Open Mouth Insert Foot

Archbishop Rowan Williams has publicly debunked the traditional Nativity as ‘legend’. Anyone who has read the New Testament in detail will know that the stuff of medieval paintings, crib scenes and Christmas cards include a good deal of non-Biblical ’embroidery’. However, one doesn’t need to deconstruct all of that to somehow prove one’s intellectual credentials.

The Archbishop presents himself as an intellectual Anglo Catholic, but all his recent comments do is prove his Protestant mindset. The liberal Protestant is essentially a critic. He is a critic of the Bible, a critic of tradition, a critic of traditional Christian morality, a critic of anything that is the received religion. The liberal Protestant feels obliged to pick it apart, reduce it to facts and submit the mysteries of the faith to human reason.

What interests me is that many of our conservative Evangelical friends want to distance themselves from the liberal intellectual reductionism of the Archbishop of Canterbury, but when it comes to Catholicism are they not just as critical, just as rational, just as reductionist as the ABC? In fact, Protestantism has in its very genetic code the same rationalism, reductionism, individualism and humanism which is exhibited by the Archbishop’s comments–it’s just that in Evangelicalism it comes to move ‘conservative’ conclusions.

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  • blarg

    Father, I don’t know if you remember the American Pepsi Cola and Coke Cola taste test ads of the 1990s, but I wonder, if we blindfolded a conservative Protestant and handed him something Catholic, would he swear it came from his own church?

  • Anonymous

    According to the Anglican blog Stand Firm ( Times cherry picked the full article, and made something salacious out of what he said. In its entirety:”Well Matthew’s gospel doesn’t tell us that there were three of them, doesn’t tell us they were kings, doesn’t tell us where they came from, it says they’re astrologers, wise men, priests from somewhere outside the Roman Empire. That’s all we’re really told so, yes, ‘the three kings with the one from Africa’ – that’s legend; it works quite well as legend.”As one blogger said …The original is about which *parts* of the nativity story are legend.Please don’t construe this as a criticisim Father. Your estimation of Liberal Theology, and the “Hermunetics of suspicion” is spot on. It’s more of a double whammy of a well-intentioned fool being used by a non-well-intentioned media to sell newspapers.As mark Twain once said…those who do not read newspapers are uninformed; those who do are MISinformed.

  • Tertium Quid

    Father,I have linked your comments on my blog. I see we use the same blogger template.

  • Father,I knew your sister Denise in college. How is she?Here is my story of how I became a Catholic:

  • I really do think you should look at the full text of the live radio interview before shooting off like this – you and one or two other commentators on commentators.

  • You are so right, Father. Here’s what one evangelical Protestant commenter at my blog had to say about the Blessed Virgin Mary:Here is my position on Mary:Mary gave birth to Jesus. However, just like Joseph provided no sperm, so too did Mary provide no egg. In other words, the Christ child was solely conceived by the Holy Spirit. Resultantly, evangelicals like myself do not hold Mary to be sinless, nor do we believe that she bore only Jesus. The scriptures do not support a sinless Mary and also makes reference to Jesus’ “brothers” or “brother”.***Mary is not the “spiritual mother” of the church, nor is she sinless, nor is she a “co-redemptrix.” There is only one head to the church and it is Jesus. There is only one who was without sin, Jesus. There is only one who redeems, Jesus.So, the Blessed Virgin is deemed not to be the biological mother for Our Lord, but instead is reduced to the role of being some sort of “surrogate”. And one is left wondering, then, in what sense is Christ “fully human”?

  • I have come across this view of the incarnation from quite a few Evangelicals. Of course, this was the whole crunch of the Christological heresies of the early centuries of the Church. This is why the fathers said the title ‘the Mother of God’ guarantees a correct view of the incarnation, and the wrong understanding of Mary soon leads to a wrong understanding of the incarnation of Our Lord.According to your Protestant commentator Mary is simply a channel or conduit for the Divine Word. This heresy was roundly condemned by Nicea. It’s a form of gnosticism in which the Word does not really take human flesh.

