Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Desiring to be teachers of the Law

The following is an e-mail I received from Mr. X, with my own responses to him. I know that such discussion can be quite unedifying on the part of those who entertain strife for the pleasure of it; but, after consideration, I thought it best to make this conversation public for those who may also be attacked with foolish prejudices by those "desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm." (I Tim. 1:7 ) The reality is, we should make an answer only once or twice before cutting these people loose to drift (Titus 3:10); so we may as well do so with charity and also in terms strong enough to trouble them later, in the hope they may be saved from error.

Anyone who supports views that make tradition equal to Scripture is an heretic and no better than a Mormon or a Roman Catholic.

Does that include the Tradition we call the Canon of Scripture? Does that include the Tradition that teaches that the Canon is closed? Does that include the Tradition (παράδοσις) St. Paul spoke of in II Thes. 3:6? Do you understand the difference between tradition, and the Tradition, in which the Scriptures take the highest place of authority? Do you even know what you are talking about, or rather, what others are talking about? If you want to criticize what others say, first learn to speak their language; otherwise your words are simply irrelevant.

Anyone who denies that justification by faith alone is an essential point of the Gospel message cannot be saved.

The only verse that uses the words "faith" and "alone" in close proximity is James 2:17. Does not faith abide with hope and charity, making it essentially never really alone at all?

Nonetheless, using the expression as it was used by the Reformers (opposed to what modern Evangelicals to with it) requires that these questions be answered: What is faith? Does not the life of faith include obedience? Does not obedience require partaking of Christ in the sacramental system he himself established? Does it not involve of necessity repentance from willful sin? Does not repentance from willful sin require good works in accord with charity?

Anyone who thinks the sacraments in and of themselves save have forgotten or never known the God who saves. While the 39 Articles do say that the two sacraments are "generally" necessary to salvation, which I would agree with because they are means of grace, the Articles do not say that they are absolutely necessary and Cranmer's writings confirm that.

Amen. But, concerning the idea that sacraments could save "in and of themselves," who has ever said any such thing? I know of no one anywhere who has ever taught this, whether Roman, Greek, Anglican or any kind of Protestant. That is, except for Revivalists who have created their own "sacrament" of accepting Jesus as a one time act, that is, the "sacrament" of the Altar Call.

"Absolutely" you say? See how you must add a word to set up a straw man. Nonetheless, the Reformers would not consider the faith of any man to be true if he refused to receive these sacraments. The Church has never taught, however, that God depends on the sacraments; rather, that we have no right to neglect what he has commanded and revealed, as much as it is in our power to obey. Otherwise, when this cannot be done (that is, by no fault of anyone), we look to the thief crucified next to Jesus as the Scriptural example of God saving by no means other than his promise and the faith of the dying man. If you think anyone teaches otherwise, you are seriously misinformed. This fact may kill your prejudices and make it harder to be consumed by hate; but I am not trying to spoil your fun in and of itself. I am trying to save you from its consequences.

The fact that you deny that Cranmer's theology undergirds the 39 Articles shows how ignorant you are of the Protestant sources of Anglicanism. Why don't you consult Gerald Bray's work on the documents of the English Reformation? He has most of the changes listed in parentheses.

I have never denied the importance of Cranmer. Rather, I have pointed out that he stands alongside other Anglican fathers, not above them. That is the only position of Anglican patrimony.

You put on a good bluff. But your articles are pure bull manure and designed with a tendentious and misleading intent.

If you commented like an adult, with proper manners, you would see your comments posted, and might even find others who comment on the blog to present quite a challenge to your certainty about a good many things. In fact, you might even enjoy having others open up for you a path to better understanding, if you could learn simple humility. It is a joy to be challenged by those who can teach new things, but not for those consumed by pride.

Hooker, for example, never pushed real presence in the elements. And when he appealed to mystery in Book V, ch. 67... it was regarding the quibbling over transubstantiation and consubstantiation. It had absolutely nothing to do with real presence. In fact, Hooker even says that his view is that Christ is present in the believer's reception in the Lord's Supper:

What he said, clearly, was that it did not matter if Christ was present in the elements before they were received with faith; that he was present in a saving manner after the believer received them is all that truly matters. That is the kind of "real presence" that mattered to Hooker.

