on Thursday, 27 October 2005 at 8.15 am by Simon Sarmiento
categorised as Church of England
Another long but very worthwhile lecture. Rowan Williams delivered the The Richard Hooker Lecture at the Temple Church yesterday.
Richard Hooker (c1554-1600): The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity Revisited.
This lecture, given under the auspices of the Ecclesiastical Law Society, is subtle and pertinent. Rowan Williams must be burning the midnight oil in his preparation for this and the South to South Encounter in Egypt. Rowan in the past, like Hooker, has produced a pearl in reaction to grit. In terms of response to ultimate challenge, it takes one to know one. It seems to me, that Maurice Wiles’s patristic questioning of the divinity of Christ from the 1970s onwards irritated him into his massive project, which produced his major book of academic research, Arius: Heresy and Tradition. Since… Read more »
‘Since his appointment as Archbishop, Rowan has had to respond to other gritty irritants: not now the radical revisioning of Wiles, but the puritan challenge of ecclesiological limits and the ultra-liberal provocative stretching of Anglican Communion ethics.’ Graham, I suspect the link is closer than you imagine. Wiles’s adoptionist unitarianism is very widespread in North Atlantic Anglicanism. (The only ‘successors’ of the Arians I can think of today are the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons.) Leslie Francis’ latest book surveying actual English clergy belief has shown this (though Forward in Faith say they did a more comprehensive survey a few… Read more »
My reading of the Archbishop’s lecture has been necessarily cursory. I hope to return to it and read it more carefully. (My undergrad dissertation, back in 1969, was on Hooker.) My immediate reaction, however, is to congratulate His Grace on a cogently argued and interesting piece, acessible to the lay (in the figurative sense) reader.
Mark ; you can’t simply pretend that Anglicanism has never included theological liberals!
But they do, they do. All the time ;=)
Merseymike, from another background I’ve been researching Anglicanism for these past two years and more, and obviously I have much more to find out about its history. But already I can see that ‘liberal’ is a very e-l-a-s-t-i-c term, covering Frederick Temple, Charles Gore, Hensley Henson, Charles Raven, Bishop Barnes of Birmingham, Maurice Wiles and John Robinson, among others: some pretty moderate (incarnationist, trinitarian, kenotic), others quite extreme (unitarian, non-incarnationist, adoptionist, even deistic). So the term is so broad that without further qualification it is not terribly useful. Merseymike, I would be interested to hear from you what you think… Read more »
Mark Beaton: ++Rowan had the following to say on liberalism in his Anglican Identities: We might begin to identify a style of Anglican liberalism that is rather different from what liberalism is commonly supposed to be. . . . It might be summed up as the belief that scriptural and Christian language always says more than it initially appears to say. . . . Revelation provides not a system to be received but a language in which to discover more and more echoes and consonances. This approach corresponds quite closely to one of the two varieties of “skepticism” regularly found… Read more »
Mark ; I think it can, as you rightly say, be used to describe the range of views you cite. I don’t think, however, that there is a specific ‘cut-off’ point where it suddenly becomes unrelated to historic Christianity. But I’m not sure that is a very useful concept in any case – to me, the key aspect of liberalism is its caution in accepting ‘revealed truth’ which is not coloured or affected by cultural and sociological factors. There and again, I would say that I have moved towards a less orthodox position over the past three years, largely because… Read more »
Bill, thank you for this quote. If I can decipher it, it sounds a bit like a psycho-linguistic theory of knowledge and not really what theological liberalism (in its variety) has denoted in the past, which is posited more on confidence in human reason. I wonder if this skepticism doesn’t prove self-defeating in its via negativa; for while it’s a good thing to be humble, what good are words if we really don’t know what they mean? I’ve never thought of the Bible as being a mystic code, but something of which we could say the great majority of it… Read more »
Merseymike, thanks for your comment, which I am working into my developing ideas. I wonder if what you call ‘caution’ others might call ‘skepticism’, the endless deferral of commitment or assent – or at least on some questions, for there are some matters that liberals (of all shades) are quite emphatic that they DO know. It is one thing to say we do not know exhaustively (and actually nobody does say this), another to doubt if we can know at all. The old-style liberalism I referred to above didn’t say (as we hear today), ‘There’s a range of opinion, and… Read more »