Sunday, September 20, 2009

Anglican identity

The following is a paper I wrote for the Fellowship of Concerned Churchmen and Anglican Guild of Scholars conference that took place in Delaware (Friday Sept. 19).

In what follows, I will use the word “Anglican” for the Church of England, and the Anglican Communion that grew out of it, concerning the Reformation and post-Reformation periods even when writing of the times before that word came into use. This is for convenience and simplicity. My paper addresses the topic of “Anglicanism: Orthodoxy in the West, Lost Child of Rome, or Via Media?”

Inasmuch as a good many arguments have been made for all three options, it may seem bold that I prefer to approach the subject by way of Anglican identity on Anglican terms. My friend and fellow Touchstone editor, Dr. William Tighe, Professor of History at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, has stated that, in his view, Anglicanism is so weak and insubstantial that without stronger influences, it is void of theological content. Very possibly, if several Anglicans, including many the Continuing churches, were asked to refute Dr. Tighe’s remark, they could not. Indeed, it is likely that many would agree with him. I, however, do refute his statement. Anglicanism, as it developed throughout the later half of the sixteenth century, and into the seventeenth century, was in reality as muscular as the very strongest and toughest theological systems in history. To defend their beliefs, the English Reformers and Anglican Divines, had to develop a usable and practical set of Formularies and to produce hearty and robust apologetics. The very reason why so many people have a difficult time perceiving Anglicanism as having fiercely resisted outside pressures to conform, is because of the success of the Church of England in maintaining a balance between them all.

Dr. Tighe’s view, that Anglicanism depends on stronger and more aggressive theological systems in order to have any substance, makes our patrimony seem like an ecclesiastical chameleon, taking on the features of stronger systems the way that that little lizard disappears into the background, whatever background that may be at the moment. However, we do not deny that, in modern times, among Anglicans of the official Anglican Communion who are still anchored more or less in the See of Canterbury, it is a useful comparison, and quite accurate; that is, insofar as they have turned their backs on Anglican patrimony. The modern Anglican Communion is made up of people who cannot recite Anglican Formularies except to subject them to outside influences. This is especially true of modern Anglicans who call themselves Evangelicals (or, in a new phrase, Reasserters) on one hand, and of Anglicans who weigh everything by the standards of the See of Rome, on the other.

So it is that in a typical parish of Reasserter Anglicans, material for serious study about the Reformation period, or generations following, have nothing to do with Cranmer, Jewel, Hooker, Andrewes, Laud, Ken, or any Anglican; Rather they are rooted in Luther or Calvin almost exclusively. Any portions of Anglican Formularies used, are carefully selected and studied only through those foreign lenses. Of course, because theological discussions had gone on for centuries, often in academic settings or in an academic context, the use of terminology overlapped. The unfortunate result, for various modern Anglicans, is that they confuse the less significant overlapping of terminology with what would amount to a more significant agreement on all points.

No more useful book has been produced for modern Anglicans than E.J. Bicknell’s work on the Thirty-Nine Articles.1 A good reading of this book should dispel any notion that Anglicanism was a gutless compromise meant to appease everybody. If the facts are brought out into the light of day, we will see the very opposite: Anglicanism was a brave endeavor to stand for truth against pressure from all sides. For example, Bicknell uses a line from Article XVI to demonstrate that the Church of England refused to teach a doctrine that gave in to outside pressure, in this case to a precept of Calvinism. The Anglican Article says: “After we have received the Holy Ghost, we may depart from grace given and fall into sin, and by the grace of God we may arise again and amend our lives.” Bicknell points out that the Calvinists insisted on a stronger teaching, namely that everyone who is among the elect will, unavoidably, arise again and amend his life; to say they “may arise”-which means also that they may not- flatly contradicts what Calvinists believed about election. This is not merely theoretical, for Bicknell points out that English Calvinists resisted the publication of this Article, and failed.

On the other hand, the opening sentence of Article XIX “Of the Church,” is lifted practically verbatim from Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. 2 In other words, the English were willing to borrow from Calvin and Luther, but only to a point. According to Bicknell, it is significant that they stopped short of Calvinist extremes and of Lutheran extremes, even when making use of work put forth by these foreign Reformers. It demonstrates independence, and a firm understanding that the Scriptures, as read with the aid of the earliest Catholic doctors and bishops, presented the standard of doctrine rather than their contemporaries, with whom their agreement was limited. The fact that the Articles followed a Lutheran format only makes this all the more significant; for, whereas they followed the Evangelical German format, they produced their own content. The fact that they stopped short of full agreement, even with a borrowed format, is very significant. This is true of the Ordinal also; for whereas the English Ordinal was, in its format, based on the German Ordinal produced by Philip Melancthon, the content of the English Ordinal was not Lutheran. The divergence in the Ordinal, as in the Articles, is very signficant, and would be less significant if there was no similarity, no use of these other formats, and no overlapping of terminology. It is their selected use of formats and models by the Continental Reformers that makes the English divergence from those models highly significant, and so too the overlapping of terminology. It may get close, but never simply mimics or parrots the teachings and practices of the Continental Reformers. They remained independent, even when most closely approximating outside influences.

The English Church established a carefully maintained balance between Rome, Calvinism, Lutheranism, and Zwinglianism, criticizing and rejecting various ideas in each of these systems. This in turn kept the Anglicans in a state of at least some amount of opposition to everybody all the time. Each of these camps saw the Church of England as accepting error by adopting or maintaining some of the ideas and practices of Rome, or some of those belonging to Calvin, or some of those belonging to Luther, but never to the satisfaction of loyalists in any of those parties. At one point, the most extreme group of the Calvinist camp, Cromwell’s Puritans, made war on the Church of England as well as on the Crown; executing the king, finally, for refusing to abolish episcopacy, before turning their wrath on the Archbishop of Canterbury. William Laud was executed by means of a Bill passed by Parliament, for they had nothing, in the way of a criminal charge, of which to convict him. The King and the Archbishop suffered religious persecution because they were loyal Anglicans.

To call Anglicanism a “lost child of Rome” might seem convincing to a loyal Papist (to employ the terminology of the times). But, to the Puritans and to the Calvinists in Scotland, the teaching and practice of the Church of England was unacceptable and was called, by Knox, “Papism without the Pope.” It seems that one man’s Protestantism is another man’s Roman Catholicism. Richard Hooker, writing very late in the sixteenth century, in Book IV of The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, defended the rites and ceremonies of the English Church against the charge that they were too Roman: Book IV begins with the heading: “CONCERNING THEIR THIRD ASSERTION, THAT OUR FORM OF CHURCH POLITY IS CORRUPTED WITH POPISH ORDERS, RITES, AND CEREMONIES, BANISHED OUT OF CERTAIN REFORMED CHURCHES, WHOSE EXAMPLE THEREIN WE OUGHT TO HAVE FOLLOWED.” At times, throughout the first four books of Hooker’s Laws, it is evident that some of his arguments weigh as much against a group of Anabaptists as against Puritans; nonetheless, what remains obvious is that the Church of England was perceived, by radical elements, as being far too “popish.” The very structure and the Orders of the English Church offended the most radical Protestants. Hooker, again, in Book VII of his Laws, defended the episcopacy, and in doing so defended not only a polity in structure, but a doctrine: That doctrine is the Apostolic Succession as following the pattern taught in Scripture, and having been known to the Church always and everywhere since Antiquity.3

“The first Bishops in the Church of Christ were his blessed Apostles, for the Office whereunto Matthias was chosen the sacred History doth term episkopen, an Episcopal Office.” (VII.4.1)

”And yet the Apostles have now their successors upon earth, their true successors, if not in the largeness, surely in the kind of that Episcopal function, whereby they had power to sit as spiritual ordinary Judges, both over Laity and over Clergy where Churches Christian were established.” (VII.4.3)

”...Presbyters must not grudge to continue subject unto their Bishops, unless they will proudly oppose themselves against that which God himself ordained by his Apostles, and the whole Church of Christ approveth and judgeth most convenient.”(VII.5.8)

“And what need we to seek far for proofs that the Apostles who began this order of Regiment by Bishops, did it not but by divine instinct, when without such direction things of far less weight and moment they attempted not?…Wherefore let us not fear to be herein bold and peremptory, that if any thing in the Church’s government, surely the first institution of bishops was from heaven, was even of God, the Holy Ghost was the author of it.” (VII.5.10)

Hooker went on to describe the ways in which the episcopal order is superior to the presbytery, declaring “what principal duties belonging unto that kind of power a bishop might perform, and not a presbyter.” (VII.6.1) This he did in terms acknowledged by the Church in every age, and in perfect accord with the only practice and teaching we have ever known to this day. What could be clearer than this? Hooker saw the episcopacy as coming from Christ through the Apostles, and he saw the origin of this office recorded in the Scriptures. True to form, as a son of the Church of England, he never once presumed to supply some new definition to the three Orders of ministry, but rather simply affirmed an unbroken line, not only historically, but doctrinally as well. The Continental Reformers, however, set aside episcopacy, and the radical elements in England sought to uproot it altogether. The Church of England, however, maintained it, guarded it, and by law insisted on it, allowing no man to presume to act as a presbyter or deacon without episcopal ordination. As we see in Hooker, this was no mere political formality, but a matter of doctrine in which they resisted outside influences from other Reformed churches and from radicals at home.

A lost child of Rome? It is more accurate to say that the Church of England kept its Catholic heritage, sharing some common ground with Rome that other Reformed Churches did not, but not as a spineless compromise: Rather, the Anglicans were as deliberate and discriminating in what they refused to part with, as they were with what they did throw away. What appears to be inconsistency to so many people, even to this day, is more accurately the result of honesty and of genuine conviction. So, we may indeed use the term via media, the middle way that avoids the unreasonable demands, and even dictatorships, of extremism. But, first we must look at how that term has been used, and what serves as a more enlightening definition as we apply the term to the Church of England in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Hooker’s apologetics for English polity were directed at the most radical extremes of Protestantism, which indicates how we ought to apply the term via media to his Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity. This work represented a via media, not between Rome at that time and Continental Reformations; but between the past and the most extreme departures from tradition in his own day. This helps us in our own time to answer the question of Anglicanism as the via media. If we endeavor, in our own time, to walk a via media between Rome (both in regard to its adherence to tradition and in regard to its own particular innovations) and extreme Protestant departures from tradition, we are allowing others to define us even to ourselves. If our road is chosen for the sake of truth, what others do must be as immaterial as necessity demands. Where Rome has created innovations (and what Anglican would say they have none?), and where various Protestant bodies have also created innovations, whether we walk a middle way, a contrary way, or simply a different way altogether, depends largely on our concern for the unchanging truth of God’s revelation against the specific teaching and practice that is in question. We cannot define ourselves by the via media, but must, when appropriate, walk a via media, and that not for the sake of the road itself, but for the sake of the truth.

Were I to be asked who first conceived of via media, I would answer St. John Chrysostom. In his Six Little Books on the Priesthood, 4 the saint gives advice about preaching. He advises that, when refuting error, it is necessary to refute the error most opposite as well. Otherwise, we appear to endorse that opposite error by refuting its opposite. Translating his work into the language of our own time, if we refute a harsh and demanding legalism, we must refute the libertine error also, or we may appear to endorse the doctrine that we ought to continue in sin that grace may abound. It is necessary, according to St. John Chrysostom, always to attack both extremes if we are to denounce either. This is exactly the spirit of via media, of refusing to turn to the right hand or to the left, maintaining balance between extremes.

In our age we must not try to be identified as the people of a via media between modern teachings of Rome and modern forms of Protestantism, but as walking a road that runs between all extremes. Simply by standing for truth, we can maintain the same independence of mind that earlier Anglicans did maintain; to know the truth according to Scripture as interpreted by universal consensus and antiquity, the Vincentian Canon. The real via media in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was not between Rome and the Continental Reformers, or even between Rome and the radical Protestants (Anabaptists, extreme Puritans, etc.), but between what was the recent past and the ancient past; also between the past and the innovations of their own times. To narrow our options as “lost child of Rome or via media,” is to put everyone else, all those outside influences, in the driver’s seat. That is precisely what the English Reformers and Anglican Divines resisted, holding out in more than a zweifrontenkrieg; they held out against war from all sides.

They were not weak and lacking in substance, needing to draw strength from the outside. Rather, they were strong enough to deal honestly and seriously with outside influences, all the while resisting the pressure to conform. The strength of Anglicanism, as it emerged, was in its strength to be both Catholic and Evangelical in a way that was entirely unique. And that is Anglican Identity. For this reason I have, with some measure of humor, proposed on the blog, The Continuum, that we adopt a mascot for genuine Anglicanism. That mascot is not the chameleon, but the Duck-billed Platypus. About the example set by this brave little nonconformist animal, I have written on our blog: “He bravely defies all simplistic categories, such as mammal or bird, Catholic or Protestant. He just is.”

After much 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 (or translate). 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.

Is Anglicanism Orthodoxy in the West? It is time now to consider this question. Certainly, from the time of Lancelot Andrewes, in the early seventeenth century, the English Church enjoyed a growing friendship with the Orthodox Church. Study of the Greek Fathers in English scholarship quickly became unparalleled in the West. The Orthodox Church (especially the Greek Orthodox Church) enjoyed a closer relationship with the Church of England than with any other church of the West, certainly more cordial and friendly than the relationship they had with Rome.

