Using affirmative terms, I would suggest that “the point of Christianity” is to make people fit to live in heaven, to be in the unfiltered presence of God without being vaporized by the sheer weight of divine glory. This is a process called sanctification (in the west; our eastern friends are apt to say theosis–deification). The process is fueled by grace, and grace, while generally ubiquitous, is found surely and certainly in the sacraments.
For my money, this is a lot more exciting than just trying to make the world a better place.”
Archive for the ‘Sacraments’ Category
Despite the grave difficulties faced in recent years by Anglican-Orthodox dialogue, the 2006 Cyprus Agreed Statement – The Church of the Triune God – notably enriches the Anglican understanding of the ministerial priesthood and answers contemporary Anglican confusions.
In the various debates afflicting Anglicanism in recent decades – ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate, 1.10 and New Hampshire, Sydney/Fresh Expressions and lay presidency – a common theme has been an inability to articulate what the ministerial priesthood actually is. Instead, a “baptism ecclesiology” has inspired both the progressive and the puritan, Philadelphia, New Hampshire and Sydney. In such an ecclesiology, the ministerial priesthood does no more than represent the eucharistic community. It is the projection of the community.
The Church of the Triune God – which, as ACC14 noted received a “favourable response” at Lambeth 2008 – reminds us that the presbyter is more than the representative of the community. Quoting both the Moscow (1976) and Dublin (1984) Agreed Statements, it says:
In the Eucharist the eternal priesthood of Christ is constantly manifested in time. The celebrant, in his liturgical action, has a twofold ministry: as an icon of Christ, acting in the name of Christ, towards the community and also as a representative of the community expressing the priesthood of the faithful (VI, 19).
Commenting on the presbyter’s role as an icon of Christ, Cyprus stresses this particular ministry of the presbyter:
The priestly president of the eucharistic assembly exercises an iconic ministry … In the context of the Eucharist, the bishop or presbyter stands for Christ in a particular way. In taking bread and wine, giving thanks, breaking, and giving, the priest is configured to Christ at the Last Supper (VI, 19).
This calling to be an icon of Christ, given particular expression in the celebration of the eucharist, ensures that “Christ’s own priesthood … remains alive and effectual within the ecclesial body” (VI, 21).
That the presbyter is given to the Church to be an icon of Christ’s priesthood means that the ministerial priesthood is not our projection. The presbyter as icon recalls the community to the truth and reality of revelation and grace. Standing within and as part of the community of the baptised, the presbyter’s ministry and vocation as icon proclaims to the community that we are dependent on the prior action of the Triune God in the Incarnate Word.
Posted in Anglicanism, Bible, Book of Common Prayer, Church, History, Liturgy, Reason, Sacraments, Scripture, Spirituality, Theology, Tradition, tagged 39 Articles, Anglicanism, Church, Liturgy, Reason, Salvation, Scripture, Tradition on June 6, 2011| Leave a Comment »
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.
It seems to me that the Anglican identity revolves around seven hallmarks. In roughly chronological order as I understand them to have developed, they are:
- Sacramental Theology – Whether one affirms all seven sacraments like Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox or only baptism and the Eucharist like many Protestant traditions, sacramental theology has always been a central feature of the Anglican identity. It’s also worth noting that for Anglicans the Eucharist is the climax of their worship services rather than the sermon.
- The Bishopric – Restorationist groups like Anabaptists talk about practicing “biblical Christianity,” or this idea of leapfrogging the better part of church history in returning to the norms of the first century church. At that time there were apostles overseeing local churches. Within the epistles we see them correcting doctrinal error, settling disputes, conducting church discipline, and so forth. Minor problem: The apostles died. That makes it impossible to replicate New Testament polity. What is possible is an unbroken line of bishops, who succeeded the apostles. This practice dates back well into the first century. Anglicans are quick to point out that their bishops’ authority is stems from a direct link to Jesus and the apostles.
