Are 815 in any sense graceful?

Some telling words from the Bishop of South Carolina:

All of this leads me to believe that the challenges that lie before a predominately conservative diocese like South Carolina have now been enormously increased if only because of the perception of our parishioners and clergy—but, more pertinently from what I fear is a failure of the present House of Bishops to realize just how far from historic Christianity our church has drifted. To many of our minds this, far more than Pittsburgh’s present challenge to TEC’s discipline and polity, is what has led to this current crisis. Beyond this the checks and balances previously given to us in the Constitution & Canons seem profoundly weakened. Phrases long understood as clear apparently can be spoken of as ambiguous. If what appears to be the plain meaning of a canon can be dismissed with apparent ease and with no recourse; if the request from such a monumental gathering as Lambeth 2008 urging greater dialogue and forthright conversation within the body of Christ seems to count for so little here in the first action of the House—even after so many TEC bishops report being profoundly moved by the grace exhibited toward us from those provinces grieved and hindered by our prior actions; and when there seems to be so little recognition that it has been the very actions of our General Convention and HOB in recent years that has so alienated dioceses like San Joaquin, Pittsburgh and others that their laity and clergy vote in such large majorities to remove accession clauses—judicious governance and Christian unity will drain like water from an opened hand. One might have wished for a more generous spirit and greater patience toward our own aggrieved members. Indeed one has to wonder where such tone deafness and purblindness come from.

This is the epitome of the problem with 815 and the whole TEC estabishment. They plead liberality and love, but their actions exhibit neither grace nor compassion. They say one thing to one person, then do the opposite to another, showing they have no compulsion to even pretend to acknowledge the truth of a matter. But this is hardly surprising from a leadership who have relegated divine revelation to confused musings and who have elevated the god of self to the highest authority. They choose what is right and wrong instead of what the Lord Almighty has revealed.

But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

As I wrote in my Oxford Dissertation:

There must be more to the meaning of knowing good and evil than simply cerebral understanding. What it cannot mean is simply that by eating the fruit of the tree Adam and Eve knew what good and evil was. They already knew that some things were not good, for God had laid a prohibition on eating the fruit of the tree in Genesis 2 and Eve is aware of that prohibition in her reply to the serpent. She understands that the command has been given, and that to transgress the command would be wrong. She is aware of what good and evil are.

In what way does God know good and evil, given that on eating the fruit of the tree, the man “has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil”? The statement by God begs the question, what exactly does it mean for God to yada tob wahra, and if we cannot say the same thing about God knowing good and evil that we can about humans, can we come to a conclusion about Adam and Eve “knowing good and evil” that we could not come to in regard to God?

What I mean is this. It would be absurd to speak of God knowing good and evil in that he came to discern what things were good and what things were evil. Such a view would be based in the assumption that the good and bad things were independent of God, that he came to be in a universe that already had good and bad things in them and that he has engaged in a process of discerning this particular “good thing” and that particular “bad thing”. I would argue that such a view is inconsistent with the traditional orthodox understanding of God.

But if that were so then the second option, that the humans come to understand the ethicality of certain objects and actions is simply untenable, because when applied to God it would imply that “good” and “evil” are concepts external to God and that he discerns them within the universe as moral poles within which he finds himself operating. In such a framework God discovers, almost accidentally, that he is “good”. Once again such an approach does not fit into the traditional understanding of God, for God is the creator of all things, heavens and earth, and is therefore the creator of good and evil, for these moral judgments operate in respect to him, not externally to him.

So in what way does God “know good and evil”?

There is something more subtle going on here, a “knowing” that transcends simply discerning the ethical content of something. For example, the first time something is called “good” is Genesis 1:4 (“God saw that the light was good”). Now we ask ourselves – when God saw that the light was “good”, was he observing that “goodness” as something that the light just happened to be (e.g. that God created the light and it just happened to be good, though it could have been bad)? Or, was it that the light was good because God had created it to be good – it could no more become bad then a caterpillar could become a bulldozer. The latter is the correct answer and that leads us to the important observation that becomes the hinge for understanding not just the Fall but the whole dynamic of sin. When God “knows” something to be good in the Creation narrative, he does not just discern it to be such, rather he is the one who, by design, makes it intrinsically so.

To clarify – the knowledge of good and evil that God exercises is not so much a passive, receptive knowledge but an active determination of the moral content of an action or a being. Throughout Genesis 1, when God “sees” that something is good he is not simply passively observing a random by-product of his creative act. Rather, he is observing that which so is because he has determined it to be.

Now we see the temptation made to Eve by the serpent, and how it fits very clearly into his own rebellion against the sovereignty of God. When the serpent says “You will become like God, knowing good and evil” he means that Adam and Eve will become their own moral arbiters within the universe. They will be able to determine what actions and beings are good and evil, without respect to the one who actually created them. Ultimately, they will be able to, and will attempt to, construct an alternative truth to that which God has in reality made. They will engage in deceit in that they will willingly seek to alter the moral value of the universe, deciding for themselves what is good and evil – and their valuations of good and evil will necessarily conflict with those of God, with those that actually are. They will place themselves in a place of heterologeo to God, “other speaking”, declaring that which simply is not so to be otherwise. They will attempt to become like God, deciding (“knowing”) what is good and evil.

This my friends is sin. This my friends is TEC. They have truly apostasised.

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