Commemoration of William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Martyr, 1645 | For All the Saints

 

Source: William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1645 | For All the Saints

Today marks the martyrdom – and thus, by ancient Christian tradition, the “heavenly birthday” – of William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury (1633 – 1645). While frequently criticized, and not without justification, for his willingness to aggressively pursue and harshly punish “Dissenters,” it is worth noting that his motive was to protect the Anglican expression of Christianity from a school of thought – Puritanism – that was both militantly opposed to that Anglican expression, and furthermore rapidly gaining the ascendancy.

That they would be just as willing to use vicious means against their own opponents (including not only the Laudian party, but Anglicans in general) when they attained power was demonstrated all too clearly during the Interregnum (Long Parliament and Protectorate) following the execution of King Charles I, called by some King Charles the Martyr. Does that justify the Courts of High Commission and Star Chamber? I leave that to my readers to decide. I will only quote from the above-linked essay:

“Honored as a martyr and condemned as an intolerant bigot, he was compassionate in his defense of the rights of the common people against the landowners. He was honest, devout, loyal to the king and to the rights and privileges of the Church of England. He tried to reform and protect the Church in accordance with his convictions – though these attempts at reform were marred by his treatment of those who strenuously disagreed with him theologically and liturgically.”

The essay goes on to quote A.W. Ballard (1945):

“As far as doctrine was concerned Laud carried on the teaching of Cranmer and Hooker. He held that the basis of belief was the Bible, but that the Bible was to be interpreted by the tradition of the early Church, and that all doubtful points were to be subjected, not to heated arguments in the pulpits, but to sober discussion by learned men. His mind, in short, like those of the earlier English reformers, combined the Protestant reliance on the Scriptures with reverence for ancient tradition and with the critical spirit of the Ranascence [Renaissance].”

I shall close with a prayer written by Laud, and found in every Book of Common Prayer published since his time. It is my prayer, as well, and should be that of us all: I invite you – especially you who are of the Anglican observance, but it is equally open to all Christians, for obvious reasons – to use it, regularly!

For the Church.

O GRACIOUS Father, we humbly beseech thee for thy holy Catholic Church; that thou wouldst be pleased to fill it with all truth, in all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in anything it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, establish it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of him who died and rose again, and ever liveth to make intercession for us, Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord. Amen.


(“Catholic,” in this sense, does not mean Roman Catholic, but in the words of another great Anglican luminary, Lancelot Andewes, “the whole Catholic Church: Eastern, Western, and our own.”)

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What was the Oxford Movement? – Pusey House

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“Catholicism is not confined to the Roman communion, nor Orthodoxy to the eastern churches.”

Source: What was the Oxford Movement? – Pusey House

“The term ‘Oxford Movement’ is often used to describe the whole of what might be called the Catholic revival in the Church of England. More properly it refers to the activities and ideas of an initially small group of people in the University of Oxford who argued against the increasing secularisation of the Church of England, and sought to recall it to its heritage of apostolic order, and to the catholic doctrines of the early church fathers… The rediscovered emphases on apostolic succession and the Catholicity of the church, on priesthood, on sacrament and sacrifice, on prayer, holiness and the beauty of worship, are the Tractarians’ gifts to their successors.”

Though some of them (and definitely some of their successors) became what I would consider excessively ultramontane (Romanist) toward the end of the era, I am largely in agreement with the major foci and accomplishments of the Oxford Movement – particularly the “rediscovered emphases on apostolic succession and the Catholicity of the church, on priesthood, on sacrament and sacrifice, on prayer, holiness and the beauty of worship” mentioned in this post.

