Friday, February 1, 2019

The lie of dialogue. . .

In the aftermath of President George H. W. Bush's funeral and the review of his legacy, there were many comments made about the different era in which he served -- one in which bipartisanship was not a bad word and there was much reaching across the aisle, more civility, cooperation.  It was true that Bush One was good at this and that the landscape of America was somewhat different.  However, the lie of bipartisanship is that it never seems to advance conservative causes but usually only slows the growth of progressive causes.  In other words, it does not represent a change but slows down the seemingly inevitable progress of the more liberal advance.  That was certainly true of most bipartisanship in the past and it seems to mark it for the present and future as well.

But this is not simply political.  It is also true in a variety of other settings.  This is especially true of dialogue in the Church.  The various parties (conservative and progressive) talk and perhaps sometimes they cooperate but the dialogue and the fruits of that dialogue seldom result in the reversal of the liberal or progressive course, only the slowing of the seemingly inevitable slide toward liberalism and its progress.  Missouri is often heralded as one church body that effectively turned back the liberal cause when the Battle for the Bible was fought in the 1970s.  No doubt it did slow the progress of liberalism to a crawl but the difficulties in Missouri today betray the fact that the battle was not the war and that progressivism on other sides continues to be a source of conflict within the Synod.  Where the Battle for the Bible seems to have ended with a conservative victory, the whole discussion of evolution and old earth creationism in Missouri shows the cracks in that victory.  Where the Battle for the Bible seems to have charted a solidly conservative and confessional course for Missouri, the numbers of congregations dropping the name Lutheran and eschewing the liturgical history and identity of Lutheranism seems to indicate that the war is not over.

Rome is finding this out with respect to the GLBTQ issue.  You might think the overwhelming evidence of homosexual exploitation of young adults and abuse of children by priests would be seen as a homosexual issue but there are powerful forces within Rome trying to derail the connection and use the abuse scandal for progressive purposes -- everything from the marriage of clergy to the regularization of same sex relationships to the communion of the divorced and divorced and remarried.  While this certainly has much to do with a particular pope, it is also the truth that Rome is clearly divided in the rectory and in the pews over these issues.  It is also true that nearly every call for conversation results not in the repudiation of the progressive view on these issues but simply the slowing of the progress of the progressives in the pursuit of the changes they propose.  Note now that I am not taking a position on these issues but simply observing that it appears that at best their full acceptance is merely being slowed down by all the dialogue and conversation on these issues and not turned back.

Neuhaus' rule is that where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed, the Peters' law is that progressivism may be slowed and even stalled but it cannot be prevented.  I say this not because this is a good thing but because the vigilance of the orthodox cause must be regularly refreshed or progressive and liberal causes will sneak in and supplant the orthodox position.  The lie of dialogue is that it is never about turning back something progressive causes have achieved but merely about slowing the growth of the progressive march toward victory.

My easiest example is the ELCA and its spin off groups in the wake of the 2009 CWA decisions regarding sexuality, ordination, same sex marriage, etc...  Neither body was willing to address anything with regard to the ordination of women, only the slowing of the clock on the count down to liberalism that is surely the long term result.  Neither the NALC nor the LCMC have shown a desire to deal with the foundations that ultimately led to or allowed the decisions of the ELCA to make its momentous break with Lutheranism and orthodox Christianity with respect to the sex issues it dealt with in 1989.  The fizzle out of the bound conscience idea only shows that it was never possible to disagree those decisions, only to postpone some of the pain until opposition either faded or simply gave up.

The same can be said with the Anglicans who have worked to build an alternative to the Episcopal Church.  It is not a return to Anglicanism prior to the ordination of women or to an Anglicanism in which bishops and priests and congregations would be held accountable to the historic faith of creed and confession.  It is simply the Episcopal Church without the controversy over same sex marriage -- a church that might tolerate the point of view of a Gene Robinson but never elect him bishop.  That does not turn back anything but merely postpones what the progressives have come to see as the inevitable.  Some folks are willing to wait and suffer the pretense of dialogue which might delay the outcome but others are more militant and would rather rid the churches of those who disagree.  In contrast, conservatives seldom pursue such quiet dissent.  They are by nature not inclined to be thought police like the progressives seem to be and so the outcome may be delayed -- even by a generation -- but it is not defeated.

