Who's In & Who's Out

A CHURCH OF DEMANDS OR ACCEPTANCE?

What are churches for? The answer may seem obvious: to preach and try to live the word of God and to celebrate the sacraments. But what does this mean? A recent First Things article argues that two distinct and irreconcilable visions of the church are at war, at least within the Episcopal Church and other Protestant churches; and the mentalities at work here can, I think, be found beyond the borders of Protestantism.

In “An Unworkable Theology” (First Things, June/July 2005) Philip Turner—vice president of the Anglican Communion Institute and former dean of Yale’s Berkeley Divinity School—argues that in today’s Episcopal Church the common message is that “God is love pure and simple. Thus, one is to see in Christ’s death no judgment upon the human condition. Rather, one is to see an affirmation of creation and the persons we are. The life and death of Jesus reveal the fact that God accepts and affirms us.” This direction of thought reveals what Turner calls “a theological chasm—one that separates those who hold a theology of divine acceptance from those who hold a theology of divine redemption....In respect to God, it produces a quasi-deist theology that posits a benevolent God who favors love and justice as inclusion but acts neither to save us from our sins nor to raise us to new life after the pattern of Christ. In respect to human beings, it produces an ethic of tolerant affirmation that carries with it no...

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About the Author

John Garvey is an Orthodox priest and columnist for Commonweal. His most recent book is Seeds of the Word: Orthodox Thinking on Other Religions.