Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Relative Truth?

Thinking Anglicans is a blog on which I seem to see a lot of very grumpy liberals who spend much of the time kvetching about the CofE's stance on same sex marriage, getting very irate when the new Bishop of Sheffield is a prominent member of Forward in Faith, and getting unpleasantly jubilant whenever an anti-gay Christian shop is closed down (preferably by a female bishop). One thing that I am surprised about is that there is an apparent double standard here. The Bishops are willing to change perfectly clear Church Doctrine about the sex of a priest and thus change the matter of one sacrament for a significant group of individuals, but they are not willing to change the matter of another for a significant group of individuals.

Before anyone accuses me of CofE-bashing, I'm not, at least that is not my intention. I still maintain the existence and intention of the CofE is to promote the love of God. I'm afraid I do question how they interpret that word "love" but there are true Christians within the CofE and I am sure that they receive the blessing of God in what they do. However, there is an attitude that does bug me, and perhaps it crystallises the whole difference between conservatives, like me, and liberals that seek to influence the CofE.

As usual, I turn to my clerical antithesis.

Fr Jonathan Clatworthy of Modern Church says:
"Christianity is not, and never has been, an unchanging monolith. No dogma, no text, not even one’s favourite biblical text, is God’s command to everyone at all times. No single source is infallible. In every age we bring the resources available to bear on the issues we face. Our understanding is always limited and uncertain. The only people who are certainly wrong are the ones who claim to be certainly right. Such people become intolerant and deaf."
What happens if your favourite bible verses are St Matthew xxii.37-40

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Perhaps I'm not reading Fr Clatworthy correctly and doing him a dreadful disservice. I am only human and capable of much error, yet If Fr Clatworthy really believes this statement which he uses to try and tell the CofE bishops what they could have done better, then he must hold that the commandment to love God and to love our neighbour as ourselves are not infallible and that there are times when they do not apply. Perhaps there is a time when it is right to hate God. Perhaps there is a time to hate our neighbour. In which case that voids any argument he makes about supporting same-sex marriage in the ears of those who so pathologically hate LGBT Christians. "Sorry, Father, I just happen to believe that now is the time to hate the gays." That cannot be what Fr Clatworthy wants, but, as usual, his premises are flawed.

Perhaps, he will say, that his statements only apply to some of Christian Doctrine. Well, okay, but which bits? The bits that agree with Societal norms? The bits which are politically correct? The current societal norm is to be atheist. Does that mean that Christianity needs now to adopt atheist beliefs?

It seems to me that this is the whole issue that faces Christianity in the West, and yet no-one wants to believe it. The issue is precisely that we have forgotten how to believe in the first place.
The central element of belief is love. The word "belief" means to hold as beloved. Yes, we say, "I believe it will rain tomorrow," and it's difficult to see what we're holding to as beloved. Yet perhaps the fact that we hold beloved the consistency of our experience, that life follows some rules on which we rely to make sense of life.
Fr Clatworthy's belief cannot be that of the Creeds, especially the Athanasian Creed which states clearly that his salvation is in doubt.

Fr Clatworthy is correct that there is much uncertainty in human understanding this is why we have the Revelation of God through Scripture and Tradition which are both espoused in the Church, and then - then - right reason. Human beings can't be certain, but the Holy Ghost can.

Actually I can be absolutely certain in this statement:

If Matthew xxii:37-40 is correct then I must love God and my neighbour in the appropriate manner.
Fr Clatworthy must therefore hold me to be certainly wrong. Of course, if Fr Clatworthy is certain of his statement then his statement is certainly wrong. If no single source is infallible, then neither is his statement that "no single source is infallible".

That may seem to be pedantry and "smart-alec"ry on my part. Yet my point is important. The Christian Faith that Fr Clatworthy puts forward holds nothing to be beloved. There is no belief there save that "there are no unchanging beliefs". There is no sense of Eternity, no Timelessness in this vision of Christianity.

If Fr Clatworthy suggests that I am intolerant and deaf, then I must agree with Him. I believe in God and I believe in the Devil. I will not tolerate nor listen to the the Devil who seeks to lie, mislead and encourage people to deny the infallibility of God Himself, the objective truth of His Holy Incarnation, and the Revelation of Himself as inspired by the Holy Ghost.

If Fr Clatworthy is truly representative of the liberal agenda, then he certainly has my prayers that he will be deafened to all voices save that of the God who loves him so very much, and thus find some certainty in his life.
I categorically believe that the Christian Faith is not, nor should be, influenced by societal norms, but rather issue the same challenge to every society to cast its crown before the Divine Master. If this makes me person non grata to the liberal element of Christianity, then I'm not the only one being intolerant.