Monday, October 27, 2008

Bicknell on Development of Doctrine

The following is an excerpt from The Thirty-Nine Articles by E.J. Bicknell. It comes from a chapter about Article XX* in a section called the "Church's authority in doctrine."

So we refuse to accept such doctrines as those of the Treasury of Merit or the Immaculate Conception or Papal Infallibility as true developments of Christian truth. They cannot be proved from Scripture. There is no evidence that they formed part of the beliefs of the Church in early times. Nor can they be logically deduced from apostolic teaching. Human logic is only valid when it has a complete and adequate knowledge of the facts from which it argues, but when it deals with Divine truths about which our knowledge is limited, its conclusions are at best precarious. Logic is most triumphant in dealing with abstract or mathematical statements, in the form of 'all A is B.' When we know the symbols A and B, we know at once all that there is to be known about them. They are the pure creation of the human mind. But we cannot detect in advance by logic the course of human history or the conduct of our friends. So to argue that our Lord's sinlessness and the holiness of the Blessed Virgin imply that she must have been conceived free from all taint of original sin, and to state this as a new dogma, that of 'the Immaculate Conception' is to strain logic. Such an argument would only be valid if we knew all about original sin and heredity and the manner of the Incarnation. Further, since the Blessed Virgin is a historical person we are justified in asking for historical evidence that she either claimed to be sinless or made the impression of sinlessness on others. In Scripture there are indications that at times she lacked the complete and immediate sympathy with our Lord's purposes which would be evidence of entire sinlessness. She is rebuked by Him once (John 2:4) and even takes part in an attempt to restrain Him from His ministry (MK 3:21 and 31ff). In the Acts, after the first chapter, she disappears. The whole idea of 'Immaculate Conception' is the natural outcome of the place she has come to hold in modern Roman devotions, not of the place that she held during her life on earth. Logic cannot create new facts, and the Roman doctrine needs such for its defence. We claim, then, that Roman developments of doctrine are not on the same level as the earlier developments of doctrine, such as we admit in the case of the formal statement of the doctrines of the Incarnation and the Trinity. They imply an addition from outside to the deposit of faith, and so demand in the last resort a fresh revelation. At best they are but pious opinions which grew up in the Church as the private beliefs of individuals and schools, and afterward were exalted into dogmas. We fall back upon the test of Scripture as interpreted by the Universal Church and by such a test they stand condemned.

* Article XX. Of the Authority of the Church. The Church hath power to decree rites or ceremonies and authority in controversies of faith; and yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything contrary to God's word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore, although the Church be a witness and a keeper of Holy Writ: yet, as it ought not to decree anything against the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce anything to be believed for necessity of salvation.

32 comments:

BillyHW said...

How can something that's supposedly false also be a "pious" tradition?

Brian G. said...

Very well stated--I shall have to acquire a copy of that book!

Anonymous said...

Brian, I am blessed in owning a copy.
I do not lend it out. You can come to my home to read it, while my dog and I will watch you closely.
LKW

Matthew Nelson said...

Excellent. IMHO, Bicknell is uniformly excellent.

"We fall back upon the test of Scripture as interpreted by the Universal Church . . . ."

This is essentially the same rule stated in Vernon Staley's classic Anglican catechism and amounts to the same things as the Vincentian Canon.

Andrew Preslar said...

"Logic cannot create new facts, and the Roman doctrine needs such for its defence."

Agreed, as to the first part. As to the second, the dogma may be defended on other grounds than deductive argument from more ecumenically acceptable dogmas.

Also, there is a profound difference between using logic to defend facts and using logic to "create facts." This difference seems to be unappreciated by Bicknell.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Bill HW, no one said it is false. But, we say it is not a dogma. Those who believe in the IC do so with pious intent (and I myself, being rather Marian, like the idea. But, that's not enough).

Andrew Preslar wrote:

As to the second, the dogma may be defended on other grounds than deductive argument from more ecumenically acceptable dogmas.

