Thomas Bradwardine, born c. 1290, was the briefly the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1349 before the plague took his life. He is known as one of the English Church's greatest philosophical clergymen. An Augustinian, he defended predestinarianism against the "New Pelagianism" that was becoming widespread in the church of that day (one of the contributing factors to the Protestant Reformation two centuries later). From Book Rags:
(Bradwardine's) masterpiece . . . is a voluminous theological and philosophical work, De causa Dei contra Pelagium, divided into three books (1344). It originates from lectures he had given in Oxford and London and, more radically, from a deep spiritual change he had experienced in his youth: "When I was applying myself to philosophy … Pelagius's opinion seemed to me nearer to truth.… But afterwards (I was not yet a theological student) … I thought I saw from afar the grace of God preceeding all merits in time and in nature, in the same way that in all movements He is the first Mover." (bk. I, ch. 35, p. 308). This conversion induced Bradwardine to fight for God's cause against "the new Pelagians, " a group of post-ockhamists theologians that included Richard Fitzralph, Adam Wodeham, and Robert Holcot.
To these thinkers the issues of chief concern were grace and merit, future contingents, prescience, and predestination. On the first point, Bradwardine, as an ardent Augustinian, strongly reasserts that grace is a mere gift, not a retribution: in no way man can merit it, and, moreover, without God's special help man cannot act right.
Concerning future contingents, the new Pelagians' opinion stressed the contrast between the necessity—that is, the fixity—of the past and the contingency of the future. This view could hardly be reconciled with the idea of an immutable and truthful God: If God or a prophet were to reveal a future event, is it possible that it would not happen? If it is possible, then God can deceive and lie. Countering this opinion, which he had first rejected in his question, De futuris contingentibus, Bradwardine closely examines the notions of contingency and necessity; he argues they are founded on the power of the will. Aristotle wrote, "What is, necessarly is, when it is. (De interpretation, ch. 9). But Duns Scotus observed that when man wills A at time t, he has the power not to will A, not only before or after t, but also at time t. Therefore a kind of necessity, the "consequent" necessity of present, is compatible with contingency. Regarding God, Bradwardine extends this conclusion to all times: For God, past, present, and future are equally contingent and equally necessary. Consequently He can undo any past event (in an improper meaning of undo), not because He could alter it (this would be a contradiction), but because at each instant of time He is yet freely willing the past event. In this way, there is no longer antinomy between the necessity of the prophecy and the contingency of the future event.
The same argument about contingent causality clears up the most famous tenet of Bradwardine's teaching, the assertion of "antecedent necessity": Since God's will is the first cause of everything and cannot be thwarted, everything happens by necessity in relation to His will. That is the proper definition of theological determinism. But again, according to Bradwardine, when man is willing something, though his act is determined by God, he does not lose the power to do the opposite act at the same time. So it seems there is in Bradwardine's doctrine an original attempt to conciliate God's predetermination and human freedom of will.
As in other parts of Catholic Europe, Augustinianism in England (here for instance in the person of Bradwardine) stood in opposition to the "New Pelagianism" that, like its condemned forebear, was deemed by many in the Church to be a threat to the Gospel, as various forms of resultant legalism and moralism consequently threatened to take its place. Moreover, as the Roman Catholic scholar (and Augustinian) George Tavard documented in his book Justification: An Ecumenical Study, this medieval incarnation of Augustinian theology would later give rise -- quite naturally -- to the doctrine of justification by faith alone, principally in the work of the Augustinian monk Martin Luther but eventually in the Church of England as well. Thus Bradwardine was an immediate predecessor to the English Reformation, though that Reformation came about mainly through continental influences.
Though Alister McGrath compellingly argues in his magisteral work Iustitia Dei that Luther's doctrine was a "theological novum", one may argue, as evidenced in these quotes, that it was always implicit in Augustine *despite* the fact that he had what McGrath calls a "transformational concept of justification."
Not so our father Abraham. This passage of scripture is meant to draw our attention to the difference. We confess that the holy patriarch was pleasing to God; this is what our faith affirms about him. So true is it that we can declare and be certain that he did have grounds for pride before God, and this is what the apostle tells us. It is quite certain, he says, and we know it for sure, that Abraham has grounds for pride before God. But if he had been justified by works, he would have had grounds for pride, but not before God. However, since we know he does have grounds for pride before God, it follows that he was not justified on the basis of works. So if Abraham was not justified by works, how was he justified?” The apostle goes on to tell us how: What does scripture say? (that is, about how Abraham was justified). Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness (Rom. 4:3; Gen. 15:6). Abraham, then, was justified by faith. Paul and James do not contradict each other: good works follow justification.
3. Now when you hear this statement, that justification comes not from works, but by faith, remember the abyss of which I spoke earlier. You see that Abraham was justified not by what he did, but by his faith: all right then, so I can do whatever I like, because even though I have no good works to show, but simply believe in God, that is reckoned to me as righteousness? Anyone who has said this and has decided on it as a policy has already fallen in and sunk; anyone who is still considering it and hesitating is in mortal danger. But God’s scripture, truly understood, not only safeguards an endangered person, but even hauls up a drowned one from the deep. My advice is, on the face of it, a contradiction of what the apostle says; what I have to say about Abraham is what we find in the letter of another apostle, who set out to correct people who had misunderstood Paul. James in his letter opposed those who would not act rightly but relied on faith alone; and so he reminded them of the good works of this same Abraham whose faith was commended by Paul. The two apostles are not contradicting each other. James dwells on an action performed by Abraham that we all know about: he offered his son to God as a sacrifice. That is a great work, but it proceeded from faith. I have nothing but praise for the superstructure of action, but I see the foundation of faith; I admire the good work as a fruit, but I recognize that it springs from the root of faith. If Abraham had done it without right faith it would have profited him nothing, however noble the work was. On the other hand, if Abraham had been so complacent in his faith that, on hearing God’s command to offer his son as a sacrificial victim, he had said to himself, “No, I won’t. But I believe that God will set me free, even if I ignore his orders,” his faith would have been a dead faith because it did not issue in right action, and it would have remained a barren, dried-up root that never produced fruit. (John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., WSA, Part 3, Vol. 15, trans. Maria Boulding, O.S.B., Expositions of the Psalms 1-32, Exposition 2 of Psalm 31, 2-4 (Hyde Park: New City Press, 2000), pp. 364-365.)
When someone believes in him who justifies the impious, that faith is reckoned as justice to the believer, as David too declares that person blessed whom God has accepted and endowed with righteousness, independently of any righteous actions (Rom 4:5-6). What righteousness is this? The righteousness of faith, preceded by no good works, but with good works as its consequence. (Exposition 2 of Psalm 31, 6-7.)
Justification is obtained by faith. ... By the law we fear God, by faith we hope in God. But to those who fear punishment grace is hidden; laboring under this fear, the soul by faith flees to the mercy of God, that He may give what He commands. (The Spirit and the Letter.)
How should the law be upheld if not by righteousness? By a righteousness, moreover, which is of faith, for what could not be fulfilled through the law is fulfilled through faith. (On Romans)
. . . the apostle Paul says that a man can be justified without works - preceding works. For, having been justified by faith, how can he in turn do anything but what is righteous, although, when earlier he did nothing righteous, he attained justification of faith, not the merit of good works, but by the grace of God, which cannot now be barren in him when he does good works through love? But, should he depart this life soon after having believed, the justification remains with him, since he attains justification by grace rather than good works, and not because of any subsequent good works, because he is not allowed to continue in this life. Hence it is clear that the apostle's claim, "For we consider a man to be justified by faith without works" [Rom. 3:28], must not be understood in such a way that we may say a man who has received faith and continues to live is righteous, even though he lead a wicked life. (De Div. Quest (76:1), FC 70:194)
I am sometimes dismayed when I hear or read some Anglo-Catholics/Papalists who, laboring under dubious notions about free will, express opposition to great medieval Catholics such as St. Augustine and Thomas Bradwardine (and against predestination in general). When I encounter these arguments, I get the sense that their advocates confuse anti-Augustinianism or anti-predestinarianism with the Catholic Faith, when in fact these positions are mere theologoumena. These brothers relentlessly excoriate the "Calvinism" that supposedly spawned such "heresies" as predestination, unconditional election, justification by faith, etc. when these "heresies" were held in either seminal or mature form by great Catholic theologians who antedated John Calvin and the Protestant Reformation by hundreds of years.
I am dismayed, however, not simply because they have distorted the facts, but more importantly because their position arguably puts them at odds with the Gospel of grace. Pelagianism was condemned by the universal Church and Semipelagianism was condemned in the Western Church for a reason; they were deemed to be corrosive of biblical soteriology.
Now, to be sure, Bradwardine like St. Augustine before him was not a solifidian, and nor will I defend any solifidianism that logically terminates in antinomianism. I follow St. Paul, and not certain Lutherans, in this regard. But the good Archbishop's Augustinian theology arguably does terminate (as Tavard argues) in Article XI, and this due principally to the objective nature of God's salvific provision. What's more, as even the presumably "Arminian" Anglo-Catholic theologian J.B. Mozley said, it is in the Augustinian theology, and not in Pelagius' kind of voluntarism, that we find a safeguard for the Christian Faith.
Clodesuida, a peaceful heart to you now.
I am well; I have seen our terrible gods come down
To beg the crumbs which fall from our sins, their only
Means of life. This evening you and I
Can walk under the trees and be ourselves
Together, knowing that this wild day has gone
For good. Where is the Briton? You still think
You must be afraid and see in him
The seed of a storm. But I have heard
Word of his God, and felt our lonely flesh
Welcome to creation. The fearful silence
Became the silence of great sympathy,
The quiet of God and man in the mutual word.
And never again need we sacrifice, on and on
And on, greedy of gods' goodwill
But always uncertain; for sacrifice
Can only perfectly be made by God
And sacrifice has so been made, by God
To God in the body of God with man,
On a tree set up at the four crossing roads
On earth, heaven, time, and eternity
Which meet upon that cross. I have heard this;
And while we listened, with our eyes half-shut
Facing the late sun, above the shoulder
Of the speaking man I saw the cross-road tree,
The love of God hung on the motes and beams
Of light. . . .
