Today is the Lesser Festival of Iranaeus, Bishop of Lyon, which is my excuse for indulging in some of his powerful quotes. The great thing about Irenaeus was that he was a pupil of St Polycarp who had known the Apostle John, so he was close to the unadulterated truth. Also he found himself up against the Gnostics, (no need for Grace; you could work it all out for yourselves) so he really had to spend a lot of time and intellectual effort in working out the truth and finding ways to get that truth across to people.
When I typed ‘Irenaeus quotes’ into Google this is the first one that came up. I wonder if ‘a human being’ is an exact translation of what he wrote, or a modern tweak? “The glory of God is Man fully alive” is the way I first learned it and it’s the way I prefer it because it sounds better. There is less flow with a human being. Try it for yourself. I don’t want to upset Feminists—I don’t set out to upset anyone—but I grew up assuming that Man, in this sort of context, meant Mankind, i.e. all people, of both sexes and of every colour and creed. I also grew up when children learned a lot of poetry by heart, so the sound and the rhythm of the language also came to have great importance.
Here’s another great quote from the Bishop.
Contrast that with this from present day Welsh bishops in a Pastoral Letter. Can you spot a difference?
“What this all means is that we, as Bishops of the Anglican Communion, mindful of the results of our consultation and the Statement of the Primates of the Anglican Communion, and of all our members, including those who are gay and lesbian, do not feel that we can support at this time a move to change the discipline of the Church in Wales with respect to the teaching on marriage, nor can we permit the celebration of public liturgies of blessing for same sex unions.”
“Given that the civil law of the realm has now been changed to permit marriage of same sex couples, many see this as a natural next step.” And many more do not.
Later they go on to provide two prayers for same sex unions which, I would have thought, amounted to blessings.
There’s nothing theological about these arguments. What it says to me is ‘Civil law says yes, so we’ll work to ensure God’s law soon follows suit.’ This definitely seems to be something decked out in an attractive dress – an abundance of decoration and voluptuous fabric artfully concealing the nakedness beneath.
Irenaeus died at the beginning of the third century so perhaps you might think he hasn’t much to say to us in the 21st century. But how about this from John Wesley who lived throughout most of the 18th century?
Good, isn’t it?
Despite his antiquity I’ll let Irenaeus have the last word. “God did not tell us to follow Him because He needed our help but because he knew that loving Him would make us whole.”