Saturday, February 26, 2011


II COR. 11:19-31

LUKE 8:4-15

The Gospel and the Epistle appointed for this day blend well together when we consider the patience of St. Paul. He endured all things that could come on anyone, and so brought forth fruit an hundredfold. When he began his walk he turned away from the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. In time of persecution he did not fall away; and in his case the time of persecution was lifelong until his death as a martyr. Instead of complaining that God was terribly unfair in leading him through fire and water, he gave thanks that he could suffer with Christ. Paul saw his own sufferings as leading to good, especially emphasizing how God used those very trials to further his evangelistic mission as an apostle. Through those sufferings Paul was able to reach people with the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and his salvation.

He said as much in another epistle, writing to the Church in Philipi these words:

"But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear." (Philippians 1:12-14)

In today's epistle, the long list of things he endured was not written down for the sake of boasting, but to establish that he had credentials that his critics did not have, namely certain false apostles and teachers who were troubling the Church in Corinth. That is, he was not waxing rich or gaining status in the world, and was not living in luxury. To choose to continue with his life of persecution and danger, and great discomfort, instead of going back to Tarsus and profiting from his family's tent-making business (no doubt as suppliers to the imperial army), was a proof that his service was genuine. For that reason, and that reason alone, he wrote those words to the Christians in Corinth, that they would hear him and turn away from the false teachers who taught what the Apostle condemned in the strongest terms, in this part of the same chapter from which today's Epistle was taken:

"But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him." (II Corinthians 11:3,4)

It really does matter who you allow to serve as your spiritual leader, teacher and guide. Our own separate existence as the Anglican Catholic Church in 1978, following the historic meetings in St. Louis and Denver, was due to this very problem: A false gospel, another Jesus, and another spirit which we did not receive (that is, not the Holy Spirit Who we received in our Confirmation). And our Continuing separation is due to the fact that those old errors have remained uncorrected, and have gone from bad to worse. St. Paul is telling the Corinthian Christians that some ministers are called into their vocation by Satan, not by God.

"For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works." (vs. 13-15)

In case anyone thinks this whole thing is all about merely what prayer Book we like better, or what kind of liturgy pleases us, let me make something very clear: The issues are of eternal consequence, not simply matters of taste. Furthermore, with eternity in mind, it is necessary to be in the Church where the true Gospel is taught, where the pure Word of God is preached and where the sacraments are duly administered. That is what matters, whether every detail is to our taste or not. It is not about satisfying our emotions (which satisfaction may come or not come) but about eternal life with Christ as opposed to being forever lost.

It is in the context of St. Paul telling those ancient Christians in the city of Corinth that they needed to follow him, and reject the false ministers of a false Gospel, that he reminds them of his own sufferings and persecutions. I have quoted a few parts of the same chapter that lead to the Epistle appointed for this day. Let me remind you of a little bit of it:

"Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not."

In light of that, once again I want to quote those words from another epistle, the Epistle to the Philippians:

"But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel."

"The furtherance of the gospel" means, of course, the mission of the Church, preaching the word of God to those who have not heard it. That is how the Apostles laid the foundation and built the Church. They built it by preaching the Gospel. I cannot help but be troubled by the thought that we are much too capable of presenting something less than the Gospel.

We must never allow our Faith to become so complicated that we cannot easily and briefly articulate the essential message of salvation that everyone needs to hear. Nor can we afford to be distracted by many pressing matters that, in the end, simply prevent us from serving God. If Satan has beguiled any of our people through his subtilty (and by "our people" I mean Anglicans who are trying to be faithful), it has been by distorting the message or hiding it under a pile of stuff, maybe rubble, or maybe under a pile of beautiful ornate treasures that simply distract us from the real priorities.

There are some places where people don't look forward to church anymore, because they are constantly pressured to join that whole unfortunate ordinariate business. We don't have that problem because the ACC will not allow it (thank God), but we have several members who just managed to avoid all that pressure and trouble by coming here and being welcomed into this parish just in the nick of time. We must not allow anything to so complicate our beliefs that we forget the Gospel, how to preach it with power, with the right kind of simplicity, and with conviction.

