We deny to claim "any Superiority to ourself
to defyne, decyde, or determyn any Article or Poynt
of the Christian Fayth and Relligion,
or to chang any Ancient Ceremony of the Church
from the Forme before received and observed
by the Catholick and Apostolick Church."

Norman Simplicity

Norman Simplicity
Click image for original | © Vitrearum (Allan Barton)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The torpedo

I keep running across sites such as this one. I certainly understand the appeal of a rigorous theology. But I just don't see it where they seem to think it lies. But before you yell at me, here is someone else:

Augustinian Theology and Early Anglicanism

Early Anglican history was a "tug-of-war" between those who wanted a more "Catholic" type of church and one who wanted a more "Reformed" one. The 39 Articles are imbued with Augustinian-Reformed thinking (and, yes, we’re of the mind that, if you don’t accept the 39 Articles, you’re not a real Anglican.) But then there’s Article XVI:

NOT every deadly sin willingly committed after Baptism is sin against the Holy Ghost, and unpardonable. Wherefore the grant of repentance is not to be denied to such as fall into sin after Baptism. After we have received the Holy Ghost, we may depart from grace given and fall into sin, and by the grace of God we may arise again and amend our lives. And therefore they are to be condemned, which say they can no more sin as long as they live here, or deny the place of forgiveness to such as truly repent.

This article is a product of the experience of the early church. Before Constantine, baptism was strictly for adults who made a profession of faith (those "of riper years," as the 1662 Prayer Book would say) and underwent a catechumenate, or period of instruction and repentance. Committing serious sin after baptism resulted in serious penance or excommuniciation. Constantine himself was aware of this: he and his spiritual advisor, Eusebius of Caesarea, had no problem with delaying his baptism until shortly before his death, to avoid those penalties. As we said earlier, the ante-Nicene church (at least) had always allowed the possibility of falling away after baptism, a baptism which followed a conversion experience.

That having been said, Article XVI torpedoes a straight-up Augustinian-Reformed theological framework for the Anglican. Any admission that one can lose one’s salvation for any reason once one is elect (and knows it, another feature of Lutheranism is the matter of assurance) breaks the whole Reformed paradigm.

It took a century and a half, but it was John Wesley who finally connected the dots on this issue with his decidedly Arminian view of election and his emphasis on sanctification as a subsequent work of the Holy Spirit. But same emphasis had already been anticipated by John Jewel:

Besides, though we say we have no meed [reward] at all by our own works and deeds, but appoint all the means of our salvation to be in Christ alone, yet say we not that for this cause men ought to live loosely and dissolutely; nor that it is enough for a Christian to be baptized only and to believe; as though there were nothing else required at his hand. For true faith is lively and can in no wise be idle. Thus therefore teach we the people that God hath called us, not to follow riot and wantonness, but, as Paul saith, “unto good works to walk in them”; that God hath plucked us out “from the power of darkness, to serve the living God,” to cut away all the remnants of sin, and “to work our salvation in fear and trembling”; that it may appear how that the Spirit of sanctification is in our bodies and that Christ himself doth dwell in our hearts. (from An Apology of the Church of England.)


Fr. Novak:

Article XVI, "Of Sin after Baptism," says that a man who has received the Holy Ghost and fallen into sin may rise again: "After we have received the Holy Ghost, we may depart from grace given, and fall into sin, and by the grace of God we may arise again, and amend our lives." This article contradicts the Calvinist teaching on Irresistible Grace and the Perseverance of the Saints. Calvinism would say that should we fall into sin after we have received the Holy Ghost we "will arise again," rather than "may arise again;" and denies that Christians "may depart from grace given." In fact, "In 1572 the Puritans addressed certain admonitions to Parliament complaining of the inadequacy of the Articles and their dangerous speaking about falling from grace" (A Theological Introduction to the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England, E. J. Bicknell, D.D., 1935, p. 21) ...

