Finding the Evangelical Anglican Way: 1375 to the present day

Faith Markers on the Evangelical Anglican Way


Ian Bunting


‘Faith Markers’ expressed by significant wayfarers, and groups, have indicated the evangelical Anglican pathway of faith and practice over 650 years. Most of those posted in this selection, but by no means all, represent the views of Christian followers in this tradition. This is a collection of personal statements of faith by respected male and female figureheads together with some views of other perceptive observers, critics and commentators. A few more general conclusions drawn up by groups of Christians are included, usually relating to their contemporary context, challenge or opportunity. Individual contributions are drawn from the editor’s personal records, and about thirty from an earlier similar anthology that aimed ‘to insert the reformed, evangelical tradition of spirituality into a wider sense of how Christian discipleship has developed’, by Roger Pooley and Philip Seddon, The Lord of the Journey: A Reader in Christian Spirituality, London, Collins, 1986.  The markers are of importance for all who wish to understand or pursue the evangelical Anglican way, and continue to see it as a positive path-finding movement in the Church of today.


Two friends and early readers of this Anthology hinted that it would help them if there were to be some personal story at the start to illumine the compiler’s perspective, and to set the scene for this particular selection of texts from a period of more than six hundred years of church history (1375-2021). Somewhat reluctantly I begin by telling the story from my point of view. I have been persuaded to do this because along with other wayfarers I know how ‘Biblical personalism’ and ‘individual testimony’ are two essential characteristics of the evangelical Anglican way. For me, it began in the late summer of 1940, and I go on to reflect, in the markers below, the way evangelical Anglican spirituality has adapted, developed, and repositioned itself over the years in relation to its surrounding culture and contemporary context.

As a six year old I was evacuated from London to relatives in rural Perthshire in Scotland to escape the Blitz which began in the Autumn of 1940. Soon after, I was resident in Comrie at a Girls’ School that had itself been evacuated from Edinburgh to escape a possible fate similar to that of London. I date the start of my somewhat lonely spiritual journey to the gift I received there, a pocket New Testament from the wife of a serving military officer that I then treasured but never read.

When the blanket bombing of the city was over in 1942, returning to England and two further conventional boarding schools, my Christian pilgrimage continued in mostly un-empathetic surroundings, but with the support of a ‘Crusader’ Bible class and the counsel of a good and slightly older mentor. The period included two highly significant moments. The first experience was a meeting with my Saviour, Jesus Christ, who I can still say, ‘stepped out’ of the pages of the New Testament to ‘convert’ me. That is the right word to use.[1] Young as I was at the time and having since learned the contexts in which the word has been used and misused over the years, it still describes a meeting, a decision and a turning point: three important dimensions in a journey of discipleship which continues today, God’s day of ever new beginnings or, as Gregory of Nyssa (c.330-c.395) put it, ‘from beginning to beginning towards beginnings that have no end.’[2]  The second moment occurred two or three years later, when I retreated to the school library to read my Bible. It was the summons to experimental discipleship and amounted to a call to ‘try God out’ in Christian mission abroad or at home, rather than settle for a more conventional white middle-class career acceptable within my family circle, perhaps as a solicitor. What transpired thereafter was a series of important formational but unexceptional steps that led to sixty years of ordained ministry in the Church of England (1960-2021). Thankfully, in all those years I have never rejected the implications of those two early momentous life-changing encounters. Nevertheless my understanding of the evangelical Anglican tradition in which I was nurtured has developed, adapted and become more discriminating.

