Saturday, August 14, 2010

Ecclesiastical Evolution II: What is the rule?

Yesterday, I tried to consider the principle of Evolution and how it applies to the Church. I stated that we require an initial object to do the evolving and a rule by which it evolves.

I would like to examine this in a little more detail as this seems to be rather an important point. For Christian Unity to occur, we need to be clear as to what the Object of Evolution is, and what the Rule of Evolution is. I am sure that this has been thrashed out by many an eminent theologian and by each ecclesial body, but I think it bears the scrutiny.

What is the Object that should evolve? I think I was a bit glib about this yesterday. We have the added danger that we are arguing from within the system which presents us with very strong limits to what we can and cannot decide. Clearly from a universal perspective, the Word of God does not evolve. It has to be the same for all people be they living in prehistory or the End of Days. Salvation has to be the same for everyone, because there is only one God doing the saving, and He is outside the system therefore not subject to Evolution.

So what does Evolve? Cardinal Newman says Christian Doctrine, the teaching of the Church. Is this reasonable?

Well, human beings evolve, their technologies evolve, their philosophies evolve and their understandings evolve. This means that different questions must present themselves at particular times, and it is the job of Christian Doctrine to provide some answer to those questions even if the answer to those questions is not only unknown, but unknowable. Such things exist, and Kurt Gödel has shown us how but only within the past century! Thus Christian Doctrine has to evolve.

Christian praxis depends very much on Christian doctrine: it should therefore be subordinate to Christian doctrine in that we do as we are taught in concordance with Christian Verity. I suspect though that there are occasions where the practice of Christians has wormed its way into Christian Doctrine - could this be something like, for example, the end of the obligation to fast on Friday in the Roman Catholic Church?

If we agree that the Object of Evolution is Christian Doctrine, then how must it evolve? What is the rule?

To understand this, we must understand what drives Evolution. If this is to be in any way compatible with Christianity, then the ultimate driving force for any evolution must be the procession of the Holy Ghost in History acting in response to human activity. This is clear because the whole issue of Christian Doctrine is the interaction of Humanity with Divinity. This principle underlies the rule, but still doesn't tell us how Doctrine should develop.

Yesterday, I described three methods of evolution. Seeing as we are within the system, we do not have an overall understanding of the rule, therefore we have to rely on a rule that changes step-by-step. It makes sense that the Rule ought to be "keep travelling in this direction until God says stop." This however needs further articulation and better precision. Holy Scripture itself helps us to see when God tells us to stop and change direction, but did Holy Scripture evolve according to the rule? Does it hold the key as to how the rule should be applied? Most Christians should say "yes" but it is then finding this out, a question of interpretation as it were.

It's clear that the Rule is the generator of Holy Tradition. Once we have some awareness of that we have some clarity as how to proceed further.

More on this when I have more time, and have unaddled my brain.

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