January 28, 1813: Pride and Prejudice Published

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Two centuries today since the publication of Pride and Prejudice.  I confess that I have generally found Jane Austen to be a snore fest unless her text is enlivened, if that is the proper word when Zombies are involved, as in the above video.  Austen’s books began to be published in America in 1832, although they made little impact with the general public until the latter part of the Nineteenth Century when the novelist William Dean Howells wrote several essays celebrating Austen as an author.

One of her most biting critics was Mark Twain.  A sample of his Austen tirades:

Jane Austen? Why I go so far as to say that any library is a good library that does not contain a volume by Jane Austen. Even if it contains no other book.

I haven’t any right to criticise books, and I don’t do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticise Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Everytime I read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.

Ralph Waldo Emerson decades before got in a good anti-Austen lick:

I am at a loss to understand why people hold Miss Austen’s novels at so high a rate, which seem to me vulgar in tone, sterile in invention, imprisoned in the wretched conventions of English society, without genius, wit, or knowledge of the world.  Never was life so pinched & narrow.  The one problem in the mind of the writer in both the stories I have read, “Persuasion”, and “Pride & Prejudice”, is marriageableness; all that interests any character introduced is still this one, has he or she money to marry with, & conditions conforming? ‘Tis “the nympholepsy of a fond despair”, say rather, of an English boarding-house.  Suicide is more respectable.

Outraged Austen fans should feel free to defend her literary honor in the comboxes.

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63 Responses to January 28, 1813: Pride and Prejudice Published

  • Mark Twain is, arguably, America’s greatest writer, and certainly the author of America’s greatest novel, “Huckleberry Finn”. I have much respect for him and his opinions, although I strongly disagree with the one he expresses here.

    Emerson, on the other hand, is a proto-socialist whose only worthy literary contribution, as far as I’m concerned, is “Concord Hymn”. He can suck it.

    That ought to get the combox literary fight club off to a decent start.

    ;-)

  • Indeed Jay! :) I have never had much use for the transcendentalists in general or Emerson in particular. On the other hand my reaction to Twain is decidely mixed. Some of his writings I greatly enjoy, most notably a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, while much of his writing leaves me cold. Funny Twain I like, serious Twain I find boring and bitter Twain I abhore.

  • I believe Jane Auten is the English Molière.

    No other novelist relies so heavily on dialogue to exhibit character, or does so with a surer touch. Take a sentence of dialogue from any her novels and one can instantly identify the speaker/ And what characters they are: Mrs Jennings, Mr Elton, the preposterous Mr Collins and the truly evil Mrs Norris. In fact, there are no minor characters; they all have the solidity of life. She can induce a suspension of disbelief by careful gradation, from portraying the eccentric Mr Bennett and his silly, but wholly believable wife to lull the reader into accepting the outrageous Mr Collins and Lady Catherine.

    No writer can be so concise. She can compress a volume of Christian metaphysics in a single parenthesis. “Was it new for any thing in this world to be unequal, inconsistent, incongruous — or for chance and circumstance (as second causes) to direct the human fate?”

  • M. P-S: Exactly. Well put.

    There are a few novels I re-read every few years. Pride and Prejudice is
    one of them. It never fails that I find some new reward each time.

    I’m not sure why Twain had such an antipathy for Miss Austen’s work. Could
    it be just a touch of envy for her more indirect, understated humor? And
    surely Twain couldn’t deny her unerring gift for characterization, so perfectly
    described by Mr. Paterson-Seymour above.

    As for the insufferable Emerson, I agree with Jay Anderson– he can suck it.
    Who cares what that gasbag thinks?

  • Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and other novels by Jane Austen, a canon’s daughter, were written to expose the banality and injustice of denying women the right to own and inherit property, estates and manors from their deceased husbands. (Job’s daughters in the Old Testament did indeed receive an inheritance. This inheritance would enable them to maintain their virginity and not be forced into an unhappy marriage for the sake of a livelihood. But then again, the English Reformation brought much evil into the culture.) Only the male person, as citizen, in England was allowed, by law, to own property and to vote. Women who were to be accorded all courtesy and gentility, were in fact, denied. Even their home, unless a male heir in their immediate family in-tailed the estate, as Mrs. Bennett decries “Are we all to be thrown into the hedgerow, penniless?” was in-tailed away. ..to Mr. Collins, I believe. And the Dashwood’s estate was turned over to the stepson and his evil wife. Maryann Dashwood near died of the poverty visited upon the family after the death of her father. Tom Jones, a rather ribald novel, also dealt with this unfair law, which denied the owner of the estate his free will to leave his estate to his widow. I cannot tell you how very much I appreciate American Law after watching Pride and Prejudice, but I also appreciate the respect and courtesy shown each person in the novels, always hoping such respect will fill our culture.

  • Mary, the Reformation brought far more good to English society than evil. England had been at her best for almost four centuries post 1559. The England we have come to know is the England of Reformation.

