Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I Dreamed A Dream

I keep having the same dream. A dream about reconciliation. [You mean Reconciliation?--ed.] No. Besides, that's an ever-present reality. I dream that one day, a wound will be healed. It must be a powerful desire, because this is the sixth time I've had the dream.

As if by some divine comedic coincidence, the theme for this day is reconciliation and reunification. I pray that it will occur. Though I cannot say for certain that I feel ready, and filled with enough grace to facilitate it, I pray for this, also.

That Barrett guy is at it again. We were colleagues at seminary for a brief time, and I've become a friend of the family. I envy him, the clear way that he thinks and the dispassionate way he makes an argument. You can get under my skin. I think less clearly when I'm angry or upset. Turner? Good luck. He's like a Vulcan or something.

What I find most insidious about the prevailing flavor of the Protestant hermeneutical paradigm (HP) is that there are no "barriers" to be overcome at all. Our visible separations from one another are a curiosity, not a scandal. A far cry from even Barth, who had a rare moment of lucidity in rejecting this nonsense as the relativism it is.

If ecumenism is to be productive, relativism in all its forms must be rejected. We must move beyond appreciation of theological particulars we do not share, we must move beyond warm affirmations, as though these are the end we seek. I myself and the Catholic Church generally already believes that the Holy Spirit is powerfully at work in those separated from the Church. By baptism, these Christians have a real but imperfect communion with the Church. No one has ever said that no one outside the confines of the Church has said anything true concerning the gospel. Were that the case, we would have very little to talk about. I'm getting off the track.

If we reject the relativistic conception of the Protestant HP, a question arises within the paradigm: by what means do I ascertain the truth about God? Exactly what purpose does ecclesiastical authority serve? We agree together that the church's authority is not absolute, nor free from error. But we also agree that my interpretation of the Bible is similarly provisional. That is not to say of course that the processes employed have no value. But it is problematic on the face of it for figuring out why, or rather, how, we believe what we do.

Adding in the scads of other communities doing the same thing, laboring under the same terms with the same questions, and you have a full-blown crisis, if anyone cares to notice. People are dropping out of church everywhere. Either wherever they are doesn't "work for them," or they are disgusted, because no one cares about the truth.

If you would like to shoot the messenger because I'm Catholic, fine. But I'm an idiot; if I saw the problem, I won't be the last. I don't necessarily need or want to convince you that the Catholic HP is better at this time. If I had but one apologetic point to make, it would be that, if I had a choice between knowing nothing, and knowing what the Catholic Church teaches, I'll be Catholic. Ultimately, we're talking about nihilism versus Christianity, not about particulars, in the end. On the other hand, if we want to know what those particulars are, and how to find them, well, "Vizzini told me to go back to the beginning..." Ahem.

If denominations are simply social clubs that codify personal theological preference, then I suggest we have done a horrible thing to the world. But if they are instead communities of people committed in each case to the truth of the gospel as they understand it, and as it has been transmitted to them, then the authority and ability of those communities to define and transmit truth necessarily comes under scrutiny. This is precisely why history is of such vital importance.

But it goes without saying that we cannot long for unity, and actively prevent it at the same time. Certainly we should reject any ecumenism that does not aim at reunion. Those who do not even desire visible unity cheapen the convictions of those who separated in the first place, and the convictions of those who remain separate from one another in conscience. Because those communities were formed to guard truth, not to add color. It's time to kill the false ecumenism, no matter how good it sounds. On the other hand, how can one guard the sacred deposit without divine protection?

To look at history and inquire concerning legitimate authority is actually to ask, "Are my convictions well-founded? Are we the faithful continuance of the Church Christ founded?"

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