Thursday, July 31, 2008

A 'Reminder' to New Readers

I've noticed a most welcome crop of new readers in the past few weeks, a number of whom must be from the same family, because they all have the same name -- Anonymous.

This is to 'remind' them of one of our very few basic rules here -- we discourage comments from people called Anonymous. And the reason is quite simple: if several people are using the same name, nobody has any idea who is saying what in a discussion.

I've never understood why people are ashamed to use their own names, but there is no reason why you must here if you choose not to. Simply choose a nomme de plume, and stick with it. That way, we'll get to know you, even though we don't really get to know you.

And one last word, while I'm at it. As I said, we have very few rules here, and they are all based on Christian charity. No one has ever been banned from this site, and I do not envision that anyone ever will be. That said, comments that constitute personal attacks on others will be rejected, as will those that are impolite.

Otherwise, have at it. We encourage lively debate, though we also encourage that debate to be based on at least a minimum of substance. Just a minimum, folks. Really.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

So How Many Are We, Really?

On another thread, a reader we know only as "John" makes an interesting claim, citing an unnamed Roman Catholic and providing no details about that person's data base or methodology:

As to inflating numbers ACC/PCK and UECNA are all guilty: a reasonably accurate 'census' was circulated a year or so ago done by a RC. His numbers have been tested and found reliable.

ACC and APCK both were around or less than 4,000 apiece; the UEC about 300. There are a number of parishes on the web sites that are hardly more than 3 old ladies and a cat. Look I don't believe there 1.2 billion RCs, but then I have not had a chance to count them either.


I have looked myself, and do not recall ever seeing the ACC, APCK or UECNA provide any figures on the number of their faithful, so I am curious about how one can justify accusing those jurisdictions of inflating numbers. Perhaps as a start, John can provide us with the claims made by those jurisdictions that the RC researcher has debunked.

As for the TAC, I can't remember what I last read about their claims, but I do seem to recall them being in the hundreds of thousands. I would very much like to believe that is true, but have difficulty doing so.

So, how many are we, really? For starters, over to you John.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Unity and salvation

"Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." John 17:20,21

We hear this quoted often, and alluded to even more often. Almost never do we actually hear the full quotation. This should not be surprising in an age that thinks in sound bites, and that places greater emphasis on how people feel about issues, than on what they think about them. When we are treated to these allusions and partial quotations, the message seems to be this: Jesus really wants us to become one, and we have to make it happen. Put another way, God is praying to us, and we ought to hear his prayer.

And, if that seems wrong to you, good; well it should.

The emphasis of the Gospel according to St. John is twofold: It is the Trinity and the Incarnation. As it opens, John takes us behind the scenes of Genesis. The Hebrew name of the first book of the Bible means, "In the beginning." ( B'Rasheet, בְּרֵאשִׁית). John opens with this same phrase recognized by readers of the Septuagint (LXX), the standard Greek translation of the Old Testament; He too opens with, "In the beginning," (En Arche, ἐν ἀρχῇ ). In the Book of B'Rasheet, or Genesis, we are told what God did, the word "created" (bora, בָּרָא) following as the second word ("In the beginning" is all one word). If translated into English words, but retaining Hebrew syntax, it would say, "In the beginning created God the heavens and the earth." The emphasis is not on God himself, but on his work of creation. John, using the expression known to Greek readers of the LXX (ἐν ἀρχῇ ) alludes to the opening of Genesis in a very obvious way, but does not immediatley speak of God's work. First he lingers on God as God, and presents God as the Trinity.

"In the beginning was the Word (Logos, Λόγος), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God." (1:1,2)

Verse 2 is not superflous; it mentions God the third time because, as this Gospel unfolds, we see the Son and we hear him speak of the other Comforter, that is the Spirit of Truth. The theme of God as Trinity is presented immediately. Then, with a bow to the Genesis narrative, John speaks of creation (בָּרָא): "All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. " He speaks of the Logos as the One in whom there is life, that is, life that gives life, suggesting most strongly the creation of Man: "In him was life; and the life was the light of men." When we keep reading, and get to verse 14, the second great theme of John's Gospel is introduced. "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."

It is only in the context of these two great themes that dominate this Gospel, the Trinity and the Incarnation of the Word, that we have any business interpreting the meaning of the High Priestly prayer of chapter 17. The first Unity that we must consider in the words of this prayer is the Unity of the Trinity. So, it opens: "These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. " (17:1-3) Our salvation is knowing God, and because whoever sees the Son sees the Father, and no man comes to the Father but by the Son (14:6-10), because God cannot be separated from God (for each Person is distinct, but inseparable), to know the Father requires that we know Jesus Christ. The only true God is known truly only by revelation, namely, Jesus Christ Whom he has sent; that is, the Word Incarnate.

By the time we get to the place where Jesus says, "Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are" (v.11), it ought to be clear that he is speaking to the Father, one Divine Person to another Divine Person, about our common salvation in himself. The meaning is eternal and salvific. It means, in effect, keep them in me. For, "this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. "

Understood correctly, "that may all be one" gives greater motivation to be unified among ourselves in common faith and thought, with charity; because we are one whether we live like it or not. A prayer spoken within the Godhead, which we are privileged to overhear, the Son addressing the Father, is as much a declaration as "Let there be light," or "Let us make man in our image." God has pronounced that his people are one, that is, that the Church is, as St. Paul says many times, "in Christ." The Church as a whole is "in Christ," and each member of the Church is "in Christ."

We know that a married couple is no longer two, but one flesh. This is clear in Genesis, in the Gospels where Jesus explains that divorce is a mere fiction, and in the Epistles of Paul when he warns us to live within the boundaries of God's moral laws. To suggest that the eternal unity of the Church in Christ can really be broken, is akin to believing that human courts can undo the work of God in a valid sacramental marriage. The Church's various divorces, whether in 1054 or in the 16th century, do not annul its unity in Christ; for if it did, members would be cut off and die simply because of human failing. Where true faith is present, we are in Christ; and, unless one can rob a Christian of his faith, he cannot cut him off from Christ (Romans 4:16).

Our unity is both a present and eternal fact, because we are in Christ. We should make efforts to understand each other, to be very clear in communication, to work for the resolution of theological and political separation, and to cultivate charity by the grace of the Holy Spirit who is within us all. But, we must not let this become mere sentimentality, and neither must we feel anxiety or pressure to leap forward faster than honest and clear communication allow. We already are one in Christ, and can proceed toward a resolution of differences in polity only with theological clarity and respect for everyone's conscience.

Through the Looking Glass

From an unexpected source, a good commentary on the error of women's "ordination", and its direct relevance to the "blessing" of same sex unions. The Rev. Todd H. Wetzel, Executive Driector of Anglicans United, reporting from Canterbury, has shown evidence of good clear thinking, which makes a good case for communication between Traditional Anglicans and the conservative Episcopalians. The emphasis in bold, here and there, is ours.

Fr. Todd Wetzel: Canterbury V Monday, July 28, 2008

We call ourselves the third largest communion in the world behind Rome and Orthodoxy.
But even the most generous estimates of our numbers make us but a small fraction of these older Churches. Getting realistic about the numbers makes us far smaller.

Archbishop Rowan Williams says that other churches are experiencing similar turmoil over these issues. But neither the Pope nor any major Patriarch shows any signs of waffling, nor do their churches display signs of the fault lines and consequent stress displayed in the Anglican Communion and particularly in the west of it.

The Archbishop claims that the ordination of women and that of practicing homosexuals are “secondary” issues, as is the blessing of same sex unions. Both Rome and Orthodoxy view them as of the first order, seeing them not primarily as a question of human rights and inclusion but as symptoms of a fundamental misunderstanding of the Doctrines of Creation and Redemption. Further, they do not separate these issues but view them as linked.

