Saturday, December 31, 2011

Re-ordering unity

Good grief! My 400th post!

I am grateful to Jakian Thomist for providing me with information as to how Anglicans can accept re-ordination in order to enter the Roman Catholic Church. I do take his point that
"there is a sense of 'talking-past' one another on this topic, RC's 'reducing' its significance while Anglican contributors feeling as if 'THE' point has been completely missed."
Well, perhaps we need to find some way of finding the actual issue here an insuring that we get it right.

There are essentially two issues which appear to be in conflict:

1) Reunion of Anglicans into Communion with the Holy See;
2) The Invalidity of Anglican Orders via Apostolicae Curae.

From Apostolicae Curae, we see that, at the very least, Rome believes that Anglican orders are not the same as Roman orders and that an Anglican priest is not the same as a Roman Catholic priest. Are the two notions really different?
Well, here, I think, is where the idea of Absolute Ordination and Relative Ordination come in - it is a question of doubt and thence a question of trust. If one accepts that Anglican priesthood can only be truly completed by ordination as a Roman Catholic priest, then one can in good conscience submit to the process of re-ordination as a priest in order to have one's orders completed.

The problem with this attitude is that it then describes Anglicanism as being incomplete in a manner in which most Anglicans cannot accept. In a very good sense our incompleteness is true, since all "Churches" are incomplete without the others and mutual excommunication is a scandal. Anglicanism does very much need to be in Communion with Rome for the health of both Anglicanism and Rome. However, the view is that Anglicanism is incomplete in the Catholic Sense. We are then left with the question just how is Anglicanism incomplete?

Anglicanism, Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy all stem from the Undivided Church of the seven Oecumenical councils and all claim to be following the same Apostolic Succession and the same idea of Sacrament which has been drawn from following Christ Himself. Many scholars will try to deny that, but the history of the earliest Anglicanism as independent from Rome is well attested to. Since the various Schisms have torn us apart, we now have been saddled with doubt to the intentions of the other bodies with which we formerly enjoyed full communion.

As far as I understand, the Eastern Orthodox position (and I'm honestly not quite sure that I do since there seems to be more than one Eastern Orthodox Church!) with the return to Communion will also come the return of the recognition of Anglican sacraments as Orthodox.

With Rome, the Reformation has cast a sufficient doubt on the underlying integrity of the Anglican system that there is insufficient confidence in what we do is truly what we say we do. Given the turbulence of the 16th and 17th Centuries, that's not a completely unfair position to take, provided that it were seen clearly that Apostolic Succession and the ministering of the Sacraments really has changed from the Undivided Church. As Saepius Officio shows, there is at the very least no clear evidence that Anglicanism has fallen away from the Catholic Principles of the Undivided Church.

The underlying issue is then not really of the issue of orders, though this is how it manifests itself, but rather an issue of trust.

Admittedly, churches that profess Anglicanism have done themselves no favours. If a church departs from the teaching of the Undivided Church, how on Earth can it be trusted to be following the Catholicism what is at the very heart of the existence of that Undivided Church? Corporately, the CofE and ECUSA have managed to rid themselves of Catholicism in order to appeal to a Zeitgeist. This cannot be said absolutely as many individual parishes and organisations within these bodies are striving to be Catholic. How successful they are is doubtful, but their struggles to uphold their Catholicism need support from all Catholics.

What has been more successful at completing the Oxford Movement has been the profession of the Continuing Churches, especially in the fact that they keep to the same integrity of Anglicanism prior to any change to the Catholic Faith. This has been hard, especially since Catholicism is not a popular movement in Western Society. Continuing Anglicanism has been accused of "divide, degenerate, debate, divide, degenerate, debate (ad nauseam)". This seems to be rather an out-of-date view of the way that the Continuum is travelling given the substantial commitment to unity shown by the ACC, the APCK, the APA and UECNA. There will always be some floating bodies but the the commonality, indeed Catholicity of Anglicanism makes any boundaries more fluid - just like the Orthodox jurisdictions which are just as prone to "divide, degenerate, debate, divide, degenerate, debate (ad nauseam)" and just as able to reunite and reconfigure.

All of the Anglican bodies are still recognisably Anglican because they have kept a commitment to the Undivided Church and though it be indefinable, save in a Wittgensteinian sense, there is an Anglican Integrity - a trustworthiness that we follow Our Lord Jesus Christ in the same manner as his disciples in our different time, position, culture and milieu. Those who abandon the principles of the Undivided Church abandon that trustworthiness and thus separate themselves from that integrity.

Humility is about recognising the truth about oneself and one's condition and, given that the Continuing Churches look to regulate themselves in the light of what the Church has always been, there is humility. To be united in Christ is a goal well worth struggling for, but one must be careful in the way that one accepts that unity. If one finds an impediment in conscience because of a development subsequent to the schisms, then the offered unity cannot honestly be acceptable - to deny it is not humility because it is not true belief, particularly if it comes from the conscience. One cannot enter into unity with one's fingers crossed. Such an action is insincere and an insult to both sides.

Surely the parties to be united must look to themselves with regard to these impediments and trust the other that if the impediment exists then it needs to be examined very carefully from both sides. If there is no way around them, then the question must be about the quality of unity. Is this a suzerain-vassal covenant, or a recognition of mutual integrity?

So, what the issue boils down to is not of having the humility to submit to re-ordination for the sake of unity, but rather the trust that, when only God can be convinced of Absolutes, the other party has truly been seeking the same Catholicism that existed before Schisms occurred. If re-ordination were necessary then it needs to be at the very least sub conditione not sine conditione because the latter has the monopoly on the Absolute and this cannot be demonstrated as a fact because it is an Absolute. There is only one Catholicism: this is indeed an Absolute because there is is One Lord Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

We have to appreciate that there is much that we can trust. If we follow the Covenant, then we do forge a good relationship with God and we can be as sure of that as the strength of our faith. If we have faith in our Church Leaders to uphold the principles of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, then we can be sure of the validity of the sacraments that they minister to us, and with that validity the Truth of God Himself whose Incarnation we celebrate at this wonderful time of year!

I hate to end on matters of contention. My prayer is for a corporate unity that comes from both sides - a recognition of the fidelity to the Catholic Faith and a statement in the truth of the orders of orthodox Anglicans.

May I wish you all a most happy, joyful, peaceful, fulfilling and fun 2012! God bless you all.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Blogday 2011: Anglican Papalism and Me

Wow! Another year and this one has been quite momentous for me. Eagle-eyed readers of this blogling will notice that I've removed my page linking to Fr Brooke Lunn's description of Anglican Papalism. Does this mean that I cease to be an Anglican Papalist?

Well, yes and no - a typical Anglican answer! I hope you will understand my equivocation. I have had to re-evaluate myself this year and what I really believe, and perhaps now is the time to start nailing my colours to the mast. While I was in the CofE, I was as much a slave to the inherent confusion as anything else. I would leave even my own services with a headache, let alone from Mass and this was in no small part due to my trying to reconcile the irreconcilable. I have now had time to think more clearly. I have sailed that sea and, though with my sails tattered and my mast broken, find myself on a more comfortable shore.

The main principles of Anglican Papalism are:

  1. Anglicanism has made authentic and honourable contributions to the development of Catholic Christian practice (e.g., Week of Prayer for Christian Unity).

  2. Petrine Succession and Primacy are authentic and honourable developments of Catholic Christian theology.

  3. There is a legitimate place within Catholic Christianity for Christians seeking full Communion with the Apostolic See of Rome yet retaining Anglican practices deemed salutary by the Church's Magisterium.

I am not an Anglican Papalist if this means that I wish to take advantage of the Ordinariate. I cannot agree that the system that is in place preserves Anglicanism if it means that Anglican priests have to go through the unnecessary sacrilege of re-ordination. This is a blatant denial of the Catholic validity that Anglicanism has and which Pusey and the other members of the Oxford Movement saw when they rediscovered the orthodoxy embedded in Traditional Anglicanism. That Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman departed for Rome was not a problem for him because he doubted the validity of his own orders and ceased from practicing when he realised this. That he was also under much emotional pressure at the time is surely understandable. Likewise, I cannot condemn anyone entering the Ordinariate and I will explain why this is a good thing.

