The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Friday, August 25, 2023

1595 – Anglicanism at a Crossroads

In my last essay I demonstrated that contrary to the view sometimes put forth by overzealous Low Churchmen of a Reformed-in-the-continental-sense bent that our English branch of Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church affirms her Protestantism in a Calvinist as opposed to Lutheran way in her reformed Confession, the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1571, these instead are worded in such a way as to side with neither Wittenberg nor Geneva absolutely on the controversies between the two with the result that while on the matter of the Real Presence in the Lord’s Supper they lean towards Calvin without excluding Luther, on the matter of Predestination they lean towards Luther without excluding Calvin.   On several other matters – prioritizing the truths confessed in the Catholic Creeds over other doctrines, retaining the Apostolic episcopacy rather than adopting a presbyterian government (some Lutherans, such as the Swedish, are like us in this regards, others, such as the German, who were unable to retain the episcopacy, did not adopt the Genevan model), the normative principle (what is not forbidden by Scripture is permitted) over the regulative principle (what is not commanded by Scripture is forbidden) – Anglicanism, as confessed in the Articles is far closer to the Lutheranism than to Calvinism.


An interesting response to this came in an online Anglican group.   The matter of the Lambeth Articles of 1495 was raised and the person who brought it up seemed to think that this document invalidated my entire argument by providing an official Anglican declaration that Article XVII (On Predestination and Election) is to be understood in the most Calvinist way possible.   What made this response so interesting was that the answer to it was so obvious – the Lambeth Articles are not official Anglican doctrine.   They were denied royal assent twice, first by Queen Elizabeth I, then by King James I at the Hampton Court Conference of 1604.    Thank God for the divine right of kings!   It was not a matter of the monarchs refusing out of personal theological prejudice to allow the Church to teach what she wanted.   At the same time as the events leading to the drafting of the Lambeth Articles the first volumes of a lengthy treatise defending the Elizabethan Religious Settlement against the arguments of Calvinists who wished to overthrow said Settlement and introduce something more radical and less Catholic appeared in print.   The way in which this treatise was subsequently embraced by Anglicans of every party demonstrates that Queen Elizabeth and King James knew what they were doing in not allowing a narrower, much more rigid, interpretation of the difficult doctrine of predestination than that which appears in Article XVII to be imposed on the English Church.


The wisdom of the royal judgement in not allowing the Lambeth Articles to become the official doctrine of the Church will become all the more apparent as we look at the history of how this would-be addendum to the Articles of Religion came to be.  


The Lambeth Articles indirectly testify to the fact that Article XVII of the Thirty-Nine Articles does not require those who affirm or subscribe to it to accept the interpretation of predestination that is taught in the Lambeth Articles.   If it did, there would have been no need for strict Calvinists to draw up the Lambeth Articles and try to make them enforceable upon the clergy.  


The Most Reverend Matthew Parker had been chosen to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury upon the accession of Elizabeth I in 1559 and he was consecrated and installed in that office in December of that year.   Contrary to lies spread by the Jesuits, this was done properly by four bishops at Lambeth Palace, preserving the Apostolic succession, not in some untoward way in the Nag’s Head Tavern.   Nor are the arguments against the legitimacy of his Apostolic succession raised by Roman Patriarch Leo XIII in Apostolicae Curae (1896) valid but that is a subject for another time. One of his first accomplishments was the revision of the Forty-Two Articles, written by his predecessor Thomas Cranmer and briefly made the official doctrine of the Church of England in 1552 at the very end of the reign of Edward VI.   These were revised into Thirty-Nine Articles in the Convocation of 1563, with much of the work of revision being done by Parker himself.   While a couple of changes had to be made before the Articles received royal assent in 1571 for the most part the Thirty-Nine Articles were what they would ultimately be in 1563.   The following year John Calvin died.


John Calvin’s death removed what had up to then been the chief restraint preventing the Genevan school from running to seed on the doctrine of predestination.   It seems strange to think of it that way today, when Calvin’s name is virtually synonymous with predestination, but compared to those who came after him he was quite moderate on the topic.   Like Dr. Luther, he was strongly influenced by St. Augustine of Hippo, who in the early fifth century led the orthodox Church in condemning the heresy of Pelagianism (the denial of Original Sin and assertion that the human will unassisted by God’s grace can move towards God).   In defending Augustinian orthodoxy, at least as he understood it, in On the Bondage of the Will (1525) his answer to Erasmus, Dr. Luther had taken a strong view of predestination that was very similar to that of Calvin’s.   It did not have as important a place in his theology as it did in Calvin’s, however, just as in Calvin’s theology predestination was not near as important is it would become among Calvin’s followers.   While later in his life Dr. Luther continued to regard On the Bondage of the Will as his favourite of his own writings, he clearly saw the danger of fixating on the doctrine, especially if it is considered apart from Jesus Christ and the Gospel, and warned against this danger, reminding people of the difference between what God has revealed to us and what He has kept hidden, and that it is inadvisable to focus on and speculate about the hidden things (he argued this at length and in several places in his Lectures on Genesis).   In the larger Lutheran tradition predestination and election are affirmed only of those who will ultimately be saved, there is no teaching of reprobation to damnation.  Jesus is proclaimed as having died for all, with the Grace He obtained for all on the Cross brought to man in the two forms of the Gospel, Word and Sacrament.  Faith, the sole means of receiving the Grace so brought to man, is itself formed in the human heart by the Grace contained in the Gospel, again Word and Sacrament, without any contribution from our own will.  The Grace in the Gospel is sufficient to produce saving faith in all, but resistible, so that salvation is entirely of God, damnation entirely of man.   Dr. Luther and his tradition took care that the doctrine of predestination not be taught in such a way as to either undermine the assurance of the Gospel or encourage licentious behaviour.  


In John Calvin’s writings, while predestination has a larger role than in Dr. Luther’s, it is by no means the doctrine to which all other truths must be subordinated that it often seems to be in the teachings of many of his followers.   In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, he devotes four chapters to it, towards the end of the third (out of four) volume. The third volume is about salvation, following after the first, which is about God the Creator, and the second, which is about God the Redeemer.    He turns to election in this volume, only after extensively covering Grace, Faith, Regeneration, Justification, Assurance, the Christian Life, and Christian Liberty.   It is very much a subordinate doctrine, that he derives from the sovereignty, omnipotence, and omniscience of God, but without the puerile manner in which some who bear his name today taunt those who do not believe exactly the way they do with the accusation that they preach too small a God, then wonder why nobody else is impressed with their “my God is bigger than your God” type arguments that sound like nothing so much as a boy in the schoolyard telling his playmates “my dad can beat up your dad”.   He expresses the same concerns about the abuse of the doctrine as Luther and from his Institutes it appears that his pastoral counsel to someone troubled by an undue fixation on predestination was almost identical to Luther’s, that is, look to Christ as revealed in the Gospel, not to the hidden councils of God.   Later Calvinists had trouble doing this because of their doctrine that Jesus died only for the elect.   The closest Calvin came to teaching this doctrine was in his remarks on 1 John 2.2 in his Commentary on the Catholic Epistles.  That was published in 1531.   In his Commentary on the Gospel of John, published two years later, his remarks on the most beloved and comforting words in all of Scripture, the familiar sixteenth verse of the third chapter, exclude all possibility of a Limited Atonement interpretation: “And he has employed the universal term whosoever, both to invite all indiscriminately to partake of life, and to cut off every excuse from unbelievers.   Such is also the import of the term World, which he formerly used; for though nothing will be found in the world that is worthy of the favour of God, yet he shows himself to be reconciled to the whole world, when he invites all men without exception to the faith of Christ, which is nothing else than an entrance into life”.


Article XVII, both as Cranmer had originally written it in the Forty-Two Articles, and in the slightly edited form in which it stands in the Thirty-Nine Articles, speaks of predestination only in reference to the saved not the lost.   In this, it affirms what the larger Lutheran tradition affirms, without affirming what appeared to have been Dr. Luther’s position in 1525 but what the Lutheran tradition and possibly Dr. Luther himself in his later years moved away from, and what the Lutheran tradition would explicitly reject in the Formula of Concord six years after the Thirty-Nine Articles were adopted by the Church of England, that is double predestination.   Double predestination is rejected in paragraphs three and four of Article XI of the Formula of Concord, the only Article in all of the Lutheran Confessions on the subject of Election.   There is no Article on election or predestination in the Geneva Confession of 1536, or the Gallican (French) Confession of 1559, the only Confessions written in whole or in part by John Calvin himself.    It appears in the Second Helvetic Confession, however which was written by Heinrich Bullinger, Zwingli’s successor, shortly before Calvin’s death, and published shortly after.   In the Three Forms of Unity of the Reformed Church, the Heidelberg Catechism written by Ursinus in the same year that Parker was revising the Articles of Religion makes no mention of predestination, unsurprisingly perhaps in that it is a Catechism, that is to say, intended to be introductory and basic.  In the other two, however, Article XVI of the Belgic Confession (1561) is on Election, with the weak form of the doctrine of reprobation affirmed and the Canons of Dort (1619) are entirely in defense of the doctrine of Double Predestination.   This shows how the doctrine became much more important in the Calvinist tradition as it developed.


The Anglican Article XVII neither affirms reprobation like the Calvinist tradition, nor positively rejects it like the Lutheran tradition in the Formula of Concord.  What it does affirm about predestination is much more Lutheran than Calvinist though.   The second paragraph begins by saying that it is a comfort for the godly.   This, however, is only true if we heed the advice of the final paragraph.   Here, Parker’s revision of Cranmer’s original, was perhaps unfortunate.   Cranmer wrote “Furthermore, although the Decrees of predestination are unknown unto us, we must receive God’s promises in such wise as they are generally set forth to us in Holy Scripture, and in our doings, that will of God is to be followed which we have expressly declared unto us in the word of God.”   The italicized portion was removed in the Thirty-Nine Articles.   It is stronger in the original wording, but the meaning still stands in the revised version, and it is identical to the advice given by Dr. Luther in his Lectures on Genesis, that we should not concern ourselves with what God has not revealed to us, His secret counsels from all eternity, but with what God has revealed to us in the Gospel.


Cranmer in 1553 and Parker ten years later could not have known the direction that the Reformed tradition would take after Calvin’s death, but they seem, like Dr. Luther, to have recognized that predestination is a doctrine that can easily take someone who runs with it into any number of ditches, and to have written Article XVII to guard against this possibility.   The Most Reverend and Right Honourable John Whitgift would have been well-advised to follow the lead of these his predecessors.   He seems to have attempted to do so at first but in 1595 committed the blunder of signing off on a document that, had it received final approval, would have imposed an interpretation of predestination on Article XVII that was more extreme than could be found in any then-extent Calvinist Confession.   Ironically, his intent in so doing was to restore peace to the campus of Cambridge University, where he himself had been a professor earlier in his career at the beginning of the Elizabethan Age.


The man who had upset the peace at Cambridge was William Barrett, who was the chaplain of Caius College at Cambridge University.   On 29 April, 1595, Barrett gave a sermon from the pulpit of St. Mary’s Church, in the course of which he blasted the Calvinist doctrine of predestination and asserted that predestination and reprobation were based on human holiness and sin respectively.   The main target of his attack, however, was the more basic doctrine of assurance of salvation.   He denounced as arrogance, the confident assurance of one’s salvation.   This raised a ruckus and he was immediately brought before the Vice-Chancellor of the University, who chewed him out.   Unrepentant, the heads of the various colleges were brought in, and they joined in denouncing him, so he was forced to make a retraction on 10 May.   He came across as somewhat less than sincere in his retraction which did not satisfy the academic authorities.  As a matter of fact the heads of the colleges went to the Vice-Chancellor demanding his expulsion.  At this point the affair was brought by both sides to the attention of Archbishop Whitgift who asked Hadrian Saravia, a prebendary at Gloucester Cathedral and a member of Cambridge’s rival Oxford University, and Lancelot Andrewes who was his personal chaplain at the time, for their opinions on the matter.  Their opinion was that while Barrett wasn’t entirely in the right, the Cambridge authorities had gone too far in forcing that retraction on him.   The Archbishop, satisfied with this opinion, sent a message to the Cambridge authorities dressing them down and reminding them that they could discipline a chaplain for speaking against the Articles of Religion but not for speaking against whatever was currently in vogue in Geneva.   He then made the grave mistake of assigning further investigation to William Whitaker, Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge.

