it (just using the word not insinuating you meant it as i am using it here:-) ). I think I am discovering my own limitations as a creature (and letting go of some remaining modernist shackles?). I no longer feel the need to drive out a definition of 'truth' in a singular way - as this often seems to tend to being destructive.

Often times Jesus seems to undercut this in his life and teaching - you have heard it said 'this singular truth that you are in or out of' but i say 'turn that on its head, expand it, think of it completely differently, try this different metaphor etc etc'.

Jesus isn't being woolly, he is coming from a different place, from the truth that he is, from that old wisdom that was always figured as a person.

I guess I am growing more comfortable with trying (and sadly failing!) to humbly live with the wonderful inevitable tensions within my creaturely understanding of God / the person of truth.

I don't just mean live with but follow and act out his way. There seems to be a big difference between these approaches. A singular truth leads me to either be right and that’s it i am sorted (and others are not) or to sort myself out so I am right. A creaturely embrace of the tensions of one aspect and another leads me to continue my seeking after truth - the person of truth in heart and my way of living.

Jesus said - 'I am the way, the truth and the life'

This is transforming truth (knowing God) not static truth (knowing stuff). And bottom line, as in my post - it is more about being possessed by truth than possessing it. (I have written a worship thing on this theme this week so would love to do an Engage Worship event on it?).

So - I said in my conviction post -
'The voice that says confidently and clearly...That voice calls us to fore go the pinning down that limits and excludes but take up the challenge to prophesy and suffer in order to redeem'
I stand by that (even though i am not doing to well at living it!) and i do want to maintain a clarity and confidence (which honestly is hard with so much emerging going on in me regarding the shape of my faith now at this stage of the journey). I do want to speak confidently but always humbly and provisionally and in a way that never claims anything for myself but seeks to point to the person of truth and always be open to that person or others created in his image having many many many things to teach me.

mark said...

I agree - I just wanted to make you say it!!

The other thing your blog made me think was how difficult it is for Christians, so enclosed in their Christian ghettos, to hear what they are saying as others hear it.