Friday, July 06, 2007

A Suitably Scholastic Case for CWOB, once again

In case anyone is keeping track, I figured a corrected, current version of my argument for CWOB might be handy. This for the most part just restates earlier lines of reasoning.

The core intuition is captured in commitment to God's Otherness (Holy, Holy, Holy!) which implies that even Incarnate, God remains a Mystery to us; one part of that mystery is God's sovereign power, his omnipotence. Of course, we run head-on into the power of God in the Creeds, which presume God revealed in Scripture as El Shaddai and Pantokrator, the God who will be whom he will be.

(1) If CWOB is forbidden, God is not omnipotent.
(2) God is omnipotent.
Thus, (3) CWOB is permitted.

The initial premise, if CWOB is forbidden, God is not omnipotent, might shock, so it gets a special argument in its support:

(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.

I know that [A2] might look outrageous, but hang in there a sec. I give this consideration in support of the third premise of [A2], if God is omnipotent, then God can save all human beings:

1. Suppose God is omnipotent.
2. If (1), then whatever God does by means of a creature, God can do immediately.
Thus, (3) whatever God does by means of a creature, God can do immediately.

The normal means of salvation proceed through creatures--consent to Jesus as Lord and Savior, perhaps sacraments as well--but God can bypass these altogether. Thus, presuming that it is at least possible all could be saved by means of creatures (e.g. it is at least possible each human being says "Yes" to Jesus), then by [A5] God could simply save everyone, minus any contribution on the side of creatures.

Yes, the second premise in [A2], if CWOB is forbidden, then God cannot save all human beings, now needs some support as well. The argument below has an asterisk b/c I have had to weaken its premises in a minor way to get the argument to come out right (the original had "obligated" in for "permitted").

(1) If God can save all humans beings, we are permitted to hope that God does save all human beings.
(2) If we are permitted 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.

Someone might balk at [A3]*(2), the connection between being permitted to hope that all humans are saved (I leave angels out for the moment) and being permitted to perform CWOB; so, taking the "we" above to refer to the church:

(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.

Built in to the premises here is an understanding of the Eucharist as being in part eschatological--as being more than merely a gathering up and sanctification et al of the Body here below. The Eucharist taken with an eschatological understanding sees the Kingdom to come already present in part in the Church. Operating under the imperative "thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven"--that "is" being eternal, we might expect implications to flow for us here below from the eschatological reality of the consummated Eucharist. Given the possibility of universalism--not the necessity of it or even the actuality of it--everyone baptized or not could have a place at the table from the point of view of eternity. More--we may hope that they belong here with us. By [A4], given that hope--grounded in a real possibility which itself is grounded in the omnipotence, in the very being, of God, the church is permitted to act on that hope.

CWOB is an action the church takes in solidarity with the hope (foolish, wasteful, unreasonable, etc) for the total triumph of God's love over human evil.


At 11:05 PM, Blogger Jon said...

Permission to act upon a hope isn't the same thing as permission to take a particular action on that hope. Why should CWOB be the preferred reaction to hoping for universal salvation?


At 5:53 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

Surely not preferred--you're right. But permitted; in circumstances where the CWB requirement would inhibit--so far as we can tell--reconciliation between Christ and a wayfarer, we are permitted to engage in CWOB. And then, CWOB as a means to CWB is to be preferred to simply CWOB.

CWOB--repeated with an individual--is the least preferable outcome. And yes, in circumstances CWOB repeated may be worse than not receiving Christ at all.

But the problem of CWOB should be viewed in such pastoral terms.

At 9:44 PM, Blogger Jon said...

So should the parish bullitens read something like "Absolutely everyone is welcome to come up and receive communion" or should they read something like "All baptized Christians are welcome to receive communion, everyone else is welcome to come forward and receive a blessing" with the understanding that no one will ask at the rail whether or not one is baptized? The second answer makes sense to me, since having to pass through an inquisition at each church before being permitted to receive is rather inhospitable, but the first seems to take the Eucharist and the importance of reconciliation with Christ.


At 9:45 PM, Blogger Jon said...

Oops, left out the end of the last sentence. I meant to say that it takes the Eucharist and reconciliation to lightly.


At 2:07 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

I know of parishes doing it each way.

Let the rector and vestry work out what should be printed with their Bishop, keeping Scripture and local need foremost in mind.

The Bishop would be permitted--in my view--to allow CWOB or not allow it. As a general rule, the Blood is on the Bishop's hands.

At 7:47 PM, Blogger Jon said...

Giving an invitation to the unbaptized isn't just allowing it, it's encouraging the practice as if it were preferable.


At 1:49 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

Maybe carelessly giving the invitation might convey CWOB was preferable--but don't you think it could be done in a way that provoked deliberate reflection and even repentance?

e.g. One might paraphrase and adapt Paul: "Approach this altar in fear and trembling, for you shall be called to account for every act and every Word at the end of all things."

At 7:43 PM, Blogger Jon said...

Perhaps it might be acceptable with the warning, but it's not likely to be as understandable to a visitor as saying "You're welcome forward to receive Communion if you're baptized, or to receive a blessing if you aren't." After all, someone with no exposure to the faith is unlikely to have any idea about what sorts of behaviour is most consistent with approaching the altar in fear and trembling.


