Tuesday, March 03, 2009

On my way

I am packing up my computer and heading down South to North Carolina. It will be Friday, some time late in the day at least, before I can get back online.

In the meantime, I thought you all might enjoy the latest exhibition of prejudice aimed at the Continuing Church from a man who identifies himself as a "five-point Calvinist* Anglican," who was angry with me because he could not fit our Patrimony into his little box.

Ok, I researched your name and discovered you're not even an Anglican. You're a member of some teeny tiny continuing Anglo-Catholic denomination. You probably don't even have a master of divinity from an accredited seminary. Enough said.
There's no sense discussing academic subjects with you so any further remarks you make will be ignored.

The presumptions of prejudice are startling, are they not? He need not find out any facts, just as the old white bigots needed no facts about black men, or about Jews. We have some very well educated clergy among us, even if we choose not to be in communion with the Archdriud of the Vacant See. I put these words here for the same reason the bishop smacked your face when you were Confirmed (or, I hope it was for the same reason); to remind you that you have to be tough to walk this walk; they won't applaud you for following Christ.

* Real Calvinists I have known over the years, including professors at a PCA seminary, would consider this to be self-contradictory.


poetreader said...

That certainly sounds like the guy I deleted. He certainly is welcome if he will be mannerly, but if not, not.


Warwickensis said...

"Archdruid of the Vacant see", Fr.Hart?

Surely you mean
"Arch sea of the vacant druid"?

John A. Hollister said...

1. "Ok, I researched your name and discovered you're not even an Anglican. You're a member of some teeny tiny continuing Anglo-Catholic denomination."

This is one of those times when philosophy instructors used to say, "First, define your terms". The apposition of "Anglican" (which, according to this commentator, Fr. Hart is not) and "Anglo-Catholic" (which, according to the same source, he is) looks to my untutored eye (I only taught philosopy, I never studied it, but that's another story) remarkably like an oxymoron.

With Fr. Hart, I can only conclude that the unknown vituperator equates "Anglican" with "Cantabrigian". Many of us here, in contrast, equate "Anglican" with "The tradition formerly held by the Church of England". I must agree with the U.V., between us and him there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to him cannot, neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.

2. "You probably don't even have a master of divinity from an accredited seminary."

This sentence reveals a number of interesting presuppositions. One is clearly that they who have acquired formal academic credentials are necessarily more worthy than they who have not, a proposition that any university or graduate school instructor has seen controverted many times.

Another is that a particular degree, one moreover that is a parochial 20th Century American artifact, is somehow a necessary before one is competent to discuss the Christian Faith. Well, that lets out Richard Hooker, Thomas Ken, and a whole host of others -- including, of course, all the Apostles and all of the Fathers of the Church -- who are disqualified by being either not Americans or pre-20th Century, doesn't it?

Then there is the issue of accreditation, another parochial American construct. Is the U.V. perhaps unaware that, outside New York state, accreditation is a purely private activity, conducted by organizations that would, in other circumstances, properly be described as "conspiracies in restraint of trade"? Or that NO U.S. school has EVER lost its accreditation for any reason other than financial instability? Or that the principal accrediting body in divinity once tried to attack the accreditation of two reputable seminaries solely because the religious denominations that operated those seminaries did not ordain women?

U.V. reposes a touching faith in the diligence, competence and good will of the A.T.S., far beyond any that I could muster in its behalf....

John A. Hollister+

Appropriately, the veriwords are "thingsat" and "befug"....

Sandra McColl said...

I was confirmed without oil or smack, but at least I got a bishop, which is more than a lot of Romans get these days (including a septuagenarian Anglican priest who jumped in many years ago, to my everlasting horror).

Voyagis+ said...

This chap sounds like a "TR" (Truly Reformed). The Reformed folk have always placed a high premium on academic achievement, if not always on charity. To be sure, despite considerable education we have our share of "BDAC(S)," but of boors, we have few if any.

I think our Reformed friend would be happier in the PCA where they have an abundance of educational opportunity and unemployed clergy.

poetreader said...

My default opinion tends to be that graduation from an accredited seminary is all too often a marker flag for questionable orthodoxy and lessenmed ability to minister to real people. I actually have to remind myself that such credentials do not necessarily disqualify one for ordination. I know, that is a bit extreme in the opposite direction, and is partially tongue in cheek -- but only partially. I know a man who entered seminary as a good solid AngloCatholic and emerged as an ECUsA loyalist, today in his retirement an advocate of every detail of the revisionist program. Sad but not at all unusual.


Shaughn said...

As a student at a research university, I can report a few advantages and disadvantages associated with the system.

The biggest, most obvious advantage is the library. I had in my possession a well-bound edition of Thomas Comber's Companion to the Temple, which is absurdly expensive these days. I'd almost have an easier time getting my own PhD one day and writing a new edition of it than trying to track down the whole set on my own. Likewise, I can easily take hold of Keble's edition of Hooker's works, editions of Cranmer's works, editions of Ritual Notes, and so on. And after I graduate, I can come back here as an alumnus and keep having access to the library.

Diversity is (for me, at least) an advantage. I now know how the three spectrums of Methodists operate - The Baptist Methodists, the nearly Anglican Methodists (a dying breed), and the crazed liberal Methodists. I have had a decent exposure to the Presbyterians and Baptists. I've been around Affirming Catholics. I've been around a wonderful Melkite Catholic professor. I've been able to learn so much of the arguments of other denominations in their own words, so that I can dismantle them later on. All of this will be exceptionally important for my intended vocation of military chaplaincy. Most military folks aren't Anglican, and here I'll be seeming more Catholic than the Roman Catholics. So, knowing the language they speak is going to be of priceless utility. (There are, for what it's worth, a series of excellent essays on that very subject in C.S. Lewis' God in the Dock.)

