Horatio

Horatio
[Photo by Jacquelyn Griffin)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Bibliolatry: Escape From Freedom

In a recent visit to the comments at Preludium, I saw that much controversy was engendered by "reasserters" who, visiting the site, demanded a "positive case" from the Bible for blessing loving, committed relationships between same-sex couples. Unsurprisingly, they were not content with what was offered. Frankly, I think the inquiry was flawed, based on the assumption that the Bible provides univocal answers for all our moral dilmmas.

I don't think that clear, simple lines of authority are laid out by God for us--the Bible is filled with tensions, contradictions, and exhortations from Jesus and Paul to what can only be called an antinominalism that flies in the face of those who seek a codex handed down by a lawgiver Messiah. But don't take it from me; here's my old friend the Gloomy Dean again:
The silence of God has at all times been a trial to mankind. Men have sought in all sorts of way for an infallible, unmistakable, authoritative answer to all their questions, which shall save them from the responsibility of judging, and once for all lift the "burden and weight of this unintelligible world" from their shoulders. They would gladly consent to being led blindfold if only they could be quite sure of being led right. They shrink from the right and duty of private judgment; they will even put on manacles to keep their hands from trembling, and take refuge in a shelter to which no winds of doubt are allowed to penetrate.

This sense of weakness and insecurity is the source of the demand for an infallible authority in religion. . . . [Authority in religion] is an assistance which we crave for because we are not at home in the world in which we live.
W.R. Inge, Mysticism in Religion (1948) at 14.

But this sense of not being privileged in Creation, of not being an "heir" to our world, is based on a shrinking from what I've previously described as the "sense of sonship" that Henry Scott Holland has described so vividly:
All our knowledge, for instance, relies upon our sonship; it starts with an act of faith. We throw ourselves, with the confidence of children, upon an external world, which offers itself to our vision, to our touch, to our review, to our calculation, to our handling, to our use. Who can assure us of its reality, of its truth? We must measure it by those faculties under the manipulation of which it falls: but how can the faculties guarantee to us their own accuracy? How can we justify an extension of our own inner necessities to the world of outward things? How can we attribute to nature that rational and causative existence which we find ourselves forced to assume in it? Our justification, our confidence, all issue, in the last resort, from our sonship. . . . In unhesitating reliance upon our true sonship, we sally out and deal, with the world ; we act upon the sure
conviction that we are not altogether outside the secret of objective existence. We refuse absolutely to doubt, or go behind the reports made to us by feeling, by memory, by thought.
H.S. Holland, "Faith," in Lux Mundi at 22-23.

Inge points out that those who do not act as sons choose to be slaves--to be blinded as Samson was, or manacled in servitude. To truncate the faculties that God gave us, in the name of safety. But we are called to be more than that--to use our gifts, not bury them in fear of loss.

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