Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Anglicans should take care about 'new Truth'

I am intrigued that in the post below I am taken to task by fellow Anglicans for criticising a serving bishop of our church for embracing the possibility of 'new Truth' according to his understanding of the meaning of Jesus' words in John 16:12-13a: "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth."

Anglicanism did not begin with the Reformation but it has been distinctively shaped by it. The Reformation was nothing more or less than a resounding 'No' (let me repeat that, 'No') to 'new Truth' developed through centuries of interpreting Scripture to the point where the church believed or behaved in ways contrary to Scripture: some excessive forms of veneration of Mary, indulgences, defining the mystery of the eucharist in terms of transsubstantiation, investing ultimate ecclesial power in the hands of one papal office, masses for the dead. That kind of thing.

I suggest that the Roman response to this 'No' vindicates the Reformation for close inspection of this response is renewed attention to Scriptural arguments for the matters on which the Reformation theologians said, 'This is contrary to Scripture.' We who stand on the Reformation side of things may be unpersuaded by Roman arguments from Scripture, but we can recognise that honour and respect is being paid to Scripture by mounting such arguments.

The question for any Anglican bishop, whether a +John Robinson or a +Gene Robinson, is whether their claims to the veracity of 'new Truth' pass the basic Anglican test of whether or not these claims are contrary to Scripture.

Incidentally, it is unpersuasive that any Anglican seeking to move our understanding of Scripture begins their case with the words 'I take this to mean'. The very least we owe ourselves as Anglicans is reading Scripture together and coming to a new or renewed understanding as a community of readers.

17 comments:

Howard Pilgrim said...

What a load of hyperbole! "The Reformation was nothing more or less than a resounding 'No' (let me repeat that, 'No') to 'new Truth' developed through centuries of interpreting Scripture to the point where the church believed or behaved in ways contrary to Scripture: ..."

Do you mean us to read this statement as a sound historical generalization, or merely as an expression of a dogmatic ideal?

Maybe it is both! That is, an expression of your profound regret that the actual historical process of Reformation in England never achieved the ideological clarity seen in more Calvinist countries. ???

Anonymous said...

Well said !!!!

Hermano David | Brother Dah • veed said...

The very least we owe ourselves as Anglicans is reading Scripture together and coming to a new or renewed understanding as a community of readers.

And how many does that have to be Peter? 2 provinces? All of the progressives in all the provinces? A simple majority of all Anglicans? A super majority of all Anglicans?

Since you seem to making up the rules here about what has to be done, what population do you set?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Howard,
If the Reformation as a theological event was not a 'No' to what went beyond Scripture (and thus concomitantly a 'Yes' to all that agreed with Scripture), then what was it?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Anonymous,
While grateful for support, I need to remind you that the policy here is for non-anonymous comments, i.e. in future please give at least your Christian name.
Thanks!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David,
A majority would be a good start!
Even better would be some agreed-we-recognise-the-authority-of-it Anglican assembly reading Scripture in the majority.

While appreciating the difficulty of getting the "we" defined agreeably here, your questions, seemingly highlighting the impossibility of finding a satisfactory definition, make me wonder if you are advocating the virtue of individual interpretation?
Are you? And if you are, can you give a reason why this might be supported as characteristically Anglican?

Hermano David | Brother Dah • veed said...

make me wonder if you are advocating the virtue of individual interpretation?
Are you?


No, I am not. But I hear constantly that we have not done the theology, that we ignore scripture. We have done the theology, we have addressed the scripture. We have been doing the theology for going on 40 years. We are a substantial body of Christians around the world, Anglicans and others. We are satisfied with our work and are moving on to incorporating what we have had impressed upon our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

I cannot tell you why you say that the HS has not impressed upon you a similar understanding. Perhaps because you do not have enough faith? You have not prayed hard enough? You have sin in your life blocking your access to the HS? ;)

Howard Pilgrim said...

A theological event now? HMMMM... Is that anything like what we attempt to stage in Auckland from time to time?

As an historical event we would have to describe the Reformation as complex, which is to say a collection of related events in different social and political contexts, exhibiting both commonalities (more than one) and important differences. A careful historian would be very wary about using a single concept or feature to characterise the whole.