Now, I admit I've been somewhat blessed. I'm barely Protestant (the way that they use the term at school -- not here), and so they mostly let me mind my own business when I have precious little use for Barth, Schleiermacher, Bultmann, and so on. I've even been able to articulate our position on Holy Orders to folks without them combusting. (One seeking orders in ECUSA even recently gave me an edition of John Henry Newman's sermons, God bless her!)

In another light, the diversity is a disadvantage. It's easy to feel isolated and lonely here. If one's not careful, one can absorb the harmful bias of an historical presentation. I cannot count the number of times I've heard ad orientem described as "the priest has his back to the congregation!" to the sound of shock and horror. Many a time, I've heard it said that priests "witheld communion" all through the Medieval period, when it was more a case of the laity being a) indifferrent or b) scared of doing it. The hardest part of being here (for me, anyway) isn't the hostility. The hostile folks are easy to tune out. It's the friendly ones with whom it is hard to disagree. There's always the voice tempting, "Oh, just get along. We're all nice people here. Right?" Mr. Pacht, I suspect that's part of what lured your Anglo-Catholic away: the "niceness" of ECUSA. They're so nice. How could they be wrong?

But fundamentally, the sorts of jobs I want to do require an accredited MDiv, and that's the main reason I'm here. I cannot really speak to those in a different position, but I can report that it's possible to get a decent education at a research university if you're extremely stubborn and stay in constant contact with sane people outside the campus. :)

poetreader said...

Wonderful evaluation, Shaughn! Thanks for sharing it with us.

I certainly didn't intend to discount all that is good about a formal education. You do a good job of pointing out those values, but I meant to point out two things.

1/ that credentials don't make a good priest.

2/ that attending a seminary without full awareness that it is a dangerous place (dangerous in just the ways you point out) is a very foolish thing to do.

an MDiv or any other degree does not mark a man as having accomplished anything of ultimate value or as having reached any kind of end point. One who thinks that it has is not to be trusted. Degrees (including my BA in history) say no more than that one has reached a more advanced stage of insufficiency in his way to learning yet more.

Frankly, a priest of fifty years standing is no less a student than a first year seminarian, and needs to remember that if he is to be a teacher and guide.

My degree does mean something, and I regret that I was not able to undergo more formal study that I have, but I have no problem at all in asserting (without bragging - I know my weaknesses all too well)that I have learned and am learning, and have as much to share with those around me as most of the clergy I know.

BTW, plain "Ed" will do fine. It's a quirk of mine, but I've never enjoyed being 'mistered'.


J. Gordon Anderson said...

Obviously this individual wouldn't have made a good follower of Jesus because the disciples didn't have the ancient equivalent to academic degrees, and were part of a small group.

John A. Hollister said...

I'm not unaware of the practical, that is, vocational, values of sheepskins; if we dressed up in academic regalia at my house, there'd be twelve velvet sleeve stripes in the living room. (Hmmm -- this is about the time of year my 8-year-old starts talking about what he wants to "be" next Hallowe'en, when he also asks what costumes my wife and I are going to wear when we accompany him "trick or treating"....)

But I'm also unimpressed by a lot of the trumpery that goes along with it. Not to mention the prevalant tendency these days to replace real subject-matter courses with politically-correct pablum.

However, Shaughn's right, you can never learn too much about the self-preoccupation and intellectual blindness of the chattering classes. I think I wrote a comment on another thread here about how we got a priest whom the R.C.s threw out of the seminary in his fourth year because he questioned an instructor's statement that "God's understanding of us is constantly developing". And that was back in the 1960s or '70s.

But you've just got to love those libraries. Even better, thanks to the internet, you've got them almost to yourself now.

As an example of their effects, my wife had in medical school in Erie, PA an adjunct instructor in psychiatry, a clinical psychologist who'd gotten her Ph.D. from Fuller.

Of course, she'd started there as an "Evangelical". And, to Fuller's credit, it tries to teach psychology as a Christian discipline, which means that the psychology students take some of the seminary courses. But a funny thing happened on the way to wherever.

In the back of the library she found stack after stack of books that no one ever looked at but that were there to satisfy the accrediting agency's requirements for breadth of holdings. She asked one of her professors about them, who told her "We never read those, but I guess you can if you want to."

So she did. Well, reading the Fathers of the Church had the inevitable effect: she read herself out of "Evangelicalism" into Catholicism. Unfortunately, the Church History section must have been a bit thin, because the only form of Catholicism of which she knew was the Roman brand.

(Just imagine the shock and horror in Pasadena over that! It cost her a faculty appointment she'd been promised on graduation and almost prevented that graduation itself....)

But she became so thorough-going a Roman Catholic of the old school that she adopted a personal spiritual director, who happened to be a nun who was stationed in Southern California. T

hen later the nun's order transferred her back to its mother house in Erie, PA. The psychologist felt her director was so important to her spiritual wellbeing that she herself had to move across country to remain near her, something few R.C.s today would do. And that's how she came to set up her practice in Erie....

So, yes, Shaughn is right on the money about how the aware student can benefit from the resources the endowments make possible just so long as (s)he guards against the adverse agents of academia.

Of course, many students have gotten their educations despite the best efforts of their institutions, not because of them.

John A. Hollister+

Sandra McColl said...

Many, many years ago I began my BMus course with one of the lecturers addressing the class with, 'Of course, Beethoven didn't have BMus behind his name.'

As for me, I have 5 degrees and am perfectly capable (as anyone who visits this blog often enough will have seen) of talking complete poppycock.

Veriword is flian.

Bruce said...

