Archive for September, 2009

He who justifies, deifies

September 18, 2009

ego dixi dii estis et filii Excelsi omnes vos, autem sicut hominem moriemini et sicut unus de principibus cadetis.

I say, “You are gods, and sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, you shall die like men and fall like any prince.” Psalm 82 (81): 6 – 7, RSV

Since He said that men are gods, it is therefore clear that they are deified by His grace, not born of his substance. For He justifies who is just in Himself and not through another, and He deifies who is God in himself and not by participation in another. He who justifies, however, himself deifies, since by justifying He makes the sons of God. ‘He gave them power [potestatem, ἐξουσίαν] to be the sons of God (John 1.12). If we are made sons of God, we are also made gods, but this is by the grace of the adopter and not from the nature of the generator.

—St. Augustine, Ennarrationes in Psalmos 99.2

Now compare the Vulgate translation of John 1.12 cited by Augustine

quotquot autem receperunt eum, dedit eis potestatem filios Dei fieri

with the translation of Calvin’s disciple Beza

quotquot autem exceperunt, dedit eis hoc jus, ut filii Dei sint facti

and ask yourself, who or what school is truly closer to the spirit (or Spirit) of either St Augustine or St John?

Stealth . . .

September 16, 2009

Linz priestesses

No, this picture is probably not what you think.

So, click on the link, and then, well, what say ye? Be sure to read the comments, which are at least as revealing as the article.

A Further Note on “Priestess”

September 5, 2009

Allow me to, as they say, extend and revise my previous remarks re: “priestess.”

My thanks to all who have written things in my defence. However, I must say that I agree in part with those who think I offended. A Certain Blog That Shall Not Be Named drew a line, and I crossed it. So I got whacked. I admitted as much in my blog post. Think of it as civil disobedience—I’ll do my time in the philological equivalent of the Birmingham jail and I won’t complain.

My point was, and is, that I am tired of being told that “priestess” is off limits. Words when spoken can be used with a contemptuous tone. Words when written—that is, plain English words that have a neutral meaning in any normal context (hence my citation of a recent award winning work from Princeton UP)—that are not used in an insulting manner are something else. It becomes clear that it is the word itself that is now declared off limits, and by people who do so because they object to its normal dictionary meaning, not to any implied insult. It is the very meaning of the word that is held to be insulting, even though it is that very meaning one is trying to convey. This is not an attempt to enforce politeness, but an effort to control thought.

Consider this: would A Certain Blog That Shall Not Be Named ban anyone who used the word “sodomite”? Somehow I doubt it. Yet there are, as we know, a great many who find the word offensive. Why? Not because of its descriptive content, but because it implies moral disapproval, and that from a divine source. Yet for that very reason, “sodomite” is a far, far more insulting word than “priestess.” No, “priestess” is only considered insulting by those who do not like their status questioned—which is, once again, the point.

In any case, it’s nice to know that C. S. Lewis is now banned from A Certain Blog. I’m in good company.


September 4, 2009


Yes, it has been months since I posted here. There are several reasons why. One of them just came up on another blog.

Broadly speaking, there are two types of ecclesial blogs: those that concern themselves with the eternal, and those that concern themselves with the immediate.

And then . . . well, Al Gore famously jokes that “you win some, you lose some—and then there’s that little known third category . . . ” There are blogs that do a blend of both, a combination of contemplating the transcendent while seeing how that works out in the imminent. At least that’s what I tried to do.

This provided, at least for me and (I hope) some of my readers, the best of both worlds, the opportunity to view this synod or that conference or this statement or that manifesto through a larger prism than just its immediate political context. Sometimes I leaned more towards the big picture, other times more towards the particular occasion. Most of the time I enjoyed this, at least after a fashion. William F. Buckley (no hero of mine) was once asked if he enjoyed writing, and his reply was both simple and yet deeply profound: “No, I enjoy having written.” Well, I enjoyed seeing my comments on the web and enjoyed even more that some other people enjoyed them too. But the strain of both maintaining a constant state of preparedness for comment as events in the Anglican world spun out of control, and yet pausing long enough to say anything really worthwhile about them, grew greater and greater. After all, I do have a day job, and I certainly wasn’t getting paid for this. I did not realize just how great the strain was until I was forced to pause and regroup following the collapse of my original sponsors at CaNN.

Furthermore, as time went by, I grew less and less satisfied with commenting on the immediate occasions of the church’s perils. I come from a family of writers and journalists, but I had neither the time nor the desire to be a third-rate Ruth Gledhill. More and more I was drawn to examing Anglican first principles, to see, first, if there were any (answer: there are), and second, if anyone out there understood or cared about them anymore (answer: fewer and fewer). I started series, such as ‘Anglican Formularies and Anglican Authority,’ and then realized I had bitten off, not more than I could chew, but more than could be quickly swallowed or easily digested. And more and more I felt that, if I couldn’t do that, what was the point?

As well, I grew increasingly depressed that I was simply screaming into the void. By that, I don’t mean that my readership here was too small—it was never, in fact, that large, and that really didn’t matter to me much. No, what I mean is that even on the “big” blogs such as Stand Firm or TitusOneNine, I kept seeing the same dreary arguments over the same set of issues, over and over and over and over . . . It seemed obvious over time that few, if any, were being persuaded that their support for, e.g., the “ordination” of women was based on arguments built on the sand of emotion or illogic or pseudo-scholarship or just plain heresy. The occasional success—someone who actually came to see the light of, not to put it too finely, catholic truth—was always followed by some comment that indicated a near-complete lack of understanding of the issues at stake or a commitment to arguments long overthrown or an ecclesiology bereft of any truly catholic underpinning. How many times can people keep on arguing for the “apostle” Junia or finding “evidence” of women “priests” in catacombs or mosaics or coming up with “Biblical” arguments that ignore the Bible? Apparently ad infinitum and ad nauseam.

Thus I paused. For months. I worked—taught, wrote, traveled abroad with students, sat on committees, etc.—and went to church and prayed. I followed events from afar, so to speak, and found that, as the Anglican situation grew ever more confusing, I had both more and less to say. But the “more” was too long for a blog, and the “less” too short to justify more than an occasional comment elsewhere.

However, I became annoyed enough to comment today when someone alerted me to a couple of threads on A Certain Anglican Blog Which Shall Not Be Named. To be fair, the author of one post (or those who administer the site) had warned that those who used the term “priestess” would be banned. However, he or they apparently did not feel that someone who used “priestess” only to declare it insulting crossed that line. Apparently, one only gets banned if one approves of the term “priestess,” not if one objects. Thus one commenter wrote

I think I will stay away from this thread except to say that I do appreciate that people be mandated not to use “priestess”. Yes, it is insulting and I have never known any ordained Episcopal or Lutheran clergywoman who uses it.

This was a bit much for me, so I fired off the following (actually posting it on two threads):

I am sorry that there are some who still find the term “priestess” insulting. It is, however, still perfectly unexceptionable and proper English. See

The author and the press cited above are hardly bastions of conservatism in the gender wars. If the objection by some in Christian quarters to “priestess” is that it carries pagan or gnostic connotations, well, yes. That’s the point.

Apparently, some do not care to be reminded that there is, in fact, an ideological or theological set of assumptions—true or untrue, valid or invalid, pleasant or unpleasant—on BOTH sides of this argument, and that those who declare the use of “priestess” insulting are in fact making a theological or ideological statement every bit as much as those who use it. Declaring it to be insulting is merely using emotion to blackmail objectors into using language in a way that caters to the very arguments to which they are objecting. So get over it. I will not allow my use of language to be policed by anyone who says she is “insulted” when in fact she is merely objecting to the position I have taken.

(I urge the reader to click on the link to Princeton University Press above to see my point.)

This was immediately deleted from both threads (as was the ‘thank you’ I received from another commenter) and I was declared banned. I have yet to see similar punishment meted out to the woman who styles herself FenelonSpoke and who declared the term “priestess” insulting (and parenthetically, I’m sure Fenelon is turning over in his grave). Arguments on this Certain Blog only go one way, it seems.

I’m not actually all that bothered by this. I admit it—I asked for it. But the double standard is troubling.

So should I return to blogging more frequently? Perhaps. I’ll think about it. But I am not encouraged.

UPDATE: My more considered thoughts on this matter may be found here.