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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

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

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



"Christian doctrine does not take its authority from the fact that it is held by a majority of those who profess Christianity, nor by a majority of those who have obtained office or eminence in the Church. History gives many examples of when a minority opinion was plainly the correct one. It may be that the present time is a further example. At all events, it is not the task of Church confessions to reflect majority opinions ('the general mind of the Church') but to reflect the truth, which in a religion of revelation as is Christianity is found by a return to the source of revealed truth, God's Word."

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

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

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 Nine

The Future of the Articles

The Thirty-Nine Articles are a problem to many churchmen because they find they do not hold some of the doctrines taught in them. Three solutions have been suggested: first, that the declaration of assent should be glossed by an interpretative declaration accompanying it; or secondly, that the Articles should be revised; or thirdly, that clerical subscription to the Articles should no longer be required. The first suggestion was acted on, for example, by Canon H. W. Montefiore at his institution to the Vicarage of St. Mary the Great, Cambridge. After making the statutory declaration "I assent to the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion and to the Book of Common Prayer and of Ordering of Bishops, Priests and Deacons; I believe the doctrine of the Church of England as therein set forth to be agreeable to the Word of God . . .'' Canon Montefiore added, ''I make the following supplementary declaration . . . In asserting my belief in the Articles, the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal, I take account of the period in which they were written, and I accept them as agreeable to the Word of God as this was then understood and expressed.'' But this does not achieve much; for the last phrase "agreeable to the Word of God as this was then understood and expressed" simply means "agreeable to their compilers' expression of their understanding of the Word of God''. This is merely tautologous; and it is quite different in meaning from the statement of the statutory declaration: "I believe the doctrine of the Church of England . . . therein set forth to be agreeable to the Word of God." The latter has no real relationship in meaning to the former, and so the one does not modify the other. The plain meaning of the declaration of assent is not susceptible to being glossed into merely 'general' sense as is frequently attempted, or to being modified by a supplementary declaration.

Dr. Matthews advocated that the Church of England should bring out a new set of articles as a substitute for those drawn up in the sixteenth century. He gave two reasons. One is that the Articles as they stand are offensive to the religious opinions of those outside of the Christian Church. He was of the opinion that many leading thinkers in the past who rejected Christianity in England did so because they found the teaching of the Articles "repugnant to their reason and conscience . . .", and adds that unless new Articles are drawn up



I see little hope for the evangelization of England . . . I am convinced that the formulation of new Articles of religion, which will express our real belief and be intelligible to those whom we hope to convert, is an absolutely necessary preliminary to any hopeful effort to evangelize our people.i


This is a very important matter to consider, but it ought to be recognized that the historical Christian faith has always been a ground of offence to many well disposed and thoughtful persons. The Emperor Marcus Aurelius is an outstanding example, and St. Paul's experience of preaching the Gospel led him to say that it appeared to be foolishness to the Greeks and an offence to Jewish thinkers.

The real question to face in discussing a revision of the Articles is 'Do they truly and clearly reflect God's revealed Word?' The compilers of the Articles would themselves have wished their product to be constantly subjected to this test. The other tests are ultimately irrelevant.

Dr. Matthews's other reason for advocating a new set of Articles was that the Thirty-Nine Articles do not represent the present views of members of the Church of England. It is, of course, highly desirable that the Articles should reflect the common mind of the Church, but that they should be altered to reflect that mind does not follow, for it may be that the mind of the Church should be altered to reflect the teaching of the Articles; for both the Articles and the mind of the Church should reflect the mind of God in those matters which have been revealed to us. If the mind of the Church does not do this, the matter may be set right by prayer and exhortation and faithful exposition of the revelation. If, however, it is the Articles which do not reflect God's revealed mind, then they ought to be revised. Critics of the Articles have not in recent years sufficiently examined them along this line, though in the past when subjected to this test they have been vindicated.

