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Divided We Stand


I would like to recommend Divided We Stand:  A History of the Continuing Anglican Movement, by Douglas Bess, to all those interested in Continuing Anglicanism.  Having done some ad hoc research into the history of Continuing Anglicanism myself over the years, which has included in-depth conversations with several of the key participants in such landmark events as the St. Louis Congress, the Denver Consecrations, and the Dallas Synod, I can say with some confidence that Bess has done an excellent job of making an accurate record of the Movement’s key events.  Moreover, let me also say that this record is of crucial importance for anyone who wishes to understand the state of Continuing Anglicanism today.

My recent rereading of Divided We Stand left me with the firm impression that the Continuing Anglican Movement is fundamentally divided between two, discrete visions of Anglicanism.   There are (1) those holding an exclusively catholic-minded vision of Anglicanism, most of whom, but are not all, are distinguished by their use of the Anglican Missals and by their distinctively Tridentine theological outlook and piety; and (2) those adhering to a conservative, comprehensive vision of Anglicanism centered on the Book of Common Prayer and the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion but otherwise tolerant of quite a bit of theological and liturgical latitude.  Today, the predominant catholic jurisdictions are the Anglican Catholic Church (ACC) and the Anglican Province of Christ the King (APCK), while the comprehensive jurisdictions are the Anglican Church in America (ACA) and the Anglican Province in America (APA).

Having stated that Divide We Stand, as its title suggests, leads the reader to a dichotomous view of the Continuing Anglican Movement, I must give Bess credit for not painting this division in overly stark terms.  Indeed, as Bess correctly points out, the catholic jurisdictions, such as the ACC and APCK do, in fact, have parishes that do not use the Missals, and steer clear of Tridentine teaching and piety.  On the other hand, Bess notes that the comprehensive jurisdictions are hardly the exclusive province of low-church parishes, but instead contain many fully Anglo-Catholic parishes, some of which, I would note, are replete with the Missal Mass, Marian Statuary, and frequent use of the Rosary.  Thus, on the surface of things, the distinction between the two competing visions of Continuing Anglicanism might be viewed as merely involving differing centers of gravity in churchmanship, and Bess does not dispel this possibility in his text as far as I can tell.

Thus, I would not fault a reader of Divided We Stand for coming away with the impression that the difference between the catholic jurisdictions and the comprehensive jurisdictions is one of emphasis rather than substance–at least not enough substantive difference to justify continuing schism.  But, this conclusion would be, in my opinion, incorrect.  In the first place, as Bess’s narrative demonstrates,  experience has shown that the catholic and comprehensive camps have generally been suspicious of and adversarial toward each other throughout the history of the Continuing Movement.  Indeed, the conflict between the two visions of Continuing Anglicanism and the resulting political machinations that have occurred within the Movement is the very drama driving the main plot line of Divided We Stand.  Thus, I cannot help but conclude that something more fundamental must keeping the division alive.  And, what that something is, I believe, is, in a word, Calvinism.

Indeed, in the conservative, comprehensive vision of Anglicanism, Calvinists have been recognized as having a legitimate place at the Anglican table since the Glorious Revolution.  Thus, for the comprehensives, Evangelical Churchmanship, often denominated as “low churchmanship” in contemporary parlance, which is perhaps most seminally expressed in W. H. Griffith Thomas or D.B. Knox’s expositions of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, deserves its share in the Continuing Anglican Movement.  In contrast, for the ardently catholic-minded Anglicans, the Evangelical Party has always been a bridge too far.  Indeed, for the catholic-minded Anglican, Missal Anglo-Catholics, Prayerbook Catholics, philOrthodox, Old High Churchman, and perhaps even Conservative Central Churchman can be tolerated under one big tent, but the “low” churchmanship of the Evangelicals  cannot.