At 11:55 AM, Blogger Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Just a quick observation, and I've not had the time to follow all of the previous discussion, so this may have come up, but it seems at this stage that your syllogism has a false premise, that C is necessary to salvation. I think the church's more relevant teaching is that B is necessary for salvation (though "B by grace or intent, or martyrdom, etc." has also been recognized.)

It seems to me, then, that your syllogism would allow that if God is omnipotent God can save without any sacramental instrumentality at all, including B. I happen to believe that to be true (see B by grace above) --- but I don't see how this makes a case for C without or prior to B, rather than a case for B followed by C, which has been the historic norm.

I do understand the practical concerns: that we've made baptism more rare and less automatic, and C more "normative" and "casual" (many parishes used to have B privately whenever and as often as needed, and mostly without the consent of the Bzand, unable to speak for his/herself, and C twice a month). There are also more un-B folks around due to a generation of the unchurched coming of age. I also understand the impulse towards CWOB as a gracious thought, and I welcome your willingness to continue thinking this through. I am not entirely opposed, but not yet convinced that this is the solution.

At 1:51 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...


Thanks for stopping by. It seems we agree that, speaking in terms of God's absolute power, "God can save without any sacramental instrumentality at all, including B[aptism]" just as much as he can without Communion.

It won't surprise you then to hear that I think--strictly speaking--neither B nor C is necessary for salvation.

Worse, perhaps: the motive "I am getting salvation in return for B (or C)" vitiates the reception of grace from our end. There is something wrong with preaching "This is the medicine of souls" or "Partake of this and He will raise you on the Last Day" or even "Say Yes to Jesus and be saved". There is much truth in all these, but not in hearing or speaking them as a quid pro quo.

The case for permitting C before B comes down to not only Seeing that Mr.UnB might be saved from eternity, but actually Hoping that he might be saved. The former is merely cognitive--even the devils might acknowledge it--but the latter relates to Mr. UnB qua Person--qua possibly saved Person, regardless of whether he is Ever B'd or receives C.

At 2:03 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

That is to say, to put all my cards down on the table:

Welcoming the unB'd as if they were already saved is justified not merely by the cognitive possibility, supported amply in theology and Scripture, and not just by the visceral passion hoping that the unB'd are already saved, but--and here it seems to me is the important point--the eschatological nature of the sacrament.

Contingent points of good order around C cannot be the final words governing it, since it is not merely occurrent. It also takes place in part--even now--in the everlasting condition of the saved at the end of all things. We are justified in treating the unB Now as they will be Then b/c Then is in part already Now, given the partial eschatological orientation of the rite.

Or, to sharpen the main point: in the rite of C, we may view the unB from the point of view of eternity, b/c that is already the point of view from which C is constituted and in which we are invited to partake. Doing so, we may treat the unB as if they were seated at the feast consummating C. That--being so seated at the End--does not depend on their eventually being B'd here below.

At 2:06 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

NB: That does not work in reverse--say to exclude anyone from C on grounds we just "know" they will be damned--inasmuch as the church is forbidden from Hoping any human beings are damned.

I wonder how this would apply to our good Archbishops at communion.

At 6:42 PM, Blogger Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Actually, I think this eschatological argument is much more persuasive than the syllogism from omnipotence. A theology of hope and grace will always have my vote against one that seems to suggest works-righteousness. And after all, God did not save the world because God is all-powerful, but because God is all-loving. So an argument from All-Love is, I think, more congenial.

At 2:10 PM, Blogger Contarini said...


First of all, the first premise of A4 is unsupported. Since Scripture and Tradition speak of some being saved and others not, we are not permitted to act on the hope that in fact the former category will embrace all human beings. On the contrary, if the warnings about humans being ultimately divided into saved and lost are in fact God's means for ensuring that humans will not so be divided, we work against God's purposes in acting as if these warnings were empty. Paradoxically, if everyone will be saved it will be because (the "because" indicating God's choice of means, not a causality that stands outside God's providential order) it is possible that not all will be saved. (I.e., much as we may dislike "hellfire" preaching, the possibility of damnation is in some way a means God uses to save people.) To act on the hope that all are saved in the way you suggest is to turn that hope into an assumption. We act on the hope that all will be saved by proclaiming the Gospel, not by treating all as being saved already.

Furthermore, I think your argument reflects an overly realized eschatology. The Eucharist prefigures the eschatological banquest at which all the redeemed (which we dare to hope will include all human beings) will sit. But the Eucharist is not yet that banquet, and one of the signs of this is the fact that not all human beings share in the Eucharist, but only those who have openly professed faith in Christ. Those who are, in St. Augustine's terms, visibly outside but truly inside, will be revealed at the eschatological banquet (assuming that they do not openly come to Christ before then). It is not our job to "jump the gun" by deciding to include in our visible sacrament those whose inclusion has not yet been made manifest. The Eucharist is an imperfect sign of the Banquet precisely because it excludes some who will be included (and quite possibly includes some who will be excluded, or rather will exclude themselves). But that is the nature of a visible sacrament in via, as opposed to the prefigured reality in patria.

Thanks as always for a very thought-provoking argument that gets down to the basic issues that divide Christians from each other!



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