Book review: ‘Anglican Theology’ by Mark Chapman

13732149I enjoyed this book but found the title ‘Anglican Theology’ misleading. I recognize the validity of the author’s point that telling our story is sometimes the best way of exploring Anglican theologies, since there have been so many of them (Reformation/Tudor, High Church/Stuart etc.)! But even given this point, I thought a more honest title for the book would have been ‘Church of England Theology’.

The vast majority of the book describes theological controversies in the Church of England, most of which had to do with the nature of authority in the Church and its relationship to the British crown. A Christendom relationship between Church and State, with Anglicanism as the ‘Established Church’, was assumed in all these controversies. But for the vast majority of Anglicans around the world today this is irrelevant, as our churches have never been ‘established churches’. So how can we find a way forward toward a vibrant Anglican Christianity that does not assume a privileged position of power in society? What is our Anglican identity when we are not an established church? And what forms of episcopacy are appropriate in such contexts?

The penultimate chapter introduces the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, but rightly points out its inadequacies (it was intended as the basis for Anglican reunion with other churches, not as a definitive statement of Anglican essentials). The author points out that if the Quadrilateral is seen as definitive of Anglicanism, its omission of any mention of the Book of Common Prayer (in its many and varied editions) is very strange. Surely this is one of the most characteristic features of what Anglicans actually do: we worship together using the Book of Common Prayer and/or books based on it. For many of us, this is where we both discover and develop our theology.

I enjoyed Mark Chapman’s honest description of the way in which later generations have adopted revisionist understandings of certain defining moments in Anglican history, in service of their own theological agendas. But I have to say that I would enjoy reading a more future-oriented volume, which takes these convictions Anglicans have developed in the past and asks how we can move forward as a global family of churches, and what theological ideas can unite us and energize us in the very different situations we find ourselves in today.

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Book Review: ‘Original Highways: Travelling the Great Rivers of Canada’ by Roy McGregor.

34127974Marci and I read this one together. It wasn’t what we were expecting, but it was very good.

Roy MacGregor takes a close look at sixteen iconic Canadian rivers: the Columbia, the Fraser, the Bow, the North Saskatchewan, the Red, the Dumoine, the Ottawa, the Don, the Grand, the Niagara, the Muskoka, the Rideau, the Gatineau, the St. Lawrence, and the Saint John. He writes as a journalist, with an eye to current events and contemporary stories. but he is also well aware of the history behind these rivers. I actually expected more history (and would have welcomed more), but what was there was accurate and well-written, and I suspect most Canadians would learn more about the story of their country from reading it. He also writes as a keen canoeist who has paddled many of these rivers. This hands-on perspective adds what might be called a water-level view to the narrative, and I enjoyed it.

This book also tells a sad story. Most of these rivers are in difficulty because of human activity. Some of them have been brought back, but some have not. We depend on the water from these rivers, but we continue to pollute them with industrial waste, sewage, garbage, and chemicals. In the words of Jacques Courcelles (whose family have lived near the Red River in Manitoba for five generations), “Sometimes you have to think beyond your lifetime”. Some Canadians are getting this message. Many, sadly, are not. It’s ironic that many of the same people who get agitated about leaving government debt for their grandchildren to deal with seem to have no such qualms about leaving their grandchildren to deal with the consequences of their (our) environmental irresponsibility.

I would recommend this book to all Canadians who want to earn more about our country’s history and geography. I would also recommend it to newcomers to this country. If you want to find out about the soul of Canada, this is a good place to start.

The Diggers’ Song

This is a wonderful version of the 17th Century ballad ‘The Diggers’ Song’, recorded in 1988 by Chumbawamba on their album, ‘English Rebel Songs 1381-1914‘, and re-recorded by them in 2003 for their expanded CD ‘English Rebel Songs 1381-1984‘. It is often confused with a song called ‘The World Turned Upside Down’, composed by Leon Rosselson and recorded in 1986 by Billy Bragg, but they are in fact quite separate songs.

Here are the lyrics to the original song that Chumbawamba were working from:

The Diggers Song
[Probably by Gerard Winstanley, 1640’s]

You noble Diggers all, stand up now, stand up now,
You noble Diggers all, stand up now,
The wast land to maintain, seeing Cavaliers by name
Your digging does maintain, and persons all defame
Stand up now, stand up now.

