Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Chaplain Gets Schooled

I have been blessed in the last couple of days with emails from The Revd Canon Dr Michael Poon, Convener of the Global South Anglican (GSA) Theological Formation and Education Task Force. He took the time to read my recent reflections (here, here, and especially for this post, here) on the Anglican Catechism in Outline (ACIO), as well as my related post at Episcopal Cafe, and to write to me. I’m honored.

He also had some comments, and especially one that caught me. In the Episcopal Cafe post, I wrote, “the paper on the Holy Scriptures by Professor Oliver O'Donovan of the University of Edinburgh takes a position on Scripture that is explicitly inerrantist and implicitly literalist” (a more concise statement of what I wrote here). His comment was, “Sorry, I cannot understand this assessment.”

So, my first thought was to be sure I hadn’t confused my terms. Having been raised where I was surrounded by folks who spoke of Scripture as “verbally inspired, literally true, inerrant and infallible,” and used that phrase as if it were one word, I had to consider the thought that I might have confused my terms.

And I think perhaps I have. Although I need to do some more rereading, I’m thinking more that Professor O’Donovan is committed to biblical infallibility rather than biblical inerrancy. (Yes, I know the limitations of wiki anything, but these articles seem a good place to start.) Mind, I’m still working with this, but that’s what I’m thinking this afternoon. Dr. Poon did recommend this sermon of Professor O’Donovan’s for more exposition, and certainly the Commentary attached to ACIO reflects much of the language of the sermon.

One of the difficulties of our current Anglican discussions has been differences on what “the real issue” really is. Some think it’s human sexuality. Some think it’s differences on the authority of Scripture, of which differences on human sexuality are only symptoms. With that in mind let me recommend reading, “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy with Exposition.” It’s an interesting document, and not a long read. At least one signatory, J. I. Packer, is a voice in our current discussions. It’s not hard read, but it’s more subtle than some of us might expect. If it helps us clarify our terms and our understanding of one another, it’s well worth noting, whether or not we then agree.

So, I appreciate feedback that makes me think, and I’m still thinking on this one. I’m certainly grateful to Dr. Poon for that. I also want to note that he and the Theological Formation and Education Task Force have invited feedback. According to the announcement of Interim Report, they would like to have feedback by April 30:

The Revd Canon Dr Michael Poon
Convener, GSA Theological Formation and Education Task Force
c/o Diocese of Singapore
St Andrew’s Village
1 Francis Thomas Drive #01-01
Singapore 359340
Fax: (65) 6288-5538; Email:

Dr. Poon has been gracious about my comments, and I hope others will offer theirs. In the meantime, I’m off to think harder....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am very grateful to Marshall, my brother priest, for his charitable comments. I take the title of his blog entry "chaplain get schooled" to mean that we all together take up the yoke of Christ and are together catechetised ("schooled") by Him; and not "lectured" by someone across the perceived divides.

ACIO is for the whole Communion. I thank Marshall for his warm and perceptive comments and look forward to feedback across the Communion.