Sunday, May 6, 2012

Why I am an Anglican and believe I shall remain so

Courtesy Thinking Anglicans I have been led to a prize-winning essay by Natacha-Ingrid Tinteroff which is available to download as a PDF here. It is definitely worth a read this afternoon if you are not doing anything important like doing some firsthand research into the Crusaders and their impact on medieval history world rugby.

Tinteroff's essay is first-class and a mine of useful citations about the virtues of Anglicanism as a true expression of the catholic church.

Postscript: A scrappy game in which the score see-sawed 5-0 to the Reds, then 3-5, 6-5, 8-6, 8-9, 11-9, 11-12, and finally 11-15 for a Crusaders win, without any great tension rising in the game, lots of dropped balls and missed opportunities. Whoops that sounds like the Anglican Communion :(

21 comments:

carl jacobs said...

It's amazing to read a ten-page essay on the subject of "Why I am an Anglican" without once encountering a definition of the essential content of Anglicanism. There was plenty of discussion about the process around essential content. But as to what an Anglican actually believes? Well, you can read the creeds or the Prayer Book. The problem of course is that these are passive devices. Any man is free to interact with the liturgy in any way he sees fit. The author credits the Anglican Church with its wide scope of adiaphora, but in the end one suspects that he considers the definition of the essentials to be adiaphora.

This essay was the story of a man who seeks to journey on the 'search for God, knowing full well that God cannot be found, and forgetting that it is not man who seeks after god, but God who seeks after men. He wants no orthodoxy to constrain him. He is the scholar who seeks the freedom to go where he will, and think what he will, and imagine what he might imagine, and yet have no one say "You may not go there." That he finds such a home in Anglicanism is not a good reflection on Anglicanism. It is the reflection of the sterile orthodoxy that finds no expression outside its liturgy, and no essential that must be upheld. It is the 'mature, thinking Christian's Church' which requires little and believes nothing.

And that is why it tears itself asunder. In the real world, the definition of essential content is not adiaphora. People will make assumptions. When those assumptions are proven false, then conflict follows in the wake. This is what has happened in the Anglican Communion. The easy assumption that "we all belong to the same religion" has been falsified. The different sides now fight to establish the primacy of mutually exclusive essentials. The scholar who prefers his scholarship to the Truth may seek some respite from this conflict, but he will not find it. He must eventually choose - either to the right hand or to the left. The Magisterium cometh, whether he likes it or not.

carl

Father Ron Smith said...

Thanks for bring this up, Peter. I had seen the piece earlier, but decided not to publish it - for fear of being seen to be anti-R.C.

However, now you've drawn attention to it, here's my favourite piece:

"My move into the Church of England has saved me. Although I have left the so-called Catholic Church, I am now really catholic in the sense I can experience God’s transforming
power. Archbishop Rowan Williams has written that, “God speaks in a manner that insists we hear"

"The Church of England is the only part of the One Holy Catholic
Church where I can grow and consequently hear God. I am able to do so because the Anglican tradition which has welcomed me so generously, not only allows me to be a mature believer, but encourages me to be so.

"I enjoy the liberty that Anglicanism gives me as a scholar, and that I could not find anywhere else. I can pursue the truth without fear".
__________________________________

This is really the tenor of my reason for not embracing the Anglican Covenant. Traditionally, in Anglicanism there is no Roman Catholic-type Magisterium. This allows the charism of 'Reason' into the argument when considering what is 'adiaphora' as compared with what is 'Gospel'. Individuals are allowed to exercise their own conscience.

Christus Resurrexit, Alleluia

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl and Ron
You both make good points.
I think any exposition of the virtue of being Anglican in respect of the 'catholic' church must tackle 'why not Roman Catholicism?' so I see no problem with what the essay says in response to that question.

Re the content of Anglicanism: in the essay I like this quote, "there is no Church whose every part so squares unto my conscience, whose articles,
constitutions, and customes seeme so consonant unto reason, and as it were framed to my
particular devotion, as this whereof I hold my beliefe, the Church of England (...) In brief,
where the Scripture is silent, the Church is my Text; where that speaks, ‘tis my comment;
where there is a joynt silence of both, I borrow not the rules of my Religion from Rome or
Geneva, but the dictates of my owne reason."

I understand this to be saying that first and foremost the content of Christian faith in Anglican perspective derives from Scripture. I see everything in this quote as consistent with the Covenant and being protected by the Covenant.

carl jacobs said...

