Sunday, August 24, 2008

Defining the terms

We saw this in a recent comment: "More Roman does not necessarily mean more Catholic." This was in response to my earlier statement: "Low church does not mean un-Catholic." Again we see (as if proof were needed) that Anglicans who are never accused of being both too Catholic and too Protestant, at the same time, need to consider if they have strayed from the via media; that is, if they have turned to the right hand or to the left.

The Left Hand

My observation about Low Church does not apply, of course, in modern Gaffe-Con circles, where the word "orthodox" is spread so thin that orthodoxy itself becomes slender, slight and lighter than air, with a girlish figure. A body that includes Anglo-Catholics and Archbishop Peter Jensen of Sydney Australia, is not embracing High or Low Church, but new animals altogether as yet unnamed by Adam. Dr. Jensen allows "lay celebration" in his diocese, and that is why he doesn't need women's "ordination." He has no concept of holy orders at all, and would have been jailed in England back when a State Church was really a State Church.

There was a time when Anglican Comprehensiveness meant that the worship of both Low and High Churchmen need not lead to division in the Catholic Church- that is, as Anglicans defined "Catholic Church." But, for the Gaffe-Con folks, Low Church means High Church Baptistry, with infant baptism. This is why Dr. Jensen wears the traditional vestments of a Baptist preacher, no doubt. A few years ago he preached a sermon about why sacraments have nothing to do with salvation, which means that he rejected the Anglican Catechism, that short catechism in the Book of Common Prayer for confirmands.

HOW many Sacraments hath Christ ordained in his Church?
Answer. Two only, as generally necessary to salvation, that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord."

"As generally necessary to salvation." That seems clear to me.

The bottom line here is simple. These modern day Anglican conservatives cannot define the terms of debate for us. Their usage of such words as "orthodox" or even "conservative" is entirely unacceptable. They may call themselves Evangelical, Protestant or Reasserter. But, we cannot accept their terms, or discuss doctrine by their definitions.

The Right Hand

The Romeward-Bound Anglicans suffer from an inferiority complex. When Roman Bulldog polemicists beat them up, they come back meekly and beg for more. No wonder they get what they ask for. They should answer the idiotic, nit-picking, historically erroneous, academically embarrassing and theologically inept Bull, Apostolicae Curae with both appropriate laughter and derision, and then quote the factually accurate, scholarly superior and theologically sound Saepius Officio. But, instead, they worry. Perhaps they did not read the Anglican response, or even know about its existence. By the way (attention up in Canada), no Continuing Anglican bishop has any business mentioning the 1896 Roman Bull (I did not make up that word, so don't blame me) unless he quickly mentions the 1897 Anglican Response in the same breath. Let the Romans make their own bad case without giving them help- for crying out loud.

Stop trying to out-Catholic the Romans by their own terms. Don't you know that faithfulness to our own patrimony does that automatically? This is true whether you use the Missal or just the Book of Common Prayer, whether you celebrate in a chasuble or merely a surplice and stole. The religion of Roman Catholicism began at the Council of Trent, and continued to embrace innovations, inventing new dogma like papal infallibility in 1870, and then leaning towards Cardinal Newman's theory of Doctrinal Development out of necessity. That is because their innovations are as obvious as those of Protestant sects. But, real Catholic doctrine, as taught in the Bible, the Creeds and Councils, is what our own church tradition has aspired to all along.

If you want to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary because of your faith in the Incarnation, do so with wisdom, not because you think Rome gets to set the terms. If you want to think about the intermediate state, think Biblically and Patristically, not in terms of "temporal punishment." If you want to teach potential Anglicans use the Offices of Instruction, the Catechism in the BCP, and our wealth of Anglican sources (including modern writers such as the late Fr. Louis Tarsitano, or Archbishop Haverland of the ACC). If you use The Catechism of the Catholic Church you should not need to wonder why your congregation fails to grow, while the local Roman Catholic parish obtains the people you were teaching.


