The Sarabite: Towards an Aesthetic Christianity

There is a continuous attraction, beginning with God, going to the world, and ending at last with God, an attraction which returns to the same place where it began as though in a kind of circle. -Marsilio Ficino

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Who Cares?

This is where my mea culpa comes in. I have participated with my typical rhetorical flair in this argument over at the All Too Common Blog. Now I regret doing it. Why argue with some anti-ecumenical Roman Catholic over the finer points of the vague history of sacramental theology? Does it really matter that one bishop somewhere in the Apostolic line "crossed his fingers" when he laid on hands? Even if our sacraments are "invalid", does that mean the Holy Spirit cannot work in the Church?

Something tells me that the Reformer's emphasis on Faith is what's most important here. "Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee...." Vain is the help of man. Even if our orders are invalid, what would it matter? The Power of God works through the weakness of men if we only believe. "If you only had faith the size of a mustard seed...."

I fell into the RC trap of "sacramental validity" because of my pride mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa....

If this doesn't make any sense, it is because I am a sleep-deprived student. Good night and God bless.


At 8:38 AM, Blogger J. Gordon Anderson said...

Ah, man, you took one for the team (and did a damn good job, I might add). You said nothing uncharitable, or rude. You simply spoke the truth. Your emphasis on faith is right on. That is what gets lost in these debates, and that is one of the great things that the Reformation tradition brings to the table.

Personally, I have found that it is useless arguing with converts to RCism (the cradle catholics are much nicer to deal with in my experience). That is why I tend to shy away from that crap now. At best, these arguments are annoying distractions. If I spent as much time in my life in prayer as I have in arguing with people about things like this I would have been caught up to heaven by now like Elijah!

I think that these converts need their decision to be in communion with the pope to be validated in some way. That is certainly a legitimate need. But they try to do it by continuing to haunt Anglican blogs, and insulting and de-churching everyone else - especially us, because we are so similar. That is what I find so grating. If Anglicanism is such a waste of time, and a big farce, then why do they continue to waste time even discussing it? Why not worry about something else? Because it is essentially an emotional need that they are trying to satisfy they will not be convinced by any argument or logic, no matter how sound, in favor of some aspect their former church's theology/life.

At 9:08 AM, Blogger Matt said...

Even when I was a Roman Catholic, I wasn't convinced that Anglican orders were invalid. If a bishop lays his hands upon a man, intending to ordain him, and the ordinand intends to receive this charism, then he is ordained. End of story. The problem comes when one decides that bishops are no longer necessary, as John Wesley did. Hooker is, in my opinion, wrong when he states that bishops are desirable, but not necessary : any good Anglo-Catholic knows that the reverse is true!

At 6:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let us take, as a starting point, the idea that the purpose of ordination is to ensure the availablity of the Holy Mysteries. Let us also affirm the idea of sacramental realism, i.e. the idea that one's reception of God in the bread and the wine is not a function of one's belief in transubstantiation or of one's personal holiness.

If we agree on these two points, how does your theory fit in with the idea of a visible Church? If some guy in a garage somewhere gets it inot his mind to try to "confect the sacrament," then goes some ritual that he really believes will do the trick, is there some way we can know if God is specially present or not. Certainly, God could be present, but is there a way that we can know, objectively?

I think that this is where the whole validity of ordination thing is an issue. On the one hand, it cannot merely be a matter od saying the correct words and performing the correct gestures--sacraments are not magic. I also agree that it cannot be merely a matter of whatever the Pope says it is. Nevertheless, there must be some sort of lineage in combination with some sort of correct belief in order to make ordination worth anything. The purpose is not necessarily power but rather witness to the world that "Christ is certainly here" (wherever else He may also be).

Naturally, this whole discussion presumes a belief in a visible, sacramental Church. If one's theology does not posit sacraments or a visible Church, then this whole question is pointless. Assuming that you believe in a visible and a sacramental Church, how do you know, objectively, that at any particular Liturgy, God is offering and being offered, and the Mystical Supper is taking place?

At 8:39 PM, Blogger Arturo Vasquez said...

Dear Han,

Nice to hear from you again and thank you for reading. I suppose the real point is not to have doubt in something that looks valid. Unless one is absolutely sure that someone's orders are false, one should not make assumptions about these things.

The broader point, however, is much more subtle. I am no longer in the mood to argue with anyone about minutiae. If someone comes onto my blog and starts arguing against the Divinity of Christ, then it's game time. But I have no impulse to pick a fight, nor should I have one. As one of the great living urban poets said in a polemic against another urban poet (truly some of the greatest rhetorical fireworks since Cicero's invectives against Cataline):

"Ya tripped on me, so it's only fair that I trip on you." (Dr. Dre)

Comprendes, Mendez?

In other words, all of the arguments you have posed are valid and true to an extent. But do we truly know the ways of God? We know that WE need to follow them, that we need sacraments, a hierarchy and the Church. While we know that we need the "res et signum" of the sacraments, some of us will only recieve the signum (the visible stuff), while others will receive the res (grace) without it. Most will recieve both.

Han, I am just not so sure about many things anymore. But I am sure of what is important, and it is not sacramental theology.

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