The English Religious Tradition and the Genius of Anglicanism 9781606082096

In this book twelve distinguished scholars explore the character of the English Church through the remarkable individual

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The English Religious Tradition and the Genius of Anglicanism

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Chaplain of Keble College, Oxford




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Copyright 0 Keble College, Oxford 1992 First published in Great Britain by IKON Productions Ltd Manor Fann House Manor Road WANTAGEOX128NE All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or tnnsmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright holder. ISBN: 1 871805 01 5 hardback ISBN: 1 871805 02 3 paperback Typeset by Oxuniprint, Oxford University Press Printed and bound in Great Britain by Buder and Tanner Ltd, Frome

CONTENTS Foreword by the Archbishop of Canterbury






The Venerable Bede and the 'Church of the English'


Anselm and the English Religious Tradition


Lady Julian of Norwich and her Audience: 'Mine Even-Christian'



John Wyclif



Thomas Cranmer



Richard Hooker



George Herbert's The Temple: the Genius ofAnglicanism and the Inspiration for Poetry



Lancelot Andrewes



John and Charles Wesley: A Tale ofTwo Brothers


Church and University in tI1e Life ofJohn Keble



William Temple



The Genius of Anglicanism



John Keble (1792-1866): A bi-centenary Sermon


A Sermon given in Commemoration ofthe Founders and Benefactors of Keble College







ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The quotations from T. S. Eliot, For Lmalot Andrewes: Essays on Style and Ordn (London, 1928) are reproduced in thls volume with kind permission of the publishers, Faber and Faber Ltd.


IN THE SPRING of 1992, a series oflectures was held in the Chapel of Keble College, Oxford, to celebrate the bi-centenary of the birth of John Keble, poet, priest and pastor. This book is a record of those lectures. Twelve distinguished scholars present the English religious tradition as it has come down to us through the centuries from pre-Refonnation times, and the genius of Anglicanism as reflected in the lives of those writers and teachers who served and helped to shape it. In its character and wisdom, the English religious tradition displays an underlying consistency. As an expression of the continuity inherent in English spiritual life, it is an appropriate tribute to John Keble, since his ministry was distinctively Anglican in its loyalty to the English Church and its traditions. This set oflectures directs us to the foundations of that loyalty. As the Visitor of Keble College, I am glad that they were first presented in the College dedicated to his memory, and I am delighted that, through this publication, they are now available to a wider audience.




ON 27 SEPTEMBER 1836,John Keble preached a notable sennon in Winchester Cathedral on 'Primitive Tradition'. Less well known than his Assize Sermon of 14 July 1833 on 'National Apostasy', it is an exposition ofone of the major theological themes ofthe Oxford Movement. The constitutional changes of the late 1820s and early 1830s raised important questions ofidentity for the Church ofEngland. When Newman asked in the flI'St of the Tracts for the Times, 'On what ground do you stand, 0 presbyter of the Church·of England?', he answered with reference to the sacramental continuity of the historic ministry of the Church expressed by the doctrine of apostolic succession. No less a concern was the living continuity offaith and practice represented by the theme ofapostolic tradition. Against rationalist re-interpretation, and the private judgement of an individualist Evangelicalism, Keble, Newman, Pusey and the other leaders of the Oxford Movement re-asserted the corporate nature of Christian faith, the normative character of the creeds which embodied the faith of the early Church, and the devotional and sacramental pattern which was an essential element in creating and maintaining Christian identity and continuity. They emphasized that the Christian faith was at one and the same time a revelation and a mystery - a revelation to be received and a mystery to be lived out. The notes of awe, wonder, reverence and reserve, were essential characteristics of Christian believing. As Newman put it, 'Christians receive the gospel literally on their knees, and in a temper altogether different from that critical and argumentative (9)


