The Church In England—After The Puritans

Worship and Theology in England: From Watts and Wesley to Maurice. 1690–1850, by Horton Davies (Princeton University Press, 1961, 355 pp., $7.50), is reviewed by Philip E. Hughes, British Editorial Associate of CHRISTIANITY TODAY and now engaged in research on Calvin’s thought.

Those who delight in a book well written and finely produced will take pleasure in this volume. Dr. Horton Davies gives us a fascinating and widely-ranging study of 160 years which witnessed the fragmentation of English religion, the flowering of the Evangelical Revival, and the commencement of the Oxford Movement. The present work is in some measure a continuation of his earlier book. The Worship of the English Puritans, published in 1948 and now out of print. It is in the region of nonconformity that he is most reliable as a guide. Yet for one who has been nurtured in nonconformity he has some surprising blind-spots.

It is extraordinary to observe the complacency with which many Free Churchmen today fall into ways of Anglo-Catholic thought and expression which would have been abhorred by their spiritual forbears. To describe, for example, the celebration of Holy Communion in the Church of England as the “priest offering the daily sacrifice” is unwarranted by anything in the Book of Common Prayer as is also the frequent misuse of the word “altar” for the Holy Table. To employ the terms “Protestant” and “Catholic” as though they were antithetical to each other may be popular but shows little regard for either history or the teaching of the New Testament. And why should Gothic churches be considered “more characteristically Anglican” than the Reformed architecture of Christopher Wren? Again, it is a somewhat superficial estimate which maintains that “it is hardly too much to say that the restoration of reverence to English worship is the unpayable debt that the Church of England owes to the Oxford Movement and to the Anglo-Catholics who succeeded to its mantle.” True reverence in worship accompanies a proper apprehension of the sovereign majesty of Almighty God as Creator, Redeemer, and Judge, such as we find in the Reformers of the sixteenth century, the Puritans of the seventeenth century, and those who follow seriously in their steps. Anglo-Catholic worship is too often marred by ritualistic fussiness and incomprehensibility to be intelligently reverent.

One who is unaware of Dr. Davies’ ecclesiastical pedigree might, in fact, at times suspect him of being a High Churchman, for he is critical of Evangelicalism (which of course is open to criticism) in a way that he is not of Anglo-Catholicism, and indeed regards the Oxford Movement as having made good the defects of Evangelicalism. One cannot help wondering whether his conviction that “while Protestantism’s strength is to be found in theology, preaching, and ethics, its worship requires the supplementation of the Catholic tradition,” is not characteristic of much current “ecumentality,” which seems to presuppose that all schools of worship and theology, however diverse, have their own distinctive “insights” to contribute to the common pool.

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One is startled to find Richard Baxter described categorically as an Arminian!—to read the adjectives “risqué” and “erotic” applied to George Whitefield’s preaching—and to be advised that there is an “unequal conflict between consistent Calvinism and Christian charity”! Typical of Dr. Davies’ penchant for neat oversimplification are his assertions that “in Whitefield there was more heat than light; in Wesley more light than heat,” and that “as a liturgical criterion Scripture was primary for the Baptists and secondary for the Quakers: the Holy Spirit was secondary for the Baptists and primary for the Quakers.”

Despite the criticisms which have been offered, this is no lightweight work. We are given a clear picture of the baneful effects of deistic latitudinarianism (tellingly described by Dr. Davies as a “decorous desert of the soul”): “The dry husks of decency, deism for dilettanti, and such philosophical fudge were a sorry substitute for the strong meat of the gospel.” Attention is rightly given to the covenant nature of the sacrament of baptism; indeed, the covenant is assessed as “the muscle and sinew” of Calvinistic ecclesiology. The author fittingly points out that it is “erroneous to suppose that the Evangelicals, in appreciating the pulpit, depreciated the Sacrament.”

The concluding chapter is devoted to a valuable study of certain aspects of F. D. Maurice’s thought. Maurice is a figure the full impact of whose influence has been felt only in recent decades. This is apparent, for instance, in the depreciation, so fashionable nowadays, of so-called “propositional” theology, in contrast to the concept of truth as subjective and communal—with a consequent disparagement of the doctrinal affirmations of Scripture, creeds, and confessions. Maurice’s contribution, too, to the development of a theology of the Incarnation, Alexandrian in temper, and leading to a universalistic concept of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man—which became so characteristic of the liberal social “gospel”—was not negligible. As Dr. Davies remarks, it was largely due to him that the Tractarians, “who might otherwise have been lost in antiquarianism and ‘ritualism,’ ” took up “the responsibility for a juster Christian social order.” Reformed Christians will approve Maurice’s censure of the ritualists’ doctrine of the localized presence of Christ in the Eucharist: “Their attempt to bring Christ back to the altar seems to me the most flagrant denial of the Ascension, and therefore of the whole faith of Christendom.”

