Thursday, July 21, 2011

Three assumptions

Three assumptions commonly made by a large number of Continuing Anglicans are simply wrong. Those assumptions concern the relative catholicity of Rome versus Protestantism, the term Lex Orandi Lex Credendi, and a so-called Three Legged Stool.

A lot of this is due to the emotional approach of a very late model version of Anglo-Catholicism that has little in common with the real thing (and if the pitch for Anglicanorum Coetibus proved nothing else, it proved the existence of this new superficial model). After all, agree or disagree with various points made by John Henry Newman in his famous Tract 90, one thing he made absolutely clear, and in which matter he spoke for his Tractarian colleagues, was their unwavering commitment to the Book of Common Prayer and the Thirty-Nine Articles. But, for some reason, the new version, or late model, Anglo-Catholics imagine some inconsistency or disagreement between their perception of Catholic Tradition and the classic Anglican Formularies (Book of Common Prayer, Thirty-Nine Articles and Ordinal).
          Now, as is no secret, I belong to a church that has Affirmed more than is crystal clear simply from those formularies alone. In the Constitution and Canons of the Anglican Catholic Church (ACC) we have the Affirmation of St. Louis, and therefore affirm seven Sacraments and the seven Ecumenical Councils. Furthermore, the Canons affirm a more detailed doctrinal tradition that has led to the use of the word “Henrican.” But, this is done by working backwards in time to 1543, to be in accord with “all other Anglican Laws Ecclesiastical in effect in part or parts of North America or elsewhere prior to 1967…” That is, no one has taken anything away.
Furthermore, the Reformers who came after Bloody Mary was dead and buried, when the Reformation again took hold in England, saw themselves as following in the footsteps of the earlier Reformers. Therefore, the "Henrican" idea says nothing to refute or reject the classic formularies that came a bit later. Rather, a deep rooting in something older and more thoroughly clarified protects the Church from eventually making innovations of the same kind that have destroyed modern Anglican churches of the official Canterbury Communion, such as the Episcopal Church in the United States.
          By setting the cut off at 1967, and the standard ecclesiastical laws of the Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada until that time, our beliefs are safely protected. This is good, because my attitude to the Anglican tradition, which must include the classic formularies, is very much like a member of the National Rifle Association here in America regarding his Second Amendment rights. That is, no one can take my formularies away from me unless he pulls them from my cold dead fingers.
          So, getting back to the statement of John Henry Newman, before his much celebrated apostasy (and loss of judgment), the Anglo-Catholic position, historically, affirms the classic formularies. Therefore, when a couple of priests in the ACC write a series meant to educate the average layman (perhaps some clergy too) in the meaning of the Thirty-Nine Articles, it should be considered strange for anyone to object, or to question the value of the exercise (besides which, since everyone has the Articles at his fingertips, and because they are easily misunderstood, the education seems necessary).
          The purpose of the Reformation was to restore true catholic doctrine against the errors of Rome. Even a light and superficial reading of the English Reformers ought to make this clear; in fact, clear to even the most closed mind. The horrific expression “too catholic” – a phrase that can have no meaning to a real Anglican – would not have been used by the Reformers. To them the Church of Rome had erred and strayed from the catholic Tradition by inventing many new and strange innovations in doctrine. For some reason that is inexplicable to men of learning, the late model folks think it is Protestants who first created innovations. They project modern circumstances into the past.
But, to the mind of the English Reformers the deadly innovations of their time were Roman in origin, and the purpose of Protestantism was to testify in favor (hence the “pro” in the word, a meaning entirely turned around in corrupt modern usage), which happens to be the definition of the word; to testify in favor. They testified in favor of the Testaments of Scripture, and did so by affirming the overwhelming Patristic consensus of the “most ancient catholic doctors and bishops.” For example, when the Martyr, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, wrote his book about the sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood, he called it A Defence of the True and Catholick Doctrine of the Sacrament.  With excellent scholarship he filled its pages with long quotations from just about all of the great Fathers of the Church, such long quotations as to place every word in a context that was indisputably correct. He called on the witness not of his own private reading of Scripture (as some so wrongly suppose about the great Reformers), but of the Church through its ancient witnesses, the “most ancient catholic doctors and bishops,” whose words he quoted in abundance.
The Reformers in England sought to be thoroughly catholic, and did not confuse catholicity with something specifically Roman. The Church in Rome had ceased to be catholic to the degree that it had created new and strange doctrines contrary to the word of God. Furthermore, the English Reformers interpreted the Bible only through the collected witness and major consensus of the Fathers. How to be more catholic no one can say.

