So I'll go
I would hate my disappointment to show
In the midst of heady, enthusiastic (if not Enthusiastic) responses to Rome's big offer, it seems necessary for someone to have the bad manners that it takes to remind people of classic Anglican disagreements with Roman doctrine. Or so some of the comments to my recent post, Thanks, but no thanks, indicate. And, although it should not be necessary to remind readers of this, the classic Anglican position is not to be found in the multitude of "spirituality" choices currently on the official Canterbury Anglican Communion menu. Neither the perpetual adolescents at Stand Firm, the way out liberals of the modern Broad Church ("Broad" as in 1940s movies- effeminate, with broads at the altar) which includes as well the "sacramental" buggery party, nor the fussy Anglo-Papalists, embrace classic Anglican doctrine. Rather, all of these people live by the humorous lyrics in another Beatles song: "I dig a pony, Where you can celebrate anything you want." Their "Anglicanism" is all made up in their own heads, and mutually affirmed in their own circles just enough to complete the process of deception with confidence. It began with that famous lie, "Anglicanism has no distinctive theology."
Of course that is a lie only when the sentence is incomplete. It is supposed to end with the words, "but only that of the Catholic Church." How often we have repeated on The Continuum those words, under our blog title, Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est. How often we have reminded everybody that the goal of the English Reformers was to restore the full Catholic truth that had been lost by overmuch carnal and demonic "Doctrinal Development." By English Reformers, I mean the men who took up the pastoral challenge to reform the teaching and practice of the Church of England. I do not mean Henry VIII, whose only goal was to rule without interference. It is telling that in his announcement on Tuesday (Oct. 20, 2009), Cardinal Levada did what Romans always do: He laid the whole English Reformation on Henry, as if there was no Bloody Mary between Edward and Elizabeth, and as if there were no Cranmer, no Hooker, etc. who wanted to teach sound doctrine to the salvation of souls.
If ever we would see genuine Reunion in the Church, then ill mannered men like me will have to be given our say first: That is because real unity can have a chance only if it is to follow sincere discussion about theology, inasmuch as Christians must never divorce themselves from conscience and from love of the truth. Frankly, we have so much in common, that overcoming these theological differences is worth the effort. Therefore, it is necessary to state the differences that remain between us and Rome. Differences that are merely those of custom and ethos are important, but here we shall discuss the heavier matters of theology.
1. The papacy.
If we believe in the Universal Consensus of Antiquity then we cannot accept the magnified role of the bishop of Rome. Simply put, we believe in the Conciliar authority of the bishops of the Church, not in the Roman doctrine of Papal Universal Primacy (Before someone lectures us in comments, yes, we do understand the Roman doctrine: We do not agree with it).
2. Teaching authority.
Related to point 1, we believe that all doctrine must be thoroughly documented by the standard of Universal Consensus and Antiquity, and must come from the revelation of God in Scripture as its source. Rome claims to believe this too, but in practice they have relied instead on a flawed concept of Newman's theory of Doctrinal Development. Therefore, they have created "dogmas" such as the full blown Medieval theory of Purgatory and its related errors (which we will address), and have felt free to make dogmas out of pious customs, namely the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, requiring them as necessary to salvation even though they cannot be proved by Holy writ (see Article VI).
The Gospel cannot be preached truly unless we believe that Christ's sacrifice alone is all that is needed to take away human sin. Rome does teach this in their Catechism of the Catholic Church, but on the same exact page they restate their belief that the merits of the saints can be applied by the Church to remit human sins.
May I suggest that this apparent self-contradiction is because Rome confuses Tradition with precedent? The burden of having to keep every doctrine ever taught, instead of weighing truth against error by the standard of Scripture with Universal Consensus and Antiquity, creates a disability that hinders direct and powerful proclamation of the Gospel. They want to proclaim that Christ's sacrifice alone is full and sufficient, but they are in bondage to a Medieval error that ought to be tossed out. This is no small matter. It must be thoroughly discussed and cleared up.
