Monday, June 20, 2016

"The one thing we cannot do is redraw the map..."

From Rod Dreher today, on "Progressive Religion, Orthodox Religion":
.... The orthodox approach to revealed religion is to accept it as a statement of reality, and go from there. Of course these teachings always get sorted through an interpretive community, whose judgments are considered authoritative. What doesn’t happen, though, is that one gets to decide on the attributes of divinity based on what one wishes God were like. Otherwise it’s self-worship. ....

.... To oversimplify, progressives believe religion primarily (but not exclusively) concerns what man says about God, while conservatives believe religion primarily (but not exclusively) concerns what God says about man.

The lines are not clearly drawn, and can’t be. Doctrine and theology does change, even under conservatives, while progressives really do take some religious truths as axiomatic. The crucial difference, as I see it, is that conservatives (or, if you prefer as I do, the small-o orthodox) believe that there is an objective, real, transcendent order that exists outside of us and prior to us, and truth claims are usually claims about it, and how we must relate to it. Any changes in what has been received or thought must be accomplished through valid authorities within the interpretive community. If the authorities try to stretch the tradition too far too fast, they risk schism.

Progressives generally believe that the individual is allowed to decide for himself what constitutes religious truth — something an orthodox believer cannot do, even if he wants to. ....

...I would genuinely like to believe that Christians are free to decide what they like about homosexuality. It would make my gay friends think better of me, and it would make my professional life easier in many ways. But as a matter of intellectual integrity, I can’t rationalize away the prohibition within Christianity (nor can I rationalize away Biblical ethics binding heterosexual conduct).

I often think that progressive Christians judge us orthodox Christians to be bigots because they assume that we read Scripture and relate to Tradition in the same way that they do. For orthodox believers, Scripture and Tradition are like maps; if you don’t follow them, you won’t get where you are supposed to go. Maps are only a representation of the real world, it is true, but we have to hew as close to what we have been given as we can. The one thing we cannot do is redraw the map to make it take us where we wish to go, because we judge it to be a more pleasant place.

The orthodox says: “We can’t diverge too far from this map, or we’ll get lost.”

The progressive says: “What? That map is way out of date. We’ll redraw it. It was just somebody’s opinion. We know better now.”

The orthodox says: “What’s ‘better’? You have no way of knowing if your new coordinates are accurate. How do you know if they correspond to reality?”

The progressive says: “Huh?” ....