This was a mistake because Whitaker was the man against whom Barrett’s sermon had been directed in the first place.   Whitaker had himself given a sermon on 27 February against “those who assert universal grace” by which he meant Peter Baro, who was Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity.   Baro was originally from France, like Calvin he had studied law and then he went to Geneva to study theology under Calvin.  He was ordained into the ministry by the Reformer himself.   When the Huguenots (French Calvinists) faced persecution in France in the 1570s, he fled to England where he was appointed to one of what were then the only two endowed professorships of divinity at Cambridge, which he had held for twenty one years at the time this controversy broke out.   In the meantime, like Beza’s student Arminius, he had moved away from the strict view of predestination that Beza had been working to make stricter.   Whitaker had held the other endowed professorship in divinity for almost as long, having been appointed to the post in 1580.   He had also been appointed Master of St. John’s College in 1586, and about the time Archbishop Whitgift asked him to look into the Barrett case, was made a canon of Canterbury.   He very much seemed to be a man on the rise at the time of this controversy.   In part this was due to his scholarly achievements.    His scholarship was acknowledged, even by Cardinal Bellarmine against whom his magnus opus, Disputations on Holy Scripture, was written, to be second to none.  The other part was due to his being protégé of both Whitgift and Lord Burghley (William Cecil – Elizabeth I’s Lord High Treasurer, spymaster, most trusted adviser, and basically, although the office was not yet created, Prime Minister).   He was also, however, the most extreme Calvinist among the Church of England’s clergy at the time, outside of the Puritan faction.   Needless to say, the theological differences between the Regius and the Lady Margaret Professors of Divinity, had led to the formation of bitterly rival factions in the school of divinity.   Whitaker accepted the task of investigating Barrett from Whitgift but, although he himself had been the target of Barrett’s sermon, it was not Barrett he was interested in so much as Baro.


Whitaker gave Barrett a questionnaire full of questions designed to elicit answers from the man which would enable Whitaker to accuse him to Whitgift, not just of Arminianism, a word that had barely made it to the English shore at this point in time, but of the far more serious charge of popery.  Usually Calvinist accusations of popery against those who did not agree with their view of predestination were nonsensical slurs but in this case it seems to have been justified.  After these events he left England and joined the Roman Church.  Whitaker sent Barrett’s answers, with his own commentary, to the Archbishop and then, in September, the Vice-Chancellor and college heads wrote to Whitgift asking for a final ruling, and permission to discipline Barrett.   Whitgift, wanting neither to let Barrett off on the points where he seemed to be supporting Romanism nor to force him to agree with the entire recantation that the Cambridge authorities had drawn up, asked Barrett to give an account before him at Lambeth Palace in November.    The other members of the tribunal were Richard Fletcher, Bishop of London, and Richard Vaughan, who had been chosen as the next Bishop of Bangor but would not be consecrated and installed until the following year.  Whitaker and Humphrey Tyndall, the President of Queen’s College and Dean of Ely, were sent along as the representatives of the Cambridge authorities.   The matter of Barrett was fairly easily disposed of – he agreed to another recantation.  Then Whitaker handed the Archbishop a set of nine Articles, clarifying in the sense of significantly narrowing, the Church’s position on predestination, and asked him to make it binding on the clergy.   This would have opened the door to his having Baro ejected from his seat at Cambridge.


Whitgift, after consulting with the Archbishop of York, made with the other bishops on the tribunal a few revisions to the Articles and then signed them on 20 November.   One consequence of this has been that Archbishop Whitgift, the staunch anti-Puritan, has ever since had a reputation for being a far stricter Calvinist than he actually was.   Here are the Articles in the form in which they were signed:


1.      God from eternity hath predestinated certain men unto life; certain men he hath reprobated.

2.      The moving or efficient cause of predestination unto life is not the foresight of faith, or of perseverance, or of good works, or of any thing that is in the person predestinated, but only the good will and pleasure of God.

3.      There is predetermined a certain number of the predestinate, which can neither be augmented nor diminished.

4.      Those who are not predestinated to salvation shall be necessarily damned for their sins.

5.      A true, living, and justifying faith, and the Spirit of God justifying [sanctifying], is not extinguished, falleth not away; it vanisheth not away in the elect, either finally or totally.

6.      A man truly faithful, that is, such a one who is endued with a justifying faith, is certain, with the full assurance of faith, of the remission of his sins and of his everlasting salvation by Christ.

7.      Saving grace is not given, is not granted, is not communicated to all men, by which they may be saved if they will.

8.      No man can come unto Christ unless it shall be given unto him, and unless the Father shall draw him; and all men are not drawn by the Father, that they may come to the Son.

9.      It is not in the will or power of every one to be saved.


Whitaker returned to Cambridge to prepare for the prosecution of Baro.   He caught a cold on the way home, however, which developed into a fever, and two weeks after the publication of he Lambeth Articles he died.   Before he died he met with his other patron, Lord Burghley, who among his many other duties was Chancellor of the University, and discussed the matter, most likely expecting Cecil’s support.   The Lord High Treasurer, however, recognized immediately the threat to the peace of realm and Church that the “Lambeth Articles” posed and went directly to Queen Elizabeth with the news that Whitgift had essentially held an unofficial Convocation behind her back in which he had added to the Articles of Religion in such a way as to force a narrow interpretation of a contentious point on them.   Queen Elizabeth summoned Whitgift to appear before her and her Privy Council to answer for this illegal behaviour, for which he could do nothing but apologize and beg her pardon.   Whitgift received her pardon – but the Lambeth Articles were vetoed.   Baro was allowed to finish his term and retire peacefully, and the queen appointed John Overall to the Regius Professorship vacated by the death of Whitaker.   Overall was a young clergyman, born the year of the queen’s accession, and ordained only four years prior to his appointment to Cambridge.   Later he would work with Lancelot Andrewes on the translation of the Authorized Bible, a few years after which he was consecrated Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield before being translated the very end of his career and life to the See of Norwich.   He was already known to be a moderate on the matter of predestination in 1595, however, and it was for this that he was chosen as the replacement of Whitaker. 


The Lambeth Articles, although originally drafted to narrow Anglican orthodoxy to a strictly Calvinist position on predestination, in the modified form in which Whitgift signed them, still left room for non-Calvinist interpretations.   The second Article, while affirming “the good will and pleasure of God” as the sole cause of predestination to life, makes no such statement about reprobation and, indeed, the fourth Article by asserting that those not predestinated to life will be damned “for their sins” places the cause of their damnation, and hence their “reprobation”, in themselves rather than God.   The ninth Article, of course, can be affirmed by any Augustinian, for not only is it true that “it is not in the will or power of every one to be saved” it is actually “not in the will or power of any one to be saved” because salvation does not come from the will or power of the one saved but from God Who does the saving.   “With man it is impossible, but not with God, because all things are possible with God” as our Lord put it.   None of the Lambeth Articles asserts the most problematic of the doctrines that would be adopted by the Synod of Dort in response to the Arminian Articles of Remonstrance in 1619, the anti-Scriptural and blasphemous doctrine of Limited Atonement, that Jesus died only for the elect.   This is why the fifth Article can assert “A man truly faithful, that is, such a one who is endued with a justifying faith, is certain, with the full assurance of faith, of the remission of his sins and of his everlasting salvation by Christ.”   This assertion is inconsistent with the idea that Jesus died only for he elect.   Justifying faith is faith in Jesus Christ as He is revealed in the Gospel.  The Gospel is not a revelation of what God has done in secret, into which category fall election and predestination.   It is a revelation of what God has done for mankind out in the open for everyone to see, by the giving of His Son Jesus Christ, Who made Atonement for dying for the sins of the world, then rose again from the dead.  The difference between “historical faith”, which does not justify or save and “saving faith” or “justifying faith” is that the person with “historical faith” sees in the Gospel only events that are some place, some time, distant and unconnected to himself, while the person with justifying faith sees in the Gospel the message that “Jesus died for me” which information is absent from the Gospel if Jesus died only for the elect, and indeed, if Jesus dies only for the elect, the information about whether Jesus died for any particular individual will not be available this side of the Last Judgement, so what is asserted in the fifth Lambeth Article is utterly impossible if Jesus died only for the elect.   Indeed, assurance is difficult to square with the concept of double predestination.   The early Dr. Luther managed to do so, as did John Calvin, but this was because both men recognized that it was unwise to dwell on what God has not revealed, His secret counsels, but must direct our faith towards what God has revealed in Jesus Christ.


One who did not follow them in this was William Perkins.  Perkins was born in the last year of the reign of Mary, studied at Cambridge University, and remained a fellow of Christ’s College at Cambridge until the year before the controversy that produced the Lambeth Articles.  He was a Puritan, considered a moderate in that he was neither a separatist nor a rebel, but was very severe in his Calvinism.   He died almost twenty years before Limited Atonement was formulated but he accepted Theodore Beza’s supralapsarianism, the form of extreme Calvinism that started the chain of events that led to Dort.   He developed the doctrine of “experimental predestination” for when his obsessive preaching on predestination caused people to ask the question “am I one of the elect”.  In this he advised people to make use of a practical syllogism – everyone who believes is a child of God, I believe, therefore I am a child of God – that separated assurance from the direct look of faith.  Worse, he told them to look for evidence for the second premise, if they doubted their faith was the saving kind, by looking inward for the fruit of sanctification.   This didn’t work out too well in his case.   His biographer Thomas Fuller records that he died “in the conflict of a troubled conscience”.   Perkins’ writings were more influential than any other Puritan of the Elizabethan Age on subsequent generations of Puritans and this problem of dying in the conflict of a troubled conscience recurred over and over again.   There were also cases of people living in the conflict of a troubled conscience because of this doctrine and being driven mad by it.   William Cowper, the Olney poet and hymn writer, is a classic example of this, although to be fair, the evidence suggests that given his extremely melancholic temperament he might have ended up the same way no matter what doctrine he had been taught.   


The example of Perkins, and the subsequent generations of Puritans who followed him in this, if not in his moderation with regards to making further reforms to the Church, demonstrates how an overemphasis on predestination undermines in practice the assurance of salvation that it is supposed to bolster.   For a good example of how the doctrine can be taught without having this negative effect see the second to last chapter in Getting Into The Theology of Concord  (1977) by Robert D. Preus.   The book is a commentary on the Lutheran Confessions and under the heading “Predestination and the Election of Grace” Preus, who was president of Concordia Theological Seminary at the time, explained that it was a doctrine that was only to be introduced after one had already been assured of salvation through faith in the revealed Gospel, in order “to give him even greater certainty and assurance of God’s grace”.   Preus recounted his own professor’s explanation of predestination as meaning merely “everything God has done in time to save us and make us His children and preserve us in the faith, He determined in Christ to do for us in eternity.”   Understood this way, the doctrine is not the threatening source of uncertainty that it has been when overemphasized as it has been in much of the Calvinist tradition.   In the Canons of Dort (1619) Perkins’ view of assurance replaced that of Calvin (found in Article XI of the Geneva Confession of 1536, Articles XVIII, XIX, XX and XXII of the Gallican Confession of 1559, and the Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book III, chapter xxiv, paragraph 5) as the official Calvinist doctrine in the twelfth article under the first head (Divine Election and Reprobation – in Dort, the points are ordered ULTIP rather than TULIP):


Assurance of their eternal and unchangeable election to salvation is given to the chosen in due time, though by various stages and in differing measure. Such assurance comes not by inquisitive searching into the hidden and deep things of God, but by noticing within themselves, with spiritual joy and holy delight, the unmistakable fruits of election pointed out in God’s Word—such as a true faith in Christ, a childlike fear of God, a godly sorrow for their sins, a hunger and thirst for righteousness, and so on.


