Dear Caelius: More On CWOB
My argument might well go something like this:
[A1] (1) If CWOB is forbidden, God is not omnipotent.
(2) God is omnipotent.
Thus, (3) CWOB is permitted.
I. On the Argument
I take it (3) follows (MT) from (1) and (2), and (2) is relatively uncontroversial. Yes, I realize that on divine omnipotence, being sympathetic to Aquinas, I am a bit of a dinosaur. Plenty of open and process theists would take me to task for holding to God's eternity, impassibility, immutability, and so on. But (a) I am pretty sure I can make Aquinas come out and hold his own, and (b) it is nice to be able to claim tradition on omnipotence--which I do here for (2) shamelessly. That is, I take it (2) is implied by the first article of the Nicene Creed; stepping away from impassibility, immutability, and in short omnipotence a la Aquinas is in effect stepping away from the cognitive content of the Creeds. Even for Episcopalians.
Sure, perhaps the open/process crowd is right and I am wrong. Even so, let us agree that if I am wrong about omnipotence, so are the creeds. And perhaps stepping away from the cognitive content of the creeds is inevitable (Virgin birth?); even so, we should realize the gravity of stepping away from the cognitive content of the creeds on the nature of God. That is, I should think, no light matter.
The real sticky part of my argument then is (1): What is the claimed connection between omnipotence and CWOB? I should be mighty surprised if I could claim mainline Christian tradition for (1); in fact, I do not. But I do claim to be developing doctrine within the mainline Christian tradition, in the technical sense of "development" softened somewhat from Newman for Anglican consumption. E.g. I would expect the entire communion of saints departed is in favor only of CWOB, and as they wash their robes before the throne, they ask "How long, O Lord, before CWOB is universal practice? O how long?"
II. How Long, O Lord?
Here is another argument, intended to hold [A1] (1) up:
[A2] (1) Suppose CWOB is forbidden.
(2) If CWOB is forbidden, then God cannot save all human beings.
(3) If God is omnipotent, then God can save all human beings.
Thus, (4) God is not omnipotent.
There is, then, a clear and logical connection between forbidding CWOB and God not being omnipotent. Of course, it follows there is a clear and logical connection between forbidding CWOB and stepping away from the cognitive content of the creeds on the nature of God.
I take it (3) is very weak, and though many might balk at it, it can be given a very strong defense--in fact, it strikes me there are a number of ways (at first blush, a la Banez, a la Molina, and a la Ockham) of mounting a defense. I'll save that for my next post; my point is I do not anywhere have to appeal to Origen. People, please!
The trouble with [A2] is (2)--the purported connection between forbidding CWOB and God's being unable to save all human beings. Here is another argument, this one meant to uphold [A2](2):
[A3] (1) If God can save all humans beings, we are obligated to hope that God does save all human beings.
(2) If we are obligated to hope that God does save all human beings, then CWOB is permitted.
(3) Suppose CWOB is forbidden.
Thus, (4) God cannot save all human beings.
There is, as [A3] shows, a clear and logical connection between forbidding CWOB and holding God is unable to save all of us. The heart of the matter is stated in [A3](3), I think: if we have to hope that God saves all of us, then we may open up the Eucharist to all. That is to say, the church must live with a certain hope, a hope for something possible to be sure, and its sacramental practice should be consistent with that hope. If indeed we are to hope all things, we will hope that each person is to be saved, and as such we will hope that they have a place at the communion table with us.
Why go so far? And it is, truly, going far. Note well that we are in a position with regard to ourselves baptized that is exactly the same as the position we have with regard to others unbaptized. In neither case can we be sure of salvation. Just as I cannot tell whether another is saved or not, I cannot tell--nobody here below can tell--whether I am saved or not. Surely baptism does not imply salvation--is that a position upheld in tradition? Nor does failure to be baptized imply damnation. Yet only salvation is relevant to determining permission for sitting at the table. I am permitted to hope that I am saved, and that is the basis on which I approach the table, vices and all. Baptism alone would be insufficent to confer permission if it happened that baptized, I were--alas--damned. Baptism may or may not regenerate; even so, it does not imply salvation, much less knowledge of salvation. Just so, I am permitted to hope that another is saved--baptized or not--and on the basis of that hope permit the other to approach the table with me.
Another way of putting the heart of the matter, so far as I can see, is that Eucharistic practice should look forward to the end of all things. Sacraments participate--to use heavy, Platonic-sounding language--in another reality which is not yet fully present. Moreover: they derive their entire signifiance for us from a full presence not yet fully present, but only partially with us. Our practice is maimed if it refuses to look forward with hope--but this is to say it is maimed if it refuses to look forward with hope that all humans are saved. And that is to say it is maimed if it refuses to hope that all may have a place at the table together.
[ADDED: For what it's worth, much of the last bit of my argument here--which I have spent some time defending in rather roundabout prose--can be formalized this way:
(1)If the church is permitted to hope that all humans are saved, then it is permitted to act on the hope that all humans are saved.
(2)The church is permitted to hope that all humans are saved.
Thus, (3) the church is permitted to act on the hope that all humans are saved.
I take it not to be too far to reach to say that open communion--i.e. CWOB--is a type of action the church would undertake, hoping that all humans are saved.]