"The real presence of Christ's most blessed Body and Blood is therefore not to be sought for in the Sacrament, but in the worthy receiver of the Sacrament." Shall I wish that men would more give themselves to meditate with silence what we have by the Sacrament, and less to dispute of the manner how?" V, lxvii. 6, 3, 12, 7.

Funny you would pretend to know what is in my articles, and yet quote one of the points I lingered on, a quotation I myself posted in an article.

You oh so conveniently left that part of the quote out of your article. Why? Because you have an agenda and have not sought to be objective at all.

But, this quotation is in my article [Richard Hooker on the Communion of Christ's Body and Blood]. Did you read it? Does your knee jerk with reaction before you finish reading?

Regarding John 6, Jesus often taught in parables or extended metaphors. When he said, "This is my body and this is my blood," he could not possibly have referred to literal body and blood or real presence or consubstantiation or even transubstantiation. Why? Because he had not yet been crucified! The obvious escapes those who wish to read back into the Scriptures what is not there. Cranmer deals extensively with the topic of metaphors in John 6 but I seriously doubt you have bothered to read that.

Literal? Of course not. That would be cannibalism. But, the Lord established a sacrament, with commandments, and that suddenly made the promises of John 6 come within reach. This is not so with metaphors. Here, therefore, we have an effectual sign, because it is connected to a promise. Only baptism is akin to this, not metaphors like door, shepherd, etc. The word "effectual" is in Cranmer's vocabulary. Why is it not in yours?

As for the timing of the crucifixion, do you really mean to include such a weak and meaningless point? The principle here is eternal, outside of time; and we partake of the Risen and Living Christ; for he is not to be sought for among the dead. You may have heard, but maybe not: He rose from the dead on the third day.

Also, I was at one time a deacon in the Reformed Episcopal Church only to learn it had sold out to Anglo-Catholicism. I resigned after one year. The only reason I'm at ... is the fact that the rector is from the Sydney Diocese in Australia. He's ... one of the founding fathers of the low church movement in Sydney . The Sydney Diocese is low church, almost no prayer book, no vestments, and mostly 5 point Calvinist.

And so, therefore, It is not truly Anglican; no Prayer Book indeed! Excluding that 1979 fraudulent edition, no Book of Common Prayer means not Anglican. And, that heretical Lay Celebration thing would have angered all the English Reformers.

No matter the excuse, you are in Jefforts-Schori's cult, officially by membership.

The Scriptures are so plain even an idiot can understand them. I need no Anglo-Catholic idiots to explain to me what is obvious to anyone who reads it for themselves and compares Scripture with Scripture. The Bible is the best commentary on the Bible.

Once again, if this is so, make your case from Scripture rather than ranting about Scripture. I have made points from Scripture, and you have not done so yet at all, not even once.

I have been reading the KJV since I was 8. And later I read modern versions as well. Not one of them says that the sacrament is a mystery.

The Greek word is μυστήριον (mystērion). So, does this mean that the sacraments (or the mysteries) are not at all mysterious to you? Are you aware that, by this boast, you claim to be God?

What it does say is, "Do this in remembrance of me." What the Bible does say is REPENT! What the Bible does say is you must believe that you are a miserable sinner and you need a Savior who died for your sins on the cross.

I know this very well; and a great sinner, a miserable offender, I am indeed. Are you a sinner too?

All of your religion, smells and bells and rituals...

My whole religion is Jesus Christ, as we confess the truth in the Great Creeds that are drawn from the Bible. Allow me to introduce myself: I am a Christian. What exactly are you?

...will only earn you a deeper spot in hell along side the self-righteous Pharisees and scribes. Unless and until you realize that nothing you do can merit or earn your justification or salvation before an omni-Holy God you can never be saved. Until you realize you good works are worthless outside of faith in Christ, you can never be saved.

Are you saying that "smells and bells" lead to Hell? I thought only unbelief and rejection of Christ did that. Or does one have to accept the "five points" instead of Jesus Christ, to be saved?

What if I said, Your whole religion, the five T.U.L.I.P. points, ties and shirts as vestments, no smells allowed, no bells rung or heard, yes your whole religion of TULIP without bells and smells (that being your WHOLE RELIGION) will only lead you to Hell...You must repent and call on the Lord for mercy instead of wearing a tie...?

