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Archive for the ‘Reason’ Category

From the newly discovered Conciliar Anglican:

Classical Anglicanism is minimalistic about all of this. The 39 Articles are fairly clear on several points: that salvation comes through Christ alone, that justification is by faith alone, that works above and beyond our duty to God do not add to our salvation. These points are further elucidated by the Catechism, which moves from law to grace, assuring the cathecumen that he or she cannot fulfill God’s call to live a holy life by will power. In all of this, Anglicanism is consistently Protestant.

And yet, there is little official mention of sanctification. The articles make positive statements about the sacraments as means of grace, that they are “not only badges and tokens” but “effectual signs of grace” through which God “works invisibly within us” (Article XXV). This certainly implies an ongoing need for sanctification, but it doesn’t spell out why or how such a thing should take place, nor does it relate the topic back to justification. The liturgies of the Prayer Book reveal a similar emphasis, highlighting justification, acknowledging sanctification, but without making explicit how exactly we are to think about the whole thing.

The result of this lack of specification has been that Anglicans have often looked elsewhere for their soteriology. John Henry Newman attempted to harmonize justification by faith with the Council of Trent, which remains the approach of some Anglo-Catholics today, though Newman himself eventually found such an approach lacking. John Wesley, of course, took a unique approach which remains alive in Methodism. A large number of modern Anglicans, particularly in Africa, subscribe to a Pentecostal view. The Lutheran view is espoused by contemporary Anglican Evangelicals like Paul Zahl and Alister McGrath. FitzSimons Allison tends more towards the Reformed approach. Even the Eastern Orthodox view of salvation as theosis has had its Anglican proponents through the ages, most notably Charles Chapman Grafton and Michael Ramsey.

Since Anglicanism has never pronounced definitively on this topic, all of these approaches are acceptable. This doesn’t mean that they’re all correct, but merely that one cannot be deemed outside the bounds of the tradition so long as one holds a plausible rendering of justification by faith and an unswerving conviction in the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as savior. The rest remains unsettled, not because Anglicanism is wishy-washy on this topic, but rather because one of the hallmarks of the Anglican approach to theology is a strong reluctance to say anything definitively that wasn’t said definitively by the early Church. The Anglican Reformers were willing to commit to justification by faith because it seemed to them to be plain in the reading of scripture and not in contradiction with the Fathers. But they were not agreed upon anything more, and to insist upon something that is so clearly unsettled is to invite schism and heresy.

Salvation, the Sacraments, and the Church

I would agree with the Anglican Reformers that an absolute dogma on the topic of sanctification is unwarranted when the Church exists, as she does today, in a state of disunity and disarray. We are all in schism. Novel pronouncements only serve to deepen the divide and further damage the Body of Christ. Nevertheless, there are implications to be drawn from the mind of the undivided Church on this matter. The focus of the Fathers upon the divinity and humanity of Christ is not just about our understanding of who Jesus is but also about our understanding of who we are in relation to Him. The creeds are not explicit about the nature of the atonement, and yet they do insist on belief in “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.” The nature and purpose of the Church was a very important topic for the Fathers, just as it is in scripture. Any orthodox notion of salvation, therefore, must make reference back to the Church as the chief means through which Christ’s work on the cross is realized. We are not saved merely as individuals. We are saved through our participation in Christ’s sacrifice by being drawn up into His Body, the Church, as Paul makes clear in any number of places. Indeed, Romans 6, which is a primary text for Luther and for Calvin, speaks explicitly of the death of the old body so that we might be brought into the new life of Christ. That new life is made manifest in the new Body. “Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God” (Romans 7:5).

