February 27, 2017

October 30, 2011

Reformation Day. Every Year. Every Day.

Today is Reformation Day, the anniversary of that momentous occassion when Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door of Wittenburg Church.

There will, today, be reams of posts written across the Reformed blogosphere (and elsewhere, no doubt) on this subject. We'll keep banging on about how important this stuff is and others will call us schismatic and divisive.

The Reformed position is that without the doctrines that resurfaced in the Reformation, we would have no gospel at all. Justification by Faith Alone being the central issue but grounded upon the doctrine of Sola Scriptura - that Scripture and Scripture alone is our ultimate authority.

This year Matthew Barrett at the Gospel Coalition has written another such post, "Abandon the Reformation, Abandon the Gospel":

Does Reformation theology matter today? Absolutely. It is tempting to think of the Reformation as a mere political or social movement. In reality, however, the Reformation was a fight over the gospel itself. The reformers argued that God's free and gracious acceptance of guilty sinners on the basis of the work of Christ alone is at the heart of the gospel. While the political and social context has changed since the 16th century, nevertheless, this issue remains at the forefront. Much could be said as to why, but here are two reasons as to why the Reformation matters today.

First, for Luther justification by faith alone is the article by which the church stands or falls.


Second, there is a strong push in our present day either to return or join with Rome.

Rome is, of course, the elephant in the room whenever 2 or more are gathered in Luther's name and invariably one of the first places the conversation will go. The official Anglican position, of course, is that,

Article XIX
Of the Church
The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ’s ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.
As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch have erred: so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of Ceremonies, but also in matters of Faith.

It goes almost without saying that one of those key areas that the Reformers argued that Rome had erred was on Justification by Faith Alone,

Article XI
Of the Justification of Man
We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings: Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification.

So important did they consider this issue, that it got it's very own Homily (and an excellent read it is, too). The very observant reader will note that the entire Book of Homilies begins with the exhortation to read Scripture.

Of course, the kind of view expressed by myself and Barrett is regularly opposed. Recently Brian LePort argued "Actually no, to abandon the Gospel is to abandon the Gospel".

Barrett betrays a misunderstanding of the Gospel. He conflates justification by faith with the Gospel. It may have been the Gospel of the Reformation, but it is merely a subcategory or consequence of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am not going to trek over ground that has been covered again and again by those who have emphasized that the Gospel is the proclamation that the Kingdom of God has been established in Jesus Christ.


So no, to abandon reformation as Barrett understands it is not to abandon the Gospel. To disagree on some aspects of justification by faith is not to abandon the Gospel. To abandon the Gospel of the Kingdom in Christ is to abandon the Gospel.

Shades of NT Wright's New Perspective, methinks - at least that's where it seems to me the language comes from. It's an interesting position and it leads Barrett to open up his article with this:

My friend is JohnDave Medina who is Roman Catholic. I consider myself to be an evangelical. While we have differing views on everything from Ecclesiology to Mariology to the Eucharist this doesn’t prevent fellowship in Christ. I have no doubt that JohnDave is a Christian and he has no doubt that I am a Christian. Neither of us are skeptical about the other’s standing before God in Christ.

I'm delighted that JohnDave is a believer, but I think I join with many in stating that it will be despite the Roman church, not because of it. The whole "why are we drawing boundaries?" question is one I addressed in a book review last year.

The Roman position is clear. First and foremost, there is the Council of Trent - still Roman doctrine:

"If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema" (Council of Trent, Canons on Justification, Canon 9).

"If any one saith, that man is truly absolved from his sins and justified, because he assuredly believed himself absolved and justified; or, that no one is truly justified but he who believes himself justified; and that, by this faith alone, absolution and justification are effected; let him be anathema." (Canon 14).

Then a read of the Catechism will leave us in no doubt that it's not just faith that justifies. So, for example,

2010 Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God's wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions.

Now at this point we have to be careful in what we're claiming. Rome does not state outright that justification is by works but by faith and works. They also claim that these meritorious works are only due to the grace of God. But the Reformers basically argued - if it looks like a work and sounds like a work and walks like a work, well then it's a work no matter how you parcel it up. And it's not as if LePort is even denying that Rome denies Justification by Faith Alone, it's just that he doesn't think it's the key definition of the gospel.

Thing is, I'm not sure that he's right. Actually, I'm not being fair - I'm pretty convinced he's not right. This is why…

Galatians 1:6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.


2:15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

This is clearly the gospel that Paul says is being distorted. For Paul it was central to the gospel that we are justified by faith alone with no other contributing factor. In fact I'd go so far as to say that as you read through each of his letters it is this bold fact that is proclaimed again and again - perhaps not in those exact words but plainly nevertheless. What was clear to Paul, contra LePort, was that to disagree on certain aspects of Justification by Faith is to abandon the gospel.

Matthew Barrett is spot on. The key doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone is still critical and it will do us no good to water down its significance, even in the face of cries for unity and concord. You wouldn't water down a life-saving medicine for the sake of not offending, how much less the gospel?

So every day, every year, we keep celebrating Reformation Day - the day when Luther was brave enough to say that someone had the gospel very very wrong. Schismatic and divisive? Possibly, if we value concord and unity over truth. Otherwise, one of the singularly bravest and most important actions ever taken. And needs to keep being taken.


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It can’t count how many people I have had conversations with in recent months who are dismissive of the Reformers and the Reformation—and I am talking about Anglican leaders, even in ACNA.  While some of these same folks criticize the resolution being proposed in the Episcopal diocese of Atlanta to reinstate Pelagius as “a viable theological voice within our tradition,” many of them do not realize that their own disdain for Calvin really amounts to a rejection of Augustine, and their disregard for important Reformation truths really amounts to an unthinking embrace of the very Arminianism, Semi-Pelagianism, and Pelagianism that they are ridiculing Episcopal liberals for resurrecting. 

R.C. Sproul gets at the heart of the matter when he says:

“Humanism, in all its subtle forms, recapitulates the unvarnished Pelagianism against which Augustine struggled. Though Pelagius was condemned as a heretic by Rome, and its modified form, Semi-Pelagianism was likewise condemned by the Council of Orange in 529, the basic assumptions of this view persisted throughout church history to reappear in Medieval Catholicism, Renaissance Humanism, Socinianism, Arminianism, and modern Liberalism.”

[1] Posted by ToAllTheWorld on 10-31-2011 at 01:52 AM · [top]

A great article David, thank you.

[2] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 10-31-2011 at 07:52 AM · [top]


I think two years ago Met. Jonah spoke at the ACNA general council, articulating the same flawed sentiments…John Calvin, he said, was a heretic. How such a proclamation could be lauded (as it was) at an orthodox Anglican gathering in which the 39 articles are supposedly honored is beyond me. But there we are. Semper Reformanda!

[3] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 10-31-2011 at 08:00 AM · [top]

Dr. Munday, and David Ould,

I’m happy to see this topic come up, for it is indeed a crucial one with profound and far-reaching implications for all orthodox Anglicans.  I hope it won’t be considered off-topic if I suggest that how we evaluate the Reformation is indeed a vital matter that can’t be perpetually evaded.

And here I hasten to begin by saying that today I join in celebrating the courage and faithful witness of Martin Luther, my favorite Reformer, and his rediscovery of the Pauline understanding of justification by faith, apart from works of the Law.  However, I also freely concede that I’m the kind of Anglican who is staunchly and even vehemently ANTI-Puritan.  And yes, David Ould, that includes being adamantly and even fiercely opposed to the Neo-Puritanism of the fine teachers at Moore Theological College. 

Now don’t get me wrong.  As a NT scholar, I deeply appreciate the exegetical labors of such worthy luminaries of Moore as the late, great Leon Morris, or recent faculty members such as Peter O’Toole or David Petersen, whose useful commentaries line my shelves.  I continue to read those guys, and to benefit from their insights.  But much as I appreciate their contributions to better understanding of the Word of God, I find myself living on a completely different planet theologically when it comes to their hardcore Reformed theology.  And the same goes for hardcore conservative Presbyterian R. C. Sproul, whom Dr. Munday cited above.

So I’ll toss out a few of my typically provocative, even incendiary comments, just to spice up this thread and prime the pump a bit for a more vigorous discussion.

1.  I agree with the greatest historian of doctrinal development of all time, Jaroslav Pelikan (of Yale), who famously evaluated the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century as “a tragic necessity.”  Yes, exactly right.  It was indeed a grim necessity, when corruption at the top of the medieval western Church had effectively blocked all significant reform for centuries.  It was far more necessary than pre-Vatican II RCs were wont to recognize.  OTOH, since the outcome of the Reformation was not just the division of the Church into two bitterly hostile camps, but the utter FRAGMENTATION of Protestantism into a welter of mutually warring sects, well, that’s where the other side of the coin is equally important.  That is, the Reformation was also the greatest tragedy ever to strike the Latin Church.  Both completely necessary and justified on one hand, and deeply to be regretted and mourned on the other.

2.  A couple weeks ago, on October 15th, I kept the feast day of bishops Hugh Latimer and Nicolaus Ridley, who were infamously burned at the stake by “bloody” Queen Mary on that day in 1555.  I am grateful for their bold and costly witness to the truth of the gospel.  I am NOT the kind of Anglo-Catholic who looks on them, or other lesser figures celebrated in the pages of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, as reckless fools or heretics or fanatics.  No, I consider them heroes, and cherish their memory, as I do Luther’s (and yes, even Calvin’s too).

However, it is also my personal practice to celebrate the martyrdom of Catholic heroes on the other side too.  That is, I also keep the feast day of Sir Thomas More every July 6th, and that of +John Fisher on June 22nd (along with St. Alban, of course).  And in just over a month, I’ll be even celebrating the feast day of Edmund Campion+, greatest of Jesuit missionaries sent to England in the 1580s to reconvert the Englsih back to the papal obedience.  He was hung, drawn and quartered by order of the relatively mild Queen Elizabeth I on December 1st, 1581.

As an Anglican, I feel free to honor the noble martyrs and heroes on BOTH sides of that bitter conflict.  Those willing to die for Christ, and for the truth of the Christian faith, as best they are given to understand it, are worhty of priase and emulation.

3.  As an Anglican, I rejoice that I am able o claim the patrimony of BOTH the Protestant and the Catholic traditions, at their best.  And so I’ll close this provocative comment by simply making a bold and highly controversial aseertion, without trying to argue the case or it here (yet).

I am totally committed to the theological principle of Sola Fide.  On that key issue I take the Protestant side and when teaching (or preaching) about the central doctrine of justification by faith, I definitely speak with a Protestant accent.

But OTOH, when it comes to the complex topic of how Scripture relates to Tradition, I am equally clear and emphatic in rejecting, in no uncertain terms, the mistaken Protestant slogan of Sola Scriptura.  When teaching (again, or preaching), on that controversial matter, I unhesitatingly take a postion much closer to the Catholic side, and speak with a pronounced patristic accent (not, however, with the Counter-Reformation accent of the Council of Trent).

4.  Finally, at least for now, I believe the great Reformed theologian, B. B. Warfield, a champion of the classic old “Princeton theology” that stood squaarely on the Westminster Confession of Faith, was onto something very important when he insightfully summed up the essence of the Protestant Reformation theologically as the victory of Augustine’s anti-Pelagian side over his anti-Donatist side.  After all, Luther was an Augustianian monk, and saw himself as not only rediscovering the teaching of St. Paul, but also as recovering the authentic teaching of St. Augustine too, when both had been compromised and distorted in the medieval period.

Well, if Warfield is right about that, and I think he was, then, as a “3-D” Anglican who is proudly both evangelical and catholic at the same time (and charismatic to boot), I think the challenge before us an orthodox Anglicans is to reunite the two sides of Augustine that the Reformation conflicts tore apart.  IOW, what Augustine joined together, let not lesser minds rend asunder! 

If Augustine could be both anti-Pelagian and anti-Donatist at the same time, so can we. 

David Handy+
Feisty as ever

[4] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 10-31-2011 at 08:21 AM · [top]


I’m glad you brought up the subject of the classic 39 Articles of Religion, and the key question of just what status they have in orthodox Anglican circles today.  And there I think it’s absolutely crucial to recognize that we all aren’t of one mind about that, not by a LONG shat.

As a priest of the ACNA, like you, Matt, I’ve signed the Jerusalem Declaration, which enshrines the 39 Articles as “a” (not “the”) normative standard of doctrine for Anglicanism.  I welcome any attempt to recover the importance of the 39 Articles as part of the necessary work of putting the Doctrine and Discipline back in the Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship of Christ as we Anglicans have historically received them.  I too deplore and abhor the common tendency in TEC to relegate the old 39 to the dustbin as mere relics of our past, i.e., as just “Historical Documents” with no normative status today.  That retrieval effort is entirely praiseworthy.  I welcome, therefore, the recent publication of the long-awaited commentary on the grand old 39 Articles by +John Rodgers.

I welcome that retrieval effort, that is, as long as the 39 Articles aren’t made into a straightjacket, so that every little detail in them is still held to be binding on us all today.  The ACNA Constitution is clear that the Articles, along with the 1662 BCP, enjoy a classic status among us, but that they are not binding per se, but as the source of “fundamental principles” to which we must adhere.  It is quite possible to subscribe to those fundamental principles in general terms without agreeing to every jot and tittle of those classic authorities.  And that, of course, is how all of us on the catholic side of the Anglican theological spectrum manage to sign the Jeruslame Declaration in good conscience.

The Articles show where Anglicanism stood in 1571.  But, for better or worse, they are NOT where all orthodox Anglicans stand today.  After all, the English Reformers, grateful as we may all be for them and ri9ghtly so, were followed by the Caroline Divines (i.e., the catholicizing theologians of the later reigns of Kings Charles I and II).  Both the Reformers and the Caroline Divines are part of our classic heritage as Anglicans.  Some of us may prefer one set over the other, and you and I, Matt, would definitely have different preferences there.  But that doesn’t make either of us less Anglican than the other.

