Tuesday, August 02, 2011
Fr. Wells has gone to France for almost two weeks of travel beginning this past Sunday. We plan to resume the series on the Thirty-Nine Articles when he returns. We will continue to use the same pattern in our joint effort.
Why the Articles?
Both of us answered this before we got started, as the opening posts of the series explain (see the link on the right near the top of this page). And yet, because the question comes up now and again, I am prepared to say just a bit more in addition to the two prologues, one from each of us, in the series. Anglicanism, unlike the Two One True Churches with their highly developed and exclusive theories each about itself, has never been dominated by men who claim for themselves infallibility. So, we do not write to rally, around an English version of an infallible magisterium, some following with a big hoorah. Nor do we wish to exclude other important Anglican writings, and the work of generations that followed the Henrican and Elizabethan Reformers.
But, the Articles happen to be at everyone's fingertips, since all our churches have the Book of Common Prayer. The Articles happen to teach true and sound doctrine that we cannot afford to throw away merely because modern people prefer that to the work of learning both their plain meaning and the historical context that explains their message. And, it seems apparent that above ninety percent of modern people cannot understand that intended meaning without education. In our humble estimation, thanks to the teachers we have learned from, and the fine writing of many wise men, we have been given the credentials and learning this task requires, or we would not bother.
More than that (and I think this is indisputable) the entire episode with Anglicanorum Coetibus intensified something I have been aware of for years. As a publicly known published writer, since before this blog was created in late 2005, I have received over many years a large number of emails and even letters from individuals who had already been lost to the Continuing Church (including the ACC, the APCK, the UECNA, and the ACA/TAC) because they suffered from that same scruple that prompted Dom Gregory Dix to write his famous letters to a layman during the later part of World War II. These individuals left the Anglican Communion churches of their respective countries (in most cases of those who contacted me, that was either the Episcopal Church or the Church of England) because they came to believe what the Church of Rome of teaches concerning Anglican Orders.
Generally, they had been in a Continuing church as a last ditch effort to give Anglicanism one last chance. Instead however, of being given a reason to feel safe, they were taught nothing or very little that was positive about their own Anglican tradition. In some cases the clergy seemed unsure themselves about the value of Anglicanism, and so could not present it as a solid choice. The result is, too many people were quick to believe zealous Roman Catholic proselytizers, and in smaller number Eastern Orthodox proselytizers.
Despite the positive name of the Affirmation of St. Louis, that it affirmed something bigger and older as its basis for authority, and that it was about continuing the same, a significant proportion of our people did not affirm Anglicanism at all. Quite often they seemed far more prepared to convert people to Roman Catholicism, even when not going to Rome themselves. The TAC's Archbishop Hepworth and some of his loyal followers in recent years, have presented a caricature of a larger problem that is still with us.
That larger problem is that a good number of our people have less than sure footing in their own mental assessment of who they are. During the recent unpleasantness many proved all too ready to buy the exclusive claims of the Church of Rome, entirely lacking any apologetic grounding in the full validity of Anglican teaching and practice, as well as orders. I know this type. They come to believe all too easily that Anglicanism lacks a center, lacks gravitas, that it is too undefined and too varied to represent a consistent position on anything.
All of that is utter nonsense of course. But, after seeing the mess of things in the official Canterbury Anglican Communion it seems to make sense in the minds of such disaffected people. Added to that, they have seen the springing up of various new Anglican churches that are, in reality, very contemporary forms of the most revised and modern blend of all that is weak in what today passes for "Evangelicalism" and the Charismatic Movement (and I am not opposed either to real Evangelicalism, or to the essential theological position of the Charismatics), in which the sacraments are not treated with the piety, dignity and sacredness that the Church has always afforded them (indeed, Anglicans more so than any other of the reformed churches). No wonder these people are not aware of the fact that a real, tangible and consistent body of Anglican teaching and practice does exist, and that it can indeed be called authentic; that it can be traced accurately through both the authentic Anglo-Catholics and the genuine Evangelicals of earlier generations (both of whom sought to reform their reformed church), through the Caroline Divines and through the Reformers.
Well, that is where the problem is suddenly encountered by people who have learned just enough to be confused, even if they are terribly sure that they have the whole picture and see it clearly. The Reformers are the most misunderstood generation in our heritage, both by people who identify themselves as their loyal followers and by people who want to dismiss them as heretics. Generally, the new model of Reformed ultra-Protestant extremists who are ever so quick to identify themselves as most loyal followers of such men as Cranmer or Jewel, etc., insist on reading them strictly through the lens of TULIP theology,* a system wrongly attributed to Calvin. But, on the opposite end, unlike the real Anglo-Catholics of the Oxford Movement, especially the men we call the Tractarians, we have seen, as expressed above all in the Hepworth caricature, a modern school that calls itself Anglo-Catholic. It appears that some designate themselves as such merely because they use the Missal, with or without theological convictions. These want to throw away the Reformers, or send them to the attic to be hidden away with their crazy aunt.