Peter Carrell

It's all well and good to say "that first and foremost the content of Christian faith in Anglican perspective derives from Scripture." But you can't stop at that point and think you have said anything of importance. The Christian faith is not an ethereal vaporous mist that floats around us, ever present but never quite able to be grasped. It has tangible form and content. It is not defined by the journey. It is not defined by the process. It is most certainly not defined by the authentic quest of man to seek after God. There is no one who seeks after God. Not even one. It is defined by the intervention of God in human history in the person and work of Christ.

This is what I hear the author saying:

Author: The content of Christian faith in Anglican perspective derives from Scripture.

Observer: What is the content of the Christian faith from the Anglican perspective?

Author: No one can ever possibly know, but it is most certainly derived from Scripture.


That is a nonsensical position.

carl

BC said...

Peter,

Thanks for drawing attention to this essay, but I am afraid I was biased from the outset ... that opening quote from Schillebeeckx gave the entire game away. (Tom Wright has rightly described Schillebeeckx's reflections on the Resurrection of Jesus as "the mirror-image of Bultmann's.)

The essay tells us that Anglicanism is catholicism without a teaching authority (so David Jenkins becomes Bishop of Durham while Schillebeeckx is disciplined by Rome), in which I "establish my conviction in light of my conscience", and which differs from RCism's "theology based on sin and culpability" (if anything, the Anglican Reformers had a much more robust Augustinian theology of sin than Rome!).

This is hardly a rich, deep vision of Anglicanism as steeped in the patristic and Augustinian vision of the church catholic - it sounds more like a protest meeting of disgruntled liberal RCs who think Schillbebeeckx, Kung and co. have produced a theology that can seriously call itself catholic.

Now, perhaps it is the case that this is what Anglicanism has unfortunately become. I just think it falls far, far short of that retrieval of patristic catholicity that was intended by the BCP, Articles and the Elizabethan settlement, and which has inspired the best expressions of the Anglican tradition since the 16the century.

Peter Carrell said...

Carl and BC

The whole essay repays reading because it draws attention to many 'classic' statements about the character, content and process of Anglican theological reflection. No one here is being asked to agree with the essay in toto and it is great that neither of you do, using the reasoning (!!) that you bring to your critique.

However it is pie in the sky when you die to criticise the essay as you do because (frankly) it sounds like quasi-Roman Catholicism when you speak about a doctrinal content to Anglicanism which is decisive and disciplined: do you need a pope and magisterium to enforce your Anglican perspectives? It seems like it does, but I would be glad to hear of the alternative...

Carl: you are entitled to call my response nonsense. I specifically linked it to the Covenant which gives a very good summary of what Christian faith in Anglican perspective primarily drawn from Scripture looks like. You are also entitled to call the Covenant nonsense but that is going a lot further - as you know - than I would go.

Shawn said...

Peter,

"I think any exposition of the virtue of being Anglican in respect of the 'catholic' church must tackle 'why not Roman Catholicism?' so I see no problem with what the essay says in response to that question."

I have to say that along with Carl, I do. If the reason we are not Roman Catholic is because we want more freedom than that Church allows, then being Anglican surely becomes little more than 'Catholicism-Lite'. It becomes little more than a wanting all the nice bits but without the discipline. But I do not think this does justice to Anglicanism and to its place in the Reformation. (And to be fair I do not hear you saying this yourself, nor do I think this is what you believe).


Before I get to Anglicanism, the reason I am not (no longer) Roman Catholic is because I believe the Reformation was right and I hold to the Reformed essentials, the Solas; Scripture alone, Faith alone, Grace alone, Christ alone and all for the Glory of God alone.

Over the weekend I read 'Being Faithful', the extended commentary on the Jerusalem Declaration and I was deeply impressed with the theology and the 'Anglican essentials' it espoused. For perhaps the first time I now have a positive answer as to what being Anglican means, and for me at least, it means far more than Liberal/Post-modern notions of intellectual and moral freedom. We are free in Christ that we might be slaves to Christ, not slaves to the unlimited “freedom” and licence of our decadent age and its idols.

This is not to say we are not pilgrims in the wilderness, nor to say that we have all the answers to every question. And thank God for that! For it is the mystery of the world and of God that often makes life interesting! But we do not wander in the wilderness without light. And in this post-modern, or hyper-modern age in the West we need to be clear and forthright about the content of that light.

carl jacobs said...

Peter Carrell

The Anglican Covenant did not define content. It pointed to the Creeds. It specifically did not attach any definitions to the Creedal clauses. Instead it allowed the Creeds to sit passively on the page and be interpreted in any way imaginable so that institutional unity might be preserved.