When I was eighteen, my father’s best friend gave me the present of A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie (1886-1960), first published in 1936.[3] I could not help noticing at the time that the dedication of the book is ‘for IAN’, actually the author’s son. To this day, I still use the book (having worn out three previous copies) as the companion of my daily ‘Quiet Time’, which is the way evangelicals used to describe their regular daily devotions. Those, mostly older folk, who have read or used John Baillie’s book may not have noted that the author and his brother, Donald Baillie1887-1954), were both distinguished Scottish theologians. However readers of this anthology who are familiar with the Scottish spiritual and theological tradition will not be too surprised to find in this collection contributions from a wide diversity of sources including, for instance, such unlikely contributors as Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) who actually moved on from his earlier more sceptical logical positivism, Basil Atkinson (1875-1971), the almost fundamentalist librarian of Cambridge University, Henry de Candole (1895-1971), the High Church Anglican and passionate liturgist, Sydney Smith (1771-1836), the anti-evangelical Anglican, and Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), the staunch feminist. Certainly not all the individual authors in this selection could be described as ‘evangelical’ or ‘Anglican’ under any restricted definition of those question-begging adjectives. Nevertheless, they all said and wrote words that were compatible with, or cuttingly pertinent to, the evangelical Anglican outlook that has been the focus of this particular undertaking.

How far has the selection of contributors to this work derived from the editor’s personal predilection? This may be quickly detected if not by this introduction then by noting the ten ‘Faith Markers’ below, the headline to each quotation, the footnotes, and by a glance at the ‘Index of Authors’ at the end. Several personal life-choices have also played a part. A brief period of post-graduate research in America brought two insights. First, my academic study was on the nature of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist and the Zürich agreement on the subject in 1549, signed off by Calvinists, Lutherans and Zwinglians and warmly welcomed in England: a highly unlikely outcome at that moment in the Reformation. It was in fact a considerable ecumenical success story, at least among widely differing Protestants.[4] Second, at the end of my stay in the United States I met my wife-to-be, Mair Ivemey (1931-2018). Three years later, the son of a strongly Scottish Presbyterian family would marry a Welsh dyed-in-the-wool nonconformist from North Pembrokeshire, with Baptist convictions. One of the outcomes of 54 years of wedlock was to be an increased appreciation of all the priorities that the people of Wales inherited from the first translation of the whole Bible into Welsh in 1588.


[1] At the time, I was encouraged to add to the name in my first Bible, ‘BA’ (Born Again).

[2] Homilies on the Song of Songs 8, cited in Enzo Bianchi, God, where are you? (2008), London, SPCK, 2014, p. 7.

[3] John Baillie, A Diary of Private Prayer, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1936.

[4] The Zurich Agreement 1549. Johannis Calvini, opera selecta, Petrus Barth (ed.), Vol. II, München Chr. Kaiser, 1952, pp. 241-258. ‘The Consensus Tigurinus’ – Ian Bunting, (Translation and Commentary), Journal of Presbyterian History, Philadelphia, March, 1966, Vol. 44, No. 1, pp. 45-61. [19th August 2020]


The first sermon I ever remember hearing, along with the Scottish ‘pan drops’ (slightly larger imperial mints) pressed into my hand before the service began to keep me quiet, was in 1940 and in Auchterarder Parish Church. It was a morality tale: Robert the Bruce’s story of the persistent spider and how he told his disheartened troops in 1306, ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again.’ I have no memory of any other sermon or lesson before my conversion (1945) and call (1948) mentioned above. But following those momentous decisions, the messages I do remember were radically different from that first moral instruction. If it is not too pompous to say so, a self-consciously selfish boy that early school reports described as ‘careless’, had been humiliated by a gospel of repentance and faith, that led him to embark on a voyage of discipleship with Jesus Christ as his Saviour and Lord. Still young, mine had nevertheless been a classic ‘conversion experience’, and in the aftermath I was carefully nurtured by older ‘Bible-believing’ Christians. Of course some of them had add-on convictions which as I matured I began to examine, and sometimes to shed. Perhaps born with a healthy hermeneutic of suspicion, I learned to remain agnostic about the apparently firm evangelical convictions of some, for example about the timing and programme for the second coming of Christ. Also, as a teenager having embraced the early twentieth century evangelical focus on ‘separation’ from the surrounding culture as the litmus test of personal sanctification, that particular lesson was to prove both a blessing and a burden. Sooner or later I had to catch a fuller vision of the Kingdom of God as the ultimate goal of Jesus Christ, rather than the penultimate ‘church’ that emerged. Necessarily, it required a broader commitment to serve the common good, ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’ So for me, the faith-identity that came with the willingness to be ‘different’ had to be enlarged through a bigger world view, gained first in the context of military service, secondly through a ‘liberal’ university theological degree, and thirdly perhaps more richly, while working for the best part of a year in 1957 as a plumber’s mate repairing merchant ships on Liverpool Docks. 