I am not Anglican Papalist if I have to hold to the Pope being anything more than a Patriarch and a Bishop with privileged see. Over the past few years, I have drifted further and further from the doctrines of Papal Infallibility and Supremacy as they stand defined in the First Vatican Council, on the grounds that (a) it is not a truly Oecumenical Council and (b) the doctrines doesn't make sense without it being a truly Oecumenical Council. The Infallibility comes from the Church and were the Church to hold a truly Oecumenical Council and for the bishops all to agree on a matter of faith and doctrine, then the Infallible position would then be ratified by the Pope. He would bang the gavel on the matter, as it were.

I do not hold to the idea that the Holy Father is a monarch of Christians, especially since, in the eyes of the Old Testament, the Covenant points to the Monarchy of God. I will willing hold to the Holy Father's primacy but not his universal jurisdiction, because it is not true. Either the Orthodox Churches who do not subscribe to Papal universal jurisdiction are not Catholic Christians (which Rome believes) or the Pope has universal jurisdiction (which the Orthodox Churches do not believe).

However, I am still an Anglican Papalist if I believe St Paul when he tells us that, in the Body of Christ, one part cannot reject another part and that I am still committed to the unity of the Undivided Church. I still hold to the Holy Father as my Patriarch, even if he himself denies it and goes so far to suppress that title. There is good evidence in the Early Church of the Primacy of the Pope, and that Anglicans do share very much doctrine with the Roman Catholic Church. I long for the Unity with the Holy See but I fear that Vatican II has ruined her more than Vatican I. Vatican I cut the Holy See off further from Anglicans, Orthodox and even her own ilk in the Old Catholic Church. Vatican II cut her off from her own past in an attempt to blow away the cobwebs. Moral: never open your windows to air your room when there's a Gale Force 9 Hurricane raging outside.

For unity to occur, there needs to be movement on both sides. The ACC did her bit in the 1970s when she came away from the heresies of ECUSA and again in the 1990s in the U.K. If Rome is serious about Church Unity, then she needs to look at herself to ensure that she is fit for unity rather than just assume that she is.

I am still an Anglican Papalist if that means I still defend the Roman Catholic Church where possible since, as I said above, Anglican Catholicism shares a very great deal of true doctrine with her. This isn't always possible when the hierarchy of the Holy See says some very silly things, usually from ignorance, but I certainly have her interests at heart. I have a great love and affection for her and the Holy Father and I certainly support the Ordinariate in that if Anglicans can subscribe to the extra conditions that Roman Catholicism imposes then they should take them up. It means that homeless Anglicans do find a sound spiritual home, though not without cost. It will also help the Roman Church see the value of Anglicanism and perhaps help her to play a better role in the unity of the Undivided Church. There are some very good and devout former Anglicans entering the Ordinariate, this can only be a good thing for all parties and I pray for its success and growth.

I am still an Anglican Papalist if that means that I recognise the contribution to Anglicanism that the five-hundred year walk with the Roman Catholic Church has forged with all its riches and colour as well as the inherent truth that Anglican and Roman Catholicism share. Although I recognise the need for its occurrence, I still find the Reformation one of the saddest and most abject periods in Church History and wish that it had never happened in the way that it did. I still hold to the pious opinions of the Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Our Lady and to the doctrine of Purgatory, though not as a place of punishment, but rather a painful "place" of personal reconstruction but filled with the light and love of God.

Looking back at some of my earlier posts I notice that I have changed much, but then who doesn't? I am not ashamed of myself for the times that I have been a bit more ultramontane than I am now. I believe it is the sign of spiritual growth in me and I praise God for it. However, I'm not convinced that I've changed all that much, just a dotting of the Is and crossing of the Ts with the loss of hair and increase of girth. There's still much more growing that I have to do, but I am happy to be in a place which allows that growth to occur in a nurturing and supportive environment.

    Sunday, December 25, 2011

    Feast of the Nativity 2011

    God is with us. Alleluia.

    Another year and certainly not without upheaval, both personally and ecclesiastically! Yet Christmass still provides us, however busy our lives as Churchmen, lay and ordained, might be at this time of year, with a still centre as we say the old words and sing our old carols and love them still as if they were new. Each year we say them differently with a new breath. St Hildegard of Bingen famously said, "My new song must float like a feather on the breath of God."

    If you have been following St Mark's Gospel at Morning Prayer throughout Advent, perhaps you will have found yourself out of breath with the pace at which the narrative moves. Everything seems to happen in rapid succession as the Evangelist draws us further and further into the life of Christ. Even the Lord Himself seems blown along by events judging from the times that he wants to be alone yet finds himself blown hither and yon to mountain, valley and sea throughout His walk with us. He Himself becomes a feather on the breath of God.

    We remember that the Lord Himself also had a first breath as all tiny babies have and which is soon followed by that first distinctive cry. That sound is one of pain, confusion and great discomfort upon being born; it is instinctive and automatic, though it is true that many babies have to be encouraged to breath with a slap! Those of us who are fathers will remember the first cry of our children with joy because it is the sound of life, and the distress does not last long for soon the baby is clean, dry and warm in the arms of Mum.

    It has been a tough year for many of us. Some have struggled with their faith and gasp for Divine Breath. Others have sadly breathed their last and we pray that they receive the new air of Heaven. Others of us have suffered much with our health (indeed, a good friend has found even breathing a struggle) and we pray for their revivification and restoration. Others of us have suffered spiritually with much angst, confusion and doubt as we battle in the acrid smoke of Infernal forces, and we pray for their relief and victory over that which ails them.

    We also pray for cleaner air for all humanity to breathe. There is much spiritual pollution in the world as the Spirit of the Age vies in vain with the Holy Spirit of God. Yet still we feel the effects: Christmass itself gets obscured with an impure air of Mammon and Gluttony. We are fortunate enough to see through this smokescreen but we struggle to help others to see and to breathe deeply the clean, crisp air of Christmass.

    A Joyful Chrisrmass, one and all!

    Friday, December 23, 2011

    O Emmánuel

    O Emmánuel, Rex et légifer noster, exspectátio Géntium, et Salvátor eárum : veni ad salvándum nos, Dómine, Deus noster.

    O Emmanuel, King and our bearer of the Law, Hope of the people and their Saviour: Come for to save us, Lord, Our God!

    There's Christmass and there's Christmas. The latter is a pagan festival of acquisition, fashion, whim and overindulgence which nods at half-remembered stories of mangers and magi among mince-pies, mulled wine and Morecambe and Wise on the telly.

    The former is a celebration of One Whose unstinting generosity brought about a life worth living for each of us, the potential for joy, for looking beyond our failings and fallacies into a future filled with hope and eternal love.

    Why do we give presents only once a year? Why aren't we generous enough to find something of ourselves to give daily?

    Communion and Impairment, Covenant and Contract

    I am delighted to hear that Archdeacon Thompson's tract on what constitutes a proper church is to be published in the official ACC resources. I'll post a link to it when finally it appears.

    The ACC comes under some unjust fire in the U.K. It seems that there are many who not only misunderstand our position, but also misrepresent it. When we offer, on quite friendly terms, just to sit and talk about it, we are told that we are dangerous heretics and not to be talked to. I'm afraid that this attitude comes to us from some quarters of the CofE. We might be firm in our beliefs, but we do try to be as open and as accommodating as we can. If we are perceived as "nasty" and "bitter", then perhaps we need to know in what way we have been so "nasty" and "bitter" and correct it. Likewise, if you believe we are "dangerous" and "heretical", please tell us why you think that.

    However, we are a proper church as our Venerable Archdeacon states. How so? What do we mean by "proper"?

    Archdeacon Thompson states that it is because we hold fast to what the Church has always done. We have bishops, priests and deacons, say the traditional Masses, use the Books of Common Prayer as the CofE used to use. If they point to Eternal Truth, how can they go out-of-date? What I also see in his writing is that we can actually go a bit further and point to the whole notion of covenant which runs throughout all human relationship with God.

