Continuing Divine Revelation, Griswold and The Episcopal Church
By Peter Toon
A few days before his tenure as Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church was due to end, as a kind of word to the whole world to state what he had been teaching for the last nine years, Frank Griswold made a remarkable and revolutionary statement on the Larry King Show on CNN.
He used the reported words of Jesus in St John's Gospel ("When He, the Spirit of Truth is come, he will teach you all things, and guide you into all truth") to declare that since the coming of the Holy Spirit to the Church at the Feast of Pentecost (immediately following the death and resurrection of Jesus), the Church has been continually receiving new truth from God to the present day.
Everyone accepts, he suggested, that there have been great advancements in human knowledge in such areas as medicine. That is, God has been revealing the truths within nature and the cosmos to human investigators. Likewise he said, the same God of nature, who is the God of salvation, has been revealing to human investigators within the Church truths concerning the identity, character, will and purposes of Deity for humankind.
What he has in mind is the doctrine that revelation from and by God did not stop with the apostolic age, but has continued throughout the centuries to the present day. And, at the present time, because of the tremendous developments in the social, psychological, behavioral and anthropological sciences, this revelation has been intense, especially as it concerns the nature and purpose of human beings as creatures of God. Thus he was able to identify publicly on Larry King with the sexual innovations in the Episcopal Church during his tenure, especially concerning the acceptance, and naming as holy, same-sex relations and partnerships and the blessing of them by the Church -- as well as the acceptance of persons in these relations as candidates for ordination and consecration as Ministers. God has, he believes, made it clear that he approves these things by his recent revelation to the Church.
Perhaps not all are aware that the doctrine of continual revelation by God to the Church after the end of the apostolic age is itself an innovation in doctrine and is by classic standards a heresy, for it reduces the Bible merely to the first chapters, as it were, of a Book, that is being added to each century and will never be closed - at least not until the end of the world. And, further, to a Book of which the latest chapter interprets the first and second!
Let us be clear and honest. Certainly, it has frequently been taught that the Church in space and time grows in understanding of the revelation given in the personhood and work of Jesus of Nazareth as well as in the teaching concerning these by the apostles. In different places and situations, truth already revealed and set forth in Holy Scripture is seen and understand afresh and is applied prayerfully and wisely to a given situation. This said, the Bible has been, and is, regarded by the vast majority of Christians as the Word of God written, being the inspired, historical, written record of God's self revelation and saving work and words to Israel, in and through Jesus, and by the apostles. In this way of believing, Revelation ceased when the last apostle wrote his last word; but, the knowing of God through this written testimony, illuminated by the Holy Spirit (the Paraclete of Jesus) has continued and increased to the present day all across the world in space and time. Christians are to grow in knowledge and communion with God in each generation.
The Holy Spirit who comes from the Father and the Son, and who comes bringing in the Name of the Son and bearing his virtues and gifts, does not reveal new truth but he brings the existing truth concerning the exalted Lord Jesus Christ (the Son) to the Church. The fullness of Revelation that was completed in, and is found in the Person of the Exalted Lord Jesus, is that which is also written in Holy Scripture. Thus the Holy Spirit illuminates the mind of the Church so that the people of God may receive this revelation of the nature, character, will and purpose of God, the Holy Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, as the Bible is prayerfully read and studied.
Thus those who believe, teach and confess that the Bible is THE written Word of God (and this includes Catholics and Protestants) look for their doctrine of sexual relations in the teaching of Jesus and his apostles (in the context of the Old Testament teachings). Further, their moral teaching is based on this same doctrine. And while they may find helpful insights through modern psychological and behavioral sciences, they do not look to these to establish the doctrine and God's standards, for they see these as already existing in the mind and on the lips of Jesus.
Bishop Griswold and his fellow "enlightened" Episcopalians reject the teaching of Jesus and his apostles as the final word. For them it is the first word of a developing set of words and the most recent - provided by the human sciences today - is that which they take most seriously. Their God is in process; their God is in evolution and bringing the world and the human race along in this development. So the Church must change as God changes.
It is difficult to see how these two interpretations can stay too long together in the same community, the same church. This said, we have to admit that in the Episcopal Church (but NOT in the Anglican Communion), the doctrine espoused by Griswold certainly has the greatest following. This was demonstrated Friday evening when about 1400 turned up for the "Gay Eucharist" in the one place, and only about 60 in a different place attended the "American Anglican Council Eucharist" with the Bishop of Rochester from England as the preacher.
I have attempted to show what have been the major innovations of the Episcopal Church in my large booklet, Episcopal Innovations, 1960-2004 (the Prayer Book Society, www.anglicanmarketplace.com or 1-800-727-1928). All of these - from the changes in the doctrine of marriage from 1973 to the consecration of Gene Robinson in 2004 - have been enthusiastically adopted by many Episcopalians because of this doctrine of God as the God in process, the God in evolution, the God in development, the God who is continually revealing Godself to the world/church.
Until the Bible is regarded by the Episcopal Church, not as the first and second chapters in a Book in process, but as the completed and unique Book given as a Gift from heaven to the Church, then she cannot and will not change her ways. She will continue on her present trajectory as the Anglican Communion looks on with amazement and sadness.
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