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February 21, 2006

On Being a Christian

Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams addressed the World Council of Churches on February 17, choosing as his topic the notion of Christian identity... it is worthy of a complete read, but here are some thoughts that jumped out at me:

The claim of Christian belief is not first and foremost that it offers the only accurate system of thought, as against all other competitors; it is that, by standing in the place of Christ, it is possible to live in such intimacy with God that no fear or failure can ever break God’s commitment to us, and to live in such a degree of mutual gift and understanding that no human conflict or division need bring us to uncontrollable violence and mutual damage. From here, you can see what you need to see to be at peace with God and with God’s creation; and also what you need to be at peace with yourself, acknowledging your need of mercy and re-creation.

...To be a Christian is not to lay claim to absolute knowledge, but to lay claim to the perspective that will transform our most deeply rooted hurts and fears and so change the world at the most important level. It is a perspective that depends on being where Jesus is, under his authority, sharing the ‘breath’ of his life, seeing what he sees – God as Abba, Father, a God completely committed to the people in whose life he seeks to reproduce his own life.

...And when we face radically different notions, strange and complex accounts of a perspective not our own, our questions must be not ‘How do we convict them of error? How do we win the competition of ideas?’ but, ‘What do they actually see? and can what they see be a part of the world that I see?’ These are questions that can be answered only by faithfulness – that is, by staying with the other. Our calling to faithfulness, remember, is an aspect of our own identity and integrity. To work patiently alongside people of other faiths is not an option invented by modern liberals who seek to relativise the radical singleness of Jesus Christ and what was made possible through him. It is a necessary part of being where he is; it is a dimension of ‘liturgy’, staying before the presence of God and the presence of God’s creation (human and non-human) in prayer and love. If we are truly learning how to be in that relation with God and the world in which Jesus of Nazareth stood, we shall not turn away from those who see from another place. And any claim or belief that we see more or more deeply is always rightly going to be tested in those encounters where we find ourselves working for a vision of human flourishing and justice in the company of those who do not start where we have started.

...The question of Christian identity in a world of plural perspectives and convictions cannot be answered in clichés about the tolerant co-existence of different opinions. It is rather that the nature of our conviction as Christians puts us irrevocably in a certain place, which is both promising and deeply risky, the place where we are called to show utter commitment to the God who is revealed in Jesus and to all those to whom his invitation is addressed...

Thoughts?

The full text of the speech is available here.

Posted by gary at February 21, 2006 11:24 PM

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