Stephen Jewell in The New Zealand Herald on Richard Holloway

Posted by Kendall Harmon

While they might seem like odd bedfellows, [Richard] Holloway actually has much in common with [Richard] Dawkins, who is famous for his outspoken views about the non-existence of a supreme being and the irrational nature of religious faith. Holloway has written 12 books, including Godless Morality, which was controversially denounced by the then-Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey after its publication in 1999 for daring to suggest it is not necessary to be religious to be moral.

Holloway left the church in 2000 after suffering a crisis of conscience. Although he now refers to himself as a "Christian agnostic", he still keeps some ties with his erstwhile profession.

I'm still a member of the Christian community as it carries many beautiful values, tropes, metaphors and narratives. I've changed my mind so many times in the past that I now handle what I say with a certain provisionality. I'm not done yet - who knows where I'll end up? - but one of the things I have learned is the virtue of uncertainty. If you absolutely know the mind of that mystery you call God then it leads you to do terrible things because, of course, God is on your side.

Read the whole article.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesAnglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and PolynesiaChurch of England (CoE)* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAustralia / NZ

12 Comments
Posted April 28, 2009 at 8:56 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. dwstroudmd+ wrote:

“Although he doesn’t mention him specifically, Holloway alludes to neo-atheists like Dawkins in his latest book Between the Monster and the Saint, claiming that “like strong religionists, they are not content to keep their certainties to themselves, and insist on spreading them to others”.”

Yes, I seem to recall some atheist regimes that were very evangelistic and radical in their attempts to root out believers and kill them, after torture.  Atheists might be moral and they might be immoral.  They are human. 

Alas, even Christians do not always do the moral thing.  That’s what repentance, confession, restitution, and forgiveness are for, right?  So what do immoral atheists have to do similarly when they err?

April 28, 9:56 am | [comment link]
2. m+ wrote:

What an odd article! But the author is equally odd, so it’s probably a reflection of the source.  Here’s my favorite excerpt:
“I don’t mind someone making a case for atheism but to set out on some kind of crusade to turn people off religion is a waste of time. There are more gracious ways of doing that.”
More gracious ways of turning people away from religion and the Christian Faith in particular?  This man was a Bishop?

April 28, 9:57 am | [comment link]
3. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

Former Bishop of Edinburgh Richard Holloway is a tragic figure, who reminds me of King Saul.  “How are the mighty fallen!”  When he was rector of Church of the Advent in Boston, he was a powerful preacher.  But even after abandoning the faith he once proclaimed, Holloway remains a Christ-haunted person.  Alas, he reminds me of the intellectual bishop in C. S. Lewis’ marvelous “The Great Divorce” who actually preferred endless theological discussions in hell to life with God in heaven.

There is a special tendency for Anglicans to be suspicious of “too much” certainty in disputed religous matters.  Richard Hooker once famously wrote something like this:  There are two errors which greatly trouble these times.  The first that Rome hath not erred.  And the other, that Geneva will not.  A sane ad sensible reaction.

But an open mind is like an open door or window, it needs screens to keep the bugs out.  Or as the witty G. K. Chesterton once put it, the point of opening our minds, like our mouths, is to shut them again on something.

As usual, I find Lesslie Newbigin especailly helpful in thinking through these complex matters regarding religious certainty, its possibility and limitations.  For those interested in a marvelous read, I recommend his splendid little book, “Proper Confidence,” which defends the resonableness of a truly CONFIDENT Christian faith, not hobbled by giving in to the kind of doubts to which Richard Holloway has succombed.

But at least Holloway had the integrity to resign his bishopric and not pretend to uphold the faith he no longer in fact believed.  That is commendable.  Alas, there are many bishops and priests in TEC who lack that integrity.  And that includes the Presiding Bishop.

David Handy+

April 28, 10:12 am | [comment link]
4. driver8 wrote:

Richard Holloway former Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church was ordained in 1959. He served as a priest and then bishop until his retirement in 2000. Presumably his conscience permitted him to receive a salary for over 40 years paid ultimately from the donations of current and past church members who actually believed what he did not. At least, then he was able to retire and live on the pension funded by those same donations.