Thus, in my view, the real reason that the predominantly Anglo-Catholic jurisdictions such as the ACC and APCK will not seriously entertain union with a conservative comprehensive jurisdictions like the APA or the ACA, is that comprehensive formulations of Anglicanism are simply too tolerant of Calvinism or Reformed principles.  Indeed, the existence of Evangelical expositions of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion is precisely why the catholic jurisdiction have shied away from giving the Articles constitutional status.  Moreover, it is also my opinion that, despite the prevalence of Tridentinism in the catholic jurisdictions, they do have a valid point.  Whereas the differences in the exposition of the Thirty-Nine Articles evinced by decidedly non-Tridentine works of such catholic-minded men as W. Beveridge, E.H. Browne, or E. J. Bicknell can theologically co-exist along side the Tridentine-friendly expositions of A. P. Forbes and Newman (Tract XC), on the ground that each merely express differing theological opinions about secondary aspects of the same underlying faith, once the Evangelical point of view is introduced, fundamentally inconsistent understandings of the very faith itself are being asked to cohere, which is logically intolerable.  Indeed, atonement is either limited or it is not; grace is irresistible or its is not; men are predestined to death as well as life or they are not.

In sum, while much of Divide We Stand, leads me to believe that a great consolidation of the jurisdictions presently comprising Continuing Anglicanism is possible in the near future, I nevertheless believe that the irreducible minimum number of Continuing Anglican jurisdictions are two.  This is so because a significant number of catholic-mined Anglicans, whether of a Tridentine, Missal Anglo-Catholic persuasion or not, will simply never agree to the comprehension of Calvinist or Reformed principles as a legitimate component of Continuing Anglicanism.  Thus, a significant number of Continuing Anglicans are always going to hold hold against the supposed reasonableness of even the most conservative schemes of comprehensive Anglicanism and unification of the Continuing Movement into a single body will remain and elusive goal.


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Brothers, we have lost a giant.

The Reverend Dr. Crouse, Patristics scholar and Anglican theologian passed away in his sleep last week.  Dr. Crouse was a professor and mentor to a number of people currently on the board of the Prayer Book Society in the United States, and without his instruction and influence Anglicanism in North America would be in much greater disarray than it currently is.  It is our fervent prayer that in future years Dr Crouse’s multiple essays on classical Anglican and Patristic theology will serve to guide those who desire to continue within the Anglican Way.

The following paragraphs are excerpted from the obituary written this week by Dr. W. J. Hankey, a colleague and long time friend in the Classics Department of Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

On the night of Friday the 14th, in his 81st year, the Reverend Professor Robert Darwin Crouse died in his sleep in his childhood home in Crousetown, Lunenburg county, where his family has been established for more than 200 years.  He had been very ill for several years, but played the organ for the Liturgy at St Mary the Virgin, Crousetown, the Sunday before last.  His contributions of the highest level to the Classics Department of Dalhousie University, to the University of King’s College, and to their students, to international scholarship, to the Anglican Church of Canada, and to the musical life of Nova Scotia make his passing momentous.  The Department of Classics has received condolences from many parts of Europe and North America.

In 1981 Robert was the founder of St Peter Publications in Charlottetown and of the Atlantic Theological Conferences, both of which continue.  For five decades Fr Crouse delivered uncounted theological and spiritual addresses, conferences, and retreats and guided the hundreds who came to him for help.  The extent of his labours, which embraced North America and Europe, was suggested when the Diocese of Saskatchewan made him its Canon Theologian.

Harvard granted him an S.T.B. (cum laude) in 1954.  After he was ordained priest by the Bishop of Nova Scotia, Robert moved to Trinity College, Toronto where he was a Tutor in Divinity for three years and earned a Master of Theology (1st class Honours) in 1957.  Trinity awarded him an Honorary Doctor of Divinity in 1983.

In 1970 Robert became PhD of Harvard University.  His dissertation was a critical edition of the De Neocosmo of Honorius Augustodunensis.  He supervised scores of MA theses at Dalhousie and directed and examined dozens of doctoral dissertations there and throughout North America and Europe.  His lectures, sermons, and scholarly publications (he published over seventy articles, reviews, and translations) were polished artefacts characterized by the greatest economy, precision and beauty of language. … In 1990 the Institutum Patristicum Augustinianum in Rome named him Visiting Professor of Patrology, a post he took up repeatedly until 2004; he was the first non-Roman Catholic to be given this distinction.