  • Actually I think the Tudors came close to transforming England into a fairly squalid absolute monarchy, and the Reformation played a large part in that. The greatest Englishman in the last century, Sir Winston Churchill, I think got it right in this paragraph:

    “The resistance of More and Fisher to the royal supremacy in Church government was a heroic stand. They realised the defects of the existing Catholic system, but they hated and feared the aggressive nationalism which was destroying the unity of Christendom. They saw that the break with Rome carried with it the risk of a despotism freed from every fetter. More stood forth as the defender of all that was finest in the medieval outlook. He represents to history its universality, its belief in spiritual values, and its instinctive sense of otherworldliness. Henry VIII with cruel axe decapitated not only a wise and gifted counselor, but a system which, though it had failed to live up to its ideals in practice, had for long furnished mankind with its brightest dreams.”

    My Irish Catholic ancestors of course had little reason to love post Reformation England that treated them as criminals for daring to follow the faith of their ancestors. Edmund Burke put it best in regard to the Irish Penal Laws:

    “For I must do it justice; it was a complete system, full of coherence and consistency, well digested and well composed in all its parts. It was a machine of wise and deliberate contrivance, as well fitted for the oppression, impoverishment and degradation of a people, and the debasement of human nature itself, as ever proceeded from the perverted ingenuity of man.”

  • Well, Donald, from an Irish perspective of course the whole issue seems to originate with Henry and his children. But as to your comment concerning absolute monarchy, Elizabeth Tudor was actually the first monarch to realize that a ruler governs on consent. She consulted and took advice and after reading virtually everything she’s ever written, I have to say she really WAS humble and God-reliant. Unfortunately the Stuarts reverted and I think they were an ugly bunch.

  • No Jon, Parliament was a very well established institution from the thirteenth century. The Tudors successfully turned it into a rubber stamp. As for Bad Queen Bess, Peter Wentworth, member of Parliament and a frequent guest in the Tower courtesy of Elizabeth during her reign, would have disagreed with your characterization of her. Those who cherish liberty should praise the ham fisted Stuarts who, by rousing opposition, inadvertantly put England on the road to a restoration of the role of Parliament.

  • Well, if the Stuarts did it inadvertantly, what is there to thank? The fact is that Parliament grew used to a certain relationship to the Crown during Elizabeth’s reign, and James I ran roughshod over them–he was an obstinate proponent of Divine Right and the Charles’s were too. As for Wentworth I can’t remember what happened so I can’t speak to that. Let’s see. That was a time when many people were being killed for religious and political reasons. Others were placed under house arrest or secluded somewhere.

  • “Well, if the Stuarts did it inadvertantly, what is there to thank?”

    One can thank incompetence in leaders Jon, as well as competence, depending on what the leaders are attempting to do. The Stuarts were almost comically inept, except for Charles II, who was the only able one of the lot.

    “The fact is that Parliament grew used to a certain relationship to the Crown during Elizabeth’s reign, and James I ran roughshod over them”

    Actually the Puritans had gotten short shrift from Elizabeth and they were hoping for relief from James and were disappointed in their hopes. Peter Wentworth was a Puritan, but he also spoke out compellingly for liberty of speech in Parliament, something that Elizabeth was not keen on.

  • Charles II was obviously not very competent, nor was he seen to be by his contemporaries. The puritans of Elizabeth’s reign were unhappy with her settlement, of course. I don’t know what more they could have reasonably expected in that context, though. Their experiment even in the 30′s onward failed miserably. It was an extreme and eccentric vision that they had. Interestingly, THEY should be thanked since their actions were a catalyst for radical change in the monarchy and the status of parliament. Also, those who came to the new world began an experiment that, although admittedly also eccentric, was actually quite successful! Not bad for nutty Protestants! They seem to get the liberty part right.

  • “Charles II was obviously not very competent, nor was he seen to be by his contemporaries.”
    He restored the monarchy and maintained himself on a turbulent throne for a quarter of a century. He checkmated his enemies in Parliament and was a voice of tolerance in an intolerant age. During his reign England enjoyed peace and prosperity. His misfortune was to die at only 55, leaving his throne to James who only lasted five year.

    “The puritans of Elizabeth’s reign were unhappy with her settlement, of course. I don’t know what more they could have reasonably expected in that context, though.”

    Freedom as did the Catholics under Elizabeth. Such as was practiced in France after the Edict of Nantes in 1598. The Reformation made religion subject to the whims of the reigning monarch which meant that religion was going to be mixed up in politics for a very long time indeed.

    As for Protestants getting liberty right, the Catholics in Maryland who lost their liberty after the Protestants came to power in the 1650′s would have begged to differ.

  • 1775 – 1817
    In the conclusion of ‘Sense and Sensibility’ she writes almost autobiographically in the words between the dashes following:

    “Marianne Dashwood was born to an extraordinary fate. She was born to discover the falsehood of her own opinions, and to counteract, by her conduct, her most favorite maxims. …. Instead of falling a sacrifice to an irresistible passion, as once she had fondly flattered herself with expecting, – instead of remaining even for ever with her mother, and finding her only pleasures in retirement and study, as afterwards in her more calm and sober judgment she had determined on, – she found herself at nineteen, submitting to new …. ”

    In ‘A Portrait of Jane Austen’ Lord David Cecil writes:
    Her genius was twofold. Along with her comedy sense she possessed a subtle insight into the moral nature of man. The union of the two is the distinguishing characteristic of her achievement, and it makes these lively unpretentious comedies of social and domestic life the vehicle of profound and illuminating comments on the human drama.

