Friday, January 7, 2011

Scripture Alone (2)

Anglicans seem to be comfortable with the thought that being Anglican means having Scripture at the centre of our lives, most obviously expressed in liturgies requiring two or three readings from Scripture and the preaching of a sermon, at least for Sunday services. I have noticed in my years of engaging in Anglican conversations on the internet that some Anglicans are not so comfortable with the phrase 'Scripture alone.' As I understand this discomfort 'Scripture alone' may provoke the following (overlapping) concerns as to a not so hidden agenda being promoted:

(a) Puritan Anglicanism in which only what is (affirmed) in Scripture should be part of the church's life and what is not in Scripture should not be part. (Bishops might survive this form of 'Scripture alone' but candlesticks will not).

(b) Fundamentalist Anglicanism which has no appreciation or insufficient appreciation of the roles tradition and reason play (or ought to play) in true Anglicanism alongside Scripture. Thus in Fundamentalist Anglicanism, Scripture may be used in a blunt manner to suppress or avoid other considerations on a given matter, considerations which tradition and/or reason would helpfully bring to discussion. In my personal experience creationism has a presence in some Anglican contexts which are fairly described as Fundamentalist Anglican. (But, for the avoidance of unnecessary comment, I am not saying that all Fundamentalist Anglicans are creationists).

(c) Reformed Anglicanism which understands that 'Scripture alone' pertains first and foremost to understanding salvation: all we need to know to be saved is in Scripture. The discomfort here could range from mistrust ('Reformed Anglicanism? Huh, I bet it is really Fundamentalist or Puritan Anglicanism we are talking about') to a simple question, 'What about the Catholic part of Anglicanism (understood as 'reformed-and-catholic')?'

What I would like to explore in this little series are questions such as Is there more to Scripture Alone than the three options above? and Is there a future to Scripture Alone which we could embrace with affection rather than avoid with fear?


Teri said...

Not sure that this answers the question exactly, and lacking the proper theological terms as well... but my perspective is that reason and tradition can be used to explain and expand areas that are not covered or have limited coverage in scripture but should never be used to justify or promote actions that are in direct contradiction to Scripture (as a whole/taken in context!) The three should work together not pull in opposing directions...

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year Peter,

The discomfort arising from the term 'Sola Scriptura' possibly arises from a misunderstanding of the term.

My take on the 'Scripture Alone' means that the Scripture has the final authority in matters of faith and practice. It is not the only authority. Scripture Alone does not mean that Tradition, Reason, Experience don't have their roles; but rather they come under the primacy of the Word.

Defining 'Sola Scriptura' as being the only authority and therefore adopting the regulative principle (as opposed to the normative principle) is to adopt the principle of 'Nuda Scriptura'.

Just some thoughts before going on Hols tomorrow (to CMS Summer School in the Blue Mountains).


liturgy said...

Might I make a couple of observations from a liturgical perspective.

1) in the Anglican Church from which we write there is no requirement for “two or three readings from Scripture and the preaching of a sermon, at least for Sunday services” All that is “required” only applies to a Eucharist which only necessitates a reading from the Gospel (this might be only a few verses). There is no requirement for a sermon at any service.

2) It would be good for any starting point on Anglicanism and “scripture alone” to quote from agreed formularies and the Constitution of our church. I would be interested in your giving any formulary of our church which even uses the phrase “scripture alone” – the phrase does not even occur in the 39 Articles. A good starting point for the understanding of the place of the scriptures is our ordination vow: “Do you believe that the Bible contains all that is essential for our salvation, and reveals God’s living word in Jesus Christ? Yes, I do. God give me understanding in studying the Scriptures. May they reveal to me the mind and heart of Christ, and shape my ministry.” This vow, for me, echoes John 5:39-40 where Jesus says, “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”



Peter Carrell said...

Happy New Year, Joshua!
There is a bit to tease out, I am thinking, if something is not the only authority and yet is the final authority ... at some point finality is a singularity ... but I 'get' the distinction.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Teri,
Thanks for your helpful comment!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,
Your first point intrigues me as 'The Appointed Readings' in the NZPB eucharist sounds like all four prescribed by the lectionary (or are you thinking of the minimal requirement of the flexible form on p. 511?). I had thought Morning/Evening Worship required two readings ... but who am I to disagree with your authorization of flexibility! :)

I think 'Scripture alone' could be explored from the starting point of formularies and constitution. Your citation from the ordination service underlines one aspect of 'Scripture alone': alone does Scripture give us essential knowledge for salvation, and alone through Scripture does God reveal the mind and heart of Christ.

liturgy said...

I don't want to distract from the primary direction of your thread, Peter, but to clarify:

Unlike other provinces, there is no requirement in ours to celebrate the Eucharist on particular days. When we do p511 as you indicate gives our minimum requirements, which as I said, is a reading from the Gospel. I may be wrong, but it appears this need not be from a lectionary. I have participated at such Sunday Eucharists in our province with significant-sized congregations.

Unlike other provinces there is no requirement to have Morning/Evening Worship. So a parish can have a service without readings or sermon, even drawing resources from NZPB.

