Sunday, 10 June 2012

"Divine Women" - Dr Bettany Hughes on the BBC

I've just watched (rather belatedly) the second episode of Dr Bettany Hughes' BBC series, 'Divine Women,' where she talks about the role of women in the early Church. I can only say - don't be taken in by it! Especially if you are an advocate of women's ordination to the priesthood, because the patina of half-truths, omissions and outright fabrications that Dr Hughes presents will only discredit your position. It all sounds so credible, and I'd love to believe it - but sadly, it simply is not.

Even before we get to the detail, the very presentation of the programme shows that Dr Hughes is on a PR exercise designed to pull the wool over viewers' eyes. Once in a while, I'm sure, the Beeb does still manage to present unbiased, critically balanced documentaries, but this is not one of them. Leaving aside the doom-laden music used whenever anything Hughes deems 'anti-women' comes up, or the looks of smug condescension she gives to interviewees she disagrees with, there is a clear bias in the editing of her interviews. She interviews a straw woman of a Roman Catholic academic whose arguments are tossed away with the raise of Dr Hughes' well-plucked eyebrow; and when the Roman Catholic priest she interviews tells her no more than that women enjoyed prestige and influence in the early Church, Dr Hughes implies that he is suggesting that women were ordained to the priesthood and episcopate. Fr Scott may think such things, but he never said or even implied them - yet this did not stop Dr Hughes from misrepresenting him to her own ends.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

On the Jubilee

"Can reeds flourish where there is no water?," Bildad asks Job. To which the answer is 'Yes,' if God wills it so: for Him, all things are possible. But the answer expected of Job is 'No,' and the answer for us, almost all the time, is 'No.' Reeds cannot flourish where there is no water.

For while God can transgress the natural order working miracles and wonders to make whatever He wishes so, by and large He does not. His work is done not in spite of, but through His creation, through the imperfect agents of the material world according to the nature that He has given them.

Jesus broke many natural laws and condemned time-hallowed institutions. But the principle of the Incarnation is not to destroy the natural order, not to replace created humanity with perfect divinity, but to fulfil that order: grace does not destroy nature, but perfects it. Jesus told us to call no-one 'teacher,' because He was our only teacher; to call no man 'father,' because we have one Father in Heaven. Yet we have earthly fathers, and earthly teachers, too. They are not our perfect Father or teacher, who is God, but aspire to His parenthood, his wisdom, of which they are analogues and foreshadowings.

Likewise, we Christians have only one true King, who is Christ. But it is not for nothing that the Gospels stress Jesus' mortal line in the Royal House of David. It is not for nothing that every king in the line of David was chosen by God and anointed by His priests to rule His people. Nor is it a coincidence that our own monarchs in this land for at least 1000 years have been consecrated by the Church to reign according to those very rites described in Hebrew Scripture.

In God, we have one Father, one teacher, one priest - one King: but until His Kingdom come, we are blessed with a ruler raised from birth to guide His people: a ruler not chosen by people, not swayed by promises of wealth or power, not answerable to vested interests, but to God alone. A ruler who can swear, as our Queen did on her enthronement 60 years ago, not just to the people but to God, too: 'I declare before you that my whole life, be it long or short, shall be devoted to your service.'

For it is God, not the people, who saves the Queen; it is by the line of birth and chance of nature, not human election, that she is chosen to serve us; and it is by God's wisdom, not popular whim, that she is covenanted to guide us, one earthly Church and one earthly nation, towards the Kingdom that will never end.