pushy puritans

I was at a Church of England service today. Two services in fact, the first a “traditional” service culminating in communion, the second a “family” service. Both had a sermon at their heart.

The readings for the day upon which the sermons reflected were taken from Isaiah 40, 1-11 and from Mark 1, 1-8. The passage from Isaiah was used to focus on the idea of preparing for the coming of the Lord, preparing a straight road. The passage from Mark speaks about John the Baptist preparing the way for Christ.

What I sensed in both sermons and throughout the services was what I am calling a puritan push, an internal tendency that is deeply nonconformist. The refusal of, perhaps the inability of the celebrants to work with difficult texts dogmatically requires that they give way to the temptation to return to the gospel, look for the personal revealed truth of The Word.

I experienced both services as a tense holding between an almost dogmatic, crystalline religious carapace and a radical potential for knowledge. What I saw in the service was the maintenance of that tension being the very essence of Church of England practice, practical theology. Balancing the two poles.

The notion was that if you give into the puritan push, the tendency to vaingloriously believe you have some chance of knowledge, you give into another unavoidable compromise/balancing act. And it is only in the juggling itself that any chance of knowledge can exist.

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