January 27, 2011

The missing QED

One would be hard pressed to prove — as the Articles of Religion require, from Scripture — that belief in heterosexual marriage is necessary to salvation. Lacking that demonstration, it cannot be a matter of the faith.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG


WSJM said...

There are actually many doctrines that we would be hard pressed to prove from Scripture as necessary for salvation (per the A of R). Heterosexual monogamy, for instance. (I'm not arguing for polygamy! But the arguments against polygamy are only indirectly Scriptural, and even then I'm not sure that mono- vs. poly- is a matter de fide.)

A good point, Tobias!

(Or, as WV suggests, "notabla")

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks, WS. That is so true about many of the "pastoral theology" issues. On heterosexual marriage, the Articles were only willing to go as far as "an estate allowed." To press beyond that is to wander away from the Scriptural record. As you note, monogamy is derived principally from non-Scriptural reasoning, except for clergy -- if that is what "one woman's man" means.

My point here, as you observe, is directed at those who suggest that support for same-sex marriage is an abandonment of "the faith."

Fr. J said...

I don't know of anyone who would argue that "belief in heterosexual marriage" is an issue of salvation. But for that matter, I can't see how "belief in" any moral precept is a matter of salvation. And yet, to teach others to be immoral would certainly be a hindrance to one's relationship with God, wouldn't you agree?

You seem to define faith in very narrow terms. Is morality not a part of faith? Does scripture not have authority in matters of morality?

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Fr. J., briefly:

Q. To teach others to be immoral would certainly be a hindrance to one's relationship with God, wouldn't you agree?
A. Yes. Of course, there is not full agreement on what is "immoral," which is the nub of the current disagreements.

Q. Is morality not a part of faith?
A. Yes, it is not. "Moral" or "Pastoral" Theology is not to be confused with Systematic or Dogmatic Theology. Matters of faith require a very high standard of proof, and clear support from Scripture.

Q. Does scripture not have authority in matters of morality?
A. For Christians, scripture does have authority on morals to the extent that it is in accord with the moral teaching of Christ, and only thus far.

If you disagree with these answers, and wish to make a case to the contrary, please do, either here or at your own blog. From my perspective, these are the classical Anglican answers.

Tim said...

Fr. Tobias,

As usual, a razor-sharp and quick insight which causes me to lose far too much work-time thinking about it. Bravo.

I would be most interested if you could more fully develop your comments regarding 'Matters of Faith' as you see/know them, how one would consider such a matter reaching the standard of proof and whether or not personal experience (via either reason or revelation) can and/or should play a role in that.

One very small only matter I would call into question is use of the word 'Christians' in the third statement. Your positions may be orthodoxy for an Anglican, but fundamentalist evangelicals are also Christians and they would have serious issue with your thoughts regarding the authority of scripture.

Benedict XVI does not speak for all those in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. He only speaks for the Roman Catholics (and some days, only for a small group of them).

Please excuse if this seems pedantic, but those sorts of over generalizations are a sore spot.



Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks Tim. There is certainly much here that could be spun out further. I'm basing the comments about Faith in relation to Scripture on the 39 Articles, which (in Article VIII) even accept the Creeds because they are consonant with Scripture. It is as the Lambeth Quad said, "the ultimate standard of faith" while the Creeds are the "sufficient statement of the Christian faith." This is Anglican minimalism pure and simple.

I take your point about "Christians" -- what I was thinking was Christians as opposed to Jews, and that in general. I know there are a few sects of Christians who still feel that all are bound by all of the laws of Moses, for instance. My point was not to deny "morality" to those of other traditions or none at all.

Thanks again,

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

An example might be helpful> To say, "murder is wrong" requires no creed or faith. Moral issues can and do arise which need have no revelation or doctrinal underpinning, and on which conclusions are identical across very different, and sometimes opposed, faith traditions.

Morality can derive from entirely philosophical or metaphysical understandings, without respect to faith or creed.

