on Saturday, 27 May 2023 at 12.14 pm by Peter Owen
categorised as Opinion
Ian Paul Psephizo The Church of England’s financial imbalance
Sophie Grace Chappell ViaMedia.News Two-Edged Scripture: Taking the Bible Seriously
Sophie Grace Chappell effectively abolishes any sound reason for the existence of evangelicals. Anyone. who believes the author of 66 books is a single Being who dislikes shrimp is akin to believers in the tooth fairy. Evangelicalism is a nonsense which Chappell herself sensibly abandoned. It is no surprise that the CofE is held to ransom by a religious group whose foundations are not just shaky, but totally ridiculous.
So difficult not to agree!!
I think the problem is not so much evangelicalism as the fundamentalism and literalism that accompanies it.
I do not understand how anyone can live in a society where so much of our lives is tied to a modern scientific understanding, from medicine (based in evolution and genetics), through travel guided by devices based in astrophysics and cosmology, to communication (based on quantum physics) and still hold to a belief in a literal understanding of a set of books written and codified more than 2000 years ago.
Maybe because my (original) academic discipline was mathematics that I don’t have any trouble taking things like Genesis literally. Essentially we have an initial state and a set of processes/rules as to how it changes over time. The argument for the Big Bang rather than Genesis boils down to a choice of two competing initial states. If I apply Occam’s Razor as a Christian (ie with a belief in God) I pick Genesis because it is the simpler – theorising how God could exist before the Big Bang seems unduly complicated to me and because even the Big Bang doesn’t… Read more »
The idea that millions of parents have to supply their children with presents at Christmas sounds very complicated to me. I prefer to think they are delivered by Santa Claus “because it’s simpler”.
In that case it clearly isn’t
I once read a physicist’s attempt to explain how Santa Claus could accomplish what the story told to children says he does, and his solution was Santa Claus’ reindeer pulled Santa and the sled at more-than-hypersonic speed through the air, building up such huge friction that Rudolph instantaneously vaporizes, followed by each pair of reindeer — so if you look out one Christmas Eve and see a fireball racing through the sky, you’ll know that Santa’s on his way.
I think “the idea that millions of parents have to supply their children with presents” satisfies Occam’s Razor better. 🙂
Kate, I don’t know if you’ll see this, being a day late. But, I believe in God and the Big Bang. God laid down the underpinnings of physics, chemistry, and mathematics and then set off the Big Bang and is content to let the Universe unfold as it will, including evolution. Including our evolution. To a lot of people, that may seem like an impersonal God. But then, I don’t believe in a God made in the image of us. God is pure being, pure existence, akin to a force (or Force, if you will) underlying the Universe and infusing… Read more »
Well said Peter. Couldn’t agree more.
Interestingly, I’ve seen three responses to this post from evangelicals today, and all of them were positive. I thought it was quite good, though I didn’t agree with absolutely everything in it. Perhaps you think people like me are not real evangelicals?
The ‘imaginary single audience’ idea. Richard Bauckham did a good job demolishing this simplistic account of reading the 4th Gospel as solely addressed to a ‘Johannine community’ reconstructed by a modern biblical theorist, in The Gospels for All Christians. This point is even more to be underscored when it comes to the presumptive ‘audience’ of Genesis or Leviticus etc. in ancient Israel. That it keeps biblical scholars active is not the same thing as sound hermeneutical theory. The article sounds quaintly like 19th century ‘Higher Criticism’ and its ‘assured results.’ JEDP now having gone the way of the do-do bird.… Read more »
I am pleased it’s not just I who is unconvinced by the target audience theory. In the case of the Pauline epistles which Sophie Grace Chappell raises as an argument, as a Christian I assume that the Spirit had a big role in the composition of the epistles and their retention. Even if one puts that aside, the fact that the epistles were retained seems to be prima facie evidence that they were always seen as important and having a wider application than just a church in Rome or Corinth. The transmission of a text from C1 to C21 isn’t… Read more »
Paul tells those in Colossae (whom he has never met) that, after they have read it aloud, “see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea” (probably Ephesians). The Pauline Letter collection is virtually always the same ordered 13 book presentation (Hebrews migrates), and the case can be made that individual letters to congregations also deliver their sense as a collection (the preface to Romans is a preface to the Letter collection as a whole). Similarly, the ending of John and the fourfold Gospel collection. Similarly the… Read more »
All the things you speak of–the prefaces, the placement of Deuteronomy, etc.–are the way they are because of the compiling and editing of the various documents into the form we know today as the Old and New Testaments, which occurred long after the original composition of those elements. To say that they were always intended to be seen and read that way is like saying that an anthology of stories by various authors (all on the same theme) was intended by those authors–who might never have known each other and wrote in a variety of places and times–was always meant… Read more »
You could use a little time with Gadamer or modern hermeneutical theory. “Intended by the authors who wrote them” is as old-fashioned as the bicycle built for two. Ironically, you share the same hermeneutical circle as modernist fundamentalists. Who wrote Hosea? Which parts? Isaiah? Is Isaiah 24 “intended” by Isaiah son of Amoz (1:1)? By “deutero-Isaiah?” Trito? A glossator post-dating them both? Biblical texts are not fossils in a rock, to be confidently quarried and set in a row. If we have learned anything since the 19th century, it is surely that. They are alive, continually pressing for a horizon.… Read more »
“Authors” existed prior to the printing press. Someone (or someones) wrote down each of the books of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures. People knew how to write before movable print came along. And no I don’t believe the authors of those books were human stenographers being dictated to by God. God’s inspiration was refracted through the lens of each human mind.
