Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Daily Bible Verse

Monday, February 16, 2009

James I. Packer's Last Crusade

[Please note that I no longer endorse the "co-belligerence" position. What does Rome have to do with Jerusalem or Canterbury or Geneva?  Also, David Knox is no longer rector at Christ Church as the liberals in the Central Florida Diocese of the Episcopal Church USA decided that he is too Evangelical for their liking.  Please pray for him and his ministry and his family.  2/12/14.  Packer left the Canadian Anglican Church and joined up with the ACNA or Anglican Church in North America.  Charlie.]

Charlie J. Ray with the Anglican Evangelical, J. I. Packer.
On the left:  David Knox, son of D. Broughton Knox.  David is rector at Christ Church, Longwood, Florida.
[Top photo: Charlie J. Ray with James I. Packer. Next: David Knox with his former professor. Bottom: Video interview with James I. Packer]

I recently heard James Packer lecture at the Wycliffe Hall Winter Conference in Orlando, February 12-14, 2009. Packer's last crusade, according to Packer, is to re-emphasize the catechumenate ministry of the church. It is an admirable and lofty goal to put Christian education back in the center of the Christian church, as difficult as that might be. Dr. Packer even mentioned the catechism of Thomas Becon, which was published by the Parker Society and is a classic example of a Reformed and Protestant and Anglican catechumenate ministry. Sadly, these days Christian education, if it exists at all in the church, is superficial. Moreover, Packer contends that catechetical emphases need to be recovered in the ministry of Anglican churches.

While I greatly admire Dr. Packer, I am disappointed that he signed the Evangelicals and Catholics Together document, which is a compromise of the Gospel with a deficient gospel taught by the Roman Catholic Church. In this discussion, he contrasts primary and secondary issues. However, the Gospel is defined by the five solas of the Protestant Reformation: faith alone, grace alone, Scripture alone, Christ alone, glory to God alone. While the universal creeds define what the three major branches of Christianity believe, the second part of the universal faith has to do with soteriology or how we are saved. In other words, Christianity is based on the tri-unity of God but that is not all there is to Christianity. We must also believe the Evangelical faith in order to be saved. Both Anglo-Catholicism and Roman Catholicism teach idolatry through worshiping the bread and wine in the communion rather than viewing them as symbols and tokens of our faith pointing us to faith in Christ. An absolute essential of the Christian faith is that we worship Christ and Christ alone. Justification by faith alone and the substitutionary atonement of Christ on the cross are essentials of the Gospel, not secondary issues as Packer would have us believe. They are indeed primary issues whereby the church either stands or falls. In other words, the homosexuality issue is not the problem. It is a symptom of a greater problem. Anthropocentric or man-centered theology or doctrine always leads to pelagianism which is the earliest form of theological liberalism.

Pelagianism appeals to man's own abilities and man's own inherent righteousness rather than recognizing that we are miserable sinners until God sovereignly bestows His grace upon us to believe. And even then we are still both sinners and saints until Christ completes the work in us at the hour of our death. Any viable theology of the church must be God-centered and Christ-centered rather than man-centered. Dr. Packer has made wonderful contributions to our understanding of the Puritans and to Reformed theology; however, in my opinion, his desire to be irenic and tolerant has led him to compromise too much with Anglo-Catholics in the Anglican Communion and with Roman Catholics at large. I prefer the position of the Sydney Diocese in Australia as it was expressed by Phillip Jensen who said that we are "co-belligerents" with the conservative Anglo-Catholics on the issue of homosexuality. However, Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics are worlds apart when we examine what the Gospel actually is. Anglo-Catholics in fact have a "deficient gospel," as Phillip Jensen put it.

 At the conference in Orlando, Dr. Packer upheld the Lambeth quadrilateral of 1886-1888 as an organ of unity within Anglicanism. The historical irony here should not be missed. The Chicago-Lambeth quadrilateral was formulated within a decade of the departure of the Reformed Episcopalians from the Protestant Episcopal Church in 1873. The significance of this departure is that the triumphalistic attitude and theology of the Anglo-Catholics could not tolerate the Evangelical party within the Episcopal church and the straw which broke the camel's back was that David Cummins, the assistant bishop in Kentucky, had open communion and shared pulpits with the Presbyterians. At this point the Anglo-Catholics forced the Reformed Episcopalians out of the Protestant Episcopal Church. Nothing has changed much since then except that Evangelicals are still marginalized and barely tolerated by conservative Anglo-Catholics today.

