Skip to comments.Multiplicity [Grace Cathedral SF Dean's "Orthodoxy"]
Posted on 12/04/2005 2:26:05 PM PST by sionnsar
The Dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, the Rev. Alan Jones, is publishing another book. It is entitled Hope for the World: the Vision of Anglican Orthodoxy.
If the life of Grace Cathedral, as seen on the Cathedrals website, is any reflection of the Deans vision of orthodoxy, that vision is, well, expansive. Take for instance this special event coming up is December:
Grace Cathedral Iyengar Hatha Yoga Class on the Labyrinth
This one-hour Iyengar yoga class is suitable for all levels of students, but it is specifically geared towards those new to the practice. Though many postures are demanding, they are all appropriate for beginners, and we approach practice in a light and joyful fashion, with a sense of humor about the challenges of meditation in the body.
Or how about this?
A Guide for Same-Gender Couples
Thank you for your interest in celebrating your commitment to each other in Grace Cathedral. The commitment to a life-long union is a very special one, and we are happy that you are thinking of making Grace Cathedral the setting for your ceremony.
I have not read the Deans new book on Anglican orthodoxy (it has not yet appeared in print), but the Dean summed up its contents on the Cathedral website earlier this month. One article of his summary is that Anglican orthodoxy
Understands that Gods infinity and essential unknowability requires that revelation in the Bible and in Creation must contain an infinite multiplicity of meanings.
Hmmmm . . . . let us consider this for a moment. An infinite multiplicity of meanings? Not just a lot. Not just a whole lot. An infinite number. And not just an infinite number of any old thing. An infinite multiplicity of . . . meanings.
Logically, however, an infinite multiplicity (which can only mean an infinite number) would include, say, two plus two = four and two plus two ≠ four.
In other words, a truly infinite number of meanings means an inifinite number of contradictions. Which means no meaning at all. So, for the Dean, Anglican orthodoxy means exactly . . . nothing.
Why am I not surprised?
Now before you theological types leap in here with your objections, let me quickly say that, yes, I know (or think I know) where the Dean is coming from. There has long been a strain in Christian (and indeed non-Christian) thinking known as apophatic theology, or the so-called via negativa, which sets out a path to mystical experience of God through negation, or emphasizing what we cannot say about God in his essence. (For the uninitiated, a handy summary of this idea can be found here.) However, as Aquinas pointed out long ago, it is all very well to talk about Gods unknowability because, after all, Hes infinitebut were not. Insofar as we have any possibility of experiencing infinity, it is through theosis, deification (or sanctification if you prefer), whereby we participate in the very life of God. However, we remain contingentunless youre a pantheist. (How about it, Dean Jones?) God may be ultimately unknowable and His meaning inexhaustible, but not so for humans.
In other words, the appeal to apophaticism is an excuse for lazy thinking, a pseudo-clever way of getting around making hard choices. Dont like this commandment? Dont care for that logical outcome? Fear not! There is an infinite multiplicity of meanings out there, and eventually you will find one that suits you. Just be patient.
Pluriform truths, anyone?
Apophatic theology is the way Orthodoxy does theology. It does not lead to "pluriform truths". There is only one Truth. In an nutshell, an apophatic statement can be made thusly, "God is not...." It can never be "God is whatever you think he is because I can't define God so your definition is as good as mine." That's just hogwash, not theology.
Puhleeze. Grace Cathedral is heresy central, but it's so well done and tasteful that nobody ever challenges them. Also, Grace Cathedral (through the bishop) is one of the major promoters of URI, the "United Religions Initiative," a UN-linked thing from the city that gave us the UN in the first place. The URI seems to attract mainly elderly Episcopalians, and is currently trying to get them to leave it all their money.
I have family that lives in a building overlooking Grace Cathedral, and when I spend time with them, I greet every dawn by watching flakes walking around the Grace Cathedral "labyrinth." All told, however, the labyrinth is pretty harmless compared to the URI.
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