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Feast of Dorothy Sayers (December 17)   Leave a comment

Above:  Dorothy Sayers

Image in the Public Domain

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DOROTHY LEIGH SAYERS (JUNE 13, 1893-DECEMBER 17, 1957)

Anglican Novelist, Playwright, Poet, Translator, and Theologian

December 17 is the feast day of Dorothy Sayers in The Episcopal Church.

Sayers was the only child of the Reverend Henry Sayers, headmaster of the Christchurch Cathedral Choir School, Oxford, England.  Our saint, born in Oxford on June 13, 1893, grew up singing hymns and playing the violin and the piano.  When she was four years old, the family moved to Bluntisham-cum-Earith, Huntingdonshire, in the Fens.  She started studying Latin at the age of six.  She had mastered French by age thirteen.  Then she began to study German.  She spent two unhappy years (1909-1911) at a boarding school (Godolphin School for Girls, Salisbury) then matriculated at Somerville College, Oxford, in 1912.  She became one of the first women to receive academic degrees from Oxford–in her case, a B.A. and an M.A.

Sayers built her literary reputation on a solid foundation.  She published her first novel (the debut of Lord Peter Wimsey) in 1923 and plays.  Our saint began to build that literary reputation while working other jobs.  She taught in 1916-1922, first in Hill High School for Girls then at a boys’ school in France.  She found the time to co-edit Oxford Poetry (1917-1919) while working as a reader at Blackwell’s.  In 1922-1931 Sayers worked as a copywriter at Benson’s, an advertising firm in London.

In 1923 Sayers conducted an affair with William “Bill” White, who kept a secret:  he was married.  Sayers gave birth to John Anthony (adoptive surname = Fleming) in January 1924.  Sayers kept her maternity a secret for a long time.  A relative raised John Anthony.  Sayers publicly referred to her son as her nephew.  She also provided for him financially, took pride in his academic progress, and left her literary estate to him.

Sayers married Captain Oswald Atherton Fleming (d. 1950), a journalist, in 1926.  His hobby was painting miniatures.  The couple had no children.

Sayers, having left the advertising agency, focused on Christian apologetics and drama.  She was an apologist on par with G. K. Chesterton and her friend, C .S. Lewis.  Sayers expressed her low regard for plays composed to edify or evangelize.  As she entitled an essay from 1955, “Playwrights Are Not Evangelists.”

If he writes with his eye on the spiritual box-office, he will at once cease to be a dramatist, and decline into a manufacturer of propagandist tracts…He will lose his professional integrity, and all his power–including his power to preach the Gospel.”

–Quoted in Lee W. Gibbs, The Middle Way:  Voices of Anglicanism (Cincinnati, OH:  Forward Movement Publications, 1991), 99-100

(That is my main critique of most Christian movies.)

This attitude did not prevent her from composing religious plays.  She wrote plays for the Canterbury Festivals in 1937, 1939, 1946, and 1951.  In 1938 she wrote He Who Must Come, about the birth of Christ, for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).  The Man Born to be King (1940), a series of twelve short plays about Jesus she wrote for the BBC, was controversial.  Many conservatives objected for various reasons, including the use of modern English.

Conservative objections to works of Sayers were ironic, for she was an orthodox Christian.  During and shortly after World War II, she lectured and wrote about Christian doctrine.  Her most important work of apologetics was The Mind of the Maker (1941).  Sayers. true to her Anglicanism, revered both faith and reason without placing excessive emphasis on rationalism.  She did not care about systematic theology, but about the creative experience and activity of God, as revealed in the Holy Trinity and the Incarnation.

Sayers, from 1952 the church warden of St. Anne’s Church, Soho, began an ambitious project when she translated Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy.  She published between 1949 and 1955, but died before completing the work.  Friend and Dante scholar Dr. Barbara Reynolds published the final portion in 1962.

Sayers died in Witham, England, on December 17, 1957.  She was 64 years old.

