Saturday, June 23, 2007

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:

[A4]
(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.]

33 Comments:

At 9:12 PM, Blogger Derek the Ænglican said...

Scotist--you can drive a truck through the theological issues contained in your very first premise if it's the one referred to several posts down. Starting with the assumption of universal salvation? C'mon, you can do better than that...

 
At 3:28 AM, Blogger Jon said...

If it were only a matter of God's power we would probably have to say that everyone will be saved, but God's omnipotence isn't the only factor. Salvation hangs on each person choosing for or against God. It is clear that we are only able to make the choice by God's grace and that it may be that everyone will be saved since God may well be the ultimate in persuasiveness, but CWOB should almost certainly be forbidden under this understanding of salvation because CWOB skips past the point of decision.

Jon

 
At 12:57 PM, Anonymous D. C. said...

Scotist, I like your argument. With no apologies whatsoever to the infamous Arnaud Amaury, I might riff on it as follows: Feed them all; God will know his own.

 
At 2:13 PM, Blogger bls said...

I don't understand what salvation has to do with Communion?

 
At 6:34 PM, Blogger Dharmashaiva said...

Deus non alligatur sacramentis. And you can take that to the bank.

 
At 9:06 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

Derek,

I think that the argument here stands on its own. Please take it separately from the sloppier, wishy-washy one several posts down.

Then, I was only thinking in terms of steps, not premises and conclusions. Now my position has hardened considerably to the point where the structure seems like translucent crystal.

Now, as to your complaint about my premises, please see if you can refer to which one begs the question. I have identified them so that such claims will be easier to address.

 
At 9:08 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

Jon,

I am not convinced at all by your claim.

Please tell me why your consent is a necessary condition of your salvation.

Why cannot God save the notorious, unrepentant sinner if God wishes to do so? Do you have a "right" here? Maybe you do. Go and make a case.

 
At 9:09 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

bls,

What's not to understand?

 
At 9:15 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

Dharmashaiva,

"God is not bound to the sacraments"--you've got that right, in my humble opinion. That's my ace in all this though.

Pray tell, as I am genuinely curious: where are you getting it? Via Baptist theology? It wouldn't come out of Theravada Buddhism--no?

 
At 9:18 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

Thanks D.C.

It's one that can be made from a Rahner/ Barth point of view, a Bonda/ Talbott point of view (though they would go much further, IMHO), or a Broad Church FD Maurice/ Colenso/ Cambridge Platonist point of view.

I would like to think the argument getting sharpened here is novel for coming from a, well, "subverted" Thomist point of view whence it would be least expected. It might even be an Affirming Catholic argument--eventually.

 
At 9:50 PM, Blogger bls said...

What is the relationship between salvation and Communion?

 
At 9:52 PM, Blogger bls said...

IOW, are you saying that if a person never receives Communion, that person is not and cannot be saved? Why are you putting the two things together? What does one have to do with the other?

 
At 11:34 PM, Blogger Dharmashaiva said...

Pray tell, as I am genuinely curious: where are you getting it? Via Baptist theology? It wouldn't come out of Theravada Buddhism--no?

I get it from Catholic and Orthodox theology, for which I have a certain fondness. (Of course, similar ideas of the 'unboundedness of grace' can be found in Theravada Buddhism -- though the word 'grace' is not the usual terminology used.)

 
At 12:59 AM, Blogger Jon said...

I didn't say consent, I said choice, and it wasn't a matter of choosing for or against salvation, it was a matter of choosing for or against God. One might also express the decision as whether to love God or to hate God.

Tell me, why should we believe in a coercive salvation? Such a theory of salvation seems to militate against the understanding that human beings exercise free will. The problems with denying free will with respect to how we relate to God should be immediately obvious when we note that rejecting God, sin, and evil are all closely connected.

If rejecting coercive doesn't make sense to you, perhaps you might ask Fr. Tobias why he is disinclined to posit a coercive salvation. He is certainly more erudite than I am and may be able to provide a more tightly reasoned argument.

Jon

 
At 11:29 AM, Blogger Derek the Ænglican said...

Surely baptism does not imply salvation--is that a position upheld in tradition?

Hello? This is precisely the position that proceeds from a reading of the Fathers. This is the position that proceeds from a reading of *Paul*. What is salvation in their minds? It is being joined into the Body and therefore the reality of Christ. You are bringing the anxiety of later ages and in doing so are moving away from the heartland of Anglican theology as defined by Andrewes.

Dharmashaiva, Of course God is not bound by the sacraments. Nonetheless, both Orthodox and Catholic traditions (and Anglican tradition too) recognizes the Sacraments as the ordinary means of grace of Grace that God has established through his self-revelation for the use of the Church. Certainly there are extraordinary means; God is not bound and can do whatever he desires. If we as the church are trying to be faithful to what we have received as his self-revelation, however, we would do well to follow it and not to rely on extraordinary means.

Or--to say it another way--is a Buddhist *incapable* of receiving direct mind-to-mind transmission from the buddha-nature that is within Oral Roberts? Of course not... So does that imply that all dharma students should be sent to sit at his feet?

 
At 2:45 PM, Blogger Dharmashaiva said...

So does that imply that all dharma students should be sent to sit at [Oral Robert's] feet?

Well, not all. ;-)

If we as the church are trying to be faithful to what we have received as his self-revelation, however, we would do well to follow it and not to rely on extraordinary means.

True, but what role does 'baptism of desire' play in all this? Is baptism of desire an extraordinary means of grace, or is it ordinary? Would CWOB work if the 'B' were restricted to 'baptism by water', thus leaving open the necessity of baptism by desire? I would suppose that, at the very least, an 'open communion' would best work in the context where the non-water-baptized participant actually desired baptism.

 
At 4:33 PM, Blogger Derek the Ænglican said...

Yes, baptism of desire is extraordinary. If the desire is there, then ordinary water baptism should be undertaken except in extremis.

We fully believe in open *baptism*; if it is available and desired, why not simply be baptized and receive the Eucharist in the usual fashion?

 
At 4:58 PM, Blogger Dharmashaiva said...

We fully believe in open *baptism*; if it is available and desired, why not simply be baptized and receive the Eucharist in the usual fashion?

Good point, but how 'easy' is it for a non-Christian to enter into a church, decide then and there to get baptized, and actually get baptized that same day? It seems that in John-the-Baptist days, such was the case -- no 6-month waiting period. (Of course, in the latter centuries of the early Church, threat of persecution may have altered such 'easy baptism'.) What's to stop Anglicans, or Baptists for that matter, to be just as ready to baptize folk right off the street, as they are ready to pray with them?

 
At 6:04 PM, Blogger bls said...

Good point, but how 'easy' is it for a non-Christian to enter into a church, decide then and there to get baptized, and actually get baptized that same day?

What's the hurry? ;-)

But in fact, some priests will baptize anybody who asks, as soon as it's possible to do so. (Probably not during the first service they attend, however.) I have no problem with that, actually; one of my favorite characters in the Book of Acts is the Ethiopian Eunuch.

Still, in order for the Baptism to be like John's a person would have to repent of his or her sins as well.

 
At 9:37 AM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

Dharmashaiva,

Thanks--that's where I am getting it too.

 
At 9:49 AM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

Jon,

Ok--take your terms: choosing for or against God,loving God/ hating God.

Why can't God save someone who chooses against God from a firm disposition of sheer hatred? I see absolutely no reason why he could not.

As to your point about free will, I am not sure what you mean by it.

But whatever you do happen to mean, surely you must agree that not all coercion violating this "free will" is morally wrong.

Consider cases where coercive intervention is permitted: someone in the process of committing suicide; someone constituting a genuine harm to him or herself; somoeone anorexic.

Only the most extreme libertarian would say I am obligated to let the suicide go through, b/c, say, so-and-so has a right to it. Do you think God is such an extreme libertarian?

I for one do not think so. Not at all. And Hell is alot worse than suicide; the second death is alot worse than the first.

You seem to think the choosing involved in salvation is akin to choosing between Rasin Bran and Wheaties.

 
At 9:51 AM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

Derek,

I am not sure how you can say baptism implies salvation while saying God is not bound by the sacraments. If he is not boound by the sacraments then nothing obstructs his damning a mere human who has been baptized--in which case baptism does not imply salvation.

In short, you are contradicting yourself.

Whatever you believe the Fathers think, I am pretty sure they do not contradict themselves in this way.

 
At 11:50 AM, Blogger Derek the Ænglican said...

I am not contradicting myself. It's a complicated topic--restricting it to binary syllogisms is--imho--silly.

Furthermore, God's primary means of self-revelation is through stories, through bodies, and through lives. Had God wanted us to operate through binary syllogisms he would have provided them for us. Instead he became incarnate for us...

 
At 2:37 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

OK--it seems that God reveals himself primarily through story/ narrative. That seems right--may I say "true" here?--without doubt.

But why does that imply there is no place for right reason in theology? Shouldn't we think that since God in narrative revealed himself as the Truth that the domain of God's sovereignty extends even over human reason?

There was a time in the early formation of Anglicanism where the syllogisms a la Aquinas and others would not be labelled as "silly"--and there is a serious point here.

God's self-knowledge as Creator is Theology in the primary sense, and it covers absolutely everything that exists. As far as I can see, human reason cannot be cut off from theology so as to leave theology in its own domain of separate revelation--not without reconceiving God as some drastically lesser thing.

 
At 2:46 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

FWIW, one advantage of formalizing a controversial argument, rather than leaving it in prose, is that one can see where the bones and joints are, so to speak. If you want to attack, you can pick a weak spot of your choice.

If all goes well with the formalization, Validity is not a worry; then one can attend to Soundness.

For instance, I think a Calvinist would have little trouble in locating a point of attack (Christ's death was never effectively--via any secondary cause--for all); likewise with a process or open theologian (denying God can do whatever can be done via a creature).

