John von Heyking, assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Lethbridge, has in this book presented helpful, alternative reflections of St. Augustin’s perspectives on politics, taken mainly from Augustin’s work, City of God. Von Heyking challenges a traditional literal interpretation of the City of God that has fostered dualistic, anti-political, anti-worldly perspectives, often with an absolute antithesis between the Church, politics, and the world. Von Heyking attributes traditional readings as a misunderstanding of St. Augustin’s rhetorical style (the device of rhetorical excess over excess) in the City of God. The two cities are to be seen as educational hortatory rhetoric, representations of two extremes, the extremes of the worst of Roman society, and of the perfect and Ultimate Good in the Eternal city of God. “Augustine’s excessive rhetoric is meant to reform the inordinate desires of his audience.” It is the populous, a human, organized, political entity that exists in the space between the city of God and the city of man. For Augustine, politics is a natural good, though not ultimate leading to perfection, but he regarded politics to be the,”…natural expression of human beings’ striving to obtain a kind of wholeness, and building a community, as an expression of their loves.”
I teach Him (Grant) now—but oddly only started to read him around 2010. So only since then any direct influence—but no doubt indirectly much before then.
(John Milbank to Ron Dart, email, 12-15-2014)
Conrad Noel continued the Headlam/Hancock sense that the church was the true society and extended earlier intuitions about the links between liturgy and social order. He surely realized the powerful links between beauty and justice, social and natural harmony.
(John Milbank to Ron Dart, email, 1-2-2015)
I remember, with much fondness, a lunch spent with John Milbank at Peterhouse (founded in 1284) in Cambridge in May 1995. I was doing, at the time, research on the Anglican High Romanticism of S. T. Coleridge and the Anglican High Toryism of T.S. Eliot. I was on my way to Little Gidding for a few days to ponder Eliot’s Four Quartets. John Milbank had published his innovative and plough to soil tome, Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason (1990). Radical Orthodoxy did not exist at the time, but the seeds of the movement had definitely been sown with Theology and Social Theory. Needless to say, we chatted much at Peterhouse (the definitive High Church college at Cambridge—Milbank made sure I realized this was Laud’s College) about Milbank’s demanding read of a book and how his challenge to secular reason opened up new yet much older terrain in which to do theology, philosophy, social theory and, in time, political philosophy. I did, a few days later, when at St. John’s College Oxford, attend a lecture by Professor Patrick Collinson, who spent most of the time bashing Archbishop William Laud (but such were his puritan and protestant prejudices). I was fortunate at the time to be spending time with David Nicholls (rector of SS Mary & Nicholas Church Littlemore—The church Cardinal Newman built and where he crossed the Rubicon to Rome—quite a different read on Laud and politics than that offered by Collinson.
The more I study theology, the less confident I feel about doing evangelism. If that sounds disheartening, please be assured that I remain committed to both. To explain: at earlier stages of my faith, I was bold in declaring the gospel in quite mechanistic ways; but gradually, these rather brash versions of Christian proclamation have seemed less and less adequate. I want to share the beauty and mystery of God and his relations with the world – but beauty and mystery don’t fit so easily onto bumper stickers. I’ve found myself casting around for help. One sphere I’ve reached out to - or which perhaps has reached out to me - is the sphere of poetry.
What thoughts come into your mind, dear reader, when I use the word ‘poetry’? Perhaps you think of something pleasant but rather frivolous at best, somewhat ornamental to the real stuff of life. Or perhaps the term dredges up memories of dire afternoons in high school English classes trying to work out what on earth some author was on about. It is my assertion that poetry need be neither a distracting frippery nor an impenetrable enigma. What I want to argue in this article is based on a hunch – a hunch that poetry can be of great service as a tool, and indeed as an end of the gospel itself.
To bring my discussion into focus, I shall be sharing the work of two very different contemporary Christian poets. The first is Anglican priest, poet and scholar Malcolm Guite, whose theological writing and literary criticism underpins and informs much of my own thinking; the second is Kenneth Steven, a poet whose work draws on the Celtic tradition and the landscape of his native Scotland.
The Way of Poetry
We might begin by asking: what is poetry? Despite being woefully under-qualified to do so, I will offer a hesitant definition to get us going. What we can say is poetry is a form of ordered language that is distinct in some ways from prose. It exhibits a certain intensity of language, often employing strange or unusual words and combinations of words to bring to bear fresh or recovered insight to the world. Expressing a similar set of ideas, Rowan Williams calls poetic language ‘language under pressure deployed as a means of exploration.’ 
