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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

Sunday, June 22, 2008

True Unity By the Cross: The Selling Out of the Gospel by the Reformed Episcopal Church

I am often amazed at how far some Evangelicals are willing to go towards Rome in order to achieve ecumenical unity. The problem is that when the emphasis becomes unity, rather than unity in the truth of the Gospel, compromise of the Gospel is most often the result. The real question here is what exactly is the Gospel anyway? Judging from the document on the Reformed Episcopal website, "True Unity By the Cross," the Gospel has absolutely nothing to do with justification by faith alone or with Scripture alone as the final authority in matters of dogmatic doctrine.

If the Gospel is merely a unanimity towards opposing homosexual bishops, then the church is in dire straits and the wind has gone out of her sails completely. Have we forgotten that Jesus Christ died on the cross for the sins of the elect from every part of the world, from every tribe and nation, and from every age and gender of the human race? Have we forgotten that Jesus Christ opposed the Pharisees to the last, even dying on the cross in opposition to empty and vain traditions and good works done for show in the public arena? Have we forgotten that the Apostle Paul opposed good works as a means of meritorious approval before God in this life and in the hereafter?

How can it be that a church like the Reformed Episcopal Church, the reason for its being in the first place was the Evangelical and Protestant Gospel, has now decided that the Gospel is not so important after all? Why the Gospel brings division and disunity and is far too controversial. Standing for the Gospel will get you crucified, burned at the stake,ostrasized, blacklisted and shunned by your fellow Anglicans, Pentecostals and Charismatics, and left leaning Evangelical "brethren."

It is indeed telling that the entire document, "True Unity By the Cross," not once mentions justification by faith alone, though it does briefly touch on the doctrine of sola scriptura or Scripture alone as the sole authority of the visible church and of the individual believer. If only the Reformed Episcopal Church believed its own words: "The association of the Cross with unity indicates that unity is based on the Passion of Christ. Unity is not “solved through easy humanistic ideas of fellowship and brotherhood, but by the hard road of the Cross." (http://rechurch.org/Txtpdf/trueunity.pdf, page 4). However, what the Reformed Episcopal Church is doing is in fact taking the easy road and placing reason above Holy Scripture. The entire document is a compromise of the true Gospel in favor of the twisting of words for a false unity.

The hard road of the cross means refusing to compromise the Gospel of grace with a false gospel of justification by good works or works of congruity. In the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, the confession of the faith of the original English Reformers in the Anglican church, we see at least one of the five solas of the Protestant Reformation mentioned specifically in the Latin version of the document, which is sola fide or justification by faith alone in Article XI. It should also be noted that the English and the Latin versions of the Articles are of equal authority and the Latin serves to clarify the English version when the English is ambiguous or unclear.

Just so that it is not disputed let me quote the entire text of Article XI in both English and in Latin:

Article XI
Of the Justification of Man

We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore that we are justified by faith only is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort; as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification.

De Hominis Iustificatione
Tantum propter meritum Domini ac Servatoris nostri Jesu Christi, per fidem, non propter opera et merita nostra, iusti coram Deo reputamur. Quare sola fide nos iustificari, doctrina est saluberrima, ac consolationis plenissima; ut in Homilia de Iustificatione hominis Fusius explicatur.

Provenance
Based on the Confession of W├╝rtemberg.

Apparently, the English Reformers thought that the doctrine of justification by faith alone was so important to the true Gospel that they mentioned it specifically in the Latin version of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion. In addition, Article VI is clearly a brief statement of the doctrine of sola scriptura, though the term itself is not used in that article.

For the life of me I cannot understand how Tractarians, Anglo-Catholics, and high church persons can take the plain meaning of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion and twist it around to mean something it never meant. The Articles so obviously contradict Roman Catholic and Anglo-Catholic views that even a child can see it. When words can mean what they never meant, then equivocation and ambiguity become the new dogma. In fact, it is just this sort of shifting of meaning that liberals employ on a continual basis. Anglo-Catholicism inevitably leads to liberalism just based on its dishonest re-interpretation of the Articles of Religion. The implication therefore is that the Reformed Episcopal Church and other "continuing" Anglican denominations are heading toward the very sort of liberalism they are protesting against and they are doing so by compromising the English Reformation with Anglo-Catholicism and Tractarianism. The common cause partnerships are doomed to failure for the same reason: reducing theology to a bare minimum or re-interpreting the English Reformation as somehow compatible with Anglo-Catholicism is an inevitable road to theological liberalism and the very antinomianism that has produced the debates over homosexual pastors and bishops.

