Thursday, August 16, 2012

Thames, Tiber or Bosphorus?

According to The Conciliar Anglican, the answer is to continue swimming in the Thames, rather than to swim across the Tiber or the Bosphorus. That is, classical Anglicanism is meritorious orthodoxy, arguably more orthodox than Roman or Eastern orthodoxies. The arguments are here, and I commend them. Especially commendable is Fr Jonathan's point that the filioque clause may not have been approved by the Ecumenical Councils but it expresses what Scripture teaches (note, in my view, especially Acts 2:33).

At Catholicity and Covenant, further reflections on these matters can be found, building on Fr Jonathan's post. One paragraph catching my eye is this:

"The Church cannot define dogmas which are not grounded both in Holy Scripture and in Holy Tradition, but has the power, particularly in Ecumenical Councils, to formulate the truths of the faith more exactly and precisely when the needs of the Church require it."

This is taken from the Moscow Agreed Statement (1976).

What, you might ask, is the difference between 'classical Anglicanism' and alternative expressions of Anglicanism? One formulation of the answer is that the former understands theology to be the formulating of the truths of the faith more exactly and precisely for the needs of the contemporary church while the latter understands theology to be the formulating of truths for the needs of the hour.

The problem with swimming the Thames today is that those 'truths' formulated for the needs of the present times have polluted the formerly pure waters forcing some swimmers to contemplate moving to waters perceived to be cleaner.

One reason I won't do that is some things in those other waters are uncongenial. One of them was celebrated yesterday by some Christians: the bodily assumption of Mary. Talk about a 'truth' not grounded in Scripture!!


Father Ron Smith said...

"One reason I won't do that is some things in those other waters are uncongenial. One of them was celebrated yesterday by some Christians: the bodily assumption of Mary. Talk about a 'truth' not grounded in Scripture!!"
- Dr.Peter Carrell -

Talk about 'sola Scriptura', Peter; you may be its greatest advocate in what you say here. F.Y.I., We at Saint Michael & All Angels in your home City of Christchurch were glad to be able to celebrate the Feast of Saint Mary, the Mother of Jesus - as set out in the N.Z. Lectionary - both on the day appointed and on the nearest Sunday.

I guess for out-and-out protesting Protestants, the idea of Mary the Mother of Jesus being given special honour for her supplying the Son of God with his human frame is just a step too far. However, we do not worship Mary, we honour her!

The Holy Spirit inspired Mary in her 'Magnificat' to say "All generations will call me Blessed". Now that's in Saint Luke's Gospel - which you will shortly be seriously offering your exegesis about. I do hope you won't miss that bit out!

On the subject of her 'Assumption'. This is not an 'article of faith' for Anglicans. however, the larger number of Christians around the world - Roman Catholic and Orthodox - celebrate (variously) either the 'Assumption' or the 'Dormition' (the 'Falling Asleep of Our Lady' about this time.

Those of us in the Anglican Churches of the Communion who profess our inheritance of the catholic and apostolic Faith - together with the readiness for further inspiration by the Holy Spirit - are ready to accept an intelligent understanding of the place of Mary in God's plan of the salvation of the world through her Son, Jesus Christ (Biblical). We do believe that we are part of those ongoing generations who will "call her Blessed".

On the tricky subject of Mary's assumption into heaven: If it was good enough for God to do this for the Prophet Elijah; might God not have been disposed to do the same for the mother of His Blessed Son, who shared His flesh and blood - on the same level of credibility?

The Bible is a guide - a handbook. Jesus is The Word - made flesh, who dwelt among us - through the human mediation of His mother Mary!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
I do not think we are much disagreed here: I have no problem with celebrating the Feast of St Mary, she is rightly honoured as the Mother of our Lord (and my comment made no comment about the general celebration of her feast).

I do have a problem with assuming her assumption on the basis of no evidence at all. Rightly you observe that her assumption is not an Anglican article of faith.

I am afraid drawing a bow between Elijah and her, as you do here, is mere speculation.

Naturally, there is much greater difference between us over the role of the Bible. It is no mere handbook!

Father Ron Smith said...

Further, Peter, to our conversation about the propriety of honouring the Mother of The Lord; I've just dug out my copy of a noted Anglican theologian's understanding of the place of Mary in our Church.

