Thinking Anglicans

opinions as the clocks spring forward

Jonathan Sacks writes in The Times that Darwin pointed the way to an unselfish evolution.

Oliver Rafferty writes in the Guardian that: The ideas that led to George Tyrrell’s excommunication still confront Christianity.

For extra measure, Catherine Robinson writes in the same paper that Tim Berners-Lee’s invention symbolises Unitarian desire to foster communication.

In the Church Times John Packer argues in The West needs to understand faith that there is a dangerous ignorance of religion in the West’s foreign policy.

Giles Fraser writes there about Philip Blond, in Behind the allure of the Red Tory.

The best comment I saw about the parliamentary debate yesterday on the Royal Marriages and Succession to the Crown (Prevention of Discrimination) Bill 2008-09 was the Channel 4 News interview with David Starkey. There is a link to the video clip from this page. (For the best background briefing paper see this – H/T Ruth Gledhill.)


  • MJ says:

    Giles Fraser: “Behind this Red Toryism is the unmistakable hand of the theological movement Radical Orthodoxy, associated with people such as John Milbank and Rowan Williams.”

    Milbank and Williams would be more to the ‘left’ than Blond, and it would be unfair to lump the whole RO movement with Blond’s Red Toryism. Some, such as Milbank, would prefer to be regarded as ‘Blue’ or traditionalist Socialists. Indeed he has always regarded himself as a Christian Socialist. What is being attempted is the creation of a new politics, disillusioned as people are with New Labour and free-market Conservatism (and indeed Blond would not be a fan of the current Tory party). A creative middle-way.

    Milbank expressed his political view more clearly in an interview here:

    “I’m starting to think that this triple romanticism is more fundamental than left/right characterization, which after all is a kind of accidental result of the French Revolution. Both left and right, as André de Muralt argues are nominalist: either one favours a strong single centre of money or power or both (right) or the rights of the many singly or when totted up (left). Both positions are also in the end atheist.

    We need instead a new kind of ‘romantic’ politics that is specifically religious, and often Christian, in thinking that one can only get distributive equality on the basis of agreed values and an elite transmission and guarding of those values. A more Carlylean and Ruskinian politics then—basically left yet with elements that are not really right so much as pre-modern and traditionalist. Strictly speaking the pre-modern predates right versus left. In Great Britain Phillip Blond is developing a crucially important new mode of ‘Red Toryism’—which might in my view equally be seen as a kind of ‘traditionalist socialism’. This is starting to be noticed in very significant public places and in effect marks the political translation of the paradox of ‘Radical Orthodoxy’ and the beginning of its entry upon the political stage.

    The hard thing now for critical thinkers to do is to think outside ‘leftism’. They have to see that if neo-liberalism and neo-conservatism have totally triumphed this is because the left in traditional mode is incapable of carrying out an adequate critique. In the end this is because it’s atheistic – one needs to be religious to recognize objective values and meanings as not just epiphenomenal. Today in Great Britain the left is more or less now defining itself as scientistic which actually permits an underwriting of a new mode of fascism and ‘racism’ as said above.

    ‘Left Christians’ now have much more to stress the Christian bit if they are truly going to be able to make a critical intervention.”

  • Pluralist says:

    Well, due to accidental opportunity, I am taking the Easter Day service in a Unitarian church, and I have to say I feel more comfortable doing such than I might in an Anglican church, simply because I can discuss the Easter events without having to come to the right conclusion. My intention is to weave into the whole service something of Darwin, that death is a means to new and better life.

    I don’t like speculating into unsupported positives, and history and science, and their methods, won’t allow Easter to be any other than a myth.

    The Archbishop of Canterbury is on record saying that if the bones did not reconstitute themselves into a transformed body then he wouldn’t be a priest never mind Archbishop… Anyone showing this would win a Nobel prize of science and he hasn’t got one historical method to make such an assertion. It’s myth talk and that’s it.

    I take the view that the nineteenth century liberal theologians were right: right to open up theology to other disciplines even if hopelessly optimistic about the transference of Christianity into a realisable new dawn. Those that followed preserved christology by artificial means, and it’s only now that some theologians have grasped the voluntary, creative and broadest basis of theology as writing.

    My first draft of my sermon was too long, but I’ll focus on the liturgical content before I come back to it.

  • Pluralist says:

    Here was a fairly realistic encounter with a Unitarian church, also in The Guardian.

  • JCF says:

    You’re of course welcome to your opinions, and religious-affiliation, Pluralist.

    I just can’t understand why anyone would be obsessed w/ whether Jesus’s “bones … reconstitute[d] themselves”, or not (addressing both you AND Rowan).

    To me, it’s a question that ceased to be compelling, “Year 33: Ascension Day Plus One.”

    I believe that Jesus is at the Right Hand of God—Triunely, IS God. My Christian faith simply doesn’t hinge solely on those 40 days after the crucifixion.

  • JCF says:

    Oh, one more thing, re “as the clocks spring forward”: Stateside, that was 3 weeks ago! ;-/

  • David |Dah•veed| says:

    But JCF, there are many of us in the world who still recognize the one true time, given once for all. None of this radical temporal revisionism! At least a few more weeks anyway.

  • Malcolm+ says:

    Clocks springing forward and back is entirely unnatural.

  • Pluralist says:

    Just for the record, seeing as I have been addressed on this matter. I am not obsessed about reconstituted bones. I don’t care. The matter is beyond access, as is ‘the resurrection’, or indeed the triune God and all that. The issue is presented and I address it, that’s all. It is a form of circular talk.

