These ecclesial communities are schisms of a schism from the Holy Orthodox Church

Unfortunately, I feel compelled to scorn here…

Arius was from ALEXANDRIA, not Antioch!

This guy doesn’t know his Church history.

The Antiochenes stressed the full reality of divinity and the full reality of humanity in Jesus Christ. The Alexandrians stressed that the one active and passive subject in Jesus Christ was the Logos.

At its extreme, Alexandrian theology tended either to deny the divinity of the Logos (this is what Arius did: the Logos is a creature), or to fuse divinity and humanity in their insistence upon the ‘one Incarnate nature of God the Word’ (Cyril’s phrase).

At its extreme, Antiochene theology in Nestorianism so fully stressed the divine reality and the human reality in Jesus that it developed the notion that in Christ there were two beings, one divine and one human, acting in unison.

In fact, the Church ultimately accepted neither of these positions on its own, but rather recognised the truth to lie in their synthesis, a synthesis that was definitively achieved in the Constantinoplitan Ecumenical Councils of 553 and 680. The one divine hypostasis of God the Word, fully divine by nature, assumed (enhypostasised) human nature in Incarnation, thereby divinising it entirely: it only existed in the divine hypostasis of the Logos and was fully permeated by divine energy. Thus the Cyrillene ‘one nature’ of God the Word is to be understood as the one hypostasis of God the Word (as per Trinitarian theology), and the divine and human realities in Jesus – which remain unconfused – are indivisibly united, existing in the one subject of the hypostasis of God the Word.

The author is confusing two issues: Arius the Alexandrian’s denial that Christ is divine (so that in Christ no union of divine and human takes place), and the Nestorian denial of union in the one hypostasis of God the Word (so that in Christ no union of divine and human takes place). Neither, however, denied the need for Christology.

Also, the author, I fear, remains caught in the Protestant confusion of thinking of Nicaea 325 as a terminus of dogmatic Orthodoxy, when in fact, it is the starting-point, comprehensible to us only in light of the subsequent Councils of the Church. If you take the Symbol of Nicaea out of the historical transmission (paradosis) of the one Christian faith, then you do not have ‘Nicene Orthodoxy’ – you do not have ‘Orthodoxy’ of any sort – for a symbol wrenched from the context in which it has its home can mean anything or nothing. You cannot turn to just one or two choice items which you happen to take a shine to in the history of the Church and appeal to them as ‘Orthodoxy’. Affirmation of the Nicene Creed no more ensures Orthodoxy than the Bible does. Orthodoxy exists only in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, which, incorporated into Christ and illumined by the Holy Spirit, preserves and hands over the one Orthodox faith from generation to generation. It is only through the adoption of this faith in its wholeness (kath holon) that the true meaning of the Scriptures and all in which Holy Tradition consists can be understood.

And part of this faith the adoption of whose wholeness is a precondition of Christian understanding is communion with a validly-ordained Bishop of the Orthodox faith in communion with the other Bishops of the Orthodox Church.

There is no use in Protestants playing in some half-way house of ‘Nicene Orthodoxy’ designed to assuage their bad feelings and partial recognitions that the ecclesial communities in which they have until now existed are but schisms of a schism from the Holy Orthodox Church.

Alan Brown in reponse to Harry L. Chronis Alexandria or Antioch?

Enter into the 'We' of the church

The first dimension is that the celebratio is prayer and a conversation with God: God with us and us with God. Thus, the first requirement for a good celebration is that the priest truly enter this conversation. In proclaiming the Word, he feels himself in conversation with God. He is a listener to the Word and a preacher of the Word, in the sense that he makes himself an instrument of the Lord and seeks to understand this Word of God which he must then transmit to the people. He is in a conversation with God because the texts of Holy Mass are not theatrical scripts or anything like them, but prayers, thanks to which, together with the assembly, I speak to God.

It is important, therefore, to enter into this conversation. St Benedict in his “Rule” tells the monks, speaking of the recitation of the Psalms, “Mens concordet voci”. The vox, words, precede our mind. This is not usually the case: one has to think first, then one’s thought becomes words. But here, the words come first. The sacred Liturgy gives us the words; we must enter into these words, find a harmony with this reality that precedes us.

