Saturday, November 18, 2006

Canon Arthur Middleton Responds to Escalante at Reformed Catholicism

Canon Arthur Middleton has responded to Peter Escalant's recent comments against his book Fathers and Anglicans.Escalante gave a warning to stay away from Fr. Middleton's book due to its hagiography and revisionism. Escalante writes,
Books to avoid: Arthur Middleton: “Fathers and Anglicans”, which engages in no close reading of the texts of the men he celebrates, and offers only very general, and to my mind very mistaken, assertions about what they taught; it’s an exercise in revisionist hagiography. Also, I would recommend avoiding Kenneth Hylson-Smith’s “High Churchmanship in the Church of England,” for similar reasons: general assertions, not only unproved but indeed hardly argued, and relying on historical narrative to provide an overarching unity between various schools which in fact isn’t really there.
I challenged Escalante on his lack of substantial support in a number of his critiques against myself and even his specific comments against Middleton. One of the problems in the Internet world is that people often say things and it becomes fact with no challenge or demand to back up claims with substantive arguments. I hope that readers at that blog will give their own fair reading of the Middleton book and decide for themeselves. One important note about a book like that is the limited amount of space to be able to say everything. That is why it is so important to carefully read the introductory material to see what questions an author is addressing and her/his methodology for supporting the answers to those questions. It is when we approach issues with this sort of academic honesty that will give us the integrity to critique a work from within rather than making statements that simply become nothing more than rants. What now follows is Canon Arthur Middleton's response to Mr. Escalante on his book Fathers and Anglicans.
When I submitted my thesis for the degree of MLitt in the University of Durham, during the ninety minute viva with two eminent scholars, there were no wild accusations of hagiography, revisionism or not having read the texts. The Bibliography and references of primary and secondary sources proved otherwise. Furthermore, I am surrounded by all these texts in my study. As for Daillé’s Right Use of the Fathers I spent numerous days studying his text in the university library in addition to a week in the Bodleian Library studying the text of John Barbeyrac’s Preface in Pufendorf’s Of the Law of Nature and Nations (1672), alongside my own copy of the text of J.J.Blunt’s Right Use of the Fathers. Furthermore, for many years I have prayed daily the Private Devotions of Lancelot Andrewes and used Laud’s and Cosin’s Devotions, which the late Professor Herbert Swete says is the best way into any man’s theology. In no way after such prayerful pondering of Andrewes can it be claimed that he was ever a Calvinist.

Mr. Escalante may have read many books but if he does not read with scholarly intelligence and discernment he will not read with understanding and thereby gain nothing; and especially if he reacts with such unsubstantiated negative attitudes every time it conflicts with his Calvinistic mind-set. This was the reaction of the Calvinists to the Anglican Reformation the 16th and 17th centuries that it had not gone far enough and is at the heart of the attacks on the Fathers by Daillé and Barbeyrac and others discussed in my book. These people and the variety of non-conformists who rose from them were antipathetic to the Catholic Faith and Order on which the Church of England stood. Queen Elizabeth I, herself, told Parliament in 1589 ‘that the state and government of this Church of England, as now it standeth in this reformation ... both in form and doctrine it is agreeable with the Scriptures, with the most ancient general Councils, with the practice of the primitive Church, and with the judgements of all the old and learned fathers.’ These were the Anglican principles of the Reformers such as Cranmer and Jewe, Formularies, the Carolines, Hooker, Andrewes and Laud, the Non-Jurors and Tractarians and so into our own age. For them the Church of England was the national embodiment of historic Catholic faith and order. This is Classical Anglicanism not revisionism and the last great exponent of it was Michael Ramsey. The aim of my book was not to give definitive expositions of the texts of Anglican theologians but to trace how in this classical Anglicanism the Anglican divines in each era had used the theology of the Fathers. This entailed selecting the relevant material from their texts for this purpose. In no way is this hagiography or revisionism but is theologically and historically grounded

Similarly, a book that my external examiner, a Church historian gave to me subsequent to my graduation, is Hylson-Smith’s High Churchmanship in the Church of England which is similarly demolished. Escalante has failed to see the point of this book. It is not about definitive expositions of the theologians he mentions but tracing the presence and development of high churchmanship as evidenced in the writings and events in the history of the Church of England. These are facts of history and theology, the rubbishing of which cannot make way for a Calvinistic interpretation of the English Reformation.
Arthur Middleton


Anonymous Jonathan Bonomo said...


As the one Peter was giving the advice to at Reformed Catholicism on what to read and what not to read on the Oxford movement, I just wanted to thank you for giving a different spin on the topic. I'm interested in studying the movement but haven't done any real concentrated reading on it yet, so it is hard to know where to start: what to include in my reading and what not to include.



1:23 pm  
Blogger Jeff said...


Thanks for the kind words. May I recommend Bishop Geoffrey Rowel's book _A Vision Glorious_? That is where the texts of the Oxford men are dealt with closely and theologically.

4:07 pm  
Blogger Kevin D. Johnson said...

Just a note to say that Peter has responded in the comment thread over at ReformedCatholicism.com here:


8:37 pm  

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