BOOK REVIEWS: DECEMBER 1997

SALISBURY, Pilgrim Guide, Hugh Dickinson, Canterbury Press, Norwich 1997, 56pp, pbk, ISBN 1-85311-180-5, £3.99

WINCHESTER, Pilgrim Guide, Michael Till, Canterbury Press, Norwich 1997, 58pp, pbk, ISBN 1-85311-181-3, £3.99

SAINT BENEDICT'S RULE, trans. Patrick Barry OSB, Ampleforth Abbey Press, York 1997, (distributed by Gracewing Fowler Wright, Leominster), 103pp, hbk, ISBN 0-85244-435-4, £10

ON THE first day of Christmas, to adapt the Christmas song, why not send your true-love The Hallowing of Time? She will be pleased to receive it, especially if she is a lay person who wants 'daily worship outside the office', as devised by Dr Carol Wilkinson, a lay liturgist on the Blackburn liturgical committee, especially for lay people. The Lent-Holy Week-Easter volume is due out in February and there will be a third volume later. This seems to me to be a very worthwhile project. The publishers, Hodder and Stoughton, present the material attractively, though with Hodder comes the New International Version which means, for Catholics, an incomplete bible. There are plenty of compensations for the bible version, not least a very catholic range of extra-biblical readings and prayers.

Stars of Wonder, Five Christmas Plays by Brian Mountford, is for your true-love's children. They are for a range of ages and have been performed by the Sunday School of the University Church in Oxford. A competent pianist and some off-stage musical effects are recommended and your true-love might put them on one side, in the planning file for next Christmas, to allow plenty of rehearsal time for these excellent little plays. The publication is a credit to Tufton Books, the Church Union's new publishing label, not least because it has demonstrated a willingness to publish material which comes from outside the Catholic movement.

Hugh Wybrew's Orthodox Feasts of Christ and Mary is more my kind of thing, and I shouldn't mind receiving it from my true-love. A companion volume to his 1995 Orthodox Lent, Holy Week and Easter, this too has liturgical texts and commentary. Whether for public services or for personal prayer this collection will be an enrichment. Orthodox devotional material manages somehow not only to be much less prosaic than Western material but much more able to approach images boldly. Anglicans would never put up with anthropomorphisms like:

Jordan is parted and holds back its own waters' flow; for it sees the Lord washing himself.

Yet in what is admittedly not the most mellifluous of English sentences we have allusions to the Red Sea, the conquest of Canaan and the Lord as baptiser and baptised.

For the fourth day of Christmas I have in mind Companions of the Soul, compiled by R R Hudson and S Townsend-Hudson. Your true-love might find it helpful, especially as she is making her New Year's Resolutions. Choosing 366 readings is not without its problems; what about moveable feasts, for example? The Hudsons' method is to choose material which particularly suits the date. On April 1 1548 'the parliament of England' ordered the printing of the Book of Common Prayer: thus the reading for 1 April is Cranmer's version of the Benedicite. On April 2 1933 Fulton J Sheen's Seven Last Words received its imprimatur, so we get an extract from Sheen's meditation on 'Father forgive them' on 2 April. It is sometimes very American - Zondervan of Grand Rapids, Michigan are the original publisher - and 25 March celebrates the conversion of a baseball player on that date in 1890. Nonetheless the anthology is wide-ranging and thoughtful and the reading for the day will be almost always helpful.

Five gold rings: To Believe is to Pray, a collection of 52 readings from Michael Ramsey, is arranged under a series of headings such as "What makes us Anglicans", "Suffering and Transfiguration", "The Mystical Body of Christ". The editor, James Griffiss, has taken certain liberties to suit his mainly North American readership: he has not always indicated the cuts he has made and he has usually converted Ramsey's references to 'he' and 'man' into inclusive language. The readings need no commendation from me.

Moving from the true love's need for spiritual reading to she what should do about praying in pastoral situations, I should recommend as a gift David Scott's Moments of Prayer. This present is not wild geese a-laying: this is not the latest Celtic lunacy but a sensitive look at some of the help that the bible, the saints and the spiritual writers give us. Living the Jesus Prayer, by Irma Zaleski, is part testimony, part history and part instruction and would be a good little present for the seventh day.

The Best of my Belief is a different kind of book on prayer. James Whitbourn, producer of Radio 4's 'Prayer for the Day' on Saturday, chooses 53 of the contributions 'public people' - not necessarily 'famous people' - have made to the programme. By 'prayer' he suggested to them 'any text which inspires a particular communion with or connection to God'. The result is a series of meditations, each followed by a prayer, a verse, or a passage of scripture.

