The Anglican 2FA: Anglican Schools as Communities of Recognition

According to Microsoft, there are over 1,200 attempts around the globe at hacking internet passwords every second. Meanwhile, the company also reports blocking 34.7 billion online attacks in the past year. Apparently, a staggering $3.1 billion was lost to internet scams in Australia alone during 2021 due to identity theft, much of it stemming from compromised email accounts. It turns out it is frighteningly simple for hackers to exploit all manner of online vulnerabilities.

One solution, successful at preventing over 99% of such attempted hacks, is 2FA, which is tech-jargon for “2-Factor Authentication”. The idea is not complicated – in addition to the usual username/password security layer, a second layer is introduced, such as a one-time passcode, an authenticator app, or biometric facial recognition. The main point, of course, is that if you pass 2FA, the network will recognise you as an authentic user.

It’s a bit like what we see in the Emmaus Road passage (Luke 24:13-35): two factors of authentication are needed before the two travelers recognise Jesus for who he really is.

They Were Kept from Recognising Him

Two travelers make their way to the village of Emmaus from Jerusalem, all the while discussing the recent events surrounding Jesus’ death, and reports of his resurrection. In the midst of their discussion, Jesus himself appears as if from out of nowhere. Yet, while we, the readers, are fully cognizant of Jesus’ identity, the travelers themselves are oblivious to who it is that journeys with them, for “they were kept from recognising him” (vs. 16).

It’s not immediately clear how or why they were kept from recognising Jesus. There’s no indication in the text that Jesus was deliberately concealing his identity. Was it that the travelers were too psychologically disoriented by recent events to be aware of who it was that walked with them? Were there evil forces at play? Or was it that Jesus’ resurrected body took on the heavenly qualities of ‘new creation’ which made him unrecognisable? Whatever the case may be, we learn in this initial encounter that Jesus walks alongside them as one not recognised. You could say, he had not yet authenticated himself to his disciples.

Social Recognition: Love, Respect, Esteem

Receiving recognition for one’s authentic identity is, of course, not only important when we’re trying to login to our online accounts, but also when it comes to understanding and responding to the various social concerns of today. In the writings of the 19th century philosopher Georg W. F. Hegel, and more recently in the writings of philosophers like Charles Taylor and Axel Honneth, recognition is seen as a foundation for a flourishing and just society. For Honneth, the social act of recognition is how we confer social validity on other persons. It has its dark side, too, in the form of conferring social invisibility on people, whereby we simply choose to “look through” other persons in an outward act of hostility.

According to Honneth, there are three dimensions of social recognition, beginning with the dimension of “love” or “sympathy”, witnessed most clearly in the loving recognition a mother shows her child; enacted in the bodily gestures of smiling and expressing encouragement. Honneth insists that, in a flourishing society, recognition, expressed as “love”, also exists between adults in the form of “gestures”, “expressions” or “meta-actions” (eg. shaking hands, looking one in the eye, a nod of one’s head) by which we obligate ourselves to treat others with benevolence and good will.

The second dimension, according to Honneth, is that of “respect”, which he describes as the “moral core” of recognition. Recognition as respect involves willfully imposing a limit on one’s own egoistic self-love, so as to decenter oneself, such that the other places a legitimate claim on oneself. Moreover, recognition as respect entails seeing others as “equal persons among equals”, and so it becomes foundational for establishing proper legal relations and rights.

And the third and final dimension, according to Honneth, is what he calls “social solidarity” or “social esteem”. “Social esteem” is about recognising that each individual in society possesses unique “traits and abilities” that contribute to what society values in common, and thus improve the quality of life of each and every other individual. But, whereas “respect” acknowledges the “universal” dignity of all humans, “social esteem” is about valuing the unique “differences” each individual possesses. The great challenge in modern societies like ours, as Honneth points out, is the post-metaphysical loss of a sense of a set of shared social values, which means that recognition and authentication of individual differences is subject to a permanent cycle of struggle and often violent cultural conflict.

If the Anglican Church is a unique society [“which may not be without some human order and policy superadded unto that which is divine, whereby it may be ordered and directed”, to quote Richard Hooker], then what role does recognitionplay? Or, to ask the same question another way, how should the Anglican Church and its Schools be in the world, such that no person created in God’s image is rendered invisible?

To ask this question is not to import the alien categories of social theory onto our exegesis of Scripture. For, it seems that the Emmaus Road passage invites us to understand the church as a society for whom the act of recognition is part of its very constitution.

