Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tests of Anglican Orthodoxy

John Richardson - always an interesting read, and from whom I learn a lot, even in disagreement - has a post up outlining five tests of orthodoxy, taken from the 39 Articles. Herewith a commentary on his five tests, and an alternative list of five.
Give your response to the following statements (adapted from the 39 Articles):
1. “Christ ... truly suffered, was crucified, dead and buried, to reconcile his Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for all actual sins of people.”
2. “Original Sin ... is the fault and corruption of the Nature of every man ... whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil ... and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God’s wrath and damnation.”
3. “We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings: Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only is a most wholesome Doctrine.”
4. “Holy Scripture doth set out to us only the Name of Jesus Christ, whereby men must be saved.”
5. “It is not lawful for the Church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God’s Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another.”
What one would be looking for in the answers would be, amongst other things, an absence of ‘nuancing’...

Herewith my 'nuancing' :)
1. I would start to nuance at the point of the word 'sacrifice'. What is meant or understood by it? A Pagan concept (like King Kong - appeasing an angry monster) or a fully Biblical concept? - by which I mean something much broader and richer than we've inherited from the Reformation era. I would understand the phrase 'bearing our sins' in a different way to that associated with penal substitution.
2. Wouldn't want to nuance this much - perhaps just pointing out that we were originally created in God's image, and that our sharing in divinity is more basic than our sin.
3. The nuancing would be about how to understand faith; I agree with the substance.
4. I don't agree with this one; that is, I think that the emphasis upon the Name is not something that Jesus himself would recognise (and I think it undercuts a proper doctrine of the Trinity). I would, however, affirm that none can come to the Father except by Him.
5. This I disagree with (see discussion here), mainly because I think it is in itself incoherent and unScriptural (lurking behind it is, I would argue, a faulty understanding of what the Word of God means).

John suggests that those who disagree, substitute in other tests. I'm not averse to there being tests of orthodoxy. If the teaching ministry is essential to ordination (which I think it is) then there does need to be something to mark out what is acceptable and what is not. I think my five tests would look something like this (comments very welcome):

Do you accept:
1) the doctrine of the Holy Trinity as understood and expressed in the Niceno-Constantinopolitan creed?
2) that Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead on the third day, and appeared to Peter and the disciples?
3) that Jesus of Nazareth is Lord of all, and the one to whom you owe your final allegiance?
4) that the Church of England is a part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church?
5) the discipline of the Church of England, and will you give canonical obedience to those in authority over you, in all things lawful and honest?

Obviously, my emphases are rather different to John's!

9 comments:

  1. "our sharing in divinity is more basic than our sin."

    Why is this so important to you? To me, this view is the very start of the broad road that leads to the glorification of Self above God.
    "You will not surely die ... you will be like God ..."

    If you preached this at me, I would struggle to stay politely in my pew!

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  2. The short answer is that it was the universally understood meaning of Christianity for the first few hundred years... and there is all the difference in the world between claiming to be God and accepting our role as adopted children!!

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  3. Do you accept:
    1) the doctrine of the Holy Trinity as understood and expressed in the Niceno-Constantinopolitan creed?
    YES
    2) that Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead on the third day, and appeared to Peter and the disciples?
    YES
    3) that Jesus of Nazareth is Lord of all, and the one to whom you owe your final allegiance?
    YES
    4) that the Church of England is a part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church?
    YES
    5) the discipline of the Church of England, and will you give canonical obedience to those in authority over you, in all things lawful and honest?
    YES

    GOSH, I AM SO ORTHODOX!.... ;-)

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  4. Rather than five tests of orthodoxy, perhaps we should have, say, thirty-nine... :-)

    Though I do prefer yours, Sam.

    (And I recognise the XXXIX Articles are a historical document beholden to their context and time. Nonetheless, I'd be loathe to see them further marginalised than they already have been in many Anglican circles.)

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  5. Sam, I discovered this after I wrote (at your behest) a very lengthy response. Sorry not to have included it in what I say – broadly I'm with you.

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  6. Likewise - so does that make me 'orthodox'? No time to write a lengthy answer now, but it fascinates me the way so many can wiggle around which bits of the articles, creeds, canon law and ordination vows we see as 'optional'. Of course,the big plank in my eye prevents me from seeing whether I do that too.

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  7. Oh, I meant to say that I affirm John's five, but find at least the first three of Sam's to be more important. The final two on ecclesiology I agree with, but wouldn't put in a top five for clergy to sign.

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  8. At the risk of overkill, I have (re) discovered this quotation from Stephen Neill's Anglicanism which I think bears reading in full, with the footnotes:

    “Not everyone has what it takes to be Anglican.(1) If the Anglican Churches maintain the right of private judgement, this is not due to any indifference to truth. It does not mean, ‘It does not matter what you believe, as long as your heart is in the right place.’ It does mean that, if you wish to be an Anglican, you must set yourself to understand what the Church teaches, and why it teaches it, and why, in teaching all these things, it claims that it is teaching nothing but the truth. It is easier to make one single decision - to believe the Church, and all that it teaches. But that is not the Anglican way. ‘Our system is simple and intelligible. We expect every one to be able to understand it, and to make use of it all. The individual is not supposed to make selections from it as he pleases and to discard the rest. Yet it leaves him sufficient moral and intellectual freedom to be fully educative. . . . Of course any one who is entrusted with freedom will make some mistakes. The Church can afford to take that risk, because it knows that no mistake or failure is beyond repair.’(2)” Stephen Neill, Anglicanism, p 423

    1. See Canon C. H. E. Smyth’s remark on Newman, cited on p. 256.
    2. R. H. Maiden, in The Anglican Communion (1948), p. 18 - an admirable statement of the Anglican position. Dr Maiden goes on, ‘Naturally everyone to whom the exercise of Private Judgement is abhorrent will not find himself at home in such a system as this. But it may be worth while to point out that to decide to forego all private judgement is in itself an exercise of private judgement on the most comprehensive scale imaginable, and with very far-reaching results’ (p. 19).

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  9. Byron - the reason why I included those two is because this is specifically a question about what clergy are prepared to sign up to, so it isn't just about doctrine but about authority (not that I'd want to ultimately make a hard and fast division between those two things).
    John - I'm not sure where you're headed with that quotation, which I like. I would heartily endorse "if you wish to be an Anglican, you must set yourself to understand what the Church teaches, and why it teaches it, and why, in teaching all these things, it claims that it is teaching nothing but the truth". My suspicion is that you see the 39 Articles as having greater authority than they in fact do have (that is, more authority than the CofE actually gives to them) - and that this is the root of any disagreements we have, not a dispute about the nature of private judgement. I could be wrong though.

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