And why hound Pat O’Neill over who wrote what? What does that prove?
Of course they did. And yes they were inspired, as were their first editors and transmitters.
What percentage of people actually wrote in antiquity? When you speak of ‘author’ you have to shift ground. That was my point. I write. On paper. I edit. I send to a publisher. He/she edit. My name is on the spine. I get a royalty and reviews. Isaiah did not write. No “author” of anything in the OT wrote. “Bind up the testimony, seal the teaching among my disciples” is his very lapidary comment in the context of not being heard (chaps 6-8). East Semitic languages had no alphabet. A scribe would need to know 2000+ syllabic signs and pictograms.… Read more »
The term ‘author’ includes those who compose a work and dictate it to someone else; whether an ancient scribe, a modern secretary, or a computer which turns speech into written text.
Paul is no less the author of the epistles because he dictated them to a scribe.
It’s just not what Mr O’Neill meant.
I may have misunderstood him/her, of course. But ‘author’ means ‘originator’, not just ‘writer’, so I think the connection between originating a work and being able to physically write it down can be over-emphasised.
My only caveat would be a singular ‘originator’ — biblical texts emerge within a web of inspired forces. From God to Amos to his listeners to those who preserve what he said to to those who hear more than he said to those who set all that within a larger literary framework. This is why ”author intention” is not as simple an affair as modernists (on left and right) assume.
In that scenario Amos is still the originator, or author. But it’s all speculative, with the Old Testament particularly. We simply don’t know how it was put together. There will always be theories, but they go in and out of fashion.
Oh, there is a fair amount of shared opinion about the formation of the Twelve.
Please do not try to read my mind. It is, indeed, what I meant. Homer is no less the “author” of the Iliad and the Odyssey because he could neither read nor write (although there is no evidence that he couldn’t). My comments were talking about the additions made by, for want of a better word, “compilers” and “editors”–those who took the individual works (histories, prophecies, poetry, myths, memoirs, and letters) and put them together in the “anthology” (again, for lack of a better word) that we now call the Bible. Were these people inspired in the work they did?… Read more »
PS “long after”?
Decidedly not. Integral to the works being what they are and how we receive them.
I wonder where you get this kind of idea, btw? Are Hosea’s or Isaiah’s disciples “long after”?
Paul’s scribal colleagues?
The 13 letter collection exists in every single manuscript seen by the human eye.
If we were to be lured into ‘individual books only to be read as occasional letters” that would never have happened.
See David Trobisch, The Pauline Letter Collection. He has personally seen and handled every NT manuscript that exists. No small feat.
“The 13 letter collection exists in every single manuscript seen by the human eye.”
I assume you have heard of copyists, of scriptoria. Of professional scribes trained to treat Holy Scripture as holy.
The Torah has been written the same way, with the same number of rows, with the books in the same order, for hundreds of years, with only the slightest variation.
How is that any different than your comments about Paul’s letters?
Your comment makes no sense to me as it is touches on nothing I have written. I am a professional biblical scholar, trained in text-criticism. What you write is largely true, though by the time of Paul the means of dictating and writing followed the patterns of his day. I made no comment about the malleable character of Torah transmission, as against Paul’s letters (as much as the processes are different), so I do not understand this entry. My comments have to do with inner-biblical interpretation and shaping. You can consult your co-religionist Michael Fishbane for an introduction. This all… Read more »
“The 13 letter collection exists in every single manuscript seen by the human eye.” That, to me, means, you are saying that every manuscript of St. Paul’s works has the exact same 13 letters. 1) I believe many, though not all, Biblical scholars believe that some of those letters were written by St. Paul’s disciples rather than St. Paul. 2) Many ancient surviving manuscripts of the Christian Scriptures are fragments or partial texts, and therefore can’t possibly contain all 13 letters. 3) Both the Jewish and Christian Scriptures underwent separate processes of what to include and exclude, with the Jewish… Read more »
Mr Gross “The Pauline Letter Collection” is the term of art among NT and manuscript specialists. It has nothing to do with questions of genuine or non-genuine. With respect, I have spent my professional life on questions such as these — for better or worse. If you are interested in the formation of the NT, David Trobisch has written two very engaging and basic texts. “The Pauline Letter Collection” (a simplified form of his German PhD) and “The First Edition of the NT.” As for the OT, I have written over a dozen books on the formation of the “Hebrew… Read more »
I need to edit part of what I wrote: ” The Torah has been written the exact same way, with the same number of rows on each page of parchment, with the books in the same order, for for over a thousand years, with only the slightest variation. And no one doubts they were written by human beings, acting with reverence and intention, but acting through human agency.”
Amen and thank you!
Despite what you say, evangelicals think God wrote how He doesn’t like shrimp and disapproves of gay people.
Well I don’t actually
True, but as I tried to say earlier that’s the fault of those ministers who stress those aspects of the Bible – although in my experience few evangelical teachers have a big thing about shellfish. I have to say, that even though the Spirit was strong in his life, I think St Paul also injected a lot of his own prejudices into his teaching. Jesus generally taught in a way which promoted people to think for themselves, only telling people the real core points directly. In contrast, Paul tells his audience what they should think. One of the key lessons… Read more »
Again, thank you! In my opinion, Jesus of Nazareth didn’t start Christianity. He didn’t found a religion to worship him. His focus was always on getting Jews to seek God and God’s Realm, to see the broader picture or purpose for the religious laws. St. Paul is the father of Christianity. St. Paul appealed to those Hellenes or Hellenistic Jews who liked the simplicity of a single God and the rational aspects of Judaism, but rejected the laws about food and circumcision. St. Paul started the process of fusing Hellenism with Judaism. And your sentence ending in the bolded words?… Read more »
Wouldn’t that be convenient.
