Skip to comments."What on earth do those people think they're doing?" [Episcopal Church meltdown]
Posted on 03/02/2004 8:38:13 AM PST by Eala
"What on earth do those people think they're doing?"
That has been the response of innumerable people watching the Episcopal Church, and perhaps the Anglican Communion, on its course of self-destructing. In these pages, Philip Turner, a distinguished Anglican priest, missionary, and theology professor, writing in sorrow laced with anger, gave one answer to the above question (see First Things, November 2003).
It is easy to dismiss people with whom we strongly disagree as being either ignorant or crazy, or both. But we owe them and ourselves the effort of trying to understand what they think they are doing, and why. Leander Harding, rector of St. John's Church in Stamford, Connecticut, makes that effort, employing a 1992 book by the noted literary critic, Harold Bloom. In The American Religion, Bloom contended that religious America-whether it is Southern Baptist, Methodist, or even Mormon - is, at its heart, Gnostic. "We are," Bloom wrote, "a religiously mad culture, furiously searching for the spirit, but each of us is subject and object of the one question, which must be for the original self, a spark or breath in us that we are convinced goes back to before the creation."
I will let Harding take it from there: "The quintessential American Religion is the quest for the true and original self which is the 'pearl of great price,' the ultimate value. Finding the true self requires absolute and complete freedom of choice unconstrained by any sources of authority outside the self. Limits upon personal freedom and choice are an affront to all that is sacred to the American Religion. When the self-determining self finds 'the real me' salvation is achieved and the ultimate self has achieved contact with the ultimate reality.
Finding your true self is to the contemporary Gnostic the same thing as finding God. For the Gnostic the purpose of the religious community is to facilitate the quest and validate the results. The contemporary Gnostic church, which can appear in both conservative and liberal forms, is the community of those who know that they have found God because they have found their own uncreated depths. Both devotees of the New Age and many in some 'conservative' Christian circles see salvation as purely a matter of personal experience, which can only be validated by those who have had similar deeply personal' experiences.
Notice how perfectly the contemporary presentation of homosexuality fits the American Religion. A person who discovers that he or she is gay has recovered his or her true self and 'come out' and come through what the Gnostics called the 'aeons,' in this case levels of personal, familial, and social oppression that hinder and constrain the true self. It is a heroic and perilous journey of self-discovery which would be familiar to a first-century Gnostic like Valentinus. That the means of liberation is sexual practice is even a familiar theme. Some ancient Gnostics were ascetic but others counseled sexual license. Both stratagems can come from the same contempt of nature and are different ways of asserting the radical independence of the self.
Here is the point. Gene Robinson was elected Bishop of the Episcopal Church in New Hampshire not in spite of being gay, not as an act of toleration and compassion toward gay people, but because he is gay and as such is an icon of the successful completion of the quest to find the true and original self. He has been chosen for high religious office because he represents high religious attainment. He is being recognized and receiving regard for being an accomplished practitioner of the American Religion. According to this Gnostic logic, divorcing his wife and leaving his family to embrace the gay lifestyle is not some unfortunate concession to irresistible sexual urges but an example of the pain and sacrifice that the seeker of the true self must be willing to endure. That natural, organic, and conventional restraints must be set aside is time-worn Gnostic nostrum.
From the point of view of this contemporary Gnosticism, if the Church does not validate such a noble quest for enlightenment then it invalidates itself and shows that it is no help in the only spiritual struggle that counts, the struggle to be the 'real me.' Because Gene Robinson has 'found himself' he has according to the Gnostic logic of the American Religion found God and is naturally thought to be a truly 'spiritual person' and a fit person to inspire and lead others on their spiritual journey which is to end in a discovery of the true self which is just so the discovery of the only real god, the Gnostic god.
Seeing the elevation of Gene Robinson through the lens of the mythos of the American Religion explains some of the fanaticism of his defenders, explains why so many bishops of the Episcopal Church including the Presiding Bishop would be willing to take such institutional risks. Here is a paradigm of salvation that echoes deeply in the American soul and promises to restore a sense of purpose to a mainline church which has lost confidence in the story of salvation told by the orthodox tradition of the Church. Inclusion becomes the fundamental value for the Church because it allows the Church to have a real purpose of validating that people have indeed found their true identity, and thus found God. Gay people become icons of hope. To celebrate gays in the life of the Church, not accept but affirm and celebrate, is to celebrate the Church as a truly spiritual community with real spiritual power which can facilitate and validate the salvation of souls.
The church leaders who are risking everything for Gene Robinson are in their own way and according to an heretical but powerful vision trying desperately to find a spiritual vocation for the Church that has some liveliness and connects deeply with the deepest yearning of the American soul. The Presiding Bishop and his company of supporters think they are regaining the lost keys of heaven. That these newly discovered keys are not the real thing but Gnostic imitators of the keys of St. Peter will be lost on those who are drunk on the promises of the American Religion of the true, free, and uncreated self.
