THE ROCK AND THE RIVER
An Encounter between Traditional Spirituality
and Modern Thought


an excerpt

Martin Thornton


Authorized Reissue


© Akenside Press and Matthew C. Dallman, 2016. Reissued with permission of Monica Thornton. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher, Akenside Press.

First British edition, 1965
by Hodder and Stoughton, London
American edition, 1965 (with new title)
by Morehouse-Barlow, New York

Cover image “Baptism of Jesus” by paukrus licensed under CC BY 2.0 / Cropped from original





CONTENTS

Preface
1 The Rock and the River
2 Protestant Weaknesses
3 What is "Modern Thought"?
4 The Riddle of Bonhoeffer
5 Recollection of Holy Worldliness
6 Mental Prayer
7 Office and Liturgy
8 Prayer and Morals
9 Spiritual Guidance and the "New Priesthood"
10 Conclusions: The Faithful Remnant




PREFACE

I have frequently tried to maintain that "traditional" spirituality grows and develops by "devout experiment." Having embraced the Faith, and grounded his life on a solid, orthodox Rule of prayer, the Christian should always be seeking new ways of making his response to grace and new ways — frequently unconventional ways — of manifesting his discipleship in the world: prayer that gets stuck in a conventional rut is itself unorthodox.

This book offers no more than a preliminary skirmish, a meeting or encounter, between Christian prayer and modern thought, in the hope that it might lead to some suggestions for "devout experiment." The overall question is simply this: "How can modern men and women be guided into more creative prayer while accepting, even rejoicing in, the fact that they are, and must remain, modern people?" My attempt to answer this question remains rooted in orthodoxy, that is in the development of tradition, because I do not think that there is any other basis which offers the slightest hope for success. But as a safeguard against the Church's living tradition degenerating into dead convention I have sought inspiration in the works of modern writers, most of whom are usually described as "radical" and all of whom are undoubtedly "Protestant." My hope is that an encounter between these two streams of thought may prove constructive because, in seeking an answer to the prior question, I believe that only orthodoxy has the necessary apparatus — the basic ascetical theology and the solid spiritual experience — while modern Protestantism may well provide the better insights into the needs of the modern mind. Such an encounter must begin with clearing up misunderstanding as to what "orthodox" spirituality really is, but I am not primarily concerned with apologetic, still less with attacking this or that modern theologian. I am concerned with the pastoral problem of Christian life in the twentieth century, for which reason I am anxious for the encounter to develop into a dialogue rather than a battle.

In his Preface to A Gospel without Myth, Professor David Cairns so very wisely writes: ". . . we often learn most from those with whom we disagree most emphatically, asking ourselves, 'If you can't accept this teaching, then what have you to put in its place?" My own answer is not infrequently "orthodoxy," but I think an orthodoxy revitalised by disagreement, and then by "devout experiment."

I hope this will be the attitudfe of those readers who emphatically disagree with my own conclusions, more especially where spirituality overflows — as it must — into pastoral theology: it is not a question of who is right or wrong, but have we a basis for worthy experiment?

M.T.
Hawarden

Go to CHAPTER 1.


© Akenside Press and Matthew C. Dallman, 2016. Reissued with permission of Monica Thornton. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher, Akenside Press.