It seems that I’ve rustled the feathers of my recent Episcopalian acquaintance. He has responded with something that I think he wishes to present as an argument for excluding my view. Who would have guessed that such inclusive folks could be so exclusive?
The reply is riddled with the typical left wing clap trap and moralistic superciliousness. But fortunately it gives me an opportunity, to point out another example of exactly what I pointed out previously, namely that what is offered there and being offered nationally by TEC is not Christianity, but something else. If you read the reply, there is no shortage of fallacious material to which to respond. Here he was quite generous and liberal.
The narrative grid in which my opponent places his response is that of fear. The root cause of all evil in the world, and specifically bad theology, you see, is fear. We construct grand systems of “oppression” and “separation” out of “fear.” We then become a mental ostrich loosing all sense, justifying “homophobia” and an army other left wing political bogymen. That might explain why he’s seemingly afraid of my view.
I would have thought that the basis for all bad theology would be to reject what God has revealed and taught. Notice the standard for good theology and bad theology is not what God has revealed but in some parochial disposition. But why take this culture’s disposition at this time as normative? The gloss that is given is also rather self serving and is in fact an idol of my interlocutors’ construction. It seems hard to find anything in what he professes that could point out error or failing in any of the left wing causes he seems to favor. Are left wing ideologies somehow morally perfect and exempt form the thirst for power? I seriously doubt they were immaculately conceived. (It seems I have problems with that notion across the board.) He is simply mirroring and projecting his own preferences, but we need a reason to think that his preferences are the right ones to have.
Appeals to “fear” and other emotional states are either too nebulous or question begging to do any argumentative work. In some cases, fear can be good. It depends on whether the fear is unwarranted or not. So what is the dividing line in that case are the reasons as to whether what is feared is warranted or not and not fear itself.
To gloss my opposition to non-Christian beliefs as rooted in fear is not only an ad hominem but is an exercise in poisoning the well. But suppose my opposition to non-Christian beliefs is rooted in an irrational fear. This doesn’t imply that my position is false. It is entirely possible as a matter of logic to have false premises and a true conclusion. What my interlocutor needs to show is that what I am adhering to is in fact false. Readers will look in vain for any such demonstration.
As for the litany of left wing bogymen such as sexism, classicism, homophobia and racism that my opponent puts forward, they need to be divvyed up. As for racism, I don’t think there is such a thing as race biologically speaking. To think there is, concedes all the ground KKK bigots need and that is ground I am not willing to give up. Frankly, race is a silly idea in terms of a social construction. This doesn’t mean it can’t have real effects but that says nothing as to whether I should entertain it. This is why I consistently speak in terms of ethnicities as forms of life. (Blame that on Merrill Ring, my undergraduate Wittgenstinian professor.) If my opponent wishes to accuse me of adhering to Christian teaching out of racism, he’ll need to actually demonstrate it. For the record, I am Irish, English, German and Scottish on my Father’s side and Italian on my mother’s side. My wife is Cuban and I go to a Greek Church which has a fair amount of recent immigrants from East Africa. I grew up in large measure in ethnically diverse Orange County, CA. My high school alone was over 40% Asian with about 2,000 students. So please, spare me the race card. It seems instead that my Episcopal interlocutor needs to hold on to these phobias and false views as an excuse not to face the reality that he has embraced an idol of his own making and not Christianity at all.
As for “homophobia” I simply deny that this is an appropriate category and even if it were, I deny that it is applicable to me. I am no more homophobic than I am suffering from a phobia concerning polyamorous persons. Even if it were applicable, it wouldn’t follow that my arguments for thinking such behavior is immoral are false. Furthermore, there is no scientific demonstration that people are genetically “hard wired” to be “gay” or even genetically disposed. There are some studies that show a weak correlation but correlation (strong or weak) doesn’t imply causation. And even if it were so, genetic disposition isn’t necessarily exculpatory. People are still held responsible for their genetically disposed behavior both morally and legally. So this would leave the question of the ethical status of the behavior untouched. One needs to show, and not assume that such behavior as genetically disposed is morally benign. The former doesn’t necessarily entail the latter. And even Queer Theorists argue against homosexuality being genetically disposed. The reason they do so is simple. If it were, this would put the state in a position to genetically screen out homosexuals in the womb (pick your poison-pro-abortion or pro-gay?) or single them out for discrimination. This is why a good number of Queer Theorists designate homosexuality as a preference or orientation. The notion that people are born gay because as far back as far as they can remember amounts to anecdotal evidence at best. Anyone with any significant background in human psychology realizes that there is no good inference here from the age of a belief is thought to have been possessed and its supposed tie to genetics.
