>Small pieces loosely joined


Eavesdropping a conversation between Bishop Alan and Euan Semple I notice agreement between them about the strength of “small pieces loosely joined” (the title of a book by David Weinberger). They talked about the nature of churches and the degree of structure and institution needed to hold them together and that “dogma and rules are vehicles for power rather than entirely necessary for collective understanding”.
The “dramatic” viewpoint takes the standpoint of a participant in the drama while the “epic standpoint” is that of the external spectator able to see the whole play. Western Christendom has usually taken the “epic viewpoint” which has resulted in totalising and patronising theories of what is right and what is wrong. Hans Urs von Balthasar uses the dramatic viewpoint to look at what the church is. His dramatic theory is that there is no “external spectator”, and that in the “everyman” theatre even the audience is caught up in the drama as they see their own condition and dilemnas played out on the stage. They are caught up in the drama. There is only one “external spectator”, who is God. His is the epic viewpoint – though  there are other pretenders pretending they know what it’s all about.

Balthasar’s image is rather powerful when applied to what the church is. We don’t know what the church is. The church is there to find – to be received and not pre-conceived. For Balthasar the stage is set in Christ. From this viewpoint we all become players – church and non-church, caught in the act of being human, in  inter-play and the inter-action with all the other characters. Small pieces loosely joined sounds about right from this dramatic point of view where what is expected in terms of fruit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness ….. (Galatians 5:22) 

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