Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Response to Anglican Edwin Tait, on Conversion and Historical Ecclesiological Arguments

See Edwin's paper, "Two reasons for converting," on his blog, Ithilien, which I recently highly recommended here. His words (reproduced in their entirety) will be in blue:

In following the stimulating discussions over at Pontifications, I've become increasingly convinced that there are two rather different reasons why people convert to Catholicism--unity and authority. By this I don't mean that the same person can't be concerned with both--probably most converts are. Indeed, it would be hard to follow the one impulse into Catholicism without also finding oneself in the wake of the other. But I think on the whole one or the other is likely to be more important, and if you listen to people talk about their reasons for converting (or for considering the possibility) you can usually figure out which.

I'm also not denying that there are many other reasons for considering Catholicism, of course. But in the absence of one of these two concerns (or of personal reasons for choosing Catholicism), any other reason is as likely as not to lead the seeker elsewhere. For instance, someone primarily concerned to recover sacramental piety and the beauty of the liturgy is likely to end up Anglican or Orthodox. Someone concerned for a coherent, logical theology with well-defined boundaries between truth and error may well become Reformed. Someone whose deepest desire is for an ancient, unchanging faith that is clearly reflected in the writings of the Fathers is likely to become Orthodox. And so on, and so forth.

The desire for unity and authority, on the other hand, can be fully and legitimately satisfied (for the Christian) nowhere else but in the Roman communion.

I accept that, of course, but I would quibble about the other factors. I am a Catholic in part precisely because I see Catholicism as the "unchanging" faith. I see it uniquely holding to ancient Christian morality in areas such as divorce and abortion. I see it acknowledging a papacy, which certainly seems to be a strong motif in the Fathers (with even current-day Orthodox and many Anglicans agreeing that papal primacy in some form was the norm throughout Church history). In areas where Catholicism appears, at first glance, to be significantly different from earlier Christianity, I think this is able to be sufficiently explained by development of doctrine (the factor that was most important in my conversion).

As a Protestant (unless one adopts a purely invisible view of the Church), one is continually yearning for a unity that is not fully expressed in one's own denomination. That just comes with the territory. And even the Orthodox, while they try to avoid the fact, have stubborn bits of evidence in their own beloved Tradition that the See of Rome has a unique role in the preservation of unity. That doesn't mean that the Orthodox position is incoherent--a unique role does not have to mean a necessary role.

No (strictly logically speaking), but I maintain that Church history in the first millennium shows that both the papacy and ecumenical councils were permanent aspects of ecclesiology. The fact that both Orthodox and Protestants either have neither, or in theory only, is quite telling and a good argument for the Catholic position.

It may be that Rome has in fact fallen into heresy,

Who would authoritatively decide that?

and can only fulfill its historic role through repentance and reconciliation with Orthodoxy. But meanwhile there is a vacant place in the choir--and it's the place of the conductor. The choir, being Orthodox and knowing all the chants anyway, can probably get on OK without a conductor. But it's still not quite the same.

Similarly, I think it's impossible to deny that the Church cannot speak with full and final authority if the voice of Rome is lacking. I am not a Catholic in part because I don't believe that the consent of Rome is sufficient to make a group of bishops an Ecumenical Council. But I am firmly convinced that it's necessary.

Then it seems to me that Catholic ecclesiology is closing in on you . . . you can hold such a view, but you will always be an odd duck in Anglicanism or Orthodoxy. The logic here leads inexorably to Rome, where there is a consistent, coherent position on such matters (agree or disagree).

One can't speak of "the Church" when speaking of dogmatic definitions without speaking of Rome. Any non-Roman ecclesiology is going to find its style a bit cramped when it comes to fighting heresy and laying down the boundaries of orthodoxy. It's going to have strong temptations to slide into either a sectarian orthodoxy that makes certain local peculiarities (such as the Protestant view of sola fide) Dogmas of the Church, or a barren swamp of tolerance that cannot name any heresy except whatever the broader culture of the given time and place considers offensive.

Why is this? I would like to see this developed a bit, and reasons given why. If the reason is lack of central authority, then I would ask why it is that many people have a hard time grasping what you see as rather obvious? And, conversely, how and why do you see it as obvious, while they don't?

People for whom either or both of these issues are desperately important are going to find it very difficult to resist the pull Romewards.