Nonetheless, it would be more than a mere overstatement to argue that Anglicanism is Orthodoxy in the West: Rather, we may consider the features it has in common with Orthodoxy, and the reason for common ground to such a degree that it produced a larger degree of cooperation with Orthodoxy in the years between 1922 and 1976, then any other Western church body can claim to have enjoyed. However, in 1978, after it became clear that churches within the Anglican Communion were “ordaining” women and intent on spreading this heretical innovation, Orthodox Archbishop Athenagoras remarked: “…the theological dialogue [between the Orthodox and the Anglicans] will continue, although now simply as an academic and informative exercise, and no longer as an ecclesial endeavor aiming at the union of the two churches.” 5

Looking back at this, in the context of many theological discussions, what comes as a surprise to many is the fact that the leaders of the worldwide Anglican Communion and the Patriarchs and other chief Bishops of the Orthodox Church had been discussing the prospect of joining into one church at all. It would be an understatement to say that reference to this historical fact often meets with incredulity. Nonetheless, the serious discussion of combining the Orthodox Church and the Anglican Communion of Churches as one Church began in earnest at least as early as 1922. Just how much hope one should have had in that endeavor, either in how practical it was or how long it would have taken in the most promising of circumstances, seems less important than the fact of the effort itself. What does it tell us that for decades the hope of union between Orthodoxy and Anglicanism was pursued, not by well-meaning people on the fringes, but by the highest levels of leadership in both communions? And, why did it take only one issue, women’s “ordination,” to bring it to an end, so that only a mere “academic exercise” could remain as a sort of fossil that testifies to this extinct animal?

In some places where Orthodox churches could not be found, with special letters of permission, the laity of the Orthodox Church were allowed to receive sacraments from Anglican clergy. This is due to common ground between the Anglicans and the Orthodox (and maybe to some degree that common ground had everything to do with the official relations both communions had with the See of Rome. It does make sense to ask, might the Orthodox Patriarchs and Archbishops have recognized Anglican Orders, at least in part, because Rome would not?). Here is another via media that Anglicanism once provided, and that we should try to restore whenever and however it may be possible: A via media between East and West. We are not Orthodoxy in the West, just as we are neither Roman nor Continental Protestant (be it of Geneva, Germany, etc.). But, we do have common ground with the Orthodox, and historically have had even better relations with them than with Rome.

The work of one Orthodox bishop, a man canonized relatively soon after his death in the twentieth century, demonstrates a serious approach to Anglican doctrine and liturgy as a model for Orthodoxy in the West. Much was owed in those days to the relationship that Archbishop Tikhon had with Episcopalians, such as Bishop Charles Grafton, and the effort to create a kind of Western Orthodoxy after an Anglican model. The Liturgy of St. Tikhon, also known as the Orthodox Western Rite, is officially approved by the Archdiocese of Antioch, and is used in some Antiochene Orthodox churches in the United States. It is largely the service of Holy Communion from the 1549 Book of Common Prayer (by way of the American Book of Common Prayer arranged according to the 1928 edition), and conforming quite a lot to the Missal with its extended ceremonial. The rite contains a few predictable and obvious changes; the epiclesis has been worded specifically to emphasize the change of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, and, of course,6 the Filioque clause is deleted from the Nicene/Constantinopolitan Creed, and the word “holy” is restored for the Church.7

A big Difference

It is worth noting that the Liturgy of St. Tikhon and the so-called Anglican Use approved by Rome, have a very noticeable difference, one which shows a different approach to Anglicans and a different attitude about our patrimony. The Anglican Use Rite approved by Rome has nothing that approximates the perfectly sound theology, drawn clearly and obviously from the Epistle to the Hebrews, expressed so powerfully in these words: “O God heavenly father, which of thy tender mercie diddest geve thine only sonne Jesu Christ to suffre death upon the crosse for our redempcion, who made there (by his one oblacion once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifyce, oblacion, and satysfaccyon, for the sinnes of the whole worlde…” (1549 BCP) But, the Liturgy of St. Tikhon contains the American version of this part of the Canon. 8

To whatever degree we may have common ground with Rome, and aside from other differences, any real union with them would make it necessary that they receive from us a good healthy dose of this Biblical Doctrine: Christ’s sacrifice full, perfect and sufficient. This does not take away from the sacrifice of the Church on its many altars; rather it gives it its context and meaning. This example demonstrates that our Faith is Biblical, Patristic and thoroughly Catholic in ways that can enrich Rome, and that has been affirmed within Orthodoxy. In a rite designed to attract Anglicans, the removal of this irrefutably true doctrine, as though it needed to be subjected to some correction, shows that we have further cause, at present, to maintain our distinct identity. The line that provides the context of the sacrifice, the meaning of it and the joining of our own worship to the actual sacrifice of the cross on Calvary, indicates that we are better able than Rome, at this time, to declare the Gospel in its fullness with the power of directness and simplicity.

Anglican identity

We are not Western Orthodoxy, we are not a lost child of Rome, and we are only on any given via media relative to religious and theological extremes that reveal, above all, the reasonable independence and strength of Anglican identity. Let us be as non-conformist as the truth requires, just like the brave little platypus of song and legend.

1. E.J. Bicknell, A Theological Introduction to the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England, 1919, Lowe and Brydone (Printers), Ltd., London

2. The first of the two sentences of Article XIX says: “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.”

3. In recent years I have read over and over that “Hooker did not believe the episcopacy to be of Divine origin.” Whoever invented this mantra, and all those who fall for it, must not have read Book VII.

4. Available in English from St. Vladimir’s seminary Press.

5. As quoted in Anglican-Orthodox Dialogue: The Dublin Agreed Statement, (Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1985), p.3

6. The words used in the Liturgy are: “And we beseech thee, O Lord, to send down thy Holy Spirit upon these offerings, that he would make this bread the precious Body of thy Christ, and that which is in this Cup the precious Blood of thy Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, transmuting them by thy Holy Spirit. AMEN, AMEN, AMEN.”

7. Correcting nothing more significant than an old copyist error, nothing doctrinal, as “the holy Catholic Church” in the Apostle’s Creed demonstrates.

8. "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 own oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world." That this gives sacrificial context and evangelistic meaning to the celebration, is further indicated by the words that follow: "... and did institute, and in His holy Gospel command us to continue, a perpetual memory of that His precious death and sacrifice, until His coming again."

114 comments:

John A. Hollister said...

In its origins, Anglicanism is nothing more -- and most emphatically nothing less -- than the Catholic Church of native English speakers. As such, its theological system has precisely the strengths and precisely the weaknesses of the theological system of the rest of Catholicism.

This is because, as one Archbishop of Canterbury informed the Roman Catholics, Anglicanism has no unique beliefs of its own. It has only those beliefs that it inherited from, and therefore shares with, those who visibly descend from the one, undivided Church of the Apostles.

John A. Hollister+
["ematicks'}

curate said...

Reverend Hart, thank you for an excellent article.

What is your position on the central doctrine of the English Reformation, namely, justification by faith alone?

Anonymous said...

All perfectly true, Canon Hollister!

But the difficulty which emerges is that we have no commonly accepted definition of the word "Catholic." Once we get past the Vincentian canon "semper, ubique, et ab omnibus," we quickly divide between those who see the Common Prayer tradition (1549--1928) as perfectly Catholic eo ipso, and those who feel it desperately needs to be reinvented into something closely imitative of rococco Romanism.

To draw an analogy, I think of poor old Jimmy Carter, who has spent his failed life as a self-loathing Southerner and labored to make himself into a northeastern liberal. We are afflicted with a swarm of self-loathing Anglicans who strive mightily to disguise themselves as pre-Vatican II Roman Catholics.

And is it precisely true to speak of Catholicism as a theological "system"?
That term has a certain Calvinist ring to it. An EO reader would probably mutter "Aristotelian" under his breath.
LKW

Brian said...

Why was the word "holy" ever eliminated from the BCP rendition of the Nicene Creed? It remains in the Apostle's Creed, of course.

Will said...

Fr. Hart, I think your essay here is something a LOT of Anglicans need to consider; I have always thought that the Anglican theology and devotion of Hooker, Andrewes and others of that time was so robust that we can find all we need there. Why go wandering, seeking something deeper elsewhere, when we have such riches in our patrimony?

I mentioned previously that Wipf and Stock had republished Gibson on the Articles. They have also republished E.J. Bicknell as well:

Bicknell's text on the 39 Articles

I should note I do not know who arranged for this one to be made available by Wipf and Stock, but I certainly acknowledge a debt of gratitude to him or her.

Anonymous said...

Fr Hart: An exceellent paper, as we would all expect of you. I am glad you were able to get to Delaware to present it.

You make an interesting claim in finding the gulf between Anglicanism and Calvinism in Article XVI, "After we have received the Holy Ghost, we may depart from grace given...." But I fear you may have proved too much. There is more than one way to read that somewhat ambiguous sentence, particularly in its context of the entire article, which deals with the patristic problem of post-baptismal sin, not the Arminian controversy. That controversy was hardly getting underway when the language was originally written in the 42 Articles of 1553. So your interpretation is anachronistic.

But if we look at the (never adopted) Lambeth Articles 1595, we read, "A true, living, and justifying faith, and the Spirit of God sanctifying, is not extinguished, falleth not away; it vanisheth not away in the elect, either finally or totally." The Lambeth Articles aborted simply because Elizabeth was indignant that a synod had been called without her consent.

But they were strongly approved by both Archbishops and a number of other
bishops. Were these not really Anglicans?

They were echoed in the Irish Articles of 1615, written by Abp James Ussher. Was he not really an Anglican?

They were succinctly summarised by our hero, Richard Hooker. In his summary he wrote briefly, "That to God's foreknown elect, final continuance of grace is given." Was Richard Hooker really an Anglican?

I believe there is a gulf, a fairly wide one, between Calvinism and Anglicanism. Summarily, I would say it is drawn along the lines of polity and liturgy. But not where you have located it.
LKW

Independent said...

You talk of the C of E doing this and that but seem to forget a key doctrine, that of the Royal Supremacy. The C of E indeed taught what the monarch in parliament ordered. Archbishop Grindal soon found that out.

Death Bredon said...

Bravo. Excellent.

One quibble, which actually reinforces your point, I believe: A close examination will show, I think, that the Antiochian Rite of St. Tikhon is most directly modeled on the American Missal, not the original edition of the Book of Common Prayer (though both obvious similarities). Indeed, Ritual Notes is officially proscribed as the standard of ceremonial. Word on the street is that English-Use, Prayerbook-Catholic Anglicans need not even apply. So, no worries, I'll be plighting my troth with my own patrimony, even if this means going down with the ship!

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I believe David meant this comment for this thread, not my sermon where it appeared:

Fr. Robert wrote: "what comes as a surprise to many is the fact that the leaders of the worldwide Anglican Communion and the Patriarchs and other chief Bishops of the Orthodox Church had been discussing the prospect of joining into one church at all. It would be an understatement to say that reference to this historical fact often meets with incredulity."

In terms of the ecumenical direction of the Continuum this is the area we should focus attention on. In Orthodoxy there was no Vatican 2 reformation. You will not find nuns wanting to be priests there. In somw ways the sober fidelity to tradition of Orthodoxy is something orthodox Anglicans should emulate.

But what I most appreciate from the lecture is this notion of Anglicanism not as a via media, not as a self-extinguishing candle, but as a valid and worthy vehicle for English Catholicism throughout the world.

It is time for the Continuum to address the divisions with so many mini jurisdictions of competing episcopates and synods, to line up continuing Anglicans firmly within one jurisdiction, which I believe should be the ACC.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

What is your position on the central doctrine of the English Reformation, namely, justification by faith alone?

Is that the central doctrine? It was certainly quite important.

Modern Evangelicals have so perverted the doctrine of Justification by Faith that it becomes dangerous in our time of ignorance to add the word "alone" (which is never added to faith in the Bible anywhere at all). Adding the word "alone" was a liberty taken by Reformers in order to emphasize that merits of the saints, relics, and burdensome ecclesiastical disciplines such as rigorous penance, pilgrimages, etc., cannot earn justification. Against an erroneous system of thought that had evolved over centuries, it made perfect sense to say: "Wherefore that we are justified by faith only is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort; as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification."

But what is meant by faith? The Church of England continued to teach that two of the sacraments are generally necessary to salvation, and to require "hearty repentance and true faith [together]" as a condition for Absolution. No one seemed to think of "faith only" as meaning "belief only." Faith implies faithfulness, which implies the intention "to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in his holy ways."

Luther's sermon on faith that produces love that, in turn, produces good works, demonstrates that it was not only the English who saw sola fide as a way of life, not merely shared belief with the demons who tremble (James 2:19)

John A. Hollister said...

1. Fr. Wells wrote, "Once we get past the Vincentian canon 'semper, ubique, et ab omnibus,' we quickly divide between those who see the Common Prayer tradition (1549--1928) as perfectly Catholic eo ipso, and those who feel it desperately needs to be reinvented into something closely imitative of rococco Romanism."

I would respond that if anyone really believes that Anglicanism needs to imitate rococco Romanism -- or the Romanism of any other period -- in order to be truly Catholic, then I do not see how that person has actually accepted the Vincentian Canon. If such imitation were necessary for one to claim to be a Catholic, then certainly the Eastern Orthodox should be required to ape Roman ways no less than we would be.

However, as Anglicans we impose no such burden on the the EOs. To the contrary, we accept their liturgy and ethos, as fully the Catholic equal of the Western Tradition. So why should we demand something of ourselves that we do not demand of others?

Now if one views imitating Rome as permissible but not necessary, then that is something about the wisdom of which reasonable men may charitably differ while still acknowledging each other as validly Anglican.

2. In answer to Brian's question, the word "Holy" was omitted from the "Marks of the Church" in the Nicene Creed through a printer's error in the very first edition of the 1549 BCP. So conservative are Anglicans that we tend to perpetuate even our mistakes, rather as the EOs do with their mandatory episcopal celibacy, so "Holy" has been left out of the N.C. right down through the US BCP (1928).

That the "Holy" appears in the Apostles' Creed shows that BCP version of the Nicene Creed was intended to retain it as well, for both Creeds cover essentially the same territory and certainly describe the same Faith. Beginning in 1929, if not before, some PECUSA parishes regularly recited the N.C. with the "Holy"; my Great Aunt's copy of the 1928 (the real 1928, with the 1928 Lectionary, which she bought when it first came out in 1929) has that word inserted in her handwriting.