J. Gordon Anderson: Are you the same nice young priest we met at St Mark's in Vero a few years ago?

Guess it is a "teeny tiny denomination."

AngloCatholicSeminarian said...

It is true that having an accredited M.Div. or some kind of Master's degree doesn't ensure that one will be a good priest (I have studied with those who have finished school and yet are of very questionable ability). It is also true that there are many priests without them that are of questionable training, and I have heard horror story after horror story about Mass-priests - that is, priests who can perform the mass well but have little aptitude for theology or teaching. What accreditation does do, however, is show people that your training has met at least some basic requirements.

I can say from personal experience, though, that the lack of accredited clerical education is a black mark on the continuum. As someone who came from the outside, it does reinforce the greater public's misconception that continuing Anglicans are a group of backward fundamentalists. When I think of unaccredited clergymen, I think of the weird little protestant sects which litter the landscape of the southern states, and that is who many on the outside lump us with. We ought to be going above and beyond the requirements of worldly institutions, not raising our noses at them.

As for WO and accreditation, I'm not sure what you're talking about. Perhaps there may have been cases in the past, but I can name you seminary after seminary that is accredited and strongly opposes WO. Hell, I can point you to many accredited seminaries that require their students to hold to a literal 6-day creation (I studied at one).

What I don't understand is why the continuing churches don't attach themselves to a private college and offer a Th.B. through the hosting college. I've seen it done numerous times before (even for M.Div.s). As for St. Joe's in California, they have something good going there from what I hear, but their refusal to approach accreditation is baffling to me.

As for those who go to a seminary which is of a different theological mind than their church, if they cannot keep true to their own beliefs then perhaps the continuum is rid of a wishy-washy priest with no true foundation! Part of the blame is on the institution which he attended to be sure, but we cannot level all the blame there. What about the individual? What is that saying about the catechesis that person received at their home parish? If someone cannot engage contrary opinions without conforming to them, how do they expect to function in the diverse religious atmosphere that is the United States?

On the other hand, I'm NOT saying anything against those priests who don't have such degrees - I don't know you and I'm not here to judge. Frankly, if Fr. Hart doesn't have one he could have fooled me. The simple fact is that much of the rest of Christendom looks at the continuum as illegitimate, and such attitudes toward accreditation only throw gas on the fire. And while we can cry "Who cares what they think!" and say that we're standing up for pure doctrine, these matters do play a role in our ability for ecumenism and missions.

Let's put it this way: I could have my car fixed by a mechanic who's Dad taught him what to do, but when I'm driving down the highway it makes me feel better if the guy who replaced my alternator is ASE certified.

How much more it is true when dealing with the cure of souls!

Anonymous said...

You might find it amusing to know that the REAL Anglicans are hosting a ACNA shindig hosted by Bob Duncan and his priestesses at St. VIncent's Cathedral in Bedford Tx.

What a hoot- Bob Duncan and Co. holding their 'orthodox' meeting at a church named St Vincent!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anglocatholicseminarian on everything but the "much of the rest of Christianity" remark.

The problem with the notion that "much of the rest of Christendom" is that much of the rest of Christendom looks at much of the rest of Christendom as illegitimate! CC hardly could draw much notice.

Speaking of such... rather than unformed priests the CC biggest problem is unformed and DAR priests becoming bishops with their only intuitive missionary agenda being the raiding of other jurisdiction's churches rather than learning how to plant new ones. I think that is the greatest causes of division and thus the underlying factor of a huge put off to people considering the CC.

I understand there is a bit of that going on out west right now. Like hermit crabs fighting over each other's shells or is that miters?


John A. Hollister said...

AngloCatholic Seminarian wrote: "As for WO and accreditation, I'm not sure what you're talking about."

I was talking about two cases -- there may well have been more, but these were the ones that came immediately to mind -- that occurred in the late 1980s when Dr. Dr. William Bennett -- since we're talking about degrees -- was the Secretary of Education under President Reagan.

The ATS attacked two East Coast seminaries, one of which belonged to a conservative Presbyterian denomination, threatening to revoke their accreditations on the ground of "insufficient diversity in institutional governance". Translated into plain English, that meant that they had no women on their Boards of Trustees.

I don't recall the details of the situation of the one school but I do recall that the Presbyterian one belonged to a denomination that required (a) all Trustees of the Seminary to be ordained clergy of that body and (b) only ordained men.

Secretary Bennett told the ATS that while it was a private body, so that he could not interfere with its internal operations, he was also the person who controlled the list of bodies that are recognized by the U.S. government as accrediting agencies. Therefore, he said, if the ATS bothered any institution for any reason that was not directly related to academic quality, it would cease to be accredited as an accreditor....

Ever since, he's been one of my personal heros.

The joke there was that, as every person who has ever participated in a "self study" preliminary to an accreditation site visit knows all too well, NO accrediting agency EVER measures academic quality. The simple reason is that no one has ever devised a way to measure it.

So, by default, the accrediting agencies are reduced to counting the square footage of the classroom buildings, the number of seats in the classrooms and library, the number of books in the library, the paper credentials of the faculty, and other items that any "bean counter" can evaluate in a week's visit to an institution where he or she is a complete stranger and which he or she will probably never see again in this life.

For example, live classes are always visited, which simply proves that classes are actually held. All the students show up for class during the site visits, regardless of how lax the school is about attendance at other times.

"Yup, if you watch that prof. up on the dais carefully enough for long enough, you can see that he actually moves once in a while. Not sure what that droning sound he's making means, tho'."

(The visitors would do more earthly good if they'd rate the quality of the food in the cafeteria. At least that might have an impact on the students' quality of life.)