For me, a large part of my decision wasn't authority per se, but simply looking to see who held most closely to the Ancient Christian Faith as I understood it (through study) to be. It was more a matter of (historical) factuality than of epistemology and authority (though the latter played a
role, too). In other words, for me, the question, "What [or, Which] is the Church?" was one of plausible historical continuity, not a matter of which claimant had the best or most coherent functioning authority. Truth was paramount in my mind, not authority (which doesn't always coincide with truth).

It was the intersection of historical truths and ecclesiological claims which fascinated me and ultimately drew me in, via Newman's Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine. In fact, my strong tendency was away from centralized or infallible authority, since my biggest beef was with infallibility. I fought that with all my might in the year preceding my conversion, utilizing Dollinger, Kung, Salmon: many of the most-used anti-infallibilist tracts. Cardinal Newman overcame my objection through the force of reason as applied to history, and the argument from analogy.

But depending on which issue is more important to them, they will experience that pull in quite different ways.

Everyone is different, certainly. The complexity and variation of the process of conversion (in any direction) makes it a very interesting topic to discuss.

For the authority-minded, everything tends to boil down to epistemology. How do you know that you are in possession of the truth?

Yes. I think this is very important, and it is a major reason that I am an apologist. Part of our job is to try to provide answers to such questions for (in my case) Catholics, and Christians generally, in areas where we all agree. I would argue that this question, in relationship to Christianity, inevitably becomes an historical one. That's how the system was designed. The resurrection was historical. So was the Crucifixion and Ascension and Post-Resurrection appearances. How and why we believe in those things is determined by legal-historical types of evidence; eyewitness testimony and so forth. Miracles which lead us to accept Christianity are matters of historical testimony.

This being the case, I would argue that the question of "which Church / denomination?" is also largely determined by history. And that, in turn, leads one to apostolic succession, which was the Fathers' criterion for genuineness and ecclesial status. Obviously, I'm a very "historical" guy, and devotee of Newman, but I truly believe that this question is extremely important for all who are considering conversion and wondering in what direction to go. I think it has to (and should) be faced by everyone.

How can you believe X and reject Y without having a theory in place that explains why one is true and the other is false? This is one of the issues that most clearly separates those drawn to Rome from those drawn to Constantinople. The Orthodox can never answer these questions in a very satisfactory way. They believe what they believe because it's been handed down. And they believe that the Church that handed it down is the true Church because--well, because it's the Church that has handed down the truth. Catholic online apologists jump all over this kind of thing, with great glee.

As they should, because if that is the argument, it is circular reasoning, and the heart cannot accept what the mind rejects as false. The Orthodox have to prove their "case" from history just like everyone else does. They can try to make such a case, and sustain it over against Catholicism. I think it fails, and won't withstand scrutiny, but in my opinion, this is the argument that they must make if they are to establish their own ecclesiological preeminence over against Rome. My main concern is with anti-Catholic Orthodox. Almost everything I have written about Orthodoxy was in response to the anti-Catholic brand of Orthodox. I think their historical argument is thoroughly self-defeating and intellectually-suicidal. The ecumenical Orthodox position, on the other hand, is, I think, ultimately incoherent, but not self-defeating by any means. I think it is quite a respectable position; just not as good as the Catholic one (as one would expect!).

For the unity-minded, on the other hand, the primary issue is one of allegiance. How can I live out the Christian life without having unswerving allegiance to the actual Christian community in which I participate? Nothing less than the Universal Church can demand that kind of allegiance.
Therefore, one can only live out the Christian life in a community with a credible claim to universality.

I think that's exactly right, and how, in fact, the apostles and fathers viewed the question.

A unity-minded person with no concern for the authority issue may well become Catholic without worrying about infallibility--but with a deep allegiance to the concrete reality of the Catholic community. Indeed, some such people become Catholic while disagreeing flatly with certain Catholic dogmas. This is much decried by conservative Catholics, but it happens.

It happens, but it is not in accordance with the Catholic system as it actually is. Part of what it inherently means to be Catholic (and, I think, Orthodox, as well) is to fully accept what the Church teaches, not to pick and choose. Why even be a Catholic if one thinks that way? Protestants have the right to private judgment (within denominational parameters). They can choose this from this tradition and that from that (this is what I did myself: very much so). To try to be a Catholic with the same approach is to simply be a Protestant-in-disguise. In a word, it's dishonest and deceptive at worst, and wrongheaded and misinformed at best.

