Sunday, August 30, 2009

God the Father

I have commented about The New Revised Standard Version of the "Bible" (NRSV) quite critically in previous essays: "In fact the first mistake is in combining the first two verses of Genesis into one sentence, making it seem as if the world may have existed before God’s creation [as follows:] 'In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was without form…' The Hebrew simply does not justify this 'translation.' The first two sentences are not joined in the original. The older 'And, the earth was without form and void...' is literally correct, and it cannot be used to suggest Pantheism." If I erred at all when writing this, it may be in using the word "mistake."

Wrong, yes. That so-called translation (which is in keeping with several new trendy Bibles) of the opening of Genesis is definitely just plain wrong. From years of reading Hebrew, having learned Sephardic Hebrew in the early 1980s in courses offered at a Jewish college in Baltimore, from an Israeli instructor, I can say, without fear of educated contradiction, that the perfect English rendering of the first two verses of Genesis is what we find in the Authorized (King James) Version: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void..." These cannot be combined into one sentence without taking unjustified and excessive liberties. That is because the only honest way to translate these first two verses is as separate sentences, recognizing where the first ends and where the second begins. Nonetheless, just because the trendy renderings are wrong does not mean they are a mistake. I think it more likely that an agenda has been behind this, something quite deliberate.

The ideology of "Inclusive Language" caused problems in the NRSV, most obviously in Malachi 4:6. The deeply meaningful line, "He shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse," is drained of its force. For, the words rendered "fathers" (אָבוֹת ,אָבוֹא both are plural forms of the root, אֲב) are mistranslated as "parents." These forms of the word אֲב (Ab, from which comes Abba) are different only in so far as one is plural and pointing to something- in this case the hearts of the children (or sons, בָּנִים)- and the other is that to which something is directed, namely the hearts of the children. The correct word is "fathers" in both cases, not "parents." The fathers here are the elders, the patriarchs, the prophets, as the New Testament rendering reveals in the only place where we are treated to an angelic commentary on Scripture, "the wisdom of the just." (Luke 1:17) The Proverbs of Solomon speak as highly of a mother's instruction as they do that of a father, even so, respecting a difference in kind. But, in the NRSV, the words of the prophet Malachi lose their meaning because of a modern ideology.

It has never been enough for promoters of "Feminist Theology" to take Inclusive Language only as far as human beings are concerned (which is itself unnecessary and confusing at best). In ways subtle, or at times not subtle, the agenda has been to replace God the Father with a goddess (about which I written before). To teach Creatio Exnihilo, "creation out of nothing," is to teach that God made everything by his Word, that He willed everything that is not God, every nature that is not Divine Nature, into existence, being alone Uncreated and eternal. This is God the Father, by His Word and by His Spirit making all things and giving them life. Against this revelation of Scripture, Feminist Theology teaches a universe equally eternal with God, indeed a universe that is God, in which life comes forth. In many parts of scripture where the active word "made" is found ("without him was not anything made that was made"-John 1:3), newer versions say something passive, such as "came into being." If instead of God the Father we have a Mother Goddess, a universe that is itself one with Divinity, such passive language takes the ideology of Inclusive Language to that ultimate realm of Godhead. Even regeneration is no longer the work of a Father who has begotten His children, so that "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth," (James 1:18) is made passive: He "brought us forth." God the Father becomes a fossil, and a new Mother Goddess, a pagan deity, takes over.

This may be new to western people with a Christian background. But, it is very ancient and has precedents that are rooted in Pagan cultures as diverse as the worshipers of the Ashtaroth and of Kali. To one infant sacrifice was offered, and the other consumes and destroys with demonic violence. Whereas genuine motherhood, as God created it, is about life and even nourishment and care, this demonic sort of Mother Goddess worship has always been about destruction. There is no logic to this, but history proves it to be a kind of demonic theme. Our culture, at the same time in which God the Father has been rejected in favor of increasing tendencies towards Pantheism and a Mother Goddess, has become very much, as Pope John Paul II phrased it, the Culture of Death. With rejection of God the Father and his Laws, compassion, justice and love have been sacrificed with the innocents by abortion, just as young children were burned in the fire to the consort of Moloch, the Ashtaroth. A Divine universe that brings forth life passively, from the resources of its own properties, has no argument to make for the unique meaning and dignity of any individual's life. Ultimately, if there is no God the Father who arbitrarily gives life and creates as He wills, there is no love.

"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light."

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life..."

Certainly, we must make no mistake about that.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sydney "Anglicanism" - the other innovation

Probably, most of our readers are aware of an innovation that had arisen in the Diocese of Sydney before the end of the last century. That innovation is called "Lay Administration," which means Lay Celebration of the Eucharist. It has never seemed necessary from my home in America to spend much time and effort combating the Sydney innovation, because until recently it has been unthinkable that it might spread (perhaps our two Australian bloggers, Sandra McColl and Fr.Kirby, have run into the problem directly). After all, in the official Anglican Communion with the heresy of women's "ordination," several women have come to feel empowered-finally!-having broken through the stained-glass ceiling; and, no doubt, they'll be damned if they are going to share the "power" with just anybody.

However, some of the Sydney "Anglicans" have begun showing up in other spots, including America. Furthermore, a year after GAFCON and its American child (having appropriated a name formerly taken), the Anglican Church in North America, the Sydney innovation may come to be tolerated, helping to make it seem mainstream, conservative or orthodox compared to the Same-Sex heresies. For, sadly, that is how the re-appraisers known as "Reasserters" think: They see error as a matter of priorities that they can number in terms of their importance, rather than as symptoms of revolt against God by rejection of His word as understood according to the Universal Consensus of Antiquity.

The Reapparaisers have no concept of Antiquity, and would have to look up the term "Universal Consensus." They have a Bible, and they have modern teachers through whom they see as much of the English Reformers as those modern teachers care to let them see. Their spiritual and doctrinal epistemology jumps from the close of the first century (just the Bible), to the 16th century with a very brief stay, lest they gather more than they want, directly to the modern era. For absolute authority they have a new version of Sola Scriptura, and it is not the kind first mentioned by Thomas Aquinas, or trumpeted by 16th century Reformers. The new Sola Scriptura is an absolute sola, in the sense of something destitute. In that sense, the Reappraisers finally have no Bible, at least not the Bible recognized by the Church.

Ultimately, the Bible to them must be an original or autographa, an actual manuscript produced by the writers. That is because Scriptura Destitute cannot, finally, trust even so much as the scribes who copied it, inasmuch as discovery of a better manuscript has, theoretically, the power to overthrow the Bible as we know it. If you doubt this, consider that Wayne Grudem actually wrote that if a book were found, and verified to be the work of an Apostle from the First Century, we would have to recognize it as Scripture (apparently, without regard to its content).1 The logic of this must lead, as well, to the opposite conclusion: If a book could be shown not to be the work of an Apostle (Grudem's own dubious standard, inasmuch as no one knows who wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews) it would have to be scratched from the Canon. An obvious problem with Grudem's view is that it places recognition of Scripture in the hands of modern day scientists and their methodologies, not in our trust that the Church has recognized the Master's voice as guided by the Holy Spirit with Universal Consensus in Antiquity (John 16:13, I Cor. 2:16).