Yes, it can be defended from those doctrines, but the point is more basic. What is needed is a fact, and the only acceptable fact is revelation. If the revelation exists please point us to it (and the place where the Church finds revelation is scripture). If this revelation exists, why is there no notice of it by the ancient Fathers, how does the Orthodox Church manage to miss it, and why have some western saints (e.g. Thomas Aquinas) failed to see it?

Also, there is a profound difference between using logic to defend facts and using logic to "create facts." This difference seems to be unappreciated by Bicknell.

I cannot see why you say that Bicknell did not appreciate this difference. The difference is, in fact, his whole point. The RCC treats IC as a dogma, even though this dogma was unknown to the Church before the 19th century, and even though they never claimed that the Church received it as revelation. They created the "fact" by logic, which is a philosophical error.

This is a major flaw in RCC teaching, namely the idea that by logic dogma may continue to "develop."

Matthew Nelson said...

BHW,

I second Fr. Hart -- the intent is pious, but the result cannot be proved by Scripture in Tradition and is, at least, patient of serious misunderstanding and, therefore, is dangerous for general consumption. Hence it ought not to be preached as dogma and carefully explained when, if ever, presented to the laity.

By way of illustration, "very probable opinions," as opposed to merely pius (or even doubtful) opinions, are still not dogma because they cannot be proven by Scripture or are not necessary to the coherence of the Gospel, but they have been deemed safer for public consumption.

For example, the sinlessness of Mary (St. Paul was referring only to baptized persons, which does not include Mary or John the Baptist.) Yes, St. John Chrysostom preached that she had committed "venial" sins, but the vast concensus of the traditional witness of the Church (including the Magesterial Reformers!) teaches that she lived free of mortal sin. And, I am inclined to believe this witness, and have no problem with it being expressed in passing in Common Worship but, unlike the Resurrection, for example, I do not stake my Faith in Christ upon it!

Christ's Peace,

MDN

Matthew Nelson said...

LWK,

LOL! But, I agree that every copy of Bicknell deserves its own guard dog!

Also, it can be found for reasonable prices on ABE and other "old book" selling services.

MDN

Matthew Nelson said...

AP,

Also, logic or dialectics, can usefully be employed to organize Revealed Truth and to point out illuminating interconnections between them -- such as they way Trinity (Theology proper), Incarnation (Christology), Atonement (Soteriology) are all interlinked. Of course, we have to be very careful to guard rationalizing Revelation in the process of systematizing dogma or in claim one "logical system of organization the raw data" is exclusive, when perhaps it is not.

MDN

Anonymous said...

Matt Nelson: Don't confuse the alleged sinlessness of Mary with the imagined IC. Those are too different issues. It is possibly to believe that Mary BECAME sinless at some point (say her birth, or at the annuciation) without affirming that she was sinless from the earliest moment of her conception. There is a far broader consensus for her sinlessness than for her IC. The quotes from the Councils which are commonly trotted out to defend IC MIGHT teach her sinlessness. Whether they teach it as a matter of doctrine or simply as hyperbolic devotional language is surely open to question. My contention is that when the Councils intended to affirm something, they knew well how to do so. We do not have to read fly tracks in the margin to find dogma.

My contention re: either sinlessness or IC is to ask what do these have to do with the Gospel itself? Even if we found a compelling, unarguable proof-text in a newly discovered manuscript of the Gospels, what does this Mary business have to do with the salvation of sinners? How does it glorify God? How does it help me to get to heaven? Where is the good news for fallen sons of earth?
What comfort for lost souls is there in the assertion, Mary was sinless?
LKW

Matthew Nelson said...

LKW,

Well put. When the Orthodox say " . . . and calling to remembrance our all-holy, most- blessed, immaculate, God-bearer and ever-vrigin Mary, the mother of our Lord . . . ," they are referring to the Blessed Virgin's personal sinlessness during her entire life, not to any quality of her conception by Joachim and Anna.