Lex Orandi Lex Credendi
The Latin term Lex Orandi Lex Credendi translates literally, "The law of prayer is the law of belief." It means, in practical terms, that as people pray, so they believe.
As I have written before,1 it is a terrible mistake to depend on this idea as a method of instruction. However, to a degree it is a true statement when applied to thinking people who pay attention to liturgy as they pray. But, it is more a statement of human psychology than an approved means by which the Church operates. Therefore, to the same degree that it may be useful it is also dangerous.
It was a slogan of the worst kind of liturgical revisionists, during the 1970s, in the self-destruction saga of the Episcopal Church in the United States.  It was a boast of the late Urban Holmes that the Standing Liturgical Commission of the Episcopal Church, by producing the 1979 work they labeled a “Book of Common Prayer,” had produced “a clear theological change.” In fact he privately boasted of this in the ears of my own brother, specifically referring to the form they created (by butchering the old form) for Confirmation.
The idea of changing theology by changing liturgy makes use of Lex Orandi Lex Credendi  in the worst way. In 2002 I argued, in New Directions (March issue), that this method is used to create Feminist theology so intensely that we can see the aim clearly, to replace the revealed religion of Christianity with an imagined religion that is pagan in nature. And, it is still true to this day. When coupled with deliberate inaccuracy in Bible translation (a subject to look at carefully) it is more effective still. 
Then we have the danger of using Lex Orandi Lex Credendi to make any and every liturgical resource into an authority equal to Scripture. Even a good and useful resource, as the Missal can be when used well, cannot be used to prove doctrine, or as if it had that kind of authority. The Book of Common Prayer is an exception, however, because it is drawn from Scripture so perfectly that it states a doctrinal position about every major truth of the Gospel and the Christian life that really is the revealed teaching of the Bible itself. It is an authoritative resource because it fits perfectly, in a subordinate role, with Scripture. Nonetheless, it should be our practice to teach and preach directly from Scripture; and when we do so we have the delight of demonstrating the excellence of the Book of Common Prayer by showing our people where their liturgy actually comes from and what it truly means.
Frankly, we should never fall back on Lex Orandi Lex CredendiWe ought to so know the Scriptures with the mind of the Church that we can turn it around. It ought to be Lex Credendi Lex Orandi: As we believe, so we pray. And, what do we believe? We say what we believe, each one of us saying it in every major service, “I believe.” And, what each of us believes is a summary of the truth revealed in Scripture, understood and received by the faithful throughout all ages.

The so-called Three Legged Stool
People associate the name of Richard Hooker with this :

“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.” (The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Book 5.VIII.2)

At least, this has been misused greatly by revisionists of the modern Episcopalian variety for years. To begin with, the image of such a three legged stool suggests equality, and also separation into three things that can exist in isolation. It creates a system of checks and balances, weighing one “leg” against another. Modern three-leg-stoolers weigh Scripture against Tradition, or against Reason, etc., pretending this will lead to the truth. Among many problems, it lowers the “first place both of credit and obedience” which is Scripture itself, to mere human reason, and to some mysterious and easily manipulated canon of Tradition.
What Hooker was saying is really more simple. He is saying that the Bible communicates obvious and plain meaning that human reason cannot fail to perceive. This does not make each person a final arbiter, as he says:

“For when we know the whole Church of God hath that opinion of the Scripture, we judge it even at the first an impudent thing for any man bred and brought up in the Church to be of a contrary mind without cause.” (Book 3. Ch. viii. 14)

Also, this three legged stool equates the place of Scripture, publicly known books in a public canon for all to see, to the same level as some mysterious canon of the Tradition. In this enigmatic and dark world of some unknown canon of the Tradition we hear a lot about a present consensus between Rome and Orthodoxy – a fiction in most ways – as if that trumps all else. Because of a hidden and mysterious canon (supposedly) of the Tradition, theological bullies are able to sell all sorts of non-sense by appealing to councils that have never been universally recognized, to whatever suits their fancy portrayed as “the teaching of the Church,” and so on. This entire method of deceptive salesmanship was recently demonstrated for us by (TAC) Archbishop John Hepworth and his fellow marketers, in trying to draw away Anglicans into the Roman Catholic Church with dishonest promises based on wrong assumptions. They used this whole appeal to some mysterious canon of the Tradition to manipulate, or at times bully, the ignorant and gullible.  
Anglicanism has always held the genuine Catholic Tradition of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church in the highest esteem, and, furthermore, has made the essential practice and understanding of the Tradition publicly known and has placed it within the grasp and understanding of all who care to learn it. However, a simple lesson to learn about knowing truth from error is this: The truth is publicly recorded for all to see, and accessible to everybody. Why does the Church have a Canon of Scripture for all to read? It is so that no one can make up new doctrines by appealing to a hidden γνῶσις (gnosis) only for the initiated.
Now, this brings us to an important question: What about the misuse of Scripture (II Peter 3:16)? After all, many people believe false doctrines because some group abused the Bible, either by injecting it with private interpretation, or by creating a magisterium of their own making such as the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (a clever publishing company with a sure-fire selling method, and religion).
This is where Hooker’s actual meaning gives us the best answer. It is in the words quoted above, “For when we know the whole Church of God hath that opinion of the Scripture, we judge it even at the first an impudent thing for any man bred and brought up in the Church to be of a contrary mind without cause.” The real meaning of the old phrase Sola Scriptura, which comes from St. Thomas Aquinas (“quia sola canonica scriptura est regula fidei”)3 never implied or justified private interpretation; but only that God Himself gave us a public record and that the Church has received it and continues to hand it down. And, that public record has always existed within a community we call the Church.
The Church has the mind of Christ, and an anointing of the Holy Spirit that teaches truth from error (cp. I Corinthians 2:16 and I John 2:19-21). The Church needs teachers to clarify and explain, yes; but the combination of this public record and the presence of the Holy Spirit creates a defence against the spirit of Antichrist, that is heresy or error. I use the old spelling deliberately, defence. Error must, to succeed, penetrate a point beyond the wall, both the public record of Scripture to which nothing may be added, and the Holy Spirit Himself.
When Hooker used the word “reason,” often he meant the collective Right Reason of “the Church with her authority.” It seems that what some people have split into two legs is, in Hooker’s writing, one thing. It is the collective Right Reason of the Church with her authority that is handed down in a publicly known Tradition. This Right Reason, ultimately, has subordinated itself to the first place both of credit and obedience, the word of the Lord as recorded in Scripture.
When people speak of Scripture and Tradition as two separate and equal things they part company with the Church that Christ established through His Apostles, and by the Holy Spirit. In the catholic Tradition of the Church, Scripture and Tradition cannot be dissected and  divorced from each other; and without the word of God Reason has nothing to offer, for it has nothing true to inform it.

Three assumptions commonly made by a large number of Continuing Anglicans are simply wrong. Those assumptions concern the relative catholicity of Rome versus Protestantism, the term Lex Orandi Lex Credendi, and a so-called Three Legged Stool. This is what I said upfront, and now you know why.

1.     Here
2.   Here and  Here
3.     Notandum autem, quod cum multi scriberent de catholica veritate, haec est differentia, quia illi, qui scripserunt canonicam Scripturam, sicut Evangelistic et Apostoli, et alii huiusmodi, ita constanter eam asserunt quod nihil dubitandum relinquunt. Et ideo dicit Et scimus quia verum est testimonium eius; Gal. I, 9: Si quis vobis evangelizaverit praeter id quod accepistis, anathema sit. Cuius ratio est, quia sola canonica scriptura est regula fidei. Alii autem sic edisserunt de veritate, quod nolunt sibi credi nisi in his quae ver dicunt. Thomas's commentary on John's Gospel, Super Evangelium S. Ioannis Lectura, ed. P. Raphaelis Cai, O.P., Editio V revisa (Romae: Marietti E ditori Ltd., 1952) n. 2656, p. 488.

"It should be noted that though many might write concerning Catholic truth, there is this difference that those who wrote the canonical Scripture, the Evangelists and Apostles, and the like, so constantly assert it that they leave no room for doubt. That is what he means when he says 'we know his witness is true.' Galatians 1:9, "If anyone preach a gospel to you other than that which you have received, let him be anathema!" The reason is that only canonical Scripture is a measure of faith.Others however so wrote of the truth that they should not be believed save insofar as they say true things." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Gospel of John 21)


RSC+ said...

The plain grammatical sense of the quotation from Hooker's Lawes always sounded a bit more like a step-ladder than a stool to me, anyway.

Step 1:
When in doubt, go with the plain meaning of scripture.

Step 2:
When the meaning is not plain, resort to Right Reason.

Step 3:
When Right Reason is not clear, consult the Fathers.

Jack Miller said...

Fr. Hart,

Excellent... A timely word from the present!


Mr. Mcgranor said...

It's as if one wishes to add themselves to a Catholic-Orthodox spectrum without proper history and institution.

Fr. John said...

Your comments on scripture, tradition, and reason made me think of this quote;
"For I seek not to understand in order that I may believe; but I believe in order that I may understand, for I believe for this reason: that unless I believe, I cannot understand."

What saint wrote that?

Anonymous said...

Fr. John:

Is that not Augustine?

Anonymous said...

If I'm not mistaken, St. Anselm of Canterbury wrote that.

Fr. Wells said...

We usually fail to notice the tension between the slogans "Lex orandi, lex credendi" and the slightly more popular
Vincentian canon, "ubique, semper, et ab omnibus." Vincent of Lerins seems to have been a semi-Pelagian and invented his slogan (an exercise in circular thinking) in criticism of St. Augustine's doctrine of grace. He reasoned that if he could show some sort of consensus against Augustine, he would refute him.
Prosper of Aquitaine (Vincent's contemporary in the first half of the fifth century) was a staunch Augustinian. He reasoned that if you wish to know what a man or a Church truly believes, just listen to how he prays or how that Church worships. If the Prayer Book is any indication, we are all Augustinians on our knees (no matter how much moral advice we dispense from the pulpit). "We have no power of ourselves to help ourselves ... there is no health in us."

The liturgical revisionists of 30 years ago were very clever in hi-jacking the "lex orandi" principle. By changing the liturgy, they transformed for the worse the Church's faith. The Decalogue was out, moral libertinism was in. As the priest starting giving a cooking demonstration behind the Altar, transcendence was out, cozy Gemeinschaft was in.

But a proper application of the principle ought to mean that worship, because of its intimate relationship with doctrine, absolutely must be deeply conservative in resisting innovations.

The lex orandi principle should be applied to the worship and prayer which actually take place, not to some book which is available for optional use, is used only here and there, and then only in a selective manner. Imagine the enormities which could be proved from any hymnal, and then shudder to think of how our "hymns" have had impact on what people believe!

Священник села said...

I think you will want to edit this line:
By setting the cut off at 1967 . Surely you mean 1976?

RSC+ said...

1967 was when they got all squirrelly on abortion and contraception, if I'm not mistaken.

The Gen. Con. that year passed:

1. That the beginning of new human life, because it is a gift of the power of God's love for his people, and thereby sacred, should not and must not be undertaken unadvisedly or lightly but in full accordance of the understanding for which this power to conceive and give birth is bestowed by God.
2. Such understanding includes the responsibility for Christians to limit the size of their families and to practice responsible birth control. Such means for moral limitations do not include abortions for convenience.
3. That the position of this Church, stated at the 62nd General Convention of the Church in Seattle in 1967 which declared support for the "termination of pregnancy" particularly in those cases where "the physical or mental health of the mother is threatened seriously, or where there is substantial reason to believe that the child would be born badly deformed in mind or body, or where the pregnancy has resulted from rape or incest" is reaffirmed. Termination of pregnancy for these reasons is permissible.
4. That in those cases where it is firmly and deeply believed by the person or persons concerned that pregnancy should be terminated for causes other than the above, members of this Church are urged to seek the advice and counsel of a Priest of this Church, and, where appropriate, Penance.
5. That whenever members of this Church are consulted with regard to proposed termination of pregnancy, they are to explore with the person or persons seeking advice and counsel other preferable courses of action.
6. That the Episcopal Church express its unequivocal opposition to any legislation on the part of the national or state governments which would abridge or deny the right of individuals to reach informed decisions in this matter and to act upon them.

In other words, that was when PECUSA became pro-choice.

Anonymous said...

A commenter known as 'carl' wrote at the Cranmer blog yesterday, something I think applies here: "the difference between a Protestant and a RC is that a Protestant says about the Scripture what a RC says about the RCC." Another of his comments illustrates quite well the folly of the claim if infallibility. Here's a partial quote and link:
"Also, you should refrain from blaming Scripture for its misuse. Consider. A man buys a new printer for his computer. He might:

1. Cast the printer manual aside in favor of his own experience.

2. Read the printer manual but decide to do things the way he learned when he bought his last printer.

3. Re-write the manual because he decides he doesn't like what he is reading.

4. Fetch himself a printer's manual from his favorite printer even though he doesn't own it.

When he accidentally erases his hard drive while trying to install his printer, he can't logically blame the printer's manual for his failure.

And before you say "Who interprets?", I will again demand that you start producing infallible interpretations as a consequence of your argument. RC doctrine is indeed quite explicit, but the question on the table is the source for that doctrine. It doesn't count if the RCC creates doctrine out of [whole cloth/thin air/smoke and mirrors] and then back-fills said doctrine into Scripture. Which is what it does. Doctrine is supposed to be derived from our understanding of Scripture. We are not supposed to derive our understanding of Scripture from doctrine. Hence my concern about the missing infallible interpretations of the infallible interpreter. What are all these RC doctrines based upon - because it sure isn't the Bible."