Jensen vs. the Church

How does this relate to the Sydney innovation? In every way. To be fair, we may note that Archbishop Peter Jensen wrote a defense of his position favoring Lay Administration and posted in online. 2 In some ways it presents some good ideas that do not need to be disputed, but they always end with a twist that disregards the Reason of Anglican doctrine. At best, his good ideas are half-truths. That is not to accuse him of dishonesty, inasmuch as I cannot doubt that he really believes he is teaching the truth of God's word. The problem is not the direction he seems to be going, but rather, that he does not go far enough in that direction. Nor does he spend enough time paying attention along the way. In other words, he means to go in the same direction that the English Reformers traveled, towards the true meaning of Christian doctrine and practice, the truly Catholic way. However, he does not spend enough time with those English Reformers; he does not hear all that they say, and so he actually contradicts the very Formularies of Anglicanism that he professes to believe.

So, in the end he summarizes his position "in a box," with five points. The first is "1 Scripture is silent on the question as who [sic] may administer the Lord’s Supper."

Once again, this presents the difference between Sola Scriptura, and Scriptura Destitute.

We all know Article VI, which opens, "Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation." The Article lists the Scriptures with the words, "the Canonical Books." Here we run into the genuine Anglican doctrine, because only the Church could have determined the Canon. Anyone who even so much as uses the expression "the Canon of Scripture" has already acknowledged what we call, in Hooker's terms, the Church with her authority, in which both Right Reason and Tradition are, actually, one.3 Here we see that by having a Canon of Scripture, rather than merely a Recommended Reading List, we cannot escape the Vincentian Canon: Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est ("That which has been believed always, everywhere and by all"). In determinig doctrine, the teaching of the Church from earliest times and the Bible are interdependent. To understand the Biblical doctrine on Eucharistic Celebration, we must see the silence of Scripture on this one point as answered by the Universal Consensus of the community in which the Bible was written, handed down, and its various books recognized.

Archbishop Jensen has named Cranmer, Hooker and others, and quoted from the Articles, to try to strengthen his case, which he sets forth clearly:

"It is commonly suggested that the development of lay administration of the Holy Communion is contrary to the very being of Anglicanism. Certainly it would have to be agreed that non-priestly administration would be quite contrary to some expressions of Anglicanism. But the assertion that it is contrary to the ethos of the Anglican Church really speaks for one side of the Church only. It suggests that one particular view of priesthood and of communion, and one only, is of the essence of the Eucharistic theology. Without going into the question of whether there is only one valid opinion, it is empirically true that at least two views have been evident in the Church for a very long time. According to the thinking of one such view, lay administration is impossible. Accordingly to the other view it is possible, although opinions differ as to whether it is advisable."

Whether or not what the Ordinal presents within "the ethos of the Anglican Church really speaks for one side of the Church only," must be weighed by the Rites of Ordination that have been a part of the Church of England and Anglicanism since 1550, with the clarifications of the later editions. 4 So, does he mean that only "one side" believes the Preface to the Ordinal?

"It is evident unto all men diligently reading holy Scripture and ancient Authors, that from the Apostles' time there have been these Orders of Ministers in Christ's Church; Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. Which Offices were evermore had in such reverend Estimation, that no man might presume to execute any of them, except he were first called, tried, examined, and known to have such qualities as are requisite for the same; and also by publick Prayer, with Imposition of Hands, were approved and admitted thereunto by lawful Authority. And therefore, to the intent that these Orders may be continued, and reverently used and esteemed in the Church of England, no man shall be accounted or taken to be a lawful Bishop, Priest, or Deacon, in the Church of England, or suffered to execute any of the said Functions, except he be called, tried, examined, and admitted thereunto, according to the Form hereafter following, or hath had Episcopal Consecration, or Ordination."

To "execute" the office of priest certainly includes Eucharistic celebration. But, to get around "which Offices were evermore had in such reverend Estimation, that no man might presume to execute any of them, except..." etc., Jensen makes this argument:

"3 The priestly role is above all that of pastor of the congregation and cannot be handed over to someone else.

"4 Delegation of the various elements of the role is possible, however, and given developments in ecclesiology, desirable.

"5 The retention of administration of the Lord’s Supper as the only element which cannot be delegated detaches word from sacrament and confuses the congregation about the nature of the sacrament and the priestly role."

Earlier, he had quoted a report by the Australian House of Bishops called Eucharistic Presidency.

"As far as the English Reformation was concerned, the Report says: ‘we find the same heavy stress on the Ministry of the Word in relation to ordination, in line with the continental reformers. In the pre-Reformation Sarum rite, the candidate for priesthood was handed the chalice and/or paten as symbols of priestly office with the words, 'Receive the power to offer sacrifice to God', whereas in the 1552 English Ordinal, the Bible alone is given, accompanied by the words, 'Take thou authority to preach the Word of God, and to minister the holy sacraments in the congregation.’ (para 4.42)"

On which he builds his case further:

"That is to say the two dominical sacraments depend for their life upon the explicit word of Christ and upon the fact that they visibly proclaim the gospel. In particular, the Lord’s Supper focuses us on the death of Christ with the assurance of God’s favour towards us. It is a 'Sacrament of our Redemption by Christ’s death' (Article 28).

"There is an indissoluble connection, therefore, between the word of God and the sacraments indicated by the necessity of the sermon in the service of Holy Communion. It is not 'Anglican' to equate word and sacrament. A non-preaching communion service is a contradiction in terms, where the taking of bread and wine is removed from the context of the preaching of God’s word. It is the word of God which warrants the sacrament and explains it. The communal eating of bread and wine is the outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace, namely the grace of God towards us in Christ and at work in our lives. Despite the current emphases of Eucharistic theology, the emphasis of the Book of Common Prayer (including the Catechism thereof) dwells on the Lord’s Supper as spiritual union with Christ (the refreshment of our souls by the bread and blood of Christ) and the faithful remembrance of what Christ has done on our behalf. What is required of those who come to the Lord’s Supper is that they 'examine themselves, whether they repent them truly of their former sins; steadfastly purposing to lead a new life; have a lively faith in God’s mercy through Christ, with a thankful remembrance of his death; and be in charity with all men' (Catechism of the Book of Common Prayer). Not surprisingly, the ordination service published with the Book of Common Prayer emphasises the priestly role of preaching and living the word of God rather than the administration of the sacraments"

The obvious, glaring problem with his reasoning is that he ignores what the bishop says in even the earliest Ordinal, when Ordering a man to the priesthood:

"Receive the holy goste, whose synnes thou doest forgeve, they are forgeven: and whose sinnes thou doest retaine, thei are retained: and be thou a faithful despensor of the word of god, and of his holy Sacramentes. In the name of the father, and of the sonne, and of the holy gost. Amen... Take thou aucthoritie to preache the word of god, and to minister the holy Sacramentes in thys congregacion[, where thou shalt be so appointed]."

In this earliest Ordinal it is sacramental ministry that identifies the specific Order of "priest" with the words of Scripture, "whose synnes thou doest forgeve, they are forgeven: and whose sinnes thou doest retaine, thei are retained."5

The later editions say the same thing, adding only these words to clarify, for those untrained in the use of Scripture, the specific Order , "... for the Office and Work of a Priest in the Church of God, now committed unto thee by the Imposition of our hands." The words, "be thou a faithful Dispenser of the Word of God, and of his holy Sacraments," and "Take thou Authority to preach the Word of God, and to minister the holy Sacraments in the Congregation, where thou shalt be lawfully appointed thereunto," suffer at the hands of extremists. Some Anglo-Catholic extremists (yes, Virginia, there are some Anglo-Catholic extremists) seem only to hear the mention of sacraments, and the Sydney "Anglicans" seem only to notice the part about preaching. But, the priest is a minister of both.