In 1972 he joined other members of Classics, as well as members of the Departments of German and Sociology, as the first co-ordinators responsible for the structure and lectures of the Foundation Year Programme at King’s.  His Section on the Middle Ages was a model of the integration of literary, philosophical, religious, social and artistic culture.  With camera in hand he crisscrossed Europe bringing back the history of Romanesque and Gothic architecture.  His lectures on architecture and music opened many students to hitherto hidden mysteries.  His lectures on Dante’s Divine Comedy were so loved that he continued them well after retirement, giving his last series in 2003.  Former students returned annually to hear them.  Suitably his last lectures in the University were delivered on the Confessions of St Augustine in 2004 in the Foundation Year Programme. … Outside of the classroom his greatest contribution there was in the Chapel.  His celebration of the liturgy and his sermons had enormous influence on the lives of students and faculty.  Moreover, he established the choir for the Thursday Solemn Eucharist which is now the foundation of the musical renaissance at King’s.  

Robert’s gifts as an organist and choirmaster, were extended not only to parishes (notably in his home parish of Petite Riviere, Holy Trinity, Bridgewater, and St James’, Halifax) and chapels.  Soon after he returned to Nova Scotia, he assisted in the rescue and restoration of an early 19th century tracker organ which became the centre of forty-seven years of Summer Baroque concerts at St Mary’s Crousetown.  While such concerts of early music have now become staples of our Summer fare in the Maritimes, Robert was a pioneer.

After the concerts, receptions at his house allowed musicians and their audiences to admire Robert’s extraordinary gardens.  He was always an organic gardener, and inspired many to imitate his practices; his salads provoked awe, and his rosary, with 129 varieties, delight. … He eschewed radio, television, and telephone.  Around the walls of the room where Robert spent most of his time, [there is] carved in Carolingian Latin, an inscription from Scripture.  They are words St Bernard took from Isaiah for the habituations of his Cistercian monks and nuns who keep silence strictly, they translate thus: “The solitary place shall be glad, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the lily…and a highway shall be there and a way, and it shall be called the way of holiness” (Isaiah 35.1-9)  At the heard of all Robert’s apparently endless practicality lay a carefully guarded silence which enabled the depth of his thought, his communion with God, nature, and humanity, and his unmovable independence of mind.  Among his greatest gifts as a teacher was his communication of the necessity, goodness, and beauty of contemplative silence.

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Andrewes Hall is a Theological College affiliated with the Reformed Episcopal Church.  I stumbled across its website yesterday and was taken with the College’s statement of doctrinal standards.  Personally, I found the statement to be an excellent summary of the classical Anglican point of view.  This should not surprise anyone, however, given that I am very devoted to Lancelot Andrewes and consider among a handful of the most important Anglican divines.   In any event, I thought I would share the principles for discussion.

* * * * * * *

Perhaps the best shorthand statement of our doctrinal position as a seminary is the famous formula set forth by Lancelot Andrewes’ in defining the boundaries of faith and practice for the Church of England:

One canon reduced to writing by God himself, two testaments, three creeds, fourgeneral councils, five centuries, and the series of Fathers in that period – the centuries that is, before Constantine, and two after, determine the boundary of our faith.

“One Canon”

We affirm that the Canon of Holy Scripture is central to our Rule of Faith, standing as the ultimate norm of belief and practice. We affirm the Bible to be the infallible and revealed Word of God. Hence we test all things by God’s Word written.

“Two Testaments”

We affirm the 39 canonical books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament to be the limits of biblical inspiration. The received books of the Deuterocanon or “Apocrypha”, while being an important subdivision of the greater biblical corpus, are in no way afforded the same status as the inspired books of the Old and New Testaments. The Church may read them “for example of life and instruction of manners,” yet they are not used or applied to establish binding doctrine (cf. Article VI of the Articles of Religion of the Church of England).

We also affirm Two Sacraments as ordained by Christ Himself – Baptism and the Supper of the Lord – ministered with unfailing use of Christ’s words of Institution, and of the elements ordained by Him (cf. Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral of 1886/1888).

