Friday, 8 July 2011

Clarification - Christian denominations, my ideal and in practice

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From some recent comments on this blog, it seems as if there may be misunderstandings about my attitudes to various Christian denominations, and my supposed hostility towards some. This posting is to clarify matters.

(Note: I will be even-more-than-usually selective in what comments I publish on this topic; and I do not wish to engage in public confession, soul searching or autobiography - either my own or that of others.)

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1. My ideal is Byzantine, an Eastern Orthodox divinely-sanctioned monarchy; life permeated by ritual, liturgy and prayer; a society replete with ascetic religious (monks and nuns), elders, advanced sanctity, even living Saints.

This is the ideal, but this doesn't exist anywhere in the world, and has not done so for many centuries; and nothing of this kind has existed in England since late Anglo Saxon times (arguably).

We are now so very, very far away from this situation that it is off the map; except that the ideal can function negatively to clarify what is wrong, what not to believe (e.g. democracy, this-worldliness etc).

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This is my ideal not because I would personally be happiest in such a society, nor because I personally am anywhere near it; nor because I think it is going to happen in England or the West either in my life or at any conceivable time in the future.

Trained-up as a hedonic individualist I would very likely find living in a really Christian society exceedingly uncomfortable, intrusive and dull. But the fact of my own corruption by modernity is surely no argument against recognizing the superiority of a spirituality which I myself could/ would not attain?

Byzantium is my ideal because I believe it is the 'best' Christian society, founded on the Truest principles, and closest to optimal for the pursuit of salvation and especially the highest levels of sanctity.

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2. In practice, here and now, currently, I am an Anglican: i.e. a member of the Church of England; orthodox (not liberal), exceedingly irregular and inadequate in attendance and involvement, but of no very unusual kind to the external eye.

I mostly worship-in and support two Anglican churches: one is Protestant - evangelical, family- and mission-orientated; the other (where I celebrate the Eucharist/ Holy Communion) is Anglo-Catholic and uses the Book of Common Prayer.

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I hope and (probably) intend sometime to become a Roman Catholic in the newly established Ordinariate (http://www.ordinariate.org.uk/) especially if the traditional liturgy was used; but at present there are no local parishes.

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In general, I approve (in principle) all examples of Mere Christianity (as defined by CS Lewis in his book of that name) - which means 'core' Christianity.

But I regard most actual Christian denominations as being partial and prone to wrong emphasis.

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I also try to regard The Church as a mystical institution, and not as an organization or a collection of organizations.

Hence, in my view, many or most actual Christian Churches may - as organizations and in practice - do more harm than good to many or most people; for example by false emphasis, worldliness, legalistic modes of thinking, 'pseudo-Christianizing' of what are fashionable, liberal secular concerns and values etc.

The greatest evil is selected and twisted from the Good.

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I do not hold up my current practice as any kind of recommendation to others, nor do I defend it; since it is negative, feeble, lazy and compromised. Neither is this a false humility but simple fact. I simply mention this matter of Christian denominations in order to to demonstrate that - as well as my veneration for Eastern Orthodoxy as potentially being the highest Way and Truth - I very obviously have no hostility toward Protestants or Western (including Roman) Catholic denominations or individuals; since these are either churches where I currently worship, or where I hope to worship.

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