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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.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Customer Review of J. I. Packer's Book: The 39 Articles: Their Place and Use Today

The following article is a customer review I borrowed from the Amazon website. I thought the article points out a source of many of the problems in Anglicanism. Moreover, even James I. Packer is unwilling to offend Anglo-Catholics by pointing out their inconsistent revisions of the 39 Articles of Religion. All text in bold and italics are points of emphasis which I made. I could not have said it better, which is why I'm posting this on my blog. You may view the article at:

A Lament Over Indifference

May 21, 2008


By Daniel E. Sullivan (Chicagoland) - See all my reviews


Packer's book on the Articles of Religion is not a study of the articles themselves but a lament over their disuse and the attitude of indifference toward them that seems to pervade Anglicanism. The result as Anglicanism has developed over the last 175 years or so is an increasing pluralism of beliefs within Anglicanism and a doctrinal "incoherence" unparalleled in mainline protestantism.

The book begins by simply reprinting the Articles without comment. Packer then speaks of the "silence" of the Articles in present Anglican life. They have simply been muffled and shunted aside. He recounts their history briefly, grounding the 39 Articles solidly in the Reformation. He makes mention of the erosion of the need for subscription to the articles, the various ways they have been "interpreted" in latitudinarian and Anglo-Catholic circles and laments that fewer and fewer Anglican provinces pay any significant attention to what was once a doctrinal statement which held what Packer refers to as essentially creedal status within the church of England.

Packer insists that doctrinal statements and creeds are necessary because we live in a divided Christendom - that is - churches need statements which identify where they stand. Failing to lay out a clear theology, in Packer's view, actually works against ecumenical dialogue and not for it. Lack of clarity only breeds confusion, not unity. Anglicanism, as stated by the Articles of Religion, is firmly committed to both the authority of scripture and the three creeds of Christendom. As such, the articles state a Christianity that is both reformed and historical, and as such the articles express a rich heritage.

Where the Anglican communion has drifted is in its commitment to Scripture as the final authority and its commitment to salvation by faith alone. Roger Beckwith's appendix articulates a few recent clarifications that might supplement the Articles regarding historic and evangelical Anglican belief. Packer and Beckwith both stand against the view that sacraments operate apart from faith, as one example of a creeping reinterpretation of a central Anglican principle. One wonders if Packer's stinging critique of recent moves toward a catholic and semi-sacrificial view of the Eucharist raised much attention when the book was written decades ago. Roger Beckwith's contribution suggests that such a sacrificial understanding of the Eucharist overturns the very foundations of Christianity, a stinging rebuke to many liturgical alterations in recent decades.

Anglicanism has become a broad tent with Evangelicals in the minority, liberal revisionists attempting to steer the entire communion toward a humanistic relativism and those sympathetic to more Catholic beliefs pulling the communion in a third direction. Most Anglicans seem to float between the three views oblivious to the differences between them. Both of the latter seem to be willing to discard, reinterpret or ignore the 39 Articles of Religion as a doctrinal statement and advance a particular agenda in spite of them. The result is no consistent or coherent theology that can lay claim to being the official Anglican position on many, many issues. Packer's case is that the Articles need to be returned to their status as a statement of faith Anglicans should subscribe to. It makes sense, because the alternative is the disarray that Anglicanism is currently experiencing.

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