Jack Miller said...

St. Nikao wrote:
Doctrine is supposed to be derived from our understanding of Scripture. We are not supposed to derive our understanding of Scripture from doctrine.

Well said.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

In order to have an answer to Christians of other venues who will object to this, we need to look at it using the method of St. Thomas Aquinas. So, here is a three sided view.

St. Nikao wrote:

Doctrine is supposed to be derived from our understanding of Scripture. We are not supposed to derive our understanding of Scripture from doctrine.

Objection 1 On the contrary, the Church was already taught by the Apostles during the time that the New Testament was being composed (Acts 2:42). Therefore, the Scriptures were written and received within the Church where doctrine was established. The teaching of the Apostles was known to the Church before the completion of the Canon of Holy Scripture. The Church has the mind of Christ and was promised the guidance of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 2:16, John 16:13), and is the pillar and ground of the truth (I Tim. 3:15).

Objection 2 Doctrine develops within the Church (as Cardinal Newman taught). The teaching we believe is really that of the Church, and we see the Scriptures through that lens. After Nicea I, for example, we read the Scriptures in light of that Council, etc.

Reply to Objection 1. What the objection actually shows is that we must accept the judgment of the Church concerning the sacred Scriptures. The Scriptures were received by the Church as the word of God, not as merely the teaching of men. The Old Testament was already established as the word of God from the start. The Church from ancient times has considered the Canon of the New Testament to contain the whole record of Apostolic doctrine. Therefore, the substance of the first objection is, in reality, the reason why "St. Nikao" is correct. This public record of the Church, the Bible, preserves the word of God through the Prophets and Apostles.

Reply to Objection 2. If we believe Newman's theory of Doctrinal Development, we have no period in history when the Church actually had, or can have, the mind of Christ. Everything is subject to constant change, including dogmatic formulations which may be "developed" with subtle redefinition. This plays into the hands of the most radical revisionists, so that while the followers of Newman think their Magisterium keeps them safe from certain errors (i.e. women's ordination), it is really his theory that justifies the most radical departures from truth, as well as new and strange doctrines.

Furthermore, Newman's theory is not what history reveals. The example of the first Council of Nicea (which I have seen used this way) proves how foolish the theory is. The council was called (at the request of the Archbishop of Alexandria) because the teaching of Arius created a crisis. Also, the doctrine that was defended at Nicea in 325, (where the name of St. Athanasius figures prominently), was defended entirely by Scripture. Scripture was the data used to defend orthodoxy.

That is because the doctrine is in the Scripture itself, not because we have some "lens" as a helpful aid after the Ecumenical Councils. That lens is helpful; but the Church did not develop doctrine at the Councils; it defended established doctrine, the public record of which is Scripture.

Canon Tallis said...

It is really wonderful to read something so totally Anglican and prayer book and which I will find so easy to carry over into prayer. The real problem of 'lex orandi, lex credendi' is the difference between the liturgy as it is set forth in the Book of Common Prayer and the way it is sacramentally incarnated in the life of the parish. The liturgy will express right doctrine if it is done as closely as possible in accordance with the way it was attended by the framers.

A very sincere thank you, Father Hart and another for the excellent comments.

curate said...

Excellent article.

Anonymous said...

Sirs, My comment was entirely carl's, not mine. I just thought it illustrated the Anglican/RC positions quite well.

His first comment bears repeating: "the difference between a Protestant and an RC is that a Protestant says about the Scripture what a RC says about the RCC."

In other words...

Roman Catholics are church-oriented or church-centered, church loyal, church evangelizers.

Protestant/Reformed and Anglican Catholics are (or should be) Scripture and Christ-centered, Christianity-oriented.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Hart states the Christian position against Romanism in these two sentences:
"That is because the doctrine is in the Scripture itself, not because we have some "lens" as a helpful aid after the Ecumenical Councils. That lens is helpful; but the Church did not develop doctrine at the Councils; it defended established doctrine, the public record of which is Scripture."

Amen, Fr. Hart

Fr. Wells said...

Fr Hart wrote:

"the Church did not develop doctrine at the Councils; it defended established doctrine, the public record of which is Scripture."

It may seem ungrateful to tweak such a clear-headed and perfectly correct statement, but I would offer one slight amendment.

"the Church did not develop doctrine at the Councils; it defended REVEALED TRUTH, the public record of which is Scripture."

Doctrine, even correct doctrine, is man-made; truth comes from God. This is why the boundary between Revealed Truth and "pious opinion" must be so jealously guarded. And much "pious opinon" is only presumptuous speculation.