(From "Thor, With Angels," a play by Christopher Fry)
When I opened the June issue of The American Conservative (TAC) last night, I was greeted by this article from Rod Dreher. The following comment from the article stood out to me in light of the combox discussion that recently took place here at OJC ("For Evangelicals and Others Considering Eastern Orthodoxy", hereinafter "Considering Orthodoxy"):
On a practical level, any conservative who believes he can escape the challenges of modern America by hiding in an Orthodox parish is deluded. All three major branches of Orthodoxy in America have suffered major leadership scandals in recent years. And while Orthodox theology does not face the radical revisionism that has swept over Western churches in the past decades, there are nevertheless personalities and forces within American Orthodoxy pushing for liberalization on the homosexual question. And in some parishes—including St. Nicholas OCA Cathedral in Washington, D.C.—they are winning victories.
Dreher therefore corroborates what both Fr. Gregory Jensen and I have experienced in the Orthodox Church, as I set forth in "Considering Orthodoxy", which is the increasing "Episcopalianization" of that communion. If that weren't enough, several individuals commenting at Dreher's TAC article have also experienced it, and at least one person commenting there is an Orthodox Episcopalianizer. The two individuals commenting at my "Considering Orthodoxy" article, Fr. John Morris and an "Orthodox Christian" who represents himself as a recently minted deacon, protested loudly about the liberalism charge, but here is yet one more witness to its reality in the Orthodox Church. I reiterate, therefore, my caveat emptor to Evangelicals (who tend to be politically and culturally conservative) and other traditionalists considering Orthodoxy.
Here are some quotable quotes from the combox discussion at TAC (where, by the way, Fr. Morris carries forth his desperate apology):
As to Americans going to Russian or other Orthodox churches, I would have thought that men deserving of the name would stay and fight for what is theirs. Not slink off to someone else’s church, except under the sort of conditions that led to so many Protestants coming to this country in the first place. Until such conditions obtain here the rubric should be “I’ll take my stand” rather than “I’ll stand over there instead”.
Interesting piece, although, I think the bishops census of only 800,000 Eastern Orthodox adherents in the USA seems off by several million… And, more importantly, aside from the admittedly compelling, ancient beauty of its churches and liturgies, there can only be a tiny minority of Orthodox adherents or converts who experience or understand the church and its teachings at the level discussed in this piece. One wonders where the author and some of those commenting here are plugging into Orthodoxy. It cannot be solely from their experiences attending services or bible classess, can it?
Having grown up in a large Catholic enclave, and judging from what we constantly see going on in the headlines, on contraception, gays and gay marriage, abortion, sexuality in general, etc., I’ve always experienced the Orthodox church to be relatively liberal and non-doctrinaire, particularly when compared to Catholicism and many other US Christian denominations. I know Orthodoxy has largely conservative, unchanging views on all of these “values” issues, which do not substantively differ from those flowing from Catholic or Evangelical doctrine, but Orthodoxy does not seem to spend much energy on any of it, at least not here in the US. It has always felt more like “don’t ask, don’t tell”, its all good, do the best you can with your personal circumstances, God is with you just the same.
And, we’ll never see any Orthodox clergyman in the US refusing an Orthodox politician Communion because the politician commits to enforcing the laws of the land even if they may conflict with his personal views or the teachings of his church. We’re also not very likely to see any Orthodox clergyman suing the government…
Four years ago I resigned as the Rector of an Episcopal Church, left a decade long priesthood, renounced my orders, and along with the rest of my family became Eastern Orthodox. The particular jurisdiction that we became a part of was the Orthodox Church in America. I was sent by my Archbishop to an Orthodox Seminary in Pennsylvania for a year.
My family gave up a great deal so that we could become Orthodox, and we didn’t expect to be congratulated for that, but didn’t expect the cold reception that we got from many quarters either. We were ready to embrace Orthodoxy wholeheartedly, but never really felt like we were embraced back. The Sacraments that I had administered during my ten years of priestly ministry in the Episcopal Church were repeatedly characterized as being without any validity for the people I served. But, despite the arrogance, we found the OCA to be every bit as dysfunctional an institution, in it’s own way, as is the Episcopal Church. There seemed to be a disconnect between the sublime theology of the Church Fathers and our actual experience in the OCA. The reality we found in the OCA as an institution included an ethnocentric insularity and xenophobia among a great many ethnic Russians; anti-Semitism; a latent fundamentalism among a great many of the converts; shocking corruption and abuse of power in the hierarchy; and a good deal of hateful anti-Americanism among immigrant priests and monks, and even some American ones, that caused some members of my family to struggle with their faith in ways that they never had to do while we remained Anglican. That is perhaps the most pertinent reason that we decided to return to the Anglican Communion. But still it was a gut wrenching decision to make.
I was drawn to the Orthodox Faith because of it’s faithfulness to the ancient understandings of the Faith. My theology is very heavily informed by the theology of the Orthodox Church. I understand sin as bondage and sickness rather than as transgression. As a result, I have an Orthodox transformative understanding of salvation rather than a judicial one, meaning that the real object of salvation is God effecting an inner change in us. Again, the model of atonement I have is an Orthodox one of recapitulation, rather than appeasement. In other words, the need for the atonement was not to satisfy a need God had for punishment, but rather to recreate in us the image of God that we had lost, and to free us from the bondage of sin. I also share with the Orthodox church the focus on theosis – our participation in the divine life which changes us into the likeness of Christ. In that sense I see salvation not as a one time act, but as a growing relationship with God. I also am certain that the Orthodox church is right in their understanding of original sin, not as inherited guilt, but as our inheriting the consequences of living in a sinful world.
There is nothing keeping me from believing as I do and being Anglican. The Orthodox Church is however, at least as I have encountered it in the OCA, very defensive and aggressively anti-Western whenever talking about differences that exist between the two, no matter how small, no matter how long ago. I’m sorry but I’m simply not interested in nursing some old grudge about the Fourth Crusade, or about Eastern-Rite Roman Catholicism in the Ukraine. The Eastern Orthodox can be very enthusiastic grudge-holders.
I found that I needed to return to the Anglican Communion because I am culturally a Western Christian, and I see more clearly now than I did two years ago that the Western culture I was raised in is an inseparable part of who I am. It cannot be set aside without setting aside some things basic to who I am. Some might say, “What profit is there in saving your culture only to lose your soul?” However, I think that would be a false dichotomy. As I look around at the mostly eastern European congregations that are gathered in any Orthodox Church during the Divine Liturgy, I see that it is most often said at least partly in Slavonic, Greek or some other eastern language. It is obvious to me that, for those congregations, their ethnic identity and their being Christian are practically co-terminus. And perhaps that is not entirely a bad thing. The Christian Faith is fundamentally incarnational, and thus it naturally incarnates itself in a culture — be it Russian, or Greek, — or American, or British, or Chinese, or whatever.
I do not now belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church because I am not culturally Eastern, and I am unwilling and unable to live my life as a pretend Russian, or a pretend Greek. The faults of the Western Churches are the faults of Western culture. Eastern Orthodox Churches suffer from the faults of Eastern cultures. In the words of John Henry Newman, ”the Nation drags down its Church to its own level.”
Simply put, I was born and raised in the West so I am a Western Christian, I don’t think that I have any real option to be anything other than that. I have returned to trying to live out the ancient faith as best I can in the place in which I was raised and live. The Eastern Orthodox world, despite the things that it has to commend it, nevertheless has it’s own profound problems and I don’t think that running to it is the answer to what is wrong in the Western Church.
That last comment was, of course, particularly apropros. Though I don't agree with every sentiment expressed therein, he got to the nub of it in his comments about Orthodox anti-Westernism. If you convert to Eastern Orthodoxy, prepare to check your execrable Westernism at the door and to embrace the Eastern Orthodox ( = Byzantine) "phronema."
A claim that will no doubt annoy my Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox readers to no end, but that's our story and we're sticking to it. A comment from an Anglican blog discussion puts the matter concisely. (Emphases mine):
The genius of the Protestant Reformation is the recognition that, during the Middle Ages, "ecclesial creep" in both the Western and Eastern portions of the Church had for all practical intents and purposes replaced Old-Law works righteousness with a new works righteousness based on the respective "New Law" of the West (the Penance-Merits-Purgation-Indulgences doctrinal phalanx) and of the East (the imposition of the Monastic Typicon upon the laity).
Furthermore, . . . the formularies of classical Anglicanism did a better job of retaining the wheat of the orthodox catholicism of the ancient Church while jettisoning the chaff of innovative medieval accretion than did any other segment of the Reformation. This is why Anglicanism can, perhaps uniquely, lay equal claim to the appellations Protestant and Catholic and affirm both without any sense of inconsistency or incoherence. Indeed, strictly speaking, in proper understanding of each term, to truly be one, you must be both.
To truly be one, you must be both. To be truly Catholic, you must be Reformed. To be truly Reformed (or Protestant), you must be Catholic. The cry of the Reformation, Ad Fontes! ("To The Sources!") was not merely an appeal to recover apostolic and prophetic sources as set forth in Holy Scripture, but to recover the patristic (pre-medieval) sources as well. It is our contention that classical Anglicanism, which means the the theology of the English Reformation as modified by the great divines of the Elizabethan and Caroline eras, did the best job of returning to biblical and patristic sources. Conversely, we hold that both the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches have departed from biblical and patristic Christianity in signficant ways.
So we call all Christians -- including erring Anglicans (you Pentecostals, Puritans and Papalists know who you are ;)) -- back to the sources. "Evangelical" and "Catholic" are not mutually exclusive positions.
Originally posted in 2008 at http://anglicancontinuum.blogspot.com/2008/10/odd-couple.html
Article XIX:Of the Church.
THE visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure word of God is preached and the sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ's ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same. As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch have erred: so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of ceremonies, but also in matters of faith.
Once again this week I was subjected to the oft repeated claim that only two churches have any integrity, validity, catholic standing, and all that. Against the backdrop of current news that highlights the "realignment" within the Anglican Communion-those other Anglicans who don't always share our convictions-the following was in an e-mail from a long time friend:
"The only two churches that have enough past to be taken seriously in the future do not show the slightest interest in any such realignment."
This friend long ago became a member of the Orthodox Church, and his sentence is about those exclusive and unique (?) institutions we may call the Two One True Churches. That is, the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church (with its other Catholic churches under the Pope). Indeed, we love and honor both of them, which is more than they usually say for each other. In our ecclesiology there is room for them both as part of the Church in its fullness, unlike the respective ecclesiology of each of them concerning the other (let alone everybody else). If the Two One True Churches were no longer twain but one, then they might have some credibility to their exclusivist claim. Their mutual exclusion still bears witness to the fact that they too have erred at different times, and have yet to work out their differences.
