Not Orthodoxy but Truth?

This morning a member of our lectionary study group said that he is not interested in orthodoxy but truth, and it seemed to me, as the conversation went on, that any of us who wanted to proclaim the truth of God in Jesus Christ were dismissed as orthodox and therefore not true seekers of the truth.  Moreover, any appeal to scripture as revealing truth is suspect on the grounds that it is only self justifying and, in that regard, no more reliable than scripture from any other religious tradition.   As I tried to listen I also got the impression that he was as ironclad in his religious ideology as are the “far right” fundamentalists.  

I have not yet decided whether or how to respond, and you know from the tone of some of my posts that it is not hard for the curmudgeon to come out of hiding.  I’d like to avoid that.  

Here is my sense of my own orthodoxy.  I am convinced that the Christian faith as framed by (but not limited to) the Nicene Creed follows in the path of God’s eternal truth.  

I have no doubt whatsoever that God is the creator and sustainer of all that is, but that does not keep me from rejoicing in all that science and philosophy are able to discover about God’s ways.  And on a curmudgeonly aside, people who keep attacking or defending Darwin are no different than those who would turn to the Wright Brothers for the last word in aeronautics or Thomas for the last word in theology.

I have no doubt that God was manifested, incarnated, in Jesus of Nazareth in a way that is utterly unique, and that we have the most limited of human words to express what is ultimately a holy mystery.  But that does not keep me from rejoicing in the many others through whom God has spoken and in whom the light of God’s love shines.

I have no doubt that the resurrection of Jesus was a bodily resurrection through which his full divinity was revealed to some significant numbers of his followers.  But that does not keep me from rejoicing in the power of a wholly spiritual resurrection that continues to be with us through many channels.

Therefore, I have no doubt that what Jesus said and did was as full a revelation in human form of what God desires and expects of us, and, that in a most mysterious way, his life, death and resurrection are both signs and means of our own paths to eternal life in God’s presence.  

Everything else is provisional.

As an Anglican I do not have to believe in the literal historicity or inerrancy of the bible to  believe that everything in it has something to say to us about God’s truth.  When we say that the bible is the Word of God we mean that everything in it reveals, illuminates and informs us about God’s truth.  Since I believe that, in truth, it is inspired by God (not dictated) I also believe that it is not fragile and does not need to be protected.  Every tool of lower and higher criticism can be brought to bear without fear of damaging it.  

It also means that our understanding of God’s truth will change as we mature in faith, experience and wisdom. 

That’s not only what I believe but it is that on which I stake my life.  And don’t give me that bs about whether non-believers are saved.  You know very well that’s a straw man.  Oops, sorry, curmudgeon sneaking out.

What about you?

12 thoughts on “Not Orthodoxy but Truth?”

  1. Here\’s what I have no doubt about, that the phrase \”was crucified under Pontius Pilate, suffered death and was buried\” is the only thing in the Nicene Creed that is fact.The rest is…legend, and theological creations and wishful thinking across the centuries.Sorry. You asked.

  2. County Parson:Good read. Personally, the more I read and study the history of Christianity, the more interested I get in the first two centuries before Constintine and the council forced orthodoxy on the bubbling foment that was the look of the early church groups. Also the famous quote \” See the Christians, see how they love.\”We all see through the glass darkly, and just hope we get it partly right.Cheers! Bill McCaw

  3. Hi HM – well, it seems PP gathers a lot of solid fact folks. I would disagree with your \”the rest is\” being as you describe, but it certainly wouldn\’t shut down any communication or views that I would thrust upon you:)CP – very provocative post – inspirational and heart-thumping, (maybe chest beating)… always make me think!

  4. Sorry about what? Sorry I had to disagreewith you.How do I feel about the work of Rene Girard? That his theories really don\’t have a solid historical leg to stand on. Sure, they are a nice system that makes sense within itself if you start from already accepting the basic premises upon which they are based, but those premises are faulty.Sunrise Sister,I should probably know this, I guess, but may I ask what \”PP\” stands for in your comment?

  5. H.M.The only time disagreement is disagreeable is when it shuts off conversation. I\’m inclined to agree with Girard that behind each myth or legend is an event, and that the myth or legend says something that is important to know about that event. And, I realize, as you do, that the Nicene Creed was an attempt to define the Christian faith in terms acceptable to the Greek mind. Given all the centuries that have passed, we are still pretty Greek in the way we think about the cosmos, so I believe it still does good job of framing the faith, and I use the word framing with intent.

