Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Bryden Black responds to the Doctrinal Commission's report

As we run up to the General Synod in less than a couple of week's time, I offer for readers here a critique of the Doctrinal Commission's report. It is written by the Rev Dr Bryden Black, a Christchurch based priest. 

The critique is here.

An annotated bibliography which accompanies the critique is here.

Here are a few excerpts from the critique, beginning and end:

"Right up front I wish to thank the members of this Commission for their time and work; we are in their debt in this respect. I also have to acknowledge the customary constituency of the ACANZ&P to be a rather political body. To this end, the dictum, “politics is the art of the possible”, would seem to have been uppermost in their mind as they did their work. And yet one still needs to ask, what undergirds that political practice? For any organization exhibits its specific ideology (to use that word in its non pejorative sense). How coherent and/or cogent therefore is the ideology of the ACANZ&P - or, to give it its formal name, its theology?

Consequently, I wish to highlight what I consider to be some serious deficiencies in their theological method, since it is this methodology that has foreclosed certain vital options which would have been otherwise before us, just as it has also steered the Commission in a given direction from the start. In addition, we might have been better able to see the wood for the trees if other approaches had been tried. To that end, I will first examine some of the basic terminology used by the commission, since it underlies both consciously and yet also unconsciously much of the way they proceed."

then to the conclusion ...

"Whereas previously we simply had the Estate of Holy Matrimony, within which all sexual behaviour was deemed to be permitted and fruitful in a number of ways, now we in the West are succumbing to a hermeneutical ploy, rich in secular political hubris, that would subvert at the deepest level the very Imago Dei in which the triune Creator has made us human beings. As with MacIntyre, a profoundly “disquieting” thing has developed, and it concerns the very nature of human being. The result is a counterfeit, tragic irony of enormous proportions. While there are elements of this Rationale, as assembled by the Commission, which are helpful, overall, given the enormity of what lies before us, I have to conclude their deliberations are far from ideal.

We in ACANZ&P deserve more than what is in effect unfortunately only “gruel”. To which end this all too brief 15 page commentary, which tries to put its finger on major outstanding matters ... Ecc 11:1."

What do you think?


Father Ron Smith said...

"For any organization exhibits its specific ideology (to use that word in its non pejorative sense). How coherent and/or cogent therefore is the ideology of the ACANZ&P - or, to give it its formal name, its theology?" - Dr. Bryden Black -

Well, presumably, with the odd doctorate and other theological as well as ordinational gifts among the leaders of our Church (ACANZP) I guess there must be quite a wealth of both theological and philosophical wisdom at work amongst our current constitutional leadership.

Furthermore, it is they, and not one or two theologians who take exception to where our leadership is taking us on this journey to justice for gay people, that will be answerable before the Almighty for their eirenic leadership.

Bryden echoes more of the same, from his fellow conservatives in our Church who are duty-bound to a pre-enlightenment understanding of both gender and sexuality, that prevents them from any expectation of 'doing theology', rather than repeating what has been held as an acceptable view of G. & S. in past times.

I guess if we were still in the habit of clinging to old 'certainties' on matters of slavery, usury and the inhumane treatment of women that appeared in the Old Testament, Christians would be condemned to repeat the manifest injustices of past praxis

However, Christ our Liberator has Risen from the Dead, bringing the Good News of God's Love for all people - not just conservative Christians - but, of course, including them, provided they do not withhold His embrace of those they may disdain for their innate difference.

I wonder, Peter, if you've considered posting an article that affirms ACANZP for its inclusive outreach to Christian Gays?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I would be very happy to publish other points of view here in the run up to General Synod.

Bryden Black said...

Thanks Ron for your comment. I would however hazard from the words you use that you have in fact neither read my piece nor digested it. If you had, then perhaps you might have addressed such matters as "inclusive" and "justice", my two opening sections. Also you might have noticed most of my references are far from "conservative": MacIntyre, von Rad, Westermann, Wittgenstein, Lonergan, to name a few. But then I do have to finally note you seldom actually discuss any form of argument ... Eh bien; rien ne change ...

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron and Bryden
I have allowed each of your comments above through unexpurgated. But each comment veers towards discussing the other as a 'commenter' and not 'content' of comment ... further comments should focus solely on the content of Bryden's paper.

hogsters said...

Thank you Bryden

At heart lies a major problem and principle with the post modern way of “seeing things”. Language can mean anything we want it to.

To take the issue wider than the word “inclusion”. When words like truth, chronology and historicity are stripped of their meaning as far as being “real” on their own terms ” we are left with the impression that we are not accountable for our actions which in turn leads us to believe we are free. But at what cost.

Calling a crocodile safe does not evade the fact that a crocodile is not safe.


Bryden Black said...

I look fwd Peter to comment addressing either "justice" or "inclusive" in due course - to name merely the opening two sections. Thank you for the veer, which does indeed approach the centre line but hopefully not quite incur a fine!

Bryden Black said...

Neither is Aslan safe hogster - but he IS good!

hogsters said...

