This was a great article and I Look forward to reading Solus Jesus. Three (minor) points of contention, with autobiographical as well as argumentative support.
- I think it’s mistaken to place Richard Hooker’s Anglican “three-legged stool” of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason under the auspices of Sola Scriptura. It is a sincere and I think largely successful attempt at a via media between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, because it questions whether the “plain sense” of scripture is given, incorrigible, universal, and changeless, and can be read right off the pages of a Bible that is “self-interpreting.” (Which IMHO makes absolutely no sense. Books don’t interpret: people do.) I think the originary problem with Evangelical Protestantism is this kind of literalizing Bibli-olatry — the idea that scripture “means” the same thing as a contemporary news report does. (At least this is true of American evangelicism: it certainly is not true of Barth, who always considered himself evangelical.) This basically was a green light for preachers, oblivious to the temporally-extended debate that tradition actually is, to make shit up and pass it off as “Bible-true”. What Hooker’s triad makes clear is that Christian theology and homiletics needs all three to make sense: you think rationally about what you read in the Bible in light of the options that are available from those who read and interpreted in the past. Hooker’s triad privileges neither reason, tradition, not scripture over the others, avoiding the Protestant-Catholic/Orthodox impasse. And this was one reason that when I returned to Christianity I was received into the Episcopal church.
- I think your Christocentrism is much needed in the church today, and I think you are on the right track by invoking Bonhoeffer — both his Discipleship and the “post-religious” views expressed in the Letters and Papers from Prison. Discipleship isn’t being a good, card-carrying member of “Christendom”, where you go to church to see and be seen and then carry on the rest of the week as if Jesus never existed. But I worry about the possibility that this approach is inadequately Trinitarian, with as a result the Church is just a resistance-program against the powers and principalities. (One risk of a partial, one-sided reading of Bonhoeffer, and a common one.) I mean, it is a resistance program, but if it is only that, something key is lost. A friend of mine — a disillusioned Unitarian — often gripes that he might as well quit the church and just be an activist in Move On or HRC. Both noble efforts, to be sure, but the Church is more than that, or should be, and that this is connected with the loss of Trinitarian focus. Which brings me to my next point.
- One of the reasons I was received into the Episcopal church, aside from the fact that it has married, woman, and LGBTQ clergy and accepting of trans-people, was that it took liturgy seriously. The Catholics — at least in the Northeast USA — never did. Everyone in the pews just sat there waiting to leave after communion to catch the kickoff of the Sunday Giants or Jets game. And I think liturgical worship is a key part of what makes the Church the Church, that common worship is itself a political act, an act of Trinitarian acknolwledgment. Maybe it’s because of my ex-Catholic high-church sensibilities, but I think that discipleship involves not just acting the Liturgy of the Word but living the Liturgy of the Eucharist, and living it beautifully. The “old strucures”, for all their dilapidated-ness, understood that, even as they often put the lie to it in the un-Jesus-like way they developed “policy” and went about their power-drenched daily lives. So it’s not just Solus Trinatate, but Solus Ecclesia and Solus Adoratio as well.
Again, thanks for a very fine read. — LMN