And conversely, much though I love the simplicity and clarity of classical Prayer Book worship – and I do – it can sometimes be a bit too excessively austere, for my tastes, with too few seasonal variations: a few more antiphons and Office hymns would do it no harm, in my opinion! Nor would a few more words and actions that underscore the holiness of what we are doing, particularly in the Eucharist (Holy Communion). But, nothing is perfect! 🙂

In any case, the pastoral imperative underlying the Oxford reformers’ efforts cannot be underestimated. They were doing what they were doing, not for the sake of “playing church,” but to strengthen themselves and their parishioners in times of great need. That in the process, they managed to restore some of the “baby” which had been thrown out with some admittedly dirty “bathwater” during the Reformation was, in my opinion, an added bonus.

But perhaps their most lasting and significant legacy is that assertion which I posted as the opening caption above: that “Catholicism is not confined to the Roman communion, nor Orthodoxy to the eastern churches.” Indeed not!

Why Millennial Catholics Are Re-Adopting the Traditional Chapel Veil | Fashionista

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“There’s a new uprising in the Church of millennials who are actually wanting a more traditional take on their faith,” [former “Top Model” and current Catholic speaker and author Leah] Darrow says.

Source:  Why Millennial Catholics Are Re-Adopting the Traditional Chapel Veil – Fashionista

I have posted on this subject here previously, but not for a while. This is a good article – although from an unexpected source – and a good opportunity to revisit the subject!

One thing needs to be pointed out: the key elements that differentiate Christian women veiling in church from Muslim women wearing the hijab are that it is a) voluntary, not a requirement, and b) generally occurs only in the context of actual worship: in church, or for some women, only when actually praying and/or receiving the Holy Communion. That said:

For some of these young people, “the appeal of veiling was initially an emotional one: It made her feel humbled and reverent, like removing a hat during the national anthem or at a funeral might, and made her more able to focus on prayer.”

Others “have chosen to adopt the veil after digging into the theological ramifications of the tradition.” To them,

“chapel veils represent a whole range of things: a way to emulate the veil-wearing Virgin Mary, an experience of ‘authentic femininity’ that sets women apart as specially blessed bearers of life and a reminder that she and all members of the church are to consider themselves brides in a symbolic marriage to Jesus, whom the Bible sometimes describes as a bridegroom.”

The practice of veiling is usually associated with Roman Catholics (although some Eastern Orthodox also practice it, and historically, some Anglicans have as well), but the tradition of women covering their heads in church has a long history in Christianity – dating to earliest days, and continuing until fairly recently in most churches. My very Methodist mother and grandmothers practiced it, although they used hats rather than veils!

As vicar of St. Bede’s, I commend the prayerful consideration of this practice (whether using the traditional chapel veil, a scarf, or a hat) to any women interested in our traditional Anglican mission, although I by no means enjoin it on any. Just something to think about, pray over, and perhaps research more deeply, should you feel that God is so leading you.

And of course, like any other attire worn to church, care should be taken, when choosing head-coverings, to balance the desire to “put one’s best foot forward” for God with the need to avoid distracting or drawing the attention of one’s fellow-worshipers. As one young woman quoted in the article aptly notes,

“It’s paradoxical; the best things in life are. It only can be pulled into perfect balance if you’re in it for the right reasons and you have a relationship with God. Otherwise, it does turn into a ‘look how flashy I am, or look how holy I am’ thing.”

As always, the watchwords are dignified and reverent!

What Ever Became of Advent Fasting and Penance? | Community in Mission

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Traditionally Advent was a time we would, [as during] Lent, take part in penitential practices such as fasting and abstinence… But long gone are the days of a forty day fast beginning on Nov 12.

Source: What Ever Became of Advent Fasting And Penance? – Community in Mission : Community in Mission

My sense of the situation is that Advent differs from Lent in that it’s a season of joyful anticipation of the Coming (literal meaning of “Advent”) of Christ: both His First Coming, as the Babe of Bethlehem, and his Second Coming, with power and great glory, at the end of time (whatever form that may take). That said, there is also the aspect of penitent preparation for that arrival that we sometimes do miss… and in so doing, I think we lose something important. A very good article! Giants, indeed.