As has been stated on The Continuum, more than once, efforts by some Anglo-Catholics (following an alleged Roman Catholic lead) to reduce the priestly office to its sacramental role, and thereby to under-emphasize the pastoral and teaching responsibilities and gifts inherent in that Order, is quite wrong. This I have stated in clear terms more than once, summarizing my arguments with the words of E.J. Bicknell (from a footnote):

"As we have said, the English word priest by derivation simply means 'presbyter'. But it has acquired the meaning of 'sacerdos'. The Christian presbyter in virtue of his office is a 'priest'. Priesthood is one of his functions."6

However, as we must turn neither to the right hand nor to the left, but walk within a via media that avoids extremes, and follows the advice of St. John Chrysostom not to accidentally endorse one error by refuting the opposite error,7 we must refute Jensen's view. Archbishop Jensen argues that the laity may preach, and that, of necessity, along with preaching is Eucharistic Celebration; if they may do one thay may do the other. 8 We may explore the argument itself presently, but first we must note that he tries to pin Sydney's new and novel idea on Cranmer. What he fails to see is that we cannot interpret the English Reformers accurately by drawing our own conclusions from their writings, no matter how intact our logic, unless we face the facts of what polity they insisted on, both by the full body of their teachings and by Canon Law.

In the words of Richard Hooker:

“Is it a small office to despise the Church of God? ‘My son, keep thy father’s commandment,’ saith Solomon, ‘and forget not thy mother’s instruction: Bind them both always about thine heart.’ It doth not stand with the duty we owe to our heavenly Father, that to the ordinances of our mother the Church we should show ourselves disobedient. Let us not say we keep the commandments of the one, when we break the law of the other: for unless we observe both we obey neither.” (Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, 3.IX.3)

Hooker upholds not only the teaching of the Church, but also, what he calls “her ecclesiastical authority,” not to be redundant, but to extend the meaning to include all aspects of polity.

It may be that some sort of Lay Preaching is permissible under certain conditions, and certainly no one should silence a member of the laity who can, by writing and teaching, edify and instruct us in the ways of holiness and in theology, or who may be a very effective evangelist. Indeed, and without any dispute, Deacons may preach from the pulpit if licensed by the Bishop. But, the Anglican Ordinal in the Ordering of Priests, lays specific and particular emphasis on the authority, responsibility and the gift through Ordination to be a minister of God's word in a new way that he had not been heretofore as a Deacon, and does so in a line that includes as well his sacramental role. Surely this teaches us something of substance. The priest has a duty and a charism to be that minister of Word and Sacrament, and this answers the subject Jensen raises about the connection between preaching and celebrating the Eucharist. Furthermore, it answers it according to the only practice ever permitted in the Church, both before and after the English Reformation.

Archbishop Jensen and the Sydney "Anglicans" quite rightly reject women's "ordination." But, using the same methodology of Scriptura Destitute, rejecting both the particular teaching of Anglicanism, and how that teaching is one of fidelity to Scripture via Universal Consensus and Antiquity, they promote an innovation every bit as rebellious and heretical.


1. Grudem, Wayne: Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, Zondervan Publishers, 1995 Van Nuys.
2. It is entitled Theological reflection on lay administration.
3. “Be it in matter of the one kind or of the other, what Scripture doth plainly deliver, to that the first place both of credit and obedience is due; the next whereunto is whatsoever any man can necessarily conclude by force of reason; after this the Church succeedeth that which the Church by her ecclesiastical authority shall probably think and define to be true or good, must in congruity of reason overrule all other inferior judgments whatsoever.” (Richard Hooker, The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Book 5.VIII.2)
4. That is, clarification of what the Rites always had meant.
5. From an earlier Latin Ordinal translated by Cranmer, the first English Ordinal used verses of Scripture to identify respectively the three Orders.
6. E.J.Bicknell, A Theological Introduction to The Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England. See Pastoral Priesthood, and The Elders that Rule Well.
7. St. John Chrysostom: Six Little Books on the Priesthood.
8. What does he make, then, of Cranmer's rubric from the 1549 Book of Common Prayer? "When the holy Communion is celebrate on the workeday, or in private howses: Then may be omitted, the Gloria in excelsis, the Crede, the Homily, and the exhortacion, beginning..."

Potential "Honor" Killing in Ohio?

Writing for the Washington Times, Frank J. Gaffney Jr. had this to say in his column today:

Rifqa's father erupted: "If you have this Jesus in your heart, you're dead to me. You're not my daughter. I will kill you."...When Rifqa's family discovered her whereabouts, they began proceedings in juvenile court in Orlando, Fla., to compel her to go back to Ohio. ...All other things being equal, under Florida law, such a minor would be surrendered to her home state unless...

Let us be clear: Rifqa Bary is a proverbial "canary in the mine shaft," a warning to all of us that toxic Shariah is leeching into America. Every effort must be made to ensure that her freedoms -- and, inevitably, ours -- are permanently protected against this deadly assault.

Read the whole story here.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Eleventh Sunday after Trinity

1 Cor. 15: 1-11
Luke 18:9-14

It is very fitting that St. Paul is the Apostle who wrote the Epistle from which we have heard this day, because of what we read this same day from the Gospel of Luke. St. Paul was, in his lifetime, both of the men in this parable. He was both the Pharisee who believed his own self-righteous delusion, and then, by God's grace, he became as the Publican who repented, confessed his sin, and was justified. Paul was, in his youth, just like the Pharisee about whom we read, thinking himself righteous and despising others. But, when coming close to Damascus in order to persecute those who were Jesus' disciples and believers, he saw the Risen Lord Jesus Christ, and at once came to see himself, Saul the Pharisee, as not only a sinner, but the chief of sinners. Instead of self-confidence before God, he acquired humility; instead of boasting he learned to confess. He confesses his sin with all humility in this very same Epistle text, as we heard:

For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

I have no patience with many modern commenters who belittle Paul as if he continued to have the Pharisaical attitude all his life long, and who are deluded and arrogant enough to suppose that they see it in his Epistles. Any excuse will do, not to learn from the Apostle, any excuse to treat him as less than the holy martyr that he is, to speak of him as less than Jesus Christ's appointed messenger to bring the Gospel to the nations, Apostle to the Gentiles and writer of most of the New Testament. We have the witness of St. Peter that the Epistles of Paul were so revered that, even in his lifetime, the Church began regarding them as γραφή (i.e. Scriptures. See II Pet. 3:15,16).

Paul was joyful and grateful, even through all of his suffering and the persecution he endured for the rest of his earthly life. He had been set free from the worst kind of self-deception and delusion. He came to see that no man can make himself righteous, and that only by God's grace can we be forgiven and justified, and that only by the grace of God active in one's life, by the Holy Spirit who is given to us, can we become holy. The true heart of St. Paul comes across more clearly than ever a couple of chapters later, when writing about charity, the perfect and perfecting love of God for us, and within us by the Holy Spirit.

Comparing his old unconverted life to the new creation in Christ that he had become (II Cor. 5:17), the Apostle wrote us this autobiographical sketch:

“Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”- Phil. 3: 5-9

When the Lord appeared to Saul, and made him an eyewitness of the resurrection, many things changed in his understanding. His righteous act of persecuting the Church was revealed to have been the sin of persecuting the Messiah himself, his own self-attained righteousness was shown to be a delusion, and the curse that was evident in the manner of Jesus’ death was revealed to be atonement paid by the Righteous One for the many, the sinners, thus taking away the curse from those who deserved it (Gal. 3:13). Right away, at his conversion, Paul was granted the revelation that would become his bold teaching about faith in Jesus Christ and the grace that he gives, that Jesus Christ is himself our only Salvation.

