Saturday, May 31, 2008

Evangelism: Love in Action

The following is a sermon written by Fr Rob Whitaker of the Anglican Catholic Church's mission of St John the Evangelist in Virginia Beach, which he preached just last Sunday on the very topic we have broached:

Today I want to talk with you about evangelism. Now, I know that for many people, and particularly for those of us from Anglican, Episcopalian, or Roman Catholic backgrounds, evangelism can be a very off-putting word and a most uncomfortable topic. We may think evangelism is something that Baptists do, but certainly not something that proper Anglicans, Episcopalians, and Catholics do. After all, it just wouldn’t be good manners to evangelize!

But in our Epistle reading for today, we heard St. John say, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.”

And so my question to you is this: must not this love that we are commanded to have for others also include concern for their souls and for their eternal destiny?

Earlier this month Kittie and I traveled to southern California for a retreat-meeting of various folks who are interested in planting new churches and building up current churches within the Anglican Catholic Church as well as other traditional Anglican jurisdictions. Our purpose in having this meeting was to share experiences and lessons learned, and to talk about what works in building up churches in our Anglican Catholic tradition.

It was interesting to hear some of the different stories that were shared. One of the priests there has helped lead his parish over the past 20+ years from a congregation about the size of St. John’s to a thriving congregation of several hundred members. They have progressed from renting space in a women’s club to now owning several acres of prime real estate in a very expensive suburb with a beautiful church building, fellowship hall, library, bookstore, two-story classroom building, and so on.

Another priest who was there has started two different Anglican churches over the past two decades, both of which began with only himself, his wife, and his children. Both are now flourishing parishes with their own buildings, and one of them is starting a classical Christian school for kindergarten through grade 3, and which they hope will eventually become grade K through grade 12.

A third priest who was there went to a parish about 15 years ago that was dying. Over the past decade he has helped shepherd that parish to growth and renewal. They have grown dramatically in numbers, paid off their building, and built two additional structures for Sunday School rooms and offices. And all of these structures are now completely debt free.

One of the things that was clear to all of us at this meeting was that the churches that are growing are churches that are clearly focused outward. Rather than being simply shrines or country clubs of the one true Church or the 1928 Prayer Book or the Anglican Missal, these churches are focused on evangelism and outreach, on sharing the Good News of God’s love for lost mankind through Jesus Christ, and making disciples of new people in their communities. They all do this in different ways, ranging from Alpha groups to Bible studies, from parties to Friday night dinners. And each of them is strongly involved in outreach—in doing things to genuinely help folks in their communities as well as throughout the world. They sponsor orphanages, crisis pregnancy centers, other churches, and mission trips for their youth. They provide outreach to military personnel, to unwed mothers and their babies, and to the homeless.

And what clearly characterizes each of these growing churches is a genuine love for other people.

St. John says in our Epistle reading that “the one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” Love, as we Christians understand it, is not a human thing, but a divine thing. Love is a gift from God. When the Bible says that “God is love,” it means much more than “God is loving.” God loves not because he finds things that are worthy of his love, but because it is his nature to love. He loves us not because of who we are, but because of who he is.

Sometimes church people think of evangelism as a necessary evil: something that must be done to bring in more people because the church needs them to pay the bills. But this is not really evangelism, but a kind of bait and switch. The motivation for this is not love but selfishness. And most people will see right through that.

Real Christian evangelism is about love. In fact, I would suggest that true Christian evangelism is nothing less than love in action. Because if we truly love our brother or sister, then we will want the best for him or her. And that will mean a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, a relationship that must be forged and sustained within the Church, the body of Christ.

The apostle Paul writes: “‘For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ [But] how then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Romans 10:13-14).

Today we are living in a post-Christian world. The vast majority of people in our nation do not go to church on a regular basis, do not have a genuine relationship with Jesus or with other Christians, and certainly do not believe in Biblical Christianity. I recently heard that only 4% of the young people in our nation are believing Christians. And so we are in real danger of losing an entire generation for Christ.

There’s a saying that “if it’s to be, it’s up to me.” If the unsaved and the unbelieving, the unchurched and the fallen-away are to come to faith in Christ, it will have to be because of the efforts of Christian believers.

And so here’s my request to all of us here this morning. I ask that each of us here today begin to pray that God will open our eyes and our heart to the opportunities God gives us to share with someone in our life who does not know Jesus, does not believe in the tenets of the Christian faith, or who does not have a church. It might be a relative or a friend or an acquaintance. It might be a co-worker or a neighbor. Maybe it’s a merchant or a clerk in a retail store where we do business. Pray that God will open our eyes and our hearts to share the love of God through Christ with them. This will almost certainly take time, because we will first need to form a relationship with people before their own hearts will be open to hearing about Jesus from us. It will take patience and waiting on the Lord for the right opportunity. It will take courage. And above all, it will take love. As Jesus said, “as the Father sent me, so I am sending you.”

Let us pray. Heavenly Father, we thank you for your love of us, a love so great that you came to live among us and to share in all the temptations, trials, and sufferings of this mortal life. Open our eyes, our minds, and our hearts, Lord, to the needs of others in our communities, and give us the courage and the wisdom to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with those whom you are in the process of saving. Help us to love them just as you love us. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Evangelism and the Continuum

Millo Shaw offered this as a comment, but I consider it far too important not to be given a thread of its own. Let's have some answers, folks. I'll be making a few observations of my own presently.

I would personally love to see a discussion on evangelism, specifically, on how we, who are so devoted to traditional Anglicanism, can articulate our faith to the great unwashed, as well as unchurched Christians, who know little or nothing about the Anglican Way, to open their eyes and their hearts to the Lord and to bring them closer to the Lord.

We all believe that traditional Anglicanism is the best way to achieve these ends, but how exactly, how best, do we go about it?

My own gut instinct is that a distinctive Anglican evangelism must flow from our distinctive and primary sources of Anglican spirituality, namely our liturgies, especially Holy Communion and the offices (including Compline), as presented in the BCP, but I don't know how to translate the instinct into a working, effective, evangelistic program.

How do we sing the Lord's traditional Anglican song in this strange (and increasingly strange) land? If we are to flourish, or rather if we are effectively to serve our Lord, this is an issue we must come to grips with, and it's an issue that transcends all, or at least most, of our divisions and quarrels within the continuing Anglican movement.

Words Worth Reading

I draw you attention to a new feature on The Continuum, which you will find in the sidebar to the right -- Words Worth Reading.

In my reading, I often come across a few words that are inspirational, or edifying, or simply humourous, but which have little hope of being built up into a new thread on the blog. None the less, those words are worth reading and reflecting on.

I shall endeavour to ensure that a few good words find their way into this box every few days, but welcome my co-hosts and our readers sending me their suggestions -- with due acknowledgement and thanks offered in return.

One point of clarification: do not suggest words of scripture, as I would assume we are all reading scripture regularly and extensively through our daily offices, and following a fairly common lectionary. And after all, scripture is always worth reading. An exception to that is where someone incorporates a few words of scripture into a statement of their own.

Those of you who have suggestions, please send them to my email address.

+Haverland on HCC (AR), UECNA

The following was sent to me by Archbishop Mark Haverland of the Anglican Catholic Church with permission to publish:

Dear Albion,

In response to a comment by Caedmon on a Continuum thread concerning the HCC-AR and S. James', Kansas City, you wrote:

'I'm not sure the ACC, or any of the other continuing jurisdictions actually have spokesmen. Lacking such creatures, I would assume that the primate of each jurisdiction, called what he may be called, would more than suffice as the spokesman.

'Again, as for the ACC, that would be Archbishop Mark Haverland. It is for him to choose whether he speaks or not.'

Your first paragraph is correct. As for the second, I would say that the ACC does not now have, and in recent years has not had, a single, united mind about the HCC-AR. In fact, my own views on the subject have probably been in the minority. The ACC has collegial leadership. I do not attempt to force issues when there is no consensus among us.

