Posts Tagged ‘R. Tudur Jones’

Should we explain or change the world?

March 11, 2009

I spent a good part, at least six months, of the first year of my PhD researching the Puritans. At first that might seem odd considering my PhD thesis is about the Christian political philosophy of a 20th Century man. At the time I did feel that I had wasted six months of my precious research time but now three years on it’s becoming ever clear to me that to understand politics and nationalism from a Calvinistic perspective one must start with the Puritans. Dr. Pope, my research supervisor, I forgive you.

Just a quick post today to share a brilliant quote I re-turfed from the big PhD box file today. Ironically it’s not a quote by a Christian it’s a quote by atheist marxist historian Christopher Hill, but it’s a brilliant quote about the Puritans:

Previous theologians had explained the world: for Puritans the point was to change it.

Magic isn’t it? That Puritan ethic is massive encouragement to Christians today; with all the new violence in Northern Ireland, the immorality of our economics and the sad sad news about the shootings from Germany, the puritan ethic spurs us on to bless and change society with the gospel.

R. Tudur Jones’ Christian Nationalism

March 9, 2009

R. Tudur JonesAfter the Second World War, the feeling that Welsh identity was in danger increased. For the Welsh Congregationalists this conviction exploded to the surface in the Undeb Ystradgynlais in 1950. The Undeb was the annual gathering of Welsh Congregational Churches who were members of the Union of Welsh Independents. The story is reported in the Tyst newspaper (the Tyst was and is the denomination’s weekly newspaper) in June 1950; this utopian report is in the June 15 edition:

The armies of Catholicism, Philistinism, materialism and totalitarianism are marching boldly and presumptuously. But among the principalities of the heavens, angels of ideals are at work. The country is waiting for the denomination’s unconditional declaration that it is on the side of the angels.

The following week, more flesh was put on the bones as the Tyst reported that the Reverend R.G. Davies had proposed that:

…in the face of the serious condition of the language in many of our churches, and also the constant threat to its prosperity in areas that are completely Welsh, this conference brings to the serious attention of the churches the appropriateness of establishing a branch of Welsh speakers in every church…

Promoting culture had been part of the denominations’ agenda for a long time, however Reverend Owen Williams’ next motion proved to be very controversial. He said:

That we the representatives of the Congregationalist Churches of Wales, firmly declare our conviction that we are acting according to God’s will in demanding self-government for Wales immediately.

Although it is not reported in Y Tyst, and although it should not surprise anyone, there are grounds for believing that Gwynfor Evans was partly responsible for the motion. The Congregationalists turned to R. Tudur Jones in 1952 in order to calm the storm of objections that rose against the Congregationalists’ stance on self-government for Wales. The pamphlet ‘The Congregationalists and self-government for Wales’ was published by Tudur Jones. In this publication, the young theologian makes his beliefs and convictions public to all.

Let us consider what Tudur Jones had to say about nationalism in this pamphlet. A key question that nationalists have to deal with is ‘why the nation?’ What is so special about the nation that measures need to be taken to protect and sustain it? First of all, Tudur Jones turned to Genesis 11, and the story of the Tower of Babel and the mixing of the languages and he argues that God destroys imperialism and places diversity as the order for the earth. He said: ‘Where men constructed uniformity, God demanded diversity.’ He said that uprooting the Welsh nation ‘…in the name of a kind of shallow internationalism’ repeated the crime of those who built the Tower of Babel. He is certain in his conviction that nations are part of God’s order and considers that his role, as a Christian, is to safeguard and protect God’s order to the extent that in 1972 he declared that promoting nationalism was ‘…one of the many ways of declaring the glory of the one who took us from darkness.’

Placing R. Tudur Jones on the theological spectrum

March 4, 2009

R. Tudur JonesHere is a little introduction to Tudur Jones’s place on the theological spectrum.

R. Tudur Jones was born in the Cricieth area in Eifionydd, North Wales, the son of John Thomas and Elizabeth Jones. The 1904-1905 revival had a profound influence on his parents and so we can take it for granted that religion was more than a cultural custom for his family. Although he was brought up in a Christian family, Christianity did not become a real experience for him until he attended an evangelistic crusade in the Promenade Pavilion in Rhyl in 1939. As he stated in a documentary on S4C in 1994, Christianity came alive for him during that meeting; he said ‘…a day comes when the match is lit, and that’s what happened to me in the Pavilion that night…’ The preacher in that meeting interestingly was the evangelical leader Martin Lloyd-Jones.

Dr. Tudur was a reformed Protestant rather than a liberal Protestant. He is of J.E. Daniel’s line rather than that of John Morgan Jones. In addition to the influence of the greats of the reformed faith such as Calvin, and Thomas Jones of Denbigh and Thomas Charles in Wales, Tudur Jones was also influenced by Dutch Calvinist theologians. Individuals such as Abraham Kuyper, who was the Dutch prime minister, developed Calvin’s doctrine on the sovereignty of God, ‘…Kuyper had to be practical. As Prime Minister he had to consider education, promote the arts and the relationship between the overseer and the servant etc…’