We would then be able to identify where we hold different premises, different starting points. In a sense, then, formalization could serve interdenominational or interfactional understanding/ communication.

 
At 3:39 PM, Blogger bls said...

But what does Communion have to do with Salvation? What is the point of this argument?

Is Communion supposed to effect salvation, in your estimation? Or are you saying that it's OK to give anybody Communion because in effect they are already saved? But in the latter case - if everyone is already saved - why bother with Communion at all?

 
At 3:43 PM, Blogger bls said...

And I'd really like to know how you can argue (I saw this elsewhere) that Eucharist is (or touches on?) core Christian doctrine. Doesn't this idea put Quakers outside Christianity? I wouldn't want to go there, personally.

I'm just at a total loss as to what you're saying here. What is the connection between Communion and salvation? Isn't our salvation effected by Christ's death on the Cross and subsequent Resurrection?

 
At 9:25 PM, Blogger Jon said...

Where would saving someone who hated God put them? At the banquet with God? To me that sounds more like damning them to hell than saving them. Granted God could persuade them to change their mind but that implies that the person chose God.

No this isn't like choosing between Raisin Bran and Wheaties that's a trivial choice, it doesn't really make a difference. Choosing for or against God is more like choosing between life and death, a clearly non-trivial choice, which obviously matters a great deal in how one will be in the future, but is frequently difficult when the choice is posed in unobvious ways like choosing where one will live in an area afflicted by powerful earthquakes. This is where how we answer the problem of evil becomes significant. It is clear that terrible things like suicide and the Holocaust have happened and that terrible things may well happen in the future so why doens't God do something to prevent them from happening? As you say it isn't immoral for us to prevent a person from commiting suicide, so what does it mean that God doesn't do the same? Is God not omnipotent, omniscient, or good? What answer can we give that doesn't cast doubt on salvation? If God sins indirectly by causing people to sin how can we hope for salvation? If God is either indifferent to human suffering or incapable of changing it, how can we hope for salvation? As far as I know the only answer that fits with something like the traditional Christian understanding of God is that God invariably lets humans make their decisions for themselves and lets them live with the results, alhtough God is also always pouring out God's grace on the world. Why should we assume that God will only coerce when it's a question of salvation, but not when dealing with lesser suffering?

Jon

 
At 1:11 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

bls,

I agree with you that the Eucharist is neither necessary nor sufficient for salvation--period.

It is no part of core Christian doctrine that it is either necessary nor sufficent.

But I think the Quadrilateral sets out core doctrine pretty clearly. On core doctrine, we are obligated to perform the Eucharist--not as a necessary or sufficient means of salvation. But rather because, like the Sabbath, it is made especially for us, for our good.

Denying core doctrine, the Quakers are not outside salvation by any means. But nor are they doing all they could for their own good.

I've added a new post about salvation and communion to go into more detail.

 
At 1:17 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

Jon,

I am not sure anyone actually in the full presence of God could continue to hate God, in the sense that hate is a vice opposed to virtue.

God could put them wherever he wanted at the Big Banquet--even at the head of the table. He's got the final Word (literally).

As to the problem of evil--why not say something like God permits non-ultimate evils, but need not permit an ultimate evil? He permits suicides, say, but does not have to permit damnation.

Why do you think respect for freedom implies God must respect a choice for damnation? How can we tie God's hands like that?

 
At 10:21 PM, Blogger Jon said...

I agree that it is quite possible that seeing God would wipe out all trace of hatred, but I would argue that the wiping out is more like the persuasive wiping out one sees when a clear and entirely irrefutable proof than divine compulsion.

If God puts a person who hates God at his side how might the one filled with hatred respond? I find it just as plausible to say that the one saved in that manner would be convinced that they had been cast into the depths of hell, rather than recognizing.

I believe God will respect the choice when it is finally made (and it may well be made only when one comes before the seat of judgement) as a matter of consistency. If it is in God's nature to respect human free will in the case of the lesser evil (and it seems clear that it is), I see no prima facia reason to suppose that God will change his spots when confronted with worse evils up to and including ultimate rejection of God. On what grounds do you propose that God changes his ways when confronted with ultimate evil?

Jon

 
At 4:19 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

Jon,

I just don't know whether God "changes his ways"--that's a good question. However....

What if I back up to the point of saying NOT that God does in fact change his ways? OK, I'll agree that is too much.

What if instead I only say that MAYBE God changes his ways? He can change his ways, as you put it, with respect to an ultimate rejecttio, though he need not change his ways.

That is, what God finally does remains a mystery. But he might act so as to preclude a final rejection on our part--it is, at least, a possibility.

Would you grant at least the possibility?

 
At 8:58 PM, Blogger Jon said...

If God can change her ways, how are we to know that God won't change in such a way as to rule out salvation altogether?

I would go so far as to say that rejection might be no more than theoretically possible, but I note that people are remarkably good at ignoring an unpreferred truth even when it's staring them in the face.

Jon

 

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