Generally, I have not noted the Prayer-Book tradition employing anything more honorific for Mary than the "Blessed Virgin." Occasionally, a hymn may use more poetic praise. And, I suppose this restraint avoids drawing attention away from Christ and the Gospel and also fits well with classic English reserve. We definitely are not as flowery in our rhetoric as the Byzantines!

But, many Christians want to verbally acknowledge and acclaim Mary's role as our protoChristian role model by use of poetic and flowery honorifics, which--though I believe them to be historical facts--don't really have anything to do with the Gospel, except in the most tangential sense. As long as this doesn't get out of all proportion. and remains large divorced from Common Prayer, I see no problem with it.

Christ's Peace,

MDN

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Marian devotions should draw our attention to the Incarnation. The Angelus quotes John 1:14 ("And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us."), and concludes with the Collect for the feast of the Annunciation.

"We beseech thee, O Lord, pour thy grace into our hearts; that, as we have known the incarnation of thy Son Jesus Christ by the message of an Angel, so by his cross and passion we may be brought unto the glory of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

Anonymous said...

"Marian devotions should draw our attention to the Incarnation."

Yes they SHOULD, but the question is whether they really DO. The Angelus Domini is an excellent prayer, which I personally use daily. But most popular RC Marian piety (with such prayers as the Memorare, "May crowning," and the like, has precious little to do with the Incarnation. It is hard to see how IC has anything to do with the Incarnation, unless the Incarnation has been shriveled to pure docetism. And the Co-redemptrix theory??
LKW

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Fr Wells,

In answer to your questions:

what does this Mary business have to do with the salvation of sinners?

Mary was a life-spring for sinners by being the source of the humanity of the God-Man who was Saviour. Her salvation from sin preventatively differed not at all from ours as to "meritorious" or "effectual" or "formal" cause but did as to timing of the beginning and therefore also of the completeness of cleansing.

How does it glorify God?

Similarly to the way every Saint's holiness does, but pre-eminently so.

How does it help me to get to heaven?

By evincing gratitude for God's sublime and merciful ways, showing just how unmerited grace must be, since in Mary's case she did not exist at all before it was given, and by encouraging our appreciation for the work of Divine Art which our Lady is, and thus our love for the Artist.

Where is the good news for fallen sons of earth?

Fallen nature is NOT natural. This is good news. One does not need to be God or Angel to be sinless. An unfallen human person is not only a theoretical, abstract possibility, but exists. (Jesus is said to be a divine person with a human as well as divine nature.) And the glory of grace is that Mary is not different to us in essence (eschatologically), only in degree.

What comfort for lost souls is there in the assertion, Mary was sinless?

See above; and they should rejoice in the intercession of the one who is greatest of Saints.

lukacs said...

Gentlemen, I believe the Bicknell book is back in print:

http://www.amazon.com/Theological-Introduction-Thirty-Nine-Articles-England/dp/155635682X/ref=wl_it_dp?ie=UTF8&coliid=I3GZA9K0RLVXCC&colid=2Z69I26FUW3RD

Anonymous said...

Fr Kirby, in my part of the world people usually respond to such verbiage with the exclamation,
"Say what, boy?"

I note that there is not a single hint of Scriptural foundation in your response. It is more theosophy than theology.

Let's deal with just this:

"Mary was a life-spring for sinners by being the source of the humanity of the God-Man who was Saviour."

I had thought the "source of the humanity of the God-man" was the Triune God who created all things out of nothing, and who planned our salvation before the foundation of the world. The word "source" is a drastic, and sacrilegious overstatement, like saying that the spittle was the source of healing for the blind man
(Mark 8:23).


"Her salvation from sin preventatively differed not at all from ours as to "meritorious" or "effectual" or "formal" cause but did as to timing of the beginning and therefore also of the completeness of cleansing."

There is no Gospel here at all, just a spurious pseudo-Aristotelian construct which only serves as window-dressing to look like theology, "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

I could go on, but to no avail.
LKW

Brian G. said...

I'm taking a chance on a cheap, old hardcover edition of this book from an Amazon seller. If I get burned, the only solution may be Fr. Wells and his dog!

