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Saturday, August 30


An announcement from Edgeways Books about the latest book by the Evangelical Anglican theologian Peter Toon, a contributing editor of Touchstone.

A Liturgical Journey Examined

By Peter Toon

Common Worship is the name given by the Church of England to her replacement for The Alternative Service Book of 1980. It is a multi-volume, multi-media and open-ended series of publications and, being so vast, is not easily considered. In this, the first book-length discussion of Common Worship, Dr Toon makes a notable effort to do so.

The multi-volume collection of Liturgy is considered steadily and thoroughly in chapters on the Preface, the meaning of "Common" and "Worship", the Eucharist, Daily Prayer, Baptism & Confirmation, Pastoral Services, Prayers & Collects, Doctrine & Style. A brief Epilogue draws conclusions, solidly based on the preceding argument, which may be surprising.

The present liturgists of the Church of England are in intention far less revolutionary than their predecessors a quarter of a century ago. But the drastic redefinition of "common" made necessary by the Common Worship project - so that what is common to the Church of England is not the sharing of one printed liturgy but the use of common shapes, the following of guidelines or the use of an incalculable number of permutations - amounts to a more revolutionary change than any since the Prayer Book of 1549.

Dr Toon demonstrates that such a huge outpouring of optional material has, not surprisingly, led to rather low standards of composition and of theological accuracy.

This moderate and well-argued book is written from the standpoint of an orthodox theologian and a faithful parish priest of the Church of England. Dr. Toon's criteria are those that have always been accepted in the Church of England: the Bible, the three Creeds and the formularies printed within
The Book of Common Prayer (1662). One upshot of the book is a further demonstration that The Book of Common Prayer is (in the title of another recent book of which Dr Toon is co-author) "neither archaic nor obsolete".

160 pp. royal 8vo hard covers
publishers recommended price 16.80.
ISBN 0 907839 78 9
publication September 2003

All Edgeways books can be ordered direct from the publisher and delivered post free anywhere in the world. Airmail delivery add 5.00.

Secure credit card orders

By post: Edgeways Books, 6 Greencroft Avenue, Corbridge, Northumberland, England, NE45 5DW

The book,
Neither Archaic nor Obsolete: The Language of Common Prayer & Public Worship, by Dr Toon and Dr Tarsitano (ISBN 0 907839 75 4) is paperback and available from the Prayer Book Society of the USA ( or Edgeways Books. For help in ordering in the USA call toll free 1 800 PBS 1928.

For Peter's writing, see the website of his parish in England, Christ Church, Biddulph Moor and also the Prayer Book Society's blogsite.

4:14 PM

Friday, August 29


This seems to me a balanced reading of the Ten Commandments controversy in Alabama: "Two issues, not one" by Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

The first issue, he argues, is the status of such things in public buildings, the second the rule of law. He agrees with Judge Roy Moore about the first, but not the second.

What we must not do, unless we want to abandon the rule of law or support rebellion against this government, is support defiance of the law by officials sworn to uphold the law. Judge Moore should, like Attorney General Pryor, his eight fellow justices and Alabama's governor, obey the federal court order, continue his appeals process and make his compelling case in the courts and in the courtroom of public opinion. I will continue to help him make that case.

. . . If Judge Moore feels that in conscience, pending his appeal to the Supreme Court, he cannot comply with the federal court order, then he should resign his office and continue to make his case. I will help him do it. If, as a private citizen, Judge Moore feels compelled by conscience to protest the removal of the Ten Commandments statue by engaging in a sit-in at the Alabama Supreme Court building, I will respect his freedom of conscience. If he is arrested for non-violently protesting the court's action, I will contribute to his legal defense fund.

Nevertheless, we should not condone elected officials deciding which laws they will obey and which laws they will not. That subverts the rule of law and will lead to anarchy.

He includes in his argument several helpful historical comparisons and an astute analysis of Moore's own arguments. In response to one of Moore's claims about the Declaration of Independence, he does argue that the colonists' revolt against the crown was justified, which I (to my children's horror) would not.