Men and women – male and female - are complements. They are not interchangeable. Each is uniquely designed and created. God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve (admittedly this is a bit cheesy but it points out the truth rather simply). Priesthood is derivative of the role of Adam who provided spiritual covering and protection for Eve. With the Fall of Adam and Eve the created order went askew. But Jesus, as the new Adam, is our redeemer. In Him and through His Church the created order is being restored to its original design. Chance did not dictate that the Savior was a male. And, a male priesthood is key to our witness to the redemption of this fallen world. The male priest represents Christ. If it wasn’t chance that dictated that Christ be born male, how can a female stand in the place of Christ? Mary birthed the Christ and she had the good sense to follow Him, not supplant Him. Not even after his crucifixion.

If the two issues are linked and the resultant controversy springs from a misapprehension of the Intentional Truth of the created order, then getting them wrong and incorporating these innovations is a colossal error. Get this wrong and your compass no longer points true. Following it will not bring you in line with God’s Will. Neither you nor the people you lead can find you way home. Home is not where this “through the looking glass” compass points. In which case, this is not simply a rabbit hole we’ve stumbled into but a bottomless pit.

While here, several individuals including reporters have sought to convince me of the “blessing” of same sex relationships. This wouldn’t bother me so much except they seem to be preaching to the choir. Few are sounding a discordant note to that preaching.

We are bombarded by the pro-gay lobby and their thorough marketing effort evidenced by multiple booths in the display area as to the “naturalness” of the homosexual relationship.

But, reproduction is essential in the natural realm. The coming together of two men or two women is a biological dead end street. The outcome of a homosexual relationship is the absence of the next generation. It is a violation of the complementarity inherent in the creation. Such relationships cannot point to a redeemed order but are evidences of the Fall. Is this really so difficult to understand? Gene Robinson may be a nice and very articulate person, but he his message is wrong. I thank God for GAFCON and the Sudanese delegation present here who found the courage to clearly say so.

Has our ability to discern God’s Will fallen to such a low state that we exchange the truth for a lie on the evidence of a seductive smile?

The United States and the western provinces are fronting a “through the looking glass” world. Both theirs and the siren sound of these linked innovations have merged to a single tune, and it is being played loudly.

I have heard other voices, the echoes of ancient Christian hymns, and their volume is mounting. Here there are moderates and evangelicals who know the Gospel and may yet rise up to seize the day and extricate us from this rabbit hole. So far they’ve let the absent Global South carry the load and fight the fight.

This week in Canterbury, they must find the courage to stand on their own and say to this crazy, newly manufactured world, “Let us say no to the question of homosexual practice on Biblical grounds. Let us revisit the subject of women’s ordination giving ourselves time to study the matter, discuss it in depth theologically and reenter discussion of it with both Roman Catholic and Orthodox authorities. Then let us get on with the work of ministry He has commanded of us.”

If they will not do so, the Communion will continue in a cloud of obfuscation.

All Content is Copyright Anglicans United & Latimer Press 2006 ©

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Bibliography

In light of such widespread interest expressed in reading material for the Anglican faithful, and for the merely curious, I pointed out in a comment a superb bibliography has been produced by the Anglican Catholic Church's Diocese of the South.

Those interested in details, or in acquiring a copy, should contact the Revd. Voris G. Brookshire. Here are his contact details:

St. John the Theologian Church
4213 N. Federal Highway
Pompano Beach, FL 33064
USA

Phone: + 001 (954) 781-8370
E-Mail: vorisbrookshire@aol.com
www.stjohntheologian.org

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Rome Writes to Hepworth

His Grace, Archbishop John Hepworth has released the following message to the College of Bishops, Vicars General and those assisting the TAC to achieve unity with the Holy See.

My Dear Fathers, Brothers and Sisters,
It is my great pleasure to be able to attach a copy of a letter I received this morning (25 July 2008) from Cardinal Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, via the Apostolic Nuncio in Australia. It is a letter of warmth and encouragement. I have responded, expressing my gratitude on behalf of "my brother bishops", reaffirming our determination to achieve the unity for which Jesus prayed with such intensity at the Last Supper, no matter what the personal cost this might mean in our discipleship.

This letter should encourage our entire Communion, and those friends who have been assisting us. It should also spur us to renewed prayer for the Holy Father, for Cardinal Levada and his staff at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and for all our clergy and people as we move to ever closer communion in Christ with the Holy See.

I am particularly thankful to the Cardinal Prefect for his generous mention of "corporate reunion", a pathway seldom travelled in the past, but essential for bringing about the plea of our Master to His Father "May they be completely one"’.

The Traditional Anglican Communion
Archbishop John Hepworth
Primate

Read the letter here

Tenth Sunday after Trinity

1 Corinthians 12:1-11

“Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.”

- I Cor. 12:3

We must consider two venues when we think of this basic confession of Christian Faith.

  1. Confessing Jesus as the Lord within the Church:

We make this very confession in this specific portion of the Creed:

“…Begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of very God; Begotten, not made; Being of one substance with the Father; By whom all things were made: Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, And was made man…”

The Jewish people had once known the ineffable Name of God which is represented by four Hebrew letters that correspond to our Latin alphabet with the letters YHVH (יהוה). This is the Name that is in the original Hebrew text every time that you find the word LORD rendered with every letter in the higher case, in the KJV and other English translations that follow ancient Jewish and Christian tradition. The prophet Jeremiah had said that, upon their return from Babylon, this Name would no longer be pronounced by any man of Judah. The tradition of the Jewish people was to use the word Adonai whenever reading the Holy Name of God out loud in scripture, that name YHVH. The Hebrew word Adonai, which means “the Lord,” would be substituted by a Jewish reader, and this remains the standard Jewish practice to this very day. The First century Christians who relied on the Greek translation called the Septuagint (generally rendered LXX in books) were accustomed to finding this Name of God translated as Kyrios (Κύριος), the Greek word for “Lord.” So, when we say that Jesus is the Lord, we are saying that this man who walked the earth, lived, died and rose again is Himself to be identified with the God of Israel who made heaven and earth. We are saying that “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” We are confessing the Incarnation. On that day when the Apostle Peter said to Jesus, “thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” the Lord answered him, “Flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee, but my Father in heaven.” If you know, and can say with all your heart, that Jesus is the Lord, you are saying that He is one with the Father. You are saying, therefore, that “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” You are saying that God the Son has taken human nature into His Divine Person, our created nature into his uncreated Being. You are saying that He has assumed what is alien to Him, our humanity, as the One who is wholly other from every created thing, to forever transform human nature by making us partakers of the Divine Nature, as is written by the Apostle Peter (II Peter 1:4). This is why you cannot say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost. Oh, someone can say the words, perhaps, without conviction. But, to speak of the Incarnation with faith, you must have the Holy Spirit within you making Christ known to you, the blessed revelation that was given to St. Peter: Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. He and the Father are One.

  1. Confessing Jesus as the Lord before the world.

This is more difficult. To the ears of a Roman Magistrate such a confession was a crime punishable by death. The Empire had one Lord (Κύριος), and that was Caesar. Furthermore, Christians were taught to obey and honor all earthly authorities (Romans 13:1f), including Caesar, but (and here is the rub) only as far as the informed Christian conscience allows. The Church was taught to obey and honor his title, but not his ultimate title, his claim to total authority over the human conscience as formed by the word of God. Caesar was believed to be the lord and god of his empire, and for a Christian to avoid the sentence of death, once charged with the crime of Christianity, he had to renounce Jesus (apparently, calling Him accursed in the region around Corinth), and then make an offering of incense to the image of Caesar, as the image of the lord and god of the whole world. It is implied by Saint Paul’s words, in this Epistle, that certain lapsed believers sought to be allowed back quickly into the fellowship of the Church by claiming that the Holy Spirit had guided them to renounce Jesus in this manner, and save their lives. Saint Paul addresses this by teaching that such a notion is impossible, not setting aside the possibility of forgiveness, but firmly correcting an unacceptable excuse and wrong idea.