    I’m in a sort of in between condition at the moment. Clearly we have packages and roadways and ways to get places, but I’m coming around to more direct talk. Religious myth is becoming uninteresting; ritual of sorts still functions: myth has to have practical and ethical application at best.

    I regard Radical Orthodoxy and this Red Tory stuff as indeed a romantic fantasy. I can’t see the point of it. Regarding Rowan Williams and his detailed narrative approach, with then his historicist outbursts, the more he says the less I find credible. Much of what he said on the environment could have been said more directly, much of what he said on the economy was undermined by his continuing inaction where he has some influence and his apparent preference for religious bureaucracy over sections of people.

  • peterpi says:

    One of my favorite heretical Episcopal bishops is +John Shelby Spong. I enjoy his books. In one of them, he gives an example of biblical literalism in a modern understanding of the physical world. If Jesus ascended physically and bodily, +Spong wrote, he would have passed through the troposphere, stratosphere, etc., into outer space and gone into orbit around the Sun! It’s an image forever in my mind. When I read that, I thought “My God! How has he avoided burning at the stake in an auto da fe?”
    I have met Christian ministers who insisted that Joshua made the Sun stand still. It boggles my mind to try to reconcile the Earth revolving around the Sun with Joshua making the Sun stand still. For the Sun to have stayed in a fixed position in the sky, or “stood still”, the Earth would have had to instantly freeze on its axis. Such a sudden stopping of a rotation of 1,000 MPH at the Equator would have caused massive tidal waves, surface dislocations, a 24-hour night on the opposite side of the planet. None of which, of course, has been recorded by any ancient peoples.
    I believe people who insist on biblical literalness and inerrancy must be insecure, frightened by the modern world, and whose solace is to fall on “If the King James Bible was good enough for Moses or Jesus, it’s good enough for me!” Ambiguity scares them. Or, they’re figures of religious authority who fear loss of their flock if people think for themselves, and accept that religion doesn’t have all the answers.
    A religion that survives by freezing biblical interpretation and the religion’s own articles and precepts must surely fossilize and perish.
    I think their god is circumscribed, narrow, a stupendously-sized projection of the ultimate stern father figure.
    Lastly, the improbability of material fire not harming an immaterial soul is genius! No wonder Tyrell was punished, he could think for himself!

  • choirboyfromhell says:

    “Oh, one more thing, re “as the clocks spring forward”: Stateside, that was 3 weeks ago! ;-/”

    Yes, we in the U.S. can blame the ex-moron in chief for getting us up in the dark cold of the night (‘to save energy’??!) three weeks earlier, so we can turn on the furnaces in colder weather so his energy buddies can save more dollars.

  • Jay Vos says:

    I posted Simon’s explanation & links referring the parliamentary debate re Royal Marriages and Succession over at the British Royals Message Board, which has also started a discussion on this.

    And the comments after I posted were mainly about David Starkey’s video.

    I used to like Starkey (and Schama), but I think he’s just become another acceptable media culture/history talking head, way too big for his gaiters.

    A commenter at the BRMB writes that he “forgets,however,that the Anglican Church was fully complicit in the persecutions of Catholics and Protestant Dissenters down the centuries.It was not slow either in lending its arm to bring down a monarch as recently as 73 years ago and large sections of it are currently trying to demonize people of alternative sexual persuasion! This idea that Anglicans were always nice,decent English chaps who wouldn’t hurt a flea whilst other churches were busy beating the crap out of you is the most amazingly self-deceiving,unhistorical hogwash and sadly characteristic of certain rather smug,unreflective, upholders of the status quo of whom we must now count Dr.Starkey as a typical example.

    “Shame on him for his lack of objective historical insight!”

    I’m a cradle Episcopalian and I think that commenter is correct.

    Another comment vis-a-vis Starkey:
    “Like the Church of England (though not by any means all her faithful members) Starkey is a tool of the state.” And an Anglican atheist tool, too.

  • john says:

    Am I the only one here who thinks that J Sacks’ meditation was rather good? Hard to think of many Anglican thinkers (aside from the usual suspects -Ward, Polkinghorne, maybe McGrath) who could do as well.

  • Cynthia Gilliatt says:

    “Yes, we in the U.S. can blame the ex-moron in chief for getting us up in the dark cold of the night (‘to save energy’??!) three weeks earlier, so we can turn on the furnaces in colder weather so his energy buddies can save more dollars.”

    Abd here I thought it was to extend twilight later in the fall so that more kids would go trick or treating and more candy would be sold.

  • Cheryl Va. says:

    Yes John.

    Sacks’ article is quite good. At one point he wrote:

    “It was Darwin’s greatness that he saw the answer, even though it contradicted his general thesis. Natural selection operates at the level of the individual. It is as individual men and women that we pass on our genes to the next generation. But civilisation works at the level of the group.”

    Exodus for 40 years was about creating a culture, a group dynamic, a collective understanding. It was not sufficient to have Moses, his siblings and their offspring have insight and wisdom. There needed to be a race, a people who incorporated and manifested a new paradigm.

    As history moved forward, it was no longer sufficient to have a race, there needed to be a philosophical or religious perspective that was available for all to see, understand and choose to incorporate into their own lives and cultures. Judaism (and later Christianity) were never meant to exist in isolation from the rest of humanity or Creation, but rather to engage and dialogue with each other to bring out the best in both themselves and in the other.

    Separationist theologies that call for the drawing back of souls in to a State (Israel or Heaven) simply fail to comprehend that God wills Creation to exist, and that Creation will not fold back into only one ego or paradigm, no matter how attractive that might seem.

  • john says:




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