Sandra McColl said...

At the risk of being torn apart, or ignored (which is mercifully more usual when I stick my neck out these days), I would like to say that I become concerned when we Anglicans seek to define ourselves by what we don't believe. Perhaps it's my memory of Confirmation class, where we were told we were different from RCs because of the things Black Rubricism said we didn't believe. Then it was my life in Forward in Faith and its antecedents, where we seemed to be defining ourselves by not believing in priestesses. I am also a bit oversensitive, perhaps, to 'we're not Roman because' posts because it reminds me that, apart from Ed with his his openly expressed reservations about the TAC's leadership, this blog has become very 'we're not TAC because'.

And as for Mary's lack of 'the complete and immediate sympathy with our Lord's purposes which would be evidence of entire sinlessness', I'd ask, 'lack of sympathy or lack of knowledge'? I'd also ask whether the Agony in the Garden was not a process of struggling to conform to the will of the Father. And the boy Jesus had to learn that you just don't run off to discuss theology with the rabbis without telling your Mum where you'll be and when you'll be back--in this case, He had to learn the rules of living subject to one's parents. And in such a situation, ignorantia juris excusat.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I am also a bit oversensitive, perhaps, to 'we're not Roman because' posts because it reminds me that, apart from Ed with his his openly expressed reservations about the TAC's leadership, this blog has become very 'we're not TAC because'.

Ed is still one of the four amigos, and he is in the TAC. We are trying to get yet another to balance it out.

Elijah said...

LKW, you said,
"My contention re: either sinlessness or IC is to ask what do these have to do with the Gospel itself?"

Mary has as much to do with the Gospel as John the Baptist, or Peter, or Paul, or Abraham. The Fathers taught that everything in scripture points to Jesus. We would be here a long time if we begin dragging out people who have been led to Jesus through Mary, not to mention those who have had their "lost souls comforted."

Mary, in scripture, is a type the purified Israel. Israel had passed through the Babylonian captivity for its sin of idolatry, and having been purified could bear, in Mary, the Incarnate Son of God. The Ark of the Covenant is a type of Mary, as seen in Revelation 11:19 -12:1. She is "full of Grace" as the Ark of the Covenant was full of Grace. In Luke, Mary's visit to Elizabeth is a parallel to the 2 Samuel 6, where the Ark of the Covenant ascends into the Judean hills.

None of these interpretations have the force of dogma. We cannot deduce Mary's sinlessness from them in the same way that we can, say, deduce the Divinity of Jesus from the beginning of John. As a matter of fact, we are not told that any person in Scripture, except Jesus, was emphatically sinless for any length of time, and yet we acknowledge many of the biblical figures as saints. Their virtue and holiness testify their complete gift of self to Christ, their unity with Christ, and we can safely conjecture that sinlessness is part of this. However, this consensus of the Church sheds great light on the mystery of the Incarnation and therefore the Gospel.

Anonymous said...

Sandra writes:
"I would like to say that I become concerned when we Anglicans seek to define ourselves by what we don't believe."

That is one of the best statements I have read here in quite some while. Perhaps the 4 amigoes will favor us with a symposium on "Positive Anglicanism: What Anglicans DO Believe that makes them special." I can hardly wait.
LKW

Fr. Robert Hart said...

None of these interpretations have the force of dogma.

Well, here is something that does have the force of dogma, because it is undeniable. The Blessed Virgin is the only human being to share directly in the miracle of the Incarnation with the Lord. So, she is unique.

Whether one holds a pious belief in IC or sides with Thomas Aquinas and the Orthodox,etc., the fitness of the Blessed Virgin to fulfill her unique calling was due to grace, not her own "merits." (Lk. 1:28) This is where both sides of that debate must agree: She received grace.

The particular doctrine of IC was not really Bicknell's main point. He was writing about the authority of the Church to teach doctrine. How does the Church know dogma? That is what he was dealing with.

Anonymous said...