In brief, I may say that beginning a few years ago there were contacts between HCC-AR clergy, including Bishop Kleppinger, and me. In fact I made a trip to Pennsylvania just to see Bishop Kleppinger. I concluded that there was a desire on the part of the HCC-AR to reconcile with the ACC. I approached my episcopal colleagues about the matter, and quickly concluded that we in the ACC had no consensus on the subject. If I had pushed for reconciliation on the institutional level, I would have undermined our own (ACC) unity. You dance with the girl you take to the dance and should not divide your own Church for the sake of unity with another (cf. Deerfield Beach and aftermath). So nothing much happened. However, I felt better about Bishop Kleppinger, and I hope he felt better about me, and that was all to the good.

When in 2006-2007 the ACC and UEC renewed our warm contacts, Bishop Reber (and if my fallible memory serves, also Bishop Michael) offered to conclude their HCC-AR contacts in respect for our sensitivities. I encouraged them not to do that, on the theory that uniting divided bits in the long-run would be good for everybody. I think, and in the light of subsequent events am inclined to hope, that my encouragement had little real influence on UEC policy.

Canon Hollister is an ACC official and a friend of mine. On the matter of S. James', he writes, as he himself has said, as a coffee, not a policy, maker. I am sure most of us support local congregational control of property and so regret the actions of Bishop Michael and the HCC-AR. I can say that in years past I have heard HCC-AR bishops - whatever their canons - bitterly lament such local control as a source of instability.

About the ACC and the UEC, there was and at present is no concrete proposal or timetable for organic and institutional union. Both bodies would have to make decisions and take actions in the future to effect such an outcome. I certainly hope for such decisions and actions, but will await both the pleasure of the UEC and the formation of a consensus within the ACC. My impression is that before Bishop Michael's consecration and then again after his departure from the UEC, the UEC's union with the ACC was more likely. My impression also is that Bishop Michael, while a bishop in the UEC, liked the idea of a continuing UEC as an institutional base for himself. But the ACC really did leave decisions concerning union to Bishops Reber and Michael, whatever our preferences Now the decisions rest with Bishop Reber and his synod.

The ACC is sincerely open to the UEC. I was personally and sincerely open to the HCC-AR, but to no avail. The ACC's public approach to - and questions for - the TAC remain on the table where they have been effectively ignored. Unity among 'Continuers' cannot be forced, but I think the ACC is trying. We have made good progress with the UEC and the APCK and have cordial relations with others, such as Bishop Paul Hewett. I am open to friendly suggestions for further steps.

+Mark Haverland
(The Most Reverend) Mark Haverland, Ph.D.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The nature of apostasy

It has been argued that Anglicanism must have an evil root, since some of its fruit in modern times is heresy. And, this may seem to agree with the words of our Lord Jesus Christ himself: "Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit." (Matt. 12:33) That is, the argument may appear to harmonize with his words until we look at the context of this verse, and until we see that this and other such statements find their correct interpretation by what unfolds in the words that follow:

"O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned." (Vs. 34-37)

The context makes it clear that when the Lord spoke of the evil tree and evil fruit, and the good tree and good fruit (such as Matt. 7:15f), he warns us to pay careful attention to the words men speak when they put themselves forward as religious teachers. It may seem odd that he does not draw our attention as much to their way of life, as to their words. This is because they may hide the one for quite a long time, but cannot avoid giving evidence of the second. For, whereas they do not invite the church to witness what they do in their bedrooms, or what they practice in secret, they do reveal themselves by what comes out of their mouths. The fruit of evil teaching reveals an evil tree. But that root and tree is in the individual, and what is in his heart; it is not in keeping with these passages from the Gospels to extend their meaning to anything beyond the heart of an individual. It is necessary to stay within the boundaries of the actual text of scripture in order to interpret it correctly.

The historical argument

For, as I wrote at the beginning of this essay, the modern heresies embraced by many Anglicans are put forth as evidence that the root of Anglicanism is to blame. This appears, at first glance, to be logical. After all, where else could reasoning come from that allows for women's "ordination," liberal opinions about abortion, divorce and remarriage, and the promotion of homosexuality as a good, acceptable and even sacramental way of life? The Anglican Communion is not unique in embracing these errors, since numerous Protestant denominations have embraced them as well. But, only the Anglican Communion and, in recent times, the Old Catholic Churches of Utrecht (with which, to its credit and benefit, the Polish National Catholic Church has broken all ties), among churches professing themselves to be Traditional Catholic sacramental churches,1 have accepted these things.

First, does this really prove anything about the Anglican root? Some Roman Catholics think that it verifies their specific claims against Anglicanism. If we are to accept the logic of their argument, however, we find ourselves in a dilemma, since it follows that these things would also indict their roots. Protestantism, in its endless variety of forms, began with at least four major strands in the 16th century: Lutheranism, Calvinism, Zwinglianism, and then that rather odd case of the English Reformation. But, the root of Protestantism is Roman Catholicism; it is the fruit of that tree. In fact, every major idea of the Reformers, except for Zwingli's innovation about Communion, was acceptable within debates that took place in previous centuries among Catholic scholars, without fear of excommunication or a charge of heresy. So, if Protestantism is an evil fruit, what does this say about the Papal Church of the West? Does it verify the Orthodox claims?

Well, if we proceed with the same logic, the Papal or Western Church was the fruit of the first millennium Church with its seven Ecumenical Councils. So, is that tree, then, corrupt? If so, our dilemma is huge indeed. To go further with this line of reasoning, its logic should be applied to every heresy that the Councils addressed. For all of them, whether we think of the Arian heresy, or Pelagianism, or Pneumatomachianism, Iconoclasm, or Monothelitism, etc., arose within the community of the church. This logic would show just how wrong St. Paul was: "For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you." (I Cor. 11:19) Heresies inevitable? Should they not rather be seen as evidence that the Jews were right all along about the tree of Christianity itself?

The actual nature of apostasy

The root argument from history should yield to the simple fact that our Lord did not use his tree and fruit analogy to speak of wide ramifications in history, but to speak instead about the heart of individuals. It is a warning to each person as an individual to walk rightly with God, and it is a warning about false prophets with a measure for discerning them.

"The word of the LORD came unto me again, saying, What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge? As I live, saith the Lord GOD, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel. Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die." (Ezekiel 18:1-4)

These words open the eighteenth chapter of the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, in which we learn some terrifying facts. We learn that a man may be righteous before God, and his son may not, and that the reverse also may be true. We learn that a man may himself turn away from God after years of living a righteous life, and walk in sin. But, we learn also that a sinner may repent, walk righteously before God, and his past life will be forgotten.

Each generation, indeed, each individual, makes his choice for good or evil. And, that choice may not be a reflection on previous generations at all. This is a kind of freedom that no government has power to restrain, the freewill given to each individual either to repent and try to walk with God, or to turn from him, perhaps so completely as to prophesy lies and turn to other gods, if only in the secret place of the heart. The nature of apostasy is a personal thing deep down within, in the hidden chambers of motivation. The expression of apostasy is manifestation of hatred for God, a rebellion that discloses malice toward our Father in heaven.

The expression of apostasy as it continues out from its source may be more innocent, in that many people may be deceived in all sincerity, believing the lies that are taught to them. But, even here, there can be a measure of culpability, a hardness of heart against hearing the word of the Lord. Nonetheless, before it can be taught and spread, apostasy must rebel against the very church in which the apostate resides. Apostasy becomes heresy when the apostate manages to stay within his church community and spread his ideas as a new doctrine.

The method

How this applies to Anglicanism should be obvious to Continuing Anglicans. In order for a new version of Christianity to thrive, there must be first a rebellion against the Tradition. Anglicanism itself did not change; its nature did not undergo any kind of transformation. Instead, what really happened brings to mind what G.K. Chesterton remarked about Christianity: "Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried." A variation of this became true in some of the churches of the Anglican Communion. Anglicanism has not been tried and found wanting, it has been rejected. And, with it has been rejected the whole Christian faith.

This apostasy became heresy because it did not reject the outward form of religion, but instead conquered it, acquired its worldly assets, lost most of the old crowd, and replaced them with "converts." As a business, this new religion has been a success in the United States, even though its numbers do not begin to compare with past generations of the Episcopal Church, in either membership or attendance, just as they do not begin to compare with such churches as the Anglican Church in Nigeria where all the clergy are men, and the doctrine of the Church has never changed.

