I see this A Lot in discussions online, and sometimes in real life. Secular liberal apostasy (i.e. the stepwise process of losing faith and leaving Christianity) presents itself as heresy (i.e. an unorthodox type of Christianity).
Traditionalists fall into the trap because they are unwilling to judge the true motivations of the liberalisers. Instead they try to resist apostasy legalistically - by more tightly defining and enforcing theological doctrines and rules of church order. They do this because it seems more 'objective'.
But the more tightly they define and enforce the 'objective' rules and practises of their denomination or church; the more they separate themselves from other Traditionalist Christians.
So, with legalism traditionalist Roman and Orthodox Catholics are driven apart, Catholics from Protestants, Episcopalians from Congregationalists. All the above are driven apart from Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh day Adventists...
In the end, the Christian Traditional 'voice' becomes a Babel of increasingly mutually hostile factions. Christianity - as such - is weakened.
This is the consequence of Traditionalism resisting liberalism by increasing legalism.
Again - nail, head. Yes, the risk of schism is ever present. While there are some key points non-negotiable, much of it is not central to being 'Christian'.
(I think we're watching the same webcast.)
So, as opposed to increasing legalism, what do you suggest?
All religions must do "boundary maintenance" or they morph into something else. This is somewhat a corrolary to that saying that goes (paraphrased) "any organization that is not intentionally conservative eventually becomes progressive."
At least in the West, a congregational-based (bottom-up led) religion/church can't do boundary maintenance and conserve things as well as an episcopal-based (top-down led) one. (Things may be different in Eastern Catholic Orthodox, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam, or at least more slowly.)
As one blogger puts it, all churches/religions have an "ablative layer" that leaves for various reasons -- disaffection, heterodoxy, heresy, apostasy, etc. On the surface, that seems necessary so that the main body stays pure to the doctrine and mission; otherwise the whole get corrupted, and the main body is lost instead of just the fringe layer.
I think that's a strong reason for episcopalism as opposed to congregationalism. There needs to be a head, who/which "owns" the trademark or name, otherwise the name/trademark get diluted -- as we've seen with the Presbyterians, Lutherans, and are now seeing with Anglicans.
This is hard to avoid, I think.
As a Catholic, it can be hard to "draw the line" so to speak between a byproduct of subversion, genuine subversion, error, or honest practice. It hits seemingly small things, really. Did the old lady's club take over and decide they were going to play as Priests by giving communion? Or is the parish just really packed and maybe the extra help is just needed? Is it right for you to kneel before an old lady giving you the Eucharist, versus an ordained Priest? Is the liturgical music intentionally vague and in error, or just a poor choice? It goes on and on. So this division isn't just - as you address - across larger denominational divides, but within cities, within individual parishes.
As if (which might induce us to accord)
Man had not hellish foes enough besides,
That day and night for his destruction wait.
I am a firm believer in Christian orthodoxy, I think that it is true. I also know that knowledge alone won’t make you holy. I think practical theology is maybe the most neglected thing in the Church. Real day by day faith, real day by day charity, really walking with God. I think it’s the only way to know what you personally need to be doing and when. I think it’s the point.
This is a timely post. Earlier today I read this:
...and came to the realization that apart from this single issue*, Miss Barnhardt's chosen online opponents share 95 percent or more of her views.
*This is not to trivialize the issue--Christendom has been made or broken on the basis of the stature of the Roman pontiff.
Sorry folks - I've been unable to reply to comments due to internet problems while away from base. Back now.
@Books - The answer I propose is to take personal responsibility for evaluations, for discernments - and not to base them on legalisms of one sort or another (these being demonstrably both ineffective in the log-term and immediately divisive). When something doesn't work, but makes things worse, surely we should stop doing it?
@Nathaniel - I agree. Perhaps this is the worst aspect - the way that increased legalism destroys churches from within - sometimes getting rid of some of the best people, who are best motivated; leaving behind an unsavoury type of Pharisee.
@Michael - It is very difficult/ impossible nowadays *simply* to believe in orthodoxy and live in an orthodox fashion. The problems will come looking for you, you will be compelled to make choices about what is orthodox - or decisions who is orthodox (and should be obeyed) and who is not. In other words, the individual choice is inevitable, so that individual responsibility for that choice should be clear and explicit. It is the bottom line, unavoidably.
@I - I find that lady impossible to empathise with.
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