30 October 2002

Spiritual Gifts

I probably should say something more about late medieval nominalist thought or the Braaten and Jenson book, but I lack the mental energy at the moment. So instead I'll say something more off-the-cuff and only partially thought through: some reflections on the gifts of the Spirit. Now, I'm not a charismatic, but I get the sense sometimes that, for a Reformed guy, I probably think about the gifts of the Spirit more than is usual.

The primary gift of the Spirit, it seems, is the Spirt himself, who was poured out upon the Church at Pentecost and who the Apostle Peter invited to his hearers to share through repentance and baptism. This is the Spirit who rested upon and filled Christ, who in his own baptism set him on the way of the cross, and who raised him from the dead, vindicating him as God's righteous one. As the Spirit of Christ, he unites us to Christ, within the Church, and in doing so gives us himself as he has given himself to Christ--as the Spirit of adoption, the Spirit of truth, the Spirit of justification, the Spirit of holiness, and so on. This is all offered to us and received in faith and through the sacrament of baptism as the seal and gift of the Spirit.

The Spirit particularly indwells the Church as the baptized people of God, the Body of Christ. Thus the locus of the Spirit's presence, work, and gifting of God's people is in their relationships with one another, particularly forms of evangelical service that embody the Spirit of Christ and the way of the cross. Thus the various "gifts" of the Spirit mentioned in the New Testament--teaching, counsel, encouragement, service, discernment, faith, hospitality, evangelism, healing, prophecy, tongues, mercy, generosity, knowledge, wisdom, interpretation, governing--are ways in which every Christian is to serve others after the image of Christ and are all contained within the one gift of the Spirit himself.

This basic giftedness of God's people is ours in our baptismal identity as those who have received the one Spirit. Thus, we all teach when we discuss the Scriptures together. We all counsel when we advise others. We all show mercy when we meet others in their need. We all heal when we care for the sick in body or spirit. And so on. We do this in the Spirit of Christ, living out the way he has shown us and as he gives us opportunity to exercise our fundamental baptismal giftedness.

Yet the New Testament is clear that each of us is specially gifted by the Spirit in particular areas, as the one gift of the Spirit himself is refracted through the Body of Christ in differing modes and intensities (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). Thus some are especially gifted in certain areas--and perhaps more than one. This particularized gifting is something that must be discerned through one's own prayerful self-awareness, sense of calling, the counsel of others, and the opportunities God grants.

Moreover, I see no reason to think that such gifts are necessarily permanent and unchanging or inalienable. While various incidents in Acts indicate that such specialized gifts often emerge immediately in connection with the reception of the Spirit and baptism, Paul exhorts his readers to seek higher gifts (1 Corinthians 12:31) and elsewhere writes to Timothy of the gift he received through the laying on of Paul's hands (2 Timothy 1:6). Every specialized gift is an intensification of and call to a form of gifted service that was already received and possibly exercised within the one gift of the Spirit himself. Thus particular gifts may emerge and pass from use at different stages in one's Christian pilgrimage as God calls us to new and different service among and within the Body of Christ.

It also seems that the particular gifts of the Spirit may be exercised in more and less focussed and dynamic ways, for instance, when the Spirit chooses to work through a person in a situation of great need, filling that person with the Spirit unto a specific powerful exercise of his gift. One thinks here of various healings, or Peter's word of judgment against Ananias and Sapphira, or the especial effectiveness of some apostolic sermons. The effective excerise of one's gifts also, it seems, depends upon whether one is diligent to "fan into flame" that gift, seeking to be filled with the Spirit (2 Timothy 1:6; Ephesians 5:18).

Perhaps some examples would be helpful here.

I've known a pastor who had clear gifts of healing, both of body and mind, and who exercised this gift through weekday eucharists and private ministrations both involving the rite of anointing the sick. Often those physically ill eventually returned to full health, but in connection with the rite itself, he was able to minister powerfully, bringing the Spirit of Christ to those in need, comforting, encouraging, and healing them emotionally, relieving psychological suffering, easing physical pain, and granting spiritual succor, even where other Christians had not been effective.

He entered each situation with the expectation that God was present in his Gospel ordinance and, in the grace of Christ, willing and ready to show mercy. And on some rare occasions, the extraordinary would happen and bodily healing would occur immediately and (medically-speaking) inexplicably. This is a gift of the Spirit, one we all have some share in, but especially granted to this pastor at some point after his ordination to ministry and regularly exercised, on occasions in a powerful way.

