Sunday, November 02, 2008

John Milton's disestablishmentarianism for today...

Theo Hobson
(Image from

I don't really know much about this guy, but we lack a lot in common . . . our hair, for instance.

We also have an abundance of something positive in common, an appreciation for John Milton as poet and thinker, but Hobson rates rather higher in terms of cultural impact than do I -- a mere voice in the wilderness -- for he publishes for Times Online, where just a day or two ago, an article of his on Milton appeared: "Credo: Milton’s vision for Church and State is our answer: The religious thought of a 17th century thinker shows how faith and liberalism may be reconciled" (October 31, 2008).

Hobson -- perhaps appropriately for a fellow named "Theo" -- writes as a theologian in the Anglican tradition but argues for disestablishing the Church of England, a radical move that he supports by pointing to Milton the religious thinker:
Provoked into religious writing by the High-Church revolution of Charles I and his archbishop William Laud, Milton complained that the bishops were gaining political power that was unaccountable, and attacked the feudal ethos of the established Church. When Parliament won the Civil War, Milton praised the MPs' resolve: against the odds they had heroically served "religion and their native liberty. Which two things God hath inseparably knit together, and hath disclosed to us, that they who seek to corrupt our religion, are the same that would enthrall our civil liberty."
Hobson is quoting from Milton's tract An Apology for Smectymnuus, but he likes Milton's Areopagitica just as much, for he supports his argument for disestablishing the Church of England by quoting from it Milton's resounding line:
"Woe to us, while, thinking thus to defend the gospel, we are found the persecutors."
Not that the Anglican Church is persecuting anybody these days, despite being a religion of peace, but Hobson sounds better when quoting Milton than when articulating his views in his own words:
Hello! I'm a theologian who believes that Christianity must move in a post-ecclesial direction -- that means I don't like any form of institutional church. Down with organised religion! Down with orthodoxy! There ought to be lots of free-style Jesus Christ-communication, in which 'worship' merges with 'art'.
Yeah, okay, I guess that's fine for some folks . . . but having grown up in a profoundly low-church tradition myself, I find much of Evangelicalism too weak on ecclesiology. Advocate a weak ecclesiology, and you'll probably not get many stunningly beautiful church buildings "in which 'worship' merges with 'art'" (and why are 'worship' and 'art' in scare quotes?), though you probably will get churches in which individuals take a greater part in the service, as we see in American evangelicalism's "free-style Jesus Christ-communication."

Hobson therefore tells us that he stands for an "explicitly secular state that treat[s] all religions equally, . . . mean[ing] the disestablishment of the Church of England -- a move [that he finds] necessary to renew Christianity and free it from its aura of official privilege."

From looking at the American example, we see that Hobson may have a point, for Christianity has a rather powerful voice in American society . . . though I suspect that Hobson wouldn't quite approve of that, either.

At any rate, go to his homepage to find more about him and his recent book, Milton's Vision: The Rebirth of Christian Liberty.

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At 8:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's ironic that only 4% of Britons regularly attend Anglican Church services, despite the Anglican Church being the state religion, with the head of state (the Queen) being head of the Anglican Church as well.

The US on the other hand, with its separation of church and state written in its constitution, is the country with the highest percentage of practising Christians by far, among all the countries of Christendom.

Regarding Britain, it has always been an absurdity for it to have an official state religion, headed by its head of state, since Christ, which Christianity is supposedly all about, said that He wasn't of this world, or words to that effect.

But then, everywhere is filled with absurdities.

At 1:49 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Yes, the world is filled with absurdities.

Thanks for visiting.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:09 AM, Blogger Al-Ozarka said...

I'm reminded why a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.

At 5:00 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Is the medicine the secularism or the disestablishmentarianism?

The latter is a real mouthful, so perhaps some sugar is necessary.

Jeffery Hodges

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