FWIW, I too found Metropolitan Jonah’s remarks about Calvinism being a heresy objectionable and rude.  As an ex-Calvinist, I certainly do deplore some of Calvin’s theological errors (such as double predestination or his justification of infant baptism on the fallacious basis of a putative complete parallel between baptism and circumcision, overly harmonizing the Old and New Covenants).  But I wouldn’t label Calvinism a heresy, just a profound and regrettable error.

David Handy+

[5] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 10-31-2011 at 08:44 AM · [top]

Hi David+

I am glad you signed the Jerusalem Declaration…perhaps you should have read it more carefully?

  “4. We uphold the Thirty-nine Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today.”

[6] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 10-31-2011 at 08:59 AM · [top]

I am in an exultant mood myself on this Reformation Day, although we don’t make much of it in my parish, mostly because of its proximity to All Saints Day, I think.  Nevertheless, this A-C wants to get in line behind Dean Munday’s sterling comment and express my full agreement with it.

We Anglo-Catholics should always remember that the “Anglo” comes before a Reformed Catholicism, not the Roman variety.  It is the 39 Articles to which we adhere, not the Decrees of Trent.  And Article XI does indeed remind us of a most fundamental truth: “We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings.”

Although she is now in great peril, the Church of England was and is the Catholic Church in England, before, during, and after the Reformation.  The English Reformation was a mighty work of God that brought about her return to a much closer approximation of the faith and practice of the early Church.  No worthwhile development that came afterwards would have been possible if that hadn’t happened first.

Happy Reformation Day to one and all!

[7] Posted by episcopalienated on 10-31-2011 at 09:03 AM · [top]

Thanks, Matt,

I assure you that I read the Jerusalem Declaration carefully before signing it.  But agreeing that the 39 Articles have some kind of normative status doesn’t settle just what KIND of normative status.  After all, Bishop Jack Iker also signed it.  As did my former bishop Bill Love of Albany.  As did +Ackerman and ++Duncan, etc.

I stand by what I wrote.  The Articles and the 1662 BCP are A, not THE, normative standards for the ACNA.  Agreeing that they are in some sense authoritative doesn’t settle the question of precisely how they are to be interpreted.  Just as we all can agree that the Holy Scriptures are authoritative, without always agreeing on the proper interpretation or application of God’s Word.

So I join everyone above, including episcopalianted now, in celebrating Reformation Day.  After all, I call myself NRA.  I fully agree with the Protestant principle that the Church is perpetually in need on reformation (Semper Reformanda indeed!).  But there was more than one Reformation in the 16th century.  And I celebrate the Catholic Reformation too, as a good and praiseworthy thing.  Erasmus, and Ignatius of Loyola, and even Cardinal Reginald Pole were earnest church reformers too, in their own way.

But as further fuel for the fire, as I’ve already gone out on one limb, I might as well go further out onto thin ice on this blog run by serveral Reformed types.  One can agree even with the cardinal principle of Justification by Faith, or Sola Fide, with agreeing on how to interpret that principle in practice or detail.

For example, after I graduated from Wheaton College (in 1977), I spent two years in training with Wycliffe Bible Translators, hoping to become part of that marvelous missionary organization.  However, to my utter dismay and shock, when I applied for membership in the summer of 1978 (partway through training), I was turned down as being “doctrinally incompatible” with Wycliffe. 

Why?  Well, because of my catholic sacramental theology.  Anyone joinng WBT is required to submit a personal doctrinal statement explaining where you stand on 16 key points that WBT holds dear.  One of those essential points is your understanding of salvation, and specifically justification by faith.

Well, in my submitted personal statement I insisted (in my typical provocative, bull-in-a-china shop style) that while I agreed with the Reformers that we are justified by faith apart from works, we are NOT usually justified by faith apart from the sacraments.  That is, participation in the sacramental life of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church is generally necessary for salvation.  That is classic Lutheran (Article IX of the Augsburg Confession of 1530) and well as Anglican doctrine (as in the 39 Articles), but it was unacceptably “Catholic” to the committee that reviewed my application papers.  That group included some missionaries who’d experienced persecution and hardship inflicted by RC leaders in Latin America, and they suspected e as being an Anglo-Catholic in evangelical clothing, and hence dangerous.

So even the Protestant slogan Sola Fide isn’t exactly unambiguous.  It is perfectly possible for Christians of goodwill and solidly committed to biblical authority to disagree on the interpretation of God’s Word, or even on the meaning of a slogan like Sola Fide.

David Handy+

[8] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 10-31-2011 at 09:42 AM · [top]

Oops, a bad typo that turned one of my statements above on its head.  I meant, of course, that we can agree on the principle of Sola Fide without all agreeing on the proper interpretation or application of that valid principle.

David Handy+

[9] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 10-31-2011 at 09:45 AM · [top]

Hi David+

I’m sorry but when you said this:

“As a priest of the ACNA, like you, Matt, I’ve signed the Jerusalem Declaration, which enshrines the 39 Articles as “a” (not “the”) normative standard of doctrine for Anglicanism.”

I assumed that you did not actually read the Statement itself because the Actual Statement:

” We uphold the Thirty-nine Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today.”

bears no resemblance to your description above.

But it turns out you did read it. You just decided to impose your own meaning on it.

[10] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 10-31-2011 at 09:52 AM · [top]


In reading your above statement:

Rome does not state outright that justification is by works but by faith and works. They also claim that these meritorious works are only due to the grace of God. But the Reformers basically argued - if it looks like a work and sounds like a work and walks like a work, well then it’s a work no matter how you parcel it up. And it’s not as if LePort is even denying that Rome denies Justification by Faith Alone, it’s just that he doesn’t think it’s the key definition of the gospel.

How do you place that against James 2:14-26 :

14What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
18But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

I ask for clarification on your point of view as I have seen the extreme position against works wherein a person I know stated that in perfoming any “works”, one is bound to Hell.

[11] Posted by BillB on 10-31-2011 at 10:05 AM · [top]

Oooops. Sorry about the bolding above.  I forgot to take the reference that was in the text out.  There was no intentional emphasis to be applied.

[12] Posted by BillB on 10-31-2011 at 10:07 AM · [top]

Matt (#10),

Once again, I stand by what I wrote, and I think you fail to give credence to the validity of other interpretations of the status of the 39 Articles within the ACNA.  Do you really wish to claim, Matt, that Anglo-Cahtolics like +Iker, +Ackerman, or even ++Duncan (who is personally much more high church than his diocese is) were careless or disingenuous in signing the Jerusalem Declaration??

Remember, I specifically called attention to the ACNA Constitution above, which significantly nuances the import and status of the 39 Articles and the 1662 BCP, by highlighting the “fundamental principles” they enshrine.  Indeed, that is precisely why ultra-Protestant bloggers like Robin Jordan (of Anglicans Ablaze) have attacked the ACNA formularies as unacceptable because they aren’t Reformed enough.

Likewise, the famous Canon A5 in the CoE creates a huge loophole when it comes to subscribing to the Articles that makes it clear that the Articles aren’t considered binding in every detail, as they were in 1571.  For better or worse, the Articles simply don’t mean, and can’t mean, in 2011 what they meant in 1571.  The Catholic Revival, starting in 1833 changed Anglicanism forever.  For better or worse.

And as much as I appreciate and honor the Protestant reformers, and think that the 16th century Reformation was indeed “a tragic necessity,” I for one think that the movement started at Oxford in 1833 has led overall much for the better.

David Handy+

[13] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 10-31-2011 at 10:19 AM · [top]

the word translated “faith” or “belief” in Grk has a range of meaning…as it does in English. In English we can say, for example, I “believe” that airplanes are statistically less likely to crash than automobiles and yet still not be willing to actually board an airplane.

In that case, the word “believe” refers to a cognitive assent to a factual proposition but does not imply that we actually “trust” the proposition enough to stake our lives on it and live according to it.

On the other hand when I was a child and my dad was teaching me to swim, he would stand in the pool and ask me to jump in. “I’ll catch you” he said. I “believed” his promise because I trusted my dad. And I jumped.

In one case “belief” is mere agreement with the facts. In another it refers to life grounded in the facts believed.

The New Testament contains these two sorts of meanings as well for the same word “pistis”.

When speaking about the “faith” that leads to justification in Rom 3-4 and Gal 3, Paul is obviously referring to the kind of faith that necessarily results in a transformed life. Hence Abraham “believed” God was more than Abraham merely saying “yes this is true” but staking his life of the truth

When James uses the same word “pistis” in James 2, he is NOT referring to the same kind of “belief” that Paul is. And the context bears that out.

James gives an example of “generosity” in which one says “go on be well” but does nothing to actually demonstrate that the words have any substance to them.

Then he refers to Satan who agrees with all the truths of the gospel but who refuses to submit himself to God.

These are examples of mere cognitive “assent” not “faith” as Paul uses the word.

And so when James says a person is justified by works and not faith alone…he is not contradicting Paul in Romans 3. He is speaking about a different kind of faith entirely.

The Reformation principle of Sola Fide is NOT: just assent intellectually to these propositions and you’ll get to go to heaven when you die.

Rather the faith that justifies includes:

1. True Knowledge about Jesus’ and his works
2. Assent to that knowledge
3. Total surrender of heart, mind, body and soul to Jesus and Complete trust in his work.

A faith like that “Necessarily” results in a changed life. The resulting works do not “save” but they do demonstrate that faith is genuine because they are the fruits of a repentant and transformed heart.

[14] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 10-31-2011 at 10:33 AM · [top]


“Once again, I stand by what I wrote, and I think you fail to give credence to the validity of other interpretations of the status of the 39 Articles within the ACNA.”

Nope. I simply pointed out that your original point about the Jerusalem Declaration is incorrect. It does not say what you want it to say. 

“Do you really wish to claim, Matt, that Anglo-Cahtolics like +Iker, +Ackerman, or even ++Duncan (who is personally much more high church than his diocese is) were careless or disingenuous in signing the Jerusalem Declaration??”

Nope. Having not asked them I have no idea why they signed the declaration. I was referring to your own obviously incorrect reading of the Jerusalem Declaration

[15] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 10-31-2011 at 10:36 AM · [top]

The Reformed position is that without the doctrines that resurfaced in the Reformation, we would have no gospel at all. Justification by Faith Alone being the central issue but grounded upon the doctrine of Sola Scriptura - that Scripture and Scripture alone is our ultimate authority.

I’ve heard it asserted over and over that the doctrine of Faith Alone is based on, or at least compatible with, the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. 

I am mystified how this claim can be made in light of numerous passages of Scripture that seem to contradict Sola Fide.  Specificaly I am speaking of:

Matthew 7:21 (“Not every one who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.’”) Matthew 10:42 and Mark 9:41 (“‘whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water…shall not lose his reward.’”) Matthew 16:27 (“the Son of man…will repay every man for what he has done.’”) Matthewe 19:17 (“‘If you would enter life, keep the commandments’”) Matthew 25:34-36 (“‘Come…inherit the kingdom…for I was hungry and you gave me food…’”) Mark 10:21 and Luke 18:22 (”’...go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven…’”) John 5:28-29 (”’...those who have done good, [will come forth] to the resurrection of life…’”) Romans 2:6-8 (“For he will render to every man according to his works…”)  Romans 6:16 (“obedience…leads to righteousness…”) Romans 8:13 (”...if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live”)  Hebrews 5:9 (...he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him…”)  (James 2:24 (“You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone”) and Revelation 22:12 (“‘Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, to repay every one for what he has done.”)

In light of these Scripture passages, I just don’t see how Sola Fide is viable.  At a minimum, it would seem extrordinarily difficult, in light of these Scripture passages, to dismiss Trent’s Decree on Justification out of hand as Scripturally immplausible.  But obviously, a whole lot of intelligent folks disagree with me.  So what I would really like to see is an exposition of Sola Fide that fully takes the above Scripture passages into account.

[16] Posted by slcath on 10-31-2011 at 11:01 AM · [top]

Hi slcath,

I think you may be dealing, unintentionally, with a strawmanned version of sola fide. See my post above regarding James 2

[17] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 10-31-2011 at 11:04 AM · [top]

The reformation is dead in the anglican church.
So long
  Sola Fide (by faith alone)
  Sola Scriptura (by Scripture alone)
  Sola Gratia (by grace alone)
  Solo Christo (through Christ alone)
  Soli Deo Gloria (to God alone be the glory)
My Friend Mike Gendron plainly and clearly refutes this strange return to Rome. You can’t be reformed and Roman Catholic, you preach the Gospel to Roman Catholics.
Dowling estimates that Roman Catholicism killed 50 million between the 600’s and 1900’s. Even if that is exaggerated the numbers are still mind numbing. They persecuted true believers and now they seduce them. They are like the the whitewashed tomb, they give the appearance of righteousness on the outside but are corrupt on the inside.

[18] Posted by RickP on 10-31-2011 at 11:39 AM · [top]

Matt (#15),

Well, we seem to have run into yet another of the many disputed matters where we’ll just have to agree to disagree, as agreeably as we can.  It seems to me that you are attributing to the JD a “perspicuity” or “obvious” clarity similar to that which you Reformed folks attribute (erroneously) to Holy Writ.

We appear to be talking past each other, as, e.g., Luther and Erasmus did in their famous debate over the freedom of the will (when both men were partly right, and both were partly wrong, but in any case they simply failed to address the same topic).

So, rather than continuing to pass each other here like ships in the night, let me try rephrasing my question to you above.  Do you really have the gall to claim, Matt, that staunch Anglo-Catholics like +Iker or +Ackerman, (or +Love or +Stanton in TEC) simply can’t sign the JD in good conscience?  Do you really want to say that there is no legitimate place in orthodox Anglicanism for Anglo-Catholicism??  Not least, do you raelly dare to claim, Matt, that the ACNA Constitution has betrayed the JD that it claims to honor and uphold??