I provide this as one example, though I know of many others: a friend with unusual gifts of evangelism, a monk who provides spiritual direction, a woman who shows caring hospitality, a person who can oversee others effectively, and so on. Extraordinary healings may seem a bit "showy," but there is nothing any less extraordinary about the woman with the gift of hospitality who can make an agitated, bitter, lonely person feel suddenly at ease and, for the first time in many years, at "home" and with a sense of belonging and connection in Christ.

Two worries about the gifts of the Spirit particularly trouble me. The first is the isolation and concentration of certain gifts within certain denominations or congregations. Since we live in a culture where homogenized affinity is prized highly, we tend to form Christian communities with others very much like ourselves and so where certain gifts are ignored and others are highly prized. Thus teaching of doctrine comes to the fore among some Reformed, while others may prize evangelism or healing. The problem here is that we are failing to serve the Body effectively within the context of local Christian communities as that seems to be envisioned by the New Testament.

Moreover, there is the danger that some gifts may be distorted and abused when left unchecked in an unbalanced context. Thus some Presbyterians may be so enamoured of doctrine that they verge into a proud sectarianism or use teaching to exclude and control, so that the gift is virtually destroyed by the abuse. Some Pentecostals, on the other hand, may abuse gifts such as healing, using it manipulatively and arrogantly, sometimes even questioning the degree of faith of those who don't seem to be claiming God's promises, blaming those who are already hurting.

A wider variety of gifts, present and enacted within a community of faith, would tend, I think, to balance out these distortions and bring God's people into more effective Christ-like service to one another and their wider communities.

My second worry is that in some theological circles (often including my own), the gifts of the Spirit are nearly ignored. While an unhealthy interest in ostentatious spirituality is an opposite danger, the danger of suppressing the Spirit's work is also profound (the way the doctrine of "irresistible grace" is sometimes framed perhaps eclipses this danger from view for some). We are to desire the gifts of the Spirit, seek to be filled with him, and fan into flame those gifts he has poured out on us. The gifts of the Spirit are nothing to fear and find their proper context within the life of God's people, particularly as that is rooted in the Word and Sacraments within their liturgical context.

Thus the gifts of comfort and encouragement have a touchstone in the general confession of sin and the word of absolution we receive in faith. Teaching is rooted in the way Scripture functions in the worship of God's people. Hospitality flows from the generous Table from which we receive. Proper governance is seen in the liturgitcal coordination of the faithful. And so on. Within their proper baptismal context, following the pattern set by Christ, and flowing from the community of believers gathered in prayer, the Spirit's gifts are to be received and excerised in faith, expecting Christ to be present with his Spirit to act powerfully among his people and for the sake of his world.

28 October 2002

I'm out from under mid-term grading, some other obligations, and the recent medical episodes with Claire and Laurel. So hopefully I'll be able to update this blog sometime soon.

21 October 2002

What Is a Post-Christian?

I had promised to say more about The Strange New Word of the Gospel, edited by Braaten and Jenson (Eerdmans, 2002). The second essay, by Robert Jenson, explores the nature of post-Christian belief and culture in the contemporary west, with a particular focus on America.

Jenson begins by commenting upon the prefix "post-" noting that it implies being defined in terms of what one no longer is as part of a community that is so defined. Thus, to be "post-Christian" is to be part of a community that was once Christian and whose present "habits of thought and policies of action are determined by that very fact." Jenson cites Chesterton's Father Brown who characterized the post-Christian society as one what has exhausted the project of modernity and is lost in the proliferation of superstition. In particular, Father Brown notes, "It's the first effect of not beliveing in God that you lose your common sense and can't see things as they are...and all because you are frightened of four words, 'He was made man'."

Proceeding from Father Brown's observation, Jenson notes that it is not possible to "disbelieve generically" and post-Christian unbelief is a superstition arising particularly from the rejection of the triune, incarnate God of Christian faith. He goes on to modify Father Brown's account by suggesting that the supersitions of post-Christian unbelief really go back to the Enlightenment itself, an age of quackery, ideological credulity, religious invention, and arbitrary preference. The "cultural residue" of Christianity has granted whatever moral compass modernity has enjoyed and as that residue is finally expurgated we are delivered over once against to unchallenged supersition.

Jenson also modifies Father Brown's account of the return of the old gods, noting that the Scriptures have demythologized nature, giving us a narrative of creation, fall, and eschatology that undoes the logic of myth, its original logos. The old gods cannot return as they once were since the Gospel has already "debunked" them. Thus they can only re-emerge with a different logos in one of two possibility varieties: either an "almost-nihilism" or an abstracted Christianity turned ideology.