- Historic Orientation – Clearly the weight of and emphasis upon tradition varies among provinces, dioceses, parishes, and even individuals. Nevertheless, all Anglicans (at least in theory) lean heavily upon tradition–Patristic, Medieval, and Modern–in both doctrine and practice. There’s this innate impulse to look to the wisdom of the past to guide us in the present and maintain continuity in the future, which is most clearly evident in practices like the recitation of the creeds. The Anglican tradition has never sought to be a recreation of first century Christianity. It has sought to simultaneously and faithfully bear witness both to Christianity’s origins and its transmission through time, space, and culture.
- English Culture – There’s a never-ending debate about when the Church of England began. Many scholars argue it started in and around the reigns of King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I when Catholic England ceased to exist. This would mean the tradition proper is less than 500 years old even if its roots go back much earlier. We’ll call this the Post-Catholic View. There’s another group who think that a distinctly English expression of Christianity has existed since 35 CE when Joseph of Arimathea is said to have brought the Gospel to Glastonbury. That’s possible–even probable according to some–but ultimately unprovable. If that’s true, however, Christianity in England might well predate that in the rest of Western Europe. Whatever its actual origins, Christianity on the British isles is unquestionably ancient and over time the geographical dynamic lent itself to the development of a uniquely English cultural ethos. Thus, there are those who argue that the Anglican tradition actually preceded the Roman Catholic Church, was sustained throughout the centuries, and merely made official in the Elizabethan Settlement the autonomy that had always existed. Call it the English Christianity View. As is usually the case in such historical discussions, the truth is probably more both/and than either/or. Anyway, what is certain is that a distinctly English brand of Christianity was exported throughout the world. Even in provinces like Israel, Uganda, Japan, and Brazil, Anglican churches bear a strong, underlying English influence as their name suggests.
- Scripture’s Authority – One need look no further than the Great Schism or the innumerable divisions within Protestantism to see that the interpretation and application of the Bible is no simple or easy thing. For its part, Anglicanism has taken an interesting hybrid position regarding Scripture’s authority. On the one hand, I think just about every orthodox Anglican would acknowledge that the Bible is, at the very least, the Word of God and its teachings are, when properly interpreted and discerningly applied, the highest standard for matters of faith and practice. In this way, Anglicans have in a very real way elevated Scripture’s role above that in Catholicism and Orthodoxy. There’s distinct Reformation influence there. At the same time, Anglicans tend to concur with Rome and… whatever the Orthodox equivalent is… that Scripture cannot be rightly interpreted outside of apostolic tradition or the Church. It’s a perspective that makes groups like Baptists, Presbyterians, and Lutherans quite uneasy. I suppose it’s enough to say that Anglicans believe they’ve embraced the best of the Protestant Reformation in regards to the Bible’s authority while distancing themselves from its excesses and abuses.
- Prayer Book – Obviously this includes Anglican liturgy… The Orthodox are known for their profession that doctrine and practice are inseparable–that each so informs and flows into the other that one cannot be rightly understood without the other. This is why they so disagree with the West’s abstract and almost mechanical doctrinal formulations. Clearly Anglicanism is more influenced by Western thought for historical and geographical reasons. Yet the Church of England seems to have bridged the east-west chasm a bit. Beginning with Thomas Cranmer’s first prayer book in late 1540s, cementing with the official 1662, and continuing through all the subsequent revisions, the Book of Common Prayer has served as the source of Anglican doctrine and practice. Granted, many today don’t use it during their worship services because they’re trying to make the tradition more accessible to those from non-Anglican backgrounds, but in my experience these people still look to the BCP as their basis for their services.
- Via Media – Given the above treatment there’s no need to detail this principle any further other than to say it was conceptually (further) developed by Richard Hooker.
I think this is an interesting start. I’m curious that he didn’t mention the Creeds or Canterbury. What do you think? What would you have included? What would you have left off?
On Easter morning we will sing St Paul’s words, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” Today we begin with the first part of that antithesis, with words which echo Genesis 3, “Remember, O man, that dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return.” It is too bad that the advocates of politically correct language have dropped the key word of that solemn formula, “O man.” As each man woman and child is marked with ashes, we are reminded of a jarring fact. Each of us is a member of the human race and is therefore “in Adam.” The address “O man” is directed simultaneously to the individual and to the entire human family. To delete it obscures that truth.
