Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A generous apostasy?

Dave and I were discussing "a generous orthodoxy" and while everyone knows that ideally one should be both loving and correct, the question came up as to whether it is better to be generous without being orthodox or orthodox without being generous. Dave suggested that it was better to be generous without being orthodox. I've been wondering how far that can be pushed. For example, if the unorthodoxy pushes one into heresy or apostasy is that still better than being orthdox without being generous? I'm beginning to think that the answer is not only a tentative yes, but a resounding yes.

In paragraph 24 of Pope Benedict's Encyclical God is Love, the Pope emphasizes the importance of charity (generosity) in the Christian faith by directing our attention to Julian the Apostate (the Emperor who officially renounced the Christian faith in favor of paganism - this surely counts as unorthodox). The Pope notes that Julian had his pagan priests perform works of public service for the very purpose of competing against and bringing about the demise of the Christian faith. To be blunt, he left the Church and led people out of the church. How could being orthodox without being generous be worse than that?

When we realize the essential nature of the practice charity, we must also admit that for champions of orthodoxy to fail to practice charity is to lead people out of the Church without leaving the Church ourselves. For an enemy of the Church (like Julian the Apostate) to lead people out of the Church is to be expected. But for someone inside the Church to lead people out of the Church constitutes something more than becoming an enemy - it is becoming a traitor. Let us therefore thank God for the mercy he offers to everyone, especially traitors like ourselves.

6 comments:

Dave King said...

For me it's one of the key points of the Good Samaritan. Jesus tells the man to emulate the generosity of the Samaritan over the orthodoxy of the two Jews in the story.

- Peace

~m said...

i had the pleasure of hearing john webster speak back in may, and he said something that shook me: the term "unorthodox church" is an oxymoron. once we deny who God is and who we are, we are De FACTO no longer the body of Christ.

i reflected. and now i think this, too: "ungenerous orthodoxy" is an oxymoron. intellectual assent to particular doctrines does not make one orthodox. rather, orthodoxy is inherently tied to orthopraxy - doing the right thing. cf everything james wrote about faith and works, basically.

Jesus' point was that the samaritan was the only one who WAS orthodox: he truly believed that love was more important than ceremonial cleanliness. that love, in fact, was holiness.

Richard said...

~m, I realize this is waaayy off topic, but does John Webster's assertion that we can cease to be the body of Christ contradict the "once saved always saved" doctrine?

(I have no idea where John Webster or you stand on this issue). Dave says I sound just like a Wesleyan (something else I know nothing about) on this issue.

Richard said...

It is hard for me to remember that Jesus is talking about an apostate good guy in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Probably because my knowledge of Samaria is pretty much limited to stories in which Jesus makes them out to be the good guys. Unlike the Jews of Jesus day, I need to be reminded that the Samaritans were by definition apostates.

In the case of Julian the Apostate, the word is explicitly there - making it harder for me to miss what was plainly obvious to someone listening to Our Lord.

~m said...

the samaritans were apostates only from the traditional jewish view. they worshipped yahweh, though.

hmm. i have no problem contradicting the "once saved always saved" doctrine, since i don't subscribe to it. not sure how john webster feels, though it may turn out that his lecture speaks for itself. unless, maybe, you can be saved through Christ but not be a member of His body at the moment. interesting question . . .

Richard said...

~m, hearing what you have to say about "once saved always saved", "sola scriptura", and "faith and works" gives me hope that the Catholic-Protestant divide is not as wide as it appears.

I have often wondered if maybe what we have is a misunderstanding multiplied by hundreds of years of mutual uncharity.