    I think it’s funny that Mark Twain said “Everytime I read Pride and Prejudice …”,
    and I can’t remember anything about the human condition from RW Emerson.

  • At least as many bad things could be said about Chales II as good. It depends on who you were and where you stood at the time. Donald, I won’t discuss how much liberty existed during the reformation and early modern periods for the simple reason that not much existed beforehand. Not to revert to the Whig interpretation, but this kind of thing IS incremental. By the time our nation was birthed, things looked pretty good at least on paper. It would look good for an increasing number of people in practice with time.

  • “At least as many bad things could be said about Charles II as good. It depends on who you were and where you stood at the time.”
    A truism for most historical figures. However, a quarter century on the throne is nothing to sneeze at, especially considering the fates of his brother and his father.

    “Donald, I won’t discuss how much liberty existed during the reformation and early modern periods for the simple reason that not much existed beforehand.”

    Actually what we know of liberty was largely a creation of the Middle Ages. It was the era of the Reformation that turned Kings and Queens into Caesar and Pope and ushered in the doctrine of the divine right of Kings. Those who fought such trends in liberty usually rallied around such creations of the Middle Ages as Magna Charta and Parliament.

    Liberty I do not think is necessarily an incremental process. The people of Rome never had a greater role in their government than just before the fall of the Roman Republic. Looking around at the contemporary world I do not see ever growing liberty, but rather the reverse currently.

  • You are correct to a point regarding the Middle Ages and liberty. But remember, centralization is what led to control. The Roman church WAS cnetralized in the Middle Ages and I shudder to think what they did all those centuries. I would not have wanted to fall afoul of them. Charles II could ahve reigned for a half century–I don’t consider the guy that great in comparison to other English monarchs. I’m sorry. True, liberty is not necessarily incremental. But if a reformation was underway it would probably take time for it to play out on various levels. I would look at the bigger picture there, not the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries which were still sloughing some old skin. It’s true liberty can be lost, that a people must be fit for it, and that regress is as much a fact of life as progress. Various people see the height and beginning of declines in different places based on their judgement.

    But here is what really confuses me. Most of the things many people on this blog wish to promote and defend originate with Protestantism in the Isles and then transferred to America. That’s the framework into which everuthing else fell and the mould into which everything else was forced. It’s the topics people contend for here on this sight. And it’s all very Protestant. America, the Constitution, etc. for at least 400 years beginning when Christendom was first “shattered” to use the usual though incorrect term, is all very Protestant. Now I know Catholics and conservative Jews have picked up where the establishment left off in the 60′s or so. I get that. What I don’t get is how the Protestant nature of it all is missed.

  • Donald R. McClarey

    “It was the era of the Reformation that turned Kings and Queens into Caesar and Pope”

    I would be inclined t say that it was the Renaissance, rather than the Reformation that did so, for the same process of creating a centralised Royal power, exercised through salaried officials, dependent on the royal will, took place in Spain, in France, with its absolutism and Gallicanism and in the Italian states.

    It was welcomed by many, as a curb on the power of the nobles, the clergy and of the merchant oligarchs of city states. The feeling was widespread that government must be powerful enough to repress arbitrary action in others. If the supreme power is needlessly limited, the secondary powers would run riot and oppress. Its supremacy would bear no check. The problem, many of the leading thinkers believed, was to enlighten the ruler, not to restrain him; and one man is more easily enlightened than many. That was the feeling of the age

  • “The feeling was widespread that government must be powerful enough to repress arbitrary action in others.”

    Actually the whole absolutising trend was to make the central government arbitrary. People who opposed this trend, or who received the short end of the stick, would engage in revolts and/or end up in the New World. The Reformation weakened the Church across the board, and often caused the Church to develop an unhealthy reliance upon Catholic rulers. This was a powerful impetus to Gallicanism in France where Protestants and Catholics frequently engaged in civil wars in the Sixteenth Century. In Spain the monarchy had Crusader status from 1492 with the capture of Granada and the creation of a creakily centralized state. Spanish rulers usually attempted to be more Catholic than the Pope with grotesque results. In the petty Italian principalities the Popes could usually hold their own against the would be Machiavelli princes and princelets. The exception to his was Venice which was truly a world of its own.

  • “The Roman church WAS cnetralized in the Middle Ages”

    Alas that was not the case. Secular rulers usually picked the bishops and huge Church-State conflicts were the norm. These Church-State battles however normalized the concept that resistance to secular rulers was not only allowable but not infrequently praiseworthy.

    “I would not have wanted to fall afoul of them.”
    Actually I would much rather have had problems with the Church than the State throughout the Middle Ages. Church procedures tended to focus on evidence and trials with limited use of judicial torture. The State on the other hand was usually far more brutal. In each case the saving grace tended to be rampant inefficiency, unlike what we saw in the last century.