In addition, we must also learn to understand the structure of the Liturgy and why it is laid out as it is. The Liturgy developed in the course of two millenniums and even after the Reformation was not something worked out by simply a few liturgists. It has always remained a continuation of this on-going growth of worship and proclamation.

Thus, to be well in tune, it is very important to understand this structure that developed over time and to enter with our minds into the vox of the Church. To the extent that we have interiorized this structure, comprehended this structure, assimilated the words of the Liturgy, we can enter into this inner consonance and thus not only speak to God as individuals, but enter into the “we” of the Church, which is praying. And we thus transform our “I” in this way, by entering into the “we” of the Church, enriching and enlarging this “I”, praying with the Church, with the words of the Church, truly being in conversation with God.

This is the first condition: we ourselves must interiorize the structure, the words of the Liturgy, the Word of God. Thus, our celebration truly becomes a celebration “with” the Church: our hearts are enlarged and we are not doing just anything but are “with” the Church, in conversation with God. It seems to me that people truly feel that we converse with God, with them, and that in this common prayer we attract others, in communion with the children of God we attract others…

Benedict XVI To the priests of Albano diocese

Trafficking in theological syncretism

Even casual observers of American Christianity, in all its ecclesial manifestations, cannot help but notice these days a common and deep division in all the old-line churches â?? Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopal, and Presbyterian, to name the most prominent of them. What divides them all in nearly identical fashion is most visibly and audibly profound disagreement about human sexuality…
this deeper dispute â?? it is much deeper than a disagreement about human sexuality â?? involves a critical choice between two age-old destinations. One is Alexandria and the other is Antioch.

I have these great ancient cities in mind, not just because one, Alexandria, was home to Nicene and Athanasian orthodoxy and the other, Antioch, to Arian heterodoxy in the early trinitarian controversies. But that is a good place to start, if â?? as I suggested above â?? the ethical confusion about human sexuality is only a presenting symptom of a deeper theological illness afflicting the whole old-line. I reckon it, actually, to be an Antiochene illness, for which only a Nicene cure of 4th century proportions will do. And the whole old-line will have to go to Alexandria (as it were) to get it.

Let me support this diagnosis, first, by citing my experience in my own presbytery. There Arius himself, for whom finally it was just not credible that God could empty the fullness of his divine majesty into the merely human Jesus, would be right at home. At one of our recent meetings, for example â?? and this is by no means as bad as it can get â?? we were treated to hearing (a) one of our ordained ministers reporting cheerfully about teaching the Bible (or, more precisely, Marcus Borgâ??s slant on the Bible) in her part-time position on the staff of a Unitarian church, (b) several new members of the presbytery sharing at some length what God was doing in their lives and ministries without once mentioning the name of Jesus Christ, and (c) our worship leader eschewing use of the triune name revealed by Christ (and substituting, with what is now nauseating predictability, the economic job-description â??Creator, Redeemer, Sustainerâ??) in our closing doxology. Nor is mine the only presbytery tilting toward Antioch and the confusion that ensues once God is unyoked from Christ. More than a few â?? many of them the same presbyteries that, along with my own, routinely ride the tectonic plate opposite me in the human sexuality controversy â?? appear to be trafficking regularly in theological syncretism. A number of friends around the denomination describe coming home from meetings as amazed as I at the endless novelty, the obsession to explore and mine feminist imaginings and even other religious traditions â?? anything but Nicene orthodoxy, apparently â?? for their liturgical â??riches,â?? the preoccupation with any â??spiritualityâ?? that knows nothing of the Holy Spirit, and especially the assumption on principle that theology can and should only be done now without any vestige of patriarchy (hence the sanction against the triune name) and â?? most incredibly â?? without Christology. It reminds me of Chestertonâ??s assertion that when men give up belief in the one true God, they donâ??t believe in nothing, they believe in anything.

Harry L. Chronis Alexandria or Antioch? The Hermeneutical Choice Confronting the American Old-Line

Featured Article at The Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology

What is a university? 2

A simple postmodernist assumption that diversity is just a fact of life that needs no exploring and exchange would be a recipe for a depressingly tribal and static intellectual life.