The approach you prefer doesn't actually engage Theology. It ordains a process in the place of theology; a process designed to churn out the latest doctrine du jour. Whether that doctrine is true or not is irrelevant. What matters is consensus about that doctrine. Consensus becomes the highest theological good.

I cannot say this enough times. The Christian faith has content. You must establish those borders, and defend them, or your church will die. There is nothing so useless and irrelevant as a church that believes nothing. A few intellectuals may want to celebrate doubt and uncertainty and angst. The average guy is going to watch Rugby instead. And why shouldn't he, when all you have to offer him is doubt and uncertainty and angst?

carl

Father Ron Smith said...

"The Christian faith has content. You must establish those borders, and defend them, or your church will die. There is nothing so useless and irrelevant as a church that believes nothing." - carl jacobs -

Such arrogance one would have to travel far to equal. Who gave you, Mt jacobs, the right to define what is, and is not, the content of Faith for other people?

I don't know where 'your Church' is, but wherever it is located I feel sorry for your co-believers - in your own neat and tidy faith capsule. "Judge not, that ye be not judged" - by the same parameters!

Anonymous said...

The Anglican Reformers of the 16thc were indeed robustly augustinian in their theology but as Dean Church reminded us in his important essay on Lancelot Andrewes the English Reformation was a drawn out process still "happening" in the 17c.The Caroline Divines looked to the patristic east as well as the west esp the Greek Fathers particularly the Cappadocians.That strand is one of the things that makes Anglicanism distinctive among the Churches of the Reformation and we see its contemporary legacy in what has always seemed to me the very attractive visions of Anglicanism and its ethos in the writings of Michael Ramsay and Donald Allchin not least the linking of critical theology with prayer.

Perry Butler ( Canterbury England)

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks for comments. A couple of points I want to respond to:

Shawn: The question about Anglicanism or any other form of being Christian is about whether it is catholic not whether it is 'Catholic-lite'. By the standard of 'catholic', Roman Catholicism might be 'catholic-heavy (with unnecessary burdens).'

Carl: if Anglicanism circa 2012 develops in future towards Anglicanism-with-doctrine-defined (e.g. via reconstituting the 39A) I am all for it. But I am not sure that it is going to get there if we do not take steps such as Natacha-Ingrid takes (refinding our classic self-understanding), agreeing to the Covenant (at least we would be re-committed to the creeds, a necessary step before defining their content), and (in view of yesterday's post) renewing out understanding of the gospel as revealed in Scripture.

Shawn said...

Peter,

Yes, I do understand what your getting at, and I agree to some extent. I guess I'm more inclined to want to be a little more clear in defining this, thus I prefer the term Reformed catholic.

Ron,

"Who gave you, Mt jacobs, the right to define what is, and is not, the content of Faith for other people?"

Is it arrogant to say that Jesus was God incarnate? You yourself believe this, thus you have defined the faith for others.

Please Ron, try to stick to the theological issues rather than accuse others of being "arrogant" or making judgemental and nasty comments such as "
I don't know where 'your Church' is, but wherever it is located I feel sorry for your co-believers - in your own neat and tidy faith capsule."

In making statements like this you yourself are being judgemental. Remove the forest from your own eye before trying to remove the twig from someone else's.

Shawn said...

Perry,

"The Caroline Divines looked to the patristic east as well as the west esp the Greek Fathers particularly the Cappadocians.That strand is one of the things that makes Anglicanism distinctive among the Churches of the Reformation"

Last year I did a paper on the Trinity and as part of my own personal study I read Robert Letham's book, 'The Holy Trinity', which I would highly recommend. He is a conservative Reformed theologian in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. In it he makes the interesting claim that while Calvin's understanding of sin and grace are Augustinian, his trinitarian theology is Eastern, owing more to the Cappodocians and other Eastern theolgians than to the West.

I can't say if he is right or wrong about that, but it did inspire me to read the Institutes for myself.

liturgy said...

Greetings Peter

You write that agreeing to the Covenant at least we would be re-committed to the creeds, a necessary step before defining their content.

Hmmm... I must have missed something. Have we changed our constitution, canons, ordination promises, or what we all sign up to in church leadership including General Synod, etc.?!

Maybe you're not talking about our province. Have a I missed a news story of an Anglican province removing the creeds?