    “Charles II could ahve reigned for a half century–I don’t consider the guy that great in comparison to other English monarchs. I’m sorry.”

    Don’t worry Jon, we all commit historical errors from time to time! :) I would place the Merrie Monarch among the top ten percent of English monarchs, although admittedly many of these monarchs help set the bar quite low.

    “Most of the things many people on this blog wish to promote and defend originate with Protestantism in the Isles and then transferred to America.”

    That is quite untrue Jon. That old anti-Catholic John Adams noted that the American fight for liberty was based on many rights enjoyed by Englishmen and accepted as “preliminaries” even before the existence of Parliament.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2FAAVPX-jg

    What is best in America has very deep roots and at their base those roots are frequently Catholic roots.

  • “I have generally found Jane Austen to be a snore fest unless her text is enlivened, if that is the proper word when Zombies are involved”

    It was the success of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” that prompted the same author to write “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.”

  • Donald R McClarey

    The rise of royal absolutism in France began before the Reformation, with the accession of the House of Orléans in the person of Louis XII, significantly known as « le Père du Peuple » [Father of the People]in 1498 and of Francis I and the Orléans–Angoulême branch in 1515, who assiduously cultivated the intellectuals. The French Wars of Religion only broke out in 1562, a long lifetime after the rise of the New Monarchy.

    Moreover, the Church was very far from being opposed to the growth of royal power at the expense of noble and provincial privileges. In France, it was brought to its highest development by three great ecclesiastical statesmen, Cardinal Richelieu, Cardinal Mazarin and Cardinal de Fleury, who, as the kings’ chief ministers, dominated the policy of the period from 1624 to 1743. The Gallican Privileges were seen by both the King and the hierarchy, who enthusiastically supported them, as cementing the “sacred and indissoluble alliance” between Throne and Altar.

    I would suggest the Reformation aided a tendency that it did not create.

  • Actually MPS, French centralization goes farther back to at least Philip the Fair. Louis XI, the Spider King, gave the whole trend a great shove forward after the anarchy of the Hundred Years War. It is correct that many French clerics were not opposed to this French centralization and helped it along. More fools they. In regard to Cardinal Richeliu I have long treasured this alleged quip of Pope Urban Viii after the death of the Cardinal:

    “If there is a God Cardinal Richeliu has much to answer for. If there is not, why he led a successful life.”

  • In which Philippe le bel was supported in his quarrels with Boniface VIII by the Archbishop of Rouen, Pierre Roger of Limousin, later Pope Clement VI. He remained a stalwart supporter of the French crown.

    I like d’Argenson’s remark, “Richelieu bled France, Mazarin purged it and Fleury put it on a diet.”

  • That England had such precursors prior to the Reformation was due to its geographical status as well as a couple of other factors, Donald. I totally agree that the Reformation cannot be held responsible for a humanism begun with the Renaissance in soutehrn Europe. One can easily argue the Reformation tempered the excesses of the southern Renaissance when it hit the north. As for the medieval church, the general practice was to decide whether you were guilty and then hand you over to the civil authorities who could kill you. If the evidence showed you were a heretic, you could face death. That’s Constantinian Christianity.

  • “That England had such precursors prior to the Reformation was due to its geographical status as well as a couple of other factors, Donald.”

    English liberties were largely the result of Common Law Courts, a fractious aristocracy, an extensive merchant class in London and a Church that often successfully defied the Crown. There was a reason that “The Holy Blessed Martyr” was going away the most popular saint in Medieval England,

    “As for the medieval church, the general practice was to decide whether you were guilty and then hand you over to the civil authorities who could kill you. If the evidence showed you were a heretic, you could face death. That’s Constantinian Christianity.”

    Very few death sentences were carried out during most periods of the Middle Ages. Usually a period of repentance was proclaimed when repentant heretics were received back into the fold without any penalties. Afterwards repentant heretics usually got off with penances of various sorts. The real massive blood letting, with the exception of the Albigensian Crusade, came in with the Reformation and both Protestants and Catholics were enthusiastic participants.

    As for the phrase “Constantinian Christianity”, that is part of a Protestant mythology that they represent the pure ancient Church that was led astray by those evil papists. As history it is baloney and as theology it is baloney.

  • Indeed in terms of the bigger picture one must say America and northern Europe are heir to centuries of Christianity prior to the Reformation. This is undoubtedly true. The Protestant argument is that Christianity in Europe for centuries was just that–Christianity. But Roman Christianity grew corrupt in its theology, worship, and practice. Then Protestantism revived the very best (and at times not so very best) of the Christian church so that Western civilization was able to carry on well for a while longer. And more importantly, so that the church was able to witness accurately in a lively evangelical spirit. Aside from Restorationists, early church fixations, and the cults, most Protestants see more continuity than anything else.

  • Historically, it is tempting for the Protestant to point out that the best of the past five hundred years of Western Civ. owed itself to the Protestant renewal of catholic Christianity and not to Roman Christianity immediately prior.