Understand what Paul always means when he speaks of our salvation by grace through faith (and remember that phrase exactly, by grace through faith). He never speaks of "faith" simply as an attribute or attitude. He means faith in a very specific way: that is, specifically, faith in Jesus Christ. If we discuss faith and works, let us be clear: Faith means this faith in Jesus. Furthermore, as he would warn these same Corinthian Christians in a later Epistle (II Cor. 11:1f), there are other gospels and there is another Jesus, indeed, gospels and christs as varied as the human imagination with demonic influence may create.

And, it matters because in this text from Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians, we see the details listed for us so that we may know what to present if we are to preach the Gospel (εὐαγγέλιον, Euaggelion). The true Gospel of the real Lord Jesus Christ is never complete, and is never really preached, without these four facts that are brought out in today's Epistle. As there are four books we call Gospels, there is one message of the Gospel that has four facts, the facts we have already heard this day. Someone in the blogosphere wanted to argue with me that there is only one Gospel, because I referred in passing to the four Gospels. In a sense he was right: There is only one message we call the Gospel. The four books we call the Gospels all preach this message, for in each of the four Gospel books we have these four facts, which are the Gospel. In sermons of either St. Peter or St. Paul, in the Book of Acts, you will find these four same four facts.

1. Christ died for our sins as the scriptures foretold.
2. He was buried.
3. He rose the third day as the scriptures foretold.
4. He appeared to witnesses.

We need to get this right, for our own salvation and for the purpose of communicating the message. Paul wrote of the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit that is present by proclaiming this simple message. He wrote, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." (Rom.1:16) The word translated "power" is a special word that is used for the work of the Holy Spirit, a word that always means miraculous power. The word is δύναμις (dunamis), from which we get words like dynamic, and dynamite. So, Paul was saying that the Gospel is the miraculous and supernatural power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes; that the Holy Spirit is the One who gives the message this power to work the miracle of salvation in each believer (if you will receive it, this makes true evangelism genuinely sacramental). God places within this message the same power that has healed the blind, and that raises the dead.

So, let us be diligent to get it right.

First of all, we must be clear who we mean when we say Christ. We do not mean simply a good man or great religious leader. We do not mean simply a prophet. We do not mean simply a man who died for a cause, or who was unjustly condemned. We mean, as Paul calls him later in this same chapter, "the Lord from heaven." (v.47) We mean the One who is himself with God, and is God, and is also with God in the unity of the Trinity, the Word made flesh (John 1:14). We mean the one who was born of a virgin, as St. Matthew and St. Luke teach clearly in their Gospels. So, this Person we call Jesus Christ is exactly who we have professed him to be in saying the Creed:

"God of God, Light of Light, Very God of very God, Begotten, not made, Being of one substance with the Father, By whom all things were made: Who for us men, and for our salvation came down from heaven, And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, And was made man, And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, And the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, And ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead: Whose kingdom shall have no end."

John warns that any spirit that will not confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is that spirit of Antichrist, also called the spirit of error (I John 4:1f) That is, it refuses to confess the Incarnation, either by denying that he is God, One with the Father and the Holy Spirit, or by denying that he has taken complete human nature into his uncreated and Divine Person.

So, again.Paul writes:

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:5-11)

1. Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures.

Here, as in the Creed, the phrase “according to the scriptures” means “in fulfillment of the scriptures.” Look at the 22nd Psalm. Look at the Suffering Servant passage from the 53rd chapter of Isaiah (if you do not know this entire passage, then read it and learn it at home: Isaiah 52:13-53:12):

“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all”

Drawing from the Epistle to the Hebrews, our service of Holy Communion puts it this way:

"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."

2. He was buried.

That is, He died, really and truly in fact, He was dead. The one Man who ever lived and did not deserve the wages of sin, death, (Rom. 6:23) was dead and buried just like everyone else.

3. He rose the third day according to (again, in fulfillment of) the scriptures.

Throughout the book of Acts the most commonly used passage of the Old Testament for this is in the 16th Psalm:

“Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.”

This is a real and material fact, that he rose in his body of flesh and bone, transforming it into a body that cannot die.

4. He appeared to witnesses.

This fourth fact is essential to the Gospel. Without these eyewitnesses, the resurrection of Christ would be a mere story. But, the resurrection of Christ is a fact of history, recorded with the blood of martyrs, men who saw Him alive again after His resurrection. While Saint Paul was writing this Epistle, many of these witnesses were yet alive, giving the Church that assurance and confidence that it needed to survive the earliest days of persecution. The Greek word translated "witness" throughout the New Testament is μάρτυς (martus). It became our English word martyr. Originally, it meant a witness, one who testifies. Eventually, this witness or martyrdom, testimony of seeing the risen Christ, cost the eyewitnesses their lives in this world; but having seen the resurrected Christ, they despised death; they feared the grave no longer.

Months from now, in the winter on January 25th, we will celebrate the Conversion of Saint Paul. On that day, we clergy wear white, and the altar is decorated with white. If the feast is about Saint Paul, then surely we ought to wear red, should we not? Red is the color of martyrs. But, the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul is not about Paul; it is about the last Easter appearance recorded in Scripture, a part of Easter “out of due time,” just as Saint Paul was called by seeing the Risen Christ “as one born out of due time.” His conversion came from being a witness of the resurrection of Christ, at which point he learned all of these things we meditate upon today. He learned that he was a sinner. He learned that he was forgiven. He learned that this forgiveness was given by the sacrifice of Christ on his behalf.

St. Paul has told us what the message is that we call the Gospel. There is no substitute for it, unless we choose to turn away from God, and preach an entirely false message. Then we have a great many choices to pick from, but all of them end in eternal death. Some of those messages are nice, warm and fuzzy, or inspirational. They enable people to avoid the cross, loving their own christ and hating the cross of the real Christ (Phil. 3:17-20). They avoid the bloody business about Christ's sacrifice, his offering up of himself for our sins. They avoid that crude material stuff about rising again in a body of flesh and bone, and teach a purely heavenly and spiritual salvation that has nothing to do with real life, and makes no demands. They have no Incarnation, no cross, and no resurrection. They require no repentance and offer no forgiveness. Turn away from these false gospels. Reject them in favor of the true Gospel that consists always of these four facts, these four facts that you must keep in your heart and have ready on your tongue:

1. Christ died for our sins as the scriptures foretold.
2. He was buried.
3. He rose the third day as the scriptures foretold.
4. He appeared to witnesses.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Religion and Theology

G.K. Chesterton once wrote that theology kept men sane when religion would have driven them mad. All one needs to do, if he would apply Chesterton's observation about Medieval piety to the the modern world, is notice that everything from dubious Marian apparitions to snake-handling "Signs Following" cults in West Virginia, are filled with people who are deeply religious, utterly ignorant of theology, and quite mad. One sees the Blessed Virgin in muffins, and another thinks that when a snake does what snakes do, it is because a man's faith failed. Their exclusively emotional approach makes them Gnostic. What is needed by these Enthusiasts is a good dose of Scripture and the Right Reason of the Church with her authority in matters of polity and the doctrines of Antiquity and Universal Consensus (how is that for a mouthful of St.Vincent and Richard Hooker?). The problem with Enthusiasts is in their head, not their hearts.

Nonetheless, the reverse is equally true. After one labors in the academy or debates in the blogosphere, even when standing for truth, justice and the Vincetian way, and for the very noble effort of preventing the end of civilization as we know it, there must be an entering into His rest. There must be a place as well for the deep feelings of true devotion. When theology would make men Vulcans, religion keeps them human.

