Thursday, January 6, 2011

Scripture Alone (1)

Scripture talk in Anglican circles can be tricky to negotiate. One wants to raise the 'but' of reason and tradition necessarily standing alongside Scripture. Another wants to ask 'what Scripture?', meaning the Bible as the ancient church knew it (OT in Greek not Hebrew) or as Jerome argued for (OT in Hebrew), with possible cognoscenti distinctions being made between Greek New Testament texts (Byzantine or modern eclectic, for instance?). Then recent debate seems to implicitly if not explicitly have what I will call the sexual ethic issue lurking, as in 'I know where this is heading, you just want to end up with a position which underlines/sets aside commandment against loving same sex relationships.' But negotiating these matters is important: Scripture at the centre of our life is a distinguishing feature of being Anglican. Why, for instance, are our liturgies not cluttered with references to Mary and various saints? (Because we do not find support for doing so in Scripture). Why do we have formal, written down liturgies which take care with words authorised for use? (Because these words rather than other words capture the scriptural detail of our theology, so much so that most of our liturgies are drawn directly from Scripture). This last point has to be nuanced - Roman and Eastern liturgies have similar attention to Scripture, but the scriptural detail of our theology means we part company on one or two points in the eucharist (at least, many Anglicans do, I have been part of 'Anglican' liturgies which borrow Roman words to do with 'offering' sacrifice!)

While some Anglicans seem to play fast and loose with Scripture, the reality of the core of Anglican theology as resolved by synods and conventions approving prayer books and making other resolutions of theological importance, is that it is strongly aligned with Scripture, if not tightly bound to it. Where we discover that some kind of deviation from Scripture has occurred, the first criticism to arise is that 'this is not Scriptural'. We are a church with Scripture at the centre.

That's enough for today. More soon on the theme of 'Scripture alone.'


liturgy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brother David said...

While some Anglicans seem to play fast and loose with Scripture,

I am not aware of this. Do you have certain folks in mind?

I know where this is heading, you just want to end up with a position which underlines/sets aside commandment against loving same sex relationships.

I am also not aware of this commandment. Where is it located?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,
My reading of the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom is that at a certain point a list of saints is mentioned! (But don't ask me to cite, I am working from home, here).

I agree that Protestants may look in askance at Anglican liturgies, but I still think our liturgies are different from RC and EO ones.

Re 'Anglican': I use that in respect of churches using other Roman(izing words) which I do not think are part of our formularies at all, though may be permissible by them (lax as they are!); words which, in fact, go against the reformed heritage of our church.

I accept that there are other instances of wording and practice in 'Anglican' churches which might attract 'Anglican' rather than a straight Anglican.

I simply do not agree with you that 'Anglican' necessarily means 'part of the Anglican Communion'. That would be to shut out of consideration as fellow Anglicans many fine Anglicans who have followed their conscience and left TEC for ACNA. It is certainly desirable that those who claim to be Anglicans seek to belong to the largest official grouping of Anglicans (and, of course, many in ACNA do feel they so belong because of connection to Nigeria etc), but I am not prepared to deny to faithful Anglican friends the nomenclature 'Anglican' because in these times they feel they needed to have left TEC or ACCan. Nor do I think that that is defining a word to mean whatever I want it to mean: that, in my view, would be an ungenerous determination in this time of great difficulty.

Centrality of Scripture v Scripture alone? I am working my way up to the latter (or not, depending where my thinking goes in this series)!!

Cheers :)

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David,
Spong strikes me as playing fast and loose with Scripture; then there is this one and that one I have heard preach or pronounce ... but I will readily acknowledge that these days I think Anglicans are more attentive to Scripture.

Your latter question: I am trying to summarise a lot of debate on the use of Scripture in this brief sentence, but I am thinking of the way in which some Anglicans argue that Leviticus 18:22 is a blanket prohibition which extends to all same sex sexual partnerships, even those characterised by love, stability, and faithfulness.

Brother David said...

