tag : bright yellow-green apples: kerygma, dogma, and everything inbetween

"I see little point in persisting in a discussion with one so obstinate as you" Martin White

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

kerygma, dogma, and everything inbetween

Apparently, St Basil (329-79) advocated an approach to faith which saw things in two main terms. The former, kerygma, was about the public teaching, discussion, and knowledge – it was conscious and rational, thought through and debated. The latter, dogma, was about the intuitive experience, deeper meaning, the unspoken encounter and silent awareness of things by ways that bypassed the conscious – in many ways they could not be dealt with other than by belonging and participating.

It’s rather disturbing that at this time, we still seem to place a premium on kerygma – trying to make faith essentially an intellectual exercise. You discuss Jesus with people until they come round to your position and they then declare Jesus as Lord and are now ready to take on the role of debating with others and bringing them round by words – whilst within the Church everyone talks.

Believing before belonging? Many people of religion still see that as the norm, despite how it runs counter to the needs of most people in our time and place - they look for something of what Basil pointed towards in his more balanced exposition.

And yet, I would suggest, it is the very nature of belonging and intuitively encountering, which religions most have to contribute to the needs of people. If people want philosophy they can find that anywhere, talking shops abound. Yet religions are in a unique position, as communities, to help people find encounter in their lives – we deal in the numinous, however the imagination might want to explore what that means in practice.

13 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

that's a very interesting post! (i have grown to rather like St. Basil over the past few months or so...)
i heard a brilliant talk recently by Mike Pilavachi about just this- (including a third B- Behaviour). he said (in loose citation of Graham Cray i think) that so often we expect people to change their behaviour before we let them believe, and wait for both before we let them belong. his challenge, like yours, was that belonging comes first- and belief may follow. (and behaviour may change over time to reflect this change).
not quite sure how you will appreciate being compared to mike pilavachi... ;o)
but the point is that i like your point... :o)
-ash

11:27 PM  
Blogger postliberal said...

Thanks for the responce, maybe I'm onto something at least. I must say your comparison's made me smile somewhat, given how different I would see thier perspectives to mine. But still, sectarian boundaries for thier own sake will not do, and there's still room to, for example, share a few commonalitites with Graham "Anglican Mainstream" Cray!

Just to untie a few ends that need to be a loosened and made a bit woolier:

Appendix 1

I would also probably go further in that I’d say the belonging-believing axis isn’t so much two poles. Instead they’re more fluidly interrelated. At the very least I must note that I don’t see some progression from the former to the latter, as if a hierarchy to be climbed on the way.

If ideal community is the aim of the love God-love neighbour summer that Jesus seemed to insist as foundational to “the kingdom of God”, and which we would I suppose aim to live out, then maybe the belonging is in some sense the believing itself. Life tends to subvert doctrinal basis’ anyway...

2:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I returned a book by Florovsky to the library on Monday that spent several pages elucidating what St. Basil meant by kerygmata and dogmata (since it certainly wasn't what c20th theologians normally mean when they use the terms!); but I can't for the life of me remember the answer. What you say sounds right enough, though I've a vague (perhaps misremembered) impression Florovsky thought dogmata was more stuff like liturgy and baptismal formulae rather than the deeper subconscious ;-p

Where did *you* find this referenced, though? It surely can't be that common a topic!

--RobertB

P.S. I hadn't realised Graham Cray was mainstream :-(

7:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ah yes... Graham Cray happens to be one of my favourite evangelicals... having heard him speak both at my own church and at conferences, i have to say i don't often disagree with him on matters of theology. (i do sometimes of course![and my reading is selective]). i suppose seeing him take part in a community car-washing project at our local shops was quite fun too... ;o)
i think being "in charge of a vicar factory" (Principle of Ridley Hall) has given him an important insight into and appreciation of Anglican tradition that too many evangelical sorts lack... that is by no means to say, though, that he isn't a keen advocate of Emerging Church and other such things... (it is alleged that one of the conditions he placed upon his acceptance of the office of Bishop was that he could still be a trustee of Soul Survivor...)
last word i heard was he was heading up an official CofE report on alternative expressions of church and the role of the parochial structure...

i am, at this stage, slightly alarmed at being able to recall a condensed biography for the man off the top of my head..........

-ash

8:47 PM  
Blogger postliberal said...

"Where did *you* find this referenced, though? It surely can't be that common a topic!"

Yet again it was through my skim reading that great pop theology book "A History of God" by Karen Armstrong. It's where I get a lot of my supposedly obscure ideas from. hehe I tend to have things predigested, then give the impression of wide reading.

"...though I've a vague (perhaps misremembered) impression Florovsky thought dogmata was more stuff like liturgy and baptismal formulae rather than the deeper subconscious."

I was a little concerned you’d come and tip me over with your more accurate scholarship! There could be differences between the different characters concerned here, but I have a feeling a lot of this is to do with my own reading of the ideas and joining of dots through my interpretation. Improvisation.

But you’re right to point out the liturgical-sacramental aspects. There was indeed a lot made of how the enacting of these touched people in dogmatic terms, which I failed to flag up. John Drane’s comments manage to join the dot for me, though, as he sees liturgical play and dramatic enactment as vital tools in mission as much as mystery and creativity-subconscious touching.

12:14 AM  
Blogger postliberal said...

“Where did *you* find this referenced, though? It surely can't be that common a topic!”

Yet again it was through my skim reading that great pop theology book "A History of God" by Karen Armstrong. It's where I get a lot of my supposedly obscure ideas from - hehe why read the original material when you can have it predigested?

“…though I've a vague (perhaps misremembered) impression Florovsky thought dogmata was more stuff like liturgy and baptismal formulae rather than the deeper subconscious.”

