Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Note on Charles I

I am very nearly converted to the advocacy of Charles I by this quote spoken as he went to the scaffold:

This is my second marriage day. I would be as trim today as may be. For before night, I hope to be espoused to my blessed Jesus.

If that conviction is indeed consistent with--nay, even called for by--the principles of catholic Anglicanism (I even want to say Laudian Anglicanism), then I aspire to count myself among their august number come what may. Moreover, I would note en passant that the Episcopal Church may count itself, defending GC2003, as faithful to the same principles as those of Charles and Laud.

For it shows that at the very core of Charles' catholic conviction is faith that at his death he shall be joined, God willing, in a saving relationship to Christ as an individual member of the church, and that this relationship is the consummation of his salvation toward which his earthly life had been properly directed as to its end or ultimate purpose.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

One Way to Marginalize Bishop Duncan's Realignment Effort

I will be brief, but here it is (largely repeating comments I made on an earlier post):

Some right-evangelicals (I am thinking Minns as a paradigm) can come to have very little patience with the geographical episcopate of tradition, or even incipient notions of apostolic authority developing in the Pastorals and the Apologists; if these traditional things get in the way of their evangelical efforts, too bad for tradition.

More: the Church of England's right-evangelicals are much more powerful there than in TEC, and are Williams' major headache. He knows that even with N.T. Wright's help he may not be able to keep the CoE together if Nigeria leaves the Anglican Communion; the evangelicals would be sorely tempted to split from the CoE to remain with Nigeria. Even worse for the cause of unity: it seems to me the Reformed tradition can offer elements of a very powerful, cogent, comprehensive theology to right-evangelicals, if it is needed, more congenial to their hearts than the more hesitant, skeptical, and pragmatic theology at the heart of normative Anglicanism.

It is quite different for Iker, Schofield, and Duncan, I suspect. Kairos rhetoric ("Choose this day!") intended in part to keep evangelicals firmly on-board might as well have led to Duncan, et al being left in the dust as Minns and his minions streak ahead before the others are ready.

After all, Minns has close ties to Sugden--and Akinola. Duncan in effect has a bunch of Americans, minus Howe, whom I am told did not make it to Virginia to sign at the appropriate time. While Akinola (and so Minns) has Williams' ear, the Americans do not.

So what?

It seems to me that Williams at Tanzania rebuked both Duncan's call for walls of separation, and Duncan's harsh anti-Christian rhetoric aimed at TEC. Perhaps Williams had hoped Duncan would have been a more moderate Moderator, leading the Network to be what the Camp Allen group actually is now. It seems to me Williams now believes (quite correctly in my view) that Duncan reached too far; he has lost his usefulness to Williams, esp. as a counterweight to potentially volatile and fissiparous right-evangelicals.

This is extremely important: to the extent TEC can drive a wedge between the Network and Camp Allen, Duncan loses strength and legitimacy. Williams will not come to his rescue, and other bishops who are serious will desert him, regardless of their Viginia loyalty oaths. For Duncan does not have Minns' weight with Akinola, and he will be--with Camp Allen in place--totally unnecessary to keeping TEC's prophetic action in check.

Friday, March 16, 2007

A Manual of Anglo-catholic Devotion

Well, what do you think of the manual pictured to the left (2001)--I mean the manual, not the office for dodos? This is quite a formidible piece of work, and yet I am not convinced die-hard Anglo-catholics would embrace it. What sort of spirituality is cultivated therein? I presume one should expect a distinctive spritiual framework from a prayer or office book. Yes, yes: prayers to our Lady, prayers for the king, and so on. But what is the distinctive background theological vision, as compared with the BCP 1662 or 1928 or 1979? I know, I know: "Take it and read; try it and see." But I have one of these things on the shelf making me feel guilty, and I cannot bring myself yet to commit to praying daily within it.

What are the alternatives? Reciting the hours with Phyllis Tickle? Or to go to an extreme perhaps, the aforementioned divine office for dodos? Again, I don't know--maybe these are viable options.

But then again, what does "viable" mean? You may know that the CoE's office for daily prayer is not approved for use here. I am not sure what to make of this bad boy : the Anglican Breviary, "a singularly American achievement" which appears to have been in completely kosher use from 1916-55 or so in PECUSA. I take it the Breviary is now outside the pale too, but I bet it would still be preferred to the Manual above in TEC's Anglo-catholic circles. Or would an apparent update with the BCP 1979 in mind do better, sc. the Anglican Gradual and Sacramentary ?

