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No sex please, we're Anglicans

It’s become routine to say that current Anglican disputes are really about scriptural authority or unity of doctrine within the Anglican communion rather than sex. To my mind that doesn’t wash. At bottom the basic issue is always truth, in this case the truth about sex. If the right answer is that its human meaning has no intrinsic connection to natural function, so that it becomes what we make of it, then that will also be the correct interpretation of scripture and ultimately the only acceptable basis for unity of doctrine.

It seems rather that the issue is what might be called Christian physics—the nature of the physical world—and in particular Christian anthropology—the nature of man as embodied. It is basic Christian doctrine that the physical world expresses higher things. God made the world and called it good, and the heavens therefore proclaim his glory. Even more pointedly, the Incarnation demonstrates that the human body can fully express the divine. People could see and hear Christ and recognize him as God.

Sex is basic to human life and extraordinarily expressive. To dissociate its significance from its physical and vital function is to open a gap between grace and the natural world that seems unbridgeable. If the extraordinarily expressive sexual aspects of the human body express nothing very definite, even in relation to sex, so that what you do with them is entirely up to you, then how can the human body possibly be expressive enough for the Incarnation to be real and recognizable? It may be possible to believe such a thing, but to my mind it doesn’t sit very well.

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I agree with your observation that the Anglican dispute isn’t fundamentally about unity or scriptural authority, although both are implicated in their problems. But these are just symptoms.

I view the dispute as arising out of the encroachment within Anglicanism of the principle of subjectivity as the article of faith for all individual and social existence (the primacy of this principle would also be relevant to your post on Human Rights). “God is love” means that all subjectivity is blessed by God, in its mere status as subjectivity, with no recognition that love is a relational and social phenomenon.

Once individual consciousness becomes the locus of all meaning (with divine sanction), then the other meanings cited by you have no purchase. It also implies that each individual consciousness can create itself, out of nothing, and such creation embraces within it all associated meanings, including the meaning of sex. This process is usually called “our journeys.”

I think this is what Schori meant when she said that “we are all becoming divine,” or something to that effect. Our sovereignty over our own consciousness gives us a power of creation equivalent to little gods, and so we become divine in our own subjectivity.

(Here’s Schori’s quote: It “is to talk about life, to claim the joy and the blessings for good that it offers, to look forward. God became human in order that we may become divine. That’s our task.”)

And, religion becomes the invocation of God in the affirmation of this process, and the Church becomes an institution dedicated to this proposition and this philosophy. So any decision by any individual subjectivity receives divine and institutional sanction, and is “celebrated.”

Obviously, within this paradigm, all meanings are relative to particular subjectivities. In fact, this is the only common proposition by which members of the church can communicate. Otherwise, there is no other common basis for their communion. It’s a Tower of Babel.

I think this demonstrates in microcosm the centrifugal forces at work within liberalism, and its trajectory of disintegration.

I think that’s a good analysis—the reason there is no Christian physics or anthropology in the sense I suggest today is that individual subjectivity is the source and standard of all meaning. On such a view Christ as God incarnate becomes a figure for everyman. That was actually Emerson’s view so the Episcopal Church is just catching up with him.

Incidentally, theosis—man becoming divine—is a basic concept among the Eastern Orthodox. The difference I suppose is that they think it requires rather more of a transformation in human nature than it does in the American “name it and claim it” approach.

Rem tene, verba sequentur.

Rem tene, verba sequentur.

In a more formal vein, Lesslie Newgibin called these developments the abandonment of theology for anthropology.

Rather than God at the center, man is at the center.