Saturday, July 28, 2012

Anglican Myths 6: Seven Sacraments

In this post, I intend to explore the notion of seven sacraments in the Anglican Churches.  This is a complex issue and I hesitated including it in the "Myths" series.  However, upon researching various commentaries on the Articles (some of which are included below), I found that it was fairly unanimously held that the Church of England accepted two sacraments.  

The problem with the "other five" is resolved differently by different authors.  The older the author, the less likely they are to apply any sort of sacramental language to these rites.  Most of these authors go through each of the rites and explain why they are not considered sacraments.  I encourage readers to follow up on these readings and look into each of the author's and other works not listed here.  

I think the real danger of claiming seven sacraments is an implication in unreformed theology.  It says more about other things than simply the number of sacraments.  It says, mostly, a neglect or rejection of the formularies.  The reason why I maintain the number at two is to acknowledge that, according to the formularies, that is the number of sacraments we accept, because the definition of a sacrament contained therein can only baptism and the Lord's Supper fulfill.  

XXV. Of the Sacraments

SACRAMENTS ordained of Christ be not only badges or tokens of Christian men's profession, but rather they be certain sure witnesses and effectual signs of grace and God's good will towards us, by the which He doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm, our faith in Him.
    There are two Sacraments ordained of Christ our Lord in the Gospel, that is to say, Baptism and the Supper of the Lord.
    Those five commonly called Sacraments, that is to say, Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and Extreme Unction, are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel, being such as have grown partly of the corrupt following of the Apostles, partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures; but yet have not the like nature of Sacraments with Baptism and the Lord's Supper, for that they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God.
    The Sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon or to be carried about, but that we should duly use them. And in such only as worthily receive the same, have they a wholesome effect or operation: but they that receive them unworthily, purchase to themselves damnation, as Saint Paul saith.

HOW many Sacraments hath Christ ordained in his Church?
    Answer. Two only, as generally necessary to salvation, that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord.

This latter portion of the Prayer Book Catechism dealing with sacraments was added at the time of the 1604 Prayer Book revision.  It was added to appease moderate Puritans staying in the Church.  This will become important later, in a point I wish to make.  


I will make a linguistic case against the reading of the Article and portion of the Catechism as supporting the notion of seven sacraments.  I think it is linguistically foolish to presume that these documents support the unreformed, sacramental system.

Beginning with the Catechism, there has been some pretty atrocious interpretations of this passage by those who wish the formularies to support seven sacraments.  The rhetoric we see is to create an artificial division between "sacraments of the Gospel" and "sacraments of the Church" or "lesser sacraments', etc. especially when reading the Article.  However, in the Catechism, the tactic is to create an artificial division between sacraments "generally necessary for salvation" and those (allegedly) not necessary for salvation.  I maintain a plain reading of the Catechism concludes that there are two sacraments, baptism and the Lord's supper.

Beginning with the question, the matter at hand is simple, "How many sacraments are there?"  That is a general question.  It doesn't presume any division in different types of sacraments or any such farce.  It is asking how many sacraments, in total, the Church recognizes.  The answer is, likewise, very simple.  "Two only."  The problem seems to arise from the failure to recognize the subordinate clause ", as generally necessary to salvation", which is an adjectival clause, describing "Two only."  This means that we could remove the clause and the sentence would read just fine, i.e. "Two only, that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord," which is fine.  The clause was inserted to assert that the sacraments, i.e. baptism and the Supper of the Lord, are generally necessary to salvation, but not absolutely., i.e. like the thief on the Cross.

I will also give my linguistic interpretation of the Article in question as well (a theological interpretation is to follow below -- this portion deals specifically with the language).  The sort of, "classic" Newman interpretation of this Article focuses on a supposed distinction between "Sacraments of the Gospel" and "other Sacraments."  I don't believe there is sufficient evidence in the actual language of the text to come to a conclusion such as that.  The Article, rather, seems to say that for a rite to be a Sacrament, it must be of the Gospel. As in other places, such as the Catechism, a Sacrament is defined in Anglican theology as a rite established by our Lord himself.  Also a note about the words "commonly called", there has been commentary saying that this allows for the nomenclature of "Sacrament" with the other rites.  There may be some veracity to say that these rites could be called "Sacraments" but that would be a bit of a misnomer.  Actually, the language of this Article confirms that viewpoint, i.e. that these rites could be called Sacraments, and in fact have been called that, by the ancients, and even in the formularies ("By like holy promise the Sacrament of Matrimonie knitteth man and wife in perpetuall loue, that they desire not to be separated for any displeasure or aduersity that shall after happen" - Homily on swearing and perjury, published before the Articles of Religion, for consideration).  However, the Article indicates that this is probably not the best name for them.  It indicates this by the "commonly called" formula, which is used in the Prayer Book to acknowledge a popular term and then to either give a better or name or to explain why this is not such a good term.  For instance, the Collect for Christmas says, "The Nativity of our Lord, or the Birth-day of Christ, Commonly called Christmas-Day," indicating that it is popularly called "Christmas" which si not wrong but there is a better way to describe it.  A better example is Candlemas, "The Presentation of Christ in the Temple, Commonly Called, The Purification of Saint Mary the Virgin."