If the Articles are Calvinist, then why such strong and consistent opposition for so long? If Anglicanism is really "Calvinist," then why have Calvinists opposed not only the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, but its Liturgy and Episcopal Church Order as well? And, if Anglicanism is really Calvinist, then why did the Puritans completely replace the Articles, Prayer book and Episcopal Order of the Church as soon as they had the opportunity after the Great Rebellion and the crime of regicide? The answer is that the Articles of Religion were written to guide the Church of England through the controversies of the Reformation and back to the Faith and practice of the primitive Church; and that the Anglican Church is not a Protestant denomination but a branch of the Catholic Church, unhappily divided from the wider Church by accidents of history.

How should the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion be interpreted? The Church gives us an authoritative answer to this question. In 1571, the same year that the Articles were adopted by Convocation, Canon 5, "On Preachers," was also adopted. Canon 5 says, "But especially shall they see to it that they teach nothing in the way of a sermon which they would have religiously held and believed by the people save what is agreeable to the teaching of the Old and New Testament and what the Catholic Fathers and ancient bishops and doctors have collected from this selfsame doctrine." This canon is clearly grounded in the Commonitorium of St. Vincent of Lerins.

The Thirty-nine Articles are not, and were never intended to be, a Confession of Faith like the Continental Protestant Confessions. The Anglican Church is a creedal Church, not a confessional denomination. As Bishop John Pearson (1612-1686) said, the book of Articles "is not, nor is pretended to be, a complete body of divinity, or a comprehension and explication of all Christian doctrines necessary to be taught: but an enumeration of some truths, which upon and since the Reformation have been denied by some persons: who upon denial are thought unfit to have any cure of souls in this Church or realm; because they might by their opinions either infect their flock with error or else disturb the Church with schism or the realm with sedition" (cited in Bicknell, p. 22).


Fr. Hart:

No more useful book has been produced for modern Anglicans than E.J. Bicknell’s work on the Thirty-Nine Articles. A good reading of this book should dispel any notion that Anglicanism was a gutless compromise meant to appease everybody. If the facts are brought out into the light of day, we will see the very opposite: Anglicanism was a brave endeavor to stand for truth against pressure from all sides. For example, Bicknell uses a line from Article XVI to demonstrate that the Church of England refused to teach a doctrine that gave in to outside pressure, in this case to a precept of Calvinism. The Anglican Article says: “After we have received the Holy Ghost, we may depart from grace given and fall into sin, and by the grace of God we may arise again and amend our lives.” Bicknell points out that the Calvinists insisted on a stronger teaching, namely that everyone who is among the elect will, unavoidably, arise again and amend his life; to say they “may arise”-which means also that they may not- flatly contradicts what Calvinists believed about election. This is not merely theoretical, for Bicknell points out that English Calvinists resisted the publication of this Article, and failed ...

The English Church established a carefully maintained balance between Rome, Calvinism, Lutheranism, and Zwinglianism, criticizing and rejecting various ideas in each of these systems. This in turn kept the Anglicans in a state of at least some amount of opposition to everybody all the time. Each of these camps saw the Church of England as accepting error by adopting or maintaining some of the ideas and practices of Rome, or some of those belonging to Calvin, or some of those belonging to Luther, but never to the satisfaction of loyalists in any of those parties. At one point, the most extreme group of the Calvinist camp, Cromwell’s Puritans, made war on the Church of England as well as on the Crown; executing the king, finally, for refusing to abolish episcopacy, before turning their wrath on the Archbishop of Canterbury. William Laud was executed by means of a Bill passed by Parliament, for they had nothing, in the way of a criminal charge, of which to convict him. The King and the Archbishop suffered religious persecution because they were loyal Anglicans ...

They [the Anglican divines] were not weak and lacking in substance, needing to draw strength from the outside. Rather, they were strong enough to deal honestly and seriously with outside influences, all the while resisting the pressure to conform. The strength of Anglicanism, as it emerged, was in its strength to be both Catholic and Evangelical in a way that was entirely unique. And that is Anglican Identity. For this reason I have, with some measure of humor, proposed on the blog, The Continuum, that we adopt a mascot for genuine Anglicanism. That mascot is not the chameleon, but the Duck-billed Platypus. About the example set by this brave little nonconformist animal, I have written on our blog: “He bravely defies all simplistic categories, such as mammal or bird, Catholic or Protestant. He just is.”

1 comment:

  1. I have commented on the argument of this posting on the comment thread here: