The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Across the Great Divide...

I don't often visit the conservative Anglican blogs, but I sometimes sneak a peek. This post I found interesting, not because I agree with Sarah Hey on the specifics of her exchanges with the individuals in question (I seem to have missed that one), but because I think she is right, most regrettably on this:
I’m guessing that most of us within TEC have noticed that public exchanges between conservatives and revisionists within the Anglican Communion have grown far far more rare, now, with revisionists avoiding the conservative blogs and conservatives avoiding the revisionist blogs.

I personally think that’s probably a good thing. Once one has established the boundaries of the vast chasm between the two groups in foundational worldviews, there’s little left to say, other than running through the “prayer wheel” of arguments, which we all already know anyway. The problem is not “the arguments”—it’s that none of us accept the other side’s presuppositions or even basic definitions of the most basic of theological concepts.
Now, where I disagree with Ms. Hey is on that last sentence; I think that it is sometimes, maybe often, true, but I think that we're often missing our commonalities. Also, of course, I think it's not a good thing that we've lost the knack of talking to each other without yelling. Let me address both points.

In many ways, I am much more conservative than many of my fellow "reappraisers" or "revisionists" or whatever you want to call us. I am an actual honest to goodness creedal Christian who accepts the truth--not metaphorical truth, either, of the Creed. I believe that the Gospels are historically very reliable--at least as reliable as the biographies of the Roman Emperors who lived roughly contemporarily with Jesus; Suetonius, Cassius Dio, and Tacitus raise issues of historical accuracy and interpretation every bit as intractable as those presented by the differences in the Four Gospels, and yet the historicity of accounts of Claudius, or of Caligula, or of Augustus is not subject to the level of skepticism that th every existence of Jesus engenders in some circles. You can basically sign me up to Charles Gore's account in The Reconstruction of Belief (1921) of the historical veracity of the miracles and Resurrection, and the accounts given in that book and in Lux Mundi (1889) of the Atonement. I'm not a believer in Penal Substitutionary Atonement theories, but in the centrality of the Atonement? Yep.

So does that make me a conservative theologically?

Well, just as the Gospel has strengthened me in my belief in liberation and equality for women it has strengthened my evolution from a slightly conservative Roman Catholic childhood to a belief that my LGBT brothers and sisters must live into the fullness of their integrity, and that the strictures in the OT and St. Paul do not reflect the Holy Spirit, but the age in which Paul lived on both topics. I think that St. Paul's breakthrough moments are far more important than his moments of falling back into the spirit of his time--there is more truth in "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus" than in "Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. 12But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence."

And I believe, with all my heart in the critical importance of "Judge not, that ye be not judged."

I acknowledge many readings of the Gospel, and I'm not uncomfortable with my fellow "revisionists" and their efforts to take Scripture on board. That's because most of them are (the ones I know, at any rate) deeply in love with Christ and with his teachings. Efforts to square modern or (zoinks!) postmodern thought with the Gospel leave me cold, but my reaction to them is that of C.S. Lewis to John A.T. Robinson:
The Bishop of Woolwich will disturb most of us Christian laymen less than he anticipates. We have long ago abandoned belief in a God who sits on a throne in a localized heaven. We call this belief anthropomorphism, and it was officially condemned before our time. . . .We have always thought of God as being not only "in" and "above" but also "below" us....His view of Jesus as a window seems wholly orthodox (he that hath seen me hath seen the Father....Thus, though sometimes puzzled, I am not shocked by his article. His heart, though perhaps in some danger of bigotry, is in the right place.
I mention all this because I think that Ms. Hey overestimates the extent to which we do not share one faith; while I don't miss vitriolic flame wars, I think we lose something when liberals and conservatives divorce each other, a recognition that our way is not the only way, and that our assumptions that we understand God are partial, fragmentary and misleading--"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face".

We get too certain of our premises, and of our conclusions. I've gotten too sure of myself at times, and have benefitted form more traditionalist comments that revealed the flaws in my own reasoning. And that has led to further exchanges, I'm glad to say. In addition to being pleasant and wholesome in and of themselves, friendships with those we disagree on subjects we are passionate about can help protect us from confusing our own commitments withthose required by God, and as well against that great danger Lewis warned us about: that of The Inner Ring.

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