Thursday, November 17, 2005

Anglican Developmental Principles & What is "Possible" & "Impossible" (vs. Edwin Tait)

Continuing the previous discussion: Anglican Anti-Traditional Principles of "Development" & the "Cult of Uncertainty". Edwin's words will be in green. His previous words will be in purple.

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This whole discussion is a bit surreal, because I'm being asked to distinguish among things I don't believe, between things I think the Church might possibly come to believe without apostasy and those that I don't.

Hey; that's what reasoning is about. It always involves abstractions at some point. Logic itself is an abstraction.

This is an interesting discussion to have, but it's extremely hypothetical and abstract.

Your abstract opinions about hypotheticals have very concrete ramifications about how you view Christian orthodoxy. If you can imagine the possibility of sodomy or reincarnation being perfectly acceptable one day in the Church catholic as a so-called "development," then I must say that your present view of Christian moral and doctrinal teaching (which is concrete and factual here and now) is fuzzy and problematic; else you wouldn't entertain such possibilities at all. That's what this is about, from where I sit.

Either you are seriously misunderstanding what I mean in discussing these hypothetical possibilities,

You're welcome to clarify any such misunderstanding. Or maybe it is possible that I have identified a flaw in your thinking, and it is uncomfortable for you that I am pointing it out. If that is so, you should look at it as a welcome opportunity to perhaps rethink the matter.

or you put a lot more importance on hypothetical constructs than I do.

For the reasons above, and those already given. You yourself recognize the distinction between things which are impossible to even imagine being part of Christian teaching, and those things which can be imagined as such, even if only remote in possibility. So all this is about, is where each of us draws the line. I say your thinking in some places is mushy and vulnerable to liberal "evolution of dogma" whereas the Catholic approach to development of doctrine is consistent logically, and with the facts of history.

I can't help but think that you have interpreted me as saying "same sex marriage, etc., may possibly be true," as if I'm in doubt on the subject.

 Here is what you wrote:

I disagree with them profoundly. But I cannot rule them out or dismiss them or say that I am totally closed to their point of view, as long as I discern that they hold with me to faith in Jesus Christ. I must be open to the possibility that they are right and I am wrong.

I would say, on the other hand, that the "possibility" of sodomy and homosexual "unions" somehow one day being "right", is nil. It is impossible, because it is absolutely contrary to Christian teaching. Sin cannot develop into perfectly upright, moral behavior.

I hope you can see the difference between saying "X may be true" (i.e., not taking a firm stand) and saying "I believe X is false, and here are the sorts of arguments you'd have to make to change my mind." I'm doing the latter. Are you interpreting me as doing the former?


To the extent that you are open to its being the truth, you are. I understand all the distinctions you are making, but I am explaining why I disagree with you, and why I see this strain of your thought as alarming and dangerous, because it represents the first step to heretical compromise. It's typically "broad Anglican," would be another way of putting it, and as Al Kimel writes, the history of Anglicanism in such matters is not encouraging. Unless those of you who are more traditional take a strong stand and rule things out that must be so regarded, it will only get worse.

In response to your claim that this examination is necessary in order to see if my thinking is morally consistent, I think it's a bit excessive to worry about consistency among the beliefs I don't hold but might conceivably be persuaded to hold.

It's not at all, as I have explained over and over.

I am not responsible for knowing in advance what I might or might not find persuasive.


You can know if something is impossible to reconcile with something else. As for homosexual acts, we (hopefully including yourself) already know them to be sinful and intrinsically disordered, from both clear biblical teaching and the consensus of tradition, which even Abp. Rowan Williams reluctantly accepts, because it can't be denied by any sane, rational soul. So it is not possible for this to change, just as it isn't possible for the Incarnation or the Holy Trinity to be declared heretical.

Human beings are changeable, and I suppose in a sense any of us could conceivably be persuaded of just about anything. I'm trying to distinguish between things whose error seems self-evident to me and other matters that require some discursive reasoning in order to show their inconsistency with the things I hold as most certain.

Okay. I still don't see how this overcomes my objections. I argued myself at the top of the previous related post that I can imagine a remote hypothetical of the Catholic Church reversing itself on contraception. But I clarified that later as meaning only a philosophical mind-game of a possibility considering all possible worlds, etc. In faith, however (which includes my entire reasoning, not just abstract reasoning), I believe it to be impossible. That is what I am pressing you to believe regarding homosexuality and reincarnation.

