Monday, July 02, 2007

More on CWOB: Some Replies

Christopher's take on CWOB notes we cannot directly argue from the Eschaton to our present existence and practices without some provisos given that we are not in direct correlation with the Eschaton in our present existence. For instance, something is awry in the inference we after all will be fully one with one another in the Eschaton, [thus] we’re free to be so now in every way, including sexually. According to what one might call the Eschatolgical Proviso, the Eschaton is "now and not yet"--and the not yet implies limits and the possibility of myriad forms of abuse. With regard to the practice of the Eucharist, "having not yet arrived" at the point where universal salvation would even be a possibility means

not unbounded practices, but commitment, discipline, and discipleship in the meantime because salvation must still work Himself out in us over time (stabilitas). This commitment, discipline, and discipleship are found explicitly in Baptism, in which God first commits to us, we are brought into God’s own life, and we respond with promises....

It seems Derek shares Christopher's point of view on the relationship between Baptism and Communion. In his piece for the Daily Episcopalian, he compares CWOB to a fling with God:

Coming from this perspective, Communion without Baptism misreads the logic of the liturgy. It demands intimacy without commitment, relationship without responsibility. To apply this same logic to another sphere of human relationship, this is the logic of the one night stand—the logic of the “meaningless” fling. Is this the relationship that we wish to have with the God who knows us each by name and who calls that name in the night, yearning for our return to the Triune embrace?

And on the face of it, this looks to be a sufficient rationale for refusing CWOB.

However, while it is without doubt true that one cannot simply infer whatever is practiced at the Eschaton may be practiced here below, the case for CWOB does not require that false premise.

Surely we are not obligated--or even permitted--to "immanentize" all aspects of the Eschaton already here below. But that is consistent with our being obligated to immanentize some aspects of the Eschaton here below. Indeed, if we are truly to act from being "in between" or "already but not yet", then the Eschaton must be immanent already in at least some respects.

For instance, we are commanded to celebrate the Eucharist, and in so doing we "immanentize" the Eschaton--partially, to be sure, but nevertheless there it is as celebrated. [Presuming the anamnesis properly conceived goes temporally in two directions, as with Advent].

And furthermore the union of the saved models charity as conformity to the inner life of the Triune God--and that conformity we are obligated to model here below. For instance, calls to justice here below by the church may acquire justification from the example of the eschatological charity of the saved. Indeed, that seems an obvious OT and NT trope in prophetic and apocalyptic writing.

Here the "meaningless sex" trope both Derek and Christopher employ comes to the fore. But note that nowhere does Scripture imply eschatolgical union among the saved is sexual in nature; nor need Scripture be taken to imply sexual union here below should be modelled after the eschatolgical union of the saved. It seems some special argument would be required to show that it licenses sexual promiscuity here below.

Rather, it seems that as marriage is to be modelled after the eschatological union of Christ and the church, permission for sexual activity here below follows from--wait--eschatological considerations: not considerations about the union of the saved among themselves, but rather of the union between the saved and Christ. Scripture seems to inform the yearning of sexual practice here below for meaning by limiting it with ties to a specific eschatological union with Christ. That is, perhaps contrary to what Christopher and Derek might expect (?), permission for sexual activity follows from an immanentizing of eschatological considerations. Thus, that particular counterexample is blocked.

[To belabor the point, there are at least two different types of union to consider at the Eschaton: (1)union among the saved; (2)union between the saved and Christ. the worry about moving from the Eschaton to the present licensing promiscuity ellides these unions, erasing the distinction.]


At 4:01 PM, Blogger Derek the Ænglican said...

Interesting--but I think you're missing my point. You wrote: Here the "meaningless sex" trope both Derek and Christopher employ comes to the fore. But note that nowhere does Scripture imply eschatolgical union among the saved is sexual in nature; nor need Scripture be taken to imply sexual union here below should be modelled after the eschatolgical union of the saved. I'd ask you to note that I'm not talking about whether the eschatological union has anything to do with sex. Rather, I'm talking about intimacy and commitment. Purely in the right-here-right-now I am suggesting that the proper and normative route for true intimacy is within the bounds of commitment. Commitment precedes intimacy--indeed, I am trying to argue that intimacy *requires* commitment because it is something that grows stronger and deeper over time.

That's where Baptism comes in. I ask you--what is the place of Baptism in your system of thought?

At 4:57 PM, Blogger *Christopher said...

I echo Derek's point; you stayed on the sex rather than what underlies our objection. Intimacy. Surprisingly, in speaking with a fellow parishioner about this this weekend, that was his first objection to CWOB as well--intimacy is bound with commitment. The point I made was really to unwinde the direct linkage of Eschaton to CWOB through looking at Baptism and Communion through intimacy and commitment--that the immanentizing is partial, and being partial, is bounded, not that the nature of union will be sexual in the Eschaton.

And Derek asks the same question I've already asked you, regarding Baptism. Hooker would say that Baptism throws the first seed of God into us..., suggesting that Baptism isn't inconsequential to the process of becoming Christian. Indeed, all of the Caroline Divines are clear about Baptism in this regard, and so I continue to find troubling an argument about Communion that isn't threaded together with Baptism, but wholly unraveled from Baptism.

At 5:02 PM, Blogger *Christopher said...

In other words, you might see Baptism as Christ's wedding himself to us..., his commitment and vows and our response, so to speak; I think such an image is in keeping with the Divines' strong understanding of Baptism.

At 8:06 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

Christopher and Derek,

Supposing that intimacy is normally required for the Eucharist, why would that intimacy require Baptism?

yes, intimacy could come with Baptism, as for instance with a good catechumenate. But baptism might wholly fail to come with intimacy. In other words, valid baptism and intimacy do not go together--they are not coextensive.

Yet it seems both of you treat baptism as if it might reliably come with intimacy--surely in empirical terms that is just false. Most of the baptized (I wager) had no idea that they were being baptized when they were being baptized. And so what? The rite is still 100% valid.

Now--if we sunder baptism from intimacy, surely a form of the intimacy and commitment you refer to could come without baptism, no?

At 8:17 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

That is, while the ideal--baptism with intimacy and commitment--is to be pursued as the preferred, normal route to the Eucharistic community, reality may fall far short of the ideal.

There may be tested and tried forms of intimacy prior to baptism which might--for instance--yield a kind of holy relationship with God in all particulars but baptism. In such a case, CWOB--unreasonable though it may be--might be an expression of just the kind of gracious overflow that we all depend on anyway from God.

Consider two instances from Scripture that might have some play here: (1) the anointing of Cyrus (2nd Isa); (2) crumbs for dogs (Gospels). Neither says anything directly to our argument--but note:

(1) It is within God's power to anoint--that is to say make holy--apart from baptism; this power has a pretty solid scriptural basis (i.e. it isn't speculative or scholastic). If a person can become holy apart from baptism, it may be fitting for him or her to receive holy things. It just might.

(2) I think it was Cyril of Jerusalem(?) who denied CWOB by quoting Jesus saying pearls shouldn't be given to swine, or something like that. Ignoring the episode where Jesus concedes even the dogs may take up teh crumbs from under the table. Here the Scripture points out--no?--a key thing for the eucharist is not baptism so much as Faith (and here I think we would find exteremely solid traditional support). One may have sufficient faith as a dog or swine, i.e. as one of the unbaptized.

At 1:46 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

My bad--it was not Cyril, but the Didache.


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