Michael Wharton described Vincent McNabb as “a saintly man so hostile to machinery that he had even made his own fountain pen”. His tract on bodily resurrection is a sober and careful analysis of the Scriptural evidence, buttressed by the teaching of Thomas Aquinas and sidelights from contemporary science.
Half a century later, Bishop Butler – Anglican convert, twenty years Abbot of Downside, auxiliary bishop to Cardinal Heenan – takes a different approach. His method, reflecting his scholarly interests, is almost exclusively Scriptural; he also draws on the documents of Vatican II, to whose formation, as Abbot President of the English Benedictine Congregation, he had contributed, and on modern science, now in the baffling shape of quantum theory. The old sense that theology was a means of formulating elaborate questions to which we already know the answers is gone; instead, we are tentatively led through partial evidence and ambiguous conclusions. Which approach one prefers is perhaps a matter of temperament as much as chronology.