Tag Archives: Episcopal Church

Would C.S. Lewis suppose God could be found or experienced outside of Christianity?

The guy who scorned liberal Christianity as watered-down (“Christianity and water”)—and who mocked “gin-and-lace” Anglo-Catholicism—turns out to believe God could be found outside of Christianity?

The guy who is loved by U.S. evangelicals and fundamentalists turns out to proclaim that people can experience God outside of Christianity?

Consider (here I paste from one of my recent replies in a social media thread):

…What I mean is, Lewis saw God in Plato. He also loved Rudolf Otto’s “The Idea of the Holy,” in fact listed it as one of his top 10 books outside the Bible, and Otto’s book affirms the human experience of God among many different cultures and religions, which seems reasonable considering Saint Paul felt it appropriate to quote a pagan poet who wrote, “In Him we live and move and have our being.”

Note Paul found a worthy piece of writing about God outside of Scripture, from a writer neither Jewish nor Christian.

Lewis also said, in “Mere Christianity” no less, “If you are Christian you do not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through….If you are a Christian, you are free to think that all these religions, even the queerest ones, contain at least some hint of the truth.” He goes on to say God may be working through the good parts of other religions to steer people to Christ.

And in the Narnia book “The Last Battle,” a character who seems analogous to a Muslim enters Aslan’s kingdom and joins the ride “further up and further in.”

Considering Lewis’s love for Otto’s book and his own words in “Mere Christianity” and “The Last Battle,” you…must consider C.S. Lewis to be a heretic. Perhaps he wouldn’t be welcome in the ACNA, which seems only capable of issuing demerits. Look at all the evidence against Lewis being orthodox! And you wouldn’t be the first to consider him insufficiently orthodox. But I don’t.…and until I can consider Lewis a heretic, maybe for the time being I’ll consider a church’s consistent recitation of the Nicene Creed as enough to count for orthodoxy…

In that social media reply, I went on to mention Lewis’s The Abolition of Man, which offers appendices that show similarities in moral and ethical teachings across various religions and cultures. Not that morals and ethics are the ultimate concern for many religious people (for them, salvation is), but similarities in identifying sin are probably important to notice.

In that reply, I should have also included this Lewis quotation, from a 1959 letter to Clyde S. Kilby, which alludes to James 1:17:

“If every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of Lights then all true and edifying writings, whether in Scripture or not, must be in some sense inspired.”

The harshest conservative critics will see the above as cherry-picking (selectively using evidence). However I think the above evidence reveals an undeniable tendency in Lewis’s outlook and worldview, in his theological and philosophical orientations, born from his deep and wide readings in classical literature and mythology.

So, more broadly, this post belongs to perhaps an emerging genre of posts, accumulating on this blog and elsewhere, carrying underneath a tonal blend of exasperation and bafflement at the U.S. evangelicals and fundamentalists who appreciate C.S. Lewis, who was neither evangelical nor fundamentalist. Many things evangelicals and fundamentalists scorn in other types of believers are the very things Lewis believed. But C.S. Lewis remains famous and beloved, and he was a scholar who believed in a God and better yet in Jesus Christ; so see, they have a smart person in their corner in a time when undefined, somewhere-out-there smart people seem to be the biggest threat to those in evangelical and fundamentalist circles. (Well, the biggest threat until recently.) Evangelical and fundamentalist leaders seem invested in articulating easily-remembered phrases that can become rhetorical memes that build cognitive walls against outside critiques. C.S. Lewis is so quotable, the rhetorical memes are already available. If they side step the fact that Lewis didn’t see the world or God the same way as U.S. evangelicals and fundamentalists, they can quote Lewis with faux gravitas, pat themselves on the back for being smart and bookish, and meanwhile convince no one else in their neighborhoods of anything.

That being said, this post was generated by a recent social media exchange in which an ACNA minister pressed me to seek disciplinary action against an Episcopalian priest for saying God could be found in the Koran. To that I made the above italicized response, also saying I would not be his heresy hunter because I’m not certain C.S. Lewis would play that role. The ACNA minister apparently did not see this as a response to the issue of the Koran. While admittedly not addressing the Koran directly, I argued from C.S. Lewis’s life and work that he thought people outside of Christianity could experience the presence of the real God (what more that might mean or indicate is up for discussion). I think the two strongest pieces of evidence for this are (1) Lewis’s strong appreciation for Otto’s book, not commonly read these days but historically important, and (2) his letter to Kilby. On balance, I’m not sure C.S. Lewis would be welcome in the ACNA except on the merits of his overwhelming celebrity in Christendom. Whether he should be read by ACNA members, as a matter of consistency with the ACNA leadership’s view of orthodoxy, is actually a different question from what I’m raising. But I doubt he would be accepted by the ACNA leadership today on the merits of his actual views. Maybe C.S. Lewis isn’t orthodox enough for the ACNA, or the Southern Baptists—or for that matter the PCA, for whom I have a great deal of love and appreciation, if probably not agreement.

