Fr. Robert Farrar Capon – author, theologian, and American Episcopal priest – passed away this Thursday at the grand old age of 88. Following his death, tributes began making their appearances in sundry and significant places throughout the Christian blogosphere.
This is not at all surprising. What is surprising, at least to me and a handful of friends I’ve spoken to, is that next to nothing is being said about certain aspects of Capon’s theology which are frankly rather troubling.
Let me begin, therefore, with the necessary disclaimers. First, I’m not a thundercloud trying to rain on the funeral parade here. I am a keen admirer of Capon’s writing. I read through Supper of the Lamb and Party Spirit earlier this year, and I loved them both. I’m also enjoying Bed and Board, a tremendously awesome little book which will probably make my top ten list come December. To be honest, when it comes to the consideration of food and feasting, there is almost no one else I’d rather read than Fr. Capon.
Second, several of these tributes were written by men whom I hold (and will continue to hold) in very high regard. This is not a chest-thumping exercise, nor an excuse to hurl arrogant challenges at men of far greater stature than myself. I have my questions and my observations, and I will state them without blushing; but I am fully prepared to admit that I could be missing something.
I was aware that some of Capon’s theology was a bit odd, but it didn’t really start to bother me until recently, as I started learning more about him. Among other things, I read this, and this, and this, and this; not to mention this bit about universalism. While I’m not interested in striking up a debate here, when the claim is made that Christ has taken away the sins of “every last being” in the world, and that He has “shut up forever on the subject of guilt,” I can’t help but sniff. Something doesn’t smell right.
So I’m asking: why isn’t there more discussion going on about this iffy stuff? I’m not on a Quest for Perfect Theology, but a lot of this stuff sounds disturbingly edgy (if not actually over-the-edge), and last I checked, being edgy was not the most commendable trait for a theologian to have. Are we “going easy” on Capon merely because 1) he has passed away, and 2) he sang so beautifully the praises of hearth and home? Would we be so lenient with a theologian who hadn’t written a book like Supper of the Lamb? Are we cutting him some slack in these areas simply because he was so right on in others?
It’s something to think about, anyway.