  • blarg

    Jay,There is no word in Hebrew or Aramaic for cousin, so the sacred author sometimes used the word brother. Karl Keating’s website does a better job explaining all this.“In them (Paul’s letters) there are some things hard to understand that the ignorant and unstable distort to their own destruction, just as they do the other scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16. For this reason, the individual reader relies on a teacher rather than his own efforts to interpret scripture, and preferably this teacher is someone other than the Holy Spirit, which easily becomes less the Holy Spirit than the supplicant. Since there is only one Spirit of Truth and 1000s of Protestant churches.

  • RC

    Although I don’t agree with all the points Abp. Williams mentioned, I really can’t fault him for much in his comments. Well, I think he’s mistaken about the origin of the date of the feast.IMHO, this is a case of the uninformed press taking someone’s nuanced statement as a daring act of denial — creating an attention-getting story where really nothing special is happening.

  • Mark

    Just a Thought”The kings of Tharsis and the islands shall offer presents; the kings of the Arabians and of Saba shall bring him gifts: and all the kings of the earth shall adore him” (Ps 71,10).

  • Mark

    Its a thinking dayIsaiah 1, 3: “The ox knoweth his owner and the ass his master’s crib”, and The Prophet Habacuc as related in the Septuagint version, “In the midst of two animals thou shalt be known”.

  • TwoCentsWorth

    To all Protestant critics of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I refer you to St. Luke’s Gospel, 1:26ff,the Angel Gabriel greeted Mary with a new name, “Kaire Kecharitomene”, Koine Greek, meaning “Hail, you who have been filled with grace, made charming, lovely, agreeable and honored with blessings.” Mary was made the most holy and sinless sanctuary, not for herself, but for Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ’s sacred humanity. Again, I refer critics to Luke 1:41 ff, Elizabeth hearing Mary’s greeting to her says, “ the sound of your greeting…the infant leaped in my womb for joy.” At that moment God sanctified St. John Baptizer in his mother’s womb–at the sound of Mary’s voice! Next, Luke 1:42,45, inspired by the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth says to Mary, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. But who am I that the MOTHER OF MY LORD (my emphasis) should come to me?” Now get this through your thick skulls, understand and accept it: here, for the first time, in all of Scripture, Mary, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is called the Mother of God! And the Catholic Church has ever venerated Mary as God’s mother and has fulfilled Mary’s prophecy, “All generations shall call me Blessed…God has done great things for me, holy is his name.” So, get back to your Bibles, stop complaining and criticizing the most holy and Blessed Virgin Mary whose “YES” to God has made possible your salvation and that of the whole world. Amen.

  • A few years back an erstwhile Evangelical of nominal Antiochian Orthodox upbrining explained to me “Mary is not the mother of God, she is just the mother of Jesus.” (Christotokos, anyone?) Nestorianism is alive and well in Evangelical circles today. Those with a view of not re-inventing old heresies would do well to open their history books. A look at Ephesus I might have cleared some of this up for our Evangelical sister…As to the dating, we talked about this one over at our group blog. Off the top of my head, we cover a good scriptural, patristic, and traditional reason why “Happy Birthday Jesus” SHOULD be sung on December 25th with relative confidence in the date… “Winter Soltice” tom-foolery be damned as so much “learned sounding sophistry”. We just don’t buy it.Ethiopian, Armenian, Syrian and Greek traditions all affirm the tradition of 3 wise men, even if the names differ. I grew up with the hermeneutic of “well we don’t really know”. I am not a fan of blind faith, but if all you know is what you can deconstruct… Kinda begs that question can Providence be dependended on to leave us with a history richer than what Bible scholars can thrash out for us? I hope so.

