Thursday, April 02, 2009

"Buddhist" Bishop releases a statement

SUNDAY UPDATE: But what, there's more.

The Incarnation is the very reason for creation, so that God might graciously share the Divine life with the “other.”

The Incarnation reveals the true nature of God as well as the true nature of humanity.

"The Incarnation is the living font from which flows the gracious capacity for our own transfiguration in Christ .. the sanctifying touch of Christ is a soteriological embrace as well as a divinizing one.

-Kevin Thew Forrester

Kevin Forrester, the current bishop-elect of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan (who has been under scrutiny for this hybrid views on Buddhism and Christianity) has released a statement tonight defending his view of the nature of Christ. I've read it several times and am still having Christian Science flashbacks.

He uses authors, not scripture informing scripture, to muddy - not clear - the waters, using murky phrases such as saying that the incarnation is the very reason for creation (which is a bit self-gormandizing), so that "God might graciously share the Divine life with the other.” Not sure what the "Other" is, because of course he doesn't say. Obviously if we don't know, we're not enlightened which again gives me Christian Science flashbacks.

His combination of mystic crystal revelations of "our own transfiguration in Christ" with the mind's true liberation of "the true nature of humanity," he describes the "sanctifying touch of Christ" as a "soteriological embrace" as well as a "divinizing one" which, wink-wink, extends to the cosmos themselves the moment that Jesus (not necessarily the Incarnate One) stepped out of the Cosmos-sanctifying Jordan River, metaphorically speaking of course.

And then there's the assumption that we now go do likewise, having been "touched" by the Incarnate One (not necessarily Jesus) we are soteriologically embraced and now transfigured into the divine. Well, pass the peanut-butter brickle, we're celebrating.

He does call the doctrine of original sin, "problematic," though he feels it "retains significance." How kind. What kind, we don't know. Historical significance, perhaps? Anthropological? Ecnosociological? Patriarchal? A missed bus to Boston? He doesn't say.

What he does say is that something he calls the "Incarnate One" sanctifies and saves everything that he touches, including the cosmos. The "Incarnate One" bestows power to sanctify all the cosmos (which I guess is still in play due to that earlier soteriological embrace) for the Other. No need for a cross. No need for resurrection. No need for repentance. No need at all. Now we get our own divine transfiguration in something he calls "Christ" (not necessarily either Jesus or the Incarnate One) which is actually just a living font, a divine spicket. Well, hotdog.

What's gone missing? Why that unfortunately event up on Skull Hill. While Forrester spends virtually the entire statement to his undisclosed audience name-checking his springtime reading list, he never tells us what he actually believes, what his convictions are, what is Jesus. One has to read between the lines and dicier all the name-checks peppering his paper. He continues to fashion together his own unique hybrid of Buddhist Christology, and then goes and calls it the "Centrality of the Incarnation" - as Benedict said in Much Ado About Nothing, "there's a double meaning there." He might as well have called it "The Center of the Other."



Click and play and read the the entire statement below. Note that he asserts that his theological assumptions to all his life and theology are "quite clear to the diocesan community of Northern Michigan." Just how does he know that? Why is it so clear to them but to the rest of us we're mystified? Does that not assume that they are happily enlightened and anyone who questions him is, well, an idiot? Look at all the authors he's read (but where is Mrs. Eddy, we wonder?). We do note that the one he has put away is Anselm of Canterbury. All that penalty for sin is death stuff, it's so, well, not groovy.

Centrality of the Incarnation

Kevin Thew Forrester

There is a pivotal theological assumption to all of my life and theology, which is quite clear to the diocesan community of Northern Michigan.

My theological formation is deeply rooted in the theology/Christology/anthropology of Karl Rahner. Rahner affirms that “Christology is the end and beginning of anthropology.” The pivotal assumption on my part is the centrality of the Incarnation – the God-man, Jesus Christ. Here, my Incarnation theology is more in the tradition of the Wisdom literature of the Scriptures, the Church Fathers and the Orthodox tradition (in contrast to that of Anselm). The Incarnation is the very reason for creation, so that God might graciously share the Divine life with the “other”.

The Incarnation reveals the true nature of God as well as the true nature of humanity. I love the ability of the Fathers to speak clearly about the sanctifying and saving nature of the Incarnation, specifically as it relates to the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan. Kilian McDonnell, in his marvelous book, The Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan: The Trinitarian and Cosmic Order of Salvation, explores this in some detail, drawing upon the groundbreaking research of Gabriele Winkler. (A fine article by Winker is “The Earliest forms of Ascetism,” in The Continuing Quest for God: Monastic Spirituality in Tradition and Transition.) In the baptism at the Jordan, the Incarnate One is revealed according to many of the Church Fathers as “Spirit-filled and as Only begotten (First-born) of the Father” (Winkler). Gregory of Nazianzus says that when Jesus is baptized by John, Jesus “sanctifies the Jordan.”

What the Incarnate One touches, he sanctifies and saves. Again, Gregory of Nazianzus declares that “Jesus comes up out of the water and he makes the cosmos, which he carries, to ascend [out of the water] with him.” Here we come to part of the significance of Rahner’s statement that Christology is the end of anthropology. But Gregory has carried it further. The Incarnation has the power to sanctify all the cosmos. The Father, Jacob of Serugh, speaks poetically of Jesus consecrating all waters: “The entire nature of the waters perceived that you had visited them – seas, deeps, rivers, springs and pools all thronged together to receive the blessing from your footsteps.”

