Notable and Quotable

In response to several readers: No, I do not plan a comment on the Episcopal priest in Seattle who says she is also a Muslim. In part because commenting on Episcopalian foibles and follies is like shooting fish in a barrel. It seems unfair. What else is to be said about a church in which John Spong, who is celebrated for denying almost every article in the creed, is a bishop in good standing? In any case, the lady in Seattle said it all. Of her simultaneous adherence to Christianity and Islam she commented: ”˜It wasn’t about intellect. All I know is the calling of my heart to Islam was very much something about my identity and who I am supposed to be.’ It wasn’t about intellect. This is a journal of ideas and it is beyond our competence to comment on a person who says she has no idea what she is doing. We have no personal or pastoral connection with her and therefore could not possibly comment on her problems with her identity or who she thinks she is supposed to be. It is of interest that she will, beginning this fall, be teaching the New Testament at Seattle University. But then that is a school ”˜in the Jesuit tradition’ and apparently is not about intellect either. And so, as aforesaid, we have no comment.”

–Richard John Neuhaus, “While we’re at it,” First Things 176 (October 2007), p. 75.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Theology

43 comments on “Notable and Quotable

  1. robroy says:

    I love that very long no comment.

  2. Reason and Revelation says:

    Neuhaus is hilarious and the real McCoy.

  3. Jon says:

    Thanks Kendall. That will keep me cheerful for at least a year.

    Like RobRoy, I loved the fact that he said he wouldn’t comment and then proceeded to comment at incredible and hilarious length.

    I also loved the following:
    “This is a journal of ideas and it is beyond our competence to comment on a person who says she has no idea what she is doing.”

    I’m a pretty hard core Protestant but I am very fond of Neuhaus. He’s almost enough to make me cross the Tiber.

  4. Ross says:

    I’m in that New Testament class he dismisses so disdainfully, and so far it looks to be an excellent class.

    I could comment about Richard John Neuhaus’ tone of loftily sneering contempt… but I can’t be bothered.

  5. Courageous Grace says:

    [blockquote]…commenting on Episcopalian foibles and follies is like shooting fish in a barrel. It seems unfair.[/blockquote]

    I really shouldn’t drink anything when reading these….my LCD is starting to show spots…

  6. William P. Sulik says:

    As Mark Steyn said, “With the benefit of hindsight, it should have been obvious that the first female imam would be an Episcopalian…”

  7. libraryjim says:

    Thanks for a needed laugh, Kendall! great!

  8. Rolling Eyes says:

    “It wasn’t about intellect.”

    That pretty much sums up TEC in general, not just in this particular story.

  9. Andrew717 says:

    Ross, are you serious? I must say I feel sorry for you. Taking a class from a prof who more or less indisputably doesn’t understand anything of the subject has to be rough. I’ve taken a few classes from intellectual pond scum before, but they at least pretended to understand.

  10. Ross says:

    Andrew, I may not think much of the opinions of certain figures on the reasserting side, but I try to avoid calling them “pond scum.”

  11. Katherine says:

    I think there is a serious point here. The statement that “it’s not about intellect” really sums up the difference between the traditional and the contemporary faiths. The first was about revealed truth and objective standards. In the sexual matters, for instance, this means abstaining from any sex other than life-long marriage. There was always the understanding that some people will be unable to meet this standard. That’s what repentance and forgiveness are about. But the standard holds even in the failure to meet it. On the other hand, the contemporary religion is about feelings. In this view, if a person feels that it’s right for him to have relations with a member of the same sex, and if that feeling is essential, in his view, to his emotional well-being, then the contemporary faith accepts the feelings as truth. It is not about intellect; it’s about feelings.

  12. samh says:


    The class may be fascinating, but is it appropriate for a New Testament class to be taught by someone who clearly doesn’t believe the New Testament is telling the truth?

  13. John A. says:

    Ross, what text book(s) or other material are you using in your class?

  14. Sherri says:

    William Sulik (#6), thanks for that (painful) chuckle.

  15. dwstroudmd+ says:

    God, bless Kendall and William and Mark. I needed the laughs! Love, DAVID

  16. Larry Morse says:

    I like Katharine’s entry here, for this subject needs to be explored more carefully than it has been. Can we have, for instance, a religion whose basis is individual feelings? Is it possible to assume that our emotional intuition is superior to the intellect because it is more nearly an infallible guide to the emotional life we want to lead? Is the intellect ever a guide to the emotional life we want to lead? Is not the very heart of Christianity a matter of “feelings,” our emotional state? Is it the case that we can trust our intellect when we cannot trust our feelings? Or is it that our feelings are always untrustworthy because they arise from so far inside ourselves, our only choice is to trust them completely or deny them completely? Will not fudging the previous dichotomy merely produce intractable contradictions, irresolvable tensions?