  • “Historically, it is tempting for the Protestant to point out that the best of the past five hundred years of Western Civ. owed itself to the Protestant renewal of catholic Christianity”

    Like all falsehoods it is a temptation that must be avoided. Such “historical analysis” is only worthy of a Jack Chick comic book.

  • “Then Protestantism revived the very best (and at times not so very best) of the Christian church so that Western civilization was able to carry on well for a while longer.”

    Protestantism is a fairly broad category only united by one belief: not Catholic. Luther had little in common with Calvin. Neither of them had much in common with the Anabaptists. If they had lived to see them, they would have been horrified by the Quakers. From a Catholic standpoint the amorphous nature of Protestantism is unsurprising as heresy has always worn a thousand guises. I might note that all of my relatives on my father’s side are Protestant, as was my father. My wife was Protestant, a Methodist, at the time of our marriage before her conversion. Most of the people I have loved in this life have been Protestants. My comments about Protestantism as a historical phenomenon contain no personal animus, but merely what I deduce from the evidence as I see it.

  • History can be ‘seen’ in many ways. I would argue there is a Roman Catholic view of it, a Protestant one, a secular progressive one, an Enlightenment view, etc. I feel I’m not motivated by any animus either. I see what I do. As to the amorphous nature of Protestantism, I had in mind the Protestantism of Scriptural renewal in line with the early creeds and traditional orthodoxy before Rome assumed massive innovation.

  • “I had in mind the Protestantism of Scriptural renewal in line with the early creeds and traditional orthodoxy before Rome assumed massive innovation.”

    As typified by Martin Luther’s comments about the Epistle of Saint James being an epistle of straw. The “Reformers’” methodology was fairly straight forward: what they liked they kept and what they didn’t like they threw on the scrap heap. This helped begin the factionalism that has been one of the constant features of Protestantism as the “Reformers” quickly began to quarrel among themselves like Kilkenny cats about what to keep and what to cast away. I doubt if Christ died so that Christianity could be divided into a thousand and one factions.

  • Luther lacked the ability to see how it all hung together. He thought too much in terms of dichotomy. It can be said that Calvin erred in the opposite way by way of too much synthesis. It is true that Protestantism further divided with time. I don’t see that as a reason to accept Roman Christianity as the one true approach, however.

  • Considering the horror that the Church Fathers had of heresy and their desire to preseve Orthodoxy I think the endless divisions of Protestantism indicate that what the Church fathers embraced had little in common with the new variants of Christianity ushered in with the Protestant Reformation and much in common with the heresies that the Church Fathers fought ceaselessly.

  • I don’t see that at all. The church fathers dealt with all kinds of errors, and the truth was consequently articulated in a balanced, biblically informed way. That was the starting point for the best of the Protestant reformers and their descendants. They wanted to maintain the simplicity of the Gospel while being guarded by the boundaries already estableshed in patristic times concerning doctrines like the Trinity, the dual nature of Christ, the resurrection and final return of Christ, the sinfulness of man due to the fall, etc. Have funny denominations and silly cults arisen since which deny the simplicity of the gospel and fundamental orthodoxy? Of course! I see them as on the wrong trajectory adn believe many groups go off like that all the time.

  • “The church fathers dealt with all kinds of errors, and the truth was consequently articulated in a balanced, biblically informed way.”

    Yes, especially on such items as the real presence, the veneration of the saints, the authority of bishops, the role of the papacy and many other features of the Faith that are completely at variance with what the “Reformers” proclaimed in the Sixteenth Century. As Newman noted, to be deep in History is to cease to be Protestant.

    As one of the earliest Church Fathers Justin Martyr noted in regard to the Blessed Sacrament:

    “And this food is called among us Εὐχαριστία [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, “This do in remembrance of Me, Luke 22:19 this is My body;” and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, “This is My blood;” and gave it to them alone. Which the wicked devils have imitated in the mysteries of Mithras, commanding the same thing to be done. For, that bread and a cup of water are placed with certain incantations in the mystic rites of one who is being initiated, you either know or can learn.”

    When Catholics read the Church Fathers we have no trouble at all recognizing them for what they were: fellow Catholics.

  • The real presence is a doctrine that is as much intricate as it is absent in such detail in Scripture. It developed quite later on, though I do not know the time. The veneration of the saints represents another later development, and to venerate any part of creation flies in the face of both Judaism and Christianity. Elder, bishop, and presbyter are synonomous. The question often arises as to where they belong or, in other words, how church government should be structured. Richard Hooker took the position that the church can and often does adapt to surroundings pragmatically. I take Newman’s remark for what it’s worth. To a point, I agree. It makes us catholic with a small c. I’m not overly crazy about a guy who implied spirituality depended upon how many doielies and candle sticks lay about the alter. And the early church would have thought it quite strange if one placed a marian statue at the front of worship to be crowned and paraded—I’m going to be honest—I really think they would have been shocked and horrified. I’m just not convinced on the veneration of saints, I’m afraid. As to the Patristics, it depends on which one and what they said. Some elaborated beyond Scripture to introduce novelty. Others were mostly fundamental.