One of the Calvinistic teachings that Kuyper emphasized, and which attracted Tudur Jones, was the doctrine of common grace. The common grace doctrine states that grace ‘…falls on everyone with no exceptions’ – God doesn’t discriminate between who can receive the general blessings of grace. The aspect of the common grace doctrine which is relevant to my PhD thesis (i.e. the politics of Tudur Jones) is the concept that the blessings of grace means that justice is possible on this earth, at least at a civic level. The theologian Louis Berkhof said:

Common grace enables man to perform what is generally called justitia civilis, that is, that which is right in civil or natural affairs… Reformed theologians generally maintain that the unregenerate can perform natural good, [and] civil good…

Considering the social and spiritual condition of Wales in the twentieth century, it is understandable that the Dutch Calvinistic school of though with its reformed orthodox theology on one hand and its practical implications on the other was so attractive to Tudur Jones. Of Kuyper he says: ‘He took the challenge of secularism to the national life of the Netherlands very seriously’ and that his doctrine on

…Christ’s kingship echoed some of the fundamental ideas of Frederick Denison Maurice, the founder of the Christian Socialists in England.. And there is a striking similarity between Kuyper’s teachings on sovereignty and the radical and collective nationalism of Michael D. Jones

On the theological spectrum, Tudur Jones would therefore place himself close to Kuyper and the Dutch Calvinists but he was his own man. He was enough of a thinker to come to his own conclusions. Densil Morgan said: ‘…Kuyper and his followers corroborated the ideology that he already had, and Tudur was never slavishly indebted to them.’ It should also be noted as well that I don’t think Tudur Jones would necessarily commend and agree with Kuyper’s political views (for example Kuyper was an imperialist and he held unfortunate views on race and supported apartheid); it was Kuypers rational towards the political sphere that he agreed with rather than the politics itself.

Tudur Jones’ theology therefore was to do with this world as well as the next world.

Can a Christian Theologian be objective?

March 3, 2009

Apologies for lack of blog post yesterday; I was preaching on Sunday night and giving a lecture yesterday so I didn’t get time to write a post. The lecture I gave yesterday was for my fellow research students and to the lectures, senior lecturers and professors of my department, the Theology Department, in Bangor – yes I know, I was petrified! The presentation went alright but I must admit that I felt out of my depths when the questions came in at the end! I suppose that my mistake was to show sympathy towards R. Tudur Jones standpoint in my conclusion. (It’s a Theology Department in a Secular University rather than a Theological Seminary so this is a big no no!) It’s hard not to when, on the whole, you agree with his word view (I.e. Radical-Reformed Christianity); but I guess I learnt today that I need to be on guard as I write my thesis so that I come over objective in my narrative.

One thing that became clear to me after the lecture yesterday was that I needed to spend more time explaining where Tudur Jones comes from. One must understand the origins of his word view if one is to understand his holistic approach towards the relevance of Christ’s Lordship to all spheres of life including the nation and politics. I regret that I didn’t do justice explaining this today; perhaps I failed because I’m sympathetic and share Tudur Jones holistic understanding of the Lordship of Christ and therefore underestimated the need to spell it out to those who don’t share the view point.

So to escape and not just stay in and dwell over the lecture and think about the answers I should have given I went out to take some pictures. I’ve been wanting to take some pictures of Menai Bridge at night for some time. I went out last night and here are the results, very wow I think:

Pont Menai

More of the Menai Bridge collection, 2 March 2009

The principles of love and justice to the nations

February 27, 2009

R. Tudur JonesI’m giving a paper about my research in the department on Monday; I’ll be giving the paper in Welsh but many of the audience will be non-Welsh speakers so there will be translation available. The University’s translation department have translated the paper for me already which is great because for the first time ever I have got a few thousand words of my research available in English for those of you who don’t speak the language of heaven! Here is a few paragraphs to get us going.

‘The Bible has been let out to teach the principles of love and justice to the nations.’ These were the words of Michael D. Jones, one of the principals of Bala Congregationalist college, in 1887. It would be just as easy to imagine that they were the words of the last principal of the College, R. Tudur Jones, when it closed at the end of the 1980s. Like Michael D. Jones and several other radical nonconformists, R. Tudur Jones, or Dr. Tudur, was a Christian leader who wished to share his faith with a wider congregation and release it from the sphere of the private and the ecclesiastical.

Dr. Tudur was a historian, a theologian, a teacher, a minister, a journalist, a philosopher and a nationalist. He was a very important Christian figure in the history of twentieth century Wales. Despite the importance of Tudur Jones, not much has been published about him to date. I will try to contribute to the study by focusing on one aspect of this important character.

First of all on Monday, I aim to evaluate Tudur Jones’ Calvinist theology – but only briefly as I’m sure you’ll be glad to hear! Although the aim of the lecture is to study his political ideology, an understanding of his Calvinist theology is essential in order to understand his political ideology.

If we want to understand his mind and his political ideology we cannot ignore his theology. Both aspects are intrinsically interwoven. Secondly, I will discuss some of his political ideologies. I will discuss in detail his concept of the relationship of the Christian and the State and his concept of Christian Nationality. Thirdly, I will evaluate, without going into any great detail, his political influence on Wales – mainly through his role as one of Gwynfor Evans’ principal advisers.

If you’re in the Bangor area you are welcomed to join us on Monday. The research seminar, which is open to all, is held at the WISCA Seminar Room in the Main Arts Building at 2.15pm, Monday 2 March.