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November 30, 2009


Dean Munday: Healing the Fault Lines in Christianity

from here

I have long maintained that what unites Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals is far greater than that which separates them. The simple tenets of the Apostles and Nicene Creeds are more than sufficient grounds for a very formidable unity:

# belief in and worship of the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
# the Incarnation of the Son in the Person of Jesus Christ,
# His virgin birth, atoning death, and resurrection,
# the Holy Spirit and His work in the life and ministry of the Church,
# belief that there is one holy catholic and apostolic Church,
# that there is a resurrection of the body and everlasting life for all who believe these things

This much (and more) we have in common already, and it is of major consequence in establishing both our unity and the basis for our proclamation to the world.

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[1] Posted by AndrewA on 11-30-2009 at 11:09 AM · [top]

The current crisis in the Anglican Communion leads me to agree with the evangelicals on the point of total depravity. It would appear, though, that grace CAN be resisted.

The current post would have me go back and read William Augustus Muhlenberg.

[2] Posted by Ralph on 11-30-2009 at 11:11 AM · [top]

Interesting piece, Dean Munday+!

My experience of going to Catholic school while prepping for my own confirmation, I learned that even though I went to a Anglo-Catholic parish, there were some huge differences. Then beginning with watching former Presbyterian and Methodist duke it out, each yielding their own systematic theology to prove their point in a Anglican study, then later watching David Ould+ posting probably what would give him a “A” at his seminary but 347 posts later, prove to me that Anglicanism is probably just as bastardized in the Reformed tradition as we are in the Catholic one (that and the RCC has drastically moved since the English Reformation [shhh - don’t tell anyone]).

I guess it is interesting, are we going to re-fight the Civil War (by that I mean the English civil war, Bishops War and all the failings of the Elizabethan Religious Settlement didn’t actually solve) or are we going to try to figure out what it means to be Anglican, with Article 9 reading more than others might be comfortable, especially with Articles 25-27 specific wordings, but Articles 10-14 being more like the Westminster Confession of Faith than the other group might be comfortable. If a camel is a horse designed by a committee, our confession is definitely blended.

Not exactly responding to Munday’s+ piece, but he’s touch on what been on my heart for a while. Once on SFIF I read +Nazir-Ali & +Iker declared heroes in the same sentence, thinking this combination would be impossible a century ago. Since GAFCON basically reinstated the post civil war Anglicanism of the 1660’s, do we go into our own camps or do we try to make this work? It implies a wiliness to be flexible that I’m not sure is in us, I am speaking as one who can be very stubborn—then maybe the fires were allowed to grow hot that we might be more motivated ...

[3] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 11-30-2009 at 11:28 AM · [top]

I agree.  What’s more, the doctrinal unity is even MORE profound when we look at what separates the Western Church from the Eastern Church. 

The doctrinal unity (e.g.,) breaks down over baptismal regeneration (so what?  we agree that all Christians are required to be baptized) and then even more over how each of us account for apostacy (so what?  we agree that we need to gaurd against it). 

I’m “basically” Reformed, but more and more I suspect that I’d be at home in a thriving Anglo-Catholic parish.

[4] Posted by J Eppinga on 11-30-2009 at 12:11 PM · [top]

what unites Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals is far greater than that which separates them

Only insofar as neither side is particularly loyal to its own distinctives.  The unity the Dean is talking about is only a verbal unity—an agreement to use the same words while assigning quite different meanings to those words.

To take but one example, the Dean says that Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals are united on “the Holy Spirit and His work in the life and ministry of the Church”; but for Anglo-Catholics (if they are loyal to their own distinctives) the work of the Holy Spirit is effected through the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church, whereas for Evangelicals (again, if they are loyal to their own distinctives) the work of the Holy Spirit is effected primarily through the written Scriptures which He inspired.  The putative unity falls apart once you begin to probe its foundations.  Unless ...

... unless the real truth is that neither Anglo-Catholics nor Evangelicals have any actual theological distinctives, and the only difference between them is on the level of liturgical style and taste.  Perhaps the core of Anglicanism is a rather bland and non-threatening generic Protestantism, dressed up in either Catholic finery or Evangelical casual wear, but in neither case with much of a theological core.

I don’t think that that is true of the serious Evangelicals who post on this site, rock-ribbed Calvinists that they are.  I don’t agree with them on just about anything, but I recognise a theological spine when I see one.  But I have to admit that I wonder about what is left of the Anglo-Catholics.  I would like to be proven wrong (since I myself was once one of them), but I don’t see a lot of theological seriousness in pieces like this one from Dean Munday.