What I am saying is that if the progressive cause is to be effectively confronted and answered, the church will need to be in a constant state of some kind of conflict.  The days of wine and rose, peace and harmony, may be the price of orthodoxy.  It is not something I say lightly or cavalierly but it seems to be the reality.  We cannot fight battles to win and then bask in the glow of that victory.  Progressivism will inevitably show up to challenge creed, confession, Scripture, and catholic tradition and will raise the fight again when it believes it can advance its cause.  Orthodoxy is ever vigilant -- not because it is weak or fearful but because the truth is so important.  Perhaps the underlying cause of all of this is the lack of national leaders with the stature to rally the causes and the lack of a commonly agreed upon authority to settle disputes.  Lutherans appeal to Scripture alone but if we do not agree with what Scripture is or what it says, this appeal is hard to utilize to end dispute.  Furthermore, the skeptical modern mind has led us to be skeptics of Scripture and our penchant for individual truth has made it hard to even speak of objective truth that is for all people.

I wonder if this is not the shape of politics as well.  I have not desire to see things any more heated or angry than they have been of late but it is hard to miss how conservatives have grown accustomed to things they once railed against, powerless to effect real changes to the dreaded victories of progressives, and ill at ease.  For all that Ronald Reagan was able to accomplish, they were temporary victories that merely slowed and did not halt the progress of liberal ideas and the overall social agenda.  It is not because he was not President long enough but because the nation changed and progressive causes became more palatable to the populace and conservatives found it harder and harder to find the consensus for changing such things.  Witness the conundrum of abortion.  We as a nation seem to agree that abortion is not a good thing and that it ought to be rare but we that has not translated into much progress in making it illegal.  Yes, there have been advances but only at a cost of vigilance that constantly puts the issue before the American mind and watches on every front for ways in which progress would advance the abortion mindset.

Conversation is good and dialogue is not bad but progressives seem to instinctively know that they can afford to bide their time since the movement is in their direction while conservatives appear ever more curmudgeonly and cranky because we tire of the fights even though we know that orthodoxy can never rest its case or pause in pursuit of its cause.


William Tighe said...

"It may be inferred again that the present movement for women’s rights, will certainly prevail from the history of its only opponent, Northern conservatism. This is a party which never conserves anything. Its history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity, and will be succeeded by some third revolution, to be denounced and then adopted in its turn. American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. This pretended salt hath utterly lost its savor: wherewith shall it he salted? Its impotency is not hard, indeed, to explain. It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It intends to risk nothing serious, for the sake of the truth, and has no idea of being guilty of the folly of martyrdom. It always—when about to enter a protest—very blandly informs the wild beast whose path it essays to stop, that its “bark is worse than its bite,” and that it only means to save its manners by enacting its decent rĂ´le of resistance. The only practical purpose which it now subserves in American politics is to give enough exercise to Radicalism to keep it “in wind,” and to prevent its becoming pursy and lazy from having nothing to whip. No doubt, after a few years, when women’s suffrage shall have become an accomplished fact, conservatism will tacitly admit it into its creed, and thenceforward plume itself upon its wise firmness in opposing with similar weapons the extreme of baby suffrage; and when that too shall have been won, it will be heard declaring that the integrity of the American Constitution requires at least the refusal of suffrage to asses. There it will assume, with great dignity, its final position.”

-Rev. Robert L Danby (1820 – 1898)

Anonymous said...

Pastor Peters writes..quite correctly: "Orthodoxy is ever vigilant … not because it is weak or fearful but because the truth is so important. Perhaps the underlying cause of all of this is the lack of national leaders with the stature to rally the causes and the lack of a “commonly agreed upon authority” to settle disputes. Lutherans appeal to “Scripture Alone”… but if we do not agree with what Scripture is or what it says, this appeal is hard to utilize to end dispute.Furthermore, the skeptical modern mind has led us to be skeptics of Scripture and our penchant for individual truth has made it hard to even speak of objective truth that is for all people."
The answer is simple: LC-MS must teach/preach/confess/proclaim "Catechism, Liturgy, Your Various Vocations" to answer that basic question "Did God Really Say?" While there are some "mysteries" in Scripture, most Scripture is pretty simple...and simple people can understand the basics of: "Catechism, Liturgy and Your Various Vocations". The truth must always be preached...LC-MS will always have to remain vigilant against the attacks against these simple truths. Keep it simple..."Catechism, Liturgy and Your Various Vocations".. for all. This answer is simple...but it will not be easy and much of the world will reject the simple truths...but the Elect will hear and be comforted. And faithful pastors like Pastor Peters will always keep the truth before us. "Ever Vigilant" is just who you Christ. Blog on...thanks. Timothy Carter, simple country Deacon.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps I do not understand the point "William Tighe and Rev Danby" is making but I do not think "women voting" is the point Pastor Peter's is making about being ever vigilant for "Progressives" patiently working to change truth. "Democracy" may well be "the worst form of Government there is...except for all the rest" but voting rights is not what the Bible is about. Christians have ..and under all kinds of governments. The focus in on Biblical Truth and unending attacks to change Truth.

