Monday, May 17, 2010

The Faillure of Anglicanism: Papists & Puritans

I guess I didn't clarify my choice enough yesterday. Paradoxically, the RCs criticized me for denying Anglicanism, and the Protestants didn't reprimand me for 'mindlessly' lapsing into Romanism.

I went to the Anglican Church in North America (the conservative one) yesterday with the intent to communicate, to give up Rome (at least for the day), and to have my cake and eat it to (get married & be a priest). But while I was there, I heard a sermon on Church Unity. He argued that structural unity with heretics is sinful (which is why their church broke with the ACC and TEC), and that the church has an obligation to follow the bible.

The argument the former Jesuit and almost Cardinal (died 2 days before the red hat arrived) Hans Urs Von Balthasar made was fairly simple. He had alot of proofs from both Scripture and Patristics, but I will just lay down the steps in the argument:

1. The Church existed as a visible reality.
2. The Church is allowed to teach, and it is a Christian's duty to obey rather than make private judgments.
3. The Church as a communion must exist until the end of time in the same form it initially had. (apostolic succession)
4. The flock/communion is fed by Peter as Christ commanded (Petrine Supremacy)
5. All who deny to commune with Peter's successor and refuse to accept the teaching of the church are lapsed.

The quote I used from Thomas yesterday was showing how Petrine Supremacy is a biblical doctrine, and how if the Church is a succession, that doctrine must find it's place in the structure of the communion.

The issue I have with Anglicanism is that it has historically proposed two models for church reform which I find uncatholic.

-Erastianism / State Interference, even yesterday we prayed for the supreme governess the Queen. Caesar/Rome/Pagan State Power is the Anti-Christ, and Caesaropapism is a heresy. Many can claim that the Vatican IS a State and thus falls under the same condemnation, but there is a difference. The Roman Church is related to the state incidentally, the English Church is related to the state fundamentally. This is one reason why the Puritans could not conform to the Church of England, which makes the Presbyterians preferrable to the Anglicans.

-Protestantism / Sola Scriptura. It's in the 39 articles, and in the end, the question is begged: what is the point of being an Anglican if you want to be a Protestant. There is a line in the articles which says that the first 7 councils of the church catholic are only to be trusted in as much as they agree with Scripture. Depending on your interpretation that could mean: bishops are unnecessary, infant baptism is an innovation, images in worship are forbidden, etc. It sets up private judgment as the second principle on which reform is to be made.

IF Anglicanism had said: the English Church will reform itself (as Richard Hooker claimed it did), then it should have done it by the authority of the church and through councils. Instead, parliament legislated doctrine (BCP), the English Civil War occurred, parliament re-legislated doctrine (WCF), and eventually monarchy was restored and we have the BCP again.

There is no place for the teaching of the church. The bishops are chosen by the State, and so the church is not allowed to teach, and every one of the churches teachings is subject to the judgment of the individual Christian and Scripture.

In such a case, it would be as Johann Adam Mohler wrote: "Without a doubt, if the Church were a historical and antiquarian society, if she had no self-concept, no knowledge of her origin, of her essence and her mission...She would be like someone who, by researching documents he himself has written, tries to discover whether he really exists!"

You have to start with Tradition. This is why - I think - Jaroslav Pelikan chose Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy allows no 'new' exegesis. It is TRULY an antiquarian society. If you find a 'new' reading of scripture (like sola fide) which none of the Fathers found, then you're reading it wrong. Anglicanism doesn't work because it is neither Catholicism nor Orthodoxy, both have their own interior logic, whereas Anglicanism is a Reformed Protestant church that forgot that during the Oxford Movement (which was universally repudiated by it's teaching authorities / the English bishops), and then eventually decided to either enter the Roman Church, or exist on the fringes of the ecclesiastical realities.

To break communion to 'purify' the Church is to simply become MORE Protestant, not less. It is only proving that there is no principle of unity, no structure able to keep the Church "one" as the creed declares she must be. It is Donatism.

Likewise, even the Anglican Church in North America ordains women to the presbyterate, which is so obviously a heresy, that I need not bother to refute it. I love the Book of Common Prayer, I love many Anglican authors and churchmen, and alot of their mission and understanding. On most days I prefer their liturgy to the butchering of ours that occurs weekly in the Roman Communion in Canada. But if I just decided my preference was what made my religion, that it was built on nothing else, I couldn't look an atheist in the eye again. I couldn't claim to be a reasonable person, or truly be a Thomist/Christian Aristotelian.