My point in all of this is in part to address the Global South folks who insist that changes in policy involving sexuality represent an assault on the faith rather than innovations in moral thinking; and to affirm that one can be a devout Christian and support the ordination of partnered gay or lesbian persons, or the marriage of same-sex couples.

I do think that requiring assent to this would be just as wrong as requiring the contrary. It is telling that the conservative and neo-Puritan wing project their own desire for unanimity on others. I am speaking about tolerance for diversity of opinion on a matter upon which the old consensus has dissolved, Lambeth 1998.1.10 notwithstanding. (The resolution was neither unanimous nor has it shown indication of "reception" in the whole church.)

Tim said...

Thank you for your comments. I would hope that the 39 articles would accept the Nicene/Apostle/Athanasian creeds, since the first 5 articles are a re-iteration of these creeds. :)

*chuckles* a few sects. Yes, quite.

I think I see where you are going, specifically in regard to morality vis a vis faith.

Regarding unanimity, I would say this: There are four regularly accepted gospels, telling (at least) 3 distinctly different stories about the same events and the same people. Why would we expect any less polity, or any less difficulty in consensus, from our church?

Fr. J said...

Well, you have inspired me, for better or for worse. I've started a new blog for these ruminations since my parish blog is not really designed for this kind of thing. And the first thing I've done is to write about the Bible and morality:


Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks, Tim. I suspect the Anglican Article writers would have put it the other way around, but this becomes somewhat chicken and eggish at a certain point. Deriving a clear Trinitarian theology from Scripture is dicey at best, and it did take a few hundred years fully to be articulated. Same with what we came to understand as the Chalcedonian definition of the Incarnation. The "Scriptural" basis gets very thin, though I think it is there. But this is precisely where Reason comes in, as Hooker understood it, allowing what is "between the lines" to be articulated. Scripture "plainly delivers" that God is, and that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, in words of one syllable. But it says nothing "plain" of three hypostases in one ousia or the theotokos! These doctrines must be derived through Reason, and then become part of the Tradition.

Fr. J., I look forward to your new blogsite! Blessings and joy as you explore these issues, which are very important for our present explorations. I will visit, and perhaps comment from time to time!

Philoctetes said...

Forgive my display of ignorance but where in Scripture does it say that all Christian doctrine must be proven from Scripture?

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Ah, J Calvin, you have raised a good question. Scripture itself nowhere demands that only Scripture can be used to prove Christian doctrine. As Hooker observed,

"Because we maintain that in Scripture we are taught all things necessary unto salvation; hereupon very childishly it is by some demanded, what Scripture can teach us the sacred authority of the Scripture...? As though there were any kind of science in the world which leadeth men into knowledge without presupposing a number of things already known... Our belief... is that the Scriptures are the oracles of God himself. This in itself we cannot say is evident... The question then being by what means we are taught this; some answer that to learn it we have no other way than only tradition; as namely that so we believe because we from our predecessors and they from theirs have so received. But is this enough?...The first outward motive leading men so to esteem of the Scripture is the authority of God's Church... Afterwards the more we bestow our labor in reading or hearing the mysteries thereof, the more we find that the thing itself doth answer our received opinion concerning it... Wherefore if I believe the Gospel, yet is reason of singular use, for that it confirmeth me in this my belief the more." Laws, III.VIII.13f

In other words, the ultimate test is really Reason (and the Church) confirming the Scripture.

Unless someone digs up the Lost Gospel of Gödel we are back to the primacy and necessity of Reason; a notion some just won't accept!

Philoctetes said...

Dear Fr Tobias
Many thanks for the quote from Hooker (a sane voice amid the cacophany of those who would be the true interpreters of the Bible).

Brother David said...

OK, I need a Hooker paraphrase, because that English is VERY difficult for me. After I have read a paragraph of that I am more confused than had I remained ignorant and not read it at all!

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Dear Hermano D., I'm a bit backed up just now with other work, but I'll look into a translation into modern English!