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 Second Sunday in Lent.

The Collect

ALMIGHTY God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Collect from the First Day of Lent is to be read every day in Lent after the Collect appointed for the Day.

Daily Bible Verse

Monday, May 17, 2010

Sydney Anglicans: Evangelical Anglicans Caught in the Matrix

I am not sure who wrote this article critiquing the Sydney Anglicans and their confused approach to church growth.  (Read Evangelical Anglicans Caught in the Matrix).  However, it is worth reading.  The author seems to confuse the term pietism with "puritanism".  Although there is an element of pietism in the puritans, pietism really owes itself to the Wesleyan holiness movement.   What I find particularly interesting about this article is that the author identifies several tendencies I had noticed myself but was unable to put my finger on.  The adherence to pragmatics above the Word and sound doctrine can be attributed to the influence of Phillip Jensen, in my opinion.

The over-emphasis on piety and personal holiness above all else seems to be due to the influence of David Broughton Knox, though there might be others of whom I am unaware.  A read of Knox's Selected Works is enough to confirm this.

As the author points out so clearly, the reason behind losing the youth is that they have never been catechized, discipled or churched.  We ship them out to children's church and we never teach them anything.

I found the following observation particularly enlightening:

i] Pietism

      We have moved, ever so slightly, from the notion that justification is achieved and sanctification progressed by the same mechanism, namely a gift of God's grace appropriated through the instrument of faith.

      The shift involves a move toward a sanctification by obedience theology. Instead of seeing our sanctification as wholly a work of God's sovereign grace appropriated through faith, we move toward a reliance on effort, on doing rather than receiving. We tend toward the view that effort applied to the law (the moral law and the law of Christ), both confirms our standing in the sight of God and progresses our sanctification. So, whereas both our actual state (justification: just-if-I'd never sinned; standing perfect in the sight of God in Christ) and the process of becoming what we are (sanctification: the progressive realization of the person we are in Christ) are integrally linked by grace through faith, the pietist tends to shift the "process" from faith toward obedience, while limiting the "state" to conversion, or at best, an arbitrary holiness (eg. Wesley's "moment-by-moment non-transgression of the known will of God"). The apostle makes the exposure of the heresy of sanctification by obedience his central task in Galatians and Romans.  [From Evangelical Anglicans Caught in the Matrix]

Sadly, this emphasis on morality, ethics and personal holiness has moved the Sydney Anglicans in the direction of semi-pelagianism.  Many of them seem to have more in common with the Anglo-Catholics because of the emphasis on personal "transformation" than on the doctrines of grace and justification by faith alone.  Seeds of this move toward works righteousness can be found in the writings of David Broughton Knox.  Modern students of Knox's Amyraldianism have simply followed his teaching to its logical conclusion, namely a highly pragmatic and Arminian approach to evangelism and church growth that is similar to the pelagianism inherent in Charles Finney's theology during the Second Great Awakening here in the United States.

I have been accused of being too "American" in my critique of Sydney Anglicanism and that I do not understand the cultural situation in Sydney, etc.  However, the human nature is corrupt no matter what the culture or the geographical location.  The noetic effects of sin corrupt even the best theologians and lead ministers and congregations in the wrong direction.  This is precisely why we need a few prophets to call them back to the principle of sola Scriptura and the other four solas of the Protestant Reformation in general and the English Reformation in particular.

It seems to me that the author of this article confirms what I have suspected all along.  Sydney, like the United States has been led astray into a practical pelagianism inherent in the church growth movement's secular and sociological approach.  Not only this but the Amyraldian or four point Calvinism of the majority of Sydney Anglicans has contributed to this by taking what can only be called a pragmatic Arminian approach to evangelism.  In other words, Amyraldianism leads to Arminianism leads to pragmatism leads to pelagianism.  This explains why the Anglican Church League and the Sydney Anglicans can vote to accept the Anglican Church in North America into full communion rather than keeping a cautious distance.

For Sydney Anglicans the concern is no longer the preaching of the Scriptures and the pure Gospel of justification by faith alone and salvation by grace alone.  The only difference they have with the Anglo-Catholics is simply ritualism.  Take away that difference and there is no practical difference at all between the Anglo-Catholic theology of works as an infused righteousness and the theology of the majority of Sydney Anglicans in the tradition of D. B. Knox.

The sad part is that they do not see that pelagianism is a false gospel.  I pray that God will grant them the grace to see this before it is too late.




peter.herz said...

I'm not entirely put off by pietism. The Reformed tradition has always stressed that the truly justified express themselves by gratitude to God for salvation--which shows itelf in good works. Granted, our own works contribute nothing to our standing with God, "for we are His workmanship" and, even if we have done our whole duty, we are still to name ourselves as unprofitable servants.

