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Historical Society of the Episcopal Church


Stephen W. Sykes has written that theological "views are neither right nor wrong by being liberal in character. Only a church," he argues, "which has despaired of the possibility of rational argument about theology altogether could adopt such a stance."1 Yet Paul Avis has gone so far as to suggest that "Anglicanism enshrines a principle of reverent agnosticism. It takes seriously the limitations of our knowledge and readily confesses that our grasp of the truth is circumscribed by mystery, a light shining in the darkness."2 From the Cambridge Platonists and Jeremy Taylor, to Bishop Joseph Butler's Analogy of Religion, Natural and Revealed (1736), "the Anglican tradition [has accepted] that probability is the highest degree of certainty that we may hope to enjoy in this world. It regards the rule of faith (regula fidei) as a set of practical guidelines" (54). And, thus, the role of any human authority as a reliable determinant of truth must be always tentative-and, it would seem, any Anglican theology must today be seen as inevitably "liberal."


Copyright © 1991 Historical Society of the Episcopal Church. Reprinted with permission.



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