Friday, June 15, 2007

Great Wisdom?

Surfing the internet the other day, I came across a comment that "the tendency to see the refusal to make any theological commitments as evidence of great wisdom" has become a problem in The Episcopal Church.

Sadly, I think there's much truth to this observation.

Too many Episcopalians don't want to be pinned down to anything in particular, lest we then be held accountable to something or someone beyond our own subjective preferences. We want to keep our options open in case some better idea or practice comes along.

Perhaps we resonant more deeply with these words:

"No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature. Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to that or this; the only right is what is after my constitution; the only wrong what is against it" [Ralph Waldo Emerson from "Self-Reliance" (1841)].

than with these:

"If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me" (Mark 8:34).

or these:

"I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).

or these:

"We believe in one God ... [and] in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God" (The Nicene Creed).

Ironically, the refusal to make theological commitments itself entails a strong commitment - namely, a commitment to subjectivism and relativism as more privileged ways of knowing "truth" (whatever that might mean given such a commitment) than anything offered by a tradition embodied in an institution we call "Church."

Our common prayer as Episcopalians unambiguously commits us to truths that transcend our subjective preferences and make a fundamental claim on our lives and loyalties. These are truth claims we affirm everytime we renew our Baptismal Covenant vow to "continue in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the prayers" (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 304).

Where there is no willingness to allow our common praying to shape our believing, praying commitment to these truth claims in the liturgies of The Book of Common Prayer and simultaneously leaving our theological options open comes dangerously close to a public display of hypocrisy.

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