Maybe the influence of Hans Nilsen Hauge is seeping through via some Norwegian Lutheran ancestors on my mother's side; maybe the indfluence of Methodism is asserting itself as well. But, can anyone raised on something like the Westminster Catechisms Larger and Smaller or the Heidelberg Catechism (with their extensive expositions of the Decalogue and Lord's Prayer) be entirely antagonistic to pietism's practicalities?

Yes, I love the doctrines of grace. But I also want to know the right way to thank the God who has saved me through Christ.

Charlie J. Ray said...

The trouble with pietism is that it does lead to a confusion of sanctification (subjective and infused) and justifiction (objective and imputed). The situation here in the Anglican churches illustrates that very well. The Federal Vision is another manifestation of it.

Pietism in Lutheran circles has likewise led to liberalism because it focuses too much on our subjective experience instead of the objective reality of the cross.

Of course, no truly Reformed person would say that sanctification is not a necessary fruit or evidence of regeneration and effectual calling. However, the bottom line is that even our perseverance is absolutely a gift of God. May God grant us the grace to live in a way pleasing to Him and to persevere to the end.


Charlie J. Ray said...

The author of the article seems to confuse Wesley's theology with sovereign grace. Wesley, however, was an Arminian. He was orthodox on justification by faith alone but the emphasis on sanctification is so strong that his semi-pelagianism overtakes the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

Sincerely in Christ,


Mark Thompson said...


I think you will find the author is Bryan Findlayson, a retired Anglican minister who now blogs at some distance from Sydney (geographically and emotionally). He seems at points to confuse his personal journey with the life of the diocese as a whole. You can find his story at http://www.lectionarystudies.com/ministrybf.html


Charlie J. Ray said...

I did notice his details were mixed up here and there. But he does make a few valid points.

Anonymous said...

To think that a Church's focus on personal holiness and evangelism is a bad thing is, I think, absurd and unfounded biblically. Good works--zeal for them--is the fruit of justification as God'w people become more and more zealous for good works and to live by them: Faith without works is dead, but we know that works are not meritorious of salvation to any extent. Salvation is wholly of grace and of faith alone.

This I think is very consistent with the Arminian holiness tradition found in John Wesley, who of course was a follower of Jacobus Arminius, that famous dutch divine who lived in Holland 1559-1609. Arminius' own writings are perhaps some of the most reformed and evangelical writings I have seen, and the 39 Articles of the Anglican Church were actually written in the context of Arminius' influence even upon England (Arminius is known to have dialogued with English divines like William Perkins).

I think we should encourage Arminian thought in our congregations--of the early, Jacobus Arminius type. his type cannot be compared to later developments of sub-Arminian theologies like Charles Finney's Semi-Pelagianism. Rather, Arminius can be found in the heart and deeds of John Wesley, of whom the Calvinist George Whitefield said that he would not see in heaven, becasue John would be too far towards the throne of Christ.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Your ignorance of the English Reformation is appalling. First of all, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer is credited with the authorship of the Forty-two Articles of Religion, the basis of the Thirty-nine Articles which were edited in 1579, well before the Synod of Dort in 1618-19. Therefore, the Articles could not have been written from an Arminian perspective. In fact, Cranmer's closest friends were Puritans. That would include one John Hooper. Cranmer was also familiar with the Lutherans, who also taught and believed in the doctrine of total depravity, not the Wesleyan doctrine of "prevenient grace" given to all mankind and canceling out the total corruption of the divine image in mankind as a whole. Calvinism teaches that all mankind is totally corrupt because that is what Scripture teaches. Articles 9-18 are Calvinist, not Arminian. Article 9 directly contradicts Wesley's attempt to re-interpret the Articles from an Arminian perspective. Article 17 clearly teaches the double decrees to both election and reprobation, a Calvinist doctrine and a doctrine drawn specifically from the Scriptures. (Romans 9:11-13; Ephesians 1:4-5, 11; 1 Peter 2:8).

As for Whitefield, you're obviously ignorant of the falling out between Whitefield and the Wesleys. Whitefield correctly called John out on the issue but later allowed his personal friendship with Wesley to cloud his judgment and his understanding of Holy Scripture.

I should point out that Augustus Toplady never made such a compromise with Wesley and that Wesley's treatment of Toplady was appalling for someone claiming to be "holy" and "sanctified".

The Arminians were condemned as heretics at the Synod of Dort precisely because Arminianism has more in common with Rome or Pelagius than with Scripture or the doctrines of sovereign grace. An antinomian who trusts in God's sovereign grace is saved while the Pharisees bragging about their merits and accomplishments are lost and headed for hell. Standing on the street corners preaching and praying only confirms self-promotion and self-righteousness. I pity those who trust in tithing, church membership, shoddy self-sanctification, and delusional views of their own accomplishments in holiness. They will be thrown out of the wedding banquet. John 17:17

Charlie J. Ray said...

I don't believe I criticized evangelism. I said teaching false doctrine is the blind leading the blind to hell. What do you think I'm doing with this blog? Of course I'm evangelizing. Doctrine matters. 2 Timothy 3:15

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