But, the new religion has money, and it has enough of the old form to provide comforts and false assurance. This proves true, also, another quotation 2 of G.K. Chesterton: "All conservatism is based upon the idea that if you leave things alone you leave them as they are. But you do not. If you leave a thing alone you leave it to a torrent of change." Some are content with the new religion, because they were so conservative that they left the faith and practice of the Church alone. It is enough for them to live within the fantasy of its structures.

But (and this is more to the point) the new religion is not Anglican at all. It rejected Anglicanism, even rejecting the most authentic expression of Anglicanism, the Book of Common Prayer. Without the Book of Common Prayer, there is no Anglicanism. That is what expresses it and gives it a life with common expression, the doctrine of the Bible true to the earliest generations of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

It is obvious from any reading of the Affirmation of St. Louis that Anglicanism is not a tree with bad fruit, but rather a part of that same Church that remained faithful when the Emperor favored the Arians, and drove St. Athanasius into exile. True Anglicanism, in countries where the Continuing Churches are needed, is the Christian Faith in exile.

1. Some may think to add the national Churches of Sweden and Norway to such a list.
2. I make no apologies for quoting a great Roman Catholic thinker in my defense of Anglicanism.
3. The danger that II Tim. 3:5 may apply, is no small problem: "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away."

Pascal's Fire

Someone urged me to post this here, and, since Albion has just complained aboput too few posts, well, here goes.

January 2, 2008. I've read an article about Blaise Pascal that quotes the words that came to him on the fateful day of his conversion at Port Royal, words that he carried with him the rest of his life. A poem had to come, begun yesterday at the dawn of a new year, and finished tonight...

Pascal's Fire

God of Abraham.
God of Isaac,
God of Jacob,
not of the philosophers and scholars.
heartfelt joy,
God of Jesus Christ.
oceans of joy!

---Blaise Pascal, at his conversion, Port Royal, 1654

Fire burning.
Fire blazing.
Fire shining bright,
shining, glowing, giving light,
blazing white with all might
from the height beyond our sight,

Brightness burning, all else fading,
in the passion of those beams,
in the heat of blazing flaming,
of the fury of a Presence,
of such power naught can stand;
unseen against the glare,
unseeing in the glare,
as we peer, by glory blinded,
at a God we cannot see.

We cannot see,
nor by our mind can comprehend,
and logic of philosophers must fail,
and science cannot ever reach
beyond the things that it can see,
can see and touch and measure,
but the God we cannot see we know,
for we have seen His light.

Fire burning.
Fire blazing.
Fire shining bright,
shining, glowing, giving light,
blazing white with all might
from the height beyond our sight,

Cannot see.
Cannot hear.
Cannot touch.
Cannot reason out,
but in the light,
blinding light,
beyond the power of sense,
to know.
To Know.
In waves of rending joy to know
a peace that seems beyond all sense,
that seems to tear the inmost heart
with pounding, burning, floods of joy
as blinding as the brilliant light
that comes from His eternal fire.

Fire burning.
Fire blazing.
Fire shining bright,
shining, glowing, giving light,
blazing white with all might
from the height beyond our sight,

And in the peace beyond all peace,
and in the joy we cannot bear,
amidst the brightness of the holy light,
we drown
in Him
and life is ours.

--ed pacht

Testing. Testing, One, Two

I'm not sure I can recall an occasion where we have gone nearly five days without someone posting something. As far as I know, we are all still alive.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Trinity I

First Sunday after Trinity

Linus, stunned, retorts "I do love mankind…It’s people I can’t stand!" The ideologues have always loved mankind; and they have made many people suffer for it...the judgment to come on the Last Day will concern what we did, not for mankind, but for "one of the least of these My brethren."

I John 4:7-21
Luke 16:19-31

Today’s Gospel brings up a subject that most preachers seem unwilling to mention these days. It speaks of a departed soul in torment, and gives us a scene of Hell. In fact, this story is not one that our Lord Jesus thought up, but rather one that He took the liberty of changing. Unlike the other parables, He made use of a story already told, and one that was popularly known by the Jews of that day. They had already developed a strong moral understanding because of the Torah and the prophets, and they knew the fate of those who did not love their neighbors. But our Lord adds His own ending, in which we learn that miracles, specifically the rising of the dead, are not enough to win the heart of anyone who cannot be moved simply by the truth revealed in scripture. A person who cannot repent simply by hearing the word of the Lord, will not believe his own eyes if he sees a miracle. This may seem incredible, but it is true.

The power of sin, when that sin is cherished and pampered, can harden the heart just as it did that of Pharaoh in the time of Moses. When we understand this, it begins to make sense why Christ said one day, after working miracles in the presence of a large crowd, that no sign would be given to their generation. How strange indeed, when we read of the many powerful and visible signs that these very people had just seen. A heart given to sin so hardens itself that no sign is sign enough. You may recall from the Gospel of Matthew that the priests who knew that Christ had risen from the dead paid the Roman guards to make up an alternative story. If that seems strange, I can only say that, contrary to popular belief, seeing is not believing. We know the words of Christ to Thomas, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." It is also true that there are those who do see and yet believe not. For, ultimately, faith has more to do with repentance than with being convinced of a fact.

The story about Lazarus and the Rich Man is not about the end that awaits unbelievers, but about the difference between living faith and dead faith. It highlights the kind of faith which cannot bring forth any fruit, because it has, to borrow words from the Book of Revelation, left its first love. The terrifying end of torment in Hell is the condition in which the Rich Man (Dives if you prefer) finds himself, even with his own kind of faith. Since the days of Martin Luther a controversy has centered over the question of justification, and if man is saved by faith alone (or sola fide). And, in all fairness, an emphasis on faith is an important balance to many from our own ranks who speak of baptism as if it were the end all and be all of life in Christ. It is right to speak of the importance of faith. In his early days Luther preached a sermon about faith, in which he taught that faith cannot exist by itself; that true faith creates love which produces good works. Very Pauline, very sound, and it throws light on a difference between his concept of faith at that time and the concept of some modern preachers. But, unfortunately, he came to reject the Epistle of James as, to use his words, "an epistle of straw." For, James is the only one in scripture to refer directly to faith alone-not a saving sola fide, but faith alone as in lonely faith. For what St. James wrote was "Even so faith, if hath not works, is dead, being alone (James 2:17)." And he tells us that this kind of faith, that is dead faith, cannot save us. It is dead, like the member of a body cut off and alone. That is the one place in scripture where faith is spoken of with the word "alone" anywhere in close proximity. Yes, we are saved by grace through faith, Saint Paul tells us. He goes on to say that this faith leads to "good works which God hath prepared for us to walk in (Eph. 2: 8-10)." Funny- isn’t it?- that Paul and James completely agree.

The Rich Man sees Abraham, and calls him father Abraham. Abraham calls the Rich Man "my son." Those who have faith, Saint Paul teaches us in his Epistle to the Romans, are the children of Abraham. So, why did not the faith of Dives- the Rich Man- save him from the place of torment? This is very important; we must heed the answer. It was because his faith was dead. In his grave, and in the fires of his torment, he simply caught up with the deadness of a faith which does not heed the words of Moses and the Prophets. He would not be persuaded- persuaded, that is, to repent- had he seen the Risen Christ and placed his fingers in the wounds in His hands.

Impossible you say? Ah, but did not Christ’s enemies witness some of the same public miracles that His friends had seen? Did not Judas the traitor, when sent out with the others, work miracles himself? If we read the Gospels closely we see that he must have. The twelve came back to the Lord and reported that they had preached and healed the sick and driven out demons, as later the seventy would also do. Even if we picture Judas standing by while another apostle did the actual praying that brought about healing, did he not see many miracles in his years with the Lord? He saw Christ’s miracles in abundance. Faith is not simply seeing and believing a fact. It is a living virtue of those who know God. It cannot abide alone, but only, as Saint Paul tells us, along with hope and charity. And so, both the Gospel and the Epistle appointed for the First Sunday after Trinity, tell us of the love of God, of charity, which is the mark of each person who has living faith.

