I am reading Matthew Fox’s book “A New Reformation.” It is a fascinating read. In it he postulates that the church is desperately in need of reforming all over again – the likes of which we have not seen since Martin Luther posted his now infamous 95 Theses to the church doors in Wittenberg. Fox, awaked from a dream about all of this, sits down with pen and paper and writes his 95 Theses or Articles of Faith. They are rooted in his writing and his more than 60 years of being a Christian. He then sets out to post them on the very same doors – and indeed does!
Fox is a controversial character who has been dumped unceremoniously by the Roman Catholic Church for his controversial and progressive positions on church in our times. Cardinal Ratizinger was responsible for his removal from the accepted reading list when he was the Vatican’s Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – at that time he was dubbed “Ratzinger – Rottweiler of the Church.” Fox saves some of his most scathing criticism of the church for now Pope Benedict XVII, whom he says has more in common with Jerry Farwell then with many Catholic writers and thinkers like himself, Hans Kung and other liberation theologians. Among the 95 articles of faith are a number focused on the papacy. Take article 29 for instance – “No matter how much the television media fawn over the pope and papacy because it makes good theatre, the pope is not the church but has a ministry within the church. Papalolotry is a contemporary form of idolatry and must be resisted by all believers.”
He also writes of apathetic protestant churches, as well has hard-line fundamentalist – all belonging to the one reality which follows a punitive God and is anchored with the doctrine of original sin which he contends is not a biblical theology. Article 32 says “Original sin is an ultimate expression of a punitive father God and is not a Biblical teaching. But original blessing (goodness and grace) is biblical.” This is followed by Article 33 “The term “original wound” better describes the separation humans experience on leaving the womb and entering the world, a world that is often unjust and unwelcoming than does the term “original sin.” Fox contends that the church is struggling with necrophilia, or love of death. He implores us all to adopt “Biophilia” or love of life! He is "dead" on when he speaks of the church and its obsession with death and dying. What I love about the parish community I am a part of is the joy and the love of life (Joie de Vivre) that is here found. Article 45 ““Joy is the human’s noblest act.” (Aquinas) Is our culture and its professions, education and religion, promoting joy?” And again 48, “Thus it can be said that God is experienced in experiences of ecstasy, joy, wonder and delight (via positiva).” Our churches really ought to be full of Joy! I still am called back to sung matins when we would sing the prayers from the old Book of Common Prayer – “And make thy chosen people joooyfuuul.” – sung with the same tune and enthusiasm as a depressed child being lead to a weeks homework. Fox also acknowledges difficulty in life. He is very much NOT a Happy Jesus theologian. Fox is a realist and knows the fullness of God’s presence in the midst joy and in pain, suffering and Choas. Take these three Theses – “83 The Dark Night of the Soul descends on us all and the proper response is not addiction such as shopping, alcohol, drugs, TV, sex or religion but rather to be with the darkness and learn from it. 84 The Dark Night of the Soul is a learning place of great depth. Stillness is required.Not only is there a Dark Night of the Soul but also a Dark Night of Society and a Dark Night of our Species. 86 Chaos is a friend and a teacher and an integral part or prelude to new birth. Therefore it is not to be feared or compulsively controlled.”
This book certainly gives pause for thought and would make any church goer thinks about why he or she attends. He is right out there. He lands some good smacks against the large head we Churches sometimes have when we wield judgement at so many peoples and their beliefs. This book calls all Christians to look seriously at whether we believe that we are divinely created in God’s image, loved and respected and called to be co-creators in building the kingdom now. Take article 24 as an example of this. “Creativity is both humanity’s greatest gift and its most powerful weapon for evil and so it ought to be both encouraged and steered to humanity’s most God-like activity which all religions agree is: Compassion.” Followed later with article 50 “God is experienced in acts of creativity and co-creation (via creativa).”
There is a whole lot in this book to consider. It might anger some and enliven others. One thing is for certain – it is well thought out and well written and is a great catalyst for dialogue. Matthew Fox is no doubt a broad thinker and a man who God has called to bring new life and new vigour to the community of disciples. If you have the chance – read this book.