Surely somewhere out there someone has a word for the Glenstal or even the short Benedictine breviary? I know even less about these. I do know Affirming Catholicism is the premier organ of left-leaning Anglo-catholicism in TEC and the CoE. They offer the SSF's Celebrating Common Prayer, which I have never seen (alas!) and the St. Augustine's Prayer Book, of which my wife is rather fond; she's a baptized Roman Catholic who converted to the Episcopal Church.

I suppose one could just stick to the clear, canonical standards, say, the Contemporary Office Book, or its corresponding work-up in the almost impossible to find but enticingly exotic Anglican Service Book? I confess the Contemporary Office Book is what I usually use, although with little Anne-Marie (newly 2) I like the Anglican Family Prayer Book.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

More Notes on the Communique: the Situation

It seems to me that TEC may do well--it is possible in the sense of being causally accessible--whether it chooses to abide by the Communique or not. Whatever we do, the nest of conservatives eager for realignment will not go away, and will most likely continue to work to displace the Episcopal Church for some new entity of their devising. That is, abiding by the Communique will not placate realignment-minded conservatives. Likewise, rejecting the Communique and going ahead, say, to a clean break with the Anglican Communion will not placate conservatives either. Even if a break were to bring a parallel Anglican province--even if TEC were to be formally removed from the Anglican Communion, which seems unlikely given the votes required, there will most likely be no peace.

The realignment-minded will most likely continue to do whatever they can to sow discord and sedition, prying away members, rectors, parishes, dioceses, and whatever material assets they can get away with realigning. Affirm or reject--TEC will still have to come up with a long-term strategy to defend itself from the hard right. For the hard right at this date ("in" but not "under" TEC, you see) has gone farther than the hard left ever did. Bishops Spong and Righter never--so far as I can tell--acted toward removing Newark from the Episcopal Church; activists for blacks, women, and homosexuals in the Episcopal Church never conspired to break up TEC or realign Anglicanism in the US. Our hard right has slipped over the horizon; it has gone so far it cannot, so far as I can tell, return. Affirming the Communique may delay a split or perhaps even weaken the hard right to the point where the split is ineffective, roughly after the pattern of the REC, but I doubt that someone thinking and feeling like Bishop Duncan--in my opinion--can ever be brought back to be happy or content within the polity of the Episcopal Church. Go ahead and believe in miracles if you wish, but I think we should plan ahead for still more "guerilla warfare" from the hard right, and then some more, and then some more.

I think what animates the animus of our hard right is the realization that they will not be able to reform the Episcopal Church from within, period. Some may hold out hope that it can be reformed from without, but I think most have arrived at the conclusion it cannot be reformed at all. It will simply have to be replaced. But replaced by what? I believe they have in mind an ideal: a single entity, another province, the franchise "Canon" Anderson referred to around the time of GC2006.

Indeed, the Communique may do for them what wasp-venom does for a grub: paralyze the prey alive long enough for the vampiric grub to feed and grow strong enough to fend for itself on its own. But--to continue with my metaphor--it will not transform the prey into another wasp. Just as that is impossible, so it is impossible in the minds of the right's leaders that TEc be reformed. But a paralyzed TEC that does nothing futher to weaken the right in the near term can still be useful to the right as an instrument for its own development and maturation.

