Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The trouble with Anglicanism....

While it is a very wonderful, sane, healthy way to be Christian, it has no clue whatsoever why anybody should become a Christian.  I submit that Anglicanism does not itself know what faith is actually for, or why it's a good thing for human beings to pursue it.    It does know, I hasten to add, that one of faith's important roles is to "to give praise to God."  And that's great, I do acknowledge - but perfectly doable on one's own time, no?  And does worship - i.e., the famous "liturgy" - actually do much to help people just by itself?  Perhaps, for some people it does - those with a previous faith background and some understanding of faith practices (or those with a lot of patience - and a priest who uses the Prayer Book well) - but I'm not sure this idea is working very well these days.

The trouble with Anglicanism - and particularly the American version of it - is that it has no theology of human nature, and no particular thoughts - or perhaps rather  some trivial and at the same time contradictory thoughts - about the human condition itself (AKA "the heartache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to" - plus "alienation from God").    It's the original "I'm OK, you're OK" religion - so how can it help anybody who isn't actually OK?  Answer:  it can't. 

If Anglicanism wants to discuss the human condition, it must borrow anthropological ideas from elsewhere - Catholicism has some well-developed ones, and Lutheranism has some more modern and psychologically interesting (and dramatic!) ones; the most interesting ideas, from our perspective, might be the Girardian ones - but it has totally forgotten that this is possible or desirable.   It simply doesn't speak of any of these things.

So, what you get are people who actually are OK (sounds unlikely to me), or who believe they are OK - or those who seem to be OK, or pretend to be OK.  And since everybody's OK, well:  there's nothing to see here, folks.  We have to hurry to get out there to help all the people who aren't OK - but only the actual poor and needy, please.  Let's just leave the troubled or addicted - and, for that matter, the "poor in spirit" - out of this, can we?  And remember:  it's just plain selfish to focus on your own problems!

Actually, though:  there is a tiny touch of reporting on the human condition in the 39 Articles:
IX. Of Original or Birth-Sin.
Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam, (as the Pelagians do vainly talk;) but it is the fault and corruption of the Nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam; whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the Spirit; and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God's wrath and damnation. And this infection of nature doth remain, yea in them that are regenerated; whereby the lust of the flesh, called in Greek, p¢vnæa sapk¢s, (which some do expound the wisdom, some sensuality, some the affection, some the desire, of the flesh), is not subject to the Law of God. And although there is no condemnation for them that believe and are baptized; yet the Apostle doth confess, that concupiscence and lust hath of itself the nature of sin.

X. Of Free-Will.
The condition of Man after the fall of Adam is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and good works, to faith; and calling upon God. Wherefore we have no power to do good works pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us, that we may have a good will, and working with us, when we have that good will.

XI. Of the Justification of Man.
We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only, is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification.

But, of course:  the 39 Articles?  What the heck are those?

And you do get a bit about the Ten Commandments in the Catechism.  But there's a bit of a problem - kind of a large gap, in fact - in the thinking, given the issues enumerated in the articles above, isn't there?    How does one, in other words, actually get from there to here?  Seems to be a mystery.

Q.    What are the Ten Commandments?
A.    The Ten Commandments are the laws give to Moses and the people of Israel.
Q.    What do we learn from these commandments?
A.    We learn two things: our duty to God, and our duty to our neighbors.
Q.    What is our duty to God?
A.    Our duty is to believe and trust in God;
     I       To love and obey God and to bring others to know him;
     II       To put nothing in the place of God;
     III       To show God respect in thought, word, and deed;
     IV       And to set aside regular times for worship, prayer, and the study of God's ways.

Q.    What is our duty to our neighbors?
A.    Our duty to our neighbors is to love them as ourselves, and to do to other people as we wish them to do to us;
     V      To love, honor, and help our parents and family; to honor those in authority, and to meet their just demands;
     VI      To show respect for the life God has given us; to work and pray for peace; to bear no malice, prejudice, or hatred in our hearts; and to be kind to all the creatures of God;
     VII      To use our bodily desires as God intended;
     VIII      To be honest and fair in our dealings; to seek justice, freedom, and the necessities of life for all people; and to use our talents and possessions as ones who must answer for them to God;
     IX      To speak the truth, and not to mislead others by our silence;
     X      To resist temptations to envy, greed, and jealousy; to rejoice in other people's gifts and graces; and to do our duty for the love of God, who has called us into fellowship with him.

We're also told that "It is required that we should examine our lives, repent of our sins, and be in love and charity with all people" before receiving Communion.   Well, that's certainly nice - but again:  how is one supposed to accomplish any of this, if we are "very far gone from original righteousness, and of our nature inclined to evil"?

If we've dropped the 39 Articles because we don't actually believe that  we are "very far gone from original righteousness, and of our nature inclined to evil" - well, what do we believe about any of this?  That we're all OK?  That people really have no deep sorrows or pains or lonelinesses or obsessions or addictions or frustrations or feelings of alienation or self- or other-destructive impulses or habits?  That we can just naturally accomplish, on our own steam, all the things listed in the Commandments section above?  And that there's nothing more to worry about, as long as we don't steal from our places of employment?

And if we can accomplish all those things on our own - then just what is it we are being "saved" from?

Inquiring minds want to know.....


Caelius said...

I should post this at church somewhere.

bls said...

If you did I'd be interested to see what people say.

Yesterday's collect was a beautiful one, and does help flesh out our theology a bit:

"O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.."

The problem, I think, is that we really need to get much more explicit about all this. We'll need, once again, to interpret the Prayer Book and see what it has to say overall - because otherwise we're asking people to show up and attend services because, well, you'll see.

And if nobody knows much about Christianity at all to begin with, that's a problem. We can't invite them in to hear these things piecemeal (if they're lucky) over time, without really having any idea what they mean ourselves.....