Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Benefit of Doctrinal Ambiguity

This past week, I was able to give a talk to the youngsters of an Indy-area Catholic High School.  It was a chastity/homosexuality talk, and it was good for me to be in front of high school kids again.  They were really great, even though they didn't have to be.

In my talk, I noted that there are two really loud camps in the homosexual debate -
1) the liberal left (you can't help but act on your attractions)
2) the religious fundamentalist right (you will burn in Hell for your attractions)

And I then noted, as we've discussed on here many times, in the middle is the Catholic Church.

A teacher came up to me afterwards (a really nice guy) and noted that most Protestants are not in the "religious right camp" and stand with the Catholic Church in the middle saying that attractions themselves are not sins.

The interesting thing was that once the man started talking and fleshing out what he believed, it became clear that he
a) believed that his beliefs (and his ecclesial community's beliefs on the matter) are in line with the Catholic Church and
b) those beliefs were not actually in line with the Catholic Church

It is both a blessing and a curse for Protestants - the ability to not have to nail down cleanly what one believes in a Catechism.  The doctrinal ambiguity of Protestantism is often seen as a good thing by most Protestants because Catechisms are "Roman inventions", but in practice the ambiguity creates serious problems when trying to have serious conversations about matters of Faith.

Doctrinal ambiguity essentially turns one's own interpretation of Scripture into the Rosetta Stone for unlocking the mysteries of God.  In discussing Faith with other people, then, it becomes easy to say "Oh, I believe that too" or "I don't believe in that" because nothing is set in concrete - everything a person uses to understand God is locked inside one's self.

At the same time, and surely unsettling to Protestants, is the awareness that when relying on one's own interpretation of Scripture, there is nothing providing guidance from beyond one's self, external to one's self.

Doctrinal ambiguity has the appearance of being freeing, but when lived it would have to be quite unsettling and Hellish.

Thank God for the Catholic Church.