Tuesday, August 08, 2017

When Jesus gets it wrong

It seems that I am rapidly becoming one of those people who tune in to Thinking Anglicans for my daily despair at what the world is coming to. I really ought to stop for the sake of my health. Yet, as a priest, I do have a duty to try and combat heresy whenever it is proclaimed. Yesterday, I saw this comment posted on a thread about Archbishop Ntagali's boycotting of Lambeth Conferences on the grounds that same-sex marriage is now rife within the Western Churches. The discussion makes a very logical turn, namely the fact that neither same-sex marriage nor remarriage after divorce can be described as fulfilling the terms of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. They both fail in the matter of the sacrament.

My Church (i.e. the Church to which I belong) states clearly that:
This Church affirms, according to our Lord’s teaching, that marriage is in its nature a union permanent and life-long, for better for worse, till death them do part, of one man with one woman, to the exclusion of all others on either side, for the procreation and nurture of children, for the hallowing and right direction of the natural instincts and affections, and for the mutual society, help and comfort which the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity, and to that end couples entering into that union shall make and subscribe before the Solemnisation of Matrimony the following Declaration of Intention and Commitment to Holy Matrimony in the presence of the Officiating Clergyman and two (2) witnesses (Canon 15.3.01)
This all comes down to an interpretation of Our Lord's teaching on the nature of divorce. However, should anyone try and promulgate Our Lord's teaching in certain circles of the Anglican Church, then you might get a comment like this:
[T]he Gospels aren't verbatim reports, they're collections of sayings, passed down, edited, and sometimes invented by the early church. Even if they were verbatim, they're translated into Greek from Aramaic, and translation's interpretation.

But let's say, for sake of argument, that we possessed Aramaic originals of Jesus' own words. Even the orthodox position holds that, whatever else he was, Jesus of Nazareth was fully human: meaning that he was a man of his time, shaped by his own culture, and as capable as error as any of us. If Jesus did ban divorce in all circumstances, then Jesus was wrong.
There are just so many things to pick out here. Is the commentator a Christian? There is reason to doubt that given that what we read here reads just like one of the followers of New Atheism. That's the trouble with the publishing of  the Liberal Agenda: that too is virtually indistinguishable in its writing from Secular SJWs.

Fact 1. The "Hebrew Gospel" or "Aramaic Gospel" Hypotheses have been shown to be somewhat implausible. One might look at the work of Helumt Köster and the like for ratification of this. It is very likely that the Gospels were written in Greek originally.

Fact 2. The oral tradition is, in the case of Christianity, very likely to be accurate. The Gospels were written while many of the Disciples and other eye-witnesses were still alive and able to verify what they contain. These aren't collections of sayings - they are true and the Church has received them to be true.

Fact 3 (and this is supposed to be the main point of my essay, though, as usual, I've rambled on and got distracted) Jesus was indeed fully human. HE WAS ALSO FULLY DIVINE. On a matter of teaching He will not have got things wrong for the very simple reason that, since He was like us in every way but without sin, His sinlessness means He will not have committed heresy by teaching an erroneous opinion.

I am consistently amazed at proponents of the Liberal Agenda to think that they have got the moral law so correct that they are able to criticise the persons of the Holy Trinity and make them abide by that moral law.

Of course, the principle of reflexivity works here. Such a proponent could indeed turn round to me and say, "you think you have the moral law so correct that you are telling the Holy Trinity what it is." I argue that I am not. I am arguing from what I have been given. I have been given the Holy Scriptures and Holy Tradition. I have been given membership of the Church  through the sacraments. I have been given so much grace of which I am not worthy in one tiny iota. I have been given all this through Divine providence and yet I have not been given the slightest little bit of authority to change one tittle or one dagesh forte of the teaching that I have received. 

If I had the authority, how could I change anything? This would mean one rule for me and one rule for everybody else. Circumstances may change, but God does not change and what separates from God simply does not change. My duty and desire is to be a faithful witness and carry that tradition on. It is the people like the commentator above who will be responsible for distorting the message because they distort it from their own moral law.

I am deeply disturbed by this comment and saddened that this is typical of the intellectual arrogance and Modernist superiority complex which is infecting the Church at the moment. Sometimes I wonder whether I have got it wrong. Yes, there is always a possibility that I have. Perhaps I am the heretic and making things unpleasant for those who truly have it right. I frequently pray to God to show me where I'm going wrong. I get answers but I am still waiting for Him to show me that my clinging to what I have received from Him in the Church is wrong. But then again, perhaps Jesus has got it wrong in the first place (!)

As my former students would say, "yeah! Right!"

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