  6. CP, you\’ve started me down a whole new train of thought. I\’d best share it before it derails.You said: \”The only time disagreement is disagreeable is when it shuts off conversation.\”I belong to a political party in Canada. Here in Saskatchewan, it has been the dominant party since the 1940s, though currently out of power. Nationally, it has never been a serious contender for power and has occasionally been quite marginal in its influence.When I was younger, I\’d go to a convention and there would be vigorous debate between the left and the right. Well, not really the left and the right. The purists and the pragmatists. Well, that isn\’t quite it either. Between the people who saw the CCF-NDP as a political movement and those who saw it as a political party. Actually, that\’s not quite right either, but you get the idea.Thing is, the debates were vigorous and compelling. Sometimes the left / purist / movement side won. More often the right / pragmatist / party side won. Often they had cobbled together a compromise that everyone could agree to.The party was united around some fundamental ideas that politics should be about improving the lot of regular folk, about ensuring that everyone had food, shelter and medical care. But there were disagreements about how to get from here to there.I used to believe that the point of the debates was the final resolution.I\’ve sinced realized that the point of the debates was the debate, the engagement.The left/purist/movement folk kept the right/pragmatist/party folk in touch with their moral compass. The right/pragmatist/party folk kept the left/purist/movement folk in touch with reailty.The problem we have in Anglicanism today is that everyone wants the answers, but no one wants the discussion. Effectively proclaiming the good news of the risen Jesus requires the active engagement of all Christians. When we start to look at the debate as being about achieving agreement, we miss the point. When we want to develop and ever more comprehensive explication of truth, we shut down the discussion entirely.Neither the \”liberals\” nor the \”conservatives\” (how I hate those labels, but you know who I mean) have the whole of the truth. Our Lord did not promise the Spirit would hand us the truth all neat and tidy. He promised the Spirit would lead us into all truth.But if we run away from honest debate – if we beat each other over the head with shibboleths – if we deny that \”those people\” have anything to say that we need to hear, then we deny the Holy Spirit – the unforgivable sin.The genius of Anglicanism as seen in the Elizabethan Settlement is in the rejection of those false orthodoxies of either side. The Spirit isn\’t finished leading us yet.My systematic theology professor used to joke about those \”who believe the Holy Spirit dies after the Council of Ephesus.The Holy Spirit is not dead! She lives!

  7. malcolm,Did she (the Holy Spirit) even make it as far as the Council of Ephesus? ;)Sorry, I couldn\’t resist that one. Hey, if you\’re an NDPer, you can\’t be all bad. 🙂 I appreciate your contributions here.

  8. Wow Malcolm, you really nailed it!. I agree with H.M. that an NDP\’er can\’t be all bad. I have some vague recollection of those \”debates\” particularly around health care during the time I was engaged in trans-border issues such as water flow, pipelines, etc. (I wasn\’t always a priest). As for me, I don\’t know what the heck I am. I guess I\’m a liberal conservative with a progressive streak both politically and theologically. Maybe that\’s why I can\’t be anything but Anglican. Had lunch today with an RC priest buddy: we have so much in common and so little in common.

  9. Since the subject of the Nothing Done Properly folks in Manitoba, the party of the working people, has upped my Pharmacare minimum, I\’m a senior with a $400 monthly medication bill. Oh just so you don\’t thing I\’m prejudiced, my Conservative friend and MLA Rick Borotisik got an ear-full that no government NDP-Lib-PC had changed the senior eyeglass program since 1982and HM, I assume you remain silent during the Creed, I respect the opinion of those who don\’t believe it but do not those who recite that which they do not accept.Rant off

  10. Greetings,Am new to your blog which I have been reading with enjoyment this morning. I liked this post very much because it was so straightforward, yet so thoughtful and non-exclusive. I like hearing from someone what they believe. I realize that I am making a simplistic comment, but I just really loved hearing about you, you as a person, a fellow traveler. And I loved the way you laid it out. I haven\’t had much of a glimpse into the Anglican tradition in my lifetime, as I was very immersed in understanding the Catholic faith of my father. I turned to the great Catholic mystics for the most part and they helped inform a passionate Love and way of being in the world, and that was all I needed or wanted. As I have read and come in contact with mystics of other traditions, there has been an ongoing evolution for me. It is what I think of as the great stuff of life. Anything that makes me a kinder human being is good, wherever it comes from and however it came to be. A long way of saying hello, and I look forward to reading here again.Salaams,Patricia

Leave a Reply