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A deficiency in discrimination makes this book less than great. But it is not deficient in the charm of its style and the range of its research, and intending readers may be assured that they will derive real pleasure and instruction from the study of its pages.


The Tractarians

Victorian Miniature, by Owen Chadwick (Hodders, 1961, 189 pp., 25s.) and The Mind of the Oxford Movement, by Owen Chadwick (A. & C. Black, 1961, 239 pp., 21s.), are reviewed by Gervase E. Duffield, London Manager of CHRISTIANITY TODAY.

The Master of Selwyn College and Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Cambridge has given us two admirable volumes on the nineteenth century. Writing with delightful charm, Dr. Chadwick unravels from the extant diaries of the squire and the parson, both Evangelicals, the story of life in a little Norfolk village. This is no book merely for antiquarians, for its portrait is typical of an English parish in the last century. The squire and the parson are the two powers in the village, and the parson’s independent means make him free financially from the squire. The tensions, which the villagers feel, appear when the parson objects to the dances the squire holds. The latter thinks this narrow, but it poses a problem for the squire’s servants and family, some of whom follow the parson’s lead in spiritual matters. Despite the impetuous outbursts of his wife against the lord of the manor, the parson wins in the end and even the squire himself follows the rest of his family in turning to him for spiritual help. Not only does the ministry of the Gospel triumph in the story of the book, but we are shown a delicately-painted picture of English village life.

The second work is an anthology from Oxford Movement writers with an introductory essay. The men of this Movement—or Tractarians, as they are sometimes called—had a vast influence. It extended far beyond the shores of Britain, and is still being felt in many churches.

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Newman’s Development of Christian Doctrine had its effect on Roman Catholic thought. The High Church movement throughout the Anglican communion is well known, and draws its inspiration from Tractarian theology. The hymns of Keble and Newman are sung in many truly Protestant churches, and some recent Free Church publications reveal Tractarian strains. It may sound surprising to think that Free Churchmen are attracted to the Oxford Movement, but the reviewer knew a group of Baptist ministerial students who regularly frequented a Tractarian centre of worship until restrained by the College Principal. Their motives were not entirely ecumenical enthusiasm either!

The Evangelical is inclined to blame this Movement for any ritualism or Popery in sight, but a more balanced assessment is required. The early Tractarians protested against the coldness of eighteenth-century rationalism and its dead Latitudinarianism. They deplored the exaltation of reason over faith (p. 73). They felt the warmth of worship, and it was natural they should be attracted by poetry, often of the mystical type. Unlike the Evangelicals, they did not look to the rediscovery of biblical theology at the Reformation, but they turned to antiquity. They were also caught up in the Romantic movement and influenced by novelists like Sir Walter Scott and his idealized picture of the chivalrous mediaeval knight. Newman denied a slavish imitation of the Fathers (p. 124), but the era of these ancient worthies was the golden age for the Tractarians. We find William Palmer, a don at Worcester College, Oxford, explaining that tradition was only “confirmatory of the true meaning of Scripture” (p. 131). Nevertheless the Tractarian gaze at the patristic writers and the Middle Ages was largely one of uncritical admiration.

The first two sections of the anthology are titled Faith and The Authority of The Church. The third on Sanctification is the longest, and in it Dr. Chadwick underlines the concern of these men for a deep piety.

Pusey’s view of the disciplined life of prayer puts most of us to shame as we read it. Keble’s “Sun of my Soul” and Newman’s “Lead Kindly Light” are fine hymns reflecting this piety, despite the irony of the latter. The early Tractarians were of far greater stature than their successors. They thought ritualistic trappings were minor matters, and Pusey is found warning Ward not to take too much notice of these secondary points. Again, Pusey was horrified at the rationalism of German theologians, and hence his famous commentary on Daniel, which displays not only his devotional insight but contains the leading remark that Daniel sorts out believers and unbelievers. His reference was to the radical German approach to the hook, but it was not obscurantism. John Keble, writing of God’s revelation and current theological systems, averred, “A fragment of the true Temple is worth all the palaces of modern philosophical theology” (p. 121). This is a timely warning against relativism and the fashion, cutrent now as then, for running after the latest theological craze. Tractarians stood firm on the Bible as God’s Word until the controversy between Canon Liddon and Charles Gore marked the parting of the ways. Liddon was the true heir and he would have none of Gore’s kenotic Christology and compromised High Church Liberalism.