Now some of our brothers in Sydney might go that far. Robin Jordan certainoy has.  But I hope that you wouldn’t go to such extremes.

David Handy+
Ex-Reformed, 3-D Anglican

[19] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 10-31-2011 at 11:48 AM · [top]

Hi David+

“Do you really have the gall to claim, Matt, that staunch Anglo-Catholics like +Iker or +Ackerman, (or +Love or +Stanton in TEC) simply can’t sign the JD in good conscience?”

I have no idea what they believe since I have not asked them. Not sure why you feel compelled to put words in my mouth? I assume that all who sign a document agree with its meaning. That is unless, like you have done above, they choose to impose and project their own meaning on the words.

But I have no reason to believe that they have done that and I assume they understand the meaning of words quite well.

SO, I rejoice that these bishops, “uphold the Thirty-nine Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today.”

“Do you really want to say that there is no legitimate place in orthodox Anglicanism for Anglo-Catholicism??”

What on earth are you talking about? Where did I say this?

“Not least, do you raelly dare to claim, Matt, that the ACNA Constitution has betrayed the JD that it claims to honor and uphold??”

Really David+? What on earth are you talking about. Now you are simply making stuff up.

[20] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 10-31-2011 at 12:01 PM · [top]

Not at all, Matt.

You haven’t yet acknowledged or engaged with my claim above that the ACNA Constitution carefully nuances the JD by restricting its affirmation of the 39 Articles and the 1662 BCP to merely its “fundamental principles” and that those classic formularies are A, not THE, historic standard for Anglican doctrine and liturgy.  You seem to suppose, wrongly, that the standards of Anglican orthodoxy are static and haven’t changed over time, when they manifestly have changed.  At least they’ve changed, for better or worse, in how they are understood and applied in Ang,licanism.

The Caroline Divines, like Lancelot Andrewes, Henry Hammond, William Laud, John Cosin, etc., clearly interpreted the meaning of the 39 Artilces in a way quite different than the English Reformers did, although they still regarded the Articles as authoritative.  And Keble and Pusey continued to regard the Articles as authoritative too, although they interpreted the Articles as compatible with a far more catholic sense.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not by any means endorsing the silly attempt of my hero John Henry Newman to twist the Articles into condoning what they clearly rule out, the full doctrines of Trent.  Tract XC is the most implausible thing Newman ever wrote.

But my point is that subscribing to the “fundamental principles” of the Articles or the 1662 BCP does NOT mean agreeing to every little detail in them.  Once again, I re-emphasize, agreeing that the Articles have an authoritative status today and aren’t merely historical relics of our past, does NOT settle the question of how those cherished norms should be interpreted.

Amicably (thouogh my patience is wearing thin),
David Handy+

[21] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 10-31-2011 at 12:29 PM · [top]

At the risk of feeding the troll, I would ask our gracious hosts whether comment 18 is consistent with the rules of this forum.

[22] Posted by Pigeon on 10-31-2011 at 12:33 PM · [top]

Did you make that claim? I did not read it anywhere? I read, instead, your attempts to shift the discussion away from your original mistaken point the JD held up the Articles as something less than authoritative Anglican doctrine.

It does you no good to go, now, to the ACNA Theological Statement (art 7) which says nothing at all that conflicts with the JD.  If you have, indeed, assented to the JD you are responsible to uphold all that it declares.

[23] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 10-31-2011 at 12:36 PM · [top]

I think the important question on the 39 articles is not whether adherence to them is essential for a Reformed identity as distinguished from a Catholic one, but whether adherence to them is essential to resisting the rise of mondernist heresy and rejection of traditional sexuality morality that plagues the TEC

Heretics suceed because they take the orthodox language of faith and corrupt it to suit their own agenda.  How to keep those articles from being corrupted should be a concern of those who want to preserve and practice orthodox Anglicanism. 

Just my humble opinion and if the hosts find it unsuitable for this discussion please delete my post.

[24] Posted by Paula Loughlin on 10-31-2011 at 12:49 PM · [top]

Since Matt and I are butting heads like stubborn goats, let me try re-framing the issues here, in hopes of breaking the deadlock or getting around the impasse.

One of the unresolved issues or fault lines within orthodox Anglicanism that cries out for more exploration and illumination is the very nature of Anglicanism itself.  Here’s what I mean.

Many Angllicans, certainly a majority throughout history and even a substantial majority of Anglicans around the world today, take it for granted that Anglicanism is a species of the genus Protestantism.  They blithely assume that Anglicanism is simply the (main) English form of Protestantism, just as Lutheranism is the (main) German or Scandanavian form of Protestantism, and Presbyterianism/Calvinism is the Scotch or Dutch form of it.  Or, similarly, they would tend to view Anglicanism as basically the most liturgical kind of Protestantism (along with some very high church Lutherans).

But the point is that a great many people, both inside and outside Anglicanism, simply assume (I submit without warrant) that Anglicanism is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Protestantism.  I mean, they would ask, didn’t the overthrow of Catholic James II and his replacement by the uncompromisingly Protestant William and Mary in 1689 settle that point beyond dispute?  After all, by law the English monarch must be “a Protestant.”  Q. E. D.

And my response would be:  Nonsense.  Rubbish.

Recall that the World Council of Churches (a group of which I’m very critical on the whole) has for many years had the custom of referring to the world’s Christian bodies as falling in four or five basic groups: Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, Pentecostals, and…
Anglicans, as if we were a separate or hybrid group.

And that is precisely what I’d contend that we are, a hybrid of Protestant and Catholic elements.  Sometimes we side with the Protestants, and sometimes we side (or some of us do at any rate) with the Catholics.  From my point of view, Anglicanism at its best (i.e., from the Caroline Divines onward) is not a plain vanilla brand of Protestantism, but a genuine blend of Catholic and Protestant elements, or as I like to say, dimensions.

The Puritans recognized that reality, and hated it, thinking the CoE was “but halfly reformed.”  Sydney dislikes that hybrid nature too, for the same reason, yearning to complete the unfinished job we’ve inher5ited from the 16th & 17th centuries.

I, on the other hand, glory in that mixed nature, the blending of the evangelical and catholic dimensions of Christianity (along with the vital charismatic element as the 3rd dimension).

Or to pick up on episcopalianted’s comment above, I do NOT see Anglicanism as “Catholic and Reformed,” as the Caroline Divines did, but as “catholic and reformed,” where the lower case letters reflect generic tendencies, and not commitment to either the Roman or Swiss ways of manifesting those basic tendencies.

I am a reformed catholic, but I’m enphatically not Reformed.  When I left my Presbyterian roots behind, I didn’t become an Anglican in order to become the J. I. Packer or John Stott sort, a Calvinist in vestments, so to speak.  No, I became a Diocese of Albany sort of conservative Anglo-Catholic, who honors the historic formularies of English tradition, but who interprets them in a 3-D fashion.

I sincerely hope that helps generate more light than heat.

David Handy+

[25] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 10-31-2011 at 12:51 PM · [top]

Matt (#23),

I’ve gone back and reread our earlier comments and I think I may perceive what at least one source of the confusion might be.  You are right that my #5 was a bit misleading, when I suggested that the JD looks at the 39 Articles and the 1662 BCP as “A, not THE” standards for doctrine and liturgy.  I should’ve been more precise.  That is how the ACNA Constitution puts it.  (Also, I should’ve included the third formulary, the classic Ordinal).

And that’s a quite significant difference, that undoubtedly reflects the fact that the ACNA includes a far larger minority of Anglo-Catholics than the giant provinces of Nigeria, Uganda, and Kenya that dominated GAFCON.  Once again, that significant difference is precisely why a hardcore Protestant Anglican like Robin Jordan smells a rat in the ACNA founding documents.  I’m sure some people in Sydney would agree with him.

I would’ve thought my basic argument was clear enough.  If the orthodox movement in Anglicanism, including within the ACNA and the larger FCA movement, is going to include the catholic wing of Anglicanism, then the historic 39 Articles simply can’t be restricted to meaning everything they meant, or were taken to mean, in 1571.  As I said above, the Anglican Counter Reformation of 1833 has changed Anglicanism permanently, for better or worse.  It’s perfectly understandable if you, or Sarah, or David Ould, think that it’s been largely for the worse.  I continue to think it’s been largely (but not entirely) for the better.

Or to put it all another way.  On this Reformation Day, I would join in cheering for my favorite Reformer, Martin Luther.  But I’d only give him, and ++Thomas Crnamer, two cheers, instead of three.

And I’d give only one cheer to John Calvin.  And none at all to Ulrich Zwingli.

And when it comes to the cardinal doctrine of justification by faith, I will add further fuel to the fire by admitting publicly here that I find Melancthon’s view of justification by faith sounder, and more balanced, than Luther’s.  Here, as in liturgy and sacramental theology, I’m much closer to Melancthon and even more so to Andreas Osiander (the Lutheran reformer and pastor of Nuremberg) than I am to Luther.  As SF readers who know Reformation history are aware, but others may not be so aware, Melancthon and Osiander were condemned by Martin Chemnitz and the majority of Lutheran theologians and leaders who drafted the famous Formula of concord (1579-1584), because they judged Melancthon and Osiander as having sold out Reformation principles and having become, even if unwittingly, crypto-Catholics.  Which is, of course, exactly how the later Puritans, like Richard Baxter, regarded Lancelot Andrewes and the Caroline Divines.

David Handy+

[26] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 10-31-2011 at 01:16 PM · [top]

There is no doctrinal, authoritative, magaesterial, covenantal, legal wall strong enough or high enough to keep miscreants at bay when the bishops do not have gumption/guts/holy boldness/cojones/integrity enough to enforce them.  That’s why Favalora and his homosex priest harem and Spong and his huge heresies, Maciel and his obscene abuses, Robinson and his disgusting suggestions to the youth of St. Paul’s have crept into the leadership of the various churches.  (I can’t name any of the miscreants and rebels in the UMC and Presbyterian groups but they are many.)

The Church (catholic and reformed ) is as vulnerable to deception, betrayal, domination and abuse as a woman or a child are to a husband or father. 

Only a system that requires transparency, accountability and mandatory consequences at every level will suffice.  Without these, no law or covenant will protect the church That’s been absent in every tradition/section of Christendom that is now suffering scandal, decadence and decline.  The age of clerical veneration, inclusivity, insularity, secrecy and privilege is (blessedly) drawing to a close.  Thanks be to GOD.

[27] Posted by St. Nikao on 10-31-2011 at 01:41 PM · [top]

David Handy+ Right on brother! I am not quite sure where I am on the Anglican liturgical/theological continuum. However….  I think CS Lewis’ description of the *ordinariness* of his “churchmanship” would apply to me as well. I was raised in the midwest.  My liturgical view of things was influenced not only by my parish ( midwest- low to broad church)  but also by my parents who were part of fairly Anglo-Catholic parish in the Chicago area before they moved back to their (and mine) hometown.  Does the concept of “broad church” exist any more?

As for us and our parish, we celebrated All Saints Sunday not Reformation Sunday as our presbyterian friends did this past Sunday. I was asked why we did not celebrate Reformation Sunday by a presbyterian friend. My answer: Every Sunday reflects our reformed heritage. Why celebrate it only once a year?

[28] Posted by SC blu cat lady on 10-31-2011 at 01:47 PM · [top]

Sigh, Boys will be boys…... lets play nice…

[29] Posted by SC blu cat lady on 10-31-2011 at 02:01 PM · [top]


I infere that you are responding to #11 in #14.  You are careful to differentiate between the use of the word “pistis” between Paul and James.  You use the example of Abraham to emphasise the use of the word by Paul and say that James was using the word differently in the James 2.  Yet James uses the faith (pistis?) of Abraham to illustrate what he is writing about.  Therefore you leave me confused.


[30] Posted by BillB on 10-31-2011 at 02:22 PM · [top]

Hi BillB,

Paul and James’ use of Abraham actually serves to substantiate the point. The pistis that does not justify is mere cognitive assent.

Abraham’s subsequent actions reveal that his professed faith was indeed not mere assent. It was not like the faith of demons or the faith of the one who says “go and be well”

[31] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 10-31-2011 at 02:27 PM · [top]

Interesting conversation. I cannot comment on the whole ACNA / Jerusalem Declaration thing, but I think it’s important that we differentiate between Anglicanism as a theological tradition and Anglicanism as practiced in the post nineteenth century world. We should be apprehensive about too many “I” statements. It is rather inconsequential whether this or that individual Anglican accepts the Reformation or this or that teaching. What matters is not what I think but what Anglicanism actually teaches. Anglicanism teaches justification by grace alone through faith alone. Not only is that enshrined in the 39 Articles and the Homilies, but it is intimately tied into the flow of our liturgy. The most incense loving High Churchman in the seventeenth century believed in justification by faith alone and taught it. Likewise, the necessity of the sacraments and the presence of Christ in the sacraments was taught by those who were firmly in the low church camp, the exception being the non-conformists who rejected both BCP and Articles for being too “popish.” Anglicanism is not some mushy thing that can be formed to our individual tastes. It is the truth. That’s why it makes us so fiercely mad at each other, because we would much rather enshrine our own ideas into a theological system made to order than hear what Anglicanism actually teaches, which is nothing less than the Word of God revealed in Scripture as read through the lens of the Early Church Fathers, the Councils, and the Creeds.

[32] Posted by Fr. Jonathan on 10-31-2011 at 03:35 PM · [top]

Re David’s original post, RC Canon 14 seems to me wholly orthodox:

“If any one saith, that man is truly absolved from his sins and justified, because he assuredly believed himself absolved and justified; or, that no one is truly justified but he who believes himself justified; and that, by this faith alone, absolution and justification are effected; let him be anathema.” (Canon 14).

There are two statements here that the Canon disputes. The first is:

If any one saith, that man is truly absolved from his sins and justified, because he assuredly believed himself absolved and justified

Quite so.  There is such a thing in Reformed or every kind of theology, as false assurance. It is not our belief that we are absolved and justified that absolves and justifies us. I believe that some evangelical teachers call this doctrine “believism”, and denounce it.