Moveover, the Reformed Episcopal Church claims to be preaching the Gospel, yet in the document, "The True Unity By the Cross," the REC takes the position that prayers and devotion to the saints and to Mary are not repugnant to Scripture but are instead allowable non-essentials upon which we can agree to disagree:


"We also represent a variety of devotional practices concerning reading the Bible, daily prayer, sacramental observance, spiritual gifts and devotion to the saints and the Mother of Jesus."

As important and wonderful as these beliefs and practices may be, they are not essential. They are non essential. They are things indifferent according to the language of the New Testament. They are minor issues compared to the major teachings we all hold in common. The great temptation and potential tragedy is to allow things non essential to become points of division. We believe Jesus would not approve. Neither would St. Paul. He declares that liberty should be granted in matters indifferent: “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any” (1 Corinthians 6:12)." (http://rechurch.org/Txtpdf/trueunity.pdf, page 11).


However, the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion clearly refutes such a position:

Article XXII
Of Purgatory
The Romish doctrine concerning Pugatory, Pardons, worshipping and adoration as well of Images as of Relics, and also Invocation of Saints, is a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture; but rather repugnant to the word of God.

De Purgatorio
Doctrina Romanensium de Purgatorio, de Indulgentiis, de veneratione tum Imaginum tum Reliquiarum, nec non de Invocatione Sanctorum, res est futilis, inaniter conflicta, et nullis Scripturarum testimoniis innititur; imo verbo Dei contradicit.

http://members.tripod.com/~gavvie/39articles/art3.html

Now, if by "devotion to the saints and the Mother of Jesus" the authors of the document, "True Unity By the Cross," mean to say that prayers to and adoration of the saints and Mary are somehow allowable, they contradict the plain meaning of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion. These doctrines are clearly repugnant to Scripture in the opinion of the English Reformers and to make the Articles say anything otherwise is dishonest and an outright misrepresentation of the original intent of the Articles.

The irony is that the so-called common cause partners and the Reformed Episcopal Church, Anglican Province of America claim to be "preaching the Gospel" when in fact they are mixing oil with water and are deceiving the laity into believing a gospel of works rather than the Gospel of grace that Paul and Jesus preached. There can be no unity of truth with heresy or false doctrine. Paul clearly says that there is only one Gospel and to preach any other gospel is to be under a curse:

"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ." (Galatians 1:6-10, ESV) [1]


[1] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

It is clear that the REC has departed from the Gospel preached by Paul and is instead preaching another gospel. Reducing doctrine to a bare minimum like retaining episcopacy and liturgy and the catholic creeds is the first step toward liberalism as the current state of the Anglican Communion illustrates so profoundly. The fact of the matter is that Scripture contains much more than the ecumenical creeds. It contains the very Gospel of grace and such doctrine is clearly taught in the epistles to the Romans and Galatians. Not only that but the English Reformers felt this so strongly that they spelled out with great precision what they felt were the "essentials" of the Christian faith and what they considered to be errant or aberrant doctrine. The English Reformers forbade any sort of devotion to the saints, icons, or Mary. They forbade any idea of merit attributed to anyone on the basis of good works. And the Reformers taught that Scripture, not tradition is the final word on all matters of faith. Furthermore, the doctrine of justification by faith alone is central to the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion.

While the True Unity document seems to say that Scripture is the final word above tradition (page ), we know this is a deception because the document goes on to allow for devotion to the saints and other errors, which are contradicted by Scripture and supported by "tradition". The worst part of the document claims that the Articles do not have an "evangelical" emphasis:

"Questions have been raised about matters touching the Articles of Religion. In Anglicanism there have been evangelical and catholic ways of interpreting the Articles. According to the historic preface to the articles in the early 17th century, however, it seems that a normal, grammatical and historical interpretation of the Articles of Religion was the intended hermeneutical method. This approach would re-enforce the essential/non essential distinction. It would not commend an exclusively evangelical or catholic interpretation. At times, a literal/grammatical interpretation would allow for both, but always stopping short of Roman Catholic and more extreme Protestant dogma. Some articles describe teachings as not found in “Holy Writ,” meaning anywhere in Scripture (Article 28). In other articles it is stated that a teaching is not commanded by Christ, which means it could be allowed but not required because it is based on some other part of the Scriptures (Article 25). Certain teachings are condemned as “repugnant to the plain words of Scripture” (Article 28)."

