Monday, October 20, 2008

Tongues and interpretation of tongues

Understanding the times in which the English Reformers lived is necessary for an intelligent discussion of Anglicanism. Nothing better demonstrates this fact than the effort of Roman Catholic readers, of late, who have sought to straighten us out. What becomes clear in a hurry is that they cannot understand the perspective of the 16th and 17th century Church of England, and that is partly because their own people have taught them to look back at history knowing only modern definitions and concepts. (Neither does it help when an Anglican bishop, alas a Continuing Church bishop, displays the same ignorance while dismissing his own patrimony as a failed experiment of 450 years. With all due respect and with sadness, I find that statement appalling.)

When the polemicists and self-appointed apologists for Rome seek to straighten us out, they sometimes begin by revealing a fascinating presumption that we are uninformed; that we are ignorant and, in the words of one of their wordiest writers with the least to say, "don't get it." They presume that if only we understood, we would leap into the Tiber and swim merrily. They think that their church believes and practices everything exactly the same today as they did in the 16th century with the exception of vernacular vs. Latin. They believe that where Anglicanism deviates from the practices of Rome it is the Anglicans who came up with something new. How little they realize that we are the ones who have preserved many older Catholic practices that they have abandoned. In fact, our own Fr. Matthew Kirby wrote an excellent article that shows the many ways in which Anglicanism has been in the lead, and Rome has followed our example, and come around to our beliefs or practices on various matters. Is that because the Infallible Church realized the heretics were right? It is more likely that they recognized the truth, the Catholic truth, of our practices and teaching.

It is even more troubling that some Anglicans often learn from the RC apologists, and so abandon their Anglican patrimony due to ignorance and misinformation. Afterward, they testify about their wonderful conversion, and begin to argue against Anglican teaching based on a completely flawed understanding of what it is. They appear to have authority as ex-Anglicans, but in fact reveal that they never had an Anglican mind in the first place.

Let us take our Article XIX as an example, once again, of flawed understanding on the part of some modern readers who cannot appreciate the perspective of those who wrote this, originally in 1553.

XIX. Of the Church.
The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in the 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. 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.

So too, they misunderstand Article XXI:

XXI. Of the authority of General Councils.
General Councils may not be gathered together without the commandment and will of princes. And when they be gathered together, forasmuch as they be an assembly of men, whereof all be not governed with the Spirit and word of God, they may err and sometime have erred, even in things pertaining to God. Wherefore things ordained by them as necessary to salvation have neither strength nor authority, unless it may be declared that they be taken out of Holy Scripture

The most common mistake is failing to recall what was in the works when these Articles were being written (and forgetting that several ancient councils were rejected by the Universal Church). They forget that Rome was at that time holding the Council of Trent, and that the Church of England had no idea what would emerge. The reason these two Articles appeared was to remind the people of England that their Faith need not be shaken by any error that could come from a council limited only to the west, lacking the consent of the Universal Church, run by fallible men.

In their view the Church of Rome had erred, not only in a few ancient examples such as E.J. Bicknell recorded ("The latter section justifies the breach with Rome by denying her infallibility. As she has erred in the past, so she may err again at the Council of Trent. The allusion is to such events as the acceptance of by Pope Liberius of an Arian creed, the acquittal of Pelagius by Pope Zosimus and the lapse of Pope Honorius into Monothelitism."1) Also, she had erred in more recent times by allowing the false doctrines that caused the famous heresy of Indulgences being sold for money, offering salvation by means that even Simon Magus had never imagined. No hearty repentance and true faith was required, just the sound made when the coin in the coffer rings. These included the following:

XXII. Of Purgatory.
The Romish doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, worshipping and adoration as well of Images as of Relics, and also Invocation of Saint, is a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture; but rather repugnant to the word of God.

Frankly, the errors of more recent times included the requirment of celibacy in the priesthood, which thing contradicts scripture (I Timothy 3:2,12, Titus 1:6).

