Recently Yale Divinity School organized a conference to mark a major ecumenical event of the last decade (some would even argue, the major ecumenical event of the last century). It was the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification by the Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church.
I have just spent the last hour turning on and off light switches, standing in front of heater vents, and opening faucets. After four days without power in freezing weather, I do not take any of these things for granted. There should be a service in the prayer book for occasions such as these: “O God of the burning bush, we praise you for the return of heat and light.
Ever since I was a child, my mother has observed the season of Christmas in the same way. Some time around Thanksgiving she begins shaking her head, looking disgusted and sighing, “Oh Lordy, Lordy; it’s almost Christmas and I haven’t done a thing!” Then come four intense weeks of shopping, baking and Christmas card writing.
For some time now I have been both attracted to and troubled by the story of Abraham’s journey to present his son Isaac as a burnt offering in the land of Moriah. I was moved by Abraham’s extraordinary devotion to God but repelled by the thought that it made him willing to sacrifice his only child.
Two of the most powerful intellectual and social forces in our culture are the hard sciences and capitalist economics. Together they have conspired to produce images of personhood that undermine Christian understandings. According to these images, persons are defined by their rational capacities and their productive contributions.