Regulars here will pick up soon enough that this post is also an ongoing reflection in relation to the upcoming synod’s decision on the future of the Christchurch Cathedral.
I am very grateful that people respected my request to take care with comments, and I WILL AGAIN BE RESTRICTING OF COMMENTS HERE.
The Christchurch Anglican Cathedral is a very controversial topic.
Please restrict your comments on this site to the liturgical and theological content of my posts. I will not allow comments advocating for or against certain actions (past, present, future), what should have happened in the Square, or what you think needs to be done now. If your comment stays with the generic ideas discussed here, rather than the specifics of the cathedral in the Square, that will be fine.
There has already been good discussion, on this site, about the pros and cons of accepting (or not) government and city council money towards reinstating the Cathedral. Does, for example, the church accepting such a significant gift from the world become an encumbrance to the church? (This is a general question – beyond the specifics of the Christchurch example. The question applies equally, as just another example, for church social agencies receiving government funding support, business sponsorship, and other gifts from the world). Does accepting gifts from the world, for example, endanger the prophetic witness of the church, its ability to challenge the world’s ethics and philosophies? There are wider, deeper theologies (spiritualities) at work – and it is those I’m seeking to underline in this post.
Words, in such a discussion, are used in different ways – including in the Bible. The word “world”, for example, can be seen as a blessed place, a place God sees as good, and on other occasions “world” is used negatively. (“Flesh”, similarly, is used in such a positive and in a negative sense.)
Confront, Convert, and Counter-Cultural
There is an end of the spectrum which sees the Gospel and the Church as being against the world. In this view, we, the faithful, should not conform to the spirit of the age. The world is bad. Total Depravity. We should have nothing to do with worldly ways. A Christian should not marry a nonChristian. Holiness is being set apart. If you are being harassed and persecuted, it is a sign that you are being faithful. The purpose of the Gospel is to save souls, to convert people. Sacred and secular cannot mix. Press this approach, and one edges towards being a sect. Press it further, and one is well on the way to being a cult.
Salt, Light, and Leaven
Towards the other end of the spectrum sees God at work in God’s good world. The faithful point to the good, enhance the good, and limit the bad. Sacraments are God using God’s good creation. The Incarnation is the union between God and the world. Blessing is thanking God for the goodness already there. But press this approach, and spirituality can tend to be little more than Therapeutic Moralistic Deism. Press this approach further, and one loses the imperative for evangelism.