Is error better than uncertainty?

Savi Hensman writing at Ekklesia wonders about certainty and error in the church:

Church leaders have at times tried to use their authority to enforce an official line even when there is reasonable doubt, such as when the Vatican forced the scientist Galileo Galilei to withdraw his support for the theory (later found to be correct) that the earth goes round the sun. This was ultimately damaging to the Roman Catholic church and Christianity as a whole. It is better to recognise the possibility of error if a sizeable proportion of those who have studiously and prayerfully wrestled with particular questions reach different conclusions from the church authorities.

At times in human evolution when survival was largely reliant on hunting or escaping when being hunted, quick decision-making may have been vital. Even now, there are times when it is important to be clear and decisive. But humankind’s future is bleak if we trust too much in leaders who are absolutely confident even when wrong.

The Church of England is currently reviewing its stance on homosexuality and a review group chaired by Sir Joseph Pilling is due to report at the end of the year. Most members believe that committed same-sex partnerships are not always wrong but there is widespread reluctance to offend the minority who are passionately opposed. However holding on to the official line is damaging ministry and mission, not only to lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people but also wider communities.

Read more of Hensman’s thoughtful essay and her response to Andrew Goddard on the website Fulcrum, ‘Sexual Revolution: Responding Reasonably and Faithfully here.

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