Schism and False Doctrine — Infallible Corkscrew Statement

2 05 2007

Marshall Montgomery’s blog, called “Communion in Conflict,” had a recent post entitled “Doctrine, Discipline and worship” where he raised the question, “Who gets to decide false doctrine?”  and “what kind of doctrine reinforces schism?”

I said to him in the comments section:

At its heart, I would think a doctrine that reinforces schism would be something that in some way reinforces a type of exclusion from other members of the body of Christ … For example, some Protestant churches ask that, unless you are a member of that particular church, you do not take communion for the sake of the purity of the table. Others may require a baptism by immersion for membership, claiming that baptism of infants is invalid.Regarding false doctrine, that’s a tough one. At some point, someone has to decide which doctrine is true to the Gospel witness and which isn’t. I would think that the validity of a given doctrine would be determined by its consistency with the witness of Scripture and Tradition, as well as the application of our reason.Sorry if this sounds a bit vague, but it’s a good starting point i think for conversation. If you want specific examples, let me know. Two that come to mind are the question of gay marriage and the issue of celebrating/partaking of the eucharist in a cross-demoninational setting.

Marshall then asked for me to elaborate, which I am pleased to do so here as I don’t want to be rude and take up any more space on his blog with verbose comments (that’s what this blog is for!).  These are things which I am rather opinionated about, so I think it is only fair that I mark this post with my Corkscrew of Anglican Infallibility, which I’ve been DYING to use. 😀

The Eucharist:  Each church’s practice of administering of the Eucharist is on some level is schismatic.  Even The Episcopal Church, where the only requirement is to have been baptized, more or less excludes those who identify as Christian but have not been baptized.  I don’t think one needs to be baptized in order to be called a Christian, though I think it’s something that should be done, even if one only attaches some symbolic level to the act.  That being said, while I believe that TEC’s requirement of baptism is quite broad and inclusive in the grand scheme of things, it should be expanded further to say “all those who identify as Christians are welcome to participate in Holy Communion.”

It is ironic that the rite that is supposed to bind us all together across sects and denominations is potentially highly schismatic.  As I said above, some Protestant Churches (mostly of the low church variety) require you to be member of that particular denomination or sometimes, that particular congregation.  This is called “fencing the table” and the premise is to guard against “eating and drinking damnation to your soul” or some such nonsense where they took Paul a little too literally.  To use a different example on the schismatic implications of the Eucharist, we can look at the examples of the House of Bishops or the most recent Primate’s meeting in Tanzania where some did not partake of the Eucharist because of the supposed lack of holiness of the celebrant or those who were partaking.  In both instances, whether you deny someone communion or whether you choose not to participate for reasons of purity, one party is in effect saying to the other “you are not a Christian … you are not part of the Body of Christ.”  It doesn’t get any more schismatic than that! 

Gay Marriage:  I said in my comments to Marshall that at some point, someone has to decide where a proposed doctrine is true to the Gospel witness.  What I think has gotten the church in such an uproar is that with the advent of non-traditional families (i.e., gay couples with or without children), we are corporately and institutionally being challenged with rethinking the validity of certain ways of living, or to quote one General Convention resolution, “manners of life.” 

The Church views marriage as a sacramental relationship.  In order for us to come fully to an understanding of marriage as sacrament, I believe that we should provide for the inclusion of same-sex couples as marriage, not as a blessing of a union. On a justice level, having a rite for same-sex couples that is other than marriage is basically another case of apartheid (see my post civil unions = apartheid for a rant on that subject).  On a doctrinal level, however, if we were to have a rite for the blessing of same-sex couples, what would be the rational for denying a blessing to cohabitating heterosexual couples?  Who says the couples regardless of their gender makeup need to be living together in the first place in order to receive a blessing? The inclusion of a “blessing” rite more or less creates a menu of options based on commitment level, and in this instance the commitment level carries a connotation that it is not life-long, but at best a long-term temporary.  I think there is a much greater disconnect between blessings of unions and the Gospel witness/Tradition than with gay marriage.  While I am certainly no theologian, I would think that blessing of unions (which is basically blessing cohabitation) is much closer to false doctrine and history would find us wanting were we to go forward with that idea.