Can you try to get away from dismissive slogans? I am not a con-evo, but a catholic Anglican. I am quite confident that these sorts of 1-sentence blog responses is more to reassure your self than to think as an Anglican.
Please try harder.
This evangelical does not. And evangelicals would prefer to describe their beliefs for themselves, please.
As would Jews and GLBT people. Thank you for being tolerant of GLBT people, if that’s what your comment means, but I’ve met too many evangelicals who have no opinion on God’s affinity towards shrimp, but are absolutely convinced God despises GLBT people. They may make condescending statements like “love the sinner, but hate the sin”, but by their actions, especially in secular lawmaking, they make it clear they don’t think much of the sinner. Actually, as someone who has ties to TEC (USA), but is Jewish, with Orthodox Jewish cousins who take very seriously as a matter of religious… Read more »
Peter, I am not merely tolerant of LGBTQI+ people, I am fully affirming. I thought I’d made that clear in my posts over the past couple of years, but apparently I haven’t made it clear enough.
And I agree with you that we all pick and choose about which parts of scripture we follow to the letter. Many of my fellow evangelicals claim to believe and practice the whole Bible, but in fact there are many things they ignore.
I’ve preached Chappell’s sermon myself many times though nowhere near as cogent or as compelling in my argument as she was in Invergowrie. For all conservative evangelicals claim to literally believe in every word of Scripture they seem to use only a tiny fraction of it regularly and are pretty much untroubled by the vagaries of the lectionary. Their hubris strikes me as being unscriptural.
With respect, I think you might be laying the blame for that on the wrong people. Most lay people don’t know the whole Bible. Even if they have read it all, in truth they focus on the passages which are expounded over and over, in sermons and more generally, by their teachers. If the teachers placed as much emphasis and repetition on wearing clothes of mixed fabrics as they do on same sex marriage, then that would be the big thing for the vast majority of evangelicals. (It would appear that even the conservative Amish still don’t worry too much… Read more »
The rule against wearing different types of fabric was not a moral law. There is nothing inherently wrong with weaving linen and wool together. In fact, the ephod of the high priest was made of linen and dyed thread (Exodus 28:6–8; 39:4–5). The dyed thread would have been made of wool. This fact is probably the key to understanding the prohibition. The ephod of the high priest was the only garment that could be woven of linen and wool. No one else was allowed to have such a garment. Apparently, this rule was to place some distance between the high… Read more »
I’ve heard this moral/not-moral division asserted many times, and never has anyone been able to offer a coherent explanation of how one sorts commands into one category or the other.
I think there are 3 consistent positions 1. Keep full ,Torah Law like orthodox Jews 2. Accept that by Acts 15, the Church (ie the bishops) have the delegated authority to say what parts of the Law do and do not apply in any age. (This of course means that if the bishops approve same sex marriage it ceases to be a sin. Likewise they have the authority to authorise prayers.) 3. Follow the teaching of Christ and prioritise love and the welfare of others. Like you, I don’t see any Biblical basis for saying there is a difference between… Read more »
“all Law was to glorify God.”
Yes, a thousand times, Amen!
The number of people who don’t get this, including apparently some writers of Christian Scripture, is vast.
Jews who follow the Law do so out of a sense of glorifying God and religious self-discipline. They see it, not as a burden weighing them down from glorifying God, but as the path to glorifying God.
Is not the idea of ‘ritual law’ (which we can ignore) and ‘moral law’ (which is binding) somewhat anachronistic? What evidence is there that Ancient Israel differentiated between the two in such a radical way? I know we have texts like ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice’, but it just feels to me a little like the Sarabaites in RB ch1 ‘anything they believe in and choose, that they call holy; anything they dislike, they call forbidden.’ One could argue that the ‘ritual law’ = ‘going against the perceived natural order’/liminal issues and so on means little more that ‘things… Read more »
“It appears that mixing of this kind was reserved for sacred purposes, and the average person was not allowed to engage in these practices. In the Old Testament, the prohibitions may have been to maintain distance between the people and the high priest (and therefore God, whom the high priest represented). In other cases, the prohibitions may have been designed to keep the Israelites from imitating the superstitious or religious practices of the pagan nations surrounding them. Even though we do not understand all that is behind these prohibitions, we can be sure that the ancient Israelites would have understood… Read more »
David, Thanks for your post. I agree strongly with your suggestion that the “disapproval of same-sex relationship were a conscious attempt to mark out clear water between the cultic prostitution of Canaan, or Hellenistic practices” I would argue that Edward Carpenter described this as long ago as 1914. I append a quote from his main argument below. Where I disagree with you is with your comment “practices which we would describe as abusive”. So much of the evidence that we use here comes from Christian sources with an inbuilt prejudice, so I would argue that we need to be careful… Read more »
Take the bible seriously but not literally.