I hope this clarifies my point that there is no requirement for “two or three readings from Scripture and the preaching of a sermon, at least for Sunday services” All that is “required” only applies to a Eucharist which only necessitates a reading from the Gospel (this might be only a few verses). There is no requirement for a sermon at any service.

Peter Carrell said...


Kurt said...

“Puritan Anglicanism in which only what is (affirmed) in Scripture should be part of the church's life and what is not in Scripture should not be part. (Bishops might survive this form of 'Scripture alone' but candlesticks will not”—Fr. Carrell

Ahem. The Puritan form of “Scripture alone” leads to more than the abolition of candlesticks. This being the Season (more or less)…even if Holy Scripture does not give December 25th as the date:

In 1659 Massachusetts Puritans passed a law that ordered a fine of five shillings for anyone who "is found observing, by abstinence from labor, feasting, or any other way, any such days as Christmas day…" The law was intended to “beate down every sprout of Episcopacie." Christmas customs outlawed included: the singing of Christmas carols, playing holiday games ("pitching ye barr, stooleball, & such-like sports"), erecting nativity scenes, burning Yule logs, decorating houses with holly, evergreen boughs, or mistletoe sprigs and any other obvious attempts at celebration. These killjoys outlawed even the baking of mince pies—considered a vulgar holiday luxury!

Things began to lighten up a bit in 1686, with the founding of Anglican King’s Chapel in Boston, and the associated repeal of this “anti-Christmas” law. Still, an armed guard had to protect the Royal Governor on his way to church on Christmas of 1686. And on Christmas Day in 1706 Puritan hooligans menaced worshipers at the King’s Chapel, breaking windows in protest against the Anglican worship service taking place inside. As late as 1712 Puritan clergyman Dr. Cotton Mather thundered against the observance of Christmas, and imputed to holiday celebrants all kinds of decadent behavior. The Puritans were not alone, however, in refusing to celebrate Christmas; the Baptists, Presbyterians and Quakers also shunned Christmas merriment. Despite the gradual acceptance of Christmas among the general population, it wasn’t made a legal holiday in the New England states until the 1850s, and Boston public schools were still open on Christmas Day in the 1870s.

With the above in mind, the entries from the diary of Yale graduate and Dedham schoolteacher Manasseh Cutler (1742-1823) are instructive. Cutler was a Congregationalist, who became a minister of that denomination in 1771, so his 10-mile winter trip to Boston and his views of the period customs of the Boston Episcopalians is interesting.

Cutler witnessed a Christmas Day celebration of the Choral Eucharist at King’s Chapel in December 1765: “Dec. 24, Tuesday. Set out for Boston in the carriage…very cold…It being Christmas eve the bells in Christ Church [a/k/a “Old North Church” Boston’s second Episcopal congregation] were rung, chimed, played tunes, etc. Christ Church is a large brick building, situated at the north end…Dec. 25, Wed. Christmas. Went to church at King’s Chapel, where was a very gay and brilliant assembly. Several intervals, in reading service, made for singing anthems, which were performed extremely well...After the sermon a collection was made for the poor. Then the sacrament was administered (which I did not tarry to see)…This church is built of stone, is very beautifully adorned with carved pillars, several images, [probably refers to statues of Aaron and Moses set in niches in the chancel wall] etc. Here is a very good set of organs, but no bells, as the steeple is not erected. This is the most grand church in town, where His Excellency [Francis Bernard, the Royal Governor in his canopied pew] is obliged to attend.”

Kurt Hill
In snowy Brooklyn, NY

Peter Carrell said...

But Kurt, if only the Puritans had won the day we would not have modern Western shopping economies so dependent on the tinsel and glitter and gift-giving of Christmas :):):)

Kurt said...

“For me, it is simple, Anglicans are the members of the constituent churches of the Anglican Communion. The rest, if they are clinging to the name Anglican in their nomenclature, are wannabes.”—David

I disagree. Since the late 18th century the term “Anglican” has come to refer not only to the Church of England, but also to churches that derive their basic history and doctrines from the CofE. Remember, both the Episcopal Church of Scotland (the Non-Jurors) and the American Episcopal Church were for decades not in communion with Canterbury. See for example “The American Church and the Formation of the Anglican Communion, 1823-1853”, By Robert S. Bosher, Ph.D.Evanston, Illinois: Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, 1962.

The ACNA is not a member church (not even an Associate Member) of the worldwide Anglican Communion. It should not pretend that it is. Neither is the REC, or a multitude of other legitimate denominations in the so-called Anglican Continuum. Their basic theology, their basic liturgical practice, and certainly their basic self-definition and understanding is Anglican in the broadest sense of the term. They are not mainline or mainstream Anglican; they are theological and liturgical sectarians. They should be a part of the Anglican Communion in some way, but for the most part, their self-righteousness keeps them from even seeking this outcome.

I would like to see all denominations that consider themselves to be Anglican united (after some manner) in the worldwide Anglican Communion. Associate Member status is one way to do that; but that requires, at the very least, a willingness to accept full, reciprocal Table Fellowship.

Sadly, I think that the Anglican Communion may be an idea whose time has, alas, passed.

Kurt Hill
In Brooklyn, NY
(Where we just had 8 inches of new snow fall last nite)