Nihilism emerges with its own religiosity, Jenson suggests--one that is entirely made up and known to be such by its devotees. This is apparent not only in actual invented religions (scientology comes to mind), but also within the bounds of a Christianity where the faith is explicitly treated "as a smorgasbord from which to assemble each their religion to taste."

Abstracted Christianity, on the other hand, supposes that "all religions lead to the same place" and that this place is something vaguely Christian, though absent of Christ, and labelled "salvation." This kind of abstracted Christianity, indeed, has been the whole project of a modernity that coopted the Christian story, making it into a grand meta-narrative, holdomg forth the universal possibility of finding one's place in it through human rationality. Of course, absent a universal Storyteller, such a narrative project flounders, collapsing in upon itself in a fit of post-modernism.

So, in all of this, Jenson queries, who are the post-Christians? He suggests that there are "whole immense congregations" of these post-Christians, many within putatively Christian denominations, touting a theology of "love" and "acceptance" and "empowerment", which could as easily embrace any mythic hero as it might Jesus. And this post-Christianity can wear many faces--that of Dr. Laura or drive-in church services or what have you.

Jenson suggests several ways in which churches can respond, re-evangelizing our own post-Christian environment. First, churches must pray for God to purge them of almost-nihilism and abstracted Christianity. And that may well mean, for the time being, being much smaller than we once were. We now exist on a mission field here at home and cannot count on the cultural residuum of Christian faith to do much work for us.

Second, says Jenson, we must recognize the prevailing superstitions for what they are and rescue our fellows from them in order that they may worship the true God. The errors of the skeptics, cafeteria Christians, practioners of magic, and others who may inhabit our pews are not mere foibles; they are "bondages to powers and principalities."

Third, the alternative to superstition is, as Father Brown said, the confession that "He was made man." And thus the church must re-capture Christology since in Jesus, God is found. Thus, Jenson asserts, the only liberation from contemporary superstition is "preaching and liturgy and counseling inspired and normed by the strictest Cyrillean christological orthodoxy."

Fourth, with regard to almost-nihilism in particular, Jenson notes that the trajectory of western thought has eliminated all the possibilities that lie between nothingness and the particularity of a certain first-century Palestinian Jew who Christian faith claims as the "structuring point of the universe." Since nihilism is not even intelligible, Jesus is the alternative.

Finally, with regard to abstracted Christianity, we much reclaim such things as "love" and "peace" and "empowerment", filling them with all the specificity of their true meaning in the risen Christ. Much of preaching has this backward, seeing Jesus' actions or teachings as a mere instance of, for example, "acceptance." In fact, Jenson says, the reality is that our desire for acceptance is really something that only makes sense in connection with Jesus.

The goal then is to bring the post-Christian west face to face with the particularity of God made man who challenges the indefinity of superstition with the possibility of concrete faith.

Update: Claire had a follow-up appointment today. She seems to have gained 13 ounces since Thursday. The doctor was quite pleased.

Philly's Mural Arts Program

The stress of the past several days, along with exposure to a hosptial full of sick kids, seems to have taken its toll on Laurel who has come down with some kind of stomach virus. Happily, I have today and tommorow off for our autumn mid-semester break, giving me the chance to help out with things.

This morning that meant taking some pages she had brought home to work on and running them down to her workplace. There's a press deadline looming this week and things were already behind.

The drive down to center city reminded me that this is "Mural Arts Month" in Philadelphia. Here are two murals near Laurel's workplace:





Philadelphia now has the largest number of public murals in the country, exceeding Los Angeles in the past year or so. What were once blank walls next to parking areas or vacant lots, sometimes scarred with graffiti, now feature often stunning murals celebrating the arts, local heros, community endeavors, and themes of beauty and hope.

For more on Philadelphia's mural arts program visit our Mural Arts website. Be sure to tour the extensive galleries of these wonderful works of public art. And if you ever visit Philly, let me know. I'd be more than happy to take you on a tour.

20 October 2002

Claire and Dad's Excellent Adventure:






Fortunately, all is well.

On Thursday afternoon I had taken Claire to what we thought would be a routine appointment with her pediatrician and it turns out she hasn't been gaining weight as well as she ought. "Failure to thrive" was the ominous-sounding diagnosis we eventually received on the paperwork. Also, her heart rate seemed a bit high while at the doctor's office.