I read the Bible literally – that is, I don’t feel the need to perform arpeggios of ingenuity to explain away difficulties (eg the remarkable flexibility in some commentaries with regard to the meaning of ‘Day’, here held to be figurative and there held to be sidereal, the New Bible Commentary of many moons ago is a classic of taking refuge in such). When Isaiah 7 says ‘young woman’ I don’t feel I have to do a hermeneutic double-pretzel to make it mean ‘virgin’, as does the NIV, indulging in special pleading to maintain why here it’s not to be… Read more »
Of course the young woman / virgin issue assumes that the Masoretic Hebrew text we have is a more reliable guide to the “original” than the Septuagint Greek version which is, shall we say, a matter of some debate. The latter is certainly attested and was compiled earlier (even leaving aside the mythological trappings of how it was translated).
This discussion so reminds of debates about Marx when I studied politics at Liverpool University. Discussion revolved around what Marx meant in his writing rather than whether his writing was relevant and accurate. What I find very telling is the obsession with sexual practices by conservative Evangelicals. Jesus spoke much more about the dangers of wealth and the need to care for the destitute and that teaching is surely very relevant to those wealthy parishes based in the City of London the home of dog eat dog capitalism. The bible was written by human hands. What hard line evangelicals want… Read more »
But further Gk versions have ‘neanēs’ (Aquila? Thodotion? Symmachus? On a bus on the M1 so can’t check), IIRC. Admittedly, they could be construed as Jewish attempts to delegitimise the Matthean text, but I can’t help but feel that we could do with a bit of hard textual evidence for ‘betulāh’. As it is, I’ll go with ‘difficilio lectio potior’.
The piece above was my introduction to Sophie Grace Chappell. I’d have to give the piece more thought before coming to a judgment on how the views expressed may be allied with my own concerns about taking seriously both historical consciousness and modern science. Two things to that end: (1) it is helpful to understand her piece as written from a philosophy of language perspective and (2) I would need to know more about her views on the matter. Clicking on the embedded link to her interview with, The Human Front, was of some considerable assistance on that score. (see… Read more »
Thanks for putting me onto this author’s other work. I think I like her and will explore further. Personally I was struck by this passage in the essay you linked to. ‘Aristotle, for instance, can look very moderate and humane and sensible to us in some ways, at times to the point of seeming boringly platitudinous; especially in some of what he says about ethics. But Aristotle absolutely wasn’t a twenty-first century liberal democrat, and there is something rather sophomorically myopic about appropriating the bits of Aristotle that fit our prejudices, then trying to explain away his “unpalatable views”. I… Read more »
Sure thing. A number of the articles re-posted here from their original sites often have embedded links. I sometimes find those useful to follow, especially with regard to writers I am not familiar with. Or, I’ve done some looking around on my own. I find it helps to see a train of thought, where possible, over several articles. I agree about the alien-ness. Clearly Scripture has a foundational role for us. However, as a post modern, one contends with it’s cultural strangeness, the dialectic between ancient texts as culturally valued and the same texts as ‘les fleurs du mal’ metaphorically… Read more »
Nothing on Ian Paul’s piece. I’m surprised. It ties in with a number of previous threads.
I agree. Ian Paul’s piece deserves discussion. There is a thread on the Commissioners’ investment approach but nothing on the broader and vital issues Ian raises.
It may be that others, like myself, are unable to read anything on ViaMedia. I get an error message every time I try.
Only Ian’s piece isn’t on Via Media – whereas Sophie-Grace’s is. I wish I could solve your Via Media access issue, Janet, but I can’t see any problem this end and clearly many others continue to be able to read it.
Silly me! Senior moment.
I am having the same problem. Never happened before.
Via media is caught by even the gentlest of content controlling resolvers. If you have any software blocking adverts, porn, gambling, whatever then you will need to whitelist it.
One question the Commissioners could ask themselves, given the apparent financial fragility of many of our parishes and dioceses, and the sense of confidence the Commissioners exude, is whether risk is optimally distributed amongst the various units which make up the Church of England, and whether such a financialy fragile front line is missionally desirable.
The Bible is written by human authors and communities who try to make sense of encounters with God. We are still doing that today. In writing (and editing) these narratives, they were still fallible human beings, just as we still are today. They did not receive text dictated to them verbatim from God, or by email repeated word for word. The involvement of the Holy Spirit was like the involvement of the Holy Spirit with us today, when we in turn try to make sense of things, and open our hearts and minds to the love and grace we believe… Read more »
Very well put Susannah.
Hard to see how anyone could disagree.
Unfortunately some evangelicals appear to believe that spiritual email existed two thousand year before we got the human version
It also appears that many of these same people believe that “spiritual email” ceased to operate sometime in the past (whether 2000 or 400 years ago depends on how they view the Reformation, I suppose) and that therefore the Holy Spirit has no role in the changes in the church or wider society since the middle of the 20th Century.
