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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

Saturday, July 11, 2009

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

Part III
Thirty-Nine Articles: The Historic Basis of 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.




"Over against the Council of Trent the Church of England affirmed the sufficiency of Holy Scripture as the source of God's revelation, and not only its sufficiency but also its self-sufficiency. It needs no outside interpretation."

Chapter Three

The Teachings of the Articles

II: The Authority of Holy Scripture

The Articles highlight the supernatural character of Christianity. Since its truths are not to be read in the book of nature, whether of the natural world around us or the natural working of mind or conscience within us, it becomes a matter of importance to ascertain where a knowledge of this supernatural religion is to be found. The Articles are clear that God's revelation is contained in Holy Scripture (Article 6), which is defined as 'God's Word written' (Article 20).

There was no controversy at the time the Articles were composed with regard to the supernatural character of the Word of Scripture. Christianity was recognized by all as a religion of revelation and all confessed that that revelation rested on the Word of God -- for revelation can have no other base. It was further agreed by all that the Bible was the Word of God. But at this point a disagreement of enormously important consequences developed which may be stated briefly in a twofold question: (a) Was the Bible the only Word of God, that is, the only source of revelation? (b) Was the revelation contained in the Bible clear and perspicuous, so as to be self-interpreting?

The Council of Trent had affirmed in its fourth session that ' it receives and venerates with equal affection of piety and reverence' Holy Scripture and ecclesiastical tradition, and this was universally taken to mean that tradition ranked on an equality with Scripture as a source of God's revelation. The effect of this was, in fact, to subordinate Scripture to tradition, as tradition was so much more voluminous than Scripture and was explicit on topics absent from -- or at best, obscure in -- Scripture.

Ecclesiastical tradition in itself is an amorphous concept. So many of the sentiments of the Fathers and later church authors are no longer regarded as true, and so many features of church rites have been superseded, that a criterion is needed to distinguish true tradition from the fallacious in which it is embedded. If this criterion is not to be the written word of Holy Scripture, as the Articles maintain, it has to be the dominant current teaching of the organized Church. It follows that if tradition is to share the unique authority of Holy Scripture as a guide to faith and conduct, the current teaching office of the Church ( in the Roman Church, the papacy) must in turn be endowed with infallibility; for only by coincidence with the current teaching of the Church can the authentic tradition be defined and separated from erroneous opinions of the church authors, amongst which it is to be found. As Pope Pius IX put it, 'I am tradition'. In this way both Holy Scripture and also tradition itself, as something subsisting in the past, are subordinated to current church teaching, which, as a consequence, is all that the ordinary Christian needs to be in contact with.

Thus Trent, by placing Scripture and tradition on an equality, ensured that Scripture would be effectively subordinated to the current teaching of the Church, so that Scripture could no longer fulfill its proper role (which inalienably belongs to it as the Word of God) of correcting current church teaching and practice.

The subordination of Scripture to current church teaching was strengthened by the Roman Catholic insistence (in answer to our second question) that Scripture is not clear nor perspicuous, but obscure in its meaning, so that its teaching cannot be gathered from its pages by the ordinary method or reading them, but needs an interpreter to inform the reader of its meaning. This interpreter is said to be the Church as endowed by God with infallibility for this purpose. The result of such teaching is that there is little reason for the ordinary Christian to read the Bible, for he will be misled unless he follows closely the guidance of the Church in his reading; whereas by going directly to this teaching of the Church he will have not only an infallible but also a fuller and clearer guide to the revelation of God.

Over against the Council of Trent the Church of England affirmed the sufficiency of Holy Scripture as the source of God's revelation, and not only its sufficiency but also its self-sufficiency. It needs no outside interpretation.

Article 6 states quite plainly the sufficiency of Scripture as the source of divine revelation. 'Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation.' Since revelation, or the action of God in making Himself known to men, is for the purpose of salvation, the statement that Holy Scripture contains all things necessary to salvation implies that there are no fresh truths of revelation to be discovered either in nature or in church history and tradition which are not to be found in Scripture. Nature, the work of the Creator, certainly illustrates the divinity of God -- 'The heavens declare the glory of God' (Ps. 19:1), and human history provides many examples of God's providential care -- for those who have eyes to see God's hand. But the Articles affirm that ultimately there is only one source of our knowledge of God as Saviour, Holy Scripture, or 'God's Word written'.

The Articles are careful to avoid a common modern mistake of making a division between God's Word written and Jesus Christ, the living Word. The Articles reflect the recognition that a knowledge of Jesus, the Word of God, is inseparable from a knowledge of God revealed throughout the Old and New Testaments. Article 7 affirms that Christ is the voice behind all Scripture. 'Both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to Mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and man.'

Holy Scripture is the instrument by which God's salvation is brought to men. It is a suitable instrument because salvation comes to us in the form of a promise couched in the words of Scripture and based on the acts of God narrated in Scripture. The promise is God's promise, whether spoken by the Holy Spirit through the words of a prophet or prophetic writer, or from the lips of our Lord Himself or His apostles. The promise is held out for us for acceptance -- 'offered' as the Articles puts it. Since it is God's promise it is a reliable and unfailing promise which will not deceive those who by believing it put their trust in Him who makes this promise of eternal life.

