Sunday, June 22, 2008

What defines the "Anglican" faith?

GAFCON is underway in Jersualem, beginning what is likely to be a global realignment of the Anglican Communion. (One or two? Will the orthodox be in communion with Canterbury? How long will it take? Who knows?)

Most of the participants are angry at the progressive wing of the Anglican church for redefining the faith to fit the modern context. To correct this problem, it would be necessary for the participants (and the traditionalists more broadly) to agree on what the "Anglican" faith really is.

The obvious touchstone is the 39 Articles, based on Cranmer's earlier conception and enacted by Parliament in 1571 after the Protestant restoration. The 39 are:
  1. Of Faith in the Holy Trinity.
  2. Of the Word or Son of God, which was made very Man.
  3. Of the going down of Christ into Hell.
  4. Of the Resurrection of Christ.
  5. Of the Holy Ghost.
  6. Of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation.
  7. Of the Old Testament.
  8. Of the Creeds.
  9. Of Original or Birth-Sin.
  10. Of Free-Will.
  11. Of the Justification of Man.
  12. Of Good Works.
  13. Of Works before Justification.
  14. Of Works of Supererogation.
  15. Of Christ alone without Sin.
  16. Of Sin after Baptism.
  17. Of Predestination and Election.
  18. Of obtaining eternal Salvation only by the Name of Christ.
  19. Of the Church.
  20. Of the Authority of the Church.
  21. Of the Authority of General Councils.
  22. Of Purgatory.
  23. Of Ministering in the Congregation.
  24. Of Speaking in the Congregation in such a Tongue as the people understandeth.
  25. Of the Sacraments.
  26. Of the Unworthiness of the Ministers, which hinders not the effect of the Sacraments.
  27. Of Baptism.
  28. Of the Lord's Supper.
  29. Of the Wicked, which eat not the Body of Christ in the use of the Lord's Supper.
  30. Of both Kinds.
  31. Of the one Oblation of Christ finished upon the Cross.
  32. Of the Marriage of Priests.
  33. Of excommunicate Persons, how they are to be avoided.
  34. Of the Traditions of the Church.
  35. Of the Homilies.
  36. Of Consecration of Bishops and Ministers.
  37. Of the Power of the Civil Magistrates.
  38. Of Christian Men's Goods, which are not common.
  39. Of a Christian Man's Oath.
The articles are a testament to the Anglican fudge — “both reformed and Catholic.” Articles 1-5 and 8 are an obvious commonality with the apostolic church, both Roman and Eastern.

Meanwhile, at least four of the five solas of Lutheran and Calvinist theology are readily apparent in the articles: Scripture alone (#6), grace alone (#10), faith alone (#11), Christ alone (#18). I don't see Soli Deo gloria ("glory to God alone"), but the 1549 BCP is pretty clear:
through Christe our Lorde, by whome, and with whome, in the unitie of the holy Ghost: all honour and glory, be unto thee, O father almightie, world without ende. Amen.
Still, there’s the question: are the 39 Articles a “confession” on par with the (Lutheran) Augsburg Confession or the (Presbyterian) Westminster Confession.

At GAFCON, apparently two different roles were ascribed to the 39 Articles. As Dr. Robert Monday, dean of Nashotah House wrote:
It was considered a virtual article of faith in the Confirmation class I attended that the Articles of Religion (the 39 Articles) were in no way to be viewed as a confession of faith. …

Such a view denies the obvious role that the Articles of Religion have played in both defining and describing the nature of a Reformed Catholicism that was no longer Roman. The fact that assent to the Articles is still required of those being ordained in the Church of England … makes the Articles the nearest thing to a confession of faith possessed by the Anglican tradition.

But what about the future? Is the future of orthodox Anglicanism to be seen as confessional (as suggested by the authors of "The Way, the Truth, and the Life") or should it be viewed as conciliar, as articulated by Bishop Duncan in his plenary addressh?
Dr. Monday attempts to square the circle, and I’m not sure I follow all his arguments. But one bright line test is clear: are the 39 Articles subject to renegotiation, or are the fixed and the basis of all subsequent Anglican theology? The latter view is what I’d expect from GAFCON attendees, and most laity and clergy of the ACN, Common Cause, 28 Prayer Book and other traditionalist groups.