Yes Bryden, and therein we are pointed towards a truth that explains much. God is good and we are not. CS in God in the Dock points out that our inability to see ourselves as sinful as the major block to gospel proclamation.


Father Ron Smith said...

This is why, in catholic circles, the priest, after hearing a penitent always asks the penitent to pray for his confessor in this way:

"Pray for me, a sinner".

That helps set the record straight: That we are ALL sinners. And that is the Gospel Truth!

Peter Carrell said...

Yes, we are all sinners, Ron!

But if we are talking about going to a confessor, what sins are we confessing? And what things are not sins that do not need confessing?

Therein lies our debate ... but not over whether we are all sinners.

Bryden Black said...

Thanks Ron for your latest. Together with Peter, I'd want an answer to the question I clearly state in my last para of the Fall section, p.12. HOW one answers and so deals with the "stand-off" will be determined very much by the substance of my entire piece.

Father Ron Smith said...

Nipping back to your original thesis, Bryden, I note the following question:

"Is inclusion/inclusivity itself a Gospel value, let alone a Gospel imperative?"

I suppose in asking that question, one might be questioning the wisdom of Jesus taking on our common humanity - all of it, not only the kosher Jewish male.

Jesus either assumed our total fallen humanity - or he did not. Perhaps, Bryden, you have other ideas?

for me, the Gospel inclusivity is that Jesus has assumed our total humanity - both good and bad, and transformed it, for all eternity.

Perhaps Our toughest choice in this world, is to either opt in or out of that. How the Church presents the options is, of course, important. But I'm sure we're not expected to make it an obstacle race. "Come to ME..."

Bryden Black said...

G’day Ron; thanks for getting back to me specifically. Two things.

1. I do note you actually take off in another direction entirely from the one I myself subsequently address, answering my own question. Be that as it may ... I.e. the way you and others tend to use “inclusive” language remains undefended.

2. As for the actual direction you pursue, I could not agree more!! For there is the old Patristic tag, extolled by the Greek East, “the unassumed is the unredeemed”. [See Gregory of Nazianzus, Letter CI, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol VII, ed. Philip Schaff (Eerdmans, 1983), p.440.] Of course, this ‘Minority Report’, that Jesus took to himself fallen human nature, undercuts any subsequent requirements for the Immaculate Conception ... Nonetheless, recent theologians like Barth and TF Torrance have made much capital out of the stance. Exegetically too, we should pay close attention to the likes of Cranfield in his Romans Commentary at 8:3 re “likeness of sinful flesh”.

All the same, while I am delightfully surprised we have this key area of agreement, this does little in my view to address the basic issue of the first point and the opening section of my piece. Indeed; I would not countenance the use of “inclusive” talk to speak of the Incarnation exactly - though naturally I do see how you wish to stretch the language to do so. The issue before us has to do rather with “difference”, and so the One and the Many, an old hoary chestnut (if I may be so bold to suggest you read that paper in the Aussie collection as footnoted).

Father Ron Smith said...

"Indeed; I would not countenance the use of “inclusive” talk to speak of the Incarnation exactly - though naturally I do see how you wish to stretch the language to do so"
- Dr. Bryden Black -

And there's one difference between us, Bryden. I would and indeed, do

Mine is a specifically, exclusively Incarnational Faith. The fact that Jesus included every single human being - including a sinner like me - in His redemptive action, in my faith imperative. Without that incarnational inclusivity, Jesus would have been a sectarian god - for whom I would have no respect.

Bryden Black said...

... Yes of course Jesus includes all humanity in his Incarnational embrace. We are in heated agreement at this point, Ron: God so loved the WORLD ... NOT only our sins but the sins of the WHOLE WORLD.

BUT that said, the way the pair of words "inclusivity" and "diversity" are currently enjoyed in common parlance in western culture has little if anything to do with such an all-embracing, Catholic Incarnate Redeemer.

Instead, it is precisely predicated upon an autonomous view of humanity that sees itself as its own self-positing creation. And that is the premise for the ideology of 'anything goes' - literally, ANYTHING. ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING IS TO BE EMBRACED AND INCLUDED.

That is why I subsequently unpacked my question in the way I did. So; a return question: are you in fact proposing monism?

Father Ron Smith said...

Bryden, my devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist, for me demonstrates my dependence upon Him for my very life and continuing existence.

As Vicar of a parish, I felt the need to commune with Jesus on a daily basis - to access the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to inform and enable my ministry for that day.

Now that I am retired, I do not have the same responsibility for parish ministry, but I do what I can to encourage and help in the ministry of the Gospel. This is why I feel privileged to take my turn in celebrating the Eucharist with others in the parish - holding up the Church and the world before God in prayer.

Part of my mission, in old age, is to continue prayer and supplication for God's will to be done in God's world, according to God's merciful loving kindness.

Today, at the Mass, we prayed that God's will be done about the future of our Cathedral in Christchurch. I would like a new cathedral. We prayed, though, that God's will be done in this matter.

Does that, in any way, answer your latest question?

