Archbishop doesn\’t understand Christianity

Not a great surprise in the Church of England of course:

Dr Williams said the Bible made clear it was the duty of the powerful to ensure ordinary people were \”treasured and looked after\”, particularly those without the resources to look after themselves.

\”What about having a new law that made all Cabinet members and leaders of political parties, editors of national papers and the hundred most successful financiers in the UK spend a couple of hours every year serving dinners in a primary school on a council estate, or cleaning bathrooms in a residential home?\” he suggested.

One of the things that rather marks out Christianity from certain other religions (yes, this is a very broad brush statement) is that what you do isn\’t thought to be the most important thing.

Because the duty to serve would be compulsory, those involved would not be able to make political or personal capital from doing it, he added.

Why you do something is thought to be the important thing.

Take, for example, Jimmy Carter\’s (much derided) statement that he had committed adultery in his heart. He had not acted upon the lust he felt for a woman not his wife, but he had lusted and imagined.

Similarly, take John Paul II\’s comment (again, much derided) that a man can committ adultery with his own wife. If he has sex with her as if she is just meat, as a satiation for his lust, then this can be considered as adultery. Only if it is love, sexual love to be sure, making love to a person, is it not.

OK, slightly weird examples, I know, but they do illustrate the point that it\’s what you think about something, the reasons that you do it, that make something a Christian act. Saving a child from drowning is of course an entirely respectable act. But it only becomes a praiseworthy Christian one if it is done to save the child, if done to impress onlookers then, while the act itself is still respectable, praiseworthy, the motivation leaves you open to the sin of pride.

Complicated business, but that latter shows that passing a law stating that the Prime Minister has to go and clean the vomit off Piccadilly Circus once a week would mean that the Prime Minister cleaning vomit off Piccadilly Circus was not a Christian act. For the motivation is that we\’ll jail him if he doesn\’t.

Odd that an Archbish doesn\’t know this really…..

9 comments on “Archbishop doesn\’t understand Christianity

  1. Making good works compulsory takes all the virtue out, doesn’t it? Redditere Cesare and all that.

  2. So let me get this right.

    - When a successful “financier” creates a business that provides jobs to people (or lower cost products and services) that does not help the poor?

    - When the members of cabinet vote laws that redistribute money from the rich to the poor, that does not help the poor? (Especially given that that’s the whole (stated) purpose of these laws)

  3. That’s the traditional Catholic attitude.

    But I think for a Lutheran or Calvanist (if there are any real ones left), the only important thing is belief – ‘Justification by Faith’ rather than ‘Justification by Works’. This was one of the main theological disputes of the Reformation.

    So the proper protestant attitude is that your own actions are not very important (see Hogg’s ‘Confessions of a Justified Sinner’ for a reductio ad absurdum of this).

    Therefore Williams can propose things like this, because a proper protestant attitude sees it as a purely social solution, not a religious one.

    But since it is a purely social matter rather than a religious one, there’s no reason why we should follow the advice of an archbishop.

  4. No, the Catholic belief (as opposed to the misrepresentation thereof by those outside the church) is not (and has not been) “justification by works”, but rather by God’s grace.

    In any case: Archbishop of Canterbury makes well-intentioned but misguided speech. Hardly news, is it?

  5. So, the Archdruid thinks people on council estates cannot cook for themselves? Classic Progressive ‘soft bigotry’.

  6. Make the prime mi9nister debase himself on Monday and receive his vengance the rest of the week.

  7. Dominic, I wasn’t trying to explain Catholic belief, merely to show where protestants (of which the Abp of Canerbury is presumably supposed to be one, at least officially) position themselves.

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