The basic flaw is simply this: They let Rome define all the terms. They learn everything they think they know about Anglicanism from the Roman Polemicists whose agenda it is to save souls from Henry and Elizabeth's Kirk. They let Romans tell them what Anglicans really believe, they let Romans tell them why it must be wrong, and they let Romans define for them the true meaning of all things Catholic. Just as one comedian learned everything he needed to know in Kindergarten, some "Anglicans" have learned everything they care to know from The Catechism of the Roman Church. This course of action is far more easy than actually learning Anglicanism, which takes a lot of reading; and it seems more secure because that Italian denomination is really, really big. And, it is old, almost as old as the Church itself.
Now, when these "Before I was a Roman Catholic or even an Anglo-Catholic..." types confront the evils of modern apostasy on the part of post Anglican sects and cults (such as the Episcopal "church"), they use the modern stylish heresies to support what I have come to call The Root Theory. Basically, it goes like this: The fact that some Anglican bodies are apostate only proves that the whole thing was wrong from the start. By this theory, due to the break with Rome, in and of itself, the entire course of modern apostasy was inevitable, predestined by rebellion against the Petrine See. And so, writing for the Blog, Sub Tuum, Brother Stephen O. Cist could not confine his justified criticism of modern heresies within the parameters of reality. Instead, he mixed various generations and systems of thought together, in a fantastic and surreal mis-match, all caught up in grand sweeping themes of pseudo-history.
"I say it because strains of Anglicanism as old as Cranmer and the Enlightenment are moving the American Province of the Anglican Communion toward a clarity of identity and mission previously unknown in the Episcopal Church. Since her election at the last General Convention, the Presiding Bishop has consistently articulated her vision for the Episcopal Church in the 21st Century and, as of this month, she and others have moved TEC a step closer to consensus around that vision."
My first reaction is to ask, which is it? As old as Cranmer, or as old as the Enlightenment? A difference of a mere two hundred years may seem like nothing to a writer caught up in the emotional thrill of word-smithing, but it seems like a pretty long time once sobriety sets in. Even worse, to name Cranmer in the same breath as "the Enlightenment" provokes a reaction in my inner historian, and my inner theologian, not unlike a reaction to nails squeaking on a chalkboard.
And, it gets worse.
"From the time of the Elizabethan Settlement, there have been a large number of formidable broad church thinkers who have believed that Anglicanism is a Reformed tradition, confident that in the Anglican via media, unfortunate doctrinal and disciplinary accretions have been stripped away and that God-given reason gives men and women the competence to confront and engage with changing circumstances in every generation."
Unless he means "Reformed" strictly as some use it, to mean "Calvinism" (as they use "Evangelicalism" to mean "Lutheranism"), the only answer is, "so what?" Yes, the English Reformers were, well, Reforming the Church. And, herein lies a problem that will only get worse and result in more "Anglo-Catholics" leaping into the Tiber for completely false reasons, unless someone gets their attention before they make their fateful plunge. Anglo-Catholics need to stop reacting like idiots very time they are reminded that they are in a Protestant Church. Anyone who knows anything about Anglicanism knows that the words "Protestant" and "Catholic" are complementary terms in our patrimony. Using them as opposites, as inherently antithetical, is for the ignorant, not for us. So too, "Reformed." The English Reformers were stripping away Roman innovations to recover true Catholic Faith, and to reform the Church in a truly Catholic manner. As Fr. Louis Tarsitano once wrote in an email exchange: "The only reason to be Anglican is to avoid innovations; both the innovations of Rome and the innovations of Protestants." That is, our kind of Protestantism is true Catholicism, truer by far than that of Rome.
First of all, Broad Churchmen most certainly do not go back to the days of Elizabeth. Furthermore, the popular and time-honored Anglican usage of the word "reason" or Right Reason, has nothing to do with giving individuals "the competence to confront and engage with changing circumstances in every generation." As used by Richard Hooker, Reason is the wisdom spoken of in Proverbs. Its function is to provide solutions where God has not commanded various details on how to accomplish good and necessary tasks, to help the Church establish good polity, and to help those who must care for the Church's pastoral needs. Reason, in this sense, is not in any way a source of doctrinal authority, since it cannot equal what is known only by revelation. Reason, in this sense, is not simply an individual exercise, but the mind of Christ in the Church (I Cor. 2:16).
Hooker never gave us a "three-legged stool." In fact, he mostly emphasized only two things. One was, of course, Scripture. The other was the Church with her authority, by which he meant both what has been handed down in Tradition (which word he did, in fact use, positively in this connection), and also good, right and just polity. Reason, as such belongs to the Church as the Church, not simply "to men and women" as individual thinkers. The closest he ever came to mentioning Reason of individuals, or to mentioning anything even remotelty like a "three-legged stool," was in a context wherein he taught that individual reason must be subject to the Church:
"Be it in matter of the one kind or of the other, what Scripture doth plainly deliver, to that the first place both of credit and obedience is due; the next whereunto is whatsoever any man can necessarily conclude by force of reason; after this the Church succeedeth that which the Church by her ecclesiastical authority shall probably think and define to be true or good, must in congruity of reason overrule all other inferior judgments whatsoever.” (Richard Hooker, The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Book 5.VIII.2)
And, the obedience owed by every individual to the Church is brought out further in this passage:
"Is it a small office to despise the Church of God? ‘My son, keep thy father’s commandment,’ saith Solomon, ‘and forget not thy mother’s instruction: Bind them both always about thine heart.’ It doth not stand with the duty we owe to our heavenly Father, that to the ordinances of our mother the Church we should show ourselves disobedient. Let us not say we keep the commandments of the one, when we break the law of the other: for unless we observe both we obey neither." 3.IX.3
Concerning Reason, most of what Hooker wrote speaks of that reason that governs the Church in accord with Scripture, and with what is handed down from ancient times.
Guilt by what association?
Nonetheless, Brother Stephen O. Cist lists Hooker among those who, despite their brilliance and good intentions, have only furthered the cause of modern apostasy, no doubt because the roots of rebellion against the papacy must bring forth evil fruit. So he writes:
"The current positions of the Episcopal Church on a variety of issues and its evolving self-understanding have clear antecedents in the ground laid by Hooker, the 18th Century deists, F.D. Maurice, Percy Dearmer, and William Temple to name a few."
So, priestesses in the church, blessing of same-sex unions, and bishops who live with homosexual lovers, are now based on the writing of Richard Hooker? And, we should list 18th century Deists with Percy Dearmer and William Temple? And, we should blame the ECUSAn General Convention of 2009 on such men, even though each of them would have thundered against modern apostasy like the prophets of old? By this kind of Root Theory, we must blame the Arian heresy on all who came before Arius, including the Apostles Peter and Paul, Justin Martyr and Ireneaus, etc. (The sad thing is, much of the Brother's analysis is quite good; and this Root Theory simply ruins, by its awkward mis-matched grand sweeping themes of pseudo-history, an otherwise fine essay).
By all means, we must blame godly men of old for the sins of a new generation.
"And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim." Judges 2:10,11
I guess we should blame that on Moses.