And, are smells and bells somehow part of my "religion"? How would you know? But, inasmuch as High Churchmen (and I am a High Churchman) use these things to aid their worship, your condemnation is simply a hateful example of Pharisee religion in and of itself, making your self-righteous prejudices all the more sinful. You damn those who approach God through Jesus Christ, simply because they make use of good created things (Genesis 1:31) that uplift their spirits to praise him, as they worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. If smells and bells, and so forth, are sinful, then prove it by certain warrant of Holy Scripture, or be silent.

Good works are only accepted by God after you are converted and even then they cannot withstand the severity of God's judgment.This is precisely the teaching of the Articles.

Yes. That is in our Article XIII. Why would you presume to imagine that we have ever taught differently? In fact, I know of no one who teaches differently, and that means not even those bloody papists (as you think them to be). I perceive that this irrelevant subject has come up suddenly due to prejudice, some notion that all Catholic Christians are teaching salvation by good works; But, no one in the Church has ever taught that anywhere at all, at least not as far as I am aware of.

Only the perfect life of Christ can merit eternal life for you and this can only be imputed to you. You cannot ever be infused with enough grace to make you perfect because you were born with original sin, a sinful nature, and you sin daily in thought, word and deed, in what you have done and in what you have left undone. Your only hope is to cry out for mercy to Almighty God and rely only on Christ and His promises to save you.

Unlike you?

The Book of Common Prayer cannot be used without the need for "hearty repentance and true faith" made obvious and clear; so why would you imagine that we need you to point out what our very liturgy has us confess? If you think that "Prayer Book Catholics" need you to teach them what the Holy Communion, the Daily Offices, and the Bible place before their eyes each and every day, then it is obvious that your prejudice and hate has driven you far from reality. We cannot even begin our services without facing these things. Don't you know anything at all? Just how long has it been since you opened a real Book of Common Prayer and looked inside?

There is none righteous. No NOT EVEN ONE. This means you.

And, how about you? Does it mean you too? Are you the one who is righteous, and who may rightly despise others? Dare you say, "I thank thee God I am not as other men are...?"

So, will you accept that Christ is the ONLY substitute for your sins? Or will you continue on in your blindness which can lead only to hell?

Do you mean sacrifice for sins? I hope you mean sacrifice rather than "substitute."

Our Holy Communion service cannot be celebrated without this proclaimed for all to hear:

"ALL glory be to thee, Almighty God, our heavenly Father, for that thou, of thy tender mercy, didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the Cross for our redemption; who made there (by his one oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world; and did institute, and in his holy Gospel command us to continue, a perpetual memory of that his precious the death and sacrifice, until his coming again..."


Well folks, this is not something I made up. When I speak of their prejudices, it is quite a real problem. May our tongues be seasoned with grace.


Anonymous said...

In holding up his identity as a five point Calvinist is this person not of Apollos, etc ? Is that not enough to discredit the argument of any self described "Calvin"-ist?

The problem with these folk is they cannot tell the difference in the tradition of the Temple and the Tradition of the Church.

Here is what St Paul says regarding which tradition is which.

Galatians 1:13 For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: 14And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.

2 Thessalonians 2:14 Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. 16Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace,

Glad he went to Australia


Anonymous said...

I'd like to ad:
2 Thessalonians 3:6
Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.


Shaughn said...

Fr. Hart,

A very balanced, thorough response to a hostile commenter. Thank you.

At one point, you write, "Literal? Of course not. That would be cannibalism."

I've often heard this objection to certain Eucharistic theologies. I'm not sure how controversial it is, given the following notions about Christ:

1) Christ, someone we claim to be God, was abandoned by His friends and hung from a cross. Cursed is the man who is hung from a tree! Paul comments on the paradox there.

2) We pray that we will be washed through His most precious blood. Something we say has the value of blood (the ousia of His blood?), we hope will clean us. We would be made clean by a substance generally thought to be unclean in Judaism.

I have to admit that given those two shocking paradoxes, the extent to which we eat Christ's flesh is, for me at least, small potatoes!

Canon Tallis said...


While your answers were what I was taught, believed and attempt to teach, the rant on the other side was literally painful. I couldn't make it through the entire post with one reading which makes me so thankful that you have responded as I would have wanted to do and with much more in the way of charity.

