Accessible Anglicans

In a 2014 post “The Invisible Anglicanism of CS Lewis,” Jake Meador notes something that I have noticed before:

Any student of recent Christian history will, of course, be unsurprised to find an Anglican doing marvelous work while writing as a broadly orthodox Christian. Lewis is simply one of many to do so. Consider his contemporary (and sometimes rival) TS Eliot, or later 20th century preachers like John Stott and JI Packer. Most recently, N.T. Wright has risen to prominence on the back of both impressive scholarly works and accessible popular writings. ([Alan] Jacobs himself likely deserves a mention here as well for his essays and writings on reading and technology, amongst many other topics.) Wes Hill, though very young, seems another promising example of this trend based on his fine work Washed and Waiting.

Catholic readers seeking to understand Lewis’s depth and orientation toward the world need not chase down fanciful (and, when one actually thinks about it, rather insulting) theories of “Ulsterior” motives that kept Lewis from simply crossing the Tiber like all good Christian humanists apparently should. They simply need to understand that he was an Anglican and that Anglicans seem to have a particular talent for distilling complex Christian truth into clear, accessible language that anyone can understand. What Lewis was doing in books like Mere Christianity and The Problem of Pain is simply another species of what Stott did in The Cross of Christ or what Wright did in books like Simply Christian and Surprised by Hope.

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3 comments

  1. It remains very unclear to me as to what exactly the relationship between Anglicanism and this particular virtue might be. Having grown up Broad Church Episcopalian, and having returned to High Church Anglicanism when I was about 20/21 (eventually becoming Orthodox at 26 after a 2+ year catechumenate), and being a long-time lover of both Wright and Lewis, I think that I have some privileged insight into this.

    My suspicion? The relationship is the particular culture of cultured Englishness. It’s not Anglicanism. I know of no Anglican who is not English who has this, and many English Anglicans who do not, for that matter. I also know of English Catholics and English Orthodox who _do_.

  2. Thanks for these comments. Your theory seems to make more sense of the evidence. Another example of this particular virtue, which I had meant to include in the post, is the Christmas carol, “Once in Royal David’s City,” which achieves (in my view, anyway) a similar statement of profound truth in simple terms. If Wikipedia gets is right, the author was an Anglican from what was probably a cultured background: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cecil_Frances_Alexander.

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