(http://rechurch.org/Txtpdf/trueunity.pdf, pages 11-12).


Yet the Thirty-Nine Articles clearly refutes such a view. Article XXII forbids plainly what the REC and the APA are saying are "non-essential" doctrines which are not repugnant to Scripture. Moreover, the Articles are clearly Protestant and not Anglo-Catholic and thus are indeed "evangelical" since the historical roots of Evangelical theology is Protestant and arises specifically from the Protestant Reformation. There is no ambiguity in the Articles between the evangelical Gospel and Anglo-Catholicism. In fact, I would argue that the evangelical/protestant faith is catholic and includes the very creeds that Anglo-Catholicism is trying to claim as a juxtaposition against the Evangelicals. Anglo-Catholicism is far from "catholic" because it denies the very Gospel that Jesus died to proclaim and to seal with his atoning blood.

Moreover, one gets the idea that the REC/APA document intends to mislead, deceive, and equivocate. Of course, the laity will be easily deceived, not being informed concerning the English and Continental Reformation. Be that as it may, anyone who can read the Bible in plain English can see that idolatrous "devotion" to the saints and Mary are forbidden and repugnant to Scripture. Anyone who can read the Bible can see that Paul taught a Gospel of grace and not good works:

"We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose." (Galatians 2:15-21, ESV)

[1]
[1] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

To make it even more clear that the REC/APA is promoting that which is repugnant to Scripture and forbidden in Article XXII of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion let me quote once more:


"The same tendency for purity beyond the standards of the Faith has also appeared among those who are more catholic in orientation. Liturgical vestment and procedures, Eucharistic devotion such as the Benediction, and veneration of the saints, have all too often become tests for who is “truly catholic.” Such over emphasis on secondary, adiaphora matters in the Anglican context has led to a kind of quest for catholic purity. Such concerns have often developed into their own kind of unwarranted exclusivity, becoming equally divisive among fellow Anglican Christians who love the Lord God, His Word, and adhere to the primary standards of the Faith (BCP, Articles and so forth)."
http://rechurch.org/Txtpdf/trueunity.pdf, page 12).

Basically, two diametrically opposed positions are supposed to compromise what the other sees as error and heresy. Yet, such a compromise is impossible. The gospel of merits, veneration of the saints, prayers to the saints and Mary, transubstantiation, real presence in the communion elements, adoration of the host, and other "catholic" doctrines are incompatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ as it is recorded in Holy Scripture and are absolutely NOT adiaphora matters. Either the Evangelical, Protestant view of the Gospel and Scripture is true or it is false. Either the Anglo-Catholic view is true or it is false. The two positions are mutally exclusive of one another and no compromise is possible unless one succumbs to pluralism, which in turn leads to the very liberalism which the common cause movement opposes.

The true irony is that doctrinal issues like justification by faith alone and the final authority of Holy Scripture caused the Protestant Reformation. But today the issues of ordination of women and the consecration of homosexual bishops seems to be more important than the very Gospel itself. When morality becomes more important than the Gospel of free grace it eventually leads to self righteousness and to the very antinomianism against which the so-called "conservative" Anglo-Catholics, charismatics, and evangelical Anglicans are protesting against.

According to the True Unity document, the Protestant Reformation was a division that was unjustified if we follow the logic of the REC bishops to its legitimate conclusion. The authors even go so far as to suggest that John Calvin would somehow approve of the current sell out to Anglo-Catholicism and Tractarianism. The opposite is true and obvious to anyone who has read Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion. Idolatry and true Christianity can never in a million or a billion or even a trillion years be compatible. And this is precisely what Anglo-Catholicism promotes--idolatry. May God have mercy and may the bishops of the Reformed Episcopal Church find their way back to the Gospel of Jesus Christ which can only be received by grace through faith!

The peace of God to all who desire to be saved by mercy and grace alone!

