Four centuries ago John Knox pronounced tersely on a prominent ecclesiastic: “As he sought the world, it fled him not.” An indulgent tolerance is the fashion now. After an ordination service last year an Anglican bishop took his new priests and deacons to partake of liquid refreshment at a London pub. A battery of press photographers happened to be standing by, next morning’s newspapers carried the pictures they took, and bang went another outdated image of the Church of England.
A different Knox, Msgr. Ronald, once pointed out how shocking it was that in Muslim lands a fellow should bawl from the top of a minaret the controversial statement that Allah was great. The essay in which Knox made this protest, called “Reunion All Round,” was regarded four decades ago as satire of a high order. Not so today, when atheists in certain areas have ensured the minimum public reference to the deity, great or no, lest their faith be placed in jeopardy.
In some circles it was evidently felt that Christian charity ought to go further, for it is but a simple step from tolerance to modest self-denigration. Thus a group of Cambridge theologians produced a volume which they called Objections to Christian Belief, putting the case against Christianity with what Philip Toynbee called “robust and healthy good sense.” This was clearly a challenge to some non-Christians, and they duly obliged with Objections to Humanism, the “austerely brave spirit” of which was saluted by an Anglican weekly.
The process has now gone one stage further with the appearance of Objections to Roman Catholicism (Constable, London, 18s.). Edited and introduced by Michael de la Bedoyere, a former editor of the Catholic Herald and biographer of Baron von Httgel, the book consists ...1
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