Who is the sower, and what does he sow? The answer is in the Gospel reading we have heard today: "The seed is the word of God." So, after Mark's account (4:14) of the same parable, the Lord explains simply, "The sower soweth the word." We all must sow the word. To whom do we sow the Word? Now, that is also important to get right.

What kind of farmer would sow the seed everywhere, on all kinds of ground, the shallow ground of the path, the rocky ground, and among the thorns? The sower in this parable does not seem to be very careful with that seed. He appears to be less than frugal. He seems extravagant, like a spendthrift. But, recall the parable of two weeks ago, the parable of the wheat and the tares. The landowner, representing God in the parable, did not send his servants to uproot the tares prematurely, lest they uproot the wheat as well.

Just as we cannot tell who will prove to be genuine wheat (that is who will actually hear the word of God by the Gospel, and truly repent and believe the message), so we cannot really know into what kind of ground we are sowing. We cannot see who will receive the seed into the good ground of an honest heart, for we cannot see as God sees. It is our task to sow the seed everywhere, as wasteful as that may appear to be.

I have seen parishes and their clergy fall into the trap of looking for P.L.U.--"people like us." Over the years in various churches I have met clergy, and even a few self-appointed lay-sheriffs, who mistake their position for that of a "gatekeeper." They treat potential new members the way insurance underwriters treat new applicants, looking them over to see if they should be approved or not. It is especially troubling when these underwriters and sheriffs purposely drive away people based on churchmanship, whether in the name of Anglo-Catholic High churchmanship, or in the name of pietist Low churchmanship. In truth, there must be room for everyone who is looking for a valid church, just as there must be an effort also to reach even people who are completely unchurched, and to introduce them first and foremost to Christ Himself. We have been commissioned to spread the word to "all sorts and conditions of men." It is not a commission exclusively to "people like us," but to everyone.

The message is simple: "Repent and believe the Gospel." The sacramental life of the Church follows, and we are supposed to bring people into that life; but, before we can do that, we must be willing and able to present the Gospel of Christ. On the Continuum blog we were given a section by the founder, Albion Land, called "words worth reading," with the intention of changing it from time to time. One day I posted these words by William Temple, the 98th Archbishop of Canterbury (1942–44):

"“Evangelism is to so present Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit that men might come to trust Him as Savior and serve Him as Lord in the fellowship of His church.”

I have never been able to replace those words. Maybe someday I will, or another blogger will; but for now I just can't remove them. That is what the sower sows.

The sower presents Jesus Christ as the Gospel reveals Him. He is One with the Father in eternity, born of a virgin to become fully human (while remaining One with the Father as God the Son), Who died on the cross as the spotless Lamb of God to take away all our sins, Who rose again from the dead on the third day, Who appeared to witnesses after His resurrection, and Who will come again in glory. Those who believe in Christ are welcomed into the fellowship of His Body, the Church, to live the sacramental life of disciples.

Now, the purpose of false apostles, and deceitful workers, the ministers of Satan, is to take away this Faith from our own hearts. Failing that, their purpose is to get us so distracted by other things (even things that may seem good or religious), so as to get us "off message," so that we never sow the word to others. The tactics I have seen include:

1. To distort our priorities so that we "major on the minors."
2. To sow discord among brethren, so that we fight each other and squabble about all manner of things (oh, and it's always about something important, in fact so important that people must divide, and maybe even ignore the clear commandment of God- in I Corinthians 5-so as to take each other to court with lawsuits).
3. To simply make us lazy, so that we neglect the House of God.*
4. Or to lead us astray with false doctrines.

All of these things I have seen in my many years, and so have some of you. And, why should we be surprised? St. Paul warns that Satan has his own minsters-indeed, the Devil really does call some people into the "ministry." They are called and appointed, by Satan, to stop the Church so that sowers cannot sow the word.

