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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, August 29, 2009

The Ugley Vicar: What is Wrong with Evangelicalism?

[The following are comments I posted in response to the article linked below].

This article (The Ugley Vicar: What is Wrong with Evangelicalism?) exemplifies why Anglicanism is a failure and why Evangelicalism at large is a form of "Christless Christianity." Michael Horton has effectively argued that DOCTRINE IS WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A CHRISTIAN. You cannot be a Christian while believing doctrines which are directly opposed to Holy Scripture. This is why confessional statements are absolutely necessary to nail down where we stand on the systematic understanding of Scriptural teaching.

Also, the Evangelical pente-lateral is sola gratia, sola fide, sola scriptura, solus Christus, and soli Deo gloria. The idea that "private judgment" is a problem is not only an inaccurate understanding of what the doctrine actually teaches but along with that misunderstanding throws out the doctrine of sola scriptura! Private judgment does not mean we can make the Bible say whatever we like and start our own cult. What it does mean is that Scripture teaches that Scripture itself is sufficient for all matters of doctrine, faith and practice. The 39 Articles uphold this principle as well. (See Article 6). Private judgment means that we as a church study the Scriptures together and allow the Holy Spirit to illuminate the Word for us. While we may and do err in that process and should always be reforming, it does not mean that we are free to do what works (pragmatism) or believe what we like (enthusiasm).

I believe the Reformed Confessions are a great place to start. Anyone who has read and studied them and compared them with the Scriptures cannot come away unchanged, in my opinion. Having read the Bible from cover to cover all my life, when I began to read the WCF and the 39 Articles and other Reformed confessions (extended creeds), I knew that this is what Evangelicalism is supposed to be.

I strongly disagree with Ugley Vicar's thesis that Evangelicalism is about experience rather than doctrine. That is an Anabaptist argument borrowed by the Pentecostals and the Charismatics. I would suggest if that is your view you are more theologically liberal than anything else. A bible believing Evangelical knows better!

Charlie J. Ray said...

Ugley Vicar said, "According to Newman, however, the inevitable outcome of private judgement is that I become the judge and arbiter of what should be believed, rather than the recipient of the message of salvation."

"And of course he is right, too! All of us in full-time ministry know from tedious experience that just because we say so doesn’t mean people are going to take our word for it that a particular doctrine or interpretation of the Bible is true."

"And far from preventing people being blown about by every wind of doctrine, the exercise of private judgement, as Newman observed, leads precisely to constant changes and reversals in the beliefs not only of individuals but whole denominations. Thus, once upon a time, every Christian knew homosexuality was wrong and every denomination would have upheld that principle."

"Yet today, both individuals and denominations condemn as sin and error what formerly was held to be truth and righteousness —but not in Rome."

This is another example of Ugley Vicar's misunderstanding of the doctrines of sola scriptura, perspicuity of Scripture, and private judgment. Private judgment can only be understood in the context of the other two doctrines. What Vicar wants us to buy is that Christianity is an experience and evangelism is enthusiasm. But that isn't the biblical message at all. The Apostles went about turning whole world upside down with the "teachings" of Jesus Christ. Their Gospel message was a doctrinal one which their opponents well understood. While their doctrine was based on the OT Scriptures, the teachings of Christ, AND their firsthand witness/experience of his life, ministry, miracles and resurrection/ascension, they never rejected Scripture and doctrine as the locus of their theology.

Furthermore, following a church hierarchy like blind sheep is the very thing which has led to the crisis we see in the Anglican Communion today. When bishops and archbishops are the primary focus of authority, then when those same leaders abandon Scripture for their own opinions we see apostasy. In fact, I would argue that this is why The Episcopal Church USA is apostate today. It was not Evangelical in doctrine since the 19th century but Anglo-Catholic! The Newman theory was dominant and it was Anglo-Catholic pageantry and idolatry which has given way to a christless theology of praxis, pragmatics, and experience.

While it is true that other mainline Protestant denominations go astray as well, the bottom-line is that when Scripture is abandoned for some other locus or center of theology and doctrine, the ultimate result is theological pluralism and relativism. It seems to me that Ugley Vicar is offering us the same poison-laced Koolaide. Evangelicalism is just outreach with no doctrinal content??? That is not only anti-intellectual, it is unbiblical and anti-Evangelical/anti-Christian!