Here in the modern Western world we cannot identify easily with the ancient Christians, who at any moment could face denunciation to the authorities, or even have their gatherings raided. However, in other lands Christians live with the power of a tyrannical state, that Beast from the Book of Revelation that has suffered a mortal wound and yet lingers on in the world before its inevitable death, the power of the state demanding to be acknowledged as lord and god by trampling the human conscience. The twentieth century saw more martyrs than all previous centuries combined, and we see no change in the world even now except for the fall of one state, the Soviet Union. How poor an excuse it is, therefore, if under a threat no more serious than social pressure, we who live in freedom fail to live up to the dictates of an informed conscience, failing to declare by word and deed that Jesus is the Lord.

Of course, it is also true that human pride is given no room by the courageous examples of the martyrs; for Saint Paul tells us that if we are faced with death it is only by the Holy Spirit that we have the power to confess that Jesus is the Lord. C.S. Lewis once wrote: Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” And, this virtue requires the Holy Spirit giving us grace to say, “Jesus is the Lord.”

Knowing Christ and making Him known has everything to do with the Epistle reading we have heard, as well as with the Gospel for today. It is, in fact, what binds them together, what makes both passages connect with each other. The Old Testament phrases, “the things that belong to your peace” and “the day of your visitation” are full of rich meaning in light of the greater glory revealed in Christ. The Epistle for today is speaking of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that reside in the Body of Christ, the Church; and the Gospel for today is speaking about “the day of visitation” in which God’s presence in the earth requires a response of repentance, of faith and obedience from every human being. Remember that Christ said to His Apostles, in the same night in which He was betrayed and about to go to the cross, that when the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, will come, He will convict the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment. It is through you, the Body of Christ His Church, that the Holy Spirit is active in the world (John 16:7-11).

You can say, with genuine conviction, that “Jesus is the Lord.” Upon your Confirmation through apostolic hands, the Holy Spirit came upon you and into you with gifts beyond your understanding. Whenever Saint Paul lists the gifts of the Holy Spirit, as he does in this Epistle reading, the list is different. He gives a list in Romans chapter 12, and in Ephesians chapter 4, and so on. Each list differs from the others. But, they all draw from the list given by the prophet Isaiah, falling into one of the categories from the 11th chapter of the prophet’s book. In that chapter Isaiah writes of “the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.” And, within these seven categories are endless gifts, each supernatural, each a grace in itself, each something that is both alive and beyond human power. These are the gifts given to you, the Body of Christ.

The Holy Spirit is in you, and His gifts are so many and varied that often you may be unaware of His working through you. This is where the ministry of the clergy is not, emphatically not, meant as a substitute for the rest of the Body of Christ in a given time and place. Rather, it is partly for your edification, the fine-tuning and cultivation and organizing of the gifts that already have been placed within you, that God establishes the ordained ministry within his holy Church. You do not get off the hook, you are not being put out of a job, and you do not get to retire and put your feet up, just because you have deacons, priests and a bishop. Most true believers, of course, do not want to retire from our shared mission.

All of the Old Testament language in today’s Gospel, about the things that make for your peace, about the day of visitation, speaks about Christ sending His Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, to be a living presence and witness in the earth through His Church. That is, you, the Body of Christ in a specific time and place. You can say that Jesus is the Lord with all your heart. And, you have gifts that you have not even imagined, gifts which already are in you that may become discovered, strengthened and even perfected. For this is the time of visitation, when the things that make for their peace, peace with God, must be proclaimed and presented to those yet dead in trespasses and sins, and to those failing and faltering in their faith. We all have our work cut out for us; it is only for us to discover and fine-tune the gifts of the Holy Spirit so as to put them to use.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Pope Benedict's Anglican mind

The following are excerpts from God is near Us, (2003, San Fransisco, Ignatius Press) by Pope Benedict XVI, (published initially under the name Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger), chapter entitiled "The presence of the Lord in the Sacrament", ps. 84-87. Some polemical "Catholic Fundamentalists" have attacked Pope Benedict XVI, calling him a heretic and anti-pope, accusing him of denying the Real Presence. I have no doubt about what these same polemicists think of us, our orders and all of our sacraments.

In what follows, I contend that we find the same spirit and meaning as we find in Article XXVIII, using the principle of composer's intention. We find too, that Pope Benedict XVI faithfully draws the principles of Real Presence in the Sacrament, from the Incarnation. I think the Anglican Divines would have said a hearty "Amen."

In the twelfth century the mystery of the Eucharist was on the point of being torn apart by two groups, who each in its own way failed to grasp the heart of it. There were those filled with the thought : Jesus is really there. But "reality", for them, was simply physical, bodily. Consequently, they arrived at the conclusion: In the Eucharist we chew on the flesh of the Lord; but therein they were under the sway of a serious misapprehension. For Jesus has risen. We do not eat flesh as cannibals would do. That is why others quite rightly opposed them, arguing against such primitive "realism." But they, too, had fallen into the same error of regarding only what is material, tangible, visible as reality. They said: Since Christ cannot be there in a body we can bite on, the Eucharist can only be a symbol of Christ...

"Reality" is not just what we can measure. It is not only "quantums", but quantifiable entities, that are real; on the contrary, these are always only manifestations of the hidden mystery of true being. But here, where Christ meets us, we have to do with this true being. This is what was being expressed with the word "substance". This does not refer to the quantums, but to the profound and fundamental basis of being. Jesus is not there like a piece of meat, not in the realm of what can be measured and quantified...How should we relate to reality? What is "real"?...Concerning the Eucharist it is said to us: The substance is transformed, that is to say, the fundamental basis of its being...

First. What has always mattered to the Church is that a real transformation takes place here. Something genuinely happens in the Eucharist. There is something new there that was not before. Knowing about a transformation is part of the most basic Eucharistic faith. Therefore it cannot be the case that the Body of Christ comes to add itself to the bread, as if bread and Body were two similar things that could exist as two "substances", in the same way, side by side. Whenever the Body of Christ, that is, the risen and bodily Christ, comes, he is greater than the bread, other, not of the same order. The transformation happens, which affects the gifts we bring by taking them up into a higher order and changes them, even if we cannot measure what happens...The Lord takes possession of the bread and the wine; he lifts them up, as it were, out of the setting of their normal existence into a new order; even if, from a purely physical point of view, they remain the same, they have become profoundly different.

...Wherever Christ is present, afterward it cannot be just as if nothing had happened. There, where he laid his hand, something new has come to be. This points us back again to the fact that being a Christian as such is to be transformed, that it must involve repentance and not just some embellishment added onto the rest of one's life. It reaches down into our depths and renews us from those very depths. The more we ourselves as Christians are renewed from the root up, the better we understand the mystery of transformation. Finally, this capacity things have for being transformed makes us more aware that the world itself can be transformed, that it will one day as a whole be the New Jerusalem, the Temple, vessel of the presence of God.

Appointment

As owner of The Continuum, I do hereby name Fr Robert Hart as its Canon Theologian .

Long may he theologise.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

About Articles XXVIII and XXIX

XXVIII. Of the Lord's Supper.

THE Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves, one to another, but rather it is a sacrament of our redemption by Christ's death: insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith receive the same, the bread which we break is a partaking of the body of Christ, and likewise the cup of blessing is a partaking of the blood of Christ.

Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of bread and wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ, but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.

The body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is Faith.

The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not by Christ's ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped.

XXIX. Of the wicked which do not eat the body of Christ, in the use of the Lord's Supper.

THE wicked and such as be void of a lively faith, although they do carnally and visibly press with their teeth (as S. Augustine saith) the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ, yet in no wise are they partakers of Christ, but rather to their condemnation do eat and drink the sign or sacrament of so great a thing.
___

The meaning of these Articles deserves such treatment as the method employed by St. Thomas Aquinas.

1. (A Roman view)

Whereas Article XXVIII condemns the concept of Transubstantiation, it demonstrates that the Anglicans departed from belief in the Real presence of Christ in the sacrament, which nullifies their sacramental intention in the service they call Holy Communion. It demonstrates that they see the species of bread and wine as remaining unaffected by their rite, remaining no more than mere symbols instead of the reality of Christ's body and blood. This is a clear rejection of the Real Presence, and shows that they lack sacramental intention by their own admission.

