Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Wandering in the Kraalspace

This post made the rounds among right-wing blogs recently; it included this tasty tidbit which I thought I'd share:

The sterile evil that now controls the Episcopal Church will never willingly allow Christian belief to remain unmolested. Conservatives who think that they can negotiate some sort of truce, or even a ghetto existence within the larger, demon-possessed church, are deluding themselves. As C.S. Lewis wrote, the sort of "agreement" these people come up with consists of saying "Oh, you can believe what you want, as long as you do it alone," and then they mutter under their breath, "and we'll see to it that you're NEVER alone." It's in their nature to try to eradicate every voice that answers their lies with the truth, because they rightly sense that it is the only way that they can survive.

The post, you might agree, is typical of where the church is right now: different sides consigning the Others to Hell-bound demon possession. I'd wager there is not much love for errant Episcopal lefties in Kraalspace's post; it is not just that one can dig up such strident hyperbole with ease, but rather, this is our witness to the world, how the world sees we love one another. I'm put in mind again of Nietzsche's On the Genaeology of Morals; I'll quote just a choice bit:

In my view, Dante was grossly in error when, with an ingenuity inspiring terror, he set that inscription over the gateway into his hell: “Eternal love also created me.” Over the gateway into the Christian paradise and its “eternal blessedness” it would, in any event, be more fitting to let the inscription stand “Eternal hate also created me” — provided it’s all right to set a truth over the gateway to a lie! For what is the bliss of that paradise? . . . Perhaps we might have guessed that already, but it is better for it to be expressly described for us by an authority we cannot underestimate in such matters, Thomas Aquinas, the great teacher and saint: “In the kingdom of heaven” he says as gently as a lamb, “the blessed will see the punishment of the damned, so that they will derive all the more pleasure from their heavenly bliss.”

Or do you want to hear that message in a stronger tone, something from the mouth of a triumphant father of the church, who warns his Christians against the cruel sensuality of the public spectacles. But why? “Faith, in fact, offers much more to us,” he says (in de Spectaculis, c. 29 ff), “something much stronger. Thanks to the redemption, very different joys are ours to command; in place of the athletes, we have our martyrs. If we want blood, well, we have the blood of Christ . . . But what awaits us on the day of his coming again, his triumph!” — and now he takes off, the rapturous visionary:

“However there are other spectacles — that last eternal day of judgment, ignored by nations, derided by them, when the accumulation of the years and all the many things which they produced will be burned in a single fire. What a broad spectacle then appears! How I will be lost in admiration! How I will laugh! How I will rejoice! I will be full of exaltation then as I see so many great kings who by public report were accepted into heaven groaning in the deepest darkness with Jove himself and alongside those very men who testified on their behalf! They will include governors of provinces who persecuted the name of our Lord burning in flames more fierce that those with which they proudly raged against the Christians!

What to say of a Christianity whose obedience is constituted in part by the anticipation of such a "blessedness"? Something has gone wrong, and it is not just a matter of the Anglican Communion's koinonia going off the rails, but rather another manifestation among Christians of a by-now predictible failure. Tertullan, Aquinas, me, you: it is not as if one can say simply "Whoops! My bad, I got it wrong; maybe the Others are not among the Hell-bound demon-possessed, literally."

Consider this opuscule as an alternative to the polemics you'll find here and at Kraalspace: Frank C. Strasburger's Why the Anglican Communion Matters, which seems to me one of the very best things written recently about why we should strive to remain part of the Anglican Communion. But more on that in another post.

Pace the strained analogy to Hindu myth, the post alludes to Luke 11:17:
But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth. (KJV)

Point taken, but what "kingdom" here below is wholly given over to Christ? I would not presume to be any better off than the Apostle Paul, who wrote in Romans 7:

I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.

It is sad to say, but the Church here below shall ever be a divided kingdom filled with members each of whom is a little divided kingdom, and there is no other Church. To put it bluntly: here below we shall not find that final peace we crave, but only civil war. The fact that the Episcopal Church is divided in numerous ways is...well, it is just what one would expect. It is divided between conservatives and liberals, between Xs and Ys, which is to say between sinners of varying stripes and spots. What's new?