Nonetheless, I cannot blame these churches for the fact that many of their members have a wrongheaded notion of Anglicanism. They confuse Anglicanism with the "Anglican Communion," and along with us they notice it suffers from a corrupted polity and heretical doctrines. Like us, they have no desire to be part of that structure, or to be contaminated by its errors. Therefore, I contributed my own thoughts to the e-mail stream:
"It is almost impossible to find traces of Anglicanism in the Anglican Communion. The mantle was discarded and taken up just over thirty years ago. The best the Anglican Communion can come up with is the GAFCON statement; but we (in the Continuum) still abide by The Affirmation of St. Louis (1977), which merely asserted Traditional Christianity.
"It is my experience with conservative Episcopalians and with realigned Anglicans (of the sort who mistake Stand Firm for something Anglican) that even the most 'conservative' of them (or even the most 'orthodox' by their standard) do not recognize quotations of, or allusions to, classic Anglican formularies. They think the Articles are Calvinism (which the Calvinists of the time did not, hence their consistent opposition), they think Baptismal Regeneration is debatable, they think Apostolic Succession is optional, etc. These things are debatable in the large world of ecumenical Christian relations, but they are settled matters in Anglican formularies, leaving no room for that kind of 'comprehensiveness.' I have even found self-proclaimed Anglicans who are surprised to hear that Anglicanism has always defined itself as both Catholic and Protestant (which means these folks have absolutely no understanding whatsoever of the patrimony they claim for themselves). Frankly, these 'conservatives' have no roots at all.
"How can they understand the Anglican mind if they draw a complete blank when I remind them that the sacraments of baptism and communion 'are generally necessary to salvation' (Catechism, and Offices of Instruction)? Or, if they argue against the priestly power to absolve sins (the Ordinal-rather explicit about that I might add)? I have seen other examples, and they are astonishing. The treatment of women's 'ordination' as as a 'secondary issue' requires treating at least one sacrament 'generally necessary to salvation' as secondary.
"The result of this rootless 'conservatism' is that much of what I write on The Continuum blog is designed to convert Anglicans to Anglicanism"
Nonetheless, I can put up with only so much, especially from friends. To say that only the Two One True Churches "have enough past to be taken seriously in the future," is simply wrong. First of all, what is required to be taken seriously is fidelity to the true doctrine of Christ as revealed in Scripture, and as taught and defended in the Tradition, and the Sacraments. The first part of Article XIX makes this clear by defining the Visible Church as "a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure word of God is preached and the sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ's ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same." Indeed, what else is there?
If what gives credibility is simple continuity of an institution recognized by a distinctive name, then to call ourselves Anglicans, especially as Anglicans of the Continuing Church, is unimpressive. This gives us only a brief time in which we can look back on a past of our own. That weakness coupled with smaller numbers than the Two One Trues, must provide a constant source of amusement to them. They are so ancient, and so big. We are so young and, compared to their millions upon millions, so small. They know that when we finally "get it," we will take their advice: "When you get to the fork in the road, take it." Somehow, the purity of the word of God preached in our churches, and the sacraments no matter how duly administered, only makes it easier for them to deride us. Just who do we think we are? At least the many Protestant denominations out there don't think of themselves as really Catholic, at least not like the great big Odd Couple of east and west (don't forget to fill out your Form 1054 by April 15th).
First of all, to meet the Odd Couple on its own terms, the Church of England is ancient, and our Anglican Patrimony, in terms of a claim to a past, beats the Russian Orthodox Church hands down. After the ancient Celtic Church of the Britons (which was established in the First Century) worked out a mutual polity with the Church of the Angles (English) at the Council of Whitby (664 AD), they formed into one Ecclesia Anglicana at the Council of Hertford (673 AD). But, is even that claim to the past, impressive as it is, what matters most?
We hold to our Article XIX. Regarding the Visible Church, other than the genuine ministry of God's word and sacraments, what do we need in order to be part of the Body of Christ? These two things, God's word and the sacraments, in a congregation of faithful Christians, contain all the antiquity necessary in every meaningful way, of the whole Church. We have the past that truly matters: Our church was not born in the 7th century, and certainly not in the 16th century. It was born on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came on the Apostles and other disciples that had gathered in the upper room, and were at that moment in the temple at prayer. Our Church was born in Jerusalem that very day, and it spread out from there to many nations.
As some of you will know, I am something of a railway enthusiast, and in particular for Irish Narrow Gauge railways. These were latterly owned by the Irish National Transport company C.I.E.. Don't worry, I am not going to talk to you about railways, but about a different C-I-E, one that the church needs to follow in order to grow. The CIE of this talk is
because without these qualities a church has little chance of sustaining itself, let alone growing.
The first aspect I want to look at is Commitment.
The first quality one should look for in a church is commitment. Not commitment to the denomination, a particular worship style, or program, but to Christ. In order to grow a Church must be Christ centered, and the reason for the decline of so many mainline denominations in the USA has been their failure to retain a clear and unequivocable commitment to Christ. Jesus tells His disciples that he is "the way, the truth and the life" and we, as baptized Christian need to live as though we believe that to be utterly true. Our salvation comes not through performing works of the Law, or propitiating an angry deity but from faith in Christ. Therefore Christ has to be at the center of our lives, at the heart of everything that we do, both as a Church and as individuals.
The faith to which are committed as Anglicans is revealed in the Scriptures - both Old and New Testament - taught by the ancient Fathers, and defined by the seven Ecumenical Councils of the Church. That faith ultimately is nothing less than God's revelation of Himself to humanity. However, these ancient Fathers and Councils are not independent authorities to Scripture, but expositors of God's Holy Word. We now live some two thousand years after Christ, and we are far removed from the original cultural context of the Gospel. Yet what His Word tells us is what we need to teach, what we need to live by, and what we need to pass on to the next generation.
This desire to learn, live and pass on the faith should be at the center of our lives as Christians, because whatever denominational label we carry, we need to first and foremost carry the name of Christian. We are born again of water and the Holy Ghost in baptism, and that effects a change in the character of our souls; and we have, as it were the mark of Christ upon us. In confirmation we affirm that commitment that was made in our name at our baptism - we renounce the Devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the word, profess our faith, and commit ourselves to be soldiers and servants of Christ, and, through His grace alone, to work against sin, and for the Kingdom of God. We are strengthened for that task through the Scriptures, the Sacraments, Prayer, and Good Works; and we should keep our eyes fixed upon Christ, the author and finisher of our faith.
As Anglicans we also need to pursue the integrity of our tradition.
There was a time back in the eighteenth century when the Anglican clergy were the stupor mundi - the wonder of the world for their learning. Berkeley gets its name from the great eighteenth century Anglo-Irish philosopher-bishop, George Berkeley of Cloyne, whose form of Positivism was very influential in Anglican circles in the mid-1700s. I very much doubt he would approve of the philosophy taught in his name sake city today, and that bankruptcy of our academic tradition is something that has negatively affected the Anglican Church in this country! John Kaye, who was Bishop of Lincoln in the 1820s and 30s got his bishopric in part for producing the standard English translation and a critical edition of the works of St Justin Martyr. This seems to me a far better reason for being made a bishop than being able to tick all the right PC boxes, which seems to be what gets you to the top in so many denominations today.
What I am trying to say is that the integrity of the Anglican tradition lies upon good scholarship. Back in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries scholars honestly endeavored to discover the traditions of the Early Church in belief and Worship. The Anglican Reformation, although influenced by Luther, Melancthon, Bucer, Calvin, and others, always looked beyond the contemporary reform movements back to the Early Church, the Church of the first seven centuries. This influenced its liturgy and organisation, as well as helping to drive the scholarly tradition that was so much part of the old Anglicanism.
We also have to be aware that after 450 years our church has a tradition and an integrity of its own. I find too many Anglicans are a bit too self-conscious about their Anglicanism and look over their shoulders at what the Roman Catholics, the Orthodox, or the "Methobapticostals" are up to. This seems to me foolishness - especially in view of what I have said about the Church needing to look unto Christ as the author and finisher of the Faith. Anglicans are Catholic without being Roman; Reformed without being Puritan; and Evangelical without falling for the semi-Pelagianism of Revivalism. Our safe place, our identity very largely derives from a doctrinal commitment to the faith of the Church as revealed by Christ and explained by the Ancient Fathers and Councils, and the 'worshiping form' given to that theological commitment by the Book of Common Prayer.
There is a major need today, especially when so many new Anglicans, and even new Anglican priests have come from other traditions to educate them thoroughly. Every diocese and ever parish needs to have programs of education not just for those entering Holy Orders, but also for lay readers and for the laity themselves. In order to propagate the Gospel, we need, as a church, an active and educated laity.
This talk of Education brings me to my 'E' - Evangelism.
Anglicans, like some Presbyterians, have a reputation for being God's frozen chosen. Evangelism is usually something that Anglicans know they should be doing, and have a guilty conscience about, but when it comes to doing anything - zip, nada, nothing! Well, perhaps an advertisement in the paper on Christmas and Easter. The was a time when we got away with this quite well - brand name and the fact that we were decent and none too demanding carried us along nicely, as evidenced by the year on year growth of the 1920s, 30s 40s, and 50s. The old Episcopal Church peaked in 1963 with a membership of 3.4 million. Since then, there has been considerable shrinkage. I believe the current number is somewhere around 2.6 million and falling, and of those about 850,000 gets themselves through the door with reasonable regularity on a Sunday. The fact of the matter is that no-one has to go to Church anymore - Walmart is open! A large element in the media, and in political life look down on those with a traditional Christian faith as being narrow, bigoted, and backwards. There are very, very few positive images of Christians on TV, and the cultural Left in this country seems to be engaged in a Kulturkampf against the Church. Yet despite all this preaching from the TV of a new humanity, which does not need the old moral restraints, man's basic problems of how to be at peace with God and with himself still remain. The moral battleground today is marriage, which the secular progressive wish to reinterpret away from its tradition ends of the procreation of children, the avoidance of sin, and the mutual help and society of a man and a woman such as is laid down in Scripture beginning with Genesis into some sort of a free for all based on the concept that only erotic love is important. I am taking bets on whether it will be a Unitarian or an Episcopalian minister that performs the first human-animal marriage. What is evident is that most of the mainstream church's have ducked out of maintaining traditional doctrine, tradition morality, and evangelism, and in many respects have co-opted themselves as handmaids of the new Paganism.