    One of the reasons that we modern Christians find the Old Testament (the Jewish Bible) so difficult to engage with is because our "Christian" society has lost what it means to be bene berit "people of the covenant". The Hebrew term for covenant - berit - has the basic notion of promise or pledge, and for us Catholics, this is entirely bound up with the word Sacrament, which from the military Latin term sacramentum reinforces the idea of oath involved in our Christian worship.

    There is a great distinction between law and covenant, and St Paul really does hammer this home in his epistle to the Romans. A law is enforced by the prevailing political system and is there to regulate the actions of the people. One does not choose whether or not to obey the law, it forms an obligation with the threat of sanction and punishment. If we live by law, then we are judged by the law.

    If, however, we choose to enter into a relationship then we agree terms by which that relationship is defined and agree by all parties concerned. By allying ourselves to God, we enjoy His alliance with us. God is covenantal, He chooses to bind Himself within the terms of the covenant He has drawn up with us. We are free to reject that covenant, but in so doing we reject the benefits that we might receive from keeping it. If we live apart from the law, then we will be judged apart from the law.

    Of course, we do individually fail to abide by the Contract which we have made with God. However, there is a clause in this "contract" which enables us to remain people of the covenant. This clause is that of the Cross. The Covenant was written on the altar of the Body of Christ and signed in His Blood. It is through this advocacy of Christ that our sins and trespass - our transgressions of the Covenant - do not void the terms, as long as we recognise and keep the terms of the Body and Blood of Christ.

    This brings us to the very idea of what it means to be in "impaired" Communion.

    I do speak personally here because I have used this idea of impairment to remain past my time in the CofE, though I believe was kept in the CofE long enough to say my final goodbyes to a dear old friend.

    My argument went something like:

    1) I am a Catholic and therefore a member of the Catholic Church;
    2) My parish has a female deacon;
    3) The Mass in the next parish conforms to Catholic principles and the priest is validly ordained;
    4) I receive Communion with the next parish, but not my own;
    5) I can still serve as Reader in my own parish because I am still in Communion with the Church even though I do not receive Communion in my own parish;
    6) This is precisely impaired Communion.

    Is this any different from the Forward in Faith idea of impairment, that there is a "cherry-picking" of from whom we receive the sacraments and from whom we can't?

    One might accuse Archdeacon Thompson of false dichotomy when it comes to being in communion and cite the idea of being in bed or not being in bed as the exemplar of that. That would be unfair. While there are many issues in Christianity which cannot be described in terms of black and white, there are many issues that are. If I hate someone and wilfully stab them with a knife and they die, then I am guilty of murder. Not only am I culpable in the law and therefore deserving of punishment in the secular courts, but I am also in severe mortal sin and my soul is in danger of Hell.

    The issue of Communion is also a black and white issue, though we can't pretend for one moment that we have the ability to resolve every case in a black and white way. We mere humans are woefully incapable of grasping absolutes, but we can ensure that we keep ourselves sufficiently in the terms of the Covenant so that we can receive assurance from God that we are still in the relationship with Him. This is the whole point of the Church, because it is through our membership and activity within the Church that we receive that very assurance of God's love for us expressed sacramentally.

    If we violate the covenant as a body, then the assurance is lost. What may look like a well-done Mass will not have the assurance of the Body and Blood of Christ if the terms of the Covenant written on that very Body in that very Blood are not adhered to. Everyone who is in Communion with Christ is in Communion with each other, this is true. Thus we cannot fail to be in Communion with anyone, no matter who they are or what they do or believe, who is in Communion with Christ. However Communion with Christ requires that the terms of the Covenant be met. These terms are written in the Catholic Faith of the Undivided Church and prefigured in the faith of our beloved Jewish brethren whose faith is perfected in the person of Christ. Alteration to those terms violates the Covenant. Thus my erstwhile argument falls in (3): Catholic principles are more than aesthetic but underlie all that the Church does, otherwise they cease to be Catholic! (Well, Duh!)

    So what of those who do violate the Covenant? I don't know. I'm not the judge and I don't want to be. God is both just and merciful with all His Children, and faithful too. I'll still happily sit down and eat with them, discuss social issues with them and think about how we can work together, despite not being in Communion with them. They must understand that we can only go so far, and we must respect their choice.

    Thursday, December 22, 2011

    O Rex Géntium

    O Rex Géntium, et desiderátus eárum, lapísque anguláris, qui facis útraque unum : veni, et salva hóminem, quem de limo formásti.

    O King of the peoples for whom they yearn, and stone of the Corner who makest both one: Come and save Man whom thou formedst of clay.

    With the cult of celebrity comes the business of yearning for the perfect body. Cosmetics and deodorants and shampoos and gym sessions and personal grooming and exfoliations and waxing and anti-wrinkle creams, all are seen as the means to be desirable. A six-pack or breast enhancement (sometimes both!) are seen as the only way to be loved and to be adored. Sex itself is raised as an idol - in order to be loved, you have to be available to as many consenting partners as possible. The old, and saggy, and ugly, and those with a party of seven instead of a six pack are unlovable on account of their un-sexy-ness.

    Yet we are all made out of clay, and a relationship built on lust will only survive until the clay droops or cracks, or bits get knocked off. Love lasts longer (eternally so) and yet involves more work than personal grooming. It involves hard grafting and self-sacrifice. The martyrs of old suffered many a disfigurement at the hands of those who would force them away from God. Yet they were not dealing with people who lusted after an empty deity, but rather loved a living God with all their heart. These are the ones whose clay beauty is fired into an eternal beauty.

    Wednesday, December 21, 2011

    O Oriens

    O Oriens, splendor lucis ætérnæ, et sol justítiæ : veni, et illúmina sedéntes in ténebris, et umbra mortis.

    O Morning Star, splendour of Eternal light and Sun of Righteousness: come and illumine those sitting in darkness and the shadow of Death.

    Of all the frailties of humanity, none is more wretched that those who grudge the good things of this world. They see others bathed in light and they would rather that they should be in darkness like them. At least one can enjoy gluttony or lust or avarice even though they eventually rot the soul. What enjoyment can one get from grudging the good things of another. Such folk are unkind even to themselves. Theirs is a gross lack of any awareness of their worth ans consequently the worth of others.

    Allowing the Sun of Righteousness to shine on them to see the filthy black tar of envy and self-pity is more than they can often bear. Yet while we might recognise this in others, do we recognise it in ourselves? We are allowed to be kind to ourselves, not by going too far the other way into overindulgence, but to enjoy the light of God with others. The pale and pasty of us may envy those who can lie on the beach tanning nicely whereas we either sizzle and scorch like a lobster or turn to dust the moment we undo our top-button. That doesn't stop us from enjoying a lovely sunny day!

    We may, in the depths of winter be longing for that sunny day, but winter too has its joys which the Traditional Christmass points to. We need to lift our chins from our collars and look and see the beauty of God's Creation and then share it with others, rejoicing in what they have to show us too.

    Tuesday, December 20, 2011

    O clavis David

    O clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israël ; qui áperis, et nemo claudit ; claudis, et nemo áperit : veni, et educ vinctum de domo cárceris, sedéntem in ténebris, et umbra mortis.

    O Key of David, and sceptre of the house of Israel; who openest, and none closeth; who closest and none openeth: Come and draw out the convict from the prison-house who sitteth in darkness and the shadow of Death.

    The proverb says that some people are so lazy that they can't even put food into their own mouth, i.e. they won't even take steps to help themselves when the solution is right in front of them.

    We cannot escape the fact that we are sinners. The Lord Jesus shows us very clearly that our love for Him is finite. There are always conditions on our love for Him. We often say with Meatloaf, "I'll do anything for Love, but I won't do that".

    However in four days time, we are presented with a baby who will open the door for us to Heaven some thirty years later in His life with us. We have three choices. We can sit on our backsides in blissful ignorance of or blissful antipathy toward our need for God and then be surprised when He tells us He doesn't know us; we can recognise His love for us and sit on our backsides saying, "oh He'll sort it all out" and then wonder why our lamp goes out; or we can get up, walk towards Him, fall over, scuff our knees, pick ourselves up and walk towards Him again and thus make progress to Him from our darkness as he stands at the open door in a blaze of Heavenly light.