That is what the realingment-minded will likely do--"feed off" the Episcopal Church and grow stronger, to the point of being viable at least as a parallel entity, if not a plausible replacement. The Network et al exist currently for the most part by negative differentiation from TEC: they don't elect or consent to actively gay bishops, they don't bless gay unions, they don't like all that liberal mushy stuff about Creeds and things. But that is not enough, and the right's leaders know it. The right needs a more visible, positive identity apart from TEC, one that can stand on its own as a point around which a new province could be organized. What will serve? Ideas are in the air: the 1662 BCP, the 39 Articles, and so on. It's tough, and I do nopt know whether it can be done, but they will try. And oh, by the way: they need more time. Numbers are extremely significant for them; they will above all seek to grow in the proportion of TEC they "represent". And here too, time is on their side. But they also will have to further centralize and organize themselves, so that realignment yields the hoped-for single viable province rather than a welter of fragments under different provinces already existing around the AC. Indeed, that is what makes Bishop Minns' actions at Truro, et al, so puzzling; so far as I can tell, they point to a disunity and confusion on the right: Minns resisting centralization under Duncan. I doubt Minns signed the recently uncovered Virginia submission document. And further resistance may come from Camp Allen bishops, and from within the Network: Howe bow to Duncan? And Iker too? Maybe; who knows. But if a united front with one great new leader is going to emerge from the potential mess of fragments, time is required to iron out differences. TEC cannot stop the right from acting along these lines, and I do not think argument, debate, or dialogue will yield results bringing peace with the right's leadership. The right will use every possible moment as an opportunity to sharpen and focus itself and its appeal.

All of this leads up to the question: What should TEC do?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Conservative Readings

Well, where to next? It seems to me a reasonable next step--having argued in favor of blessing same-sex unions--would be to apply the argument against the most cogent cases made to the contrary. I should have thrown Barth in there, I suppose; most of these conservative writers seem to me to work from his notion of complementarity. There are a few pieces from the Anglican right, like True Union in the Body?--my impression is that whatever they have to say in terms of against blessing SSUs will be better said by one of the authors below.

1. Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice
2. ----- & Via, Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views
3. Grenz, Welcoming but not Affirming
4. Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament
5. Hays in Siker (ed), Homosexuality in the Church

6. Scola, The Nuptial Mystery
7. John Paul II, Man and Woman He Created Them

So, what do you think?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Getting Serious with Siris: II

It may very well be that Siris is correct to think that my argumentative approach has little hope of convincing conservative Anglicans, even apart from questions around the cogency of premise (4). Even if I had a plausible response to such questions, the conservative might be so firmly in the grip of a picture on which all homosexual activity is sinful that he would think it more probable I had made a hidden error somewhere than that the argument was sound--and then he might well think too that I am in the grip of a picture on which some homosexual activity is not sinful. Regardless of how the argument went, we might remain at odds. Thus I will put minutia about the argument aside for now, and look to some other relatively peripheral points Siris made in his original post, Body and Bride, points of some interest in themselves.

On Thomas
First, about Aquinas and women. I had said in passing that

Aquinas was wrong to assimilate humanity to being male, and to go on to picture females as defective males. That view, predating Aquinas of course, has done the church inestimable damage, and continues to tear at its flesh,

having in mind notes on Aquinas I had posted some time ago. There, I called attention to a few quotes from Aquinas in the course of arguing that Aquinas' reasons for denying women ordination should be seen now as specious. The one that really hurt my feelings was this, according to which women come off as freaks like two-headed calves:
If it were not for some [divine] power that wanted the feminine sex to exist, the birth of a woman would be just another accident, such as that of other monsters.
Nisi ergo esset aliqua virtus quae intenderet femineum sexum, generation feminae esset omnino a casu, sicut et aliorum monstrorum.
De Veritate 5, 9, d. 9.

But of course, there is this golden oldie from the ST, according to which woman is in a state of subjection to man not by convention but rather by nature, as she by nature lacks the male measure of rationality:
Subjection is twofold. One is servile, by virtue of which a superior makes use of a subject for his own benefit; and this kind of subjection began after sin. There is another kind of subjection which is called economic or civil, whereby the superior makes use of his subjects for their own benefit and good; and this kind of subjection existed even before sin. For good order would have been wanting in the human family if some were not governed by others wiser than themselves. So by such a kind of subjection woman is naturally subject to man, because in man the discretion of reason predominates. Nor is inequality among men excluded by the state of innocence, as we shall prove.
Summa Theologica I, qu. 92, art. 1, ad 2

And so on to the simply risible:
The woman’s hair is a sign of her subjection, a man’s is not. Hence it is not proper for a woman to put aside her hair when doing penance, as it is for a man.
Summa Theologica Supplement , qu. 28, art. 3 ad 1.

Siris has this to say:
Incidentally, in an aside at the end, Bates brings up the old claim that Aquinas holds that the female is a defective male. In fact, it is Aristotle as received in the Latin who holds that the female is a defective male; Aquinas on the contrary argues that the only thing this can reasonably mean is the Aristotelian view that males result from the semen, as the 'male' principle, overpowering the female principle and that females result from a defect in such power, as a result of which the female principle wins. He denies it any more significance than this.