[5] Posted by Chris Jones on 11-30-2009 at 12:25 PM · [top]

so what?

I must say, this epitomizes what I am talking about.  Anything the two sides disagree on gets a “so what?” and is thereby demoted to a second-order issue.  Every time you say “so what?” about something, the apparent “unity” becomes thinner and thinner and the common confession, on which both sides are willing to take a stand on together, becomes smaller and smaller.  How much is such “unity” really worth?

For the record, baptismal regeneration (which I learned as an Anglo-Catholic, and which the Prayer Book and the Articles unambiguously teach) is a non-negotiable matter of confession for me.  Has it become less than that for today’s Anglo-Catholics?

[6] Posted by Chris Jones on 11-30-2009 at 12:34 PM · [top]

Chris Jones, it is worth noting that some of the most vocal rock-ribbed Calvinists on this blog are not Anglican. 

Dean Munday nowhere denies that there are distinctives that separate Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals.  He simply suggests that those things that unite them are far more important.  I see nothing disingenuous about that.  After all, every time I try to make a big deal about the distinctives that separate Protestants (Lutheran vs. Calvinist vs. Anabaptist etc.) from each other, some rock-ribbed Calvinist come along and says something along the lines of “Yes, but what unites us is far more important.”

[7] Posted by AndrewA on 11-30-2009 at 12:36 PM · [top]

For the record, baptismal regeneration (which I learned as an Anglo-Catholic, and which the Prayer Book and the Articles unambiguously teach) is a non-negotiable matter of confession for me.

That’s cool.  For me, the Reformed view of baptism is a non-negotiable matter of chatechisis.  Since I am paedobaptist, I fail to see how one’s view of baptism affects the efficacy of their baptism.  The only danger would be clinging to a false hope, when one ought to be clinging to Christ.

[8] Posted by J Eppinga on 11-30-2009 at 12:58 PM · [top]

AndrewA,

some of the most vocal rock-ribbed Calvinists on this blog are not Anglican.

True.  But I was thinking particularly of Frs Ould and Kennedy, and they are certainly Anglican.

Dean Munday nowhere denies that there are distinctives that separate Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals.  He simply suggests that those things that unite them are far more important.  I see nothing disingenuous about that.

I didn’t accuse the Dean of being disingenuous, and I read and understood what he wrote.  I’m not saying that he denies the differences between ACs and Evangelicals, and I understand his claim that the unity between them is much more important than the differences.

What I am focusing on is the nature of the agreement that the Dean is referring to.  Is it a deep agreement based on a truly common understanding of the theological ideas involved? or is it a superficial agreement, based on a common terminology that in fact masks a deep disagreement about what that terminology refers to?  It is all well and good to agree on the “atoning death” of our Lord, but if you don’t agree on baptismal regeneration, you haven’t really agreed on what “atoning” really means.  Thus the agreement is superficial.

The Dean lists a number of points on which he says ACs and Evangelicals are united.  If the unity on those points were more than superficial, that unity would indeed be more important than the points of divergence.  I am not convinced that the unity is more than superficial.

The points of unity the Dean lists are the historical and dogmatic “facts on the ground.”  What there is no agreement on is what those facts mean for us.  We can agree on the Triadological and Christological facts all we want; but if we differ on the soteriological implications of those facts, we have gained nothing.

[9] Posted by Chris Jones on 11-30-2009 at 01:13 PM · [top]

Thanks Dean Munday+, and thanks Matt+.  This was a nice, weighty bit to consider over lunch.  Though eccumenical dialogs have a way fostering at least a sense of wellbeing I find it far more important to have one’s “own house” in firm repair before reaching towards the neighbor’s house. 
I reconciling orthodox Anglicanism, we must work from our core of stregth and those truths that we would go to the wall for.  Its from that vantage point that we can then weave the catholic, evangelical and charismatic streams into one unsnappable cord to bind orthodox Anglicanism into a church that is one in its worship of the Almighty, one in its mission to a lost and dying world, and one in its resistance to the hellspawn apostasy that’s made a mockery of the TEC and other mainline/liberal churches.
Dcn. Andy

[10] Posted by aterry on 11-30-2009 at 01:36 PM · [top]

It should be noted that liberals also appeal to the Nicene Creed as the fundamental basis of unity.  But here we see a clear attempt to achieve unity through equivocation.  And we reject it.  We tell liberals that unity through the Creed is only possible if assumed definitions are attached.  We assert the Creed cannot exist in a vacuum.  Otherwise, a man is free to attach any meaning he desires.  The Creed has original intent, so to speak, and must be understood in terms of that original intent. 