Sincerely,

Charlie


P.S. It never ceases to amaze me that idiots still think sinful men in high offices of the church can do a better job than Almighty God can do in, with and through the Holy Scriptures! If that be the case, then why pray tell is the Archbishop of Canterbury a wolf in sheep's clothing, masquerading as an archbishop while all the while pushing the immorality and rebellion of homosexuality? Rowan Williams himself has ordained an openly homosexual priest before he became an archbishop. Having a papist or Anglo-Catholic theology of church authority guarantees one thing: when the head bishop is a liar then the whole church becomes apostate. What we need is a recovery of the idea that the local congregation (Article 19) is the locus of church authority and the final authority is Holy Scripture! Episcopal polity has safeguarded absolutely NOTHING. So what's the point of emphasizing a polity that is a dismal failure?!!

12 comments:

Revd John P Richardson said...

Charlie, I thank you for your interest, and hope your readers will look at both papers I have posted so far, with a third to follow.

Interestingly, I am also a post-Charismatic, and have benefited greatly from doses of Luther and Calvin, though denominationally I am Anglican.

Just as a small point, I don't think the doctrine of 'sola scriptura' is equivalent to the exercise of 'private judgement'.

Could I commend to your readers both Newman's paper against private judgement and Ryle's paper in favour? They both make points with which, as an evangelical Anglican, I would agree and others with which I would disagree.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Rev. Richardson, I have not read Newman's article yet but I suspect the arguments have little merit. I will, however, read it. That beings said, my point stands that the Reformed understanding of "private interpretation" does not mean individualistic interpretation as you seem to misunderstand. Rather, the emphasis is on the Reformed church as a local congregation of Christians reading and studying Scripture as a body of believers. This in turn is applied to larger organizations but the larger organizations are not the "church" but rather secular institutions. You might want to check out Private Interpretation

1:31 PM

Charlie J. Ray said...

Newman has no clue. His view is that Scripture must be interpreted by the Roman Catholic Church and apostolic succession. Not only does England not have valid orders but it does not even have a valid succession according to Rome. So the entire argument fails. The correct view is the Reformed view which balances the idea of church with Scripture. The final authority is Scripture and Scripture interprets Scripture, which even the 39 Articles upholds (See Article 20 and Article 34). The church has no authority to impose doctrine which is not upheld by the plain teaching of Scripture as Scripture interprets Scripture. On the other hand, the individual may not contradict the church by using private judgment or interpretation unless the church has violated Scripture. Tradition alone is not enough for either the church OR the individual to make it an issue of binding faith. Likewise, private judgment is not enough for the individual to go against the church IF the tradition of the church is not repugnant to Scripture. Anglo-Catholic doctrines are not covered by Article 34 since the vast majority of their "tradition" flies straight against Scripture and are in fact "repugnant" to Scripture. I could name icons, prayers to the saints, worshipping bread and wine as if Christ's body were physically or "mysteriously" present in the elements, etc., are all repugnant to Scripture. Likewise, making the Church the final authority over Scripture violates Article 6! Newman is full of it and I agree with nothing he has said in the article you cited. As Cranmer put it, the Protestant doctrine is the "catholic" one while the Anglo-Catholics and the Roman Catholics misquote the Church Fathers and Scripture to endorse a false gospel of works, idolatry and other errors.

Charlie J. Ray said...

By the way, I am affiliated as a member with a local congregation which is part of the Central Florida Diocese of the Episcopal Church here in the USA. But that is meaningless because I do not care much about "denomination," particularly since the denomination our church is officially affiliated with is entirely and completely apostate as far as I can tell. Forgive me for being uncharitable but I do not see much evidence that the Church of England is in any better shape than the Episcopal Church here.

Therefore, I focus on Article 19 as the basis of fellowship. Is your local church or congregation orthodox, holding to the Gospel, the Scriptures and an orthodox confession of faith such as the 39 Articles understood from a strictly Protestant perspective? That is the question. Article 19.

fcsd2 said...

If by private interpretation is meant a reading that disregards the entire history of the Church, then private interpretation is not a good thing. If, however, what is meant is nothing more than what the Bereans did--consulting the Scriptures to see if what they are told is true--it is the best thing in the world, God's people seeking Him in His Word. I think Charlie means it in the second sense. The perspicuity of Scripture should never be denied.

There is a great quotation from St. Bernard of Clairvaux, mentioned by Luther in his tract on councils and the Church. He said that he got his theology like the pines in the woods--drawing their sustenance directly from the source. When we look to the Fathers, the Reformers, the dogmaticians of the Age of Orthodoxy, etc., we are drinking from the stream which came from the source, but the Bible is the source itself.

This does not mean that we disregard what has been handed down to us. A friend of mine, a Lutheran pastor, once said to me in roughly these words:

"If St. Jerome or St. Augustine said something, and your examination of Scripture tells you something different, yes, you can differ. Likewise if Luther, Calvin, Walther, or whoever. But if St. Jerome, St. Augustine, Luther, Calvin and Walther all say the same thing, you ought to be very careful before differing with them--you may be trying to reinvent the wheel on a settled point of doctrine on which the whole Church agrees."

We don't go back and try to redo the Nicene Creed. It is a settled exposition of Scripture, and any contrary exposition is simply error, no matter what the person propounding this contrary doctrine thinks he sees in Scripture.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Sola Scriptura is not "equivalent" to private judgment or interpretation but the one is directly dependent on the other and vice versa. Sola Scriptura outright denies Newman's position and further, Article 6 denies Newmans' position outright. Private interpretation is also upheld in Article 34 with the limitation that tradition may only be challenged if the tradition in question is repugnant to Scripture.

Charlie J. Ray said...

That's exactly right, Ken. Cranmer quotes the church father extensively in defending his view of the Lord's Supper and then Cranmer compares the church fathers with Scripture to prove or disprove doctrines. So "private interpretation" properly understood does not mean we are allowed to become lone ranger theologians or invent a cult of our own. Reformed theologians in the Protestant Reformation era appealed to both Scripture and the church fathers to show how Rome had misinterpreted the Scriptures and the fathers.

Billy said...

"Episcopal polity has safeguarded absolutely nothing." Charlie, your proclivity toward hyperbole can be seen by any honest reader. But this statement is a direct afront to the innumerable faithful bishops who have helped pass down the truth in which you believe.

You may argue it was not their office, but the Scriptures which passed down these truths. But the witness of the Bishops at Nicea suggests it was not the Scriptures alone which thwarted the heretics. But the Holy Spirit leading the bishops, led them to the correct interpretation against the Arians.

About the beginning of this post: Michael Horton is smart and he knows the Bible backward and forward. He is also correct on a lot of points. I appreciate what has become his crusade to place Christ back at the center of Christianity. I also appreciate that he loves doctrine...it is emphasized not nearly enough.

That said, doctrine is not what it means to be a Christian. The worship of Jesus Christ, who transforms us so that we may love and adore God through him, while loving our neighbor as ourselves, is the heart of Christianity. For as high as we should hold all the tenents of the Creeds, they are worthless "a clanging cymbal" without love.

Lastly, I just want to point out that Scripture never says that Scripture is sufficient for doctrine, faith, and practice. As the apostle teaches, it is all God-breathed, and thus our primary and infallible source for knowledge of God and our relationship to him. But it is not accurate to argue that inspiration excludes other sources of divine truth.

My personal belief is that all doctrines of the Church are latent somewhere in Scripture, even if not explicitly stated. But I do not doubt that there are doctrines about God which can be proved or understood by reason.

Also, I'm really curious, how can you, someone who worships with a Book of Common Prayer, say the Bible is alone sufficient for practice. Of course, the prayer book is overwhelmingly composed of Scripture, but it isn't all Scripture. I assume you pray daily or at least weekly the prayer of the Patriarch of Constantinople, St. Chyrsostom.

I'm not trying to over simplify your position. I know you have high regard for the fathers. But I really would like to understand how you defend Sola Scriptura by saying it is the position of Scripture, when the Bible never, ever says that.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Billy, I thank you for bring up Sola Scriptura once again. It's obvious to me that your education at a Roman Catholic institution has not given you the complete picture. The arguments in favor of Sola Scriptura are in fact more reasonable, scriptural, and accurate than the slippery and hard to pin down ephemeral spirit you call "Tradition". Tradition must be tested by Scripture. But even more to the point, the English and Continental Reformers proved from the church fathers AND Holy Scripture that Rome had it wrong. They applied consistently the textual criticism discovered by the humanists, including Erasmus.

