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February 04, 2005


Mark G

ISTM that there is this agreement between 'traditionalists' and 'progressives:' both attach signaficant weight to the witness of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of individual believers. A difference is that traditionalists give equal or greater weight to the witness of Christians from past centuries: if most christians in most places for the first 1500 years thought Christian truth included a given proposition, but a few Christians within only one culture recently began to believe the opposite, the presumption is that the novel minority view is most likely a fluke, a product of the surrounding culture and not the Spirit. 'Progresives' differ in large part because they begin with the assumption that new ideas and understandings are likely to represent an improvement on the old -- and thus discount the 'vote' of Christians from past centuries.

None of us arrive at conclusions on our own: we all owe much to the teachers we choose. Either way, it's a leap of faith

John Wilkins

I think that it is tested against truth. This is where reasserters become moral relativists: one cannot know the truth except through scripture. Otherwise everything is relative.

in other words, If Not Scripture then Relativism. Truth, I think, is one, and scripture is of that set.

Are gay partners in good relationships? Do they love Jesus and serve the poor? Yes, some do. Are homosexuals defective? No. Not essentially.

Mark G

Well, we agree that truth is one, and that Scripture is a dependable source of truth. It does seem to me that scripture, without reference to any ecclesial teaching authority, is of limited use in identifying and putting down wrong-headed ideas. Read without reference to authority or consensus, the Scriptures support Arians, Gnostics, Donatists, even modern holy-roller snake handlers, as much as they do today's advocates of gay marriage. I hasten to add, I would rather worship with Bishop Robinson than with those other groups. But without reference to any authority, I would do so purely from personal preference: and who is to say that my preferences are sounder than a snake-handler's? If indeed 'the path is narrow and few find it,' maybe the 'true church' is the one most folks write off as a bunch of kooks.

John Wilkins

Mark, you might be right. I think that what is true is hard to find, but it must be reliable. Sometimes we can't be certain.

Mark G

The question, then, is: in a community that strongly questions old authority, are there any reliable truths, of which we can be certain? And how can we be certain of those?

It seems to me that the ECUSA is not dogmatically certain of anything, and falls back on a political majority rule approach. We will do and say whatever the General Convention requires, all the while acknowledging that the General Convention is not infallible.


I don't think ECUSA necessarily questions all old tradition. Just ones that don't seem consonant with Jesus' own message - that all are included, that all are valuable. I think ECUSA tends to look at the Great Commandment for answers, when there seems to be a conflict. (I think this is a dogma in the Episcopal Church, in fact.)

That's been my own experience, anyway.


Anyway, don't forget that we are a Church of orthopraxy, not one of orthodoxy. ECUSA has adopted only two official pieces of doctrine (the Nicene and Apostles' Creeds); those remain in place, no matter what individuals do (or "believe").

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