Then a few rounds of nitpicking at that institution's self study, reminiscent of the way Ph.D. committee members justify their appointments by picking at and requiring rewrites of draft dissertations, and Shazam! The school is reaccredited for another umpty-ump years.

Whether anyone at the subject institution ever actually learns anything is both completely irrelevant to the entire process and utterly unknown to the accreditors.

Nor is that particularly surprising when one considers that the original purpose of the very first accrediting association was simply to fence off its august members from the hoi polloi and to exclude other schools which were less prestigious, all based on those members' self-assumed reputations and having nothing whatever to do with any realities.

At that beginning of the process, there wasn't even a pretence of any evaluation or inspection. Simply an agreement that no credits would be accepted in transfer from anyone else, something that is still a marked feature of the accreditation system.

I have been a student at five accredited institutions,* one of which acquired a second and more prestigious accreditation while I was there and a very interested spectator of the proceedings. (I was also once a student at a famous foreign university but that, being outside the U.S., had nothing to do with accreditation, despite its international reputation.) I was a faculty member at two more,* at one of which I was intimately involved in the institution's participation in two separate accreditation cycles, one with the regional accrediting body and one with a professional accrediting agency. So I speak from at least some personal experience when I assert that the process is morally and intellectually bankrupt. Sometimes it is outright corrupt, as well.

I'm reminded of a small school I learned of during the years I lived in a major East Coast city. It had been in existence for decades and had never been accredited -- it may well not be so to this very day, for all I know. It was exclusively a business school, giving BAs and MBAs in Business, Accounting, and Finance, and all of its graduates had jobs upon -- or even before -- graduation.

And why was that? Simply because this school always had the highest first-time passing rate on that state's CPA exam. So neither students nor prospective employers gave a moment's thought to how the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business, or the Northeast Association of Schools and Colleges, may have ranked the school's program.

And so why would the school bother to waste the considerable expenditure of resoureces that would have been required to apply for either organization's accreditation?

John A. Hollister+

Veriword: "hypiness".

*And, compared to all of these seven schools, eight if one counts the FFI mentioned, academically the best classes I ever encountered in my life were those at the (non accredited) Holyrood Seminary the Anglican Catholic Church used to run.

J. Gordon Anderson said...


Yes, it is me. And you forgot good-looking, brilliant, etc. (just joking)

It's not that it is a "teeny tiny denomination", it's just "a small world!"


Conan the Anglican said...

A bit of nit-picking.

Why score easy points with a pejorative reference to old whites (ironically, while you're in the process of moving to the south)?? Would you be willing to make an equivalent pejorative reference to old blacks or old Jews??

Shaughn said...

As a lifelong southerner, I don't worry much about that sort of thing, Conan. We down here know better. Bus riots over racial integration in public schools happened in Boston as recently as the 1970s.

poetreader said...


Since Father Hart is not yet back on line, I'll attempt to speak for him. The reference to "old white bigots [who] needed no facts about black men, or about Jews." is so accurate and timely that I am glad he said it.

I'm an old white man who has lived all my life in the presence of people (many of them beloved relatives) who fit that description well indeed. Bigotry hasn't died. I am constantly in receipt of missives that simply drip with racial and ethnic hatred, a lot of it directed at a legitimately elected president. Of course there are similar expressions within other groups, but if I cannot take measures to improve the way my own 'class' of people behaves in such matters, how can I expect others to do so where they are. I'm afraid this desire to shift the blame to others is one of the worst problems we, as fallen humans, face. Jesus' little story of the mote and the beam is so very applicable to so much of our politics, of our social realations, and, yes, of our distortion of the Church Our Lord left us.

Fr. Hart, thank you for saying what many are reluctant to face.


Alice C. Linsley said...

Good heavens! This fellow would have served well in Calvin's Geneva where the Consistory maintained control over all aspects of civil and religious life. Calvin's Consistory advanced his political aims and took action against those who questioned his authority. Some of his opponents were tortured and beheaded, and those accused of witchcraft were hunted and burned to death. In 1544, the Consistory charged 23 people with practicing witchcraft and burned them at the stake in Geneva. Fr. Hart, I'm glad you aren't in Switzerland!

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Fr. John Hollister wrote:
I'm not unaware of the practical, that is, vocational, values of sheepskins.

In some cases they are used to make clothing.

CtA said...


Bigotry isn't the worst or only sin (as it's defined in my dictionary, I'm not even sure it IS a sin though I'm sure hatred is). Will we be seeing comparative references to vices commonly associated with blacks and Jews? "Black fornicators" or "Jewish money-idolators?" If not, why not?

As to motes in eyes, I don't think of sin as a collective phenomena.

I NEVER hear missives laced with ethnic and racial hatred even from my West Virginia relatives.

PS, please forgive the ridiculous psuedonym I chose and please note i'm an admirer not an adversary.

William Tighe said...


I'm sorry, but your last comment is simply perpetuating the myth of the "Genevan theocracy," or Calvin as "Pope of Geneva." In the first place, Calvin wasn't even a citizen of Geneva till 1555; and in the second, the Consistory was selected by the civil government (Syndics and Council) of Geneva. True (and unlike the situation in other Swiss Protestant cantons, where the civil authorities had a free hand in doing so), in Geneva the Consistory had the duty of "vetting" potential lay members for orthodoxy of doctrine and probity of morals, and it is also true that from 1555 onwards (due to the immigration to Geneva of many foreign French Protestants) Calvin enjoyed a great deal of moral and suasive authority in
Geneva, a situation that continued for some decades after Calvin's death in 1564 during the long "chief pastorship" of his successor, Theodore Beza (1519-1605). However, and without any formal change to the polity of the Genevan Church, after 1600 Geneva became in practice as totally Erastian as any other Swiss or German Reformed Church.

poetreader said...


