ESSAYS IN ORTHODOXY
Oliver Chase Quick
have fulfilled our task of taking in order the main Catholic doctrines about
the Being of God and of giving some sketch of their meaning in relation to
modern perplexities of thought. To many
readers, however, the fruits of the argument will probably seem somewhat
artificial and unsatisfying. In the
present religious situation, to be discussing the niceties of theological
correctness will seem to them like fiddling the tunes of academic theory, while
the structure of the Church is being consumed in the flames of much more
practical disputes. In the slightly
different metaphor of the old tragedian –
most people “the sore that craves the knife” is, so far as the intellectual
side of Christianity is concerned, the problem of historical criticism, and
they will refuse to hear the voice of any charmer, who, as they think, is
afraid to probe it boldly, and to treat it drastically.
foregoing chapters, however, will have failed of their purpose if they have not
made it clear that, in the judgement of the present writer, it is in reality
the theological rather than the historic problem which is the more urgently
pressing. And it may be well to illustrate
this contention by a few words in conclusion about one burning controversy and
one most sorely needed measure of reform.
subject known as “clerical veracity” has recently been the occasion for
somewhat acrimonious debate, and has even led many honest minds to face
seriously the danger or the necessity of a schism. Some of the clergy on the liberal wing have claimed the right to
accept certain historic facts, stated or clearly implied in the creeds, in what
is known as an allegorical sense. The
particular facts most in question are the resurrection of our Lord’s physical
body from the tomb and His birth of the Virgin Mary. Our present purpose is not to enter into the general merits of
the controversy, but merely to urge (partly in criticism of Mr. Streeter, Restatement
and Reunion, pp. xi., xii., 74, 75) that a settlement of it can only be
found in theological considerations, not in those of historical evidence. The truth of this will be at once apparent
if those who feel difficulty about these historic facts, on the ground that the
historical evidence for them is insufficient, will ask themselves what kind of
evidence they would have desired or found satisfactory. Obviously, the mystery of the great central
act could hardly have been compatible with the presence of an onlooker at our
Lord’s bodily resurrection from the tomb, and the fact that the tomb was empty
is at least as well supported as anything else in the Gospel‑narrative. Again, assuming the Virgin Birth to be a
historic fact, it could hardly, for obvious reasons, have been disclosed during
the life‑time of the Virgin, and until the record of the 3rd Gospel was
published, it would be natural and fitting that not more than one or two
persons should have known the truth.
Granted then that the historical evidence for these facts is
inconclusive, we are nevertheless in possession of the strongest evidence we
could reasonably and rightly expect on the assumption that the events actually
took place. Of course, this
consideration does nothing directly to settle the point at issue; but it does
show that the whole problem lies, not in the sphere of historical criticism at
all, but in the sphere of theology.
When we examine the full meaning and value of belief in the historic
Incarnation, do that meaning and value in any way seem to depend on these two
miracles, which our forefathers undoubtedly regarded as necessary parts of the
Christian faith? Does the affirmation
of them deepen or protect the mystery of the Divine Love which Christ revealed? These are the only questions which are of
really crucial importance.
this be so the considerations urged especially in Chapters II and V have a very
real bearing on the practical problem of assent to the creeds. To deny, or even to suffer accredited
teachers to call in question, the Virgin Birth may be seriously to impair the
belief in the uniqueness of our Lord’s Person as combining two distinct
natures. To throw doubt upon the
physical resurrection may be to confound the whole distinction between a gospel
of resurrection and one of mere immortality.
It may be replied that we are making the miracles into theological
parables, and that it is precisely because we may so regard them that we need
no longer believe in them as historic facts.
To argue thus is simply to miss the point of the sacramental metaphysic
of Christianity. The same objection
would hold with equal force against the whole belief in a historic Incarnation.
in any case no satisfactory decision can be reached as to the question of
assent to the creeds, until the real value of the old credal doctrines has been
fully and without prejudice explained and examined. It is the personal opinion of the writer that the results of such
examination will be found to weigh far less heavily against the conservative
and stricter school of thought than it is fashionable to assume. Meanwhile he is content to bear the reproach
that his “orthodoxy” is of a somewhat Fabian kind. Until further and fuller explanations have elucidated the whole
problem and enabled a really broad view to be taken of it, an irrevocable step
might well prove disastrous. And here
at least the much‑abused laxity of discipline in our English Church may
display the merits of its defects. By
making decisive action so difficult, it may at least secure that decisive action
shall not be hasty or ill‑considered.