“Three Creeds”

We affirm (1) the Apostles’ Creed, as our Baptismal symbol; (2) the Nicene Creed, as the sufficient statement of the Christian Faith; and (3) the creed known in the West as the “Creed of Saint Athanasius”, as affirming the mysteries of the Triune God and the Personal union of two Natures in our Divine Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

“Four Councils”

We affirm the dogmatic definitions of the first four ecumenical councils of the undivided Church – (1) Nicaea, A.D. 325, (2) Constantinople, A.D. 381, (3) Ephesus, A.D. 431, and (4) Chalcedon, A.D. 451 – as representing the true mind of the Church Catholic in the face of heresy and controversy, and the consensus of the faithful as led by the Spirit of God into all truth. The later ecumenical councils (i.e., the fifth, sixth, and seventh) are affirmed as orthodox to the degree that they are consistent with, while adding nothing to, the substance of dogma defined by the first four.

“Five Centuries”

We affirm the witness of the Spirit of God during the formative period of the Church, otherwise known as the Patristic era, contained primarily in the writings and testimonies of the great Fathers of the first five centuries (roughly from the Apostles to Gregory the Great). This witness continues to inform our faith and practice, especially in the areas of polity, worship, and evangelical mission.

One further note…

Andrewes Hall finds its identity in the Reformed character of the historic Protestant Church of England and the greater Anglican tradition. Thus we cherish and honor the heritage of the Book of Common Prayer and the Articles of Religion contained therein. Nevertheless, we also remain open to fellowship, dialogue and interaction with Christians of all branches of Christ’s Church in the spirit and heritage of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral of 1886/1888.


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I have revived The Patristic Anglican blog over at “patristicanglican.blogspot.com.” I think I have learned enough about Blogspot through trial and error to keep the blog alive for good this time!

As usual and as the title of the blog suggests, I will be mainly posting on the patristic foundation of authentic Anglicanism. Drop by everyone!

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Assumptions about Mary

The Blessed Virgin Mary

The Roman Catholic Church teaches as dogma that the Virgin Mary, “having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” This doctrine was dogmatically and infallibly defined by Pope Pius XII on November 1, 1950, in his Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus.

Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma states that “the fact of [Mary’s] death is almost generally accepted by the Fathers and Theologians, and is expressly affirmed in the Liturgy of the Church, to which he adduces a number of helpful citations, and concludes that “for Mary, death, in consequence of her freedom from original sin and from personal sin, was not a consequence of punishment of sin. However, it seems fitting that Mary’s body, which was by nature mortal, should be, in conformity with that of her Divine Son, subject to the general law of death.”] The point of her bodily death has not been infallibly defined, and many believe that she did not die at all, but was assumed alive into Heaven.

The Orthodox feast of the Dormition is very similar to what Roman Catholicism calls the Assumption of Mary. According to Orthodox Tradition, Mary died like all humanity, “falling asleep,” so to speak, as the name of the feast indicates. She died as all people die, not “voluntarily” as her Son, but by the necessity of her mortal human nature which is indivisibly bound up with the corruption of this world. But, unlike Roman Catholicism, Orthodox has a decidedly fixed tradition that Mary did in fact die before her bodily Assumption.

Both the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches celebrate the Assumption or Dormition on August 15th.  In contemporary practice, many Anglicans simply set aside August 15th to commemorate St. Mary, the Blessed Virgin, Mother of our Lord, without focusing on the manner of her repose.

The ancient Church, however, knew nothing about either the Roman Catholic Assumption or the Eastern Orthodox Dormition. To the contrary, in chapter 78 of Bishop Epiphanius of Salamis’s heresiological handbook, the Panarion, completed in 377, Epiphanius writes that, if one searches Scripture carefully, “one will find that neither the death, nor whether she died or did not doe, nor whether she was buried or was buried…. Scripture is simply silent, because of the exceeding greatness of the Mystery [of her repose], so as not to over power people’s mind with wonder.” Indeed, despite the conflicting conjectures of a few, heretical sects, Epiphanius ultimately concluded that, “in fact, no one knows [Mary’s] end.”