So, we were sent down to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia for what were supposed to be two simple tests, picking up Laurel on the way to the hospital. But once the ER docs had us in there, Claire ended up being tested for a wide gamut of possible problems. The tests all showed nothing and the pediatric cardiologist told us all that she is quite healthy and that her heart rate is really within the normal range for her size. Still, they decided to keep Claire overnight for observation.

Friday morning we were told that they would likely be keeping her until Sunday. In the meantime, however, we met with a lactation consultant who observed Claire's feeding and weighed her before and after she fed. To the consultant's puzzlement, while Claire seems to latch on just fine and, in general, has a strong suck, she's actually a very inefficient nurser and only takes in less than an ounce in a 20 minute feeding. This would explain the lack of weight gain despite what had appeared to be a lot of feeding.

Thus the doctors had us feed her using a bottle exclusively, filled with pumped breast milk (and some formula), in order to monitor her intake. They wanted her to take in at least 24 ounces in 24 hours. Claire ended up actually taking in around 30 ounces before bedtime on Friday and slept 8 hours. She also already gained a couple of ounces by today and is doing quite well. And so she was released early and got to come home last night rather than today.

All of this worry and distress really makes one feel like a parent, even if you end up being made to feel like a terrible parent for not realizing that your child was "malnourished." I guess our bathroom scale at home isn't very helpful. We're very thankful to God, however, that nothing more serious was wrong and that we figured this all out now rather than at a later point where the ill-effects might have been more profound.

Claire has always seemed a very alert and active baby, occasionally cooing and smiling, but heavens! Now once she has eaten her fill, she is so much more alert and active even than before, cooing, "talking," giggling, and squirming. It is quite a relief she is healthy and so repsonsive to her new eating regimen. Now Mom and Dad just need to catch up on some sleep.

16 October 2002

Here is an interesting article: "Apocalypsis and Polis: Pauline Reflections on the Theological Politics of Yoder, Hauerwas, and Milbank," by Douglas Harink, The King’s University College (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada).

12 October 2002

I was looking at The Text This Week to review tomorrow's lectionary readings and went to the page of links to artworks related to the readings. This led me to the Life of Jesus Mafa website, a collection of art by the Mafa people of Cameroon, depicting scenes from the life of Christ and from the parables transposed into a west African context. The largest number of paintings from the collection are available as cards.

Here is the picture illustrating Sunday's Gospel reading, where the poor are invited to the wedding feast:



The picture is a link to their site and their image. Does anyone know if that is that a violation of copyright? I'll happily remove the links, if so.

That's a bit scary. I've actually filled my tank at the Exxon in Fredericksburg, Virginia where the latest DC sniper shooting took place. My brother- and sister-in-law live only a few blocks away.

10 October 2002

I finally got my copy of Fergus Kerr's newest book After Aquinas: Versions of Thomism (Blackwell, 2002). The great fan of Aquinas that I am, I read it through once already and hope to go through it again in greater detail when time allows. It is an excellent introduction to the thought of Thomas Aquinas in the context of the last century of debates on how to interpret Aquinas properly.

Kerr discusses Aquinas in his historical context, his epistemology, his "natural theology" and the five ways, his account of metaphysics, how he thinks about natural law and ethics, the controversies surrounding Thomistic discussions of nature and grace, and finally his soteriology (particularly "deification"), christology, and his doctrine of God. Kerr is always clear and deals with the variety of alternatives when it comes to understanding Aquinas on a particular issue. Moreover, though he is not dogmatic in his own interpretations, Kerr does provide a case for reading Aquinas along the lines of many of the major revisionists of the past century (with whom I am generally sympathetic).

For instance, many people think of "natural law" when they consider Aquinas' ethics. But Kerr does a good job exploring the various ways in which Aquinas has been understood on this issue, making a good case for seeing his "natural law" approach as quite different from that of later natural law theorists, as well as placing it within Aquinas' larger discussion of beatitude, participation in the mind of God, sin and grace, virtue, prudence, and charity.

Kerr also makes a good case for seeing Aquinas as not really an "Aristotelian", but at least as equally indebted to the tradition of Christian neo-platonism found in Augustine and Pseudo-Dionysius. Besides, there are some serious questions about what we have traditionally understood as "Aristotelian" in contrast to what Aristotle was actually saying (e.g. on the question of "substance"), as well as how he was understood by Aquinas. Later traditions and readings have often misconstrued not only Aquinas, but also Aristotle and Aquinas' interpretation of Aristotle.