There may be, there must be, hope that our Church will clear up and
define her theological position; there can be, perhaps there ought to be, no
hope that she will do so in a hurry.
The fuller definitions, when the time for them has come, will naturally
take the form not of any addition to or restatement of the creeds themselves,
but of further Articles of Religion determining the sense in which the creeds
are to be interpreted.
then, is the immediate reform most urgently required? The provision, surely, of more adequate and comprehensive
instruction in theology. And the
instruction must begin with those who are to be commissioned to instruct
others. If recent events have revealed
the ignorance of the laity concerning the essential meaning of the Christian
faith, that ignorance only reflects the ignorance of the clergy, whose avowed
duty it is to teach. The strategic
point of the Church’s whole position is the theological college. At present we deem it sufficient to bestow
on those who are to be our accredited expositors of the faith a course of
something less than eight months’ consecutive training. True, it is assumed that normally those who
enter the theological college will already have obtained some academical
degree; but there is no guarantee or requirement that it should have any
connection with theology. Even the
college course itself is by no means devoted mainly to theological instruction. The Bishops’ examination contains only one
paper on “Creeds and Articles,” and the preparation for the whole examination
only forms one part of the activity of the college life. The English clergyman is normally expected,
or at least required, to be expert in such varied occupations as preaching,
pastoral and sick visiting, social work, poor relief, boys’ clubs, teaching of
children, voice‑production, and very often book‑keeping, besides the care of the devotional life and
the cure of souls in the narrow sense, which belong especially to the priestly
office. It is perhaps in forming habits
of personal piety that our best colleges are chiefly successful. Meanwhile, though the science of dealing
with souls in its psychological relations is almost excluded from the training
of ordinands, it is thought desirable to give them during their thirty‑two
weeks’ course a smattering of knowledge on most of the other subjects
mentioned, in the forlorn hope of fitting them for their future career. What wonder if the intellectual and
theological part of their instruction is reduced to a course of elementary
lectures delivered to all the students irrespective of their previous
attainments, and diligently copied into note‑books in a convenient form
which will enable the required portions to be readily reproduced for the satisfaction
of the Bishops’ examiners?
a travesty of theological education would be ludicrous, were it not so tragic;
and we need look no further than its patent absurdity in order to find abundant
explanation of that breach between the Church and modern thought which, if it
be left to widen, may soon be beyond repair.
It is utterly impossible to obtain any understanding of the nature of
the issues involved from a mere set of dictated lecture‑notes, or even
from the study of a single text‑book.
Even the student who is not making theology in any sense his special
subject, should be encouraged to read and discuss a certain variety of books
written from different standpoints. He
will thus appreciate the fact that there is a problem to be faced, and he will
gain some general idea of what the Church can say about it.
Church of England is proud of the freedom of thought which she permits to her
children; but if they be not taught to use that freedom, they will derive from
it a curse and not a blessing. True
freedom, as has been pointed out time and again, does not consist in the mere
absence of authority, but in the provision of opportunity for the individual to
make his proper and unique contribution to the good of all. That opportunity is simply denied to the
individual, if he is left without guidance, his powers either not stimulated at
all, or allowed to develop without help from the stored wisdom of the Catholic
Church. It is not because she permits
freedom, but because she interprets freedom in a false and negative sense, that
the Church of England is steadily sowing not the virtues but the vices of an
elastic system, and is likely to reap a harvest of dissension and, it may be,
even of schism as her reward. At the
moment any drastic measure of doctrinal discipline may be impossible or
inexpedient, but the problem of religious education presses and need not await
the settlement of theological controversy.
Quis docebit docturos?
How shall teachers be taught?
Unless the Church sets herself that question and answers it, she cannot
hope to reply to the accusations of her critics. While the war checks the supply of ordinands, there is still
breathing‑space. Must not the
opportunity be used?