Posts Tagged ‘Duke Divinity School’

The following was printed in parish bulletins throughout the Diocese of Raleigh (pdf) :

Since late January the Church has been engaged in intense public debate about the federal mandate that some of its institutions must, directly or indirectly, provide health insurance that includes contraception to any employees who want it. The latest installment occurred yesterday (March 1), when the Senate voted 51-48 to reject an amendment to the mandate that would have permitted employers to refuse, for religious or moral reasons, to supply or pay for such coverage.

In one corner have been our bishops, who have taken the line that the mandate should be resisted because it attempts to force the Church to do something its doctrine judges immoral. They are supported in this by some representatives of other Christian churches, by some Jews, and by some secular people.

In the other corner have been those who say that the provision of contraception to those who want it is essential for the proper care of women’s health, and therefore belongs to the common good. Those who seek exemption from providing it are, according to this line of thought, themselves immoral and should be constrained by law to do the right thing.

There are a number of difficult questions wrapped up in these debates. Among them, one stands out as most pressing. It is: How should we Catholics think and act when the agencies of the state attempt to force us, whether individually or collectively, to act against what we hold both true and dear? On this, we can say two things with confidence, one about ourselves, and the other about America.

The first, about ourselves, is that the state has no real power in such matters, and we need to encourage one another to act as if we believe that to be true. The state can use its legislative and judicial machinery, of course; but the worst it can do is punish. Our consciences and our fidelity to the church we believe to be Christ’s are beyond the state’s reach. This is what contemplation of the church and its history with various pagan states shows us. It is a matter for serene confidence.

The second, about America, is that we are not only Catholics, but also American Catholics. That means we should love America with the love appropriate to her. She is not the church, and she has no special place in the eyes of the Lord. But America is where we live, and so we love her. Loving her means wishing her well and hoping for her good. It means praying for her, and publicly offering her, in humility and lament, our best understanding of what is good for her. One thing that is good for her is the flourishing of her churches, and ours among them. We should, each of us, now in this difficult and interesting time, be doing what we can to help our country see what that means.

Paul J. Griffiths
Warren Chair of Catholic Theology at Duke Divinity School
St. Thomas More Parish, Chapel Hill, NC,
Drafted 2 March 2012

Anton van Dyck, Emperor Theodosius Forbidden by St Ambrose To Enter Milan Cathedral (1619)

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Today’s Gospel reading at Mass may be formative in this Lenten season:

Jesus said to the Pharisees, ‘There was a rich man who used to dress in purple and fine linen and feast magnificently every day. And at his gate there lay a poor man called Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to fill himself with the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even came and licked his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.

‘In his torment in Hades he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off with Lazarus in his bosom. So he cried out, “Father Abraham, pity me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in agony in these flames.” “My son,” Abraham replied “remember that during your life good things came your way, just as bad things came the way of Lazarus. Now he is being comforted here while you are in agony. But that is not all: between us and you a great gulf has been fixed, to stop anyone, if he wanted to, crossing from our side to yours, and to stop any crossing from your side to ours.”

‘The rich man replied, “Father, I beg you then to send Lazarus to my father’s house, since I have five brothers, to give them warning so that they do not come to this place of torment too.” “They have Moses and the prophets,” said Abraham “let them listen to them..” “Ah no, father Abraham,” said the rich man “but if someone comes to them from the dead, they will repent.” Then Abraham said to him, “If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead.”’ (16.19-31)

The Gospel of St Luke

Lazarus and Dives, The Abbaye St. Pierre de Moissa

The following is a short essay I wrote for admission to Duke University’s Divinity School (February 2011):

St John Chrysostom (“the golden tongue”) articulates the Gospel of Christ in various sermons he preached in Antioch, where he served first as reader, then as deacon and priest, and then as the metropolis’ bishop. In one series, On Wealth and Poverty, Chrysostom focuses on St Luke’s parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. The sermons’ central theme is that, while the poor may suffer misfortune, it is the duty of the rich to give alms and do acts of charity both to ease the plight of the poor and to fend off the disadvantages that accompany earthy treasures.