Article 6 affirms not only the sufficiency of Scripture but also its self-sufficiency. Scripture is self-interpreting, that is to say, that it has the properties of any other carefully written book in that its meaning is intelligible to the reader. This is implied by the statement of the Article, 'Whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.' This sentence rests the knowledge of revelation contained in the Bible on our natural faculties and abilities. A complete knowledge of revelation may be obtained simply by reading the Bible and by straightforward deductions from its statements. By these affirmations the Articles excludes the necessity for an authorized interpreter of the Bible.

There is nothing surprising that this should be the case. The gift of intelligence, which finds expression in reading with comprehension and drawing plain deductions from statements, is one of God's highest gifts to mankind and it would indeed be remarkable if, in giving us a revelation of Himself designed to lead to our salvation, God by-passed this gift and gave us a revelation in written form which could not be safely understood without the aid of an outside interpreter.

The affirmation that the Scriptures are clear and perspicuous can be put to the test very simply by reading them, if not in the original languages, at least in a good translation, of which there are several in English. Their clarity and perspicuity will become immediately evident.

An intellectual apprehension of what the Scriptures are saying is not difficult and does not require an outside interpreter. However, acceptance of the truth of what is being said, and apprehension of our own relationship to it, is another matter and comes about only when the Spirit of God writes His Word on our heart, that is, touches the inmost point of our personality so that we align ourselves with what is being said. This in turn leads to a much deeper apprehension and understanding of what the Bible is all about. It is here that the 'church', i.e. the Christian fellowship, plays its vital role in a Christian's understanding of the Bible. God has set Christians in community in order that each should minister to other, so that all may grow together into the fullness of the likeness of Christ. We cannot 'go it alone' as Christians. We each help each other to a fuller understanding of God's revelation, not in an infallible way but by drawing attention to the plain teaching of Scripture and its implications for life, and by witnessing to its verification in experience. This is what preaching should consist in -- exposition of the teaching of Scripture and its application to life's situation. In so far as modern preaching fails to do this, progress of the Christian community in the knowledge and ways of God comes to a halt.

It is sometimes objected that the numerous denominations of protestantism are a sign that the humble and straightforward reading of Scripture as the Word of God within the Christian fellowship is insufficient to lead to a sure knowledge of the mind of God. But an examination of these differences will show that they concerned with matters not contained in Scripture, matters 'not to be read therein nor to be proved thereby.' Thus these differences do not prove that Scripture is either insufficient or unclear; rather they show that Christians quarrel and divide about things not sufficiently important to be included by the Spirit of God amongst the matters treated of in Holy Scripture. On such a matter, whether it is episcopacy, or adult baptism, or any of the other points that divide protestant denominations, Article 6 states definitively that it is 'not to be required of any man, that is should be believed as an article of the Faith.' The way forward in church union is to recognize these matters of indifference for what they are and not to allow them for a moment to be barriers to full Christian fellowship across the denominations. For fellowship is the Christian's duty.

The Thirty-Nine Articles state that all revelation given for salvation is contained in Holy Scripture. This follows from the statement that all necessary articles of faith are contained in Scripture; for nothing that God has revealed is unnecessary or optional for belief. It follows that individuals as well as all human institutions ought to be subject to the mind of God as revealed in Holy Scripture, and in particular that Christians and the corporate Christian fellowship (or 'church') and the institutions which are based on this fellowship ought to be subject to Holy Scripture. None of the Articles specifically formulates this duty of individual and institution to conform to the direction of Holy Scripture, but the subjection of church activities to Holy Scripture is clear from the language of many of the Articles. The most conspicuous example is Article 8 'Of the Creeds'. This Article shows that the Church of England accepts the Creeds -- those most venerable of all church traditions -- not because of their own intrinsic authority but because 'they may be proved by most certain warrants of Holy Scripture.'

Ecumenical (or general) councils of the church -- the most authoritative organ of the voice of the organizational church -- are judged by the same standards. Article 21 asserts: 'Things ordained by them [general councils] as necessary to salvation have neither strength nor authority, unless it may be declared that they be taken out of Holy Scripture.'

Article 20 states that the Church in arranging its domestic life and worship is at no point to come into conflict with Scripture, and this principle is illustrated in the language of many of the subsequent Articles which condemn various practices current in the religious life of the times, as for example the use of a language not understood by the congregation (Article 24), the forbidding of the clergy to marry (Article 32), the reservation and adoration of the sacrament (Article 28), and indulgences, adoration of images and relics, and prayers to the saints (Article 22). The reasons given for rejection of all these practices is that they are contrary to or unsupported by Holy Scripture.

'Secular' institutions, in particular the government, are subject to the same test. 'We give . . . to our Princes . . . that only prerogative, which we see to have been given always to all godly Princes in Holy Scriptures by God Himself' (Article 37).




[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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