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NYC Postcard: St. Thomas Episcopal

I visited St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Manhattan on July 29, 2018, at the end of my youngest daughter’s week at the Girls Chorister program. It’s a beautiful church and very Anglo-Catholic in its worship.

‘How The Plowman Learned His Paternoster’ or English Catechism Before the Reformation

What was the Church of England like before the Reformation? A snapshot comes from Eamon Duffy, in his award-winning book The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England 1400-1580 (second edition, 2005):

“Round the fourteenth-century font in the parish church of Bradley, Lincolnshire, is carved an English inscription, which runs

Pater Noster, Ave Maria, Criede,

Leren the childe yt is need.

“That injunction was directed to the godparents and was a formal part of the rite of baptism in late medieval England. Just before the blessing of the font at baptisms the priest was required to admonish the godparents to see that the child’s parents kept it from fire, water, and other perils, and themselves to ‘lerne or se yt be lerned the Pater noster, Aue Maria and Credo after the law of all holy churche’. The Lord’s Prayer, Hail Mary, and Apostles’ Creed were in fact the irreducible core of a more elaborate catechetical programme for the laity which had been decisively formulated for the English Church at Archbishop Pecham’s provincial Council of Lambeth in 1281.”

Duffy’s book won the Longman-History Today Book of the Year Award, for good reason.

Writing in Sixteenth Century Journal, the late Stanford Lehmberg said Duffy’s book “presents a marvelously detailed new picture of traditional religious belief and practice in English during the century prior to the Reformation and it shows exactly when and how the customs of faith and ceremony were stripped away in the sixteenth century. Our interpretation of the Reformation and our understanding of Tudor religion will never be the same.”

In English Historical Review, the late Margaret Aston said Duffy’s book “takes a major step toward better understanding of the English reformation.”

Related:

The story of the Reformation needs reforming

 

I’m in the newspaper today; here’s a subtle clarification

I’ve known Steve Jones for years, and I admire him. He’s a top-notch reporter.

When he was interviewing me with two other members of Church of the Messiah for today’s article in The Sun News (my former employer), I think either I didn’t make my point clearly enough or maybe a subtle distinction was lost in the shuffle.

Jones reports:

Messiah church member Colin Burch chose to stay with the traditional church while his wife and three daughters continue to worship at Trinity Church.

The bishop of The Episcopal Church in S.C. conducted the service where one of his daughters joined the traditional church.

He said his children see the situation much like they might a divorce.

“They just don’t know which (parent) to go with,” he said.

The divorce analogy, which originated with my wife Kristi, was intended to describe Kristi and my three daughters — they see the split between Bishop Mark Lawrence’s diocese and The Episcopal Church USA like a divorce, and they aren’t sure which “parent” to go with.

My wife and my daughters, in varying combinations, join me at Church of the Messiah from time to time.

As far as my family is concerned, I listen to Kristi and I listen to my daughters, especially my 14 year old, and even as dense as men can be, I’m fairly certain we [my wife and daughters] all share certain values. I can certainly claim Kristi, the 14-year-old, and I have rich conversations about many things related to church, Bible, tradition, and theology.

Now, if I can just get the 14-year-old to teach me Latin. She’s way ahead of me.

Furthermore, more than a year ago now, the 14-year-old opted to be confirmed by the Episcopal Church USA bishop while continuing in a Bishop Lawrence parish.

Of course, I continue to love and admire many members of Trinity Church.

Update, 4:10 p.m.: On my Facebook page, I referred to a tradition started by my great-grandparents. As an exhibit of that heritage, please see “An Important Church in My Family,” which includes a few photos from All Saints Episcopal Church in Oakley, Maryland.

Update, 8:50 p.m., Dec. 8: My distinguished friend (though not distinguished because of our friendship) Charlie Jordan alerted me that RealClearReligion.org, in its list of today’s articles, included a link to Steve Jones’s article in The Sun News.