Unlike Origen, who precedes Chrysostom’s ministry by a century, Chrysostom’s reading of the biblical witness is less allegorical in nature and a more literal than his Alexandrian predecessor. For Chrysostom, the Gospel contains an honest and realistic call to serve the poor through the giving of alms. The parable itself is a vision of a rich man, negligent of the poor mendicant before his house’s gates, and then dying and then suffering in Hell. Chrysostom’s states for the benefit of his congregation that the rich man’s sin lies not in his wealth of earthly possessions but in his hard-heartedness and lack of care for the beggar. For Chrysostom, the poor have advantages in their lack, as they have less distraction in their honest pursuit of holiness. And while the rich may be disadvantaged as to their wealth and its distractions, the rich may give alms to the poor and therefore help to secure their own lot of penance and holiness.

Notice that in his sermons Chrysostom does not lambast the rich. His congregation in Antioch, at that time the Empire’s third largest city, no doubt had many wealthy merchants and tradesmen, and it would be easy for Chrysostom to castigate them for their material excesses. But Chrysostom does not preach hell as much as he does heaven, offering these congregants encouragement towards the blessings that accompany giving to his city’s poor. Chrysostom does not use his words and his episcopal position to condemn, but to offer gospel, that is good news, for the poor and the rich alike. Most importantly, as he does at the end of each sermon, Chrysostom askes a blessing of thanksgiving to Christ: “May we all attain this salvation, by the grace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

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Catholic theology cannot establish itself as a de facto counter-magisterium, remaining in splendid isolation from the Church. Nor should it seek to win a lasting standing in the secular academy that offers it a career path like that of any other academic profession. Nor, finally, will Catholic theology flourish if it is transmuted into “religious studies” to market its remnant in a post-Christian society. Whatever one thinks about the best way to give coherent and even sophisticated shape to Catholic theology, we must acknowledge that the Church herself gives us our theological task: to assist the bishops in communicating, explaining, defending, and understanding the faith that comes from the apostles.

Reinhard Hütter, “The Ruins of Discontinuity”
First Things, January 2011

Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, St Ambrose Addressing the Young St Augustine (ca.1747-50)

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“Converting to the God of the Christians was not merely an adjustment of this or that aspect of an otherwise unaltered basic cultural pattern; rather, worshiping the God of the Christians simultaneously involved an extraction or removal from constitutive aspects of pagan culture (e.g., sacrifice to the gods) and a concomitant cultural profile that rendered Christians identifiable as a “group” by outsiders. Yet the practices that created this cultural profile were themselves dependent upon the identity of God. Christian ecclesial life, in other words, was the cultural explication of God’s identity.” (246)

C. Kavin Rowe, “The Book of Acts and the Cultural Explication of the Identity of God,” from The Word Leaps the Gap: Essays on Scripture and Theology in honor of Richard B. Hays

n., the set of behavioral or personal characteristics by which an individual is recognizable as a member of a group.

[French identité, from Old French identite, from Late Latin identitās, from Latin idem, the same from id, it (cf., essentitās, being)]

adj., existing or occurring together; associative

[Late Latin concomitāns, accompanying; (cf., comes, companion)]

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Advent is a season of remembrance and expectation. It also points us to the second advent of Christ.

2 Peter 3:8 reads: “with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day.” Though this verse has been used in various ways, in 2 Peter it’s sage pastoral counsel. Why? The typical answer has been that the Christians are worried by the fact that Jesus has not yet returned to consummate the work begun in the cross and resurrection. The author thus says, “Don’t worry, what seems like a long time to us is not to God.” And there’s a truth to that.