He then argues that prejudices against homosexuality crept into the Scriptures. But this is not only undemonstrated, but it is question begging, since we’d need to know that such behavior was moral and sanctioned by God as morally permissible to know that Scripture had been corrupted. How do we know that? Apparently prejudices against having sex with animals “crept” into Scripture too. He is also highly and capriciously selective about what cultural artifacts he approves in the OT. Agrarianism is good and in the OT and therefore moral, but somehow OT sexual morality is out. Something is wrong when one molds scripture (including its canon) to one’s pre-selected political ideologies. Who said Marcionism is dead?
He argues that even in the “few” places where the OT mentions homosexuality (only supposedly male to male) that it did so for cultural reasons, specifically the social need to reproduce. Of course, this is assumed, and not demonstrated, to be the reason why such views were accepted. We’d need a reason to think that was the reason for its inclusion in the OT. Strangely, this material is found in the NT as well. Second, the frequency of appearance is irrelevant as the same scriptures spend little time prohibiting bestiality or incest. Why I wonder is incest between two consenting adults, brother and sister, mother and son or two brothers or two sisters immoral? Current legal restrictions and moral condemnation can’t be based on the need to reproduce or genetic defects since in the earlier mentioned cases contraceptives and vasectomies work just fine and homosexuals can’t reproduce either. In the latter cases, it is not possible for two brothers or two sisters to reproduce, so why I wonder is it immoral for my opponent? Given that France has already legalized incest it seems TEC is behind the curve. Third, I wasn’t aware that the need to reproduce ceased sometime in the last generation. Every generation is one generation away from extinction. Fourth, even if cultural prejudice was the reason for the prohibition’s inclusion, it doesn’t follow that the prohibition is wrong. Fifth, in terms of sexuality morality, the Hebrews of the OT Law were quite distinct in terms of sexual morality from the surrounding cultures so the argument for cultural dependence ignores the cultural context. As far as prohibiting only male to male relations, this is clearly a mistake. Paul and other non-Christian sources seem quite aware that it applies to women to women relations as well. Such a view not only convicts the Christian church of serious moral error but also Judaism. Here the real face of this line of reasoning surfaces as a subtle form of anti-Semitism. Why is it that liberals never castigate orthodox and conservative Jews as homophobes for holding the same supposedly corrupted immoral views grounded in “fear?” Make no mistake. This is not an argument about distinctly Christian morality, but an older one between Judaism and the pagans.
On the other hand, the practice of sodomy was itself based on a faulty biology, namely that the man contained within himself either entirely the power to reproduce or had fully formed human beings that he merely deposited in women as a host. Hence the Hellenistic attitude that women were simply malformed men. Sodomy then was practiced to make weaker and more effeminate men masculine by injecting them with the power of stronger males. After all, isn’t sex about power for moderns?
Continuing the line of reasoning from the need to reproduce, my Episcopal adversary argues that the prohibition on spilling one’s seed is evidence of such a culturally conditioned source. Of course this is question begging and not a demonstration that the prohibition was in the first place culturally conditioned or derived. Next, the example I believe is the sin of Onan, which was not necessarily coitus interruptus but the refusal to provide an heir in specific circumstances. So this isn’t evidence of the origination of a socially conditioned or derived belief, but of a pre-existing legal norm that one person deviates from following. As for masturbation it isn’t hard to see how it contravenes biblical morality apart from any concern for social survival. Last I checked narcissism wasn’t a biblical virtue.