This does seem to me a more dangerous argument than he realizes, because one can argue plausibly that the courts' present trampling of the Constitution is as de-legitimizing as anything King George III was doing, or not doing, to the American colonies in the late 18th century. I don't think I would make this argument, but one could.

At any rate, Land is arguing from that principled, patriotic position that on the one hand, recognizes the severe problems of the present - not least the hostility of many in the higher courts to the principles upon which the country was founded - without slipping into alienation and despair, and on the other hand accepts the legitimacy of the government without slipping into complacency and sloth. This I tried to do myself in "American Reservists", an editorial that appeared in the June issue.

11:55 AM


A website many of you will enjoy: the Orthodox theologian Vigen Guroian's Really Human Things. It is described as "An occasional column devoted to themes of Christian humanism." Three examples to give you an idea of the range of subjects he addresses:

- The Christian humanism of G. K. Chesterton;

- On the office of being a good son or daughter, subtitled "Observations on human interconnection and happiness"; and

- On fairy tales and the moral imagination.

Dr. Guroian's article on the continuing insights of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World will be appearing in the October issue.

7:24 AM

Thursday, August 28


I should remind you all again of the conference we are sponsoring in mid-October. The Time is Near will be held from the evening of Thursday, October 16th to mid-afternoon the following Saturday, at the University of St. Mary of the Lake north of Chicago.

It looks to be a very good conference, judging from the speakers we've been blessed to get. Besides four of the editors (Reardon, Podles, Hutchens, and Hitchcock), the speakers will include Wheaton College's Alan Jacobs; the Southern Baptist biblical scholar Craig Blaising; Vigen Guroian, the Orthodox writer and author of a marvelous book on children's literature; and the Catholic Tolkien scholar Sandra Meisel.

The conference is subtitled "The Apocalyptic Imagination in an Age of Anxiety." We chose the topic because we see among Christians of all sorts, and feel in ourselves, an anxiety about the culture that easily translates into the feeling that everything is horrible and going to come apart shortly, and from there can turn into despair. Many of us tend to relish every bit of bad news and put the darkest reading possible on every event.

So we thought it important for Christians to discern the signs of the times, without falling into despair on the one hand or liberal optimism on the other. As the old joke goes, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you, and just because you're anxious doesn't mean there's nothing to worry about.

And the place is pretty, the food is good, and the conversation great. For those of you wrapped up in the struggles within your traditions - conservative Episcopalians, most notably - it will be a time of refeshment.

4:23 PM


The Boundless site mentioned in the last blog (the one following as you're reading this) includes a good short article on the importance of thinking about one's principles or worldview: "It's never 'just a movie'". Most of us who care about these things will recognize the story he opens with, of the confused and glazed look he gets when he asks a Christian on the plane why she likes the book she is reading.

And then he notes something most of us have also noticed:

For years I've taught communication students and now that I teach worldview issues, I see the significance of entertainment more than ever. What has concerned me more and more in recent years is that I am hearing this from otherwise discerning Christians. They're people of faith who struggle over most decisions in their lives as it relates to their Christianity and wanting to make wise choices, but when it comes to the media, they look just like everyone else on the planet.

He goes on to describe this problem and includes a good quote from C. S. Lewis. He makes a very helpful point about the dangers of "vegging out."

I was trying to get at something of this in the second half of "Headline News" of a couple of weeks ago. I can justify reading a lot of things and watching a lot of movies to "keep up with the culture," but it is mostly an excuse for not following St. Paul in keeping my mind on whatsoever is pure, holy, etc.

And the problem isn't just watching the dubious and unedifying, like the writer's Christian friend who watches Sex in the city so that he can join in the conversation at work. A lot of things - funny movies and mystery stories, for example - are perfectly harmless in that sense.

But the question is what we are doing when we watch or read them, and what are we not doing that we ought to be? To put it another way, what end are we trying to reach when we watch Cary Grant and his lunatic relatives in Arsenic and Old Lace or follow Inspector Dalgleish in one of P. D. James' stories? Is that the end to which that time should be dedicated?