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Dr. Chadwick has sketched out with admirable fairness the leading characters of the Movement, and within his self-imposed limits the selection of quotations is judicious, though often I found I wanted the context to see how the argument developed. (Perhaps it is the function of an anthology to send us to the full originals?)

Yet two questions stand out. Does Professor Chadwick glide too smoothly over the divergent developments within Anglicanism? I think so. And arising out of this, he does not ask the key question as to whether Tractarianism can fit within the framework of constitutionally-established historic Reformation Anglicanism. After all, the discovery of the Fathers was not the achievement of the Oxford Movement or the seventeenth-century divines. The Reformers read and valued them. What greater patristic scholars have there been than Bishop Jewel, Cranmer or Hooker? But the Reformers tested the Fathers against the Bible, whereas Pusey and others were not similarly critical. They idolized the Fathers too much, and followed them without discrimination. Secondly, Dr. Chadwick admits he left out selections from Tractarian polemics. This is readily understandable in the current theological climate of hostility to strong dogmatic pronouncements, but does it result in a balanced historical impression? The nonspecialist reader could be misled, though there are odd hints, even in Dr. Chadwick’s extracts, of a Tractarian theology divergent from the main stream of historic Anglicanism. Pusey on the Real Presence in the Lord’s Supper is not the biblical note of Cranmer and the Prayer Book. Newman’s interpretation of Catholicity with its stress on the sacraments and the place of the bishop differs from the Reformers who showed that Rome had narrowed the meaning of “Catholic,” and that true catholicity was adherence to apostolic doctrine. The emphasis on a line of bishops has bedevilled ecumenical progress ever since. This idea was new to the Church of England, and the undesirable alien is still resident.

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The Oxford Movement was a mixture. It fostered, as the Evangelical revival had done, a warmth of devotion, though the types of worship were very different. It stood firm on the Bible, and shunned the doctrinal compromise, now so fashionable. Newman wrote (pp. 144 f.): “If the Church would be vigorous and influential, it must be decided and plain-spoken in its doctrine.… To attempt comprehensions of opinion, amiable as the motive frequently is, is to mistake arrangements of words, which have no existence except on paper, for habits which are realities; and ingenious generalizations of discordant sentiments for that practical agreement which alone can lead to cooperation.”

Its followers soon acquired a dislike for the Reformation. Newman saw where this trend was leading, and after the failure of the casuistic Tract 90 where he tried with passionate, if misguided, sincerity’ to show he could sign the 39 Articles, he went to Rome. Perhaps he was the Movement’s truest son?

At any rate the Movement which he led explains the enormous rift in twentieth-century Anglicanism where diametrically-opposed views coexist in the same church. It is doubtful if harmony can ever reign again unless drastic action is taken; for Newman and a convinced Evangelical like Bishop J. C. Ryle would agree that compromise is not honoring to God. Divine revelation cannot thus he mauled by man without insult to the Creator.


Liberal Catholicism

Gore: A Study in Liberal Catholic Thought, by James Carpenter, (Faith Press, 1960, 307 pp., 30s.), is reviewed by James Atkinson, Lecturer, Hull University, England.

Right up to his death in 1932, Charles Gore was the most influential mind in the Church of England. Nurtured in the Tractarian tradition, he sought, on the basis of an Incarnational theology, to provoke his contemporary world to set the Catholic Faith into its right relation to the intellectual, moral, and social problems of the day. Gore had the background which seems to characterize most Anglican theologians: he took the essential Reformation doctrines seriously with their emphasis on Scripture, the Fathers, reason, conscience, and authority; he had a high doctrine of the Church and the importance of the Church as a worshiping community; he had also that noncommittal insularity from Continental theology.