The Lambeth Articles were brought to the Synod of Dort and read out in the deliberation there.   Although they affirm a strong view of assurance of salvation, and the occasion of their drafting was Barrett’s sermon attacking assurance – Saravia and Andrewes advised Whitgift that Barrett had only denied the impossibility of those justified by faith falling from grace, asserted by Calvinism but not in the Articles of Religion, rather than their present assurance of forgiveness and justification, while his accusers maintained he had denied both -  they can therefore be regarded as a step in the direction in which Calvinism was moving, away from the solely outward look to the objective truth of the Gospel of Lutheranism and early Calvinism to the inward look of Puritanism/Dort.   It is therefore, most merciful indeed, that by the grace of God, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth I prevented them from becoming an official addendum to the Articles of Religion.


Those who wish it were otherwise often claim that the Lambeth Articles represented a consensus of the leading clergy of the Church of England at the time.  This is hardly the case.   Archbishop Whitgift was by no means as harsh a predestinarian as his signature on these Articles might suggest to some.   It is now time to consider another protégé of Whitgift’s who the year before this controversy had published the first four volumes in a defense of the Elizabethan Settlement against those who wished to reshape the Church entirely in the image of Geneva, a defense that gained such wide acceptance that Anglicans of all parties would in the future claim its author as one of their own.


Richard Hooker was born five years before the accession of Elizabeth I and through the patronage of John Jewel, Bishop of Salisbury and author of an Apology which defended the reformed Church of England against Romanist attacks on the grounds of arguments drawn from the Church Fathers, studied at Corpus Christi College in Oxford.   He became a fellow of the College in 1577 and was ordained a priest two years later.   In 1585, Elizabeth I, on the advice of Archbishop Whitgift appointed him Master of the Temple, an unusual title for the senior priest of an unusual Church, the Temple Church, which ministers to the Inner and Middle Temple Inns of Court, in what was originally the headquarters of the Knights Templar.   The Reader of the Temple, that is to say, the assistant clergy, was at the time, Walter Travers.   Hooker and Travers were kin by marriage – Travers’ brother was married to Hooker’s sister, the relationship between the two clergy is usually, if not entirely accurately, described as that of cousins-in-law – but in very different places theologically.   Travers was a Calvinist of the type who thought that every Church everywhere needed to resemble in theology, practice, and order the Church in Geneva, in other words, a Puritan.   He had been ordained in Antwerp by Thomas Cartwright, who unlike his contemporary William Perkins was not a moderate, as evidenced by a) his ordaining someone without the episcopal authority to do so, and b) his doing so abroad where he was living in semi-exile (he returned the same year Hooker was appointed Master).   Indeed, his Puritanism was so extreme that even Edmund Grindal, the most Puritan-friendly of the Elizabethan Archbishops of Canterbury, denounced him as a nut.   Archbishop Whitgift, correctly insisted that Travers needed to be re-ordained, but Travers refused.   He then wondered why the queen passed him over for the senior position at the Church and gave it instead to his in-law who already had something of a reputation as an opponent of Puritanism.  Why, indeed.


The arrangement at the Temple was that the Master, Hooker, would preach in the morning, and the Reader, Travers would preach in the afternoon.   Travers’ sermon would take the form of a rebuttal of the sermon given in the morning.   While this would have been inappropriate anywhere else, it does seem sort of fitting in a parish where the congregation was made up mostly of lawyers.   Indeed, they managed to carry on in this way without it disturbing their personal friendship.   Then, a year later, Archbishop Whitgift finally had enough and ordered Travers to cease and desist.  Travers appealed this decision to the Privy Council and as part of his appeal accused Whitgift’s protégé, his own cousin, Hooker of heresy.

The basis of the accusation was a series of three sermons on the book of Habakkuk that Hooker had delivered in March of either 1585 or 1586 – there is conflicting evidence as to which year – that he later published as a pamphlet under the title “A Learned Discourse of Justification, Works, and How the Foundation of Faith is Overthrown”.   In these sermons, Hooker articulated the doctrine of justification by faith on the basis of Christ’s merits alone and identified several errors of the Church of Rome in relation to this subject.   He distinguished between justification and sanctification, and defended the Protestant position that the former, the righteousness of Christ imputed to the believer, is not based upon the latter, the righteousness that manifests itself in the believer as faith works through love.  The faith that justifies, however, is faith in Jesus Christ, not faith in the doctrine of sola fide, and since the Roman Church confesses faith in Jesus Christ as expressed in the orthodox Creed, neither that faith nor the justification that comes through it is necessarily overthrown by the errors of Rome.   It was this last point that twisted Travers’ knickers in a knot.   It translates into the idea that somebody is not necessarily going to Hell just because they are a member of the Roman Church.   To the twisted and paranoid mind of the Puritan that was tantamount to saying the Reformation was a mistake and we should all bow before the Roman Patriarch.


Archbishop Whitgift, although unwilling to openly endorse the idea that not everyone in the Roman Church is lost, tacitly did so by sticking to his guns on Travers, and not disciplining Hooker.   In this he was supported by the Privy Council which removed Travers from the position of Reader altogether.   Hooker continued as Master of Temple until 1591 when, seeking a less public position so as devote time to writing his treatise, he became rector of the small country parish of St. Andrew’s in the village of Boscombe, again through the patronage of the Archbishop.   The first four volumes of his Of The Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie were published about a year before the controversy in Cambridge.   Eventually the work would include four other volumes, bringing the total to eight.


Hooker’s Lawes are best thought of as being to Puritanism, what his first patron, Jewel’s Apology was to the Church of Rome, that is to say, an answer to their attacks on the Church of England and the status quo of the same that had been established in the Elizabethan Settlement that employed the language of the attackers.   Jewel had defended the orthodoxy and Catholicity of the Church of England, including her Protestant positions, with citations from the Church Fathers.   Hooker defended the Anglican Church from the very Scriptures the Puritans claimed as their sole authority.   While Hooker also appeals to tradition and reason, these are very much subordinate lower rungs on his hierarchy of authority with Scripture clearly at the top.   Hooker uses tradition and reason very effectively in support of his main argument which over and over again is that the Scriptures do not support the radical changes the Puritans were demanding because the Scriptures do not say what the Puritans think and claim they say.


The Lawes are not an eight volume takedown of the doctrine of predestination.   It is not the Puritans’ soteriology that is Hooker’s focus but their ideas concerning Church Government.   This ought to be evident from the title of the work.  Ecclesiastical Politie (Polity) means Church Government.   It is not William Perkins whom Hooker is concerned with so much as Thomas Cartwright, the arch-presbyterian mentor of his relative Travers.   Specifically, it is the Puritan claim that the Scriptures contain not merely everything necessary for salvation, as Article VI declares, everything necessary to answer any question that might arise, including the one true model of Church government and organization (the Genevan, even though this could be found nowhere on earth before the sixteenth century) and a complete set of instructions as to what can be done in Christian worship to which nothing can be added that is not sinful, idolatrous, and blasphemous, that he systematically dismantles.   He patiently makes his case, first laying the foundation with a discussion of the nature of laws in general in the first volume, which leads into a refutation of specific Puritan claims that occupies the rest of the first four books, the ones published before 1595.   In the fifth book, published in 1597, which is as long as the first four combined, as he examines Scripture readings, sermons, music, Sacraments, liturgy and basically everything that is today summed up in the word “worship” and demonstrates through an extended defence of the normative principle that the established Anglican way of doing these things is not contrary to Scripture, he begins to segue from answering the claims of the Puritans into setting forth the positive case for the status quo of the Elizabethan Settlement of Religion that will occupy the remainder of the work.   In making that case, while he rests ultimately upon the authority of Scripture, he does not do so in the same manner as his opponents, he does not mirror their attitude of thinking there is only one way of doing everything.   Instead, having shown that episcopal polity, liturgical worship, royal patronage, etc., not to be in violation of Scripture but to be positively beneficial, he argues that all these should be retained unless their opponents can meet the burden of proof in arguing for their elimination, which they have failed to do. 


Although it was the Puritans’ demand for changes in the structure, organization, and practices of the Church that Hooker answered in his Lawes rather than their narrow doctrine of predestination, the basic conservatism of his arguments provided the Church with an alternative path to that which Whitaker wished her to take with the Lambeth Articles.   Just as the Puritans insisted that there was only acceptable form of Christian worship, the Genevan, the stricter school of Calvinists, Puritan or not, insisted that there was only one way of understanding the doctrine of predestination, that which they attempted to impose on the Church in the Lambeth Articles, and which would eventually narrow further in the continental Reformed tradition into that espoused at Dort.   The Articles of Religion, to which clergy of the Church were required to subscribe, affirm predestination, but only in a more general way.   They do not exclude an Anglican clergyman from holding to the narrower view of Whitaker’s Articles, but neither do they require it.   There was no need to impose a narrower view.   Predestination is mentioned in the Scriptures, but only on a few occasions, and not in such a way as to justify the claim that only the strict Calvinist interpretation is acceptable.   In the book of Romans, for example, St. Paul brings it up in precisely the way Dr. Preus talked about.   First he shows that all people, Jew and Gentile alike, have sinned and therefore cannot be justified before God by their own works, then he talks about how God has justified by His Grace those who believe in Jesus on account of the redemption He accomplished by His propitiatory death.   Having established that believers have peace with God through their Saviour Jesus Christ, he urges them to live righteously because through their union with Christ in baptism, they died to sin with Him in His death, and now live to God and righteousness in the newness of His resurrection life.   This leads into an acknowledgement of the ongoing struggle with sin, which the Law is powerless to assist the believer in, which is followed immediately by the encouragement that the Holy Ghost provides what the Law cannot, and it is only then, in this context that predestination is raised to strengthen this assurance and encouragement, by telling the Roman believers that what God is doing in them He will see through to completion because He planned it from before the world and that no power exists that break our union with Jesus Christ.   The idea of predestination, in this context, should not give rise to speculation about God arbitrarily deciding so-and-so will be saved and so-and-so will be damned, and the language that some might take in this sense in the following chapters is clearly talking about the present state of nations, Jews and Gentiles, rather than the final destiny of individuals.   Indeed, as if to avoid dogmatic speculation about the nature of predestination, the Apostle places foreknowledge before predestination.   This does not have to be taken in the Arminian way – I do not understand it that way myself – but it is a good reason to be careful in flinging the word “heresy” around about views other than strict Calvinist double predestination.   Heresy is a departure from the basic truths of the faith, primarily those confessed in the ancient and universal Creed, and these are truths that are clear and open revelation in Scripture, central to the message of Scripture, and not things that get a mention in Scripture but with the details left to the unrevealed secret things of God, into which it is unwise to pry.   Therefore, from Hooker’s basic conservative principles, we can deduce that it was very wise indeed of Elizabeth I, to not allow a narrow formulation of the doctrine of predestination to become official doctrine in the Church.   In taking the path represented by Richard Hooker, rather than that represented by the Lambeth Articles, Anglicanism made the right choice at the crossroads of 1595.