2FA on the Road to Emmaus

As the three travelers approach the village, Jesus makes out as if he is going to continue on his way. The travelers, aware that it is evening (a dangerous time to be travelling alone), urge him to stay; and in response Jesus accepts their invitation.

Here, Jesus appears deliberately to orchestrate a scenario by which the travelers might enact social recognition as they reach out with a gesture of sympathy for a lone and vulnerable stranger. This is recognition through a refusal to render their companion invisible.

Now, inside the place where they are staying, the scene quickly shifts to one which the biblical commentator, Darrell Bock, has described as “liturgical”. A liturgicalrole-reversaltherefore takes place, as the invited guest now assumes the role of host:

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognised him, and he disappeared from their sight. (vss. 30 – 31).

As we reflect on the travelers’ sudden and mysterious recognition of Jesus, we can discern two distinct yet inseparable factors by which they come to recognise him.

First, their recognition of Jesus is initially set in motion by the exposition of the Scriptures. After they come to recognise who Jesus is, and he vanishes before their eyes, the travelers immediately cast their minds not so much on the breaking of the bread but rather on their common experience of Jesus explaining the Scriptures to them:

Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us? (vs. 32)

In short, their recognition of Jesus is the result of being shown where he is to be found in Scripture.

But, secondly, their recognition of him also occurs in the very act of breaking bread – a liturgical one, to be sure, reminiscent of the words spoken at the Last Supper, and therefore with clear eucharistic undertones. For, after the disciples return to Jerusalem and report to the Eleven and the others what they have just witnessed, it is not the scriptural exposition that they specifically recall but, rather, that:

Jesus was recognised by them when he broke the bread (vs. 35).

As James Arcadi notes in his book An Incarnational Model of the Eucharist, “The Road to Emmaus narrative” is “a paradigmatic celebration of the Eucharist”.

So, in this passage, there is not one but two factors by which Jesus is recognised and his identity authenticated: the exposition of Scripture and the liturgical breaking of bread.

The Marks of the Church: Word & Sacraments (& Recognition?)

Of the Anglican 39 Articles, chapter 19 conceives of Anglican identity in this way:

“The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of the faithful, in which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ’s ordinance”.

Word and Sacrament together are, in the historic Anglican view, the two marks of the Church – a view that is not spelled out with doctrinal precision in our passage from Luke, but a view that certainly resonates with Luke’s account of the early church on the road to Emmaus.

Inspired by our passage from Luke, however, we might come to see that to be marked by the faithful preaching of the Word and administration of the sacraments is also to be marked as a community of recognition. For it is through the faithful exposition of the Scriptures and in the sacramental breaking of bread that the church rightly recognisesJesus as the Messiah, who suffered, died, and has been raised to glory. To be the church – a society marked by the gift of recognition – is to be a society whose collective vision of God, and the world to whom it witnesses and serves, has been transformed by God’s Word and the eucharist. It is to be a society whose communal vision has been thoroughly scripturised and sacramentalised.

2FA & Anglican Schools as Communities of Recognition

Anglican Schools engage daily with the reality of the basic human desire for social recognition in the sense outlined by Honneth. Anglican Chaplains witness it firsthand in their interactions with students, parents, and staff to whom they minister. We all want to be members of a flourishing society characterised by mutual love for one another, respect for our common dignity, and esteem for our unique, individual differences. None of us likes it when we are treated as though we were “invisible”. Faced with this reality, the attraction is there to pursue social recognition as Anglican Schools’ primary mission and calling.

Yet, as Anglican School communities that seek to embody an authentically Christian ethos amidst a broader society conflicted be a lost sense of shared values, we ought to look first of all to Jesus, recognising that in him we have already received all of the recognition we could ever possibly need. To recognise Jesus this way is to see ourselves as school communities that have already been recognised by God in a manner that infinitely exceeds all that we could possibly imagine or indeed expect from society.

This is not without direct implications for how Anglican Schools may then in turn understand their important social role as communities of recognition. One way we authenticate ourselves as such communities is by passing the Anglican 2FA. Where the Word of God is faithfully proclaimed and the sacrament of communion is rightly administered in Anglican Schools we receive the gift of recognising Jesus, who first recognised us in his suffering, death, and resurrection for the forgiveness of our sins and the restoration of our world. On this foundation are our eyes then opened, for a second time as it were, to live out our social role, recognising each member of our school communities as God first recognised us.

Alex Abecina Written by:

Alex currently serves as Chaplain and Head of Ministry at Burgmann Anglican School in Canberra, ACT, where he has been since 2011. He also teaches senior level Religious Studies. Prior to working at Burgmann, he taught maths and science. In his spare time he likes to read, write, and play guitar.

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