"Love! Do you know the meaning of the word?" 'How should I not?' said the Lady, 'I am in love...in Love Himself.'
~C.S. Lewis
The Great Divorce

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The New Anglican Diocese

I have worshipped in the Reformed Episcopal Church since I was six. During that time, the REC has taken part in serious discussions regarding the unity of Episcopalians in North America who have been disenfranchised by the Episcopal Church's headlong run into heterodoxy.
These discussions, agreements, and concordats have, I'm sure, been pleasing to the Lord who pleaded that "they may be one." (John 17:21)

However, as I was reading the Theological Statement posted on the website for the Provinve of the Anglican Church in North America, I found one point particularly sticky. In general, the document affirms the traditional Anglican Church's committment to Catholic Christianity, for which it has my highest praise (whatever that's worth). But point (5) really bothers me. It can be found here. http://www.united-anglicans.org/about/theology.html

Of the ecumenical councils of the Church, numbering 21 in total (Nicea 1-Vatican II), the statement only considers the work of the first seven, and with strong qualifiers on 5-7. Now, that an Anglican document would only acknowledge the first seven councils is nothing new. Eastern Orthodox Christians acknowledge only the first seven as well. But who is going to be the authority which determines that "the clarifications...are agreeable to the Holy Scriptures"? This is the problem of Sola Scripture (the scriptures alone) as a principle. While the Word of God is a treasure "sweeter than honey and better than gold", its value is diminshed if it is not properly interpreted. Who is the arbiter of what the Bible teaches?

It appears to me that the architects of this document believes that the fathers of the Church, meeting in council, messed up. So who gets to determine who messed up the interpretation of Scripture?

I think it is important to understand Scripture within the context of Christian tradition. It is not that tradition and reason exist as secondary authorities to Scripture, rather that the Scriptures function as a witness to the primary tenets of Apostolic Christianity, read: tradition (hence the reason the post-apostolic fathers, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, chose the books and letters they did to comprise the New Testament.) That said, the traditions passed on through the Church should not be disqualified because Scripture does not explicity state them as truth. Instead, we should accept the teachings of the Councils as a witness to the traditions Paul spoke of in his letters to Timothy (II Tim. 1:13-14, II Tim 2:1-2,) and the Thessalonians (II Thes. 2:15), especially since you won't find in these council teachings anything contradictory toward Scripture.


  1. It is even more important that Anglicans affirm what the 39 Articles of Religion teach on the matter of tradition and Holy Scripture. Since the English Reformation, the English church has been a proponent of Sola Scriptura and whatever "traditions" are "repugnant" to Scripture are to be rejected as heresy. That would include the teachings which deny total depravity affirm any view of justification by merits or good works. A strong distinction is made in the Articles between justification and sanctification and rightly so. If you were as much a student of the Articles as you seem to be of Anglo-Catholicism, you would be hard pressed to deny this.

    As is typical of Anglo-Catholics, you wish the 39 Articles were not there. So sad that you continue a charade that impresses only the ignorant or those hostile to the English Reformation.

    As Charles Cheney said, Anglo-Catholicism and the Gospel are totally incompatible.

  2. What I'm saying though, is who gets to determine what traditions are repugnant and which are not?
    You need an external authority to determine which traditions are and which are not. Which is why sola scriptura sounds good, but does not hold up. You and all of my Baptist friends hold to it, but you have entirely different views on sacraments, salvation, the nature of the Church and so on...

    My view on justification is pretty simple. We are justified by faith alone as an instrument, but that faith can never be alone. Faith is itself a gift from God, but he gives us the grace to continually strengthen it. It is our choice whether we allow that faith to grow through obedience, Communion, fellowship with other believers, and works of mercy. If we are disobedient and heard-hearted toward others, and avoid the sacraments, the faith we are given will be extinguished and be dead (Jas. 2)
    An effective faith is one which adds virtue, knowledge, patience, and temperance among other things-II Pet. 1:5-8

    I honestly have a very hard time saying we are justified by faith alone, when Paul never says that and James explicity denies it. (Jas. 2:24)

    There are a couple of the 39 Articles which I do not like, I do not deny that. But if you are using the 39 Articles or the Westminster Confession or any other as the proper interpretation of Scripture, you are not holding to Sola Scriptura either...and the only question is, which of us has a greater claim to our interpreation.

    In any event, I wish you a blessed Christmas as we celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ.


  3. Sola Scriptura does not preclude having a church tradition nor does it preclude having a confessional statement clarifying what we believe the Scriptures teach. I'm astonished that you resort so quickly misrepresentations of the Reformed position.

    The church is a "fallible" interpreter of Scripture. The difference is that we are honest about it. The view espoused by Rome and the eastern churches is in denial.

    The church is an authority but not the final authority in matters of faith. If any doctrine cannot be proved from Scripture, then it is not binding on the church or on any individual. Who would deny that church councils are unnecessary? I don't know of any modern churches which do not hold councils and make doctrinal decisions.

    I might add that the situation with ECUSA has gone beyond heterodoxy. It is out and out heresy when the ecumenical creeds are denied and when open homosexual behavior is institutionalized.

    I would contend that Anglo-Catholicism has become so pelagian as to deny total depravity as well as the ecumenical creeds. This, in addition to denying the authority of Scripture, has led to their "church" authority trumping Scripture. When man's traditions are made equal to Scripture it is not long before Scripture falls to idolatry and is no longer seen as authoritative at all, much less as the final authority.

  4. I might add that justification is by faith alone but sanctification is a gift that follows immediately after. Where there is no fruit producing good works there is no evidence of true conversion. However, our good works cannot withstand the severity of God's judgment since we fall short of the mark and since our motives are imperfect. We sin in thought, word, and deed. This is why the 1928 BCP is off. It downplays the doctrine of sin and God's wrath against sinners.

    Anglo-Catholicism is simply a return to the Roman Catholic semi-pelagian view. I might also point out that the Roman Catholic view confuses justification with sanctification and makes sins after baptism only forgiven on the basis of merits or good works of penance. Such works can never pay for even one sin. Christ already did that on the cross.

    The only merits which can justify us are the merits imputed to us by the perfect life of Christ lived on our behalf.

  5. If you wish to discuss anything in the future, you will need to post at my blog or e-mail me. As I said in my comment on my blog, I sincerely doubt your sincerity.

  6. That should have been, "Who would deny that church councils are necessary?" I don't know of any denominations which do not have synods or yearly council meetings to do business and clarify doctrinal positions drawn from Holy Scripture.