When it comes to the issue of smells, I often wonder how one can really claim to be a Christian and not use incense. The quotations used in the prayer book plus what is said about the use of incense in the rest of Holy Scripture would seem to me to settle the issue entirely. I was once told that for the Orthodox the issue was settled by a text (which I have never been able to find) which read "Let the liturgy of the high priest not begin without incense." But for me the proof text is that from Malachi 1:11 "And in every place incense shall be offered unto my name and a pure offering, for my name shall be great among the heathen saith the Lord of hosts."

It has always seemed to me very strange that anyone could read all of the references to frankincense in the Bible and then object to the use of incense in the services of the Church. One of the most wonderful things about the Cambridge Camden Society's Hierugia Anglicana as edited by Vernon Staley was the evidence that the use of incense was continued in the Church of England after the reformation.

Fr Odhran-Mary TFSC said...

Fr Hart, some statements need no response, and the statements in blue are such. I respctfully suggest that you delete the whole post. The man making up the statements is wasting our time.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I appreciate the suggestion. The problem is, these folks will not go away. On the Apologetics end, some of what is posted here is to give a reference point when canned attacks are opened and unleashed in the blogosphere, whether from Protestant sources or RC sources (such as the Apostolicae Curae crowd). Rather than responding to what goes on out there, let them have to respond to us. For those who want a shield against this kind of ranting (most likely among the young college aged), they have at least one point of reference.

John A. Hollister said...

As quoted by Fr. Hart, Mr. X. wrote:

1. "When he said, 'This is my body and this is my blood,' he could not possibly have referred to literal body and blood or real presence or consubstantiation or even transubstantiation. Why? Because he had not yet been crucified!"

Time, as in "before" and "after", in the sense of "prior to" and "subsequent to", is a dimension of the created order, just as are height, width, length, mass, etc. As God exists outside of or above that created order, these dimensions, which our senses perceive as real limitations on our movements and actions, have no such limiting effect on Him.

This is the basis for the Communion of Saints, to which we give our credence in the historic Creeds: the Church Militant, the Church Triumpant, and -- for those who believe in it -- the Church Expectant are all equally present to God.

Thus there is no contradiction inherent in the Incarnate Christ's standing before His disciples in the flesh He had taken on and, simultaneously, saying "This is my body, this is my blood" and meaning every word of it.

We might call Mr. X.'s objection
"the chronological fallacy".

2. "What [Scripture] does say is, 'Do this in remembrance of me.'"

We certainly agree that it does. And further, we assert that when Our Lord said "Do this anamnesis of me", He meant a present, living reality, not a bare and merely symbolic reenactment. That is, He meant it to be a Sacrament; that is what His hearers understood Him to mean; and that is what the Church has always understood Him to have meant.

It has always struck me as extremely odd that those who cry loudest about "Salvation through faith alone" do not themselves have sufficient faith to believe that Our Lord meant what He said.

John A. Hollister+

Fr. Robert Hart said...

In rejecting the every idea of God's presence manifested in the created order, and by crying "idolatry" for any reverence of his holiness manifested in material things, do not the Mr. X's of the world see the danger they walk into?

"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." I John 4:1-3

They do not deny the Incarnation outright, but they begin the journey towards the place of rejecting it, ultimately. They believe in the Incarnation only reluctantly, as if under protest: they do not like it.

Sandra McColl said...

John, he didn't say he went to Australia. He said the priest at his current parish church is 'from the Diocese of Sydney'.

And even if he went to Australia, why are you glad?

Re incense: we have a choice, brethren, as to the odour of our eternity: incense, or brimstone.

Anonymous said...

I'm inclined to agree with Fr Odhran-Mary this time. This man's "comments" are a waste of time.
They should go into file 13 without

Bruce said...

"The Scriptures are so plain even an idiot can understand them." -Mr. X. Altar-call-as-the-only-sacrament Revivalists don't develop their ideas in a read-the-Bible-by-myself vacuum without the counseling and input of other altar-call-as-the-only-sacrament Revivalists.

"You damn those who approach God through Jesus Christ, simply because they make use of good created things..." - Fr. Hart. Didn't you get the memo father? All matter is evil.