spirit which sitting and listening engender'.1 For Keble 'in the substance of faith there is no such thing as improvement, discovery, evolution of new truths; none of those processes, which are the pride of human reason and knowledge'. Theology, he believed, was not 'like any human science', a subject in which every succeeding age might be expected to advance on the former'.2 He protested against 'the nominalism' of the day, 'the habit of resolving the high mysteries offaith into mere circumstances oflanguages, methods of speaking adapted to our weak understanding, but with no real counterpart in the nature ofthings'.3 The words and doctrines of the Christian tradition were, as Coleridge might have put it, 'the living educts of the Christian imagination'. As such they were to be received reverently. They were matter for prayer before they were matter for investigation. Part of the concerns of Newman and Keble were framed by their knowledge of the Fathers, and their endeavour to guard and express the apostolic faith that had been handed on to them. For Keble in particular this patristic inheritance came through the more immediate tradition of Richard Hooker and the seventeenth-century Anglican divines, men such as Lancelot Andrewes, Henry Hammond, and Herbert Thorndike. It was his family tradition, and one which he believed embodied the genius of Anglicanism, though the phrase would have been alien to him. It was characteristic of the Oxford Movement that it was a 'revolution by tradition'. When Newman dedicated the Lectures on the Prophetical Office ofthe Church to the venerable President of Magdalen, Martin Routh, it was with the epigraph that he had 'been reserved to report to a forgetful generation what was the theology of their fathers'. Anglican identity was to be discovered by a return to roots. It was such characteristic emphases in the thought of John Keble and the other leaders of the Oxford Movement which made it appropriate to plan a series oflectures on 'The English Religious Tradition and the Genius of Anglicanism' to mark the bi-centenary of the birth ofjohn Keble. Eleven scholars were invited to speak on significant figures in the history of the Church in England; a twelfth, Stephen Sykes, the Bishop of Ely, who has written much on the identity of Anglicanism and on some ofthe contemporary issues facing the Anglican Communion, was invited to reflect on the 'genius of Anglicanism' in the final lecture. The lecture series drew a large audience to Keble College Chapel over a term and a half, and it is good that lectures of such high quality now have a permanent form.



The first four lectures were devoted to the pre-Reformation church and one of the interesting features of these lectures is that it has been possible to identify in these early figures characteristics of the Anglican ethos. With only twelve lectures the choice ofsignificant figures across the centuries was not always easy, but since a selection had to be made the choice was, it is hoped, both judicious, and appropriate to the one whose bi-centenary of birth it was. Keble himself was a poet, and it is notable that so many of those studied in these lectures were significant not only for their religious insight but also for their stature as writers. In addition to the twelve lectures thi~ collection includes two sermons preached at Fairford and at Keble College Chapel during the anniversary weekend. In their different ways they try to draw out something ofKeble's continuing importance for Christians. He himself wrote the lines inscribed on the memorial tablet in Fairford Church - 'so glorious let thy pastors shine, that by their speaking lives the world may learn'. His was indeed a speaking life. Like Teresa ofAvila, Keble knew that humility is endless. The 'condition of complete simplicity' costs 'not less than everything'. 'Purity of heart' is indeed, as Kierkegaard reminded us, 'to will one thing'. Bless'd arc the pure in heart, For they shall sec our God, The secret of the Lord is theirs, Their soul is Christ's abode.




T. Cornall, ed., ~ Ltttm and Diana ofjohn Hmry Ntwman V, (Oxford, t 981 }, p. 46. (Newman to Sir James Stephen, t 6 March 1835. J. Keble, 'Primitive Tradition' in E. R. Fairweather, ed., The Oxford Movemmt (Oxford and New Yorlc, 1964), p. 86. l'b'd l .



