Sunday, July 24, 2005

a response to a response

An Anglican Scotist has written a response to the Anglican Communion Institute's "The Holy Scriptures and the Teaching of the Church Universal on Human Sexuality." Here is a pertinent exerpt from the Scotist:

The paper admits the "Church is the Bride of Christ" and that marriage is a "covenant relationship" that "reflects God's eternal purpose." Ephesians is even stronger--marriage is to be modeled after the relationship of Christ to the Church. Given such premises, it follows gay marriage is permissible: the relation of Christ to the Church includes the relation of male to male (a male Christ to a male Church member, each resurrected). If marriage here below is to be modeled after a relation in which males are relata, men can be the relata in marriage here below.

And here is my response to it:

Its seems to me that you are conflating the relationship between Christ (the Bridegroom) and the Church (the Bride), on the one hand, and the relationship between Christ and members of the Church on the other. Your assumption that Christ relates as Bridegroom to male members of the Church therefore manifests a deficient ecclesiology. It no more follows that Christ relates to, e.g., Griswold (who is a member of the Church) from the fact that Christ and the Church itself relate as Bridegroom and Bride, than it follows from the fact that I relate to my wife as Bridegroom that I therefore relate in the same way, e.g., to her great toe. Indeed my relation to my wife’s toes depends entirely on my relation to her, as it were, cuncti. Were I to lose one of her toes (if it were, say, cut off and thrown in the fire), that certainly be sad and painful, but it would pale in comparison to losing her entirely.

The consistent witness of Scripture and Tradition have been to the applicability of gender predicates and conjugal images to Christ and the Church. Indeed the suitability of the analogy of Matrimony (again, as witnessed both by Scripture and Tradition) hangs perhaps primarily on Christ’s masculine and super-abundant gift, and the Church’s complimentary feminine reception, of the Holy Spirit. It is from this divine outpouring and gracious reception of the Spirit that the fecundity of the Church is manifest, because it is precisely in her reception of Christ’s outpouring that she shares Christ’s own divine corporeality, it is in this conjugal communion between Christ and the Church that the Church becomes the Body of Christ, that the two become one flesh.

This is not so for individual members of the Church. The members of the Church (as in the analogy of the Body), share in Christ insofar as the Church shares in Christ. But the fullness of communion is between Christ and the Church. This is why it has been the universal teaching of the Church that there is no salvation outside of herself, namely because Christ gives himself exclusively and eternally to her.

And indeed the notion of the members of the Church being properly understood as Brides of Christ is implicitly rejected in the gospels (e.g. Luke 5), where the disciples are called "guests" at the wedding feast, rejoicing in the presence of the Bridegroom.

You may object that this understanding of Christ the Bridegroom and his Bride the Church assumes an outmoded gender essentialism. However, one would be hard-pressed indeed to show that the Bible does not itself likewise assume gender essentialist categories (as does the Universal Tradition). If therefore, as you say, you think it laudable to “start with biblical theology”, then I am afraid you commit yourself to starting with gender essentialist categories. This is doubly so if you wish to “keep common ground with ACI.”

(Incidentally, this reminds me of Scotus's response to Henry of Ghent on the question of what exactly is the natural object of human intellection in theology. God is a not proper object of human intellection because, for one thing, human intellects, as created objects, do not contain the uncreated divine essence virtually -- according to Scotus a necessary condition for direct intellection. It stands to reason that only at the conjugal meeting of created and uncreated -- the Bridegroom and the Bride -- are created things graced [i.e. the sacraments -- instituted and actualized, again, by the Bridegroom's super-abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the grace of Holy Order] such as to become knowable by humans.)


father wb said...

My comment seems to have disappeared from the Scotist's blog.

Johnny Awesomo said...

Talk more about Okham so we can all laugh at your protestant tendencies.

Johnny Awesomo said...

Okham (sic)

Mike L said...


Thanks for that! I had been unaware of this before I posted my own critique at Pontifications.