Welcome. The pseudonymn is fine. We're satisifed as long as we have a name we can call you instead of having to sort anonymi from one another. I'm mostly in agreement with what you said, but find a need to comment:

Bigotry isn't the worst or only sin (as it's defined in my dictionary, I'm not even sure it IS a sin though I'm sure hatred is).

Since bigotry so generally results in attitudes and expressions of hatred, and in the unjust mistreatment of fellow-men. It is assuredly, if not to be listed as "a sin", at least a root of very serious sin, and is, thus, always wrong. There is no such thing as an "only" or a "worst" sin. Sin is sin and ugly in God's sight, and part of the mission of Christians is to expose specific sins so the sinner can be called to repentance.

Will we be seeing comparative references to vices commonly associated with blacks and Jews? "Black fornicators" or "Jewish money-idolators?" If not, why not?

Absolutely not. I have no business majing charges against a tribe of which I am not part. I am neither Black not Jewish. I am white. I have lived among people who look like me and have similar culteral markers for 68 year, and I can most certainly comment on faults I have seen in my family and friends, and, yes, in myself. I can recognize the attitudes I myself have been taught, make a conscious effort to shed myself of them, and a conscious effort to help those like myself do likewise. And that I must do.

As to motes in eyes, I don't think of sin as a collective phenomena.

And just where did anyone here say that it is? Bigotry, though learned in a culteral setting, is an individual attitude infecting individual humans. Its primary symptom, actually, is the ascription of collective traits one does not like to others as a group, instead of considering distinct human persons. Every one of us, whther we have delved deeply enough into ourselves to se it or not, does indeed harbor xenophobic notions that make it harder for us to see very different people as just as valuable to God as we are. Real self-examination will lead us to find that in ourselves, and that is required of us, to be followed by repentance and change.

I NEVER hear missives laced with ethnic and racial hatred even from my West Virginia relatives.

I'm very glad to hear that. I do, however, as a dyed-in-the-wool Yankee, hear such things often, and grew up in an atmosphere where such expressions were seen as normal. I have trouble believing the vileness of some of the racial epithets I have personally heard directed at our new president. Oh yes, bigotry is very real indeed. There was no attempt here to ascribe such to any subset of people such as southerners, but to declare that many problems have resulted from the specific instances of white bigots, such as I myself could have become.


Alice C. Linsley said...

Thank You, Dr. Tighe, for correcting my false impression. I appreciate your vast knowledge of Church history.

The rigidity and prejudice of this man's view of Fr. Hart and the Continuum suggested to me a mindset like the "vetting" of the Consistory at its worst. Therefore I'm not surprised that he claims Calvin as his spiritual authority.

Anonymous said...

It is truly an unusual comment which would bring Profesor William Tighe to the defense of John Calvin, but Alice Tinsley has pulled it off!

Congratulations, Alice! I will not ask for documentation of your charges:

"Calvin's Consistory advanced his political aims and took action against those who questioned his authority. Some of his opponents were tortured and beheaded, and those accused of witchcraft were hunted and burned to death. In 1544, the Consistory charged 23 people with practicing witchcraft and burned them at the stake in Geneva."

The standard scholarly biographies of Calvin do not share this information. They do, however, have plenty to say about role of Calvin in the burning of Servetus. Concerning this Alister McGrath writes:

"It is not entirely clear 2hy scholars have singled out the execution of Servetus as somehow more notable or significant than the mass executions carried out in Germany after the abortive Peasants War (1525) and after the ending of the siege of Muenster (1534), or the ruthless policy of executions of Roman Catholic priests in Elizabethan England. Even as late as 1612, the English secular arm, at the behest of the bishops of London and Lichfield, publicly burned two individuals who held views like those of Servetus...." (Life of John Calvin, p. 115)

Someone once said that Anti-Catholicism is the Anti-Semitism of the intelligensia.
Alice's comment reminds me that Anti-Calvinism is the Anti-Semitism of a certain species of Catholic.

Her remark on Fr Hart's good luck in not being in Switzerland is ironic when one considers the swarms of religious refugees (many from England during Bloody Mary's reign) who made their way to Geneva.

All in all, I find Alice's comment discouraging.


Albion Land said...

Bigotry is most definitely a sin, being as it is an expression of pride, the deadliest sin of all.

Bigotry thumps its chest with both fists as it shouts "my tribe and I are superior to you and your tribe."

poetreader said...

Meanwhile, the "gentleman" in question has just posted two more comments, both deliberately insulting and abusive. I was not able to publish either one. We don't censor ideas here, but we do demand decency and manners. If he really wants to get a hearing for his ideas, he'll need to moderate his way of speaking so that we can hear something other than his rage. If he can do that, he is welcome.

To everyone else, I've really appreciated the tone of this discussion (and the others on this board). There certainly have been strong opinions expressed, sometimes with no little heat, but the respect for one another has been evident, anbd it has been obvious that we are listening to one another.


Alice C. Linsley said...

LK Wells, Why should my view of Calvinism discourage you? I'm neither Anglican nor Roman Catholic that I feel the need to rail against Rome or to affirm Protestantism. I hold to Holy Tradition and Calvin's reforms didn't take Geneva back to Holy Tradition. For all his talk about the Church Fathers, he often set aside their views to assert sola scriptura.

