Monday, August 16, 2004

The political use of Adjectives -- “faithful” & “orthodox”

A discussion starter

In contemporary Anglican-talk we sometimes use an adjective before a noun to create an unexpected moral judgment. At other times we use an adjective out of context in order to score a moral victory.

Take the word “faithful”. One device widely used by the LesBiGay lobby to make its agenda acceptable has been to use the word “faithful” repeatedly with respect to “partnerships” or “relationships” between persons of the same sex. In that two persons stay with each other during one time-period, they are deemed to be faithful to each other. The emphasis is removed from the noun “partnership” to the adjective and since the adjective is normally used in a context where there is approval (“a faithful congregation, a faithful Christian) so the idea of a “faithful partnership” is given the flavor of approval. The same applies to co-habiting by a heterosexual couple. Therefore the question as to whether the actual partnership or co-habitation is morally right or good is pushed into the background and not faced, indeed, it is quietly accepted. (We know from experience that many groups are faithful to each other for limited periods in order to achieve their ends – e.g., a band of robbers or a cell of terrorists.)

Take the word “orthodox”. One device used by modern (generally evangelical or charismatic) opponents of the LesbiGay agenda is frequently to use the word “orthodox” to describe themselves specifically in their actual opposition to this agenda. In this case, the frequent use of the word of themselves as a group and as individuals (and their claim to oppose the heterodox leadership of the ECUSA & the Canadian Church) has the [most important] effect of hiding from view or negating a whole series of (to put it mildly) questionable innovations within the Episcopal Church since the 1960s that they heartily approve, or do not oppose, or live happily in the context of. Instead of “orthodox” relating primarily to a corporate confession of true dogma/doctrine and to engagement in right worship, it is effectively narrowed to mean only “the holding of the belief that sexual relations should be between married persons only” and any supporting doctrines. Thus the modern orthodox can be semi-heretical or even heretical with respect to the Confession of the Unity and Trinity of God, the Incarnation -- Lord Jesus Christ as One Person made known in two natures (divine and human) --, the vocation of Chastity, and so on. He can happily use the 1979 Prayer Book of the ECUSA or the 1985 Prayer Book of the Anglican Church of Canada as though these were genuinely orthodox in aim and content; he can approve the practice of ordaining and deploying in pastoral ministry divorced & remarried persons of either sex; he can welcome the ordained ministry of women and the use of inclusive language to make them feel happy; he can use dynamic equivalency versions of the Bible in order to allow a modern agenda into the “Bible”; and so on. And, in all this, he can have no sense whatever that he is part of the problem, that the innovations which he embraces are the background to the arrival of the LesBiGay agenda, and that he is part of the sickness.

No member of any Church/denomination can be genuinely orthodox, in doctrine and worship, unless and until that whole jurisdiction is wholly committed to orthodoxy in spirit and in truth. The holiest and best-taught can only be “desirous of orthodoxy” if they live in the ECUSA or the Anglican Church of Canada.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.)

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