Again, I suggest that you're making entirely too much of this distinction. Why not focus on the things I actually do believe?


You DO believe now that homosexual unions are a possibility in the future for the Church. You stated that outright. I do not believe this; Catholics do not believe this. And so that is the difference I have been highlighting as a quintessential example of the Anglican vs. the Catholic viewpoint on development of doctrine.

But to reply to your question: why not focus on my actual arguments and respond to them, so that this dialogue can move forward? If you would actually interact point-by-point with them (as I do with yours, and anyone else's), perhaps something could be accomplished. Instead I get summary statements that I don't understand distinctions that I clearly do understand because I have already recognized them repeatedly.

To respond to the specifics briefly: 

I included polygamy without much thought. But I'd tend to say that precisely because the Church has already considered it, polygamy can be ruled out decisively. (I agree with the decision of Lambeth 1998 to allow newly baptized people to remain in polygamous marriages, but not to allow them to contract new ones.)
That backs up my point that it is not wrong in every instance, or intrinsically immoral. Yet you ruled it out and didn't rule out homosexuality.

I can't see that the arguments now being made for monogamous same-sex unions have ever been made before. It seems to me that these arguments fail and are based on deeply flawed premises. But I think they have to be considered seriously rather than dismissed out of hand. That's all I'm saying.
Why cannot one do both? One can seriously interact with a viewpoint while at the same time being convinced that it is fundamentally incompatible with Christianity and always will be. But we can't throw out logic and what we already believe in order to achieve some wishy-washy liberal "ecumenical tolerance" which doesn't help anyone, because it is incoherent and illogical. This is another problem I see in this viewpoint. One can't be so "open-minded" that their brain falls out, as I believe Chesterton said (if he didn't, it sounds like something he would say).

Furthermore, polygamy contradicts the picture of marriage in Eph. 6, which I think is the starting point for any discussion of marriage, because it's explicitly Christological.
Yep.

I can't see that homosexual unions fit this picture either. But if an argument to that effect were to be made, I'd listen to it.
What makes you think I (or orthodox Catholics in general) wouldn't, just because I believe it is intrinsically immoral? In fact, I have already engaged in dialogues with two homosexuals. They were perfectly cordial; I listened and responded to all arguments. I wasn't disrespectful. I wasn't "hateful" or "bigoted" because I am not any of those things (though I believe I was accused of some of that, which seems to be par for the course these days). I simply disagreed, and it made no sense to me to pretend that I might be convinced, going in.

I've done the same in dialogues with Muslims and Jehovah's Witnesses, where the subject is trinitarianism. You wouldn't act as if that were up for grabs just so you could "respectfully" interact with Arians and Muslims. I am merely doing the same with those who advocate homosexuality as normal, moral sexual practice.

(Anglican Scotist did make such an argument, actually. I listened to it and was not persuaded.
Great. I will dialogue with anyone who can remain cordial (with the exception of anti-Catholics, because their view is intellectual suicide and beneath the dignity of sustained reply, and because my many attempted dialogues with them in the past have proven extremely futile and examples of "vain disputation").

And of course the other approach to SSUs is to say that they are not marriages but that the Church is blessing the friendship and commitment involved, with the sexual aspect being essentially irrelevant.

If they are not sexually active, it is not any matter of controversy in the first place, unless they claim that this is "marriage" when it is not. If sexual activity is occurring, it cannot be sanctioned by Christians at all. Period. End of story. Therefore, it's not even (remotely) possible, as you claim. I didn't make the rules, God did (the heterosexual rules are quite difficult, too, as I learned over thirteen years between puberty and marriage - following these rules).

So if I am a bigot by following God's rules, so be it; God is a bigot, too. I don't think God is a bigot, so if a view involves Him being so, then it is obviously mistaken, and must be opposed.

Are you worried about being perceived as a "homophobe" (an idiotic term which butchers the English language and means, literally, "fear of sameness") or a bigot, Edwin? Is that what this is about? You will inevitably (even a nice, truly tolerant gentleman such as yourself) be falsely accused and thought ill of as a Christian. It can't be avoided. Jesus told us that it would always be the case. So maybe here is an opportunity for you to suffer for His sake.

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