Sunday, 13 May 2012

TMS and Karl Rahner

I'm back in the world of blogging today. And it also happens to be TMS silver birthday. He old. We celebrated appropriately with a cheeky bit of booze from Waitrose, a bit of Swedish/Danish Crime drama and then some banjo playing. I think he was pleased.

I should also be writing a paper on the 20th Century Catholic Theologian, Karl Rahner and his theological method and especially how he understands Grace and The Trinity. He was part of a great Catholic intellectual, ecclesial and spiritual renewal in the Catholic church which saw a return to the Scriptures, to the early Church Fathers and to the liturgical practices of the early church. One of his greatest concerns was that although Christians seemed to confess the reality of the Triune God in their creeds and in their formal worship, many were essentially 'mere monotheists' when it came to their daily prayer lives and in their personal conceptions of God:

Christians are, in their practical life, almost mere monotheists. We must be willing to admit that, should the doctrine of the Trinity have to be dropped as false, the major part of religious literature could well remain virtually unchanged…One has the feeling that for the catechism of head and heart, the Christian’s idea of the incarnation would not have to change at all if there was no Trinity.[1]

This certainly resonates with me. I often find that in Church contexts when I raise the idea of the importance of the Trinity in our daily lives as Christians people look at me confused, perplexed and sometimes even irritated. There have even been accusations of being "too theological".  Yet, if it really is '"All about Jesus" and his grace, in the Christian faith, Rahner argues that the Trinity must be at the centre of everything that we understand about it. It is the central mystery of our faith and our salvation literally depends on it. As Rahner puts it, “grace is not some created sanctifying “quality” produced in a mere casual way by one God.”[1] For Rahner, Grace is the self communication of Godself and God as God truly is: The economic Trinity is the immanent Trinity.
That is the God that is revealed in Christ (in whom the fullness of God was pleased to dwell) is the same God who has existed for eternity. It is not just mere information about God or a practical demonstration of God's love. We receive God. 

What does the doctrine of the Trinity actually do to our lives? How does it shape our Christian discipleship, our understanding of Grace, of Christ. Does it? 
Despite having studied theology for over 5 years it would seem that I still think of God as this big guy in the sky who kind of morphs into Jesus and the Holy Spirit, depending on my mood. And now and again I make sure we tick the 'Trinity hymn' box on a Sunday morning worship session...

[1] Rahner, The Trinity, p.23

[1] Karl Rahner, The Trinity, p.11

Friday, 5 March 2010

mighty stories, dangerous rituals

we're going to start working through our wedding liturgy at some point. i'm really, really excited about this aspect of marriage prep....
here's a beautiful quote from Herbert Anderson/Edward Foley on the subject...

"the marriage ritual is a nonthreatening place for a couple to begin to explore the relationship betwen the Jesus story and their life togtether, because it focuses on an objective* liturgy and not on the couple's faith. it provides a useful framework for reflection on the future of their marriage . since the marriage rite consists pf a seriees of prayers, readings, and blessings interspersed with musical interludes and symbolic gestures, the task of planning the ritual could simply focus on selcting and arranging these various elements. if, hower, our aim is to foster "weddings that wed", preparing for the ritual is more like a theological relfection than logistical planning. As they consider various parts of the wedding ceremony, the couple is invited to search for the Jesus story in their own narratives of faith in order to enhance their practice of living with contradictions."