    The Muslipalian woman is utterly contemporary. She has our entire culture behind her. She may be a terrible Christian – this is undeniable – but is she wrong to trust her feelings and follow them? LM

  17. Florida Anglican [Support Israel] says:

    #16 Larry Morse,
    [blockquote] but is she wrong to trust her feelings and follow them? [/blockquote]
    Yes, she is wrong.

    Sometimes I feel like throwing my cat against the wall, but my intellect realizes that is wrong, so I don`t.

    Sometimes my husband annoys me to the point that, for a fleeting moment, I think about not being married to him, but then my intellect reminds me that, not only do I love him, but I made a vow that included `for better or for worse` so I dismiss the fleeting (and possibly hormone-driven) thought.

    Sometimes, after a long, tedious day at work, I feel like walking into the bosses office and quitting, but then my intellect reminds that I need a job in order to earn a living in order to pay the bills and put food on the table, so I don`t quit my job.

    Basing one`s decisions solely on feelings frequently makes for bad decisions.

  18. Rich Gabrielson says:

    “… not about intellect?!” Strange irony that it should be the clear if unstated position of many who accuse reasserters of “checking their brains at the door.”

  19. Andrew717 says:

    Ross, the “pond scum” was directed at some prof’s I’ve had, not the Muslipalian. The one I had in mind tried to teach us that all Stalin’s crimes were invented by Henry Ford and Walt Disney as a way to help their friends the Nazis to discredit the heroic Soviet leader, who was a true friend of the people. Yeah, folks like that have the intellect of pond scum. And yes the university fired him that semester.

    My point was that while they were stupid, they at least tried to pretend they understood the subject. She seems proud to misunderstand 2000 years of Christian theology and 1500 years of Islamic. I feel badly that the quality of teaching you are being subjected to has fallen so low. Hopefully some of your other professors have a basic understanding of their subjects. I wouldn’t have a problem if she’d simply converted, it’s the profound ignorance she displays which leads me to the conclusion that she doesn’t understand her subject whatsoever.

  20. Robert A. says:

    Ah, allayHM and LM, perhaps you are both right.

    For if, as I suspect, reasserters are more geared to the 1st Great Commandment, while reappraisers are more geared to the 2nd, perhaps we need to heed these in equal proportions.

    Because if, as has also been said, God is more concerned about wrongs that Rights, then we should look to what these commandments are designed to guard us against, rather that what they tell us to do.

    Belief in the validity of one’s own intellect leads to the sin of Pride, the subject of the 1st commandment.
    Belief in the validity of one’s own feelings leads to the sin of Acedia, the subject of the 2nd.

    We are all guilty.

  21. Ross says:

    #19 Andrew717:

    Ah, I see — I apologize for misunderstanding your comment.

    However, I suggest that you may be confusing “profound ignorance” with “has different views.” I have — I’m willing to bet — a very different view of the New Testament than you do, and while I expect that view to be refined with study I highly doubt it will ever come around to match yours. That doesn’t make either one of us “profoundly ignorant.”

    So I assure you that your concern over the quality of teaching I’m receiving is unnecessary. SU is an unabashedly liberal school and it teaches liberal theology, but it teaches that theology with scholarship and depth.

  22. Ross says:

    #12 samh says:

    The class may be fascinating, but is it appropriate for a New Testament class to be taught by someone who clearly doesn’t believe the New Testament is telling the truth?

    One of the best Paulists I ever met was a rabbi. I’d have taken a class from him in a heartbeat, if he’d been teaching one.

  23. Andrew717 says:

    Apparently not, Ross. If I were a student there, I’d look into the qualifications of my other instructors. I’m not trying to be flip, I’m speaking now as one concerned about education. One cannot be a Christian and a Muslim at the same time without being a heretic in both. If one thinks so one has an erroneous view of both religions. I’m sorry, but that’s just the way it is. Some folks may claim that it is possible, but I can claim to be the Emperor of the Moon. But I’m not. As any good Futurama fan knows, Al Gore is. 😉 I recognize that there are wide boundaries within which one can [i]legitimately[/i] claim to be Christian, and the same (though I suspect to a lesser extent) goes for Islam. But one cannot hold two contradictory beliefs at the same time, and that is what Ms Redding would have to claim, in order to be a member in good standing of both religions. Therefore, she must have a flawed view of one or both religions in order to make this claim. And we’re not talking about subtle issues of theology about which reasonable people can disagree. It is akin to a Socialist claiming to be a devout follower of Milton Friedman, and teaching a course on “Capitalism & Freedom.” A socialist teaching a course on Friedman is fine, and provides a useful point of view, so long as they don’t claim to agree with him and remain socialist. Do you see my point? It’s like taking Calculus from someone who insists that 2+2=purple.