Be that as it may, I will be doing an article on that topic soon. However, I want to point out that what I have said is not hyperbole. It is a matter of FACT in regards to the Anglican Communion at large and in particular in The Episcopal Church, The Anglican Church in Canada, and the Church of England in the UK.

The Lambeth Quadrilateral is a complete failure and in fact opened the door for corrupt bishops to over throw Scripture. If, as you say, legitimate ordination and apostolic succession is the answer, then WHY pray tell did ANGLO-CATHOLIC bishops order the church to consecrate an openly homosexual bishop and to ordain openly and unrepentant homosexual priests? Not to mention ordaining women as priests and consecrating a woman as a bishop?

These are not the acts of "Evangelicals" but of ANGLO-CATHOLICS! I might also point out that the Roman Catholic Church itself has openly proclaimed liberal theology in Vatican II where it says that people of other religions may be saved by the light they have and by their good works. If this is not pelagianism, I don't know what is.

I may be blunt, straightforward, and in your face, Billy, but the one thing I am not guilty of is hyperbole. Facts are facts.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Billy, one final point before I go on the bigger picture. No bishop can pass on traditions which are only "latent" in Scripture. Either the Scriptures plainly teach a doctrine or they do not. If the Scriptures do not plainly teach a doctrine or tradition when we read the entire canon of Scripture and compare Scripture with other places more plain, then we are not obligated to believe it. I fail to see how sinful and corrupt bishops can have some "gnostic" or "secret" insight into the proper interpretation of Scripture when that tradition is only "latent" in Scripture. That is double talk for saying that your "bishops" can find any doctrine they like in the Scriptures on the flimsiest evidence and some very ridiculous exegetical methodology. Furthermore, you cannot read some tiny tidbit of some vague reference in the church fathers into an eisogesis of Scripture to substantiate a doctrine that is not taught in Scripture in the first place. Such a method allows for sinful men using human reason to justify almost any doctrine. It is this sort of thinking which the liberal Anglo-Catholics have used to justify humanistic and theologically liberal interpretations of Scripture.

The historical/grammatical interpretation of Scripture from a position of faith as the Holy Spirit providentially illuminates individuals, both lay and ministerial, who make up the local congregation. These conclusions are then tested by the historical positions of the Reforming churches and compared with the first century church and the church fathers. There is no such thing as an infallible magisterium, church council, or pope. All are sinful and may err. Only churches continually reforming themselves by Holy Scripture have any chance of remaining faithful to apostolic doctrine as it is recorded infallibly and inerrantly in Scripture alone.

If the current state of the Anglican Communion at large proves anything at all, it proves that organizational institutions, even those based on episcopal polity and some phantom of apostolic succession/holy orders have miserably failed.

If you really believe in apostolic succession, become a Roman Catholic. But I suspect that the RCC is on the verge of unraveling itself. Vatican II is just the tip of the ice berg.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Billy said, "My personal belief is that all doctrines of the Church are latent somewhere in Scripture, even if not explicitly stated. But I do not doubt that there are doctrines about God which can be proved or understood by reason."

This line points out another obvious error. Exalting reason above revelation is to confuse special revelation with natural/general revelation. While reason and science can give us understanding of God's revelation in nature and in philosophical/mathematical truths, it cannot lead to saving knowledge of the Savior, Jesus Christ. Only special revelation in Holy Scripture and in Jesus Christ can give us doctrinal truth whereby lost human beings may understand how to be saved. Scripture alone is the final word in matters of salvation--not reason!

Corrupt reason leads to apostasy (See Romans 1:18ff). The power of salvation is in the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16).

Reason leads to what we see today in the ECUSA. Reason says revelation is silly and we should all accept homosexuality as "normal." Reason teaches that men are basically good and have no need for special revelation.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Billy, if doctrine is not important, why do you need Tradition to tell you what to believe over and above Scripture? And why do you need the bishops to interpret the Bible and Tradition for you??

Your line of reasoning is the same as that of the liberals at ECUSA: Doctrine and the authority of Scripture is unimportant. So that leaves only reason and experience. You seem to exalt experience above Scripture. Where else can that lead except to all sorts of heresy and antinomianism like what we see in the Anglican Communion at large?

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