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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, August 19, 2009

Part XVIII: Thirty-Nine Articles: The Historic Basis of Anglican Faith: Are the Articles Necessary?



"A religion of revelation which is given in the events and words of history must be dogmatic in character. But doctrine that is founded on nothing but enthusiasm, that is to say, on current opinions whether of the individual or of a group, or on opinions sufficiently long held to be called tradition, is unstable and gives promise of no permanence in the future."



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

Are the Articles Necessary?

But Professor Lampe has raised another question which is prior to the question of revision, or even of the maintenance of the status quo, and that is whether the Church of England needs Articles at all. Are they really necessary? Should they be dropped as a doctrinal statement and the Church remain content merely with the Creeds? This is what Professor Lampe advocates. He believes that the Articles should be retained as an important historical document of the Church of England, witnessing to its beliefs at the time that it separated itself from the Church of Rome in the sixteenth century, but that the Church should now proceed without requiring any assent either to them or to any other Articles which might take their place. He writes: "Our best course would be to dispense with Articles, retaining the thirty-nine but explicitly recognizing them to be an important document of our church which no longer serves its original function and to which no form of subscription should now be required."iii

The cancelling of the requirements for assent to the dogmatic statements of the Articles would be in keeping with the present temper of protestantism which since the rise of pietism (as exampled by the Quakers) has seen the progressive eroding of the importance of dogma in Christianity. Luther saw the danger when he wrote in the Smalcald Articles (III:8): "Enthusiasm" (that is, piety that does not stick to the Word of God) "clings to Adam and his descendants, and it is the strength, source and power of all heresies including those of the papacy and of Mohommet." Undogmatic Christianity has very largely replaced the Christian faith of the Reformation amongst Protestants. This attitude can give no value to the requirement of assent to dogmatic statements, but sees this only as a burden, so that even if the assent is still given in accordance with inherited requirements, it is not treated with seriousness. There is, however, no future for undogmatic Christianity -- that is, for a Christianity that follows wherever the thoughts of its current theological leaders may lead -- because Christianity is essentially, and always has been historically, a dogmatic religion. When Jesus asked his disciples, "Whom say ye that I am?"and asked His adversaries, "What think ye of Christ, whose son is he?" He incorporated dogma as integral part of the Christian faith. A religion of revelation which is given in the events and words of history must be dogmatic in character. But doctrine that is founded on nothing but enthusiasm, that is to say, on current opinions whether of the individual or of a group, or on opinions sufficiently long held to be called tradition, is unstable and gives promise of no permanence in the future. Historical Christianity is thoroughly dogmatic, and has an unchanging basis for its doctrines -- the inspired teaching of the Scriptures -- though it is always open to an improved understanding of what this unchanging basis teaches.

The Christian faith must always adhere closely to the Word of God, which means that it will be characterized by dogma. But this does not in itself answer the question whether the Church needs Articles apart from the Word of God in Holy Scripture to incorporate that dogma. At first sight it might seem that it does not. If the visible church is defined as "a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly administered", what more is needed than this word of God preached within the context of the faithful congregation? The answer is that nothing more is needed; but this does not mean that the Church of England can do without Articles or the requirement of assent to them from its office bearers. The solution to the paradox is the distinction between the church and the denomination which also goes by the name of church, and unless this distinction is clearly kept much confusion in many areas of theology and ecumenical endeavor results. The visible church is rightly defined by the nineteenth Article as "a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly administered according to Christ's ordinance". Such a visible church does not necessarily need Articles, nor assent to Articles, in order to preserve the true Christian faith within its fellowship, so long as the congregation retains and exercises its authority and duties as a congregation. The Christian congregation's duty is to exhort one another as to the mind and will of God, and to admonish one another whenever any deviation from the revealed mind of God shows itself.

This exhortation and admonition by members of the congregation one of another includes, of course, exhortation and admonition of those ministers whom the Spirit of God has placed in the congregation. Only those who worship together and know one another in daily life, can truly exercise pastoral care over one another. By mutual exhortation and "submitting yourselves to one another in the fear of God" (Ephesians 5:21) the preaching of the Word of God is kept within the doctrines of the Word of God. For by exhortation and admonition from the hearer the preacher prompted by his Spirit-led mind and conscience responds to the exhortation and so keeps within the revealed Word of God, just as the preacher, by the exercise of his gift, maintains and builds up the spiritual understanding and Christian character of the congregation. Thus the pastor of the pastors is the congregation itself. Moreover, if any member of the congregation (whether pastor or not) is not subject to admonition based on the Word of God (for only 'godly admonition' binds the Christian's conscience) then the New Testament makes clear that it is every Christian's duty to withdraw his fellowship from such a brother who walks disorderly.

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iii The Articles of the Church of England, p. 111.

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.

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