Even casual observers of American Christianity, in all its ecclesial manifestations, cannot help but notice these days a common and deep division in all the old-line churches ‚?? Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopal, and Presbyterian, to name the most prominent of them. What divides them all in nearly identical fashion is most visibly and audibly profound disagreement about human sexuality…
this deeper dispute ‚?? it is much deeper than a disagreement about human sexuality ‚?? involves a critical choice between two age-old destinations. One is Alexandria and the other is Antioch.
I have these great ancient cities in mind, not just because one, Alexandria, was home to Nicene and Athanasian orthodoxy and the other, Antioch, to Arian heterodoxy in the early trinitarian controversies. But that is a good place to start, if ‚?? as I suggested above ‚?? the ethical confusion about human sexuality is only a presenting symptom of a deeper theological illness afflicting the whole old-line. I reckon it, actually, to be an Antiochene illness, for which only a Nicene cure of 4th century proportions will do. And the whole old-line will have to go to Alexandria (as it were) to get it.
Let me support this diagnosis, first, by citing my experience in my own presbytery. There Arius himself, for whom finally it was just not credible that God could empty the fullness of his divine majesty into the merely human Jesus, would be right at home. At one of our recent meetings, for example ‚?? and this is by no means as bad as it can get ‚?? we were treated to hearing (a) one of our ordained ministers reporting cheerfully about teaching the Bible (or, more precisely, Marcus Borg‚??s slant on the Bible) in her part-time position on the staff of a Unitarian church, (b) several new members of the presbytery sharing at some length what God was doing in their lives and ministries without once mentioning the name of Jesus Christ, and (c) our worship leader eschewing use of the triune name revealed by Christ (and substituting, with what is now nauseating predictability, the economic job-description ‚??Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer‚??) in our closing doxology. Nor is mine the only presbytery tilting toward Antioch and the confusion that ensues once God is unyoked from Christ. More than a few ‚?? many of them the same presbyteries that, along with my own, routinely ride the tectonic plate opposite me in the human sexuality controversy ‚?? appear to be trafficking regularly in theological syncretism. A number of friends around the denomination describe coming home from meetings as amazed as I at the endless novelty, the obsession to explore and mine feminist imaginings and even other religious traditions ‚?? anything but Nicene orthodoxy, apparently ‚?? for their liturgical ‚??riches,‚?? the preoccupation with any ‚??spirituality‚?? that knows nothing of the Holy Spirit, and especially the assumption on principle that theology can and should only be done now without any vestige of patriarchy (hence the sanction against the triune name) and ‚?? most incredibly ‚?? without Christology. It reminds me of Chesterton‚??s assertion that when men give up belief in the one true God, they don‚??t believe in nothing, they believe in anything.
Harry L. Chronis Alexandria or Antioch? The Hermeneutical Choice Confronting the American Old-Line
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