Thursday, February 28, 2008

No safety

"We belong to a community doubly vulnerable: to self-deceit, and to the unremitting leavening of the truth proclaimed in word and sacrament."

- Rowan Williams, Resurrection: Interpreting the Easter Gospel, 59.

This double vulnerability is very important for Williams. There is no safe church; no possibility of a community secure from self-destruction, or from divine redemption. No individual is safe from either sin or grace. If you think you are standing firm, beware lest you fall. If you think you are fallen, beware lest God raise you from the dead.

8 comments:

Annette said...

Nice point, i'm looking forward to my first encounter with Williams - i am in the end getting a copy of 'on theology' after a lapse in self-control and accidental click on the 'confirm order' amazon button (i closed my eyes and opps, just clicked!)
Anyways, having looked a bit at ethical thinkers who emphasise the vulnerability theme as williams does here, i was always being warned by prev. supervisor of the dangers of the way this kind of thinking makes a cult of victimhood, vulnerability and hence violence. But i think the flip side williams/you idenify here alters what vulenrability means - one can also be vulnerable to transformation and love - good to know!

Craig Bennett said...

I wonder if this warning of the dangers to vulnerability is part of the trouble that some within Christendom have in underplaying the role of our emotions in our relationship with God and replaces that vulnerability solely with a rational prepositional understanding of God?

Craig Bennett said...

That should read "Presuppositional"

Elwyn said...

Williams' use of the metaphor "leavening" is pretty appropriate on numerous levels, particularly with tying back to Jesus' comments on the pharisees and in the age of "McChurches".

psychodougie said...

need to keep reminding ourselves, and our people, that we are great sinners, but that Christ is a great saviour (with appropriate apologies to whoever 1st penned that phrase)

byron smith said...

Annette - oops...
And yes Williams is quite aware of this danger (victimhood, not Amazon temptations to buy his own books), and has a whole fascinating section in this book about how before we identify with Jesus as the one who represents us, he is first a stranger. His cross is not straightforwardly and firstly ours and that of our cause, but his. Our first position is not with him on it, but with those who killed him. We need to realise first that we are capable of inflicting pain before we reflect upon the suffering we receive. He bases this on the resurrection, drawing out the theme of strangeness in the risen Jesus, that he was often not recognised.

Craig - possibly, though Williams is not simply speaking of emotional vulnerability here. Our intellects are also doubly vulnerable and so it is not necessarily a refuge to exchange one for the other. That said, many people do seek to construct a "safe" intellectual picture of God (or a safe emotional one, for that matter).

Elwyn - interesting thought. Could you expand a little more on what you mean?

Doug - yeah, and that this sin/salvation is not simply in the past. We all (believers and outsiders) remain vulnerable to sin and grace today.

Craig Bennett said...

I agree with you Byron, we need to balance both.
I wonder if our community suffers from not admitting our vulnerability in sinning to each other in a real way? Would mutual accountability within the community including both the local and greater church decrease the tendency to fall or could it lead to greater deception?

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