Charlie

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Q: Are you the "No Way APA" Guy?

Charlie J. Ray said...

No, I am not the No Way APA guy. However, that site does point out the many inconsistencies of the Anglo-Catholic view.

TRM said...

Do you have some connection with the Charismatic Episcopal Church? You have their old shield on your blog.

Charlie J. Ray said...

No, I am opposed to the Charismatic movement in general. Why would I be a part of the Charismatic Episcopal Church, which really is not Episcopal at all? Furthermore, the Anglican Mission in America is no better. The AMiA uses the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, which uses a pelagian catechism. The AMiA is also Charismatic and syncretistic in that it compromises with Anglo-Catholicism on the one hand and with oneness Pentecostalism on the other hand because of its Charismatic theology. Here in Orlando we have an AMiA parish where the editor for Charisma magazine is a member of the church and part of the church board. J. Lee Grady has more than once publicly defended the oneness Pentecostalism of Bishop T.D. Jakes, simply because he's a popular prosperity preacher and a charismatic. Grady has also defended oneness pentecostalism in general. The short of it is that the Charismatic movement is a mixture of heterodoxy and even outright heresy: anti-trinitarian in some cases and heretical doctrines of Christ and God in other cases, particularly the Word of Faith movement.

The use of the CEC shield is purely accidental. I wasn't aware that they used it. Found it online someplace or other.

Charlie J. Ray said...

For J. Lee Grady's misleading assessment of the doctrinal issues on oneness Pentecostalism see:

http://www.rickross.com/reference/upci/upci2.html

Grady downplays the heresy and apparently thinks the doctrine of the trinity is negotiable: All this begs the question: Are we entering an era when the historic dividing line between Oneness and trinitarian Pentecostals will become so blurred that it is irrelevant? And will apologies soon be offered from both sides of this debate?

Theologian Mel Roebeck hopes so.

"We've been calling each other names since 1916," says the Fuller Theological Seminary professor who carries AG credentials. "It may take years, but we need to start arguing out our differences."

What would it take to bring reconciliation? If Oneness Pentecostals would acknowledge that their trinitarian rivals are indeed Christians, and if trinitarians could admit the same about Oneness believers, then we could make significant strides in healing this division. And Roebeck thinks the Godhead dilemma could be resolved if both sides would sign the Lausanne Covenant, a statement of evangelical faith that affirms belief in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit."

If that doesn't happen, and if leaders on both sides remain unwilling to change, then the Pentecostal movement will remain a house divided against itself."

TRM said...

Why keep the shield? They still use it, but it was the CEC who modified the ECUSA shield to represent their catholicity and charismatic stream, i.e. the keys and the dove). The CEC is definitely episcopal, which simply means "governed by bishops"; episcopacy is not confined to Anglicanism. The Roman Catholic Church comes to mind, as well as the Orthodox Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Church (aka AME church), the Church of God in Christ, etc.

Charlie J. Ray said...

I don't remember where I found the shield online. I certainly didn't know it was associated with the CEC or I would not have used it.

Regarding the term "episcopal" the Charismatic Episcopal Church may have an "episcopal" form of church polity but it most certainly isn't Episcopal, Anglican, or even Evangelical. As far as I can tell it does not even adhere to justification by faith alone, the Book of Common Prayer, or the confession of faith of the Anglican Communion: The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion.

Now that you have brought it to my attention I plan to remove the shield and replace it with something more appropriate.

I take it you're a part of the CEC?

TRM said...

No sir, but I am well acquainted with the CEC. You are correct that they are not Anglican, or classically Evangelical. I'm not exactly sure what they are; they are still trying to figure that out themselves, from what it looks like. The majority use the 1979 BCP, and many clergy and lay members are former Episcopalians disillusioned with ECUSA. In some pockets, this appears to have had the strongest influence, along with the Cursillo movement. I know a few CEC members, and they are for the most part good, God fearing folks, even though I may not agree with them. I am not a part of the CEC.

Suffice it to say that I am a Christian, and organizations have little to do with that.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Oneness Pentecostals would have to accept the trinity to be considered orthodox. That doesn't seem to be happening. They also don't appear to accept the doctrine of justification by faith alone, which even John Wesley taught. Wesley is the father of the holiness movement from which Pentecostalism sprang in the first place.

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