Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Truths not truncheons
For Christians (by which I mean those Christians who embrace the historic Christian faith as found in the Nicene Creed — even if, like most Baptists, they accept the doctrines while rejecting the form of the creed), doctrines are not dogmatic statements that we want people to believe to separate the sheep from the goats* — they are our very deepest convictions about the nature of reality itself. Either these convictions are true, and the teachings found in the creed (the Trinity, the Incarnation, the physical Crucifixion and Resurrection which saves humankind) are an accurate description of reality — or they are not. If they are true, then religions that do not accept them do not possess the fullness of truth (even if they may have many elements of that truth). If another religion possesses the fullness of truth, then we Christians are wrong about some of our deepest convictions.

Unfortunately, too many modern-day Christians are reluctant to genuinely believe the teachings of our faith, preferring to believe instead that they are metaphorical. But such a view drains Christianity of its power and its life.

[If that’s what somebody really believes, with sufficient reflection and full consent of the will — Pike repudiating the Trinity for example, or Spong’s functional atheism — then by definition he’s not really a Christian.]
Bishop Tim Cravens from the Revd Chris Tessone’s blog

By George they’ve got it.

Like Western Catholic traditionalism is not about trying to force everybody to have services in Latin and believing that all non-Catholics are going to hell** (Feeneyism is an allowable opinion but thank heaven not doctrine and never shall be — it comes up short on God’s mercy!), doctrines such as in the creed are not bludgeons to beat people with to feel superior, a liberal’s cartoon of the orthodox; they’re true!

Doctrines are expressions of truth revealed in the deposit of faith, in the one body of Catholic dogma.

All error among those claiming to be Christians is ultimately to do with where God and matter come together:
  • The big one — the Incarnation — who Jesus is. True God and true man or less than that? ...separating Christians from non-.
  • The Eucharist: really him or not? ...effectively separating Catholics from various kinds of Protestants. A conservative Presbyterian and historian once told me this should be the criterion by which Christians unite or separate.
  • And the one of interest to secular people today, their big non serviam to God, on the right and wrong use of sex.
That last bit is the flash-point of the Anglican row but although not everybody on one side or another is alike a Catholic sees a chain of causation: all of these issues are connected. Either the Word was made flesh (John 1:14) or he wasn’t.

A church that officially adopts a position contrary to the historic faith on any of these eventually will drive out those remaining in it who are orthodox on that point (not necessarily those who are orthodox on other points): Fr Richard John Neuhaus’s law in action. (When orthodoxy becomes optional eventually it’s banned.)

It’s not my place to tell you what to do (having retired from Internet clobbering)...

But ask yourself: where do you stand?

*In a way they are: until people started denying the truth about who Jesus is the church got by perfectly well without them but Bishop Cravens (of the independent churches) is right that this use of doctrine is not the main point!

For example the Orthodox only define doctrine when a truth is challenged, never for any other reason including for its own sake. Whence you get the teachings of the seven councils including the creed.

**These are among the caricatures drawn by liberals, as wrong as some conservatives’ ‘Mr X is an apostate and gets away with it so all members of his denomination are apostates and evil’.

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