Friday, August 18, 2023

An English Rose not a Dutch TULIP

The Church of England and the other national Churches descended from her is a Reformed Catholic Church.   From the English Reformation on Anglicans have disagreed among themselves as to which word should be stressed.   High Churchmen stress the Catholic, Low Churchmen stress the Reformed.  I am a High Churchman and stress the Catholicity of the Anglican Church.   By this I do not mean that I stress what the Anglican Church has in common with the Roman Church, but what the Anglican Church shares with all the Churches organically descended from the first Church in Jerusalem - the Catholic faith confessed in the ancient Creeds especially the Nicene-Constantinopolitan, the Apostolic government and priesthood, the Gospel Sacraments, liturgical worship, and the doctrines, practices, customs and traditions that are the heritage of all Christians in all Churches.    Now Anglican High Churchmanship underwent a change in the nineteenth century due to the Oxford or Tractarian Movement of the 1830s.   The pre-Tractarian High Churchmen generally called themselves “Orthodox”, did not regard the English Reformation as a regrettable mistake, had no problem identifying as Protestant as well as Catholic, and had little to no interest in reintroducing practices jettisoned in the English Reformation, let alone new ones that Rome had introduced in the Council of Trent.   After the Oxford Movement many High Churchmen preferred the term "Anglo-Catholic", saw the English Reformation as something to be regretted, avoided the term Protestant, and introduced liturgical reforms based on Rome’s Tridentine model.   Although my own High Churchmanship is far closer to that of the older pre-Tractarian model, I don’t agree with the judgement that a certain school of Low Churchmen have been making as of late that the Oxford Movement was a disastrous betrayal of Anglicanism.   I think that despite a tendency among some of the Tractarians to embrace as Catholic what was merely Roman, the reverse error of the Hyper-Protestants who reject as Roman what is truly Catholic, the Oxford Movement was overall more for the good than otherwise.


In saying that the Anglican Church is Reformed Catholic I do not mean that it is a compromise between Catholicism and Protestantism, a middle ground that is neither the one nor the other, which is the image that the familiar expression via media unfortunately tends to conjure up.   The Anglican tradition is both fully Protestant and fully Catholic.   It is however a via media within both Protestantism and Catholicism.   The Anglican expression of Catholicism is not entirely that of the Roman Church nor that of the Eastern Orthodox but is somewhere between the two.   Our Episcopal hierarchical structure is closer to that of the Eastern Orthodox, for example, but we confess the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed with the filioque clause.   As a via media within Protestantism, it is often said that Anglicanism is a via media between Wittenberg and Geneva, meaning between the Lutheran and Calvinist expressions of Protestantism.   I don’t think anybody would be foolish enough to think us closer to Zurich.  

That brings me to the topic of this essay, which is another claim made by the same school of Low Churchmen referred to in the first paragraph.   In my last essay which was on the topic of Hyper-Protestantism I addressed certain similarities between this school and the Hyper-Protestants.   Here I wish to address their claim that true Anglicanism is not just Protestant generally, but Reformed in the sense of the specific form of Protestant theology that the word Reformed denotes in denominational titles such as Dutch Reformed or Reformed Baptist.   That type of theology is often called Calvinist, although this is misleading, and it is usually contrasted with Arminianism, which is even more misleading, and most misleading of all it is claimed that Arminianism is a close relative of Romanism.   Why these things are misleading will become clear when I give some background history to Reformed theology.   First, however, I clarify that what I will be arguing against is the claim that the Articles of Religion, which in their final form were adopted by the Church of England in 1571 as part of the Elizabethan Settlement, are distinctly Calvinist, not as opposed to Arminianism which did not exist in 1571, but as opposed to Lutheranism.    While this claim has some validity when it comes to the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, it is completely false when it comes to soteriology which is where our focus will be, and is utterly laughable when it comes to any other topic.


Thomas Cranmer, who was consecrated and installed as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1533 during the reign of Henry VIII was the principal leader of the English Reformation until the reign of Mary in which he was removed from office and executed.   An even more conservative Reformer than Dr. Luther, at the beginning of the English Reformation he was a Christian humanist of the same type as Erasmus and his reforms took the Patristic period rather than what was going on in continental Protestantism as their model.   Over the course of his career he became more influenced by the continental Protestants, at first the German Lutherans, then towards the end of his life, the Calvinists.   When, after the brief interruption of the English Reformation during the reign of Mary, Elizabeth I acceded the throne, the English Reformation took an even more conservative turn.   In 1559 she ordered the Black Rubric excised from the Book of Common Prayer.   This had been inserted into the Order for Holy Communion in the second Edwardian Prayer Book (1552) as an attempt at compromise between Scottish Calvinist Reformer John Knox’s argument that Communion should be received sitting and Cranmer’s conservative defence of kneeling, but it ended up more radical than either Cranmer or Knox, by asserting the Zwinglian view of the Sacrament (mere memorialism).   When it was eventually re-inserted into the Prayer Book it was in the Restoration edition (1662) and with the Zwinglian language excised.   In 1563, Archbishop Matthew Parker led Convocation in revising the Forty-Two Articles of Religion that Cranmer had drafted towards the end of Edward’s reign.   After a few more tweaks they become the Thirty-Nine Articles of 1571.   The Article on the Lord’s Supper excludes both the Roman doctrine of Transubstantiation and Zwinglian memorialism.   While what it affirms sounds closer to Calvin’s view than any other continental Reformer, it needs to be compared with how the same Article read in the Forty-Two Articles.   Language that specifically excluded the Lutheran view was omitted from the final version.   That language reads:


Forasmuch as the truth of man’s nature requires that the body of one and the self-same man cannot be at one time in diverse places, but must needs be in some one certain place, the body of Christ cannot be present at one time in many and diverse places. Because (as Holy Scripture does teach) Christ was taken up into heaven, and there shall continue unto the end of the world, a faithful man ought not, either to believe or openly to confess the real and bodily presence (as they term it) of Christ’s flesh and blood in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.


These words explicitly state the Calvinist position and include the reasoning that is the basis of the Lutheran accusation that Calvinists are crypto-Nestorians.   They were excised from the final version that became cemented as the official Anglican doctrine in the Elizabethan Settlement.   In their place was put the following:


The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is Faith.


The result was that in the Thirty-Nine Articles, Article XXVIII  (it was Article XXIX in the Forty-Two Articles) either a) affirmed a milder, more watered down, version of the Calvinist doctrine or b) was deliberately made ambiguous enough to allow for both Lutheran and Calvinist interpretations and exclude only the Roman and Zwinglian.   The overall tenour of the Elizabethan Settlement, which was to minimize divisive stances so as to maintain peace in the realm and Church, and the fact that if Parker et al. wished the Article to endorse the Calvinist position over the Lutheran they could have left it unedited, suggests that b) is the correct understanding here.


It was during the reign of Elizabeth that a decidedly Calvinist element arose in the English Church that called for reforms that greatly exceeded those of the Settlement.   These are historically remembered as the Puritans and towards the end of Elizabeth’s reign Richard Hooker provided an Anglican answer to their arguments, especially as expressed by Thomas Cartwright, in his Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie.   In the Jacobean and Carolinian reigns, the next generation of Puritans became more extreme both in their Calvinism and their demands.   They accused Orthodox Churchmen like Bishop Lancelot Andrewes, who oversaw the translation of the Authorized Bible in King James I’s reign, and Archbishop of Canterbury William Laud, of Arminianism for opposing their excessive preaching of predestination although it is highly unlikely that either man, both of whom tended to ignore contemporary theologians of narrow schools in favour of the Church fathers, was influenced much or at all by Jacob Arminius and his followers.   They also accused the same of being closet papists.   Here we see the first instance of this Calvinist linking of Arminianism with Romanism that has resurfaced in the contemporary school that I am addressing.   The second accusation was also ludicrous.   Andrewes, in his responses to Cardinal Bellarmine, and Laud in his published Conversation with the Jesuit Fischer, were the closest thing the Church of England had to the scholastics who had arisen in the Lutheran and Reformed Churches (think Johann Gerhard and Martin Chemnitz for the Lutherans, Zacharias Ursinus and Francis Turretin for the Reformed) to answer the new arguments from a new generation of Roman apologists such as said Cardinal Bellarmine who were armed with the re-articulation of Roman doctrine that had come out of the Council of Trent.   At any rate, the Puritans became so extreme that they, having taken control of Parliament, fought a civil war against King Charles I, captured, illegally tried, and murdered him, then established an interregnum under the protectorate of the tyrannical Oliver Cromwell who in his quest to rob the English people of all joy cancelled Christmas and Easter, shut down the theatres, outlawed games, sports, and other amusements outside of religious services on Sundays (the only day of the week people weren’t working), stripped the Churches of artwork and organs, imposed a legalism that out-Phariseed the Pharisees, and basically did everything in his power to prove H. L. Mencken right when he defined Puritanism as “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy”.   Their revolt against their king would become the inspiration towards the end of the next century of the French Revolution which in turn became the model for all subsequent Communist revolutions.   Since the Puritanical party in Parliament became the Whigs after the Restoration and Puritanism in North America developed into the Yankee culture of New England, Puritanism can be said to be the source of the major evils of the Modern Age – liberalism, Americanism, and Communism.   Whether consciously or not, the Puritan revolt against King Charles I was itself modelled after an earlier such revolt.   As Dr. Johnson put it “the first Whig was the devil”.


After the Restoration, which was when the British, sick to death of Puritanism, restored Charles II to his rightful throne, and restored the Church of England to the pre-Puritan status quo, the Puritan Calvinists divided among themselves into the Nonconformists, those unwilling to accept the restored Church of England who left and formed schismatic sects, and those for whom the restored Church of England was acceptable, who became the first Low Churchmen or as they were called at the time, Evangelicals (this was one of the first, if not the first, use of this term with a narrower sense than “Protestant”).   In the eighteenth century, Arminian Low Churchmen first began to appear due to the influence of John Wesley, and these introduced a new emphasis on experience into Evangelicalism.   The embrace of strict, academic, Reformed theology by many evangelicals in the Twentieth Century is, perhaps, a reaction to what became an over-emphasis on experience in the revivalist heritage of evangelicalism, and what we are seeing in this new school of Low Church Calvinism may be the Anglican expression of this phenomenon.


Their claim that Anglicanism in her Articles of Religion is specifically Reformed in the sense of Calvinist is not born out by an examination of the Articles.   It is also rather anachronistic because what they mean by Reformed theology or Calvinism had not yet been formulated in the way we know it today at the time the Articles received royal assent.   This may seem a strange thing to say, since John Calvin died in 1564, but what is called Calvinism today was formulated over sixty years after his death in response to a dissenting movement that had arisen within the Reformed tradition.   Theodore Beza, Calvin’s prize pupil and his successor in Geneva, had articulated a version of the doctrine of predestination that anyone with an ounce of humanity had to reject.   Impiously inquiring into the secret counsels of God, which is arrogant and forbidden to humanity, he had come up with the doctrine of supralapsarianism.   That is a big word that basically means that God first chose people to damn to hell, then decided to let them fall into sin so He would have grounds to damn them.  In 1582 – eleven years after the Articles of Religion – a Dutch Reformed student by the name of Jakob Hermanszoon, better known by the Latin version of his name Jacob Arminius, came to Geneva to study under Beza.   Later that decade he was ordained a pastor in Amsterdam and was asked by the Ecclesiastical Council there to defend Beza’s doctrine of supralapsarianism against Dirck Coornhert who had rejected it.   Arminius attempted to do this but found that he could not honestly do so and began to develop a modified form of Reformed theology that emphasized free will rather than predestination.   He died in 1609 and the following year, the year before the Authorized Bible was published in England, his followers published The Five Articles of Remonstrance, stating their views on election, predestination, and free will.   In 1618, the Dutch Reformed Church convened the Synod of Dort to answer this document and the following year published its Canons, of which there were five, one for each Article of Remonstrance.   These have ever since been called the Five Points of Calvinism and are usually placed in a slightly different order than they appear in the Canons of Dort so as to make the acronym TULIP – Total Depravity (or Inability), Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints.