It is not necessary to enter into doctrinal discussion by allowing either the Reasserters or the Romans to define the terms. The scholarship and theology of modern times has no finer jewel than the Anglicanism we continue. It is time for us to define some terms.


Rev. Dr. Hassert said...

Wow. Another one hit out of the park. Thanks again, Father Hart.

(I've effectively stopped work on my own blog to read the wisdom and debates going on here.)

Anonymous said...

Amen and Amen, Fr. Hart. You have restored my hope that perhaps the Continuum does have a chance, if only we get more clergy to think as you do.

We have a true and living faith of which we should be proud.

1928 BCP Supporter

Anonymous said...

"The Continuum" is an oasis of sanity in a church unhinged floundering around in a world gone mad. I can still face life as long as I have the companionship of classical Anglicans, Prayer Book Catholics, old-fashioned high churchmen. Rome and Neo-anglicanism are totally unacceptable in equal degree. The faith that was good enough for John Starke Ravenscroft and William Porcher DuBose is good enough for me.

D. Straw said...

I believe you had said in a previous article, "Protestant is not the opposite of Catholic". You are right. Too many Anglicans have allowed those outside of our tradition to redefine the terms. What we Anglicans have is unique and beautiful... and is a gift to Christianity.

highchurchman said...

Father Hart,


John Evelyn, the 17th, Century Diarist, mentions the New Church of Trent, (a belief I hold,) is that what you are implying?

Or do I put words in to your mouth? In which case I apologise!

Anonymous said...

"They should answer the idiotic, nit-picking, historically erroneous, academically embarrassing and theologically inept Bull, Apostolicae Curae with both appropriate laughter and derision, and then quote the factually accurate, scholarly superior and theologically sound Saepius Officio."

Now see when I talk like that I often get criticized for being: "insensitive", "not affirming","reactionary" and even "a bully".

Fr. Hart what a great piece! I am still grinning and nodding in the affirmative. If this apologetic par excellance were to be graded by the older Olympic methods my card would display a loud "10"!

Fr. DeHart, ACC

Anonymous said...

"But, real Catholic doctrine, as taught in the Bible, the Creeds and Councils, is what our own church tradition has aspired to all along."....I can't understand this....considering that the Bible is not the foundation for Jesus' Church....are you saying that it is??

Canon Tallis said...

Excellent and superb as usual. Now if we could only get living, breathing Anglican priests from the sort of self destructive public behaviour that tells people that they don't really believe in classical Anglicanism but in something much closer to either Rome or Geneva.

I don't know about anyone else, but I would like to see real prayer book Anglicanism grow to be one of the major Churches in this country, but that will never happen until the bishops decide to be real Anglicans and to only ordain men who are committed to real Anglicanism. We have got to stop being an advertisement for either the Roman Church or the heirs of the continental "reformers."

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I want to respond to Diane's comment.

"Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone."-Eph. 2:20

"By revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, hereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit." - Eph. 3:3-5

Other than scripture, where do we see the actual words of the Apostles and Prophets? Your apparent low view of scripture indicates that you have not read the catechism of your own church.

Anonymous said...

I second Albion Land's nomination of Fr. Hart for the website "Canon in Residence."

* * * * *

"Use the Missal. Don't get used by it."


Fr. Robert Hart said...

Highchurchman asked:

John Evelyn, the 17th, Century Diarist, mentions the New Church of Trent, (a belief I hold,) is that what you are implying?

Not implying, rather forcefully affirming.

Canon Tallis said...

I wonder just what it was that Diane considered the foundation of Jesus' Church? Without the Old Testament and the New as interpreted by the "earliest bishops and Catholic fathers" in the their writings, the Creeds and the Councils, what would we have? Oh, there would be the Church, but without a constand and continuous resort to the wells of Holy Scripture think of what heretical turns it would have taken.