Your houses they pull down, stand up now, stand up now,
Your houses they pull down, stand up now,
Your houses they pull down to fright your men in town,
But the gentry must come down, and the poor shall wear the crown.
Stand up now, Diggers all.

With spades and hoes and plowes, stand up now, stand up now,
With spades and hoes and plowes stand up now,
Your freedom to uphold, seeing Cavaliers are bold
To kill you if they could, and rights from you to hold.
Stand up now, Diggers all.

Theire self-will is theire law, stand up now, stand up now,
Theire self-will is theire law, stand up now,
Since tyranny came in they count it now no sin
To make a gaole a gin, to sterve poor men therein.
Stand up now, Diggers all.

The gentrye are all round, stand up now, stand up now
The gentrye are all round, stand up now
The gentrye are all round, on each side they are found,
Theire wisdom’s so profound, to cheat us of our ground.
Stand up now, stand up now.

The lawyers they conjoyne, stand up now, stand up now,
The lawyers they conjoyne, stand up now,
To arrest you they advise, such fury they devise
The devil in them lies, and hath blinded both their eyes.
Stand up now, stand up now.

The clergy they come in, stand up now, stand up now,
The clergy they come in, stand up now,
The clergy they come in, and say it is a sin
That we should now begin, our freedom for to win.
Stand up now, Diggers all.

The tithe they yet will have, stand up now, stand up now,
The tithes they yet will have, stand up now,
The tithes they yet will have, and their lawyers their fees crave,
And this they say is brave, to make the poor their slave.
Stand up now, Diggers all.

‘Gainst lawyers and gainst Priests, stand up now, stand up now,
‘Gainst lawyers and gainst Priests, stand up now,
For tyrants they are both even flatt against their oath,
To grant us they are loath free meat and drink and cloth.
Stand up now, Diggers all.

The club is all their law, stand up now, stand up now,
The club is all their law, stand up now,
The club is all their law to keep men in awe,
But they no vision saw to maintain such a law.
Stand up now, Diggers all.

The Cavaleers are foes, stand up now, stand up now,
The Cavaleers are foes, stand up now,
The Cavaleers are foes, themselves they do disclose
By verses not in prose to please the singing boyes.
Stand up now, Diggers all.

To conquer them by love, come in now, come in now,
To conquer them by love, come in now,
To conquer them by love, as itt does you behove,
For hee is King above, noe power is like to love,
Glory heere, Diggers all.

(Source: ‘A Ballad History of England’, by Roy Palmer)

(More about Gerard Winstanley and the Diggers at Wikipedia here)

‘To find the hand of Franklin reaching for the Beaufort Sea’

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says one of Canada’s greatest mysteries now has been solved, with the discovery of one of the lost ships from Sir John Franklin’s doomed Arctic expedition.

“This is truly a historic moment for Canada,” Harper said. 

At this point, the searchers aren’t sure if they’ve found HMS Erebus or HMS Terror. But sonar images from the waters of Victoria Strait, just off King William Island, clearly show wreckage of a ship on the ocean floor.

Franklin Ship found

A sea floor scan reveals one of the missing ships from the Franklin Expedition in an image released in Ottawa Tuesday. (Parks Canada/Canadian Press)

The wreckage was found on Sept. 7 using a remotely operated underwater vehicle recently acquired by Parks Canada. When Harper revealed the team’s success at Parks Canada’s laboratories in Ottawa Tuesday, the room burst into applause. 

Read the rest here.

‘Ah for just one time I would take the northwest passage,
to find the hand of Franklin reaching for the Beaufort Sea,
tracing one warm line through a land so wide and savage,
and make a northwest passage to the sea’.

 – Stan Rogers

The Joy of Teaching Primary Sources

Excellent piece by Ben Myers:

For me, the most rewarding part of teaching is introducing my students to primary sources. Each of my classes involves a lecture period plus an hour of small-group tutorials in which the class works its way through a book that I have chosen. In the books that have come down to us from the past, we have access to Christian minds far more energetic and more accommodating than our own. It is a joy to find yourself in the presence of a mind that you cannot fully comprehend. This has always been one of the chief reasons for studying the humanities at all: to learn that the human spirit is larger and more interesting than one’s own poor spirit, or (this is the political benefit of studying the humanities) than the spirit of the age.