The Venerable Bede and the 'Church of the English'

IT IS APPROPRIATE that Bede should have a place in a book on 'The English Religious Tradition and the Genius of Anglicanism'. 1 But I do not intend to argue that Bede was a prototype of Anglican churchmanship. I shall begin by trying to show that the part he has undeniably played in the historical image of insular protest against Rome is ironic and by him entirely unintended. I will go on to argue that, in founding the history of the Church of the English, indeed of the English themselves, he did make a central (if again unintended) contribution to the eventual emergence of a Church ofEngland. Those who created the Church ofEngland were very far from unaware of the inspiration they could draw from Be~. · The Church ofEngland was not the only one to seek its charter in the earlier history ofits nation's Christianity. From the days of George Buchanan, supplying initial historical propaganda for the makers of the Scottish kirk, until a startlingly recent date, there was warrant for an anti-Roman, anti-episcopal and, in the nineteenth century, anti-Establishment stance in the Columban or 'Celtic' Church. Here is the peroration of a respectably learned book reprinted in 1957: 'When the Columban Church itselfpassed away, (independence) was the legacy that the Church of Columba bequeathed to the Church which was to be built at the Reformation upon the ruins of the Church of Rome, and which has been completed in the Church ofScotland - the most independent national Church in Christendom' .2 The idea that there was a 'Celtic Church' (13]


in something of a post-Reformation sense is still maddeningly ineradicable from the minds ofstudents. One of the misconceptions involved is that there was a 'Roman Church' to which the 'Celtic' was notionally opposed. The pre-Gregorian Latin Church exhibits a rich variety ofliturgies, and even organizational principles, as well as Easters. And the Irish variety, as we shall see, was marked as much by devotion to the Pettine cult as by peculiarities absorbed from its exceptionally resilient secular traditions. 3 But what I wish to highlight is the extent to which the whole fallacy was affected by what Bede wrote. I begin with a model of judicious and unemotional scholarship by the greatest (for historians at least) of Keble alumni. Sir Frank Stenton saw in the work ofAidan and his followers, 'all the characteristics of a Celtic missionary enterprise': The original community at Lindisfarne lived in gaunt austerity.... Aidan himself was an ascetic evangelist ... influencing men of all ranks by his humility and devotion. . . . He and his companions were monks, and the monastic note runs all through their work. . . . In their general conception of the religious calling, and especially in their tendency towards asceticism, the monastic communities founded by Aidan differed widely from those of the Roman pattern. But his own moderation was remembered. . . . On many points of ecclesiastical order, the Irish Church ... differed from the prevailing custom of the West. ... In organization, it was monastic rather than territorial . . . authority rested with the abbot of the chief monastery in each tribe.... Above all, in its method of calculating Easter, the Irish Church was governed by principles which differed fundamentally from those accepted at Rome or in the English churches founded under Roman influence.

I quote this passage at length, because it encapsulates almost all the features that historians have thought characteristic of the 'Celtic Church'; and even if this careful scholar tends to speak of 'Irish' rather than 'Celtic', he went on to make St Cuthberht the representative of the 'Celtic strains in the English Church'. 4 Relatively few of the features attributed to Celtic Christianity by Stenton would come through the searching (not to say excoriating) tests of Irish historical scholarship today. But for present purposes it is more instructive to consider the views on the Irish and the Frankish Church proposed by a continental scholar who was fully Stenton's peer. Wilhelm Levison did not find Easter a critical issue, (14)