Today, mere Anglicans would do well to join in Bishop Epiphianius’ caution regarding her repose from the earthly life of the Church, not only because Scripture is silent on the matter, but also because the early Church catholic was silent on this matter both in its writings and liturgical observances. Indeed, the earliest writings giving accounts of her bodily assumption did not appear until the last half of the fifth century, and even then, the accounts conflict regarding significant portions of the story. Moreover, it was not until the late sixth century that most of the credulous Church accepted one of the other, inconsistent and fantastic accounts of Mary’s bodily assumption. In sum, Scripture, the sensus fidelium of the first five centuries of the Church, and common sense all three recommend to us a reverent silence regarding Mary’s repose, leaving the matter in God’s often mysterious, but always reliable, hands.

Sources: Celebrating the Saints, Wikipedia, Orthodox Wiki, & Bruce E. Daley’s “On the Dormition of Mary”

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John Henry Hobart

I tried to post this as a comment, but the comment moderation seems unresponsive when I logged in. I thought this quote I nicely follows up to Death Bredon’s recent post. “He” in this case, refers to the True Churchman. As with most old authors, the sentences run long (Except a few notable exceptions like Cobbett), so I edited the good Bishop’s lengthy prose a bit .

“He asserts, in common with his Protestant Brethren, the corruption of human nature, and man’s ability, “by his natural strength, without faith and calling on God” to perform works acceptable to God. And herein he opposes the Romanist. …..but he rejects as unfounded in Scripture, and utterly repugnant to reason and conscience, the tenets of mans responsibility for the sin of another; of his coming to the world doomed to everlasting death for Adam’s sin; and of that utter depravity of man which would make him a fiend……………….Yet while he rejects these revolting views of human guilt and depravity, he cherishes a lively and deep sense of the propensity towards evil which affects his nature, through the dominion which his appetites exercise over his reason, his will, and his affections: of his utter inability to except through faith and grace to do works which however good in themselves will be acceptable to God”.

-Bishop John Henry Hobart

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I know that it pains some to learn that the Formularies of the Elizabethan Settlement are fundamentally inimical to Calvinism, but the truth must be told. This is especially so in light of the Calvinist revisionism encouraged by the Latitudinarians, perpetrated by the old Evangelicals, and accepted as gospel by the Anglo-Catholics. Should mere Anglicanism ever be renewed, it must be based on an accurate and authentic historical understanding.  So in furtherance of this aim, I offer the following essay:

Since the rise of the latitudinarian movement, which sought to comprehend both Churchman, or Anglicans, and the Calvinist Puritans within the Church of England, it has become common place, even among scholars who ought to know better, to assert that the Elizabethan Settlement was, if not an outright triumph of, nevertheless a success for, Calvinism in England in that the Church of England, through its Articles of Religion is supposed to have adopted Calvinist theology or, at least, allowed it. But, however many otherwise creditable scholars have been duped by this partisan, old Evangelical, revisionist history of the Elizabethan Settlement, the truth remains that Calvinism is not incorporated in the 39 Articles of Religion and that it is inconsistent with the Articles on every major point of confessional, Calvinist doctrine. Moreover, that this truth is so an easily demonstrated for those who are willing to simply compare the Articles of Religion with any of the Calvinist Confessions explains why, prior to the English Civil War, Puritans so virulently opposed the Articles–consistently and repeatedly sought their repeal, amendment, or supplementation–rather than celebrated them as victory for their theological position.

Looking first to the Calvinist doctrine of Total Depravity, we see that the Articles deny it. Indeed, Article IX says, due to original sin, we are “very far gone from original righteousness and inclined to evil,” whereas the Westminster Confession says, “we are utterly indisposed and made opposite to all good and wholly inclined to evil.” Thus, while Calvinism and Anglicanism agree that man has fallen from the likeness of God and that, due to this corruption of nature, he is in need of salvation, Anglicanism still sees the image of God, if not the likeness, present even within fallen man. Hence, the Articles refuse to go so far as to say that fallen man is devoid of all potential for goodness of any degree. Indeed, Article XIII holds that, while good “[w]orks done before the grace of Christ, and the Inspiration of his Spirit, are not pleasant to God,” it does not go so far as to utterly deny to possibility of such works or to categorically brand such works as sins.