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He has been rather neglected in recent years, perhaps largely because of the dominance of philosophical positivism since the days when he sought to justify his liberal Catholicism. Now that signs of a return to metaphysical thinking are clearly visible, Gore might experience some fresh study. This book by an American, James Carpenter, is certainly a first-class examination and assessment of Gore. It reveals close knowledge of Gore’s work. The footnotes and references to contemporary opinion are always interesting and informed, and not seldom quite valuable and original. He deals with Gore’s idea of Catholicism, the centrality of the prophetic thinking to his own philosophy of religion, the historicity of Christianity, his idea of authority, his doctrine of the Incarnation and Redemption, and the Church and its mission to society.

Bishop Gore, as Mr. Carpenter shows, was not an academic theologian as such, but wrote theology to his contemporary situation for the thoughtful and interested layman. Of special interest in the ecumenical situation today are his views on the Bible, on authority, and the sense in which the Church of England claims to be both Catholic and Protestant.

Gore believed that there was nothing “distinctive” about the Church of England, for at the Reformation she did not commit herself to Lutheran, Calvinist, or Romanist positions. She claimed to maintain the ancient faith in conjunction with the Reformation appeal to Scripture, sound reason and learning, and tradition. It was in this sense that Gore identified Anglicanism with liberal Catholicism. He was closer here to the Reformation and the genius of Anglicanism than we give him credit for. As an example of this soundness in basic principles, it must be remembered to Gore’s credit that of all his contemporaries he alone understood the 1914–1918 war as an expression of the judgment of God on a godless society.

He had no use at all for foolish talk about an infallible Church, but thought in terms of her indefectibility in the sense that truth shall never desert the Church as a whole. (This was Luther’s view precisely.) He faults Rome for making her tradition as of equal authority to Scripture, or even to that of the early Church, and thereby making Rome herself the tradition. (Cullmann makes this very point in his work.) Tradition is valid as an interpretation of Scripture but can never add to Scripture. It was a happy word of Gore when he thought we should not be wiser than what is written. Gore was right to trace the foundation of the Church to Israel and not to Christ. There is a constant evangelical refrain throughout Gore, and his close association of justification by faith to the life of the Church, both in the early Church as well as today, is certainly very wholesome. Unlike many high churchmen he was never afraid of evangelical language and ideas.

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Evangelicals need to understand the high church outlook, and this outlook is at its best in men like Gore rather than in the successors of the Tractarians. Oliver Quick, in comparing Catholicism with Protestantism, once likened Catholicism to the meat and Protestantism to the salt, and regretted that history had too often separated them. Anglicanism may well serve in the mercies of God to keep these together, or even bring them together. But our vigilance will be needed, I imagine, not so much to see that the meat is provided but to see that the salt never gets left out.

The book has an excellent bibliography. The index suffers in that it is almost exclusively of names and without subject matter. That is a deficiency, particularly in a book of this sort which may well take on the nature of a standard text. The writer betrays no trace of his own theological position. Be that as it may, it is a sound work and clearly written, and certainly supplies a need.


Barth On Creation, Part 3

Church Dogmatics, Vol. III: The Doctrine of Creation (Part 3), by Karl Barth (T. & T. Clark, 1961, 544 pp., 50s.), is reviewed by Colin Brown, Tutor, Tyndale Hall, Bristol, England.

Like the Enigma Variations of Sir Edward Elgar, the theology of the post-1930 Barth consists of a series of variations on an original theme. God has taken man-kind into partnership with himself. This partnership (which is what Barth has in mind when he uses the term covenant) has its basis in the union of divine and human nature in the person of Jesus Christ. Its scope is universal, because the humanity of Christ represents all humanity. And its significance is decisive for the being of Creator and creature alike. For while the whole of creation was wrought with the covenant in view, God would not be without the Incarnation which commits him to be the covenant-partner of man. In this volume Barth offers three variations on the covenant theme: providence, evil and angels.

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Barth has no time for flirtation with notions which equate providence with an optimistic view of the world derived from experience. Any such view is sub-Christian in method in that it interprets the Word of God by experience instead of experience by the Word of God. And it is sub-Christian in content in that it puts asunder two things which God has joined together, namely, God’s sovereign direction and preservation of the world on the one hand and the salvation of mankind in Christ on the other. To Barth’s way of thinking the former hinges on the latter. Otherwise, we miss the point of the covenant and fail to see how all reality centers around Jesus Christ.