    Monday, December 19, 2011

    O radix Jesse

    O radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populórum, super quem continébunt reges os suum, quem Gentes deprecabúntur : veni ad liberándum nos, jam noli tardáre.

    O Root of Jesse, Who standest as a sign of the people, towards Whom the kings hold their tongues, Whom the Gentiles shall implore : Come for to deliver us, now do not delay!

    There are people who believe that others should hang on their every word. This is a particular vice of teachers (mea culpa) and professors. If they have the authority to speak, then all well and good; their words can be understood and received confidently with that authority. However, there are some who speak on matter on which they are not qualified and make pronouncements that destroy rather than build up. There are those who seek to undermine peoples' faith with their own "discoveries" and "interpretations".

    The Root of Jesse will always stand as a signpost to the Truth and against delusion, particularly self-delusion. If one argues against that Root, the Root is withdrawn from them and they have no basis on which to build their conclusion. It is far better to have the humility to say "actually, I don't know" and submit oneself to the diligent and careful unearthing of the Root rather than to make a noise like sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

    Sunday, December 18, 2011

    O Adonái

    O Adonái, et Dux domus Israël, qui Móysi in igne flammæ rubi apparuísti, et ei in Sina legem dedísti : veni ad rediméndum nos in bráchio exténto.

    O Adonai, and Guide of the house of Israel, who appearedst to Moses in the flame of the Burning Bush, and to him on Sinai gave the Law: Come for to release us with arm outstretched.

    Why were there riots in the U.K. this year? Why are there riots in Russia? What about the instability in the Middle East? Are all these the same? It might seem that there has been an outbreak of lawlessness in the world as people eschew the law in order to obtain justice. Sometimes this is completely justified; at other times the outcome undermines any nobility of the cause. One can see that in the looting that followed the riots in London. The wrath of some people completely overspilled so that the decided to take what they believed belonged to them.

    Sometimes revolutions need to happen, but they often yield chaos as the new regime struggles to be born from the old.

    We see Moses leading an oppressed people out from a land of slavery and into a desert - hardly a Promised Land! The wrath of the people needed to cool so that a reasonable reformation and call to covenant could be answered peaceably. However rashness and indignity take over and delay the shaping of this covenant. Far better to be patient rather than to force things to happen before their time. Thus our release from the yoke of this world can only come with the patience to learn from Christ how to take up his easy yoke and light burthen.

    Advent IV: Insolent Ikons

    The Epistle:

    The Gospel:

    It's painful for an ex-chorister as myself not to join in verses of Scripture which one has sung many times and the words of which have inspired great composers such as Orlando Gibbons and Henry Purcell to write iconic music.

    That's just it. The music is ikonic, if I may be allowed to use more Hellenistic spelling.The purpose of any ikon is to point the way to Christ. The Roman Martyrology talks about various saints being persecuted for "the worship of sacred images" - a clumsy phrase considering that this is the translation of dulia - a profound veneration and not latria which is reserved only for God Himself and no other being. Sometimes, just sometimes, English doesn't communicate finely enough what is really meant. The act of dulia is the following of an arrow, the acceptance of the direction of a signpost or the attempt to be obedient to the directions of a yokel who tells you that you should have turned off near the windmill.

    The two Ikons in the Epistle and the Gospel are those of St Paul and St John the Baptist, both of whom have a reputation for being rather on the stern side. You don't want to get on the wrong side of St Paul. How the Galatians ears must have rung with the shout "ω ἀνόητοι Γαλάται!" "O Foolish Galatians!" Likewise, you'd want to steer clear of startling figures such as St John the Baptist in his ragged appearance calling you a brood of vipers!

    These saintly gentlemen will not pull their punches. If were on the wrong road, they will point it out to us. They will not spare our blushes because they certainly put the cost of our salvation ahead of our pride and dignity. And yet isn't this why we should venerate them? They actually bother and take pains to bother. They actually care about us, about our fate, about our relationship with the One Whom they know very well. Their music may sound rough to our ears - I doubt that St John the Baptist was a Kings College Alto - but it is beautiful music when it is put into the context of God and choirs of angels.

    And their message is not one of stern crossness, of frowns and hard stares; theirs is a message of hope and joy. "Make straight the way of the Lord!" "Rejoice in the Lord alway and again, I say rejoice" Both are pointing definitely in their ikonic poses to the Coming Christ who will wipe away all material dependence, all riches, all misplaced ease when He does come again, and give us something even more permanent upon which we can rest. Maranatha!

    Saturday, December 17, 2011

    O Sapientia

    O Sapiéntia, quæ ex ore Altíssimi prodiísti, attíngens a fine usque ad finem, fórtiter suavitérque dispónens ómnia : veni ad docéndum nos viam prudéntiæ.

    O Wisdom, who from the mouth of the Most High proceedest, spanning from one end as far as the other, firmly and sweetly setting forth all things: come for to teach us the way of prudence.

    Holy Wisdom yields prudence which calls us to discern the intemperate and gluttonous way we live our lives. As we come to the end of our Advent season we should be recognising within ourselves how gluttonous we are and exercise the restraint of temperance with Wisdom's gift of prudence. We recall that C.S. Lewis describes the old lady 'turning from what has been offered her to say with a demure little sign and a smile "Oh please, please...all I want is a cup of tea, weak but not too weak, and the teeniest weeniest bit of really crisp toast".'

    The prudent merely receives what is offered with a smile, controlling and restraining the passion to get what one really wants so that another can share something of themselves in honesty. By restraining our demands for delicacies, we are able to hear the prudence that wisdom teaches and find the peace which comes with it.

    Sunday, November 27, 2011

    Happy New Year!: Advent 2011

    St Matthew xxi.1

    It's the beginning of a new year! Can we honestly say, in our heart of hearts, that we really feel that today is New Year's Day? Most of us would say not, preferring to wait for 1st January before we break out the champagne and blowing those buzzy things that make look like chameleons with a nasty case of glossitis. Advent Sunday seems a rather arbitrary time to start a new year anyway.

    If we follow that line of reasoning then, the first day of the New Year would be the Circumcision of Our Lord which, while no less a Holy Feast and cause for pious observation, doesn't have the obvious sense of beginning and seems no less arbitrary. January 1st is just arbitrary a day to begin a year as Advent Sunday.

    If we must rid ourselves of arbitrary beginnings, we must look to the Cosmic influences of our Kalendar. One of the glories of the Liturgical year is how the interplay between Sun and Moon colours how we worship the God Who made them. God put them in the sky "for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years". It's fascinating how these celestial resonances make fixed liturgies dance and play with nuances different from a simple prescribed programme of following a single calendar. A fixed day of Easter would destroy much that makes the Work of God beautiful. There would be no interaction of the Saints' and other Holy Days which are largely fixed by the Solar Year, and the Grand Moveable Feasts which follow the Lunar Year.

    These great markers of the Sun and Moon which pan out our year provide non-arbitrary beginnings of years. The Ancients regarded the beginning of the year at the Vernal Equinox when the Sun crossed the plane of the Equator and new life began to spring forth. Harvest happened halfway through the year at the Autumnal Equinox. The Solstices where the Sun reaches its Zenith in the Summer and Nadir in the Winter also important days in which some cultures began and ended their years. In the Solar year, these days are not arbitrary.

    The Winter Solstice is not far from the date on which we celebrate the feast of the Nativity of the Lord, though it is not dead-on. Of course, we all know that Christmass is moved to the 25th December so that we can celebrate Our Lord's birth while all around us, the pagans are celebrating Saturnalia. Our Lord's birthday is fixed by the Solar Year. Likewise, the interplay of Equinox and Full Moon determine the date of the Feast of the Resurrection but Pasch does not always fall on the Full Moon, or the Equinox. God is not bound by the motion of Sun and Moon.

    If we accept Christmass as being 25th December, why don't we begin our Liturgical Year then? Well, the reason for this can be seen when we consider the Gospel for today, the apparently anachronism of the Triumphal entry.

