A Bit About Abelard (c. 1132-1138)

A Bit About Abelard (c. 1132-1138)

I have recently been enjoying The Letters of Abelard and Heloise (c.1132 – 1138) by Peter Abelard and Heloise with a translation and introduction by Betty Radice and M. T. Clanchy.  And this has caused me to theologically investigate what is a very interesting Medieval man and his theology, a poor token offering of which is offered below (that’s my attempt at being humble):

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Peter Abelard was a highly gifted intellectual.  He outshone his fellow French pupils and tutors alike during the High Middle Ages, being also a supreme master logician.  One of his pupils was a young woman named Heloise, who was, arguably, more gifted than he.  The short story is that they fell in love (or fell in lust?), had a secret affair that was then exposed, leading to a strange story of marriage, revenge (castration – ouch!), love and ministry.

I have been reading from the Penguin Classics series by updated by M. T. Clanchy from the work of Betty Radice’s own work of the 1970s, featuring the letters of Abelard and Heloise (including his really fascinating autobiographical account – worth the book alone – Historia Calamitatum) plus other bits, such as letters between Peter the Venerable and Heloise, two hymns by Abelard and extracts from the Lost Love Letters. Another of Clanchy’s books opens with: ‘Peter Abelard, now forgotten, was once the most famous man in the world.’  Well that may be what it is, but it is not what all it is.

The Lives of Abelard and Heloise

Peter Abelard was born c.1092 at Le Pallet, near Nantes, the eldest son of a minor noble Breton family. His father wanted his son to have a career in the military as he did, but Abelard pursued life as an academic, and a gifted one at that. Abelard excelled at the art of dialectic, and during this early part of his life he “began to travel about in several provinces disputing, like a true peripatetic philosopher, wherever I had heard there was a keen interest in the art of dialectic.”  One gets the impression he rather enjoyed being the know-it-all, but I suppose to many (including himself), he did!

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The necessity of the ‘upon-ness’ of the Spirit

The necessity of the ‘upon-ness’ of the Spirit

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

Because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives,

And recovering of sight to the blind,

To set at liberty those who are oppressed,

To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

Luke 4:19-19

 

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me:

As it had to be for Jesus, so it has to be for us.

That the Spirit of God must be ‘upon’ us before anything is said or done.

The Spirit being ‘upon’ us speaks of God’s own desire to be present with us.

The Spirit being ‘upon me’ or ‘upon us’ is our recognition that God is near and not far.

 

Because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor:

The Holy Spirit of God is ‘upon me’ for a reason.

There is a job to do.  That job is primarily an announcement.

“And here is the evening news…death, destruction, lies, greed and war…”

This is what happens when the Spirit of God isn’t ‘upon’.

‘To proclaim Good News…’ is to announce the end of death, destruction, lies, greed and war.

To proclaim anything of God is always proceeds the anointing of the Spirit.

‘To the poor….’ isn’t merely an economic phrase. It’s a human quality-of-life-phrase.

The poor are those who do not have the Spirit of God ‘upon’ them;

Because they are being robbed by the evening news.

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“Mighty is the water in the seas — yet is it too weak for atonement”

Eclectic Orthodoxy

Blessed be He Who was baptized that He might baptize you, that ye should be absolved from your offences.

1. The Spirit came down from on high, — and hallowed the waters by His brooding. — In the baptism of John, — He passed by the rest and abode on One: — but now He has descended and abode, — on all that are born of the water.

2. Out of all that John baptized, — on One it was that the Spirit dwelt: — but now He has flown and come down, — that He may dwell on the many; — and as each after each comes up, — He loves him and abides on him.

3. A marvel it is that surpasses all! — To the water He went down and was baptized. — The seas declared it blessed, — that river wherein Thou wast baptized: — even…

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I Suffer Not A Man To Suffer Not A Woman To Teach

There are some verses in the bible that have been read as culturally time-bound and therefore limited in scope and application.  Others have been interpreted as timeless, and therefore interpreted as timeless (see here)!  1 Timothy 2:9-15 is one such passage, a complex passage in the Greek, that has fallen foul of the hermeneutical confusion that befalls some categories of the church, notably the American holiness movement, and various other ‘complimentarian’ groupings.