Fr Hart writes:
"The Blessed Virgin is the only human being to share directly in the miracle of the Incarnation with the Lord. So, she is unique."

What do you mean by the words "share directly"? This seems to overlook the long line of preparation for the Incarnation, beginning with the Protevangelium in the Garden of Eden, the promise to Abraham "who saw the place afar off," and many others. Saying that Mary was "unique" seems to isolate her from salvation history, in which she is so frequently prefigured as "the woman in labor" (a constant metaphor in the Prophets) and the Daughter of Zion. Also, I cannot square this assertion with the short pericope with the exchange, "Blessed is the womb which bare thee, and the paps which gave thee to suck....Yea rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it." That, for me, sweeps away any suggestion of uniqueness in Mary. She is a saint because of her faith, but because of an umbilical cord.
LKW

Fr. Robert Hart said...

What do you mean by the words "share directly"?

Nothing more and nothing less than what I said. Every saint is a saint by grace through faith, but not every miracle is the Incarnation. In the Book of Joshua, the people at Jordan, Israelites all, kept a clear distance from the Ark in the Jordan. We must recognize the unique place of that one miracle above all others, that is, the Incarnation.

Matthew Nelson said...

Although I share LKW's instinct of not making more of it than there is in it, I am with Fr. Hart on the singularity of Mary. One else ever had God in her womb.

And we Anglicans do acknowledge this specialness when we recite the Creed -- "was conceived of the Virgin Mary of the Special Revelation in time unavoidably intertwined in the Gospel, but only so far. That is to say, she is bound up in the Gospel (just a bit more prominently than John the Baptist and Forerunner) by her choices.

Do we want to tread further than this in our liturgics? As usual, we allow a variety of practice but within firm limits. I don't believe private use of the Rosary or the Angelus (neither are part of our Common Prayer) DQs someone from the appellation "Anglican," but when I start hearing Sacred Heart of Mary or Co-Redemptrix talk . . . .

Christ's Peace,

MDN

Will said...

Brian G. and anyone else who may be interested:

Wipf and Stock has a new reprint of Bicknell available:

http://wipfandstock.com/store/A_Theological_Introduction_to_the_ThirtyNine_Articles_of_the_Church_of_England_Third_Edition

If one is interested in *other* authors' works on the Articles, do a search on their site, as they have works by Gibson, Boultbee and others as well.

Anonymous said...

Excuse my typo here:
"She is a saint because of her faith, but because of an umbilical cord."
I meant to write:
"She is a saint because of her faith, NOT because of an umbilical cord."

Fr Hart:
What do you make of Luke 11:28, with its strong adversative particle "menoun," which which be translated, "rather, on the contrary." Here I find a sweeeping rejection of a sentimental notion of "uniqueness" or "singularity."

I delight in preaching Mary's Fiat mihi as a hinge moment in salvation history, in which the Blessed Mother reversed a course of history reaching all the way back to the Serpent's question, "Hath God said?" But the uniqueness opr singularity is not confined to Mary. The Israelite race as a whole according to Romans 9:5 share in this: "To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen."
But that great singularity is not the basis for some sentimental nostalgia for Judaism. Salvation history is full of unique moments.
Gen 4:26, "To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time men began to call upon the name of the LORD."
The Incarnation was NOT a bolt out of the blue, but an Event which culminated "in the fullness of time, when God sent forth His Son, born of the woman, born under the law."

Matthew Nelson writes:
"That is to say, she is bound up in the Gospel (just a bit more prominently than John the Baptist and Forerunner) by her choices."

It would be better to say that she appears in the Gospel, NOT by her choices but because she was chosen to become the mother of the Divine Redeemer. Her humble submission to the message of an angel excludes any suggestion of synergism.
And personally, I have no problem whatever with the Angelus and the Rosary, two forms of devotion in which IC is conspicuous in its absence.
LKW

Elijah said...

Lest Father Wells have the last word =)
LKW said
"It would be better to say that she appears in the Gospel, NOT by her choices but because she was chosen to become the mother of the Divine Redeemer. Her humble submission to the message of an angel excludes any suggestion of synergism.
And personally, I have no problem whatever with the Angelus and the Rosary, two forms of devotion in which IC is conspicuous in its absence."

