We deny to claim "any Superiority to ourself
to defyne, decyde, or determyn any Article or Poynt
of the Christian Fayth and Relligion,
or to chang any Ancient Ceremony of the Church
from the Forme before received and observed
by the Catholick and Apostolick Church."

Norman Simplicity

Norman Simplicity
Click image for original | © Vitrearum (Allan Barton)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Of rocks and hard places

I have to say that I disagree with most of what I read (especially on the internets). But in our degraded culture, disagreement is taken to be disrespect or, even, outright contempt. I see it exactly oppositely: disagreement means that I have read and thought about what you have said. I think there are compelling reasons for taking another stance (which may, in fact, be only a shade different from what you have proposed). Nor does my disagreement indicate that the matter is now closed. I am usually open to changing my mind about a great many things.

With that proviso in mind ...

'Catholic' and 'Protestant' have become -- and this is not a recent innovation -- political party words. I am, at present, still a registered Democrat and a registered Episcopalian. The fact that I am profoundly alienated from (and, indeed, often hateful towards) both of those wayward institutions does not, to my way of thinking, indicate the clear path towards an alternative. Sticking to the secular, I can say that I certainly see no prospect of joining up with the Republicans, given the undue influence of the abhorrent Koch brothers and the continued popularity of kooky Randianism there. All of my grandparents were Republicans but that was, after all, in large part, a continuing legacy of the Civil War. History, and stuff, you know.

So here are three people I enjoy reading but just can't quite agree with. Unless they want to phone me up and chat, that is my prerogative, having a blog. But nothing below is hate and nothing below is the last word.

The Old Jamestown Church:

J.I. Packer has gone as far to say that the Articles are Anglicanism's creed, and therefore just as authoritative as the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. As Dorothy Sayers argued, it's either creed or chaos, and Nichols has drawn a clear line from the rejection of Anglo-Protestant confessionalism that began in the early 17th century to the chaos of the Anglican theological radicalism of the present day. In between those two temporal points are movements that reflected gradations of Arminian, Romish, Pelagian, and Liberal theologies, all four being rejections not only of the Protestant Reformation but the Augustinianism of which it was the fruition.

First, if the Articles are our creed, then they are dogma. Contra this, I have suggested instead that

Our communion can neither add to nor subtract from the deposit of faith: the Articles are no dogma. They are our doctrine (our attempt to explicate and teach foundational dogma), our theology (our attempt to interpret and expound certain dogmatic issues), and our praxis (our "godly order and discipline").

Second, what follows immediately indicates clearly that what disagreements there be lie strictly at the level of theology: if the Protestant Reformation is, as is indicated here, the apotheosis of Augustinianism, then it must be that aspects of Augustinian theology are what are being disputed. But, as much as I esteem Augustine, I seek to be no member of the Church of Augustine but of the Church of Christ. Does rejecting aspects of Augustine make me an auto-Pelagian? I think not.

I think the following comes much closer to what I would want to espouse:

O cuniculi! Ubi lexicon Latinum posui?:

The way I see the Anglican Catholic Church is not a concerted attempt to forget the Reformation but to look further back beyond it, rather than [determine it] as a defining mark of Anglicanism. Others find this a betrayal of the Reformation.

Substitute "the best aspects of Anglicanism" for the ACC in this quote and I concur (I'm not bashing the ACC, only generalizing). It is esteem for the primitive church and the Fathers that necessitates going (back) beyond the Reformation. But we will forget nothing. I don't care for much of the Baroque -- except in music -- but it is, after all, a fixed historical fact: it can't simply be ignored or forgotten and a trip to any number of churches shows that it is also not dead but lives on, even today, in the present.

The Reformation was a necessary attack on the abuses of the medieval church. Think indulgences, a completely pagan view of the saints, a strange and divisive fetishizing of many different aspects of Christian life, superstitious misunderstandings of Eucharistic sacrifice, an overblown adoration of the Eucharist that did not include actually partaking of it, profound ignorance among both clergy and people -- in a nutshell, the inability to see the forest for the trees.

Of course, we aren't going to forget or completely suppress the Medieval either but we aren't going to be misled by it. (Besides I think tropes and pointed arches -- in moderation -- are delightful.)


A conservative blog for peace:

... Articles XIX and XXI. Those and Article XXVIII are why I’m Catholic, not the new Prayer Book, women priests, or gay marriage, all only symptoms.

I don't think any of those horrible things are traceable back to the Articles.

I'll have to do some reading in here (and so, might get it profoundly wrong). I assume the objections are (primarily) to (some of) the following propositions: As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch have erred: so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of ceremonies, but also in matters of faith [XIX]; when they [General Councils] be gathered together, forasmuch as they be an assembly of men, whereof all be not governed with the Spirit and word of God, they may err and sometime have erred, even in things pertaining to God. Wherefore things ordained by them as necessary to salvation have neither strength nor authority, unless it may be declared that they be taken out of Holy Scripture [XXI]; and Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of bread and wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ, but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions. The body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is faith. The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not by Christ's ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped. [XXVIII].

The thing I personally find objectionable I have bolded. What's wrong with that? It is a theology limited by early modern notions about the nature of belief. Qua theology, it may be defensible but I'm not going to defend it. But neither am I going to subscribe to Aristotlian metaphysics. These are all attempts to say something within the conceptual limits of the day. But I inhabit another time and place. I can affirm the reality -- the Real Presence -- without committing myself to either inadequate and incomplete explanation. Mysterion.

The rest? I'm not just going to live with it: I actually believe it.

I am sure some Catholics will also feel some sharp chagrin about the very last sentence. But look at what it actually says: it says only that Christ himself never compelled any of these things! We are going to reserve out of sheer practical necessity but we also need to be sure that eucharistic adoration is a wholesome adjunct to -- and not some bizarre substitute for -- what has been commanded: Take ... eat. First things first.

If I believed some institution were truly inerrant, I would be honor bound to join up with them. But here is where we part company.

I realize that all of this is way too nuanced for most people. But blind obedience just isn't my thing. And don't take my word for it: go and read all of what they said in its original context. And then think about it. For yourself. And disagree with me. Just don't send me any hate mail.

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