Yet, I propose a third alternative that unites head and heart in the truly Anglican way, the tradition of English spirituality, so practically given to us in our Book of Common Prayer. This way is the way of deep feeling and right doctrine combined in the experience of prayer and worship. To love God with your whole heart, soul and mind, is to worship at once as a whole person, one who thinks and feels simultaneously. A choice between theology for the mind and religion for the heart is not really necessary, neither is it a healthy choice, inasmuch as choosing to stifle one for the other is fraught with danger.

Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. John 4:21-24

What serves better to this end than our Rule of life?

The experience of Anglican worship and prayer makes use of the mind and moves the emotions in ways that bring both under subjection to the spirit. That is because the Book of Common Prayer is nothing less than the Bible as prayer, expressing the deepest truth revealed in Scripture in a way that teaches and renews the mind, while moving the heart of man ever closer to God in repentance, gratitude, awe and love. That the language itself is sanctified by repeated holy usage, only aids the experience.

O GOD, from whom all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed...

More especially we pray for thy holy Church universal; that it may he so guided and governed by thy good Spirit, that all who profess and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth, and hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace, and in righteousness of life...

We bless thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all, for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And, we beseech thee, give us that due sense of all thy mercies, that our hearts may he unfeignedly thankful: and that we show forth thy praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to thy service...

Expression of love and of revealed truth pour out together, standing, sitting and kneeling, in a unity of body, soul and spirit. The Psalms are not merely read through in the thirty-day cycle, but prayed through. We join with King David and others in that very first ever Book of Common Prayer for the people of Israel, the Psalter that expresses the full depths of fears and the lofty heights of hope, the humblest and most sincere repentance and the most joyful exclamations of praise. Above all, in the Psalms we experience Christ himself, Son of God and Son of Man. The written words of king and prophets become our own words of prayer and worship; words inspired by the Holy Spirit, words that inspire our spirits to holiness. The Scriptures are read, informing the mind of God's revealed truth in the context of prayer and thanksgiving, where it is most safely and effectively transmitted from heaven into earthen vessels.

And, in the service of Holy Communion, as we prepare to receive the Sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood, the food and drink of eternal life, all the counsel of God is declared to us and by us. The Law is spoken and repentance is the response:

Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law... Lord, have mercy upon us, and write all these thy laws in our hearts, we beseech thee.

The word of God is read, including the Gospel where Christ himself is proclaimed. In this liturgy we are given the whole truth, so that even should the preacher fail in his responsibility by neglect or weakness, everyone hears the full message of the Gospel anyway. The message is heard along with confession and receiving the grace of God through the sacrament. Sorrow for sin, thanksgiving for forgiveness, worship, prayer and praise all coming together with sound and excellent presentation of the full truth of God's word, drawing near to God himself so as to combine experience with doctrine and emotion with sober thought. The heart and mind are together, the body, soul and spirit unified in one purpose, as we combine the deep feeling of religion, the experience of God, with sound learning in one united act.

Our religion cannot make us mad, because the sanity of our theology is part of the whole experience of drawing nigh to God.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

More on the "P" word

My recent post on what I call the Root theory was re-posted on Virtue Online, and I received questions about my willingness to use the dreaded "P" word. One comment pointed out that the word "Protestant" does not appear in the Anglican Formularies, and does not appear within the Book of Common Prayer (certain title pages not withstanding). I was asked to comment. This gave me an opportunity to say some things that I was planning to bring up here for our readers.

I replied as follows:

There is no comparison. St. Ignatius of Antioch began using the word "Catholic" early in Church history, and it caught on as a word that describes and even names the Church and the Faith of the Church with the Universal Consensus of Antiquity. The word "Protestant" is neither its equal nor its opposite, having been coined late in Church history. The point is merely this: Anglican usage of the word "Protestant" actually speaks of a goal that is very Catholic.

The problem with Anglo-Catholic reaction against the "P" word is that it is counter productive, and is so in different ways.

1. Arguing, as some try to do, that the English Reformers were not Protestants, automatically gives ground to the Roman Catholic polemicists, by accepting their partisan and inaccurate definition (which definition carries false history). The argument itself is unsustainable, if not patently absurd.

2. Others argue that the Reformers were Protestant, accepting the Roman definition, using the word negatively as if it were the word "communist." The result is they fall into the Roman trap, and begin to doubt Anglican validity.* They try to distance themselves from the Reformers in England, either by rejecting Anglican doctrine, trying to argue that it was bad, but not bad enough to render Orders invalid (this bunch are concerned only with this one point). Or, they rely on the Dutch Touch to set things right.

No wonder such "apologists" cannot help but leap into the Tiber, and cannot do anything but lead people to Rome, instead of into Anglican churches. They have no knowledge and no foundation. They possess a wealth of ignorance.

The realistic approach would help many people remain Anglican. Accept the English Reformers for what they were, and learn why their doctrines were perfectly acceptable in true Catholic terms, true Catholic terms that are older than the distortions of doctrine in Roman innovations and errors. The standard we use in The Continuum is the Canon of St. Vincent of Lerins, Universal Consensus and Antiquity (before anyone reacts, that standard automatically gives the greatest weight to Scripture, which ought to be obvious).

*Of course, as a priest in the Anglican Catholic Church, my usage of the word "validity" is very conservative and traditional. We are not in communion with the Anglican Communion; we continue Anglican doctrine and Orders without modern corruptions.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Tenth Sunday after Trinity

1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Luke 19:41-47a

Three times in the year the Church reads aloud or remembers Christ's entry into Jerusalem. We read about it on the First Sunday in Advent (for reasons related directly to the theme of Christ's second coming on the Last Day, as you shall learn in a few months); we remember it before the service on Palm Sunday; and we read of it today, and of how when he entered the city, he immediately cleansed the Temple. Each time the Church reads this of this event, it is for a specific reason.

Today we read from the Gospel According to Luke, that beloved physician who has been mistaken all too often for a Gentile convert, and therefore as someone who came along later. Not so. He was among the disciples who actually followed Jesus when the Lord was going about doing good, and healing. Luke interviewed the Blessed Virgin Mary without difficulty,1 because he was among the first Christians when she was present also, in the upper room. It is obvious from the internal evidence of his writing that Luke was very much a Jew, and very steeped in his Judaism; and it is most likely he was one of the seventy who were sent out, not relying on other eyewitnesses (as a careless reading might seem to imply), but on his own very reliable memory: "It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write..." (Luke 1:3) he tells the reader, that reader being any Theophilus, that is, anyone who loves God.

And, to love God, or to be friend of God (which is also a good translation of Theophilus), gets very much to the heart of today's Gospel; in fact to the heart of the combination of this day's Gospel and Epistle readings. Both are about the presence of Christ in his temple. Both are about being at peace with him. Both are about visitation, that odd word used to speak of God's special purpose in making himself known. Both call us to a high standard of faith in our response to the visitation of Messiah.

"And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it," Luke tells us. Only in one other passage does Christ weep, and that passage is where the unbelief of his people, and their hopeless attitude toward death, prevented them from understanding that his healing power was not hindered even by the death of Lazarus, that friend who Jesus called out of the tomb and back to life after being four days dead. There Jesus wept because of unbelief among his people, and here he weeps for their unbelief again, foreseeing the terrible consequences of a future in which a hopeless attempt to battle an empire would serve as a poor substitute for a higher and better calling. He knew that many of them were about to reject that calling by not knowing who it was that was coming among them.

"If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace but now they are hid from thine eyes."

What is this peace? Probably, Jesus was speaking in Aramaic, so it would have been that Hebrew word, shalom. It would have implied more than simply a time without violence; it would have meant a kind of prosperity that is spiritual and holy. In the original Greek of the New Testament, that same word was translated εἰρήνη (eirēnē). Peace, as used in the Bible, ought to remind us of certain important things.

The 118th Psalm clearly foretold the events of Christ's entry into Jerusalem on that Palm Sunday. Read the whole Psalm, and notice how much it foretells Palm Sunday, and the whole procession into the city, and his purpose in coming to be rejected, to die by offering his life in sacrifice, and then becoming the Head cornerstone of his new temple to be built of living stones, the Church. See these words:

"Save now, I beseech thee, O LORD: O LORD, I beseech thee, send now prosperity. Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the LORD: we have blessed you out of the house of the LORD." (Psalm 118:24, 25)

That word hosanna, which the multitude used as Christ entered into the city, does not mean the same as hallelujah, or any kind of joyful praise. It is, rather, that same phrase we see in the Psalm, "Save now." From two Hebrew words (הוֹשִׁיעָה נָּא), one of which is a form of the very name of Jesus (Salvation), they besought him to save them right now, not to wait. Yet, he wept. He said they did not know the things that make for their peace, and did not recognize the day of visitation. The cry was not for salvation from sin and death, but for salvation from the empire of Rome, and its oppression. This was a worthwhile, and meaningful desire. But, it fell short of what Jesus came for.

Many people today see our needs as a nation. We see the economic need. We see the need for national security. But, do we see the need for the things that truly belong to our peace? What peace is that? "Lord we beseech thee, send now prosperity!" What prosperity? For over thirty years, over thirty-five years, greedy and unprincipled men have used the Christian ministry and the Bible (I say used, that is, for their own ends) to become rich by duping poor and barely literate people to follow their Faith and Prosperity cult. You thought only the old established churches, like the Episcopal "Church," had problems? Oh no, there exists all kinds of deception out there. Many people see faith only in terms of what it offers here and now. All the needs of this life, health, well-being, a good and stable economy, national security, motivate people to cry out to God: "Save now, I beseech thee, O Lord: O Lord, I beseech thee, send now prosperity." And, that is fine; but here is the rest of that phrase: "Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord."

If Christ walked into this room in his glorious resurrected body of flesh and bone, and we could fall at his feet in worship, I hope that we would have more on our minds than the things of this world. What does it mean to recognize the day of visitation?

Look again at that word peace, shalom or eirēnē. On the night of his birth the angels used it: "And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace (εἰρήνη), good will toward men." (Luke 2:13,14) What is this peace on earth? What peace? Do we see peace on earth? Perhaps there is no peace here or goodwill between men, but there is "on earth peace and goodwill toward men." That is, peace of another kind. I do hope you are ahead of me, anticipating what I am going to say. I am going to quote St. Paul the Apostle, writing to the Church in Rome: "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace (εἰρήνη) with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Writing to the Ephesians, the Apostle said, "For he is our peace (εἰρήνη)." And, from my knowledge of Hebrew and the Hebrew Scriptures, and how they were translated into Greek, you may for right now take my word for this: "He is our peace" strongly refers to the "Peace Offering," one of the various sacrifices made for sin by the Aaronic or Levitical priests, commanded by God through Moses.

Christ is our peace, that is peace with God. Sending his Son into the world, God makes peace with mankind, no longer waging war (as he promised Noah when he hung up his bow in the heavens). God has a right to be at war with sinful mankind, but he makes peace instead. He has just cause to treat us as enemies. But, he reveals his heart of love and goodwill toward men, that is goodwill toward us by sending his beloved Son into the world. "Blessed is he that cometh in the Name of the Lord." Christ is our peace. He went to the cross and hung there, dying for the sins of the whole world, for your sins and for mine. He was the Peace Offering that reconciles us to God.

But we must recognize the things that belong to our peace, and the day of visitation. Are you at peace with God right now? Have you surrendered to him? For his terms of peace are nothing less than unconditional surrender; you must surrender. There is no tomorrow, at least not one that is guaranteed: "behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." (II Cor. 6:2)

Now, let us speak of visitation a bit further. When Christ cleansed the temple, he quoted first the Prophet Isaiah, and then the Prophet Jeremiah, in rapid succession: "It is written, My house is the house of prayer (Isaiah 56:7): but ye have made it a den of thieves (Jer. 7:11) ." He showed zeal for the House of God. In this time, the House of God is not a building made by human hands, but rather it is the Church.

"Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." (I Pet. 2:5)

"[Ye] are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone." (Eph. 2:20)

The Church is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. In our Offices of Instruction we teach that the Church is holy "because the Holy Spirit dwells in it, and sanctifies its members." Today's Epistle is part of a larger text that teaches us that the Church is the Body of Christ, meaning that after his resurrection from the dead, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Christ remains present in the earth. He is not only present among us, but present in the world through us, extending his Incarnation through his Body the Church.

Today's Epistle mentions mysterious and glorious gifts of the Holy Spirit, even gifts such as miracles. No matter what we experience or do not experience, in the Body of Christ we have the active presence of the Holy Spirit, and by the Holy Spirit a continual abiding visitation of Christ among his people. He does not come and go, but rather he is present now. His visitation is now. It is always now. I have no doubt that many times throughout history, unbelief of his people the Church may well have caused the Lord to weep, and move him to cleanse the house of God with the same authority and zeal we read about. Any student of history can pinpoint many such times. And, we may trust that in our own time people moved by faith and following their consciences have been instruments of cleansing. And, with our warts and imperfections, I am persuaded of these good things: We exist as a true particular branch of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church by the grace of God, because of honest and sincere motives of conscience and faith.

The Epistle portion read today gives us reason to be joyful, because of the presence of God in us, his Body the Church. The Gospel portion read today gives us reason to be sober and take warning, also because of his presence in us. His visitation is constant, his presence abiding. Let us, therefore, be always at peace with God through his Son, and at peace with each other through his Holy Spirit.

1. That is, he would have had no difficulty. Sure, it may have been years later in Ephesus, but it did not have to be.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Root Theory and grand sweeping themes of "History"

The burden of educating Anglicans and converting them to Anglicanism is one that I accept. Nothing demonstrates the need for this work more than the reasoning of "converts" to that great big denomination headquartered in Italy, infected with its missionary zeal to reach all other Christians with peculiar claims to Universal Primacy. When someone says, as a writer did recently on another blog, "Before I was a Roman Catholic or even an Anglo-Catholic..." we can be sure that some basically flawed concepts will manifest themselves. Normally, those flawed concepts will reveal that the person making these statements never did understand Anglicanism, even if that same individual has more degrees than a thermometer.

The basic flaw is simply this: They let Rome define all the terms. They learn everything they think they know about Anglicanism from the Roman Polemicists whose agenda it is to save souls from Henry and Elizabeth's Kirk. They let Romans tell them what Anglicans really believe, they let Romans tell them why it must be wrong, and they let Romans define for them the true meaning of all things Catholic. Just as one comedian learned everything he needed to know in Kindergarten, some "Anglicans" have learned everything they care to know from The Catechism of the Roman Church. This course of action is far more easy than actually learning Anglicanism, which takes a lot of reading; and it seems more secure because that Italian denomination is really, really big. And, it is old, almost as old as the Church itself.