But the good news is God calls His own servants to lead the way. God has given us the word to sow, just as we are to believe it ourselves and live by it. And, knowing that we are weak, God gives us the Holy Spirit to put His own power within us, with gifts of service in every member of the Body (and I do mean you), so that together we may do His will in this fallen world. And, if we have the Faith that He plants in us by the seed of His word, and if we remain steadfast, anything that may come our way, whether good or bad, will fall out for "the furtherance of the Gospel."
*Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house. Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit. Haggai 1:9, 10

Fr. Wells bulletin inserts


These Pre-Lenten Sundays have unusually distinctive Collects. And in case you are not familiar with the term Collect, this word is the name for brief prayers which sum up or “collect” the private petitions of God's people; that is why there is or should be a slight pause between “Let us pray” and the Collect itself, to allow for the people to pray silently for a moment.

On Septuagesima and Sexagesima, the proper collects strike a solemn, almost sad, tone. Today we pray to be “defended from all adversity.” Last Sunday, we acknowledged that such “adversity” sometimes comes as the “just punishment for our offences.” These two prayers (BCP pages 118 and 120) might well be read together as examples of authentic Christian prayer. Those who learn to pray this way are not instructing God, giving Him good advice, sharing information, or even telling Him how they feel or what they want. They are simply asking to be defended against all adversity and mercifully delivered by God's goodness.

These two collects are among the most ancient prayers in the Prayer Book. They seem to have been composed in the Sixth Century A. D., just after the fall of the Roman empire, at the time when heathen barbarians from northern Europe were moving aggressively into Italy, leaving disaster and destruction in their wake. Whereas the Church had enjoyed a measure of safety and security in the last days of the Roman empire, now the world seemed to be collapsing. It was a perilous time, marked by pestilence, famine and earthquake. “Adversity” was not just a word.

The parallels between that period and our own are striking. Like the Roman Christians of the Sixth Century, we also perceive that our inherited world order may well be slipping away. But here is the great difference: whereas the Christian community of the early Dark Ages understood matters in solidly Biblical terms of God's just judgment on a sinful world, modern Christians seem to have a knack for making excuses and finding others to blame. We point to the liberals (both religious and political), we denounce the secular culture, we find fault with almost everyone and everything other than ourselves.

The Scriptures tells us that Divine judgment begins with the house of God. We are not here to play; the service of God is serious business. We know what God will do with the wicked, but what is in store for the shallow and superficial? Are you ready for Lent?


Today's first reading begins with words of heavy sarcasm, “Ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise.” A modern translation is quite helpful here, “How gladly you put up with fools, being yourselves so wise.” Paul was not paying any compliment to his Corinthian readers. When he called them wise, he meant the very opposite.

These new Christians, not rooted and well-grounded in the Faith, were in danger of being seduced by a substitute Gospel, a false Christianity. In contrast to our easy-going tolerant sort of religion, this for Paul was no small matter. A few verses before our reading begins, Paul had compared them to Eve in the Garden of Eden. “But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Cor 11:3). When the immature Christians in Corinth cheerfully put up with “fools” in the form of false teachers, they were like Eve, falling for the lies of the devil.

Our world, and along with it, the Christian community of our time, have listened to many false teachers. Like the Corinthians, we have “suffered fools gladly,” but we have only proved ourselves to be fools ourselves. We have not been wise.

The doctrinal and moral errors which trouble us are not simple mistakes which we can solve by debate, argument and controversy. They point to something deeply wrong in our fallen human nature. As Paul wrote elsewhere, “they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools....” (Rom 1:21-22).

Ash Wednesday is at hand, when we are solemnly reminded, “Remember, man, thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return.” Those terrifying words are reinforced with a grim ceremony, when our foreheads are disfigured with ashes. But almost always, someone will get the giggles seeing the entire congregation looking so funny. That is not altogether wrong or inappropriate. As we recall our mortality and the shortness of our earthly life, we should know ourselves to be the victims of a dirty trick, a horrible cosmic joke, in which we have been robbed by Satan of our original righteousness, our communion with our Creator, and the gift of eternal life. Our disfigured faces will remind us that the Image of God has been disfigured almost beyond recognition. Ash Wednesday sets us on the process of restoration for that Image.