Part 2:

no one is truly justified but he who believes himself justified; and that, by this faith alone, absolution and justification are effected;

Quite so. First, many may be justified who do not believe themselves to be justified. (They have a saving belief, but are in doubt, or are uninformed in doctrine.) And “this faith”,  the belief that “no one is truly justified but he who believes himself justified”, does not effect absolution, justification, or anything else.
Happy Reformation Day! The saints and martyrs of the Reformation did more for the faith, by vivifying and securing Christianity in Anglo-Saxon lands, than any saints and martyrs since the first millennium A.D. (Well, OK, modern African saints and martyrs have beaten them now, but we don’t have organized recognition and commemoration of them.)

[33] Posted by Real Toral on 10-31-2011 at 03:35 PM · [top]

Also, for the record, it’s worth noting that Metropolitan Jonah did not condemn John Calvin as a heretic in that speech he made to the ACNA gathering. In fact, he made an aside to say specifically that Calvin himself is another matter entirely. What he did say was that Calvinism is a condemned heresy, which it is, at least in the Orthodox Church. He said it during a section of his speech in which he was articulating what the differences are between Anglicans and Orthodox and what would have to change if ACNA were going to enter into full communion with the OCA. Given that this was the topic, I’m not sure that it’s fair to fault Metropolitan Jonah, an Orthodox primate, for actually believing what Orthodoxy teaches, even if you think he’s wrong.

[34] Posted by Fr. Jonathan on 10-31-2011 at 03:42 PM · [top]

Hi Fr. Jonathan.

For the record above I did not at all fault Met. Jonah for believing what Orthodoxy teaches. I was faulting Anglicans for lauding what I remember him saying about Calvin.

For some reason I remember him speaking negatively about Calvin himself (i saw the video but wasn’t there in person) but I’ll be happy to stand corrected on that. But if he is merely speaking of Calvinism, I would make the very same objection. If Calvinism is a heresy then there are and have been lots and lots of Anglican heretics.

[35] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 10-31-2011 at 03:51 PM · [top]

I have never met an objection to Reformed Theology that wasn’t ultimately rooted in a rejection of Total Depravity.  And these objections all have the same goal - to decisively put man’s fingerprints on his own salvation.  It is the necessary implication of Monergism that so offends because it is Monergism that strips man of the ability to say “I am saved because I am wise.”  By nature we love the idea that we are saved because of something good in us.  We love the idea that sheep should be separated from goat on the basis of some characteristic in the sheep.  It just isn’t true.

who is presently in Japan and slogging through jet lag or he might have engaged NRA more heavily.

[36] Posted by carl on 10-31-2011 at 04:30 PM · [top]

It was awkward when Metropolitan Jonah made his statement about Orthodoxy regarding Calvinism as a heresy at the inaugural ACNA Assembly.  I have discussed this very matter with His Beatitude and I believe that his view is the result of two factors: (1) (and this is simply my own personal opinion) He was exposed to a lot of anti-Calvinistic prejudices as an Anglo-Catholic Anglican before he became Orthodox. (2) It is a matter of Eastern Orthodox history that Cyril Lucaris, who became the Greek Patriarch of Alexandria as Cyril III and Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople as Cyril I, taught Calvinistic views that, following his death, were condemned as heresy by an Orthodox Synod in Jerusalem in 1672. (For a lot of Orthodox, this settles the matter, and they aren’t willing even to discuss it.)

The background to all this is that Eastern Church was largely unaffected by the Augustine vs. Pelagius controversy and so they never really understood Augustine or the error he was trying to combat.  The East was also largely unaffected by the scholasticism of the medieval and renaissance periods which produced doctrines in the Western Church which could only be combatted by a reappropriation of Augustine by the Reformers.

As a young theologian, in the late 1500’s, Cyril had studied in the West, and particularly in Geneva, where he came to appreciate fully the errors of the Roman Church and to embrace Calvinism as a necessary corrective. 

So when Cyril tried to institute Calvinistic teaching in the East, it looked to them to be an innovation because they really had no context for understanding the teaching or why it was necessary.  In my opinion, an Anglican-Orthodox dialogue on justification which considers these matters is an absolute necessity once relations have progressed to the point where such a dialogue is possible.

[37] Posted by ToAllTheWorld on 10-31-2011 at 04:31 PM · [top]

As a theologian who is concerned for catholicity, my effort has always been to discern and believe the catholic faith of the undivided Church.  And we ALL must strive to be catholics, because in the words of the Athanasian Creed, “Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith; which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.”

So while I recognize that a catholic theologian affirming Calvin and quoting R.C. Sproul (like I did in comment #1) may be jarring to some, I believe that a serious attempt to explore one’s own theology and to ground it in the Early Church Fathers and the Councils will lead one to recognize the extent to which Luther and Calvin (and the English Reformers and authors of the Articles of Religion) are simply reflecting Augustine in the whole matter of bondage of the will and the utter necessity of God’s grace for our salvation. 

A crucial part of the catholic faith is the acceptance of what the early Church did with regard to Augustine vs. Pelagius, which is recapitulated in the Reformers’ teaching on justification by faith roughly 1000 years later.  Pelagius’ error consisted of (1) a failure to recognize the true condition of man subsequent to the Fall; and consequently, (2) a failure to recognize that right standing with God can only be imputed to us as the result of an external cause (God’s grace) and received by faith, rather than merited through our own choices and actions.

Although the Church upheld Augustine in his day, the same humanistic tendency to exalt the role we play with regard to our salvation continued to rear its head in the scholasticism of the late medieval and renaissance periods and influenced Church doctrine in the West so much that the Reformation became “a tragic necessity.”  It continues in the mindset of modern and postmodern liberals and also, strangely enough, in the views of those who see catholicity as synonymous with Rome and who view the Reformation as a mistake.

[38] Posted by ToAllTheWorld on 10-31-2011 at 04:35 PM · [top]

hi slcath.

I know that we’ve dealt with this issue on a number of occasions. Perhaps the most sustained answer I can give is in a sermon I preached a while ago on James 2.

[39] Posted by David Ould on 10-31-2011 at 06:32 PM · [top]

Dr. Munday,

Thanks for the clarifications, and for providing the helpful background information on Metropolitan Jonah and Eastern Christianity in general.  I’ll just add that there is at least one branch of the Eastern church tradition that manages to integrate (at least partially) Augustinian theology and spirituality with the Eastern sort, and that is in the Ukrainian Catholic Church, which is by far the largest of the eastern rite or uniate churches in communion with Rome. The Ukrainians are the natural bridge church between East and West, just as we Anglicans are the natural bridge between Protestantism and Catholicism.

Let me strike a more irenic note than I did above when sparring with Matt.  On this Reformation Day, I believe there is a very important way in which the Reformers stand as a crucial precedent for us today in our fight for the truth of the gospel.  And that precedent is this: despite my rejection of the Sola Scriptura principle, I heartily endorse and celebrate the Protestant principle of the supremacy and primacy of the authority of Holy Scripture, which in the medieval period had sadly been subordinated to that of church Tradition, for all practical purposes.

But in different eras, the chief challenges the Church faces can differ, and the fronts on which we must contend for the faith once delivered (Jude 3) sometimes shift.

At the time of the Enlightenment or Age of Reason (beginning around the time of our American Revolution in the late 1700s, including the rise of modern science and empiricism), the chief challenge to the supreme authority of Scripture shifted from Tradition, as it had been before, to the new rival authority, human reason.  Now the fight was to re-assert the supremacy of biblical authority over that of science, rationalism, or philosophy.  Here the classic Anglican apologist who rose to the challenge and refuted the Deists was +Joseph Butler.

Today, in our postmodern age, the battleground has shifted once again.  These days the chief rival authority with which we must contend is that of personal experience.  In our skeptical era, with its cynical despair over the possibility of any kind of universal, objective truth, people tend to regard their experience as self-validating.  Hence, the great struggle in our time is to recover and reclaim the primary and supreme authority of Holy Scripture, as the Protestant reformers did, but in the face of opposition from those who assume that Scripture is trumped by experience.  In the case of the pro-gay ideology, that challenge is very stark and clear.  Many of our foes simply don’t care what Scripture says.  To them, the experience of gay people is taken as self-validating and more reliable than whatever an ancient religious text says (especially since the ancient writers were supposedly so heavily conditioned by the ignorance of that pre-scientific age).

Once again, therefore, I applaud the Reformers earnest and costly struggle to recover the lost authority of Holy Scripture.  They can and should inspire us today to fight the similar costly fight we are called to fight in our time.  But they themselves wouldn’t want us to idealize them.  As Matt rightly said here in an early comment, it is a basic Protestant principle that the Church is always in need of continual reform.  To which I say a hearty Amen.

David Handy+

[40] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 10-31-2011 at 07:30 PM · [top]

Hi David+

“I’ve gone back and reread our earlier comments and I think I may perceive what at least one source of the confusion might be.  You are right that my #5 was a bit misleading, when I suggested that the JD looks at the 39 Articles and the 1662 BCP as “A, not THE” standards for doctrine and liturgy.  I should’ve been more precise.  That is how the ACNA Constitution puts it.  (Also, I should’ve included the third formulary, the classic Ordinal).

And that’s a quite significant difference, that undoubtedly reflects the fact that the ACNA includes a far larger minority of Anglo-Catholics than the giant provinces of Nigeria, Uganda, and Kenya that dominated GAFCON.”

Thanks David+, that was the primary point I was making. The JD is quite strong on the Articles.

[41] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 10-31-2011 at 07:59 PM · [top]

David Ould,

I listened to your sermon referenced in your comment above (#39).  You did indeed give an explication of James 2.  But my comment above (#15) cited 14 additional passages of Scripture.

My point was not that one or two passages of Scripture cited by the Roman Catholic side in the Sola Fide debates, such as James 2:24, cannot be interpreted in such a was as to support the Reformation position.  Rather, my argument was that there is a wealth of Scriptural data apparently supporting Trent’s Decree on Justification that needs to be accounted for before the claim can be made that Sola Fide is the teaching of Holy Scripture.  (Some readers may be surprised to learn that the Decree on Justification of the Council of Trent itself quotes approximately 70 passages of Scripture to present a sort of mosaic of proof in support of its assertions.)

[42] Posted by slcath on 10-31-2011 at 09:09 PM · [top]

thanks slcath for clarifying. I think there are 2 basic issues at play here:

1st, is that a good number of those texts (I haven’t analysed each and every in detail) make the same point that James makes - that we will recognise the converted life by it’s actions, the tree by the fruit. Conversely, a consistently unrepentant sinful life is a fair indication that there is no regeneration.

2nd, the RCC understands justification in a different way. So they see conversion/baptism as the starting point - we are infused by grace and so are in and of ourselves different and fully “clean”. Then the great battle begins whereby we sin and become more tainted and return to the Church for more grace to “wipe away” the uncleanness. Only a very few die in a “state of grace” - most others need the rest burning off in purgatory.

For the Reformers this contradicted their reading of the Bible - that God declared the ungodly as being righteous even when they were not. For the RCC apologist this is seen as, at worst, a straight-out lie - we either are sinful or we are not. But ISTM that Paul does articulate this truth in Romans 4 (and other places). Thus justification is the initial absolute declaration of being in a right state in front of God, despite the fact that I remain a sinner. Luther put it best - simul justus et peccator - at the same time justified and a sinner.
Of course the converted man then sees that his life changes, and indeed is urged to live in a way consistent with that conversion and salvation.

Hence, when Jesus says “by their fruit you will know them”, the Protestant sees that Jesus is saying “want to know if they’re converted and therefore already justified? Look at their life”. The RC sees “want to know if they’re on the way to being right with God? measure up their good works”. Now that last phrase is slightly caricatured but I hope the distinction is clear.

[43] Posted by David Ould on 10-31-2011 at 10:01 PM · [top]

David Ould, thank you for your response.

The points you raise (#43) are relevant to Scripture passages utilizing the vocabulary of “justification” or “righteousness” and related questions whether these are merely forensic concepts.  But most of the passages I cited do not utilize concepts of justification or righteousness. Rather they state unambiguously that heaven is a reward for good works.

In Matthew 7:21 the Lord states that the person who enters the kingdom of heaven is he who “does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

Matthew 16:27 states that when the Son of man comes with his angels in the glory of his Father, he will “repay every man for what he has done.”

Matthew 19:17 quotes the Lord as stating:  “If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”

In the Epistle to the Romans, the supposed Magna Carta of the Sola Fide doctrine, St. Paul states that in the “day of wrath” God will “render to every man according to his works:  to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life….”  (Romans 2:6-7.)

Revelation 22:12 quotes Jesus as stating:  “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, to repay every one for what he has done….”

These passages (and there are others like them) do not require us to delve into complicated questions of justification.  Rather they state clearly and simply that, in some sense at least, heaven is a reward for good works.  In light of these passages, how can the doctrine of Sola Fide be championed as unambiguously taught in Scripture, and indeed one of the central doctrines of Christianity?  At a minimum I would think that heirs of the Reformation in fairness should grant that Rome’s refusal to embrace Sola Fide, even if erroneous, has a plausible basis in Holy Scripture.

[44] Posted by slcath on 11-1-2011 at 12:35 AM · [top]

hi slcath. My apologies, I think I did you a disservice by providing a generic answer rather than the specifics. Let me try and address the particular texts in turn.

In Matthew 7:21 the Lord states that the person who enters the kingdom of heaven is he who “does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

I take it this is actually what I was referring to before - “by their fruits you will know them”. The Sermon on the Mount is presented in Matthew as a regiving of the Sinai Torah. Thus Jesus is not setting out a means to justification but the model of the justified life. Want to know what that looks like, well see Jesus’ explication of the Torah.

Matthew 16:27 states that when the Son of man comes with his angels in the glory of his Father, he will “repay every man for what he has done.”