Marriage is a wedding of stories.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

the sword and the plough: some reel thoughts

Yes, we must HOPE. But in the meantime, we continue to live in a world which we would rather stockpile swords than make enough ploughshares…In such a world, our question our question cannot be whether the reign of truth and justice – the reign of God – should replace the rule of Caesar. It should – the sooner the better. Our question must be ‘how to live under the rule of Caesar in the absence of the reign of truth and justice’. Does the crucified Messiah have any bearing on our lives in a world of half-truths and skewed justice?
– Miroslav Volf, ‘Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Otherness, Identity and Reconciliation’, p.277

Shooting Dogs is a remarkable piece of cinematic expression. It is a film of brutal violence and calculated cruelty and depicts well the demonic power of fear and paranoia. It is also a story of overwhelming emotion and compassionate love.
This is a very real film, not only because of much of historical-political accuracy but also by the way it was filmed. In contrast to its contemporary releasee, Hotel Rwanda (filmed in South Africa), this was a film which almost relived those fateful months in 1994, the set being the ground on which 2500 Tutsis were eventually butchered. As theologian Jolyon Mitchell argues, in film, ‘the place of reception matters’, in Shooting Dogs the blood and tears are not yet dry.

The religious context and setting of the film is extremely important and cannot be emphasised enough. In 1991, 90% of Rwandans called themselves Christians (mostly Catholic) and many were active members of their local church. The sacramental element of the film is particularly significant then. The themes of presence and non-presence; grace and suffering are in many ways a helpful lens through which we might read the other elements in the film.

This I would argue contributes to the strength of the film. In many ways, we are drawn to intimately EXPERIENCE what is unfolding before our eyes. The way the director has chosen to shoot many parts of the film is particularly interesting – the film seems to feature something unexpected and dramatic at every turn, each scene slides into the next, without reflection. It feels like we are experiencing the same sights and smells and sounds that the main characters are. This is particularly poignant in the BBC filming of the dead children by the side of the road, receiving communion, the discovery of the nuns, the killing of mother and child and the road barricade scenes. In this, Canton-Jones wedges himself within an African cinematic tradition which is seen to be discussed by Meyer’s ‘Religious Remeditations’ and the role of video-film media in African Pentecostalism. He speaks of Film as not being “confined to mere representation and sphere of fake and illusion, but involves an unstable relationship between representing demonic forces and their actual presence. Rather than merely representing the visible and invisible dimensions of reality, video-films EMBODY reality, thereby breaking open the distinction between representation and presence.” (Brent-Plate/Mitchell, Religion and Film Reader, p.100)

Another strength of the film that adds to his deep poignancy is the way that radio is used. The scenes of various characters in the film listening to the radio, act as a SOUNDTRACK for the film, a kind of framing device showing the violence & power of words, which is particularly important for such a visual film. It is also of course a political and historical questioning on the culpability of the Rwandan media and the infamous: ‘Radio-Television Libre des Mille Collines.’ on fuelling the genocide. The role of the BBC within the film is another important one to consider with a global politics context.

In his article “Searching for Peace in Films about Genocide” Mitchell raises questions of the pedagogical role of this film and describes it as a “valuable catalyst” for reflection and action. Is he too daring to suggest that watching this film may even inspire students to consider ways of living that will promote a more peaceful world?

How can we respond theologically to this film? What theological tools and frameworks can be used to aid our engagement? As Volf asks, “Does the crucified Messiah have any bearing on our lives in a world of half-truths and skewed justice?”

When engaging with film how can we discuss issues of violence and peace? Is peace something that we can realistically portray and hope for within film?
What is the place of worship/ritual/ liturgical practice in the midst of such abhorrent violence? how can we understand the reality of 'silence of God' in this film? Does it make sense of things? can this film be used as an icon?

so many questions and not enough answers!

Friday, 15 January 2010

will it hold us?

the newest boy band on the scene. spot the token ethnic/gay.

inchmahome abbey

what's that on my finger?

braving it across the ice.

Monday, 4 January 2010

The gamble of Grace

Hierarchies cannot simply be levelled, they must be inverted: the Lamb is the Shepherd and the Kings are the Servants - Miroslav Volf

“I become through my relation to the Thou; as I become I, I say Thou. All real living is meeting.” Martin Buber, I and Thou

we are made human through the self sacrifice originating in the mutuality of the self-giving Trinune God and tangibly displayed in the incarnation...the ultimate embrace.

i think i need to sit down.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009