Satan himself is the ultimate fool, because he wanted to be more powerful than God. In our unregenerate life we indeed put up with him and become foolish like him. May we turn more and more to Christ, who is our wisdom, our righteousness and our peace. LKW

Friday, February 25, 2011

Hep Speak

Those of you who have read 1984 by George Orwell may well remember "New Speak." It fit well with "double think" and the rewriting of history by "minitrue" (short for "the Ministry of Truth"), based on the Oceania government's position that "he who controls the past controls the future." "Hep Speak" combines all of these ideas into one nice package. Defending his best efforts at tyranny and at being a school yard bully, Archbishop Hepworth continues to rave like a drunken man who cannot establish a reasonable premise for his own brand of logic. Every time I see a statement by John Hepworth I see glaring errors of fact, superficial theology at best, and all with the clear intention of destroying the Continuing Church, at least any part of it that he can.

David Virtue, no doubt allowing the Ordinariate club to have just enough rope that they make their true colors visible, has created an "ordinariate" section on VirtueOnline. There, we see a statement by the Australian Primate, a statement in keeping with all that the word "primate" suggests.
Let's look at a few examples of Hep Speak.

"It was agreed that those involved could stay in their own parishes, but under the episcopal jurisdiction of a bishop entering the Ordinariate."

Right. So, now Hepworth proposes that local rectors and diocesan bishops should have to put up with members of respective parishes rebelling against the established church authority at home, answering instead to a foreign bishop in a foreign jurisdiction. They may thumb their noses at rectors and bishops, and create disorder in their own churches, all by pretending to have some legitimacy from some outside authority. Individuals in a parish have been given permission to create confusion and to be destructive. They may thus let all things be done indecently and out of order. In the same statement Hepworth has the temerity to say,

"Christian Unity is not an option for the Church."

Apparently, and ironically, he is saying that he has removed the "option" of allowing a parish to experience its own unity on a local level by asserting himself, in bully fashion. What "unity" is he for, considering that he has attempted in this same document to tear up and divide local parishes?

And, what does he mean by unity? He means that a small number of former Anglicans convert to Roman Catholicism. In no way can that movement, from one denomination to another, unify the Church. And, what good is political unity anyway without charity? What kind of unity is it when it is simply forced on people by some legal status?

"The tragedy of Continuing Anglicanism - and indeed of the Anglican Communion - is the absence of Eucharistic Communion with anyone but itself."

What is that man smoking? That has never been true of the Anglican Communion, and neither is it true of Continuing Anglicanism. We have never forbidden non-Anglicans to receive the sacrament in our churches. But, it is most certainly true that both of the Two One True Churches forbid the sacrament to anyone but their own.
It is tragic that so many people who fled for refuge to a church body, in which they sought refuge according to the Affirmation of St. Louis, have found themselves bullied, lied to, and pressured to destroy their identity by assimilation. Hepworth continues to use his disguise as an Anglican Archbishop, a pretense if ever there was one, to heap insult upon insult to our carefully considered and most deeply held convictions.

He continues to invoke the word "unity" in the most deceptive manner, meaning only that people should betray their own consciences and ignore their beliefs so that they may join another denomination. At the end of the day, when all of the people who plan to swim the Tiber have jumped in, the Church will not be any more unified than it was before. After all, individuals have always gone from one to the other, and that will not cease to be the case.

The good news is, Hep Speak is failing, and his voice gets weaker every day, someday to be forgotten as we have forgotten the words of Alexander the Coppersmith. Soon, this latest threat to our mission as Continuing Anglicans will have passed, and we can concentrate on real unity among ourselves. Then we can get on with our mission, and allow no more idiotic distractions.

That is, once we can actually say with St. Paul, "Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices." II Cor. 2:11

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Not so Divine Comedy...

...of errors

Just when I thought I had heard of every possible mismatch of backgrounds among episcopus vagans (episcopi vagantes in the plural), popularly called vagante, along comes some even more ridiculous concoction of ecclesiastical tossed salad. That is not to say, however, that these vagans folks should be confused with absolute vegetarians (vegens). But, the tossed salads I have seen in the past do include quite a mixture of vegetables. There was my favorite, the Celtic Orthodox Church, headed by some "Abbot" who needed only his Costello to be complete (that would make a great movie title: The Abbot of Costello). The real Eastern Orthodox Church never heard of these jokers, and their "Celtic" authenticity was seriously undermined by their Texas venue, not to mention their modern origin.

