Svmer isicumen in: cuckoos in Anglican-Land.

Svmer is icumen in, Lhude sing cuccu!

Well, Summer is indeed coming in and the cuckoo's are indeed singing loudly.

Here's one bit of such singing: Dr. Leslie Fairfield, professor emeritus at Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, said in an article posted on the Diocese of Pittsburgh's website,

"If you opt for Modernism, likewise, you give up reason. Let me say that again…if you opt for Modernism, you give up any hope of rationality or accurate knowledge. If "mind" is not a gift from God - a possibility that Modernism categorically excludes - then "mind" is simply a random product of genetic inheritance plus accidental environmental stimuli. Therefore a thought in my head is as likely to have been caused by some ancestral experience on the African savannah as it has of portraying the tree I'm looking at right now."

I have highlighted the pertinent bit so you can understand better why some church historians do not good epistemologists make. The whole article is an attack on modernism worthy of the worse sort of Vatican I mutterings from Rome or the tightest of turn of the century (1900) rising fundamentalism.

Here is a wonderful cartoon on the whole matter:

(Illustration depicting Modernism as the descent from Christianity to atheism. "The Descent of the Modernists", by E. J. Pace,Christian Cartoons,1922; republished in Seven Questions in Dispute, by William Jennings Bryan, 1924.)

And do you hear the echo of that other argument, the one about that other modern idea, that of evolutionary development, in which it was said that surely, we cannot be descendant from apes because we know we were created by God with "accurate knowledge."

And perhaps another echo, more insidious, involving some "ancestral experience on the African savannah…" that is, you know, primitive and ….



  1. Amazing what passes for scholarship at Trinity, isn't it?

  2. and, of course, England's oldest song continues, "Bulluc sterteth, bucke verteth."

    Farting stags - equally relevent, I would have thought.

  3. The cartoon is almost right on. Only one possible end of modernism is shown; the one chosen by many Episcopalians is not. That would be a belief in everything, and nothing; and, thus, nihilism. In this state, the individual still claims a belief in God, even though the nature of that god is usually revealed to be a perfect reflection of the self.

  4. Dr. Fairfield of Trinity Episcopal Seminary for Minsitry says:

    Except for Trinity in Pittsburgh, and (since its wonderful renaissance in the last few years) Nashotah House in Wisconsin, the other nine Episcopal seminaries have been teaching Modernist theology for more than a generation. The current leadership of the national Church have been deeply influenced by the Modernist tradition since their first day at seminary.

    I suppose that there are some who are confident of their own orthodoxy if and only if they can prove that everyone else or nearly everyone else is not orthodox. I take every word of the Nicene Creed seriously and believe it all. I can even agree with Dr. Fairfield’s rather stilted wording of the fundamental beliefs of our beloved Church. And yet I am the product of the seminaries that Dr. Fairfield accuses of teaching the modernist heresy. In seminary I learned the biblical languages that I might read the Holy Scripture. I learned text critical and exegetical methods that I might understand and love the Bible. I learned the traditions of the Church—especially the traditions of the undivided Church. I studied theologians such as Hooker, Barth, Rahner, Von Bathasar, and Lacugna who labored with concepts to deliver to contemporary minds the wisdom of our tradition. I also studied modern theologians whose ideas were incomplete and missed the mark of the great truths; and I believe that it was important to be exposed to these persons and to their questions. It was my own responsibility through prayer and spiritual discipline, through critical philosophical and theological thinking, and through the modeling of my life upon the lives of the saints to arrive at my own personal integration so that I might hand this on to those who desire a satisfaction more complete than comes from the mind alone. At every step of the way toward integration, I have worked to imbibe living truth through converse with those who manifested a self authenticating tradition of doctrine and life and I have found that conversation, communion, mutual clarification, and spiritual empathy rather than denunciation, judgment, labeling, and name calling are the surest path to the experience of wisdom—especially the wisdom handed on by the great lights who are teachers and spiritual masters in Christianity. St. Paul was certainly correct: For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if your bite and devour one another take heed that you are not consumed by one another. (Gal. 5. 14ff)
    Michael Henderson

  5. Mark, I'm struggling with this because I just returned from a conference on religion and science. The scientists seemed to be largely dismissive of faith/religion, and the "religionists" seemed to be scholars of relgion, rather than people of faith themselves. I left feeling that I hadn't really learned a damned thing.

    Many of the scientists dismiss faith as irrational--pointing to the randomness of the universe. One of the commenters on my blog pointed out that the very ability to think, then, is random and deserving of no special notice or privilege.

    How does that fit into your analysis?

    Phil--Mote, beam. I am an Episcopalian. I am a progressive. I am NOT a nihilist--and no amount of wishful thinking on your part can make me one. If I was going to make a God that was a perfect reflection of self, that God wouldn't care a fig for you and your conservative friends. A God of my making would have you wake up in the afterlife, scrubbing the floors of a lesbian Wiccan, and the only books in your library would be written by Jack Spong.

    Fortunately for both of us, God is NOT a perfect reflection of my self. He loves you as much as He loves me, and I suspect that, when the time comes, you will get exactly what I will---a loving welcome into the arms of our Creator.