Certain modern -- but traditional -- BCPs have restored the Nicene Creed's "Holy". Thus the Scottish Liturgy (1929) has it as do the South African BCP (1954) and the Church of India's BCP (1960-63).

The last two, by the way, are authorized BCPs throughout the ACC.

John A. Hollister+
"santrito"
"ootax"

Death Bredon said...

LKW,

I think you are incorrect about the Lambeth Articles -- Bess canned them because of their Calvinist substance.

Also, the western struggle between monergistic and synergistic soteriology is much older than Calvin v. Arminius. Indeed, the Council of Orange was convened because of Pelagius was purportedly advocating a humanist monergism and Augustine was heresy-hunting him with his absolute theistic monergism. Unfortnately, the Council made a dogs meal of it, coming up with its logically incoherent notion of unconditional-determination-to-life-only theory and ignoring St. John Cassian and St. Vincent of Lerins, who promulgated his canon precisely to steer the west to the universal view: theandric synergism.

Given England's relative superior library of Greek Fathers, as well as Greek-minded Western Fathers like St. Vincent, it ought not surprise us the the Articles strictly rule out the hard Augustinian position that Calvinists adopted, ring to the tone of the Council of Orange, but are completely patient of synergistic soteriology. Indeed, Hooker's use of the word "preknown" already presages the Caroline development of "English Arminianism," which was not in fact generally rooted in Continental Arminianism at all, but rather in antiquity. Every time I re-read Hooker, I see less and less the popularly purported parroting of Calvin or even the popularly purported similarities to Aquinas -- rather a see the first Caroline Divine.

This is not to say that, historically speaking, the C of E did not tolerate TULIP, double, unconditional predestinarian Calvinists, despite their flagrant resistance to the formularies -- indeed, it has always had more or less of these -- but rather that the majority of divines have accepted either (1) the quixotic "half monergist" unconditional-predestination-to-life-but-not-perdition position of the post-Orange, Augustinian Synthesis, or (2) the classical synergistic view agreed throughout the Church prior to Augustine.

Moreover, when we read the Prayer-Book, certain Collects, and the Articles in light of the express intent of Bess to return her Church to the ancient faith, it is hardly surprising that Bicknell concludes that, if there be any, the "official" Anglican view of soteriology is indeed synergistic -- but certainly double predestinarianism is precluded. So, yes, Fr. Hart is correct that the fissure between the Continental and English Reformation does run through the proper understanding of the biblical doctrine of predestination and that dyed-in-the-wool Calvinists are on the wrong side of that line.

Death Bredon said...

LKW,

Good point on the ambiguity of the term Catholic.

It seems that some Anglicans consider any doctrine or practice ever licit in Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox, or Anglicanism is ipso facto "Catholic." But the sense in which the Anglican Church has employed the term as theological term of art refers to the doctrine and practice of the undivided primitive and classical church, before all the fracturing -- e.g., in the same sense St. Vincent intended his canon. And, in that sense, neither Newman nor Baxter nor certain Eastern Orthodox practices (see Article XXII -- if the shoe fits . . . .) are properly understand as Catholic.

Death Bredon said...

The concept of "justification by faith ALONE" is in fact expressly addressed in the New Testament:

"You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone." James 2:24 (RSV)

But again, Bicknell gives the best exposition of Articles on relation to scriptural discussions of faith and works Romans and James.

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Fr Wells,

It is worth noting that Blessed Lancelot Andrewes and other churchmen were not happy with the Lambeth Articles, and it is quite possible that this was known by her Majesty. (I am not sure whether Andrewes was her chaplain by then or not.)

However, if "the elect" in the particular statements quoted means "those predestined to final salvation", which seems the biblical and catholic definition, then they become true almost by virtue of tautology. (Certainly Hooker's sentence does.)

This is virtually the same as Thomist soteriology. One difference is that Aquinas (and the wider Western, Augustinian tradition) would state in addition that not all who have received justifying and sanctifying grace are members of the elect in that fulsome sense, that is, some who receive grace will not have the gift of final pervseverence. And that those among the Predestined may fall away for a time, though they would retain some connection to grace even in mortal sin, including through the indelible marks on the soul from the initiating Sacraments, and shall return to God. The Church has never taught either that genuine, Elect Christians cannot ever fall away (such that those excommunicated for mortal sin in the ancient Church, for example, were considered not to have ever been true Christians or only become true Christians on re-admittance) or that while fallen away they are still in a state of grace at that time (though they are still in the Elect and so in an eternal sense under predestining grace from God's timeless perspective).

That "once saved (in the sense of truly having received saving grace), always saved" as an absolute principle is opposed to the ecumenical consensus of East and West is very clear from a survey of the Fathers and the theologies of the RCC and EOC.

By divine providence, neither the Lambeth Articles nor Abp Ussher's beliefs became binding for the Anglican communion of churches as a whole, though they were for a time effectively authoritative in Ireland. The Articles, which explicitly say that falling away from grace is possible, and imply that restoration to grace is not certain just because one had been in grace before, were authoritative.

curate said...

Reverend Hart, thank you for your answer. I have just read your Robert's Rules of argument, and would it be fair to say that you must now lose points for evading the question? :)

We all know that sola fide does not mean justification by a faith that is alone. Even Rome has acknowledged that now - at least, the present Pope has, in the 1995 document on justification with the Lutherans.

Sola fide, as you know, means that a man is justified, forgiven, and counted a son of God apart from works of any kind, only for the merits of Christ's obedience upon the cross. We do not count sacraments as works, but means of grace, just to clear that issue up in advance.

Do you believe that our works of faith and love contribute to our forgiveness?

Anonymous said...

Brian: the word "holy" (as one of the four marks of the Church) has been missing from every Prayer Book beginning with that of 1549. It is usually explained as a printer's error.

Fr Hart: I do not believe that "modern Evangelicals" have perverted the doctrine of Justification (unless you were thinking of Bishop Tom Wright). As expounded by PEHughes, JIPacker, Leon Morris, John Stott, Bp Fitz Allison, the doctrine in all of its glorious truth has been set forth quite accurately. I would say that a certain party in the Church, which refuses to be educated on the matter, has indeed perverted the doctrine in numderous ways.

As for the "sola" which many never tire of pointing out is not found in Scripture (how many necessary dogmas are not found there in so many words?),
this is grounded in Romans 3:28, "For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law." Hans Kung has provided a rather long list of patristic and scholastic writers who anticipated Luther in adding the "sola."
Luther had a firm ecumenical consensus behind him.

Fr Kirby: thanks for a very good comment. "Once saved, always saved" is a horrible parody of the doctrine set forth in the Lambeth Articles. I would not defend that formula for a minute. But its error lies not in the "once...always," but in what it takes "saved" to be.

By bringing up Launcelot Andrews, you have reinforced my point. The Anglican tradition, as Fr Hart points out, never committed itself to full-orbed Calvinism. But neither did it exclude Calvinism. The 16th century English theologians mostly tilted in that direction, but the 17th century saw a trend toward Arminianism. But both traditions have been there all along.

The 16th century high Calvinism some say really did not derive from Genevan influence but from a native Augustinian tradition exemplified in Anselm and Bradwardine.
LKW

poetreader said...

True, the sacraments have their effect solely and only as channels of God's grace, but are they accessed merely by faith, or does one have to "do" something to receive that grace? One is not "saved" merely because there is such a thing as baptism, but because one comes to the water to be baptized. One is not "saved" merely because the Eucharist occurs, but because one comes to the Table to eat and to drink. Even in the crassest Evangelistic terms, one does not "get saved" merely because the Cross occurred, but because one accepts this grace by prayer. Nothing we "do" can contribute to our salvation, but not doing is ultimately an act of rebellion, and a path to condemnation.

St. James wrote correctly that "faith without works is dead," that is, that without works it isn't really faith at all, and that we are not justified by "faith only" (KJV). Do our good works "count" toward our "salvation"? Obviously not. We can do nothing whatever to earn any of the grace of God. Left to our own devices, we fail, ultimately to our own damnation, but, if there are no good works, whether participation in the sacraments or works of mercy (or at least the desire and attempt to perform them), there is no real, living faith, and the question becomes moot.

As to "once saved, always saved", I've long said that this comes from asking the wrong questions. Is God willing that any should be lost? Scripture is explicit in denying such a proposition. Will some be lost? Scripture seems just as clear in answering Yes. Both are true.

Some decades in an Evangelical Protestant environment, buffeted by both Arminian and Calvinist soteriologies, led me to see that the truth lies between. God has allowed this strange and illogical thing of free will out of love for us as thinking and deciding beings, and has thus made the possibility that some will refuse his will, yea, even the inevitability that the race of men would do so -- but that, before all things He created the possibility of redemption through the Lamb once slain, and constantly and strongly calls us to the Cross, never making it easy for us to flee, though never making it impossible to do so.

I finally returned to the Anglican Tradition because it is indeed the middle way, the via media, that it seeks, finding truth between the extremes, and roundly condemning the excesses in either direction.

ed

Brian said...

Thank you, Fathers, for answering my question about the missing "holy." I'm surprised it wasn't added back in the 1928 American revision; it doesn't seem like there's any benefit to leaving it out.

poetreader said...

"Holy" ought to be reinserted, but people, on the whole, are very resistant to changing things they've memorized.

And, frankly, I sympathize. No matter how good the reason, changes that are not truly necessary should be made with extreme caution, lest they encourage the idea that any and all changes can be made.

ed

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Curate:

I did not evade the question; you asked me for my thoughts,and that is what came to mind. As for the rest, Ed Pacht answered so well I need add nothing; but, being a preacher I can't "add nothing." Look at good works as the fruit of love (charity), and love as the fruit of faith. Consider too, that in a life of genuine faith we cannot fail to see obedience (thinking of what St. James wrote as well). The immediate gift of forgiveness and justification comes through faith; and that same faith motivates us to receive every grace and to do every work that come our way, because it never exists all alone; it is always accompanied by hope and charity. Real faith, for those who live long enough, bears fruit.

Fr. Wells wrote:

I would say that a certain party in the Church, which refuses to be educated on the matter, has indeed perverted the doctrine in numerous ways.

And, as you must have guessed, that is exactly who I meant. They produce everything from Stand Firm to Willow Creek. I certainly never would include good men, like +Fitz Allison, among their number.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I was thinking of those who walk the path of J.H.Newman and confuse Justification with Sanctification (decree with process). But yes, there afre many Evangelicals (particularly those of the, ahem, Arminian sort) who confuse God's "now no condemnation" with a "decision for Christ."

I could not face life for an instant if I did not believe "simul iustus et peccator." Therefore I can "sin boldly, and believe in Christ more boldly still." But for the doctrine of Justification, I would be the "wretched man" of Romans 7.
LKW

Anonymous said...

I am afraid I don't see the utility in clinging to 'sola fide', even regarding justification, when James clearly states that a "man is justified by works and not by faith only" (James 2:24). When Paul states that a man is "justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law" (Romans 3:28), he isn't contradicting James, as they have in view two different kinds of works in their respective contexts. Given the historical context of his conflict with the Judaizers, Paul is discussing the "works of the Law (Torah)" exemplified by such external acts as circumcission, etc, as means some were attempting to reckon themselves righteous before God. James on the other hand in chapter 2 of his epistle lists acts of mercy (v.15-16) as examples of faith in action (or in Abraham's case, ACTING on his faith in the sacrifice of Isaac)completing one's faith. Paul would not disagree, for in his statement to the Galatians 5:6 he proclaims that in Christ "neither circumcission or uncircumcision (ie the works of the Law,or lack thereof) avails for anything, but faith working through love.". Some have rightly pointed out that this statement of Paul 'bridges the gap' between the seeming conflict between his and James' writings.

At any rate, since the one place in Scripture which specifically mentions 'justification', 'works', and 'faith only' in one sentence literally states that one is NOT justified by faith alone, perhaps we should set aside the 'faith alone!" battle cry, and proclaim 'faith working through love!' instead. :-)

Anonymous said...

Ooops...I'm the 'anonymous' of 9:31PM. :-)

Doubting Thomas

poetreader said...

Thank you, Thomas,
I nearly asked for an identification to go with such an articulate comment. I find myself fully in agreement with you while holding, I think, firmly to the substance of what both Frs. Wells and Hart have said. I think Luther was very accurate indeed in the reasons for inserting "Sola' where he did, but that he set in motion a swing of the pendulum much to far in the other direction. I was raised in a rather dour Missouri Synod Lutheranism where "Faith Alone" was made such a battlecry that any insistence on a moral principle or on a comapassionate course of action was likely to elicit cries of "Works Righteousness". At the very same time there were strong prohibitions in effect, against life insurance, gambling, dancing, and the like. I was rather confused as a child, and, in my late teens, attending a Lutheran college, I finally rejected the formulation as self-contradictory. The insertion of "sola" though not wrong in itself, served to make occasion for the loss of the balance to be found in Scripture, and in the early Fathers, and to imply that faith can ever be alone, without works. It cannot.

I am (as was St. Paul himself) the man in Romans, chapter 7. I am always aware of how far I am from the sinless state that God expects and demands, but, with the Apostle, I am also the man of Romans 8, who can affirm that there is no condemnation to a Christian, and that nothing can separate me from the love of Christ. I am both men, for they are both the sinner saved by grace and expressing thankfulness by such works as can be done. It is a life of simultaneous repentance and joy.

ed

Anonymous said...

"I am (as was St. Paul himself) the man in Romans, chapter 7. I am always aware of how far I am from the sinless state that God expects and demands, but, with the Apostle, I am also the man of Romans 8, who can affirm that there is no condemnation to a Christian, and that nothing can separate me from the love of Christ. I am both men, for they are both the sinner saved by grace and expressing thankfulness by such works as can be done. It is a life of simultaneous repentance and joy."

Well said, Ed.

--Doubting Thomas

Jack Miller said...