The university, then, sustains a culture of its own, a culture of conversation and mutual criticism and appreciation, in the context of which people may grow into a deeper understanding of what characterises human beings as such in their social interaction. That understanding has to do with seeing human beings as essentially engaged in learning – in enlarging their mental and imaginative worlds and approaching one another with curiosity, patience and welcome, being free to imagine how others ask different questions of the world around them. Within that common culture of a ‘learning humanity’, a university may as matter of historical fact have a visibly dominant cultural presence – perhaps religious, as often in Europe, perhaps deeply bound up with national identity and independence. But if it is to function as a university, this historical legacy will need to be, not neutralised or denied, but understood precisely as a legacy to be used as the soil on which debate can grow. Its tradition, religious, national, or whatever, is not an orthodoxy to be insisted upon (as was the case in English universities until the early nineteenth century) but as a secure space in which other voices are welcome and respected, and where the interaction of different voices and perspectives within the institution is not seen as any sort of contest for dominance. In many circumstances, an intellectual institution that is clear about its history and tradition can be a more rather than a less hospitable place because of this lack of any need to fight for a dominant voice.

Archbishop Rowan Williams What is a university? Speech given in Wuhan, China

Marriage is not the creation of the state

Marriage isnâ??t the creation of the state or even of â??religionâ?? (as construed as a syncretistic sectarian entity). Rather, marriage is a pre-political institution with its own nature and contours; people are free to enter into a marital relationship, but people are not free to redefine and reconfigure marriage (for that is simply impossible). That religions have norms protecting marriage or elevating its status doesnâ??t undermine but further demonstrates its natural, primary status. The task of the state, then, isnâ??t to create marriage but to enshrine its nature in law accurately, and to support and promote it in policy. Attempts to redefine the contours of marriage inevitably preclude any principled argument against polygamy, polyamory, and other diverse expressions. If marriage can be between two people of the same sex, why not among three or four people? In fact, a group of prominent scholars have made just these claims, in a document titled â??Beyond Gay Marriage.â??

But there is a deeper, cultural problem. Marriage exists to bring a man and a woman together as a husband and a wife to become a father and a mother for any children their union may yield. The legal imposition of same-sex â??marriageâ?? intentionally deprives children of a mother or a father. It sends a cultural message that mothers and fathers are interchangeable or unnecessary. And just as â??no-fault divorceâ?? and widespread premarital and extramarital sex removed the cultural norms and expectations for adult sexual and reproductive lives, so too same-sex â??marriageâ?? continues this retreat from the marital ideal.

Ryan T. Anderson First Things

Using 'Triune' to avoid the inflammatory word 'Father'

Responses to A Call to an Ancient Evangelical Future

Good observations all. What, one might ask, is there not to like?

Well, in the first place, there is a word that is never used in this document. It is conspicuous in its absence. I kept waiting for it to appear, and it never did. That word is authority. Yes, the Scriptures are here described as an â??authoritativeâ?? record, but that is merely sending an adjective to do a nounâ??s work.

There is no locus of authority being proposed here. This omission is especially strange in light of the documentâ??s expression of the â??pressingâ?? question: â??Who gets to narrate the word?â?? This would seem to be precisely a question of authority. The document calls on Evangelicals to â??restore the priorityâ?? of the biblical story in their lives, which the writers insist upon calling â??Godâ??s narrative.â??

But who is to do the restoring? After all, the story does not tell itself (which is, of course, precisely one of the reasons literary scholars use the verb â??narrateâ??). The history of the Church is a history of all the different, and sometimes violently conflicting, ways of telling the story. I have no doubt that both James Dobson and Stanley Hauerwas could each tell the story convincingly and faithfully. But I suspect their accounts would differ.

In short, there is no escaping from the need for structures of authority in the Church. This same aversion to authority is behind the condemnation of â??propositionsâ?? as tending to be â??reductive.â?? This is of course entirely true up to a point. But the great creeds the authors are so anxious to affirm are, in fact, more propositional than narrative in character.

One sometimes suspects that the authors are really pushing a variant on an old adage: â??doctrine divides, but narrative unites.â?? If we can concentrate on â??telling the story,â?? to the point that we completely inhabit it, the quarrels and conflicts of the past two millennia will simply evaporate. And isnâ??t it pretty to think so.