Historically, the interpretation proposed by Mr. Newman and the like of the Catechism makes no sense whatsoever.  This portion of the Catechism is not to be found in the 1549, 1552, or 1559 Prayer Books.  It was added in 1604 by Puritans to clarify the Church of England's teaching on the Sacraments.  Now, one would wonder why on earth the Puritans would draft a statement supporting the Seven Sacraments.    I can't think of any good reasons.  Now, the statement can be interpreted like Mr. Newman says but to ignore the historical settings of a document is a poor way of interpreting a document.  


I think the Anglican definition of what a sacrament is is clearly outlined in the formularies. It is an outward sign of an inward and spiritual grace which was established by our Lord in the New Testament.  Using this definition, only Baptism and the Lord's Supper can be counted as sacraments because they alone fulfill these qualifications.  The question then arises, what are we to "do" with the other rites: confirmation, penance, orders, marriage, and anointing?  The Anglican Churches are unique in their upholding these rites among Reformation Churches to such esteem, especially confirmation, which is retained as an episcopal rite, i.e. performed by Bishops.  

From my research, which is limited I admit, I don't many pre-Tractarian writers classifying the rites as sacraments.  However, there are a few individuals who did so.  For instance, Jeremy Taylor classified confirmation as a sacramental rite.  This to say that the consensus is not unanimous but it is striking.  However, I think that the rites do have some sacramental quality, meaning that they convey grace in some sense but they do not meet the requirements of sacraments according to the formularies, so I will not refer to them as such.  I'm comfortable with the terminology of "sacramental rite" but not "lesser sacrament".  Maybe that is a bit nit-picky but I think that the former preserves the integrity of the theology of the formularies while acknowledging with the early church that the definition can be more expansive in some instances.  

My conclusion is that saying there are seven sacraments says more about what one believes about the formularies than what one thinks about the five rites.  Because the formularies are the defining marks of what Anglicanism is, it is important to maintain that there are two sacraments according to the definitions that our Churches give in the formularies.  However, the other five rites are very important in the life of the Church and the Christian and God does work through them but they shouldn't be classified as sacraments because of the reasons enumerated above.

Anglican Witness

In a sort of post-script, I include some of the commentary on this matter from various authors.  I only show here the "early" ones, i.e. before the Tracts (except Browne).

"The rites, therefore, that we understand when we speak of sacraments, are the constant federal rites of Christians, which are accompanied by a divine grace and benediction, being instituted by Christ to unite us to him, and to his church; and of such we own that there are two, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord.  In Baptism, there is matter, water; there is form, the person dipped or washed, with words, 'I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:' there is an institution, 'Go preach and baptize;' there is a federal sponsion, 'The answer of a good conscience;' there is a blessing conveyed with it, 'Baptism saves us;' there is 'one baptism, as there is one body and one spirit;' we are all baptized into one body.'  So that here all the constituent and necessary parts of a sacrament are found in baptism.  In the Lord's Supper, there is bread and wine for the matter.  The giving it to be eat and drunk, with the words that our Saviour used in the first supper, are the form: 'Do this in remembrance of me,' is the institution.  'Ye shed forth the Lord's death till he comes again,' is the declaration of the federal act of our part: it is also the 'communion of the body and blood of Christ,' that is, the conveyance of the blessings of our partnership in the effects of the death of Christ.  'And we being many, are one bread and one body, for we are all partakers of that one bread;' this shows the union of the church in this sacrament.  Here then we have in these two sacraments, both matter, form, institution, federal acts, blessings conveyed, and the union of the body in them.  All the characters which belong to a sacrament agree fully to them.
"In the next place we must, by these characters, examine the other pretended sacraments.  It is no wonder if, the word sacrament being of a large extent, there should be some passages in ancient writers, that call other actions so besides Baptism and the Lord's Supper; for in a larger sense every holy rite may be so called" (Burnet 1699:350-351)

"It is plain that Christ instituted only two sacraments, to wit, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord; for to these only doth the definition of a sacrament agree…The word sacrament is indeed used by the Fathers to signify almost every sacred rite, or every holy thing: but if that word be taken in a proper sense, for an outward sign of a covenant between God and men, instituted by God Himself, for a pledge of our justification, and a means of our sanctification, which is the ratio formal is, the constituent part of a sacrament, or that without which, properly speaking, it could not possibly be one; then those five must presently be excluded from the number of sacraments" (Welchman 1713:60).