  24. Andrew717 says:

    Ross, in 22, that’s my point. You don’t have to be a believer. It’s useful to take classes from some who don’t, as you say. But did this Rabbi claim to be a non-messianic Jew and to believe in Paul’s theology? Did he say that Christ is God, and also that to say Christ is God to to be a polytheist and heretic?

  25. Rocks says:

    [blockquote]But then that is a school ‘in the Jesuit tradition’ and apparently is not about intellect either.[/blockquote]

    How sad is this statement…chiefly because it’s true.

  26. wamark says:

    Yes, #25, and, with an aside to Ross, as a pastor in Seattle the home of “unabashedly liberal” SU and its “protestant school” of theology in the Jesuit tradition…the place is a running joke among any serious minded folk in Seattle. It’s previous president, now at PLTS in Berkley, has been described as duplicitous and intolerant of any ideas dissenting from her staunchly reappraising ways and since her departure, I’ve been told, things have only gone from bad to worse. What a pity because SU could be a real beacon of hope in the rather benighted but oh so smug and stridently liberal yet remarkably intolerant Pacific Northwest.

  27. Anselmic says:


  28. Milton says:

    Priceless analogy, Andrew717:
    “It is akin to a Socialist claiming to be a devout follower of Milton Friedman, and teaching a course on “Capitalism & Freedom.”

    Got to remember that one! Gives a clear picture to academic types of just what all the fuss is about that we reasserters make over doctrine and belief

  29. Dave B says:

    I think that Christianity is both of the head (intellect) and heart (feelings). You can not have a close relationship with with some one (Jesus) and not have feelings. We use scripture and intellect as a check on our feelings and vise verse. There are many reappraisers who can academically and intellecturally out gun me. If their theology doen’t fit scripture, history and tradition then no matter how sound the argument appears or how appealing “acceptence” seems,I can’t follow it. I can not tolerate a cold analytical religion either, you have to have some passion from the heart.

  30. Scott K says:

    I’d add that the best Old Testament class I’ve ever taken was from a clearly non-belieiving Jewish professor, and the best religion classes in general from an extremely liberal Methodist professor, so I don’t have any reason to doubt that this woman might be a great teacher, no matter how mixed up she is.

  31. Bob from Boone says:

    So Neuhaus doesn’t think the Jesuits have an intellectual tradition? I don’t know whether to call that arrogance or stupidity.

  32. nwlayman says:

    Ross, this isn’t SU’s first experience with flakey priestesses of the Anglican type. Twenty years ago they hired the late Laura Fraser to teach, who was eventually to renounce her orders (and receive a fat pension!) once she was found to be into Ouija boards. I have a hunch Redding will do likewise. If she’s as smart as they say she is. As for the excellence of the class….Would you take a physics course from a prof who started out saying he didn’t believe in gravity?

  33. Words Matter says:

    [i]So Neuhaus doesn’t think the Jesuits have an intellectual tradition? I don’t know whether to call that arrogance or stupidity. [/i]

    Here’s what Fr. Neuhaus actually said:

    [i]But then that is a school ‘in the Jesuit tradition’ and apparently is not about intellect either.[/i]

    Of course they have an intellectual tradition. Unfortunately, they have abandoned it.

  34. Charming Billy says:

    #31, Bob from Boone,

    Neuhaus knows all about the Jesuit intellectual tradition and doesn’t take it lightly. Frequent First Things contributors Avery Dulles, S.J. and Edward T. Oakes, S. J. would knock Neuhaus upside the head if he meant this comment seriously. I think Neuhaus is indulging in some intramural clerical ribbing.

    But still and all, having earned a graduate degree in philosophy from a Jesuit institution only ten years ago, I’d say Neuhuas’s statement, (which I think is intended as a comment on the present condition of the Jesuit intellectual tradition,) neither arrogant or stupid but rather, roughly accurate. At that time the brightest grad students were Evangelical Protestants (who have also been very successful at landing good jobs) while the Jesuits, with the exception of one talented German student, were distinctly mediocre. My former colleagues who keep up with the department tell me that this is even more the case nowadays.

  35. Larry Morse says:

    Please do not take my questions as a reflection of my own attitudes. But we have not assessed accurately the role of one’s emotions in religion.
    To what extent is faith an emotional response? If one believes in the unseen and unseable things of Christianity, then faith is a creature of one’s emotions, for there is little to engage the mind. The intellect here does not lead one to the truth, but provides a guard to prevent sentiment leading to patent untruth.

    Nor should you suppose I am limiting the function of the thinking mind in Christianity. I myself returned to church because my intellect made it clear that intelligent design could not be avoided as a correct solution.