That is a bit too blunt, of course; Paul's plaintive tone looks forward to the Pax of the Eschaton, and in the meantime to a via crucis, a continual entrance into repentance and incremental--if even that--movement toward conversion here below.

I take it Kraalspace, thinking a sterile evil drives a demon-possessed Episcopal Church, thinks Episcopalians are not on the via crucis. How she helps herself to that vicious conclusion I do not know. The point is, she might say, not merely that Episocpalians are divided like everyone else, and that their denomination is divided, but that there is no devotion to the way of the Holy Cross, to repentance and conversion: their experience of pauline division is sterile that way, contrary to Paul'a admonitions.

That could only be true if the sacraments of the Episcopal Church were invalid, if all the Baptisms in the strong name of the Holy Trinity, if all the Eucharists, Ordinations, acts of Penance, last Rites, and so on were not at all genuine signs of grace, but were entirely worthless.
After all, repentance is a part of all of these sacraments.

To deny that our sacraments are signs of grace is to deny that the Holy Spirit works through them--that is what I take Kraalspace to imply. Not the Holy Spirit, but demons; surely Kraalspace does not really mean it:

And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.’ And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, ‘How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered. (Mark 3)

Again (Matt 12):
All the crowds were amazed and said, ‘Can this be the Son of David?’ But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, ‘It is only by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons, that this fellow casts out the demons.’ He knew what they were thinking and said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? If I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you. Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property, without first tying up the strong man? Then indeed the house can be plundered.

That is dangerous territory for anyone--me and you included--to wander through; it would be better "to err on the side of caution" when throwing sacraments into question:

‘Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin’— for they had said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’ (Mark 3)

Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. (Matt. 12)

Who can say whether the Other will repent? We can't know; so far as we can tell it's open and it is not our place to put on the God pants and decide who's damned and who is not. Therein is a vision of where we can head if we really wish: an Anglican Communion descended into utter blasphemy, doing Nietzsche one better by anticipating not just obstinate pagans--this not being bad enough for our jaded tastes--but even other Christians burning and screaming endlessly in Hell.

Somehow, nevertheless, there is a possible--even accessible--future where Episcopalians and Kraalspace, et al are in real communion, one written, as it were, in the heart (Jer. 31). That future seems worth working for.


At 10:19 AM, Blogger Ann said...

I have not read "consigning to hell" sort of charge in the progressive blogs. I would like to see where you are finding that sort of rhetoric on the "left" --- usually it is live and let live.

At 10:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find the "moral equivalence" argument of "left" & "right" unpersuasive.

Surely we all remember that from the beginning, Gene Robinson said that he wanted to be in the same Communion as Peter Akinola. There really seems to be no more to say.

At 12:48 PM, Blogger bls said...

Good post, Scotist.

It's really, really sad to see something like that.

At 9:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry to post off topic about a huge subject, but do you agree that Calvinism has a greater problem dealing with evil than other Christian denominations?

One commentator writes, "you have the *exact same problem* as you say we do. If you're going to deny universalism (for now) then you have a God who knowingly creates people who will go to hell no matter what he does to try to save them."

Is the answer to accept universalism?

At 9:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oops: http://dangerousidea.blogspot.com/search/label/Calvinism

At 5:12 PM, Blogger Perpetua said...

Hi Anglican Scotist,

I don't see her consigning anyone to hell in the post, but I do see her using the words evil and demon possessed and saying that those controlling the Episcopal Church tell lies. She seems to be warning conservatives that the progressives will not make room for them in the future.

You have a strong Anglo-Catholic view of the sacraments and would probably be appalled at the sacramental theology of the more reformed members of the church. \

Hi Ann,

Here is a link to some equally virulent material from Lisa Fox's My Manner of Life. It refers to "evil" "liars" etc. as well. A little sample:
"And they will stop at nothing. No deed is too low for them. I name them evil. They are the powers and principalities against which we must contend."

So I would say, yes, on both sides we can find those who have written pretty disturbing material that says the other side are liars and evil.


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