I have to share this review of Rowan Williams’ Wrestling with Angels from David Bently Hart. Before you read it, you should know that when I first read Hart’s In the Beauty of the Infinite I had to re-read the first page about three times before I had a firm enough footing to continue on. Once I got started though, it was well worth it.
At any rate, Hart lays to rest any doubt about Williams’ theological prowess… while at the same time making me run for the dictionary twice. Enjoy. (HT: PSA+)
In a bracingly venomous Spectator article on the Archbishop of Canterburyâ€™s recent remarks about sharia law in Britain, the journalist Rod Liddle opined that it must be Rowan Williamsâ€™s beard that has won him the reputation of an intellectual. Certainly, Liddle remarked, â€œit cannot be anything he has ever said or writtenâ€. I have to confess my doubts that Liddle has really read much of Williamsâ€™s oeuvre. No one who had â€“ whatever reservations he or she might harbour as to the Archbishopâ€™s wisdom, prudence or pogonotrophy â€“ could possibly dismiss the man as a featherweight or a fraud.
Well before he moved to Lambeth Palace (heedless, alas, of a few desperate voices calling him back from the edge), Rowan Williams had established himself as perhaps Britainâ€™s most impressive theological virtuoso. His gifts as a linguist alone set him apart from most of his contemporaries, granting him access to texts and conversations well outside the orbits of more narrowly specialized researchers, and his ability to speak authoritatively, reflectively and creatively on authors as diverse as the Greek Fathers, the medieval and early modern mystics, the German idealists, the Russian Sophiologists, and so forth, marked him from an early age as an uncommon talent, possessed of a scholarly range that even the most accomplished theologians might envy. Whether his intellectual attainments have translated well into the sort of public skills required of a church leader is a legitimate matter of debate; whether those attainments are real and substantial, however, is not.
Note: Pogonotrophy means: the care and cultivation of beards. Don’t worry, I had to look it up too.