(In less romantic moments, I wondered what it would be like to live here in the middle of the winter.)
The themes of truth and certainty have always fascinated me, which is why I enjoyed reading these two articles:
Gerard Mannion, "Infallibility: Time to Find Another Term for This Doctrine?"
Craig Barnett, "Friends and Truth."
It seems like a lifetime ago that I read Hans Küng's book on the doctrine of infallibility and began following the controversy it engendered. But it was only when I read Mannion's recent update (on Pope Francis's apparent willingness to re-engage with Küng's concerns) that I sensed a connection between Catholic infallibility and Friends' Gospel order. The understanding of infallibility as connected with the church as "the entire people of God" links up in my mind with the "sense of the meeting" that underlies Friends' communal discernment.
On a slightly more ironic level, it's amusing when Friends look skeptically at the Catholic doctrine of infallibility but argue for their own personal infallibility as they pursue their own leadings or argue for a particular biblical interpretation.
Turning to Craig Barnett, I loved his generous appreciation of attempts to balance "objective truth" and "narrative consistency" -- adding his utterly appropriate reminder that the Quaker martyrs did not give their lives for narrative consistency! He continues,
To claim that there is something called 'truth' does not imply that the Quaker way is the only true story about the world, or that it includes the whole truth about reality. But the possibility of truthfulness does imply that our statements and actions can, to a greater or lesser extent, be in a right relationship to the world as it is.In this season of corrosive denominational controversies over the Bible and sexuality, I'm grateful for any attempts to correlate truth, interpretation, and church authority in ways that prioritize grace and holiness over legalism on the one hand, and fashionable skepticism on the other.
Speaking of holiness and truth, I also appreciated Patricia Dallmann's recent essay on discernment. Her perspective:
The Religious Society of Friends has its origin in the discovery that the power of God can be felt and known among us in our gatherings for worship. Friends claim that our deepest thoughts and noblest feelings are manifestations of the divine. If, however, we fail to discern the difference between the guiding spirit of God and the products of our own human spirit (that is, our thoughts and feelings), we will be misled into an abbreviated and groundless understanding of who we are and what we can be as human beings. More importantly, we will be unavailable to carry forward the power and wisdom God provides to us for the stabilization and survival of our world.She goes on to teach that we can our gifts of discernment cannot just be claimed, they must be used, exercised, and nurtured. If we are ready to discern God's will, we are what George Fox called "tender," prepared to harness our natural reason and conscience with a heavenly intent. I'd just add two things, which I'd guess Patricia might also add, and perhaps also Craig: first, the encouragement of this intent is a prime task of good eldership. Secondly, in the church community these gifts ebb and flow -- those who are strong in their gifts at any given time are able to help the rest of us who are weaker or under burdens or simply less mature. The truth of Patricia's teachings don't depend on us all being simultaneously at that same place of tenderness.
Having spent more years in Richmond, Indiana, than in any other place on this globe, I was delighted to see this warm appreciation of Richmond. (Thanks to Margaret Fraser for the link.)
Three deaths in one week: Philip Seddon writes very helpfully on a "juddering and jagged" reality.
The Eastern Orthodox world is struggling to arrive at acceptable arrangements for a pan-Orthodox council that has been decades in the making, and has been (had been?) scheduled for this month in Crete. To keep up with developments from Russian viewpoints, I recommend this English-language site, which always provides links to original sources. I've previously recommended this same site as a way to follow developments on the unfolding story of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia.
Terry Mattingly challenges you to discern which Steph-Curry-and-family story comes from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and which from the sports network ESPN.
The high and holy calling of being a wife: Frederica Mathewes-Green writes one of the most moving articles on Christian marriage I've ever read. I wonder what will leap out at you from this article (whether in agreement or in disagreement) -- for me, I rejoiced at the insight of this paragraph:
As an early-seventies feminist, my image of what a marriage was, or what a husband was, was pretty dour. It was a surprise to find out that real marriage was something else entirely. It turned out that I didn’t have to be married to "a husband;" instead, I would be married to G.—my love, my hero, my fun and funny best friend. I felt like I had cheated the "oppressive" expectations of society; I had married G. instead of a husband.For the lucky inhabitants of my U.S. hometown of Chicago, it's Blues Festival time. This year the festival will include a tribute to Otis Rush. As for me, will I see you in three weeks' time here?
Just mentioning Chicago gave me a non-negotiable hankering to hear Otis Spann: