Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Real McCoy


It seems wise to clear up any misunderstandings, especially on the part of my friend and colleague Fr. Laurence Wells of this same Diocese of the South, ACC-OP. I have mentioned facts of history concerning the relations of the Anglican Communion and the Eastern Orthodox Church between the years 1922 and 1976, because those facts are useful in refuting the Enthusiasm of the TAC bishops at this time. In their sales pitch of Anglicanorum Coetibus, they present the constitution as some great accomplishment that will usher in a kind of unity that, in their thesis, acquires eschatological significance. By describing part of the history of Anglican-Orthodox relations, I am not endorsing the idea that we see the Eastern Orthodox Church as some kind of alternative to Rome for Anglican realignment with either of the larger Catholic Communions.

The Branch Fact

In the past I have made it clear that we must not realign with either of them, but rather, we must remain Anglican. The Enthusiasm of the TAC bishops does not require an equal and opposite reaction, or any kind of rebound to that other large communion of churches. My point was that it is only as Anglicans who are both firm and intelligent in our commitment to our principles, that we could actually serve any cause of universal Catholic unity. The Orthodox Church has strengths, but also weaknesses, and even dangers; in this way it is to be approached as being very much like the Church of Rome. We respect her, and recognize her as a part of the Holy Catholic Church, but we have unresolved theological issues worthy of serious discussion.

I have called these two communions "the Two One True Churches," if scorning anything, scorning only that attitude of exclusiveness by which they cannot recognize us or each other. But, I hope I mean it as an expression of our disagreement, rather than as scorn (sinner that I am), with their shallow dismissal of what has been called "the branch theory." Simply, put, despite their reading into that phrase all sorts of dark erroneous notions about God planting His Church as wild and unruly by design, all it means is that, as various branches belong to one and the same tree with one and the same root, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church has expressions of various peoples each with an ethos and history, each unhappily divided in polity and appearance from the others. If this is a theory it is like the theory of gravity; that is, it is a theory that expresses an undeniable fact. The Church is politically divided, but it is, nonetheless, one Church.

Against this fact the Two One True Churches treat it as some sort of dogma that the Church cannot have such a political division, and that therefore only one party can be the Church, and the others schismatic. But, when and where and how was that idea ever revealed? It has never been revealed, having no support from Scripture, and no support from any declared dogma in Antiquity. It has no universal consensus, and by its nature cannot; for, all it has is opposing parties throwing it at each other like a weapon, while comforting themselves by it without so much as the possibility of universal consensus once it has been invoked.

What has been revealed if not the following? The Church is entered through baptism into Christ, governed and taught by bishops in Apostolic Succession, and derives it life and power from the word of God and from his holy sacraments. In any given locality, to find the Church one need look only for this: "The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ’s ordinance, in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same (opening to Article XIX)." To look for anything more requires a talent impossible for any person, a certain knowledge that this Catholic Body with sacraments and the word of God is the True Church, and that one not, though they have alike the necessary visible marks as Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.

You may ask, "what about 'One'?" Why have I omitted that "mark of the Church?" The context has, in terms of what can be used as a measure in any practical way, given the hard reality, ruled that out. But, in terms of "One," in that each of these congregations is Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, what is visible, at least to all who possess Right Reason (which seems to be Anglicans exclusively in this matter), is that they are all One Church, just as the red-headed freckle-faced O'Toole children are all one brood of siblings in one family, no matter how much they scatter from each other once they leave the house. They all have four marks: Red hair, freckled faces, the last name O'Toole, and the same parents. Which one is the real O'Toole, if not the real McCoy? That seems, at least to the Reasonable Anglican mind, a silly question.

Doctrinal branching

Nonetheless, among the things that divide stands one that must be dealt with honestly and objectively. That is, doctrine. Modern Anglicans have been forced to take a stand among all of those who use the same name. That is why we have The Affirmation of St. Louis, and why we have to treat it as equal to the formularies in importance, inasmuch as we live in a time of open and unashamed errors that threaten to destroy the life of the Church from within. It is why we insist on reading Scripture with the mind of the Church as expressed from the very beginning, with the Vincentian principles of Universal Consensus and Antiquity.

Unfortunately, we have some who confuse Medieval innovations with Universal Consensus, and with doctrines that date to Antiquity. Some people have confusion about the place of Scripture, forgetting that in Ecumenical (if you prefer, Oecumencial) Council the Fathers used the Scriptures to prove or disprove doctrinal ideas. They saw in the Scriptures the mind of Christ by his Apostles recorded in a public record, and were certain that no essential doctrine was established that was not written in them and drawn from them. They saw, too, that the Scriptures were given by God from within the Church, and were therefore inseparable from the teaching of the Church as handed down from the beginning. The Universal teaching of the Church cannot be, therefore, merely what any one See or Patriarchate declares by its own authority; nor can it be found by the knee jerk reaction of modern Catholics, be they Roman, "Anglo-" or Orthodox. Universally accepted doctrine must be determined by evidence on an objective level, not by what feels right according to taste.

Therefore, to be both firmly and intelligently Anglican requires us to base our Faith on Scripture as understood within the Tradition of the Church in its first millennium, before the Great Schism divided the Church into camps (at least for all practical purposes). We must interpret Scripture according to Universal Consensus and Antiquity. This is why we have formularies: Not to create our own standard, but to eliminate any standard other than what we know to be true and reliable, and ultimately, to have been revealed to God's holy Apostles and Prophets as the faith once delivered to the saints. On one hand we must avoid innovation, on the other we must let nothing slip or be lost.

Specifically, we see in Rome innovations that we cannot accept as true doctrine, including their doctrine concerning the papacy itself. In Orthodoxy we see what appears to be a possible omission, if not in their formal doctrine, in popular perception. Part of this can be drawn, as unsuitable as it feels, from one of the documents in which Anglican Orders were recognized as valid by the Patriarch of Alexandria in 1930, in the footnotes:

"[2] We transliterate the term, thusia hilasterios, and do not translate it by propitiatory sacrifice, or expiatory sacrifice, because, as generally used, these terms present conceptions which are not attached by the Orthodox to thusia hilasterios. The words used by the Anglican Bishops in their discussions with the Orthodox Delegation, as recorded in the Resume, and endorsed by the Lambeth Conference are: '… that the Anglican Church teaches the doctrine of Eucharistic Sacrifice as explained in the Answer of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to Pope Leo XIII, on Anglican Ordinations: and also that in the offering of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the Anglican Church prays that "by the merits and death of Thy Son Jesus Christ, and through faith in His Blood, we and all Thy whole Church may obtain remission of our sins, and all other benefits of His Passion," as including the whole company of faithful people, living and departed.' Lambeth Conference Report, 1930."

Gratifying as those words are, for setting straight any notion that our view of Eucharistic Sacrifice is not in accord with the mind of the Church Universal, it begs the question of whether they rejected the Medieval western view of "propitiatory sacrifice, or expiatory sacrifice" merely as belonging to each Mass as separate sacrifice, or whether this suggests an overall dislike of the Gospel truth that Christ on His cross offered the propitiatory and expiatory sacrifice. Sadly, a trend among some Orthodox writers in our time, that is very unorthodox, is to treat the sacrifice Christ offered of his own death to atone for the sins of fallen mankind, with embarrassment, as an invention of St. Anselm, or as peculiarly western.

Where we find this trend, we must, in any serious discussion, ask for an accounting. The Bible uses the language of sacrifice when speaking of Christ's "once and for all" offering of Himself on the cross, the One for the many, the Suffering Servant whose soul was poured out unto death for the sins of the whole world. It reveals that he offered Himself willingly to satisfy the demands of perfect and eternal justice, without which God Himself would have violated His own righteousness, and therefore compromised His own holiness, if He were to forgive the fallen children of Adam.

"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." (Rom. 8:23-26)

We see this trend, to reject atonement and sacrifice, as no inherent or necessary part of Orthodoxy, but as an issue cropping up in modern times, and needing resolution. We see it also as involving a necessary doctrine without which there is no Gospel.


Canon Tallis said...

Father Hart,

Thank you for once again knocking it out of the park to use a little baseball lingo. Beautifully done! Now I wait to see how others will react to same. But I do hope that they read it carefully before they begin because there are words that you have used that cause some of us to react emotionally before we have they have read it carefully.

Personally, I have emotional issues about these sort of things because I knew both Orthodoxy and Romanism before I discovered Anglicanism. Both were involved with messy family ties and history. And when TEC was going under I went through an agonizing period before I decided that I did not have to cease being Anglican just because the Episcopal Church had been seized by folks who believed none of its ancient formularies. Consequently St Louis and the Affirmation were something of a miracle for me.

Part of the difficulty of being Anglican in our time and place is that rather than, as your wrote "we have some who confuse Medieval innovations with Universal Consensus, and with doctrines that date to Antiquity" more than a few of us are bothered by those who have confused the innovations, dogmatic and liturgical of the Roman Church since the sixteenth century with Catholicity itself. The purpose of the English Reformation and the Elizabethan Settlement as I see it and as I think Elizabeth herself saw it was to return the English Church as nearly as was possible under the historical conditions of her own time to (to use a typical Anglican phrase) the "doctrine, discipline and worship" of the earliest Church. Consequently, based upon what they knew, thought they knew and didn't know, not everything which they did was perfect and many of the excellent things which had been added beginning with in the early fifth century were suppressed and discarded. Those we may legitimately recover providing we don't that them to be more important the fullness of Holy Scripture as interpreted by (another typically Anglican formula) "the earliest bishops and Catholic fathers, the Creeds and the Councils." Fortunately this blog and its owners seem to week through that patch very well indeed. Our problem comes when we must deal with those who are largely innocent not only of Scripture, but the core documents that reveal the parallelism between the Vincentian Canon and that of Bishop Andrewes. They both intend that we should arrive at the same result, the same faith practiced in the same way.

There is a story told by one of the proponents of the English Use about a person stumbling into one of those overdone Martin Traver's like Anglo-Baroque churches who lectured the poor vicer about the state of it because the ancient basilicas of Rome and other Italian cities had none of those geegaws. The vicar's reply was that one couldn't expect poor St. Gertrude's to aspire to the glory of those ancient churches. But in truth those of us who will fully commit ourselves to our formularies and to the worship we find in the classical prayer books can in fact and in deed aspire to the same faith as those who converted the ancient world just as we must convert and reconvert the world and culture which we have inherited and in which we live.


charles said...

This hits the nail on the head. Hooker would be proud :)

In various expositions on the Articles I've seen how certain ones are grouped; probably the earliest being the Ten Articles where there is a division between those pertaining to faith and ceremony. This post certainly pertains to what McClear calls 'the teaching of the church respecting christians as individuals' (doctrines of grace)? It is extremely important.

Certainly there are other areas of difference with our Articles and homilies define, for instance tradition vs. scripture plus what constitutes a true sacrament. Often Articles are discussed in a rather fragmented way, but when you start really digging into them you realize there is a rather consistent system of thinking regarding man's salvation, and it's this idea of undeserved grace which impacts and ties together the rest of the formularies.

I think a great place to start, which indeed the ACC canons recognize, is Henry's 10 Articles (particulary article the section on laudable ceremonies) and the second commandment in the King's Book. Google 'formularies in the reign of King Henry' (for those unfamilar) and enjoy. There is a direct relationship to the idea of justification and worship. It's very important and distinctive with respect to Latins and Greeks, as well as the foundation of adiaphora etc.

Anonymous said...

Having read this, I will sleep much better tonight. The latter part especially (concerning sacrifice, both that rendered once for all on Calvary and that made continuously on the Altars of the Universal Church) assuages several anxieties on my part.

One of the most helpful books I have read in the last two years is a small volume by Thomas Oden entitled "The Justification Reader." This is a cento of quotations from the Fathers on the topics of Atonement and Justification. While Oden does not attempt to prove that the Fathers were Ur-Lutherans or Proto-Calvinists, he is successful in showing that the Atonement understood as Penal Substtution amd Justification understood as a forensic degree were NOT inventions of the 16th century but had deep roots in the Fathers. Why not? The Fathers, after all, read the Bible quite carefully. They did not have to read it through the filter of some "ecumenical consensus," because as they applied themselves to the Scriptures, they were creating that consensus! Oden quotes more from Eastern Fathers (particularly Origen) than from Augustine and the Westerns.

I get quite testy when people come at me with the line "I'm more Patrisitc than just Biblical" or "the EO's can help us get over all that nasty Aristotelian nonsense," or "Theosis saves us from that dreadful forensic stuff." This is pure garbage but we hear it all the time.

The firsr bishop of North Carolina, John Starke Ravenscroft, is buried in the chancel of Christ Church, Raleigh. His tomb is inscribed in Latin, and contains the words, "Primus Episcopus Catholicae Ecclesiae Reformatae in Carolina Septrentionale."

When the Episcopal Church of the Confederacy was writing its Canons (I am proud to own a copy), it came quite close to renaming itself "The Reformed Catholic Church."

They were quite comfortable with the word "Reformed."

These Episcopalians of the old South were not Low Church partisans. They were old-fashioned high-churchmen of the pre-Tractarian sort. They KNEW they were Catholics because for them the BCP was as clear as a day in July.
They did not look to Rome or to points further east as some accrediting agency
to co-sign their heritage.

When we KNOW our faith is sound and our orders are truly apostolic, we do not need to forage in the dust-bins of history for artificial reassurance.

Canon Tallis said...

And if Father Wells is going to sleep much better this night, then I know that I should go to my bed assured of the same comfort. However I would beg to disagree with him on one very small issue. The Churchmen of the Old South were indeed Old High Church men, but of the same sort as the Tractarians. They might not have understood the ritualist revival which came later, but then they had other issues. The miter which Seabury's daughter made for Claggert's consecration still existed until a few years ago and may still. But it displayed evidence of even more wear than that of Seabury's so they had not quite forgotten all the older traditions of the Church.

"leepo" This will amuse Canon Hollister.

Fr Tom said...

Very good - I want to quote from this in a confirmation class for adults coming into the ACC from a non-liturgical jursidiction.

Tom McHenry+

'intlotl' which sounds like a cousin of the Mexican axolotl

Anonymous said...

I've yet to meet an Orthodox priest who has failed to speak of 'sacrifice', 'atonement' or 'propitiation'. It may be that in the 20th century Orthodox theologians had excessive reactions to certain Latin formlations, but, how to say it?, "give me a break." The only thing that might get a caveat in the good Father's statement is the idea that God was incapable of simply forgiving, since that would make him something less than 'God' and contradict the Gospels.

This post struck me as fanciful on many levels - the fact that it elicited such an 'amen' corner reaction makes me wonder how many readers have actual experience with the supermajority of real live Anglicans?

Fr. Robert Hart said...

The anonymous Anonymous wrote:

I've yet to meet an Orthodox priest who has failed to speak of 'sacrifice', 'atonement' or 'propitiation'.

Positively I hope, and if so, I am very delighted to hear it.

It may be that in the 20th century Orthodox theologians had excessive reactions to certain Latin formulations...

You say, it may be? Be sure that it most certainly has been, and it shows no sign of letting up any time soon.

...makes me wonder how many readers have actual experience with the supermajority of real live Anglicans?

I think you must mean, by "supermajority," the Canterbury Anglicans, the official Anglican Communion with which we are not in communion. They are not real live Anglicans, but real live post Anglicans; their communion is post Anglican because it is post Christian.

Remember that my final paragraph contained these words: "We see this trend, to reject atonement and sacrifice, as no inherent or necessary part of Orthodoxy, but as an issue cropping up in modern times, and needing resolution." The very fact that the Liturgy of St. Tikhon (or Western Orthodox Rite) contains our words, "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." That it is approved for use by the Archdiocese of Antioch, proves that I am right.

But, my anonymous friend, if you need proof that Orthodoxy has been invaded by these knee-jerk converts, who struggle to be anti-western more than to be Christian, I could point you to several troublesome sources. Some of them are so busy being non-western that they reject the Orthodox faith, mistaking simple Christianity for some western aberration.

Anonymous said...

If the liturgy (liturgies actually, the eastern rite uses the same language), the bishops bless that teaching, and the priests affirm and teach it, it is difficult to see a general deficiency with the communion, as the language of the blog entry implies. Now if we tighten this to suggest that Orthodox understanding of 'propitiation'/'expiation' is unacceptable, that is a different matter. As you might anticipate, I don't agree, but it seems a more reasonable posture.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Assuming this is the same anonymous Anonymous, and if you want a coherent string of comments back and forth, could you create a handle or use your name?

Now if we tighten this to suggest that Orthodox understanding of 'propitiation'/'expiation' is unacceptable, that is a different matter.

Please look again at the words I have been so careful to use:

"Sadly, a trend among some Orthodox writers in our time, that is very unorthodox...Where we find this trend, we must, in any serious discussion, ask for an accounting...We see this trend, to reject atonement and sacrifice, as no inherent or necessary part of Orthodoxy, but as an issue cropping up in modern times, and needing resolution."

We are not discussing the Orthodox understanding of 'propitiation'/'expiation, but a trend among some writers that seems not to come from the tradition of the Orthodox Church. Rather, it seems to be a part of the modern anti-Western obsession that comes mostly form western people who have "converted" to Orthodoxy. If we go back to the 18th century, we find that these modern trendy thinkers contradict very clear expressions of propitiation/expiation in the Orthodox Church.

Anonymous said...

Propitiation and expiation are not interchangeable terms. Propitiation means to placate wrath. Expiation means to drive out sin. Big difference there.

"Hilasmos" in 1 John 2:2 and 4:10 and
"Hilesterion" in Romans 3:25 were rendered correctly as propitiation in the AV and RV. However, 20th century "Biblical" theology, largely at the behest of C.H. Dodd, tried to convince us that the correct translation is Expiation. So the word was changed in the RSV to Expiation. The NEB produced creative but erroneous attempts at paraphrase, e. g., "remedy for the defilement of our sins."

Lying behind this was a Socinian notion that God, being all-Nice and all-Neutral, could not possibly be angry with sin, rendering "propitation" a meaningless concept, worthy only of a pagan deity. Such a notion has no way of explaining what happens when sin and holiness collide.

Leon Morris and others expended much labor in proving that the Greek terms indeed mean that the sacrifice of the Cross truly placates and assuages the very real wrath of God. The Gospel, however, is that propitiation is not something humans somehow contrive (as in paganism) but is wondrously provided by God Himself, when He spared not His own Son but offered Him up for us all.

The 1979 book (in its much vaunted Rite I) removed the word propitiation and replaced it with the insipid expression "perfect offering," which might be a heart-shaped box of chocolates.

Expiation is a perfctly acceptable term, but not as a translation for the Greeks words in question. The blood of Christ propitated God's wrath once for all and continues to expiate our sins in the present and until the end of time.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Well, certain converts to a religion I prefer to call "Eastern" (which makes me think of the movie Help!) than to call "Orthodox" (out of respect for the Orthodox who do not deserve to be painted with the same brush), love to caricature western theologians. They have decided that, for us dummies in the west, "wrath" means God was grumpy and mad with rage until he took pleasure (in the modern sense) when his Son suffered and died. Of course, by setting up that straw man, they shoot it down and claim a victory over the stupid westerners. Then, like the Major general in The Pirates of Penzanze, they claim ownership of their new ancestors by right of purchase. Thus these former westerners, having converted to "the mystic east" deplore the Sack of Constantinople for having done more harm to their newly acquired ancestors than the Muscatel of Kalamazoo ever did to the children of drinking men ("Now look what you've done with with your filthy eastern ways, with your filthy ways."-I guess you have to see the movie).

As my humorous approach above may demonstrate, in past years this whole subject has been a source of frustration, arguing with wannabe and so-called Orthodox converts, the kind who embarrass my younger brother, and have made his hair come out prematurely (poor balding young fellow).

Seriously, leaving my joking aside, in fact; the "eastern" notion of wrath is no different than the western notion. Wrath is an objective, legal term that rightly fills a wise man with fear; it is an eternal and fixed principle of justice that is not dependent on Divine changes of emotion, but on the unchanging righteousness of the Impassible and Eternal God. What all true Christian theology has taught from the beginning, is that God's love and mercy are just as fixed and unchanging, which is why the cross was the solution in the eternal council of God's will, to satisfy the just demands of wrath, and to supply mercy. This is what the Church has always taught, both "east and west."

Schism vs. Heresy said...

My only question about the Branch Theory is how it is applied. My amateur layperson's reading of pre-1054 Christianity is that whenever a group of Christians became schismatics or heretical, they were viewed by the Orthodox/Catholic Church as outside the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

It seems to be a logical fallacy for Anglicanism to view the church it left for its errors- Romanism -and yet call it part of the One Church and then call "The Episcopal Church" outside that One Church? (Not that I'm advocating that TEC is part of the One Church).

While I concur in your spirit of not "giving up" Anglicanism for the sake of becoming Roman or Orthodox, I have a great hope that Anglicanism and Orthodoxy's reunion is possible and would present the world the true Church: West and East, together.

*As an aside, do you know if the Continuing Anglicans have had any separate dialogue with the Orthodox? Surely we can speak more "on the same page" than Canterbury ever could with Constantinople?

Thank you for this wonderful blog!

In Christ,