If I were to ask you which is the largest province of the Anglican Communion I am sure that many of you would answer England. Up until a few years ago that would have been correct. With 26,000,000 baptized (most of whom never darken the doors) the Church of England was the biggest Church in the Anglican Communion. However, they have been surpassed - can anyone tell me who by?
(voice off - Nigeria)
That's right - Nigeria. The last time I checked there were 26.4 million Nigerian Anglicans, against 25.8 million English, and what is more to the point most of those Nigerian Anglicans are in church on a Sunday, not down the English version of Lowe's or Home Depot. Why is the Church in Nigeria - or for that matter Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, or Rwanda - so successful? They have the commitment to Christ, and the Integrity that I spoke of earlier. And besides this they Evangelize. American Episcopalians and Anglicans have a bad habit of saying that evangelism is the clergy's function - but it is not. IT IS EVERY CHRISTIAN'S RESPONSIBILITY. Every member of the Church needs to be an Evangelist. Everyone of us has to have that commitment, that desire to bring folks into the Church. That way our churches will grow and more importantly more people will be committed to Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour.
One thing we need to realize is that the mission field is no longer Africa, India, Korea, but here. The mission field starts two inches outside of that door. American Christianity is widespread right now, but it is not very deep; hence the success of the non-denominational mega-church with its feel good worship and soundbite preaching. American Evangelical Christianity is ripe for a collapse, and who will succeed it - Islam? Socialism - that great secular religion? Or will the old churches come back again?
The whole church needs to commit to outreach and Evangelism in the new American Mission field. The best news of all though is that it does not involve you preaching on street corners, or dishing out tracts, or knocking on the doors of strangers. We simply need to take to heart something that the Bishops of the Anglican Church of Nigeria say is the foundation of their growth. It involves a very simple commitment that every member of the Church bring one new person to church each year, and then mentor them for three years - 1 + 1 + 3. Imagine what that could do in your parish 30 become 60, then 120, then you have to start thinking about planting a new Church. We need that sort of growth not just to grow but to survive and become a living and vital force, preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ in this country.
That brings me back to my C - I - E.
We need to be, as Continuing Anglicans
Committed to Christ; be faithful to our Anglican Integrity; and Evangelize. If we commit ourselves to be this, and do this, then the Church will grow, and Christ will be Glorified.
St. Matthew's Anglican Church (UECNA), Rogers, AR, where I attended Mass this morning. (My wife and I are here in NW AR visiting relatives.) A wonderful bunch of people led by a wonderful priest, Fr. Jerry Ellington. May God continue to bless Continuing Anglicanism in Northwest Arkansas through this parish.
Metropolitan Jonah is the presiding hierarch of the Orthodox Church in America, the outpost of English-speaking Slavic Orthodoxy in the United States. His Beatitude has been an ecumenical advisor to the newly-formed Anglican Church in North America, delivering a speech to the ACNA at its first general assembly in 2009, and again last week at its second general assembly in Ridgecrest, NC. The text of his address can be read here at Virtue Online (VO).
There is a substantial contingent of Orthodox Christians who comment in the VO comboxes, especially when the subject is Eastern Orthodoxy or when, as here, one of their leaders is given the spotlight. Typically, however, what they have to say annoys me a tad, as it is commonly characterized by the triumphalism and parochialism for which the Orthodox have unfortunately become legendary. Sometimes that triumphalism and parochialism is veiled by a well-meant ecumenical bonhomie on their part, but in my estimation it is always thinly veiled. Maybe this is because I spent 13 years in the Orthodox Church and know the mindset well, and am therefore aware of convert-fishing when it occurs . Anyway, here's a section from His Beatitude's address that elicted a response from me, which I post in its entirety below:
I would remind you that the root and foundation of the Church of England is not "Roman" but rather, the broader Orthodox Catholicism that prevailed until the Roman Church began massive changes in the Second Millennium. The English Church was a local Orthodox Catholic Church in communion with Rome and the rest of the Churches for most of the first millennium. Part of the English, and even continental, Reformation was intended to bring the Church back to its original roots, free from the changes that occurred during the isolation of the Western Church in the Dark Ages and Middle Ages. The Orthodox see the Reformation as having gone awry, and reinforced the very elements that made the Western Churches' theological positions idiosyncratic, thus isolating it even more from Orthodoxy.
My hope is that we can roll this back. You have the opportunity to return your Church to its original heritage, and thus actualize the rich inheritance of English Orthodox Catholicism, in communion with its root tradition. This means the overcoming of generations of schism, a schism which was forced on the English Church, and then a perpetual state of schism for itself and the churches established by it in its colonies and missions. This needs to be healed.
The ecumenical hope is to overcome the schisms of the West, so that the English and Roman Churches can again take their place within the communion of the One Orthodox Catholic Church. You have an immense role and opportunity within this. Removing the filioque is not simply a nice gesture of ecumenical solidarity; it is, rather, an affirmation of the ancient faith of the Undivided Church.
And my response in the combox:
Having re-read the text of Met. Jonah's address to the recent ACNA assembly, I am compelled to make an additional comment or two. I do so as one who spent 13 years in the Orthodox Church before he found his true Catholic home in Traditional Anglicanism.
There is a subtle insinuation in His Beatitude's address that, prior to the Roman power grab, English Catholics were part of the "Orthodox Catholic Church" (emphasis on upper case "O"). Nothing is said about the fact that the term "Orthodoxy" has long meant *Eastern* Orthodoxy, with all the cultural, liturgical and theological baggage that goes with it. But English Catholics were never "Orthodox" in that sense. They weren't -- and aren't -- cultural Easterners, they never prayed the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, and their theology was formed by Western influences, especially by the Latin tradition, which modern Eastern Orthodox spokesmen routinely excoriate.
Moreover, the bishops of the English Catholic Church were of course *English* bishops who prayed a Western Rite. If English Catholicism is to be restored in the Anglican Churches, then English Bishops -- not bishops of the AOCA, or the OCA, or the GOA, or the ROCOR -- will govern our churches. An English parish praying the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom -- or the so-called Liturgy of St. Tikhon for that matter -- under an Orthodox bishop from the East is not an "English Catholic" Church at all, but an "Orthodox" Church in England. A foreign transplant, in other words.
Having spent the time that I did in the Eastern Orthodox Church, I know enough about the mentality there to know that His Beatitude and his supporters here are not so much interested in a restoration of English Catholicism as they are in fishing for converts. Those who do not have the experience that people like me have need merely read between the lines of everything that is being said here by the Orthodox: they aren't interested in Anglicanism; they're interested in "Making America (and the rest of the West) Orthodox", to cite the title of a book written by convert to Eastern Orthodoxy Fr. Peter Gillquist.
As for the Reformation, I take notice of the fact that Met. Jonah said, "The Orthodox see the Reformation as having gone awry, and reinforced the very elements that made the Western Churches' theological positions idiosyncratic, thus isolating it even more from Orthodoxy." But, as one Lutheran critic notes, "the Orthodox tend to make no distinction between a snake-handling Pentecostal and a confessional Lutheran, thereby only displaying their ignorance of the heritage of the Christian West after the Reformation." We see this same tendency, I think, in Met. Jonah's statement here. Unfortunately, he doesn't distinguish the English Reformation from the Continental Reformation(s), but rather lumps them all together as one "Reformation", and indeed as one that went "awry."
Not for His Beatitude, apparently, is the fact that the English Reformation was the most conservative and Catholic of them all, so much so that the Anglican Church was able to take a dramatic Catholic turn a mere 200 or so years later in the form of the Oxford Movement, whose influence is still felt greatly in Anglicanism today.
More importantly, however, to write off the Reformation -- and especially the English Reformation -- is to write off the intent of a church to get back in touch with its *apostolic (which is to say biblical) and patristic roots*. As Fr. Wells implies above, this is something the Orthodox Church could stand to do itself. This is because the Orthodox Church suffers from the same essential soteriological pathology that afflicts Rome, which, as one astute analyst puts it, is this:
"The genius of the Protestant Reformation is the recognition that, during the Middle Ages, "ecclesial creep" in both the Western and Eastern portions of the Church had for all practical intents and purposes replaced Old-Law works righteousness with a new works righteousness based on the respective "New Law" of the West (the Penance-Merits-Purgation-Indulgences doctrinal phalanx) and of the East (the imposition of the Monastic Typicon upon the laity).
Furthermore, . . . the formularies of classical Anglicanism did a better job of retaining the wheat of the orthodox catholicism of the ancient Church while jettisoning the chaff of innovative medieval accretion than did any other segment of the Reformation. This is why Anglicanism can, perhaps uniquely, lay equal claim to the appellations Protestant and Catholic and affirm both without any sense of inconsistency or incoherence. Indeed, strictly speaking, in proper understanding of each term, to truly be one, you must be both."
No, Your Beatitude, along with our native bishops, our Western liturgy and our distinctive theological tradition, we will keep our conservative Reformation, holding with the Early Church Fathers that every church teaching and practice which stands in opposition to the Bible is subject to reform. My experience in the Orthodox Church leads me to conclude that Orthodoxy is not the slightest bit interested in reform of this nature. More's the pity.
See my article here at OJC, For Evangelicals and Others Considering Eastern Orthodoxy.
A statement from a former metropolitan of the Anglican Catholic Church, M. Dean Stephens:
Just What is Faith in Christ, Anyway?
A message from the Most Rev. M. Dean Stephens, Metropolitan of the Anglican Catholic Church and Archbishop Ordinary of the Diocese of New Orleans, reprinted from The Trinitarian,
Volume XV, No. 1, February, 1996.
If I were to ask you, "Do you have faith in Christ," how would you answer? Some of you would answer in the affirmative with a resounding "yes". Others might answer, "I'm not sure that I have any faith." Still others would respond by saying, "Is it possible to know if one has faith in Christ? What is faith anyway?"
The question about faith in Christ is of the utmost importance because the Bible says that, "Nor is there salvation in any other; for there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved" [Acts 4:12]. God has appointed one man, the man Christ Jesus in whom we must be saved. There is no other name or revelation that God has given mankind which will save us from the judgment to come or give life full meaning now. But what a glorious name, the name of our Lord Jesus!
