Skip to comments.Straw Man (ECUSA revisionists)
Posted on 03/07/2006 7:44:32 PM PST by sionnsar
I was struck reading the Salty Vicar's response to my recent article, Making War, Talking Peace, by the caricature of orthodoxy that haunts revisionist minds. In the article I pointed out that our current troubles boil down to a core disagreement over authority. I said:
The issue that divides us is not insignificant; it is basic, fundamental, essential: Where does authority lie? Either the bible is the norm, the supreme authority in all matters of doctrine and practice, or it is not. There is no middle ground.
To which the Salty Vicar responded:
When a reasserter says, the bible is the norm and supreme authority or doctrine in the singular, I get a headache. I think of Lot sleeping with his daughters, the genocide of the Amelkites (sp), babies being smashed against rocks, and other unmentionables. I think of Jerome, Wyclif (sp), and Erasmus. I think of Gutenberg and James I. I think of my cat Tolly. I think of Hilary, that hot salsera I met last Thursday. Whatever you do, dont send me back to 6th century BC Babylon. Not interested.
Talk about headaches.
The only thing more confusing than this rejoinder is the rest of his post. Take this passage for example:
Granted, part of confusion is because, in practice, scripture is important to me. I'm probably the only one in my clericus who loves Revelation. I read scripture daily. I have regular bible studies, am a member of the Society for Biblical Literature, and translate the Gospel from Greek before writing my sermon. I dont consider myself anti-biblical, but I clearly understand scripture differently than Matthew. But Im skeptical of monistic, totalizing interpretations of nearly everything, in part because, after reading the church fathers, I think that the norm is a bit more plastic than he understands. Im wary of any single translation or expositor.
Huh? When I read things like this, I wonder whether revisionists like the Salty Vicar have ever seriously wrestled with orthodoxy. Im not sure what elements Fr. John has used to construct his straw man, but they have nothing to do with the position I referenced in my article.
To say Either the bible is the norm, the supreme authority in all matters of doctrine and practice, or it is not is to say nothing whatsoever about koine Greek or basic exegetical tasks.
No orthodox evangelical or anglo-Catholic priest or scholar I know has ever denied the obvious presence of metaphor, poetry, analogy etc nor suggested an exegetical methodology without consideration of the same. Most orthodox know Greek and Hebrew pretty well and many, if not most, have more than a surface knowledge of the fathers.
The difference between revisionist and orthodox hermeneutical methodology is not one of simplicity v. sophistication but a question of meaning and where it lies.
For many revisionist exegetes, the text and the reader engage in conversation on equal terms. The intent of the biblical author is balanced and sometimes even overturned by the concerns and needs of the contemporary reader or ecclesial community. Feminist hermeneutics, for example, seeks to interpret all scripture through the lens of womens liberation. Those passages that seem to militate against the contemporary feminist understanding of liberation are ignored or relegated. This infmaous work by Rosemary Reuther (summarized here), is a great example. Meaning lies ultimately in the hands of the contemporary community.
By way of contrast, for orthodox readers, meaning lies in authorial intent. The text means precisely what the author intends to communicate. Meaning is not subject to the reader or ecclesial community but tied to the author. This does not mean that the reader has nothing to do with the final exegetical product but it does mean that the standard for measuring that product is the author's intent, not the reader's whim or cultural fancy. Authorial intent is discovered through a thorough exegesis of a given passage taking genre and historical context into account. Once that intent has been firmly established, it holds supreme authority in the Church. This prevents the wholesale deconstruction espoused by Dr. Reuther and her ilk and establishes the biblical and classical principle that God inspired and superintended the canon through its various human authors.
Which method is more substantive? The one that enshrines the thoughts and opinions of the contemporary reader or the one that lets the authors speak for themselves?
I wouldnt even call attention to the Salty Vicar if not for the fact that his response illustrates what I noted earlier, a failure of basic listening skills.
We are constantly being told to listen to dialogue and to come to the table but if sitting at the table means first laboring to disabuse Fr. John and his friends of their absurd and hackneyed stereotypes, why bother?
Hm. Gotta say I agree with the Salty Vicar's complaint about this. Mr. Kennedy paints himself into a corner. There's a reason why "Tradition" is such an important part of Anglican practice, and perhaps he doesn't understand what that means.
While it's true that we should not hold any doctrine that cannot be proved through Scripture, we should also not forget (as the Pharisees did, for example) that God Himself is the supreme authority. Anglicanism recognizes that Scripture must be read with balance in mind, because there really are some parts that don't fit together very well. In the words of Article 20, "neither may [the Church]so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another."
Or, as Article VI puts it, "Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation."
What that says is this: Scripture tells us what's necessary for salvation, and it's not for men to devise additional burdens (which was one of Jesus's complaints about the Pharisees). But a close reading of the Articles shows that as Anglicans we are expected to exercise our judgement, too -- that's what "may be proved thereby" is all about: we face situations every day that are not explicitly mentioned in Scripture, and we're left having to seek God's will.
And I seriously doubt that Mr. Kennedy has fully thought through the implications of requiring that all practice be in accordance with Scripture -- is there direct Scriptural justification for the Hymnal or Prayerbook, for example? Not really. In fact, Anglicanism specifically allows (Article 34) churches to adapt man-ordained "practices" to local circumstances.
I do understand well the place of tradition within Anglican thought. Thanks for the advice. The question of homosexual practice however is a question that strikes at both the authority of the scriptures and that of tradition. Unlike the Roman tradition Anglicans do not place tradition and scripture on equal ground, but give, as you indicate, scriptural authority the higher place. Where tradition contradicts the plain reading of scripture, tradition is incorrect.
I focused my thoughts on scripture, because that is the supreme axis upon which the present controversy turns and it (Scripture as the norma normans) is as essential doctrine.
As for your thoughts on practice. Not sure how or where you got the idea that holding to Scripture as the supreme authority demands the absurdities you suggest? It does NOT mean that nothing can be done without scriptural precedents. It does mean, simply, as Hooker indicates, that no practice or doctrine may be approved that contradicts scripture. Huge difference and one well known to most Anglican thinkers and clerics.
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