Thus, I for one think it is misleading to uphold the Lambeth quadrilateral as a point of unity, since the "Anglican quadrilateral" was composed and put forward by Anglo-Catholics seeking to further buttress their position against the Evangelicals. Packer also said that the Thirty-nine Articles are a source of unity in the Anglican Communion. However, I must say that I disagree with him here as well for the simple reason that the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion are Protestant and put forward a Reformed and Protestant view of the Christian faith. Anglo-Catholics, on the other hand, re-interpret the Articles to make the Articles fit with their semi-Roman Catholic theology. This is precisely why the Articles are not a point of unity. They are indeed a point of contention and disunity within the Anglican Communion.

Just as Scripture has only one viable interpretation which we must discover by comparing Scripture with Scripture, so the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion have only one plain meaning and it is not the meaning Anglo-Catholics assign to them.  In other words, tradition is not revelation from God on equal par with Holy Scripture as the Anglo-Catholics teach. Anyone who has read the works of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer can discern the intention Cranmer and the other English Reformers had in mind when they composed the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion and the 1552/1662 editions of the Book of Common Prayer and it certainly was not the Anglo-Catholic view. The short of it is that Packer is smoothing over primary issues which are boiling below the surface and eventually that conflict will come to a pressure point. In the question and answer session after lunch on Friday, February 13, 2009 I was able to ask Dr. Packer the following question and you can judge for yourself from his answer:

Moderator: Charlie, you had a question?
Charlie: Ummm... Well, I'm a little bit on the low church side of things and so I hope you'll forgive me for asking a blunt question. But what is your view of the Thirty-nine Articles as a confession of faith? And as you know the Anglo-Catholic and the low church side disagree sometimes on how to interpret the Thirty-nine Articles and I'm wondering how we can walk in unity and yet disagree on some of the interpretation of the Articles? If you would so kind as to comment?
James Packer: Well, I will comment but I will comment briefly because I've been asked to do that. If was going to give an answer which was—how shall I say it?--safeguarded on both sides I would want to come back to them and say, “Specifics please?” Which Articles have you in mind when you say that? And I would grill you about that. However, the short answer is that on the primary matters during dissension between—I've said this before—what's primary and what's secondary. On the primary matters I maintain that there is consensus. It is only on secondary matters that there is disagreement on the exegesis perhaps of certain stratas of sacramental teaching and if you are agreed on what's primary you can think and let think, to use John Wesley's phrase, on what is secondary. End of our answer. Next question please? 

[Note:  I typed this verbatim from a recording I had at the time.  That recording has been lost due to a computer crash.  However, please take my testimony that this is exactly what was said.]
I suppose Packer thinks the five solas of the Reformation are secondary matters of adiaphora?  If so, then his emphasis on Reformed theology and Puritan theology is just a huge misunderstanding?

May God grant us the grace to stand against wiles of the devil which have infiltrated and corrupted Christ's church to one degree or another. May we ever proclaim the propositional truths of Holy Scripture and stand for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the doctrines of grace.

Soli Deo Gloria!



kmfrye said...


Packer was a student of C.S. Lewis, and in his mushy handwave of the Puseyites, it shows.

Love what you're doing for the Reformed Faith. Preach it brother.

Semper Reformanda

Charlie J. Ray said...

Hi, kmfrye...

I can speak firsthand about the overbearing of Anglo-Catholics because I was forced out of the REC by an Anglo-Catholic sympathizer. I was ordained with the REC briefly only to discover the "presbyter" who helped me to become ordained was actually a crypto-Anglo-Catholic out to convert me to Tractarianism. The irony is he was from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church prior to becomeing REC.

After I resigned I promised God I would not compromise the doctrines of grace or the Gospel for the sake of being accepted by a denomination.

I suppose there are still REC churches out there on the low church end of things but they are fewer and fewer and harder to find.

Soli Deo Gloria...


kmfrye said...


Yes, I kinda gathered your story from reading your blog "here and there". I plan to make a full study of it, because I like how you think.

I'm in REC in New Jersey, and in the 3-4 parishes I've been to, we haven't had the Puseyites raise their heads openly - but we're remaining watchful. I feel sad and angry when I read a story like yours - it seems to me we lost a Godly minister when we lost you.

It astonishes me (though perhaps it shouldn't) the sheer wilfulness of the AC Agents Provocateur, in undermining the Reformed.

I'm looking to unite (at least via the web) some of the evangelical and or reformed REC blogs (to function much like Stand Firm, as a news resource) and I'll be looking here for some sound Reformed doctrine.

Feel free to drop me a direct email, I'd like to know more about your AC presbyter. It seems the REC Dio of the Midwest has always been a breeding ground for Tractarians. Certainly Bishop Cummins found it so.

Yours in Christ's Grace,

Charlie J. Ray said...

Carl Trueman comments on Packer's legacy.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Interesting that Packer quotes Wesley to justify his compromise with the Anglo-Catholic heretics:)

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