While Kerr's volume is really just an introduction, it is an excellent one in both breadth and clarity--a book that I would even consider using if I were ever to teach an undergraduate course on the thought of Aquinas.

Here's another picture of Claire:



Our other furry son was very upset that his brother Keats was featured and he wasn't. So here's a picture of Nicky:



Claire is fortunate to have two furry siblings who are really very nice and sweet.

09 October 2002

I've added Christopher Jones's blog Pleroma to my list and have updated some links. Let me know if I have yours wrong.

08 October 2002

Kristen requested more pictures of Claire. And since Claire is the cutest baby in the whole world (in my unbiased opinion), I thought it would be selfish not to share some more pics:





And, while we're at it, this is our evil kitty, Keats. Wicked kitty.



But we love the affectionate feline anyway.

02 October 2002

I began this post several days ago and just got around to finishing it. Life is busy.

Recently I finished reading The Strange New Word of the Gospel: Re-Evangelizing in the Postmodern World, edited by Carl Braaten and Robert Jenson (Eerdmans, 2002). It contains a collection of thought-provoking essays on the nature of Christian mission in the post-Christian west, often necessitating the evangelization of the already baptized. The authors attempt to develop ways and perspectives from which the church can effectively address people today, especially in the United States with its peculiar religious history.

I'll give some brief summaries and evaluations of the essays in this and following posts.

The first essay is "The Gospel of Affinity" by John Milbank. He begins by attempting to characterize the general features of "postmodernity" as a set of cultural circumstances involving the obliteration of boundaries (nature/culture; interior/exterior; public/private; information/production), as well as economic and political globalization. Thus human "nature" is open-ended and manipulable, stripped of teleology and hierarchies of time, gender, and so on. The private interior of the home is invaded by the persausive images and instructions of advertising and media, while material public spaces disappear, replaced by virtual simulations of collective proximity. And so on.

The basic presupposition here is one of immanence, Milbank argues, explaining things and value without any transcendent reference, viewing finite reality as self-explanatory and self-governing, and this present world as all there is. While in early modernity this "plane of immanence" was conceived spatially, the relationship between entities within a grid, in postmodernity this has been transformed into a temporal flux.

Milbank argues that due to this assumption of immanence, postmodernity is not really any more open to Christian faith than was modernity, and perhaps less so, choosing instead some kind of Spinozism that embraces immanence or a "new age" religiosity that attempts to retreat from it into a higher interior space.

In response the regime of postmodernity, Milbank argues that in some respects postmodernity represents a "distorted outcome of energies first unleashed by the Church itself" and thus we cannot simply refuse the postmodern, nor can we embrace it. Often theological liberals have made the mistake of adapting to modernity or postmodernity, while conservatives simply reiterate traditional formulas. Milbank suggests that neither option involves the kind of critical engagement that is necessary to re-express our traditional faith in a new way that allows for a true rediscovery of Christian orthodoxy.

With regard to postmodernity, Milbank argues that its obliteration of boundaries has a deep resonance within Christian faith since the church is a force that has trangressed boundaries and limitations: law/grace, Jew/Gentile, slave/free, male/female, household/city, sign/reality, already/not yet, and so on. In the incarnation, even the distinctions between Creator and creature, immanence and transcendence, God and human, are resituated and re-envisioned.

And yet, as Milbank notes, for all of this boundary bursting, Christian faith does not do away with every act of discernment or distinction, instead seeing, e.g., grace as preserving and elevating the principles embodied in the law. But such discernment requires wisdom. We cannot simply read right and wrong off of the pre-given divine design of human beings since we are creatures destined for an eschatological transformation that is already anticipated in the present. It is necessary to discern human teleology and thereby discriminate about what is good (e.g., with regard to surrogate motherhood or developments in genetics). It is this sense of teleological discrimination that was lost in the early modern era when scotistic assumptions took an univocal approach to "being," placing human creative powers along the same extension as divine.

This discrimination and discernment focuses particularly upon issues of affinity, Milbank argues. And affinity, if it is not to be merely accidental or coincidental, must build upon discerned characterizations of things within an analogical view of reality. This is rooted for Christians in the incarnation in which God became man, not by conversion of his divinity, but by the unity of the person of Christ--a unity in which the affinity of the man Jesus with the divine Logos constitutes an identity of person. Moreover, the community that Jesus began was one of affinity, not family/nature, not coercion/politics, but of Christ-likeness by faith expressing itself in love.

