Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Paper

Over at All Too Common we have another pass at justifying remaining an Anglican. I think some of the pessimism expressed there is too strong.

It has become a commonplace to predict the death of the Elizabethan settlement. Now, it seems pretty clear that it is going to have suffer some limits. Without them, the exploitation of church polity that is the source of all troubles will remain a threat. But this goes too far:
It seems nice in theory, but what good is a church that refuses to dogmatize or declare the truth in many areas of the Faith? We are now witnessing the logical extreme of the via media, for now pure paganism is replacing orthodoxy. For how can three mutually exclusive theologies co-exist without a final authority? Liberalism (read: revisionism), Evangelicalism (read: Protestantism), and Anglo-Catholicism (read: ├╝ber-English-Catholicism) all claim positives about God and theology that contradict the other schools of thought; they also all claim that the other schools err in one way or another.
Well, yes they do; and I think they do all err. But "mutually exclusive" is an overstatement. The obvious answer to the first rhetorical question is that, in seeing through a glass darkly, we are fatally tempted to dogmatize where the conclusive evidence and irrefutable reasoning simply are not there. And if we are tempted, our institutions are far more tempted to exercise dogmatism as an instrument of division-- which is to say, politics.

Likewise, the obvious answer to need of a final authority is that, on the one hand, the actual final authority is each individual, and on the other, that the desire of such an authority is not being given divine satisfaction. Maybe salvation is to be found or lost among the pious differences of opinion offered by the various parties, but I don't think so-- at least, not most of the time.

Back the first time around, Ponty said:
The great weakness of the Via Media is its claim to comprehend a plurality of beliefs under the “supreme authority of Scripture.” What is neglected is the fact that the Anglican reading of Scripture is ultimately ruled not by Holy Tradition and magisterial authority but Protestant private judgment.
I don't think that getting rid of private judgement is as easy as this, or even possible, but in any case for those of us who have already seen that much tradition is not holy and that magisterial authority is inadequate, this rejoinder isn't compelling. And no amount of argument can fix this, because argument is, in the end, an appeal to private judgement: my judgement. The constant hammering on private judgement has become something of a characture anyway; Anglicans don't really believe in doing theology in a vacuum.

Ponty also said:
Our Common Anglican has fallen in love with a paper religion, as has so many before him, including this lowly Pontificator. But paper religion is not real religion. It does not feed the deepest hungers of the soul, and it leaves one trapped within the prison of the self. Nor does it strengthen one against the onslaught of the principalities and powers. Only the Church of the saints and martyrs can provide what is truly needed.
It could be said that any religion of theological propositions and dogmas is paper. I did not fall in love with a paper religion; I did not fall in love with propositions, but a real church in a real place, and now the proponents of Roman conversion tempt me with the paper goods of infallibility and a whole list of other dogmas. I am sorry for them that I do not feel a call to the Roman church, the fact remains that I do not.

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