Now, I don't think we shouldn't watch that movie or read those books. I just wonder how we ought to order our lives to put such things in their place, and suspect that the standards are rather higher than most of us would like. After all, as Christians we know that no time is our own to spend as we please, because all the time we have is a gift from God who has certain things he would like us to do.

I'm just not sure where watching Arsenic and Old Lace fits.

9:07 AM


My copy of the September issue just arrived, which means you subscribers should be getting yours shortly, depending on the postal service. Among the articles it includes is J. Budziszewski's "Denial and the wages of sin." Readers who enjoy his writing, as I do, will want to know about the two columns he writes for the Focus on the Family website Boundless.

- Office Hours, which deals with the life and struggles of college students; and

- Ask Dr. Theophilus, an advice column for those trying to live a Christian life.

His How to stay Christian in college I also recommend.

8:57 AM


An interesting article: "Camus as Conservative". Camus, the writer says,

came face to face with the same nihilistic vision that bedeviled most European freethinkers in the aftermath of World War II - the dark, rootless path of constant suffering that was life, which ended only in the fear and trembling that attended godless death. But - to use his language - he "revolted" against this nihilistic dead end, the absurdity of existence that comprises the vale of tears of human life.

Instead of succumbing to the darkness of this nihilistic vision, by affirming the "no" in life, he turned to what he considered to be the "yes" in life - the a-priori light of human existence: others. He said "yes" to the intrinsic sense of solidarity he experienced toward his fellow humans (no matter how imperfect they were), and otherwise strived to accept the unalterable "limitations" of human existence.

I loved Camus' great novel The Plague from the first time I read it, I think in eighth grade, through my early twenties, when most of the writers popular in my circles left me cold or actually made me ill. Even as an adolescent I thought Sartre's No Exit an adolescent story, and all the pop Zen people devoured at the time I could not stand. Leftist elitism and Buddhist disengagement struck me then, and strike me now, as evasions of one's human calling - as unmanly, if you will.

I think I read The Plague every year, and that it helped bring me to Christianity. This article helped explain why. I need to read it again.

My thanks again to Orthodoxy Today for the link.

8:55 AM

Wednesday, August 27


A very interesting article by the historian Philip Jenkins: "The Jesus of the Cults", subtitled "How the Esoteric Christ Became the Christ of Scholars." It appears on the website of the Center for Studies on New Religions. It begins:

Since the mid-nineteenth century, new and fringe religious movements have often generated distinctive images of Jesus, who is presented as a sage, philosopher and occult teacher, whose views have much in common with those of Asian teachings. This idea runs for example through works like the Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ and the work of Madame Blavatsky, Rudolf Steiner and Elizabeth Clare Prophet. Ironically, these pictures have a very great deal in common with the images which increasingly dominate the mainstream critical scholarship of the New Testament, especially following the rediscovery of the Gnostic Gospels found at Nag Hammadi in Egypt in 1945.

In modern scholarly writing, Jesus has become more of a Gnostic, Cynic or even a crypto-Buddhist than the traditional notion of the reformist Jewish rabbi. This paper will illustrate the growing convergence between the once marginalized ideas of the fringe religions and the concept of the mainstream denominations. I will suggest that in both cases, the popularity of these related views of Jesus reflects the ideological needs and predilections of the audiences to whom they are presented.

My thanks to Orthodoxy Today and CANN (Classical Anglican News Net) for the link.

8:22 PM


My colleague James Hitchcock writes in response to the story about Hensley Henson and the Archbishop Lang of Canterbury I tell two blogs down:

The archbishop once received an anonymous letter saying "Old Lang swine, how full of cant you are" ("Cantuar" is the Latin name for Canterbury).

8:07 PM


For the bookish among you, which I suspect means all of you, some suggestions from my recent reading.

1) The Wolves of Willoughby Chase series by Joan Aiken. Written by the daughter of the American writer Conrad Aiken, the six stories are set in an England of about two hundred years ago, but one slightly different than the one we know. Wolves haunt the countryside and James III is on the throne but fought by the Hanoverians, supporters of George IV.

The stories tell of plucky children who suffer greatly - the wicked characters are truly wicked - but triumph in the end. I have been reading them to our ten-year-old and we love them.