Whenever the Church has needed reform - and in some places it has needed a great deal more reform than in others - it has always been a new generation of men informed by the demands of the totality of the Bible who have managed to lead others back to the Lord. I remember a Romanist family of my childhood that was afraid of reading the Bible because their priests had told them that they would misinterpret it. And they might have, but it is far more likely that they would have found that what our Lord taught and Rome commanded were frequently two irrecconcilable things.

I prefer my Gospel to come from those who learned it from His lips and who touched His wounded hands and side rather than those who run from the commands of the spostles and evangelists.

One additional thing: The Anglican Cleric should not be neglecting his own blog. Reading what is posted here and joining the debate may be joyous, but the Continuum needs all of its teachers pushing the insites which come to them from the common treasury. Please remember our Lord's parable of the talents.

I hope I said that nicely enough.

Anonymous said...

I'm simply saying that it is the Church, not the Bible, that is the pillar and foundation of truth...since it was a Church and not Scripture that Jesus left us to guide us after He ascended into Heaven.

The Church existed before the New Testament and is the Church that gave us it.

Regarding the priest who cautioned his Catholics not to read Scripture...he was partially should only be read in light of the official Catholic intepretation of it, since that is the only one that is correct. Reading Scripture without it's official interpretation has lead to Christian division, heresy, acceptance of sin, is the very reason that your Anglican Church is in such disarray.

poetreader said...

it is the very reason that your Anglican Church is in such disarray.

Actually, Diane, that's entirely false. The reason "our" Angl;ican Church and (what I presume to be) "your" Roman Church are BOTH in such disarray is the same reason -- because people have refused to pay attention to either Scripture or Tradition.

Having said that, it is entirely true that Scripture is never alone. It belongs to the Church toi be read in the Church, in the light of what countelss generations of Christians have found there. It indeed is Tradition that God used to bring the Scriptures into being and establish them as a Canon, but He did so in order that Tradition iiself could be brought under judgment and anchored in immutable truth, fossilized, as it were, in a book. The interplay is crucial, which, if you troubled to read what Fr. Hart has actually said, instead of simply looking for things to oppose, you would find him to be saying as clearly as anything can be said.


Anonymous said...


You are correct, and in accord with Anglicanism. This why Vernon Staley in his classic, catholic Anglican catechism states that our rule of authority is the Scripture in the sense that it has always been understand by the ancient orthodox-catholic Fathers.

Of course, as criticism, we note that Dean Staley omitted to note that ancient, unbroken liturgical custom can also be a source of authority, but I doubt that he, or any other orthodox-catholic minded (i.e., "authentic") would deny this.

So yes, Scripture-in-Church is the true witness to the Apostolic Faith. Those that cannot be "proved" therefrom may be true, may even be held as pious, probably opinion, but cannot become dogmatic in the sense that it must believed or professed as necessary for salvation or membership in the Church.

Anglicanism developed this in the peculiar formula, which I believe is substantially the same in meaning as Eastern formulas, to defend against Papal inventions.

John Dixon said...

In an interview on C-SPAN that aired earlier this month, Pelosi was asked about how some church officials have raised objections about whether former presidential contenders — such as Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) — should receive communion.

Pelosi, a Roman Catholic whose district includes most of San Francisco, said she has not encountered such difficulties in her church.

“I think some of it is regional,” she said, “It depends on the bishop of a certain region, and, fortunately for me, communion has not been withheld and I’m a regular communicant, so that would be a severe blow to me if that were the case.”

Here is a good case of the failing of the RCC to teach it's most privileged and high profile members their own Catechism or to read the Bible. Perhaps if the speaker or any other RC in politics had read the Bible or were encouraged to read them they might understand what Christianity is.

John Dixon said...

