One of these things is not like the other

One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn’t belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?

Thing Number One

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Romans 10:8-13

Thing Number Two

And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls.
Joel 2:32

Thing Number Three

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
John 3:16-18

Thing Number Four

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
Matthew 16:15-18

Thing Number Five

The overarching connection in all of these crises has to do with the great Western heresy – that we can be saved as individuals, that any of use alone can be in right relationship with God. It’s caricatured in some quarters by insisting that salvation depends on reciting a specific verbal formula about Jesus. That individualist focus is a form of idolatry, for it puts me and my words in the place that only God can occupy, at the center of existence, as the ground of all being. That heresy is one reason for the theme of this Convention.
Katherine Jefferts-Schori, Opening Address to 2009 General Convention

Did you guess which thing was not like the others?
Did you guess which thing just doesn’t belong?
If you guessed this one is not like the others,
Then you’re absolutely…right!

With apologies to Kermit, Big Bird and the rest of the gang.

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8 Comments on “One of these things is not like the other

  1. No mention of sin or repentance – check.

    No Bible references – check.

    Woolly waffle about journeys and ubuntu – check.

    Total lack of understanding of the significance of the Great Commission – check.

    Total failure to get to grips with the actual issue at hand – check.

    Yep, sounds like TEC leadership to me.

  2. Hmm, I think Jefferts-Schori raises a valid point – often there is too much focus on individualism, especially in the US. However, in reacting to this, she makes the opposite error of denying individualism in salvation, and committing heresy, not the serious error that individualism leads to (unless it's at it's most extreme and denies a worldwide church, the communion of saints), but worse – something that twists salvation.

    Reading the speech (and it's hard to understand under all that psudo-Christian symbolism, but what I get of it is that it flat out denies some biblical truths and over emphasises others), the thing I noticed most is it frequently talking about Ubuntu – a humanist philosophy. Why not use a Bible word for the concept? Because there isn't one that is quite the same? It's clear that Katherine has succumb to the temptation which she warns against – making the mission of God narrowed down to her hobby horse. She says that the thing God's want is for us to love one another – missing the first commandment entirely, which is worrying – both need to be there and the second comes out of the first.

  3. What really gets me about this is that it is entirely the wrong way wound. Confessing `Jesus is Lord' or the Nicene/Athanasian/Apostle's creed or whatever (appropriate) confession of faith you prefer is, if believed while recited, the very opposite of idolatry – for it is precisely subduing one own's rebellious instincts and putting oneself under the authority and care of Christ. It is not that you place the words at the centre of existence but that by saying the words, and believing them, you place Christ at the centre of yourself. By not saying those words, you are in effect putting something else, whatever makes you think that saying `Jesus is Lord', is unimportant, presumably your own or somebody else's human reason, as the ground of your being, and not Christ. So by saying that salvation doesn't depend on saying `Jesus is Lord' or something equivalent Dr Schori is, in fact, commiting idolatry herself.

  4. Evening all,

    at the risk of cheap provocation this looks like knee-jerk criticism of KJS to me. (I haven’t read the whole speech, only the extract above, I should admit, which you may feel invalidates some / all of what follows…). Wicked conservative, I don’t see how you can say KJS doesn’t mention sin given that the excerpt Peter quotes speaks of “heresy” – presumably it can be taken that heresy’s sinful?

    Peter, would it be fair to say that your implied argument in quoting your 4 Bible texts is that salvation can be – or simply is – individualistic, that we can be saved as individuals? If so that’s by no means the only way to read the extracts you quote. None of them ‘insist on a person reciting a specific verbal formula about Jesus’. And what about Paul’s use of the Body of Christ and “therefore the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you'” – doesn’t this (as one example) indicate that being saved is collective, is about being part of a new community?

    Nigel I don’t think that KJS is “saying that salvation doesn’t depend on saying `Jesus is Lord'” – not in the quote above anyway… I think the key phrases in your post above are “if believed while recited” and “by saying the words, and believing them” – I don’t see anything in the KJS quote that runs counter to that. But the thing for me is that if we believe the words this will show forth in relationships – as Matthew 25:31ff and James 2:14-17 suggest. I don’t doubt you agree with this but I don’t see evidence that KJS does not.

    Broadening things out a bit isn’t there a problem with saying that we are saved as individuals? In ‘Knowing Jesus’ James Alison says this:
    “At the same time as the crucified and risen Lord is the foundation of the new Israel, so it is his crucified and risen presence that is the basis of the holiness of this new people… There is no grace, or faith, that is not by that very fact immediately related to the new reconciled community… Making us holy is identical with making us part of the new Israel of God”.

