The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Reading, and a Bleg

As we celebrate the Incarnation, may I offer up a suggestion for anyone looking for some very Anglican reading for this time of the year: Lux Mundi: A Series of Studies in the Religion of the Incarnation, edited by Charles Gore, represents a doctrinal survey by a second and more liberal generation of Anglo-Catholics of the meaning of the Incarnation for modern (well, late Victorian) theology.

How to tempt you...

From Ruth Kenyon's "The Social Aspect of the Catholic Revival", in Northern Catholicism; Centenary Studies in the Oxford and Parallel Movements, ed. by N. P. Williams and Charles Harris. London, SPCK, 1933.

We have here . . . to consider another aspect of the work of the third generation of the Revival, that associated with what might well be called the second Oxford Movement, the famous Lux Mundi group. It was this group which succeeded in doing that which the Tractarians has failed to do, viz. the relating of the Church's claim for the primacy of the spiritual to the new circumstances of a democratic age. Lux Mundi was in fact the foundation of a new apologetic in which Catholic thought no longer stood on the defensive against the thought of the age, but incorporated it and made it a vehicle for its own doctrine. The guiding principle was found in the Johannine doctrine of he Incarnate Logos, the Word entering to redeem the world of which He was already the Creator -- a world which included the historically-developing social order . . . Newman and Manning [had] sought to revive and give practical effect to some such idea of the world and of man. But on the whole the theology of the Movement had remained within the old Evangelical circle of thought -- the soul, sin, and redemption. To this it had added the thought of the Church as the sphere, the sacraments as the means, of Redemption, but still only the redemption of the soul, not the redemption in the full sense of man, nor the redemption of the world. Lux Mundi looked back behind redemption to creation. Evolution was accepted as the work of the Logos through whom all things were made. It followed, among other things, that man's historical development, including that of the present age, is part of the creative movement of the Word, and therefore manifests His Light. Democracy, which characterises the present era, can thus be seen as interpreting the worth of personality and the brotherhood of men. Socialism, again viewed as an existing tendency, illuminates the idea of authority in so far as this involves a rightful claim of the whole upon the part. But only the Incarnation, the fact, that is, of the Word personally become flesh to fulfill and redeem the world order which He had originally created, but which had fallen away from Him, is adequate, together with its extension in the Church and the sacraments, to interpret and validate the life of the individual and of society . . .

Gore's claim was primarily upon the Church and upon the Christian qua Christian. His earnest endeavor was to recall the Church to the idea of Christianity as being "first of all 'The Way' -- a social life to be lived." If the Church would only live this life, revive the distinctness of her saviour, let her light shine, she would be representing Christ in the world by the method of Christ Himself. She should be the visible symbol and sacrament of the life of man as the Creator meant it to be lived. So far as Gore contemplated a relationship of the Church to the world other than that of enlightening it by shining, it was in the prophetic office of the Church as interpreting to the world that which at bottom the world knows to be good, because in posse the world is Christian.
Let me add another distinction. In one sense, the Tractarians were limited by their passionate hatred of the reforming Whig movement, and their tendency to resist all that was new precisely because it was new. As Newman writes "my battle was with liberalism," although he immediately qualifies the statement by adding "by liberalism I meant the anti-dogmatic principle and its developments." Still for Newman, the charms of authority even before he "went to Rome" were considerable. As I have previously noted, his view that as a priest he should live as "simply the servant and instrument of my Bishop" based on the latter's being "set over me by the Divine Hand" (id. at 52) is indicative of his tendency to dogmatize hierarchy and institutionalism to the point where conservatism equates with the Christian faith.

With Gore and his colleagues, we are in a different, more expansive mode--a realm where the Church has numinous value but does not devolve into the oppressive institutionalism of newman, and where increasing knowledge is not feared but welcomed.

Now, to the bleg. I have been asked to select the next book for a study group. We've done two books by Borg, W.R. Inge's Christian Mysticism and Bryant's The Heart in Pilgrimage. For our next book, I'm torn between:

*Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich (continuing our mysticism theme, and adding a woman's voice to an exclusively male (to date) list);

*Where God Happens, Rowan Williams on the Desert Fathers; or

*Common Prayer on Common Ground, Alan Jones on the Great Unpleasantness.

Comments, advice and snide remarks eagerly solicited.

And joyous, belated Christmas wishes to all!

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