Mary's example in Scripture shows us that cooperation with God required humble submission. I am not familiar with synergism, but Mary's synergy with God's will is very clear. She humbly submits to the desires of God at the Annunciation. She fulfilled the law by having Jesus circumcised, offering the appropriate sacrifices at the temple, keeping a kosher household, and persevering through the exile in Egypt, to name a few. Not only did she cooperate with the revealed will of the Father, but raising a child required synergy between mother and child. Furthermore, there are plenty of examples in Scripture of those who were chosen but who were put aside through their wickedness. Saul, the first king of Israel comes to mind. Hagar, who received a child of promise, but is put aside from Salvation History through her treatment of Sarah, her despair in the wilderness in Genesis 21:15-16, and the actions of Abraham. Their cooperation was imperfect, where Mary's was not.

The best statement about Mary would be much longer, and would contain the fullness (as the Orthodox say) of the Gospel.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Of Luke 11:28 I come to the same conclusion that I do about the rich young ruler calling the Lord "good Master," only to hear the Lord reply, "there is none good but one, that is God." Neither the rich young ruler nor the woman in Luke 11 had any idea that they were speaking to the Word made flesh. "Whom do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?...Whom say ye that I am?" "To those who are without" everything must be taught in parables, and so their exclamations were out of place. They knew nothing of the Incarnation, seeing only a Rabbi, or perhaps Elijah or one of the prophets.

It is very important that we recall that Jesus took on him the seed of Abraham, the house of David, and the salvation history of Israel. That salvation history was narrowed down to one person to whom the words of the Annunciation were spoken, and whose name appears in the Creed when we profess the Incarnation of "God of God, light of Light, very God of very God."

The real problem is not seeing Mary's unique role, but rather devotions to her as an individual without reference to her Son. She did not make him the Messiah; rather he made her the Theotokos. This is why she is what she is by grace.

Anonymous said...

St Paul, writing by divine inspiration, must have the last word:
"In the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son, born of the woman...that we might receive the adoption of sons." It seems quite clear that God had the initiative, lying in the counsels of eternity.
To suggest that the Incarnation was a cooperative effort between God and Mary raises a larger question of why the Incarnation was necessary in the first place. The Church Fathers frequently used an analogy between the Incarnation and Creation ex nihilo--an Event in which "cooperation" was obviously impossible. As God in the beginning made all things of nothing, so in the new creation, He brings about our salvation exclusively through His own initiative.

Fr Hart: I was asking you to focus not on the words of the woman in the crowd (which your contention reminds me of), but on the words of Jesus Himself. Since the Incarnation was a unique event, occurring at a certain point of time, there has always been a temptation to feel that those closely involved in it had some special privilege. You probably know the "evangelical" hymn, "I think when I read that sweet story of old, when Jesus was here among men, when He took little children as lambs in His fold, I should like to have been with Him then."
Jesus, on the contrary, said, to Thomas, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." Neither Thomas, nor the Blessed Mother herself, enjoyed a greater privilege than that of knowing Jesus in faith, which we know is the gift of God.
LKW

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Fr Wells,

You object to our Lady being described as a source for Christ's Human Nature, even describing it as sacrilegious. However, Christ was not created ex nihilo within Mary by God, according to the Scriptures and the Creeds. The first Messianic prophecy, Genesis 3:15, reveals that Christ is the Seed of the Woman. In Luke 1:31 Mary is told "you will conceive". The Athanasian Creed says our Lord "is Man, of the Substance of his Mother". Therefore the teaching that Mary is the source (not primary cause) of Christ's Human Nature is dogmatic truth.

