Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Wisdom, truth and hope

An extraordinary evening with the Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks. His talk was warm and passionate, spiced with rabbinic wisdom and storytelling. He explained two kinds of covenant in the Hebrew Scriptures — Noah’s covenant of Fate sealed by the rainbow, and Moses and Abraham’s covenants of Faith, looking forward. From these we learn the sanctity of life, the integrity of all creation, and the value of Diversity in the rainbow’s split light. These provide foundations for friendship and common witness to the world, healing 1,000 bitter years of anti-Semitism in England up to the holocaust. If we were not particular we could not make a covenant, and if we were all the same, we would have nothing to say when we got into one.

A moving testmony came after the talk, when Sir Jonathan was asked about divisions in the Anglican Communion. This is what he said:
Every faith, being particular, has cracks and schisms. But the Anglican Church has held radically different people together more graciously and successfully over many hundred years than any other Western religion I know. I view it with wonder, awe, and admiration. Your ability to hold together in a world driving people apart is your gift to a landscape of hope.
He told us something about his education in Church of England schools, echoing what we find all the time in ours — that faith speaks to faith:
I was a Jew in a Christian school. Never once did I hear an anti-semitic remark or incident. Because the teachers knew about their faith, they could understand how I cared about mine. That is what the Church of England gave me, growing up.
Food for thought as we turn to business later this week...

1 comment:

Stuart said...

Dear Bishop Alan,

I've commented here once before and was surprised by your swift and kind response.

I have a question for you.

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church along with other TEC Bishops and clergy have been lambasted over the issue of evangelism. Some say TEC bishops are soft on the necessity of the Church to evangelize non-Christians.

In that context, do you believe Sir Jonathan Sacks needs to be converted to faith in Jesus Christ in order to fully know God? Is Sir Jonathan Sacks Jewish faith essentially deficient and does he need to be an object of the Church's evangelism?

If not, and a Jewish man can know God, why not a practitioner of Islam. If the Rabbi doesn't fully know God, how is he qualified to speak about the nature of divine revelation to Christians?

I'm not being tendentious in these questions. I converted from Judaism to Christianity 23 years ago and I've always opposed the evangelization of the Jewish people. My ancestors fought hard to maintain their faith in a hostile culture and I respect their struggle and their beliefs. My life as a Christian would be infinitely poorer without my upbringing in Judaism. (I also refuse to believe that my father and grandparents are burning in Hell.)

Where do you stand on evangelization?


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