The formulation "justification is by faith alone, but not by the faith that is alone" was embraced by the Continental reformers, including Luther, in order to distinguish "faith alone" from mere mental assent. This seems in agreement with the two Articles:

XI. Of the Justification of Man.
We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only, is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification.

XII. Of Good Works.
Albeit that Good Works, which are the fruits of Faith, and follow after Justification, cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God's judgment; yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively Faith insomuch that by them a lively Faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit.

And on a related note, Pope Benedict XVI last November was quoted saying, "... (Rm 3: 23-24). And he (Paul) adds "we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the law" (ibid., v. 28). At this point Luther translated: "justified by faith alone"... "and it is he who makes us just. Being just simply means being with Christ and in Christ. And this suffices. Further observances are no longer necessary. For this reason Luther's phrase: "faith alone" is true, if it is not opposed to faith in charity, in love. Faith is looking at Christ, entrusting oneself to Christ, being united to Christ, conformed to Christ, to his life. And the form, the life of Christ, is love; hence to believe is to conform to Christ and to enter into his love."

By the way - I'm not adding the Pope's quote in order to say there are no differences between Luther and the Roman Catholic Church on this matter.

I find the discussion here to be fascinating. A proper understanding of "justified by faith alone" is at the heart of what the Good News is as well as the foundation or ground God would have us walk upon for Godly living (sanctification).

Millo Shaw said...

I wonder if the faith-works dichotomy can to some extent be overcome by remembering that Christianity is, in essence, an incarnated religion, in which the whole person, body, soul, spirit, mind, and personality are integrated and involved. Our Word is not just an idea or utterance or symbols on a page, but at least a whole, 3-dimensional, flesh and blood, dynamic Person living in space and time, a Person who suffers but who also touches and heals and fills with life and power and joy. Can the Christian faith be anything less? Hence we worship liturgically, and hence I have experienced the efficacy of Morning and Evening Prayer in rooting and strengthening my own faith, which was almost destroyed by my reduction of Christianity to nothing more than a “head” religion, really nothing more than a series of equations, in which I could rattle off the creeds without even moving my lips and then think to myself, “There, I believe, now I can roll over and go back to sleep.”

The beauty, richness, and integration of faith, grace, and works in incarnational Christianity are wonderfully brought out in the plays of Paul Claudel and the film, “Babette’s Feast,” based on Karen Blixen’s story. I also think that incarnational Christianity is reflected in the film, “Enchanted April,” even though it has no overt references to Christianity.

Anonymous said...

I love the quote from Pope Benedict XVI.
It does not solve all the problems, but it surely does come close. Remainin issues: whether justifiction is being declared righteous or being made righteous. If its the latter, we are all in a jam. Also, can he accept the formula simul iustus et peccator.

Thanks to Millo for a perceptive post. The Scots theologian Donald Baillie has an essay using the same Incarnational model for the Faith/works dichotomy.
Good stuff. Millo seems to have connected the same dots to get a similar result.
LKW

Anonymous said...

Fr.Hollister could have included the BCP Canada 1962 among the BCPs authorized by the ACC/OP. Canada's Prayer Book restored 'holy' to the Nicene Creed.It's predecessor (the 1918 BCP) like the other older books had omitted it.

John A. Hollister said...

A point of clarification. The anonymous Anonymous is correct that the 1962 Canadian BCP is among the editions of the BCP authorized for use in the ACC. However, contrary to his perhaps unintended inference, this authority extends to the entire ACC, not just to the ACC's Original Province.

The universal nature of that authority is because this provision is placed in the ACC's Constitution, which applies to the entire communion, not in the canons of either of its current Provinces, which govern only the Province that adopted them. Thus when, as may well happen shortly, those two are joined by an "ACC(TP)" (i.e., "Third Province"), under whatever name, the members of that new subdivision will enjoy the same liberty of choice of BCPs for use as is now enjoyed by the members of the "ACC(OP)" (or "Original Province") and the "ACC(SP)" (i.e., "Second Province").

By the way, that "Second Province" is more usually referred to as "the Church of India" or "the Church of India, Pakistan, Burma, and Ceylon", which explains why the 1963 Indian BCP and its 1960 "Supplement" to the 1662 BCP also appear on that authorized list.

John A. Hollister+
"oforsu"

Anonymous said...

Appealing to the Vincentian canon (semper, ubique, et ab omnibus) never seems to solve anything. Anglicans, EO's, RC's all appeal to this theological rubric, with quite different results.
The ODCC has a helpful comment concerning Vincent: "Despite his emphasis on tradition, he maintained that the final ground of Christian truth was Holy Scripture, and that the authority of the Church was to be invoked only to guarantee its right interpretation."
LKW

poetreader said...

Appealing to the Vincentian canon (semper, ubique, et ab omnibus) never seems to solve anything. Anglicans, EO's, RC's all appeal to this theological rubric, with quite different results.


...quite true, but I seem to notice that the same results accrue in appealing to passages of Scripture, to decrees of
Councils, to the writings of the Fathers, or to other cherished authorities, including our own Anglican divines. Most assuredly, in every case, the writer said what he said -- but readers have the most amazing facility for finding in them what they wish to find, namely si\upport for their own firmly held ideas. I think any of us, if we examine our thinking honestly, will catch ourselves doing exactly that. I certainly detect it in myself.

Your quotation that, "Despite his emphasis on tradition, he maintained that the final ground of Christian truth was Holy Scripture, and that the authority of the Church was to be invoked only to guarantee its right interpretation." points in the right direction for interpreting any passage. Context involves not merely the words of a large passage, but an attempt to understand the thought process of the writer, the unwritten assumptions that underlie the text, and the authorities respected by the writer.

If one approaches a text without this kind of contextual outlook, one is bound to find in it what one wants to find, especially if one's desire is to prove something. I don't trust the reasoning of someone who seems to relish controversy.

Hold on lest anyone feel challenged. The foremost controversialist that I distrust is myself, when I begin to drift into such a mode. I believe St. Vincent calls us, not to any sort of prooftexting, but rather to the more difficult road of seeking to enter into the thinking of the Fathers as they sought to enter into the thinking of the sacred writers.

I believe our Anglican divines have come closer to finding such a mindset than other 'authorities' in these last 450 years.

ed

curate said...

Reverend Hart

I am still unsure about your answer to the question whether our works of faith and love contribute to our forgiveness. Is it a yes or a no?

I share your concern to be authentically Anglican, and I was wondering where you stand on this point.

Anonymous said...

Like the "iota" in homoiousion, Curate's question is the "iota" on which the whole Christian religion hangs. Thanks, Curate!
LKW

poetreader said...

Curate,

For my part I would find your question as asked to be unanswerable. It appears to be fishing for a particular form of words rather than for a real understanding of the issues raised.

Nothing I can do can "contribute" to my forgiveness in any way whatever as forgiveness is not something I can do. That is the sovereign task of a sovereign God. I can only abjectly admit to the sin and guilt that I have and throw myself upon His mercy. This repentance, in itself, is a work that I do, and, though it does not produce forgiveness and cannot, God has indicated that he awaits our repentance before He pronounces our forgiveness.

We come to the place of true repentance by faith, but what is faith? Is it merely believing a set of propositions to be true? Is it a trusting in a Person without consequent actions? Or is it a dynamic relationship coming from belief and including the works that naturally ensue?

If we appear (even to ourselves) to have faith and do not repent, have we entered into a saving relationship with Our Lord? If we profess to have faith, but that 'faith' does not result in works, have we entered into such a saving relationship? "Faith" without works is dead.

The Scripture is extremely clear that we cannot earn our way to heaven by our works -- that they are entirely insufficient to such a task -- and that our works cannot earn us any "extra credit".

But Scripture is entirely clear also that, if there be no works, there is no faith. Faith, thus, always includes works as a part of itself. Neither faith nor works can save -- only the Blood of Jesus and His Resurrection. Neither faith nor works can approach the standard of perfection demanded by the justice of God, but the grace manifest in Jesus is made accessible through true faith, in which works are always present.

"By grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of ourselves ..."

"Sola Fide" is correct as far as it goes, but if that faith is not seen to produce a transformed life (transformed by God's sovereign grace) in which works are evident, it appears to me that right believing has been transformed into a saving work in itself -- a subtle species of works-righteousness. This is what I finally came to see in the rather distorted view of Lutheranism with which I grew up, and this is what led me to look further.

Works, then, are inescapably part of the Christian experience. Supererogation, on the other hand is both illusory and a dangerous concept.

ed

Anonymous said...

Ed writes:

""Sola Fide" is correct as far as it goes, but if that faith is not seen to produce a transformed life (transformed by God's sovereign grace) in which works are evident, it appears to me that right believing has been transformed into a saving work in itself -- a subtle species of works-righteousness. This is what I finally came to see in the rather distorted view of Lutheranism with which I grew up, and this is what led me to look further."

This is all perfectly true. Justification fide sola sould not be made to mean Justification by holding correct doctrine. (That occurred because certain sections of Lutheranism fell back into the error of understanding faith as no more than assensus rather than fiducia--a Roman error which Luther had addressed.)

But once again, Ed argues against a position by high-lighting its distorted form. If I argue against RC theology, I should address it in its BEST official presentation, not in a carricatured form. Should not the same apply to Lutheranism, Ed?

When you moved over to the Pentecostal Holiness camp, was that an improvement?

Many Anglicans have a warped view of our tradition. Should they "look further" and move on to something else?
We are regularly serenaded on various blogs, TV stations, etc by people who have gone here or there because they felt their original faith-tradition was somehow inadequate. It quickly becomes obvious they were never well grounded in that faith-tradition.
LKW

poetreader said...

I'm afraid Fr. Wells misconstrues me. What I am doing is raising cautions as to how formulations we may cherish are often so easily misused that it would be best to find another way of saying what was said. The insertion of "Alone", though not actually wrong, contained within itself the possiblity, indeed the ease of a misinterpretation as bad as that which it intended to oppose. When a phrase becomes a battle cry, it ceases to be properly understood with the balance it may have been intended to have, and instread tends to succumb to the tendency of the less informed to take theings to the extreme -- and extremes are pretty generally the source of heresies.

If Sola Fide can only be properly understood by scholars (and it is my observation that that is the case), perhaps it is far too technical a term to be used in non-scholarly environments. If we cannot communicate in a way that can be heard by the person in the pew, then, perhaps we cannot communicate effectively at all. Truth needs to be communicated without misleading verbiage.

The point of my mention of the Lutheran environment I grew up in was to illustrate how badly Luther's own statements are misheard and distorted, even though official sources do a far better job than that.

Yes, I understand well what is intended -- but I see endless illustration that it is something else entirely which is heard, and that has to be addressed.

ed

Will said...

I guess the way I would word the answer to whether our works contribute to our salvation (and I know others have already said it better) is this:

We are saved by faith alone: NOTHING we can do can add to our merits for our justification. But a saving faith is never alone; it always will produce fruit.

Anonymous said...

Ed, having read your comment and now your retort, I believe I have understood you very, very well. Your suggestion that "sola fide" is so technical that only scholars can understand it leaves me breathless. The concept is perfectly understood by any dying simpleton who can look at the crucifix and say, "Jesus!"
"Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling."
LKW

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Reverend Hart

I am still unsure about your answer to the question whether our works of faith and love contribute to our forgiveness. Is it a yes or a no?

I share your concern to be authentically Anglican, and I was wondering where you stand on this point.

8:59 AM


Anonymous said...
Like the "iota" in homoiousion, Curate's question is the "iota" on which the whole Christian religion hangs. Thanks, Curate!
LKW



The answer is an obvious no. I'm sure Fr Hart would agree. So would the Council of Trent, by the way, which makes it explicitly clear that forgiveness of sins NEVER occurs except gratuitously and that NO work preceeding forgiveness can earn it.

Anonymous said...

"No" is indeed the right answer, but it is far from obvious. There are those (not necessarily RC) who say we are justified fide sola for the time being, but at the Great Assizes we will have to show some good works. Then there is the Justification by "faithfulness," as Tom Wright seems to say. If the answer were obvious, it would have saved Hans Kung from writing a marvellous doctoral dissertation, and the RC/Lutheran commissions could have spent their time otherwise. "It's obvious, guys, lets head for the nearest bar."

I am glad you gave the right answer. I was in no doubt about Fr Hart's answer. But even if the pronouncements from Trent can be spun (as Newman spun the 39 Articles) in such a direction, the very existence of the Enchiridion Indulgentiarum proves it is only a spin.
The suggestion that Fr Hart and the Council of Trent hold the same ground makes total nonsense of his paper. It also makes total nonsense of the whole enterprise of (Roman) Catholic apologetics.
LKW

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I am still unsure about your answer to the question whether our works of faith and love contribute to our forgiveness. Is it a yes or a no?

The answer is no. In fact the opposite is true; forgiveness adds to our love, if we know we have been forgiven.(Luke 7:36-50)

Jack Miller said...

Fr. Hart writes:

"The answer is no. In fact the opposite is true; forgiveness adds to our love, if we know we have been forgiven.(Luke 7:36-50)"

Yes...

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Council of Trent, Session 6, Chapter 8: "none of those things which precede justification-whether faith or works-merit the grace itself of justification".

Session 6, Chapter 9: "it is necessary to believe that sins neither are remitted, nor ever were remitted save gratuitously by the mercy of God for Christ's sake".

Not spin. Direct quotations.

Indulgences relate to lessening the need for purifying discipline, not forgiveness itself.

Anonymous said...

Quotation from Richard Hooker:

"But ye will say that, as he who today is holy may tomorrow forsake his holiness and become impure, as a friend may change his mind and become an enemy, as hope may wither, so faith may die in the heart of man, the Spirit may be quenched, [1 Thess 5:19] grace may be extinguished, they who believe may be quite turned away from the truth. The case is clear, long experience hath made this manifest, it needs no proof.