But in its broader context, the counsel also reaches to the deeper reason why the Christians would wonder about Jesus’return: the world is a place of ongoing suffering, despite the work of Christ. Wasn’t the plan, the Christians ask, for Jesus to return and end this suffering? Well, why the delay? Is our hope to be disappointed? 2 Peter addresses these questions by counseling us to develop peace in our communities (2:14). The author doesn’t answer the questions directly but instead recommends the practice that he knows will address the deeper anxieties behind the questions. Practice peace together, he says, and the Lord’s appearance will be to you as sudden as a thief’s in the night.

The admonition to practice communal peace, of course, depends upon a certain understanding of time: we are here for the long haul (3:8). What is needed, therefore, is to live together in a way that develops patience while we wait for Christ to come again—in short, we need to practice peace.

C. Kavin Rowe, Associate Professor of New Testament
Duke Divinity School

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Oh, that you would tear open the heavens and come down!
Isaiah 64:1

Isaiah blurts out the frustration and longing that seem to be our inevitable portion as children of Adam and Eve. Frustration: in the midst of conflict and pain, we sense that something has gone terribly wrong, and we are powerless to fix it. Longing: we yearn for God to break into our stifling world and set things right.

William Butler Yeats gave words to our dilemma:

“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”

(Yeats, “The Second Coming”)

In the rhythm of the church year, Advent reminds us that we live in a time of groaning along with a broken creation, a time of longing for what we do not yet see (Rom 8:22-25). We yearn for the long-delayed coming of God’s justice. But Advent also reminds us that our longing is not futile, for we await the consummation of a sure promise. In the coming of Jesus Christ, God has torn open the heavens and come down. For that reason, Advent recalls us to the discipline of hopeful waiting. Nothing now can separate us from the love of God, and so we wait with confidence for the healing of all creation.

Richard B. Hays, Dean and George Washington Ivey Professor of New Testament
Duke Divinity School

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This heavenly city, then, while it sojourns on earth, calls citizens out of all nations, and gathers together a society of pilgrims of all languages, not scrupling about diversities in the manners, laws, and institutions whereby earthly peace is secured and maintained, but recognizing that, however various these are, they all tend to one and the same end of earthly peace. It therefore is so far from rescinding and abolishing these diversities, that it even preserves and adopts them, so long only as no hindrance to the worship of the one supreme and true God is thus introduced. Even the heavenly city, therefore, while in its state of pilgrimage, avails itself of the peace of earth, and, so far as it can without injuring faith and godliness, desires and maintains a common agreement among men regarding the acquisition of the necessaries of life, and makes this earthly peace bear upon the peace of heaven; for this alone can be truly called and esteemed the peace of the reasonable creatures, consisting as it does in the perfectly ordered and harmonious enjoyment of God and of one another in God.

Saint Augustine, The City of God, XIX.17

In related news, I was recently admitted to Duke University’s Divinity School to study for a Master of Divinity degree. It total it is a full-time three-year program, which will move me from my current place as Latin teacher at Needham B. Broughton High School here in Raleigh.  Laura and I will stay in Raleigh, and I will commute to Durham for classes et al.

While I have greatly enjoyed my time teaching the Latin language to public high school students, I do believe this opportunity to return to my own studies, specifically in the area of theology, is an opportunity that I should take seriously, with fear and trembling. This had always been a plan – to teach two or three years before returning to school. That was seven years ago.

There is much work to be done, and I am beginning to get my reading chops up for the demands the Divinity School will certainly require. I’m also beginning to work back up my Koine Greek skills for New Testament studies. Hopefully this all means I will be writing more on this site, as well as updating the Lectio page.

One thought I do have is that I will be entering a predominately Protestant institution, as Duke is still supported by the United Methodist Church, the denomination of my mother and my upbringing. I’m sure there will be some gentle competitiveness, as well as some natural nostalgia for the Church in whose care my earliest memories of Christ’s love and devotion came.


noun., a person who undertakes a journey to a sacred place as an act of religious devotion.

[from Provençal pelegrin,  from Latin peregrīnus  foreign, from per  through + ager  field, land; cf., peregrine ]

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