Furthermore, while there is great latitude in how Anglicans may come to understand the sacraments, our formularies make clear that the sacraments are a means of grace and not merely symbols. As such, while we cannot necessarily say much definitively about how salvation works, we can say boldly, with the full backing of scripture and the Fathers, that the sacraments are a chief means by which saving grace is imparted to us. There is a reticence in pan-Anglican conversation to make too much out of the sacraments, for fear that such talk might unsettle those of a low church persuasion. But a firm conviction about the place of the sacraments in salvation does not necessitate a rejection of justification by faith alone, nor does it behold a person to believe in transubstantiation or any other way of understanding how Christ’s presence in the sacraments is actualized. Nevertheless, it does necessitate putting aside the strange and novel idea that Anglicans have ever believed that the sacraments were simply memorialist ordinances that have no value in and of themselves. Classical Anglicanism understood just what the early Church understood, that Baptism and the Eucharist are means by which God gives Himself to us, that we cannot be united to the Body of Christ unless we are incorporated into the Body of Christ, and we cannot be incorporated into the Body of Christ unless we are willing to receive the Body of Christ when it is tangibly, wholly, beautifully offered to us.

 

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There is something which unites magic and applied science [=technology] while separating both from the “wisdom” of earlier ages.  For the wise men of old the cardinal problem had been how to conform the soul to reality, and the solution had been knowledge, self-discipline, and virtue.  For magic and applied science alike the problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of men; the solution is a technique.  — C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man,

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From Anglicans Online:

The beliefs of Anglicans can be considered quite diverse. The official standard is the Book of Common Prayer but some parts of that book are more clearly doctrinal than others. The Catechism of the Episcopal Church USA summarizes the faith in question-and-answer format.

The ecumenical creeds, both Nicene and Apostles, are used by the Anglican Communion in its worship day by day and week by week. They are ancient and universal statements of Christian faith. In addition, many Anglican churches follow ancient tradition and include the Athanasian Creed among their statements of faith.

The Diocese of Texas offers an ‘Anglican primer’ online, and you might like to look at the sections on Scripture, tradition, and reason in the church; the Book of Common Prayer; the Sacraments; the Creeds; and ‘being Episcopalian’. This latter section is directed particularly to people in the USA wondering about the Episcopal Church.

Another very important ancient statement of faith is the Chalcedonian formula, which defined the limits of Christological orthodoxy.

The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral describes the general ecumenical principles of Anglicans.

The Thirty-Nine Articles were important at the Reformation, but are less so today.

The BBC World Service has produced a Basic Christianity web page that is well done, though not specifically Anglican.

A Beginner’s Guide to the Anglican Church. You’ll find the basics of Christian belief, Anglican understanding, what happens in church, and a brief glossary of terms. The Beginner’s Guide is from the Church of St John the Evangelist, Roslyn, New Zealand, but is general enough to be useful throughout the communion.

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If Easter makes any sense at all, it makes sense within something much more like the classic Jewish worldview: heaven and earth are neither the same thing, nor a long way removed from one another, but they overlap and interlock mysteriously in a number of ways; and the God who made both heaven and earth is at work from within the world as well as from without, sharing the pain of the world – indeed, taking its full weight upon his own shoulders. From this point of view, as the Eastern Orthodox churches have always emphasized, when Jesus rose again, God’s whole new creation emerged from the tomb, introducing a world full of new potential and possibility. Indeed, precisely because part of that new possibility is for human beings to be revived and renewed, the resurrection of Jesus does not leave us passive, helpless spectators. We find ourselves lifted up, set on our feet, given new breath in our lungs, and commissioned to go and make new creation happen in the world.

— NT Wright in Surprised by Hope

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From Into the Expectation (by way of Byzantine Anglo-Catholic):

Among other things, Anglican Christianity is:

Biblically Focused
“The Holy Ghost rides most triumphantly in his own chariot [i.e., Scripture].”
– Thomas Manton (1620-1677)

“The first [proposition] is this: If we believe in God at all, it is absurd and impious to imagine that we can find him out by our own reason, without his being first active in revealing himself to us. Therefore all our discovery of him is his self-manifestation, and all rational theology is revealed theology.”
– Austin Farrer (1904-1968)

Rooted in Tradition
Recognizing that the Holy Spirit’s inspiration is not limited to scripture, Anglican Christianity looks to a broader foundation:

“One canon reduced to writing by God himself, two testaments, three creeds, four general councils, five centuries, and the series of Fathers in that period – the centuries that is, before Constantine, and two after, determine the boundary of our faith.”
– Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626)