I was a little concerned you’d come and tip me over with your more accurate scholarship! There could be differences between the different characters concerned here, but I have a feeling a lot of the difference is to do with my own reading of the ideas, and joining of dots through my interpretation. Improvisation and creative mangling.

But you’re right to point out the liturgical-sacramental aspects. There was indeed a lot made of how the enacting of these touched people in dogmatic terms, which I failed to flag up. John Drane’s comments manage to join the dot for me, though, as he sees liturgical play and dramatic enactment as vital tools in mission as much as mystery and creativity-subconscious touching.

12:17 AM  
Blogger postliberal said...

“Where did *you* find this referenced, though? It surely can't be that common a topic!”

Yet again it was through my skim reading that great pop theology book "A History of God" by Karen Armstrong. It's where I get a lot of my supposedly obscure ideas from - hehe why read the original material when you can have it predigested?

“…though I've a vague (perhaps misremembered) impression Florovsky thought dogmata was more stuff like liturgy and baptismal formulae rather than the deeper subconscious.”

I was a little concerned you’d come and tip me over with your more accurate scholarship! There could be differences between the different characters concerned here, but I have a feeling a lot of the difference is to do with my own reading of the ideas, and joining of dots through my interpretation. Improvisation and creative mangling.

But you’re right to point out the liturgical-sacramental aspects. There was indeed a lot made of how the enacting of these touched people in dogmatic terms, which I failed to flag up. John Drane’s comments manage to join the dot for me, though, as he sees liturgical play and dramatic enactment as vital tools in mission as much as mystery and creativity-subconscious touching.

12:20 AM  
Blogger postliberal said...

I used to be fairly positive towards Bishop Cray, and probably still am. He's got some good ideas and a creative approach. But the news of his affiliation made me a lot more wary, and dented my view of him. In some ways I hope this is simply an urban legend I picked up...Anglican Mainstream really are the pits in my view.

12:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it probably is not an urban legend. if you cast your mind back to the time when Jeffrey John was up to be bishop of Reading, then you may recall a letter signed by 7 bishops and 9 suffragan bishops (may have been 9/7 the other way- i forget). one of them was "the bishop of maidstone" which is Cray's turf...
this would seem to imply he is of the frame of mind that would support mainstream et al. (and following on somewhat, our church is affiliated, as you know, and Cray, when last he visited us, seemed to be pretty similar [although more educated] in his understanding of church to us. not that suprising given that he educated our vicar at Ridley Hall. )

i don't think it ruins a lot of his theology, though, or at least not the areas i am interested in- which were cheifly the youth/emerging church genomes...there aren't, i would hope, that many youths who hold the mainstream view.
indeed, when i was at Soul Survivor church in Watford recently, i heard Mike (in the same talk as i quoted before) saying something to the effect of "i am an evangelical- i have certain ideas about what the Bible says. but when i came back (he was away for about a month overseas) and founf Jeffrey John has been apointed as Dean of St.Albans, and i saw people of the church throwing stones at each other i thought 'surely this is what the enemy wants? while we are throwing stones at each other and hating each other, what are we showing the world?'" (from memory, so not a real quote.) (how i wish i had got the tape of the service)

as you can imagine, i was relatively suprised by this, and wholly impressed at it. there were several anecdotes about his visiting a church in Amsterdam that reached out to homosexuals and transexuals &c. that really sort of emphasised his stance.

far too long a comment to be posting, but hopefully not too irritating ;o)

-ash

2:31 PM  
Blogger postliberal said...

Not at all. Like I said, the news of his affiliation only partially upended my view of Bishop Cray. After all Bishop Wright of Durham is fairly conservative on this matter, and yet I respect him hugely...

12:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I fear Cray does seem to be implicated in some way in Anglican Mainstream. He's the only English bishop to sign this communique, for example: http://www.anglican-mainstream.net/news15.htm
(can we do links in blogger comments?

(Incidentally as I remember it *the* letter was signed by 7 diocesan bishops and 2 suffragens, nine bishops in total, not 9+7. It was also, in fairness, a great deal milder than the line Mainstream seem to be moving towards.)

His report on alternative forms of church ("A Mission-shaped Church") came out last autumn.

People I respect, highly respect Cray; I haven't really seen or read enough of him to form a judgement of my own. But there are lots of wonderful people on the `wrong' side of the tracks on this issue, and inevitably some of them are going to be dragged into campaigning. (And I suspect certain people are involved with Mainstream in the hope of being a moderating influence.)

(At, while on the subject, another person I respect gives glowing reports of Nazir-Ali too - allegedly he may be that rare beast an incense-loving Evangelical... Not that I wasn't a little shocked by his contribution to the Lambeth Commission, but I think I'm getting past shocking on that count. Archbishop Eames has his work cut out!)

--RobertB

7:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've found St. Basil's comments (I was flicking through Jaroslav Pelikan's new book `Credo', and he references them when looking at the history of the word `dogma'). They're from ch.xxvii of the De Spiritu Sancto (I can't do links, but a websearch will find a copy).

The examples he appears to give are: the sign of the cross in baptism, facing East to pray, the words of invocation in the eucharistic canon, prayers of blessing over water and oil, baptismal chrismation, three-fold baptism, baptismal exorcism (I'm spotting a pattern here!), standing rather than kneeling for prayer on Sundays, and (the key point he is trying to validate here) the baptismal confession of faith in Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

(Of course these fit your description too.)

2:02 PM  
Blogger postliberal said...

That sounds about right, there's a lot of symbolic-sacramental action there. I suppose I could be naughty and suggest that my thoughts are indeed bolstered by your references...

4:06 PM  

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