Exploration into Goodness by Frank Wright (SCM Press, £4.95) Maggie Parham
"FOR several years there has been a deafening silence on the subject of goodness in those areas of theological and church life from which some such study might come." Frank Wright, Canon Emeritus of Manchester Cathedral, registers this silence with surprise, but it is easily understood. It requires quite considerable courage on the part of an author to broach a subject at once so enormous and so amorphous as goodness, not least because in assuming he has the expertise to do so he inevitably lays himself open to charges of arrogance.
Exploration into Goodness takes the form of a brain storming excercise, the first half examining various forms and aspects of goodness: spontaneous goodness, goodness as loving, as integration and as invisibility, and the second half going on to examine ways of nurturing goodness. Goodness has been very specifically chosen rather than holiness, partly because it has the power "to strike deep into the popular mind", but chiefly because it "transcends any ecclesiastical boundaries." It rapidly becomes clear that a desire to transcend these boundaries is the real motive force that drives the author.
The church has not only been silent on the subject of goodness, but also misguided.
Wright believes that goodness can never have due weight in the life of the church until more consideration is given to the interior life of the Christian.
In a memorable chapter, he compares the church to CS Lewis, who, before having to face the situation of having fallen in love with a divorcee, was "so well defended against emotion, that it sometimes seemed he was encased in an armour only suitable for tilting and jousting in a cosy fairyland with J R Tolkein."
Wright appreciates that goodness cannot be explained, and that an attempt to explain it would run the risk of "emptying something of its mystery by spilling words which in the end seem inadequate and superficial." It is this appreciation of his necessary limitations that gives his book its strength.