But does these articles help us solve the Culture Wars that are wrenching the church today — who is qualified to be a priest, what is the nature of marriage, how should the Bible be interpreted today?

It does seem to clearly put the Presiding Bishop of TEC outside the Articles, at least according to her responses to NPR and Time magazine about the uniqueness of Christ:
Is belief in Jesus the only way to get to heaven?

We who practice the Christian tradition understand him as our vehicle to the divine. But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box.
This appears to directly contradict article 18:
XVIII. Of obtaining eternal Salvation only by the Name of Christ.
They also are to be had accursed that presume to say, That every man shall be saved by the Law or Sect which he professeth, so that he be diligent to frame his life according to that Law, and the light of Nature. For Holy Scripture doth set out unto us only the Name of Jesus Christ, whereby men must be saved.
That the TEC leadership rejects John 14:6 is cited by Archbishop Akinola of Uganda as a major sign that
The Anglican Communion has been deeply wounded.… Their Archbishop does not believe the Bible when Jesus says, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me.' Another American Bishop has said, 'The Church wrote the Bible, so the church can re-write the Bible.' It is wrong for them to continue to be Bishops and leaders in the Church. Yet, if their church will not discipline them, we will continue in broken fellowship with them. We cannot tolerate such theological corruption.

4 comments:

Warren said...

I would suggest that the title of your post asks the wrong question. At its core, the orthodox Anglican "faith" is essentially the same as that shared by all true Christian churches. Anglicans have unique liturgy and worship traditions, but I would argue that they are not at the core of the faith. What your post really seems to be asking is what defines orthodox theology as opposed to liberal theology. That's a big question, and not one I will try to tackle here, but I agree with J. Gresham Machen's assessment of liberal theology when he wrote ". . . we shall be interested in showing that despite the liberal use of traditional phraseology modern liberalism not only is a different religion from Christianity but belongs in a totally different class of religions." (Christianity and Liberalism, 1926)

9.West said...

I mostly agree with your point: perhaps Anglican "church" would be a better title for the boundaries. At least until the past 20 years, a given denomination or national church tended to be bound together by both a common theology and an approved form of worship.

Where I disagree slightly is that while I’d like to say "we're all just Christians," since the Reformation (or the Great Schism) that's not been quite true. The Orthodox disagree with the Catholics over the filioque, while the Protestants object to the claimed of the authority of the Pope over scriptural interpretation. Between Protestants there are important theological differences over things like Real Presence, lay ministry, apostolic succession etc.

But to this you add the overlay of the liberal vs. traditional theology: what I would call the "do they really believe what they claim to believe" question. As, for example, when the PB of PECUSA claimed in response to GAFCON to still believe what all Anglicans believe, even though her Time and NPR comments clearly suggest she does not. (We know not what's in her heart, only what she says she believes).

How important are these differences to our eternal salvation? I can think of no way to know a priori although there are lots of reasons not to put off finding out until we're standing at St. Peter's Gate.

However, for the purposes of maintaining theologically correct hymnody, there has been a long tradition of borrowing between Protestant denominations and (to a lesser degree) between Catholic and Protestant hymnals. Maybe an Anglican parish couldn't borrow a Presbyterian hymn about communion but it could borrow a Lutheran one, and we could all agree on the meaning of Jesus' birth and (in many cases) his death and resurrection.

That's why I list the other blog that discuss Christian hymnody in my blog list (to the right), because I don't think the relatively small number of Continuing Anglicans can have this conversation on their own.

jleecbd said...

Actually, I think you're correct in their being significant differences between Reformed and Catholic, and with the 39 articles being a bit of fudge. What made things worse was Newmans Tract 90, which attempted to Catholicize the clearly Reformed articles. Much like the modernists in the TEC, he did it be reappraising the meaning of the articles. That just made the fudge thicker.

Warren said...

When I said "true Christian churches", I was not including the RCC (sorry if I have offended anyone). I do, however, believe that there are true believers in the RCC. I know the RCC holds a similar view of protestant churches.