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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

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Part II: Thirty-Nine Articles: The Historical Basis of the Anglican Faith


Part II
Thirty-Nine Articles: The Historic Basis of the Anglican Faith

A book by David Broughton Knox (Sydney: Anglican Church League, 1967). Revised 1976.

The author: Canon David Broughton Knox, B.A., A. L. C. D., B.D., M.Th., D. Phil. (Oxford), was Principal of Moore Theological College, Sydney, Australia. Ordained in 1941 he served in an English parish and as a chaplain in the Royal Navy before becoming a tutor at Moore College 1947-53. On leave in England he was tutor and lecturer in New Testament at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford 1951-53 and Assistant Curate in the parish of St. Aldale's, Oxford. He became Vice Principal of Moore College in 1954 and Principal in 1959. He was elected Canon of St. Andrew's Cathedral in 1960. His other books include "The Doctrine of Faith in the Reign of Henry VIII" (London: James Clarke, 1961).

David Broughton Knox also founded George Whitefield College in South Africa in 1989.



Chapter 2

The Teaching of the Articles

I. The Doctrine About God

The Thirty-Nine Articles state on their title page that they were drawn up with a view to obtaining a common consent within the Church of England on matters which were disputed at the time. This purpose is the explanation of the proportion of space given to various topics, which is governed by the keenness of the debate rather than by the intrinsic importance of the subject. Yet most of the important doctrines of the faith are in fact covered by the Articles. The most noteworthy omission is eschatology, that is, the doctrine of the last things and the return of Christ. In this doctrine the compilers of the Articles do not go beyond the statement of the Creeds (which are endorsed in Article 8). This brevity of statement is not in this case the absence of controversy, because the subject was hotly discussed at the time, but rather because the compilers did not wish to dogmatize about the details in so uncertain a matter, but were content to reaffirm the plain teachings of Scripture, as enshrined in the Creeds, 'He shall come again to judge the living and the dead.'

The first five Articles succinctly summarize the Christian doctrine of God. They deal with an area of doctrine on which there was general agreement at the time. But their inclusion not only fills out a most important aspect of doctrine; these Articles are of great value in view of disputes within the Church of England at present. In particular two basic doctrines are clearly enunciated in these first five Articles, the sovereignty of God and the finished work of Christ.

Article 1 begins by affirming the uniqueness of God -- 'There is but one living and true God' -- and ascribes to God 'infinite power'. He is 'the Maker, Preserver of all things'. The absolute sovereignty and control of God over all His creation is an essential doctrine if religion is to flourish and flower. The implicit childlike faith which is characteristic of the Christian religion is impossible unless it is founded on the knowledge of God's infinite power. Trusting prayer is based on a knowledge of God's sovereignty.

There is a notion common these days that God's power is limited -- self-limited by the laws of nature. The notion is similar to the rightly discredited idea that God is 'a God of the gaps', that is, that He operates only in those areas which are still gaps in our knowledge of the working of the laws of nature. However, God is the author of the laws of nature and He is not thwarted in His purposes by them, nor limited in His power. He works His purposes through nature which He created. Because He is an 'unchanging God'. He works uniformly and not capriciously and so we designate the observed uniformity of nature as 'laws of nature'. However, God is not limited in His freedom of action by this regularity, known to us as 'laws of nature'. Yet many modern Christians have fallen into this mistake. For example, they are diffident in praying for seasonable weather, on the view that the weather is controlled by meteorological laws and that as a consequence God has limited Himself in this area. But if limited here, He is limited everywhere, so that all prayer becomes impossible. For there are, in fact, no 'gaps' in nature, though there may still be gaps in our knowledge. But God works through the laws of nature. His sovereignty is not in the slightest degree affected by them. It is God who sends the rain, so Jesus taught. Droughts are His judgment; the drought and the breaking of the drought of Elijah's time were the result of prayer, according to James. If we prefer to think of the weather as caused by meteorological laws, we must remember that these are secondary causes. God's 'infinite power' is primary and we may have access to Him by prayer.

The sovereignty of God is the basis of the Christian faith, but is not in itself sufficient to sustain the childlike glad trust in God which characterizes Christianity. To a knowledge of God's sovereignty must be added a knowledge of His wisdom and His love. Thus the Article affirms a God of 'infinite power, wisdom and goodness'. Unlimited in these three attributes, God is one in whom we may put our complete trust. The Bible abounds in examples of this God-honouring trust. Thus Job, suffering fearful 'blows of fate', recognizes that ultimately there is no such thing as fate or chance but all is under the disposition of a wise and loving God. 'The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord' (Job 1:21).

