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Tuesday, May 01, 2012

William Barry and Keith Ward

Today I listened to a talk Keith Ward gave at St. George's Cathedral to Heretics Anonymous :) - it's titled "The New Fundamentalists". You can listen to the talk at this page (just scroll down). I was struck by a part of the talk on the disagreements between Paul and Peter, - it reminded me of William Barry SJ, who wrote about this too. First, here's what Keith Ward said ...

We do know that the first Council of Jerusalem, it's recorded in Acts, chapter 15 .... did change what Jesus had said, because all the apostles who had known Jesus personally, that's very important evidence, said you should keep the Jewish law - circumcision. It was Paul who came along and said, 'look, circumcision - all these converts, they're adult, and we haven't invented anesthetics yet - don't you think it's a bit unduly difficult?' And who won? Paul did. Paul won, even if Jesus had said you must keep the law to the last jot and tittle, and Peter thought Jesus had said that, we know that. Then James, described as the brother of Jesus, sent out disciples to Paul's Christians, telling them to keep the Jewish law in every detail. A large part of the New Testament is Paul fighting against James, the brother of Jesus, one of the leaders of the early church. Now, we know Paul won the argument, but we also know there was an argument, and that legitimates arguments in church .... Peter actually changed his mind, not because of what Jesus had said, but because he had a personal vision ...

And here's a bit from chapter 12 of William Barry's book, Paying Attention to God: Discernment in Prayer, in which he argues that the leaders of the church should allow for change based on discernment ...

I do want to invite some reflections that bring home the point of this contemplation of Acts 10 and 11 .... Peter did not resort to quotations from the Old Testament or from Jesus or from earlier speeches of the apostles with arguments about their relevance to his situation with Cornelius. Rather he presented - to a rather hostile audience - experiences of prayer and of the aftermath of prayer.


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