Root Theory

Now, when these "Before I was a Roman Catholic or even an Anglo-Catholic..." types confront the evils of modern apostasy on the part of post Anglican sects and cults (such as the Episcopal "church"), they use the modern stylish heresies to support what I have come to call The Root Theory. Basically, it goes like this: The fact that some Anglican bodies are apostate only proves that the whole thing was wrong from the start. By this theory, due to the break with Rome, in and of itself, the entire course of modern apostasy was inevitable, predestined by rebellion against the Petrine See. And so, writing for the Blog, Sub Tuum, Brother Stephen O. Cist could not confine his justified criticism of modern heresies within the parameters of reality. Instead, he mixed various generations and systems of thought together, in a fantastic and surreal mis-match, all caught up in grand sweeping themes of pseudo-history.

"I say it because strains of Anglicanism as old as Cranmer and the Enlightenment are moving the American Province of the Anglican Communion toward a clarity of identity and mission previously unknown in the Episcopal Church. Since her election at the last General Convention, the Presiding Bishop has consistently articulated her vision for the Episcopal Church in the 21st Century and, as of this month, she and others have moved TEC a step closer to consensus around that vision."

My first reaction is to ask, which is it? As old as Cranmer, or as old as the Enlightenment? A difference of a mere two hundred years may seem like nothing to a writer caught up in the emotional thrill of word-smithing, but it seems like a pretty long time once sobriety sets in. Even worse, to name Cranmer in the same breath as "the Enlightenment" provokes a reaction in my inner historian, and my inner theologian, not unlike a reaction to nails squeaking on a chalkboard.

And, it gets worse.

"From the time of the Elizabethan Settlement, there have been a large number of formidable broad church thinkers who have believed that Anglicanism is a Reformed tradition, confident that in the Anglican via media, unfortunate doctrinal and disciplinary accretions have been stripped away and that God-given reason gives men and women the competence to confront and engage with changing circumstances in every generation."

Unless he means "Reformed" strictly as some use it, to mean "Calvinism" (as they use "Evangelicalism" to mean "Lutheranism"), the only answer is, "so what?" Yes, the English Reformers were, well, Reforming the Church. And, herein lies a problem that will only get worse and result in more "Anglo-Catholics" leaping into the Tiber for completely false reasons, unless someone gets their attention before they make their fateful plunge. Anglo-Catholics need to stop reacting like idiots very time they are reminded that they are in a Protestant Church. Anyone who knows anything about Anglicanism knows that the words "Protestant" and "Catholic" are complementary terms in our patrimony. Using them as opposites, as inherently antithetical, is for the ignorant, not for us. So too, "Reformed." The English Reformers were stripping away Roman innovations to recover true Catholic Faith, and to reform the Church in a truly Catholic manner. As Fr. Louis Tarsitano once wrote in an email exchange: "The only reason to be Anglican is to avoid innovations; both the innovations of Rome and the innovations of Protestants." That is, our kind of Protestantism is true Catholicism, truer by far than that of Rome.

First of all, Broad Churchmen most certainly do not go back to the days of Elizabeth. Furthermore, the popular and time-honored Anglican usage of the word "reason" or Right Reason, has nothing to do with giving individuals "the competence to confront and engage with changing circumstances in every generation." As used by Richard Hooker, Reason is the wisdom spoken of in Proverbs. Its function is to provide solutions where God has not commanded various details on how to accomplish good and necessary tasks, to help the Church establish good polity, and to help those who must care for the Church's pastoral needs. Reason, in this sense, is not in any way a source of doctrinal authority, since it cannot equal what is known only by revelation. Reason, in this sense, is not simply an individual exercise, but the mind of Christ in the Church (I Cor. 2:16).

Hooker never gave us a "three-legged stool." In fact, he mostly emphasized only two things. One was, of course, Scripture. The other was the Church with her authority, by which he meant both what has been handed down in Tradition (which word he did, in fact use, positively in this connection), and also good, right and just polity. Reason, as such belongs to the Church as the Church, not simply "to men and women" as individual thinkers. The closest he ever came to mentioning Reason of individuals, or to mentioning anything even remotelty like a "three-legged stool," was in a context wherein he taught that individual reason must be subject to the Church:

"Be it in matter of the one kind or of the other, what Scripture doth plainly deliver, to that the first place both of credit and obedience is due; the next whereunto is whatsoever any man can necessarily conclude by force of reason; after this the Church succeedeth that which the Church by her ecclesiastical authority shall probably think and define to be true or good, must in congruity of reason overrule all other inferior judgments whatsoever.” (Richard Hooker, The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Book 5.VIII.2)

And, the obedience owed by every individual to the Church is brought out further in this passage:

"Is it a small office to despise the Church of God? ‘My son, keep thy father’s commandment,’ saith Solomon, ‘and forget not thy mother’s instruction: Bind them both always about thine heart.’ It doth not stand with the duty we owe to our heavenly Father, that to the ordinances of our mother the Church we should show ourselves disobedient. Let us not say we keep the commandments of the one, when we break the law of the other: for unless we observe both we obey neither." 3.IX.3

Concerning Reason, most of what Hooker wrote speaks of that reason that governs the Church in accord with Scripture, and with what is handed down from ancient times.

Guilt by what association?

Nonetheless, Brother Stephen O. Cist lists Hooker among those who, despite their brilliance and good intentions, have only furthered the cause of modern apostasy, no doubt because the roots of rebellion against the papacy must bring forth evil fruit. So he writes:

"The current positions of the Episcopal Church on a variety of issues and its evolving self-understanding have clear antecedents in the ground laid by Hooker, the 18th Century deists, F.D. Maurice, Percy Dearmer, and William Temple to name a few."

So, priestesses in the church, blessing of same-sex unions, and bishops who live with homosexual lovers, are now based on the writing of Richard Hooker? And, we should list 18th century Deists with Percy Dearmer and William Temple? And, we should blame the ECUSAn General Convention of 2009 on such men, even though each of them would have thundered against modern apostasy like the prophets of old? By this kind of Root Theory, we must blame the Arian heresy on all who came before Arius, including the Apostles Peter and Paul, Justin Martyr and Ireneaus, etc. (The sad thing is, much of the Brother's analysis is quite good; and this Root Theory simply ruins, by its awkward mis-matched grand sweeping themes of pseudo-history, an otherwise fine essay).

By all means, we must blame godly men of old for the sins of a new generation.

"And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim." Judges 2:10,11

I guess we should blame that on Moses.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Follow up to the most recent post on Richard Hooker

My recent post of last week, Hooker on the Incarnation, Salvation and the Sacraments, was posted also on Virtue Online (I find it easy to work with David Virtue). For purposes of education I will post part of a comment by our old pal Charlie, and then my reply. This gave me an opportunity to expand on one point that helps unlock the enigmatic Article XXV, and open its very Catholic content and truth. I recommend reading last week's essay first. Nonetheless, I will quote the most relevant portions here:

"So, we must pause a moment to think about a few things. To be practical, some disputes have long been running between people who count the sacraments, and these disputes have been among those who fall into the trap of Nominalism. Careless readers have taken the Anglican Formularies to mean that we have only two sacraments, and this is simply because of those who refuse to read the explanation that our Catechism provides to Article XXV: namely, that two sacraments alone were both established by Christ himself (in the flesh, on earth) and are 'generally necessary to salvation.' Of these things we have in our archives several essays. Nonetheless, it is almost as certainly a trap of Nominalism to answer briefly 'no, there are seven,' unless we take the time to ask and answer the relevant questions...