For the ninth present, what about The Psalms in Haiku Form? Fr Richard Gwyn, who became a Cistercian monk at Caldey Abbey twenty years ago, after a long teaching career at home and abroad as a Brother of the Christian Schools, has translated the psalms into the three-line verses of seventeen syllables that make up the Haiku form. How about this?:

Loans to the wicked
bring ruin on the lender;
the just give freely.
(Ps 37)

or, more tenderly:

God, You are my God;
my heart eagerly seeks You,
my soul thirsts for you.

For the tenth and eleventh days of Christmas, I recommend two of the Canterbury Press pilgrim guides. Hugh Dickinson's Salisbury, and Michael Till's Winchester. These are very much the bagatelles which busy cathedral deans can manage to produce but, given that at this stage of the twelve days we are into the new year, what better than a couple of travel brochures that can become tools of pilgrimage for your true-love and you as the days lengthen? The guides to Canterbury, Durham and York, amongst other places, have already been done.

Better than any pilgrim guide is a complete rule of life. Such, pre-eminently, is the Rule of St Benedict. Saint Benedict's Rule, in a modern translation by Patrick Barry OSB, is a beautiful product from the Ampleforth Abbey Press. Eschewing the commercial tricks of the other publishers, the Press asks us for £10 and does not give us a penny change. Do I hear twelve drummers drumming? A merry Christmas to you and to your true love!

Andrew Burnham is Vice-Principal of St Stephen's House, Oxford.

BASIL IN BLUNDERLAND, Cardinal Basil Hume, D.L.T., 1997, 80 pp, ISBN 0-232-52242-1

THIS IS a dangerous book! It reaches those parts that most other books on the spiritual life never get near. Yet, on the face of it, Basil in Blunderland neither looks nor reads like a spiritual health hazard. Its very appearance is innocuous: the cover makes it look like a children's book; the beautiful illustrations and print-style remind me of the stories I read to our five year-oId at bedtime; there are no difficult words; it is very short. The very title itself (derived from Alice in Wonderland) is a self-deprecating reference to the author's own stumbling struggle for spiritual life in God's world. However, it is such a powerful and subversive book that even a chapter a day could be too much to take in if read properly and prayerfully.

With characteristic simplicity and humility, The Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster leads us in a series of meditations on familiar themes: prayer. sacraments, sickness, death. All of this takes place in the context of a game of hide and seek which he plays with two young relatives. Each chapter contains much sensible, sane and easy-on-the-mind reflection on God and life; then, suddenly. something - a word, a phrase an image - will stop you in your tracks and remain with you for days. Consequently, this is a book to be read slowly and carefully. and not to be rushed. Appropriately, the book ends with Pascal's words: "Be consoled, you could not be seeking me if you had not found me already." On reflection, I think that I was right in my initial impression: this is a book for children.

Tony Roake is Vicar of St Andrew's, Bennett Road, Bournemouth.

A HISTORY OF CHRISTIANITY, Owen Chadwick, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, hbk, 304 pp. ISBN 0-297-81577-6. £25.

THE END OF CHRISTENDOM AND THE FUTURE OF CHRISTIANITY, Douglas John Hall, Gracewing, pbk, 69 pp. ISBN 1-56338-189-3. £7.99

THE MISSION OF THEOLOGY AND THE THEOLOGY OF MISSION, J Andrew Kirk, Gracewing, pbk, 71 pp. ISBN 1-56338-193-1. £7.99

THE LAST two years have seen the publication of at least three one-volume histories of Christianity in English. Owen Chadwick's lavishly illustrated book appeared first but it was quickly followed by works by V H H Green and David Edwards. Edwards tries to commend his own account by pointing out that he provides more lines of text that Chadwick but he forgets that paintings and prints can shed important light on what happened in the past, especially in periods when literacy was confined to small sections of society. So Chadwick is able to show how the existence of great works of art sometimes restrained Protestantism and influenced theological developments. Fra Angelico's "Annunciation" kept alive a picture of Mary's humility and Leonardo's portrayal of the Last Supper helped shape Protestant devotion to the sacrament.

Chadwick has in fact produced a superb account of Christian history. Like all good broad historical surveys it is enlivened with little-known facts and yet also capable of shedding new light on important trends and events. How many people are aware that as late as 1993 some undertakers in Israel still circumcised Russian immigrants before burial? Or who would guess that bishops tried to settle a doctrinal point by duelling in 1077 and that the Pope condemned bull fighting in Spain as early as 1567?