2) Herbert Tarr's Heaven Help Us! (1968). I picked this up from our library's sale shelf - a source of many books in our home, given the library's taste for discarding the classics - and have only read the first ten pages, but loved them. It is the story of a young rabbi in his first cure, a synogogue in New York City. The part I read, recounting his interview with the synagogue's board, was a scream.

3) Tom Shippey's The Road to Middle Earth (third edition just published this summer). Like Tolkien, Shippey is a philologist and taught in the same program at Oxford. Knowing what Tolkien knew, he finds in Tolkien's books a great deal that no other writer I know has seen. I think it's fascinating.

8:05 PM


A reader just wrote concerned that inattentive readers of yesterday's "Slippery Slope Watch" would think that the Bishop of Durham referred to was the present bishop, the New Testament scholar N. T. Wright.

I did say "in 1922," but then said "And what do his successors say about homosexuality eighty years later?" I was thinking of his theological successors but did not say it right. I did not mean to suggest that Wright, one of the leading conservative minds of the Church of England, was in any way pro-homosexual. Though he does favor the ordination of women, which puts him in the innovators' camp nevertheless.

The bishop to whom I was referring was Hensley Henson. Henson was a liberal who become more conservative as he got older. (Owen Chadwick's biography of Henson tells an interesting story.)

One story told about him: at some bishops' meeting in some old hall, every chair around the table was taken when Bishop Barnes arrived. Barnes, the bishop of Birmingham, was the John Spong of the 30s and 40s - a popular and notorious but not very deep writer - and Henson called out from the table, "Anticipate the judgment of the universal church and sit in the fire."

It is significant that the biography of Barnes was titled Ahead of His Time, that great conceit of the modern heretic, when he was in fact just wrong. I suppose he may have been ahead of his time in the sense that the first lemming into the water was ahead of the pack.

It is also told of Henson that when walking through Lambeth Palace with the Archbishop of Canterbury in the '30s, the Archbishop looked at his portrait and said that he did not like it because it made him look "proud, pompous, and prelatical." To which Henson replied, "To which of those does your grace object?"

11:09 AM

Tuesday, August 26


A reader wrote asking for information on renewal or confessional movments in the Methodist tradition. Jim Kushiner kindly supplied these, which I pass on for those of you who are Methodists:

- the Confessing Movement within the United Methodist Church; and

- the Good News movement.

Those of you interested in such movements in other traditions will want to look at the list provided by the Institute for Religion and Democracy.

11:27 AM


I just came across a quote from Hensley Henson, the Bishop of Durham (England, not North Carolina) in 1922, who said of the "reform" or loosening of England's divorce laws:

New factors have to be reckoned with, which the Founder of Christianity was never called upon to consider.


Neither [Scripture nor Church authority] contemplated the situation in which we are placed.

And what do his theological successors say about homosexuality eighty years later? Gosh, the very same thing. There are such things as slippery slopes.

The implicit christology of this argument is revealing: Jesus was someone who could only speak about questions he was called upon to consider. He was not Someone who knew what He must say for the guidance of His people until His return at the end of the age, and Who has provided for His people a Guide in the understanding of His teaching. Which does imply that he was not the Son of God in the traditional sense, but a very bright and holy man, perhaps with an apparently unique relationship to God, who nevertheless suffered the limitations of his humanity and his time. He is not always a guide who will take us where we want to go.

I think it is important to repeat this point because the argument over homosexuality in the churches seems to be one entirely over morals and the interpretation of Scripture. The way it has been argued by conservatives and liberals, it has seemed to be an argument about externals or secondary matters, about differences that do not touch the center of the Faith and therefore about differences that can be lived with.

Episcopal conservatives are now talking about dividing from the homosexualist majority of their body, but only because the homosexualists have put into practice what they have taught for years, a teaching those conservatives should have treated as sufficient reason for division in itself. The first question to be asked of an innovator is not "What does he want to do we haven't done before?" but "Who does he say Jesus is?" If he answers that question wrongly, you ought to do something about him, not hang out with him until he actually puts his belief into practice in a way that you do not like.