To some extent, clearly, these two categories correspond to the labels "conservative" and "liberal." Certainly it's hard to imagine a liberal Catholic being "authority-minded," but the reverse is not necessarily true. "Liberal" is of course a relative term--a primarily unity-minded convert is probably always going to look "liberal" to the authority-minded.

Yes: the old thing about "no unity at the expense of truth." Orthodox Catholics believe that unity is grounded in the one truth (or, "fullness of the truth"). That is how it is achieved in the first place.

But such a person will most likely see the need for authority and dogma, and submit to all the teachings of the Magisterium. At bottom, however, the unity-minded person is not motivated primarily by the need for settled, authoritative dogma. (In the same way, authority-minded converts are usually acutely concerned for unity--my point is simply that the issue of authority tends to come first, with the need for unity being a consequence.) A unity-minded Catholic could submit quite happily to a church that got things doctrinally wrong, occasionally.

If they didn't believe in infallibility, sure. But then that gets back to my earlier point: such a perspective is not Catholic, by definition. You could only have such a view when you accept some form of non-binding, non-infallible Tradition, and still hold on to sola Scriptura as the rule of faith. In other words, Anglicanism (or "high" Presbyterianism or Lutheranism) fits the bill perfectly.

The fine points of ex cathedra vs. ordinary magisterium, vs. non-infallible statements that demand submission of will and intellect, are not going to bother such a person all that much.

Then (again) they should not deign to be Catholic, because to do so is to thoroughly misunderstand how the Catholic Church views itself.

Now the way I've put this probably tips my hand. In fact, my first interest in Catholicism was highly authority-driven. I wanted a haven of certainty, to preserve me from liberalism while rescuing me from fundamentalism. I didn't (and don't) trust myself to make up my own religion.


Yet the more I explored Catholicism the more problems and contradictions I found with this approach. Between the difficulty of interpreting all the Magisterial documents, the questions about what is and is not infallible, and the propensity for the Vatican to demand and conservative Catholics to give a high degree of assent even to non-infallible teaching, it all got very confusing.

But that is for the Church to do! This is one big reason why God wanted there to be the Church in the first place. When an individual tries to do this himself, he is still operating within the paradigm of sola Scriptura and private judgment -- precisely the things that the Catholic system disallows. One could reject Catholicism by using Protestant epistemological methods, but it would not be an examination of the system as it views itself internally. In other words, Catholic epistemology and self-justification is not made or broken by Protestant epistemology and self-justification (this is a somewhat subtle point, but an extremely crucial one, especially when talking about conversion).

The Protestant methodology of critique described above involves circular reasoning in the following way: The Protestant presupposes private judgment and the rule of faith of sola Scriptura, and also assumes that all Christian belief-systems must be subject to it. But of course, this is one of the very things in dispute between Protestantism on the one hand, and Orthodoxy and Catholicism on the other (with Anglicanism betwixt and between, as so often).

But this has to itself be established in order for the criticism to have any force. The Protestant can't simply presuppose all this stuff, analyze Catholicism by using it and then declare victory. And that is because Catholicism operates on a different rule of faith and a different epistemology than does Protestantism.

So immediately the question becomes, rather: "why does Catholicism disallow these beliefs and this epistemology? And why does Protestantism accept them?"How is that resolved? Well, it's resolved in the usual way that all such disputes are: by recourse to Scripture, Church history, reason, and (I would add) practical workability. Sola scriptura and private judgment (as an epistemological approach inexorably tied to sola Scriptura) fail on all four counts. These notions cannot be found in Scripture (despite many near-ingenious attempts to do so from our esteemed Protestant brethren). They can't be found in history, either (ditto to my last parenthetical comment). Both history and Scripture also offer tons of directly contrary evidence. Nor are they reasonable or workable.

So the bottom line is that the Protestant cannot establish on external, objective, independent grounds the principle that he so often presupposes and judges the Catholic Church by. But the Catholic Church can easily demonstrate its authority principle of the "three-legged stool" (Scripture, Church, Tradition), based on reason, practicality, Scripture, and history (including apostolic succession). Things developed, so that has to be taken into account, but no incoherence occurs in the Catholic system, whereas the Protestant principle of authority and its rule of faith are plagued by incoherence and inconsistency.