Running right through Chadwick's narrative is the realisation that Christianity has always been a missionary religion, forever adapting to new cultures and world views. He sees the importance of a process that has come to be known as "inculturation" while being alive to the dangers of syncretism. The fascinating story of how Catholicism first spread to Latin America and Asia receives as much attention as the Reformation.

In his account of the modern period, I was particularly struck by Chadwick's observation that one reason why revolutionaries in countries like France and Spain attacked the church was because they realised the importance, in a desperate struggle, of passing the point of no return by doing something shocking and unforgettable. In an equally penetrating passage, he draws our attention to the difficulty priests had in comforting wounded French soldiers in Napoleon's army when he invaded Russia in 1812. Here, he suggests, we have a sign of the dawn of a new secular outlook in Europe.

A surprising omission in Chadwick's narrative is any reference to the Book of Common Prayer (apart from a reproduction of the title page of an edition for Mohawk Indians). Quite rightly there is a section on Pilgrim's Progress and reference to the Authorised Version but it would have been good to see a recognition of the importance of the Prayer Book in shaping Christian devotion throughout the English-speaking world. Cranmer appears only in the chronology at the end of the volume.

Chadwick ends his story on an upbeat note. He is right to be optimistic about the future but fails to comprehend the extent of the changes that are surely in store for the church in the west. Douglas John Hall, on the other hand, knows that after a long reign of 1600 years Christendom is well and truly finished; the days of legal and cultural establishment are over. This is a painful message for the Church of England to accept.

Hall focuses chiefly on North America but much of what he has to say applies to Britain as well. In broad terms, he accepts the post-liberal call for disengagement from secular culture but argues that this needs to be followed by a subsequent re-engagement with contemporary hopes and questions. The church must be in the world but not of it.

J Andrew Kirk, who has previously written on liberation theology and is currently Head of the Department of Mission at the Selly Oak Colleges, sets out to show the importance of mission for the proper study of theology. He makes many good points but tries to pack too much into too short a space. I particularly like what he has to say about the limitations of pluralism and the danger in allowing people to think they can believe whatever they feel like. Thorough-going pluralism is bound to lead to a theological and intellectual provincialism in which no one acknowledges the need to learn from anyone else. Kirk also realises that theological views from the Two Thirds World are going to be of increasing importance in the church as whole.

His great weakness is his suspicion of reason. The flight from reason on the part of a good many contemporary theologians is a major factor weakening the mission of the church today, particularly in the west. Instead of intelligent apologetics we are left with only the kerygma. Seekers anxious to come to faith must put aside their questions and allow themselves to be zapped by the Word. What has been described as a retreat into commitment surely suggest a serious failure of nerve on the part of Christian thinkers. It is a mood that will pass. The marvellous story of the Christian Church that Chadwick narrates so superbly is not about to come to an end. There are great Christian centuries still to come in which the gospel will continue to prove its ability to illuminate human thinking and deepen our understanding.

Paul Richardson, formerly Bishop of Wangaratta, has recently returned to England.

TOWARDS EQUALITY, Bob Holman, SPCK 1997, pbk, 147 pp. ISBN 0-281-05046-5. £9.99

RETURNING TO live in Britain after 22 years overseas it is interesting to note all the changes that have occurred since the mid 1970s. Two features that stand out are the greater number of beggars and homeless people to be seen on the streets and the widespread presence of burglar alarms and security cameras

Both these aspects of life in "New Britain" (actually a large island in the South Pacific, but let that pass) are outward signs of what has probably been the greatest change in this country since 1980: the enormous growth in the gap between rich and poor. According to Bob Holman, 33 per cent of the population now live below the poverty level (calculated at 140 per cent of income support) as opposed to only 14 per cent in 1979. No matter what measure is used, the same picture emerges. In fact Holman goes so far as to claim that the gap between the highest and lowest paid in Britain is now greater than at any time since records began in the 1880s.

Towards Equality is required reading for anyone trying to live out the Christian faith in Britain today. Bob Holman gave up teaching social administration at the University of Bath twenty years ago to live and work as a volunteer on the Easterhouse Estate in Glasgow. Anyone who thinks that all we need to do to create an acceptable modern society is re-brand Britain will get a shock from the pages of this book. This is a prophetic cry to put the equality at the top of the social and economic agenda.

Holman's vision has been shaped by his reading of the bible and by the teaching and example of well-known Christians like RH Tawney and George Lansbury as well as by others less well-known whose story he relates.