Her literary and theological legacies continue to enrich people, fortunately.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 4, 2019 COMMON ERA

INDEPENDENCE DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ADALBERO AND ULRIC OF AUGSBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH OF PORTUGAL, QUEEN AND PEACEMAKER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PIER GIORGIO FRASSATI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC SERVANT OF THE POOR AND OPPONENT OF FASCISM

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Incarnate God, who gave your servant Dorothy the grace of eloquence to defend your truth to a distressed church,

and to proclaim the importance of Christian principles for the world;

may we too, assisted by her prayers and example,

be given the same grace of passionate conviction to teach right doctrine rightly;

We ask this in your name, who lives and reigns with the Father,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Wisdom of Solomon 7:7-14

Psalm 19

John 21:1-25

Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018

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Feast of Frederick and William Temple (December 22)   4 comments

canterbury-cathedral

Above:  Canterbury Cathedral, 1910

Publisher and Copyright Claimant = Detroit Publishing Company

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-det-4a24699

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FREDERICK TEMPLE (NOVEMBER 30, 1821-DECEMBER 22, 1902)

Archbishop of Canterbury

father of

WILLIAM TEMPLE (OCTOBER 15, 1881-OCTOBER 26, 1944)

Archbishop of Canterbury

His feast transferred from November 6

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So let us set ourselves to gain a deepening loyalty to our Anglican tradition of Catholic order, Evangelical immediacy in our approach to God, and liberal acceptance of new truth made known to us; and let us at the same time join with all our fellow Christians who will join with us in bearing witness to the claim of Christ to rule in every department of human life, and to the principles of His Kingdom.

–William Temple, April 17, 1942; quoted in Lee W. Gibbs, The Middle Way:  Voices of Anglicanism (Cincinnati, OH:  Forward Movement Publications, 1991), page 130

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The standard feast day of William Temple is November 6.  To the best of my knowledge, no ecclesiastical body lists his father, Frederick Temple, on its calendar of saints.  On this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, however, the two Archbishop Temples share a feast day–December 22.

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frederick-temple

Above:  Frederick Temple

Image in the Public Domain

Frederick Temple was an educator, an educational reformer, a theologian, and a minister.  He, born on November 30, 1821, debuted at Leukas (a.k.a. Santa Maura), the Ionian Islands, off the coast of Greece.  His father, Major Octavius Temple (1784-1834) was there on imperial assignment.  Our saint’s mother was Dorcas Carveth (born in 1805).  He was one of five children.  The family relocated to Corfu in 1828.  Then, in 1833, Octavius became the Lieutenant Governor of Sierra Leone, serving until he died the following year.

The death of Octavius left the family impoverished.  Frederick studied at Blundell’s School, Devonshire, from 1834 to 1839.  Then, from 1839 to 1842, he attended Baillol College, Oxford, on scholarship, studying mechanics and the classics.  He encountered Tractarians there and found himself more liberal than they were.  From 1842 to 1848 our saint worked as a lecturer then a fellow at Baillol College.  Along the way he became an Anglican deacon (1846) then priest (1847).

Frederick left Oxford in 1848.  Until 1850 he worked at the Education Office.  Then, from 1850 to 1855, he was the Principal of Kneller Hall, a training college for teachers at workhouses.  Next (until 1857) our saint inspected training colleges.  From 1857 to 1869, as the Headmaster of Rugby School, expanded the curriculum, presided over new construction, and functioned as a good example to everyone.  On the side, from 1864 to 1867, Frederick served on the Schools Enquiry Commission.

Frederick contributed an essay, The Education of the World,” to Essays and Reviews (1860), a liberal Anglican manifesto.  The volume proved to be controversial, partially because all seven authors favored freedom of inquiry in religion.  In our saint’s case, his argument irked many people and led to allegations to heresy.  He wrote of the parallels of human life (obedience during childhood, example during adolescence, and responsible freedom during adulthood) to three religious stages (the Law, the Gospels, and Pentecost).  In the last phase, Frederick wrote, humankind must be free to make decisions while drawing from all worthy sources, mainly the Bible.  Some critics accused our saint of being unduly optimistic regarding human nature and of ignoring sin and redemption.  In response to the controversy he authorized the omission of his essay from subsequent editions of Essays and Reviews.

Our saint became the Bishop of Exeter in 1869 and served until 1885.  Frederick encouraged secondary education.  he also worked hard to implement the Elementary Education Act of 1870, which expanded the reach of elementary school access and improved attendance.  Also during his tenure Frederick oversaw the creation of the Diocese of Truro from his diocese.  And, on October 15, 1881, our saint and his wife, Beatrice Blanche Lascelles, welcomed their second son, William, into the world.

During his time as Bishop of Exeter our saint published The Relations Between Religion and Science (1884).  He accepted both science and religion, acknowledging the reality of Evolution.  He had already covered much of that material in a sermon, The Present Relation of Science to Religion (1860).