On a side note, the Liturgical Committee (I forget what their full name is) recently came up with a rite of betrothal, which I think would be something that is worth considering a good look. I would think that in the long-term, a rite of betrothal would better serve justice and not be a departure from Scripture or Tradition.  Acutally, it would only serve i think to strengthen the institution of marriage.

Questions, comments and snide remarks are welcome in the usual space below.  Tomatoes and other things for throwing at me should be sent to the care of my Personal Atheist. 😉

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11 responses

2 05 2007
Reverend boy

This is my first infallible statement on this blog 😀 Benny, eat your heart out!

2 05 2007
Eileen the Episcopalifem

First – I agree with all these statements. Natch.

Second, isn’t “anglican infalliability” an oxymoron? Not that there’s anything wrong with that, right?

LMAO @ the Corkscrew of Infalliability. I want one!

2 05 2007
scott

RE: the Standing Committee on Liturgy & Music

According to our Associate Rector, the purpose of this committee is to keep certain folks busy & off the streets, otherwise they’d stir up all kinds of trouble. 🙂 Let’s just hope they never get ahold of the Corkscrew of Infallibility. {{{{shudder}}}}

3 05 2007
Marshall Montgomery

Hi Rev’d Boy, I just posted on your reflections at http://communioninconflict.blogspot.com/2007/05/schism-and-doctrinal-development.html (as well as a couple of related posts on the front page). Enjoy.

8 12 2007
Troy

Rev Boy, I don’t understand where you get the basis for your arguments here. I read your post on the previous blog you referred to. The answer though is that false doctrine in not determined by “us”. False doctrine is whatever the bible refers to it as. So you cannot endorse gay marriage or heterosexual habitation without risk of going beyond what the Bible says (1 Corinthians 4) and putting yourself at risk of judgement from God. God considers both of those scenarios sin…homosexuality and sexual immorality..you cannot make the definition other wise.

12 12 2007
Reverend boy

Troy, thank you for visiting. I’m afraid you are misreading what I am saying about marriage and cohabitation. Please read it again.

As far as doctrine itself if concerned, doctrine as I understand it is basically defined by interpreting what the Bible says, not by the text itself. For example, some churches allow for infant baptism, others require immersion. Some churches say that Christ is present in some way during communion, others say it is simply a memorial. Eschatological doctrine has evolved over time, etc. etc.

I would be very happy to carry on this conversation with your further off-line. Please feel free to email me.

Thanks.

the Reverend boy

12 12 2007
Troy

Hello again,

Thanks for emailing. I do understand your perspective. I also understand the basis of eschatological doctrine. It is possible to have a wrong interpretation of the bible. This is not based on opinion but rather exegetical investigation. Performing exegesis as I am sure you know is not easy sometimes. However other times it is. For example the shortest verse in the Bible is “Jesus wept.” One may think this is simple to interpret. You could say that Jesus was weeping in his heart and not actually weeping physically. You could say that Jesus was not weeping at that moment in the text but rather weeping later on as the text said “wept” and not “weeping” as in “Jesus was weeping”. You could combine the two and say that Jesus was weeping in his heart a long after the point where the author writes “Jesus wept.” You could even say that Jesus was not weeping about the event he just heard about but was weeping because of some theory that he struck his toe on a rock or something.

So as you can see there are a number of directions interpretion can go, however with exegetical examination the meaning of “Jesus wept” becomes clear. For example the verse I quoted from is from John 11:35. A careful exegetical reading reveals that Jesus was crying over the death of a dear friend, in a context where this could be expected, at the home of that friend. We can safely then that Jesus was crying at that specific time in a physical manner.

That is a part of scriptural examination and must be applied to every scripture.

The reason why this is so, is because there is only one truth in the Bible and in life in general. That truth has been revealed to us. We must apply these methods to all scriptures if we are to discover that truth. Jesus and the apostles were ready to die to defend and spread this truth. We must be ready to do the same.

We also have to be ready to challenge old assumptions and doctrine through scriptural examination. Now is the time my friend. It will be too late when we are dead.

Sorry did not mean to clog up your blog with my dissertation I just wanted to be clear on how we arrive at correct doctrine and meaning in the Bible.