Gabriel, the Angel of the Annunciation, told the Virgin Mary that the child to be conceived in her womb by the Holy Spirit was to be called Jesus, which means -- "God is Help," or more succinctly, "Captain of our Salvation." Jesus is the beginning and the end of our salvation. He is, in himself, the guarantee that we shall be saved if we believe in Him. Romans 10:9 tells us, "That if you will confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved."
But you say: "What does it mean ïto have faith,to believe? That’s a question that many have wrestled with. When, as a young teenager, I heard that I was to believe in Christ to be saved, I questioned in my own heart as to whether I had faith to believe in Christ as Saviour. Was my faith strong enough to save me? Was it real faith?
The word "believe" in today's language has changed and does not fully convey its full meaning of "trust" as it did a century or two ago. To "believe" actually means "to commit oneself to, to trust, cling to, or rely on." Today, in this latter part of the 20th century, you may "believe" something to be true, but not necessarily act upon that belief. Let me give you two simple examples.
We all know that if a person stands in the middle of a busy highway that he will be hit by oncoming traffic if he doesnÍt move. We all believe that to be a true statement of fact. However, the person may not act upon that belief and remove himself from harm. In that case, we all know what will happen. It is possible to believe something to be true but yet not act upon its truth.
A second example is of a person who is sick and will die if the right medicine isn't administered. If that medicine is available, the patient may "believe" that the medicine will save, him, but he must also act and take the medicine to be healed. You see, there has to be an act of the will to decide to take the medicine. The same holds true in the spiritual realm. The "medicine of salvation" has been provided in the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. We can be saved if we respond in faith to Christ's invitation to believe on Him.
Some years ago, the story was told of a missionary who was translating the Bible into the language of a certain tribe. He couldn't seem to find just the right word to describe what it means to "believe" on Christ. One day, as he was struggling to translate John 3:16, a man appeared at this door to talk about this new faith with the missionary. As they talked, the missionary asked his new convert what he thought was the best way to translate the word "believe" into his own language. The man thought for a moment and said: "I think the best way to describe the word "believe" would be to say, "to sit down." Puzzled, the missionary asked him to explain. He replied, "you are sitting on a chair. Therefore, you must believe the chair will hold you." The missionary translator caught his meaning and quickly translated John 3:16 as follows: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever sits down on (believes on) Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
Isn't that the true meaning of faith, to place the weight of our soul's eternal destiny upon Christ? In other words, true faith relies upon the promise of Christ that He will save us if we entrust our soul to Him. Just as a drowning man needs to entrust himself to the lifeguard to be rescued, so we too must lie still in the arms of Christ, not trying to save ourselves, but trusting Him to do the work of saving us.
Dear reader, have you entrusted your soul's eternal destiny to the Lord Jesus Christ? I said above that it is possible to believe something is true, but not act upon it. It is the same with our eternal salvation. Many believe in their minds that Jesus is Lord but do not act upon that belief. There must come a time, in each of our lives when we make the decision to ask the Lord to save us and take Christ into our lives. Have you done that? Why not do it now and pray the following prayer with faith:
Lord Jesus, I have sinned and have not lived my life for you and I ask you to come into my heart and forgive my sins. I believe that you died on the cross to save me and I ask you to make me your child. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus! I believe your promise that if I would trust in you that you would save me. I now commit my life to you. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for hearing my prayer. Amen.
If you meant that prayer from the bottom of your heart, God has heard you. Jesus said: "The one who comes to me I will by no means cast out" [John 6:37]. In other words, if you come to Christ, He will not turn you away. He must keep His word for God cannot lie. You can be assured that our Lord will keep His word and cleanse you from every sin and make you His child.
Having taken this step, the step of following Christ, don't try to do it alone. Come and join us. . . (in the church), where the strength of fellowship with others will help sustain you in your new faith.
If you have not been baptized, speak to the priest about it. Jesus said: "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved" [Mark 16:16]. If you are a church member but have been lax in following Christ, renew your baptismal vows today and enter into that personal relationship with Him.
Consecration of Damien Mead as the Bishop of the Anglican Catholic Church's (ACC) Diocese of the United Kingdom, and consecration of the Anglican Church of the Epiphany (ACC) by The Rt. Rev. Denver Presley Hutchens, retired Bishop Ordinary of the Diocese of New Orleans and presently Episcopal Visitor and Vicar Capitular to the Diocese of the Holy Trinity.
The answer to that question depends upon whom you ask. There are Calvinistic Anglicans who, pointing to a term commonly used to describe Anglicanism, "Reformed Catholicism", place the emphasis on "Reformed" and will correctly note the role the Swiss Reformation played in the thinking of Anglicanism's original divines, such as Thomas Cranmer. These Anglicans tend to be found in "low church" denominations such as the Reformed Episcopal Church and in the Evangelical wing of the Church of England. Anglo-Catholics on the other hand play down the Reformation, play up the late Caroline, Oxford and Ritualist Movements and stress the Anglican tradition's medieval Catholic roots. The "Old High Churchman" curses both camps and celebrates high Catholic ritual and Catholic church order while at the same time owning the Protestant roots of the Church of England and her daughters throughout the world. Old High Churchmen tend to be Arminian (though not in the exact way the Remonstrants were Arminian), but there have been Calvinists among them, such as Archbishop of Canterbury John Whitgift.
Certain Anglican writers have mentioned the "Pelagian" tendency of the British people (Pelagius himself was from the British Isles), and it shows up in Anglicanism, rather paradoxically, in both the conservative High Church/Anglo-Catholic types on the one hand and liberal Anglican Protestants on the other. Anglican theologian C.B. Moss notes, for instance:
(Pelagianism) is very attractive to the ordinary man of independent will and common-sense religion and morals; and particularly to the Englishman. Probably 90 per cent of the English laity (that is, practising members of Christian congregations) are unconscious Pelagians. (The Christian Faith: An Introduction to Dogmatic Theology, p.155)
Theologian W. Taylor Stevenson agrees:
While it may be of very limited historical import, it is certainly appropriate that the only heresy associated traditionally with Britain is that of the British (or Irish) monk Pelagius (active 410-418) who argued that the individual, apart from divine grace, makes the initial and fundamental steps toward salvation. That is a practical, a 'sensible' idea. It is more significant historically, and quite in keeping with the English ethos, that English piety and theology has had a an earnest Pelagian flavour extending from the Puritanism of the seventeenth century through the Evangelical movements of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. ("Lex Orandi - Lex Credendi", The Study of Anglicanism, p. 192)
One often hears the argument from Old High Churchmen and Anglo-Catholics that since "God gave us free will" and desires all men to be saved, Christians become Christians by an act of their will as they respond positively to the Gospel, and likewise persevere as Christians by an exercise of holy volition (or not persevere, as the case may be, by an exercise of unholy volition). C.S. Lewis can be cited as one notable individual who held to this view.
The rub, of course, is that to the extent that such a belief is Pelagian, it is heretical. Pelagianism was condemned not just at the local Council of Carthage in 418, but at the ecumenical Council of Ephesus in 431 as well. Anti-predestinarianism did not suddenly evaporate, however, and a view later arose that avoided certain fundamental teachings of Pelagius while maintaining the free will doctrine. This view is called Semipelagianism, and while it was condemned at the Second Council of Orange in 529, it was never condemned at an ecumenical council, as Pelagianism was. Moreover, anti-Augustinianism (of which Semipelagianism is one variety) remained prevalent in the East and in some places in the West, so the free will doctrine survived intact as a fundamental Christian theologoumenon in much of the church.
But even the anti-predestinarian Old High Churchman Moss sees a continuing danger here. Quoting N.P. Williams, he writes (parenthetical comments mine):
Pelagianism is "fundamentally irreligious, so far as it tends to destroy in the heart of man the feeling of childlike dependence on his Maker" (presumably a reference to man's salvation). We have not got the unlimited power of free will asserted by Pelagius; man is weaker and more vicious than that sheltered monk knew (to which the Augustinian and the Calvinist say, "Amen"). The discoveries of Freud (and others), even though we accept them with great qualifications, at least show that there are vast depths of evil in the subconscious mind of man, of which he is usually quite unaware (to which the Augustinian and Calvinist again say, "Amen"). (The Christian Faith, p.155)
Does it follow from any of this, however, that the Augustinian or the Calvinist systems must be accepted. Only Calvinistic Anglicans would say that it does. Most traditional Anglicans would not say so, however. The only things they must say are that 1) Pelagianism is heretical and 2) the notion that the human will is situated neutrally between good and evil and therefore is always perfectly and arbitrarily free to choose one or the other is both empirically suspect and lacks clear scriptural support.
Moss affirms, correctly in my view, that "antinomy" marks much of what is affirmed theologically in the Bible. An antinomy is an apparent paradox, "two sides, which cannot be fully reconciled by reason." (The Christian Faith, p. 49.) While I personally lean Augustinian as do many Anglicans, I do so because I think Augustine's theology more accurately reflects the soteriology of the New Testament, and especially Pauline soteriology. In a nutshell, that soteriology is this: we do not become Christians, or stay Christians, due to our own power. God must graciously make us Christians, which is to say that faith is a gift, not something we exercise naturally. Our coming to faith in Christ is quite supernatural, actually. Some representative texts from St. Paul (bolded emphases mine):
And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; herein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Eph. 2:1-10, KJV)
Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13, KJV)
And St. Augustine's favorite text:
. . . and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it? (I Cor. 4:7, KJV)
However, I am unwilling to draw certain of the same conclusions Augustine and some of his followers (especially the Calvinists) did. It is quite clear from the New Testament, against the Calvinists and against certain things that even Augustine seemed to say concerning the limited scope of the atonement, that Christ died for all men and that God therefore wills the salvation of all men. But that does not commit me to a Pelagian, Semipelagian or Semipelagian-like conclusion that God has given all men free will (defined as an uncaused cause of human behavior) and looks nervously down from heaven to see who among these "all" will take Him up on his offer and who will not. There very well may be other theological options.
