A Reason to Hope by David L. Edwards, (Collins £4.95).
I thought hope was the Cinderella of the theological virtues until I totted up their respective entries in a Dictionary of Quotations, to find that Hope romps home at 125 — a lead of 21 over Faith. Charity pants far behind at 36.
Expecting this to be a thick meditation on the winner, I was pleasantly surprised to find it instead a highly readable and well-informed analysis of the status quo on earth, but especially in Britain. The author is Dean of Norwich.
That his speculations are far from abstract is indicated by the opening paragraphs, a composition of memory's places beginning with the breakwater at Port Said, travelling by Canterbury's nave and crypt, Magdalen's cloister, Trafalgar Square's lions, Cambridge daffodils, Westminster Poets' Corner, and the chamber of the House of Commons, where as chaplain the author wore silver buckled shoes and a tricorn hat, also a silk cassock.
Among the more significant of his milestones must be the editorial desk of the Student Christian Movement, where he brought out Bishop Robinson's "Honest to God", van Buren's "The Secular Meaning of the Gospel," and Harvey Cox's "The Secular City". Such might arouse misgivings, but he comments that he did not think these writers had "said the last word."
David Edwards writes from a religious base with spiritual and theological horizons, but his survey covers world affairs. He is a convinced Socialist of the home-grown sort and an equally convinced anti-Marxist. His social solution is membership of the USE United States of Europe. A local, not a world solution this, but no doubt each man in his place can do only what seems to him best.
You would not expect every one to agree with every modified Socialist remedy advocated, but I wonder how shaken his own views would have been had he written certain passages over the last few weeks.
In Britain, he says, nationalisation has been used "not to create
fresh wealth but to run key industries which would have been troubled by even more strikes if left in private hands".
The style of writing and presentation of material is so clever that this becomes a fault. An account of the post-Conciliar Church reads like something by a compulsive precis-writer.
One sentence seems to imply that if 16th century Catholics had turned the altar round, used the vernacular, and thrown out statues, the Reformation would 'not have happened. Recent Popes are condemned for speaking about contraception and for not speaking about Nazism.
Still, this summary of how others see our "agonies" is very acute, and it is all the more remarkable that, even after trying, the author can locate no other solution for Christianity than the eventual adoption of a "constitutional papacy".
If this means that the "power" comes from the people and not from Christ it would not be the same thing and not deserve the name. It would be the apotheosis of protestantism. I think the Dean, like similar-minded Anglicans, does not mean this. But does he see it?
Although David Edwards has a very broad mind (not the same as broad minded) it surprises me to find him endorsing the orthodox doctrine of Trinity and Incarnation as summarised by Karl Rahner — although his immediate object is only to demonstrate that it is more than an "unconsidered fairy story".
You continue, to find that his sole oblique reference to the Resurrection begins: "What-ever we make of the stories that the Tomb was found empty . . "
Stanley G. Luff