Professor Lampe repeats this objection of Dr. Matthews. The original purpose of the Thirty-Nine Articles in Professor Lampe's opinion is that they should "represent the general mind of the Church on the religious and moral issues."ii But this is not an accurate statement of the intention of the compilers of the Articles. These were not drawn up to reflect the common mind of the Church of their day in the way, for example, that the Archbishop's Commission on Doctrine reflected the mind (if not the common mind) of the Church of the twenties, but rather that they should be a means of unifying the mind of the Church by guiding and informing it. As their title page puts it, they are "for the Establishing of Consent touching True Religion". The Articles, then, are to be normative, not merely descriptive; they are to establish and not merely reflect the mind of the Church, and for this they must take their character not from the Church and its mind but from the Word of God.

Christian doctrine does not take its authority from the fact that it is held by a majority of those who profess Christianity, nor by a majority of those who have obtained office or eminence in the Church. History gives many examples of when a minority opinion was plainly the correct one. It may be that the present time is a further example. At all events, it is not the task of Church confessions to reflect majority opinions ('the general mind of the Church') but to reflect the truth, which in a religion of revelation as is Christianity is found by a return to the source of revealed truth, God's Word.
Next Section

iThe Thirty-Nine Articles, (London, 1961), pp. 38f.
iiThe Articles of the Church of England, pp. 104, 107.

The Tenth Sunday after Trinity.
The Collect.
LET thy merciful ears, O Lord, be open to the prayers of thy humble servants; and that they may obtain their petitions make them to ask such things as shall please thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

3 comments:

DomWalk said...

There's a fourth option that he doesn't mention, which may be the best approach. Assent required, with specific exceptions registered and either allowed or not. The OPC does this on points like observation of the Sabbath, and it seems to work reasonably well.

Charlie J. Ray said...

I think the Articles are sufficiently open for some exceptions already. There is no need to allow for exceptions since practically everything in the Articles is scripturally based and the Articles already allow for traditions which are not "repugnant" to Holy Scripture as it is interpreted by comparing Scripture with Scripture. Your suggestion would simply open the door for more of the liberal dissimulation we see already with the pansexuality issues and with women's ordination and Romish views of tradition, Scripture and the sacraments. The Articles are sufficiently clear on the ecumenical doctrines, soteriological doctrines, the sacramental doctrines and the church as to stand sufficiently as they are. Unless it can be demonstrated, as Knox says, that they are unbiblical in some point or other they are indeed normative and binding doctrine.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Dear Mr Ray,

Thank you for reproducing Broughton Knox' on the Articles, and for your clear and helpful comments. There are additional ways of avoiding the Articles of Religion.

Ever since the earliest days of the Reformation the common way has been, and is, for a candidate for ordination or to an incumbency to swear conformity lightly, shifting ground after as circumstances suit, like 'the Vicar of Bray'.

The second is 'Mental Reservation'. This has increased since it was used by the earliest Anglo Catholics. It was to swear as a Protestant whilst mentally rejecting. This was Newman's advice and example. He held much of the position of Rome, whilst publicly swearing to being a Protestant, and advised his young men to do likewise.
When ordaining me the diocesan bishop asked me if I believed the Articles, quickly adding he did not expect me to. I replied I would not have sought ordination if I had not.

A third way was quickly adopted by the Anglo Catholic movement in order to get over the public outcry and indignation and charge of dishonesty caused by 'Mental Reservation'. A man entered a parish as a true Protestant and in some cases as soon as three weeks later, introduced Mass practices, abhorrent to the congregation, thus causing a huge rift and the emptying of the church, as the bishops refused the congregation redress. This marked the end of Church Disciplin. The problem was that the State Church finally enforced this by the secular courts. Bishop Ryle took several to court, but shortly the courts washed their hands of this and refused to allow further prosecutions to be brought

The Anglo Catholic method for justifying themselves was then to say the had believed the Articles all along, but interpreted them. This was other than according to their natural and intended sense. They therefore wrote the 'Tracts for the Times', reinterpreting the Articles in a Roman sense. One was the infamous 'Tract 90', which said that Article 31 calling the central teachings of the Masses of Rome 'blasphemous fables and dangerous deceits', was only meaning one bad Mass the writer had seen on some occasion, but did not mean the Mass in general. This method is as old as the Reformation, Gardiner interpreting 'alms and oblations' in the Communion Office.

The only way the Articles can be defended and discipline maintained is by the living work of the Holy Spirit, a deep and real work in the deceitful and deceiving human heart.

Yours sincerely,

****

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