A common objection to the push for greater equality is the insistence that in an age of globalisation we cannot afford to lose our competitive edge in world markets. The ability of capital to move if taxation rises and conditions become less favourable gives it an advantage over labour which is far less mobile.

Reading Holman I began to see the answer to this kind of argument. We need to learn to evaluate wealth in broader terms than just the availability of disposable income. People must be taught to see that everyone is happier in the long run if we live in a society where there is less injustice and less resentment and therefore less social friction and less crime.

Holman makes a convincing case for his claim that health problems start to multiply when unemployment leads to loss of self-esteem and a growing sense of frustration and hopelessness. Costs to the NHS increase; parents lack the energy to look after their children; we all suffer from the fact that the pool of national talent is not being developed and used properly. Not surprisingly, there is evidence to suggest that reducing differentials does not harm national productivity but actually improves it.

My major reservation about this book is with Holman's practice of "outing" the rich. A well-known Labour MP who talks about equality is criticised for earning £104,300 on top of his parliamentary salary. Do we need to get personal about this? Attacks on Oxbridge also grate. Some of those who went to these ancient universities actually came from modest backgrounds and have spent their lives in service of others. Do they deserve to be demonised? Instead of persecuting the rich, Holman could have strengthened his case by referring to data available showing that an increase in income beyond a certain level does not actually make people any happier. Anthony Giddens quotes surveys indicating this in his book Beyond Left and Right. I would also like to have seen more discussion of negative taxation and of some of Frank Field's imaginative proposals for reforming the welfare state. In the battle against inequality we cannot just try to put the clock back and return to the old, corporatist state.

Paul Richardson, formerly Bishop of Wangaratta, has recently returned to England.

ANGLICANS AND TRADITION AND THE ORDINATION OF WOMEN, H R McAdoo. Canterbury Press, Norwich, 1997, 138pp, £11.99 pb.ISBN 1-85311-172-4

H R MCADOO is a former Archbishop of Dublin, and it was in that capacity that he was co-chairman of the first ARCIC. Some readers may recall that when their report was published, shortly before the visit of Pope John Paul II to England in 1982, Conor Cruise O'Brien, who remembered Dr McAdoo from his student days at Trinity College, Dublin, wrote a piece in The Observer in which he said that the Archbishop was a past master at make-believe, who could do anything with a given set of facts, as the ARCIC statement proved by trying to turn the Roman church into a gentleman's club along Anglican lines.

Dr McAdoo has rescued himself from the wreckage of ARCIC, but in this book he is obviously up to his old tricks again. This time he sets out to show that the ordination of women is consistent with Anglicanism as this has been understood and practised for the past four centuries. By any standard this would be a breathtaking task, and it is astonishing to see with what ingenuity Dr McAdoo sets about accomplishing it.

First of all, of course, it is necessary to define 'Anglican tradition', which is an elusive concept at the best of times. For Dr McAdoo's purposes, Anglicanism begins with John Jewel's Apology, which means that minor figures like Thomas Cranmer and the formularies for which he was so largely responsible are simply ignored. It continues through Richard Hooker, but only gets into its stride in the seventeenth century. The golden age is the period from 1660 to 1740, at which point the whole thing seems to peter out until the 1988 Lambeth Conference.

Dr McAdoo's archetypal Anglican is Jeremy Taylor, but a number of others get honourable mention, including such well-known figures as Benjamin Whichcote and Nathanael Culverwell. My own favourite is Henry Hammond, who (for those who do not know) is 'the father of English Biblical criticism' (p 77) and whose somewhat unusual views are quoted here as if they are the bedrock of Anglican biblical interpretation. Every once in a while Dr McAdoo admits that there are Anglicans who do not fit into this tradition, but they are branded as Calvinists or Tractarians and dismissed as fundamentalists. The purpose of this selection of 'tradition' is to show that Anglicans have always adhered to a threefold authority of Scripture, tradition and reason. Unfortunately, the authorities whom Dr McAdoo quotes are unanimous in concurring that of these, Scripture takes pride of place as the Word of God, and that the other two are useful, but ultimately ancillary, aids to its interpretation. But even after quoting these divines to that effect, Dr McAdoo still manages to conclude that it is reason which really controls the other two. In support of this position he quotes Robert Boyle, the famous chemist, whom he describes as 'a devout Anglican who began every day with meditation and prayer'. Boyle wrote: 'We must not look upon the Bible as an oration of God to man, or a body of laws like our English statute book, wherein it is the legislator that all the way speaks to the people, but as a collection of composures of very different sorts...'. That is evidently what Dr McAdoo wants Anglicanism to be - a kind of deism garnished with a certain discipline of piety, which reads the Bible as an interesting historical document but does not take it seriously as the chief authority for our faith and practice today.