Now there are all sorts of further issues raised by these working definitions, but for now, let us ask a related question which is no less mysterious, but is more germane to the discussion at hand: how does poetry ‘work’?
 Rowan Williams, The Edge of Words: God and the Habits of Language (London: Bloomsbury, 2014), 133.
I have suggested before that we are in the midst of a second "great axial period".  Like the first "axial period,"  the processes and influences of the second axial period in which we find ourselves, can lead closer to, not further from, God. This will happen, however, only if we overcome fundamentalism and extreme right wing religion.
Pompeii is a story that fascinates me. The idea that a village could be so utterly destroyed and swallowed alive, as well as preserved for thousands of years intrigues many. What intrigues me even more is this is a city in existence during the time of Jesus, a place just south of modern day Naples that Paul likely knew, and possibly even visited during his travels.
“Bomb those bastards” is a phrase I am hearing more and more in relationship to the crisis in the Middle East. Even more disturbing is that it comes from the mouths of well-intentioned followers of Jesus Christ. The topic of pacifism and justified war is sticky, and needs to be treated with respect, but from my perspective Jesus was a peace preaching messenger of His Abba. I have my own thoughts regarding the temple cleansing, but to keep the focus where it needs to be for this essay, I’ll leave that off the table. (Read my thoughts on the temple cleansing act here.)
What do we do regarding the atrocities and abhorrent behavior of those semi-men Isis? How do we handle the beheading of children, women, families all because they are Christians? How can we justify anything but violent retribution as an answer to their murder?
When I first started reading about these people, I was utterly shocked. Not at the fact that humans could act this way, history has proven we can, and do. No, I was shocked at how quickly the call to violent retribution came from the mouths of Jesus followers. How quickly we have forgotten our own history and testimony of the redemptive love of God.
There was a man once who went around proclaiming that his “God” ordained the death of infants. He praised this god, rejoiced in his violence and bloodshed, and proclaimed it to be God’s will. Who was this man? A Muslim? A Pagan? An Egyptian warlord? No. King David. Psalm 137:8-9 ...
What I share with you today began with this picture called The Cave. It is a drawing by David Hayward of a young woman, standing at the entrance to a dark cave. She knows this cave is a part of her very self, and she is arguing with herself about whether to take a look inside.
I have carried this image in my mind since I first saw it last fall. It has made sense of a deep longing I’ve had for the church for many years. To me this picture is a call to acknowledging and embracing all that is hidden in us that we’d prefer to hide or forget. It is a call to mature, and to become all that we can.
Nan Merrill writes in her translation of Psalm 107:
And know yourself! Let your aim be to recognize who you are.
Aspire to live as sons and daughters of Divine Love,
To enshrine the earth with divinity,
To honour all relationships as sacred, and to live in peace and in balance with all living things.
I like this picture … the girl taking a look inside … she’s peeking behind the eye, looking past the exterior. She wants to know who is inside.
Donald Miller, the author of the book Scary Close writes “The reality is people who allow themselves to be known are often even more respected than those who don’t. In the end, we trust and are comforted by those who are brave enough to be known.”
And now a quote from Timothy Keller: “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”
So here is my first mystery for you: to be fully known is the only way we can be fully loved. And this is not just about being known by someone else, but also about knowing ourselves.
The apostle Paul, in the fifth chapter of his letter to the Romans, is insistent on there being ‘much more’ in the provision of the gospel than was surrendered by the fall. He uses the phrase πολλῷ μᾶλλον four times in the chapter and ὑπερεπερίσσευω once, which alerts us to his perspective on the abundant provision in Christ. This paper will look at this theme in the verses 12 through 21, specifically drawing from the church fathers and their perspectives on this text and on what was lost for the human race by Adam, and what was gained in Christ. Due to the brevity of the paper, it will present only a very distilled sampling of the perspectives of the church fathers.
