Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Role Of The Church Fathers In Anglicanism

Cosin, John (1594-1672)

THERE remain to us, by God's grace, many good and wholesome writings of the Holy Fathers who hold consent on the mysteries of the Faith.

These we highly esteem and respect at once, for the lofty erudition of the authors, and for the grace of the Holy Spirit, which all men allow to have been more abundantly shed upon them, and also for their piety and truth, which is testified to us, not only by paper and ink, but in many cases by their blood.

For the nearer they were to the Apostolic days, the better must they have understood the truth, and the more correctly, as we believe, have they explained it. This is especially the case where they are unanimous and consentient in matters of faith. They all bear witness to the origin and authority of the Canonical Scriptures, and many of them have written valuable commentaries upon the holy Books.

Some crushed the heresies of the day, some have written the history of the Church of God, and stir up a love of piety by the tone of their works. And for these reasons we urge our clergy and students to read them again and again; but, of course, discretion should be used in determining what treatises to read.

And further, that the whole Christian world might be sure that the religion which we encourage in England, and the faith which we profess, is none other than the true Catholic Faith, received in common by the ancient Fathers, and confirmed out of the Holy Scriptures, the following golden canon concerning Preachers has been made in our Church, and was published with our Articles of Religion in 1571.
"They are to take special care not to teach any thing ... to be religiously held or believed by the people, unless it be agreeable to the doctrine of the Old and New Testament, and what the Catholic Fathers and the Bishops of the ancient Church have actually gathered from that doctrine."

For we are so minded as to desire that nothing should be believed but what can certainly be found in the sacred Word of God, delivered to us in the Scriptures, and proved by the consent of Apostolical and Primitive Antiquity.

It is in this way that we combine Holy Scripture and tradition, making tradition always subordinate and agreeable to Scripture. When the Apostles had preached by word of mouth, they handed down the doctrine which they had thus preached to those that came after them in writing, which is naturally the surest way to preserve both doctrine and facts.

Again Apostolical men and Bishops of the ancient Church constantly inculcated what had been thus handed down to them in their conversation and sermons, and showed it forth in their lives, and thus Christianity was delivered to those that came after them unadulterated in doctrine, or rites, or morals.

But we do not regard any traditions as legitimate which have not the witness of the Apostles, or Bishops appointed by the Apostles, or their next successors; and we do not regard anything Apostolical or Catholic of which they were ignorant, and which they did not teach.

The consent of Antiquity is chiefly exhibited in the Creeds and Confessions which the ancient Church agreed to put forth in Councils, and which a later age accepted throughout the Christian world. We regard a thing as an undoubted and settled truth if it was openly, frequently, and perseveringly held and taught, not by one or two teachers only, but unanimously.

But if anything is maintained by an individual, though he were a saint, or a learned man, a bishop, confessor, or martyr, without the authority of Holy Scripture and the consent of the Church, and he has handed this down to those who came after him, without having himself received it from the Fathers, and Christ's Apostles, that must be put aside as a private opinion, unauthorized by the common, public, and Catholic or universal sentiment; but we think that no one can refuse to submit to this sentiment when it is thus universal without being guilty of great arrogance and temerity.

Religion, Discipline And Rites Of The Church Of England. Chapter V.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Hold Fast To The Traditional Gospel And Avoid Novelties In Doctrine

Beveridge, William (1637-1708)

WE must be sure to observe this apostolical rule, to hold fast the form of sound words: which his Apostle judged so necessary, that he minds Timothy of it, not only here, but likewise in his former Epistle to him, saying, 1 Tim. vi. 20 O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy charge; that is, the fides depositum, as St. Jerome expounds it, that sound faith which is committed to thee: and then he adds, avoiding τας βεβήλους κενοφωνίας, profane and vain babblings, as contrary to the sound words before spoken of: or, as the Latin Fathers generally render it, devitaris profanas vocum novitates; reading, I suppose, καινωφωνία instead of κενοφωνία; but the sense is much the same.

For all new ways of speaking in divinity, especially in our age, is at the best but vain babbling, and commonly profane, possessing men's minds with such notions and conceptions of things, as will infallibly lead them into error and heresy.
Read but the wild extravagant opinions of the first heretics and schismatics, that disturbed the Church; and afterwards take a view of those which after-ages have produced, together with such as have been either revived or invented in our days; and you will find them all made up of new words, strange phrases, and odd expressions, which please the ears, and then debauch the minds of them which hearken to them.

We need not go far for instances; every sect amongst us will supply us with too many, insomuch that they may be all known from one another merely by their words, and new modes of speaking; whereby they would seem to interpret, when indeed they pervert the Scriptures, and wrest them to their own destruction.  Hence therefore it will be our interest and wisdom, as it is our duty, to avoid those new words and phrases, which have been lately started in the Church, as well as the opinions which are couched under them; and to look upon them at the best but superfluous and unnecessary, upon that very account, because they are new. For nothing certainly can be necessary to be believed or spoken in our days, which hath not been so all along.

