Wednesday, 2 August 2006

Anti liberal or pro-orthodox

American commentator Thomas Oden (interviewed today on The Religion Report ) gives an interesting rationale for the newly defined "confessing" movement within the churches. It doesn't take long for such discussions to get semantic; asked whether the right wing movement was "anti liberal" he responded that it was "pro orthodox".
This is not unlike the anti-abortion <--> pro-life distinction, with which I have some sympathy. But which is also an exercise in capturing the semantic high ground.
I have some problem assuming that "pro-orthodox" means narrowly conservative. Indeed I understand Christian orthodoxy to be a radical movement. Jesus himself challenges us to move away from the nitpicking of conservatism and to adopt a radical stance towards humanity.
St Paul reminds us that it is for freedom that we have been set free, a stratement of radical inclusion and openness to human life. Yet so much of neo-conservatism seems to be about defining narrower and yet narrower boundaries which keep people out rather than draw people in.
These sharp boundaries indeed have a certain appeal to people who need to feel that security lies in exact knowing. For me, radical orthodoxy as typified by the cross and the resurrection says rather that faith in God is not about certainty of outcome, it is about being able to trust God even when things seem to rock and roll underneath us.


trevor said...

I have something of a problem with the use of the term "Confessing church". I am mindful of the Bekennende Kirche of Niemoeller and Bonhoeffer, and disturbed by the way in the use of the word "confessing" by the essentially right-wing religious agit-prop groups of which Oden is a spokesperson seems to build an association between those conservative groupings and that challenging time for which we remember the likes of Niemoeller and Bonhoeffer.

It's doubly strange that a conservative element in the Uniting Church seeks to build a similar association with the Bekennende Kirche, while at the same time justifying itself by claiming support from a "silent majority" in the Uniting Church; my understanding is that the Bekennende Kirche was most definitely in the minority in Nazi Germany, with most German church-goers of that time regarding them as dangerous radicals.

stephen clark said...

yes, this is something of the discomfort I feel Trevor. Bonhoeffer was most certainly orthodox theologically, but challenging people to a radical life...with a cost...he was certainly not conservative politically.
Stephen Crittenden was a bit naughty in the interview trying to get Oden to identify himself with Reaganomics. Oden was a bit too savvy for that, but there is little doubt that that is where he stands.
I still say that my conservative theology leads me to a radical politics.