Sunday, 22 April 2012

"That little word 'for'"

From time to time some of you startle me by referring to the Atonement itself as a revolting heresy, invented by the twelfth century, and exploded by the twentieth.  Yet the word is in the Bible.  We have to consider, not how much we disagree with Luther or Calvin, but how we are to be saved.

From Austin Farrer's sermon "Atoning Death" in Said or Sung.

Catholicity and covenant has previously referred to ++Rowan's openness to reasserting a view of the Cross deemed unfashionable by liberal theologies.  In his sermon to mark last week's 1,000th anniversary of the martyrdom of St Alphege, he made reference to the profound relevance of a theologian particularly disliked by liberal theology - Anselm:

Alfege’s successor, Anselm, 100 years after Alfege’s martyrdom, developed a complicated theory about how God saves us through the cross of Christ. A theory which has not always found favour with theologians in the modern era. But at the heart of that theory, strangely, is that same vision. There is something about us as human beings which is beyond price, something which only God’s love can really honour, can really deal with. And when we look at what God does for us and the cross and Jesus Christ, what we discover, above and beyond anything else we might want to say about it, is that it shows us a love beyond limit, rescuing lives beyond price.

Here we see something of the essentially postliberal vision of ++Rowan's theological project, moving beyond the shallowness of 1960s liberalism and its collusion with the dynamic of secularism, to encouraging a generous, thoughtful reassertion of the catholic tradition's prayerful reflection on the Incarnate Word, Crucified and Risen for us.  Anselm's understanding of the atonement, then, convincingly challenges those ideologies and practices of secularism which demean and disfigure the human person.

He went to his death, he rose, and was taken up, and left that little word 'for' sticking in his disciples' hearts.

From Austin Farrer's sermon "Atoning Death" in Said or Sung.

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