"The sacraments acknowledged by the Church of England are, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord; and these are federal acts… Baptism and the Lord's Supper were the only sacraments instituted by our Saviour; and for nearly twelve hundred years the Church sought and desired no others, content that Christ had done all things well.  Peter Lombard, in the twelfth century, is the first who reckons seven sacraments, adding to those of Christ's institution five others, viz. confirmation, penance, orders, marriage, and extreme unction.  Pope Eugenius the Sixth, about the middle of the fifteenth century, sanctioned this addition.  The Council of Trent, in the following century, among its other deviations from the truth, declared these to be sacraments, and of equal obligation with Baptism and the Lord's Supper…." (O'Donnaghue 1816:213,214).

"Lombard saying, that baptism, confirmation, the blessing of bread, penance, extreme unction, orders, and matrimony, are sacraments of the New Testament; the papists have thence gathered, and ever since held, that there are seven sacraments instituted by Christ, truly and properly so called: insomuch that, in the council of Trent, they determined, that whosoever said there are more or less should be accursed.  Now our church, not much fearing their course, hath here declared, that only two of them, to wit, baptism and the eucharist, are properly sacraments of the New Testament, and that the other five are not to be accounted so; not but that, as the word 'sacrament' was anciently used for any sacred sign or ceremony, it may, in some sense, be applied to these also; but, as it is here expressed, those five have not the like nature of sacraments with baptism and the Lord's supper.  They may call them sacraments if they please, but they are not such sacraments as baptism and the Lord's supper are, and therefore not sacraments properly so called." (Beveridge 1830:461)

"As for the number of the sacraments (as we read in one of our homilies), if they should be considered according to the exact signification of a sacrament, namely, for the visible signs, expressly commanded in the New Testament, whereunto is annexed the promise of free forgiveness of our sins, and of our holiness and joining in Christ, there be but two, namely, Baptism and the Lord's Supper.  To these the church, from which we have separated, has added five more, viz. Confirmation, etc."  (Pigot 1835:76)

"Are these five now commonly called sacraments?
-Not in the Church of England…
Why are not confirmation, etc. sacraments like Baptism and the Lord's Supper?
-Because they were not ordained by Christ Himself." (Beaven 1850:77)

And, to conclude, the moderate and well-stated, Browne,

"As for the number seven insisted on by the Church of Rome, we cannot find it in the writings of the fathers.  Peter Lombard is said to have first devised it in the twelfth century, and from him it was adopted generally by the Schoolmen…The confessions of all the reformed Churches speak of but two Sacraments of the Gospel. {See Luther’s Catechismus Major, Opera, Tom. V. p. 636; Sylloge Confessionum, pp. 75, 127, 277, 349, 376.}  In England, the Articles about Religion and the Necessary Doctrine, put forth in Henry VIIIth’s reign, in 1536 and 1543 respectively, retain the notion of seven Sacraments.  Even the first book of Homilies, A. D. 1547, speaks of “the Sacrament of matrimony,” and that immediately after speaking of the “Sacrament of baptism”.  {First Part of the Sermon of Swearing.}  Cranmer’s Catechism speaks of three Sacraments as instituted by Christ, baptism, absolution, the Lord’s Supper. {Cranmer’s Catechism, p. 183.  On the effect of Absolution, see p. 202.}  But the final judgment of the reformed Church of England appears first in this Article; secondly, in the language of the Catechism where Sacraments are defined as outward signs of inward grace, “ordained by Christ Himself,” and are said to be “two only as generally necessary to salvation”; and thirdly, in the second book of Homilies the words of which are so much to the purpose that we may well refer to them here: “As for the number of them, if they should be considered according to the exact signification of a Sacrament, namely, for the visible signs, expressly commanded in the New Testament, whereunto is annexed the promise of free forgiveness of our sins, and of our holiness and joining in Christ, there be but two: namely, baptism and the Supper of the Lord.  For, although absolution hath the promise of forgiveness of sin; yet by the express word of the new Testament it hath not this promise annexed and tied to the visible sign, which is imposition of hands.  For this visible sign (I mean laying on of hands) is not expressly commanded in the new Testament to be used in absolution, as the visible signs in baptism and the Lord’s Supper are: and therefore absolution is no such Sacrament as baptism and the communion are.  And though the ordering of ministers hath His visible sign and promise, yet it lacks the promise of remission of sins, as all other Sacraments except the two above-named do.  Therefore neither it, nor any other Sacrament else, be such Sacraments as Baptism and the Communion are.  But in general acceptation the name of a Sacrament may be attributed to anything, whereby an holy thing is signified.  In which understanding of the word the ancient writers have given this name, not only to the other five, commonly of late years taken and used for supplying the number of the seven Sacraments; but also to divers and sundry other ceremonies, as to oil, washing of feet, and such like; not meaning thereby to repute them as Sacraments in the same signification that the two fore-named Sacraments are.  Dionysius, Bernard, de Coena Domini, et Ablut. pedum.” {Homily on Common Prayer and Sacraments.}
      In this passage we see clearly our own Church’s definition of a Sacrament, and the points of difference between ourselves and the Romish divines.  The Homily defines a Sacrament of the Gospel to be “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.”  This closely corresponds with the words of the Catechism: “An outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given unto us, ordained by Christ Himself, as a means whereby we receive the same” spiritual grace, “and a pledge to assure us thereof.”  And again, the definition of this XXVth Article is of similar significance: “Sacraments ordained of Christ be ... certain sure witnesses, and effectual (efficacia) signs of grace and God’s goodwill towards us by the which He doth work invisibly in us.”
      Now this definition does not exclude matrimony, confirmation, absolution, and orders, from being in some sense Sacraments; but it excludes them from being “such Sacraments as baptism and the Communion.”  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.”