And of course he just has to bring up the fact that Jesus never brings up homosexuality. Well, of course that’s true. But of course this is fallacious and poor reasoning in so many wonderfully self deluding ways. It is a good example of paralogistic reasoning, where the difference between a paralogism and a sophism is that the latter deceives only the hearer into thinking the reasoning is truth preserving whereas the former deceives the speaker and the hearer. Jesus never mentioned lots of things, including bestiality or incest. Does he wish to argue that TEC should modify its annual blessing of the animals? Second, this is an argument from silence so such a fact could just as easily imply that Jesus disapproved it. At best, the reasoning is idle and proves nothing, in which case it can’t serve to support his case. In fact, anyone who has seen A Man For All Seasons knows that the legal principle is that silence implies consent with a stated norm. Third, Jesus clearly delineates the divine intention for heterosexual relations in the context of marriage as any good Rabbi would. (Matthew 19:5) And if Jesus had held such a view of approving homosexuality and all of his contemporaries were morally wrong, it seems odd that he was never accused of such a thing or never denounced his opponents but I suppose that’s just a point at which Jesus failed to manifest “Spirit.” But who needs Jesus after all?
Then he accuses Paul of contradiction by including women to women sexual behavior which supposedly contradicts Gal 3 where Paul speaks of there not being any male or female in Christ. Huh?!? I am not even sure I can reconstruct what the supposed reasoning is supposed to be here. If we take Gal 3 in the way that he and other liberals wish to, practically everything in the NT is incoherent on the subject of human sexuality. I suspect that is the unspoken intention. It doesn’t take a particularly bright exegete to see that the context is baptism and union with Christ. Baptism into Christ does not eliminate sexual difference but opposition. This is clear from the other examples that Paul gives. The two men, Jew and Greek, master and slave are made one in the body of Christ since they are in union with Christ. This is fully in line with what Paul says about how masters and slaves, Jew and Greek, husbands and wives are to relate. First to the Jew, then to the Gentile, but the Gentiles return the favor. The same kind of reciprocating relationship is in place with masters and slaves and husband and wives. The biblical notion of headship doesn’t imply subordination or inequality since the head of Christ is God the Father, without any opposition or inequality. (1 Cor 11) The problem with my Episcopal dialog partner is that he imports a dialectical way of understanding the sexes.
He then tries to use statements from Paul where he differentiates his own judgment from what he received from Christ to argue that such prohibitions are Paul’s opinion. Of course, Paul never says that his views on sexual morality inside of marriage are his opinion. Certainly no other Apostle or church Father thought as much. He then argues that “a man in his cultural context would not have been enlightened about gender and orientation issues.” Well this is question begging since it assumes what needs to be proved. Where exactly is the demonstration that Paul and Jewish morality on this point are wrong? It further assumes distinctions that the Bible does not make and are philosophically questionable, namely the distinction between sex and gender. It is always quite interesting to me that those who harp about how “enlightened” they are on sexuality seem to implicity reject Darwinism at just this point. If Darwinism is true, you are your body and that includes your plumbing. If you think otherwise, then this is a false belief nature has produced in you and nothing more. So which is it, the “enlightened” view of Darwinism or the “enlightened” view of gender and orientation?
“Not to be too crass, but I couldn’t give two shits if Athanasius refused to break bread with me…I’m pretty sure a person named Jesus would.”
Really? Jesus would break bread with someone who denies him? Last I checked, Jesus wasn’t too hip on those who denied him before men. Apparently Arius did end up giving “two shits” just before he died. (Let the reader understand.)
And of course our Episcopalian opponent here doesn’t fail to fling the race card once again.
“As for the church and the apostolic tradition—it took years for the church to fight the Civil rights battle and the women’s rights movement, and the church was behind the curve of the rest of society.”
This is a highly selective view of the matter and one that betrays gross historical ignorance and parochialism. Last I checked, the church did a fair amount against slavery under the emperors Theodosius and Justinian, eventually practically eradicating it. Slavery had to be reintroduced from non-Christian sources from the Middle East and North Africa. To be fair, the Popes too did a fair amount to curtail it in the west and this extended even into the colonial period of South America. And let me give the Puritans their fair share. The halls of Princeton University have pictures (dare I say icons?) of Native American divines. This attitude was carried through the majority of Northern colonies and then states, which reflected a more biblical outlook rather than the southern Democratic view which was far more indebted to an Aristotelian political viewpoint. In the US, the liberals weren’t the only ones working for the end of segregation. My Episcopalian acquaintance here misidentifies Christians with Southerners of a racist disposition. Plenty of morally conservative Jews had a hand in the Civil Rights movement. Anyone with a college education should know better than to make these kinds of hasty generalizations. Remarks like these betray the worst kind of intellectual snobbery and bigotry, the self assured kind. Besides, even if some Christians were wrong on the Civil Rights issue (they were), it in no way follows that since liberals were right there, that they are right everywhere else. This has all the marks of a slippery slope.
