Past and present

Michael Ramsey

In his book From Gore to Temple, Michael Ramsey concerns himself with the ethos of Anglicanism. There is a proper way for the past to speak to the present. Two misconceptions can confuse people about the value of the past.

Two misconceptions

The first is the nature of the Christian Church. Some see it as a series of generations of Christians, each encased in its own setting of time and culture. ‘No’, says Ramsey, ‘It is rather a community of experience reaching across the generations, so that the language and symbolism that it uses can evoke the past in a way that strikes a chord in the experience of the present’.

The second misconception is to understand the relationship between the past and the present in predominantly cerebral terms. Some evaluate the past in terms of whether certain ideas of the past can fit the intellectual outlook of the present. That is the wrong emphasis. The issue is whether the past can speak to us now as human beings with our sin and our guilt, our hopes and our fears.

The ethos of Anglican theology

The distinctive witness of Anglicanism can help here. Anglicanism must keep alive the importance of history as its great divines have done during its history. It must also emphasize the importance of relating the Biblical revelation to other categories of thought in the contemporary world. It will do this by keeping people aware of the importance of doctrine in the life of prayer. The context of my prayer must be the Creed — what I believe and know of God and my life with him in Christ in the Holy Spirit and the Church. This places my prayer in the larger experience of the Christian centuries and saves it from the preoccupations of my own self in its own small world. Secondly, we must always present the Church as the effectual sign of the supernatural in the midst of the natural order. It is this presence of the supernatural in the natural that transfigures and transforms in the way of God’s redemption.

Keeping our identity

We must resist the temptation to allow the Church to become what secular society wants it to be, another politically correct department of state. We will only avoid this if we retain the memory of whom and what we are. If we lose our memory we lose our identity. Scripture and Tradition reminds us of who and what we are. That identity if it is true to itself will be concerned to work and pray for the unity of the Church in East and West. ND

Edited by Arthur Middleton