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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, September 16, 2009

Scriptural Truth, Secular Organization, and Confessions of Faith

Recently I received a suggestion from David Phillips of Church Society that Evangelical Anglicans here in the United States should organize something similar to Church Society here. Although that is a good idea, my fear is there are not enough genuine Evangelicals here to form such an organization.

It seems to me if there were such an interest on the academic level we would have seen an organization already. The ecclesiastical elite has effectively sold out to the ecumenical movement rather than standing for the scriptural truths re-emphasized at the Protestant Reformation and the English Reformation.

While Robin Jordan has made significant contributions to the discussion, the Heritage Anglican Network seems to have fizzled out over lack of interest or infighting. My own position is too radical and fundamentalist since I refuse to fellowship with Anglo-Catholics on any level. I outright reject any Laudian or Arminian sellout of the 39 Articles since the Articles never intended to endorse such views. The 39 Articles clearly reject Arminianism with the ordo salutis laid out in Articles 9-18. And if that is true, then the Articles likewise reject Laudian theology, which is essentially high church Arminianism. It is the opinion of some scholars that John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, was influenced by high church Laudianism. An examination of the current state of the Wesleyan-holiness movement reveals that it is no longer Wesleyan nor holy. Arminianism is bankrupt and of necessity is a slippery slope to theological pluralism and relativism.

My views might be unpopular in another area as well. I stand firmly on the Reformed interpretation of the sacraments as formulated by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. Cranmer's theology of the sacraments reject the Lutheran view and instead adopt a theology somewhere between the Zwinglian and Calvinist view. At any rate, any idea of "real presence" is not in the bread and wine but in the heart of faithful receivers of the elements. In other words, the teaching of the Articles and of the Swiss and Continental Reformers is that the true body and blood of Christ can only be received by an inward and spiritual eating and drinking in the heart of the believer by faith.

While Luther's understanding of the sacraments avoids the sacerdotalist error, there are genuine concerns raised by the Reformed side about confusing the two natures of Christ so that His human nature is now omnipresent rather than in heaven at the Father's right hand. Jesus has ascended into heaven and therefore any idea of transubstantiation or the Lutheran view of consubstantiation is problematic. For Luther to eat the bread and wine is to eat the true body and blood of Christ which is present in, with and under the elements. This view is clearly rejected in Article 29.

Baptismal regeneration likewise has problems because such a view undermines the biblical doctrine of election and reprobation. Regeneration is not necessarily connected with baptism since baptism is merely an outward sign of an inward grace. That grace may be received at any time prior to baptism in the case of adults or at any time after baptism in the case of infants. While visible signs preach the Gospel in tangible object lessons, true faith is an inward grace given after regeneration and not necessarily in conjunction with the sign itself.

Too many Evangelicals are willing to sacrifice the plain teaching of the Articles on these matters because of ecumenical concerns. However, no such compromise should be tolerated.

It is for these reasons I do not fully support any organization which undermines the 39 Articles in the areas of Laudianism, Arminianism, or Amyraldianism; although these are not outright heresies, they are borderline and in the case of Laudianism and Arminianism the semi-pelagian view is not that different from Roman Catholicism.

Lutheranism has the soteriology right but the doctrines of consubstantiation and baptismal regeneration are problematic. Though Luther properly emphasizes word and faith as essential elements for an effectual application of the sacraments this does not go far enough in distancing Lutheranism from the sacerdotalism of the Roman Catholic view of the sacraments.

Furthermore, I strongly denounce Anglo-Catholicism and Tractarianism as outright heresies from the Gospel. James Packer and others are wrong to fellowship with papists and others who deny the doctrines of grace and instead promote a false gospel of merits and works as a means of justification.

With this in view, I find it problematic to join with denominations like the Church of England Continuing or the Traditional Protestant Episcopal Church or the Anglican Orthodox Church because all three of these organizations tolerate both Laudian and Arminian high churchmen. While I remain on friendly terms with two of these organizations, I could not in good conscience seek any sort of denominational affiliation with any of these organizations.

It seems to me that the emphasis should no longer be on secular organizations, denominations, or the visible amalgamation of denominations. As the Protestant Reformers pointed out in Article 19, the true church is a visible congregation where the Gospel is rightly preached and the sacraments are duly administered.

There is nothing wrong with cooperation with organizations and denominations in and of itself. However, once we cross the line into thinking that such secular organizations are "churches," then we have allowed the seed of corruption to creep in. When the emphasis becomes amalgamation the inevitable result is dogmatic reductionism to the lowest common denominator where the "essentials" are reduced to one or two or four basic doctrines. Such a simplistic compromise opens the door to liberalism. The Scriptures contain 66 books and every word of the Scriptures teach us doctrines or reveal something about God which is to be taught and believed. To reduce Scripture to two doctrines or four doctrines is to emasculate the faith once delivered to the saints.