  • Newman started the Oxford movement. He was the product of a certain milieu which sought to recapture mystery and connection to the past. After all, his life spanned much of the nineteenth century! And he was very much an asthetician when it came to worship. But wherever two or more are gathered in my NAME, says the Lord, there am I with them. And that’s crucial. What that says is we worship God in spriti and in truth, that our right standing or inclusion with him is not from from apostolic succession and membership in a universally uniform church structure, but is the invisible communion of saints also expressed locally whereby all people across time and space are situated ‘in Christ.’ Yes, they are linked, then, wtih the church through the years, and their beliefs are at one with the apostles. But they need no other legitimacy. They require no visible or tangible link in the sense of pastoral succession historically. That notion is another one that crept through the back door.

  • I think what makes the discussion so confusing is that I don’t adhere to the simple idea that a golden age was corrupted by papal Rome. As I said, I do see the continuity of Christianity thorughout the centuries and across these two millennia. I believe the church started out with many problems, heresies, and dissapointments. All one has to do is read the letters of St. Paul to see that. I also believe the Roman church was the Christian church for most people in Eeurope throughout centuries of history. And I see that some church structures fail and sometimes beyond recovery, at least for a while. It then becomes necessary to begin outside that structure, particularly when you’re practically kicked out anyway. I’m not arguing between two eternally polar opposites of Christianity and Roman Catholicism. I actually agree with much of what you say! I disagree that the Roman church is the only appropriate church. I feel other structures exist with far less error. As an historian, again, I certainly see the continuity of Christianity throughout time. I never said I saw a stop, start, stop pattern or any kind of pause. Christianity can happen both within corrupt structures and outside them.

  • To be deep in history and to be educated broadly is to become catholic. I would not say it translates to becoming Roman Catholic. That’s an argument from those who went that route, beginning with folks like Newman and culminating in the lastest fashionable conversion by Tony Blair. When the English get bored of Anglicanism they turn Roman Catholic. It gives them more to chew on and it provides them with a greater sense of certainty, I think. I’m trying to be sympathetic, and I really like Chesterton.

  • “The real presence is a doctrine that is as much intricate as it is absent in such detail in Scripture.”

    Not at all: for my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. The Catholic Church has held to the real presence since the Crucifixion, as Justin Martyr, who wrote in the second century, indicates.

    “The veneration of the saints represents another later development, and to venerate any part of creation flies in the face of both Judaism and Christianity.”

    Rubbish, as the writings of the Church Fathers indicate:
    “Then we commemorate also those who have fallen asleep before us, first Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, that at their prayers and intercessions God would receive our petition. Then on behalf also of the Holy Fathers and Bishops who have fallen asleep before us, and in a word of all who in past years have fallen asleep among us, believing that it will be a very great benefit to the souls, for whom the supplication is put up, while that holy and most awful sacrifice is set forth.”

    Saint Cyril of Jerusalem

    “I’m not overly crazy about a guy who implied spirituality depended upon how many doielies and candle sticks lay about the alter.”

    You clearly have read precious little of Newman if that is your opinion of him.

    “And the early church would have thought it quite strange if one placed a marian statue at the front of worship to be crowned and paraded”

    We fly to your patronage,
    O holy Mother of God,
    despise not our petitions
    in our necessities,
    but deliver us from all dangers.
    O ever glorious and blessed Virgin.

    That is from a Marian hymn written in 250 AD, the Sub Tuum Praesidium.

  • “Newman started the Oxford movement. He was the product of a certain milieu which sought to recapture mystery and connection to the past.”

    Actually he was a virulent anti-Catholic who thought the Church Fathers would support the Anglicanism he embraced. He was shocked when he discovered that they were Catholic.

    “What that says is we worship God in spriti and in truth, that our right standing or inclusion with him is not from from apostolic succession and membership in a universally uniform church structure”

    You are very much mistaken. Christ founded the Church not as some sort of group encounter session, but as a Church with a structure and a heirarchy. That is why he had the Apostles and made Peter their head. The Epistles of Paul are concerned throughout with the Orthodox teaching of Christ and against Catholics falling away into factions.

    “They require no visible or tangible link in the sense of pastoral succession historically. That notion is another one that crept through the back door.”

    Nope, the concept of Apostolic Succession has always been a core teaching of the Church.

  • “I disagree that the Roman church is the only appropriate church.”

    I am not saying that the Roman Catholic Church is an “appropriate church”, I am saying that it is The True Faith. One of the many damaging features of the Reformation is the destruction it wreaked to the concepts of unity and orthodoxy in Christianity. I believe implicitly in the teaching of the Church that Christ intended for there to be one faith which would serve to convey His teachings. From the earliest days the Church was beset by heresies, but the Church Fathers never accepted that the existence of heresies in any way altered the necessity for unity and orthodoxy.
    Saint Polycarp, who sat at the feet of the Apostle John, on one occasion encountered the heretic Marcion: “Do you not know me, Polycarp?” “Yes,” answered the saint, “I know you to be the firstborn of Satan.” Saint Jerome relates this to emphasize the horror that the earliest Church Fathers had of heresy.

