Thursday, October 31, 2013

Traditional Anglican Protestantism

In honor of Reformation Day, I wish to provide a brief overview of the tenets of traditional Protestantism and traditional, Anglican Protestantism at that. Albeit a modern invention, Reformation Day, celebrates the purification of the Church and its reformation along biblical and patristic lines. This Reformation led to the profession of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and the rejection of the false Gospel of Rome, in addition to all of the pollution that centuries of Roman paganism had brought upon Christ's Church. In the Reformation, Bible-believing Christians reclaimed the "sword of truth" and with one stroke proclaim the Good News of Christ and brought down the oppression and heresy of Rome. A return to the profession of this Gospel is the thing that most plagues the Anglican Communion, even above gays and women bishops and modern liturgies, it is in this lack of clarity when proclaiming this Gospel of grace and truth that modern Anglicanism faults entirely. In order to recover the purity of truth and the true Anglican patrimony, we must return to the Christian religion as proclaimed in Holy Scripture.

Traditional, Anglican Protestantism, together with Protestants from the Continent, affirms some basic principles that guide its thinking. These are traditionally called the "five solas of the Reformation" emphasizing certain, biblical truths over the temptation of Romanism.

Firstly, traditional Protestantism affirms the supremacy of Scripture, meaning that Scripture is the only infallible rule of faith. What is not contained therein or what cannot be proven from it, cannot be taught as authoritative for Christian belief and all things that are necessary for salvation are found within its pages. This means that the Church cannot add things to what is taught in Scripture to be required for salvation. This does not rob the authority of the Church or of tradition but severely limits them, in relation to Scripture. Tradition and the Church have authority in the life of the Christian, yet they are not infallible sources. Both the Church, in its ministry and the tradition of the Fathers, can and have erred. This limitation of the authority of the Church answers one of the subsequent questions related to sola Scriptura, that being, what constitutes the Word of God? The answer, of course, is the written Word of God contained within the canonical books of the Holy Scripture. Secondly, the issue of the nature of Scripture's message is of importance. The Roman Church teaches that the common believer cannot understand the fullness of God's Word to us without the aid of the Church. This seems contrary to what God proclaims to us in his Word and contrary to God's will for us.

Secondly, the nature of salvation is of key importance to the traditional Anglican Protestant faith. How are we saved? How can we be in right relationship to God? The answer, according to the Bible, of course, is what the Protestant Reformation was about uncovering. The natural inclination of man is to boast in his own works and claim them as his badge of salvation. The Scriptures proclaim against this profoundly. Firstly, the natural condition of man is such that he has no ability (or desire) to turn to God and cannot do such on his own authority or ability. Secondly, the only means to union with God is through faith. Faith, of course, involves both assent to the right beliefs about God and also trusting in Him and in Christ's work for us at Calvary, salvation is by "faith alone" or sola fide. However, faith is not something that we have in our own being, it is a gift of God. This leads to the next point, being that salvation is by grace alone, or sola gratia. The question of what grace is is also an equally important question. The Roman Church teaches that it is some spiritual force that helps the Christian to do good works. However, the Bible teaches that grace is the unmerited favor of God. This is, of course, something that needs to be unpacked. The unmerited favor of God means that he has looked down upon us and decided to act in saving us without any merit of our own. It is through this unmerited favor that God grants us the faith to believe in him.

Another key point to note is that salvation is not only brought about by God through grace alone and received by faith alone, it is only accomplished by Christ alone. This means that there is no other mediation through which we can receive salvation. This denies the Church and her ministers any role in salvation, other than preaching the Gospel of grace, whereby we can be saved. This cuts to the heart of the works religion as promoted by the Roman Church, which seeks to give man some role in his salvation, which Scripture rightly denies.

If the Anglican Communion wishes to remain a vital force in Protestant Christianity, it must come to proclaim the Gospel of Christ with the same vigor as it has in the past. The present latitudinarianism cannot provide salvation for anyone and, in fact, is leading many away from the riches of God's grace in Christ Jesus. May the Churches of the Communion repent of this sin and return to proclaiming God's love for the world in Christ Jesus.

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