Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Unity through truth, not through structures

John Richardson has been posting on unity, truth, and overcoming fissiparous tendencies in Protestantism. Here is a brilliant list from his latest post:

"In this post I’m going to try to sum up my thoughts about the causes, and possible cure, of this disunity within Protestantism. Here are the key points so far:

1. The gospel demands unity. There is ‘one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all.’

2. Christian unity is, however, ‘unity in the truth’, not in ‘structures’. It is possible to be baptized and enjoying fellowship in the Lord’s supper, yet outside the truth (1 Cor 10:1-6).

3. Historically, Protestantism is inherently divisive. This is clear evidence that something is wrong, since the gospel is inherently unifying.

4. This divisiveness is due not to the principle of sola scriptura, as some have suggested, but to an overestimation of ‘private judgement’.

5. The individual is not the author of doctrine.

6. The Christian is, first and foremost a learner.

7. Christ himself instituted the office of teachers in the Church, from whom Christians should learn the faith.

8. The task of the teacher is faithfully to hand on, and defend, the Apostolic tradition.

9. Teachers therefore need to be as fully aware as possible of the history of the Church and its established doctrines.

10. Theological history helps us discern ‘dead ends’ and ‘positive trends’ (the ‘Gamaliel’ principle). Theological history favours contemporary conservatism.

11. Creeds and confessions represent the past work of the Church in attempting to establish sound doctrine in accordance with the Apostolic tradition.

12. Churches may rightly expect their members to have due regard to their own formularies.

13. A Church (denomination) which does not have proper regard for its formularies will become authoritarian since, in the face of doctrinal division, it will use its disciplinary measures to enforce structural unity."

I urge you to read the whole post!

6 comments:

Rachel said...

It's prompting me to read through my 39 articles and BCP again. Can you get MP3 versions, I wonder ;)

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rachel
Sadly, ++Thomas died the day before the recordings were due to be made.

Even out here in NZ, I find that when I talk about the 39A with theological college-based ordinands it is a 'revelation' as they do not seem to figure in ordinary course work!

Janice said...

I'm a little bemused by the combination of, "12. Churches may rightly expect their members to have due regard to their own formularies," with, later in the post, the emphasis on the importance of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. After all, the secretary of the FCA is archbishop of a diocese that is busily reworking the doctrine of the Trinity.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Janice
Well, I know that some within the diocese are working 'on the doctrine of the Trinity' and some outside, as well as inside the diocese, are questioning of that, but is the diocese with the signature of its bishop actually going to formally decide something which goes against the formularies of the Anglican Church of Australia? That remains to be seen!

Anonymous said...

Once again, if this were TEC your reaction would be ferocious and unforgiving. But because it is Sydney you forget their revisionist alterations of accepted Anglican sacramental discipline and ecclesiology with your ready amnesia in writing "is the diocese with the signature of its bishop actually going to formally decide something which goes against the formularies of the Anglican Church of Australia? That remains to be seen!" In fact it is the Sydney Diocese that, following your definition, follows "another religion" representing a form of Christianity distinctive from the form broadly represented across the remainder of the Anglican Communion.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Anonymous,
I am very open to TEC demonstrating that it is a faithful, orthodox Christian church, in full harmony with the Anglican Communion. Sometimes it yields evidence in favour of that conclusion (e.g. its all but finally determined rejection of the nomination for the Bishop of North Michigan), so, no, I do not think I am ferocious and unforgiving of TEC.

I try to be fair in my assessments of different situations in the Anglican Communion. On the one hand, with respect to Sydney, I have been a somewhat stern critic of their decision to endorse diaconal presidency at communion (http://anglicantaonga.org.nz/Comment/carrell ), and I am very concerned (as expressed through various posts on ADU) about 'eternal subordinationism', which is present in the Diocese, though, as far as I can detect, it is not taught by its bishops; thus, on the other hand, I prefer to suspend judgement about a claim such as 'a diocese that is busily reworking the doctrine of the Trinity' for I have not seen the evidence for that.

If you were to make a slightly different claim, say, that TEC and Sydney represent two ends of the current Anglican spectrum of theology-cum-church style, I should struggle to dispute that!