Well, now there is a new one: The Anglo-Lutheran Catholic Church (ALCC). One can well imagine the sound of Tallis being sung by the choir while the organist plays the music of Bach, both of which are beautiful when not played together. If Texas Celts can worship in the style of Constantinople, we may certainly enjoy the combination of Wiener Schnitzel served up with Yorkshire Pudding. It all makes a great tossed salad for episcopus vagans--and I don't mean pagans.

It is so much fun visiting the websites of the respective parishes of this unimaginable ALCC, or it might be if only they had any real websites other than a main central one loaded with photos of, you guessed it, guys in collars (or Men in Black). Well, the whole Vagante side dish reminds me of the time when our friend The Barking Toad went after diploma mills that pretended to be respectable seminaries. Any vagante Archbishop in need of a church to match his miter, takes his cue from what the Marines do; he looks to find a few good men. Maybe, if he gains enough converts, or new members, by offering them ordination (when no one else would) he might, some day, have a real church, maybe even a real stained glass window--you know, one of those essential things that constitutes a mark of the True Church.

Well, in case you thought the name "Lutheran" was a mismatch with the name "Anglo" (and gee, thank God they did not say "Anglican"), never worry. In their eagerness to look legit, and to be respectable, they have thrown Dr. Luther under the Church bus, in fact, under the Coeti-bus. Orlando's tragic blog of comic relief, "The Anglo-Catholic" of misnomer infamy, is rejoicing this day because the Anglo-Lutheran Catholics are trying to get into the whole Roman ordinariate club. So they report:

"On May 13, 2009, The Anglo-Lutheran Catholic Church (ALCC) mailed a letter to Walter Cardinal Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, stating the ALCC 'desires to undo the mistakes of Father Martin Luther, and return to the One, Holy, and True Catholic Church established by our Lord Jesus Christ through the Blessed Saint Peter.'”

It is a comfort to find "Lutherans" whose commitment to Lutheranism is every bit as deep as the Orlando gang's commitment to Anglicanism. A name, what is in a name? An Anglican, or Lutheran, by any other name would smell as feet... in sneakers after a long run. And, not just any run, but a run through a superficial approach to doctrine, so superficial as to make a mockery of the word "convictions." But, among the vagante element, convictions give way to "theology" that suits the mood of the times, and their idea of the latest marketing scheme.

The blog at Orlando goes on to say:

"The letter further stated, 'As we proceed toward the erection of Ordinariates we would invite you, therefore, to make contact directly with Archbishop Wuerl at the following address…' Humbly, the ALCC responded with a resounding 'YES', mailing a letter to Cardinal Wuerl in compliance with the correspondence received from the CDF, requesting to be a part of this wonderful reunification within the Body of Christ."

Translated, of course, what that really means is that Cardinal Kasper had the good sense to pass the buck and wash these fellows out of his hair. "Write to Archbishop Wuerl" means, "It's his problem now, not mine: Whew!"

Of course, just as "The Anglo-Catholic" webmiester, one Mr. Campbell, demonstrates the depth of his integrity by clinging to the name of his choice all the while renouncing the meaning of that name, so these "Anglo-Lutherans" show the depth of their integrity by inexplicably clinging to their own peculiar misnomer. They have the temerity to call themselves Lutherans, but publicly state:

"...the ALCC 'desires to undo the mistakes of Father Martin Luther...'It is with great joy and deep gratitude, therefore, that the Anglo-Lutheran Catholic Church makes known her intention to enter the American Ordinariate under the provisions of Anglicanorum coetibus, and looks forward to serving with all our brothers and sisters in Christ to undo the Reformation."

To undo the Reformation? Well, changing history requires, at the very least, a time machine. In the meantime they might consider acquiring enough honesty, or sanity, to change their name, as Mr. Campbell could change the name of his blog (TASS is no longer being used). They would at least look a bit less ridiculous. "Lutherans" condemning Luther and renouncing the Reformation? Well, one advantage of the episcopus vagans world is that you can believe anything you want, making it up as you go along. In the Octopus' garden of episcopus vagans there are no rules. One may simply play "church" by making a costume from the vestments worn by bishops, priests and deacons. Vagante play their game by dressing up like men who have a real ministry, but they cannot hide their true wannabe condition.