Just in case you failed to pick up on that, the five points regarded as definitive of Calvinism today, were formulated in 1618-1619 in response to Arminianism, itself a response to supralapsarianism, a doctrine first taught by Calvin’s successor rather than Calvin himself.   Arminianism, therefore, rather than being a “sister of Romanism”, is most closely related within the various schools of Christian theology, to Calvinism itself.   Calvinism versus Arminianism, is an in-the-family dispute within the Reformed branch of Protestantism.   Calvinism and Arminianism disagree on all five points – that is kind of the point – although in other areas, they are closer to each other, than to any other form of Christianity, including the other Protestant traditions.   The five points also separate Calvinism from the other Protestant traditions.


Before looking at our Anglican Articles note how Lutheranism and Calvinism, agree and disagree on these matters.   Lutheranism and Calvinism are both monergistic (salvation is entirely the work of God not a cooperative effort between God and the one being saved) and Augustinian, and so both can affirm the first point of Calvinism at least if it is understood as the Augustinian concept of Original Sin, that the Fall so affected human nature as to make man utterly helpless in the matter of his own salvation and dependent utterly on the Grace of God.   Calvinists sometimes elaborate this in ways other Christians cannot affirm, such as claiming that the Image of God was wiped out by Original Sin.  Lutherans can also affirm unconditional election, but they reject double predestination which includes the concept of reprobation (predestination to hell) which Calvinism affirms.   So there is agreement between Lutheranism and Calvinism on one and a half points of Calvinism.   On the other points there is disagreement.   Lutherans most definitely do not believe in Limited Atonement – it conflicts with their understanding of the Gospel as a proclamation of Objective Justification accomplished for all human beings in Christ, that each human being must receive by faith for it to be validated as his own Subjective Justification.   Nor do they believe in Irresistible Grace.   God’s will, when worked through His Own power directly, is irresistible, but when God works through intermediate means, other wills can resist His own.   In the case of salvation, the salvation God accomplished for the world in Jesus Christ is brought to individuals through the intermediate means of the Gospel, which in both forms, Word and Sacrament, has in itself sufficient Grace to produce faith in the human heart, but because that Grace is conveyed through intermediate means, it is resistible rather than irresistible.   If someone believes it is entirely due to the Grace in the Gospel, he adds nothing of his own to it, if someone remains in unbelief, this is entirely due to his own resistance, and there is no answer, no simple one at any rate, to the question of cur alii, alii non (why some, not others).   On Perseverance both Lutherans and Calvinists affirm that the elect will persevere to the end and receive final salvation, but Calvinists combine this with the concept of perpetual justification – that after one is initially justified, this justification persists and is not lost through subsequent sin, a doctrine that among Baptists and Plymouth Brethren is often affirmed without Perseverance – and Lutherans do not, teaching that someone who commits Mortal Sin after initial justification loses it until he repents and is forgiven.


So where do our Articles stand on all of this?


Well, unsurprisingly the only points directly addressed are the first two, on which Lutherans and Calvinists mostly agree.   Articles IX and X, “Of Original or Birth Sin” and “Of Free-Will” respectively, affirm the Augustinian view of these things against the Pelagian.   Article XVII is entitled “Of Predestination and Election”.   Here it is in its entirety:


Predestination to Life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour. Wherefore, they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God be called according to God’s purpose by his Spirit working in due season: they through Grace obey the calling: they be justified freely: they be made sons of God by adoption: they be made like the image of his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ: they walk religiously in good works, and at length, by God’s mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity.

As the godly consideration of Predestination, and our Election in Christ, is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons, and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh, and their earthly members, and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal Salvation to be enjoyed through Christ, as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God: So, for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God’s Predestination, is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the Devil doth thrust them either into desperation, or into wretchlessness of most unclean living, no less perilous than desperation.

Furthermore, we must receive God’ s promises in such wise, as they be generally set forth to us in holy Scripture: and, in our doings, that Will of God is to be followed, which we have expressly declared unto us in the Word of God.


Note there is no affirmation of Reprobation in this Article.   Lutherans as well as Calvinists can confess it.   Indeed, the second paragraph can almost be taken as an affirmation of the Lutheran understanding of the doctrine against the Calvinist.   Compare what it says about the doctrine being a comfort for the godly and not something to be excessively and indiscriminately preached because it can have a deleterious effect on the ungodly with Article XI of the Formula of Concord.   Paragraph 89 of the Solid Declaration of that Article reads:


Moreover, this doctrine gives no one a cause either for despondency or for a shameless, dissolute life, namely, when men are taught that they must seek eternal election in Christ and His holy Gospel, as in the Book of Life, which excludes no penitent sinner, but beckons and calls all the poor, heavy-laden, and troubled sinners [who are disturbed by the sense of God’s wrath], to repentance and the knowledge of their sins and to faith in Christ, and promises the Holy Ghost for purification and renewal, 90 and thus gives the most enduring consolation to all troubled, afflicted men, that they know that their salvation is not placed in their own hands,-for otherwise they would lose it much more easily than was the case with Adam and Eve in paradise, yea, every hour and moment,-but in the gracious election of God, which He has revealed to us in Christ, out of whose hand no man shall pluck us, John 10:28; 2 Tim. 2:19.


Limited Atonement (or Particular Redemption), the idea that Jesus died only for the elect is not affirmed in the Thirty-Nine Articles, and indeed, Limited Atonement contradicts both Articles II and XXXI.   Article II, which is about the “Word or Son of God, which was made very Man” ends with the affirmation that He “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” and Article XXXI, “Of the one Oblation of Christ finished upon the Cross” reads:


The Offering of Christ once made is that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction, for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin, but that alone. Wherefore the sacrifices of Masses, in the which it was commonly said, that the Priest did offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, were blasphemous fables, and dangerous deceits.


There is no affirmation of Irresistible Grace (or Effectual Calling for Calvinists who are allergic to TULIPs) in the Articles and it is not consistent with the language used of the Sacraments in Article XXV:


Sacraments ordained of Christ be not only badges or tokens of Christian men’s profession, but rather they be certain sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace, and God’s good will towards us, by the which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm our Faith in him.


Remember, Grace that is conveyed through intermediate means is Grace that can be resisted.    Now, for the final petal in the TULIP, let us turn to Article XVI “Of Sin After Baptism”.  This Article reads:


Not every deadly sin willingly committed after Baptism is sin against the Holy Ghost, and unpardonable. Wherefore the grant of repentance is not to be denied to such as fall into sin after Baptism. 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, they can no more sin as long as they live here, or deny the place of forgiveness to such as truly repent.


The language here strongly suggests the Lutheran position without explicitly affirming it against the Calvinist.   Note the words “deadly sin willingly committed after Baptism”.   This is the concept of Mortal Sin as it is understood in Lutheran theology.   Calvinist theology does not allow for a concept of Mortal Sin which is probably why the expression is avoided.   The possibility of departing from grace is affirmed, although in such a way that it is only the heresy of those who say that once you become a Christian you cannot sin again that can be definitely said  to be denied here rather than the Calvinist doctrine of perpetual justification.   What is most strongly affirmed, that repentance and forgiveness are available to those who sin after Baptism, is believed by all orthodox Christians, and what is condemned, earthly sinless perfectionism and the unavailability of forgiveness, are ideas asserted only by the looniest of wing-nuts.   Overall, the Article reads as a statement of the Lutheran view, worded carefully so as not to offend Calvinists.


From what we have just seen, those who would say that the Articles of Religion are Reformed in the sense of Calvinist as opposed to Lutheran, are clearly in the wrong when it comes to soteriology.   The Articles lean Lutheran, but in such a way as to not exclude Calvinists.  On the Lord’s Supper, they lean Calvinist, but in such a way as to not exclude Lutherans.   On Church government they are clearly not Calvinist – they affirm the Episcopal government shared by every Church everywhere before the sixteenth century, retained by the Anglican Church and by some Lutherans.   On the very matter of deciding what from the pre-Reformation tradition can be retained and what must be jettisoned they affirm in Article XX the normative principle which they share with the Lutheran Augsburg Confession rather than the regulative principle of the Calvinists and Anabaptists.


Those Low Churchmen who think the only true Anglicans are Five Point Calvinists clearly haven’t got a clue what they are talking about.





Friday, August 11, 2023

Be a Protestant BUT NOT A NUT!


I have borrowed the title of this essay, mutatis mutandis, from that of the fourth chapter in Dr. John R. Rice’s book I Am a Fundamentalist (1975).   Dr. Rice wrote that book in the midst of the “second-degree separation” controversy that was dividing fundamentalist against fundamentalist in the 1970s.   It was his answer to those fundamentalists who were on the side of “second-degree separation”.   The chapter in question addresses the issue of riding hobby-horses.   To give an example, he wrote "Some people are strong against apostasy and modernism, but they think a man a modernist if he gives a Christmas present or sends a Christmas greeting card, or observes Easter Sunday and preaches on the resurrection”.   I know just such a nut, although he probably considers himself a charismatic rather than a fundamentalist.   Another example was “There are others who think one is a modernist if he doesn’t drink carrot juice, eat whole wheat bread and wheat germ, if he doesn’t abstain from pork and coffee”.   Personally, I’d be more inclined to think someone a modernist if he did those things, rather than didn’t do them.   At any rate, I describe my position as orthodox rather than fundamentalist.   Doctrinally, the ancient Creeds are the litmus test of orthodoxy, rather than a list of five fundamentals drawn up in the last century.   Since all the fundamentals of fundamentalism are included in the Creeds, orthodoxy can be said to be more than fundamentalism, not less.   With regards to practice, the biggest distinction between orthodoxy and fundamentalism is that orthodoxy rejects the idea of withdrawing from the Church because of error, doctrinal or moral, which idea is historically associated with the heresies of Novatianism and Donatism.   In orthodoxy, separation from heresy and apostasy takes the form of excommunicating the heretics and apostates and the right way of dealing with institutional error is that of a reconquista rather than an exodus.  That having been said, I think the distinction Dr. Rice made between his brand of fundamentalism – I would say that if all fundamentalist Baptists were like him it would be a much better movement except that the biggest problem with Baptist fundamentalism is that most fundamental Baptist preachers are would-be John R. Rices who are pale imitations at best -  almost caricatures – and the kooks, can be applied to Protestants and Hyper-Protestants.


On the one hand there is Protestantism.  On the other hand there is Hyper-Protestantism.   Protestantism is good.  Hyper-Protestantism is bad.   The word “Catholic” is a useful shibboleth for distinguishing between a Protestant and a Hyper-Protestant.   “Catholic” is a bad word to the Hyper-Protestant who uses it to mean everything he thinks Protestantism opposes.   The English and Lutheran Reformers never used “Catholic” in this way.   They referred to the errors against which they “protested” as “Romish” or “popish” to indicate that these were recent errors and errors which belonged to a particular Church, the Church governed by the Patriarch of Rome, rather than the Catholic Church, the whole of the Christian Church including all Churches governed by Apostolic bishops.   Indeed, the Patriarch of Rome’s claim to have the supreme governorship over the entire Church, a claim rejected by the Churches under the other Patriarchs since Patristic days, is one of the errors of Rome against which the Reformers protested.   Calling the Roman Church the Catholic Church is tantamount to accepting that error.   Some Protestants today have fallen into the habit of using Catholic for the Roman Church and its members, not out of Hyper-Protestantism but out of the idea that it is respectful to call people what they call themselves.   This is the same flawed reasoning that some use to justify using a person’s stated preference in pronouns rather than those which correspond to that person’s biological sex.   In both cases truth is what one ends up sacrificing in the name of being polite.   Protestants who use Catholic to mean “Roman Catholic” for this reason can usually be distinguished from Hyper-Protestants in that they do not speak the word as if it were a swear word in the way Hyper-Protestants do.


