Sunday, 21 September 2008

Study Notes For Rowan Williams, 'Tokens of Trust' Chapter 6

Again, this chapter is not difficult. It is about the church, about being Christian imperfectly, and about our final hope. And it is all grounded in his first three chapters really, where Williams has laid the trinitarian groundwork of understanding ourselves and the hope we have been given.

  1. On pg 136 Williams mentions in passing one of the great theological movements of the 60s that remains prevalent in one form or another in the diocese of Adelaide! This is the death of God movement, which poured out divinity onto the earth to the extent that God becomes the sum total of human aspiration. The death of Godites were deeply impressed by Jesus, and sought to free him from the accretions of doctrine and church verbiage. They loved what he stood for, but ignored Jesus' relationship with the Father, a relationship that defines him in the
    Scriptures. Williams says "it is just not possible to empty out of Jesus' story this constant, all-pervading, sometimes dark and agonizing, always decisive relation to the mystery out of which he comes." (136)

  2. Williams closely allies the church to the Trinity, this 'threefold rhythm of love." (136) The church is an image of the Trinity, where diversity and identity are not inversely related, but our 'individual' identity is bound up with others, to whom I am related. However, he cautions of thinking that the Trinity and the church are two inter-related examples of communion. We are drawn into the communion of love that is God, and do not possess this communion in our own right.

  3. I particularly like his emphasis on our participation in the church now as preparatory for the kingdom that is to come. It will be a bodily life of community that will not be less than this life, which is part of the reason why we believe in the resurrection of the body. (Here is one to remember: "God does not redeem us by making us stop being what we are..." (141)

  4. Our hope does not lie within our power to grant. Our hope is in the faithfulness, trustworthiness, of God. Immortality is correctly predicated of God, not us, and we gain our eternal life derivatively from God. There is no shard within us awaiting release to zoom back to God. (138-144)

  5. Perhaps surprisingly for many Anglicans, the Archbishop provides a positive account for the necessity fo some kind of purgatory. (144-150) We have distorted our humanity, and the redemption given to us in Christ will undo that twist and distortion. And this will hurt. We gain some practice in this in our discipleship now. Coming face to face with the truth brings challenge and pain at times. Purgatory should not be thought of as an intermediate state, but just a recognition that in our continuing journey with God, as we are formed more fully into the likeness of Christ through love, the transformation will not be painless.

  6. But what of hell? We must always hold open the possibility, for we know the depths of our unwillingness to face the truth, and its consequences. But this leads to why a focus on our failure is so important in the Christian schema, and full of hope. The church points to God as its hope, not its own holiness. And this applies to us all as individuals.

  7. And don't miss a beautiful account of the importance of contemplation in our lives and the life of the church. (155-159) Contemplation strips away all the false identities, and all the ideas and emotions and behaviours attached to these false identities. Indeed, to even let go of what makes us happy. (156) And all this to put distance between us and our usual comforts so that we might have a chance of seeing the truth, which will be strange and disorienting.

  8. And finally, what might a trinitarian experience 'feel' like? Don't be surprised if it is not like talking to someone on the other side of the room, despite the fact that we use the language of 'person' to describe God. Father, Son and Spirit are not literally persons. We should know this is immediately true, because the trinitarian persons are present to each other internally, simultaneously. "Something is is going on that is deeper than that, but no less personal, no less a real relationship, but something that doesn't depend entirely on how we feel and what we think: a pouring-in of God's love that will steadily transform us from the inside." (158; see Romans 5:5)

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