Essay / Theology

Like Birds, But God

Claude Beaufort Moss (whose birth and death dates I cannot find) was a 20th-century Anglican theologian whose textbook, THE CHRISTIAN FAITH: AN INTRODUCTION TO DOGMATIC THEOLOGY, has been frequently reprinted.

I’m nominating this book for Worst Opening Sentences Of A Systematic Theology Book Ever. Here he goes:

What is Theology? It is the science of God and the things of God, just as ornithology is the science of birds. Every science has something already given on which it works. Ornithology assumes that birds exist, and that we know what a bird is. Theology assumes that there is a God, and that it is possible to know Him.

True enough, I suppose, but the similarities make my head swim with the more striking dissimilarities. I think T. F. Torrance might have a few hundred pages of nuance to add to that statement, which, as it stands, just cannot stand.

Moss’s The Christian Faith has plenty of good stuff in it (I mean that!), but I’m posting to bury him, not praise him. I would call the work provincial, but you’d have to understand that Moss would probably take that as a compliment. This is territorial Anglicanism at its finest (?), fending off the twin horrors of “Undenominationalism” and “Roman Fever” with either hand.

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