He wrote: "We see how vehemently the Papists alarm the simple by their false claim of the title of The Church. Moses so delineates the genuine features of the Church as to take away this absurd fear, by dissipating these illusions. It is by an ostentatious display of splendour and of pomp that they (the Papists) carry away the less informed to a foolish admiration of themselves, and even render them stupid and infatuated. But if we turn our eyes to those marks by which Moses designates the Church, these vain phantoms will have no more power to deceive…while we see in this history of Moses, the building of the Church out of ruins, and the gathering of it out of broken fragments, and out of desolation itself, such an instance of the grace of God ought to raise us to firm confidence. But since the propensity, not to say the wanton disposition, of the human mind to frame false systems of worship is so great, nothing can be more useful to us than to seek our rule for the pure and sincere worshipping of God, from those holy Patriarchs, whose piety Moses points out to us chiefly by this mark, that they depended on the Word of God alone. (Calvin's Commentary on Genesis.)

"Congratulations, Alice! I will not ask for documentation of your charges.." Why not?

Go here: http://sthweb.bu.edu/archives/index.php?option=com_awiki&view=mediawiki&article=John_Calvin&Itemid=99

Fr. Robert Hart said...

You misquoted me. I never said anything about "white men." I said "white bigots." I could as easily have mentioned "black bigots" like Farakhan.

Anonymous said...

Alice: I checked your "documentation" and found, to my surprise, a genuinely scholarly and balanced article which presents a portrait of Calvin rather different from the lurid picture you tried to paint. It is far from supporting your allegations. From it I learned that Calvin's role in the Servetus affair was not quite what is usually said: Calvin attempted to have the sentence reduced from burning to beheading, but did not have sufficient clout in dealing with the ivil authorities. So much for the "tyrant" mythology.

There is plenty wrong with the theological system which has Calvin's name attached to it. The various errors of Calvinism are dealt with here constantly, so it is unbecoming of you to resort to poor historical information.

As for "Scriptura sola," Fr Hart has recently put us in his debt on another thread by pointing out that both the phrase and the concept go back to Aquinas's Commentary on the Gospel of John. As for flaming controversial rhetoric, Calvin had nothing on lots of the Church Fathers who routinely called their opponents "madmen." So again, you have no case.

Canon Tallis said...

Father Wells,

As for those who fled to Geneva to escape Mary Tudor, the tragedy is that they returned to England when Elizabeth became queen. I would have rather that they had stayed with a system in which they believed rather than attempt to foist it off on the English Church.

Cosin's comments on same are very enlightening.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I find it very hard to define what makes a Calvinist. Having read Calvin as part of my education, I think he was not a Calvinist himself, just as it is certain that Zwingli was not a Zwinglian. I do know that the rather twisted fellow, who I quoted in the above post that heads this thread, would condemn our own Fr. Wells on the basis of how that rather strange man (who we will call Charlie X) misunderstands Cranmer. In a comment on another thread, Fr. Wells wrote:

"An invocation of the Holy Ghost, to be sure, but placed discreetly BEFORE the Dominical Words, to lead into them. That is the holy moment when bells should be rung and all standing should fall down on their faces, the moment when eternity crashes into time and the Word still becomes flesh, when (as Richard Baxter wrote) Christ is willing to be frequently crucified before our own eyes."

Charlie X would insist that this is idolatry, and base it on Cranmer, and also on Calvin.

I am convinced that today Calvinism is in the eye of the beholder, and often has little, if anything, to do with his writings. In the days of Hooker, Calvin's system was seen as including his "Geneva Discipline" about Church government, and so his system, as a system, was partly refuted (as we know). But, almost no one thinks of a specific "polity" as part of Calvinism anymore.

So, the word is a bit elastic, subject to wide interpretation.

William Tighe said...

Elizabeth kept most returnees from Geneva far from positions of influence in her church, and far from her. It was those who came back from Zurich, many of whom she appointed to high office in her church in and after 1559, that essentially frustrated her ideas about what the Church of
England should be like (they, and their sympathizers who stayed in England in Mary's reign, like Bishop Guest and even Abp.Parker). Examples of this include on how she had to back down on requiring any vestments other than the surplice, and how, rejecting Article 29 of the 39 Articles as she did in 1563, she was nevertheless brought to allow it in 1571.

Anonymous said...

If you listen to the Calvinists of the OPC or PCA, they are fiercely insistent on "the Divine Right of Presbytery," the claim that their polity is the ONLY form of church government which God approves. Historically, this is a "second generation" development, for which Andrew Melville (John Knox's successor)was responsible. While Calvin envisioned something resembling Presbyterian church government, he was not quite as extreme on the point. T.F. Torrance pointed out that Calvin corresponded with the King of Poland and lamented the loss of the historic episcopate. (He did not lament the loss of a sacerdotal priesthood.) One Calvinst body actually retained and still retains episcopal polity, the Magyar Reformed Church in Hungary.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Hooker, of course, wrote that Calvin and the church in Geneva acted because they were handed an emergency when the clergy abandoned them. The problem was with those who wanted to imitate what they came up with, namely the English Puritans.

Fr Odhran-Mary TFSC said...

In spite of my accredited BA, MS and a PhD in Theology, I READ for Orders under an Anglican Priest.
One morning he phoned me and asked, "Prove to me the existance of Hell."
I did not know quite how answer and told him so.
He responded: "There has to be some place for John Calvin."

Fr. Robert Hart said...

That is certain to get some rather heated debate.

Place Calvin within his historical context, and look at what he faced in his own time. I am not a Calvinist; but I would hate to think, and certainly dare not to presume, that he is in "the other place."

John A. Hollister said...

Fr. Hart wrote, "I am not a Calvinist; but I would hate to think, and certainly dare not to presume, that he is in 'the other place.'"

As Christians, or at least as aspiring Christians, we should not wish that on anyone. So I guess I fall into the "aspiring only" column because I have always felt a little frison of Schadenfreude at the mental picture of John Calvin, John Knox, and Andrew Melville each being told by some demon at the gate of Hades, "Why are you surprised? You always trumpeted loudly that it was DOUBLE predestination...."

