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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

Monday, October 05, 2009

James I. Packer: The Thirty-Nine Articles: Their Place and Use Today

I just finished reading James I. Packer's book with Roger T. Beckwith, The Thirty-Nine Articles: Their Place and Use Today, Latimer Studies, 20-21, (Oxford: Latimer House, 1984). The book is a mere seventy-five pages but Packer says a mouthful in those seventy-five pages.



Not only does Packer defend the Articles as creedal and a binding confession of faith but he rejects the sacrament of the Lord's Supper as in any sense a sacrifice or representation of Christ's body and blood before God to plead on the behalf of sinners. Rather, Packer clearly says that the sacrament is God reaching down to us through the sign to nurture our faith through grace. Thus, the sacraments are outward signs of a grace wrought in the believer's heart by God Himself. So the sovereignty of God is upheld over against any idea that man contributes anything at all to his salvation or justification. As Packer puts it so clearly,



(4) Both sacraments are means by which God works faith. This point is basic to the truth (and truth it is) that they are means of grace. They convey the blessings they signify, so we are told, to those who receive them 'worthily' -- 'rightly, worthily, and with faith' (Articles 25, 28). Right reception is believing reception. 'The meaning(s) whereby the body of Christ is received and eaten is faith' (Article 28). As Luther said somewhere, faith makes worthy, unbelief makes unworthy. And the sacraments, in their character as visible words and acted promises, are God's instruments to 'not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm our faith in him' (Article 25). They Function as means of grace precisely because God makes them means to faith. The essential sacramental action is his coming to us sinners to call forth our faith through the sign and through that faith to impart to us the benefits of Jesus' death.

On this view, believing and receiving are the essence of sacramental worship. Those who have received sacraments should indeed give themselves to God, but such self-giving is a response to the grace made known in the sacrament and not strictly part of the sacramental action itself. That is the view clearly expressed in the 1662 Communion office.


Now the Lambeth doctrine of eucharistic sacrifice seems to contravene all four of these principles. (Packer, p. 65).



So it would appear that I may have been too harsh in judging Packer's recent statements at the Wycliffe Hall Winter Conference at Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, Florida, February, 2009. If Packer still holds the same views he held in 1984 regarding the Lambeth quadrilateral and other issues, then perhaps I have judged him too quickly.


Packer also rightly points out that the Articles were meant to defend the Reformed understanding of the Gospel and clearly outlines the Gospel as a confession of faith. In fact, this is a radical little book and I would highly recommend it to anyone who claims to be Evangelical and Reformed within the larger Anglican Communion. Packer clearly says in this book that the Gospel is not in the fine print of the Bible or the Articles:


It must by now be clear that I am an enthusiast for the Articles. They are more than a period piece, and merit an interest that is more than antiquarian. Coming from a time when the most basic question in Christianity, namely the terms of the gospel itself, was being fought out with scholarship and passion, they centre on fundamentals and define the gospel in a way that by biblical standards must be judged classic. They are thus abidingly relevant, and never more so than in a day like ours, when by reason of unsettlement resulting from what I think are unsound approaches to the Bible, the churches of the Reformation have lost their certainty about this classic definition. For that is our current condition. Apart from the evangelical brotherhood (a minority), Protestant teachers at all levels have for some time now been relativizing the absolutes of the revealed gospel, apparently to make possible hopes of salvation for all the post- and non- and anti-Christian human community, and that has thrown laymen into greater uncertainty about the content of the Christian message than has been known for centuries. . . . The deepest reason for producing them (the Articles) . . . was to provide for the future the Anglican answer to the question, what is the gospel? (Packer, p. 59).



If Evangelical and Reformed Anglicans wish to be encouraged and informed I would highly recommend reading this little book by Packer along with a similar book written by David Broughton Knox in 1967, Thirty-Nine Articles: The Historic Basis of Anglican Faith.

6 comments:

Charlie J. Ray said...

trying to post this to Packer piece:

The problem with "judging Packer" is that he is a typical Anglican: a chameleon.

With the Protestants he's a reformer,
with the Reformed, he's a neo-Puritan,
with the liberals he's a tolerant listener,
with the Anglo-traditionalists, he a co-liturgist,
with the Romanists he's a socially conservative co-belligerant.

Who is J.I. Packer?!

Does he pervert Paul's "being all things to all men," winding up being nothing to anyone!?

Hugh
hughmc5@homtail.com



For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. ~ Romans 5:17 ~

Charlie J. Ray said...

I think at heart Packer is genuinely reformed but he can't bring himself to be as radical as he once was. It's a shame, really.

Charlie J. Ray said...

RC Sproul used to be close to Packer, and I heard them together at a Ligonier conference in 1989.

He had to rebuke Packer and Colson (another pal of RC's and Ligonier speaker), and cut ties with them over ECT (Chuck co-authored it).

Sproul has said that evangelicals are unwilling to say that the opposite of what they believe is false.

Packer could talk a good fight, and he contended with Canadian Anglican revisionists and sodomites (all the while feasting with them at the communion rail!), but he (& Bray & Guinness) cannot stand against Rome. To them, old creeds trump Reformation articles & confessions.

BS, J.I.

Cranmer & Co. then burned for nothing.

Hugh

Charlie J. Ray said...

"Schizophrenic Anglican" seems redundant:


J. I. Packer identifies himself on a map of Christian possibilities using a multiple series of coordinates: he is, he affirms, “an Anglican, a Protestant, an evangelical, and in C. S. Lewis’ sense a ‘mere Christian.’”





Found on p. 19, chapter 1, "The Great Tradition: J. I. Packer on Engaging with the Past to Enrich the Present" by A. McGrath in J. I. Packer and the Evangelical Future, 2009, Baker Academic, Timothy George, editor.



http://thegospelcoalition.org/Books/PDFs/George_JIPacker.pdf

Charlie J. Ray said...

J. I. Packer and the
Evangelical Future
The Impact of His Life and Thought
, by Timothy George.

Charlie J. Ray said...

The last comment is an excerpt of a book at the Gospel Coalition website. The Gospel Coalition.

Unfortunately, the book also glorifies the Evangelicals and Catholics Together movement and John Neuhaus, who was a Luteran apostate who converted to the Roman Catholic Church. Also, Neuhaus is reported to have promoted a moderate version of universalism. I for one am disappointed that Evangelicals are losing their commitment to the fundamentals of the Christian faith and selling out to liberalism.

Charlie

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