Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Kennedy on Heresy: II

In "Kennedy on Heresy: I", I have argued that the worst a reasonable critic from the right could accuse TEC of on the matter of ordaining an actively gay bishop is material heresy, which is really just a nasty name for theological error.

But all Christian groups have erred from the beginning in matters of faith; recall early Paul's misconceptions about the Second Coming and Milennium, an article of faith referred to in the Creeds.

If mere material heresy is sufficient for schism, Christian unity is doomed a priori. For there is no way Christian groups can have knowledge with finality and certainty over all matters touching the faith on which they must take a stand; there is no way to eliminate human fallibility. The church is always in a position of having to be open to correction; no part of the church can know with certainty that it is free of material heresy.

If a critic from the right like Kennedy is to have any case for splitting from TEC, he should establish that TEC is in a state of formal heresy--not merely mistaken on a point of moral theology, but perversely adhering to a point that it already knows to be contrary to the faith.

Note how high that bar is. It is not enough even for the critic to be convinced of his or her own argument, thinking that an airtight case has been made once and for all. The critic should know that the opponent--in this case TEC--also recognizes the cogency of the critic's case, and nevertheless adheres to error.

I believe critics from the right have not made an airtight theological case for their opposition to GC2003--at best we have grounds for an ongoing debate; but more importantly, they have made no plausible case for TEC recognizing that it is in error and persisting in adhering to a belief known to be contrary to the faith.

In short, Kennedy et al have made no case for schism.


At 8:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fr. Kennedy states "there is no way Christian groups can have knowledge with finality and certainty over all matters touching the faith on which they must take a stand; there is no way to eliminate human fallibility." Here, at least, is one nub of the matter. While those of us on the pro-Robinson side believe we are correct we know there is disagreement and we know the door is still open. On the other side there are absolutists who speak with a certainty I find dismaying and theologically problematic. Have we forgotten the Reformation, and the doctrine of grace? Grace is that which in a double way 1) allows us to transcend our fallibility but 2) constantly reminds us we are fallen and given always to error and presumption. It leads us not into absolute truth but into relative truth. It is as if the Right believes that the gift of grace raises us to the status of angels, when it fact it keeps us alive in the midst of continuing fallibility and error. Grace should lead to humilty not to presumptuous arrogance.

At 4:20 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

Mr. Coats,

It seems you might have attributed a text from me to Father Kennedy in your post above; my point there was to emphasize that Kennedy did not seem to leave any room for human fallibility or for the ongoing reformation of the church.

We seem to agree that he is in grave error on that point.

Thank you for bringing in the concept of grace, as reminding us of precisely our fallibility in the very act of its enabling us to transcend it in some small measure.

Alas, Kennedy's optimism about humanity's capacity to know is widely shared on the Anglican right.


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