Tuesday, July 5, 2016

A Summary of the Errors of Biblical Fundamentalism, Papalism, Traditionalism, and Religious Liberalism

Re-reading Abp. Michael Ramsey and others, it becomes clearer how the appeal to Scripture, as lived out in the Church's life, i.e., Tradition, and as interpreted by Reason provides the best basis for resolving the problems Christians face.  Let us first examine how the various partial or unbalanced approaches fail to do this.

Scripture, without Church, Tradition, or Reason leads to the kind of Biblical Fundamentalism which is so common in this country.  The result is that the very tools which allow us to understand Scripture are cast aside.  Because of this the meaning of Scripture in itself and for us is lost. Included in this is the theological meaning of Scripture, which is why we have it, that is, we lose the ability to understand the encounter of others with God, and to have our own encounter with God.

An overemphasis on "Church", such as found in the Roman Communion, leads to an inability to critique effectively the pronouncements of those in position of presumed ecclesiastical authority, especially the Pope and the organs of the Vatican.  It means that the this-worldly organization is emphasized to the exclusion of all else, and the real Church, (which exists not just now and in the past on earth, but is ever present in heaven in Christ before the throne of grace) becomes merely a justification for the power of a this-worldly organization.  Ultimately even God becomes just a justification, as is evident in some versions of the theology of the people of God, as espoused, for instance, by the current Roman Pontiff.  This problem is not unique to Rome: The General Convention of the Episcopal Church in the USA suffers the same temptation.

An emphasis on Tradition without the other tools leads to an inability to distinguish between the traditions of men, and the authentic living out of the Christian experience of God.  This is an error most common in Eastern Orthodoxy.  Thus Scripture cannot be used to make this distinction and correct human error that has crept in, nor can reason be used to clarify truths and their relation to each other.  The result is an inability to discern and appropriate authentic Tradition.  An interesting example of this is Traditionalist Roman Catholics, who combine a primary loyalty to the historic organization of the Roman Church with this kind of false traditionalism in such a way that makes it difficult for them to actually critique the mistakes of the current papacy: Having accepted most of the presuppositions of papal absolutism, especially the need for submission to the Roman Pontiff, they nonetheless struggle to justify disobedience to him in areas where they think him wrong.

Finally, the exaltation by Liberal Christians of Reason at the expense of Scripture, Church, and Tradition means that the Christian experience of God is not taken into rational account.  The result of this a priori exclusion of the theological data is itself irrational, and results in the replacement of Reason by secular ideology.  The triumph of the Broad Church party in Anglicanism, to the increasing exclusion of other points of view, has sadly led to the abandonment by very many Anglicans of their classic approach to the question of authority, and made the public face of Anglican churches in the West just another brand of Liberal Christianity.  The loss of doctrine, however, has, as Fr. Eric Mascall pointed out a half century ago, undermined the emphasis on social justice of the Liberal churches, and made them merely apparatchiks of the Governmental-Capitalist globalist establishment, with their concern for the poor and oppressed being revealed more and more as a front for exclusivity and clubbiness.

Thus we see how each of these unbalanced approaches ends up undermining the very things it seeks to preserve.

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