Thursday, September 20, 2012

Religion

Religion
  • An old high-church view of the XXXIX Articles. Bishop Chandler Holder Jones. Of course I don’t accept his conclusion, because history proved him and the Tractarians wrong. Try putting it this way: our holy mother the church is an idea and feeling foreign to Anglicans. Historically the one-true-church-sounding rhetoric (the church vs. Dissenting Protestants) was really propping up the king and state, that church’s reason to independently exist. (The SAT word for that is Erastianism. Didn’t the old high churchmen recognize bishopless continental Protestants when it was diplomatically useful for England?) The old high churchmen, Tractarians and Anglo-Catholics, like the Catholics and the Orthodox, thought their denomination had a set of infallible, irreformable doctrine (the appeals to the church fathers to claim legitimacy for the new church?), but actually everything is up for a synodal/convention vote (formal apostasy is only a vote away), which is why Bishop Jones isn’t an Episcopalian. His side lost! (Like with Fr Bob Hart and company, I’m not one of them but I respect them.) The Articles are obviously Protestant but he makes the case that classical Anglicanism isn’t really Calvinist either. (There was the Episcopal Church’s old name, the Protestant Episcopal Church, which Anglo-Catholics, a minority, spun to sound like the Orthodox – not under Rome but with Catholic bishops – but I think most members did and do think of themselves in the obvious meaning of the word. I understand most Episcopal priests now don’t, but they’re obviously not Anglo-Catholic in the old sense of mostly agreeing with the Catholic Church. They probably don’t want to be lumped in with Southern Baptists.) Rather, he says, the Calvinism in his circle is recent, by way of American Evangelicalism. But wasn’t English Evangelicalism, which there refers to part of the Church of England, always at least part-Calvinist? (That’s partly where the Reformed Episcopal Church came from theologically, reacting against Anglo-Catholicism: Presbyterians with Prayer Books. They’ve since semi-high churched, contradicting their original reason to exist, and joined up with the Harts and Joneses.) I’m not mad at the Episcopalians. A marriage conversion a generation ago put me among them to learn high church when, after Vatican II, the church locally wanted nothing to do with it. Thanks. But they are what they are. Out of respect for them I don’t dwell on that now. Funny how they’re our liberal Protestant opponents theologically but often still allies in the worship (old-school liturgical vs. non) wars. By the way high church originally referred to authority (king, bishop, infallible church) and not ceremonial.
  • A Catholic convert on reading Orthodox writers. More. Essentially yes. Longtime readers know my lines: the best unique things about Orthodoxy that Western Catholicism can and should relearn are grassroots/down-home traditionalism, which is why the Orthodox rite was never Novus Ordo-fied, thank God, and what I think is Leonid Ouspensky’s view of icons as halfway between Western church art and a sacramental presence. Corporate reunion, sacramentally possible (sacramentally they’re Catholic), won’t happen: at most you’ll get more Greek Catholics. Matthew’s right about the lack of moral theology. You have at best an ethnic folk Catholicism, which is great, but without an intellectual fortress like scholasticism (some Orthodox have borrowed it) to fall back on, so you get problems like caving on contraception. (Most of the sexual issues moderns think are ‘Catholic things’ were, before the mid-1900s, common Christian teaching. The Orthodox position on divorce and remarriage doesn’t make sense in theory but interestingly isn’t a historic bone of contention between the sides; in practice it makes sense, so the wronged party and family would survive.) On purgatory, prayer for the dead makes no sense without an intermediate state so they really do believe in it but they don’t call it that. A friend recently quoted this to me from Charles Coulombe about the strengths and weaknesses of the two sides: ‘In the West, tradition is swallowed up by authority, while in the East, authority is swallowed up by tradition.’ Rome has the great St Thomas Aquinas backing it up but still (not affecting doctrine of course) shot itself in the foot with Vatican II. The Orthodox, a minority here, take a bye on the culture wars and secularists pretty much patronize them or leave them alone because they’re not a threat; the secularists attack the Catholic Church and Evangelicals instead. By the way I’ve never met born Orthodox devoted to the Jesus Prayer etc. but so many writers, usually non, say that’s big in Orthodoxy. Long story short, a great thing about being Catholic is, unlike the Orthodox most of the time, they don’t tell you to hate the other tradition.