The formula is adapted from even more solemn words in Genesis 3, from that painful conversation which God held in turn with the serpent, with Eve, and with Adam just before they were banished from the garden. After He had dealt with the Serpent and with Eve, God said to Adam:
Cursed is the ground because of you,
In pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken.
for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
However you choose to read the mournful tale of Genesis 3 (as myth, or as poetry, or as a parable which echoes a terrible moment in clock-time history), we have in those words a powerful description of the human condition. Doomed to death after a lifetime of drudgery in a world where the very ground itself is cursed. This terrible predicament did not just happen at the caprice of a cruel god. No, this is the result of Adam’s sin.
On Ash Wednesday we make not one but two trips to the Altar rail. The first trip reminds us again of what St Paul wrote, “For as in Adam all die.” We are all, by virtue of our humanity, under that curse which sent our first parents out of the garden into a world of thorns and thistles. But the second journey to the Altar rail, when we receive the Body and Blood of our Saviour, reminds us that “even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” The first trip recalls the terrible moment when, in Milton’s words at the end of Paradise Lost, “They, hand in hand, with wand’ring steps and slow, Through Eden took their solitary way.” But in the second journey, we are permitted to run breathlessly like the disciples to the empty tomb of Jesus of that first Easter morning.The ashes on for foreheads remind us that we are truly “in Adam.” The Body and Blood which we will receive remind us that we are “in Christ.”
The Rev. Matthew Gunter (intotheexpectation.blogspot.com), rector of St. Barnabas’ Church, Glen Ellyn, Ill, recently wrote this article for The Living Church. It addresses the issues surrounding the practice of reserving Eucharist for only baptized Christians.
Elizabeth Newman identifies “a pervasive feature of late modernity: a gnawing homelessness, a lack of a sense of place. If we are truly to envision and embody a faithful hospitality, we must see how deeply our current understanding and experience of ‘home’ and ‘place’ have up to now prevented us from living a profound hospitality” (Untamed Hospitality, p. 34).
This is particularly true in contemporary America where our hyper mobility means few of us live in the communities in which we were raised, surrounded by and connected to family and neighbors with whom we have long history and a sense of place characterized by particular customs and traditions. Absent that sense of place, we are reduced to detached individuals roaming context-less space as tourists and consumers. The public space of the shopping mall is the clearest manifestation of this condition, but it is pervasive.
If we are not careful, our worship will reflect and reinforce that formation and that training. And then we
will be unable to offer Christian hospitality, a practice that relies on a sense of place, a shared tradition, one in which we are not strangers in the universe (or to each other) but part of God’s good creation, created so that God might love us and so that we might in return love God, each other, the stranger, and even the enemy (Newman, p. 44).
In such an environment, what does our practice of Eucharist signify? Inviting anyone to participate wherever they are on their spiritual journey reinforces the ideology of the individual as consumer. It signifies that a church is like other public spaces where individual consumers go to satisfy a felt need. The church is then like a sort of religious restaurant with spiritual food on the menu catering to individual customers who come and go through its public space. Is this costly, or “radical”?
Far better to communicate to newcomers that here is a place where people belong to one another and to God, who gives them an identity as members of a diverse body with many members, “made” in baptism and Eucharist. Accordingly, the Church promises, after Jesus’ own pledge, that he will be present as Redeemer and Judge in the waters of baptism and in the bread and wine of the Eucharist.
To reserve the Eucharist for those who are baptized does not limit God. As Luther insisted, Jesus — risen and ascended — is present everywhere and can surprise us in our cabbage soup, if he so desires. Indeed, I agree with Sara Miles, in her book Take This Bread, that God has so surprised even the occasional unbaptized eucharistic communicant. We need not try to protect the purity of the Eucharist.
The discipline of reserving the Eucharist for those already baptized is, however, about maintaining the very boundaries of identity that make a place in which to be formed as a community that can properly practice hospitality. And it is about being honest about who we are called to be as members of Christ’s body, and respectful of the real otherness of those who are not yet committed to the loyalties of such a communion.
The body of Christ is a eucharistic community with all that that entails; and we are baptized into Eucharist.