Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Transcendence and Immanence Lead to Ecstasy and Intimacy

For AWAF conference speaker Dr. Edith Humphrey, the orthodoxy of the church reveals what is exciting about Christianity. At the center of orthodoxy is the Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. She warns that modern spiritual viewpoints attempting to capture the dramas of each person’s story have caused the focus on the One real thing to dissipate. Dr. Humphrey writes in her book Ecstasy and Intimacy, “We must remember that utter reality (that is, God himself) and true power (that is, his mercy and justice) are seen in the One who has made himself known to us. In coming to be God-with-us, the Word of God disclosed to us (as far as we are able to bear it) the mystery and glory of the Three-In-One and One-In-Three—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

Whereas modern spirituality begins and ends with self, Christian spirituality begins and ends with Jesus, the Alpha and Omega. Dr. Humphrey reaches backwards to grasp traditional Christianity's reverence and right regard of the Trinity. Through social commentary and theological language, she recenters today's Christianity on the Trinity. She focuses on the Incarnate God who has revealed the mystery of the Trinity. For Humphrey, authentic faith is not blocked but bolstered by traditions of the church. It is within the core foundations of early Christian thought that we find help in knowing God today and into the future.

Hear more from Dr. Humphreys at the Ancient Wisdom - Anglican Futures Conference June 4 - 6, 2009.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Artists in Conversation: Announcing Tyrus Cutter

On Thursday evening, June 4th, during AWAF, we will be holding an Evening Soiree: Artists in Conversation. We are pleased to announce the first participant in that conversation: Tyrus Cutter. Here's some information about Tyrus from his website:

Tyrus Clutter is a painter and printmaker who was born and grew up in Michigan. He holds a BA in Art from Spring Arbor University and an MFA in Painting from Bowling Green State University. His work has been exhibited in numerous group and solo exhibitions throughout North America and in Europe. Clutter's work can be found in several hundred private collections as well as in the Print Collection of the New York Public Library, and the collections of the Museum of Biblical Art, the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas, Spring Arbor University, Calvin College and Union University.

Images of Tyrus' work have appeared in journals and magazines including The South Carolina Review, Chiron, The Christian Century, and Arts & Letters: Journal of Contemporary Culture. The Beginning: A Second Look at the First Sin and It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God, both by Square Halo Books, also incorporate Clutter's illustrations.

Tyrus has taught art and art history at colleges and universities since 1995, teaching at Northwest Nazarene University 1998-2003, where he was the Director of the Friesen Galleries 2000-2003. He taught at Gordon College 2003-2008 where he spent a month teaching collage and assemblage for Gordon's Orvieto, Italy program. He also served as the Director of the international art non-profit CIVA while at Gordon College. From 1999-2001 Clutter was art critic for the Boise Weekly newspaper in Boise, Idaho. He continues to produce art, teach, and speak on topics of art, art history, and aesthetics around the country.

In addition to his participation on Thursday evening, the Trinity library will also be hosting an exhibit of his work.

Image:Tyrus Cutter, St. Francis of L'Abri (2003). Watercolor and Casein on Book Page with Gold Leaf.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Daniel H. Williams Encourages Evangelical Christians to Embrace Early Church Traditions

In his book Evangelicals and Tradition, AWAF speaker Daniel H. Williams asserts that today's evangelical Protestants too often ignore or reject the traditions of the early Christian church. According to Williams, these traditions are essential to correct practices of Christianity individually and in community. He writes his book in response to a "new openness to hearing the tradition" among evangelicals. This openness represents an "extraordinary work of the Spirit in our time." (15) Williams attempts to disabuse evangelicals from a core perception that he attests pits tradition as a "competing authority" to Scripture. (16) Williams' suggests to readers that the traditions of the early church complement Scripture and support Biblical authority. He writes with a sense of urgency recognizing that Christianity divorced from the early church tradition is susceptible to errors and heresies.

Williams writes of his high regard of the role and value of the church's ancient tradition for all of today’s Christians. He writes, "The task is to show the origins of this tradition and how it was received as an authoritative guide by the earliest centuries of Christians." (18) By examining the role of tradition in the early church, he shows how it has served as the chief hermeneutic for discernment between true and false church teachings. Without it, Williams claims that Biblical interpretation becomes susceptible to individual whims, personal agendas and subjective experiences.