    Jesus, who in obedience to the feast prescribed by Jewish lore and law rides "in lowly pomp" into Jerusalem ready to take his place in the Temple. What He discovers there is a complete lack of preparation for the sacred - a confused mess of animals, money changers, and people being distracted from doing what they came to do by things which, in the Cosmic Scheme, have only a fleeting relevance.

    Is it any wonder that He is angry? The sacrifices of bullocks, kids, and birds is about to be abolished with the One Perfect Sacrifice that will take place within seven days outside the city in complete and abject disgrace, and then followed by another Cosmic event which transcends the rhythm of the planets and thrusts humanity to its destiny of Eternity. What stands between human beings and God is a clutter of irrelevances.

    What happens next is an act of some force - Jesus throws (ἐξέβαλεν) this irrelevance out of the Temple. It is an act of physical activity and cannot have been achieved simply vocally. Does this shock us about Jesus? What do we make of a man of peace succumbing to anger and to such passion?

    This will only shock us if we regard Jesus as being "meek and mild" a passive figure who tolerates all our naughty behaviour because He loves us. This is not the love that God shows us. The love of God is hot and active and intolerant of all evil. This is not a God who stands on the side wringing his hands impotently at our misdemeanours. This is a God who does not tolerate anything coming between us and Him. He demands his Temple to be cleared out, the seasons to be purged, He demands space.

    Space for what? Breathing space.

    We get caught up in our own rhythm, our own season, our own timings. We want things our own way. We see Christmas around the corner and that means going out and getting presents and getting trees and getting decorations and getting drunk. That is how our year goes. The Baby of Christmass was crowded out of the Inn and had to make do with the manger. Likewise, the baby in the Nativity display is being crowded out by the latest Xbox 360, inflatable caricatures of a long dead saint and rather odiously twee snowmen. The sound of God is being drowned out by jingle bells and the simpering affections of people trying to be "nice" once a year yet ignoring that directive on the other 364 days.

    Our Lord Jesus Christ demands nothing less than intolerance for anything that stands between Him and us, and all that crowds Him out of our hearts. How then are we to respond? Well, the Church does help us, because it builds that preparation into her year in the season called Advent. In beginning the year with Advent, we than have a choice to make the appropriate preparations. This is the time to sit and examine our consciences, to make space for Christ -breathing space.

    Yet, it is not for us to breathe first. The first person to breathe is God, and his breath is the Holy Ghost. In clearing space to breathe, we can breathe in Air that is truly good for us, not polluted by "the smoke of Satan" as Pope Paul VI put it. Christ wants us to breathe in His Spirit so that we can live. Thus Advent affords us the opportunity to see the Baby born in a Manger, not through a haze of materialistic detritus, but through clear air.

    Before we begin the song of our year, we must take a breath and note the timing. This is why the year begins with Advent so that we can join our voices in a Cosmic hymn of praise to our Creator, accompanying the rolling spheres, and free from that which would encumber us.

    How are you beginning your song this year?

    Thursday, November 24, 2011

    Wittgenstein, Anglicanism and Patrimony

    A few years ago, I started to wonder about what it means to be an Anglican somewhat prior to the events of what happened a year later. As I've grown older and read more and tried to be a better thinker, it struck me that there are more ways of defining something than giving an axiomatic definition. Wittgenstein's approach of family resemblances gives quite a fresh take on the situation.

    The idea is that in a large family, it is clear that now two members of that family are identical. In a mathematical/axiomatic framework, a definition would require that two things would have the same defining category if and only if they satisfied all the requirements. This doesn't work for Art, Poetry, or Religion. Not all Religions have gods, not all Art is beautiful, not all Poetry rhymes.

    Wittgenstein notices that one recognises people from the same family by resemblances that, while not common to all members of the family are common to some. Think of the old lady at the bus stop who makes the Wittgensteinian definition of the new baby with the words, "aww, he's got his father's eyes!"

    Art, for example might be defined by something which possesses features such as manufactured, designed to stir the emotions, to depict what's truly real, a painting, or a sculpture, or a manipulation of a medium, et c. The more of these features an object has in common with what we would recognise as being a Work of Art, the more easily it can indeed be identified as a work of art. Of course, we have to agree with what the resemblances of "Works of Art" are in the first place. I think it might be quite difficult to find anyone who would say that the Mona Lisa is not Art, so perhaps there is a general Wittgensteinian definition that would fit, at least in a sizable majority.

    The same may well be true for this thing called Anglicanism.

    In 2009, at the above link, I suggested that:

    Listening to the people around me, I hear that one is Anglican

    1) by continuing in the Apostolic Succession with Anglican Bishops;

    2) by the continued use of Scripture, Tradition and Right Reason in
    continuity with the great Anglican Divines – Hooker, Andrewes et al;

    3) by agreeing with the principles ["of church polity" I should have added - a bit late now!] laid down at the Reformation;

    4) by worshipping in the same places, in the same buildings as

    5) by being in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury;

    6) by being a Christian subject of Queen Elizabeth II and her

    7) by adhering to traditional Anglican liturgies;

    I might also be tempted to add:

    8) by seeking some via media between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism;

    9) by taking the XXXIX articles as the basis of one's dogmatic system;

    10) by rejecting Apostolicae Curae;

    11) by holding to the three Creeds and first seven Ecumenical Councils;

    12) by recognising the Anglican Church is part of the One True Church and is only part.

    I am sure that there are other criteria that one could meet. I would say of course that there is a necessary condition

    0) by being a practising Christian.

    Criterion (0) is certainly a sine qua non though there are some who would reject even this.

    The more resemblances one shares with that which is Anglican, the more one can be recognised as Anglican and vice versa. Of course this rules out absolute certainty as to who is or isn't Anglican and then perhaps we can see how, unlike a mathematical definition, there is room in a Wittgensteinian definition for the principle of Charity and the need for listening to others. Does this lend us to a 13th criterion?

    13) by attributing the only certainties that exist are fathomable by a Transcendent and Immanent God.

    Did I leave anything out?

    Sunday, November 13, 2011

    Armistice and Armour

    Epistle for Trinity XXI: Ephesians vi.10

    In the view of many people, we are in dark times, another depression caused by so many factors, economic, ecological and spiritual. It is true that it is only by the grace of God Himself that there is any happiness in the world. All that human beings seem to do is struggle. As biologists have noted, all life is struggle: we struggle to be born and we have to fight to stay alive. There is no escaping it. But what about for us humans? What reason have we to fight to stay alive? Why do we have to struggle, labour and toil, agonise and shout. We clearly do, but for what reason? Isn't it time that we stopped fighting and just went with the flow? Isn't it easier than just working ourselves to death for no better reason than pass on our genes and die? Eat, drink and be merry...

    St Paul reminds us that humanity is constantly at war, but often forgets who the real enemy is.In most cases we wrongly identify the enemy, eliminate him and then think that our job is done. Surely the world will be a better place now that Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden and Colonel Gaddafi have gone? Well, do we know who the monster of tomorrow will be? We can be sure that there will be another!

    What we fail to see is that, in identifying evil with an organisation or a person, we're missing the fact that evil is a lot less material than we might like. Evil is non-material. It exists in principalities, powers, rulers of darkness and spiritually infests the high places of humanity.

    While we can be sure that someone will make a choice to live life in such a way as to recruit followers who then spread evil in the cause of some "liberation" and thus become a figure of hate, we can fail to see this evil at work in our own society and crucially within our very selves. Can it be that the Western milieu is being unfairly forced on people who are no less human but have rather different views on how society works? Is it possible? Surely we need to look at ourselves closely to see what rule we impose upon others.

    If evil exists, then it is the Christian's duty to oppose it in all its forms. We therefore will see battle both physical and spiritual. We will see things that will disgust us and haunt us all the days of our lives. We will be attacked and injured, sometimes physically. Indeed, some of us will fight and will lose our lives: our martyrologies are filled with such as these.

    For what do our soldiers fight these days? What makes their cause any more just than their opponents? If we look at the First World War then the answer is not so clear. It seems more like a campaign of Imperial Honour spun wildly out of control. Yet, for the Second World War, there is much more of an objective. Surely, there is no moral society on Earth which could believe that the Concentration Camps were anything other than the foulest recesses of human evil? Can we honestly say that humanity is unanimous in this judgment? Why not?