On bells, incense, etc. Our liturgical aids, vestments, the liturgy itself, are "gilded" because we believe Christ is present in the mass, right? You don't put a picture of your wife in an old, rusty, junky picture frame but rather pick out a pretty, gilded, ornate one. How much more so with Christ our Lord when He is with us.

Thanks for not referring to them as "Evangelicals" or "Born-again Christians." We're both as well as Catholic so why let them claim those titles for themselves?

poetreader said...

Good post, Father,
but can't we just give this 'gentleman' the attention he deserves, i/e/ none at all from this point forward?

I deal with a lost of non-christians, and I do get some opportunity to speak of the things of God with them -- but uniformly they quote people much like Mr. X to illustrate the foolishness and ugliness of Christianity. I always admit to them that, if that were what Christianity really was, I'd be running as fast as I could from it. Will these men never realize what terrible damage they are doing to souls?


Brian Gold said...

It's ironic how this fellow makes believing in the doctrine of justification by faith to be a prerequisite for salvation, especially since he claims to understand Hooker. This would be, to use his own kind of language, a form of works righteousness.

Bruce said...

Actually Father I think it was useful for some of us. I saved it off as "Father Hart vs. Mr. X" (sounds like a pro-wrestling main event)for future reference.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Fr. Hart. Didn't you get the memo father? All matter is evil.

All joking aside, there is more than a bit of Marcion in that school of thought.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Hart,
Thanks for this post. I read your blog regularly and respond occasionally. I am Roman Catholic. Your site has helped me a great deal with many issues and I thank all here for that.

I wish to comment on only one small part of your response to this person. You indicated that John 6, if taken literally, would be cannibalism. Actually, it would not be this at all because Christ is Alive and Living. Cannibalism is eating the dead.

Please know that I am not looking to debate you as I possess no such skills to keep up with you. However, I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this.


Jack said...

Where to go with all of this... Fr. Hart, you fence effectively and with grace. This individual is far from being representative of one who holds to a Calvinist reformed view. My son-in-law, a graduate of Westminster, a PCA pastor, and a Phd. student in semetic languages at Catholic University would be appalled at Mr. X's display of narrowness and lack of charity.

My wife and I are members of an APCK church. My SIL considers it to not only be a true church, but also considers the 1928 BCP and 39 Articles to be both a reformed and catholic confession of orthodox faith.

Fr. Hart thank you for your many edifying teachings as well as the written windows into your thinking such as this one.


Anonymous said...


"And even if he went to Australia, why are you glad"

You know. after I pushed the button I thought about that... "gee don't they have enough of those in Sydney?" I like Australia and Australians!

I should not have wished him on anyone!



Fr. Robert Hart said...

I wish to comment on only one small part of your response to this person. You indicated that John 6, if taken literally, would be cannibalism. Actually, it would not be this at all because Christ is Alive and Living. Cannibalism is eating the dead.

No argument; Pat is right.

What we all agree on is that the exact literal interpretation charge was just another straw man. No one should take it seriously.

Sandra McColl said...

Apology accepted, John.

Actually, reading Mr X's description of Sydney, I wonder if he really knows it all that well. I haven't been near it for a long time, but I do know that it's not as monochrome subanglican as he suggests. Not that I'm in a hurry to go and sample its current range of experiences. Furthermore, I wonder that he refers to a 'priest' from Sydney. It's not the first word that the collar-and-tie brigade think of when describing themselves. There: philologists, historians and private investigators, go to work. I'm casting doubt on authenticity.

Veriword is 'traphoo'.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that comment, Jack, and I rejoice in your blessing in knowing a real Calvinist and having one as your SIL. I also have known many of these and that is why I became ballistic at Fr Hart's description of this creep as a "Calvinist." That is like calling Oliver Cromwell an English aristocrat. My blood pressure is still not quite where it should be.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

That was not my description, but his own- a "five Point" guy at that. The real Calvinsts I have known object to the five point thing, and call it a caricature at best.

Jack said...

Just to clarify... I didn't take Fr. Hart's comments to be demeaning toward those who hold to a Calvinist (labels are so often wanting aren't they?) or reformed theology. Rather, it was Mr. X claiming that mantle, undeservedly so, and thus giving a false picture.