Especially it concerns us, who are to instruct others in the way to bliss, to use none but sound words, such as are consonant to the Scriptures, as interpreted by the catholic Church in all ages. I speak not this of myself; it is the express command of our Church, in the Canons she put forth in the year 1571, where she hath these words; Imprimis vero videbunt concionatores, ne quid unquam doceant pro concione, quod a populo religiose teneri et credi velint, nisi quod consentaneum sit doctrina Veteris aut Novi Testamenti, quodque ex ilia ipsa doctrina catholici patres et veteres episcopi collegerint.  [The official English translation reads: "The Preachers chiefly shall take heed that they teach nothing in their preaching, which they would have the people religiously to observe and believe, but that which is agreeable to the Doctrine of the Old Testament and the New, and that which the Catholick Fathers and Ancient Bishops have gathered out of that Doctrine."]

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Doctrinal Principles

Andrewes Hall is a Theological College affiliated with the Reformed Episcopal Church.  I stumble across its website yesterday and was taken with the College's statement of doctrinal standards.  Personally, I found the statement to be an excellent summary of the classical Anglican point of view.  This should not surprise anyone, however, given that I am very devoted to Lancelot Andrewes and consider among a handful of the most important Anglican divines.   In any event, I thought I would share the principles for discussion.
* * * * * * *
Perhaps the best shorthand statement of our doctrinal position as a seminary is the famous formula set forth by Lancelot Andrewes’ in defining the boundaries of faith and practice for the Church of England:
One canon reduced to writing by God himself, two testaments, three creeds, fourgeneral councils, five centuries, and the series of Fathers in that period – the centuries that is, before Constantine, and two after, determine the boundary of our faith.

“One Canon”

We affirm that the Canon of Holy Scripture is central to our Rule of Faith, standing as the ultimate norm of belief and practice. We affirm the Bible to be the infallible and revealed Word of God. Hence we test all things by God’s Word written.

“Two Testaments”

We affirm the 39 canonical books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament to be the limits of biblical inspiration. The received books of the Deuterocanon or “Apocrypha”, while being an important subdivision of the greater biblical corpus, are in no way afforded the same status as the inspired books of the Old and New Testaments. The Church may read them “for example of life and instruction of manners,” yet they are not used or applied to establish binding doctrine (cf. Article VI of the Articles of Religion of the Church of England).
We also affirm Two Sacraments as ordained by Christ Himself – Baptism and the Supper of the Lord – ministered with unfailing use of Christ’s words of Institution, and of the elements ordained by Him (cf. Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral of 1886/1888).

“Three Creeds”

We affirm (1) the Apostles’ Creed, as our Baptismal symbol; (2) the Nicene Creed, as the sufficient statement of the Christian Faith; and (3) the creed known in the West as the “Creed of Saint Athanasius”, as affirming the mysteries of the Triune God and the Personal union of two Natures in our Divine Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

“Four Councils”

We affirm the dogmatic definitions of the first four ecumenical councils of the undivided Church – (1) Nicaea, A.D. 325, (2) Constantinople, A.D. 381, (3) Ephesus, A.D. 431, and (4) Chalcedon, A.D. 451 – as representing the true mind of the Church Catholic in the face of heresy and controversy, and the consensus of the faithful as led by the Spirit of God into all truth. The later ecumenical councils (i.e., the fifth, sixth, and seventh) are affirmed as orthodox to the degree that they are consistent with, while adding nothing to, the substance of dogma defined by the first four.

“Five Centuries”

We affirm the witness of the Spirit of God during the formative period of the Church, otherwise known as the Patristic era, contained primarily in the writings and testimonies of the great Fathers of the first five centuries (roughly from the Apostles to Gregory the Great). This witness continues to inform our faith and practice, especially in the areas of polity, worship, and evangelical mission.

One further note…

Andrewes Hall finds its identity in the Reformed character of the historic Protestant Church of England and the greater Anglican tradition. Thus we cherish and honor the heritage of the Book of Common Prayer and the Articles of Religion contained therein. Nevertheless, we also remain open to fellowship, dialogue and interaction with Christians of all branches of Christ’s Church in the spirit and heritage of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral of 1886/1888.

On The Appeal To The Church Fathers In The Interpretation Of Scripture

White, William (1748-1836)

William White was the first Bishop of Pennsylvania, USA. More at Wikipedia.

THERE ought to be clearly understood the purpose, for which reference is made to an authority extraneous to holy scripture: especially as there are some, who criminate every appeal to the fathers; as if it were a removing of the cause from before the tribunal of the paramount authority of the law and the testimony.
It is accordingly here declared, that no idea is entertained of going beyond the limits of the canon, for the establishing of any opinion, not found in the books of which it is composed.

But it is conceived, that the sense of the times immediately following the apostles must, as a fact, be a strong testimony on the question of what was the faith, which the apostles handed to them; and, in that point of view, may give considerable aid in the interpreting of scripture.

This is no more than what is attributed to them, by the admission of their testimony, in regard to what books are to be received as the writings of the apostles. The argument, as applying to any leading doctrine or institution of Christianity, in proof of its having been held at the time in question, appears to the writer of this equally cogent, as when applied to the genuineness of the book, in which the doctrine or the institution is supposed to be found.

But the argument appears to him even to increase in weight, when applied in the negative form; or, when it is pleaded that a certain doctrine could not have been delivered by the apostles, because not found in the remains of early times; and especially, those of them written with the professed view of declaring their faith before the world.