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Anglicanism, Truth and Obedience

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Jul 12, 2005

The General Synod of the Church of England voted on Monday to remove from church law the restrictions on ordaining women as bishops. The action follows the acceptance of women bishops in the Episcopal Church in the United States, the American form of Anglicanism. The change is, of course, controversial, and there is little doubt that it will drive many more Anglicans to Rome.

The arguments for and against this change are interesting, though even when on the side of tradition, they often miss the point. I find particularly weak the claim that the General Synod should have rejected the change because it is bad for ecumenical relations with Rome. I sincerely hope that no ecumenist, anywhere or at any time, would decide what is or is not correct theology based on what impact this might have on relations with other churches. If women are capable of being ordained, then it is an injustice, not to mention a violation of the will of God, to fail to ordain those who can be discerned to have vocations.

But the question is whether women are capable of being ordained. No, even more to the point, the question is how one resolves such theological issues. The Anglican Church has proven, and not for the first time, that it believes such issues may be decided by human votes. Indeed, the doctrine rejected by the Synod today might be accepted tomorrow, after suitable cultural change and political pressure. Whatever else this is, it is a strange view of the nature of truth.

For the word truth to mean anything with respect to religion, it must be revealed. Man has no capacity to discern the various tenets of the Christian Faith through his own power. Apparently very few Christians, even in high church positions, understand this fundamental fact about Jesus Christ. The Gospel comes from outside. It is delivered to us by its Author. The various propositions into which this Revelation is resolved for the benefit of human understanding can be verified only by God Himself or by someone He has appointed, whose inspiration and authority He guarantees.

For this reason, the very first virtue of true religion is intellectual obedience, in imitation of Christ's obedience to the Father, by which He saved us all. In stark contrast, it has often been said that those who wish to feel religious without surrendering their minds and wills to God inevitably become Anglicans or Episcopalians. Once again, we see why.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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