Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was born in Daresbury, England, in 1832. He was an Anglican Deacon and a photographer. His father was the Archdeacon of Richmond and a very influential conservative leader in the Church of England at a time when contention was dividing that Church.
Dodgson’s father, who was part of the Tractarian movement, desired to have the values of that high-church movement retained in the practice of the church. Charles seems to have adopted his father’s conservative views, carrying them throughout his life. At the end of his days, he demonstrated those commitments when he said:
I believe that when you and I come to lie down for the last time, if only we can keep firm hold of the great truths Christ taught us—our own utter worthlessness and His infinite worth; and that He has brought us back to our one Father, and made us His brethren, and so brethren to one another—we shall have all we need to guide us through the shadows. Most assuredly I accept to the full the doctrines you refer to—that Christ died to save us, that we have no other way of salvation open to us but through His death, and that it is by faith in Him, and through no merit of ours, that we are reconciled to God; and most assuredly I can cordially say, “I owe all to Him who loved me, and died on the Cross of Calvary.” – Carroll (1897)
With a career of mixed brilliance and self–confessed lackluster inattention, he was still able to achieve first-class honors, taking and holding a position at Christ Church College in Oxford. Despite having a speech stammer, called in those days a “hesitation,” he was an engaging entertainer, telling stories and sometimes singing to delighted audiences. It is not known why he refused to be ordained as a Priest, but somehow he managed to defy conventions and remain at Christ Church throughout his career.
Deacon Charles is much better known by his pseudonym, Lewis Carroll. He was a prolific writer, focusing on children’s literature as his mechanism of choice to deliver his observations to the public. Of those works, the story of Through the Looking Glass, telling the story of Alice in Wonderland, was his most popular.
His insights expressed in Through the Looking Glass were not only remarkably relevant to his time, as they certainly were, but are also amazingly relevant to our situation in the Anglican Church today. Often regarded quizzically, the story of Alice beautifully captures what has become the thinking of postmodernism.
In Through the Looking Glass, Alice meets fanciful characters who deliver insights with paradigm-shifting twists, turning the familiar into the unknown. For instance,
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said to Alice in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
This is the heart of Postmodernism, to re-define terms to mean something other than what they have always meant. In addition, in Postmodernism, things can be and not be at the very same time.
Recent events in Anglican circles show the prescience Charles had in writing these things and the tragic way in which liberal leaders advance their agenda by re-interpreting events, often reversing the plain meaning of matters to have them mean something other than what have they have meant for centuries.
For example, in January of last year, the Primates of the Anglican Communion gathered in Canterbury. With stunning clarity, they overwhelmingly chose to exercise discipline against The Episcopal Church (TEC) of the United States. A commission was established to hold TEC accountable after their decision to officially change marriage to include same-sex marriage. The understanding was that TEC would have three years (until their next General Convention) to repent and turn away from their same–sex agenda.
Following that meeting, TEC was told that their representatives could no longer participate in Ecumenical conversations because they had departed from the Biblical positions of the Anglican Communion. They were also told that they could not participate in discussions or decisions involving doctrine and polity. A panel was put in place that was supposed to monitor TEC and hold them accountable to those decisions, hoping that they would choose repentance by the time they met in their next General Convention.
Instead, Archbishop Welby changed the remit of the Panel that the Primates asked to be put together. Rather than holding TEC’s “feet to the fire,” he instructed them to find ways to keep everyone together in the midst of disagreement. Furthermore, only weeks after the Primates’ meeting in Canterbury, the TEC representatives attended the meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Lusaka. During that meeting, TEC participated in all the discussions and decisions about doctrine and polity, both moving at least one measure and voting – all contrary to the dictates of the Primates.
Jubilant at their ability to prevail against the Primates, representatives of TEC were clear that they had attended, participated, and voted, actions clearly in opposition to what the Primates had decided. Most tragically, the Archbishop of Canterbury was vociferous in insisting that all the decisions of the Primates’ gathering had been kept, and that TEC had completely complied – despite the obvious.
It is just as though the Archbishop of Canterbury followed in the footsteps of Lewis Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty, saying, “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” Participating now means not participating; what is, is what is not; and what is not is now what is, depending on what he chooses things to mean.
Now, a close associate of the Archbishop of Canterbury, The Rev. Tory Baucum, the Rector of Truro Church in Fairfax, Virginia (along with his eighteen-member vestry), has followed along this postmodern Humpty Dumpty trajectory, re-defining “Reconciliation” away from its biblical meaning of unity in Christ and in the truth of the Scriptures. This week, they announced the establishment of a “School of Peace and Reconciliation” based at their church, a parish in the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), in partnership with the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. This is ironic, in that the TEC Bishop of Virginia has participated in law suits against numerous congregations of the ACNA in Virginia. Further “muddying the waters” are the terms of the agreement for this new school, which appear to include having a TEC Bishop resident at Truro Church and, while granting permission to visit Truro for the ACNA Bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic (ACNA), who has oversight of Truro Church, neither the Archbishop of the ACNA nor any other bishop may visit the church without TEC approval!
Reconciliation is a great virtue, but it must be carried out within the parameters of Scripture and with reason. To do less, is an offense to the Lord of the Church, who has demonstrated how costly Biblical reconciliation is. In His case, the cost was the shedding of His blood.
The great tragedy of the relativistic, post-modern position is that it seeks to re-define marriage, sexuality, and the Gospel itself. We oppose this because the consequences of their actions include leading people away from Scripture, away from truth and away from Christ, to be separated from Him for all eternity.
May we, by the grace of God, be ever faithful to stand for the truth, no matter how others may choose to misuse that word!