Also, what does it mean to â??take seriouslyâ?? the visible Church? Does it mean a Church that disciplines, rebukes, and even on occasion excommunicates? If not, then what? Does the talk about catechesis mean that Evangelicals will start requiring confirmands to have thoroughly learned, for example, the Westminster Confession and Shorter Catechism? Why are the authors so much more interested in vague appeals to the ancient Church than in their own Evangelical traditionâ??s more proximate fathers?

Of course, the very mention of the word father points to a profound problem in the whole undertaking: the problem of language. If we are to root ourselves in â??Godâ??s word as the story of the world,â?? it will make all the difference what words we use to describe what we are doing. In our choice of language we should try our very best to use Godâ??s rather than ours.

A Text Avoided

The use of concepts like â??narrativeâ?? and other such academic terms is not necessarily self-undermining, so long as it serves merely to aid and amplify. But when the concepts of â??storyâ?? and â??narrativeâ?? appear as frequently and centrally as they do in this document, one cannot help but conclude that they are being used as a way to evade questions about what is actually there, behind the storyâ??about the actual referents of the Christian faith, the things that the story is about.

Nor is the language of â??narrativeâ?? the vocabulary with which the biblical God narrates. There is no glimpse hereâ??not a oneâ??of the actual and authoritative language of Scripture as generations of Christian worshipers in North America have known it and experienced it and proclaimed it.

Arguably the single greatest strength of Evangelical Christianity is its reverence for the Word, its lively attention to the text, its loving embrace of the actual words and verses of Scripture. But we donâ??t get any of that here. Instead, we are being offered a boatload of stale seminary talk: the â??storyâ?? of â??Creation, Incarnation, and Re-creation,â?? the notion of â??Christâ??s recapitulation of history,â?? worship that â??enacts Godâ??s story,â?? and so on.

As I read the document, I found it curious that the authors repeatedly spoke with such abstractness of the â??Triuneâ?? or â??Trinitarianâ?? character of God. Then it dawned on me why. They were doing so to avoid using the inflammatory word Fatherâ??another word that never once appears in this document. Nor do they ever use the masculine personal pronoun for God.

The authors have done this self-editing skillfully, even tastefully. You might almost not even notice. But they have done it quite intentionally, and their doing so shows why they have not yet come to grips with what is entailed in appropriating the authority of the pastâ??which means the whole history of what the Church has been, and not merely what has been going on in a few North American seminaries since 1968.

If one radically edits the past before appropriating it, then it is no longer the past that one is appropriating, but a version of the present. Language matters, and the preference for academic over Scriptural language in this document is powerfully indicative of which worldview actually gets to do the trumping.

How will one utter the Nicene Creed when the word Father has been proscribed? But if one substitutes some other termâ?? Creator, or Mother, or Dominatrix, or whatever word is in fashion this weekâ??how is one doing anything other than rejecting the past, and extending the sway of the status quo? That indeed is what I would call a very serious form of â??cultural captivity.â??

Wilfred M. McClay What lies Behind Touchstone Forum Back and Forth to the Future

A Call to an Ancient Evangelical Future

In every age the Holy Spirit calls the Church to examine its faithfulness to God’s revelation in Jesus Christ, authoritatively recorded in Scripture and handed down through the Church. Thus, while we affirm the global strength and vitality of worldwide Evangelicalism in our day, we believe the North American expression of Evangelicalism needs to be especially sensitive to the new external and internal challenges facing God’s people.

These external challenges include the current cultural milieu and the resurgence of religious and political ideologies. The internal challenges include Evangelical accommodation to civil religion, rationalism, privatism and pragmatism. In light of these challenges, we call Evangelicals to strengthen their witness through a recovery of the faith articulated by the consensus of the ancient Church and its guardians in the traditions of Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, the Protestant Reformation and the Evangelical awakenings. Ancient Christians faced a world of paganism, Gnosticism and political domination. In the face of heresy and persecution, they understood history through Israel’s story, culminating in the death and resurrection of Jesus and the coming of God’s Kingdom.

