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Archive for the ‘Scripture’ Category

This article by Ephraim Radner on The Living Church contains 12 Theses on Bishops’ Ministry.  They are so good that I post them here, in their entirety, (though not the whole article) without further comment:

1. The full description of the episcopal office is given in the Holy Scriptures’ description of Jesus Christ. This is because this full description of Jesus Christ is the figure that the episcopal office represents (1 Pet. 2:25).

2. The office of the bishop is properly understood only within the contours of the whole Scriptures, for it is all the Scriptures that coherently describe Christ Jesus. No scriptural description of the episcopal office can be offered that is “repugnant” to other Scriptures (Articles of Religion, XX), any more than this can be done with respect to Christ. This means that the Old Testament, as well as the New Testament, is rightly brought to bear in understanding the episcopal office (cf. Luke 24:44).

3. The office of the bishop is universal, not local, in its foundation, effects, and criteria of evaluation (Eph. 2:19; Rev. 21:14; BCP, p. 517), because formed by and tied to the full figure of Christ who died for the sins of the whole world, and whose Church is universal (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:15-20).

4. There are normative standards of Scriptural coherence for understanding the office of the bishop, including John 10:1-18, 21:15-19; Mark 10:35-45; Acts 1:21-22, 2:26-35, 2:43-47; 2 Cor. 11:1-30; Eph. 4:11-16; 1 Tim. 3:1-7; 2 Tim. 3:10-4:2; Titus 1:7-9; Heb. 13:7, 17; and 1 Peter 5:1-6. These texts and their meaning are rightly related to the people of Israel (Rev. 21:12-14) and her prophets, including Moses and the Law.

5. These standards can be ordered under two headings: the pastoral and the apostolic. One describes the ministerial purpose of the bishop’s role, the other the practical tasks of the bishop’s work in fulfilling that role. In fact, though, because each represents the person of Christ, they are completely integrated.

6. The pastoral role of the bishop can be divided into the two aspects of Christ’s divine shepherding: ultimate care and salvation of souls (Ezek. 34; Heb. 13:17; 1 Cor. 4:1-2; 1 Tim. 4:16) and self-giving and subjection within the Body of Christ (cf. 1 Pet. 5:1-5).

7. The apostolic role can be divided into two aspects of Christ’s mission in the Holy Spirit: teaching (Matt. 28:20) and the pneumatic power of holy living (James 5:16; Mark 9:29; 16:20; 1 Cor. 2:1-5).

8. All other aspects of the episcopal ministry, whether particular gifts or duties, are provisional supports to these roles and tasks; the ordering of the Church likewise. Anything that obstructs, weakens, or subverts these in the life of the Church is to be judged inadequate and changed. Anything that permits, strengthens, and furthers these elements is to be judged faithful and encouraged (1 Cor. 3:10-15; 1 John 4:1).

9. The ecclesiastical ordering of episcopal ministry is always “with others”: other bishops, and the Church as a whole (Acts 2:43-47, 15:6). The notion of a bishop “acting alone” is a Christian oxymoron.

10. The ecclesial order of synodality (“walking together”) — meeting in the council of mutual subjection and companionship in Christ — has best expressed such a support, especially in that it also includes other ministries of the Church. The scriptural witness, the history of the Church’s life, and the direction of ecumenical agreement have affirmed this.

11. Synodality describes the way Christ Jesus himself orders the Church through his own person (Luke 24:13-27; Acts 1:21-22), which includes practical actions: seeking, gathering, protecting, building up, remaining in fellowship, and giving away the self through standing beside.

12. It is necessary to measure the current practice of the Episcopal Church through several criteria:

  • Money and property: are our bishops personally and in their synodical life representing the commandments and life of Jesus with respect to material goods?
  • Personal life: are our bishops clear exemplars of holy living as Jesus has taught us in the Holy Spirit?
  • Private and public speech: are our bishops witnesses of the clarity, truth, generosity, and patience of Jesus’ own words and encounters?
  • Aptitude in teaching: are our bishops wholly dedicated to and capable of teaching clearly the fullness of the Gospel and of the Scriptures as a whole?
  • Willingness towards mutual subjection: are our bishops subject one to another, and to the Body of Christ as a whole, and do they work for this purpose?
  • Concern for salvation of souls: do our bishops have as their highest goal the expenditure of their lives for the sake of the eternal life of the Flock of Christ, near and far, locally and universally (John 10:16)?
  • Unity of fellowship: do our bishops give themselves, even to death, for the sake of establishing and maintaining the “bond of peace” within their sisters and brothers in Christ, and for the sake of sinners in both the Church and in the world (Eph. 4:1-16)?

