Sunday 21 December 2008

Rowan Williams: Christmas with Karl Barth

Today’s Telegraph features a Christmas meditation by Rowan Williams, focusing on Karl Barth’s critique of “principle”:

“What [Barth] was warning against was the temptation of unconditional loyalty to a system, a programme, a ‘cause’ which was essentially about ‘me and people like me’…. Christmas is supremely the story of a God who is not interested in telling us about principles…. Christmas doesn’t offer an alternative set of economic theories or even a social programme. It’s a story – the record of an event that began to change the entire framework in which we think about human life, so that the unique value of every life came to be affirmed and assumed…. That’s one reason why we tell this story repeatedly, the story of the ‘unprincipled’ God who values what others don’t notice, who relates to people we’d all rather forget, whose appeal is to everyone because he has made everyone capable of loving response.”


Anonymous said...

Ben you may be interested to know that our former foreign minister, Mr Bummer, has a critique of this article (I am pretty sure it is this article of William's he is trying to critique) in the Adelaide Advertiser today (It might be in the Brisbane Murdoch newspapers). It makes for infuriating reading!

Joshua said...

a great article...and the responses from the Telegraph and other UK papers are also infuriating. all of them are seemingly unable to think without principles...

Anonymous said...

Every married man knows about the dangerous beauty of an attractive woman walking by. A man comes back to his senses and is ashamed over his desire for her, remembering his wife. Perhaps the 'systems' of Christian thought have that same appeal to us. For a moment we take our eyes off our God and look at that which is so alluring to us. For a moment we forget to whom we have pledge our devotion. This too causes no little consternation as we 'sober up' and wonder, "whatever was I thinking?"


Anonymous said...

The simple reason Williams annoys is because it's pure posturing, very easy for him to talk the talk, but the people he exhorts us to remember and receive won't be crashing at Lambeth Palace. Whatever the causes of such mass dispersion of people, and his comments are a 'love the immigrant if you love Christ' manifesto, he fails to acknowledge that the dissolution of any sense of national identity under the Blair regime has accelerated the social breakdown which Thatcher's appeal to rampant greed as the highest aspiration helped kick-start, so what do we do now, love our neighbour, through a genuine striving to recover some sense of actual identity - however tenuous, or loathe him by an ideological love of the stranger, an Anglican Church which demands intellectual credibility will always be found behind the Academy bike shed frolicking with the latest trend, and of course in the thick of it always 'listening to scripture' albeit sadly hearing.

Anonymous said...

I always check that my wallet is still there when anyone talks about recovering a sense of national identity (talk about an ideologically driven concept!); however, insofar as there is any vaidity and merit to the idea in Britain, it must surely begin with a more coherent and felicitous deployment of the English language.

Weekend Fisher said...

There are certain principles God would not want compromised: humility, love, justice, mercy, and greatest of all the truth of what he has done for us through Christ.

I wouldn't expect Barth to compromise on things like that; though I wonder if those were the kinds of principles that Barth had in mind? I also wonder whether they were the principles the ABC had in mind, though I don't know him ...

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Anonymous said...

I re-read my own comments and you clearly failed to read me properly. You're obviously a different class - congrats, my point was simple social cohesion is dependent on its members truly believing that they belong, further there's something tangible that they belong too. All identity is mediated , yours clearly from a diluted, 'hippy trippy, cool in a Kaftan, love and peace man' generation, because hey, 'its the system man, that screws us' but Jesus from your Christmas sermon is clearly the son of Kojak. Ah leave them alone they be blind leaders of the blind! Coherent and felicitous. Man is it necessary to be so pompous.

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