Sunday, 13 September 2009

Recipe: a pudding

Sir Watkin [Williams] Wynne [sic] Pudding


6 oz bread crumbs
3 oz suet
3 oz sugar
2 eggs
1½ tbsp. marmalade
A little milk

Make the bread crumbs.
Shred and chop the suet finely.
Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl.
Beat the eggs and add with the marmalade to the dry ingredients.
The mixture should be rather moist, as the bread crumbs swell, so add milk as required.
Turn into a greased bowl, cover with a greased paper, and steam for two hours.
Turn the pudding on to a hot dish, and pour round either marmalade or sweet melted-butter sauce.

Source: The Edinburgh Book of Plain Cookery Recipes, (London, etc., Thomas Nelson and Sons, new and revised edition, [no date]), p.95

Not a very exciting dish, and they might have got my name right, but still - it's not everyday that someone names a recipe after you.

Friday, 11 September 2009

What changed with the Tractarians?

Fr Hunwicke has a typically provocative post on Anglicanism on his blog, Fr Hunwicke's Liturgical Notes. (N.B. One needs to read his second post on the subject if one is not, like some of the initial commenters, to fall into the trap that the author rather wickedly set for his readers. Bravo, Father!) 

In a comment Independent makes a couple of points which perhaps deserve some exploration:

"Such a belief was conpatible with the Receptionist doctrine common among the Laudian Divines and among High Churchmen [...] The Tractarians did not follow a tradition, they transformed it."

This partly true, but also partly untrue - which leads to an Interesting Point.

Some High Chuchmen certainly believed in an objective presence, some seem to have believed in a subjective presence, and some so tie themselves in knots that it's hard to tell exactly what they believed. But apparently receptionist statements are not of themselves decisive. [If one merely took in isolation Aquinas' words, "O sacrum convivium! in quo Christus sumitur: recolitur memoria passionis ejus", one might conclude that the Angelic Doctor was receptionist and memorialist!]

Laudian divines were often cautious what they committed themselves to in print, for obvious reasons. (Other evidence, e.g. their liturgical practices, may suggest a much more Catholic understanding of the Eucharist than their words do - such things were perhaps felt to be less incriminating.)

Later High Churchmen might use receptionist language in an eirenical spirit, appealing to common ground: as if to say, "You and I may differ about whether the presence is objective or subjective, but let us focus on what we agree on, viz. that Christ is received, and the Eucharist is not a matter of nuda signa."

The Tractarians might be said to have "firmed up" the High Church tradition on the Eucharist. They became much bolder about the objective presence, and averse to receptionist language. They could be said to have narrowed the tradition, but it is misleading to say that they were not following it: more precisely, they followed and developed one particular strand of it, to the exclusion of others.

A similar (and related) development took place in their attitude to the Fathers. Earlier High Churchmen were often ambiguous about the relationship between patristic teachings and the Anglican acquis. Many were prepared to "correct" the Fathers in the light of Anglican doctrine and practice; others got into a terrible muddle, trying to reconcile the two.

The Tractarians cut this Gordian knot: they had no inhibitions about correcting Anglicanism where it disagreed with the Fathers.

Again, this is not new: some earlier High Churchman had done so too. The change was that this strand hunted the others from the field.

Whilst this tendency narrowed High Church tradition on the protestant side, it also broadened it on the Catholic side, opening up a far deeper engagement with the Fathers and with Catholic Christianity generally (both West and East), an engagement that proved extraordinarily fruitful. It was an antidote to the insularity and complacency that had too often been the fatal weakness of High Churchmen. Could one imagine the work of the great Anglo-Catholic slum priests had this development not taken place?

All this remains relevant today. There are those (Anglicans and others) who would correct the Great Tradition in the light of some narrower experience. There are others for whom that Tradition provides the necessary perspective to see our contemporary and local prejudices for what they are.

But Sir Watkin's thoughts on that will have to wait for another post ....

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Libya: Milliband / Balls contradiction?

“We did not want him [al-Megrahi] to die in prison,” - David Miliband (Today, 2nd September)

“None of us wanted to see the release of al-Megrahi,” - Edward Balls (Today, 7th September)

Alex Massie on his Spectator blog ties himself in knots trying to demonstrate, in his familiar contrarian way, that Balls has not contradicted Miliband. (And gets rewarded for his pains with a comment accusing him of being Jesuitical.)

