Donatism and KafkaTrapping

Who says a person’s moral flaws prevents them from holding office? Is this a valid Christian viewpoint?

Donatism is a belief that only those living a blameless life belonged in the church, and, further, that the validity of any sacrament depended upon the personal worthiness of the priest administering it.

The Donatist issue was raised at several church councils, including the Council of Nicea. In every council, the Donatist position was rejected. Donatism, however, continued its influence until Augustine of Hippo wrote a series of books, letters, and sermons that refuted the Donatist movement and argued that the effect of a sacrament is independent of the moral character of the minister. Donatism eventually died out in the fifth century.

In Christian debates in 2021 what we repeatedly witness is a cry of the allegedly pious Christians condemning other Christians for supporting secular figures who are “not up to snuff” on moral questions. Is this true piety? Or is the just a kafka trap? One must ask one’s self what the nature of the allegation actually is. For example, is the allegation a mere opinion and an unsupported opinion at that? Then it most likely is no piety at all, but instead is a kafka trap. But why would it be a kafka-trap? Let me explain.

Recently I observed an rather noxious attempt to nudge people who are already debating a painful moral failing of a Christian leader into defending an indefensible position having to do with an unrelated third party. The third party himself is not a Christian and never claimed to be. Unsupported charges of rape were hurled. And Christians are asked to not support the target of this charge based on ‘morality’. As I said, this was injected into a discussion on Christian morality and this on how Christians should view the failings of their fellows.

The form of the argument was “I dislike this person, he is a rapist, and you Christians must also dislike this heinous person. How dare you fail to dislike him”!

What is not obvious at first glance is this is an attack on Christians themselves. At it’s heart is not just piety. At it’s heart is Donatism. The belief that only ‘true and pure Christians’ are allowed in secular life.

Stated differently, it is a religious form of a “No True Scotsman” argument, but applied in theology.

If this is an actual Christian theological position it would be mere Donatism. And was dealt with over 1600 years ago by Augustine. It does not seem to be likely to be a true pietist argument. More likely, it actually is a position of a non-Christian who is “on the outside looking in”, misunderstanding Christian thinking, and thus is actually a form of kafka-trap. “Let us embarrass the Christians with their own piety, and back them into a corner.”

That is why I say it is an attack on Christianity itself.

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