Catholic, an intensified compound version of the Greek word for “whole” has been used since at least the beginning of the second century when St. Ignatius of Antioch used it in his Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, to mean the Church in its entirety, the Church everywhere as opposed to the Church in just one location, the Church in Rome, for example, or the Church in Smyrna.   The Catholic faith is the faith confessed by all orthodox Christians, in all orthodox Churches, everywhere, the faith confessed in the Creed.   The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed has the best right to be called the Catholic Creed in that it was accepted by all the ancient Churches before there was any break in fellowship between them and is still accepted by them today, the dispute over the wording that divided East from West notwithstanding.   This Creed was developed by the first two Ecumenical Councils – Councils to which the government of the entire Church, everywhere was invited to participate – in the fourth century, taking an earlier, local form of the Creed, as its template.   The shorter but similarly worded Apostles’ Creed, developed out of the form of the Creed used by the Church in Rome in baptisms at least as early as the second century.   The similarity between the two suggests that the forms out of which both were developed were themselves versions of an earlier template that most likely goes back to the Apostles.  Hints of such a form that pre-dated the writing of the New Testament are dropped from time to time by St. Paul in his epistles and this would explain the antiquity of the origin story from which the Apostles’ Creed derives its name, the origin story being basically true, but referring to the earliest form of the Creed, from which multiple local versions were derived, two of which eventually became the Apostles’ and Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creeds.   In the fifth century, after the third Ecumenical Council but before the fourth, in the period when the fellowship of the ancient Churches was first broken, St. Vincent, a monk in Lerins Abbey on one of the islands of the same name off the coast of the French Riviera, wrote his Commonitorium under the pseudonym “Peregrinus” in which he explored the question of how to distinguish true Catholic doctrine from heresy, famously stating that in the Catholic Church care must be taken to “hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, and by all”.   He is often said to have proposed three tests of Catholicity, but in actuality he proposed four.   The first test is that the doctrine must be derived from the Holy Scriptures.   This first Catholic principle of St. Vincent is identical to the first principle of Protestantism.   The other three tests pertain to the interpretation of Scripture and they are universality (an interpretation is not Catholic if it is only found in one region of the Church), antiquity (an interpretation is not Catholic if it does not go back to the earliest centuries of the Church but is instead of late origin and contained within a particular timespan rather than being taught in all times of the Church) and consent (formal acknowledgement by the authorities of the Church, preferably at the Ecumenical level).


None of the doctrines that the early Reformers, English and Lutheran, protested against in the teachings of the Church of Rome are affirmed as articles of faith in the Creed, Apostles’ or Nicene-Constantinopolitan.   With one possible exception, none of the practices of the Roman Church that these Reformers objected to can withstand the Vincentian tests.  


We shall return to that possible exception momentarily.   First I wish to observe that Hyper-Protestantism gets the word Protestant as wrong as it gets the word Catholic.   Most Hyper-Protestants use the word Protestant as if the word were synonymous with “Calvinist”.   This is true even of many Hyper-Protestants who would object to being called Calvinists themselves on the grounds that they are Arminians.    Arminianism is to Calvinism what heresy is to orthodox Christianity in general, a defective form.     Of course, what I am calling Calvinism here is not actually Calvinism in the sense of “the teachings of John Calvin”.   John Calvin himself was closer to Lutheranism than to what has been called Calvinism since the seventeenth century.   Dr. Luther would not appreciate hearing that not only because he regarded Calvin’s view of the Eucharist as rank heresy but also because he objected to a movement being named after him in the first place.     Calvin, however, as is clear from his writings, was Lutheran in his views of the extent of the Atonement and assurance of salvation, rather than Calvinist.  John Calvin was to Lutheranism, what Jacob Arminius and his followers were to Calvinism, which ought to be called either Bezism or Dortism, after its true fathers, Theodore Beza and the Reformed Synod of Dort.   Protestant, however, is the general term for all the Christians who threw off the usurped supremacy of the Patriarch of Rome in the sixteenth century.   In the best sense of the word, it is defined only by the doctrines that set the earliest and most conservative of the Reformers apart from Rome rather than by doctrines distinctive of any of the more specific traditions that emerged from the Reformation.   If we have to define Protestantism by the doctrines of a specific tradition, Lutheranism has a better claim to being that tradition than Calvinism, being the original Protestant tradition of which John Calvin’s Calvinism was a deviation, from which deviation Theodore Beza and the Synod of Dort further deviated with their “Calvinism”, of which Arminianism is a yet further deviation.


The doctrines of the general Reformation, that is to say what the Reformers positively affirmed rather than merely what they denied in Rome’s teachings, are today commonly summed up in the five solae – sola Scriptura, sola gratia, sola fide, solus Christus, soli Deo Gloria. This is not the best formulation, in my opinion.   It does not date to the Reformation itself, but only to the last century.   It is a Calvinist formulation.   One of the most important teachings of the Reformers is missing from it.   Sola Scriptura can be easily misinterpreted to mean something that Dr. Luther and the English Reformers would have found abhorrent, i.e., the idea that the Bible can and should be privately interpreted in isolation from tradition and the Church.   The other solas can be summed up in a single doctrine – the freeness of salvation as the gift of God.   If I were to come up with a formula summarizing the doctrines of the general Reformation it would be:


-          The supremacy of Scripture as the written Word of God

-          The freeness of salvation as the gift of God

-          The Gospel is the assurance of salvation to all who believe it


The last of these was absolutely essential to the Reformation.   It was the search for such that led Dr. Luther to the Pauline epistles on justification and to oppose the carrot-on-a-stick approach coupled with the outright sale of salvation to which Rome had stooped at that point in time.   John Calvin was as one with Dr. Luther on this.   Those who would later call themselves “Calvinists” were and are not in accord with either Luther or Calvin but actually offend against this truth worse than Rome.   In their theology the Gospel cannot assure anyone of salvation because Jesus came only to save a handful of pre-selected individuals.   Nobody can really know that he is among the chosen few.   He must constantly look for evidence of his regeneration in his own works, but can draw no lasting comfort, because if he falls away it will demonstrate he was not really regenerate, which remains a possibility until the very end of his life.   Consider what such “Calvinists” as John Piper and John F. MacArthur Jr. have to say about assurance of salvation today.   Both take the position that the Gospel cannot fully assure those who believe it of their own salvation because they must prove their faith to be real to themselves by finding evidence of it in their works, a position explicitly condemned by both Dr. Luther and John Calvin, and solidly rejected in the Lutheran tradition to this day.   MacArthur, who has been unsound on all sorts of other matters, including at one point a key element of Nicene Christology, wrote not one, not two, but three books arguing this point, proving only that he wouldn’t be able to tell the Law from the Gospel if the difference between the two were to take anthropomorphic form and walk up and smack him upside the head.   Piper is more subtle, like the serpent in the Garden.   He merely slips nuggets of the faith-based-on-works error such as “assurance is partially based on objective evidences for Christian truth” into presentations that contain a lot of sounder statements.   The Reformation truth is that while faith is accompanied by the repentance that the Law works in us by convicting us of our sin and by the works that spring from the Christian love worked in us by the love of God received through faith, these accompanying things are not part of the basis of faith which rests on nothing but the Gospel, the objective message that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has saved all who believe in Him by dying for their sins on the Cross and rising from the dead, which message is proclaimed both in Word and Sacrament, and that the faith that rests on that objective Truth is itself the subjective experience of assurance of salvation.   The subjective experience, faith which is assurance (Heb. 11:1), must rest entirely on the solid rock of what is objective, the Gospel, for if it rests partly on that solid rock, and partly on grounds that are themselves subjective, our experiences and works, it will be most unstable indeed.   The Hyper-Protestant Puritanism, that in addition to being regicidal, tyrannical, and opposed to all joy, defected from Calvin’s teachings in precisely this way, and one of its fruit, alongside the evils of the Modern Age – liberalism, Communism, and Americanism – was a psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually crippling dearth of assurance and plague of despair.


Nothing in these basic truths of the Reformation conflicts with anything in the Creed.    Nor do they conflict with the teachings, practices, and forms of worship common to all the ancient Churches, i.e., the Catholic tradition.   They place Protestantism in opposition to such late Medieval Roman doctrines as human merit, supererogatory works (the idea that someone other than Jesus can do works over and above what is required of him and so contribute to someone else’s salvation), and the whole general impression Rome was giving that salvation was a reward for dotting all your is and crossing all your ts, but not with the Catholic faith held throughout the Church everywhere, in all ages, since the Apostles.   Basic Protestantism, therefore, is in conflict with Romanism not Catholicism, and since the Catholic faith of the Creed is the basic Christian faith, to be a good Protestant, one must first be a Catholic.   The essential distinction between Hyper-Protestantism and Protestantism is that Hyper-Protestantism opposes what is Catholic and not merely Roman.


I do not mean that Hyper-Protestantism rejects the Creed, necessarily, although Hyper-Protestants generally do not hold to the necessity of organizational and organic continuity with the Apostolic Church in Jerusalem, making it rather difficult for them to confess the ninth Article about the “Holy Catholick Church”, at least with a sense that would have been recognized by any Christian anywhere prior to the Reformation.   What I mean is that Hyper-Protestants reject the Catholic tradition wholesale except for elements that they cannot deny are Scriptural.   If there is a traditional practice of the Roman Church that the Hyper-Protestant cannot find a Scriptural text that says you must do it this way, the Hyper-Protestant will say that you must not do it that way, even if there is no Scriptural text forbidding it, and every other ancient Church does it that way, not just the Roman.   This is called the regulative principle.   Although it appears in most of the important Calvinist confessions, it was actually far more typical of Zwingli’s approach than of Calvin’s.   Indeed, while Zwingli had already been practicing it in Zurich for about half a decade before the rise of Anabaptism, the movement of Continental Hyper-Protestant schismatics who took their cue from Zwingli rather than Luther and Calvin but whose radicalism brought about a break with all of the Magisterial Reformers including Zwingli himself, it was the Anabaptists who first articulated it as a stated principle.  It was Conrad Grebel, the founder of the Swiss Brethren, an Anabaptist sect who raised it in arguing for the Anabaptist position on baptism, the argument going that because there is no specific command to baptize infants in the New Testament it must therefore be prohibited.   Grebel pointed to Tertullian, the second to third century apologist, as having taught the regulative principle.  Since it only appeared in Tertullian’s writings after he joined the ultra-rigid Montanists towards the end of his life, this was not exactly a good argument for the principle.   Especially since it is impossible to reconcile that principle with the doctrine of Christian liberty taught by St. Paul in his epistles.


The opposite of the regulative principle it the normative principle.   In its simplest, this is the idea that if the Scripture does not forbid you to do something, you are permitted to do it.   There is obviously no conflict between this principle and the Pauline doctrine of Christian liberty.   It can, however, depending upon how it is interpreted in its implications, conflict with the Pauline doctrine of orderly worship and conduct in the Church.   One version of the normative principle, primarily associated with evangelical and especially charismatic worship in the twentieth century, is the idea of eliminating all or almost all formal structure and allowing everyone from the preacher to those providing the music to the congregants in the pew to each do his own thing as he thinks the Holy Ghost is leading.   This sounds like a recipe of chaos and in some instances this is exactly what it produces.   More often, however, the result in practice is that the worship service ends up resembling a performance at a theatre, an evening in a night club, or some other secular activity that in no way resembles a Church service.


By contrast there is the version of the normative principle employed by Dr. Luther and the English Reformers.   In this version, the normative principle was applied to the pre-Reformation tradition of the Church and whatever in that tradition was not found to be prohibited by Scripture or to otherwise contradict Scripture was maintained.   This is what is most consistent with both the Pauline doctrine of Christian liberty and the Pauline doctrine of orderly worship and conduct.   In the Anglican Church’s Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion (1571) it is spelled out in Article XX “Of the Authority of the Church” which reads:


The Church hath power to decree Rites or Ceremonies, and authority in Controversies of Faith: And yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God’s Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore, although the Church be a witness and a keeper of holy Writ, yet, as it ought not to decree any thing against the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce any thing to be believed for necessity of Salvation.