However, it's a difficult theological area to be sure. Ignoring the phenomenon of antinomy in the Bible and accordingly trying to boil down rationally the predestinarian or the voluntarist theology tends to land us in trouble. But that doesn't mean we don't have a clear choice to make. Augustine scholar Gerald Bonner summarizes the argument of the Anglo-Catholic theologian J.B. Mozley (again, bolded emphasis mine):
In a study of Augustinian predestination first published in 1855, J.B Mozley, brother-in-law of John Henry Newman and later Canon of Christ Church, Oxford, and Regius Professor of Divinity, theologically orthodox but fair-minded and aware of the limitations of the human intellect, noted the ideas of Divine Power and human free will, while sufficiently clear for the purposes of practical religion, are, in this world, truths from which we cannot derive definite and absolute systems. "All that we build upon either of them must partake of the imperfect nature of the premise which supports it, and be held under a reserve of consistency with a counter conclusion from the opposite truth." The Pelagian and Augustinian systems both arise upon partial and exclusive bases. Mozley held that while both systems were at fault, the Augustinian offends in carrying certain religious ideas to an excess, whereas the Pelagian offends against the first principles of religion: "Pelagianism . . . offends against the first principles of piety, and opposes the great religious instincts and ideas of mankind. It. . . tampers with the sense of sin. . . . (Augustine's) doctrine of the Fall, the doctrine of Grace, and the doctrine of the Atonement are grounded in the instincts of mankind." (Freedom and Necessity: St. Augustine's Teaching on Divine Power and Human Freedom)
In other words, to paraphrase Mozley, it is better to err in the direction of St. Augustine than Pelagius. Augustine is a saint and Doctor of the Church, and widely regarded to be the greatest of all the Church Fathers; Pelagius is a heretic and the Semipelagians have been more or less judged by the Church to be the bearers of errant doctrine. Augustine points us to the hope of grace, Pelagius to the hopelessness of free will and works salvation. Augustine, following St. Paul, taught that the will was not free without grace, and even then needed the constant assistance of God's grace to choose daily to live the Christian life. Salvation is not by works, but grace. If anything is clear from the New Testament, it is that. But we must be careful about what conclusions we draw from all this. Most Anglicans are thus careful, and so when they are asked whether traditional Anglicanism is Calvinist or Arminian, they will answer with a deliberate and clear "yes."
That's our story, and we're sticking to it.
Ergo: the potential Evangelical convert to traditional Anglicanism who happens to be on the Reformed side of things should not be put off by Anglican anti-predestiniarianism. The Augustinian (and in some churches, the Calvinist) doctrines of grace are held by a goodly number of Anglicans. Whether the anti-predestinarian Anglicans want to admit it or not, Augustinian soteriology is an acceptable theologoumenon in the Continuing Anglican Church, just as it is in the Roman Catholic Church. And the Arminian Evangelical who joins Anglicanism will be welcomed with many open arms, including those of old St. Clive himself.
9/28/14 Update: See my comments about Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy here.
A sizable number of Evangelicals who, having come to the same conclusions as did Fr. Doug (see entry below, How I Got There: An Evangelical Converts to Anglicanism), have opted to convert to Eastern Orthodoxy rather than to Roman Catholicism or Traditional Anglicanism. One can read the literature produced by converts for the standard panegyric about how these Evangelicals "came home" to "the ancient Christian church". Your blogger the Embryo Parson was one of them. I spent approximately 13 years in the Orthodox Church, and I can assure you that most of these folks were smitten with romantic notions about the Orthodox Church church that bear little relation to reality. I could go into great detail about why I left, but I will confine myself here to four principal reasons.
1. Creeping liberalism. Here is an account from a Lutheran blog that refers to an article written by Orthodox academic and priest Gregory Jensen, who frankly admits the problem:
According to Fr Gregory Jensen, an academic and priest of the 'Orthodox Church in America' (the denomination with Russian immigrant origins that former Lutheran scholar Jaroslav Pelikan joined) Eastern Orthodoxy in North America on the ground - as opposed to how it appears from behind the rose-coloured spectacles of prospective Protestant converts - is rapidly becoming as liberal as the Protestant mainline churches many of those converts are fleeing. So much so that he says the Orthodox Church in all its ethnic branches in the US looks increasingly like 'the Eastern-Rite Mainline'.*
How so? Support for abortion and gay marriage runs disturbingly high among the laity, politicians of Orthodox background publicly support positions which stand in stark contradiction to the Church's moral teaching and priests are 'not effectively communicating the [Christian] moral tradition', thus surrendering the laity to the forces of secularisation and cultural barbarism. Not to mention, and Fr Gregory doesn't, but anyone who keeps a 'weather eye' on the Orthodox Church will know, that the various sexual and financial scandals among the Orthodox hierarchy in the US have clearly demoralised many of the devout clergy and laity.**
Part of the solution, Fr Gregory avers, is for the Orthodox in the West to draw upon the riches of the Western Christian tradition, specifically the Catholic tradition's 'partnership of faith and reason, natural law, and the objective and universal character of Christian morality'. I think he's an insightful and brave man for saying this, because most articulate Orthodox - especially Western converts - that I have come across have a strong animus against the Christian West, with Augustine being their favourite whipping boy. In their eyes the great North African Father is to blame not only for Roman Catholicism but also, by way of reaction, for Luther and hence 'Protestantism' (and in speaking about 'Protestantism' the Orthodox tend to make no distinction between a snake-handling Pentecostal and a confessional Lutheran, thereby only displaying their ignorance of the heritage of the Christian West after the Reformation). But, surely, without a sympathetic Orthodox engagement with Augustine - and indeed with Luther - there is unlikely to be any significant rapprochement between Orthodoxy and the Christian West beyond the usual glad-handing at ecumenical gatherings.
I would also respectfully suggest to Fr Gregory that he not overlook what can be learned from the experience of those confessional churches of the Reformation which have taken a different path from their liberal Protestant cousins. A big part of Orthodoxy's problems, in my view, stem from the reality that it is not actually a 'confessional' church, but a 'big tent' church. The question for Orthodoxy now is just how big is its tent, given that they now have their own vocal and prominent proponents for recognition of the right to abortion, women's ordination and even revision of the church's teaching on homosexuality?
Finally, I think we are witnessing yet another confirmation of Dr Sasse's prescient observation of 50 or so years ago that in the modern world all the great Christian communions will face the same theological problems, without exception. The obvious moral for small 'o' orthodox Western Christians in all of this - especially Lutherans - who might think that Constantinople offers a safe haven from the destructive winds of modernism that have wrought such havoc in our own churches, is to look before you leap into the Bosphorus.
Fr Jensen's reflection can be found here
Ergo, the Orthodox Church is slowly but surely beginning to experiencing a process of liberalization, what I call "Episcopalianization", though it is happily well behind the Episcopalianization of the Church of Rome and especially the Anglican Communion in this regard. Slowly but surely it is aping the liberal Protestant "mainline." Though it is still very conservative theologically, there is much turmoil beneath the surface that is associated with the activity of liberals, and the Evangelical convert can't miss it. I certainly didn't. (More from Fr. Jensen. See also Gene Veith's article Changes In The Orthodox Church.)
2. Virulent anti-Western mentality. The Orthodox are openly hostile to just about everything Western. Any Evangelical who hopes to retain something of the Western theological framework in which he learned about his faith will be quickly disappointed in that hope if he enters the Orthodox Church. David B. Hart, an Orthodox theologian and brother of our own Anglican Catholic priest Fr. Robert Hart, says this about it:
The most damaging consequence . . . of Orthodoxy’s twentieth-century pilgrimage ad fontes—and this is no small irony, given the ecumenical possibilities that opened up all along the way—has been an increase in the intensity of Eastern theology’s anti-Western polemic. Or, rather, an increase in the confidence with which such polemic is uttered. Nor is this only a problem for ecumenism: the anti-Western passion (or, frankly, paranoia) of Lossky and his followers has on occasion led to rather severe distortions of Eastern theology. More to the point here, though, it has made intelligent interpretations of Western Christian theology (which are so very necessary) apparently almost impossible for Orthodox thinkers. Neo-patristic Orthodox scholarship has usually gone hand in hand with some of the most excruciatingly inaccurate treatments of Western theologians that one could imagine—which, quite apart form the harm they do to the collective acuity of Orthodox Christians, can become a source of considerable embarrassment when they fall into the hands of Western scholars who actually know something of the figures that Orthodox scholars choose to caluminiate. When one repairs to modern Orthodox texts, one is almost certain to encounter some wild mischaracterization of one or another Western author; and four figures enjoy a special eminence in Orthodox polemics: Augustine, Anselm, Thomas Aquinas, and John of the Cross.
3. Essentially Eastern European. The Orthodox Churches tend to be Eastern European or Middle Eastern cultural outposts. While they welcome converts from Western countries, the latter never really quite fit in. One person commenting over at the Stumble Inn writes:
Eastern Orthodoxy is a gigantic Eastern culture club. They have a saying for a sort of mania new converts (of the generic Anglo/Celtic/German-American variety) get - Convertitis. Basically it's marked by a) aggressive appropriation of your parish's ethnic culture, b) rabid defense of your theology. The second one is just the excitement of finding something you believe to be true - it's an altruistic sort of joy with unintended negative consequences that go away over time.
The first one is a survival/assimilation technique that is pretty much necessary when one finds himself surrounded by Russians, or Greeks, or Arabs... Bulgarians, Romanians, Ukrainians, Serbians, Georgians, Albanians and 20 different varieties of each. There's nothing else. If you walk into an Orthodox church as an old stock American, you simply don't belong there. You're out of your league. You have to make yourself belong - and it's difficult.
If not impossible.
What's more, the potential convert to Eastern Orthodoxy who leans Western should not place much hope in the Orthodox Western Rite, which was created only fairly recently in the hopes of snagging Anglican Communion Anglicans and Roman Catholics who left their respective communions over the liberalism, modernism, etc. infecting those bodies. There is intense hostility from "world Orthodoxy" toward the handful of Western Rite parishes that have been established in the West, rendering the future of their Western liturgies questionable. Orthodox author Fr. John Morris admitted as much to me in a combox discussion at the Anglican news and discussion site Virtue Online:
Whether or not the Western Rite has a future within Orthodoxy is a matter of the will of God. If it is God’s will that the Western Rite of the Orthodox Church grow and prosper, it will grow and prosper. The Western Rite is an effort to restore something that was lost through the Romanization and subsequent Protestantism of the Church in England. . . .