I never met a real Calvinist who actually believed he personally could be elect to anything except paradise. There has always been an implicit assumption that only non-Presbyterians could possibly be elect to damnation.

Similarly, I never met any romantic Nietzchean, languishing for an idealized Middle Ages, who imagined that if his wish became reality, he wouldn't have been a knight, living in the castle on the hill, rather than a serf, plodding through muddy fields at the tail of an ox.

John A. Hollister+

Alice C. Linsley said...

Calvin and Luther must be taken in context of the reactive times in which they lived. They and their followers made mistakes. I hate to think of the mistakes being made today because of over-reaction.

I remember reading something that Calvin wrote on the sursum corda that was astonishingly good.

Anonymous said...

Fr Hart: If you have difficulty in saying what a Calvinist is, how do you know for sure that you are not one yourself?

poetreader said...

Can't speak for Fr. Hart, but as for myself. I agree that it is very difficult to say what a Calvinist actually IS, but it's not too hard to identify what one is NOT. I think I would have liked Dr. Calvin very much indeed, but there are many of his ideas that I couldn't accept -- and there certainly are manyn opf my ideas that would have called forth severe criticism from him.

That, however, can also be said about many of those who claim to be his followers (Calvinists). I think the man would be appalled, or, as it was once said about George Washington, "If he were still alive, he'd be rolling over in his grave."


Anonymous said...

As an ex-Calvinist (just to confirm the old pedigree, I was immersed in the writings of Turretin, Buchanan, Owen, Calvin, Bavinck, Warfield, the Hodges, Murray, Machen, and all the newer folks like Horton, Sproul, etc) I can honestly say that stream of Reformed thought has much to commend itself, but I felt it was far too truncated. The "5-point" system coming out of Dort in response to the Arminians was effectively undone in my mind when reading John Owen's "Death of Death" -- a beautiful but terribly flawed piece of literature, whose cracks begun to show when dealing with certain universal atonement texts.

To this day I'll hop over from time-to-time to see R.C. Sproul preach at St. Andrews (I can almost throw a rock and hit his church from where I live), but the whole "5-point Reformed" paradigm, while impressive and robust on some levels, is lacking and disconnected from the rest of (*gasp*) Christendom.

I am quite content with Augustinian Anglicanism without having to invoke Dordtian categories. If I am Calvinistic, it's only quite coincidental and not because I'm running hard after that. If I am Lutheran-esque, it's for the same reasons. Anglicanism can and should intelligently interact with those sectors of Christianity, and we should rejoice where our brethren get it right.

St. Worm
(A Thoroughly Augustinian Anglo-Catholic)

Anonymous said...

So we do not know what a Calvinist is, but we are sure that Calvinism is a very bad thing. (Reminds me of the philosopher--Santayana, as I recall--who was not sure whether God exists but was certain that Mary is His mother. This arises from the slovenly habit of attaching the word "Calvinist" to any form of Protestantism we find disdagreeable.
I do indeed call this a slovenly habit, since it makes no more sense than assuming all conservative Republicans belong to the American Nazi party. Calling the hate-monger who triggered this discussion (but whose comments we have been mercifully shielded from by Poetreader) a "Calvinist" may well be a compliment he does not deserve. Would one call Timothy McVeigh or Goerge Lincoln Rockwell a "conservative"?

Alice, the passage you are thinking of is probably the Institutes, IV.xvii.18, which it gives me much pleasure to quote for all:

"But if we are lifted up to heaven with our eyes and minds, to seek Christ there in the glory of his Kingdom, as the symbols invite us to him in his wholeness, so under the symbol of bread we shall be fed by his body, under the symbol of wine we shall separately drink his blood, to enjoy him at last in his wholeness. For though he has taken his flesh away from us, and in the body has ascended into heaven, yet he sits at the right hand of the Father--that is, he reigns in the Father's power and majesty and glory. This Kingdom is neither bounded by location in space or circumscribed by any limits. Thus Christ is not prevented from exerting his power wherever he pleases, in heaven and on earth. He shows his presence in power and strength, is always among his own people, and breathes his life upon them, and lives in them, sustaining them, strengthening, quickening, keeping them unharmed, as if he were present in the body. In short, he feeds his people with his own body, the communion of which he bestows upon them by the power of his Spirit. In this manner, the body and blood of Christ are shown to us in the Sacrament."

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Fr.Wells wrote:

Fr Hart: If you have difficulty in saying what a Calvinist is, how do you know for sure that you are not one yourself?

I tried to be one, long ago; I even attended a PCA seminary for a while. It was interesting to learn then how many of the Instructors and Professors reacted against the five-point, or TULIP image as a caricature. They did not consider that to be real Calvinism. To them a TULIP, or Five-Pointer, was not the real McCoy. That showed me that the word lacks a precise definition.

It is also interesting how much people seem to think that Calvin's views on Predestination were his own creation. They were only a little stronger than classic Western speculation, going back to Augustine through Thomas Aquinas. The Dominicans, to this day, tend to be very much of the same mind about the subject. They are with Calvin, Melville and Knox more than they would want to admit.

The weakness of how some Western theologians have taught Predestination involves this: That man is hopelessly lost without Divine intervention that extends grace, and cannot find God, or desire to know Him, is unquestionably true. But, that man must be deprived of Free Will (as some suppose) for Providence to succeed, presents a limited and weak picture of the Almighty. His Providence cannot be thwarted by our Free Will, without which we could not be in the image of God. No Free Will means that Genesis is wrong: We could not be made in the image of God without having our own will.

Anonymous said...