He then argues that of course the same thing is taking place with respect to homosexuality. Well this begs the question. Is homosexuality morally benign or not? If it is, why not incest between two (or more) consenting adults? (There’s nothing magic about the number two, that’s a Christian tradition too that liberals for some reason wish to retain.) He then stumbles into moralistic remarks about God revealing his love for everyone, but somehow I think this fails to include the incestuous. Why? Doesn’t God love brothers who love each other? I mean, who is this person to exclude their love as genuine love, right? Who’s to say that its not real love after all?
And then there is the kicker of the “the 10 percent of folks born gay every year who are that way as God has made them and need not repent of that.”
I don’t think I could have asked for more here. The ten percent myth is derived from Kinsey who also used unrepresentative groups (some possibly from prison inmates). And second, a number of other studies have confirmed that the number of homosexuals in the US is significantly lower, ranging about 2.8-3.8%. If we add in bi-sexuals, transgendered and such we get about 5-6%, 8% tops. And no study to date established a genetic causal basis for homosexuality. Do these people ever read anything they disagree with? Not that they’d have to since the problems with Kinsey’s numbers and the ten percent myth made it into various liberal minded magazines years ago. Who’d have thought that illiteracy was a problem for Episcopalians? What’s next? An argument for “free love” grounded in the work of Margaret Mead?
As for being “born” homosexual, I’ve been “born” heterosexual with a genetic disposition to fornicate as much as possible, so I guess the church should bless that too eh? How can you say “no” to natural selection and why should I be blamed if I can’t? I was conceived that way? What are the four F’s after all but Fighting, Fleeing, Feeding and Reproducing? Why is it that homosexual behavior based on anecdotal psychological beliefs about the genetic grounding of said behavior, that are not scientifically confirmed, get a moral pass, but my genuine genetic dispositions don’t? Seems rather arbitrary if you ask me.
He then asserts that if we are concerned with the sanctity of marriage we will extend this status to “LGBTQ” folks if they enter into committed relationships. Well, doesn’t this depend on the definition of “sanctity?” (Lewis’ Screwtape comes to mind here on defining terms.) Curiously he leaves out the polygamous and the incestuous. Why not approve of those too? And why limit it to “committed” relatonships?
It always amazes me that people on the other side can’t seem to imagine any plausible reasons for denying marriage to “LGBTQ.” Here are some. To those who provide the benefits, go the benefits. Heterosexuals provide something that homosexuals can’t without circumventing nature in extraordinary costly ways and certainly not in significant numbers. Heterosexual marriage provides future taxpayers, soldiers and citizens. A heterosexual couple in marriage can provide and model behavior for children in ways that neither homosexuals nor opposite sex surrogates can.
Here are some more. The state does not define marriage. The state recognizes marriage that gave rise to the state and upon which the state depends. (Not everything in the polis is a matter of law.) Marriage pre-exists the state as a natural phenomenon (homosexual or incestuous marriage doesn’t.) The state is founded from families coming together in a partnership and so the relation is asymmetrical. Marriage is not a legal right as such since the state never granted it. Consequently, if the state were to define marriage it would be a power grab by the state. The state is making an implicit claim to autonomy and absolute power. Somehow, this fact of a totalizing state as a threat and as intrinsically immoral oppressive structure never seems to dawn on Episcopalians. Have they never read Augustine’s, The City of God? Here is another. When marriage is extended to homosexuals, the rate of heterosexual marriage declines and the rate of cohabitation increases and with that increase comes the increase of children raised in single parent homes and that is bad for the raising of children. The single leading contributing factor to poverty in the US is divorce and/or children conceived out of wedlock. But gee, that wouldn’t have any bearing on the plight of ethnic minorities on the lower end of the economic scale. Ya think?
