Thursday, December 18, 2008

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing - the sins against political correctness

Cranmer has received a missive from the Reverend Julian Mann on this much-loved Christmas carol, which he is delighted to share with his readers and communicants. The carol was written by Charles Wesley in 1739. It is a wonderfully subversive proclamation of the Christian Gospel against the neo-gospel of political correctness. It originally had a sombre tune - the joyous tune to which we sing it is a 19th century chorus by Felix Mendelssohn. The words were also improved by the great 18th century Anglican Evangelical preacher George Whitfield. The opening line in Wesley’s original was ‘Hark! How all the welkin rings’.

It sins against political correctness particularly in the following lines:

'Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled'

This reflects the biblical teaching that God and sinners need reconciling because the God of the Bible is a God of wrath who is implacably opposed to human evil and sin. Therefore he is implacably hostile to us when we devote ourselves to sin (see Romans 1v18ff; Ephesians 2v1-3). This biblical teaching is reflected in Cranmer's Book of Common Prayer in the general confession at Holy Communion: 'We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, Which we from time to time most grievously have committed, By thought, word, and deed, Against thy Divine Majesty, Provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us'. An unforgettable New Testament expression of the truth of 'God and sinners reconciled' is to be found in 2 Corinthians 5v19: 'In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us (that is to the apostles and those who subsequently proclaim the apostolic Gospel) the message of reconciliation' (ESV).

'Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin's womb'

This offends against postmodern sensibilities not so much in its acknowledgement of the miraculous but in its celebration of the fact that a young woman was not sexually active before heterosexual marriage.

'Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus our Emmanuel'

Wesley of course believed that Jesus came to save women as well as men from God's wrath on sin, but the reference to humanity as 'man' reminds of the fact that Adam, the first man, is the federal head of the human race who led us into disaster. Jesus, the second Adam, is the representative Man who, to quote Article II of the Church of England's 39 Articles of Religion, 'truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile his Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for all actual sins of men'.

So let's enjoy singing this wonderful Christmas carol to Christ's praise and glory whilst it is still legal in the United Kingdom to use it uncensored in public worship.


Blogger Grumpy Old Man said...

Thank you, My Lord Bishop, for reminding us all of the christian Christmas as a time of renewal. Coincidently. I today started my annual consideration of Handels Messiah. "and the glory of the Lord" listened to several times over lunch, lifted my spirits all afternoon. The more one listens to Handel's religeous works, the more one realises that he truly believed. His faith bolsters my own, less strong, faith

18 December 2008 at 21:33  
Anonymous no nonny said...

OYes, Your Grace. Oyez, Oyez!!!

18 December 2008 at 21:36  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

P.S. And I intend to sing it even if the devils make it illegal. Render unto God... tha knaws?

Anyway, they'll probably have some grotty plagirized copy going ---that they're pretending is an original. So we'll need to show the true diamond from the black glass!

18 December 2008 at 21:42  
Blogger ultramontane grumpy old catholic said...

What does Your Grace think of the claim that 'Oh Come all ye Faithful' is a subversive paean to Bonnie Prince Charlie, and is in fact a Jacobite Song? This was posited on the Today programme this morning.

Personally I think that the words cannot have any relationship, but the tune might have been hijacked

18 December 2008 at 22:21  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Mr Ultramontane Grumpy Old Catholic who really ought to permit His Grace to abbreviate his nom-de-plume,

His Grace has read of this claim, and had his own suspicions about the title 'King of Angels' somewhat confirmed, since the etymology of England is indeed Angle-land. Whether or not it was Jacobite anthem is unknown and doubtless unknowable. But such theories persist in the papist ether.

His Grace accords with your thoughts on the melody: all the best tunes are plagiarised.

18 December 2008 at 22:43  
Anonymous no nonny said...

That was me with the plag-i-a-r-i-s-m problem - . Sorry -the computer keeps going all odd.

19 December 2008 at 00:36  
Anonymous Rebel Saint said...

Also on the Today prog this morn ... Archdruid of Canterbury. Is it just me or is he a sedative incarnate?

He has a great gift for saying so little with such panache.

Could hardly believe that he was given such a fantastic platform for declaring God's Word so relevantly & timely on such important subjects as materialism, greed, covetousness, idolatry. And yet he squandered it so utterly.

19 December 2008 at 01:17  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Problem is that it is The Church and especially the Roman one that has self proclaimed its right to define what sin actually is.

Personally I like to keep things simple, so that even idiots can understand things such as true sin. Not the ones any particular Pope or other dictator prescribes.


The definition of true sin is wonderfully and concisely encapsulated within The Ten Commandments. Which basically says all that really needs to be said on the subject of sin, and much if not all else besides.

Atlas Shrugged

19 December 2008 at 03:04  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh and I simply love that Archdruid of Canterbury line. Priceless stuff.

I personally understand perfectly well why The Archdruid of Canterbury does not see his position as high druid and head of the Anglican church as a contradiction.

I just cant understand how on earth he got elected into position, without a high level conspiracy to terminally undermine the established church being at pay. Therefore there must have been one going on at the time. Which is the same one that is clearly going on today to ultimately destroy The Church of England as we thought we collectively knew it.

Atlas Shrugged

19 December 2008 at 03:16  
Anonymous Anon 2 said...

Anon @ 03:16 - Not just the CoE, of course; except that is the foundation of our culture. I reckon some sort of euros have been at it since that treaty of rome thing; but very probably even earlier. Proceeding from that angle, there's an interesting reading to be had from Margery Allingham's "Gyrth Chalice" -- or even from Conrad's "Secret Agent."

19 December 2008 at 05:17  
Blogger Manfarang said...

Neo-gospel of political correctness?
Establishment is the epitome of political correctness.The idea that everyone has to conform to the same beliefs is at the heart of the Church.

19 December 2008 at 13:55  
Blogger Grumpy Old Man said...

Not at all. Manfaring. PC values dictate that everyone's values and beliefs must conform to the values and beliefs of a vocal minority who are "disadvantaged" by mainstream values and beliefs. PC has been described as "tyranny through weakness". Modern Christianity requires that to join the Church, a person needs to share the values and beliefs of the community that is the Church. PC is imposed, the Christian faith allows freedom of choice - to be a sheep or a goat. I would descibe this as "liberalism through strength".
wv "culti" I kid you not!

19 December 2008 at 16:45  
Blogger Manfarang said...

Grumpy Old Man
If what you say is true about modern Christianity then I feel sure that you would see the need for the Church of England to be disestablished.Let's have freedom of choice.

20 December 2008 at 01:55  
Anonymous Anon 2 said...

Manfarang -

We have freedom of choice - the CofE allows it.

20 December 2008 at 02:11  
Blogger Manfarang said...

Anon 2
A choice between being smug or supercilious?

20 December 2008 at 12:21  
Blogger Manfarang said...

Aren't the Christians in todays Britain a disadvantaged vocal minority?

23 December 2008 at 09:57  

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