The programmed response even of many Anglicans is this: "That's probably unwise, but not error. It is not a matter of teaching." True enough, the Church of Rome has no doctrine of clerical celibacy. Nonetheless, this error of polity evolved from a larger error: That any idea could be good for the Church even if it flies in the face of Scripture; that the "Apostolic See" could have greater wisdom than the Apostles. This cannot be a proper exercise of Right Reason. The compounded problems that come from requiring celibacy of priests cannot be hidden; they are obvious to everyone who is willing to see facts.

XXXII. Of the Marriage of Priests.
Bishops, Priests, and Deacons are not commanded by God's laws either to vow the estate of single life or to abstain from marriage. Therefore it is lawful also for them, as for all other Christian men, to marry at their own discretion, as they shall judge the same to serve better to godliness.

The Reformers were rather clear in why they saw the Church of Rome as having erred in the past.

But, to the modern polemicists Article XIX automatically appears to deny the Infallibility of the Church. The Article does not deny the Infalliblity of the Church at all, but rather states facts of history. Neither does it say the churches are any less the Church for having erred. What is clear is that they saw the Church of Rome, that is the Church in Rome itself, as a particlular church that needed to submit, like everyone else, to the mind of the Universal Church. It was the practice of Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, (the last real ABC) to use the word "antiquity" where others use "Tradition." Indeed, the Scriptures and the Tradition are ancient, and the mind of the Universal Church as expressed in Antiquity carries authority to which every later generation must bow. When there was only One visible Church able to meet in Ecumenical Council (during the first millennium) it established doctrine and polity against which Rome was creating innovations and new doctrines, making a claim to have the power to create dogmas unknown to the Fathers (considering that no one had yet imagined the 1870 doctrine of Papal Infallibility, it is irrelevant to anything that was intended by writers in the Elizabethan era).

From the perspective of the Reformers in the Elizabethan era Rome was no longer fully Catholic in doctrine and practice, having abandoned Antiquity and the mind of the Universal Church, and was transgressing by its new and innovative doctrines, no matter how logically deduced. It fell to Hooker to do in greater detail what the writers of the various Articles did simply and briefly. That was to explain why Protestantism (as they used the word) was the only way to restore the Catholic Faith corrupted by Rome, and at the same time to defend the Church of England against other Protestantisms that also created new doctrines with innovations every bit as troublesome as those of Rome. For this reason the Articles imitate a Lutheran format, and show in the process a strong contrast and disagreement with the extremes of Lutheranism; and also the Articles make use of the vocabulary employed by Calvinists in order to correct the extremes and outright errors of Calvinism.

What is also misunderstood in modern times is that the theological terminology of the English Reformers, and the issues raised in their works, makes use of langauge and arguments that had been generally considered within the boundaries of acceptable thoughts and beliefs by many Catholics for centuries. For example, the opening of Article VI has caused some to make the accusation Sola Scriptura!

VI. Of the sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation.
Holy Scriptures containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.


It is not clear what they think sola scriptura means, except that they presume it is a rejection of the authority of Tradition (as indeed it does mean to some fundamentalists these days). But, as Fr. Laurence Wells has pointed out, the problem with the phrase is that no one ever explains what they mean by "Scripture alone." That is, alone for what exactly? In the Article we see that, assuming they had the phrase in mind at all (since they never actually used it), it would have been that the "scriptures [alone] containeth all things necessary to salvation."

And, though they never used the phrase sola scritpura or "scripture alone," if they had used it they would have considered it to be a very Catholic concept. As I have demonstrated before, it was not the Continental Reformers who came up with the phrase, but St. Thomas Aquinas.2 And, that alone indicates that they would have meant the phrase, had they used it, to be understood in a manner wholly consistent with the Tradition.3

The problem our critics have, and that some of our own who are weak in the faith have, is that they read every olde thing with the a modern mind. They cannot even understand what was meant by the words "Catholic" and "Protestant." How much less can they begin to put themselves into the world of the 16th century. If they want to read and understand the formularies of Anglicanism they may need the gift of tongues and of the interpretation of tongues.

At least they might allow Anglican teachers to interpret.

1) E.J. Bicknell, The Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England.