From 1885 to 1896 Frederick was the Bishop of London.  During that time he advised the Archbishop of Canterbury, his friend, Edward White Benson, whom he succeeded in 1897.  When our saint became the Primate he was already going blind.  Yet he labored faithfully, attempting to settle ritualistic controversies and refuting the Papal bull (literally) regarding the invalidity of Anglican Holy Orders.  Frederick died at London on December 22, 1902.  He was 81 years old.

Another published work of our saint was “The Church’s Message to Mankind,” included in The Church’s Message to Men (1899).

Volumes about Frederick, at least in part, included the following:

  1. Archbishop Temple, Being the People’s Life of the Right Hon. and Most Rev. Frederick Temple, P.C., D.D., LL.D., Primate of All England, and Metropolitan (1903), by Charles Henry Dant;
  2. Six Great Schoolmasters (1904), by F. D. How;
  3. Memoirs of Archbishop Temple by Seven Friends (1906), edited by E. G. Sandford–Volumes I and II;
  4. Frederick Temple:  An Appreciation (1907), by E. G. Sandford, with a biographical introduction by William Temple; and
  5. The Exeter Episcopate of Archbishop Temple, 1869-1885 (1907), by E. G. Sandford.

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william-temple

Above:  William Temple

Image in the Public Domain

William Temple entered the world on October 15, 1881, when his father, then the Bishop of Exeter, was 60 years old.  Young William grew up in a financially comfortable and artistically rich family.  When his father was the Bishop of London our saint learned to play the piano and the organ.  He also attempted to learn to play the oboe and the French horn and came to consider Johann Sebastian Bach to be

the supreme master  who more than any other enables us for a few moments snatched from the passage of time to enter upon the experience of eternity.

–Quoted in Lee W. Gibbs, The Middle Way:  Voices of Anglicanism (1991), page 114

The bookworm suffered from various illnesses, such as gout, throughout his life.  He, like his father, had eye-related problems; William became blind in one eye, due to a cataract, in 1921.

William was also a natural intellectual.  He, educated at Rugby School (1894-1900) and Baillol College, Oxford (1900-1904), was a fellow and lecturer in philosophy at Queen’s College, Oxford, from 1904 to 1910.  Ordained to the diaconate in December 1909 and the priesthood in December 1910, our saint served as the Headmaster of Repton School, Derbyshire, from 1910 to 1914.

The priesthood had once been far from William’s mind, but it was his vocation.  Allegations of heresy had delayed his Holy Orders, but our saint became a simultaneously relatively orthodox and heterodox figure after his ordination.  The Incarnation occupied the center of his theology.  The Incarnation, William argued, had made the universe sacramental.  This understanding informed our saint’s opinion that one cannot properly divorce Christian doctrine from social justice.  Thus he served as the President of the Workers’ Educational Association from 1908 to 1924 and joined the Labour Party.  Christian disunity weakened the witness of the Church in the world, William knew.  Therefore he supported ecumenism in general and the Life and Work Movement (1925f) and the Faith and Order Movement (1927f), predecessors of the World Council of Churches (1948), in particular.  Our saint also favored the process that led to the formation of the Church of South India (1947).  William also supported the ordination of women to the diaconate and the priesthood as early as 1916, but struggled with the fact that the ordination of women at that time would become an obstacle to ecumenism.

William entered full-time ministry in 1914.  That year he became the Rector of St. James’ Church, Picadilly, London.  On the side he also served as honorary chaplain to King George V and to Randall Davidson, the Archbishop of Canterbury.  In 1916 our saint married Frances Anson; the couple had no children.  From 1919 to 1921 William was Canon of Westminster.  Next he served as the Bishop of Manchester (thereby becoming a successor of James Prince Lee) for eight years.  As the Bishop of Manchester our saint offended cotton magnates by seeking to resolve a general strike peacefully in 1926.  From 1929 to 1942 he was the Archbishop of York.  Then he succeeded Cosmo Lang as the Archbishop of Canterbury.

William was perhaps the most renowned Archbishop of Canterbury since the English Reformation.  He exercised the duties of the office during difficult times–World War II.  Our saint advocated for aid to Jews fleeing the Nazis, visited soldiers and sailors, broadcast sermons to soldiers and sailors, led prayer services at factories, preached on Sundays when Germans were bombing, and supported a negotiated settlement to the war.  He had to travel to and from his final public appearances in an ambulance and had to stand on one foot while speaking.