For unity to occur, there must be agreement on the essentials of the Christian faith.  Unity does not require agreement on every aspect of the Christian faith.  It requires agreement on the essentials of the Christian faith.  So what are the doctrinal essentials of the Christian faith?  This is the question that must be answered.  This is also the question that is generally avoided like bubonic plague.  For the answers to this question will not only reveal different essentials, but the harsh reality that what is essential for one is anathema for the other.

carl

[11] Posted by carl on 11-30-2009 at 01:47 PM · [top]

As a dyed in the wool retrograde Anglo-Catholic I’m happy to get along with evangelicals, not merely because I also share many of their values and theological positions, but because we must make common cause against forces which are quite simply NOT Christian in the Church. However, the Anglican experiment is over.

[12] Posted by A Senior Priest on 11-30-2009 at 02:12 PM · [top]

On the contrary, A Senior Priest (#12), “the Anglican experiment” is NOT over.  I think it’s just really beginning, now that we are entering a post-Constantinian, post-Christendom era.  It was the disastrous alliance of the Church and the State that has been the fundamental factor to blame in leading us Anglicans to take a “unite around the lowest common denominator” approach.  Yes, the old Erastian experiment is over, and it failed.  But the New Anglicanism that is just emerging hasn’t even had a chance yet.

I heartily agree with Dean Munday.  Like him, I have a real PASSION for working for the full and true reconciliation of the Catholic and Evangelical wings of Anglicanism, and of Christianity as a whole.  But as I’m sure Hosea, Moot, and carl would all agree (among others), any genuine reconciliation must be based on a common belief and public confession of the TRUTH.

But that will require humble repentance by BOTH sides, for BOTH sides in the 16th and 17th centuries were wrong.  For example, I’m firly and totally convinced that the Reformers were basically right about sola fide, but basically wrong about sola scriptura.

However, what makes Anglicanism so well positioned for act as a mediator, agent, or sign of reconciliation between the various warring factions in Christianity is NOT its famous Via Media type approach, splitting the difference, if you will, between Rome and Geneva, as so many suppose.  No, on the contrary, what is needed is to take a very different approach, and hold to BOTH extremes simultaneously, whenver possible by being FULLY and AUTHENTICALLY catholic and evangelical at the same time, and refusing to water down either one.

But while we’re at it, we need to include the vital third dimension, i.e., the charismatic or Pentecostal dimension, in order to be fully biblical, which is to say fully catholic and fully evangelical as well.

David Handy+
Passionate advocate of “3-D Christianity”

[13] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 11-30-2009 at 03:20 PM · [top]

Oops, that’s I’m FIRMLY convinced of the importance and genuine possibility of being truly evangelical and truly catholic at the same time, and being fully charismatic as well.  And all without compromising the truth.

However, I would take issue with Dean Munday on one point (perhaps a relatively minor one).  When it comes to reconciling the Eastern and Western branches of Christianity, we Anglicans aren’t the natural bridge church.  Rather the Eastern rite Catholic churches are, especially the large and flourishing Ukrainian Catholic Church.  They are the natural home for synthesizing the best of East and West.  L’viv and not Canterbury is where East and West meet.

David Handy+

[14] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 11-30-2009 at 03:26 PM · [top]

Chris (#5)

To take but one example, the Dean says that Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals are united on “the Holy Spirit and His work in the life and ministry of the Church”; but for Anglo-Catholics (if they are loyal to their own distinctives) the work of the Holy Spirit is effected through the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church, whereas for Evangelicals (again, if they are loyal to their own distinctives) the work of the Holy Spirit is effected primarily through the written Scriptures which He inspired.  The putative unity falls apart once you begin to probe its foundations.

I would say that this is a caracature of the Anglo-Catholic and Evangelical positions.  It is a matter of focus on the means of grace.  Anglo-Catholics will have more focus on the sacramental life and see scriptural support for all the sacraments and Evangelicals will focus on the grace mediated by Holy Scripture when we “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest” it.  Aa an Evangelical Anglo-Catholic (with Charismatic overtones), I say “Yes!” to the question of which means of grace are primary. 

Are there doctrinal issues?  Absoutely!  The question of predestination and election vs freewill is one of great importance.  I believe that both must be true for Christianity to be true.  God chooses us and we choose Him.  Both “You did not choose me, but I chose you” and “Choose this day whom you will serve” are true.