A knowledge of God's infinite power, wisdom, and goodness' is the basis of Christian character and conduct. This is illustrated in the life of Joseph. His faith in God's all-controlling providence raised him above the vindictiveness which assails our common humanity and which his brothers assumed he would be subject to. He was free from vengeful thoughts and able to forgive freely because he recognized that it was not his brothers but God who ultimately shaped the details of his life. 'It was not you who sent me here, but God' (Genesis 45:8). 'As for you, you meant evil against me here, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive' (Genesis 50:20). This last verse reflects the truth that God's absolute sovereignty does not diminish the reality of our decisions or our responsibility for them.

Humility is characteristic of the Christian ideal and results from a recognition of a loving and wise God's sovereign control of all details of life. 'Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.' (I Peter 5:6). This sentiment is most admirably illustrated in our Lord's life and summarized in His words, 'The cup which my father hath given me, shall I not drink it?' (John 18:11).

Belief in God who is 'of infinite power, wisdom and goodness, the Maker and Preserver of all things' is basic to Christian faith, and though it is played down if not directly denied in many modern theologies, it is boldly affirmed in this opening sentence of the Articles. Article 1 also affirms the spirituality of God and His unity in trinity. The terms it uses in definition of the Trinity are based on our Lord's last commission to the eleven disciples (Matthew 28:20) when He sent them in the name of God to preach the Gospel to all nations. In this commission Jesus expanded the well known Old Testament phrase 'the name of Jehovah' into 'the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost', not thereby changing the disciples' religion but revealing more fully the eternal character of the Lord whom they had worshipped all their life.

Article 5 'Of the Holy Ghost' expands into a short sentence what is stated in the last phrase of Article 1 about the equality in all respects of the Holy Spirit with the other two persons of the Trinity.

The three intervening Articles deal with the person and work of the Son. They affirm with the greatest clarity the supernatural element which characterized the life and death of Jesus. His person is supernatural, being the union of the Godhood and manhood without the loss of any of the essential features of either. The Article affirms the central Christian truth that in Jesus, God has entered into a new and initimate relationship with that part of His creation we know as mankind. God has always been in relationship with His creation. But in the incarnation God entered into a new and unique relationship with men; a relationship which He does not intend to terminate, and which is designed to lead men into eternal fellowship with God through salvation, that is to say, through the forgiveness of their sins. This is a message of a supernatural objective and end. This is the authentic Christian message and it is clearly enunciated in Article 2.

Article 2 affirms unequivocally the historicity of the supernatural birth of Jesus. He was born of a virgin He was eternally pre-existent before His birth. The literal historicity of the resurrection of Jesus is the subject of Article 4. The language could not be more straightforward or plain, in its affirmation of Christ's real resurrection, of His ascension into heaven, of His present reign and of His return to judge the world at the last day.

The person of Christ cannot be separated from the work of Christ if thinking about His person is to avoid becoming merely speculative. On the other hand the work of Christ cannot be understood unless it is seen in the light o the knowledge of His person, who it was who died and rose and will return. Revelation alone gives the key to understanding the meaning of life of Him who 'went about doing good'. The Thirty-Nine Articles rightly hold in close relationship the person of Christ--true God and true man--and the work of Christ. Article 2 affirms that He died 'to reconcile his Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for all actual sins of men'. The phrase 'to reconcile his Father to us' has been criticised as unbiblical doctrine, on the ground that in the parable of the Prodigal it is the son who needs to be reconciled to his father; but this is only one aspect of the matter. The reiterated New Testament concept of the wrath of God against sinners, and the curse under which sinners stand (that is, the curse of God, for ultimately it can have no other source) is a full vindication of the phrase. Christ has delivered us from God's wrath and from God's curse, to use the language of Scripture. That is to say, His death had an objective efficacy of removing a barrier of guilt which prevented our holy God from receiving us into full and intimate fellowship with Himself, which is eternal life. This barrier God has Himself removed, through the death of Christ. 'God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son . . .' (John 3:16).

The Articles affirm that Christ's death is efficacious for salvation and the restoration of fellowship, and moreover that it is completely efficacious, needing no supplementing from our side. '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' (Article 31).

Article 15 also holds in close unity the person and work of Christ. He was truly and fully human 'Christ in the truth of our nature was made like unto us in all things, sin only except'; and the purpose of His incarnation was to accomplish His redemptive death. 'He came to be the Lamb without spot, who, by sacrifice of himself once made, should take away the sins of the world.'

Next  Chapter

[For other chapters of this book see: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4.1, Chapter 4.2, Chapter 5.1, Chapter 5.2, and Chapter 5.3].


The Fourth Sunday after Trinity.
The Collect.
O GOD, the protector of all that trust in thee, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy; Increase and multiply upon us thy mercy; that, thou being our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we finally lose not the things eternal: Grant this, O heavenly Father, for Jesus Christ's sake our Lord. Amen.

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