Wiliam died at Westgate-on-Sea, Kent, on October 26, 1944.  He was 63 years old.  Reinhold Niebuhr reflected:

Dr. Temple was able to relate “religious insights and social order” more vitally and creatively than any other modern Christian leader.

–Quoted in Lee W. Gibbs, The Middle Way:  Voices of Anglicanism (1991), page 113

Major published works by our saint included the following:

  1. The Nature of Personality:  A Course of Lectures (1911);
  2. “The Divinity of Christ” and “The Church” in Foundations:  A Statement of Christian Belief in Terms of Modern Thought (1913);
  3. The Faith and Modern Thought:  Six Lectures (1913);
  4. Christianity and War (1914);
  5. Theology:  The Science of Religion (1914);
  6. Studies in the Spirit and Truth of Christianity (1914);
  7. Our Need of a Catholic Church (1915);
  8. Church and Nation (1915);
  9. Plato and Christianity (1916);
  10. Mens Creatrix:  An Essay (1917);
  11. The Universality of Christ:  A Course of Lectures (1921);
  12. Life of Bishop Percival (1921);
  13. Christus Veritas (1924);
  14. Personal Religion and the Life of Fellowship (1926);
  15. Christianity and the State (1928);
  16. Nature, Man, and God (1934);
  17. Readings in St. John’s Gospel (1939 and 1940); and
  18. Christianity and the Social Order (1942).

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Understanding Frederick Temple increases one’s comprehension for his famous son.  The apple, I contend, did not fall far from the tree.  Although William Temple overshadows his father, nobody should minimize the importance of the elder.

As both Temples understood well, an excessively personalized Christianity divorced from social justice is heretical.  They were good Anglicans and therefore men rooted in the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity as Jesus of Nazareth.  As I have learned, the Anglican emphasis on the Incarnation (as opposed to the Lutheran emphasis on the crucifixion) lends itself to reading John 1:1-18, especially the part about God dwelling among us, and seeking to serve God in those around us.  This point of view has led to ecclesiastical involvement in social justice movements.  This has always been orthodox; turning away from the mandate to love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself has always been heretical.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 8, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN CASPAR MATTES, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF JOHANN VON STAUPITZ, MARTIN LUTHER’S SPIRITUAL MENTOR

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Almighty God, we praise you for your servants Frederick Temple and William Temple,

through whom you have called the church to its tasks and renewed its life..

Raise up in our own day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit,

whose voices will give strength to your church and proclaim the reality of your reign,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 46

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

Mark 10:35-45

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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Feast of George Berkeley and Joseph Butler (June 16)   1 comment

British Flag 1707-1801

Above:  The British Flag, 1707-1801

Image in the Public Domain

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GEORGE BERKELEY (MARCH 12, 1685-JANUARY 14, 1753)

Irish Anglican Bishop and Philosopher

and

JOSEPH BUTLER (MAY 18, 1692-JUNE 16, 1752)

Anglican Bishop and Theologian

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INTRODUCTION

These two men come to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days via The Church of England and The Episcopal Church.  Common Worship:  Services and Prayers for the Church of England (2000) lists June 16 as the feast day for Joseph Butler.  Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010) sets aside June 16 to commemorate the lives of Joseph Butler and George Berkeley.  Celebrating these two saints on the same day makes sense.  Yes, they had some major differences, but they had much more in common than not.  I, after taking notes on both men, have noted the following similarities, among others:

  1. They were contemporaries;
  2. They were great intellectuals;
  3. They, like John Locke, were empiricists;
  4. They criticized aspects of Locke’s philosophy;
  5. They influenced major subsequent philosophers;
  6. They were philosophers and theologians;
  7. They defended the truth of Christianity against assumptions of Deism;
  8. They were published authors;
  9. They were Anglican bishops; and
  10. They rejected speculative philosophy and theology in favor of practical theology.

The God of Deism was a non-interventionist figure.  He was like a watchmaker, for he, to follow the analogy, created the watch, wound it up, then left it alone.  The God of Deism was not the God to whom Psalmists in distress called out for help.  Deism was a theological system grounded in reason, not in reason and revelation or in revelation.  Its existence and prominence in the 1600s and 1700s fed a long-running debate in which our saints participated.  Another debater was the composer George Frederick Handel (1685-1759), whose Messiah (1742) argued against Deism.

