Thursday, 12 August 2010

William Temple

Obviously, I am not a terrific blogger. I often feel that my own ideas are not as exciting as they might be. So I need to recycle the ideas of others. I'm inspired by Dan's blog
on Richard Hooker.

To make a start, I am going to (attempt to) spend some time blogging about one of my theological heroes, Archbishop William Temple. Temple was born in 1881, died in 1944, and was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1942 until his death, having been Archbishop of York for 13years previously, and Bishop of Manchester before that. Ordained Deacon in 1909, Temple produced the equivalent of a book-length work per year of ordained ministry, and never held an academic post. He is best remembered for his work in the ecumenical movement, and as a champion of social reform, most notably in his little Penguin Classic, Christianity and Social Order.

Few people read much besides CSO any more, and I think this has been true since about the 1970s. However, I think this lack goes far to explaining a common misconception that Temple was too much a product of his own time, with little enduring to say to us today. This was the underlying premise of my doctoral dissertation (thesis to my UK colleagues), . I won't rehearse the ecclesiological arguments here.

There is much to commend William Temple's writing to us today. There is a warmth, open-mindedness, and graciousness of writing that makes reading his works much like drinking good wine--it's possible to consume a great deal before realizing the effects. I used his Christian Faith and Life to good effect with an undergraduate class in theology in 1999, and I think that slim volume, which contains the addresses to the Oxford Student Christian Mission in 1931, is still the best short introduction to his work.

However, I feel somewhat remiss that I did not produce an article in 2009, for the seventy-fifth anniversary of Nature, Man and God, Temple's Gifford lectures of 1933-34. I will, therefore, over the next few weeks, to make up for that lack, and present here a series of offerings which reflect on the enduring value of that work, and ways in which Temple's largest single volume can be a resource for theological thinking now.

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