I would also like to point out that the recording of the Gospels and the Epistles came after they were spoken but so what? The Word was being preached from the beginning- so how do we say or infer the Church preceded the Word? The point was to record for posterity what was said from the beginning. The pillar of Scripture- the Word, is not different from the pillar of the Church. They are one the same as the Church cannot teach without the Scripture anymore that the Scripture could be rightly interpreted outside of the Church.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Diane wrote:

...since it was a Church and not Scripture that Jesus left us...

In 2000 this was released with Papal Imprimatur by Pope John Paul II: "These books have God as their Author"- The Papal document Dominus Iesus on the subject of Holy Scripture.

Actually, Jesus did give us scripture, since you cannot separate the Living Word from the Inspired word breated by the Holy Spirit through holy writers. He gave it through the Church. It is not one or the other, and your apparent low view of Scripture still indicates to me that you need to read the relevant portion of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states the matter in a very solid (and very Anglican) way.

Anonymous said...

From Diane:

"The Church existed before the New Testament and is the Church that gave us it."

Here is a familiar attempt to drive a wedge between Church and Scripture, a practice which many RC's and most fundamentalist Protestants have in common. RC's argue along this line at the expense of the Scripture, Protestants do so to the denigration of the Church.
But it's the same error, no matter how it's cut and sliced.

The Jesuit Fr Tavard wrote a great book, "Holy Writ and Holy Church" developing the idea of the "coinherence" of the two. Notice the order of Scripture and Church in his title.

What bothers me most in this quote from Diane is its implicit Marcionitism, the early form of Gnosticism which wished to throw away the Old Testament. While the Church, in a limited way, was chronologically prior to the NT, the Church had the OT Scriptures in her arsenal from the first Pentecost, just as Our Lord began His public ministry in the Nazareth synagogue by opening the Isaiah scroll. So the Church has NEVER (I'm shouting, in case you are deaf) been without a Bible.

As for the chronological priority of the Church over the NT, well maybe we should take a good hard look at that common assumption. When you get right down to it, there is no evidence at all for a period of "oral tradition" between the Gospel events and Gospel writing. Like a flat earth, that has been assumed so long everybody consents to it. But a Presbyterian scholar, James Jordan, has argued that when the Church suddenly had 3,000 converts on one day, whom they promptly baptized, they needed a catechetical textbook for these people to study. Matthew, a man skilled in record keeping, was set to work right away, in the summer of AD 30. This is shockingly at variance from what we were taught in seminary, but it is no less improbable than what passes for NT scholarship. So if the Church was chronologically prior to the NT, it was prior only by less than a couple of generations. The difference in antiquity is minimal.
And if Diane wishes to pursue that line of argument, she needs to explain the virtual silence of the NT concerning the authority of the magisterium.

Anonymous said...

Diane, I think you have confused us with the extreme protestants who ignore Christian history prior to the 16th century and read the Bible in a vacuum. We don't do that. And if we really did, I'd wonder why you were wasting time reading this blog. I have myself used the 'and who was it decided which books were in the Bible and which were not?' argument to impress on such people that the Bible is the Church's book.

Eric Mascall once observed that Scripture and Tradition were one and the same until about the 12th century. That, I think, is pretty much the attitude we take.

I once read a Roman Catholic comment on a blog explaining that the reason women couldn't be ordained was to do with Tradition, which was additional to Scripture. He was wrong: the priesthood of the Church is prefigured by the all-male priesthood of the OT as much as by the particular ministry of the all-male Apostles (unless you take a very strained alternative reading of the Greek). Tradition was entirely consistent with Scripture in this regard, as it should always be. He was also wrong in his method--he should have got to know Scripture before pronouncing on what was or wasn't in it.

As to the priest who warned the people not to read the Bible: prior to Vatican II, he was probably doing the right thing by his earthly masters; post Vatican II he would definitely be doing the wrong thing.

Anonymous said...

For eons, people were living proper Christian lives and going to Heaven having never read or had a Because they were in Church and living the faith they learned from the Church.

