Monday, July 14, 2014

Experience ain't what some crack it up to be

It is most unfortunate that someone I generally admire, Lord Carey has in recent days made what could be called a 'schoolboy error' re weighing into a UK debate over assisting death on the basis of 'experience.' The error is not least because it exposes all the many matters on which Lord Carey's theological commitments are not determined by experience!

Nevertheless there are plenty of people, to his left and right, excoriating, or at least showing a lack of support for Lord Carey, so no need for me to say anymore. But what is worth drawing attention to is a Psephizo post on the matter which brilliantly and simply lays out the folly of relying on experience as a premise for an argument.


Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Peter, I remember the trailing lines of a hymn verse that I quote:

Experience will decide - how blest are they, and only they, who is His truth confide".

Without experience in our lives of the dynamic of the Holy Spirit, there is no ground for faith.

To dismiss the place of pastoral experience as you have done here is a little hasty, to say the very least.

I am no fan of +George Carey, but I believe he has put his finger on a very important issue here that need careful consideration - not blithe dismissal.

Perhaps one needs to be in the position of someone in great pain and distress, longing for release, to be able to better understand the situation. Maybe your parish ministry experience has never encountered such. However, that does not mean that God does not see this matter in a different light.

I think that sometimes out desire for 'political correctness' can overcome our calling to exercise a humane and compassionate interest in the expressed needs of another of God's creatures. Even an animal can expect to be put out of its misery when suffering greatly.

"What I require is mercy, not sacrifice!"

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
Here I am more interested in the general application of 'experience' to the making of formal rules (e.g. legislation) than in responding to 'experience' in particular instances (e.g. the exact course of a dying individual's ebbing life).

I have no problem in general or broad terms with making the suffering at the end of life easier. I am wary - I bet you are too!! - about moving from 'cases' to 'law' so that what might be intended to ease pain becomes (over time) a charter for ending people's lives earlier than should be the case ("Grandpa, you've outlived your usefulness and are costing the State too much ...").

In the particular case of Lord Carey's intervention, it seems that he may have misunderstood what he is supporting by way of a proposed bill. The courses of life he would have wanted to see helped, his critics seem to say, are already covered by existing legislation.

Unknown said...

Hi Peter,
As I have already said elsewhere,
The sute you made reference to was extremely helpful.
It seems That LORD Carey might have unintendedly raised
'experience' to a level it should not occupy.
Experience,like reason,are subject to the 'fall.The foundational premise,for my belief
that the 'Revelation of God' must
be the starting point of all our thinking.
Lord Carey seems to have mistaken the 'Informed Concent' of all patients to refuse any proceedure
or resuscition process which they do not wish to undergo; with the right to arbitarily end a life.
That is,I do not wish to be connected up to machines to
prolong my life,often in a coma.
It is this dangerous assumption
of using emotive and subjective experience, as a basis of morality
and in turn,law; which has become the norm in secular politics.

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, like you, I do not want a legalised 'charter to end people's lives. However, I do believe there are circumstances where, with the express wish and permission of a suffering patient, a practitioner - with consent of family members - should be able to administer medication that will end suffering.

I realise the implication only too well. I remember being in a Church-sponsored ethics seminar group, in London, in the early 1970s, where a medical doctor of mature years admitted that, in very specialised circumstances, this was already being practised. We came to the conclusion that this may well be within the bounds of Christian morality - where the patient's express will was involved.

Jean said...

Hi Peter

I was shocked to hear of this proposed Bill in the UK. I have always found, even after painfully watching relatives pass away, and another struggle with a disability, that there is something inherent in my make up that cries for the preservation of life despite circumstances. Even knowing those circumstances for some include a lot of suffering.

Experiences can reflect truth but they are also subjective. so I would agree with you that as a sole basis for decision making of a generic nature it is an unwise foundation.

I believe we are not adequately equiped as human's to make life or to take life. This is not to say we do not do the later, but to question our ability to justly judge what life is worth the taking.


Unknown said...

Ron said: " What I require is mercy,not sacrifice".14.July@12.35

Surely we can only think about
'mercy' because of the 'sacrifice' of Jesus Christ on the Cross.
Then,if we are to speak of mercy;
it must be within the whole Teaching of Christ and not just as
single fascet of His Nature and Character, which we have isolated from His total being.
The same principle applies to our experience.What we experience,we
process through human facilties;
which,because of the 'fall', are not infalible.That is of course why we must pray for His Wisdom
and Understanding.

Unknown said...

Hi Peter,
Ron said:"without experience in our lives of the dynamic of the Holy Spirit,there is no ground for faith".July 14 @ 12.35PM.

The human dilemma revolves around the issue that we have also experienced the knowledge of good and evil.That rebellious act in the Garden of Eden, changed the relationship of the world and all created things on it as well as man;to the Creating God.
Unfortunately,secular man thinks that his experience and reasoning are sufficient grounds for a faith to live by.
So it is indeed sad,when someone we would least think vulnerable;
falls prey to this type of accommodation.All we can do is keep him in our prayers that the Holy Spirit will give him an insight into his error.

Father Ron Smith said...

"I believe we are not adequately equiped as human's to make life or to take life." - Jean -

Oh dear! Bang goes the human part in the process of procreation - the opposite of partheno-genesis!

Jean said...

Not at all Father Ron we might carry what is required to reproduce but we by no means made it.

Father Ron Smith said...

Jean, we don't need to have actually produced the raw materials to be able to say that we 'created' something. Such creative acts are part of our partnership with God.

Pedantic? I know. Perhaps I've caught something from grammaticus

Jean said...

Hi Fr Ron

Let me have a go. Confession my grammar is terrible.

Pro-create in latin means to take forth creation:
a.k.a. reproduce; propogate

I guess that supposes the creative part is already done?

How did I do?

Blessings Jean

Father Ron Smith said...

Not too well, Jean - IMHO.

Pro-creation is still participatory in the act of creation. God will not create a human being without our active co-operation - now that the day of Adam and Eve has passed.

Excepting, perhaps, with the Incarnation of Jesus. However, even then, Mary was involved with the process. That's why we honour her special obedience to God's will and purpose for her life.