Sources (thanks to Prydain)

An Exposition of the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England – Bp. Gilbert Burnet (1699, although this revision by James R. Page is dated 1842)

The Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England – Archdeacon Edward Welchman (1713 or shortly after that, although this reprint is dated 1842)

A Familiar and Practical Exposition of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion -  the Rev. H.C. O’Donnoghue, A.M. (1816)

The Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England – William Wilson, B.D. (1821)

An Exposition of the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England – Bp. William Beveridge (1830)

The Churchman’s Guide in Perilous Times, – the Rev. Thomas Pigot, A.M. (1835)

A Catechism on the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England – the Rev. James Beaven, D.D. (1850)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Anglo-Catholicism and the Ghettoization of Catholicity in the Anglican Churches

A thought has been in my mind since finishing a book called "The Catholic Movement in the American Episcopal Church" by George DeMille.  This book chronicles the "Catholic" Movement in the Protestant Episcopal Church, as per the title.  The "Catholic" Movement meaning the theology of the Oxford Movement, or Tractarianism, usually coupled with the ritual of the Cambridge Camden Movement or Ritualism.  Readers of this blog will be familiar with both of those movements but for new readers, I attempt to offer a brief summary of each.  

The Oxford Movement began in 1833 with John Keble's sermon "National Apostasy".  Keble and others were concerned with the state's interference in the life of the Church (in this case by reducing the number of Irish archbishoprics).  A group of men, gathered together and began to publish tracts promoting their views.  These views were promoted as novel in the life of the Church of England.  The ideas they presented were presented in contrast to a certain form of Erastianism which denied the Church any other role than as a sort of spiritual department of the state.  The Tractarians, as they were called, sought to "recover" the Catholic nature of the Church of England, which they believed had been destroyed through years of rationalism and latitudinarianism of the the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.  The Oxford Movement promoted doctrines such as baptismal regeneration, apostolic succession, the Real Presence, and other doctrines.  

The Oxford Movement was not originally concerned with ritual or ceremonial, for instance, Newman celebrated in surplice and tippet at the north end until he became a Roman.  However, as certain doctrines were adopted, the ceremonial of the English Church did not match the doctrinal views being held by those priests promoting the Tractarian doctrines.  The Cambridge Camden Society began to apply the doctrines of the Oxford Movement via rival and ceremonial in 1839 or thereabouts.  They reached back to the Middle Ages to find accompanying ceremonial and ritual to accommodate Tractarian theology.  It was this movement that brought back the Eucharistic vestments, stone altars, tabernacles, aumbries, lights, incense, and other practices generally associated with Anglicanism nowadays but absent from it until the Ritualistic movement.  

These two movements led to Anglo-Catholicism which is referred to in DeMille's book as the "Catholic Movement".  Now, here is where my concern lies.  The "Catholic" Movement undermines the catholicity of the Anglican Churches, by nature, and, I believe, has worked to destroy it.  

