Saturday, September 17, 2011

The man behind the Curé d'Ars

"Once again the indefatigable Balley went to work.  It was one of the advantages of having had no grand achievements in life; he had not grown bored with doing things that count."

George William Rutler, Saint John Vianney:  the Curé d'Ars today (San Francisco, CA:  Ignatius Press, 1988), 88.

"keep [y]our nerve, pray for divine assistance, and launch forth boldly in the teeth of opposition and ridicule"

     "In these circumstances the strategy of translating the language of the faith into the jargon of the streets is superficial.  The intention is good, and there is even a grain of truth on offer.  It is wise to develop contemporary analogies that will capture in a vivid way the great truths of the gospel. . . . However, the mistake is to think that folk are ready to roll over and accept the Christian faith if only we could find a way to make it intelligible to them.  This ignores the offense of the faith.  To see what is at stake in salvation requires an intellectual revolution that shakes the foundations of one's standard conception of oneself.  The darkness and cognitive malfunction are so great that the active grace of God is required to wake us from our dogmatic slumbers.  We should permit the claims of the faith to call into question the common intellectual assumptions of our day rather than capitulating at the first sign of opposition.  Moreover, it is not always easy to explain the deep things of God even to veteran believers.  Thus, to rely on strategies of translation, or on cute analogies, or on church growth techniques, in order to relieve our anxieties is disastrous for the church in the long run.  We need to keep our nerve, pray for divine assistance, and launch forth boldly in the teeth of opposition and ridicule.  Cutting a deal with the world at this point and reworking the faith to accommodate its wishes is simply wrongheaded and ineffective."

William J. Abraham, Wesley for armchair theologians (Louisville, KY:  Westminster John Knox Press, 2005), 106.

Turning the evangelical movement around

"The Holy Spirit does indeed work incessantly to bring folk to faith in Christ and connect them to each other in the body of Christ.  However, does not the Holy Spirit also work to create the church as an institution that exists through space and time?  So in following up on the comprehensive work of the Holy Spirit, we are drawn deeper into the life and work of the church as an institution.  In practice Wesley was headed away from the institutional church.  If we follow his best instincts we will do a U-turn and head in the opposite direction."

William J. Abraham, Wesley for armchair theologians (Louisville, KY:  Westminster John Knox Press, 2005), 121.  Cf. "It was this world of faith that Wesley inhabited.  He was supported at every level in his work.  The state, the church, the universities, and the intellectual giants of his day supplied him with a network of ideas and practices without which he would have been hopelessly handicapped.  Wesley himself rarely saw this; like most reformers and renewalists he had a keener eye for what was wrong than for what was right.  He was so preoccupied with the problems of dry rot in the pulpit that he forgot how good the foundations were.  He was so worried about the broken arms of his patients that he ignored how well they had already learned to walk.  He was so busy adding new trains to the railway company and getting them to run on time that he overlooked his deep dependence on the network of track and railway stations that dotted the countryside.  He was so taken with his piccolo trumpet and the tune he was playing that he disregarded the steady beat of the big drum at the back of the orchestra.  Wesley's life and thought depended critically on the commitments of the state, the requirements of the Church of England, the theological presuppositions of university life, and the effectiveness of the intellectual work done by a host of scholars and writers.  His genius was to note that these in themselves were not enough to secure the spiritual welfare of people.  The church also needed to be an effective tutor in the spiritual life" (32-33).

"the Holy Spirit is not a labor-saving device."

William J. Abraham, Wesley for armchair theologians (Louisville, KY:  Westminster John Knox Press, 2005), 108.