There is a well-known group that believes that we continue to write scripture. They are the Latter Day Saints. It is hard to know what Cranmer meant when he said that “God has caused all Holy Scriptures to be written” and then stipulated the extent of the canon, measured against “in writing (and editing) these narratives, they were still fallible human beings, just as we still are today.” One would simply conclude that he was wrong and was misleading the Anglican experiment that was emerging. At some point this is just a procrustean bed. Jesus said not one jot or… Read more »
Anglican Priest, I refer you to my reply to David Runcorn. I don’t think we ‘continue to write scripture’. We continue to try to open to God, to God’s Love, and we continue to try to listen to what God says to our consciences, whether through things in the Bible narratives, through prayer, through people we encounter, through music, through service, through family and community, through heartbreak, through joy, through nature, through beauty, through suffering, through little encounters with grace. There is no end to the ways that the Living Word can speak to us. God reaches out to touch… Read more »
Susannah. You say ‘The Bible is written by human authors and communities who try to make sense of encounters with God.’ and ‘the involvement of the Holy Spirit was like the involvement of the Holy Spirit with us today, when we in turn try to make sense of things’. Have I understood you? – the bible is a work of human reflection on life and God? If so I am missing something here that is central to Anglican belief (not just evangelicals). Anglican doctrine of scripture starts from the other direction. With a high emphasis on divine inspiration of scripture.… Read more »
David, if somebody writes a wonderful piece of music today, if someone writes an inspiring and deeply compassionate book today which can change the way people think, if somebody writes with deep insight on Jayne Ozanne’s ‘Via Media’ site, if somebody serves others today with devotion and the power of love – in a care home, in a hospital, in prison, or just looking after their elderly relative with dementia… …then I believe those people, today, are being inspired by the Holy Spirit… whether they are Christians, Muslim, atheist or agnostic. We believe that God’s Spirit is at work in… Read more »
I’m sure an atheist would take umbrage at their “good works” being attributed to a divine agency rather than merely their human compassion. Similarly, I find it slightly dubious for art or literature to be ascribed divine authorship. I’m sure the Taliban are convinced their Scriptures ban women’s education, or American evangelicals find scriptural support for their hero, Donald Trump. It might be inoffensive for mild-mannered Anglicans to believe their niceness comes from outside themselves. But claiming to be inspired by the Holy Spirit can be very dangerous. As that Orthodox Christian Vladimir Putin attests.
Fr David H: “I’m sure an atheist would take umbrage at their “good works” being attributed to a divine agency rather than merely their human compassion.” I think it’s quite likely that an atheist would. But if God is God, and if God is Love, and if God’s Holy Spirit really does work in people’s hearts… then wherever human compassion arises, as a Christian I believe that is the Holy Spirit at work. And if She is, then She is. An atheist would of course think otherwise, but if it’s true then there’s not much they can do about that.… Read more »
I’m put in mind of Joseph Butler to Wesley
Sir, the pretending to extraordinary revelations and gifts of the Holy Ghost is a horrid thing—a very horrid thing…
possibly not always horrid, but care is indeed called for.
And yet ‘extraordinary revelations and gifts of the Holy Ghost’ have been a feature of Christianity from the beginning.
Often quoted. Not sure about the exact source. Butler like many in authority in his time saw Enthusiasm as they called it, a threat to social order because they were viewing it through the lens of the upheavals of the Civil War sects….those we find in Christopher Hill s The World turned upside down Only a generation away.
“I’m sure an atheist would take umbrage at their “good works” being attributed to a divine agency rather than merely their human compassion.”
Well, this atheist wouldn’t. Why should I? What I would take umbrage at is the assumption that I am very keen indeed to have my human compassion recognised.
It’s good to know you accept your human compassion may be inspired by God
I agree with the responses to this. I would also add that what you write helpfully explains why, in general, traditional Anglicans cannot be accused of anti LGBT as the main issue in play; many will have gay friends and are sympathetic to the challenges they must confront. Rather, they object to the detachment of historically Anglican accounts of the status and authority of Holy Scripture in the name of what you have written here. They will also be suspicious that an individualized preference is being substituted for a wider social set of agreements on the character of Holy Scripture,… Read more »
Is it not true, also, that “traditional Anglicans” value the human capacity of reason (or, at least, are supposed to)? If reason, as applied in science and psychology and medicine, results in a determination that same-sex orientation is not an aberration, but a normal part of human nature, shouldn’t a “traditional Anglican” accept that truth as a revelation of the Holy Spirit?
There is a legitimate trail in church history about the term ‘natural reason.’ It goes back to earlier debates between Gershon and Wycliffe or Huss and his opponents. Hooker was a traveler on this trail and he knew the word in the context of those debates. He spoke of the priority of scripture, the church’s long history (tradition) and finally, reason. Reason for Hooker was the divinely given capacity to receive and understand God’s word. His concern here was not ‘reason’ as some third option, but the idea that tradition covered all things (including scripture), a position he identified in… Read more »
There must be many “traditional Anglicans” in Uganda supportive of the Government decision that gay people should be executed. The Holy Spirit seems to suggest different policies according to geography. Perhaps if we stopped attributing human decisions to a divine being we would find some people are compassionate and others are barbaric.
Yes, of course, from the outside, we cannot know for certain, which human actions are inspired by the Holy Spirit and which are not. For my part, I believe the Spirit never inspires anything that results in cruelty or physical or emotional harm to others.
Mr O’Neill. Thank you for your important question. The term ‘reason’ (properly ‘natural reason’) came into prominence in the late Middle Ages, in debates about the authority of scripture vis-à-vis the authority of the church as its sole interpreter. Wycliffe (Oxford) and Huss (Prague) were its defenders against church officials like Jean Gershon. The debates were heated. Huss was condemned at the Council of Constance and burned at the stake. Richard Hooker used the term in the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity in the same basic way. A divine endowment given to men (and women) that allows them properly to hear… Read more »
“‘What scripture doth plainly deliver, to that the first place of both credit and obedience is due’ (vol. 5,8.2)”
I guess, then, the question is what scripture plainly delivers…and, IMO, that is for each individual to discern by light of his own reasoning ability.
I am simply indicating the world in which appeal to reason emerged in Anglican tradition. It would have abundantly clear to Richard Hooker that scripture does not allow marriage except as received in the catholic tradition, based upon those scriptures. This is you “for each individual to discern by light of his own reasoning ability.” It is not Hooker’s ecclesial, moral or theological context. Again, that is fine. But you were asking about traditional Anglicans and the traditional appeal to reason as found in Anglican sources. Those who speak of ‘scripture, reason and tradition’ have done so because Hooker spoke… Read more »
If something is plainly delivered by scripture, it will be plain to all. If there is room for disagreement then the scripture is not plain.
