In 1963 I did what I had always intended doing and switched from Classics to Theology having completed Part 1 of the Classical Tripos. My association with CICU and the warm friendship afforded by that group had caused some wavering in my historico critical approach to the Biblicall Literature, but this was now swiftly to evaporate as I engaged wholeheartedly in a Tripos Course whose options allowed me to pursue Old Testament and New Testament studies in depth, with a firm emphasis on Biblical Languages. vatican II

Vatican II had by then begun and stimulated great ecumenical hopes amongst many of my contemporaries, but I did not share their enthusiasm. I considered the Catholic Church, falsely, as a Fundamentalism in its own way like the Plymouth Brethren that I had left. I had returned to the Baptist Church, and attended Zion Baptist in Cambridge, and regarded the emphasis on invidual choice on the part of adults or near adults as more conducive to my growing theological liberalism. I continued to regard now in a liberal perspective Infant Baptism as a form of superstition developed in the Early Church as a corruption, and indeed all forms of sacramentalism in a similar light. But critical historical study of the development of the phenomenon of Early Christianity did not allow me to continue with the view that somehow my non sacramental view of Christianity represented some originally pure form corrupted by ecclesial developments somewhere at the turn of the second century.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cambridge New Testament Studies, represented by the then Lady Margaret Chair, Professor C.D.F. Moule, had followed very much in the tradition of C.H. Dodd and T.W. Manson. This was the period of Dodd's later life in which his serious but intentially popularizing earlier work, such as his Parables of Jesus, had given way to works of monumental scholarship such as his Theology of the Fourth Gospel, and his Historical Traditions in the Fourth Gospel.

 

doddProfessor Charles Harold Dodd

moule

Professor Charles Moule

3 Lady Margaret

With his two successors

Professor Morna Hooker and

Professor Graham Stanton

 

Dodd's theory of realized eschatology convinced me at the time that 'Jesus does not come again after he came to Galilee.' When I left Cambridge I was to go further into a Bultmannian view of the Resurrection the error of which I was to realize when I met Brian Picket, a Methodist Minister in Southampton the second year after myself and Kathy were married (1971) as I show on another page. I used to go on Wednesday evening to Charlie's informal gathering in Clare to discuss various issues in New Testament studies and he at the time made every effort to disuade me from such radicalism. Indeed Dodd himself had not taken such a view of the Resurrection. What remains with me is, after my Plymouth Brethren fundamentalism is that the consumation of all things cannot be expressed as if it were the realization of the script of a science fiction movie. Eschatology, whether of the human end of a particular individual life or or the human race is concerned with shadows and images of a reality whose completeness is veiled in mystery. The effect of realized eschatology on my ecclesiology was devasting. I now had devoped a 'high' view of the Church as the sacrament of salvation.

Kingsley Barrett (who was to hold the Lightfoot Chair at Durham) in his Greek Commentary on John had convinced me that the significance of no institution of the Eucharist at a specific moment in John (as in the Synoptic accounts of the Last Supper), as with no specific account of the commission to baptize (as in St Matthew) had nothing to do with a Quaker view (characteristically Protestant) that all is left to the experience of the individual, and that all devotion is spiritual and needs no physical expression. barrettRather there was no institution of the Eucharist because St John had wished to ground this in the 'total sacramental fact of the Incarnation.' Dodd's exposition of the Logos theology of the Fourth Gospel also convinced me that we have here the concept of the Church as the extension of the Incarnation. Just as the eternal realities that existed according to Plato (or at least to Alkinous) in the mind or reasoning (Logos) of God had become flesh in Jesus of Nazareth (John 1:16), and in the incarnate life the real bread, the true vine, the living water etc had been revealed, so at the insufflation (ejnefushsiƟ) on the evening of the resurrection the eternal realities thus revealed passed into the life of the Church as Jesus breathed his Spirit-Logos into the disciples (John 20:16). Thus the church was not simply 'a congregation (coetus) of faithful men in which the word of God was preached and the sacraments duly administered. The Church was a divine society in which the miraculously continued, the healings, the giving of life, the true bread, the living water in the bread and wine of our sacramental life, in the miraculous new birth at baptism, in the love we offer one another, and yes even perhaps in statues that weep tears or ooze blood. Her ministerial structure must also reflect that miraculous reality.

Charlie Moule was to assist the process of my theological development, but not in Dodd's way. I remember Dodd interpreting the nolle me tangere scene with Mary of Magdalene (John 20:) as Jesus claiming that she should not grasp him then but later in the sacramental life of the Church that expressed Christ's risen life. Charlie disagreed. The present rather than aorist form of the imperative meant that Jesus was simply saying 'Do not keep clinging on to me.' But ideas that he was to fully develop in his Melbourn Lectures on Christology were to influence my development of a Catholic ecclesiology. His interpretation of the Synoptic title of Jesus as Son of Man was solely on the basis of Daniel 7 and required no reference to Ethiopic Enoch which he believed (falsely, I now hold), to be later than the Gospels and to show their influence. If so, the title was a collective title, indicating that the 'kingdom of the saints of the Most High' was represented in the collectivity that was Jesus , the Twelve, and those who became part of their community. At a stroke, he could combine, as he was to say in Melbourne, the Synoptic Jesus with the Johaninne Heavenly Man and St Paul's theology of the Church as the Body of Christ. For Charlie, described as a Liberal Evangelical, this was all heavy stuff indeed! christ charlie

Indeed in Melbourne (Moorhouse Lectures, 1974) he was to adopt a view of the development of Christian doctrine to delineate the relationship between these different Christologies in early Christian communities, without citing Newman. But his addition to such a concept was his distinction, so necessary to his case, between development and evolution: the former had, unlike the latter, no concept of genetic mutation such that the first form of the development could end up radically different in its provisionally final form.

 

My ecclesiology was clearly no longer Protestant. It was becoming Catholic and in a highly developed form. But here lies a great paradox. Dodd was a congregationist (finally United Reform) Church Minister, and Kingsley Barret a Methodist. Charlie Moule an Anglican priest. These were the origins of my Catholicism.

It was not therefore for nothing that the Catholic Church affirmed at the Second Vatican Council, repeated in our Catholic Catechism, that outside the boundaries of the visible Church amongst the separated brethren who are our brother and sister Christians there are to be found 'elements of sanctification and of truth' which, because they are such, are impulses towards unity. This is clearly the influence that such elements have had upon me.