Throughout church history, i.e. traditionally, these verses have been read as a universal code for female decorum and then applied generally to women everywhere!  This has determined what some women have worn as jewelry, how they did their hair and what clothes they wore, etc.

The inevitable consequence of this has been a restriction of women’s role within the church.  The Reformer’s varied slightly on this:  Luther offered women the privilige of leadership by way of exception in times of necessity (which was generous of him); Calvin and Knox were adamantly against women in any kind of ministerial role.  They each show their hand in awful ways:  Knox in a nasty little title: First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, and Calvin who wrote that women are “by nature born to obey men.”  Calvin and Knox make Luther’s offer look quite lovely!

That these verses have been used like this to control, limit and restrict, seems quite unwarranted given the local circumstances that formed the context of Paul’s writings here.  But to be clear from the start, it is always a Christian ideal for women to present themselves in modesty and propriety, but it is no less the same for men too!  The trouble is, we now equate these verses with not only a bullying use of power and control, but it also looks too much like a tame but rigid 1050’s American Evangelicalism.  Truth is, men too easily use power and force.  The desire to dominate is to be avoided by women and men.  Humility in service is the responsibility of both sexes.

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The Church is a Mystery

The Church is a Mystery

Whilst I was digging around in some church history today, I came across this nugget of Eusebian observation:
“As the third century drew to a close, the tensions within the church were becoming more explosive.  Eusebius looking back on the situation as he had seen it as a young man could write,

maxresdefault‘But when as the result of greater freedom a change to pride and sloth came over our affairs, we fell to envy and fierce railing one against the other, warring upon ourselves so to speak as occasion offered with weapons and spears formed of words, and ruler attacked ruler and laity formed factions against laity, while unspeakable hypocrisy and pretense pursued their evil course to the furthest end.’ 


It was a grim picture of ecclesiastic strife at the moment of Christianity’s triumph.  Paganism had indeed been defeated.  The world was ripe for religious change, but not for religious peace.”
The Early Church by W. H. C. Frend, Page 114
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And this made me think!  The church had faced all sorts of external pressures and problems, persecutions and heresies.  When peace came, they turned on each other!  This is shocking!
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Nietzsche made a similar point when he observed a church that was brazenly hypocritical; living, as it were, with a great gulf between what she said she believed, and what she actually did.  I suppose this applies to both corporate and individual.  He said,
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“They would have to sing better songs to make me believe in the Redeemer:  his disciples would have to look more redeemed!”
Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke ZarathustraSICK-nietzsche
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I get what he means about the songs on some Sundays, but I don’t know what he means that those who follow Jesus should look “more redeemed”, I’ve tried to look more redeemed, and my wife asks me if I’m ill, or in pain!
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I suspect Nietzsche meant act more redeemed, although, acting righteously brings its own set of unholy problems;  all manner of good-deeds can mask insidious sin and self-serving righteousness.  Basically, the church has always struggled.  Struggled with what it claims and what it does; or what it believes and what it practices.  Sin could be most seductively and demonically at work under the guise of doing good.  Many a good intention is shipwrecked upon the rocks of slightly off-centre zeal!
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While Nietzsche is appalled at the church he observes (probably a limited observation anyway unless he really was Superman); Eusebius, on the other (and much earlier historically) hand, is quite shocked!  “OMG, they’re turning on…. themselves!”
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The Christmas Dinner

Christmas Day 2016

Turkey

                The Disciples

             Sometimes they acted like turkeys; sometimes they spoke like turkeys.  Sometimes they are just like you and me.  We are the type of people God loves; We are the type of people that Jesus came for.

 

Roast Potatoes

                The Roman Soldiers

Their on the plate, big, brash, hot and bothered.  Just doing their job.  Some of them mix with the other foods on the plate, but mostly they keep themselves to themselves.  Too many and you get full up too quickly.

