Monday, October 12, 2009

The Holy Parrot of Antioch

Diarmaid MacCulloch, author of the much acclaimed ‘Reformation – Europe’s House Divided’ has recently completed his ‘A History of Christianity – The first three thousand years’. The book was praised by Archbishop Rowan Williams but panned by Paul Johnson in the Spectator, who writes ‘I can’t imagine anyone reading it for pleasure’ and takes it to task for being too politically correct.

Of particular interest to me in MacCulloch’s book is the tale of the ‘Holy Parrot’ of Antioch whose owner taught it to recite controversial theological formulas, and whose fame became so great that an epic poem was written in praise of it. One of the highlights of Reformation was the tale of the puritan mice of Massachusetts. MacCulloch writes:

[Winthrop’s associates] ignored the other component of English Worship, the Prayer Book: Laud had tainted that irredeemably. With great satisfaction John Winthrop recorded in his journal for 15th of October 1640 the miracle of the Puritan mice. One volume in his son’s library was a Greek New Testament, a book of psalms and the Book of Common Prayer all bound up together. Mice gnawed at every leaf of the prayer book, but left the New Testament and the Psalter intact. Thus Mr Winthrop’s library, like Massachusetts itself, put it’s mark of scorn on the popish Church of England liturgy.

Perhaps we might add one more contender to the pantheon of theistic arguments; the argument from devout rodents and parrots with doctorates in Theology; or perhaps they could be more usefully employed in the resolution of religious disputes.

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