The argument over homosexuality is an argument over morals and the interpretation of Scripture, of course, but it is also an argument about the nature of revelation and therefor about the nature of Jesus Christ. It is an argument about what He knew and when He knew it.

Let me make this concrete. Look at how the two christologies treat Jesus as a source for a source for teaching on the matter of homosexuality. The homosexualists simply announce that he said nothing about it and therefore he didn't care about it, and even that given what he did say about love etc., he would have favored it. (Were he alive today, as the joke goes.) The orthodox reader looks at everything Jesus said, especially everything He said about marriage, and comes to the conclusion that He would have loved the homosexual man and woman but called them to give it up.

The difference in christology is revealed in the extent to which our Lord's whole witness is examined to find His mind on this issue, an issue that would arise from time to time in the life of His followers. Those with a low view of his relation to the Father read through his words, find nothing obviously relevant, and declare it a subject on which he did not speak. Those with a high or orthodox view of His relation to His Father read through His words assuming that He had something to say to His people, and naturally enough, and perfectly reasonably, find it.

One assumes Jesus might have said something, if the issue came up. The other assumes that Jesus did say something, though He may not have said it directly.

And the latter - the orthodox - believe that He knew enough of what His people would need to know to leave authoritative interpreters and to make sure their words were reliably conveyed in the tradition of the Church and put together into her authoritative Scriptures. The first think that at various points Paul distorted Jesus' message. The second believe that when we read St. Paul, we hear Jesus.

It is a big difference, and a final and sundering one.

11:23 AM

Monday, August 25


Good work if you can get it: "At Elite Prep School, Parents Do the Math" from today's Wall Street Journal. It is the story of the current rector, Episcopal bishop Craig Anderson, and his

wait for it

you better sit down

you're not going to believe this

$524,000 total salary.

Some parents are understandably upset.

Mr. Anderson "is an overcompensated, underwhelming bishop," says Albert F. Gordon, a former trustee who has donated more than $500,000 to the school. The headmaster, he says, "has got to go."

Having observed Bishop Anderson for some years, I must say I always thought of him as a lightweight. "Underwhelming" covers it nicely. But this does not seem to impede one's success in the Episcopal Church, which is, as I have said before, an illustration of the Peter Principle run amuck.

The vice-rector gets $316,400 in total salary.

2:53 PM


A very useful site, though also a very mixed bag: the Chronicle of Higher Education's Arts & Letters Daily. At a guess, the site offers links to 100 or so articles.

Among other things, the weekend's included an expose of the feminist matriarch Germaine Greer's latest cause, "Generation of taboo breakers are a selfish lot". It begins:

Like Ken Park's director, Larry Clark, Germaine Greer deliberately provokes controversy with the cheapest trick. If there's a taboo left, she'll break it, and since one of the few remaining taboos in Western liberal democracies is pedophilia, that's the arena she's most recently entered.

Her upcoming glossy book, The Boy, full of pictures of "ravishing" pre-adult boys with hairless chests, wide-apart legs and slim waists, is an "art book", Greer, 64, told this newspaper last week.

This is not, by the way, the most shocking thing Ms. Greer says. The writer, Miranda Devine, astutely skewers the Baby Boomers and their endless pursuit of taboos to break, which breaking makes them feel young.

The site also includes the wonderful Joseph Epstein on "The Green-Eyed Monster", an article from The Washington Monthly which begins:

Of the seven deadly sins, only envy is no fun at all. Sloth may not seem that enjoyable, nor anger either, but giving way to deep laziness has its pleasures, and the expression of anger entails a release that is not without its small delights. In recompense, envy may be the subtlest - perhaps I should say the most insidious - of the seven deadly sins. Surely it is the one that people are least likely to want to own up to, for to do so is to admit that one is probably ungenerous, mean, small-hearted.

It may also be the most endemic. Apart from Socrates, Jesus, Marcus Aurelius, Saint Francis, Mother Teresa, and only a few others, at one time or another, we have all felt flashes of envy, even if in varying intensities, from its minor pricks to its deep, soul-destroying, lacerating stabs. So widespread is it - a word for envy, I have read, exists in all known languages - that one is ready to believe it is the sin for which the best argument can be made that it is part of human nature.