2) St. Thomas Aquinas wrote: Notandum autem, quod cum multi scriberent de catholica veritate, haec est differentia, quia illi, qui scripserunt canonicam Scripturam, sicut Evangelistic et Apostoli, et alii huiusmodi, ita constanter eam asserunt quod nihil dubitandum relinquunt. Et ideo dicit Et scimus quia verum est testimonium eius; Gal. I, 9: Si quis vobis evangelizaverit praeter id quod accepistis, anathema sit. Cuius ratio est, quia sola canonica scriptura est regula fidei. Alii autem sic edisserunt de veritate, quod nolunt sibi credi nisi in his quae ver dicunt. Thomas's commentary on John's Gospel, Super Evangelium S. Ioannis Lectura, ed. P. Raphaelis Cai, O.P., Editio V revisa (Romae: Marietti E ditori Ltd., 1952) n. 2656, p. 488.

Translated into English: ""It should be noted that though many might write concerning Catholic truth, there is this difference that those who wrote the canonical Scripture, the Evangelists and Apostles, and the like, so constantly assert it that they leave no room for doubt. That is what he means when he says 'we know his witness is true.' Galatians 1:9, "If anyone preach a gospel to you other than that which you have received, let him be anathema!" The reason is that canonical Scripture alone is a measure of faith. Others however so wrote of the truth that they should not be believed save insofar as they say true things." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Gospel of John 21)

3) Most likey they avoided the phrase so as not to promote the excesses of Lutherans and Calvinists.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Even the Roman Church itself accepts "Scriptura sola" in a rather important sense. Between the time of Vatican II and the publication of the Novus Ordo Missae, there was a period of the most amazing and licentious liturgical experimentation (of which I was a frequent and wide-eyed witness.)
It was commonplace to have readings from Kahlil Gibran and Time Magazine essays substituted for the liturgical lessons at Mass. After all, isn't God still speaking to us through these prophetic voices?

The Vatican, to its great credit, came down heavily against against the practice, with excellent statements that only the canonical Scriptures may be used for liturgical readings. This heretical practice seem to end with the publication of the new 3 year lectionary. But I have stll heard of a college chapel where a movie is shown in lieu of the readings and homily. But even so, only canonical Scripture is authorized in the Eucharistic lectionary and if memory serves, the "General Instruction" (GIRM)has some strong language on the matter.

Scriptura sola in Missa legenda est! Lex orandi lex credendi!
LKW

Michaël de Verteuil said...

Fr. Hart,

I don't think your translation of Aguinas quite does justice to the original "Cuius ratio est, quia sola canonica scriptura est regula fidei."

The translation you offered is:

"The reason is that canonical Scripture alone is a measure of faith."

A more accurate and (literal) translation would be:

"The reason is that only canonical Scripture is a measure of faith", the point being to distinguish between canoncial and non-canonical scripture, not between canonical Scripture and other rules of faith.

I point this out lest anyone infer that Aquinas was supporting sola scriptura.

Canon Tallis said...

Damn! Real Anglicanism! Who let that out again? It is sure to cause trouble, but not to worry, it will be forgoten quickly enough again. NOT!

Thank you, Father Hart, for once again proving that Anglicanism is not only possible but almost respectable.

Brian G. said...

Wonderful!

The Roman Church is clearly more faithful to the Scriptures than those (e.g., most Baptists and nondenoms) who scream blue murder about the Bible as the locus of the Christian life, but reject its clear teaching on the church and sacraments. Tradition is the best lens we have through which to view the truth of the Bible--even as we must continually polish it by the light of God's word.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Michaël de Verteuil wrote:

I point this out lest anyone infer that Aquinas was supporting sola scriptura.

The point is that when the expression sola scriptura was used centuries ago, it came directly from this quotation. It was originally a Thomist concept (and, I don't see any material difference between your translation and mine). Aquinas' exact words were "sola canonica scriptura..." The point about comparing canonical scripture to other writings (which is even more relevant today then when Aquinas was alive, with the discovery of yet more gnostic "scriptures") is indeed the context. The point, however, is that the phrase was used long before the Reformation era, and was always attributed to the Angelic Doctor, and never was intended to imply a rejection of the Tradition.