  • I’m going to have a second bite of the cherry and suggest once more that not only Fr Dwight but also a number of those who have posted comments actually read what Rowan Williams said. It is patently untrue that he has ‘publicly debunked the traditional Nativity as legend’. Neither has he denied the virgin birth as is implicit in some of the comments. Nor is this a Catholic/Protestant issue. In case any of you need reminding, the crib in St Peter’s Square this year is, I understand, set in Nazareth although how such a geographical distinction is illustrated goodness alone knows. One thing’s for certain, Our Lord was not born in Nazareth if the two single narrative accounts (in the Gospels of Ss Matthew and Luke) are to be believed.What this post and its tail of comments illustrates only too clearly is that once an untruth is out it stays out. It therefore behoves each one of us writing in the public domain, particularly those possessed of the trappings of authority, to be very careful what we say.

  • blarg

    A simple sinner,Granted I don’t have a Greek translation, but NAB says “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son…” (Luke 1:32). This says to me that it is in fact Mary’s egg. Scripture doesn’t say, Mary you are the honored recipient of a minor gynecological detail, less does scripture say the Holy Spirit conceived the child. People are the doers and natures allow the doing. The you in “you conceive” tells me Mary takes part in the conception. Fr. Longenecker is the priest though, I take his word over my own.Sorry Stephen, I know the dialog shifted, but I like the current discussion.

  • Blarg, I agree… Why is that comment addressed to me?

  • blarg

    Ah, I made the comment because I wanted to talk about those things and I thought you might too. I knew you agreed. Sorry, next time I’ll leave a cue like…I know you’d agree, but what you think about…Sorry for the miscommunication.

  • Mack

    My eyesight is not all that good, and misread “Protestant mindset” as “Protestant midget.”Oh, well…

  • TwoCentsWorth

    Archbishop Rowan Williams’ “liberal, intellectual reductionism” brings to mind the words of a former king who pleaded for someone to knock off the presiding ABC, “Will no one rid me of this priest?”…who reduces, dumbs down the New Testament Infancy Narratives to legends. His reductionism of the New Testament Infancy Narratives has its source in the teachings of German Lutheran (O No, not again!) theologian, Rudolf Bultmann, whose radical historical criticism of the Bible authored “Demythologization of the New Testament.” Rudolf’s treatment of the Scriptures reduced the NT to a mere collection of myths, legends, fables, which, he said, were concocted by the first Christians in order to evangelize the world more easily. Bultmann de-divinized, de-mytified de-sacralized, de-miraculized, and then rationalized, the contents of the NT down to an accumulation of fables. His writings were so influential as to infect many modern-day Protestant and Catholic biblical scholars who, in turn, poisoned a generation of ministers, priests and seminarians…and the ABC, who continues to be a source of heretical teachings and a great embarrassment to his orthodox faithful. Will no one rid us of this priest…who has ignored what the first Pope of the Catholic Church said, “2PT 1:16 We did not follow cleverly devised MYTHS when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty.”

  • “The liberal Protestant feels obliged to pick it apart, reduce it to facts and submit the mysteries of the faith to human reason.”Oh dear me! Facts and reason? For shame!

  • good comment Jay. I am not wishing to dismiss facts and reason: that way chaos lies.I am saying that the mysteries of the faith cannot be reduced to mere facts nor can they be fully understood by human reason.The Christian faith is reasonable, but we are called to go beyond reason.

  • Are you really suggesting that Rowan Williams is a “liberal Protestant?” By what definition?

  • Well he’s not a liberal Catholic, and he’s not a conservative Protestant, so what else could he be?

  • Of course, terms like “liberal” and “conservative” mean different things to different people. I have to say that I wouldn’t put Rowan Williams in the “liberal Protestant” camp, if by that you mean in the tradition of Schleiermacher. He’s hardly your standard enlightenment model theologian.

  • Protestantism is the new old Gnosticism: what else could anyone call Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, etc?The whole idea that salvation lies in a knowledge hidden in the original language of the Scriptures is blatantly Gnostic. Not to mention Predestination and other oddities that used to pop up through out the centuries and were rightfully condemned as heresies.So it’s not surprising at all that what a heresiarch says in the XXI century smashes of IV century heresies.