The problem with that school of thought is that they assume, as do the extremists on the opposite end of the spectrum, that the writings of the Reformers teach all the same things that modern ultra-Protestant extremists believe. They believe, for example, that Article XXV (the one that always gets trotted out, but never fully quoted) teaches that there are only two sacraments, and forbids reverence for the sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood. But, that is not what it says, and not what it means. Both extreme schools fail to notice terms such as, for example, "effectual signs." That is, they see the word "signs," but not the word "effectual." Both extreme schools fail to see lines such as, in Article XXVIII, "the bread which we break is a partaking of the body of Christ, and likewise the cup of blessing is a partaking of the blood of Christ." They have never learned that "partake" was used by that generation to mean the same thing as "fellowship" and as "communion," all reflecting the Biblical word κοινωνία (koinōnia). More on that is in our archives.
The ultra-Protestant extremists love to throw around their little mantras, including one that was very popular on the internet for a while, that Hooker did not believe in the Divine institution of the episcopate; which only proves that their supposedly learned writers merely glanced ever so superficially at Book III and never made it to Book VII at all (that is, of The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity). Or they assume he had some definition for "bishop" that had no necessary connection to Apostolic Succession, even though no such other definition existed in the Church of England, and therefore none other can be derived from anything he wrote.
One theory says that if Cranmer had lived a few years longer, he would have gone Genevan, and we would have no Book of Common Prayer. That may very well be true, although historians can only deal with what does in fact exist, his life's work as it is; We have to consider the possibility that he was finished his theological travels at the beginning of Edward's reign. But, either way, the theory of Bishop Charles Grafton (April 12, 1830 – August 30, 1912) of Fond Du Lac Wisconsin overrules the whole question. He believed that the reformation of the Church of England was overturned by Queen Mary so that after a fiery trial it would be, as we say today, rebooted and have a restart. It had developed a few dangerous flaws, as it was. That is, he saw Providence at work; and it is the one theory that gets to the heart of the matter above others.
Though none of us would want to live in the sixteenth century and although the Reformers threw away more things than many Anglicans want or need to part with today, their basic reputation needs to be rehabilitated, and the importance of what they taught needs to be defended. It needs to be understood in the context of the times, the specific errors of their own generation that they were forced to combat out of pastoral responsibility to care for the souls of the people under their charge.
The history of catholic doctrines that have long been attributed wrongly to the Reformation era also needs to be explained. For example, some Anglo-Catholics react negatively to expressions like sola scriptura. This is because they confuse its meaning with something that really does demand repudiation, namely private interpretation (as do some on the opposite end, who use it that way and think it right to do so). But, in fact, the term was used centuries before Reformation times (as we have shown, first apparently by St. Thomas Aquinas), and never was meant to suggest that we can throw away the Traditional teaching of the Church; it was always used by men who quoted the Fathers as an authoritative source, and who held firmly to the Creeds. Or, the phrase sola fide is misunderstood to oppose the second chapter of the Epistle of James about works of faith, when it was merely used to express the words of Romans 3:28, that we are not saved by the works of the Law - all very good, very old, very Pre-Reformation era Catholic teaching.
But, the bottom line is this: This one thing stands above all others as what caused most of the conversions of those who have told me their sad tale: Roman Catholic proselytizers proclaim what Rome teaches, that Anglican orders lost validity because the Reformers lost some essential doctrinal orthodoxy necessary to the continuation of valid orders. They believe it was recovered, but supposedly too late. Now, we on this blog have explained many times why this is utter nonsense. You may read various things in our archives, including posts I have written (see "Fr. Hart's essays on classic Anglicanism" here on this page, to the right near the top; for example, you may find it useful to follow the links included in the article at this link). Unless we are willing and able to affirm and defend our Anglican heritage, including the validity and essential catholicity of the Reformers, we will continue to lose people here and there to the Two One True Churches because they will have been misinformed rather than truly educated. Besides, we need that portion of our heritage for the truth it teaches us; we must hold it as part of the big picture of true Christian Faith.
* TULIP stands for a "five point" doctrinal system: 1. Total depravity of man, 2. Unmerited favor 3. Limited Atonement 4. Irresistible grace and 5. Perseverance of the saints (or the elect). To be very brief about it, critics consider point 1 to be an overstatement (but, that is because they think in terms of modern language. The doctrine is actually a very old western Catholic idea). No one criticizes the second point. The third point presents a challenge to orthodox Christology (not to mention I John 2:2 and I Tim. 2;4-6):, but it exists because its defenders wrongly believe it is necessary to combat Universalism, and because they cannot conceive of Predestination without limiting the wisdom and power of God in such a way as to make Providence easy for Him. The fourth point has Biblical foundation in both Testaments.The last point is controversial, but like the others, it was not a new idea invented by Protestants. Calvin's name should not be associated with this system, as his doctrine was more developed and cannot be so easily summarized. As theology goes, the system as such tends toward a simplistic approach to complicated questions.