First of all, let us look at what the church fathers suggest was lost in Adam’s disobedience based on their commentary of Romans 5:12-14. It was interesting to note that, contrary to much current emphasis among conservative preaching and teaching, that death and not sin was perceived by the fathers to be the real enemy of humanity. Sin was the gateway or access point for death to enter, and both needed to be reversed, but death was the true foe. Ambrosiaster says,
“Death is the separation of body and soul. There is another death as well, called the second death, which takes place in Gehenna. We do not suffer this death as a result of Adam’s sin, but his fall makes it possible for us to get it by our own sins…The sentence passed on Adam was that the human body would decompose on earth, but the soul would be bound by the chains of hell (Hades) until it was released.”
 Gerald L. Bray, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Romans, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), p. 136
Ron Dart is, arguably, the most significant Red Tory thinker of our epoch. He is certainly the most prolific. Dart follows a path trodden by such notable Canadian political philosophers as Stephen Leacock and George Grant. Attached are two reviews on his work on George Grant, Lament for a Nation: Then and Now.
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
2 It is required in stewards that one be found faithful. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court.In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.
(1 Cor. 4:2-5)
In 1972, I came to belief in Christ and consciously prayed for God's saving grace to come into my life. I was baptized on the confession of my faith in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Later, was welcomed into membership at Calvary Baptist Church. After transferring membership to Bethel Mennonite Church, I also went on staff and was ordained as a Reverend by the Conference of Mennonites in BC. My ordination was also recognized by the Christian Ministers Association after we planted Fresh Wind Christian Fellowship. Many moons later, I was chrismated into the Eastern Orthodox Church (again, upon confession of the Symbol of Faith) and later, was ordained as a Reader.
None of this allows me to claim to be Christian. Many who say, 'Lord, Lord' will prove to be strangers before Christ on the Last Day.
During the course of these assorted ministries, I prophesied in Jesus' name, cast out demons (or at least thought I did) in Jesus' name, even did the odd wonder in Jesus' name. Taught in his name, evangelized in his name, pastored in his name, counseled in his name, prayed in his name.
None of this allows me to claim to be Christian. Many who serve 'In his name,' will prove to be strangers before Christ on the Last Day.
The stubborn fact is that it not by our claims, but by our fruit that Jesus recognizes living faith. Nor will the fruit he seeks be our spiritual pedigree or our relentless religiosity. It seems that he will actually be looking for the fruit of the grace of the Holy Spirit in our lives, whatever that means.
Claiming the fruit does not allow me to claim to be Christian. Only bearing the fruit will count on the last day.
The fruit of the grace of God's spirit cannot grow from the flesh of self-righteousness, striving or zeal. It can only grow on branches grafted to the Tree of Life, the Cross of Christ. Paul sure knew this:
3 For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, 4 though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. 7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.
1. Simone Weil: An Astonishing Life
2. Waiting on God: Contemplation and Astonishment
3. The Goodness of God and the Affliction of Humanity: An Astonishing Cross
See 'Awaiting God' by Simone Weil, trans. by Brad Jersak and Anny Ruch. Includes an Introduction by her niece, Sylvie Weil, and enfolds both books, 'Waiting for God' and 'Letters to a Priest' in the one volume. Also available on kindle and audio books here:
A Lament for a Nation: then and now. Ron Dart, 2015, New York. American Anglican Press
A Review by Henk Smidstra
In this little book of 38 pages, Author Ron Dart explicates important Canadian political philosophical issues as he leads us through the events and ideas contained in George Grant’s pivotal book, Lament for a Nation, originally written in 1965. Perhaps Dart’s contribution could be called: “Dart’s Notes” on George Grant’s important book, a work acknowledged being a masterpiece of Canadian political theory. Dart provides us with timely, much needed, insights and perspectives on Canadian political history and philosophy, which not only help our understanding as we read, or reread, George Grant’s book, but the booklet of itself sketches the groundwork of an alternative philosophical path for us as we ponder our political choices this election year amidst the din of political rhetoric and spectacle of absurd attack adds. “It is my hope,” Dart writes in his Preface, “that this little book will highlight the perennial significance of Lament, both when it was published in 1965 and for 2015 and beyond….”
The body of the booklet contains four essays relevant to disclosing the main points of Grant’s reflections on the political philosophical situation of his time. There is repetition and overlap in the essays, but in each Dart explores different aspects and perspectives, of the political historical context, and of the political philosophical context. As well, Dart compares Grant’s affinities and differences with others such as Ernest Manning and Alan Ginsberg who were also writing and critiquing liberalism at that time. Dart writes passionately but plainly about a topic familiar to him. He has thought about the topics at hand deeply and has put much work into them before, namely, the concern about the waning of Canadian Nationalism and the rise of American liberalism. From our cultural political situation in 2015, one might wonder how a book written fifty years ago can still be relevant to Canadians.