“The West is abandoning God,” Patriarch Kirill tells new U.S. ambassador to Russia / OrthoChristian.Com

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia
His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia met with newly-appointed American ambassador to Russia John Huntsman at the patriarchal residence yesterday to discuss matters of relations between the two countries and of the fate of suffering Christians around the world, reports patriarchia.ru. Photo: RIA-Novosti

The patriarch [noted] that the relationship between believers is one of the human heart, between diplomats—of the mind, and between businessmen—of the stomach. “I don’t think we should exclude the heart from international relations,” His Holiness emphasized.

Source: “The West is abandoning God,” Pat. Kirill tells new U.S. ambassador to Russia / OrthoChristian.Com

“In the patriarch’s view, as he told Ambassador Huntsman, today’s difficulties go beyond the mere relations between states, but involve the differences of values and the different understanding of values. He explained to the diplomat that during Soviet times, the persecuted Christians of Russia had more in common in terms of values with the sincere Christians in America than with the atheists among their fellow Russians. ‘Despite the atheistic propaganda in our country, the religiosity was always very high, and it was, I think, a wonderful basis for the development of relations between the new Russia and USA,’ the primate stated.

“However, what happened in the Soviet Union is now happening in America, as His Holiness observed. ‘The West is abandoning God, but Russia is not abandoning God, like the majority of people in the world. That means the distance between our values is increasing,’ Pat. Kirill said… ‘We would very much like if we could look and find the right answers to the challenges of modern civilization along with the religious American people,’ His Holiness assured the ambassador.”

Once again, this  an outcome devoutly to be wished!

A Theist and an Atheist Walk into a Bar . . . | ORBITER

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“What I’ve always wanted to do as a philosopher,” [theistic philosopher Alvin] Plantinga said, “is defend a Christian way of thinking about things and argue that to be a Christian is not to be irrational or senseless or silly. It’s certainly not a unanimous view among philosophers that you can reasonably be a Christian; but that’s now one perfectly sensible view in the neighborhood.”

Source: A Theist and an Atheist Walk into a Bar . . . | ORBITER

For those of us who are Christians, there is nothing remotely irrational, senseless, or silly about belief in God; indeed, it is disbelief in God that is senseless and silly. But unfortunately, philosophy and religion have been on largely divergent paths for the last several centuries. As a result, many philosophers have been reluctant or flatly unwilling to seriously consider the perspectives of theologians, while as Plantinga points out, “Certain kinds of evangelical Christians thought philosophy was a bad idea.”

That is unfortunate, impoverishing both realms.

So, I am very glad to learn of this gentleman who seems to have been able to, at least to some degree, bridge the chasm between contemporary philosophy and theology. But at the same time, I also have to chuckle slightly at the idea that his thoughts – at least as expressed in this short article, I have not delved into his works – are novel discoveries, particularly when it comes to the problem of evil.

If contemporary philosophers have truly believed that the existence of evil nullifies the possibility for the existence of a good God, then I am disheartened to see how far philosophy has fallen.

Plantinga’s solution – which may be compressed (at least as expressed in the linked article) as the realization that true freedom must of necessity include the ability to choose evil; if God had created us such that we would always choose good, automatically, then we would not have free will at all – is something that I got out of reading Boethius’ De Consolatione Philosophiae (“The Consolation of Philosophy,” c. 524 AD) while I was in college.

Nonetheless, I’m glad he has apparently been able to make this ancient and key concept comprehensible and at least somewhat acceptable to today’s philosophical “establishment.”

Regarding his assertion (with which, of course, I agree) that belief in God is not irrational, he points out that

“a very common attitude among those who don’t believe in God is mistaken. That attitude goes like this: ‘I don’t know whether or not there really is such a person as God… but I do know the belief in God is irrational.’”

To which my response would be, if you don’t know whether or not God exists – if the existence of God cannot be conclusively proven, as it cannot, then neither can it be conclusively dis-proven – then how can you say belief in God is irrational? If there’s even the slightest chance that He may exist, and it turns out that He does, then disbelief in Him would be the irrational course of action! Saying that belief in the existence of God is irrational, without being able to conclusively disprove the existence of God, is itself irrational.