I respond favorably to Christian intellectuals.  Christianity has an ancient and venerable tradition of reconciling science, reason, and philosophy with theology.

  1. One might consider, for example, St. Clement of Alexandria (circa 150-circa 210/215), the “Pioneer of Christian Scholarship,” who melded pagan Platonism with Christianity.  Truth is truth, St. Clement, insisted, regardless of its origin.  His star pupil, Origenes Adamantius (185-254), Origen, for short, carried on the good work.
  2. Pope Sylvester II (lived circa 945-1003; reigned 999-1003), unlike some of his contemporaries, did not fear technology (such as the abacus and the telescope) or classics of Greco-Roman literature and philosophy.  He did not care if valid knowledge and useful technology came from Muslims or ancient pagans.  For this reason many in the anti-intellectual wing of the Roman Catholic Church accused him of being in league with Satan.
  3. St. Thomas Aquinas (circa 1225-1274), who reconciled faith with reason, and Aristotelian philosophy with Christianity.
  4. St. Albert the Great (1200-1280), a Dominican priest and Roman Catholic Bishop, was also a scientist.
  5. The birth of modern science in the 1500s overlapped with the Protestant Reformation, the proper context in which to consider the Church’s shameful treatment of Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), a faithful Catholic who preferred good science to bad theology.
  6. The Society of Jesus has a mixed record regarding science, for many Jesuit priests have been scientists yet one of their greatest members, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), labored under a Vatican-imposed gag order because of his synthesis of theology, reason, philosophy, and evolutionary science.
  7. The Roman Catholic Church has, fortunately, been more accepting of science since the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), than it was during the period immediately Vatican II.

Unfortunately, anti-intellectualism persists in much of Christianity.  According to an old joke, a fundamentalist says to a liberal,

I will agree to call you a Christian if you agree to call me a scholar.

That witticism is, due to its genre, necessarily an exaggeration, but it contains such truth.  Although some of the greatest Christian scholars have been Evangelicals, Calvinist (with ties to the Christian Reformed Church in North America and the Evangelical Presbyterian ChurchMark A. Noll, who has joined the faculty at the University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana, found ample material to research and write The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (1994).  And Dr. Francis S. Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health since 2009, is an Evangelical Protestant who has led the Human Genome Project.  He wrote The Language of God (2006), in which he criticized Intelligent Design as failing to hold its own under scientific scrutiny.  He as received much condemnation for that last point.

I recall an awkward lunch I ate at home some years ago.  My father was pastor of Warwick United Methodist Church, Warwick, Georgia, U.S.A., in the borderlands of rural Worth and Crisp Counties.  One day I accompanied him to have lunch with two of his parishioners.  One of our hosts, a man I would never mistake for an intellectual, made a much too-broad comment about educational attainment and piety.  Well-educated people, he insisted, had a different (and implicitly inferior) type of faith than did others.  Both my father and I, aside from being well-educated, were also tactful in the moment.  Nobody created an unfortunate scene.

Now, without further ado, I proceed to summarize then lives and part of the thought of two saints who belied that man’s stereotype more than my father and I did.

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Bishop George Berkeley

Above:  Bishop George Berkeley, by John Smybert

Image in the Public Domain

GEORGE BERKELEY (MARCH 12, 1685-JANUARY 14, 1753)

Berkeley, a native of County Kilkenny, Ireland, was an empiricist and a metaphysical philosopher.  Our saint, of English ancestry, studied at Kilkenny school then at Trinity College, Dublin (1700-1704), from which he graduated.  He maintained an association with his alma mater until 1724, serving as a fellow (lecturing in the subjects of Greek, Hebrew, and theology) from 1707 to 1724.  He took some leaves of absence during that time, touring in Europe in 1713-1714 and 1716-1720, as well as spending time in London, where he associated with Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), Alexander Pope, and Joseph Addison.

Berkeley, a clergyman since 1709, served as the Dean of Dromore in 1721-1722.   In 1724 he resigned his fellowship at Trinity College, Dublin, to become the Dean of Derry, a post he held until 1733.  He sought unsuccessfully to found a college for colonists and Native Americans in Bermuda.  He married Anne Forster in 1728 then moved to Newport, Rhode Island.  There he encouraged higher education in North America until he left for Ireland in 1731.  He donated his library to Yale College (now University), New Haven, Connecticut, hence Berkeley College and Berkeley Divinity School at Yale University.  Another namesake is the city of Berkeley, California.