Jean said...

Hi Bryden

I have to confess I am quite grateful for your last comment as I had a little difficulty understanding the language you used in your response to the commissions report.

Based on your last comment I agree. It has been my experience with those of my generation that there is a general stance that anything is acceptable. I think once a person agrees one thing which is a little morally unethical is acceptable they feel unable to consciously censor anything else.

For example I had an entertaining discussion once with a flatmate over a parade they have in Wellington which is sponsored by the owner of a few brothels (girls naked from the waist up drive through the central city). His view was it was entirely okay, my response was, and if your daughter was watching? If it was your mother taking part? : ) ... sorry a little off topic...

I think it is similar to the mis-use of human rights language. While human rights used in the context in which they originated referred specifically to a persons essential needs or dignity (the right to food, an opinion, to practice their religion). The word 'right' is now often used in our culture to make permit any number of personal preferences.

So yes I agree the words also inclusion and tolerance are used to legitimise and cover up many behaviours. And this has subsequently lead people implying or requiring that christian belief encompass the same application.

Father Ron I concur with your use of the word inclusion but my understanding is Bryden is challenging whether including people as Christ did on the cross is equivalent to legitimising all behaviours of said people. Bryden I am not qualified to speak on your behalf so correct me if I have misinterpreted.

Bryden Black said...

Thank you Jean for your comment - and perhaps a wee apology from me re my “language”; but only a wee one! For I had, and still have, in mind those who wrote both the Ma Whea? Report, and the Theology Report. There has been much work done over the past decades they could have and should have taken their bearings from - yet they failed to acknowledge it. Our church simply deserves better ... But back to your points.

I think the key to both opening sections, re the language of “inclusion” and “justice”, is to be found in the second last para of the second:

“Wherein now justice? And what is meant by this often elusive term? For its very elusive nature, I contend, is to a large degree nowadays directly due to something akin to MacIntyre’s “disquieting suggestion” (ch.1, After Virtue). But here the aetiology of the “disquiet” has been the severe twists and turns of our very understanding of the human, from that of a creature, both made in the image of God and accountable to its Creator, to the autonomous, self-positing, personal human subject of the 21st C. Here we have both continuities and discontinuities of the kind that seemingly allow for the use of words as proposed by the examples of MacIntyre’s opening chapter and thereafter his entire argument. “Justice” is just such a notion. The word remains, while the matrix of its original supporting beliefs has succumbed to another set of premises - even as there are naturally some continuities that strike curious echoes of the original.

Your referring to “rights” is another delightful example. I.e. yes; you’ve got it! My “upshot” example spells out all the irrational consequences in our present context as well. For “freedom” and “equality” and “rights” are ever the harbingers of conclusions they in fact are unable to sustain adequately now. The original “matrix”/“premises” for understanding the nature of human being have just morphed too much. Which was why I spent a seemingly large amount of my piece on Christian anthropology and the Fall - to expose any premise of naturalism (or humanism).

At root, we western Christians have a serious and delicate task: to tease out the twists and turns of our discourse over the past 300+ years, so as to hold onto what remains still authentically part of the Christian world view and ethos, and what has become so corrupted as to be simply now demonic. Yes; that last word is a tough one, but sadly it is true. For, as I say at the outset of my unit on Theology and Culture: the last creature to ask questions of the water is the fish; the first time a fish knows itself to be the creature it is is when it is caught and on dry land. We humans ‘naturally and obviously’ swim in our cultural ponds; and the only time we realise this is when we cross boundaries due to travel, trade, migration, conquest, whatever. And now in the 21st C, things are mightily complex due to both globalization and its counter, glocalization (e.g. right now the upsurge of the Nationalist Right in France). Just so, the utter importance of Romans 12:1-2. May you go to it, with the joy of the Risen Lord, whose Way comprises BOTH affirmation and fulfilment of the old AND the complete judgment and destruction of everything that would distort and destroy God’s original purposes, for the world and for humanity.

Father Ron Smith said...

"Father Ron I concur with your use of the word inclusion but my understanding is Bryden is challenging whether including people as Christ did on the cross is equivalent to legitimising all behaviours of said people."
- Jean -

Jean, that would be a travesty of my intention. But then, one is used to being grossly misunderstood by some people.

Jean said...

Hi Bryden

Thanks for your reply. No apologies for the language necessary, I accept it is a theological work and its purpose is more for your intended audience, a bit more schooled in apologetics than I am I imagine - but it was nice to grasp the basic meaning behind the more complex statements.

Father Ron I wasn't intending to comment on your intention but Bryden's, hence the words "my understanding is Bryden..." and my apology to him of speaking on his behalf. And when I said "Bryden is challenging" I meant challenging by the comments he has written.

It merely seemed like you were both writing at cross purposes.

I do state I concur with your use of the word inclusion as you mention it the posts above. By this I understand your use as meaning when Christ died for the sins of the world he included all people in his death. If this is a travesty of your intention I apologise. I am always open to being corrected.

Best Wishes to both of you,