Thinking Anglicans

recent Church Times features

Last week, David Edwards explained why The Church of England should not break communion with any Anglicans, in It was never meant to be perfect:

SO WHAT are the lessons for 2005? One is that the Church of England should not be ashamed to be as comprehensive as it has been and is, and ought not to break off communion with any Anglicans anywhere. If any Anglican group is defeated, the Church is impoverished.

And if any group triumphs, the victory is short-lived because, in reaction, another group grows in conviction, as the Evangelicals are currently taking advantage of the radicals’ self-inflicted disaster and the Anglo-Catholics’ disarray.

If a mission to England is really wanted, it has to be acknowledged that the ordinary English are never going to become completely what popes or Puritans, Evangelicals or Anglo-Catholics, liberals or radicals want.

One reason for this reluctance is that some 70 per cent of the English believe that they are already Christians — and also believe that what they know about Jesus Christ (which may not be much) does not fit neatly into the picture painted by any of the ecclesiastical parties.

Yet the vision of a complete Anglican consensus is utopian. This is partly because the English do not like to be told what to think or do by any dictatorship, whether personal or corporate. But a more edifying reason is that Anglicanism at its best has always tried to be not a theological or denominational system, but merely Christian.

The back page interview was of Mark Russell youth worker, lay preacher, and youngest member of the Archbishops’ Council. I particularly liked his comment on Leviticus.

Keith Ward argues that Christians must join the most important debate — about the universe in How science supports faith:

MANY of us are still afraid of science and of what it might do to faith. We would rather close our minds to discoveries, and stay with the old “certainties”. The best example of this is American creation science, which still tries to defend the first chapters of Genesis as scientific fact, in defiance of virtually all informed scientific opinion. That is why many physicists say that their God, their intelligent cosmic mind, is not the biblical God, the God who made the universe 6000 years ago, and who deprived snakes of their legs.

Here is the point. That is not really the biblical God. Christians should not be tied to primitive myths for ever, while much of modern science longs to open up a vision of a beautiful 15-billion-year-old universe, with billions of stars and galaxies, singing the glory of a Creator beyond all spaces and times.

This is the real debate for the Churches. There are many prominent Christians engaged in it. Pope John Paul II was a leading figure in opening up conversations between theology and science. John Polkinghorne and Arthur Peacocke are just two of the best-known Anglicans who lead the field, and their books are a good place to start.

But Anglicans must be trained and ready to take on board the best of modern science; to separate ancient myth from scientifically informed knowledge; and to tackle head-on the problem of whether the universe is cruel, terrifying, and pointless.

The modern scientific view of the universe will set this problem in a different light — one, perhaps, for which the laws of the universe have to operate as they do in order for life-forms like us to exist at all. Perhaps the universe can be seen to be both beautiful and dangerous — but never pointless. Perhaps it can be seen as the basis for a transformation into new and greater forms of life, as Romans 8 implies.

Whatever the upshot, it is probably true that all our thinking about God will have to be done in a new way. That is because all our traditional thinking was done before modern science told us the truth about the physical universe, when people had a different (and largely mistaken) idea of what the universe was like.

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19 years ago

Thank you very much for this post. I love the Keith Ward quote particularly, and think he’s exactly right.

There is so much we could be doing and talking about. And there are so many people outside the Church today who might be interested in being part of such discussions.

I truly hope it happens.

Greg Jones
19 years ago

I’m thrilled to have found this blog. Thanks be to God. Keith Ward has done some excellent work in Christian apologetics, without forgetting to look kindly upon other faith traditions. He’s generously orthodox, to borrow the phrase of Hans Frei.

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