Monday, March 31, 2014

The Next Problem Bishop

I held out hope in the whole Gene Robinson consecration debacle that perhaps at least the question could be confined to the Donatist question of his presumed sexual sins rather than having to confront idiosyncrasies of his theology. Well, now he is retired, and I have heard the news that he is now to have a column at The Daily Beast. And I have found out, via Bryan Owen and Peter Carrell, that Robinson's opening column makes some quite problematic statements:
God is infinite, and it comes as no surprise to me that there have developed, over time, many credible and faithful approaches to understanding God. In the end, no religion holds a lock on the reality of God. Each religion grasps only a part of the infinite God and offers insight into God’s reality, and we would do well to exercise a good measure of humility in claiming we know God’s will. Better to begin each pronouncement we make about God with “In my experience…” or “From my perspective…” or simply “For me….” At the end of the day, no matter how much we believe we know God’s will, we must acknowledge that each of us is only doing the best she/he can.
Well, Lewis said something similar, and yet utterly different. I don't accept this "blind scholars and the elephant" theory of religion and theology; to the degree that other religions may have something to say that is "valid" (i.e., accurate), that validation can only come from comparison with the Christian revelation. To try to assemble the "parts" of God each religion grasps is to construct an idol, the inevitable outcome of such syncretism. In Robinson's case he will, if unknowingly, make God in the image of upper middle class liberal American mores.

Likewise, his plea for subjectivism is against everything the New Testament teaches, and never mind the Torah. I say this over and over again: anamnesis is central to Christian theology and ecclesiology. The Mystery of Faith that we state on a Sunday is not three personal experiences or perspectives: it is three statements of the reality of Christ's salvific acts. We are not here to preach what we feel; we are here to remember what Jesus did, and to tell all the world about it.

But instead, we get the dreary, routine (and I will presume political) moralism which has been part and parcel of liberal Anglicanism for decades, buttressed with the platitudes of American religiosity. I sense that the retired bishop can do no more for his church than reassure a certain class of "seekers" (especially the "spiritual but not religious" set and the followers of moralistic therapeutic deism) that the faded religion of American Episcopalianism is no threat to their anemic faith.

But to stand up each Sunday and profess the tenets of the Creed: that would be a quite different matter. But at this point it seems safe to say that those tenets are not going to get play in the bishop's columns.