Here are some more. The legalization of such “marriages” provides a principled basis to legalize polygamy and just about any form of marriage between any number of people or humans and non-humans. Eventually the definitional bubble will burst and marriage will be disestablished entirely, thereby eradicating any social distinction based on sexual behavior or association. For about three and half million years humans have had some form of marriage between men and women as a basis for human society and law. If one is to alter it in significant ways, one had better have a good idea what the consequences are for such a change. Homosexual “marriage” is the “Jurassic Park” of modernity. Nature is going to find a way to bite your arrogance in the ass. There is no such thing as a natureless person. Somehow the idea that such behavior could have significant negative social or economic consequences never seems to dawn on these people. It has dawned on the Germans. These arguments aren’t hard to come up with. I am not even trying. I am doing these off my head and I am not that smart either. Word has it that there’s some hick at some po-dunk school on the east coast who has other arguments too.
He chastises me for thinking on philosophical grounds that feminism is false and then proposes the idiotic definition of feminism as ““feminism is the radical idea that women are people and deserve rights.” If that’s feminism, then every single non-Borgia Pope has been a feminist as well as every medieval western monarch for the last fifteen centuries. I’ve read my fair share of Cixous, Irigaray, and MacKinnon thank you very much and feminism is something more than the slogan proffered. Besides, that’s an awfully anemic definition of feminism and I think too much of feminist philosophers to paste them with such simplistic slogans.
Then we come to the typical, “don’t put my faith in a box” speech.
“I we look at any religious text we can find good and bad, peace and war. All religious texts are influenced by the human hands that help produce them. We can try to fit our own faith into a box that lines up “correctly” with every doctrine, creed, formula and council that any governing religious body in power deems “official” or “orthodox.”
The fact that every religious text has human elements is neither here nor there. It doesn’t imply the truth or falsity of any given text. Nor does it imply that all religious texts come out the same when their truth claims are weighed. The inclusion of human elements doesn’t imply the lack of divine inspiration. What you see at work here is an implicit and hidden Christology in back of this theory of inspiration. On such a view, religious texts are “inspired” like Hallmark cards and so are only human productions. Since inspiration is a function of how the divine and human relate, this view presupposes an adoptionistic Christology from the get go. It is no accident then that the Church condemned these kinds of views of inspiration and methodologies since they presuppose a false Christology. (2nd Constantinople)
The easier problems to see with this statement is that is presupposes that the church that Jesus established and sustains is purely a human institution.
Then there is the final retreat to nebulous moralism with talk of the Bible’s emphasis on “Justice.” It is really quite annoying to someone who has taught ethical theory to hear people talk of “justice” when they can’t seem to define the term in any meaningful way, use it according to any recognized normative ethical theory, but rather employ it as a club to brow beat people that they look down on. It’s a code word for their particular form of self righteousness. And without fail we get the Gnosticizing Pelagianism, that if we just work that much harder, there’s a new world just around the corner. That kind of thinking has justified piles of dead bodies in the last century.
“A consistent thread that runs through all of Jewish and Christian scripture is one of Righteous Justice and care for the stranger. This culminates for Christians in working to establish Jesus’ Kingdom of God, a new system of living that lets all at the table, that seeks peace, mercy, justice and compassion, that seeks to let the last be first and restores this world to a better and fairer system, now and later.”
Do these people watch films at all? “ What a fool I’ve been Vassilli. There is no ‘new man.’ Man will always be man.” Or in the words of Jesus, “The poor you will always have with you.” I’m no enemy of the poor, but God doesn’t show favoritism to the poor at the expense of justice. (Ex 23:3) Again, a little Augustine’s, City of God here goes a long way. This world will always be mixed, including the church this side of the Last Judgment. This is why membership in the church, the kingdom of God does not entail membership in the City of God (final salvation). If one thinks that one can make the world perfect by “establishing Jesus kingdom” you are going to end up with a big stack of dead bodies (or lots of illicit sex) because every person is a means to an end. I much prefer Kant’s Kingdom of Ends to Marxist Gnosticism in sanctimonious Christian dress. And last I checked, Jesus establishes his own kingdom because Jesus is the king. This is why he states that his kingdom is not of this world. He doesn’t deny that it is in it, but that it doesn’t have its source in this world. Consequently, if Episcopalians think they can “establish” Jesus’ kingdom of God by their social work they are sadly mistaken and will only become he unwitting tools of secular totalizing ideologies to establish a moralistic massacre, much the same way that state churches in Europe did prior to WW2.