Of course the 1960s and 1970s were years of transition for both the nation and the churches following a post-World War economic recovery, and the Suez crisis. 1957 saw the resignation of Prime Minister Anthony Eden (1897-1977) in January, and six months later heard his successor Harold Macmillan (1894-1986) telling us, ‘Most of our people have never had it so good.’[1] Not so in Liverpool! There, the problems of homelessness, unemployment and urban deprivation highlighted for the churches the call of Christ to a discipleship beyond charitable giving and ‘ambulance’ work. The anti-authoritarian mood among young people questioned the standards and values of institutions such as the monarchy, parliament and the churches, and found expression for example in the songs of the Beatles. At the same time, belief in an authoritative Bible, in Jesus Christ as the Godhead in person, and in traditional sexual morality was called into question, even by some Christians who went as far as to  suggest that ‘God is dead’.[2]

In Liverpool as elsewhere the churches, and the clergy of whom I was now one, responded in five ways. First, we ran stewardship campaigns to replenish funds depleted since the war. We promoted the Diocesan ‘Call to Build’, to replace dockside churches destroyed by bombing, but also to provide churches on the new post-war housing estates. Second and hard as it is now to believe, for the first time ‘evangelism’ appeared as an item in the Diocesan Budget, and we began to support Billy Graham Crusades in Manchester. Third and again for the first time, I found myself speaking in public in favour of the ordination of women to the priesthood. Fourth and more remarkable still in the light of ongoing sectarian disagreement and occasional violence in the city, Liverpool churches began to bridge the gap between Catholics and Protestants with a national ecumenical study course called ‘The People Next Door’ (1966/67). Fifth, some of the churches of all denominations and none began to welcome and explore the ‘renewal movement’ that had spilled across the Atlantic from its Anglican beginnings in California (1960), with its twin emphases on ‘Baptism in the Spirit’ and ‘Speaking in tongues’. All five of these initiatives challenged not only the received faith and practice of local churches, but also presuppositions of the clergy. For me, it was the point at which the main focus of my concern turned from ‘systematic theology’, in my case a study of the contribution of John Calvin, to the theology of practice, ‘practical theology’, interrelating what the Church does on the ground with what Christians believe about the timeless good news of Jesus Christ and his desire to see the Kingdom of God established on earth as it is in heaven.


[1] Bedford, 20th July 1957.

[2] Paul van Buren (1924-98), The Secular Meaning of the Gospel: Based on an Analysis of Its Language, Macmillan, 1963. Although rejecting the suggestion, van Buren was considered a leader of the ‘God is Dead’ Movement.


Much later, in the 1990s, another less likely factor in shaping this anthology was my recognition of the Biblical insights and warm devotion of some of the medieval English mystics. For instance, I was by then in the East Midlands and found that the once nearby Yorkshire hermit Richard Rolle (c.1300-49) believed the contemplative life begins with the heart-warming ‘opening of Heaven’s door’. Moreover, the influential Roman Catholic historian Adrian Hastings (1929-2001) said of Walter Hilton (c.1343-96), a local mystic from Thurgarton in Nottinghamshire, that he was, ‘almost Wycliffite’ in his use of the Bible.[1] However most readers will naturally associate the majority of the markers below with the evangelical Anglican tradition from which most of them derive.