As for the Orlando ordinariate champions; they are so desperate that they have scraped the bottom of the barrel. But, I'll give them this: At least they have steered clear, if only by their western style, of my favorite vagante bishop of all, the "Orthodox" vagante bishop who owns the title, "Shepherd of shepherds, and Master of the Universe." At least I think he owns it. Perhaps it is still under copyright by the Marvel Comics Group.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Laymen's Guide to the Thirty-Nine Articles

Of the Old Testament
The Old Testament is not contrary to the New; for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and man, being both God and man. Wherefore they are not to be heard which feign that the old fathers did look only for transitory promises. Although the law given from God by Moses, as touching ceremonies and rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet, notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the commandments which are called moral.

Testamentum Vetus Novo contrarium non est, quandoquidem tam in Veteri quam in Novo per Christum, qui unicus est Mediator Dei et hominum, Deus et Homo, aeterna vita humano generi est proposita. Quare male sentiunt, qui veteres tantum in promissiones temporarias sperasse confingunt. Quanquam lex a Deo data per Mosen, quoad ceremonias et ritus, Christianos non astringat, neque civilia eius praecepta in aliqua republica necessario recipi debeant: nihilominus tamen ab obendientia mandatorum quae moralia vocantur nullus quantumvis Christianus est solutus.
Fr. Laurence Wells

This Article has its own natural division into two parts.

The Old Testament is not contrary to the New: for both in the Old and the New Testament everlasting life is offered to mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and Man, being both God and Man. Wherefore they are not to be heard, which feign that the old Fathers did look only for transitory promises.

From the morning of the first Whitsunday the Christian community was already graced with a body of Holy Scripture. In his powerful sermon that day (Acts 2:16--35), Peter quoted at length from the Prophet Joel and twice from the Psalms. Most of the books of the New Testament, in fact, quote from the Hebrew Scriptures. Not only is this body of sacred literature quoted, but Divine authority is accredited to it. The author of Hebrews quotes the books which we call the Old Testament under the rubric, "God says" (Heb 1:3,6,13, etc). Paul had in mind what we call the Old Testament when he wrote "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable..." (II Tim 3:16).

Considering the exalted status which the New Testament gives to the Old (all the NT writers were what we might call fundamentalists), it is perhaps startling that early in the 2nd century, when the ink of the NT documents was hardly dry, a heretic named Marcion initiated a significant schism from the Church by denying the authority of the Hebrew Scriptures. Marcion wished to distinguish between a God of wrath and a God of love. (Does this sound familiar?) Marcion's "God of wrath" was the false god of the Hebrew Scriptures, and his "God of love" was what he claimed to find in ten of Paul's Epistles (all save I and II Timothy and Titus) and an abbreviated form of Luke's Gospel. This may well have been the most serious heresy before the advent of Arianism. At least eight Patristic writers were at pains to refute this error.

The Holy Catholic Church firmly rejected Marcion's proposal. We probably should thank him, however, for pushing the mainstream of Christianity forward in the process of setting the boundaries for the New Testament canon. And he brought up a real and enduring problem for Christian thought. If the Old Testament is included in the Christian Bible, what is the relationship between it and the New Testament? How do we relate "Blessed is he that taketh thy children and throweth them against the stones" (Psalm 137:9) to "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not?"

Rejected by the Fathers, the Marcionite heresy did not disappear simply, but went underground. The lingering virus caused a revival amongst the Anabaptists and radical Protestants in the 16th century. (Our study of the Articles must notice once again that the argument of the Anglican Fathers was as much against the radical extremists--Anabaptists and Socinians--as against Rome.)

We must pay close attention to the language of Article VII. The Old Testament is not only equal in authority to the New; it is equally full of the Gospel of grace. The Article confronts the lingering notion that the Old Testament is somehow inferior, primitive, or less than Christian. The two Testaments are absolutely consistent because they have their unity in Christ and in His good news.