In 1734 Berkeley became the Bishop of Cloyne.  He retired in late 1752 and retired to Oxford, England.  There he died a few months later, on January 14, 1753, shortly after securing the admission of his son, George, as an undergraduate at Christ Church, Oxford.

Berkeley was a man of his time, responding to issues contemporary to him.  One issue was materialism, meaning not the accumulation of material goods but matter, that is, the stuff of which physical reality consists.  As a student at Trinity College, Dublin, Berkeley had studied the Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), by John Locke (1632-1704).  Locke argued for the following propositions:

Ideas originate in one’s brain because of the influence of the universe, a material system in which the universe’s “bodies” act mechanically, that is, by “impulse,” upon each other and upon human senses.

  1. Ideas are the only things of which people can be directly aware.
  2. Ideas of “primary qualities” represent accurately the real character of material things.
  3. Ideas of “secondary qualities” do not represent accurately the real character of material things.
  4. We humans mistakenly “attribute reality” to smell, taste, sound, and color.
  5. There are also “immaterial substances,” but Locke admitted that he did not know how to prove this point.
  6. Consciousness might be nothing more than a property of matter, one rooted in memory.

Berkeley argued against these points, preferring immaterialism.  He countered that the physical world exists only in experiences of it.  He found no good reason to accept the existence of matter, as Locke understood it.  Rather, the principle of

Esse is percipi,

or

to be is to be perceived,

held sway in Berkeley’s thought.  Ergo:

For the mind of God is present always and everywhere; all ideas are always in the mind of God, and it is by direct communion with His mind that human beings are supplied with the ideas that make up their experience.  It is literally true that “in Him we live, and move, and have our being.”  Thus, the reality of the everyday world is secured by being made directly dependent upon the mind of God, and the notion of “matter,” the very foundation of the scientific world view, is simply rejected.

Encyclopedia Americana (1962), Volume 3, Page 554

Berkeley, true to his Anglicanism, rejected abstract speculations in favor of practical theology.  He affirmed one of the core principles of the Law of Moses–complete human dependence upon God.  As for Berkeley’s rejection of the basis of modern science, that point is up for debate.  (I favor science and theology.)

Berkeley’s philosophical theory of immaterialism became influential after he died.  Thomas Reid (1710-1796) criticized it in Inquiry into the Human Mind (1764).  The theory influenced subsequent philosophers such as David Hume (1711-1776), Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), and Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860).  Another critic was John Stuart Mill (1806-1873).

Berkeley was a varied thinker and an excellent literary stylist.  Major works included the following:

  1. Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (1710) and its counterpart for the mass audience, Three Dialogues Between Hyles and Philonus (1713);
  2. An Essay Towards a New Theory of Vision (1709), a work of psychology;
  3. De Motu (1721), a work in Latin on the philosophy of science;
  4. Aleiphron, or the Minute Philosopher (1732), a defense of morality and religion against Deism;
  5. The Analyst (1734), a critique of Isaac Newton’s differential calculus;
  6. The Querist (1735-1737), regarding economic problems in Ireland; and
  7. Sirus (1744), regarding science and philosophy.

The author of the article about Berkeley in the Encyclopedia Britannica (1968), Volume 3, on page 508:

The most patent features of his style are precision, economy and a seemingly inevitable grace; with here and there salty satire and teasing wit; the roots of it are a natural logicality, a rare purity of sentiment and a deep philanthropy.

Archive.org provides copies of Berkeley’s works.  Examples include the following:

  1. The Works of George Berkeley, D.D., Late Bishop of Cloyne in Ireland; To Which is Added, an Account of His Life; and Several of His Letters to Thomas Prior, Esq., Dean Gervais, Mr. Pope, Etc. (1820)–Volumes I and II;
  2. The Works of George Berkeley, D.D., Formerly Bishop of Cloyne; Including Many of His Writings Hitherto Unpublished; With Prefaces, Annotations, His Life and Letters, and an account of His Philosophy (1871), by Alexander Campbell Fraser–Volumes I, II, III, and IV; and
  3. The Works of George Berkeley, D.D., Bishop of Cloyne (1897), edited by George Sampson–Volumes I, II, and III.