To read books from the past is also to encounter minds with their own prejudices, parochialisms, and blind spots. But students soon discover that they are able to discern these limitations and to address them. Such scholarly discernment is much more difficult (i.e. usually impossible) if one is reading contemporary authors, since in this case the blind spots of the reader and those of the author tend to be identical. (For more on this, see C. S. Lewis’ brilliantly perceptive introduction to Athanasius.) If students are given a book by Moltmann, they will simply absorb it; if they are given Augustine’s Confessions, they will be forced to argue with it. I have seen students walk away from my first-year theology class either infatuated with Augustine or infuriated with him; in both cases I am delighted to see that real learning had occurred. But when students read only contemporary authors – even if they are very good authors – something quite dangerous and enfeebling happens. The students come away feeling neither infatuated nor infuriated but only affirmed. Their own prejudices and parochialisms have been reinforced. Their blind spots have become even blinder.

Read the rest here.

A few years ago I read Augustine’s Confessions for the first time, and experienced exactly what Ben Myers talks about here. Previously I knew Augustine only second-hand, from other people’s summaries of his thought, and my Anabaptist reading had coloured my thinking about him. I saw Augustine as the first apologist for Christendom (fail!), one of the earliest defenders of a Christian just war position (fail!), the one who taught the rather strange view that babies are guilty of the sin of their forebears (and hence need to be baptized to wash away the stain of the original sin) (fail!). But I had not realized what a brilliant thinker Augustine actually was, or the depth of his spiritual insights into the human condition.

Reading the Confessions forced me to grapple with Augustine himself, not other people’s ideas about him, and I am grateful. I’ve had this experience with other old authors too – and not just Christians. Boethius’ The Consolations of Philosophy, Thomas a Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ, Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad, Virgil’s Aeneid, Dante’s Inferno, Plato’s The Last Days of Socrates, John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, St. John Chrysostom’s On Wealth and Povertyand the writings of the Apostolic Fathers.

Reading Myer’s piece has reminded me of the importance of this sort of reading. I have a few other books on my shelves that I want to read or re-read: Athanasius’ On the Incarnation of the Son of God, Thomas Cranmer’s A Defence of the True and Catholick Doctrine of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of our Saviour Jesus Christ, Bernard of Clairvaux’s On the Love of God, Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of Divine Love, John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion (the shorter 1541 version, not the voluminous 1559 version, which I’ve tried and failed to finish!), St. Francis de Sales Introduction to the Devout Life, William Wilberforce’s Practical View, The Writings of Pilgram Marpeck, and Peter Riedemann’s Confession of Faith.

Which old authors have you read that have challenged and enriched your thinking?

The Inconvenient Indian

51OX2YxnugLI don’t known enough about the history to be able to say whether Thomas King’s book ‘The Inconvenient Indian: a Curious Account of Native People in North America‘ is strictly accurate. He certainly makes no claim to be strictly unbiased; he is a First Nations person (or, as he is happy to say, an ‘Indian’), and he is telling the story from that viewpoint.

I can report, however, that it is witty, provocative, challenging, and at times deeply discouraging. It is also a very worthwhile read.

Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

The Inconvenient Indian is at once a “history” and the complete subversion of a history—in short, a critical and personal meditation that the remarkable Thomas King has conducted over the past 50 years about what it means to be “Indian” in North America. 
 
Rich with dark and light, pain and magic, this book distills the insights gleaned from that meditation, weaving the curiously circular tale of the relationship between non-Natives and Natives in the centuries since the two first encountered each other. In the process, King refashions old stories about historical events and figures, takes a sideways look at film and pop culture, relates his own complex experiences with activism, and articulates a deep and revolutionary understanding of the cumulative effects of ever-shifting laws and treaties on Native peoples and lands. 
 
This is a book both timeless and timely, burnished with anger but tempered by wit, and ultimately a hard-won offering of hope — a sometimes inconvenient, but nonetheless indispensable account for all of us, Indian and non-Indian alike, seeking to understand how we might tell a new story for the future.

I highly recommend it And while we’re talking about Thomas King, don’t forget that you can currently listen to the first season of his CBC ‘Dead Dog Café Comedy Hour‘ radio show on YouTube. Do!