YBIC,
Phil Snyder

[15] Posted by Philip Snyder on 11-30-2009 at 03:27 PM · [top]

I agree with Deacon Phil (#15), only I’d state the same point even more strongly.  The Holy Spirit isn’t limited to working through either the Scriptures or the Sacraments.  He is quite capable of working independently of both of them, although God has covenanted with us to use both of those essential means of grace.  But we charismatics believe “the wind blows where it wills” (John 3:8), in an often unpredictable fashion.  And the giving or operation of the spiritual gifts (charismata) isn’t tied to knowledge of the Bible or participation in the liturgy.

You can get all your doctrine right, and do all the rituals properly, and still be unconverted and dead in your sins, or a real believer but fruitless in ministry.  That’s why the third dimension is so vital, the charismatic one, for it is the Spirit who gives life, not the Bible or the Sacraments per se, although he often uses both to do so.

David Handy+

[16] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 11-30-2009 at 03:49 PM · [top]

We can agree on the Triadological and Christological facts all we want; but if we differ on the soteriological implications of those facts, we have gained nothing.

Simple Simon drove his car into the mechanic’s shop.  “What can I do for you?,” asked the mechanic. 

“The hampster is making funny noises.  I think he’s thirsty.  Okay if I drop off my car here while I go rock shopping?” replied Simple Simon. 

The mechanic looked at Simon for a long time.  “Sure,” he finally said, trying to keep a straight face.  Simon handed the mechanic the keys to his car, then ambled off on his (quite literal) fool’s errand.  Later, he returned for his car, and drove home. 

When Simon arrive home, he drove up his driveway.  As he ambled out of his car, he was greeted by his neighbor, Seth the Sophisticate, who was lying in his hammock, reading a book about car engine theory.  Seth and Simon greeted one another, and struck up a conversation. 

Simon told Seth about his trip to the mechanic, and how the mechanic had ‘watered his hampster.’  Seth paused, figuring out what Simon was talking about, and then proceeded to educate Simon in the finer points of the operation of the automobile engine. 

“You mean to say that the engine isn’t powered by a small rodent?”  asked Simon, barely believing his ears. 

“That’s exactly what I’m saying.  You’ve been wrong, dead wrong, about how your engine works, all this time.” 

“Hmm,” wondered Simon.  “Interesting.  May I inquire, how your car is working?” 

Said Seth, quite smugly : “I admit that my car is quite dead.  Hasn’t worked in a long time.  I hadn’t taken my car to the mechanic to maintain it, preferring instead to learn as much as I could about the operation of the automobile engine.  But you see, the important thing is that I know how my car works, and why my car died.” 

My question is this - who is better:  the inbecile who relies on the mechanic, or the genius who won’t?

[17] Posted by J Eppinga on 11-30-2009 at 05:38 PM · [top]

Dean Munday certainly cannot be faulted for wanting to initiate ecumenical dialogue between Anglo-Catholics and Evangelical Anglicans.  If Methodists and Catholics can engage in ecumenical dialogue, then why not Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals?  The increase of mutual understanding is always a good, nor should anyone preemptively limit what the Spirit can accomplish through such dialogue. 

But I must dissent in the strongest possible terms to the following statement:  “Orthodox Anglicans, possessing as we do a comprehensive grasp of the Church—ancient and modern, east and west, catholic and reformed—are uniquely positioned to be the focal point of Christian unity.”  I can understand Anglicans entertaining such a romantic vision of themselves fifty years ago ... but in 2009?  How can Anglicanism be said to have “a comprehensive grasp of the Church” when no unity does not exist between Anglicans on the following (following Dean Munday’s list)?

The nature of justification,
the nature of sanctification,
grace and works,
the nature of a sacrament,
the nature and effects of Baptism,
the nature of Christ’s presence in the Lord’s Supper,
the role of the Virgin Mary,
the authority of the Scriptures in relation to Tradition,
Apostolic Succession,
the nature of the Priesthood (Presbyterate), etc.

If unity does not exist on these important these essential matters (they are not adiaphora!), then surely it must be said that Anglicanism does NOT have a comprehensive grasp of the Church and therefore most certainly cannot function as a focal point for Christian unity.

[18] Posted by FrKimel on 11-30-2009 at 06:32 PM · [top]

True.  But I was thinking particularly of Frs Ould and Kennedy, and they are certainly Anglican.

[comment deleted—off topic personal attack]

They are a line in orthodox Anglicanism, so their voice is as important to be heard as others.

Also, they are in a bit of a bind just like anyone who wants to be a true Catholic, they’ll have to leave Anglicanism if they truly want to be Reformed, for the true did Calvinist departed and fought a war with Charles I over a new BCP they didn’t like. 

We’re all bastardized in some way, either we make a unified doctrine or we don’t.