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Joseph Butler

Above:  Bishop Butler

Image in the Public Domain

JOSEPH BUTLER (MAY 18, 1692-JUNE 16, 1752)

Butler, a native of Wantage, Berkshire, England, was an empiricist thinker.  He differed from Berkeley by accepting science.  Butler’s rational orthodoxy stood in contrast to the Methodist enthusiasm of John Wesley (1703-1791), his fellow Anglican.  Our saint understood correctly that we humans act based on probabilities.  He also grasped that actions, not certainties, are the bases of religion.  Thus he rejected the quest for certainty, that idol of fundamentalism, and defended Christianity as a “rational probability.”

Butler, who came from a Presbyterian family, became a great Anglican theologian.  He was the youngest of eight children of a wealthy linen and woolen draper.  Our saint, educated at Gloucester then Tewkesbury, had once intended to become a Presbyterian minister, but he came to prefer Anglicanism instead.  He converted in 1714 and matriculated at Oriel College, Oxford, the following year.  He studied philosophy, one of his favorite subjects, if not his favorite subject.  Our saint found himself disenchanted with the conservatism of the course of study, for he noticed defenses of Aristotelian thought against Newtonian physics and the thought of Francis Bacon (1561-1626) and John Locke.  Butler complained:

Our people have never had any doubt in their lives concerning a received opinion.

–Quoted in Gibbs, The Middle Way (1991), page 48

Butler graduated with his B.A. degree in 1718.  Subsequent degrees from the same institution were Bachelor of Law (1721) and Doctor of Law (1733).

Our saint, ordained in 1719, found his niche in The Church of England.  From 1719 to 1725 he preached at Rolls Chapel, London.  He became the Rector of Stanhoppe in 1725 and maintained that title and received its income for 15 years.  From 1733 to 1736 Butler doubled as the Chaplain to Lord Chancellor Charles Talbot.  In 1736 he became the Clerk of the Closet to Queen Caroline of Ansbach (1683-1737), consort of King George II (reigned 1727-1760).  Butler and Queen Caroline became friends and engaged in theological discussions.  She spoke highly of him to King George II and recommended Butler for promotion.  (The monarch was the titular head of The Church of England.)  In 1738 Butler became the Bishop of Bristol, in charge of a poor see.  He remained as Rector of Stanhoppe until 1740, when be began to double as the Dean of St. Paul’s, London.  From 1746 to 1750 he did triple duty as the Clerk of the Closet to King George II.

As the Bishop of Bristol (1738-1750) Butler locked horns with John Wesley.  The founder of Methodism was preaching without authorization to miners in the Diocese of Bristol.  Wesley was not canonically resident in the Diocese of Bristol.  Butler ordered Wesley to go home and stated that he (Wesley) should cease to pretend to have received special revelations from the Holy Spirit.

Butler refused an offer to become the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1747.  According to an apocryphal story, he said,

It is too late for me to try to support a falling Church.

–Quoted in Gibbs, The Middle Way (1991), page 50

Our saint had complained about the “decay of religion” in England.  Certainly part of that decay was the influence of Deism.  His preferred method of supporting the “falling Church” in his final years was ritualism.  Thus Butler foreshadowed the Oxford Movement of the 1800s.  Critics accused him of having succumbed to Papism, an allegation tantamount to accusing one of being bound for Hell.

Butler, translated to the wealthy Diocese of Durham in 1750, died of stomach and intestinal disorders at Bath, Somerset, England, on June 16, 1752.  He never married, thus he lived in a manner consistent with his opposition to the marriage of the clergy.  He also lived simply and gave away the vast majority of his money.

Ernest Campbell Mossner, author of Bishop Butler and the Age of Reason:  A Study in the History of Thought (1936), wrote:

In the history of eighteenth century English culture, what Locke is to philosophy, what Newton is to physics, what Burke is to politics, Butler is to theology…And the spokesman is by no means unworthy of his distinguished associates.

–Quoted in Gibbs, The Middle Way (1991), pages 47-48

Butler affirmed science, reason, and orthodox Christianity.  He shared many yet by no means all of the points of Deism, for he argued against that system.  Our saint affirmed among other things, miracles, human sinfulness, the Incarnation of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus, and the Atonement.  He also accepted scientific developments and knowledge, and had a high opinion of human reason.  Scripture, tradition, and reason–Richard Hooker’s Three-Legged Stool–defined Butler’s theology.