As I understand it, the Incarnation is the living font from which flows the gracious capacity for our own transfiguration in Christ. Fallen and blinded by sin (I would continue to affirm that the problematic doctrine of “original sin” retains significance) the sanctifying touch of Christ is a soteriological embrace as well as a divinizing one. For me, the Wisdom tradition of the Scriptures, the Church Fathers and their theological lineage embody a theology of Incarnation with profound meaning for us today.

Tip of the tinfoil to The Other Cafe. You can read more of Forrester's earlier writings here and here. It is called religious freedom that people may carry on into personal spiritualized adventures into the hinderlands, but it's not the role of a Christian bishop, many of whom have been martyred for the faith. God bless you, Master Ridley.


UPDATE: Excellent article from Robert Munday, Dean of the Episcopal Seminary Nashotah House. Here's an excerpt:

The ultimate responsibility for a Buddhist Bishop-elect and a Muslim Episcopal priest (and countless other permutations of syncretism and unbelief among clergy that simply haven’t come to light) belongs to an Episcopal Church where probably NO ONE along the path of their journies ever said to them, “This is wrong. Here are the claims of authentic Christianity, and you can’t reconcile them with Buddhism or Islam.” In fact, Kevin Thew Forrester’s late Bishop even commended him publicly for walking the path of Zen Buddhism and Christianity together.

The most tragic dimension is that Kevin Thew Forrester and Ann Holmes Redding learned Buddhism and Islam from people who were true believers and enthusiastic practioners of those religions, while they learned a deconstructed, demythologized, desupernaturalized version of Christianity from teachers who had long since surrendered their belief in authentic Christianity (if indeed they ever believed it) in the face of challenges from Christianity’s “cultured despisers” (to use Schleiermacher’s term). (The lesson here is that liberal Christianity is no match for the challenge of other religions.)

So, presented with an eviscerated version of Christianity on the one hand, and a sincere expression of Buddhism and Islam on the other hand--in the midst of a pluralistically, multiculturally-oriented church where merely being a “spiritual person” is enough to become a priest, and you have what we are seeing in Kevin Thew Forrester and Ann Holmes Redding.
Read it all here.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a perfect choice - he'll fit right in.

Roland said...

I know from some of his other writings that Forrester is, at best, a minimalist regarding Christian doctrine. But I find myself completely in agreement with "Centrality of the Incarnation." While one might infer doctrinal deficiencies from what he refrains from saying, there is nothing wrong with what he does say. If this essay makes you uncomfortable, the Greek Fathers' teaching on the Incarnation would probably have the same effect on you.

Rob Eaton+ said...

Posted for effect.

Anam Cara said...

Sorry, BB,but that rendition of "The Age of Aquarius" was too painful to listen to.

I find it interesting that Forrester says:

I love the ability of the Fathers to speak clearly about the sanctifying and saving nature of the Incarnation, specifically as it relates to the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan. Kilian McDonnell, in his marvelous book,... drawing upon the groundbreaking research of Gabriele Winkler.


St. Killian and St. Gabriele Winker are two Church Fathers I'd never heard of before. Oh, wait. I guess St. Gabriele Winkler must be a Church Mother....

There is a difference between "Only-begotten" and "First-born." Although a first born may also be an only child, only-begotten renders all numbering (first, second, etc) absurd.

I'm sure Truro has a service Wednesday night, but, if you can make it, next week at St. Mary is the last of the Pre-sanctified Liturgies, one of the most beautiful services of the church year. It begins at 7 PM. We will also have a new icon behind the altar of Christ enthroned that they are installing tonight.

BabyBlue said...

The issue is what are Forrester's definitions of the words. As Christians we bring our assumption of common agreement on the definitions of the words - words like "incarnation," and "Christ" and "only-begotten," and "the Incarnate One," and "the other," and even "Jesus." Just who is Jesus, I wonder?

Words have meaning - and we've all ready heard from leaders in the Episcopal Church that those words are merely metaphors that can have their meanings changed. Forrester appears to be putting together a hybrid of theology, borrowing mystical terms that would have meaning in even eastern Orthodox circles - but those meanings have changed. So even the word "light" may have one meaning to the Orthodox or even the Quakers for that matter (based on a scriptural understanding of what that word means in light of scripture) but that same word can have its meaning changed in other contexts to mean that we are equal with God.

Sorry about the song - Idon't know what came over me. It is rather painful. I understand it's a rendition by the Mamas and the Papas. Not sure if they were having a good day that day.

bb

Randy Muller said...

Re mystic crystal revelations of "our own transfiguration in Christ" with the mind's true liberation...:

LOL!! Is that going into the BCP this year? They can put it right after the Star Wars consecration prayer (prayer C).

Anonymous said...

For those with access to the HOB/D List serve, take a look at Louie Crew's response. He refers to God as "Her", and basically says Christianity does not have an exclusive path to God, that other faith journeys are just as valid. No ambiguity on words there. Why then be in a Christian denomination? Why must one cross one’s fingers or jump through ontological hoops when you recite the Nicene Creed if you don’t believe even 25% of what you are saying?????

Anam Cara said...

Get the Fifth Dimension next time....