You all trust the CC to have been guided by the Holy Spirit to give us the NT but not to interpret it?? That makes no sense.

As we can see, many thousands of christian denominations exist, all with the same 'instruction manuel', yet the NT alone has not united Christianity. We also can see that no written work can interpret itself...even the NT shows us that we must have guidance in reading Scripture (Acts 8)...but whose guidance? How do we determine who or what institution gets the honors for our official interpretation? Obviously the one that gave it to us...the CC.

In the end, the buck has to stop somewhere and nowhere outside of the CC does any other christian denomination have the structure to have the buck stop somewhere. Even the various orthodox churches, we all agree have valid orders and sacraments, is showing signs of this same problem, not having called any church-wide councils, supporting stuff like remarriage, contraception, not having evangelized the world as Jesus instructed, etc.

For those that think the CC went wrong somewhere, I guess you are saying that Jesus lied when He said that His Church would be guided by the Holy Spirit and thus, can not succumb to error.

Fr. Robert Hart said...


You confuse the Roman Catholic denomination with the Catholic Church. These two are not exactly the same, and the same Catholic Church of the Creeds and Scripture is our Church too. Furthermore, right up through the Medeival period, the people turned out in large numbers to hear their favorite preachers, and the subject of that preaching was the content of scripture.

For those that think the CC went wrong somewhere, I guess you are saying that Jesus lied when He said that His Church would be guided by the Holy Spirit and thus, cannot succumb to error.

Actually, he promised that the Spirit of Truth would guide the Apsotles into all truth, which we can interpret to include the Successors, especially the holy Fathers who gathered in Ecumenical Council during the millennium of greater unity, before the Bishop of Rome created division by trying to annex the other Patriarchates.

But, about the Church St. Paul warns: "For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you." I Cor. 11:19

If error cannot create serious trouble in the Church, explain all the New Testament warnings about false teachers, false prophets, seducing spirits, doctrines of demons, the spirit of error and of Antichrist. One sure way to invite all of those problems is to hold a low viewe of scripture.

Why you think that a low view of scripture is shared by the pope and the magisterium is beyond me. I still recommend dusting off your Catechism of the Catholic Church and reading the part about scripture. In trying to argue with us about this, you argue with Rome as well.

Anonymous said...

"For eons, people were living proper Christian lives and going to Heaven having never read or had a Bible.."

Diane, you are confused and misinformed in your church history.
For years Protestants have put out the falsehood that the Bible was unknown before Luther translated it.
The evidence is otherwise. The sheer violume of Biblical manuscripts available in Luther's time is good evidence that the Bible was widely read and well known in the middle ages and through the first 1500 years of Christian history, despite the problems of the break-up of the Roman Empire and unsuing "dark ages." Luther was not the first to translate the Bible, as "Catholic" apologists will quickly inform you. The number of Biblical allusions in Chaucer and other mediaeval writers is evidence that the Bible was widely known. So your statement just does not stand up to the facts.

Anonymous said...

Fr Hart: have you ever noticed the way that pseudo-Catholicism and Protestant revisionism overlap?

poetreader said...

for Diane, a gentle word of advice.

Even scholars can sometimes be in error, and it's not a bad thing to question their conclusions, but, if you intend to pick a fight with scholars, you need to have the background knowledge to do so. Your comments make it obvious that you have only a surface understanding of what your own church teaches and very little understanding of the history involved. When you have a fuller understanding of these two areas, you may still find grounds to dispute with Fr, Hart and others, but I'm afraid that isn't the case at this time. I really don't like to see good people making themselves look foolish without even knowing it.

It's an honorable thing to be loyal to one's church, but it's not a good thing at all to present it in ways not fully conformable to its own magisterium.


Anonymous said...

Get off of your high horse poetreader. If you think the only dialogue worth having is with those who choose to name councils and dates, your group will remain as it is...small and inconsequential.