Indeed, the context defines what that “doing” is - in this instance it is first and foremost the confession of Jesus as the Christ and the taking up of one’s cross. That is, I would suggest, a different way of saying “trusting Jesus”.

Matthew 19:17 quotes the Lord as stating:  “If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”

JPII in Evangelium Vitum(I think) argues that Jesus is actually setting out a Law that the man must keep in order to be justified. But I would suggest that it doesn’t do full justice to the dialogue. The man presumes that he has kept the law (as a means of justification) but Jesus lovingly shows him he has not. More than that, He gives him the better alternative and culmination of these things:
v21 “... and come, follow me”.
Ultimately the call is not to do a good work, but to set aside those things that were dear to the man (his “riches”) and follow Jesus too. The disciples go on to note how impossible this is, v25, “who then can be saved?” - Jesus answers that a divine rebirth is needed. I would argue it’s a long way from justification by any form of works whatsoever.

In the Epistle to the Romans, the supposed Magna Carta of the Sola Fide doctrine, St. Paul states that in the “day of wrath” God will “render to every man according to his works:  to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life….”  (Romans 2:6-7.)

Yes, and I take it it is hypothetical at this point. After all, a little later he will argue that all have sinned and fallen short and that there is no-one who is good.

Revelation 22:12 quotes Jesus as stating:  “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, to repay every one for what he has done….”

I think the point in Revelation is that those who oppose the Church receive their recompense. This is not so much a statement that good is rewarded, but that the persecution of the saints is punished.

I trust all of that makes sense.

[45] Posted by David Ould on 11-1-2011 at 01:03 AM · [top]


As a NT scholar, I deeply appreciate the exegetical labors of such worthy luminaries of Moore as the late, great Leon Morris, or recent faculty members such as Peter O’Toole

This is Peter O’Toole…

<center><iframe width=“480” height=“360” src=“http://www.youtube.com/embed/Za9PMYEIiQ4” frameborder=“0” allowfullscreen></iframe></center>

This is Peter O’Brien...


[46] Posted by David Ould on 11-1-2011 at 02:55 AM · [top]

Dr. Munday (#38)

“So while I recognize that a catholic theologian affirming Calvin and quoting R.C. Sproul (like I did in comment #1) may be jarring to some, I believe that a serious attempt to explore one’s own theology and to ground it in the Early Church Fathers and the Councils will lead one to recognize the extent to which Luther and Calvin (and the English Reformers and authors of the Articles of Religion) are simply reflecting Augustine in the whole matter of bondage of the will and the utter necessity of God’s grace for our salvation.”

Well said, and thank you.  Pleased and surprised to hear this from you.  I was wondering how well your thoughts about the Reformed would be received among Anglo-Catholics;  particularly Anglo-Caths in the ACNA. 

Thanks again and Yours in Him,
- Recent addition to the ACNA and the token Reformed guy at his new parish.

[47] Posted by J Eppinga on 11-1-2011 at 03:23 AM · [top]

David Ould (#46),

Oops.  Yes, you’re right, of course, I meant Peter O’Brien, who has written several fine NT commentaries.  His early one on Colossians/Philemn in the Word Biblical Commentary series, was followed by his outstanding volumes on Ephesians and again on Hebrews in the Pillar series, besides his Greek-based commentary on Philippians (NIGTC series).

Alas, I often type too hastily, and proofread more hastily yet.  Thanks for correcting me gently.

David Handy+

[48] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 11-1-2011 at 10:11 AM · [top]

Moot (personal aside),

Welcome aboard the ACNA!  I’m delighted that you decided to join us.  If you happen to attend the upcoming diocesan synod here in VA in two weeks or so, please come up to me and introduce yourself.  I’d love to meet you.  Then we can tease each other in person, and not just digitally.

P.S. to Matt,
Thanks for a gracious response.  Matter closed.

David Handy+

[49] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 11-1-2011 at 10:18 AM · [top]

I just want to say thanks to the clergy who post here at Stand Firm. Your knowledge that you share with the rest of the us (even if you disagree with each other in one post) makes us think and learn.  While you may not be teaching from a lectern in a sunday school classroom, you are teaching none the less. Kudos and keep it up, please! YOU are a very important part of the Church Militant!  Have a blessed All Saints Day to all.

[50] Posted by SC blu cat lady on 11-1-2011 at 10:51 AM · [top]

The Reformers themselves (including Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and others) were convinced that their position was not only biblical, but also historical. In other words, they contended that both the apostles and the church fathers would have agreed with them on the heart of the gospel.

For example, the second-generation Lutheran reformer, Martin Chemnitz (1522-1586), wrote a treatise on justification in which he defended the Protestant position by extensively using the church fathers. And John Calvin (1509-1564), in his Institutes, similarly claimed that he could easily debunk his Roman Catholic opponents using nothing but patristic sources. Here’s what he wrote:

If the contest were to be determined by patristic authority, the tide of victory — to put it very modestly —would turn to our side. Now, these fathers have written many wise and excellent things.  . . . [Yet] the good things that these fathers have written they [the Roman Catholics] either do not notice, or misrepresent or pervert.  . . .  But we do not despise them [the church fathers]; in fact, if it were to our present purpose, I could with no trouble at all prove that the greater part of what we are saying today meets their approval.

Source: John Calvin, “Prefatory Address to King Francis I of France,” The Institutes of the Christian Religion, Section 4.

How could the Reformers be so confident that their understanding of the gospel was consistent with the teachings of the ancient church? Or perhaps more to the point: What did the early church fathers have to say about the gospel of grace?

Here is an admittedly brief collection of 30 patristic quotes, centering on the reality that justification is by grace alone through faith alone. Many more could be provided. But I think you’ll be encouraged by this survey look at the gospel according to the church fathers.

(Even if you don’t read every quote, just take a moment to consider the fact that, long before Luther, the leaders of the ancient church were clearly proclaiming the gospel of grace through faith in Christ.)

1. Clement of Rome (30-100): “And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Source: Clement, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 32.4.

2. Epistle to Diognetus (second century): “He gave His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy One for transgressors, the blameless One for the wicked, the righteous One for the unrighteous, the incorruptible One for the corruptible, the immortal One for them that are mortal. For what other thing was capable of covering our sins than His righteousness? By what other one was it possible that we, the wicked and ungodly, could be justified, than by the only Son of God? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable operation! O benefits surpassing all expectation! That the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous One, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors!”

Source: The Epistle to Diognetus, 9.2-5.

3. Justin Martyr (100-165) speaks of “those who repented, and who no longer were purified by the blood of goats and of sheep, or by the ashes of an heifer, or by the offerings of fine flour, but by faith through the blood of Christ, and through His death.”

Source: Justin, Dialogue with Trypho, 13.

4. Origen (185-254): “For God is just, and therefore he could not justify the unjust. Therefore he required the intervention of a propitiator, so that by having faith in Him those who could not be justified by their own works might be justified.”

Source: Origen, Commentary on Romans, 2.112.

5. Origen (again): “A man is justified by faith. The works of the law can make no contribution to this. Where there is no faith which might justify the believer, even if there are works of the law these are not based on the foundation of faith. Even if they are good in themselves they cannot justify the one who does them, because faith is lacking, and faith is the mark of those who are justified by God.”

Source: Origen, Commentary on Romans, 2.136.

6. Hilary of Poitiers (300-368): “Wages cannot be considered as a gift, because they are due to work, but God has given free grace to all men by the justification of faith.”

Source: Hilary, Commentary on Matthew (on Matt. 20:7)

7. Hilary of Poitiers (again): “It disturbed the scribes that sin was forgiven by a man (for they considered that Jesus Christ was only a man) and that sin was forgiven by Him whereas the Law was not able to absolve it, since faith alone justifies.”

Source: Hilary, Commentary on Matthew (on Matt. 9:3)

8. Didymus the Blind (c. 313-398) “A person is saved by grace, not by works but by faith. There should be no doubt but that faith saves and then lives by doing its own works, so that the works which are added to salvation by faith are not those of the law but a different kind of thing altogether.”[31]

Source: Didymus the Blind. Commentary on James, 2:26b.

9. Basil of Caesarea (329-379): “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord, that Christ has been made by God for us righteousness, wisdom, justification, redemption. This is perfect and pure boasting in God, when one is not proud on account of his own righteousness but knows that he is indeed unworthy of the true righteousness and is justified solely by faith in Christ.”

Source: Basil, Homily on Humility, 20.3.

10. Jerome (347–420): “We are saved by grace rather than works, for we can give God nothing in return for what he has bestowed on us.”

Source: Jerome, Epistle to the Ephesians, 1.2.1.

11. John Chrysostom (349-407): “For Scripture says that faith has saved us. Put better: Since God willed it, faith has saved us. Now in what case, tell me, does faith save without itself doing anything at all? Faith’s workings themselves are a gift of God, lest anyone should boast. What then is Paul saying? Not that God has forbidden works but that he has forbidden us to be justified by works. No one, Paul says, is justified by works, precisely in order that the grace and benevolence of God may become apparent.”

Source: John Chrysostom, Homilies on Ephesians, 4.2.9.

12. John Chrysostom (again): “But what is the ‘law of faith?’ It is, being saved by grace. Here he shows God’s power, in that He has not only saved, but has even justified, and led them to boasting, and this too without needing works, but looking for faith only.”

Source: John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 7.27.

13. John Chrysostom (again): “God allowed his Son to suffer as if a condemned sinner, so that we might be delivered from the penalty of our sins. This is God’s righteousness, that we are not justified by works (for then they would have to be perfect, which is impossible), but by grace, in which case all our sin is removed.”

Source: John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians, 11.5.

14. John Chrysostom (again): “Everywhere he puts the Gentiles upon a thorough equality. ‘And put no difference between us and them, having purified their hearts by faith.’ (v. 9.) From faith alone, he says, they obtained the same gifts. This is also meant as a lesson to those (objectors); this is able to teach even them that faith only is needed, not works nor circumcision.”

Source: John Chrysostom, Homilies on Acts, 32 (regarding Acts 15:1)

[51] Posted by RickP on 11-1-2011 at 11:32 AM · [top]

15. John Chrysostom (again): “What then was it that was thought incredible? That those who were enemies, and sinners, neither justified by the law, nor by works, should immediately through faith alone be advanced to the highest favor. Upon this head accordingly Paul has discoursed at length in his Epistle to the Romans, and here again at length. “This is a faithful saying,” he says, “and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

Source: John Chrysostom, Homilies on 1 Timothy, 4.1.

16. John Chrysostom (again): “”For it is most of all apparent among the Gentiles, as he also says elsewhere, ‘And that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy.’ (Romans 15:9.) For the great glory of this mystery is apparent among others also, but much more among these. For, on a sudden, to have brought men more senseless than stones to the dignity of Angels, simply through bare words, and faith alone, without any laboriousness, is indeed glory and riches of mystery: just as if one were to take a dog, quite consumed with hunger and the mange, foul, and loathsome to see, and not so much as able to move, but lying cast out, and make him all at once into a man, and to display him upon the royal throne.”

Source: John Chrysostom, Homilies on Colossians, 5.2.

17. John Chrysostom (again): “Now since the Jews kept turning over and over the fact, that the Patriarch, and friend of God, was the first to receive circumcision, he wishes to show, that it was by faith that he too was justified. And this was quite a vantage ground to insist upon. For a person who had no works, to be justified by faith, was nothing unlikely. But for a person richly adorned with good deeds, not to be made just from hence, but from faith, this is the thing to cause wonder, and to set the power of faith in a strong light.”

Source: John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 8.1.

18. Augustine (354-430): “If Abraham was not justified by works, how was he justified? The apostle goes on to tell us how: What does scripture say? (that is, about how Abraham was justified). Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness (Rom. 4:3; Gen. 15:6). Abraham, then, was justified by faith. Paul and James do not contradict each other: good works follow justification.”

Source: Augustine, Exposition 2 of Psalm 31, 2-4.

19. Augustine (again): “When someone believes in him who justifies the impious, that faith is reckoned as justice to the believer, as David too declares that person blessed whom God has accepted and endowed with righteousness, independently of any righteous actions (Rom 4:5-6). What righteousness is this? The righteousness of faith, preceded by no good works, but with good works as its consequence.”

Source: Augustine, Exposition 2 of Psalm 31, 6-7.

20. Ambrosiaster (fourth century): “God has decreed that a person who believes in Christ can be saved without works. By faith alone he receives the forgiveness of sins.”

Source: Ambrosiaster, Commentary on 1 Corinthians 1:4.

21. Ambrosiaster (again): “They are justified freely because they have not done anything nor given anything in return, but by faith alone they have been made holy by the gift of God.”

Source: Ambrosiaster, Commentary on Romans 3:24.

22. Ambrosiaster (again): “Paul tells those who live under the law that they have no reason to boast basing themselves on the law and claiming to be of the race of Abraham, seeing that no one is justified before God except by faith.”

Source: Ambrosiaster, Commentary on Romans 3:27.

23. Ambrosiaster (again): “God gave what he promised in order to be revealed as righteous. For he had promised that he would justify those who believe in Christ, as he says in Habakkuk: ‘The righteous will live by faith in me’ (Hab. 2:4). Whoever has faith in God and Christ is righteous.”

Source: Ambrosiaster, Commentary on Paul’s Epistles; CSEL 81 ad loc.

24. Marius Victorinus (fourth century): “The fact that you Ephesians are saved is not something that comes from yourselves. It is the gift of God. It is not from your works, but it is God’s grace and God’s gift, not from anything you have deserved. … We did not receive things by our own merit but by the grace and goodness of God.”

Source: Marius Victorinus, Epistle to the Ephesians, 1.2.9.

25. Prosper of Aquitaine (390–455): “And just as there are no crimes so detestable that they can prevent the gift of grace, so too there can be no works so eminent that they are owed in condign [deserved] judgment that which is given freely. Would it not be a debasement of redemption in Christ’s blood, and would not God’s mercy be made secondary to human works, if justification, which is through grace, were owed in view of preceding merits, so that it were not the gift of a Donor, but the wages of a laborer?”