The twenty papers, before this one, posted on the Academia platform fall under the general heading, ‘Finding the Evangelical Anglican Way: 1375-2020’. They all approach the subject from an historical perspective, starting from John Wyclif (c.1329-84) and his works on Dominium (lordship) that envisioned the radical transformation of the Church with revolutionary implications for nation, church and individual Christians.[2] Most of the figureheads whose names appear in the papers emerged from the Protestant, Puritan, Pietist and Pentecostalist streams which, surprisingly but with care and discernment, are discoverable and recurring at different times within the histories of all the churches. In the evangelical Anglican way, along with headline leaders and their fundamental beliefs and signature doctrines, different streams have emerged and made their mark. Within the last few years, Andrew Atherstone and John Maiden have summarised the significance given to those doctrines and interpretations, signalling the generally agreed meaning of an ‘evangelical’ identity during the twentieth century.[3] Here, the editor has expanded on these distinctive characteristics in terms of ten ‘Faith Markers’. Each one is succinctly emphasised in the carefully worded chapter titles listed below. These give clues as to what is important if one is to understand what lies at the heart of a faith that can be described as authentically ‘evangelical’ and ‘Anglican’. The anthology therefore is not simply a ‘gallery’ or ‘collage’ of engaging quotations from a number of people who happen to be of historic personal interest to the editor. The ‘Evangelical Anglican Way’ is an ongoing stream within the wider Church, and continues to be so. The characteristic priorities do not change but stand within a narrative of constantly shifting cultural goals, expectations and circumstances.

The first essential in being both ‘evangelical’ and ‘Anglican’ is to be Biblical. The invention of printing, the Scriptural perception of the earliest reformers and the lived out experience of believers have all worked together to ensure that Bible reading lies at the heart of Christian faith and practice in the Church of England. Yes, there have been recurring debates about how to interpret the Bible in ages very different both from that in which it was first written and from the world into which it has now to be translated, if it is to be an ‘open’ book for all who can read. But, for Anglicans before and since the days of Richard Hooker (1554-1625) it has been the ‘first place both of credit and obedience is due.’[4] For evangelical Anglicans certainly, the Scriptures are self-authenticating, ‘as a world into which they enter so that God may meet them.’[5] For the evangelical Anglican, the Bible is a book to be ‘inhabited’, and in which to be ‘marinated.’


[1] Walter Hilton, 8th Southwell Lecture, 17th October 1996, Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham, NG25 0JL, 1996, p. 9.

[2] De Civili Dominio (1375),  De Ecclesiai (1378). De Poteste Pape (1379) and De Officio Regis (1379).

[3] Andrew Atherstone & John Maiden, ‘Identities and Contexts’, in Anglican Evangelicalism in the Church of England in the Twentieth Century: Reform, Resistance and Renewal, Woodbridge, The Boydell Press, 2014, pp. 3-47.

[4] Lawes, Book V.viii.2, Folger Edition, II:39, 8-14.

[5] God with Us: The Meaning of the Cross and Resurrection: Then and Now, London, SPCK, 2017, p. 87.


The second essential is to hold a view of the world that is Christ-centred. Within an orthodox appreciation of the doctrine of the Trinity, the person and work of Jesus Christ is pivotal. Jonathan Edwards (1703-58), enthralled as he was by the ‘beauty’ of God in the orders of both creation and redemption and first interpreter of the Great Awakening in America in the eighteenth century, fastened on the full expression of a Christian’s response. ‘Sincerity in religion… consists in setting God’s highest in the heart, in choosing him before all things, in having a heart to sell all for Christ.’[1] Not for him could it be the popular Christ of much twentieth century Christianity which, in the opinion of Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971), purveyed the false truth that, ‘a God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.’[2] The evangelical Anglican gift to the church, as John Stott (1921-2011) asserted in his words here rendered inclusive, is the message of the cross, God’s self-substitution, the crucified God. ‘The concept of substitution may be said, then, to lie at the heart of both sin and salvation. For the essence of sin is humankind substituting itself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for humankind. Human beings assert themselves against God and put themselves where only God deserves to be. God sacrifices himself for human beings and puts himself where only humans deserve to be. Humans claim prerogatives which belong to God alone. God accepts penalties which belong to human beings alone.’[3]