In light of the above quotations from Aquinas, I do not think Siris' comment is well grounded. Aquinas in De Veritate and elsewhere is not simply speaking in the voice of Aristotle, as Siris seems to suggest; Aquinas is not merely trying to rescue some cogency for Aristotle's off-the-wall biology of sex. To the contrary, Aquinas speaks rather plainly in his own voice. And he does not rest his case merely on the male seminal pricniple "overpowering the female principle" such that the female is defective in the sense of relatively lacking (causal?) "power". Aquinas seems to view the defectiveness of females as having some "more significance" indeed, and not merely because he takes a "male perspective", whatever Siris meant by that. Alas, Aquinas quite plainly says that, were it not for a special exercise of power on God's part, females would be monstrosities. God, by his ordained power has providentially provided the means for the continuation of our species in reproduction by ensuring that the birth of females, I suppose he means to say, is not the relatively rare event one would expect from freaks of nature, but much more frequent. Moreover, female inferiority is evident long after conception not merely in the relative strength of male and female generative principles, but by a natural lack of reason among females.

On the Episcopal Church's Argument
I had summarized the core of TEC's argument in To Set our Hope on Christ this way:

Arg. I
(1) Same-sex unions realizing the unitive end do so by God's love.
(2) Any realization of the unitive end effected by God's love is holy.
Therefore, (3) same-sex unions realizing the unitive end are holy.

Arg. II
(1) Same-sex unions exhibiting effects of the Spirit are holy.
(2) There are same-sex unions exhibiting the effects of the Spirit.
Therefore, (3) There are holy same-sex unions.

Arg. III
(1) The church is permitted to bless holy unions.
(2) Some same-sex unions are holy.
Therefore, (3) The church is permitted to bless some same-sex unions.

I called attention to what seemed to me the main premise in need of support, II(2): an empirical premise. As for II(2) strictly, one SSU exhibiting effects of the Spirit would suffice, I took it to be rather plausible, and tacitly inferred the argument was good on its own grounds, but bad only for not taking account of what would likely convince conservative Anglicans.

Siris thought differently, conceding II(2) for the sake of argument saying:

The conservative Anglican can still point out that a proponent of something recognized as vile -- for instance, pedophilia -- could run a parallel argument; and the problem with such an argument is not that there is no empirical evidence for the effects of the Spirit in pedophile unions, but that there an insuperable obstacle to believing I.1, namely, that pedophilia is immoral, and nothing immoral can 'realize the unitive end'.

That is, Siris thinks the real problem is with I(1), where I say SSUs realizing the unitive end do so by God's love. I(1) is false, Siris is claiming; in effect, for the conservative Anglican SSUs are morally on par with pedophila to the extent that both are simply immoral, period: "nothing immoral can 'realize the unitive end '" he says.

But surely Siris' objection is formally mistaken or logically confused. Even supposing the conservative is right to say SSUs are simply immoral and on that ground cannot realize the unitive end, I(1) is true: perhaps even necessarily. Regimented, I(1) has this form:

For any (x), if x is a SSU realizing the unitive end, then x relaizes the unitive end by God's love.

The only way I(1) could be false is if there were a SSU realizing the unitive end that did not do so by God's love. If there were no SSUs realizing the unitive end--for whatver reason, mind you--I(1) would be trivially true. And if it were impossible for SSUs to realize the unitive end, then I(1) would not be merely true, but necessarily true. Again, Siris' objection is groundless. In fact, as more than one critic has failed to notice about this formalization of TEC's argument, the beauty of it--if I may be so vulgar--is just that the case is focused on the truth of II(2), our empirical premise, where I think TEC is on excellent ground. For TEC's case to the rest of the Anglican Communion has long been thatthere is empirical evidence of numerous SSUs exhibiting effects of the Spirit. Critics are put in the position of having to claim that what seems to all the world like faith is not faith, unity is not unity, charity is not charity, virtue is not virtue, lifelong fidelity is not lifelong fidelity...and not because of any special, evident sin concomitant to the homosexuality of the sexual activity other than the mere fact it is homosexual. The critic's case ends up being a sheer piece of a priori speculation.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Getting Serious with Siris: IC

Finally, on to Siris' IIIB, to which I shall respond here. I am pretty confident about my reply to Siris' IIIA, but rather less confident about what to say in reponse to his IIIB, as it seems I have misunderstood the direction of his criticism. Nevertheless, I think I can speak to what he is saying.