Source: Prosper of Acquitaine, Call of All Nations, 1.17

26. Theodoret of Cyrus (393–457): “The Lord Christ is both God and the mercy seat, both the priest and the lamb, and he performed the work of our salvation by his blood, demanding only faith from us.”

Source: Theodoret of Cyrus, Interpretation of the Letter to the Romans; PG 82 ad loc.

27. Theodoret of Cyrus (again): “All we bring to grace is our faith. But even in this faith, divine grace itself has become our enabler. For [Paul] adds, ‘And this is not of yourselves but it is a gift of God; not of works, lest anyone should boast’ (Eph. 2:8–9). It is not of our own accord that we have believed, but we have come to belief after having been called; and even when we had come to believe, He did not require of us purity of life, but approving mere faith, God bestowed on us forgiveness of sins”

Source: Theodoret of Cyrus, Interpretation of the Fourteen Epistles of Paul; FEF 3:248–49, sec. 2163.

28. Cyril of Alexandria (412-444): “For we are justified by faith, not by works of the law, as Scripture says. By faith in whom, then, are we justified? Is it not in Him who suffered death according to the flesh for our sake? Is it not in one Lord Jesus Christ?”

Source: Cyril of Alexandria, Against Nestorius, 3.62

29. Fulgentius (462–533): “The blessed Paul argues that we are saved by faith, which he declares to be not from us but a gift from God. Thus there cannot possibly be true salvation where there is no true faith, and, since this faith is divinely enabled, it is without doubt bestowed by his free generosity. Where there is true belief through true faith, true salvation certainly accompanies it. Anyone who departs from true faith will not possess the grace of true salvation.”

Source: Fulgentius, On the Incarnation, 1; CCL 91:313.

30.  Bede (673-735): “Although the apostle Paul preached that we are justified by faith without works, those who understand by this that it does not matter whether they live evil lives or do wicked and terrible things, as long as they believe in Christ, because salvation is through faith, have made a great mistake. James here expounds how Paul’s words ought to be understood. This is why he uses the example of Abraham, whom Paul also used as an example of faith, to show that the patriarch also performed good works in the light of his faith. It is therefore wrong to interpret Paul in such a way as to suggest that it did not matter whether Abraham put his faith into practice or not. What Paul meant was that no one obtains the gift of justification on the basis of merits derived from works performed beforehand, because the gift of justification comes only from faith.”

Source: Cited from the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (ed. Gerald Bray), NT, vol. 11, p. 31.

[52] Posted by RickP on 11-1-2011 at 11:33 AM · [top]

Thank you for the kind invitation NRA+.  No plans on rubbing elbows with the high mucky-mucks yet, so VA is probably out for this year.  Still tuckered out from the wheels falling off.

[53] Posted by J Eppinga on 11-1-2011 at 11:35 AM · [top]

Galatians 1:6-9, 6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!
The way of Salvation JC Ryles

[54] Posted by RickP on 11-1-2011 at 11:47 AM · [top]

David Ould,

While re-reading your post at #43 above, I noticed something I had overlooked on first reading.  I think it’s important enough to comment on now.

You state that according to Roman Catholic teaching

Only a very few die in a “state of grace” - most others need the rest burning off in purgatory.

First, to my knowledge the Catholic Church has never taught that “only a very few” die in a state of grace. 

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly to the overall discussion, your statement that besides the very few who die in a state of grace, “most others need the rest burning off in purgatory” is simply not an accurate reflection of Catholic teaching.  If someone is not in a state of grace at death, they don’t go to heaven or to purgatory.  In other words, all persons in purgatory have died in a “state of grace.”  (See CCC 1030.) They’re bound for heaven. One can’t get to heaven (directly at death or via the cleansing process at death) without God’s grace.

[55] Posted by slcath on 11-1-2011 at 12:59 PM · [top]

hi slcath. Thanks for picking me up on that. My language was sloppy. You were referring to this:

1030 All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

So I understand that the RCC teaches that those who go through purgatory do so because they are “in God’s grace”.
Whereas when I spoke about a “state of grace” I was referring to that popular concept referring to those who avoid purgatory by not having sin that requires purging. ISTM that reading the catechism again that there is some confusion about this - you clearly open up the possibility of such a person and yet I don’t see them described in the Catechism. Further, I remember distinctly a number of Catholic theologians on the TV speaking of JPII being in “a state of grace” upon death and thus having avoided purgatory - this was argued as part of the rationale for his beatification.

Perhaps you might help me tease out some of these thoughts? Would you agree that if we use the term “state of grace” in that sense then there are very few who would meet the criteria and thus almost everyone will require purgation?

[56] Posted by David Ould on 11-1-2011 at 07:52 PM · [top]

It is worth, of course, (not for contention but for clarity) repeating the official Anglican position on this:

Article XXII
Of Purgatory
The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping, and Adoration as well of Images as of Reliques, and also invocation of Saints, is a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God.

More specifically, the Reformers argued that it was a denial of the complete work of Christ to suggest that there was more purging to be done. I guess that the RCC would argue in response that purgatory is the work of Christ. Upon which point all the Reformers shout “show me that in the Bible!”

After which, how it proceeds depends on how much rotten vegetables are lying around wink

[57] Posted by David Ould on 11-1-2011 at 07:57 PM · [top]

David Ould,

I hesitate to use the term “state of grace” to refer to those who “avoid purgatory,” as you put it.  In Catholic vocabulary, “state of grace” has a definite meaning.  To quote a popular Catholic dictionary by Father John Hardon, SJ, the “state of grace” is the condition of a person “who is free from mortal sin and pleasing to God.  It is the state of being in God’s friendship and the necessary condition of the soul at death in order to attain heaven.” 

Turning to your suggestion that very few people “avoid purgatory” on their way to heaven, I would just have to say that I haven’t the faintest idea as to that number.  I doubt that the Catholic Church has offered official speculation about this.  I would hasten to add that I suspect a whole lot of folks, myself included, need correction of bad habits and the tendency to certain types of petty daily sins (like impatience with family members) and would welcome an extreme make-over, at least in some areas. If God wants to do that in one fell swoop the moment I die, well I guess that is purgatory for me. See, I think Protestants really believe in purgatory in some form.  No one really believes that to be forensically justified and yet suffer from petty bad habits is an appropriate posture to arrive in heaven. I would venture a guess that most Protestants suspect that God has something rather significant in store for them at the moment of death, something besides a simple non-guilty verdict—something that at a minimum is going to make them the kind of person they’ve always really wanted to be.  But maybe I’m wrong.

By the way, standard definitions of “saint” make no reference to “avoiding purgatory.”  The CCC refers to canonized saints as having “practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God’s grace.”  (CCC 828)  Hardon’s Dictionary likewise does not define “saints” in terms of avoidance of purgatory.  Rather, “saints are those who distinguish themselves by heroic virtue during life and whom the Church honors as saints either by her ordinary universal teaching authority or by a solemn definition called canonization.  The Church’s offical recognition of sanctity implies that the persons are now in heavenly glory….”  (Emphasis added.)

As to the question of the question of the biblical basis for the doctrine of purgatory (cf. #57 above), as you probably know, the standard texts are Matthew 12:31 (“whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come”); 2 Maccabees 12:35 (“Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin”).  (I quite recognize that Protestants generally do not accept the canonicity of the Books of Maccabees.  This just goes to show that the question as to who determines the Scriptural canon is so vital, and the dead-end nature of the “fallible collection of infallible books” theory.)

[58] Posted by slcath on 11-1-2011 at 09:13 PM · [top]

hi slcath.
Thanks for the further clarification. Again, I think my language has been sloppy and I’m very pleased to have it tightened up.
Turning more specifically to something you said…

As to the question of the question of the biblical basis for the doctrine
of purgatory (cf. #57 above), as you probably know, the standard texts are
Matthew 12:31 (“whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be
forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come”);

I’m not sure how that’s a defense of purgatory. The distinction is “forgiven” against “not forgiven”. Purgation does not seem to come into it at all.

2 Maccabees 12:35
(“Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered
from their sin”). (I quite recognize that Protestants generally do not
accept the canonicity of the Books of Maccabees. This just goes to show
that the question as to who determines the Scriptural canon is so vital,
and the dead-end nature of the “fallible collection of infallible books”

Indeed. For me, I’ll go with a canon that was assented to by the early church from almost the very beginning, not a larger canon only established 1500 years after the fact wink (I suspect you knew that was coming !)

[59] Posted by David Ould on 11-1-2011 at 09:49 PM · [top]

Rick P, the point you make and the method you used in comments #51 and #52 is precisely that used by the English Reformers.  For instance, if you read the works of Thomas Cranmer in the Parker Society reprints, Cranmer will state a doctrine of the Reformation, and then give a page or more of quotations from Scripture. He will then follow that with several pages of quotations from the Early Fathers to show that he is interpreting Scripture in a way that is consistent with the faith of the undivided Church.
IMHO, we should still do our theology that way.

[60] Posted by ToAllTheWorld on 11-2-2011 at 03:00 AM · [top]

slcath, Rick P has made great responses to your questions, and you anticipated my answer in your comment at #58, with the fact that when God calls us justified, we are forensically innocent.  But that is not all - in 2 Cor 5:15, we read that “For our sake he (God the Father) made him (Jesus Christ) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  We are not only accounted innocent on the basis of Christ’s sacrificial death on our behalf, but we are accounted as righteous on the basis of Christ’s perfect righteousness, the life of obedience he lived on our behalf.  In Christ (for when we place our trust in him, we are joined in union with him), we fully meet all the requirements you listed earlier - in Christ, we have obeyed all God’s commands and done all that we should have done.

The Christian life after regeneration is one of becoming more and more what God has called us, through the power of the Holy Spirit. That work of sanctification is not completed within our earthly lifetime. We have the promise of Phil 1:6 that we shall be perfect “at the day of Jesus Christ.” Exactly what happens to complete the process between our death and Christ’s return is not clear, but Paul is clear that we are with the Lord and enjoying his fellowship - see 2 Cor 5:8 and Phil 1:23. The idea, then, that there is an intermediate state where we are purged of our sins after death and before we enjoy the fellowship of the Lord in its fullness does not pass the test of God’s Word.

The technical meaning of Purgatory in RC doctrine may be that of continued sanctification, without punishment, but the popular idea is (so I understand from my RC friends) that it is a painful time at least akin to punishment if not actual punishment. That idea of punishment is not at all biblical, and- as I noted, neither is the idea of separation from the Lord,

[61] Posted by AnglicanXn on 11-2-2011 at 07:05 AM · [top]

I’m glad to see that this thread hasn’t died away into inactivity yet, as the issues it involves are indeed intrinsically important and always worthy of serious discussion.  I have a few more ideas to toss out as further grist for the mill.

But first an aside to David Ould, and other readers who noticed by amusing flub in confusing the actor Peter O’Toole with the biblical scholar Peter O’Brien (once based on Moore Theological College in Sydney).  I recently (re)watched the classic, hilarious film Charade, starring Peter O’Toole and Audrey Hepburn, and I suppose that’s why O’Toole’s name was dwelling in my subconscious and popped out above.

In the course of my innumerable comments here at SF over the last several years, I’ve made some worse blunders.  When I think of some of the worst bloopers, it can make me cringe and wince.  But in this case, I had to laugh at myself and smile.

This morning, during my quiet time with the Lord, he reminded me of a couple of Scriptures that were somewhat convicting.  Here they are:

When words are many, transgression is not lacking.”  (Prov. 10:19)

Worse yet,
I tell you, on the Day of Judgment, you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter.”  (Matt. 12:36)

In light of those uncomfortable truths, I think I feel a swan song coming on.  I think I’m about to lapse into another prolonged period of abstention from frequent blogging.  In the last few weeks, I’ve done more blogging again than I’d done in the last 10 or 11 months.  But now I need to refocus and get back to concentrating on writing my book on the reform of Christian Initiation.

However, before slipping back into inactivity here, I’d like to throw out a few more ideas that haven’t come up yet on this thread, but seem highly relevant.

More to come…
David Handy+

[62] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 11-2-2011 at 07:46 AM · [top]

Hmmm.  an inauspicious beginning, that should’ve been “my” amusing flub, not “by.”  When words are many, mistakes and transgressions are indeed almost inevitable…

OK.  Installment #1.  On the JDDJ.

I’m surprised that in a thread celebrating Reformation Day, and when David Ould had started it off by calling attention to the crucial doctrine of justification by faith, we’ve reached over 60 comments without anyone, including me, bringing up the famous (or infamous) ecumenical agreement between the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation that was announced with great fanfare on Reformation Day, October 31st, 1999.  I’m talking, of course, about the JDDJ, or the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification.

I (for one) heartily applaud that major breakthrough as a very promising contribution to better understanding between Protestants and Catholics on the key doctrinal issue at stake in the 16th century.  Of course, it doesn’t really resolve all differences on that core doctrine between Rome and Wittenberg, much less between Catholicism and Protestantism as a whole.  But I think it does go a long way toward removing unnecessary obstacles to jointly proclaiming the good news of how we are saved by grace through Christ on the basis of faith.

In particular, I rejoice that the official statement in 1999 proudly announced,
The teaching of the Lutheran Churches presented in this Declaration does not fall under the condemnation of the Council of Trent.

Likewise, they happily claimed,
The condemnations in the Lutheran Confessions do not apply to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church presented in this Declaration.

IOW, neither Lutheranism nor Catholicism has stood still since the 1500s.  Both have moved a long way in the direction of convergence (without actually reaching consensus, of course, there are still huge differences of emphasis between the two traditions).  And I think the same is true between the best Anglican and the Roman theologians, as reflected in some ARCIC statements.

