Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Heterodoxy as Compelling Analogy

Samuel Gregg's article blasting liberation theology illustrates why heterodoxy will always make for a compelling analogy.

He writes:

As time passes, liberation theology is well on its way to being consigned to the long list of Christian heterodoxies, ranging from Arianism to Hans-K√ľngism. But as Benedict XVI understands, ideas matter – including incoherent and destructive ideas such as liberation theology. Until the Catholic Church addresses the legacy of this defunct ideology – to give liberation theology its proper designation – its ability to speak to the Latin America of the future will be greatly impaired. [Bold mine.]


I am not pro-liberation theology (I am a pretty doctrinaire capitalist.) However, were I, and I saw that comparison to the Arian heresy, I could respond, "you mean liberation theology is as bad as the Christianity that Milton, Newton, Locke, Clarke, Price, Mayhew and many of America's Founding Fathers believed in"? All of the aforementioned names either were or likely were Arians.

19 comments:

jimmiraybob said...

Some ideas ya just can't kill.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Heterodoxy as Compelling Analogy

I don't think all heterodoxies are analogous, let alone compelling. I'd put liberation theology somewhere near infant baptism, perhaps not even that high.

As for Arianism and the Trinity, since Samuel and John Adams disagreed on the issue but were able to agree on a political theology, such metaphysical concerns clearly didn't affect the real world. Actually Calvin vs. Arminius on the nature of man was of more interest, and like the Trinity, different views were held within the same church!

Daniel said...

The most noticed aspect of Liberation Theology was its political theology -- God favors the poor and the best way to implement the will of God is through socialism. But the Catholic Church was more concerned with its materialism -- the liberation theologians who were censured were materialists. Those who were called to the Vatican for consultation at least leaned toward materialism. JP II did have a particular distaste for communism, but the presence of spritual reality is kinda central.

Joe Winpisinger said...

"Actually Calvin vs. Arminius on the nature of man was of more interest, and like the Trinity, different views were held within the same church!"

This kind of hits on the "Augustine" and "Locke" views of God I brought when I began posting on Christians ideas and the modern world. I would add that their view of human nature seems to be affected by their view of God. Rational Christianity vs. Traditional Christianity is not a new battle and much of what the Enlightenment claims as its own was really not all that that much new.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Bingo, Joe.

"Arminianism" in particular is a term that pops up quite often in the Founding literature, and as a non-Protestant, I've been skipping past it, getting up to speed on Calvin and TULIP and then all the sects that split over baptism, and, geez, there's a lot to keep track of.

As Jon notes in the OP, and Voltaire noted, the proliferation of sects and doctrinal beliefs was a very handy thing for leaving the religion wars of Europe behind. Any sensible American could see that no good could come of it, and usually bloodshed if they gave it play.

There's no doubt that Jefferson was reiterating the point by inviting the Swedenborgians, who were more than a little fringey, if you look up their theology. Well observed by Mr. Rowe, and entirely revelatory about the Founding era.

[Although as a member of Congress, I'd have been tempted to impeach Jefferson for the high crime and misdemeanor of subjecting me to sitting through the sermon.]

[Jefferson must have had a good giggle over that one.]

bpabbott said...

I don't view rational Christianity and the Enlightenment as two dichotomies.

The Enlightenment is the period or age "in which reason was advocated as the primary source and legitimacy for authority".

No doubt, rational thought from the theological and social circles of Christian society is largely where the advocacy of reason took root.

bpabbott said...

BTW, I tried googling "Rational Christianity" and "Christian Rationalism" to be sure I was not inferring something that was not implied ... and came across a site dedicated to Christian Rationalism.

Not exactly what I expected to discover.

I assume that this is not what is implied by Rational Christianity?

jimmiraybob said...

I don't view rational Christianity and the Enlightenment as two dichotomies.

Exactly. It was a period of time in the west when rationality and breaking away from traditional secular and religious dogmatism was the dominant driving force for "enlightenment." It was a period when the most devout Christian as well as the least devout, and dare I say atheist and/or deist, could apply intellect to a wide range of spiritual and material problems with less fear of being prosecuted for heresy. It was a period when science was reborn in the west and empirical studies took off without having to conform to scripture or obtain church conformity.

It was a time when power and authority were radically shifting away from the established church/churches and the feudalistic state. In essence, church and state lost absolute control of humanity.

It was a considerably more liberal and secular period if compared to the preceding centuries but was more conservative compared to most of the west today.

Daniel said...

