PERSPECTIVErnHand-Me-Down Truthrnby Thomas FlemingrnIn 1912, a group of Oxford fellows began meeting to work outrna minimalist common creed that would be acceptable to allrnChristians. William Temple, future archbishop of Canterbury,rnwas the guiding spirit of the group, which argued its way downrnto an inoffensive consensus entitled Foundations. The OxfordrnSeven ended up setting aside miracles, the Resurrection of thernbody, and other difficult articles of faith on the same groundsrnthat American Presbyterians were to do in the 20’s: Such notionsrnmight be useful or even true, but they could not be requiredrnof Christians living in a scientific age.rnThe explicit point was to fit the doctrines to the temper of therntimes. Ronald Knox, then still an Anglo-Catholic, was supposedrnto have been the eighth Oxford man, but he bowed out;rnand when Foundations was issued, he responded with a Drydenesquernverse satire, “Absolute and Abitofhell,” in which hernridiculed the substitution of marketing for theology: “Whenrnsuave politeness, tempr’ing bigot Zeal / Corrected I believe tornOne does feel.”rnKnox was never much interested in feeling. It would not entirelyrndo him an injustice to say that he viewed the discipline ofrnreligion as a gradual perfection of the will. However, the problemrnwith Archbishop Temple and with other liberal Christiansrnis not that they feel too much but that they think too little or toornweakly. Credulous in their acceptance of every modern intellectualrnfrom Marx to Darwin to Freud, they could not take therntrouble even to consider the authentic foundations of ChristianrnbeliefrnAs C.S. Lewis was to point out, there are people who haverntrouble accepting the miracle at Cana that turned water intornwine but claim to believe that some being we call God createdrnthe universe out of nothing. People say it is because “science”rnhas made miracles impossible, but all of this so-called sciencern—theories of evolution, the reduction of the universe tornatoms and void, arguments against Christianity, cultural pluralismrn—is part of an attack on Christianit)’ and against theism perrnse that goes back thousands of years before the Age of Science.rnThe antagonism is not between science and religion, but betweenrnChristianity and an anti-Christian scientism that is asrncontemptiious of evidence as any snake-handling Pentecostalist.rnMost of us are better off accepting what we were taught asrnchildren, except in those rare times when we are challenged byrnprophets and philosophers who do not ask us to overturn the oldrnlaws and ancient faiths but to fulfill their deepest meaning. It isrnpreeminently true of Jesus, who called upon Jews to put asiderntheir legalistic nit-picking and to live out the higher message ofrntheir scriptures and tiaditions.rnTraditions need periodic refreshment and reform, but the responsernof tiaditionalists to the reformer is ail-too often “Crucifyrnhim!” This is the problem with Alasdair Maclntyre’s approachrnto tradition, which (as Stephen Clark pointed out) turns into arntrap, a dead end, unless there is some truth beyond tradition tornwhich believers can appeal. But to concede that traditions canrngrow stale and crusty, like the hard skin of an old-fashionedrnhorse-pear that must be broken through to get at the fruit underrnthe surface, is only a backhanded way of acknowledging thatrntraditions are the bearers of truth, even if they must be washedrnand scraped and pared from time to time. Reformers who rejectrntiadition are not reformers at all, but destroyers.rnThe greatest of the Reformers was an intense reactionary.rnThe traditions of the Church had become corrupt, Luther argued,rnand they had to be reformed. Although his latter-day disciplesrnlike to think that Luther was restoring the Church of thernapostles, neither he nor they could know enough about thernprimitive Church to be able to construct a wayside chapel,rnmuch less to found a denomination. Luther was, after all, anrnAugustinian, profoundly influenced by the patron saint of hisrnorder. It was Augustine who pointed out that, in declaring Himselfrnthe Way, the Truth, and the Life, Jesus was not enjoining usrnto fall in love with the Way—the Scriptures and stories of Hisrnlife and teachings—to the exclusion of the Truth and the Life.rn10/CHRONICLESrnrnrn