I just finished reading Rowan Williams’ book, Why Study the Past: The Quest for the Historical Church. I’m typically resistant to theological books that are on a “quest” for something. Usually they are an experiment in heresy and essential put forth some line of reasoning or argument that has long been debunked — think “The Da Vinci Code”. However, Williams work is different. At once it is boring, thoughtful challenging and inspiring.
Here are some of the more interesting quotes:
“The inspiration of Scripture, as some modern writers have said, is not a matter of the Holy Spirit holding a writer’s hand as a book is written; it is the present reality of a divine mediation that makes recognition possible as we now encounter the strangeness of the story. Abraham isn’t ‘one of us’; yet we and Abraham do make up an ‘us’ in relation to God, a shared reality before God which will take a lifetime to fathom.”
“God is free to do what He wills, and his freedom takes the form of acting so as to change us. It is a mistake to think that Luther (or any other classical Protestant) believed that ‘justification’ meant only a change in God’s attitude without effect in us. On the contrary, what changes is that we become the locus of God’s free activity. Unprovoked, unconditioned, and unconstrained by any other agent. God steps into the void and chaos of created existence and establishes himself there as God.”
“The challenge posed by the Reformation era is whether it is possible to conceive the question about unity and communion in the Church as bound to a witness to the priority of God’s act rather than to issues around visible structures…In other words, baptism already encodes the theology elaborated by the doctrinal disputes of the early church.”
“If it (unity) is most clearly done in worship, then when we sing canticles, psalms and classical hymnody we express a unity across time as well as a unity in space.”