In addition, in Article XXIX they further clarified their rejection of a true sacramental intention by creating a doctrine best called Receptionism. They say that the wicked do eat the sign of so great a thing as the Body of Christ, but do not eat the Body of Christ itself. So too, the cup, for they drink the sign but not the reality. Clearly, they have rejected a doctrine of the Real Presence. That the sacrament must not be lifted up or worshiped only further proves that they did not believe Christ was actually present in it.

This proves that they are in error and have departed from the true Faith by rejecting sacramental intention.

(2. The extreme and very, very, very modern Evangelical view)

On the contrary, the Articles, when taken together, do not show error or a rejection of the true faith, but rather a restoration of the true faith. By rejecting Transubstantiation the Anglicans have returned to the true teaching of Christ, in which the sacraments are a symbol only. Since it is faith, and only faith, that saves from sin and death, it is of no consequence that the symbolic use of bread and wine are called the Body and Blood of Christ. These two Articles teach deliverance from superstition that requires faith in a material thing, rather than spiritual understanding.

The words of Jesus in the 6th chapter of the Gospel of John should not be interpreted as having anything to do with the bread and wine used in Communion services. That whole discourse cannot be interpreted to mean that communion has anything to do with salvation, since Jesus spoke of eating his flesh and drinking his blood as a metaphor for having faith in him. For he said, in that very text, these things: "And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day...Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life." (John 6:47, 48). Therefore, the Church of Rome is wrong in condemning the Anglicans, inasmuch as their rejection agrees with the correct meaning of John chapter 6, which is that belief in Christ is what it means to eat his flesh and drink his blood. Communion is, merely, symbolic.

(3. Anglicanism)

Our view requires a closer look at both scripture and at these Articles.

First of all, these follow Article XXV, in which we find these words, "SACRAMENTS ordained of Christ be not only badges or tokens of Christian men's profession, but rather they be certain sure witnesses and effectual signs of grace and God's good will towards us, by the which He doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm, our faith in Him." That the sacraments are called not merely "signs," but "effectual signs" gives us a source from which we rightly say that they signify what they effect, and they effect what they signify. This is very clear in the words that immediately follow and provide both the definition and description of "effectual signs" very plainly; speaking of God's work within us, namely grace, quickening, strengthening and confirming. The meaning was made very clear. Therefore, they are never symbols only, but "effectual signs" that actually operate as a "means of grace." Furthermore, that God uses material things in this way is consistent with the Incarnation itself, whereas the opposite view is not. Therefore, the Anglicans did not say that the sacrament of Christ's body and blood is less than able to convey grace.

In order to see these two Articles as a rejection of the Real Presence and means of grace, it is necessary to ignore the context of Articles XXVIII and XXIV, following, as they do, on the Article that speaks of Effectual Signs. It is necessary, also, to ignore the many writings of the period in which the Anglican rejection of "Transubstantiation" amounts to exactly the same objection raised by Joseph Ratzinger, who is now known to Roman Catholics, and to the whole world, as Pope Benedict XVI. For, as recorded in his book God is Near Us, this wise and learned man of God taught that Transubstantiation must not be reduced to "a crude material understanding." In that book, he taught that the elements of bread and wine are taken into the Person of Christ, and given back to us as the Body and Blood of Christ.

But, in the 16th century, the Anglicans clarified what they rejected, both describing and rejecting a doctrine that the bread and wine changed physically into flesh and blood; that after consecration they in no way possessed the physical properties of bread and wine, but rather the physical properties of Christ's own flesh and blood, in the most carnal understanding of the substance of flesh and blood. Whether or not this was a correct understanding of Transubstantiation is beside the point, inasmuch as what Anglicans rejected was described in these terms. This is clear in the Article itself, where we see the definition, "the change of the substance of bread and wine." Therefore, we contend that if "Transubstantiation" had been defined in the 16th century as Pope Benedict XVI defines it now, the Anglicans would have had no objection to the word "Transubstantiation." Therefore, Article XXVIII was not a rejection of the doctrine of the Real Presence.

We say, furthermore, that if the Anglicans had rejected the doctrine of the Real presence, they would not have taught in the Catechism that Baptism and the Supper of the Lord are "generally necessary to salvation," since mere symbols that fail to effect what they signify cannot impart grace. Neither could the Prayer of Humble Access have contained the words, "Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his Body, and our souls washed through his most precious Blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. "

The words of John 6 would be a complete mystery without the accounts of the Last Supper, wherein Scripture interprets Scripture, explaining the meaning; which meaning we have no authority to reject. ("My flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed," was completely enigmatic to the disciples, until the night in which he was betrayed. "This is my Body...This is my Blood."-cp John 6:55, I Corinthians 11:24,25) We say, moreover, that the words of Jesus in John 6 were about belieiving in him, but that this is why they can be understood only in terms of the sacrament of Holy Communion. For, it is only for believers that the Body and Blood of Christ is intended. The Church has never allowed unbelievers to partake of this sacrament, unlike the heretical ECUSAn sect that gives its "sacraments" openly to all.

Compare these two passages of scripture, and try to reconcile the apparent contradiction:

"Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day." John 6:54

"For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body." I Corinthians 11:29

The same elements, eaten and drunk, are means to the grace of eternal life for one man, and the means to damnation for the other. This answers the objection of Rome to Article XXIX, since the eating and drinking of Christ's body and blood would automatically impart salvation, if Real Presence were always to have the effect intended by God in his goodness. But we see that eating and drinking the elements gives benefit only to those who believe, so that the believer receives Christ thereby, and the wicked eats and drinks damnation, for he partakes of the effectual sign in an unworthy manner. As an old prayer says, "not that I receive the sacrament only, but the virtue of the sacemant also."
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To make sense of both quotations from holy Scripture, to avoid the error of choosing between them as if only one were true, we must concede that the Anglican Article teaches the true meaning of Scripture. One may eat and drink the "sign or sacrament," which sign is effectual, which sacrament is really the Body and Blood of Christ, and yet not feed on him or recieve him in the sense he himself teaches in the Gospel of John, chapter 6 (in which sense it must always impart salvation, and never anything else). One may receive the sacrament, but reject the grace of the sacrament through willful sin or unbelief.

Because the sacrament is an effectual sign, effecting what it signifies, it is necessary for the believer to receive it, not merely to gaze upon it. Therefore, it is faith in the Real Presence of Christ's body and blood, and its impartation of grace as a sacrament "generally necessary to salvation" that moved the Anglicans to clarify the purpose of the sacrament according to God's institution, and therefore according to the pure intention of the Church, when they wrote: "The Sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon or to be carried about, but that we should duly use them" (XXV), and "The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not by Christ's ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped." (XXVIII) For, whereas they taught the purpose of the sacrament (without giving any law or proscription) they emphaszied its charismatic nature, its saving effect, and its purpose.

In these ways the Anglicans affirmed both Real Presence and the general need to receive Communion. They taught sacramental intention purified from the innovations and distortians of the period.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Anglican and unashamed

On a previous thread (my sermon for the Ninth Sunday after Trinity, below), a reader who goes by the name Canon Tallis wrote a comment, part of which I quote here:

"...save for the little point about Ritual Notes being from the Alcuin Club. Nothing could be farther from the truth...Ritual Notes was the work of folks whom one would never elsewise have heard of while some of the greatest Anglican names of the last century sat on the committee of the Alcuin Club, chief among them Charles Gore and Walter Howard Frere. This is a small point and affects the argument of the sermon not at all, but those who follow Ritual Notes always seem ashamed of being openly Anglican and aped a Rome now almost completely vanished while those of us who followed the Alcuin Club publications to the point that they, too, fell to the modernists only wanted to be Anglicans and unashamed."

Whatever others may think about "Ritual Notes" or the Alcuin Club, I like that line: "Anglicans and unashamed."

On Virtue On Line, David Virtue reposted, in the Theology section, two of my articles from here ("Full, Perfect and Sufficient Sacrifice" and "Councils, Scripture and Catholic Faith"). In comments on the first article, I was taken to task for being much too Catholic, perhaps even a closet Roman. And, in comments on the second, I was attacked for being a low down Protestant worm. What did I do to be shot at from both sides, to invite a Zweifrontenkrieg, the likes of which caused Bismarck to suffer nightmares? How was I perceived as both too Catholic and too Protestant?

