Thursday, 8 November 2012

Sabellianism: Always Good for a Laugh

More on R.S. Thomas's sense of humour (see below: 'A cheese box...'). Byron Rogers reports that only one Punch cartoon ever made Thomas laugh out loud. In it, a parson is delivering a sermon to a blank-faced congregation. 'Now, I know what you're thinking,' he says confidentially. 'You're thinking that I'm being guilty of Sabellianism.'
  Thomas once told a friend that the Church only kept him on because he was capable of explaining such things as Sabellianism. It's a third-century heresy based on the eminently sensible notion that God does not have three distinct persons but three modes or aspects in which we mortals perceive Him. I doubt a gag like that would get past any cartoon editor these days, even on the Church Times.
  Does the incoming Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Selby, have a view on Sabellianism, I wonder?


  1. Further reading...
    Isn't that Joanne Woodward?

  2. Hi Nige,
    I don't know about his opinion of Sabellianism, but Justin Welby apparently does think highly of RS Thomas:

    Favourite book: As well as the Bible a current favourite is a collection of poems by RS Thomas

  3. Thanks Dave - I think his predecessor Rowan Williams was a fan too.

  4. Does...Justin Welby, have a view on Sabellianism, I wonder?

    Wouldn't it be wonderful if he did (for or against--who cares?) and declared his determination to root out competing heresies with inquisitions, trials and burnings? Alas, reports indicate he has a background in conflict resolution, that his views on gay marriage are "evolving" and that he condemns executive packages. He is also quoted as believing the Occupy movement "reflects a deep-seated sense that something is wrong" which makes Southern Baptists preachers look like masters of Jesuit casuistry. I've believed for some time that the decline of Christianity in the West can be attibuted not so much to science and the Enlightenment as to boredom.

  5. Yes indeed the dear old C of E is no place for anyone with a low boredom threshold. Sadly it seems the only ones in it with any very firm opinions about anything are the gay-bashing happy-clappies (as ever, the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity). One of the things that endears our native Church to me is its good-natured ineffectuality - so much better than the alternative. Though, as you say, a firm archiepiscopal line on Sabellianism would be fun...

  6. I don't know if it was you, Nige, who first told me about the Oxford don who was a strong supporter of the C of E because he saw it as a bulwark against religion, but at least you have ancient architecture and some liturgical mystery to distract you from the vicar's blatherings. Over here, our homegrown United Church (known as socialists-at-prayer)gathers the flock in overlit suburban sterility to listen to harangues about the environmental crisis and admonitions to the Sunday School to be understanding if they discover Mom or Dad is stepping out. I can't bear the happy-clappies either, but sometimes I do miss my jealous, angry deity.

  7. Not me Peter, but it's a great line. And yes the architecture is a huge help, and I do enjoy the High Church styling - smells, bells, vestments - on the rare occasions I get to my parish church. Your United Church sounds ghastly indeed...

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