Furthermore, it is not possible to generalize this concern for “justice” and the “poor” to all religions since there is no common notion of what constitutes religion in the first place.
It is also doubtful that it is true of all religions. It certainly doesn’t seem to be true in Islam. Thirdly, even if it were so, it wouldn’t imply the idea is true. Noting the scope of a belief doesn’t imply its truth. My opponent here is a metaphysical squatter that I am philosophically evicting. He is thinking that he can have all the philosophical benefits of a Christian metaphysic without a commitment to it. He is going to have to bear his own metaphysical burden here and justify his belief in a deity and then how this grounds his ethical theory. Fourthly, there’s no reason why a secularist couldn’t affirm the kinds of nebulous moral sentiments here.
But just when you thought all was lost, my Episcopalian opponent appeals to tradition!
“Opponents of this “liberal” style Christianity argue that it’s new and doesn’t belong under the same umbrella as “their” Christianity.” Well, it’s not NEW. It is found in American theology way back in the Social Gospel movement of the 1920s and I argue that it goes back to the teachings of the historical Jesus, and back before that to the heart of the Torah and present in so many other places as well.”
Doesn’t this assume that it is a species of Christianity in the first place? And wow! The 1920’s you say? And…uh… that’s old? The Social Gospel movement puttered out my friend. And besides, it was the left over carcass of Puritanical Postmillenialism with a good dose of American Manifest Destiny thrown in for good measure. It was never a movement of its own. It was the last gasp of Postmillenial eschatology before the Great Depression and WW2 killed it off until the end of the century.
As for what the historical Jesus taught, we’d need a reason to think on independent grounds that what the historical Jesus taught was true. Why think that? Furthermore, the overwhelming majority of the left wing scholars he’d appeal to do not think we can know what the historical Jesus taught or did with any degree of certainty. This is reflected in the shift from liberals in historical Jesus studies who think we can know what the historical Jesus thought himself, to radicals, who think we can know what the early church thought Jesus taught. Consequently, his own scholarship cuts him off from the historical Jesus. He’ll have to appeal to more conservative scholars for arguments getting you back to the teachings of the historical Jesus.
And let me just cut to the chase, the division between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith is just redressed Nestorianism in the clothes of the Enlightenment Whore. There is no theory neutral analysis of history to be had, so there can be no legitimate division between those two. Every historical Jesus portrait is a Christ of faith, just different faiths. Every fact is analyzed in the context of a presupposed worldview and so the question is, how does one figure out which worldview is the right one by which to interpret the historical facts? I don’t think Episcopalians are really prepared to answer this question.
And ah, more about boxes.
“My faith doesn’t have to fit in a box. My faith doesn’t have to be a checklist in which I can prove I’m correctly following all of the teachings that trace through the doctrines voted by the powerful in Christianity as “right.” Since those that often won debates and votes in Christian councils were politically powerful and ruthless, I wonder if had Jesus been alive and involved at this point if his own words would be voted as “right” since he was neither ruthless or politically powerful.”
His professed faith couldn’t fit in a box since it would have to be something definite. This is the problem with aesthetes. They cannot commit absolutely to anything particular. The liberal Episcopal deity is the God that is everywhere in general but no where in particular. It is a deity of no commitments which is why it fosters a religion of moral leveling and ethical equivalence. Saints must be brought down by exposing some secret sin and sodomites must be brought up as true moral paragons. This is to teach us that there really is no good or evil, just pleasure.
“It strikes many fearful Christians as dangerous to step forward or claim any other modern inclusivity in their faith. My faith lives in 2010; I am at a point in history where we have been through the Enlightenment and full exposure to all of the myriad faiths of the world.”
Not only is this an ad hominem but specious in other ways. Perhaps Christians are concerned with truth and exchanging the truth for something false. The unexamined life is not worth living, because the unexamined life will be a life likely based on false beliefs. And these false beliefs will end up being harmful to you and not to your benefit. This is why we must examine our beliefs.
