Monday, March 20, 2017

In Praise of Forward in Faith

I rather feel that I need to right a perceived wrong that I may have done members of Forward in Faith in my recent postings. The fact of the matter is that I do have an enormous respect of this organisation within the CofE, and I wish to assure FiF readers of this blog that they have a cherished place in my thinking - a place that they don't have within the CofE. I know that Fr Chadwick and other members of the ACC in this country agree with me. For me, they represent the Church within a "Church" which is being predominantly swayed by the liberal agenda. It is this Liberal Agenda that FiF are battling, and it is worth seeing it for what it is.

Let us begin with a couple of quotations from Arch-Liberal Fr Jonathan Clatworthy:
Liberal theology, therefore, does accept that people should be free to believe whatever they judge true. However the freedom comes with two limitations.  
 1) It does not follow that they should be free to act on their beliefs.  
 2) They have no right to be left unmolested in their beliefs, as though they transcended all reason. If others find them incredible or harmful, the right to hold them comes with a duty to justify them.
To be liberal, inclusive and tolerant do not just mean that anything goes, or that we agree with everyone. They mean we care about truth enough to challenge dogmas; and we care enough about other people to stand up against exclusion and intolerance.
It is clear that the theology that Clatworthy is building up is a purely man-made academic exercise. I have already challenged his deeply concerning statements about "everything being up for discussion". The fundamental mistake he is making is that Theology is NOT Philosophy. It is not an intellectual-exercise along the lines of the Greek thinkers that St Paul encountered at the Areopagus who "spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing."

Theology begins and ends in God Himself. The Bible is the Testament of God's personal revelation of Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to His people the Church. Every word of Holy Scripture speaks of a theological truth - that is what the Church has always said. It is part of the Vincentian Canon, and thus of a true Catholic Dogma.

Of course, all dogmata are free to be discussed at an intellectual level, but the problem is that Theology is not just an intellectual discipline. It deals with matters of faith and especially matters of salvation. The Oecumenical Councils weren't concerned with an intellectual discussion as to the natures of Our Lord: they were concerned with Salvation, and that is the one thing that matters most, that people are brought to God to be saved. The truth about the doctrine of Our Lord is therefore NOT up for discussion in theological circles. Those arguments have been made and settled by those who have come before us.

I think I'm beginning to seem a bit like the Venerable Jorge in that it's all very well and good having Philosophical discussions about theological matters, but as soon as we bring things out from the theological sphere into the philosophical sphere, we are in danger of ascribing a philosophical position with greater worth than the truths revealed to His Church by God. It seems to me that Liberals who follow Fr Clatworthy's ideas above are in danger of philosophical hubris and intellectual pride rather than dealing with the beliefs of the Church which have been questioned but proven to be true by the Church.

And this is where Forward in Faith come in. What Forward in Faith have that Fr Clatworthy doesn't seem to have is a sense of the sacred. If God reveals a truth, then one can certainly engage in philosophical inquiry about it, but if that inquiry doubts that revealed truth, then that inquiry itself is disordered and demonstrating clearly its fallen nature and need for God. The Liberal Agenda says essentially that "nothing is sacred" and thereby attempts to rob God Himself of His Infallibility and the reliability of those whom He has chosen as His witnesses. What Forward in Faith is trying to do is to bring back to an ailing and struggling institution a sense of the sacred, that which is true because it is central to Christian belief to be true. The Christian Faith does "transcend all reason" because God Himself transcends all reason.

The Liberal Agenda may "care about truth enough to challenge dogmas" but it saws off the very branch on which it sits because it denies the integrity of the framework of truth that allows it to challenge "dogmas". Does it challenge its own "dogmas" one wonders.

It seems to me that the Liberal Agenda may "care enough about other people to stand up against exclusion and intolerance" but Forward in Faith seek to lead people to inclusion and acceptance not in the light of a philosophical mushiness, but rather by bringing people to the notion of what is truly Holy, Ineffable and Sublime.

So where do I stand on the position of Forward in Faith?

I stand with them, but cannot be in communion with them while they are in communion with people who deny the sacred. I'm afraid I cannot understand how they can be in such an impaired communion, but I do trust that their intentions for doing so are well meant and that they see that this is the way to try and guide the CofE back to sanctity. If that is what they perceive God's mission to be, then they have my prayers. Part of me still wishes that they would find the ability to separate from the schismatic CofE and perhaps help the ACC and other Catholic institutions in the UK form a body of communication and eventual communion.

But I stand with them, just as I stand with all Catholics and seekers after the Catholic Faith. They have my prayers especially on Wednesdays when I am bidden to pray for the CofE and its return to Orthodoxy. Again, I issue an invitation to any members of Forward in Faith to meet the ACC at our Synod Mass at 11AM on 29th April in Central Hall, Westminster. I do stress that there are no strings attached by this invitation. I would be grateful just to get to know people engaged in the same fight against this Liberal Agenda as I am.


Fr. Gregory Wassen said...

Well said Father!

I share the respect you have for FiF and I hope they can restore the CofE to sanity - better yet - catholic orthodoxy. Meanwhile it would be wonderful if we could at least "be friends" in our common struggle against liberalism. In spite of its name ... liberalism is anything but liberal nor is it liberating.

Gregory +

Steven Augustine said...

Fr Wassen is 100% correct. FiF may not be rise to "ideal", but it is in the orthodox orbit and takes its mission seriously. Without them, the CofE can only be characterized as shipwrecked.