Friday, April 04, 2014

You Can't Probably Hold A Dogma

Again, this is why Newbigin's "Proper Confidence" is, with all due respect, a load of mess. "If God didn't say it, it doesn't matter." If humility leads one to say, "I cannot be absolutely certain of doctrine x, as opposed to doctrine y," the only reasonable course is to say, "I ought not assert doctrine x as religious dogma." In effect, this is what the Protestant world has effectively done by saying, "We're all united in the essentials" without saying what those essentials are: relativized doctrine for the sake of unity, caused by the cognitive dissonance of not being able--in good faith--to come to an agreement concerning the truths of faith under the oppressive regime of Sola Scriptura. In fact, someone like Rachel Held Evans isn't being dishonest in rejecting the theo-political Rightist Industrial Complex, because, as much sympathy as it may still garner over here, there is no mechanism, no God in the machine, to tell Rachel she's sold Christian doctrine for a bunch of cheap progressive boilerplate. There is no one holding the trump-card over her as she decides "what the Scripture says." It may be that she'd be less annoying if she'd simply say, "I hold these 21st century progressive political stances to be more important than some "traditional" view of x." (OK, she definitely would be.) But the point is, what if she doesn't know? "If it happens slow enough..." indeed. The political is all you have left, if you can't figure out what God said. You can deconstruct anything. And the maintenance of some semblance of recognizable Christian orthodoxy in the Protestant world relies on the inertia of previous consensus, and the Catholic Church.

As soon as you reject the fundamentalist/postmodernist assertion that say, the First Ecumenical Council was "tainted" by whatever, (N.B. Notice, they have different agendas, but the result is the same.) you are immediately confronted with the ad hoc-ness of accepting Nicea and Chalcedon, but rejecting Trent. Here's the particularly troubling thing: the charge of being arbitrary comes from several directions, not all of which lead to Christian faith, obviously. The atheist and the biblicist are very consistent in their principles. The trouble is, at best, the biblicist will be a Church of one, fortunate if he unwittingly adopts large portions of what we call the Sacred Tradition (like orthodox Christology, for example) on his quest through the Scriptures. He could just as soon end up like poor Ehrman: continuing down the decidedly Protestant path with its method, but having despaired of any notion that the God of Israel has anything to do with it.

So, if you're going to believe anything Christian, you need certainty, and you need a visible, infallible Church. And the truth is, brethren, you've been relying on her the whole time. Why not love the mother who has fed you the whole way?


aquinasetc said...

You might be interested to know that a lot of this post sounds a lot like Cardinal Newman in his Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent, which I am finally reading. :-)

Jason said...

Well, that's encouraging!