The real issue, if we extend the phrase to other contexts, would be what it means, i.e. sola for what? An example Fr. Wells came up with a few months back is the Lectionary. The scriptures alone should form the Lectionary. An example I give is the place of revelation, that is where it is to be found. The Church teaches dogma, but only in the scriptures do we hear the direct voice of God; so the scriptures alone are the source of revelation. etc.

Of course modern day Protestants abuse the idea, and use it to reject Tradition. But, the whole point of my piece is to help us know the thoughts of 16th century Christians instead of forcing our own usages and definitions back in time where they do not apply, and where they cause confusion and misunderstanding. "The past is a foreign country..." and it helps to learn the language.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

An example Fr. Wells came up with a few months back is the Lectionary

I see that he made the same point again today in the first comment. I think we should all nail to our memories the phrase: "Scriptura sola in Missa legenda est! Lex orandi lex credendi!"

Matthew Nelson said...

Bravo!

Anonymous said...

Michael de Verteuil observes:

"I point this out lest anyone infer that Aquinas was supporting sola scriptura."

Michael: Please tell us what version of "Scriptura sola" you and the Angelic Doctor do not support. I suspect that neither Fr Hart nor I would support it either.

And I regret that my keyboard skills are so poor that I cannot reproduce that chic little diairesis over the ultima in your baptismal name. I could try "special characters" under "help," but it doesnt seem worth my while.

And why is the Prayer of Manasses excluded from your Tridentine canon?
LKW

Canon Tallis said...

While it may very well be true that "The past is a foreign country. . ." it should be less true for Anglicans than for any others. The watchword for classical Anglicanism was and is "Antiquity, antiquity, antiquity" and we should be at home with the fathers of the earliest centuries as with the scholastics and those who succeeded them. We are caught historically between Romanists and those who followed the continental reformers and unless we rigoriously train ourselves and those we hope to succeed us to read the language of the past as easily as we read that of the present the greatness of our tradition will disappear.

Fortunately for all of us who are regular followers of The Continuum Father Hart does a superb job of reading the "language of the past" and bringing its meaning into and relevant to our present condition. After having watched so much of it seem to be slipping away during most of my lifetime, I can not adequately express my joy in now finding it continued and celebrated. I am very thankful and almost giddy for the wonder of it.

Anonymous said...

Canon Tallis:
"I am very thankful and almost giddy for the wonder of it."

I wish I had said that! (And I probably will.)
LKW

Canon Tallis said...

To have Lawrence Wells wish to "borrow" something I have written is such a great compliment that I may not recover. But it is simply another proof that real prayer book Anglicans are wonderful people (albeit confessing sinners). I am always more joyful in their company.

Anonymous said...

Great post, but I have one question about clerical celibacy.

How can Anglican bishops marry? In non-Roman Rite Catholic Churches and in the Orthodox Churches married men may become priests and deacons, but married men may not become bishops. Furthermore, men who have already been ordained deacons and priests may not marry, and married priests whose wives die may not re-marry. It seems that if all Catholic and Orthodox Churches agree on the matter, then we have a very, very good indication that the Apostolic tradition is clear: no married bishops. I find it difficult to believe that after 16 centuries of unmarried bishops that we some how discovered that Catholics and Orthodox misinterpreted scripture nor apostolic tradition. (And frankly speaking, do the Orthodox not do many things because it strikes them as Romish? And yet on married bishops and no re-marriage for lower clergy they are in 100% agreement.) This should trouble all Anglicans.
Perhaps I need to be an Anglican for a few more years before I can absorb the idea of married bishops. On the other hand, maybe this is one practices about which the Anglicans are wrong and we should do as all Catholics and Orthodox do. I'm all for married deacons and priests, but married bishops? Seems dodgy.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

This should trouble all Anglicans.

No, it should trouble the RCs and the Orthodox.

This is an example of custom being mistaken for the Tradition. The custom came about because the bishops were handed a death sentence for accepting their calling, being the first in line for execution. It made sense for a while to have only single men in this office, just as the military normally allows only single men to volunteer for "suicide missions." The custom outgrew its meaning and its usefulness.

