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Wednesday 24 June 2015


The inimitable Father Hunwicke weighs in on the question of Pride, Family and Anglican Patrimony in a recent blogpost:
Fr. John Hunwicke (For we colonials . . . pronounced "Hunnick")
The Elephant in the Room during all this endless talk about the [Synod on the Family's] Agenda, is, surely: Has Human Nature changed? Did humans never, before today, suffer from sexual temptation? Are Fornication, Adultery, Sodomy, problems only of our own unique and spectacularly sui generis age? 

What did the New Testament writers mean when they talked about porneia, moikheia, malakia? Is there something crashingly new about the capacity or incapacity of modern human beings (whether with or without Grace) to resist temptation? What is supposed to be so different about our groins and minds compared with the groins and minds of every other human generation since the Fall? 

What has so privileged us that we are (apparently) free to claim exemption from the Divine Commands, entolai, which were considered to bind former generations since the dawn of history?

What is different about our age; what does set it apart from all previous ages? 

Not, surely, human sexual organs or the human minds which have to cope with them. The only change is the spread of the curse, the heresy, of thinking that humans have a Right to Autonomy, free from obligations to God or even to the age-old genetic and social inheritance of our long history as a species; "free", in S Paul's terrifying phrase, "from Righteousness".  In other words, the amoral individualistic wickedness of the Enlightenment Chicken is at last come home to roost and to befoul its roosting place.


If you will allow me yet again to belabour you with the Anglican Patrimony, I will remind you of C. S. Lewis's fictional snapshot (1945) of an atheist 'freethinker', a Professor Churchwood, 

"an old dear. All his lectures were devoted to proving the impossibility of ethics, though in private life he'd walked ten miles rather than leave a penny debt unpaid. But all the same ... was there a single doctrine practised at Belbury* which hadn't been preached by some lecturer at Edgestow? 

Oh, of course, they never thought that anyone would act on their theories! No one was more astonished than they when what they'd been talking about for years suddenly took on reality. But it was their own child coming back to them: grown up and unrecognisable, but their own. . . . Trahison des clercs. None of us is quite innocent." (This theme, surely, is what That Hideous Strength is all about.)

And try putting that together with blessed Edward Bouverie Pusey's perceptive and prophetic analysis in the 1830s (unpublished Papers in the archives of Pusey House): 
"We must bend our minds and conform them to the teaching of Holy Scripture, or men will end in bending Holy Scripture to their own minds, and when it will not bend, will part with it. For a time a person or a generation may go on with this discrepancy unsettled; and a person of strong faith will go on to the end undisturbed, satisfied on this or any other point, that there is some way of settling it, though he knows not of it, yet . . .  for a Church, wherein men of every sort are gathered, it is a dangerous state to take a direction in any respect varying from Holy Scripture."

D. L. Sayers

And finally, from Dorothy Leigh Sayers, an Anglican scholar whose genius is insufficiently recognised or remembered, in a paper she read at Oxford in 1947: 

"Right down to the nineteenth century, our public affairs were mostly managed, and our books and journals were for the most part written, by people brought up in homes, and trained in places, where [the Scholastic] tradition was still alive in the memory and almost in the blood. 

Just so, many people today who are atheist or agnostic in religion, are governed in their conduct by a code of Christian ethics which is so rooted that it never occurs to them to question it. But one cannot live on capital for ever. However firmly a tradition is rooted, if it is never watered, though it dies hard, yet in the end it dies."


That is precisely where we are now.

*The first syllable ('Bel' is, I presume, a LXX/Vg transcription of Ba'al) indicates the significance of this fictional placename.


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