Otherwise this talk of the "Covenant" as being the real way to be committed to the creeds merely reinforces the tendency of not taking seriously the promises and commitments we make and sign up to. And of course if we are accepting a culture of not taking our promises seriously - that is not helped by advocating making more promises!

Christ is risen!

Bosco

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
I am not publishing your last comment. I find it to completely miss the point of the comment you respond to and in missing the point you make an assertion about the character of the commenter which is unwarranted by what the commenter actually wrote.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,
I think we are talking about global Anglicanism here and it is not always clear to me that globally, in all our member churches, we are committed to saying the creeds and meaning what we say.

But even here in our church where constitutionally etc we are bound to say our creeds, we may find ourselves in situations (as I have from time to time) where it appears that people do not mean what they say. It would be helpful at that point, were the Covenant in place, to be reminded that the global expectation of Anglicans is that we are committeed to the creeds, meaning what we say when we recite them.

That is, the temptation in a member church in which the culture is that we do not take seriously our promises is to believe that not taking promises seriously is universally acceptable across Anglicanism. The Covenant waves a flag which says "Not so."

Father Ron Smith said...

"we may find ourselves in situations (as I have from time to time) where it appears that people do not mean what they say" - Peter Carrell -

Peter, how can you possibly know this? Did the Holy Spirit tell you? Or was this just your own intuition?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
I work on hard evidence, not my highly fallible sense of what the Spirit might be saying to me, nor on intuition.

E.g. people confessing they do not believe everything they say in the creeds, confessing they say it but with their fingers crossed, confessing they omit to say the clauses they do not believe,writing books or articles in which they profess a different faith to that which the creeds bear witness (Spong, Cupitt, etc), or, an NZ speciality, confessing they believe in other gods besides the God of Jesus Christ, which practice is a contradiction of the monogamous creeds.

carl jacobs said...

father Ron Smith

Such arrogance one would have to travel far to equal. Who gave you, Mt jacobs, the right to define what is, and is not, the content of Faith for other people?

You can hardly make an argument without proclaiming your own superior sense of enlightenment, and you presume to call me arrogant? At least I can explain my judgments. I am not reduced to esoteric descriptions of subjective experience. I do not retreat into abject silence when someone asks me to justify my claims. If I judge, I do not judge on my own authority. I judge according to the perspicuous Scripture. Words have meaning. Meanings can be understood. God is not a silent mist who is incapable of making Himself heard. We are not condemned to chase after an ever-receding but never-apprehended unknown god. He has made Himself known.

I do not judge a man's Christian faith. I judge whether a man's faith is Christian. This I am biblicallly required to do. Consider:

1. Is a Mormon a Christian?
2. Is a Jehovah's Witness a Christian?
3. Is a Jew a Christian?
4. Is a Hindu a Christian?
5. A Buddhist?
6. A Muslim?
7. A Unitarian?

What is my responsibility to each? I am bound to share the Gospel. Why? Because they are each doomed to Hell without it. In each case I must judge the faith of the man. What is the basis of my judgment? A comparison of the faith they exhibit with the requirements of Scripture. Through that comparison their faith is found wanting. I do the same thing with Liberal Christians, and for the very same reason. I compare the faith they exhibit with the requirements of Scripture and I find their faith wanting.

You ask of me "How dare I judge!" I dare because I am commanded to do so. There are not many roads to God. There is One Road. The different religions of the world do not each possess some measure of truth. There is One Truth. There are not many names by which men must be saved. There is One Name. People on the wrong wrong with the wrong truth and trusting the wrong name won't suddenly find themselves in heaven to discover they were worshiping Christ all along. They will find themselves facing eternal judgment and the second death. That is why I dare. And I will keep on doing so.

carl

Peter Carrell said...

One of the ironies of being Anglican, Carl, is that while a fair amount of lack of definition of doctrine abounds, as well as a fair amount of blurring of boundaries re the matters you mention, is a Hindu a Christian etc, I have never yet found a lack of definition about (e.g.) a non-ordained person (even if a Presbyterian or Baptist minister) not being able to preside at communion. And as for judgement, woe betide those who offer definitive judgement in theological matters ... but judging the rich, the tax avoiders, the right-wing in politics ... in my experience of Anglicanism such targets of judgement have always been fair game :)

Anonymous said...

Well Carl,
The gate seems narrow indeed...I think I'm with Fr Faber."There's a wideness in God's mercy" Have you ever read the chapter on Salvation and Other faiths in Stephen Sykes's "The Story of Atonement"? he draws attention to J Sanders "No Other Name;can only Christians be saved?" esp pp37-79
Perry Butler England