Let me briefly summarize the substance of Siris' critique in his IIIB. He claims that a conservative Anglican should object to my argument and my various defenses of it, saying
assuming that one can directly move from the Christ-Body to the Christ-member relation without equivocation is the fallacy of division.

For the conservative could point out that

a fallacy of division occurs when the attempt is made to move from property of the whole to property of the part without a bridge principle, i.e., a warrant for doing so. This is so even when the inference is accidentally correct.

I take it he wants to see some support for premise (4) of my argument for blessing same-sex unions, namely that Scripture's canonical narrative calls for marriage here below to be modeled after an eschatological relation between Christ and each of the individual members of the Church. Point being, I suppose, that I have not shown why the relevant properties will transfer; the properties I keep offering up are relatively trivial and in the end not persuasive. In particular, he says my reasoning so far

doesn't give, or even suggest a Biblical grounding for the claim that the same relation on which marriage is modeled is a relation obtaining between Christ and males.

Here is the core concern, I think, at somewhat greater length:

This commonality of having a common source domain for metaphorical purposes, however, is not enough to remove suspicion of equivocation, which requires that the terms be of the same kind, in this case that the R obtaining between males is the R on which marriage should be modeled. That's one R; if there are really two different meanings given to R, the argument is simply equivocal and fails. [For] [t]he conservative Anglican will point out that the R on which marriage should be modeled is a relation between Christ and the Church; and that the R obtaining between males is a relation between Christ and the individual. Thus the argument equivocates and should be rejected.

I think it is pretty clear Siris' conservative Anglican would be looking for justification in transferring the application of what we might call a common relevant type. That is, why think the eschatological Christ/Church relation is of the same relevant type as the eschatological relations between Christ and Church members? Presumably the property type whose application is in question is something like being suitable to model marriage here below.

Thus, the conservative Anglican is pictured as asking to be shown that the eschatlogical relation R between Christ and the Church on which marriage should be modelled is of the same relevant type as the eschatological relation between Christ and each individual member of the Church, i.e. that both are suitable for modelling marriage here below. What do they have in common that would make both of them fall under that type?

That does not seem unreasonable of the conservative Anglican to ask; I am happy to comply. I presume there is some group G of properties, X, Y,...Z that justify the Christ/Church relation modelling marriage. What is in G? Here would be good candidiates:

unifying the related items,
perfecting at least one related item,
bringing conformity of the related items throough mutual charity,
bringing a kind of perichoretic interpenetration to the related items;

and there are probably other members of G. However, the Christ/Church member relation also instantiates the properties of G, including the candidates listed above. That is, at the eschaton, Christ and each Church member are related such that they are unified, at least one of them is perfected, they are conformed through mutual charity, and they enjoy a perichoresis like but inferior to that of the persons of the Trinity. Instantiating the properties of G, the Christ/Church member relation is suitable to model marriage here below. That is, instantiating the properties of G justifies the application of the property type suitable to model marriage here below to each relation between Christ and an individual Church member.

I would hasten to add, though strictly speaking the point is superfluous, that the Christ/Church relation instantiates members of G only if the Christ/Church member relations instantiate members of G. That is to say, the fact that Christ and the Church are unified at the eschaton derives from the fact Christ and each member of the Church are unified.

Getting Serious with Siris: IB

Siris has written up two rejoinders, his Body and Bride IIIA and IIIB, to my Getting Serious...IA; here I will respond only to his IIIA. It seems to me that we have not quite hit the point of voicing bedrock commitments yet.

Siris (who it seems is actually Brandon--Hi) paraphrases Ephesians 5:21-34--accurately so far as I can tell--this way:

be filled with the Holy Spirit(among other things) being mutually subject to each other, wives to their husbands as to the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the Head of the Church (=the Body) as Savior of the Body; as the Church is subject to Christ so wives should be subject to their husbands.

