Can an Anglican talk theology with coherency and integrity or is our theology bound to disintegrate, like language at Babel?
A while I go I made a first stab at this question by considering the coherency of Roman theology and the price it pays when subject to test, specifically the test of coping with the breakdown of marriage. I suggest the price of coherency is too high: annulments of 'marriages' are declared in order for a new marriage to proceed as a genuine marriage and not an 'as if' or 'sort of, sort of not' marriage. But the price of this theological coherency is either dissembling (many a true marriage is determined not to be so (i.e. a marriage ceremony, consummation, bringing of children into the world can be determined to be 'not a marriage')) or injustice (some people through no particular fault of their own, having ended up divorced also end up forbidden to participate in the eucharist - a matter that Pope Francis is clearly intent on addressing).
But can Anglicans do better? We are quite good (in my experience of blogging) at finding all sorts of pitfalls in our diverse attempts at coherent theology.
Evangelical Anglican theology? Pah. It either does not take Scripture seriously, or fails to define 'plain reading', or avoids engagement with the question of the 'what' and 'whose' of Scripture (what is it, who determines it, is it not the church's book more than God's book?) or lacks consideration of the role that reason and tradition play in the understanding of Scripture, or ...[name another fault]. At least that's what some commenters say here in argument against my slavish devotion to evangelical Anglican theology which is both impeccable, irrefutable and irrepressible :)
Catholic Anglican theology? What a disaster that is turning out to be! Or is it? Start commenting now and refute the following ... At the heart of catholic theology (as I understand it) is a concern for finding, forwarding and fostering common theological ground both the commonality of past and present belief. Whether we focus on tradition or on ubiquity of belief (what Christians have always and everywhere believed) that commonality is important. For the present, commonality of belief, when questions arise as belief is challenged to adapt, change or develop, means catholic theologians look for the common if not universal agreement among Christians which favours any proposed adaptation, change or development.
Within the Roman approach to catholic belief the role of the pope is crucial, both as leading upholder of tradition and as authoriser of new developments in belief. That is, the pope (again, as I understand things) is decisive for catholic theology (in Roman perspective) as the one who, finally, after all sorts of consideration, including by the magisterium, determines that from henceforth thus and so will be grafted into the tradition.
For Anglican catholics, united in respect for but not in obedience to the pope, the commonality of belief has been fostered by renewed emphasis on the days of the development of the common tradition (i.e. the works of the Fathers), by acknowledgement of the model offered by Eastern Orthodoxy (no pope, but faithfulness to the tradition within autonomous Orthodox churches) and by determination to read the gospels themselves afresh as the starting point for orthodox, catholic theology. But that approach appears to have run aground.
On the one hand, conservative catholics have largely abandoned ship, heading for Rome directly or the Ordinariate, recognising that the tradition of catholic theology within Anglican churches, revived under the Anglo-Catholic movement has no future when it abandons the tradition in order to bring about change not agreed to by some common forum such as (in Anglican terms) the Lambeth Conference.
On the other hand liberal catholics, willing to embrace change to theology without regard for even a small commonality factor (no Anglican agreement, let alone Roman or Eastern Orthodox agreement) have effectively denied the word 'catholic' in the description of the approach. Continuing appearances of catholicity such as maintaining common robes and rituals paradoxically forms 'the Emperor's robing' as a cover for the loss of common faith.
Does that leave an unabashed liberal Anglican theology as the unexpected winner of the coherent theology stakes? Let's leave that question for another post.
Tell me my analysis above is wrong. I am desperately keen to find a coherent Anglican theology. Notwithstanding what is said above, I remain confident of the future of Anglican evangelical theology!