Friday, September 16, 2011

"Commonly Called"

I try to make it a policy not to write "reactions" to other blogs or else I would be dedicating all my time to correcting all the rubbish out there. This is the exception. I have to comment briefly on a post at the Continuum, "Assimilation," which can be read here: Let me begin by saying that the article starts from a right premise by attempting to attack extremist theology but then the author falls into extremist theology within the first few paragraphs. In his post, Fr. Hart is attacking the "Reformed," "Anglo-Catholic," and "Liberal" extremisms. In reality, Fr. Hart is attacking four different things: 1) Classic, Anglican Protestantism in both High and Low varieites; 2) Sydney Evangelicalism, particularly lay celebrations; 3) Anglo-Papalism, and; 4) ECUSA Liberalism. Beginning in the middle of the post rather than the beginning we see his (correct) attack on Anglo-Papalism, "They demand conversion to the Roman Catholic Church, making the absurd claim that it is the logical end of Anglican belief." Rightfully so, critiquing this rubbish from Anglo-Papalists. Fr. Hart accuses Anglo-Papalists of not being true "Anglo-Catholics" which is beyond the scope of my intent in this post. However, in the fourth paragraph, Fr. Hart presents standard Anglo-Catholic rhetoric (championed by Newman, who converted to Rome) concerning the "lesser sacraments" so termed by the Tractarians. Then, those of us who hold to classical Anglican, sacramental theology are left with this absurdity, "Some of them, to cite another example, want to deny the five "commonly called" or "lesser sacraments," because they simply do not possess the literacy it takes to read the Articles with understanding." What stupidity! Especially given the supposed "theme" of his article, of combating extremism? How can you quench fire with fire? If Fr. Hart could read for himself, he would find out that many, many Anglicans have denied that "the five commonly called" are not Sacraments ordained by our Lord. I could quote volumes upon volumes of Evangelical consensus on this matter, but I should rather quote a High Churchman. First, I quote the text of Article XXV in Latin (since speaking with learned clergymen, we should quote only the proper Latin). "Sacramenta a Christo instituta, non tantum sunt notae professionis Christianorum, sed certa quaedam potius testimonia, et efficacia signa gratiae atque bonae in nos voluntatis Dei, per quae invisibiliter Ipse in nos operatur, nostramque fidem in se non solum excitat, verum etiam confirmat. Duo a Christi, Domino nostro in Evangelio instituta sunt sacramenta, scilicet, Baptismus et Coena Domini. Quinque illa vulgo norninata Sacramenta; scilicet, Confirmatio, poenitentia, ordo, matrimonium, et extrema unctio, pro sacramentis evangelicis habenda non sunt, ut quae partim a prava apostolorum imitatione profluxerunt, partim vitae status sunt in scripturis quidem probati, sed sacramentorurn eandem cum Baptismo et Coena Domini rationem non habentes, ut quae signum aliquod visibile, ceu caeremoniam a Deo institutam non habeant." The primary question, then, is the proper definition of a Sacrament, for therein lies the question. Perhaps we shall turn then to the other formularies of the Church? The Catechism clearly states that a Sacrament is, "Intelligo signum externum et visibile gratiæ internæ et spiritualis nobis collatæ, a Christo ipso institutum, tanquam instrumentum per quod eam accipimus, et pignus quod eam nobis confirmet." Additionally, there are two parts to a Sacrament, "signum externum et visibile, et gratia interna et spiritualis." Likewise the Homily on Common Prayer and Sacraments defines a Sacrament as, "“a visible sign expressly commended to us in the new Testament, whereunto is annexed the promise of free forgiveness of our sins and of our holiness and joining in Christ.” In his exposition on the Articles, Browne says of the five, "Four out of the five the Church of England admits, at least in a modified form. This Article declares them to be “such as have grown partly of the corrupt following of the Apostles, partly to be states of life allowed in the Scriptures.” Matrimony is especially to be called a “state of life allowed in the Scriptures”. It is possible, that orders and confirmation may be so called also. Yet orders, confirmation, and penance or absolution, as the Roman Church administers them, are mixed with some superstitious ceremonies. Hence perhaps they, as well as extreme unction, may be considered in the Article, to have “grown” (in their Roman Catholic or mediaeval form) “of the corrupt following of the Apostles.”" Likewise, "No other ordinances but baptism and Communion have an express sign ordained by Christ Himself, and annexed thereto the promise of free forgiveness of sins,” and “of inward and spiritual grace given to us.” Therefore these have clearly a preeminence over all other ordinances, and may therefore κατ εξοχην be called Sacraments of the Gospel ; being also the only ordinances which are “ generally necessary to salvation.”" I remind the reader of the comments of Bishop Hobart on private confession, "The Churchman justly deems auricular confession and private absolution, an encroachment on the rights of conscience, an invasion of the prerogative of the Searcher of Hearts, and, with some exceptions, hostile to domestic and social happiness, and licentious and corrupting in its tendency." The absurdity of Fr. Hart's comment is not that there could be "some sense" in which the other five are sacramental in some sense but that he emphatically condemns the standard Anglican view before the travesty of the Oxford Movement. Perhaps he should read the Divines and not the Tractarians when making such bold assertions about the nature of our Church.

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