Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Shifting sands of Anglican theology and practice

Occasionally here at ADU we argue about whether Calvinism is or is not part of Anglicanism. The following citation from an Eamon Duffy review of "Lancelot Andrewes: Selected Sermons and Lectures edited by Peter McCullough Oxford, 491 pp, £90.00, November 2005, ISBN 0 19 818774 2" in the London Review of Books (August 2006) is instructive. The great theologian and bishop Lancelot Andrewes both imbibed and preached Calvinism, somewhat standard fare in Elizabethan Anglicanism, and later moved on from it. In making this citation I am not arguing for or against Calvinism as having a proper place in Anglicanism but offering the observation that Anglicanism is capable of both supporting and distancing itself from specific systematic theologies such as Calvinism. Read on ...

"Recent writing on the English Reformation by Peter Lake, Nicholas Tyacke and others has exploded Eliot’s account of Andrewes as the voice of a tranquil via media, a man whose confidence sprang from the settled possession of ‘a formed visible church behind him’. His early religious opinions took shape in the godly Protestantism of mercantile London and Puritan Cambridge. From 1571 he was a scholar of Pembroke Hall, along with the young Edmund Spenser, under its Puritan master William Fulke, and he effortlessly took on the colouring of his Cambridge environment. He was a valued member of a formidably learned biblical seminar conducted by the leading university Puritans, and the godly of Cambridge flocked to his afternoon catechetical lectures on the Decalogue. 

Though these youthful works included many hints of some of his later theological and ritual concerns, such as the need for external reverence in prayer, they also insisted on such flagship Protestant causes as the impermissibility of images, and the strict observance of the Sabbath. 

Circulating in dozens of manuscript transcripts for three generations, the catechetical lectures were eventually printed by a Puritan bookseller at the start of the English Civil War, with a pointed dedication to the Long Parliament in which the editor recalled Andrewes’s popularity among the Elizabethan godly: 
      ‘He was scarce reputed a pretender to learning and piety then in Cambridge, who made not himselfe a disciple of Mr Andrewes.’ 

In 1586 he became chaplain to Henry Hastings, Third Earl of Huntingdon, the ‘Puritan Earl’ who, as president of the Council of the North, was commander-in-chief in England’s northern Catholic badlands, in the battle between popery and a beleaguered and pugilistic Elizabethan Protestantism. 

Andrewes’s duties under Huntingdon included the attempted (and apparently often successful) conversion of stubborn recusants. His surviving sermons from this period assume the framework of the conventional predestinarian Calvinism which was the theological default position of most convinced Elizabethan Protestants.

By the 1590s, however, Andrewes’s opinions were on the move. 

Steeped in the ancient languages of the Bible and, perhaps more significantly, in the writings of the Greek and Latin Fathers, he had come to feel the aridity of a religion which seemed at times to consist of nothing more than preaching: 
   ‘All our holiday holinesse, yea, and our working day too, both are come to this, to heare (nay, I dare not say that, I cannot prove it) but, to be at a Sermon.’ 

His own sermons fell silent about predestination, and emphasised instead the need for perseverance in faith and good works. Increasingly he insisted on reverence for hierarchy and order, and a high sacramentalism, which included the value and even necessity of priestly absolution. 

In contrast to most of his contemporaries, including the other great father figure of the Anglican via media, Richard Hooker, he preached the objective presence of Christ in the eucharistic elements of bread and wine independent of the faith of the recipient, he taught the sacrificial character of the eucharist, and, like Continental Lutherans but unlike most English theologians, insisted on the power of the material elements to forgive the sins of the communicant. 

Scorning Protestant irreverence and lack of ceremony in church, he insisted on kneeling for prayer and at the sacrament (God, he declared, ‘will not have us worship him like elephants, as if we had no joints in our knees’). He practised a heightened ritualism: incense was used in his episcopal chapels."

As best I understand Andrewes influence on the C of E he was a 'father' to Laud and thus a 'grandfather' to the 19th century Anglo-Catholics.

But evangelicals are grateful for Andrewes' role in the publication of the King James' Bible!

18 comments:

carl jacobs said...

Two things come to mind.

There are present-day Anglicans who are Calvinists so the question is answered by practical observation. But even so. Anglicanism has no doctrinal center, so there exists no doctrinal authority to say Anglicans can't be Calvinists. If Anglicanism is broad enough to encompass the ideology of liberal religion, it is certainly broad enough to encompass the historic debate on Justification.

carl

mike greenslade said...

" Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin - to Hobbs)

Shawn Herles said...

"Protestant irreverence"?

I don't think he ever understood Puritan piety, which could not reasonably be described as irreverent.

But that aside, what concerns me is not that he moved on from Calvinism, I have done that myself, but that he seems to have left the Reformation itself. Putting the emphasis on the Roman ideology of faith and works and striving for our salvation. This is completely at odds with the Reformation's insistence on grace alone, and a step backwards to works righteousness. I am reminded of a scene from the movie 'Luther' when, on a trip to Rome, Luther observes the poor crawling up the steps of St. Peters on bloody knees as penance, then handing over what little money they had to a wealthy church to get their relatives out of purgatory.

