Thursday, April 11, 2013

"Put Your Hand in Some Vague Spiritual Feeling About Me, and Believe!"

There seems to be a running Easter series of National Cathedral sermons against taking scripture seriously about the resurrection, and Bryan Owen is here to fill us in on the latest, a Low Sunday effort from the dean.

My Thomas sermon, which will likely put up tonight (see here), didn't follow either of the dean's problem lines, mostly because it wasn't really about Thomas. But then, neither is the dean's thesis: it's another entry in the weird catalogue of church officials pushing the line that, well, Church Officials as a class are tyrants intent on imposing their dictatorial rule over the masses. My immediate reaction to that is "what then are you doing as a priest in a hierarchical church, you tool of the establishment?" but my guess is that I'm supposed to take on faith (as it were) that our new spiritual overlords are benevolent, or at least not so despotic.

But then, one comes across various cranks who complain about the enforcement of single, "despotic" picture of the field by a scientific establishment which refuses to accept their eccentric theories. Theology, at least among Anglicans, may never have insisted on such unanimity of viewpoint, but anyone who has studied the history of theological development can see (if they were not taught outright) that progress has consisted largely of identifying errors. It's obvious in the most blatant and stupid fashion that the New Testament texts intend to teach something, a specific thing, and it's really quite obvious that this particular story intends to teach us something about both the reality of the resurrection and function of faith in connecting us, who cannot be witnesses by sight. The only possible reason for dissent is that one does not believe, but then, of what use are the faithless as the church's ministers?

The dean thus simply erases everyone but Thomas from the tale, and most especially we blessed who have not seen, and yet believe. He even erases Jesus. But what's important isn't how Thomas or the others believe, but what they believe, and that we believe it. And we only know that through the church and her teachings.