Reasonable
However hobbled by human sin, reason is an essential means of understanding what God has revealed to us:

“Faith is not a bird of prey sent by God to peck out the eyes of [humans].”
– Nathaniel Culverwel (1619-1651)

“And this is the second proposition: If God does reveal himself to us, we cannot acknowledge or master what he reveals without the use of reason. Therefore all his self-manifestation is also our discovery of him, and all revealed theology is rational theology.”
– Austen Farrer

Centered in Worship and Prayer
Anglicans do theology “to the sound of church bells, for that is what Christian theology really is all about – worshipping God the Savior through Jesus Christ in the theology of the apostolic age.”
– Michael Ramsey (1904-1988), Anglican Spirit

Sacramental
“Christ said ‘this is my body.’ He did not say ‘this is my body in this way’. We are in agreement with you as to the end; the whole controversy is as to the method. As to the ‘This’, we hold with firm faith that it is. As to the ‘this is in this way’, (namely by the Transubstantiation of the bread into the body), as to the method whereby it happens that it is, by means of In or With or Under or By transition there is no word expressed [in Scripture]. And because there is no word, we rightly make it not of faith; we place it perhaps among the theories of the school, but not among the articles of the faith…We believe no less than you that the presence is real. Concerning the method of the presence, we define nothing rashly, and I add, we do not anxiously inquire, any more than how the blood of Christ washes us in Baptism, any more than how the human and divine natures are united in one Person in the Incarnation of Christ.”
– Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626) Response to Cardinal Bellarmine

“The Eucharist demonstrates that material reality can become charged with Jesus’ life, and so proclaimed hope for the whole world of matter….The matter of the Eucharist, carrying the presence of the risen Jesus, can only be a sign of life, of triumph over the death of exclusion and isolation…If the Eucharist is a sign of the ultimate Lordship of Jesus, his ‘freedom’ to unite to himself the whole material order as a symbol of grace, it speaks of creation itself, and the place of Jesus in creation.”
– Rowan Williams (1950- ), Resurrection: Interpreting the Easter Gospel
(The last two quotes via The Byzantine Anglo-Catholic)

Catholic and Protestant/Evangelical
“Our special character and, as we believe, our peculiar contribution to the Universal Church, arises from the fact that owing to historic circumstances, we have been enabled to combine in our one fellowship the traditional Faith and Order of the Catholic Church with that immediacy of approach to God through Christ to which the Evangelical Churches especially bear witness, and freedom of intellectual inquiry, whereby the correlation of the Christian revelation and advancing knowledge is constantly effected.”
– William Temple (1881-1944), Encyclical, Lambeth 1930
(via Contemplative Vernacular)

Liberally Catholic and Generously Orthodox
Anglican Christianity seeks to embody a liberal catholicity/generous orthodoxy – Catholic/orthodox in its commitment to the consensus of the first centuries as expressed in the early councils and the creeds. It is, as Charles Gore wrote, “conspicuously orthodox on the great fundamentals of the Trinity and the Incarnation. [Anglicanism] accepts the ecumenical councils as criteria of heresy.” It is liberal/generous in its ability to reexamine how that consensus is applied in concrete historical contexts: “. . . . standing ready with the whole treasury of Christian truth unimpaired to meet the demands which a new age makes upon it with its new developments of character and circumstance.”

Avoids the extremes “represented by a dogmatism that crushes instead of quickening the reason of the individual, making it purely passive and acquiescent, and on the other hand by an unrestrained development of the individual judgment which becomes eccentric and lawless just because it is unrestrained.”
– Charles Gore (1852-1932), Roman Catholic Claims

Passionate, but Patient
Anglican Christianity is characterized by what Rowan Williams calls a “passionate patience” that is reticent to declare too handily exactly how God is to defined or to presume too easily to know what God desires in all instances. Continuing with Williams, “There is in the Anglican identity a strong element of awareness of the tragic, of the dark night and the frustration of theory and order by the strangeness of God’s work.” [ . . . ] “The result is a mixture of poetry, reticence, humility before mystery, local loyalties and painful self-scrutinies.”
– Rowan Williams, Anglican Identities

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Doctrine is nothing other than the attempt of rational believers to make sense of every aspect of their experience of Jesus Christ. If conversion involves the mind as well as the soul, doctrine is its inevitable outcome, as the believer brings his or her mind to bear on the implications of faith. To be a thinking Christian is to be aware of the need for, and importance of, doctrine.