That's where this sort of legalistic ritualism and works righteousness leads to. And it seems to me to be totally opposite to the Gospel.

That said I don't know enough about Andrewe's to be sure that he did reject Reformation principles. I am basing this solely on the parts of his thinking presented here. And as the Lutherans show it is possible to have both liturgy/sacramentalism and the Sola's of the Reformation.

In a hundred years or so, at it's current growth rate, the majority of global Christendom will be Pentecostal. I wonder what Andrewe's would have thought about that?

Anonymous said...

Anyone with a soupcon of knowledge of the Church of England in the 16th and 17th centuries knows that there many Calvinists in its ranks, incl. John Jewel, Matthew Parker and George Herbert. Even Hooker belongs in that company, as Nigel Atkinson has argued. The terrible ructions of the Civil War and the Commonwealth and the ejection of 2000 ministers in 1662 greatly changed the character of Jacobean Anglicanism, and it was to be a long time before Evangelicalism (more influenced by continental Moravian Pietism than Calvinism) began to assert itself within the Church of England. The founders of the Oxford Movement were given to a degree of romanticism and historical revisionism and found this in some Caroline divines.

Martin Baxter

MichaelA said...

"His own sermons fell silent about predestination, and emphasised instead the need for perseverance in faith and good works."

What a strange way to put it, as though predestination is antithetical or opposed in some way to perseverance in faith and good works! It isn't.

"But evangelicals are grateful for Andrewes' role in the publication of the King James' Bible!"

"His own sermons fell silent about predestination, and emphasised instead the need for perseverance in faith and good works."

This is a strange way to put it, as though predestination is antithetical or opposed in some way to perseverance in faith and good works. It isn't!

"But evangelicals are grateful for Andrewes' role in the publication of the King James' Bible!"

True, but let's not over-egg the pudding - he was but one of fifty two translators.

The wikipedia article on Andrewes says that he "oversaw the translation of the Authorized Version (or King James Version) of the Bible" - This is simply not correct: Richard Bancroft oversaw the translation, and Thomas Bilson and Miles Smith were the "committee of two" who reviewed it. Andrewes was the leader of the First Company which worked on the first 12 books of the Old Testament.

Yes, evangelicals are grateful to Andrewes, and to every one of the translators and the supervisors. But we are MOST grateful to William Tyndale: 75% of the work of Andrewes' company of translators is actually Tyndale's work, and Tyndale suffered torture and death to give it to us. The whole of the English-speaking world is in Tyndale's debt.

Tim Chesterton said...

Shawn, I'm not an expert on Lancelot Andrewes by any means, but I'll be surprised if he thought that good works were the ground of salvation. I suspect that he felt, as I do myself, that too many people spend all their time in Ephesians 2:8-9 and forget that it is immediately followed by Ephesians 2:10.

Father Ron Smith said...

I echo Tim's thought here; in that our salvation, already secured, is a pure 'gift of grace' - independent of anything we can or are disposed to do.

All we need do is receive it! And reception needs Faith - again, the gift of God, but needing to be exercised.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I am publishing your comment minus a paragraph which makes an unfortunate and untrue assumption. Clue: do not work on arguments that proceed from 'as we all know' (unless talking about the sun rising tomorrow).

"" The great theologian and bishop Lancelot Andrewes both imbibed and preached Calvinism, somewhat standard fare in Elizabethan Anglicanism, and later moved on from it. In making this citation I am not arguing for or against Calvinism as having a proper place in Anglicanism but offering the observation that Anglicanism is capable of both supporting and distancing itself from specific systematic theologies such as Calvinism." - Peter Carrell -

The very fact that someone like Lancelot Andrews could move from one understanding of the faith to another - from Calvinism to the more Catholic understanding of Church and Sacraments - helps us to realise the benefits of a certain flexibility of mind and heart, to "hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church" . (This latter is a phrase which often accompanies our readings of Scripture in the liturgy - but do we really want to be burdened with its effects?)

Far from Anglican theology being 'based on shifting sands'; I believe that progressive revelation (post biblical-literalism) may be God's gift to a listening Church.

[...]

This is where such a profound movement as The Reformation can still be valued for its intrinsic worth - but not as a full-stop to further revelation.
"

NOTE: Ron, I did not say Anglican theology was 'based' on shifting sands. I likened Anglican theology to shifting sand because like sand (e.g. a sandbar), Anglican theology does shift.

Shawn Herles said...

Hi Tim, fair call.

I did qualify my remarks by saying they were based solely on what was presented here, which was very little and out of the original context.

My comment was more of a "warning Will Robinson!" about going to far down the path towards Romanism, rather than a direct commentary about Andrewe's specific views.

Hi Ron,

'Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church' occurs as a response to the readings from Scripture, identifying that the Spirit speaks through Scripture. I do not believe the Spirit speaks independently of Scripture, or contrary to it. Thus any idea of "progressive" revelation that claims the Spirit is speaking contrary to Scripture is in my view illegitimate.

