Obedience to Wisdom

by Caleb Roberts

The assumption that Scripture is a book of positive law in which we find specific directives for the Church’s ordering requires us to ignore the whole question of the coherence of human nature and its goals, and the coherence of God’s own being.  God has a ‘character’; God is not pure groundless will.  Therefore creation (including us) has a character: but because created nature realises its goals in contingent and temporal process, being faithful to that character and so to God’s law, and so to God’s being, God’s self, involves being wary of any kind of positivism about laws enacted or even revealed in history, since to be bound to a set of historical positive enactments may lead us to be unfaithful to the real law of God, the wisdom in which we are created, when those enactments no longer effect a path to wisdom.  To act in obedience to wisdom is a matter of knowing how and when to innovate:

The Church being a body which dieth not hath always power, as occasion requireth, no less to ordain that which never was, then to ratify what hath been before.  To prescribe the order of doing in all things, is a peculiar prerogative which wisdom hat, as Queen or Sovereign commandress over other virtues. (V.8.I)

Thus the argument is rounded off: true conformity to unchanging divine wisdom (and, it should be added, to the doctrinal formulations that embody for us how that wisdom acts and how it makes its general claim upon us) requires a flexibility in discipline and policy that is impossible for the positivist and the primitivist. (48-49)

Rowan Williams | Anglican Identities

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