  • “That’s an argument from those who went that route, beginning with folks like Newman and culminating in the lastest fashionable conversion by Tony Blair.”

    I can think of few people more unlike than Newman and the pro-abortion Tony Blair!

    “and I really like Chesterton”

    I don’t always. I sometimes think Chesterton is foolish in some of his writings. His frequent indifference to facts that do not support an argument that he is making I find annoying. However, Chesteron always makes me think, and I believe that is the highest accolade for any writer.

  • It is true that Christ spoke of his flesh and blood as food and drink and that he said “this is my body, this my blood.” I rather suppose he was speaking figuratively, such as when he told the woman at the well that she should ask him for living water. Otherwise Christ would be saying his flesh and blood were really present, as you say, during the passover. This is impossible since he hadn’t yet been crucified, neither had he yet resurrected and ascended to heaven.

    Quoting the patristic fathers is a double-edged sword. They spoke truth and error. Although catholic-minded Protestants draw upon them for thought and inspiration, I would not take them verbatim and neither would Protestants, typically.

    Finally and most importantly, Scripture must be our final authority. We can assess tradition, experience, reason, and so on, but it must all finally be brought before the Bible for acceptance or rejection.

    There is a theory that Scripture and tradition form an organic unity, and that truth is ongoing in that way. I don’t beleive that for a minute. Does God still speak? Yes, he does. But through his Word and Spirit in ways that accord with what the Bible already states. God never goes beyond his Word.

  • My feeling is that the church became too institutionalized and dogmatic at some point. I see this with Greek Orthodoxy, too. As truth is further articulated error amasses alongside it, and a behemoth is created. The Protestant stance is semper reformanda, or the church always reforming. The idea here is that the church CAN grow too beaurocratic, too widely dogmatic, and can accumulate quite a bit of error with time. That it can lose touch with its origins and its sense of mission. That the PEOPLE of the church can reform and continue the business of doing church, but that this may require serious change and possibly relocation. I think that’s a stumbling block for many Roman Catholics. I don’t have any difficulty in believing this, however. My difficulty is in believing that a church structure is alwyas the right one and can never decline. I think of the letters to the seven churches of Asia Minor in Revelation. These were local manifestations of the church, Christ’s body. Some carried on quite well, others didn’t. They were warned not to be presumptuous, since their status was not guaranteed! This of course goes for any church structure or individual assembly. Much of this discussion would clear itself up if we both understood the nature of the church as it is Scripturally understood.

  • We have to think, too, of the historical situation with the fall of Rome and Constantine and all of that. Something a little different happened in the Byzantine East, and that structure’s evolution and thought is not the same as we know. I still disagree with their view of tradition also, but a different arrangement arose between church and state, and theology took a different direction. I guess what I’m saying is that the N. T. speaks of the body of Christ or the universal church, and it speaks of its local manifestations as assemblies. Then we have the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches which don’t really speak to that, but seem almost to represent different phenomena. Of course their argument is that an evolution took place and that tradition must be revered and taken for granted. I argue that while tradition may accrue and practices change, it must all remain in accord with Scripture. If it is such a departure as to contradict the principles and tenor of the N.T., then we must engage in reform. It simply will not do to say tradition continues and the church rules such adn such. Those elements must accord with what is already written.
    Another important point to raise is that the situation is not black and white with chruches and truth. We cannot always point to one location and say that only truth lies there, much less that truth lies only there. It just isn’t like that. What we have instead is a spectrum such as we see with the seven churches of Asia Minor. One can say that those churches are types and all kinds of variations exist today. What we don’t want to do is to become immersed at a location where much error abounds. We don’t want to become overly involved in a church where practices are terribly wrong.

  • So I think we need to remind ourselves first of the church’s definition. It is the body of Christ and that is universal. It is locally manifested in assemblies. These are the two ways in which St. Paul speaks of church. Then we consider the state of affairs of these early assemblies. Paul addresses a variety of problems (some things never change). Then the letters contained in Revelation tell us much the same thing, except that one or two of them were heading toward extinction. This fact immediately tells me a local church–not the church as in the body of Christ, but a local assembly—can drift so far away from Christian truth and practice that it is no longer a church in the true sense of the word.

  • “I rather suppose he was speaking figuratively”

    That certainly isn’t what people thought at the time who heard His words from His lips:

    “This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever… Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?… From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.”

    More to the point, it is not what the Church taught from the beginning.

    “Otherwise Christ would be saying his flesh and blood were really present, as you say, during the passover. This is impossible since he hadn’t yet been crucified, neither had he yet resurrected and ascended to heaven.”

    Christ was present in both the sacrament and in Himself, just as he is present on Catholic altars and in his glorified body in Heaven.

    “Quoting the patristic fathers is a double-edged sword. They spoke truth and error.”

    Protestants always fall back on this position when it becomes evident that the Fathers of the Church were Catholic, a title they proudly claimed for the Universal Church to which they belonged.