    The Evil we fight is not material. It does not possess an identifiable face, but yet it influences men who are prepared to go along with its flow rather than take a stand against it, actively searching for what is right and making their protests heard against what is wrong. It is the duty of the Christian to fight this non-material Evil and to rescue his brother from its clutches. However, if we are exposed to evil and its lure from the moment of our conception and find that we ourselves aren't just capable of doing evil, but do in fact do evil, what hope have we as soldiers?

    St Paul reminds us that we have been given protection by God with which to arm ourselves. First he give us the Truth with which we examine ourselves, identify those vulnerable and weak areas which we then can protect with that same Truth. Our hearts are to be covered in God's Righteousness. How? By taking into ourselves the practice of righteousness through the works of mercy and charity. In that way we fill our hearts unequivocally with righteous living and make them more like the Sacred Heart.

    Our feet are given protection by the Gospel which directs their way and carries us forward in our lives to God Himself. These same feet are made beautiful by transmitting that same Gospel and thus there is great strength being passed on to others who need it. We are responsible for helping others be clothed with the armour of Christ.

    The enemy can fire at us from any quarter and thus we need a shield that is strong and tough enough, unyielding enough to prevent these wicked darts from hurting us. This shield is the Christian Faith which is indeed rigid so that we might be better protected. However, although the Faith be rigid and unyielding, we must use it with flexibility and wisdom. We need to be trained to use our shield effectively so that whole we may protect ourselves from evil darts, they may not be allowed to ricochet and hit others who are more vulnerable. Faith must be wielded with Charity. We cannot forget that in Christ there is much joy and thus by participating in the Faith of Christ, we make that joy available to others.

    Finally, we are given an instrument to repel evil, the same double-edged sword that proceeds from the mouth of the son of Man as St John witnessed in his Apocalypse. This sword is the word of God and with lifelong training we can repel evil, not as single mercenaries fighting guerrilla tactics, but as an army coordinated by God Himself, not against any man, but against evil.

    This is why we must give thanks for our armed forces and remember those who have given their lives so that we might continue in our own struggle against evil free from oppression and cruelty in the manner in which God intended. Their sacrifice has meant the relief of countless innocent people, many yet unborn, and this cannot be forgotten. However, is laying a wreath of poppies at the Cenotaph enough? For their sacrifice to be remembered appropriately, shouldn't we be seeking to cultivate in our society more of what they fought for? What did they fight for in the first place?

    Sunday, November 06, 2011

    Communio in sacris and the Contrapositive

    Consider the following problem.

    You are trying to be a good Christian, obeying your conscience, the Catholic Faith and your bishop as the centre of the local Church. Suppose further that your bishop holds to a doctrine which, though in the majority viewpoint in the diocese and certainly in your parish, is nonetheless contrary to the Catholic Faith. Yet further, suppose that your bishop now tells you that because you belong to a parish which accepts the controversial teaching, you have no grounds to object to it. What do you do?

    Well, look at the statement logically.

    If you belong to a parish and that parish accepts the heterodox then you have no grounds to object to that doctrine.
    This has form:

    If A & B then C.

    This is logically equivalent to the contrapositive:

    If not C then either not A or not B.

    so our original statement becomes in contrapositive:

    If you have grounds to object then either your parish does not accept the heterodox or you do not belong to the parish.
    Well, your parish does accept the non-Catholic doctrine, so for the bishop's statement to be true, you cannot be a member of the parish and have grounds to object. But since the doctrine is clearly contrary to the Catholic Faith, grounds to object exist regardless of your or the bishop's views.

    Thus for the bishop's statement to be true you must either accept that which is not taught by the Church or you cannot be a member of the parish. What options do you have?

    1. You are obedient to your bishop according to the teaching of St Ignatius, so you accept that the statement must be true. You are obedient to the Catholic Faith so therefore you cannot be a member of the parish.

    2. You are disobedient to the bishop, then you can reject his statement as false. Disagreement with one's bishop is often not a problem provided that one is aware and respectful of the authority invested in him by virtue of the Catholic Church and acts with due humility, but wilful disobedience to your bishop on matters of faith disunites you from the Church through the contradiction of St Ignatius' criterion for Church membership, therefore you cannot be a faithful member of the parish.

    3. You accept the non-Catholic doctrine, but this is an effective denial of what you believe and to do so changes the faith which you have received which puts you outside what the Church has always believed. This endangers one's relationship with God - membership of a parish is irrelevant if one is not in harmony with the Divine!
    In all three cases, you are sacrificing either your spiritual health or your membership of your parish and thus your spiritual health. Either way, your growth as a Christian is going to be profoundly affected by prolonged to exposure to doubt, a conscience deliberately uninformed (nay misinformed) by trying to sweep the matter under the carpet, and/or the loss of a worshipping community. We all have doubts and these doubts teach us to be faithful, but a prolonged doubt can quickly become wilful and turn into radical skepticism.

    In accepting that which is contrary to the Faith, a bishop has endangered the spiritual health of his entire diocese irrespective of whether they agree with him or not. This includes the priests in his diocese who, while still remaining orthodox, nonetheless despite the validity of their sacraments are still in some danger because of the nature of their relations with the bishop.

    For a recovery of one's health, there is only one course of action open to you - you have to find an orthodox bishop in order to guarantee one's membership of the Church.We have now seen that a bishop who equates membership of the church with a particular doctrine practically excommunicates all those who refuse that doctrine.

    This is why the office of a bishop is very onerous and it behoves us to be loyal and support him in order that he may continue to guide us into a lively faith. A bishop is not a diocesan CEO: his investment into the diocese is vastly greater than just monetary. The fate of his soul depends on how he leads his flock.

    So where am I going with this?

    Well, I read more and more about the latest Diocesan results about the Women Bishops measure. The vast majority of Dioceses seem to have voted in favour, but they have also voted against any measure to protect those who in conscience cannot accept the ministry of a female bishop. They believe that a Code of Practice will do.

    It should be now quite clear to dissenting bishops, priests and laity that there will soon be a pronouncement:

    If you are in the Church of England then you have no grounds to object to women in the episcopate.

    It is there in the Canons:

    A 4 Of the Form and Manner of Making, Ordaining,
    and Consecrating of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons

    The Form and Manner of Making, Ordaining, and Consecrating of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, annexed to The Book of Common Prayer and commonly known as the Ordinal, is not repugnant to the Word of God; and those who are so made, ordained, or consecrated bishops, priests, or deacons, according to the said Ordinal, are lawfully made, ordained, or consecrated, and ought to be accounted, both by themselves and others, to be truly bishops, priests, or deacons.

    (emphases mine)

    Thus, at the level of Canon, in being a member of the Church of England, one has no canonical nor legal grounds to object to a female Priest and soon it will be the same for bishops when the resolutions for dissenters will be removed. This will lead to great problems.

    A 8 Of schisms
    Forasmuch as the Church of Christ has for a long time past been distressed by separations and schisms among Christian men, so that the unity for which our Lord prayed is impaired and the witness to his gospel is grievously hindered, it is the duty of clergy and people to do their utmost not only to avoid occasions of strife but also to seek in penitence and brotherly charity to heal such divisions.

    What can be done if there can only be a schism if one genuinely dissents as we have demonstrated above? There can be only a Canonical paradox if one looks logically. If there must not be a schism then everyone must unanimously accept women in the Episcopate - a two-thirds majority cannot cut it!

    This can only mean that (if they are not suffering already) Anglo-Catholics will simply not be able to exist in the CofE without severe spiritual damage which will come from a gradual erosion. It would be much better for an amicable departure to be arranged so that both sides can follow their own chosen paths to whatever ends there may be without interference and restraint from dissension.

    This is a tall order for the poor priests whose living depends upon the CofE's Established nature. For them to make any move away from the Established Church will take much courage and a leap into physical uncertainty. However there is spiritual assurance outside the CofE that remains Anglican. They will find a very warm welcome in the Continuum, they can be very certain of that. They certainly have our prayers and humble petitions for their health and well-being and for their spiritual fulfilment.