Before the paraphrase he says "But there is no hint in this passage of an eschatological relation," and after the paraphrase he drives the point home:

Now, since Christ is Head qua Savior (that this is the intent is made very clear when he goes on to talk about husbands), then the subjection or subordination that is the reciprocal complement to the Headship of Christ -- the only relation that can be in view here -- can only be eschatological in this passage if Christ's Headship and salvation are eschatological. However, Paul throughout Ephesians talks of our salvation and our incorporation as things that have already been done in Christ; and his exhortations (including the exhortation to be filled with the Spirit that starts him off on this topic) are exhortations for individuals to live worthily of their call to grow into Christ as parts of his body.

I have highlighted the bit I wish to address with boldface. Surely he is at least part right--the headship of Christ is already accomplished with the Ministry, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ--no doubt. But he is only part right; Christ's headship has yet to be brought to fruition. There is still--speaking from the Creeds--Christ's Second Coming in power as King of kings and Lord of lords to await, and indeed Paul speaks of all creation as groaning in anticipation. Christ's headship is in part eschatological, something already and still not yet. Though Ephesians acknowledges Christ's victory already secure, it also emphasizes--and much more than anywhere elase in the Pauline literature--the fact referred to in 1:8b-12:

With all wisdom and insight [9]he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, [10]as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. [11]In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance,* having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, [12]so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.

The very facts we are heirs and that there is a plan for gathering all things up in Christ imply the headship of Christ is not yet completely fulfilled. I do not think we can avoid acknowledging his headship is at least in part eschatological.

I do not need to say that the relation between Christ and the Church is entirely eschatological; that would imply--absurdly--that the Church does not exist at all here below. Rather, it seems to me that something has been begun already between the Church and Christ that will reach fruition in the future, at the eschaton.

The most I should need to say, I think, in order to make my case is that 5:21-34 looks forward to the eschaton in speaking of the Church's subjection to Christ. We should see it under the species of eternity, so to speak, as the spotless bride of Christ about to enter into the blessed consummation of everlasting salvation. Scripture elsewhere holds out wise virgins, the spotless bride, et al as ideals for rather more imperfect communities of the people of God here below--I hardly need to invent the trope for Ephesians 5.

That the fulfillment does not--I take it all will agree--imply any imperfection in Christ is trivial; the current imperfection of that relationship is in the imperfect submission of the Church to Christ here below. But that is just what we may expect of the Church, as here below it can only be a mixed body with even its saints sinners. In this sense I uphold the Church here below is not a fit model for emulation--why look to it here below, when its perfected status is available instead? Hasn't Paul or his school already held out eschatological fulfillment earlier in Ephesians as a desired ideal building up the courage and determination of struggling believers here below, such that we could read him or them as doing the same here with regard to embattled marriages?

Brandon is exactly right to think I want to distinguish or "pry apart" Christ's headship and the Church's submission to Christ. Christ for his part is head now of the church exactly as he should be; the fact his headship has yet to reach fruition does not imply imperfection on his part. On the other hand, the Church is not now all that it ought to be; in its submission, it is imperfect. It is not merely a matter of individual failures among members of the Church, but the Church as a whole, taken collectively.

Suppose the Creeds set out necessary conditions for the Church's perfect submission here below: that it be one, holy, catholic, apostolic...see the problem? Taken as a whole, surely the Church is not one but many, surely it is not holy in the relevant sense of being perfect and spotless, it is not yet universal, and its apostolicity is a matter of internal contention and hot division even now.

So, to sum up--I wholeheartedly concede that Siris is right to say "the relation is not exclusive to the eschaton". However, that does not mean "emphasis on the eschatological can be nothing more than a matter of convenience"; it is rather a matter of great import both to Christ and the Church here below. In particular, from within the warring,fragmented body of the Church the eschatolgical unity of the Church in its relation to Christ provides not just a moral model but even more a point of hope.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Getting Serious With Siris: IA

Here is where things stand in terms of essays and responses in my ongoing debate with Siris:

My initial case for blessing same sex unions
Siris' Objections to my initial case
Part I of my response to Siris
Siris' Objections to my Part I

Things have gotten rather involved, but it seems some progress is being made and that we have not been reduced--yet at least--to simply begging the question against one another. It seems, alas, that I have not found a conservative Anglican opponent after all--maybe a conservative evangelical?

