Thursday, August 18, 2011

Feast of William Porcher Dubose

Haven't done a feast day for a while, but I was drawn to the feast of William Porcher Dubose in part because I find it difficult. He was, after all, a chaplain to the Confederate Army. I'm not so sure that I find "it" difficult as I find him difficult.

I was directed via Twitter to this lovely post about Dubose, written a year ago by the Dean of the Cathedral in Atlanta, which says Dubose "was, if you will, 'entangled.' His lot in life was to live in several places at once. In fact, I believe that is the lot for all of us in life." So I've been thinking about that.

And then I read some of the introduction to Dubose's book The Gospel According to St. Paul, in which he writes,

The ultimate aim of each one of us should be not to save ourselves from error but to advance the truth. We may safely rely upon it that our truth will in the end be accepted and our error corrected. If I had been too much afraid of going wrong I should have made no progress in growing right; — who of us that has really thought or spoken may not say that of himself? For my own part, I have not merely traditionally believed but become personally convinced that there is a truth of the Scriptures and that there is a mind of the Church; and that each of these will take care of itself as against the infinite errors and vagaries of individual thinkers and writers. I have in my mind not only an implicit faith but a rational science or philosophy of these things, which at least satisfies myself and gives me security and rest from the fear of even my own shortcomings or too-far-goings. I do not hesitate to say then, on the one hand, that I hold what I hold subject to the revision and correction of the deeper truth of the Scriptures and the larger wisdom of the Church; and, on the other hand, that, leaving to these their function of final acceptance or rejection, I conceive it to be my duty to the truth, and my best service to them, to think the thoughts and express the conclusions, as best I may, which I have found to be to myself their own best interpretation.

I like that very much. I like especially that the fear of going wrong is far less important than the search for what is right. I see too often that people of faith are not true to what they actually believe because they fear it is "wrong." This is a comforting passage, knowing that advancing the truth takes precedence over saving ourselves from error.

But I still find him difficult. "It will all work out in the end"--fair enough; but people can be hurt in the meantime. It's not all just an intellectual exercise. I'm not sure what it is, but there's something in all of this that disturbs me.

Yes, we are entangled. But I think part of our work as Christians is to examine closely those things that entangle us. And not simply through our intellect, however impressive that may be, but through every part of ourselves.

No answers, but this is just about starting the conversation, not having a definitive answer. And, as Dubose says, the Church will guard against the vagaries of individual thinkers and writers, such as myself.

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