    Monday, October 31, 2011

    Original Sin and Post-Atlantan Pelagianism

    I've posted on the results of the Diocese of Atlanta seeking to rehabilitate Pelagius. It's only really fair that I try to understand and examine why, though my theology isn't as good as perhaps it ought to be. I think I'm able to give a few thoughts but I am sure that I shall require the comments of those better in the know.

    First, let me re-post the text of Article IX:

    Of Original or Birth Sin
    Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam (as the Pelagians do vainly talk), but it is the fault and corruption of the nature of every man that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the spirit; and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God's wrath and damnation. And this infection of nature doth remain, yea, in them that are regenerated, whereby the lust of the flesh, called in Greek phronema sarkos (which some do expound the wisdom, some sensuality, some the affection, some the desire of the flesh), is not subject to the law of God. And although there is no condemnation for them that believe and are baptized, yet the Apostle doth confess that concupiscence and lust hath itself the nature of sin.

    De Peccato Originali
    Peccatum originis non est (ut fabulantur Pelagiani) in imitatione Adami situm, sed est vitium et depravatio naturae eiuslibet hominis ex Adamo naturaliter propagati, qua fit ut ab originali iustitia quam longissime distet, ad malum sua natura propendeat, et caro semper adversus spiritum concupiscat; unde in unoquoque nascentium iram Dei atque damnationem meretur. Manet etiam in renatis haec naturae depravatio, qua fit ut affectus carnis, Graece phronema sarcos (quod alii sapientiam, alii sensum, alii affectum, alii studium carnis interpretantur), legi Dei non subiiciatur. Et quanquam renatis et credentibus, nulla propter Christum est condemnatio, peccati tamen in sese rationem habere concupiscentiam fatetur Apostolus.

    From this article, we can see why people object to what Original Sin states. Imagine holding your new first-born child in your arms, the first time you gaze upon a new life, frail, tender, a little bundle of reflexes and then thinking that this new baby "deserveth God's wrath and damnation" by virtue of its original sin. Can we honestly hold it to be true that the natural destiny of humanity is the fiery furnace of Hell?

    We do need to be careful on many fronts here. First of all, this is an emotive issue and we can allow our emotions to wander in areas where a clearer head is needed. We must also be clear that there is a place for our emotion and that our sense of outrage at such a statement has a justifiable cause and needs an appropriate outlet.

    Let us first be very careful and establish precisely what, according to the article, "deserveth God's wrath and damnation". If we just check the Latin carefully (thought the Cranmerian English is just as ample) "unde in unoquoque nascentium iram Dei atque damnationem meretur" we ask ourselves, what is the object of the passive meretur? Whatever it is, it is in every human being born. It seems to me to be quite clear that it is the Original Sin itself which is deserving the condemnation of God and from this we can infer that it is the cause of this Original Sin who will bear the brunt of God's wrath.

    Nonetheless, the Doctrine of Original Sin is scriptural - St Paul's letter to the Romans (v.19) for instance. "As in Adam, all die..." or 1 Cor xv.21. These make it clear to me that the natural end of humanity is not Hell, we are meant (predestined, if you will) for Heaven and for Eternal Life - that is what God wants for us. Hell is the unnatural destiny of Man.

    So what happens when we look at our little infant snuggled, sleeping soundly in our arms? Can we call that baby a sinner, by virtue of that original sin? To do so, again, misses a point - can we call anyone a sinner by virtue of original sin? I've mentioned this before - the Church only has the keys to heaven. According to the Apocalypse, it is some great archangel who possesses the key to Hell and he works only at the direct command of God, not of the Church. While we are in this life, we do not possess the wherewithal to judge sinners (motes and beams and what have you). In fact it is a consequence of Original Sin that we do not possess the wherewithal to judge sinners. Our own personal choice within us to Heaven or to Hell lies between ourselves and God.

    Well, then? Is it possible for a tiny infant to be a sinner, to be stained with Original Sin? Clearly, the baby is innocent of actual sin i.e. sins which are committed by conscious act. However, as a consequence of a Pro-Life stance, the Catholic Faith teaches that human life begins at conception. If that child is fully human from that point, then it is capable of free choice at that point (a defining aspect of humanity). If so, then it is free to choose between right and wrong and is thus capable of sin even from the word "go".

    However, capable does not mean that sin has taken place. We need then to look at Original Sin and how it is transmitted. How can the sin of one man infect all of his descendents? Well, the Story of the Fall makes it clear, the presence of the Serpent from the outset infects humanity by temptation, by lies and by the leading away from God. Even if an infant does not actually sin, it is still subject to being drawn into the darkness. Even Hitler was a newborn baby once.

    This, then, reveals the need for the Baptism for infants. The Baptism rite contains an exorcism which is there to free the child from the clutches of the Devil. Of course, the child may still sin after Baptism, but that Baptism puts the child back into the track of its natural destiny, i.e. to God and to Heaven. Faith may be shipwrecked and the child may still fall away from God, but, with that Baptism into the Death of Christ there will always be that chance to take advantage of the Grace given to us in that Baptism to pull us back into the Light.

    For children who die before Baptism, I cannot possibly comment on their destiny. I do not believe in a blanket condemnation to Limbo, and neither does the RCC now. The decision lies between God and the individual soul.

    I did say that this is an emotional issue, and it is. Sin is a serious, serious, problem and one that does indeed affect (and infect) every child that comes into the world, transmitted by those already present. The least we can do is to ensure that all children get led into the Light and have the opportunity to be drawn by God. This cannot be any more important than for the unborn and is another reason why we need to stop abortion for the good of these little souls.

    Friday, October 28, 2011

    Episcopalian Erosions

    The Episcopalian Diocese of Atlanta has just passed this Resolution:

    R11-7 Contributions of Pelagius

    Whereas the historical record of Pelagius’s [sic] contribution to our theological tradition is shrouded in the political ambition of his theological antagonists who sought to discredit what they felt was a threat to the empire, and their ecclesiastical dominance, and whereas an understanding of his life and writings might bring more to bear on his good standing in our tradition, and whereas his restitution as a viable theological voice within our tradition might encourage a deeper understanding of sin, race, free will, and the goodness of God’s creation, and whereas in as much as the history of Pelagius represents to some the struggle for theological exploration that is our birthright as Anglicans, Be it resolved, that this 105th Annual Council of the Diocese of Atlanta appoint a committee of discernment overseen by our Bishop, to consider these matters as a means to honor the contributions of Pelagius and reclaim his voice in our tradition And be it further resolved that this committee will report their conclusions at the next Annual Council.

    That's the resolution. Now let's be clear on the issues. We should not allow ourselves to be sidetracked into rehashing the arguments of Pelagianism as this is rather of secondary importance to what I perceive to be the main issues.

    1) Is this an attempt to try and sift the orthodox writings of Pelagius from his heretical works?

    2) On what authority is the diocese of Atlanta making this resolution?

    On the first issue, we ought to look for the principle of charity. After all, even the greatest theologians have expressed thoughts which the Church has regarded to be heretical. For example, St Thomas Aquinas did not believe that Our Lady was immaculate yet the Roman Catholic Church which bases much of its theology on his teachings has decreed otherwise. In that sense, St Thomas would be speaking heretically. Of course we then have the question as to whether one can be a heretic posthumously or even post-canonisation! We do know that St Peter himself acted heretically when he refused to eat with Gentiles despite the Church teaching otherwise. Of course, St Peter recognised his error and capitulated.

    Of Pelagius, little is really known . There is not much in the way of his teaching that survives and what does survive is difficult to be seen separately from his followers who pressed the Pelagian Heresy more forcefully. However, the Oecumenical Councils of Carthage (in 418AD) and Ephesus (431AD) made it clear that Pelagianism, whether or not it originated with Pelagius, is indeed heterodox and thus deviant from the Catholic Faith.