Next, the Calvinist doctrine of Unconditional Election, by its express terms goes so far as to make God the author of damnation. Indeed, taking its cue from Calvin’s Institutes, the Westminster Confession states that, “[b]y the decree of God … some men and angels are preordained unto everlasting life and others foreordained to everlasting death.” And, moreover, the puritanical Lambeth Articles clarify that, “the moving or efficient cause of predestination to life is not prevision of faith, or perseverance, or of good works, or anything which may be in the person predestined, but only the will and the good pleasure of God.” In sharp contradistinction, while Article XVII affirms that “[p]redestination to Life is the everlasting purpose of God,” it conspicuously omits any mention of the peculiarly Calvinist teaching concerning divine predestination to reprobation. Moreover, Article XVII also conspicuously omits the word “unconditional” before the word “predestination,” which would be very odd indeed were the Article adopting confessional Calvinism, as we can see by reference to the above-quoted Calvinist professions. And, we also can be certain that the Articles of Religion reject the notion that man’s efforts have no part in the working out of his salvation because Article X plainly decrees, “[w]herefore we have no power to do good works pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us … and working with us ….” Indeed, in Anglican theology, though fallen man is in dire need of grace for salvation, the outcomes of salvation or damnation is not predetermined by God, but is instead contingent upon how man employs the divine gift of free-will in cooperation with God’s free gift grace given to all men. Thus, whether any man be eternally saved or damned is conditioned upon his own exercises his free-will to “work[] with” God’s “preventing” grace.

Another major point of confessional Calvinism is the peculiar teaching of Limited Atonement, in which “[n]either are any redeemed by Christ … but the elect only — the rest of mankind God was pleased to pass by and to ordain them to dishonour and wrath,” as the Westminster Confession puts it. In sharp contrast, Article II states that “Christ, very God, and very Man; [] truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile his Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for ALL actual sins of men.” Hence, in Anglican theology, Christ died for all men, not for some predetermined, pre-enumerated, arbitrarily chosen few. Indeed, it should be no surprise that the Book of Common Prayer states in the Collect for Good Friday, “O merciful God, who hast made all men, and hatest nothing that thou hast made, nor desirest the death of a sinner; but rather that he should be converted to life,” which is a prayer entirely at odds with confession Calvinism.

Finally, the Calvinist doctrine of Irresistible Grace is rejected in Artilce XVI, which says that, “After we have received the Holy Ghost, we may depart from grace given, and fall into sin, and by the grace of God we may arise again, and amend our lives. And, therefore they are to be condemned, which say, thay can no more sin as long as they live here, or deny the place of forgiveness to such as truly repent.” Indeed, were the Articles actually Calvinist, they would say “must rise again,” not “may rise again.” For example, the Westminster Confession states, “They whom God hath accepted neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end and be eternally saved.”

In sum, the distinctive doctrines of confessional Calvinism are inconsistent with the Articles of Religion, which is why the early English Calvinists felt so strongly obliged to further “purify” the Church of England after the Elizabethan Settlement rather than simply conform to Anglican faith and practice without reservation or dodge. Indeed, the theory that Elizabethan Settlement  comprehended Calvinism as normative was not worked out by the old Evangelical Party until after the Restoration and the Glorious Revolution indicated that the Church of England, and its Formularies, were here to stay. No longer able to work against them or change them, they attempted to co-opt them with a revisionist gloss. However, for the mere Anglican Churchman, who desire to stand by the Formularies without either Evangelical gloss, all that is necessary to put the lie to this project is the simple comparison of the Articles with the Calvinist Confessions.

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C.B. Moss

In his most excellent treatise, “The Christian Faith: An Introduction to Dogmatic Theology,” C.B. Moss, D.D., makes the excellent point, remarked upon by numerous other authors also, that heresy is often the one-sided expression of truth that ignores the other side of the truth. That is, the heretic often refuses to recognize that Christian Revelation contains truths that sometimes have two sides irreconcilable by human reason. One example of a Christian antinomy is the truth that God is almighty, or omnipotent, and yet that men also have been given free-will by their creator. Not surprisingly, either side of this antinomy, if pushed to its logical extreme, will lead to grave dogmatic error.