However, the death of Jesus Christ was not his end. David Jenkins (1925-2006), a controversial Bishop of Durham when I was Rector of Chester-le-Street (1978-87), had to correct the impression he gave early in his episcopate that he doubted the actual resurrection of Jesus Christ. Famous for his one-liners, he said, ‘God is as he is in Jesus, therefore there is hope.’  And outside the Cathedral on his retirement in 1994, school children released hundreds of helium-filled balloons printed with another of his memorable faith markers: ‘You can’t keep a good God down’: to which he added for good measure, not even the church![4]

In the same year (1994) the so-called Toronto blessing, or ‘third wave of Pentecostalism’, reached Britain with its emphasis on the third evangelical essential ‘Faith  Marker’, the person and work of the Holy Spirit. In the previous thirty years the theological focus for many Anglicans, if not on ‘God is dead’, had been on God as the ‘Ground of our Being.’ The ‘renewal movement’, later named the ‘charismatic movement’, succeeded  in shifting many from such metaphysical speculation to the nature of the Church in the New Testament as the Body of the living Christ, with Spirit-filled believers meeting in communities of faith, freely expressing their mutual interdependence, and using their gifts of the Spirit in fruitful Christian service. Not from an Anglican stable, the Toronto blessing made its impact as a climactic high point of the ‘charismatic movement’, which had become increasingly domesticated in many Anglican congregations, while proving revolutionary in others. For the latter, it resonated with stories of what had happened in the early church at Pentecost, and in eighteenth and nineteenth century revivals in Britain.

In the late twentieth century some of these churches were beginning to sit light to the traditional liturgy, often exchanging it for a different sort of ‘liturgy’, more informal and ‘celebratory’ while retaining a recognisably Anglican shape. This was expressed not only in the words and music but also in the style, form and ordering of church life in many evangelical Anglican congregations.[5] Whatever one’s opinion of such changes, the evidence clearly shows that whereas the number of worshipers in denominational churches is in steep decline, it is much less so in the ‘new’, ‘liquid’ or ‘emerging’ churches which, as Densil Morgan put  it, ‘have been developed specifically by younger Christians for whom globalization, pluralism and a visual-based multi-media are the unquestioned norms.’[6] 

A fourth evangelical essential derives from the Reformation doctrine of justification by faith, not works. Over the years this has led to the pyramidal structure of Protestant churches being deconstructed if not upended, or at least reconfigured in the light of a recovered emphasis on the priesthood of all believers. The inevitable outcome has been an increasing freedom of choice for individual Christians. In the rapid escalation of modernity or even in what some consider its demise, the death of culture, the canon of human rights, and rampant consumerism, all three, have gained increasing prominence in the public agenda. The dangerous temptation for the churches has been to capitalise not only on the trends but also to embrace the spirit of this age. Those who do so are always likely to splinter the churches.


[1] ‘Of Religious Affections’, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, London, Bell, Arnold and Co., Vol. I, Part III, Section XIV, p. 326.

[2] The Kingdom of God in America (1937), New York, Harper & Row, 1959, p 193.

[3] The Cross of Christ, Leicester, Inter-Varsity Press, 2006, p. 160.

[4] ‘Another statement of his personal faith’: [21st October 2020]

[5] For a brief description of Toronto-style practice and worship see William K. Kay, Apostolic Networks in Britain: New Ways of Being Church, Milton Keynes, Paternoster, 2007, p. 203.

[6] D. Densil Morgan, The Span of the Cross: Religion and Society in Wales 1914-2000, (1999), Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 2011, p. xv.


