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In Vitro Veritas – ed. J. Gilling

April 28, 2015

SMBSTwo swallows don’t make a summer, neither do two good articles serve to redeem the rest of the contents of this ‘annual’ from S. Mary’s Bourne Street.

Sara Maitland starts off by pointing to the two traditions of revealed and natural theology and asks why it is that the catholic church seems to bury its head in the sand and take up a defensive position against the data of modern science. It is almost as if Freud, Marx, the women’s movement and Einstein had not existed. The Roman Catholic Church’s insistence, for example, that sex should involve the possibility of procreation is belied by its allowing the use of the rhythm method and of sex where the woman is post-menopause. It also limits ‘sex’ to -genital acts which culminate in inteecourse, thus going against the richness of sexuality which we now understand a little bit better than the church did when she formulated her views. If the church believes that a human ‘soul’ is contained in an embryo, why does she not perform funeral rites after a miscarriage? Much of the church’s talk of ‘it is not natural’ sounds unnatural and goes against much of modern science’s findings and sounds like justification of prejudice as a result of fear to face change.

To my surprise, Masckell is the author of the second good article, writing against Edward Norman. He reminds us that the text ‘Render unto Caesar  ‘ probably assumes that what is God’s comes first; hence Peter says ‘We must obey God rather than men.’ Norman’s view of incarnation involves too much talk of ‘spirit’, rather like Cupitt’s view of the destiny of man. Masckell suggests that Norman does not realy believe in real incarnation because matter is unimportant for him and the temporal world is largely irrelevant to Christians who should have their mind on ‘the transcendent’. It is almost as if the kingdom floats around in parallel to but never meeting this world, rather than invading and transforming it. He goes on to point out that liberation theology is not indebted to Marx so much as to the formulations of the church down the centuries and it marks a.-return to orthodoxy, not a departure from it.

Then comes the grot. Graham Turner wonders why so many clergymen don’t really believe in the gospel and the creeds and why the best anglicans had to be converted by some other denomination and then mature into anglicanism. he then lists several woes: homosexuality, abortion, obscenity &c. He even suggests that real love for ‘gay’ (his speech marks) people would result in telling them to ‘stop it’ because they’ll catch AIDS.

A tortuous article by Michael Morton tries to show that anglicans have departed from Cranmer in doctrine because the ambiguities of the ASB compromise doctrinal statements in the holy communion and baptismal services.

Peter Moore wants bishops to return to their job of banishing false doctrine.

Trueman Dicken talks of ‘moral landslides’ and sees that even Vatican II gave way to the spirit of the age by endorsing humanistic views of man and of politics, owing more to Tom Paine than to orthodoxy. Why not? Does God not speak through ‘heretics’? He even castigates lawyers for wearing jeans off duty because society has lost any sense of the diversity of roles. ‘A bishop may encourage the scruffiest choirboy to call him Joe.’ If that was the name he was christened, I don’t know what is wrong with that. He ends up arguing for the ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ syndrome, blissfully unaware how daft such a distinction is if we understand humans psychologically. Other articles moan about divorce and IVF and there’s little really positive in-the rest of the book. This is defensive Anglo-Catholicism which is out of touch with-the world and with the Roman Catholic thinking of the day. Fortunately, the anglo-catholic ghetto is becoming heavily depopulated and can’t do much harm.

Mind you, the editor had a far better sense of humour than some of the writers. The story is told of how he saw a poster on St Aldate’s Church, Oxford, advertising a sermon in a course on life’s problems: ‘Living with Sex’. John mused: ‘It’s living without it that’s the problem’ –and he laughed merrily

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