In certain cases, after Constantine, presbyters divorced their wives upon being elected as bishop, which was a violation of the Law of God in scripture. This was a case of custom overruling the Tradition, as well as being mistaken for the same.

We know from scripture that all of the apostles except St. Paul were married (bishops are their successors), and that Paul specifically wanted the clergy to be "the husband of one wife." This included the office of bishop. Instead of 1600 years try 2,000 years, remembering that what our Article says is that marriage of bishops, priests and deacons is not prohibited in the law of God. Divorce, however,is prohibited int he Law of God, and some clergy seemed able to forget that fact under the influence of purple fever.

The Law of God is to be found in scripture.

Matthew Nelson said...

If recall correctly, St. Peter, foremost among the 12, was married. Moreover, one pious tradition of the Church is the wedding at Cana -- where Christ turned the water into wine -- was Peter's. Moreover, doesn't St. Paul indicate that a Bishop should be the husband of one wife? So, I fail to see how the Anglican polity is dodgy -- it conforms both to scripture and the oldest traditions of the Church.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Matthew Nelson gives a more precise and better answer than I, getting to the point much quicker.

Anonymous wrote: no married bishops. Here we must employ the words of Jesus: "But, from the beginning it was not so."

John A. Hollister said...

Fr. Hart wrote, "We know from scripture that all of the apostles except St. Paul were married...."

That is, all except St. Paul were married **at the time St. Paul wrote**. I stress "at the time..." because years ago I read the suggestion that as an adult and orthodox Jewish man, Saul would not have been permitted to be a student of Gamaliel's unless he were, at that time, married. Thus the suggestion continues that he must have either been widowed or divorced prior to his conversion to Christianity.

I'm not a specialist in Jewish mores of the Apostolic age so can't judge for myself whether this appreciation is correct. I do know from my own observation that it would be true today of Orthodox Jews, who are the direct successors of the Pharisees, the sect to which Saul belonged.

John A. Hollister+

(The veriword is "fruiti", which apparently would not have applied to Saul/Paul as he seems to have been childless....)

Charlie J. Ray said...

You said, "he most common mistake is failing to recall what was in the works when these Articles were being written (and forgetting that several ancient councils were rejected by the Universal Church). They forget that Rome was at that time holding the Council of Trent, and that the Church of England had no idea what would emerge. The reason these two Articles appeared was to remind the people of England that their Faith need not be shaken by any error that could come from a council limited only to the west, lacking the consent of the Universal Church, run by fallible men."

That would be wonderful if it were not taken out of context. The problem is that you just quoted Article XIX which says that the Eastern churches as well as the West have erred!

Also, since you mention context, it has been well established that Cranmer did not consult with the East or the West in formulating the 42 Articles and the 39 Articles. Rather, he consulted with Martin Bucer,John Hooper, Simon Grynaeus, Andreas Osiander, Peter Martyr, et. al. No, the reason Cranmer put Article XIX and Articles XX and XXI in the 39 Articles was not because the Council of Trent was not an ecumenical council. Rather it was because Cranmer overtly and outrightly rejected Roman Catholic theology, ecclesiology, and extra-biblical traditions.

It constantly amazes me when these sort of obvious errors are put forth as "objective" facts.

Sincerely,

Charlie J. Ray

www.reasonablechristian.blogspot.com

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Charlie Ray wrote:

That would be wonderful if it were not taken out of context. The problem is that you just quoted Article XIX which says that the Eastern churches as well as the West have erred!

That is not an intelligent response at all. Mentioning the historical context of the Article was for the purpose of explaining one very important reason why it was written at all. The Article states plainly that councils in the past have erred, and that is something we all know very well.

So, in future, please think before writing a comment.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Charlie Ray wrote:

That would be wonderful if it were not taken out of context. The problem is that you just quoted Article XIX which says that the Eastern churches as well as the West have erred!

That is not an intelligent response at all. Mentioning the historical context of the Article was for the purpose of explaining one very important reason why it was written at all. The Article states plainly that councils in the past have erred, and that is something we all know very well.

And, Hooker had been dead for many decades by the time the 39 Articles were published in their present form.

So, in future, please think before writing a comment.