"Article XIV. Of Works of Supererogation.
Voluntary Works besides, over and above, God's Commandments, which they call Works of Supererogation, cannot be taught without arrogancy and impiety: for by them men do declare, that they do not only render unto God as much as they are bound to, but that they do more for his sake, than of bounden duty is required: whereas Christ saith plainly, When ye have done all that are commanded to you, say, We are unprofitable servants."
"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ...For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement." (Rom. 5:1, 7-11)
Saint Paul taught very clearly that justification comes by God's grace, because he does not hold the sinner guilty; not only is the sinner forgiven, but all sin is forgotten; it has been taken away. Justification leads to sanctification, but the justification of the ungodly that comes through faith is immediate, not a process inasmuch as mercy can have no process that delays its full effects.
"Article XXII. Of Purgatory.
The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping and Adoration, as well of Images as of Relics, and also Invocation of Saints, is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God."
Nonetheless, we must be unhindered in our efforts to preach the Gospel. The doctrine condemned in Article XXII was an elaborately constructed teaching about how individuals may earn credits, may receive pardons based on merits of the saints, and be granted a shorter sentence in Purgatory. Indeed, the whole emphasis of complete repentance and genuine faith, so as to be restored to fellowship with God in this life and the in the age to come, was lost. The realization that Christ had offered himself once for all (Heb. 10:10) was lost. Instead, people performed works to lessen the time of temporal punishment, an entire concept that is alien to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, contrary to Scripture, unknown by the Fathers, indeed, "repugnant to the word of God." And, the whole idea of long sentences in Purgatory contradicts the clear teaching that Christ will come again, and that "the dead in Christ shall rise first." (I Thess. 4:16) For, in that whole crazy system, sinners working off their sins will always have time to serve in Purgatory, and so Christ could never return. The time would never be right.
In short, it is a damnable heresy that denies the Gospel. Furthermore, it calls into question Christology.
Our Book of Common Prayer draws from the Epistle to the Hebrews and from the First Epistle of St. John to give us this powerful proclamation in our service of Holy Communion (all of which is edited out of the "Anglican" Use Rite approved by Rome-for no good reason):
(Using the version as it appears in the American , Episcopal Prayer Book, edition 1928)
"ALL glory be to thee, Almighty God, our heavenly Father, for that thou, of thy tender mercy, didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the Cross for our redemption; who made there (by his one oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world; and did institute, and in his holy Gospel command us to continue, a perpetual memory of that his precious the death and sacrifice, until his coming again."
That the "Romish Doctrine of Purgatory," with all of its related errors, calls into question the Christological truth drawn from Scripture and well defended at the Council of Chalcedon, should be easy to understand. If anything needs to be added to Christ' sacrifice* then we lessen his Divinity. The death of Christ is not full, perfect and sufficient ultimately because of the intensity of his suffering, but because of the Divine nature of his Person. The Man who is also the Word made flesh, the one who is complete in two natures, the Eternally Begotten Son who is of the same substance of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten not made, has taken time into his eternity, created nature into his uncreated being, and mortality into his immortal Person. The Person who is both God and man suffered and died. He was sinless, holy and righteous as the Lamb without spot, and he was God the Son, like the Lion who appeared as a Lamb that had been slain (Rev. 5:5,6). How could the death of the sinless one be less than redemptive; and how could the death of the one who is fully God and fully man be less than full, perfect and sufficient? The cross saves us from all sin and from death because of the Divine Person who died there. If we claim to need anything else, are we not denying that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh? (I John 4:1f)
This may spoil the party, but before we can enter into real unity, we have genuine work to do.
* I fear someone may think that St. Paul's words contradict my point: "Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church." (Col. 1: 24) St. Paul was not setting forth his sufferings as adding to Christ's atonement, but identifying his sufferings with those of his Lord, as all true disciples may, and trusting that those sufferings were all serving a good purpose in the hands of God.