Since the vast majority of Orthodox follow the Byzantine Rite, it is to be expected that many find the Western Rite difficult to accept. I believe that is a good thing, because it shows that Orthodox Christians take their beliefs seriously and do not want anything to compromise those beliefs. More than anything else Orthodox define and express their Faith through their worship. Even a person who has no theological education cannot accept worship that does not feel right. I consider that good because this more than anything else preserves the integrity of our Church. It is also a testimony that Orthodox believe that it is essential to reject anything that compromises our beliefs.
Underlying your argument seems to be the idea that the Byzantine Rite is too foreign for Americans. That is an idea that I must reject. The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is universal and rises above ethnic considerations. It is a perfect expression of the Orthodox Faith. I and thousands of Americans have found a home within the Byzantine Rite. When I stand before the Holy Table and pray the prayers of the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, I feel the power of the Holy Spirit. For that reason, I reject the argument that the Byzantine Rite is too foreign for Americans.
Fr. John went on in that discussion to say why he supports the Western Rite, something he is expected to do as a priest of the Antiochian jurisdiction, which is the main Orthodox jurisdiction of two or three that have allowed the Western rite, but his qualifying remarks are all too clear: 1) whether or not the Western Rite survives in the Orthodox Church "is a matter of the will of God" (not to mention the will of a sea of hostile Orthodox bishops); and 2) any convert to Orthodoxy ought to be able to accept the Byzantine Rite: "It is a perfect expression of the Orthodox Faith." Unlike the Western Rite, which as Fr. John says in the discussion only " preserves the best of Anglicanism" and is merely "an effort to restore something that was lost through the Romanization and subsequent Protestantism of the Church in England." Talk about damning with faint praise. So, Evangelicals thinking about converting to Orthodoxy because a Western Rite exists for them ought to understand the big picture. I once had a long conversation with a priest who is one of the principals in American Western Rite Orthodoxy. He was very worried about its future. The Orthodox are cultural Easterners and consequently they tend to disparage almost everything Western, including Western liturgies.
4. Soteriological weaknesses. While we should certainly be grateful to the Greek Church Fathers for the triadology and christology that became the basis of the Creed, they were not so orthodox when it came to an issue that would come to bear upon the question of soteriology, or salvation:
Part of the fascination of the patristic era to the scholar lies in the efforts of its theologians to express an essentially Hebraic gospel in a Hellenistic milieu: the delights of patristic scholarship must not, however, be permitted to divert our attention from the suspicion voiced by the Liberal school in the last century - that Christ's teaching was seriously compromised by the Hellenism of its earlier adherents. The history of the development of the Christian doctrine of justification lends support to such a suspicion. In particular, it can be shown that two major distortions were introduced into the corpus of traditional belief within the eastern church at a very early stage, and were subsequently transferred to the emerging western theological tradition. These are:
1. The introduction of the non-biblical, secular Stoic concept of autoexousia or liberum arbitrium in the articulation of the human response to the divine initiative in justification.
2. The implicit equation of tsedaqa, dikaiosune and iustitia, linked with the particular association of the Latin meritum noted earlier (p.15), inevitably suggested a correlation between human moral effort and justification within the western church.
The subsequent development of the western theological tradition, particularly since the time of Augustine, has shown a reaction against both these earlier distortions, and may be regarded as an attempt to recover a more biblically orientated approach to the question of justification. . . .
The emerging patristic understanding of such matters as predestination, grace and free will is somewhat confused, and would remain so until controversy forced full discussion of the issue upon the church. Indeed, by the end of the fourth century, the Greek fathers had formulated a teaching on human free will based upon philosophical rather than biblical foundations. Standing in the great Platonic tradition, heavily influenced by Philo, and reacting against the fatalisms of their day, they taught that man was utterly free in his choice of good or evil. . . . (Alister McGrath, Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification, Vol. I, pp.18-19. Emphases mine.)
This sub-biblical notion of free will would later inform the heresies of Pelagianism and Semipelagianism, and would also result in a soteriology in the East that would put a greater stress on theosis - sanctification - than on the atonement, that is on what we do subjectively to accomplish our salvation than on what God has done objectively to accomplish it. Accordingly, Orthodox theology is deficient in its understanding of just how the atonement relates to sanctification. One need only listen to the narrative of this video to see an example of the man-centered nature of theosis. Note the repeated use of "I", "me" and "my". I call this the "Little-Christian-Who-Could" model. There is nothing in this video about what God did to effect man's salvation, aside from a brief and vague reference to the destruction of sin and death at the beginning of the narrative.
Because the Orthodox reject the Augustinian view of original sin, and by implication the Pauline teaching on the inability of man to save himself, and because the Orthodox still labor under pagan notions about "free will", their soteriology suffers. Frs. Hart and Wells discuss this deficiency at the Continuum, here and here.
Evangelicals are Westerners (and Pauline-Augustinians generally speaking), and **if** they come to a point where they believe they simply must be Catholics, then the Western Catholic tradition is where they'll more naturally fit in. That essentially means Rome or Anglo-Catholicism. I say "**if**". Evangelicals who really can't quite give up the Evangelical ethos have no business considering Orthodoxy, because at the end of the day Orthodoxy has no room for Evangelicalsim. If you're an Evangelical who continues to believe that Luther was essentially right about justification, the primacy of Scripture, etc., but are drawn to the historic church and its liturgical worship, then your true options are basically traditional Anglicanism or traditional Lutheranism.
Now, I've said some rather strong things here about the Orthodox Church, so let me try to end on a more conciliatory note. Despite my criticisms, I have nothing but fondness for the many people I left behind in the Orthodox Church. Many of them are exemplary Christians, and what they lack in their willingness to accommodate fully to Western culture they make up for in their devotion to kith and kin, something that puts many of us individualist Americans to shame. When I once mentioned this to the Greek-American husband of my wife's sponsor, he responded sadly, "Yes, that is your loss." He simply couldn't imagine the atomism that marked my family and so many others here in North America.
Secondly, Orthodox spirituality takes sanctification seriously. While my prayer is that the Orthodox Church will revisit its views about the atonement, free will and grace, I can only commend them for their highly developed theology of the Holy Spirit and theosis, which we here in the West do not fully appreciate.
And of course, who can find fault with Orthodoxy's thrice-gorgeous Eastern rite? If you've never attended the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom in an Orthodox Church, I strongly encourage you to do so. (Just please don't convert because of liturgical aestheticism. ;) ) Furthermore, aside from the fact that the Creed's triadology reflects the theology of great Eastern Church Fathers such as St. Athanasius and the Cappadocians, Orthodox scholarship has contributed much that is of value in the areas of ecclesiology, sacramentology and ascetic theology.
It is my great hope that Orthodoxy will stave off the threat of liberalism in its midst and will experience a change of heart and mind about the West, taking seriously what Orthodox thinkers such as David Hart have written on the matter. Most importantly, it is my hope that the Orthodox Church, as it re-examines its assessment of the West, will begin to think more carefully about the nature of the atonement and the biblical doctrines of grace, for these are key.
(See related discussion here and especially the linked Virtue Online article. The combox discussion there between Orthodox apologist Fr. John Morris, myself, and others is worthy of note.)
It’s been said that a paradigm shift occurs for one of three reasons: 1) a crisis situation; 2) an influential individual; or, 3) an overload of information. When I became an Anglican, all three of these influenced my decision.
In 1989 I graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary (ThM) and became the pastor of a Bible Church in North Dallas. At that time, I knew nothing of Phillip Schaff and his subtle diagnosis of American Protestantism.
"Tendencies, which had found no political room to unfold themselves in other lands, wrought here without restraint. Every theological vagabond and peddler may drive here his bungling trade, without passport or license, and sell his false ware at pleasure. What is to come of such confusion is not now to be seen (The Principle of Protestantism, Phillip Schaff, 1844)."
One hundred-forty-five years after Schaff penned those prescient lines, I not only saw what he predicted, I experienced it. When I entered the pastorate my priorities were to teach God’s Word and to shepherd God’s people, but the congregation that called me was a loose confederacy with no system of doctrine to galvanize it. In addition, its growing number of programs demanded an administrator, not a preacher.
During this pensive season, I lingered over the Protestant visage. I read her magazines and journals. I listened to her music. I watched her television programs. I wasn’t a participant, but a curious observer.
What I witnessed still baffles me. Her children lumbered to Weigh Down and bought t-shirts emblazoned with, "Food Cannot Meet My Needs." They loaded onto busses and headed to Promise Keepers where they cried and vowed to burn their Swim Suit edition of Sports Illustrated. Then they spent the night on the sidewalk to be the first in line to purchase The Prayer of Jabez, a book that promised to change their lives.
From where I was standing, much of the Protestant Church looked like a lab rat in a maze, frenetically searching for the next, new experience. Its appetite was insatiable. Nothing satisfied. Nothing lasted. Nothing remained the same. It couldn’t remain the same, or its children would get bored and boredom was a sin.
I was on a journey, and the Protestant path had led me to a wasteland where God was trivialized and His Church was marginalized. I remember writing in my journal, struggling to describe the shift that was taking place inside of me. From the walls of my study, the ink portraits of Hodge, Calvin, and Edwards watched quietly.
But they had no answers.
My heart was hungry for something more than barren sanctuaries, long lectures, and prayers during worship that were made up on the spot and for the most part were bereft of serious forethought, Scripture and theology.
A. W. Tozer, a respected Evangelical of the earlier part of this century wrote the following. "We of the non-liturgical churches tend to look with disdain upon those churches that follow a carefully prescribed form of service . . . The liturgical service is at least beautiful; ours is often ugly. Theirs has been carefully worked out through the centuries to capture as much of the beauty as possible and to preserve a spirit of reverence among worshipers. Ours is often an off-the-cuff makeshift with nothing to recommend it. In the majority of our meetings there is scarcely a trace of reverent thought, no recognition of the unity of the body, little sense of the divine Presence, no moment of stillness, no solemnity, no wonder, no holy fear." (God Tells the Man That Cares, A.W. Tozer)
And this is what my heart craved - the solemnity, stillness and wonder described by Tozer. I was searching for serious worship and a sacramental life that would immerse me in the life of the Holy Trinity.
It was during this period that I asked myself, "Is my faith something I invented? Or, is it the faith of the prophets, the apostles, the Early Church Fathers and the martyrs? How can I know?"