Certainly Vicki Gene's ascension to bishop in the Episcopalian church is evidence of apostacy, however apostacy is clearly not limited to America nor is it unique to American Religions.
The problem with the Epicopalian Church is the same problem that was present in Laodecia and the doctrines of the American Episcopalian Church, which allowed this spiritual abortion to take place, is the same doctrine condemned in Revelation when our Lord said that he HATED the deeds of the Nicolaitans. Although we are never told exactly what the deeds of the Nicolaitans were, it is clear that God intended that we would "know it when we see it." And here it is.
This problem has plagued the Church since the first convert fell to his knees and cried "Lord have mercy upon me, a sinner." It is not unique to American Religion. It is endemic throughout the whole earth. It is part of a global conspiracy against the true gospel headed by none other than Satan himself.
Eph 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
The cure is not to finger point at the "American Religion" as if the fault lies with the Southern Baptists or the Quakers, or even the Episcopalians. The cure is found in the next verses.
Eph 6:13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Eph 6:14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
Eph 6:15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
Eph 6:16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
Eph 6:17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
Eph 6:18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
If we believe our Calvinist brothers then it is God's will that Vicki Gene is a Bishop over the Episcopal Church. I believe it is God's will as well. God has allowed the Episcopal Church to fall into open apostacy and to embrace both the sinner and the sin. Just because God allows it does not mean God approves. Got hates it as we hate it. But, it is a wake up call to all churches and all saints to be diligent and to oppose the deeds of the Nicolaitans and to HATE those deeds as Christ hates them and to do all that we can do to oppose them and to cleanse our churches from their influence.
There's a war going on folks. It is good against evil. We must do our part by putting on the whole armor and entering into the battle.
I've also heard it described as a "hierarchy," but I have trouble with that because there is an apparent hierarchy in the book of Acts and the Letters of Paul.
To the gnostic it is ignorance and indifference and not sin that is now, and that has always been, the cause of all of the human race's problems here in the garden of eden.
By virtue of their definition how can these people be Christians if they dont even believe in sin? And theyre in every church. The author neglects to mention those who are opposing these people.
You've misunderstood. The article makes all kinds of sense, as an explanation of "what are these guys thinking." It's long been obvious that various aspects of "sexual expression" are becoming the defining characteristics of our cultural expression -- it's literally everywhere.
In reference to Robinson himself, sexuality and religion is quite literally the same thing:
Most of the questioning concerned his sexuality. When he was asked how he reconciles his relationship with his partner, Mark Andrew, with biblical prohibitions on homosexuality, Robinson told the committee that in Andrew's "unfailing and unquestioning love for me, I experience a little bit of the kind of never-ending love that God has for me. So it's sacramental for me."
This is exactly the sort of thing Neuhaus is talking about in his article.
There's a war going on folks. It is good against evil. We must do our part by putting on the whole armor and entering into the battle.
Yes -- but it's always most helpful if one can know the enemy before going into battle with them.
Looks like you have been paying attention, P-M.
If God "allows" this apostasy of which He could not approve, does not everything exist by His "allowance?"
Or is the world fractured between God's will and happenstance?
Of Course! You certainly don't have to be a Calvinist to believe that. Indeed, I thought you Calvinists believe that God not only "allows" everything to happen, but "approves" of everything that happens. My understanding of "GRPL" Calvinism is that God not only allows this to happen, but God commands and compels it to happen because it pleases him.
Are you saying that God will allow that which he does not approve; that which he hates; that which literally makes him angry? If so, then it sounds as if you are the one who is learning from me. :-)
Welcome to my theology.
The Gnostic goal of claiming imitation keys of the Kingdom are articulated so clearly in this article, but we also see the expression of this yearning at the heart of the American Religion in the popularity of the odious novel The Da Vinci Code.
Amy Wellborn, well-known blogster that she is, soon will release a fine book debunking The Da VInci Code. It may even be available this week. I'm a bit out of touch with it, because I am here with my daughter, fellow FReeper Maeve, who has had a beautiful little boy.
God's own will pleases Him, Marlowe. For the glory of His own purpose, not ours.
Your legalistic mind continues to try to draw distinctions where there aren't any. God's will allows, compels, commands, permits, instigates, initiates, ordains, foreknows, predesignates and predestinates ALL.
You've taken the frist step to recognizing this by saying something actually occurs because God wills it for His own purpose.
The question becomes then, where do you draw the line between what God wills and happenstance?
I don't see any line.
"Do not imagine that you in the king's palace can escape any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?" Est 4:13-14
God's purpose will be done. For Christians we can obey His calling and receive a blessing (like Esther) or not (which He may still use us like Jonah). For non-Christians God will work His pleasure to bring about His Will.
Ah, the contingency. If Esther had remained silent, God would have found another way to do it. Whether Esther was used of God was dependent upon whether Esther was willing to be used by God. Hmmmm. Free will and God's purpose. God will work with us or around us. Although this verse speaks of God fulfilling his purpose in all things, this verse clearly speaks against determinism as the method.
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