You also object to my use of Aristotelian-Thomist terminology. Very well, let me restate exactly the same information in a more accessible form. The Blessed Virgin, according to the IC doctrine, was constituted just and inherently cleansed from the beginning (cf. Ps 46:5 in its mystical, prophetic sense) and thus preventatively redeemed rather than after sin had already "taken hold". This is obviously unlike the rest of the faithful and explains why she is not only "graced", but pre-eminently named "Graced" (Luke 1:28). But, according to the same doctrine, that salvation was earned by Christ's Sacrifice (hence "Meritorious Cause"), enacted by the power of the Holy Spirit (hence "Effectual Cause"), and constituted by the gift of an innocent "status" and a holy nature within (the "Formal Cause"), just like our salvation! So, your claim that Mary's immaculacy has no encouragement for Christians or relationship with their situation is false. Her salvation and sanctification differs from ours in timing and degree, not in essence or basis.

You criticise my argument as having "not a single hint of Scriptural foundation". Either you refer to the lack of Scriptural citation or a purported lack of intrinsic Scriptural support for the positions I defended. In the former case, the objection is relatively trivial. While I would not claim to the profundity of the great Evangelical theologian, P. T. Forsyth, I would note that his very biblical theology was written with a marked paucity of Scriptural citation or quotation through whole books! In the latter case, we have an allegation but not evidence. What is worse, this sweeping and absolute condemnation clearly implies everything I had said was unscriptural: "not a single hint". Does this mean you reject as unbiblical these statements: "Fallen nature is NOT natural", i.e., the inherent condition of humans simply by virtue of their humanity? That sinners "should rejoice in the intercession of the one who is greatest of Saints"? That "every Saint's holiness" glorifies God? I doubt that you really reject these statements at all or think them unbiblical or "theosophy", i.e., akin to heresy. So why the unreserved and insulting dismissal?

As for other aspects of your arguments here, I will add the following points.

Mary's maternity is not intrinsically meaningless in the economy of salvation or consideration of her status, nor is it the case that only her faith makes her special. Christ's response in Luke 11:28 is as Fr Hart suggests: a deliberately ironical statement that shows that the interlocutor had said something true but had said it impulsively and in a kind of ignorance. We cannot exegete 11.28 inconsistently with 1.43. However, it is true that her maternity was consequent upon a uniquely obedient and pure faith (cf. Luke 1.38, 45). Objections to the uniqueness of Mary based on OT prefigurings of female/virginal/maternal sanctity and election have 2 problems. One, the OT precursors are to NT fulfillments as types and shadows to substance, according to general New Covenant principles (see Hebrews). Two, the uniqueness of Mary is the subject of dogmatic definition in the Seventh Ecumenical Council, where she alone is permitted to be the object of hyperdulia.

Finally, objections to synergism in Mary's conceiving Christ or more generally in her sanctification are misplaced. That archenemy of Pelagianism, St Augustine, who doubted not that our Lady's election and state were the result of unmerited favour taking the initiative, also said this: "how do we know what abundance of grace for the total overcoming of sin was conferred upon her, who merited to conceive and bear him in whom there was no sin?" In other words, grace came first, enabling, among other things, the faithful response to the Angel's message, but this response still had to be freely and virtuously chosen, and this choice foreknown was one reason for her conception of Christ, though no-one claims it was an active cause of the same. The Eastern Fathers are unanimous in their teaching of the necessity of synergy in sanctification. Mary cooperated with God in what might be called an active, chosen receptivity. And she did this to a unique extent due to being uniquely graced.

May the Ever-Virgin and Immaculate Mother of God pray for us all. I have no wish to enter into conflict with you Fr Wells, and I am sorry that my words seem to anger you so much. Please believe that I do this because I feel a duty to the beloved and Blessed Mother and to her Divine Son, the object of our common worship.

Pax et Bonum,

MK+

Fr. Robert Hart said...

It seems we have two dangers on opposite sides, and once again need to stride the via media.

One danger is thinking that Mary's salvation is different in nature from that of other saints (Eph. 2:8f), which is the danger Fr. Wells is concerned about. The opposite danger is obscuring the Incarnation (I John 4:1-3). At this time in history it takes an Anglican approach to avoid either one of these completely.