My point, exactly.
All very interesting, but at this point we are not in the realm of Richard Hooker. ‘Tradition’ would be appealed to if scripture were not clear. It was for him on this matter. I can simply repeat. Everyone is free to have whatever individual view that want; that is the state of affairs 2023. ‘Reason’ can simply be individualized preference. But this cannot be called a traditional appeal to Hooker. See Mr. O’Neill’s comment that started this thread. To my mind, he needs to be left out of this modern context. Just go ahead and say that reason is what… Read more »
To my mind, using Hooker’s definition of “reason” in a modern context is akin to the American constitutional “originalists” who insist we should interpret that document according the meanings of the time when it was written.
Of course, to them I respond, then the right to bear arms applies only to muzzle-loading muskets.
I could not agree more.
Just push away from the dock with your own definition of ‘reason’ and don’t make it sound like it is something ‘Anglican.’ It isn’t.
And that is why your first note on this is now helpfully clarified. Mr. O’Neill (not Richard Hooker or traditional Anglicanism) is using the term reason as he wishes.
That took too long, but we got there!
Anglicanism is an evolving tradition. You can’t nail it down to a specific point in the 17th century and say only *that* is “traditional Anglicanism”. Hooker’s invocation of scripture, tradition and reason is a starting point. Engagement with cultural context and serious reflection on how that interacts with our understanding of the Gospel message is “traditional Anglicanism”. Recall that a century ago Anglicans at successive Lambeth conferences swung from opposing artificial contraception to allowing it (while being a long way from endorsing promiscuity or extra-marital sex which were associated with it in the wider world). Does either the opposing or… Read more »
Fascinating how biblical authors are locked in their cultural context, but Hooker gets to be a launch pad for evolving this or that. Look, my basic point is the same. Don’t appeal to ‘scripture, reason, tradition’ a la Hooker and then turn his thought into a wax nose. I am a historian. I know what Hooker was saying in his context to his ‘target audience’ (to cop a phrase from above). To repeat, just make modern accounts of reason as personal preference your guide. It is already fully up and running, and let’s let Mr Hooker rest in peace! Peace… Read more »
Many thanks for your comments. Speaking only for myself, I tend to feel uneasy about putting any text on a Procrustean bed, and then ‘torturing’ it until it gives me an answer that suits my political objectives. One of the particular misgivings I have about Hooker (and I write this a relatively short distance from Bishopsbourne) is the way in which he has been deployed by successive generations of Anglicans in their quest for a real or imagined ‘via media’ or for some other political purpose, not least in the century after his death. As one relatively recent monograph has… Read more »
Interesting comment. I’ve attached a link describing Diarmaid
MacCulloch’s Lyndwood Lecture on Hooker. I have come across other articles examining comparatively how Hooker was received during his life time and later. Full disclosure. I have not been following this thread re: Hooker. I’ve read him as required; but have never become a fan boy. The devotion to Hooker reminds me a lot of the devotion of old fashioned R.C. Thomists to the ‘angelic doctor’. I suspect the issues that surround him from those who are Hooker Scholars have counter parts to those encountered by Aquinas scholars.
Many thanks, and Hooker was in some respects inspired by the legal commentary in the prima secundae of the Summa. However, I suspect that Hooker’s present reputation derives largely from the fading afterglow of Keble’s 1836 edition, but also because it seems to me that in the two generations after Cranmer, Latimer, Ridley, etc., the Church was largely destitute of heroic figures and Hooker rose above the rather dismal parade of controversialists, hacks and opportunists who crowd the ecclesiastical histories of the time perhaps for want of anyone more inspiring. There are no English divines during the late 16th century… Read more »
Thanks so much. Fascinating as often. Interestingly, MacCulloch in The Reformation (which from time to time I read to nurture my protestant soul) transitions directly from Hooker to Andrewes, in the chapter, Coda: A British Legacy 1600-1700, the subsection: New English beginnings: Richard Hooker and Lancelot Andrewes. When I have time, I try and reacquaint myself with the sermons of the latter in part because of the homage paid previously on TA by Stanley Monkhouse.
“His elevation to the Anglican pantheon probably says more about the anxiety of the Anglican churches for a foundational myth/narrative which whitewashes the somewhat sordid origins of the Church of England, just as it might betoken a want of confidence in its essential underlying legitimacy.” This is insightful and I agree. My only question would have to do with just when and to what extent he was ‘elevated’ at all? That is, until his serviceability in the 20th century. This is a history of ideas question I have never pursued. Perhaps it reflects my interest in the Early Church, but… Read more »
Many thanks again! I think his reputation was fairly well established within a short period of time, and it was fortified by the interventions of William Chillingworth, William Covel (in response to attacks by Andrew Willett), John Gauden, John Spenser, Isaak Walton, etc. In the 1620s the notion of the Church of England as via media comes to the fore (viz. Richard Montague’s famous remarks of 1624 that the Church ‘would ‘stand in the gapp against Puritanisme and Popery, the Scilla and Charybdis of antient piety’), and he fell conveniently into the interstices of that debate. We also see him… Read more »
McGrade and I had some interesting exchanges after the publication of my essay (“Repugnance and the Three-Legged Stool: Modern Use of Scripture and the Baltimore Declaration,” in Reclaiming Faith (E. Radner, G. Sumner, eds.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993) 85-101). He wanted to argue vigorously that the dedication to Calvin was arch, or not as serious as it appeared. I was not convinced. Of course, Calvin’s reputation has also gone through interesting phases inside of Anglicanism. Today his name is invoked by some as though he were a puritan of some description. I suspect Hooker was impressed by Calvin’s seriousness and… Read more »
Very many thanks again to you and Archdeacon Gillis: that is most interesting. It seems to me that once the western Christian oikumene, which owed so much to Augustine and Thomas, was disrupted there was an anxiety to develop an understanding of what it meant to be faithful in a new society of faith. Even if the immediate objectives of such world views were theological and/or expository, they had inevitable political and legal overtones. This trend was perhaps foreshadowed by Erasmus in the Institutio principis Christiani (1516) and, once the Reformation got going in earnest, was arguably exemplified – amongst… Read more »
The emergence of distinct nation states was offset somewhat by the invention of a ‘Holy Roman Empire’ by Charlemagne. But of course it was not bullet-proof (the investiture controversy being a prime example) and France (itself not a nation in the sense we mean it) and other ‘countries’ were never on board. You are right that the Reformation brought about the need for defenses of alternative accounts of political and societal entities. (As late as 1920 an irenic Yves Congar questioned any claims to catholicity made by Anglicans because of over-emphasis on national independence. I believe the case could be… Read more »
I do believe he ‘came into vogue’ due to his putative serviceability in the 20th century. What better than to have three kinds of ice cream: chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry! Other than that, he has always seemed to be a bit plodding. Those who got attracted to the ‘scripture, reason, tradition’ columns of choosing for the most part never read the five volumes. FWIW, I wrote a chapter on his more recent arrival on the scene in “Repugnance and the Three-Legged Stool” in a volume engaging the so-called Baltimore Declaration (which has since faded from view; a bit like Hooker,… Read more »
“plodding” is an apt description, both of Hooker and my experience of reading him some time ago. I had an Old Testament prof at divinity school, a noted preacher, an irascible acerbic Scottish Presbyterian become United Church who was rumored to put Scotch on his cornflakes for breakfast. He used to encourage his Anglican students in the direction of Lancelot Andrewes.
Je suis d’accord. I remain uneasy on the same plane.
Thank you, Susannah. Beautifully expressed and so carefully thought out. You have, on occasion, here and elsewhere, shared the story of your own costly journey of life and faith. It could not be further from ‘mild-mannered Anglican niceness’. But I do not think you have addressed my point about the Anglican Doctrine of Inspiration. I have to say do not find it in your writing here. Can I point out to you the approaches to scripture you are contrasting with your own? The words you use include ‘literal’,‘over-deferential’, ‘dictated verbatum’, ‘indiscriminately accepting verbatum’, ‘a totem’, an ‘idol’, ‘dictated words’. Wo… Read more »
And David, why do you think so many people are hardly reading the Bible at all? Surely, it is because people are told that the Bible is authoritative in what it says, and when they encounter its obscenities… the slaughter of the Canaanites, the murder of Jephthah’s daughter, the condemnation of man-man sex etc… or the claims of ‘The Fall’ events, or Noah’s Ark, or Jonah in the whale, which truth-seeking people with modern scientific advance can see constitute a package they can’t take seriously… they look at the diminished version of the Bible and turn their backs on all… Read more »
Hi Susannah, I have two brief responses and a further comment. First, if the literal interpretation of the Bible is turning off so many potential Bible-readers, how do we explain the fact that most of the people who are reading the Bible seem to attend conservative churches? Second, I don’t agree that potential Bible-readers are turned off by literal interpretations thereof. Most of the unchurched people I talk to (and i know quite a lot of them in my folk music community, not to mention my own family) tell me they can’t see why the Bible, being two thousand years… Read more »
Hi Tim, I hope you are enjoying your stay in England – you seem to have brought the good weather with you. In response to your “First”, I have no doubt that some people look for certainties, and yes, of course many thousands of people are attracted to the concept that the Bible must be submitted to as absolutely authoritative. But my point (with reference to declining church attendance) is that although a small percentage of the population like that certainty approach offered by an authoritarian framing of the Bible… that very approach puts millions of other people off, and… Read more »
I did recall Lewis’ comparison of Antigone with the scriptural accounts, and his sensing something altogether different in the latter. It reminds me of the comment of the comparative literature professor at Yale, Eric Auerbach, in his penetrating essay “Odysseus’ Scar” (Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature; Princeton, 1953). “To me, the rationalistic interpretation seems psychologically absurd; but even if we take it into consideration, the relation of the Elohist to the truth of his story still remains a far more passionate and definite one than is Homer’s relation. The Biblical narrator was obliged to write exactly what… Read more »
Susannah, grateful as I am for your thoughtful engagement here I struggle to respond to such lengthy posts. Briefly – in two paragraphs where you respond to the word ‘Inspiration’ you end up talking about fundamentalist beliefs, infallibility, ‘irrefutable authority’ and ‘flawless’ – none of which is my, or an Anglican understanding of this word. So I feel as if when I try to offer this world into the discussion you can only hear a direct line to extreme and dangerous belief. But in other parts of your post you yourself speak in very ‘inspirational’ ways of your faith. I… Read more »
I’ll try to be a bit more brief (!). I think I would benefit from a one-paragraph definition of what you yourself mean, David, by ‘Inspiration’ as it occurs in the writing and transmission of the Bible. We may even broadly agree. It’s obvious that we both dislike an extreme literalist approach to everything in the Bible. But if I argued that ‘some’ of the words in the Bible are ‘inspired’ by the Holy Spirit, and some are not, could you journey with that? Can some of it be mistaken or wrong? Is some of it a human view based… Read more »
On reflection, I think I should bow out of this discussion at this point – more than enough of my words, but thank you for engaging, David. I appreciate it.
While the Commission’s high view of scripture’s certainly a mainstream Anglican one, other Anglican documents (including the CoE’s ordination service) aren’t as exacting. I doubt you’d get every Synod in every province to sign up (the CoE hasn’t even maintained that assent to the Thirty-Nine Articles is required!), and even if you did, what of the many Anglicans who could never in good conscience accept such a definition?
Wow Susannah. Thank you for your post. It sums up my belief in a coherent and articulate way that I never could. Thank you.
I’d like to return to two aspects of the Sophie Grace Chappell article. The first is experience. Her article appears to be at least in part a reflection on her having been an evangelical. With regard to experience, folks who are not theologically trained ought not to be overwhelmed by the pro and con back and forth between those of us who are. A great many people in churches have an intuitive implicit sense that the church’s stance against sexual minorities is wrong. They know this tacitly from their own Christian formation together with other sources of insight and experience.… Read more »
Thank you Rod for this very insightful summary of the issues before us as Anglicans and as Christians. This is absolutely spot on.
Thank You. I find aspects of the Sophie Grace Chappell piece engaging. I would have welcomed more direct comment on it. Several commentators here by their own admission are not technically trained; but interestingly they wrestle from their own perspectives of faith and experience with issues around inspiration, revelation, and interpretation that clearly approach the concerns of classic erudite thinkers, folks like Rudolf Otto, Paul Tillich, Edward Schillebeeckz OP, Rosemary Radford Ruether, Wilfred Cantwell Smith, and others –to name a random few off the top of the old bean. I’m really encouraged by the articulate way in which some commentators… Read more »
Rod I suspect that Sophie speaks for most when she argues, very cogently, that we need to take scripture seriously rather than literally. But I am not sure she wrestles hard enough with the distinctions between doctrine and instruction. Doctrine is something derived from the interaction between scripture and Church. I would suggest that both of those are inadequate when they touch on issues in human sexuality. Their understanding is limited and limiting. And add to that marriage and we have simply to acknowledge that marriage in the bible is not what marriage is in various different societies centuries later.… Read more »
There is an insight of Sophie Grace Chappell’s that I find germane: “But here’s the thing: there is no obvious non-supernatural sense in which any of the writers of the books of the Bible thought that they were addressing us.” (underlining mine). Every text has an intended audience. Whether it is Aristotle’s corpus, a biblical text, the Pope’s address Urbi et Orbi, a comment on a comment board, a lyricist, the author(s) are intending to address an audience, real or imagined. I take this to be a fact. The first audience is the writer himself/herself/themselves. For example, once a poet… Read more »
The comment section below shows everything that’s wrong with the “church” of England. Thank Jesus I left and praying that many others will follow suite.
i feel similarly disillusioned with the CofE. Out of interest where did you go?
Sorry to hear this Steven. X
And oh sorry I didn’t see your question. I’ve joined a lovely small Baptist church in London. 🙂
Glad to hear you have found a nice church. I hope you’re keeping well and wish you all the best – Nic.
In his 2005 autobiography Hitchhiking to Heavn, Blessed Lionel Blue wrote that scriptures, presumably those of the Hebrew Bible, “are mixtures of what happened, what people would like to have happened, and what was the meaning of what happened”.
It would be good if someone manufactured a new Anglican controversy so that TA can move on from this topic.
This sounds like the kind of breezy account of the matter one has come to expect from certain corners of the CofE. Let’s not take anything too seriously. Gym is better than church etc. Pubs are more user friendly.
I am blessedly not English so forgive my cultural lens from other lands.
Saying all that, I concur we have probably seen the full landscape of our present neuralgia.
Pax vobiscum from England, the cradle of the Anglican church. It’s very sad to read someone saying that ‘blessedly’ they are not English. Notwithstanding the controversy which seems to surround the Church of England in the 21st century, I believe it has been a source of many blessings both here and beyond our shores. As to the gym and the pub, think of them in context as William Blake or Jonathan Swift might have.
I admire the Church of England and would like to see her thrive. Pubs and gyms we shall always have.
It saddens me to see them fare better in comments in comparison with the life-giving purpose of God’s Church.
From another Anglican priest
Far from being breezy, my comments about church and gym were deadly, possibly existentially, serious. I’m not entirely English, being substantially, lowland Scot and border raider, so I commend to all who sit in circled wagons the last verse of Burns’s “To a Louse”:
O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us.
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion:
What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,
An’ ev’n devotion.
Ah, yes, a steel helmet freebooter. They came to the US and became southern snobs.
Loved my decade in Scotland, home of clan McConnaughey (my mother’s family from Calvin near Blair Athol).
‘Breezy’ referred in my comment to “those of the Hebrew Bible, “are mixtures of what happened, what people would like to have happened, and what was the meaning of what happened”.
You can write that on the back of a milk carton for a laugh, but it seemed supercilious and unworthy of Christian scripture. But call that not proper talk for the gym if you wish.
All this stuff makes Buddhism seem attractive
Humanism doesn’t sound too bad either.
I fear all this nitpicking encourages others to walk by on the other side!