The last significant date in my personal voyage because its import encapsulates the end of the world, as did the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-4) in the Bible, is the destruction of the twin towers in New York, 11th September 2001. It seemed to prefigure the destructiveness of all the Christ-less ‘religions’ in our world, the fragility of Christ-less human achievements, and the tragedy of Christ-less ambitions. It was the very antithesis of the vision Jesus shared in the prayer to his Father, which he bequeathed to his followers: ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’

In this anthology, mostly Anglican exponents of an evangelical faith together with some of their credible observers and critics are given their ‘say’ on what they considered to be important, both positively in terms of core evangelical and Anglican beliefs but also negatively with regard to the disturbing anomalies, recurring discrepancies and unrecognised flaws which they have detected in themselves and others along the way. To a greater or lesser extent these quotations therefore derive from Christians who have enhanced, or in practice disfigured, the desired Christ-like image to which all evangelical Anglicans aspire. They are of lasting importance for those who pursue the evangelical Anglican way, and continue to see it as a positive path-finding movement in the Church as it follows the two commandments of Jesus:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind…. And you shall love your neighbour as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39).

Faith Markers


  1. Our Father: Hallowed on Earth as in Heaven 


  1. The Bible: Bestowed Word of God 


  1. Jesus Christ: Crucified God in Person 


  1. Humanity: Sinful, Rebellious and Faithless 


  1. The Grace of God: Justifying and Converting 


  1. Christian Living: Progressive Christ-likeness 


  1. Holy Spirit: in Christian Experience


  1. Believers: Assured, Called and Prayerful 


  1. The Necessity of the Church 


  1. The Mission of God 


  1. The Vision of Moral Justice 


  1. Glory: Now and Then, Here and There


Index of Authors



Page 7


























  1. Our Father: Hallowed on Earth as in Heaven


Begin the quest in your own self-awareness and in the person of God incarnate.

Martin Luther (1483-1546). ‘If you want to escape from despair and hatred of God, let speculation go. Begin with God from the bottom upwards, not the top downwards. In other words, begin with Christ incarnate, and with your own terrible original sin. There is no other way. Otherwise, you will remain a doubter for the rest of your life.’[1]


Find God in the image in which we were created, and in the theatre of a world that mirrors his glory.

John Calvin (1509-64). ‘God has provided the soul of man with intellect, by which he might discern good from evil, just from unjust, and might know what to follow or to shun, reason going before with her lamp…. To this he has joined will, to which choice belongs. Man excelled in these noble endowments in his primitive condition, when reason, intelligence, prudence and judgement, sufficed not only for the government of his earthly life, but also enabled him to rise up to God and eternal happiness.’[2]

            ‘Let the world become our school if we desire rightly to know God.’[3]

            ‘…as he irradiates the whole world by his splendour this is the garment in which he who is hidden himself appears in a manner visible to us.’[4]

            ‘The elegant structure of the world serving as a kind of mirror, in which we may behold God though otherwise invisible.’[5] A ‘most beautiful theatre… like a large and splendid mansion.’[6]

At 18 or 19 years old, a religious boy becomes a converted, convinced and worshipping believer.

Jonathan Edwards (1703-58). ‘As… I looked upon the sky and the clouds; there came into my mind, a sweet sense of the glorious majesty and grace of God, that I know not how to express. I seemed to see them in a sweet conjunction: majesty and meekness joined together: it was a sweet and gentle, and holy majesty; and also a majestic meekness; an awful sweetness; a high, and great, and holy gentleness…. and it was always my manner, at such times, to sing forth my contemplations. And was almost constantly in ejaculatory prayer, wherever I was. Prayer seemed natural to me; as the breath, by which the inward burnings of my heart had vent.’[7]

