Friday, July 04, 2008

Straw men

The following quotations have been attributed to bishops in the Canterbury Communion, and who were present at GAFCON.

"Scripture never suggests an ordained woman is in danger of losing her salvation"

“It is not a sin to be a woman.”

“They can do the job.”

The first two are remarkable for answering arguments that nobody ever made. That is what we call setting up straw men. The third is remarkable for demonstrating ignorance about the very nature of Holy Orders, beginning with the idea that sacred ministry is merely a job. I will deal with this last one first.

In fact, the very kind of men whom St. Paul dismisses as potential candidates for ordained ministry, when writing to Timothy and to Titus, can also "do the job." Can a woman "do the job?" Frankly, that depends on what one means by "the job." She can lead prayers, and she can go through the motions of sacramental ministry. She may even preach a fine sermon (with all due respect to Dr. Johnson). What she cannot do is perform the priestly ministry of Christ within his Church, as we have already seen. And, even for those who understand ordained ministry differently from us, it remains a fact relevant to both their understanding and ours, that no woman has even the potential to be the husband of one wife, or head of a household. And, the need for this is clearly set forth by an honest reading of I Timothy chapter three.

Furthermore, if a woman has to perform a man's role in order to have any real ministry (and I Corinthians 12 teaches clearly that the whole Body of Christ has gifts for ministry), the Church will be deprived of the gifts God has given to her for our benefit. It is no coincidence that the same apostate Anglican bodies that embraced the so-called "Gospel of Thomas" (the author of which is as likely to have been Danny Thomas as the Apostle Thomas) have eliminated the true ministry of women, including the elimination of the role of deaconess. By trying to force women into the priestly ministry reserved for men, that is the three orders, they have lived down to the teaching of that gnostic book, that ends with this verse:

"Simon Peter said to them, 'Make Mary leave us, for females don't deserve life.' Jesus said, 'Look, I will guide her to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every female who makes herself male will enter the kingdom of Heaven.'"

That seems to be what the Episcopalians and other non-Traditional Anglicans have decided to live by.

Now, about the first two quotations above, it is disingenuous at best to answer the argument never made. Furthermore, it is easier than having to grapple with sacramental theology. A far more intelligent statement was made by the chairman of Forward in Faith, North America (FiF/NA), Bishop Keith Ackerman of Quincy, writing in response to the Jerusalem Declaration:

"Under the providence of God, our advocacy has borne fruit. It must continue so long as the disputed issues are under consideration. But at the same time, we must begin to develop pastoral and ecclesial structures, so as to take the place as a fully orthodox ecclesial body now opened to us by the formation of the new province for which we have so long prayed and worked."

For some reason this remark has come under fire from some of my friends. That is a shame, because I know for a fact that at the top of the "disputed issues" list is the "ordination" of women. This was written in his formal capacity for FiF/NA. When the bishop writes, "our advocacy has borne fruit," he means, specifically, FiF's advocacy for the all male priesthood. That is what FiF (criticisms of which are acknowledged) sees as the mission of the organization. I know also that FiF defines "orthodox" differently from the Reasserters, and that FiF's definition rules out the "ordination" of women. In fact, Bishop Ackerman is saying that ecclesial structures must be prepared for a new Province, but that the new Province will have to be free of this innovation. It is much closer to what we among the Continuum believe, than it is to anything many of the GAFCON people practice.

Among those Anglicans trying to form this Province they hope for, the disputed issues will not receive any genuine consideration as long as some of the bishops set up and shoot down straw men. Straw men answers to silence, such as, "Scripture never suggests an ordained woman is in danger of losing her salvation," and “It is not a sin to be a woman” indicate why certain bishops are obstructing hopes for any progress. They seem unwilling to take the debate seriously, which is why they hinder the formation of workable ecclesial structures.


Anonymous said...

Surely the natural consequence of a reasoning that permits the purported ordination of women on the basis that 'it is not a sin to be a woman' is 'a sinner cannot be a priest'. I should feel less offended when slapped by the red herring of donatism: it isn't a red herring if people attribute that 'reasoning' to me because they have heard it from others.

John Dixon said...

"Scripture never suggests an ordained woman is in danger of losing her salvation," and “It is not a sin to be a woman” indicate why certain bishops are obstructing hopes for any progress.

Scripture does not prohibit the lying of an airplane into a building either and it never once prohibits "Homosexuality".