Butler rejected speculative thought in favor of practical theology.  He insisted that religion is a matter of practice, not certainty.  In his theology probability, not certainty, is the grounding of human knowledge and actions.  Furthermore, Butler wrote, nature contains much mystery, perplexity, and obscurity; reason and order do not rule supreme there.  Via experience one can discern facts upon which to infer probable truth.  Ergo, theological and natural forms of knowledge are equally indispensable and probable.  Simply put, the grounding of Christianity is divine revelation, not nature.  One can access much of truth via science and reason, but one cannot perceive other aspects of truth by those methods.  There is more than one way to perceive truth correctly.

Butler also thought deeply about psychology.  He criticized John Locke’s theory of psychological continuity, based in memories.  Our saint opposed blind obedience to “received wisdom,” but he also evaluated alternatives critically, as he should have done.

Butler also critiqued the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), who argued that self-love directs all human actions.  That is simplistic, our saint thought.  He countered that benevolence is a second influence, benevolence, is also at work in human nature and in harmony with self-love.  Related to benevolence, Butler wrote, is conscience, which he understood to mean the voice of God inside one’s head.  According to Butler, therefore, the conscience is sovereign, to follow one’s conscience is to behave virtuously, and to obey the will of God, and conscience is consistent with reason.

Lee W. Gibbs wrote of Butler, who, like Berkeley, influenced David Hume and Immanuel Kant, that;

In short, the life and work of Bishop Joseph Butler was thoroughly representative of the middle way.  He exemplified that perennial Anglican openness to the changing historical circumstances of his day, while maintaining at the same time that continuous body of traditional beliefs held to be essential to the Christian faith.

The Middle Way (1991), pages 58-59

Archive.org makes available works by and about Butler.  They include the following:

  1. The Works of the Right Reverend Father in God Joseph Butler, D.C.L., Late Bishop of Durham; To Which is Prefixed, an Account of the Character and Writings of the Author, by Samuel Halifax, D.D. Late Lord Bishop of Gloucester (1828)–Volumes I and II;
  2. The Whole Works of Joseph Butler, LL.D., Late Lord Bishop of Durham (1852);
  3. The Works of Joseph Butler (1897), edited by William Ewart Gladstone (Prime Minister, 1868-1874, 1880-1885, 1886, and 1892-1894)–Volumes I, II, and III;
  4. Bishop Butler (1901), by William Archibald Spooner; and
  5. Bishop Joseph Butler (1923), by Albert Edward Baker.

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CONCLUSION

My Ecumenical Calendar of Saint’s Days and Holy Days recognizes a wide range of saints.  I imagine that, if by means of a time machine, I could gather all of them in one place and, via a universal translator, they could all understand each other, some fascinating discussions–even arguments–would occur.  I would, in such a fanciful and hypothetical situation, engage in some arguments.  If agreeing with me across the board were a criterion for inclusion on my Ecumenical Calendar, it would not exist.

I admit that I disagree with Berkeley and Butler on certain points.  That is fine, for they disagreed with each other.  They also share the same commemoration on the calendar of saints of The Episcopal Church.  Anglican collegiality permits such unity in the midst of differences.

I also admit that despite my attempts to understand that, despite my attempts to understand some of the philosophical arguments of Butler, I remain uncertain regarding the objective definition of what he wrote sometimes.  For example, the contents of his critique of Locke’s theory of personality and consciousness remain a mystery to me.  That is fine, for that fact has no bearing on my opinion of Butler as a saint and a seeker of God.  I still recognize him as one who engaged his intellect vigorously, thought deeply, and did so for the glory of God.  Butler, true to his convictions, avoided the opposite errors of idolizing “received wisdom” on one hand and more recent developments in science and technology on the other hand.  I respect that.

The process of taking notes, processing them, and drafting this post has taken parts of several days and constituted a workout for my intellect and my right hand, for the draft is lengthy.  Typing this post has given my fingers a workout also.  I am better informed for the process of creating this post.  May you, O reader, be better informed after reading it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 11, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ONESIMUS, BISHOP OF BYZANTIUM

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Holy God, source of all wisdom:

We give thanks for your servants George Berkeley and Joseph Butler,

who by their life and work strengthened your Church and illumined your world.

Help us, following their examples, to place our hearts and minds in your service,

for the sake of Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit

lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Isaiah 6:6-10

Psalm 119:89-96

Acts 13:38-44

John 3:11-16

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 431

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