Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Open Communion and Time

Again CWOB is in the news, and however tempting I do not want to revisit my old arguments. Rather, I wish to add a note about how time seems to be conceived in the debate. I'll keep it brief.

"Time" is hardly a univocal term. It can refer to the passage of minutes, hours, days, months, and years in orderly, predictable succession: a march of carefully arranged units that most of us count on in organizing our daily lives. So, for instance, it is a mark of sanity to recognize that it is 2011 rather than 1911; the man who habitually cannot remember what time it is endangers his job, his relationships, his well being. It is perfectly normal to conceive of one's life set out in these conventional units, so that one may plan accordingly the upcoming weekend's festivities, class prep for next semester, next May's wedding, paying off the mortgage, retirement. One may take this sense of time to be exhaustive, to be all there really is to time.

Of course, one might recognize that time is experienced differently from how it is measured in regular units. The animated conversation makes the car trip back home much shorter than the ride up alone, though "strictly speaking" the trip took the same time both ways. Or one may wish to argue the metaphysics of ordinary time; should we be three or four dimensionalists, say? It is unsurprising that "time" has many senses.

But among the various senses enumerated, I think it is safe to say the ordinary sense of "time" divided and subdivided into regular units has a kind of priority; it is the one we take to be most real, most pressing--the one to which we must be prepared to answer.

No doubt the debate over CWOB takes the ordinary sense of time for granted, as--so far as I can tell--unquestioned background. There is to be a regular sequence in the normal reception of Communion: Baptism then Communion. Or better: Baptism & Instruction in some sequence with Confirmation, and then Communion. The notion of a sequence requires the notion--or better, a notion--of time, inescapably. And at just this point it seems to me we typically read our ordinary notion of time as the proper notion through which to conceive the sequence in question.

That reading is tempting and eminently understandable--hardly anything to run off to Confession over--but it is also a textbook case of eisegesis, of reading into old notions (like Baptism and Communion) contemporary ideas (about time) that are foreign to the old notions. The old notions are at home with events like the Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1-9, Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28-36), the climactic vision of Stephen at his martyrdom (Acts 7:56), and not much later, the idea of the copresence of the timeless eternal to the mundane flux of the world here below. The old notions are at home with such things because the old notions were conceived through a different idea of time from that we take for granted. On the pre-modern idea of time, the flow of time in ordinary life is permeable at every point to interpenetration by the eternal; such a thing makes no sense on our modern conception of time. Indeed, we might feel sorely pressed to demythologize here, rejecting the notion of a timeless eternity, and reading the Transfiguration and Stephen's vision as not implying anything about copresence: eisegesis.

I mention this point as context for discussing CWOB. Maybe the pre-modern idea of time is wrong in such a way that it must be dropped from serious theology, but maybe not. I want to see the argument. That pre-modern idea sits well, after all, with the notion that Communion has an eschatological side, a notion that I think carries wide acceptance, but which can only be read as poetic, i.e. can only be deflated, by one who will accept only the modern notion of ordinary time, divided up into regular units.


At 2:06 PM, Blogger BB Janz said...

RIP, Todd Bates. Gone far too soon.

At 2:57 PM, Blogger LKT said...

As I remarked on MP's blog, I always appreciated the Anglican Scotist's well-reasoned arguments. I am so sorry to hear of his death.

At 6:51 PM, Anonymous JCF said...

May the Anglican Scotist, Todd Bates, rest in peace and rise in glory!

At 6:53 PM, Anonymous JCF said...

And I hope a friend of Todd's will attend to this site, so it doesn't become a receptacle of spam, the way I've seen happen to other blogs of the deceased. This blog, in particular, deserves to be preserved---to rest in peace---also.

At 10:26 PM, Blogger Christopher said...

RIP. I agree with JCF. This site is too fine to see lost.

At 9:19 AM, Blogger  said...

The ends' mean ending

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At 11:24 PM, Blogger Morteza said...

Dear Dr. Bates:
I read your worthy book on Duns Scotus and searching for your Email. I could't find it. Would you please help me. I am working on Scotus either and It would be a real pleasure to be in contact with you.


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At 6:14 PM, Blogger Mr. Mcgranor said...

I obstain from Emergent thinking, in a postmodern society that has lossed its traditional character. As for an open communion: i engage in a Lords Supper at various Mainline denominations. Although i believe by God that i am in an affinity with history-tradition; rather then defying it.

At 9:12 PM, Blogger Lisa said...

I have started an Episcopalian Bloggers linkup at my blog, TheJonesesBlog.com, and wondered if you were interested in joining. The Episcopalian Bloggers linkup's purpose is to promote the diversity of Episcopalians by advertising your church membership through a blog badge and blogroll. Having a collection of blogging Episcopalians in one place would be amazing for anyone interested in knowing exactly who Episcopalians are. (Which is to say, they are a diverse group of people.)

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At 9:14 PM, Blogger Steve Finnell said...


The prevailing thought of many is that since the Bible was not canonized until sometime between 300 and 400 A.D. that the church of Christ did not have New Covenant Scriptures as their guide for faith and practice. That is simply factually incorrect.

The Lord's church of the first 400 years did not rely on the man-made traditions of men for New Testament guidance.

Jesus gave the terms for pardon 33 A.D. after His death and resurrecting. (Mark 16:16) All the words of Jesus were Scripture.Jesus did not have to wait for canonization of the New Testament in order for His word to be authorized.

The terms for pardon were repeated by the apostle Peter 33 A.D. on the Day of Pentecost. (Acts 2:22-42) The teachings of the apostles were Scripture. The words of the apostles were Scripture before they were canonized.

The apostle Peter said the apostle Paul's words were Scripture. (2 Peter 3:15-16...just as also our beloved brother Paul , according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, 16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand,which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures...

The apostle Paul's letters and words were Scriptures when he wrote and spoke them. Paul did not have to wait for canonization to authorize his doctrine.

John 14:25-26 'These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to you remembrance all that I said to you.

The words and writings of the apostles were Scripture and they did not have to wait for canonization to be deemed authoritative. The apostle did not use man-made creed books of the church or man-made oral traditions to teach the gospel of the New Covenant.

Did the early church have written New testament Scriptures? Yes, and they were shared among the different congregations. (Colossians 4:16 When the letter is read among you, have it read in the church of the Laodiceans and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodica.) Paul's letters were Scripture and they were read in different churches.

They were New Testament Scriptures long before they were canonized.


Matthew A.D. 70
Mark A.D. 55
Luke between A.D. 59 and 63
John A.D. 85
Acts A.D. 63
Romans A.D. 57
1 Corinthians A.D. 55
2 Corinthians A.D. 55
Galatians A.D. 50
Ephesians A.D. 60
Philippians A.D. 61
Colossians A. D. 60
1 Thessalonians A.D. 51
2 Thessalonians A.D. 51 or 52
1 Timothy A.D. 64
2 Timothy A.D. 66
Titus A.D. 64
Philemon A.D. 64
Hebrews A.D. 70
James A.D. 50
1 Peter A.D. 64
2 Peter A.D. 66
1 John A.D. 90
2 John A.d. 90
3 John A.D. 90
Jude A.D. 65
Revelation A.D. 95

All 27 books of the New Testament were Scripture when they were written. They did not have wait until they were canonized before they became God's word to mankind.

Jesus told the eleven disciples make disciples and teach them all that He commanded. (Matthew 28:16-19) That was A.D. 33, They were teaching New Covenant Scripture from A.D. 33 forward. The apostles did not wait to preach the gospel until canonization occurred 300 to 400 years later.



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