Friday, November 14, 2014

George Grant and the Anglican Church of Canada: A 20th Century Prophet - Ron Dart

But there are remnants left around me…very strange remnants…in this case the Anglican Church which has in it some of the ancient truth and therefore I will live within it. – George Grant

Liberalism was, in origin, criticism of the old established order. Today, it is the voice of the establishment. – George Grant

George Grant was Canada’s most significant public philosopher, meaning that his public was Canadian. – Graeme Nicholson

They are foolish and ill-educated men who don’t recognize that, when they get into bed with liberalism, it won’t be they who do the impregnating—but that they will be utterly seduced.  – Grant letter to Derek Bedson Sept. 21 1965                  
Part I

The inside flap on the recent book about George Grant, Athens and Jerusalem: George Grant’s Theology, Philosophy, and Politics (2006), says this: “George Grant (1918-1988) has been called Canada’s greatest political philosopher. To this day, his work continues to stimulate, challenge, and inspire Canadians to think more deeply about matters of social justice and individual responsibility. However, while there has been considerable discussion of Grant’s political theories, relatively little attention has been paid to their theological and philosophical underpinnings”. There is little doubt, in short, that Grant was the most important Christian public intellectual in Canada in the latter half of the 20th century, and for those who take their faith with some intellectual seriousness, much can be learned from George Grant the prophet, theologian, philosopher and engaged thinker.

Athens and Jerusalem walks the extra mile to highlight the deep theological well where Grant turned to slake a thirsty and parched soul. There is more to Grant, though, than the theological and philosophical underpinnings for his public vision. George Grant was an Anglican, and, sadly so, his Anglicanism has often been ignored. In the midst of the culture wars in the Anglican Church of Canada, Grant can offer us a way through and beyond the theological and ethical tribalism of left and right, liberal and conservative that so besets and divides us these days.

There is a form of Christianity, well lived and articulated by Grant, that might be called the Classical Christian tradition. Such a read of the Christian drama can come as a corrective to the liberal, conservative and fundamentalist versions of Christianity that often compete for dominance in the house of faith today. Grant’s classical understanding of the Christian and Anglican way can still teach us much about the esse of what we need to conserve.

The fact that Grant attended Upper Canada College (with Anglican roots and history), and the equally important reality that his father was principal of the school meant that Grant was exposed, when young, to the Anglican heritage from a variety of educational and liturgical levels. Grant did his BA at Queen’s University in Kingston (a strong Anglican and historic Loyalist stronghold) and he was offered a Rhodes scholarship to study at Oxford. It was at Oxford that Grant met, Sheila, his future wife (who had taken courses with J.R.R. Tolkien). George and Sheila moved to Halifax Nova Scotia after WW II where Grant was offered a position in the philosophy department at Dalhousie University.