Wednesday, February 13, 2008

In such schemes, both jurisdictional stakeholders may need to examine the way they operate; a communal/religious nomos, to borrow Shachar's vocabulary, has to think through the risks of alienating its people by inflexible or over-restrictive applications of traditional law, and a universalist Enlightenment system has to weigh the possible consequences of ghettoising and effectively disenfranchising a minority, at real cost to overall social cohesion and creativity. Hence 'transformative accommodation': both jurisdictional parties may be changed by their encounter over time, and we avoid the sterility of mutually exclusive monopolies.
Rowan Williams

In both countries [Britain and the U.S.A.] an essential part of the ordination exam ought to be a passage from some recognised theological work set for translation into vulgar English—just like doing Latin prose. Failure on this paper should mean failure in the whole exam. It is absolutely disgraceful that we expect missionaries to the Bantu to learn Bantu but never ask whether our missionaries to the Americas or England can speak American or English. Any fool can write learned language. The vernacular is the real test. If you can’t turn your faith into it, then either you don’t understand it or you don’t believe in it.
C.S Lewis

8 comments:

Sam Dodsworth said...

What's wrong with that paragraph of Rowan Williams? It doesn't seem particularly unclear to me, even if "stakeholders" is a word I'd prefer to see used less generally.

Now, if you were to complain that the whole speech, while interesting, was a bit wooly and lacking in detail...

John M. said...

Love the Lewis quote.

Neil said...

I'm puzzled about the connection of the two quotes.

Is the point that Rowan William's is basically incomprehensible, and by Lewis' test should hence never have been ordained?

Neil said...

Rowan William's that is. Even the church of England hasn't been caught ordaining speeches yet.

Cosmo said...

Nice. The Lewis quote is great, where'd it come from?

Tpolg said...

Hum, a CofE missionary in America? Sounds like a good premise for a satire.

Stephen Thurston said...

I think the point--at least indirectly--is to what extent Christianity can accommodate or co-exist with sharia law. I may be interpolating too much, the juxtaposition of the two quotes seems to invite that discussion. (I will confess to being so new that I am unsure of Andrew’s intent. I will also admit that’s part of fun of visiting.)

So, with that rambling preface, here’s my take: I think that Christianity cannot accommodate or co-exist with those parts of sharia that are abhorrent to Christian moral teaching and moral practice. As examples, I cite two issues: female circumcision and death penalties for adulterers--whether undertaken as ‘honor’ killings or by authority of a sharia court. Christ’s forgiveness of the woman taken in adultery is completely antithetical to that practice.

I do not know much of sharia, but those parts of it (if any) that are compatible with Christian moral principles should surely be accommodated in the interests of tolerance and harmony. I don’t see this at all as an issue of “the sterility of mutually exclusive monopolies.” To me it about taking as stand on Christian principles.

I may be entirely wrong is supposing that Andrew’s intent was to open a discussion about the larger content of Williams’ remarks. But at the very least, these two quotations contrast Williams’ windy, mush-mouth prose--”any fool can write learned language”--with Lewis’ incisive writing.

Out of curiosity, Andrew, from where was the Lewis quotation taken? And did I miss the point entirely?

Andrew Rilstone said...

Oh, very little of what I say in this column has a "point". (And that sentence still works even if you remove the words "in this column.") It just struck me that the Archdruid's sermon was couched in incredibly obtuse language; and that when asked to clarify himself (on the "Today" programme, and elsewhere) he tied himself up in knots. Which reminded me of what Lewis said about learned language. (And also a remark that Walter Hooper attributes to him: that the best way of dealing with a liberal theologian is to ask him to repeat what he just said -- you'll find he won't be able to.)

I don't think Williams was so much talking about whether Christianity can accommodate Islamic law, but about how a secular state should operate when the country contains both Christians and Muslims.

The Lewis quote comes from a letter to the Church Times regarding his essay "Rejoinder to Dr Pittenger" . It's reproduced in "God in the Dock."