The book is entitled 'Ponder These Things', and is the record of a short series of addresses given by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, during a pilgrimage to the Anglican Shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham in the U.K.

Now that is some provenance!

Kurt said...

Fr. Ron correctly points out that the Assumption of the BVM is not an article of faith for us Anglicans—though it is a very ancient tradition in the Church. Personally, I’m more comfortable with the Dormition. Be that as it may, we should all, in our own way, celebrate the Feast Day of Our Lady, the Theotokos.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Bryden Black said...

Yes Ron; Mary has a unique and honourable place in the economy of salvation. Thereafter, it is ever a question of what to make of it?!

Martin Luther (again!) extolled her as precisely one who supremely exhibited “faith”. No surprises there. For Luke too would see her as the archetypal disciple: Lk 8 deliberately cuts and pastes the Markan material from chs 3 & 4, to make his own point(s), climaxing with Lk 8:21 which parallels 11:27-8. The irony of course being BOTH apply to Mary! Even as then, through the obedience of faith by hearing the word, anyone may become “mother” - a good Evangelical sentiment! Yet Pentecostals too come into the act, with Lk 1:35 beautifully paralleling Acts 1:8, and Mary’s last mention in Acts, 1:14, seeing her “praying” - for the significance of which see Lk 11:1-13.

However, I only choose to comment here due to:

1. Recommending to Peter (and perhaps others), Tim Perry’s acclaimed Mary for Evangelicals: Toward an Understanding of the Mother of Our Lord (IVP, 2006). Its three parts cover “Mary in Scripture”, “Mary in the History of the Christian Thought” & “Toward an Evangelical Mariology”. Sure; it does not go into quite the detail of say Stephen Shoemaker’s comprehensive Ancient Traditions of the Virgin Mary’s Dormition and Assumption (Oxford, 2004), which clearly states “the topic remains an unclear point of the early Christian Tradition”. This lack of clarity amidst “this tangled mass of traditions” substantiates the only tentative conclusions of a Perry. This despite the Roman 1950 Dogma - which itself is of course delightfully and deliberately ambiguous! So; all in all, I’ll stick with Article XX and what is “necessary for salvation”.

2. The history of other confused and confusing matters has accentuated the apparent role of Mary. Essentially, it has taken a giant of a liturgist, Josef Jungmann, especially in his The Place of Christ in Liturgical Prayer, to point out the vital slippage of the HUMAN mediatorial role of the unique God-man, Jesus, in the history of liturgy and so Christian thought and practice. This slippage was countered thereafter by precisely the likes of the saints and the BVM - to say nothing of an instrumentalist view of Church that sought to see IT as THE “means of grace”, notably via its officials and their unique sacraments. But what we have here is a celebrated case of the cart before the horse: the Church cart displaces the Trinity’s OWN mediatorial economy of salvation. Correct THIS order of things, and then we might get Mary back into her due place, together with the Church (militant and above). [Of course, with the Magisterium of the RCC being what it is, the likelihood of this is ... small!]

3. Finally, my recent pilgrimage to Medjugorje was a real eye opener - even for me! Bottom-line: if only the RCC was to extol Jesus half as much as they do Mary, then they’d re-evangelize Europe within the decade!

Father Ron Smith said...

Well, Bryden, your curiosity about the over-adulation of Our blessed Lady is way beyond mine. I would not bother travelling to Medjugorje to investigate a Roman Catholic myth. My relationship to Walsingham is that it is connected to an old traditional and Anglican place of pilgrimage, where the BVM is still honoured but not worshipped.

I believe in the understanding of Mary's role at the marriage Feast at Cana, where she told the servants to "Do what HE tells you" - this speaks of her subservience.

I still echo the traditional tribute of Gabriel: "Hail, thou that art highly favoured"; and the biblical greeting of Mary by her cousin Elizabeth: "Blessed are you among women, and Blessed is the fruit of your womb"

"For all generations shall call me 'blessed'. (Luke 1:48)

Kurt said...

Right you are, Fr. Ron!

Ye who own the faith of Jesus, sing the wonders that were done
When the love of God the Father over sin the vict’ry won,
When he made the Virgin Mary mother of his only Son.

Hail Mary, hail Mary, hail Mary full of grace.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY