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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Through the Eyes of the Saints

I have once blogged on the book Through the Eyes of the Saints by Canon David Brown, Van Mildert Professor of Theology at the University of Durham and Canon to the Durham Cathedral. Canon Brown is my PhD supervisor and has written a book on journeying with the Saints that is more imaginitive than what most of us are normally confronted with when we think about the lives of the saints or read a tract on their lives. In the section of the book on "Reformation and Counter-Reformation," Canon Brown lays out the life of Cranmer with Henry VIII. In an imaginitive way, he shows how much our contemporary news headlines and stories lack the imaginitive gifts that can help us to see the fullness of someone's life, even when that life is less than perfect! This is shown in the life of Cranmer. This is a book that forces you to get honest with yourself as you see imaginitively into the lives of the saints. Below is a portion from the chapter.

Yet that more complex picture of Henry and Cranmer that I have tried to convey was not just true of them. It is the story of each and every one of us. As individuals each one of us is a mixture of good and bad, capable of great goodness and of great wickedness. We need efforts of imagination to understand one another, just as we need efforts of imagination to understand Henry and Cranmer - Cranmer's prevarications, caused by what seems now to us an absured over-confidence in God's ordering of the state, Henry's apparent lusts, caused by his obsession with securing a male heir. That complexity, that imagination, is something our modern press and its readers too commonly fail to grasp. With them there is only the desire to pull down, to reassure that others also share in their readers' mediocrity.

But Christianity calls us to a very different vision. The hands that unite Catholic Henry and Protestant Cranmer tell of the need for us to be at once generous in our assessment of others and harsh in our judgement of ourselves. Like Cranmer, now is the time to face the fire that can both increase our charity towards those with whom we disagree and reveal to each one of us who we really are. In that light, as we shall see more clearly in subsequent chapters, neither Reformation nor Counter-Reformation can be deemed to hold the ultimate truth. Both alike had their faults, in theology and individual leaders alike. Conspicuous saint and sinner are to be found on both sides, and we shall learn by going beyond the limitations of both sides, as well by addressing similar limitations in ourselves.
(pp. 102, 103)

3 Comments:

Blogger The Common Anglican said...

Amen. Something that would not be looked upon as sound, in many denominations.

Thanks for sharing.

11:12 pm  
Anonymous ricky glenn said...

This is an insightful passage and a thought I have been pontificating much of late. I am tired of individuals who think they have an exclusive on sound doctrine. The Church will never present a united front until they understand that the Scriptures constantly require us to rethink and ocassionally retool our doctrinal beliefs. I find that most people are so terrified of admitting they might have been wrong that they are willing to completely shut out compelling hermeneutical evidence. One thing I would like to state to Christians everywhere via this blog (that three people might see :) is that listening to an idea or concept is separate and quite removed from subscribing to the same concept aforemetioned. True listening and logical analysis demands one to suspend his own beliefs and be objective for that period of time the analysis is being conducted. If the idea or concept does not stand in light of Scripture then it can safely be tossed. However, always listen objectively to someones argument. Even if you have heard it a hundred times, if it fails... toss it a hundred times. This behavior is not opening oneself up to the powers of suggestion. It is the proper behavior of a rational being. This is why God gave man the power of reason. Use it!
It is okay say I don't agree with you, but it is equally proper to say I don't fully understand, or I might be wrong, or I need to study this more. On the other hand, some Christians are to overbearing and take offense when none is given. Often those who believe doctrines that are not popularly accepted seem to develop a conspiracy theory that compels that person to regard any resistance to his/her personal belief as aggression. We must find balance if any ecumenical movement is to even begin. Yet we must also be vigilant to protect the integrity of Scripture. In essentials unity, in non-essential liberty.

5:28 am  
Blogger Jeff said...

Interesting thoughts Ricky. I find much of what you said here is quite agreeable to much of my thinking. I think the central problem that you or any of us all face at the end of the day, is who or what "interpretation" of scripture is going to decide which is correct. It comes down to an issue of authority and what we usually end up doing is telling people that we want to submit to the authority of scripture and in reality we want people to submit to "our own" conclusions of scripture. We want to claim that scripture is going to determine our course when in reality it is our own interpretation of scripture determining the course.

Your reference to the quote from Augustine that ends with the final essential is all things in charity is surely a must. But I really think we need to think about the issue above.

In March I wrote something from Jeremy Taylor who rightly said men often

"make every opinion an article of faith, every article of faith a ground of quarrel and envy, which, in turn, led to faction; and every faction, pretending in its zeal for God, went its busy way convincing men that, except they hated their brothers and persecuted every religion but their own, they lacked the very virtue of religion."

But I also blogged in March the following that you probably saw:

I found some time to read and study today in Andrewes' thought concerning the Church. Andrewes, says Reidy, complained that some are far from Rome yet with their new perspective they think they perceive all God's secret decrees, the number and order of them clearly....Luther said well that every one of us hath by nature a Pope in his belly, and thinks he perceives great matters. Even they that believe it not of Rome, are easily brought to believe it of themselves."

Andrewes was moved from Rome and this new Puritan position as well and was in complete agreement with John Selden, "who blamed the Puritan for saying he wanted to be judged by the word of God, but really meaning by himself--he would have me believe him before a whole church, that has read the word of God as well as he."

This is what I am talking about. Who will ultimately decide? Does authority reside within each individual?

11:37 am  

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