How are the two Testaments to be related as Christian Scripture? It is a serious but common mistake to say, "Why of course, the Old Testament is Law and the New Testament is Gospel." That is precisely what Article VII refutes. It is more accurate to understand the two Testaments in terms of promise and fulfillment: what was promised in the Old Testament was fulfilled--made flesh--in the New. Another way to state this relationship is in the categories of shadow and substance. An old jingle, sometimes accredited to Augustine of Hippo, holds that "The New is in the Old concealed; the Old is in the New revealed."

The Gospel was first announced, not in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but in Genesis 3:15, in the form of a curse (!) pronounced over the Serpent, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." Nowhere in Sacred Scripture does the glory of Jesus shine more clearly than in Isaiah's Servant Songs, "Behold my servant shall deal wisely; he shall be high, and lifted up, and shall be exalted."

The Church battled Marcion and has continued that battle to the present time against his disciples, who never seem to go away. Ignorance of the Old Testament and general disinterest in its contents is rampant among many who consider themselves to be paragons of orthodoxy. We continue the battle for the sake of Christ Himself, who said, "Everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled" (Lk 24:44) and, "You search the Scriptures ... it is they that bear witness of me" (Jn 5:39).

Although the Law given from God by Moses, as touching Ceremonies and Rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the Civil precepts thereof ought to be received in any commonwealth; yet notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called moral.

We must sympathize with the reader of the Old Testament who wonders where is Christ, and where is His gospel in large chunks of Old Testament literature. After the excitement of Genesis and the earlier chapters of Exodus, the remainder of Exodus, and all of Leviticus and Numbers is rough sledding. The history of salvation (our salvation!) which began in the Garden of Eden is interrupted and seemingly delayed by a long chunk, tedious to the average reader, of legislation on all manner of topics. This can become manageable if it is broken down into three types of law.

Most conspicuous and most foreign to our culture is the Ceremonial Law, the law of sacrifices and of holiness. This has little relevance to us, for as Hebrews teaches us, it was all fulfilled and set aside in the perfect and final sacrifice of Jesus our Great High Priest. Its lasting value for the Christian is that in the ceremonial law we may learn the seriousness of worship. Worship is not a game for dilettantes; it was and still is the point of contact established by God Himself in His holiness and His otherness for unworthy sinners to have access to Him.

Secondly, we find the civil legislation of God's covenant people living in community in the land of promise. This civil legislation also passed away with the end of the Israelite nation. It remains notable, however, for its note of compassion for the widow, the fatherless, the slave, and the foreigner. The contrast between the law God gave to His covenant people and the law of neighboring kingdoms is frequently remarkable in this regard.

Finally, we have the moral law, summed up in the Ten Commandments and in "the first and great commandment," of love for God and neighbor. Line for line, this moral law is the briefest of the three, but it is the only part of the Torah still in full effect.

The Article is emphatic that "no Christian man whatsoever is free" from this moral law. From the time of Paul himself, a heresy called Antinomianism had developed, alleging that since Christians are no longer under the curse of the law and the law is no means of salvation, we are invited to "continue in sin that grace may abound." The modern form of this error, as we know to our sorrow, is the "situation ethics" popular in the 1960's. But like the error of Marcion, to which it is akin, Antinomianism had re-surfaced in the radical Reformation and to a degree within Lutheranism. In the mainstream of Christianity which we call Catholic tradition, Article VII rules it out of bounds.
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Fr. Robert Hart

St. Augustine, refuting the heresy of Pelagianism, wrote:

This grace hid itself under a veil in the Old Testament, but it has been revealed in the New Testament according to the most perfectly ordered dispensation of the ages, forasmuch as God knew how to dispose all things.

From his words we get the saying, “The New is in the Old concealed, the Old is in the New revealed.” To a degree this is true, and to a degree misleading. It is true because the glory of God shines brighter with the full revelation of Christ in the New Testament. It can be misleading if we think “concealed” to mean hidden away out of sight. The Old Testament reveals the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and it even predicts the establishment of the new Covenant in very direct and explicit language:

Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31: 31-34)

In that passage we see the greater revelation of grace to be given in the Incarnation of Christ, perfected by His death and resurrection. It is not “concealed” in the sense of hidden. Furthermore, it was concealed for several generations only because it awaited the fullness of time (Galatians 4:4).