In the Lutheran Book of Concord it is found in Lutheranism’s Augsburg Confession (1530) in Article XV “Of Ecclesiastical Usages” in the first section of the Article:


Of Usages in the Church they teach that those ought to be observed which may be observed without sin, and which are profitable unto tranquillity and good order in the Church, as particular holy days, festivals, and the like.


Put into practice, the result was that those things which the Anglican Church and the Lutherans rejected were Roman, that is to say, distinctive of the Roman Church after the Great Schism and often quite later than that, whereas those things which were retained were Catholic, that is, common to all the ancient Church – the Church of Rome, the other four ancient Patriarchates in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and even the Assyrian and Oriental Orthodox Churches the fellowship of which with the larger Church was broken beginning in the fifth century AD.   In the Lutheran and Anglican traditions, Protestantism is a Reformed Catholicism, not the wholesale rejection of Catholicism except for everything that cannot be jettisoned on account of its being undeniably Scriptural that is Hyper-Protestantism.


In the Anglican Church there are those who bristle at the thought of our Church being Catholic, despite Catholic being used in only a positive sense in all of the Anglican formularies, including the Book of Common Prayer.   I do not say that these are Hyper-Protestants, although they have several of the traits of Hyper-Protestantism.   They often try to claim that the Articles of Religion can only be read rightly in accordance with as Calvinist interpretation as possible, despite the fact that when the Articles touch on issues where there is a difference of opinion between the continental Protestant traditions, such as Predestination and Election in Article XVII, they are written in such a way that either Lutherans or Calvinists could affirm them (there is no mention of Reprobation, which Calvinists accept and Lutherans reject, in the Article).   The Articles of Religion, like the Anglican Formularies in general, were irenicons, drafted so as to minimize conflict among members of the Church of England, whether it be conflict between those who see the Church as Catholic first and Protestant second and those who see it the other way around, or between those whose Protestantism was more Lutheran and those whose Protestantism was more Calvinist.  The Anglicans who want the Anglican Church to be only Protestant often make arguments that seemingly presuppose the regulative principle, despite the Articles’ affirmation of the normative.   This past weekend I engaged in an online discussion with them on a matter that might seem to be an exception to the rule that the English Reformers rejected only what was Roman and kept all that is Catholic.


That matter occurs in Article XXII of the Articles of Religion.  I am not referring to the main subject of that Article which is Purgatory.   Purgatory is a Roman doctrine, not a Catholic doctrine.   While some of the ideas associated with it go back much further, Purgatory itself dates to the end of the twelfth century, the century after the Great Schism, and is not an official doctrine of the Eastern Orthodox Church.   Indeed, the Eastern Orthodox opposed the doctrine following the attempt at reunification in the Second Council of Lyon (1272-1274).  There have been and are different schools within Eastern Orthodoxy that have held different views on the matter.   The ones who came closest to Rome were the seventeenth century prelates such as Peter of Moghilia and Dositheus of Jerusalem who reacted against the “Calvinist” Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Cyril Lucaris, and in doing so produced Confessions that affirmed Purgatory in all but name.  The rejection of the name is more significant than the affirmation of the doctrine as these men were representative only of their own time in this.  Most Eastern Orthodox schools of thought reject the doctrine as well as the name, and interestingly enough there has been a heated on-and-off controversy in the Eastern Church over “Aerial Toll Houses”, a different concept of an intermediate state from that of Purgatory, the most recent flare up in the controversy being in the last century.   The Armenian Apostolic and Coptic Orthodox Churches both reject Purgatory and I suspect this is true of the other Non-Chalcedonian Churches.   Thus, Purgatory does not pass the Vincentian tests of Catholicity and is a distinctly Roman error.   The matter in question is found among those tucked in with Purgatory in this Article.   Here is Article XXII in full:


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.


Note in passing the use of the word “Romish” rather than “Catholic”.  


The discussion began with someone sharing the quotation “If you think you need a mediator with Jesus; you don’t know Jesus”.   Now, there is nothing wrong with these words taken in their plain, ordinary, sense.   There is One God, St. Paul declares, and One Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5).    You do not need a mediator between yourself and the Mediator.   The man being quoted, however, was James R. White, a Reformed Baptist minister and the director of Alpha and Omega Ministries.   This is a man who never misses an opportunity to throw the Catholic baby out with the Roman bathwater.   A few years ago I thoroughly rebutted his attempt to have it both ways on Nestorianism and “the Mother of God”,  something not uncommon among Calvinists, as well as his embrace of “scientific” textual criticism as applied to the New Testament, the gateway drug to “higher criticism” an error he could easily have avoided had he applied the Vincentian Catholic principle to textual criticism and adopted the position that the true text of the New Testament is the text received by the Church everywhere, always, and by all, with the recognition that in areas of the Church where another language predominates that text may find representation in a “Vulgate” of the dominant language, such as the Latin Vulgate in the Roman Church, and the Authorized Bible in the English Church.   I observed the possibility that by “mediator” White might actually have meant “intermediary”.    Hyper-Protestants reject the Apostolic priesthood of the Church, despite its being there in the New Testament, because they reject the idea of intermediaries between Jesus and the individual believer, condemning themselves in the process because they accept the necessity of preaching, and preachers are intermediaries between Jesus and the individual believer in precisely the same way that Apostolic priests are, not gatekeepers who decide who gets to see Jesus, but stewards appointed to bring Jesus to each individual through their dual ministry of Word and Sacrament.


As it turned out, however, the discussion went down a different road than that.   What the person who posted the quote from James White and those who agreed with him were interested in condemning was the practice of asking the saints to pray for them. 


Now this is not something that I do myself.   I have never had any interest in doing this, much less a compelling urge to do so. It is, however, something that is done in all the ancient Churches – Roman, Eastern Orthodox, Non-Chalcedonian, and Assyrian – and so cannot be said to be a distinctly Roman practice.   The only case that can be made against it being Catholic is that it can only be traced back for certain to the third century.   In St. Clement of Rome’s First Epistle to the Corinthians, written before the end of the first century, around the time St. John was writing the Book of Revelation, this early Roman bishop and companion of St. Paul talks in what is usually numbered as the fifty sixth chapter about remembering those who, having fallen into sin, had submitted in meekness and humility to the will of God, to God and the saints.   The wording is ambiguous and the saints mentioned here could be the living members of the Church, but especially since everywhere else in the epistle St. Clement refers to these as brethren, this could also be the earliest reference to the practice in question, in which case it most decidedly is Catholic, this earliest of the writings of the Apostolic Fathers having been regularly read in the Churches along with the Sacred texts in the early centuries and considered, although ultimately rejected, for canonical status.   Even if St. Clement is not a first century witness to the practice, the third century predates both the first Ecumenical Council and the rise of Emperor Constantine who is usually regarded as the founder of “Catholicism” by the restorationist type of Hyper-Protestant, the historical illiterate who thinks that the Church apostatized the moment Christianity was legalized (a view these type of Hyper-Protestants share with all the heretical sects they call cults) .    It is recommended by both St. John Chrysostom and St. Augustine in the fourth century, neither of whom was known as an innovator and both of whom would have staunchly rejected it had it been inconsistent with orthodox Christianity as it had come down to them.  Indeed, the idea of the Intercession of the Saints – that the faithful who have gone on to the next life are praying for us in Heaven – that is associated with the practice, and often but not always denied by those who reject it, can be traced back with certainty much earlier than the practice, being frequently mentioned in the Apostolic Fathers.   For that matter, it appears in the Bible itself in Revelation 5:8 where the twenty-four elders are depicted as holding golden vials, filled with odours that are the “prayers of the saints” (if the “saints” here are taken to be the saints on Earth, the image is even stronger, for it suggests that it is the saints in Heaven who bring before the Throne the prayers of the saints on Earth), which raises a few questions about the Scriptural literacy of those who loudly trumpet their belief in “Sola Scriptura” while denying that the faithful departed pray for us.   An even more important doctrine is at stake in this dispute, however, the doctrine of “The Communion of the Saints” that is indisputably Catholic, confessed in the Apostles’ version of the Creed, and held even by those ancient Churches that use only the Nicene and not the Apostles’ Creed.   It was for the sake of this Truth, not the practice itself per se, that when I realized what was being argued, I joined in the argument on the side of the defenders of the practice.

A word here about, well, words, is in order.   Those on the other side of the debate consistently spoke of the practice of asking the faithful departed for their prayers as “praying to the saints”.   I consistently referred to it as asking for their prayers.   I would not have been comfortable making the arguments I made, even in defence of the Truth confessed in the Creed, using the same language as the other side.   The English word “pray”, comes to us through French, from a Latin word meaning “ask, beg, request, entreat” and in earlier centuries was used in a more general sense.   “I pray thee”, contracted to “prithee” used to be a common synonym for “please” and was used with requests made of other people.   For most people, however, “pray” has long ceased to be a synonym for “ask” in general, and is now limited to requests made as acts of worship.   This being the case, I would say that the word should be reserved for requests made directly to God, and not used of the act of requesting that others pray for  you.    There are two entirely different arguments here depending upon whether we follow that rule or not.   One is an argument about whether we should make the same kind of requests of the faithful departed that we make of God, in which case the right is on the side of those who say no, we should not.   The other is an argument about whether we should make the same kind of requests of the faithful departed that we make of other living Christians.   It is in regards to this second argument that I would say that since the practice is Catholic and not just Roman and based on “the Communion of the Saints” confessed in the Creed a strong burden of proof must be placed on those who say it isn’t allowed to prove their case from the Scriptures, which I do not think they can do.   I will note that the language of “praying to the saints” is sometimes used by defenders of the practice among those Churches who practice it, undermining their own position in my opinion.   It has been my observation, however, that this language is far more likely to be used by less-informed lay people in these Churches than in official ecclesiastical statements.   On a related note, the frequent heard accusation by Hyper-Protestants against the Roman Church, and sometimes the other ancient Churches, that they pray more to Mary and the saints than to God, has no validity with regards to prayers used in public worship, although it may sometimes be warranted in the case of private practice, just as private Protestants may distort things in private in a way unsanctioned by their Church or sect.    In Eastern Orthodoxy, one of the most popular prayers, if not the most popular, is a prayer addressed to Jesus – it is actually called “The Jesus Prayer” - and virtually indistinguishable from the one that in evangelical circles is often substituted for “believe” in presentations of the Gospel and treated as if it were a magical incantation the reciting of which mechanically transforms one into a Christian.  The act of asking the Saints or Mary to grant something in their own power is not sanctioned by any Church and is, of course, idolatry.   This is not to say that it is not superstitiously done by the ignorant, but the only requests directed towards anyone other than God in the liturgies of any of the ancient Churches are requests for prayer.


When I raised the point of the difference between praying to someone and asking them to pray for you in the debate someone pointed out that Article XXII speaks of “invocation of Saints” and argued that “invocation” is a broader term and includes all forms of address not just prayer.   My response was to point out that in that case technically the Article forbids asking living Christians to pray for us as well.   For, as the type of Hyper-Protestant who does not understand how language works and that a word can have a narrower as well as a wider meaning and so condemns the use of “Saint” as a title likes to point out, all Christians are Saints in the most basic sense of the word.


So what about Article XXII?   Do the  Articles of Religion depart from the normative principle affirmed in Article XXII by condemning a practice “invocation of Saints” that is truly Catholic rather than merely Roman?