I grant that we are apt, prone, and ready to forsake God; but is God as ready to forsake us? Our minds are changeable; is his so likewise? Whom God hath justified hath not Christ assured that it is his Father's will to give them a kingdom? [Lk 12:32] Which kingdom, notwithstanding, shall not otherwise be given them than "if they continue grounded and established in the faith and be not moved away from the hope of the Gospel", [Col 1:23] "if they abide in love and holiness."[1 Tim 2:15] Our Saviour therefore, when he spake of the sheep effectually called and truly gathered into his fold, "I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand," [Jn 10:28] in promising to save them, promised, no doubt, to preserve them in that without which there can be no salvation, as also from that whereby salvation is irremediably lost."

In the Philip Edgecumbe Hughes edition, this quote come from a much longer section entitled "Eternal Security."
LKW

Anonymous said...

Fr Kirby: If your reading of Trent is correct, then Richard Hooker was flatly wrong. As Ed has reminded us frequently,
Hooker was not infallible, so this is an authentic possibility.

But if indeed you are correct, then a great many people, on both sides of the "Grand Question," have been terribly wrong for an awfully long time. How would you account for such a thing?
LKW

Fr. Robert Hart said...

It seems to me that a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction leaves no room for anything else. Purifying and sanctification cannot have the kind of penal qualities that make indulgences (as understood in the Medieval, Reformation and Modern eras) a useful concept at all. When the word "indulgences" meant something granted by way of permission from living breathing bishops (i.e. a dispensation), it was a word that implied no error. As used to day, "indulgences," and also "merits" and "the treasury of the Church," still imply a credit owed by God to sinners because of works of supererogation. This has nothing to do with something useful, like sanctification, and despite Roman protestations to the contrary, it makes light of the suffering and death of God the Son.

I believe that the Anglican position (in fact, the Christian position, if by that we mean the truth) is found in Articles XIV and XXII. It is also found in the Epistle to the Hebrews. I find the RCC position in all this to be quite self-contradictory.

curate said...

"It seems to me that a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction leaves no room for anything else...(than that we are justified by faith entirely apart from works of love and faith)"

Thank you for your reply Rev. Hart. It seems to me that you have indeed restored the P to Anglicanism.

As you have noted, sola fide is about the sufficiency of the cross. It is full, perfect, and sufficient for the justification of our sins.

To Poetreader, it was no leading question requiring a specific form of words. I wanted to know.

I was intrigued by Reverend Hart's version of catholic Anglicanism, which seems to me to be less Anglo-Catholic and more authentically Anglican.

Now I know that he is truly Anglican and Protestant, which to my mind means that he is truly catholic.

Anonymous said...

If Indulgences "lessen the need of purifying discipline," then is the discipline strictly necessary? Are you suggesting that this "discipline" is optional or negotiable?

That suggestion is worse than the worst form of Protestantism--that Justification can occur without Sanctification following, that faith can suffice without works.

And of course the suggestion that Indulgences can somehow "relieve" the sufferings of the afterlife is horrible beyond belief. Martin Luther was quite correct to point out that the Pope (nor any other ecclesiastical authority) has any authority there. LKW

Anonymous said...

Fr Kirby: Thanks for the quote from Trent (Sessio Sexta, XIII.Ianuarii.1547,Caput IX; Schaff III.98). I do fear that you have quoted this quite apart from its context. The entire chapter is highly informative and when read in its entirety, gives a rather different impression. Your quote comes in a concessive clause: "But although..." and here you lift your quote, creating a thoroughly false impression that this was Trent's final teaching.

When one proceeds to read the meat of it chapter, we find, after a cartoonish summary of Reformed teaching:

"But neither is this to be asserted--that they who are truly justified must needs, without any doubting whatever, settle within themselves that they are justified...and that absolution and justification are effected by this faith alone.....seeing that no one can know with a certainty of faith (certitudine fidei), which cannot be subject to error, that he has obtained the grace of God."

So what Trent gives with one hand, it takes back with the other. Forgiveness is grudgingly admitted to be gratuitous, but we can never be quite sure about it. This makes Paul wrong when he wrote, "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
LKW

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"My friend and fellow Touchstone editor, Dr. William Tighe, Professor of History at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, has stated that, in his view, Anglicanism is so weak and insubstantial that without stronger influences, it is void of theological content."

Does Dr. William Tighe maintain this same view or has it been modified to some degree as a result of this essay?

Just curious.

Death Bredon said...

Truth,

I believe that Dr. Tighe view is in accord with Queen Elizabeth I, who said, "We and our people--thanks be to God--follow no novel and strange religions, but that very religion which is ordained by Christ, sanction by the primitive and Catholic Chruch and approved by the consistent mind and voice of the early Fathers." Indeed, the substance of Anglicanism is faith of the Church before the doctrinal divisions that plague us today. Therefore, Anglican content does come from the earthly institution such as the Church of England or any continuing jurisdiction, though the particular embodiment of that content and substance in this world comes from Anglicanism's constitutive formulations and the peculiar history of English-Speaking Catholic Christians.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

No, he meant that it only derives its strength from outside influences, like Calvinism, Lutheranism, Roman Catholicism, etc.; and that this makes it also essentially partisan. I cannot blame him for that if he is looking at the official Anglican Communion in our day and age. Queen Elizabeth I meant something else, something I agree with entirely.

RC Cola said...

Martin Luther was quite correct to point out that the Pope (nor any other ecclesiastical authority) has any authority there. LKW

Then how can we read Matthew 16:19 in which Jesus specifically give the power to loose and bind to [all of] The Apostles [not just Peter] and that the loosening and binding they do is effective in Heaven as here on Earth? To quote the Authorized Version:

And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

If we believe Luther, then we must disbelieve Jesus, or at least believe that His words are up for interpretation that differs from the literal meaning.

Anonymous said...

RC Cola: The promise of Jesus was that the ministry and discipline exercised by the Apostles and their successors (note capital A and small s) here in this world would enjoy the blessing of God in the next. Jesus did not say "what you try to bind on heaven or in purgatory will have the Father's ratification." As Luther pointed out, if the Pope has authority to release souls from purgatory, he is cruel not to release them all, ASAP. And it is surely uncharitable of him to charge money for so doing.
LKW

Anonymous said...

Fr Kirby: Please forgive me for overlooking the first of your two citations from Trent, carelessness on my part. While the second citation is wrenched from its context, I cannot accuse you of that for the first. You have interpreted that particular passage correctly.

But my argument stands when Trent in its total output is considered. If Trent seems to say at one point that Justification is fide sola, this is undermined, neutralized and overthrown by the its doctrine of purgatory nd indulgences.

You seem to be making the same argument as Hans Kung in his truly great work entitled "Justification." He argues strenuously, 332 pages worth, that the teaching of Trent was essentially the same as that of Karl Barth, to whom his book is dedicated. Barth contributed a letter to the book, in which he agreed that Kung understood his own (Barth's) view with perfect accuracy, but questioned his interpretation of his own RCChurch's teaching. Barth then asked:

"How do you explain the fact that all this could remain hidden so long and from so many, both inside and outside the [RC] Church? .... Did you yourself discovered all this before you so carefully read my Church Dogmatics, or was it while you were reading afterward?"

And it is a matter of record that the RCC did not give its blessing to Kung's proposal, nor to the much touted "Joint Declaration" which many imagine to have "solved" the problem so hotly debated in the 16th century, which Hooker called the "Grand Question."

LKW

Fr. Robert Hart said...

What Jesus said to Peter can be understood correctly only by forgetting all the non-sense Rome has been teaching. In its first century Jewish context it refers to teaching, and only to teaching (coming from the book of Isaiah). In Matt.18 the power of binding and loosing is given to all the apostles. None of this can be interpreted rightly as having a specific application to the Bishop of Rome, nor to anything whatsoever about granting indulgences to people on some prison planet called Purgatory (is that near Vulcan?).

RC Cola said...

Just as Luther pointed out that it would be cruel for Popes to keep souls in Purgatory despite allegedly having the power to release them, so too do atheists argue that God is cruel for allowing people to suffer when He has the power to heal them immediately.

I don't buy the atheists' argument against God. I don't buy Luther's arguments about nearly anything and everything. He a polemicist and pounded in screws with hammers. A very funny man with a flair for insults that bring tears to my eyes, but do I take him seriously? No.

I don't accept "sola fide." First because no point of theology can be adequately expressed in two words as if it is the be-all-and-end-all of Christian wisdom. That is sloganeering, not theology. We are not justified by Slogans Alone.

Second, I don't think there is a single thing that solves our dilemma (damnation), but rather a combination of things, of which Faith is a constituent part, without which the whole falls apart. But at the same time, with out the other parts, that faith is of no use. I'd submit that the most important thing that "justifies" man is Love, the greatest of the theological virtues.

Third, the epistle of St. James rules out "Sola Fide" from the getgo.

I guess what I'm saying, and I think this is what St James was getting at, is that the "faith versus works" argument is a false dichotomy. Imagine if the argument about justification were able to break out of the "faith versus works" mould. First, it would free our minds to think about a very important idea other than heads-or-tails. Second, it would free us of caricatures and mythology. It is clear that the RCC has never taught that a person is "saved by works" let alone saved by "works alone." The RCC has preserved the notion that faith without works is dead.

A much more accurate two-word summary of the RCC's teaching about salvation (if we could reduce it to a Lutherish slogan) would be "grace alone."

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I believe that sufficient explanation has been given to the expression sola fide by above comments, giving us the intended meaning from the sixteenth century as an interpretation of scripture. Luther's own sermon on faith that produces love, that in turn produces good works, put him in good company with both Saints Paul and James-the one comment (in Luther's introduction to the New Testament) about an "epistle of straw compared to" the Gospels and the Epistles to the Romans and the Galatians, not withstanding.

I really do not see, therefore, what the above objection is all about.

Mark VA said...

From the Roman/Traditionalist/Popish perspective:

Regarding Father Hart's comment about the prison planet:

Was this remark made in the spirit of Article of Religion XXII? Or to rephrase the question, do you, Father Hart, believe that the RC doctrine of Purgatory is "rather repugnant to the Word of God"?

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

I do fear that you have quoted this quite apart from its context. The entire chapter is highly informative and when read in its entirety, gives a rather different impression. Your quote comes in a concessive clause: "But although..." and here you lift your quote, creating a thoroughly false impression that this was Trent's final teaching.

When one proceeds to read the meat of it chapter, we find, after a cartoonish summary of Reformed teaching:

"But neither is this to be asserted--that they who are truly justified must needs, without any doubting whatever, settle within themselves that they are justified...and that absolution and justification are effected by this faith alone.....seeing that no one can know with a certainty of faith (certitudine fidei), which cannot be subject to error, that he has obtained the grace of God."

So what Trent gives with one hand, it takes back with the other. Forgiveness is grudgingly admitted to be gratuitous, but we can never be quite sure about it. This makes Paul wrong when he wrote, "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."


Fr Wells,

Yes, it was a concessive clause. But it did, therefore, concede exactly what you want to affirm. The rest of the passage does not deny what it has just affirmed, it just adds another truth. And it is truth, if read carefully. Note that they are not saying we cannot have what one might call a reasonable assurance of being in grace: they do say that "no pious person ought to doubt the mercy of God". (Aquinas, who they largely followed, also admitted a significant degree of real knowledge and confidence of being in grace: see S.T. P(2a)-Q(112)-A(5), especially the last paragraph of the "answer" & P(2b)-Q(19)-A(10).) What is denied by Aquinas and the Tridentine divines is, quite specifically, two things. One, that (without a special private revelation) a Christian can have an infallible and absolute assurance: one "which cannot be subject to error". (Similarly, they deny in ch.12 that one can have "absolute certainty" that one is among the predestined.) Two, that unless a Christian is absolutely convinced that he is justified, he is not justified due to lack of faith and thus condemned.

While Wesley may have taught something like the second at times, I don't think this is true of protestant soteriology generally, so it presents no insurmountable obstacle. Regarding the first, I don't believe either the protestant or Anglican tradition has ever mandated a statement of the doctrine of assurance as extreme as the one condemned by Trent.

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

(cont'd) ...

Why has the agreement not been reached, if what I say is true? Largely because both sides have so much invested in alternative definitions of the word "justification", neither of which (forgiveness/changed-status-only versus forgiveness + regeneration) can claim to be the absolutely exclusive connotation in either the NT or the Fathers. However, since both Reformed and RC theologians have often in the past (all the way back to the Reformation -- and before for RCs) admitted that "justification" or "righteousness" can have both these connotations (imputing and imparting), even if they preferred one or the other as "primary", and have never been excommunicated for doing so, there remains hope on this front. Hooker and Calvin both did something like this with the words in question, as did certain theologians at Trent. None of these caveats have been explicitly and authoritatively denied by either side, but neither have they been included in the relevant and competing formularies.

Related to the above, Protestants have objected to (internally) sanctifying grace being considered the "formal cause" of justification at Trent, even though the merits of Christ were said to be the only meritorious cause. But if the larger connotation of the word as used there is taken into account, and the fact that a "formal cause" is not really a cause (in the normal, non-scholastic sense) so much as an effect on the state of the justified person, there is no insuperable barrier. If sanctification is included as one element in the term justification, as at Trent, then obviously the "form" of justification sensu lato in the "matter" of the person "justified" is inward renewal. The other aspect of justification, forgiveness and acceptance/reconciliation, has no corresponding "form" in the "matter" of the person justified, as it is a relational rather than substantial change in itself. Hence the differentiation between "status" and "state" of which Protestants are fond.

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

(cont'd) ...

The other reason for continued disagreement through the ages is indulgences and purgatory, as you note. My own tentative answer to this difficult problem I have given before on this weblog, as you know. I incline to the "purifying discipline" rather than "satisfaction of punishment" model, and freely admit this makes indulgences hard to understand. If the purgation is remedying discipline rather than merely owed penalty, how can it be "remitted"?