Speaking, for example, of the Law and the Gospel, St. Paul wrote:

Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. (II Corinthians 3:5-9)

Any genuine contrast between Law and Gospel is not the Old Testament held up against the outworking of God’s plan of redemption. In fact, “the commandments called moral” are just as much “the ministration of death” today as they were in the days of Moses. And, without them we cannot understand the Gospel, inasmuch as we cannot appreciate the Gospel unless and until we know that we have sinned. “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (Galatians 4:24) Therefore, “the ministration of death” is a necessary element of any true presentation of the Gospel in our time also, not only in the time of the Old Testament. Without intelligent appreciation of sin and death, we cannot know what Christ has saved us from.

So, in addition to teaching us how to live, "the commandments called moral” teach us that we need the Savior. Their true meaning is driven home to us with greater severity by the words of Christ in the New Testament than by anything known to Moses and the Prophets. That is what the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew, chapters 5,6, and 7) revealed, a terrifying severity that the Old Testament “concealed” in comparison to the preaching of Christ in the New Testament. But, what the New Testament also reveals, and which it reveals as a historical fact, is God’s establishment of the New Covenant in His Son.

We see clearly the true remedy revealed in its fullness by the bold proclamation that now, by the completed and perfected work of Christ through His cross and through His resurrection, we can point to the greater Passover, effected in real history in and by means of our time and space world of matter. We have been saved from sin and death by what Christ has done. Therefore, our altars have no blood shed on them; and this, altars without bloodshed, makes a stronger statement about the cross than does mere absence of an altar. Our sacrifice is mystical, pointing to the fact already completely accomplished, Christ's once for all offering of Himself fulfilling the typography of the blood-soaked altars of the temple. For, the sight of those altars foretold the salvation that is, on our side of history, fulfilled in Christ, a fact accomplished. They looked ahead to His sacrifice of Himself once offered; we look back to it.

In the Law, and in the Prophets, the Gospel is fully set forth. For example, it is most clearly and thoroughly foretold in the Suffering Servant Passage of Isaiah (52:13-53:12). In that Suffering Servant passage we see the full demands of the Law satisfied, both the justice of that Law (the Torah) by the sentence of death, and the priestly ministry of worship according to the same Law, in the blood of atoning sacrifice to take away the sins of the people. In that passage Christ is the Sacrifice; He is the Sin Offering and the Priest. We see too the resurrection of Christ, for the passage foretells that the one who dies as the true Sacrifice for sin, the One for the many (Isaiah 53:12, Romans 5:15-21), also shall “prolong his days.” (In case anyone misses the point, the New Testament dogmatically applies the Suffering Servant passage to Jesus Christ by consistent and frequent quotations and allusions.)

The Law was not simply about death; rather, the sentence of death, as well as the types and shadows of every sacrifice slain on the altars, was the foretelling of the Gospel. The word “concealed” as Augustine used it, takes on an ironic twist, meaning at once both revelation of truth, but also an enigma, a mystery. That mystery was fully revealed in the Person and work of the Son of God on this Earth, in real history, in our very real world of matter, energy and time.

What Christ taught ever so clearly is that the Scriptures that already had been written, and received by Israel , were all about Him.

And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape. And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not. Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. (John 5:37-39)

Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself… And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. (Luke 24:25-27, 44-48).

The Apostles, and others among Christ’s Disciples, were witnesses of the things foretold by the Prophets. Notice the wording used by St. Luke, who did not say “he expounded unto them all the scriptures concerning himself”--a dash of Psalm 22, a sprinkling of Isaiah 7:14, and 53, and so on. Rather, St. Luke tells us, “He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” This is a remarkable statement. It means that the whole subject of the Law and the Prophets, as well as the Psalms and Wisdom literature, as well as the Prophetic telling of Israel’s history (including things glorious and things notorious), was written to reveal Jesus Christ Himself. If you can pray the Psalms, and read the Writings, but miss the Subject Himself, you have failed to see.

We do not have two canons of Scripture. We have one Canon of Scripture in two Testaments. We need both of them to see Christ clearly for Who he is, and to appreciate the history of our salvation as revealed and accomplished by Almighty God.