Simple. I did something right. I presented, clarified and defended classic Anglican formularies, and like the brave and noble Duck-Billed Platypus, I defied simplistic categories and stood on principle. Both writings were drawn from the 39 Articles and from the Holy Communion service in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer. In both of them, I answered the age-old attacks on Anglicanism from Roman Catholics on one hand, and from various kinds of Protestants on the other.

To be Anglican and unashamed, as Canon Tallis exhorts us one and all, requires that we actually learn Anglicanism from Anglican sources. Imagine that. Actually reading the formularies, actually opening books by Richard Hooker and Lancelot Andrewes, and trying to appreciate the Anglican mind and ethos. After all the learning, what emerges crystal clear is that one thing makes Anglican theology distinctive: It has "no distinctive theology of its own, but only that of the Catholic Church," quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est. Scripture and Tradition inform the mind's Right Reason, along with its understanding. These also form the conscience, for it is the duty of every believer to have the conscience so formed. Rome and most kinds of Protestantism are built partly on the Catholic Faith, but partly on innovations that have no basis in Scripture and Tradition. The reason to be Anglican is to be free from innovations.

Rejecting false standards

Now, to be free of innovations requires us to be firm when our own patrimony is under attack. For example, Pontificator's Fourth Law. I regard Fr. Alvin Kimmel as a friend, and we have been on the same side of fights in the past, beginning with our back to back apologetics against Inclusive Language Liturgies of the Episcopal Church some twenty years ago. Nonetheless, under his Internet name, Pontificator, he wrote a series of "laws," the fourth of which is this: "A church that does not understand itself as the Church, outside of which there is no salvation, is not the Church but a denomination or sect."

Now, the first impulse of Anglicans who have never studied their own patrimony is to feel some inner pressure to satisfy this "law." This "law" is meant specifically for Anglicans, so that we will think that somehow we just aren't really Catholic after all. We are being told, "when you get to the fork in the road, take it. Because you are not exclusive enough, you aren't really in the Church, and should stop fooling yourselves." The two One True Churches each believe they are the Church outside of which there is no salvation. But, can an Anglican say that about his Anglican Church? Of course not. But, why the "H" would we want to? The correct response from an Anglican who appreciates his patrimony, rather than trembling in his boots or wetting his drawers, is to look this "law" in the eye, laugh fearlessly with the heroic platypus, and give answer.

First of all, no one church is the Church in its entirety ("can the head say to the feet...?"and all that). We know that we belong to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. And, it is outside of that Church, not the Orthodox section of it, nor the Roman Catholic section of it, that there is no salvation. Nonetheless, if the two One true Churches want to talk about "sects" they may begin by discussing their own sectioning of themselves into two One True Churches. The Great Schism was, and remains, their idea. And, if they want to talk about denominations, then we point out that the word "denomination" means simply "of a name." Our most important name is Christian, since we are "in Christ." After that, various churches have names, such as Roman Catholic, or Greek Orthodox, or Russian Orthodox, or Anglican. But, as Juliet asked, "what is in a name?"

In other words, the logical response to Pontificator's Fourth Law is the simple phrase, "so what?"

He is an Anglican

(With apologies to Gilbert and Sullivan)

Boatswain:

He is an Anglican!

Chorus:

He is an Anglican!

Boatswain:

For he himself has said it,
And it's greatly to his credit,
That he is an Anglican!
That he is an Anglican!

For he might have been a Methodist,
A Papist, Greek, or Bap-a-tist
Or Presbyter-i-an!

Chorus:

Or Presbyter-i-an!

Boatswain:

But in spite of all temptations
To join such denominations
He remains an Anglican!
He remains an Anglican!

Chorus:

For in spite of all temptations
To join such denominations
He remains an Anglican!
He remains an Anglican!






Linking The Continuum

In a comment today, Canon Tallis asked permission to add a link to The Continuum on his parish website. My answer is, "but of course!"

We would be happy if The Continuum were linked on the website of every continuing jurisdiction, diocese and parish, as well as the personal websites and blogs of every faithful individual in the continuing movement.

For those of you who do, I would welcome your adding a comment here letting us know that you have done so.

I would also repeat an invitation that I have made on several occasions in the past.
My dream for The Continuum has always been for it to become the primary on-line source of news, commentary and teaching in the continuing movement. It can only achieve the first of these three goals if its readers contribute by sharing news with us.

Just one request. Please keep in mind that the sort of news we are looking for is that which will be of interest to as many of our readers as possible. The fact that John Bullhorn has been named head of St George's choir would probably not make the cut. But if Mr Bullhorn one day comes up with an ingenious way to improve the quality of St George's musical ministry in ways that could be adopted by other parishes, that would most certainly be news.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Ninth Sunday after Trinity


Reflections on the Prodigal Son (for Trinity IX)

The Gospel. St. Luke xv. 11.

1. We have three characters in this parable, and the most important of them is the father. It is the love of this father that remains the most important lesson. He is shown in such a way as to give us the true picture of God’s impassibility, because his love is constant, never destroyed, never diminished, always present. Because we think of love in strictly emotional terms, that is emotion instead of feeling, we think of changes and reactions as part of what it must be. Not so the love of God. The father in the parable is patient, quick to forgive and completely gracious because nothing changes him.

When the prodigal returns to his father’s house, he finds that the return itself is sufficient for him to receive forgiveness, because the father does not base his love on reaction, or on whims. If we believe that the love of God is based upon how He feels at the present moment, then we do not understand the cross. The forgiveness of sins can be anticipated with hopeful expectation because Jesus Christ died for all of our sins, and “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (I John 2:2) If we understand that mercy or judgment depend on where we stand, because both were present on the cross, God’s impassibility becomes a great comfort, and His love becomes our certain hope and expectation.

2. Another character is the elder brother, the one who does not know that he too is a sinner. Neither does he care that his bitterness grieves his father, because, after all, he is right. Right, that is, in that he is correct. If ever we forget that everything we do in Church is all about the Father’s love for sinners (including ourselves), we become the elder brother. In every Holy Communion service we quote Saint Paul in the Comfortable Words: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” The elder brother takes many forms, and that includes the forms he takes among Anglican Catholics like ourselves. I have been present in services where people were more concerned with a performance than with anything else; more concerned with observing all the little fussy details of the choreography found in Ritual Notes from the Alcuin Club, than with worshiping God in spirit and in truth. Infinitely more important than getting all the details right about when to step to the right or left, how any times to swing the thurible, or which candles to light first, is remembering why we are here to begin with.

Everything we hear from God’s Word, and every sacrament we receive, is all because Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. The elder brother is not capable of obeying the words of Saint Paul, “Do the work of an evangelist.” He cannot do this work, because he is so very correct about how unworthy the younger brother is; he would never have sought for his lost brother. And, because of this his heart is far from that of his father. He cannot make merry because joy depends upon love. And, to understand his father he would have to be filled with the love that forgives and restores.

3. Finally we must consider the prodigal son himself. Anyone who cannot identify with this repentant sinner (including his elder brother) wallows in self-deception because, as the Beloved Disciple wrote: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us (I John 1:8-10).” In order to learn about sin, I did not really need a textbook in Seminary. All I ever needed was to look in the mirror. Like Count Dracula, some people have no mirrors in their houses, and could not see their reflections even if they did. What is the mirror but the word of God, the perfect Law of liberty that James tells us we must look into? (James 1:22-25) The laver in which the priests cleansed themselves before entering the Holy Place was made of mirrors, all of which helped them to wash. Look into God’s word, and let the truth convict you of your own sins.

When I teach people about Confession and Absolution I tell them that they must remember that Christ is the Advocate for us; but we appear before a priest (and the Priest) to make confession as witnesses for the prosecution. Without excuses, without sugar-coating, we must testify against ourselves, and let the love of the Father come through to us by way of this sacrament of Christ’s own priesthood. We must learn to identify with the prodigal son, to be able to say, “I have sinned against heaven and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.” “'Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to be merry.” In other words, spoken through the priest, “Our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath left power to his Church to absolve all sinners who truly repent and believe in Him, of His great mercy forgive thee thine offences: And by His authority committed to me, I absolve thee from all thy sins, In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen." So too, with the General Confession for “all who truly turn to him.”

