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

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

D. Broughton Knox: Do the Sacraments Save?

. . . The soul feeds on Christ, the living bread. --David Broughton Knox

Do the Sacraments “Justify” or “Save”? Good Question!

Most of us with knee jerk reaction would immediately say that the sacraments do not save. We think that any idea of a sacrament saving anyone must be a Roman Catholic doctrine. At one time I would have denied that baptism and the Lord's supper were anything more than mere ceremonies reminding us of what Christ did in His ministry on earth and in His atoning death for the sins of the whole world. Since then I have become a Calvinist and later a Reformed Anglican.

Recently, I've been reading D. Broughton Knox: Selected Works, Volume III: The Christian Life, Tony Payne and Karen Beilharz, eds., (Kingsford: Matthias Media: 2006). I have major problems with several of D. Broughton Knox's theological positions including his tendency to emphasize following the example of Jesus more than justification by faith alone and his view that faith is more than assent. How can we assent to something we do not believe? I also have a problem with some statements Knox made about the sacraments being unnecessary in which he implied that we ought to throw out the sacraments. I got that feeling from the emphasis of Broughton Knox's son, David Paul Knox. I also strongly disagree with Broughton Knox on the issue of the extent of the atonement. Unfortunately, Knox was an Amyraldian and believed in a general atonement. However, in reading volume three I'm finding that perhaps David Knox has misunderstood or misinterpreted his father's views on the sacraments.

I was pleasantly surprised when I began reading the section on justification by faith only. The trouble with Broughton's theology is that it is often eclectic and disorganized. He never wrote a systematic theology himself and the Selected Works are basically an ad hoc collection of his lectures, radio addresses and papers. One gets the impression that the editors have influenced how Knox is understood and read by the order in which the material is presented and put together as well as what got put into the publication and what did not. What is worthy of note here is that Knox did emphasize the doctrine of justification by faith alone, although at times one has to wonder if Knox confuses Law with Gospel, particularly in the chapter where he says that the Gospel is “news” but not necessarly “good news”. While his exegetical point is well taken that the original language word for Gospel is often only “news” not necessarily “good” news. That's true of the Hebrew word in the Old Testament as well. The trouble is Knox thinks preaching judgment is part of the Gospel. That is in effect to confuse Law with Gospel.

But in reading the section on justification by faith Knox makes it clear that he does have a firm grasp of justification by faith alone. Sometimes I wonder if part of the problem is the way Australian theologians phrase things. At any rate, right in the midst of the chapter on justification by faith alone, Knox makes the astounding claim that the sacraments save! Before you holler, “Heresy!” take a long breath and consider the Reformed view of what a sacrament actually is. It seems that despite Knox's view that the sacraments are not necessary—his remark was in the context of world missions and cross cultural communication of the Gospel—he actually held to a Calvinist and Zwinglian view of the sacraments. In other words, the sacraments do save in one sense and they do not save in another. If we mean that the sacraments have some magical quality inherent within the elements of bread and wine, then that is the Roman Catholic view and is in fact heresy and unbiblical doctrine. However, if we understand that the sacraments are a metaphor for our spiritual union with Christ, then the sacraments do save. Without true faith baptism and the Lord's supper are meaningless and empty signs. For the Christian, however, the spiritual participation in Christ as the way to the Father, the water of life, the bread of heaven, etc., to eat and drink the blood of Christ is to focus on who Jesus Christ is and to feed on Him by faith. It is not the eating of bread and the drinking of wine that nourishes the soul but the spiritual union with Christ by faith that takes places in the sacrament. Bread and wine nourish the body but the sacrament nourishes and builds our faith in Christ because we spiritually eat and drink. It is our union with Christ that makes the sacrament salvific and effectual, not the physical eating and drinking of bread and wine.

Only a direct relation of the sacraments to the doctrine of justification by faith makes the sacraments justify, according to Broughton Knox:

A question suggests itself that, if works have no part in justification, why does the New Testament speak of the sacraments as bringing forgiveness and participation in Christ? For example, St Peter stated that baptism saves. [1 Peter 3:21] By it St Paul washed away his sins. [Acts 22:16] The Corinthians are told that, by partaking of the Lord's Supper, they participate in Christ himself. [1 Corinthians 10:16].

In baptism and the Lord's Supper, God's provision of forgiveness and spiritual sustenance in Christ is plainly depicted in the actions of the service and enunciated in the accompanying words. In these sacraments God holds out for acceptance his promises. They are, in fact, sacraments of the gospel. By them the gospel is preached and by them its benefits are appropriated. As faith takes hold of the promises, so God grants to the believer the promised blessing, as he has covenanted to do. . .

. . . The soul feeds on Christ, the living bread.

Thus the sacraments bring blessing because they are the exercise of faith toward God's promises which are exhibited in them. They only bring blessing so long as they are the expression of faith. As the expression of faith, they may properly be said to save, and are so spoken of in the New Testament. But if performed as merely works which God has enjoined, no promise is attached to them. For the performance of good works is not the way of a sinner's justification.
Selected Works, Volume Three, “Justification”, pp. 82-83.

In light of the this, it would do the reader well to read the entire Selected Works before jumping to any conclusions about the theology of D. B. Knox as a whole. Although I have strong disagreements with Broughton Knox at certain points—as I do as well with W. H. Griffith Thomas—the Selected Works is a necessary part of any Reformed Anglican's theological library. I highly recommend it to all.

May the peace of God be with you!


The Selected Works is available at this link:  Selected Works.
Reasonable Christian Blog Glory be to the Father, and to the Son : and to the Holy Ghost; Answer. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be : world without end. Amen. 1662 Book of Common Prayer

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