Lent Madness: John Keble vs. Justin Martyr

Today’s battle is fought across the centuries between the 19th century Anglican priest John Keble and the 2nd century apologist Justin Martyr. Will this become a referendum on high churchmanship? Only time will tell. 24 hours to be precise.

Yesterday Thomas Becket defeated Barnabas with a late surge 60% to 40%. Between Philip and Barnabas, a close personal relationship with Jesus seems to be a detriment in this year’s Lent Madness. Hmmm. Click Lent Madness 2011 to view the updated tournament bracket.

John Keble (1792-1866) was an Anglican priest and poet most closely identified with the Oxford Movement. A brilliant scholar, Keble was ordained in 1815 after attending Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and becoming a Fellow at Oriel College also in Oxford. After serving an initial curacy to his own father, also an Anglican priest, he published the devotional text “The Christian Year” to great acclaim in 1827. This led to his being appointed Chair of Poetry at Oxford, a position he held until 1841.

But it is his role in the Oxford Movement that Keble is best known. His Assize Day sermon on “national apostasy” gave traction to the movement and, along with Edward Pusey and John Henry Newman, he became one of the movement’s shining lights and leaders.

What exactly was the Oxford Movement? It was essentially a movement of High Church Anglicans that eventually developed into what is called Anglo-Catholicism. Its members were identified with the University of Oxford — hence the name — and called for the Anglican Church to reclaim much of the ancient faith and tradition. They proclaimed the catholicity of the Anglican Church, putting forth the theory that Anglicanism, Orthodoxy, and Roman Catholicism formed the “three branches” of the One, Holy, Catholic Church. Liturgically and theologically, the Oxford Movement is credited with placing the emphasis of Anglican worship on the Eucharist and reintroducing the profound practice of ritual and symbol into the liturgy.

Collect for John Keble Grant, O God, that in all time of our testing we may know your presence and obey your will; that, following the example of your servant John Keble, we may accomplish with integrity and courage what you give us to do, and endure what you give us to bear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Justin Martyr (103-165) was, as his name implies, a martyr of the early Christian church. Much of what we know of Justin comes from his writings. His work is the earliest example we have of Christian apologetics — a discipline referring to the rational defense of the faith. The purpose of his most well-known work “The First Apology of Justin Martyr” was to prove that Christians were the true worshippers of God and to refute negative rumors surrounding the practice of Christianity. He further discusses the concept of the Logos (Word) of God and makes mention of the practices of Eucharist and Baptism.

According to Tertullian, he was martyred in Rome — flogged and beheaded with six other Christians.

Collect for Justin Martyr Almighty and everlasting God, who found your martyr Justin wandering from teacher to teacher, seeking the true God, and revealed to him the sublime wisdom of your eternal Word: Grant that all who seek you, or a deeper knowledge of you, may find and be found by you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.



7 Comments on “Lent Madness: John Keble vs. Justin Martyr”

  1. The Virtual Abbey says:

    Kind of shocked to find the votes piling up for Justin Martyr. I mean, *I* voted for him, but I thought I was voting for an underdog.

  2. Chris Arnold says:

    Given my A-C proclivities, this was a tough one. My catholic sensibilities won out, however, and I went with the guy who has had the greatest impact on the broadest aspect of the church.

  3. Tony Hunt says:

    Aw come on, Justin Martyr is for elitists. I would argue that it is Keble, through the OM, and from that to modern BCP revisions who has influenced the thought and piety of a greater number of the faithful.

  4. Bob Chapman says:

    Difficult choice, but only can wear the halo.

    If Justin Martyr had not have lived and did his life’s work, Keble would have only had his poetry.

  5. Eric Funston says:

    Can’t believe John Keble is losing! Where is Anglican loyalty?????

  6. As the Rector of the Episcopal Church of St. Stephen the Martyr in Edina, Minnesota, I also voted for the martyr – the witness – in this round.

  7. Tony Hunt says:

    Fair enough Fr. Willard, but as a parishoner at St. Matthews Episcopal in St. Paul, MN, I would have expected some anglophilia. Nevertheless, I’ll raise a Guinness to the good Martyr today.

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