Monday 12 September 2011

BCP/ KJB - Truth, Beauty and Virtue in Unity


One of the main things modern man lacks is unity: The Good all at once and integrated.


For generations the Church of England had exactly this, at its core: Truth, Beauty and Virtue as one, in the words of the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) and the King James version of the Bible (KJB).

This was either extraordinary luck, or - as I believe - Grace (un-deservedly gifted for the salvation of the English speaking peoples as they broke away from the Christian core for reasons mostly bad).

Absent the words and the rituals, and there was no effective cohesion.


The Church of England was always doctrinally plural, with Catholic and Protestant pulling in different directions; but Anglicanism was spiritually unified by its use of those works of genius. 

The ideal (and to a considerable extent actuality) was that behind the divergences, there was a unified text and a standard ritual. 

Episcopalians all over the world were (ideally) reading the same Holy words, and when in Church doing and saying pretty much the same things on the same days around the cycle of the Church Year.


Good words were therefore the spiritual glue which held the Anglican communion together, and for lack of which it is now - and has been for decades - inexorably falling-apart. 

What remains of the Anglican Communion - sans the Good words - is merely a bureaucratic career structure; open-endedly subvertible, all-but hollowed out and incrementally substituted. 

Just another NGO...


And (despite the famous choral tradition) Anglicanism was therefore primarily a literary style of Christianity - based on Good words; a fact which seemed to suit the English genius - defending and enhancing it. 

Anglican spirituality was in consequence (although it seems almost to have disappeared by now) - mostly a written spirituality - and a superb tradition of writing.

Most of the greatest spiritual figures in the Church of England were great writers, if not primarily then integrally. 

This was not necessarily the ultimate conceivable spiritual ideal - certainly the ascetic saints, elders, starets and Holy Fools of the Orthodox tradition seem to me to represent a higher Christian ideal - nonetheless it was (apparently) the best to which the English people could realistically aspire, or at least the English ruling classes. 


But the Church of England has broken the Good words and smashed the uniformity of worship: nowadays it seems like every Episcopalian Church I attend has a different service and uses different words - eclectically, willfully.

Once the ideal of literary uniformity was abandoned, the door was open to egotism, fashion, and to devilish corruption. 


And once the Good words had been broken they could not be re-assembled. 

The Goodness was given to the English language once for all, unified and bottom-up, sustained by Grace; but modern words are done and re-done according to the trends of Biblical scholarship, checked for concordance with political correctness.

The words are now secularized in morality, professionalized in facticity, and aesthetically dead (whenever they have not borrowed from the Good old words)


The Church of England is very probably doomed as a spiritual force (ultimately, who really cares about the bureaucratic structure? - not I), with its most likely hope being in the abandonment of the vacuous and secularized mainstream whole and the survival of small fragments of Goodness (mostly on the orthodox Catholic and Protestant/ evangelical sides) - here and there, against the trend, for a while... 

But if the Church could be saved as a real force for Christianity it would have to be through a step back to universal usage of the Book of Common Prayer and the King James Bible: that is to a restoration of the divinely-inspired and English Good words at the centre of the communion. 

Naturally there would be a price to pay, and there would be real losses; but that price would have to be paid and the real losses would have to be borne. 



dearieme said...

"as they broke away from the Christian core": surely that happened in their Roman Catholic days at the time of the schism with the other patriarchates?

The Crow said...

At least the monster, Rowan Williams, looks set to vacate.
How such a creature could ever even get to be Archbishop of Canterbury is a profound mystery.
The man did more damage to The Church than all other forces of darkness, combined.
Nothing undermines the gravity of The Church quite like being led by a laughingstock.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Dearieme - well, although a mistake (in my opinion) there was considerably better reason for the Great Schism than for the separation of the English Church.

(The Scottish Church, for instance, had genuine *religious* reasons, for breaking away - even though I think they were mistaken.)

@The Crow - a brilliant professor, a terrible Archbishop... Still, it all depends who replaces +Rowan - there are plenty of possibilities who are even worse.

Thursday said...

T.S. Eliot about this the book Christianity and Culture. Well worth looking into.