Friday 4 November is a day set aside for praying for Anglican and Roman Catholic reconciliation. In light of Melbourne’s recent visit from His Grace Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, we’ve put together a short reading list of books by Anglican authors to edify and enrich your own Catholic faith.
The authors listed below are all highly respected thinkers and writers, and have helped and inspired people across the spectrum of Christian faith.
Madeleine L’Engle—an Episcopalian (the American branch of the Anglican Communion)—was the author of the children’s classic A Wrinkle in Time and also a Christian of deep faith. Throughout her life, the relationship between faith and science fascinated her. As well as being an excellent storyteller, she was a profound thinker and essayist, publishing a much-loved series of reflections on art and faith called Walking on Water. It is a beautiful book exploring the centrality of story in human life, the incarnation as the foundation for how we think about art, and the need to pay attention to our language, which can elevate our culture or diminish it. She also argues persuasively for the importance of fairy tales, myths and legends as imaginative influences on children. More than anything else, she sets a high bar for Christian artists, calling them to live up to their vocation: ‘If it’s bad art, it’s bad religion, no matter how pious the subject,’ she writes.
Tom Wright, also referred to as NT Wright, is one of the world’s most popular writers on the New Testament, especially the apostle Paul. An Anglican bishop and respected Bible scholar, his popularity derives from the fact that he can communicate just as effectively to an academic readership as he can to a general audience, and what he brings out of the New Testament is very much worth listening to.
An argument he makes frequently is that too often we read the Bible, especially the New Testament, without understanding its Jewish roots, leading to all kinds of distortions of Jesus’ words. Jesus of Nazareth was a strange, enigmatic, even divisive figure in his time, and we won’t understand him properly unless we understand the Judaism of the time and some of the major themes of the Old Testament that provided the backdrop for his ministry.
Wright’s book Simply Jesus helps the reader to understand more deeply the words and actions of Jesus and how symbolically powerful they were for first-century Jews. What Jesus accomplished, Wright argues, was not a ‘great escape’, whereby we simply escape this world and ‘go to heaven’. On the contrary, Jesus, through his life, death and resurrection, decisively brought God’s kingdom ‘on earth as in heaven’, and Christians are called to be witnesses to that new creation. For many people, reading Tom Wright is a turning point. It’s possible that you won't understand Jesus the same way again.
St John Henry Newman is a famous convert to the Catholic faith from the Anglican Church. However, the sermons gathered in this volume include ones from before his conversion. Not only was Newman a deeply intelligent man; he was also an excellent communicator. His sermons are works of art, beautifully crafted and packed with meaning. This 1997 edition, put together by Ignatius Press, includes all eight volumes of Newman’s sermons. It's a hefty book to be read across the course of a lifetime, allowing readers to journey alongside Newman as he wrestles with some of the deepest and most enduring questions at the heart of Christianity.
Dorothy Sayers was a novelist and copywriter, most famous for her series of murder mysteries featuring the amateur detective Lord Peter Wimsey. However, her book Letters to a Diminished Church also reveals a mind that is sharp, witty, and capable of grappling with weighty theological issues. Highly respected by CS Lewis, she floated in and out of the famous writing group called the Inklings. Letters to a Diminished Church explores the dramatic nature of the Creed, the relationship between art and life, the nature of work, and the significance of who Jesus is.
Like Madeleine L’Engle, she sets a high bar for the artist and for Christians, especially in her essay Why work? in which she reflects on what artists should be hearing from the Church. She writes:
The Church’s approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him not to be drunk and disorderly in his leisurely hours, and to come to church on Sundays. What the Church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables … No piety in the work will compensate for work that is not true to itself; for any work that is untrue to its own technique is living a lie … work must be good work before it can call itself God’s work.
Rowan Williams is a former Archbishop of Canterbury and one of the world’s leading Anglican thinkers. A poet, playwright and respected expert on Russian theology and literature, he has also written several popular works on faith and devotion, one of them being Tokens of Trust. This little book goes through the creeds in order to break open and understand more deeply some of the most pressing questions of human life: the nature and significance of evil, the meaning of belief, the significance of who Jesus was, and the task of the Church today. His overarching point, in light of the fact that our societies are experiencing deep erosions of trust—trust in our institutions, and in each other—is that the God of Christian revelation is utterly trustworthy because he is a loving Father, Creator and Saviour.
Melbourne Catholic04 November 2022
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