Today, as in the ancient era, the Church is confronted by a host of master narratives that contradict and compete with the gospel. The pressing question is: who gets to narrate the world? The Call to an Ancient Evangelical Future challenges Evangelical Christians to restore the priority of the divinely inspired biblical story of God’s acts in history. The narrative of God’s Kingdom holds eternal implications for the mission of the Church, its theological reflection, its public ministries of worship and spirituality and its life in the world. By engaging these themes, we believe the Church will be strengthened to address the issues of our day.

1. On the Primacy of the Biblical Narrative

We call for a return to the priority of the divinely authorized canonical story of the Triune God. This story-Creation, Incarnation, and Re-creation-was effected by Christ’s recapitulation of human history and summarized by the early Church in its Rules of Faith. The gospel-formed content of these Rules served as the key to the interpretation of Scripture and its critique of contemporary culture, and thus shaped the church’s pastoral ministry. Today, we call Evangelicals to turn away from modern theological methods that reduce the gospel to mere propositions, and from contemporary pastoral ministries so compatible with culture that they camouflage God’s story or empty it of its cosmic and redemptive meaning. In a world of competing stories, we call Evangelicals to recover the truth of God’s word as the story of the world, and to make it the centerpiece of Evangelical life.

2. On the Church, the Continuation of God’s Narrative

We call Evangelicals to take seriously the visible character of the Church. We call for a commitment to its mission in the world in fidelity to God’s mission (Missio Dei), and for an exploration of the ecumenical implications this has for the unity, holiness catholicity, and apostolicity of the Church. Thus, we call Evangelicals to turn away from an individualism that makes the Church a mere addendum to God’s redemptive plan. Individualistic Evangelicalism has contributed to the current problems of churchless Christianity, redefinitions of the Church according to business models, separatist ecclesiologies and judgmental attitudes toward the Church. Therefore, we call Evangelicals to recover their place in the community of the Church catholic.

3. On the Church’s Theological Reflection on God’s Narrative

We call for the Church’s reflection to remain anchored in the Scriptures in continuity with the theological interpretation learned from the early Fathers. Thus, we call Evangelicals to turn away from methods that separate theological reflection from the common traditions of the Church. These modern methods compartmentalize God’s story by analyzing its separate parts, while ignoring God’s entire redemptive work as recapitulated in Christ. Anti-historical attitudes also disregard the common biblical and theological legacy of the ancient Church. Such disregard ignores the hermeneutical value of the Church’s ecumenical creeds. This reduces God’s story of the world to one of many competing theologies and impairs the unified witness of the Church to God’s plan for the history of the world. Therefore, we call Evangelicals to unity in “the tradition that has been believed everywhere, always and by all,” as well as to humility and charity in their various Protestant traditions.

4. On Church’s Worship as Telling and Enacting God’s Narrative

We call for public worship that sings, preaches and enacts God’s story. We call for a renewed consideration of how God ministers to us in baptism, Eucharist, confession, the laying on of hands, marriage, healing and through the charisma of the Spirit, for these actions shape our lives and signify the meaning of the world. Thus, we call Evangelicals to turn away from forms of worship that focus on God as a mere object of the intellect or that assert the self as the source of worship. Such worship has resulted in lecture-oriented, music-driven, performance-centered and program-controlled models that do not adequately proclaim God’s cosmic redemption. Therefore, we call Evangelicals to recover the historic substance of worship of Word and Table and to attend to the Christian year, which marks time according to God’s saving acts.

5. On Spiritual Formation in the Church as Embodiment of God’s Narrative

We call for a catechetical spiritual formation of the people of God that is based firmly on a Trinitarian biblical narrative. We are concerned when spirituality is separated from the story of God and baptism into the life of Christ and his Body. Spirituality, made independent from God’s story, is often characterized by legalism, mere intellectual knowledge, an overly therapeutic culture, New Age Gnosticism, a dualistic rejection of this world and a narcissistic preoccupation with one’s own experience. These false spiritualities are inadequate for the challenges we face in today’s world. Therefore, we call Evangelicals to return to a historic spirituality like that taught and practiced in the ancient catechumenate.