"Looking at the words of paragraph two in the Article, we must ask, what sets these two sacraments apart? The answer has been given already, and is stated ever so simply. Only these two sacraments have been established by Christ in the Gospel. Of the other five, those sacraments that are not 'generally necessary to salvation,' and some of which are not meant for everybody (e.g., marriage and orders), the New Covenant has empowered them with deeper and richer meaning; but everyone of those five are in the Old Testament...That these five are sacraments, but not sacraments of the Gospel [to use the words of Article XXV], is not difficult, therefore, to understand...

From earliest times, the Church began to see these seven specific mysteries as having in them certain shared properties. All were revealed by God. All involved human action that made use of Matter with Form and Intention. All seven had predictable results because of God's promises. All impart grace, even if only the gift of a state of sanctified married life as part of God's creation of human nature."

Charlie wrote: The 39 Articles plainly state that there are only 2 sacraments and the others are corruptions. How difficult is something so plainly stated?

[of course that is simply rubbish.]

I replied:

Frankly, any argument about the number of sacraments is absurd. The two extremes of the "Sydney Anglicans" on the left, and the Anglo-Papalists on the right, are heretical, scholastic and simplistic. To those who want to die on that hill, I ask this question: What does the Bible say about the number of sacraments? Once we realize that the answer is silence, that it is nothing, and that this word was coined not by God, but by the Church, we realize that all seven are "commonly called" sacraments. That is, the Church used Right Reason properly, and used a word to categorize the Biblical mysteries that share the properties I have already listed above. Therefore, by the 16th century, this word had a generally accepted definition.

If the purpose of Article XXV had been to number the sacraments as two, rather than pointing out the special nature of two of them ("generally necessary to salvation" being the only Anglican position-unless someone wants to say the Anglican Catechism is not Anglican; which bit of silliness would not surprise me), then the whole venture would have been ridiculous. For, all they would have done was to redefine a word differently from its accepted definition. That anyone could imagine them engaging in such a fruitless, meaningless activity, defies common sense.

The purpose of this Article was to save souls. It was to make the people of England receive Holy Communion instead of "hearing Mass." It was to have the people take and eat, and drink, rather than thinking they needed only to gaze while a priest did all the eating and drinking for them.

Hooker, definitively explaining the mind of the English Reformers, used most of his ink on this subject writing about the Incarnation, and driving home the sacramental mystery of partaking of Christ. This also restored the mystery and flew in the face of scholasticism by refusing to honor the age old need to describe and define everything in detail, even about things concerning which God had not revealed all the details.

The English Church never tried to explain how we receive Christ by taking the sacrament, except that it is by faith. Furthermore, they did not even try to teach a specific point at which the sacrament is fully consecrated; only that when a believer receives it with faith he partakes of Christ (and an unbeliever does not [in the saving sense of John chapter 6], but rather adds sin to sin). They were restoring the faith of the ancient Church.

To drag Article XXV through the mud of any kind of scholastic non-sense, including the simplistic and wrong interpretation that it is about the number of sacraments (as if such a thing were revealed rather than "commonly called" by an exercise of Right Reason), is to destroy the truth they were trying to teach. As such, it is a distraction, not a help.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The elders that rule well

This follows two earlier posts, namely E.J. Bicknell on Anglican Orders and Pastoral Priesthood.

In the Pastoral Epistles, in the choice of presbyters the emphasis is laid on the possession of qualities of character which are needed for pastoral supervision and teaching (I Tim3.1-7, cp. 5.17, Tit 1.7-9). So S. Peter places in the forefront of the duty of presbyters the general oversight of the flock (I Pet. 5.1-4).
E.J.Bicknell 1

Based on a proper understanding of the Biblical evidence, one title we find in Anglican churches is very sound, for it is rooted in Scripture. That title, no matter how odd it may sound to Fundamentalists is Rector. It comes from the Latin for ruler. Properly understood, however, it cannot and does not suggest tyranny or oppressive authoritarianism, but rather the loving and fatherly care of the ministry of a presbyter (priest, elder, all the same word in the Greek New Testament: πρεσβύτερος - presbyteros). I explained this before, as follows:

Indeed, the larger emphasis in the ancient Church was on [the presbyter's] role as an elder, and his pastoral care for the Church was explained both in scripture and in other early Christian writings, usually by employing the word "rule" (προΐστημι, proïstēmi). This kind of ruling has the Bible for its support. Look at these examples from the New Testament epistles.

"Let the elders (πρεσβύτερος) that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine." I Tim. 5:17

"Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you." Heb. 13:17

Though not using the word "rule," the same thing is expressed in this passage: "And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves." I Thes. 5:12, 13

In his classic work, Regula Pastoralis (literally, Rule of the Pastors, better known in English by the title, Pastoral Care), Pope St. Gregory the Great (circa 540 to 604) defines the word "rule" as it applies to presbyters. In this book, St. Gregory displayed a better understanding of human psychology than many modern doctors possess, examining repeatedly the attitudes and presumptions people have, and in each case the opposite. He does so in light of the need every person has strictly in light of the Christian doctrine of the Fall. Knowing that sin and death have weakened everyone, creating specific and varying deficiencies of character in just about everybody, Gregory instructs the presbyter in how to meet the needs of those whom he "rules." We learn from this that the rule of pastors in God's church is medicinal, a part of the healing that the Lord provides for his flock. The rule is not a dictatorial or tyrannical or authoritarian position taken as lords over God's people, but a remedial ministry of those who are ordained to be fathers in God's family. "For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?"asks St. Paul, rhetorically (I Tim 3:5).

During the Middle Ages, the concept of the office of a presbyter became imbalanced, to the point where his sacerdotal role took over almost completely, almost to the exclusion of all else. This imbalance was the basis for the most glaring errors of Apostolicae Curae (1896), although the excellent Anglican refutations of that Papal Bull have been very thorough, most have criticized this specific aspect only briefly (see the links above for more details). It is E.J. Bicknell's defense of Anglican Orders that is the most useful for the average reader even though, in its brevity, it is not enough for a serious student unless serving as a summary of the larger and more detailed Saepius Officio (1897) by the Archbishops of England.

Even so, it is Bicknell who dared to state, boldly, what our mostly High Church Continuum movement needs to hear, if we are to develop fully the pastoral ministry of our priesthood, so as to meet the deepest needs of all our people. It is in a footnote that Bicknell cuts to the chase:

As we have said, the English word priest by derivation simply means 'presbyter'. But it has acquired the meaning of 'sacerdos'. The Christian presbyter in virtue of his office is a 'priest'. Priesthood is one of his functions.

By reminding us that the priest is a pastor and teacher, not only a sacerdos or a Kohan at the altar, Bicknell helps us return, our Anglican fathers long ago having led the way, to the emphasis that is Biblical and Patristic. Indeed, if during the early centuries of the Church, anyone would have said to the Fathers who wrote, or to the bishops who met in Ecumenical Councils, something to the effect that the main role of a
πρεσβύτερος is to be a "sacrificing priest," and that teaching, preaching and every other aspect of pastoral care is relatively unimportant in comparison, an argument to the contrary would likely ensue.

However, if anyone cares to prove otherwise, here is the opportunity to do so. Anyone who believes that quotations from Scripture and/or the Fathers of the Church can demonstrate that the πρεσβύτερος was, in the early centuries of the Church, primarily, above all other duties, a "sacrificing priest," may write comments that directly quote the primary sources. Otherwise, let Bicknell's words stand: "Priesthood is one of his functions." So too is teaching; so too is ruling as an elder who cares for the people, as a shepherd who cares for the flock, as a father who cares for the family.

1. A Theological Introduction to The Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England, page 339