As the saying goes “it’s complicated”.   The Articles affirm the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds as well as the Athanasian (more an annotated version of the Apostles’ than a distinct Creed in its own right) in Article VIII saying these are “proved by most certain warrants of Holy Scripture”.   Thus, they cannot mean in Article XXII that the doctrine of the “Communion of the Saints” confessed in the Apostles’ Creed is “grounded upon no warranty of Scripture” when they seemingly impugn the practice based on this doctrine.     This raises the question of whether the practice and the doctrine can be so separated that one can affirm one without the other.   If they cannot, then either the Articles contradict themselves, a possibility as they, not being Holy Scripture, are not infallible, something those Anglicans which insist so strongly on their Protestantism might try to remember, or, as the wording of the Article allows, the “fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God” is not “invocation of Saints” per se but the “Romish doctrine” concerning it.   John Henry Newman tried to make this last argument with regards to the main subject of the Article, Purgatory, in the last of the Tracts for the Times before he crossed the Tiber.   His argument was not particularly convincing, although it could possibly be made more strongly for “invocation of Saints” than for Purgatory based on invocation being Catholic and Purgatory distinctly Roman, potentially allowing for “the Romish doctrine” about “invocation of Saints” being asking them to intercede for those in Purgatory.   I’m not going to press that interpretation as it seems highly unlikely that this is what was meant in the days of the Elizabethan Settlement by those who came up with the final draft of the Articles.   Historically it was not until the Tractarians that High Churchmen thought to understand the Article in any way other than as completely forbidding the practice as demonstrated by it being a point of contention between the Non-Jurors and the Eastern Orthodox in the unsuccessful attempt to bring the two into communion in the early eighteenth century, about a century before the Oxford Movement.   Neither, however, am I going to say that the Articles do contradict themselves.   Rather, I am going to take the position that Article XXII as an exercise of that “power to decree Rites or Ceremonies” affirmed of the Church in the same Article that affirms the Normative Principle and as thus binding upon the province of the Holy Catholic Church that is the Anglican Church in terms of practice and not an authoritative statement dictating what we are to think about the practice, a position quite in keeping with the spirit of the court of Elizabeth I, who understood well that her God-given authority to regulate the Church for the sake of the peace of her realm was limited to the public exercise of religion and did not extend to the private consciences of men, something monarchs reigning by divine right understand a lot better than politicians elected by the mob.   In keeping with this position on Article XXII which is in accordance with my own non-participation in this practice as a member of the Anglican Church, I shall now discuss the matter of whether or not the practice violates Scriptural prohibitions and/or principles.   My position is that it does not.  



Now, in the debate last weekend, those on the other side were arguing for something and not just against something.   What they were arguing for was that Jesus Christ is the only Mediator, that His One Sacrifice is sufficient and that nothing anyone else does can add anything to it, that He is accessible through prayer to all believers and that we don’t need to go through anyone else to get to Him, and that we should not direct towards creatures that which belongs to God alone.   With none of this, did I, or anyone else on my side of the debate, disagree, and indeed, I, and I would assume everyone on both sides, would affirm all of this.   Those on my side were also arguing for something, and not just the practice of asking the faithful in Heaven to pray for you, but a truth we confess every time we confess the Apostles’ Creed.


Before I even entered this conversation, others on the side that I took had already asked the other side whether or not they ever asked members of their parishes to pray for them.   The point of the question, of course, was that if asking the faithful departed to pray for you somehow takes away from Christ’s sole Mediatorship, implies a deficiency in His Sacrifice, or suggest the idea that we need to go through someone else to get to Jesus, then this is also true of asking living believers to pray for us.   This point is entirely valid, and I further observed that it cuts both ways.   If in asking another Christian for prayer we do so in a way that transgresses by inappropriately offering to our fellow Christian the prayer that we should be addressing to God alone we have transgressed regardless of whether that fellow Christian is alive or dead.   If, on the other hand, we ask other Christians for their prayers in accordance with the Scriptures, then it is Scriptural regardless of whether the other Christians are part of the Church Militant – the Church on earth – or the Church Triumphant – the Church in Heaven.


The other side always answered the question with yes.     They justified the inconsistency in their position by saying that the New Testament tells us as Christians to ask our living brethren for their prayers.   This, while not wrong exactly, is a bit misleading.   In the New Testament you find St. Paul requesting the prayers of the Roman Christians (Rom. 15:30), the Colossians (Col. 4:3), and the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 5:25, 2 Thess. 3:1).   You find him telling several different groups of Christians that they are always in his prayers (Rom. 1:8-9, Col. 1:9-10, Phil. 1:3-4).   There is St. James’ instructions to pray for one another (Jas. 5:16).   There are also general instructions to pray for all Christians (Eph. 6:18) or even more generally, all people of all sorts (1 Tim. 2:1) as well as instructions to bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2) and to encourage and build one another up (1 Thess. 5:11).    Those opposed to asking the faithful departed for their prayers say that nowhere in all of these passages is there an example of someone asking the departed for their prayers or an instruction to ask the departed specifically for their prayers.   With regards to the second point, however, nowhere are we told not to ask the departed faithful for their prayers.   With regards to the first, while obviously those to whom St. Paul wrote requesting prayer were living at the time, he did not tell them to stop praying for him when their earthly sojourn was over and they departed to be with Christ.   No, I am being neither facetious nor flippant.  Those who are opposed to asking the faithful departed for their prayers are generally also opposed to praying for the faithful departed.   Praying for the faithful departed is another practice that is Catholic – shared by all the ancient Churches, not just Rome.  St. James’ instructions to pray for one another can be reasonably taken to exclude the departed as those for whom the prayer is to be offered because he is not talking about prayers in general but specifically about prayer for healing.   However, prayers for the faithful departed are clearly not prohibited in the New Testament because St. Paul offers up just such a prayer for Onesiphorus in 2 Tim. 1:18.   For that matter, every prayer in the New Testament that resulted in a resurrection was obviously a prayer for the departed.   If this aspect of Catholic practice, prayers for the faithful departed, can be proven by the New Testament, and in case you failed to notice I just proved it from the New Testament, then the other side of the same coin, asking the faithful departed for their prayers can hardly be excluded simply because there is neither example nor instructions for it specifically can be found.   I emphasize the word specifically because the burden on those opposed to asking the departed for their prayers is actually heavier than that which the normative principle implies.   Their burden is to prove that the faithful departed, the Church Militant, are excluded from the general instructions to bear one another’s burdens, encourage, and build one another up, in all of which praying for one another in a more general sense than in James is included.


This is a burden of proof they cannot meet.  Indeed, their assumption that the faithful departed are automatically excluded from the New Testament’s instructions to Christians to pray for one another and bear their burdens, is an assumption that contradicts the entire New Testament on the subject of the union between believers with Christ and through Christ each other in the Church, a union that cannot be broken by death.   The faithful departed, including the Old Testament saints, are depicted by St. Paul in Hebrews 12  as “so great a cloud of witnesses” on account of which we should “lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us” so that we may “run with patience the race that is set before us”.   Later in the same chapter when the Apostle uses Mt. Sinai and Mt. Zion as symbols of the Law and Gospel covenants respectively, he tells his Hebrew Christian readers “ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect” (vv. 22-23) which would be an incredibly strange way of wording it if he thought death to be an impassible barrier between the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant.   Not only are the faithful departed depicted as a “cloud of witnesses” encompassing us, but believers in their earthly sojourn are depicted as having already joined them in Heaven, “And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6)


The New Testament teaches that on the first Whitsunday (the Christian Pentecost), the Holy Ghost came down from Heaven and united the disciples with Jesus Christ, Who had died, descended as Conqueror into Hell (the Kingdom of death), rose again from the dead, and ascended to Heaven where He sat down at the right hand of God the Father.   This union formed the Church, a united body in which Jesus Christ is Head, and all who are baptized into the Christian faith are members.   In the establishment of the Church the Old Testament saints, that is, those in the Old Testament who were not just members of the Covenant nation of Israel physically, but were also members of the spiritual Congregation of the Lord, who had been awaiting their redemption in the Kingdom of death, were released by Jesus Christ, and taken up to Heaven with Him when He returned there, were also joined that all of God’s saints in all ages would be part of the one Body of Christ.   In the Church, each individual Christian is united with Jesus Christ, and through Jesus Christ with each other.   Jesus Christ having already conquered death, believers being described as having “passed from death unto life” (past tense) and having “everlasting life” (present tense) in this life (Jn. 5:24), death cannot break this union and divide those who have departed this world from those who remain.   In Jesus Christ and to Jesus Christ, all believers are alive eternally:


I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:  And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.  (Jn. 11:25-26)


After all, as He said to the Sadducees in rebuking their denial of the resurrection, “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Mk. 12:27).


This is what the Communion of the Saints that we confess in the Apostles’ Creed is all about.


Those who condemn the practice of asking the Church Triumphant to pray with you and for you just as you might ask the person sitting in the pew next to you to do so seem to have a much harder time in affirming this New Testament truth as those of us who do not wish to throw the Catholic baby out with the Roman bathwater have in affirming the truth of Jesus’ sole Mediatorship – even Rome affirms this – which they think, mistakenly, they are safeguarding.   That is a pretty strong indicator that they are the ones in error here.  


Another such indicator is how quickly they descend into vulgar abuse when they cannot answer questions.   Unable to answer how their position is consistent with the New Testament teaching that all believers are one in Him to Whom there is no living and dead, they resort to accusations of occult superstition.   Asking the departed faithful to pray for you, they say, violates the Old Testament prohibitions against such things as necromancy, witchcraft, séances and the like.   Anybody who knows anything about these practices knows that they are worlds removed from asking the faithful departed for their prayers.   The practices condemned in the Old Testament involve summoning the spirits of the dead as if they were your personal slaves, either to obtain information from them, use them to manipulate the natural world in a supernatural way, or both.   There is no acknowledgement of God in these practices, the spirits of the dead qua spirits of the dead are invoked, the power to summon them is thought to be inherent in either the ritual used or the summonor, and the power to do what the summonor wants or tell him what he wants is thought to belong to the spirit.   Suggesting that the Catholic practice falls into this category is just a cheap insult.   The type one would expect from the sort of person who speaks of ecclesiastical bodies which confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, in the words of the ancient Creeds, as possessing the “spirit of Antichrist”.


The New Testament tells us who “Antichrist” is.   Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ?” St. John writes in 1 John 2:22, “He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.”   The Patriarch of Rome has been guilty of overstepping the boundaries of his jurisdiction, usurping a supremacy over the entire Church, and teaching various errors, among them his own infallibility, but as someone who confesses the faith of Jesus Christ in the orthodox form of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed and governs a Church that confesses this, the Apostles’ and the Athanasian Creeds, he cannot be the Antichrist.   What does it say about Hyper-Protestants that whenever they use the word “Antichrist” it is in association with the Roman Patriarch and his Church?


Indeed, there is another type of Hyper-Protestant than the Calvinist type I have been addressing.   In addition to identifying the Patriarch of Rome as the “Antichrist” and the Church he governs as “Mystery Babylon”, this type insists that that adherents of another world religion that literally fits the description of the Antichrist in 1 John 2:22 in that it, like Christianity, claims to have inherited the mantle of the Old Testament religion but departs from Christianity on precisely the point that it denies “that Jesus is the Christ”, cannot be criticized without incurring the curse of Genesis 12:3, as if St. Paul had not identified for Christians once and for all Who the Seed of Abraham is in Galatians 3:16.   I know Hyper-Protestants of this type who cannot stand to hear anything negative, no matter how true, said about this other world religion and its adherents, but who believe and regurgitate every last piece of  conspiratorial drivel they hear, not only about the Patriarch of Rome and his Church, but about all the ancient Churches so that basically, while believing nothing but good about people who deny that Jesus is the Christ, they write off the vast majority of people in the world today and who have ever lived who confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, their Lord and Saviour, since the majority of people in the world today and who have ever lived who confess Jesus as Christ, Son of God, Lord and Saviour, have belonged to the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and other ancient Churches.   These same Hyper-Protestants claim to be Spirit-filled and Spirit-led Christians.   One would think that if the Spirit that filled and led them were the Holy Ghost, He would convict them of the sin of participating in the last socially acceptable bigotry (except the genocidal anti-white racial hatred currently being displayed by “anti-racist” academics and activists), anti-Catholic bigotry.


Be a Protestant, but don’t be a Hyper-Protestant nut!