The Epistle by Saint John does not speak of some heroic effort to love our neighbor, with clenched teeth and flexed muscle. Rather, it shows us how naturally the love of Christ flows from the life of anyone who knows God. In line with the Collect, it tells us that the strength of those who put their trust in God overcomes the weakness of our mortal nature so that through us, He loves those who have need of our kindness. If we come to the end of our natural strength in the face of human need; if we are overwhelmed by the poverty and suffering that is beyond our ability to mend, it is not merely the strength of human idealism that sustains us. Having worked for years among the poor and disabled, and having spent many hours taking them to Social Service offices, I know that the world’s best idea of kindness quickly goes down a drain of cynicism, indifference and even cruelty. The caseworkers can be among the meanest and most abrasive people on earth (not all of them of course. Some are absolute saints).

The Rich Man probably thought that his faith was producing good works. After all, Lazarus got to lie outside of his gate and eat the scraps from his table. The Rich Man "gave at the office." He sent out his check, his scraps, to a thing called "charity." But, as a fellow Israelite, Lazarus was his brother. The Israelites were commanded in the Torah to be kind even to the stranger in their midst. How much more naturally it should have come to him to invite Lazarus in from the street, to put him at his own table as David had done for Mephibosheth, the lame grandson of Saul. The best the world offers, in its feeble idealism, is to send out gifts to those we wish not to see. But, a living faith sees no one as a stranger. In the words of our Lord, it does good for one of the least of His brethren.

"The righteous man considers the life of his beast. But, the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel" says the Book of Proverbs. Utopian ideologues since the French Revolution, such as Marx and his followers, spoke lofty words about what was best for mankind. It reminds me of one of Charles Schultz’s Peanuts cartoons. Linus tells his sister Lucy that he wants to be a doctor, a great doctor. She tells him "you cannot be a great doctor. You know why? Because a doctor must love mankind. You don’t love mankind." Linus, stunned, retorts "I do love mankind…It’s people I can’t stand!" The ideologues have always loved mankind; and they have made many people suffer for it. They have offered millions of innocent victims to some idea of "good for the highest number," and all of that Satanic balderdash about what is best for humanity. Crowds enjoying the spectacle of heads being cut off in Paris, Communists dictating who should live, who should die, and who must go to the camps, and, indeed, the Nazis destroying millions in order to advance human evolution to the state of perfection, believed they were lovers of mankind, saviors of that abstract and impersonal thing called "humanity."

But, the judgment to come on the Last Day will concern what we did, not for mankind, but for "one of the least of these My brethren," as our lord taught in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (in the 25th chapter of Matthew). One. Our Lord spoke of "one" quite deliberately. If we cannot love our brother whom we see, how can we love God Whom we have not seen? - our brother, not some lofty and impersonal "mankind." Christ came into the world to save each of us who believe. He bore the sins of each person. Of the whole world, yes. But, with Saint Paul, we can speak of the Son of God "Who loved me, and gave Himself for me." The personal element, love for the one lost sheep, which we all have been, is the very heart of charity. The love He puts into our hearts by a living faith, the charity without which faith cannot abide, sees the need of the one, of our brother. That brother cannot be sacrificed, that sister cannot have her feeding tube pulled out, that unborn baby cannot be aborted and thrown away, that hungry child cannot be neglected, that discouraged individual cannot be ignored, by those whose faith is alive. Because this kind of faith works by love and labors in hope.

And it cannot do so on merely human strength.

This living faith is persuaded by the scriptures. It hears Moses and the prophets, and is ready to welcome the Risen Christ in whom it hoped all along. It cannot help but have charity, the love of God, for living faith knows no other way. It is the faith of the Holy Spirit Himself, Who abides in us to shed forth the love of God in our hearts.

Friday, May 23, 2008

"I Will Meditate Upon Thy Statutes"

My weekend is coming up, so I thought I'd put a cat among the pigeons. In doing so, I dearly hope that it will not result in my hopes of eventual ordination being dashed forever. :>)

We continuing Anglicans, along with our brothers and sisters in Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism, make much of our our adherence to the Ecumenical Councils. That the Romans are more generous in their definition of what constitutes such a council is irrelevant for the purpose of this discussion, as it pertains to the Seventh Council, one which is ecumenically acknowledged as being ecumenical.

The Affirmation of St Louis, to which all continuing churches adhere, says in part:

"We repudiate all deviation of departure from the Faith, in whole or in part, and bear witness to these essential principles of evangelical Truth and apostolic Order," which include:

"The received Tradition of the Church and its teachings as set forth by 'the ancient catholic bishops and doctors,' and especially as defined by the Seven Ecumenical Councils of the undivided Church, to the exclusion of all errors, ancient and modern.

I now draw your attention to Canon II, which I stumbled across late one night many months ago and have been meaning to ask about ever since: Are all our bishops in compliance with it? I dearly wish I could say that I am, but am doubtful I ever will be.

Canon II

That he who is to be ordained a Bishop must be steadfastly resolved to observe the canons, otherwise he shall not be ordained.

When we recite the psalter, we promise God: “I will meditate upon thy statutes, and will not forget thy words.” It is a salutary thing for all Christians to observe this, but it is especially incumbent upon those who have received the sacerdotal dignity. Therefore we decree, that every one who is raised to the rank of the episcopate shall know the psalter by heart (my emphasis), so that from it he may admonish and instruct all the clergy who are subject to him. And diligent examination shall be made by the metropolitan whether he be zealously inclined to read diligently, and not merely now and then, the sacred canons, the holy Gospel, and the book of the divine Apostle, and all other divine Scripture; and whether he lives according to God’s commandments, and also teaches the same to his people. For the special treasure of our high priesthood is the oracles which have been divinely delivered to us, that is the true science of the Divine Scriptures, as says Dionysius the Great. And if his mind be not set, and even glad, so to do and teach, let him not be ordained. For says God by the prophet, “Thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me.”

Here follows some commentary:

Ancient Epitome of Canon II

Whoever is to be a bishop must know the Psalter by heart: he must thoroughly understand what he reads, and not merely superficially, but with diligent care, that is to say the Sacred Canons, the Holy Gospel, the book of the Apostle, and the whole of the Divine Scripture. And should he not have such knowledge, he is not to be ordained.


Whoso is to be elevated to the grade of the episcopate should know … the book of the Apostle Paul, and the whole divine scripture and search out its meaning and understand the things that are written. For the very foundation and essence of the high priesthood is the true knowledge of holy Scripture, according to Dionysius the Great. And if he has this knowledge let him be ordained, but if not, not. For God hath said by the prophet: “Thou hast put away from thee knowledge, therefore I have also put thee away from me, that thou mayest not be my priest.”


The persecution of the Iconoclasts had driven all the best Christians into hiding, or into far distant exile; this had made them rustic, and had taken from them their taste for study. The council therefore is forced to be content with a knowledge of only what is absolutely necessary, provided it was united with a willingness to learn. The examination with which the ceremony of the ordination of bishops begins seems to be a remains of this discipline.

Van Espen

The Synod teaches in this canon that “all Christians” will find it most profitable to meditate upon God’s justifyings and to keep his words in remembrance, and especially is this the case with bishops. And it should be noted that formerly not only the clergy, but also the lay people, learned the Psalms, that is the whole Psalter, by heart, and made a most sweet sound by chanting them while about their work.
But as time went on, little by little this pious custom of reciting the Psalter and of imposing its recitation and a meditation thereon at certain intervals, slipped away to the clergy only and to monks and nuns, as to those specially consecrated to the service of God and to meditation upon the divine words, as Lupus points out. And from this discipline and practice the appointment of the Ecclesiastical or Canonical Office had its rise, which imposes the necessity of reciting the Psalms at certain intervals of time.

This canon is found in the Corpus Juris Canonici, Gratian’s Decretum, Pars I., Dist. xxxviij., C. vj., in Anastasius’s translation.

Retrieved from ""

The Assize Sermon 175 Years On

Forward in Faith is delighted to commend to all its members, supporters and friends the Day of Celebration and Prayer which will take place on 14th July, to mark the 175th Anniversary of the Assize Sermon.

The organisers write: On 14th July 1833 John Keble, scholar, priest and hymn writer, preached a sermon which was to start the Oxford Movement in the Church of England. It was to have an effect beyond his imagining. John Newman, Richard Hurrell Froude, and William Palmer, joined with Keble to publish a series of Tracts for the Times and were later joined by Edward Pusey.

