Some of you among our readers may not be familiar with Alice Linsley, a woman who has renounced her orders after 18 years as a priest in the Episcopal Church. In response to the very legitimate challenge posed to us in the thread "Welcome to Anthony Paul Smith," we at The Continuum inaugurated a still-unfolding series entitled "Women and the Ministry." Alice has graciously acceded to my request to share her thoughts in response to Anthony, which I post below. For anyone interested in a more detailed exposition of her position, I commend the following, which was published on Pontifications.
Here is what Alice has written for us:
Who is Anthony Paul Smith? I’ve been told that he is an American university student, studying in England.
In comments posted at The Continuum, he wrote: “Your views on the ontological aspects of men and women lack any kind of rigour. The only thing I have to do is find a good women priest or minister in the world and you're proven wrong. By your logic, of course, you're not wrong because essentially women can't be priests either for some mystical ontological aspect you leave undetermined or because they lack a …. But you were saying something about believing in the validity of reason? I guess that only goes up to a point eh?
Regarding contradictory truth claims from different religions - first, you shouldn't be so quick to label me a relativist, "Father”. Second, you're acting as if there was some way to easily verify these claims. I have to be rude about this, but the idiocy of believing you have this kind of truth is staggering. Absolutely staggering.
I didn't expect to change anyone's minds, after all you've got the truth on your side, but really the lack of critical thinking is disturbing brothers. If you feel the need to make yourselves irrelevant that is fine, I simply wanted to bring attention to my critical theologian friends those that exist in their church.”
Anthony Paul Smith is engaging by virtue of his insistence on “logic” and “critical thinking” and his youthful arrogance. His concern is philosophical, not theological. This is not about “rightly dividing the word of truth,” that is giving proper interpretation. Anthony subordinates Christian orthodoxy to his philosophical humanism and attempts to manipulate guilt.
In his book, Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt Manipulators, David Chilton speaks of baptized humanism as being less concerned with Christian charity than enhancing power. Anthony seems to fit the description as one who is less concerned with caritas than with flexing his young intellectual muscles, and the flexing involves accusations designed to manipulate guilt. He would have us feel that we are idiots for believing we “have this kind of truth.” He calls it “absolutely staggering,” which it would be were we claiming to have some “kind of truth.” Rather we profess to having received the Truth and we are fighting to preserve it against a cultural tidal wave.
Anthony says that he needs only point to a good woman priest to undermine the historic position of the Church, and so I present myself. Until March 2006, I was a priest in the Episcopal Church, and I was a good priest. But as The Episcopal Church departed some years ago from the catholic tradition, I can’t say that I was a priest in catholic orders. I was a female minister presiding at Holy Communion. I set aside my ordination because I am persuaded that Protestantism is misdirected and my conscience no longer permits me to be called “priest.” Since March, several other women priests have contacted me to discuss similar frustrations and doubts, and one has set aside her ordination in order to be joined to the Orthodox Church. Where one stands on the question of women priests hinges on how much one values the apostolic Tradition. One of the signs of the Tradition is a male priesthood.
The ability of women to function in the priestly office is not relevant. Women are able to conscientiously perform the duties of the priesthood. Posing the question as one of civil or natural rights is not relevant either, since before the Cross and Empty Tomb all claims are rendered moot. So the issue is not the ability of women nor the rights of women, but rather God’s design for the sexes and how, as a faithful Christian, I am to understand that design and its boundaries. Reading the Patristic writings in light of the abounding apostasy and heresy of our time, I discovered that God asks of me what He is willing to bestow: humility and holiness. Logic and critical thinking lead us to conclude that God does not contradict God. Women priests represent a contradiction. It is telling that ECUSA, an entity rife with hubris, should be the first (and only) to introduce the contradiction.
As I studied the history of The Episcopal Church it became apparent that this entity delights in every innovation: heretical bishops, heretical liturgies and catechisms, the first to ordain women priests, the first to consecrate a non-celibate homosexual bishop, and the first to elevate a female to Primate. Each of these developments has driven a wedge deeper into the Anglican Communion until it is now virtually split apart. And now the leadership of The Episcopal Church is preparing to enforce this hubris by attempting to neutralize bishops who oppose its neo-socialism. (For more on this, see “Is TEC Symbolic of our National Crisis?” posted at Drell’s Descants.)
Anthony and his university peers may believe that The Episcopal Church represents what is good in the post-modern world, but they should beware of the creeping totalitarianism that may ultimately attempt to silence even their robust outrage.
Anthony’s remark about “the ontological aspects” of the issue of women’s ordination reveals ignorance of the true nature of the question. He reduces the argument to one of human anatomy. If he understood Jacques Derrida as well as he claims in one of his essays, he would recognize the binary framework of Scripture and Tradition and realize the impossibility of ever turning one’s back on “the origin.” The ontological aspects of the Tradition are indeed significant and should be addressed by those who are philosophically and theologically well informed.
Opponents of the apostolic Tradition often cite scripture to support their arguments. However, the argument for maintaining catholic orders doesn’t rest on Scripture, but on the early Fathers’ and Mothers’ delivery of the Tradition they received to subsequent generations, a Tradition that understands itself as the visible sphere of the Kingdom of God. Anthony’s attack on the Tradition is neither surprising nor unexpected. He doesn’t grasp the radical nature of the Tradition. (Perhaps he will come as Nicodemus to Jesus when none of his peers is watching!)
Here is the radical nature of the Kingdom work in which orthodox believers are engaged: “Pulling down strongholds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” II Corinthians 10:4-5
In a spiritual sense, Anthony is like Lamech (Genesis 4) who brags to his wives Adah (dawn) and T-Zillah (dust) that he is as God. Not surprisingly, Anthony likes Nietzsche and notes that Nietzsche once wrote, "only that which has no history can be defined." Nietzsche could as well have said, “only that without spirit (geist) can be defined,” but this would make his own argument paradoxical. Anthony recognizes paradox, but probably avoids humbling paradoxes such as the Incarnation by which God enters time as an infant born of a virgin, tramples down death by death, and majestically resolves history according to His plan since before time.
Anthony has written, “If I'm ‘kantian’ it’s only because at some point I thought through Kant and experienced the power of his system of thought, not because I subscribe to his views.”
Anthony Paul Smith appreciates the power of Kant’s “system of thought” but does not subscribe to Kant’s faith in God. The God of the Church is yet to be experienced by this young intellectual. He may lack humility and wisdom, but don't dismiss Anthony Paul Smith. God has a wonderful way of turning such passionate young intellectuals into future apologists for His Kingdom.