 

Carrots

                The Pharisees

Pharisees are like carrots!  Some are chopped and boiled in water!  Some are part boiled, then roasted.  Others are coated in honey and baked.  Mine are a Tom Kerridge recipe:  Cooked in butter, sugar, water and Star Anise.  Some Pharisees are plain and boiled in water, trying to trick Jesus.  Others like Nicodemas are much more interesting, and ask Jesus really interesting things like:  How can a person be born-again?  Now that is a question full of flavour!

 

Sprouts

The Shepherds

The sprouts are either loved or hated.  Like 1st century shepherds in Palestine.  They can tend to be a bit wiffy on their own or if they’ve been “with you” for a while – know what I mean?

 

Parsnips

                The Wise Men from the East

A Christmas dinner doesn’t have to have parsnips.  But if cooked nicely can influence the whole dinner.  The wise men are a strange addition to Jesus’ story, they enter stage right, leave abruptly stage left and that’s it.  Would we miss them if they weren’t there?

 

Stuffing

                All God’s centuries old promises fulfilled in Jesus

The flavor of really good quality stuffing, enhancing all it is eaten with.  Just like the OT promises of God that speak of a coming Saviour that will rescue the people from their sins.  Century after century God spoke, and the people waited century after century.  And when God’s promises are fulfilled, the flavor to the rest of the meal of life is incredible.

 

Cranberry Sauce

                Mary

The sweetness of the sauce compliments all the food.  Mary was just an ordinary girl who loved God and was waiting for her Saviour to come.  How would she ever guess she would birth the boy around whom angels and shepherds and strange Eastern men and all the other things would happen?  The paradox is there for all to see:  The creature gives birth to the Creator.

 

Christmas Pudding

                Mary Magdalene

If Peter represents the fool, and Judas the betrayer, and Thomas the doubter, Mary Magdalene is often the one we are too full to stomach.  The religious people thought Jesus not religious to be welcoming such an awful sinner as Mary.  Jesus said, we have to stomach this one:  If Jesus welcomes the worst then we are welcome.

 

Mince Pies

                The crowds around Jesus

Occasionally we get offered mince pies, just like occasionally Jesus was surrounded by great crowds.  Intrigued by this rule-breaking Messiah.  Sometimes we don’t fancy a mince pie, we can’t be bothered.  Sometimes the crowds couldn’t be bothered when they realized Jesus wasn’t their puppet on a string, their court jester, their messianic clown.  They walked away.  Sometimes the plate of mince pies will come round and we will let it go, just as Jesus let the people go.

 

Wine

                All those healed of illness and disease

The Bible describes God’s kingdom like a party, and a party with wine, and that wine is “the very best!”  We live in the old wineskin of this world and in our bodies, and one day we will be in a new world, with new bodies and God’s new wine of the Kingdom.  Jesus’ first coming is like the opening ceremony of the Olympics before the main event.  His Second Coming will begin the main event.

 

And finally, the best is last…

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Baby Dedication

Baby Dedication

Our Father,

We lift baby Faye to you now,

In your presence and in the presence of your people.

 

We pray your divine ‘Yes’ over this beloved child’s life.

We pray for your purposes to be fulfilled in her life.

We pray, in anticipation of her responding to your love in Jesus Christ.

And dedicate her now in the hope of her baptism in years to come.

 

You have made her in your image.

She is a child of God.

And so she is loved from before the foundation of the world.

We pray on her behalf that in time and beyond, she will recognise her need of you, Father God.

 

We pray that you will not allow her to live cheaply towards you.

We entrust her to you Father.

That you would make her heart restless until it rests in you.

 

Enfold her family we pray Lord.

That they would be protected in Christ;

So that they would live for Christ.

Make theirs a happy home; a happy marriage; a happy family.

Teach them Father, to make Christ central in everything.

 

So, Faye,

I bless you in the Name of Holy Triune Name of God:

God the Father,

God the Son,

and God the Holy Spirit.

 

To live a fruitful, joyful, hopeful life in Christ.

Abide in Him little one,

Seek first His glorious Kingdom,

And everything in life shall be added unto you.

 

In the presence of God, and of his people in this church:

All God’s people said:  “Amen!”

Amen and amen.

babyfaye

This is my granddaughter Faye in 2013