Saint Paul tells us that we are all called to become saints, both in the opening chapter of I Corinthians, and in the opening chapter of Romans. My Roman Catholic mother-in-law once, in 1984, gave me a dose of “nun theology.” Her bad understanding of her Catholic Faith became quite clear as I was told that we should never think that any of us could be like the saints: They are “special people who were able to be holy.” This makes them sound like superheroes, bitten by just the right spider so they can shoot webs out of themselves, or that they can fly because they come from Krypton. On the other hand, I have had Fundamentalist friends who preach that once you “come to Jesus” you are no longer a sinner, but rather you are already a saint. However, what Saint Paul told the Corinthians and the Romans was that they were called to become saints, because holiness of life is a vocation for every Christian.

But, unless we first identify with the prodigal son, we haven’t a snowflake’s chance in “the other place” of becoming saints. Knowing we are called to become saints, but seeing the terrible truth in the mirror of God’s word, we must be willing to appear for the prosecution in order to receive the grace of forgiveness. The joy of sin-forgiven creates charity; and this, in turn, fuels the ability to do the work of an evangelist.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Reposted: The Grace of the Sacraments

(For the benefit of new readers, and because it is relevant to what I have been posting recently, I am reposting an earlier article. This is highly irregular, I know.)

From the Catechism in the Book of Common Prayer:

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

(The answer given in the Catechism is the official commentary on Article XXV. That is, it explains the difference between the five “commonly called sacraments,” or lesser sacraments, all five of which were clearly present in the Old Testament, and that transmit grace specific to their purpose, but are not “generally necessary to salvation,” and the two sacraments of the Gospel, i.e., ordained by Christ when he was physically present in the flesh on earth.)

In the New Testament we find exceptions to the rule, but no exceptions to the principle behind it. That rule is that the two sacraments of the Gospel, that is, ordained by Christ, are “generally necessary to salvation.” In accord with the witness of the Universal Church stated over and over by the Fathers, and easily proved by scripture, we see that our new birth is in the waters of baptism; 1 and we see, as well, that we must feed on Christ’s Body and Blood in order to receive his eternal life. 2 Therefore, it is no stretch or leap of logic, but rather the unavoidable conclusion of Reason, that these two sacraments not only signify but also effect salvation, that the grace they convey is unto eternal life.

We see that our Anglican Fathers were so careful in their teaching that they stated this in a manner that shows deliberate and thorough consideration. They did not say only that these two sacraments are necessary for salvation, but "generally necessary to salvation." After all, they inherited the Tradition of the Church which recognized that some martyrs were baptized in their own blood, by desire, having had no opportunity to receive the sacrament from ministers of the Church. Even the word “to” was chosen carefully, because these two sacraments create a path to salvation. Yet, for those martyrs baptized in their own blood, by desire, the way to this salvation was clearly open. That grace to salvation can be opened without the sacraments, by God’s direct action, is proved by scripture, as follows:

And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.3

This man did not have the opportunity to be baptized, and the Lord granted him mercy. What is generally necessary was not necessary for him.

But, even though the sacrament itself was not available to him, the power of the sacrament was present and grace bestowed by that power. For that power is the word of God. It is the power of the word of God that transforms water into the matter of a sacrament, and the word of God spoken by a minister (“in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost”) that both signifies and effects grace to salvation. The power of baptism was present in the words of Christ himself: “Today thou shalt be with me in Paradise.” So we see that even though God is not bound by the rule, the principle is still there, that of the power of his word working through the grace imparted by the Holy Spirit. The power that makes baptism a sacrament, that fills the actions of the Church through form, matter and intention, was present in the word of the Lord spoken, in this case, from the cross.

The thief had no opportunity to eat the body of Christ and drink his blood. But, the power of the word of God, “this is my body…this is my blood,” was present in the words Jesus spoke to him. So, we see that the grace of the sacraments can be received when no opportunity exists for the form, matter and intention to be present. Nonetheless, we do not presume on the grace of God, as if simply because he can work without the sacraments and effect the same grace by his word, we have any right to neglect the ministry that he has revealed and commanded us to carry out. The Church in its ministry both proclaims and administers salvation, and so we are to both preach the Gospel and provide by form, matter and intention the sacraments that are “generally necessary to salvation” to everybody who would be part of the Church. We only mean that the revelation of Christ, the Word made flesh, is about Grace rather than the making of yet more laws, and that God in his mercy may be expected to grant mercy to those who have desired the sacraments when those sacraments were beyond their reach. And, we mean that God, rich in mercy, is powerful and acts through his word. This is what is meant by saying, “In the New Testament we find exceptions to the rule, but no exceptions to the principle behind it.” That principle is the power of the Word of God, the power that the Holy Spirit applies directly to human souls.

Pentecost and house of Cornelius

We know that the Holy Spirit was given by the laying on of the Apostle’s hands, which is why the portion of scripture that is written into the service of Confirmation is from the eighth chapter of the Book of Acts.

Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. 4

We could as well use the nineteenth chapter, where Paul, expecting all disciples to have received the Holy Ghost, realized from the absence of their understanding that the believers in Ephesus had yet to receive either proper Baptism or Confirmation. The Church has always taught that Confirmation is the sacrament in which Christians receive the Holy Spirit with his manifold gifts that are distributed as it pleases him throughout the Body of Christ.5 From the scriptural accounts, in the Book of Acts, the sacrament itself was performed by the Apostles with the laying on of their hands, and with prayer.

But, on two occasions God gave the grace of this sacrament directly from heaven. Those two occasions were the outpouring the of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, and the first outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Gentiles 6 in the house of Cornelius. On that second occasion the gifts of the Holy Spirit were evidently given even before these people were baptized. In the first case, the Day of Pentecost, this was the birth of the Church as the body of Christ, the extension of his Incarnation to continue his ministry in the world. On that second occasion, God acted directly even though it had been established that he normally gave this gift by the laying on the Apostle’s hands, and only after baptism. It may well be that none of the Jewish men with Peter would have laid hands on these Gentiles 7 and prayed for them, and it is also clear that this direct action was intended to be just like the Day of Pentecost itself.8 Much more can be said about the particulars of the outpouring of the Spirit in the house of Cornelius. For our purpose it is necessary to notice two things: 1) the lesson that the Apostles drew from this, and 2) a false lesson they did not draw, because it would have been a mistake.

The lesson they did draw was that without circumcision the Gentiles were fellow heirs of salvation in Christ. 9 But, they did not conclude that God had ceased to give the Holy Spirit through the laying on the Apostle’s hands, that is, what came to be called Confirmation. The Apostles continued to lay hands on the new believers, and they continued to receive the Holy Spirit and the gifts he brings. So, we see the principle that God uses the sacraments, but is not bound by them. We see that the Church has no right to neglect the ministry of Christ as he has ordained it, and therefore no right to presume on God’s grace by failing to administer the sacraments. We see that the power and principle of the sacraments is never absent, even when God acts directly in an extraordinary and sovereign manner of his own choosing.

Life and power

The New Testament shows the birth of the Church as an explosion of life and power. I have spent years carefully examining the debates between Anglicans and some Roman Catholics over the issue of our orders (from the 16th century to almost modern times, nothing new in substance having been said for decades). Larger than the many details is this major difference: Even though the Anglican side, back when these debates went on, proved its case from the history of the Church, including everything that can be shown from the theology and practice of the Holy Catholic Church in the many different rites used for ordination beginning in ancient times, the other side would respond with elaborate arguments that reduced the sacrament of Holy Orders in two ways. It was reduced by a legalistic approach, and it was treated almost as if it was an issue of magic that might fail if the formula, as it had evolved right up to that time, was not precise. The arguments against Anglican Orders were, finally, unworthy of sacramental theology altogether, because they formed a position that completely lost sight of the sacraments as a lively impartation of grace. Grace was gone from view in legalistic polemics, aimed not at understanding the work of the Holy Spirit, but at grasping for straws in a technical nightmare of hair-splitting. Instead of form, matter and intention used by the Holy Spirit to give something that is powerful and larger than anything the mind can grasp, many unnecessary and burdensome details were added, and arguments produced, including some the nature of which even the worst lawyers would blush with embarrassment to make (if only because Anglican apologetics, and explanations were not answered. From 1624 on, the Anglicans explained why their fathers never departed from Sacramental Intention).

