Faith Meets World

Reflections on faith in a messed-up but beautiful world

Category: In memoriam

Capon: the end of religion

In honour of Robert Farrar Capon, who passed away last week, each morning this week I’ve been posting a quote or excerpt from his writings. This morning’s brief offering is the final instalment in this little series. I hope you’ve enjoyed it.

Christianity is not a religion. Christianity is the proclamation of the end of religion, not of a new religion, or even of the best of all religions. …If the cross is the sign of anything, it’s the sign that God has gone out of the religion business and solved all of the world’s problems without requiring a single human being to do a single religious thing. What the cross is actually a sign of is the fact that religion can’t do a thing about the world’s problems – ­ that it never did work and it never will…

From The Mystery of Christ …and Why We Don’t Get It

Capon: successful living

In honour of Robert Farrar Capon, who passed away last week, each morning this week I’m posting a quote or excerpt from his writings. Here’s something to challenge your thinking this morning:

Our preachers tell us the wrong story entirely, saying not a word about the dark side—no, that’s too weak—about the dark center of the Gospel. They can’t bring themselves to come within a country mile of the horrendous truth that we are saved in our deaths, not by our efforts to lead a good life. Instead, they mouth the canned recipes for successful living they think their congregations want to hear. It makes no difference what kind of success they urge on us: “spiritual” or “religious” success is as irrelevant to the Gospel as is success in health, money or love. Nothing counts but the cross.

Congregations are equally guilty. Preaching is a two-way street: what is said in a sermon depends every bit as much on the listeners as it does on the preacher. If the folks in the pews are constantly running old, happy-ending films inside their heads, they’ll make sure he or she gets the message that they’re not going to sit still for anybody who tries to sell them a dead God on the cross. The incompetence of it all is just too much for them.

I think good preachers should be like bad kids. They ought to be naughty enough to tiptoe up on dozing congregations, steal their bottles of religion pills, spirituality pills, and morality pills, and flush them all down the drain. The church, by and large, has drugged itself into thinking that proper human behavior is the key to its relationship with God. What preachers need to do is force it to go cold turkey with nothing but the word of the cross—and then be brave enough to stick around while it goes through the inevitable withdrawal symptoms.

From The Foolishness of Preaching: Proclaiming the Gospel against the Wisdom of the World

Capon: salvation by bookkeeping

In honour of Robert Farrar Capon, who passed away last week, each morning this week I’m posting a quote or excerpt from his writings. Here’s today’s daily dose:

Grace cannot prevail until law is dead, until moralizing is out of the game. The precise phrase should be, until our fatal love affair with the law is over—until, finally and for good, our lifelong certainty that someone is keeping score has run out of steam and collapsed. As long as we leave, in our dramatization of grace, one single hope of a moral reckoning, one possible recourse to salvation by bookkeeping, our freedom-dreading hearts will clutch it to themselves. And even if we leave none at all, we will grub for ethics that are not there rather than face the liberty to which grace call us.

From Between Noon & Three: Romance, Law & the Outrage of Grace

Capon: the jubilant laughter of God

In honour of Robert Farrar Capon, who passed away last week, each morning this week I’m posting a quote or excerpt from his writings. Here’s today’s treat:

O the sad frugality of the middle-income mind. O the humorless neatness of an intellectuality which buys mass-produced candlesticks and carefully puts one at each end of every philosophical mantlepiece! How far it lies from the playfulness of Him who composed such odd and needless variations on the themes of leaf and backbone, eye and nose! A thousand praises that it has only lately managed to lay its cold hand on the wines, the sauces, and the cheeses of the world! A hymn of thanksgiving that it could not reach into the depths of the sea to clamp its grim simplicities over the creatures that swim luminously in the dark! A shout of rejoicing for the fish who wears his eyeballs at the ends of long stalks, and for the jubilant laughter of the God who holds him in life with a daily bravo at the bravura of his being!

 From The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection

Capon: all you can be is dead

In honour of Robert Farrar Capon, a hero of the faith and a reveller in grace who passed away last week, each morning this week (ending Friday) I will be posting a quote or excerpt from his writings. May his words confound, upset, challenge and inspire you as much as his work has done me.

Here’s this morning’s offering:

Trust him. And when you have done that, you are living the life of grace. No matter what happens to you in the course of that trusting – no matter how many waverings you may have, no matter how many suspicions that you have bought a poke with no pig in it, no matter how much heaviness and sadness your lapses, vices, indispositions, and bratty whining may cause you – you believe simply that Somebody Else, by his death and resurrection, has made it all right, and you just say thank you and shut up. The whole slop-closet full of mildewed performances (which is all you have to offer) is simply your death; it is Jesus who is your life. If he refused to condemn you because your works were rotten, he certainly isn’t going to flunk you because your faith isn’t so hot. You can fail utterly, therefore, and still live the life of grace. You can fold up spiritually, morally, or intellectually and still be safe. Because at the very worst, all you can be is dead – and for him who is the Resurrection and the Life, that just makes you his cup of tea.

From Between Noon & Three: Romance, Law & the Outrage of Grace

In memoriam: Robert Farrar Capon (1925-2013)

CaponI was saddened to hear of the death yesterday of Robert Farrar Capon, a relatively little-known author whose writings have done much to shape my renewed understanding of God’s grace over the past three or four years.

An ordained Episcopalian minister, Capon served as a full-time Parish priest in his native New York for almost 30 years before deciding to leave the ministry to devote himself more fully to writing.

I have read few of the many books he wrote, but those I have read have impacted me greatly. He is perhaps the first orthodox writer I read who dared to explore and make plain, with no holds barred, the absolutely radical nature of God’s grace. His work on the parables of Jesus I found nothing less than paradigm-shifting, and his seminal Between Noon and Three: Romance, Law and the Outrage of Grace is both a work of literary genius and a masterly examination of the implications of grace. When I read Capon, I often scratch my head, I am forced to ask myself lots of questions, and I do not always agree with the conclusions he reaches. But I also find plenty of brilliant nuggets of revelation.

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