On one hand, the over emphasis of man’s free-will leads to the heretical doctrine of Pelagius Brito, who helds that, even after the Fall, mankind remains as free as Adam was to choose or reject obedience to God and, by implication, retains the capacity to choose his own salvation by his own power. The obvious defect of this peculiar doctrine is that it leaves God’s grace in Christ Jesus, as playing both a real role in the economy of salvation, with an entirely optional character: only those who chosen to follow Adam need recourse to Christ, his Church, and his Sacraments or Mysteries. Therefore, the Pelagian heresy, though it appeals to our sense that we seem completely free choose between this and that, leaves a dangerously high impression and estimation of the dignity fallen man and relegates Christ to secondary role.


On the other hand, it is not human free-will, but rather divine sovereignty that has been over-empathized by the Continental Reformation. For example, Calvin developed theories that, in essence, denied human free-will any real or ontological role to play in the economy of salvation, putting all soteriological action exclusively in divine hands. In so doing, Calvin and his progeny theorized that, not only does God choose to save some, he also unilaterally chooses to reprobate others to eternal damnation. Apart from failing to give an satisfactory account of the obvious role of that individual free-will must play in the great drama of salvation, the obvious objection to Calvin’s double-predestination theory is that it makes God the author of evil and damnation.

Despite the obvious flaws in Calvin’s double-predestination theory, many have argued that the English Reformation adopted Calvin’s teaching, enshrining it in the Article XVII of the 39 Articles of Religion. But this is a great calumny that all formulary Anglicans must stand against. The claim that Article XVII, which touches upon Predestination and Election is manifestly Calvinist, though oft repeated, cannot be borne out by even a cursory reading of the text and constitute an extremely tendentious and revisionist construction of the Article.

Indeed, as William Baker, D.D., notes in his most excellent volume, “A Plain Exposition of the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England,” “the language of [Article XVII] is guarded and cautious. It makes no mention of the doctrine of reprobation. It declares predestination to life to be the everlasting purpose of God, whose will is that all should be saved. God has decreed from the foundation of the world that, through the atonement made by Christ, everlasting life should be freely offered to all mankind.” Baker further explains that, far from deciding against the real role of individual free-will having in salvation, “the Article does not attempt to solve the problem of how to reconcile God’s foreknowledge with man’s free-will. It rather sets bounds to curious speculation on the subject. God alone knows who will ultimately be saved. As far as men are concerned, all who are baptized into Christ are thereby elect, and the fact of their election is the pledge of their receiving sufficiency of divine grace to enable them to work out their salvation. This consideration is full of comfort to those who are conscientiously using that grace. The Calvinistic doctrine of reprobation, on the other hand, is dangerous as it ignores man’s free-will altogether, and tending to immorality.”

Indeed, the position of the English Reformation, which merely echoes that of the consistent voice and mind of the early Fathers in antiquity, upholds both the truth that man has free-will and that fallen man is very much in need God’s grace to obtain salvation, is enshrined in the Articles of Religion and the Book of Common Prayer. Article X, On Free-Will, states that, “The condition of Man after the fall of Adam is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and good works, to faith, and calling upon God: Wherefore we have no power to do good works pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing [that is “going before”] us, that we may have a good will, and working with us, when we have that good will.” Indeed, the doctrine of prevenient or preventing grace, which is also expressed in Book of Common Prayer, perhaps most prominently in the Collect of Easter, upholds the antinomy: without God’s assistance, a man cannot save himself, and, though God desires the salvation of all men, he compels the salvation of no man against his own free-will.

This doctrine of co-operating grace, this synergetic soteriology, which is so very Anglican, yet not particular to Anglicanism, does not rob God of his omnipotence as it recognizes that, in exercising his unlimited might, God has chosen to give man free-will. At the same time, this doctrine to not create uber-men without need for divine grace, as it recognizes that, to obtain salvation and eternal Life, fallen man still must receive and cooperate with God’s universal and free offer of grace in Jesus Christ.

ALMIGHTY God, who through thine only-begotten Son Jesus Christ hast overcome death, and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life; We humbly beseech thee that, as by thy special grace preventing us thou dost put into our minds good desires, so by thy continual help we may bring the same to good effect; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

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The inspiration for this comes from a superb reflection by our brother Nicholas on Hooker’s doctrine of baptismal regeneration, which can be found at Comfortable Words. The Anglican penchant to affirm that justification includes  an outward imputation of righteousness, as well as an inward impartation (with all hope of final salvation being invested in the former, but not without manfully taking one’s place on the front line in the war against the world, the flesh and the Devil) seems to be more biblical than a soteriology that affirms imputation exclusively, and which denies the possibility of the regenerate man falling from grace in the fashion of the foolish Galatians. It also has the distinct advantage of making God’s gifts to His Church in the sacraments, the apostolic ministry, the power of the keys etc., understandable in terms of the necessity of perseverance and growth in grace (often by redemptive suffering) if we will be glorified with Christ. Anyhow, I hope Abp. Bramhall’s comments will provide food for thoughtful reflection. Enjoy.

Concerning justification, we believe that all good Christians have true inherent justice, though not perfect, according to a perfection of degrees, as gold is true gold, though it be mixed with dross. We believe that this inherent justice and sanctity doth make them truly just and holy. But if the word ‘justification’ be taken in sensu forensi , for the acquittal of a man from a former guilt, to make an offender just in the eyes of the law, as it is opposed to ‘condemnation,’-“It is God that justifieth, who is he that condemneth?”-then it is not our inherent righteousness that justifieth us in this sense, but the free grace of God for the Merits of Jesus Christ.

Next for Merits, we never doubted of the necessity of good works, without which faith is but a fiction. We are not so stupid to imagine that Christ did wash us from our sins, that we might wallow more securely in sin, but that ‘we might serve him in holiness and righteousness all the days of our life.’ We never doubted the reward of good works;-‘Come, ye blessed of my Father, ‘&c.’for I was hungry, and ye fed me:’ nor whether reward be due to them in justice;-“Henceforth is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the just Judge shall give me in that day;” faithful promise makes due debt. This was all that the Ancient Church did ever understand by the name of Merits. Let Petavius bear witness;-“Antiqui Patres omnes, et procaeteris Augustinus, cumque iis consentiens Romana et Catholica pietas, agnoscit merita eo sensu, nimirum ut neque Dei gratiam ulla antecedant merita, et haec ipsa tum ex gratia tum ex gratuita Dei pollicitatione tota pendeant;”-“All the ancient Fathers, especially St. Austin, and the Roman and Catholic Faith consenting with them, do acknowledge Merits in this sense, that no Merits go before the grace of God, and that these very Merits do depend wholly on grace and on the free promise of God.” Hold you to this, and we shall have no more difference about Merits. Do you exact more of us, than all the Fathers, or the Roman and Catholic piety, doth acknowledge?

It is an easy thing for a wrangling sophister to dispute of Merits in the schools, or for a vain orator to declaim of Merits out of the pulpit; but when we come to lie upon our death-beds, and present ourselves at the last hour before the tribunal of Christ, it is high time both for you and us to renounce our own merits, and to cast ourselves naked into the arms of our Saviour. That any works of ours (who are the best of us  but “unprofitable servants;” which properly are not ours but God’s own gifts; and if they were ours, are a just debt due unto Him, setting aside God’s free promise and gracious acceptation) should condignly by their own intrinsical value deserve the joys of Heaven, to which they have no more proportion than they have to satisfy for the eternal torments of Hell;-this is that which we have renounced, and which we ought never to admit.

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New Blog

I have restarted my Patristic Anglican Blog at http://patristic-anglican.blogspot.com/

I mainly plan to post hagiography snippets of interest to those of British descent. My main source will likely be “Celebrating the Saints,” by Robert Atwell. Occasionally, I may may also post more theological or practical mediations, which I may cross-post here too.

Also, please allow me to commend to you a wonderful new cyber-ministry called Cradle of Prayer, which can be found at http://www.CradleofPrayer.org/

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