The same principles are invoked when Barth turns to the problem of evil. Evil (alias chaos, alias nothingness) is the reverse side of the reality of which Jesus Christ is the ground and goal. Or rather evil is that which lacks reality precisely because it has no place in God’s good creation. Yet Barth is no disciple of Mrs. Baker Eddy. Evil is no quirk of mortal mind to be banished by an appeal to mind to rise over matter. In its quasi-impossible way nothingness constituted a threat to creation which was only (but utterly) dispersed by the victory of the Cross. It remains for man to realize the fruits of that victory.

Barth’s picture of the preservation and direction of creation is completed with an assessment of the angels. The latter are not to be evaporated in the crucible of demythologization. They still have a place, not indeed as semi-autonomous mediators but as witnesses to him who reveals himself in Jesus Christ as the Saviour of mankind.

Barth’s treatment of creation is always suggestive and sometimes even brilliant. But the crucial question cannot be avoided: Can the covenant be made to bear the whole weight of Barth’s elaborately articulated symmetry of grace? Barth’s exposition of providence and evil depends on the thesis that all men are in the covenant and are therefore also in Christ. The obvious implication of an unbiblical universalism is one which Barth fights against, but which he has never convincingly repudiated. The same problem reappears in Barth’s handling of judgment. Barth can only maintain the ultimate impotence of evil by precluding all possibility of future judgment. This he does by insisting that the judgment borne by Christ on the cross is universally valid for believer and unbeliever alike. But the view can only he maintained by disregarding the force of such passages as Matthew 22:11–14; 25:1–46; John 3:18 ff.; Romans 2:2–5; 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Galatians 3:10 ff.; Revelation 20:11–15. At certain vital points throughout the Church Dogmatics, Barth seems to have abandoned serious exegesis.

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It would seem that Barth’s Christology, though presented as the strongest plank of his platform, is in danger of proving its greatest weakness. For here, as elsewhere, Barth has turned everything into Christology. In so doing, he has failed to pay adequate attention to history. The New Testament takes into account two poles of reference. On the one hand, it speaks of the eternal purposes of God in Jesus Christ. But on the other hand, it does so in conjunction with the concrete reaction of men to Jesus Christ in history. Thus the love of God in giving his Son, expressed in the protasis of John 3:16, is not to be absolutized but is defined by the apodosis and exemplified by the whole context of the Fourth Gospel. It would seem that at certain vital points in his theology Barth is so concerned with the first pole of New Testament thought that he neglects the second. And in so doing he lays himself open to the charge of erecting a Natural Theology on the basis of a biblical idea taken out of context.

Despite the simplicity of the covenantmotif, the Church Dogmatics makes no concessions to the casual reader. The present volume assumes that the reader has ploughed through two earlier volumes on the subject of creation, not to mention two volumes on The Doctrine of God and two further volumes of Prolegomena, all of comparable length. But despite our reservations, the task is as rewarding as it is arduous. Barth is a theological encyclopedia. And those who want to work out their theology for themselves must come to terms with him.


Survey Of The Bible

The Unfolding Message of the Bible, by G. Campbell Morgan (Revell, 1961, 416 pp., $5.50), is reviewed by Robert Strong, Minister, Trinity Presbyterian Church, Montgomery, Alabama.

This is hitherto unpublished material from the hand of the great British preacher and expositor who was known as well in America as in his native country. The method is to treat each book in the Bible by a short essay on introduction and central theme. The unity of the Bible is constantly emphasized. The work has value principally for laymen interested in Bible survey.

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Challenge To Chaos

Baker’s Textual and Topical Filing System, by Neal Punt (Baker Book House, 1960, $19.95), is reviewed by Cary N. Weisiger, III, Pastor of the Mt. Lebanon United Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh.

There is no perfect system for indexing a minister’s sermonic resources. Some ministers are severely methodical and enjoy keeping neat files and records with cross references. Some find anything beyond the simplest methods tedious and depend heavily on review and memory. Some never try to organize their material.

Baker now offers a handsome and rugged volume of about 500 gilt-edged pages. An excellent guide accompanies the volume, and there are adequate introductory instructions printed in the book itself.

The basic system is as simple and comprehensive as this reviewer has ever seen. It consists of three sections: a textual, a topical, and a reference index. Space is given to every verse of the Bible, many of which will never be preached upon, and to a large list of topics, some of which will receive scant attention in comparison with others. This is the problem of comprehensiveness. Also, there is no provision for a chronological filing of sermons and texts.

The system incorporated here, however, could be the salvation of many ministers whose present methods are without form and void.


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