             ‘For as God is infinitely the greatest Being, so he is allowed to be infinitely the most beautiful and excellent: and all the beauty to be found throughout the whole creation is but the diffused beams of that being who hath an infinite fullness of brightness and glory.’[8]

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-61). ‘Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God: but only he who sees takes off his shoes. The rest sit round it and pick blackberries.’[9]

At 23, her lifelong ambition was to love God who, like an abyss, was far beyond her deepest human desire.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-1897). ‘You know, my God, that my one desire has ever been to love You alone; Your glory has been my one ambition. Your love has gone before me from the days of my childhood; it has grown with me and now it is an abyss so deep that I cannot sound it.’[10]


[1] Luther’s Works, Weimar Ausgabe (WA), 1883-1963, T(I)5658(a).

[2] Institutes I.xv.8.

[3] Commentary on Genesis.

[4] Commentary on Psalm 104.

[5] Institutes I.v.1.

[6] Institutes I.xiv.20.

[7] ‘Memoirs of Jonathan Edwards’, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, London, Bell, Arnold and Co., 1840, Vol. I, p. lv.

[8] ‘The Nature of True Virtue’, Works, Vol. I, Chap. II, 1840, p. 125.

[9] Aurora Leigh, (1857), Book 7, l. 821.

[10] The Story of a Soul, Michael Day (Translator 1951), Wheathampstead, Anthony Clarke Books, 1973, p. 146.


The magnetic attraction of beauty in another human being reveals our longing for Incarnation.

Simone Weil (1909-42). ‘When the feeling for beauty happens to be associated with the sight of some human being, the transference of love is made possible, at any rate in an illusory manner. But it is all the beauty of the world, it is universal beauty for which we yearn…. The longing to love the beauty of the world in a human being is essentially the longing for the Incarnation. It is mistaken if it thinks it is anything else. The Incarnation alone can satisfy it.’[1]

God has been revealed to his people as Creator, because he was revealed as Redeemer in Jesus Christ.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-45). ‘It is always the God who has revealed himself to his people in his Word whom we are to acknowledge as Creator of the world. Because God has spoken to us, because his Name has been disclosed to us, we can believe him to be the Creator. Otherwise we could have no knowledge of him. Creation is an image of the power and faithfulness that God has manifested by making himself known to us in Jesus Christ. We worship the Creator who has revealed himself as our Redeemer.’[2]

Within the mystery of life one may discover light and purpose and recognise God’s reality.

John Habgood (1927- 2019). ‘I think the honest search for a truth that transcends us, an honest exploration of mystery: these are what I find most attractive; and an approach which somehow brings wholeness to life. I think I have always begun with the sense that life is surrounded by mystery, and what is peculiar about human beings is the possibility that we might become aware of this. Therefore one is looking within that mystery for those flashes of light, that sense of purpose, which can then go on making us explorers, but give us light to walk by.’[3]

            ‘It is important to distinguish between proving and recognising God’s existence. We know more than we can prove or explain (e.g. in relationships). So if all existence is grounded in the reality of God, diversity in created beings bears witness to God’s ongoing creativity. To perceive it in nature (grace given) is to see the world in a new light, and to bring to it a new degree of penitence and hopefulness.’[4]



The fatherhood of God is seen in Creation, humanity in his Son, and our conversion through his Spirit.

Walter Hilton (c.1343-96). ‘Our created life we associate with God the Father, reflecting on his sovereign might and power displayed in creation. Our human life we associate with the Son, reflecting on the sovereign will and wisdom he displayed in his manhood. But the conversion and full redemption of an individual soul by forgiveness of sins we associate with the third person, the Holy Spirit. Herein is the love of Jesus most clearly revealed, and for this he should in turn be most loved by us.’[5]

The source of three ‘heavens’ for human beings: Joy, Bliss and Satisfaction in the persons of the Trinity.

