Thursday, February 28, 2008

More on the Bishop Braxton and the theologian

~by Carl Olson in Ignatius Insight
One reason this story interests me is that I have heard Dr. Johnson speak in person (on the Jesus Seminar; he was excellent). I've read several of his books and have benefited much from his commentaries on the Gospel of Luke and The Acts of the Apostles (both are very good). I've read several of his books, including The Real Jesus and Living Jesus (solid, with many helpful insights).

I've also heard him (following the talk mentioned above) publicly voice his support of the ordination of women and his belief that the Catholic Church will eventually have priestettes (my term, not his). And, in fact, whenever Johnson moves from New Testament studies and Christology into the realm of Church authority, sexuality, and morality, he seems, well, to get really angry and a wee bit illogical. Worse, he consistently rejects and even mocks Church teaching. It can be seen, for example, in the tenor of his scathing critique of Pope John Paul II's theology of the body (published in—where else?—Commonweal; an excellent response by Christopher West can be read here).

Johnson's strained relationship with the aforementioned issues is both blatant and expressed at some length in his popular book, The Creed: What Christians Believe and Why It Matters (Doubleday, 2003). I wrote a review of it for This Rock magazine that can be read online ("From Creed to Screed: How Cafeteria Catholicism Leads to Dissent" [Sept. 2004]), so I won't go into too much detail here, except to note that reading the book was quite disconcerting, as it readily displayed a bewildering theological schizophrenia, as I noted at the start of my review: "When Johnson agrees with Church teaching, his writing is measured and his arguments are logical. But when Johnson parts ways with Church teaching, the tone becomes polemical and he shows little if any respect for the thinking and logic behind those teachings." That is, frankly, putting it mildly.

In short, Johnson not only supports women's ordination, he also supports "same sex marriage," thinks homosexual acts are just fine, supports the use of contraceptives, believes Jesus had brothers and sisters born of Mary, and thinks that belief in the miraculous conception and Virgin birth of Christ is silly: "The plain fact is that it is neither possible nor important to know the biology of Jesus’ conception and birth" (p 157). Not least, Johnson argues that since the Creed "says nothing about the Lord’s Supper or other sacraments," we can conclude that "they are not essential, and if they are not essential, then definition should be avoided and a plurality of observance should be allowed or even cultivated" (p 320).
There, you have it. A bishop is protecting his flock from corrupting influences. However, it's curious to me that Bishop Braxton always seems to draw the media's condemnation. Recall the kerfuffle over his appointment...a long list of priests' signatories protesting his appointment as Bishop of Belleville. Then complaints about his lack of communication regarding diocesan programs...etc.

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