and he was among the first to show that the Irish were prominent in the spread of the cult of St Peter on the Continent.5 He was not much impressed by the idea of the Irish as missionaries: evangelical efforts receive some attention, but are not seen as a primary motive of Irish activities. Above all, there is no suggestion that early Irish Christians were moderates. Levison's word for St Columbanus, the Irish founder of Luxeuil and Bobbio, and the inspiration behind a 'new wave' of Frankish monasticism, is 'kampfesroh'. Levison took the lineaments ofhis picture from the rich hagiographical literature of the Columbanian monastic circle in seventh-century Gaul and Italy, especially the superb biography ofthe saint byJonas.Jonas says nothing about Easter, comparatively little about evangelization, and a great deal about his hero's spectacular confrontations with the Frankish Establishment. Not everyone tould expect to march out of the royal court after announcing that a Merovingian of illegitimate birth was debarred from the throne, nor to be accompanied as he did so by a clap of thunder. 6 It is possible that Colwnba and Columbanus were men of different mettle. Jonas may simply be a less reliable witness than Stenton's main source, who is ofcourse Bede. Yet, as James Campbell has observed, we can find more than a hint of a Columbanian approach between the lines of Bede's account of the Lindisfarne Church, as well as in the masterly Life of Columba by Adomnan that is the insular counterpart to Jonas. 7 Aidan, like Columbanus, repudiated a handsome royal gift, even ifhe is not said to have remarked that 'the Most High is displeased with the offerings of the wicked'.8 Cedd, Aidan's disciple, consigned a king to the vengeance of the incestuous kindred with whom he was consorting, in a gesture reminiscent of both Columba and Colwnbanus. (Plummer noted that 'the frequency with which Irish saints distribute curses ... is indeed remarkable in persons with a reputation for holiness'.}9 Like Jonas, Adomnan says nothing about Easter; and ifone suspects that recent embarrassments played a part in both silences, one can add that Columbanian devotion to St Peter has a close equivalent in Adomnan 's use, among hagiographical models quoted to shed lustre on his hero, of the Aaus Sylvestri, forerunner and, in part, source of the notorious papalist forgery, The Donation of Constantine.10 So it may be that it is Bede and historians in these islands who follow him that are the odd ones out. We return, then, to the features extracted by Stenton from Bede. It is Bede whose description of the 'unusual' constitution of Iona and its parochia led almost all historians until recently to see abbatial rule rather than episcopacy as characteristic of the 'Celtic (15)


Church'. 'Unusual' would in fact have been the mot juste for Iona when compared to other early Irish Churches, and those of Wales too.1 1 It is Bede, not Adomnan, who makes Columba 'convert the Picts to Christ by his words and example'. Even if there was an element of wishful Pictish thinking here, as my ex-colleague Professor Duncan forcibly argues, Bede's words are very characteristically his own. 12 That the Lindisfame Church was responsible for a prolonged and fruitful English mission under royal auspices is not open to doubt. But we may begin to wonder whether such activity was as typical of the Irish Church as Bede certainly implies, when we turn to the use he made ofan extant Merovingiart Life ofSt Fursa. All the Life says of evangelization in East Anglia is that Fursa 'softened the king's barbarous heart'. But for Bede, he 'followed his usual task of preaching the Gospel, and converted many unbelievers by the example of his virtue and the encouragement of his preaching' .13 Above all, it is surely Bede's four immortal portraits of the lifestyle of 'Celtic' churchmen, Aidan himself, the Lindisfame community on the eve of its departure, Chad, and Cuthberht, which underlie our impression of a 'gaunt austerity' that would not perhaps have been the first impression of a seventh-century visitor to Armagh; which sound the 'monastic note' so strongly; and which leave a lasting aftertaste of 'humility' and (most precious of virtues) 'moderation' .14 In short, Bede has done more than anyone, more even than Adomnan and picturesque scenes of beehive huts, to make these 'Celtic' saints lovable. Now, as Alan Thacker has convincingly shown, there is very little doubt about the palette on which Bede's unforgettable colours were mixed. At the very end of his life, he told Bishop Ecgberht that he should be reading Pope Gregory's &ok ofPastoral Rule. In setting up the Lindisfame community as a contrast to the 'sloth of our rime', it very much looks as though he had Gregorian virtues in mind. 15 He gives as his explicit reason for commending the monastic way of life on Lindisfarne that it corresponded to what Gregory enjoined on Augustine at Canterbury (as, on the whole, it did not). 16 Not just the necessity ofpreaching but the technique ofconversion by example are absolutely central Gregorian themes, as was the humility that a bishop must cultivate - though never to excess - in his dire need to avoid the danger of pride. And if there was a primer of moderation in the vast range of patristic literature, it was the Pastoral Rule; though Gregory's and Bede's preferred term was 'discretion' . It may be that Aidan did, in a well-known Bedan tableau, rebuke a failed predecessor for ' unreasonable harshness', and recommend a 'little-by-little' approach. If so, he contrived to [16)