Anonymous said...

This article is spot-on. Thank you, Pastor Peters.

Anonymous said...

With respect to Anglicanism, Pastor Peters brush is too broad. What he says is true of some, such as the rather large group that left ECUSA very late, but is completely untrue with respect to the Continuing Anglican movement that left in the late 1970s. The diocese of Forth Worth is one where Pastor Peters comments hold true, but they are not true in the Anglican Catholic Church, the Anglican Province of Christ the King, the Anglican Church in America, or the Diocese of the Holy Cross.

When smearing tar, it is important not to blacken everything in sight because the result then is false.

Continuing Anglican Priest

Archimandrite Gregory said...

As an Orthodox Christian have the certainty of the Faith delivered and maintained by faithful witness. I "put not my trust in princes, in sons of men who have no salvation." In our present crisis I know what the church teaches and what some men with itching ears would lead us to embrace. Here I am speaking within the Orthodox Church. I trust in my bishops when they teach the truth without exaggeration nor diminution. Trust in Christ who has revealed Himself and does enlighten the world!

Archimandrite Gregory said...

I wish to share with you the spiritual insight of the Patriarch of Moscow Kiril. On the Church and the world
The era in which we are living is very complex. The most dangerous thing that is happening today is the blurring of boundaries between good and evil. The devil has succeeded in suggesting to people that he doesn’t exist, and now he is managing to suggest that good and evil are relative concepts. So to say, everyone has his own good, his own truth, and it all depends on the circumstances—one and the same thing can be either good or evil. This whirlwind, this juggling of the most sacred understandings, which have a direct relationship to the salvation of the human soul, is the greatest temptation of our era.
But the Church is set as a guard; the Church is called to make known God’s truth. Often what the Church says is not understood in full measure by the world around us, and sometimes it is even rejected by it—precisely because the news that the Church brings to the world comes from God Himself. And if the devil wars against God, then it is quite natural that the word of the Church directed at the world is often distorted, misunderstood, and even subjected to mockery.
But with all the complexities of today’s life, a believing Christian cannot lose hope, because in the Word of God it is said: I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18). This means that until the end of the world the Church will bear God’s truth, regardless of whether or not this truth is accepted.
Sermon on the eve of the feast of the Kazan icon of the Mother of God,
Optina Monastery, July 20, 2017.

Archimandrite Gregory said...

By the way I very much enjoy your commitment to upholding the truth as you know it to be. So refreshing

William Tighe said...

My comment was intended half-facetiously; I am well-aware that the matters at issue, the current "presenting issues," do not concern women voting.

Fr.D+ is quite right to distinguish between the first exodus from the Episcopal Church, in the 70s, over WO, and the second, less than 20 years ago, over SSP (same-sex pseudogamy). The former are largely Anglo-Catholic Anglican traditionalists, the latter Canute-like conservative Episcopalians.

Anonymous said...

As an Lutheran, I want to thank Archimandrite Gregory and William Tighe. We do not agree on everything, and we know what those things are (and they are certainly not unimportant). We are not in communion, and most likely will not be in this life, but nonetheless I feel the kinship of running the same race. Like running full tilt across a mine field towards the same goal, and giving a knowing nod to that unknown solider. May we meet in His peace and unity.

Archimandrite Gregory said...

And on this common good will is some sense of communion,the honest search for Truth, Who is Christ the Lord.

Anonymous said...

Within the LCMS, the Seminex sympathizers rejoice because of the quiet tolerance of liberal theology within modern Evangelicalism. FiveTwo, Congregations Matter, and similar Evangelical "church growth" interest groups in the LCMS relish the gradual abandonment of the hymnal, the Small Catechism, and the liturgy. Rick Warren is slowly replacing C.F.W. Walther.

Pastor Peters wrote: "...Peters' law is that progressivism may be slowed and even stalled but it cannot be prevented."

Taken to its logical conclusion, in 30 years the LCMS will be indistinguishable in theology and practice from a typical nondenominational congregation.

Anonymous said...

Or he could be saying that you cannot rest in your vigilance for orthodoxy?