    “Finally and most importantly, Scripture must be our final authority.”

    Rubbish. It was the Catholic Church that wrote the New Testament. The New Testament derives its authority from the Church and not vice versa.

  • “My feeling is that the church became too institutionalized and dogmatic at some point.”

    Christ established the structure of the Church, and the fate of Protestantism indicates why He did this. Without such a structure and a final authority within that structure, each Man and Woman becomes his and her own Pope and Christianity disintegrates into a thousand feuding sects, followed by indifferentism, followed by dying sects and mass apostacy.

  • “Then we have the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches which don’t really speak to that, but seem almost to represent different phenomena.”

    The basic problem for the Greek Orthodox is that they were too firmly under the thumb of the Emperor. This was fueled by a thousand misunderstandings and the fueling of animosities through mistakes and the natural antipathy of differences in language and rites. The Catholic Church recognizes the Greek Orthodox as being in schism and not in heresy. There are ongoing efforts to heal the breach but I am not sanguine.

  • “This fact immediately tells me a local church–not the church as in the body of Christ, but a local assembly—can drift so far away from Christian truth and practice that it is no longer a church in the true sense of the word.”

    Hence heretics. The attitude of Saint Paul to such factionalists helped determine the attitude of the Church towards heresy.

  • Once complete, the written Bible reigned the church in, so to speak. The church could not say anything contradictory to it. So anything we find in the patristic fathers or church pronouncements over the years must accord with Scripture. If it does not, it is error and possibly heresy. We are brought back to the role of tradition, which is subserviant to the Bible. Even in St. Paul’s day heresy had crept into the church. All kinds of ‘traditions’ abound at all times. We must dispense with those that contradict Scripture. If false apostles and teachers existed in the earliest churches, I can easily understand how they would exist several generations later and throughout time. I can certainly understand too, how the patristic fathers may have erred in some ways, and how some of them may have become too highly revered. The assumption I have is that we always remain one generation away from error. I don’t believe that any assembly or large-scale church structure is exempt from that.

    Scripture speaks of the church as Christ’s body, so we are obviously one in him. We are one in the Spirit. I do not believe for a minute that this necessitates structural uniformity, which would in fact be quite undesirable. For one thing if the structure fails where would one go? Then we have to carry on elsewhere and create alternative structures. That’s what happened during the Reformation.

  • “Once complete, the written Bible reigned the church in, so to speak.”

    No book or books can reign since book or books are subject to interpretation by Man. Without an authority that can write such books and interpret them authoritatively, the written word is of little use. That is why Sola Scriptura in Protestantism always boils down to Sola My Interpretation.

  • Donald, you’ve made a couple of assumptions. First, you assume the Roman Catholic church created the Bible. The Bible evolved over a very long time and the New Testament writings were penned before any such structure came into existence. I do not say Sola Scriptura, but that the Scriptures are the FINAL authority. If anything contradicts Scripture, we must dispense with that thing rather than trying to squeeze it in or to reinterpret Scripture.

  • Contrary to what you might think, Evangelical Protestants agree on essentials. Disagreement arises due to the human condition, and we find this with Roman Catholics, too. I’ve spoken to many Roman Catholics who don’t like various pronouncements or one of the popes, and they get vocal about that. Some wish to see the Roman church go in a different direction. Others want it to return to a more traditional time, and so on. Variety is healthy to a point. It becomes a problem when we cross the border into heresy—when we deny essential truths of Scripture.

  • “The Bible evolved over a very long time and the New Testament writings were penned before any such structure came into existence.”
    The New Testament writings were all written after the creation of the Catholic Church by Christ. The term was used by men who received their teachings directly from the Apostles and by men who received their teaching from men who received their teaching from the Apostles.

  • “I’ve spoken to many Roman Catholics who don’t like various pronouncements or one of the popes, and they get vocal about that.”

    Which has zilch to do with the teachings of the Catholic Church, which is rather the whole point. Protestants differ and they found new sects. Catholics differ with the Church and the Church stands for what she has always stood for: the teachings of Christ, whether such teachings are popular or unpopular among ever fickle mortals.

  • Words and meanings, however, are two different things. Apostles, the church, and so on have different meanings for different people. I think the biggest mistake made here is that one might be anachronistic. What happened early on and what evolved later must remain separate in our minds.

  • No, those who used the term Catholic Church understood that they were referring to the Church as opposed to heretical sects that claimed the mantle of “Christian”. The term was usually raised in battles with heretics.

  • That these terms alter with time remains true. I think of how we claim various meanings for words like radical, liberal, conservative, etc., across time and space. Example: Americans who call themselves political conservatives are really political liberals in the broader scheme.

  • So we must define terms like catholic, apostolic, tradition, and church more clearly and in line with ancient understanding. And we must avoid anachronism. If we have a system or structure that slowly developed or appeared later on, we musn’t read it back into an earlier period. The key is to think according to the patterns and categories of the earliest period. Who can prove whether what evolved is better or worse but by comparing it to what went before, and most especially to the written Word by which all things are ultimately judged?

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