First, the Anglo-Catholic movement sought to "recover" the Catholic nature of the Church because of a (faulty) view that it had been lost.  (However, readers of this blog will know this to be untrue, see the "Compendium" for posts on various aspects of pre-Tractarian High Churchmanship, which spanned from the Reformation until after the Oxford Movement).  By adopting an ideology of recovery, Anglo-Catholicism has changed the understanding of catholicity in the Anglican tradition to make it impossible for "normal" Anglicans to be catholic by default.  In other words, Anglicanism had a built in understanding of catholicity, which assumed that all Anglican Churches were reformed Catholic Churches.  That is to say that the Church of England is a part of the Catholic Church, that part residing in England.  All its parishes are reformed Catholic parishes, in that they are part of that ancient, Catholic Church of England.  What Anglo-Catholicism has done is to say that English parishes are not Catholic by nature of being part of the Church of England but that they must meet some other standard of catholicity, be it wearing Eucharistic vestments, adopting a certain theology of bishops, using lights on the altar, etc.  I call this the "ghettoization of catholicity" or perhaps more properly a robbery of catholicity.  By nature, a "Catholic Church" cannot have a "Catholic party".  To make Catholicism a party matter is to trivialize it to the point of identifying it with ceremonial.  If you were to ask a Laudian what an "Anglo-Catholic" were (even though the term wasn't used then), I assume their answer would be that it would be a parish that has been reformed from Roman errors and free from Puritan innovations which is part of the reformed Catholic Church of England, adhering to the ancient catholic faith as contained in the Holy Scriptures, Creeds, Councils, and formularies of the Church.  If you were to ask a modern Englishmen what an "Anglo-Catholic" is, I imagine he would say that it is some place that adheres to Roman theology, has nice vestments or chants a lot of the service, perhaps.  To me, this is to trivialize the catholicity of the Church and does nothing to improve the Catholic nature of our Churches.

Second, the Anglo-Catholic definition of catholicity, I believe, clashes with the definition of catholicity as found in the formularies.  I believe that Article XIX of the Articles of Religion defines catholicity, according to the Anglican tradition:
The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ's ordinance, in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.
In this system, catholicity is defined in doctrinal terms, meaning that "catholic" refers to adhering to the faith "once delivered to the saints" as contained in Scripture, and by their agreement with the same, the Creeds, Councils, and Formularies of the Church.  Therefore, the Church of England is Catholic because of the Reformation not in spite of it.  Anglo-Catholicism turns to the Middle Ages to validate its "catholicism" while Anglicanism turns to the Scriptures to validate its catholicity.  

The catholicity of the Church is defined by its adherence to the faith of the Fathers, as defined by Scripture, not by adherence to medieval ceremonial or the edicts of the Pope.  Any attempt to alter that definition of catholicity is not an attempt to "renew" it but to trivialize it or worse, to destroy it.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Anglican Myths 5: Via Media

This myth constitutes a very popular idea in modern, Anglican "apologetics".  If I were a betting man, I would bet that anyone who has converted to the Episcopal Church or realignment Anglican bodies has heard this phrase, probably in the newcomers' class.

The via media theory states that Anglicanism is neither purely Protestant nor purely Catholic (in the Roman sense) but some sort of "middle way" between the two systems.  Usually the term is used to state that the Anglican Churches have maintained the best of Protestantism and the best of Romanism.  The rhetoric also includes a moderateness whereby Anglicans rejected the extremes of these other systems and instead opted for this middle way.  For an example, here's the Wiki entry on Anglicanism:

Anglicanism, in its structures, theology and forms of worship, is commonly understood as a distinct Christian tradition representing a middle ground between what are perceived to be the extremes of the claims of 16th century Roman Catholicism and the Lutheran and Reformed varieties of Protestantism of that era. As such, it is often referred to as being a via media (or "middle way") between these traditions.
Now, I'm going to show a few quotes from the Articles of Religion and the reader can decide whether or not the Anglican Reformers wanted anything to do with Romanism.

As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch, have erred, so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of Ceremonies, but also in matters of Faith. 
The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping and Adoration, as well of Images as of Relics, and also Invocation of Saints, is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God. 
It is a thing plainly repugnant to the Word of God, and the custom of the Primitive Church to have public Prayer in the Church, or to minister the Sacraments, in a tongue not understanded of the people. 
Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions. 
The Offering of Christ once made is that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction, for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin, but that alone. Wherefore the sacrifices of Masses, in the which it was commonly said, that the Priest did offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, were blasphemous fables, and dangerous deceits. 
The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of England.
Mind you this is not an exhaustive list, only the explicit mentions of the Roman Church in the Articles of Religion.  This strong denunciation of Roman doctrine continued after the Reformation.  The Caroline Divines were firmly against Roman innovation in doctrinal matters.  Even into the 18th and 19th centuries, Anglican consensus was strongly against Romanism.  The real change begins to happen in the Oxford Movement (but also just before with Alexander Knox -- who espouses justification by infusion).  The Oxford Movement began as a movement to take seriously the catholic nature of the Church of England but ended up destroying that Church in the short-term and long-term.

That's right the via media theory begins with John Henry Newman.  The iconic Tractarian and convert to Roman Catholicism.  Newman invented this phrase to accommodate his theological views in the Church of England, when the formularies clearly rejected them.  He later recanted this idea, stating that it was a dream, and converted to Rome.  One wonders why we are continuing to use a theological idea that was created in the 19th century by a man whose loyalty to Anglicanism was questionable at best (during his time in the Church of England) and who later disproved the idea and converted to Rome.