I will take the opportunity here to respond to Siris' objections to my Part I before responding to other points Siris brought up in his objections to my intial case--got that? After all, it seems to me that the cogency of my response as a whole to Siris ultimately hinges on addressing Siris' points that I identified in my Part I as (A) and (B); to paraphrase:

(A) Ephesians 5:21-33 does not have to do with eschaton, and while there will be a relation at the eschaton between Christ and the Church, Scripture does not call on marriage here below to be modelled on that relation;

(B) The individual member of the Church is not the right type of entity to enter into a relation with Christ on which marriage here below could be modelled.

I. Siris' Latest Defense of (A) and My Response
I had written that Ephesians 5:21-33 did in fact refer to the relation between Christ and the church at the eschaton. Neither of us questioned that some relation between Christ and the church was in Ephesians depicted as a model for marriage here below. The controversy was over which relation between Christ and the church--the one obtaining here below, or the one at the eschaton? I claimed the eschaton: the relation between the Church and Christ here below was simply too spotty an affair to serve as a moral ideal or model.

Siris rejoined by saying: seems to me that there's a bit of a slide between taking the relation between Church and Christ as its savior as a model of marriage and taking the Church as a model of marriage. And that's an important difference; because none of the reasons for rejecting the latter carry over to the former. This is because the model that is put forward in Ephesians 5 is heavy on Christ's activity, not on the Church's.

While there is an ambiguity between the Church taken in precision and the Church taken in relation to Christ, I meant to speak simply of the Church in relation to Christ at the eschaton. That is, I meant to say clearly that the Church here below in its relation to Christ does not present an edifying or morally suitable model that might serve as an ideal for marriage. Ironically, the Anglican Communion is now making that point for me.

For Siris, however, the Church-related-to-Christ-here below is not of significance for Ephesians 5:21-33 as a model for marriage; rather, the Ephesians text is interested only in Christ-related-to-the-Church. Thus, bad behavior by the Church here below would not affect the use of the current or here below Church/Christ relation as a model.

I think Siris is overlooking Ephesians 5:22-24, and especially verse 24:

24Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands.

That is, the text in question does address the Church not merely as Christ related to it, but as it is related to Christ; I take this to be prima facie apparent. Thus, if we were to follow Siris' reading and see this as speaking of the Church here below, we would have before us a rather poor reality on which to model wifely submission in marriage. The Church here below is only very imperfectly in submission to Christ, and at times has rather clearly gone ahead in grossly immoral directions contrary to Christ's wishes. Paul could hardly be thought to recommend here that wives go and act analogously to the unfaithful and stiff-necked Church, say commiting adultery or taking up prostitution.

II. Siris' Latest Defense of (B) and My Response
I had made two points; I had written for the sake of argument that (1) even if an individual were not the right type of entity to enter into the eschatological relation with Christ constituting salvation--only the Church could do that--still individuls could take the Church/Christ relation as normative here below for relations like marriage between persons. The fact the Church is many is no bar to one individual modelling behavior here below on the Church in the hereafter. Furthermore, (2) I claimed Christ enters into relations here below and hereafter with individuals as such, not just with the Church, and the salvation graciously offered by Christ to the Church is nothing if salvation is not offered as well to indiviuals--this latter itself being an eschatological Christ/indiviual relation.

I stick by my point (1), and note that so far as I can tell, Siris has not addressed it. Moreover, I believe that (1) alone is sufficient to make my case against Siris' (B).

Against (2), Siris says three distinct things so far as I can tell:
(a) a claim I argue according to the fallacy of division
But it's a fallacy of division to assume that because Christ has relation R to His Body that he has relation R to every (or even any) individual in the Body.

And later in his text: If by R we meam, "whatever relation on which marriage is supposed to be modeled", we cannot direclty conclude from (Christ)R(Church)to(Christ)R(individual member of the Church)any more than we can, for any relation S, directly conclude from(Self)S(Body)to(Self)S(Eye);that would be a fallacy of division.

(b) an interesting point questioning the relevance of my premises
Now, Bates's response seems to me to start out right (with the point about distributive and collective properties) and then go wrong in the paragraph starting, "At any rate, I take it that (ii) is in fact false: that at the eschaton Christ does enter into a real, reciprocal relation with each individual believer." Because, I take it, no one disagrees with this. In fact, I suspect no one would disagree with the claim that Christ is now in a real, reciprocal relation with each individual believer, however imperfect it may be from the believer's side. What's in dispute is whether there is anything in the text requiring us to regard this relation as the model of marriage. And there is not.