My answer is that the charity undergirding the gaining of the indulgence may no longer remain solely in the "gainer" of the indulgence, but might be communicated to the "benefitter" in the Church Expectant as an active principle due to the communion of saints. In other words, the "benefitter" is not merely a passive object of this love, but a recipient activated in it. Thus a living persons act of charity, combined with intercessory prayer and intent, would, due to the "One Body" interconnections in Christ (cf. Ephesians 4:16), benefit the faithful departed inwardly and not just in circumstance.

Alternatively, since God can do what he likes, including transform/purify a person more quickly and with less "discipline" than ordinarily necessary if He so chooses, with a different application of grace, this may simply be the means -- in response to the prayer combined with the "spiritual sacrifices" (cf. 1 Peter 2:5) involved in gaining indulgences, or indeed in any intercession, including and especially Eucharistic, for the dead.

Either way, indulgences would and should remain, in my view, at most a minor part of the priestly, intercessory work of Christians. I see them as one way this overall work can be brought into mental focus. However, I admit that they, like the word "merit", are easily misleading. Changes in terminology and better explanation are probably necessary in order not to undermine the Gospel in the popular perception of the people of God. Which leads me to the next paragraph as a prime example ...

On another point you raised, it should be remembered that indulgences gained for the dead are only ever by suffrage, that is, by request, as it is explicitly taught by the RCC that the Pope and other bishops have no jurisdiction over the dead, as you correctly note. Unfortunately, this is not mentioned in the CCC.

Pax et bonum,

MK+

poetreader said...

Though I have serious questions about such issues as indulgences, I'm not uncomfortable with the official and magisterial teaching of Rome concerning Purgatory. What Fr. Hart is, quite rightly, caricaturing is the distortion of that teaching which was prevalent in the late Middle Ages, and continued prevalent in the RCC at least down to V2. The prison planet construct was indeed the dominant idea among my RC friends in the '50s, and often came across the pulpits in their churches, but it is really a distortion of what Trent (for example) actually taught.
I have heard this rather distorted view presented uncritically from Anglican pulpits (including by a guest preacher in my own parish), and YHAT does make me uncomfortable (as it did most of my co-members - and that preacher has not been invited back)

ed

Anonymous said...

Fr Kirby:

Thank you for your response and its conciliatory tone. I am still troubled, Father, by your quoting a concession as though it were the assertion. Had I been caught out in so doing, I would be ethically embarrassed.

The assertion itself in Decretum de Iustificatione Caput IX is one I cannot accept. It allows that Forgiveness is gratuitous, but fails to tell us how a sinner can know of it. I am left with the picture of a prisoner in a cell who has been granted a full pardon, but has no one to tell him this is a fact for sure. Free and gracious pardon does us little good if we are not allowed to know about it!

After reading your lengthy response three times to make sure I did not miss your point, you seem to be saying, "The problem is resolved because I have said so." I find nothing in your writing that was not already put forth by Hans Kung and the RC/Lutheran conversations.
These did not secure official Vatican approval nor have they won universal acceptance on the Reformed side.

(Kung's book, I hasten to add, is a great work, from which I learned much; it ultimately fails for reasons pointed out by Barth. When all is said and done, Kung was just trying to smuggle in Reformed theology by artificial interpretations of Trent.)

I do not feel that you have answered all my questions. And the one point where you are, dear Father, frankly out to lunch, is your desperate attempt to make a case for indulgences:

"Either way, indulgences would and should remain, in my view, at most a minor part of the priestly, intercessory work of Christians."

Indulgences are only available to those in full communion with the Roman pontiff. And as far as I know, no Anglican prelate has ever undertaken to grant Indulgences. So for you and me, Fr Kirby, an Indulgence is about as likely as taking a ride in the papal sedan-chair. Indulgences are closely associated with Penance. RC clergy cannot hear confessions from or grant absolution to non-RC's without serious canonical violation (possibly even sin). So any talk of obtaining Indulgences among us is sheer nonsense. So instead of saying "a minor part," you should say "no part whatever."
LKW

Fr. Robert Hart said...

...do you, Father Hart, believe that the RC doctrine of Purgatory is "rather repugnant to the Word of God"?

Hell, yes!

Answer me this one: If people are consigned to suffer there for a period of time (as Rome was not only teaching, but presuming to shorten the sentence by looking at relics, and buying indulgences), when can Christ return? How can the dead in Christ rise first while some are still serving time?

Fr. Robert Hart said...

So any talk of obtaining Indulgences among us is sheer nonsense. So instead of saying "a minor part," you should say "no part whatever."

I understand the desire to be fully prepared to enter God's unveiled presence, some sort of purgation. But, if Christ's death is truly the "full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world," and if every saint is cleansed and forgiven only through His sacrifice, what need have we of such a teaching as Indulgences? Rome may keep it to themselves for all I care: Indeed, for their sakes I prefer they lose it.

RC Cola said...

I really do not see, therefore, what the above objection is all about.

I was objecting to 500 years of sloganeering and caricature.

Just curious, what gave Luther the right to call any part of the Word of God straw, even if only in comparison to other parts? Who is he to judge the Word of God? That's a bloody cheek! And you delight in such sacrilege and use it to justify a theological position? I object to that.

I'm not saying that the RCC is always right, but I'm not about to start saying that the RCC is always wrong and Reformers always right. When I swam across the English Channel, I was led to believe that part of the Anglican Identity is that we are able to discern the errors of both and live that via media of which you spoke so highly.

On this blog the obsession is with the errors (or, more often than not, the perceived errors) of the RCC than the Reformers. The Continental Reformers don't exactly get a free pass, but they are certainly not subjected to nearly the same scurrility, caricature, and general disdain that the RCCs are. It seems that via media is honored more in the breech than the observance.

See, I'm willing to take Luther at his word. He said Faith Alone, but explained out what he saw as its logical conclusion...that it leads to love, and love leads to good works. Fine. I see his point and I have no beef with it--once the slogan is clarified. The slogan, unfortunately obfuscates, making it a hindrance rather than a help.

And please, please, please someone have the common courtesy to take the RCC at its word, and quit the caricatures (which, Ed, we cannot say one does rightly, because then one is never really arguing against what the RCC teaches, but rather against what the arguer wants the RCC to teach, even if it doesn't really). If we are going to keep this one-sided assault up, I may as well give up on the Continuum and on Anglicanism and start watching the John Ankerburg Show or something; it is effectively the same thing at this point.

poetreader said...

RC Cola,

Whoa -- you do raise some valid points, but you're doing so in a a way that seems to mirror what you're objecting to and presents rather a caricature of this board. There are three of us (and currently only three) who can be said to represent the editorial positions of this blog:
Frs. Hart and Kirby and myself (Ed Pacht), and we are not always precisely in agreement either. This is a place for lively, but hopefully polite, discussion of issues, and sometimes very lively indeed.

We have, at various times, been engaged by apologists (sometimes I'd rather say polemicicts) for the RCC position (or, more accurately, often for positions taken by many in the RCC, though not always accurately reflecting its official stands}. We have also some very active contributors who represent a far more anti-Roman view than any of the three of us would take. We are not responsible for either of these extremes, but are quite willing to enter discussion with them.

The three of us approach the current RCC in three rather different ways, but all of us have high respect for this our sister church, even as we believe she errs in a number of significant matters. We indeed do take her at her word, and seek to understand what she officially teaches; but like the Reformers, we find it often necessary to go beyond what the official teaching to examine what is less officially. but very commonly taught and believed among them.

I believe the Reformers (Luther among them) were often in error as to what the Medieval church officially taught, but that they diagnosed with extreme accuracy what was the usual, indeed the majority, teaching and practice, what the average member would have heard -- and that body of teaching, though it should have been condemned by the official church, was not. Since it was not condemned, it was necessary that someone raise these points loudly and publicly. Rome would not listen nor allow these views to be expressed (not, indeed, because of her official teaching, but because of a certain venality that had seized hold of the machinery of the church), and polarization set in, both sides becoming more extreme.

Please try to read us a bit more carefully. Not all our contributors fairly represent us. In fact they are sometimes pretty harsh in criticizing us. Our effort is indeed to seek that Via Media in which all extremes are seen as flawed simply because they are extremes. If any of the three of us seems sometimes a bit overly strong in our mode of expression, that's probably true. These issues matter -- very deeply -- and truth (almost by definition) is always under attack. We do our humble best, beholden neither to Rome nor to the Continental Reformers, but to Scripture and its interpretation by the Fathers of the Undivided Church, taking as our motto the canon of St. Vincent of Lerins.

Please, try to hear the various voices you'll find here and please distinguish them from one another -- and, please, continue to take part in this discussion, your voice has been at least as valuable here as those of other commenters who have visited (or seemingly taken up residence among us).

ed

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Will respond to Frs Wells and Hart in a couple of days, when other duties are over.

In the meantime, I am asking for all your prayers for tomorrow (Tue) my time, when I will have my last lesson with my leaving senior class. In the last lesson I start with my "testimony" and a brief presentation of the Gospel challenge, hand out a booklet of apologetics appropriate to a physics class (always having a number of "skeptics"), and also hand out a booklet dealing with the issues of chastity and sex. (The latter I prepared years ago and give them for a number of reasons, including the fact that they will, many of them, in the not too distant future be going on "schoolies", which can be a very nasty, debased scene in some places. I believe Americans have something similar with final year high school students: Cancon or something like that.) Then we have the end of year party.

In any case, your prayers for God's grace on this, and the reading of the literature afterwards, would be wonderful.

God bless you all.

Mark VA said...

From the Roman/Traditionalist/Popish perspective:

Thank you Father Hart for your reply to my question about the Anglicans and the Purgatory.

We could go on quoting at each other, or discuss the nature of time and eternity, but I have a feeling that on this issue neither one of us will budge. I assume you're already familiar with the biblical RC case for Purgatory.

On the chance that there are any Anglicans in Purgatory, I'll make sure to include them in my prayers for the dead. If I'm wrong about Purgatory, I hope God will forgive my foolishness. If I'm right, I hope to have done my Christian duty for the dead.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

RC Cola wrote:

And you delight in such sacrilege and use it to justify a theological position? I object to that.

I was not aware that a brief, accurate quotation (translated into English) constituted either an endorsement or expression of delight. It is useful to take the opportunity to quote what Luther actually said, inasmuch as a fiction has long circulated to the effect that he wanted to remove the Epistle altogether, and made his statement as absolute rather than relative. It is fair to say that Luther over emphasized faith at times. He also counseled a king to engage in polygamy and thought that Anabaptists should be drowned as punishment for heresy; all of which led Roland Bainton to theorize that, in his old age Luther may have had Alzheimer's Disease.

The slogan, unfortunately obfuscates, making it a hindrance rather than a help.

I believe I made that same point in my comments above, or rather, that it can do so; look at the comment about how certain modern Evangelicals abuse the term.

...because then one is never really arguing against what the RCC teaches, but rather against what the arguer wants the RCC to teach, even if it doesn't really...

Most of the criticisms in the 39 Articles do not mention Rome, and those that do are carefully worded, and were composed before the Council of Trent was finally, after many years, completed. The errors that are dealt with in our Formularies, including the Articles, were not caricatures. They were the actual beliefs and superstitions held by most of the people throughout Europe and the British Isles. Frankly, many of them persisted well into my own life time. Rome deserves criticism for failing often to set its own people straight about what their church teaches. We are well aware of that.

Anonymous said...

Fr Hart wrote:

"The errors that are dealt with in our Formularies, including the Articles, were not caricatures. They were the actual beliefs and superstitions held by most of the people throughout Europe and the British Isles. Frankly, many of them persisted well into my own life time."

And many persist even to this very day, if one listens to "Catholic Apologetics" on EWTN. The problem with RC theology, at its worst or at its best, is that it is a nose of wax, so that it is hard to say what the RC doctrine really is. While some would have us believe that Trent really, really did teach Justification fide sola, RC's are selling a book entitled "Not by Faith Alone." (Even if Fr Kirby is right about Trent, so what?)
Why go pimping for a kaleidoscopic religion?

Boniface VIII, in Unam sanctam, claimed "it is altogether necessary to salvation for every human creature to be subject to the Roman pontiff. That "infallible" pronouncement was set aside (as poor Fr Feeny learned the hard way) and the documents of Vatican II are practically universalist.

Would the real RCC please stand up?
LKW

Fr. Robert Hart said...

RC Cola needs to look again at the above paper (or essay) and notice that I said the Anglicans maintained a balance between extremes. They never gave in completely to any outside system, and certainly parted company with Lutherans (as they did everyone else) when they got to the extreme edges; and their method was quite effective, namely agreeing only to a point, but going no further when they met the boundaries of Universal Consensus and Antiquity. Furthermore, it is precisely because the term sola fide has become for many a caricature of itself, or a slogan, that it is worth spending the time to define what it actually meant. This is necessary inasmuch as we have the words "justified by faith only" in Article XI.

Whatever others may do to a term, and however they may abuse it, what I did here was meant to educate. Our purpose is to get it right. I fail to see why clarification is met with objection to the very "sloganeering" or abuse that we have attempted to correct.

poetreader said...

Let's not be too harsh.

Like Rome, we Anglicans do have core theology precisely and officially expressed.

Also, like Rome, we have, for centuries, been afflicted with widely held views that differ from the official stands.

Also, like Rome, we have historically done little to correct this discrepancy.

I'm an Anglican because I am convinced that, at its core, this tradition has enshrined a better realization of the Catholic and Apostolic Faith than is found elsewhere. I am not an Anglican out of conviction that even the majority actually understand or accept these views. Frankly, that isn't true for us much more than it is for Rome.

You see, an RC would have as much foundation for standing up and asking "Would the real Anglicans please stand up?"

I'll defend my views, sometimes with fervor, but I find it rather unproductive to be occupied in shooting at a moving target, whether it be in Rome, in Canterbury, or in Geneva.

ed

Anonymous said...

"Let not be too harsh."

"Would the real Anglicans please stand up."


The Anglican tradition does not claim a charism of infallibility. Rome does.