The antagonistic or apathetic attitude among evangelicals toward tradition contradicts the regard for tradition by the reformers such as Luther, Calvin and Wesley who defended their teachings as aligning with the patristic fathers. Williams rejects any notion of conflict between the Holy Spirit inspiration and revelation witnessed in the gospel and the Christian tradition seen in the teachings and practices of the early church. Williams writes, "the tradition did not stand against the inspirational process, out of which emerged the New Testament: it was a critical means by which the risen Lord had imparted his revelation through the working of the Spirit." (33)

He defends this role of the tradition as the "canon of tradition" which does not challenge the authority of Scripture or stifle the ministry of the Spirit but serves as a guide to the church. He suggests that "A true interpretation of Scripture would always lead one to the tradition." (56) The tradition, including creeds and writings of the Fathers, would implicitly or explicitly acknowledge the supremacy of the Bible. Williams examines the creeds and major councils. He demonstrates that these have served to articulate and defend the message of Scripture and, as he references Luther claiming, to defend what had been given by the Holy Spirit to the apostles at Pentecost. He likewise references Calvin's claims that the patristic tradition served to define the correct Scriptural understanding of God. Williams calls the patristic period "foundational to the Christian faith in normative ways that no other period of the church's history can claim." (50)

Williams attributes the rejection of tradition by evangelicals to several key errors. One primary misunderstanding he cites is the belief that any traditional element of prayer, creeds, rituals, etc. hinders the Spirit-led worship. This belief claims that the authentic faith is best released through extemporaneous activities. Williams asserts that this "spur-of-the-moment spirituality" combined with a contemporary trend of hyper-individualism that rejects ecclesial and spiritual authority serves to isolate Christians from the eternal communion of saints. The constant striving for innovative ways to build churches and ministries among evangelicals has led to a disjointed, individualist Christianity.

Williams effectively shows that the Reformation, as valuable as it was, has overshadowed the voices of the early church that initially defined orthodoxy for the church. He also shows that justification by faith was not a discovery of the Reformation but is present in the early church tradition and interpretation of Scripture. He writes of justification placed in its proper role by the early church as an ingredient in the holistic "work of the Trinity that flows out of the life of God, manifested in a believer by faith and good works leading toward virtue." (141)

There is a self-perception akin to enlightenment among evangelical churches today. Williams makes a profoundly important statement in writing about evangelicals' exchanging ancient tradition for user-friendly styles, "all the relational activity in the world cannot make up for an absence of a content grounded in the church's historical memory." (36) The abandonment of early church traditions opens the door to the "unconscious resurrection of old heresies in new guises." (39)

Williams excels at showing that ancient Christian tradition and Biblical authority are not combative but complementary to one another. His presentations are sure to inspire a renewed interest and appreciation in the ancient church.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Timeliness of AWAF

I stood there blinking, standing at the top of the driveway by my mailbox, staring at the cover of the magazine. The image was so similar to our new logo for the Ancient Wisdom - Anglican Futures conference that I could not decide whether I was impressed or distressed. Compare:

I decided that I was excited. Leadership is a magazine published by Christianity Today, and their Winter 2009 edition is dedicated entirely to "rediscovered roots: timeless practices that keep us grounded and bring new life." In other words, Christian leaders from all traditions are re-discovering the importance of "living the Great Tradition." I was holding in my hands further evidence of the timeliness and the need for the emerging conversation that is AWAF! Read a little bit of what the editor of Leadership writes in his introductory article, "Rooted and Renewed":
As the Leadership editorial team began looking around, we began seeing evidence of rediscovered roots in many places, from postmoderns in the U.K. who take traditional liturgies and do a bit of improvising, to a Plymouth Brethren assembly in Texas that rediscovered creeds, to a Vineyard congregation in the U.S. that's following the Christian calendar.

Others are reintroducing public statements of confession and absolution. Others are pronouncing a blessing on the congregation at the conclusion of worship. Still others are making use of lectio divina and other deeply rooted practices of spiritual formation. (Shelley, 5)
Right here we see Christianity Today exploring in print what we will explore in a live conversation June 4-6, 2009 -- worship, community and mission in the Great Tradition.

Read this most recent edition of Leadership. It's worth it.

Come to AWAF in June. It will be worth it.

Registration is Open

Registration is now open for Ancient Wisdom - Anglican Futures: An Emerging Conversation. Simply point your web browser here and you can read more about it, download our brochure, print out reproducible bulletin inserts, register for the conference, and book rooms at the nearby Hampton Inn.

Space is limited, so register early!