Last week Dr. David B. Hart visited Eclectic Orthodoxy and engaged in instructive conversation with folks on the “Readings in Universalism” page. Fr. Aidan Kimel, who hosts the page, skimmed through the comments thread and culled from them some of Dr. Hart’s more interesting and provocative statements, as follows:
“There is no verse in the New Testament that unambiguously threatens eternal punishment. There are three that are regularly invoked by the Hellfire Club (my fond name for those who have some emotional commitment to the idea of a hell of eternal torment), but none of them really says what they imagine it says. Conversely, the seemingly very clear statements of universal salvation number quite high (47 at my last casual count).” (10 May 2015)
“The classical Platonic-Aristotelian-Christian understanding of freedom is one in which the rational will of necessity, when set free from ignorance, wills the good end of its own nature; and perfect freedom is the power to achieve that end without hindrance. Thus God is perfectly free precisely because he cannot work evil, which is to say nothing can prevent him from realizing his nature as the infinite Good. Similarly, for Gregory of Nyssa or Gregory of Nazianzus, perfect freedom is liberation from the fetters of ignorance that constrain the rational will from seeing the Good as what it is. For Augustine, the highest freedom is the perfection of human nature in a condition of “non posse peccare.” For Maximus, the natural will is free because it tends inexorably towards God, and the gnomic will is free precisely to the degree that it comes into harmony with the natural will. And so on. Since, after all, all employments of the will are teleological–necessarily intentionally directed towards an end, either clearly or obscurely known by the intellect–and since the Good is the final cause of all movements of the will, no choice of evil can be free in a meaningful sense. For evil is not an end, and so can be chosen under the delusion that it is in some sense a good in respect of the soul (even if, in moral terms, one is aware that one is choosing what is conventionally regarded as ‘evil’); and no choice made in ignorance can be a free choice.
“In simple terms, if a deranged man chooses to slash himself with a knife or set fire to himself, you would not be interfering with his “freedom” by preventing him from doing so. You would be rescuing him from his slavery to madness. This is why the free-will defense of the idea of an eternal hell is essentially gibberish. Which, incidentally, does not break from the ‘synergist’ view. It is merely to say that the cooperation of the created will with God’s is still a cooperation–if needs be by terrible purgation–in restoring a human soul to its natural state. I think of Gregory of Nyssa deals with this quite delightfully and cogently in De anima et resurrectione.” (11 May 2015)
The Christian family is pulled in a variety of at odds directions these days: postmodernists, modernists and the classical tradition compete for faith attention. Then, there are movements such as renovare, ressourcement (Protestant and RC), charismatic, liberationist, neocalvinist and various forms of the evangelical tribe holding high their flags. Each of these different approaches to the faith journey are often about reads of the Bible, Tradition and, of utmost importance, images, ideas and existential interpretations of God. There is much sifting of chaff and wheat, burning of dross from gold in such an approach. In short, how we interpret and see God has significant implications for good or ill. The beauty of A More Christlike God is the way Bradley Jersak tends to these issues in an accessible, thoughtful and pastoral manner.
A More Christlike God is divided into three distinct yet overlapping sections (most Trinitarian indeed) and a suggestive Appendix:
There is a definite flow and momentum in the tome from ideas and images of God which are distinctly toxic and unhealthy to invitational portals that point to the way to a more gracious and suffering God who engages us in our all too human journey. There is no doubt that the violent and wrathful, sentimental or deist versions of God have done much harm and hurt.
What are the positive, creative and more constructive images of God that point the way to a more transformative approach? And, how can we be sure these images are not just fictions we are creating to serve and suit our temperaments and tendencies? – theological anthropomorphisms can be both subtle and crude – there are many ways to lose our way on such a quest.
There can be no doubt Brad has mined a rich mother lode in his pilgrimage to see and be seen by God in a more mature manner, and he has wisely so, drawn from the best of the Christian wisdom tradition in doing so. The more the curious and attentive turn the ears of their souls to the communion of the saints, the better and more refined the divine music heard. If we dare to see God through the lens of Christ, alternate reads of God dissipate like thin clouds that have no enduring substance.
