Friday, November 6, 2009

William Temple

Hot on the heels of Richard Hooker, we celebrate the feast of William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury 1942-44 (among other things). My favorite part of his biography was this:

He was at Oxford (Balliol) from 1900 to 1904, and was president of the Oxford Union (the debating society of the University). Here he developed a remarkable ability to sum up an issue, expressing the pros and cons so clearly and fairly that the original opponents often ended up agreeing with each other. This ability served him in good stead later when he moderated conferences on theological and social issues. However, it was not just a useful talent for settling disputes. It was, or developed into, an important part of his philosophy, a belief in Dialectic, derived from Hegel and from Plato. He thought that beliefs and ideas reach their full maturity through their response to opposing ideas. (emphasis mine, natch.)

Why am I thinking that the response in question is a bit more than "I'm right, you're wrong, I hate you, nanny nanny boo boo"?

A lot of people would call William Temple wishy-washy, I suppose. (One quote I found from him was, "Reacting to evangelists' fondness for quoting Isaiah 1:18, 'Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. . . .' [Temple replied,] 'All my sins are grey.'") But I think it's a much harder and more treacherous road to understand the position that you instinctively oppose, knowing that to understand mean you might change.

2 comments:

Jeanne said...

Abp William Temple was not wishy-washy however, and nor were his sins grey when he demanded Bp. R.O.Hall's resignation (Bp. of Hong Kong) for ordaining The Rev. Florence Li Tim Oi. Ordination date January 25, 1944. I hope we celebrate her commemoration on Jan 24th

Laura Toepfer said...

I did not know that. An excellent reminder that saints are human with serious foibles and flaws.

I will definitely celebrate Florence Li Tim Oi on her feast day.