    And yet, the emotions… Are one’s feeling the same as one’s emotions? Is that which drives the intellect an emotion? Aye, there’s the rub. LM

  36. Ross says:

    #34 Charming Billy says:

    I think Neuhaus is indulging in some intramural clerical ribbing.

    I’m reminded of a story I heard from one of the clergy here:

    Representatives of a number of Catholic orders — Franciscans, Jesuits, Dominicans, etc. — were having a friendly argument over which of their brotherhoods was superior. The debate was beginning to get a little heated when suddenly there was the sound of a choir of angels, a shaft of light descended onto the table, and a piece of paper drifted down from above. When they finally mustered the courage to read it, it said:

    To Whom It May Concern:

    I love all My children equally.

    God (SJ)


  37. Katherine says:

    Larry, I wasn’t arguing that feelings have no place in religious experience, merely that feelings alone cannot establish what is true. Christianity is a revealed religion; we have scriptures to guide us in determining whether our feelings are leading us rightly or leading us astray.

  38. libraryjim says:


    From [url=]the Four Spiritual Laws[/url] on the role of intellect, faith and emotion in following Christ:

    [blockquote]We must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord;
    then we can know and experience God’s love and plan for our lives.

    We Must Receive Christ: “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12).

    We Receive Christ Through Faith: “By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as result of works that no one should boast” (Ephesians 2:8,9).

    When We Receive Christ, We Experience a New Birth: (Read John 3:1-8.)

    We Receive Christ Through Personal Invitation: [Christ speaking] “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him” (Revelation 3:20).

    Receiving Christ involves turning to God from self (repentance) and trusting Christ to come into our lives to forgive our sins and to make us what He wants us to be.

    Just to agree intellectually that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He died on the cross for our sins is not enough. Nor is it enough to have an emotional experience. We receive Jesus Christ by faith, as an act of the will.[/blockquote]

  39. Doug Martin says:

    Getting back to the origin of this discussion, quick reference would indicate there are somewhere between 15000 and 20000 ordained Episcopalians. Pick any group that large and some significant number of them are going to be a little confused about “life, the universe, and everything”. I cannot imagine that any of them became ministers on the basis of hard, logical decisions. They are after all supposed to be “called”. One can infer that this indicates a somewhat higher degree of preference for “emotional solutions” than in the population at large (although there are an unaccountable number of reformed engineers and lawyers among them). The good lady’s Bishop acted appropriately and with grace by saying “you need to go away and think this over for a year”. We all agree she can’t be both Christian and Muslim. It would be “Christian” of all of us to let this one quietly submerge and resolve itself however it may. In my short span of exposure to relatively small numbers of ordained Episcopalians (and I am sure we have not cornered the market on strange behavior) I have seen an absolutely remarkable spectrum of blatantly “unChristian”, inappropriate, unorthodox, and outright illegal expression and action, entirely separate from the conservative or liberal bias of those involved. That recognized, Niehaus is right but maybe he should have started, not ended, with “no comment”.

  40. libraryjim says:

    “The good lady’s” bishop was approving of her dual-religion status, stating in a news interview that it was a “good way to foster inter-faith relationships”[i]1[/i] before the press got hold of the story and the backlash started. I can’t read minds, but it seems to me like the ‘year off’ was his way of saying, “take a year, and when the furor dies down and all is forgotten, you can pick up where you left off.”

    Jim Elliott

    1. Redding’s bishop, the Rt. Rev. Vincent Warner, says he accepts Redding as an Episcopal priest and a Muslim, and that he finds the interfaith possibilities exciting.

    [url=]The Seattle Times[/url] June 17, 2007, “I am both Muslim and Christian” By Janet I. Tu

  41. Ross says:

    #40 libraryjim:

    +Warner was (until just last month) the Bishop of Olympia, which is where Redding lives. However, she’s canonically resident in Rhode Island, and it was +Wolf who inhibited her, not +Warner.

  42. Doug Martin says:

    #49, at the risk of repeating Ross above the T19 entry on this subject for 8/12/07 states…
    Redding, the Seattle priest, was ordained in Rhode Island and is under the leadership of Bishop Geralyn Wolf.
    Wolf removed Redding’s collar for one year so the Seattle clergywoman could reflect on her thoughts, Ferrell said. Next summer, Wolf will revisit the case.
    So I guess you get to pick your Bishop on this one. (For once the conservatives got it right)

  43. arianna says:

    In the modern world, to talk about tradition would appear it means to be from the company, or promote things obsolete, or to look too far past. But we too easily overlooked that tradition means a sum of values, experience Community, among which we are born and where we go, even when they innovate.
    Arianna, [url=] Sibiu [/url]