Back when I was in seminary at Yale in the early 1980s, one of my esteemed teachers was the orthodox Lutheran theologian George Lindbeck, who long served on the national Lutheran/RC dialogue and who was a major figure in helping to draft the similar agreement between the Catholic Church and the ELCA in this country, published in 1985 as #7 in the series Lutherans and Catholics in Dialgue under the simple title, Justification by Faith.  Lindbeck contributed one of the essays in that hefty 381-page study.

I vividly remember a remark he made in class one day about his experience serving on that elite dialogue team.  As far as I’m concerned it gets to the heart of things beautifully.  Dr. Lindbeck was asked by one of my fellow students if that national agreement between the top, ecumenically minded Lutheran and Catholic theologians in the USA had effectively ended the Reformation.  I think he phrased it something like this:  “Dr. Lindbeck, if you and the Catholics could agree on so much about justification, can we just declare the Reformation over and say that we won?

Lindbeck’s insightful response was succinct and classic.

“Well, not really.  You see, for me as a Lutheran, justification by faith is still The Article by which the Church stands or falls.  Whereas for Catholics, even the most biblical of them, justification is only one central doctrine among many.”

I think that pretty well says it all.

David Handy+

[63] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 11-2-2011 at 08:13 AM · [top]

OK, installment #2, on my notion of “3-D” Christianity and how it applies to the Protestant/Catholic divide.

As veteran readers of SF know, I’m fond of talking about Christianity as properly being a 3-D affair: with the three dimensions being described as, among other things, evangelical, catholic, and charismatic.  I’d like to unpack that a bit here, and show its relevance to this thread.

I contend, contrary to what many suppose, that the evangelical and catholic dimensions are NOT mutually exclusive or incompatible, but rather that they are complementary in a paradoxical way.  Please note: I didn’t say that Protestantism and Catholicism per se were complementary, just the underlying dimensions that they embody.  I recognize that, e.g., you can’t be simultaneously bound to papal obedience and free from that submission.  Protestantism and Catholicism in their current institutional forms do collide and are locked in unresolvable conflict at some points like that.

But my essential claim is that the underlying principles don’t collide in that same way, because they operate on separate planes of reality, like the height, width, and depth dimensions of any object in our world.  They are oriented toward different legitimate theological concerns and pastoral needs.  So when the evangelical and catholic dimensions do intersect or collide, it’s not the way two cars do when unwary drivers hit head-on traveling on the same highway but in opposite directions.  No, rather, they collide like two cars approaching the same intersection from perpendicular roads, when neither driver will yield the right of way to the other!

Here is a simple, brief illustration of what I mean.

One way of characterizing the essential differences between the evangelical and the catholic dimensions is that the former strongly accents the personal or indiviual element in Christianity, whereas the catholic dimension accents the corporate side.  IOW, evangelicals, and Protestants in general, focus largely on the truth that everyone needs to have a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”  Well, absolutely right.  Of course, that’s indispensable.  But while it’s the truth, it’s not “the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

For the fact is that while nothing can take the place of our individual relationship with Jesus, we can’t have an authentic, ongoing relationship with Christ without being a living part of the whole Body of Christ.  The arm or foot, the eye or leg or whatever, just can’t survive on its own, apart from the rest of the Body.  And without the living tradition of the Church passing the faith down from generation to generation, NONE of us would or could be followers of Christ today.

Second illustration.  The evangelical (or Protestant) instinct is to accent the simplicity and purity of the gospel, whereas the catholic instinct is to revel in the richness and fullness of the faith.  Here again, the tendencies are complementary, in a paradoxical way, and not mutually exclusive.  Evnagelicals, and Protestants in general, love to boil the gospel message down into its simplest form, e.g., “the Four Spiritual Laws,” or Stott’s Basic Christianity, or C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, etc.  Whereas, the catholic impulse is to seek to embody “the whole counsel of God.”  The former sticks closely to the bare Scriptures; the other cherishes “what has been believed everywhere, always, and by all

That’s the kind of mutual complementarity I’m talking about.  And the third dimension comes in with the focus on the distinctive role of the Holy Spirit in the Christian life and Church.  The charismatic or Pentecostal isn’t impressed by people who can quote lots of biblical verses or spout all the right doctrines, they want to know, has your life actually been transformed?  Are you living the new life in Christ by the power of the Spirit?  Likewise, the charismatic isn’t impressed by those who have experienced all the right rituals and participate regularly in the sacramental life of the Church.  They would again demand, “But have you been converted?  Have you actually received the Holy Spirit?”  Don’t tell me how you “prayed the sinner’s prayer” or “went forward” at an altar call, show me the evidence of a transformed life!  Don’t tell me how you were baptized or confirmed by the right person laying hands on you, are you a new creation?

That, in brief, is the heart of my 3-D approach, that seeks to maintain the biblical balance between the evangelical, catholic, and charismatic dimensions of the Christian faith and life.  And among other things, that means carefully striving to keep a proper, healthy balance between the individual and corporate aspects of Christianity, and likewise vigilantly keeping the balance between the simplicity of the gospel and its full working out in the richness of the historic Trinitarian faith, especially as expressed in the classic teaching of the early fathers of the few five centuries or so.  For a classic Anglican example of doing that see the great Caroline Divine Lancelot Andrewes and his famous 1-2-3-4-5 saying, i.e., that we Anglicans hold as authoritative One Bible, in Two testaments, with Three Creeds, Four ecumenical councils, and the first FIVE centuries of the teaching of the ancient Fathers.  Right on target.

Seen in that light, the Reformation of the 16th century was indeed “a tragic necessity” (Pelikan), as I said above.  It was indeed a grim and ugly necessity, since the purity of the gospel (not least, the Pauline truth of justification by faith) had been badly distorted and compromised, and worse yet, all attempts at reform from within the system had been hopelessly blocked and thwarted by a corrupt papacy, the curia, and other vested interests in the medieval church.

OTOH, the Reformation was also the greatest tragedy ever to strike the Western Church, which had never been so badly and bitterly divided.  The necessary reforms and purifications of the 16th century came at a very high price, which we are still paying today.

David Handy+
3-D Christian

[64] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 11-2-2011 at 08:58 AM · [top]

Finally (at least until someone interacts with me), installment #3, on looking at the Anglicanism-Catholicism relationship through the lens of Tolkien’s Middle Earth.

Having already tossed some very controversial ideas on this thread, I’m go on and throw out yet one more.  As regular readers of SF know all too well, I tend to rush in where more prudent souls, much less angels, would fear to tread.

I know that there are many SF readers who are also lovers of J. R. R. Tolkien and his epic Lord of the Rings saga.  Well, I’d like to propose an analogy from his mythical world that I find illuminating when it comes to understanding the complicated, tortuous relationship between Rome and Canterbury.  Here it is.

I submit, in brief, that Anglicanism is Rohan, and Catholicism is Gondor.  Canterbury is Edoras, but Rome is Minas Tirith.

That might seem a little surprising or demeaning of Anglicanism at first, but please bear with me.

After all, we Anglicans are only a small part of the Christian world, even with our rapid growth in the Global South in recent times.  Roman Catholicism is much bigger, much stronger, and has a much more splendid and distinguished history.  And though the Battle for Middle Earth, in God’s inscrutable wisdom, has seemingly begun by the invasion of Rohan/Anglicanism, and although much of the land of Rohan has been overrun by orcs (relativists), still the fact is that the really decisive battle won’t be fought at Helm’s Deep, but on the vast fields of Pelennor, outside the gates of the White City.

Now all analogies are imperfect and it’s dangerous to push this one too far.  ++RW, e.g., isn’t comparable so much to King Theoden as to Saruman (although the PB isn’t far from being a Grima Wormtongue).  I’m tempted to say, let’s lock up ++RW in an academic ivory tower, like Orthanc.  I’m tempted to compare ++Bob Duncan to Eomer, and +Lawrence to Erkenbrand, but betrays my North American focus, and leaves out the real heroes in this story, who are the brave champions of orthodoxy in the Anglican Global South.

Anyway, the point of the analogy is that Rohan and Gondor are supposed to be allies, not enemies.  Contrary to the situation of the 16th century, today Rome is not our greatest enemy, but rather our strongest and greatest ally in the fight-to-the-death with Liberalism, by which I mean theological relativism and moral antinomianism, the deadly heresies of our time.  Unlike those who glory in the Reformed tradition, I advocate that we look upon Rome/Gondor as a friend, not a foe.  And we need to stand together against the real foe, Satan, the Father of Lies, who is a more dangerous deceiver and a worse tyrant than Sauron.

Now I grant that it’s surprising for an Anglican to see things that way, relegating Anglicanism to second fiddle or the back-up forces in this great war for human souls.  But my point is that Rohan has an integrity and proud history of its own.  And Rohan is very much worth fighting for.

Helm’s Deep must not fall!

David Handy+
Tolkien lover

[65] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 11-2-2011 at 09:21 AM · [top]

To New Reformation Advocate:

Although the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification and the Response of the Catholic Church to the Joint Declaration are very interesting documents, I do not see that these documents taken together reach any real agreement between the Catholic and Lutheran sides on the issues David Ould and I were discussing—whether Scriptural witness is consistent or inconsistent with the doctrine of Sola Fide.

[66] Posted by slcath on 11-2-2011 at 11:02 AM · [top]

It is interesting that in your long convoluted posts not a single piece of scripture was referenced. You use the example of convergence of the ECLA and the Roman Catholics. Yes the ECLA have moved, in fact they are on the same path as TEC and gaining momentum. Movement does not mean it is for the good.
It is quite obvious you have a low view of scripture, you will not find anywhere in scripture where 2 opposing Gospels are to be merged.
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! 10 Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.
The choice we have is to serve the one true God, or serve men. Are we to have a hybrid gospel? Or is there one true gospel?
4For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully.
Jesus of Roman Catholicism is different, he is not sufficient, that’s why they have to keep adding to the written word, much like the revelations of these charismatic teachers on TV, and none of this is from God.
The souls of billions are are stake and it is never the time to sacrifice the one true gospel for another gospel.
Paul confronted the first infallible Pope for one small deviation from the Gospel of Grace , how much more should we confront Roman Catholicism and their many deviations from it? You will be hard pressed to twist any scripture into supporting fellowship with a different Gospel. Using your man made 3D model of human wisdom does not bring us into obedience with the truth but steers us away from the truth.
Proverbs 14:12 There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof [are] the ways of death.

[67] Posted by RickP on 11-2-2011 at 11:33 AM · [top]

J.C. Ryle,

No man can read the history of Christendom as it was five hundred years ago, and not see that darkness covered the whole professing Church of Christ, even a darkness that could be felt. So great was the change which had come over Christianity, that if an apostle had risen from the dead he would not have recognized it, and would have thought that heathenism had revived again. The doctrines of the Gospel lay buried under a dense mass of human traditions. Penances, and pilgrimages, and indulgences, relic-worship, and image-worship, and saint-worship, and worship of the Virgin Mary, formed the sum and substance of most people’s religion. The Church was made an idol. The priests and ministers of the Church usurped the place of Christ. And by what means was all this miserable darkness cleared away? By simply bringing forth once more the Bible.

[68] Posted by RickP on 11-2-2011 at 11:52 AM · [top]

slcath (#66),

Thanks for interacting and especially for posting the links to both the JDDJ and the official RC response.  I agree that the two sides haven’t bridged all their differences.  The authors of the JDDJ themselves admit that.  Instead, what they do claim is that the remaining differences in the interpretation of justification (and its relationship to sanctification) no longer seem “church-dividing.”  As you may well know, slcath, but most readers here won’t, the official statement concluding the JDDJ stresses,

Based on the consensus reached, continued dialogue is required…to reach full church communion, a unity in diversity in which remaining differences would be ‘reconciled’ and no longer have a divisive force.

That’s at least much better than the mutual recriminations and hostility both the Lutheran and Catholic camps have directed at each other for too long and which characterized the whole post-Trent, pre-Vatican II era.  Although progress has indeed been limited, it has nevertheless been substantial (IMHO).  And as you may also well know, the late, great Avery Cardinal Dulles (my favorite modern RC theologian), himself a signatory to the JDDJ, has written eloquently and powerfully about the limitations of the method of dialogue employed by the elite team of theologians that produced the historic agreement.  Cardinal Dulles suggested that the method used had reached its full potential and could go no further. 

Time will tell.  However, I would agree with you if you’re suggesting that the JDDJ in fact EVADES the hardest questions and deepest conflicts, rather than facing and resolving those remaining conflicts.

Thanks for your various contributions to this thread.

David Handy+

[69] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 11-2-2011 at 12:11 PM · [top]


Thanks for interacting with me also, although your response seems quite dismissive.  If you go back and read my earlier comment #40, you’ll see that I actually do have a high view of Scripture as the supreme and primary authority in the Christian Church (just not the only one).  Like the Protestant reformers of the 16th century, I want to see Anglicanism, along with the rest of the western Chuyrch, recover that supreme and ultimate authority, which has, unfortunately, been largely lost or subordinated to the current cultural obsession with the self-validating authority of personal experience (for postmodernists), or OTOH, subordinated to the authority of human reason and science (for the more old-fashioned modernists still among us).

It’s true that I didn’t quote lots of Scripture in my numerous comments above, but that’s simply because I was speaking in theological or historical terms, rather than in exegetical ones.  However, in case you don’t know, my Ph.D. is in NT, and so I’m very happy to engage in discussions (or even debates/battles) over the interpretation of biblical texts.  I just preferred to make my contributions here in a different way.

Let me respond generally to your earlier posts.  I’m well aware, e.g., of the ministry and writings of the great +J. C. Ryle, the first bishop of Liverpool, and an ardent champion of the Protestant cause and vehenmently opposed to all traces and forms of “popery” and “Romanism.”  I’m sure the folks in Sydney look upon him as one of their most illustrious predecessors in the hardcore, ultra-Protestant interpretation of Anglicaanism.  Fair enough, I’m much more inclined to like the great Anglo-Catholic bishops (and monks) Charles Gore and Walter Frere, who lived a bit after Ryle’s time.