6. On the Church’s Embodied Life in the World

We call for a cruciform holiness and commitment to God’s mission in the world. This embodied holiness affirms life, biblical morality and appropriate self-denial. It calls us to be faithful stewards of the created order and bold prophets to our contemporary culture. Thus, we call Evangelicals to intensify their prophetic voice against forms of indifference to God’s gift of life, economic and political injustice, ecological insensitivity and the failure to champion the poor and marginalized. Too often we have failed to stand prophetically against the culture’s captivity to racism, consumerism, political correctness, civil religion, sexism, ethical relativism, violence and the culture of death. These failures have muted the voice of Christ to the world through his Church and detract from God’s story of the world, which the Church is collectively to embody. Therefore, we call the Church to recover its counter-cultural mission to the world.


In sum, we call Evangelicals to recover the conviction that God’s story shapes the mission of the Church to bear witness to God’s Kingdom and to inform the spiritual foundations of civilization. We set forth this Call as an ongoing, open-ended conversation. We are aware that we have our blind spots and weaknesses. Therefore, we encourage Evangelicals to engage this Call within educational centers, denominations and local churches through publications and conferences.

We pray that we can move with intention to proclaim a loving, transcendent, triune God who has become involved in our history. In line with Scripture, creed and tradition, it is our deepest desire to embody God’s purposes in the mission of the Church through our theological reflection, our worship, our spirituality and our life in the world, all the while proclaiming that Jesus is Lord over all creation.

A Call to an Ancient Evangelical Future

Immersing ourselves in the prayer of all times

This is proper to the Pastor, that he should be a man of prayer, that he should come before the Lord praying for others, even replacing others who perhaps do not know how to pray, do not want to pray or do not make the time to pray. Thus, it is obvious that this dialogue with God is pastoral work!

I would say further that the Church gives us, imposes upon us – but always like a good Mother – the obligation to make free time for God with the two practices that constitute a part of our duties: the celebration of Holy Mass and the recitation of the Breviary. However, rather than reciting it, this means putting it into practice by listening to the word which the Lord offers us in the Liturgy of the Hours.

It is essential to interiorize this word, to be attentive to what the Lord is saying to me with this word, to listen, then, to the comments of the Fathers of the Church or also of the Council in the Second Reading of the Office of Readings, and to pray with this great invocation, the Psalms, by which we are inserted into the prayer of all the ages. The people of the Old Covenant pray with us, and we pray with them. We pray with the Lord, who is the true subject of the Psalms. We pray with the Church of all times. I would say that this time dedicated to the Liturgy of the Hours is precious time. The Church offers to us this freedom, this free space of life with God, which is also life for others.

Thus, it seems important to me to see that these two realities – Holy Mass truly celebrated in conversation with God and the Liturgy of the Hours – are areas of freedom, of inner life, an enrichment which the Church bestows upon us. In them, as I said, we do not only find the Church of all the ages but also the Lord himself, who speaks to us and awaits our answer. We thus learn to pray by immersing ourselves in the prayer of all times, and we also encounter the people. Let us think of the Psalms, of the words of the Prophets, of the words of the Lord and of the Apostles, and of the teaching of the Fathers.

Benedict XVI To the priests of Albano diocese

A reasonable deliberation of the right ordering of our life together

Between Evangelicals and Catholics there have been long-standing differences on the capacities of human reason. To put it too briefly, Evangelicals (and the Protestant traditions more generally) have accented that human reason has been deeply corrupted by sin. Catholics, on the other hand, while recognizing that human reason has been severely wounded by sin and is in need of healing, have held a higher estimate of reasonâ??s capacity to discern truth, including moral truth. We, as Evangelicals and Catholics together, affirm that the knowledge of God necessary for eternal salvation cannot be attained by human reason alone apart from Divine revelation and the Holy Spiritâ??s gift of faithâ??s response to Jesus Christ the only Saviorâ?¦.