On Monday 14th July 2008 you are warmly invited to join in an hour of silent prayer which is being held to mark the 175th anniversary of the Oxford Movement and of the Catholic Revival in the Church of England.

As we pray to God on 14th July, it is our aim not merely to commemorate the events of the past, but also to listen to God and to pray for His help to discern and carry out His will in our own generation . . . (continued here.)

We hope that Forward in Faith Parishes all over the world will commit themselves to this hour of silent prayer and add their names to the ever-growing list of Churches taking part by sending an email to , giving the name of the parish, the diocese in which it is located, and the (local) time at which the hour of prayer will commence.

Theology Exam

Jesus asked:

"And whom do you say that I am?"

Peter replied:

"You are the eschatological manifestation of the ground of our being, the ontological foundation of the context of our very selfhood revealed."

And Jesus replied:


Hat tip to my friend Dejan

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Fellowship of Concerned Churchmen Meet

The Fellowship of Concerned Churchmen holds its biennial gathering at Our Lady of Snows in Belleville, Illinois on June 9, 10 and 11.

As in recent years, the fellowship's meeting will feature professional papers and
speakers within traditional Anglicanism.

Dinner speakers are the Rt Rev'd John Broadhurst, chairman of Forward-in-Faith International (Monday) and the Rt Rev'd George Langberg, president of the ACA's College of Bishops (Tuesday).

The theme of the gathering is "Solutions to the Problem of Traditionalist Anglican Disunity in North America".

Seminar speakers include the Rt Rev'd Paul C Hewett (DHC, on inter-jurisdictional regional cooperation), the Rt Rev'd Winfield Mott (APA on inter-communion agreements), the Rev'd Elijah White (CANA, on the role of overseas bishops), and a special look at the link between female "ordination" and same-sex "marriage".

The cost is $200-$275 and includes lodging. For reservations one can contact DJ Fulton, Treasurer, PO Box 427, Morrow, GA 30260 or "google" Fellowship of Concerned Churchmen.

Sent by Rev'd William Bauer (fr odhran mary)

Board member - Fellowship of Concerned Churchmen

Fellowship site::

Corpus Christi Thurs. after Trinity Sunday

The Latin term Corpus Christi means the Body of Christ.

I Cor. 11: 23f John 6: 55f

"He that eateth my Flesh, and drinketh my Blood, dwelleth in Me, and I in him."

In 1549, the time when the Church of England was introducing liturgy in the vernacular, well that is the vernacular for most of England, the order for the Lord’s Supper was printed under the title "The Order for Holy Communion, Commonly called the Mass." A new emphasis was placed upon communion with the Lord’s Body, that is, placed upon receiving His Body and Blood. For a long time it had been commonplace for the people to commune as seldom as they needed to. This is the opposite of what St. Paul had written: "For as often as ye do eat that bread and drink that cup.. " He wrote "for as often...", not "for as seldom..." And, although the practice of infrequent communion developed all over again, the emphasis on reception of communion instead of "hearing the Mass" was a right and good thing. And, as High Churchmen, we teach and urge frequent communion, at least once a week, which was the norm of the ancient Church, and which was taught by St. Paul. From what he wrote to the Corinthian Church it is quite obvious that he expected them to be gathered on the first day of the week, and that it was supposed to be for the Lord’s Supper on every such occasion. Indeed, as I have already quoted, he said that this should be "often." It is clear that this was to be done at least every Sunday, not once or twice a month, certainly not only twice a year. From the written testimony of Justin Martyr, we know that the Church came together every Sunday, and that they did indeed celebrate the Lord’s Supper; they often ate that bread and drank that cup.

We need to understand what it means to live a life of faith as Christians. The teaching of scripture has always been that we are saved by grace through faith. Faith, if it is real, is never alone, for it lives in a trinity of virtues, "Faith, hope and charity." Without hope there is no faith, and without charity faith cannot be seen. For the Christian, faith speaks of a life, a whole life that we live. Therefore, when the Anglican Catechism says that two of the sacraments, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, are "generally necessary to salvation", it is not saying that a person who never receives these sacraments cannot be saved. It does not mean that a person crying out for God’s mercy in Christ, with his dying breath, will be lost if he has not received these sacraments. For, we cannot know the limits of God’s power and mercy; and so the word "generally" is used to mean that, generally speaking, under normal circumstances, it is necessary for those who believe in Christ to receive at least these two sacraments, baptism and holy communion.

For, generally speaking, most people who believe in Jesus Christ are supposed to live a life of faith. Living a life of faith involves repentance from sin and development of virtues. It means that we live a life of obedience to God and His word, that we read His word, that we pray regularly and constantly, and that we receive His sacraments.

And, to receive His sacraments, we need His Church. To live in Christ means that we eat His Body and drink His Blood, just as we heard His words in today’s Gospel reading. By the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and by His gifts and callings, we are the Body of Christ; and we see from these words of scripture that somehow this mystery of being the Body of Christ involves the receiving of holy communion.

It is no small matter than, that within two chapters of St. Paul’s first Epistle to the Corinthians, we see two usages of the phrase "the Body of Christ." First, in chapter eleven, we see it in His institution of the sacrament "in the night in which He was betrayed." Holding the bread in His hands, and blessing it, "He gave it to His disciples, saying, ‘Take, eat, this is My Body.’ " Then in chapter twelve, St. Paul says that we, through the various gifts of the Holy Spirit, are the Body of Christ "and individually members of it." So, we see Christ’s Body in the bread which we bless, and we see Christ’s Body, His Church, visible and recognizable here on earth. The two meanings, however, were already tied together previously, in chapter ten, where the apostle had already written these words:

I Cor. 10:16, 17

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.

Being in Christ, and therefore being in His Church, cannot be divorced from the Blessed Sacrament of His Body and Blood. To eat and drink this Supper of the Lord cannot be divorced from being in that Church upon which the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost. We eat the Body of Christ; we are the Body of Christ. His Spirit is within us; We are mysteriously and supernaturally joined to his incarnation, feasting on the immortality of his risen body through the sacrament; therefore we pray, in the words of the Prayer of Humble Access, "that our sinful bodies may be made clean by His Body, and our souls washed through His most precious Blood; that we may evermore dwell in Him, and He in us." How Biblical, how meaningful, words that speak of the mystery of eternal life as the Church has always known and believed it. Yes, this sacrament is "generally necessary for salvation", for being "in Christ"- in His Church.

Our faith is rooted in that great truth, that central truth, the Incarnation. We know that Christ, being in very nature God, took human nature, created nature, and made it part of His eternal and uncreated Person. Thus He came and saved us from sin and death, and to complete our salvation He made us, in the words of St. Peter, "partakers of the divine nature." Seated at the right hand of the Father, on the very throne of God, is the human form of a man; a man who was dead and is alive; a man who shares our very nature. He overcame our separation from God as creatures, by taking our created nature, thus deifying it. He overcame our sins by dying for our sins as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He overcame our death by rising on the third day. He overcame everything that separated us from God, that we may become "partakers of the divine nature."

That He gives His Flesh to eat and His Blood to drink is no small matter. St. Paul warns us not to take this communion unworthily, for it is His Body and Blood. If St. Paul had thought it to be a mere symbol, he could not have written these words. Our Lord Jesus is saying that we are to eat His Body and drink His Blood as the food and drink of eternal life, not as a mere symbol. There is nothing in His words, or the words of St. Paul, that reduces this to a metaphor or simile. The Incarnate Word, God the Son in human flesh, tells us to partake of Him in a manner that is worthy; that is, that we recognize His presence in this sacrament, and that we recognize His presence in His Church, and that we come in true faith having repented of our sins. If we do so, this is the food and drink of eternal life.

Listen to the words of the Apostle John, from his first Epistle:

I John 1:1-3

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.

We are called into the same fellowship of those early disciples, of the apostles who declared the Gospel of the Word made flesh. What a beautiful description of salvation; what a picture of the Church. We are those who have fellowship with all believers going back to the beginning; this fellowship involves what we can see and touch, namely the Incarnate Word, that is God manifested in the flesh. How do we see Him and touch Him in this time between His two appearances? The late Roman Catholic bishop, Fulton J. Sheen, spoke of his experience as a priest, standing at the altar and consecrating the bread and wine, holding the host as it becomes the Body of Christ, saying that he had "held God in his hands." He knew that fellowship with Christ, with the Father, and with the whole Church militant and triumphant, going all the way back to those who saw the Lord, those who touched Him.