St Worm uses an unusual term:

"A thoroughly Augustinian Anglo-Catholic"

Hey, maybe that's what I am! (But Augustine was mixed up on Justification, thinking that dikaiow means iustificare.)

Anonymous said...

Fr. Wells,

The liberating realization to me years ago was that Augustinianism could be justly unshackled from Calvinism. Luther is just one proof of that fact.

I love Byzantium and EO, but am exceedingly grateful to be a Western Christian, and don't shy away from late medieval and Reformation correctives.

When I read the BCP, I see it awash with Augustinian assumptions and paradigms. Thanks be to God.

St. Worm

Anonymous said...

This thread has probably run its course, but I am grateful for Fr Hart's response and confession of past Calvinism. (Calvinism, like alcoholism, can have only a spiritual recovery but no final cure. Take it one day at a time, Father, as you walk the road of happy destiny. Let the reader understand.)

Both the unlearned exponents and cultured despisers of Calvinism equate this school of theology (I avoid the word "system") with the infamous TULIP. At most, the five points were only a response to Arminianism. They are disputed points, not the central points of Genevan theology. A careful look at the table of contents to the Institutes reveals that the central points of the work were the Trinity and the Person and Work of Christ. Whether Calvin even taught "Limited Atonement" is under dispute, and if he did, it was a marginal issue. The acronym TULIP only works among English-speakers and is known in the land of Dordrecht mainly as an American invention.

As for the "free will" issue, you did not mention what happened to the human will and the image of God in the Fall. Once Adam and Eve left the Garden, and the Cherubim stood at the gate swinging his sword, and the thorns and thistles started sprouting all over the place, things were different. Paul describes us as "dead in trespasses and sins," which leaves us with about as much "free will" as a corpse. "Free will" after all is a speculative philosophical notion without much Biblical basis. It usually sabotages any discussion of the Biblical categories of sin and grace. Pastorally speaking, the notion of free will is usually counter-productive. Try telling a cocaine addict or a compulsive gambler to use free will and see how far you get. Sin, rooted in the depths of the human heart, leaves us with only a "free will" bound and determined to persist in rebellion. It is not for nothing that the Prayer Book describes us as "tied and bound with the chain of our sins." And that's Biblical theology, not the chimera "Calvinism."

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Fr.Wells wrote:

As for the "free will" issue, you did not mention what happened to the human will and the image of God in the Fall.

But I did. Look again at these words:

"That man is hopelessly lost without Divine intervention that extends grace, and cannot find God, or desire to know Him, is unquestionably true."

Anonymous said...

Fr. Wells,

Just an aside, you wrote: "Whether Calvin even taught "Limited Atonement" is under dispute..."

True, but we know his disciple Beza unquestionably embraced this idea, and there are stark traces of it in Calvin (see his "On the Eternal Predestination of God," and his section on 1 John 2:2). The Lutheran responses to it (read the responses to Reformed Eucharistic theology in the last section of Chemnitz's "De Coena Domini") in the late 16th century show it was a prominent enough feature that warranted an answer. Though by no means "invented" by Reformed folks this idea had its heyday in various periods since 5th century, a la Gottschalk and others since.

Even so, there's a great deal of good that can be gleaned from that Genevan genius. Even my own dear priest quotes liberally from the Reformed tradition in his own sermons. The beauty of being Anglican is that we don't serve the sect, but make use of the best of each tradition insofar as it serves orthodoxy and catholicity.

But I've said too much. My meager acquaintance with the Institutes, some of his Commentaries, and a few other minor works don't make me an expert, but I do think the Institutes is a worthy read.

St. Worm

Anonymous said...

P.S., I didn't mean to leave the impression that I thought Gottschalk was 5th century (who was in fact 9th century), I was only naming him as a pre-Reformation example of holding such a belief.

Tis all.

St. Worm

Anonymous said...

St. Worm is correct. The doctrine of Limited Atonement quickly emerged, and there are those scholars who insist they find it in Calvin's own writings. I'm not enough of a Calvin scholar to be entitled to an opinion of where he stood. It is still a matter of debate. JIPacker strenuously defends it; Alister MacGrath dismisses it as useless baggage.

Fr Hart: I did note the sentence you quote from yourself, with much pleasure. But you followed it up with,

"But, that man must be deprived of Free Will (as some suppose) for Providence to succeed, presents a limited and weak picture of the Almighty. His Providence cannot be thwarted by our Free Will, without which we could not be in the image of God. No Free Will means that Genesis is wrong: We could not be made in the image of God without having our own will."

You are unclear as to whether you are describing the pre-Fall or post-Fall condition of man here.
There is room for discussion about the effects of the Fall on the human will. The answer to that question determines whether we turn out to be Pelagians, semi-Pelagians, or Augustinians.

poetreader said...

If I understand correctly, free will is a central part of the nature of man, an integral part of what it means to be in the image of God. But we, being dead in trespasses and sin no longer have the capability to use this integral aspect of our being.

A stroke victim is so designed as to be able to walk. If he be paralyzed, that is not changed, but he is incapable of doing so unless and until healing takes place.

We have free will, but find ourselves unable to will freely until we receive healing. By his stripes we are healed.

Neither insisting upon untrammelled free will nor denying freedom makes good scriptural sense, but truth is found when these two extremes are able to interact and produce a difficult-or-impossible-to-formulate synthesis.

Fr. Hart's statement is equally true before and after the Fall, but finds itself quite differently manifest in pracice on one side or the other of that divide.


Fr. Robert Hart said...

After the Fall man cannot will to love God, and even after the infusion of grace, he cannot by that will alone make it so. Romans 7 teaches that the will can be there, but that it is has no power on its own to set us free.

The will of a man who has not received grace is not free will, but rather a will that is unable to choose the good.