Scripture, Tradition, Reason what do Episcopalians do when we aren’t sure, or when what we think differs?

It’s easy to fall into individualism and the church of individual opinion.  From there it’s a slippery slope to “it doesn’t matter.” This was after all the gist of Chapter 2 of our current Sunday school book “The provocative church.”  When reluctance to talk about/limited learning about has led us to a place of “I don’t know” it can be easy to give up on trying to come to a resolution.  To think, “oh what does it matter.” As Episcopalians we were once famous for being “the middle way,” The double edged sword of that is that many of us, myself included don’t know a lot of things about being Episcopalian. Let me assure you that it does matter.

In a discussion at Sunday school last week of things we Episcopalians aren’t always comfortable with the personification of the Devil as opposed to Evil came up.

The Episcopal/Anglican practice of Christianity gives us a guide for how to combat that lack of knowledge and it has nothing to do with individualism, It is all about communion. When we don’t know we are to consult 3 avenues for gaining that knowledge: Scripture, Tradition, Reason.  So let’s apply this to our conversation about the Devil.

The first is scripture, which one person rightly pointed out.  In Isaiah 14:12-15 and Ezekiel 28:12-19 we learn of a cherubim, think beautiful multiheaded powerful heavenly creature, who became so enamored of himself (sin of pride) that he challenged God, and lost.  This creature, sometimes called a fallen angel, was named Lucifer.  Later in 1 Chronicles 21:1 he is called Satan and Diablos, which mean adversary, or one who plots against. In Matthew 4:1-11 this creature speaks to Jesus, and in Revelation 12:9 and 20:2 he is referred to as a serpent, for which the likely interpretation is that he was the serpent in the Genesis story as well.  

The second pillar of our practice is tradition, what was stated as “I was always taught.”  The Episcopal/Anglican tradition has always taught the devil as a specific entity, and does today. However, it would be incorrect to rely on “I was always taught,” statements which came from a church other than the Episcopal church. We each had very different catechetical educations, some of ours were non-existent, and some of ours were in other faiths. While possibly interesting, our goal here is to learn about being a provocative Episcopal church, specifically.

The third pillar is reason,  it is our job to bring our questions to one another in groups such as this and reason it out.  It is the group’s job to ask questions, share their experiences and their Episcopal education, and also to listen.   To a point we actually did a pretty good job with this discussing what made us believe one thing or another.  However, there is a moment in all such discussions where we are often tempted to say, “whatever” and revert to acceptance of individualism.  Perhaps it’s our native reflex, perhaps it’s a defense mechanism, perhaps it’s Satan trying to convince us to be placated and filling us with doubt about both our contribution to the discussion and the value of knowing, perhaps it’s simply that time is short and it seems we should move on from the topic.
Let me assure you that it does matter.  The expression goes, All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.  Don’t be placated or whatevered into individualism.  It’s ok to put aside the topic and come back to it as time allows, but don’t give up on getting an answer. It was provocative enough of an idea to start the discussion, stay provoked and get answers. Revisit the scriptures, ask for the traditional teachings, and keep coming back to small groups of Episcopalians to share and grow.

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