Getting back to the larger question at hand: one can believe that it is difficult to interpret all these magisterial documents, and wonder about some things, yet accept the Church's authority on faith, based on a number of various criteria, which taken together, and cumulatively, convince one that the Catholic Church is what it claims to be.

As C.S. Lewis said, "the rules of chess create chess problems." Catholics can easily look at all these alleged "historical difficulties" the way a Protestant approaches alleged "biblical difficulties." In both cases, there are things difficult to understand, yet in both a certain proposition is believed in faith; then scholars can certainly grapple with all the "problems" (real or alleged). That's their job. Individuals (in either system, though less so in Protestantism) do not have that burden, because no one can figure out everything, and must accept many things on authority and/or faith. We do that in areas such as science and nutrition; we also have to at some point in theological matters. Theology shouldn't be any different than anything else (from a broad philosophcial perspective). Faith has to be exercised, obviously, and that is a super-rational (not irrational) process, but insofar as reason is involved, one shouldn't set up an unattainable standard for theology as opposed to other areas of knowledge and belief.

There came a point where it seemed to me that so many of my issues were at a high level of abstraction and had little to do with the problems I faced in actually living the Christian life. As the years passed, while my interest in Catholicism never went away, I gradually moved over from the "authority" to the "unity" side of the scale. Side of the scale, be it said, not end of the spectrum. I always have been and am concerned with both issues. But it now seems to me that the Church can live relatively well (though not perfectly) without the kind of authority offered by Rome.

On what basis? How does this overcome the necessary factors that you yourself outlined above?
It's no longer clear to me (if it ever was) that doctrinal certainty is so much more important than some of the practical issues with regard to which the Roman Communion is manifestly imperfect.

I contend that this viewpoint cannot be squared with the biblical one, where it seems to me that all doctrine is considered to be highly important and non-negotiable (we especially see this in St. Paul's writings). A serious, troubling line is crossed when one argues in this fashion. It's one thing to be an agnostic and say that one isn't personally sure what is true about doctrine x or competing doctrines of x. It's quite another to reach the somewhat-despairing conclusion that doctrinal certainty can be softened in such difficult areas, and that this is how things should be. The former arises simply from human limitation and uncertainty and legitimate working-through of doctrinal beliefs. The latter, however, is, I believe, a serious compromise of ancient Christian and biblical principle with certain tenets of modernism or postmodernism. Catholics and Orthodox do not think in this way, and neither did the early Protestants. It is only modern Protestants and liberals in all three camps who think that way.

I have illustrated the change in this regard in Protestantism by observing that the early Protestants cared so much about their being only one truth concerning baptism or the Eucharist, that they killed (or "excommunicated") each other over such differences. Today, on the other hand, many Protestants think "who cares what you believe about baptism. Come on in, the water's warm" (no pun intended). It's gone from one pole to the other. Apart from the killing and persecution, the early Protestant view is far closer, I think, to that of the apostles, the Bible, and the fathers.

That is my argument on this, and it is not the equivalent of calling you personally a "liberal." Oftentimes, in the past, when I have tried to show that a certain particular belief is much more consistent with a liberal outlook than a traditional one, I have been falsely accused of categorizing the person's entire theology as "liberal" or "heterodox." That doesn't follow at all from what I have stated. Nor do I believe it. It's simply an argument about one thing (in this instance, how one views "doctrinal certainty").

If I do become Catholic some day, it will not be because I'm convinced that we must have an infallible authority. It will be because I'm convinced that I cannot in good conscience give my heart to any Christian body not claiming to be the Universal Church. Infallibility would, in that case, simply be one of the things that came with the package.

Again, you are approaching the question as a Protestant would. Of course you don't believe infallible authority is necessary. This is (one big reason) why you are a Protestant, because by definition that is what Protestants believe (Scripture is the only infallible authority). But this is the rub. To be a Catholic, one must accept the different rule of faith involved in same, which is contrary to private judgment and sola Scriptura. One accepts the full, binding authority of the Church, and part of that understanding is infallibility.

You may arrive at the Catholic position by any number of doctrinal and intellectual and faith avenues which have little to do with infallibility (in my case, I started with the moral issues and questions about internal inconsistencies in Protestantism), but once you get there and have decided to swim the Tiber, you must accept this in faith, and grant even internal assent to it. If not, you have not fully converted, as far as I am concerned. And that is not just my opinion. It is that of Aquinas, Newman, and magisterial statements by the Church Herself.