Taking the Bible "literally" is a necessity for understanding it rightly, and receiving it with humility, though I would qualify that by saying that the word 'literal' is not a useful one. 'Literal' vs 'not literal' is a modern notion and a false dichotomy based on the modern world's excessive hyper-rationalism, and a way of thinking that is alien to the worldview of Scripture. The pre-modern worldview, which does not attempt to put the world and our experience of it into hyper-rationalist boxes such as 'literal' or 'not literal' is a far richer, deeper and more rewarding way of understanding the world than the modern way.

Far from being progressive, I see the modern world as a serious mistake that all sides of Mother Church, liberal and conservative, have fallen into, and from which she needs to recover.

carl jacobs said...

Re: "Post Biblical Literalism"

Is that another way of saying "Doing what is right in our own eyes." Or perhaps "Making it up as we go along." I would normally ask how a listening church knows it is listening to God as opposed to some other source. But the question is never answered. Ever. At all.

carl

Father Ron Smith said...

All I can say is: "Thank God, God has not given up on 'the modern world' - not like those who despair of it's qualification for salvation, an action that has already taken place"

"God so loved the world" and still does - despite it's fragility and sin. That's all we have to believe in - God's unremitting love.
Deo gratias!

Father Ron Smith said...

"I am publishing your comment minus a paragraph which makes an unfortunate and untrue assumption. Clue: do not work on arguments that proceed from 'as we all know' (unless talking about the sun rising tomorrow)."
- Dr. Peter Carrell -

I must admit, I'm a little bit puzzled about your real intentions here, Peter. Is it to block anything I might say that has the explicit backing of other people? If so, that might just cut out most of your correspondents - even yourself on some issues. It seems to me that blogging is contesting with other correspondents about matters that they have considered that they are uniquely expert on, thinking everyone ought to believe them when, plainly, one can really only speak for ons's-self.

At least one of your frequent correspondents uses the phrase "As I have said before" - as though that imparts some sort of 'royal prerogative to their utterances.

Like the issue of 'ad hominem' I do think that you may possibly be quite selective about whom you are prone to accuse of this. However, despite that, I do enjoy testing your subjective limits from time to time, by putting the cat among the pigeons - even though sometimes inadvertently.

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Ron,
I do not want to return to previous occasions when a form of commenter-war has broken out here.

The deleted paragraph, in my view, contained words which made assumptions about other commenters and their ability/willingness to listen to the Spirit of God. That, again, in my view, but it is the view of a thrice burnt moderator, verged too close to 'ad hominem' for my liking.

Please comment on issues and not on commenters. Then moderation will be sweet and deletions not required.

Shawn Herles said...

Hi Ron,

With respect I think your confusing two different things.

I did not say God has given up on the world. The real world, the world we actually live in, is God's world.

Modernism is not the world, but merely a set of opinions about the world. Modernism is like liberalism or conservatism, an idea, a set of opinions ABOUT the world.

Or in academic terms, modernism is an ideological construct.

So when I say "the modern world" I am not talking about the actual world, the world on which the sun rose this morning, but a particular view of the world. It is that view, modernism, that I reject, not the real world.

Shawn Herles said...

Just a clarification.

I only ever speak for myself and give my own view.

I sometimes use the phrase "As I have said before." However I use that not as conferring authority, but as an apology for repeating myself. In other words I'm saying "sorry, I know I have said this before, but I need to repeat it."

Finally, I don't claim to represent "traditional" or even "mainstream" Anglicanism. My views are in places very odd in the Anglican world, even amongst evangelical or conservative Anglicans. As I said on another thread, my spirituality owes very little to Anglicanism, it has been far more informed by the spirituality of my ancestors, who were Appalachian Metis (Metis are mixed blood French-Native American).

So I and my views are quite odd. :) especially within middle class NZ Anglicanism, liberal OR conservative.

I am a tribe of one. :)

Tim Chesterton said...

Shawn, I did not know there were Appalachian Métis. I am of course familiar with western Canadian Metis. Thanks for a new learning experience! As I've said before I've spent many years in ministry amongst First Nations people in Canada - Cree, Inuit, Dené - and I like to think I've imbibed some of the best of their spirituality too.

Shawn Herles said...

Hi Tim,

Originally Metis was used almost excessively to refer to Canada, but in recent years it has been widened to North America as a whole, as an acknowledgement that the fusion of early French settlers and Native Americans has produced an ethnically and culturally distinct people, in many places throughout both Canada and the US.

What kind of ministry to First Nations peoples were you involved with?

Tim Chesterton said...

Hi Shawn:

From 1979-84 I worked in a three-point parish in Saskatchewan; one of the points was a 'white' community, the other two were Cree reserves. We then moved north; from 1984-88 I was the minister in charge of All Saints' Anglican Mission in Aklavik, Northwest Territories, in the Diocese of the Arctic, which was (and still is) a mixed Inuit and Dené community. From there I moved to Holman, Northwest Territories (which has since reverted to its Inuktitut name of Ulukhaktuk) where I was the minister in charge from 1988-1991. So twelve years in all working with First Nations communities of various kinds, and for the last seven I and my family were living in isolated Arctic communities where I was a pastor and missionary amongst the people.

Sorry if this is off topic, Peter!