We have many today who want to deny that Christ came in the flesh; and to do this they deny that He comes in this sacrament. They want to say it is only a symbol, only a ritual. In that first Epistle St. John went on to write:

I John 4:1-3

Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.

Denying the reality of the sacrament is part of this false spirit of antichrist. It is part of the denial of that mystery from which this sacrament springs, the Incarnation of God the Son. The idea is to reduce everything, the entire Gospel, into a mere representation, mere human imagination aspiring to divine realities. It is to place God forever beyond our reach, and to keep us from being "partakers of the divine nature." It is to transform the Church into an invisible idea that we cannot be part of. It is to take away the possibility of being in Christ, and of Him being in us. It is to take away the indwelling Holy Spirit Who makes us part of the Body of Christ.

On this feast of Corpus Christi we give thanks that Christ is among us in His Real Presence, and that we are the visible Body of Christ in this world. We have fellowship with all believers in all times and places, because we have fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ, who we see and touch. Because we believe that He is Incarnate, fully God and fully man; because we believe that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.

And now unto God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, be ascribed, as is most justly due, all might, majesty, dominion, power and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


The question arose here on The Continuum as to what is meant by Right Reason, and how it has come to be placed alongside of Scripture and Tradition. Too often it has been assumed that these three, Scripture, Right Reason and Tradition have been placed as equal parts of an epistemological triad for discerning the truth, with the idea of a "three legged stool" that provides the Anglican concept of authority or a magisterium. As we have seen before, however, this concept is not quite correct. It is drawn from Richard Hooker, but is not exactly what he meant. Whereas he laid great stress on all three of these (though rarely together in any one passage), the "three legged stool" analogy gives the false impression of equality, as if our mind could reason anything that equals revelation. In fact, Hooker saw the Scriptures as possessing the greatest weight of authority, but only understood correctly with the aid of the Church- or as we say, Tradition. And, as we have seen, neither human reason nor the Tradition of the Church can be weighed against Scripture, nor Scripture against the Tradition, since these two things speak the same truth with one voice. They support each other, not by comparison, certainly never with contradiction, but in a way even stronger than complement. The Scripture and the Tradition are one and the same, so that we say the Creed with the same conviction and certainty as words from the Bible.

How, then, do we understand Hooker's estimation of Reason?

One: regarding Church Polity

What does he mean when he speaks of Reason in connection to the Church? It must be remembered why he wrote The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity. The Church of England faced a threat from the Puritans. They wanted to overthrow the Church of England and its episcopal structure, and replace it with the "Calvin's Geneva Discipline." Hooker argued quite persuasively that Calvin's form of church government was no fit basis for polity (he preferred to say "polity" since he thought of "church government" as an insufficient concept). It did not conform either to the scriptures or to anything that was practiced by the Church in its earliest generations. He especially mentioned, in more than one place, just how unwarranted he found their notion of "Lay elders."

"So as the form of polity by them set down for perpetuity is three ways faulty: faulty in omitting some things which in Scripture are of that nature, as namely the difference that ought to be of Pastors when they grow to any great multitude: faulty in requiring Doctors, Deacons, Widows, and such like, as things of perpetual necessity by the law of God, which in truth are nothing less: faulty also in urging some things by Scripture immutable, as their Lay-elders, which the Scripture neither maketh immutable nor at all teacheth, for any thing either we can as yet find or they have hitherto been able to prove." BOOK III. Ch. xi. 20

In short, he found the Calvinist discipline, as it existed in those Reformed churches, at best the result of necessity that drove men to create some kind of order where none had existed, and at worst he found Calvin's ideas to be, as he wrote, "crazed." For the Church of England, never deprived of bishops and due order, he would have none of it.

One of the ideas that he refuted was the notion that the scriptures clearly set down everything that the Church was commanded to do, and how to do it, in exact detail. And, anything that could not be found in scripture should be forbidden. To this end, the Puritans imagined all sorts of interpretations to justify their own ideas, and condemned anything that did not fit their scheme.

It was not at all difficult to show that the Bible did not contain detailed instructions about many things that the Church must do. Hooker acknowledged that the scriptures command the things that truly matter most in every generation, but that it does not give detailed rules about many particulars that must vary from time to time and place to place. These things can and must change to meet the needs of real people in real places and ages, unlike God's eternal and unchanging commandments that are always and everywhere the same.

"The matters wherein Church polity is conversant are the public religious duties of the Church, as the administration of the word and sacraments, prayers, spiritual censures, and the like. To these the Church standeth always bound. Laws of polity, are laws which appoint in what manner these duties shall be performed." BOOK III. Ch. xi. 20

He gives one obvious example:

"In performance whereof because all that are of the Church cannot jointly and equally work, the first thing in polity required is a difference of persons in the Church, without which difference those functions cannot in orderly sort be executed. Hereupon we hold that God’s clergy are a state, which hath been and will be, as long as there is a Church upon earth, necessary by the plain word of God himself; a state whereunto the rest of God’s people must be subject as touching things that appertain to their souls’ health."

He argued that the Scriptures teach the office we call "bishop," knowing that the other orders depend on this office. Having given this example of a permanent law of polity, from scripture itself, he goes on to mention those things that are necessary, but are not commanded in detail by the word of God:

"A number of particularities there are, which make for the more convenient being of these principal and perpetual parts in ecclesiastical polity, but yet are not of such constant use and necessity in God’s Church. Of this kind are, times and places appointed for the exercise of religion; specialties belonging to the public solemnity of the word, the sacraments, and prayer; the enlargement or abridgment of functions ministerial depending upon those two principal before-mentioned; to conclude, even whatsoever doth by way of formality and circumstance concern any public action of the Church. Now although that which the Scripture hath of things in the former kind be for ever permanent: yet in the later both much of that which the Scripture teacheth is not always needful; and much the Church of God shall always need which the Scripture teacheth not." (emphasis mine)

Laws of ecclesiastical polity are necessary; everything from canon law to rubrics. And, it is obvious that many of these things cannot be drawn directly from scripture, even though they must be in accord with the teaching of scripture, never violating the principles and doctrine contained in it. To this end, he had opened the third book by extolling the high place of Reason, called also Right Reason, as a light given to man from God. The wisdom that is so highly praised in the Book of Proverbs is a light that also guides, even where no exact law of God is written in his sacred word.

The simple fact is, this is one use of what is meant by Right Reason (or Reason for short). It is a source of authority, yes, but not equal to the authority of revelation. It gives wisdom needed to establish many details of Church polity. True doctrine, however, comes only from Scripture as known by the Church.

Two: Subject to Scripture and the Tradition of the Church

The other proper use of Reason for Hooker, therefore, is when he speaks of it as subject to the Church, especially the testimony of the Church, by the Holy Spirit, that the scriptures are no less than the word of God. It is earlier, in chapter VIII of this same Book III, that we find the strongest of Hooker's statements to this effect.

"The question then being by what means we are taught this; some answer that to learn it we have no other way than only tradition; as namely that so we believe because both we from our predecessors and they from theirs have so received. But is this enough? That which all men’s experience teacheth them may not in any wise be denied. And by experience we all know, that the first outward motive leading men so to esteem of the Scripture is the authority of God’s Church. For when we know the whole Church of God hath that opinion of the Scripture, we judge it even at the first an impudent thing for any man bred and brought up in the Church to be of a contrary mind without cause. Afterwards the more we bestow our labour in reading or hearing the mysteries thereof, the more we find that the thing itself doth answer our received opinion concerning it. So that the former inducement prevailing somewhat with us before, doth now much more prevail, when the very thing hath ministered farther reason. If infidels or atheists chance at any time to call it in question, this giveth us occasion to sift what reason there is, whereby the testimony of the Church concerning Scripture, and our own persuasion which Scripture itself hath confirmed, may be proved a truth infallible. In which case the ancient Fathers being often constrained to shew, what warrant they had so much to rely upon the Scriptures, endeavoured still to maintain the authority of the books of God by arguments such as unbelievers themselves must needs think reasonable, if they judged thereof as they should. Neither is it a thing impossible or greatly hard, even by such kind of proofs so to manifest and clear that point, that no man living shall be able to deny it, without denying some apparent principle such as all men acknowledge to be true.

"Wherefore if I believe the Gospel, yet is reason of singular use, for that it confirmeth me in this my belief the more: if I do not as yet believe, nevertheless to bring me to the number of believers except reason did somewhat help, and were an instrument which God doth use unto such purposes, what should it boot to dispute with infidels or godless persons for their conversion and persuasion in that point?" BOOK III. Ch. viii. 14.

We see in this that Hooker did not shy away from such Catholic principles as the Church's authority, rooted in Tradition (and notice his positive use of the word "tradition" in this case, contrary to recent assertions made about him) teaching us that the Scripture is the word of God, and that this teaching is no less than "infallible." And, lest we charge him with insufficient appreciation of mystical religious experience, it is useful to notice what follows directly:

"Neither can I think that when grave and learned men do sometime hold, that of this principle there is no proof but by the testimony of the Spirit, which assureth our hearts therein, it is their meaning to exclude utterly all force which any kind of reason may have in that behalf; but I rather incline to interpret such their speeches, as if they had more expressly set down, that other motives and inducements, be they never so strong and consonant unto reason, are notwithstanding uneffectual of themselves to work faith concerning this principle, if the special grace of the Holy Ghost concur not to the enlightening of our minds. For otherwise I doubt not but men of wisdom and judgment will grant, that the Church, in this point especially, is furnished with reason, to stop the mouths of her impious adversaries; and that as it were altogether bootless to allege against them what the Spirit hath taught us, so likewise that even to our ownselves it needeth caution and explication how the testimony of the Spirit may be discerned, by what means it may be known; lest men think that the Spirit of God doth testify those things which the Spirit of error suggesteth. The operations of the Spirit, especially these ordinary which be common unto all true Christian men, are as we know things secret and undiscernible even to the very soul where they are, because their nature is of another and an higher kind than that they can be by us perceived in this life. Wherefore albeit the Spirit lead us into all truth and direct us in all goodness, yet because these workings of the Spirit in us are so privy and secret, we therefore stand on a plainer ground, when we gather by reason from the quality of things believed or done, that the Spirit of God hath directed us in both, than if we settle ourselves to believe or to do any certain particular thing, as being moved thereto by the Spirit. BOOK III. Ch. viii. 16.

We see in Hooker an appreciation for the work of the Holy Spirit as a normal part of the life of every devout Christian who submits the mind to Scripture. He sees Reason as a tool to gather these things. The mind that comprehends and explains what we have learned from the Holy Spirit who enlightens us, expresses these things as things that have been learned and are evident. They are "gathered" by reason when reason is directed by the Scripture and the Church. Reason is not a source of authority for doctrine, but the receiver that gathers what it learns, orders it, and gives expression to the truth.

Reason is placed along with Scripture and Tradition in these two ways. It provides wisdom whereby the Church in various times and places can establish polity, including those matters not directed by any permanent and unchanging commandment, and in forming ways to obey permanent and unchanging commandments, or do other necessary things, where changes of detail are permitted. Reason is also the servant of Scripture and Tradition, and indeed, of the Holy Spirit, for everything from teaching to apologetics. It is always subject to the authority of the Scriptures and the Church (with its infallible Tradition) and whatever we receive from the Holy Spirit is known and expressed by Reason as drawn and gathered from the Scripture.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Truth of Wood and Iron

A poem that just had to get written.

May 18, 2008, Trinity Sunday, in the wee hours. I've been involved in a lot of on-line theological wrangling, much of it done in a good spirit to constructive ends, but some of it has appeared mean-spirited and seems to be wielded harshly in order to cause pain. Truth is not always true, but is sometimes the vehicle of a greater lie. . . .

The Truth of Wood and Iron

Wood, good wood, true and real,
cut with care from the living growth,
that brings tall beauty to the hills,
and cools the air and shades the earth,
until it is needed.

Iron, honest and true,
dug from the cool depths of earth,
brought forth from rock with fervent fire,
and formed with the beauty of purpose.

Truth, honest reality just as it is,
formed into purpose by true honest labor,
and used for a purpose by true honest men,
according to what they have been told
is the true and right and lawful thing they should do.

And of truth, by truth, a thing is done,
and truth Himself is nailed to that wood,
and on that wood is hung,
and dies.

For truth, real truth without the One who made it,
without the guidance of the inner revelation,
without the purpose for which truth is made,
so often shows itself a source of danger,
an enemy to every goodness, every beauty,
and a source of ugliness and pain.

For truth, real truth, without the balm of love,
becomes a club with which to show one's power,
with which to beat one's adversaries down,
and to prove to all that may behold,
that the wielder of the truth deserves to reign,
and those others must be trampled down.

And like the truthful wood and iron,
the truth I wield, though it be proven right,
may be used for wrong,
and like the wood and iron of the Savior's death,
bring death, and pain,
and, taking truth, turn it into lie.

-------ed pacht

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Trinity Sunday


We are given glimpses and indications about the Trinity all throughout the Old Testament, beginning with the fact that God is one, but is spoken of in the plural nonetheless. For the word translated most often as God is rendered in the plural. Elohim (אלהים), the plural, is used rather than simply El (אל), which is singular. This is consistent with many things that appear quite mysteriously in the Book of Genesis, and continue throughout the writings of the Old Testament.The most famous of statements that declare this truth, that there is only one God, is in the Book of Deuteronomy: "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD." (Deut. 6:4) When the holiness of God is proclaimed to the prophet Isaiah by angels in the temple, he is "Holy, Holy, Holy"(Isaiah 6:3). Nonetheless, we are told many times that God is one, and there is no other beside him. "Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour." (Isaiah 43: 10, 11). In this same book God often reveals his relationship with Israel in various triads, such as: "I am the LORD, your Holy One, the creator of Israel, your King"(43:15). God is one (אחד) and plural (אלהים). God is invisible, and yet was seen in visions by prophets.

But, let us never imagine that the Trinity presents us with a problem of mathematics. The mystery of the Trinity is not a mystery of how he can be three in one, and one in three. That, in itself, is really not so hard to understand; and so St. Patrick used something as simple as the shamrock, one leaf that is also three leaves, to illustrate the unity of the Trinity.1 Without being mathematicians, we can understand that one may equal any number. That is not the mystery. The mystery is God, a mystery so great that the joy of eternity is growing in the knowledge of God forever, ever deepening knowledge that cannot be exhausted, for "his greatness is unsearchable." (Psalm 145:3) Infinity is too small a concept to weigh against God.

Like all revelation, the doctrine of the Trinity is filled with mystery to such an extent that we can be sure of one thing: No human mind dreamed it up. No human mind can contemplate God except by some use of created things, for the human mind is part of creation, lives in creation, and cannot leap out of that into the uncreated reality we call God. We can know God, nonetheless, because God has taken the initiative to reveal himself. And, this revelation cannot be separated from our salvation from sin and death.

The salvation which we celebrate, as God has given it to us, is historical and it is future. It is also iconic and sacramental. We must turn to readings for the Mass of Christmas on this Trinity Sunday, to grasp the point.

"God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." (Hebrews 1:1-3)

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." (John 1:1-14) 2

The Fathers who gathered for the second Council of Nicea knew that the heresy of the Iconoclasts was very dangerous indeed. The Iconoclasts failed to understand the difference between Christian icons and pagan idols. Christian icons are based on revelation, especially the ultimate revelation, the Incarnation: "The Word was made flesh." Pagan idols are a deception, taught by human imagination at best, by demons at worst, to lure men away from the true God. The true God is known only through the Son (John 14:6, 17:3). The Fathers at that Second Council of Nicea (787 AD) knew that if the Church rejected icons they would reject the iconic nature of revelation, the truth that the Word was made flesh. In time, they could refuse to believe in the Son, as he has been revealed through his human nature. In time, the knowledge of God could be lost, if the Iconoclasts were to prevail.

Iconoclasm had come from a new religion that had only recently appeared in human history, taught by that Antichrist name Mohamed (I John 2:18). The cruel god that his desert hordes proclaimed, as they ravaged and plundered the weak and defenseless, was the god of this Unitarianism known as Islam. This god cannot understand love, because he is not the One-
Elohim of Israel, known more fully by the Church as "the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." The doctrine of the Trinity teaches us that "God is love," as St. John put it (I John 4:8,16). But, about a god who is one and only one, through and through, with no plurality of Persons in him, we cannot speak of love; rather of an emptiness, a void in which eternity knows no compassion. G.K. Chesterton contrasted the God of revelation against the god of Islam very well:

"To us Trinitarians (if I may say it with reverence) -- to us God Himself is a society. It is indeed a fathomless mystery of theology, and even if I were theologian enough to deal with it directly, it would not be relevant to do so here. Suffice it to say here that this triple enigma is as comforting as wine and open as an English fireside; that this thing that bewilders the intellect utterly quiets the heart: but out of the desert, from the dry places and, the dreadful suns, come the cruel children of the lonely God; the real Unitarians who with scimitar in hand have laid waste the world. For it is not well for God to be alone."3

Our salvation is iconic, because to know the Son is to know the Father also. Apart from the Word made flesh we cannot know God. "But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (II Corinthians 4:3-6) We know God because we know the Son, and we know him because he is also a man.

The Word is spoken of by St. John in the Trinitarian opening of his Gospel, where God is thrice named, and where, when God is named the second time, "the Word was God." Further on we see, "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." What did we behold, even as it was disguised in his human features? We beheld "the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." And, what we beheld in that face was compassion, such compassion as a lonely god would not have. We beheld love, the love of the Father in the love of the Son, expressed most clearly on the cross when he poured out his soul unto death to redeem fallen mankind, to save us from sin and death. And, we behold him, after death, rising again and forever keeping our own human nature within the very Godhead. The revelation of God in Jesus Christ is entwined with the revelation that God is three in one and one in three.

Our salvation, as revealed, is sacramental. It stems from the Incarnation, and depends on the death and resurrection of Christ, from which flow the power and grace that are given to us by the Holy Spirit, as he uses the means of grace through his Church. Without the atonement Christ worked for us on his cross, and by his rising again, we would have no absolution, no baptism, no Communion. Without the Holy Spirit present and active in the Church, this grace would never be imparted through the preached word and through the sacraments. For, it is the Holy Spirit, the other Comforter (
παράκλητος, paraklētos), who imparts every grace that flows from the Incarnate, crucified and risen Son.

The risen Christ gave commandment to baptize "in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 28:19) St. Basil reminds us, in his book
On the Holy Spirit, that this trinitarian Name is one Name, not three names. We do not baptize in the names, but in the name. Comparing the 17th chapter of the Gospel of John to the 28th chapter of Matthew, we see a progression. In John, before his death, he says: "Father...I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them." (John 17:26) And, in Matthew, the Name of God is more fully revealed when he commands the Church to baptize, by telling us the name into which we baptize. "The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." This ultimate revelation of the name of God came from the mouth of the risen Lord Jesus Christ after he had perfected the work of our redemption, salvation and justification. (How fitting that we read the conversation between the Lord and Nicodemus on Trinity Sunday, since baptism, the new birth, is part of the revelation that God is the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost).

The correct pronunciation of the mysterious Name of God has been lost, despite fruitless efforts to figure it out. We may have an indication from the prophet Jeremiah that this loss was God's own work, a loss indeed, but to the end that we gain something greater (Jeremiah 44:26). For in place of a name that is only mystery, we have a greater revelation of a name that declares who our God is. We may not know how to pronounce the name spoken by Moses and the prophets; but, we know the God of Moses and the prophets more fully by the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. And, we have learned this name through the human life of the Son of God, his personal history of being conceived in the womb of his mother, Mary the Virgin, the
Theotokos. We know his history of going about doing good, healing all who were oppressed by the devil, teaching and preaching the kingdom of God, preparing his disciples, dying for the sins of the world, rising again from the dead, ascending to the Father and pouring out the Holy Spirit. We have learned the revelation of the Trinity because God is our salvation.

1. See my article Threefold Chords about how J.S.Bach used music to present a theological demonstration of the Trinity.
2. John used the phrase "in the beginning" to remind us of Genesis, and to get behind the opening of that first book of the Bible. What we call "Genesis" is called, in Hebrew, בראשית (B'Rasheet). It is simply the first word, which we translate into English with three words: "In the beginning." John used the Greek translation that opens this same first book of the Bible in the LXX. It was popular years ago to emphasize the first four words of the English translation. "In the beginning God." But, in fact, the word for "created," ( ברא, bora) is the second word in the Hebrew text, and the word we translate as "God" (that plural word, אלהים, Elohim) is third. In the Hebrew syntax the word for "created" directly follows "In the beginning." It is the opening of John's Gospel that moves the emphasis from the work of God to God as God. The apostle goes behind the scene of Genesis 1:1 to draw our attention from creation to God. This is because the New Covenant gives the knowledge of God in greater glory.
3.From Orthodoxy, by G.K. Chesterton. (
chapter VIII)

Friday, May 16, 2008

More Signs and Symbols

While we're on the subject, I am also posting what my same friend in Don't Leave Home Without It had to say when asked if there were some reference work spelling out the various responsive crossings, genuflections, silent prayers, and so forth during the liturgy. My friend, retired Episcopal priest Fr Ken Peck, had the following to say, and it is almost identical to what I would have written. I have added in italics what, for me, he left out, and put in bold face things he includes that are new to me.

I don't recall ever seeing one. I think I learned by observation, so it was a non-verbal handing down of tradition.

On entering the nave, if there is a baptismal font with water, dip fingers in water and make the sign of the cross. If there is no font, look for a stoup with holy water, dip and sign. In either case recall one's baptism as one's entrance into Christ's Church. If there is neither, flee -- you are in a Baptist Church.

When arriving at the pew, genuflect if the sacrament is reserved; otherwise bow toward the altar. If the sacrament isn't reserved and there is no altar, flee -- you are in a Community Bible Church.

Kneel, sign and begin your pre-communion devotions. Sign again before sitting.

Bow as the cross passes in procession. (Also the bishop; sign if he is blessing. I was taught to genuflect on the left knee.

Sign at the opening salutation.

Strike breast at "have mercy on us" in the Kyries.

Bow at the words "worship" in the Gloria and sign at the end.

Bow as the Gospel Book passes you in procession.

As the gospel is announced, make small signs on the forehead, lips and chest. "May the gospel be in my mind, on my lips and in my heart."

Bow at the "Glory be" and "Praise be" before and after the gospel.

If the preacher begins by involving the Holy Trinity with the correct names, sign, giving thanks that there is hope for the sermon. If not, flee -- you are in a Unitarian Church.

Genuflect at the words "And was incarnate," bow at the words "worshipped and
glorified" and sign at the end of the creed.

Sign at the commemoration of the departed in the Prayers of the People.

Sign at the absolution.

Bow at the Sanctus, sign at the "Blessed is he who comes." Kneel as the prayer of consecration begins. (This violates a canon of Nicaea in Easter season.)

*If there are elevations at the words of institution* sign and pray, "My Lord and my God." Sign at the elevation at the conclusion of the Eucharistic prayer again praying, "My Lord and my God." If there is no elevation at this point, flee -- you are in a Presbyterian Church.

Sign at the words "Deliver us from evil" in the Lord's Prayer.

(I add here something I have recently picked up from my Roman friends, which is to hold the hands outward, palms raised, during the entire Lord's Prayer. Please don't nobody slap me.)

Strike breast at the words "Lamb of God."

Sign at the invitation, "The Gifts of God for the People of God."

Genuflect when approaching the sanctuary to receive Communion. Sign before receiving the Body of Christ and again before the precious Blood. The ancient way of receiving the Body is to make a "throne" with your right hand placed in your left hand, palms up and open. From there raise the host to your mouth. This is described by Cyril of Jerusalem in his Catechetical Lectures.

After receiving the precious blood, touch fingers to lips and then sign.
(This is a somewhat simplified version of what Cyril describes.)

Sign at the final blessing.

Reverse the entry procedure when leaving.