Which I think is what Plantinga is trying to say. He goes on to add,

“My argument, very simply, is that if theism is true, then in all likelihood God would make his presence known to us human beings. And if this is so, then it would make sense to think of God as creating us in such a way that there is an innate tendency to believe in him, or at least to have some sort of inkling of his existence.”

Which is another way of saying something that I have said on many occasions, and in a number of fora: that the human religious impulse comes from God, and leads to God. That is why – although I am a Christian and a Christian cleric, and believe that the Christian revelation is the most true and complete revelation of God humans have been vouchsafed by their creator – I also believe that elements of truth may be found in many (indeed most, if not all) religions.

If we are, as the Scriptures inform us, created in the image of God, then we simply cannot (assuming our intellectual faculties are intact) avoiding knowing at least something about God, and / or at least have a yearning to connect with our ultimate Source. We can (having free will, since God wishes us to search for and choose Him freely, not through compulsion) ignore or suppress both the knowledge and the yearning, but that does not mean it’s not there.

As I have also said before – including in this blog – I have respect for an honest agnosticism, as there is so much we do not and cannot know about God. But I find flat-out atheism – which is asserting as an incontestable truth-claim the idea that God does not exist – to be rather absurd and even silly, since there is no way to conclusively disprove the existence of a God powerful enough to create the totality of the Cosmos.

In contrast, as Plantinga points out,

“many philosophers have argued that belief in God is indeed, irrational; and of course if it is irrational, we ought not to accept it. They think as follows: it would clearly be irrational to believe in God if there were not good evidence for the existence of God . . .

“Now what I’ve argued, in a nutshell, is this. First of all, that there are some pretty good arguments for theism, for the existence of God. More important, though, what I’ve argued is that if belief in God is true—if there really is such a person as God—then belief in God is not irrational.”

Indeed! Needless to say, I agree. At any rate, Plantinga seems like a very interesting fellow, and I look forward to hopefully having a chance to read some of his writings in the relatively near future.

The Just Third Way: I. A Question of Human Dignity

Modern society, if there are any doubts, is in serious trouble. Over the last two centuries, the institutions of civil, religious, and domestic society — State, Church, and Family — have been revised, reformed, and reinvented to the point that these chief props of human dignity have become, to all intents and purposes, meaningless.

Source: The Just Third Way: I. A Question of Human Dignity

“Nevertheless, the real issue is not encroaching State power, but human dignity: the sovereignty of the human person under God. Human beings, as Aristotle put it, are ‘political animals.’ Institutions, up to and including the State itself, were made by people, for people. This is so that people can meet their own wants and needs (primarily acquiring and developing virtue, ‘humanness’) by their own efforts within a justly organized society, ‘the pólis’ — hence ‘political.'”

We forget this proper order – that the State (whether a representative Constitutional Republic or a Monarchy) exists to serve the best interests of the People as a whole, not the other way ’round, and that the proper goal of people is to become more fully human, not merely to acquire wealth, at whatever cost to our humanness – at our peril.

And then there is this:

The common good is not, however, the aggregate of individual goods. It is the vast network of institutions within which individual human beings as political animals realize their individual goods, primarily the acquisition and development of virtue — ‘human-ness’ — a seemingly subtle but important difference.

Unfortunately, misunderstanding of human nature and essential human dignity has resulted in social justice and socialism being confused in both Church and State. This has changed Church and State from the chief props of human dignity outside of the Family, to the principal obstacles to virtuous human development.

Religion — ‘Church’ — has been reoriented and updated to focus almost exclusively on people’s material wants and needs. At the same time, politics — “the State” — has changed from overseeing institutions that make it possible for people to meet their own needs through their own efforts, to meeting them directly, after those in power decide what wants and needs are legitimate [emphasis added].

Follow the link for a much fuller and more detailed discussion of these issues.