It dawned on me that I was sitting in judgment of the historic Church. I had annointed myself the final arbiter of what was orthodox doctrine and worship. I alone had decided what I would believe and how I would worship. I was shocked to find that I looked a whole lot like the folks I had been watching!
In 1990 my children were baptized and my family became Anglican.
After last week’s post, I received an email from a friend, who wanted to know why I converted to Anglicanism. He pointed out that my post didn’t explain my reasons for ambling down the Canterbury Trail. Here is an edited copy of my response to him. Proverbs 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
Thank you for your response to last week’s blog post, “How I got Here from There: My Conversion to Anglicanism.” Your queries caused me to pause and ponder again the beauty of Anglicanism and how God drew me to her. You didn’t ask for a lengthy explanation like this. In fact, you asked to visit over coffee, or scotch – an offer I still plan to take you up on.
I wrote this for two reasons. First, I wanted to revisit and savor what happened to me 20 years ago. Second, I’m a firm believer in writing’s ability to sharpen wooly headed thinking.
You mentioned in your email that twenty years ago there was a mass migration from what you call “Word based” worship into more reverent, sacramental worship. You are spot on. Robert Webber chronicles this exodus in his book, Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail. In Evangelical is not Enough, author Thomas Howard articulates why these people left. As best as I can tell, their departure wasn’t an emotional reaction brought on by an unbridled desire for aesthetics. Instead, these people wanted worship that conformed to the heavenly pattern of Revelation 5-7.
In your email you asked why I became an Anglican. I may have unintentionally mislead you in my original blog post by intimating that irreverent worship was the reason I left my roots. In fact, that is not true. My reasons for converting to Anglicanism were many.
In the early 90’s I was looking for a church that valued the Scriptures. I found it. Anglicans read (present tense) from the Old Testament, New Testament and Psalter each day during Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer. Its Lord’s Day worship includes lengthy readings from the Prophets, the Psalter, the Epistles, and the Gospels.
A perusal of the 1662 and 1928 editions of the Book of Common Prayer reveals that the Scriptures are woven into the warp and woof of every service and office. It’s been estimated that upwards to 75% of the Prayer Book is either a direct quote or accurate summary of Scripture.
During worship, Anglicans pray the Word, chant the Word, hear the Word, and eat the Word. In short, Anglican worship is saturated with the Word.
So, this is the first reason I’m an Anglican and not a Lutheran, Roman Catholic, or Presbyterian. In my estimation, Anglicanism is unsurpassed in its appreciation of Scripture.
A second reason I converted to Anglicanism is that the Anglican ethos is pastoral. Now, that’s more than a mere slogan. It’s a truth that springs from the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion.
When you have a moment, read through the Articles of Religion. You’ll notice that they take up a few pages at the back of the Prayer Book. There’s a good reason for this. The Articles of Religion outline the Christian faith in broad brush strokes, so as to create a sheepfold for all who believe the Creeds, the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments.
You’ll also find that the Thirty-Nine Articles sound as if they were written by a pastor. In fact, Article XVII was penned with a genuine concern for how people might respond to the doctrine of election. Also, couched within the Article is a pastoral admonition regarding an improper preoccupation with the doctrine of predestination.
All of that to say this - I gravitated toward Anglicanism because of its pastoral ethos, its culture of incarnational theology that vivifies truth in worship and ministry. The Ordinal of the Book of Common Prayer (1549) further illustrates this. In the past Anglican parishes were often called “Cures,” and priests were referred to as “Physicians,” who administered the “Medicine of Immortality.” Hence, when a priest was ordained, the Bishop said:
Have in remembrance into how high a dignity and to how weighty an office and charge ye are called: that is to say, to be the messenger, the watchmen, the pastor and the steward of the Lord; to teach, and to premonish, to feed and provide for His children in the midst of this naughty world, that they may be saved through Christ forever. . .
See that you never cease your labour, your care and diligence, until you have done all that lieth in you, according to your bounden duty, to bring all such as are or shall be committed to your charge, unto that agreement in the faith and knowledge of God, and to that ripeness and perfectness of age in Christ, that there be no place left among you, either for error, or viciousness of life.
Mark the incarnational and relational images. The priest is a father and the parishioners are his children. He is responsible for raising and nuturing them.
The poet-priest, George Herbert wrote the following about the pastoral culture of Anglicanism. “The country parson is not only a Father to his flock, but also professeth himself thoroughly of the opinion, carrying it about with him as fully as if he had begot his whole parish. For by this means, when any sins, he hateth him not as an officer, but pities him as a Father.”
Another reason I became an Anglican is that my study of the Scriptures and Church history convinced me that both the Word and the Sacraments are vital to worship. So, in my estimation, it’s ill advised to bifurcate between the two. It has been my experience that when false distinctions like that are made, pastors become imbalanced and to do things like preach 87 messages on John 3:16 and to spend three years expounding the Ten Commandments. It seems to me, that kind of lopsidedness feeds the Gnostic idea that worship is primarily mental. When I jumped off the Protestant ship, I was searching for worship that encompassed both the physical and the mental, the Word and Sacrament, the kind of worship found in the Book of Common Prayer.
My reasons for converting to Anglicanism are almost too numerous to number. I suppose I could cite five or six more critical issues that prompted my conversion, including Anglicanism’s historic episcopacy, and its time-tested model of spiritual formation.
I trust this note has answered your questions.
by The Rev. Dr. Tory Baucum, Rector, Truro Church
Luther was once asked how he started the Reformation. In his characteristic florid style, Luther replied, “I did not start the reformation. All I did was preach the word of God and drink beer. The Word of God did the reforming.”
Similarly, Dr. Otto Piper of Princeton Seminary once admonished his students in this way:
We make a mistake when we think that Luther and Calvin produced the Reformation. What produced the Reformation was that Luther studied the Word of God. And as he studied it, it began to explode in him. And when it began to explode inside him he did not know any better than to let it loose on Germany. The same was true of Calvin. The tragedy of the Reformation was that when Luther and Calvin died, Melanchthon and Beza edited their works. And so all the Lutherans began to read the Bible to find Luther and all the Calvinists read the Bible to find Calvin. And the great corruption was on its way. Do you know there is enough undiscovered truth in the Bible to produce a Reformation and evangelical Awakening in every generation, if we only expose ourselves to it until it explodes in us and we let it loose?
Anglicanism shares in this larger movement of reform. It began as an indigenous reform movement of the 15th and 16th centuries that was let loose by Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer, but was co-opted by a politically opportunistic King (something, of course, that never happens in our age!).
Despite this checkered beginning, Anglicanism remains a reform movement within the larger body of Western Christendom. In subsequent centuries it has spawned smaller reform movements such as the Wesleyan revival in the 18th century, the Oxford movement in the 19th century and most recently the Alpha movement in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
Each of these Anglican renewal movements has three defining doctrinal emphases, which together constitute the full power of Christian salvation: original sin (everyone needs a Savior, not just a coach), justifying grace (such a Savior and His salvation has been given to us without our merit) and sanctifying grace (the salvation that is offered to us is transformational, not merely transactional. That is, it must be personally and continually appropriated). The surface differences between Methodism, the Oxford movement and Alpha should not obscure this shared Anglican doctrinal DNA.
Like the other Protestant reformers, Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer, was a Catholic who yearned to see the Medieval Church reformed according to these three-fold emphases. The Church of England, like the Reformation churches in Europe, was simply an attempt to re-Christianize Christendom by reintroducing to the Church the full power of Christian salvation.
The reformer’s goal was making new Christians, not Cranmerians nor even Lutherans or Calvinists. Where the various Reformation Churches differed was in the strategy and tactics they employed to achieve this common goal of re-Christianization.
Somewhere else, I have explained the relationship between Anglicanism and the Reformation Churches:
Anglicanism was an indigenous reform movement which shared many features of the Continental reformation: gospel liberty, biblical literacy and ecclesiastical downsizing. At its early stages, the reform was a synthesis of Erasmus’ strategy of learning and Bucer’s concern for parish-based discipline, both of which were grafted onto Luther’s rediscovery of justification by faith as the root transaction between God and humans. This discovery of Luther was due, in part, to his rediscovery of Augustine’s doctrine of grace…A variety of scholars were stimulated to a new perception of Augustine by the first scholarly printed edition of his work which began to appear in the late 15th century. The impact of this discovery cannot be overemphasized.
This common patrimony in Augustine is an essential part of our Church’s identity. In his 1562 defense of Anglicanism, “Apology of the Church of England,” John Jewel relied extensively on the Fathers but quoted St. Augustine far more than any other Father of the Church to make his case. We Anglicans highly esteem the Bible as the Word of God, the norm of Christian faith, but we Anglicans also know the Bible cannot be read in a vacuum.
Everyone reads the Bible from some standpoint or tradition. Anglicans acknowledge, up front, that we read the Bible through the lens of the early Church. And Augustine was the epitome of the early Church. It is not an overstatement to say that Anglicans are essentially reformed Augustinians, keeping original sin, grace and sanctification as the integrating touchstones of our doctrine of salvation.
This reformist character of Anglicanism - defined by its Augustinian interplay of original sin, grace and sanctification - not only outlines our historical beginnings, but also illumines how modern Anglicanism “got off the rails” in North America.
The Episcopal Church spawned two quasi-theological movements in the past two centuries: Liberalism in the 19th century and the Charismatic renewal in the 20th century. Unfortunately, neither Liberalism nor Charismatic renewal rotated entirely around this Anglican theological universe.
Liberalism upheld grace, but neglected (and sometimes outright denied) original sin and sanctification. The Charismatic renewal upheld original sin and sanctification, but often neglected grace (especially in its justifying phase). Each generated its own constellation of theological shooting stars but neither illuminated the full power of salvation. Thus, neither was evangelistically fruitful.
American Christendom was not re-Christianized by the Episcopal Church. I believe the new Province of Anglicanism must appropriate the theological heritage outlined above in order to fulfill its full redemptive potential. American Christendom needs to be re-Christianized. At our best, we Anglicans are a reformed and reforming movement of Catholic Christians, devoted to the historic faith and practice of the early church.
We possess both a form (sacramental Christianity) and meaning (evangelical Christianity) that speaks to the anomie in the post-modern American soul. It is now time to thoughtfully reengage the Word of God until that Word explodes in us and we simply “let it loose” in North America. If we do, I would not be surprised to see the next Great Awakening emerge from within our communion of Churches.