    And 2 pages later: “There is, therefore, no such thing as individual justification by faith. Such a justification would imply a rescue of an individual from an impious world, over against which the individual is now ‘good’ or ‘saved’. However, while the individual is still locked into some or other form of over-against, they are not yet receiving the purely gratuitous victim who has nullified all over-against” (‘Knowing Jesus’, SPCK 1998, pp80, 82).

    There may also be a problem with me quoting all these words and arguing like this… *climbs off high horse*…I’m aware I live all this out very inadequately. A broken lover (if lover is even the word) to use your poignant phrase from another thread, Peter. Am also hoping I’m not talking past anyone here – am guessing we agree that all this is important… :)

    in friendship, blair

      • Hello Peter,

        as you’ll see from my response to Wicked conservative I have read the whole talk now. Just 2 more things. It seems to me that KJS’s words quoted above could be read as ‘cutting both ways’ – i.e. as criticising individualism whether ‘liberal’ or ‘evangelical’. She speaks of “the great Western heresy” – and the US Episcopal church is undeniably a Western context. I’d suggest there are other gentle challenges to her own audience in the address too (e.g. “The
        structures of this church are resources for God’s mission, but they are not God’s mission in themselves, and if we get that mixed up, we will have turned our face toward the date palms of Jericho rather than Jerusalem” – p6). I’m not sure that one could quote anything from her talk that shows she is solely criticising evangelicalism.

        Second thing is a question – I’ve not much understanding of the doctrine of revelation; could you expand a bit on what you meant above?

        in friendship, Blair

    • I think it’s a bit much to say that this “looks like knee-jerk criticism” when you haven’t actually read the whole speech. When I say she doesn’t mention sin I mean just that. The words “sin” and “repentance” do not appear in the text of the speech, nor are the concepts (which are central to Christianity) alluded to in any recognisable sense. As Peter quite rightly points out the whole tenor of the speech is against seeing Christianity as the revelation of the solution to the problem of sin, and turning it instead into solely a religion of social work and being nice to each other, with truth and individual holiness becoming irrelevant.

      • Hi wicked,

        point taken; I was ‘going off on one’ a bit.

        However, KJS does mention sin: “The financial condition of the nations right now is another element. The sins of a few have wreaked havoc with the lives of many…” (from the 5th page). And arguably alludes to it again later: “The reality is that God’s mission will continue,
        whatever we do here, but it may not advance as effectively or penetrate as widely in the next few years if we get selfish or miss the mark” (page 6). Correct me, but isn’t ‘missing the mark’ the meaning of one the biblical words for sin?

        Having read her speech through, I would still suggest that the way you characterise it is unjust. KJS’s argument is about more than “being nice to each other” – it’s (partly) about being part of “God’s reconciling mission – in sharing the good news, healing the world, and caring for all of God’s creation” (p4). I’m in no way trying to argue it’s perfect or a classic, but simply that her scope is broader and deeper than your summary implies. As for “truth and individual holiness becoming irrelevant”, again I don’t think so – “The sins of a few have wreaked havoc with the lives of many, as greed and *dishonesty* [my emphasis] have destroyed livelihoods…” (p5). If I’m understanding her it’s not that “individual holiness” is not relevant, but that it is only born and shown forth in right relationship with others. I would suggest there are some notable biblical echoes of that – e.g. Jesus’ “whatever you do to the least of my brethren you do to me” and 1 John 4:19-20 (maybe not perfectly chosen refs, but still).

        I don’t think the two situations are exactly alike but there are similarities here for me with the way some liberals reacted to Michael Nazir-Ali’s comments in his ‘Telegraph’ interview. He was condemned by the usual voices in the usual ways without much attention to his actual comments, which to me look somewhat imprecise. (The way the paper reports it, it’s not entirely clear whether he meant gays should repent of their homosexuality itself, or their sexual relationships only, or of their sins in general – as the writer says MN-A “added that it is not just homosexuals who need to repent, but all who have strayed from the Bible’s teaching” – but isn’t that all of us? If so why single out gays – but then if he is broadening out his remarks to refer to all of us, why object to his call to repent?). Perhaps this should be on the other thread, but hey…

        Switching topics again, can I risk suggesting there might be a problem with seeing “Christianity as the revelation of the solution to the problem of sin”? There could be a risk there of telling a story where sin is the ‘central character’ to which all others, including God, react – and if God is a reactive character God is not God….

        Might have ‘gone off on one’ again…

        in friendship, Blair

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