We also affirm together that human reason, despite the consequences of sin, has the capacity for discerning, deliberating, and deciding the questions pertinent to the civil order. Some Evangelicals attribute this capacity of reason to â??common grace,â?? as distinct from â??saving grace.â?? Catholics typically speak of the â??natural law,â?? meaning moral law that is knowable in principle by all human beings, even if it is denied by many (Romans 1 and 2). Thus do we, as Evangelicals and Catholics together, firmly reject the claim that disagreements over the culture of life represent a conflict between faith and reason. Both faith and reason are the gift of the one God. Since all truth has its source in Him, all truth is ultimately one, although our human perception of the fullness of truth is partial and inadequate (1 Corinthians 13:12). Thus do we invite those who disagree, including those who do not share the gift of faith in Christ, to join with us in attempting to move beyond â??culture warsâ?? to a reasonable deliberation of the right ordering of our life together.

That They May Have Life A statement of Evangelicals and Catholics Together

What is a university?

First – and perhaps surprisingly – there is a profoundly political element in the university. It is taken for granted that those who exercise power in a society need to be formed in a particular culture. They need to learn how to reflect on the social interactions around them; they need to learn how to evaluate the reasons that people give for actions and policies. Part of that training in how to evaluate reasons and arguments – and also ideals and aims – has always involved reference to the basic texts of a culture, sacred or not, which are regarded as setting out patterns of human life in society that continue to serve as an orientation….

Universities should devote serious resource and energy to encouraging public debate on the shared values of their society. This does not mean that a university as such should be a nursery of simple activism and criticism; it does mean, though, that a good university is always looking for ways of opening up general intellectual debate about common hopes and values to the community around it. It does not exist only to refine the work of the specialist…

It is only when universities are free to pose their own questions that they fulfil their function of enabling people to ask about the foundations of what others take for granted.

What is distinctive about the university is that it seeks to nurture the ability to understand political processes and to weigh political arguments rather than giving uncritical loyalty to any programme.

The student who is in this sense discovering what it is to be a ‘political agent’ is discovering what it is to exercise thoughtful responsibility in the life of a society. And this is where a narrow definition of what the social and the political might mean has to be balanced by some historical perspective; it is in fact where (in a very broad sense) the ‘classics’ of a society are relevant, so that a good university allows space for students to test their ideals and concepts against a historical tradition expressed not only in opportunities for discussion but also in the university’s public ceremony and its standards and protocols for intellectual exchange. By its very existence, the good university expresses certain philosophical commitments – to civil discourse, to liberty of expression, to careful and honest self-questioning, and to the possibility of creating trust through the processes of fair argument and exploration of evidence. This cannot be reduced to the narrow atmosphere of pressure-groups.

Ideally, then, the elements of awareness of history and tradition, openness to intellectual innovation and concern for the widest possible engagement with public life should come together in the university to help nurture adult and responsible citizens. But for us in Europe, there are, of course, two major factors which complicate still further the position of the university. One of these has already been hinted at: it is a political and economic climate in which the expectation of short-term and practical results has affected attitudes to ‘free’ intellectual endeavour in some very adverse ways. A proper concern for accountability has produced a real anxiety about the volume of work produced by universities, and an increasingly sharp competitive spirit between institutions. Every university has to promote itself in two directions – towards the public, to keep up recruitment, and towards funding bodies, which in Britain and much of continental Europe will be under government direction, to persuade them of its profitability. This is not a climate that will disappear overnight; it is part of the way in which ‘market’ models have come to dominate so many areas of social and institutional life in our context.

The second of these challenges is the sheer diversity of the cultural scene in the modern West; not only has British culture, for example, lost a degree of contact with and confidence in a history or identity shared by British citizens, it is now inclusive of active and often lively immigrant cultures, whose relation with the majority may be in various ways strained. Against such a background, what would it mean to see the university as offering an induction into some kind of culture appropriate to people who will grow into public responsibility? Isn’t this bound to be hopelessly compromised by the existing dominance of one culture or class or ethnic group (as has been the case in Britain)? In the vast perspective of China’s diverse cultures, similar questions are bound to be in evidence; what role has the university in promoting social and political stability in a context where much rests upon the ability of government to sustain national cohesion and a universal pattern of law, welfare and equity?

Any university now attempting to promote the advantage of one racial or class interest would forfeit its credibility and authority. But the alternative is not an acceptance of pure ‘postmodern’ diversity, a chaos of non-communicating discourses for mutually isolated communities.

Archbishop Rowan Williams What is a university? Speech given in Wuhan, China