And again:
In Revelation, the Lamb's Bride is the New Jerusalem; in Ephesians it is the Body, the Church; in neither of these is it the individual. The fact that there is a salvific relation between Christ and individual seems very much like a red herring, because the conservative Anglican can simply deny that this is relevant to the discussion, and it isn't clear why anything said would lead us to conclude otherwise.

(c) a claim that I am faced by a dilemma
So there seems to be a dilemma: the argument (as a response to the conservative Anglican) seems either to commit the fallacy of division or to require an argument for saying that the relevant relation between Christ and the Church is the very same with a relation between Christ and a member of the Church.

On (a): While there is always a danger of falling into the fallacy of division, obviously there are cases where the parts do have properties of the whole. That is,

Not every property of the whole is shared by the parts

does not imply

No property of the whole is shared by the parts.

So, for instance, both the heap of sand and each of the grains of sand in the heap have the property of being material. My case nowhere requires assent to the idea that every property of the whole is shared by the parts; I do not see why Siris believes otherwise.

On (b): Siris admits that there is a real, reciprocal relation between Christ and each member of the Church at the eschaton, but claims not to see the relevance of this for my case--in effect, he asks what that eschatological relation has to do with marriage? After all, he says, the marriage feast of the Lamb pictures Christ related to Jerusalem, not to individual believers.

In response, I suggest that Christ will never marry a city. Jerusalem is figurative for the Church, as I think Siris would agree. Revelation 21 is referring with Jerusalem to what Ephesians 5 calls the Body, meaning there the Church. Revelation is speaking, therefore, of an eschatological union between the Church and Christ, something begun here below rather imprefectly and consummated hereafter. But note Revelation pictures the consummated relation a marriage relation. Again, marriage is referred to figuratively, as I take it Jesus in the Gospel narrative was serious in saying that there is no marriage in heaven. The point though is at least in part that here below we can understand something of the meaning of the consummated relation between the Church and Christ in terms of something we are familiar with, namely marriage here below: the consummated relation will be like that. Thus, the Revelation 21 text is rather favorable to my cause, which requires seeing the eschatological relation between the Church and Christ as a model for marriage here below. In fact, Revelation 21 almost settles the issue. For as I have already mentioned, I see no reason why a relation between individuals cannot be modelled on a relation between a group and an individual.

If more need be said, let me draw your attention to what Siris admits: there will be--in addition to the eschatological relation between Christ and the corporate Church--an eschatological relation between Christ and its individual members. Christ offering salvation to the Church offers it just as well to the memebrs of the Church--otherwise, no member of the church would be saved.

Here is what I take to be the clinching point. In both cases, the salvific relation involves unity with Christ: that is, the achievement of a unitive purpose. That unity is pictured between Christ and the corporate Church when marriage is referred to in Revelation 21; indeed, it seems to me that the use of marriage as figuative in Revelation 21 is licensed at least in part by common knowledge of the normative achievement of a unitive purpose in marriage here below. Just so, the unity between the individual member and Christ achieved by Christ in the giving of salvation would license the use of marriage as descriptive, figurative language. It follows that the eschatological salvific unity between the member and Christ could serve meaningfully to model marriage here below in one's relation to a spouse.

On (c): I do not commit a fallacy of division, in my opinion. In particular, there are reasons outlined in my response to (b) above for extending the application of "marriage" from the corporate Church; I do not simply take the extension as following from logical rules of inference.

Nor am I committed to seeing the Christ/Church relation being the same as the relationship between Christ and an individual believer. That horn of the dilemma looks confusing to me; I do not claim the Christ/Church relation is identical with the relation between the Church and just one member, because I believe the Church has more than one member. I may be wrong--it is possible so far as I know that it has only one--but I think that outcome exceedingly unlikely and rather unscriptural. It would have been better if Siris claimed I am faced with reducing or eliminating the Christ/Church relation in favor of the relation between the Christ and all members of the Church, the Church being nothing over and above its members. While I am tempted to think that way, I am not sure whether it is so, and more to the point I do not think my argument requires such a reduction or elimination as a premise.