April 28, 10:19 am | [comment link]
5. driver8 wrote:

FWIW When Primus, Richard Holloway was remarkably illiberal for one so proud of his liberal credentials. His intransigence towards the small evangelical and traditionalist Anglo Catholic elements in the Scottish Church of Scotland led a friend of mine to tell Holloway that he was less actually tolerant than the so called (by Holloway) “fundamentalists” with whom he disagreed. Holloway was affable and didn’t care so long as he got his way.

April 28, 10:32 am | [comment link]
6. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

driver8 (#4),

I stand corrected.  Thanks for setting the record straight, and doing it so graciously.  Alas, it appears that Richard Holloway had no more integrity while in office than so many of his “progressive” ilk do who are now in office in the Global North.  However, at least he’s pretty open about his unbelief since his retirement, which is more than can be said about many of his former colleagues in the episcopate.

David Handy+

April 28, 11:21 am | [comment link]
7. driver8 wrote:

Should, of course, be Scottish Episcopal Church.

April 28, 11:23 am | [comment link]
8. Milton wrote:

Just another false-humility tinged, artificially wisdom-flavored smokescreen for a refusal, not an inability, to believe:

If you absolutely know the mind of that mystery you call God then it leads you to do terrible things because, of course, God is on your side.

No honest Christian claims to absolutely know the mind of God, nor can anyone except God do that.  What we can claim and what Jesus affirmed, is that the Bible is absolutely the Word of God for humanity and that it is absolutely without error, an authority to which Holloway refuses to submit.  The usual reappraiser false premise that because we cannopt know everything about God, we cannot know anything about God.


Deuteronomy 30:11-14 (New American Standard Bible)
11"For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach.
12"It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’
13"Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’
14"But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it.

Deuteronomy 29:29 (New American Standard Bible)
29"The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.
————————————————————-
Whose side is God on?
Joshua 5:13-15 (New American Standard Bible)
13Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us or for our adversaries?”
14He said, “No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the LORD.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, “What has my lord to say to his servant?”
15The captain of the LORD’S host said to Joshua, “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.

April 28, 12:40 pm | [comment link]
9. GadgetVicar wrote:

I confess to having been ordained by Richard. He also licenced me to my first charge. To be fair to him, in the eighties and early nineties, he encouraged evangelicals in Edinburgh diocese by allowing them to plant and transplant. This was I suspect mostly pragmatic on his part (evangelicals produce money). It was after Lambeth ‘98 that he clearly turned against orthodox belief. He reamins a significant media figure in Scotland. Oh, how the Lord could have used him to reach many!

Like many others, I continue to give thanks the good things he has written and taught in the past, but pray that he might again be transformed by the love of God and His people.

April 28, 6:24 pm | [comment link]
10. Terry Tee wrote:

RH’s loss of faith is a mystery to me.  I remember him as vicar of St Mary Magdalene in the centre of Oxford, when he was an austere Anglo-Catholic who celebrated Mass with reverence and prayerfulness.  (In those days I myself was Anglican and occasionally attended Mass there.) Then he went to the Church of the Advent in Boston and came back a changed man. 

I am always a little surprised at the emphasis he and his ilk place on the questioning mind.  If we believe in God then surely by definition God has to be far greater than ourselves, and we bow before the divine majesty.  If on the other hand you see the mind as the beginning and end of everything, then you will have nothing greater than the human and we will be locked in yourself.

April 28, 7:06 pm | [comment link]
11. Terry Tee wrote:

Apologies.  Last words should read:
and you will be locked in yourself.

April 28, 7:06 pm | [comment link]
12. azusa wrote:

#10: You’re right - he was basically orthodox once, then he picked up the TEC disease and jettisoned everything in a matter of years. Making it a primary habit to ask questions rather than attend to God’s Word can only mean for an intelligent man a ceaseless sequence of changing one’s mind. That’s what happened to Don Cuppitt.

April 29, 2:41 am | [comment link]
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