Paul Griffin on the subtle embracing of change
It is only in one sense that we can call ourselves traditionalists. Whatever our faith, we live in the material world, and the material world is in a perpetual state of flux. If we look back one generation, we can see that our lives were subject to factors of a nature and importance that has in twenty-five years completely changed. Put ourselves back another generation, and survivors may find it difficult to recapture the reasons for their actions and opinions at the time.
The inability to make sufficient distinction lay behind the Reformation, when (often genuine) religious zeal associated itself with the fashion for acquiring property. It lies at the root of our lack of unity as a church. In matters of faith we may say with Dame Cecily Stonor, under interrogation for Catholicism in Elizabethan times: T hold me still to that wherein I was born and bred, and find nothing taught in it but great virtue and sanctity, and so by the grace of God I will live and die in it.’ Yet in non-religious matters we may not say this.
Humanity is perpetually on the move, from soda and washboards to washing machines, and onwards to whatever lies ahead. Our duty there is not to live in the past, but in the present.
Kierkegaard says with some justice, ‘Only a Christian can live wholly in the present; for to him the past is pardoned and the future is safe with God.’ This does not mean we are to accept everything that happens in the present: only those developments that harmonize with the faith we have been given are to be welcomed.
The last part of the quotation should give us comfort as we ponder the Anglican Church’s decision on whether we may be allowed to continue our membership, and on what terms. What awaits us is indeed in the hands of God, perhaps the only comforting thought. What Jesus said about taking no thought for the morrow, surely applies now.
Situational Ethics died long ago; but this may be a moment for something very like it.