As for your long citations of patristic authorities in your posts #51 and 52, I’m afraid that’s a game that two can play.  Perhaps, the most edifying, least polemical, and most illuminating way for me to put it might be this.  As you probably know, RickP, the great defense for the validity of the Reformation position of the CoE against RC attacks was the Apology written (anonymously) by +John Jewel, Bishop of Salisbury, about 1562 (in Latin, of course).  That was roughly the same time that the first edition of the 39 Artilces came out, and that John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs was published.  Together, those three works formed a triple cord, not easily broken.

It’s certainly true that ++Cranmer, along with +Jewel, and other leading English reformers BELIEVED that their teaching was in accord with the best teaching of the anient Fathers.  How accurate that optimistic belief was is certainly open to serious doubt.  I myself think that they were, as usual, PARTLY right.  For example, as I asserted above, with regard to St. Augustine, the greatest doctor of the ancient Latin church, they did succeed in helping to recover the anti-Pelagian side of the great bishop of Hippo, but unfortunately, at the expense of downplaying Augustine’s anti-Donatist side, which is no less important than his anti-Pelagian side.

Or just to take another example, were the reformers faithful to the early fathers in their violent rejection of anything that smacked in the least of eucharistic “sacrifice?”  Clearly, in this case they were NOT in line with the UNIVERSAL teaching of the Fathers, starting with the Didache (chap. 14:1) in the early 2nd century. 

Now please don’t jump to conclusions and misunderstand me.  I’m not for one moment endorsing the grievously mistaken view of eucharistic sacrifice common in the medieval period (i.e., as a repetition of Calvary), which all the reformers, both on the Continent and in England, found revoltingly unbiblical and superstitious.

More to the point, perhaps, although the English reformers retained the “historic episcopate,” because the crown insisted upon it, it’s abundantly clear that ++Cranmer and his fellow Reformed reformers did NOT consider it of the “esse” or essence of the Church, but merely a matter of adiaphora and a biblically acceptable way of maintaining good order in both church and society.  In so regarding the apostolic succession as merely of the bene esse or plene esse of the Church instead of as part of the necessary esse of it, they clearly DEPARTED from the virtually universal teaching of the ancient Fathers (Jerome being a notable exception).

So here’s the bottom line, RickP (and other readers).  In his classic essay “Of Ceremonies” in the 1552 BCP,  ++Cranmer staunchly contended, and rightly so, that freedom to amend the liturgy was part of our Christian freedom (as highlighted in the Preface to the US BCP of 1789, citing Gal. 5:1), as long as what was done met the fourfold test that it was:
1. grounded securely in Holy Scripture (a given naturally),
2. and in accord with those customs and teachings of the ancient Fathers AGREEABLE to God’s holy Word,
3.  plus they must be edifying to the people (e.g., in the common language),
4.  and not least, unifying to the whole realm (which should henceforth have just one, uniform use throughout the land).

Now, I heartily agree with Cranmer’s four principles, which are entirely sound, both theologically and practically.  However, what most Anglicans fail to notice is just how ambiguous that 2nd criterion is, i.e., the one involving conformity to the customs and teachings of the Fathers which are AGREEABLE to Holy Writ.

The million-dollar question, however, is this:  HOW MUCH of the inherited customs and teachings of the Fathers are in fact “agreeable” with the Fathers??

For example, is baptismal regeneration agreeable with the NT?  Luther and the historic BCP say YES.  The Reformed camp demurs, with Calvin waffling and Zwingli outright denying it.

Is the patristic doctrine of the Real Presence “agreeable” with the Scriptures?  Again, Luther (clearly and emphatically) and the 1549 and 1559 BCP’s strongly imply YES (1552 notoriously includes the Black Rubric that denies it).

On and on we could go endlessly.  But to cut to the bottom line, here’s is how I would put it myself.  Although the extent of patristic teaching that is “agreeable” with God’s Word is certainly debatable (as the immense diversity within Protestantism clearly proves), I myself am very confident that MUCH MORE of the consensual teaching of the FAthers is agreeable with Holy Scripture than the reformers thought.  Much more than +Jewel thought.  Much more even than his younger protege Richard Hooker assumed.  More even than +Lancelot Andrewes thought in the early 1620s.

But I agree with ++Cranmer that the touchstone, rule, or measuring stick, the ultimate norm, remains the Holy Scriptures.  And I heartily agree with Article 20 that nothing whatsoever is to be taught in the Church that is “repugnant” to the Bible as God’s Word written.

Anyway, I hope that helps generate more light than heat.

David Handy+

[70] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 11-2-2011 at 01:00 PM · [top]

David Ould,

Lest it be thought that I only toss out ideas for others to consider and refuse to engage in topics already in play here, let me respond to the very end of your #59.  You appear to be bringing up the subject of the extent of the biblical canon when you cheekily write (and I appreciaste the humor):

Indeed.  For me, I’ll go with a canon that was assented to by the early church from almost the very beginning, not a larger canon only established 1500 years after the fact.

Well, I’m glad you brought that up, although I think if I’ve caught your drift, you’re sadly mistaken about the Council of Trent coming up with a larger canon de novo in 1547.  That larger 46-book canon of the OT (or 73-book whole Bible) may have only been officially codified at that late date, but it had in practice been the full canon for much, much longer, as I think you probably know full well.

But leaving the history of the canon aside for now, I’m glad you brought up the matter of the limits of the biblical canon, because it illustrates so well the limitations of relying too much on the 1571 Articles of Religion as a sacrosanct doctrinal authority that is immune to challenge or modification today.

Clearly, Article VI is one of several places in the classic Articles that just begs for revision today in the light of fuller knowledge.  Now don’t freak out, everyone.  Let me hasten to clarify that I fully agree with Article VI that the Holy Scriptures “contain all things (doctrines, truths) necessary to salvation,” as all of us clergy solemnly swore at our ordinations.  However, it is a plain factual error, widely agreed today even in low-church circles, that the claim in that article that there was never any doubt about the traditional 27-book NT canon is patently false.  We know much more about the extent of the debate over the limits of the NT today than they did back in the 1560s and 1570s.  That is one of the lesser points I had in mind when I argued that we shouldn’t make the 39 Articles into a “straightjacket” that is binding today in every little detail.

Now, of course, I’d go significantly further than that myself.  I will here publicly admit and freely confess that I myself operate with the same canon as Trent recognized in 1547, and that I normally refer to the extra books not in the Protestant canon as the “Deutero-canonical books” rather than using the customary Protestant (and Anglican) term, the “Apocrypha.”  However, I hasten to add that I myself strictly subordinate those extra books to a lower, more secondary level than Roman Catholics would.  In particular, I agree with Article VI that no DOCTRINE should be based only on those additional books.  For example, of course, I would NOT attempt to base the doctrine of Purgatory (mentioned above) on 2 Macc. 6-7, as RCs often have in the past.

However, here is one of the places where I differ vehemently with the Sydney tradition and its historic Puritan roots.  It is well known that there have been repeated attempts by Purtian types in Anglicanism to dump the Apocrypha entirely from Anglicanism and thus “purify” our tradition from such “Romish” nonsense.

For example, the 1552 BCP did indeed drop all use of the Apocryphal/Deutero-canonical books, not only omitting them from use in the lectionary but also, more importantly perhaps, dropping the familiar canticles taken from Daniel 3 (Old Greek version) from the Daily Office.  However, one of the few changes made to the 1552 in 1559 was the restoration of the canticles, and the lectionary readings from the Apocrypha.  It appears that this was done at the insistance of Queen Elizabeth I, in the face of strong resistance from her bishops who had returned from exile in Europe.

Similarly, after Good Queen Bess died in 1603 and James I ascended the throne, when the Purtians (a very substantial group) presented the Scottish king with the so-called “Millenary Petition” (because it was signed by over 1,000 Puritan ministers) on his trip from Edinburgh to London, one of their key demands was that the use of the Apocrypha be dropped and thus another Romish taint eliminated from the CoE.  As is well known, King James refused.  And when the new translation he authorized was completed and put into use four centuries ago in 1611, it included, to Puritan dismay, the Apocrypha.  And the liturgy continued to permit or even mandate its use.

Again, at the time of the Civil War in the 1640s, the use of the Apocrypha was one of the many hotly disputed points that irked many Puritans.  And when the BCP was banished from legal use from 1645 to 1660, so was all use of the Deutero-canonical books.  But once again, when both the monarchy and the BCP were restored in 1660-1662, so was the traditional use of the Apocrypha.

So the Anglican retention of those extra books not in the Protestant canon is not some accident, or quirk of history, but represents a determined refusal of some kings and some church leaders to accede to Purtian demands (especially the Caroline Divines or Laudian party in the mid 1600s).

I heartily concur with the Caroline Divines on that one.  But I woudl also agree that this is a matter of adiaphora in Anglicanism, as long as you don’t base any doctrine on those additional books.

More fuel for the fire,
David Handy+

[71] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 11-2-2011 at 01:43 PM · [top]

AnglicanXn, thank you for your thoughtful post [#61].

Your comments in the first paragraph about justification involving more than forensic innocence recalled to my mind the words of Pope Benedict XVI in Jesus of Nazareth (2011, Ignatius Press, p. 235):  “.. our own morality is insufficient for the proper worship of God.  This Saint Paul stated quite emphatically in the dispute over justification.  Yet the Son, the Incarnate One, bears us all within himself, and in this way he gives what we ourselves would not be able to give.  Central to the Christian life then are both the sacrament of Baptism, by which we are taken up into Christ’s obedience, and also the Eucharist, in which the Lord’s obedience on the Cross embraces us all, purifies us, and draws us into the perfect worship offered by Jesus Christ.”  (Emphasis added.)

Of course, as you note, the work of “sanctification” is not (I would probably add the word “normally”) completed within the earthly lifetime of the Christian. You further state:

We have the promise of Phil 1:6 that we shall be perfect “at the day of Jesus Christ.” Exactly what happens to complete the process between our death and Christ’s return is not clear, but Paul is clear that we are with the Lord and enjoying his fellowship - see 2 Cor 5:8 and Phil 1:23.

I’d like to boldly suggest that if you believe that after death something “happens to complete the process” of sanctification in the life of the Christian, you are approaching a belief in purgatory, as defined and explained by Pope John Paul II in his famous General Audience of August 4, 1999.  In that address the Pope noted that “those who, after death, exist in a state of purification, are already in the love of Christ who removes from them the remnants of imperfection…”

[72] Posted by slcath on 11-2-2011 at 03:34 PM · [top]

sclath, there is a great deal I do not know about RC theology, but what I have heard about Purgatory indicates that it is an unpleasant place. It is hard to square that with the idea of being in the presence of Jesus.

I do have to admit that some of what CS Lewis says in the Chronicles of Narnia and in The Great Divorce presents a picture of a conversation with the Lord (Narnia) or his representative in which there is challenge and cleansing, but Lewis portrays this happening fairly quickly. That would be as much as I could accept.

I will read your link in #72 later and see what it says; I don’t have time now, I am afraid.

[73] Posted by AnglicanXn on 11-2-2011 at 08:32 PM · [top]

Matt and David Ould,

It looks like this thread may be fading into inactivity.  And if no one challenges my quite provocative comments above, I’ll lapse into silence at last.  But before I do, I’d like to offer public thanks for your gracious forbearance and patience with my decidedly unReformed comments above.  One of the things I appreciate most about this blog is that the editors (usually) don’t exercise the kind of heavy hand that our foes on the “progressive” side do on their blogs.

If any one were to try to post the kind of direct challenges to the views of the blog managers that I’ve done above on say, Elizabeth Keaton’s blog, or Mark Harris’, or the HoB/HoD listserve, they would be deleted in the blink of an eye, or rebuked with all sorts of ugly invective.  The supposed champions of “inclusivity” are often very far from being willing to include orthodox viewpoints, no matter how tactfully expressed.  And I admit that I haven’t always been exactly tactful above in expressing my profound ambivalence about the Reformation (“a tragic necessity,” etc). 

You guys have been more liberal, in the best and genuine sense of open-minded and permitting open discussion of controversial views, than our heretical foes who like to boast of their liberalism.  For such patience and graciousness I am truly grateful. 

Finally, for those SF readers who patiently plowed through my verbose and often rambling posts above, I’m also thankful for your attention.

David Handy+

[74] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 11-3-2011 at 07:47 AM · [top]

Correction to my #62 above,

Before this Reformation Day thread disappears into the archives, let me correct, for the record, my flawed attempt at an earlier correction.  David Ould pointed out that in my initial response to him I’d made the embarrassing flub of confusing the actor Peter O’Toole with the NT scholar Peter O’Brien.  Alas, when I tried to explain how I might have made such an amusing error, I referred to the wrong movie.

I’ve actually watched several old Audrey Hepburn movies in the last month or so, and one of them was indeed the classic Charade, but that one features Cary Grant as her co-star, not O’Toole.  The movie I was thinking of was actually How to Steal a Million, where O’Toole and Hepburn conspire and together pull off a big art heist.  Both romantic comedies are lighter than air, but delightful.

In sum, yet another case where I’ve had to eat some humble pie on this thread.  Good to keep me humble, I guess.  Of course, I’m well aware that some SF readers might be inclined to take all this evidence of my fallibility rather like Jesus’ complaint against his Jewish critics in John 3, to the effect, that if I’ve spoken to you of earthly or lesser things and you don’t believe (in my case being rightly skeptical when I’ve messed up), how will you believe me when I speak of heavenly things?

How indeed?  I don’t blame those who aren’t persuaded of the truth of all that I write here.

Finally, as for carl’s #36, it’s too bad that he never found time to weigh in again here, as he threatened to do.  I would’ve enjoyed sparring with him, as usual.  And I’m sure he would’ve come up with some witty remarks that would have brought a smile to us all.  Oh well, some other time…

David Handy+
Singing off this thread for good

[75] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 11-7-2011 at 08:40 AM · [top]

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