Doctrine thus attempts to make explicit the implicit assumptions of faith. For example, faith believes that we have been saved through Jesus Christ; doctrine asserts that this belief implies that Jesus must be both God and man if this is to be possible. Doctrine is basically the outcome of taking rational trouble over the mysteries of faith. To prohibit this rational reflection in order to develop a ‘Christianity without doctrine’ is to deny Christians the right to think about their faith. Doctrinal reflection is the product of a passionate search for truth, combining intellectual curiosity and honesty.

To be concerned about doctrine is not to be obsessed with petty matters; it is to be aware of the enormous responsibility placed upon us, as we try to grasp exactly what God is like, and what that might entail for our hearts and minds. Doctrine matters because God matters – and because we matter to God. If God has taken so much trouble to enter into our pathetic and sinful world, the very least we can do is to be attentive to him. Doctrine is the outcome of a caring and committed attentiveness on our part to God telling us about himself.

Only a fool would imagine that doctrine pretends to state exhaustively everything about God in the form of human words. But words are the only means at our disposal to tell others about God, and about his nature and purposes. That means we must get those words right. It means taking care to use words responsibly. Doctrine aims to assist our talk about God, guiding us as we try to explain the gospel to outsiders, or gain a deeper understanding of it ourselves, or think through its implications for our society. To those who mutter darkly about doctrine getting in the way of the real business of life, it may be said that doctrine does not preclude, but informs, action. It forces us to think through what sort of action is most in line with the patterns God himself has set us, in the person of Jesus Christ and in the testimony of scripture. As church history makes painfully clear, not all the actions of the church merit the name ‘Christian’. Doctrine aims to ensure that our actions do. There is far more to Christianity than doctrine. The Puritan slogan ‘truth in life’ has much to commend it. Doctrine affects life. It determines values, and thus actions. It is like the bones which give strength and shape to the human body. It is like the steel rods which reinforce concrete structures. Without doctrine, faith becomes shapeless, weak and vulnerable. Doctrine addresses, interprets and transforms human experience, in order that a dynamic, living and resilient faith may result. Doctrine inside the head is an irrelevance; life without doctrine is an impossibility-Doctrine and life complement each other – and are meant to complement each other. The doctrine of a loving God who became incarnate in his world gives rise to loving people, who aim to serve God in that same world. The doctrine of the forgiveness of our sins gives birth to a forgiving people, just as the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead brings into being a people of hope, who know their final destiny lies outside this world. Doctrine enables God’s story to express itself in our story, and transform it.

Read it all here.

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Stanley Hauerwas, Gilber T. Rowe professor of Theological Ethics at Duke Divinity School and communicant at Holy Family Episcopal Church in North Carolina, gave this lecture on America’s God recently at Church of the Incarnation in Dallas.  This is an excerpt:

…the church believes that we are creatures of a good God who has storied us through engrafting us to the people of Israel through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Christians do not believe we get to choose our story, but rather we discover that God has called us to participate in a story not of our own making. That is why we are called into the church, as well as why we are called “Christian.” A church so formed cannot help but be a challenge to a social order built on the contrary presumption that I get to make my life up…

…I love America and I love being an American. The energy of Americans, the ability to hew out lives often in unforgiving land, the natural generosity of Americans, I cherish. But I am a Christian. I cannot avoid the reality that American Christianity has been less than it should have been just to the extent that the church has failed to make clear that America’s god is not the God we worship as Christians. If I am right that we are now facing the end of Protestantism, hopefully that will leave the church in America in a position with nothing to lose. When you have nothing to lose all you have left is the truth. So I am hopeful that God may yet make the Church faithful even in America.

Read it all here.

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