12 12 2007
Reverend boy

Troy,

Your approach to interpretation, especially as it applies to John 11 is sound. I also agree with your statement that we must be ready to challenge old assumptions and doctrine. If we did not, we would still have slavery here in the US, an all male clergy, etc.

That being said, I think we need to keep in mind there is only person who had the entire truth, and that was Jesus Christ. Every one else, even the ones who wrote Scripture, sees in a glass dimly. Such is the nature of our fallen race. Fortunately, as I’ve said many times, following Christ (who IS truth) is not so much about being right, but about being faithful. Do our interpretations stand up to the whole of Scripture and Tradition, which is summed up as “love God” and “Love your neighbor”? Do they encourage us to bear the fruits of the Spirit?

If we concerns ourselves with the faithfulness and not so much about getting it right, we’ll probably find that the rightness of it all will sort itself out. Like gay marriage 🙂

12 12 2007
Troy

Rev,

Thanks for the reply. I am glad you agree about the whole right doctrine issue. However what I wrote above, can be applied to all views, and situations that come up. I really believe this.

I do take issue with what you have said about “Faithfulness”. Faithfulness is what we should aim for. However, it is not separate at all from “being right”. being faithful means getting it right. The reason is thus: God determines what is right. Not us.

An example of what I am talking about: It is right for Ghandi to lead his country to independence from British rule. It was right for him to do so. It was right for him to be declared a hero and be revered and imitated by millions.

Now, isn’t it right for Ghandi to go to heaven even if he has not accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and savior? Makes sense doesn’t it? I mean who would tell Ghandi he can’t make into Heaven? What right does God or Jesus have to tell him to stay out?

Conventional human wisdom says Ghandi should go to heaven, for the good things he has done.

Godly wisdom says otherwise. Jesus Christ said that he is the way the truth and the light. He said that no man makes it to the father except through him.

So even Ghandi with all of his good works and greatness on earth will not make it to Heaven…because God sets the standard and the standard is himself.

God is the standard. He does not “aspire” to be or do good. He does not strive to adhere to some outside scale of what goodness is. He IS goodness! What he says goes and whatever it is he wants to be good (and therefore right) is good.

That’s why Jesus says “Why do you call me “good teacher”? Only God is good.”

We humans don’t like that. I know I don’t. I want to define what is good in my life. There are a lot of things that I would like to be good (In my sinful nature) and are not. Sexual Immorality, orgies, drunkness to name a few. I would love to get out there and sleep with all the women in the world and feel great about it. That’s because I am a sinner and my flesh desires what is contrary to what God desires.

However I know from studying the bible that those things are wrong. No matter how much I my flesh hates that fact, it will not change. The scriptures are clear. And in my heart, in my spirit I know that such things are wrong. That’s because I know that drunken womanizers don’t grow up to be loving fathers and husbands, two things that I aspire to one day.

Please take careful note of 1Timothy 4:16. It includes a warning and an encouragement to both me personally and you as well as anybody that reads it.

God bless.

13 12 2007
Reverend boy

Sooooo …..

What’s your point? I’m afraid I don’t follow what you are trying to say. Please elaborate off line via email.

21 12 2007
Troy

Revboy, what I meant is this: God defines what is right and wrong in
the Bible not us. Homosexuality or rather the excersize of it is wrong
in God’s view. This is described in the old testment and the new.

Even marrying your partner does not put a stamp of approval on it
because the act itself is the sin not the circumstance. There are only
two circumstancial sins in my knowledge and those are sex and worship. Most sins are defined by the commission of them, ie stealing, adultery.

Sex is ok if you are married to a person of the opposite sex who is
not a close relative and is the same species and is not yourself. I
mean that sex is wrong if it is with a man, a goat, your left hand, or
your mother (or father, sibling etc) even if you marry them. Other
then that marry who you choose and once within those confines sex is
ok even encouraged. That is the biblical view. There are no other biblical defintions of marriage we have to work with.

Worship is only to God of Abraham, Jacob and Isaac, his Son Jesus and
the Holy Spirit. Worship of any other being is Idolatry and sin.

I hope you understand my points. How does the above line with your understanding of biblical doctrine?

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