    It is true that what the Pelagians leave behind is indeed some very interesting theology on the nature of Free Will and Predestination and Election, but why is the verdict of the Council being challenged on the grounds of an inclement political climate? Surely then, Arianism must also be reappraised since this was the more politically dangerous of the classical heresies. Even the Pope was Arian at one point. Why stop there? What about the Apollinarian heresies? Ebionism, Origenism? Nestorianism? Gnosticism? One might accuse me of a "thin end of the wedge" argument, but the idea remains: if there is the possibility of reclaiming one heretical doctrine into orthodoxy owing to the prevailing culture, why not all heretical doctrines? What makes Pelagianism more palatable?

    The second issue is one that concerns me more. On what authority does a single diocese make the decision to re-appraise hitherto heretical teaching? Not all Anglicans subscribe to the XXXIX articles - I myself do not believe them to be the defining element of what it is to be an Anglican preferring a more Wittgensteinian approach of "family resemblance" (more on that later methinks). However, looking at the articles gives:

    IX. Of Original or Birth Sin.

    ORIGINAL sin standeth not in the following of Adam (as the Pelagians do vainly talk), but it is the fault and corruption of the nature of every man that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the spirit; and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God's wrath and damnation. And this infection of nature doth remain, yea, in them that are regenerated, whereby the lust of the flesh, called in Greek Phonema sarkos (which some do expound the wisdom, some sensuality, some the affection, some the desire of the flesh), is not subject to the law of God. And although there is no condemnation for them that believe and are baptized, yet the Apostle doth confess that concupiscence and lust hath itself the nature of sin.

    Here is a perfectly Anglican viewpoint which sets the bar. Of course the Diocese of Atlanta can reject the authority of the Articles in general as defining Anglicanism and still remain Anglican. Can it just reject the subject matter at all? The article, unchanged from 1553, was drafted to reject the Pelagian heresy of the Anabaptists and to continue the Catholic line on the matter. Its content follows the conclusion of the Oecumenical Council of Ephesus, consent to which is necessary for membership of the Catholic Church. So to accept Pelagianism is a denial of Catholicism.

    Further, that the Diocese has taken it upon itself to examine the issue apparently independently, this means that it cannot be acting Oecumenically. To reconsider the verdict of an Oecumenical Council requires an Oecumenical Council which cannot be called until there is full Catholic Oecumenical Reconciliation. This is another example of the "go it alone" mentality of member diocese in ECUSA. Its Catholicism went long ago, squashed between the mitre and Pantene Hairspray, and this merely points to the untenability of the same attitude. A kingdom divided cannot stand and the liberal churches are again taking too much authority on their own heads with the result that their own house dissipates into the prevailing culture.

    If there are grounds to review Pelagius then that review has to happen oecumenically with all Christians. It is clear that Atlanta sees itself as a higher power in deciding doctrine.

    Wednesday, October 26, 2011

    For the sake of argument...

    It seems that the Philosophy of Religion has become very fashionable lately with all kinds of people stepping into the ring to declare their belief in the existence or non-existence of God with arguments that they believe to be incontrovertible and completely watertight. It is inevitable that someone will find the chink in the argument and then exploit it to demolish the house of cards on which argument rests.

    The question is: do we allow our faith to be built on philosophical arguments?

    There are three classical arguments for the existence of God: the ontological, the cosmological and the teleological. All three have inherent philosophical problems in drawing the conclusion that a being exists in a wholly other way to the physical universe who is deserving of the worship of all living beings. Yet Organised Religion has not collapsed under the weight of these oft-used reasons for worshipping God.

    Some might say that this is because religious believers are inherently stupid and if they only thought harder, they would see that there is no God. One must be careful here: to say that the argument for the existence of God fails is not an argument for the non-existence of God (and vice versa). Others might cite the argument that people want God to exist as an emotional crutch only to have the point made that every human need has a real object, et c.

    The main assumption is that it is foolish to believe in God or to have religious beliefs. The valid corollary of the Ontological argument is that if God doesn't exist then there's no point in worshipping Him - that's eminently reasonable. If there is no proof for or against, how then can they define "foolish"?

    My problem with the classical philosophical arguments is that they don't begin at the right spot. I do not believe we can reason God into existence like folk have misread St Anselm. I'm much more of a radical skeptic when it comes to proofs or disproofs for the existence of God. I maintain that we know reality so insufficiently that the existence of God cannot be proved or disproved by human thought and reason. In the very technical sense of the word, that makes me agnostic - I do not know how to prove beyond all doubt that God exists and I don't believe there is such a way.

    So why do I believe in God?

    I speak personally and apologetically. I appeal to authority, namely to the person of Jesus Christ Whom I regard as Lord and Master. I believe that what He claims is true.

    Of course, what I know of Him comes from Scripture and Tradition, i.e. from the Church. The first records of Him were written down within 30 years of His death (contrast that with centuries for Alexander the Great and other prominent historical figures) and taken from first hand sources. One may say that the Church was selective in the records that it chose for His life. I would have to agree very much that the Church was indeed very selective in what it deemed sufficiently authoritative. The texts it rejected were not contemporaneous with Christ and most extra-canonical Gospels were written long after the fact. All of the texts of the New Testament were written in the first century AD.

    It seems to me that the Biblical texts satisfy the CRAVEN tests.

    Corroboration: The Gospels (while like most pieces of evidence disagree on details) do indeed corroborate what Jesus taught, the miracles he did and that He rose from the dead.

    Reputation: The writers of the Gospels are clearly Christian and very little seems to be known about them to assess their reputability. However, the Gospel of St John shows a knowledge of classical as well as colloquial Greek, St Luke demonstrates a scientific approach in his writing. St Paul himself as another corroborator of the Gospels certainly writes with erudition and tells the story of his own conversion.

    Ability to See: if these writers are (as St Luke claims to be doing) writing down interviews with those who knew Jesus first hand within thirty years of the death of Jesus then they do have ability to make a critical judgment to what they saw.

    Vested Interest: Considering that most of the people who proclaimed faith in Jesus were destined for painful and humiliating deaths, either they were deluded or felt that the truth was more important.

    Expertise: the writers were adult, sufficiently proficient in Greek and privy to the early Christian communities.

    Neutrality: What would this mean here? If one is setting out to record the truth, one must believe that truth which one is trying to document. So it is not viable to denounce the Gospel writers as not being neutral because of their Christianity. Again, if they did not believe it to be true, why go to execution for the sake of a lie? Is there a neutral position to take here?

    This helps me to regard the evidence of Scripture as reliable.

    I dare say that someone will come along and try to demolish my faith in the writers of Scripture and what the Church tells me. They may even succeed at knocking down my CRAVEN analysis, but then I've not been too intent in producing coherent arguments. All I have done is to show some justification in my belief and I do not offer it to convince anyone that I am right, though if it does so then that is a wonderful by-product of my intention. It does, however, put me very close to the basic criteria for knowledge - justified, true belief. I belief that Jesus is Who he says He is. I am justified in my belief given the evidence of Holy Scripture. Is that belief true? If the evidence is true, then yes.

    However, it now needs to be demonstrated that the evidence is indeed true. That is now almost impossible to know as this happened in the past. There can be no scientific examination which will confirm the evidence either way. The historians themselves can only speak of likelihood and possibility, so there can be no definite statement from them. Probability and likelihood come with a background arena of reference which is largely but not exclusively subjective and opinionated.

    So what have I actually done? I haven't produced an infallible argument for the existence of God save only to say that "God exists because Jesus tells me so". That sounds rather feeble, like passing the buck. It may even make me sound like some kind of simple-minded Evangelical (by which I mean an Evangelical who happens to be simple-minded, not that all Evangelicals are simple-minded) but it makes sense. My Christian Faith stands or falls with the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Surely this is where the Christian Faith has to start.

    What it does do is free me from the vicissitudes of Philosophical argument. It also frees me from worrying about whether my belief in Evolution is in contradiction with belief in God. It frees me to criticise and accept Science and hopefully to engage sensibly and reasonably with people of all kinds of beliefs. While it does not make me immune from criticism nor from rigorous defence, it does lift much of the weight from my shoulders rather than paralyse me in enormous and complicated arguments of self-justification. "His yoke is easy and His burthen is light" just as He promised.