Update, 7:55 p.m., Dec. 12: I added a bracketed phrase to clarify “we” in the paragraph beginning, “As far as my family is concerned…”

The Rev. Stephen Kidd on The Episcopal Church

Gratitude for Greg Garrett, who yesterday posted the following quotation on his Facebook page, a quotation that captures the essence of why I started this blog about 7 years ago:

“The Episcopal Church welcomed me when others wouldn’t have me, and honored my questions when others simply sought to dismiss them. Its sacramental life spoke to parts of my soul that the fundamentalism of my childhood couldn’t touch; worship felt ancient, holy, and real in ways I didn’t expect. 15 years later I am still amazed at the depth and breadth of our tradition, and I appreciate all the more our peculiar vantage point at the intersection of the Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox corners of our Christian family. The Episcopal Church isn’t perfect, far from it, but for me, it is home. — The Rev. Stephen Kidd, from an upcoming book by Church Publishing Incorporated


 

‘A Conflict of Beliefs’ — a bad document for Orthodox Anglicans and differences with The Episcopal Church

Update: See this post about the leader of a Bible-based cult who was given two consecutive life sentences in Durham, N.C., on July 5, 2013.

Sustain your “Orthodox Anglican” identity by embracing Bible-thumping primitivism.

Ignore each chance for thoughtful engagement and instead force the false choice of heretical liberalism or fundamentalist quote-mongering.

I want to explain why these are the take-away lessons from the document entitled “A Conflict of Beliefs: Orthodox Anglicanism and The Episcopal Church.”

(The document isn’t especially new, although it was recently given some renewed exposure by someone in my county. I find the underlying lack-of-thinking especially annoying.)

Read the document, linked above, or briefly revisit it. Consider the possible reasons why The Episcopal Church leaders make some of their statements. Then, consider these brief points:

1. Scholarship — yea, even conservative, traditionalist scholarship — has illuminated and contextualized books of the Holy Bible and its (human) writers. “A Conflict of Beliefs” pits liberal, progressive, yea even heretical scholarly views against the primary source material.

In other words, the document is a comparison of apples to apple fritters and apple tarts and artificially-flavored-10-percent-real-fruit-deep-fried-pre-packaged apple pie snacks.

Why not answer scholars with scholars? Because the Bible is adequate? Sure it is — read No. 2.

2. Snake-handlers in the Appalachians support their practice with Scripture, with Biblical authority, taking the language in its plainest sense and applying it to their lives. What does that have to do with “A Conflict of Beliefs”? Well, having gone to various types of Christian schools and churches my entire life, I would like to testify that snake-handlers have everything to do with the silliness behind “A Conflict of Beliefs.” That’s because in less audacious areas of life, evangelicals (and “Orthodox Anglicans”?) do the same types of things based on the same near-drought levels of Scriptural warrant, and encourage others to do so, too. Should the snake-handlers interpret things differently? Really? So you’re making an interpretive move against the plain sense of Scripture? Kind of like The Episcopal Church leadership quoted in “A Conflict of Beliefs”? Sure, it’s not the same thing, is it?

So why not provide some context from contemporary scholars or theologians — pick your favorite seminary, heck, pick your favorite Presbyterian — who can use context and explanation for “Orthodox Anglican” views? 

By the way, the Appalachian snake-handlers are not fully compliant with Luke 10:19, which in the New International Version reads, “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” I’m not sure if snake-handlers trample on snakes, but at least they’ve obtained the means for obedience. But I’ve never seen or heard of them messing with scorpions. Perhaps grace-filled living would spur me to realize scorpions don’t live in the Appalachians.

3. Satan quoted Scripture to Jesus (Luke 4:9-11). Satan encouraged Jesus to take the Scriptures authoritatively. How funny that the only thing “A Conflict of Beliefs” encourages us to do is to follow Satan’s lead, with only three brief exceptions of the 39 Articles and a quotation from an ex-Episcopalian minister. Honestly, the inclusion of the 39 Articles and the minister’s quotation seem out of place — they aren’t Bible verses! After so many Bible verses, who even needs the 39 Articles or the minister?

For that matter, who needs anything in the Book of Common Prayer? Who needs any commentaries? Who needs any scholarship? Who needs any sermons or homilies? Who needs a Bible dictionary or a concordance?

These things just get in the way of Bible-thumping primitivism.

And let’s face it. Once you’ve made liberalism and liberals the target, you can use the Bible to usher-in all kinds of not-liberalism. The Bible can say anything you want it to say, and I guess that’s fine by “Orthodox Anglicans.”

Tonight’s vote at Trinity Episcopal Church Myrtle Beach explained

Trinity Episcopal Church in Myrtle Beach tonight voted to stick with Bishop Lawrence & the Diocese of S.C. rather than to re-affiliate with the Episcopal Church USA, 119 to 31, with 4 abstentions.

Analogy: If your spouse decides no longer to believe in historical Christianity, you must divorce.

Heresy is reversible but schism endures.

Heresy is about ideas, but schism is about relationships.