As for his faith living in 2010, I wasn’t aware that mine didn’t. Not only is this chronological snobbery mixed with a good amount of self righteousness, but it ignores the fact that the cultural fads that he embraces will fade and be passed by and so either his faith is perpetually in flux or it is an artifact of a specific time and place, a prime example of white upper class elitist parochialism. It has been rightly said, that we are never so influenced and shaped by our time and culture as when we think that we’re not.
As for the Enlightement, last I checked that project wasn’t going too well. The attempt to ground all knowledge in human reason or experience alone seems to be foundering. And the mention of a full exposure to different beliefs is really quite lame. If this is supposed to imply that no particular belief can be true, then this falsifies his own view. And it doesn’t seem as if the adherents of any other major world religion are giving up their claims to truth and exclusivity. Perhaps the Episcopalians should start traveling the world on an itinerant basis informing all the adherents of their gross ignorance. My recommendation is that they start in Saudi Arabia. Again, there is really no argument here, just more sloganeering and noxious superciliousness.
And don’t forget about the “assured results of higher criticism!”
“Archaeology, Biblical Criticism, and Academic work have shed new light on all sorts of ways of looking at ancient holy words and incorporating them freshly in our time. I have to either close my eyes and mind to much of this and keep my faith in that box to stay fully with every medieval Christian view. Or, I can open both. Is my God a God of Love? Of Justice? Of Truth and Knowledge? Yes, Yes, and Yes. So why not use that knowledge, use that love, and work for that Justice consistently? If my faith was about nothing but “right” belief, then nothing would ever get done. My type of faith insists good work be done and that love be shown. To argue against that is preposterous. I cannot envision a true God that would not want us to act on the side of Love, Peace, and Righteous Justice.”
As if the academic world was monolithic. There are plenty of conservative and moderate scholars who disagree with the kinds of judgments expressed here. Apparently he hasn’t read outside of the liberal box. But this is, and has been for some time, to the advantage of Christian scholars. By ignoring and failing to interact with scholars on the other side of the fence, they have left their position seriously underdefended and relied on the walls around the ivory tower of academic admissions to keep differing views out. What they have done is just produce more savvy and battle hardened biblical scholars who disagree and get published. Academics on the left have begun to pay the academic price for their sloth. The Markian Priority hypothesis is facing serious problems for example.
He asserts that it is preposterous to argue against the slogans of justice, love and such. But let’s take some Nietzsche and Darwin out for a test drive. Following the former, its hard to see how the idol that Episcopalians have created wasn’t created based on their need. They needed a view of the world that gave them comfort, respectability and approval and so they fashioned an idol for themselves. The emphasis on universal justice, love and such are just God substitutes. If God is genuinely dead, then these are just God substitutes. And by the death of God, I do not mean that an eternally existing being ceased to exist, but that that idea and all of its attending philosophical benefits is no longer capable of being held. If this person really wishes to reject Christianity, then he needs to face reality and stop playing “let’s pretend” game of modernity with his God substitutes of universal qualities that he mysteriously taps into. In Postmodern terms, its just another “skyhook.”
And now for some Darwin for good measure. If Darwin’s Naturalistic Evolutionary theory is correct, then nature disposes us to believe all kinds of things, irrespective of truth value. It may be that we enjoy some of these beliefs and their consequences over others, but nature has disposed us to do so, again, irrespective of truth value. There is then no privileged position from which to evaluate the belief that occurs in another organism since nature produces false beliefs and true beliefs across the board without a goal. Nature is not intentional. It is a world without design. In other words, nature doesn’t give a damn about truth. So it may be the case that we value “love”, “justice” and survival but it doesn’t follow that we ought to do so or that these are the right things to value. The behavior and belief that there are valued and seen as true don’t imply that there are such things as truth and value. Why then on this “Enlightenment” basis should I give any credence to the “faith” of modern Episcopalians? The problem here is that they haven’t taken their skepticism far enough to see really what it is going to cost them-everything. Read the label carefully before you buy.
There are other obvious problems with the above remarks, namely a false dichotomy. It isn’t either ignore new information or go back to the medieval era. If he thinks this is so, he needs to present an actual argument for it. What he needs to show is that what he is left with is distinctly Christian at all. If he thinks that modernity entails the rejection of core Christian commitments, then why call what is left over Christianity? This question has been conspicuously unaddressed. Episcopalians just assume that the remnants are legitimately called such. Its just another idol.