What is at issue is the life and power of God granting gifts to fallen man by the Holy Spirit. The power of the sacraments rests always in the word of God, the underlying principle without which nothing is sacramental. They remain mysterious, utterly dependable in their effects because of the promises of God that he will act in response concerning each of them; and above all, they are all about one thing: Grace. Each sacrament brings its gift to man, each imparting its own specific grace from the Word of God, by the Holy Spirit.
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1.Compare John 3:3f with the opening verses of Romans 6.
2.John 6:47-59
3.Luke 23:39-43
4.Acts 8:14-17
5.I Corinthians 12
6.Chapters two and ten.
7.Acts 10:45- Note the astonishment.
8.Acts 11:15f
9.Acts 11:16,17

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Francis Hall's Works

One of our readers, Phil Gons, has brought to my attention the fact that Logos Bible Software is planning to digitize 16 volumes of Francis J. Hall’s works, including his famous 10-volume series on Dogmatic Theology.

For further information: http://www.logos.com/products/prepub/details/4330

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Councils, Scripture and Catholic Faith

Article 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.

This Article has been used as ammunition by Polemicists who think that it provides the "aha!" factor. They have decided that it proves that Anglicanism is built on a false foundation, because these C of E Reformers were obviously rejecting the authority of Ecumenical Councils. And, despite the fact that the See of Rome recognizes the full validity of the holy orders in oriental "Non-Chalcedonian" churches, the aforesaid polemicists derive from their assumption further "proof" of Anglican Absolute Nullity and Utterly Voidness. As much as it may seem desirable, at times, to restore the Elizabethan penalties upon "papists"- strictly for these polemicists (and my mother-in-law), but no one else- it would seem a bit difficult to enforce them. So, I guess we'll just have to use apologetics instead. Oh well.

First of all, it is self-evident that councils are not infallible unless ratified by the Universal Church, something rendered impossible after Nicea II due to the Great Schism between the two "One True Churches." Some councils in the first Millennium finished their work, only to have it either rejected immediately, or accepted only briefly before being finally rejected. These facts of history are well-known, and need no further elaboration. Some councils were considered authoritative in a few regions, but never accepted by the majority of the Church, and so they are not Ecumenical Councils.

Also self-evident is this simple fact: "
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." Indeed, no Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox has any basis for disagreeing with this. Why, after all, were some councils not received by the Church? What about the Arian Council in 341?

Also self-evident is this fact: "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." This is self-evident because the Ecumenical Councils arrived at their conclusions by this very method, examination of holy scripture; and because they received Ecumenical status on this basis also.

VIII. Of the Three Creeds.
THE three Creeds, Nicene Creed, Athanasius' Creed, and that which is commonly called the Apostles' Creed, ought thoroughly to be received and believed; for they may be proved by most certain warrants of Holy Scripture.

Because these Articles invoke the authority of scripture, the polemicists (or self-appointed apologists for Rome- of the sort who seem never to have read the Catechism of the Catholic Church) find what they think is more ammunition against Anglicans, and more proof of just how absolutely null and utterly void we, your clergy, really are. After all, this must prove that our Church is a sola scriptura sect, because we invoke the authority of the same Bible concerning which Rome has said, "these books have God as their Author"1. Of course, when the pope says it, then it's Catholic. When the English Reformers said it, it was Protestant. The significance of this distinction is not by any means self-evident.

The problem with their argument is what I have stated above. The Conciliar method was examination of the contents of Scripture. The method of universal ratification leading to Ecumenical status for a Council was also based on careful examination of scripture. The Holy Catholic Church in the first millennium was far more Berean 2 than our polemicist friends appreciate.

In addition to things that are self-evident, the term sola scriptura was well-known before the Reformation. It came from St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274): Q
uia sola canonica scriptura est regula fidei. ("The reason is that only canonical Scripture is a measure of faith"). 3 The English Reformers kept this principle alive, and deduced from it those words known to every traditional Anglican: "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." This is in Article VI. Of the sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation.

It is true that the Universal Church infallibly interprets scripture, in fact, has infallibly interpreted scripture. This does not mean that the Church gives us a complete commentary verse by verse. It means that whenever interpretations contradict the clear teaching of the Church, those interpretations are to be rejected. A very-very-modern Evangelical concept of sola scriptura, on the other hand, is wrong; that is, subjecting the scriptures to private interpretation. That is because some people do not understand that the Bible is not only the Word of God, but is also the Book of the Church. God wrote these books, so to speak, with human instruments. The scriptures came first through the prophets of Israel and then through the Church of the Apostles. The Church knows what its book means.

The idea expressed by St. Thomas Aquinas is what the English Reformers meant by the words quoted above from Article VI. It is a Protestant concept by the terms of their day and age, which is why it is a Catholic concept. Perhaps defining the words "Catholic" and "Protestant" should be required of anyone who uses them as labels, who paints with them using a large brush.

The Thirty-Nine Articles were established in 1563. What was happening at that time? The Council of Trent was still a matter of "current events" rather than history. Article XXI explained why the Church of England was not participating (that is, from the English perspective), and why no one should be troubled by anything Trent would require of Christians. The Article did not reject "the Church with her authority," to use Richard Hooker's phrase. It taught the people of England that their consciences need not be troubled, nor their beliefs dictated, by any council that could not prove its conclusions from scripture (the degree to which the Council of Trent may or may not be in agreement with scripture is a topic for another day).

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.

This Article deals with facts of history as well, stating that each of these churches had erred at some point, for example, the Monothelitism professed by the Patriarch of Constantinople in the time of St. Maximus the Confessor. Primarily, the Article refers to the Arian heresy, if only because emperors, especially Valens, forced it on the people, creating a new round of persecution. St. Athanasius, Archbishop of Alexandria, was forced into exile several times. In fact, the Bishop of Rome was appointed by Arian emperors in those years.

In a fiction novel called Father Elijah, 4 an apostate cardinal has a conversation with the pope. In it the pope tells this errant cardinal that it was the "Petrine Charism" that saved the Church from the Arian heresy. This is fiction within fiction, because the facts do not support it; it is worth mentioning because it is the popular mythology of some Roman Catholics. It was not the Bishop of Rome who saved the Church from the Arian heresy, whether he had "the Petrine Charism"or not. The first Ecumenical Council of Nicea was called by Constantine because he was aware of strife, and wanted to maintain peace; and it was also due to the urging of Archbishop Alexander of Alexandria. The Bishop of Rome did not call the Council, and he was not present at it either. With the other Patriarchs, he did ratify it after it was completed. Later, when Arianism gained the sympathy of emperors, the See of Rome was officially Arian.

Of course, just as with the condemnation of Pope Honorius I for heresy (Monthelitism) at the Third [Ecumenical] Council of Constantinople (680 AD), we are told that this doesn't count as a strike against papal infallibility. Fine. I will not argue that point. I will instead argue that what the Church of England set forth in the Articles does not amount to a rejection of the Faith of the Church, does not invalidate our claim to belong to the Holy Catholic Church, does not render our orders "absolutely null and utterly void," and does not replace Catholic faith with Protestant innovation.

These Articles were written to defend, clarify, and teach the Catholic Faith as all former generations of the Church, and the Fathers of the Church, defended, clarified and taught it.