Julian of Norwich (c.1342-after 1416). ‘In these three words: It is a Joy, a bliss, an endless satisfying to me, were shewed three heavens, as thus: For the joy, I understood the pleasure of the Father; and for the bliss, the worship of the Son; and for the endless satisfying, the Holy Ghost. The Father is pleased, the Son is worshipped, the Holy Ghost is satisfied.’[6]


[1] ‘Forms of the Implicit Love of God’, Waiting on God, London, Fontana, 1959, pp. 126-127.

[2] Das Gebetbuch der Bibel (1940), MBK- Verlag, Bad Salzuflen, Sister Isabel (Translator), The Psalms: Prayer Book of the Bible (1982), Fairacres, Oxford, SLG Press, 2006, p. 9.

[3] Church Times, 26th May 1995.

[4] The Concept of Nature, London, Darton Longman and Todd, 2002, p. 111.

[5] Toward a Perfect Love, David L. Jeffrey (Translator), Oregon, Multnomah Press, 1985, ‘The Gift of Love’, pp. 139-140.

[6] Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love, Chapter 23.


The Trinity reveals God as true ‘Father’, ‘Mother’ and ‘Brother’ of believers he loves and guides.

Nikolaus Ludwig Graf von Zinzendorf (1700- 60). ‘Since the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is our true Father and the Spirit of Jesus Christ is our true Mother, because the Son of the living God is our true Brother…. The Father must love us, and can do no other; the Mother must guide us through the world and can do no other; the Son, our brother, must love souls as his own soul, as the body of his body, because we are flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone, and he can do no other.’[1]

The kingdom of God, like a temple, is built by the Trinity indwelling the will of the faithful believer.

John William Fletcher (1729-85). ’Ye are the living temples of the trinity: the Father is your life; the Son your light; the Spirit your love; ye are truly baptized into the mystery of God, ye continue to “drink into one spirit,” and thus ye enjoy the grace of both sacraments. There is an end of your Lo here! and Lo there! The kingdom of God is now established within you. Christ’s “righteousness, peace, and joy” are rooted in your breasts by the Holy Ghost given unto you, as an abiding guide, and indwelling comforter. Your introverted eye of faith looks at God, who gently “guides you with his eye” into all the truth necessary to make you “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” Simplicity of intention keeps darkness out of your mind, and purity of affection keeps wrong fires out of your breast: by the former, ye are without guile; by the latter, ye are without envy. Your passive will instantly melts into the will of God; and on all occasions you meekly say, “Not my will, O Father, but thine be done!”’[2]

In faith, the Christian is by grace: right with God, saved by Christ’s sacrifice, directed by Holy Scripture.

Douglas Johnson (1904-90). Evangelical faith: ‘First, that sinful man can be justified before God only through faith in His grace as it was revealed and made effective in the atoning death of Christ. Second, that God has authoritatively, accurately and sufficiently revealed Himself, His will and His action in Holy Scripture. Third, that the Holy Spirit, the Lord the life-giver, comes to the individual disciple, converting, purifying, empowering and guiding in the way of Christ.’[3] 

‘The three Persons are a dance of utter delight: they exist for one another.’

Maria Boulding (1929-2009). ‘Life and love in our experience are flow and reflow, giving and receiving; there is more to give, and this is because we are a little like God. His life is not solitude, self-sufficiency or a frozen, static perfection. He is eternal exchange, infinite unselfishness. Love is never cornered, pinned down, halted in its flow, because it never finds a self to trap it and appropriate it. The three Persons are a dance of utter delight: they exist for one another.’[4]


[1] Cited in Jürgen Moltmann, The Source of Life, London, SCM, 1996, p. 36.   

[2] Works of John Fletcher, Vol. 2, Last Check to Antinomianism, ‘An Address to Perfect Christians’, Section 20. [8th February 2017]

[3] Contending for the Faith: A History of the Evangelical Movement in the Universities and Colleges, Leicester, Inter-Varsity Press, 1979, p. 24.

[4] The Coming God, London, SPCK, 1982, p. 48.