Leviticus 18:22

Pray tell Peter what you believe that verse says, because I do not know of one translation that has an accurate rendering in English, hence the misunderstanding of millions.

I also have most of Spong's writings and fast and footloose with scripture are not his forte. I also sat at his feet for a seminary class one summer at Vancouver School of Theology. You will be hard pressed to meet a more humble Christian dedicated to the Church of Christ.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David,
I am deliberately not going to get into a debate over the meaning of Leviticus 18:22 on this thread on this blog. I think my point is quite unexceptional, namely that some Anglicans seeing mention of Scripture as a subject for reflection jump ahead and see it as ending, one way or another, with a pronouncement about homosexuality. I offered all that as an example of the responses people make to such a topic. It is not actually my intention in this series of posts to engage in a discussion of Scripture and homosexuality.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David,
My own reading of Spong has not left me concluding that Spong reads Scripture well. I acknowledge that your experience of Spong is different.

liturgy said...

Greetings Peter

You previously started a series “what is the gospel?” I do not remember your concluding it – possibly leaving your readers wondering…

I suggest you could consider doing a series (or at least a post) defining Anglican. That series may also dribble to a non-conclusion, but the issue appears to me to undergird much that you write about here.

Sometimes you appear to use Anglican as a synonym for “right, correct, true, good”, other times you appear to use it for “I agree with this” (which might sometimes/often be right, correct, true, good :-) ).

I think there are different, appropriate ways to be Christian. Anglican is one, numerically small way. It abides by liturgical and other formularies and forms a communion. I use it unemotively like the colour of a car: that car is orange, that car is purple. So there is no emotive content to my saying that a Christian community is not Anglican, or that it is “Anglican”. I am trying to use the word so that it has some descriptive value, rather than being a judgment statement (may be expressing that poorly). Certainly there may be fuzzy edges to colour: is it green or blue?

But to use “Anglican” in scare quotes for a church which abides by the formularies and is fully part of the Anglican Communion and to use Anglican without scare quotes for a church which doesn’t abide by the formularies and is not part of the Anglican Communion will require more explanation as it tends towards “I agree with the non-scare quotes stuff and I don’t agree with the scare quotes stuff”.

If a church uses words that are in conflict with the formularies then I would agree with you that we both use scare quotes (in the good old days they would be disciplined… ;-) ). But I have quoted directly from our formularies to show that there is no conflict. Your feeling that some words “go against the reformed heritage of our church” is not sufficient IMO to declare that this car isn’t orange but “orange” (as in crypto-purple).

Ps. There’s a good list of “Anglican” churches that you would (might?) call Anglican churches here A lot of them have more bishops than priests and more priests than laity. Many appear more interested in orthofroxy than orthodoxy. Your post(s) could take this list into account. My approach is simpler.



Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,

(Reviewing my original words) I think a number of liturgies which claim to be Anglican on closer inspection could be deemed 'Anglican' because (e.g.) they do not follow the relevant formularies of the member church of the Communion in which such liturgies are performed. I think it also fair but also maybe controversial for a commentator such as myself to critically evaluate a liturgy, even one which does follow the relevant formularies, and deem it to be 'Anglican' rather than Anglican because it goes against the reformed heritage of Anglicanism. Obviously at such a point I would be commenting as an individual commentator and not exercising a disciplinary judgement as an officer of a church empowered to do so (say, as a member of an official doctrinal tribunal). Conversely, I myself might make some claim to be Anglican which deserved critical description as 'Anglican'!

There is a larger issue to which our attention is being drawn in this thread, namely who is an Anglican in a world of many churches, communions and networks claiming the name Anglican, and perhaps another issue, is everything done and said in the Anglican Communion appropriately described as, or deemed to be Anglican (i.e. rather than 'Anglican') if it is consistent with the relevant formularies of that church?

To give an instance of the latter, I find it difficult to accept that diaconal presidency in Sydney is Anglican. In fact I am not even sure that it is 'Anglican' :)

Peter Carrell said...

PS Hi Bosco
I am an inconsistent finisher of proposed series!! Mea culpa.