« Using Our Brains in God's Continuing Creation | Main | Book-Worshipper »

March 02, 2006

Comments

ruidh
I don't understand it when someone gets angry about matters of unprovable theological conjecture. It's as though they're afraid that if we don't "get it right," then the universe will somehow go horribly wrong. I have to wonder whether they truly trust in God that all will be well.

It's the trap of orthodoxy. Once you buy into the idea that there's a right belief and a wrong belief and that believing the wrong things removes you from God's good graces, it's all downhill from there.

Every theological issue carries with it an impossible sense of importance. You always have to be on guard for creeping heresy. You tend to be quick to judge questionable theology in others. This pressure tends to make people surly.

It's a good thing that Justification by Faith dosn't mean "believing correct doctrine".

John wilkins

I think they honestly believe they are at war; and that we're [well, whatever we represent - I'm not sure. I think they suppose clergy like myself are chaplains to Hollywood] the enemy.

Todd Granger

D.C., do you mean your "sweeping generalization" ironically? In the context of a post the mentions the ad hominem attacks of traditionalists, that seems to be the only charitable way of interpreting what you've written.

Otherwise it seems that you are yourself guilty of a fairly dismissive ad hominem.

Surely that cannot be the case.

D. C.

Todd, I was careful to say that many trads seem angry. That's easily verifiable by sampling the comments at, e.g., T1-9, Virtuosity, etc. Speculating about possible reasons for the anger doesn't constitute an attack, let alone an ad hominem attack, against the angry ones.

Thanks for commenting; it's good to hear from you.

Todd Granger

D.C., I don't disagree with you that many traditionalists (and theological conservatives) are angry. Indeed, I am from time to time angry myself, at various institutions and people, in the current situation in The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

What is objectionable is your speculation about the etiology of that anger. You demonstrate little curiosity - rather odd, I think, in someone who prides himself on questioning - as to what really creates and animates traditionalist and theological conservative anger. At least in your construction of the matter, you do not allow for the possibility that this anger has justification. Instead you simply psychologize from the safe remove of a weblog on the reasons for this anger, speculating in a way that seems to me calculated only to dismiss the anger and to attribute it to personal defects: unacknowledged doubt at best, and rank hypocrisy at worst.

And all under the shadow of a safe retreat in the word, many. You create doubt about the integrity of angry traditionalists in general, and when confronted with a particular angry traditionalist you can demur, "But I didn't mean you."

I stand by my assertion that this constitutes an ad hominem. I know that you can be more rigorous and fair in understanding the causes of traditionalist anger than this.

D. C.

1. Todd, I know that some trads are angry that supposedly the "liberals" have achieved a stealth take-over of the church and are now busily marginalizing those of traditionalist views. But it seems to me that the main reason for traditionalist anger is that many trads just can't stand it that the church might be moving away from what they see as a sacred deposit of truth, allegedly handed down to us by the apostles.

2. Let's assume arguendo that the church is indeed moving away from apostolic teachings. I still don't understand why that should provoke such rage and hostility. Choose any core traditionalist doctrine — the Trinity; the Fall; the Virgin Birth; the Atonement, the Resurrection — your pick. You will doubtless find Episcopalians, and even some in the church's leadership, who aren't persuaded by that doctrine. I'm interested in knowing why some trads get so upset about that.

Let's try a thought experiment. Suppose that GC 2006 and Lambeth 2008 were to unanimously approve a proclaimation that God is a single Person, that the Jews and Muslims had it right the whole time.

  • Would such a proclamation have any effect whatsoever on whether God in fact is one Person or three? I seriously doubt it.
  • Would it have any effect whatsoever on how we behaved toward each other? I seriously doubt that too.
  • Would it cause God to condemn all Episcopalians and Anglicans to hell, for heresy? That's not for us to say.

So I don't see what there is to get upset about. Where I come out is: As long as we're committed to the truth, we'll be alright, whatever the truth happens to be, pace the Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor.

(On the specific question of the Trinity, the extant evidence is, to be charitable, pretty thin; why not two Persons, or four, or a hundred? But "it is what it is"; if God is a Trinity, then so be it; if he's something else, then amen to that. Cf. God's naming of himself in Exodus, "I Will Be What I Will Be.")

3. You label my speculation about traditionalist anger as "psychologizing." I would instead call it a hypothesis, one that seems to explain some of the data but that is of course open to refutation by contrary evidence. If you're going to call that an ad hominem attack, I guess we'll have to agree to disagree, once again.

Many thanks for taking the time to post a thought-provoking response.

Caelius Spinator

"Let's try a thought experiment. Suppose that GC 2006 and Lambeth 2008 were to unanimously approve a proclaimation that God is a single Person, that the Jews and Muslims had it right the whole time.

"Would such a proclamation have any effect whatsoever on whether God in fact is one Person or three? I seriously doubt it."

No, of course not. The decisions of Councils do not change the nature of God. Bishops have some spiritual power but certainly not to that extent. This is something some Councils have forgotten...

"Would it have any effect whatsoever on how we behaved toward each other? I seriously doubt that too."

I'd become Greek Orthodox, I suspect. I'd doubt that it would cause any violence, just a lot of shouting. But it would cause most other Christians to cease to consider us members of the Body. I might have to agree.

"Would it cause God to condemn all Episcopalians and Anglicans to hell, for heresy? That's not for us to say."

At this point in life, I am fairly sure that if I came to believe such a thing, I would deserve to be separated eternally from God, who has instructed me by the Holy Scriptures, natural and sacred history in full, and through the Holy Spirit to believe in God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In the same way that if I no longer believed I should seek the good of my neighbor to the best of my ability, I would likewise deserve such separation. Salvation from the eventual downfall of the present world and the second death is not to be taken lightly. And belief conditions habit. As for condemning the Communion entire, I very much doubt it. God really doesn't believe in collective (or lineal) punishment, as I think the Daily Office OT reading for today makes clear.

Now, of course, I suspect people would wish my conversion from other heresies, but I consider the Trinity; the Fall (with some modifications); the Virgin Birth; the Atonement, and the Resurrection to be fundamental.

D. C.

Caelius, there are millions of Christians who would agree with your view of what you call "fundamental" doctrines. There are others who would not. The question is: When, if ever, is it proper for either camp to try to exclude the other from positions of authority, responsibility, and trust?

EN

Ruidh: "It's the trap of orthodoxy. Once you buy into the idea that there's a right belief and a wrong belief and that believing the wrong things removes you from God's good graces, it's all downhill from there."
I am an orthodox believer, and I do believe that there's a right belief and a wrong belief, but don't think that believing wrong things removes you from God's good graces.
I believe that most "trads" would probably agree that because we are often wrong, we need a Savior.

D.C.: "When, if ever, is it proper for either camp to try to exclude the other from positions of authority, responsibility, and trust?"
How about when one "camp" does not believe in the authority of Scripture and one does? How about then?

ruidh

EN, I'm glad you've been able to avoid the trap.

How about when one "camp" does not believe in the authority of Scripture and one does? How about then?

Let me know when that happens and then perhaps I'll have an opinion.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

Your email address:


Powered by FeedBlitz

Favorite Posts

Adv.

Episcopal Church

  • Come and Grow