Kendall Harmon over at Titus One Nine posted a pointer to this article earlier today. The article is a response by Robert Gagnon to a talk given at the Montreat Conference Center (in Montreat NC – where my wife and I were married!) on the divisions occuring presently in the Presbyterian Church:
Link: Robert Gagnon Response to Mark Achtemeier: "I Am of the Middle".
The disease of "middleitist" (pronounced middle-EYE-tist) has infected many of the PCUSA’s leaders, an often vain desire to be in a self-perceived sociological (not Christological) middle of a denominational "elite." This desire threatens to supplant faithfulness to the radical call of discipleship that Jesus lovingly demanded of his followers. Middleitis is ever in danger of lapsing into sin because it can cloak a desire to have power and be esteemed by the powerful in the pretended garb of unity while losing sight of the fact that Christ and his will for our lives is the only valid middle. (What is the "middle" in Paul’s dispute with the Corinthian church over the case of the incestuous man in 1 Cor 5?)
As best I can tease out his points (having really only one half of the conversation) he’s making a critique of people who are choosing a moderate position because it’s the easy way out. He points out that some situations require an action one way or the other. He also points out that the Calvinist doctrine of "total depravity" necessarily will cloud any human’s ability to reason their way to the truth.
(With regard to "total depravity" – I don’t know if that is a commonly accepted doctrine in Anglicanism, though it is certainly common in evangelical circles. My own belief that discernment must be done by the community and not the individual grows out of my understanding of sin’s ability to cloud our reason.)
Fr. Nick, I addressed the matter a bit regarding total depravity just a few days ago. I think we’re actually split on the matter, and that is a deeper part of the contentions:
Thanks. Do you mean you and *I* personally are split on “total depravity?” – I don’t actually hold to it, though I do believe that human reason can be clouded by our sinful nature. Total depravity would mean ultimately that human reason could not be a reliable guide or means to insights about God. I’m not pelagian – but I could probably be accused of being semi-pelagian/semi-augustinian.
I don’t think Anglicanism has traditionally held to a strict doctrine of depravity.
(Or did you mean you and the calvinists? If so, then ok – I think you’re right that it is one of the key points that leads people in different directions.)
Fr. Nick, I am of the semi-Augustinian/semi-Pelagian (Cassian, Victor of Lerrins, Aquinas) persuasion. I cannot accept that reason is so far gone as to have no part in continuing discernment; the Fathers locate the image of God in reason (and the virtues), after all.
Because of steeping in the Elders and the Rule of Benedict, I’m also clear that reason is not simply a discursive, logical, systematic matter of the mind, but also listening with the heart, and only happens fully in the meeting of the two. In that sense, I found Archbishop Williams’ regular calls for silent prayer together to be spot on, because it is here that the two meet. It also shows up his Benedictine practice.
I think Anglicanism has never held to a strict doctrine of total depravity, but we’ve never been without our Calvinists, and so Anglicanism has often contained both tendencies and in part we’re witnessing another collision of the two.