Read the whole thing here: http://livingchurch.org/12-theses-bishops-ministry

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Daily Offices Part I with Bishop Anthony Burton

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Haligweorc recently posted one of the best articles about the reading of Holy Scripture that I have read in quite a while.  His larger intent is to ask questions of how and why we read the Bible.  Specifically, he is comparing an “academic” reading of the bible with a “devotional” one.

He defines “academic reading” this way:

The academic of Scripture study focuses on a circumscribed set of questions: what were the circumstances around the writing of these books and their collection into one document? What do these texts teach us about what the people who wrote them thought? What do these texts reveal about the history and organization of the communities that created them? The bottom line is that the academic study of Scripture is securely located within the History of Ideas. It wants to know what things were thought by which people at which time and what would have been intended by what they wrote. The way that we typically wrap this up is to talk about the “literal” or “literary” meaning of the text and to make statements about “authorial intent.”

He never exactly defines devotional reading, but he uses medieval monastic readings as an example of devotional reading:

I look at how preachers, monks, ascetics, and liturgies have interpreted, re-used, or re-purposed biblical texts to further their own reading strategies and goals. What I found in my intensive study of early medieval monastic reading practices is that they had a very clear purpose in mind: how do we enact the text in order to become saints?

That question… How do we enact the text in order to become saints?… captured almost perfectly something I have been feeling for quite some time, and that I believe Anglicanism has been trying to say to the world for quite some time: What is at stake in the reading of scripture is not information, it is salvation… it is not merely about knowing something (although there are many important things to know), it is most importantly about becoming something.

Article 6 of the 39 Articles puts it as simply as it can be put:

Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation

 

Dr. Olsen continues in his post:

It’s not enough for us to read the Scriptures. Our work has not been completed until we have been transformed by them. And when I say “we” I mean “we,” not “you and me”—the whole community, the whole body of Christ, needs to be about the work of growing into the mind of Christ.

This is what the church needs to be about. This is the kind of reading that we have to be doing [before] the good results of well done academic scholarship are useful to us—but they cannot do our work for us. They are fundamentally not asking the same questions that we’re interested in; they are not finding the answers that will ultimately transform us.

He finishes his article by commending a type of reading that is informed by both patristics and by modern scholarship, but that has as its goal the salvation and sanctification of the reader.

This, I think, Anglicanism is uniquely qualified to do very well.  Interestingly enough, this sets Anglicanism over and against both protestant evangelical readings of scripture and modern liberal readings which are allied in the position that the dominant reading should be one informed by authorial intent & a scholarly understanding of the text.  Their methods are the same, they just disagree about the conclusions.  Dr. Olsen, and I believe Anglicanism, points us in another direction:

The literal meaning or the authorial intent is not necessarily the dominant reading. While it usually is one of the dominant meanings, there are times and places where it must give way in the face of more primary meanings.

Primary meanings being those given to us by the church catholic in her long life with the text in worship and formation.  I’ll give Dr. Olsen the last word:

The Scriptures are the Church’s book to be read paradigmatically within the Church’s liturgy that bring us into a deeper relationship with the God embodied, celebrated, and proclaimed within the Church.

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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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An excerpt from an  interesting article over at Musing of a Hard-Line Moderate concerning the essence of Anglicanism:

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:

  1. 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. 
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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?

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Revelation and Christian Hope: Political Implications of the Revelation to John from Duke Divinity School on Vimeo.

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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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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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Bishop Andy Doyle, the 9th bishop of Texas, has posted a power point presentation that he put together entitled An Anglican Understanding of Scripture.  He leans very heavily on the Windsor Report’s section on the scripture, and it is a great introduction to the topic.  I commend it to you.

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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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