1. Dominus Iesus
2. Acts 17:10,11
3.
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.

"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 only canonical Scripture 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)

4. Michael D. O'Brien, Father Elijah, 1996 San Francisco, Ignatius Press

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Eighth Sunday after Trinity

Romans 8:12-17
Matthew 7:15-21

The Old Testament account of Jeremiah and Hannaniah is the same age-old battle we see today. It is a battle between those who give a true message about the consequences of sin, and those who teach license. The scriptures repeat a warning against false prophets in many places, especially in the Epistles of Paul, Peter, John and Jude. We see warnings of false gospels, another "Jesus" and a spirit we did not receive, in II Corinthians. We see a warning in Paul's Epistles to Timothy, to beware of seducing spirits and the doctrines of demons, and instruction never to follow the example of those who are "ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." John warns us to beware the spirit of error, and the spirit of Antichrist. Jude warns against false teachers who preach carnality, and doctrines so evil that they may lead you away from God completely.

Perhaps the clearest of these warnings is in II Peter.

"But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of." (II Pet. 2;1,2)

The phrase "damnable heresies" is not acceptable in many modern churches. Certain people up the street, about a stone's throw away, probably never hear this passage in church, because it is not very nice. It suggests that some errors are so bad, that they may lead to damnation. It sounds too much like Hellfire, brimstone and damnation to suit their modern tastes. But, we see it in the Bible, in the New Testament, where some people imagine it cannot be. Perhaps it would help them to read it.

How serious is it to believe in a false gospel? It is certainly very serious to preach a false gospel. Hear the words of St. Paul:

"I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed." (Galatians 1:8,9)

This may have been the first Apostolic anathema ever pronounced.

Briefly, a couple more examples:

"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables." (II Tim. 4:3,4)

"Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)" (Philippians 3:17-19)

These are directly relevant to the Epistle reading we have heard. "Brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live." This follows a long passage about baptism that began back in the sixth chapter of the same Epistle.

"What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. " (Romans 6:1-7)

The reason we are not debtors to sin, not subject to obey its impulses as some kind of law, is because we were baptized into Jesus Christ. We are dead to sin and obligated to pursue a life of holiness with the aid of Divine Grace that sanctifies us. Remember what we have learned from that little phrase that opens this Epistle, and the First Epistle to the Corinthians as well. That we are called to be saints. Remember that this is one vocation every Christian has, the call to sainthood, that is, to holiness. Whether or not you like this calling, it is a calling that God has placed on your life. It is more important than any other calling, including the call to the priesthood. Sainthood is the first and highest calling, the primary vocation, of everybody in this room. In baptism you were given the grace of entrance into the life of the resurrected Christ, and in Confirmation you received richer grace and several gifts of the Holy Spirit, who is in you.

Now, a stone's throw away up the street, a certain denomination has come up with the Biblical sounding phrase "baptismal covenant." Five years ago, a certain prelate from there justified his vote to allow a publicly known, unrepentant adulterer, who left his wife and daughter for a carnal relationship with a man, to become a bishop in their sect, by invoking the "baptismal covenant." He used that phrase to mean that we must not discriminate against anyone's lifestyle as long as that person is baptized. I suppose that to many people that sounds kind and tolerant.

But, your bishop and my fellow priests have pastoral responsibility for the cure of your souls. And, this requires that we work together with your bishop as he banishes strange doctrines contrary to the Gospel of Christ. The problem with how that other local prelate, not far from here, justified his vote is simple. He has taught another gospel. He has introduced another Jesus, and a spirit we have not received. In fact, he has taught his people something that seems very much to fit those terrifying words of St. Peter: A "damnable heresy."

It is not prejudice, intolerance or hate speech to teach morality, namely, the commandments of God. Not that it can't be used sinfully as hate speech, for indeed, it can be used that way by clumsy preachers. Nonetheless, it is genuine love to teach God's commandments, with the warnings of the scripture, firmly and with authority. For, I am not preaching simply about other people out there somewhere. I am not preaching, or I hope I am not preaching, anything that moves you to speak as that unjustified Pharisee in the Lord's parable: "I thank thee God that I am not like other men." (Luke 18:9-14) For, everyone here is living in the flesh, and so everyone here must endure temptations.

So, if we buy a doctrine which says that baptism gives you a license to sin, we place ourselves, and all of you in danger. Whatever temptations anyone may live with, enduring temptations is part of each Christian's share in Christ's passion. That is, they are part of that life of discipleship that Jesus called taking up our cross, and following him daily. The temptations are not a gift, but they may be used wisely as part of our sanctification. For, enduring and resisting temptation is everybody's battle. My own flesh does not sympathize with the specific sin to which they have given license. But, it does sympathize with sin. Therefore, you and I do not need a doctrine of license. It is poison, not medicine.

St. Paul says the very opposite of that false gospel taught by the prelate up the street. Baptism is not a license to sin, but the sacrament whereby you have died to sin and come alive with the Risen Lord Jesus Christ. In your baptism you were not granted a license to do whatever you desire, but instead you were called to become a saint. And, so I do not need, on top of the temptations that are common to every man, any doctrine that allows me to live in whatever sins may appeal to me; and you don't need any such doctrine either.

Different individuals have different temptations. But, one thing everyone has is temptation itself. If one man may leave his wife and child for a new lover of any kind, and his baptism is said to give him license, then why may I not have a license to kill? Or to steal? Or to covet my neighbor's goods? Or to gossip? This same chapter of St. Paul's Epistle, today's Epistle, goes on to speak of "the manifestation of the sons of God." It speaks of the glorious and eternal hope of being fully resurrected with Christ, and with him to be glorified. Who would want to miss so glorious a future for anything in the world?

We speak not from anger, but love. We see people destroying themselves, hardening their hearts, and deceiving people; we see wolves feeding themselves on the flock, and we want that flock to be spared. Indeed, we want them to come over to us, so that instead of being a prey they may be fed a steady diet of the word of God, and a steady diet of Christ's flesh and blood as the food and drink of eternal life.

The antidote for a false gospel is the true Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The true gift that we want to impart is not toleration of evil, but forgiveness of sin. The Gospel gives something so much better than tolerance. When I hear confessions, the penitent does not need to hear my approval. Indeed, he needs for me to agree with his own disapproval that moved his conscience to come for healing. Otherwise, I cannot give absolution, for who can forgive something of which he approves? I am not there to argue with the penitent. Rather he needs me to agree with his reasonable accusations against himself. Forgiveness is very judgmental, in fact condemning. Forgiveness absolutely judges and condemns sin, and both spares and restores the repentant sinner. Mercy is better than tolerance, and compassion is better than approval. We can speak very firmly about sin, because we do so with the heart of pastors, of fathers, who speak with love. We do so as men who have needed forgiveness of our own sins, and who will need forgiveness, no doubt, again.

And, when we warn against false teachers with false gospels, we speak as men who know the weakness of the flesh, and who also need to heed the same warning.

Looking internationally, due to my research for The Christian Challenge, here is my perspective on the global Anglican situation. Right now, some people think they are safe because they follow evil at a distance. As more and more people succumb to worse and worse heresy, some are satisfied to compare themselves against those whose errors have progressed even further. They react always to the latest heresy, and never deal with the root problem of heresy itself. In so doing, they accept a situation that is not holy, not good, and not true. In so doing, they let the devil lead the way, following him from afar because they do not accept the latest and seemingly worse new idea. They feel righteous nonetheless, because they have determined that someone else is even worse than they are. This too is a false gospel and a license to do wrong.

We must not allow error to set the agenda. Following the Devil instead of Christ is very easy. And, those who follow the Devil from a long distance need to grasp one simple fact: No matter from how far away, there is no safe distance. We live in a time when we must beware of relative righteousness and relative orthodoxy. For these relative standards are not the standard of God's holy word. They are less than a call to holiness. Again, we don't want to be like the Pharisee in the parable. When he said, "I thank thee God I am not like other men," he did so by comparing himself to other people, and feeling satisfied with his own righteousness. If he had taken proper account of his life, he would have realized that he too was a sinner. Maybe not in outward and obvious ways, but a sinner nonetheless. If he had looked seriously at the word of God, and into his own heart, he would have said the same earnest prayer as the Publican: "Lord have mercy on me, a sinner."

"Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves."