One of the many benefits Jessica’s irenic approach brings with it is the chance for real dialogue with thoughtful Christians with whom one disagrees. My recent ‘rant’ about cefeteria Catholics and their Anglican counterparts has brought forth from Stuans, one of Jessica’s earliest and staunchest readers, a counter-argument which deserves more than to get lost in the com box.
He sums up our differences thus:
i.e. your position is to find certainties for all, whereas my position to try to find practical truth through living the questions.
I am not sure that is the case, in so far as we are all living the questions. I would rephrase to say that there is core set of doctrines which constitute the Christian faith, and that it is these certainties which should shape our position as we live the questions. Neither we, nor our faith are tablua rasa.
He goes on to add:
Given that you agree with me and that humanity in our time bound reality can never have all the truth, I think my approach more intellectually honest. Hence I think the C of E is more intellectually honest than, for example, the Vatican approach.
Not to be able to know all of the truth is not the same as not to know as much of it as we need to attain salvation. The C of E is intellectually honest if it thinks that there is a good deal of incoherence in its approach; it should not mistake its own problems for those of the Catholic Church. It got itself into a fine old mess by ordaining women, allowing special measures for those who did not agree, and then not allowing women bishops; it did likewise in its approach to the question of homosexuality, as it did before that with contraception. Its position as a State Church imposes on it an incoherence, since the needed of God and Mammon are not the same.
Contrast that to the Vatican’s approach. It takes the view that women may not be ordained; it takes the view that homosexual behaviour is contrary to the natural functioning of God’s plan; it takes the view that contraception inhibits God’s will; and it opposes abortion. There is no intellectual incoherence here. That some Catholics find themselves unable to concur with these positions may show an incoherence in their thought, but it is hard to see how that is the fault of the Vatican, or that it shows any incoherence at the centre. Indeed, the Talbletista would love to have the wooliness of Rowan Williams to work with; they don’t, they have the clarity of the Pope, and they lack the guts to admit they don’t agree with him. What is incoherent is the lack of honesty of the dissidents.
At the end of the day, the gate is narrow, and trying to find it is messy. Why hide the mess, as the Vatican tries to – why not say to each person “look, everyones invited to this process of trying to live out the big questions of life – how’s it looking from where you are”
I see no ‘hiding’ of any ‘mess’. The gate is indeed narrow, but we know its lineaments. Attractive though it might be superficially to take some laid-back view and ask everyone how it is looking from where they are, that was not how Christ and His Apostles proceeded; any church which proceeds in another manner may well be preaching another Gospel. We see in Paul, we see in the Jonannine and Petrine Epistles, as we do in Jude, an anguished insistence on orthodoxy and on receiving and transmitting what was received. We would expect to see the same in Christ’s Church. Where we see it, there we see the Church.