Faith & Reason: Logic and lunacy among the believers
Once upon a time the Church of England stood for a Protestant monarchy. Now it is not sure. And it is even more confused about its own constitutional role, argues Andrew Brown.
Saturday 31 August 1996
This makes him sound a crank, and perhaps he is. But he is also humane and even liberal in argument, once you grasp his premises. He believes that God's plan for Britain is that it should be a Protestant monarchy; close attention can reveal the clear meaning of the Bible and this in turn reveals the meaning and purpose of everything else in the world.
These beliefs were quite common before the First World War. In parts of Ulster, they still are. Until he lost his court case, he was able also to suppose that they were the foundational beliefs of the Church of England. Now, he says that "Politically the matter is lost. Humanly speaking, there is no prospect of that being reversed. The church along with the other institutions of this country are under the judgement of God, and without the intervention of God I do not see how this [trend within the church] could be reversed."
This is an inspiring example of the resilience of the religious imagination. It is nowadays scientists, rather than theologians, who have inherited this Calvinist confidence in the primacy of the theory over data and the concomitant willingness to abandon common sense. As a scientific attitude it has brought great rewards. It is odd that it should have been so thoroughly discredited among the religious, who nowadays feel that their picture of God ought to conform more to human ideas of benevolence and even decency.
Yet the fact that Dr Samuel's idea of the Church of England is absurd does not mean that he cannot spot the absurdities in other people's view of it. He was speaking last week at the launch of a Gallup poll his organisation had commissioned into attitudes within the Church of England.
Two things are noteworthy about this. The first is that the bishops have finally got their act together to resist opinion polls. Only 25 of the 114 questioned replied, a sufficiently low number to remove all confidence in their results. Some of the rest looks distinctly dodgy too: when asked "How satisfied are you with the current system of synodical government in the Church of England?" only 52 per cent of the general public replied "Don't Know". God in His wisdom alone knows what the 28 per cent who pronounced themselves "Fairly Satisfied" thought they were doing: probably giving a vote of confidence to the Chief Rabbi.
The second significant feature of the poll is one to which Dr Samuel drew attention himself, and this is the deep confusion within the church about what Establishment actually means. A huge majority of regular church attenders wanted the church to remain established "and keep its association with the state" - even more than were in favour of women priests. There were smaller, but still clear majorities among the full-time clergy and the population as a whole.
So far so good. Then you ask the same people whether Parliament should continue to have the final say in the affairs of the Church of England, or whether the Prime Minister should have a right to veto the appointment of diocesan bishops, and majorities just as large, if not larger, reply that he should not, and that the church should be free of parliamentary control.
This really does look like a more significant discovery than the 35 per cent of self-described Anglicans who told Gallup they never ever attend any place of worship. The plain meaning of the findings on Establishment is that the Church of England has no idea at all of the sort of relationship it has or might hope to have with the state. It expects all the privileges of Establishment but recoils with horror from the obligations. It could do with a dose of Dr Samuel's astringent logic.
- 1 Bill Clinton portrait features Monica Lewinsky reference, artist admits
- 2 Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
- 3 Pornhub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
- 4 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 5 Average penis size revealed: Scientists attempt to find what is 'normal' to reassure concerned men
Bill Clinton portrait features Monica Lewinsky reference, artist admits
Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
Kanye West gives guest lecture at Oxford University: 'If I, Kanye West, can remove my ego, I think there's hope for everyone'
'This is what Islam tells us to do': A rare glimpse inside a Saudi Arabian prison – where Isis terrorists are showered with perks and privileges
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Have you been doing a brilliant job in an admi...
£26,498 - £31,556: Surrey County Council: We are looking for an outgoing, conf...
£50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an innovative, senior H...
£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client, a very well respect...