Monday, April 4, 2011

Disbelief Beyond Magisterium

IT WOULD NOT BE TRUE, I think, to say that dogma is less preached today than it was a hundred years ago. The rise of Wesleyanism and the Evangelical Movement had, indeed, put and end by then to the long indifference of the latitudinarian age. But Wesleyanism and Evangelicism were interested in a handful of dogmas which concerned their own particular scheme of salvation. On the other hand, men did believe in the Bible, not as "given of God to convey to us in many parts and in divers manners the revelation of himself", but as inspired in an intelligible sense. And with the rise of the Oxford Movement this belief in Scripture was fortified by a confident appeal, unsound in its method but sincere in its purpose, to the deposit of Christian tradition. But during the last fifty years and more, the fundamental dogmas of the Christian religion have been subjected, more and more, to criticism, or interpretation, and to restatement. Would a(n Anglican) diocesan Bishop have dared in the middle of the nineteenth century, to express in a newspaper article his disbelief in eternal punishment? Would the rector of a much-frequented London church have preached, and afterwards published, a sermon in which he recommended the remarriage of divorced persons? Would the whole Bench of Bishops have been prepared to alter, in the Baptismal Service, the statement that every child is conceived and born in sin? Appraise the tendency as you will; welcome or regret its influence; but only disingenuity can deny that the tendency is there, and is apparently constant. You do not believe what your grandfathers believed, and have no reason to hope that your grandsons will believe what you do.

- Ronald A. Knox

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