Saturday, 26 November 2016

Dr Liddon, by George W.E. Russell

George W.E. Russell, The English Churchman's Library: Dr. Liddon, 1905 A.R. Mowbray & Co, Oxford

I found this biography of Henry Parry Liddon (1829-1890) at a second-hand bookshop in York a month ago. I used to frequent the same second-hand bookshop when I was studying theology in York. I was well aware of the work of Liddon, but was delighted to be able to read more about his life.

H.P. Liddon was appointed canon of St. Paul's Cathedral in 1864. On a number of occasions he was offered a bishopric, but he always declined for various reasons. Arguably, Liddon was the last of the Oxford Movement. A close associate of Edward Pusey, the formed the bridge between the Tractarians and the Anglo-Catholic ritualists, the liturgical radicals of the next generation. Liddon played an important role in defending ritualist clergy from persecution by the state and church. Liddon can also be credited with preventing Archbishop Tait from modifying the Athanasian Creed or removing it from its high place in Anglican liturgy.

Liddon was a defender of the authority and reliability of Scripture, though I was disappointed to learn from this book that he was not committed to Verbal Inspiration as a doctrine. He was deeply unhappy with the liberal Anglo-Catholic publication, Lux Mundi, which tried to harmonize orthodox doctrine with critical views of the Bible. This book suggests that the stress of Liddon's opposition to Lux Mudi contributed to the breakdown of his health towards the end of his life. Sadly, the Scriptural views of Lux Mundi have been rather more influential in modern Anglican theology than those of Liddon and Pusey. That document helped to shift those of catholic views towards a more liberal stance on Scripture, when compared to the firm commitment of the Oxford Movement to the infallibility of the Bible. The Church of England (and the Roman Catholic Church) needs more men like Liddon who will contend for the authority and reliability of Scripture.

Liddon had come from an Evangelicalism before his conversion to Anglo-Catholic views. I liked the biographer's positive comment on this background:

"Like his own master, Bishop Hamilton, he was born and bred an Evangelical. There is no foundation on which the superstructure of Catholic faith can be more securely built than on the Evangelical confession of man's utter sinfulness and of the free pardon purchased by the blood of Christ. A man trained in that confession may, without sacrificing a jot of his earlier creed, learn to accept all that the Catholic Church teaches about Orders and Sacraments; but to the end he retains some characteristic marks of his spiritual beginnings."

Having become a Roman Catholic, I do not in any way despise my Evangelical roots. An Evangelical background brings with it a love and commitment to Scripture and a fervent desire to see men and women saved from the fires of hell.

I was grateful for the chance to learn more about an Anglican figure worthy of deep admiration, one who bought to be a little better remembered.

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