“Sometimes traditions have truths in them,” Dr. Roberta Bayer paused. “Sometimes the fullness of the faith once received from the fathers is in some particular thing—I think particularly of the Book of Common Prayer. Consequently, if you change that too much, what have you lost in terms of the teachings of the historic church?”
The Pusey House at Oxford recently invited Dr. Bayer, professor of political theory, to deliver a paper for their conference on “The Life and Thought of E.L. Mascall.” Mascall was a twentieth century theologian who argued “against liberal trends in theology…theological developments which were at odds with the received faith,” Dr. Bayer explained.
Dr. Bayer said that Mascall emphasized in his many books why “God is immutable and impassible.” Liberal theologians “deny God’s sovereignty over all creation, indeed they even make God subject to time and history. Liberal theologians believe, wrongly, that we are the authors of even divine truth. God’s truth is forever, He does not change. To say that He does change is contrary to the faith, Mascall argued. We must hold to the objective truth of the Gospel. God is truth. The truth is not in us (1 John 1:8).”
Dr. Bayer also spoke to the richness of the spiritual life she found at Pusey House, specifically in the way that “the traditions of that institution were being maintained in an unchanging way.” Pusey House was founded by Edward Pusey, who was “a figurehead of the Oxford Movement and its de facto leader after Newman's conversion [to Catholicism] in 1845.” Pusey House exists to "promote theological study and holiness of life, and to provide spiritual counsel and comfort to members of the University."
Pusey House fosters a vibrant Christian community. “Monday to Friday there is Morning Prayer and Holy Communion in the chapel. Afterwards students eat breakfast together and are invited to study in the Pusey library, and then served lunch," Dr. Bayer noted. "This provides a community for conversation among a small cadre of students who share the faith, and those students are thus drawn into a life of prayer while they do their studies.”
Dr. Bayer found that the students were deeply concerned with the life of the church. “It was encouraging to see that not only at Patrick Henry College, but at Oxford University, now so secularized, there continue to be young people who love and defend and study the Christian faith, and also desire to live it out in practice.”
One former and three current PHC students attended the event along with Dr. Bayer. She found that, “our students fit in nicely…and were enjoying the company of the other graduates.” Finn Buck remarked that everyone they met, “showed us immense kindness and hospitality. We were blessed with many rich conversations, which was definitely the highlight of the trip.” Caleb Symons noted they were dubbed affectionately as “Roberta’s students.”
The idea that it is imperative to both worship and break bread together is alive also at PHC. James Hodson noted the significance of sharing meals as representative of “embodied community” in a recent LearnPHC post. Buck reflected that he was, “inspired by the godly devotion of the parishioners at Pusey House,” adding that, “this trip was the first time I had experienced the full order of morning prayer, evening prayer, and Compline in such a rich liturgical setting. The services took place in a beautiful room that was hundreds of years old, giving the prayers an air of holiness that was almost palpable.”
Patrick Henry College exists to glorify God by challenging the status quo in higher education, lifting high both faith and reason within a rigorous academic environment; thereby preserving for posterity the ideals behind the "noble experiment in ordered liberty" that is the foundation of America.