It has been a long time since I blogged anything here - but I have had a very busy few months. I was ordained to the Dioconate on 3rd July and have moved the whole family a hundred miles north to serve in Liverpool Diocese for the next three to four years. Thus reading and thinking has been somewhat replaced by removal vans and boxes, clerical robes and school assemblies -- all of which I love! As a new pattern starts to emerge for us here I have found time to begin reading and thinking again. Today is my official research day, so I shall be working on my PhD, but I've just enough time to blog a few thoughts about a book I've just started reading hot off the presses. It is Rod Garner's On Being Saved: The Roots of Redemption (DLT, 2011). I was there at the book launch last week and picked up a copy. The book is short and pithy, in places quite poetic, and makes an interesting argument (though I hasten to add not a new one and certainly not with the depth of scholarship one might expect from a Diocesan Theological Consultant - though, in fairness, I think this latter issue comes from a desire to appeal to popular readers).
Garner locates his work as a critique of a view of humanity that renders us at our most basic wretchedly sinful and twisted at the core. His approach is to take the human creature optimistically and positively. This doesn't mean he shirks the realities of sin and brokeness, but rather that he relativizes thier significance for the narrative of salvation. Key to this is his account of doubleness. He writes, "the human heart, properly understood, is a repository of light and lies" (p.14). This proper understanding means that an account that focuses only on our wretchedness is fundamentally flawed by its partiality. To my reformed ears this has the potential to be a bit wishy washy. But if Garner can sustain the argument theologically and give it a proper biblical and theological orientation, opposed to the kind of post-Enlightenment and Wiggist optimism that informs the modernist paradigm, then this work might be significant in that it communicates well to the popular reader. The effect of this reworking of theological anthropology is a rethinking of the doctrine of redemption. This is where my reformed ears start burning a bit because Garner is bold in his revisioning, though sometimes a bit haphazard. This is only an initial impression, and more attention must be given to the book before I come to any firm conclusions.
The really pleasing thing for me in this is that Garner is a Priest-theologian, and remains a parish incumbent in Southport. It is really refreshing that a diocese is willing to support someone with that sort of vocation without wanting to shove them into a university chaplaincy role or prohibit their non-parish related interests. it makes me pleased that we moved to Liverpool Diocese.