Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Quotes of Note: Urban T. Holmes
It helped me through three years in seminary, five years of parish day school chaplaincy and more adult education hour forum presentations than I have the energy to shake a stick at. And I turn to it still ... and here are a couple of the reasons why:
ON THE AUTHORITY OF SCRIPTURE: “The Puritans taught that the Scriptures provided a certainty that transcended all other certainty, including reason, which reason they wished to confine to “science” (e.e. all forms of human learning). They believed that the Scriptures must be read for themselves and devoid of subsequent interpretations, namely, tradition. Hooker’s answer to this was that the Scriptures when read apart from reason and tradition and were subject to the all kinds of private interpretations, which would of necessity be biased. Hence, Hooker articulates for Anglicanism its answer to the question of what is our authority. Our authority is the association of Scripture, tradition and reason … Scripture for the Anglican is a fundamental source of authority for the church; but apart from reason it is dangerous. It becomes the mirror for the misdirected person to project his or her own opinions and give them the authority of God. The sin of schism in the result.” – Urban T. Holmes, “What Is Anglicanism” pg. 11-13
ON ANGLICAN COMPREHENSIVENESS: "We often speak of Anglican "comprehensiveness." If this is a way of making relativism palatable or a means of accommodating all shades of opinion with no regard for truth, then it needs to be rejected. If by comprehensive we mean the priority of a dialectic quest over precision and immediate closure then we are speaking of the Anglican consciousness at its best." – Urban T. Holmes, “What Is Anglicanism” pg. 7
ON CLARITY OF AUTHORITY: "Clarity of authority should not be expected-- in fact, it should be suspect -- when we are attempting to make clear the infinite mind of God for the finite minds of humankind. When Anglicanism is true to its concept of authority, this apparent hesitance to say, "Thus saith the Lord!" -- only to have to spend the next hundred years subtlely qualifying "what the Lord said" -- is not a sign of weakness but evidence of strength and wisdom." - Urban T. Holmes, “What Is Anglicanism” pg. 16
Holmes reminds me in clear, concise, accessible language of all that is best -- and worth preserving -- about the historic Anglicanism we inherit as American Episcopalians. It is the tradition we are currently struggling to defend against those urging us to abandon the dialectic quest in favor of immediate closure, to accept a clarity of authority that has never been a hallmark of the Anglican ethos and to replace Hooker's "three legged stool" approach to the authority of scripture with a narrow literalism that echoes the Puritan insistence on "sola scriptura" and is driving the communion to the brink of the schism Holmes warned against.
Finally, he reminds me that there is a point to all we do as Anglican Christians that transcends the political, eccleisal and theological wranglings that seem to consume so much of our energy:
ON FAITH AND BELIEF: Ultimately the authenticity of faith and belief is measured at the bar of justice. All religious questions merge into the one query: What shall we do? There is an inevitable course to our religious profession which can be aborted only by denying its Lord. That course leads to living in the world as God sees the world. We can debate the trivial points, but the vision is largely clear. To love God is to relieve the burden of all who suffer. The rest is a question of tactics." - Urban T. Holmes, “What Is Anglicanism” pg. 95
And let the people say, Amen!