use remarkably Gregorian words when scarcely likely to have read the book. 17 Mr Campbell has taught us that Bede wrote history to preach the examples of the past to his contemporaries.18 The lessons he sought to teach were those of orthodox churchmanship. It was in so far as they encapsulated these lessons, or seemed to, that he praised the Irish in Northumbria. So it is that, by not the least of the ironies of historiography, prototypes of Protestantism have been found in a model whose main lines were drawn by a pope. If that seems too much to believe, there is one aspect of'Celtic Church' history for which Bede's responsibility is undeniable. The Scottish Divinity Faculty where, till not long ago, the Church History course ran from Acts to 664 before resuming in 1560, may have been an isolated case. But that the Synod of Whitby had a nighcosmic significance in the relations of the Church of Rome with those of the British Isles and beyond is a conviction that still seems unshakable. Most scholars today accept that the decision related to Easter and the tonsure only, not to allegedly more fundamental underlying issues of organization and discipline. Many are aware that it concerned only the part of the English Church answerable to Lindisfune. Most of these know that this wasjust one chapter in the long-running saga of paschal disputes within the Irish Churches, themselves merely one set of episodes among several that were more or less comparable in the Latin Churches at large. 19 None of these provisos seems sufficient to persuade scholars to give Whitby rather less prominence than Archbishop Theodore's Synod of Hertford in 672, which did discuss Easter, but which also covered a series of crucial disciplinary matters, and involved the whole English Church (of which it might well be seen as the founding charter). The reason is clear. Bede's unrivalled artistry made Whitby a central dramatic episode, perhaps the climactic episode, in his story; whereas, though in no doubt ofHertford's importance, he reported simply its decisions rather than the whole course of an impassioned debate. 20 A world grown used to confrontations with St Peter, and their not infrequently tragic outcomes, will never forget that of Columba, nor how the power of the keys swung the decision against him. But we should not forget that Bede's account of the Easter controversy has no counterpart in scale or drama throughout the literature of Christianity: not even in Eusebius, who was in so many respects Bede's model; not in Gregory ofTours, otherwise his nearest equivalent; not in Eddius' Life of Wilfrid, a Whitby protagonist, where it takes up one not especially lengthy chapter; not in Adomnan orJonas, if perhaps, as I say, for rather special reasons; not in the (17)


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Irish Church as a whole, where Cummian's polemic devoted solely to this issue is not much longer than the account of the Synod of Whitby that is fu from Bede's only discussion of the matter in a book concerned with the Church in general. 21 There are perhaps three reasons why Bede was so preoccupied with Easter as to leave the impression of a Church fighting for its 'independence'. First, Easter was Bede's obsession. He was after all the author of the alltime definitive treatment of the subject, and was not the last scholar to let his speciality dominate his perspective. Second, he wrote from a distinctly Canterbury angle. To judge from one pref.ace to the Historia Ecclesiastica, he owed Canterbury's Abbot Albinus not only much ofhis information but also the very idea ofwriting the book. 22 The unity of the English Church was a matter of the most passionate concern to him, and it was in this one respect that the Irish example was bad. Third, this was only one aspect of Bede's commitment to unity in the whole Church. Paul Meyvaert has strikingly observed that Gregory the Great might well not have shared Bede's paschal obsession, certainly not his beliefin a uniform tonsure: 'A Gregory the Great must never be confused with a Gregory VII, and on the issues at stake Bede's mind was probably closer to the latter than to the former'. 23 Bede in some ways anticipates that sense of the need for uniformity which is already a Carolingian principle two and a half centuries before Hildebrand. So another irony is that someone who said so much of disunity precisely because he so detested it should unwittingly have immortalized the image ofa Church in defiance of Rome. Bede cannot then be the apostle of a Church for whom it still remains axiomatic that the truest wisdom resides (to quote words that Bede ascribes to Wilfrid) 'in the two remotest islands of the Ocean'.24 But that is fu from all there is to say on the matter. To have agreed to speak for Bede in this series would hardly do, had I not thought that he did indeed play an indispensable part in the ultimate emergence of a 'Church of England'. I shall now go on to argue that he, more than anyone else, inspired the idea of the English as o~e people, c;_.~ed_i.nto existe~~e-~y .~?