Monday, August 14, 2006

from dr. william tighe

From the comments at T19 on the article by Dean Zahl (below).  The more I think about it, the more puzzling Dean Zahl's remarks are to me.  What IS he thinking?

Read the rest of Dr. Tighe's comment here (along with the other comments).

It does seem to me that what he is decrying about Anglican
ecclesiology is one of the long-term fruits of two related tendencies:
the basically Erastian nature of the Elizabethan Settlement (1559), in
which the State imposed its will on the Church of England, both in
separating it from Rome and subsequently in imposing upon it a clearly
but moderately Protestant doctrinal stance (the 39 Articles) and
subsequently preventing it from clarifying its confessional stance in
later doctrinal controversies (cf. the failed “Lambeth Articles” of
1595); and, secondly, in consequence of the first (and once the
inability of the Church of England to further clarify its doctrinal
stance ceased to be regarded as regrettable by its leaders, but rather
as a virtue), the “inhabiting” of Anglicanism by three different
theological strains whose presuppositions and orientations were and are
fundamentally at variance with one another, and irreconciliable: the
Evangelical (Protestant, “lowchurch” or whatever; sometimes claiming
the mantle of “Reformed Catholic”), the Catholic (”English Catholic,”
Laudian/Caroline, “highchurch” or, latterly, Anglo-Catholic — all but
the last also asserting claims to the title “Reformed Catholic”) and
the Liberal (evolving [or perhaps devolving] out of the Latitudinarian
or “broadchurch” party, but recruiting adherents from the other two
groups). The advantage that this latter group has always had over the
other two rests on several bases; (1) its claim to provide a synthesis
between the views of the other two groups (one which with the passage
of time, as with any dialectical philosophy, may be constantly receding
into the future, like a mirage), or at least a via media between them,
(2) its ability to represent itself as “moderate” rather than as
“extreme” (this was, of course, possible only so long as all three
parties shared a conventional orthodoxy on basic issues of theology and
Christology, and on morality; with the passage of such a conventional
orthodoxy, the liberals can be seen for the true radicals) and (3) its
embracing a sort of “neo-erastianism” as fundamental to its identity.
The “old Erastianism” held that the monarch, or “civil magistrate” had
power over and even within the church: power, especially, to regulate
(1) the internal and sacramental life of the church, and the discipline
that church officials could exercise over the heterodox and the
immoral, and (2) to determine what was basic in the church’s doctrinal
stance and the extent to which it could enforce adherence to it over
members. The “new Erastianism” also looks to, and defers to, an
authority outside the church and its doctrinal tradition or
confessional standards: one might say that it has a tendency to confuse
the Holy Ghost with the “Zeitgeist” or at least only subjective
criteria (whether scholarly or emotional or cultural) for
differentiating between the one or the other (i.e., if Jesus is another
Socrates, why isn’t Socrates just as good as Jesus; and if this is true
of Socrates, why not Nietzsche? Or if homosexual genital partners can
have their “monogamous” relations “blessed,” why not polygamous or
polyandric relationships?)

The result of this, as we see today in ECUSA, is that Episcopalians
have ended up in a situation analogous to that which the once-Calvinist
(but “empirically Calvinist”, that is, without any binding confession
of doctrine) “Standing Order” of Massachusetts Congregationalism ended
up by about 1820 — when unitarians and trinitarians contended in
umbrageous struggle in the same institution, a struggle ended only by
disestablishment in 1832, and the ability of each Massachusetts parish
to choose its affiliation by the vote of all members. Of course, in
1820 rationalism and moralism formed the predominant cultural outlook
in New England, and consequently the argument between the two parties
revolved for the most part around rational philosophy and biblical
exegesis. Today, it has devolved (for the most part) into a subjective
free-for-all. But when a commentator here on Titusonenine can write,
for example, that Jesus was “mistaken” on marriage and divorce, and at
the same time regard himself as a Christian and an Anglican, it is
pretty clear that ECUSA has hit the same rock bottom as the Unitarians
(and it’s hard to see that the Canadians or the English are too far
behind). And worse even — for whereas the Unitarians continued for 75+
years to regard the Lord Jesus as in some sense “divine” and certainly
as “savior,” these Liberal Anglicans would seem in practice to reduce
him to the status of a Socrates, a Plato or a Confucius, a figure whom
one finds “inspiring” in some sense, but in no meaningful sense

My late friend Fr. Joseph M. Elliott (1934-2002), the whole of whose
life from 1959 onwards was spent ministering at St. Paul’s Church in
The Bronx, NY (as seminarian intern, curate, priest-in-charge and
ultimately Rector) — a man whose theological outlook was an eclectic
mixture of Barthianism, Scriptural inerrantism and Catholic
sacramentalism — towards the end of his life once summarized his own
disillusioned evaluation of Anglicanism as “It was good while it
lasted, but it was not good enough to last.” Sadder words were never
spoken; and sadder still if true. Perhaps Dr. Zahl is in the process of
coming to a similar realization.

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