Current attempts to understand the ‘violence texts’ of the Old Testament in light of the nonviolent revelation of God in Christ have been renewed with vigor in recent years.
Eric Siebert (Disturbing Divine Behavior), David Lamb (God Behaving Badly), Thomas Römer (Dark God), Paul Copan (Is God a Moral Monster?), Eryl Davies (The Immoral Bible), Michael Hardin (Jesus Driven Life) and Peter Enns (The Bible Tells Me So) are among the host of scholars who address the problem of the so-called ‘toxic texts’ of the Hebrew Scriptures in an effort to read them in the light of the Father revealed by Christ.
More recently, Derek Flood’s must-read book, Disarming Scripture, caught the attention of Gregory Boyd (who is also writing an epic tome on the topic). While I know these two teachers have much in common, Boyd took Flood to task on the question of “biblical infallibility.” He began a four-part blog critique, beginning with a post entitled “Must We Deny Biblical Infallibility to ‘Disarm’ Scripture?” Derek blogged a series of responses, beginning with his post, “A Reply to Greg Boyd’s Critique of Disarming Scripture.”
For my part, I would like to affirm both men for modeling a gracious exchange between Christians on a matter of striking disagreement. If only this were the common standard: charitable dissent without hostility. Well done, I say.
Second, to distill the exchange down to its essential feature, Boyd argued for ‘biblical infallibility’ and Flood argued against it … however, Flood rightly noted how they did not necessarily agree even on the definition of ‘infallibility,’ which could reasonably cause them to argue past each other. While the tension is in part a verbal one, I think they would both say it goes deeper than that. That is, even if they could come to a mutually shared definition of ‘infallible,’ they would still disagree as to whether the word should or should not be used as a descriptor for the Bible.
Third, this leads to a particular question that does not solve the problem, but may speak to its background. Namely, what did the early church teach about infallibility? I’ll pose the question as Derek asked it.
This strikes me as wrong. Inspiration yes, but infallibility? Do you know of any articles or books that deal with this (whether infallibility was something taught by the early church)? What does the Orthodox Church say?
Based in my late-coming knowledge and brief surveys of the early church fathers, 'infallible' was indeed a word they employed, but not with reference to Scripture. The 'infallibility of the Bible,' as best as I can tell, is a specifically Protestant notion, introduced as a point of leverage (under sola scriptura) in order to cut itself loose from the authority of the Vatican and from church tradition. An infallible Bible then becomes the final authority for faith and practice. Unfortunately, ‘an infallible Bible’ is often a code for ‘my interpretation of the Bible,’ and the schisms go viral.
On the other hand, while the early Greek fathers definitely speak of the 'inspiration of Scripture' they reserve the word 'infallible' for the Holy Spirit and the Spirit’s guidance as they preserved the gospel (the ‘canon of faith’ or ‘faith once delivered’ – Jude 3) and summarized it in the creeds as they convened the early councils. That is, only God himself is the infallible Subject.
When once to a man the human face is the human face divine, and the hand of his neighbor is the hand of a brother, then will he understand what St. Paul meant when he said, "I wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren." But he will no longer understand those who, so far from feeling the love of their neighbor an essential of their being, expect to be set free from its law in the world to come. There, at least, for the glory of God, they may limit its expansive tendencies to the narrow circle of their heaven. On its battlements of safety, they will regard hell from afar, and say to each other, "Hark! Listen to their moans. But do not weep, for they are our neighbors no more."
St. Paul would be wretched before the throne of God, if he thought there was one man beyond the pale of His mercy, and that as much for God's glory as for the man's sake. And what shall we say of the man Christ Jesus? Who, that loves his brother, would not, upheld by the love of Christ, and with a dim hope that in the far-off time there might be some help for him, arise from the company of the blessed, and walk down into the dismal regions of despair, to sit with the last, the only unredeemed, the Judas of his race, and be himself more blessed in the pains of hell, than in the glories of heaven?
But it is a wild question. God is, and shall be, All in all. Father of our brothers and sisters! You will not be less glorious than we, taught of Christ, are able to think You. When You go into the wilderness and seek, You will not come home until you have found. It is because we hope not for them in You, not knowing Your love, that we are so hard and so heartless to the brothers and sisters You have given us.