When it comes to the issue of the ordination of women, Dr McAdoo claims that the Anglican divines whom he has selected would have supported it, because their commitment to reason would have led them to adapt their understanding of Scripture and tradition to suit the conditions of our time. Even Bishop Jewel would probably have gone along, says Dr McAdoo, since it was he who denied the authority of tradition by pointing out that Rome had withdrawn the cup from the laity, in direct contradiction to our Lord's command. It takes more mental leapfrogging than the present reviewer is capable of to see what that has to do with the ordination of women, but that is what Dr McAdoo would have us believe.

Ultimately, of course, the issue cannot be decided from tradition (at least not in Dr McAdoo's favour) and so recourse must be had to Scripture. Here he pleads for a hermeneutic based on reason, which he believes will support his case. When it comes down to it though, the hermeneutic which he actually practises is so eclectic as to be eccentric, and is anything but reasonable. It has been a basic principle of biblical interpretation since the time of Origen (hardly a fundamentalist), that the harder parts of Scripture must be interpreted by the clearer parts. So when faced with the clear statement of 1 Timothy 2:11-15, for example, Dr McAdoo replies with every obscurity imaginable, including the now-famous pseudo-reference to 'Junia the apostle' in Romans 16:7. To be fair, Dr McAdoo is not a biblical scholar himself, and he relies heavily on works of so-called scholarship like Karen Torjesen's When women were priests and R T France's Women in the church's ministry, neither of which is taken seriously by specialists in the field. In the end he even says bluntly that 1 Timothy contradicts 1 Corinthians 11:5 (p 110) and dismisses it completely.

It has to be said that all of this is done with a certain amount of political cleverness. By quoting Jerome Murphy-O'Connor in favour of the view that the Apostle Paul accepted the ministry of women as identical to that of men, we are given the impression that serious Roman Catholics agree with him and are presumably just waiting for the fundamentalist pope to die so that they can change official policy accordingly. Similarly, extracts from Orthodox writers like Olivier Clément and Christos Yannaras suggest that the eastern churches are slowly moving down the same road, even if most of their members, including the two writers quoted, would probably be amazed to be told so. And of course, Dr McAdoo does not fail to mention that R T France is an Evangelical, which leaves the unwary reader to suppose that that wing of the church is on board too.

There seems to be no doubt that future generations of doctoral students will look back to the ordination of women in the late twentieth century as a classical case of how a group of determined people, motivated by a secular ideology, was able to capture the church by completely distorting everything it had always stood for. Dr McAdoo does not mention it, but on 27 May 1948 the lower house of the convocation of York declared that 'the ordination of women to the priesthood is most certainly contrary to all the laws and precedents of the Church', a view which was expressed in support of the line taken by the late Archbishop William Temple a few years earlier. Nobody seems to have objected to that at the time, for the simple reason that it was so obvious as to be taken for granted. We can see from this that proponents of the opposite view have indeed carried out a revolution in the church, which they have accomplished in the course of a single generation.

Perhaps the most ironic thing which Dr McAdoo's book brings out is that for the first time, the Roman Church has been able to get the better of Anglicans on the ground chosen by Bishop Jewel and maintained by his successors. For centuries, Anglican apologists argued that Rome was deviating from the truth by inventing or canonising traditions which had no biblical support and which in many cases were directly contrary to biblical teaching. Now, Pope John Paul II has had his revenge, because on this issue he has been able to show that the Roman position is the one which is most clearly based on Scripture. Bishop Jewel must be turning in his grave.

More importantly for us, if this kind of reasoning is allowed to continue, we may soon find that Anglicanism is being sent to its grave, and this by people who, in the tradition of Robert Boyle, are devout Anglicans who begin every day with meditation and prayer. Piety must be backed by substance if it is to have any value, and that substance can only come from the right reading of Scripture and the right appropriation of the church's tradition. The ordination of women is neither, and it is about time that our church leaders had the honesty to stand up and say so, instead of trying to justify modern expediency on the basis of selective and misleading quotations from the past.

Gerald Bray is Anglican Professor of Divinity at Samford University, USA. This book was also reviewed by Peter Atkinson in a previous edition of New Directions.

Return to Home Page of This Issue

Return to Trushare Opening Page