We will learn from them [Cranmer and his contemporaries] better than from Anglicans of any other age of the distinctive theological virtue in which Anglicans have sometimes spoken as though they had a monopoly, the virtue of ‘moderation’. The word is appropriate enough, though it need to be used with some subtlety and not a little irony. The popular account of Anglican moderation, that it consisted in steering a steady middle path between the exaggerated positions of Rome on the one hand and Geneva on the other, simply will not bear examination. As our knowledge of late mediaeval thought grows greater, forwarded by the scholarly studies of the last half-century, it becomes more apparent that Calvinism, on all issues except that of church-order, took as much of the late-scholastic tradition into its system as any of the other schools of Protestantism. Its doctrine of predestination can arguably claim to be less ‘reformed’ – in the sense of being more mediaeval – than that of the Council of Trent! There was nothing particularly ‘middle’ about most of the English Reformer’s theological positions – even if one could decide between what poles the middle way was supposed to lie.
Their moderation consisted rather in a determined policy of separating the essentials of faith and order from adiaphora. Of all the continental spirits, they had learned most deeply, perhaps, from Melanchthon. ‘Surely odious it must have been, ‘ Hooker exclaims, ‘for one Christian church to abolish that which all had received and held for the space of many ages, and that without detriment unto religion so manifest and so great, as might in the eyes of unpartial men appear sufficient to clear them from all blame of rash and inconsiderate proceeding, if in fervour of zeal that had removed such things.’
Anglican moderation is the policy of reserving strong statement and conviction for the few things which really deserve them. Yet that does not mean that it is incapable of conveying certainties. Think of the church music of the Tudor period, after its composers had turned over to English and put away their soaring cloud-peaks of polyphonic sonority. It moves along at a deliberate, purposeful walking pace – not dancing like Purcell, not clapping its hands like Handel, not swelling its breast like Stanford. It articulates its text clearly in cool and measured understatement, without embellishment. It conveys confidence and assurance; and it can even suggest excitement, though under the strongest self-restraint.
O’Donovan, Oliver. On the Thirty-Nine Articles. Conversations with Tudor Christianity. SCM Press. 2nd Ed. 2011. Pg 8
May God the Father, who created you,
have mercy on you and bless you.
May God the Son, Jesus Christ, who conquered death for you,
have mercy on you and bless you.
May God the Holy Spirit, who sanctifies you,
have mercy on you and bless you.
May God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
grant you eternal rest and peace. Amen.
– A Prayer Book for Australia 1995 pg 704
But what makes Ivan’s argument so disturbing is not that he accuses God of failing to save the innocent; rather, he rejects salvation itself, insofar as he understands it, and on moral grounds. He grants that one day there may be an eternal harmony established, one that we will discover somehow necessitated the suffering of children, and perhaps mothers will forgive the murderers of their babies, and all will praise God’s justice; but Ivan wants neither harmony—“for love of man I reject it,” “it is not worth the tears of that one tortured child”—nor forgiveness; and so, not denying there is a God, he simply chooses to return his ticket of entrance to God’s Kingdom. After all, Ivan asks, if you could bring about a universal and final beatitude for all beings by torturing one small child to death, would you think the price acceptable?
Voltaire’s poem is not a challenge to Christian faith; it inveighs against a variant of the “deist” God, one who has simply ordered the world exactly as it now is, and who balances out all its eventualities in a precise equilibrium between felicity and morality. Nowhere does it address the Christian belief in an ancient alienation from God that has wounded creation in its uttermost depths, and reduced cosmic time to a shadowy remnant of the world God intends, and enslaved creation to spiritual and terrestrial powers hostile to God. But Ivan’s rebellion is something altogether different. Voltaire sees only the terrible truth that the actual history of suffering and death is not morally intelligible. Dostoevsky sees—and this bespeaks both his moral genius and his Christian view of reality—that it would be far more terrible if it were.
A snippet from a recent essay of mine on Atheism:
“In the God Delusion, Dawkins seems to think the theory of evolution is an answer for everything and quite easily remove God from the equation of life. Life is explained by evolution. Not so. Evolution explains the changes in life. It does not look at origins of life nor physics nor God. His explanations of how it might explain religion and consciousness and many other things are pure speculation, not fact.
Alex Jensen, professor of systematic theology at Murdoch University, points out the basis of such an argument is a logical fallacy. When we do science, we do not assume God. We assume God does not make my car run, the engine does. So the fact that the car runs without God proves God does not exist. Not so.
To make the conclusion that God does not exist, when God has not been factored into the experiment in the first place, makes an inconsistent leap. “Methodological atheism jumps to ontological atheism with no explanation.”
Nathan Duffy brings up the issue more clearly in his blogpost: Evidentialist Atheism
If you traffic in atheistic circles, online or elsewhere, you’ll notice that the primary objection lodged against belief in God is the evidential objection i.e. “I believe things based on [usually ‘scientific’] evidence (and others ought to as well); in the absence of evidence for some proposition, I withhold (and others ought to withhold) belief in it; there is no evidence for God’s existence that I’ve ever seen; hence I can’t justify believing in God (and neither can anyone else).” Not only is this the primary objection, it’s virtually becoming the sole objection. There are many weaknesses to this argument, but I just want to examine one of them in this post.
Namely this: for someone who adopts this stance, what would count as evidence of the supernatural or of God? And if it turns out there is not any sort of event, fact, datum, or combination of facts that would count as evidence of the supernatural or of God, then how is this stance distinguishable from a priori atheism, rather than a result of a survey of the pertinent evidence? And if it is indistinguishable from a priori atheism, why countenance the objection seriously at all? Read the rest of this entry »
“On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not preach hellfire and damnation in your name and try to scare the shit out of people in your name to make them convert?” Then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers. (Matt 7)