Christianity does not have to be complex so stop acting as if only trained theologians can understand it.

The lack of a 'buck stops here' mechanism in Anglicanism will result in continued splintering.

Most importantly, the idea that the Bible and tradition can be interpreted by any group outside of the CC is a hard concept for any to swallow, but is worth swallowing, none the will be better off for it.

Anonymous said...

No one is denying that Scripture is God-breathed...the question was:
What did Jesus leave us to guide us when He ascended into heaven?
The only answer is : The Church. God's gift of scripture came later...compiled by the very Church you all claim is in error.

Other twists to my comments exist. I did not say that the OT was not needed...I simply said that the NT was not in existance at the time of Jesus' ascension...the statement taht Matthew put down stuff in writing for the 3k new converts is ridiculous...

I have no 'low' view of Scripture...I just am amazed when some put it in a place that it was not intended to be. And, I do understand that it does not interpret itself and requires an interpreter...the question is, who or what body has the authority to interpret it?

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Diane wrote:

the Bible and tradition can be interpreted by any group outside of the CC is a hard concept for any to swallow, but is worth swallowing, none the will be better off for it.

Diane, you have written yourself into a glaring self-contradiction. Why would it be "worth swallowing" if you think it untrue?

Anyway, whether your denomination likes it or not, we are just as much a part of the Catholic Church as the pope himself. You may say to us that since we are not a hand, we are not of the body, all you like. We will never agree.

Obviously, you are not addressing the Anglican position at all, that is, our position. Your criticism should go to the Baptists and Presbyterians where the shoe fits. I cannot count how many times I myself have taught that the Scriptures cannot be rightly understood without Right Reason and the guidance of the Tradition of the Church. Since this has been our stated position as Anglicans all along,it is time for you to get the point.

Furthermore, Ed (poetreader) is right. I have been telling you all along to read the part about the Bible in The Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is one part of that big book that we agree with.

the statement taht Matthew put down stuff in writing for the 3k new converts is ridiculous...

That is an interesting theory for scholars to debate; Eusebius records that John wrote his Gospel because the other three were so well known throughout the whole Church of the First Century, that he felt compelled to provide the balance of Christ's most important words and works. I do not think it will be resolved on this blog. I have heard the theory about both Matthew and Mark, that they were written much earlier than commonly supposed, from Protestants, Roman Catholics and Orthodox scholars. The idea that Matthew wrote right away makes sense, because Eusebius records that his first draft was in Hebrew, and written for the Jewish Church.

If you think the only dialogue worth having is with those who choose to name councils and dates, your group will remain as it is...small and inconsequential.

What group is that? So, a small "group" of merely several thousand people is "inconsequential" is it? When Jacob went into Mizraim (Egypt in English Bibles) he was 70 persons. Even when Israel was a million strong, Moses said: "The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people."
(Deut.7:7) Jesus said: "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." (Matt. 7:13,14) There are, world-wide, about as many people in the Roman Catholic Church (and the other churches under the pope) as there are Muslims. Do you see any significance in that number? If so, why?

Anonymous said...

I have left out a word, and I'm sure you could tell...only the CC has the God given authority to interpret Scripture....your 'right reason' is defined by whom or what?? Just like any other protestant group, you want to decide what is 'right reason' and what is not. The CC gave us the NT and they alone have dominion over it's interpretation.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Pope Benedict XVI has correctly invoked Right Reason as a Patristic term, that is, a perfectly Catholic term. Perhaps you consider the great Ratzinger himself to be a Protestant.

You may read all about it on one of my earlier posts.

John Dixon said...

It is always amusing to see a Romanist claim to be the one true church and yet the Eastern Orthodox view them as the first Protestants.

Anonymous said...


I would think the Judaizers would most likely be seen as the first "protestants", but let's not let history get in the way of point-scoring.

-Chris M

Anonymous said...


In these circumstances, the Mass and the rosary are our best bets.