Milbank suggests that our own cultural crisis with regard to discernment of affinity is most apparent in the sexual confusion of our age. According to his analysis, contemporary sexual issues are not really a "moral" matter, of straightforward right and wrong (with all the modernist and Kantian overtones that carries). Liberals really desire the kinds of fidelity and security they otherwise attempt to throw off, while conservatives often are some of the greatest offenders against sexuality in their own moralism. Both liberals and conservatives buy the lie that erotic excitement finds its peak in the new and unfamiliar, conservatives finding this a dangerous temptation and liberals a reason for license. And we are left with postmodernism's competitive market of sexual conquest.

But, says Milbank, marriage is not a matter of morality; it is a necessary condition of it. As a matter of teleology, the fact is that sexuality can only be expressed "in the relaxed presence of the ever-different-familiar" where freedom, innovation, and passion grow within the context of custom. So sex outside of marriage isn't "wrong" but impossible, since whatever extra-marital intercourse is, it's not sex and not what anyone really wants.

Postmodernity in particular, Milbank thinks, promotes "a dark, death-obsessed, and narcissistic eroticism" that despises the mystery of masculine and feminine differentiation, thus undercutting the possibility of sexual affinity by denying its proper medium. So Milbank suggests that all sexual expressions outside of specific unity-in-difference, nuptial affinities of male-female relations are "transcendentally homosexual." Complicit with this normative "homosexual" subjectivity, capitalistic individualism posits a domain of interchangeable persons, all equally possible as sexual partners, leading to the increasing commodification of children by the state and market.

Thus the church's response to postmodernism must include a full embracing of heterosexual marriage as "paradigmatic of the sexual as such." Flowing from this "gospel of affinity" our other relationships need to be transformed by analogous logic in the face of postmodernity: seeing human relationships in terms of extended family, shunning the illusion of near equal proximity to all via technology, informing justice with processes of penance and reconciliation, grasping the reality of true corporeal pleasures as grounded in God, counterposing the church as an alternative global empire, and maintaining a focus upon the transcendent as the context of our eschatological pilgrimage.

There is much to be said for Milbank's analysis and proposals. Yet, there remain what seem to me strange inconsistencies, particularly in the area of sexuality. While it is clear that Milbank sees sex outside of marriage as deficient and while he rejects the notion of same-sex "marriage," his attitude towards homosexuality is confusing at the very least. He notes at one point, in the midst of his discussion of the paradigmatic nature of heterosexual marriage, that "there need be no problem whatsoever with the idea that homosexual practice is part of the richness of God's creation or that its non-heterosexual logic...can hint towards the life of angels." Yet, in the next breath he denies the equality of homosexuality with male-female relations and suggests that to grant it equal place within the human order is already to make it superior and implicitly to deny heterosexuality a place within the cosmic order.

Perhaps I am confused or Milbank is being too subtle for me, but I cannot see how he can speak of homosexual practice as he does in a way that is consistent with his larger argument. This seems especially so in light of his argument against certain reproductive technologies based upon "the co-belonging of sex and procreation" as something that "alone sustains human beings as more than commodities" since new human life is the "outcome of personal encounters at once both accidental and yet chosen, in a fashion that is irreplaceable, and essential to an ontological grammar that we should continue to elect." If sex and procreation "co-belong," then what room is there for "homosexual practice" within the logic of human relations, except perhaps within the sub-human animal kingdom or in same-sex friendship and comradeship that is not eroticized and thus more "angelic"?

I suspect that Milbank is influenced too much by a certain kind of Anglo-Catholicism that, while quite traditional on many issues (e.g., christology, liturgy, abortion, etc.), embraces an aetheticism that lends itself to homoeroticism. While Milbank explicitly criticizes "churches and especially the clergy" who "tend to degenerate into secret gay cults: the gnosis of campdom," his own remarks seem to undercut that criticism and acquiese to this kind of gay clerical tendency in certain ecclesiastical circles. Thus, I'm inclined to take his critique further than he does.

Milbank suggests a parity between heterosexual and homosexual practice already places the homosexual in a superior position, reducing the heterosexual to a mere example of one kind of human coupling. I would further suggest that admitting any degree of same-sex eroticism as congruent with human teleology already gives away far too much. For all his emphasis on discernment and discrimination, Milbank's own powers seem to be lacking in this area. Still, one should not allow this particular area of blindness to overshadow his otherwise helpful analyses.

In further posts I hope to discuss some other chapters from the book, picking up with Robert Jenson's fine article, "What Is a Post-Christian?"