Rod Dreher: Is heresy better than schism?

Posted by Kendall Harmon

If you believe that Scripture, or Scripture and the institutional Church, is the Authority for deciding questions of meaning and morality, then you are far more likely to fall on the traditionalist side of these questions. If you believe that individual conscience is the Authority, then you are likely to be a progressive.

I don't see how the two can be reconciled, unless it is agreed by a majority that the church in question doesn't really stand for anything beyond itself. If you really do believe that Scripture and Tradition are wrong about same-sex relationships, and that it is a matter of basic justice that the teaching be changed, then you aren't going to stop fighting for that change within the church. If you believe that we are not free to throw off the authority of Scripture (and Tradition) in such matters, then to have your church declare these matters open to negotiation would be to hollow out the meaning of what the church is supposed to stand for, all for the sake of a superficial unity.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal- Anglican: AnalysisCommon Cause Partnership--Proposed Formation of a new North American ProvinceEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC Conflicts* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic

8 Comments
Posted December 29, 2008 at 4:28 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Helen wrote:

Then there are people like me, whose individual consciences line up with what Scripture says.  I guess we are uber-traditionalists.

December 29, 5:35 pm | [comment link]
2. Ad Orientem wrote:

A well written and cogent case for the secessionists.  Of Dreher’s approach to the subject of heresy and schism is framed by the Fathers.  It’s a very Orthodox (big ‘O’ intentional) response.

December 29, 6:38 pm | [comment link]
3. William P. Sulik wrote:

He makes many good points; for me this was a key:

I don’t see how any serious believer, whichever side he takes, can be cheered by schism. But I am inclined to think of schism as the second-worst option, if the only other is to accommodate one’s church to a serious heresy.

I find it interesting that ECUSA/TEC has accepted both the authority and individuality positions.  Collectively, it believes it has a new revelation and rejects the authority of the rest of the Anglican Communion, as been observed constantly here and other places (rejecting the instruments of unity, etc.).  Yet, it asserts its authority and commands the dissidents (who want to be in communion with the remainder of the Anglican Communion) to obey under threat of unilateral deposition, lawsuits, etc.

December 29, 6:50 pm | [comment link]
4. Nikolaus wrote:

Do read the Comments on Rod’s blog.  There’s a doozie by “Panthera” but one of the best was from “Richard Barrett.”

December 29, 7:04 pm | [comment link]
5. victorianbarbarian wrote:

Some of us think that the positions of Scripture have sometimes been incorrectly characterized in the name of Tradition.  Sometimes tradition is no more than repeating the mistakes of the past, or using the actions of our ancestors to excuse the perpetuation of wrongs they committed. 

An example might be the tolerance of slavery for so many centuries, despite what seems to us today the clear contradiction between practicing Christianity and owning slaves.  How many Christian slave owners failed to follow the principles in the epistles of Paul, while preaching to their slaves the example set forth in the letter to Philemon?  Eventually the fullness of time was reached, and that particular hardness of heart could no longer be tolerated.

It may be that some of these issues today may be similar.  If so, the proponents of change have to make their argument based on Scripture, and point out where so-called Tradition has enabled the continuance of our hardness of heart.  But tossing out the Scripture as out-of-date or nonprivileged—ignoring it—will only drive apart those who should be fellow servants.

These are decisions that have to be arrived at together.

December 29, 7:13 pm | [comment link]
6. Matthew A (formerly mousestalker) wrote:

The Bible has a great deal to say about sexual relations, as well as marital relations. In some ways who we are as people is defined by the nature and quality of our relations. Since God is God and therefore eternal we have to assume that He knows best. The only option left for a Christian therefore is not dialog, but obedience.

December 29, 7:29 pm | [comment link]
7. Paula Loughlin wrote:

I notice you have this tag as “Roman Catholic”.  Please note Mr. Dreher is a member of the Orthodox Church having converted from Catholicism.

December 29, 8:09 pm | [comment link]
8. The young fogey wrote:

My tuppen’orth.

Home page.

December 30, 12:20 pm | [comment link]
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