[19] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 12-1-2009 at 07:56 AM · [top]

Hosea, just letting you know that I’m the one who deleted the off topic personal insults against Matt and David.

I see that your ire against the theology of both continues to grow, but insulting them is entirely off-topic for this thread.  This is a warning.  I understand if you’re angry with them too, but please take that off-line through Private Message.

[20] Posted by Sarah on 12-1-2009 at 08:39 AM · [top]

I apologize if taken as a personal attack (I thought a statement of fact, but obviously not taken that way).

[No problem Hosea—but again, the commenter above was referring to David’s *current* positions as articulated while clergy on this blog.  Your comment would take this thread down the path of “which comments when David was a layman” and evidence would then have to be presented and then countered by David—clearly David is not the topic of this post and your comments take us down that path]. 

[21] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 12-1-2009 at 08:45 AM · [top]

Maybe best is posts 19 - 22 could be deleted and we’ll all forget this whole thing happened.

[22] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 12-1-2009 at 09:00 AM · [top]

Fr. Al Kimel (#18),

Thanks for dropping in and adding your thoughts above.  I can’t speak for Dean Munday, but let me respond to your charge that we who are still Anglicans are disqualified from acting the exalted role of Great Mediator of All the Religious Conflicts within Christianity. 

I can readily understand if the lofty vision that Dean Munday sketched above comes across as insufferably arrogant in our self-appointed role (who gave us that assignment?).  Others could certainly challenge us, in the words of the Master, to take the plank out of our own blurry, confused eyes, before attempting to take the specks out of the rest of the Christian world. 

If that’s your basic point, then I’d have to agree with you.  We Anglicans are in no position to pass judgment on any other part of the Church, especially since the last decade has revealed all too clearly just how totally messed up western, global north Anglicanism is.  I fully agree that we must get our own house in order first.

However, I still find the kind of idealistic vision that Robert Munday has laid out here very inspiring and compelling.  I see it as a goal to shoot for in the long-range future.  Let me try to explain why.

As I’ve tried to say many times before here at SF, I’m totally committed to the dream of achieving a truly “3-D” form of Christianity, even if others strongly suspect that this dream is a mere mirage, a Utopian fantasy that will never come to pass.  I remain zealously committed to the fervent hope that it’s actually possible to be fully and genuinely evangelical, catholic, and charismatic, and to be all of them at the same time.  For if those three elements represent three DIMENSIONS of the full Christian life (as I insist), then they operate on different planes and thus don’t directly collide and cancel each other out by being mutually exclusive, but instead they complement each other in essential ways.

Now of course, there are some areas where the three traditions have clashed violently in the past and where to be pro-evangelical is to be anti-catholic, and vice versa, and for those who are charismatic to be critical of both of the other traditions, and vice versa again.  But I contend that those areas are much fewer and less decisive than we have supposed.

I continue to cherish the dream that I can be as evangelical as Billy Graham or Rick Warren, while simultaneously being as catholic as Avery Dulles or Richard John Neuhaus, and to top it all off, I still want to be as charismatic as John Wimber or Nicki Gumble as well.  I want it all, and I’m not willing to give up the hope of any of those three essential dimensions of being fully biblical and fully Christian.

Of course, my friends, even my fellow conservative Anglican ones, just laugh at this and say, “Right.  Dream on, David.  As for me, I want to be as powerful as President Obama, as wealthy as Bill Gates, and as good looking as…Patrick Dempsey!”  In other words, get real, David, it’ll only happen in your dreams.

But I keep jousting with windmills in my Don Quixote fashion, hoping it all turns out half as well as the musical anyway of Man of La Mancha.

Fr. Kimel, as an ex-TEC priest and the distinguished leader of the group that drafted the famous Baltimore Declaration in imitation of Karl Barth and the Barmen Declaration of 1934, I’m sure you’re familiar with the idea that Fr. Louis Bouyer and Fr. Richard John Neuhaus have written about so eloquently.  Namely, that in converting from Lutheranism to Roman Catholicism, they were NOT abandoning their evangelical convictions at all, but rather they had come to discover that those deeply held beliefs were in face BEST developed and brought to fruition within the more comprehensive vision of Catholicism.  I resonate with that.  I like to think of myself as a “completed evangelical,” like Messianic Jews who claim to be “completed Jews.”  That is, I sincerely claim to be a BETTER evangelical than ever, since I added the catholic dimension to my Wheaton-brand evangelicalism, just as Messianic Jews are MORE JEWISH than ever and BETTER Jews than ever, rather than traitors and apostates.

David Handy+
Still dreaming “the impossible dream”

[23] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 12-1-2009 at 02:43 PM · [top]

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