Pontificator, on the other hand, seems to me to be primarily authority-driven. Not of course that he isn't concerned for unity as well. But in recent posts he seems increasingly concerned with issues of epistemology. He's been reading a lot of Newman and seems convinced by Newman's view that the only real alternative to skepticism and individualism is the infallible authority of the Catholic Church.

Yes, but that is another huge discussion. I would state it myself as "the only fully consistent and coherent and fully satisfying alternative to skepticism and individualism . . . " Insofar as one is searching for those things, it does, I suppose, reduce to a state of affairs where (ultimately)
the Catholic Church is the "only" alternative. I don't wish at all to exclude Orthodoxy from the equation (nor does my Church), but obviously, I am Catholic rather than Orthodox, and I believe there are solid reasons for preferring one over the other (just as most Orthodox would think from their converse perspective).

For me, the coup de grace that fully convinced me to abandon this approach was William Abraham's book Canon and Criterion. I disagree with significant parts of Abraham's argument, largely because I think he ignores the distinction I've been making in this post and assumes that the only basis for being (let alone becoming) a Catholic is the concern for an authoritative epistemology.

It seems to me that what you are doing is simply hanging on to peculiarly Protestant epistemology and private judgment. You're (in effect) asserting that it is superior to the Catholic and Orthodox self-rationales and justifications. I would, of course (being the Socratic that I am) go on to challenge you why you think that (which gets into a sort of fascinating "meta-epistemology"). That gets down to brass tacks and clarifies the fundamental epistemological differences real fast!

But I find his basic premise thoroughly convincing. Abraham argues that the importation of epistemology into Christian dogma (in the West) has been thoroughly disastrous. For the early Church, according to Abraham, the norms of belief and practice (making up what he calls the "canonical heritage") were simply given. On the dogmatic level, they didn't need to be justified. They just needed to be accepted.

That's right. They were accepted in the same way that most Christians accept the existence of God. It was on a pre-rational basis, based more on intuition and faith. It is an innate thing. Choice of a church is not quite like that, but there are certain things (the whole body of dogma and moral teaching) that are accepted on faith, and that was what it meant to be a Catholic, through the centuries. Therefore, it would have been meaningless and not an option to sit there and pick and choose what one thinks the Church got right and what it got wrong. The fathers would have said: "the Church decrees thus-and-so. Who are you to disagree, and on what basis? You don't decide these things. The Mind of the Church does."

The reasons why any given individual chose to believe the Christian faith might vary, and were not themselves part of the Faith.

Yes. I agree. But then, does this not nullify much of your own analysis above? If you say you agree with this, then it wipes out much of your contention that you can decide as an individual what you will accept and not accept. You're doing epistemology while claiming that you deny that it is ultimately decisive in matters of faith and ecclesiological adherence. Thus, the question becomes, again, "What is the Church?" And that goes back to history and competing claims having to do with apostolicity and indefectibilty and unity and maintenance of orthodoxy over against heresy over time.

If Abraham is right, then the Catholic internet apologists who chase the Orthodox round the Golden Horn asking them "how do you know a Council is ecumenical" are pursuing a red herring.
I strongly disagree. It was crucial to know which council was orthodox and which wasn't. Otherwise, you have a situation where, e.g., the "Robber Council" of 449 in Ephesus is orthodox, and heresy is promulgated at the highest conciliar levels. But it was not orthodox, and that was determined authoritatively by Pope Leo the Great. I contend that the papacy is a divinely-instituted office (biblically-based) for the purpose of maintaining unity and doctrine both. 449 offers a sterling example of why it is necessary. 1968 and Humanae Vitae offers another. If Athanasius contra mundum was necessary way back when (over against Arians), then Paulus VI contra mundum was necessary in our own age of sexual revolution. With virtually every Christian group caving on the issue (even, increasingly, the Orthodox, sadly enough), Paul and the Catholic Church stood alone, and maintained the ancient teaching which was dead set against contraception as a mortal, grave sin.

It either is a grave sin or not. If one claims that it isn't, then they have to explain why all Christians until 1930 got this wrong. If it is, on the other hand, then one must explain why almost all Christians except Catholics have gotten it wrong in the present age. Or one simply gives up moral and doctrinal certainty, and that opens up a whole 'nother can of worms (and is unbiblical, and even illogical, for my money). I don't find the alternatives to the Catholic position on this at all plausible, historically, or with regard to traditional Christian morality, and that is another major reason why I am Catholic, because I was looking for the ancient Christian Church and looked around and saw everyone compromising on a moral issue that I increasingly came to regard as highly important (being a pro-life activist).

Such decisions are made on an ad hoc basis. This Council is ecumenical for one reason, and that Father is a Doctor of the Church (to use a Western term) for another. The reasons are not themselves part of the Faith.

That doesn't follow. If a council denies crucial doctrines, such as christology (which the Robber Council did, being Monophysite), it is heretical; therefore, the reason it was rejected had directly to do with the Faith itself, and its maintenance. The line is drawn precisely based on the
parameters of received orthodoxy. Where the pope and Rome came in (then and now) was to make this decision authoritative and binding, so the infighting about it would cease.

To resist heresy one doesn't need to have an authority one knows beforehand to be infallible. One simply needs (as Abraham has argued in his more recent book The Logic of Renewal) to have the will to exercise discipline.

You can argue that, but you still need the authority, and no one but Catholics have a sufficiently powerful and authoritative figure to do that. You can say he isn't infallible, but unless he is authoritative enough for his decree to be binding (which, practically speaking, is scarcely different than being infallible), then Christians can always simply dissent, and the problem remains. So authority, the binding nature of same, and infallibility ultimately go hand-in-hand, I think, once they are worked-through, both in theory and (most importantly) in practice.

This does not dispose of all concerns with authority, of course. The See of Rome is clearly part of the canonical heritage (this is one of the things I don't think Abraham recognizes adequately), even if its current claims are not. Rather, what Abraham's argument demolishes (if we accept it) is the epistemological argument for authority. If certain structures of authority are necessary, they are necessary simply because they are part of the tradition. They are not necessary on a priori philosophical grounds.

I say that they are necessary on biblical and practical grounds. That would be my argument. We can pursue that in due course if you like.

The need for unity, however, remains intact. How can we speak of the canonical heritage if we cannot claim full membership in the historic bearer of the canonical heritage? This is, for me, the great issue. I'm going to try to lay out a possible Protestant answer to this question in subsequent posts. I welcome comments (or even anathemas).

I'm glad you welcome comments, and I hope we can discuss this in great depth. I don't think any Protestant attempt to establish unity will be any more ultimately successful (on any level) than attempts at a working, plausible authority. The nature of the system dooms it to failure in these
repects. I don't even have to argue that. History itself makes this abundantly clear. And if you didn't fully realize that yourself, I don't believe you would be so conflicted about it. You yourself wrote, in your paper, The ecclesiology of Limbo (12-5-04):

I am still a member of the Episcopal Church, only because I have not yet decided in what direction to jump. We both agree that Anglicanism cannot command our ultimate allegiance. Can any earthly church do so?

There is no easy answer to that question . . . I know and confess that I have lived for some years now in limbo. I have known since before I became an Episcopalian (in the spring of 1998) that my desire for truth and communion would never be satisfied in Anglicanism. I have persuaded myself that it would not be satisfied anywhere on earth.

. . . in the absence of solid and specific reasons not to trust Rome, a general commitment to the ecclesiology of limbo is not only insufficient but pernicious.
I must confess that I don't fully understand this perspective, inasmuch as it causes you to remain Anglican, with this more-or-less despairing attitude towards Anglican claims (whatever they are, historically and today). It seems to me that you would almost of necessity (I use the word lightly here) have to convert to Catholicism, because (so it seems to me; perhaps I have misread you) you think it has more truth than Anglicanism. You could also convert to Orthodoxy, but I have seen you write that you are a "westerner," so presumably that would tip the scale (rightly or wrongly) Romeward.

Note to others: I'm not trying to overtly "convert" Edwin; I am merely asking him to clarify his own statements of disenchantment with his own present communion as an ultimately satisfying resting-place. I find this dilemma that he describes difficult to comprehend because I was always fairly happy as an evangelical and didn't have this ongoing conflict within me. We tend to understand less those things which are further from our own experience.

Much as we might disagree on some things, Edwin, I always greatly appreciate your transparent honesty, your grappling with the issues, and the thoughtful challenges that you issue in your writings. Thanks for the opportunity to make a critique of your post. It's been my pleasure to engage you.

God bless.

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