Those who claim infallibility are not permitted to change their mind, particularly with statements emanating from the very locus of that infallibility.

Your constant references to tone and "being harsh" do nothing to improve tone, and have in the past been generally counter-productive.
LKW

LKW

Mark VA said...

From the Roman/Traditionalist/Popish perspective:

LKW wrote:

"The Anglican tradition does not claim a charism of infallibility."

Perhaps not, but calling the RC doctrine of Purgatory "rather repugnant to the Word of God" comes pretty close to it. A distinction without a difference.

poetreader said...

As I see it, the genius of the Anglican tradition has, from its very start been very much as it was somewhat earlier than the Reformation, perhaps the milieu in which Aquinas labored. The Catholic Church, while committed to certain basic realities, had always allowed, yea, encouraged a lively discussion of a host of controverted matters, and made room for, depending on one's view, either a recognition that many such matters were not settled, or a charitable recognition that some errors are nonetheless permissible.

Again, as I see it, the major cause of the Reformation was the imposition of one set of views and the attempted squelching of other views which had never been condemned. A polarization not too different from the polarization of American politics at this time, set in where previously brethren had felt free to disagree. Anglicans did their best to keep doors open in all directions, without letting go of what truth they believed themselves to have found.

Growth involves change and the freedom to change, though in the limits of what makes the organism itself. So it must be for the Church and for the individual Christian. I have, as have all of us, spent a lifetime of learning -- and unlearning. I've grown, therefore I do not believe precisely what I believed at 20 or 30 or 40 or 50 or even 60 -- and, if God allows me more time, I expect to keep growing and keep learning, thus changing. I'm a conservative by nature and all change disturbs me, but it must come -- or I have ceased to grow, and what does not grow, dies.

I am very uncomfortable with a few of the official stands of the RCC, and even more so with many of the unofficial positions found there, whether held by "liberals" or by "traditionalists", and I am prepared to present my case with considerable strength of expression. But I am NOT infallible, and make every effort not to sound as though I am.

God's Church has room for those who have erroneous ideas. He does not judge us on our understanding of doctrine, but on our love of Jesus. If we love Him our desire is to learn of Him. While we are learning, we fail of true understanding -- until we learn better.

My major difficulty with Rome is that very pretense of infallibility. I have long been of the opinion that, if I am entirely sure that I understand any position, I've missed some important error on my part, and I believe that to be true of every Christian.

This has gone on too long. I'll stop here.

ed

Anonymous said...

Fr Kirby wrote,

"In the last lesson I start with my "testimony" and a brief presentation of the Gospel challenge, hand out a booklet of apologetics appropriate to a physics class (always having a number of "skeptics"), and also hand out a booklet dealing with the issues of chastity and sex."

Father, I almost overlooked this. As we go back and forth on issues in dogmatic theology which mean much to both of us, I must express my sincere admiration and high regard for your ministry as a priest in your classroom. I find it very touching that you would bring your school year to such a beautiful close. While systematic theology is my passion, my deepest concerns relate to the pastoral ministry and evengelism. So I have to commend what I read in the above quote in the warmest terms! This is surely the point where you and I are very very close. God bless you!
LKW

Mark VA said...

Dear Poetreader:

I agree very much with your sentiments regarding our natural capacity to fully understand many teachings of the Christian faith. I agree that without Divine assistance we, at best, understand partly, and grow in our understanding only by degrees.

Having said that, I wouldn't want to concede that Christians are incapable of making any infallible statements. Surely there are some basic teachings we all consider infallible: that God exists, that Jesus is the Messiah, that He rose from the dead, that each of us has an immortal soul, and that Heaven and Hell exist. I can't imagine anyone who can willfully equivocate on any of these teachings, and still consider himself a Christian.

From my point of view and experience, I truly cannot imagine any Pope in the nineteenth, twentieth, and the current century, confront the errors of modernism without explicitly defining and defending the infallibility of certain Christian beliefs.

Anonymous said...

Mark VA: Would you consider the Syllabus of Errors (1864) an "infallible" statement?
LKW

poetreader said...

I've not run across any credible RC statement that the Syllabus was ever regarded as such. That's one of the weaknesses of their position: that it is slipperily difficult to determine infallibly just which statements are infallible -- and thus the whole concept ties one to a questionable (at best) concept of very little actual utility.

ed

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Fr Wells,

Thank you for your kind words.

I don't know how things went altogether. The students were fairly attentive and respectful of what was happening, especially considering that they were all wound up with the excitement of having their last day of classes.

(You will no doubt be unsurprised to hear that water pistols and water bombs are common on this day! However, many of us feel that "muck up day" has actually become more civilised and less prone to extreme silliness over the years. The BBQ cooked breakfast to which all parents and students are invited helps set the day up in a different way at our school.)

I noticed some students were reading the material I handed out later in the day. I have been praying that one way or another the effort will bear fruit in the long term. The material has been prepared to express "Mere Christianity" for the most part, with some "Mere Catholicism" at the end, particularly in the last two pages on conversion. An almost identical version of this document is on my Church website at this page:
http://members.ozemail.com.au/~frmkirby/conversion.html .
In the original context of the booklet intended for my use as a teacher in a RC senior school it functions largely as a challenge for nominal RC kids to re-connect with Christ and the Church of their baptism through penitent faith. In the context of the website the reference to "his [Christ's] Church" is naturally lent a greater ecclesiological range.

Anonymous said...

Ed, you missed my point altogether. After Mark VA alluded to popes of
the 19th century defending the faith against the errors of modernism, I brought up a document which most RC's would like to forget about. To say it has never been considered infallible is a risible understatement.

A major problem for the doctrine of PI is that there is no infallible list of infallible statements. RC authorities are in open agreement on that question. Some say only two papal statements (IC and BA) are infallible. Others expand the list. There was some confusion over JP II's statements on WO and his reaffirmation (?) of Apostolicae Curae.

But more troubling to me by far is this from Mark VA:

"I agree very much with your sentiments regarding our natural capacity to fully understand many teachings of the Christian faith."

I do not recall your saying that, Ed. Had I noted it, I would have come zooming out! That statement flatly contradicts Biblical teaching (Isaiah 6, Romans 1, Matthew 11:25) concerning the reprobate mind, which is in darkness. "Nondum considerasti quantum ponderis sit peccatum."
LKW

poetreader said...

After Mark VA alluded to popes of the 19th century defending the faith against the errors of modernism, I brought up a document which most RC's would like to forget about. To say it has never been considered infallible is a risible understatement.

A major problem for the doctrine of PI is that there is no infallible list of infallible statements. RC authorities are in open agreement on that question. Some say only two papal statements (IC and BA) are infallible. Others expand the list. There was some confusion over JP II's statements on WO and his reaffirmation (?) of Apostolicae Curae.


Well put, Fr. Wells. and that is precisely what I was saying. I fail to see how we are in disagreement here. The fact that such a forceful statement as the Syllabus could have been so widely regarded as not infallible, even at the time of its promulgation, even when the pope himself seems to have wanted it to be seen that way, illustrates exactly the weakness we've both commented on -- the lack of any "infallible" knowledge as to just what is "infallible".

As to the matter of our understanding, well, we do indeed know that which has been revealed to us, and the Christian Faith certainly does have substance, a basis in solid factual statements, but do we fully understand the implications of what has been revealed?

I'm not sure precisely what of mine Mark is referencing, but he has presented my general thinking fairly accurately. Yes, we know what has been revealed, but our natural capacity is not sufficient to give us an understanding of the full reality of these facts, and our inferences and reasonings based upon those facts are, by definition, less than adequate to the infinite majesty they represent. My principal argument with the R/C view of infallibility applies also to other theologians (including myself insofar as I deserve the title) when they present their conclusions as if absolutely true. It is that such claims appear rather hubritical in a merely finite being attempting to comprehend what is far greater than his ability. I don't see myself as in "darkness", but as being blinded by a true Light whose brightness is beyond what I can see.

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

I am still troubled, Father, by your quoting a concession as though it were the assertion. Had I been caught out in so doing, I would be ethically embarrassed.

Fr Wells,

This left me scratching my head at first, but I think I know why we don't see this the same way. I am mathematics and science trained, with a deep (though not uncritical) appreciation of Thomism and any good syllogism! To me, the relevant Tridentine statement, which may be represented as "Although X, not Y", where X="it must be believed that forgiveness is always gratuitous and never merited", is logically exactly equivalent to the simpler affirmation "X is true" with respect to X. And whether "X is true" is Tridentine doctrine was in fact the point in question, since I claimed that "X is true" was taught at Trent and you denied it really was. I am still convinced that the clause I quoted proved exactly what I claimed. Indeed, it could not do otherwise unless Y in the above abbreviated proposition actually contradicted X. Even you have not claimed that. "Not Y" says nothing about forgiveness being merited, as Y can be summarised as "it is possible to be infallibly or absolutely certain of being in grace without a special, personal revelation".

Now if Trent had said something like "Although some claim X, they are heretics", then a quotation of X as if it were RC doctrine would have been dishonest. But as it is, Trent explicitly supported and did not reject X.

Again, to me this is the only way to analyse accurately RC doctrine on this matter, but I can see that to others the acceptance of X in a concession rather than an outright assertion might be seen to de-emphasise or belittle X.

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

(cont'd) ...

This brings me to second reason why we might be reacting to Trent etc. differently. As a theologian who is fundamentally ecumenical in motivation and who sees the Anglican Via Media as a consciously mediating (not just a middle) way, what I am mainly interested in is what is certainly dogmatic within each communion, and whether it inescapably contradicts what is certainly dogmatic in another communion. Since ecclesial infallibility only means protection from strict error in what is binding, I am not concerned to show that, for example, either the Council of Trent or the 39 Articles produced statements that were uniformly well-expressed, well-balanced, or even particularly helpful. Infallibility is quite minimalist in definition and guarantees none of these things.

When you read Trent, you see nothing positive about "assurance" and much that is negative. What I see is a specific denial of Y above, and no statement at all about what kind of knowledge or certitude is possible. Since Y goes beyond what most protestants have claimed, with those claiming to have absolutely certain “assurance” of salvation often seeming to also claim something like a special inner revelation anyway, and none of the Fathers seems to teach Y, it is hard to see what the problem is with Trent's rejection of Y. Scripture could be cited to support the saved person's knowledge of their salvation in general way, but so could Scripture be cited to discourage pretensions to absolute certainty, as St Thomas Aquinas does in the passages I cited before. He also argues for a genuine degree of knowledge of being in grace and growth in certainty of the hope of final perseverence. Trent did not refer to these positive aspects at all. I see this as a weakness. But since the Angelic Doctor's teaching in this matter is not denied, and what is denied is a rather extreme presentation of “assurance”, there is no doctrinal error here in the proper sense.

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

(cont'd) ...

The assertion itself in Decretum de Iustificatione Caput IX is one I cannot accept. It allows that Forgiveness is gratuitous, but fails to tell us how a sinner can know of it. I am left with the picture of a prisoner in a cell who has been granted a full pardon, but has no one to tell him this is a fact for sure. Free and gracious pardon does us little good if we are not allowed to know about it!

From what I have said above, my response to this will not be surprising. You cannot accept “Y is not true” because of what it “fails” to say and because of the picture it paints for you. But even if I agree with you (as I tend to do here) that this failure, this absence of balancing truth, is real and the impression left is thus misleading, this is not enough to make the Tridentine assertion erroneous. Only Y being true could do that. And Y is not true. It would be rejected by the EOC as much as the RCC, and I would challenge anyone to prove it was the patristic consensus. And many Scriptural warnings and rebukes to Christians in the NT make little sense if Y is true, especially if it is meant to be a normal or even essential element of every Christian's faith (see Matthew 23:37, Mark 4:19, Romans 11:22-23, 2 Corinthians 6:1, Galatians 5:4, Philippians 2:12 – yes, I acknowledge there are also a number of verses encouraging confidence in and asserting knowledge of saving grace within oneself). So, this Tridentine assertion amounts to nothing like an insuperable barrier.

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

After reading your lengthy response three times to make sure I did not miss your point, you seem to be saying, "The problem is resolved because I have said so."

I'm afraid I firmly believe this is an inadequate summary of and response to the arguments I gave. Would it not be better to actually cite specifics or quote them and attempt to show their purported errors, rather than imply I argued no case but baldly asserted compatibility and nothing more? Given that protestant theologians in discussing Trent have identified its assertion of sanctifying grace as the formal cause of justification to be key soteriological error, isn't my discussion of this worth addressing in detail, even if to disagree?

I find nothing in your writing that was not already put forth by Hans Kung and the RC/Lutheran conversations. These did not secure official Vatican approval nor have they won universal acceptance on the Reformed side.

But have all such attempted harmonisations been definitively rejected as erroneous or heretical by Rome? No. Reservations and criticisms of details are not the same as rejection, so an unfinished ecumenical work or an unfinished “reception” of it do not prove that an insuperable barrier remains or that the harmonisations have been shown to be false.

Finally, with reference to indulgences, what I wrote was deliberately hypothetical, working on the assumption of a situation where reunion was achieved and indulgences were part of that. However, there is no dogmatic barrier in the RCC to bishops other than the Pope issuing indulgences, as I understand it, but a disciplinary one. And they were in fact issued by EO bishops for some time in some jurisdictions in the second millenium.

Pax et bonum,

MK+

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Fr Hart,

Your rejection of purgatorial punishments or disciplines on the basis of their necessarily unfinished character whenever the Parousia is to occur does not prove their non-existence in the context of 1 Corinthians 3:12-15. Whatever “fiery” purging needs completing, will be completed at the Final Judgement, it would seem, if it has not already been dealt with in the period between Particular and Final Judgement.

poetreader said...

...purgatorial punishments or disciplines seems in my view to be the conflating of two quite different concepts, which, indeed, have tended to be conflated in RC discussions of the issue, with unfortunate results of the sort that required the Article in question.

