Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Look, the "unity" argument just doesn't work

Let me try to give a fuller explanation of the point of my last post with respect to what David B has said starting here.

First and foremost, nothing in this post is intended to put forward a Sola Scripturist position.  The point is to rebut a very common Sola Ecclesia-ist argument, and nothing more.  SEists like to rip Sola Scr b/c it produces all these denominations.  I'm just showing another way (to say nothing of what's already been said that this is a terribly stupid argument to use.

David B says that the GOC have excommunicated themselves.
This is not excommunication, at least not biblically.  Biblical excommunication/church discipline is an action taken by the church.  Of course there's room biblically for them to go "out from us" (1 John 2), but that's not the same thing.  So when I said "So excommunicate them" and David B said "Already done", this is not precise.  It would have been far more precise and informative, apparently, to say "We can't; they already left", although apparently some of these GOC-ers, the priest in question included, see themselves as "resisting from within".  Within what, if not EOC?
Along those lines, I'd asked for an "authoritative church statement", and didn't get one.  I'd still like to know whether that exists, or whether this is David B's private, fallible interpretation of history.  (Not that this is a big deal to me, but I say that to mock still others who use the "private fallible interpretation" argument, which is, if possible, even stupider.) (I do not recall David B ever using said argument, fortunately.)

Now, we turn to this comment:
the main reason I see the calendar as NOT part of tradition and NOT reason for schism is that it was simply the civil (and pagan!) calendar of Julian's day...

That sounds an awful lot like "the main reason I see the question of Presbyterian infant baptism as NOT part of the essentials and NOT reason for schism is that it is simply the outworking of Presby covenant theology and has nothing to do with the question of the Gospel", doesn't it?  Yet do we Sola Scripturists ever get a pass from our Sola Ecclesia friends when we say that?  Nope.
So when we see "The Orthodox Church is internally divided over the issue of the Church calendar. A minority of Orthodox churches worldwide, beginning in 1923, decided to follow the so-called 'New' (Gregorian) Calendar." (Source), I don't see a good reason not to doubt this kind of "we have unity, and you don't, so haha" argument.  David B's church is in the minority.

He or other EOx might respond:
But we are in communion with most of the Old Calendarists who aren't schismatics!

I'm a Reformed Baptist, and I'm in communion with all sortsa people - Presbyterians, not-Reformed Baptists, Assemblies of God, charismatics, Pentecostals...

But y'all don't go to the same church!

Neither do y'all.
And you don't earn any points for fudging on the definition of "denomination" either.  Your not-denomination denominations, in which you disagree with each other about certain things, are the same situation as the one in which I find myself today among Sola Scripturists.

But we have the same name!

No, you don't.  ROCOR, Russian Orthodox, OCA, GOA...

Those are just ethnic divisions for convenience' sake!

1) Then why do some of you differ on, for example, the calendar?
2) So it's better that y'all hold to the same doctrine and just squabble amongst yourselves like you do on the basis of racial dislikes?  Nice.

But you're not in communion at all with other Protestants!

You mean so-called Protestants?  Those with whom I'm not in communion have excommunicated themselves by denying the Gospel or another essential of the faith.
And you're not in communion with other Orthodox.

You mean so-called Orthodox?

Yep, that's precisely what I mean.  Why do you get to play the "they've schismed" game while I don't?  Where's your consistency?
It would appear that this is a case of "they're in communion with us unless they're not".  I shouldn't have to remind anyone that this is a tautology, and yet that is what's behind any appeal to this "unity" argument.

But we have a way to tell which tradition is right!

So do we - the Scripture.  Which doesn't keep writing itself with every new church pronouncement, BTW.  And which is far less question-begging.

Having said all that, one has to ask how David B knows that OCA is part of The True Orthodox Church, whereas those who've kept to the ostensibly older tradition of the Old Calendar aren't the ones holding firm in the face of innovation, a new calendar, ecumenism,getting all liberal-soft on baby murder, but by God making sure that everyone knows that the EOC is really serious about being green.  Nnnoooo, none of that is suspicious!
You know, for a while it sure seemed like the Arians were going to win the struggle in the 4th century, and anathemas had been flung about.  If David B had been alive that day, how would he know that the party of Athanasius was correct?  Appeal to "the Fathers"?  Each side had their own "Fathers".  Besides, a mere individual man like David doesn't get to define who is a Father and who isn't.  And since the typical Sola Ecclesia interp of Matthew 16:18 tells us that the church will never go largely down into heresy, the only way to be sure would be to wait and see who'd win the struggle.
How is that helpful for the believer at the time whose very soul is at stake?
How is that a good guide for the believer who wants to further the cause of good and of God?  How can he know where to direct his efforts?
Easy - he can't know, b/c individual interpretation of the Scripture is not available to him, and Apostolic Tradition hasn't been defined yet, and can't be by any one man. 

(Please leave any comments at the Beggars All post.)