Re: P.J. Bowler book

From: Michael Roberts (
Date: Fri Jan 11 2002 - 12:48:21 EST

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    Here's an interesting letter from William Temple (Archof Cant 1942-4) to the
    very liberal Bishop Barnes of Birmingham written in 1930

    My dear Bishop,

    You say that ten years ago a religious teacher who accepted evolution was
    still suspect. suspect to whom? Not to any ecclesiastical authority. When my
    Father (Fred T Arch of Cant 1890s)announced and defended his acceptance of
    evolution in his Brough (sic BAMPTON) Lectures of 1884 it provoked no
    serious amount of criticism. ..., but the particularbattle over evolution
    was already won by 1884.
    You say: "The story of Adam and eve is, of course, incompatible with
    modernknowledge and the serious theologiansets it aside." I should have
    said that the serious theologian never sets anything aside without asking
    what ...of spiritual value has been faultily expressed here... As soon as it
    is realized that the Garden of Eden is a myth, .. because the Fall is ... a
    "fall upwards" seeing that the knowledge of good and evil was obtained.
    Similarly Genesis i, as soon as it is taken as a myth, is an overpoweringly
    good myth.

    Yours ever

    William Ebor

    I shall not comment on this letter but it encapsulates the dominant Anglican
    position (i.e Temple) in the 1930s and how it rejected both extreme liberal
    and conservative positions. I will leave readers to cogitate on it.

    I have some 6 books by Temple including his addresses to Oxfrord univ
    Students of 1931 which my mother, aunt and uncle attended (my father I guess
    did not) . This was an easter present from my aunt to my mother in Easter


    ----- Original Message -----
    From: <>
    To: <>
    Cc: <>
    Sent: Friday, January 11, 2002 1:45 AM
    Subject: Re: P.J. Bowler book

    > Michael-
    > For not having read the book, you're right on target. Bowler deals with
    > reconciliation of science and religion as expressed by liberal Anglicans
    > (Modernists) and non-materialist scientists. The reconciliation is
    > dependent on the thesis that both these groups shared a faith in Progress.
    > This faith, and the 'second age' of sci/rel dialogue (we're in the third)
    > survived World War I but ended for several reasons: 1) the rise of
    > 2) the Depression and related suffering, 3) evangelical voices from the
    > churches, and 4) the rise of Barthian neo-orthodoxy with its disdain for
    > natural theology.
    > But even to say that is to oversimplify and Bowler introduces a wonderful
    > collection of characters (in several senses of that word!) in a most
    > enjoyable presentation. Other interesting tidbits include the fact that
    > philosopher Joad found A.N. Whitehead's Process and Reality to be
    > incomprehensible, and that by the time Whitehead finished giving the
    > lectures (from which the book resulted), there were only about half a
    > people in the audience!
    > Hope you get to read the book soon. I think you'll like it.
    > Karl
    > **************************
    > Karl V. Evans
    > In a message dated 1/10/02 4:46:08 PM Mountain Daylight Time,
    > writes:
    > << Sorry I havent read it yet , but it is on my list. Anything by Bowler
    > usually excellent as he is always careful and fair.
    > The book as I gather (partly from talking to Bowler) is largely about
    > Anglican attitudes from 1900 to c1950 As a result there will be little on
    > evangelcals as the Cof E was dominated by either a moderate Modernism or
    > Liberal Anglocatholicism until the 50s when the terrible evangelicals
    > back and upset everyone.
    > The theology of these was trinitarian with some iffy on the Virgin Birth
    > empty tomb. The bible was most fallible and Genesis was basically myth.
    > assumed no conflict of science and faith as they had put behind them the
    > literalism of the 19th century (and overlooked the fact that in the 19th
    > century most were not literalsit!) They had a soft view of the Fall and
    > emphasised Incarnation rather than Atonement and rejected Substitutionary
    > Atonement. The more liberal/modernist often had a very exemplarist view
    > the atonement - if at all.
    > When you read these Anglican theologians William Temple, Gore,
    > Raven and many others you will find a confident liberal optimism which
    > been reroded since WWII as the basis of their weak religious authority
    > undermined. I cannot help seeing them as living off the inherited
    > capital of previous generations and thus when questions arose and arose
    > did the whole confident theology was eroded.
    > Bowler's best example is Bishop EW Barnes of Birmingham who rejected much
    > more in the way of belief but looks orthodox compared to Bish Spong.
    > reckons he was the only really to consider the theological implications
    > evolution and I think he was right. I finfd the others cosy and also
    adopt a
    > very non-darwinian evolution allowing in optimistic progress.
    > Now Barnes flung out orthodox belief , the task for us is to demonstrate
    > whether or not evolution can be compatible with orthodox belief
    > particularly of Fall/sin and atonement.
    > I will leave you all with that and will have to read the book
    > Michael
    > >>

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