A third interesting entry is Myron Magnet's "What Use Is Literature?" from The City Journal.

2:40 PM


A reader sends a link to another good source for the texts of creeds and confessions, as well as sermons and various Puritan classics: Historic Church Documents, part of the site of the Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics. It includes Jonathan Edwards' justly famous, and usually slandered, sermon "Sinners in the hands of an angry God".

2:40 PM

Sunday, August 24


When I was an Episcopalian, I was for a couple of years on the board of the organization whose most recent product I quoted in Friday's "Horror Watch". Forward Movement is the Episcopal Church's semi-official publisher and produces a few books, a lot of tracts, and the devotional called Forward Day by Day, from when the quotes were taken.

I only went to one meeting in those two years. It was then led by a genial, old-fashioned liberal who had a genuine, and un-liberal, interest in missions. He had asked me to serve on the board to give it some theological diversity, but at my first meeting I realized that were any theological matter come to a vote, I would be outvoted fourteen to one, or perhaps thirteen to two if one of the episcopal members was actually there and decided to vote his theology rather than his political convenience.

The president once told me that when people accused Forward Movement of being liberal, he told them "Well, we have David Mills on the board." As I thought about it, I realized that the only possible advantage for orthodox Christianity in the Episcopal Church of my being on the board was my being able to get them to publish a few more traditional things than they would have otherwise, but even then they had an editorial process that would weed out anything too pointedly traditional - without admitting it, of course. They would simply find that "It doesn't fit our needs at this time."

I decided that all my presence on the board accomplished was to give a liberal propagandist some cover with the more trusting of the conservatives, and so I resigned. A cover I would not be.

I think, from long observation, that most such groups in liberal bodies use their token believers in the same way, and that the conservatives who want to "enter the structures" mainly solidify the structures' ability to advance liberalism, though they may slow the speed at which the structures advance it. They mistake the slowing down of liberalism for the first signs of its defeat.

This, I think, has been the fatal mistake of Episcopal conservatives - compounded by the fact that one of the main things they have wanted to conserve is their place in the Episcopal Church.

11:16 AM


Having just pointed out a particularly dopey article from The American Prospect, I should point out an interesting one, "Usual Suspect: Last month's bombings suggest the enduring significance of Casablanca -- and Casablanca.

11:14 AM


An amusing attempt to procure the Harry Potter books for the cause of American liberalism: "Paranormal Progressivism: The eerie similarities between Harry Potter's politics and ours", which appears on the website of the liberal magazine American Prospect. The author writes that

Harry Potter might just be the kind of brain food needed to grow a new generation of little liberals.

I thought this was an interesting claim, till I kept reading and found out how the author defines liberalism:

In the political world, the opposing forces can be described as those who work for the good of all and those who work for the good of those like themselves. At the end of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Dumbledore, the headmaster at Harry's school, implores the students to choose "what is right" rather than "what is easy." In many ways, the principles of liberal America fall in line not only with this teaching but also with other lessons found in the Harry Potter series.

It goes on in this vein. So, thinking of others and doing what is right, and many other basic human virtues the author goes on to claim for the HP books, define liberalism. We are left, surely intentionally, to think that thinking only of oneself and doing what is easy, and failing in all those other basic human virtues, defines conservatism.

I have my own severe doubts about the Republican party and the conservative movement in general, but still I am often struck by how crude, how - let me be honest - stupid is much liberal thinking about itself and about the alternatives. I take some comfort in the fact that people who cannot think fairly about people who disagree with them cannot figure out what to do with them either. When they decide to open fire, they're more likely to blast away at the figments of their imagination than the real people who oppose them.

The author, Ashley Glacel, is identified as an intern at the magazine who is working on a, this explains all, "Master's degree in Feminism, Journalism & Policy at New School University."

For those of you who do not see American Prospect, for this magazine, liberalism includes not only a liberal position on the (to the Christian) debatable matters of economics and social policy, but a liberal position on the (to the Christian) not debatable matters of abortion, marriage, and the like.

10:56 AM

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