Now, because I am saying that the via media is garbage doesn't mean that I am saying that the Anglican Churches are not Catholic.  Let me briefly explain the real meaning of that term.  The Church of England and her daughter Churches claim to be Catholic.  That is not due to proximity to the doctrines of Rome or Constantinople but because, at the Reformation, the doctrines of the early Church were recovered and the innovations of the Middle Ages were removed from the Church.  The Church of England is a Reformed Church and due to that is a Catholic Church.  The two terms are synonyms, to be Reformed is to be Catholic, by nature, and vice versa.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Anglican Myths 4: Calvinism

This will be a shorter post but I wanted to put something out there as I work on more "meatier" myths (pardon the alliteration).

This post seeks to address the myth that Calvinism is somehow antithetical to historic, classical Anglicanism.  First, an issue which I think needs to be addressed before diving into the Calvinism/Arminianism debate.  All of the Reformers (to my knowledge) were firmly in the Augustinian tradition, meaning that they viewed the salvation of man as a divine act caused by his predestination.  I'm not going to go much further than that because I'm not a theologian by trade and I haven't' studied other Reformation traditions sufficiently to comment on the peculiarities of their belief.  This sets the framework for the discussion, to know that the Reformation tradition is (or was, rather) strongly predestinarian.

Here is the portion of the Articles of Religion which deals with the subject of predestination:

XVII. Of Predestination and Election.Predestination to Life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour. Wherefore, they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God, be called according to God's purpose by his Spirit working in due season: they through Grace obey the calling: they be justified freely: they be made sons of God by adoption: they be made like the image of his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ: they walk religiously in good works, and at length, by God's mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity. 
As the godly consideration of Predestination, and our Election in Christ, is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons, and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh, and their earthly members, and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal Salvation to be enjoyed through Christ as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God: So, for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God's Predestination, is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the Devil doth thrust them either into desperation, or into wretchlessness of most unclean living, no less perilous than desperation. 
Furthermore, we must receive God's promises in such wise, as they be generally set forth to us in Holy Scripture: and, in our doings, that Will of God is to be followed, which we have expressly declared unto us in the Word of God.

I see here a strong declaration of a predestinarian understanding of God's role in human salvation.  Some have argued that this statement is vague and allows both Arminian and Calvinist positions to be held.  I don't particularly see that in the statement but due to the long Arminian position in the Church of England, I think both positions are acceptable (but please do not debate this -- the issue is whether or not Calvinism is permissible).  The statement is not clear on the issue of single or double predestination in my view.

Having set the stage, so to speak, we must consider the relationship of the Church of England to other Reformed bodies on the Continent, both relationally and theologically.

First, relationally, while I cannot speak to this in great detail, I will comment briefly, perhaps enough to pique your interest.  The Church of England had good relationships with the Continental Reformers, both during and after the Reformation (up until a certain point).  The Continental Reformers also had a great influence on the English Reformation, especially Bucer, who offered his suggestions on how to revise the 1549 Book, which eventually led to the 1552 (and subsequently the 1662).  Peter Martyr was also an influential Reformer who taught in England by invitation from Cranmer.  The English Reformers did not attach the episcopacy to the very essence of the Church and never "unchurched" other Reformed Churches.  Likewise, even the Laudians, who held to a "higher" understanding of the episcopacy, maintained that the Reformed and Lutheran Churches were valid Churches and their sacraments equally valid.  This all to say that the Church of England enjoyed a good and warm relationship with the Reformed Churches of the Continent.

Doctrinally though, they also shared much in common with the Reformed Churches.  First, the Church of England shared all the core, Protestant distinctives, sola fide, sola scriptura, etc.  The Church of England is also predestinarian in its formularies (although there was a divergence at Dordt -- more below).  The Church of England also accepted Reformed, sacramental theology as well.  I have written on this subject throughout this blog in various locations so I will not post on that here.  Doctrinally, the Church of England is a Reformed Church, in fact, it's an established Reformed Church by law in England.  The real difference between the Church of England and the other Reformed Churches has to do with worship and ceremony.  The Church of England adopted the normative approach to Scripture, thus allowing things that were not found in Scripture but which were not contrary to it, such as the surplice, wedding ring, sign of the cross at baptism, kneeling to receive Communion, etc.  The Reformed Churches follow the regulative principle which requires that worship practices be directly mandated by Scripture, hence they tend to reject these things.  It is said that the divide between Puritan and Laudian was ceremony not theology.