However, he misses what is blindingly obvious: the statements aren't (of themselves) contradictory.

The clue is the word "want". The whole point about a dilemma is that it presents you with two (or more) alternatives, neither of which you want, but one of which you must choose. Otherwise it wouldn't be a dilemma.

It's a very basic ethical problem:
  • British Government does not want to release al-Megrahi, because it will annoy the Americans, be an offence against Justice, seem soft on Terrorism, etc.
  • British Government does not want to leave al-Megrahi in gaol, because it will annoy the Libyans, damage British economic interests, etc.
It can't both release him and not release him, so it is forced to identify the least bad option. (Idiot's Guide to Ethics, chapter 1.)

If a Government is politically astute it will, of course, attempt to pursue the selected option as elegantly as possible. It is this that the present administration has singularly failed to do. Conservative commentators naturally exploit this failure. That is fair eno' - all part of the game. But Sir Watkin has a nagging suspicion that many of them fail to understand the underlying logic of dilemmas, lesser evils and hard ethical choices. Which is worrying.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Jesus wants me for ... a dolphin??

Gregory Cameron, protégé of Rowan Williams, Anglican Communion high flyer, mastermind behind the Anglican Covenant, and recently enthroned Lord Bishop of S. Asaph, informs his flock that God wants them to be aquatic mammals of the Delphinidae family:
In this sea of the Holy Spirit, our reaction can be like limpets - to cling on to the rock of familiar territory and to risk nothing new. Or we might be like anemones, putting our tendrils out from time to time to experience the sort of joy that a really good praise service can give,but otherwise getting on with the humdrum. But I think God wants us to be dolphins, embarking with exuberance on a journey across the oceans of his love, jumping and dancing in the waves of life agitated by the Spirit.
How do we become spiritual dolphins?
Splish! Splash! Splosh!!

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Is Gordon Brown a Christian?

According to Alistair Campbell, New Labour didn't "do God".

But Tony Blair very plainly did (and continues to - let us hope that God is suitably grateful).

Gordon Brown does The Virtues of a Christian Upbringing (ad nauseam). But is that where it stops? Does he also do God?

Whether he is a Christian or not seems a curiously elusive fact. I say "curiously", because whilst Brown goes out of his way to tell that he is a son of the manse, shaped by that background (Christian Socialism, "moral compass", etc., etc., etc.), it is hard to discover what his present relationship is with Christianity. Does he pray? Does he believe the articles of the Faith? Does he go to church either regularly or intermittently?

Does he consider faith (or its loss) a private matter? Or one it is impolitic to reveal?

Is it significant that he draws attention only to those parts of his Christian heritage that no virtuous atheist could object to?

Is it all an exercise in "dog-whistling" - Brown trying to make himself attractive to Christians, whilst not offending non-believers?

Cranmer nods

Archbishop Cranmer (the blogger, not the compiler of the Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments, &c.) is an interesting character. His concern is the intersection between religion and politics. In religion he is a staunchly protestant, solidly low church Anglican. In politics he is an equally staunch Conservative of a traditional right-wing sort.

Sometimes his commentary is intelligent and perceptive (often when one least expects it to be); at other times, mere empty right-wingery and protestant polemic.

His anti-Catholic prejudices can be virulent, but it is notable that he finds more and more to praise in Benedict XVI. One has a sneaking suspicion that if forced to choose he might prefer his Holiness to any actually-existing protestant church leader.

His Grace has an averagely interesting post this morning, pondering why in a country with an Established Church, its Supreme Governor no longer calls her subjects to prayer, but the President of the United States of America, a country which is notoriously sensitive to the separation of church and state, has no such inhibition.

Sadly, the late Archbishop's enthusiasm for his theme leads him astray, when he alleges that Winston Churchill (the last Prime Minister to advise his monarch to proclaim a national Day of Prayer) was "a sincere, devout, Bible-reading, resurrection-believing Christian."

Would that be the same Winston Churchill who declared that he supported the church, but like a flying buttress - "from the outside"? And who admitted, "I believe death is the end"?