  6. My question: what step are we modernists on at this moment?

    Phil, neither will I accept your label as a nihilist, nor - God forbid! - do I see God as a perfect reflection of myself. One of me is enough.

  7. I am wondering if what we see here is two ways of understanding of faith. There are those whose understanding of God comes through congnition. It is a matter of BELIEVING. It is hard work and it takes lots of confirmation of philosophical principles and professions of faith. It requires a suspension of reason and it is a type of surrender that I admire.

    The other kind of Christian or follower of faith is one who has somekind of personal realtionship with the Divine. For that person the suspension of reason is less of a problem because there is a kind of experiential truth that the person "knows" God and does not need sophisticated theologies or even creeds.

    I am unwilling to say that one or the other is more faithful. Both take a willingness to surrender to the Divine which is basic to any faith.

    I don't find the more philosphical theological position especially satisfying, but I am unwilling to disregard the faith of those who find faith that way

    At the same time, I don't want someone whose faith is based upon creeds and theological truths to tell me that my relational faith is not valid. And I think that there is some of this going on in the present fight

  8. Phil provides a classic! Strawman argument is of course a total fallacy, but then, what was I expecting?


  9. "In this state, the individual still claims a belief in God, even though the nature of that god is usually revealed to be a perfect reflection of the self." Phil

    More fictional accounting that is dishonable in both fact and it's condemnation of fellow Christians...jump in the lago and soberup...you'll know real when the oozie feelings of pending doom cease to hamper your logic!

  10. hamper your logic"

    whoops, that was me!

    Leonardo Ricardo

  11. Paige - good for you. You aren't part of the "many." But, consider these definitions of nihilism (Encarta):

    1. total rejection of social mores: the general rejection of established social conventions and beliefs, especially of morality and religion

    2. disbelief in objective truth: the belief that there is no objective basis for truth

    3. belief in destruction of authority: the belief that all established authority is corrupt and must be destroyed in order to rebuild a just society

    I see a great deal of all three reflected in the rhetoric of progressive Episcopalians: in the constant railing against the traditional ethical teachings of Christianity, the rejection of any absolute standard of truth and, lately, the idolizing of the principle that you can do whatever you want, without regard to the discernment of your fellow Christians.

    Jim may call it a strawman, but, to me, it lines up pretty well. And, you know I've had just these types of arguments with progressives. It starts with a profession of agreement, but this is where it always ends up - historic Christian morals are unjust and/or violent, and Christianity doesn't have a unique revelation of truth, anyway: a belief in everything, and nothing, as I originally said.

    As to the Episcopalian god not being a perfect reflection of the self, tell me this: what aspect of your Christian faith conflicts with your politics?

  12. As to the Episcopalian god not being a perfect reflection of the self, tell me this: what aspect of your Christian faith conflicts with your politics?

    Phil, you can rest assured that many of us on this side of the argument marvel at how ingeniously you and yours have managed to create a Jesus whose teachings just happen--surely by the purest coincidence, of course--to line up perfectly with those of George W. Bush.

  13. Phil,

    You do me and several million Episcopalians injury when you announce what we believe, instead of asking. It is indeed strawman writing.


  14. "The whole article is an attack on modernism worthy of the worse sort of Vatican I mutterings from Rome . . ."

    Are you, sir, a bigot mutter to one's self? Bigots usually demean an argument rather than dispense with it--or at least that is what I have been told.

  15. NLNH – really? And when have I done that?

    Yes, I did notice you didn’t answer my question.

    Jim – I have asked. What I have written is the result: “this is where it always ends up - historic Christian morals are unjust and/or violent, and Christianity doesn't have a unique revelation of truth, anyway.”

  16. OK, Phil. I'll answer your questions, even though I notice that you did not answer it either.

    I disagree with scripture on war and usury. Both are clearly forbidden, but I don't see how it would be possible for us to live without defending ourselves or to have an economy without credit.

    Your turn. Tell us a way in which your political views conflict with scripture.

  17. NLNH, some policy positions I hold which arguably conflict with Christian teachings are

    - like you, a belief that we have to maintain and be prepared to use armed force to protect our nation’s security interests;
    - a belief that capital punishment is sometimes appropriate to punish particularly heinous crimes and serve as a deterrent;
    - a belief that free markets best raise the material standard of living for the most people (it seems to me that certain passages of Scripture imply a more socialistic approach, though I view that as instruction to the Christian community and not to secular governments);
    - I believe, in a time of war, that we have to have control of our borders and reduce the numbers of those that would violate our laws to enter the country illegally; yet, “You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.” (Ex 23:9)

    Now, what did I not answer? I don’t believe GWB lines up perfectly with Jesus.

  18. Phil, except for capital punishment, we are pretty much in agreement.

    I wish someone would have a word with some of the commenters at VenomOnline, T19, and the others who apparently do think that George W. fits into the Trinity somewhere.

    Did you see where the Virginia Secessionists have apparently made Dan "Uranium from Niger" Gerson their spokesman? Very unfortunate.


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.