Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Protestant doctrine in hymn lyrics

Josh Osbun runs the most hymn-oriented Lutheran blog out there (or at least LCMS blog): Holy Holy Hymnody, successor to his earlier blog The Crazy Lutheran. On July, he went on a binge of posts about wedding hymns (i.e. his own), but recently the Concordia seminarian is now back posting about how theology peeks out in hymn lyrics.

Two recent posts look at hymns whose theology would not fit with LCMS (or earlier Luther) teachings. One a week ago looked at how a particular Lutheran denomination (Association of Free Lutheran Congregations) had adopted a law-based theology in hymns more consistent with a Pentecostal hymnal. A posting Monday noted not only the strong Marian worship in a Catholic hymnal, but also the phrase “ever virgin” as a side comment in a hymn about Joseph.

Of course, the whole point of the “both Catholic and Reformed” mantra of the COE is that in the 16th century, Henry, Cranmer and later Elizabeth were trying to split the difference between the Catholic heritage and the winds of Reformation blowing over England.

Unfortunately, John Calvin (with Reformed) theology was having more influence on the British Isles (e.g. Church of Scotland) than were Luther and Melanchthon. I say unfortunate, because I believe Lutheran thought would be easier to reconcile than Calvinism: despite the enmity to the "Bishop of Rome," much of the theology of Luther (the former Catholic monk) is Catholicism plus the primacy of the Bible (Sola Scriptura) minus a Pope. A few Lutherans even parallel Catholics and Anglo Catholics in their liturgical traditions.

So how would Anglicans (e.g. as bound by the 39 Articles) react to Osbun’s list?

The rejection of certain Reformed beliefs is clearest. While the Reformed put Law ahead of Gospel, Article XVIII explicitly rejects works righteousness and embraces Luther’s Sola Fide.

Although a strong tenet of Catholic and Orthodox faith, the 39 Articles are silent as to whether Mary remained a Virgin after Jesus was born or enjoyed normal marital relations with her husband. A recent Nashotah term paper renews the older argument that Anglicans should embrace perpetual virginity, because a) it’s not banned by the 39 Articles and b) there was a long church tradition supporting the idea.

Here Catholic and Lutheran theology are opposed: with sola scriptura, it’s hard for most Protestants to accept this dogma. (But again, Anglo Catholics are neither/both reformed and catholic). So I guess I need to scour all the Marian hymns in the COE/PECUSA hymnals and see what they say.

I had not realized that it’s the Evangelicals rather than the Anglo-Catholics that treat the 39 Articles as a statement of confession, analogous to Luther’s small catechism. At least, that’s what Ian Murray said in a review of the GAFCON events, said Evangelicals called themselves “confessing Anglicans.” Murray continued:
For centuries evangelicals have appealed to the Thirty-nine Articles as affirming the Protestantism of the Church of England, particularly the Articles which deny the ‘Romish Doctrine of Purgatory’ (22), other ‘sacraments’ (25), ‘the sacrifices of masses’ (31), and the jurisdiction of ‘the Bishop of Rome’ (37). For Anglo-Catholics those statements have long been the most serious barrier to any re-union with Roman Catholicism, and if evangelicals were to enjoy their partnership there was no way that commitment to all the Articles could be required.
Despite being a High Church Anglican, the willingness of some Anglo-Catholics to abandon the founding principles of our church is troubling. If some clergy are so keen on working for the Pope, they should jump now, as opposed to pretending that they want to create a new orthodox Anglican province.

1 comment:

Vicar Josh Osbun said...

I had no idea that I was being discussed on other blogs. I always appreciate knowing that other people at least pay attention to what I have to say.