"Punishment" is administered as a direct answer to a transgression. That, however, was done once and for all on Calvary. Forgiveness removes the need for punishment. The Medieval (and later) concept of Purgatory as a temporary Hell in which punishments not remitted by the Cross are administered, falls short of the reality of Christ's Sacrifice.

However, sins do have consequences, simply the logical result of actions that have been taken, both in the world around us (a murder victim stays dead) and within our souls and minds. The old word "Purgatory" (which I don't like or use, but don't absolutely reject either) includes no necessary aspect of punishment, but rather of purgation, that is, cleansing, the healing and correction of those warped and bent aspects of our personality, begun in this "intermediate state" and brought to completion at the resurrection and before the Throne. Whate4ver this unknown process may involve, "discipline" seems a proper word.

Such a concept as this seems better to express the views of the better contemporary RC theologians than the old and dreadful theories (not dogmas) that mostly prevailed from the Middle Ages to the 1960s. I don't remember the source, but it was indeed from an RC source that I read an explanation sufficient to lead me to the above paragraph.

ed

Anonymous said...

Fr Kirby:

Regarding the difference between concession and assertions, consider the following example:

"Although XYZ is a well-read and highly learned man, he argues in the manner of an idiot savant."

Anyone who reads the statement in its entirety will grasp its thrust and import. And if someone snatches the subordinate clause "XYZ is a highly learned man," claims this is the major point and conceals the context from unwary readers, he is plainly guilty of serious intellectual honesty.
LKW

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I have no argument against a purifying fire that is meant to transform rather than punish. Even those saints who, on the Last Day, will be among those who are alive and remain (I Ths. 4:17) may find the transformation of their being, involving first the shedding of the mortal and fallen nature, to be a terrifying and painful first step into glory. My argument is against the classic sentence of so many years and days in some secondary Hell to pay off a debt already paid in full. The cross is the means whereby God is both just and the justifier of believers in Jesus (Rom. 3:26); and so a punitive purgatory, a debtor's prison, could no longer be just, unless the sacrifice of the cross is of less than absolute value.

Anonymous said...

In comparing various conflicting views of the intermediate state between our earthly death and the Parousia, we need to recall that the Biblical data is exceedingly meager, and some folks here are running a serious risk of speaking aloud where God has remained silent. Theological speculation where there has been no revelation is a dangerous undertaking. We have no clear word from God on any "punishment" or "purification" in the Intermediate State. Parrotting the Penny Catechism is hardly a sound appeal to Scripture or authentic tradition; it is only a rehearsal of one's personal opinions. The CCC is mercifully brief on this topic and says about all that needs to be said.
LKW

LKW

Anonymous said...

Fr Hart's statement is right on the money. The popular view of purgatory as a temporary hell where we pay "temFr Hart's statement is right on the money. The popular view of purgatory as a temporary hell where we pay "temporal penalties" for our sins cannot be reconciled to the opening words of our Prayer of Consecration, and in fact overthrows the very Gospel itself. This shows the folly of speculation in the absence of revelation.
LKW

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Speaking of purgatory, this Archbishop from Nova Scotia should hope there is one.

Read here.

charles said...

Hello all,

Thank you for your answers. Meanwhile, you all might enjoy this blog link on the development of purgatory and medieval error:
http://wedgewords.wordpress.com/2009/09/26/richard-field-on-the-development-of-purgatory/

Steven Wedgeworth is a great blogger, and you will enjoy many of his posts.

sincerely,
charles

Nathan said...

TUAD,

No relation.

Nathan
(borthi)

Nathan said...

Sorry, I thought I was identified as nlahey on this comment board. I was refering to the surname that the Bishop of Antigonish and I share.

NLahey
(copylega)

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Regarding the difference between concession and assertions, consider the following example:

"Although XYZ is a well-read and highly learned man, he argues in the manner of an idiot savant."

Anyone who reads the statement in its entirety will grasp its thrust and import.


Fr Wells,

Your purportedly analogous example is quite different to the Tridentine case. Yours amounts to “Although this person is A, he is also B [where A would, otherwise, naturally and normally to the reader or listener imply he was not B]”. The Tridentine statement, on the other hand, amounts to “Athough X is true, Y is not [where Y does not naturally follow from X, despite the completely abnormal and unjustifiable inference of some]”. Therefore this is argument by false analogy.

I think this is clear from the first entence of the chapter: “But, although it is necessary to believe that sins neither are remitted, nor ever were remitted save gratuitously by the mercy of God for Christ's sake; yet is it not to be said, that sins are forgiven, or have been forgiven, to any one who boasts of his confidence and certainty of the remission of his sins, and rests on that alone; seeing that it may exist, yea does in our day exist, amongst heretics and schismatics; and with great vehemence is this vain confidence, and one alien from all godliness, preached up in opposition to the Catholic Church.” This perceived “boast” (=Y in my abbreviated analysis), amounting to an assertion that absolute certainty regarding one's own forgiveness is the norm and in fact the guarantee of forgiveness (as the rest of the chapter spells out to be the purported heretical attitude), is not seen as a natural or plausible inference from the gratuitousness of remission of sins (=X in my abbreviated analysis). Far from it. This is shown by the use of the words “boasts”, “vain confidence” and “seeing that it [the boast] may exist, yea does in our day exist”. The last quotation seems to say, “while Y does not follow from X, yes, there really are some who leap from one to the other”. So, the clause teaching that acceptance of the unmerited gratuitousness of forgiveness is de fide is not undermined or contradicted by what follows, as what follows is not a surprising qualification (as it was in the purported analogy you gave), and so X is a dogmatic statement in its own right.

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

(cont'd) ...

Some of the things you have said above would lead one to think that you do believe Y follws from X, so to speak. But then you also described the Tridentine depiction of protestent soteriology here as a “cartoonish summary”. This would imply that you do not accept as true what Trent (mistakenly) perceives as protestant teaching and rejects. In other words, you would reject such an extreme position as much as the Tridentine Council. This leaves me confused. Allow me to ask these non-rhetorical questions. Do you believe each Christian can or must normally have as an object of faith, with infallible certainty, the fact that he or she is in grace, or of the Elect, and thus believe that this is the teaching of Scripture as interpreted by the patristic consensus? If so, what is the catena of patristic quotations upon which you base this belief? If not, which precise statement of the Tridentine teaching under discussion can you be rejecting as false?

And now for another attempt at an olive branch. While I reject the same statements Trent rejects, I affirm a Christian doctrine of assurance in the following way. One's own salvation, or more precisely the absolute certainty of it, is never in itself the (propositional or factual) object of Christian faith. However, a practically or morally certain knowledge of salvation, of being in grace, is an accessible and natural fruit of living faith. This knowledge is gained through the inner inspiration and the experience of communion with God that is of the essence of living faith, but is gained in conjunction with reflection on other fruit of faith in one's life (cf. 2 Corinthians 13:5, James 1:22f). So, there is a legitimate sense in which saving faith is self-authenticating as to its saving nature. On the other hand, it is not true that it “rests on that alone” (to quote Trent) for its assurance, but that it “feeds on” the covenanted effectuality of the Sacraments and the confirmation of outward good works.

Fr Matthew Kirby said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Compare this to what Aquinas taught (P(2a)-Q(112)-A(5)): 'by revelation ... anyone may know that he has grace, for
God by a special privilege reveals this at times to some
... anyone may
know he has grace, when he is conscious of delighting in God, and of
despising worldly things, and inasmuch as a man is not conscious of any
mortal sin. And thus it is written (Revelation 2:17): “To him that
overcometh I will give the hidden manna . . . which no man knoweth, but
he that receiveth it,” because whoever receives it knows, by experiencing a
certain sweetness, which he who does not receive it, does not experience.
Yet this knowledge is imperfect; hence the Apostle says (Corinthians
14:4): “I am not conscious to myself of anything, yet am I not hereby
justified,”
'

Personally, I wonder whether Aquinas may have overstated the difference between knowledge by revelation and knowledge by inward and outward signs of grace, and thus underestimated the commonality of the former.

Pax et bonum,

MK+

Fr. Robert Hart said...

What Aquinas wrote in that portion of his giant corpus, is really very much the same as what we have in Article XVII. Of Predestination and Election.

"As the godly consideration of Predestination and our Election in Christ is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons and such as feeling in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh and their earthly members and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal salvation to be enjoyed through Christ, as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God: so for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God's Predestination is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the devil doth thrust them either into desperation or into wretchlessness of most unclean living no less perilous than desperation."

These things state what ought to be obvious: If we have faith and are certain that we are not engaging in willful sin, knowing also all known past sins to have been confessed, repented of and forgiven, we may take great comfort in the will of God, revealed by Christ and in Christ, that we are saved.

It is the duty of every Christian, because we are commanded to love God, and because we know that His will is our salvation in Christ, to be certain at all times that we are in a state of grace. It is possible, and it is required.

RC Cola said...

Furthermore, it is precisely because the term sola fide has become for many a caricature of itself, or a slogan, that it is worth spending the time to define what it actually meant. This is necessary inasmuch as we have the words "justified by faith only" in Article XI.

Very fair statement, Father. My objections were not so much to the essay itself as to some of the post-essay comments. The essay itself was worth the read and it is worth re-reading as you suggested.

Anonymous said...

Jesus, thy blood and righteousness
my beauty are, my glorious dress;
midst flaming worlds, in these arrrayed,
with joy shall I lift up my head.

Bold shall I stand in thy great day;
for who aught to my charge shall lay?
Fully absolved through these I am
from sin and fear, from guilt and shame.

When from the dust of death I rise
to claim my mansion in the skies,
even then this shall be all my plea,
Jesus hath lived and died for me.

Jesus, be endless praise to thee,
whose boundless mercy hath for me--
for me! a full atonement made,
an everlasting ransom paid.

O let the dead now hear thy voice;
now bid thy banished ones rejoice;
their beauty this, their glorious dress,
Jesus thy blood and righteousness.
(Count Von Zinzendorf, 1739, translated by John Wesley,1740)
LKW

poetreader said...

Thank you, Fr. Wells, for bringing forward these familiar and profound words.

I suspect that this hymn can be fervently affirmed by all the contributors to this thread, whatever their theological camp (it certainly should be), and if this be so, the shadings of our view of how this all works become rather insignificant.

We can wrangle endlessly over the way in which we express these truths, and over the details of belief that we derive from them, but ultimately it all rests upon His work, given in grace and received by faith, by which we attempt to live.

ed

ed

Anonymous said...

Ed writes:
"I suspect that this hymn can be fervently affirmed by all the contributors to this thread, whatever their theological camp."

If words have meaning, and if we are theologically serious in what we have said, I do not see how this could be the case. Why do we not allow the various paticipants to speak for themelves, Ed, rather than just proclaiming a unity which may not be there?

Ed calls this hymn "familiar." But it is not to be found in the American Church Hymnals of 1916, 1940, or 1982, nor in the English Hymnal (either original or "new") nor in Hymns Ancient and Modern. It is, however, found in Lutheran, Presbyterian and Methodist, set to "Gardiner," No. 498 in Hymnal 1940. This gap in our hymnody I believe reflects a spiritual emptiness in certain quarters.

The words are indeed "profound," but reflect a theology of grace which seems to be terra incognita to one or two participants here. But I all participants could join in affirming this or similar hymns as statements of correct theology and sound doctrine, I would REJOICE in being proved wrong.
LKW

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Fr Wells,

There is little difference in the final analysis between this hymn and that great Sequence of All Souls Day, Dies Irae. The verses below are the key to the latter.

"What shall I, frail man, be pleading?
Who for me be interceding,
when the just are mercy needing?

King of Majesty tremendous,
who dost free salvation send us,
Fount of pity, then befriend us!

Think, good Jesus, my salvation
cost thy wondrous Incarnation;
leave me not to reprobation!

Faint and weary, thou hast sought me,
on the cross of suffering bought me.
shall such grace be vainly brought me?

Righteous Judge! for sin's pollution
grant thy gift of absolution,
ere the day of retribution."

Similar words may be found in the Western tradition of Catholic mystics.

There is a difference of tone, with the Wesleyan hymn coming from the attitude of boldness of Romans 8:31f and Hebrews 10:19, the Missal's hymn from the attitude of "fear and trembling" of 2 Corinthans 5:10-11 and Philippians 2:12. Both have their place in healthy spirituality.

The only thing I might object to in the hymn is not actually in the hymn itself. But there is the possibility that people might be encouraged to sing it who know nothing of the other aspect of the truth, who do not understand the need, implicitly assumed in the hymn, for the living faith that includes true contrition. In other words, if this was the only soteriology they knew, it might encourage presumption among the shallow. It might also encourage the misconception, if used in isolation, that the judgement of Christians is not affected at all by the principles of Mark 9:49, the Corinthian citation above, and 1 Corinthians 3:12-15.

I still do not know your answers to the questions I asked earlier, Father.

Pax et bonum,

MK+

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

By the way, the Hymn of von Zinzendorf is no. 523 of the (Canadian) Book of Common Praise, a primary authorised hymnal of the ACC from its beginning.

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

I also agree with Fr Hart's comment regarding Aquinas and the Articles and what is in fact "the duty" of every Christian. His comment seems a perfectly Anglican and Catholic way of viewing assurance.

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

One more thing, Dies irae is no. 70 in the same Book of Common Praise. Who wouldn't be Anglican Catholic? :-)

Anonymous said...

"I still do not know your answers to the questions I asked earlier, Father."

Did you have "questions"? I got lost in
your ocean of words and gave up reading. But I am still wondering about a question I earlier addressed to you: If your reading of Trent is correct, then why have so many people been so terribly wrong for so long a time? If you had been around in the 16th century, could your explanation have helped them mend their differences?

You are, however, insightfully correct in your comparison of the Zinzendorf hymn with the Dies irae. The Dies irae asks the question and offers the answer which the Reformation itself dealt with.
I have made the same pount in conversations with RC's, many of whom did not know of the Dies irae.
LKW