As Our Lord teaches:

"Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practise what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them...You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell?" - Matthew 23:1-4, 33

The teaching authority, Moses' seat, which in Roman Catholicism is replaced by St. Peter's Chair, and it is to be obeyed, even if the people sitting in it are corrupt. Dante wrote that many Popes will be in Hell, and this verse seems to be a worthy proof-text for such a belief. But this is the fundamental difference: Protestantism like the Early Modern Revolutionaries and Calvin's Geneva Bible commentary, argue that you can legitimately resist an authority if it is tyrannical. The problem with this is, that only authorities can authoritatively define what tyranny constitutes, which means there is a necessary regress to anarchy.

God-fearing Englishmen and Commonwealth citizens on the other hand (like us Canadians), submit to "the powers that be" (Rm. 13:1). Catholics are called to the same thing. When Pope Paul VI spoke to the World Council of Churches, he declared "I am Peter". If the Church is a succession through all time, and an apostolical succession, one must submit to the Bishop of Rome. If the Church is not a succession, but can fundamentally change in structure and teaching, and only exists as a pure spiritual reality and sometimes visible, or partially incarnate (as the WCF says it is), then one must fully embrace Protestantism and Sola Scriptura, and become a dissenter of some kind (whether Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, or Quaker).

And while Mr. Bennett has made an argument against it, I still contend, that Sola Scriptura of necessity leads to Liberalism/Socinianism/Unitarianism. As Adolf von Harnack said "A dogma without infallibility has no meaning". Dogmatics are based on interpretations of Scripture. Without the Protestant Confessions claiming their own infallibility, what use is the Westminster Confession? Although the swift excommunication of the Federal Vision & New Pauline Perspectivists from the Presbyterian fold makes their case a little stronger in empirical reality if not in philosophical abstraction.

Thus between Papists, Puritans, and Prelates, it seems the last category is untenable. Now I'll have to find an argument against Presbyterianism, though I don't know of any off the top of my head aside from lumping them with Donatism (though that kind of inaccuracy is the kind of thing they sink to when they call the Roman Confession 'Pelagian', so I might need to go elsewhere).


  1. I find this more convincing than your last post. Yes I did criticize you for denying Anglicanism its due last time. Partly because there is a lot good to say about Anglicanism and partly because I think its important to reject things for the right reasons.

    Although I think you are on the right track here, the Catholic churches relation to the state was a lot more than incidental during the Renaissance so I don't think that argument quite works.

    And while it is true that the church is allowed to teach and individuals ought to obey, I'd argue that the area in which the church is called to teach is somewhat circumscribed.

    Finally, I'm not sure the issue submits to a purely analytic/epistemological answer. There is a point where you are left asking yourself which church seems to me to be God's church and which others, while they may have lots of good things about them and even serve God's purposes in all sorts of ways, are not. And that answer comes more from prayer and contemplation than from hard logic.

  2. As a Catholic, I don't endorse blind obedience or stopping inquiry prematurely because one is afraid of where it leads. At the same time, it is great for Peter to say to the Lord, "where would we go? you have the words of eternal life!"

  3. I don't think I really ever had "inquiry" proper into another faith, I just despised Catholicism and came up with an argument against reason, and then used Fideism and attacks on Catholicism to defend a position which itself was logically untenable.

    I forgot to include all the arguments from the Papal Bull Apostolicae Curae, which I found convincing for why Anglicanism does not have apostolic succession. Even the Orthodox don't accept Anglican orders as valid, and they have every reason to. That was a major point, how could one reside in a communion which might not have valid communion.

  4. The best argument against Presbyterianism is the Council of Trent. How much better can you get than an official anathema?

    Also, I object to the idea that sola Scriptura is equivalent to private interpretation. As Michael Horton has written:

    "The Latin slogan [sola Scriptura] means “by Scripture alone,” not “Scripture alone” (solo Scriptura). For example, both Lutheran and Reformed churches regard the ecumenical creeds, along with their own confessions and catechisms, as authoritative and binding summaries of Scripture, to which they are all subordinate. We accept these statements because they summarize biblical teaching, not on the basis of the church’s authority. The key difference is that whereas the Roman Catholic view treats the church’s authority as magisterial (sovereign), churches of the Reformation view it as ministerial (subordinate to Christ’s scriptural Word)."