Of course the vehicle and phrase are modern just like WO (and with the same general effect).
Funny how these people use the same word games as the people they claim to be against.

Anonymous said...

It is ironic that those who present these straw men have -- in point of fact -- been seduced by the very rhetoric and falsehoods that the homosexualists have promulgated to advance their own cause.

It is not a sin to be a woman, no -- and it is not a sin to be tempted to homosexual activity or (should this prove to be the case) have a genetic predisposition to such behavior either.

Scripture never says that an ordained woman will ipso facto lose her salvation (even if she shouldn't have been "ordained") -- nor, for that matter, does it say an actively homosexual male will ipso facto lose his salvation (even if he shouldn't have been ordained).

This "adopting" of the homosexualists' theories -- though perhaps, more accurately, we should say that the homosexualists have adopted and adapted the same arguments that the pro-W"O"ers put in place for them -- reveals the unfortunate weakness of their position.

For, ultimately, the W"O" heresy and the homosexualist heresy are the same heresy NOT because it is a "sin" to "be a woman" in the way that homosexual activity is a sin -- which is what the axis the pro-W"O"ers will take -- but because to approve of homosexual activity is to reject the explicit teaching of Scripture and Tradition just as to ordain a woman is to reject that exact same authority.

And, upon reflection, I think that that is the ultimate "straw man" that is at work here in all these arguments -- the straw man that says the comparison is between "being a woman" and "being a homosexual". The homosexualists used that tack to say if you can ordain one you can ordain the other; the pro-W"O"ers use it to say that since one of those is a sin and one isn't, you can ordain the one and not the other. Same straw man.

When -- in point of fact -- the actual issue (on which the FIFNA folks are clear, unlike other GAFCONers) and real comparison is the analogy between the "ordination of women" and the "sexual acts of homosexuality" -- because both of those (though for differing reasons) are forbidden by Scripture and Tradition.

And, as the history of PEcUSA has shown, once you are willing to compromise those norms on the one, you've set yourself up to compromise it on the others.


Canon Tallis said...

"Scripture never suggests an ordained woman is in danger of losing her salvation."
They can only believe this because they forget that our Lord taught all of his Gospel from the Old Testament. Consequently they forget to apply the Old Testament examples to the present actions of the Church. When Moses, in response to God's command, instituted the priesthood, there were those who had not been called by God who had the presemption to believe that they also could "do the job." And if what we mean by "doing the job" is merely going through the motions, they were probably right. But it is plain from God's actions subsequent to their rebellion that we have something else very important to learn, something that would suggest that the ways of men (and women) and the way of God may be something quite different. It may be that He is attempting to teach us that we should choose His way and forgo attempting to substitute our own for it.
We have seen the current rebellion against the way of God and of His church as well as the lack of success which has accompanied it. But there are those, even those who attempt to place themselves among the orthodox and God fearing, who seem incapable of learning from it. Certainly it is "no sin to be a woman," but it almost certainly is a sin for a woman to attempt to be a man and to take a man's role in the Church just as it would be for a man to attempt to be a woman and desire to be a "June bride." And what has happened to all of us that we don't recognize this?
Thank God that we can count on Father Hart and The Continuum to do so!

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Leviticus 18:22 says, "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination." But, you are right John. It does not use the word "homosexuality." I think the ECUSAns need to teach a course on how to use Nominalism to rewrite morality, as standard seminary fare.

John Dixon said...

As we all know the word "homosexual" was only coined in the last century.. The homosexualist knows this but will present the absence of the word as a 'proof' to the ignorant as justification of their position.

So the tactic is using silence as permission. It does not say 'x' so I can do it.

ps "Scripture does not prohibit the lying of an airplane " lying is forbidden to men and I suppose airplanes ought refrain as well but I meant 'flying'!!!! ;-)

poetreader said...

I'm going to sound like a broken record (Hm, antique phrase, that),
but what justification is "not losing her salvation"? Does the concept (even if true) that God in his patient mercy withholds that conseqyebnce from certain sins make thise sins acceptable in His sight? Are we then justified in disobeying Him just because He's going to let us get away with it? What kind of love for God is that? I don't give a (... well, you know ...) whether a sin is going to lose me my salvation (if indeed salvation is a commodity that I might own)or not -- if my heart is right I will only ask, "Is this what God wants?" but, if I am asking what I can get away with, my heart is not right, and perhaps I am condemned already on that account.

It's a wrong question, the asking of which makes it very clear that one does not understand the Gospel.