If there are "essentials" which we can all agree upon, then I would strongly suggest a return to the five solas of the Protestant Reformation, the fundamentals of the early 20th century, and a solid confessional statement of faith. For Anglicans that confession of faith is the 39 Articles in their plain meaning and in their grammatical and historical context with no compromise. That being said, the Articles are not Arminian, Amyraldian, Lutheran or any other such nonsense. The Articles stand as Calvinistic, though not as detailed as the Westminister Confession. Not only do the Articles teach the Calvinist system but they absolutely reject any idea of Arminianism or even Amyraldianism since both of those systems came along later.

It is at this point that many of the Sydney Anglicans are wrong. Those in Sydney who reject the Calvinism of the Articles in favor of an Amyraldian or four point Calvinism are simply reading a later Reformed error back into the Articles. Articles 2, 3 and 17 clearly point to a particular redemption of God's elect and not a general redemption or a general atonement.

God is not double minded. Obviously, if God knows the elect before creation and if Christ was slain for the elect before the foundation of the world (Acts 2:23; Romans 13:8; 1 Peter 1:19-20), then redemption and atonement are particular and not general. Thus, any idea of common grace or a general atonement essentially undermines the sovereignty of God and capitulates to the idolatry of human reason. The idea of God's total sovereignty is offensive to sinners. To agree with four points of Calvinism and to reject the fifth is to in essence become a one point Arminian. Many Baptists are now one point Calvinists. They reject the other four points even though in their historical development the Southern Baptist Convention was a five point Calvinist denomination. The continued emphasis on the one point of the perseverance of the saints is inconsistent with the other four Arminian points they have adopted. In light of this, it is difficult to see how the Sydney Anglicans can hold out against liberalism in the future since they have already allowed for a general atonement.

General atonement is a logical inconsistency which contradicts propositional truth. Scripture is not illogical but is internally consistent when read systematically and as a whole. Only by isolating certain texts from others can the doctrine of general atonement be adopted. Thus, for any consistent Reformed and Anglican witness, all Anglicans ought to be five point Calvinists in soteriology and Zwinglians on the sacraments.

While it might be argued that the Canons of Dort were not endorsed until after the 39 Articles were formulated, that does not remove the fact that Scripture is the final word in all matters of controversy. The Articles themselves uphold the Calvinist view, though they do not deal with the Arminian and Amyraldian divisions explicitly. This is understandable since neither issue had become public yet. (See Formula Consensus Helvitica). But that does not mean that the Articles allow either of these views. I would say that the Articles imply that both of these divisions are illegitimate and the Scriptures refute both views when read systematically and in context. (See also, The Lambeth Articles of 1595).

If there is to be any future hope of reforming the Anglican Communion at large, then reformation has to begin with local congregations committed to Scripture as THE final word in all matters of theological and doctrinal dispute. I am not so much interested in ecumenical concerns as with the Gospel truth. Denominational amalgamation means nothing if such organizations simply become another instrument of antichristian spirits who wish to sacrifice the truth as an expense of fellowship and unity among local churches, individual Christians, and denominations (1 John 2:18-26). I stand as a five point Calvinist and a neo-fundamentalist precisely because I do not believe that the physical and bodily resurrection is a secondary matter (see Article 4; Luke 24:36-39; John 20:24-29). I believe in the supernatural conception of Christ and his natural birth from the virgin Mary precisely because Scripture teaches that doctrine (Matthew 1:18-25).

Choosing which essential doctrine of the Christian faith to jettison for the sake of cooperation with secular organizations or even church councils is basically to jettison faith itself. Christians ought to be more concerned with reformation, truth, and Scripture than with "co-belligerency" or amalgamation. (Article 21).

Individual fellowship through the Holy Spirit is to be tested by Scripture as well. To ignore doctrine for the sake of "love" and fellowship is to sacrifice truth. So even our individual affiliations and friendship must be based on Scriptural truth as well as love.

Lord have mercy.

Christ have mercy.

Lord have mercy.

2 comments:

Luther said...

Standing on the truths of the Gospel, and holding an Anglican position about polity and baptism - its not easy is it!?

Charlie J. Ray said...

I see no inconsistency in holding to both since even the Articles of Religion do not absolutely endorse episcopacy. Article 19 clearly allows for the sovereignty of local congregations in worship and Article 23 gives local congregations the right to call their own ministers.

As the Declaration of Principles say, episcopacy is an allowable polity but not one which is essential since apostolic succession is not legitimate. Apostolic doctrine handed down through Holy Scripture is more important than episcopacy. I'm of the opinion that episcopacy is ok as long as it is understood that the local congregation has the right to call its own minister and to make sure that the Gospel is rightly preached and the sacraments are rightly and duly administered. Local congregations are likewise obligated to maintain church discipline and sound doctrine.

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