"Rational Christianity" is a very ambiguous term. Aquinas was highly rational. Scholasticism was rationalism that honored the authority of Aquinas and of certain Classical philosophers. Calvinism was essentially a form of scholasticism. Enlightenment Christianity was no more "rational" than what come before it, but it had a very different view of authority.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Authority is where the Reformation comes in, the rejection of the Magisterium to interpret scripture [and add dogma, doctrine and ritual].

Calvin and Luther [in particular] were also anti-Aristotelians, arguing that pagan philosophy and man's reason were subsuming faith. [This is the view of many modern evangelicals, perhaps starting with the anti-Thomist 20th century theologian Karl Barth, whom I like to say was more Lutheran than Luther. Most of Francis Schaffer's work was in the same vein.*]

However, Calvinism didn't remain where Calvin left it. See Peter Grabill's 7-part series on "Thomistic Calvinism." [Scroll down a little and the whole series is there.]

http://blog.acton.org/archives/author/sgrabill

And of course, the great natural law theorist Hugo Grotius was a Dutch Calvinist, highly influenced by the Scholastics de Vitoria and Suarez.

_____________________
*Although some confidants say Schaeffer softened toward Aquinas and Catholicism at the close of his life---according to Marvin Olasky

http://pblosser.blogspot.com/2005/03/marvin-olasky-on-francis-schaeffers.html

While he was being treated for the cancer that eventually killed him, Schaeffer refused to be treated in a Baptist hospital because it performed abortions, and insisted on being moved into the Catholic hospital across the street from it. He died a Protestant, but one well on his way towards articulating the bankruptcy of evangelical Protestantism, as he did in his book, The Great Evangelical Disaster.

Jonathan Rowe said...

And of course, the great natural law theorist Hugo Grotius was a Dutch Calvinist, highly influenced by the Scholastics de Vitoria and Suarez.

Grotius was Dutch. But is it accurate to call him a "Calvinism." He was, if anything more radically Arminian with arguably an unorthodox view of the Atonement.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Of course he was Arminian. I've been saying that for half a week now. And Arminianism crept into Calvinism and Congregationalism, and Scotland and America. My whole point is that Calvinism didn't remain where John Calvin left it. The Puritans didn't remain "Puritan."

However, if you're going to use neo-Calvinist Barthians as your authority for theological history

;-)

we're never going to get anywhere.

Jonathan Rowe said...

My whole point is that Calvinism didn't remain where John Calvin left it.

Isn't there a point when it "ceases" to become Calvinism.

I know there's the whole Romans 13 thing and I'm not saying that interpretation of THAT passage is the line drawer.

Rather TULIP is. Though I was explaining to another Calvinist that Gregg doesn't believe in one letter of TULIP (I mistakenly thought it was "P" but Gregg later clarified it was "L"). And she countered, "then he's no Calvinist."

Tom Van Dyke said...

It makes my head hurt.

http://www.forerunner.com/puritan/PS.Baptized_Arminianism.html

bpabbott said...

Re: "Isn't there a point when it "ceases" to become Calvinism."

I'd say that if Calvin didn't embrase Arminianism, then it doesn't qualify as Calvinism.

I may end up regretting this comment, but I find both Calvin's and Arminius' views of salvation revolting (ex: total depravity, and no good deeds mater).

I think Christianity is a fluid faith. It changes over time. However, the theological view of Arminius and Calvin haven't changed since their deaths. I think it is disrespectful to associate them with positions which were foreign to them .... even though I find the postions they did embrace revolting.

In any event, I agree with Tom. This sort of thing makes my head hurt!

Joe Winpisinger said...

People have debated this for centuries. It made their heads hurt too.

Daniel said...

For all of Calvin's proteststions against 'human reason', his methods are highly rationalistic and look a lot like Scholastic methods. He does reject the authority of pagans and (to a great extent) of Church tradition, substituting a higher view of the authority of scripture (some of which he reinterprets to fit his systematic approach). When Calvinists began studying Aristotle, it really wasn't a big shift. Although explicitly rejected, Aristotle's influence was there from the beginning.

Daniel said...

"Isn't there a point when it "ceases" to become Calvinism."

Any movement changes, and dramatically. "Calvinism" has its roots in Calvin's thought and leadership and revers him as its founder. Beyond that, definitions get difficult.

Was Johnathan Edwards a true Calvinist after he decided to limit church membership to those with an authentic confession? I think Calvin would have had him burn.

Tom Van Dyke said...

The link above asserts that Baptists are 80% Arminian and 20% Calvinist. So that's a whole 'nother kettle of fish.

Or part of one big kettle.