I say all of these things not to say that Calvinism is implied by the formularies in the Church -- I think the canons of Dordt go beyond what the Articles require as belief.  The point of this myth is to expose another problem with the core identity of the Anglican Churches.  The notion that the Anglican Churches are not in some sense Reformed (in the "big R" kind of way) is historically false and to deny that reveals a revisionism.  In the latter half of the 19th century, the Protestant nature of the Church was ignored (and I would argue the Catholic nature too -- but I digress) in favor of medieval ceremony and unreformed doctrine.  Coupled with this was historical revisionism, which sought to deny the Protestant nature of the Church.

I hope this sparks interest in your mind to embark on your own journey to read and study our history.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Episcopal Church is not a Hierarchical Church

The Hackney Hub feels the need to address an issue (which I have written about before) but especially in hearing the news that nine bishops in the Episcopal Church have been charged with misconduct due to their involvement in an amicus curiae motion in a Texas court (the case is a bit more complicated but I am no legal expert), including my diocesan bishop, William Love.  Besides the topic of this post, I will briefly comment that it is beyond my understanding how anyone could bring charges against these bishops.  They have expressly and openly declared their intent to stay in the Episcopal Church, despite the (now blatantly) obvious prejudice, hatred, and persecution against them.  I add a personal note that I don't even think Satan himself could discourage Bill Love in his Christian faith and witness.  Having a personal respect and admiration of my godly bishop, I say, shame on these anonymous persons who have brought these Title IV complaints against these bishops, not only will you have to testify against the saintliness of these men but also against the wrath of God Almighty who protects his shepherds against cowards like you.

In regards to the subject matter, it is plainly obvious to anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of the history of the Protestant Episcopal Church or the English language that the Episcopal Church is purposely not a hierarchical Church, in the sense of a hierarchical Church such as that of our mother Church of England.  The Episcopal Church is obviously a "hierarchical" Church in some sense, in contrast to a Congregational Church, for example.  The debate is over whether the Episcopal Church is a hierarchical Church in the historic, Western understanding of hierarchical ecclesiology.  The Episcopal Church is a Church of dioceses.  The Episcopal Church is governed by bishops, as in our title.  The Episcopal Church is a voluntary association of dioceses united by a general convention.  This is evident in the history, such as the founding of our Church and in our Constitution and Canons.  For example, General Convention does not create dioceses, it admits them to union with Convention.  Bishops are not appointed to our dioceses, they are elected by our dioceses (only with the consent of the other Bishops and Deputies).  In respect to metropolitical authority, our Church has none.  Metropolitical authority, or the idea that some bishops have authority over other bishops, was explicitly rejected by the Protestant Episcopal Church by the adoption of a presiding bishop, after the practice of the Scottish Episcopal Church, which elects a Primus, from the Latin, primes inter pares.  The Presiding Bishop has no metropolitical authority in the sense that the Archbishop of Canterbury does.  No bishop swears allegiance to him.  The purpose of that office is to preside (imagine that!) over the House of Bishops, much as the President presides over the House of Deputies.  In addition, the Presiding Bishop has sacramental duties to be the chief consecrator of bishops in the Church and make visitations to the Dioceses.  The idea that the Presiding Bishops is some sort of archbishop is clearly against the plain intentions of our founding fathers and against the Constitution and Canons.

This "authority" the Presiding Bishop believes herself to have is paper thin, manufactured out of the evil desires of her own heart and, because of this lack of foundation, will come crashing down.  Hopefully, for her sake, in this life, so that she may have a chance to repent of her heresies and persecution of the people of God.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Anglican Myths 3: Three Streams -- One Muddy River

One of the common ways of defining orthodox Anglicanism in (especially) the modern, North American context is to use the paradigm known as "three streams".  This model attempts to harmonize disparate theological systems in Anglicanism.  It is deeply influenced by Convergence theology, which holds that Catholic, Evangelical, and Pentecostal theologies are coming together, under the power of the Spirit, to reform the Church.  The problem with this paradigm is that it has been grafted into Anglican identity by neo-Anglicanism to the point that it is regarded as "classically Anglican".  I am afraid to say that this is another of the Anglican Myths.

Dr. Harp (whose article is linked to below), who has written on this subject for the Prayer Book Society, outlines the beginning of this terminology to a Church of South India paper from 1953.  It was then adopted by Charismatics and then later by neo-evangelicals, through the influence of Robert Weber.  I will be relying heavily on Dr. Harp's article because his treatment of the subject is superb.  He discusses next the confusion between this modern paradigm and the historical churchmanships of the Church of England:

"Purportedly, Catholics have stressed works (especially sacrificial service), whereas Evangelicals have emphasized faith, and Pentecostals Spirit-guided discernment “rather than [measuring orthodoxy by] objective criteria.” The statement concludes that the church at its best should knit together these “apparently incompatible approaches.”4 Some Episcopalians see this schema as normative of Anglicanism and confuse today’s talk about the ‘three streams’ with the historical division of the Church of England into high church, low church and broad church “parties,” as those terms were used in Anglican circles in the eighteenth century. At that time, the national church included within it clergy and laity who could be divided into at least three distinct groups; that is, a high church element that stressed the visible church (including it distinctive polity and traditional liturgical forms), a low church group that stressed the need for personal conversion and what eighteenth century evangelicals called an “experimental faith,” and a broad church party that stressed the reasonableness of the Christian faith and thus natural revelation over Scripture."

