1. Dear Cheryl,

    I read your piece this morning with appreciation, but I wonder if your conclusion does not perhaps deny much of what you had to say about the way in which the Kingdom of God first came among us in the Incarnation. May I recommend for your reading, Pope Benedict’s encyclical on Hope, Spe Salvi?

  2. hi David,
    The conclusion says what I want it to say, and to my reading holds together what I said earlier in the piece about the incarnation… though as we all know, words mean very different things to different people!

    thanks for commenting

  3. Nicole

    Hey! Great article!

    Some of what you write reminds me very much of a sermon at our church in South Sydney earlier this year – our minister spoke around the concept of salvation = participation. What resonates for me about that sermon and your article is that (as Christians) we are called to bring to life Christ, we are asked to be people who bring hope. I wonder if next to our typical aussie cynicism is something else about ‘heroes’ – it seems to me we are constantly finding heroes in our culture, people who bring us some kind of hope. Ok, mostly they tend to be sporting heroes 🙁 or logie winners 🙁 🙁 (while Kate Ritchie is quite cute does playing a character on a soap for most of ones life really qualify for hero status???).

    One justifiable aussie hero I’ve recently discovered is a woman called Mumma Shirl. There’s a memorial to Mumma Shirl on the wall of the Catholic Church in the main street of Redfern and after a little research I find that Mumma Shirl is a person who genuinely brought something of what I think your article is talking about. Of course right this sec I can’t remember the exact words of the saying that’s constantly rewritten on the wall in chalk – I’ll pop up and have a look and get back to you on that – but it’s something about the black Christ standing in the streets of Redfern. anyway… I’ll get it to you.

    I know i’m babbling but I’ve been inspired to find some more people (not celebrities or sporting heroes) who ‘participate’ in bringing (Christ’s?) hope to our world.

    cheers 🙂

  4. What I meant, Cheryl, was that you describe the event of the incarnation as God’s breaking into the world – a divine gift – but then describe our future hope as dependant upon human action. Earlier you note (a little dismissively) that some Christians find the eschatological promise of Christ’s return as a source of hope. My point was that, if God has acted once in a completely unlooked for way – by the sheer gift and surprise of the Incarnation – surely it is consistent to hope that he will do so again? My recommendation regarding “Spe Salvi” (which again, I recommend strongly to you) is that the Holy Father discusses at some length the phenomenon of putting hope in “political messiahs”. He concludes by pointing us to a hope beyond politics, indeed a hope that is (by its very nature) beyond the capability of humanity, but which (because it is built on the sure ground of the Incarnation) alone can give REAL hope.

  5. hey Nic – woudl love that quote – and a photo?

    David – I still don’t understand why you think the final paragraph contradicts what I say elsewhere. Are you sure you’re not misreading the rest of the article? I’m very clear that the incarnation relies on human participation. A baby can’t survive without humans to birth it and nurture it.

    Despite the fact that you say on your blog that my theology is ‘so very…well…Uniting Church’ (I wonder if that could be read in any way that’s not dismissive or disdainful?!), I studied for my degree in theology alongside Catholics and Anglicans – a large number of my lecturers were Catholic. i’ve read my share of encyclicals, and then some. The Pope and I have vastly different understandings of who God is, and the way God works. Given that we would begin from a very different starting point about the nature of God, I’m not sure why it would be helpful for me to read the encyclical on hope. And to be honest, I’m really happy with my theology of hope! It holds water in some pretty hopeless contexts.

    I read what I wrote about eschatalogical hope differently to how you do. I was talking of the form of Christianity that would ignore the tragedies of the world – separatist Christians – because they think it doesn’t matter. God will rescue them, they’re just biding time. I am sorry if it came across as being dismissive. That was certainly not intended. I’m aware that my theology is likely to be as wrong as theirs! I still strongly believe that it’s a distortion of Christianity – but then, perhaps all our theologies are.

    For myself, I have faith that sometimes hope is born, and sometimes love comes. I don’t believe it happens all the time. I pray that one day the world will be defined by love, but my faith isn’t dependent on that happening. I don’t think a happy ending is inevitable. I respect those who think differently, and I really hope they’re right.

    I don’t write for the Age on behalf of the Christian faith. I would never presume to speak for other Christians, or even the denomination that pays me. I didn’t write the article as a theologian; I wrote it as someone who tries to make sense of faith – or my lack of it – in a complicated, messy world. It’s an opinion piece, not an apologetic. It said what I wanted it to say. Perhaps we just need to agree to differ on this one.

    [I’m really sorry but I’ve committed to a low blog presence over the next week or so – I’m in the middle of a frantically busy work time and those who love me deserve the rest of me! I’m happy to continue this conversation but it won’t be until the new year. Peace to you this christmas.]

  6. Dear Cheryl,

    I perfectly understand the business of this time – I should be doing other things myself. So no rush for answers – I might not get to read them until new year!

    Yes, I see that you put the stress on the human cooperation in the Incarnation – and far be it from me as a Catholic to downplay that (Mary’s readiness to receive her role in the event is very significant for us). However, the initiative remains with God. In the midst of hopelessness – humanly speaking – hope was born in a surprising way.

    My reason for yet once again recommending the Encyclical (and if you have not read any of Pope Ratzingers encyclicals I recommend you read all two of them over Christmas – even if you do have a different idea of God to him) is that Papa Benny makes a strong case for the only real hope, the only hope that finally makes a real difference to ours precisely because it is the only hope which will not ultimately dissapoint, is the hope which God himself gives.

    A simple comparison could be made with the hope of the Zealots in 4BC compared to the hope of Mary’s child. Indeed it will probably come in a form that we are not looking for, and certainly will not come just by sitting back and waiting for it, but it is not of our manufacturing.

    Political Messiahs – Obama, Rudd, whoever – are precisely what we get when we look to our own human action as the ultimate basis for hope. It can only ever disappoint. Worse, it often turns to tyrrany rather than redemption. The Holy Father gives a number of examples from the 20th Century in Spe Salvi.

    I’m sorry if my comment re your being “so Uniting Church” sounded dismissive. Probably because there was a sense in which it was! Which I also apologise for. However, it is, in my experience, not unusual – in fact fairly normal – for Uniting Church theologians to emphasise (in a very strange reversal of the traditional picture) human works over divine grace. To judge by your own piece which we are discussing: eventually salvation is placed in the hands of human beings rather than God. A rather ironic reversal of the Reformation, don’t you think?

  7. Go girl go! It is great to read an article which resonates and I can say, yes, that is how I feel too. Not preachy, just sharing insights. I have come to the conclusion that there are times when we must participate in this Kingdom program and not leave it to the Obamas and heroes, yet there are also times when God moves in to save a situation. So, do I want it both ways?

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