A similar carefulness might well be in order before you so blithely appeal to the Reformation as a unitary theological event with one major operational principle.

Anonymous said...

"We are satisfied with our work and are moving on to incorporating what we have had impressed upon our hearts by the Holy Spirit."

Self-satisfaction is wonderful, isn't it? You have inadvertedly (?) confirmed what I have said all along, that you are Neo-Montanist schismatics, claiming to have the Holy Spirit. This is why, regrettably, we cannot take you seriously as fellow believers. People may be reared by their parents in faith, even a very conservative kind (like your fellow countryman Hector Avalos) and step by step move away as the acids of theological liberalism bite into that old belief, and yet all along maintain that they are progresing into the light. That's what ex-Christian "Bishop" Richard Holloway did: a conservative Anglo-Catholic, then the champion of revisionist Tec "theology" in Scotland, now an agnostic or atheist. Look carefully at your own principles and consider whether you are not on the same trajectory but don't yet realize it.

Bottom line: Anglicanism in NZ is in dire straits, on a trajectory of extinction in one generation. More of Tec-style ideas won't help. Consider why NZ Presbyterianism (for example) may be turning a corner, after long decline.

Al M.

Andy S said...



1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

4 The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.

5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

6 For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Howard,
You keep denying the possibility of the Reformation being summed up, reduced to a core principle, etc.

I simply say - again - the one church of the Western world was wending its merry way through history and it got stopped in its tracks. We call that stopping the Reformation. We acknowledge that after the Reformation the church was no longer one. We may properly say that the Reformation was a resounding 'No' to a set of theological matters which had become objectionable.

There was complexity, sure, but the essence of the Reformation was simple: No to unScriptural accretions; Yes to Scripture.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David,
I appreciate your honesty, and your humour :)

I am very open to correction, but I stand by my general point that collective interpretation of Scripture is the Anglican way, albeit with freedom to dissent on non-essentials (and much argument as to what are essentials!).

As for my hearing or not hearing the Holy Spirit, possibly blocked up with sin. Yes, I am a sinner. I am very cautious about what I think the Spirit may be saying to me as an individual, anxious that I hear what the Spirit is saying 'to the church' and keen to align an alleged word from the Spirit with the written Word of God.

Howard Pilgrim said...

I will grant you this point, Peter, "We may properly say that the Reformation was a resounding 'No' to a set of theological matters which had become objectionable," as long as you take more the complexity you go on to acknowledge more seriously. "The set of theological matters" was more diverse than can be summed up in your formula, "No to unScriptural accretions; Yes to Scripture."

For instance, there is the matter of private access to scripture: an essential historical ingredient in the Reformation was dissemination of scripture in the indigenous languages of Europe, which the Catholic church fought on the theological ground that only the accredited magisterium of the church could safely interpret the text so as to reconcile its revealed truths with emerging scientific knowledge. Democratisation of scriptural interpretation among the faithful, an essentially theological matter, paved the way for an explosion of knowledge in many fields of research. Freedom and responsibility to interpret the sacred text went hand in hand with responsibility and freedom to interpret Nature, God's other great text.

Which we are still doing, as a worldwide community of faith, engaged in ongoing theological debate as well as shared mission.

liturgy said...

Yes, to keep to the simplisticness of this thread, the diversity and disunity that Peter laments of beliefs after the Reformation is a direct consequence of the Reformation that Peter lauds. Welcome, Peter, to the post-Reformation paradigm. Why is it the gay issue that has suddenly woken those who laud the Reformation to lament the disunity that this paradigm causes?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,
It is indeed something to be grateful for that the gay issue has exposed the work post-Reformation Reformationphiles need to do on the temporary disunity that has resulted from the pursuit of the truth in the face of Roman indulgence :)

liturgy said...

Peter, you know I have absolutely no sense of humour, and only put my comment here because I was predestined so to do. Doubly.







Oops I just LOL.

Peter Carrell said...

It's the Calvinator effect, Bosco: you stick your head in the fridge thinking you are looking for some food but the next thng you know, you have become one of the Frozen Chosen.