I will not attempt to provide extended commentary on Dr. Harp's article, as I recommend my readers to read his (much better) article on this subject.

Truth be told, I am having trouble writing this article.  There are so many things that need to be cleared up in regards to this myth, for it strikes at the heart of the problem: What is Anglicanism?  I don't intend or even think it possible to answer all questions related to that greater question in this small post.  Instead, I offer a few brief thoughts on what I think is the core error in this myth.

First, this myth distorts Anglican history; it is historical revisionism, almost classically so.  The point of historical revisionism is to recast a portion of history in a different light, usually because the events or ideas associated with that part of history are embarrassing or do not serve a purpose for the contemporary author or thinker.  This myth seeks to dilute the Protestant nature of our Church.  This follows in the tradition of the Oxford Fathers, especially Newman, who equally sought to dilute the Protestant and Reformed nature of the Church of England through his Via Media theory (to be explored in another article) and his distortion of the teaching of the Articles by harmonizing it with Tridentine teaching.  I would argue, actually, that the three streams ideology and via media ideology are really brother ideologies.  The latter sought to distance Anglicanism from Protestantism by placing it in the "middle" ecclesiastically speaking.  The three streams ideology seeks to dilute the Protestant Church of England (and her daughter Churches) by claiming that Protestantism is only but one stream or facet of the Church's identity.  This seeks to acknowledge that the "Catholic" stream has also been equally a facet of Anglicanism just as much so as the Protestant.  Now here there is another problem, the confusion of terms.  Proponents of three streams ideology mean something different by "Catholic" than what the Prayer Book or Anglican Divines understood by that term.  The confusion of terms is also a tactic used to distort Anglican history for the purpose of eradicating Protestant identity.  The Reformers understood that Romanism is not Catholic, nor had it ever been.  Any doctrine associated with Romanism, not taught in Scripture, was heretical and, by nature, unCatholic.  Examples of this include justification by faith and works, purgatory, indulgences, the Sacrifice of the Mass, transubstantiation, etc.  These are not Catholic doctrines but Romanist ones.  The nature and business of the English Reformation was to restore catholicity to the Church of England by removing Roman accretions.  By nature, the words Protestant and Reformed imply Catholicity, according to the definitions of the Prayer Book and English Reformers (obviously your Roman friends will disagree).  The notion that Catholicty was somehow lost in the Church of England was a myth perpetuated by the Tractarians to fuel the fire of their revolution.  This three streams ideology is dangerous because it seeks to harmonize disparate theologies as Dr. Harp points out.  

I would argue that Anglicanism has one stream: Reformed (Catholic).  I put "Catholic" in parentheses because of the principles I enumerated above.  Reformed religion is Catholic by nature, the Church of England is Catholic because it is Reformed.  It has maintained the catholic ministry of bishops, priests, and deacons.  It has maintained catholic worship in its godly Liturgy in the Prayer Book.  It maintains a historic succession with the early Church by the line of bishops and the maintenance of apostolic doctrine.  It has purged itself of Roman errors and not fallen into revolution from below.  

I close with one of my favorite quotes from Bishop John Henry Hopkins of Vermont:

“The Church is a Protestant Church, emphatically and distinctly such, because her duty to PROTEST against error, is, in the natural things, inseparable from the right of REFORM. Is he ready to repeat her protest, to defend its duty, and to demonstrate its truth? The Church is a Catholic Church, that is, a branch of the ancient, Universal Church of Christ, in contradistinction from all heresies and schisms. Is he thoroughly persuaded of this fact, and ready to assert, against "all gainsayers, but chiefly and preeminently against that corrupt system which would fain be called the only Catholic Church, the purity and faithful consistency of her doctrines ? If not, let him be put back awhile until he learns to understand the office which the Church expects of him. He may have piety, he may have learning, he may have all high moral and intellectual capacities, he may be sound in the essentials of his individual faith so far as concerns his own salvation. But all this he might be, without any of the distinctive principles which can alone authorize us to clothe him with the commission of the ministry. Our power to give him this commission is a solemn trust, delegated to us on certain specified conditions. And if those conditions, or any of them, be manifestly wanting, we have, strictly speaking, no legal right to ordain”

Dr. Harp's article: